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File 15085008455.png - (528.07KB , 1269x901 , we seem to have lost a head.png ) [iqdb]
40679 No. 40679
Thread 1: >>38346
Thread 2: >>38909

[x] Kokoro is learning about this sort of thing too, right? Maybe talking to her might help!

Before I can come up with an answer to that, Medicine surprises me. She slowly and awkwardly puts her arms around me and hugs me back.

...umm, what's that smell? It's kind of... sweet? And it's coming from Medicine's hair...

"You smell like flowers," I say.

"It's su-san's smell," Medicine mumbles.

"Er... aren't suzuraan poisonous?" I'm not going to get sick from hugging her am I?

"Only if you eat them."

Oh. That's okay, I guess?

I let go, and a moment later so does Medicine. Her expression hasn't changed, but her eyes are definitely a little watery. She rubs at them tiredly.

"Feel like taking another nap?" I ask.

Medicine shakes her head. "I'm not sleepy anymore."

"You sure? You can stay here as long as you want, you know?"

Medicine shakes her head again. "I have to stay in the village. It's my punishment after all."

I reach up... and flick her in the forehead.

"Ouch!" Medicine flinches, which is the most reaction she's shown to anything so far. "What was that for!?"

"This is the village, silly," I say. "If Yuuka sent you here to make friends, that means she wants you to stay with someone else!"

"But I hate humans!" Medicine says.

"So?" I ask, smiling. "I'm not human, am I?"

Medicine huffs and looks away.

"Like I said, you can stay here as long as you want." I gently rub Medicine's forehead where I flicked it, and she slumps again. "That's what friends do."

"But I don't need your help," Medicine mumbles.

"That's the point," I say, sighing. "Friends help each other even when they don't have to. That's what makes them friends."

Medicine says nothing, staring at the floor in a sulk.

"Well, if you don't like humans and you don't like me, then let's go visit some of the other youkai living here," I suggest, putting as much cheer into my voice as possible.

"...why are there youkai in the Human Village?" Medicine asks, finally looking at me again.

"Why not?" I reply, shrugging. "Not all youkai are on the same side."

"But youkai eat humans," Medicine points out.

"I don't. Do you?"

Medicine shakes her head again. "Humans taste bad."

That's... huh. That's actually pretty unusual, even for a tsukumogami.

...wait, that's it!

"Let's go visit Kokoro!" I say suddenly.

Medicine tilts her head to one side. "Who's Kokoro?"

"She's a tsukumogami, like us. I've been living with humans since forever, so I kind of take these things for granted, but Kokoro's only just learning, like you! I bet she'd be able to explain it all a lot better than me!"

Medicine doesn't look convinced.

"...let's just go talk to her, and then you can decide, okay?"

Medicine doesn't offer any more objections, so we close up and head out right away.

...and then I realize I don't actually know where Kokoro lives. If Futo's looking after her, that probably means she's living in Senkai, but... I don't know how to get there either.

I do know someone who does, though!

Medicine stops short when we come to the village gate.

"Yuuka said I'm not allowed to leave," she says.

"It's only for a little bit, okay?" I reply. "I, um... I don't actually know the way to Kokoro's place, so I need to go ask someone who does."

Medicine looks at the gates, then back at me.

"...you can wait here if you want, but..." I gesture behind her.

Medicine turns around.

The crowd behind us instantly starts to disperse. Everyone who had been following us or pointing and murmuring in suspicion suddenly tries to act innocent. Except for the guards, who start to shake even more.

Medicine scowls, an expression of pure contempt and loathing. She passes through the gate without another word.

We walk the rest of the way in silence.

"GOOD AFTERN- huh!?" Kyouko booms, then jumps back in alarm. "M-Miss Melancholy?"

"U-um, Medi?" I say. "The humans are gone now, you can stop-"

"Don't call me Medi," Medicine growls.

"Miss Medicine, then. Just... take a deep breath and calm down, okay?"

Medicine surprises me again, by doing exactly as I ask.

"...sorry," she mumbles, looking downcast again.

"It's okay. They were being pretty rude, after all."

"...is everything okay?" Kyouko asks.

"Yep! Well, more or less," I reply. "Good afternoon! We, uh, we were looking for Yoshika. She is around, right?"

Kyouko grins. "Do fish swim? Is the sun shining? Yeah, she's hanging around the graveyard as usual. More importantly, are you okay?"

"Huh? Me? Sure, why wouldn't I be?" I ask.

"Weeeell, a little birdie told me Reimu forced you into a miko outfit and made you help gather donations this morning," Kyouko says. "But I guess she must've made that up after all."

Urk. "Uh, no, I really did do that..."

Kyouko's grin vanishes. "Wait, seriously? What happened?"

"...it's kind of a long story," I reply, grinning sheepishly. "A long, dumb story."

"...ah. Well, I won't pry... unless you wanna talk about it?"

"...maybe later," I reply, glancing at Medicine, who looks up at me curiously.

Kyouko grins again. "Okay! Look after yourselves!"

Kyouko goes back to her endless sweeping as Medicine and I enter the temple grounds. By now all trace of the storm is gone, but of course it rained again last night so everything is still a bit damp, particularly in the shady spots.

I avoid the buildings and head directly for the graveyard. It's as gloomy and silent as ever, but there's no sign of any lurking youkai. Nue's good at hiding, but her power always has an ominous feeling, like you're being watched. Mamizou hangs out here too sometimes, but... well, I don't mean to brag, but I've spotted her transformations more times than not.

After methodically combing though almost all of it, I finally spot Yoshika. She's lying on a low wall, still as a... well, I guess she really is a corpse, isn't she?

...I guess sometimes the absence of something can be creepy too.

"Umm, Yoshika?" I say, poking at her. "Are you awake? Err, do you even actually sleep? Hey, Yoshika! Wake up!"

"I think she's dead," Medicine says. "She's not breathing."

"Well, yeah," I reply. "She's a jiang-shi, so she only breathes when she HYIPE!?"

"Ha ha ha ha."

"H-hey! Cut it out!" I squeak, trying and failing to pry Yoshika's cold, clammy hand off my leg.

"Don't raise your voice in the graveyard, you might wake the deabluraghpfl!? Heeey, that's not faaaair!"

Yoshika releases me in order to wipe the slobber from my umbrella's tongue off her face.


"That's what you get for tying to pull the same trick twice!" I say, sticking my other tongue out.

"I wasn't trying to scare yoooou. You should have played aloooong!"

"Medicine is a youkai, like me!"

Yoshika turns her head to look at Medicine, neck popping loudly. Medicine stares back, looking more bored than scared.

"...oh. Well there goes my entire script."

Yoshika gives up on the spooky voice and lurches to her feet. The sound of her joints cracking like a minature avalanche makes me wince, as usual.

"Ssssooooo," she begins, inhaling rather than exhaling, before apparently remembering that's not how talking is supposed to work. "If you're not here to scare people, what are you doing here?"

"Looking for you, actually."

"Me? Whatever for?"

"Well, um... do you know Kokoro?"

Yoshika freezes in thought for a moment, rolling her eyes around independantly, which is really, really creepy!

"You mean Miss Hata? Yes, I know her. She's staying with the Crown Prince."

"Aha! Err, we wanted to talk to her."

Yoshika sighs. "What has she done this time?"

"Nothing! We just wanted to talk to her! About, umm... tsukumogami stuff, I guess."

"Oh. Well, she said she was going to rehearse today, so she's probably still at home."

"That's, umm... we don't know how to get there..." I explain.

Yoshika does the thing with her eyes again.

"You can get there from anywhere, you know?"

"But I don't know how!"

Yoshika sighs exaggeratedly, a smirk on her face, and turns as if to walk away. But then she jerks to a stop, and I nearly crash into her.


Yoshika awkwardly rummages around in her pocket, and pulls out a piece of paper.

"I need to wear this," she explains "or Seiga will get angry." She sticks the paper to her forehead and stretches her arms out straight in front of her.

And then she starts hopping.


"So, err, do we need to do anything special to whoa!?"

Now it's my turn to stop suddenly, and Medicine's turn to bump into me.

We're not in the graveyard anymore. We're standing in front of a huge, fancy building, in a style I haven't seen in a long, long time. But it looks new and pristine, as if it was finished yesterday. Even the paving stones we're standing on are perfectly smooth, clean and white.

"Wooooow," I say at last.

"Is this a big house?" Medicine asks, peering around me curiously.

"It sure is!" I say.

"Yoshiiikaaa~" a voice calls.

"Seeeeiga?" Yoshika slurrs.

Suddenly, someone pops out of the ground! Someone with blue hair, done up in a fancy loop with an ornate hairpin holding it in place, and wearing a fancy dress made from the finest, lightest material I've ever seen. She looks like a rich noblewoman from a thousand years ago, and somewhere far away.

"You're late, Yoshika," 'Seeeeiga' says, lifting Yoshika's chin with a stroke of a long, white finger. "And you were followed again!"

"I was?" Yoshika asks vacantly.

"You were!" 'Seeeeiga' replies, draping herself over Yoshika's outstretched arm and tapping her on the nose. "You're supposed to keep the youkai riff-raff out, not lead them right here!"

"Wha- riff-raff!?" I exclaim. 'Seeeeiga' ignores me.

"So why don't you make up for it and drive them off for me, hmmm~?"


I blinding flash and a deafening boom blast me off my feet and onto the ground - or rather, onto Medicine. I quickly roll off her and look around, trying to figure out what just happened.

Yet another newcomer, a woman in a green dress, calmly takes a bite out of an apple. She lifts the paving stone 'Seeeeiga' emerged from with her free hand and flips it back into place.

"Sorry about that," she says, and takes another bite of her apple.

...wait a minute, where are her legs?

"Ooooooow," Yoshika groans, levering herself up off the ground. "You could have waited until she let go of me."

No-legs shrugs, still munching on her apple as she floats over Yoshika and approaches me and Medicine.

"Welcome to Senkai. I'm Tojiko," she says, offering a hand to help me up. "I presume you have business here, since Seiga was trying to get rid of you."

"I, well, uh," I begin, staring at her in confusion. Aside from the lack of legs and the swirly mass of mist blowing her skirt around in their place, her skin is way too white, her eyes are way too blue, and her pupils...

...are white, and shaped like lightning bolts. Um.

"...what just happened?" I ask lamely.

"Seiga happened." Tojiko takes another bite of her apple, chews and swallows. "And then she unhappened."

"Are you a ghost?" Medicine asks. She's sitting up as well, and staring at Tojiko curiously.

"Uh-huh. You gonna get up or just sit there all day?"

I realize her hand is still outstretched and quickly scramble to my feet.

...she's even colder than Yoshika.

"So, what brings you to the Divine Spirit Mausoleum? No offence, but you don't look the type to become hermits."

"Err, we were looking for Kokoro..."

"Rear courtyard," Tojiko says, jerking a thumb over her shoulder. "Follow the flute."

It takes me a moment to realize that's all she has to say.

"Oh! Umm, thank you?"

"You're welcome. Just don't make a mess or anything."

Feeling a little bit awkward and more than a little bit confused, I head toward the big mansion. Er, mausoleum. That... seems like a strange thing to call the place. I mean, isn't a mausoleum for dead p...

...oh. Oooooh! I get it now!

"Really now, that was uncalled for," I hear Seiga's weak voice say behind us as we enter.

"Sorry, I missed," Tojiko replies. She doesn't sound sorry at all.

...what was it she said? Follow the flute? I stop for a moment and listen. Sure enough, I hear music. It's faint, but the rest of the place is so eerily silent it's easy to follow. We don't see a single sign of life, or even a sign that there ever was life, save for the plants, until we reach the rear courtyard. And then we stop short.

Futo is playing a flute. A very ornate flute, made of something pure white with a dragon painted on it. And the song she's playing is even more beautiful still; I tune I've never heard before, with a quick, festive rhythm to it, that also somehow sounds graceful and traditional. She dives, soars and flutters between notes with the sort of skill that only comes from decades of practice.

And in the middle of the courtyard is Kokoro. She has a folding fan in each hand, and she's... dancing is the only word that comes to mind, but it isn't enough. I can see obvious traditional elements in her routine, but there are also things no dancer I've ever seen before would have attempted. Partly because none of them could fly. Or had even half of Kokoro's dexterity.

Seriously, wow.

And then, with one final flourish, Futo's song comes to an end, and Kokoro's performance finishes, right on cue, in a theatrical bow.

