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Moving on to the next thread from >>43483

By the dragon himself, how has it been over a year already?
Thanks for sticking around, folks! Hopefully I can make this chapter 3 congeal into something good soon enough.

[x] Just ask the god that’s always around there for help.

“So what’s the first thing you’re going to say when we get up there, Tanner?” Mokou asks me as the dirt road fades into a set of stone steps.

I’ve gotten used to walking enough that I’m not overly winded, but there is a slight shortness to my breath in conversation when climbing up the steps.

“Well, isn’t it enough to just ask for help finding the frog god?” I reply.

“She is not a god of frogs, Tanner,” Ran notes.

“Wait but isn’t that some kinda characteristic of hers?”

“Ignore that fact. It is a strange quirk to that particular god,” she insists.

“Alright. So I’m going to ask the god that’s always around there for help finding the… she’s an earth god, right?” I continue to ping Ran for the details.

“Correct,” she pongs.

“The god that’s always there? You mean Sanae?” Mokou comments, taking our front and walking up the steps backwards.

I ponder the name for a moment, and inflect, “Sanae… Was that her name?”

I’m beginning to notice that my mind is fizzing out around the edges. I used to recall almost every name in that Gensokyo chronicle and could almost recite some articles full width, especially after I realized that I would probably find any one of those names on the fly (no pun intended) each day. Now, though, I’m having trouble recollecting the appearance of actors that I’ve not interacted with, yet. And that isn’t even to start with the poor decision making my brain is taking.

“Face forward, Fujiwara, the gate is ahead,” Ran nags Mokou’s laxness.

Mokou does as commanded, finding it not the right time to play around with Ran. Each step brings more of the large wooden gate into view. The shrine itself seems to be separated by another set of stairs and a ways past the living quarters.

Finding no one at the gate landing, we pass right through up to the temple grounds proper. Here I can see that a large stone path surrounded by gravel leads right into the mouth of the temple, which itself contains a massive rope. The living quarters are further off on both flanks, making a corral for festival grounds.

Only a handful of believers are here to pray in this early afternoon. It makes sense, given that it’s early afternoon of a Monday everyone is probably still working. Well not them, and not the girl sitting over at the awning of the left living quarter. She’s wearing a getup very similar to Reimu’s but blue, so she’d probably be able to point me in the right direction. I look over to Ran and she nods in confirmation, so we make our way over the grounds.

It takes a few moments for her to glance away from the praying guests and notice our approach, but rapidly perks up when she does. The girl smiles at Mokou, but grows a confused, if not concerned, look when spotting Ran and I off behind her.

“Uhm… Hi?” she weakly greets with a curt raising of her arm as we come to a stop. “Well this is an odd set… Mokou, Lady Ran, and a tengu reporter..? No, not a tengu… maybe?”

Mokou nudges her head for me to step up and speak first.

I oblige. “Hi, we’re looking for Sanae,” I say. I can hear Mokou audibly smack herself behind me.

“Ah, that would be me, but I guess your company didn’t tell you,” the girl’s bushy green hair whips in activity as she shakes her head. It reminds me of Dasshinki. Bush like.

She awkwardly laughs at the mess up. I’m more concerned with the fact that this is apparently Sanae. Who was it that I was thinking of? How many gods are there here?

“Right, hi Sanae,” I continue, trying to still act focused. “We need to speak with the goddess Moriya.”

“Oh?” she intones in interest. “She isn’t here right now, but what would you need her for?”

I fidget my hand a bit, thinking on whether to tell her and make this quicker. Ah, screw it. The tengu know already, so there’s no need to hold back at this point.

“Do you know about the trouble at the base of the mountain?” I ask.

“Tanner…” Mokou groans.

“That is…” Sanae thinks to herself. “Yes, if you mean the thing with Hina, a tengu representative came by to warn the shrine. I thought they were helping her, though…”

Mokou sighs. Ran picks up the explanation, “They were forewarned by our coming. It is most likely that the tengu are in meetings deciding what action to take at this time. Most assuredly, it will not be to ‘help’ the curse goddess.”

Sanae crosses her arms, bothered by how things must be panning out. “So you need Lady Suwako’s help to contain Hina first. If that’s the case, I should go let Lady Kanako know instead,” she concludes and begins to step away.

“No, no,” Mokou and I repudiate, stopping her by doing so. I continue to explain, “We’re here to ask for Lady Suwako’s help in determining what Kagiyama is ‘sick’ with.”

Sanae stops, looking straight at me. She checks me up and down for a moment and mumbles, “Tanner… Is that your name?”

“Uh…” I smartly utter, realizing I hadn’t introduced myself. “I mean, it’s not my job, so yes it’s my name. Tanner Regis, a bit out of it today, so sorry about that.”

“You’re a foreigner, aren’t you?” Sanae questions. “Tengu have Japanese names, so you must be something else or a human from outside. Where are you from?”

The conversation has definitely gone off track, but I play along out of curiosity, “America. Utah, specifically. Though, that might not mean much to you.”

“Aw, I was hoping you were a big city guy like from San Francisco or something,” Sanae pouts.

Did she just mix up a city and a state? Wait, more importantly I ask, “Why do you know an American city?”

“Hm? Are these two not telling you anything? I’m from the outside world and so is the shrine,” Sanae states matter of factly.

I take a moment to process this information. The entire shrine came from outside? How the hell do you move a whole building through the barrier, and furthermore why did it end up on top of a mountain? Better yet, why does everyone act like I’m a unicorn for coming from outside? Gods damnit, Gensokyo, even when I already feel stupid you find ways to keep confusing me!

“Uhm… is he alright?” Sanae asks while I’m buried in my thoughts.

“Yes, he does that on occasion,” Ran chimes in.

Sanae scratches her head before continuing, “I’m sure I’ll have the chance to talk with him… when he’s not like that, but what are you two doing here with him?”

She points to my partners, looking for some form of explanation.

Ran is quick on the uptake, “I am this human’s bodyguard.”

“What? Why would he need a–“ Sanae starts but catches herself. “You’re helping Hina and you ran into the tengu, obviously he’d need protection.”

“Indeed,” Ran agrees.

“And you, Mokou? Are you also his bodyguard?”

“No,” Mokou simply replies at first, but then rubs at her chin and doubles back, “Err, well, not quite? I guess Keine technically asked me, so let’s just go with ‘sure.’”

“Uh huh… Let’s get back to finding Lady Suwako,” Sanae announces with a clap of her hands, not really understanding our group but deciding to ignore the topic for now. “Why do you need her? How would that help Hina?”

“A being knowledgeable in both misfortune and curses is required to identify the source of Hina Kagiyama’s current peril. This would allow proper countermeasures to present themselves,” Ran explains.

“This is gonna sound funny coming from me, but you have a lot of faith that Lady Suwako would help,” Sanae bluntly states.

“Oh?” Ran keens in for Sanae to explain herself.

“Well, if we’re talking about Hina Kagiyama, she is a competing god and one that also deals in misfortune. Those aren’t reasons for Lady Suwako to help and I have a feeling they would drive her away instead.”

“Whatever, let’s just hear it from the frog’s mouth,” Mokou badgers.

Sanae fidgets in place for a moment before deciding, “We can go look for her, but no promises. She can be anywhere on the mountain.”

She begins to float up with Mokou joining alongside her. Now that the tengu know about us up here, they probably won’t bother locking us up again.

“No, really, he doesn’t look alright,” Sanae says pointing out that I’m still in a daze.

Wait, what? What happened? I’m thinking just fine, so why can’t I move anything?

“Hold,” Ran commands. She flits a paper strip from under her tabard and smacks it on my forehead. An electric shock, or what feels like one, propagates through my whole body, kicking my limbs back into motion.

“Well how about that. What’d you do?” Mokou questions as I feel around my limbs to make sure I’m moving right. “That’s the thing that Taoist lady does with her pet, ain’t it?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Ran chides, “soul binding is adjacent to shikigami binding, the Taoist method is all the same principles with varied inputs.”

I loudly clear my throat to grab their attention and say, “If you two can hold off on discussing magic theory, what the hell just happened to me? I was totally conscious just now but lost control of my body.”

“Misfortune does weird things to people, that’s why everyone’s so afraid of it,” Sanae speaks from a bit above me. “What I don’t understand is that you have luck charms on your chest, not to mention that dream eater, but the misfortune’s still getting you.”

“It could be the charms only protect his physical body,” Ran hypothesizes.

“That would be bad if true,” I further. “But that doesn’t explain why the first charm burned out.”

“However it works, I don’t want to be the one to explain to Keine why he’s become a vegetable,” Mokou says shoving me into Ran before taking flight. “Let’s fix this before that happens, already!”

Ran picks me up as we follow Sanae and I comment to her, “I don’t think I need to state this, but I’d like to keep my mind and body as one.”

“There’s no need to explain that to your bodyguard, however, you have much longer than those two believe,” Ran… comforts me? Wait that can’t be right. Today keeps getting weirder.

What isn’t weird is the amount of time we fly around the mountain looking for the goddess we need to ask for help. Sanae picks out a lot of scenic spots to try and find her, but neither slime nor tongue of the not-a-frog goddess appears. I can feel my nerves getting to me because I don’t know when this misfortune will try something else that Ran won’t have a quick fix to, even despite her assurance that I’m perfectly fine.

I can tell the other three are feeling the same, but for varied reasons. Mokou makes some sense. She wants to live up to Keine’s expectations of her, and letting your person of interest ‘die’ is not conducive to that point. Ran likely wants a way to present itself so that we fix this fast, but Sanae shouldn’t have as much stake in this matter. Could it be that she’s worried about her Lady Suwako, or is she scared of what could happen to her and the shrine like Ran?

Either way, she seems invested in finding her goddess to fix this problem before everything gets out of hand.

“Where is she?!” Sanae shouts with a stamp of her foot at our current stop. “I thought I checked everywhere that she’d go!”

We’ve slipped over to the toad pond I believe Cirno must use to practice on the poor wildlife. Side note: my mind is clear again with the charm firmly attached to my face. I wonder if I could make my writing productivity this focused with this?

Also on that note, I finally remember some more of my readings, so I remember what Mokou and Sanae are capable of. An immortal and a living fictional plot device are always good to have around.

“Tanner, focus,” Ran chastises. I spring back to attention at the command, the irony not escaping me.

Mokou grunts in resignation at the blue-green shrine maiden’s cry, “We’re burning daylight, the birds will be out of their nest at this rate.”

“Weren’t you the one that said they’d be stuck in their village all day arguing about this?!” Sanae pressures.

“Their village, yeah, but what about idiots like Aya?” Mokou rhetorically states.

Everyone goes silent thinking of our next act. I decide to ask who I expect has a plan B already, “Ran, what’s your next idea?”

“Next idea?” Ran queries.

“Yes, you always think a step ahead on these things. You already have someone in mind to go to after this was a bust, right? It only makes sense to account for this misfortune bug hiding someone from us,” I reason.

“…” Ran blankly replies. Oh, it’s getting to her as well now.

“Do either of you know how to slap a talisman on Ran like she did for me?” I ask of Sanae and Mokou while they’re doing their own back and forth.

They look over to Ran and I, interrupting their bickering. Each of them look ready to say yes on impulse, but think better.

Right, guess if I’m the voice of reason in Ran’s place, I’d better come up with something good.

We’re definitely running the clock at this point for the tengu to come to some kind of agreement on what to do. Even if not in some round table discussion, there might be people like Iizunamaru that are going to decide for themselves. And it only takes one person to alert Reimu of all of this.

I’ve gotta think fast and effective, here.

[x] Go in with what you have. Sanae will have to put her miracles to the test.

[x] COCKED GUN: Alert Reimu, worry about repercussions afterward.

[x] Go with whatever Mokou and Sanae have been arguing about? (Don’t let common sense bind you!)

Huh? Oh, comments, shit. Uh, yes I'd like to include Sanae more and made the out of body experience as a left field decision. Even I don't know why I decided on that but we'll see where it goes! In other news, misfortune is a convenient tool when I want it to be. More misfortune facts next week.
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[x] COCKED GUN: Alert Reimu, worry about repercussions afterward.

It's her job to solve these sorts of things and Reimu rarely kills her opponents, so Hina wouldn't be in mortal danger (I hope)
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I'm not entirely sure what the vote is about here.

Are we going back to deal with Hina right now because time is running short?

If so, I don't see what bringing just Sanae would do. Some purification rite?
To quote Symposium of Post-mysticism:
>"The ability to create miracles is often confused with fortune. Miracles are ultimately the culmination of chance, and the result is not limited to being wholly positive or negative. It has no relation to good luck or bad luck."
Her miracles are merely her invoking of rare occurrences, they have nothing to do with fortune. That aside they take more and more prep time the more impressive the desired effect is.
Time we do not have.

Calling Reimu is the nuclear option.
I don't actually see any point to her just coming to beat up Hina, except to make the poor girl even more miserable.
Maybe she can improve the barrier Ran set up? Reimu's barriers are top-of-the-line, but that'd just put off the problem and not fix it.
Last thing is maybe her intuition would give insight into the root of the problem, but I'm still hesitant to call her in; even if we made a pretty good impression with her when we went for the talismans.

Maybe the Mokou/Sanae option has merit?
The problem is I have absolutely zero clue what they're planning, and possibly neither does Regis. Agreeing to even a well-thought out plan without knowing even the basics is the height of (misfortune-induced?) inanity.
I don't think I missed it, but if somebody else actually knows what their plan is about absolutely do correct me.

Anyway, holding my vote until I'm absolutely sure of what is happening here.

Some side notes:

I wonder if Regis was actually thinking of "some other god" while he was in his addled state or he just forgot Sanae. Could be either. The former option would be quite interesting, even if it is less likely.

Are there any others we could call in? I sure can't think of anybody at the moment, but maybe a write-in like that could prove to be the ticket.

>Hopefully I can make this chapter 3 congeal into something good soon enough.
Hey now. Don't sell yourself short. I've enjoyed this story every step of the way so far.
I only joined during the travels after the lectures had all been written, and am deliberately abstaining from reading those until they come up in the story as to not spoil myself. That's how much I look forward to reading this every week.
Sappy drivel aside; story good.
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Just to hop in for some clarity: >>44192

You have your ideas correct, and this is a vote for what to do since things are about to time crunch.

The Mokou/Sanae vote is very much what's on the tin: you've got no idea. Expect it to be spectacular, though.

Also, thank you.
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[x] Go with whatever Mokou and Sanae have been arguing about? (Don’t let common sense bind you!)
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>>44192 here.

Ah, right. Thank you for clarifying.

Well, as I've already said the option of just taking Sanae and hoping for the best seems very unlikely to do anything.
For me it'd be between Reimu and the Mokou/Sanae option.

Still don't like the idea of calling in the nuke. It would be entirely too unfair towards Hina, not to mention unpleasant.

That leaves the bickering duo's plan.
I have no idea on what to do, the fact they're arguing about something means they have at least some plan which is better than nothing at all.

So, barring any good write-in...

Fuck it. We're doing it LIVE!

[x] Go with whatever Mokou and Sanae have been arguing about? (Don’t let common sense bind you!)

P.S. Here I am asking for clarification when what I write is far more ambiguous. You probably already know, but I just want to make clear that I was referring to me being sappy. I wasn't riffing on the story.
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[x] Go with whatever Mokou and Sanae have been arguing about? (Don’t let common sense bind you!)
do not into commen sense
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[x] Go with whatever Mokou and Sanae have been arguing about? (Don’t let common sense bind you!)

About the thing with being unable to find Suwako, couldn't we just pray to her? She's literally a god; listening to and granting the prayers of their worshippers is what she does.
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[x] Go with whatever Mokou and Sanae have been arguing about? (Don’t let common sense bind you!)

God it’s boring. There’s never anything fun to do. I just sit around waiting for something else to happen. This morning was just rolling out of bed, eating the same thing as always, and wandering around outside. I don’t get why people strive to live like this.

All I’m doing is fishing at this point, not that I expect to catch anything. I wonder how long I’ve been sitting here, just feeling the breeze comb through my hair and play with my dress. It’s definitely been a while, the sun’s already poking at the horizon, and the clouds betray the lightest hint of a brilliant evening orange.

I guess really what I want is someone to be around and entertain me. Where’d that little drunkard go? She always livens things up for me. Or that unfortunate girl. She was alright. Having her sing my praises felt great, but it did also grate after a while.

Heh, what a stupid pun that is...

The rod in my hands remains as limp as always. I’m zoning out on it, not really thinking much of anything.

It shuffles a bit.

Oh?! Something’s tugging on the line?!

How is that even possible?! Something real stupid must have gotten caught on it. What the hell would even let itself get snagged like that?

I yank and tug the line in practiced motions, catching the line with my free hand and passing it over to the rod hand. Despite it being purely for show here, I do know how to fish where it matters. The line pulls against me erratically. The thing on the other end doesn’t know what it wants or where it’s going. There isn’t a struggle for life or death, per se, but it is playing against its current restraint. With enough finesse I land my catch and raise one green headed girl above the dense cloud sea.

That’s… not what I was expecting. She sits in place, her collar held up by the end of the hook, without saying anything or reacting in any way. She’s just as surprised as I am right now.

No, literally, what the hell? Who is this? I feel like I know her, but it’s been a while since I last had fun with the earthly residents of Gensokyo. She looks at me and springs back to life

“Found you, Tenshi!” she joyfully says, slowly raising her gohei. Actually, that one was called something else, wasn’t it?

Oh wait, she plans to–

“You really found her just like that?” I say, baffled that Sanae could just pick a random direction and find who she wanted. That isn’t even going into the chunks they tore out of this floating island in the fight afterwards.

“It honestly pisses me off that you can just do shit like this, Sanae…” Mokou groans.

“I count my blessings everyday,” Sanae says, proudly hauling the beat up blue-haired girl over her shoulder. “This makes four today. Yesterday was nine.”

A long sigh comes in unison from Mokou and I. Ran doesn’t join only because she seems to be out of it right now.

She’s been steadily more absent looking as we’ve flown up to heaven. That sounds so wrong to even think. Just fly up to heaven, catch a celestial being sitting around, easy. On any other day the weirdest thing here would be the floating islands and waterfalls dotting the sky above the vast field of clouds. Not today, though. Today I get the pleasure of seeing how one of the two shrine maidens stumbles through incident resolution.

“So now that you have a knocked out celestial,” I start, pointing at the blue sandbag on Sanae’s shoulder, “how do you expect to convince her to help us?”

“Convince her?” Sanae asks in return, clearly confused by what I’m thinking.

“No, no, no,” I quickly attack her vexation. “You need to convince her to help us. If we just have her with us that isn’t going to do anything.”

“But it will…” Sanae says, saddened that I’m not keeping up with her.

I turn to the only other sane man here and ask, “Mokou, what is she talking about?”

“How am I supposed to know? I’m not some encyclopedia like the fox… usually is,” Mokou argues back. “Sanae, what are you on about?”

Sanae brightens up, lifting the girl on her shoulder higher to stand up straight and proudly explain, “Well… A while back I went to a Hakurei shrine flower viewing party and that one poverty goddess was there, but so was Tenshi. It was a horrible experience, but I did learn that celestials apparently have natural luck so strong that it counters that goddess, so they stuck around together. Hearing about Hina’s problem makes me believe that the same thing could work here.”

I take in the explanation and conclude, “So she’s here as a good luck charm. You don’t care if she’s even conscious.”

“Yes,” Sanae confirms. “I’m going to throw her at Hina and this problem will resolve itself.”

I bury my face in a hand, disappointed that I would listen to Sanae’s idea this far through.

“Well, I wouldn’t want to talk with that brat, either,” Mokou jokes. “Anyway, we’ve wasted enough time, let’s hit the source of the issue… wait that came out wrong. Just shove along already!”

She pushes Sanae over the cliff and then disappears into the clouds herself. Ran grabs me and pursues the two… three.

We make our way through the sea of clouds. The place is worse than any kind of fog could ever dream of, it’s so thick. Looking again, it was miraculous that Sanae would get caught by Tenshi’s line. That goes without saying, though, just because it’s Sanae I’m talking about.

We eventually wander out of the clouds, catching our bearings in the brilliant evening orange. Not too long before the sun sets completely. Ran is the first to make a beeline for Hina’s cabin after breaching the cloud line. Seems she’s stirring somewhat if she could tell where to go that quickly.

It doesn’t take us too long to touch down in the cursed forest once more. Ran landed without a word and waits for Sanae and Mokou to follow suit.

There’s a bit of shimmer in her eyes, like she’s already back to full attention. Not only that, but she’s focused on something. The ears under her hat turned toward the deeper forest.

The moment the other two land, she about faces and treads into the barren area.

“Wait, Ran, why did you land here?” Mokou calls.

After a moment without reply we awkwardly gesture between each other for who goes after her first. I end up caving and take the second position.

The cursed forest is just as gloomy as before, only made creepier by the knowledge that something is out to get everyone that comes here. Or, it wants to, at least. It might very well be sealed with Kagiyama back at her hut. Anything that can ignore the rules as other Gensokyans know them is a heap of trouble, though, and not one that we can play reactionary to.

It’s been several minutes of brisk walking, but we haven’t caught up to Ran, much less spotted her again.

“Yaah!” Sanae squeals behind me. I pivot on my toes to see what happened.

Mokou also takes stock of the situation, but it appears to be a false alarm. A beetle flies around the miko’s head, maybe taking interest in the unnatural display of fertile and wet colors that the girl and her baggage radiate. Whilst an annoyance, it isn’t cause for panic.

“Swat the thing if you’re so scared of it, girl,” Mokou says, pantomiming the motion.

“But I don’t want to hurt the poor thing!” Sanae pleads. “He’s just living out here and I walked into him.”

Living out here… A thought occurs. If the misfortune is sealed, and bugs are coming back into the area, then we’re safe to move without any worry. That might be why we haven’t caught up to Ran yet, as she’s already determined this.

It doesn’t take more than a few words to convince Sanae of this, as she hurdles past me to escape her tormentor, but Mokou is hesitant to fully believe that conclusion.

“Why are you so confident in that? It’s just one bug,” she comments.

I think on my answer, and claim, “I guess I just trust Ran’s work to, well… work.”

Mokou scoffs at the only mildly embarrassing vote of confidence and starts to dash ahead as well. It is at this point that I realize that they’re flying through the woods at high speeds while I’m stuck on regular human legwork. Damnit.

One healthy jog later and I’ve caught up to the others. The forest was abuzz with activity as the insects of the surrounding healthy forest sensed the opening to scavenge to their heart’s content. It at the least kept me from feeling lonely, but a normal person would have been better for that. Or, you know, someone just carrying my because I’m a frail human being that can’t fly.

Ran and Sanae study the trees a distance out, while Mokou takes a crouch next to Ran with her hands on her head. Maybe taking a bash from Ran for leaving me behind. A part of me is happy that even when she’s still too absentminded to speak Ran keeps my safety in mind.

Moving on from the thought, I take a tree near the others, and begin to whisper across, “What are we waiting on?”

I spot Ran crossing a finger over her lips, and points further into the forest. After a few moments I acclimate to the silence around us. It’s not quite perfect, though. It seems some commotion is happening a ways out, and when you listen for it the sound of people becomes obvious to identify.

Mokou picks herself back up and walks toward the noise without even the faintest sound of footfall, and we pursue behind her.

It’s a tense and quiet moment as we hope that nothing catches our group since there isn’t even so much as the cover of leaves. Mokou seems to care less, sauntering in her steps over random debris on the ground and taking a silent stride despite her heavy looking boots. It’s another of those times that I question if she’s just floating off the ground ever so slightly or if she’s just that practiced at stealth.

Mokou takes a stop and halts our company where we stand. We each careen into nearby trees out of the forward sight line and find an angle to observe what Mokou stopped for.

First and foremost, I spot people. Quite a few people. Next, I notice that the area they’re standing is right where Ran set up the barrier. It might be pure chance that we’ve ended up back in the same location for me to recognize, or it’s more likely that there’s some kind of weakness here since it’s the source point. For now, I try to discern who’s crowding the barrier.

A lot of tengu, both the crows and wolves, and one individual in all red in front and above them. The waning light doesn’t make it easy to call at a glance. It’s not Reimu, they’re too large in frame to be that girl. There’s a bunch of pillars floating around her…

“Kanako?!” Sanae says with a bit too much volume.

Kanako? Kanako Yasaka, the main goddess of the Moriya shrine? If she’s here, then anything could be happening. It’s really a wonder that I wanted to find her of all people in my idiotic stupor.

I need to stop and think for a few moments on what this could mean…

“Tanner–“ Ran queries me, but I pause her mid speech to dive into my thoughts more.

