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38175
First Thread: >>37747

You are Darejan the Lucent Mirror, Seeker of Darkness. Once, you worked with a group to try to protect and preserve portions of the World from the searing horror of the Light. Or at least, you thought you were doing that at the time.

After getting more information, you decided to leave the escalating conflict, sealing yourself within your own weapon, entering into hibernation as you drifted between the stars.

Something caused you to crash land here in Gensokyo, and before you recovered from the impact, someone touched your Keyblade. A month later you found a native holding one of their own.

The might and versatility of the Keyblade is not to be underestimated. Your sense of personal responsibility for the impending chaos leads you to trek across this strange sealed land, securing and sealing your errant technology from the hands, hearts, and minds of this place.

For their own good.

Whether they see it that way or not.

[***] Skip to next divider if gamey stuff isn't your thing [***]

Stats: different spell cards or abilities require these 'points' to be temporarily committed.

3 native points in Shield (Defensive skill, which also grants more affinity to larger, bulkier Keyblade shapes)

1 native point in Sword (Offensive skill, which also grants more affinity to more lithe and deadly Keyblade shapes)

1 native point in Staff (Utility skill, which covers 'clever' Keyblade shapes and your base Danmaku skill)

3 native points in Moon (Intermediate Element covering the changing of shapes, change in general, trickery, insanity, berserking, and purity)
[WARNING, Moon points wax and wane with the moon's phases. At a half moon in the sky you have your native value]

1 native plus two optional points in Darkness (Advanced Element covering the Self, the Heartless, hearts, negative or base emotions, matter/particles, absorption, opacity, and counteracting the Light)
[You can call on one additional point of Darkness each from your Keyblade and your Armor, if they are manifested and visible. You gained one point of native Darkness for foiling Marisa.]

2 native points in Space (Intermediate Element covering distance, speed, spatial awareness, navigation, and location)
[You earned one point of space from defeating Komachi, and one from defeating Suika]

Darejan can fly if she manifests her Keyblade and commits 2 Shield points and 2 Moon points to keeping it in Vehicle Mode. Her remaining Shield point plus her Space points would allow her to dodge quite well.

If she got other applicable element points, she could fly in other ways instead, leaving her Keyblade free to use.

Likewise, spell cards can be invoked with different point values. Two Moon points and one Darkness point can be substituted for two Darkness points.

I will always provide the most effective of possible options in spell card combat choices, based on information Darejan is aware of at the time.

[***] Okay gamey stuff is over now [***]

[X] Back to Eientei, to return the correspondence (Reisen)

[***]

You step out of the Corridor in full view of the front path of Eientei, making no effort to conceal your arrival or approach to the front door. You smell the dozens of rabbit hearts dashing about in the building as you knock.

Soon, a rabbit you don't recognize answers, and you tell her you have Satori's correspondence for Eirin. She leads you through the corridors, and you get to Eirin's reception area, where another rabbit takes the envelope while giving formal thanks. Eirin seems to be working at the moment, as she is not present personally.

As you're being led back out, you idly consider the other residents. Social protocol seems to bar you from directly seeking out Kaguya. You have no further business with Tewi, and don't want to bother her, especially after her generosity. That leaves Reisen.

A rabbit from the Moon.

Well, Kaguya and Eirin are from the moon as well, but the point stands. Earlier, she had mentioned waves- sensing waves, to be precise. That smacked of Light- not the Guardians, but the elemental affiliation nonetheless. You request your guide lead you to Reisen, and she nods and leads you up to the rooftops, into what seems to be a well fortified sniper's nest and lookout.

Reisen is taking a verbal report from another rabbit, who scurries off past you once she finishes. Your guide bows and announces you, then dismisses herself. Reisen makes eye contact briefly then glances away, probably to avoid triggering her gaze again.

"Good morning, Miss Darejan. Did you need something?"

Her heart is a scrambled blur, like the first time you met her. She's not wearing the poncho this time, so at least you can sense the mess; better an unreadable heart than an unsensible one, after all.

"Um, yes, actually. I was just wondering . . ."

Eientei has declared its full support to your cause. You are not one to squander such resources. Therefore, it is in your best interests to familiarize yourself with their capabilities.

A tiny voice in the back of your mind says that if you trust them, then you should familiarize them with your own abilities as well.

[***]

[ ] " . . . did you have time for a spellcard duel?"
-[ ] Full Power, show them what you can do
-[ ] Take it slow, ne! keep your cards close to your chest

[ ] " . . . could we discuss tactical options?"
-[ ] Full Disclosure, knowing that the info you share could be used against you
-[ ] Keep it basic, assuming the culprit hasn't unlocked much of the Keyblade's true power yet.

[ ] " . . . can we test out the effect of your eyes on me?"
-[ ] Full Retard, take the full brunt of the Eyes of Madness without raising any defenses, so as to best simulate the culprit's reaction. (In a controlled setting, of course)
-[ ] Prepare yourself beforehand, blunting the blow on your mind and heart. Gaining a idea of how to resist it but losing the insight to be gained from a raw exposure (likewise in a controlled setting)
[X] " . . . can we test out the effect of your eyes on me?"
-[X] Full Retard, take the full brunt of the Eyes of Madness without raising any defenses, so as to best simulate the culprit's reaction. (In a controlled setting, of course)
Quick, Eirin's distracted! Let's do something stupid!
[X] " . . . could we discuss tactical options?"
-[X] Keep it basic, assuming the culprit hasn't unlocked much of the Keyblade's true power yet.

After Eirin's little bit of subterfuge with the errand, I don't think we're going to be fully trusting Eientei just yet. Their help will be useful, but for now, caution is still the word in dealing with them.
[ ] " . . . could we discuss tactical options?"
-[ ] Keep it basic, assuming the culprit hasn't unlocked much of the Keyblade's true power yet.

Never go full retard.
[X] " . . . could we discuss tactical options?"
-[X] Keep it basic, assuming the culprit hasn't unlocked much of the Keyblade's true power yet.
[x] " . . . could we discuss tactical options?"
-[x] Keep it basic, assuming the culprit hasn't unlocked much of the Keyblade's true power yet.
Calling it. Cautious, aren't we?
Come to think of it, does Darejan`s keyblade have a name?
[X] " . . . could we discuss tactical options?"
-[X] Keep it basic, assuming the culprit hasn't unlocked much of the Keyblade's true power yet.

[***]

" . . .could we discuss tactical options? I appreciate the offer of help, but I want to make sure you all know what you're getting in to, and what you can bring to bear."

Reisen blinks owlishly at you, then is suddenly standing up straighter. Her scrambled heart seems to pulse stronger.

"I would be happy to." She turns and barked some orders into a radio on a ledge, then turns back to you. "Shall we talk over lunch?"

You accompany her to the dining area and join her in getting a tray of food. You sweep back your hood, and ignore the bit of whispering various rabbits make upon finally seeing the Mysterious Hooded Darejan's face. After the traditional word before eating, you scoop up your (very nice ceramic) chopsticks and dig in, pausing to speak only after you'd swallowed a few mouthfuls.

"So, the first thing to be aware of is that reflecting your bullet back at you was not a fluke."

Reisen silently nods as she takes another bite of carrot salad.

"The Keyblade is a tool of absolutes. A true wielder may-"

Reisen's hand shot up. "Please wait a moment."

There was a loud crashing sound, and through a window behind Reisen you see a flurry of Danmaku followed by a figure plunging from the sky to the ground, only to recover at the last second and lunge out of sight dodging another barrage. Tewi hovers down in front of the window for a moment, gives you a thumbs up, then shoots off in pursuit.

"We had an eavesdropper. The crow is notorious, but for this conversation we deemed privacy was ideal."

"The crow? The reporter?"

"Indeed. She is much more powerful than she looks, and while she is virtually impossible to catch, it is relatively easy to chase her away- it's not like she can listen in while being shot at, and if she can't listen she has no reason to stay or fight."

You nod. "I guess I might have business with her at some point."

Reisen shrugs. "Most would, by now. In any case, as you were saying?"

"Right. A true wielder may recall the Keyblade to their hand at any time." To demonstrate, you summon your blade, toss in behind you haphazardly, and will it instantly into your hand again in a puff of blackness before it could hit a stray rabbit behind you. You dismiss it and continue. "They will always, ALWAYS have the ability to return any single projectile they sense coming. And I mean 'return.' If you fired a shot that was enchanted to hit me between the eyes, and I deflected it, it would then seek to hit you between the eyes if I deflected it towards you. If there were multiple opponents, I could have it seek one of them instead."

Another nod.

"Depending on their specialty, they may be more or less skilled at this. There are three leanings; Sword, Staff, and Shield. Each has more options for various techniques. A Sword specialist will prefer melee offensive work, while a Shield specialist will be capable of deflecting and returning virtually anything. Finally, the more heart put into an attack, the greater chance a Keyblade wielder will react- and by that, I mean have a moment of precognition and inspiration to reverse or counter extremely powerful assaults- ones they might not otherwise have even seen coming. Rifle bullets are very powerful- normally a human wouldn't have the speed or reflexes to knock one away, so the Keyblade compensated. The best way to land a hit on a Keyblade wielder is from behind with a low velocity, common projectile of some sort. Standard vanilla danmaku would be just fine. If they would easily be able to bat it away if they saw it coming, then their reflexes won't trigger if they fail to see it coming."

At that, Reisen tilts her head. "While I appreciate the advice greatly, doesn't this reveal much about your own weaknesses as well?"

You gigle a bit at that. "Well, I am formally trained and privy to a number of special techniques. While a total amateur could be very powerful, the basics are still the basics, and I am full of so many dirty tricks that giving you a full tactical summation of the base capabilities won't really affect my safety at all.

This is a total lie, and you know it. However, it is the type of casual deception that is expected. You DO have many dirty tricks. They just have certain restrictions on their use, at times. More importantly, as far as you are aware, if the spellcard rules are followed then there is very little chance for the worst possible types of attacks to be aimed at you; those being field-saturating, undodgable and unblockable blasts of energy that would cheerfully follow you through a Corridor of Darkness and vaporize your escape zone for your trouble.

"Anyways," you continue, "if you can see it coming, and realistically parry it, it can be returned with the same energy and enchantments. If it's too fast to realistically be seen or deflected, it will trigger a stronger power and be returned or otherwise deflected anyway. This also applies to melee attacks; no matter the strength or physique of the wielder, a parred strike is parried completely, sending juggernauts staggering backwards with the reflected energy of their own blows."

Reisen tilts her head. "But if you are a little faster than them?"

You smile and nod "Then you can probably just poke holes in them or otherwise defeat them. If they are focusing completely on defense, you will have an incredibly hard time getting a hit in on them; if they are Shield specialized and focusing on defense, you will NOT get a hit in on them. At that point either sealing techniques or terrain destruction become better options. Full battlefield saturation, with fire or liquid, works too, but that violates spellcard rules."

"How do we determine the specialty?"

You tap your chin. "Normally I would say don't bother, because usually we try to keep that secret, but the culprit won't have that education. Hmm. Well, the basic parry he did was reflexive, so it doesn't give a clue. To out him as Shield we'd have to come at him with moves of a high enough caliber that he's forced to use extreme defense or desperately try to dodge. For Sword, aggravate him to the point of unleashing a larger attack on us. For Staff? I'd say a disgusting talent for attacking with Danmaku would be a really good clue. I'd actually go so far as to classify most youkai and humans worth taking seriously as Staff, as far as how I'd deal with them. I'm sure there are plenty of exceptions."