I find myself clapping. To my surprise, Medicine is too.

Kokoro rises mechanically, and the mask on her face flies off, circling her head and coming to a stop on the side as usual... wait, it's a different mask now!

Then she strike a dramatic pose.

"How long have you been there!? How much did you see!?" she asks. Her completely blank face ruins the effect completely.

"Umm, not long? We only saw a little, but it was really good!"

"Thine artistry dost draw an audience wherever thou art performing!" Futo agrees, grinning widely.

"Um, your music was really good too!" I add.

Futo brushes off the praise. "'Tis no skill so grand. Merely a hobby of mine from some years past."

"Then get serious at it, so you can help me with my plays!" Kokoro says, raising both fists above her head.

"Ah, but my calling is not upon yon stage! It is here, in the service of the Crown Prince!"

"But Taishi told you to look after me! So do it properly!" Kokoro whines.

"Thou needest not a babysitter, as thou hast said thyself," Futo replies, leaning away from Kokoro. "Or dost thou recant on the wearing of the bib?"

"This and that are two different things!" Kokoro puffs out her cheeks.

Futo ruffles her hair.

I try not to laugh. Kokoro is a full head taller than Futo, so the gesture looks downright silly.

"You're making fun of me again," Kokoro complains.

"Your pardon; 'tis a weakness of mine old age," Futo replies, but her smirk doesn't go away. "Alas! This old lady shall withdraw for now, for she can see her presence is but a burden!"

Before anyone can stop her, Futo swoops out the door.

"She's strange," Medicine concludes.

Kokoro stares after Futo for about a second, before her mask changes again and she jumps into her 'surprised' pose again.

"Who is this strange person!?"

"This is Medicine Melancholy!" I say, stepping out from between the two of them. "She's a doll tsukumogami who lives on Nameless Hill."

"Ah! A fellow tsukumogami!?" Kokoro flicks her fans open and performs the most elaborate bow I've ever seen "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance!"

"...hello?" Medicine says uncertainly. "Haven't we already met?"

"...we have?" Kokoro asks, straigtening up.

"Two days ago, in the village. Futo beat me up."

"Oh! Yes! We have!" Kokoro says, striking another overly-dramatic pose. "...I didn't get your name though."

"I still don't know yours," Medicine points out.

"What!?" Kokoro says, posing yet again. "Have you not heard of me!? I am none other than Hata no Kokoro, the Expressive Poker Face!" Wait what where did the cherry blossoms come from!?

"...this is that Kokoro person you were talking about?" Medicine asks me.


"...is she always like this?"

"Pretty much!"

Medicine looks at Kokoro.

Then she turns around and walks back the way we came.

"Total rejection!?"

"Ah! Hey! Wait!" I hurry after Medicine and put myself in front of her. "Don't just walk out! She's actually really nice!"

"I don't wanna learn to be like her!"

"I never said you should!"

"Then why did you bring me here!?"

"Because she's just like you! She's still learn-"

"She is NOT. She's a weirdo! A whackjob! I'm nothing like her!"

"Wha- how can you say that about someone you've only known for five minutes!? You should apologise for that, right now!"

"No! I'm leaving! This is stupid! And so are you!"

Medicine shoves me hard in the stomach, almost sending me flying. I try to grab her arm and stop her, but I snatch my hand away immediately. A searing pain shoots across my palm, followed by an angry red burn. I stumble back and clutch my wrist as the pain continues to grow, and the burn bubbles, peels and starts bleeding profusely. What is that!?

"My, it sure is noisy today."

Soft fabric swishes over my shoulders. A hand gently lifts my arm. Cool water pours over the wound. I yelp at the sharp sting, but then the coolness washes all the pain away.

I look down at my hand to find it wet but uninjured.

I look up into the face of someone who looks like she just got out of bed.

"Um, sorry? Did we wake you?"

"No, but I needed to get up anyway," the woman says, with a smile.


"I think your friend needs cheering up."

I look where the woman is indicating, and see Kokoro on all fours.


"Don't worry, there's no-one here she can hurt."

I look around in confusion. Whoever it was has disappeared.

I get up and approach Kokoro.

"...are you okay?"

"Weirdo... whackjob..." she whispers.

"Er, Medicine is a bit... she's not having a good time right now," I say awkwardly. "I, um, I thought you might be able to help her out but... I'm sorry she took it out on you."

Kokoro says nothing, still staring at the ground.

"...that really hurt you, huh?"

Kokoro says nothing, but I hear her take a long, ragged breath. Is she crying?

...I think she is.

I kneel beside her and hug her as best I can in such an awkward position.

"I don't think you're weird."


"You're a bit intense, but that's not a bad thing."


"You helped me get my umbrella back, and you didn't ask for anything in return."


"Well, a lot of things happened, but you were trying, and it worked out in the end, right? That's what really matters."


"So, um, thank you, is what I'm trying to say. I never did get to say that, did I?"

"...I failed..."


"...I'm still... no good..."

"What are you talking about? You haven't failed at anything!"

Kokoro jerks upward suddenly, knocking the wind out of me. I quickly let go, and let her sit up. Her face is still blank, and her mask has vanished completely.

"I'm hard to understand, aren't I?" she asks.


"You can't tell what I'm thinking at all, can you?"

"Well, ob-"

"I want to know the truth. How do you think I feel right now?"

"Ummm..." I lean backwards as Kokoro puts her face right in front of mine. "You're... angry? Because I said something dumb?"

Kokoro blinks.

"You're sad, because Medicine said something really mean?"

Kokoro blinks again.

"...you're mad at yourself, because you drove Medicine away?"

"All wrong," Kokoro says. She stands up suddenly.

"Then what are you feeling!?" I ask, jumping up as well.

"I'm... frustrated," Kokoro says. "I can control the emotions of others, but not my own."

She picks up her two fans from where they were lying on the ground, and tucks them into hidden pockets in her bizzare skirt.

"It was a trivial thing, what Miss Melancholy said. I shouldn't let one person's criticism get to me like that."

"So you are upset!"

"No. I was upset. I'm no longer upset, thanks to you."

All at once, Kokoro hugs me.

"You are a good friend. Miss Melancholy is lucky to have you."

"U-um, thanks?"

"Will you be my friend as well?"

"H-huh? Of course!"

Kokoro lets go as abruptly as she started. "Then please tell me when my behaviour is bothering you."

"It's not bothering me! I'm just, um, not used to it..."

"That's what I mean," Kokoro says, staring at me blankly.


"We should look for Medicine. I think I owe her an apology."


I give up on trying to follow Kokoro's logic and let her drag me thorough the Mausoleum's gardens. It's very different to anywhere else I've been. It seems to be laid out like it's indoors, with hallways and rooms and so on, but there's no roof. There's white stone paths, red wooden bridges, and plenty of neatly-trimmed greenery, even in places you wouldn't ordinarily have plants.

And all totally silent. Even the water features have been carefully designed to make no sound. It's surreal, almost dream-like.

After zig-zagging around seemingly at random, never slowing down, Kokoro suddenly stops.

Medicine is sitting in front of a garden bed, hugging her knees to her chest.

Kokoro pokes me in the back, prodding me forward. Seeing no reason to do otherwise, I quietly walk closer.

"Medicine?" I say quietly.

"Go away," Medicine mumbles.

"...if you really want me to, I will." When Medicine doesn't reply, I continue "but I want to help. Even if it's just by listening."

Medicine buries her face against her knees. "I wanna go home."

I sit down next to her, put my arm around her, and lean my head against hers.

Eventually, Medicine speaks up again.

"Why are you doing this?" she mumbles.

"You know that already. I want to be your friend, remember?"

"...but why?"

"Why not? I don't need a reason to help people."

"...I don't need your help."

"We've been over that too."

"...would you really go away if I asked you to?"



I wait for the next two words, but they don't come.

Quiet footsteps approach from beside us.

"Miss Melancholy?"

Medicine stirs, and looks up at Kokoro. Kokoro bows low.

"I wish to apologize for my earlier behaviour. It seems I have offended you without meaning to."

"...why," Medicine croaks, and then clears her throat, "why were you acting all weird?"

"I'm a menreiki. A mask youkai. I can't change my face, so I perform instead."

Kokoro mimes a series of actions. She steps back, bringing her arms up in front of her face. She drops one hand and straightens the other into an accusatory finger. She curls it into a fist and raises it, looking up. She stands up straight, raising both arms above her head. And finally, she covers her face with her hands and hangs her head.

"...but even though my ability is causing emotions, I'm not good at reading them," Kokoro finishes. "If it bothers you, I won't do it."

Medicine stays quiet for a while.

"...you can control emotions?" she asks.


"Can you make someone who's sad not be sad anymore?"

"Easily. But it wouldn't fix whatever they're sad about."

Medicine pauses again.

"...why'd Kogasa want me to talk to you?"

Kokoro simply looks at me.

"Err, because she's learning the same things Yuuka wants you to," I say. "Making friends, getting along with humans-"

"I don't want to get along with humans."

"...well, okay, maybe just learning more about them? It can't hurt, right?"


"Taishi once told me, 'keep your friends close, and your enemies in your pocket,'" Kokoro offers. "It's important to learn more about everyone, whether you like them or not."

"I get it already," Medicine grumbles, resting her chin on her knees and staring at the flowers again.

"...you know, we could plant some suzuraan in the village, if you like," I suggest.

"I'm sure Taishi would let you take some flowers to plant elsewhere," Kokoro adds.

Medicine abruptly shrugs off my arm and gets to her feet. She rubs her eyes again and looks around.

"...I should go back to the village," Medicine says. "If the flowers tell Yuuka she'll beat me up again."

"W-well if it comes to that just tell her it was my idea, okay?"

Medicine slowly turns to stare at me.

"...you're nuts," she says finally.

"H-hey, I'm trying to help you!"

Medicine looks away.

"...thanks," she says quietly.

Before I can respond, she starts off along the path... and then comes to a halt at the first intersection.

"Umm, how do we get out of here?" I ask.

Kokoro takes the lead. She leads us on an oddly winding course toward...

...a path we just walked along.

"We've gone round in circles," Medicine helpfully points out.

Kokoro huffs and drags us on a series of increasingly convoluted paths, walking in circles in different directions and crossing through areas only to loop around immediately after. And each time we end up in front of the same pathway.

After the third time back at our starting point Kokorostomps on the ground and throws up her arms.

"Taishi! Stop fooling around!" she shouts.

"Ahahahaha, my bad, my bad!"

The messy-haired woman from earlier suddenly appears behind us.

"I'm impressed, though. You remembered every route I showed you perfectly, even from the times I thought you weren't paying attention."

"But they don't work anymore, so I wasted my time!" Kokoro fumes.

"Oh? It looks like they worked fine to me!"

Taishi gestures at the path in front of us - or where it was, anyway. We're now standing in front of the gate leading out of the garden.

"You're making fun of me again," Kokoro complains.

Taishi ruffles her hair. She's taller than Futo, but not by much, so it still looks ridiculous.

Kokoro puffs her cheeks out, without otherwise reacting.

"Sorry, sorry, you're just too cute, you know?" Taishi says, still smiling. "Now, this is for you."

She offers a flower pot she wasn't holding a second ago to Medicine.

"You'll have to take good care of it every day if you want it to thrive. The right amount of water, the right amount of sun; if you have any questions, I'm sure Futo will be thrilled enough to talk your ears right off your head."

She chuckles as Medicine takes the potted suzuraan.

"I'd offer you something as well, but it seems you have matters well in hand," Taishi says to me. Does she ever stop smiling? "Don't hesistate to ask if that changes, though! After all, one must always be grateful for divine intervention, hmm?"

"Bwuh?" What does that even mean!?

"Taishiii, you're saying weird things again," Kokoro drones.

"I guess I am, aren't I?" Taishi laughs again. "My bad, my bad. How about this one instead: there is a long trip in your near future!"

Kokoro pulls a colorful hammer from somewhere and bops Taishi on the head with it. It makes a squeaky noise.

"No good, huh? Ah, well. Maybe I'll have better luck in tonight's battle!"

"Never!" Kokoro says.

"I'm not giving up until I've won at least once!" Taishi replies.

Medicine tugs on my shirt, pulling me away from the weirdness.

"Yes, yes, don't let me keep you," Taishi says.

"Um..." Medicine begins, not looking at her.


"...thanks for the flowers," Medicine finishes.

