[Well, we’ve come to DoomHou’s third thread with thirty-one chapter and God knows how many words.
I’d like to thank all you anons out there for reading a voting; you give me to strength to continue when things get sticky.
Apologies for the delay. Computer woes, school woes, surprise pirate attacks all conspired to keep me down.
Also, I would like a New Thread Review for anyone with thoughts. Tell me where I suck, where I own, what struck you and what didn’t. Kick my ass or kick it; it’s all up to you.]
In that moment, the entire world pulls into focus. The birds outside sing. The floor creaks under your steps. You draw close to her, and, in a motion, wrap her up in your arms. She feels warm and tense in your hold; her eyes go wide for a moment and her cheeks go red. She smells sweet and womanly to you, so sweet that you ignore her surprise and kiss her.
When you finally break, Meiling looks disheveled, stunned, but above all else joyous. Her tears still streak down her face as she breaks into a glorious smile.
“I love you, babe.”
With sudden force, she pulls you down to the floor, on top of her. Her hair flairs out into a red carpet: the acute feeling of her warm body beneath you, the gentle breeze of her breath on your face, all conspire to excite you. You kiss her again: this feeling coursing through you never gets old, a feeling you’d almost forgotten over years of Martian wandering: the feeling of being close to a woman.
Your hand tightens around hers, fingers intertwined, as you kiss her again, her lips soft and alluring. When you break off, she speaks in a dreamy and vague voice. “Your beard is scratchy.”
“It’s not a beard yet. Just a stubble.”
“Oh.” She pauses. “It’s still scratchy.”
“Do you want me to shave?” At moment in time you would do just about anything she asked of you.
“Not really. It’s kind of nice.”
With a sudden roll, you pull Meiling on top of you. She gives a shriek of delight, legs clamping around your waist: she leans down and kisses you again, her weight pressing down pleasantly on your chest, her hair falling down around your head and blocking out the light.
“How’s it nice?”
“I don’t know. It makes me excited.”
She leans down presses her lips to yours. The kiss is quite nice; Meiling’s good at this, so you do your best to reciprocate in kind. Before long, you’re pawing at her dress to get her out of it -- that black looks so unsightly on someone so vibrant -- and she pulls at your robe, yanking it open to fall across the floor the dress pulls away, exposing the plain white brassier. Shit, how do you get these open?
“We shouldn’t do this yet…”
“Why?” Your heart sinks.
“I… need to take care of something first.”
“Erm…” she blushes. “Do I have to say it?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Well,” she swallows, playing with her hair. “I really don’t think I should have a litter right about now…”
“Well, yeah. I can’t get pregnant right now.”
But… “You have litters?”
Meiling turns scarlet. “Well… yeah… youkai have litters.”
“Cool.” You pull her down into another kiss. She’s good at this: very good at it. You decide not to think about how she gained this knowledge, instead turning your own skills on her. Before long she’s quivering in your arms, her tongue reaching out to entwine with yours. For a moment, she breaks loose.
“Ah… Guts… I don’t know if I can turn back…”
You grin as she unclasps her bra -- as it falls away, you drink in the sight. They’re just about perfect, by every criteria you can imagine applying. She frowns and covers them. “Stop staring…”
“Aww. They’re so cute too…”
She turns red. “You gotta embarrass me too?”
“It’s a little late to be worrying about that!” You pull her down into another kiss, enjoying the feeling of her breasts against you. Meiling gives a satisfied purr as you grope her a bit, one hand going to her breasts while another holds on to her butt. Her legs tighten around your sides; you can feel the powerful muscles coiling with tension beneath her skin, and you grin.
“I don’t know… Oh… Guts!” She startles as your hands snake under her skirt and into her panties, moist to the touch. You pause for a moment, throwing her a quizzical look. Blushing scarlet, she nods. “But Guts…”
“Don’t worry about that, I got an idea.”
“What idea-- wah!” She gives a small scream as you rotate her swiftly on top of you -- “How-- what--”
“You’ve never done the Sixty-Nine before?”
“Then this should be fun!” You ride her dress up and see--
Meiling lazes comfortably in the crook of your arm. The afterwards is the most wonderful feeling, one you’d nearly forgotten during your long war against the demons. Her chest rises and falls against you, a beautiful sensation, but… nonetheless, there is still business. Always with the fucking business (pun fully intended). If you could, you would rest like this, with Meiling, until you died -- but a comfortable retirement will have to wait until the demons are dead.
“Meiling. I need to talk to you about something.”
“I know. It’s Remilia.”
“I don’t think Marisa would have contacted me otherwise.”
Meiling gives you a wry smile. “Everyone thinks I’m a little slow. They’re right. But being slow… lets you really think things through.” She sighs. “But… the truth is… I’m worried about Lady Remilia. She’s scaring me.”
“She… one time, I heard her talking to someone. And when I went into the room, she was alone. It sounded like she was scared, like something was threatening her… she was pleading with it. And when I asked her about it… she just stared at me. Like I would get hurt if I talked about it.” Tears form at the corners of her eyes. “And then that new demon-slayer showed up, and… I don’t like her. No one knows anything about her, like she doesn’t really exist…”
“Huh.” You sit upright. “Meiling, I need you to be my eyes inside Remilia’s circle.” She looks despondent. “We’ll fix this! But we need your help, and-- please don’t cry.”
She pulls you into an embrace. “I want it back.”
You understand. Meiling wants her life back -- she wants those good things again, peaceful days in Gensokyo. You hug her tight. “Meiling. This will be set right. No, no, listen to me. It will. We will bring this world back together. You and I, and everyone else who remembers.”
She nods against your chest.
“Good. So you’re in? You’ll help us?”
She nods again.
“You don’t have to.”
“I want to help.”
“And… Guts. I love you.”
“I love you too.” You’re not sure how you can be so sure about this -- but, hell, why not? Meiling’s beautiful, kind, strong, understanding… and you’re pretty fine if you do say so yourself. Love sounds fine after a lifetime of carnage.
The door slides open, revealing Reimu -- licking a popsicle. “Hey, Marisa says you need to-- OH SHI--! SORRY!” The frozen treat plunges to the ground as Reimu flees the room, slamming the door behind her. Well, she’s old enough to handle it.
“She dropped her popsicle…” China frowns. “I wonder if it’s still edible.”
“Five second rule ran out.”
“Yeah, but it’s more like five minutes for Youkai. Stronger stomachs, you see.”
You lean down and kiss her on the cheek. “Marisa’s right, though. You should get back.”
Her heart visibly sinks.
“But we’ll meet up again soon.”
She swells up. “Yeah, no moping. Just... be careful, OK?”
“You died once. I don’t... want you to go away again. I don’t think my heart could take it.”
“Hey, Guts, there’s news -- what are you grinning about?” Eirin pokes her head in your tent.
“I know that look,” she says, sagely. “That’s the look of a man who just got laid.”
“Yes. It is. I’ve done my fair share of psychology, you know.” She enters and takes a seat -- admittedly, looking a little the worse for wear. To be expected, she’s the best healer in camp and there are plenty of wounded. There are bags under her eyes though, and her uniform looks disheveled and wrinkled. “Who’s the lucky girl?”
“Gentlemen don’t tell,” you chide.
“Alas. Foiled again by selective use of the gentlemanly code.”
“Are you somehow implying that I am not the image of a sophisticated upper-class gent? Also, I seem to have lost my monocle somewhere around here...”
“I lost my top hat. It seems there is a dastardly thief on the loose.”
“Seriously, though, what’s up?”
“Remilia’s getting ready to move.”
You sit up, going serious. “Details.”
“I got this through Momiji. This evening, she’s going to make a speech to the assembled soldiers, a five thousand, in all. She’ll state her purpose there -- fabricated or not -- and then the army will march to drive the demons out of Gensokyo.” Eirin’s gaze is hard and serious -- somehow tragic, mixed with how tired and old her face as become.
“Hrm... I got some weird intel on her.”
“Apparently, she’s talking to people who aren’t there; sounds desperate, like she’s pleading with someone. Can’t really say where this came from, but-- Are you OK?”
Eirin’s gaze is fixed on the ground, her hand over her mouth. Her eyes dart to and fro -- like she’s thinking faster than you ever could.
“I need to research this.”
“There might be more to this than either of us know. I need to do research.” She gets up to leave.
“Wait up! What the hell is going on?”
“I don’t want to say anything for sure, but... where do you suppose humans and youkai and fairies and all the things of earth come from?”
“I... uh... do you want that in thirty-five words or less or...?”
“They come from the earth, under our feet. Where did the earth come from?”
“No one actually does know, but we sages call it Heaven -- the realm of the gods. Now... do you suppose the demons have something like that?”
“HOW THE HELL SHOULD I KNOW?!”
Eirin gives a short, mirthless laugh. “I don’t know. But there’s a grim parallel to it. Us, Earth, Heaven; Demons, Hell, and... whatever it is. I don’t know what it’s name might be, but Patchouli Knowledge could have a clue.”
“Patches, eh?” You regret cuddling with her -- now she’s all pissy, most likely. “I’ll see what I can do. But what’s any of this have to do with Remilia?”
“Have you ever heard a voice? In your head? Compelling you to do... the most awful things?”
You freeze, staring at her. “How... how do you know about that?”
“I’ve... it’s a symptom. But that’s what they are. The devil-kings. Whispering in our ears.” Eirin climbs out of the tent, eyes focused on the setting sun. “Be on time to Remilia’s speech.”
You find yourself hewing to Momiji’s group. The woman herself sits on a stretcher, bandaged but surprisingly healthy. Only now do you notice that she’s got her share of scars on her face and hands, some left from impromptu stitches, other places where it looks like her limbs were severed and reattached.
Remilia and her entourage gather on a raised platform, surrounded on all sides by her impromptu army. Fairies hover above the heads of the onlookers, oni tower above, humans crane their necks to see -- you note familiar faces throughout the crowd, even Alice Margatroid -- she’s way in the back, sitting against a six-by-three foot box that absolutely dwarfs her.
“Ladies and gentleman,” Remilia begins, with a flourish of her black cape. Sakuya, Meiling, Patchouli, and the new Demon-slayer stand behind her. “You all know why you have been summoned here, and you all know the circumstances under which this army was convened. We were formed from the blood of those who fought in the early days of the war, in disorganized groups that wandered around Gensokyo in search of liberation.
“But, from their countless sacrifices we rose up: one, singular army that will sweep the country, rooting the demons out of every corner of Gensokyo -- and then sealing the portals that admit them into our world.This is our duty: it is sacred, it is perfect. And, to that end, my good friend Patchouli Knowledge has researched tirelessly to find a weapon equal to this goal.
“She has found it, and when the time comes you shall all know it. For I will carry this weapon of destruction into the final battle... and I will walk away from this battle, ready to help rebuild Gensokyo in any way I can...”
In the end, you tune out most of the speech, and find yourself daydreaming about Meiling. Oh, her body is divine... if only you had a few more hours to pleasure her properly. Alas and alack.
As you look skyward, you find yourself staring at the heavens.
“The vampire has become quite the politician.”
You glance to your side. Yukari, looking as haggard as ever, sits next to you. No one else seems to notice.
“She’s a slick one, all right. Should you be down here?”
“You’ve nodded off, Guts. Communicating through dreams is no feat..”
“Well, shit. I hope Remi doesn’t get even more pissed than usual.”
“Oh, you aren’t alone, I assure you.”
“You know...” she pauses for a long moment. “I hope you realize that your dalliance with Hong Meiling is supremely temporary.”
“What are you getting at?”
Yukari takes a moment to steady herself. “All in all, Meiling is a very minor power in Gensokyo -- not to disparage her, but it is the truth. And if you truly choose her over all others... things could go very badly for her.”
“Dammit, Yukari, just come out and say what you mean!”
“Quite simply, Guts, some of the most powerful entities here are after you -- I presume you’ve learned why. If they register Meiling as a threat, well, things could go badly for her.”
Well, crap. You never thought about it from that angle.
“Who is after me, exactly? I could clean house ahead of time.”
“Oh, I can’t know all their intentions. That psychopath Yuuka springs to mind. Remilia. If I thought she had the intellect for it, Flandre. And... that Patchouli Knowledge is acting very suspiciously.”
“Patches? No way, she’s my teddy!”
“Excuse me?” Yukari throws you a puzzled glance.
“Nothing. Look, who else needs to go on the shitlist?”
“No one, so far as I know. Guts--”
Of course, speaking of powerful entities... “What about you, eh?”
She laughs bitterly. “You are a savvy one, aren’t you? But no, I have little interest in this ritual. I do not think I’ll be around to enjoy that power very long.”
You feel a little bad as her gaze turns down. There’s a strange dankness in her eyes -- a look you’ve seen too often. Entirely too often. It only shows up in those who know they are going to die.
After a long moment, you reach over and pat her on the shoulder. “Come on, it won’t be like that.”
“Oh, I know that it will. And, to be frank, I have little concern for my own fate -- I am more worried that you will not live.”
“And take you away from all the friends you’ve made, all the pure things you’ve protected...?”
Well, shit. It’s been a while since anyone put it it that way...
“No, no. My own fate is secondary to that of Gensokyo’s. There is one thing I can do, however: offer you the chance to become my familiar. Again. If you do that, I could protect you and Meiling. Otherwise... I can make no guarantees.”
“Sorry. You’ve got my answer.”
“I see.” Yukari’s expression remains downcast. “If that is your choice, I shall abide by it.”
You startle awake as a sharp hiss enters your ears. Eirin is prodding your side frantically.
“The speech is almost over. Wake up!”
You glance around -- plenty of sleepy humans and youkai, and Remilia is finishing up with some rhetorical flourishes. As the speech ends and the crowd dissipates (after some cursory applause), you lean over to Eirin. “So... uh... what did Remilia say, exactly?”
“In short, time to move. We’re sweeping south, through the forest, and then in a full circle of Gensokyo. Sounds bloody.”
“Without a doubt.” Urgh, you can’t even do much about Remilia without endangering Momiji’s company. “Guts!” Momiji calls you over, sitting up in her stretcher. “I need to speak with you.”
You sidle over. “Yeah, what is it?”
“In short, I received orders recently -- the Kennel will be in the vanguard, and thus in a great deal of danger. You are not technically one of us, and...” She leans over. “If you stay back with the main group, you will be closer to Reimu and Marisa.”
Heh. She’s in on it, ain’t she? Clever dog.
Well, your instincts lie on the front lines, the Oni Regalia gripped in your sweaty palm as you slash demons down.
On the other hand, Meiling.
[ ]... “I’m going on the front with you, Cap’n.”
[ ]... “I need to keep an eye on things in camp.”
This plan is poorly conceived and will, probably, be realized worse. A battle of attrition against hell will never work: cut the hydra's body not its fucking head(s)
[x]... “I’m going on the front with you, Cap’n.”
And that why I want Guts to be in the frontline. So that he can buy his friends enough time to realize that they're all going to die and, hopefully, do something about it.
Ooh tough choice considering the implications given by Yukari, Meiling as well as Eirin throughout this mess. With Hell's endless assaults, Remilia seemingly either losing her mind to madness or being nothing more than a puppet for something far more sinister, to Meiling, Momiji and Co being endangered by the same forces as well as the likes of Yuuka along with Flandre...
[X]... “I’m going on the front with you, Cap’n.”
Can't just let them go to the meat grinder like that without giving them a chance to break said grinder's proverbial teeth.
One side, should Guts join the vanguard group that could very easily leave home base wide open for sneak attacks or worse; slaughtered by very powerful entities.
On the other hand, the plan of trying to wipe out all of hell's denizens in one fell swoop can be seen being poorly thought out with little regard to those that are leading the attack in the first place along those that follow them.
We've just been told Meiling is in danger if she's associated to us. Thus far how many people have any idea Gut's is even alive let alone has chosen her?
We can't let fear for her paralyse us - we have no reason to believe she's in any more danger than she ever was (yet), and she can defend herself against any 'normal' level threats.
The front guard on the other hand is in obvious and immediate danger of obliteration.
Of course, better to try and change this foolhardy plan, but short of shouting our identity from the rooftops I don't see how that's going to happen.
It’s a bitter choice, but you know Meiling can handle herself. Hell, you wouldn’t be in love with her if she couldn’t. No, no, you have to go to the front and limit the damage -- this seems like a stupid plan which will get a lot of people killed. But, but, you have no doubt Remilia has an ulterior motive for all of this. She’s not seriously trying to clean-sweep Gensokyo; it’s all part of her ludicrously convoluted villain-plan.
“Hah. I should have known.” Momiji gives you a serious, confident smile. “We’re going to start the march tomorrow -- rest up, stay strong.”
You head back to your tent and a long night of rest. It’s going to be a tough day, so you’d better -- hey! Teddy’s back!
Patchouli sits on your bedroll, book clutched in her arms, an extremely sullen look on her face. She has an adorable pout.
“Yo, Teddy.” You wave.