"Indeed," Reisen agrees.

"Now for non combat advice. As I said before: any door, any seal, any lock can be opened by a Keyblade. The only defense is hiding a door or container. It can't be opened if it's not known. The counter is true as well; doors and containers can be sealed. Even thinks without locks can be sealed, like I did to Suika's sake gourd."

"Based on what I know of the oni, that move seems . . unwise?"

You shrug. "I was proving a point. I didn't fear her, not for one second. She needed to understand that before she even began to take me seriously. I just had to beat her sober and force her to remain that way against her will- even for a few seconds."

Reisen dabs her mouth with a napkin before responding. "So you're a Shield specialist, then?"

You mouth opens and shuts. The rabbit girl smiles a bit.

"Not fearing an Oni implies either ignorance or nigh invulnerability, and we know you read the Chronicle. Even the mightiest warriors know that an equally mighty blow could end them, and thereby fear. Oni are relatively simple to defeat via trickery if you can survive long enough to do so, and if you have that confidence then they are nothing worth worrying about."

Tch.

Seemingly pleased with herself, Resien seeks to calm your nerves. "If it makes you feel any better, Gensokyo needs more defensive specialists. There's always the idle worry that someone will snap and start ignoring the spellcard rules, and in the time before the Hakurei deals with them they could kill many. Having the opposite type as a friendly neighbor is generally more preferable."

You sigh. "Well, it could be worse. Better that allies know anyways, so no misunderstandings occur. Yes, you're correct. I am a Shield specialist, and no man, god, or youkai will kill me quickly. My specialty is in determining weaknesses and exploiting them. The culprit is a total newbie to this whole Keyblade thing, which means I more or less know 90% of his strengths already, barring any talents they had before picking up the Keyblade in the first place. Their weakness will be revealed once we determine their specialty. Swords are the easiest to kill, but also the best at killing. Staffs tend to be tougher, but have gaps based on their nature. Shields? Well, just pray they aren't a shield, or I'll have to do everything personally."

Reisen's brows raise a bit. "Oh?"

"Shields are impossible to crack with force. If they decide they're in trouble, you simply won't hit them. At that point you have to start violating the spellcard rules like I said before, or playing extremely dirty. Thankfully, if they do wind up being Shields, they will be the smallest threat to Gensokyo possible."

"And the greatest?"

"Staff, without a doubt. This place runs on magic, and the stuff someone already powerful could do with a baby Staff Keyblade here would give me nightmares. That's why I took that hit from Kirisame before."

Reisen's expression changes subtly, and you suspect her opinion of you just recalibrated completely.

"Very well then. As you're been so open, I'll give you a summary of the talents of Eientei. Kaguya-sama manipulates time, Eirin-sama deals in alchemy and pharmacy primarily while dabbling in virtually all other academics, and Tewi masters luck. I myself am nothing so special, however my eyes allow me to counter and disable even the mightiest beings. Kaguya-sama and Eiren-sama are both, of course, immortal, so physical trauma is meaningless to them; that Eiren-sama seeks to protect Kaguya from such most of the time anyway is moot- doubly so considering Fujiwara no Mokou. While Eiren-sama would never admit it, I suspect the Princess' rivalry with Mokou did the opposite of Eiren-sama's fears; it actually vitalized her instead of depressing her. Regardless, Kaguya-sama shall not be considered a tactical asset in the field for the purposes of planning." She stops for a moment, and sighs. "That she will inevitably get involved whether we want her to or not is also worth noting. If the pattern holds, she will jump in without warning, get in over her head, then cry to Eiren-sama for help, thereby distracting Eiren-sama from her assigned role." You can hear the mild bitterness in the rabbit's voice, at this. "Regardless, she won't be totally useless. If Eiren-sama could be convinced to let her in on the actual planning from the beginning, things would go much smoother, but that is unlikely. She could also be brought in on the side, making her less of a burden but risking Eiren-sama's wrath."

Your gaze darts around the cafeteria. "I was under the impression that Eiren was aware of everything within these walls."

Reisen just smiles faintly. "When one is head of security, one knows where and when to speak without being overhead by anyone, even one's masters." She demurely brings a hand down to her lap and back up, showing what looks like a remote control. "The walls do have ears, but I control them." She hides the remote again. "Kaguya-sama can enchant bullets and Eiren-sama can drug them, giving the the other rabbits and me various options for physical force. As far as Danmaku goes, the four of us can hold our own. Now, if things escalate beyond the spellcard rules . . ." her voice drops in volume greatly, "then there are measures we can take that might be frowned upon under more conventional circumstances. However doing so would require a dire need to risk the Hakurei's wrath."

You nod, figuring as much. The Chronicle was quite clear (even if only between the lines) that the vast majority of the power held by the greater residents of Gensokyo was virtually untapped in modern times. You're not sure what degree of crisis would need to erupt for Reimu to allow others to 'take the gloves off,' so to speak, and hopefully you won't have to find out.

Reisen continues, her voice resuming its normal volume. "The rabbits won't really serve much use in any greater conflict; at best they will help in suppressing enemy cannon fodder if it comes to an infantry mobilization, but based on your information it is more likely the culprit is operating solo. Our primary worry at this point is if the . . . power is spread to others with anti-Eientei leanings. Not that we've gone out of our way to make enemies, mind you, but there are elements that would leap at the opportunity to seize one of those Keyblades and wreak havoc on us."

"Mokou?" you probe.

Reisen blinks. "Oh, no. Mokou-san has to need of extra power to challenge us. I was more thinking of older enemies, from before Eirin-sama and Kaguya-sama and I arrived here. The Moon. We are still technically fugitives."

You take this in stride; 'fugitives' is nowhere by far the worst label you've been able to apply to allies at a given point. Still, it bears hearing out- "Anything I should know, in case they show up? I will not hesitate to intervene in any situation where the Keyblade is at stake."

Reisen sets down her chopsticks and diverts her gaze for a moment. You feel a slight increase in the intensity of the static from her heart, then she looks back to you. "The noble denizens of the Moon are 'pure.' They transcend mortality, and by the same token, morality. As those who walk the base earth are impure, they have no compunctions against treating them all like insects- with their full fury and power."

"Hmm." You take that at face value. Purity implies Light as a aspect, while living on the Moon implies Moon, of course. As they don't sound particularly insane or tricky, the aspect of the Moon they'd probably channel is simply might. Not a match-up you really want to have, honestly. Hopefully it doesn't come to that.

You both finish your food and return your trays. Reisen sees you to the exit, and you turn to her for your parting words.

"My last bit of advice: If any of you see the culprit and they shoot a thin beam of light or darkness from their tip of their blade, like so . . ." You manifest your Keyblade and darkness swirls around the tip, then a pencil-line of blackness shoots out and strikes the entrance to Eientei. You walk up and tug on the door, showing that it is sealed tightly, then tap it with your blade and show that it opens once again. "If you see one of those beams, avoid letting it strike you outside of a spellcard duel at all costs. I cannot say what it will do to you, but it will most assuredly not be pleasant. I just sealed this door. A beam like that could potentially seal your eyes, mouth, ears, nose, or worse- and it would take another Keyblade to unseal them. The culprit might not know they can do that yet- and I don't intend to let them find out. Still, it bears knowing. The beam tracks and seeks, so it will take some serious doing to avoid; but that's what danmaku is all about."

Reisen's eyebrows rise a bit at that and she nods seriously. "That you for the advice and information, Darejan-san. I will relay it to everyone that needs to know at once."

You wave goodbye as you turn around and another Corridor opens in front of you. You put up your hood and step inside, figuring that Eientei will now be more useful if called into a hot zone.

As for your next destination, it's early afternoon and you have no outstanding obligations. You head . . .

[***]

[ ] to the Hakurei Shrine (directly)

[ ] to the Scarlet Devil Mansion (indirectly)

[ ] to the Garden of the Sun (indirectly)

[ ] elsewhere [Write-in]
[x] to the Garden of the Sun (indirectly)

This should be fun.
[X] to the Garden of the Sun (indirectly)
Fun in the sun.
[X] to the Garden of the Sun (indirectly)
[x] to the Scarlet Devil Mansion (indirectly)

Have we had any interaction with the SDM at all?
Let's start some trouble.
[X] to the Garden of the Sun (indirectly)

Hopefully, as the sole witness (aside from the thief) to Darejan's arrival, Yuuka can offer some sort of clue; even if it's not much, we currently haven't made much progress.
Calling it.
[joker]And here . . . we . . . go![/joker]
[X] to the Garden of the Sun (indirectly)

[***]

. . . to the Garden of the Sun, via the Human Village.

The Corridor ends in your home, once again. You deposit your Black Coat on your futon; you doubt it would be considered polite to show up in the den of a powerful youkai wearing clothes that magically hide you. It would be rude.

Checking on your appearance in a small mirror, you adjust your hair and smooth your kimono a bit. Finally, you transfer your miscellaneous items from your coat to your handbag and sling it over a shoulder. Perfect.

You leave, sliding your door shut behind you. As you walk to the north end of town, you can't help but notice the various glances being shot your way. You were always 'that tall foreign lady' before, but now there's a tinge of fear and suspicion in the air. It's quickly souring your otherwise perfectly good mood, but you don't let that show on your face. You're trying to help these people, after all.

That thought does little to soothe you from the sting of a mother pulling her young son away from looking at you.

You finally sigh and make your way to the gate. The guards don't harass you on the way out- they know better, apparently.

Marching ever north, you hold your head high and proceed without fear. You look directly at any hearts you sense, whether you can see their source or not; few challenge you. Apparently the swarms of fairies and other riffraff that plague the flyers of this place pay less attention to the ground . . . or you repel them for a completely different reason. Regardless, you pass by the edge of the Forest of Magic, and follow the path that bends around its northwestern edge before branching off further north still. This forest has no particular name or identity. The path is faint here, but still visible during the day. Finally, the treeline breaks, and you come upon a rise. Trudging up, you find yourself beset on two sides by sunflowers. A long and straight path stretches out ahead of you. It's very wide and rather deep, as if hundreds or thousands of people marched down it each day. That's obviously not the case, but even still you feel a mildly oppressive weight grace your shoulders as you pass by unending numbers of sunflowers. You almost misstep when a cascade of faint emotion rolls forth, echoing from plant to plant. Discovery. Curiosity. Interest. They roll past you in waves, each flower's limited senses seeming to convey information back to its surrounding peers. This pattern repeats, and you get the feeling that you are literally seeing a gigantic heart operate in slow motion. The Garden itself, a youkai? Stranger things are possible, you figure.

After marching for an indeterminate amount of time in a straight line, you pause. There are no landmarks. The trail seems to keep going ever northward, towards the distant mountains. You feel echoes of anticipation and amusement washing over the sunflowers. With some trepidation, you turn and look back.

Endless rows of sunflowers on either side of the path. Far in the distance you see . . . a speck of greenery from the forest.

Wait. You walked for a while but you didn't walk that far. You spin to face forwards once again and freeze.

