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[X] “If she wants me, she'll get nothing less. I'll go now. Delaney, it was good to see that you're okay. Kaguya, if Mokou shows up, I want to hear about it straight off. And thanks.”

Some people will spend all their lives working out a single part of their body – the wishbone.

Not you; you've nurtured it enough already. You have fed it to the point of gross obesity, you've exalted it above divinity, and you've polished it to shine brighter than a twenty four-carat diamond. If you reached out and slapped it up on the sky among the stars, nobody would ever tell it apart. Astronomers around the world would be flummoxed for years to come. All conceptions of physics could change to accord the discovery. New religions would spring like mushrooms after heavy rain. Science as humanity knows it may very well go to the devil. The world could be thrown into another dark age, and you would be the one to thank for it.

However, you won't do that. Not because you wouldn't want the infamy of single-handedly setting civilisation back a couple of centuries. Not because science is already one leg in hell and you would rather it stayed at least half on this side for a while longer. And certainly not because you never wanted to be the central figure of a shady new religion.

It's because you want to start developing a different part of your skeleton.

The backbone.

“Very well,” you say. “If the shifty vixen wants me, she will get nothing less.”
A slightly nervous look flickers in the breezy nurse's eyes, but she nimbly re-assumes a smile. “Ah ha,” she says, “I see Master Eirin doesn't care whether you're a patient or the staff. Just don't call her out on that. She'll take you out of your skin and stick you in a tube. Ah, and Princess?” She grins awkwardly at Kaguya. “This will stay between the four of us, right?”
“I believe that would be for the best,” the princess seals the “all right to badmouth your boss and my caretaker as long as it is in private” decree with an permitting nod, “ but tell me – a guest?”
“Sod the guest,” you say. “I'll go right away.”
Out of compassion for the sprightly young girl, you omit the mention of the doctor's peculiar habit of eavesdropping on her ward. Or that said habit might extend on her retainers. Or that she may even now be tearing her way here, her staff-skinning apparatus sterilised and at the ready.
Kaguya frowns at you reproachingly. “Hold it, soldier,” she orders, “I haven't finished yet.” She turns again to the energetic nurse. “Who is that guest?”

Her hands, you observe a shade self-conscious, are still buried in Delaney's flimsy nighties. Delaney herself, in the meantime, has called it quits and gave up on putting up vain resistance, and is now instead having a go at decamping the shameful reality through self-asphyxiation.

Her colleague displays a much more effective method of coping – a punch of blissful, unshakable ignorance.

She lifts her shoulders in a helpless fashion and stares at the princess apologetically. “I couldn't tell,” she confesses. “I heard her and—if my ears haven't gone bad since my last examination—it was a woman, but other than that, I fear I don't know at all. I didn't pry to find out.”
Kaguya drones quietly in contemplation. “… I have been out of touch for the last half an hour or so,” she admits. “Did anyone else arrive that I missed?”
“Sorry, Princess.” The chirpy nurse makes another impotent shrug. “I really have no idea. I could go to the front desk and ask, if you'd like.”
“Not at the moment, but thank you.” Her Highness then returns her attention to you. “Well?” she says. “What do you think?”

“… Mokou?” you hazard a guess.
“Oh, don't be simple. And cut it out, would you? She does kind of leap to mind, I understand, but she never would have gone to Eirin as the very first thing. I brought her up—for the most part—and I maintain that I have a good enough reason to believe it isn't her. And,” she goes on, “supposing no one else has arrived since you did, then the options are more or less limited, aren't they?”
“… you reckon it's Keine?”
“Or your darling shrine maiden, yes,” she says. “Although I cannot with all of my wit picture her going anywhere without consulting you first.”
“… you give her too much credit.”
“Perhaps,” she agrees, “but it is my credit. I will pass it out however I want.”
“I wish I could deal mine with the same sort of liberty.”
“Can't you?”
“I've learned not to over the last few days.”
Kaguya makes a face. “Quit sulking,” she says. “She may not strike you as such, but I will have you know, I trust that girl a lot. She and I have had a couple of clashes in the past, and it always turned out she was in the right.”
“Quit it, I said,” she says again. “Oh, if only I had realised you would come back so insufferable, I never would have let you go! I almost wish Moko hurried up so she can give you your overdue affection and make you stop feeling sorry for yourself.” She accosts the giddy nurse. “He isn't listening to me,” she tells her. “How about you tell him he is miserable in my stead, Nathalie, dear?”

Nathalie. That was the name.

Nathalie gives a short, troubled laugh. “Ah, well,” she says, “he feels—how should I put it—kind of dark today, yes. Very different from a few days ago. When he came down to eat with us and had just his underpants on, for example. He wouldn't do anything of the sort in his current state, I can't imagine. And shame. All the girls in my division loved that. Oh, and at the game, when he—um,” she breaks off all of a sudden. “I, uh, don't think I should be talking about that, really.”
“No,” says the princess. “Go on.”
“Well, we caught him with the shrine maiden, yes?” the nurse glances at you once as she resumes. “And he didn't notice us when we landed, and when we called him, he was so surprised he got red all over. Noé was stricken by that, as I recall. She rambled on and on how she wanted a boy that she could make blush like that after she had got her paws on some of that strong stuff at the party afterwards. Heart-wrenching.”
“And Adel?”
“Ah yes. She cried for hours, I heard, after sir Shooter had gone home. She was still a bit out of it, though, so she let herself go a bit more than she would normally. Still. Very sad. Ah, and I even remember that Udo—that is, Reisen—that she ditched her Monday morning shift to look for him all around the Clinic for some reason, even though she's… well.” She coughs. “He must have made some kind of miracle happen, is what I surmised. Ah, but he doesn't seem to have a lot of miracles left in him, from what I see. None, if I have to be exact. Apologies, sir,” she says to you, “but that's how it looks. No offence.”

“… none taken,” you mutter.
“Big D is a story is herself,” she smiles at her friend. “I could write a book about what she did.”
Delaney breathes out explosively. “Don't!” she cries out. “Don't you even dare!”
Nathalie happily disregards the threat. “We'd never seen that side of her before. It was as though she'd gone completely crazy for him.”
“Nat! Shut up! I'll tear your ears off if you don't shut up!”
“See?” the lively nurse giggles. “Suffice to say we had to lock her up for some time to let her cool her head.”

“I'll pluck your freaking eyes out, Nat! I'll gut you!”
“Not if you want that honour rematch, you won't. And where is your rig, anyway? Did you fling it out your window again?”
Delaney tries to lunge forward, but Kaguya holds her firmly in place. “Princess!” she yelps. “Let me—!”
“Oh no,” says Her Highness, “I do not believe I will. Nathalie, dear,” she glowers at the other girl, “you are pushing it, you are aware?”
“I can take big D's blows, Princess,” says the beaming Nathalie. “I have since we were little bunnies. It's when she's calm that you want to watch your tail. And drunk. She's a live wire when she's drunk. She can go from weeping in your breasts to using them as punching bags faster than you can tell her how much you love her and how everything is going to be a-okay.”
“Nat!” Delaney barks, “you're—yikes!”
Kaguya silences her with two well-aimed pinches in the sides. “Now, now,” she hushes, “you two, be nice. Shooter?” she says in a strangely imploring way. “Weren't you going to go right away? Or are you waiting for another invitation?”
“No,” you say, “but you were—”
“Go,” she instructs, “and tell Eirin that I do not appreciate when she has guests without my knowing about it.”

“… right-o,” you give up as you heave yourself from the fluffy carpet. “Will do.”

Seems that all things to be said have now been said.

A pity not as many have been actually done.

They never are.

Nathalie stirs as well. “In that case, me, too—”
“No,” Kaguya stops her, “you will stay.”
“Princess!” she almost whines. “Why?!”
“We need to talk about that thing, don't we?”
“Ah… well, but I just got off my swing shift, and—”
“No, Nathalie, dear. No discussion. I want to hear everything there is about this. Shooter?” the princess asks you. “Was there something else?”

“No,” you say, “I just, er… Delaney,” you say to the unhealthily flushing nurse, “it was, uh… nice… to see that you're out of the woods and all right… Sort of.”
Delaney stifles a growl. “… yeah,” she drawls, “… right, you… ugh, you too.”
Her Highness pokes her nose at the nurse's cheek. “Good girl,” she compliments, “keep that up and you will make your princess very satisfied.”
Delaney glares daggers, but says and does nothing.
“… Kaguya,” you exhale and accost Her Highness, “if Mokou shows up—”
“Yes, yes,” she cuts you off, “you want to know as soon as possible. I understood that the first time around.”
“… I'm only worried.”
“I understood that also.”
“… thank you?”
“Again? Why are you so addressed to such a boring topic?”
“… because I'm grateful and I love you?”

That gets her. “… yes,” she says, softer, “and I love you, too.”
“Then you'll forgive me, no?”
“There's nothing to forgive. I simply do not want to see you so glum, that is all.”
“An it please thee,” you say, “I shall give it mine best shot to become of better cheer.”
“Oh, please,” she moans. “And I had thought you should be good at shots!”
“Thou art most unkind,” you give her a falsely injured look. “I am merely human. Mine limits thus stretch very close, my Lady – thou must not forget.”
“Enough!” she exclaims. “Go away! Off with you! Come back to me after you have dropped this self-effacing act!”
“An it please—” you begin.

A grieving expression on your face, you turn and start for the door.

Nathalie flashes you a conspiratorial wink.

You answer in equally stealthy kind.

And at last outside, you let your humour simmer down. The desolate air of the hallway aids that a great deal.

Now, for the search.

If Eirin isn't found in her basement office and has taken her guest so some other, less surly place, you're in for hours of spelunking.

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As you dip into the darkened nether regions of the Clinic, you pen a new rule in your scribbly ideology.

Thenceforth and evermore, a Shooter shall fear only one thing at a time.

And if you can help it, you will make those exclusively small things. Those are the ones that bring you down, after all – you could rather comfortably dance out of the way of a speeding tank, but you would find it virtually impossible with a speeding bullet. Plus, it's building – because compared to most of the fish in this queer aquarium that you've had the—watery—privilege of meeting, you are the blatant underdog – and you should bear in mind that an underdog will usually locate a tender spot to sink his fangs in sooner or later.

Fish, a widely spread knowledge, have no fangs, of course – but you will manage somehow.

You could, for one, strut into the old fox's office while trilling “Doctor, doctor, give me the news! I've got a bad case of loving you!” in your worst Robert Palmer impression. That would surely knock her off-guard for a few seconds. A few seconds that you could use to exact your revenge for the many embarrassing situations in her office – by knocking over her phial stands, for instance. Or pulling on her bra straps.

Now there's an invigorating thought.

Sadly, as you reach the target level of the stale-aired dungeon, that brand-new vigour goes stale as well. Sounds of an exchange and the cold, fluorescent light seeping from the gap in the slightly ajar door to Eirin's surgery set you straight back to alert-mode, and you slow down to a tiptoe, reining in your prancing karaokial impulses.

Quiet as a mouse—a napping church mouse in a chamber of vacuum—you adhere to the wall, trying your hardest to look as much as an extravagant new-age painting that has had its frame stolen as physically possible, peek inside, and cock your ears.

“—and regressive symptoms?” the woman resting in the torture-device-like armchair in the room asks in an grave manner.

Her naked legs are swung casually over one of the armrests, and—as always—you find your mind going blank for a brief instant when your unsteeled eyes catch their sight. “As always” because—none too surprisingly—the mysterious “guest” is nobody other than your dearest schoolteacher. Clothed in but a bright-violet bathrobe, her long, still-wet hair let to spill over her shoulders, and her feet swaying tensely back and forth as she awaits the response of the prim-faced doctor make her appear at least ten years younger – barely out of her teenage years, inexperienced and defenceless.

Eirin leafs through a file of reports, then recites: “None observed,” impartial and detached as an ancient Greek statue on probation. “A psychological test failed to register any signs of retroversive tendencies.”
“And long-term effects?” prompts the teacher. “Any at all?”
“Unknown,” says the doctor. “Unable to observe subject for prolonged periods due to societal complications.”
Keine makes a sour face. Her legs freeze mid-swing. “It could have easily been solved, you know,” she says.
“Rejected,” Eirin informs flatly. “Juveniles prone to malfunction. Cannot risk mental health of a healthy specimen.”
“Scruples, Eirin? Are you growing sentimental for your old years?”
“… I shall not submit to your attempts of insult,” says the doctor, her expression unchanged. “Continuing, the method proves flawless as far as my research has gone. Allowed more observation, I should be able to—”
“I don't have that kind of time,” Keine interrupts. “We're on the run already, Eirin.”
“Me and Reimu. She's going with me, too.”
“Have you gotten her willing consent and permission?”
“Yes,” nods the teacher, “she is tired of this place as well, you know. And her… condition… is just a formality, anyway. It will be resolved whether we do anything about it or not. I'm not doing anyone harm by taking her along. Now, Eirin,” she leans forward, impatient. “Are you satisfied?”
“Not fully,” says the doctor. “As I noted, my research has barely started. If you find you require my satisfaction, you would be well-advised to allow my investigation to reach a final—”

“Eirin!” Keine almost yells. “I gave you everything I could! I can't be stuck here playing doctor with you!”
Eirin tugs at her collar once in cool apathy. “Again,” she goes on in the same monotone, “insults are of no interest to me. I offer you my protection as long as the cost to my clinic remains at zero, but should you require further favours, the best course of action would be to—”
“Eirin, for gods' sakes!” the teacher cries out. “I am desperate, can't you see?! This isn't an innocent sport of hiding the Moon or opening up a new hot springs resort any more! Actual, real lives are at stake here! Mine, and Reimu's, and… his, too! I'm deadly serious!”
“As you were the last time?” counters the doctor. “And the one before that?”
“I cleaned up after myself,” Keine says grimly. “And you scooped in a hefty profit for yourself from it, didn't you? Shouldn't you owe me?”
“My concerns do not involve my indirect,” she underlines the word, “debt of gratitude to you, Kamishirasawa. My foremost loyalty is to the Houraisan Princess, and I shan't convey to you how little Her Highness cares for your… predicament. And you do not possess the necessary understanding to employ means capable of changing her disposition.”
“I do not possess—? Are you… Are you hiding something from me, Eirin?”
The doctor makes a horrible caricature of a smile. “… I would do that?”
Keine is astonished. “Sarcasm?” She gapes, wide-eyed. “You, Eirin?”
“It is never too late to learn, Kamishirasawa,” says the doctor, reverting to an aloof expression, “and you would be wise to treat this as professional advice… free of charge, of course.”
“Eirin…” the teacher rises from the chair, “… what are you plotting?”

Eirin maintains a cold, level stare, her lips pressed tightly together in mock silence.
Keine clenches her pale, brittle fists, spluttering a few words that you aren't—maybe for the better of it—able to make out.

“Indeed?” the doctor says, absolute unmoved. “Go ahead, complete your threats. Or, should you feel inclined, you might explain the reason of your infantile supposition that you are some way more deserving of my priceless help than my princess and my subordinates. Alternatively, you may depart now, before you give in to your carelessness and shed unnecessary blood, and… fumble about with the one on whom you so depend. Intimacy, especially of the physical type, commonly returns clarity to one's senses, I learned recently. The choice belongs to you, Kamishirasawa. And do not feel obliged to rush your decision. I have all the time in the world.”

Keine grinds her beautiful, white teeth so hard you can feel the tremors all the way in your hiding. “Eirin…” she hisses, “… you're…”

[ ] Step in. Now.
—[ ] And show that you know what you're stepping in on.
—[ ] Singing is inadvisable, but you can make it clear you heard nothing all the same.
[ ] Stay where you are, see where this goes.
[ ] Walk away. There is nothing you can do, and you've already got your fear of the now.
—[ ] Go to your room. Keine knows better than to get violent, and if she takes Eirin's suggestion seriously, she will want to find you waiting for her there.
—[ ] Go anywhere that nobody will find you, you need some time alone.
—[ ] Go up to the front desk, there is somebody you need to find.
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[X] Stay where you are, see where this goes.
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[X] Stay where you are, see where this goes.
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wall of text
We don't need no education
We need no memory control
No dark lies in the classroom
Teacher leave them lovers alone
Hey! Teacher! Leave them lovers alone!
All in all we're just another brick in this wall.
All in all you're just another brick in this wall.

[X] Stay where you are, see where this goes
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[x] Step in. Now.
—[x] And show that you know what you're stepping in on.

Maybe it's just me, but I somehow doubt that the door was conveniently left ajar without Eirin at least noticing it. She is, after all, expecting us at some point.

May as well avoid playing games we don't have to.
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Oops, accidentally posted before I meant to. Anyways.

May as well avoid playing games we don't have to (pretending ignorance when Eirin obviously expects us to hear this) and get involved where necessary before things blow up or go sideways in unpleasant ways.
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[x] Stay where you are, see where this goes.


It's not that we're trying to pull a fast one over on Eirin by listening at the door. If she meant for us to overhear, it's probably because Keine's character changes remarkably when she knows she's in our presence. I'd like to see just how much.
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[x] Stay where you are, see where this goes.
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[x] Stay where you are, see where this goes.

We need more context, and information, and this is a wonderful opportunity.
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This, pretty much. Given her behavior thus far, a healthy dose of skepticism concerning her intentions should seem almost natural.
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[x] Stay where you are, see where this goes.

Like 70 and 74 said.
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[X] Stay where you are, see where this goes.

The key thing in keeping up to snuff is to hear what's being said, and even more importantly, what isn't.

That is why you've got two ears – twice the amount you've got of mouths – so you can listen twice as much as you speak. As well as that tiny handicap people usually call ‘restraint’ and fancy a virtue – so you can curb your morality when it remonstrates against listening in on something you aren't meant to hear. Most people would have turned tail and fled before they sneezed from the dust in the air or stepped on a conveniently placed twig and blew their disguise, but not you – you aren't afraid of the risks. After all, you are only eavesdropping on a lovely young lady who can fly and potentially reduce you to a gabbling man-infant with no recollections of his twenty-odd years of life, and an insane bloody doctor whose prime ability is to short out your brain in a spate of colourful sparkles and similarly colourful pains.

What is the worst that could happen?

One thing is you could get killed.

However, the very same thing could be said of pretty much anyone, at any point in time, and at this particular one, you have no healthier and more profoundly-felt desire than to spy on on the two deadly dangerous persons, who, by the bye, do not seem very keenly opposed to being spied on, anyhow – or at least unopposed enough to forget to lay their twigs and dust their air.

So spy on you do.

“Yes?” says Eirin, still unimpressed. “What am I, Kamishirasawa? I eagerly await your educated response.”

Keine's gaze spells hate, but all she utters is another inaudible curse.

Her hands are trembling, you notice, and a sharp sting wiggles around in the organs in your chest at the fact. The manlier aspect of your mind dictates that you charge in and defend your choice maiden's honour, but quickly you kill it with a hefty kick to the nuts. The nuts, obviously, begin to rouse at that, but then recall they have been in control for nearly a week straight now and are completely knackered, and go to sleep again.

“Ah yes,” pronounces the doctor, “you seem to have learned an economy with words since the last instance that we had the opportunity to converse.” She stares the shaking teacher down without the slightest hint of remorse. “Should I, perhaps, applaud you on your achievement?” she asks next. “Or would you have an instant of silence on my side so that you may exercise your new-found talent further? For your convenience, I shall take a lack of answer as a raring ‘yes.’”
Keine makes an indelicate sound. “… no,” she grates.
“Very well,” returns Eirin. “I anticipate your next syllable with utmost yearning.” The doctor then squints her ice-cold eyes and firms her tone. “You know better than I that my aid is not a feasible possibility. Not if you value the outcome of your endeavours and your impoverished position. And I, too, am at great peril, should you blunder along the way.”
“… I know,” says Keine. “I know, but… it's different! The situation is different! We aren't meddling with anything out of our competence this time!”
“And the Hakurei? Are you insinuating hers is not a crucial and powerful function?”
“I've told you, her… status… we will deal with it! Somehow! And she wants to go, herself! She's become sick of the Land, too, you know!”
“And by whose influence, I wonder?”
Keine glares. “… you're crossing the line, Eirin.”
“I have long crossed it, Kamishirasawa,” says the doctor, “by helping you with your previous… venture, I shall point out also. And now you request that I do it again. Unquestionably, even you should possess the mental faculties to infer why that is a harmful notion and why I shall not participate in its execution.”
“We won't get punished, Eirin. I promise.”
“No, Kamishirasawa,” Eirin shakes her head, “you will not not be punished. You will flee to safety while your associates that you outstripped are seized and castigated by powers whose reach you will have escaped. The thought may seem superficial to you, but to us, it is unacceptable. I shall not imperil my princess and my crew for your personal ends.”
“But this is not just me!” yells Keine. “I told you, it isn't about me any more! It's about Reimu! And him!”
“Then you claim you are doing it out of compassion? With no intent of self-gain?”
“Yes!” The teacher almost chokes. “Yes! I'm doing this for them! Can't you see?! I want to get them out of here! I wanted to get out myself, once, but that is not the case any more! I may have tampered here and there, but it was all for their sake! See through your ignorance, Eirin!”

Eirin shakes her head again. “… you are pathetic.” She sighs. “And enough of a fool to display it in front of the one whose help you so require.”

Keine freezes. “… you,” she gnarls, “you weren't going to help me from the start!”
“Precisely. But that is not what I meant.”
“… what?”

Eirin nods at the door where you hide.

A look of horror crawls over and stains the beautiful teacher's features. She shoots the doctor a hateful glance, then dashes through the door, where you are standing, and once she notices you, she takes you by your shirt. She tries to drive you back, push you to a wall, perhaps, but you persist tightly on the spot.

“WHY?!” she cries. “WHY ARE YOU HERE?! WHY WERE YOU LISTENING?!” Tears are streaming down her flushed cheeks. “What did you hear?! Tell me?! Where did you start to listen?!”
“… the part which you failed to ever mention to me?” you reply, struggling to keep emotion out from your voice.
“WHY?!” she shrieks again. She puts her forehead against your chest and beats her hands on your shoulders. “Why did you have to?! Why?! Why are you doing this to me?!”

Eirin comes out of her surgery, her stride slow and deliberate. “Ah,” she says as she sees you, “you have received my summons. That is a favourable turn of events.”
Keine rips away from you. “YOU…!” She spins to the doctor with the speed and ferocity of a surrounded animal. “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!”

And then she pounces at the doctor furiously, a wild scream on her lips, and an arm drawn back for a punch.

Eirin deftly knocks the strike aside with a smooth flick of a hand, then twists the teacher's wrists behind her back and produces a menacing medical instrument from her belt. Oblivious to Keine's frenzied sputtering, she presses it briefly to the teacher's nape and squeezes the trigger-like lever on its side.

Keine winces and gives a short, high-pitched yelp.

Then, Eirin shoves her away, herself taking two measured steps away to avoid potential counterblows.

Keine is too shocked, though, to mount any kind of lethal retaliation. “Eirin!” she yells, though weaker. “What did you do to me?!”
Eirin dismisses the demand. “Young man,” she says to you instead, “restrain the patient, please.”

Sensing the urgency in her voice, you approach Keine and swathe your arms, strongly, around her frail body.

She protests, of course, but the protests are muffled, and they die away before long. She falls silent, and goes limp, hanging loosely in your hold, breathing in and out at a slow, steady rate. Your attention then returns to Eirin, who nods at you quite seriously, and gestures to the inside her room. Not a mutter of dissent, you carry the now-asleep teacher back into the surgery, and, by the doctor's mute command, place her again in the dentist-like, padded chair.

And then you face the one who has just indifferently violated a woman you love.

“I have two questions,” you tell her darkly. “First is: what. Second is: why.”
“Which would you have me answer first?” Eirin asks, her back turned at you as she fiddles with something on her desk.
“I don't give a shit. Just answer the bloody questions.”
“There is no need to be vulgar.” The doctor leaves her desk with a glass of liquid in her hands. She hands the glass to you, and you stare at the opaque substance suspiciously. “Please drink,” she urges, “you are pale and you are shaking. This should calm your nerves.”
Come what bloody may. You down the contents of the glass and give it back to Eirin. You do not feel any calmer. “Now, doctor,” you say insistently, “it's time to tell me what in the blazes is going on here. And don't even try to give me that secretive bull. You knew all along I was there, listening, didn't you? And why did you do this to Keine?”
“She would not have divulged anything to you in her… disquieted condition. There should be no grudge held for my subjecting her to anaesthesia. Please, do take a seat,” she says as she points to a lone stool by the other wall of the room. “If you will heed, you appear as though you are about to collapse. And yes. I did convene you specifically for the purpose of having this exchange.”
“Eirin,” you ignore her suggestion and say, “either you speak bloody sense or I will bloody tear it out of your blasted corpse along with the majority of your blasted innards.”
The doctor closes her eyes. “… please,” she says, quiet, “do not misunderstand.”
“Bloody right I won't. What is all this, Eirin? How am I supposed NOT to misunderstand if you refuse to bloody explain anything?!”
“I did not mean that,” she says. “What I meant are Keine's words.”
“Kei—?” you start and break off.
The private form of address that she earlier refused to use when talking with your beloved teacher somehow aggravates your ears.
“She has no ill intentions,” Eirin goes on. “She merely wishes that you take an unbiased approach to her… dilemma. That is her greatest anxiety.”
“And yet,” you reply, “you call me here to overhear that there is more to it than I am told? To form, what, some sort of an opinion that may sway me this way or the other after all?”
“As a doctor, I cannot allow a surgery to go under a mistaken diagnosis.”
“Again, why? Why are you doing this if you have no intention to help her? Help us?”
“Because Keine is a friend,” the doctor says candidly.
“… a friend?” you repeat, taken aback by the sudden confession. “You're friends? Surely you can't be serious!”
“I am,” says the doctor, straight and sober. “We go… decades back, and the remembrances are, in a large part, fond. I am indebted to her in ways more intricate than they may appear to most.”
“… this is making less and less sense as it goes. Why did you refuse to help her, then?”
“I was forbidden,” she confesses. “As I was forbidden to divulge to you information of her past and present exploits, and as I was forbidden from interceding in the affairs of the Human Settlement.”
“By whom? No,” you follow up, “let me suss this out myself – you were forbidden from telling.”

Eirin nods.

“… this is bullshit,” you grumble. A strange throb erupts in your temples “… I don't get it,” you go on, rubbing at the aching spots. “What is going on here? Why does everybody treat me as some sort of ticking bloody human bomb that they think will go off if it hears something it hasn't already? Are they expecting me to read their bloody minds somehow and make my decisions based on that? Why won't you simply tell me the general what-ups and be done with the beating around the bush? I don't even want the details. I just want to get a grasp of this load of rubbish.”
“I cannot do that. Understand, please,” Eirin pleads, “I cannot imperil the safety of my staff, nor that of my princess, unless under Her orders. These rules were emplaced for reasons even I cannot go against. A direct intervention is beyond my capabilities, unless I dare threaten that safety.”
“And this is not a direct intervention? Having me come down here and hear all that?”

“Ah,” Eirin assumes a satisfied tone, “but I summoned you here only to check your medical condition, did I not?”
“But you just said—”
“What I said,” she interrupts, “is that I conceived necessary to speak with you. That you overheard our… argument… is merely a coincidence I could not have feasibly foreseen. And your condition truly concerns me – you are pale and shaking, are you not?”
“Then perhaps I misjudged the need to examine you. My error.” She bows. “I apologise.”

A few moments pass with only the noise of the fluorescent lamps buzzing in the silence.

“Eirin,” you say then, “did you know that me and the princess were in Delaney's room?”
“Indeed I did,” she confesses. “Have I not told you? Nothing transpires in this building that I am not aware of.”
“… sure it doesn't.”
“I also know of your… relationship with Fujiwara, if that proves the point.”
“… I'd be surprised if you didn't by now.”
“It was my discernment that you thought fit to conceal it from Keine.”
“I might have to review that idea some time,” you admit, “but for now, yes… Wait,” you say then, “you aren't going to blackmail me about it, are you?”
“No, you misconceive. My original enmity was… ill-advised. I had initially judged that you and I would best serve our roles as adversaries, but you proved not to be who I had you for, and I have since adjusted my view. I see you now as… an intimate, if you will.”
“… an intimate?”
“Did you not claim once,” she says with that horrid parody of a smile, “that because the princess carries an affection for you, and you for her in turn, that dictates that you should carry one also for me?”

“I joke.” She affects once more a stolid countenance. “The princess would never have allowed me to share your private affairs without your verbal consent. Therefore, they shall remain undisclosed, if you so wish them.”
“… cheers,” you say, contrarily, without much cheer.
Eirin fixes her sleeves. “Might I advise you, young man?”
“Need you really ask?”
“I shall treat that as a positive reply. I shall care for Keine until tomorrow,” she says, “and it would be in your best interest to rest afore morning comes and you are imposed once again by… unpleasant circumstances of interpersonal nature. Heed that I do not mean to rid of you, merely to give my opinion as a qualified physician.”
“… right,” you give in. The troubles of the day have begun to weigh their full weight on your maimed psyche, and you are growing sleepier by the while. “I'll piss off,” you say on, “but before I do, I had a couple more questions for you. May I?”
“Go on.”
“Very well… Eirin,” you say after a breathe-in, “did you ever mess with my memories whilst I stayed here?”
“No. I do not possess such an ability as Keine.”
“Yes,” she says. “However, I can offer no further evidence to support my claim of inability to modify the contents of your memory. I apologise.”
“Sure, fine, whatever. Then what of that research tosh with Delaney? What was that all about?”
“I cannot tell.”
“Then why?”
“Confidential information. As a doctor, you understand.”
“… right,” you say. “Was it to help Keine?”
“In a way.”
“I'll leave it at that, then. Are you going to keep up this negative charade tomorrow as well?”
“Yes. And it is my request that you keep what we exchanged here—”
“—to myself,” you fill in. “Sure. I'll consider it.”
“I am staid, young man. If you reveal that my stance is not as I told her, both she and I will be in danger. She is intelligent, but emotional. I do not wish any harm on her, and you would be discouraged to endanger the security that my subterfuge ensures.”
“I'll consider it,” you say again.
“Then I will trust your sagacity,” says the doctor. “Is that all?”
“No. Have you been keeping track of what's going on in the Clinic?”
“I always do.”
“Has Mokou turned up yet?”
“Not to my knowledge, no.”
“And Kaguya is still in Delaney's room?”
“Yes. They are discoursing a private matter that you would be imprudent to intrude on.”
“… I got that. Then I reckon I'll let you handle her when she wakes up,” you say as you point at the sleeping teacher, “cause while I'd adore to stay and do it myself, I can barely tell my left foot from right any more.”
“As you wish.”

Starting out, you glance one last time at Keine.

Then you stop.

“This is all for her good, isn't it?”
“I guarantee that it is. And remember,” she adds as you shamble for the door, “she must reach Moriya for through there leads the way to her goal. She and you may discuss the finer points of the plan tomorrow when you awaken, so until then you are my guest as you were before. Feel at liberty to use the facilities of this establishment as you please.”

“… right,” you stop at the doorstep and say, “thanks, Eirin.”

“I appreciate your tolerance,” she pauses, “… ‘Shooter.’”

And that is the last she says.

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Men in this world, you decide, may not get paid for all that they do, but they certainly do pay for all that they get.

And apparently the pay for getting sleep—a disrupted, shallow sleep with a series of forgettable, tattered dreams—is being woken in the dead of the night by a pair of animated voices having a spirited dispute right outside your quarters. How is that a fair price? Nobody knows. It probably isn't. The problem here is that there is no demagogue in charge to whinge at when you reckon even the money has gotten too expensive.

A tit will soon not be worth a tat and there will be nothing you can do about it.

Grunting like a bear broken out of its slumber, you stir in your covers and try to make sense of the lively conversation in the hallway.

The words, however, are of that melodic language that people here seem to speak whenever you aren't looking.

One of the voices belongs to Reimu. The tone and timbre leave little room to speculation. The other registers in your brain as one you have heard already, but it takes you a few good moments to pinpoint its owner as the lovely buxom nurse that Eirin seems a bit too fond of for a professional partnership – Reisen. The subject of their talk, you conclude, must be rather grave. They are both raising and lowering their voices, and a lot of exclamations are passed to and fro, some harsher and more accentuated than the others.

If you wanted, you could dub this conversation in your mind.
“But he is asleep!” says Reisen, begging. “You must not wake him!”
“I will do whatever I want!” retorts Reimu. “I'm the bloody loud shrine maiden!”
“But he will harvest your kidneys!” Reisen nearly cries.
“Silly rabbit!” Reimu replies. “I have already sold my kidneys!”

And so on.

Now, of course, that is stupid and not probably as far from truth as it gets. The thing is, you cannot really tell unless you either crawl your sleepy arse out of the bed and ask politely what they are making a commotion about, or shout at them obscenities about their being too loud that they won't understand and will likely feel compelled to investigate by coming in and totally ruining your chances for any decent sleep tonight.

And they're not even Mokou, so it would be doubly rude of them.