Starting with what I remember now: a capricious goddess, both of sky and war, acting as the main body of faith for the Moriya shrine. By multiple accounts she is stated as the sole cause to numerous incidents over the course of two, potentially three, years. No stranger to getting her hands dirty, she was a direct party of conflict for two.

Now capricious isn’t entirely correct, as she’s seen as that only because her decisions are so heavily handled by one factor: faith. Her greed for worship, human or otherwise, allows anyone to gauge the cause of her actions, but the outcome remains elusive because of her strategic intellect. She’s a general that would make any tyrant blush, and under other circumstances would run Gensokyo. Thankfully there are too many parties to involve herself with for that to be physically viable, so she instead weighs herself on political ventures.

That all said, what about here? Kagiyama, a separate god of a completely different field is under duress. Without help, she’d be taken out by the tengu crowd there, at least my assumption is they’re not there to sit and drink with Kagiyama. That would mean Yasaka does not get involved, but does not gain from the event. An antithesis of the opportunist. Helping the tengu would marginally benefit her, as they would be thankful for her support in stifling an observable calamity in the making, but it would never be publicized to the public of Gensokyo in the name of peacekeeping. Helping Kagiyama…

Would show her hand in acting as a major authority? Shows the tengu how unphased by their actions she is, enforcing her alignment with gods of Gensokyo? Could be construed as a peace by force act in order to protect Kagiyama, and… maybe even followers if she strings it along.

It’s not hard to deduce that she’s here on our side, thankfully. There’s more to gain from it than being against us. But a good politician is a scary thing. There for you one moment, against you the next.

I stand from a crouch I had apparently taken.

“Tanner?” Mokou now also addresses me.

“Yasaka is here to help Kagiyama,” I announce.

“Well, of course,” Sanae says in naive virtue.

“That hag? Bullshit,” Mokou groans.

“I’m in agreement with Fujiwara,” Ran comments, back up to full speed.

“You may not agree, but that’s what I’ve concluded. I can explain later if you want, but we’re going to have to either take my word for it, or we’ve got a way bigger issue on our hands,” I argue back.

Mokou thinks on it for a moment, screwing her face for a rebuttal. She gives up and says, “Fine, I’ll believe you for now. If it ends up being less trouble, good. If not, I’ll let Keine know what torture to give you later.”

“Good. So what now?” I ask the others. They glare at me. “Hey, I was trying to figure out what the scary goddess might be here for. I was hoping you all thought of what to do.”

“Sneak in,” Mokou states.

“Help Kanako,” Sanae states.

They turn to each other, their opposing answers not meshing well.

“That’s it?” I reply somewhat deflated from my expectations.

“Not everything needs to be that complicated,” Sanae advises. “And someone doing good should be helped to do that good.”

“Yeah, in your dreams. I’m here to fix a problem, not play along with someone more fog than steam.”

I notice Ran’s remained silent as the two stare daggers at each other. She hasn’t moved much from her tree.

“Ran?” I prod her.

“Yes?” she responds.

“You good?”

“Indeed,” she mootly replies. “If you are worried that I have provided no advisement, feel no concern. The two here have presented both valid methods. Do you require an error check on a different option?”

Mokou and Sanae seem to have run from their earlier deadlock to another now. I guess it’s again my choice what the hell we’re doing here. Maybe I should transfer a few of these decisions to Ran at some point.

[x] Go with Mokou’s plan. Better to avoid whatever that whole crowd is doing.

[x] Go with Sanae’s plan. Whatever Yasaka’s final goal is, at least it involves working with you.

[x] Ping pong an idea with Ran. (Write-in)

*Careful now, I might be open to some ruthless behavior on your choice.

Man it’s weird being able to scroll to latest update again. Anyway,
Yeah >>44198 I 200% forgot this. It’s two hundred because I even remembered at one point while in this chapter. We’re really bouncing places, here. We’ll all just have to live with the idea that Sanae spawns ghost frogs for her attacks and live with it. Also, it was nice to write Tenshi perspective for that short moment. It’s fun to tap into the rude brat vibes she gives off.
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What's stopping us from boldly strolling towards Kagiyama while ignoring the crowd?
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If we go with what Mokou's suggesting, we piss off both Hina and Kanako and have a really hard time solving the situation. If we go with Sanae's suggestion, then the tengu instantly riot because we broke outta tengu jail and are hauling a celestial.

[x] Ping pong an idea with Ran. (Write-in)
-[x] Organize a distraction.

Sanae should make her way to Kanako and explain the situation.
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[x] Ping pong an idea with Ran. (Write-in)
-[x] Organize a distraction.
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Honestly, these are both fine options.

Sanae's plan works to de-escalate the situation brewing outside. Getting in bed with Kanako is not great, but making the tengu back off gives us breathing room.

Mokou's plan, however, cuts to the heart of the matter. Fixing Hina thus would, and in my opinion should, be first priority.

I don't really agree with your read on the situation:

It would probably piss off Kanako, yes, but I don't think Hina would be pissed off. Make her afraid that she'll hurt us, perhaps.

I really don't think the tengu would riot. They're be tokenly pissed to save face, but they intentionally left no guards earlier which boiled down to letting us go.
But what do they care about us hauling a celestial in particular? It's another foreign body on the mountain, but I don't see any grievance beyond that.

As for your suggestion:
What is the exact goal of your distraction?

Is it to get Sanae to Kanako? I don't think we would need a distraction for that. She could simply approach, perhaps on her own.

I agree that Sanae explaining things to Kanako could be helpful, but that doesn't mean we cannot sneak in to go and actually start fixing the problem.

The problem with that route, however, is that we still have no idea on how to fix it. Having Tenshi around means we are likely to not die just from talking to Hina and so getting more information, but we're not closer to an actual fix after this whole journey.
Secondly, we'd not have Sanae around inside, she may not directly influence fortune with her miracles, but it was still her plan to grab Tenshi.
Perhaps there is a second stage she didn't mention? She could explain it before we make a move, I suppose.
Thirdly, sneaking in behind Kanako's back is likely to piss her off for the same reason we got pissed at Megumu: Authority
Kanako is a politician. She lives and dies (literally) by her face as a god. Sneaking in would be an insult to her authority. She might also just notice it? She is a god after all.

Thinking of a solution that actually satisfactory to all the concerns at play here isn't very simple and it's taken me a few days of thinking to come up with something at least somewhat productive.

What if we simply walk up and play Kanako's game?

As much as Kanako would want it to be so, she isn't the only one with authority in Gensokyo. We have someone with us with a name that causes pause in everyone in the land: Ran Yakumo.
If we walk up and announce our intention to resolve an incident (again) in the name of Yakumo, we could negotiate entry with Kanako.
This would allow us to enter with her blessing, leaving her face intact and us actually on our way to do something productive instead of being stuck outside with a bunch of tengu. Sanae joining us inside would even help signify said blessing.
Mokou would be more useful outside to deal with the tengu, but I'd honestly feel pretty bad leaving her to deal with them and Kanako.

The main problem with this plan is that there's always a chance of failure no matter what route we take.
In this case it's that we don't know Kanako's argument for barring entry to the tengu. It could be directly opposed to our reasoning for all we know and that would complicate matters.
The upside, however, is that she has a vested interest in seeing the problem gone, especially if she had a direct hand in it. Thus letting us fix the problem with her blessing (and thus at least partially in her name) would be good publicity for her.
There might be a lot of tengu, but they wouldn't be able to do anything about it but gripe, considering Kanako alone is already keeping them at bay.

[x] Ping pong an idea with Ran. (Write-in)
-[x] Approach openly, announce your intention to fix the problem, negotiate entry with Kanako.

Kanako wants to save face and get good PR.
Us fixing the problem with her blessing does both.
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At the risk of being cringe…

[x] Ping pong an idea with Ran. (Write-in)
-[x] Organize a distraction.
-[x] Not just any distraction. A dance distraction. No, better yet, THE “Distraction Dance”.


I know. It's stupid for SO many reasons. Feel free to judge me.
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Actually please no.
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even f***nite dance is better
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Yeah, I figured that was coming.
Never mind.
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Hey guys, It's once again the stupid nobody who posted this trash > https://www.touhou-project.com/shrine/res/44189.html#44205

Yeah, sorry about that. I love the Henry Stickmin games and all, but I’ll admit what I typed was really F-ing stupid. And even if it wasn’t, this really wasn’t the place to be putting something like that.

[x] Ping pong an idea with Ran. (Write-in)
-[x] Approach openly, announce your intention to fix the problem, negotiate entry with Kanako.
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I will give it one more day before I write the distraction. I have not started out of respect for >>44203 putting in so much effort to his idea and argument.

>>44205 gets a slap on the wrist for not having Sanae provoke the traditional distraction.
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[x] Ping pong an idea with Ran. (Write-in)
-[x] Approach openly, announce your intention to fix the problem, negotiate entry with Kanako.
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Yeah, I deserve that. LOL
Anyway, when it’s time, just do your thing, buddy.

(Last post before I leave you alone for now. I promise.)
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[x] Ping pong an idea with Ran. (Write-in)
-[x] Approach openly, announce your intention to fix the problem, negotiate entry with Kanako.

Us asking Kanako for entry undermines the Tengus' authority and rubs salt in their wounded pride. Let's do it.
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[x] Ping pong an idea with Ran. (Write-in)
-[x] Approach openly, announce your intention to fix the problem, negotiate entry with Kanako.

Actually, on that line of thought, maybe Ran could help me fact check an idea.

“Ran,” I address.

“Yes,” she replies, ready for whatever crazy thing I’m going to say next.

“Do you think Yasaka knows you’re here?”

“Please specify: here as in position or here as in participating party to this circumstance?” she feeds back.

“The latter.”

“It is unlikely that whomever notified her of the current circumstances has explained that a separate participating party is involved. That said, if the goddess Yasaka can read barriers then she would at the least know the Yakumo signature is tied to the current field holding the miasma in,” Ran explains. Her relapse into robotic speech is almost comforting after how heavily our affliction got to her.

“Then let’s walk up and say that we’re taking care of the problem,” I claim.

“Wait, what?” Mokou breaks from her bickering with Sanae to some confusion. “Did I hear you right? You want to waltz up and tell everyone there to piss off? Do you still have some gunk in your system or are you usually this suicidal?”

She emphasizes the point by waving over to the crowd. There’s no small number of tengu there. It’s a whole city block’s worth of people, at least. They must have hoped to take care of the whole thing on their own with a military unit’s worth of brute force.

“I’m perfectly present now, despite how I look,” I state, lightly tugging the paper tag stamped to my forehead. With Tenshi here, I may not need this, but I’d rather be safe and not work on that conclusion.

They look eager for me to continue my thought before arguing, so I elaborate, “If the goddess Yasaka is out there despite not being directly involved before, Sanae not withstanding, then she’s doing it because she believes there’s some political benefit to her taking a stance.”

“Yup, I get that much,” Mokou assents. “But now what about the tengu, they seem to want to deal with it themselves.”

“The tengu won’t get in the way. It’s my understanding that they’re too politically bound with Yasaka’s decisions. So, if, say, we were to walk up and claim that we already have the solution, then they’ll gripe, but won’t have a legitimate reason to stop us this time,” I argue.

Ran remains indecipherable to her opinion on the idea, while Mokou seems very skeptical still. Sanae, on the other hand, is immediately onboard, even dragging Mokou off before she can give her grief. It takes Ran and I a moment to realize what just happened and start running after her. The sudden burst of noise we make draws a few eyes from the crowd, maybe wary of intruders or feral beasts.

They seem surprised but also relieved when they see Sanae. They also retract that relief when they notice who she’s carrying and who’s following after her.

The crowd gazes at us. Bafflement spreads through their entourage as they realize that the individuals arrested earlier are waltzing up to this mess once again. None take the initiative to apprehend us as we cut through the crowd towards the front. Some are outright terrified that we’re standing here since at least two of this group are carrying something misfortune related.

Despite the noise their stares feel like they cause, no sound breaks the current silence. Even the goddess patiently waits for our arrival at the head of the pack.

Yasaka seems keenly focused on what’s happening, but also shows the slightest hint of surprise. Who that surprise is pointed towards is up in the air, but either way that’s what I was hoping for.

“Sanae,” her deep voice booms over the crowd.

“Hello, Lady Yasaka,” Sanae happily greets with a wave. I’d go so far as to say that she gayly greets.

“You’ve come present with something useful to smother this trouble. However, why do you know what is happening?” her eyes pierce with a similar intensity to Ran’s. The dominating pressure she has is no magic, it’s the raw intensity of her persona.

“Ah, they came to us for help!” Sanae declares gesturing Yasaka’s attention over to our crew.

The preeminent goddess eyes us down. The tengu are more than happy to move out of the way of her gaze.

“Fujiwara… an individual I am unknown to… Yakumo..?” she takes stock of our heads. “An odd assortment. I will forego asking what brought the three of you together and instead ask, what do you hope to do here? I assume now that this barrier behind me is your doing, Yakumo.”

“Indeed it is,” Ran curtly confirms.

Step two: convince everyone to let us go in and fix the problem.

“We are here to resolve the incident,” I claim. Supposedly, this mixture of words is no small announcement in Gensokyo, being something that is usually reserved to Reimu, Marisa, and a few others. Incidentally, Sanae seems to have also had a time or two in that spotlight.

“Is that so?” Yasaka replies unimpressed. “Now that is the true oddity here, given the Yakumo’s prior blind eye to matters on the mountain.”

“The Yakumo are the ones to determine what Gensokyo requires,” Ran retorts.

Yasaka doesn’t take kindly to the implied curtailing of the conversation and the two stare daggers. Each woman has eyes that could cut right through stone.

“So the Yakumo directly resolve incidents now?” Yasaka questions.

“Nay,” Ran denies. “The Yakumo have never done such, we have only ever supported our proxies.”

“Proxies..?” Yasaka asks with a tone demanding a specific reply.

“These two humans,” Ran states, offering attention over to Mokou and I.

This gets a chuckle out of Yasaka. “We both know that first one is a lie,” she mocks, “and the second one is… hm. A… foreigner? How..?”

In Yasaka’s moment of calculations, Ran takes charge, saying, “Enough. Now is not the time for questions. What must be done is before us, not among us.”

Not allowing the goddess a moment to retaliate her undermining of the situation, Ran steps forward towards the barrier. Right under the goddess floating in the air.

One of the pillars held aloft behind Yasaka takes offense to this and hurtles down right in front of the fox, kicking up a swathe of dirt in every direction. Ran appears unphased, but she has stopped walking.

“Miss Yasaka,” I beggar her ear. “Please allow us to work this.”

She turns on me, clearly losing patience with us. However, it isn’t me that she stops her glare on, instead catching Sanae’s eyes.

“Lady Kanako, please,” the shrine maiden doesn’t back down to her god’s cutting stare.

After a tense wait, Yasaka breaths out, hiding the sound that would otherwise be a sigh.

“Very well,” she says. “The Yakumo and company will resolve this incident. However, my shrine maiden must join you as insurance,” she directs to Ran.

Ran looks up to the goddess and offers a silent nod in agreement. With that, the pillar blocking her lifts itself back into the air and joins its companions behind Yasaka. She walks up to the border awaiting the rest of the group.

We look between each other, making sure nobody has anything else to bring up. Even the tengu gave up trying to stop whatever it is we’re doing. It seems they didn’t come with any leadership, so they’re at a loss for what to really do now.

They mumble amongst themselves, but don’t really come to any unanimous decision, so we decide to leave them be.

We get to the edge of the barrier, where Ran has been doing some amount of incantations to open a space for us to use. The Moriya shrine’s goddess oversees the process, but otherwise keeps watch on the mob of tengu surrounding us. It’s tense, but by no means out of the realm of usual business for these people.

Unprompted, Ran starts to explain the circumstances at play, “Regis, the inside of this barrier is unexplored territory. There is no certainty what state it is in.”

“Ran, what do you mean?” I ask, oddified by her sudden bluntness.

“Gods of misfortune are not well documented, and one that has lost control of its power is seldom seen. This is unexplored territory,” she repeats.

Ran mixes no words nor does she obfuscate the reality of the situation. No one here knows what is happening. Kagiyama doesn’t even seem to know what is happening. But we want to fix it before anything worse happens.

Mokou speaks up first, “So what is stopping us from walking in right now? Why all the dramatics?”

“Should the barrier be entered, it must first be completely dispelled,” Ran explains.

Mokou goes to argue, clearly with more curses, but Sanae first replies, “Wait… that doesn’t sound right. Barriers can be entered and exited with no problem, the border of Gensokyo does that all the time to hell and the netherworld.”

Ran stops her motions controlling the magical symbols in front of her to explain, “Gensokyo’s barrier is planned, and required a long time to prepare in terms of barriers. This example is… what you may define as a ‘rush job.’ Something not complete by any standard but does the bare minimum to classify it as a border.”

“Does that mean we can’t enter without breaking open the whole barrier?” I ask.

Ran takes a moment to think. Or, maybe not think, more like contemplate something. After some time she replies, “There is another way.”

“Oh?” Mokou mutters.

Ran elaborates, “The barrier is set to use my power. However, there was not enough time to set it to use my power whilst I am inside. Therefore, if I were to not join you when entering the area, the barrier would remain intact.”

“In other words, we go in and are on our own,” I reiterate.

“The barrier is invisible, so you would still be able to leave if you find me again.”

“I’m sure we’ll be fine,” Sanae says in confidence.

Mokou and I aren’t as sure. It doesn’t help that we still don’t have a real plan for what to do. Sure we have Tenshi to help alleviate the worst of the effects, but that’s only prevention, not a solution.

Now’s not the time to argue, though. We can’t show Yasaka or the tengu that we’re fibbing. Mokou, Sanae, and I stand against the barrier by Ran’s direction, ready to walk into whatever madness is happening inside.

I can see in, clear as late evening, and while there isn’t anything that looks different, we can’t say for sure what’s happened throughout the day deeper in.

At Ran’s command, we step forward. And everything goes black. It isn’t that it’s dark like nighttime. It’s more like I’m sitting in some extremely dense smoke. Immediate confusion sets in since this isn’t remotely what it looked like from the outside.

Before I can start speculating what’s happening, Mokou calls out, “Are you two seeing this? It’s not just me, right?”

“If you mean not being able to see, then yes, I’m seeing the same thing,” Sanae jokes.

A flicker of light sparks next to me, then a palm size blaze bursts alive in Mokou’s hand. It does little to abate the crippling haze around us. Seeing the light in contrast, this dark really is a mist. It’s a gas swirling in the air. Mokou looks around with the flame to get what few feet of view she can with it. Sanae waves a hand through the air to feel the homogeneous mass constantly dissipating and reconstituting.

My first priority is to look down at my shirt. Using Mokou’s light I can tell that the charms are just fine. Only the bottom one is burnt out right now, no change otherwise. Hopefully that’s a good sign. Very little else is right now.

My eyes trail down to the ground. Nearly pitch black. It’s like the ground I’m standing on died and started to decay. This place was already decrepit, but this is far beyond the cusp.

“Alright, come on you two. In a line behind me and grab the person in front of you,” Mokou orders.

Sanae does just that, and asks, “How are we going to get to that little hut with everything pitch black like this?”

Which is a very good question. I saw this area just earlier today and it all looked the same then, but it’s unnavigable now.

“You’ll just have to trust my sense of direction,” Mokou whims. “I haven’t lived in that damn bamboo forest without learning how to get my bearings when I can’t see.”

She holds the flame at the edge of her reach, and watches it. She stays like that for a chunk of time before feeling satisfied with her reading. The flame was gently moving in the direction of the fog. We walk perpendicular to it, likely walking transverse to some air current.

“Wait isn’t that still using your sight?” I jab to lighten the mood a bit.

“Shut up. Be glad that the bamboo forest of the lost is really good at its namesake or I wouldn’t have had to come up with this,” Mokou retorts.

“I mean, it’s also a simple caver’s trick, too,” Sanae comments.

We move slowly through this blind region, taking care not to disturb the vibrant compass Mokou holds. She takes the lead, Sanae holds her off arm behind, and I take up the rear holding Sanae’s arm still carrying Tenshi.

Only the sound of our steps pierce the dead air. It was the same before, but this illusory crammed space made by dark walls forces it to feel evermore present.

After several dozen meters, I notice the flame start to lose magnitude and directionality. Mokou notices as well, but trudges on.

A thought occurs to me at this point, “Hey, is this all misfortune around us?”

“You mean this situation?” Sanae asks.

“No, like this stuff in the air. I thought it was some chemical reaction, or whatever equivalent that would be, between the misfortune and the ground rising into the air, but this is just too consistently dense.”

“That’s… uncomfortable to think about…” Sanae trails.

“I’m trying to figure out why the air has any motion, though,” I continue. Now I'm waving my hand through the air to try and feel some resistance.

Mokou nips at my casual attitude with a, “Quiet, we don’t know what’s here.”

Only a few steps more and Mokou pipes up again, cursing, “Damnit!”

“What’s wrong?” Sanae chitters, not hiding her nerves well.

“The fire isn’t picking up any draft now,” Mokou explains. “Either of you have another idea that could keep us moving without mapping the area?”

I ponder for a moment, and fish something from my pocket. One of the flash rocks I’ve been holding onto. Thankfully unused to now.

“Hey, can either of you do something with this? It shines when striking something,” I hand it off to the two. Mokou puts out her flame when taking the rock.

She looks at it for a bit in the pitch black, and starts questioning, “Is it some magic? Does it work multiple times? How bright is it?”

I answer in order, “I think. Not entirely sure, but without some kinda mojo definitely not. Bright as the sun in July.”

Mokou stays quiet for a few extra seconds before I hear her grab it tight. It lights up better than a lantern. It also doesn’t instantly burn out.

“What? Could I always use it like that?” I ask, surprised that I apparently didn’t check everything I could do with the set.

Mokou grunts, and replies, “Not really. It took me a while before I really settled on pyromancy. Stuff like light is always useful, though. Glad I could remember this little tidbit to keep enchanted crap going for more than a second.”

“I didn’t know you studied magic, Mokou,” Sanae chimes in.

“Didn’t, really. It’s more like it’s hard to not learn stuff when you’re harassed by things that shoot lasers on the daily,” Mokou brags.

The shining rock is a lot brighter than a regular fire, so we’re able to see a total of ten feet now! That’s a three times improvement, so I’ll take it.

Mokou has a much easier time keeping our bearing toward the center by seeing the foliage around us. In some short moments we tunnel through the impossible blackness, the fog dissipating around us as we move forward.

Suddenly we’re in an open area. The misfortune let up on this area, and with the bright lighting I can see why. A jet of this crude misfortune ejects upward from Kagiyama’s now crumbled shack. The entire area is a diorama for angular forces: spinning material at the edge being drawn in and spit out upward, hitting the ceiling of the barrier and trailing back down around the encasing to loop once more.

It’s beautiful, it’s horrifying, and someone is sitting in the center of it making this.

[Please wait warmly…]

Had to play around with this one in my head for a bit. I think it came out naturally in the end. No vote this time because I’d like to believe that I can finish this portion of the Hina chapter within the next update. We’ll have more time with the poor girl after, though, so don’t you worry.
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I had a feeling Kanako couldn't resist the fruit dangled in front of her face, especially with Sanae here to sweeten the deal for us!
The crows/wolves were similarly as toothless as expected.

Very satisfied with this result; we can finally get to work solving the problem.

Ran having to stay outside is understandable, but now we've walked right into a survival horror setpiece without her.

Supremely excited to see what happens next!

[X] Objective: SURVIVE
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So... What happened to Tenshi? Is she still in Sanae's arms while we went through the barrier?
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>“Very well,” she says. “The Yakumo and company will resolve this incident. However, my shrine maiden must join you as insurance,” she directs to Ran.

Sanae was the one with the bright idea to kidnap invite Tenshi along for the extra misfortune resistance so she's pretty much earned her right to be part of the team regardless. Kanako probably would've asked for something else if she knew this.

>Ran looks up to the goddess and offers a silent nod in agreement. With that, the pillar blocking her lifts itself back into the air and joins its companions behind Yasaka. She walks up to the border awaiting the rest of the group.

Ran agreed to what was essentially a free concession, but Kanako doesn't know this.
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Even if Kanako knew there's only upsides for her shrine maiden to join the party.

Sanae's presence causes the Moriya shrine to be directly involved in the incident's resolution, which in the event of a positive result would generate a lot of faith.

Tenshi is a known delinquent and troublemaker, so nobody on the surface is likely to take offence to her getting knocked about a bit.

Kanako's a shrewd enough politician to have considered all the circumstances at play here and Regis just presented her an offer she actively would not want to refuse.

Regis played a politician's game and he played it smooth.

Ran, no stranger to politics herself and back in top form, took to the plan perfectly.
I wonder if her raising no comment whatsoever to the plan was indicative of her approval.
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“Either of you have something to say to lighten the mood?” I request of my companions while standing in awe of the nightmare around us.