In front of you now is a clearing and a small hill there were not there seconds before. Atop the hill stands a woman of average height with green hair and crimson eyes, bearing an amused smile on her face and an parasol on one shoulder. The wind blows and her plaid skirt swirls up a bit, but she pays it no mind. Her heart doesn't even register any modesty at it. You're still laser focused on her expression- that smile. A smile that perfectly matches

the fragmented and incomplete hearts

of the entire field of flowers-

Eagerness radiates from her through the flowers in waves so strong that you'd be sent to your knees if you weren't frozen in fear. Fear of that heart.

That HEART!

The woman, demon, youkai, monster slowly takes her parasol from her shoulder and folds it shut. She holds it to one side and gives the slightest mocking bow, with her free hand folded across her chest.

"It's good to finally meet you, Dreamer. I couldn't find you because you never looked in any mirrors in your dreams. Before we speak of why I brought you to this world, though, one last little test is in order."

The words pass through your head clearly, but your eyes are locked on the tip of the parasol that is slowly being brought to point at you. Vines begin silently and rapidly interlocking themselves between the sunflowers, forming something of a wall to either side of the path.

The wide, well-worn path.

No. Not a path at all.

A carved chasm.

"A piece of advice, before we begin, Dreamer," says the woman. "Don't hold back."

It is all you can do to leap straight up as the gigantic beam of light fills the full width of the gap between the flowers. You backflip at the arc of your leap and a burst of darkness masks your form for a moment as your full armor manifests. You land much sooner than you expect, the floor of the cubic barrier of a spellcard duel manifesting roughly a foot above the tops of the flowers. You come to your feet, eyes tracking the progress of your attacker as she rises into the air. Her name and title grace the wall of the barrier behind her-

[風見 幽香]
[四季のフラワーマスター]

[Kazami Yuuka]
[Flower Master of the Four Seasons]

After which she speaks once more. "No card limits, three strikes to victory."

-and with that, you choke down any hesitation you had. The opening shot aside, you're not in tangible danger.

Right?

[***]

[ ] Hold back.

[ ] Don't hold back.

ALSO

[ ] Play clean.

[ ] Play dirty.
[X] Don't hold back.

[X] Play clean.
[X] Don't hold back.

[X] Play dirty.
[X] Don't hold back.
[X] Play dirty.

Anything less would be rude.
[X] Don't hold back.

[X] Play dirty.

If she knows who we are, she knows how we fight, and challenged us anyway; I doubt she'll be offended. No sense in keeping our hands clean when we're going to need every trick we've got just to keep up.
[X] Don't hold back.
[X] Play dirty.

Well, she did tell us not to hold back.
Calling it.
inb4 she's totally bluffing and we wipe the floor with her, resulting in ALL OF THE GUILT when she starts crying
but seriously, cute Yuuka is way better than monster Yuuka
File 142511392937.jpg - (735.01KB, 1280x800, flowers.jpg) [iqdb]
38199
Time to get asskicked
Still typing the update, but a minor correction to OP: You started with one native Darkness and two optionals. You gained a native for foiling Marisa, giving you a total of four Darkness to call on normally, and more if you convert further Moon points to it. Had to redo my math for the dirty tricks~
[X] Don't hold back.

[X] Play dirty.

[***]

"Fantastic Spring Flowers~"

「幻想春花」

You find yourself scurrying around dodging large, ungainly blossoms as they rain down from the sky. It's a slow enough attack, but it's not allowing you much in the way of orthodox movement options- or line of sight to the opponent.

Not that you need orthodox options with a Keyblade in your hands. Cards manifest in your hand one after another. Darkness, Moon, Moon, Space, Space. You collapse the fanned hand of cards and turn it around, presenting a spellcard of your own featuring a hollow green triangle. A quick toss and then it is jabbed with your weapon. A glowing blue aura surrounds you as you declare it.

"Key Sign: [Reaction]!"

You leap up and land on one of the falling flowers, flinging up the tip of your keyblade as it flies like a grappling hook. Swinging, jumping and flipping a bit gets you up in the air high enough to make out Yuuka- while rendering these unconventionally large danmaku completely moot. Of course, you haven't attacked yet yourself, but that's not the current plan. You have one singular priority, and you need to buy time for it.

Yuuka's smile doesn't change, though she makes an inquisitive hum.

"I was sure you were going to try something- I know you can fly, so there was no reason to go to all that trouble now, right?"

You don't respond, and she cancels the spellcard, leaving you at roughly her altitude with nowhere to go but down.

Just as planned.

As your fall begins, your blue glow fades and your own spellcard effect ends. This time, however, you are going on the offensive. Yellow bolts crisscross above you as they fail to track you quickly enough, buying you time to retract your Keyblade to its native shape and gather another hand of cards to flourish. Four identical cards appear in you left hand for a moment before being folded together and thrown straight down to the ground. You reorient yourself blade-point-downwards, and a swirl of black power gathers around the tip in the second before you hit the floor.

"Heartless Sign: [Bottomless Darkness]!"

Blackness swirls out from the point of impact, but you don't wait; you spin and deflect the incoming wave of danmaku with a series of motion-blurred slashes. You toss your keyblade in front of you and leap onto it as it warps and stretches, becoming your accustomed vehicle-form as you land on it with both feet. Kneeling a bit, you 'surf' to the edge of the arena and bank up, luring the danmaku fire away from your card which is still pulsing down in the bottom of the arena. Before Yuuka picks another spell, before she fires something straight down, you need to get back up to her altitude and make this a more traditional horizontal firing match- even if you are somewhat low on options to fire, yourself. You level off and make to ram her, which causes her to bring up her umbrella in defense- which you slam into, raising your feet and taking the impact on your Keyblade at the last second, using it to bounce up higher and then swoop back around for another pass-

-another pass that she is ready for.

花符「幻想郷の開花」

"Flower Sign, [Reflowering of Gensokyo]"

You are once again in bullet hell, and now without your blade in hand to deflect. Thankfully, your space affinity has you dodging the little yellow bolts like you've been doing it all your life. It also helps that you are currently making no attempts to shoot back, and can focus completely on defense while ignoring openings for potential lines of fire.

You keep yourself angled a little higher than Yuuka, and force yourself to not focus on the blackness which is spreading from the bottom of the arena. It's about halfway up, now. A gap in her fire has you rushing in for another strike, this time buzzing past without hitting as she simply swirled another pattern of bullets at you instead of raising her parasol. The ones coming directly for you were deflected off the bottom of your board-blade once again, but you had to twist a bit more to avoid the rest. Righting yourself, you spin back to face Yuuka to see her glancing around the arena, taking in your spreading darkness as it envelopes the inside of the barrier up to the elevation you are both hovering at.

"I was wondering why you weren't shooting. Now I'm curious!"

The innocent tone sounded sincere, but the echoing madness of the flowers masked the truth from you. Still, as she seems to have stopped shooting to watch your spellcard play out, you oblige her and catch your breath, hovering patiently. The darkness creeps up the last of the walls, and converges on the ceiling- and as it does, the light of the sun rapidly fades. The last thing you see as the circle of light shrinks to nothing is Yuuka spinning to look at you, her brow slightly furrowed-

Then everything goes pitch black, and the flowers are deathly silent.

"You . . . cut them off from me."

She did not sound nearly as concerned or disturbed or angry or otherwise put out as you were hoping. Her heart was now clear for you to read, and much less disturbing for it. It was . . . odd, though. Incomplete? Her emotions didn't seem to resonate with her words at all, rapidly switching between curiosity and nothing at all, then a pique of revelation.

"Oh, right! You did it on purpose! I'm not sure what good it will do you though~"

Far below, dozens of tiny pairs of golden eyes faded into view, then winked out. Yuuka's attention zeroed in on them as they slid up the walls faster than anything had any right to.

"What are- oh, you dreamed about these. I remember now."

And you heard her parasol snap open shortly before the first of them fell from above, glancing off of her protection and falling down to the ground below harmlessly. You fight the urge to facepalm as they are utterly deflected without effort.

"Well, that was cute, I guess. But I'm wondering something, Dreamer-"

The voice cut off, only to resume right by your ear,

"-don't you know that Youkai work best in the dark?"

You don't flinch.

You don't flinch, because you smelled her slide through the darkness.

You don't flinch because you knew she wasn't trying to attack- she was merely trying to tease you and get a rise.

You don't flinch because your body is already moving, your Keyblade back in your hand and your arm lashing backwards before she even started to speak. You pick the form you do because it seems apropos, given her (now discernible) attitude.

PIKU!

The oversized toy-mallet shape bonks Yuuka soundly upside the head, swinging up from below her umbrella. She goes careening across the arena, spinning a bit. When she pulls herself back into a righted hovering stop, you can feel her muted confusion as she has totally lost her bearings relative to you. You have already slipped your keyblade back under yourself and silently floated to a different spot, ready to launch yourself for a follow-up when-

"Well, this was fun, but now it's time to destroy everything!"

The umbrella snaps shut and you see her as the tip gathers power, pointing straight down. It looks like it's Master Spark. You're behind her so she doesn't see you. She's pulsing with a bit of confidence, but if you compensate for her oddly weak emotions, it might be better described as something like smugness.

She's wide open.

It can't be this easy.

Can it?

[***]

WHAT DO?

[ ] Throw everything at her; you have an elite strike team bumbling troupe of childlike Shadows ready to rain from the sky, and a tried-and-true way to launch yourself at her and get in a hit. At least one of you should be able to score a point while keeping the lights out!

[ ] Just drop the Shadows and hang back.

[ ] Go in yourself and hold the Shadows in reserve (assuming she doesn't cancel the spellcard and snuff them by firing off that beam straight down)

[ ] Other option: Cast a new spellcard from your free elements! You can immediately chain into a card with elements you aren't currently using. The darkness and Heartless will vanish but you'll be able to get a sudden shot in. You have two Shield, two Moon, and all four Darkness points in use right now. If you dropped the Shield and Moon points you'd be able to use them but you'd be in freefall again. You can also drop your current Spellcard and cast from that too, but it will take a second. Your currently free elements are one Shield, one Sword, one Staff, one Moon, and two Space.

+ { } Drop your flight and use those elements too

+ { } Take a moment to delay and free up your Darkness elements as well before casting

(For this last choice, there four combinations. Free, Free+flight, Free+dark, and Free+dark+flight. The + { } boxes are selectable options, not subvotes!)
[x] Coordinated attack, send the shadows in first from 1 direction to draw the shot and then attack from the other.

Assuming no shenanigans, the master spark can only fire in 1 direction, it is a simple laser after all regardless of size and it reduces movement speed to boot. If we attack from 1 direction and the shadows from the opposite we guarantee she won't be able to hit both unless she moves, which would cancel her attack leave us with the advantage.
Hmm, can we combine Shield/Moon/Darkness to make a giant mirror? Reflecting her signature move back into her face would be hilarious.

>>38202
>Assuming no shenanigans, the master spark can only fire in 1 direction
Dual Spark is a thing.
>>38203

While Darejan's sobriquet is The Lucent Mirror, the meaning there is slightly different.