“Do not call me that.”
“But you’re so cuddly and nice.”
You take a seat on the floor. Patchouli watches you through narrowed eyes. “I am willing to overlook our last encounter and never speak of it again. Agreed?”
“DO. NOT. SAY IT.”
“Indeed. In any case, we will be starting tonight. I also will be attending the vanguard, so that we can perfect this more thoroughly there.”
“This has been in the works for some time, eh?”
“Quite.” Patchouli flashes a rare smile. “Now, to begin with...”
Blah, that was frurstrating and annoying. Going halfway to a synch, then getting kicked off -- pisses you off! And you didn’t even get to see what Patches’ weapon is, she left near dawn without letting you synch fully. You roll on your bedroll, irritated. If only you could spend some more time with Meiling, dammit, then you could sort yourself out. But she did say you improved -- she felt less drained by the experience each time.
Well, shipping out is here at last. You haul upright, ruffling your hair. Maybe this plan is a bad idea. Sure, it could result in hundreds of casualties, but... it’s not like you have a better idea. What did you do on Phobos and Deimos? Wander around and kill demons. Find important-looking switches and doors. Not much different.
Emerging from your tent, you find yourself under an overcast morning. All around, Remilia’s Legion breaks camp -- taking down tents and packing from the long campaign. You pack your own tent and a simple pack of food, spare shells, and a whetting stone for the Regalia. All in all a pretty light loadout. Definitely lighter than the armor, pistol, shotgun, double-barreled shotgun, gattling gun, rocket launcher, and plasma rifle you had back on Deimos, which got old fast.
On the other hand, no rocket launcher.
After negotiating the crowd while ducking oni horns, fairy wings, and stuff you can’t quite identify, you make your way to Momiji’s camp. The Captain herself stands out front, gesturing with her sheathed sword. Her other arm is in a sling -- but she’s on her feet and looks stronger. “You Youkai heal fast, Cap’n!”
“One of the perks.” She nods at you. “It’s good to have you with us.”
“I guess we’re cutting in front.”
“Bloody work, but I have faith those under my command. Besides...” She leans over to you and whispers. “The second demon-slayer is with us. We have a chance.”
Hmm. Sounds like a chance to learn a bit about this faker. Either way, you feel alive again -- ready to rock and roll. Sure, this might be a total disaster, but you’ll be back in your element; that element being the decapitation of demons, or at least those demons that have heads. There are some that are just blobs, and don’t really have heads to speak of. Better gib them to be safe. But what if they’re made of metal, and can’t be said to really gib--
--when you stop thinking about inane shit, you’re at the head of Momiji’s column, the captain herself ahead of you, her sword bobbing at her hip. On your other side... is the faker. The other demon-slayer. The armor clomps loudly on the road -- the heavy sword clanks gently armor. Just who the hell is in there?
You wrap on it. The armor clanks loudly, but there’s no visible reaction.
“Don’t do that, Guts.” Momiji’s gaze remains fixed ahead.
She gives you a piercing look.
“Come on, what’s the worst that could happen?”
She raises an eyebrow, glancing at the faker’s sword.
“Point taken.” As you walk, a sense of death settles over you. A bit like an old friend -- you sense battle can be joined at any moment. You can almost hear growling in the underbrush, demons gathering to pounce at any moment. You can break their back here. And when Yukari’s plan comes to fruition, you can bring the fight to them, drive a stake through the vampire’s heart.
There’s a shriek as a demon grabs a youkai, hauling her into the canopy. In a second, Vladimir is in your hand. A blind shot goes off into the trees, and the poor tengu falls out. A demon follows a second later, eviscerated.
“They’re here,” you growl. You pump it -- the black magic shell spirals out, trailing dark smoke.
The carnage starts in earnest. The faker draws its sword and plunges into the underbrush as hellions push up, slobbering for blood. You follow a step behind, firing Vladimir into the larger clusters. For as much as a bitch as Remilia is, the woman can make a damn fine shotty. Blood splatters across the trees, Momiji pulls up beside you, wielding her katana one-handed.
“Should you be fighting in your state, Cap’n?”
She snorts. “You’re one to talk.”
Together you drive them forward. For all their fire and thunder, the demons fall backwards, pushed violently back by a barrage of magic, buckshot, and blade. The noise is deafening: shouts, explosions, hellish growls surround you as trees splinter and demons fall to the ground. There’s a loud groan from the horde as you drive them forward.
You duck a barrage of fire and plunge into the offenders, slam-firing the shotgun in a barrage of shells. They die, and you duck into the underbrush to quickly fill Vladimir’s belly with buckshot. As you reload, an Imp rushes out of the fog with a downward slash. You bash it with the butt of Vladimir, but another closes in.
A huge fuck-off sword crashes out of nowhere, turning the imp into paste. You spin around. The Faker stands before you -- steam rising from its armor -- as it turns to the other one.
The faker raises an arm, and before you its gauntlet transforms, reforming into a gaping cup. As demons rush inwards, a jet of fire erupts from the cup. The demons shriek as the fire incinerates them and the surrounding foliage. You take off in the other direction, with a new appreciation for the faker. Even if it is not as handsome as you.
As you push forward, the trees part to reveal an enormous cliff face.
The demons are tight-packed against the ledge, driving forward despite the overwhelming firepower of Remilia’s Legion. You rush forward, holstering Vladimir for the Oni Regalia as the first demon barrels down on you. With a crushing slash you smash its crown, and with a quick kick you knock it aside. You plunge into the rest, your comrades at your heels, as you slash left and right in an intermittent barrage of asskicking.
As the demons are driven to the ledge, you throw yourself towards them. They bare down, you hit hard, you reach the last demon before the edge. Hurtling forward you deliver a sharp kick to its stomach, and it plunges over the edge.
It hits the ground. Hard. Splat.
You look over your handiwork. Demons litter the ground -- you can’t spot a single dead youaki, but there are probably one or two. The carnage stretches for miles, but nothing moves except your buddies. House = Cleaned.
Momiji approaches, eyebrow raised.
“Hey, if you got a chance to kick someone over a sheer drop while shouting ‘This is X’ would you turn it down?”
“Point very much taken. I have to say, your enthusiasm is very good for moral.”
You wipe the Oni Regalia off on the grass before holstering it. All around you, the youkai are laughing and fistbumping. You nod. “Feels good to win a battle, eh? That’s more important than anything.”
“Yes, it feels good not to be on the run, and to have comrades at our backs.” Momiji glances back. “Of course, your valor contributes much, even if your true identity is not wildly known.”
“I guess you could say... I’m the life of the party.” You don your shades.
“That’s not even a joke.”
“Can’t I get a YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA--!, just once?”
“Nope. Come on, we don’t have long to rest before--”
A familiar voice calls out of the woods. “MOMIJI INUBASHIRI!”
“Hey Eirin.” You call back. Momiji shuffles sideways, putting you between her and her doctor.
“Captain Inubashiri.” Eirin emerges from the forest, fuming, her hat askew. Her doctor’s bag swings at her side. “II told you not to fight, and then you flat-out ignored my instructions! Do you care if you care if you live or die?”
“Eirin, please,” murmurs Momiji. The two start to duck and dodge around you, Eirin chasing Momiji around the maypole. Or perhaps the Guts-pole.
“Knock it off,” you mutter, walking to the cliff.
“Guts, tell her that she needs to rest!” Eirin snaps, chasing Momiji about.
“Why? She did just fine.”
“Guts!” Eirin stops to give you an indignant scowl.
“What? I fought with injuries worse than that.”
“And the Gods know how you survive it! Momiji, however, is a mere mortal who can’t get herself banged up in every single battle.”
“Speak for yourself, Eirin,” quipped Momiji. Eirin leaps around to grab her, but Momiji is too fast.
You grab both of them by the shoulder. “Calm down, Eirin. Just look her over and let her be.”
After a long moment, the tension is diffused. Eirin and Momiji sit down by the trees, while you rest by the cliff, letting thoughts of China dance through your head. Gradually, you nod off during the rest...
You dream of a sweet smell... you follow it through the forest. Eventually you reach a small, pristine pool in a clearing, surrounded on all sides by flowers. Meiling waits for you there, thoughtfully playing with her dress.
“China...” you breathe. She looks up, bursting into a fantastic grin.
“Guts. I missed you.” The flowers around her seem radiant. “Come, sit next to me.”
You sit cross-legged next to her, looking at the pool. Fish swim languidly under the surface, darting here and there. You feel Meiling’s arms wrapping around you.
“Do you think... we should live together?”
“I want to... I’ve been guarding the Mansion gates for so long... I want my own house to guard.”
“China... are you sure about this?”
“Never more sure...” Something coils up her legs, your waist. You look down just in time to see the vines coiling around you, binding you totally.
“In my life.” Yuuka breathes into your ear, as her hands wrap around your throat.
“Sleepwalking again, Guts?” Marisa sits on her broom, legs kicking thoughtfully. You glance up.
“...yeah.” You’re on the edge of the forest, some way down the cliff. Perilously close to the edge. Argh, that flowergirl got into your head again? This sucks.
Marisa sighs. “I never dreamed Yuuka would act like this... well, I dreamed it, but I never thought it would actually happen.”
“What’s her deal, anyway?”
Marisa looks thoughtful. “She’s a youkai of flowers. Flowers are her friends, her companions, her... subjects, even. It’s natural that she’d be more interested in their wellbeing than ours.”
“You said it. But... she was never this crazy before. Covering the world with flowers? That’s bull.” Marisa flies down to you, still on her broom. “Something’s off with her. I think that she is the demons.”
“Very funny. Thanks for waking me up.”
“Not the only reason I came out here. Truth is, I’m checking out this ‘ultimate super-spell attain godhead stuff’ stuff more and more -- Remilia, Patchouli, all of it -- and I’m starting to get worried.”
“Just now?” You flash her a smile.
“Ha ha. Well, this magic that needs a synchronizer to work... it’s bad juju, Guts. Bom-bad black magic. You shouldn’t trust anyone who’s looking into it.”
“...her? But she’s my teddy!”
Marisa frowns. “Huh?”
“Injoke. What makes you so sure?”
“I’ve been watching her. She’s been doing research on it. A lot. And gathering the necessary materials -- candelabras, red spell-paint, professional ominous latin-ish chanting choir, the whole deal. You should avoid her from now on. Besides, I can do that synch-training with you, I got the seal she uses all figured out.”
You lean on a tree, looking out at the night sky. “Look after Meiling.”
“If anything would make me come back and throw myself into harms way, it would be her.”
Marisa smiles warmly. “Yeah. I’ll make sure she stays safe. But you didn’t answer the question. Will you avoid Patches for a while? I need to observe her reaction to plan my next step.”
“Aren’t you a little Lelouche.”
“Who are you calling a louche?”
[ ]...have faith in Patchouli. “I doubt Patches means me ill. There’s an explanation for this.”
[ ]...believe Marisa. “I need to play it safe. I’ll stick with you.”
[ ]...twotime them. Gahaha.
[x]...have faith in Patchouli. “I doubt Patches means me ill. There’s an explanation for this.”
>magic that needs a synchronizer to work
Simple. We just learn how to synch better from Patchy, and than we don't cooperate on the evilbad spell.
I’ve no excuse for this long, long delay, other than lethargy and excessive silliness.]
Somewhere in your tiny brain, a devilish voice says: I know! Let’s twotime them! Then you don’t have to make Marisa mad at you again, and you can still have your teddy!
You decide this is an ingenious plan, worthy of such a brilliant strategist as yourself.
“OK, I’ll stop seeing Patches. Yeah, that’s the ticket.”
“Seeing her? I’m guessing you didn’t mean that like it sounded.”
“Yeah, I wish.”
“Icy is as icy does.” Marisa flew up on her broom. “And you better not be trying to pull any fast ones, or I’ll kick your ass into next Tuesday. I gotta get back -- someone needs to look over Reimu.”
Well. Oops. As Marisa takes off into the night sky, leaving you setting alone on the grass. You stand up, dusting yourself off before you set off back to camp. Hmm… you could make the twotime work if you weird out Patches to make her start acting strange for Marisa… yes, that would work, and there is no way it could possibly backfire. None whatsoever.
Yawning, you stand by the cliff. Should probably get some rest in before dawn, gonna be a long march through hell. As you turn, though, a sense of death flickers across you consciousness. Your eyes scan the darkness around you. Smells like… demons.
A sharp whistle goes up from a short distance away -- an alert. There’s a familiar hiss as a caco rises from below the cliff. He’s got a horde of fliers at his back. Well, seems the counterattack has come; now to see if Remilia’s little army can handle the pressure. All around you, noise explodes as youkai pile out of their tents, some partially dressed, as counterpunch begins. Momiji leaps out of her tent, cleaving a demon in half with a single slash.
“Everyone! Regroup, at me!” Momiji mutters an arcane word and her sword shines with a brilliant light, held aloft -- for a moment, night becomes day as the light illuminates all around you, blinding the demons. You take the time to draw Vladimir and drop a shell into the Caco’s gut. It plunges into the below as you slam-fire Vladimir into the oncoming air fleet. Cacodemons and Pain Elementals plunge into the dark, unable to push past you.
When a bolt of plasma hits your side. You spiral through the air, landing to roll across the hard earth before grinding to a halt. You haul up to your feet, barely feeling the hurt, to see a swarm of Knights and Barons pushing up the cliff. You have zero doubt they’re advancing up the other flank as well. Hmph. You’ve survived ambushes worse than this one, and you didn’t have a small army of youkai at your back all those times, either!
You pause just long enough to feed Vladimir seven new shells before plunging back into the fray, the Oni Regalia clutched in your sweaty palms. You separate the newcomers from their kneecaps, your vision flashing red. As you swing down, your sword catches in a demon’s chest -- you see that its bones are knitting together to trap your blade, sacrificing the body to ensnare you. A bloodied claw falls towards your skull as you try to wrench it free. Well, balls.
A metal fist closes around the claw and wrenches the entire arm from its owner. The Faker stands with you. There’s a loud hiss, and then a solid jet of fire bursts from the helm, a broad arc of fire that all but evaporates their bodies.
Hmph. Impressive, but still not as handsome.
He’s got this front locked down, so you tear off to the next battle, where Momiji and a few other youkai hold off zombies stumbling through the trees. They ain’t fresh ones, either: stink horrible and they miss most of their parts. They seem to have UAC uniforms but, hey, maybe Hell really is getting down to the last of their zombie population. You rip into them gleefully. A particularly tall bastard rips through the foliage to eat you.
You spin around, slicing off its legs at the knee. As it plunges, you drive the blade into its brain. “Tiiiiiimber!”
“Was that really necessary?”
Momiji gasps for breath near a pile of dead, sword dripping with blackened blood.
“I never wanted to be a space marine. I wanted to be… a zombiejack!”
With a roll of her eyes she resumes the fight.
The carnage drags on well into the morning. For every youkai that goes down thirty demons perish; as the moon falls under the horizon you stood triumphant, Vladimir nearly out of shells and the Regalia running red with blood. Your sword rested in the grass as you gasp for breath -- it mists in the cool air.
You raise Vladimir and blast the last imp, its skull caving in with a satisfying spray of blood.
Momiji stands by your side, flicking the blood from her blade. “You certainly live up to your reputation, Guts.”
“I know! Isn’t it awesome, Can’n?”
“Last time I pay you a compliment.”
Loud clanks. You turn -- the faker stands directly behind you, enormous armor sounding off a tremendous racket. The metal sheets are painted red, and the sword looks chipped from overuse. All in all he looks scarier than your last Barbarian.
“What?” you growl, eyes narrowing.
Bizarrely, he reaches out his hand for you -- a single gauntleted fist. He… wants to shake hands? Huh. Instantly, you’re suspicious… more suspicious than usual. Momiji seems befuddled. Well, do anything else and it’ll look like sour grapes… and one thing you can’t stand -- above plasma bolts, obscure crusher traps, Flandre, and monster closets -- slowly, you reach out and take it.
It closes like a vise.
The faker plunges over the cliff, dragging you in after him. You reach out for Momiji’s hands -- her fingers brush yours -- and you’re gone, the encampment hurtling away from you as the faker drags you down behind him --
Your vision is fuzzy and indistinct as you struggle for consciousness. Trees. You can see trees -- a whole forest. But… You’re… you’re in a crater? You get unsteadily to your feet, rubbing your head. The world gradually pulls into focus. Yeah, a crater -- the faker tore apart the forest when he impacted, leveling dozens of trees and blasting the surrounding ground. You somehow landed safely -- oh yeah, no falling damage -- and ended up flung away from the impact.
Bits of armor litter the ground -- they came from the faker. But he’s nowhere to be seen.
Sitting still is a death sentence. If you haven’t been rescued already, it means that the demons have driven Momiji back, and if that’s the case you’re deep behind enemy lines.