[ ] Let them wag their chins off, you will have none of it. Muffle it some way and go back to sleep. With a degree of luck, you will wake up to Mokou's dozing face tomorrow.
[ ] Tell them to bloody go away. Hopefully they'll get the message.
[ ] Come out to them and find out what they want. Then tell them off.
[ ] Tell them to come in. Hopefully they won't get the message and will bug off.
[ ] Let them settle it on their own. And then you will berate the winner of the wrangle. For winning it. And then you might listen to what she has to say. Might.
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Right. Sorry for not updating this. Real life Monster Hunter Flood Exams Job Family problems Nothing happened. I just forgot. Spank me if you think it'll help. Or something. I don't know. I'm sorry.
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[x] Come out to them and find out what they want. Then tell them off.
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[x] Tell them to bloody go away. Hopefully they'll get the message.
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[x] Come out to them and find out what they want. Then tell them off.
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[x] Come out to them and find out what they want. Then tell them off.

>"..she ditched her Monday morning shift to look for him all around the Clinic for some reason, even though she's… well.”

>lovely buxom nurse that Eirin seems a bit too fond of for a professional partnership

I am pleased.

Also, your Eirin is wondrous.
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[x] Come out to them and find out what they want. Then tell them off.
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[x] Tell them to bloody go away. Hopefully they'll get the message.

Can';t a man get some peace? Apparently, not.
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[x] Come out to them and find out what they want. Then tell them off.

Every once in a while I read everything as if tinted by Killing Floor and I find this hilarious.
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I'll have to start doing that.
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Those pics, jesus christ. All is forgiven.
Also, goodbye and thanks for the Eirin
For the pain and lies
For everytime I had to cry

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[ ] Tell them to come in. Hopefully they won't get the message and will bug off.
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All right, here's your update, then.
Thanks for the memories,
even though they weren't so great.

Yes, this is a shitty song. I apologise.
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[X] Come out to them and find out what they want. Then tell them off.

There are opportunities in life that you would be a chump to miss.

A free trip to the Moon. An invitation to tell your government what you think of them – with a guarantee that you won't be arrested afterwards. Time travel to prevent France from being founded. Catching a goldfish and having it fulfil the wish of an ability to murder people over standard aerial telephone lines.

Well, a good night's sleep in a cosy bed is one of those opportunities, and yet you turn it down. Shame you can't do the same to the voices of the two wrangling girls, but alas, if God had designed the woman with a built-in volume dial, things would have been way too calm, and He wouldn't have as many furious husbands to laugh at when they are sent to prison for domestic violence.

And so you roll majestically off the soft, warm mattress, heave yourself from the cold, hard floor, and go for the not-so-hot and not-very-firm door that divides you from your two angels of waking-in-the-middle-of-the-night.

“Evenin', all,” you announce hoarsely as you wrench the door open. “What's all this, then?”

Sure enough, the loud persons are exactly who you guessed, and patently not a pair of hellish constructs concocted to infuriate and drive you on an insane rampage so that you're sent to jail for cheap twists and comedy. They fall both fearfully silent as you emerge from your lair, slow and boding like a torpid brown bear roused from hibernation.

And in their defence, you probably look the part as well.

Reisen deftly discards her bear-hunting spear, and bows her entire upper body in a pliant apology. A late apology, you remark to yourself. “Ah,” she gasps out, a soft and meek sort of voice, “we woke you up, we apologise—”
“Speak for yourself,” Reimu comments from the side. She still holds her spear firm, despite the ruffled bear measuring more than a head and a half than her being in front of her and bearing down on her in a fashion adequate to the verb. “Will you go and take your dirty scut away now?”

Reisen rights herself and gives the shrine maiden a wounded look.

Reimu poises her hostile bearing all the same.

“All right,” you intervene, “that's more bears than I care to bear.” The shrine maiden and the nurse both appear puzzled by that sudden expression of disdain for the ursine. “Never mind,” you tell them, groaning. “I don't reckon this will change a thing, but I'm narked and sleepy, so I'll do it anyhow. Ahem,” you breathe in and clear your clammy throat. “Here goes. Go,” you hiss, deadly quiet. “To. The. Devil. There. Go to the devil. That would be your best bet, ladies. Because if you wake me up before morning ONE MORE TIME, I swear to all heavens, I will TEAR YOU APART with my BARE HANDS, and wear your HAIR as a wig as I sip my well-deserved pint of beer from your bloody SHOES. Not the skull, mind you – the beer would spill that way. The skull has those things called ‘eye sockets,’ you realise, and eye sockets are HOLES. Do you know what else is going to acquire a few extra holes if you wake me up again? No,” you answer before they do, “not you. I'd sooner slit my own calves than do anything bad to you. Sorry. Never mind all I've just said. God bloody damn it.”

Smiling gently, Reisen draws closer, and touches your hand. “No,” she says soothingly, “it's okay. We did wake you up; you have every right to be angry.”
“… right,” is all you can say. There was this notion of snapping your hand away, but it is forgotten as quickly as a lay tourist might run from a hungry…

… a hungry tiger, let's say.

Reimu flutters irritably, crosses arms on her chest, and glares. “Cute,” she grumbles. “Now, are you done? He and I needed to talk, you know.”
The timid nurse squeezes your palm once, but nods regardless, and answers the shrine maiden in a polite tone: “Almost. I'll just ask him a couple of questions. I'm worried about the side effects of the… the medication. And it's my duty to make sure that there are none, because—”
“Yes, yes, we all know you and your horrible side effects. Get on with it.”
Reisen inclines her head again and turns back to you, assuming a businesslike face. “Open your eyes,” she says. “Wide. Wider. And bend down a bit. Why are you men all so tall? There. Hold still.” She scans your pupils carefully, one then the other, then places a hand on your cheek and asks: “Have you been sleeping well? Not tonight, that is. Any bad dreams?”
“And how have you been feeling? I mean your strength, energy and so on.”
“Aside from having a lot of problems on my mind, I've been pretty much all right.”
“A lot of problems? Have you had any… hallucinations, or anything of the sort?”
“No. None that I know.”
“Sudden mood shifts? Surges of anxiety? Attacks of anger? Or—”
“—bouts of dementia? Homicidal tendencies? Urges to drink alcoholic beverages from skulls? No,” you say with a small, dark chuckle, “I'm about as sane as ever, Reisen. I appreciate that you're concerned, but I'm as all right as can be.”
She pulls her hand away and looks at you worriedly. “Will you see me tomorrow?” she pleads. “I've got a few more questions for you, but your friend is in a hurry, so…”
“We could all go in and listen to them now,” you say, flicking a thumb back at your quarters.
“No, no,” the nurse declines fervently, “I would rather we did that when it isn't bothering anyone. I don't want to intrude—”
“But you aren't,” you tell her. “We've got all night. Well, not all, but you get my point.”
“Nevertheless,” she says stubbornly. “Tomorrow, okay? Just come and see me any time. Just do, okay? I should be, um… in the reception for the bigger part of my shift. So see me there? Any time you want?”
“… if I don't die before then, all right.”
“Great. Excellent. Good night, then. Good night,” she gives the impatient shrine maiden a short bow as well. “Sleep is healthy. Don't stay up too long.”
“… yeah, right, you too. Sleep well.”

And with yet another bow, she goes off, and disappears down the nearest staircase.

A grim expression on your face, you address in turn the shrine maiden. “Are you satisfied?” you ask flatly.

She doesn't seem to get it. “What?”
“Nothing,” you say. “Never mind that. Come on in.”

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He's a goddamn wreck. Shooter needs a weekend off in an island in the bahamas. Or see Mokou. Or both.

...I think I've said this before.
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Doesn't mean it doesn't need saying.
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She minces in daintily and sits on the creaky, lone chair by one wall while you close and lock the door behind her.

Safety first. Conceivable misunderstandings – somewhat farther second. Nobody knows what demons might be released in this room, and you would rather they stayed contained here until you can take them strictly by the scruff of the neck and break them in so they quit taking the wraps off of the furniture and stop letting the bloody skeletons out of the closets when you least expect it.

“Well?” you flop down on the bed opposite of her and say. “I don't reckon you've gone to the trouble of chasing the bunny off to have a cultured discourse on rules of decency towards the staff of an establishment you're bloody staying in free of charge?

She flushes slightly, turns her gaze away, but does and says nothing otherwise.

Conscious now, the last shreds of rest swiped out of your mind, you observe the tongue-tied shrine maiden cautiously, narrowing your eyes in the moody half-dark that cloaks her and her frame, and the rest of the room.

Granted, you were occupied earlier, you forgot to flip on the lights; you forgot to have her sit on the bed while you take the chair like a decent host, too; but worst of all, you forgot to take a good look at her before you invited her in. She isn't wearing her usual getup any more, you notice now; what she has on is but a nightshirt – a flimsy, thigh-long nightshirt with terribly short sleeves – and nothing else.
She has let her smooth, long, black hair loose, and it flows in streaks past her shoulders, along her chest, and even down the wide collar of she shirt. A restive hand is squeezed between her almost bare thighs, whilst another wanders, wayward, ever-so-slowly towards her pale lips, pinkish cheeks and the cutesy nose, even as its owner battles desperately her irresolute thoughts.

The aggressive pushiness from moments ago is gone now. The girl in front of you is but a nervous, embarrassed twenty-so with a painful confession eating away at her conscience – and awfully obvious about it.

Oh good.

It's one of those times again, isn't it?

Stifling another grunt, you speak up. “Quickly,” you tell her. “And bluntly, preferably. No beating around the bush, if you could.”
She snaps her eyes back to you, startled. “What?”
“Give it to me flat out,” you iterate steadily. “Just drop it all; you'll feel relieved, and I'll be able to kick off the required fretting immediately. We'll save time that way. And your nerves.”
Shame yours are beyond saving.
She looks away again. “… it's not easy, you know…”
“Nothing is. Spit it out, I won't spank you if it's badly worded. I've told you I'd rather lop my leg off than do anything nasty to you. It'd save trouble in the long run and probably be less painful. So don't make me go get an axe. Cough it up.”
“… you're not making it easier, you know.”
“I wasn't exactly trying to. Come clean, already, or I swear to God, I will really cast about finding something bladed.”

“Okay, okay, fine!” She glances at you briefly, muttering. “Listen, I don't think that we… that you and I… you know, that we did it, okay?”
“Did what?”
She covers her face with a palm. “… you know,” she says faintly, “that.”
“No, I don't know, in fact. I asked you to be blunt. Quit mumbling and speak sense.”
She turns her incensed eyes at you. “Oh, you know what I mean! After the game! We woke up in… ugh, we woke up in the… the same bed, right?”
“Ah,” you say blandly. “All right then.”
Reimu freezes. “‘All right?’” she asks in a shrill voice. “That's all? ‘All right?’”
“Well, what else am I supposed to do?” you ask. “Apologise? Offer a refund? I was pissed out of my mind. I could have sworn I'd sent you off, and then you washed up in my sheets in the morning all the same, because apparently I am completely nuts and can't even trust my own bloody memory. How in the bloody world was I supposed to—No, wait,” you say when another point steals your attention. “Hold up. How do you even know that we didn't…?”
The shrine maiden lets out a pained sigh. “I… I looked at myself.”
“… you looked at yourself,” you repeat dubiously.
“… yes,” she says, “because I… I began to have doubts, okay? I was still… tipsy at the time. I was confused. I couldn't think straight, and I just… guessed that we must have… you know.” She curls up her legs and buries her face in her knees. “Fujiwara, she told me how to… I asked her how to check, okay? And then I checked, and… you know. I just—I just wanted to be sure, okay? I couldn't shake off the feeling that something was… off.”
“So you're saying—”
“And you're still—”
“Yes!” she almost squeals. “I'm still… I'm still innocent, okay?!” She shudders. “That's all. I just… you know, wanted to tell you. I'm finished.”

A few moments pass by in a thick, uncomfortable silence.

And then, once you gather enough wits, you pose the question – the simplest, inanest question you can think of under these circumstances.

“So what's the problem?”

Reimu stops dead in her fidgeting. She rises her head a tiny bit, only so much that her deep-red eyes peek above her knees, and glares at you, steely, even frigid. “What…” she echoes your words, “… what's the problem…?”
“I don't see one.”
“… you don't see one?”
“I just said that. All is well this way, isn't it? We had a nasty misunderstanding going on, but we've managed to clear it up without an even worse one arising. I appreciate that. A lot, actually. See, unlike every other issue I've bumped into so far, at least this one we got out of the way fast and—”

How else in addition to fast the issue was defused, though, no one may ever know.

Reimu leaps from the chair like a doe stung by a bee, and pounces at you, seizing you by the chest of your shirt, almost crashing her mug into yours, her blushing cheeks bright like the tail lights of a backing-up Nissan GT-R with a reckless teenage driver at the wheel.

I've got a problem, you freaking moron!” he screams. “Are you fucking kidding me?! I've spent the last few days thinking that you and I have… And you see no problem with it?! How old do you think I am?! This kind of thing fucking MATTERS to me!”
Well, my ass!” She continues to shake you back and forth. “Are you so dumb that you don't care WHO you sleep with?! Well, I DO CARE!”
“If you'd let me speak—”
“WHAT would you say then?! That you're SORRY?! AGAIN?!”
“I am.”
“Well, SURE, but it's kind of TOO LATE, you know!”
“And how exactly is—?”
“HOW?! Do you REALLY have to ask?!”
“At this point I'm not very keen on making my own assumptions.”

She lets go of you and backs away, swiping an arm across her eyes. “… I thought,” she says, quieter, “that you'd be more… more shocked about this.”
“I've become accustomed to sudden revelations over the course of the last few days. The shock wears out quicker each time; you've just picked the wrong time to make yours. Look, I am sorry,” you tell her sincerely. “In more ways than one, too. I won't say that sleeping with you would have been a prize, because that'd be inappropriate, but it's bloody true. And I've just said it. I've just had so much dropped on my shoulders recently that I don't know which way to shrug, if any at all.”
“… Keine only wanted—”
“Not just Keine,” you cut her off. “Mokou, too, and you, and that little beast of a kid Hieda, and Delaney, and the hash at the Village – everything! I'm only human, bloody hell! I can't fly, I can't wiggle my fingers and conjure up glowy stuff to mend all of my problems, I can't even understand you guys when you're standing too far away or hiding behind a wall! How blooming useless is that?”
“… that's—”
“—pretty pathetic, yes,” you fill in for her. “And yet you're all shoving your dilemmas on me. Try to put yourself in my boots for once. I'm not even allowed to sleep at night because you're all banging at my door demanding I solve your issues.”
She lifts a thumb to her mouth and bites on its nail. “… well, I'm—”
“—sorry, but it's too late for that now, isn't it? Never mind,” you say when she casts you a desperate look. “I'm just saying, I don't know what to tell you. We didn't sleep with each other, tough luck. I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't love to, but I won't. And you should be happy, anyhow.”
“… what?”
“Well, you've still got your first time, no? If I were you, I'd keep it so it's not wasted on any old idiot like this one here. Savour it.”
Reimu covers her face again. “… I can't believe you can… talk about it so… so lightly.”
“How else am I supposed to talk about it? Make it a big fuss, blow it out of proportion and promise to bed you at the nearest opportunity? I won't do that. I've forced you into enough embarrassing situations already, haven't I? Wouldn't you say? … Reimu?” you try when she doesn't answer. “Earth to Reimu? Are you still there?”
“… shut up,” she says weakly.

And shut up you do.

She continues to stand there, absolutely soundless, shaking feebly every few seconds, even as the choking realisation of what you've done creeps over your mind and poisons it with bitter regret until you aren't able to bear it any more. Cursing under your breath, you stand as well, approach the trembling girl, and, wordlessly, embrace her.

She fights at first, of course. She tries to push you away, stubbornly noiseless, but you are bigger, stronger, stupider, too stupid to give her what she seemingly wants. She understands that, ceases her mute protests, and loosens in your hold. A minute goes by, then another, then a few more. Neither of you dares move in that long, dark silence, until you decide there is no harm in going too far when you've already gone it before.

“Reimu?” you say.
“… mm.”
“Could we sit? My feet are dying.”
“… mm.”

Taking that as a yes, you lead her gently towards the bed, sit down, and let her climb on your lap, her forehead still glued to your shirt.

“Say,” you attempt a different approach, “why did you agree to go with Keine?”
“Don't you have duties at your shrine?”
“… that,” she says in a soft voice, “can be… changed, if it really… if it really needs to. I can… I can talk with… with… someone.”
The girl stiffens. “… you know Yukari?”
“Oh yes. She went out of her way to give me grief back in the day. She had me on my toes whenever I went to sleep for a time.”
“… but she never…”
“I never reckoned she'd bother to mention me, yes,” you confirm, “I'm but yet another meat-bag in the blender, after all, no? Hardly of any moment to somebody who can fly and screw with your bloody dreams.” Reimu says nothing. “Why does she do that, anyhow?” you go on. “I tried to tell her it'd stopped being chic centuries ago, but she wouldn't even consider I might know better. Aren't we getting sidetracked, though? Myself, I'm all for talking behind the back of that unpleasant bird, but I've got different things on my mind. All right,” you breathe in, “tell me, because I don't get it. Keine has reasons of her own to leg it—as we've both witnessed—but what about you? Why did you decide to go with her?”
“… she's my—”
“I know,” you say, “she's like a mother, but that doesn't mean you need to—”
“No,” Reimu cuts in, “I… I don't need to go, I want to go.”
“She can take care of herself, you realise. She doesn't need your—”
“I don't care!” she cries out. “I'm sick of this place, okay?! I'm sick of having to fix all the freaking incidents! I'm sick of no one appreciating my work! I want to get out of here, I want to… I want to live normally!” She settles down and presses on. “I told you, I've read all those –books, the ones that my mother left behind, and the ones that Keine gave me – and I just… I just want to see other places, you know? I need a change of… of…”
“A change of scenery,” you complete the phrase for her. “Like Moriya?”
“No,” she shakes her head slightly. “I've… been to Moriya before. It's not a good place, but… from there, there is a way…”
“A way where?”
She pauses. “… Keine hasn't told you?”
“No,” you reveal. “A way where, exactly?”
“… I can't—”
“Yes, you bloody can,” you insist. “A way where? Keine wouldn't tell me a thing, and I would rather know what she is up to in advance. I'll admit, I lied when I said I'd reconsider my help at your friend's place, I was desperate then, but I need to know now, Reimu. I won't threaten you this time, I'll just make a request. Tell me, please.”

She dithers for a while more, then speaks up. “… the shrine maiden there,” she begins, “she is from the outside world. She has a way to… I don't know why, but she can go beyond the border. She attends… a school, or something, outside; she can cross the border, you know, through some place place in her shrine, I don't know what place precisely. There used to be a spot in my shrine like that, too, you know; things from the outside would appear in it every now and then, but then Yukari patched it up – half a year ago, maybe, I don't remember exactly when, and I don't know why. I just… I just don't.” She exhales delicately. “I should have investigated that place when I still had the chance, but… I had no idea I'd have a use for it one day. I really should have, you know…”
“Keine said Moriya wasn't exactly keen on giving her a hand with her griefs,” you say, going back to the important part.
“No,” Reimu says, “they are… they are different from us. They don't… take kindly to… to us, you know? And Keine has been with us—humans—all this time, so…”
“So they aren't very fond of her by extension – even though she's sort of…” you shy away from the term, “… you know what herself, yeah?”
“… yes.”
“So where do I come in? I'm human as well. What does Keine need me for so much?”
“… I don't know.”
“I don't know!” she yelps. “I really don't know! I just… I trust her. She knows what she's doing. She's…”

“Yeah, right,” you say. “I know what she is. And I don't like it a whole lot.”

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A couple more minutes pass with neither of you saying anything.

That gives you just about enough of leisure time to form a thought. A simple person observes his-slash-her surroundings through a prism of his-slash-her own self. When a simple person looks around, he-slash-she expects logic, rationality and reason, as though he-slash-she was looking at a mirror image of him-slash-herself. Unluckily for a simple person, the world was created much more convoluted. The logic is here somewhere, but nobody cares to find it. A run on rationality washes over the civilised world, but the product itself is in desperately short supply. And reason? Tossed altogether out the window ages ago, at about the same time when the man banged his head on the ceiling of his cave and invented the wheel.

At least mirrors are still available rather easily.

“… mm?”
“Sleep here.”

She makes a sound as though she's about to panic.

“I mean just sleep,” you assure. “No funny rubbish. Just sleep.”
“… why?”
“I'm feeling lonely.”
“… you're…?”
“Yes, I am. So sleep here. Shirts-on, I promise. I want…” you hesitate, “… I want to have someone there when I fall asleep, is all.”
“I'm an idiot, I know.”
“No,” she mutters, “it's just…”
“Mokou? She won't find out.”
“… but if she comes when we are—”
“She'll forgive me,” you say. “She knows I love her. She knows I wouldn't do anything daft after that… mix-up between you and me.”
“Sleep here, Reimu.”
“… I don't think this is a good idea—”
She pulls away and looks at you with her big, wet, carmine eyes. “… are you… scared of something?”
“No,” you tell her. “No, I'm not. Not at all. Never.”
“… I see.”

“Well?” you ask after a second. “Will you?”
She stalls for a moment, then replies: “… okay.”
“Cheers,” you smile and relax. “I appreciate it. Honestly. I really appreciate it.”

She returns the smile – a small , wan, but genuine one all the same.

And then you lay down both and sleep.

Just sleep, too. No funny rubbish.

“No funny rubbish.”

One can only wonder about her opinion on your idea of “funny.”

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Next morning, you make a scientific discovery.

Rain was designed to fuck with people.

Again, the sky outside is overcast with heavy, grey clouds. Waves after waves of raindrops are, of course, crashing against the windowpanes, filling the plain-furnished room with a steady white noise. Mokou is not here, you find when you dig yourself out from under the sheets, and neither is Reimu. Crestfallen, mouthing all sorts of expletives, you find your feet and inspect the bathroom, but no such luck – here, too, no testy girls in red-and-white.

The morning is cold. The on-wall clock claims it's after noon, but you scarcely care for its lies.

The joints in your arms make unpleasant cracks when you change your wrinkled sleepers to something more presentable.

Your left shoulder is numb. You can barely feel your fingers.

Glumly, you don a pair of slippers and shamble for the door.

[ ] Mess hall. Something to eat. Anything.
[ ] Kaguya.
[ ] Eirin. Keine.
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[x] Mess hall. Something to eat. Anything.
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[x] Mess hall. Something to eat. Anything.
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[x] Mess hall. Something to eat. Anything.
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[x] Mess hall. Something to eat. Anything.
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[X] Mess hall. Something to eat. Rabbit.
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[x] Mess hall. Something to eat. Anything.

He'll need some energy for the day ahead.
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[X] Mess hall. Something to eat. Rabbit.
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[x] Mess hall. Something to eat out. Anything.
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[X] Mess hall. Something to eat. Rabbit.

Food sounds good. And it rhymes, so it's double as fine.

An empty stomach is a bad political advisor. A distressing number of prosperous ancient civilisations fell into disrepair precisely because it hadn't occurred to the personae responsible for their fundamental amenities to plug themselves with food before they gathered with other empty-bellied desk-jockeys to discuss matters of the greatest urgency. A hungry mind will always inadvertently divert itself with what it craves, and soon, soon enough, somebody will unwittingly call somebody else a pig; the disgruntled addressee will oink in revulsion that he hasn't, in fact, seen an ounce of pork in his barrel since forever, and the others will join in and start throwing their beefs around as well, without restraint or further regard for the good of the state.

As you explained to your self-assigned girlfriend – eating of food, in all its quirks, is like sex; and its lack is as—if not more—excruciating.

The inconvenient difference here is that you can't cure hunger by rubbing your belly till it settles down again.

And so, other options stripped, you haul your rigid self out the room and teeter down the stairs, towards the loud and ever-crowded mess hall.

Crowded no more.

And silent, too. The tables are all vacant, their tops shining with clean, aseptic white. The rowdy chattering of the bunny-eared throng is gone, an uncanny almost phenomenon given your noisy memories of the place. A lone person, you spot, sits at one table at the farthest end of the hall—a spread newspaper obscures her face, and a pair of pitchy bunny-ears peeks blithely over its edges, nodding along as she reads—but she takes no note of you, and you are no more inclined to correct her than would be to drive a bus into a ditch and pretend you're bobsledding.

Swaying, squinting from the gleaming tabletops, you approach the counter, where, behind glass, leftover foods cool and dry before the staff sweeps them away and throws them to trash – staff that has either winged as soon as their shift was over, or was cursed and transfigured into a sheet of paper with a convoluted series of magic runes scribbled on, and glued—or duct-taped—to the thick glass panes of the counter, to forever guard what lies within from hungry African children and overambitious archaeologists.

Either the clock was right after all, or you have entered an exceptionally duff film set.

Wonder which is more likely?

A voice from the side provides a hint: “Help yourself.”
“What?” you utter a hoarse question. Adequate, that it would be your first word since waking up. “Er,” you clear your throat and try again, “what's that?”
“It says ‘help yourself,’” the voice repeats from behind the newsprint with unwavering patience; “you're overdue for breakfast, but feel free to have whatever is left.”
“Oh,” you let out, “well, er…”
“Forget it. Go ahead, help yourself.”

As suggested, you slink into the off-limits space behind the counter and scrounge a plate and a set of cutting irons; then, after you've pinpointed which foods seemed the least inedible and filched them up from the trays, you totter back where the unemployed class belongs and approach the table where the solitary nurse still sits, leafing through the grey pages of the paper.

“… this seat free?” you bite out a weak inquiry.
She answers without looking: “Seems that way, doesn't it?”
Another of these indirect “yes”es – but you take it regardless, not a word of complaint, and sit. “Anything interesting?” you accost as you knife your wad of butter to a semblance of smearability. “A weather forecast, maybe? Although I will bet you a pound of my rear I know what it is already.”
“None of these here.”
“Anything else, then?”
“Same old nonsense,” the girl says with a familiar sort of sigh. “Undergrounders amok, the Flying Bowl folks up to something again, some new faces no one gives a second crap about appear… I don't even know any more why we shell out for this eyewash… Oh, but Moriya is making preps for their monthly moon-festival-thing,” she adds. “Might be worth checking out… if someone finds the guts to prevail upon Master Yagokoro that we, too, deserve a freaking break once in every decade.”
“… right,” you murmur. “Any news from the Villa—the Human Settlement, by the way?”
She glances through the paper once again. “None,” she says in the end. “And why do you ask?”
“Just curious.”
“Come to think of it… last I saw anything about the Settlement was… uh, I don't know, really; must have been months. Chances are they've grown sick of Shameimaru's libel and gave her the boot.”
“The reporter.” She folds the newspaper and sets it down on the table. “I read this only for the columns, anyway. I wouldn't trust the news if a god came down from the clouds and vouch they were the one and only, irrefutable—…” She trails off, a little wild-eyed. “… Shooter?” she says incredulously, “… sir?”
“Elena,” you acknowledge her. “How are we today? Sobered up since the weekend?”

She stares at you for a solid couple of seconds before she gives a customary brash reply: “I have, sir, but you don't look like you're very sober yourself, if you don't mind.”
She tries to make it sound polite, of course, but her face speaks volumes.
“Am I looking that bad, Elly?” you ask without a shade of irony.
“Ghastly, sir,” she says just as seriously. “I'd heard when you'd come back you were kind of shaken, but I never imagined you'd be this bad.”
“I look shaken?”
“And stirred.”

She bores her big, dark eyes into yours, as though trying to drill out an explanation.

A shame you've long exhausted your deposits.

“Fancy that,” you mutter, “I feel nothing like Dolce and Gabbana.”

She doesn't even make an attempt at humour.

As she continues to eye you silently with that mild alarm, you quit poking idly at your meal and stuff yourself with a forkful of cold, hard egg. “Good lord,” you grunt after you've chewed it through, “was the hen dead when it gave birth to this thing?”
Elena frowns. “I don't believe that's biologically possible, sir.”
“No, but it feels like the rigor mortis got passed on.”
“If you don't like it—”
“No, I bloody love it. Haven't you heard? Hunger makes the best bloody sauce in the world. I'd gladly eat even a geriatric rabbit if you starved me for a few weeks – though it's rather barbaric to eat rabbits; they're cute little creatures – the world needs these if it's to stay remotely bearable. If we all began eating rabbits all of a sudden, there'd soon be no joy left in the world, don't you think? Of course, we'd quickly realise there was never a lot of joy in the world to begin with, but you get my meaning anyhow, no?”

“… sir,” the nurse says, careful, “you're being needlessly cynical.”
“I suppose I am at that. News at twelve?”
She lets that slide by. “Something happen, sir?” she asks instead. “Have you got into some kind of trouble?”
“Sir,” she says, a bit pained, “I'm a surgeon, not a psychologist. I'd adore to go and have at it anyway, but it isn't my field of work.”
“Aren't you supposed to be on shift?” you change the topic, your voice shifting into irritability on its own volition. “I appreciate having someone to wag my chin at, Elly, dear, but you do realise I am not the best company in the world right now, yes?”
She props her own chin on her slender hands – pale and feminine, but hardened visibly by years of demanding work. “Would you rather I went away, sir? I got turned out of the operating theatre for misconduct myself, actually, so currently I'm not the most excellent company either. So that's one thing we've got in common.”
“Astonishing,” you hiss.
“Isn't it, though?”
“Elly,” you groan, “I loyally warn you, I am not in the best sort of mood.”
“Go away,” you tell her, “leave me to myself, before I lose my temper and spout something inappropriate.”
“Sir,” she says bluntly, “if you go around looking like this, you'll give the clinic a bad name.”
“So what?” you counter. “I'm angry, hungry, worried sick, and I hardly got sleep last night. Are you seriously going to go on talking to me until I snap and call you names?”
“I owe Her Highness that much.”
“She cares for you, sir,” the nurse resumes, “they all care for you, in fact,” she corrects earnestly, “as stupid as it is – Adel, that little rogue Delaney, your whole freaking fan-club, for gods' sakes. Oh, you knew you had a freaking fan-club, right?”
“… I may have happened to hear a rumour or two.”
“Well, you do,” she says, “and believe me when I say they would skin me alive if I dared leave you alone when you're like this.”
“So,” you return darkly, “you're doing this because your colleagues press you to. Very nice of you, Elly. Very, very nice.”
“No, actually” she says sweetly, “I'm doing this because I like you… sir.

She leans back in her chair with a great sigh.

A sour smile breaks out on her face as she undoes top button of the cute uniform she has until now kept hidden under the long lab-coat.

“As I said,” she goes on, “I am not a psychologist, but you're not exactly what I'd call a complicated case, sir.”
“How so?”
“A big tell would be that you wanted to sit here with me.”
“A patient who really wants to be alone will go to the roof, sir, or lock himself in his room, or hide in the dresser and hope nobody finds him – not hit up chats with the staff and address them with annoying pet names.”
“Also,” she goes on, “he usually won't go out of his way to make sick jokes about dead chicken.”
“… Elena.”
“Am I wrong?” she says innocently. “I'll tell you what, Reisen is a qualified psychologist, and she is at the front desk at the moment, so what do you say we go to her and see how far off the target was my amateur diagnosis?”
“… I can't for the life of me see why you would bother.”

She exhales noisily. “Shooter,” she says, suddenly grave. “Just what is wrong with you today?”

[ ] “Never mind. You were right, let's go see Reisen. That might help me unwind.”
[ ] “Nothing, Elly; it's nothing. Just… all the things piling up, and the whining of a sleepless idiot. Do you… really, really want to listen?”
[ ] “All is wrong today, Elly. Sorry. I'll drop by later, maybe. Say hello to Adel. I've got… things to do.”
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You ask if you can sit next to someone when there's an entire cafeteria's worth of open seating, and then you ask them to leave because they're bothering you? What the fuck, Shooter?

[x] “Never mind. You were right, let's go see Reisen. That might help me unwind.”
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[x] “Never mind. You were right, let's go see Reisen. That might help me unwind.”

Got a case of brain dimples
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[X] “Nothing, Elly; it's nothing. Just… all the things piling up, and the whining of a sleepless idiot. Do you… really, really want to listen?”
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[x] “Never mind. You were right, let's go see Reisen. That might help me unwind.”
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[x] “Never mind. You were right, let's go see Reisen. That might help me unwind.”
He needs help. Badly. Do it for your fan club!
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[ ] “Never mind. You were right, let's go see Reisen. That might help me unwind.”
[ ] “Nothing, Elly; it's nothing. Just… all the things piling up, and the whining of a sleepless idiot. Do you… really, really want to listen?”

Both of these, and yes I know that doesn't make sense. It makes sense in Shooter land.
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[x] “Nothing, Elly; it's nothing. Just… all the things piling up, and the whining of a sleepless idiot. Do you… really, really want to listen?”
MAN UP MAN. Do it for Moko. Also, Elly is love.
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All right, this is here to tell you this story isn't dead. I'll be updating this either tomorrow or the day after. Have some tits (or TiTS, hurr hurr hurr) in the meantime.

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[X] “Never mind. You were right, let's go see Reisen. That might help me unwind.”

What is wrong with me today?” you echo dourly.

What is wrong with you?