As for reflecting a Master Spark, that would take at least a point of Light element, as Light deals with hearts, reflection, refraction, focus, Others, energy/waves, positive or enlightened emotions, transparency, and counteracting Darkness.
>>38204
Foo. Oh well, guess I'll vote for a provided option, then.

[X] Throw everything at her; you have an elite strike team bumbling troupe of childlike Shadows ready to rain from the sky, and a tried-and-true way to launch yourself at her and get in a hit. At least one of you should be able to score a point while keeping the lights out!
As a further incentive to vote, I'll say that there are options here that result in landing a hit on Yuuka, eating a hit, mutual hits, and no one getting hit. Since this is Yuuka, I can safely say there is only one option that results in getting a clean hit on her, and many options that result in her getting a hit in on you.
+ {X} Take a moment to delay and free up your Darkness elements as well before casting
I don't suppose we can convert the Shadows into something stronger? Or are we not strong enough for anything tougher? Darkballs and Invisibles come to mind.

If not, then
[ ] Go in yourself and hold the Shadows in reserve (assuming she doesn't cancel the spellcard and snuff them by firing off that beam straight down)
>>38208
Bottomless Darkness, as a card you bothered to cast, primarily blacks out the arena and secondarily spawns some Shadows for the duration. Your primary gain is getting a lock on Yuuka's heart; when the spell ends you will be able to track her as normal, and you'll no longer be as disturbed by the flower-echoes.

That said, if you want stronger Heartless, you'd have to release the card and invoke a different one. Mind you, for proper danmaku-style danmaku, you'd have to dedicate some Darkness as well, since you haven't actually beaten up anyone and picked an element it's easy to attack with yet.

(Space is useful as all hell, don't get me wrong, but you'd need to combine it with Time to go for the wacky Magnet and Gravity spells. If you didn't have two points of Space you'd be down by now in this fight.)
[X] Just drop the Shadows and hang back.

Oh look, a trap. Don't have a ten-foot pole, so send in the cannon fodder.
>>38210
Yeah, it's obviously a trap. So obviously obvious that the trap itself could be a trap.
>>38212
or is that what she wants us to think
VOTE COUNT SO FAR:

Two votes for coordinated attack, one for sending in the Shadows, one for sending in yourself, and one for hanging back for a second to reclaim our Darkness cards before unleashing a fresh spell card.
>>38213
Hmm
OP, which element covers tinfoil hats? Moon?
[x] Go in yourself and hold the Shadows in reserve

Frankly, I don't trust the piddly little Shadows to do more than just look cute. She's clearly ready for them and sending them in now would just be feeding her.
With this choice, we can focus our efforts on Yuuka alone, and if things go south, we can still throw all of the Shadows to buy some time or distance.
currently tied, waiting for clear winner.
[x] Go in yourself and hold the Shadows in reserve
[X] Go in yourself and hold the Shadows in reserve

Could we travel on the shadow created by the masterspark?
TIE IS BROKEN HURRAH

Calling it
On a side note, can I just say that Yuuka's introduction was really well-done? I got shivers.
[x] Go in yourself and hold the Shadows in reserve

[***]

You make a snap decision to take the shot, not trusting it to your Shadows who were so easily reflected before. Swooping up as fast as you can, you spin yourself around with one hand on your Keyblade as it warps back into its normal shape, and-

"Just kidding!"

The parasol snaps back open and comes swiping back at you, slamming you away at the last second. You smack into the boundary wall and bounce off, regaining your senses and making to recover your flight before Yuuka can capitalize on the situation.

"Now, then, if a feint to fire downwards was that effective, I wonder what happens if . . ."

A cascade of bullets begin raining downward.

Oh no.

You can't make it in time to deflect without getting hit, so a few moments later the card in the ground is struck and the area is flooded with light as the blackness vanishes, and your Shadows go with it. Your helmet protects you from the glare as Yuuka's parasol protects her. No opening for an easy hit.

She's smiling down at you, and you quickly smell/feel the resonance of the flowers amplifying her heart again, but it doesn't bother you nearly as much now that you have a lock on the 'source' of the noise. Her amusement and entertainment are genuine, along with an undercurrent of . . . satisfaction? Relief?

"Now then, you've demonstrated what I was looking for, and it would be rude of me to draw this out, so-"

幻想「花鳥風月、嘯風弄月」

"Fantasy: [The Beauty of Nature]"

Colors and light.

So many points of incoming fire, even from one direction. Bullets shielding each other from your view, wave after wave. Maybe you could have gotten in a hit if you actually had a proper projectile-like attack, but it was moot.

You took a glancing blow, then another, and you felt your armor dissolving as you lost strength and the barrier began to vanish. Panicking at this, it was all you could do to banish your Keyblade before everything faded once again to black.

[***]

Your hopeless clash with the Flower Master of the Four Seasons has earned you a point of Flower!

Flower represents life, healing, growth, poison, plants, and sexuality! You now have access to the basic healing spell, Cure! Cure will heal you a bit while tying up your flower element point for a time afterwards. It will prioritize wounds in order of short term threats to your life, short term permanent harm, then injuries that impede your functionality, then long term life threats, long term permanent harm, and finally more minor bumps and scratches. Given time, you can recover from anything that leaves you conscious long enough to cast the spell repeatedly without running to Eirin! Well, except virulent poisons and other nasty things that constantly eat away at your mind, body, or soul!

[***]

You woke up to the scent of tea, and tried to sit up, only to freeze as your balance wobbled.

You are in a hammock, made of vines.

Blinking at this, you slowly rotate and try to get your legs over the edge, but it's not quite as easy at it sounds when you're wearing a kimono. Suddenly, the vines loosen on one side and let you gently regain your feet. Standing, you turn to find Yuuka fussing over what appears to be a makeshift earthenware tea set and kettle, the latter of which is being heated by a very tiny beam Yuuka is directing from a fingertip.

You decide not to amplify Yuuka's very clear nervousness by turning your head towards the small pile of earthen tea kettles piled off to one side, each with a slightly smaller hole burned in the side, the smallest of which is still smoking a bit.

"Ah, good, you're up, just one moment and I'll have the tea rea- oh no!"

She jerks her finger to the side and the tiny white-hot spot on the kettle cools to match its surrounding yellow, then the red around that.

Yuuka directs a thick vine over and it squirts in more water, as the kettle's previous payload seems to have evaporated.

This one fare no better, flash steaming and blasting Yuuka in the face.

She gives off a little cough, and between that, her expression, and her frazzled hair you have to laugh softly. She looks like she's about to cry, then turns to some flowers, which turn to her, and suddenly she's giggling too. You decide to be civil.

"If there's anything I can do to he-"

"No! No no no! The winner makes tea for a newcoming loser! That's the way it's done!" she immediately pouts. "I just, haven't actually needed to do it before! Normally someone else handles incidents and hands out first losses to new residents." She smiles a bit at this, and you can almost taste the wistfulness.

You sit on a rather comfortably vine-woven chair near a similarly built table, and wait. She keeps adding water to the kettle until it stays in place (while still boiling), and then carefully scoops dry tea from a wooden box and finishes the tea. Before long you are both seated and a steaming cup is placed in front of you. You hesitate, and Yuuka sips deeply from her own cup. She blinks at you, then a ping of realization hits your senses.

"Do you not li- ah, right, humans get burned at these temperatures. That's why they always chat for a bit while it cools! I forgot!" She sticks out her tongue and lightly raps herself on the head.

You immediately infer it's been a while since Yuuka has been served tea in a social setting- or spend much time with humans at all. 'Hot food burns' is one of those very basic principles that one tends to be reminded of at ever meal if they forget. Yuuka doesn't stumble here though and plows on.

"So, ah, I am the one that brought you here. I couldn't help but notice your dreams as you floated, and I figured I would ask for your help with something, but since you've arrived in Gensokyo I have lost track of you, dreams and all. I was afraid I would miss you. I can't really go exploring too much or . . . certain people begin to get anxious." She grins sheepishly at that.

This girl . . . is cute.

Yes, she's some kind of eldritch monstrosity that reached out and plucked you from the void between the starts, but-

Well, you're the kind of eldritch monstrosity that sleeps in the void between the stars so you'll just take that in stride.

Because her earnestness and directness are seriously cute. Normally you'd just coolly ignore attempts on your heart strings like this, but that's because those attempts are almost always universally false or manipulative. And right now she's sincere, as far as you can tell.

"Ah, well it's been kind of busy since I arrived here, I guess? I haven't had too much of an opportunity to relax and see the sights."

"Oh? Is it another Incident? I hope it's nothing too bad. Did they find the culprit yet?"

Your heart throbs a bit, because depending on one's definitions of 'bad' and 'culprit,' Yuuka could quite realistically be held directly responsible for this entire mess.

What do you say?

[***]

[] Tell her the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, without bias. She needs to know.

[] Imply you are caught up in an investigation. but leave out the details that imply it's related to Keyblades and such. Avoid implicating her.

[] Sip your tea silently, and raise an eyebrow at her. Then lay things out in a way that make this entire mess seem like her fault, and that she should help you clean it up, regardless of who might get 'anxious.'
[X] Tell her the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, without bias. She needs to know.

Cute Yuuka is better than crazy sadist Yuuka any day of the week.
[X] Tell her the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, without bias. She needs to know.
-[X] Make it clear that you do not hold her responsible.
-[X] You were hoping that she might have a clue, even something small, that could lead you to the perpetrator. Even though you lost the duel, you would still appreciate any help she could give you.
[X] Ask what it is she wishes for you to help her with. Say that you are willing to help regardless of what she can offer to your search, but add that stopping the thief may take priority.
[x] Tell her the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, without bias. She needs to know.

Oh god now I can't choose between Satori and Yuuka.
File 142854458236.jpg - (8.79KB, 145x200, Hhhnnnggg+_c1940db801cd7c0d7734c36996a5ec00.jpg) [iqdb]
38229
[X] Tell her the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, without bias. She needs to know.
-[X] Make it clear that you do not hold her responsible.
-[X] You were hoping that she might have a clue, even something small, that could lead you to the perpetrator. Even though you lost the duel, you would still appreciate any help she could give you.
[X] Ask what it is she wishes for you to help her with. Say that you are willing to help regardless of what she can offer to your search, but add that stopping the thief may take priority.

Oh god. My HNNNNGGGG. But... but I like your Satori so much. But Yuuka is just so... goddammit Lark.
[X] Tell her the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, without bias. She needs to know.

I told you guys it was a trap within a trap.
Oh well, this is fine too.
Jesus so many typoes!

Anyways, for reference:

Throwing the shadows AND yourself at her would have gotten a mutual hit, then a loss.

Throwing just the shadows at her would have gotten a single hit on her, and a second set of options with an even narrower chance to pick the right option.

Had you tried to cast, you'd have needed to drop your darkness to accomplish anything, else it would have been a similar loss.

The chances of beating Yuuka were miniscule, and both Darejan and Yuuka would cheerfully acknowledge the victory was due to luck and played very dirty, and would not be repeatable after the tricks worked once.

As an aside, I had actually mapped out the full set of correct choices for chasing down and defeating Marisa, just in case you all decided to go for it. It would have been roughly as hard as this, with the reward of getting a point of Light- something you're not getting easily. Yuuka could have supplied a Light point too, but not from a loss! It's not like you are missing out on tactical options though. At some point securing a Light point will be useful as all hell, but for now Flower will keep your ass alive if shit hits the fan, and that's infinitely more useful.