Wait; gear. You find Vladimir -- you’ve got enough shells for one more reload -- but the Oni Regalia is nowhere to be found. Crap, it’s probably still up there! Growling to yourself, you quick feed Vladimir. Alright, gotta link up with Momiji and the rest of the crew before the demons make another push, you do not feel good about going up against them with seven shells and no synch tool.
You set out into the forest, ears pricked for any hint of them.
The autumn woods bristle in the wind beyond the crater are a labyrinth in the dark -- feels like the trees have eyes. No noise except your feet on the underbrush. Vladimir is clutched in your hands -- you jump at the smallest noise. Heh, just like on Phobos.
There’s a familiar clank in the distance. You duck behind a tree, trying to gauge where it came from. Again -- you duck through the wilderness, from tree to tree, searching for the source.
There’s a clearing up ahead, an artificial one. Looks like a hell of a rumble went down right around here; trees broken and twisted, scorched, fires still burning throughout the wasteland. The faker lies on the ground, most of his armor stripped away. Underneath those metal plates is… magic? Yeah, webs of magical runes. Damn, is he some kind of robot?
A figure in a black dress crouches astride the Faker, prying away at the armor with her bare hands. You watch as another plate is wrenched from the suit and tossed aside.
You step on a twig.
Instantly, the figure looks up. You recognize it instantly.
Or one of her dolls, more likely.
Instantly, it leaps off the faker, onto the ground and across the wasteland -- straight at you. You line her up in the sights and fire -- no good. She leaps into the canopy, out of your reach.
Five desperate seconds tick by as you scan the trees.
You have just enough time to roll out of a fatal blow as fires a barrage of razor flowers out of the leaves. They shred the ground behind you -- but the damage to the foliage heals up right away. You sprint into the wasteland created by the fallen faker, raising your shotgun. Six shells left.
She plays with you, like a cat. Flowers here, deadly spread of splinters there. The doll is taunting you, and all you can do is miss. When you tick down to your last shell, you realize that your only options are surrender or death; unless rescue shows up or this big bastard gets on his feet.
There’s a waver in the trees.
The fake Yuuka charges straight at you, black dress flaring out behind her as she zigzags. You try to dodge, but she blurs with speed as she closes in. She’s almost on you --
-- and she flies back, arm ripped off. It ends in a shattered splinter of wood. You don’t wait -- you grab Vladimir by the barrel and lunge to bash her head in with the stock, raising it high over your head. You bring it crashing down, slamming into Yuuka’s skull as she crawls back. You go in for the second blow.
She drives her foot into your shin and you go down, blinded by pain. Vladimir spirals out of your grip as you slam into the ground. You have just enough time to recover before the second kick comes straight in the ribs, knocking you a short distance away. A taste of salt fills your mouth as you spit up blood. You rise slowly, but her foot lands on your back, forcing you down.
Your eyes roll up. The horizon at her back is bright -- the sun’s rising. The doll is still down an arm, and her right eye has been crushed to reveal the bark and vines beneath her false skin. Her face remains placidly neutral, as eminently fake as the last one. You conjure enough strength to flip her the bird. Her foot jams down on your hand. You feel something snap -- you give a snarl in reply.
“Come with us.” Her scarlet eyes fix on yours. “You will not be harmed any further.”
You try to twist free, but she’s at least three times stronger than you.
“All we want is your surrender. All others will be allowed to walk free.”
“Lady Yuuka would like to convey her--”
“Guts?!” A shrill, strangled cry comes from nearby. Meiling?! “You bitch!”
You twist your head around just in time to see a snatch of Meiling’s panties as she blows past, clocking the doll straight on the jaw. It spirals back a short distance, crashing into a tree before sliding to the ground. Someone helps you upright, even though your muscles barely want to work and your vision is a blur. “Meiling!” Someone shouts, feels like it’s right in your ear. “Cover us! I’ll get him to safety.” You limp away, someone strong supporting you as you stumble towards the faker’s body, now hazy and indistinct.
“This isn’t permanent--” Why’s that voice so familiar? “--but it will do.”
There’s a harsh shock to your system as all of your senses pull into focus. Everything becomes clear -- the sun is rising in the east as Meiling wages an even battle with the false Yuuka. Crap, she needs your help!
Your vision turns to the medic. Sakuya? Heh, figures.
“Sakuya. How’s life treating you?”
She gives a sardonic smile. “Better than it’s treating you -- you’re extremely lucky we came.”
Meiling’s fist cracks against the doll’s body, smashing a fissure in its body. She’s got this well in hand.
“I’m a gentlemen -- the lady always comes first.”
“If you hadn’t been near the second Demon Slayer here, we would have never found you.” Sakuya pockets a compass -- it looks familiar for reasons you can’t begin to place. “Stay here, Meiling and I will deal with --”
“Sakuya!” Meiling shouts, fists raised.
What’s worse than Yuuka Kanami?
Two Yuuka Kanamis.
They could be identical twins, one in a red dress, one in black. The red twin is whole, the dark twin damaged, wounded. As you watch, scowling, the red Yuuka gently embraces her sister, running her fingers across the wounds. A rich green fluid, watery and slick, runs from underneath the newcomer’s painted nails, flowing over the wounds of the broken doll.
And, before you, all the damage vanishes. The dark twin is as whole as before.
“Move!” Sakuya shoves you aside as the red twin leaps high, hurling explosive flowers you scramble aside, but the explosions knock you into the armored suit of the faker. Pain flares in your chest as you cough violently, momentarily blinded. But then you look up.
You get a good look at the insides of the machine. Most of it seems to be armor and bits of arcane clockwork, but there’s a large egg-shaped pod inside -- just the right size for a small person. You lay your hand it, because you… swear you can hear a voice from inside.
Please… is that you…?
Good god, did Remilia seal a person inside here?
I feel like I know you…
Feels worse… so bad…
It’s in my veins… please…
I can help… please let me out…
There’s a sharp cry as Meiling takes an explosive flower to the face. You need to do something!
[ ]…think this is fishy. Fall back and try to help Meiling however you can.
[ ]…pry open the pod. Someone is in there!
Well, shit, you’re not about to let someone sit in there in pain. While Sakuya and Meiling struggle with the twin Yuukas, you grab a sturdy length of wood and find the first seal running along the edge of the pod. It doesn’t take long to destroy the first three. You plan to end Remilia’s excesses where you can find them -- stop the worst of her abuses against humanity and honor.
The voice is clear in your ears.
I can see the sky… it hurts… more…
Billowing smoke rises out of the pod, giving you a mouthful of acrid gas. You turn away, coughing.
Sakuya’s head snaps around. “Guts, don’t--!”
It’s too late.
The remaining three buckle and fail within minutes: there’s a wrenching sound as the roof of the pod tears free, and a jet of fire blasts you off the Faker -- you go rolling across the ground, grinding to a halt.
The acrid smoke thickens, darkening the sky.
Flandre is ascendant. You’re floored -- Remilia Scarlet plugged her own sister into this suit of armor, leached off her power, left her in abject agony so she could have a living weapon. You’re no fan of of Flandre, and you can understand the necessities of war. Hell, you even would like to see Flandre staked for good. But this kind of torture… you saw too much of it in hell.
The vampire’s a mess. Dressed only in a stained white frock, blood runs down her body where mechanical tubes had run into her veins. Her eyes shine, bloodshot, and her hair clumps around her body in a tangled, wild mess. But her wings rise, proud and undefeated. Her face twists into a hellish grin as she scans the mortals all around her.
The Yuukas step forward.
“Guts, watch out!” Meiling throws herself in front of you.
With one exhalation Flandre breathes out pure fire. Heat flows around you -- Meiling’s shield is strained to the limit as she endures the heat for you, raggedly determined. You get unsteadily to your feet -- but dammit, you unleashed her!
And yet you can’t feel bad for releasing her from that kind of torture.
If you want to be rid of her, Remilia, just draw the stake and be done with it.
As the fires fade, the Yuuka dolls collapse to the ground, blackened chunks of wood. You suppose they had the elemental disadvantage -- fire against wood. That’s two more down… how many did Yuuka make?
Sakuya steps forward, knives clutched in her hand. “Lady Flandre…”
“Don’t speak to me,” snarls the monster, smoke rising from mouth. “You treacherous little cunt, you worm crawling along on the earth. Sow of the earth, bitch, find a mongrel to mount you!”
Sakuya cringes at the torrent of profanity, but steps closer. “Lady Remilia did this for your own safety. You were seduced by demons once before, and Guts had to recover you.”
You watch as Flandre suddenly spasms, clutching at her head with a pained groan. Sakuya continues to step forward, speaking softly. “Lady Remilia is very concerned about you. The only way to make sure you stayed safe from the voices was to seal you inside.”
The pain seems to suddenly abate as Flandre goes limp, one hand on her head, sweat mixing with her blood. Sakuya reaches out for her. “Lady Flandre, I care you for you very much. This is all for you. All for you, Flandre -- I am the one you should trust. The voices are lying to you.”
For a second, Flandre seems to believe it. She reached out her hand for her maid, suddenly seeming needy. For that matter, Sakuya’s eyes seem sincere, almost as if she really feels this way, that Flandre is wounded and needs help, needs mothering, and that the best way to protect her is to use her as a battery for a suit of armor.
For a moment, their fingers touch.
Faster than you can see, Flandre’s joy turns to blazing rage. An explosion; Sakuya is flung aside as the vampire rises above, the sun obscured by the smoke she releases from every pore.
“I’ve tried sister’s way. I’ll cut my own path now--” her eyes turn towards you “--even through you, slayer.” There’s a final blast of fire as Flandre teleports away, into the dark.
Sakuya lumbers to her feet, clutching her burned arm to her body. You have the terrible sense you screwed up. Meiling steps forward to her friend, arms extended. “Sakuya… your arm…”
“I knew it couldn’t last.” The maid turns around. “That was a stopgap to keep Lady Flandre from hurting others. And herself. But… even though I know it couldn’t last…” She turns to face you, eyes alight with anger. “I can’t help but hate you for what you’ve done.”
She advances, scowling viciously. “Thanks to you, she’s now busy consorting with demons. She thinks they’re her friend -- she thinks she’s one of them, not one us. And for letting her indulge those blasphemous feelings, I hate you.”
She stands over you.
“You have nearly ruined my mistress and my charge. Guts, you… you fool! You beast!”
It takes a moment to recover from the shock of icy Sakuya going hot. But when you do, you leap up. Meiling looks nearly torn in half. “Hey! She’s the one who betrayed me -- I got no obligation to the likes of her!”
“The likes of--?! How dare trash such as you call her that!”
“She tried to turn me into a rock!”
“That is a lie told to you by Patchouli Knowledge!”
A horrid silence spreads over the woods. Meiling covers her mouth, stunned. Sakuya’s face is all hard lines, suddenly looking old and hard-bitten. You stare, stunned she would say anything of the kind about Patches.
“Maybe you should explain this.”
“I suspect Lady Yakumo and her kin have already filled your head with lies. I doubt I could dissuade you.”
“No, I’ll listen.”
Sakuya watches you, looking for any sign of sarcasm or treachery. Tension fills the air -- she’s barely containing her desire to say exactly what she thinks of you.
“Perhaps you could let Lady Remilia get a word in edgewise next time you can speak with her. Listen to her side of the story. Come along -- the woods will be crawling with hellions after that lightshow.” She pauses, letting her face soften. “Take these. Remilia figured you would be out by now.” She drops twenty more shells into your hand.
There’s a deep growl in the woods ahead -- you deftly feed Vladimir.
Meiling raises her fists. “We took too long -- they’re on to us!”
You rack your weapon. “Hell’s road, girls -- lock and load!”
Fire bursts around you. Bullets whiz around your head. You feel death so closely you shiver at Hades’ own winds -- when Sakuya pulls her stopwatch and time rolls back, away from the path that led you to destruction. Demons litter the ground as you cut into their numbers. Meiling’s face remains so reserved -- you remember how calm she remains in the face of hell -- as your shotgun does its bloody work.
As you cut a swath through the forest, Sakuya raises her bandaged hand and casts knives out of it, each fatal. “We’re only a few miles from Lady Remilia! We will not fall here!”
Meiling bats aside fire with her fists, driving forward to split flesh and bone with pure strength. You pull through, shotgun ablaze as their bodies dissolve before you.
“There!” Sakuya points as you crown a hill.
Remilia’s assembled army lies, bat-banners flying as noon approaches. You’ve won! You lower Vladimir, relief flowing through you. You’re hurt, yeah, but you’re alive again -- the carnage can resume before long. You will triumph.
Sparks form in the air for a second -- you have just enough time to hit the deck before explosions erupt around you. Trees splinter all around as the barrage of fire rains down on your head -- Meiling falls next to you, covering her head.
As the last explosion ends, you poke your head up.
A strip of land about a mile square has been utterly devastated, the trees blackened and the ground scorched black. And, from the smoke onwards, you see the truth.
Flandre has arrived, still covered by night-black smoke. And, at her flank, are a legion of captured hellions. You can see it: the strange mark on her forehead, the half-circle with a line driven through the bottom. At her flank are those demons she’s fooled into falling her: zombies, imps, knights, revenants, a horde of fliers you can’t begin to identify. And, of course, the gang of archviles who just ruined your escape.
Sakuya thuds to the ground.
She’s covered in gashes and cuts; splinters have stabbed her. She moans softly. Between her old burn and her knew wounds, she’s staying down for a while. In the below, Remilia’s army stirs awake, flitting like ants as they rally under her standard. You raise Vladimir; it clicks dry.
Not here. Not when you’re so close!
As you stand between Sakuya and certain death, you curse yourself that you opened that pod.
“Guts,” Meiling says, raising her first -- her whole form serious. You’d never mistake her for the dopey guard for this collected warrior. Remilia hired her for a reason. “Take Sakuya and run. I can cover you.”
Meiling turns and smiles at you, that familiar, goofy grin. “Don’t worry. I got this!” She pauses. “That’s what you’d say, right?”
“Admirable, but unnecessary.”
You spin around. Remilia stands in the waste, shaded by a plain black parasol. Her eyes seem older than you recall, devoid of that bright light of -- treachery, in hindsight -- or her earlier arrogance.
Meiling turns, startled. “Boss?!”
“I would hope you understand why I’ve acted as I have. It’s a curse shared by the Scarlet family. Flandre is subject to it as much as I am -- but far less prepared to face the forces at work. You heard them, during your servitude with me.” Remilia watches Flandre’s army advance, lumbering forward to meet with the Legion. “We must speak with Quake.”
“What are you talking about?” you growl.
Meiling fidgets, eyes flickering between her mistress and her lover.
“You simple-minded hero. Brilliant and moronic at the same time. Thinking only in straight lines. Perhaps that is what I like in you, and why I dared to think you might trust me.” Remilia looks… oddly sad. “I cannot say any more. If you wish to know the whole truth, I will send for you at midnight. If not…”
“I have an army to command.”
“Hey!” you snap. “What about our deal?”
“Say what you wish. Claim your true identity or do not. I no longer care.” Meiling turns to join her forces -- streaming through the wasteland to meet Flandre’s. Unarmed and unable to synch, you can only watch the carnage as the armies meet. Meiling turns to you, eyes desperate.
You did what you could -- which meant picking up Sakuya and carrying her to camp. Ugh, you felt so useless… worse than the days of ‘fifty bullets and a pistol’ towards the beginning of your struggle. Flandre’s army had fallen for now, but she seemed unfazed; she laughed as she vanished -- no doubt she’s summoning more demons to her command as you speak.
As you sit in the darkness of the hollow you retreated to, you find yourself angst-ridden -- and composed to pick up pen and paper to convey your pain. Oh, can you be happy nevermore? Can you never again know the sweet caress of racking a shotgun, or the ecstatic boom of the erstwhile rocket launcher? Alas, dear chaingun, thy day has passed!
And what about Meiling?
Can you really ask her to choose between you and Remilia? She looked ready to split in half back there…
“SUIKA THINK DEMON-SLAYER IS ENTIRELY TOO EMO!”
You nearly jump out of your skin. A familiar pair of horns is sticking into the hollow where you bedded down, attached to a grinning, scarlet face.
“Christ, what the hell are you doing here?”
“Lady Yukari say Suika go, so Suika go to help Demon-Slayer through funk.”
“Why not. Got any of that sake for me?”
Suika steps inside, inexplicably wearing a maid costume and carrying a box nearly taller than her. She pours you a cup, fumbling a bit through her tipsiness.
“Seems like you had a busy night.”
“YUS! Suika very diligent in carrying out duties! She drink Lady Remilia’s servant under table.”
“Sounds like you.” You throw back the booze -- delicious, as ever. Your brooding suddenly seems ridiculous.
“In truth, Suika on top-secret mission. Lady Yakumo’s plan coming to fruition at long lastness, and she want you back!”
“She say, ‘Go, Suika! I am pleased with development of Demon-slayer’s skill. I wish to make him my familiar at last!’ So Suika go.”
