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The sun gives a blinding welcome as you emerge from the train car, landing onto beaten boards of the platform with a thump. A good stretch and a few paces shakes off most of the stiffness from hours of uncomfortable sitting.

Framed by reddish foothills, the town sprawls out before you. It has the chaotic arrangement typical of a gold-seeking surge and the usual decay after the rocks had been picked clean. Painted, worn facades define the uneven contours of the main street. Overlooking this central axis is a prominent peak-roofed building that you’d guess would be the town hall, but even this monument reveals fading colors and lost shingles. Further away from the center, the structures dwindle, houses giving way to shacks, giving way to boulders and sand. A narrow stream glimmers its way between the mountains, through the town, vanishing under a bridge supporting the tracks. Spindly trees and mats of grasses huddle by the precious water and you can imagine the find it was for the first arrivals in the area. Hanging off the station is the name of your destination: Sage Springs.

All in all, you must admit the view was nicer through dust-coated windows.

A wagon-scarred road parallel to the raised railway separates you and the station from the main body of town. It joins the main street almost perpendicularly, forming a bent “T” shape. The handful of passengers who had also gotten off are already dispersing across it, leaving you alone on the platform.

The train’s bells and impatient whistling slice through the air and you give the machine more space. Turning your head to follow the departure, a few bored faces can be spied through open windows and underneath, cast iron wheels turn as mechanical might heaves against its own weight. The gust from the rolling mass ruffles your clothes and forces you to intercept your hat before it can take flight, but it also feels pleasant against the late morning heat.

The train slides away to continue its eastward journey, leaving behind a backdrop of pasty dryland and scraggly bushes. The flatter land allows the valley’s mountains to circuit the horizon unimpeded. The train leaving also means you’re now officially stuck here, no choice but to continue with your job as a(n)…

[ ] Red-White Ranger
[ ] Ordinary Bounty Hunter
[ ] Half-Phantom Ranger
[ ] Medicine Seller
[ ] Wind Priestess
[ ] Ice Fairy
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[X] Ice Fairy

The strongest around!
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[X] Ordinary Bounty Hunter

Can't get enough of Marisa, I want Marisa, give me more Marisa please. That said, I will also gladly vote for

[X] Half-Phantom Ranger

if OP would prefer a change of pace from their previous story.

Very glad to see you back in the saddle. Warmly waiting for more updates.
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[X] Ice Fairy

She seems like a good protagonist for a not-too-convoluted plotline.
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[⑨] Ice Fairy
I'm legally obligated to pick the ice fairy. If common consensus is a slightly more serious character though that's fine.
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Welcome back, cunnyform.

[x] Medicine Seller
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[X] Ice Fairy

You slap your cheeks to fully wake up. That's right, you’re on a grand quest so there’s no time to be stalling! First, get away from this awful sun!

You burst into the station building. A very empty but well kept waiting room greets you. The rows of benches are spotless and brightly lit by the weird lamps with the flames that look frozen, but still burn on touch. The artificial glow mixes with sunlight from the windows on the sky-blue floor tiles. One of the windows is blocked by a small peach tree living in a square vase. It’s still a little warm, but most of the heat doesn’t seem to penetrate the sturdy brick walls.

“Oh, what an energetic one. Can I help you?” Maybe not so empty then.

The serene voice directs your attention right and up where an indigo haired woman draped with red-frilled silks mans a counter in the corner. A round black hat hangs on the wall next to a few informational panels and there’s one of those beeping machines behind her. How the heck she doesn’t melt under all those layers you can’t understand, but there’s been a lot of baffling things you’ve encountered this far away from home. Heck, home itself was pretty baffling too, these days.

“Lady, you can help me fix this weather! The sun out here’s broken or something, it shouldn’t be this hot!”

“Indeed, even in spring, the temperatures here can get ferocious,” the woman chuckles. She studies you, briefly glancing downward at the condensation that’s already dripped off your wings. “No wonder you’re bothered, it’s rare to see a fairy far from their element.”

“That’s because I’m on a really important mission right now. I just thought things would be getting cooler eventually, but the further I go, it only gets worse!”

“Hmm… if you’re lost then maybe I can help you. Is there somewhere in particular that you are trying to reach?”

You hesitate. You’ve been careful up to now to not let anyone else know your true destination, only asking about intermediate locations, but that’s going to be tricky being this close to the finish line. The woman must be the stationmaster, so she definitely knows her geography, and she seems friendly enough.

“I’m not lost, but okay. Just… please keep this a secret?”

“Of course,” she smiles before giving you an elegant bow. “Keeping information safe is a key part of my duties.”

You’ll trust her, after getting so far, it would be silly to lose your way now. You nod as you search through the pockets on your blue dress. A candy stick snatched at another town. A small bomb that Dai had learned to make from the nice “Red-o-Lute-Shun-Airy” girl with two little horns. Some pieces of string and cloth scraps, a spare button… There, you hand her a crumpled little pamphlet. You are taking no chances of being overhead.

You watch impatiently as the stationmaster reads it. Your feet itch and you’d rather be wading in cool lake water than in poorly fitted beat-up boots. But you’ve made it this far and the reward at the end would make the troublesome journey worth it. If only it weren’t necessary in the first place.

See, as far as you could remember, you, Dai, and a whole forest of fairies lived around the great blue Misty Lake, playing games with each other and pranking the occasional passerby. Life was good.

But then some bat youkai moved in, building an enormous and ugly red mansion. She couldn’t be pranked thanks to her guards, the red-green goon and the blue-white terror, both of whom were so unbelievably strong, even you couldn’t beat them! They were troublesome, but the lake was big and things settled down.

Then a bunch of humans appeared, digging the marshes and chopping the trees. A quarter, then half, then the entire shore was soon dominated by their rigid blocky houses. It became hard to sleep when the nights blazed like day, the soft swish of leaves replaced with gruff voices and clopping horses. The streets were so straight and so empty, it was impossible to sneak up on anyone without getting chased by the mean men with the batons, or crushed by a wagon. Even later, the tireless goblins arrived, who built absolutely huge houses with towering chimneys which, like the biggest cigarettes you’ve ever seen, belched foul scarlet smoke into the sky. The pretty morning mists on the lake became tinged bloody crimson, and not a frog could be found among the discarded tins and bottles littering the muddy banks.