Choosing to duel Reisen would have potentially gotten you Light on a victory, or Moon on a loss.

None of those would have been easy victories, though, as Light is your personal weakness. That, and space doesn't lend itself well to danmaku by itself. Right now you are like, specced super defense. In a real fight, you're terrifyingly survivable. In danmaku you kind of suck, but hey, it's not like you're likely to get trapped when you have corridors of darkness to call on!

Anyways it's all good. Any terrible potential consequences will be called out in bold most of the time when the shit is approaching the fan.
[×] Tell her the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, without bias. She needs to know.

Yuka is immensely powerful here, but thankfully, she lacks the insanity normally associated with her strength. She's actually quite sociable, and shouldn't react nasty if we speak the truth.
Calling it, I don't see anything breaking this streak!
[×] Tell her the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, without bias. She needs to know.

[***]

"Well, about that."

You sip your (quite good) tea now that it's cooled down to a bearable temperature, and consider your wording carefully.

"So, when I was initially brought here, I crash landed by the Human Village while I was still asleep."

Yuuka nods.

"When my glider came to a halt, it assumedly reverted back into a Keyblade, but I was still asleep. When I woke up, it was gone."

Yuuka's expression barely changed, but you could feel her heart twist on the matter.

She watched your dreams. She knows how you operate, she knows the things you tend to feel guilty about, and the steps you took to instigate them . . . and she's no fool.

A wrench of guilt preceded her next words.

"So, someone picked it up, then. And even though you summoned it right back-" she began,

"-the damage was already done," you finished.

You follow up with a quick summary of your month; its uneventful nature until the first robbery, and then your tracing of the culprit's path through Eientei only to lose them again.

Her feelings on the matter as you kept speaking were unexpected-

She was guilty about the situation, she empathized with your plight, and she was steeling herself to take responsibility- but she didn't regret her course of action. Whatever her goals are, they seem to weigh enough in her heart to balance against the fate of Gensokyo itself.

She was fully aware of how a Keyblade wielder could cause things to spiral out of control here, and considered it an acceptable risk.

You set down your empty teacup after a final sip.

"Perhaps it's time you explain why you brought me here to begin with?"

Snapped out of her temporary gloom, she looked up from her lap and blinked.

"Oh! Right, well, um . . ." she fidgeted with the edge of her skirt and avoided your eyes for a moment, but you could feel her welling up the will to put her cards on the table.

Fear of discovery.

Fear of authority.

Fear of loss, and-

Rage against injustice underscoring the rest, gradually pushing her to keep speaking. When she resumed, her tone had darkened a bit.

"When you . . . partitioned worlds, if the borders were solidified, people failed to notice, right?"

That was unexpected, yet accurate. You nod an affirmative.

"Not because it wasn't horribly obvious, but because they literally would forget everything on the other side ever existed. They would go about their lives, oblivious to their loss, and never notice the change. As a bonus for your peers and your enemies, whenever you left, none of them remembered you, either, preventing pursuit."

You nod again, an uncomfortable twisting feeling beginning to develop in your stomach.

"But I ask you, Seeker of Darkness, what would happen if someone was able to split themselves in two? What if one was able to stand on both sides of the partition at once when it was activated, and be utterly unchanged by the experience as everyone around them shed memories as a tree sheds leaves in autumn?"

The twist in your gut worsens, and the sour smell of her despair begins to nauseate you outright.

"I'll tell you, Dreamer. What happens is that whichever side is closest to the split person's heart claims them, and the other forgets them."

A perfectly feasible situation to your ears, as one who deals in such things. Of course, now the hypothetical collapses, her earnest emotions eliminating any doubt you might have had from your mind about her sincerity.

"What if I am the only one who remembers, the only one who knows, besides the perpetrators, and everyone else thinks I'm mad? What if, if all of my friends f-forgot about me, and d-don't even remember me as anything beyond 'that crazy youkai who up and fought the founder of Gensokyo to a standstill one day for no reason at all?'"

Before you realize it you are out of your chair, around the table, and hugging her gently from behind. Her sobbing intensifies, and you pat her head and quietly encourage her to let it all out. Accustomed to the echoes by now, you only tangentially note that as she weeps, the flowers weep with her.

[***]

A bit later, Yuuka prepares another pot of tea, and has regained her composure. Seated in your place once again, you raise an eyebrow and she nods, knowing the gravitas of what comes next.

"I apologize for having to ask, but as someone who has set these very situations up before myself, I must inquire as to the motivation. Who did it, and what were their reasons? The answer will determine if I will help you or not- though I get the feeling that you already know my response, based on the fact that you summoned me in the first place."

Yuuka's glare was not for you, but you shifted uncomfortably under it nevertheless. Sunflowers twist against the wind, pointing every which way, as if scanning the very heavens and earth for something hiding amongst them. After a few moments of this, she speaks in a low hiss.

"The Border Youkai Yukari Yakumo appeared one day out of the blue, and sealed off both my home and one other place- Mugenkan, the Realm of Dreams, and Makai, the Realm of Demons; respectively. Before anyone knew what was going on, they had forgotten those two places had ever linked to Gensokyo, and somehow 'remembered' that Yukari Yakumo had always been here, and had founded Gensokyo itself. When I moved to crush the upstart, no one helped me. After our stalemate, I went to my friends to see why they hadn't helped, and-" she swallowed down a sob, "-discovered I was no more than a monstrous stranger to them."

Her expression was cold, now, her smile brittle and false as she continued, staring off to some point in the distance off to the side.

"I've weathered the years since in stride, looking for anyone that remembers, or anyone that could reach Mugenkan despite that. For a while, I just wanted to go home. But when I found you, I dared to hope. You might be able to open the way, and by doing so, restore to me everything that was lost- and as a bonus, set in to motion a reckoning." She took a slow breath, and ended her plea: "As far as I am aware, Yukari Yakumo sealed the realms to lock out anyone with the capacity to stop her, including myself. Whatever trick she used to affect the other memories might not have worked in the other realms. Regardless, she violated countless hearts and minds for no justifiable reason I can fathom, leaving me to assume it was simply a tactical move in defense of her selfish desires."

*crack*

Yuuka's head snapped back to face you bashfully, but then you both noticed it wasn't her teacup that had shattered. You willed your arm to stop quivering, and she smiled at you, the weight of worlds suddenly lifted from her shoulders with this. You nod to her, your mind already beginning to spin with plots and plans. First to confirm her accusations and suspicions, and then to in all likelihood tear down a tyrant of hearts. The issue with the wild Keyblade suddenly got so much smaller; now it was less of a world-scarring disaster and more of a 'plausibly deniable chaotic distraction,' in your ever-so-adaptable mind. The scope of actions you would forgive yourself for taking just widened drastically, as now you were no longer feeling remotely guilty about your place in this mess and had a much bigger conspiracy to unravel. The new perspective brought focus, and the focus brought a clarity of purpose and emotion that was quite nostalgic.

After all, you hadn't had clear reason to feel this angry in a long, long time.

[***]

PHASE ONE: [WELCOME TO GENSOKYO, DREAMER], COMPLETE

PHASE TWO: [DOORS UNOPENED], BEGINS

DIFFICULTY CHANGE, [EASY] TO [NORMAL] INVOKED

Yuuka has gained a dot of positive intimacy for you: [Hope]

[***]

Please choose your interlude.

[ ] Patchouli Knowledge, whose reading is about to be disturbed.

[ ] Konpaku Youmu, who is about to overhear something unsettling.

[ ] Shameimaru Aya, who has apparently stumbled onto the story of the century.

[ ] Ibaraki Kasen, who was just passing by Mystia's stand when her attention is grabbed.
>>38253
[X] Patchouli Knowledge, whose reading is about to be disturbed.
[x] Konpaku Youmu, who is about to overhear something unsettling.
[x] Konpaku Youmu, who is about to overhear something unsettling.

Hm, Yukari is the BBEG. Kind of stale, really.
Or there's a Bigger Threat, which is also stale.
Oh well, here's hoping we get to meet other cute PC-98 2hus, like Shinki.
>>38256
Yukari is (probably) Yuuka's BBEG.

Or vice versa.

After all, Yuuka only has her own perspective on things, and you happened to meet her first on relatively friendly terms.

Things would be very different right now had you hung around longer at the Shrine . . . perhaps.

I mean, just dealing with the Yuuka vs Yukari bit isn't going to leave some neat and tidy gift wrapped ending~ Hell, it will knock a bunch more dominoes over. Yuuka might have brought Darejan here for reasons she was likely to sympathize with, but it was more of a spark to start things off. OC can't be "friends with everyone Mary-Sue," she has to butt heads and get her ass kicked eventually.

Well, depending on the votes. If victory in serious combat is impossible, and Darejan knows it, you'll be boldtext warned, but that's a matter of semantics. You'll never get warnings for Danmaku, as there's no risk- unless the opponent is obviously going to take advantage of you being knocked out.

Meh. Posting the update in #THP and getting the chorus of "Yukari, yawn," was disheartening, if not totally unexpected. I don't even recall many stories on here that I've finished that even feature Yukari as BBEG, let alone as an antagonist with actual fleshed out motives. I recall one where (was it Tainted Bonds? I forget.) Yukari shunts the protagonist into the Borderland (where he meets Renko and Maribel) so as to wash her hands of him, but beyond that, little.

What really good stories did it? If any? I've tried to hit all the stories recommended to me, but there's no way I saw everything here.
[X] Ibaraki Kasen, who was just passing by Mystia's stand when her attention is grabbed.
[x] Patchouli Knowledge, whose reading is about to be disturbed.

Personally, I have no problem with villain Yukari, as long as it's legitimately explored (not just "gap bitch, lol"), which seems to be the case here, so we're good. It shouldn't be the only version of her around, of course, but she works well as a villain.

More generally, a very interesting story in motion here. And now that Darejan's plans have taken a sharp 90 degree turn from "clear up the mess I'm partially responsible for" to "let's barge into this game and knock over the board," I doubt that Gensokyo's other major players will stay completely impartial for very long.

I hope Satori will still stick with us, at least.

Anyway, good stuff, Lark. Can't wait for more.
>>38257

Other way around, I'm afraid - no good stories have done it, a whole lot of extremely mediocre or outright awful stories on and off THP have] done it, and so the result is a rather large bias against Yukari as Villain.

(On a personal note, I also just generally like Yukari as a character and so it's always kind of awkward for her to be the antagonist, but I'll deal.)
>>38257
My problem with Yukari as BBEG is that she's always presented as essentially impossible to beat because she's so powerful, and that's exactly what you've done here.
That, combined with the massive change in story tone and plot direction leaves me with a lot less interest. I would have liked it a lot better if Yuuka was simply lonely.
>>38260

Well, there's no indication yet that she is the villain. For all we know, Mima was sacrificing the entire of Makai to try and destroy the Hakurei Shrine and Yukari solidified the boundaries as a last resort. Or something. It's not clear she's not justified yet.
>>38261

If you noticed Yuuka fought her to a draw(or very close to it), and we could have beaten her 1 on 1 in spell cards. If we get a few strong allies and some levels (and remember we already have Yuuka) fighting her should be possible.