"Why, thank you. Take good care of them for me, will you?"

Medicine nods.

Kokoro drags Taishi away, and Medicine and I walk down the short flight of steps at the Mausoleum's entrance.

May the humans of Gensoukyou be safe in the coming times.

I whip around at the sound of Taishi's voice, but she's nowhere to be seen.

...am I hearing things?

"What's wrong?" Medicine asks.

"...nothing," I reply, turning back. "I just thought I heard something."

"Like what?"

"Just someone saying something. Probably wasn't even to me. Umm, how do we get out of here?"

"Where are you bound?"

I spin around again, and this time spot Futo standing not far behind us, hands clasped inside her loose sleeves. She definitely wasn't there a moment ago!

"Umm, back to the village," I reply.

"Then you need but look over yonder," Futo says, pointing.

I turn, and find myself staring at a shopfront.

Sekibanki's shopfront.

Medicine and I are standing in the middle of the village, with people all around us.

"...that was weird," I say.

[ ] I think that's enough excitement for one day.
[ ] I hope Sekibanki's doing okay. I haven't seen her since this morning.
[ ] That villager looks suspicious...
[ ] Write-in.


I can't pace for shit.
198 posts omitted. Last 50 shown. Expand all images
>> No. 41011
File 153310946957.png - (635.37KB , 1049x751 , all alone.png ) [iqdb]
[x] Ambush. We need answers.

I raise a finger to my lips, then glide quickly and quietly behind the door at the end of the hall. Sumireko follows my lead and ducks into one of the empty cells.

I flatten myself against the wall as the door opens.

"Sir!" Matsuda immediately rushes forward to check on his downed superior. He pauses in confusion when he notices the ears. And the tail. Which are kind of hard to miss.

"What in the world...?"

The door clicks softly as I push it closed. Matsuda whirls, hand going to his hip and not finding anything. He swallows and rises slowly to his feet, hands half-raised, glancing around for a way out - too late. Sumireko is already behind him, and doing a surprisingly good job of looking intimidating.

"Who wants us dead?" I demand. Short and sweet.

"What?" Matsuda asks, wide-eyed, backing toward the wall as we advance and he tries to keep both of us in sight.

"Two thugs attack us in an alley, then your boss tries to shoot me in my cell. Why?"

"He what?" Matsuda glances between us and the unconscious bakedanuki. "No. No way. We're cops, we don't do that! What have you done to him!?"

"Nothing you need to worry about," I reply coldly, "as long as you answer the question."

He shakes his head. "I don't know! We got a tip-off. Shots fired. Possible lead on the yakuza activity we've been trying to trace for months."

"Do we look like yakuza to you?" Sumireko suddenly snaps.

"You don't hire contract killers to take out random civillians," Matsuda counters, pouncing on the opening. "And you had them on the run! What are you people?"

"Youkai, like your boss," I say, going with the flow.

Matsuda once again glances between us and Sarutobi in confusion. "What?"

"What's the matter? Never seen a tanuki before?" Sumireko asks. I fight back a groan.

Matsuda's hands drop slightly. "You don't seriously expect me to believe -"

"They don't come off." My umbrella pivots in my hand and opens slightly, squinting at him with its one (fake) eye. "And bakedanuki aren't the only ones who can change their appearance."

To complete my little stunt, I awkwardly attempt to focus as much of my 'aura' on him as possible, and take advantage of the lack of ambient magic to deliberately disrupt my own form. I can just barely see the outline of my umbrella through my hand, and red and blue lights are reflected in his pupils.

Matsuda's eyes threaten to bulge right out of his head. He presses himself against the wall and starts to hyperventilate, unable to tear his eyes away from mine.

...I, uh, I think I overdid it again. Oops?

Sumireko comes to the rescue, waving her hand in front of Matsuda's face and snapping her fingers smartly.

"Don't look into their eyes," she says with a grin. "It's not good for your health."

Matsuda promptly makes eye contact with me again, but looks away instantly. He licks his lips nervously. "Ssso, you're not some kind of monster too?"

"Nah, I'm just an ordinary high school girl," Sumireko replies. Then Matsuda's gun floats up beside her, and she smirks. "With psychic powers."

At least, I think it must be Matsuda's gun. The barrel is a lot shorter than the others. It's almost like it doesn't have one... or the others had an extended one?

"I think he's telling the truth," Sumireko says, bringing me back to the matter at hand.

I make a show of sniffing at the air. I can't actually smell anything, but I can sense his fear. And there's a lot of it. "With that reaction, I think so too."

Matsuda glances downward for a moment and awkwardly tries to regain his composure. "Look, what do you want?"

"To be left in peace," I reply as I step back and turn slightly to check on Sarutobi. Still out cold, and likely to stay that way for a good while yet. I nod toward him. "Have you noticed anything odd about the Chief Inspector recently?"

"Not that I can think of?" Matsuda says cautiously. "I mean, he's been a bit gung-ho, and, well... arrogant... but he's always like that."

"Then this must be his long-term cover. The man you know was likely never human."

"And the hitmen?" Matsuda presses, slowly regaining his confidence. "Were they... youkai, too?"

"No. Too fragile. And they weren't armed to fight youkai either. So either they weren't told, or..." I shoot a glance at Sumireko. She looks away immediately.


"What's the Chief likely to do if he finds out I know about this?" Matsuda asks uneasily.

"Kill you," I say simply. "Unless you're willing to serve his real masters?"

Matsuda looks like he's just swallowed a bug.

"We could give him an alibi," Sumireko suggests. "Knock him out, let him pretend he didn't see anything."

"Can you do that without killing him?" I ask. "I can't."

Sumireko shrugs. "Sure."

"Do I get a say in this?" Matsuda asks, looking between the two of us nervously.

"It's your life," I reply. "How well can you lie?"

Matsuda hesitates. "I'm good at poker."

I raise my eyebrows.

Matsuda squares his shoulders. "...do it."

"What about the cameras?" Sumireko asks, nodding at a small black dome in the corner of the ceiling.

"Off," Matsuda replies. "The Chief must have turned them off before..." he glances at me "...before."

"Trust no one," I say ominously, "and good luck."

Matsuda nods. Sumireko steps in front of him, so close her face almost touches his.


Matsuda's head immediately droops, eyes rolling up into his head as they close. Sumireko lets him slide down the wall, then drops his gun on the floor by his hand.

"Let's get out of here," she says.


"What is this place?" I ask, looking around.

"Dunno," Sumireko replies. "I think it used to be a hotel or something. It's been condemned for years now though. Watch your step; the upper floors are starting to collapse."

"...isn't that dangerous?"

Sumireko shrugs. "Not to me."

We're standing in the remains of a large hall of some kind. I probably wouldn't have recognised it even when it was new. Now it's barely more than rubble. Chunks of that strange artificial stone are strewn around everywhere, most of it probably from the holes in the roof, which are also the only source of light, rapidly fading in the afternoon twilight. A frame of heavy metal beams has been exposed in many places, slowly rusting away.

If this were Gensoukyou, it would probably have been inhabited by ghosts. I don't sense any here, though. Somehow that only makes it feel even lonelier.

"I used to come here all the time to practice," Sumireko says. With a casual upward gesture, she levitates half a dozen of the larger rocks, holds them there for a moment, then drops them with a heavy clunk. "Got carried away and broke things, sometimes," she adds, looking up at the patches of orange sky.

"...I used to wish I had someone else I could show this stuff to," she says quietly. "Or even just talk to. When I found Gensoukyou, it was like a dream... because it was, really." A rock rolls smooth-side-up and she carefully sits on it. "But now you're here, in the real world... and everyone's trying to kill me." She smiles sadly. "Be careful what you wish for, huh?"

"I... don't think this and that are related," I say.

"Aren't they? I spend my whole life daydreaming about superheroes and monsters, and now I find out there are tanuki pretending to be policemen. And I'm not a superhero." Sumireko draws her legs up to her chest and hugs them. "What am I going to tell my parents? Where am I even going to sleep tonight?"



"Come on out, Wasa! We know you're in there!"

Damn it, why is it so hard to sense humans out here!?

"Oh what," Sumireko says flatly. "Seriously?" She gets to her feet and hurries toward the entrance. I follow.

I see a white light dancing around, then wince as it shines directly into my eyes.

"There you are," Asakura says, lowering her... phone? The light seems to be coming from the back of it. They sure do everything! "What are you two doing in a place like this? It's dangerous!"

"What am I doing here? What are you doing here!?" Sumireko counters.

"Looking for you, duh," Okazaki replies. I think that's the first time I've heard her sound anything but cheerful.

"How did you even find me!?"

Hasegawa holds up her own phone, screen facing toward us. It doesn't mean anything to me, but Sumireko immediately whips out her own.

"Ah, crap! I forgot to log out!"

"Enough of this nonsense," Asakura snaps. "You're coming with us, and you're going to explain what this is all about!"

"Arrrgh!" Sumireko stamps her foot and clenches her hands into fists. "Why won't you just mind you own business!? Get out of here already, before you ghack!?"

Sumireko suddenly yelps and stumbles forward slightly, as though someone shoved her in the back. She whips around and snatches something out of the air.

Another bullet. Bigger this time.

[ ] Protect Sumireko. She's the target.
[ ] Protect her classmates. Somehow.
[ ] Seek and destroy. Better me than her...


No I did not fuck up posting this like the total newfag I am. You're imagining things.
>> No. 41012
[x] Protect her classmates. Somehow.

She doesn't need our help. They do.
>> No. 41013
[x] Protect her classmates. Somehow.
>> No. 41014
[X] Protect her classmates. Somehow.

Gods help the helpless, right? They're out of their league here, gotta keep them safe.
>> No. 41015
File 153320785596.png - (513.72KB , 1008x630 , let's get dangerous.png ) [iqdb]
[x] Protect her classmates. Somehow.

I spin around, planting myself between Sumireko's classmates and the building, eyes searching. Then I realize that was the worst possible move, because -


I grab Asakura and Hasegawa by their clothes and yank them out of the way just in time. Okazaki is further back and more athletic, diving out of the way on her own. I drop them at the base of the wall, where anyone trying to attack them would have to stick their heads out the window, as gently as I can in a hurry.

"Stay down!" I hiss. Then I dart around the wall.

My would-be assassin is expecting me, and has excellent reflexes. I throw myself to the side not a moment too soon, then use my feet and my flight together to make a right-angle turn in a flash. I surge forward and then explode upward, catching the remains of the balcony railing as I pass. It breaks, but I've already redirected my momentum, spinning through the air. I snag the man's elbow as I hurtle past, holding on for a half-turn and then releasing him to smash into the wall.

The wall cracks, and he flops to the ground lifelessly. I land facing the way I came, just in time to see Sumireko doing much the same thing - only she moved the wall.

The entire wall.

It collapses with a tremendous crash, and the already-dim air fills with dust and debris. I hear several muffled screams, followed by coughing.

"Sumireko?" I call softly.

"I'm okay," a shaky voice replies.

"Are there any others?"

"Not that I can see. Hang on." A wave of pressure washes over me, a disconcerting sensation that makes my ears pop. "No, just the two of them."

I quickly rifle through the dead man's pockets. He's not exactly able to answer any questions, so -


"Usami?" Okazaki's voice. "Usami, are you alright?"

I hop off the balcony and reach at the entrance at the same time as Sumireko. Three shocked faces greet us.

"What. The hell. Was that?" Hasegawa asks, half-standing with her hands on her knees.

"Uuh..." Sumireko glances at me "...CGI?"


"Ack! Let go!"

"That's it, I'm calling the police," Asakura says.

"No!" Sumireko shouts. My hand fastens around Asakura's phone before she even opens her mouth. Asakura looks startled for a moment, but then her face hardens.

"Why not?" she demands. "Tell me why I shouldn't!"

"...fine, I'll tell you," Sumireko says, shoving Hasegawa off. "But not here."


"All right, start talking," Asakura says, planting one hand on the table.

The table we're all sitting at, in a mansion large enough to have guards and servants. Just who is this Asakura girl?

Sumireko takes a deep breath, closes her eyes, and lets it out in a rush. "The yakuza are after me."

"What did you do?" Hasegawa growls.


"Sumireko..." I begin.

"Gnnuh!" Sumireko throws her arms up in frustration. "It was a stupid occult ball! I thought he was a collector, like me! How was I supposed to know he was a career criminal!?"

"So they want it back," I say.