Most of your friends had submitted to the invader and had claimed it wasn’t so bad, that they could run around the endless halls, dress up in the comfiest clothes, and eat baked sweets. But you, Dai, and a few others held out, unswayed by the devil’s temptations. Still though, things were becoming unbearable.

One winter day, while sweeping the snow clean of the dangerous salt the humans kept carelessly spilling, you found a curious pamphlet. You would’ve ignored it since reading is boring anyways, but a picture on the open page caught your attention: a lake like your own, but next to a mountain so grand, its white summit pierces above the clouds!

You took the soggy paper back with you and, overcoming the best efforts of humans and youkai to make up long words just to confuse things, you managed to decode what would become the hope for you and your friends. Apparently, some people liked to walk so much that they would end up in places no one had seen before, discovering places like that of the picture, the newly christened Whiterock Mountain! Untouched woodland, resplendent valleys, pristine lakes, and lovely, brilliant, year-round snowcaps! And most importantly, anyone willing to stay and live on the land gets to keep it!

This was it: if deprived of your old home, get a new one! The others thought it was a good idea too, but everyone was scared of going out so far, of being eaten by the fire and metal contraptions. So it was up to you, the strongest and bravest fairy of the Misty Lake, to venture out, to seize the future for your beleaguered people!

The plan was for everyone to scrap together enough money to send you first. Once you had successfully navigated the “civilized” world and staked the claim, you would then pick up some of this silver everyone seemed to be so excited about to buy passage for the rest of the group. Silver was claimed to be plentiful near the mountain. Finally, you and your friends would be free of the scarlet menace. The thought makes you sway a little in excitement.

The stationmaster is taking a while to finish with your pamphlet, but that was because she had pulled out a map, criss-crossed with more styles of lines than you thought possible. You stand on your tiptoes to see over the table, but she holds the map up instead.

“I’m deeply sorry, but your destination would be better reached on a different line. We are here at Sage Springs,” she points at a small black dot with a finger. It is indeed labeled Sage Springs. “Which is on the Union Celestial Railroad Southern Line. Instead, the Northeastern Line will take you to the trails that lead to your goal.” She traces the movement across the line with many bars crossed through. That northern route ends at a blank part of the map while the southern is surrounded by drawn desert. “You likely got on the wrong train at Gensokyo City, our regional hub.” It’s a large square near the middle.

“But I got directions to travel this way from there!” You complain.

She sighs. ”Unfortunately, there are some people who like pulling terrible jokes on the unsuspecting. People who should know better, I mean.”

That purple lady at the Gensokyo City station must’ve lied to you! You thought she had saved you from going the wrong way, but instead she… argh!

She continues, while giving you back the pamphlet and putting away her map. “Don’t you worry. The northbound train will show up tonight, at 10:00.”

“I-I don’t have money for another ticket…,” you admit.

A second sigh. “I suspected as much. Very well, I shall pay your fare for you.”

“Really?!” your face lights up. “You would do that? Thank you! Thank you! See, I need to get out there fast to claim the land, but once I’m ready, I’ll make sure to send you enough loot to fill this whole room. Twice, no, three times over!”

Strangely, the stationmaster’s smile stiffens, then she decides to let out an open wince.

“Oh dear, if that’s why you traveled so far… it might be better for you to read it yourself. Can you read?” she awkwardly asks.

“Yep!” You answer proudly. While the others had gathered dropped coins or sold mushrooms, you worked hard practicing your letters, picking newspapers from the trash, stealing kids’ homework, surviving teacher’s headbutts, listening to teacher’s lectures, acquiring as much knowledge of the world as possible.

She rolls out a newspaper printed on a silk scroll and hands it to you. The fabric is really soft and quite nice to touch.

The Heavenly Times

Remilia Scarlet, Vampire Noble, Banking Tycoon, and Industrialist, purchases Whiterock Mountain and surrounding territories for $6.5 million dollars, largest individual land purchase in history by area and value.

The youaki’s familiar face stares outward, a sly grin on her face, inked narrowed eyes boring into your wide ones. The date shows this had happened only yesterday, while you were still on the train. In horror, you can’t help but to keep reading. One passage sticks out.

“-they say that a record silver deposit sits under that mountain. So I thought to myself, why shouldn’t I simply pay for that silver to not be mined?’
When asked if she had sent anyone to physically stake her claim in the area as following the original policy, Lady Scarlet responded:
‘I’ve already arranged it with the government, and I will ensure the homesteads already there will be fairly compensated. I also want to add one thing: that I have heard the grumbles, those questioning why a lone lady should have the right to deny so many others opportunity? I think in our much vaunted age of republicanism and with the frontier so open to all, many believe just by being quick, by working hard alone, anyone might make something of themselves. This is a fatal misunderstanding of the nature of the modern world. Today, the real power is in wealth. Only money can change fate.
Now of course, money doesn’t enforce itself, but I was thinking that my dear little sister needed some practice running a little estate of her own. She’s a bit of a homebody, but we’ll drag her out within a few months or so-‘”


You can’t keep going, not just because of the tears blurring your sight, but also because your heart is shattering like an icicle falling on a stone below.

You ignore the stationmaster’s voice and dash out of the building. Curling up against the unyielding wall, cold tears cover your face, soaking your arms and dress. Was this devil impossible to escape?

You had once seen the vampire visit a clearing by the lake for a picnic with her lilac friend. Her guardians were there too, on shift with one serving and the other sleeping. The lilac girl seemed to be engrossed with a book thicker than her torso, but the short vampire constantly badgered her, having a good time, laughter on her pale face.

You imagine yourself coming home to tell Dai you failed. That all your friends would have to give up their freedom, their dignity to the scarlet conqueror, all because Cirno the dumb weak ice fairy’s dumb plans always fail. Because she couldn’t save either their old home or their new one.

The vampire’s face laughing, laughing at you.

Dai and the rest of them, comforting you, but disappointment obvious in their eyes.

“Only money can change fate.”

Only money can change fate, huh? It’d be great if you had any money, but you couldn’t even afford a way out of here. It really is hopeless. You sobbing slows, then stops as a haze wraps you. Sitting in the yellow dirt, there’s nothing else but to stare into space.

A lone tumbleweed skips across the street.

A group of tan-cloaked youkai carry boxes into an alley, one of them dropping something and getting shouted at.

A pair of figures wearing poorly drawn red wolf masks sauntering into a saloon.