Even if we can't fight her our goal is to unseal things and we have the perfect tool for that, and then survive/escape the response which is a different task entirely.

>>38260

Tainted bonds? Even so I wouldn't call Yukari the final villain(or a villain) yet, especially as the writer's saying the exact same thing.
>>38257
The problem with having Yukari as a clear antagonist (rather than her usual vague ominousness) is that the limits of her powers are so poorly defined. She could've been listening to this entire conversation. Or maybe Darejan would've sensed her heart through the gap. Or maybe gap space is anti-heart. Who knows?

And that's not even getting into the metaphorical uses of her powers, like canonically screwing around with the moon twice. Darejan has a lot of tricks up her sleeve, but she doesn't seem close to Yukari's level of bullshit.
[x] Ibaraki Kasen, who was just passing by Mystia's stand when her attention is grabbed.

Antagonist Yukari is fine, and there's obviously more to the story than Yuuka knows. No reason to panic about it yet.
[X] Shameimaru Aya, who has apparently stumbled onto the story of the century.

Eh, I don't know why everyone's got their panties in a twist over Yukari. Is this bad fanfiction PTSD?

Story's been fine so far, so I'll be waiting warmly.
[x] Konpaku Youmu, who is about to overhear something unsettling.

New reader here, still catching up. Looking good.
>>38257
Well, that one story with the Norde guy had Yukari as the antagonist, if I remember correctly.
Anyway, my issue with Yukari as an antagonist is that in my opinion, she's kinda morally gray, but not outright evil, and most of the time people just make her straight up evil for the fun of it. However, we've only gotten Yuuka's side of it, in a very, very vague story. I'll keep reading, but I'll be scrutinizing this story a bit more closely, now.
>>38268
Gensokyoland saga. Go read it, you won't regret it.

She isn't actually evil on it per se, she's just... selfish
[X] Shameimaru Aya, who has apparently stumbled onto the story of the century.
[X] Shameimaru Aya, who has apparently stumbled onto the story of the century.
Come back Lark, we want more cute Yuuka.
[X] Shameimaru Aya, who has apparently stumbled onto the story of the century.
>>38283
OI
CUNT
CHECK THE FUCKING POST DATES
[X] Shameimaru Aya, who has apparently stumbled onto the story of the century.

[***]

"-leaving me to assume it was simply a tactical move in defense of her selfish desires."

Shameimaru Aya scribbled faster and more intensely than she had in recent memory, a stupid grin plastered to her face.

This was huge. This was amazing. The actual meat of the discussion was probably just fluff, but that was fine. The mysterious and powerful newcomer, all but declaring her intent to take Yukari Yakumo to task for some ill-defined crime only Yuuka Kazami could recall? Priceless. The other details were less important, as Aya still recalled the initial clashes Yuuka had had at her Gensokyo debut with Reimu and Marisa. She had been spounting equally crazy lines back then too; the only reason Reimu hadn't finished her was because she technically hadn't broken any of the laws by harrassing the miko and the witch with her desperate ravings. In the end it hadn't made good news, though, as crazy stuff happened to Reimu and Marisa all the time.

Aya could milk this brewing storm for a handful of extra editions, if the human lasted that long.

As the human and the flower master shifted back to more mundane topics of conversation, Aya decided to make her escape. Spying on Yuuka Kazami in her own Garden was an impressive feat, if Aya did say so herself. She doubted that she'd be able to repeat this feat after the first article gets published, however.

As her mood soared, she slowly backed through sunflower stalks to make her escape. Her illusion was intact; as far as the flowers were concerned, Aya was simply a bird. It was very minor illusion fron a crow tengu, mind you- such magic wasn't Aya's forte by far. That said, Yuuka herself had no great sensory abilities; fool her flowers, and you fooled her.

That said, the only way Aya had managed to get this close in the first place was by approaching while the blackened cube of the spellcard duel barrier was hovering over the field. She was far from the only bird that had entered the Garden of the Sun while Yuuka's guard was down; numerous mundane crows were gorging on sunflower seeds all over. The usual dreamlike barrier that prevented unwanted pests from making their way to the center of the area had been down for a minute, and the smartest of such pests had taken advantage.

Not that the pure and innocent Shameimaru Aya was in any way a pest, but the point stood.

As her heart leapt with glee during her exfiltration, it was only somewhat suprising that she noticed the slight twitch to the flowers all around her, as if from an unseen wind. As Aya controlled the wind, such a motion would of course draw her direct attention. So, it was no large shock when the vines started to snap towards her from all directions. Stealth a loss, she shot straight up, suddenly 30 meters high. The vines started to adjust, and more began to poke up from the sunflowers. In the clearing, Yuuka and the human were both looking up and glaring at her.

Oh. That's a nice look. A good shot of those expressions for a cover photo alone would sell an extra edition.

Yuuka's anger you might be a concern for most youkai, but Aya Shameimaru was a cut above the rabble. The Flower Master was simply too slow to be a concern. The human was merely a human; and while Reimu was the Hakurei and Marisa was a once-in-a-century exception, humans were generally not a serious threat.

And if her sources were right, this human had fallen to Kirisame once already!

Still, you didn't live to this age by being a complete reckless idiot. While the details were unclear, it seemed like it was some pretty Serious Talk. While you have every intention of merely reporting and letting your readers decicde, the subjects of your next front page might not be as willing to cooperate.

[*****]

YOU ARE CURRENTLY THE PURE AND HONEST SHAMEIMARU AYA!

On your person are your fan, notepad, and camera.

Your notepad is filled with the details of the conversation you just happened to innocently overhear. Your fan is your primary tool to command the wind. Your camera is your camera.

[*****]

[ ] Exit, stage left. (Top speed escape, with your notes of the conversation but no pictures)

[ ] Take a quick snapshot of the angry pair, then book it. (Hasty photo, less than ideal set-up, better than no photo. Will only take a second!)

[ ] Go for the kill; zip in, take a much higher quality fly-by photograph, then get to dodging danmaku as you make your dramic escape! (Excellent photo, much profit. However, gives them a better chance to snare you in a danmaku duel or worse)

[ ] Land right in front of them, take your picture, and then ask for an interview. If they refuse or attempt capture, duel them! (Go big or go home. Obviously this will be a fight!)
While it's nice to see you back, I greatly dislike what you've done with this update. Combined with the great dislike I had for the previous update, I no longer have any interest in this story.
[x] Land right in front of them, take your picture, and then ask for an interview. If they refuse or attempt capture, duel them! (Go big or go home. Obviously this will be a fight!)

We'll either make Aya an ally or plant food.
Hopefully the former.
[x] Take a quick snapshot of the angry pair, then book it. (Hasty photo, less than ideal set-up, better than no photo. Will only take a second!)

Oh god please don't let this turn into a multi-post fight. I just want to get back to romancing Satori and Yuuka.
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>>38320

Thank you for shitposting as the first response to the post.

If you actually had had any actual criticism or commentary beyond 'did not like,' I might have cared!
[x] Land in front of them and ask for an interview

Invasion of privacy is not in her vocabulary
[>] Land right in front of them, take your picture, and then ask for an interview. If they refuse or attempt capture, duel them!

What the hell, why not. <i>Go nuts.</i>
[X] Go for the kill; zip in, take a much higher quality fly-by photograph, then get to dodging danmaku as you make your dramic escape! (Excellent photo, much profit. However, gives them a better chance to snare you in a danmaku duel or worse)
She doesn't need any more info, the only sane choice for her is to leave, maybe after a quick photo. I guess the real question is, do we want to make her do what's best for her, or what's best for Darejan?

>>38322
>get back to romancing
Did people really think that was going to be the focus of the story?
[x] Take a quick snapshot of the angry pair, then book it. (Hasty photo, less than ideal set-up, better than no photo. Will only take a second!)

Seize your opportunities; don't let them seize you.

It's a pleasant surprise to see this update again. I'm looking forward to seeing more.
>>38323
Other things not withstanding, it would have been nice to have a status update in the 6-ish months since the last update. That's really all I ever ask for.
[X] Take a quick snapshot of the angry pair, then book it.
[X] Go for the kill; zip in, take a much higher quality fly-by photograph, then get to dodging danmaku as you make your dramic escape! (Excellent photo, much profit. However, gives them a better chance to snare you in a danmaku duel or worse)
[x] Go for the kill; zip in, take a much higher quality fly-by photograph, then get to dodging danmaku as you make your dramic escape! (Excellent photo, much profit. However, gives them a better chance to snare you in a danmaku duel or worse)
[X] Go for the kill; zip in, take a much higher quality fly-by photograph, then get to dodging danmaku as you make your dramic escape!

This story is a once-in-a-century chance, and it deserves a proper picture. A full interview is just suicidal though.
[X] Go for the kill; zip in, take a much higher quality fly-by photograph, then get to dodging danmaku as you make your dramic escape! (Excellent photo, much profit. However, gives them a better chance to snare you in a danmaku duel or worse)

[***]

[YOU ARE CURRENTLY DAREJAN, THE LUCENT MIRROR]

To be clear, you were not blindly accepting Yuuka's story at face value.

You weren't planning on running out half cocked and bum-rushing Yukari Yakumo and her minions, oh no. An accusation this big, regarding a matter that you have a personal and professional interest in? It requires verification. You'll not move against Yukari Yakumo until and unless you are absolutely certain of her involvement and guilt in this matter.

It's just, based on your history? On your direct personal experience with this sort of thing?

This is the exact sort of shit you signed up to fight, and the exact sort of shit you suspected your own group had been engaging in before you left. You have no proof but Yuuka's word; however the idea doesn't seem far fetched in the slightest, based on what you know of Yakumo.

Trust, but verify.

For now, your biggest concern is still cleaning up your own mess, and Yuuka is willing to aid your efforts in return for her part in causing them. That your mess might be leveraged as a tool later on is but a side concern. For thew time being, it's still your moral imperative to stop the rogue Keyblade wielder before they do something they can't take back.

Your train of thought jumps the tracks as Yuuka's voice cuts out and her pupils contract. Turning, you see Aya Shameimaru shoot up into the air from the sunflowers, a dozen vines rocketing up after her.

The reckless tengu then approaches, camera in hand, diving low for a close-up photograph.

You had considered your options for a split second when she first popped out of the flowers.

Had she cut and run immediately, you wouldn't have stood a chance to catch her. She's the fastest being in Gensokyo.

If she had given you only a second to react, like by taking a quick snapshot before booking it, you might have gotten her. Your space affinity would have allowed you to close that much distance in an instant, leaving the outcome in doubt- but not hopeless.

If she had simply come in danmaku blazing it would also have been a close call, depending on how seriously she took you. She was, by default, one of the most talented danmaku dodgers. It is quite possible that she could have overwhelmed you, fan in hand.

But instead, she went for a close-up photograph, the scents of greed and intoxicated thrill rolling off of her in waves. Your hand came down softly on Yuuka's shoulder, causing her predatory focus to break and evaporate into confusion as she glanced at you. The vines chasing Aya quivered and hesitated.

You simply smirked in that moment as Aya's emotions peaked, and she found her perfect angle for her shot.