Well, well. Old lady Yukari is at it again.
“Lady Yakumo very tired. Her labors go on and on, and Suika feel sad. But when Suika feel sad, she decide to be strong instead! Entirely factual. But… but…” Suika’s eyes suddenly to water as her body trembles. “But Lady Yakumo tell Suika she will die!”
She bursts into tears. You give her an affectionate bro-hug, wrapping one arm around her to pull her tight. “It’s not as simple as just up and leaving, Suika. I have friends to think about.”
After a long moment, she nods.
“Understood. Suika have message she took from maid she drink under table: Lady Remilia waits under great oak tree near the camp, under full moon! She say that Guts should meet her there to resolve certain mysteries. So. Demon-slayer choose.”
Suika stood and crossed her arms, eyes dry -- but she’s on the edge, you can tell.
“Lady Scarlet, or Lady Yakumo. One or other.”
“Can… can Yukari guarantee Meiling’s safety.”
Suika gives you a warm smile. “Meiling never in any danger.”
“Meiling here when Lady Scarlet come two centuries ago! They have entirely too much… what word… ‘shared fate’ to betray one another!”
Huh. You never thought of it that way.
“But Lady Yukari can make guarantee anyway.”
So. Caught between two women -- not for the first time in your life! But, certainly, the stakes are much higher than in high school.
I still stand by our previous actions. We may have unleashed a hellbent Flandre, and definitely made the war against hell even worse, but I don't regret it. What Remilia was doing to her was really fucked up.
On that note, our teddy would never turn us into a rock. That was entirely Remilia's doing.
While I definitely don't trust Yukari any more than Remilia, we have already seen firsthand what Remilia does to her supporters, not to say anything about what she did for her sister. It would be folly to go back to her side.
Because she did that to protect her sister. What other way was there to stop her from going to the other side without locking her up? Also, this way, she's actually helping Gensokyo... she has her selfish reasons, as always, but that's how Remilia rolls.
>>44260 Condemning your sister to eternal anguish is protection? I could understand if she simply locked her back into the basement, but we are talking eternal agony fighting as a berserk metal suit here.
What Remilia did can not be called just in any way. It's reprehensible and has no justification. She did that merely to suit her own goals, just as she almost turned us into a chunk of rock. Fuck Remilia.
These people seem to think that what Remilia did to Flandre is entirely justified, or was done for her "protection."
If they are so blind to the truth as to believe that bullshit, there is no hope of swaying their opinion on that lying, manipulative bitch of a vampire.
In other news.
>“But Lady Yakumo tell Suika she will die!”
This is urgent. Due to the wording, I cannot determine whether or not it is referring to Suika's, or Yukari's death. Either of them dying to some unforeseen element is unacceptable. Yukari is the only one doing anything worthwhile to fight off these demons, and Suika is a ludicrously strong person, and our friend. I refuse to have another person we like die; Cirno was the first and the last.
>>44299 So you're a retard who thinks "Woo I'm flying by the seat of my pants" despite the clear facts in front of us: Sure Yukari's something of a bitch, but consider who would have Gensokyo (and everyone in it)'s best interests. And who went about hooked their own sister up in a torture device/manipulable armor.
>>44331 Noo the right choice is your opinion. And choosing Remilia is his right choice and his opinion. If you want to flame people for no real reason I think there's a perfectly suitable board for that somewhere on the internet.
There is a huge difference in incensed discussions between two factions divided over an important vote, and the unrelenting vitriol that was issued forth during GH. Compared to that story, the conversation here-in is positively gentlemanly.
It doesn't help that the Yukari faction is obviously right, and somehow still losing.
By my count, we're currently at a dead heat -- as such, I'm going to offer both factions a chance.
Whichever faction posts the most compelling/epic arguments for a particular choice by Sunday will get their preferred option.
Pro-Yukari faction, explain why Remilia isn't trustworthy and why going to her is dangerous. Pro-Remilia faction, explain why Yukari isn't to be trusted, and why Remilia should be given a second chance. Good luck!
As far as I can remember, Yukari has been straight forward and honest in her intentions with us. She may not hold our well-being in esteem, but she is blunt about it, and can be trusted to act accordingly. Where-as Remilia is a lying, manipulative whore who only does things for her own benefit, as evidenced by trying to turn us into a rock, and Flandres pain-suit.
Yukari also has the moral ground, as she is trying to directly destroy the true Icon of Sin, which will single-handedly win this war. Remilia's motives are unclear, and vague. She seems to be waging war on the regular demons; and while that is also important, it will not do anything in the long run. If we truly wish to fuck up some demons, we needs to be destroying that Icon.
I'm not very eloquent, so I expect this to do nothing.
-Aims to get at the source of things, even at cost of her own life and Guts'
-Has been quite honest with Guts about things; no reason she would lie about such a thing ending with both dead.
-Is well known to do things for the good of Gensokyo.
-Has made various measures in the wake of the invasion, such as hiding Keine for a safe time.
Remilia in contrast has
-Lied about that spell would do.
-Put her own sister in a painsuit to use as a puppet. Even if she's insane and is fond of demons, you don't do such a thing to your own sister.
-Acts in a selfish manner pursuing her own goals over the greater good.
I also hope we could do some more training before the final showdown.
-Spent all those months in bringing Guts back to life; mind you she doesnt even really know Guts aside from name and he wants the demons dead and gone
-Shes still trusting Guts even to continue this fight till are inevitable battle with The Icon of Sin(maybe)
-Has stated that she would protect Meiling against Remilia
-Left us for dead once we died and didn't even lift a pinkie to help against the Cyberdemon
-Has lied to us a number of times, to benefit herself and only herself
-Imprisoned her Sister in the suit of armor, which gave Flandre a great deal of pain
>>44357 Urk. I never completely read the story, but I'll present something for the Remilia side at least.
You think Remilia is happy doing what she does? Think about it. If she fails, all her friends and people she consider family will be dead. If she crumbles under the task, that will affect the morale of the people on her side.
But she need to stay strong. And she probably know her side can't hold the demons back indefinitely. You seriously think she was happy that, from what I've read, her sister went crazier? That she stuck her in the armor just for more power on her side?
The stone thing? Frankly, think about it: Should she really value our life as much as all the others she knows? Seriously? From what I've seen, Remilia lacks way to gain advanatges in the fights. Her ressouces are limited too.
And now that Flandre is on the other side (thanks to us)... Leaving now will probably mean the destruction of Remilia's army soon.
I'm not the author, but I'm just chiming in to say that you are the worst sort of voter on this site.
You haven't even read the entire story, and yet you want to put in idiotic opinions about one of the most important choice's so far? With no background, or context to support your opinion save blind assumptions. Are you serious?
If we do indeed side with Yukari, it has been put forth that along with the Icon of Sin, both Guts and Yukari will die. We know this. This is an established outcome. We do not know why, how, and if she has alternatives as the Yakumos speak in riddles and are not exactly forthcoming with more information. I am concerned about the definitiveness that this choice brings, and the fact that Yukari dies. I am to understand that this is a terrible thing. But this is all pretty irrelevant to the reason I believe we should truly side with Remilia.
In choosing Remilia we choose uncertainty. We don't know what could happen, and there are many loose ends and points of interest to pursue. This is why I would have us follow Remilia. We have options. There is an openness here. Information to be gained. Solutions to explore, to create ourselves, to pursue on terms that we can influence to a much greater degree than with Yukari. We can finish it how we want. Claw our way to victory with a shotgun in our hand, a song in our heart, and a spark in our eye. We're the motherfucking Doomguy. We'll finish this shit alive and come back home to Meiling. I don't plan on leaving her again. Do you?
Some of Remilia's lies are uncertain, such as good old Patches' apparent lying about Guts becoming a garden gnome. Why would either of them lie about that? And what exactly were they lying about? I'd like to know, and maybe get something actionable out of it.
Second, the fight with the Cyberdemon. I'm not entirely sure what went on, but Remilia did do something that would appear to amount to dumping the majority of her essence to us when we asked for help. She poured enough of it into Guts as to render herself useless it would seem.
Lastly, Flandre's predicament. Would you have her out slaughtering your own instead of being locked away? You wouldn't have been so sympathetic towards her had she killed Alice when you were dragged away. The situation simply erred a few degrees away from that happening. This Flandre is as volatile as any rendition we've seen if not moreso. I imagine throwing our lot in with Remilia could potentially give us an opportunity to deal with Flandre as well.
>Guts and Yukari will die. We know this. This is an established outcome.
No it isn't. It hasn't happened yet, and that means we can change it. That's why these stories are interactive.
>In choosing Remilia we choose uncertainty
Just as if we choose Yukari. Even if we accept that it ends with our death, we still have every option open to us before that point in time. We have the freedom to explore different avenues, to force the future to change.
>good old Patches' apparent lying about Guts becoming a garden gnome.
This is pure unfiltered bullshit. Sakuya is the one who said that it was Patchy' fault. Sakuya is also the dog of the devil, who will do anything her master says, no question. To believe any thing she says about Remilia is folly.
>the fight with the Cyberdemon...
You are right about this. She did something, but what she did was uncertain, and vague. One gesture that may or may not be good-will is not enough to override the avalanche of bullshit she has been feeding us.
Before our death, Flandre was unstable, but still on our side. Remilia chose the cowards way out. She didn't bother even trying to help Flandre. She simply stuck her in the pain-suit, and continued to use her for her own gains. Flandre's current animosity and convictions are entirely justified and warranted.
>Syncing with Remilia
Pain. We aren't very good with syncing, and if I recall correctly, syncing with powerful Touhous causes tremendous strain, and agony. Not to mention it makes the Touhou useless.
Succinctly put; fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Remilia may have good intentions here, but the road to hell is paved with those, yeah?
Oh my god I have revised this damn thing like 6 times cause you keep posting new shit. Just delete your previous post's and edit it.
>>44367 SDM isn't particularly high traffic dude. I didn't think someone was camping it waiting to jump on my posts. And Flandre running off to rally her own demon army is "on our side?" Flandre was never on anyone's side. And what makes you so trustful of Patchouli?
And that point against syncing with Remilia is pretty flimsy. We're training for sync, and we were going to sync with Yukari anyways. I didn't figure Remilia's sync to be a "oh let's do it whenever, seems like a good idea" sort of deal. Probably use it as a last ditch deal. With all the negative you listed for it, you should try to think of what good could come of it.
And Yukari's plan and just her character doesn't seem particularly open for input. We don't know how much has been going on from her that we don't know about. We weren't supposed to know about Keine. She's not a world apart from Remilia. She's just nicer about it.
>>44369 SDM may not be high traffic, but that is no excuse to unnecessarily clutter it.
If I recall correctly, before our death and subsequent timeskip, she was simply scared and confused most of the time, as unstable people are want to be. It was only after hopping out of the suit that she went to grab her own demon army and give us all the middle finger. Correct me if I'm wrong, its been a while since those threads.
As for syncing, I didn't list anything particular to Remilia at all. Everything I said is what happens in general when we sync to powerful touhous. It strains his body, and makes the touhou useless. This has repeatedly happened throughout the story, and is fact.
You say Yukari is just as bad as Remilia, but that simply isn't true. Yukari has been honest in our few dealings, and she brought us back from death to continue our fight. Compare and contrast this with Remilia, who lied, cheated, and tried to kill us, for a temporary victory in a minor battle.
>>44371 When we chased after her and the cyberdemon showed up. She was massing an army then. When we first arrived at her cave, the whole thing was filled with demons and demon eggs that Flandre was referring to as her friends. And THEN the cyberdemon showed up with his lot and all hellPUNSbroke lose. Even from our very first encounter, we were a toy, and the demons were her friends.
And Yukari didn't bring us back out of the kindness of her heart. She needed us for her plan. I'm not saying she's a bitch or anything, she just simply isn't some saintly beacon of virtue. And she's being honest as far as we know. Furthermore, repeatedly refusing us the truth doesn't jive with me particularly well. "You wouldn't be interested" and completely ignoring questions. How about Cirno? She didn't even tell Ran what was up with that. How far are half-truths and no truths from lies?
I stand corrected. I had forgotten about that. Though I posit that two wrongs don't make a right. Remilia still should not have put her in the armor.
Yukari may not have altruistic motives at heart, but when push comes to shove, she has helped us out far more than Remilia has, at length. She's hiding things, but no more than Remilia. The difference is that she acknowledges it, and is willing to work with us about it. Remilia would rather outright lie, or make up fictitious bridges to sell.
>>44373 >“Understood. Suika have message she took from maid she drink under table: Lady Remilia waits under great oak tree near the camp, under full moon! She say that Guts should meet her there to resolve certain mysteries. So. Demon-slayer choose.”
There's that for you. She's set her time aside to have a nice little sit-down with you. Not a minute and thirty seconds where she only answers a third of your questions and even then only half answers them. I'd rather go into something knowing what to expect and how I should deal with it. Yukari is far too indefinite for me.
Another point I noticed, which I'm not sure pertains to this or is just an author hiccup. Initially Yukari said that Guts would die and Yukari herself would be "maimed," describing it as she only becoming a fraction of herself, but implying that she would still live. Then she went on about needing a daughter to pass her power/situation/responsibility/etc onto. But just now Suika was apparently told Yukari would die. Additionally, if Yukari had told Suika that Guts was also supposed to die, don't you figure that would've gotten a rise out of her also? What's up with that?
>>44375 Who's to say she wont lie when we ask her our questions? She's done it before, and I have no doubt that she will continue to do so.
You speak of uncertainty regarding Yukari, but that goes double for Remilia. Any answers we get from her are open to suspicion and doubt. I would rather go with Yukari, who we can trust to tell us the truth, provided we manage to force it out of her.
>What's up with that?
Too many unknowns to say for certain, but perhaps her silent fight against the true Icon isn't going so hot? Maybe she simply overestimated her abilities, and thought she could make it out alive, though not unscathed.
Though that is strange about Suika. Perhaps Yukari didn't wish to upset her, and thusly didn't notify her. Perhaps she thinks we will make it through alright, or maybe she simply did't think it prudent to tell. Not enough information to tell at this point.
>>44379 She didn't want to upset Suika but told her about her own death anyways? Fishy.
And even if Remilia is full of shit again, we can go around her to find out. She is available, present, definite, etc. We can nose around her and hers. I feel that she'll be at least a little more forthcoming now though that shit's escalated another degree of real. Beyond that, you can't really nose around Yukari. We don't know where she lives, can't really spy on her, and she's got her "don't call me I'll call you" deal going on. And I'd like to know how'd you force something out of Yukari.
Another random point I had forgotten about. We have to kill motherfucking Quake? What? Has Yukari even said anything about Quake? And Remilia is supposed to tell us more about that if we meet with her.
>>44380 It is pretty fishy, we need more information to clear it up.
Catching any bullshit on Remilia's part would be much simpler than doing it for Yukari, thats true. On the other hand, Yukari doesn't dispense much bullshit because we are implicitly on the same side, with the same objectives. I can't see Yukari lying to us when we both want the same things, and are apparently both going to die.
I have no idea what you're on about. Are you referring to the Icon of Sin? Yukari mentioned that the one Doomguy previously destroyed was a fake or something, and that the one she is currently working to fuck over is the "true" one. Though I have little working knowledge of Doom, so this could easily be some misunderstanding.
>>44381 Naw dude, this most recent post Remilia mentions needing to talk to Quake.
>“I would hope you understand why I’ve acted as I have. It’s a curse shared by the Scarlet family. Flandre is subject to it as much as I am -- but far less prepared to face the forces at work. You heard them, during your servitude with me.” Remilia watches Flandre’s army advance, lumbering forward to meet with the Legion. “We must speak with Quake.”
The evil voices in the basement and whatnot. Quake is basically "You got Lovecraft in my Doom!" The Icon of Sin is to Doom as "Quake" is to Quake. "Quake" refers to the ultimate evil from that game. It's basically Doom with more Cthulhu and dark ages shit thrown in.
>>44383 Hell the fuck yeah we do. Get in direct with this. Remilia's influence kept us most afloat during Quake's fuckery. We need to go into this with her, get some shit done. Maybe finally get some understanding. One more random note that makes this all even worse. Quake itself was always kinda ehhhh about its story, but "Quake" was just the codename for the ultimate evil. The final boss itself is Shub-Niggurath.
Another note is that Quake is made by the same people as Doom, and the storyline is almost exactly the fucking same. Fucking with portal technology puts humanity in contact with a terrible evil which proceeds to fuck everyone, then one guy goes in and rest is history. We need to humor the possibility that Quake and The Icon of Sin are two extensions of the same thing, or even simply different names for the same thing.
>>44384 I know jack shit about Quake, and very little about Doom, but even I still recognize that guy. Shit possibly just got ultra real.
Though ultimately, it changes nothing. We only have a single name drop going on for Quake. While that is not a good sign in the slightest, we shouldn't jump to conclusions and instantly assume it's here to fuck shit up.