“I don’t think now’s the time for that,” Sanae refutes. “Do either of you see where we need to start looking? Are we even standing in the right place to find Hina’s house?”

“I could swear that Ran set up the barrier with the house smack in the center,” I reply.

The place is moving as if it were itself living. The vortex of dark clouds create their own weather patterns that phase in and out of existence as the mass hits the ceiling of the barrier only to precipitate back down. The reason we could see so little before is because the misfortune settles at the edge of the barrier and only inches back towards the central source point.

Mokou flips around, the light in her hand making conspicuous rays against what was clearly the house here, and it doesn’t appear to be in any state that could be called a building now.

“What the hell was that?” Mokou curses.

I turn to look the same way Mokou is, only the dense wall of fog greets me.

“What is it, Miss Mokou?” Sanae asks, also staring into the dark wall.

“Don’t damn know,” she replies back. “Thought I just felt eyes on me. Place is freaking me out. Never seen something like it.”

She starts moving towards the building remains, taking the light with her. Sanae follows suit, but I linger a moment more to study the wall. She felt eyes on her? Is there an animal in here? Hopefully not, since it’s probably been mutated beyond recognition.

The fog begins to form an eddy current around something inside the blind space.

That can’t be my imagination, right?

“Hey, you two, I think there’s something here…” I attempt to get their attention, but they’ve already started to make their way to the most of the wreckage.

I retreat back to them, and I can only hope that whatever is causing that is some emergent property of the misfortune itself.

I get back over to the two, who are inspecting the space before us. I move to start looking as well, but I remember something. I check the condition of my shirt charms. The second one took on a small amount of rot. I’ll have to be pretty pious to these seven after this is over.

I turn my attention to the house… what’s left of it, anyway. It doesn’t just look like it fell apart, it might be closer to say it broke apart. Violently. It would be closer to call it a wreckage, and I imagine a gross amount of paraphernalia is buried under here, considering what I learned about Kagiyama before.

“Hina!” Sanae calls out for the goddess.

We stick close together and fan the pile of wood, calling for the goddess every few paces. The devastation that this area has been under is beyond comprehension. I can only wonder if you’d need to track healing from misfortune like this in half-lives.

A shift in the wood near me catches my attention, so I walk over to investigate. Something catches my ankle. I yelp in stressed panic, and I can already hear Mokou and Sanae rush beside me.

Mokou snags what caught me and grunts as she yanks it from the wood pile.

She’s fished up a particular goddess, one who’s too tired for conversation, or even standing for that matter.

The goddess appears beaten. Worn down. Having no more spirit left to give this place. She seemed ragged last time I saw her, but now all of her demeanor has been killed. Her outfit is shredded in places, torn at the hems, and caked with ample amounts of dirt. Her eyes and face are sunken and nearly hollow. It’s hard to know that she’s even alive if she hadn’t grabbed my leg like that.

Mokou is the first to speak again, “Holy shit. What happened to her..?”

What she said summarizes my own thoughts pretty well. It looks like she’s been living destitute for a whole month after we left. Is that a statement of the misfortune’s magnitude?

“Go…” Kagiyama rasps, still held aloft by Mokou’s clutch. Mokou realizes this and settles the goddess on her back.

“Hina!” Sanae exclaims, kneeling down next to the goddess and taking care of Tenshi’s hair not to get in her face.

“Hmm..? Oh, you. From the shrine at the top…” Kagiyama pushes her speech through an obvious lack of energy. Her words are quiet and slow. The eerie silence of the fog came in handy to hear them clearly. “You… all… should go.”

“Yeah, not on your life,” Mokou states. “You need help and we’re the only people here to try and do anything right now.”

“But… what are you going to do?” Kagiyama asks, regaining her breath bit by bit.

“Ah, right,” Mokou trails off.

“Well…” Sanae tries to find the right words.

“We don’t have a damn clue,” I bluntly explain.

Kagiyama stares between us in disbelief. Instead of berating our foolishness, she breaks out into a weak, joyful chuckle, only stopped by a coughing fit.

“I guess that’s how it is for Gensokyo,” she jokes.

“Ah! We do have Tenshi, since I think she protects against bad luck,” Sanae remembers, presenting the celestial like a person-sized doll.

“Prevention isn’t gonna solve the problem, though,” Mokou undermines.

“There’s other things to worry about, though,” Sanae leads the conversation.

“What do you mean?” I ask. “What’s stopping us from sitting here and deducing how to dispel Kagiyama’s curse?”

Sanae points past us, over to the vortex of misfortune now only a couple dozen meters away, and explains, “She’s here, and not in the middle of that. So what is at the center?”

She looks back down at Kagiyama, hoping for some level of explanation. The sullen goddess looks around in thought, not sure how to word herself.

“You… I don’t know how to say…” Kagiyama fails to explain.

“Well, I guess we gotta kill whatever the hell that is, then,” Mokou determines. “Tanner, can you carry Hina?”

I’m mildly surprised by the request, and answer, “I don’t know. I’ve never been much of a macho man.”

“Just be a regular man and pick up the damsel,” Mokou complains. “If I’m gonna be beating something up, I can’t be carrying someone flammable.”

“Alright, alright. I get it,” I nag back. It takes a bit of knee work, but I get Kagiyama off the ground and hold her in front of me. I’m not as weak as I used to be when teaching, but people are pretty heavy.

Even I can tell that Kagiyama is no more than a twig right now, though. It’s like half her body’s left her in the last several hours.

“Is something wrong, Tanner?” Kagiyama asks.

“No, Miss Kagiyama. Just making sure I have a good grip on you,” I deflect the question.

“Please… just call me Hina,” she requests, nestling into my arm to conserve her strength. “I’ve never been one for formality. Is Nitori fine?”

“Based on how Ran reacted, I’d say she’s probably doing fine at Eientei.”

“Good,” Hina responds, contented.

“Alright, less talking, more walking,” Mokou demands, taking the bright stone away with her.

Sanae and I scramble to keep up with her. The tempest is blasting from the hill over, but it’s hardly doing anything at all to us. This stuff is in every way otherworldly. Understanding it might be just as difficult as the barrier itself. Thank the gods that it’s unable to do anything to us.

We sneak a view over the knoll to spot what the cause of the storm is. Mokou doesn’t have much choice but to raise the bright stone over the bump. It doesn’t end up helping, we’re sitting inside the inner wall after all. We’re barely able to see past our own face. We signal amongst each other to move up in the densest portion of the fog.

I ask Hina to grab Mokou in front of me and Sanae takes my shoulder. We start to walk inward, only a few steps before completely breaking into an open space.

There, standing in the center of this mass, and more so conducting it, is Hina.

“What?” Sanae asks what’s on our minds.

The conductor Hina slows her raised hands from their wave. As she calmly lowers them, the wall around us lowers in turn. Soon enough, the misfortune is no longer piled on our position, and we can see out to the far fog walls.

The conductor turns around, eyes closed and face at peace.

Her eyes open and leak gaseous misfortune from empty sockets. Mokou slides a leg back, preparing to launch into an assault to protect us.

The conductor folds her hands over the front of her pristine red dress. The same as what Hina’s wearing. Her entire outfit is in fact identical.

“Welcome,” the conductor speaks in Hina’s voice, a pleasant ring to this strange situation. It would be more pleasant if it weren’t for the fact that when she opens her mouth more of the black fog escapes from it.

She continues, “I was wondering when you would finish traipsing through the woods. I see you’ve picked up my lesser, as well.” She gestures to me and the sullen Hina I’m holding.

Mokou raises an arm between us and asks, “What are you?”

The conductor twists into a gnarly smug face, and answers, “Exactly what you’d expect. A god, a Youkai, and a part of my other self. Though, that might not be so true at this point, as I’m something of a purified essence of misfortune,” it contradicts with a polite bow.

“I’m guessing you’re not particularly friendly, then,” Mokou surmises.

“That would depend, how are you all with inflicting suffering and strife on the world around you?” it asks.

Mokou snorts, “Yeah, not surprised you would be some messed up piece of filth.”

It replies, “Let’s not mix words: I am pure, raw misfortune. ‘Messed up’ only means that I am living my existence correctly to your standards. Just as Youkai seek fear and gods seek faith, I seek misery, hopelessness, and contempt.”

“Yeah, sure, whatever. Kill you and no more problems, right?”

“Is that the case?” it questions right back.

Mokou wastes no more time with its wordplay and leaps into the air. Setting herself ablaze, the area lights up far brighter than the rock she just dropped could manage. The conductor Hina stands with arms open to embrace the fireball. The din of scorching flames is deafening against the utter silence from a moment ago.

Sanae sets Tenshi down next to me so that she might support Mokou, but Mokou herself is going all out to finish things now, allowing no one near. A set of fiery wings sprouts from the woman, and beat back, launching herself as a projectile feet-first into the false goddess.

The conductor does nothing to stop the torrential flame from colliding with her, barreled down by the impact that morphs into an erupting pillar of fire. The heat is intense. I’m more than a safe distance away from the fight, but I can still feel it as if I was sitting in an oven.

Sanae stays until the pillar collapses, and casts several bright stars around her as she rushes in beside Mokou. From what I can see, there isn’t anything left of the body. Either it turned to ash or back into the misfortune fog around us.

Wait… would it be made of fog? Then wouldn’t that mean–

A bang as loud as a cannon sets off right behind me. I can’t see the dark projectile speed down to Mokou and Sanae, only the dirt shoveled up by the blast. My hearing takes a few moments to recover from the noise, to which I can hear Mokou cursing up a storm.

The two were sent skyward, catching themselves and preparing more spells to launch my way. The light from their extensive firepower clearly shows a false Hina standing behind me, finger pointing at the spot she shot.

It tilts its head up with a ceramic scratch. “Why did you assume that was the only form of my being?” it mocks.

“You really should have remembered that part where I’m a god,” Hina’s voice comes from the left behind some trees.

“Remembered? As if those two are even thinking right now,” a third Hina chimes in from the right.

Right, Shinto god. If the area is any indicator, she’s pretty strong right now, and that would mean that she could be as many copies as she wants.

Wait… why didn’t we use that to find the Goddess Moriya earlier?

Three streams of pitch black projectiles assail Sanae and Mokou’s position, forcing them to dodge and shield against it. Sanae rose up further to narrow the direction the shots came from, coming out unscathed but otherwise too surprised to counterattack.

Mokou… is not so lucky. She took multiple shots through the chest, and these are not the playful dueling kind Gensokyo is bound to normally. She keels over unceremoniously, with blood pouring out of the gaps in her body. It pools up immediately. The two Hinas hiding in the trees burst up to the same height as Sanae to continue their assault.

The first walks around me, taking careful stock of what I’m doing. I can’t tell what she’ll do in the slightest. I can only realistically fear for my life. First time in a while.

I hold the original Hina tightly, covering her.

“Now, now,” the false placates, “you are better off making sure she is just fine. I wouldn’t want myself to die, now would I?”

The words resonate a bit in my skull and I look up to the creature. It looks down to Hina with a morose smile. Hina looks back, spiteful of the creature.

“Ah, this one, though,” the false Hina grabs Tenshi’s ankle and flings the unconscious girl into the air before loosing another blast. Tenshi is sent into the distance, tumbling through the air until she’s buried in the sea of misfortune fog. “Wouldn’t want her around. She just felt like a bed of thorns. Now relax there, odd human.”

That last part catches my attention, “Wait, what do you mean–“

She floats off to deal with the literal explosive rebirth of Mokou soaring into the air. While we weren’t looking, Sanae seemed to have taken a major hit and tumbles down through the air before Mokou knocks into her, kipping her back into a stable float.

The two take to fighting the three false Hinas in the air, but even more are waiting on the ground, still as statues, only observing.

“I wish I could say I’m to blame for this,” Hina starts to speak, “but I don’t know why this happened at all.”

“It’s alright, they’ll pull through, won’t they?” I lie for a shred of confidence.

“But will you?” Hina asks, shifting in my arms to prod my stomach.

Oh, shit. That.

The second charm from the bottom is already burnt out, and the third one up is going that way, too. I didn’t even think about how I was only protected because Tenshi was sitting next to me. I was just relieved that the fake Hina didn’t immediately kill me.

That also means that the misfortune is going to start heavily effecting Mokou and Sanae as well. It already has been the moment they had to start fighting away from Hina and I.

I panic and shout to the two, “Go find Tenshi! It threw her into the woods!” I point out in the direction she flew after catching one of their attentions.

A Hina at the ground doesn’t take the call out nicely, and turns in place to aim a shot directly at me. I don’t have much time to grab another bright rock. I curl in on my Hina and smash one to the ground, and a bang goes off right at the same time.

It seems to have saved me for this short second, but I can already feel a searing pain in my shoulder. My entire shoulder. I must have gotten a hell of a flesh wound just now.

“Aargh!” I cry. The pain is too much for me and I crumple over on top of Hina.

“Tanner?!” Hina shouts. “Tanner, please!”

She’s too weak to even budge me, and I’m too focused on the pain to pay attention to my surroundings.

I can feel the extreme heat emanating nearby, as well as hear the sounds of numerous explosions on the ground. Mokou must have retreated down to help me. The firing squad at the bottom might have made things difficult on that end.

This isn’t looking good for us. I can’t think of any way that we could pull around the fight in our favor. We only have two active combatants and neither of them can do any meaningful damage to the target.

Come on, brain, work through the pain. Your adrenaline addled thoughts need to find it. There’s got to be something else…

“GOD THAT FUCKING HURT!” a shout cries, surprisingly not from me, though. It came from out in the woods, where… Tenshi… fell…

I force my head to look in the direction of the roar.

An intense gout of red light much like Mokou’s eruption pierces through the darkness, shredding a sector of the fog wall from existence.

“Why’s it so damn dark?! Where the hell am I?! THIS PLACE IS DISGUSTING!” a younger female voice rings in stark fury. I would assume Tenshi’s voice and fury.

Scarlet light shines from her position, clearly pointing out a target for the many Hinas in the area to now make a priority. One loud and very impending priority. They send a wave of dark bullets out into the distance, only doing to incense the increasingly agitated celestial.

The light blitzes our direction, screaming, “I’m going to smash you to dust!”

A massive swath of earth is picked into the air and Tenshi perches atop it, still going at full speed. She drives the small hill into the first target she can spot, which is unfortunately Mokou, who is a bright white beacon in this lack of lighting. Tenshi stands on the top of the boulder, looking around at all of the Hinas, who are now realizing their own misfortune to come upon them. A lot of them gasp, releasing a black cloud that clues in the celestial to their rather unholy nature.

Tenshi stands proud, raising a small rod emitting a blade of energy above her head, and sinks it into the ground, causing a ripple of blasts from the earth around her. The Hinas are skewered by the fragmentations of earth and scarlet energy, profusely bleeding their misfortune fog. Those downed don’t even bother getting up, knowing another pounding would come if they did so.

Or, I mean, even a gaseous monster body might be expended by that much force. I’m no expert.

Sanae floats down to the scene, fleeing from a few other Hinas. Tenshi hears the chase and sends smaller rocks into the sky that hone in on multiple Hinas, but instead of colliding directly the rocks themselves repeatedly fire lasers.

Tenshi stares Sanae down and flips her off for knocking her out. And, obviously, taking her to wherever we are now. Maybe also her hat, if she noticed. Thankfully I held onto it.

Sanae doesn’t get to apologize as something else catches Tenshi’s attention, turning her view over to me. I had thankfully avoided her blitz by keeping my head low, though I was kind of already there since it’s hard to sit up with the pain in my shoulder.

She hops the distance in one go, landing right in front of me. Sanae busies herself with the edges of the rock, frantic that Mokou is buried under it.

“Who are you, and why do you feel like someone I know?” Tenshi asks to me and Hina.

“Me or her?” I retort.

“The goddess, obviously. You can screw off elsewhere for all I care, human.”

“I don’t… know you, though?” Hina more asks than answers. She looks around for anyone to explain what’s happening to her, but both Sanae and Mokou are out of the way. I sure as hell wouldn’t know.

Tenshi poses in thought before snapping her fingers and reiterating, “You are someone I know! Hang on, I think I’ve got the idea now.”

She fishes out of her skirt pocket a… fishing hook. Go figure. Taking the sword hilt and placing the hook at the base, a bright glow emits to heat up the metal bit in whatever crazy energy she uses. The hook appears red hot now, but Tenshi grabs the thing without issue.

Before I get the chance to ask what she plans to do with the small item, she tosses my torso off of Hina. Ignoring the screeching sting from my shoulder, I roll to see what Tenshi’s doing, and find that she’s stuck the hook in Hina’s nostril, pulling with all her might.

Guess I hadn’t seen the strangest thing yet today, because this probably takes it.

Sanae came over to see what’s happening, but is too baffled to stop Tenshi. So am I, for that matter.

After enough effort, Tenshi pulls something out of Hina, the hook passing through her nose without injury. Or, wait, maybe not? Her nose is still caught on the hook, but the bottom of her head is against the ground. Some more pulling and I get an understanding that this is two faces splitting from each other.

It most certainly looks as weird as it sounds, too. I can see both faces, despite one being physically below the other. Is Tenshi pulling out a ghost?

With some more area for leverage, namely the two heads split from one another, Tenshi sticks a boot into Hina’s face and really wrenches the second person from her. This is unpleasant for every party involved, and shouldn’t need explanation for the amount of grunting involved across the three of them.

With the heads and torsos separated, Tenshi gives one last pull and peels out a darker blue haired girl. This one is as ragged as Hina is right now, and just as horribly skinny.

Hey, isn’t that..?

“Shion?!” Sanae shouts.

[x] A time of rest.

[x] A time of investigation.

And thus, here we are. The finale of what might be a more action packed section for this chapter. I still plan on going through a good deal more (this doesn’t even remotely cover ideas in the original lecture!) and I haven’t gushed over Hina yet. As for this vote, consider it more of a little explanation of what happened or a lot of explanation, not too difficult this time.
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[x] A time of investigation.
Something something, every nook and cranny.
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Well, we found the Yorigami sisters, one way or another.

Hina absorbs misfortune, Shion causes it.
Rather than possession, this sounds more like Hina went full Kirby on Shion by accident.
I am morbidly intrigued by this misfortune feedback loop.

[x] A time of investigation.

Investigation or not, Regis should probably care he hasn't lost an arm or something first.
Keine's gonna give him one hell of a literal headache over this.
Also, him being referred to as an "odd human" was rather peculiar; he's already picked up on this himself, too.

>I haven’t gushed over Hina yet.

I was in the remain with Hina camp; more Hina is never a bad thing.
Even just the little tidbit we've gotten so far makes her sound precious.
Waiting very warmly.
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[x] A time of investigation
Wuh happun
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[x] A time of investigation.

Questions are flooding through my mind at this point. Why the hell is one of the Yorigami sisters here? How was she in Hina? How is it possible that we lucked into having Tenshi here to do that? Why the fuck did using a fishing hook work? Sanae looks like she’s just as curious as I am, but holds herself back.

I can’t feed my curiosity, either. Not because I don’t want to, but because I think the adrenaline in my system has subsided, so now the pain of the shoulder injury is settling in. Did I say injury? Because I think it would be more correct to say it feels like my arm has separated from my body!

The intensity only seems to ramp up in the next few seconds as my mind is purely kept on the area. I can’t even tell my eyes to focus or my head to move, only my voice works to shout in pain. Tenshi and Sanae turn their attention from whatever they were talking about over to me. One of them pins my opposing arm away from my shoulder, which I hadn’t known I moved to put pressure on the wound.

“Hey, so what am I looking at, here? What is this guy?” Tenshi asks, unimpressed by the show.

Sanae kneels down beside me and answers, “He’s just a regular human …Oh that’s really bad. Uhm… is anyone a medic?”

“Like any of us would know medical junk,” Tenshi states matter-of-factly.

Sanae scrambles around for something to use for my wound, even taking one of her long separated arm sleeves off to see if she could purpose it for a knot. It only agitates my exposed flesh, and stains the article more red than white.

I feel sweat clamor me worse than any hot flash could do, and my continued cries are giving Sanae an anxiety attack.

“Ugh, his screaming is annoying,” Tenshi revolts. “If it’ll shut him up, then let me… wait, where’s my hat?” She checks her head for the missing piece. Thankfully, I know that it’s in my pack and try to lift the entire thing out from under me. Sanae notices and helps to retrieve it. She undoes the strap and picks out the wide brimmed hat.

Tenshi snags it back to her head and proceeds to pluck something from her crown. Right, there were fruits attached to the hat. I couldn’t even tell how, but they were definitely there. In between an uncontrollable moan and a wail she stuffs the fruit in my mouth. There’s not much thought for me to give about the taste of it, only the confusion about how this is supposed to help.

Clenching my teeth down, I eat a large swathe of the fruit’s flesh. In no time flat the pain gradually subsides. Pinkish fruit, a celestial, right, that was a thing they had. Something about body strengthening, but I didn’t pay it much mind since it seemed so moot of a point for people from heaven to have food that strengthened their already powerful bodies.

With the pain subsumed by whatever I just ate, I have control of my muscles again. My eyes go back into focus to see that Tenshi is looking just as miffed as I expected, but also holding Shion at the waist tightly in her arm. She releases her boot from my arm when she can tell that I’m fine...ish.

Sanae, on the other hand, seems to be on the verge of tears. Poor girl must take my wellbeing more personally than I expected.

I try to roll up, but I have no strength, so I only nudge upward a bit. I note just how little control my left arm has. Looking down, yeah, that’s just a whole chunk of the shoulder completely rended. Luckily it was the top of my shoulder, otherwise I would have bled out already. Or so I say, but it seems that my blood pooled up more than a person should survive from, much less remain awake.

If I were a betting man, then I’d say the combination of the seal on my forehead, the celestial fruit, and the charms on my shirt are probably to thank. Only three of the charms seemed to survive after I last checked, but that’s still more than I was suspected.

“Here,” a pleasant, calm voice chimes in. Hina got up at some point. There’s a fullness to her that I haven’t seen yet, and it might be some level of delirium speaking, but she looks positively divine.

In short, she’s looking unnaturally healthy, all things considered. Ah, no, it makes sense. The misfortune is seeping into her, the clouds evenly floating into her body. A god of misfortune would obviously need the stuff as a core part of their existence, so absorbing it probably replenishes her energy, too.

Hina removes a ribbon around her forearm, revealing a series of scars, and wraps the top of my arm in a tight knot to lessen the blood flow. I look up to her, expectantly.

She giggles, and follows with, “No, there isn’t any magic in that ribbon, you just needed something to help tie down the bloodflow.”

Sanae and Hina attempt to raise me to my feet, but there’s just no energy for them to use.

“So, uh, when am I supposed to talk?” Shion asks nervously.

Tenshi goes to answer coyly, but the sound of a blast from under the boulder shudders the ground. A loud, and more than mildly aggrieved, roar comes from under the rock, blowing open an edge in a gout of fire. Mokou climbs out of the opening, looking plenty pissed off, but otherwise no worse for wear.

“Hey, Tenshi!” she shouts. “Try and kill me harder, why don’t you?!”

“Shut up and help these two with the dying pig over here!” Tenshi shouts back.

Mokou perks up at the words and bounds over in an instant. Shion seems rather crestfallen that she’s missed her chance to announce herself to the group.

“Gah… shit. Well now both Keine and the fox are gonna kill me,” Mokou bemoans. “What even happened to you?”

“One of the fake ones shot me, that’s what. It’s a wonder I even have an arm left,” I gripe, rousing my coarse voice. I look over the group and clear my throat to say, “And thanks for keeping me alive. Not in the best mood with all the blood loss.”

“Yeah, yeah. Don’t get sappy with me,” Mokou jests, working to lift me up. She gets me in a piggyback leaning on my arm. “Hey, grass head, hold onto his pack. Don’t want him having a cow later.”

“Why do you people even know an English saying?” I bicker, lost in the amount of absurdisms I have to absorb from just one day.

“Is that English? I always thought it was a common saying,” Mokou ponders as the group starts to make steps to the edge of the barrier.

“No, no, no. Surely you heard it from somebody recently, Mokou,” Sanae argues.

Keine told me this, but the people of Gensokyo really take life too much at their own pace. One moment Mokou was dying over and over and now she’s arguing about common phrases. What a place I’ve found myself.

While the two make their own comedy show, I take a glance over to Tenshi and Shion. Shion being here at all is no small surprise, even if it makes some sense. She’s supposedly capricious, or maybe just wily, when compared to Hina. But while their powers are similar, they’re not exactly the same. When I’m back on my feet I’ll need to interrogate both of them for all they’re worth.

