Thread 1: >>41094
Thread 2: >>41628
Thread 3: >>42837
[x] Apologize to Suwako, explain, pull Byakuren aside.
[x] ...to talk about the booze.
Tragically, perfect, refined solutions would need to wait until all crises were under control. In fact, what I needed now was a… ‘solution’ that, frankly, disgusted
me. I nudged Byakuren aside, took a deep breath, and I…
I bowed to Suwako. I bowed deep and firm, like a subordinate apologizing for a screw-up. And worse, my speech
followed suit. “My deepest apologies, dear goddess. The mastermind of a kidnapping kerfuffle had sought to ensnare your shrine maiden in her schemes. I have chased that scoundrel down and confined her within my domain, but when Sanae wished to contribute to her punishment, I could not in good conscience deny her.”
Byakuren huffed, annoyed further that I had pushed her away. But Suwako hummed, her desires shifting from protection to confirmation. “And this mastermind was…?”
Reading the faintest ebb in Suwako’s tension, I rose to a far shallower bow. “Lady Futatsuiwa, I’m afraid.”
“Ah, of course.”
Here, I dared allow my brow a decided twitch. This goddess had barely involved herself in the matter. In fact, I rose entirely from my bow to stare into her narrow eyes. “Oh? You sound quite confident, all of a sudden.”
She just grinned back at me. “What? You don’t think our own worshippers would fail to notice such a ‘kerfuffle,’ or that none of them might have been driven to another ‘temple’ while it went on, surely. Or,” she leaned in close, “did you think I had no investigative capabilities of my own?”
I huffed, nudging her back. That told me nothing! “They were a profoundly slippery bunch. I doubt you could have discovered so much entirely on your own.”
She swung back, daring to shrug at my probing. “That’s why I asked you, duh. Thanks for confirming it. But,”
her smile evaporated, “about Sanae…”
With Byakuren still scowling, I found myself pressed between a rock and an excessively endowed place. I didn’t really have the time to prove I had-wait. My eyes narrowed, just slightly. The goddess wished to confirm, for certain, Sanae’s safety. But more than that, what she wanted out of me was… ah.
I tapped my shaku to my lips and bestowed the goddess with a dashing wink. “I’m terribly sorry, but I’m still not done cleaning up the scoundrel’s mess. Besides, I am confident that your shrine maiden will be far happier to deliver her report once she has finished… delivering a precious sermon to that tanuki. Just for another hour or two, I promise!”
And though Suwako, too, failed to properly swoon before my charm, she at least had the decency to withhold any mockery or distain, in favor of a simple huff. “Fine, fine. But that girl’s got a curfew. I’d better see her back before bedtime.”
I winced, but had to settle for a simple nod before I turned aside, back to Byakuren. I pulled her a few steps away, to then speak to her in a hushed whisper. “The alcohol is strange, isn’t it?”
Byakuren flinched, her desires twisting from Suwako back to the booze. She did not show quite my appreciation for decorum, however, as her voice rose nearly to normal conversation. “It is.
Which is why we need to stop people from
But I tapped my shaku to her
lips, next. Punishing the guests for such an infiltration would do neither of us any good. “That’s surely what they want us to do.”
To that, her scowl returned, even deepened. But a moment later, it faded. “They… you don’t mean the tanuki?”
I nodded, finally returning my shaku to my stomach. “Of course, I do. Even when caught, Mamizou boasted about her minions. It’s too late to stop the drinks that have reached our guests, but perhaps we can trace their route back to her remaining spies. And, thereby, root them out once and for all.”
Byakuren answered first with a moment of quiet pondering, then a dejected sigh. “I… suppose you’re right.” But then, she flexed her arms, clenched a pair of fists, and fixed a determined stare on her own temple. “We will bring them to justice.”
In fact, she marched in ahead of me. I had to yelp, then jog, to catch up with her. She kept me half-walking, half-running, as we strode through the far quieter temple halls. Halls calm enough that, by periodically lifting my earmuffs and straining my hearing, I could just make out the quietest whispers of desire. Desire that brought us first to Nue’s imposter, squirming in a mess of ropes in one room, then to the basement, where we caught one ‘guest’ red-handed.
From there, it took several minutes to catch the next one, slinking in to retrieve a bottle. And then another sneaking through the halls to deposit one. Their scheme, from what little I could glean from snippets of their desires and the occasional plea before they were hauled off, was rather desperate - cooked up by the spies themselves, rather than by their ringleader. A final, panicked gambit to cause enough trouble to justify their performance to her. To sneak the sake in through the back, so that when it came out, it seemed as if the temple itself had stashed it.
a few bottles hidden down there by the disciples, but Ichirin and Minamitsu knew Byakuren and temple routine well enough to hide them far better than these troublemakers. And so long as these
tricksters failed to find them, I elected not to point them out to Byakuren.
Regardless, Byakuren wrestled down each scoundrel caught, allowing me to bind them and, together, we stashed them in that same chamber. And by the time we had finished, by the time we dared return to the party, the sun had set and even the festivities had begun to wind down. Perhaps there were more of those tanuki still lurking, but I found myself entirely exhausted. I just wanted to join in, and to schmooze with the guests - perhaps the diminutive blonde goddess still awaiting the return of her shrine maiden, or the black-haired nue who now hid only her red and blue wings as she caroused with the guests, perhaps the temple staff themselves, all now flushed and smiling, or the menreiki staring down a single cup of sake, or perhaps their brash, overly-appealing leader..
[ ] Keep vigilant.
[ ] Mingle, casually.
[ ] Change into something fancy, then mingle.
[ ] Get some alone time with Byakuren.