A normal person wouldn't dwell too hard on this seemingly innocent question.

A philosopher, on the other hand, could take the question and treat it as a dare. A bored philosopher, meanwhile, might even go so far as take the question literally – he might take the question apart and engage in a thorough analysis of his day so far as to determine the rights and wrongs it may or may have not contained to try and discover the underlying, esoteric logic that governs the ups and downs of a man's day-to-day life – which would be a worthy task indeed, because all philosophers know there isn't one.

Not that it'd stop them, naturally; philosophers are tenacious creatures – one moment you think you've convinced the sods to bugger off and quit harassing your cat, and the next you take a stroll in a forest only to have a tree fall and squash your arse whilst some nonce in a toga asks if you perchance heard it coming.

Philosophers, for all their scholarly façade, are all bleeding mad.

And, as far as you're concerned, you're not on their level of crazy yet.
So instead of assaulting the girl goading you into going off on arcane tangents, you put down your fork and rub your aching temples. “… wrong, huh,” you mutter, “… it's a fair cop, I suppose. I reckon I am sort of out of sorts today.”
Elena gives you a vicious smirk. “Well,” she says, “it's awfully gratifying to hear you agree even though I'm no professional.”
“Want me to say it again? Or are you going to rub it in?”
“Oh no—” she shakes her long, black locks, “—you're playing this game with me, sir. I'll take any gratification I can get, but if you want your sense of self-pity stroked, you're going to have to find someone else.”
“… well, pardon me.”
“Pardoned. So? Are we going to have Reisen have a look at you? Or would you rather stay and rub your face in all that mangled egg and butter?”
“… I don't reckon that's too good for complexion.”
“Not very, no. Adel's tried something like that once; the results weren't pretty. I'd see a cosmetician if I were you and really wanted have stuff smeared on my face.”
“… fine,” you groan, “very well, you're right, bloody hell. Just… look,” you give her a resigned stare, “would you mind terribly if you could stop making fun of me? It's not doing a great job at making me feel better, you realise.”
She smiles like a cute little angel. “Oh, I don't think that'd be all that advisable, sir,” she says in a voice so sweet you'd contract diabetes if you licked it. “Not to mention, you kind of deserve it. Consider it like this, though: if I take you too seriously, chances are you'll feel obliged to do the same – and we wouldn't like that all that much right now. Well, that and—…” She pauses and fiddles a moment with a strand of her glossy hair. “… well,” she resumes, “that and I needed to let some steam off myself, and you just happened to be here, so…” She sits back and shrugs. “Shouldn't you be pretty much used to it by now, anyway? I mean no offence, sir, but the way you carry yourself kind of makes people want to stop and point fingers.”
“… yeah,” you reply, “that I should. I worked at it for months, bloody hell. All I wish is that people quit giving me grief when I want to kick back and have some time off of all the grief I normally get – especially now, when all the bloody world seems out to get a bite out of my tired rump. And when the one I want to have a go at my rump the most is nowhere to be—…” you break off and let out an embarrassed sigh. “Never mind,” you quickly tell the curiously watching nurse, “I'm just ranting, is all. All right,” you straighten and announce. “Good Lord. I'd get bitten in the arse sooner or later anyhow. Very well, let's go see Reisen. It might help me unwind a tad, if nothing else.”

Elena approves with a nod. “Now that's an attitude I could put myself behind. We're doing progress already. By the way—” she points at your mess of a plate, “—are you going to be long with this? I wouldn't hurry you, but it looks rather unappetising, if you ask me.”
“Ah, er, no,” you stutter a reply, “not at all, I don't reckon. I wasn't that terribly hungry anyhow, and, well…”
“It's really gross, yeah.” She stands up. “Come on, then, let's throw this crap out to the trash and see our pretty shrink. Oh, and sir?”


She bites her lip and gives you a long, sort of troubled look. “… well,” she says finally. “welcome back, I guess.”

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A man's humour is a strange thing.

Everybody has it—in a greater or lesser amount—like common sense or staphylococcus. As a matter of fact, they aren't very much unlike—humour and common sense, that is—because they're essentially two sides of the same coin. Common sense tells you which way to lean when the ocean of the world is wants to capsize your little boat of dreams and hopes. Humour, meanwhile, lets you choose the naughtiest songs to sing at the great blue to show it how little you care for its shenanigans. And they're both equally important. If you approach all your problems with an ugly scowl and treat them as a matter of life and death, you're bound to die a lot.

And grow horrible wrinkles, probably.

As Elena said, Reisen is stationed in the reception, ready and waiting to take in any and all poor soul that stumbles in out of the grey outside. As always, the kindly nurse is dear and lovely as a polished ruby, with her chic uniform and compassionate look that she gives you when you pop into her line of sight.

“Ah, Shooter!” she greets you, a cute little bow. “And Lefevre,” she acknowledges Elena as well. “Good morning. Or is it noon, already? I haven't got the best track of time today.”
“Udonge.” Elena doesn't bother with overt civility. “Good day, I guess. What on Earth have you done to your hair, old girl? It's lifting like nobody's business.”
Reisen makes a small, embarrassed chuckle. “Ah, no, no,” she says, swiping one slim hand through her beautiful—though now a bit on the puffy side—hair, “it's the rain; it does the weirdest things to my roots. I comb it down, normally, but, um, it slipped my mind this morning, somehow. Is it really bad? Should I go and wash it down?”
“Oh no, I'm just wondering aloud. It suits you. I don't know that Master Yagokoro would approve though, the protocol and all. She has us spend hours each morning brushing our hair till there isn't a curl left – but then, you're her favourite, so you're more likely to be let off scot-free than any of us. Say, you got a minute or five to spare?”
Elena jabs a thumb back at the slumped darkly you. “Think you could take this sad guy somewhere quiet, lay him on a couch and do your ‘tell me about your childhood crush’ routine? He's being kind of grumpy and he won't say why. I thought you might have enough in you to get him to talk, pro and such. I couldn't get a word out of him, I swear.”
“Ah, yes.” Reisen rises to her feet. “I was just about to ask if you were here to see me,” she tells you, patting her short, pleated skirt to order. She circles around the hard glass counter and stops by your side. “I was afraid you might have forgotten. Hakurei looked distressed last night, and… you know how girls are on boys.”
Elena gives you a slight frown. “You had an appointment?”
“Uh,” you let out, “… yeah?”
She makes a groan. “Why didn't you just come here, then? Could have spared me all the black looks and comebacks.”
“… well, sorry,” you say, “but, uh, I sort of—”
“Yeah, yeah,” she cuts you off, “I know, I know. Good grief, sir, you're a handful, you know that?”
“… sorry.”
“Forget it.” She puts her fists on her hips and sighs. “Say, you'll take care of him, won't you, Udonge? Adel and the others are going to be over their heads with hysterics if we don't fix him quick.”
Reisen does a bow again. “I'll do my best.”
“I should hope so. Good gods, I can't believe I had to say that. It's so freaking stupid, all that fanclub nonsense.”
“Girls,” Reisen says with a knowing smile.
“Girls,” Elena agrees. “I'll be damned for being a part of this sex. Well, sir,” she says to you, “you're in the best hands you can be now. I think I'll go and see about getting my hours done without the security flipping their tits again. I don't much fancy doing extra shifts in the weekend. One more thing, though, before I go. All right…” She breathes deeply with that same nervous expression. “… I don't usually do things like this, sir,” she blurts out, “but, uh, bother, just hold fast…”

She takes a tentative step forward and—somewhat clumsily—throws her arms around the surprised you.

“… Elly?” you rasp out.

She squeezes, hard.
She's warm. Startlingly warm. And soft. “Just so you don't get any ideas that I don't like you or something,” she whispers, her smooth cheek touching yours. “I can't help with what's bringing you down, sir, but maybe this'll give you some motivation. Adel would be crushed if she saw you like this, and I don't much like it when she's crushed. So don't be a stubborn baby and stop brooding.” She pulls away, her hands still on your shoulders. “All right, sir?”
“… yeah,” you manage to say, “I'll… try.”
“Just ‘try,’ sir?” she says, a little offended. “Wasn't that enthusiastic enough for you? Shall I really go and fetch one of those sillies from your club after all to bomb you with hugs and kisses so you cheer up? I might just do that, you're aware.”
“… I don't know that either of us would find that very thrilling,” you say.
“I don't find your face all that thrilling either, sir.”
“It's a good face,” you tell her. “It covers the front of my head.”
“I'd like it much better if you said that with a different kind of face.”
“… sorry.”
She flicks you on the ear and steps away. “Quit it, sir. I'm serious.” She stops and buttons up her lab-coat. “Ah yes, and Udonge?” She turns to her colleague with an uneasy stare. “I trust you didn't see or hear any of this.”
Reisen gives her an innocent look. “Ah, no, I didn't see or hear anything at all,” she assures. “Are you certain you're asking the right person?”
“… yeah,” Elena gives her a doubtful stare, “it's great to be able to count on you. Never mind. Just put him back to rights and we'll all be happy. And you, sir,” she says to you, “if you're going to try, at least try to try, all right?”
“… right,” you say.
“Good luck.”
“… thanks.”
“No charge.” She waves you a quick, sloppy good-bye. “I'll be off now. Got to get those hours done.”

And then, true to her words, she is off.

Reisen comes up behind you and taps you gently on the stiff shoulder. “Shooter?” she says. “Are you…?”
“I'm still here,” you tell her, shaking the daze off, “don't let my total and awkward silence fool you.”
“Is there some kind of problem?”
“Problem? Ha,” you say, “not just a problem – problems. Plural. And the more I think about them, the less I understand.”
She smiles. “Isn't that how life is?”
“If it is, somebody ought to take it outside and thrash it. I've been thrashed a few times, it usually gets the point across.”

“And what's the point?” she asks.

“Quit pissing around and make me a woman, already, so I can understand them.”

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Hah. Good update, as always.
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Thank you, but I've been thinking of giving this some rest.
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Please don't

Well if you feel you need to, but we are still reading this if that is what you are worried about.
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Your mood comes out in your writing a lot, doesn't it?
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Not really, no. It's the other way around, I've got to go to the effort of inducing in myself a sort of mood appropriate for the writing at hand. Music usually does the trick. No, not any kind of CRAWLING IN MY SKIIIIN bull. I've got a taste. A rather poor one, admittedly, but still a taste.

I listen to Tool.

Oh, please. If I suddenly felt I require a huge and dedicated audience to write about Mokoutits, I wouldn't be complaining about it here, I'd be too busy kicking myself in the balls for being a humongous faggot.
I only feel a little burned out, really. I just had this itchy little sensation this story isn't as satisfying as it used to be and I reckoned I should probably let it sit and let my batteries recharge rather than go on trying to force it.
I'm also kind of sitting on the fence here (moving in a few days, biding my time until then while my wallet thins inexorably), so that may be making me a little bit anxious, too.

I'm not saying this is on hiatus yet. Hold out, folks, we've been through worse. Go to /underground/ and give TiTS a go-go in the meantime. It's a lot better than MiD is right now.

Also, Reisentits.
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Yian Kut Ku got owned
Finally caught up with this story.
Shooter's speech pattern is kind of confusing, and maybe a bit pissing, but I like how he suddenly go against the one who tried to manipulate him.

I read this story just because of mokotits I read this story because I wanted to know if YAF was able to write a good story.
My opinion? Well, in a few words, here's my review: UPDATE MORE!!
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A little while later, you find yourself in a déjà vu.

Again, you're in the bright, contemporary staff lounge, again parked on the same king-sized modish couch, the same charming nurse fussing over your personal comfort. A few deviations mark this time, however. Firstly, your spirits aren't anywhere close as high as they were when you first stole into this room and very nearly planted your cack-handed nose in her bosoms. Secondly, you're very noticeably more clothed, and the dear nurse is busy bustling with a puffing tea urn rather than demanding you to show some knee.

She's showing enough knee for the two of you, anyhow.

“Here you go.” She gently sets a small steaming cup on the narrow table before you. “Sugar?”

She gives you a kind-hearted smile and goes to retrieve a cute varnished sugar-bowl from an overhanging cupboard.

“Here,” she says as she returns. “May I sit beside you? I'd like to be able to look at you closely.”
“I'd love you to. I mean, by all means.”
She smiles at that, too, and, having swept the short skirt under her thighs, she takes a seat, a respectful few inches kept diligently between your shoulders. The couch swells and wobbles like a gargantuan, earth-bound mollusc.
She sums that up with a small giggle. “I'll have a couple of questions for you,” she says then, a practised but laid-back tone. “A simple questionnaire – absolutely routine. I'll read you some statements, and then you'll tell me how true—or untrue—they hold to you. Simple as that.” She holds her cup to her cherry lips and takes a sip. “Ah,” she adds less officially, “but before we start, I'd like to, um, ask about one thing… and just personally – this isn't part of any test. Can I?”
How could she not? “Go ahead. Shoot.”
“All right. I don't mean to be nosy, but you seem so… uncommonly grim today. And I've heard Princess Kaguya say the same to Eir—to Master Eirin yesterday – that you're being… well, that you're depressed, because something happened, and that we should all… be kind to you, that's what she said. I really don't know that I should pry, but… would you mind if I asked? I'm just worried,” she follows up quickly, “I don't want to, um, intrude or anything.”
A hollow laugh flees your throat – an echo, probably, of all the smaller bitter laughs you've been holding in since the gloomy morning. “Oh, Reisen—” you shake your head sourly, “—you wouldn't believe how much I want to hug you right now.”
“Ah—” she makes a troubled gasp, “—um…”
“No, don't worry,” you assure her, “I'm not yet at the stage where I jump people whom I want to show affection. Still have a ways to go before I get that desperate. I'll tell you when I'm there so you have some time to find some shelter.”
“Ah, um, thank you…?”
“Anything for you, Reisen.”
“So, um…” she presses timidly, “…can you tell me why…?”
“Oh yes—” you set your cup down, “—what I reckoned,” you tell her grimly, “was that I've got all the good reason to think I'm suffering—what do you call it—withdrawal, or something of the sort.”
She looks shocked. “With—Withdrawal…?”
“Am I using the right term? Is that when you're suddenly out of the stuff you've been taking for the last couple of months and go all tits up for a few weeks?”
“Ah… yes…?”
“Cracking. So there you have it,” you conclude, “I'm, uh… withdrawn, sort of.”
“… that's not what it means, though…”
“What's that?”
“No, no,” she waves her small hand, “it's nothing. So you're… ‘withdrawn’ – that's what you think?”
“I've sussed that might be it.”
“And what are you… I mean, I didn't know… but what is it that you're…?”
She's visibly upset by the idea of your potential being a starved addict waiting for the perfect moment to shank her on the pretty head, steal her purse and dash off to score your next fix.
If only it were that simple.
“It's not really a ‘what,’ Reisen,” you tell her. “She wouldn't be too excited if we called her that, I don't reckon.”
Or just the opposite. She'd be very excited—in the other, murderous sense.
“So it's a…?”
“A person.”
“… but she—”
“Oh no,” you interrupt her, “don't you tell me she can ‘handle’ herself. And don't give me that look; you were about to tell me just that, weren't you? I don't buy it. Not at all. Hell, last time I let her ‘handle’ herself, she went and did something so utterly thoughtless I don't even know how she did it. And she hasn't so far bothered to kindly go about letting me in on whatever in the blazes she's done to herself. So yeah, if she can ‘handle’ herself like you all say, then I am the bloody book definition of amœba proteus – and no, I haven't the faintest idea if I even pronounced that right, let alone what it is. So there.”

Reisen gapes at you, startled, her beautiful eyes open wide. “Ah, I'm—” she stutters, “—I'm sorry, I didn't mean to…”
“No, you—bloody hell,” you choke on that apologetic look, “no, never mind! It's not you – it's me. It's my problem. Problems. Can't forget the plural. Never mind.”
She plays with her half-empty cup for a moment or two, apprehensively fingering its painted edges. “I've… known Fujiwara,” she says then, “or… kind of known her. We've never really spoken in person, but… I've heard from Princess Kaguya that she's a… resourceful person.”
“She was,” you correct. “I'm afraid I broke her.”
“Girls do do silly things for boys,” she agrees. Then she laughs. “Actually,” she says with a tiny smile, “now that I think back on it, she did want to do something a little outrageous the last time you two visited—during our field game.”
“Oh yes?”
“She wouldn't follow orders,” Reisen explains. “I was the commander, but she disregarded everything I sent out to her team. She took her team and went to hunt down yours. She even made a speech to the other teams and got some of them to follow. She wanted to take you prisoner and win that way, from what I gather.”
“… wouldn't that be sort of against the rules?”
“I didn't dare tell her.”
“Solid call.”

She laughs at that, too, then sets her cup down on the table and takes up instead the notebook she's kept till now at her side. “Anyway,” she says, flipping through the pages, “can we begin? I've got to do this, and the faster we get it over with, the better… for both of us, I think.”
“All right,” you concede.
Against your own expectations, you sound more relaxed than you'd thought you were.
Fancy that.
Reisen stops at some page and clears her throat. “Okay. As I said, the answers range from ‘not at all’ to ‘all the time,’ so just tell me how often you experience the factors I describe to you and we'll figure out which answer is the most fitting.”
“Copy that.”
“Okay, the first statement is: ‘I feel that others control what I think and feel.’”
“All the time,” you reply at once.
Reisen gives you a somewhat sceptical look. “… really?”
“Okay…” She scribbles something in her notebook, then continues. “Second is: ‘I hear or see things that others do not hear or see.’”
“All the time.”
“… are you sure?”
“Oh yes. Some of them I've even learned to like.”
“‘I feel it is very difficult for me to express myself in words that others can understand.’”
“All the time.”
This time the look is more than just sceptical. “… Shooter, please be serious.”
“I am serious. And don't—no, hold on, that was right. Never mind.”
She continues to stare at you for a while, but ultimately gives up. “Okay. Next: ‘I believe in more than one thing about reality and the world around me that nobody else seems to believe in.’”
“Such as that flying is bloody unnatural and should be forbidden? Quite a lot. Is there an answer like that on there? Quite a lot?”
“… there is,” she says, “but I don't think that's what it—”
“Tick it.”
“Never mind. Tick it.”
“All right. I'll take ‘somewhat,’ then.”
“… fine.” She ticks a box. “‘Others don't believe me when I tell them the things I see or hear.’”
“All the time. A no-brainer, really.”
“Shooter, please…”
“I'm serious.”
She makes a resigned groan. “… okay, let's go on. So how about this one: ‘I have magical powers that nobody else has or can explain.’”
“Sadly, no.”
“Not at all, then?”
“Unless you're ready to believe a snotty 16-years-old that's grown up too soon and has a too-high opinion of herself,” you say, “I'm about as powerless as a deflated rubber chicken.”
“Okay. Not at all, in that case. Next one: ‘Others are plotting to get me.’”
“I'd prefer to believe otherwise.”
“… ‘moderately?’” she suggests.
“I'll take that. Sounds scientific.”
“… okay.” She writes it down, albeit reluctantly. “‘I find it difficult to get a hold of my thoughts.’”
“All the time. If I knew how to tie a lasso, I could imagine one and try that.”
“‘I can't trust what I'm thinking because I don't know if it's real or not.’”
“I'd be rather distressed if it were real. At times, I've got even wilder thoughts than Tarzan.”

That does it.

She slams the notebook on the table and turns to you with a nasty glare and knitted brows. All of a sudden you realise this is the first time you've seen her knit these brows—not counting the act you two engaged in during the weekend game—and that while startling enough to stop your heart for a beat, it only flatters her more. A scowling girl has something about her that you just want to grab and tug on till she's done fuming and settles down.

The dimples, perhaps.

“You're not taking this seriously at all!” she accuses. All while drawing well closer than those protocolary six inches. “I worry for you, I want to make sure you're okay, and you just make it into a joke!”
You don't put up your hands. Given her current position, it could give her the wrong idea. “Reisen,” you try to calm her down, “I swear to God, I'm as serious as can be. I know it sounds all incredible, but I'm not lying. I've had about the worst week you could imagine. I'm not making this up, I assure you. I'd much prefer I were making it up, in fact. What is the test for, anyway?” you try to divert her attention from your seemingly flippant answers. “Are you positive you're giving me the right one?”
She glares on for a few seconds, and then surrenders, falling back on the spot she sprang from. The couch springs itself when she does. “Schizophrenia,” she reveals coolly. “I worried you might have developed some symptoms due to the experiment. The test was for basic indications of classic schizophrenia.”
“Did I pass?”
“I don't know that it's viable any more, if what you're saying is true.”
“I've been involved in a lot lately, yes. Some of it might have been more supernatural than what you're used to seeing around these parts. I don't, however, thing that it justifies—” you break off.

And freeze.

“Shooter?” She looks at you, concerned. “What's wrong?”
“… Reisen,” you say quietly, “tell me…”
“… what in the bloody hell do you mean by ‘experiment?’”

She freezes as well.

A series of changes touches her delicate face. At first she's stupefied. At second, she begins to blush, but that dies soon when she starts to throw around a number of helpless glances. And then, her hands begin to tremble. At last, she looks back at you, tears welling up in the corners of her eyes.

“Ah—” she yelps, “I wasn't—”
“Supposed to tell me?” you fill in. Oddly, you discover you don't sound at all as angry as you thought you were. “I suspect Eirin ordered you not to tell me,” you continue. “Confidential information, she called it. A professional secret. I understand. Now tell me about this therapy, Reisen. And hurry, if you please; I can only hold a rein on my nerves for so long. I promise this will remain between the two of us. If you don't take too long.”
“Ah, yes, I—” she hiccups, “—I got an idea, from our talk, yes?”
“Our talk?”
“Our talk, about, um, modifying… about changing memories!” She does a couple of fast, incomprehensible gestures. “We talked about it the day you arrived! When I visited you in your room!”
“Oh yes,” you say, “I remember. Go on, please.”
“I couldn't—I couldn't believe that it hadn't occurred to me sooner, but after I'd talked with you, it just popped into my head, and…”
“And you told Eirin about it.”
She nods. About eight too many times than necessary. “Yes, and then—”
“She told you to put it to the test.”
“And you tested it.”
“… yes.”
“On me.”
“I'm honoured. Now, what did that test entail?”

Reisen casts a quick glance at the door – either checking if you're still alone, or considering a tactical turning of tail. Seeing that the door is still closed—or, as a matter of fact, too closed and too far away—she sets her shaking hands on her lap and breathes in. “I'd never thought about it before,” she says, “but the issue of the brain struggling against the implanted false memory could be easily averted… or diverted, rather. I wasn't sure if it'd work, but the idea seemed sound!”
“And did it work?”
“Spectacularly!” she exclaims. A bit too eagerly than she'd intended, perhaps. “I mean, it worked perfectly! And it was so safe and clean! All I had to do is implant another memory beside the one we want the patient to believe. A memory that is so blatantly false the defence mechanisms will concentrate on it instead of the other one. A decoy, if you will. And it worked just wonderfully! Master Eirin was so satisfied with the results that she—” she trails off, partly thanks to your cold, hard stare. “But I set everything back to how it had been originally! I didn't… modify anything! I wouldn't—!”
“And Delaney?”
“Delaney,” you repeat. “She was your guinea pig too, wasn't she?”
“What?” She blinks at you madly. “No! I didn't… I haven't tested it on anyone else yet! Are you… Are you positive that she…? No,” she says before you can speak up, “I never would have experimented on the younger staff. Master Eirin wouldn't allow it. I couldn't ruin their trust.”
“And yet you'd ruin ours.”

She covers with an unhealthy shade of red. “I'm sorry!” she cries, “but it couldn't have possibly failed! And you were the only human at hand, so…!” She rubs at her eyes with her sleeves. “Shooter, please!” she pleads. “I did it for science—to help people! I wouldn't have done it if it weren't safe! I even made it so you wouldn't remember! So it wouldn't bother you!”
“… I don't believe you,” you mutter. “I don't believe you at all.”
“I don't believe you, Reisen,” you say again, standing up. “I have no reason to. I'm going.”
“… what? Where?”
“To get Delaney,” you tell her. “And her friends. As many as I can find. I've got a fan-club here in the Clinic, did you know that? I might pay them a call. And then I'll find Reimu, and then we'll go straight to Eirin. We'll see how your ‘Master’ likes it when I make some of those uncomfortable revelations in front of half her staff.”

“No! Please don't!”

Screaming that, Reisen jumps from the couch and rushes to stand in your way.

She grabs both your wrists with her tender hands. She does her best to look threatening. She fails horribly. She attempts to make up by looking miserable. It doesn't convince you. At last, she resorts to plain begging.

And that, too, is lost on you.

“Shooter, please,” she tries nevertheless. “I messed up, it's my fault! I got carried away, I must have forgotten to complete the procedure! I am sorry! I really am! But you can't do that to Master Eirin! She only approved the experiment, nothing else!”
“Oh, I think there's a lot more going on than you're letting on.”
“Too many things don't add up, Reisen,” you tell her, “and to be honest, I've grown rather sick of things not adding up. It doesn't sit very well with my vision of the world, you see. I like it when things add up. It pleases my sense of aesthetics. But when the world is all shambolic – like now? I'm not pleased with it at all. In point of fact, I'm rather—”

What you are, though, will forever be open to speculation.

The door to the room opens—rather abruptly so—and cuts you off.

A person strides in – hastily, as if alarmed.

The person stops and looks at you and the half-crying nurse.

A scowl grows on the person's face.

“Now what in the sodding hell is going on here?” the person asks, suspicious.

And the rest is a daze.

A stifled squeal escapes from Reisen when you shove her aside. Another, similar cry sounds when you stumble, reaching out, towards the person who crashed your loony interview. Another yet flies right in your ear when you trap the person in your arms, pressing so tightly, so strongly, your head rings with the effort.

And not just the effort.


You want to say her name. You can't.

She wants to say yours. You don't let her.

You steal her voice. You kiss her lips.

Then her cheeks.

And then her nose.

And then her neck.

And then her shoulders.

And when she tries to protest, her lips again.

And it's not enough.

“Tiger—!” she manages to let out. “Stop! Udonge! Could you peel—yikes!—peel him off of me?! I beg you! He's—ack!—He's crazy!”
“Ah, um…”
“Yeah, yeah, right!” She gives the nurse an acid look. “Sure, never mind, I'm sodding well sure he'll shed on his own sooner or later. Tiger, please,” she moans to you, “could you quit—yeek!—don't kiss me there! Oh, sodding hell! Udonge, hold up! Tiger! She's running away!”

Along with your answers, you might add.

And despite that, you don't care.

“Kiss me,” you demand.
“I don't care.”
“I don't give a damn. I want you to kiss me. Now, Mokou.”
“… oh, all right,” she gives in, “very well, I'll sodding kiss you if you're not going to shut up about it.”

And then she does just that.

It goes on for a while.

And some more.

And then—at your request—some more again.

At last, she pulls away and exhales a small, pleasant sigh. “… mm, Tiger?” she breathes. Her voice is low. Soft. Warm. And so very, very familiar. “What exactly were you doing just before I came in?”
“Not a lot, not really,” you tell her, nuzzling her lovely hair all the while. “Nothing too engaging, anyhow,” you carry on, “you've caught me doing more interesting things.”

She's wearing her own clothes, clean and ironed. A vague scent of lavender tickles your nostrils – the same air freshener Kaguya had on her. She must have gone to visit Her Highness' before searching you out, then. She's must have been in the Clinic for some time now – and you didn't even notice.

How blooming useless is that?

“Interesting for you, maybe,” she remarks a little tartly. “Are you sure we're on about the same things?”
“I never said for whom,” you return. “And where have you been? I missed you.”
“I've sort of noticed that myself. Care to let go of me for a bit? It hurts when you squeeze like this.”
“As soon as I've laid you down on that couch and kissed you some more.”

“Are you going to go off your rocker if I say no?”

“Hmm.” She pretends to consider. “All right then – but no kissing you-know-where. Or I'll kick you where you'll feel it.”

A kick in the jewels right now sounds like a dream come true.

Or at least the best thing since mechanical pencils.

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File 130918197849.jpg - (397.48KB, 851x1193, mokou pencil.jpg)
mokou pencil

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Her sudden appearance is too convenient for Reisen and Eirin. All is a mind trick, our MC is a test subject. The real Mokou is on the bamboo forest, and has never heard the name shooter.

directed by m. night shyamalan
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What a coincidence. That's almost exactly what I didn't have in mind!
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NSFW image
Sooner or later, we'll have to get our revenge in that pesty little brat.
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After quite some absence I have caught back up with the story, and... damn.

YAF, keep writing, you glorious bastard.
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Doesn't look like that's gonna be happening, heh
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So, i guess?
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Goodnight sweet prince
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I don't know that whole story, but I'm assuming YAF had another IRC meltdown?
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Yeah. He whined in his /underground/ thread, and he stopeed updating after that.
I don't know what happened to him, but apparently his butthurt level is over 9000.
Too bad, that story was cool.
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Please excuse my ignorance but what the hell does it take to have an "IRC Meltdown"?
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>over nine thousand
Actually, That's not his butthurt level. That's just how many times he got butthurt in the last... oh, Iunno, Two weeks?
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A mechanical pencil, however, has one significant disadvantage.

You can't chew it.

And can't chew a metaphor when you've got your ugly mug buried in a pair of soft, breasty cushions.

“And then I slept with her.”

Even more so when said breasts begin to jiggle all ways in a sort of twitchy expression of shock and disbelief.

“You did what?
“I slept with her,” you iterate patiently.
So does Mokou. “Again, Tiger. You did what?”
“We slept together,” you explain once again. “And I do meant slept, mind you. No funny rubbish. We did just that – slept. No snuggling. Well, a wee bit, maybe. But no explicit stuff. Not that she'd have agreed to any anyhow, I don't reckon. Not as she was right then… Are you angry by chance, sweetheart?”
“Will ‘Go to hell!’ suffice for an answer, Tiger?”
“Go to hell?” you repeat. “Why, that's the last thing I'll do.”
“Are you trying to make me regret catching up?”
“Oh no, dear. Over my dead body. I missed you a lot, you realise.”
“Oh do I?” she returns tetchily. “Don't you reckon the last dozen times you've told me about it in the past three or so minutes should have beaten it into my head? Or would you rather go with a dozen more?”
“Would that be about proportionate to how many times I'd let you know I loved you if you'd been with me all along?”
She groans. “… Tiger, please.”
“What?” you say innocently. “I've always been an ass at maths, sweetheart. Not my fault. All right, I could've have counted, I had about all the time in the world – but I'm so rubbish at it I didn't honestly try.”
“I reckoned Hakurei would keep you occupied enough till I got back.”
“Oh, she did,” you say. “I knew it before, but you've got to admit that life's more engaging when she's around – most often because it seems a big deal shorter. And more colourful, if the colour of blood, sweat and tears happens to strike your fancy. It doesn't mine, not usually. I'd spill a bucketful with you, though. Not of tears, perhaps, and not of blood, preferably – but sweat? Give me sweat any day. Have I mentioned that I missed you terribly?”
“A dozen and one time.”
“Around eighty seven times left to go, then. Anyhow, we slept together, Reimu and I. She didn't really want to, from what I gathered, but I made her all the same. I sort of needed it. I'd sooner split myself from crotch to gizzard and feed what slips out to my ex-colleagues that confess to it, but…” you pause and exhale, “… I was scared, all right? I needed another person there with me when I fell asleep. And there wasn't a Mokou readily available to take to bed and cuddle, so… Ah, but I didn't cuddle her,” you add quickly. “Actually, in hindsight, it was sort of a bungle – my arm was numb for hours after I woke up, the bloody thing. Couldn't pull my slacks on without a half hour and the edge of the sink. I should have cuddled her so she rolled to the other side of the bed and left my arm alone. I'm not too used to being used as a pillow. As a matter of fact, I'd much rather use you.”

And so you do.

A delighted grin on your face, you assert again your previous and rightful place between her bosoms.

She wriggles under you slightly—only a bit, though—and makes a tired-sounding moan; but when you steal a glance up at her lovely, lovely face, the corners of her lips betray the tiniest smile. “Am I supposed to be honoured, Tiger?” she asks, not a hint of it in her beloved voice. “Are you trying to flatter me into forgiving you, by chance?”
“I'd do that?” you reply, equally staid. “Such a trite and despicable method? Surely you can't be serious. Over my dead body.”
“Tiger…” she sighs, “… you're impossible, you know that?”
“Questionable,” you correct. “We've been over it once or twice already.”

She says nothing to that, only extends her arms and hugs you – tightly, fiercely, but softly still – rather big thanks to her comfortable chest.

Once again, you come to the pleasant thought that at last everything is back in order. Although you've withered some without her lovely airs and sunny smile—even if it's only been one or two days—she is back now, and fully at your side. She wears the same, long-suffering face when you smother her skin with kisses. She says the same things when you make a bad joke. She sports the same, old and worn clothes you've learned to love.

And it isn't some unreal, undying-affection-at-the-first-sight love, either – the customary, red-and-white getup has more than earned your profound sentiment. It's clearly and vastly superior to any of the number of outfits she's worn throughout the spate of developments of the last few days, and you find now once more why exactly that is so.