"I can't give it back. I don't have it anymore. Reimu confiscated it 'for the good of Gensoukyou!'"

"Have you told her?"

"Of course I friggin' told her! I tried to beg, bribe, beat and 'borrow' it off her, but nooooo, she just gave me some crap about living with the consequences of my actions!"

"Well good for her!" Asakura interjects. "It's about time someone put their foot down on this ridiculous hobby of yours! I don't know how you managed to get yourself mixed up with -"

Sumireko abruptly lunges across the table, grabs Asakura's glass of water, and throws it in her face.

Only, it never actually hits her.

"It's not a hobby," Sumireko snarls as the water swirls in midair. "It's my life. I'm psychokinetic. I can move things with my mind, fly, and teleport. They're all perfectly normal things that I've been able to do since the day I was born but nobody believes me."

Asakura slowly opens her eyes, and stares at the water floating an inch from her face. Hasegawa's phone clatters onto the table.

Okazaki slowly leans forwards to poke at it. It swirls around her finger just like water should.

"...okay, hold up," Hasegawa says, pushing her glasses up to rub her eyes. "Let's suppose that, hypothetically, we believe you. Why didn't you say so before?"

"I did say so before."

"You've never done anything like this before!"

"Uh, hello? Levitating chalk anyone?" Sumireko flicks the glass into the air and levitates that as well. The water forms into three orbs that start chasing each other around and dodging Okazaki's finger. "Or how about that time I broke my arm? Hell, I flew up the stairwell twice!"

"Of course nobody's going to believe all of that! You were boasting about it and spouting all that junk about urban legends!"

"Well what should I have done then!?"

"I don't know - act normal!"

"I am normal. You guys are all weird."

Hasegawa sighs and rubs her forehead. "What about you?" she asks, turning to me. "Where do you come into this?"

"I'm a karakasa obake!" I say brightly. I open my umbrella and spin it to face them. "See?"

Everyone stares blankly at me. Including Sumireko.

"...seriously?" Hasegawa deadpans. "What's with the tongue?"

I slump dejectedly. Outsiders are mean.

"Okay," Asakura says, trying to sound composed and not quite succeeding. "Okay. So the yakuza are after you. Why not go to the police?"

"Been there, done that, got shot at," Sumireko says. "The cops are in cahoots."

"Actually, I'm not sure they are," I say.

"What? You were there! That tanuki tried to kill you!"

"Wait, hold up. Tanuki?" Hasegawa asks with a tired scowl.

"Youkai are real," Sumireko replies without looking at her.

"Oh. Okay."

"One of the assassins had this," I continue, pulling out and unfolding the piece of paper I found. Everyone leans forward to look.

"...what is it?" Sumireko asks.

"It's fox script."

"What's it say?"

"Nothing important. It's fox script."


"Foxes and tanuki hate each other!"

Sumireko stares blankly for a moment. "Oh. Right."

"Let me get this straight," Hasegawa says, holding one hand up and massaging the bridge of her nose with the other. "You stole some occult whatchamacallit -"

"Occult ball."

"- occult whatchamacallit off the yakuza. Who are run by foxes. And the police are full of tanuki."

"We've only seen one tanuki, and this, but that's the most likely scenario," I say. "Where there's one, there's bound to be more."

"Right. So, which manga is this?"


"...what's a manga?" I ask.

Hasegawa drops her head onto the table, knocking her glasses off.

Okazaki giggles.

"It... does sound rather unbelievable," Asakura says, still eyeing the levitating water warily.

Sumireko deposits the glass on the table and the water back inside it. Okazaki makes an 'aww' sound.

"Welcome to my world," Sumireko says, slumping forward onto her elbows. "Sumireko the freak. Soon to be Sumireko the dead."

"Don't say that!" I exclaim.

"Why not? It's true." She sniffles.

"It is not!"

"There are youkai out to kill me. Real, live youkai."

"I can handle youkai! And humans, if it comes that!"

"And? Then what? When the real police find the bodies, what next?" Sumireko half-sobs. "Dammit, I just killed someone!"

Sumireko's classmates all pale.

"...we'll figure something out. And if we can't, then... then you can come to Gensoukyou."

"Hah. Fat chance. Reimu'll never allow it."

"I'll make her allow it! I'll, I'll get Sanae and the other goddesses to back me up!"

"Where would I live? What would I do?"

"You could live with me. And you're young, and smart. You could do anything you set your mind to."

"Why would you do that?" Sumireko whispers. "I barely even know you."

"Because I can. Because I should. Someone has to help the helpless, right?"

Sumireko chokes out a laugh. A tearful laugh that opens the floodgates.

I pull her into a hug.

Okazaki immediately gets up and hugs her from behind.

Asakura sighs, walks around the table, and puts her arms around both of them.

Hasegawa rolls her eyes, pushes her glasses back up and joins in.

"What a crybaby," she mutters.

Sumireko buries her face in my shoulder and starts openly sobbing.


Once Sumireko has gotten it all out of her system, Asakura summons a servant and orders food for all of us. The servant, for his part, doesn't seem perturbed in the slightest, and returns with the meals in no time. Not quite Sakuya quick, but still. The Asakura household must be awfully rich.

All five of us eat in silence. Sumireko and I missed lunch, so we're too busy stuffing our faces to talk. Asakura looks on dissapprovingly at our poor table manners, but doesn't say anything. Okazaki and Hasegawa also eat with gusto, and Okazaki declares it's the best food she's tasted in years. If I hadn't been spoiled by the likes of Sakuya and Tenshi, I'd agree with her.

I do anyway, just to be polite.

"So," Sumireko says once the table has been cleared. "What do we do now?"

"Well..." I look around. "...I don't suppose you have a map of Tokyo?"

Sumireko pulls out her phone, taps a few buttons on it, and presents it to me.

"Um, no, I need something bigger," I say.

Asakura raises her eyebrows, then leaves the room for a few minutes. When she returns, she unfolds a large paper map that covers the whole table.

"Perfect! Um, could I trouble you for some paper and something to write with, too?"

Asakura procures all that and more from the drawer on the other side of the room, and I set to work. The others all watch in fascinated silence.

"What are you doing?" Sumireko eventually asks.

"Divination," I reply. "I'm divining the location of every the youkai in city."

"You can do that?" she asks.

"Better than anyone I know." Dowsing is different, Nazrin doesn't count!

Besides, I doubt even Nazrin could find these youkai. Most of them are hiding themselves in some way or another, and they're really, really good at it.

But not good enough to fool me.

"...and that's everything I can find," I say, adding one final mark.

"So, wait, each one of these is a person?" Hasegawa says, looking up from her phone. "They're awfully specific. Wouldn't they be moving around or something?"

"Not exactly. Most of them have anti-divination measures up, so I'm not actually looking for them directly," I explain. "But youkai sort of shed magical residue constantly, so I can pick up where they visit most frequently, or anywhere they make heavy use of magic."

"Can you tell what kind of youkai they are?" Sumireko says.

"Not accurately. Not at this distance, using this method."

"What about you?" Asakura asks. I blink in surprise and twist around to look at her behind me. "Can they do the same thing to find you, here?"

Sumireko suddenly looks worried.

"I... don't show up on this at all," I say carefully. "It's... complicated. They could find me if I used my powers, or if they looked for exactly the right thing... but it's unlikely to ever occur to them."

"Does this count as using your powers?" Asakura asks, pointing at the table.

"Nnno, this counts as 'exactly the right thing'."

"Well, I hate to say this, but a lot of these are right on or near police stations," Hasegawa says, glancing between the map and her phone.

"I was afraid of that," Sumireko says.

"That's tanuki for you," I say.

"So what's that?" Asakura says, tapping the map, at a spot where I've placed a cluster of marks.

"I'm... not sure," I reply. "It's definitely frequented by half a dozen distinct youkai, but they've done a very good job of covering their tracks. And there's something... odd, about it."

"Odd how?" Sumireko asks.

"Un-youkai-like. Almost like a human magic user, but not quite."

"Humans can learn magic?" Okazaki asks, speaking up for the first time.

"...depends," I reply. "You'd need the right tools, the right mindset, and extra precautions, but it's technically possible for most humans."

Okazaki looks thougthful. There's a glint in her eyes I'm not sure I like.

"According to 'net, there's nothing there," Hasegawa says. "Just some industrial warehouses down by the docks. No idea what they're used for."

Asakura leans over the table and peers at the tiny phone screen.

"Iron ore," she says confidently.

"...how the hell could you possibly know that?" Hasegawa asks, staring.

Asakura looks smug. "You mean you haven't heard of Asakura Engineering? We run, among other things, an integrated steel mill. And I just happen to know that depot belongs to our main supplier of iron ore. In fact, I've seen that exact address on dozens of shipment invoices."

We all stare at Asakura in stunned silence.

"...oh, come on. You didn't think the sole heir to a company that size would sit around doing nothing all day?"

"You're still in high school!" Sumireko protests.

"So are you, and look where it's taken you."

"...don't remind me."

Asakura's smirk vanishes. "Sorry."

"Okay, so what would a bunch of youkai, and/or magic-using humans, want with a warehouse full of iron ore?" Hasegawa asks.

"Well if it were me, I'd want to make stuff out of it!" I say cheerfully, getting a few odd looks. "Buuut I wouldn't go around stealing it. It's not valuable or anything, is it?"

"Not in quantities practical to steal," Asakura says.

"And it's not like it'd take a whole bunch of youkai hanging around and using magic to do it."

"Unless they were stealing it in quantity?" Hasegawa suggests.

"But then someone would notice, right?"

Hasegawa glances at Asakura. "Yeah."

"So it's probably just an out-of-the-way spot to hide," I conclude.

"Hide what?" Sumireko asks.

A grin starts to spread across my face. "Why don't we find out?"

Sumireko blinks. "What?"

"Well, we know the yakuza want you, and at least one of them is a fox. We know there are youkai in the police, and at least one of them is a tanuki. So whoever is after you has not one but two reasons to avoid the police, and is somewhere on this map."

"And whoever it is can afford to send goons with submachineguns after a single high school girl," Hasegawa adds. "So they're not small-timers."

"Exactly!" I say, and tap the marks on the warehouses. "Fox youkai don't think small, and they're well-known for their magical prowess. This is just the sort of thing they'd be up to."

Asakura sighs. "I never thought I'd be having a serious conversation about youkai foxes and magic."

"Sounds like a great movie plot!" Okazaki says brightly.

"Or a really bad fanfic," Hasegawa mutters.

Sumireko smirks. "Speaking from experience, are we?"

"Shut up, occultician."

"Enough, you two," Asakura says. "Even if this the right place, what are you going to do about them? This is the yakuza we're talking about. Hardened criminals. Who apparently want you dead. If you can't trust the police, then what?"

All eyes turn to me.

"Convince them to stop wanting us dead," I say solemnly. "By force, if necessary."

"Ahahahaha, hang on a minute," Sumireko says. "Didn't you say there was, like, six youkai in there? Are you seriously suggesting we can take them all?"

"Sure we can. We've got the best weapon of them all." I grin. "Surprise!"

Sumireko looks unconvinced.

"...we can't just keep running, Sumireko." I say gently. "Things are only going to get worse from here. Unless you want to head for Gensoukyou now, we need to go on the offensive. And the sooner we do, the greater our chances of success. If we wait until they've seen all our tricks, things are going to get messy. Very messy."

Sumireko hangs her head. "...I don't know if I can do it."

"You don't have to if you don't want to. I can go alone-"

"No!" Sumireko's head jerks back up again. "...no. This mess isn't your fault. It's mine. If anything I should be the one going alone."

"Absolutely not," Asakura snaps. "Usami, if you even think of running off on your own I'm going to the police, tanuki or no tanuki."

"And if I go with her?" Sumireko challenges. "What then?"

Asakura hesitates, then shakes her head. "This whole thing is insane. All of it. I can't believe I'm taking either of you seriously." She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. "I'll wait until this time tomorrow. If I haven't heard from you by then..."

Silence. Asakura looks around the table. Hasegawa sighs and rubs her forehead. Okazaki stares at the map with a complicated expression.

"...so," Sumireko says. "How are we going to do this?"

[ ] Surprise and exterminate. It's a time-tested formula, with guaranteed results.
[ ] Investigate and negotiate. Maybe we'll find some leverage if we snoop around for a bit.
[ ] Infiltrate and manipulate. It's a long shot, but we might just be able to trick the tricksters.