I almost leave it at that before I really pay attention to the fact that Tenshi is still holding Shion at the waist. At first it looks like something possibly obsessive on Tenshi’s part, but there’s an oddness to Shion’s body.

Shion emits wisp like flames at all times from the tips of her hair and her feet. I would expect it to look like a flame rising, but right now, though, the ‘flames’ are gravitating in Hina’s direction. Hina is over a dozen paces out, and yet there seems to be an almost magnetic attraction between them.

If I look closely enough, it seems as if Shion’s legs trail a few degrees ahead of their natural hanging tendency from Tenshi’s grip.

“Hey, Miss Yorigami,” I address the pestilence god, “is that odd attraction you have normal?”

Shion seems more confused than anything by the question, staring back blankly without a call to respond.

“Is he hitting on you of all people?” Tenshi grimaces. She perks back up when further noting, “Wait! He addressed you properly! Show me respect too!”

Mokou chuckles, adding a small bit of pain to my shoulder, and jeers, “Maybe when you start acting like somebody respectable. Hell, both gods here have you beat and they exist on negativity.”

“Huh… an attraction…” Shion absent mindedly comments on my question. “Yeah, that’s weird.”

“Well, it doesn’t take a genius,” Tenshi claims. She points to Hina and moves to Shion, saying, “One sucks in, the other spits out.”

“Could it really be that simple?” Sanae muses to the idea.

“Mm,” the front of the group chimes. Hina shares her thought on the matter, “It’s not impossible. Seeing Miss Shion separate from me was quite startling, but it makes the most sense when put how Tenshi said. I take in, she gives, and together we wouldn’t be able to do either, instead it would pile up worse than snow.”

“Hang on, I’m no misfortune expert,” Mokou interjects, “but wouldn’t the two of you combined like that make nothing happen at all? Why would misfortune miasmate worse than the little vampire brat on a temper tantrum?”

Hina remains silent. Her gait is very structured, even when walking with her eyes closed in thought. It wouldn’t surprise me if you could balance a book or even a glass of water on her head. Wait, is that how her bow stays on? Not to mention that her crowning bow is back on her head, even though it was all shredded up before. The thing must be mystically attached to her–

Snapping fingers in front of my face attract my attention. “Hey, genius, start your speculating thing. Less fawning over the hot stuff that can get you killed,” Mokou mocks my poor tunnel vision.

“Oh my,” Hina giggles, “is that high praise from someone of your experience?”

“It wouldn’t be high,” Tenshi insults. “I’m sure the most experience she’s ever gotten is back country farm boys.”

“Hey now,” Sanae states wedging between Mokou and Tenshi. “Let’s all act a little mature, yeah? There’s only an angry mob of tengu outside.”

“Ah…” Hina deflates. “I guess it would come to that.”

“No, no, it’s fine now!” Sanae reassures her.

We approach the edge of the barrier, I can only really tell because a group of people are gathered. Thankfully, Hina has been absorbing the blinding fog on our way out, so we didn’t have anywhere near as many visibility issues.

I get a good look at Hina absorbing the unnatural atmosphere. She pirouettes on the balls of her feet, arms laid on her skirt front. She continues to rotate, showing no signs of friction affecting her. Is she floating while doing that?

The visible misfortune gas gravitates into her like water in a sink. The swirl makes me think of the personification we saw, conducting the misfortune outwards. That creature made no motion, though, unlike Hina. Perhaps the motion is what causes a restorative force on this miasma.

That point pales in comparison to another observation. It isn’t lost on anyone that Shion is also directly effected by Hina’s spin. Her wisps and limbs are pulled in like she was the only one to experience a heavy gust of wind.

It begs an obvious question: can this happen again?

As the mist clears further, a familiar face starts to make motions outside. Ran moves her hands in practiced circular motions before beckoning us to come out.

We move past the line of separation and are greeted to a much brighter world. The sun may have set, but it’s clear as day to see compared to inside of the dead zone. My eyes adjust to spot the nearby group of people. They’re not who I expected.

The tengu aren’t crowding around the edge of the barrier anymore. Instead they’ve taken to the treeline a short distance out. Replacing them is a cavalcade of colorful girls. Reimu, Marisa, a girl with white hair in green carrying samurai swords, the western styled maid from the vampire mansion, and a haughty tengu mixed in with them. From my understanding this is the usual crowd of… what you might call ‘fixers.’

What exactly they are ‘fixing’ is up for any given whim they’re here for, not to mention how much it gets fixed. Mileage may vary and all that.

An extra I hadn’t noticed at first but sticking out for the wrong reason is a girl with tied up purple hair hiding under a large straw hat. She’s wearing plain white work clothes like a village worker would, contrasting the eccentric colors and fabrics of basically every single person around us. Wait I think I’m part of that group now, too, with my decorated dress shirt, and the talisman stuck to my forehead.

The other colorful individuals react to our arrival, but the workman moves faster, ignoring any impede even from the goddess Yasaka.

She rapidly checks through our group, returning to me after she’s finished, and starts ordering Mokou to help her. I get set down against a close by rock and she cracks open a large wooden box she’d been carrying. She begins perusing various bottles and medical pieces as Mokou strikes up conversation.

“What brought you out here, Reisen?” Mokou asks.

“A certain loudmouth kappa. One who made it obvious things could get this bad,” the medical girl responds. She continues to sift through her box in a panic. I’m beginning to believe there’s something off about the box itself based on how many items she’s already gone through.

Mokou looks at her increasing frustration and grabs the girl’s hat off, revealing a pair of tall standing bunny ears. She looks back up to Mokou with piercing red eyes as the ashen haired girl admonishes, “Hey, cool it! He’s stable right now, so stop stressin’ us out!”

“A-ah,” she stutters, the sharpness in her eyes settling down. “Right. Yes, you’re right. First aid gets to me, that’s all…”

“Sadly, I know what you mean…” I commiserate with the scrunched up rabbit.

As she treats me I keep a close eye on the conversation happening between the rest of the group. Not really what they’re saying, more just body language and emotions. It figures Reimu is disinterested to a comical degree the moment she heard that no fighting is needed. Marisa at least shows attentiveness, though that may just be because she’s a magician. The others have similarly mixed responses. Yasaka being the most troubled by the events.

Nothing seems to be of concern, besides the implications. That is, before a tengu swoops down on the group. Iizunamaru has shown herself again, and she doesn’t seem deterred like her cohorts.

I get up against Reisen’s wishes and wander over to see what they’ve started talking about now. Reisen continues to apply bandages to me as I’m walking, disregarding a few odd looks from the other denizens around us. Being even more hopped up on drugs and magic than before makes me feel like I could take on the world, fainting isn’t even a remote concern.

“You are to be tried by the inner circle of tengu society as an immediate threat to Gensokyo, Kagiyama Hina,” the present tengu authority declares.

“Under what jurisdiction do your people think they function?” Yasaka rebukes the tengu acting larger than life.

“One which refuses to administer harsh terms for an obvious threat, Lady Yasaka,” Iizunamaru stings back. “With all due respect, this scenario here could happen again, and action needs to be considered immediately before another catastrophic event transpires. The tengu have decided that we are the only ones willing to humor longer term solutions.”

“But nothing even ended up happening!” Mokou interjects.

“And that is due to how many circumstances to keep this monster down?” the golden pauldroned tengu points up at the area of the barrier. Still clear looking, but we all know better at this point.

Some murmurs start in both the crowd around us and within the trees. It quickly grows into a din of speculations and possibilities. Not many with a positive outlook.

“You are not the highest level of power involved in this incident,” Ran dominates the crowd’s worry. “The Yakumo withheld the tide now minimized. It is up to our decision what happens to the goddess.”

“The Yakumo are planned to be involved in the proceedings,” Iizunamaru placates. “You, Lady Yasaka, and three others others outside of tengu society will act as judges for the sake of Gensokyo’s safety. This was after much deliberation over the scope this incident could have.”

“You can’t seriously think that arbitrating this will go well,” I comment, a bit too high on my own impulses. Reisen shoots a hand over my mouth to stop me from further aggravating someone.

Iizunamaru doesn’t bother to respond to the provocation, instead pointing to Sanae and commanding, “Your Moriya shrine will have four days to produce their defense for the curse goddess, as you have claimed responsibility in resolving this situation. Use whatever means you need to present in her favor.”

With that, Iizunamaru turns around and whistles to the trees. A wave of her hand and the birds fly from the leaves and the wolves the roots. She looks over the gaggle again, giving a stern but not wholly dispassionate eye before soaring off as well.

“Those bastards really think they can just do whatever they want, huh?” Mokou gripes.

Sanae seems stunned over her sudden promotion to defense attorney, and so she doesn’t have much to comment on the matter.

The fixer crew disbands from the area, leaving the original assortment, now including Yasaka and my good partner.

There’s much to do, I suppose, and so little time to keep Reisen away from dragging me to the hospital.

[x] Support Sanae’s investigation.

[x] Help Hina rebuild her home.

[y] Go to the hospital, you unhealthy bastard.

I hadn’t made it clear, but the previous choice was actually a scene skip to Eientei or continuing as is. I ended up doing a lot more banter between Tenshi and Mokou than I expected to do, and I think it’s just fun to imagine what kind of dynamic they’d have with their wildly different backgrounds. Shion also didn’t get much light, but that’s just unfortunate, isn’t it?

Oh, and take this plot development as you may because I am too.
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[y] Go to the hospital, you unhealthy bastard.
the guy is currently down an arm because there's a big mcfucking hole in it, held back only by a tourniquet.
those aren't supposed to be on for extended periods of time
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[y] Go to the hospital, you unhealthy bastard.
Medical bills. Health insurance. Long lines. Shady drugs. The Medical brings their own dose of horror to the world.
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> [y] Go to the hospital, you unhealthy bastard.
Yeah no other option is due to have some major consequences and may later lead to permanent damage. He's not some super human or magical creature, he's a normal human. Very fragile.
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[y] Go to the hospital, you unhealthy bastard.
Keine's going to be more angry at us if we don't.
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[y] Go to the hospital, you unhealthy bastard.
No other choice really.
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[y] Go to the hospital, you unhealthy bastard.

As much as i want to help Hina and Sanae with their problems. Down an arm and high on pain killers makes us kinda useless,
Best we could do is ask around if anyone knows someone who can help them out while we get treatment.
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Damn tengu bureaucrats taking a stand now of all times.

Well, we're almost missing an arm and hopped up on magic and drugs.
As mentioned by others, we'd be about as useful as we were during the whole misfortune-addled episode.
So we'd be better off recuperating as much/soon as possible.

However, I still feel bad for saddling Sanae and Hina with all of the work.

Sanae needs the most immediate help; 4 days is not a lot of time at all, but we're basically useless.
Maybe Eientei's expert care will allow us to help at least the final day or two? That's just wishful thinking, however.

Hina's house... is not that immediately important, all things considered.
She will need some sort of shelter right now, but rebuilding her house can just be done after everything else is sorted.

So, I suggest we at least excuse ourselves to the two ladies.
We can at least make a promise to Hina to help her rebuild after Regis is all healed up.
We can't promise to be well enough in time to help with Sanae, but we can at least vow to help if that does happen to be the case.

[y] Go to the hospital, you unhealthy bastard.
-[X] Promise Hina you'll help rebuild her house once you're well enough to do so.
-[X] Excuse yourself to Sanae. You're in no state to help her right now, but you can at least pledge to assist her if you recover in time for the trial.

Better to not drop dead before Keine has a chance to kill us for this.
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[y] Go to the hospital, you unhealthy bastard.
-[X] Promise Hina you'll help rebuild her house once you're well enough to do so.
-[X] Excuse yourself to Sanae. You're in no state to help her right now, but you can at least pledge to assist her if you recover in time for the trial.

Keine will kill us if our injuries don't first
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[y] Go to the hospital, you unhealthy bastard.
-[X] Promise Hina you'll help rebuild her house once you're well enough to do so.
-[X] Excuse yourself to Sanae. You're in no state to help her right now, but you can at least pledge to assist her if you recover in time for the trial.

Log initiated.
Date time: 08/12/19 21:07:36
Protection target health unstable. Medical attention required.
Potential of observable bystanders misinterpreting requested actions as dangerous: 45%
Potential of observable bystanders misinterpreting requested actions as dangerous given explanation of reason: 10%

WARNING! Violent act capable of injury/incapacitation to protection target requested. Form of reason required for submission to Adm. Y at earliest convenience.

Proceed anyway? Y/N


Initiating combat usage of shkgm_04.tlsmn

A paper doll is released in a cutting arc. The doll flies, splitting the spirit binding talisman on Tanner Regis’ head. Using his moment deep in thought is ample time to incapacitate him.

It has been approximately over twenty minutes since Tanner Regis obtained a critical injury. It should be expected that the medical professional from Eientei would take him, however she has become shaken by the sight of an intense fight injury, instead choosing to attempt first aid treatment.

He needs to be forced elsewhere for treatment. The talisman was meant to focus his spirit back into his body, as the misfortune had strung it out. He decided to treat the boon as a makeshift stimulant, pushing his body beyond normal human capacity. The fool.

Sanae Kochiya and Hina Kagiyma shout in surprise as the human’s body collapses. Fujiwara no Mokou assumes a combative stance in front of the man’s body.

“What the hell are you doing?!” Fujiwara no Mokou shouts.

“He must be subdued for medical care.”

“He would’ve gone if you’d just asked!” Fujiwara continues in hostility.

This unit raises right hand in gesture to convince Fujiwara no Mokou to hear out reason.

“We both know Regis would not have listened in his current state. The moon rabbit supplied him too many medicines, causing him to turn hyperactive.”

The moon rabbit averts her eyes in a deserving shame.

“Tch,” Fujiwara no Mokou clicks her tongue, but removes herself from the body.

“It still would have been better to try and convince him, Miss Ran,” Sanae Kochiya argues.

“Regardless, he is unconscious. A moment before you carry him yourself, medic moon rabbit.”

Connecting to grtst_shkgm.dll via neural transmission…


Yes, Lady Ran?

Are you available at this current time to carry another body?

Did that old guy get hurt? No, sorry, Lady Ran. Only curious. I am at the human village attempting to scare roadside humans. I am available for transport… Both teleportation and the body, I mean.


Activating spell based teleportation.
Target grtst_shkgm.dll acquired.
Please channel raw energy into spell channel runes before dropping to floor.

The runed doll glows a brilliant blue before falling as a drop of water. A flash conceals the method Chen materializes in. A quirk of the spell Lady Yukari deliberated on to reduce replication from others.

“Lady Ran,” Chen salutes in a soldier-like fashion. Who taught her that? Only recently has she done that repeatedly.

I point to the protective target. Chen requires no further explanation. Chen does, however greet numerous members of the current group. Including Shion Yorigami. This child knows more individuals than would be expected.

Chen hoists the human body over her shoulders. A fully grown adult human male is nearly twice her size, but that means less than nothing to Youkai. Chen does need to be reminded of a human’s frailty. Tanner Regis has no less than 80% of his arm severed from his shoulder. It was by pure chance that the major artery there was not shredded.

Sanae Kochiya did admit that there was more blood pooled around Tanner Regis than a human could commonly produce before succumbing to anemia.

Investigation note added for later reference. Documented under happenings.dir folder as part of rgs_status.txt.
Launching bindings.exe using shkgm_05.tls through shkgm_55.tls…

A series of paper shikigami dolls fly from the units’ sleeves to tie down Tanner Regis arm to his chest. A tourniquet would not be enough to stop the free motion of Tanner’s arm from further injuring him.

Executable complete. Please set timer/distance for termination of structure.

>Set radial location eientei.domain center

Eientei grounds set as termination threshold. Please ping a used shikigami for a change in setting or manual termination.

Chen flies from the mountain down to the bamboo forest with Tanner Regis in tow. That concern may be dealt with as is, aside from the bill Doctor Eirin Yagokoro may deliver for formality, but there are more matters to attend currently. The other members of this current party are conversing amongst themselves, though appear to be preparing to leave.

“Kochiya, do you require assistance to investigate this event currently?”

Sanae Kochiya looks over in surprise at the offer and states, “Oh, uhm. No, I should be fine with Mokou. Thank you, though.”

“No, Sanae, I only said tonight, I really didn’t mean more than that,” Fujiwara no Mokou complains.

“Very well, best of luck.”

The two walk off in the direction of the barrier. They must have forgotten about it and the contamination zone that will need cleanup. Hina Kagiyama is currently speaking with Shion Yorigami and Tenshi Hinanawi. They are projecting possible reasons for the event.

“But if she went in me… which I still find wholly strange… why did more misfortune pile up? I can’t really explain it,” Hina Kagiyama speculates.

“How should I know? I didn’t even know it was already Monday. How many days does that mean I was stuck like that?” Shion Yorigami questions.

“Seven,” Hina Kagiyama answers surely. “I remember because I couldn’t take in any more misfortune right then, which I can’t think of another reason that might be.”

“Theoretically, it could have been more, had the pestilence goddess incubated before that period.”

“Smaller words, fox,” Tenshi Hinanawi shows her lack of upbringing.

“Shion Yorigami could have been inside Hina Kagiyama for longer than that week in which Kagiyama could not fully use her power.”

“Well, what do you think poor stuff?” Tenshi Hinanawi addresses Shion Yorigami.

“Uhm, I don’t really know any dates. It’s not something I think about,” Shion Yorigami confesses.

“Oh, yeah. I get what you mean. I only know what day it is when February rolls around into March,” Hina Kagiyama agrees.

“Remain on topic for now, this initial period will be vital to collaborating a single understanding of the events.”

“Hey, at least give them a moment of peace here, you dumb machine,” Tenshi Hinanawi rebukes.

“No, no, Miss Ran is right,” Hina Kagiyama assents. “I’m not safe just yet. I want to visit Nitori and make sure she’s fine, but… Walking away from here won’t look good. I don’t even have access to my own home right now.”

“Is that to be interpreted as requiring help in purifying the zone inside the barrier?”

“If you’re able to, then it would be a huge help for me. Even if it wasn’t my fault, this misfortune is still piled up because I’m here,” Hina Kagiyama explains. “I want to show the tengu that I do not wish to harm anything.”

“Do you understand how to purify an area of this scale?”

Hina Kagiyama contemplates the question, and shakes her head to say, “No. I haven’t done anything quite this size. Would you be able to support me, Miss Ran?”

“It is within the interests of both Gensokyo and Tanner Regis to do so. You will have my support on the matter.”

Hina Kagiyama is content with the answer and awaits further instruction to begin the process. Tenshi Hinanawi is unenthused by the current outcomes.

This unit beckons Tenshi Hinanawi for elaboration of her thoughts and mood.

Tenshi Hinanawi rolls her eyes and says, “Yeah everything’s just great now. I’m sure you’re only forgetting the part where you knocked me out and kidnapped me by chance.”

“That was Kochiya’s idea, which resolved the incident itself most amicably. There is another perspective that directly involves you. Your friend is half the cause. The tengu will not ignore her. The coming trial is only prosecuting Hina Kagiyama out of a lack of full context.”

The lack of a priori knowledge to Shion Yorigami’s involvement does not need to be discussed.

Tenshi Hinanawi appears skeptical, but does relent, “So, what? Should we help out as well or something? Wouldn’t that get Shion in even more trouble for sticking around?”

“Tenshi, I think we should,” the pestilence goddess comments. “That Hina lady seems to have been through a lot. For me it was a nice nap. Even if I don’t remember a week…”

Tenshi Hinanawi seems hesitant to argue back to Shion Yorigami. Their friendship was prior known information, however the celestial listening to any other person’s concerns is an unusual occurrence.

Note added under peoples.dir as part of ptlhitlist.txt

“If you are in agreement, there is much to be done. The four here will work to purify the area, Sanae Kochiya and Fujiwara no Mokou will begin investigation for the trial in four days time.”

This will be enough information to relate to Tanner Regis directly. Another log will need to be started should Sanae Kochiya or Fujiwara no Mokou find information of note.

>End current log

Current open log closing.
Please note that this log type is not allowed further editing or recording after closure. Continue to close? Y/N


Shit. Feels like I banged my head into a wall. A lot. And maybe my arm, too.

No, wait, my arm is probably worse. That dull yet sharp pain that spreads to every blood vessel around the wound. That kind of feeling sits there, telling me to remember what the fuck I did wrong to cause it. I should start working on that before it starts to really get pissy with me.

“Oh?” a subdued voice announces herself next to me.

The metallic ring of a curtain opening combined with sudden light scrapes my senses together, even causing me to flinch and raise my left arm as a blinder. Or rather, I flinch because I attempt to use my left arm. It’s easy to feel the whole thing wrapped up to a point that it can’t move.

I crack my eyes, first noticing the ceiling light obscured by a silhouette, then the woman’s round head protruding two long rabbit ears. Ah, this sounds familiar but not something I can immediately place.

She flicks on a light directly above the bed I’m in, this one thankfully not as blinding, and says, “I thought I heard you waking up. How are you? Can you speak?”

“Mm?” I blearily grumble in my stupor. “Yeah, I’m good. Why would I not speak?”

“We’ll come back to that. First, what do you remember?” the bunny girl asks, rolling a stool over to my bedside. Interesting that she’d have a rolling one here.

“Hey, try to focus, this is important for me to know,” she lightly scolds.

“Right,” I reply, parsing out what I can from earlier… today? Maybe today. “I was… in the misfortune storm, but I got shot at by the misfortune creature in it. And then I– no, we– left out of the barrier with Hina. At least, I’m pretty sure. It gets blurry around that point, was it just dark or something?”

“No, you made it out of the barrier and were even walking around before fainting,” the rabbit explains. “In fact, I was treating you at that point. Do you remember any of that?”

“No, sorry,” I answer, rocking my head in a pillow.

Thinking on that, this pillow is fairly soft, and this seems to be a proper cot rather than a futon on the ground. Where am I, exactly?

The rabbit senses my curiosity and speaks up, “Alright, let me introduce myself. I am Reisen Udongein Inaba. You have been brought to the Eientei clinical section. My master Eirin Yagokoro has already seen to you. Is there anything else confusing you?”

“Well, yeah, but…” I start before shuffling up in my bed. Inaba is kind enough to tilt the pillow up along the back wall for me. “I’d guess you know, but my name is Tanner Regis. A researcher from the human village.”

Inaba giggles, “’From the human village.’ That’s quite the stiff introduction. I guess master was right that you’re an outsider.”

“Foreigner, actually,” I correct.

“What does that mean?”

“I’m from a different continent, not the land of the rising sun.”


“Anyway, I’ve got a lot to ask about,” I return to topic. “I think I should prioritize my health first, though. How bad off am I?”

“Would you prefer if I said you can’t use your arm or do you want the hard answer?” Inaba jokes.

I give a… not slightly nervous laugh, responding, “I’m a big boy, you can tell me.”

Inaba clears her throat and answers, “Two months in a cast.”

I slowly nod, taking in the logistics of it, and comment, “You know, that’s shorter than I was expecting, but that’s probably really bad around here.”

“Since we’re accounting for my master’s medicines, yes. It wasn’t good… that’s for sure,” Inaba states with some trouble.

A moment passes in silence. I’m about to ask if something’s bugging the girl, but a noise breaks my tempo.

“Yawww…” a small yawn comes from on top of my lap. A black cat has been sitting there the whole time without my notice. “Are you two done, yet? It’s honestly amazing you didn’t get shot until now. You’ve been going around with nothing but politeness and words in Gensokyo of all places.”

I easily recognize this little scamp, replying, “Settle down, Chen. I’ve also got my smarts and sarcastic commentary. Did you carry me out here?”

“Wish I could answer no, but I’m sure Lady Ran wouldn’t like hearing that.”

“Wow,” Inaba reacts, “she’s like a whole different person when you’re awake.”

“Wait, what..? Not another word you alien fiend!” Chen threatens in her diminutive form.

Inaba slides next to me with a wily grin, whispering, “She didn’t know I saw, but she was pacing around a lot while you were asleep. I think she was worried.”

“Hey, I can hear you. Cat, remember?”

“Oh, no, a cat. I’m so terrified,” Inaba chuckles at Chen’s clear irritation.

“Hang, on, we’re getting off topic again…” I input. “What happened while I was… no, how long have I been out?”

Chen and Inaba look at each other awkwardly, neither choosing to answer me.

“What? What’s wrong?” I ask. Their reticence can’t be anything good.

“No, well…” Chen starts.

“It’s only been a few hours,” Inaba finishes.

I feel misled. I thought it would be something bad. “Isn’t that a good thing? It means I haven’t missed much,” I conclude.

“My master estimated that you should have been asleep throughout the night and most of tomorrow. My master is never wrong,” Inaba adds.

“Well, I mean…” I try to add some humorous comment, but fall short. This is something strange, obviously, and it’s happening to me. Or my body, I mean, but me. Even if it’s helping me, it’s… “This isn’t natural, huh?”