It undoes so easily.

A lot easier than the tight getup she'd stolen from Kaguya before you embarked for your Keine-EVAC mission in the Village. And definitely a breeze to peel off compared to the light-but-complicated habit of the shrine maiden. Not that you'd know, naturally. And you're not ferociously bent on finding out, either.

Not too ferociously, at least.

At a different point in cloth-time continuum, perhaps.

“Tiger…” Mokou makes another sigh, “… please…”
“Mm—” you look up, “—yes, sweetheart?”
“Stop that.”
“I told you I don't like it when you kiss me there.”
“Ah, well…” you mutter, “… it's a fair cop, I suppose. One last time?”
She moans. “… oh, sod it, fine. Just once.”
“I love you,” you flash her a grin. “I'd have said I missed you, but this should be roughly equivalent, no?”
“Oh well,” she gives up. “At least it's progress. So you say you love me?”
“Mm. I mean, yes, I do.”
“Great. Quit sodding kissing me there, then. Or I'll seriously bite.”
“It was worth a try.”

Smiling still, you climb up and give her a light peck on the curiously reddened cheek.

She turns away, obviously aware of how she looks right now.

“A somewhat different question,” you prompt. “It escaped me earlier, but what did you do with the walkie-talkie that I gave you? I mean, did it break or what? I tried raising you at least thrice but you never responded.”
She makes an immodest sound. “… argh…”
“… it's nothing.”
“… it, ugh…”
“It ‘ugh?’”
She gives you an irritated face. “Quit that, why don't you? I broke it, all right? I broke it,” she confesses, suddenly embarrassed. “I had to stop at my place on the way from your sodding village because of the rain, and when I took it out it was full of water, so I tried drying it up, and, uh… I'm afraid it broke.”
She coughs uncomfortably. “… it, uh, just broke, all right? It, ugh… might have gotten a little hot… and melted a little bit… but I didn't mean to break it, fine? I hadn't used my magic for a while, and I'd no idea how, uh… potent Hakurei's amulets would be, and I was wet, too, so I used an, uh… a sort of a big flame to start things off. All right—” she waves her hand dismissively, “—I may have botched it, but it's not my fault the bloody thing is so sodding flimsy! I didn't do it on purpose! I didn't want to burn it!”
“And that's all?” you ask. “It broke?”
“Have you got some sort of problem?”
“No,” you say, “actually, I'll be honest—”
“Why start now?” she snaps. “If you're going to laugh—”

She falls silent.

“Good,” you praise. “Now, if you'll pardon, I'd like to make something known.”
“… what.”
“I love you.”

“And what now?” she asks a couple of minutes later.
“What do you mean?” you return, even as you disentangle yourself from her long, silvery hair.
“Are you going to stick with the stupid cow?”
“I sort of promised, yes.” And you've got different kinds of obligations, too. “I don't know that any of us ought to stay here any longer, either. I wouldn't wager on the mental faculties of those yokels, but they're sure to figure out where we were bound sooner or later… and I'd rather spare Kaguya the dubious privilege of having a bloody mob throw their foam around at her doorstep.”
Mokou sits up and begins to button up her shirt. Somewhat disappointed, you watch closely as the most kissable of her cleavage disappears under the wrinkled white fabric. “I concur,” she says, “we should start for Moriya as soon as we've moped up here.”
“What?” you let out, surprised.
“Quit spluttering, Tiger. I said that we should start for Moriya as soon as we're—”
“I heard that much,” you interrupt her, “but Mokou, dear, didn't you sort of insinuate not long ago that the place is pretty much bonkers and that I should stay the bloody fuck away if I value my behind?”
“Oh, I did,” she says, “but that little witch you had me haul home went out of her way to convince me it's the best place we can go under current circumstances.”
“Akyu did? And you listened to her? I can scarcely believe that.”
Mokou rolls her eyes. “She wouldn't stop yapping, all right? I sort of didn't have a choice but listen, or she wouldn't have quit whinging all flight. If it comforts you any, I gave her the scare of her life when we were landing. She screamed like I was taking her out of her hide.”
“… I don't know that it does anything but make my belief even scarcer.”
“Anyway,” Mokou presses, “like it or don't I, the little skank was right. If your clodhopper friends are set on giving chase—and by the uproar I saw in your sodding village, they bloody well are—then we can hunker down and wait the worst of it out in Moriya – they're sort of at odds at some rather touchy business, so I reckon they'll have to think twice or more before they trail our arses there.”
“I don't know what to say.”
“Say what?”
“Thank you,” you tell her. “I was afraid you'd be all against it, and that I'd be forced to cuddle you into submission before you agreed… though, admittedly, that wouldn't exactly be ‘forced,’ since I'd cuddle you any time anyhow, but…”
Mokou gives you a small glare. “Get to the point, Tiger.”
“Ah yes,” you say. “No, I'm just grateful that you understand. And that you want to help Keine after all.”
“… I'm doing it for you, you nonce, not for her…” she stops and inhales deeply, “… but if it makes you happy,” she continues grudgingly, “I owe Hakurei for those charms anyway, so we can say I'm doing it for her as well. And she's doing it for Keine, so I reckon I'm sort of doing it for Keine, too… by extension…” She shakes her head. “I feel dirty just saying that, ugh.”
“It's a start,” you say. “I'll make a big, happy family out of you yet.”
“I hope to all hells you're not serious.”
“Me, sweetheart? Actually, yes. I'm not all that serious. I'm sorry.”
“Of course. So, what now? Have you got anyone else you've got to apologise to for being a stupid nonce? Or can we round up the trash, kiss Kaguya's arse good bye and go?”
“Isn't it raining?”
“It was just letting up when I arrived.”

[ ] “Sounds good to me. How about you go about the kissing while I go find the other two birds?”
[ ] “Not just now. I've got something to do yet. Care to be my agent of punchy death and booty destruction in case my usual methods fail?”
[ ] “Are you positive you want to go so fast? I'd rather you were rested before we set out this time. Let's see Kaguya for now. We'll see about everything else after that.”
[ ] “I've got to apologise, in all actuality. I got on the nerves of a certain nurse. And upset another. So yes, this stupid nonce has got to run his rounds before he goes. Sorry. Want to come along and watch me humiliate myself?”
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Also, why's it always have to be IRC, anyway? Couldn't it be something else? Is everything that happens to the board the IRC's fault? It could have been ANYTHING! A new-found addiction to freeware Android games! A two-week long playthrough of the best FreeSpace campaigns! (I'll give you a hin—FANGS OUT! BREAK AND ENGAGE! DESPERTA FERRO! ) A MASSIVE software failure that ended in a wipe of half my netbook drive (and in effect my Mokou pictures folder – feel obliged to post something, folks)! A shitty change of weather resulting in passing depression! Moving back home for summer vacation! Literally, anything!

But no, it's IRC. It's ALWAYS IRC. Why is it always IRC?

Bloody IRC.

Stop being the center of my life, you stupid thing! Confound you, IRC! I hate you so much!

TiTS update within days. Stay frosty. Reaver one out.
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We don't have time to get bogged down in the domestic politics of Moon men with nothing but that on their hands and their over-trained, overworked, and over-sexed rabbit servants. Despite Reisen's admitted shenanigans, I think we can be reasonably sure that jetting now won't leave anyone trapped in a padded cell, unlike last time.

[x] “Sounds good to me. How about you go about the kissing while I go find the other two birds?”

Frankly, if I were Shooter I'd be trying to wash my hands of Keine ASAP and make with the rutting. The only other person I feel sympathy for right now is Reimu, and what she probably needs, we can't give her.
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[x] “Not just now. I've got something to do yet. Care to be my agent of punchy death and booty destruction in case my usual methods fail?”
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[x] “I've got to apologise, in all actuality. I got on the nerves of a certain nurse. And upset another. So yes, this stupid nonce has got to run his rounds before he goes. Sorry. Want to come along and watch me humiliate myself?”

I'll try out freespace then. I liked those two other games... what were they called? Starship Lancer? Something about a federation? I dunno.
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[x] “I've got to apologise, in all actuality. I got on the nerves of a certain nurse. And upset another. So yes, this stupid nonce has got to run his rounds before he goes. Sorry. Want to come along and watch me humiliate myself?”
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I can't vote, on account of being drunk and all, but seeing the update and imagining being able to vote when I'm more capable and channeling the right inspirations makes me satisfied at an unusually primal level;no Old Man Pie
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[x] “Not just now. I've got something to do yet. Care to be my agent of punchy death and booty destruction in case my usual methods fail?”

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Get the FS2 isos from somewhere, then get the FSO installer from http://www.fsoinstaller.com/ and let it download everything. A lot of data, yes, but more than worth it. And you're probably thinking of Freelancer, which isn't really a lot like FreeSpace.
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[X] “Are you positive you want to go so fast? I'd rather you were rested before we set out this time. Let's see Kaguya for now. We'll see about everything else after that.”

I don't mind lingering, and I'm half curious about how Eirin would handle an angry mob.
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Downloading ISOS is such a drag... but I'll do so.
Now, how are they different? Starlancer and Freelancer had a strong campaign (they were mediocre games, but I loved them) and free roaming. Does FS lacks any of those.
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Freelancer has lot of mod, like crossfire and stuff.

Of course, I can't play with any of them, due to some unknown fucking bug, but they have to be awesome!

Or else it'll mean that I wasted 2 minutes trying to play a shitty mod.
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Attention, pilots!

Due to unpleasant circumstances surrounding a certain recent leak of supposedly classified information, this shall be my new trip code. I hereby declare I will not reveal it to mentally unstable personae this time around, even when pressed by circumstances.
At the same time, I would like to note that I do NOT post on these boards without my trip code—unless by accident, which more often than not I try to either amend or leastwise make clear.
I shall let this screencap of an Open Office window with MiD loaded serve as poorly contrived proof that I am indeed who I am. If you deem this evidence insufficient, I stand ready for your further challenge!

At ease!

And to answer >>33233, Freelancer was a kind of watered-down 4X game, a sort of a cRPG in space. FreeSpace is a pure dogfight simulator, with mission-based gameplay and no free-roam exploration. It's still an epic space opera, however, and I more than recommend giving it a blast, even if only for the amazing soundtrack or engaging storyline. Or—in the case of FSO—breath-taking graphics.
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>Freelancer was a kind of watered-down 4X game
>4X game
what is this i dont even
No. Just no. You have lost all your gamer cred. Turn in your card. 4X games are a sub-genre of strategy games. Freelancer is a wide-open sandbox space flight sim (albeit, one where you have to complete the whole storyline before you get access to all of the sandbox). Very different beasts.
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My bad. My mind made a leap from the X series to 4X for some reason, and Freelancer resembles X more than it does FreeSpace. However,
>Freelancer is a wide-open sandbox space flight sim
this I disagree with. Freelancer has very little to do with flight simulation. And I don't mean its blithe ignorance of the basic laws of physics (FreeSpace does that, too, for enjoyment's sake).
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Sure, it's a flight sim if you disregard logic. Small planets? Get. No gravity? Get. 2D solar system? Get.
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Attention, pilots!

I wish to remind you that in case there is a tie in the vote, and there comes a time when the tie is still present whereas I feel like writing, I will take the liberty of choosing the winning option on my own accord.
So don't be surprised if the next update starts with a choice that wasn't necessarily in the majority.
Just throwing this out here so that we can avoid the potential unpleasantness.

At ease.

(Also, this is the part of the post where I want to attach a nice Mokou image but can't find any I haven't used up yet in my folder, and that I'd have to go to pixiv to get a new one. Why am I telling you this? I don't know, make of it what you will.)
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Don't let ties get in the way of your writing juices. Wait, that came out wrong.
...and that didn't sound so great either. Fuck.
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don't do that
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U-update? Maybe? Please?
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[x] “I've got to apologize, in all actuality. I got on the nerves of a certain nurse. And upset another. So yes, this stupid nonce has got to run his rounds before he goes. Sorry. Want to come along and watch me humiliate myself?”

I kinda feel bad for the bunnies having to put up with us during our Mokou "withdrawal".

I understand Reisen's position, though I am a bit cross with Eirin.
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[X] “Are you positive you want to go so fast? I'd rather you were rested before we set out this time. Let's see Kaguya for now. We'll see about everything else after that.”

A person in a hurry is a poor organiser.

A good organiser never hurries; he is never late, nor is he too soon; he always keeps up his sleeve a margin for an unexpected, and, in extreme cases, wears a ridiculous hat and shoots lightning bolts out of his spindly, spindly fingers. Sadly, the only kind of magic to be had here is the jiggly one, hidden inside Mokou's shirt.

Actually, it's not all that sad.

With some effort, you could get over it rather easily.

“So?” the magically gifted girl urges on. “Are we going to get going finally?”
“Ah,” you reply, “well, I was thinking… Are you absolutely positive you want to go so fast? I'd really rather you caught a little tittle of a kip before we leave for good. How about it?”
She glares. “I'm not tired.”
“But I am,” you tell her. “Of having you overexert yourself for my sake, that is. I don't want you to wear down and get old because of me.”
“You say that, while you've just finished making a mess of my—”
“Exactly,” you cut in. “I've done tired you enough for now, okay? Now, I'd like if you rested a bit. Stands to reason, doesn't it? No? Come on, sweetheart,” you stroke her cheek and enjoin, “let's go see Kaguya in the meanwhile. I'll have a chat with her and you can lie down, maybe put your head on my lap, let me play with your hair while we hammer out the nasty stuff… Hmm? Come on, now, sweetheart. I know I said we ought to bugger out ASAP, but I promise it won't take all too long. I'm not too keen on staying, but I've got to have a word with Her Highness. And kiss her, probably.”

Mokou makes an ugly sound.

“I've only got to apologise,” you explain. “I've got a feeling I got too deep under her skin yesterday; I don't want to leave her cross with me, and she likes kisses, doesn't she?”
“I wonder how you arrived at that conclusion,” the white-haired girl notes tartly.
“I'm very observant.”
“I've no doubt about that.”
“Oh, don't be like that, sweetheart. I may not have the sort of spy network that the little Hieda devil has, but I'm no slouch myself when it comes to people.”
“Don't sell yourself short, Tiger. You're a tremendous slouch.”
“All right,” you shrug, “that's true, I suppose. I got used to it, though. And I got you used to it, too.”
“I wouldn't be so sure if I were you.”
“If you were me, sweetheart, a lot of things would have been different around here.”
“Like what?”
“You'd walk a great deal more.”
“You'd be sleeping with yourself. Although that's not that awful when I think abou—mff?!”

“Enough.” Mokou silences you with a well-aimed finger. “I hate it when you get all talky on me, Tiger, did you know that?”
“All right, fine,” she gives up. “Let's go bother Kaguya if you want to so much, sod me.”
“And if you want to smooch her so terribly, fine, so be it. See if I care.”
“Mff. Mhh.”
“Quit that, Tiger. You look and sound like a… a looky, soundy thing. Whatever. Let's go.” She stands up. “I've had about enough of mucking about. Just don't go ahead and grope her tits out of the blue or something.”
“I don't do that,” you protest. “I mean, I might have slipped once or twice, but…”
“But what?”
“But nobody got it on video, so…”

She turns around and glares. “You're a right ass, aren't you, Tiger?”
“Well,” you find your feet and say, “I do my best, I suppose. All right then. Let's have a going. I can't wait to get all that rubbish sorted out. Oh, and Mokou?”
“What's it now?”
“I love you. I really, really do.”
She sets her hands on her shapely hips and lets out an ocean-deep sigh. “… I know, Tiger,” she says quietly, “I know, believe me.”

And then she smiles.

“But,” she adds quickly, “if you do ‘slip’ and grope her tits, my memory might slip in turn. So try not to do that, why don't you?”
“Roger,” you say. “Trying not to with all my might, ma'am.”

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Pretty disappointing considering how long it took. I'll wait for the second part before I pass judgement.
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Expression of contentment. Polite request for more.
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Holy shit updates
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Welcome back
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Tears have been shed. Tears of joy. Also the tears that follow a sneeze, but mostly tears of joy.
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And so—no slips along the way—you arrive at Kaguya's hideaway.

And you thrust—knocking be damned—ahead and inside, and find Her regal Highness seated on her bed, brushing her lustrous hair, waiting.

Or killing time, perhaps. A strange activity, as it were. One might speak of killing time, but go stabby-stabby on clocks and cuckoos as he might, in the end it's the time chipping slowly at his hind end. And the cuckoos, if they're lucky, are mostly dead anyway when they're stuffed in clocks anyhow, so they probably care very little. A tad unfair, isn't it? If you're even given the occasion, you should have a talk about it with Mrs. Time; presumably in between those spurts of flak aimed at God and Lady Luck.

Suddenly, it's a little bit clearer why they hide themselves from most of the ordinary folks. If they didn't, threats and curses would be mile a minute.

And even the saintest person in the world would grow tired of having his heritage questioned wherever he goes.

She rises when you walk in. Kaguya, that is. She sets the brush down on the table and greets you: “Good morning,” a little apprehensive. She almost disregards Mokou, only giving her a quickie glance. As you thought, they must have already met and talked, likely the first thing when Mokou had shown up.

Well, apprehend all she wants, you aren't going to let it stick its oar in your plans' butt—whether they do or not have one. And so, not without a blithe sense of childish glee, you strut toward the antsy princess, and, taking her shoulders in your hands, kiss her dead on the pretty pink lips.

She blinks, but of course she would. If she had known what you'd do next she'd have saved it for later. And what you do next is tear away from her as fast as you glued yourselves together, and bend down. Only for a moment, naturally, because sooner than that shady move can be questioned by either of the present ladies, you lift Her Highness up by her waist, hug her belly to your face, and spin. And spin. And spin.

“Sh—Shooter!” the startled Princess cries out and clutches at your head and hair in sudden panic. “Shooter, what are you—? Dear me! Moko! Why is he—?”

And spin.

Utter silliness, perhaps, but you owe her that much. And, let's face it, in their eyes, it suits you right down to the ground. In yours, too. A bit of honesty shouldn't hurt—too much. And in this case, it really should pay. If it doesn't, hell, you'll wrangle it out with it some other time. After you're done with all the other incorporeal and esoteric entities.

Hopefully not after you've stopped breathing and gone under for good.

And then, quite deliberately, you trip and fall to the side.

Her Highness produces a rather earthly squeal, all the while proceeding to tumble on top of you while you crash back-first onto the royal bed. She heaves herself up almost immediately and lours at you with an uncharacteristic set on her little face.

“Shooter, you—!” But then that angry look dissolves. “Moko!” the Princess calls to her watching friend. “He—He's positively sparkling! What in the world did you do to him?”
Mokou makes a shrug—quite a stiff one, you observe, given the sort of exercise you gave her earlier. She must be mad. But that was well within your expectations; you will make it up to her later, with interest.
At that lack of explanation, Kaguya returns her big, fluttering eyes to you. She tries to scold, but the corners of her lips betray her, twitching in a sort of poorly hidden half-smile. So you jump to a sit, and kiss that face a good “relax.”

But enough folly; a going is to be had, and for the good of all, you'd better have it soon.

“I know I've said it already and you told me not to say it again,” you tell the angelically blushing princess, “but I'm sorry – for yesterday: what I said and how I acted. I'm sorry. I wasn't being myself.”
“N—No,” she blurts out, “that you weren't…”
“Anyhow, I've sort changed my mind about being a gloomy prick for the rest of my days now, so I'm back in the old for the time being. I've got a lot of it ahead of me for these sorts of decisions, anyhow.” Sighing exaggeratedly, you direct your look towards the girl seething at the doorstep. She meets your gaze with fiery enthusiasm. “Oh, be nice, now,” you tell her; “this isn't nearly the worst thing you've witnessed me doing. Chin up. Why don't you sit down and join us? I've still got some fluff to talk over anyhow; your feet will ache if you stand all the way through.”
She makes a tired grunt. “I'll get you for all that some day.”
“I don't doubt it; you fly faster than I can hope to run.”

She grumbles again, but ultimately comes to plunk down beside you on the huge, springy bed.

“Well now,” you say then, “I suppose it's down to the unpleasant stuff then. I've found out some things. A few were surprising. One was shocking. I liked about none of them. I'd like to share them so we can all have fun and not-like them together. Are you in?”
Kaguya flicks the hair off her pretty cheeks and pricks up her ears. Mokou does about the same, albeit noticeably more upset.
“Go on,” says the Princess, surprisingly businesslike. “I have a feeling this is serious.”
“You do?” Mokou exclaims.
“He always jokes like that when he's being serious, doesn't he?”
“Unless it's about the stupid tit-rack, yes,” the white-haired girl glares at you. “I can't for the sodding life of me figure why, but he gets all hot down where he shouldn't whenever she's gone and got herself into some muck.”
Her Highness rolls her eyes. “Haven't we already talked about that? I told you, he's simply—”
“Kaguya,” Mokou warns.
“All right, I'll be quiet. Go on, Shooter. I can see from your face this is urgent.”

“Cheers,” you say. “Anyhow, as I said, I learned some things that rather disturbed me yesterday. The gist is that we're on the run from a horde of maniacs and the only escape route leads to—or through—Moriya. Well, to be fair, we could consider other possibilities yet, but of the six people concerned, four have pointed me—or us—specifically towards that place, so I reckon it's statistically sound to assume we'd best be bound there. In all honesty I still don't like it all a lot, but, look, the numbers—they compel me to sort of keep my own opinions to myself in this particular dilemma. I'm sure you can understand. Anyhow,” you continue after clearing your throat, “the gist of it is that just yesterday I was summoned to Eirin's little lair—Kaguya can confirm—and, fancy that, there was Keine, too. I heard them talk. And the results were… uh, of ambiguous levels of liking on my part. Yes.”

Mokou's stare hardens. Kaguya rolls her eyes again and beckons you to go on.

“Well,” you oblige her, “I happened to sort of eavesdrop on them, if you get my drift. Now mind you, I like to think myself a person of impeccable morals, I don't usually do that sort of thing—not when not paid to—but some of the things they said were really too fascinating to pass on.” Not to mention the sights, but that is likely best kept confidential. “And I mean that both ways – I'd rather not tell what happened there, for all of our sakes. All I'll say is it got me thinking there's something bigger going on than just the village people going bonkers over our Kaine for some wacky-arse reason. Something convoluted.”

Mokou groans. “You and your sodding conspiracy theories.”
“Hey!” you give her an offended look. “I'll have you know, many of my so-called conspiracy theories turned out true in the end! Don't just dismiss me because I've assumed a joking tone and made a lot of silly faces. That's discrimination, you realise?”
“Tell me one,” she dares, “one theory of yours that was true. You said you've had many. Like which one?”
“Like… Remember that one time you took me to eat at the lady's with the funny hat? I told you there were chiles in our food!”
Now's Mokou's turn to roll her eyes. “That's how you do eel, Tiger; you add chiles.”
“I'm allergic to chiles!”
“That's your problem; you didn't do your homework.”
“Nevertheless,” you insist, “I was right. Don't tell me I wasn't.”
“Fine,” she gives up. “Sod me, fine, just go on with it, why don't you?”
“It's not my fault that everything seems so complicated these days.”
“I wonder.”
“Hey. I've been having these theories since I was six, sweetheart. And let me tell you, it was hell, sheer hell, waiting to do something about them. Now I've got my chance for début. Don't hold it against me, all right? I still love you, you realise.”
She smacks your hand away from her shoulder. “I do,” she says, completely straight. “Now get on it with.”

“Ah. All right. Sure, why not. So after that shindig in Eirin's cave—you'll pardon me, Kaguya, but that's what it feels like—Eirin told me to get some rest and that she'd take care of Keine. I saw no reason to object at that point. Hint, hint.”
“Quit that, Tiger.”
“I'm sorry. I'm tied by some rather restricting promises.”
“Then just gloss over the sodding details if you don't wait to, sodding hell.”
“All right. Afterwards, I went to my room and collapsed—not literally, don't gasp—and about the middle of the bloody night, I got woken up by Reisen and Reimu wrangling away at my door. One was worried about my health. I sent her away. The other wanted to make my health even worse than it was. I let her in. You know the rest,” you tell Mokou. “She cried to me and let slip that she and Keine both had been looking for some time off for a while now. I didn't make too much of it at the time; I was somewhat preoccupied with trying to keep all sorts of things at bay. The next day, I went to see Reisen—like I told her I would. Got a lot of peps angry along the way, too, but that's how it usually goes; you can't make an omelette without pissing off a bunch of chicks, heh.”
“Tiger!” Mokou moans.
“I'm sorry!” you cry. “I can't help it! It's glandular!”
Kaguya pokes her feverish friend. “I think it's your fault, Moko, dear; you can't blame him.”
Mokou gives her a murderous glare. “Sodding right it's my—!”
“Anyhow,” you interrupt another eruption, “Reisen had me take this test thingy—schizophrenia it was, methinks—and then—quite inadvertently—confessed she had messed with me bonker before. Apparently it was an experiment meant to expand on an idea of treating patients with mental trauma that I had unknowingly given her the first time we met. I just might be a medical prodigy, I feel. But yes, she says that she's done things to my memories before, but then adds she put everything back in place afterwards. And truth be told, I don't hold it against her. If it's for the good of mankind, bugger, I'd give away my liver.”

Mokou seems to twitch slightly at the idea.

“So yes,” you continue, “I've been mentally violated – whatever that makes me, I haven't the bloodiest idea. All I know is that, one: both Keine and Reimu talk about ‘getting out of here,’ wherever the ‘here’ they mean is; two: apparently the way to out leads through Moriya; and three: Moriya is sort of at odds with the Village, so they ought to protect us from the loonies on our tails—at least in theory. That's all. What do you think? Kaguya?”

Her Highness considers all you have said. “Moko?” she directs a laconic question at her friend.
Mokou crosses her arms on her chest and grunts. “I'm going with him. I don't care where.”
“I see.”

They continue to stare at each other in odd silence. Something seems to pass between them – something unspoken, but unsettlingly important.

“Very well,” the Princess concludes finally. “I understand.” She stands up and begins to pace around the room. “I can't say that I like it,” she confesses, “but it's like you say, Shooter.”
“The numbers?”
“The numbers,” she nods, absolutely sober. “I'd be lying if I said I don't care for Keine, although from my point of view what she is trying is reckless, if not outright dangerous. For all of you. If not all of us. But—” she shrugs, “—I'm in no position to interfere. I gather that one of those ‘concerned’ people was Reimu, no?”
“Then I have even less say. She knows what she's doing. She always has. As far as I've been told.”
Not that you couldn't shake up that conviction a little, but you elect not to. “We need to get on the move, too,” you say instead. “I don't want the stupid louts to track us here and give you grief.”
“Oh no,” Her Highness waves your worry away, “don't bother yourself with that, Shooter. We can defend ourselves if need be.”
“I appreciate your concern, really,” she smiles, “but it's honestly misplaced. Worry better for Moriya. If you bring Moko there in this current state, she'll sooner or later scorch the place to the ground.”
Mokou glares. “Kaguya!”
“She has some acquaintances there, you see,” the Princess continues, grinning, “and she might think you'd best never hear what they have to say, lest they get some silly ideas in your head.”
“Kaguya, I swear to all hells—!”
“I love you, Moko, did you know that? Anyway,” Kaguya looks back to you, an alien almost expression of total seriousness on her beautiful face, “I cannot provide any escort; you'll have to make do with what you have. Will you manage?”
“We've more than enough, I feel,” you tell her. “We're as rigged out as could be. Keine can jam and slam whatever crazy they throw at us; Reimu can bomb their arses to seven hells and back; and if that don't work, I can always use this here lovely young lass for long-range artillery.”
“Go to hell, Tiger.”
“Not just yet, sweetheart. I'm on a roll.”
“Do you need supplies?” Kaguya asks. “Food? Ammo? I could try and send a strike package later, but that might not fly, so…”
“All appreciated, love,” you tell her, “but we're good. Actually, we're set to go. We just have to round up the others.”
“I can take care of that.” She goes for the intercom hanging on one of the walls and dials a number. “I'll have them on their feet in a few minutes. Élodie, dear?” she chirps into the microphone. “Patch me through to the Center, please, darling. Thank you. Now we wait,” she says to you. “They'll be with us in a second.”

“By the way,” you say, pointing at the acutely familiar paper charm resting unobtrusively on the table. “What's this doing here?”
“Oh, I don't think it's doing anything, really.”
“… I get it,” you sigh. “I'll stop with the bad jokes.”
Kaguya smiles. “I was wondering about the effect,” she reveals. “Merely curious. I've never encountered the effect before. Nothing you should wonder too hard about.”
“Ah. Well then I'll just forget about it.”
“I rather thought you might. Ah, Tewi?” she switches once more to that sugary voice. “Could you get someone for me?” A garbled response comes through. “Great,” says the Princess. “A patient, yes. No, make that two. Yes. You know the ones. Can you find them anywhere? Ah. I see. Send someone to pick them up. It's important. Yes. Thank you. No. No, thank you. I'm not interested at the moment. Maybe later. Good bye.” She pushes a button and the device goes silent. “Well, this is it. They'll be there before long. Let's get going, too. I'll see you all off.”

You and Mokou stand up.

“Ah, Shooter?” Kaguya says. “One more thing.”
“I don't want to be ominous, so I won't say it in front of the others, but… Good luck. If I'm right, you'll need it—a lot of it. So good luck. I can only hope it doesn't all leave you in the least appropriate moment.”

“Thanks,” you give her a hearty grin. “You hear that?” you direct the question at the ceiling. “That's two people telling you to quit skiving off your work. You'd better wake up right now, or she and I will have your blindfold off and teach you to sleep on the job.”

As if in response, a scream and sounds of someone tumbling down a flight of stairs erupt in the hall outside.

“I knew you'd hear,” you smile. “Now, don't let that happen to me and we're easy. All right,” you exhale deeply. “Let's go. I can't wait to fly again. I'm already giddy.”

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Yay updates!
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Righty-o, here's hoping the length is more satisfactory this time. I'll try for my whatever-its-name-was story in /underground/ next (I've really forgotten, shiiit), so loosen up and go fap to some Mokou in the meantime or something.
As for my absence, its causes, its purpose, the purpose of the world, the universe, life itself and all assorted things, feel free to check this customarily long-winded and absolutely inappropriate blogesque entry I wrote up JUST FOR YOU!


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I was expecting 'Sparta' but Spain? Oh well, que te diviertas, YAF

Also, update TiiTS faggot.
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>que te diviertas
Oh yes, that I will, that I will. Now… dar me un cerveza! Ahorita!
>Also, update TiiTS faggot.
Oh, that I will, too. I just need to get back in touch with my inner, uh… Satori… love… thing. Yeah. Something like that. Ahem. So stay frosty in the meantime, hmm?

Pictured: probably not a Satori thing.
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Oh! Those are her arms I thought she was deformed.
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In a couple ticks and shakes, you're on the roof.

And just in time: the skies have begun to clear, and even now through the rips and tears in the greyish cream of wrung-out rain-clouds, you see, sheer wonder: amongst all the madness of the past few days the sun hasn't budged from its rightful place and still shines down merrily as always at the tear-and-sweat-sodden earth below. Sanity, miracle of miracles, is still in good shape and standing, in spite of all the bad luck dogging at your heels doing nothing but trying to make it leave in disgust with your terrible, terrible circumstances.

“Splendid,” you say. “I hate it when it does that.”

Keine and Reimu were found and promptly extracted from their private crannies in the Clinic's bowels, then dressed, given a share of your unhandy baggage (upon Kaguya's insistence), smacked sharply on the bum and sent out to the roof, where you and Mokou had been standing—and snapping, in Mokou's case—like greyhounds in the slips, whilst Her Highness drilled the frowns off of the two other birds.

It didn't work out—not too well, anyhow, not to insult Her Majesty's efforts.

As it is, the beautiful teacher's sunny, sunny smile seems to have tripped on a mislaid banana peel somewhere and decided it was all the brutal world's fault and that it'd stay like it was now—flipped right upside-down—and sprawl on the pavement for the rest of its days, sponging off the broken economy that supports such fat and ugly, unproductive buggers as itself.

A little bit better was your precious, timid shrine maiden – in that she at least acknowledged your presence when the near-desperate princess shoved her up the dark and dusty staircase – but her face and bearings both still leave loads and loads to be desired. She's sullen to say the least; her expression is sourer than hungover lemons, and her stare could be described in many, many colourful words—out of which “gloomy” would be about the warmest.

On the bright side, they're both still alive, and that's really great for the moment.