Last vote. Probably. Let's see if I can finish this thing while I'm in the groove.
>> No. 41016
[x] Surprise and exterminate. It's a time-tested formula, with guaranteed results
I could see no way this could possibly go wrong!
>> No. 41017
[x] Surprise and exterminate. It's a time-tested formula, with guaranteed results.
>> No. 41018
[x] Surprise and exterminate. It's a time-tested formula, with guaranteed results

Make messing with us expensive enough to not be worthwhile.
>> No. 41019
[X] Surprise and exterminate. It's a time-tested formula, with guaranteed results.

I think Kogasa might be on the way to earning herself a few worshipers now. As for the foxes... they made their choice. They don't get to complain about the results. And if that means we have to dust off the old skills, then so be it. In fact, this way might be better in a sense; great and terrible vengeance for even minor slights is certainly a famous trait among the gods, is it not?
>> No. 41020
[X] Surprise and exterminate. It's a time-tested formula, with guaranteed results.
>> No. 41021
[x] Surprise and exterminate. It's a time-tested formula, with guaranteed results.

Shock and Kill.
>> No. 41022
[x] Investigate and negotiate. Maybe we'll find some leverage if we snoop around for a bit.

Token vote for attempting blackmail.
>> No. 41023
[X] Investigate and negotiate. Maybe we'll find some leverage if we snoop around for a bit.
>> No. 41024
File 153338385588.png - (278.50KB , 550x550 , brace for impact.png ) [iqdb]
[x] Surprise and exterminate. It's a time-tested formula, with guaranteed results.

"The simple way," I decide. "We sneak in, make sure it's them, and hit them with everything we've got."

"What if it's not enough?" Sumireko asks, frowning anxiously. "There's only two of us, and who knows how many of them."

"That's why we sneak," I explain. "We don't need to fight them all, just the leaders. Bite the head off the snake and the body will die with it."

Sumireko's frown deepens. "You sound like you've done this before."

I hesitate for a moment, then let out a long sigh. "I have. It's not something I like to advertise, for obvious reasons, but..." I shrug, grinning sheepishly.

"What are you, some kind of ninja?" Hasegawa asks.

"...close enough," I say evasively. "I, uh, have a few preparations to make before we head out. Can you spare some more paper, and a brush...?"

"Anything in those drawers is yours," Asakura says promptly, pointing.

"Thank you," I say, bowing awkwardly. "Er, it's probably safer if you don't watch, this time..."

Asakura takes the hint immediately. "We should contact your parents and let them know you're staying over," she says to Hasegawa and Okazaki. "Unless you'd rather go home?"

She swifty herds the others out of the room. Hasegawa gives me one last suspicious glare, and Okazaki pauses in the doorway.

"Stay safe, okay?" she says, casting a concerned look at Sumireko.

"She'll be safe with me, I promise," I say.

Okazaki smiles and leaves.

"You want me out of the way too, or...?" Sumireko asks.

"You can stay if you want, but... well, don't try to copy any of it. Or tell anyone."

Sumireko nods, and starts helping me clear the table.


I set my brush down and take a deep breath. I've really gone and done it this time. Not just the basics, like I did during the Incident; this is the nasty stuff. Stuff that should have died out centuries ago, and for good reason.

I remember it all as though it were yesterday.

Sumireko looks up from her own work. She helped me prepare the paper and ink and other mundane tasks, then started making something she called 'Zener cards', more to pass the time than anything else, or so she said. They're a lot simpler than my ofuda, and use some kind of Western symbolism that I'm not familiar with.

"Here," I say, picking up one of the freshly-dried ofuda and offering it to her. "Hide this somewhere on you, in contact with your skin."

"What is it?" she asks, taking it.

"A concealment charm. It... makes you hard to find. It won't make you invisible or anything, but if they do notice you and you manage to get away, they'll have a lot of trouble finding you again, even if they try divination or your hiding place is really obvious." I grin. "They also won't recognise you if they see you again later, which is the important part."

"What if we get caught on camera?"

"I don't know. Try not to. It also won't do much to stop people who already know you from identifying you, but it's better than nothing."

Sumireko gestures at the table. "What do the rest of these do?"

"Bad things," I say grimly. "Most of them target youkai specifically, since they're the bigger threat, but some of them work on humans too." I point carefully at specific sets of characters. "This is youkai writing. Foxes sometimes use designs like these too. Both them and these will injure, incapacitate or kill you if you touch them, so watch out."

Sumireko swallows. "Thanks for the warning."

"Normally I'd give you a youkai-repelling charm as well, but every youkai in the city would notice it." I grimace. "And if they knew anything about history they'd be competing to see who could kill us first."

"Bad idea," Sumireko says, nodding.

"Very," I agree. "Are you done with yours?"

"Huh? Oh, these." Sumireko casually tosses the cards she's holding into the air, and they rapidly fan out around her. "They're just a little easier to manipulate than ordinary paper. Nothing magical like yours."

A through occurs, and I offer her another ofuda.

"This is a barrier charm, a bit like Reimu's. It's limited-use and can be avoided, so save it for if a youkai throws a spell or something you don't think you can stop yourself at you. Just hold it up with the writing facing outward. You have to be quick though, and it can slice your fingers off if they're in the way, so stick it to your palm or use your levitation ability."

"R-right," Sumireko says, taking it very carefully. "It won't go off in my pocket, will it?"

"You have to be touching the back and something else has to strike the front, at the same time," I explain. "It wasn't really designed for humans, I'm afraid. I'm not sure it's quick enough to stop bullets either. Save it for magic."

"Got it." She sticks the first charm down her shirt, and carefully tucks the second into her pocket.

Then she takes a deep breath. "We're really doing this, then?"

"It's now or never," I reply.

Sumireko stares at the backs of her hands as they grip the table for a moment. Then she pushes to her feet, Zener cards flying into her pockets.

I scoop my own weapons up and follow her out the door.
>> No. 41025
It's a long trip to our destination, cutting right across the city. We make most of the journey by air, relying on the darkness, Sumireko's ESP and my concealment charms to avoid being spotted. It's a little nerve-wracking, but on the upside, we don't run into any more ambushes and we make much better time.

And Nue was right about the view.

We circle the docks for an aerial survey, then approach the warehouses from the landward side, where there's more cover to hide our approach.

"Five youkai, all kitsune," I confirm. "I can tell there's humans around too, but I can't tell where. Can you?"

"Yeah," Sumireko says, eyes staring into the distance as she concentrates. "There's about... thirty or so people around. And a whole lot of guns." She shivers.

"Not dock workers then?" I ask.

Sumireko shakes her head emphatically. I turn my attention back to the buildings.

"The strongest youkai is almost always the leader, and the strongest youkai here is... there," I say, pointing. "Right near one of the others."


"That building, at the far end. I think it's on the top floor Can you see anything there?"

Sumireko frowns. "Point straight at it again?"

I point. Sumireko leans over to look along my arm.

"...okay, got it. Let's try another angle."

We carefully skirt around the site, getting closer to where I think our target is. Sumireko asks me to point at it another two times.

"I... think I've found it," she says at last. "There's an office or something on the top floor, overlooking... whatever is in the rest of the building." She scrunches her eyes shut. "I should be able to see it perfectly from here, but it's... blurry, for some reason."

"It's warded," I say. "I can feel it too. Whatever's in there, they really don't want anyone to see it."

"Well it's not iron ore, that's for sure," Sumireko says, opening her eyes. "Way too much movement going on in there."

"Can you find a way to the office?" I ask.

Sumireko turns to face me, eyes unfocused for a moment. "...yeah, that part of the building's clear. There's a lot of guards though."

"Leave them to me. Can you spot cameras too?"

Sumireko nods. "Yup. Loads of them. I think I can dodge them, though."

I grin. "Having someone with sight like yours sure is handy!"

Sumireko looks away. "I'd rather not be using it to plan an assassination, if it's all the same to you."

"...they tried to kill you, Sumireko. Twice."

Sumireko sighs. "I know." She stands. "Let's go. Before I lose my nerve."

We make our way back around to a spot I picked earlier and jump the fence with ease. Sumireko uses gestures and the occasional telekinetic nudge to direct me around cameras and guards I can't see. Modern technology, and the absence of ambient magic to highlight human presences, makes me very uncomfortable.

We come up against the back wall of a small brick extension to the main warehouse. I double-check there's no spells at work - I haven't felt any magic at all outside the building - and gesture towards my mouth and ear.

"We can talk here," Sumireko replies softly, "but keep it down."

"What's on the other side of this wall?" I ask.

"Men's restroom."

"Is anyone using it?"


"Can we get into the main building from here?"

"...yes, but how are we going to get in?"

I turn my attention to the small window next to me. It's protected by heavy steel bars, welded into a frame and held in place by large sturdy bolts. There's no way I could break through that undetected.

The wall, on the other hand...

I grip the bars, feeling around the bulky frame carefully, and give the whole thing a sharp tug. The bolts rip clean out of the masonry with a crunch. I wince at the sound, and pause, listening carefully.

...nothing. I put the bars down.

Sumireko is staring at me with wide eyes.

"...what?" I ask. "I've seen you move things that big loads of times!"

"Not with my bare hands!"

Sumireko shakes off her surprise and unlatches the tiny window so we can slip inside, a maneuver that would have been a lot harder if it weren't for the fact that we can both fly.

We continue flying afterwards, too. There are spells that can detect magical flight, but whoever is in charge here seems to be restricting magic use to the warded section, and they wouldn't pick up Sumireko anyway.

Sumireko suddenly stops and starts to back up. I catch her shoulder, and she holds up two fingers.

I point up.

Two guards round the corner, both carrying the large, bullet-spraying kind of modern firearm, among many other weapons.

Three seconds later, they're both dead.

I point at the bodies and gesture back toward the restroom.

Sumireko hovers in place, staring, hand clamped over her mouth.

I move closer, a concerned frown on my face, and reach toward her shoulder gently.

Sumireko backs away.

I offer my hand instead.

Sumireko looks between it, my face, and the two dead guards.

I smile reassuringly.

She takes a deep breath, and the bodies begin to float.

Two more guards suffer a similar fate.

Then, after ascending to the top floor, Sumireko stops in front of an unremarkable door. I already know why, but she mimes fox ears to confirm it.

I pause in throught for a moment. Then I turn to Sumireko.

I point at her hand. I hold up mine, and make a scratching motion across the palm with my other hand. I hold up an ofuda and mime wiping my palm on it. Then I raise the ofuda to my nose, sniff at it, and point at the door.

Sumireko hesitates for a moment, then fumbles in her pocket, and pulls out a metal object. She fiddles with it briefly, and unfolds a tiny knife. She offers it to me.

I shake my head and point at her.

Sumireko looks alarmed.

I point at myself, open my mouth in a snarl with my fingers as fangs, point at the door, and finally mime punching myself in slow motion. Then I point at Sumireko, point at the door, and lick my lips.

Sumireko looks really alarmed.

I quickly point at the door again, mime walking with my fingers, then point at myself with my other hand, and use that hand to pound the first.

Sumireko frowns worriedly.

I smile cheerfully.

She reaches for my ofuda.

I shake my head and point at her pockets.

She pulls out one of her zener cards and holds it up.

I nod. I point at her hand, the knife, the card, and then at the floor in front of the door. Then I point at her, motion toward the stairwell, point at myself, and gesture at the ceiling.

Sumireko looks at the door and swallows.

She levitates the card, cuts her thumb, smears the blood on the card, drops it on the floor, sticks her thumb in her mouth and flees.

I press myself against the ceiling and wait.

A minute passes.

Then another.

And another

Finally, I feel the fox stirring.

The door opens.

A multi-tailed figure emerges.

She spots the card.

I sit up, upside-down, and slap an ofuda over her mouth.

Three things happen at once: she looks up, eyes wide with panic and pain, her back arches, and her knees buckle. She claws frantically at the seal, but only succeeds in snaring her fingers as well. The seal rapidly starts spreading over her, wrapping around her like paper bandages before starting to constrict. Her writhing form is slowly crushed smaller and smaller, until only the original seal remains, before it, too, burns away into nothing.

All without the slightest sound.

I drop down from the ceiling and quickly dispose of the bloodied zener card as well.

Sumireko returns from the stairwell, eyes wide and hands covering her mouth.

I give her a friendly grin.


I whirl.

The room on the other side of the door is empty.

The door on the other side of the room is open.