The idea of it being synonyms for the same being is a scary thought. It implies that Remilia has some sort of dealings with the Icon of Sin. Needless to say, that is not a mark in her favor.
Random thought. Would her status of being a vampire have anything to do with it? She mentions that the family has to deal with it also. Perhaps it's just some strange vampire thing.
>>44385 I haven't a clue if her being a vampire has anything to do with Quake popularly, but she does say it's a curse. She doesn't appear to be particularly fond of him.
But I did find this.
>The Fire Vampires of Fthaggua can absorb memories and energy from their victims, causing them to burst into spontaneous combustion.
>burst into spontaneous combustion
Sound familiar? Has to be a coincidence but I thought it was hilarious given the circumstances. There's also apparently another type of lovecraftian vampire that has some manner of life draining tentacle hair something that is described as "scarlet." If I keep digging I'll turn into a conspiracy theorist.
But one last little bit. The part with ol' Shubby and The Black Goat. This is just me wiki-speculating and making arbitrary links, but the thing with the black goat of the woods with a thousand young. Often associated with Shub. Sometimes thought of as Shub. Sometimes the goat is apparently a separate entity. When it is it is thought to represent Satan, goat, horns, that whole thing. Icon of Sin, ultimate evil in a game where you're fighting the forces of Hell. Represented by the giant skull of a goat. Again, probably not really actionable information but something to think about.
I guess we can only pray that we are grasping at straws. Shit was convoluted enough when we only had to deal with the Icon, and its minions. To throw in some Lovecraftian horrors would just be shitting all over and already crappy situation. Though that bit about the skull does raise the chances of the two entities being one and the same.
>Short and long version
Couldn't agree with you more.
If Quake is/is associating with the Icon of Sin, the Scarlets are bound to them in the form of some manner of curse. Even if Quake has nothing to do with the Icon ,which I highly doubt, he is still responsible for Flandre's psychosis and possibly some of Remilia's undesirable tendencies. Remilia is not cool with this. I posit that she and hers would appreciate it if Quake and/or his associates were to fall victim to an unfortunate smelting accident or summat. This would also presumably open up Flandre to fight the good fight on her own terms. In any event, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. If we make any advances on the Quake front Yukari will be aware of it, and this opens a whole 'nother venue for us. Yukari has made ZERO mentions of Quake. This last post was Quake's first mention. Siding with Remilia might be our only opportunity here to act on this.
It's been a pleasure Yukassembly Anon. May that which we have discussed and uncovered here provide Guts and Gensokyo with a brighter future or at least a slightly less grimdark one. Night yo.
>>44391 We are the Doomguy. Our most important ability is being a tough mother fucker, actually
Now, you do realize that Patchy is the one training us in this ability, and that Remilia says she tried to kill us, right? If Patchy truly wishes us harm, it would not be prudent to go back learning from her. After all that, we than need to take into consideration the absolutely fucking stupid decision to two-time her.
Succinctly put, learning from Patchy might not be the sweet deal it was before.
After a truly spirited discussion between the Proremiliat and the Yukassembly, I have decided to call it in favor of Yukari.
The Proremiliat fought long and hard for it, but they should keep in mind that I also have to consider Guts' personality -- and a lot of their arguments required multi-step thought that Guts simply wouldn't bother with.
The speculation about Quake is interesting, but I will deign to give you one clue: Eirin already told you everything you need to know about it -- she just doesn't realize it.
I figured Guts at the very least would be down with the concept of going in knowing what to expect and how he might need to deal with it rather than the cloud of ever-changing facts and half-truth no-truth fun that Yukari brings.
The huge goddamn conspiracy theory was all secondary. Going with Yukari just feels wrong. But Guts doesn't feel what I feel, so eh.
You’ve endured enough of Remilia’s abuses for one lifetime. You have no guarantee she won’t try to pull anything and, hell, you owe her zilch. You get unsteadily to your feet -- Suika cranes her neck to look at you, suspense written all over her face. You lay a hand on her shoulder. “I know where the fight is. I’ll come with you -- but there are a couple things I need to do first.”
“Right. Suika will wait for Demon-slayer here -- but he should not tarry long, since Lady Yukari grow impatient.”
“Doesn’t it bother you at all that she and I won’t live through this?”
“Yes,” she admits, eyes downcast. “But Suika have plan.”
“Yes. Suika make everyone safe -- because Suika believe in you, and believes in the you that believes in you!”
“I, uh, don’t think that came out right.”
Suika looks huffy. “Demon-slayer get point. If Demon-slayer never die, then Demon-slayer not dead!”
“I really don’t follow you.”
“OUT!” Suika shoves you out of the hollow, clearly annoyed. You stumble out, smiling to yourself. Simple minds, eh? It’s a short walk into camp -- whatever Remilia’s doing, you won’t find out. For all you know she has another ambush in mind…
Fah. That woman.
You walk through the tents of the camp -- after destroying Flandre’s army, they commenced rocking out; you know the thrill of winning a battle against a hated adversary. There’s drinking, there’s singing, there’s food. All the stuff you know about Gensokyo-ites right here in one place. As you push past them, you find Meiling, ducking outside her tent, crouched in front of cooking fire, her back turned to you.
“Gah!” She spins around, hiding the ladle behind her back. “Oh! Guts, hi!” She blushes slightly, embarrassed.
“Is, uh, something wrong?”
“No! Nothing at all is wrong!” She laughs. “I, um, wasn’t working on something secret. Or anything.”
“You’re the worst liar in the world.”
She sighs, deflating. “I know. Well, um, you see, I was reading some manga. And I saw that, err…” she trails off. You look over her work -- smells delicious, something any cook would be envious of. Fried rice, vegetables, egg mixed in. Good stuff. But there’s also a conspicuous box, small and pink, sitting on a stump beside the fire.
“I wanted to make you bento,” she admits, softly. Her eyes seem to water a bit.
She shakes her head, but you can sense something’s off. You pull her into an embrace -- goddammit. You left her once and broke her heart, now you’re about to do it again. Why the hell does this crap always fall to you, huh? She returns the hug tightly -- nearly cracking your ribs -- before she blurts it out. “I can feel it. You’re about to go again, aren’t you?”
“I have to.”
“I know. I know what war’s all about. I know I’m not very important, but…”
“It hurts,” you finish. You hug her back -- gods above.
“Can you stay a little while?”
“Yeah.” Suika might be miffed, but she can survive that. Meiling deserves this after all you’ve done to jerk her around. She finishes cooking, and you share a meal, laughing and chatting and trying not to think about what is going to happen. After a long while, she leans over and kisses you on the cheek, her enormous strength pushing you on your back. Her face seems horribly torn -- that sad, confused look that rips your heart in half.
“You have going-away eyes,” she says, finally. “My brother had those.”
“What happened to him?”
“The Long March.”
You hold her tight as she bursts into tears, sobbing that you’re really going to die this time. After a while, she calms herself, her sobs shuttering to stop -- then she leads you inside. You make love to her gently, properly this time, even as she fights to suppress the fear and worry inside her. She keens into your shoulder as she comes. In the end you’re both an exhausted heap on the bedroll in her tent. She’s asleep, and you can see the sky getting bright in east. Time to go. You kiss her farewell, caressing her cheek as she sleeps.
Ah, time to leave. Not the first time you’ve had to lead her, but this maybe the end of you. Yukari said that she would die or at least be maimed, and your future is grim indeed.
Maybe you should have ignored Meiling. Maybe her heart wouldn’t be broken that way.
Angst aside, as you walk back to the hollow you feel a weird twinge of danger in your chest -- independent of your aching back. As you head back the hollow, you realize no one else is about. Not a single person outside their tent, none of the goofballs and buffoons you remember from walking here. As you turn, you see Patchouli Knowledge standing behind you, book in hand.
“Planning to leave, Demon-slayer?” Her gaze is cold -- your eyes narrow in return.
“Something like that.”
“I believe you agreed to stay. Going back on your word? Very ungentlemanly.” She opens up her book, leafing through the pages.
“Yeah, well, some things need doing.”
She stops on a page in the middle, reading down the lines quickly. You follow the movements of her eyes as she reads.
“I have need of you.”
“To save Gensokyo, of course.”
Marisa’s warning flashes through your mind. “How?”
“Oh, I’m sure you know. A ritual, that calls upon the true potential of a Synchronizer? Marisa Kirisame discussed with you thoroughly.”
“Stop that. And she wanted you to betray me, is that correct?”
“Guts, I do not care to be trifled with. Now, I will humbly request you come with me to accomplish this ritual. All is prepared, all is ready. We need only carry out this exercise and divinity will be within our grasp. And with this power I will cleanse the demonic menace and seal the rift.”
“Huh. I reckon that’s why Yuuka is after me.”
“And Remilia too, until your rejection, Flandre’s deteriorating condition and Quake’s corrupt words drove her to despair -- she no longer cares, frankly, as she just finished carving the stake destined for her sister’s heart. But enough about her -- will you or will you not come with me, Demon-slayer.”
“Sorry, but I chose my side. Yukari’s coming.”
“Ah, yes, her particular scheme approaches its completion. How do you suppose Yukari came to her current power?”
“Fuck if I know, but she’s been straight with me. Trust her more than any of you lot.”
“Would you believe me if I told you that Yukari came to her current strength by performing this very ritual?”
You scowl. “What does it matter?”
“And what do you suppose if you performed the ritual again, with a second synchronizer?”
Hmph, you didn’t think of that. “I dunno. Is it like a doubledown burger?”
“Do not be absurd -- no one knows, for it has never been attempted by mortal or immortal. But Yukari may just be out for that very purpose. Did you consider that?”
“Maybe she is. I’d trust her with that power a good deal more than any of you lot.”
“Then you will not choose me. You are set on Yukari.”
Patches utters a string of arcane gibberish. There’s a sudden glow on the skin of your arms -- magic markings running up and down your skin. You register to this seconds before you’re thrown to the ground, gripped by invisible hands. You snarl up at her, twisting your head to get a look.
“Fortunately, I made allowances for this. You are a stubborn and unruly sort, Guts, but I suppose that is what makes you effective.”
“H-how?” you choke out.
“Oh? While I was training you I placed this curse of compulsion on you. After a few applications you -- a non-mage with few powers to speak of -- were thoroughly infiltrated.”
“I’m nothing of the sort. I do this for the good of Gensokyo, myself, and you. I do not mean to treat you badly, Demon-Slayer, I merely mean for you to become a part of a god. I mean to elevate you. I mean to make it so you can return to Meiling and lead a happy life with her. What have I done to earn such invective?”
Well, erm, shit, but… that can’t be right. Just because she won the argument doesn’t mean she’s right!
“So, may I release these bonds, Guts? Will you join willingly?
[ ]… join Teddy--
“HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!” screams a familiar voice. Marisa smashes through the roof of the sky -- shit, you’ve been trapped in Patches’ illusion from the moment you left Meiling’s tent! She drops down between you and Patchouli. You can see her long blonde curls, her black coat, not much else.
“Kirisame, it is very bad form to interrupt a choice while it is being written out.”
“Stuff it. You’re trying to kidnap Guts, ain’t ya?” Her voice is as defiant as ever. You can just picture the look on her face.
“Leave it to you to misinterpret and overstate.”
“Well, you were going to capture him and experiment on him against his will, eh? Weren’t you? I’d call that kidnapping, Patches.”
Teddy’s eyes go dark, dropping into a cold frown. “Will you move or not, witch?”
“Nope. I challenge you to a duel!”
There’s a long silence.
“I could accept, Marisa, but that would be a waste of time. Instead, I merely intend to retrieve the Demon-slayer to safety while leaving you to futilely search for us.”
“Wait -- crap --!”
You feel like you’re being pulled in an imaginary direction. As you’re ripped from your place in spacetime to another, all around you seems to twist and distort. But in the seconds before you vanish from Patches’ bubble of reality, Marisa tosses something to you -- you grab it in your hand before the world goes dark.
“Why so evil, Patches?” you ask, pinned to the wall by the curse as Patchouli and some assistants prepare the ritual -- drawing some kind of arcane circle on the ground, lighting candles, the works. She reads out of a book, stopping occasionally to give instructions in the arcane language. “All you need is a hairless cat and a scar. And no hair.”
“Flippant as ever, I see.”
“Gotta face the end with a smile, Teddy.”
She gives you a dark look. “First, it is not the end for anyone present. Second, stop with that deplorable nickname.”
“But you were so cute and adorable when I cuddled with you.”
She gives you a dark look. “You snored.”
“The truth can be ungentlemanly, Guts.”
You watch as she returns to her mystical work, gripping Marisa’s charm in your hand. What is it? You have no pretentions of knowing, but hey, Marisa must have given it to you for a reason. You try to feel its shape -- seems flat, sharp-edged, boxy. There’s a bit of rope you grip in your hand. Ah, you hope she gave you this for a reason…
After a tedious hour or so, the preparations are complete -- with a word, Patches takes control of your muscles and forces you towards the center of the alchemic circle. It’s beautiful, intricate -- interlaced so many times you can’t follow one line without get caughting up in a dozen others. As you’re forced into the center, Patchouli takes a stand in another circle, across from you.
“Guts, there are two ways in which this can go. You accept me, and my way, and we join amicably. Or you resist -- the result will be the same, but the process may well take hours or days that you will spend in excruciating pain as you try to fight off the inevitable.”
“I gotta ask.” You glare at her. “Why? Why all this backstabbing?”
“I haven’t stabbed any backs, Guts, except perhaps Remilia’s.”
“And that doesn’t bug you?”
“If you’re asking if you feel guilt, I do. I know that I never would have considered such duplicity before the invasion. But that changed the entire calculus: I had to consider both my own fate and that of Gensokyo over that of one vampire.”
“Calculus, huh? How about this for calculus: Yukari’s got more know-how, more firepower, and more troops than you do -- why not leave it in her hands? She’s more likely to carry off a win.”
She laughs. “Not as foolish as you seem, Demon-slayer. Truth be told, you make a point; after all, I am primarily carrying out the sacred directive of all magi: to attain new and greater magic.”
“You exist to find better magic, which you then use to get even better magic?”
“Circular, I know, but it is my purpose. I have labored tirelessly in the Voila library to attain this goal, enduring sickness and the grinding futility of it for centuries. And now, before me, stands one of the Synchronizers, as rare and precious as water in the desert. I cannot ignore my directive, handed down by Queen and Empire so long ago. Guts, I ask you to consent to the ritual so I do not need to achieve my ends through brute force -- I do not wish to see you suffer. I do this to save Gensokyo and the earth from greater suffering.”
“We retrieve this power and ram it down hell’s throat.”
A plan you can appreciate, but you’re still doubtful of this whole diabolical plan.
There’s a vile ringing in your ears for a few seconds as your vision curves at the edges.
There’s a familiar voice. “Hehe. That Patches ain’t half as smart as she thinks she is.”
“Yeah, I’m chatting through that charm I gave ya. Pretty cute, right? Anyway, I need you to let go of it. When it hits the ground it will break, and that will let me know where you are.” You tighten your grip, instinctively. “Just drop it, right? Nothing more to it. And hurry, cuz Patches is listening to this.”
The connection dies, but just before you see it go you see a snatch of a scene -- a woman, beautiful, passing through a field of sunflowers. She turns and you at smiles as the scene clears; again, you’re in the underground lair.
But the atmosphere is all different.
Patchouli is watching you, somewhat paler than usual. “Guts,” she begins, voice shaking, “Do not drop that charm. The message was not sent by Kirisame.”
“Yeah, says you.” You begin fighting with her curse, directing all of your will to your hand. Sure enough, with enough willpower you can pry your fingers free, one at a time, the charm getting closer to falling with every minute.
A servant rushes forward. “Lady Knowledge, I’ll get it for you!”
“No!” snaps the mage. “You cannot breach the circle now! Listen to me, Guts, Kirisame gave you that charm -- but it has been hijacked by Yuuka Kazami. She sent that transmission, and if you drop it she will come here.”
“Why should I believe you?”
“That scene at the end! Yuuka did well to create that illusion, but a bit of her mental background noise infiltrated her transmission -- that was Yuuka’s servant, Elly!”
[ ]…drop it with a smile. “Even if you aren’t lying -- anywhere is better than here, Teddy.”
[ ]…tighten your grip. “Let’s say I believe you. In return for me not calling down an angry plant youkai on your head, lift the curse.”
[x]…drop it with a smile. “Even if you aren’t lying -- anywhere is better than here, Teddy.”
Oh god I was wrong. Patchy has changed, she is no longer the cuddly teddy who we all know and love. That timeskip has changed everyone's character and now we don't know what the fuck is up.
Regardless, we need to get out of here and get back to Suika and Yukari. As it stands, only Marisa and Yukari's faction haven't tried to use us for their own ends. Everyone else can just fuck off, I guess.
[A happy solstice to all my readers on there. Banzai, bros!]