Then everything went black, and Yuuka's confusion shifted to glee. You felt her shift in tactics as her heart shifted. The vines interweaved and formed a dome, covering the most likely angles of escape first. Using your own newly-grasped affinity for 'flower,' you pulled them all gently towards Aya's exact location in the darkness. Yuuka took the cue perfectly, and within moments you had a blinded, bound, gagged, and helpless Tengu lying on the ground. You dissipated the darkness to admire her handiwork. While you mentally question the necessity of the overly-fancy way Aya is tied, you can't argue with how convenient it is to truss her up this way and hang her from a nearby tree. She emits muffled sounds of protest as you kneel down, pick up her notepad, and start casually paging through her notes.

It was some kind of shorthand; were it not for the power of the Keyblade you'd not have been able to read it. As it was, you had no problem parsing her scribbles.

Aya's sounds of outrage and protest continued, but you knew her heart wasn't in it. Instead, a smugness was slowly growing in her heart, as she assumed you weren't able to make heads or tails of the words you were reading through. This smugness spiked as Yuuka peeked around your shoulder at the book, and frowned in understandable confusion.

That smugness wavered a bit as Yuuka twirled the tengu's fan in her hand casually. It then shattered completely as you began to speak.

"Newcomer now on approach to Garden of the Sun; observation will be limited in the lair of the Flower Youkai. Danmaku battle has started. Proceeding unconventionally; newcomer is still amateurish. Arena is now blackened. ... ... Wildlife has begun infiltration of Garden of the Sun. I am testing something. Nearby sunflower does not respond to my touch. Flower Youkai is apparently cut off from her territory. Implications interesting. Moving in closer, likely post-duel chat will be priceless. Even if it isn't this bit of information will be valuable in the future, to myself or someone else."

You stop reading out loud, and look up at Shameimaru. Her struggling and protests have stopped, and she's now eying you with . . . a surprisingly large mix of emotions. Trepidation, uncertainty, a bit of dread, but no fear.

You recall reading that she is ancient, and by no means weak. Such facts tend to go hand in hand with arrogance, however.

Her later notes more or less get the point of your conversation with Yuuka across, albeit with no small amount of doubt as to Yuuka's sanity. Huh. The bit about the rogue Keyblade would be disastrous if made public, never mind your investigation into Yuuka's claims.

Yes, you need to put a lid on this Tengu. But how?

Yuuka tilts her head, walks up and pokes Aya with her umbrella lightly.

"Darejan. Are you hungry for yakitori?"

[***]

[ ] "Hmm. Perhaps, but we just had tea! Maybe more of a soup . . ." (Psyche Aya out, discuss increasingly painful things, then try to influence her)

[ ] "No, not particularly. Maybe Shameimaru-san here has a suggestion for what we could eat?" (Immediately ungag her, allow her to try to talk her way out of this)

[ ] "Actually, I know someone with a hardworking cat that might appreciate a snack . . ." (Open a Corridor of Darkness to the Palace of the Earth Spirits, drag Aya to Satori)

[ ] " . . . come with me, it'll be fun!" Bring Yuuka along to meet Satori.

[***] END STORY UPDATE [***]

Here we go, been a while. Apparently there was a whole contest or something that went on since I last posted. This is just one of many writing projects I have going, and it has one of my smallest audiences. The reception to the Yukari thing all but killed my enthusiasm, and when I gave it another shot the opening shitpost was another critical hit to my giving a damn. Consider this on life support. I write for fun, and the fun was dried up here. We'll see if I can recover some, otherwise I'll move on.
Tch. Formatting flubbed; that last option is supposed to be indented, secondary to the third option.
[x] "Actually, I know someone with a hardworking cat that might appreciate a snack . . ." (Open a Corridor of Darkness to the Palace of the Earth Spirits, drag Aya to Satori)
[x] " . . . come with me, it'll be fun!" Bring Yuuka along to meet Satori.

Well I wouldn't bother voting if I didn't adore this story fwiw.
[x] "Actually, I know someone with a hardworking cat that might appreciate a snack . . ." (Open a Corridor of Darkness to the Palace of the Earth Spirits, drag Aya to Satori)
[x] "Actually, I know someone with a hardworking cat that might appreciate a snack . . ." (Open a Corridor of Darkness to the Palace of the Earth Spirits, drag Aya to Satori)
[x] " . . . come with me, it'll be fun!" Bring Yuuka along to meet Satori.

Well, hey, I certainly like this story. In fact, it's given me some ideas for my own stuff, so thanks for being an inspiration.
[X] "Actually, I know someone with a hardworking cat that might appreciate a snack . . ." (Open a Corridor of Darkness to the Palace of the Earth Spirits, drag Aya to Satori)
[X] " . . . come with me, it'll be fun!" Bring Yuuka along to meet Satori.

I favor this vote for a couple of reasons. First of all, if we want to keep Aya out of the way until we catch the Keyblade thief, where better to keep a bird than where she cannot touch the sky?

Second, Satori could offer a second opinion on Yuuka's story.

Third, the interactions will definitely be interesting.
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[X] "Actually, I know someone with a hardworking cat that might appreciate a snack . . ." (Open a Corridor of Darkness to the Palace of the Earth Spirits, drag Aya to Satori)
--[X] " . . . come with me, it'll be fun!" Bring Yuuka along to meet Satori.

Glad to see you back, mang.
[X] "Actually, I know someone with a hardworking cat that might appreciate a snack . . ." (Open a Corridor of Darkness to the Palace of the Earth Spirits, drag Aya to Satori)
[X] " . . . come with me, it'll be fun!" Bring Yuuka along to meet Satori.
[x] "Actually, I know someone with a hardworking cat that might appreciate a snack . . ." (Open a Corridor of Darkness to the Palace of the Earth Spirits, drag Aya to Satori)
[x] " . . . come with me, it'll be fun!" Bring Yuuka along to meet Satori.

It lives!

I know the opinion of one lone reader probably won't cheer you up much, but this is one of my favourite stories on the site. It's a smoothly done crossover, your characterizations have consistently impressed and I for one was actually excited at the prospect of seeing what you would do with Yukari.
[x] "Actually, I know someone with a hardworking cat that might appreciate a snack..."
- [x] "...come with me, it'll be fun!"

Yay!
[x] "Actually, I know someone with a hardworking cat that might appreciate a snack . . ." (Open a Corridor of Darkness to the Palace of the Earth Spirits, drag Aya to Satori)
[x] " . . . come with me, it'll be fun!" Bring Yuuka along to meet Satori.

If we're going to be verifying Yuuka's story, getting her in front of Satori is a good place to start. Now that we're officially In Business in Gensokyo, it's probably best to get all our allies on the same page, as well. Plus, more Satori. Yesssss.

Lark, consider this one more voice of support for your story. It's been handled with finesse so far, and I don't see the tentative introduction of Yukari to the villain slot doing anything to counteract that. Your characterization has been fun and you've done an excellent job working with both sides of your crossover. Shitposters gonna shitpost, but you've got more than a few dedicated readers here.
Here's another vote of confidence, Lark. This has been a really fun and interesting crossover so far. Best wishes with future installments!
Thanks for the kind words, all.

That said, it looks like we have a winner!
[x] "Actually, I know someone with a hardworking cat that might appreciate a snack..."
- [x] "...come with me, it'll be fun!"

[***]

"Actually, I know someone with a hardworking cat that might appreciate a snack ... come with me, it'll be fun!"

You raise a hand and open a Corridor of Darkness. It whirls into being, black swirling with rich dark purples. Yuuka steps up to it cautiously and pokes it with a finger, testing it for . . . something. Apparently satisfied, she nods and walks over to the tea table, picking up a decorative flowerpot. Stepping over to Aya's bound form, she has the plant in the pot grow out and merge with the vines tying Aya, so that she was now hanging like an over sized bell-flower from a comically skinny stem. Yuuka holds the little pot without visible effort in one hand, with her parasol in the other.

Your prisoner still isn't distressed, visibly or otherwise. Her glance darts from you, to the portal, to the ground, and she struggles just a bit, confirming that her binds are still secure. Emotionally she seems to be coldly running through options, if the steady rhythm of emotional emptiness broken by tiny moments of annoyance are any indication.

You just smile and walk through, Yuuka following behind you.

As you don't normally bring guests with you into Corridors, you allow Yuuka a moment of wide-eyed wonderment at the interior of the space. A non-horizon of pulsating greens, purples, and oranges lazily rotates beyond your reach, while a faintly translucent blue-white field forms the 'ground' behind you and ahead lie brilliant blue-white points of reference, the respective entry and exit point.

As you all begin to walk, the distant exit point draws nearer far faster than one would expect- distance and scale are an illusion here.

Ironically, Aya's heart is a reflection of Yuuka's at this point; wonder, curiosity, with sprinkles of confusion and a tinge of nausea. Her status as a captive notwithstanding, this was a novel for her as it was for the Flower Master.

You very purposefully keep up a quick pace, making Yuuka hustle a bit on her feet. While you have no doubt that she can handle herself here, it doesn't change the fact that her grudge and issues would be a very temping target for the denizens of this realm, should she focus on them while loitering in this space.

Seconds later you all pass through the further point of light and are now standing in Satori's courtyard. Various animals that had been staring at the opened Corridor jump back at your emergence, but after they see you and smell you the recognize you as a guest and go back to their business. The Corridor closes behind Yuuka as she steps out, and the dangling Aya is mildly curious as to her location, while growing slowly more annoyed at the lower light level of this place.

You knock on the door, and a few moments later Satori approaches from the other side and pulls it open.

In the seconds she was in range, you more or less conveyed the situation to her mentally. Her amusement wasn't displayed on her face, however, as she played the part of a formal hostess.

"Welcome to my home once again, Seeker. You as well, Flower Master. I see you've brought a gift?"

Aya, aware of the snub, wasn't quite as annoyed as she could have been. After all, she didn't recognize the lavender-haired girl, and she was currently trussed up like captured game. She rolls her eyes and waits for things to play out.

You bow in greetings before responding "Indeed, we have. May we enter?"

Satori smiles. "But of course! Be welcome in my home, all of you," she makes distinct eye contact with Aya at this point, "The Palace of the Earth Spirits."

Shameimaru Aya blinks, once. Her surface emotions all cease instantly, replaced by a tiny pinprick of fear. Her glance shoots skyward, and she sees the cavernous ceiling, complete with stalactites and glowing lichen.

That pinprick of fear swells rapidly, and before anyone can react the tengu is thrashing with all thousand-plus years of her might, trying to scream through her gag, abandoning every scrap of decorum and composure she had in exchange for stark, primal terror.

Satori actually blinks and takes a few steps backwards. Yuuka shifts her footing as the Tengu's gyrations cause the little pot to almost fall from her hand, but is otherwise unimpressed.

You . . . you weren't expecting this, you don't think. However, you keep your expression schooled and glance at Satori. You can obviously feel the breadth and veracity of Aya's fear, but as for the details-

"She's scared of the Oni," Satori states.

Huh. Well.

Far be it from you to ignore this opportunity.

You casually flick your hand forwards, and your Keyblade manifests in rapier-form, point inches from Aya's throat. She keeps struggling desperately, so she doesn't notice it until her neck brushes up against it. One small bleeding cut later, she is holding utterly still, staring at you as her body swings back and forth gently on the vine.