Something close enters your vision:

[ ] The stationmaster’s black dress
[ ] Green hair and gray horn
[ ] A giant butterfly
[ ] Calico patched trousers
[ ] A stringed instrument
[ ] Green swirl on red
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[X] Calico patched trousers

Our poor fey needs some luck.
We gotta dry those tears. There's gotta be a way through.

>sweeping the snow clean of the dangerous salt the humans kept carelessly spilling

>That purple lady at the Gensokyo City station must’ve lied to you!
Time to develop an irrational hatred of purple. She's going on the grudge list, though our fey might forget the list even exists.

So our hero's goal is to find a new untouched place for her and her friends to live. But Remilia bought Whiterock Mountain. Freaking rich people.
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I really like this! This set-up definitely feels like something that could be found in a Western setting. Let's analyse the different options here:

> The stationmaster’s black dress
Iku. She already offered to help Cirno pay her fare, so she seems friendly and could help her more going forward. She might have useful connections with the Union Celestial Railroad, but I also feel like those corporate folks may be more likely to side with Remilia.

> Green hair and gray horn
Aunn. She's the kind of individual to be friendly to everyone around her, so she'd probably be willing to help Cirno. The particular usefulness of talking to her would be to have Cirno's case catch the attention of the Red-White Ranger.

> A giant butterfly
Eternity. She's a fellow fairy and, in canon, an acquaintance of Cirno, so she would likely support the other fairies' cause. She might have a lot of hidden power, if she is indeed Tokoyo no Kami. She is also a character that, to the best of my knowledge, has not yet been featured significantly yet in any fics on this site, despite debuting over five years ago, so that also makes her an interesting choice.

> Calico patched trousers
Mike. She's a newhu, so that could make it interesting to feature her. As a saleswoman, she could help Cirno get useful items, and her luck could help Cirno gain money.

> A stringed instrument
(One of) the Tsukumo sisters. They have this "rebel against the powerful youkai" vibe about them, so they would likely be sympathetic to Cirno's cause, and may be involved in some kind of revolution of their own, given that Seija's also around and apparently grooming fairies for some kind of violence. They're also not featured very often in fanworks.

> Green swirl on red
Hina. She could help Cirno by "taking away her misfortune", though I'm not sure what she could do for her in a more direct way.

It's a tough choice for me between Eternity and the Tsukumos. For now I will go with the following, but I'm open to changing my mind if others have suggestions.

[X] A giant butterfly
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Thanks for the analysis of the choices. Your examination has convinced me to change >>68838, [X] Calico patched trousers to [X] A giant butterfly.

One fairy, two fairies, maybe we can get a third fairy, and then a fourth, assembling a force of nature to rail against the upper class. Cirno already has a bomb in her pocket. Maybe a torch can be found to set this cause ablaze.

Perhaps Eternity can be the deuteragonist to Cirno in this story? Or maybe that is already taken by Dai, but she's so far away currently.

>you worked hard practicing your letters, picking newspapers from the trash, stealing kids’ homework, surviving teacher’s headbutts, listening to teacher’s lectures, acquiring as much knowledge of the world as possible.

Cirno's got an authentic pull yourself up by the bootstraps backstory, which I find fitting with this story's genre. And we also got a western hero's goal: a better life and a new land.

Don't suppose we could ply Cirno's ice ability for some money. It is a hot, dry desert, so cool ice could attract suffering residents.

Does make me curious about what the other heroes we could have chosen goals would have been, but perhaps that will crop up if we meet them.

On a side note, though, I've noticed from cuneiform's previous story that they tend to have this list of choices of what 2hus to meet with. Which I find interesting but makes me fear ending up with a four-way tie like the last one, that darn train choice, because all the options are compelling.
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[X] A giant butterfly
Long live the fairy Red-o-Lute-Shun!
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[X] A giant butterfly

Fairies unite!
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I've realized this is a fairy tale.
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[X] A giant butterfly

A pair of sandals tied from wild grass step into the shade with you. Then as the being kneels down, a patterned lime dress, the distinct yellow spotted wings of a butterfly, before finally, a concerned face comes into view. A yellow antenna-thing and a ring of leaves decorate her turquoise hair. She sets down a straw basket tall enough that you can’t see within.

“Um, hello! Are you okay?”

She’s odd looking with a surprisingly rich voice, but certainly a fairy. You simply aren’t in the mood for playing right now, however.

“Are you hurt? Or hungry?”

“Leave me alone.” You grumble. Even your plan to indulge in self-pity gets disrupted.

“Hey. I’ve never seen you before, but you’re a fairy too, aren’t you? Shouldn’t we be friends?”

You pretend she doesn’t exist. After a minute, she sighs. She hops back up and, observing from the corner of your eye, she reaches into the basket and pulls out a round red object which she places next to the wall. Then after picking up the basket, the fairy is gone.

You mentally count up the seconds in a minute and then, satisfied at reaching ten, allow your hand to bring the mystery object closer. It feels solid and slightly smooth and bringing close for inspection, you discover that it is a small and tough-looking apple

It’s also crunchy and quite tasty. The tart sweetness returns a degree of clarity to the world and it also doesn’t hurt having some real food in your belly. It’s almost as good as the ones back home and you wonder how the fruit can be so fresh considering the desert landscape. You carefully balance the remaining core on the ground.

Pitter patter, rapid and growing, from the left. It’s that fairy again, who closes the distance before your head can fully turn.

“HA! I caught a thief!!” Suddenly, she yanks you upward and you before you can react, feel yourself grabbed around the arms and torso.

“H-Hey! What are you doing?!” Struggling, unable to break free, you are surprised to find that this weird fairy is somehow more than a match for you.

“Ouch! You’re freezing cold!”

“Then get off!” you shout, wiggling as you sense her grip weaken.

“Not until you apologize for stealing my apple!” Her resolve stiffens and your progress is undone. The struggle takes you outside, but you can only focus on wrestling a way out.

“You clearly left that there for me!”

“How greedy! It was mine all along,“ she says before she giggles. “I… I was going to use it as a snack later.”

“There’s no way that can be true!”

“Maybe this misunderstanding could’ve been prevented if a certain stranger properly introduced herself and learned a little about the locals.”

“Why didn’t you just keep it in the basket?” You keep straining and try to get a better footing, but she squeezes harder.

“Because what’s in the basket is for someone else. You’ll see.”

You can’t keep your balance after a poorly aimed kick. You attempt to fall over backwards to maybe squish your assailant, but she pushes forward first. Dry and chalky dust sneaks into your mouth and now you’re completely pinned.