You tighten your grip around the charm -- the edges bite into your hand. “Alright, fine. I’ll make sure this stays safe -- if you lift the curse you put on me.”
Patchouli mutters an arcane word, and the mystic markings flow off your arms and into the ground.
“Now, set me loose.”
Her mouth turns down noticeably. “Nothing is stopping you from moving, Demon-slayer.”
You frown, glancing around at the arcane circle around you. The chalk glows with power -- something is afoot, you just don’t know what it is.
Tentatively, you step forward.
An electrical shock blasts you, knocking you to the floor and clouding your vision as you struggle to stay conscious.
“I will breach the circle now. Take the object from him and we can resume the ritual.” There’s a sharp crackle as the circle loses its power. You’re distantly aware of a group of assistants advancing on you. They’re all around as you struggle to regain control of your limbs.
Patchouli goes to repair the damage to the chalk. “I do not understand his resistance. I have offered him everything he could possibly desire, and yet he still resists me.”
“I offered to protect his lover, his friends; I offered to drive the demons from Gensokyo. And yet he still fights me. I do not understand it.”
Understand…? She doesn’t even understand? The assistants force your fingers open, getting closer to your last bargaining chip. You’re distantly aware that this is a bad thing.
“I remember a time when men and women were rational. It seems that time has passed. I suppose I will have to extract his power from him -- and by that time Gensokyo may be very grave danger. Fool. This little fool.”
Danger. Right, danger! You’re here to save Gensokyo from the threat, and right now your last chance to escape Teddy’s clutches is about to disappear. Your off-hand closes into a fist -- a fist which drives into the face of the nearest fairy. It goes down with a soft squeal. You leap to your feet, throwing them off. As the fairies scatter, Patches watches, surprised for the first time you can recall.
“That shock should have laid you out for hours,” she observes, finally.
“You think I haven’t eaten worse than that? Come, on Patches, just let me go sort out the demons and I’ll be back before -- what do you Brits say -- tea?”
She gives a short laugh. “Sardonic as ever, I see. You do not think you are escaping this room, I hope.”
You drive forward, dodging a barrage of spectral bolts. You roll past her attacks, raining down from above as flame bursts around you. Her laboratory is wasted within moments as fairies scatter and panic. All the same, you dance with the danmaku -- slicing in the tight spaces between beams. As you leap over a fireball, Patches’ face contorts into a scowl. More magic drives toward you; you duck it and lunge.
A lightning bolt rushes towards you. The charm glows with power and a shield forms -- electricity leaps off the green sphere as the ground below is ripped apart. “Yuuka -- you --”
You leap through the shield and drive your fist into Patchouli’s stomach. She crumples, coughing violently. “Kazami… created the shield… so you could escape.”
“A tip of the hat to her.”
“You don’t understand…” Patchouli doesn’t get the rest out before she faints, defeated. You look down at the charm -- you should probably ditch it somewhere, at least hang it from a nail or something. All the same, you could use the shield Yuuka put on it.
In the end, you stuff it into your pocket. Might as well, right?
It seems Patchouli’s underground lair was built in the catacombs -- a familiar spot. You’re in the basement of the Scarlet Devil Mansion! As you sprint through the tunnels, you come to appreciate Sakuya’s sense of direction -- it doesn’t take much to get lost down here, and you’re no slouch at nonsensical mazes. As you force a door, you emerge onto some spiraling stairs -- those lead straight up, escape within sight.
There’s a rumble under your feet. Looks like someone’s about to bring down the catacombs to stop you -- you sprint up the staircase as the rumbling continues. You burst onto the first floor of the mansion -- familiar hallway, near the kitchens.
You can see now what’s happened: Remilia abandoned it to lead her armies. Good strategic sense, really; she couldn’t leave anyone behind to protect it, so might as well leave and rebuild it when the war is over. As you prowl through the silent halls, you hear the whisper of arcane words: Patchouli hasn’t given up. Well, that’s obvious, but she’s definitely trying to track you.
You quickly push through a door, into the deserted kitchens. Hunger gnaws, but the place has been cleaned out long ago. As you explore deeper, that whispering gets louder, and you can hear the flitter of small wings. Patches sent her fairies out to find you -- you duck behind a corner as some flit past, chattering frantically to each other about Teddy getting mad if they don’t track down the Demon-slayer. You slink deeper into the compound, slipping around corners and dodging fairies.
You emerge into the central chamber -- the exit is right there, past the grand steps to the second floor, underneath the stained-glass window that overlooks the double-doors. However, as you step onto the mosaic at the center of the room, you hear a familiar voice.
“Wow, you didn’t fall for it? You’re smarter than ya look.” Marisa sweeps in through a broken window. A much the worse for wear -- she’s got a bandage wrapped around her eye, and some quickie healing magic still glowing on her arm.
“What the hell happened to you?”
“Don’t ya know by now? Yuuka stole the other half of that charm. You think I gave it up without a fight?” She lands and limps over to you. “Had to find you the hard way, and I fly to the rescue only to find that you’ve busted out on your own.”
“So Yuuka did a number on you?”
“Ugh, yeah, but I got patched up by Eirin. I swear, she’s just gotten worse over the years -- but come on, we need to get the fuck out of dodge.”
“I think not.” You spin around -- Patchouli and her followers stand at the top of the staircase, joined by a new face -- a redheaded girl with a pair of bat wings emerging from her forehead, in a formal dress that just barely managed to contain her -- if you dare say it -- exquisite rack. “Koakuma, apprehend them.”
“Come on, Teddy, you know it’s over.”
The newcomer draws a pair of exquisitely modeled pistols from her jacket, leveling one on you and the other on Marisa.
You dive to cover as Marisa rises into the air. Bullets trace your path as you leap from column to column -- they explode around you, bullets bursting them open. There’s a brief pause in the fire where you poke your head up. Koakuma does a neat little spin and fresh magazines click into the gun. You throw yourself out of the way as the barrage resumes.
Argh, you’re useless without a weapon! Fists are well and good, but this is a whole ‘nother league you’re in. Even if you just had a knife…
Marisa sweeps down on her, hitting Koakuma with a barrage of magic. As the smoke clears, Koa stands unharmed, surrounded by a fine red shield. It drops, and a single bullet leaves the chamber -- there’s a crack as it hits the broom. Marisa tumbles to earth like a dead bird, crashing to the ground and rolling a few feet before stopping. Cursing inwardly, you watch from afar.
Marisa struggles to her feet, but Koa rewards her with a swift kick in the ribs -- the witch rolls again, but before she can gather her will, Koakuma her shoe on her back.
“Goddamit, Patches…” Marisa coughs. “I thought we were better than this.”
Patchouli limps down the stairs, hand on the rail of the ornate staircase. She looks paler than you recall, and she winces with each step -- that punch must have hurt her. “As did I, Kirisame. As did I. Come out, Guts.”
You dart through the dark. “Or what, you’ll break a few fingers? You’ve sunken down low, Patches.”
“Hardly, Guts, I’m not a barbarian. You can’t win -- either you come out, or I send Koakuma in after you.”
“Agh… run, Guts, I can take care of this!” Marisa coughs from the floor.
“Yeah, sure you can.” You duck into a side room. Dammit, how you are going to deal with this -- there’s a whisper in the air, a soft shiver of wind across your back. You turn.
There’s a gap portal here. You look through it; definitely Yukari’s handiwork. As you lean forward, Ran steps through, arms folded disapprovingly. “In trouble as ever, Demon-slayer.”
“Ran? What the hell are you doing here?”
“Bailing you out. You know, Guts, I have work to do. I really can’t come running every time you find yourself ensnared in a new and exciting trap, but Lady Yukari ordered me expressly to rescue you from Patchouli’s clutches.” She snaps her fingers, and the Oni Regalia materializes through the gap -- and drops into your hands. “Suika was meant to give this to you -- she proved as reliable as ever. Lady Yukari is ready for you, Guts. The plan just needs you.”
“What is this plan, exactly?”
“Quite simply, it is to break the back of the demonic invasion, destroy the Icon of Sin, and forever seal our world from theirs. Come along, Lady Yukari is waiting.”
“I’m not going to leave Marisa behind!”
Ran gives an exasperated sigh. “For all her backstabbing, Patchouli isn’t depraved enough to hurt Marisa over this. She’ll be fine.”
“Sorry, I don’t share your optimism. I’ll be right out.” You heft the sword over your shoulder.
“I’ll send Suika to retrieve you -- something she have done anyway. Try not to be captured again, it would be ever so tiresome.” Ran vanishes through the gap, looking exceedingly irritated with you. Well, she’s not someone who needs to be pleased anyway.
You step back into the foyer as Ran vanishes through her gap. Marisa’s propped up against a wall, magically bound and gagged -- but she’s wide awake, waiting for a chance to counter-attack. You step out of the darkness, Patchouli looks to you, frowning as she sees the sword. “Where did you…? -- no matter. Koakuma!”
The bat-head drops from above, guns roaring as she falls. You dive away, and the battle begins in earnest. Koakuma is faster than you, but you’re stronger and far more experienced; she makes mistakes -- bad steps that leave her open to a swipe she then has to duck or flip away from. Bullets flood past you, but you always know just where to step to get out of the way.
But you don’t have to reload.
As Koakuma goes to refill you cut in with a savage counterattack -- she goes to retreat, but you bring the flat of your sword down and slam her shins -- she goes down. Before she can struggle up your swordtip is at her neck.
Oddly, Koakuma gives you a strangely relieved look before she slides her pistols across the room. She didn’t want to fight at all, did she? Patchouli falls back, looking utterly defeated. Her shoulders sag, her eyes cloud for a moment. “No… not like this!”
You swipe her barrage aside as she gives her last attack; you don’t need to finish the job. After a minute Patchouli collapses to her knees, coughing violently. Her gaze is dull and resigned. Finally, she finishes -- your heart lurches as you see a spot of blood on her sleeve. “I see how it is, Demon-slayer.” She snaps her fingers, and Marisa’s bindings disappear. “You’ve rejected me utterly.”
“Patches… I don’t think you’re evil. At least, you did what you thought was best. Even though you were completely wrong, let’s still be friends.”
After a long moment, Patchouli lays her hand on Marisa’s shoulder and sends a gentle blue pulse into the girl’s body. “This ought to keep her together for a good long while. I wish you best of luck, Demon-Slayer; defeat the demon menance.”
“That’s my job!”
Marisa eases to her feet, somewhat the worse for wear. “Uh… Guts? You’re way too lenient with her.”
“I’m a sucker for a cute sick girl, what can I say?”
Together, you flee through the woods, Marisa staying high on her broom with its impromptu duct-tape repairs. “Just where are we going?!”
“Suika! We need to find Suika!”
“She’s my contact with Yukari! I need to talk to Yukari!”
Marisa sweeps low. “Wait, what do you have to do with Yukari?” She rides along you as you leap over brush and duck low branches of the pine forest.
“She’s the one who brought me back from the dead, it was always her! And now she’s going to end the war -- so she says, anyway.”
“End the war? How?”
“Let’s find out!”
You burst into that familiar hollow where you left the Oni -- where she now sleeps, drunk off her ass. Her gourd is tucked into the corner of her arm like a stuffed animal, a small bubble grows from and then recedes into her nostril. You shake her lightly -- her eyelids flutter, but in the end she just mutters something about eating danjo and rolls over.
After a bit of dedicated shaking, Suika eases awake. But…
“Suika want sleep. Suika drink very hard last night, waiting for Demon-slayer!” She rolls away from you, indignant. Ugh, you do not have time for this!
“Nice!” Marisa laughs. “You’ve got her pouting and hung-over.”
“Wouldn’t be the first op ruined by one drunk soldier. Come on, Suika,” you cajole.
“Yakumo say you die, and Suika does not want Demon Slayer to die!” Suika faces away from you, the image of a sullen oni.
Marisa is speechless. “Guts…”
“Come on, Suika, you had a plan, didn’t you?”
There’s a long silence. Nothing.
“She needs a cold shower,” Marisa says, finally. She hasn’t forgotten the comment. “It’s how you sober her up.”
“Oh, you want to be the one to drag the super-strong oni to the nearest bathing facility?”
“Nah, time to be low-tech.” Marisa snaps her fingers. Instantly, a gout of cold water douses Suika -- the oni leaps up with a sharp cry, sopping wet.
“You ready to go? Sorry about the delay, I was captured by a renegade librarian.”
Suika shakes herself, whipping her body like a dog -- Marisa throws up a shield. You have no such defense and are summarily soaked. Fuckin’ Touhous…
“Suika ready to roll!”
“Wait up.” Marisa raises her hand. “There are a couple questions I gotta ask. What’s this about dying?”
You give her a soggy, dower look. “It’s all secret stuff. But trust me, we’re gonna put an end to all of this -- time to take the fight to them. It’s a dangerous mission.”
“Come on, if Suika thinks it’s suicidal then it’s more than just dangerous. Guts…” Her face softens. “Think about this. At least tell me what you’re up to.”
“Lady Yakumo have plan to fly to hell and synchronize with Demon-slayer to defeat demon-lord for great justice!”
Speechlessness all around. Christ, Suika, just leak everything… but there are worse people to know about this than Marisa. Your only concern is that she’ll insist on coming, which is the last thing you want. Enough people have died for your sake already…
“Guts, think about this. You’ll be a smear on the wall after a minute synched with Yukari.”
“Yeah, I know.” You put your arm on her shoulder. “I know the risks. At this point, I’ve already died once. I’m not afraid to sacrifice myself for Gensokyo and earth. It’s a small price to pay.”
“Guts…” Marisa’s good eye flickers down. “Don’t talk about losing your life like it’s nothing.”
“But it is nothing. Compared to the entire world I’m a grain of sand -- and if I don’t do this, we’ll all be overrun further down the line, so I gain nothing.”
“I guess... I just hear you say that and I think how Meiling will feel and… and…”
Argh, you know, you know! It tears you apart to leave her behind -- leave her behind as you fly to the gates of hell on a mission you probably won’t survive. You’re caught, wanting to stay with her and wanting to save the very world she lives in.
There’s only one choice.
“I’m doing it for her. And for you, and Reimu, and Alice, and Remilia, and Patchouli, and even Yuuka. That’s what a soldier does, Marisa.”
“Then I want to come too.”
…did she just hear any of what you just said?
Marisa rolls her eyes. “Don’t give me that look after you fired off a speech about the need for sacrifice! You’re right, Guts, you’re right. Gensokyo and the earth are more important than anyone. They’re worth risking your life for. And… you have someone you want to protect. Same here. I’ve got friends and… someone I love. So why shouldn’t I go? I’ve got just as much place there as you, and I can fight at least as hard as you.”
“Marisa, I don’t want you to die!”
She laughs bitterly. “Now you’re the one worried about me? Seems like we’ve gone in a circle.”
“Grr…” Why does she have to be such a good freakin’ arguer? If you argue from her safety, you’ll just be a hypocrite. “It’s just… you’re needed here.”
“Not really. With you flying to the dark gates there’s nothing to keep you safe from -- yeah, that’s what I was doing, keeping an eye out for people trying to snap you out for that ritual. Please… I want to make sure Reimu will always be safe. That’s my wish.”
[ ]… let her join the attack. Dammit, why is she so persuasive?
[ ]… leave her behind. You can’t stomach bringing another person on this errand.
[x]… let her join the attack.
If patches didn't went loco, he could have learned to synchronize better and this would be not be a suicide mission. With the little training he has, I think he'll need all the help he can get.
[ Short update as I get back into the swing of school. ]
“Fine, fine,” you mutter, irritably. “You can come. But it ain’t my fault if you get killed. Suika, lead on.”
“Suika contact Ran for swift and diligent transport!” The oni says, and starts fiddling with a little charm in her pocket. You watch her for a moment, before it dawns on you that this may take a while. You turn to Marisa, who’s leaning against a tree thoughtfully.
“I gotta admit it. It’s not just Reimu I’m doing this for.”
Your mind flashes back to the tunnels underneath the mountains, where her friend had suffered his dismal euthanasia. You still feel bad for shanking him, but it had to be done. “Yeah. I understand.”
Suika frowns. “And then incantation go ‘In gaps of tiny little space between quantum entities, there is my kingdom!”
What follows is -- you assume -- a torrent of Oni-ish profanity before Suika gets back to work. Marisa snorts derisively. “Here, I can figure out.”
“NYET!” roars Suika. Some birds launch from a nearby tree as the earth shakes. “If anybody but Suika use this interdimensional contact charm, it shoot poison needles into eye.”
“Anyway,” you interrupt, “You’ll be wanting this, Marisa.” You drop the Flower Hijacked trinket into her hand. “Good thing Patches picked up on it before Yuuka showed up.”
“Yep. You’d be a stain on the floor, and then who would I have zany conversations with?” Marisa mutters a few words. The charm is suffused with a sickly green light, and then it dissolves into nothingness as if burned by invisible flames. “Well, that’s one liability scratched off the list.”