“I don’t think so,” Inaba confirms.

“We can worry about you being a squishy human when we’re not in a time crunch,” Chen blatantly ignores the issue. “Right now there’s a lot to do.”

“You say that as if being human should be an afterthought,” I argue.

Chen smirks as much as a cat possibly can when she says, “Alright. Then start thinking about it. I’ll let Hina know you’re fine with her getting sealed away by the tengu.”

“Wait what?”

“He didn’t remember,” Inaba notes.

[x] Let’s help stop that sealing, then! Albeit I might be tied down to my bed.

[x] Should I maybe report this whole event to other powers in Gensokyo before the tengu do? I don’t know if they’ll go that far, but it would be better if I jump the gun before they even consider it.

[x] No, hang on. I really should be digging into the part where I’m abnormally healthy after getting so beat up.

I hope you like how I’m deciding to do Ran perspective. If you have any critique on it, let me know. It’s difficult to do the current style because I’m so used to Tanner’s rough and tumble style of smart guy speak.
Oh, and yes, sorry that the vote looks so similar to last week. I guess there wasn’t really a choice needed there, huh? I’ll be serious about diverging from here.
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Injecting firstvote.dll...

[x] No, hang on. I really should be digging into the part where I’m abnormally healthy after getting so beat up.
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[x] Let’s help stop that sealing, then! Albeit I might be tied down to my bed.

I don't know enough about the political situation of Gensokyo to be confident about calling for the involvement of other authorities.
And investigation into our newfound resilience can always come later when we have more time.
I am looking forward to the rationale for the other options though.
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>Greatest Shikigami
Awwww, she does care!

Moving on, there is clearly something going on with Regis.
The signs have been there for a while, but I'm personally inclined to agree with Chen; we're on a time crunch right now, so we don't really have the opportunity to get into it.
Perhaps letting it pass for now could mean we lose the chance to investigate the phenomenon, but at least we'll be conscious of it going forwards.

The other choices are directly getting involved with the investigation somehow or informing the big players in Gensokyo.

To start, I don't really see much point to going to the big players because most of them should already know.
All the big incident fixers were present so let's sum up who's already abreast of the situation.
-The SDM
-The entirety of the Youkai Mountain
Who would that leave? The Human Village? The Buddhists and Taoists?
That is a comparatively small amount of people that's left out of the loop and they're all located relatively near to each other.
Minus the Taoists perhaps, but I doubt Regis can just enter Senkai.
Informing the Village and the Buddhists thus shouldn't take that much time, leaving us time to maybe do other things as well.
Maybe Byakuren will take a stand; having been sealed herself before.

The other option is direct investigation.
Logistically, this may be troublesome.
Regis is relatively okay now, whatever the reason, but traipsing right back into less-than-safe environs might not be the smartest choice.
There's also the fact of him being in hospital at the moment: the good doctor may not allow him to leave yet.
Putting those concerns aside, however, this is the most direct way to assist with the problem, if not the most practical.
I'm still inclined to, somewhat recklessly, directly assist because Hina doesn't deserve a fate like this.

I propose we put investigating the healing factor on the backburner and actually focus on the matter at hand: exonerating Hina.
As it's currently nighttime we can't really go knocking on doors in the state we're in, but Chen can assist us here.
If we write short and concise messages (telegram style?), we can have Chen deliver them to the village and buddhists (the two entities left that are both easily accessible and possibly still uninformed).
If we can't write, we can dictate it to Reisen or Chen instead, but I think having a message with our name on it would go down better considering the parties involved.
Any blanks in the story can be filled in by Chen herself.
The village elders and maybe Akyuu possibly won't be happy to see a youkai like Chen about the village at night, but at least Keine should be receptive.
This way we get the word out this same night, without overly taxing Regis.
Chen might not like being used as a messenger, but she'll probably relent if we ask nicely.
This leaves Regis free to stay at the hospital overnight for monitoring, which should appease the doctor.
This in turn might allow him to negotiate (temporary) leave with Eirin for the remaining days before the trial to go aid the investigation and/or meet with anybody who responded to the telegram with the intention to help.
I doubt the village would involve itself with this, but as I said before the buddhists might. This is just a pure guess, however.

Finally, this is mostly just my guilty conscience speaking, but we should check in with Nitori if she's still at Eientei. She was clearly well enough to yell at Reisen to come assist on the mountain, so she may or may not still be here.
Also, Hina is her friend so we should inform her of the situation. Maybe she can help as well?

[X] Let’s help stop that sealing, then! Albeit I might be tied down to my bed.
-[X] Stay the night at the hospital and try to negotiate (temporary) leave with the doctor in the morrow.
-[X] Get Chen to deliver messages to the human village (Keine, Akyuu, Elders) and the buddhist temple to inform both of the situation.
-[X] Check in with Nitori to apologise for getting her into this mess and to inform her of the situation, if she's still at Eientei.

This extra time in hospital might allow for more tests and/or insight on Regis' condition, but that'd just be a lucky bonus.

If I forgot a power that's relatively accessible or if I made an error in my logic, please feel free to point it out.
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[X] Let’s help stop that sealing, then! Albeit I might be tied down to my bed.
-[X] Stay the night at the hospital and try to negotiate (temporary) leave with the doctor in the morrow.
-[X] Get Chen to deliver messages to the human village (Keine, Akyuu, Elders) and the buddhist temple to inform both of the situation.
-[X] Check in with Nitori to apologise for getting her into this mess and to inform her of the situation, if she's still at Eientei.

I do like the idea of sending a letter to Keine letting her know what's goin' on considering her grievances from the last time.
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[X] Let’s help stop that sealing, then! Albeit I might be tied down to my bed.
-[X] Stay the night at the hospital and try to negotiate (temporary) leave with the doctor in the morrow.
-[X] Get Chen to deliver messages to the human village (Keine, Akyuu, Elders), the buddhists, and the taoists to inform them of the situation.
-[X] Check in with Nitori to apologise for getting her into this mess and to inform her of the situation, if she's still at Eientei.

I edited the 3rd option to include the Taoists because they have a lot of experience with being sealed for thousands of years.
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>>44239 here

After thinking it over a bit I realise a far simpler way to contact the village is to only send a message to Keine.
This way she can inform all the important people in the village herself the next day.
Sure, they won't hear the news right this night, but everyone in the village should be far more receptive to hearing it from Keine.
It's also much less work by cutting down the amount of writing and stops Chen has to make.

Not gonna change my vote because that'd just confuse things, so I'll leave it to Regis (ie. Poignant) to decide on the most logical course if this choice happens to win.

Part of the reason I didn't include the taoists besides the logistical difficulties involved with them being located in their Senkai is that I don't believe we've ever even had contact before.
Our name obviously has ties to the village and we've already built some rapport with the buddhists, but it'd be a bit strange to send the taoists a message out of the blue even if we could get it to them.
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>>44241 here

Ran and Chen probably knows some ways to enter Senkai, but it likely won't matter in the end. If the message spreads far and wide across the Human Village, the Taoists will hear about it eventually.
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[X] Let’s help stop that sealing, then! Albeit I might be tied down to my bed.
-[X] Stay the night at the hospital and try to negotiate (temporary) leave with the doctor in the morrow.
-[X] Get Chen to deliver messages to the human village (Keine, Akyuu, Elders) and the buddhist temple to inform both of the situation.
-[X] Check in with Nitori to apologise for getting her into this mess and to inform her of the situation, if she's still at Eientei.

Man I wish I was as good at problem solving as some of you guys seem to be da hell?
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[X] Let’s help stop that sealing, then! Albeit I might be tied down to my bed.
-[X] Stay the night at the hospital and try to negotiate (temporary) leave with the doctor in the morrow.
-[X] Get Chen to deliver messages to the human village (Keine, Akyuu, Elders) and the buddhist temple to inform both of the situation.
-[X] Check in with Nitori to apologise for getting her into this mess and to inform her of the situation, if she's still at Eientei

“Well obviously I wouldn’t remember. This is something from after we jumped out of the barrier, isn’t it?” I argue.

“Ah, yes. That’s true,” Inaba realizes the gap in her train of thought.

The two give me some cliff notes on what’s happening. The tengu being a bunch of asshats, Yasaka being part of the judge panel, and for some reason Sanae being the one designated as the defense.

Realistically, there’s no way this trial ends well, right? This whole thing sounds like the tengu griping over something out of their control, and then them trying to drag down the parties involved to make themselves look better to the rest of Gensokyo. Is there a deeper meaning to their reaction? It would be so shallow if that’s really all there is to it, but I also can’t discount the politics being like this.

How exactly does Sanae plan on scratching together something resembling a case in four days? And what will be the angle that the tengu try to pull as prosecution? Too many questions.

Before anything, I need to see if Inaba here is willing to let me run around outside the premises. I can’t gather much information sitting by here.

“Inaba,” I address the good nurse. She tilts her head for me to continue. “May I leave Eientei to rejoin my group on the mountain?”

“Oh,” she gasps, “no! Obviously you need to rest here and recover!”

“Come on, it should be fine,” the cat on my lap rebukes. “He’s got a dedicated escort right here.”

“That’s not the issue. He’s only just been patched up, so the injury is probably going to flare up again while he’s recovering. If he’s not here for me to administer some of Master’s medicine it could be bad,” the rabbit explains.

“Hold on, what do you mean flare up?” I ask with some concern.

“You’re regenerating some of your body using Master’s medicines, but that doesn’t mean no pain is involved. If I had to explain it… maybe think of trying to build a bridge from one side to the other. Master knows how to make your body go from one side to the other without anything under the ‘bridge’ as it goes up, but at the same time your ‘bridge’ might want to collapse midway because nothing is supporting it. That’s the pain that you’d feel.”

“That makes as much sense as it doesn’t…” I complain.

“I hear that a lot,” Inaba concedes.

“I don’t think I see the issue, though. If I’m pain, I just come right back, don’t I?” I point out.

“Well… ehhh… kind of, but also not really,” she uncertainly states. “I can’t, under good conscience, let you leave in case you’d get hurt again because of the same injury. Not to mention, I can’t allow you to leave if you’re fine with getting hurt intentionally.”

“So you’re saying I’m on bed arrest for my own good,” I paraphrase.

“Well, I’m not that good at explaining things, but if that’s what you want to think of it as, I can’t stop you,” she parses her words while twiddling her fingers.

“But you will stop me from leaving?”

She loses some of her lameness when she says, “Undeniably. And I wouldn’t lose to this cat, either, if it means Master’s good name is on the line.”

“Hey, don’t look at me, I never said anything about fighting you, rabbit,” Chen defers attention from herself.

I stay silent for a moment or two, considering if I’m okay with this. While I want to be of direct help for Hina alongside the others still there, I also can’t be a bastard and have Inaba on my ass while doing so.

“… fine,” I relent. “I’ll stay here for the time being, but you’ll have to kill me if you want me to sit still while I’m here.”

“Ha!” a largely muffled snort comes from nearby. I look at Inaba for some explanation. She gets up to reel back more of the curtain from my bed. I see that I’m in a room with other curtained beds around it, a wooden hospital center of sorts. She continues over to another of the curtains and slides the covers out of the way.

A blue haired mass of bandages looks over. Even in a white gown and hair let down I can tell that it’s Nitori. Not because I know her, but because obviously she’d be the only person in reason to have her entire head bandaged up.

“He can see you,” Inaba tells the clump of wrappings.

“Mm. Yo!” the mummy greets, most of the sound muffled.

“Nitori..? Right, I can’t be surprised, Chen already brought you here earlier,” I remember. “How are you doing, I guess I should ask?”

Instead of even attempting to answer the question, Nitori points over to the rabbit nurse to give explanation. Inaba is looking towards me, though, so I point out the gesture for her.

“Ah! Right. Nitori is doing alright, but much of her face needs reconstitution. The bleeding was quick to subside but the majority of her face is still unwell. Her eyes will also take some time to regenerate. Thankfully, the brain damage was minimal, so it won’t take anywhere near as long to heal,” the nurse lists off.

“Youkai can get brain trauma?” I ask out of curiosity.

Inaba looks back, somewhat dumbfounded, and replies, “Yeah, why wouldn’t they? Unlike humans they can heal it off, but they can still get hurt physically like that.”

I shake my head, sarcastically commenting, “Yeah, of course. Why wouldn’t people whose bodies are made through some spiritual magical nonsense not have brains?”

Inaba harrumphs, but doesn’t further argue my point.

I continue to prod Nitori, “So are you mad about getting hurt at all? I know you were dragged into this and all.”

I’m worried that Nitori doesn’t hear me, but am proven wrong when she swats away the idea. This is even more surprising given Nitori’s usual attitude with me. I thought she’d take the whole thing personally even though it was by chance. I won’t look that gift horse in the mouth, though.

It’s too bad that she’s been so injured. It would have been a great help if she worked with me or Sanae for that trial. She isn’t moving around too much when literally missing eyes, though. A fair bit utilitarian of me, but I need to consider options I have to support the cause when I’m anchored down to a hospital.

On that line of thought, I look over to Inaba and ask, “Do you have pen and paper that I can use?”

The nurse thinks on the question before nodding and leaving the room. I’m thankful that I don’t have to make some argumentative point for every request in here. It was starting to feel like she wouldn’t even let me out of this bed.

“What do you need writing stuffs for?” Chen questions, relaxing back onto my lap in a curl.

I naturally go to pet her head, taking care to avoid an ear piercing. She mumbles in a little agitation at first, but decides to ignore it when I slow down.

“It’s going to be important that we have as much information as possible on hand,” I respond. “That includes observations from each person that was inside the barrier. I think it’s obvious enough to say that my perspective was different from Sanae and Mokou’s.”

“Why would that be obvious to me?” Chen retorts. “It’s not like I was there. Is that really gonna help in some dumb court trial, anyway?”

I consider her point and admit, “Maybe… maybe not. There’s no way to tell. Either way, I still have a job that I’m supposed to do, so coming to a better understanding of whatever this was would be good.”

“Eh, whatever you say,” Chen dismisses.

After waiting some time I notice that my belongings are set onto a side table to my left outside of the curtain. Not my backpack, sadly. I move over to grab the watch on top, but a sharp stab from my shoulder reminds me to not try anything unnecessary. I leave it be and continue waiting for Inaba to return with some writing utensils.

As I’m sitting around, another line of thought starts to take over. Passive at first, but domineering after being left to fester.

Politics. The tengu, or even just all of Gensokyo, don’t seem to be immune to nonsense power struggles. People always trying to get a hand up on other people. I saw it with the yamawaro and Yakumo, but this is different.

Meaningless efforts like this never leave anyone happy. It’s an idiotic play to throw someone’s name under the bus, and anyone even tangentially related. In a world where people are literally able to be made of magic that sciences can’t explain, I guess this is just something of a disappointment.

But that’s probably just me projecting this place as a damn utopia because the word fantasy was strapped on at some point. Maybe I’d just hoped that the more mundane issues of the world I came from wouldn’t be so present.

Oh well…

If the tengu are gonna play some big reactive undermining scheme using Hina, then I should use my position in the sidelines to alleviate the problem. So, what will bureaucrats try to do first when things happen?

I’m sure they have some kind of investigation team giving Sanae hell, but that isn’t all they’d do. Surely they’d try to do anything that could give them even a small advantage. But what could that be?

What is it in the real world? Something like… convincing public opinion?

Wholly mundane and sounds ridiculous, especially for this setting where the various factions living so close together outright despise each other. But you can never underestimate the mob mentality. Whether it be pressuring a judge’s decision or swaying their opinion before proceedings, the ‘common knowledge’ of something can change how a ruling plays out.

Is the idea worthwhile enough to invest incredible amounts of time and resources into? Hell no, just make a solid case. In an isolated environment such a scenario should be laughed off. It can help take that minimal advantage off the table for the other side, though. We’re talking about Hina, and if you spin her description correctly, she’s the equivalent of a dirty bomb…

“You alright?” Chen disrupts my thoughts.

She’s looking up to me, my hand clenched and shifting a small tuft of her hair out of place.

I force myself to relax, and respond, “Yes, it’s nothing.”

My thoughts really are just as bad. It’s a wonder I never tried to get into politics if all I’m thinking about is ways to take advantage of a situation. Even if I’m trying to help who I consider the victim this time, I can’t always be so sure about that being the case. That should be some kind of wisdom that comes with age. Should be.

Maybe Ran can kick my ass over making baseless assumptions or jumping to conclusions. She loves doing that, after all.

Inaba slides the door open to the room, but no tools or materials in hand. She walks over and before I have the chance to ask her where the tools are, she asks, “Are you capable of standing? I’ve set up another room with what you’ve asked for. If you can’t walk there, even assisted, then you shouldn’t be working.”

She states this with a sort of exasperation that gets me curious. That is until she glances over at Nitori, where I can feel an amusing story must have happened.

“Hmph,” I scoff, “I’m not decrepit, you know. It’s an arm injury, so I can at least walk on my own.”

Inaba seems nonplussed by my moxie. I pick up Chen from her comfortable home and place her on the ground, then move from my bed. I can tell my legs are rather hollow feeling before I collapse. My shoulder despises this greatly. After many a pained grunt and curse, Inaba sighs and supports me to a hunched stand.

“Everybody thinks they’re invincible, huh?” she comments.

“Yeah, sorry, sorry,” I remark, more frustrated with my own predicament than her indifference.

I need to lean into her, and every step reminds the wound that it’s supposed to hurt like hell, but I can in fact move around with enough effort. Here I was talking big about getting out by the morning.

She walks me over to the room next door, Chen following along underfoot. We enter a large room floored with tatami mats and hosting low tables along the length of it. I can already tell this is supposed to be a meal room much like what I saw in the Buddhist temple, but I can’t really say why they’d have this, considering their small group of residents. The cushions for seats also outnumber the tables by a good margin.

“This room is for the Youkai rabbits to eat,” Inaba explains as if hearing my thoughts. “For now, please use this table as a workspace, and I’ll let the troublemakers know to not clear it off when they come by.”

With Inaba’s help, I settle down at a table with some ink, a pen, and a few sheets of blank paper. Chen mounts a table next to mine, spectating my troubles getting seated while also not hurting myself.

“Thank you, Inaba,” I say.

“Please just call me Reisen, Inaba is way too awkward,” Reisen requests.

I puff a small, humored snort, and reply, “Yeah, I thought so, too. Thank you, Reisen.”

Reisen waits for me to check that I have what I need before leaving the room. Chen leans in, anticipating what I might start writing, but before I pick up a quill and begin to scratch text to paper, I turn to her, and ask, “May I request something of you, Chen? A task, if you want to call it that.”

“Oh?” Chen answers, prompting me to continue.

“I want to make a sort of report to the village and the Buddhists that you’ll deliver in my place. Are you alright with doing that for me?”

“My, I didn’t realize you–“

“Were your master. Yeah, yeah. Quip with me all you want, but I’m being serious. Besides, I’m asking you, not ordering you.”

Chen eyes me down, miffed that I’m not playing along with her banter right now. The glare hardly phases me at this point. I know that a stern look from some people is only for show, and that goes for both the real world and Gensokyo. Some seconds pass that Chen and I are just staring each other down, a rather comical looking scene from an outside perspective, I’m sure.

When I think she’s going to give up, she remains stalwart, tired of me winning arguments with her in the same way again and again. We’re past the point of no return, whoever talks first loses.

After what feels like ten minutes, I finally cave and gripe, “Fine! Do I need to tell Ran that you’re being a little miscreant and not helping an injured man with important errands?”

“Aww, you’re going to tattle on me? Tattle on me to my mama?” Chen mocks. She breaks into a mad chuckle at her own joke.

I grumble like a senile bastard, and relent, “Oh just shut up.” I follow up, clearing of my throat to grab her attention, and calmly say, “Chen, could you please help me with something I think is important to do?”

She hops from her table onto the neighboring seat cushion, shifting to her human form and wiles, “There’s that magic word. Something even I know is good to use. It’s nice to hear it from you, even better since it’s for me!”

“Please go easy on me…” I plead, realizing she’s going to sit here the entire time that I’m writing my report.

[Please wait warmly for continuation…]

Another early update! Have I found a rhythm? No, of course not. I’m just really good at filling space with random thoughts. With that in mind, no vote for this week. I may or may not have enough material for a proper length update next week, but it was a bit too long to contain here. Depends on how much I want to swing my hamfisted plot devices around.
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Well, I suppose getting out in the morning was too hopeful.
No matter. All in all this was a great result.

We've decided to focus on the path most likely to produce results: focusing on the facts and making a strong case rather than trying to sway public opinion.
Far more in line with Regis' strengths than the alternative in my opinion.
We're also set to get the message out to two major parties we already have ties with.

Keine will headbutt us for almost losing an arm, but at least we learned from last time and kept her informed in case we couldn't return.
Never wanna upset her like that again. (Maybe have a private message/letter for her to go with the report?)

It's a shame about Nitori, but it can't be helped and it's good she's basically doing fine aside from the whole parts missing thing.
I doubted that she would have taken what happened personally anyway, but it's good we cleared that up now.
Since she's basically stuck to her bed like us, depending on how well she's feeling at the time we could bounce ideas off of her while we work.
She's a smart cookie so it could prove to be valuable insight provided the whole brain damage thing isn't too bad, but she seems to be well enough to snark at least.
Even failing that we have the perfect character witness for Hina, she's her close friend after all.
Also, since we can't really leave and haven't really had the chance to properly speak to Hina at all yet, we can at least get some more info about her from Nitori.
A valuable, credible and intellectual source.
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I just binged this entire thing, and its fucking good
Very nice story would read again, i hope you can finish it ponignant
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I thank you for the kind words! Out of curiosity, did you start from the lectures or the story proper? I've been working off of keeping the story basically 'drafted' with beats from the lecture and wanted to know if that sounds about right.
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Neat coincidence -- im in the same boat
Great ride so far! Tanner's perspective as an older lad is refreshing

I'd have to read em side by side to tell, since it's not fresh in my mind any more.
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Not that guy, but I wanted to share my thoughts on this as well.

I'm actually the guy who mentioned a while ago that he was saving reading the lectures for when they come up in the story.
I have to say it's been pretty great reading back and seeing some of those beats that happened in the story get mentioned in their respective lecture.

For example: the knife Regis bought from the Yamawaro.
Getting it when shopping got voted in was a very organic way to incorporate it.

I'm looking forward to see what details get put into the Hina lecture.
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I start drafting out a formal letter to the village as a whole, but notice an alternative. There’s no reason to have Chen run around spooking some old men in the middle of the night, Keine will be able to do that just fine if she wants to. I can make a letter to Keine as the village representative and double up with a quick update for her on where I am. I’m sure she’s worried to death again since I’m out.

I write out my report as carefully as I can. Writing on paper means there’s little room for error unless I want to start over. And that’s even more annoying with how I need to choose my wording carefully. I’m trying to make a report that won’t put Hina in the burner, but also not omit too much information that could undermine myself later. The last thing we want is for the village to directly be involved in a pseudo-legal matter on ecological safety. The tengu are going to make this messy enough as is with their political stunt.

Finishing up the main report, I check it over a few times, Chen also nodding along with what I’ve written. After letting the ink dry for a few minutes I flip over the scroll paper. Chen questions what I’m doing until I put more word to paper. I’m writing an informal letter to Keine, one that lets her know that I’ve been hospitalized.

“You sure you want to add in the part where you’re hurt?” Chen comments as I’m going.

I stop writing to not screw up the words and respond, “You should have seen her last time. She was a wreck after I’d been out a week. Nobody ended up telling her that I was fine. She was pissed off enough to scare Ran into submission. So even if she’s mad, she’ll know this time.”

“Hmph. Drama queen,” Chen grunts, but without the bluster I usually hear in her taunts.

I continue making headway through my writing. I’m not as careful on this side, instead hoping to be genuine in my words. Get across that I’m not too concerned with my injury, but I do understand how bad it is.

I sign off the letter and whip out another page to copy the formal report. This one will go to the Buddhist temple, but it’s not going to need much changing since I made the first one agnostic to the receiving group.

I finish up the second one in record time and hand both pages to Chen. She takes the two letters and folds them for me in a specific style, like what I might see on Akyuu’s desk. Seems there’s some etiquette in her yet.

She’s been paying close attention to what I’ve written, so I don’t need to tell her who each letter is going to. Without another word she stands up and picks a door on the other side of the room to leave. She’s greeted by the outside air and flies off into the night posthaste.

Now there’s only one problem... the person attending me has just left, and I still don’t have the energy to stand and walk on my own.

My bed is next door, not here in a serving hall.