“Fine! I’m sorry for your stupid apple! Now let go!” You stop squirming.

She does get off and you are able to roll over, panting. At least the other fairy is shivering a little. The only reason she was able to handle you like that was her sneak attack on top of your weakened state. You’ve never lost to another fairy in a fair fight before.

“Whew….“ She recovers before making her demand: “Now that I’ve won, you have to help me with my delivery!”

“What! Why?”

“To pay for that apple, of course. Also I’m tired now since I usually don’t play around like that in the town.” She crosses her arms.

“I already said I’m… fine.” Maybe going along with her would let you get back to being sad and alone sooner. You slowly get up and dust yourself off. She beams at you.

“Okay, let's start over. My name is Eternity Larva, but the others just call me Larva.”

“I’m Cirno.”

“Okay, Cirno, the cargo is over there. You’ll help by carrying it.” She points to the side of the station where the basket from before is leaned next to a pile of wood. You can see now that it is full of fruits and vegetables.

“Aww, really? What’ll you do then?”

“I know where to go. Don't worry, I’ll hold the basket after we're done!” she replies.

The produce in the loaded basket makes it quite heavy, forcing you to shuffle grips until the container is stable to move with, but you make no complaint. You hope Larva understands that you’re normally very strong, it’s just today wasn’t the day. Larva leads the way forward while chatting.

“Why do you feel so cold? You’ve got weird wings too.” She pokes one of the crystals, her finger slipping on the wet ice.

“I’m an ice fairy, duh. And who are you to talk about weird wings?” you rebut.

“Rude! There’s nothing wrong with my wings!”

“Nothing wrong with mine either!”

“If you’re an ice fairy, are you really okay here?” Larva asks.

“Nah, this weather is nothing to me! I’ve survived hotter!” You leave out that the worst summer days at the Misty Lake were ideally spent under your lakeside igloo, shaded by a dense canopy of foliage. The way too hot weather around here is another reason you were weakened. In the future, it might be better to fight in the buildings, or wait if the wispy clouds in the sky here ever do their job right.

You’re starting to feel a burn in your arms, but thankfully Larva stops in front of a building and announces, “We’re here!”

Seeing over the basket is hard and you can only make out a pair of swinging doors, but looking up, you can read the sign of the façade:

[ ] The Blinding Ballad
[ ] The Sand Whale
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Nice update! Let's look at the choices again.

> The Sand Whale
A whale-themed established seems like a reference to Miyoi and the Geidontei bar (and in fact, the pre-edited version of the update said as much), who also appeared in Starry Desert Sky.

> The Blinding Ballad
This is most likely a reference to Mystia's power to cause night-blindness with her songs, and her food cart.

In terms of how useful they would be as an ally, both are mildly but not overly powerful, so I don't think there is much of a difference there. However, given that this is a Carno-focused story, there is definitely one of these characters that I think fits the best, so my choice is pretty clear this time.

[X] The Blinding Ballad
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[X] The Blinding Ballad

That certainly rolls off the tongue easily enough.

A fellow winged compatriot and a working-class member! After losing to another fairy, Cirno must regain her ego by proving her superior literacy skills.

>satisfied at reaching ten
I can't say I'm entirely surprised at this development, but I am surprised it wasn't nine.

>In the future, it might be better to fight in the buildings, or wait if the wispy clouds in the sky here ever do their job right.
That's a hint if I've ever seen one. And proof we've chosen dummy strongest mode. Need a cowboy hat for this baleful sun.

>you before you
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>Carno-focused story
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Damn it, autocorrect…
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[X] The Blinding Ballad

>satisfied at reaching ten
My disappointment is immeasurable, and my day is ruined.
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[X] The Blinding Ballad

We've committed crime, now we should invest in trying to create frozen chicken.
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[X] The Blinding Ballad
I really like this setup, feels a lot more inspired and heartfelt than the bounty hunter stuff we saw earlier.
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[x] The Sand Whale
Whales; oceans; tides; piss... something like that, anyhow.
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[X] The Blinding Ballad

Drinking raw water will make your stomach hurt~♪

Slow, alluring, singing could be heard even before Larva lets you both into the building. Inside, the song so dominates the cramped interior that neither of you can say anything, bound by a voice that, pitched high but not shrill with a haunting edge, can only be concluded as utterly beautiful. It surpasses any of the musically-inclined fairies back home or even the few human performers you’ve spied on. The singer’s lyrics, despite being as uncomplicated as the average fairy ditty, are altered by her enchanting voice, the meaning slipping from the words as you hear them and leaving only melody. A pair of exotic, twangy-sounding instruments accompany the song. Swaying a little in resonance with the music, your annoyance from getting out-wrestled by Larva melts away and even the deeper unhappiness below that seems to weaken, just a bit.

Drink lake water and it's off to Sanzu no Kawa~♪

Like the inside of a boxcar, the room is narrow with its walls, floor, and low ceiling all built from wooden boards, split down the middle lengthwise by a long counter. On the right is the stage of the singer, a winged youkai in a brown apron, and behind her is a wall-length shelf of colorful bottles fastened above a jumble of basins, stoves, and kitchen utensils. The rest of the room has the same general pattern, crammed with as many tables and stools as possible. Past the end of the counter, in the orange space of a drooping lantern, a pair of girls passionately pluck away at their instruments. The distance and tightness of the room cannot diminish their masterful playing.

“That’s Mystia, she runs this saloon,” Larva whispers about the singer. “What’s in the basket is for her.”

The sparse audience doesn’t just include you two. A girl in a dirty tan cloak sits in a stool close to the door while another customer, dressed in an aqua shirt and skirt covered with pockets, occupies a chair further back, a huge backpack on the ground by her.

“Ah, Larva! Please come in!” The singer cuts the performance when she notices the pair of you, waving you closer. The room stirs as the music ends and you follow Larva towards the kitchen side of the counter.

“Bravo! Bravo!” Cheeks flushed, the cloaked girl gives a wholehearted applause. “Well, I’ll leave the lyrics for others to comment on, but really that voice of yours… another grand performance by our very own Miss Lorelei! To show my appreciation, I’ll have another ladle!”

Up close, you realize that her cloak isn’t dirty; its odd appearance is due to irregular splotches of sandy yellows and pale browns intentionally woven in. A wide brim hat of the same style as the cloak lays carelessly on the table, allowing the girl’s moss green hair to stand out against the drab fabric.