Kaguya stands beside you, her hands twined somewhat tiredly on the back of her waist.
“What's that, Shooter?” she asks, looking up at you curiously. “What do you hate?”
“Sanity,” you give a brisk reply. “I mean, when it leaves me. I do get these times when it does, and, well, I can't say I like it all that much.”
“Oh, you're just making bad jokes again, aren't you?”
“I would do that? Me?”
She elbows you in the side. “You're silly.”
“Why, thank you. I've worked at it for years.”
“Oh, don't make me play your game, you rogue.”
“I wouldn't hope to—and besides, I take offence at that. I'm all but a rogue. It's all those sods monkeying around up there,” you wave in the general direction of the sky, “they're the ones being rogues here, one and all, if anybody is. I'm on to their bull and they know it. I wager that's why I've been getting all the bloody grief lately. In fact, I wager they're gawping at us right now, rolling around on their clouds and such, saying to one another: ‘Oi, check this out, folks! 'Ere he goes again, the sodded, ne'er-do-well imp! Thinks he can fly around like it's nothing, 'e does! Howsa 'bout we show 'im what for! Git yer storms and winds and hails, all, 'cause we's going down hard today!’ – and then they up and toss at me all their crap without regard for the rest of the bloody world. I wouldn't be too shocked if they stayed up all night shifting highs and lows around just so they can throw a storm in my face whenever.”
“Sounds awfully dedicated, doesn't it?” Kaguya observes seriously.
“Ain't it just?” you say. “At times I wonder why they even bother.”
“Who knows? I'd disagree with the language, though.”
“What do you mean?”
“I think it'd be more thee-and-thou-like, personally, like: ‘Thine miscreant demeanour hath not gone unnoticed, Shooter of the Human Settlement!’” she demonstrates in an exaggerated contralto. “‘Feel our wrath and weep, knave!’ – like that, I would imagine, it's somehow more appropriate that way. Wouldn't you agree?”
“An it please thee, I suppose,” you say with a shrug.
“It would at that. Anyway, Shooter, dear, aside from the powers that be, I believe you have something else you had better be aware of right now – don't you, too?”
“Ah yes,” you admit, “right enough, I reckon.”

Indeed, the stares on your back feel as though they've grown as hot as they possibly could.

If a bird decided to nest between your shoulder blades and lay its eggs there, there'd be breakfast for everybody. Although why a sane bird would decide that is beyond you. It doesn't matter now, though—you weren't very hungry anyhow.

A slight pang of remorse in your chest, you embrace Her Highness and kiss her on one cheek.
“Give this to Delaney,” you tell her. “And this—” you kiss her on the other, “—to Elly. And this—” the first one again, “—to Reisen. And this to Adel, I suppose. And this to Nathalie, if you could. And this to Florence. Am I forgetting anyone?”
Kaguya pretends to deliberate the question. “About a few dozen, I'd say. Why?”
“Well,” you say, “it looks like you're going to have a busy afternoon, is all.”
“I'll manage somehow.”
“I wouldn't dare think otherwise. Go kiss Eirin for me if you're feeling up to it as well. I sort of owe her—this and that. I'd sooner die than let her think I'm not grateful.”
“She wouldn't think that, Shooter,” Her Highness says softly. “She's a doctor. She understands.”
“I haven't the best experience with doctors, that's all.”
“A matter of attitude, I'd imagine. Anyway…”
“Yeah,” you say and kiss her for the last time, “roger that.” And then you let her go and face the others. Clearly, you weren't being too discreet – the stares grow harder the moment you turn. “I was only saying goodbye, is all,” you tell the three grim ladies. “And besides, I'll have you know, she actually likes it. So I wasn't doing anything against her will or anything. If you want a turn, just blooming speak up and tell me, all right?”

Reimu looks away with a none too pleased grunt. Keine clutches at her forearm with one pale hand and gives the floor a thorough scan for things more pressing than your bold proposition.

Mokou, meanwhile, continues to glare. She isn't even trying to hide what she thinks of your goodbyes.

“I didn't think so,” you mutter to nobody in particular. “Oh well, another time, perhaps. I've plenty of slots free in my schedule. Mokou,” you say to your fiery girl, “are we ready?”
“We've been for about half a sodding hour,” she retorts.
“It's customary to delay a flight, didn't you know? Where I was born, they were almost notorious for doing that.”
“Remind me to never go where you were born.”
“I've a bad memory.”
“I've noticed. Just latch on and let's get it over with.”
“Kaguya,” Mokou says to Her Highness while you find a comfortable position, “I, uh…”
“No need to, Moko,” says Kaguya, smiling gently. “I love you, you know.”
“I was afraid you'd say that,” sighs the white-haired girl. “Still,” she goes on, “look, I am—”
“I said there was no need,” Kaguya interrupts again. “I'm happy as long as you are, Moko, I really am. I don't care about anything else.”
Mokou steals an angry glance at you. “I don't know about that.”
“Oh, quit sulking, would you?” chides the princess. “We've been over that, already. Cheer up. Quit worrying. Get him and Keine to Moriya and everything will be all right, I know it will. Keine,” she addresses the teacher, “it's on your shoulders to make sure it does, I believe you're aware.”
Keine meekly inclines her head, not looking Her Highness in the eyes.
“Reimu,” the princess turns to the shrine maiden next, “I trust you.”
“I sure hope you know what you're doing,” Reimu replies tartly.
“I believe I do,” says Kaguya. “I told you once: I'd trust you with my life. I thought I might tell you again. I love you—just about as much as this silly fellow over there—maybe even a little more, actually, since I've known you a little longer. I trust you, Reimu,” she repeats. “Get Moko and Shooter safely to Moriya. I know they trust you, too.”
“… I will,” says the shrine maiden, looking slightly guilty. “I will.”

“Great,” the princess clasps her palms. “I believe that's about it, then, isn't it? Hadn't you better get going? If there's a good wind, you should be in Moriya in the evening. I don't imagine they'd much feature being invaded in the middle of the night, would they?”

Keine and Reimu nod and take off, leaving you, Mokou and Kaguya behind.

“Moko,” Her Highness says to her friend.
If you didn't know better, you could be fooled into thinking her voice sounds downcast, even sad.
Mokou gives her a strange look. “Kaguya.”
“Goodbye, Moko.”
“Goodbye, Kaguya.”
“I love you.”
“I know.”
“I really love you.”
“I know,” Mokou says again. “I know, believe me.”

“All right,” you chime in. “I don't mean to be interrupting, but they've already taken off, so unless you've got a lot of catching up in mind, I reckon we'd better blast off as well.”

Mokou sighs and gives you an unusually affectionate kiss. “You're right, Tiger,” she says then. “Let's get moving.”

“Excellent,” you exhale with relief. “Only, if you could, you know, gently this time around, then I'd be chuffed to—OH DEAR GOD WHYYYYY?!

The Clinic soon vanishes in the after-rain mist.

Mokou soars through the damp afternoon air as though all her troubles were looming behind and threatening to draw even. She makes nothing of the roaring wind, of the treetops below flickering past at terrifying speeds, nor of your trembling arms. She flies. She flies like her life depended on it.

But when Keine and Reimu become more than just dark points on the firmament, she slows down.

“Mokou?” you try to get her attention over the screaming current. She doesn't answer. “Sweetheart?!” you try again.

She comes to a complete stop.

“Good lord, I thought I was going to die,” you tell her in a shuddering voice. “Mokou? Is something wrong? You're—”

She doesn't let you finish.

All of a sudden, she grasps you tighter and dives straight for the ground.

She tears through the thicket of branches with you in tow. She crashes savagely into the moist soil and even before the drops of water manage to fall, she throws you brutally against the nearest tree trunk.

“Close your eyes!” she barks, grasping at your collar.
“What—” you barely get your voice out.

And close your eyes you do.

She kisses you. Harshly, fiercely. Greedily.


It's quiet here. The thundering wind is gone. Your ears ring. It's quiet.

Mokou pulls away and wipes her eyes with a sleeve. She must have gotten some water in her eyes when she was ripping through the treetops. They're still wet. Her big, beloved eyes are wet.

But her voice is steady as steel. “Do you know what you're doing, Tiger? Honestly? Do you absolutely know what you're doing?”
“No,” she says quickly. “I don't want your stupid sodding jokes. I want the truth. Do you know what you're doing?”

[ ] “I do.”
[ ] “What do you mean?”
[ ] “I do, but I don't think you do.”
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[x] “I do” you state firmly and resolutely.
[x] “...But just for the record, what specific thing are you asking me about? Please elaborate so that I may be able to as well.”
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[x] “What do you mean?”
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[ ] “I do.”
at times like these I guess you're supposed to be certain about things you're not certain that you are certain of. And I presume she's asking about going to moriya so...
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That's the first thing that comes to mind, yes. But then the way she's acting... you have to wonder if it's not something more along the lines of "Do you know what you're doing? Do you know what you're doing to me? You keep getting close to other women. I don't like it."

Maybe I'm over thinking it a bit. It seems too emotional, though.
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That's likely but to be honest, even I have no idea of what's going on.
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I did consider it and it very well could be it as well, I'm as confused as you are and I figured that we already talked about it a bunch...tho how the kiss was described...I have no idea where this is going and I love it.
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[x] “What do you mean?”

Yeah, lies are bad.
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[x] “I do” you state firmly and resolutely.
[x] “...But just for the record, what specific thing are you asking me about?"

The rest is us doing are jokes..which she just asked us to not do.
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[x] “I do, but I don't think you do.”
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now this is what I call real art
A'ighty-o, I think that decides it. I'll be putting this story on sort-of-hold, folks. I might update it from time to time, I might not. I've got a few reasons, but I don't reckon you care to hear them, so I won't bore you.
If you've got questions, either ask here (and don't forget to sage) or find me in the usual places.
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At least keep updating TiitS.
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[X] “I do.”

This is a question for a thousand points and fifty extra: do you know what you’re doing? To answer that, you would have to go all the way back to the beginning, and, as little miss Akyu has told you, the beginning is hot, sticky, and chock-full of dead dinosaurs. You do not want to go anywhere, least of all the beginning.

Ancient Aztecs knew this as well: the world is falling face-first into shit and there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s why, knowing everything was steadily going to shit, they invented the calendar, to keep track of how much closer to shit each following day was. You could wonder where it all began – when exactly the world stopped being a reptilian paradise and started going to the toilet, but you would run into a wall and keep smashing your head against it if you did that, because people have always known it’s useless to wonder about beginnings. Many have tried; but there’s just no one answer to how snowplough drivers get to work, or where the writers of dictionaries look up the spelling of words, and that’s the end of it.

Or the beginning.

Mokou’s hair-stuck face reminds you just where you were at the start of this particular tangent. Almost puking your guts out high in the storm-torn sky, fleeing from the Clinic in the Bamboo Forest – but more importantly, fleeing from a conglomeration of shit, bull, and a whole lot of hacked-off villager with your former boss at the head. All of it because of Keine. Your first love in this world – and a whole world of trouble to go with it.

This is what you get after weeks of mixed signals: bronchitis in the making, and the signals turn out to be your fellow villagers crying for blood. Wonderful. Complete bollocks, too – but mostly wonderful.


Mokou treats your summary of the events to a scowl that says, for all your rhetoric mastery, it doesn’t quite express the severity of the situation. Her comments are silenced, though, when you strike a finger across the line of her mouth.

“I do,” you say. “I do know what I’m doing.”

How could you not? You need but to remember a while back to know what you were doing and how oh god so terrifying it was. Mokou, bizarrely, doesn’t seem to trust you enough to take your word.

So you give her a couple more.

“I know what I’m doing, sweetheart,” you tell her, “and I know where this might end up. Some kind of Hell, I am sure. Though for clarity’s sake, it would help to know what exactly you mean at the particular moment because – how shall I put it? – I am prone to doing many things at once. Like breathing. Or not dying.”
Mokou, a mess of girl, hair and wet clothes, wipes a sleeve across her face. She’s no less mess after that, but you didn’t expect much in the first place. “You and your sodding jokes...”
“Sorry. That’s how I cope. You know this.”
“I do.” She echoes you, making nothing of copyright infringement notices. “I do know that. I still don’t like them.”
“Sweetheart, I’m telling you, I know what I’m doing. Sure, I don’t know why and I’m not one-hundred-percent positive how, but I sure as hell know what. Keine needs to get to Moriya; we’re flying there. To be honest I don’t trust this plan a whole lot, and at this point I wouldn’t trust Keine farther than I could throw her, but I would never throw her against her will, so let’s just forget everything I said.” You clear your throat, somehow managing to keep your lungs snugly inside your chest cavity. “We got a talk about this at school, actually,” you tell her. “There’s a lot of things girls aren’t supposed to do, so what we do is we don’t tell them about it so they will keep doing them. The same holds for boys, I suppose. And, since nobody’s telling me anything, my hands are more or less bound. More more than less, but...”

You hang your arms up in a gesture of complete and utter defeat in the face of the Universal law.

Mokou shakes her head – her pretty, pretty head – and surrenders. Slowly – as befits a girl who treats surrender as something that happens to other people.

“This is crazy, you know,” she murmurs.
You give her an encouraging smile. “Sweetheart, inside every sane person there’s a crazy person waiting to get out. Just pretend it’s our turn.”
Again, her hair lashes cold little droplets left and right as she does another shake. “You don’t understand, Tiger. This is crazy.”
“It’s just...”
“Crazy. Yes, I know.” You pet that troublesome hair. “Still. You know what’s crazy, Mokou? The fact that you fly. The fact that my memories have been screwed with then put back together and no one bats a lash. The fact that Keine, our little bird, is suddenly wanted dead by the people who she has served for – good God, I don’t even know how long. That’s crazy. What we’re doing now, though? That’s not crazy. That’s going against the crazy. That’s anti-crazy, if you don’t mind me reinventing words for the sake of my argument. We’re not crazy, sweetheart. We’re anti-crazy. We’re crazy busters. We take the crazy, drag it into a dark alley, and make an honest, upstanding citizen out of it.”

Mokou’s lips crack into a barely suppressed smile.

“But you know what’s even crazier?” you strike on. “The fact that I love you – a flying, fire-spitting, wrist-cracking gasoline queen of a girl, and that you love me – a guy who can’t fly, whose only skill seems to be with undoing bras, and who somehow knows who invented the calendar, but not how snowplough drivers get to work. That’s not just crazy. That’s absolutely bonkers. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.” You take her chin in two hands and take her lips – just briefly, nothing too fiery. “So let’s shake a leg and get out of here, before I completely lose it and start hovering like a big warm-air balloon.”

Mokou’s expression melts; and out of the aftermath, like the Sun from the rain, looms a smile so warm, so lovely, that your heart forgets its job for a moment, and the rain seems to shrink and scuttle away.

When it returns, the smile is gone, but the memory of it is there. That’s all that remains, though.

Mokou, now again all herself, takes a hold of your wrists. “You and your sodding jokes... Yes, you’re right.” She takes your hands down from her face to her sides. “That is even crazier. But there’s some sense in it I intend to get at sooner or later. So do your best and try to deal with that other thing. That’s for later, though. Getting out of here sounds like sex right now. So let’s.”
“Get out.” She weighs her own quip for a moment. “You’re rubbing off on me, Tiger. That was awful.”
“You said that,” you say, disgruntled. “We’ll care for it later. Right now, I can’t wait to go airborne again.”
“Getting used to it?”
“Wanting to leave it all behind, rather,” you grunt. “I’ll take sex with you any day, but flying’s just bloody too much for me.”
Mokou furrows her brows. “You make it sound like a bad thing.”
“Not really. It’s good, I grant you. Nice and fast. I just hate the grounds.”
“I meant the—” Mokou makes a groan. “Must you make me say these things, Tiger? You do realise I am still confused about it all, don’t you? No, not about sex,” she cuts your question short. “This whole thing. We’re going away; who knows how long we’ll be there – if we will ever come back here. And if we do, how will it all greet us? I’m not too fond of being treated like target practice for the children in the Village, and if I’m associated with Keine now... Look, I just don’t know. And Kaguya...” She bites her lip. “This is like home to me, did you know that, Tiger? I love this place. I used to hate it, but now... Now, it is home. To you, too – isn’t it? You aren’t here because you wanted, but... You understand, right? I’m just... at home, here. Aren’t you? Is there anything that... draws you, to this place?”
“You do.”
“Tiger, please—”
“You do,” you say again. “So even if I’m going elsewhere, but you are with me, my heart will find a way.”

Mokou stares at you for a while. Then, having made sure she hasn’t misheard, she makes a frown.

“Are you sure you’re OK, Tiger? Are you feeling unwell? That was so terribly romantic I thought you’d been swapped out.”
“Wasn’t it just? At times I wonder why I even bother.” You sigh. “At any rate, sweetheart, this inaction is doing nothing for my heart. And it’s liable to get at my lungs instead any time soon. So let’s leave the twittering for later and get us some move-on; Keine and Reimu might just start looking for us if they see we aren’t on their tail anymore, and to tell you the truth I’m not looking forward to plucking them out of this bloody forest one by one at all.”
“Right.” Mokou nods her head seriously.
“No arguments?”
“Not on that, no. I said my goodbyes.”
“Then let’s get this show on the road.”
“Let’s,” she agrees.

For the first time in all of five minutes, neither of you are joking.

She was joking – right?

At any rate, once you’re in a comfortable – or agreeable – position latched to her side, she turns at you with one last question.

“Anything else, Tiger?”
“Well,” you say after a cough, “first of all, I really, really love you, so—”
“I won’t drop you, Tiger, not if you don’t start whinging again. I was asking if you had anything else to tell me before we re-join our happy little party.”

Well, did you?

[ ] “Yes. Enough acting. Time Keine grew some bollocks and got used to the idea of me never getting in her pants. Sob.”
[ ] “Let’s try to keep our burning love under a lid so it doesn’t cause any hot steam explosions while we’re in Moriya, why don’t we?”
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[x] “Yes. Enough acting. Time Keine grew some bollocks and got used to the idea of me never getting in her pants. Sob.”
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[x] “Let’s try to keep our burning love under a lid so it doesn’t cause any hot steam explosions while we’re in Moriya, why don’t we?”

Out to take over /shrine/ again?
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[x] “Yes. Enough acting. Time Keine grew some bollocks and got used to the idea of me never getting in her pants. Sob.”

On the off chance that this isn't a once off update.
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[X] “Yes. Enough acting. Time Keine grew some bollocks and got used to the idea of me never getting in her pants. Sob.”

That’s a rhetorical question if you’ve ever seen one; because if there is one thing which life has taught you in your years, it is that you always have something to say, except those few times when you are told to “say something” by someone else, which is usually when your tongue escapes into your oesophagus, and your mind takes a summer hike for the Himalaya. Saying things, most of all somethings is a complex enterprise, one which is often as difficult as it is underappreciated. It is an ability not unlike the one to fold a map – every man is born with it, and the only times it founders are when they give it too much thought for its own good. Now isn’t such a time.

Now is a time when you yank your tongue out from your gullet and bloody answer the question.

“Yes,” you start. “I’ve had about enough of tiptoeing. I’m going to be honest.”
“Why start now?”
The snub does not escape you (and well, because you would loathe to have to chase it through this sodden forest), and you let it draw a miserable expression up on your face. “You wound me, Mokou, you wound me. What I was saying, it is high time Keine grew some bollocks and got used to the idea of me never getting into her pants. This is a terrible thing, because Keine has been a dear to me for as long as I can remember, and no doubt she will require some time to mourn this loss. It’s all very sad, really. Sob,” you add, just to drive the point home. Then you smile. “On the bright side, it might just spare you a couple burnt knickers.”
“On the bright side, my arse.”
That’s a bright side all right, you think; but what you say is, “I was joking. I do that sometimes.”
“So,” Mokou says, “that mean we can sleep together finally without offending her senses?”
“Hopefully. Still, let’s try to ease her into it; small sense in kicking up a shitstorm now. So no outbursts of affection like that one back there. We’re still on shaky ground, Mokou. I can’t begin to guess at what we’ll find in Moriya, and if we’re to plough through it with no KIAs, I need our team on their toppest toes.”
“Guess we’ll have to try and be quiet then.”

Try, you are sure, being the key word.

You dare a look upward at the lattice of branches crisscrossing the sky – the grey, grey sky you will be meeting again very close very soon. There, up overhead, the hole which Mokou ripped in the forest roof with her emergency landing glares down on you with an unspoken grudge – not unlike a dull, unblinking eyeball which has been left out in the Sun too long. Before long you will stab that eyeball in the pupil and be on your merry way back into the thick of it. The thick of bull, crock and shit. All of a sudden, staying just five more minutes seems like the best thing in the world right after swivelling office chairs.

And then, just as suddenly, you realise your fatal slip in this game – this game you have been unwillingly playing ever since the day you decided not to settle down and leave a peaceful, village life and be yourself instead.

You forgot to open your hand.

That’s an important part of any game: always make it easy for people to give you money; and what you’ve done is whittled these last few days clinching your fists, baring your teeth, and being a generally very difficult person to give money to without getting bit.

“You know, this might just be the first time.”
Mokou gives you a quizzical look, not quite confident if she is about to have her soft bits torn into, or another wisdom bestowed upon her against her will. “What’s a first time, Tiger?”
“This,” you tell her, flicking your hand around. “Well, not the forest – but this. All of this. This may be the first time in my life when I had to care for more than one person at a time.” The one person being yourself. “See, there’s you. Then there’s Keine. Even Reimu... Am I forgetting anyone?”
“About five score of them, some with pitchforks.”
“Well. Seems someone’s got a lonely evening coming then.” You essay a draught of the wintery air. It comes out lukewarm into the afternoon. “Anyhow, we’d best be on our way. And if you could do me a favour, sweetheart – gently this time.”
To your shock, Mokou makes a nod. “OK.”

Your feet lose support as she lifts you – gently – off the forest floor, gaining for the opening above. The air cools steadily with rising altitude, finally the world opening up and the cold winds of the airspace over the woods making a blasting return in your hair and clothes.

Still, with your insides not clambering up your throat, this much is nothing.

“Well,” you murmur, to no one in particular, “I am almost disapp̡o҉int̴e͠d͘.”

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Someone clever once said: people tend to bear more than one kind of trouble at a time. Some bear all of three – all they have had, all they have now, and all they expect to have. That someone was wrong. At once when the place called Moriya appears from the everlasting forest, you make an amendment to the theory.

There are days when you don’t bear any troubles. Those days are Yesterday and Tomorrow.

Today is neither.

From a bird’s eye view, Moriya is evident to have been built slaved to its central boulevard, side-streets and alleys growing out of it like the sprays of crawling ivy. At the centre, where the widest crosses with the main thoroughfare, an open plaza with fountains, market and rainbow flowerbeds is alive with people. Some two miles distant, upwards a nearby slope, the boulevard comes to an end in the gateway of a shrine that dwarfs the one nearby the Human Village by half. Even now, you can see lights marking the road all the way from the plaza to the temple, tiny shapes working diligently up the trail.

But what hopes you nursed of this one being a quiet, out-of-the-way place to lie low and hide, they are dashed by the sprawling, bustling town below.

“Hold up!” you hear Mokou bark, coming to a mid-air stop. “Someone’s up.”

Tearing your eyes from the scary, scary ground, you are met with a similarly tiny shape making rounds up in the air. Mokou squints her eyes at the figure, flexing her hand with all the dispatch of a drug addict about to take a jab, when, without a warning, the contact makes a full 180 and breaks for the two of you at what you perceive to be at least Mach 15.

You don’t have three nerve-wracking breaths past when the shape regains the familiar colours of an angry shrine maiden. Mokou relaxes her everything as Reimu pulls to a stop some few metres away.

“You are late!”

“We fell behind,” you explain before shots are let fly. “Rain. Where’s Keine?”

Reimu eyes your clothes suspiciously, but the matter of her caretaker vies the basest of her instincts. “Follow me.”

She leads you to a line of houses on the rim of the town, far from the crowded main square. As infallible as a Soviet traction-engine, she picks one of the indistinctive bunch, rounding past the vacant windows to its backyard. Mokou takes you in in pursuit, coming down on the untended lawn. Freed from her arms, you make the last few shaky steps yourself, afresh getting used to the sensation of ground below the soles of your feet. The ground is solid all right – though your feet are everything but.

Here, in the fenced-off garden threaded through with overgrown weeds and molehills, you find your beloved Keine.

“Hullo,” you strike up a friendly conversation. “How’s things? All good? Not shot on the way in, I hope?”
The beautiful teacher takes a second to realise you weren’t being serious. “N—No, I... I’m good. Yes. Just good.”
“Well isn’t that a relief. Now, what’s all this—”
“Keine!” You are overridden by the shrine maiden charging past your shoulder and joining at Keine’s side. “What’s wrong?”
Keine shakes her head. “I can’t fit the key...”
“What? Show me.”

You move in closer to find the object of their consternation to be a padlocked trapdoor in the ground adjacent to the house – a basement or a sort of medieval-age atomic shelter, though why a shelter should be locked from the outside is anyone’s guess, so you settle for the former option.

Keine notices your momentary confusion. “The front door’s stuck,” she explains the entirely wrong issue. “The windows are latched from the inside, too. We—We could get in through the basement, but...”
“The key doesn’t fit.”
A nod. “Yes.”
“Sod the key.” Mokou shoves past you, irritation plain on her face. “Is this your house, Keine?”
“Kind... Kind of. Why?”
“Back off.”

At a loss of ideas, but entirely against the one where all their extremities are blown off by a sudden firestorm, both the teacher and the shrine maiden make space for the fiery-tempered girl.

Mokou approaches the trapdoor. Her eyes narrow, measuring the metal point of contention, her brows furrowed in an expression of utter disgust for locked, or otherwise inoperable, doors of any and all stripe.

Then, losing none of the contempt, she makes a wide, sweeping kick that sends the padlock flying in pieces towards the nearest bush.

“How sodding old was that thing? Tiger, come, help me with this.”

With your help, the wings of the trapdoor are lifted open, rusted hinges screaming like teenage girls at a boys band concert. A stale, tepid exhalation gusts from the basement’s mouth, and you recoil from the whiff of old dust and spoiled pickles. Mokou takes one look down the hole to attire an entirely different grimace.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking, Tiger?”
“Well,” you say, “if we put little wheels on our shoes we could just roooooll everywhere...”
“That’s not what I’m thinking.”
“I know,” you grunt, producing a torch from your inventory and clicking it on. “Ladies first, I suppose.”

Your jump down and feel your boots touch down on something hard, which, while not generally the desired quality when dropping into dark holes, in this case proves comfortingly reliable. Mokou descends after you, striking an incandescent orb of flame from her palm as her own little light.

The cellar is lined with rough cobblestone, long and narrow; its walls fringed with ruined woodwork shelves – apparently unused for many, many years. Sweeping your light along the ceiling you discover long-abandoned cobwebs, blackened and thick with pervading dust. A few of the shelves have broken apart, tossing their load to the floor, spraying the stone with chips of glass and decayed foods. The stink you smelt earlier came from one such unfortunate container.

“Clear,” you say. Your voice sounds dulled and hollow in this enclosed space.
“But not very clean,” Mokou returns, examining the shelves. She wrinkles her nose in revulsion. “Sodding hell. Go on?”

The two of you proceed cautiously to the far staircase as, on your backs, Keine and Reimu climb into the secured chamber, sealing the trapdoor behind them.

The way to the rest of the house gives as easily as the padlock outside to the might of Mokou’s boot.

With her at your side, you begin a regular sweep of the house, scanning the hallways and switching between the rooms with what could be called cat-like agility, except you don’t stop to relieve yourself on the once-expensive furniture every other room. Once the building yields nothing but the utmost lack of human life forms, you regroup with the teacher and shrine maiden in the kitchen, delivering the good news.

“We’re all clear for now. What next?”
Keine, glancing up from a chair she pulled from some darker corner of the house, parts the ruffled hair from her eyes. “We must see the priestess here,” she says. “Sanae. She knows who I am; Reimu, too. She will see us. She must. Only we need to—”
“Not today.” Reimu turns from the curtains of the window she’s been looking out all this time. “Today won’t do.”
“Why?” you ask her.
“Too many people,” she says grimly. “They must be holding some ceremony. The pilgrims way is mobbed. I won’t risk Keine getting spied. And I doubt Sanae’d volunteer to hear us out in the middle of her observances. We must wait.”
“How long?” Mokou chips in.
The shrine maiden makes a shrug. “However long it takes.”
“Which means?”
“However long it takes,” Reimu insists, stamping her shoe. “Look, don’t you worry. I’ll take watch. I’ll fly out now and then and check for a window. Sooner or later we’ll get one. I can’t much feature it’ll last till tomorrow...”
“If it does,” you make certain, “can we overnight here? Keine?”

The teacher nods meekly.

“Yes,” she promises. “As long as we keep the curtains drawn...”
“Fine. Mokou,” you call, “fridge?”
“Empty,” she reports. “No, wait... Hold that, never mind, it’s empty. Ew.
You straighten your back and crack your knuckles. “Then out for supplies we go.”
“We, Tiger?” Mokou folds her arms on her chest. “Who’s we?”
“Good question. Obviously someone’ll have to stay and watch Keine. Obviously can’t be me, for reasons you’re likely sick of hearing. So I’ll go mobile. They don’t know me here, either, so that’s also to the good. But I’ll need a bodyguard, too.”
Who, Tiger?” demands Mokou.

Who indeed?

[ ] “Mokou, you’re up. Just in case, I want the heaviest artillery with me.”
[ ] “Reimu, you know your way around. We’ll be round faster with the two of us.”
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[x] “Mokou, you’re up. Just in case, I want the heaviest artillery with me.”
We shouldn't have more than 50% of the girls within our group angry at us.
In the codex astartes this maneuver is known as 'henpecked bitch'
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[x] “Mokou, you’re up. Just in case, I want the heaviest artillery with me.”

Locals might have a problem with Reimu
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[x] “Mokou, you’re up. Just in case, I want the heaviest artillery with me.”
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Well, it’s been a while since I’ve seen that.
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Don't suppose anyone knows what doujin(s) those panels were taken from?
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[X] “Mokou, you’re up. Just in case, I want the heaviest artillery with me.”

When in doubt, hire the man with the biggest stick.

“Mokou, you’re up.”
Mokou makes no effort to work a shred of gratitude past her scowling. “Tiger. You thought something funny just now, didn’t you?”
You make wide eyes. “I would do that?”
“Well, I saw you smiling at your own perceived cleverness for a second there.”
“I was smiling at you, sweetheart. Not my cleverness.”

You hazard a premature end of the world to enjoy the fleeting pull of disappointment at calling her the private pet name in front of the other two women. Out the corner of your eye, you register Keine reacting with the best lack of reaction she can muster in her current state. All things considered, she does a well enough job of clamping her mouth shut only a few seconds after it fell open. Something in a more clouded part of your brain tells you what a bloody fool you are, but you kill the something with a knife thrust to the thing and toss its limp body in the Shooter sewers. When the Shooter police arrive, they will find nothing but a spatter of something on the alley wall, and you will be long away, sipping cold milk from a hollowed-out coconut shell on the sunny Shooter Isles. It is a perfect solution, and one which you dislike immensely. At the end of the day, though, you still do it. Why? Simple enough.

You and Keine are not lovers. You never shagged. You never kissed. You never went to the movies with the sole intention of disturbing the other viewers with sounds like a broken vacuum cleaner against a slab of meat. There was never anything like it between you two.

You and Keine were never lovers. To put it simply, you are like two hummingbirds that were never lovers either.

“Tiger! You’re doing it again!”
“Oh.” Mokou’s flagrant misuse of biological nomenclature jars you back to the present. “Yes. Figured you’d like another smile to complete the set. You’ve been short of smiles these last couple of days.” You brave through her volcanic glare. “Anyhow, yeah, you’re coming with me. Just in case, I want the biggest guns with me. Not that I expect any trouble – outside the trouble I’ve been conditioned to expect. Which is all of it. So I want you at my side when shit inevitably starts flying.”
“Hopefully we’ll do without that.”
“Hopefully,” you agree fervently. “Well, and besides, we were long overdue for a date anyway.”

Sooner than any – anyhow belated – conclusions can be drawn, you spin around to where Keine is seated. You give her no chance to question your masterful choice of words as you give her the full shock of your hand slapping on the flaking wall beside her.

“Now, Keine,” you overrule whatever complaints she has about it, “you will stay here and remain in the house. Hold this position, so to say. And I do mean hold; no sudden motions without me, understand? I am sure they would be justified, logical, hard-working and polite to their mothers, but motions – those things have the most infuriating tendency to come back and bite you in the arse. And let me tell you, I like my arse, Keine. It covers the bottom of my back. So no sudden motions, got it? Nor you!” you caution the gloomy shrine maiden. “Any motions I see, I will bite them in the arse – pre-emptively. Are we clear? Stay in the house. Got it? Any objections? No? Then I’ll just burn rubber then. Mokou. EXFIL now.”

You storm out the derelict kitchen, Mokou in tow.

Mokou speaks up as you climb the dusty staircase to the upper floors of the building.

“What is it?”
“You do realise you are painfully transparent when you’re trying to cover your nervousness with that kind of bollocks, don’t you?”
You sigh. “Mokou, sweetheart, you are doing nothing for my bollocks.”
“That wasn’t my intent. Aren’t we taking the cellar?”
“No. We’ll take a window, now that we’re on the inside.”
“That’s a relief.”
“Tell me about it. I’ve been afraid of cellars since Home Alone.

Mokou ignores your gibbering and only watches your six as you inch open one of the second floor doors and, for no reason but the simplest habit, check the room beyond again. The room proves empty, and, just because you are such a nice young man, holds no more beautifully shaken teachers to wreck your nerves even further.