Guess I’ll have to do this the hard way…

I shuffle my way along the ground, really feeling the blunder I’d made as I get back to the next room over. I should say I’m disappointed in myself for not thinking this through, but I’ll just lie and say I’ve been on more important ideas for the time being. I get back over to my cot, and barely clamber back on top of it. My fatigue from this idiotic episode sinks in quickly, the sweat not helping with my general discomfort.

My mind attempts to keep itself active with thoughts of what to do next, but there’s no stopping the sandman this time…

I awake to some conversation near me, a voice I recognize and one I don’t. I can place the first as Reisen’s, but the second voice is beyond me. I crack open my eyes to the rabbit and a fairly tall white haired woman in a red and blue checkered dress at the foot of my bed.

“Oh, he’s awake again!” Reisen exclaims. She shuffles over to me from the curtain, checking parts of my body for… anything abnormal, I guess? “Mr. Regis, are you doing fine this morning?”

I grumble in my gravelly, just woken up voice, “Mm. Think so…”

“My…” the white haired woman utters with a tap at her cheek. “Then my calculations were off.”

Reisen looks to her, and rationalizes, “A different sleeping pattern couldn’t mean you were wrong, could it Master?”

The woman, Reisen’s master, sits in thought, pondering… not what Reisen said. I think she’s trying to go over calculations mentally. Her hand goes from an interested tapping at her cheek into a statuesque hold of contemplation.

“Sadly, it does. The level of injury must match the resting period, especially after the rejuvenating mixture is administered,” she reaffirms.

Just as Reisen implied, but I’ve got no grasp of the implications here. I interrupt their conversation, “Sorry, I’m still lost here. Reisen explained this last night, but I didn’t get the full scope. Would you be able to explain to a guy not into medicines… Dr..?”

“Yagokoro, the only resident in Gensokyo that title may apply to,” she muses. “As for your question, there’s not much you’d be able to understand, even should I attempt to explain. Do not fret over it, it is simply beyond human understanding.”

“Oh, no, I get it. Some subjects are hard to explain to the uninitiated. You get the same thing with higher level mathematics,” I console her of headaches I imagine she’s had before me.

Dr. Yagokoro chuckles, “A charmer, are you? But, I’m always happy to see someone… brighter… than the average villager.”

“Don’t say that in front of Keine. But, really,” I insist, “what’s the problem that you’re having?”

Dr. Yagokoro picks up a clipboard at the foot of my bed. A damages sheet, I’m sure, but one with a surprising number of lines from what I’m used to seeing. She takes some time to study it and mull over her thoughts before giving me an answer. Reisen and I wait with bated breaths, not sure what to expect from this.

“I’m not sure,” Yagokoro answers.

“What?” Reisen responds first. Her ears go to a pencil straightness out of surprise.

“I mean that whatever afflicts this man is an unknown variable to me,” she elaborates.

“Should I be worried, then?” I ask. I knew this part already, but hearing her confirm it just seats it further in my mind to worry about.

“That’s not a judgment for me to make. Health-wise you are in perfect condition for full recovery in under a week. I can conclude that what effects you is magical in nature. Something more obscure than I would know offhandedly.”

She sets down the clipboard and informs Reisen that I am allowed to leave as soon as I’m able to walk unassisted again. Reisen’s oddified by the statement, but doesn’t question her master’s orders. Yagokoro walks out of the room, very consternated by the major change on my timescale.

I don’t care to stay in the hospital for too long, anyway, so I’d prefer if I can recover fast. Or, maybe… there’s no way I already am, right?

Reisen stares blankly in the direction her master left from. When she looks back I’ve already shifted in my bed, getting my legs out of the covers I don’t remember putting on, and scooting out of the bed. I lift off from my ass, and am met with a bastard of a head rush.

Reisen catches me, and helps me take a few steps. I start to move around on my own as she lets go. Turns out, my anemia is already gone. Which would mean that I recovered my entire body’s worth of blood overnight.

How ‘bout that?

Reisen looks just as surprised as I probably do. I’m no medic, but yeah, no. That’s not supposed to happen. Whatever’s got me, it’s effective, if nothing else.

“I should go inform Master,” Reisen states after ensuring that I’m stable. She dashes out of the room, and quickly retrieves Dr. Yagokoro.

Yagokoro steps into the room and inspects me. It doesn’t take long for her to come to some conclusion and sigh, “Yes, I had a feeling this would be the case. As I instructed, you’re free to go, but check back in daily for me to monitor you. I do not enjoy when something is left to vex me.”

She just as quickly leaves the room once more, Reisen pursuing her with questions. I won’t bother asking anything else of the doctor, as she seems more frustrated than anyone by this development.

Before I gather up my things, I check Nitori’s cot. She’s asleep, but it seems a guest has taken the seat next to her. Takane’s come by to check up on her, passing out at some point as well. Since they’re both asleep, I leave the sisters be and make my way out.

While it’s easy enough to find doors outside, I forgot to ask anyone what direction the proper exit is in, so I end up wandering for a while. I eventually find some kind of entrance gate, and spot someone I was expecting walking up to the clinic.

“Hey, Keine,” I call out to her in the distance. You can see her feather topped hat flap as she perks up.

She jogs up to me and inspects my cast, mumbling, “Huh? But I thought it was bad? What?”

“No, Keine,” I try to calm her down. “I’m fine, see?”

“But… Chen said you couldn’t even walk last night. How?” her unpointed questions continue. The mix of worry and confusion is very clear to see, and I don’t want to add more…

“Dr. Yagokoro treated me, see?” I put a hand to her shoulder and lie. I’m not entirely certain why I’m playing this off right now, but here I am. If it at least calms her down, then that would be enough for me. I can always explain later if it comes up.

“But that can’t…” she trails off and sighs. “Okay, okay. You’re fine.”

Her shoulder relaxes considerably, I didn’t even realize how stiff it was until then. She doesn’t follow up with anything, so I start to direct the conversation.

“I’m happy that you’d come to see me,” I comment.

“Yes, yes. Obviously I’d come to check up on you. I was worried that you were wandering out of the clinic to continue working without permission,” she somewhat nags, somewhat bemoans with a rub at her temple.

“Well, I mean… I have permission.”

“Ha ha,” she monotones. “What a good joke that is. Should I tie you down to a bed after all?”

“Please don’t,” I whimper. “And, sorry to be very business right now, but you did read my whole letter, right?”

“The elders have been informed. None of them seemed to take any particular stance for or against the matter. I couldn’t tell you if it was from apathy or uncertainty, though. It could have been that they were too tired to think it over,” Keine recounts.

“Either works out in our favor, really,” I reply.

Keine grows a weary face and asks, “In ‘our’ favor? You’re going right back out, aren’t you? Whatever happened to not wanting to do this?”

“Ah, well, that is…” I stumble my words. “I’ve still got stuff to do..?”

“And you need an escort, don’t you?” she says shaking her head, keeping a step ahead of me.

“Are you offering?” I only half joke. It also doesn’t come out in the most confident tone, but I’ll act like it did.

Keine slides away from my hand, walking away responding, “Not particularly. That hospital bed is calling for you more and more, though.”

“You wound me,” I joke, getting in line behind her.

I check the time. 7:05AM. Keine came here first thing in the morning after getting ready. Looks like I was on the money with sending that letter to her.

What comes now can be a number of things. First, I’ll need to double check my things in case anything is missing, though I doubt that. By the time that’s done and I can review the notes on Hina, hopefully someone will have come by to grab me. Wouldn’t that be just perfect, though?

If I have my information and guesses right, Ran is working on purifying the area, Sanae is busy with investigation, and Mokou is supporting Sanae. One of them coming by would be very unlike–

“Is that Mokou?” Keine interrupts my thoughts.

I glance around her up the trail of bamboo forestry now packing us in. Sure as hell, that’s one white haired girl calmly wandering around.

“I thought she was helping Sanae?” I question no one.

“Oh, so then she was helping you out?” Keine notes, continuing forward. “You know, there’s a few ways to get her to talk.”

“Oh?” I mouth, curious where Keine is going with this.

“Yes, one way is to ask her to talk. She’s very straightforward, you know,” Keine chuckles to herself over my deadpanned reaction.

“Well ain’t you in a good mood?” Mokou states on approach. She then spots me and continues, “And you… are already out? Hm?”

“’Already?’” Keine questions. I immediately signal from behind Keine for Mokou to cut her chatter in a panic.

To my gratitude, and surprise, she shifts gears and tries to play it off with, “Uh, yeah. I guess it was better than it looked…”

“And how might that be?” Keine narrows her query down.

“Uh…” Mokou tries to think it through. I’ll admit, she’s not bad at being coy, acting like she’s thinking and everything. I raise my hand with a five. She raises a finger against her opposite shoulder and continues, “It was about the size of a five yen coin. Yeah, a hole clean through his shoulder. We’ve all been getting so used to bash wounds that I thought it was worse.”

“Uh huh,” Keine, not really accepts, but allows for now. “Well, Tanner. I believe you have an escort, now. How long until I expect you back in the heart of this forest?”

[x] Try to see if Hina’s house is safe enough to visit and interview the woman herself, as unfortunate a time it may be. And no, that’s not any form of pun.

[x] Check in on Sanae’s progress of investigation. Last time I let her do her own thing she beat up and kidnapped a celestial.

[x] I’ve got time available, let’s go with something else. (write-in)

Well, got something here. Not too much to discuss here specifically. Instead, I’d like to thank the couple guys that plopped in since my last post. I do try to keep details oriented safely, but at some point I may need to find a way to better organize all of the little nuances I fit in. (Kisu who?)
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Well, if our affliction has even the Sage of the Moon stumped, we're absolutely not gonna find the answer by ourselves.
Since it's confirmed to be magical in nature, I believe we should attempt to make contact with Patchouli about it once all this hubbub has died down.
She's probably the most studied mage in Gensokyo at present, but entering the SDM even as a formal guest might pose some risk.

Anyway, let's leave that matter aside for later and focus on the task at hand.
Two obvious ways to go from here, barring any write-ins.

The first is going to interview Hina.
Unfortunate timing, perhaps, but since she's at the center of the matter interviewing might help with the case.
However, she's already mentioned that she does not quite know what happened, so that line of questioning might be a dud.
We could just go for our lecture interview now, but that feels insensitive to put it mildly.

Assisting Sanae seems like the logical course, we're more or less fit to work and leaving the miracle ditz in charge of a legal defense case unsupervised seems unwise.
For that matter, what's Mokou doing back here anyway?
Did she just ditch Sanae first thing she could?
Putting that aside, if we head to Sanae we can give our testimony on the matter, since we were witnesses to everything ourselves.

A possible third option would be to check up with the Buddhists.
We haven't had a response from them, understandably so as it's only been some hours, if they even feel inclined to do so at all.
While an option, I believe this is best left for either later in the day or tomorrow, so they have time to mull over their stance on the matter.

My vote goes towards helping Sanae now.
We're a key witness and we can help fill in the gaps in her investigation.
If she hasn't heard Hina's account yet we can go with Sanae to get it from her, but since Hina's her "client" of sorts that'd be pretty irresponsible of her if she hasn't.
For that matter, maybe we think of angles of investigation she hasn't thought of yet.

[X] Check in on Sanae’s progress of investigation. Last time I let her do her own thing she beat up and kidnapped a celestial.

I get that Regis did it to calm Keine down, but to lie about his injuries to her first thing feels a little disingenuous of him considering their make-up talk last time.
I also understand that she probably would just tie him down to a bed if she knew he almost lost an arm only yesterday, so immediately coming clean about it isn't practical.
But rather than not mentioning it unless it comes up, he should instead give her the whole truth the first time there's a moment of rest after everything has been sorted. On his own initiative.
Perhaps the night after the trial at home?
Well, it's entirely possible she's already seen through him, but it's the intent that matters here.
>How long until I expect you back in the heart of this forest?
This sounds like a jab saying that she's expecting him to get himself nearly killed again. She's probably correct.
Gotta show that Regis is back in (sort of) top form by firing back with a joking "I'll be back in hospital by tomorrow... because the doctor wants me back for monitoring," or something to that effect.
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[X] Check in on Sanae’s progress of investigation. Last time I let her do her own thing she beat up and kidnapped a celestial.

Was it ever discovered how Hina and Shion ended up in such a state?
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I'd say finding that out would be the top priority of the defense.
But as it stands I believe it hasn't yet. As far as Regis knows anyway.
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[X] Check in on Sanae’s progress of investigation. Last time I let her do her own thing she beat up and kidnapped a celestial.

The healing factor is concerning.
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It's also really convenient.

I'd assume that Tanner's turning into some kind of youkai, because youkai are known to be more resilient than the average human villager, but he healed even faster than Nitori.

Maybe Yukari's fiddling around with the boundary of life and death around Tanner and that's why she's MIA and Tanner's still alive. Maybe someone slipped a few drops of Hourai Elixir in Tanner's drink at a bar at some point. At this point it's all speculation.
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>Maybe Yukari's fiddling around with the boundary of life and death around Tanner
This was honestly my first thought, which says a lot about the state of my guesswork lol.
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My take on it is that Sanae saw us flailing around with a really bad wound, worried herself sick and actually Magical Girl ★ Miracle Sanae Kyun Kyun healed us to full health
only miracles would stump Eirin (considering who she is) without this being some really terrible foreshadowing in my opinion
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new game, new ran
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As you all may expect, I am currently preoccupied in my writing endeavors. One could only guess as to why.
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[X] Check in on Sanae’s progress of investigation. Last time I let her do her own thing she beat up and kidnapped a celestial.

I respond in kind to Keine’s jab, “Depends on what the great living goddess herself is up to right now. Can’t let her run around beating people up, now can I?”

Keine scoffs as I maneuver next to Mokou, “Maybe you’re getting ahead of yourself? Have you stopped to consider that one? Even in top shape, you’re not at rights to make that argument.”

“Pfft, nahhh,” I mouth whimsically. “We’ve been over this: I’m invincible and the world revolves around me. I hope to be back for dinner. Seriously this time.”

Keine takes a second to interpret how much I seriously believe my own words, but gives up with a puff and a smirk, choosing to instead walk back to the village. Mokou stares to make sure she’s well out of range before speaking up.

“Can’t say I’ve ever seen Keine in a marital spat,” she remarks. I whack her arm for the comment. “What?! I don’t think there’s any other way you could see that!”

“Yeah, maybe, but that doesn’t mean it’s called for,” I argue. “We understand that it might look odd. I could care less, though. We’ll figure out what we want ourselves.”

“That’s cute and all, but it sounds like you’ve already decided,” Mokou snides.

“Fuck off,” I reply in defeat. “Back on topic, what is Sanae up to? Why are you here and not with her?”

“Cool it down. Sanae went to follow up on a lead and I’m here to check up on you.”

I give her a raised eyebrow to the explanation and she seems to understand how flippant it sounds outside of her own context.

She raises a defensive finger and continues, “The furball asked me to. You do remember that you had your arm hanging by a tendon, right? That’s the kinda nonsense that I would take out of a fight. Not something for a regular human. I’m no Eirin, but you got up way too fast.”

“Yes, yes, I know what you’re saying. It’s weird right now. I don’t know. I’ll tell Keine later. Right now we’re in a bit of a time crunch, aren’t we?”

Mokou just stares at me for a spell, taken aback by my outright callously casual attitude.

“Hmph,” she snorts, getting comfortable against a bamboo stalk, “guess she talks about you so much for a reason. That attitude would piss off a lot of people, which is a good thing in Gensokyo.”

I trail my eyes upward and exasperate, “I’m flattered. Can we get on topic now?”

“Sure thing, killjoy,” she jokes. “Sanae wanted to find Shion’s sister. I’ve met both before myself, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they cooked up something this stupid for basically nothing.”

I think on the logic for a moment: loose, but maybe there’s something to it. Or, at least, it’s better than nothing…

I remember one important question, though. “Where do you even find said sister?” I ask.

Several hours and many questions in the village later brings Mokou and I to the front of a quaint little bar in the village. Funny enough, it’s one I personally frequent. Well… one of five, but that’s besides the point.

The owner of this one decided it would be cute to use some western saloon doors. While fun for the aesthetic feel, it’s less quaint when you can see magic blistering around inside because of it. Mokou and I stare on in… I wish I could say disbelief, but it’s entirely believable, huh? It’s a wonder that the bullets aren’t flying out of the roof, or the walls, or the actual windows.

“After you,” I gesture to Mokou.

She scrunches her face, looking for a good argument, but comes up short, groaning, “Shit, fine.”

She screws her face into a false battle fervor and kicks open the doors on their hinges, walking into the middle of the barrage. I sneak in and stay close to the walls, observing the scene.

“Alright, you two idiots! You’re gonna quit fighting right damn now!” Mokou shouts throughout the room.

Sanae, at one end, has taken an assault against a fashion criminal, it seems. The girl on the other end is wearing an assortment of gaudy colors and jewels, turning herself into the most visible thing in the room. That’s even considering the fact that the magic flying around consists of frogs, snakes, and coins.

What is with these random objects being used for magic? First I’ve seen of it, I’m pretty sure.

Mokou has added to the madness by placing herself directly in the center lane and attempting to block all of the projectiles, but she seems to be doing so with her face just as much as her magic. The other two don’t care to stop for her sake.

I sneak under some of the thick wooden tables that canopy against the barrage, crawling slowly by one arm, and make it to the bar proper while the combat is still raging. A massive man sits at the counter, less than enthused by the event, but just as well knowing he can wait it out.

“Foreigner,” he states as I take one of the few seats still upright. “You look worse for wear.”

“I could say the same to this place,” I joke to the bartender. A number of new pocks mark the tables that have been nailed down. I had a feeling this place was for ruffians, but to see the tables end up withstanding this storm is outright impressive.

“Would both of you stop?!” Mokou shouts in the middle of it all. “We can always talk it out!”

“Fuck off!” the gaudy one, I’m assuming Shion’s sister, shouts back. Sanae doesn’t deign a response as the bullets continue to fly.

They don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. The bartender grabs me and keels my face against the bar as a stray frog goes overhead. Sanae immediately stops her firing and jumps through the barrage at Shion’s sister. The coins also stop streaming out as the girl goes to block a cleaving swing from Sanae.

Mokou shifts gears as the two go into a close range brawl, jumping from table to table in an attempt to catch them. The two girls move around in a blitz as they exchange blows, Sanae using a stick with a paper sticking out of the end for harsher strikes than I’d expect it to take, and Shion’s sister, Jo’on I think her name was, tossing out some kind of golden flames with her punches.

Mokou tackles Jo’on against a table, the thing standing proud against the force, and the three of them end up in a stand off, already looking worn down. They launch into an all out war, tossing each other, trading hits, firing magical blasts right in each other’s faces, a real brutal sight.

“Sanae, why are you hitting me?!” Mokou shouts above the din.

“There’s no helping that, is there?” I ask the bartender, carefully watching for what direction their clamor is traveling.

“You shouldn’t look for more bandages,” he responds in kind. He doesn’t sound amused by current circumstances, but he’s also not agitated by it. He’s always quiet, so I have trouble getting to what he’s thinking.

I turn my attention from the fight and point over to one of the shot glasses against the wall. He picks it up, and before I ask for my usual he lifts a finger for me to wait. Rummaging through his counter for an unmarked bottle I assume is whiskey, he pours me a shot. I down the thing, savoring a taste of another home, and think on the flavor for a moment.

“Sweeter than the other stuff… is this Bourbon?” I ask the man.

“A good guess,” he answers with a matching hand gesture. “I told my supplier what you told me about the stuff. They came back with that. Didn’t know what it tasted like, so I held it for your take.”

“A happy taste,” I reply, inspecting the bottle with charcoal pen marking it. “You really gotta tell me how the hell you source this stuff, since I won’t be fooled into thinking the village grows corn outside of my sight.”

“Not on your life,” the bartender declines.

The chaos still roars behind me as the girls tumble back and forth through the shop, but I know there’s nothing I can do about it at this stage, and just enjoy a conversation with the poor man whose place is getting broken apart by the natural disaster.

Several minutes pass before a decisive move is achieved by Sanae launching Jo’on with a burst of wind across the room straight into the man I’m talking with. While there aren’t any drinks on the wall, he’s got a proud collection of shot and whiskey glasses that would be a shame to break, so he redirects the girl’s face straight into the stone counter, halting her momentum.

Mokou and I cringe at the impact. For any normal person, that’s at least three, maybe four, teeth that will need sticking back in. Jo’on slumps to the ground like a corpse, while the counter top remains unphased.

Silence reclaims the bar for a brief second, before the bartender announces, “Oops.”

The rest of us huddle around the girl’s frame, curious to see the damage. Most of the scuffs and scrapes on her clothing are similar to the state Sanae and Mokou are in after fighting, but a large bruise marks the entire center of her face. Her nose is broken and then some, coloring the whole region a blackish purple.

She jumps back awake, knocking over the stool I was on a moment ago and causing the group to expand from her wild swinging. She’s still set in a combat stance, glaring down Sanae for another round.

“Hey, you really need to stop,” Mokou suggests. “You already lost, take a look at yourself.”

“Again…” Jo’on tiredly retorts, “fuck off. This crazy bitch attacked me out of nowhere, and I’m not letting that slide so–“

She cuts herself short as she stumbles into the counter top, catching her footing with some support from the bartender and I.

“Mokou’s right,” I say. “You’ve got a concussion. Assuming a god is allowed to get one. Just hear us out, it’ll make sense after.”

Jo’on swats her arms free of their restraints. Everyone reacts with caution, waiting to see if she’ll continue to try and fight in her condition. She glances around at the lot of us, like a wounded animal weighing her options. If anything, it’s her pride that’s wounded, and she knows it.

She sighs and relaxes back to full height of her diminutive stature, straightening her coat to act in some semblance of class. As if that could fool anyone after the obscenities, brawling, and throwing money as a weapon. A pulped face doesn’t help, of course.

She tilts a bit from her straight posture, immediately forgetting that you can’t really balance when concussed. I pick up the stool and convince her to sit down while everyone fills her in on current events.

“Wait, so…” Jo’on contemplates through a nasally voice while nursing her temples. “This Hina is in an honest to other gods’ trial while my sister got away scott free? How is that even physically possible for her?”

“I think all of us have asked the same thing,” I admit.

“But you’re looking for a reason that she got caught up with my sister, right?”

“That’s the gist of it, yeah,” Mokou surmises.

“Then why did this grass headed bimbo ambush me?!” Jo’on shouts, clasping her head from the pain of the volume.

“I thought it would be easier to take you with me like I did with Tenshi. She gave up after a while,” Sanae explains with a touch of embarrassment.

“Tenshi in particular is an idiot, so of course she’d just want to be taken for a ride. Wouldn’t surprise me if she was bored again.”

“That is to say that you didn’t know about any of this?” I ask very pointedly.

“What? Oh come on. Not everything I do is a problem, stop acting like it.”

“Using perfect possession to steal money,” Mokou states.

“Attempting to use the underground oil for financial gain,” Sanae adds.

“I’ve seen at least three separate articles calling you a belligerent in town,” I drive home.

“Alright, shut up, jeez,” Jo’on relents, hiding her face. “But really, my sister and I split again after the underground episode. I heard the place had a few too many dangerous types and needed her help to check up on the oil. Too bad it all dried up.”

“Wait, but I thought the blood pools were still roiling because of some beast Yakuza…” Sanae questions.

“Nope! All dried up,” Jo’on insists. She points to the bottle of Bourbon that’s still on the counter. The bartender pours a shot with one of the glasses on the wall. She downs it and gets up, saying, “Well, if that’s all, I’ll just trip outta’ here. Foot the bill for me, you pricks.”

“Wait, hang on!” I exclaim, grabbing Jo’on’s shoulder causing her to tumble to the ground again in some agony.

She takes her time getting over the continued beatings to her head before turning up and seething, “Oh for– what now?!”

“We still need you for this case. I don’t think you’re involved here, but there’s some thoughts I have that could be useful to test,” I clearly demand.

“Fantastic,” Jo’on exasperates. “I’ve been promoted from goddess to mugging victim and now lab rat. I have less than zero reason to help, so bye.”

She climbs to her feet, and another hand catches her opposing shoulder. She turns ready to throw a punch, but blanches in the face of Sanae, who looks no worse than earlier, ready to fight again with a smile.

Surrendering to the shrine maiden, Jo’on slouches over depressed. Sanae takes the opportunity to sling the goddess over her shoulder as if it were an act of permission. No words are exchanged in the act, only everyone else’s bafflement fills the air. Sanae does not take ‘no’ for an answer.

“Objective accomplished,” she states with a fist pump.

Before I can ask her to at least leave Jo’on with some dignity to move around herself, Sanae walks clear out of the bar and takes off. I mutter in confusion for who’s going to pay for the damages, but the bartender waves me off with a simple, “Just the drinks.”