A four-tailed fox woman is glaring at me.

"You!" she snarls.

I have just enough time to make an aborted shoving motion in Sumireko's direction.

The next thing I know I'm on the floor and my vision is full of stars.

"Don't. Move."

I freeze, already on all fours, and instead turn my head slowly toward the voice.

The fox woman is standing where I was a moment ago, one arm held out to the side, one clawed hand fastened around Sumireko's throat. Sumireko is as white as chalk and unmoving, save for her eyes.

"It really is you," the fox woman says, a nasty grin slowly spreading across her face. "Remember me, you two-faced bitch?"

"N... not particularly," I wheeze.

The fox woman hisses in fury. Her eyes actually glow like hot coals. And more importantly, she shakes Sumireko violently. Sumireko makes a choking sound and claws at the fox's hand, trying in vain to loosen her grip.

"Maybe this will jog your memory," fox woman says.

Her form ripples and changes. The black 'turtleneck' sweater and jeans (at least I think that's what they're called) disappear, to be replaced by a fancy kimono. Her blond hair lengthens from chin-length and winds itself into an elaborate bun. Makeup appears on her face, her claws turn into painted nails, her tails vanish and an ornate kiseru appears in her free hand.

"A long time ago, in city not so far away," she begins, slowly advancing, still effortlessly holding Sumireko up with one arm, "I was a simple courtesan. Fooling great men with my looks, marrying into greatness, sleeping my way to the top. Forgettable, maybe even contemptible, but most importantly, harming no-one."

She shakes Sumireko like a ragdoll again.

"Then along comes a grubby little youkai exterminator. Poor, homeless, wandering vagrant, or so he says. My then-husband, magnanimous idiot that he was, took him in at once. So I tucked in my tails and minded my manners, waiting for him to move on."

She smiles. It's not a nice smile.

"But she wasn't all that she seemed. In fact, I soon learned that she was a youkai, just like me. Quite a crafty little one, hiding she was least expected. And she had a downright devious scheme to go with it. 'Accidentally' out myself as a fox, she said, and play along with her little 'extermination', and we could split the reward money."

The fox lady puts her pipe-holding left hand on her hip and shifts her weight onto that foot, highlighting her curves.

"I'd grown quite tired of my husband's antics by then, so naturally I agreed. It was a win-win situation for all involved; she'd get the money, I'd be free to go on my way with a tidy little nest egg, and he'd learn a valuable lesson about thinking with his big head instead of his little one. There was only one tiny little problem."

Here eyes narrow and she leans forward slightly to glare at me.

"It was all lies. When the big day came, there was no play-acting. That traitorous, tanuki-humping whore somehow managed to hold onto the seals of the legendary Abe clan itself long enough to seal me under an Inari shrine for EIGHT. HUNDRED. YEARS."

A trickle of drool runs down Sumireko's chin as she struggles to breathe.

"And now you have the NERVE, the GALL, the FILTHY, DESPICABLE ARROGANCE to show your face in front of me AGAIN." The fox woman looms over me, eyes burning like minature suns. "WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY FOR YOURSELF, YOU CRAWLING MAGGOT?"

Sumireko's fist connects with the fox-woman's ribcage, just below the armpit.

My barrier charm fires, slicing the youkai's arm clean off.

The fox woman yowls and staggers in surprise and pain, illusion crumbling back to her modern appearance. Sumireko tears the severed-but-still-moving limb off her throat, ripping one of the fingers clean off with the sheer explosive force of her telekinesis, and throws herself down the stairwell.

The fox woman lets out an ear-splitting roar that sounds somewhere between a scream of pain and rage and the cry of a fox.

The floor where I'd been kneeling explodes from the impact of her fist.

The fist she didn't have a second ago.

The second punch narrowly grazes past my chin.

Suddenly I'm on my back, with what feels like a hole in my stomach, looking up at the ceiling, between a desk and a filing cabinet.

The desk vanishes explosively.

A hand grabs my throat, crushing my windpipe like an overcooked noodle.

I slap a youkai-killing ward on its wrist.

The fox woman tears her arm off and throws it across the room.

I struggle to breathe with a crushed windpipe and no diaphragm. I fail.

The fox watches my charm devour her arm.

"...again. Again." She rounds on me, her face twisted with pure fury. "YOU. YOU ARE AN ABOMINATION." She grabs me by the shirt and flings me across the room. "LET'S SEE HOW YOU LIKE A TASTE OF YOUR OWN MEDICINE!"

I bounce off the wall and land on all fours. My body is furiously healing enough damage to get air into my lungs, but I still barely have the strength to stand.

A hand slaps my back.





"Hahahahahahaha! Looks like you burn just like the rest of us!"







"Here, have another one!"


"And another!"













I raise my eyes to glare at the fox-woman. She's not very steady, but...

...I can see her!

She stares at me, eyes wide, brows furrowed.

"You have got to be fucking kidding me."

"...go... to... hell..." I rasp.

Her eyebrows go up.

She grins.

"With pleasure."

She grabs my hair.

"One one-way ticket to hell, coming riiiiiiight up!"

She grabs my umbrella.

My arms are too weak to resist.

"Step right this way for our first-class service!"

She kicks a door open and drags me thought it, onto a metal walkway.

I can see machines.

Lots of machines.

Hot metal.

"Give my regards to Satan, wretch!"

She whacks something with my umbrella. A lever.

Loud grinding. Growling.

Big machine.

She holds me up to her face.

"You'll be seeing him real soon."



Hard to breathe.

Hot air.


Molten metal.

I struggle against my leaden limbs, trying turn onto my back, keep my face to the searing but breathable air.

Too heavy.

Too slow.



I shake my head and blink furiously to clear my eyes.

The ward on my shoulder.

The youkai writing that I recognise so well.

Is burning.



The weight falls away from my limbs in an instant. I complete my half-turn onto my back with ease, and suck in a deep breath.

I'm lying in a pool of molten metal in the biggest furnace I've ever seen. A blast of furiously hot air is constantly beating down on me, and it, from above.

I laugh.

And laugh.

The fireproofing magic I learned as a blacksmith just saved my life.

...ow. Still smarting from the fight, but I'm alive.

I lie there for a moment longer, gathering my strength, but it really isn't a good spot to relax in.

After a bit of paddling, and searching, I find a way out. Molten steel flows past me. It's small, but it doesn't seem to be obstructed.

I wiggle through.


As soon as I'm out, I stop and wring every last drop of molten metal out of my hair and clothes. It's impossible to get the stuff out after it cools. I speak from experience on this one.

Then I look around.

I'm in the warded portion of the warehouse. It's a wide, open space, full of loud, metal machines, crashing away.

Molten metal is flowing out of the seal-covered furnace, being poured into molds, set, removed, and further machined, into...



They're making weapons!

My little revelation is interrupted by a chunk of heavy machinery flying at me.

I dodge it just in time.

Total pandemonium erupts.

People and machines are flying everywhere.

A giant, misshapen steel fist pounds a fleeing kitsune into a bloody stain.

I dive behind one of the many pieces of machinery and scramble away from the main furnace.

Away from the roar of the machines, and the magical ringing of so many seals in such a small space, I can hear voices.

Screaming, mostly.

"Stop her! Shoot her!"

"She's a monster!"

"Let me out! I didn't sign up for this!"

"You cowardly fools! Run the other way!"

"Save me! Please god save me!"



Sumireko is floating in the far corner of the room. Her eyes are wild, tears a streaming down her face, and her mouth is lock in something between a laugh and a scream. Two giant metal hands are flying around the room, mimicking her own hands, pulverising everything.

Machines. Youkai. Humans.


"You useless, spineless, incompetent -"

The fox woman that nearly killed me is barking orders at the top of her voice, but nobody is listening.

So she attacks Sumireko herself.

Sumireko swats her out of the air like a bug.


She slams into a nearby piece of machinery with force to embed her in the metal. She spasms a few times, trying to free herself.

"She's just a stupid human! Kill her!"

I step in front of her, grinning.

"Go to hell."

And then I grab her face.

With a hand hot enough to melt steel.


I pour all the power I can muster into her, channeling more and more heat, burning her head, burning her body, melting the machinery, melting the floor.

I don't stop until I run dry, and all that's left is a molten puddle.

I drop onto all fours, panting for breath.

The warehouse falls silent.

After what feels like an eternity, I get to my feet.

Something sparks.


I step over a piece of unrecognisably mangle metal and cast my eyes all around.


After a minute or two, I spot her.

Sitting in a corner, hugging her knees, shaking.


She doesn't seem to notice my approach, staring sightlessly ahead, breathing in shuddering gasps.


I triple-check that I've cooled off, and gently grab her shoulder.

She yelps and scrambles away from me.

"K-K-K-Kogasa?" she gibbers, looking around wildly.

"I'm right here."

Sumireko finally seems to notice me.

"I... I t-t-though you were dead."

"I'm fine."

"T-t-t-the fox youkai, she -"

"She's gone now. It's okay."

I pull Sumireko into a hug, as she breaks down sobbing.

Minutes pass.

"...feeling better now?" I ask.

"...a bit," she whispers. "Oh god. I... I've never been so scared..."

"You're safe now. It's okay."

Sumireko stirs, and I help her shakily to her feet. She just stands there for a while, head down, steadying her breathing.

Then she looks up.

"...oh god."

She takes an unsteady step forward. I hover beside her, ready to catch her if she topples.

"Oh god. What have I done?"


Sumireko shakes free of my grip, and her steps get steadier as she approaches the nearest piece of debris.

The head and shoulders of a crushed human being stick out from under the pile, in a growing pool of blood.

Sumireko dry heaves. She clamps her hand over her mouth, but doesn't look away. She takes another step forward and retches again.

Then she squeezes her eyes shut and vomits as if her life depended on it.

She continues long after her stomach is empty.


"Hey." I gently rub her back.

"...I killed them," she whispers.


"Thirty people."

"You were defending yourself."

"I'm a mass murderer."

"They were tying to kill you."

"They were running away."

I don't have a response for that.

"They were running away, and I killed them. Crushed them like ants. Oh god. I'm a monster."

I pull Sumireko into a hug, ignoring the smell.

"I'm sorry," I say. "I failed you. I promised I would protect you and I didn't."


"I wasn't strong enough."

"...thank you."


Sumireko puts her arms around me, slowly. "Thank you. For being here."

"What!? I dragged you into this!"

"It wasn't your fault."

"It was entirely my fault!"

Sumireko shakes her head. I can feel her hair tickling my neck. "It was my fault. Reimu was right. I was stupid, and I paid the price."


I release Sumireko and look her in the eyes.

"No, okay? Don't think like that. You made a mistake. We all make mistakes. I made mistakes. I shouldn't have sealed that fox. I shouldn't have underestimated her. I shouldn't have let her get you. Those were my mistakes, and I'm sorry."

"Kogasa -"

"You made mistakes. You shouldn't have stolen that occult ball. You shouldn't have angered Reimu and lost it. Those were your mistakes, and I forgive you. Can you forgive me?"

Sumireko stares at me. Then lets out a single 'heh' of a giggle, and drops her head onto my shoulder.

"Of course I forgive you," she whispers.

We stand in silence for a moment.

"...now what," Sumireko asks.

"...we leave," I reply. "Before the cops show up."

"Should we?"

I pause, and look at Sumireko.

"This... still happened," Sumireko says, gesturing at the wreckage. "I still did it."


"We can't just walk away, like it didn't happen!"

My mouth works soundlessly as I try to form a rebuttal.

I'm interrupted by the sound of a door scraping open. A woman steps into the room, and looks around. She spots us in short order.

"...well, well well," she says. "Credit where credit is due, Miss Tatara, you work fast."

"The Commissioner!" Sumireko gasps.

Three more people file in behind the 'Commissioner'. All of them have tanuki ears and tails.

One of them is Sarutobi, still grinning smugly.

"Here we've been trying to find the foxes' hideout for years, and you wipe them out in an afternoon," the bakedanuki Commissioner continues. "Messily, might I add, but all things considered, I think you've saved us a great deal of trouble."

"Got the foxes out of your turf, you mean?" I ask.

The Commissioner snorts. "I mean you busted their gun-running ring before any more innocent bystanders got hurt."

I snort back. "You're a tanuki. What do you care?"

The Commissioner gives me an incredulous look. "My dear girl, I'm a policewoman. It's my duty to care."

"You're a tanuki," I repeat.