Your partner comes in behind and shuts the door with a click.

“That was nice of you, though.”

A pair of warm arms slides under yours from behind and closes across your chest. You would jump – if you hadn’t known a jump right now could ram the back of your skull into Mokou’s forehead, effecting a chain reaction that might end with the president of the United States saying, “Fuck it” and booking it to Mars in hopes of a better tomorrow.

Mokou chuckles in your ear.

“I can hear your gears grinding all the way from here.”
“That isn’t a very long way.”
“No,” she admits in the face of overwhelming evidence. “Not at all. Not a very long one, no... Tiger,” she says all of a sudden, “have you ever wondered what your sin is?”
“Most of the time I’m a fan of all seven.”
“No, you’re not. You’re a good boy. Too good.
You jump again – almost. Almost again? But you blink your astonishment, and that’s one positive in the world. “T—Too good?” you stammer out. “Me?”
“Well...” Mokou sounds like second thoughts. “Sort of. Sometimes. Sodding hell, I nearly forgot what I was going to say.”
Not an everyday occurrence, huh! the stupid Shooter screams into the mic on his pulpit, but the more reasonable reasonable Shooter cuts the link before the worst can happen. Then, clearing his throat, he proceeds in a smooth falsetto, “W—Well, what were you?”
“What I was,” Mokou gives up, shifting from leg to leg, “was say that you are too considerate of others, Tiger. Keine will deal with this. Sodding hell, I don’t like her; but she is not daft, and she has more years on her back than she would care to confess. She won’t blame you for this – for anything. Nor will anyone else. Keine is a meddling old cow, true, but she is not blind. Nothing will go... tits-up just because you were honest with her for once. Nothing will start falling apart at the seams the moment you turn your back. With the four of us, we could tear the Moriya a new one and no stupid yokel arse would be stupid yokel arse enough to stand in our way. Not with the four of us. We will be all right. You worry at things you really, really shouldn’t. Come the worst to the worst, I will burn the whole mountain down if it means getting you out safely. I swear I will, Tiger. So stop worrying.”

A few moments she is quiet, her soft breathing a recurring guest on the side of your neck.

And squirm as you might, for those brief moments, that breath holds your reins too tight to move. The warmth, too. Though you could be the coldest Shooter bastard in the whole great Universe if you put your back into it, Mokou would melt you like toffee with just these arms. Well, the breasts too, let’s be honest, you think, but for the moment you push the thought aside. Time for breasts will be aplenty when this pot of toss is out of view. The trick now, you recognise, is to throw it high enough in the air so that, when it comes down, you will be far too far for it to give chase and jump your boot again.

No, this boot already belongs to someone else.

“... Tiger?” Mokou’s voice is uncertain. “Are you there? Was... Was that too cheesy after all?”
Try not to laugh and you will see the morrow. “What, that? No, sweetheart. Not by what I usually do. You could outpace me at two hundred metres, but you couldn’t out-cheese me if you were to plate yourself in Emmentaler and go give the French a good scare.”
“You’re not making sense, Tiger – as always.”
You have to give it to her – here at least she has the right. “Mokou, you’re my girlfriend,” you inform her kindly. “You know me. I speak nonsense fluently. Can’t you face some unpleasant facts?”

Mokou retracts her arms. The warmth on your back lingers – for a second or a half – before it, too, is gone. You would raise a cry of anguish, but you aren’t let to. Nor are you much partial to melodrama at the moment.

“But you can face me, Tiger,” you hear behind you.

And that much you do.

Mokou is the loveliest-blushing girl in the world when you turn around – but, then again, that is sophistry and she would have been regardless of your turning, around or otherwise.

What is not sophistry is that your breath is caught in your throat when she yanks you down to kiss you. Mokou’s kisses do that, sometimes. This is not exactly new. You already knew that. Sure, it doesn’t do anything to hedge against it happening, but you did. You are looking incredibly silly, being kissed with your eyes as white and round as soccer balls, but you aren’t in the wrong here. You cannot help it. You are the victim of the circumstance. And kisses. Mostly circumstance, but kisses too. Whosever they happen to be.

Maybe they were right, you wonder.

Maybe there always is a silver lining.

Mokou is a portrait of satisfaction when she pulls out, releasing your shirt.

“Now, but what do you think she would say if she saw this?” she asks in a chirpy voice.

You could say many things. You could say you don’t give a care. You could say it doesn’t matter – that, if the Moon were about to break orbit and come crashing down on Earth this instance, you would stop it in its tracks with the sheer glow of your indifference. You could tell her many things. You could even do many things – including, but not exclusively, snatching her up on your arms, carrying her downstairs, and making out right there on Keine’s lap, leaving her confused as to her role in the entire ordeal. You could give her a thousand answers, each one more awfully contrived than the last.

You give her the one that most suitably communicates your feelings on the matter.


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Wow, such eloquence.

I like how this story the man is the one outclassed (as opposed to TiiTS, although Satori turned it out in the end)
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At times, you are happy you aren’t gay.

The thought might seem random, but watching Mokou threading through the swarming market of Moriya it is nothing short of natural. Men and women aren’t exactly the same; you knew that – you were taught that at school. But where they differ remains grounds for day-to-day scientific discovery. This is why, taking an inconspicuous flank as she enquires for the price at yet another bloody stall, you rejoice quietly you aren’t of the less fair inclination. Mokou, irrespective of her quirks, remains firmly a woman, and when women are in high spirits, they watch copious amounts of TV or go shopping. Men tend to invade another country instead. It’s a whole different world of thinking, and this is merely one of its many mysteries. For this one, though, you are illimitably glad. Being a pack mule beats by half being used for target practice. Even if the pack mule stands out like a sore thumb.

The market is a wonderful thing.

This, coming from persona (now non grata) Humana Villagea, may seem sardonic – especially in the light of the usual hostilities between your hitherto place of living and this alien town – but even you cannot help a pang of jealousy at the riches here offered. Foods and drinks just for starters; but here and there you witness contraptions of crudely smelted metal bolted together for some unknown purpose, being sold (and cried for) by uniformed girls of varying size and age. Something approaching a steam engine puffs away beside their headquarters, its use as much an enigma as the whereabouts of your dignity. The construction is hulking and ugly. The girls, not so. Overall they strike a neat balance.

There is a lot of silence in this place. There is more than a lot of silence, which comes up to a lot of noise, since, as everyone knows, enough silent things can make a lot of noise. The things mostly keep to their own business, flitting about between stalls, conversing with the sellers or measuring their ability to purchase the next tasty morsel. Some of the things sport parts that could not be human if you had one eye and a bad cataract. Eyes, ears, hands, or otherwise noticeable protrusions – anything goes in this parody of genetics. This isn’t just a pair of flopping bunny ears doing terrible things to your attention. You spot a cloaked figure companioning a small woman in floral robes.

You knit your brows and attempt a tally of her eyes.

Un, deux, trois... merde! The couple completes their pass and you lose sight of them among the crowd. Fromage! She had three of ze bloody thinques!


Mokou saddles another paper bag of produce in your arms. At the same time, she wonders what you have been ogling this time.

“Nothing,” you tell her, cutting off any and all allegations of doing something for once. “This bloody place gives me the wibbly-wobblies. What is that?
“‘That,’” says Mokou, following your stare, “is a person, Tiger. One who just sold you your supper. They know their cookery, these Moriyans. Got to hand it to them. Maybe I should ask about those spices...”
“You cook?”
“You don’t?”
“Yeah, but you—”
Mokou gives you the another-word-and-I’ll-be-wearing-your-arse-as-a-hat stare. “I do cook, Tiger,” she tells you pointedly. “And if you shut your pretty mouth, you might just enjoy the full benefits of it later today. If you shut your pretty mouth.”

You picture yourself putting your hands up in capitulation, but, for the loaded state of your arms, this is all you do. Mokou seems to read your mind. She turns on a heel and resumes her patrol.

“This is odd, though,” you mark, following her down the mobbed lane. “That they use the same coin here as in the Hum—er, back home. Given all the unpleasantness... Maybe I expected some more animosity – something petty as refusing the coin of their enemies. Why is that?”
“That’s because you are a petty arse, Tiger, and you judge the world by your standard.”
“I didn’t mean that...” You try to sound hurt.
Mokou makes a sigh. “I was joking, Tiger. There aren’t many places to find precious metals in this country. Much of it remains uncharted, sure, so maybe there’s deposits they haven’t found yet, but that is an enterprise entirely too large for these... uh, people. Much easier to use whatever’s readily available.”
“Our coin.”
“Your coin,” Mokou agrees. “Well, they have a way with acquiring that, you have to admit.”

Too good a way, you concur, hefting the bags in your arms.

Mokou makes a checkpoint at another stall, and you step off to the side of the street, sparing yourself from the dubious existence of a human roadblock. As your partner negotiates the pricing with an aged seller as wrinkled as her apples, you shut off the higher functions of your brain and look around.

Had an overzealous C in C got into their head to send you off to the worst imaginable surrounds to keep guard, this would be it. This is bad terrain. At once void of cover, but terribly exposed. A stray shot could take the life of a vendor and then ruin someone’s dinner on the other side. Then with this crowd panicking...

What is with this rush, anyhow? Were these only women scuffling for the best deals, you would have understood. Shopping is a woman sport. Men have volleyball and soccer. Women enjoy the scrimmage, the noisy crowds, the danger of being trampled to death, and the ecstasy of the purchase. Men just want to kick a little ball around. What was God thinking when he made women how they are anyhow? But it is known God has a number of stoutly-held views, most of which concern the flaying of those who disapprove of them, especially people between the ages of twenty and thirty, having a footloose attitude to life, and too much free thinking time on their hands. So you shut up, adding your mental silence to the troupe of silences already buzzing above the teeming market.

The silence cracks and becomes rather less than silent when you make out a familiar face in the mob.

“What in the hell—”

You aren’t positive – can’t be – and it is a flash before the face blends into the environs, swallowed into the medley of heads and shoulders. But there it was. Or did you just imagine it?

You steal a glance at Mokou, still engaged in sweet acts of negotiation. She does not notice.

A muted squeak jolts up your jaw as you clench your teeth. You might still catch them if you give chase now, but if turns out you were mistaken... Never mind stirring up a commotion when you are supposed to be on the quiet. You’ve had about enough of angry mobs snapping on your heels, but that might be the very outcome if your eyes weren’t fooling you back then. Now’s when I could use that bloody time-out, you hiss inwardly. Nobody is listening.

Your gears begin to grind in the earnest.

[ ] “Mokou! Leave it! Break and follow! I’ll explain later.”
[ ] Not now. Make like the dick and don’t stick out.
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[x] Not now. Make like the dick and don’t stick out.

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[X] Not now. Make like the dick and don’t stick out.
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That tiny [iqdb] button is your friend.

And here I thought nobody liked mopey, doormat protagonists.
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Didn't think it would actually give anything. Learn something every day I guess.
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Things happen that don’t make a lick of sense. Ahh, I want to write a Satori...
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Your Love Please Gaiden: Children Edition incoming.
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Man you never get tired of writing Satori do you? Well, to be fair, nothing's stopping you.

Hyper Super Satori Is In This Story ultra alpha ex 3 special championship edition 360 ver incoming?
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[X] Not now. Make like the dick and don’t stick out.

Still, you were injured lightly fifteen times, nine severely, and deadly four, and it is only for you are such an airy soul that you are even still alive at this point. Senseless to stick your nose in the fire now and spoil all the efforts Madame Luck has gone to to keep you out of her house just yet.

So you make like the dick – shrivel up and pretend it’s only an atomic warhead in your pants, and you aren’t happy to see whoever you construed you saw just then. The crowd shuffles on by, erecting a fleshy barrier between you and the interloper. A nub of doubt, heavy and hot, rises down in the pit of your stomach; but a nice smack later and it settles down like a good boy it is. The seed of disquiet oozes out from you bit by bit; and before long, your stiff shoulders give, softening up. A limp sigh turns out of your tired mouth. A disaster prevented, you allow yourself a mental pat on the back.

Very light, though.

Sometimes even one pat may result in an unwanted explosion.


Mokou returns from her haggling, all business woman who has seen so much shit no mere overpriced fruit will give her pause.

“I wasn’t thinking anything funny, sweetheart,” you assure her. “Just in case. Not a thing. Honest.”
“Huh.” She balances her trophies atop the pile you’re already carrying. “Just in case, I don’t believe you.”
“Would you believe one funny thing?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Two things?”
“Three and a half?”
Mokou sighs. “How about a full dozen, Tiger?”
“A fair cop, I suppose.”

Mokou, shrugging her shoulders as if she knew better anyway, looks around for the next store to economically sodomise.

As she does, your eyes dart once more to the place you saw the elusive prowler.

Something, down in the heart of your brain, tells you you’ve made a terrible mistake. That, if something happens, you will soon burn in a special level of Hell. The level usually reserved for murderers and people who talk at the theatre. That is if something happens.

You shake your head and quietly prepare for the happening.

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Nothing happens.

Keine, having gulped down the last of the supper, says her thanks and slides her plate and chopsticks away, wiping the corner of her mouth with the ball of her knuckle. Almost studiously, you trace the route of the utensils from the table, into Reimu’s hands, to the dry sink, where their brethren tinkle in celebration of the reunion. Chopsticks are funny stuff, you conclude. After twelve thousand years, chiselled stone, the wheel, cast iron, medicine, written language, gunpowder, steam engine and flying shrine maidens, most people would have worked out a pair of knitting needles isn’t the way to go at catching food. You’ve fought with them before. Chopsticks are a deadly enough tool, sure – you could skewer someone’s bacon with enough luck and practice – but they aren’t humanity’s cleverest invention. They suffer from the lack of those silly little things – like sense and bloody logic.

Nothing happens, and it rubs you the worst way.

Mokou cooked. This is an amazing thing in itself, but you suppose after all her bluster, she wasn’t born yesterday. The implications would be rather uncomfortable if she had been. The two of you finished your sweep of the market and made back for the house which, miracle of miracles, was standing in one piece when you got back. You were about to impress the ladies with your survival skill at tacking crude cooking materials of the rubbish in your inventory, when Mokou delegated you to remaining your useless self in a corner while she took the matters into her own hands – the hot, hot hands which could melt the silver from a cloud, never mind boil a pot of water.

Nothing happens; Mokou ate and excused herself upstairs afterward, the shrine maiden following just now, having seen to tidying of the table, murmuring something about the rooms. That leaves you and Keine digesting your food in an appropriate for this goal silence. The house doesn’t collapse in a roar of howitzer fire; no furious mob claws at the doors and windows. An hour or two has gone by at a tortoise pace, evening coming fast, since Reimu commanded a stand by, the chance to smuggle the teacher unnoticed up to the temple never rearing its head out from its hole. Keine disliked it enough, yes – but Keine did not see what you saw. Keine hates it for her own little reasons, and certainly not for she is quaking in her pants for the house suddenly coming down in a cloud of brick dust and splinters as you are. Not that it seems like it. Or likely like it. A house of this sort would require much more than the sole of a few boots to give in. With enough sand bags and heavy inventory it could stand a week or two before the inevitable. Without, maybe less. And even less without those machine guns.

Nothing happens, though. And it is exactly that absence of happening that sets your teeth on the edge. Any way you tear it off, you don’t like it. Not enough to charge it with fists, granted; but you don’t like it still. It feels like you’re in prison. Or in a marriage – which is like prison, except free meals.

You’ve got to do something – first with yourself, then with that nothing that keeps happening.

[ ] Go check on Mokou.
[ ] Hunt the shrine maiden.
[ ] Disturb Keine.
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[x] Hunt the shrine maiden.

Haven't spoken to reimu for a while
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Looks like it’s just you and me left. You still up? I think I could pull off a weekly.
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[x] Go check on Mokou.
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Not that I'm not tempted to cause a three-way tie, but:
[x] Go check on Mokou.
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[X] Hunt the shrine maiden.

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[X] Go check on Mokou.

And what better to do with yourself than commit to responsibility toward your loved ones?

At least one other option flashes to your mind when, screaking backward on your chair, you meet with Keine’s startled eyes; but afterthoughts are a shady business – you know this. You can’t trust them. Often you can’t even hear them coming. Just when you know you have made a good decision they worm into the back of your head, and it turns out it was something otherwise – whim, maybe, or your brain getting a hard-on.

You’ve fought hard-ons before, though. They are savage fighters, yes, but yield readily under a sound enough beating. Keine may insist on jumping and jolting in all the strategically intriguing ways, but you are past the point where any of her strategies yet held together. At this point, if she woke you up in the black hours of the night wearing nothing but a smile, you would know at once that either she or the smile are up to something, or more probably they are in a conspiracy.

“Sorry.” Standing, you attire a look of political indifference. “Not on purpose.”
Keine flutters her eyelashes in the sort of way which could drive a Bond villain to reconsider his plans of not divulging the secrets of his doomsday device in the warmth of his private bedroom, under satin sheets, basking in the afterglow of a rough 60s’ intercourse session. “Ah, no – no need, that was—”
“You’re too jumpy, Keine.” You weather a look that would have made the previous month you to blow out your brains. “Cool off. You heard what she said. We’re going to try first thing tomorrow. We chose a bad date, that’s all.” A very bad date, if Moriya isn’t a town where hallucinations are commonplace and the main attraction of the market beside the trade. “Sleep on it. Sort it out; but for now, kick back and relax. You won’t persuade her otherwise. She’d harvest my kidneys if she heard, but across the last few days I’ve found that shrine maidens come with this special look on their face they wear when they absolutely can’t be persuaded. And the look she wore after last recce – well, that was the look, Keine. So relax.”

Keine does not relax – but for all her lack of relaxation, she makes a convincing show of listening to your advice. A pale shadow of a smile on her lips, she straightens her shoulders – shoulders you are positive could do with a nice rub-down, but at once should not.

“You’re right,” she apologises. “You’re right. I can do nothing but relax now.”
You nod, the single movement shaking any and all shoulders from your mind. “Good. Then I’m going upstairs. See the rooms and all that. Anything starts ramming down the front door, just scream. Nothing does, try not to. OK?”
She graces your joke with a quiver of her mouth. “OK.”

You don’t believe her, of course. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t believe you believe her. You have believed many things in your life, many uglier and less cunning than she. You have believed yourself and still live to tell of the sport. Keine is an easy thing to believe, the eyes, shoulders and all. And if the success of tomorrow is to hang on your mutual trust, you must believe she is not leading you false.

You quit the kitchen and climb upstairs wrapped in a cloak of cautious unbelief.

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“How’s that navel then?”

Mokou turns about at the sound of your voice, curtains whishing about her in surprise. A moment and both calm; your partner drops from the windowsill, adjusting the drapery behind her back. Then, she registers the sense – or lack thereof – in your question.

“The what, now, Tiger?”
You swat an invisible fly from the air. “Oh, it’s an expression.”

The door shuts at your six, and – among the fumes of unattended questions – you take in the state of the room. The first thing to come to mind is barren; but here and there are hints of a more colourful past – past, maybe, as a guest- or bedroom for someone little interested in the art of décor. A closet, built into a niche in the wall and half-open, occupies one wall of the room; inside, the clothes of the previous owner prodding your curiosity. Giving in, you sample the wardrobe of the mysterious previous occupant with a peek – which proves plain and workmanlike, and more than a little grass-stained. A book on the bedside table reveals decidedly legible lettering, and the bed – the only other piece in the room – has plainly seen its use.

That bed, being the first and most important to your mind, is where you head. Your theories are confirmed and approved by the whine of tortured springs from below as you sit. Whoever lived here – though he is nowhere in evidence now – clearly did live here – the life of a person either very heavy, or very, very handsome.

Or perhaps, you consider a more mundane option, the Moriya just don’t know the first thing about carpentry.

“There’s sheets in the dresser down the hall,” Mokou supplies. “That is, since we’re going to need some... We’re staying the night, right?”
“Seems that way.” You remember Reimu being quite adamant about it and, for a brief part of a second, regret not stopping by to pester her about it. “Seems to me also it’s no longer me who’s in charge, too. Not that I’m complaining, mind.”
“You’re not, Tiger. Of course.”
You allow yourself a chuckle. “You, of all people, should know I’m the type to perform – not command.”
Fuh!” Mokou makes a derisive sound. “Yes; what-ever would you do without my explicit directions?”
“Not as much good to you as with those for sure.”
“You got that right, at least.” A slight pause manages to worm between you, but Mokou makes short work of it. “We’ve enough food left over for breakfast,” she says, “but unless we’re planning another supply run, we’d best move the first thing in the morning. I hope to sodding Hell that Haku—er, Reimu, knows what she’s doing. I loathe this secrecy, this... sneaking about. All of this stinks; did you know that, Tiger?”
“You sure it’s not me? I could go with a shower.”
“You showered at Kaguya’s.”
“Well, but we caught rain on the way, didn’t we? In point of fact, what I think, we could both do with a nice, long, hot shower. No? What do you think? Sweetheart?”

You twist about to steal a look at your fiery girlfriend; but all there is when you turn, is a raised eyebrow and a face wholly innocent of comprehension.

Then, something passes behind her eyes, and her brows almost come together to wrestle angrily above her nose.

“Oh, you...!” She groans. “Must you always bring our conversations down to that, Tiger? Honestly?”
You screw up your mouth. “I wasn’t—”
“Right you weren’t!”

Mokou makes another sound – just as offensive as the previous; but after tossing aside a lock of hair, she circles from the window and plops down on the tiring bed – falling someplace between your left thigh and the right. A sixteenth century Englishman might have gone out and embarked on a penitent tour of self-mutilation from the sheer indecency of such an act, but a Shooter suffers it quietly and dutifully. Your religious affiliations being another thing, when a girl sits between your legs – especially a girl of Mokou’s calibre – you should be wiser than to tell her no. It’s a simple equation, really – as simple as, say, not letting flies headbutt your front teeth by leaving your mouth open while biking really fast. Simpler than picking them from those teeth afterwards, to be sure.

And certainly simpler than actually saying anything (never mind a no) when she leans back, resting on your shoulder, sighing the tension from her chest.

“So,” she says, “what about that navel, Tiger?”

Sometimes, you think – but just sometimes, nothing serious – you feel that whoever who designed women, designed them exclusively to drive honest menfolk off their rockers with their sheer unpredictability. Men otherwise perfectly normal and well-adjusted, who would never have fancied leaving their rockers by themselves, never mind in company.

Toi, for example.

Unluckily for Mokou’s architect, you’re holding to your rocker by teeth and nails.

“It’s an expression, sweetheart,” you explain matter-of-factly.
“So you said.” Mokou shifts a bit, adjusting her position. “What does it mean?”
“Well, on its own, nothing,” you confess. “That’s just half of it. A mental shortcut, sort of. The full term is ‘navel-gazing.’ It’s when a person locks themselves away to ponder their own internal issues. It’s what I do after something bites me in the arse. Which is twice the thrice as often as I would like.”
“Six times as often?”
“Might be. Never counted exactly.”
“Are you sure you aren’t just being silly?”
“Mokou, I? Silly?” You laugh, sliding one hand in the hair above her ear, hugging her to your cheek. “You must be dreaming.”
The girl in your arms returns sourly, “I should think not. This’d make it a nightmare.”
“I can’t really take a shower now, sweetheart.”
“I know. I mean this whole thing. Maybe I am dreaming. That would explain so much. All this wait. All this—” she hesitates, “—this madness!...
“We’ve talked about this, haven’t we? The madness?” You embrace her tighter. “We are the madness, sweetheart. And if I had to say something for ourselves, it is that we are here because we want it. Not for Keine, not for Reimu, and not for Brennan’s lackey band. Were it not for you, I would have rotted to slosh back at the Clinic, Mokou. I am here because you were with me. Beyond this room there are women who would happily have left me stranded if they thought they did not need me. Behind me are men who would skin my hide if they thought I would make a nice rug. Do you really think I am doing this to impress them? I know what I want, Mokou. I want you. And did you know something? Once we’re clear of this bog, once we’re outside – I am taking you to places. Not Keine. Not Reimu. You. When the world is young,” you whisper, “when you are a finger’s breadth away – that is when I know I can live forever. There is nothing else.”

Mokou sighs. “What’s this one from, Tiger?”
“A book. I read it in a book.”
“You lie.”

The old bedroom flips on the side, its maltreated bed squeaking as you’re pushed down into it, your arms pinned at the wrists, a pair of knees clamped about your hips. And up above you, framed in her Moon-silver hair, Mokou’s smile betrays her feelings on your speech. Long, silvern threads spill and spill around your shoulders and head, like trickles of drip-water in a deep mountain cave. So they spill.

And even so when the girl dips her head – taking a kiss from your unsuspecting lips.

The kiss lasts a certain space of time.

At the end of the day, your inability to truly handle the whimsicality of women is nothing to Mokou, whose smile only grows at the blush mounted on your face once she lets it go.

“I think I’ve figured it out, Tiger.”
“Figured what?”
“The way to wrap you around my finger.”
“How so?”
“Simplicity itself. All I have to do – all I ever had to do,” she whispers, “all along, was pretend I had doubts. And you would come running to console me. That is all. Really. I cannot laugh at you enough.”

There is no laughter as she goes on staring down on you mischievously, almost a cat toying with its prey. You return the silence. The silence meets with its counterpart mid-way, gets to know it closer; soon the two get hitched, go at it like bunnies, and before you are any wise to it, a horde of their children floods crashing into the room. Silence spills over, Mokou, once again, in its epicentre.

“I wonder, Tiger,” she says, her voice musing. “Do you remember what you said to me? The first time we met? Do you remember what you said to me, when I was summoned to assist you in search of that kid who’d got lost in the woods? What did you say to me when you saw me, Tiger?”
“Hello, my name is Shooter, you killed my father, prepare to die?”
Mokou shakes her head. “No, Tiger. You don’t remember? You weren’t very, what I would call, excited about it all. Imagine that – the same you who cannot seem to leave my softer parts alone, glaring on me with mistrust. And yet, you went. You went because someone – because Keine – asked you. You always did what she asked you. So loyal. So entranced. You were like a puppy when she was near – with your little puppy eyes and your little puppy paws. What has changed since then, I wonder? And, I wonder, what hasn’t?”
“Mokou—” you begin.
“Shush, Tiger. Can we leave your ego out of this? This is important.” After you secure no reply, she continues. “At any rate, you never closed that gate, did you, Tiger? After you got to know me – even then! – you were still that pup at heart. You were still Keine’s. You were at her every service – every order, every little wish. Things change, though – right? I know some do – but do they all? You can never know what I endured for you, Tiger – what I changed just for you. You can never know what it cost me to be with you now. I know, though. That’s why I am where I am. You, on the other hand, well... let’s not talk about where you are right now.” Another pause comes, Mokou fixing the more unruly hair behind an ear; but you don’t have two heartbeats past when she traps your arm again. “You are not here because of me, Tiger,” she says. The conviction in her voice raises a knot in your throat. Mokou notes your reaction with a set so unlike her it forces you to swallow. “This is the truth, Tiger,” she says. “You aren’t here for me. You aren’t here for Reimu. Nor even for yourself. All that has happened – all that you and I, and everyone else had to go through this last week, was because of Keine. Anything else is an aside. You are here only, and only, because of Keine. You are doing it – all of it – for Keine. And you are still, as always, as ever, her pet – her cute little puppy, with its cute puppy eyes whenever she says your name. A cute little puppy, skipping and dancing when she calls you, jumping and barking and snapping your teeth to frighten off the competition. May be sodding well you will never grow out of being this puppy. May be I will always have to reckon with sharing you with that cow. But did you know something, Tiger?” She breathes in. “I don’t care.

The last statement, as suddenly as a storm on the high seas, shatters her front, the grim set cracking from her all at once like frost from a leaf. And all at once, she is again all Mokou, grinning at your stupefied gape.

“Because,” she says, glimmering with mischief, “all I have to do is look a bit unhappy and you will be right mine again.”

And she isn’t wrong.

The point has to be made that, although Mokou Fujiwara – alternate universe Miss Fahrenheit, flygirl literally, breaker of wrists and burner of burns – would look more at home with a battle-axe than a bouquet of chrysanthemums, she is currently quite openly a member of the fairer sex. And, it must be said for the fairer sex, it has a way with making exactly the sort of unhappy face which pushes all the right buttons in the male mind. All right, maybe not all of them. But enough to convince the man to mentally divide the population of Earth into those who are doing OK and those who may have possibly cocked something up recently, and put themselves on the appropriate side.

There is a gleeful pause as Mokou enjoys the look of mental gymnastics on your face.

“So,” clearing your throat, you speak up. “what did I say to you? When we first met.”
“You almost got it right just then,” Mokou says. “You said, ‘My name is Inigo Montoya.’ Then the rest.” She pauses. “You didn’t even give me your name.”

My name is Tiger Shooter Sympathy, you want to tease her. But you can’t.

A light knock from the door whisks away your words.

There is a creak. A gasp. Something halfway between a squeal and a “Sorry!” and the door closes.

Mokou and you hold a look.

At last, you sigh and speak up.

“Yeah? What is it?”
There’s just the slightest lag of hesitation before a reply comes. “N-No, nothing, I was—I was going to say I am going to sleep, I just—!”
“That’s fine,” you answer.
“F—Fine, yes... Um. W—What about you?”
“Probably will stay here for the time being. I am, er, sort of stuck, see.”
“Ah. I—I see. Yes. A—Anyway, I will go now, so—”
“Goodnight, Keine.”
“Ye—Yes. Goodnight... Shooter.”

The fading staccato of footsteps outside the room is all that fills the next few seconds.

After that, it’s all Mokou and her smile.

“How many years did that just cost you, Tiger?”
“A hundred. Or five. Or more,” you say. “Well. Not that it matters.”
“I told you just now. You are here. That means I can live forever.”
Mokou’s lips shape a mocking ‘o,’ and she grins. “Now, Tiger,” she tells you sweetly, “let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Living forever is nothing if you’re bruised and aching all over. We’ll see if you say the same thing... tomorrow.”

Oh, bloody hell, you manage to think before she locks your mouth with hers. And then, seconds later, Oh, bloody hell!

Life, to you, should be like a quiet classroom. Your friends close nearby, and someone old and wise guiding your mental efforts until you’ve ground to stand on of your own. You remember one such classroom. You did not have many friends, but what few you did were company enough for day-to-day life. Suddenly one day you raised your head and noticed something was different. It took some time, however, before you realised your teacher was a cluster of poorly concealed secrets in a less than immaculate packaging. Your friends were beginning to agitate, the secrets falling off and clunking on the floor noisily, so you raised your hand and tried to tell a joke to lighten the atmosphere.

Nobody made it out of that classroom alive.

“Stop thinking.”

Then again, when you hack off a bunch of people and still enjoy a woman’s kisses at the end of the day, that is called tactical genius and you should bear your bruises with pride.

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I dunno what's with this story. I like it quite a lot. What's your secret? Is it something as cheesy as 'love' as boring as 'red mre buk evrydai' or as anticlimactic as 'lol I dunnos'?
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>What's your secret?
It’s the cinnamon sugar swirls in every bite!
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I read this story from the start during the last few days, and I've been dying to catch up and say that both Shooter and the voters have forgotten to wrangle out some important intel out of Keine, intel we know she knows. Namely, who's the other brit she was talking to who implied having relations to the Hiedas, who gave Keine the idea to use firearms, and most importantly, what happened to the other cow
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Brennan isn't it?
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“If I had one word to say, it would be, ‘Well, shit.’”
“That’s two words, Tiger.”
“Call me generous.”

Whatever deity it was which induced the peoples of Moriya to raise its temple must have been a portly one. The roof of the first sanctuary slopes to both sides like a mountain range, its tips spun into spiralling hoops like the faces of tsunamis. Away and beyond, and all around, the courtyard goes on for hours, littered with less sizeable, but no less impressive structures of various purpose: housings for the priests, but storehouses and workshops as well, facilities of all size and stripe. The hour, being what it is (in effect, bullshit), sees these empty; but tell-tale signs of activity aren’t to be missed here. The ground is trampled, and if you have seen maintenance duties left undone for reasons ranging from mere “No time today,” to as profound as “Fuck this shit,” there are plenty of examples here. Even gods employ menials, and for a very good cause the menials are men most of the time. There’s just one problem about it. Men make mistakes. Gods aren’t supposed to.

That’s the strange thing about gods, you decide. No man treats his possessions as rashly as gods treat theirs. You respect your own God, and would do His will without a pause (or at least before that of any of His agents), but even He isn’t without His annoying idiosyncrasies. When a man’s gun breaks down, he does not attribute its failure to a sin. He does not say, “Thou art wicked, firearm, and thou shalt not be oiled until thou goeth once more.” He strips it down and attempts to fix the jam. God probably never handled a firearm in his life.

Maybe these gods are different. Then again, maybe they aren’t, and don’t need to wait the end of all times to dispose of their failed servants.

Whichever way that goes, it’s the least of your business.

Mokou looks around, squinting in the rising light. “Now where would a god go to hit the hay?”