I thank the man for his saintly nature and leave plenty extra for him as Mokou drags me outside to continue chasing Sanae and her second kidnapped heavenly body within a day. Granted, both ‘bodies’ have been anything less than heavenly, but I don’t make the definitions.

The travel by way of Air Mokou ends up being uneventful. Which is good, since the closest we come to a notable event is the tengu stopping us following Sanae up the mountainside. They are dissuaded from their usual bluster before even getting into audible range, probably paying attention to the individuals of our group.

Back at the mountaintop shrine activity seems to be the same as before, but with a number of tengu slipped into the various corners of the main foray. There might be more as well, depending on how many are not dressed in their usual white collar attire. Thankfully, none of them approach me with that usual misunderstanding, either because they’ve seen me or know that a wackjob with four burnt talismans on his shirt is not gonna be good company.

Sanae continues to the back of the shrine where we find a sitting room much like the one Reimu often occupies at the Hakurei shrine, open to the air past a single sliding door. This one has been heavily repurposed overnight to examine a number of artifacts that Sanae claimed from the rubble at Hina’s house, now strewn about a long table.

A log with dried blood on it, likely that support frame that hit Nitori. Tattered paper remnants of something. A damaged ornate doll, childlike in appearance. The makings of a regular horror movie with Japanese occult elements. Maybe we should double check if Hina had a well nearby to really sell it.

As we’re standing in the doorway, spectating Sanae tying down her captive to a chair for whatever reason, something bumps my bad arm eliciting a grunt from me.

“Oh, right, sorry,” Mokou apologizes. “Just trying to get your eyes on these things here. We picked them up because Sanae wanted to, but I don’t know why they’d be important.”

“Well don’t look at me,” I repudiate. “I need to be told what these are as well before I can make out anything meaningful.”

“Yeah, that’s true. Sanae, stop hog-tying your prisoner there and help with the important stuff!” Mokou scolds Sanae’s continued attention with Jo’on. There’s enough rope tying Jo’on to leave her on train tracks and wait. Also–

“You realize that’s not what ‘hog-tying’ means, right?” I inform Mokou.

“It’s not?”

“Alright!” Sanae shouts in excitement. “It’s time to get to work now that we have a solid amount of evidence to go through!”

“Evidence?” I ask.

“Yes! Evidence. Evidence that Hina is not to be worried about,” Sanae states conclusively.

Mokou and I look at each other. Jo’on is staring off into space, waiting for it to all be over.

“I’m not sure that’s how we should frame our case…” I venture.

“What do you mean?” Sanae asks innocently. “We’re trying to tell them that they can leave Hina alone, right?”

“Yes,” I confirm, “but we need an argument, not an objective.”

“So, like… ‘Here are reasons why Hina Kagiyama should not be sealed’?” Sanae tries a new title.

I sigh, knowing this is going to be worse than I thought, and reply, “No. You’re not making a high school paper. And don’t give me lip about the irony of hearing that from a high school teacher!”

“Actually, I forgot you were a teacher,” Mokou comments.

“He’s not a drunkard?” Jo’on asks a little too soberly for my taste.

“You’re not helping!” I retort. “Sanae, listen. Do you understand the weight of what you’re doing right now? I know Gensokyo is pretty relaxed, but this sounds serious even from an outsider’s perspective. We gotta treat it the same.”

Sanae is taken aback by my shift in tone. She huffs up, looking a bit hurt, and states, “I am taking it seriously! Maybe you should try to help before telling me why I’m wrong!”

“What is this noise?” a voice presents itself through a sliding door opposite of the open space. The goddess of the shrine appears, ready to berate the idiots causing her shrine maiden grief, but stops herself at the scene.

The mature goddess inspects the room and all of its oddities before concluding, “This is part of the investigation, then?”

“Yes, Lady Yasaka!” Sanae immediately answers. She points to me and continues, “He’s being rude and interruptive, though!”

The goddess Yasaka stares me dead in the eyes, evoking an image of a predator to prey. She seems to size me up quickly, maybe having also done so when we spoke at the barrier, and calmly states, “Good. Be as rude as you need to. Maybe our girl will learn something.”

The venerable goddess leaves the scene without another word. We’re not sure how to comment on her words, harsh as they were.

Well, that’s a lie. One of us does…

“Mommy doesn’t wanna give you love?” Jo’on jeers from her captivity.

Sanae kicks her over through a sliding door along the side wall into another room, still bound to the chair. Jo’on moans for a few minutes due to the continued head trauma. It’s probably head trauma at this point, anyway.

Sanae isn’t faring much better, clearly holding back some tears, chanting to convince herself, “I can do this. I can do this!”

How old is this girl? Maybe I wasn’t entirely off to think she was acting young for her age. Sadly, that means a temperamental ego to fight off. It doesn’t help that she’s this emotional after a bit of prodding. No help from a certain pestilence god, either.

I don’t want this to be some kind of moral dilemma, though. I just want to get to work. What to do?

[x] Help guide Sanae in making a case based on what we have and know currently. It may take a while to get her to focus, though.

[x] Convince Sanae to let me take charge of the investigation itself. I could run some risk intervening in the matter at this stage, but the tengu seem to care less about appearances, so I shouldn’t, either.

[x] Maybe there’s another angle I’m not thinking of, yet.

Took a while. Touhou 19 may or may not have collapsed my creative mind for the better part of a week. Hopefully this piece with Sanae here doesn’t seem too blunt, it was hard to get across an idea of ‘ditziness’ without it turning into sheer incompetence. Also, I like the idea of Jo’on just constantly being angry at everything, it amuses me.
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>Good. Be as rude as you need to. Maybe our girl will learn something.

Tutor route unlocked???

Honestly, this brand of "Sanae woke up and chose violence today" is very on par with Touhou 19 Sanae, so it's actually pretty funny seeing the similarities.

I'm not entirely sure what route to go for for today's choice.

It seems to be a relatively simple choice of who is going to be the lead investigator, but there's some more nuance to it.

Helping Sanae build her case sounds like the path of least resistance, we help her on her way and she'll probably have at least a decent case by the end of it.
However, there's also the problem that it's Sanae. Her, uh, modus operandi of throwing stuff at the wall (or through it in Jo'on's case) and seeing what sticks combined with leaning on her miracle powers might not be the most useful skillset for a courtroom setting.
It sounds to be the less likely of the two to succeed if we base the odds purely on courtroom performance.
There's also the part about "making a case on what we have and know currently."
Does this mean we would not further investigate?
I can't say that is wise; we haven't even been briefed on the current evidence, so making that kind of call seems premature.

The alternative is taking the role of lead investigator.
The pragmatic option; we're more likely to build a solid case when Regis has the reins.
As the option states though, we'd be trading the risk of the case itself being flimsy for something else: Sanae has already officially been chosen as the defense.
If we just take over now it might damage our position from the get go.
On the flip side, with our hands on the steering wheel we might uncover some angle of the investigation Sanae hasn't followed yet, but that's only a possibility.

As it stands, there's not really enough info for me to vote either way.
Maybe we could hear from Sanae what she's scraped together, first?
Failing that, we do need to get a move on because the time crunch is only getting worse.

Maybe there's some wisdom to be taken out of Kanako's words?
Regis has more than a little experience as a teacher, he's probably had his fair share of moments where he's had to put his foot down.
If we do have to call the shot now; what if we let Sanae stay as the lead, but have Regis take a hardline stance as her assistant. (So it was the tutor route after all.)
More than a mere guiding hand, one that actually enforces discipline and gives her more than a little push in the right direction.
It'd be a way for Regis to have a far stronger impact on the direction of the investigation without entirely supplanting Sanae, in a way combining the two options.
Keeping her focused yet having her draw her own conclusions will help her grow, but this kind of approach would probably frustrate Sanae and possibly make her resent him for it in the end.
With somebody's life at stake, acting the villain is probably a sacrifice he'll have to make; if anything he's got the snark to pull it off.

I'd still like to hear about the evidence first if at all possible to see if there's any obvious gaps whether that's in her logic, the case itself or otherwise.
Maybe there's more investigating to be done.
For example, Suwako still hasn't been consulted as an expert witness as far as we know.

[X] Sanae's in charge, but you will absolutely be "as rude as you need to." This requires a stern hand.
-[X] Calm Sanae down. What has she actually found out so far?
--[X] Has Sanae been able to contact Suwako yet?

This is the best I've come up with right now, but I'm still somewhat on the fence about it.
There's always the risk of Sanae cracking under the pressure, but I'd like to think that she's made of stronger stuff, emotional or not.
I can only hope I properly delineated the methodology I'm going for here.
Going to think on it all some more and I look forward to others' thoughts on this.

P.S. If we do manage to whip Sanae into shape as a somewhat competent rhetorician by the end of this, Kanako might look upon us favourably.
Could be good to have a god's approval in your back pocket.
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[x] Help guide Sanae in making a case based on what we have and know currently. It may take a while to get her to focus, though.

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[x] Maybe there’s another angle I’m not thinking of, yet.
Let's turn our thinking around.
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Isn't that supposed to be the write-in option?
If not, I completely misread that.
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It is the write in option, correct. My mistake for not noting it.
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[x] Help guide Sanae in making a case based on what we have and know currently. It may take a while to get her to focus, though.

I'll just be breaking this three way tie.
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>>44263 here

I just realised I never really made clear whether what I wrote was just a Sanae vote or a write-in.
My apologies.
Thinking about it now I'm actually not entirely sure.
I suppose in essence it is a Sanae vote, but the way to go about guiding her is a little different than the default option implies; which would make it its own thing and thus a write-in?
Since at its core it is a Sanae vote it probably makes the most sense to regard it as such.
If my methodology does in fact prove incompatible with the writer's idea for the route, however, then feel free to just ignore my added stipulations to keep the vote clear in case of a tie.
If at all possible I would like my sub-questions to be preserved if this happens, more information is never bad in a situation like this.
On that note though; was there really a three way tie?
The one person who chose the specific write-in option did not really write anything in per se, presumably due to a misunderstanding.
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[x] Help guide Sanae in making a case based on what we have and know currently. It may take a while to get her to focus, though.

Well… it would be better if Sanae does this herself. Wouldn’t want the tengu to have anything that could throw the trial off course. However, that doesn’t mean that she’ll be on her own.

Sanae isn’t in the right mind to get down to business, so I might need to be heavy handed with it, if I’m understanding Yasaka correctly.

“Sanae,” I address the emotional girl.

“Hm?” she responds, tone detached, while getting out writing materials and minor observational tools. Interestingly, there’s some talismans and ropes snuck into an old box.

She’s lost a lot of her cheer from earlier, probably from the criticisms everyone’s been giving her. Maybe a bit of positive reinforcement could help steer her back on track, use the critiques as a fuel to do more.

“Sanae, look at me,” I address her again, blustering up more of the ‘old mean guy’ tone.

Mokou gives me an odd look, unsure of how I’m following through on this.

Sanae sighs, turning to me and dismissing with, “Do you want me to take this work seriously or do you want me to stop and listen to you?”

“Simmer if you want, that’s fine, but I’ll ask the same back to you. Do you want to seriously do this job?” I ask with emphasis that this is a question, not rhetorical.

She takes a moment to think on the question, unsure if there’s some deeper meaning to it. She shakes herself from the thought and stands upright, opposing me. She’s screwed up her face to try and hide her instabilities, but not too well.

“Yes. Hina is kind, and shouldn’t have to deal with this,” she affirms. At least her voice doesn’t hitch up, belying her expression.

“Good,” I reply. “That means you’re motivated.”

Sanae sighs once more, and asks, “What are you even saying? I don’t get it.”

“I don’t think I’m following this motivational talk, either,” Mokou comments, sitting down at one side of the long table and glancing over at Jo’on’s feet from the room over.

“Who said this was any motivational talk?” I question. The two eye me with even more confusion, now. Following up, I raise my voice, faking a surge of energy. “I could care less about worthless words like that! If you’re motivated to do something, then do it. Sanae, what is the first thing you think we should be doing right now?”

“Huh?” Sanae reels a bit at my sudden shift in tone. “Uh, what I was about to start doing, I guess.”

“Come on, use your words, what are you doing?”

“E-examining what we know right now and what we have available!” she states, more in a cadence now.

“Then let’s start. I want to hear your entire thought process. Every detail! Remember, we’re arguing with a bunch of assholes why they shouldn’t go one step of killing an innocent woman,” I command to the girl.

She flinches, maybe realizing the severity we’ve been ignoring up to now. Were she trained to, she would most certainly salute when saying, “R-right!”

Sanae gets the rest of the materials ready, moving with a terrified fervor while I hover over her. Mokou looks on, giving me a bit of a sideways nod for my unorthodox methods. What I’ve said is only what I think, though. I hate motivational talks, because they never lead to someone really getting their shit together. If they want to do something, they’ll tell you, and you can help from there. It doesn’t matter if neither of us are practiced lawyers or whatever, that’s not the point of what we’re doing.

We’re here to help Hina. Maybe spite the tengu. That’s a nice bonus for giving us the runaround.

In her fluster, Sanae writes a new angle of attack, Reasons Sealing Hina is Wrong.

While I appreciate the more pointed thought, I take a couple of minutes to elaborate a stronger statement. We rework the argument to, Sealing Hina Kagiyama is without fair reason.

“But how does this help us? Why bother?” Sanae asks after I set the pen back down.

“It shouldn’t. It’s incomplete right now,” I explain. “We need information to put a ‘because of’ after that.”

“I don’t get it,” Sanae continues. “What’s the point in being so picky about the wording?”

“The devil is always in the details, and so we need to be very thorough in everything we do. That includes writing everything we think of. Not because it’s better to put it in writing, but because we may forget about it later as we continue to hunt for the argument we want. This statement here is meant to keep our attention.”

“You’re not doing a good job explaining this, you know,” Mokou stops me. “Tell us something we get.”

I pin my eyes to her, narrowing in distaste for being interrupted in the middle of a point. I don’t really mind, but it’s become a habit to try and stop people from doing it too often.

I clear my throat, skipping forward a small bit in my speech, and point to the table, “These things you found, why are they here?”

“They had a lot of misfortune in them, I could feel it,” Sanae answers. “I figured they could be important.”

“They could be, but why? Pick one, let’s take a look at it.”

She picks up the scraps of paper and presents them to me.

“Can you tell me what that is? To me this just looks like any other ripped up paper,” I prompt the girl.

“This is… I think it’s one of the paper dolls that Hina makes around the end of winter, for Hina Matsuri,” Sanae inspects the item.

“Is that the only one that has misfortune in it, or were there more at her house?”

“There were more with misfortune in them, but this pile felt… hotter? Kind of like some kindling that wasn’t cooled right. It was also the only one ripped up,” Sanae attempts to elaborate.

“So then what do you think it is? Why would it be important?”

“It’s… maybe she was carrying it when Shion possessed her? It has the same feeling as that black fog.”

She walks across the room and hands it over to Mokou as well, who says, “Oh, yeah. That feels like the same nasty stuff. I’m no expert, but it’s hard to mistake that.”

“So then,” I finish, “why is that important to the case, specifically our argument that Hina should not be sealed? It’s fine if you think it doesn’t, of course.”

“... No. I don’t think this helps us prove anything,” Sanae concludes. I wave my hand in circles for her to continue. She mutters, but follows up with, “This only shows that when Hina and Shion are together, misfortune maybe gets more powerful.”

“Maybe?” I ask. “Does it or does it not? It sounds like you already knew before.”

“It does,” Sanae stakes down.

“Alright, so stuff near Hina when she’s possessed gets a worse kind of misfortune. We already knew her ability, but this confirms that misfortune piles around Hina even when Shion possesses part of her.”

“That doesn’t really help, though?” Sanae asks in confusion of my point.

“For right now it doesn’t, but as we keep going, that might not be the case,” I explain. “So, instead of keeping it in the back of our heads, let’s put it to paper.”

Sanae follows my instructions and does just that. We take time to construct a format for the various items, even though we conclude that none of them help us. In fact, if anything, they would hurt our side of the case.

Before moving on, though, I ask, “So, you two keep saying you’re not experts, but have you seen your other Goddess, Sanae? We tried yesterday, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need her now.”

Sanae thinks on it, and elucidates, “Lady Kanako said… Lady Suwako might be hiding to keep herself out of the current situation. She doesn’t like being associated with misfortune, even though she has the native misfortune god with her.”

“Well… we’ll have to do without, then,” I say. It does stick with me, as it’s odd for that goddess to have no involvement even though Yasaka is at the helm, but I can only wonder what’s happening there.

Regardless, now that I’ve directed Sanae to the materials we have, we’ve exhausted what we can infer. Sadly nothing of use to us, but definitely a heads up for whatever the tengu might argue.

Now before we run back out to continue investigating Hina’s area, the main point of interest: Jo’on.

It’s odd that Jo’on didn’t come up except as an after thought to the case. The others sound so certain that she must have something to do with this. Even I’ve seen plenty of evidence to say that she’s not too good of a person, and generally shouldn’t be trusted.

Sanae props Jo’on back up, the mass of rope still looking ridiculous, especially since we all know it wouldn’t hold her. The black mass plaguing the center of her face hasn’t healed, or only done so little that I can’t tell.

“Have you decided to let me go yet?” she asks. Her voice is at least clear now, less nasal to the tone.

“No, no yet,” Sanae refutes with a cheerful expression. “We need to ask questions. Then we’ll see.”

Jo’on rolls her eyes, and points out, “I’ve already told you that my sister and I split a while ago. I can’t give you anything you probably couldn’t figure out by asking her.”

“Sure you can,” I argue. “Here’s one: if you wanted to get your sister to do something, what would you do?”

She stares at me with vile intent, saying, “What the hell would you do with that?”

“Did you listen to what I was saying earlier?”

“Not a word,” she proudly claims. “I was taking a beauty rest as you idiots were playing law.”

Mokou pipes up from her seat next to us, “To be fair, that is a pretty gross question.”

“Jo’on, please. We want you to help us,” Sanae pleads.

“Well I don’t want to help you. This is the same as usual, you ask from me and I don’t get anything in return.”

“Jo’on, that’s not the problem.”

“Sanae, hang on,” I stop her. She looks at me with a curiosity of why I would do so. Mokou does as well. I let a stiff knee go to the floor, making sure I have good balance on it. It wouldn’t be fun to fall on my recovering shoulder.

“Are you going to give me a ring?” Jo’on mocks. “I’m more expensive than some homeless old man could even look at without being stabbed.”

“No,” I assert. “I’m here because it’s annoying to talk down to someone. I try not to do it with students, and I don’t try to do it with people who think they’re better than everyone.”

“Well aren’t you cocky?” she appraises.

“I’d prefer ‘sick of other people’s shit,’ but that sounds more polite,” I banter. “Now in all seriousness, because I haven’t used that word enough, apparently, you have as much reason to worry about this case as we do.”

“That’s a load of bull,” Jo’on crudely calls.

“What I find bull is that your sister isn’t on trial, too,” I argue.

“Woah,” Mokou reacts. “That’s harsh, ain’t it?”

I hold up a hand, hoping to continue. Mokou doesn’t persist, and Sanae is shocked that I shifted tone so suddenly.

Jo’on puffs at my contempt, “Why are you idiots acting so offended? We all agreed she should be.”

I go on the offensive, “And what about you? Do you want your sister sealed?”

“Excuse me?” she responds in a much lower, threatened tone.

“We lose this case, Hina is put away. What’ll they do next?” I ask, rhetorically this time.

“That’s insane. There’s no point,” Jo’on rationalizes.

“They’d smell blood in the water. They wouldn’t need convincing to claw at anything in arm’s reach. If you want to find a point, you can come up with one post mortem.”

Jo’on attempts to give another hot headed answer, wanting to shut me up, but she stops herself. Her brain caught up, and she doesn’t have a counter argument. It was more of a guess, but the tengu must really be some bloodsuckers if the pestilence goddess herself doesn’t want to deal with them.

“So it’s a threat after all, just not from you,” Jo’on concludes.

“Yeah that would be nice if you didn’t think I was threatening you, because I’m not,” I reply, maybe a bit too coyly.

“Go fuck yourself, you old bastard. Now somebody get me out of these ropes already!” she demands, struggling against the bindings like an animal.

Sanae complies, letting Jo’on stand again to her still fairly stout stature.

“Now,” Jo’on continues, “you can have my help. It isn’t gonna get you far, and frankly I could care less about this other bitch, but there is some sense to your words.”

In a show of good faith, she pats my shoulder. My bad one. Hard.

As I crumple over in the sudden onset of excruciating pain, she snides, “Oh, woops. Clumsy me. You most certainly didn’t deserve that for being a filthy rag, no sir.”

Sanae smacks Jo’on over the head. Again.

That isn’t quite how I wanted it to go, but fair’s fair with these people. Instead, we focus on talking with Jo’on properly now. Although…

“That’s it?” I ask, dumbfounded.

“Yeah. For as smart as you like to think of yourself, you’re also pretty retarded,” Jo’on insults. “Obviously the only thing my sister would need is some food, sweets, a present, just about anything. She’s not picky.”

“Well, I guess we can use that as a statement to say she wouldn’t have caused this out of ill-intent,” I parse.

“Why did you have to ask? I thought that was obvious knowing Shion,” Sanae asks, returning to her natural diligent student attitude.

“Well, she could have either done this of her own idea, been coaxed into doing so, or very unfortunately been around by coincidence. We can’t rule these things out without a supporting voice.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me if she was promised food for doing something bad, though,” Jo’on admits, shrugging to her disappointment. “I doubt anyone would try to see through that argument. It’s so stupid it must be true.”

I shake my head and relent, “Sure, but I was really hoping there was more here to put an argument together, not fib one. Like Shion was tricked, or blackmailed, or something. Not much is here, though. She’s almost like a force of nature, if anything.”

“Yeah, you could say that,” Jo’on agrees placidly.

“Well, now what?” Mokou is quick to move the point along.

“To Hina’s, I guess,” I give up on thinking for now.

“Or we could move around looking for more witnesses,” Sanae suggests.

“By looking, you mean…” Mokou voices everyone’s concern.

“Best behavior, I promise,” Sanae emphasizes with her fingers crossed.

“I have a feeling that was your best behavior,” Jo’on jabs.

[x] Head directly out to Hina. It’s about time to do a proper meet and greet.

[x] Survey the mountain for any possible witnesses. There’s a lot of people, someone must know something.

[x] Convince the group to look into something else. (Write-in)

I remembered to write the write-in the the option this time… Joking aside, this update was a little mixed for me. Some parts were easy to push through, but the latter half took a while to think of how I wanted to put it together. I’m always worried about making Tanner sound… too confident, I suppose? Obviously, he’s not an idiot, but it’s difficult to strike that balance without making things seem too much of a breeze.
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[x] Head directly out to Hina. It’s about time to do a proper meet and greet.

In an Ace Attorney game, this is always where you talk to a defendant. Let's stick to what makes sense!
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Sanae really is a good girl.
She has all the right ideas, but just needed some focus (and a reminder of the stakes) to calm down and really come into her own.
Was a big fan of how Regis' experience shone through with his treatment of Sanae; stern and somewhat blunt, but not patronising or overly rude.
(I was somewhat worried that the way I wrote my post specified a much too antagonistic attitude and I am happy it went this way instead.)
It also sounded like he drew on not just his teaching experience, but also his army experience to get balance just right.
Sanae's now properly motivated and focused. Ditziness aside, her competency is apparent and I'm glad we allowed her to remain in charge of the investigation.

Reviewing the current evidence gave no immediate leads for the defense, but as mentioned having an idea of what points the prosecution might argue is still very useful information indeed.
Keeping the paper scraps in mind might be useful for establishing a timeline, though. Maybe Hina could identify when she made that particular batch?

Suwako hiding is peculiar, even a bit suspicious, but her apparent reasoning is understandable and now that we have confirmation that she won't be available means we can strike her from the potential witness list which in turn will help focus our efforts.

Jo'on is unsurprisingly hostile, but Regis is worldly enough to know how to deal with a selfish bastard: giving them a reason to care.
Adversity makes strange bedfellows.
I'm a little worried that her presence might cause problems, however. She has more than some notoriety, so it might send the wrong message to some.
Well, we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

For choices, it makes sense to go directly to Hina first.
We have no leads anyway, and though she has already said she doesn't really know what happened we now have to time to properly sit down and get her statement, giving us more to work off of.
Asking any questions we have might help refresh her memory and cause her to remember potentially important details.

I don't want to entirely discredit Sanae's suggestion, however.
Since we have nothing to work off of a wide search might bring up someone important to the case.
It also wouldn't be the first time Sanae has "miraculously" found a person we didn't even know we were looking for.