“Thank you, Takane, but um, this will be your fifth–no, sixth?” Mystia asks with concern.

“Well, what’s the issue?” Takane crosses her arms.

“Aren’t you on a lunch break?”

“Health comes before work, don’t you know? And just because I left the Great Genbu a century ago doesn’t mean I can slack on hydration, especially not in this blasted heat!” Takane makes a show of twirling her bamboo mug on a finger, almost failing to catch it when the lacquered cup wobbles out of control.

Mystia sighs. “If you say so.”

“Haha! All right!” Takane celebrates with a pair of loud excited claps as her cup is refilled from a stout earthen pot. Even if her face didn’t show it, it’s obvious the liquid from the pot is delicious sake! Finally grasping what “saloon” means and what all those bottles at the top are for, you are proud to be the first fairy from home to get into a tavern from the front!

You carefully squeeze past Mystia as you navigate the close quarters. Despite your best efforts, the basket and your limbs still end up taking a few bumps from various protrusions.

Hidden from the front by the kitchen furniture is a sizable niche in the wall where sacks upon sacks of flour and rice loom over you and pyramids of tinned goods and oils tempt collapse by a careless nudge. Apart from a few crates with bottles of sauces and alcohol, one mysterious corner is dominated by a tower of racks, each tier containing a tray loaded with individually separated bamboo segments sealed with wooden caps. The racks give off a strong nutty aroma that tickles your nose.

“You can put the basket here.” Larva points out a clear space by an empty shelf by the strange setup. After freeing yourself from the burden, you have to give your arms a good shaking. Doing hard labor on a day like this just isn’t right!

“Wonderful! So many yummy vegetables for the customers… and a large snack for me!” Mystia, appearing from behind, suddenly grabs Larva.

“Eeep!” The fairy yelps. You watch the reversal with satisfaction as the saloonkeeper playfully hugs Larva, lifting her above the ground, legs dangling. It only lasts a moment before Mystia lets her captive go.

“It’s always scary when you do that!” Larva complains.

“Sorry, I just get so peckish after practice, I can’t help it, hehe~.” Mystia adjusts her cap and slaps her apron clean of stray scales before studying you. “Wait, a new face? Who’s your helper?”

“I’m Cirno of Misty Lake!” You introduce yourself, straightening out your dress and standing up straighter. “Larva only got me to help because she tricked me!”

“Still, it’s kind of you to help Larva with her delivery. Not one of us can survive on canned stuff alone, much less cook with it,” Mystia replies.

“Cirno, you’re not done yet. The fruits have to go on the top while the vegetables go below,” Larva chips in with her instruction, before remembering something. “Oh yeah, Mystia, I’ve got the extra cucumbers you said you wanted.”

“Yes! I did request those, didn’t I? I’d better go get your payment.” Mystia goes back to the front as Larva helps you restock the shelf.

“So the fairies are your source of produce! That’s one mystery solved.” The girl with the pockets stands at the counter, wearing a dark green cap and now hefting that bulky backpack. It’s the absolute largest backpack you’ve ever seen, completely disproportionate compared to its bearer, and rivals her skirt for pocket count. What could require that much capacity?

“So, extra cucumbers, huh?” She continues.

“That’s right, Nitori. You were talking about cucumber recipes yesterday and I wanted to try a few of them out,“ Mystia explains.

“If that’s the case, I’ll have to bring the whole crew over for dinner then!” Nitori eagerly responds.

“You won’t be disappointed. Urumi also brought in a fresh catch this morning so tonight’s menu is bound to be great!”

“That sounds fantastic!” Nitori leans forward. “By the way, Mystia, have you considered my proposition?”

“P-proposition!?” Mystia blushes. “Did you ask me about something like that?”

“No, no!” Nitori defensively waves both her palms. “About me recording your singing, remember? We talked about it last night!”

Mystia takes a moment to think about it. “I only remember the cucumbers…oooh, right. I think I remember now. You said you had one of those mechanical Kyoukos!”

“Well, what do you think?”

“It does seem interesting, but I’ve heard that artificial echoes sound nothing like a real voice.”

“I admit, what you’ve said is perfectly true… of traditional phonographs,” Nitori responds, raising a finger. “But never underestimate the forward march of progress! My new soon-to-be-patent Kawashirophone offers unprecedented audio fidelity, mechanical reliability, and will be affordable to the common man, youkai, or even fairy!”

Takane interrupts with a loud groan. “It’s always some gadget or contraption with you. Just give it a break,” She says, annoyed. “I mean, what the hell is this ‘progress’ nonsense? People just want to enjoy some plain ol’ music, not a terrible sales pitch.”

No one else seems to be disturbed by the brewing argument, but you listen with interest. You’ve never been so close to so many loud and interesting youkai before.

“This has nothing to do with you,” Nitori replies.

“Maybe, but I can’t help but feel bad watching you trying to rope someone into another of your half-baked schemes.”

“I’m sorry you tree-dwellers can’t seem to understand, but today we live in the age of the technologists.” Nitori proudly proclaims. “Things are changing faster than a blink, I hope for your own good that you can keep up. My friends and I certainly will.”

“Some things will change but I can always bet on you amphibians coming up with the lousiest ideas,” Takane shoots back.

“Have you ever made anything?”


“I-,” Nitori sputters. “I’ll have that and more!”

“Maybe when something of yours blows up in the right way. But until then, you’ll take jobs from the damn tengu.” Takane drains the rest of her sake. “Which you’re slacking on.”

“That was literally only once! And the problem was a bolt on the boiler’s… whatever. The reason I’m up here is to check out some new equipment that arrived on today’s train,” Nitori replies, starting exasperated before becoming cool. ”Sure, working like this, not my preference, but the boss is hands-off and the job itself is pretty nice. Safe too, but you won’t know much about any of that.”

“...” Takane tenses and shrinks into her cloak. When she speaks, her voice is like cold iron. “Aw, just shut up.”

“Hmph. Someone clearly had a little too much to drink.” Nitori takes a breath to recover and picks up where she left off. “Mystia, sorry about that distraction. Look, you lose nothing by trying, right? Heck, you can treat the recording like your usual practice session and leave the rest to me!”

“I suppose it wouldn’t hurt. Sure, I’ll try it.” Mystia agrees.

“Great! I’ll bring the device by sometime later. We don’t have to set up anything, it's so easy to use!” Nitori regains her energy. “Another thing, do you know how to read sheet music?”