Before you may speculate the answer, Reimu stabs a thumb at the largest building, at the same time shrugging her shoulders at how silly she thinks the question. You have to give it to her – if anyone here is the most intimate with godly whims, it is her. No, not because she flatters her clothes very well this day and her gender is very plain. More like, as a shrine maiden, it would be her job description to allay the disastrous ideas divinities around the world are prone to having the better part of the day.

There’s a thing to be said of those clothes, though.

She was wearing them when she came to stir you up before the cracking of dawn, but that’s not the important part. The important part is they were clothes you had never seen on her (or skinned off of her) before.

“You change, too, Fujiwara,” she told Mokou, whose clothes indeed could do with a change to anyone’s mind who did not think with their nether regions. You were about to protest, but then the last of the sleep milked away from your head and you thought better. “Try the dresser and see if there’s something that fits you. That’s where I found these,” the shrine maiden indicated her own, civilian getup.

It fit her, too. Almost like a glove.

Across the yard, and Reimu ushers you past the portal in the front gates of the main temple. The immediate lobby reveals itself as long and dark, lined with dozens of sliding doors, the end lost in the shadow. None of this would deter a seasoned shrine maiden, however, and Reimu strides onward, giving the first thirty-odd doors as much attention as one would a bottle of unbranded beer in the fridge of a roommate with a particularly suspect reputation.

At last she stops by one, ripping it aside and half-stepping past. Then she takes the step back and pretends nothing happened.


Other than the curse, she could have fooled you.

Keine, also equipped with a dress set from the derelict house, gives the shrine maiden a look torn between worry and rebuke. Some habits die hard. The thought dies in your head as the teacher speaks up.

“What’s wrong, Reimu?”
Reimu bites on the head of her thumb. “Sanae. She’s not here. This is her room. Was, usually.”
“What now?” Keine asks, joining the shrine maiden at the open doorway. “Are you sure? Could she have gone somewhere?”
Mokou gives you a prod in the side. “Time for that mountain-tearing we mentioned yesterday?” she whispers.
“Shush, sweetheart.”

At length, Reimu arrives at an idea. “I’ll go look for her. Keine, Fujiwara, come with me. She’ll have no choice but to listen if it’s the three of us. Shooter, you... I don’t know. You stay here. Wait and see if you catch anyone. Just don’t move. And no stupid stuff!”
“Speaking of,” you say, “can’t I keep Mokou?”
The shrine maiden shakes her head. “No. I’m going to need her, uh... persuasive power.”
“My what?” Mokou frowns, crossing her arms over one of her more persuasive parts.
“Sanae is my friend,” says Reimu, “or was my friend, once – but she has no obligation to listen to me. No... Maybe exactly because we were friends once she will try to dissuade me. We may not look the part, but we used to be competitors – for faith,” she sighs; “but even so, she won’t want to let me go. I know it. The more you push her, the more she digs her heels in. That’s how she is. Not even Kanako or Suwako – her so-called gods – have toppled Sanae when she digs her heels in. But if I have Fujiwara...” She glances sidelong at Mokou. “Then I’ve more of a pull. You are quite the convincing argument.”
“Now look here, miss hothead—” Mokou starts.
You raise your hand. “I agree.”
You back up a pace and explain. “No, listen. She has the right. Moriya at large has no reason to help Keine since of her affiliations, that much has become clear. You and I are wildcards, though. We’ve cause enough to be desperate. Though only one of us can melt the pants off a man with a snap of her....” You silence under her glare. “Anyhow, this is the last stretch, sweetheart,” you promise her. “Tuck your horns in and be the big Portuguese concierge one last time. For me, OK? Not that I’m especially fond of Portuguese concierges, especially big ones, but... you get my meaning.”
“I do get it,” Mokou assures you. “That’s what scares me the most.” She makes a surrendering shrug. “Well, I suppose I did say something about mountains and tearing...”
“Thank you.” You nod. “Go on then.” You glance momentarily at Keine. And keep an eye out, you stop short of saying.

The shrine maiden returns the nod (not the thought), and the three vanish down the hall at an urgent trot.

Having nothing better to do (other than breathing and keeping yourself alive), you slip into the murky room and give verticality a break.

There’s nothing here but the simplest walls, ceiling, and a straw-mat floor. The air is still. Although when a few moments pass, quiet and uneventful, and your eyes get accustomed with the peculiar mode of lighting, you amend one of the former statements. The room isn’t entirely just floor and walls.

At the far end, atop a raised platform, no higher than your ankle, a bust statue of a woman framed by a wreath beckons you silently to come closer. The statue is brass, unpainted, and about half the life size – but more importantly whoever modelled for it thought nothing of revealing a pair of shapely breasts before the lucky sculptor. A rather excellent pair, one of which – as you find within the next seconds – sports a remarkably hard nipple.

“Hypnotising, aren’t they?”

The sound of a voice whips you right around.

A dark figure, wrapped in rose bathrobes, stands half a foot past the doorstep, holding up a little oil lamp which just barely works out the faintest hint of a smile on their face.

“You’re not the first,” she goes on. “If you look closely, there’s a dark spot where people touched her breasts. They prefer the right one, I think. That’s why we moved her here. She was starting to stain.” There’s a pause as the figure shifts the lamp into her other hand. “I’m going to have to clean her, you know.”

The implied accusation makes your brain sprout a pair of drills to evacuate itself with through the back of your skull.

[ ] Genuflect and start praying.
[ ] “Who was the model?”
[ ] “THE WORLD!”
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[x] “THE WORLD!”
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[x] “THE WORLD!”

it calls me
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[x] “Who was the model?”
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[x] “THE WORLD!”
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[ ] “Who was the model?”
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Christ, I’d love to be able to get at this more often, but life’s bloody killing me these months. And winter’s just rolled around to boot. Shaking my fist at the sky angrily as we speak.

At least my liver’s getting a break. Hope weeklies are fine with yous persons. Update tomorrow or the day after. Certainly not starting a High School AU story just because I want to prove /blue/ wrong. Who’d I routelock it on anyway? Remilia, just so it’s not Flandre? Please.
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is it reimu?
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It's YAF. Do you really need to ask?
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I’m ashamed to say that didn’t cross my mind.
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They say, when life throws you lemons, you should take the lemons and open a lemonade stand. That’s true if you live in a country where, upon starting a lemonade business, you aren’t immediately flocked by a flight of rabid bureaucrats, squawking and cawing for a piece of your business. This is why many children are told to squeeze the bloody lemons either way. It’s just how life is. They learn how to tame it. Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors. When you’re assaulted by a mob of roaring slave-drivers, that’s the best life-lesson there is – tear into it and watch wisdom fly.

The lemons will thank you, too.

The girl – you could make out the prominent curvature at one hundred paces in a moonless night – watches your clawing to uprightness in a forbearing quiet. Your brain discarding the evacuative notions for now, you meet the darkness where her eyes are bathed in deep shadow. A second comes and goes that the air is still – that neither of you makes a move.

Then, you grin.


Unfurling your arms, you let fly the challenge. The figure before you blanches, sneaking in just the briefest gasp, before time seems to stop...

Of course, where “seems” is the operative word, things tend to be a bit subjective. You are about to attest to that when, out of the daze and into the fray, the girl flings her lamp aside, dropping to a combat crouch.

Sooner than you can shape a curse, she’s a blur of dark green robes darting at you from below. You whip out a block just in time to stop a crunching kick to the ear. The halves of the robe lash your face when the girl pivots with perfect balance, repeating on the other side. You brace for the hit, and catch it as it lands.

As she pulls her leg out, you shove her off and ram your shoulder forward into the opening.

“Says you!”

At an inhuman speed she drops again, sliding under your counter. An uppercut explodes at you from below, her fist grinding your rigging against your chest as you step back. The strike misses your chin, but a knee rises after it, corkscrewing into your abdomen. You wrestle off the urge to double over in time to hear her launch a battle-cry.

“My heart resonates!”

Scarcely missing a beat, she steps into your guard, unleashing a flurry of crackling strikes at your front. The punches crash and break on your haphazard block, each driving you further back. The sleeves of the robe tail after each one, masking the precise point of impact. Hit after hit after hit, she bombards you with furious fists.

“Heat enough to burn! My blood’s beat is razor sharp!”

Your knees buckle under the onslaught; but then a momentary pause spurs your senses. You lower your falling guard for an instance, and that instance is enough to see her winding up for something big. This is it, then. Your body tenses. This is your last chance.


She launches forward, screaming.

“I don’t know that reference!” you roar, charging forward.

The monstrous hook misses your cheek by paper’s breadth, grazing the skin as it goes – but leaving such a burning sensation in its wake that fires your senses into a scream. Out of her balance, the girl can merely gag as you loop one arm round her neck, and – with all your living weight behind it – push against the momentum...

... And smash the floor with all the grace of a sack of potatoes.

Though, unlike potatoes, you roll nimbly to safety as soon as the pain gives you the go for it. This day it proves a kindly master, and it isn’t too long before you rise on an elbow to see has become of your enemy. A mess, it proves when you look – but not without certain artistic merit. Just the same half-prone on the floor a few feet away, she stares on you from beneath a storm of grassy-green locks.

“Seriously?” She flutters her eyelashes in disbelief. “Really?”
“Seriously,” you nod, keeping away from the business of her clothes. “Really. That’s the first I heard it.”
“How can you—?”
“I confess I’m not a very smart man.”
“But that’s—!”
“Something I can live with.” You give her outrage a window to pass into a softer stage before continuing. “What’s more interesting,” you say, “well, to me at least – is why you didn’t confirm before starting. That’d be common courtesy.”
The girl casts down, locking her attention on her knuckles on the floor. “Uh...”
“That’s not very helpful.”
There’s a click of a tongue. “... Well,” she begins, scratching at her temple, “after a time, you learn to accept people saying things that sound vaguely familiar as natural before fighting begins. That’s what usually happens. Normally. I did the natural thing.”

Natural where? you question inwardly, but not being blameless yourself, you hold it inside.

Still, you can’t deny her a degree of right. Fighting is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s a natural part of life. They say, in the less cowardly countries, that nothing cleanses your soul like getting your arse trashed. This is true. No volume of debate or cajolery will trump a good old-fashioned hook to the jaw. That’s not how the world works. It’s an indisputable fact of the world that people are, generally, full of shit. They just are. That’s why you kick the shit out of them.

There’s something to be said when you have to pick yourself from the floor a second time in a span of two minutes, but you’re perfectly satisfied pretending there isn’t. You walk over to the sprawled beauty and offer a diplomatic hand.

“Well, anyhow, I wouldn’t mind putting that behind us. What’s your name?”
“Sanae,” she admits. “Kochiya. First name’s Sanae, though.”
“I’m Shooter. It’s nice to meet someone normal for a change.”

Sanae takes the offered hand, smiling.

As she rises, her lamp floats lazily over your shoulder, where Sanae snatches it from the air.

I take that back, you think, squeezing her hand and returning the smile.

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“Shouldn’t we go to fetch them? They were looking for me, you said.”
“I was told to sit. I am a good boy.”

Sanae gives you a look which puts your life up to this point to doubt. You bear it, though. There’s only so much a look can age you. It’s no big loss.

The shrine maiden – for she revealed herself as one once you sat down and talked – makes a speculative “Hmm.” Ordinarily, this sort of “Hmm” would have put you in a mind of ejecting through the closest window in fear of imminent adultery (or skinning), but this, too, you outlive. Among all the “Hmm”s you have been exposed to in recent months, such a “Hmm” happens to be more on the tolerable side. You have heard worse “Hmm”s. “Hmm”s a decent English being wouldn’t believe.

There’s no saying whether you do good deciding to trust this Sanae; but, as someone smarter than you once said, deciding whether to trust a person is like deciding whether to climb a tree. Maybe you will get an amazing view from the highest branch. Maybe you will get shat on by a flock of pigeons. At the end of the day it’ll still be an adventure, and one better than you’d get from staying at home, where the chances of getting a nice view (or shat on) are decidedly low.

When the home is full of people who would circumcise you with a teaspoon, that is when getting shat on suddenly sounds almost lovely.

“Are you OK?” Sanae leans forward, worriedly. “Your brow is twitching.”
“Oh, it does that, doesn’t it? Never mind. Sometimes it has a life of its own.” You abandon the train of thought and let it run off the nearest bridge. “So, where were we?”

Sanae, resplendent (but not much shrinemaidenly) in her bathrobe, puts a musing finger up to her lips.

She’s a piece of girl, you have to give her that – and then some. Suddenly the animosity between your towns feels like the silliest thing in the world. Sanae, had she taken care to dress more appropriately, could have persuaded even the most tenacious minds. Some without it, as far as they’re concerned. You know she has your ear once she speaks.

“You were telling me,” she says, “how you wound up here – after breaking from your Human Village, fleeing to the Bamboo Forest, and here. That, somehow, one Keine Kami... shira... was with you – had dealings with us, supposedly. That you believe your memories have been... what did you say? Shagged with?”
“That’s it.”
“And that Reimu, of all people, is with you as well. Hmm.”
There’s another one of those, you mark in your head. But for all outward appearances you give it no attention. “You’ll excuse me if it sounds incredible,” you say, “but that’s exactly what it is – incredible. To me, at least. I’m positive Keine’ll have a more tenable story once she joins us, but myself, I’m no storyteller. And I find I’m generally best advised to keep my gob shut. The things I say, they have this most awful tendency to come back when I least expect them and bite me in the arse. Anyway, it enables me to fade to the side-lines and go looking to amuse myself someplace else, which I regularly try to do with all due dispatch. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. I’m counting this one as a success.”
The compliment washes past Sanae without a single notice. Sod. “This Keine,” she considers, “she is the main culprit here, isn’t she? That is, not of your predicament, just—just this,” she gestures sideways, but obviously means your presence in her temple. “Out of the Village, to the Bamboo Forest. Reimu... Memories... And dealings with us. Curious.”
“Yes, the Village, Bamboo Forest,” you nod, “memories and stuff. Mhm.”

Sanae remains contemplative for a few more seconds before blowing out a surprised “Huh?”

Then, noticing your frown, she jiggles with a troubled chuckle. “Oh. Er.... ah. Sorry. It’s a habit. I was about to go to college before... before this – this world. Studying hard, too. You... You know what college is, don’t you?”
“What a relief, not to have to explain that yet again. That’s what I like the best about former outsiders, you know. We understand each other.”
“Sure.” You nod. “Absolutely.”
“When are you from, anyway?”
“From the great, immortal kingdom of...” You trail off, lifting a brow. “Wait. ‘When?’”
“The barrier,” Sanae explains, “it, uh... shags... for the lack of a better word, with time. Not always, mind, but... Things pop up from all over history whenever a larger hole appears. Usually it’s only contemporary items slipping through. That’s usually. We get an aberration on and off, though. Why, last time...” She registers your bored expression and waves the last time away. “Anyway, I was wondering when you were from specifically. Wouldn’t be the first time a spanned soul cropped up.”
You spread your arms. “What do I look like?”
Her eyes narrow in thought. “World War 2?”
“Later, thank God.”
“Too right,” she agrees. “You know The World. Which brings me the important part.” Sanae fixes the halves of her robe, assuming a severe sort of face. “How comes it,” she asks gravely, “that you know The World, yet not Heart Heat, young man? Tell me this, if you can.”

Well, it all began in the nineteenth century, you begin to form an explanation.

Then, it is torn brutally from you by a door sliding open in the side of the room.

Sanae twists around on her seat to a faceful of three flushing women out of their breath.

“Oh my,” you hear her breathe.

Giving her civilian getup all the imperiality textilely possible, Reimu enters on the speartip, huffing curses which make the hyperventilating Keine behind her twitch. Mokou enters last, closing the column. A look from her passes at once between the green shrine maiden’s flimsy robe and your humble person, connecting the two. You give a vigorous shake, asserting that such mathematics is not only dangerous, but also as far from the truth as they go. Mokou is just about to buy it, when the other shrine maiden – red, you guess – takes lead of the proceedings.

“Sanae,” she says, for the merit of whoever forgot.
Sanae makes a theatrical obeisance. “Esteemed daughter of the Hakurei. Welcome.”
“Stop that. I’m not here to fight. Get off the floor.”
“Of course.” Sanae follows the advice, dusting off her robe no less showily. “Fighting is so unreasoning, isn’t it? So unfit of us: scions of the gods.”

You smile sardonically at the remark. Reimu does not.

On she goes at Sanae, stabbing a cautioning finger at the other shrine maiden’s chest. “Stop that!” she hisses. “I am your senior, Sanae, and I’m telling you, stop it. This is an ill time for jokes, you know. I... We will speak to your gods. We must. Now, Sanae.”
“Of course.” Sanae sketches a curtsy that might be mocking, but might not. “But not before you speak to me, Reimu.”
Reimu goes red, swelling with irritable fluids; but before her valves overflow, Sanae takes a hold of her hand. The red (now again for real) girl settles down by bits, finally coming back to her original size. “Fine,” she grunts. “Fine, then! Keine, come with us. Fujiwara, you too—”
“No.” Sanae shakes her ruffled head. “Just the two of us. We might have to fight about this, and fighting’s best done, ah... without unneeded spectators. Of course I will listen to... to Keine, as well. But you – you come first, Reimu. Always.”

At a loss for words, Reimu can only let herself be led out of the room, blushing and stumbling on the doorstep.

Mokou comes over, all the while staring after the two shrine maidens. “I have seen Sanae Kochiya before,” she says. “A girl with the temper of a ball of mercury, and when she starts, my good fellow, you had best haul arse lest you get it bit. That’s coming from ones who know her better than I, though.” She bows to your level, hushing her voice. “What did you do to her, Tiger?”

Staring after the two yourself, wondering where you fit in all of it, you formulate the best answer you can.

“I think,” you say, recalling the final look the green priestess cast you at the door, “I think we communicated well.”

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thank you google

Ultimately, you’re the one left out of the remainder of communications.

After hammering out her differences with Sanae, some of which could be heard so far as your cosy retreat, Reimu returned to call Keine to an audience. The next minutes were all Mokou and on the whole pleasurable, at least those after you’d sworn that no, shrine maidens are last season and completely not to your taste, and yes, you only smell of one because she pummelled you like pork chop for a time. These, too, were stolen from you when Mokou was summoned to join the conference. You, having nothing useful to say but references to films no one has watched anyway, were left to your own devices.

The thing that makes you wonder is whether they knew those devices were boredom and hazard.

A cloudy afternoon slides ponderously over the uplands, shoving aside the milky morning, and the less sleepy menials start filing out of their housings to resume the work still undone around the shrine grounds. More and more fill the yard, and soon, you feel, they begin to encroach even on your safety spot on the main temple’s patio. These are your final hours of peace before the last steps of this escapade, and yet you’re being eyed by more and more uniformed servants with each minute ticked by. No person in right control of their mind would have called you shy, but these final moments you were anticipating to spend in silence. A last, terminal bit of silence before you are thrust again into that impersonal, tumultuous world outside – because this is what she wants, isn’t it?

You will return to the Outside World, together with Keine...

Another of the menials rips you out of your thoughts, coming by with a crate full of glass, rocks and cutlery mashed up just fine enough to make the most hellish noise imaginable. There’s no peace for me here, you think, rousing from your resting spot on the planks and stretching.

Whether you like it or don’t, your wait shall have to be taken elsewhere.

[ ] Loiter around the shrine grounds and bother those who would bother you.
[ ] Go back inside and find more statues to molest.
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[x] Go back inside and find more statues to molest.

Fondling naked statues, a sport favoured by civilizations both old and new.
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[x] Go 'round the shrine and molest those who would molest you
An eye for an eye, a feel for a feel
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[x] Go 'round the shrine and molest those who would molest you
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[x] Go back inside and find more statues to molest.

Bloody hell. Now I want you to write a story with Sanae as a major character
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This is to let you know that there very likely won’t be an update today. Might be one on Monday or the day after. Might be.

In the meantime, I’m close to wrapping up that proof-of-concept High School College AU scene(s) I mentioned elsewhere, so I might post that in /shorts/.
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>College AU

I'm looking forward to it.
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It’s done. Not very long, but I think it shows at least that an AU story can still have a plot hook.

I’ll see about MiD updates tomorrow. I have to say, though, I’m really surprised you guys are still reading this.
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Looking forward to it.

And... why would that surprise you?
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Just how long this story had lain dead before I picked it up on a whim.

And now we’re close to finishing it up. Imagine that.
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[X] Go back inside and find more statues to molest.

The course is plain here. When the outward world gives you grief, all you need to do is back up inside and hope your local loony bin has at least the necessary facilities, like floors and plastic toilet seats. Never trust a place with the fancy, ceramic sort. They are cold, and much more than likely to make a huge clamour as you make your daring escape through the ventilation shaft. Not that you’d know.

Shooting the nearest dogsbody a two-finger salute, you blow a kiss of good-bye to the din of the courtyard and withdraw into the shadowed interiors of the shrine. The darkness embraces you in its gossamer touch, the gentle chill soothing your mind. They are definitely burning incense somewhere. A trace of vanilla – and perhaps something else, your nose is no authority – hangs in the undisturbed air, sweet and calming. That, and here at least nobody spends their morning time re-enacting the Battle of Taranto in a crate. The silence is a release.

Now, you don’t know where Keine and Mokou were taken from you, much less how to get there; but, while the more sentimental side of you nurses a thin hope that it might be just-beyond-this-door-here-or-the-next-if-not, you understand as good these negotiations are out of your hands. You are the weaker party here. Always were. Circumstance has happened which required your brief intervention, but as Mokou is the love of your life and Keine only second, the most potent threat you have issued in the latest days has been “if you don’t do my way, I shall go off and exchange sarcastic comments with that wall over there.” A threat, at that, which you never even had to follow through with.

And yet, here you are, missing no limbs and – perhaps more importantly – no girls, more or less hot-headed. Moriya – or their priestess – has welcomed you, and if what you gleamed of Sanae is of any indication, you will be set on the last steps of your journey very soon.

All things considered, it has been all very convenient.

Freezing in mid a stride, you feel a peculiar sensation wash over you.

Isn’t it a little too convenient?

The thought steals into your head on its own accord, evaporating into nothing just as soon, and yet leaving such a powerful suspicion that not five, not ten, and not thirty seconds can clear your head of it. This – all of this – just makes too much sense.

The appearance of Reimu at the game, the removal of Keine from the Village, Eirin’s cryptic reasoning, the allegedly derelict house appearing as though it had been waiting for your arrival, even Mokou’s grudging devotion to your cause – though she had been on the verge of tears after her good-byes with Kaguya – all these disconnected factors clicked just right to create this moment. Too right for your high-strung mind. And what are you to make of the man who you saw prowling about town the very previous day? You could not be sure who he was – not to the point of panic anyway – but hasn’t it been those premonitions which made it so you can even think without the aid of a high-level necromancer right now? Or were these premonitions? And what of those earlier coincidences? What of your visits at the shrine? What of the previous incident with Keine and another of her kind? What of the guns? Who was it, exactly, who gave her the idea to use those to hunt monsters – the very catalyst which sparked the villagers’ rebellion?

And what of Keine herself? W̧he̛re does s̶ḩe fit in all of this?


A keen throb of pain in your temples robs you of the thought.

Squirming, biting back uncomplimentary words, you rub at them until it gives up and goes away.

When it does, and when you right yourself again, you are no longer alone.


The voice – the voice comes first. Tiny, failing. You would readily ascribe it to hallucination, if not for the flicker of colour in the corner of your eye. You spin on your heels, instincts clenching your fists.

At one of your flanks, rounded about a corner which you had missed in your daydream-hazed watch, stands a slight woman – of no more than five feet, and a crown of golden-blond hair glowing in the hallway’s shadow. No, a girl perhaps? Your brain jousts with itself to classify the minuscule person and their proper noun. But whatever pretence to maturity she may attempt is hidden beneath a spacious dress – a long, purple piece, stuck entirely too far behind in time.

“You...” you begin dubiously, “... You wouldn’t happen to be a statue, would you?”

The only reply which comes does so in form of a tilt of the blond head. No words are forthcoming. Not after a moment, not after two. The girl might as well be a statue.

No, this is a dangerous path, you reproach yourself.

Sighing, you give it up. “... Fine, never mind. I was out of sorts for a second there. No, don’t worry. I’m sure it isn’t permanent.”

Again, the answer is but a blank look from the huge blue eyes.

“Uh...” You cast over your shoulder, but no cavalry issues from the shadows to charge to your timely rescue. This fight, against your best wishes, appears your own. “Ah, well, I was just,” you re-try, “just walking ‘round, you know? Thinking. That’s what I do, when I get in tough. See? I think. You’d ask Mokou and she’d say no good ever comes from it, but that’s only half the truth. Sometimes I don’t think and things happen which end up in an even bigger of a cock-up, so I try to think whenever I can to head it off – just in case. Of course, that’s just an educated precaution. I haven’t yet had the chance to collect any empirical evidence on the matter. I like the theory, though. It gives me something to think about. Know what I mean?”
“You’re a talkative child.”

The remark makes you startle.

The tiny woman works out the faintest smile. “Do I know you?”
“N—No,” you stutter out. “No, at least... No, I don’t think so.”

Oh God, there’s another one of those, you think with horror.

At length, the woman shrugs it off.

“Must have reminded me of someone.” She chuckles about it vapidly. “Memory’s not the same, since... Not the same.”
You swallow before venturing a question. “Who...” you say, “... Who are you?”
The small thing makes an insipid wave with her hand. “A god,” she says flatly. “Thought you knew about this already, you humans. You... Ah, but – that’s right.” A sudden thought brings some semblance of light into her dark eyes. She nods, inflates her chest, and, in the same monotone, delivers the next lines. “That reminds me. What about you? You are not yet ours. Why don’t you give us your faith?”
“I’m, uh... Taken already. Sorry.”

She stares at you, at first uncomprehending, then faintly disappointed.

“Oh well,” she says, blowing out with a wheeze. “Worth a try. Worth a try, always. Never mind, never mind. Best leave this to Kanako. Mhm. To Kanako.” Her head lolls, her eyes starting to drift, as she mutters impotently under her breath, “Humans. Humans... Not so worth it. Not so. I tell her, I do, but...”

And so on.

What’s wrong with this one? you find yourself wondering.

Small sense it may be, provided the press of your own troubles on your shoulders, but you examine the self-asserted child-goddess in her light-headed distraction. Some intangible past ago, the members of your – former now – hunting group had taken into their heads to educate you, the outsider, of the workings and intricacies of the Land of Illusions: its gods, monsters, and – back then – their dedicated terminators. Still, being so far removed from the godly planes that they may as good be George W. Bush and you – an appearance of an honest living, your interest was waning at most. Now it comes back to haunt you. Who would have thought, though, that one day you may take it on yourself to meet and worry for an actual god? Not you, that is certain. And even had you been visited by yourself from the future, gabbling nonsense about Keine, angry crowds, pitchforks and fire and – last but not least – the gods in question, the most you would have done with him is kicked his arse something bloody and sent him back whence he’d crawled. Nobody talks nonsense about Keine but you. Well, the current you – not one from some unfathomable future where hangs from her coat-tails as they run from a hacked-off mob who want to skin him like sausage and where he deals with absent-minded little gods who don’t appear quite right under the ceiling.

... Wait, fuck.

“Ah? Not another?...”

The utterance from the tiny blond-haired creature rips you from the cosy fluff of your own thoughts.

“What did you say?” you ask.
“More humans,” she repeats, annoyed. “Just come.”
“And they’re making noise,” the goddess complains. “Why? Oh, the noise!...”
“What are you—”

You don’t finish. You don’t look at her.

You go cold, holding in the next breath.

And there, as sure as the bloody day going straight to the shitter, is the barking report of a rifle.

All the gears in your head, worn from the days of grinding and grinding and grinding still, come at once to a screeching stop.

Another shot explodes outside, softened by the never-ending hallways of the shrine, but unmistakeable even here. One more follows. Warning shots, hints the more mechanical part of your brain. You don’t hear it.

At this instance, the chase is over.

The subterfuge, the sneaking, all the plans, and insurances – right now, all those go flying out the window. They are here. And you were wrong. So very wrong. Nothing was convenient. You were wrong. They are here, and you are caught utterly unprepared. You couldn’t have seen this – not so soon – but still you kick yourself in the foot for believing yourself safe even for a moment. Safe in that comforting sense of convenience, kisses, and everything else coming along just fine until it started crumbling around your ears.

Until now.

Now they are here.

Your palms itch and sweat. Against your will, you begin to shake.

“You,” you address the goddess, forgoing all protocol. “You, god. What is your name?”
The wretched thing looks up, confused. “Suwako.”
“Suwako.” Under any other circumstance it would be well met. “There are three women in this shrine I need to get to right now. At this moment they should be with your priestess, Sanae. Maybe someone else as well. Tell me! Can you tell me where they are?”
“Wha?... Yes, but—”

No buts.

You secure your trembling hand about her wrist. The bones under her papery skin threaten cracking in your grip, but if there is one who can help – who can find them before your enemies do – it is the one who calls themselves a god. Yours has abandoned you. She won’t.

“Show me!” you snarl. “Show me where they are!”

And stumbling, the poor Suwako does.

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Time to earn that faith Suwako
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I think you underestimate some anons' love of stories if you think a little hiatus like that is enough to get them to stop reading.

Man, there are some stories that have been dead far longer than this one, and I still yearn for them to continue.

Update when Scorn? ;_;
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Just think of all those stories on indefinite hiatus, all the answers never given and mysteries never unveiled. Even the OG story never finished.

Always bet on YAF, I guess. Except when he writes a story that ends in a huge massacre and nothing is explained
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They say when you gaze into the darkness, the darkness gazes back at you. You don’t know why the darkness would do such a thing and to what benefit, and you’d as soon not know. You are scowling up a storm, and if it is the will of the darkness to watch you cultivate wrinkles, it is its damn own funeral to do so.

The flash decisions were made in less than an instance, and you and your group were herded down the subterranean section of the shrine and into the tunnels stitched into the mountain below. The light of your torches battles against the shadows, turning out more and more of the winding passages cut in sheer stone. Somewhere out there is the other end. The way out.

“Where will this take us?” Reimu had demanded.

Sanae, wresting with the trapdoor, did not answer at first. Only when the question exploded again from the mouth of her red-white friend did she vouchsafe a hurried explanation. That did not appease Reimu, who continued to sway nervously on the balls of her feet, nor did it particularly move the trapdoor, which was stuck so fast the wood all but splintered once it was finally pulled free of its frame.

You had seen the legendary Hakurei Reimu in a state of panic only once or twice before, but plain as day the hallmarks were there on her face once Suwako had delivered you to the meeting place where the three women parleyed, oblivious of the shitstorm gathering outside, and you broke the dire news. Though there had been no time to consult Sanae’s (other) god, the cracks of gunshots at her doorstep were excuse enough to proceed with the plan lacking the divine approval. Seeing no other way out, the more collected shrine maiden took you to the innermost chamber of the shrine, where – squashed below three layers of carpet and a wooden carving of an offertory pillar – was the trapdoor to the tunnel leading underground.

And, if her assurances are to be given the faith they want, to the Outside World as well.

“Are you sure this is the way?” you murmur the question, sweeping your light further on ahead. The corridor looks no more different from the last six hundred feet than your mood does from a smear of tar.
Sanae makes a nod, keeping pace with you at ease. “I am. I used to take this road to school – before dedicating fully to this world. The Great Barrier is harder to maintain below ground,” she says. “There are... gaps in it, where one may pass safely between this world and the other one. This is not an issue normally, as nothing much moves underground to begin with, so we think the higher-ups simply pay it no attention. At least,” she glances over her shoulder, “they haven’t until now.”

You follow her look to the two women closing the rear of the team: Keine and Reimu. The red-white priestess clings to her mother figure’s arm with a fear for every strip of uneven ground the older woman has to brave. The teacher, resigned to the world and clearly short of better ideas, allows the shrine maiden to carry her along with not much contribution to breaking the subterranean silence. Reimu’s chin lifts, catching your look. She bounces it back with an unspoken question attached to the tails. You give no answer, returning instead to the darkness ahead.

More curious was Keine’s reaction to Suwako.

Once the dimmed little goddess had imparted you to the others, she had faded into a corner of the room, looking how horror took root on the faces of the women with dull detachment. Nor had she said anything of your mistreatment of her divine arms, once you had let go and leapt to the more important duties. In the general hysteria that followed, nobody took note of the tiny blond creature watching them lose their minds.

Only when Keine, last in the line to vacate the room, tossed a final, ensuring look around, was the little goddess noticed.

“Wait,” said the teacher in a shrill voice. “Who is this?”
You spun around and grabbed her arm. “Keine, that’s not important right now!”
“No!” The teacher jerked free of you. “Who is—?!”

Suwako’s face may as well have been a stone mask when the rest of you were dragging the thrashing Keine away.

What was that all about?

Sanae’s arm shoots sideways, barring your way.

“What the hell—”
“Shh!” Sanae hisses.

Taking the hint, you put your light off, signalling the others to do the same. Falling to one knee, levelling the stubby rifle Kaguya presented to you as a parting gift, you whip back at the shrine maiden.

“What’s wrong?” you ask.
“Look,” she whispers back.

And look you do.