“A piss in the ocean, one might say.”
“Hey, humanity wrecked the ocean one piss at a time.”
“And oil spills.”
“SUIKA REMEMBERED INCANTATION FOR GREAT JUSTICE!” There’s a sudden twisting sensation as a the ground underneath opens into a yawning Gap; twisting promptly turns to falling, and you plunge into Yukari’s world.
You see Yukari: she seems to be addressing someone, but she seems to be talking to thin air; would be, if not for the hazy female voice coming in reply.
“Then you absolutely cannot be convinced, Lady Kazami?”
“I owe the hated youkai nothing, Yukari, you should be the first to know that.”
“Hated? How you’ve changed.”
“You have changed as well, dear Yukari. Did you ever look quite so world-weary, so sick of living? I smell the sweet scent of death about you. I suppose no woman may choose her hour, but it seems yours has finally come.”
“I could live, if I were more selfish. More like you.”
“Selfish? I do this for the flowers, sister, the lovely sunflowers.”
Yukari gives a -- bitter? World-weary? -- laugh. “I’d forgotten, you do have thatyou believe in. The plants deserve an advocate. But, sister, I believe I shall leave my trust in the youkai. And, yes, the foolish humans.”
“Why?” Kazami’s voice gives a hint of annoyance. “Time and time again the animals have betrayed you, torn you down, given you nothing but suffering. And yet you persist in your blind defense of the mongrels!”
“Let us remain on subject. Can you be convinced?”
“Yes.” You can hear the cruelty in Kazami’s voice. “Give me the inheritance. Your half!”
Yukari laughs again, this time more cordial. “Certainly. I have it here.”
“Do not let my compliance disturb you, sister! If you wish to destroy the world I now set out to save, there is little I can do to stop it. I can only pray that something, somewhere, may touch your heart.”
“I wouldn’t hold my breath. I shall have it, and I shall cover the earth in flowers!”
“Time will tell.”
You feel a tug on your sleeve. Marisa looks up at you, puzzled. “What’s wrong? You looked far away for a bit.”
“Didn’t you hear that?”
Maybe Yukari wanted only you to hear it. Whatever the case, better to keep your mouth shut; now is not the time to start a spirited debate about the ethicality of calling on Yuuka -- but that did not sound like a good deal at all. You spent years wandering Mars with a shotgun fighting demons, you don’t want to spend years more fighting Yuuka with a flamethrower and a pair of garden shears. You’ll have to call her out on this.
Yukari drops down in front of you. One second you’re alone and the next she’s there. At this point, you make nothing of it -- that’s just how she rolls, yo. Ran follows a step behind, not to be outdone, along with a catgirl in red. Yukari flashes a winning smile, accentuating the stress lines around her face.
“Well! Suika, Guts, you both return to my side. You have both exceeded what I had dared dream you capable of. And we have a newcomer!”
“Yeah, yeah, up to your usual cryptic bullshit, I see.” Marisa scowled.
Yukari laughed. “As always, Kirisame, as always. You wish to accompany us?”
“Yeah. Kind of a personal thang, but… I figure Gensokyo and the earth are more important than any of us. So let’s save it and go down heroes?”
“More admirable world never spoken.”
“Aww, has the widdle human impressed the big bad youkai?”
Yukari sighed. “In any case, we now find ourselves presented with the plan to infiltrate hell, destroy the Icon of Sin, and -- with a bit of luck -- exfiltrate the survivors.”
Somehow, she doesn’t seem optimistic about that last bit.
You glance around. Suddenly, you see dozens more shapes emerging from the shadows; at first they’re wavering shapes, hazy to the eye, but then you start seeing faces. A woman (stacked like a brick shithouse) with a single horn in her forehead, Eirin, Momiji, a girl with green hair, and… Alice?! You look down at Marisa; she gives an equally puzzled look up at you. Well, she’s still got her giant crate on her back.
“Ah, you have all gathered. Ten months ago I came to an agreement with all but one of you: that, together, we would work to avoid the machinations of less scrupulous Gensokyo denizens so that we might save our world. I am proud to say that that plan is coming at last to its fruition despite multiple setbacks. Now, we must land the killing blow. Like a man on the ropes, our earth has only one chance to throw her adversary out of the ring.”
“Yeah, yeah, enough with the peptalk,” you shout. “Get to the point!”
“What he said!” shouts Marisa. However, she looks strangely uncomfortably when you look at her. She seems to be bothered by green-head and Alice for reasons you can’t begin to fathom. Must be a girl thing.
Yukari sighs. “No ear for the dramatic, I see. In that case, we begin Step 1 of our plan to defeat Hell: we must split our forces and ready the ship. Momiji Inubashiri, Eirin, you will both be traveling a short distance Underground, to retrieve our engine. Sanae, Alice, you will secure the ship itself. Suika, Hoshiguma, you know what to do. As for you two…” Yukari turns her appraising eye towards you and Marisa. “You may accompany whoever you wish.”
“Just… do what we want?”
“More or less.”
You hear a sharp whistle from Hoshiguma. “ ‘Ey, I meet the infamous Demon Slayer at last! Turns out he’s a mighty fine piece of ass.”
You could get used to that.
Meanwhile, Sanae just looks annoyed, while Alice averts her eyes. “Jeez, let’s just get going already! We don’t have time to waste on this crap!”
Eirin laughs. “I don’t know how I can compete with a pervert and a tsundere.”
“Hey-- who are you calling tsundere!”
You and Marisa…
[ ]…rock out with Suika and Hoshiguma.
[ ]…roll with Sane and Alice.
[ ]…reunite with Momiji and Eirin.
[ ]…are le tired, and hang out with Yukari.
I think it'd be better to rest up some and get to know our new benefactor as well, it might make a difference. Her and Guts are the main core of the operation. But I won't complain if some other choice wins.
[Every once in a while, you need to let yourself go crazy for a chapter. I was ambivalent about posting this, but eventually I figured posting something new is important, and if you’re not going to cut loose for a Doom/Touhou crossover, well, there’s really no hope for you.]
“I need to catch up with Suika anyway.” And get introduced to her friend! “Let’s go with her!”
Marisa looks distant. “I need to talk to Alice.” She goes over to join Alice and Sanae. “See ya.”
Huh. Not like her to be sullen. Oh well, probably nothing. As Alice joins up with Sanae and Alice, she says something to both of them: Alice doesn’t seem to react, but Sanae seems somewhat shamefaced. Whatever the cause, you’re immediately distracted by Suika pulling you over to Hoshiguma. “SUIKA WANT DEMON-SLAYER TO MEET SUIKA’S BEST FRIEND IN THE WORLD!”
“Come on, don’t dislocate his shoulder, he’s gonna need that.” Hoshiguma laughs, her bust jiggling mesmerizingly. She has a hearty womanly laugh, not a girlish titter, something you can appreciate. (Your many years of study in the taxonomy of female laughs has served you well.) “Nice to finally meet ya. I’ve heard a lot about you -- mostly from Suika. She’s quite taken with you!”
Suika turns scarlet. “Hoshiguma be QUIET!”
Hoshiguma ducks some kind of high-velocity object directed at her head. The weapon vanishes into the cosmic void. “Anyway. Yuugi Hoshiguma at your sevice! We’re gonna get the fuel for a round-trip to hell and back. We’re going to pay a visit to the UAC’s secondary base.”
You choke. “Wait, what?! You do realize what’s down there, right?”
“Yep, and that’s why I’m glad you’re coming along. Unfortunately, it seems Yukari can’t drop us right there; she can’t buy us a direct ticket to Mars, so we’re taking a shortcut straight down the middle -- we’re riding a rocket.”
“ROCKET TO RED PLANET, DEMON-SLAYER!”
“Wouldn’t that take, like, a month?”
Hoshiguma grins. “Without magic, yeah. But did you know that the oni are famed for their industrial knowhow? We built the Pyramids, and we can make a bloody rocket to Mars! With a little oni juice, we can do anything.” She grins. “Or don’t you think that sword on your back is up to par?”
The wreck you found earned a derisive snort. Something the UAC built somehow managed to crash down in southern Gensokyo, where Yukari conveniently dumped your merry band. Inoperable? It barely qualified as a shuttle anymore, just a few roughly interrelated pieces of metal. You had to wonder how Yuugi planned to get this thing running.
Until, that is, she busted out the aforementioned Oni knowhow. You sat on a rock as the two of them worked, standing ground over a desolate crash site, surrounded by red soil for a mile or so. Of course, after that it’s Gensokyo plains; how the hell did it turn up red dirt? It does look like the dust of Mars, but that’s crazy… unless…
“Yo, Yuugi!” you call down to the Oni, shaping magic with her hands.
“Did Yukari move this all the way from Mars?”
“Yep!” You watched as mystic limbs extend from her back, looping over her sides to start reassembling the craft. “Ya see, as I understand it, right after UAC botched their experiment, the barriers went nuts. Like, really nuts. Most of their fleet were spent spiraling into hell or into nothingness, but Yukari reached out and crashed this one down on earth -- right after it hit Mars. She could only do it because the UAC had temporarily thrown the gap into chaos.”
“Hence the soil.”
“Aren’t you sharp.”
You would retreat back into daydreaming about boobies, but you feel really bad vibes radiating from just behind you, and they’re crimping your style -- and you don’t really like to have anything crimped when boobies are involved. You turn around to see a very annoyed Suika watching you, lines of sullenness practically radiating off of her person. “What’s wrong now?”
“Once upon a time Demon-slayer would ask Suika how rocket got on glorious Gensokyo soil.” She looks at you through bleak eyes.
“Sorry not good enough!” Suika proclaimed, again turning her back on you. Hoshiguma laughs down by the ship, prompting a growl from Suika as the younger oni stomps off to the opposite side of the wreck.
“What’s up with her?” you ask.
“Ah, she’s just becoming a woman. By Oni standards,” Hoshiguma twists something in the rocket’s gut. “Her hormones are going crazy. Don’t sweat it too much.” She steps back, wiping a bit of grease off her forehead. “Alright, I think this mean old bitch is ready.”
To you? The thing looks conspicuously… holey. Ridden with breaches, the shuttle is little more than a hunk on the ground. Sure, you can vaguely make out the shape of a rocket, but when you look around you and see the presence of many important-looking components on the red sand. All the same, Hoshiguma steps back, hands confidently on her hips. “Another masterwork of Oni engineering.”
“It looks the same as when we came. Are you drunk?”
“Yes, but that’s beside the point, boyo.” She flashes you a grin. “You see, we just need to put it back together enough for it to have the idea of a ‘shuttle’ rather than the idea of ‘wreckage.’ Look, it’s complicated crafting shit and we don’t have time to screw around with it. Come on, can’t you see it?”
Well, if you tilt your head just right you can kinda make out the shape of a shuttle. “I guess so, but that doesn’t mean it’s gonna work.”
“Allow Suika to explain!” shouts a familiarly boistrous voice from behind a rock. “Once object has returned to its original idea, we can follow fissure in totality when traveled here!”
“To-tality? What the hell?”
“Suika and Hoshiguma and Demon-slayer ride in tracks in spacetime shuttle make when it came here!”
“And then,” Hoshiguma finished, “all we need is the gap Yukari made to get it here and we’ll be on the red rock.”
“I gave up trying to understand this magic crap a while ago.” You jump off your perch. “Let’s go!”
“Yes sir!” The three of you load into the decrepit UAC shuttle. Hoshiguma wraps a Buddhist rosary around her fingers and starts speaking very quickly in one of the magic languages -- Suika offers you some sake that you happily accept. Midway in to Hoshiguma’s prayer, there’s a sudden wrenching feeling in your gut -- the shuttle’s moving. You poke your head out of one of the broken windows to see, sure enough, you’re leaving the green fields of earth behind once again. Aw, hell. You thought you’d never see the hellhole again.
“We’ll be making a pit-stop at Phobos to make sure Yukari and the others can make it to Hell.”
“I guess you could say… we’re gonna give ‘em hell.” You flip on your sunglasses.
“You’re never going to get tired of that, are you?”
You poor some of your booze onto the ground below, and with a glance up you notice Yukari has opened a gap for you. Another ride through hell is in store, it seems. Hoshiguma frowns, though. “Something isn’t right.”
Your eyes blink awake just in time to see Hoshiguma praying furiously over her beads. Her eyes glance over to you. “Guts? Thank the gods you’re awake. Listen! Yukari’s running out of power, if we aren’t careful we’ll get lost in the dimensional ravine -- GUTS! Stay awake with me! Don’t you dare shut your eyes--”
Suika is sleeping on your shoulder, a small bubble over her nose. You manage to shift your head over a bit just in time to see an unfamiliar landscape -- a craggy blue wasteland, stretching into a monochrome horizon underneath a monochrome sky. You manage to crawl out of the side of the shuttle to see Hoshiguma sitting on the edge of a great ravine, praying furiously at her beads. She spins her head around to see you.
“Oh thank you, thank you… Guts! Listen.”
“Hoshiguma?” You rub your eyes, groggy. “Where are we?”
“The dimensional ravine -- a sort of gap between the gaps. This is where you go when you try to teleport yourself with no particular destination in mind. Yukari was so tired when she warped us she stuck the landing. This places leaches off vital energies, makes you need to sleep, and if you give in you will sleep forever.”
You feel sleep overcoming you. Hoshiguma is speaking very quickly about nothing in particular.
Then, she reaches in and, very firmly, takes hold of your cock. “Goddamit, I’m not letting you go to sleep again!” She starts to stroke, and suddenly staying awake seems very desirable. “Pay attention! We need to get out of here, and we only have one chance at it. I need you to sit here with me and focus everything on screwing together your energies together so I can open up an escape route.” You aren’t paying that much attention -- except to the sensations of her hand moving up and down.
Hoshiguma shrugs her kimono off her shoulders, revealing tantalizing cleavage. “The tantra is the only tool we have to generate the kind of energy we need in the time we have. What are you waiting for? Get naked!”
It’s the most frustrating thing you’ve ever experienced.
You can see the union is joining as Hoshiguma sits against you, muttering divine words very quickly -- her prayer chain is wrapped around your neck as the beads pass between her fingers like a magician’s cards. Her breasts heave with her heavy breaths, the nipples poking into your chest. Your fingers grip tightly against her, guiding her motions. But she won’t give you release: no matter how hard you work for her, she does something in her gut that denies you. Part of you rises in anger, but you’re not thinking too clearly.
“A little more,” her strained voice hisses, so beautifully strained. “Just a little more, Guts, I promise I’ll reward you for this--”
“Almost there. This is enough, this is enough, we’re going to rip open the dimensional rift,” Yuuga says, voice delirious with pleasure. You’re sure she’s gone off more than once, how’s that fair? The glowing maelstrom of energy rising from you is a blinding yellow light in the bland chasm, casting a brilliant glow across the void. “There, there, I’M THERE!” Her voice rises in a wonderful scream.
You’re sure this isn’t where you’re supposed to be. You’re in the mountains, the mountains where you spent your boyhood. Yeah, yeah, you remember that bent-back tree, and there’s the old campsite. In fact, you remember this very place. You are walking to meet up with your dad -- there’s the tent, and the fire. Your boots crunch across the snow to join him.
“I want you to have this.”
You can barely remember his face, but it’s been so long since you recalled your parents… feels like four hundred years. The old man hands you a switchblade. You flick the blade open -- plenty sharp, lovingly crafted.
“I need to tell you this, son. I have cancer. Six months, the doctors say, at the most. This blade… gotta be the most precious thing I have. It was there at Utah beach. It went over the trenches at Ypres. It saw a damn river blood at Antietam. It’s a warrior’s weapon, and now it’s yours. It’ll see you through hard times, and when it’s done its duty, it’ll give out. Don’t worry, you’ll find better weapons and friends than these.”
The blade starts to tremble in your hands.
“Crying won’t get you nowhere. This is our last trip up here together; let’s make it count.
A funeral. You can’t seem to make out your father’s name when the priest calls on you to speak it.
“Well.” A strange woman’s finger trails pathways in the hair on your chest. “You’re quite something… I’m jealous.”
You’re prone in the snow of a frigid forest, the cold taiga pines all around you. Your fatigues do nothing to filter out the biting weather -- you could be naked in the frigid north. Someone mutters something next to you. “Guts? Are you OK?”
You turn and look -- only now do you notice the heavy rifle in your hands, the scope trained on a metal facility. And is that Sakuya next to you, in army gear? Yes, it is, her hair incongruously braided. At least it blends it. “I forgot why we’re out here.”
“Foolish.” She nods towards the desolate base. “How could you forget? This is the key to everything.”
You look through the scope.
This base isn’t quiet, as the IR scope reveals: it’s alive and well, the surface buildings only a decoy for the underground plant. There are people underground, unexplained heat signatures and strange patches of cold. You look away, and make out a sign clinging to a rickety chain-link fence.
Union Aerospace Corporation Private Property Trespassers will be shot on sight.