“Read? I’m not the best at it…”

“That’s not a problem, I’ll figure something out... oh, hello.” Nitori notices the two musicians approaching and turns to face them, “Um… we’ve never met, but you’re the Tsukumo sisters, right? How can I help...”

Having found what she was looking for, Mystia returns to you two. Your work is already finished and Larva hangs on to the empty basket.

“Larva, here you go.” Mystia places a small cloth bag in the basket. Her eyes perk up at the fully stocked pantry. “Oh, nice! Since you’ve brought a few lemons, let me make you an extra treat. Don’t worry, I’ll be quick!”

“Really!?” Larva turns to you. “Cirno, we can’t leave yet!”

You suppose you shall wait, given her infectious enthusiasm and your own growing curiosity at this promised treat. Mystia is already at work, putting out a few bowls and a juicer and is cutting the lemons. Larva goes to chat with her.

At the same time, you can’t help but notice that while Nitori stands talking excitedly with the two string players, her backpack is left open to attack.

Takane, still in the same spot, has set aside her emptied cup and with both wrists propping up her head, looks to be intense in thought. Her cloak had shifted during the spat, revealing what you vaguely recognize as a holster holding a gun!

[ ] Stay with Mystia and Larva
[ ] Check out Nitori’s backpack
[ ] Talk to Takane
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The ghost hungers for the bird, which desires the larva. So it goes.

On the one hand, the loot goblin inside me is screaming to ransack the Kappa's bag, but there is a shiny gun, though I would bet my left hand that our rowdy fairy doesn't know how to operate it properly.

[X] Talk to Takane

Give me yer thoughts, mountain desert person!
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> Stay with Mystia and Larva
This will allow us to learn more about these two characters and vice versa, which seems useful if we're looking for allies to eventually help us take down Remilia, at the cost of not widening our network as much.

> Check out Nitori’s backpack
This could net us some useful items, but it also seems like it risks starting a fight so soon after the one Cirno just lost, and it could jeopardise our relationships with the others as well. I kind of want to find out what Nitori and the Tsukumos are talking about, but that's not one of the options.

> Talk to Takane
Something's definitely bothering her, giving how she's sitting here being grumpy and drunk. I'm not sure what to expect, but it seems like an opportunity to learn information.

The first and third choices both seem tempting to me. For now I will go with:
[X] Stay with Mystia and Larva
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Hey everyone, there's a tie here that needs breaking! ;)
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[X] Stay with Mystia and Larva

Two is better than one!
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You observe Takane for a little bit, but there’s no chance for you to talk. She suddenly pushes off the counter, stool grinding against the floor, and stands up. She briefly glances at you while picking up a brown hat from the table, looking away to dust off its broad brim.

“Well, better get back to work before any more ‘irregularities’ happen.” Takane sighs. “And I’ll be out of your feathers.”

“Take care, Takane!” Mystia calls back.

Takane nods. Then she puts on her hat, sets a few coins down, and walks off with a slight totter, leaving the doors swinging as the glare swallows her.

The saloonkeeper reaches over and deftly grabs the money. You walk closer to where Mystia and Larva are, by the kitchen’s workbench.

When waiting at previous stations and in the train, you’d overheard plenty of worried snatches about “beastly outlaws” and disparaging comments on “useless rangers” and “greedy bounty hunters.” Not only is there seemingly way more action than back at the lake, the way they’re purported to fight seems to be different, shooting enhancing or even entirely favored over hands, fangs, and magic. Before Takane, you had only ever seen guns up close in pictures or distantly in the hands of hunters, but despite current problems and Dai’s warnings to be careful, a swirl of dramatic duels and flashy brawls seizes your imagination.

“Is Takane an outlaw?” You ask hushed, just to be safe. “She had a gun!”

“Huh? No, she’s just a trader. Being armed, that’s just how a lot of people are in these parts.” Mystia answers.

“Then do you have a gun too?”

“You don’t look like a troublemaker, but these are some odd questions.” She looks puzzled and even a little suspicious. With a loud thunk, Mystia chops through the final lemon.

“Woah, I didn’t mean anything!” You shrug. “Everything’s just… so different from home.”

“Cirno is very new around here.” Larva backs you up. “I actually found her outside the station before we came in!”

Mystia accepts the answer and relaxes. “Ah, I do get your feelings; I was surprised by the rowdiness at first too.” She lazily tosses a hand up. ” Well, everyone out here with more than a penny in their pocket has to protect themselves in some way. I’m no different, and I’ve got some tricks of my own.”

“And you’ve got Kyouko to back you up,” Larva looks around. “Though, I haven’t seen her recently.”

“Actually, she’s not here. She went to go find religion. For real!” Mystia giggles. “Apparently there’s this new temple that arrived up north that Kyouko got interested in, so she went to check it out.”

“But will you be fine handling the saloon by yourself?”

“Don’t worry about me, I still have what it takes to run a one-woman shop!” Mystia’s voice is cheery, but there’s a halfhearted tinge. “It’s only temporary. When business picks up again, she’ll return.”

With a firm grip and her strength, Mystia swiftly squeezes out the lemon halves with the juicer. The juice goes into a glass pitcher, where it is mixed with water and clear syrup from a couple of larger jugs.

“All done! Told you it would be quick.” She pours into two of the bamboo cups and hands them to you and Larva.

“Oh, wow! This is good!” You take a big gulp. It’s just lemonade in the end, but it’s well balanced between sour and sweet, with just enough pulp to carry the fresh citrus taste. It’s just missing something, however. “Too bad it’s not cold!”

“I have an icebox, but it’s a little expensive to keep filled. Guess it makes sense, you’d lose at least half of whatever ice shipped, if not more.” Mystia says.

“Well, that’s not a problem for me!” You dramatically raise your hand and point a finger downward at the cup. “Ha!”

At the push of your will, the drink’s temperature instantly drops and you can feel the coolness through the cup soon after. You also slightly overdid it, and the top layer actually freezes over in a thin crust of ice, but it also makes the effect more noticeable. It was more difficult than expected thanks to how warm and dry it is and you use the raised hand to discreetly wipe away a drop of sweat off your forehead while lowering it.

“Isn’t that convenient!” Mystia exclaims.

“Oooh! Can I have some too?” Larva eagerly begs.

“But of course!” You graciously chill her drink too, then continue slurping down your own.

Mystia looks into the pitcher, still over half-full. “There’s a lot left. You might as well take the rest of this back for the rest of your friends.”