And there, clear on the canvas of blackness from your doused lights, the shimmer of a torch casts dancing shadows on the wall of the bend you have cleared not minutes before. And worse yet – the sounds of footsteps: heavy-booted, shuffling footsteps of at least a dozen people quickly catching up.

Your breath comes out in a curse, but as you are on the verge of snapping off an order to scatter, Mokou rides you over.

“In front of us!” she cries.

And she is right.

Far ahead of you, almost at the end of the passage, a twin glow of torchlight looms out from the darkness, growing in intensity with every second in passing. Footsteps, too. Another searching party.

“How did they—” You bite back another curse. There is no other exit. Where did they come from? “Sanae!”
“I do not know!” the shrine maiden yelps. She sounds genuinely alarmed. “There are other passages going off elsewhere, but I didn’t think—!”
“Sod it,” you growl. “On me! Keine. Keine! On me, blast it!” You feel a soft push at your side, and a scent way too familiar invades your senses. “Stay with me,” you whisper urgently. “Whatever happens, stay with me, Keine. All of you!” you call the others, “hold your fire! We can talk our way out of this. We’re so close. Steady, and hold your bloody fire, hear?!”

There is no answer, crushed out by the tension snapping in the cool air of the cave. The pressure rises, boiling the blood in your ears, as the search groups converge from the opposite ends of the tunnel, slowly clamping down on your position.

As the lights close in inexorably, locking you in a vice of two opposite teams, one thought surfaces in your rattled mind.

A single, powerful thought which overtakes everything else.

Mokou was right. Whatever happens...

Whoever stands in your way...

However many have chased you this far, and whoever they are...

... You will get her out of here.

This is not a threat. This is not something which can be disputed. Everything which has happened until now served but one purpose. That purpose is getting Keine out of this mess. And it is so close now.

You will get her out of here. You must.

Somewhere down your stiffening body, over the rigging bristling with entirely useless tools, a pair of arms folds soothingly around your waist. Someone very warm and soft breathes some unknown word into your ear. Someone very trusting pushes against you, giving up their life into your care.

Yet, none of this records in your mind. As taut as a bowstring ready to loosen, you swing your weapon up.

You watch the lights.

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“You needn’t point that thing my way, pup. It has been a while, hasn’t it?”

The tips of your fingers twitch as you recognise the voice, but you are bright enough to realise letting fly right now would not be the best of ideas. The corridor is clogging with hairy-faced villagers, the air about their shoulders crackling with venomous tension. Two ten-man search parties now come together, these wary faces loop off your small fireteam in a cordon of wide, hide-clad bodies. And there, at the very forefront of the assault, is Brennan, his trademark smile persistently in evidence, even in this tight space underground, even with Kaguya’s stubber trained on the centre of his mass.

Some could say the man has balls. Many more would suggest that no compliments are to be applied to the man who stands between you and your beloved’s freedom. Spies and liars may depend on sweet-talk and subterfuge. You are a man of action. You kill compliments, not mete them out.

The big man’s eyes switch to the short rifle, then back to you, with a flash of cunning. “That is not your rifle, is it, Shooter?”
“No,” you growl. “I do not want to hurt anyone.”
“An admirable decision.”
“But I will if I must.” You flick the weapon to semi-auto. “Which is why I’ll have you drop your gun, Brennan. Now.”

Your ex-partner in crime glances down at the bolt-action slung loosely across his front as though it was the first he saw of it.

“Now, that wouldn’t be right fair, would it?”

You crush out the impulse to laugh.

Here is the beginning and end of your tale. The very two men and one woman who had been there in the beginning – before Reimu, before the chase – and the rifle – the old, weathered bolt-action, with a nick on the barrel and a crack in the shoulder pad, which you do n̕ot rem͟emb̵e̕r where it came from. Against all odds, they came together in this place. The ones who had started it all have met again.

And now, two of the four have broken the ancient alliance.

“I’m afraid I cannot do that, pup.”

You touch the trigger, sensing the return spring strain against the tip of your finger.

Shoot him? you hear your mind’s voice question, Then what? If truth be told, you would gladly have hosed the goat and his band if you hadn’t the wall against your back and about five paces of time before the second row was clawing at your and Keine’s buns. You could, with the utmost degree of certainty, unleash Mokou on the bastards; but the trouble here is, you really weren’t really lying. You do not want to hurt anyone. You have done that, before. And it was enough.

Nobody has to suffer this day.

Taking your silence for the cue, Brennan speaks once more.

“You have led us a merry chase, old boy. But you never wrote. Why don’t we talk for a bit? For old times’ sake.”
“I like to talk every day,” you tell him. “With you? I’m not so positive.”
“Indulge me.”

You sling a sideways glance at the others cramped in the passageway. As one, the harsh, Sun-browned faces of the mob are locked with their attention full on you. They glare.

At length, the will to shoot him here and now – consequences be damned – drains out of you completely.

“... Fine.” You remove your trigger finger back to discipline position and lock the gun. “Just like in the films, then. The big bad must explicate his master plan. Classic.”
The big man accords you a little chuckle. Then, the cheer flaking from his face, he sets his brows at a grave angle.
“We were wrong, you know,” he says, almost sad. “We were wrong – you and I and...”
“How so?”
The ex-hunter shakes his head. “This is not the way, pup. We have known this. We have agreed to this. The Land of Illusions was never crafted for us to begin with. Still, we took to the sword, to cut ourselves a slice of it as was our presumed right. Sound like heroes of the old, don’t we? But this is not a story or a legend, boy. This is the life – our life. This is how this world works. And it isn’t exactly how we’d pictured it.

“Did you know? We have been at this for several moons now. We have tracked, ambushed and culled the monsters with these... guns, and gunpowder, and bullets made of precious metals countless times. But did you notice something, Shooter? The Village was never the safer for it. Feral monsters still roamed the area. They always returned, seizing anyone who overstepped the covenanted bounds. Never changing. We never truly did them any harm. All it served was to rile them more. And we have erred, allowing ourselves to believe elsewise. We were wrong. All of us were wrong. This is not the way.”
“Then go back to your old ways!” you burst out. “Go back to whatever you did before. Leave us alone!”
“Give us Keine, pup,” says Brennan, steadily, “and we’ll let you go.”
“Now there’s a language I don’t speak.”

You thumb the fire selector back to hot.

A ripple of anger washes over the mob as you open up your feet, spreading your profile, shielding the teacher with the breadth of your back. Brennan’s hand tightens on his rifle, but... He remains still, a dark shadow on you both. Unmoving.

“Why don’t I not give you jack?” you dare him, hissing. “Why don’t I – oh, I don’t know – tell you how it really is? You may have the vantage of numbers, yes, but you haven’t gone blind yet, have you, old goat? You’re the one who’s outgunned here. You’re welcome to try and brain me with those ham fists of yours, but once these girls open up and start flinging fire...” You give him pause enough to appreciate the picture. “Like I said, I don’t want to hurt anyone. But if you try to take anything from me by force...”
“You may keep your fire-mage, Shooter,” the big man says levelly. “You may even keep the Hakurei. We never truly needed her, see – only that she live on. The Great Barrier hangs on her life and we can’t have that going out just yet. But Keine, pup – Keine we must have.”
“You will have nothing of me,” you snarl.
“Then you and I both are doomed.”

Slowly, almost with a pronounced regret, the tired bolt-action rises in the old man’s arms, its black snout sighted on your chest. At once you hear the scraping of feet to your left and right – Mokou and Reimu snapping into position – and Keine quailing at your back, squeezing her arms tighter round your waist.

You level a challenging smirk at the huge ex-hunter.

“You do not understand, boy,” Brennan drawls, his teeth clamped. The dour set deepens on his face, sketching long, deep creases lengthwise his forehead. The other men – men who you once called friends – pull back fearfully, shrinking from the anticipated explosion of gunfire. “We are not concerned for you. We have made our mistakes, but it not for that we are here, now. We need that woman, pup.”
“What a coincidence,” you spit back.
“You do not understand!” The man sucks in a breath, his temper giving. “Somebody has to protect the Village, boy. We cannot by rights do that ourselves. We thought we could, but we were mistaken. You may steal the Fujiwara girl; you may steal the Hakurei if it means peaceable resolution. But Keine has to stay.”
“The gods of Moriya can—” you hear Sanae intrude from behind.
“The gods of Moriya can’t be everywhere!” the old man erupts. “You and I have fanned up a hurricane, lad. The Forest of Magic is seething with monsters. Our lumbermen cannot thrust a toe without the contracted bounds without being assaulted. Already two people had vanished with no trace by the time I picked up your scent and set off; who knows how many more are being missed even now. The Village is in shambles. If ever we have needed watchers, it is now. The ‘gods’ of Moriya are spread thin as they are. The Village needs its own protectors. The Village, pup,” he concludes with a hiss, “needs Keine.”

Something in his words rings false in your head, but you forg͢e̢t it at once when you remember how they have treated your beloved teacher.

“Too late for that now, after you have spurned her.”
“Spurned?!” The old man’s spittle hurtles at you through the air. “SPURNED?! You STOLE her from us, you outsider by-blow, and now you have the audacity to turn it round on us?! We have loved and respected Keine since before you were in your nappies. Nobody in their right mind would do something such as spurning the one woman who has mothered our own little society since forever. There is not one person in the Human Village who doesn’t hate you right now, Shooter. You have stolen something which was more precious to us than anything else could ever be. And now you’re trying to shoulder off the blame.” He composes himself with difficulty. “And here I hoped we could be civil about this. I don’t know what threats you have used to force her along, you mongrel,” he growls, “but I see you as you truly are now: a thief. A poisonous snake.
“What are you talking about?”
“You put this idea in Keine’s head, didn’t you? To use your blasted ‘guns’ to eradicate monsters; we both know of your colourful past with these inventions. It were all very clever, I grant you. First lock us in the Village, then make off with our only means of defence from the resulting storm. A smart plan, all things considered.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Brennan makes a snort. “Right you don’t. But it doesn’t make matter. This is the end, Shooter. Your plans have run their course. My people gave me a mission, and blow hot or cold, I will see it done. Even if it means fighting fire with fire.”

The slam of the bolt as he cycles in a round is like the strike of a gavel. The hairs on your neck stand at the sound of gunmetal ringing.

“Think about this!” you yell, bringing up your own gun with trembling hands. “If you shoot me now, you shoot Keine as well!”
The old man, clearly pushed past the stops of his patience, only assumes a humourless smile. “Oh, I would,” he assures you. “But, I’ve had enough time to tinker with this precious gun of yours, and – believe this – I’ve figured out how changing the amount of powder in the round can either boost or lower its power. You told me, you’ll recall, that a wound is all the graver if the bullet stays inside the body – rather than penetrating. This one,” he says, the finality of his voice stone-cold, “was made just for you, Shooter.”

Then, the coin drops.

The blast of muzzle flash blinds you even through hastily shut eyes. The ringing in your ears drowns out the echo of the shot, carrying down the passages to the heart of the underground.

You stumble backward, bowed in half, feeling as though someone just punched a slab of metal into your abdomen.

Your hand, quite on its own, ventures to the centre of the pain. A sensation of warmth and moisture works its way up your arm through to your shell-shocked brain.

Then, it lifts in front of your face.

And when your eyes wrench open, and your vision quits swimming, dark, crimson streaks appear before you: trickling and channelling down the puckers of your palm, dripping to the floor in fat, scarlet droplets. You gape after them for a moment, thinking nothing but utter disbelief.

Then, the screaming begins.

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The next moments are a blur.

You remember toppling to the side. You remember hitting the cave floor, floor which should have been so cold and so hard, but someway – somehow, somewise – was everything but. One after another, deep, rippling blasts of explosions tear at the underground air, but they sound distant now, so small and irrelevant you must focus an effort on noticing them at all.

Somewhere far ahead, a tornado of white and orange rages among the dull, brown outlines of figures which would resemble humans – if they weren’t being flung through the air, thrown by the explosions, or hadn’t their screams overridden by the rumbling echoes. The tornado makes you think of Mokou, but the thought bleeds from your mind and slips through your attention.

Another shape, of an opposite colour, dances in the tempest, striking at the brown hulks with bare palms. The hulks rain down in her wake, but some stand up, and charge again after the whipping black tails. You want to shout a warning, but your mouth seems somewhere else.

Above you, ten thousand metres away and more, is a face which you would have recognised at a tenfold greater distance.

The face is looking down on you, remorseful. A clouded part of your brain prompts you to search for a hint of tears in the corners of its eyes, only so you can reach up and wipe them away, saying, “Now, now. No need for that. I am not dead yet.”

There are no tears.

“We were so close.”

The voice is familiar – so familiar your heart aches in your chest – and though your tongue is made of lead, and your lips are bubbling red, for the love you bear this voice, you wring out the words,

“You can... still... make it...”

The face above you blurs, shaking left and right. To the side, having broken from the furious inferno, a body crashes into a wall with a wet crunch of splitting bone.

Somewhere behind you, someone squeals in horror.

Keine, your beloved Keine, appears not to notice it. “No,” she says, her voice numb. “We have lost.”

“... Lost?...” you cough out. “How... lost?...”

“I wouldn’t last a day in the Outside World without guidance. Without someone who knows how to move around. Survive. As you are now...” She looks at the bloody mess of your lower body. “... I fear you would be no use.”

“No... use?...”

Keine makes nothing of your surprise. “Why did you think I needed you?” she asks you, sighing. “Why did you think I went so far to involve you in this? Why did you think—”

An explosion blows away her next words.

“And now,” you hear her continue with a sad chuckle, “I am locked in place. We have lost. They’ve found a way to stop me. They won.”

The cry escapes from your chest with a tear of pain, but you muster every last shred of power which remains in your muscles to rise to a sit. You fail, staggering and skidding off the soft pillow of Keine’s lap, blood pooling under your tongue and filtering between your teeth.

Keine does not move.

“We can still make it!” you gurgle. Your body screams agony as you roll over, reaching for her hands. “We can still get out of here. We can still escape! We can... We must...!”

The beautiful teacher, her fists clenched on her thighs, her eyes riveted ahead, only shakes her head.

“No. Watch.”

And she is right. It is all you can do, to watch.

A furious wind, quick and powerful, unfurls in the corridor, blasting away the firestorm, pinning the screaming torch that is Mokou to the stone of the passage wall. The same wind, roaring again, sweeps the other figure from her feet, crushing her under an invisible fist until the last of her movements run dry, and all that remains are the grunts of pain and defiance. And out of the sudden darkness, from the gloom which befell the underground with the death of the fight, looms the towering, mighty figure of a living god.

At your six, Sanae drops on her face, sputtering terrified prayers.

The god regards her coolly, as if making a mental note to peruse later, before switching her sovereign attention to your heaving, bleeding form, and the teacher – kneeling beside you, quiet surrender written over her pale features. The eyes of the wind god are indecipherable as she speaks, her voice reverberating in the air.

“Sit,” she says simply, to no reply from Keine.

Visibly satisfied, the god turns majestically to the opposite wall, where – unknown to everybody – the strangest phenomenon was occurring behind your backs.

Fearsome, dark energies crackled and spun in a swirl of pure, undiluted blackness: a boiling, yawing portal to some awful dimension not meant for mortal eyes. All at once a hand shoots out of the hole in reality with an almost audible slurp of black slurry: a long, slender hand, gripping a pink sun parasol.

The figure which emerges after it stops the breath in your throat.

“My apologies for waking you,” the god says, nodding. “I was right, though. I had heard some noise.”

Yakumo Yukari takes the apology with an expression of dignified boredom. The legendary woman absorbs her surroundings: the scorched walls, the blood sprayed on the floor, and the bodies, at a single glance. With never a twitch in her expression, then, she turns her inhuman eyes on us.

At that moment, I admit, I felt the briefest flicker of remorse squeeze the inside of my chest.

“We meet again, miss troublemaker,” Yakumo Yukari greeted me with a smile. “Now, I believe you know what comes next.”

All the pretence of humanity rusted away from her with the step she took, leaving behind only the sheer, pitiless force of nature which monsters at their core all were.

And the most powerful of them was Yukari Yakumo.

“Bow,” she grated at me.

What else could I do? I bowed.

And that, my dear, was the end of our excursion.

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The beat of your heart continued from the ECG machine like it had been for hours. It was a beautiful day outside. There were birds singing without the window. A gentle breeze touched the white hospital curtains. The afternoon Sun slanted in through the gaps.

Hours had passed since you’d begun listening, and each of those was felt as though an age.

I sat back, running my hand over your forehead, and finished telling you this story.

Something stirred from your lips, but a voice behind me snubbed any of my reaction.

“An automatic neural response. He is asleep.”

Calmed, I looked again upon your sleeping form: tucked under snow-white sheets, a braid of varicoloured cabling spilling from the side of the bed. I was no medic, but even I knew these wires and tubing were the one thing which held your life away from the hand of death.

And inside mine.

The doctor, tired ostensibly with my silence came in close to check the level of liquids in the translucent bags hooked into your bloodstream. She made a tsking noise with her tongue.

“He will be asleep for two more hours. This is a lot of medication. That did not have to be so long. You owe me, Kamishirasawa.”

My smile came out on its own as I watched the doctor take off her glasses and lean, tiredly in a surge of fatigue, on the sill of the window. She stared me down, those deep, unreadable eyes of her probing me for the shame or remorse she believed appropriate for our brand of machination. She knew as well as I did there was none of that left in me.

“What will he be next?” she wondered aloud. “What else will you make him, Kamishirasawa? A villager? An outsider once again? Another fake bearer of your curse?”
“No.” I shook my head. “I have not yet decided.”
“Shouldn’t you?”
And once more. “No, thanks to you. There is still time. I owe you indeed, Eirin. You have my thanks.”
The doctor crooked her brows. “My research was not meant for you, Kamishirasawa.”
I shaped a mocking smile. “Is that so?”

She did not rise to the bait. Circling about the room, she resumed in the cool, scholarly manner I had come to expect of Yagokoro Eirin in moments like those.

“This, latest, incursion proved the memory can be changed with no detrimental effect to the mind,” she said, “by supplanting a memory so fake, so obviously manufactured, the defensive enterprise focuses solely on it and it alone. With your suggestion, and the expertise of my assistant, this theory has been tested, then proven to our mutual satisfaction. My... allegiances do not lie with you, Kamishirasawa. With or without your leave, I intend to make good of this discovery. I am a doctor. You may further your egotistic agenda using the knowledge I have extracted from this endeavour, but this will be your – and only your – downfall. You were lucky this time. Whatever you do next, it is your own responsibility. I will hold no truck with it.”
“You helped me still,” I noted. “Not for the first time, either.”
“I help the ill,” Eirin corrected me. “This man was wounded. I have saved his life. No more. I cannot be held responsible for the actions of my patients. Whatever they do, and their visitors, it is none of my concern. I save lives. I do not decide them.”
The edges of my lips curled at her roundabout reasoning. Standing up, I shaped a slow, measured bow. “Thank you, Eirin.”

The doctor made an almost imperceptible nod. “Just so. I must see to the others. Excuse me.”

Striding out of the room, she left me alone with the high-pitched echo of your heartbeat.

Maybe, I thought, drawing the lengthening hairs from your brow, maybe I should thank you as well. After all, you had been instrumental in taking me this far. You had not carried me out of this stagnant country, but still you had brought me close. You had inspired me to take up firearms against the monsters. That had been before this life, of course – before you had been Shooter and I was your teacher, not lover – but the idea had been yours. You had allowed Eirin to test my own private hypothesis, even if you had done so unwittingly. You had trusted me, given your all for me, all to carry out my wish of escaping these prison bounds. Others had to be convinced to come along, and so they had been, but you – you had been my guardian spirit, my knight, and all those noble images you may have kept to yourself, all along. You were my faithful, my rescuer. And now, thanks to you, I had the means – and devices – with which to shape our futures once more. Who had we forgotten? What had we missed? Where had we wronged? None of it made matter. Chastisement by the powers-that-be was a small price to pay – so long as I still had you.

What else shall I make you?

Smiling, I leant over your unconscious face.

Eirin, in all her genius, had not realised one thing. True enough if a fake memory were implanted to divert the defensive reaction of the brain a new one may be instilled with the least amount of effort, but nobody had said the “fake” memory could not be the truth. And certainly nobody had said the brain could not be allowed to rebuild on its own. The wonders our minds perform under stress are near limitless.

You do not understand. That is quite all right. With this, your memories of our last adventure will be annihilated. Only I need to prod just the right way...

See? You are forgetting already. But, do not worry. I will be there to meet the new you. After all, you and I have been together for so long. You were my lover. My puppy. My son, my student, my family, my disciple, my beloved... What else will you be? Will we chance our luck with the elder powers of this world once again? Or will we bide our time by the light of the Moon, painting our remembrances in the warm colour of love? Or perhaps – just perhaps – we will remake one of the stories already told just for the thrill of it? There is a world of ideas out there. You have many questions. I will not heed them. You will have to find your answers yourself. Are you ready? The time to choose is at hand.

But, remember this: that whatever you pick...

... Whatever path you decide to go this time...

... Wherever your choices take you...

I will be there, waiting.

Even if your memories are in discord.

✱✱✱ HERE ENDS Memoria in Discord ✱✱✱
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Oh god what.

So does this mean the parts in the earlier threads where Reimu fucks Shooter over and he dies were fake memories? Who put the magic contamination in his leg? Is Yukari just playing games with everyone, judging from the "dream" in the first thread? How is Keine going to unfuck tons of dudes being killed in the finale? I'm so confused right now.
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Nobody died because no one remembers them being killed. The ones who do simply don't care (Yukari and Suwako, whom was really bored of seeing the same shit over and over again)

A good ending. Interesting, surprising and not pulled out of a donkey's ass: there were plenty of clues everywhere. Still, I have to admit that the motives of the antagonist (the fake one) escaped me until he outright said them. Welp.

Good story YAF and congrats. Now all you have to do is let us go one choice back, ditch the ho, and go to Hokkaido with those two lovely ladies.
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Actually makes sense in retrospect.

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Thank you.

Right then. This has ended without much fanfare, but I hope all 3 (4? 5?) of you had a good time. Myself, I’m going to sit back and think about maybe potentially considering the hypothetical possibility of perhaps theoretically dedicating some off time to my own things. God damn novels won’t write themselves, the bastards.

Anyhow, I have no 2hu-related ideas that absolutely beg writing right now, but if there is anything you’d like to see personally, just drop me a note and maybe our likes will align and something will come out of it that isn’t EVEN MORE FUCKING SATORI a complete waste of Dropbox space.

I guess this calls for traditional good-byes.

Stay Christmas-degree frosty,
Uncle Yian
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Season's greetings YAF. Good work-as expect from the site's most proficient author.

That said, I do have a request: it's about a popular 2hu. she has been covered in several stories, but only one was completed. I guess I'd like to see your version of her.

Anyway good luck. Don't stray out too far, ya hear?
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I was actually going to bring up that Youmu story that Yaf made one post about
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Thanks for everything YAF. It's been a fun ride. Don't be a stranger, see ya soon.

Merry Christmas.
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Do something with the Taoists.

You've proven time and time again where your allegiances lie, why not solidify it?

Even better if you can do it form the perspective of the Crown Prince.
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He did make two threads about a forger working for the konpaku clan (for Youmu basically) that went to the taotists dimension to ask for help regarding the overnight destruction of gensokyo.
It had everything: Futo, Miko, Youmu, Yuyuko, an apocalypse (YAF-flavored) and quite the story planned ahead (not as much as FG, who had all main events planned out by thread 2 but close)
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Did he delete the threads?
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Do more shorts in >>/shorts/167
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They've been compressed in >>/shorts/752
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You should know the rules of that thread. Name a character.
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Balls in your court now.
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So we can kill Wriggle again?
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Atleast she'll catch up to Mima in death count.
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>anything you’d like to see personally

The TiiTS party arc, from Garion trying to convince Satori to come with him and not saying goodbye, all the way to camping out in the middle of bumfuck nowhere and arriving home, all in Satori's perspective. You said you wanted to write more Satori, so how about it?

More Fuku would be great too. Maybe write her confessing her past to Renji? Or even the second run of CoMN (Third run? Whatever) now that most of the faggotry has died down?

Speaking of CoMN, you mentioned at the end of the first run that you had four endings planned and we got the worst one. Ending BB if I recall correctly? Presuming you aren't going to revive it, can you give us some details of what the other endings were like?
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who the hell uses txt anymore
About that, believe it or not, I’ve had this sitting idle for, uh... a while. I just don’t think the idea’s worth pursuing. It’s boring, really doesn’t bring anything new to the table (except some violent love), it’s short, insubstantial, and I don’t like it.

I’ll see if I can come up with anything else. Although Wriggle didn’t play that big of a role in TS, did she?

>The TiiTS party arc, from Garion trying to convince Satori
>to camping out in the middle of bumfuck nowhere and arriving home
That is oddly specific! I suspect an ulterior motive!
>More Fuku
No. Fuku is novelisation material. I have her manuscript, notes and plans, and I am, one day, going to give her the novel she deserves. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day. I owe her that much.
>can you give us some details of what the other endings were like?
I’ll put it like this: I am a man who does not remember what he had for breakfast the day before. I’ve done looked through my materials and found a short describing the final moments of her escape with the two guys, so I guess one of the endings could have been that. Otherwise, your guess is as good as mine.
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>I just don’t think the idea’s worth pursuing. It’s boring, really doesn’t bring anything new to the table (except some violent love), it’s short, insubstantial, and I don’t like it.

What about Suika then? Everyone Remembers Reimu, Yukari, Renks and Mari but no one remembers little ol' Suika.
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I remember Suika. And how she killed Naya and then Naya abused her. Not the healthiest of relationships.
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>That is oddly specific! I suspect an ulterior motive!

...Once upon a time there was an anon who suggested you rewrite TiiTS entirely from the perspective of Satori; you responded by asking them if they wanted another 150 thousand words of nothing but Satori staying home, researching ghost books and being helplessly in love. When that anon said yes, you claimed that they'd just be reading the same story all over again and that it wasn't worth the time investment. Thus the matter was dropped. But along came another anon who realised that they too would love such a story. Knowing that asking for such a thing would be unreasonable, this anon decided that they would be willing to settle for having only the arc in which Satori was most active retold. So when anon was asked once more for their desired stories ... well, you already know the rest, don't you?

The above is the sum total of my reasoning. Believe me or not as you wish.

>No. Fuku is novelisation material. I have her manuscript, notes and plans, and I am, one day, going to give her the novel she deserves. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day. I owe her that much.

Fair enough, but on that far off day you better come the fuck back here and tell me where to get a goddamn copy. Well, here or that damn blog you hardly use. You got that YAF?

>I’ll put it like this: I am a man who does not remember what he had for breakfast the day before

I know that feeling; chronic amnesia is a bitch to deal with.

For some strange reason I now want a full CYOA starring Satori as the viewpoint character. Would probably be hard to do right, but could be pretty interesting. A Koishi one might be easier though.
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Funnily, I didn’t have much anything to do yesterday, so I went and spruced the thing up a bit and uploaded a few pieces which could bear scrutiny. You can peruse them at your own leisure.

Also, I feel like taking this “XXX words a day” challenge. In general I should work out a routine of a sort for myself. So, some time today, I will make a post announcing the start of the challenge. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, like this page and subscribe Following the blog will do: http://homelessgirls.wordpress.com/

>story from Satori’s PoV
I feel that’d be more challenging than it seems, considering the increased amount of “noise” she has to deal with compared to a regular narrator-protagonist. Of course, you could omit it claiming “this is everyday occurrence to her; she doesn’t need to pay attention to every single thought,” but then someone would likely go on a tangent how “a bloo bloo bloo then what is the point, a hurf de durf omelette du fromage,” and, frankly, what is the point of having a Satori protagonist who doesn’t read others’ minds?

Tell you what, though. I can’t see myself rewriting the entire story from another PoV – both due to time constraints, and the fact that my Satori is an introverted character whose internal monologue would bloat the story immeasurably (just look at the smut I’ve written from her perspective!) – but one scene should not prove a great problem. One scene. Of your choosing. Choose wisely.
I don’t have anything at the moment, but I’ll get back to you if I get it.

Also look what I found on pixiv. Tags say Satori, shut up.
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But what about all the good times? Like when the love triangle made Naya run off into the woods in a fit of madness and he became a literal murderhobo

Wait, shit.
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>Funnily, I didn’t have much anything to do yesterday, so I went and spruced the thing up a bit and uploaded a few pieces which could bear scrutiny. You can peruse them at your own leisure.

I took a quick look and and I'm somewhat impressed. It's a definite improvement ... except for the part where you removed the "Archives" sidebar organising your posts by month, making it a bitch to navigate to your old stuff. Other than that, looks good. I'll read it in more detail once my head's stopped spinning.

>Also, I feel like taking this “XXX words a day” challenge

At least a hundred words everyday by YAF? Ooh, dis gunna be good.

>Following the blog will do

Right, will do.

...I just realised that I haven't checked my email address in over two years. There must be massive piles of spam to clean up. Maybe I should just get a new one? I suppose I'll just follow your blog manually for now.

>I feel that’d be more challenging than it seems, considering the increased amount of “noise” she has to deal with compared to a regular narrator-protagonist.

Hence why I doubt it'll happen, or at least happen well. It's a pity because it seems like a pretty interesting idea. I suppose I'll just have to make do with Mind's Eye over at >>/th/174264

Out of curiosity, how would you write a story from Koishi's perspective?

>One scene. Of your choosing. Choose wisely.

Define scene. I guess I'll pick Satori at the party, if that isn't too much. Bonus points if you start with her getting mad at Garion and show the exact moment in her internal monologue that she calmed down.

My apologies if this post is shit, my insomnia is acting up.
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>Out of curiosity, how would you write a story from Koishi's perspective?
An interesting question. Given my understanding of Koishi’s predicament is right, I should think, ironically, something approaching a Stream of Consciousness-type narrative would suit her best. Only more erratic, prone to becoming incomplete and disjointed. Which smacks of Modernism. Which makes me want to smack a rack.

Koishi’s PoV, supposing it is done with respect to canon, may just prove even more difficult than Satori’s. If we were to follow the logical thread of SoC-except-subconsciousness-instead-of-consciousness, what this puts me in mind of is a dream-like narrative. Only you know how dreams are. Maybe you could get into Lucid Dreaming by way of research. I’ve done some of this before; it was fun enough, despite the tendency of my dreams to include large quantities of highly explosive objects. Most of which do not have the physical right to explode in real life.

... Koishi has it scary, doesn’t she?

>Define scene.
Any scene from the original story that is one contained scene. Example: finding Garion with Reimu till arriving at the festival downhill. Or it may be something earlier, without his presence, like being left alone at home, till her arrival at the shrine. Just pick a specific frame of events and I’ll think about it.

>I haven't checked my email address in over two years. There must be massive piles of spam to clean up.
When my ages-old acc got too cluttered, I made a Google account then linked the old acc’s info to it. Google’s own servers pull your regular mail’s mail over, and their spam filter is rather efficient at what it does.

Also, I don’t know who went noising me and my stuff about on /jp/, but god damn it, guys. God damn it.
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>Which smacks of Modernism. Which makes me want to smack a rack.
I like you. You can come over to my house and fuck my sister.
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>despite the tendency of my dreams to include large quantities of highly explosive objects. Most of which do not have the physical right to explode in real life.

...Your head must be a strange and wondrous place YAF. Anyway, thanks for your perspective.

As for TiiTS;

>left alone at home, till her arrival at the shrine
>finding Garion with Reimu till arriving at the festival downhill
>Meeting Michael and storytime
>Satori complaining about Touhous and kissing Garion
>The morning after and arguing with Reimu

Any of the above are fine. I'd be equally delighted to receive any single one of them. So write whatever one you'd enjoy the most or otherwise prefer YAF!

>Account stuff

Thanks for the advice, I might just take it.

>Also, I don’t know who went noising me and my stuff about on /jp/, but god damn it, guys. God damn it.

Oh? I don't check /jp/ much because they always give me a headache. Anything interesting?
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>Anything interesting?
Well, I got a heads-up someone was apparently impersonating me on /jp/, so I hopped on over and found it was actually just the opposite – someone was being called me, for whatever reason.

Then I did a quick archive search and found someone had actually linked and recommended TiiTS on /jp/. Which is fucking great. Except when I say great, I mean god damn awful. /jp/ has been shit since... well, forever, but it was tolerable at least in GM’s day. Why you would even bring up THP stuff over there these days beats the shit out of me.

Actually a lot of stuff comes up if you search for “YAF,” which is just great. And when I say great...Well, you know the drill.

As for those scenes, might be an idea forming in my head. I’ll see what comes of it. With a bit of luck it won’t go and explode on me.
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>someone had actually linked and recommended TiiTS on /jp/. Which is fucking great. Except when I say great, I mean god damn awful.

Don't be such a gay baby, you big gay baby. What do you care if some particular kind of demographic reads your story? It's not like you're interacting with them directly or anything. Does the simple knowledge that some random fags from somewhere shitty read your crap really bother you?
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It bothers me that it could pull over the neo-/jp/ sort of users.
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