“You have been acting strangely as of late, Guts. I’d suggest we try again, but we have only attempt at this.” Sakuya readies the SMG hanging from a strap around her neck.
“I don’t understand. Why are we here?”
“We’re going to cut the serpent’s head from it. Damn it,” she mutters. “There is no time for this. Follow my instructions to the letter.”
A line of vehicles pass down a decrepit, cracked road towards the base. A pair of guards greet them, emerging from seemingly derelict buildings.
“Snap out of it, Guts!” Sakuya’s face is lined with desperation. “Now is no time for one of your fits! We can destroy the UAC’s research before they even get close to opening their first gateway. We’ve already bankrupted the company, if we destroy them here we can break the company’s back!”
The UAC, as ever, is one step away from having a private military. APCs, reinforced trucks, even an Abrams tank idles in the back of the line. Infantry pile out of armor, rushing to meet with the two base guards.
“This is our chance. Snipe the guards from here, in the chaos I will infiltrate the base and kill--” !$%^@ “-- It’s our only chance. Take the shot.” Her hands go for her SMG but eight knives, clutched between the fingers of her left hand. In her right… is that a detonator?
“Just use magic. It’s what you usually do.”
“Why not--” Sakuya seems to be on the verge of anger, her brow knitting together promising storm clouds. “Do not ask ridiculous questions. Take the shot.”
Well, why not, you’re tripping balls anyway. You line up the first guard in your scope, your finger tightening around the trigger. Sorry, buddy, but it’s for the greater good. You’re about to shoot when he turns.
The face you see is your own. Your old one, to precise, looking cold and sullen. Your cleft chin is impressive as ever, but that is secondary to the point that you are about to shoot your past self.
“Now!” Sakuya’s hand is on the detonator.
[ ]…take the shot. Paradoxes be damned.
[ ]…don’t shoot. Something is rotten.
What the fuck just happened. Well, whatever is happening we shouldn't listen to this Sakuya. Shooting ourselves cannot lead to anything good. We need to figure this drug trip out and get back to the people we can trust, meaning Suika.
You ease your finger off the trigger. “Sakuya… that’s me down there.”
Her face freezes into surprise for a few seconds before tightening into a hardened mask. “Then don’t kill him.” There’s a long monotone beep from the detonator. That noise always freezes the heart for a half-second.
The convoy bursts into flame as C4 under the belly of the vehicles detonates, hurling chunks of shrapnel across the snow. Bodies -- alive and dead -- scattered, some hurled through the air like rag dolls. Sakuya takes off down the embankment, lunging into the confused guards. You reach into her holster and pull Vladimir.
Down the slope you go.
The guards are scattered and confused as you and Sakuya rip into them. With a series of deft kicks she drives one poor bastard into an electrified fence, giving him a good shock. As you fire a barrage of shells at some quaking fools behind a concrete barrier, you duck a fist directed at your face and spin around, swinging the butt of your gun at his stomach, hitting nothing.
You’re facing down your own flesh-and-blood self. Sure, past-self doesn’t recognize you, but you sure see your old face: cocky, smug, certain of victory. That same look got friends killed. Just looking at it pisses you off -- and seeing that switchblade, your father’s knife, fills you with anger. You were a fool. A damn fool -- you sold your soul to the UAC and you suffered for it by inches.
A brutal rage fills you. The butt of Vladimir comes around as he lunges with the knife. He cannot win. There is absolutely no way for this greensleeves to defeat you. The swing catches him square in the jaw and throws him far, the knife spiraling out of his hand. As you stand over this worthless boy you loath, you look down on him with condescending eyes. “Try walking on your own two legs for once, punk.”
If you had done that…
What? Your hold on your body feels tenuous, like you’re being dragged around on puppet strings.
Aww, to hell with it! You turn to find that Sakuya has incapacitated the rest of the guards. “An alert will be up by now. We must hurry -- this is their last holdout!”
Your mouth is suddenly moving on its own. “Wipe this out, and it’s over?” Your leg suddenly rises up and kicks down a door, the rotten wood splintering like cork.
“This is my hope. The UAC’s dogs have nowhere else to run, if the Tokyo informant is correct. When this is gone, the barrier technology will forever be--”
You cradle a broken body in your arms, and scream. It almost feels like the soil of Gensokyo is screaming underneath you.
You have to wonder how one convoy went so bad. One second you’re pulling on a cig, trying to fight off the biting Russian cold, and the next you’re facing off with a shotgun-wielding psycho who just killed five of your buddies and is trying to club you to death.
This was all supposed to be easy.
‘Just discharged? Need money?’ they asked. ‘Join the UAC! Travel the world! Work for the planet’s most brilliant innovators!’ they said. Oh, yeah, pick up a contract with the UAC so you can go freeze your balls off in fuckin’ Siberia. Siberia! Nobody said anything about Siberia. The stay in Japan was nice until two nutjobs blew up your gig.
And lo and behold, the two nutjobs are now shooting up your convoy. He’s a devil of a man -- scarred and muscled, with a devilish glint in the eyes that peak between long, wild hair. You raise your knife; if you can’t handle a couple of (very dedicated) terrorists than you ain’t a marine! As you lunge forward --
You are handly beaten around the jaw with the butt of a shotgun.
“Hey. Hey, if you’re Guts the Demon-slayer, famous throughout Gensokyo, wake the hell up!”
That voice. That voice is awful familiar.
“Hey, do I have to do it with you again? Wake the hell up!”
You sit up uneasily. Suika sits at your side, drinking. You poke your head out the window of the shuttle.
“Did any trippy shit just happen?”
“Like…” You suddenly develop a strong sense of déjà vu. “…this all just happened about five minutes ago.”
“Umm…” You’re getting puzzled looks from both oni, but fuck it you aren’t going to stop here--
“I have long since accepted the fact, Guts, that I must in fact do everything. Ran will learn this sooner or later.”
And now you’re having tea with Yukari in the Gap.
“So, uh, what the hell just happened?”
“You became unstuck in time, of course. Everyone has experienced it once or twice -- a déjà vu, I believe?”
“Yeah… I saw things that I’d forgotten. I remembered my father. I remembered--”
“And you saw things that have yet to be.”
“Yeah, yeah, I did! Sakuya and I were raiding some base in snow country. I saw myself. My younger self. What the fuck was up with that?”
“Your younger self? That is quite curious.”
“Enough of your riddles!”
Yukari laughs before sipping her tea. “Oh, I do apologize, Guts. In short, at some point in the future, you must travel to the past.”
“But-- I-- then--”
“And yet it was a future event at the same time. Quite curious.”
“This is bullshit! Where the hell am I? What happened to Suika and Yuugi? Who am I? What happened out there? Did I really have tantric sex with Yuugi? Who let the dogs out? My god! What have I done? Who is the real Slim Shady?! And where the hell are the demons?! I just want to shoot some mofos and have done with it! None of this temporal bullcrap!”
“In order: The gap, they’re as unstuck as you are; Guts; a barrier error; possibly; Tewi; nothing at all; Earnest P. Weller of 1513 Jones Drive, Ontario, Canada; in hell. Does that cover it?”
“I’ll take that as a yes. This has been quite enough silliness for now. I believe I will deposit you some distance in the future, in the interest of time.”
“Wait a tick. You can just… skip ahead in the plot?”
“More or less, although it is usually more trouble than it is worth. Since I am patching up the barriers anyway, we might as well cheat a small amount”
“I… OK. Fine. Why’s all this happening, anyway?”
Yukari sighs. “I had hoped to keep this from you, in the interest of keeping your focus on this battle and off of earth.”
“Come on, Yukari. You’ve been hiding stuff for long enough. Haven’t I fought enough to earn a little trust? I’m not going to fly off the handle -- more than usual, anyway.”
“I suppose a healthy bit of handle-flying is never a bad thing. Very well, Guts, I will confide in you the truth. The Icon of Sin has ripped open another hole in the barriers. I have been overpowered, but this was my intention from the beginning. I patched the barricade shut to force the demons through a bottleneck, but I can only do so much. Right now, Guts, earth is under attack. All of humanity is under siege by the demon menace, and there is nothing you, I, or anyone can do to stop them.”
You turn this over in your head a bit.
Meiling is up to her knees in blood right now. Momiji’s soldiers are still down there, fighting. Remilia is leading her army. The nations of the world are mobilizing to fight the greatest war in history. And you’re… here, floating in the Gap.
“Our counterattack begins now, Guts. With a barrier rift the demons opened we will do to Hell what they have done to us. Do not--”
“What? You think I don’t have faith in mankind?” You flash a cocksure grin. “Fuck that noise. I’m a soldier. I’m nothing without my comrades. And as for my comrades on earth? Meiling-baby? The youkai, the rabbits, the soldiers of mankind? I’ve got faith in all of ‘em. Don’t think I’m going to have an emo-fit because of they might be having trouble. They’re holding up their end. Now I gotta hold up mine.”
Yukari seems frozen in surprise for a moment -- and then, she laughs. “A more perfect specimen of soldiery and masculinity there never was, my space marine. Had you pursued my interest rather than Meiling’s, who knows what may have happened!”
This is all starting to feel like a trite romance manga. [Achievement Unlocked: Hung like a Lampshade]
“Speechification over. What’s next?”
“I stick you back in the timeline.” Yukari sips her tea like it’s just a midsummer tea-party. “You may experience some minor instability as we reenter normal space-time, but remain calm and carry on.”
“It’s keep calm and--
You’re sitting on a deserted stretch of highway, next a phone booth. Jeez, they still have those?
There’s a sudden ring inside. With a heavy creak you pry your body off the dust and answer.
“G-guts… I need to say something.”
“I’m-- I’m pregnant!”
“The doctor says I’ll have sixteen. It’s a small litter, I had twenty-four brothers and sisters, but I’m… I want to be a mother! I’ll name them Dilandau, Allen, Folken, Van, Hitomi…”
You’re sitting on a deserted stretch of highway, next a phone booth. Jeez, they still have those?
There’s a sudden ring inside. With a heavy creak you pry your body off the dust and answer. A red moon hangs overhead.
“Guts -- there is something Yukari is hiding from you.”
“What’s that, toots?”
“You are a character in a video game.”
You’re sitting on a deserted stretch of highway, next a phone booth. Jeez, they still have those?
There’s a sudden ring inside. With a heavy creak you pry your body off the dust and answer. As you enter, you see fire burning on the horizon. Isn’t your town that way?
“All my friends have something to say, you shitty wormy, you ground-crawling degenerate scum-spawned human!”
You come around on the cold floor of the UAC shuttle. You look out the window, daring to hope, for a moment, that you’re no longer tripping balls. Sure enough, you’re on the teraformed zone of Phobos, a triumph of human ingenuity that allowed the UAC scientists to open the gates to the demonic menace. Nice job, human ingenuity!
Suika shifts in her sleep. “Wah… Suika want more PANCAKE!”
You laugh. “Guess we know what’s on her mind.”
Yuugi grins. “Smooth sailin’, like I said. Come on, we got a job to do.”
“Hey, did anything trippy happen while we were out in the gap?” You try to shake Suika awake.
“Whatever do you mean?”
“Like… continuity errors?”
“I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ no continuity errors, Mr. Guts.” She gives you a sultry grin. And right then you notice a suspicious mark on her neck. Hickey? But in the next instant she leaps out. “Get Suika up, we need to secure the package!”
You try to wake Suika, but she’s having none of it, continuing to babble about pancakes and… zucchinis? Interesting combo. In the end up you just pick her up and carry her over your shoulders. In the next instant you’re crunching over the hard soil of Phobos, following Yuugi. Up ahead looms Phobos Site B, a smashed and unhappy-looking ruin. Once it had been prepped to receive the greatest minds the UAC could cajole or coerce: now the roofs have caved in, walls have been ripped away, towers collapse inward in great webs of shattered steel scaffolding. Yuugi kicks in a door.
“So, what are we looking for?”
“Yukari sent a package ahead, with the fuel for the rest of the trip to hell. Her vessel only has enough to get to Mars, physically: to cross over the barrier between Phobos and Deimos we need a little extra punch. Seems the touchdown wrecked the B site.”
“Nah, demons did most of this. It was at least this bad when I woke up.”
“Yeah. I woke up in front of a door with a pistol, fifty bullets, and a rolled blue carpet. So naturally first thing I did was lay down the carpet. And wipe my feet.”
“Civilization, duh. It’s what separates us from them, really.”
Yuugi forces a grey door with a handy kick. “Well, Guts, down we go. Can this poor lost maiden count on the Legendary Demon-Slayer to protect her from evil, vile demons who wish to do… unspeakable things to her?”
“I’ll eat my hat if you’re a maiden.”
“Clever, Guts, but not clever enough! As I can plainly see you are not wearing a hat.”
“Alas! I am outflanked.”
The secondary site is a nightmare to navigate. The maps installed into the walls are unusable: many have been smashed, and the ones that are intact reflect an unsmashed building. Luckily, your memory serves you well. This is the blue carpet you laid down, and if you follow this switchback you’ll be crossing the zig-zag platform across a pit of acidic sludge. With no guardrails.
Mars OSHA can get right the fuck off your case.
You catch sight of the package embedded in a pit of toxic sludge some idiot dumped in the courtyard. And then, to your shock, Yuugi wades right into it, lifting up her skirt to keep it out of the gunk. Acid rises up where it meets her ankles. “Uh, Yuugi, that stuff will melt your face off.”
“Demon-slayer does not worry!” Suika proclaims. “Oni have been known to bathe in substances of pH two or lower!”
“I failed chemistry.”
“Oni bathes in acid to get funk out.”
Yuugi fiddles with a hatch on the side. “You might wanna take cover. The contents of this here pod is gonna be mighty pissed.”
Suika takes cover behind a metal barrier. You take cover behind Suika; it’s the safest place to be. “How pissed is mighty pissed?”
“Ever taken a cold shower on a hangover? Multiply that times a thousand. Let’s do this thang!”
She wrenches a metal lever. A plate launches clean off of the pod with a metallic shriek, hurtling clean out of secondary site. Mist rises from within, and in that mist you can make out the outline of a shape. A thin, lanky body, with one exceptionally long and square arm, steps forward, and a menacing, growling voice echoes through the courtyard. “I was promised cake. ‘Get in the pod,’ Yukari said. ‘There’s delicious cake in the pod. Succulent chocolate mousse, lovingly baked by my trusted servant and topped with a cherry pulled from the Immortal’s own orchard.’” There’s an ominous glow inside, joined by a high-pitched electronic whine
“No, Utsuho, think about this--” Yuugi steps forward, extending her arms. “Let’s talk this over!”
“The cake was a lie”
Yuugi hurls herself in front of the encoming blast, taking it straight in the gut.
Your Oni companion hurtles across the courtyard, slamming into a far wall. You watch, still in shock, as Yuugi hits the ground and slumps over. The midriff of her shirt has burned away completely, exposing burned skin. This Utsuho had flames strong enough scorch even an Oni’s hardened skin. A cold anger, cold as Utsuho’s fire is hot, seizes control. Hand on your blade you step out from under cover to face the newcomer who now floats over the sludge towards you, looking smug as hell. Her box-arm smokes at the tip.
“Where the hell is Yukari?” she growls. “She owes me cake.”
“Hey!” you snap. “That’s my buddy you just nuked!”
Utsuho turns her crazed eyes on you -- the kind of eyes you’ve only seen at someone who was just owned at CounterStrike, eyes of purest hatred. She raises the cannon on you. “Ha! Nuked? You don’t know the meaning of the word nuke. You humans just don’t get what nukes are all about; you don’t know a fraction of what you’ve unleashed!”
Her gun starts to glow from within.
“So… define nuclear fission,” Yuugi coughs, from the sidelines.
“It’s a thing-- where-- you know--” Utsuho taps her forehead, until she realizes she’s been slighted. “Shut up! I bet you know where Yukari’s at. I’ll just have to beat it out of you.”
You draw the Regalia. “How about I beat you down instead? That sounds like way more fun.”
Yuugi coughs. “Guts… you can’t take her like this…”
“Suika step up beside demon slayer and challenge Utsuho, who apparently wake up on wrong side of pod!”
See? It’s all good.
[ ]…split up and attack her from two angles at once.
[ ]…synch up with Suika and CHAERG.
[ ]…synch up with Yuugi and CHAERG.
[ ]…grab Yuugi and run, stalling till Yukari gets here to calm down the thermonuclear shebitch.
[x]…split up and attack her from two angles at once.
I'm still pretty confused about just what the fuck that was, but I think I'll just ignore it and continue on as we are getting back into normal territory.
Now, we shouldn't synch with Suika, as we might not be strong enough to take Utsuho by ourselves, even augmented with the little watermelon. I'm also hesitant to synch with Yuugi, as she is currently injured and it will be a bit before her oni regeneration kicks in.
No, we need to get down and dirty with just the Regalia and teamwork to guide us.