“Really? I’ll make sure to bring the pitcher back next time.” Larva promises. “I’ve never had such a cold drink on a day this hot before! It’s the best!” She’s enjoying her drink at a measured pace. You raise the cup to your lips and keep tipping it up, but there’s nothing. It felt like just a couple of sips!

As Mystia accepts the empty cup, the other conversation in the place goes quiet: Nitori and the musicians must’ve finished their discussion.

“Whew, all this talk’s given me some great ideas and the day’s wasting away! Cya Mystia, don’t forget about that recording!” Skipping quite fast for having such a huge weight on her back, Nitori’s goodbye and the doors trail behind her.

You can’t figure out any resemblance, but the supposed sisters lag behind on the way out, holding their instrument cases and still chatting. The taller, lavender haired one speaks to the other. “To think that the beauty of traditional instruments like us might be able live on and be heard in every home… in a disc no larger than my forearm! Technology truly is wonderful.”

“But Benben, I’m still not sure about this stuff. There’s so many things that haven’t been thought over! Are we still the instruments in a recording or is it the device? Who owns the playing and gets the money?” The shorter brown haired one gestures wildly. “Are all inventors so damn shady?”

“Oh, Yatsuhashi, you always have good concerns, but you can’t take everything so seriously. We’re just exploring some possibilities. It was just exciting to hear Nitori talk.”

“The excitement of greed…” The other mutters.

“You two must be heading out as well.” Mystia calls out. “Thanks for helping with today’s practice!”

“Thanks for lunch!” Yatsuhashi responds.

“This practice is good for us as well.” Benben stops at the threshold. “Say, Mystia, have you spoken to any other musicians recently?”

“Can’t say I have.”

“Hmm, so they haven’t been expanding…” Benben goes on to explain. “A new group of players showed up at the Whale for the first time last night and they are unearthly good. We won’t be able to match their volume, but music is more than just loudness. There must be artistry above all else.”

“That’s right! We can’t lose to them!” Yatsuhashi smacks her fist in her palm. “They can bang bang and doot doot their way to hell!”

“That would explain what happened across the street last night. I’m pretty sure the building was shaking from the cacophony.” Mystia says, “but, that also might’ve been drunk kappa dancing into the walls here.”

“Still, it’s weird that such a strong bunch would come here.” Benben wonders aloud.

“It pisses me off. If they’re so good, why don’t they find a bigger town to play in and stop stealing from the little guys?”

“Hey now, you two play perfectly fine!” Mystia tries to calm down Yatsuhashi. “You guys will always be my first pick, at least. I’m pretty sure if they played in here, the roof would fall in. ”

“Thank you, Mystia. That means a lot to us.” Benben pushes open the door. “See you later.”

“Bye, Misty, fairies.”

Before you can shout that you have a name too, the sisters are already gone, leaving only you three in the room.

“The Tsukumos are the town’s usual musicians. I invite them as evening entertainment or to help me practice my singing.” Mystia explains as she pulls out a bucket and a rag. “But this many new faces in such a short while… I hope you can understand why I was worried about you earlier, Cirno. We’ve had a pretty bad turn of luck these past couple years. I’m sure some of the other townsfolk are on edge too.”

“What happened?” You have to ask. Mystia gathers the cups off the counter and places them in the basin. Then, after plopping down the soaked rag on the counter and sweeping, she answers.

“Well, it's kind of a string of unfortunate events, one leading to the other. We used to have some of the biggest gold mines in the country here, but those dried up. A lot of people left of course, and a few outlaws moved in. It was hard, but manageable.” She sighs. “Then the Beast Gangs showed up.”

“Beast Gangs?”

Mystia pauses her work and raises an eyebrow. “Really? You don’t know about the Beast Gangs?”

“They’re a bunch of wild animals?”

She lets out a brief laugh. “Pretty much, considering those masks they all wear. They’re the three oldest and biggest gangs of outlaws in the east. There’s Keiga, who’ll rob people of everything, clothes and even fillings, and strand them in the middle of the desert. Gouyoku, who they say owns most of the smuggling routes in this half of the continent.” She shudders. “And Kiketsu, who’ll ask businesses to pay protection fees, and if they refuse, their shop ‘mysteriously’ burns down.”

“These guys sound like bad news!”

“Yep. You asked about Takane earlier, but the Beast Gangs are the real deal. And now they’re using the hills around the town for their hideouts.” She continues cleaning. “The rangers have never been able to keep up and our own sheriff ran off. We still have a mayor. She’s usually useless, but this time she met with the gang heads and brokered a deal: no major violence or killing in the town limits, and they’re allowed to visit the town in peace. They surprisingly agreed so outside of the usual drunken brawls it’s been peaceful, but it’s more like the peace of being in a noose.”

“Dang...” You dwell on Mystia’s words. All the exciting action seems a lot less so from her telling.

“The Gangs scared off all the other bandits at first, but presently, it feels like there’s a whole new wave of rough folk coming in. It’s not fun, but hopefully they move on soon, like they always have” Mystia looks up at you to ask her own question. “So, now that you know more about our beautiful Sage Springs, what brings a fairy like you here anyways?”

“Yeah! I’d like to know too!” Larva chimes in.

And so it all comes back to the root of the issue. Being in this town specifically was the outcome of a simple slip up, but thinking about it, the entire journey was probably one big mistake.

“Well… I’m just…” You attempt to start, but nothing is able to follow. There’s no real point in being secretive anymore, but everything that’s happened: the planning and preparations, the dual wonder and befuddlement of the journey, the wrong turn, and then just this morning, that vampire, your total failure leaving you stranded hundreds of miles from home, it all seems so pointless, so wasteful. How do you explain any of that?

You decide to not. “I’m just passing through.”

Mystia nods with understanding, but Larva keeps pressing you. “That’s it? Where’re you headed then?”

“Private business.” You cross your arms.

“Come on, you can trust us.”

“Sorry, can’t tell you.” Because you don’t know.

“Why?” Larva approaches a little closer. “If you’re in trouble, maybe we could help you out!”

“You wouldn’t say that if you actually knew my problems! I can’t even help myself!” You shout. It’s not as if a certain fluttery distraction was one of the reasons why you still have no clue what to do next. You have to manually unclench your fists.

Larva opens her mouth to keep going, but Mystia cuts in.

“Larva, I know you’re trying to help, but I think it’s better to respect that Cirno isn't comfortable sharing right now.”