"Yes. Quite. How very observant," she smiles humorlessly. "But as strange as it may be to you humans, I am also a policewoman. And I do care." Her smile softens. "Which is why I would like to offer you a deal."

My eyes narrow. "What kind of deal?"

The Commissioner raises her hands plaintively. "Don't worry, I'm not trying to trick you. In fact, I'm not asking you for anything at all. All I'm saying, is..." she gestures at the carnage, "you've made quite a mess here, Miss Tatara. But you've done us, and the city, a great service, so I'm willing to use my influence to make it... go away." She smiles knowingly. "And all I ask in return is that you leave use peaceful, law-abiding tanuki alone."

"Law-abiding," I repeat flatly.

"...well, okay, maybe we do have a few..." she makes a wavering gesture with one hand "...legally gray operations running on the side. But nobody gets hurt. Not for any price." She smiles widely. "Tanuki's honor."

"You tried to kill me," I retort.

"Ah, yes, that." The Commissioner turns to Sarutobi. "I believe Chief Inspector Sarutobi here owes you a most profound apology." Sarutobi somehow manages to look smug and contrite at the same time. "While we do prize initiative, as a rule, there is a fine line between that and... jumping the gun, as it were. He will be appropriately reprimanded, mark my word." She flashes a professional smile. "Thank you for sparing his life, by the way. It was most generous of you."

...as strange as it may be to you humans...

Thank you for sparing his life, by the way.

...that it. That's what I'm missing here!


The four tanuki in front of me are absolutely terrified of me!

"What about the Sergeant?" I ask, taking a step forward. "Matsuda, I think it was? I didn't hurt him too badly on my way out, did I?"

"Oh, he's fine," the Commissioner replies. "Rattled, but fine. You got him good; he doesn't even remember what hit him."

"And Sumireko?" I press.

"Who?" The Commissioner replies, eyebrows rising. "I don't know any Sumirekos, I'm afraid. Chief Inspector?"

Sarutobi shakes his head, still grinning. "No ma'am. Don't know anyone by that name."

"...and it's going to stay that way?" I ask, smirking.

"Of course," the Commissioner replies. "Can't remember what I don't know!"

This time it's my turn to put on a professional smile. "Well then, Madam Commissioner, I'd say it's been a pleasure doing business with you."

She bows low. "The pleasure is all mine, I assure you."

"Maybe next time I'll be able to enjoy my stay a bit more, hmmm?"

"I ferverently hope so."


"Come on," I say to Sumireko, still smiling, "we wouldn't want to get in the way of a police operation, now would we?"

* * *

That's the most words I've ever written in one go. Final part coming as soon as I've caught my breath.
>> No. 41026
>"But as strange as it may be to you humans, I am also a policewoman. And I do care." Her smile softens. "Which is why I would like to offer you a deal."

Kogasa is a not a human you doufus. Although I can see why you'd make that mistake. I'm surprised anti youkai seals even work on her anymore.

Although with the fear she's causing, I think her Youkai side just got a boost or something.
>> No. 41027
File 153351927553.png - (353.43KB , 500x750 , amusingly appropriate.png ) [iqdb]
As soon as I'm sure we're out of sight of the warehouse and prying youkai eyes, I stop and sag against the nearest wall.

"Ow," I summarize.

"...ow," Sumireko agrees. She touches her throat gingerly and winces.

"You okay?" I ask.

"Just bruised, I think." She winces again. "I'm gonna look like hell in the morning. How am I going to explain this..." She sniffs at the air, then her hand, and finally me.

"...you smell like burnt metal."

"Molten metal, actually." I grin weakly. "I, um, went for a swim in the furnace."

Sumireko looks at me like I'm crazy. "You're not even singed."

I grin. "Yup! I work with hot stuff all the time, so I learned how to make myself fireproof. Safety first!"

I let my face and head fall, and go back to being really, really tired. Sumireko remains silent for a while too, before speaking up again.

"The story that fox youkai told... was it true?"

I close my eyes. "Yes."

"...why'd you do it?"

I take a deep breath, and let it out slowly. "I panicked. She saw through my disguise, I panicked, and... I silenced her. I thought if I sealed her instead of killing her, she'd have another chance after I was long gone, but..." I lapse into silence for a while. "Maybe shouldn't have sealed her. Maybe she wouldn't have turned out like... that. Or maybe I wouldn't be around to wonder. I try not to think about it."

I finally gather the courage to raise my head. Sumireko watches me with a neutral expression.

"She wasn't the only one," I say softly. "Not by a long shot."

Sumireko shifts her weight from foot to foot. The corners of her mouth twitch up slightly. "Sounds like you have some experience at this whole monster thing."


"Sooo... any advice?"

I stare at Sumireko tiredly, suddenly feeling every bit of my age.

"Just keep moving forward," I suggest. "You can't change the past, so make the future better instead."

Sumireko nods slowly.

ho-ho-ho-honk honk
ho-ho-ho-honk honk

I nearly jump out of my skin at the sudden cacophony of honking. I spin around - regretting it already - and spot...

...Yakumo Yukari, sitting in a car with no roof, smiling broadly.

"Need a lift?" She asks cheerily.

"...Miss Yukari?" I ask, mind still catching up with my eyes. "What are you doing here?"

"Oh, I just happened to be in the area," Yukari replies with an airy wave. "And you two look dead on your feet! Come on, hop in. I'll take you home!"

"...who is this?" Sumireko asks, frowning suspiciously.

"You remember who I said sent me out here? Yakumo Yukari?" I ask. "This is her."

"How do you do, Miss Usami?" Yukari says, extending her hand out of a gap.

"Gyah!" Sumireko squeaks and hides behind me.

"Now, now, no need to be shy," Yukari chides, withdrawing her hand. "I'm not here to spirit you away or anything. Unless you want to go with your new friend?"

"You'll take me back to Gensoukyou?" I ask, cautiously approaching the car.

"Certainly! It wouldn't do to leave you here to fend for yourself, would it?" She makes an impatient 'come here' gesture. "Chop chop, night's not getting any younger you know!"

I tug carefully at the door handle and sit in the seat beside Yukari, feeling a bit awkward. Sumireko looks between the two of us with a worried expression, and climbs into the seat behind me. She pulls a strap of some kind across her shoulder and waist and fastens it with a click. I fumble around trying to do the same, until Yukari reaches across and does it for me.

Then she twiddles something I can't see, and the car roars to life. It's a much deeper sound than I was expecting, from the other cars I've heard.

Yukari pulls at a lever and turns the big wheel-shaped thing in front of her, and the car rolls smoothly forward.

...this is kinda neat.

"Anyone feel like stopping for some ice cream on the way home?" Yukari suddenly asks, glancing our way and smiling. "It's my treat. I have a bit of spending money thanks to a certain someone, after all."

"...money?" I ask, not really sure I want to know.

"Ran and I had a little wager going on whether you'd beat that old fox." Yukari smiles wider. "I bet on you, naturally."

"You were watching!?" I exclaim.

"But of course!"

"Why didn't you help then!?" Sumireko demands from behind me.

"Where's the fun in that?" Yukari asks. "Oh, stop looking at me like that. I'd have stepped in if you'd landed in serious trouble." She smiles infuriatingly again. "But you pulled through all by yourselves! Now isn't that something?"

"I didn't have to kill all those people!" Sumireko fumes.

"No, you didn't," Yukari replies, all teasing gone from her voice. "Yet you still chose to. Why was that, I wonder?"

I twist around in my seat. Sumireko gapes at Yukari with a horrified expression before looking away.

"It was quite a feat for a human, if I may say so. I'm honestly impressed."

"Don't talk about it like it's a good thing!" Sumireko snaps. "I'm human, not a, a, maneating youkai!"

"Well if you're that worried about it, I know some excellent therapists!" Yukari replies cheerfully.

Sumireko glares daggers at her.

"I'm serious, Miss Usami. There are people you can talk to about this. Don't take my word for it; I happen to know that your little friend thinks quite highly of them too."

"I do?" I ask.

"Who, then?" Sumireko asks sullenly.

"For a start, I'd suggest talking to Reimu." Yukari glances at our reactions and smiles, gently this time. "Yes, really. Just tell her you want a proper consultation, and make a donation to show you're serious."

"But Reimu hates me," Sumireko objects.

"I highly doubt that. And even if she did, she can be impartial when she needs to. It's quite literally her job. Now," Yukari steers the car off the road and stops, then turns to us.

"Vanilla, chocolate or strawberry?"

I stare at her, then turn around. A glowing sign says... ice cream?

...it's some kind of food?

"Or do you prefer caramel?"

Sumireko looks just as lost as I do.


We do end up getting ice cream. It's like shaved ice, but creamier. And sweeter. So sweet it burns my tongue, and so cold it makes my teeth hurt. But I slowly keep eating it until it's all gone. It's a refreshing snack for a hot summer night.

We're too busy eating to talk, until Yukari stops the car somewhere else.

"Well, here we are!" Yukari says.

"...this is my house," Sumireko says, voice rising in alarm. "How do you know where I live!?"

"Oh, just... practice~" Yukari teases. "Do be sure to call your friends and tell them you're home safe!"

Sumireko scrambles out of the car and stares at Yukari in horror.

"Stay in touch now~!" Yukari calls as she drives off.

"One last detour before we head home," she adds to me.

It turns out to be a rather long detour. It's a good thing this seat is really comfy.

So comfy, I almost doze off.

But eventually Yukari stops, and the car falls silent.

In its place, I can hear...

"Been a while, has it?" Yukari asks as I lean on the handrail and stare out over the ocean.


We both gaze in silence for a while, in the dim light of the stars and the waning moon.

"Sake?" Yukari asks, offering me a small dish. I take it, and sip slowly.

"...I almost couldn't believe my ears when Ran told me what she'd found out about your handiwork during the Incident," Yukari says. "She didn't think much of it, of course; but I knew that Kochiya girl didn't have the skill. I had to see it with my own eyes."

"...you tricked me," I say slowly. "You arranged all of this... just to catch me out?"

"Oh, but that was the beauty of it! I didn't have to arrange a thing! Your skills, your meddling in the village, that girl playing with fire - it all just fell into my lap, three birds with one stone. And to think it would end with you facing off against an old enemy... really, it was almost too good to be true."

"I see." I glance at my sake, then back at Yukari. "So what happens now?"

Yukari looks at me and smiles. "Oh, don't worry. Your secret is safe with me. I know better than to threaten a pupil of the legendary Abe no Seimei while I'm standing within arm's reach."

"Are you... seriously... afraid of me?" I ask slowly.

Yukari positively beams. "Isn't it wonderful? Me, the great Yakumo Yukari, in mortal peril! I haven't felt so alive in centuries!"

...I'm fairly sure she knows all of my ofuda burned up in that furnace, but I don't say that out loud. Just in case. "What about your 'test'? Or was that just an excuse too?"

"Hmm? Oh, that. You passed with flying colors, I'm happy to say."

"Uh... okay? What was it supposed to be about, anyway? I still don't get it."

Yukari watches the waves in silent contemplation for a while before answering. "...I've poured my heart and soul into Gensoukyou. Really I have. To save youkai from extinction, in the face of human advancement... I would give anything to achieve that. Yes, even my life. But in the end, all I've been able to manage is... a stopgap, at best."

She turns around, leaning on the rail, and gestures expansively at the lights of the city.

"Someday all of this will be forgotten. Someday it too will fall into Gensoukyou, just like everything else. The only constant in this world is change. To stop changing is to stagnate. To die. Even Gensoukyou is advancing, little by little; those meddlesome Moriya goddesses are just speeding the process along. I've bought us all some time, but how much? Can we find a solution in time, if there is one at all?"

She stares down at her sake dish, lost in troubled thought.

"I've devoted all the time I can spare to the problem. Run countless simulations. Can humans and youkai ever truly coexist? Can we come to support ourselves without them? Do we flee to another world, like the demons to the Hells? Or do we destroy this one, and start the cycle anew?"

"You can't seriously be considering that!" I blurt out.

"Oh, but I can." Yukari smiles darkly. "It would be so easy. The right whispers in the right ears, the right codes... mankind would destroy itself for us."

"Millions of people would die!"

"Billions, even. And it would be worth it, no?"

I shake my head vehemently. "No. A thousand times no."

Yukari smiles. "You really are noble, aren't you? Such a unique viewpoint for a youkai." Her smile fades. "You're right, though. Even I'm not that callous. But I am desperate. And growing more so, year by year. Sooner or later..."