You lean forward slowly, staring her in the eyes.

"I am about to cut you free."

A spike of hope, quickly overwhelmed by suspicion.

"If you fly away, if you run, if you escape, you will simply find yourself in the middle of a gigantic city full of Oni. You don't know which way is out. You don't know what is between you and the way out. And no matter how fast you are, you still have to figure out which way to go. All the while a few dozen bored, drunken Oni could be chasing you. Well, will be chasing you, because I'll tip them off myself."

Aya holds your gaze, waiting.

"If you submit, if you surrender to our demands, I will personally escort you out of this place the same way we came in. We'll return your stuff, and you'll go on your way freely."

The Tengu's hope returned, tempered with trepidation.

"You know who Komeji Satori is, correct?"

The Tengu glanced to her erstwhile hostess, a bloom of realization opening in her heart, followed by a different layer of fear. At this point, Satori make a small, sad smile.

"Ah, there it is," she comments.

You give her a sympathetic nod before turning back to Aya.

"So. We will know if you lie. Do I have your complete and unconditional surrender?"

Aya's glare seems hateful, but you don't smell that ash-like emotion from her. Instead, you breath in searing hot anger, which is cooking greasy shame into crisply resigned resolve. With creased brow, the Pure and Honest Shameimaru Aya nods to you, once.

[***]

Your utterly crushing defeat of Shameimaru Aya has earned you a point of Wind!
Wind represents transience, speed, air, lightness, spirals, and the breath of life!
You now have access to the versatile wind spell, Aero! Cast normally, it is an attack. Cast on yourself, it is a wonderful physical barrier- and when cast as such can be enhanced into Aerora and Aeroga with your Shield affinity points mixed in. Likewise it can be cast on your Keyblade to cut better, or used as a flight spell!
Wind can also be mixed with Flower for a poison-like spore attack, or the ever-valuable healing spell Regen.
Finally, Wind can be combined with Space or Darkness for interesting effects. Any such options will be given as appropriate or invoked automatically as opportunity arises!

[***]

A minute later, Shameimaru Aya was rubbing her wrists and flexing her wings. The vines tying her retracted into a cute little sunflower, which Yuuka presented to Satori as an introduction gift. You hold out your hand to Aya, in it stacked her notepad, fan, and camera.

She looks at them, then you, and in her eyes you see the bored and tired gaze of someone who's seen damned near everything a few times over. Nowhere to be found is the ditzy, oblivious birdbrain that is so notorious on the surface.

She reaches out and grabs her stuff without breaking eye contact. She speaks two words:

"Well played," then sighs and takes a seat at Satori's dinner table. Her posture, speech form, and overall aura have shifted notably from her standard persona. She seems . . . elder, now. Not old, not older, just worn down. Like she just watched a ten hour marathon of bad memories.

Satori and Yuuka are having a typically (for Satori) one-sided conversation, with Satori softly speaking in single word answers and short sentences or sentence fragments in response to Yuuka's thoughts. You side into the seat opposite Aya, and thank the dog-girl that drops off a plate of snacks. Sliding the plate to the tengu, you allow her first pick before you open up conversation.

"So, you heard most of the story already. Very shortly here Satori will be able to confirm that Yuuka is being honest as well as I can. I have no desire to go making trouble regarding that issue until I am sure, one way or another, that it checks out."

Aya chews her food, not looking at you, but is obviously listening.

"So, assuming this works like what I am used to, two doors were closed at some point in the past. Everything everyone knew about the other side of those doors was forgotten. It would be like, for example, that was done to Old Hell here. Everyone on the surface would completely forget about everything and everyone down here.

At this, Aya looks you in the eyes again. You nod and keep speaking.

"So, following my example, if the door to Old Hell was sealed like that, you'd forget the Oni, you'd forget anyone else you knew down here, and you'd remain blissfully ignorant of them until the door opened again. Then you'd all remember each other. Maybe nothing would happen. Maybe they'd have gotten mad and gone to war with each other, and suddenly want to vent their frustrations on softer targets. Who knows?"

She swallows her mouthful and speaks. "And if a surface dweller was down here at the time the door was closed?"

You nod. "They'd be stuck in here, forgotten, and trapped with the Oni, not even remembering anything or anyone on the surface, but still remembering anything they knew about these guys down here."

She stops breathing for a second, then shudders. She reaches for a glass of water, and as she gulps it loudly-

"Just think, if Yuuka's story is true, how many people might be trapped in Makai with all the demons, or in the dream world with all the nightmares?"

And she chokes. Coughing, she shoots you a glare, but it's not too heated.

"Okay, okay, I've been traumatized enough for one year today. I won't even say I didn't have it coming." She leans back and raises a hand palm up. "So if this is on the level and the doors are shut, no one remembers a damned thing. How do you prove any of this, or get anyone to listen without, you know, torture?" she waves her hand at the surroundings, exaggerating her situation a bit.

You consider. "Well, the simplest way to secure help is to thrash people in Danmaku and then demand cooperation, but that house of cards would collapse the moment someone defeats me and tells me to call this all off. If I want this to be more secure, I'd want willing, plausibly deniable allies that were working on this in the background while I buzzed around as a distraction, or vice versa. You could even help me track down the copy of my weapon out in the wild-" you point a finger at her as greed blooms in her heart, "-and don't you even think about getting it for yourself. I have wind magic now, thanks to you, and combining that with my other tricks makes me fast enough to catch you. You're no exception; I will be personally capturing and mind-wiping anyone that touches my weapon or its children. If that means I have to fight the Hakurei, then I fight the Hakurei."

At this the Tengu is giving you an incredulous look.

You smirk and turn to the other girls. "Satori. Yuuka. Me vs. Reimu in a fight, no spellcard rules. Who wins?"

Yuuka puts and hand to her chin, and Satori tilts her head, then asks "How much advanced warning do you get that she's coming for you?"

You blink. "Assuming I thrash someone that needs it by breaking the rules . . . by the time word reaches her and she hunts me down . . . let's give her the benefit of the doubt. Four hours?"

Satori glances at Yuuka, and mutters a few sentence fragments, comparing your memories and your dreams. They then look back. Yuuka speaks this time.

"Seven to one odds in your favor, if she's never fought you before this point and hasn't watched you in any more duels past your first one. These odds drop wildly if she sees you fight outside the rules, or watches a few more of your legal matches."

You look back at Aya, whose jaw is wide open.

"No way. I mean, Reimu's not invincible, we've seen her lose to the black-white, but for a newcomer? I saw both of her duels, she wasn't that-"

You fire a Keyblade beam at her mouth. Her voice stops as her mouth slaps shut. She jerks he gaze back to you. You hold up a finger with your free hand and reassure her, "A quick demonstration. Don't panic, I'll undo it in a second." You then focus, and blade beam her left eye. Then her right eye. Then her left ear. You feel her nervousness increase with each organ sealed. Before she builds up to distress, you quickly release them in the same order. "That was much much easier than it would have been in a real fight, but that is the level of nastiness I can dish out before breakfast. Assuming she doesn't know it's coming, I can quite literally lock away just about anything on her person. On anyone's person. This is precisely why I am not too worried about the gap youkai. I am quite literally her worst nightmare come true."

Aya rubs her eyes, but otherwise doesn't complain about her use as a test dummy. "Okay, so you can get some cheap shots in on Reimu. This is irrelevant to your goal though. If you erase every trace of your weapon, you have no reason to stay, right?"

You shrug. "Beyond verifying Yuuka's story one way or the other, and fixing that if it is in fact the truth."

The flower youkai nods, not particularly offended by your objective point of view. She knows that you are a professional.

Aya purses her lips and lets out a mildly flatulent sound. She then sits up and stretches. "Well, I'm on board the crazy train now. I can try to look into whatever, and spread misinformation as needed. No one is going to look twice at me snooping around, and I can quite literally dead-drop information in and out for you without being traced. Hell, if Yuuka is on the level that makes this the story of the century. I wish I could be happier about that, but if it's true, then that means a huge mess once you blow it wide open. I'm not sure how fun that will be." She then turns to regard the others, then looks back to you. "So, what will it be? I can help with whatever, and as long as I'm not breaking character in public, there should be little suspicion from the wider world that I'm in your pocket."

[***]

What will you have your new resource Shameimaru Aya focus on?

[ ] The Errant Key. (Look for traces of a Keyblade's passage, track down who benefits from the crimes, do some good old fashioned investigating journalism)

[ ] The Doors Unopened. (Focus on clues about the sealed realms, people with unclear origins, objects that have demonic or dreamlike properties, etc)

[ ] Counterintelligence. (Continue fluttering around the outskirts of your activities, only this time she's watching your back instead of watching your antics. She can focus her articles on you and your merry band to divert attention from your actual intentions)

Note that if you vote for one of the first two, she will still pop in an article about you here and there that won't hurt your cause, but she will obviously not be focusing on you as a topic as hard as she was before this point.

None of these three choices has a downside. No matter what you pick, you're better off than you were had you not subjugated Aya. However, the three choices are not equal in net usefulness . . .
[ ] The Errant Key.

- Just what she should have been doing anyway if she wasn't distracted by you. The obvious advantage is that there is no way it could raise any suspicion, but on the other hand it won't decrease it either, and she doesn't have the sensory advantage that you do regarding the culprit.

[ ] The Doors Unopened.

- Unlike the other options, this will raise awareness in the public of a possible past incident, but since it's Aya asking this is not likely to be taken too seriously. I have no idea how much or little information this could bring up. So in the end I instead choose

[X] Counterintelligence.
[X] The Errant Key. (Look for traces of a Keyblade's passage, track down who benefits from the crimes, do some good old fashioned investigating journalism)

Let's focus on getting our original catastrophe handled, so that when we move on to other issues we don't have it looming over us. The Keyblade situation is also more time-imperative than whatever incident we plan to start - the longer that Keyblade is out there, the more skilled its wielder becomes, and the greater chance that it spawns even more Keyblades.
[X] The Errant Key.

A contagious superweapon is about as time-critical as it gets.
[x] Counterintelligence.
[x] The Errant Key. (Look for traces of a Keyblade's passage, track down who benefits from the crimes, do some good old fashioned investigating journalism)

I'm of the mind that it's better to eliminate our problems one by one with as much focus as possible. That way, with one issue out of the picture, we can devote all of our renewed focus to another problem.
So, if Aya is keeping an eye out for suspicious crimes and doing what she does best - investigative journalism - we might be able to get advance warning of something going down.

Plus, I'm super interested in finding out who the other keyblade wielder is.
[X] The Errant Key.

Better take care of this before focusing on the other problem. I think this one is more likely to get out of hand quickly.

By the way, I know I'm a little late, but this story is really great. Keep it up.
[X] The Errant Key.
[+] The Errant Key. >>39142 has probably the most succinct valid reasoning behind this choice, and really, leaving them alone just presents an opportunity for them to somehow fuck things up later.
[x] Counterintelligence.
[X] The Errant Key. (Look for traces of a Keyblade's passage, track down who benefits from the crimes, do some good old fashioned investigating journalism)
Okay, calling it!

and that typo in the choice sears my soul (meant investigative, not investigating, gah)
damnit lark
>>40416

If you're gonna bump a dead story, at least say something worthwhile.
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