“Okay,” Larva backs off, and you feel a little guilty that she looks genuinely concerned rather than just nosey.

Mystia says nothing else as she finishes cleaning the counter. After the final corner is swept, she throws the rag into the bucket and wipes her forehead on her sleeve.

“I’ve had a lot of people come through the Ballad, less nowadays, but seeing everyone, listening to them, it gives a picture of a world that can be pretty rough.” Mystia looks down in the bucket as she swirls it around, then focuses back on you. “I don’t know your troubles and I won’t pry, but if it’s about something important, and I’m sure it is, remind yourself of that, that you can’t afford to give up.” She puts the bucket down. “And if there’s a setback, we just have to try again, even if we need a break.”

You take in Mystia’s words. That vampire has never seemed more invincible, and you’re just not sure what you could possibly try, but she’s right that Dai and the others are still counting on you. “Thanks, Mystia. That does help. Sorry for snapping at you, Larva.” If only you had an idea for a plan, a next step to take.

Mystia coughs before clapping twice. “Also, if you’re going to be out here, you’ll need to dress to fit in.” She bends over and, from under a cubby the counter, slides out an open topped wooden box, Lost and Found messily scribbled on the side. You peek over, seeing mostly old clothes and small bits of junk, but also weirder things, like a lonely single-tooth sandal, two halves of a formerly cute otter mask, a decorated cavalry saber, and a gold ring with a large diamond on it.

“People have got to seriously stop forgetting their stuff, but I guess I’m the worst one to be saying anything on that.” She shuffles through the jumble and tugs out a straw hat. She brushes it off before handing it to you. “Sorry about the style, but it’s the smallest I have. I hope it’s small enough. ”

It looks like a pretty ordinary straw hat and you’ve seen quite a few like it, but the weave is fine and the crown is ringed by an exquisite blue ribbon.

You try it on. After retying the ribbon, it fits comfortably.

Mystia places a small mirror on the counter. Peering into it, past the slightly scratched surface, your face beams back out, shaded by the orange brim. You are reminded of a recent station stop where you saw a group of similar hats through the window, big tough guys with the shovels and hammers who were smashing down a wall. You like it!

“Woah! It fits!” You try out a few poses. A couple of straight on hard stares. A quarter turn and upwards tilt, very contemplative! Some dignified profile views, eyes straining at the corner to keep sight of the mirror.

“It looks good!” Larva gives a thumbs up.

“Yeah, it does!”

“Perfect, then it’s yours!” Mystia says. “Okay, cleaning is done… oh right, got to check up on my sake!”

“We’ll be going then.” Larva puts the pitcher with the lemonade, now safely capped, into the basket alongside the little bag. She picks the whole thing up. You’re excited to leave too, not just to test out your new equipment, but also to find a place to sit and think about the future with a cooler mind.

“Um… that’s not right?!”

You are close to the door, Larva behind you, but you both turn around at the disturbance.

“What’s wrong Mystia?” Larva asks.

“Ah… I probably jinxed myself.” Mystia slides out nearly every shelf under the counter in rapid succession. She groans, then smacks the top of her head a few times. “I’ve misplaced my notebook! It has all my recipes in it!”

She then starts going through the kitchen cabinets.

“Where could it be… I remember leaving it in the usual place, but clearly I didn’t!”

“Want some help?” You ask.

“Nah, it’s on me. It’ll be somewhere silly, I know it. You two go on.” She shakes her head and shoos you both out.


Outside, you both lean against the wall of the place next door. The sun is even more intense, but the combined shade of your new hat and the building’s awning works to keep the light off. The store’s sign is blank, however, and its windows are blocked out by boards.

“Mystia’s memory can be pretty bad, but she uses a notebook to keep track of everything. I don’t think she’s ever forgotten the notebook before, since she’s usually so careful about it.” Larva ponders. “I guess there’s a first time for everything.” She turns to you. “Hey, do you want to come with me to our base?”

Even if you end up deciding to go home right away, and even if the station lady’s offer still stands, the train wouldn’t be ready until nightfall. You have some time to burn. “Okay! But can we explore the town first?” It’s best to make the most of your visit here, no matter how brief, and maybe learn something new.

“It’ll keep getting hotter and hotter until the sun sets, so we’ll want to be back before afternoon, but I think we can visit one area. Where do you want to go?”

[ ] Let’s check out the other stores!
[ ] What are those giant chimneys over there for?
[ ] The town hall!
[ ] Are those holes up there the gold mines?
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>a gold ring with a large diamond on it
I'll bet you someone is mad about that going missing.

>The Gangs scared off all the other bandits at first, but presently, it feels like there’s a whole new wave of rough folk coming in. It’s not fun, but hopefully they move on soon, like they always have
I will venture a guess and say that is probably what the Red-White Ranger, Ordinary Bounty Hunter, and the Half-Phantom Ranger would've been here for.

>I don’t think she’s ever forgotten the notebook before, since she’s usually so careful about it.

[X] The town hall!

I am very curious about who this useless mayor will be. Also, it is an opportunity to see the face of the system. However, I do wonder if it will spark any memories of Seija. Wait, Cirno would be walking into a town hall with a bomb in her pocket.
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All of these options have potential, but I agree with the poster above that it will be interesting to know who the mayor is, there is not really a close analogue to that in canon. The town being named "Sage Springs" suggests it could be one of the sages, but I think Yukari might have been featured elsewhere ("purple lady" who gave Cirno incorrect directions at an earlier station) and Kasen and Okina both seem too reclusive in their own ways to be mayors. Maybe it's Miko, given how she wanted to become a leader of the Human Village in canon?

[X] The town hall!

Also, unrelated to the choice, I have some ideas about who the original owners of the lost items could have been.
> a lonely single-tooth sandal
One of the crow tengu.
> two halves of a formerly cute otter mask
Someone from the Kiketsu gang, who possibly met a bad end.
> a decorated cavalry saber
Momiji or Youmu.
> a gold ring with a large diamond on it
I think Jo'on is the only 2hu shown wearing rings?
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> I don’t think she’s ever forgotten the notebook before, since she’s usually so careful about it.

This definitely hints that it has been stolen, but it is not obvious to me who would have done so – none of Nitori, Takane or the Tsukumos seem to me the type to steal something like this.
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Yeah, those in the bar don't seem like the type. However, if we keep assuming that the character who stole the notebook is named, what are the chances it would be a fairy causing mischief or, say, a trio?
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