She pours the last of her sake out on the sand, the wind scattering it in front of her.

"...please prove me wrong," she says softly. "If you can find a way, something I haven't considered, whatever it may be... reach out and take it, with both hands."

I swallow, not sure what to say. This is way beyond me. What could I think of that she couldn't?

"...and as for your meddling in the village," Yukari continues, her old smile returning. "I think you might just have what it takes."

I blink. "What?"

"You've gained a great deal of influence over the village in a very short space of time," Yukari says. "A lot of other youkai are crying foul. Even the tengu, busy rebuilding their own village, are positively beside themselves."


"Some are even calling for you to be eliminated, for so blatantly and openly interfering from within the village itself, in violation of the highest rules of Gensoukyou."


Yukari smirks. "I think I'm going to tell them to put up and shut up. How does that sound?"

"I, uh, eh, huh?" I ask eloquently.

"In fact, I think you're the perfect candidate to act as a peacekeeper."


"Just think about it: you're not affilated with any of the major powers in Gensoukyou. You're certainly not a threat to any of them in person, at least not that they know. And you've repeatedly shown you can be relied upon to put the best interests of the village itself first. Who better to take up the slack? After all," Yukari leans closer conspiratorially, "this little battle has been getting somewhat rowdy as of late, what with the menreiki and the religous war and all that. The thought of you, as a trusted figure in the village, suddenly gaining even more influence, should they overstep their boundaries..."

"U-um..." I lean away from her nervously.

"Oh, don't be like that. All you have to do is keep doing what you have been doing. Lead by example. Simple, no?"

"I-if you say so..."

Yukari nods. "I do." She smiles again. "Now that I've given you so much to think about, how about we get you home and let you sleep on it?"

"Yes please," I say, sagging.

"Don't be a stranger now. You're welcome to visit anytime~"

"I'll, uh, think about it."

Yukari just laughs, and heads back to the car.

>> No. 41028
File 153351942640.png - (1.58MB , 1447x2046 , IT'S FINALLY OVER.png ) [iqdb]
Aaaand that's all, folks!

Sorry (again) for the rushed and crappy ending, but it really didn't match the rest of the story (No 'Banki!? Heresy!), it was hard to write, the plot sucked ass... it was a dumb idea from start to finish. But I covered everything I was going to. I'm a lot of bad things, but a quitter ain't one of 'em.

Thank you to everyone who stuck with me for almost three years of whining, hiatuses, shitty writing, outright shitposting and generally being a tremendous faggot. You're awesome. I'm not worthy.

If you have any questions, flames, gaping plot holes or other critique to throw at me, now's the time. Just about everything in this multi-story pileup is a reference to something or set my easily-distractible mind rolling down the path not taken, so who knows. Maybe I'll turn it into a story.

Speaking of which, I have no intention of stopping writing, if I can have anything to say about it at all. If there's something you want to see more of, let me know. If you want me to go and stay go, let me know. And yes, UMBRELLA (/DOLL) UPDATES WHERE is a perfectly valid option. I actually have a list of stuff I want to write, and might put it to a vote here if people are interested (I'm allergic to decisions), but I'll wait and see if anyone has an idea that's actually good first.

Have a happy Hina.
>> No. 41029
File 153352052143.jpg - (132.67KB , 850x628 , __tatara_kogasa_touhou_drawn_by_nga_artist__sample.jpg ) [iqdb]
Only one thing to say.

>> No. 41030
I'd ask for a continuation, but we already have that so... get on with it!
>> No. 41032
I, ah, prooooobably should have been a bit more specific there.

This story is finished. Completed. Over. Done. Thank you for playing!

I have a second umbrella-centric story all planned out, but there's the small matter of there being another story in between. I'm quite happy to round up my notes and get started right away, leaving all the in-between happenings as (appropriately enough) a surprise, which might even make the story that much more interesting.

But on the other hand, you'd miss out on (actual spoilers here)(Last warning, real spoilers ahoy!)Sanae getting a promotion and her replacement as miko, which I thought was significant enough to warrant its own story.

On the gripping hand, you probably don't want to wait another three years for the return of best tsukumogami either.

So. Yeah. If you want more umbrella, please specify hot or cold.
>> No. 41033
As long as you're still writing something, I'll read it and I'll like it, dammit.
>> No. 41034
as long as you write, I'll keep readin!
>> No. 41035
File 153356879687.gif - (127.36KB , 500x500 , 1412176725802-0.gif ) [iqdb]
HOT. No timeskips. Do want to see cute umbrella's promos.
>> No. 41036
Perhaps the message wasn't clear enough.

>> No. 41037

To echo what's already been said so far, if you're writing it then I'm gonna be reading it, timeskip or no timeskip. This was my favorite currently updating story on the site and I'm sad to see it go, so rest assured that I'll be following along with whatever you decide to post in the future. That being said, if we have a choice in the matter then I'm voting in favor of the timeskip, nothing against Sanae but I want to see more Kogasa and Sekibanki shenanigans given the chance. And as a fan of the umbrella, I certainly have no problem with mysteries and/or surprises. Ultimately you should write whatever you want to write though, I have faith that it'll be good reading whichever way it goes. Looking forward to what comes next, and congratulations on finishing a good story!
>> No. 41038
File 153379464567.jpg - (442.14KB , 1448x1747 , hammertime?.jpg ) [iqdb]
Okay, okay, I get it... one story, tagged for life...

...but if you had to choose something umbrellaless, what would it be?

[ ] Waifu Wars: Chireiden Edition
[ ] Waifu Wars: Fairy Maid Edition (may contain traces of Donut Steel, slice of life and snowball fights cricket)
[ ] Monster Hunter: MariHinaLunaTeru Edition (disclaimer: author is a MonHan n00b)
[ ] Frozen Crow: /at/ Edition
[ ] Amanojaku of (Role-)Reversal
[ ] Shanghai~♪

Otherwise, you'll just have to wait warmly while I wade through my two-million-word notecean in search of rainy days.
>> No. 41039
Still rather more umbrella shenanigans, but if I had to pick a second...

[X] Waifu Wars: Fairy Maid Edition

You had me at cricket. That being said, I'd read just about any of these except the /at/ stuff as long as you're writing it. Fairies trying to play cricket sounds like fun though, reminds me of AFT.
>> No. 41040
[X] Waifu Wars: Fairy Maid Edition

Epic fairy time
>> No. 41041
[X] Monster Hunter: MariHinaLunaTeru Edition (disclaimer: author is a MonHan n00b)

Yuggi vs. Nergigante. You know you want to.
>> No. 41042
[x] Monster Hunter: MariHinaLunaTeru Edition

Youmu with Twin Swords, Eirin with the bow, Nitori with a Gunbow, Kokoro with a Longsword... A wet dream.
>> No. 41043
[x] Shanghai~♪
Alright, now I'm curious.
>> No. 41044
[x] Waifu Wars: Chireiden Edition

More Underground. No exceptions.
>> No. 41045
Oh boy.

First of all-
[X]Waifu Wars:Chireiden Edition.

I do have two questions about previous story events- specifically, the whole incident that made youkai go berserk.

Sanae briefly mentioned that she remembered dying, but seemingly respawned. She didn't elaborate. What was up with that, and was there a path that would allow for an explanation?

Also relating to the incident's aftermath, Rumia showed up covered in blood iirc and Cirno comforted her. What happened there? Presumably nothing good, but I still want to know if it's possible.
>> No. 41046
File 153386651658.jpg - (152.97KB , 655x469 , nobody took the bait.jpg ) [iqdb]
> I'd read just about any of these except the /at/ stuff

You did read the first two words of what you're voting for, yes? Just making sure, because this is where >>/at/38248 came from.

...but then I wised up and realized nobody would read a VN where only shitty OCs have routes. There will be plenty of AFT-style shenanigans anyway, but the protag is still butleranon. Who better to drag all of Gensoukyou into a giant groan-inducing clusterfuck of a cricket match, Flight of the Lost Soul style?

> Yuggi vs. Nergigante. You know you want to.
> Youmu with Twin Swords, Eirin with the bow, Nitori with a Gunbow, Kokoro with a Longsword... A wet dream.

> MariHinaLunaTeru Edition

See >>/shorts/2155.

> Alright, now I'm curious.

I guess I can't expect people to remember >>/forest/29465. Despite repeated cameos and already having linked to it in this thread. Poor Shanghai.
>> No. 41048
File 153386859397.png - (569.04KB , 1100x1100 , yes I was!.png ) [iqdb]

Whoa, ninja! You really surprised me!

> Sanae briefly mentioned that she remembered dying, but seemingly respawned. She didn't elaborate. What was up with that, and was there a path that would allow for an explanation?

That was one of the sequel hooks for the Sanae story that nobody showed any interested in. To make a long story short, she was so amped up on faith that she resurrected herself without realizing it. Twice.

How that works, and how badly Sanae freaks out when she finds out, we may never know, since everyone wants more umbrella instead.

> Also relating to the incident's aftermath, Rumia showed up covered in blood iirc and Cirno comforted her. What happened there? Presumably nothing good, but I still want to know if it's possible.

Rumia tried to eat Cirno that morning. You'd have learned that if you'd gone to question Cirno instead of Seija. (But then you wouldn't have solved the Incident.)

Cirno, Rumia and Lily are best buds in my headcanon, thanks to a long-ass backstory I came up with for one of the short story contests but flaked out on (as usual). You may remember them acting close at the Grassroots meeting and the Carnival too.

They show up in the fairy story, incidentally. Might be the only place I get to use all that worldbuilding...
>> No. 41049

You know, I honestly didn't think of that when I voted for it. I suppose in hindsight the name "Waifu Wars" does make it kind of obvious and maybe I'm just a dumbass, but the thought really never crossed my mind. Still going to vote for it as a distant second to umbrella updates where even so, as you have put the image of fairies playing cricket into my mind and now I can't get it out, which is worth skimming/skipping the occasional uncomfortable segment. That is, unless the lewd content is going to make up the majority of the story, in which case sign me up for the continued adventures of Shanghai and her troublesome sisters, as /at/ stuff is just not my cup of tea at all, sorry.
>> No. 41050
[X] Shanghai~♪
I remember that quest, its great.
>> No. 41051
File 153389132951.png - (460.39KB , 557x650 , this cat is fine tho.png ) [iqdb]

Like I said, now that I'm seriously thinking of writing it instead of just going "hey that sounds neat let's throw it in" I just can't see it working anymore. Mixing cute antics and sexy time is kind of like molesting your cat. On the off chance it does get any worse than Francesca asking why people wear clothes I'll link off to /at/ proper so you can skip it if you want.

The Chireiden one on the other hand is indeed mostly lewd.
>> No. 41052
File 15338917667.jpg - (332.40KB , 900x822 , four of atai.jpg ) [iqdb]

F-f-f-four-way tie! You guys are just as indecisive as I am!
>> No. 41053
[x] Shanghai~♪

While I'm always up for more umbrella I've been waiting for more of this for a long time now.
>> No. 41054
File 153395761153.jpg - (150.86KB , 576x800 , always the right choice.jpg ) [iqdb]
[X] Waifu Wars: Chireiden Edition.
> Mixing cute antics and sexy time is kind of like molesting your cat
>> No. 41055
In the interest of breaking the tie, changing my vote >>41039 from Fairy Maids to [X] Shanghai~♪.
>> No. 41056
[4] The Seven-Colored Puppets
[3] Chireiden LA
[2] Prey
[1] Servants of Scarlet
[0] Frozen Crow
[0] Irreversable

So much for avoiding the note mines. Updates coming whenever I figure out what the hell I was going to write.
>> No. 41057
>> No. 41345
You there?
>> No. 41806
Hey guys. Sorry about the disappearing act. All I have to say for myself is "shit happened".

I haven't even visited THP since my last post here, so it's time I grew a pair and officially declared myself MIA. Hina willing, I'll be back someday, but I don't know when (or even if) that'll be, and trying to pretend otherwise at this point would just make me even more of a loser.

So until then, so long and thanks for all the votes.
>> No. 41807
File 154992159983.jpg - (1.76MB , 1141x1141 , image.jpg ) [iqdb]
hope to see you again sometime
>> No. 41808
File 154992668880.jpg - (167.80KB , 854x960 , it is dead doc.jpg ) [iqdb]
I'll miss you. Thanks for the good work.
>> No. 42172
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