In the end Sanae is in charge, but this choice is more of a "asking the group for input" thing than issuing a command, so I'd suggest going to meet Hina.
I'm not expecting Sanae to have anybody in mind for her off-the-cuff suggestion and it just being her patented "it'll work out" approach to problems.
But it'd be remiss to just shoot her suggestion down without even giving it some thought after we'd just committed to leaving the role of chief investigator to her.
So instead we should ask her if she does in fact have any persons of interest in mind.
If she does; we don't have to pursue them right now, but we can keep them in mind for later.
If she doesn't; it's no big deal, but at least she'll know that Regis values her input and didn't just leave her perfunctorily in charge to assuage her like she's some child.
Sanae seems far too nice to just assume the worst like that of someone, but more importantly it's good positive reinforcement for her to know that her opinion is appreciated.

On that topic of persons of interest though, we'll probably have to interview Shion as well at some point if at all possible.
She'd probably be open to questions since we have Jo'on with us.

[x] Head directly out to Hina. It’s about time to do a proper meet and greet.
-[X] Ask Sanae if she does have any persons of interest in mind.
-[X] Ask Hina about the paper scraps; maybe she can give more details about them.

We can run the other evidence by her while we're at it, but the scraps seem the most likely to produce at least some useful information.

But we have Miss "Can't worry about common sense in Gensokyo" herself with us!
Jokes aside it is the most sensible option at the moment.

I mentioned this earlier in this post, but I think the way you wrote Regis here perfectly showcased his wealth of life experience.

I don't think it's inherently wrong for somebody to be confident in the way they act. They might still come to the wrong conclusion or act in a mistaken way.
But in this case it is entirely plausible and believable that Regis would simply, confidently know from experience how to interact with the two situations in front him:

- A good natured and smart but somewhat emotional and ditzy "student" that needed guidance to get herself back on track and fully focused on the important things.

- An arrogant, antagonistic and generally untrustworthy person that needed the right buttons pushed to see reason and become compliant.

The former would draw on his teaching experience and his general leadership skills, which he's already shown off to have; for example during the yamawaro arc.

The latter would just be from his experience with people in general.
He's mentioned or at least implied multiple times that he's sick and tired of the politicking, scheming and other bullshit people pull.
I believe it's even part of the reason he likes Gensokyo, because he thought it was free of all that nonsense.
But even so; as a functioning adult who has had to deal with that world, it'd be more unlikely that he wouldn't know how to handle people like Jo'on.

He's also just a smart person in general. That doesn't necessarily mean he comes off as a genius or anything, but definitely someone who has learned from the cards life has dealt him.

Sorry if I misread your postscript and didn't actually address what you were referring to, but I felt like it was worth giving feedback on because I do very much enjoy Regis as a character.
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[x] Head directly out to Hina. It’s about time to do a proper meet and greet.
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[x] Head directly out to Hina. It’s about time to do a proper meet and greet.

“Enough banter,” I scold the two gawkers, Mokou included. While she’s been good to me, she’s also been acting as a distraction since we’ve sat down. I return to the matter at hand, saying, “Alright, Sanae. I want to emphasize that you will be the lead on this, but could I convince you that going directly to Hina is our bigger priority?”

She scratched at her cheek and retorts, “You’re making it sound a little dramatic, if anything.”

I raise my… hand, singular, in defense. Jo’on puffs in pleasure at my pain from over animating.

Restraining myself from reprimanding her, I continue my train of thought with Sanae, “It’s important that you remember you’re the one that will be at the table as the defense of this trial. Still, not that we can expect this to be exact to outside world courts.”

“Hmm… I guess so,” Sanae looks off in thought as she confirms to herself. “So… convince me… I guess?”

I take the offer to start a small bit of lecture, “While there is value in making a broad sweep, I still think we are gonna want to go with the straightforward approach right now. The broad sweep could net us people that act as witnesses, but will otherwise have no use for us as we’re still trying to find some context to argue our case. Going back to our client and directly questioning things is likely to get us what we need to know.”

“That all sounds like a fancy way of saying you don’t have an angle to argue still; go back to step one,” Mokou pokes.

I sigh. Not because Mokou is missing the point, nor that she’s ignored my previous dismissal, but because she’s one hundred percent correct. We don’t have much to go on, and we really need to take this back to the drawing board. Anything we could come up with on our own would be moot right now.

“Alright, let’s go with that,” Sanae assents. The three of us look over at her, surprised that her attitude hasn’t been dissuaded by how little we accomplished sitting here.

We start to head out, but I make sure Sanae carries the paper scraps with her. While the bloody support beam and the ornate doll are related, I already have a grasp of where they came from. The paper scraps are different, though. They appear intentionally torn apart, but we need to know why exactly that is.

The trip down the mountain is completely uneventful, aside from some bickering between Mokou and I about needing to be carried everywhere.

Approaching Hina’s resident forest, we get a good view of the aftermath. Most present is the giant stone Tenshi planted straight into the ground, warping the ground around it from the collision. Hina’s torn down house barely avoided complete destruction from the fighting, although half of the land it was sitting on is now an uphill slope instead of flat ground.

The literal misfortune gas is gone without a trace, not even remaining as a smog anymore, so that’s a good sign. The ground and foliage haven’t recovered, though. The area remains a blotch now more black than its previous gray, only overtaken in presence by the neighboring golds and reds of the Autumn goddesses.

One new structure stands out in the daytime light. As we approach the grounds I can tell that it’s a small wooden awning that must have been erected overnight. Ran and the others are now surrounded by a few new individuals I don’t recognize. A couple of men with skin separately hued orange and purple, and a small blonde woman in brown and yellow clothes.

Behind them, under the awning amidst jars and crates sitting and talking with Hina, is one more I don’t recognize. Another tengu, judging by the white collar attire. A woman with straight hair black hair in a bob cut with thin rimmed glasses. The glasses are particularly interesting, as the only people I’ve seen have them in Gensokyo are those that are constantly in book work or those of high renown. Also Rinnosuke, but he’s more of an exception.

We settle to the ground nearby and the tengu stands up to leave. While walking off, the entire group of people surrounding Hina give her glares. The kind that tell her she’s not welcome, but she’s less than phased by the reactions. Hina, however, seems…

“What happened here?” Mokou questions the tengu as she passes by us.

She stops and eyes us over, not concerned with the group she’s walked away from, and answers, “Proceedings of this investigation. Do excuse me as I need to write up my findings for later.”

The woman floats off, and we continue to the group in the shaded spot. Yes, Hina doesn’t look too well. Distraught would be too energetic to describe her. Hopeless would be too intense a descriptor. Depressed wouldn’t be wrong, but there’s some level headed thought still in her eyes.

“Hey everyone,” Sanae greets, though subdued by the mood. “What’s happening?”

“That was the tengu’s prosecutor,” Ran explains. “They had more information available than could be expected in this timeframe. Is your investigation progressing similarly, human goddess?”

Sanae stumbles to reassure everyone quickly, so she instead mutters, “Ehh… well… I mean…”

“It’s a work in progress,” I pick up. “We have information, but it’s not as easy for us to put it together into a counter argument for defense.”

The group eyes me oddly. Particularly the cast upholding my arm and shoulder. Ran more than the rest eyes me curiously, probably having done an estimate of how long I should have been at Eientei.

Before she can comment, a small voice speaks up, “Maybe it’s for the best.”

The voice, surprising the group, comes from Hina herself, looking down to the ground and resting her arms on her lap. The brightly colored men and the small girl accompanying them give a berth for Sanae and the rest of us to join the circle around Hina.

“What?” Mokou speaks for us first, not hiding any blunt edge to her voice. “What the hell does that mean?”

“I mean..!” Hina livens a small amount to retaliate against Mokou’s tone, but only further manages to eek out, “maybe the tengu are right to seal me…”

Sanae acts fast, kneeling next to Hina and telling her, “Hey, don’t say that! You know there are people that would be sad if that happened.”

“But… the people close to me are always hurt exactly because of that…” Hina refutes with glossy eyes.

Before I get to witness Sanae demonstrate a god’s charisma and optimism, Ran drags me by the (good) arm away from the group.

“Explain yourself, human,” she commands of me, pointing to my shoulder.

“I’m healing fast? I really don’t know how to explain it. The doctor there was baffled, too, so this isn’t common.”

“Eirin Yagokoro was ‘baffled’ you say…” Ran remains pensive in thought over the image. “Even when not knowing, she released you from hospice?”

“That’s… yeah I guess so,” I confirm. “Maybe she thought it was benign?”

“Unlikely. She’s not one to make snap judgments. Much more likely is that she plans to allow you back into your environment hoping you will come to further bodily harm,” Ran hypothesizes.

“But why, though? Does she think she could use me as a lab rat to get an idea of what’s possessing me?”

“Possession? No, that doesn’t hold on inspection,” Ran tangentially adds before returning to the question. “But yes, this would be within reason for Yagokoro to do. It may be hearsay or common rumor for the village but there are things she does that may be considered malpractice in the outside world.”

“Wait, seriously?” I ask, reconsidering what I thought of the good doctor in the forest.


“That’s scummy as hell,” I tell Ran my honest opinion on the matter.

“That will not change her view. Nor the view of others, as free medicine is too valuable to refuse.”

“Augh, let’s just move on,” I concede.

“Certainly, you will require further investigation later, but miss Kagiyama is the person of the hour, as it were,” Ran muses.

“What exactly did the tengu know? What did she say to get Hina so… that?”

“The tengu woman described the accrued damages and the reasons later events are stochastic and spontaneous. The arguments were sound given the lack of knowledge is available on misfortune.”

“Right,” I sigh, thinking through the major points there. “There’s obviously nothing we can do about the damages, but hopefully we can find a solid argument to make the randomness not an issue.”

“Out of interest, you may wish to know that this entire area is deemed unrecoverable for the needs of local flora.”

“It just gets better by the moment, huh?”

“The tengu have ample evidence at this point, you will need good counter arguments to reduce their impact.”

“Noted,” I finish, walking back to the group first.

Sanae has calmed Hina down, a trail of tears on her face from the stress she’s under. To her credit, Sanae looks unshaken by the episode, instead focusing on continuing to comfort Hina.

The rest of the group looks on awkwardly, maybe not sure if they should have stepped away to give the two some space. Their own senses of worry must have kept them rooted, though. Even Tenshi hasn’t stepped away, but that’s because Shion looks ready to cry herself.

I quietly step next to Sanae and Hina, tapping Sanae on the shoulder. Hina takes a moment to wipe her tears with the ribbons around her forearms.

Sanae looks up, and serenely asks, “Yes, Mr. Regis?”

“I know now’s a bad time, but…” I address, scratching the back of my head. “We need to keep on a schedule. If the tengu are this far ahead of us then there’s ground to cover.”

Sanae doesn’t react for a moment, before changing back to her childlike energy with a declaration of, “Yes! Right! I’m the lead investigator, so I need to keep investigating.”

The sudden burst of volume surprises the group, but it seems to be welcome from the somber atmosphere some minutes ago.

“You’re the defense, numbnuts,” I scold. “You’re investigating to find something to defend her with. A lame distinction, but important to keep in mind.”

“My, you sound like a mentor,” Hina infers. She stands up from the crate she was sitting on and takes Sanae’s hands in her own. “Thank you, Sanae. I think I’m feeling better now.”

“Eh he he, of course,” Sanae chuckles merrily.

“Alright everyone,” I address the group as a whole, “I and Sanae both plan to talk with Hina for a while. So, if anyone has something for us, now’s the time.”

I look around at the group, Tenshi seems to have mentally checked out the moment I started speaking, Mokou and Jo’on are both acting pretty laid back in general, Jo’on fishing out a cigarette from her overcoat, and the trio I don’t recognize are starting to get antsy.

“Yamame, it’s fine,” Hina addresses the smaller woman. Albeit, now that I’m paying attention to it, Hina isn’t on the taller side either. “I trust how you’ll decide to build my home again.”

The short blonde woman, Yamame, apparently, nods and turns to her cohorts, barking out, “Come on you drunkards, you heard her! Let’s get back to moving the debris!”

They march off to the rubble some yards out and I notice that about half of the structure has been cleared away. At least of what I expected to find.

“Out of curiosity, who are they?” I ask the remaining collective.

“A couple onis and a ground spider,” Mokou answers in turn.

“I asked them to help rebuild my home,” Hina elaborates. “Yamame is a kindred spirit.”

“Interesting,” I note of the existence of these oni and Yamame above ground. As I recall, there are articles detailing oni being stowed away underground at some point in history, so this must be a very recent change.

Before anything else takes my attention, I rest my pack to take something out of it. The dream-catcher from yesterday. The wood looks in fine condition even after the battering I took, but the webbing, as it figures, seems to have some kind of dark crud on it. No surprise if the misfortune decided to stick to the strings like burnt coal.

Regardless, I present it to Hina, saying, “I meant to give this to you as a sign of good will, since I needed to work with you on a separate topic throughout the week… Sorry it’s looking under the weather.”

“Oh, I’ll pay it no mind,” Hina cheerfully holds the ring. She inspects it for a moment before determining, “This is not a custom I know of. I would love if you could tell me what it is.”

“Sure,” I return the pleasantry. “Now, Sanae, would you like me to start the conversation with her or did you have questions you wanted to ask first?”

“What are you planning on talking about?” Sanae questions.

“My work. General research of her life, habits, physiology, anything I might be able to learn about her. Think of it as similar to Akyuu’s Gensokyo record.”

“You mean Miss Hieda?” Hina checks.

I clear my throat and reply, “Yes. I’m just bad with last names.”

Hina giggles, letting the slip up pass.

“I would ask a lot of basic things…” Sanae surmises. “I think it would be better if you started. I’ll pay close attention.”

I rest down on the wooden crate opposite Hina and state, “Well I’ll be stealing this spot, then. Hopefully we can find a couple of birds to kill with this conversation.”

“Is that to mean tengu?” Hina asks with a hint of concern.

“No, that’s a metaphor,” I repute.

“Oh, I know,” she jokes. Sanae did wonders to calm her down if she’s already back in a joking mood.

“Well, then,” I recompose myself. “Let’s start with the obvious: your name, please.”

Hina Kagiyama, of no middle name, is a Nagashi-bina doll turned Youkai-part-goddess. She informs me this is less strange than it may sound due to the nature of all things spiritual within Gensokyo. Her dominion is of misfortune, acting as a natural purifier for that which resides in her body. That is the reason she is normally not effected by surrounding misfortune that is drawn to her.

We all know the magnetic force she seems to have on this normally invisible energy, so it’s suffice to say yesterday’s happenings never happened before now.

We spend a while in conversation finding every detail we can about Hina’s life. After a while Mokou and Jo’on step away in their inactivity. Tenshi and Shion stick around for a time before wandering off for some reason or another. I’ll need to be sure to check what I needed when I see Jo’on again, but the basics come first.

But speaking of other gods…

“I’ve not met another god of misfortune, until miss Shion, that is,” she explains. “I could not have known I was able to ‘absorb’ one, if that’s how you’d say it.”

“Yeah, it would only be obvious in hindsight, huh? But you’d never figure beforehand,” I note.

It’s with that I realize something important. I decide I’ll quiz Sanae after she’s done with her own questions to see if she catches it.

In the meantime, after I finish the interview, Sanae steps in and I lend her my notebook for the time being. I snag Ran away for a moment to go over something I noticed. I have no idea how feasible such an idea is, but that would need to be checked after coming to some agreement on its value.

“Certainly the tengu would not be satisfied with such a stopgap measure,” Ran bickers.

“But do you think they’d have enough fuel for their fire after that?” I ping.

“A tool to separate the misfortune goddess from misfortune… If one is possible, then it would hinder their case a great measure,” Ran contemplates. “However, you must get the goddess herself to agree, as well as your pupil.”

That’s doable. Easily, surely. I mean, what else would I do, ask for Sanae’s opinion on what to do next?

… Right.

[x] Pitch the idea to Sanae and Hina as something to prioritize. It could prove fruitful, though there will be inevitable drawbacks I haven’t thought of yet.

[x] Ask Sanae if she’s come to a new lead that might be useful to us. She’s smarter than I give her credit for. It just takes a bit of coercing to show it.

[x] Maybe I’m the one that needs coercing to act smarter… (Write-in)

I feel like we’re getting somewhere now, we should be able to start cooking through this. A trial will come and I will finish this unplanned section, damnit! Anyway, new tengu will get a name come time (and when I decide on every other character detail, lol).

>>44272 Thank you for the kind words and analysis. It means a lot for me to see so much dissection happening in my posts. Keeps me on my toes and whatnot when thinking about foreplanning.
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Something that has come to me while i read this.

IF, Hina is (atleast from what i know) one of the only people in gensokyo that can purify misfortune, what would happen when she's sealed by the tengu, woudnt it build up?

If that us true, we have a powerful counter gambit to almost all of the possible arguments the tengu can make. That Hina acts as a misfortune heatsink and that sealong her could fuck not only the tengu, but the entirety of gensokyo. Little problem though

Im not entirely sure if misfortune will acumulate if Hina is sealed, so that may be a hole in this argument.

In my head we should first

[X] Probe Ran about misfortune Gods and beings that interact with it. If Hina is the only purifier of misfortune around, what do the tengu think will happen when she vanishes


[x] Pitch the idea to Sanae and Hina as something to prioritize. It could prove fruitful, though there will be inevitable drawbacks I haven’t thought of yet.

First time writing a write in, i apolagize if i break any conventions of this site
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[X] Probe Ran about misfortune Gods and beings that interact with it. If Hina is the only purifier of misfortune around, what do the Tengu think will happen when she vanishes?
[x] Get Sanae's and Hina's take too.
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[x] Ask Sanae if she’s come to a new lead that might be useful to us. She’s smarter than I give her credit for. It just takes a bit of coercing to show it.

I feel like we should let Sanae have this next bit. Because I feel like we are taking the lead a bit too much.
Probably just me though.
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[x] Ask Sanae if she’s come to a new lead that might be useful to us. She’s smarter than I give her credit for. It just takes a bit of coercing to show it.

It's okay to step back a little and appreciate miracles.
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Makes sense for Hina to be friends with some of the underground outcasts; shared experiences and all that.
Reconfirming that Hina has people she can rely on when in need is rather heartwarming.
It also sounds like this isn't the first time she's called on Yamame for a job.

Choices, choices.

Regis' flash of inspiration is an interesting concept, but I'm not entirely convinced whether or not it's really actionable.
The details are left deliberately vague, but who would even design such a tool?

Nitori is an engineer with an inventive streak, but she's currently preoccupied with regrowing her eyeballs.

Perhaps Kanako? She had a strong enough grasp of the sciences to successfully import nuclear fusion into Gensokyo.
She's also dabbled in more pseudo-scientific stunts like the cold fusion demonstration which honestly seemed much more like an invocation of the power of faith than an actual scientific experiment.
Maybe her experience in blending science with the supernatural could prove valuable.

Regardless of how it would come to be, however, this kind of spur-of-the-moment idea doesn't make for too strong of an argument by itself.
It would need a proof-of-concept ready for the trial, which would require time we just do not have.

There is still merit to the idea, and maybe the tool can be made later down the line as a way to prevent future incidents.
It's just not something I would make the central argument of our case.

What is arguably more important, though, is that Restless Regis is forgetting the thing he has assured Sanae multiple times now: that she is in charge.
In the end, she is the one who has to stand before the court and defend Hina.

I sincerely believe that she will stand a far better chance of succeeding if she has an argument she came up with herself.
The whole reason Regis put her through the wringer last update was to push her to think for herself and draw her own conclusions.

She's already shown herself to be plenty charismatic with how she consoled Hina.
Now is the time to step aside and let her work her miracles.
While providing any assistance she might require, of course.

>>44275's write-in raises an interesting point.
It's a very strong counterargument, but there's some points about it I'd like to raise.

First, do we actually know if Hina is responsible for purifying the misfortune of the entirety of Gensokyo?
The only data Regis has is what he has read in Akyuu's chronicle and some legends in his briefing.
The chronicle is understandably written from the viewpoint of humans and thus only mentions her role in purifying their misfortune by way of the nagashibina ritual.
Ran did mention there was a lack of knowledge on the subject of misfortune.

We also don't know what the Tengu are exactly aiming for with this whole situation.
What Regis told Jo'on about this just being the first step in the Tengu's plan to clear house might not be entirely empty conjecture.
Getting rid of an entity purifying misfortune, even if it's just the humans', would prove disastrous for Gensokyo.
If some calamity befalls the human population due to rampant misfortune, Gensokyo itself would risk collapsing due to it losing its source of fear and faith.
Tengu are sly bureaucrats; I highly doubt they would simply neglect to consider the consequences of this sealing, so there clearly must be some ulterior motive.
The point I'm trying to make is that they've likely considered this counterargument to their case already, because the alternative would be that they simply do not care about the consequences.

Lastly; this is more my personal opinion, but I am not entirely sure if this is the kind of argument Sanae is looking for.
Sanae seems to want to argue a case centered around the message that Hina is a good person and not a source of harm, if we go off the WIP arguments she came up with last time.
I feel that pointing out that sealing Hina could lead to some misfortune catastrophe paints her less as benevolent and more as a necessary evil.
Again, this is just my personal interpretation, so it is entirely possible that I'm overthinking this.

Altogether I think all options have their merits, so it's worth keeping them in mind as eventual subarguments, rather than core arguments.

Anyway, that was a lot of words to say I think we should let Sanae do her thing.

[x] Ask Sanae if she’s come to a new lead that might be useful to us. She’s smarter than I give her credit for. It just takes a bit of coercing to show it.
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[x] Ask Sanae if she’s come to a new lead that might be useful to us. She’s smarter than I give her credit for. It just takes a bit of coercing to show it.

I stop dead in my tracks.

“What is it, Tanner?” Ran asks, concerned that I would inexplicably freeze up like this.

I relieve a heavy sigh, explaining myself, “Ran, Sanae’s in charge.”

“Is she? It’s shocking you did not take the case for yourself,” Ran deadpans.

“Oh come on, you can’t think that bad of me,” I retort. “And, yeah, she’s really the lead here. I need to temper myself down. She needs to come to conclusions on her own.”

Ran doesn’t respond at first, only looking between me and Sanae out some distance. After, she says, “It’s not entirely convincing to ask Kochiya, of all people, to come to higher function conclusions.”

“It’ll be fine, you don’t need to be that pessimistic,” I refute her.

“She knocked out a celestial as a convenient answer with little logical reason for it solving an issue.”

“And got into a bar fight with Jo’on after deciding she would be a good direction to take the case. It’ll be fine.”


We take our spots under the supply roof again as Sanae is checking over notes she took. The notes read loose ideas, like visiting human village less, doesn’t talk to a lot of people, doesn’t feel lonely out in the woods. She’s clearly focusing on the social aspects still, but she’s being somewhat more scientific about her understanding. Hopefully this should be the last push I might need to keep her on track.

“Alright, pop quiz,” I announce to her.

“A pop quiz..?” she repeats, concern clear.

“Yes, if you aren’t able to answer well then you’re gonna be going through the wringer.”

“Oh my… that sounds intense,” Hina adds in.

“Uh… uh,” Sanae scrambles to skim the information that I wrote as well before I get the first question out.

“What is the main point of contention to absolving Hina in this case?” I ask my first question.

Hina tilts her head, pondering the answer herself. Sanae realizes the question is at a level above the detailed notes I was taking.

She takes several minutes to think of her answer, conscientious that I’m watching, though I try not to seem like a pressuring factor to her thoughts. “That is… Hina’s power… is bad for-… no, it’s dangerous to… the area around her,” she answers with much uncertainty.

“Is that all the time?” I prod for detail.

“No! No, that’s not what I mean!” Sanae flusters, understanding what she just said. “It’s when Hina loses control of her power, like when Shion was in her.”

“I know what you meant,” I reply, raising a hand hoping she’ll settle down. “I’m asking to make sure you know you’re saying what you mean.”

“R-right,” she accepts with some trouble. She’s not happy I’m leading her by the nose, but I want to be certain that she’s thinking about all of this.

“Next question… gimme a sec, actually,” I pause. “I want to be sure I’m asking this in the right order. Let me see my book again.”

Sanae hands back my notebook, curious what I meant by the ‘order’ of questions. I write them down and run through the logical flow between them. Ran checks over my shoulder to read the questions as well, maybe making sure I’m not being pedantic.

After I’m satisfied, I ask, “What is your main counterargument right now?”

Sanae takes time to think over the answer once more. She buries her mouth in her hand, imitating me. She changes her pose to point her finger up and tries answering, “The tengu are making this a bigger deal than it is? Like, we can separate Hina and Shion, like what Tenshi did.”

“Sure,” I acquiesce, “but while that’s true, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a good argument as well. Such as, say, what happens if no one is around to separate the two? Can they eventually become so powerful that even Tenshi couldn’t separate them?”

Hina gasps, “I didn’t even think about that. Oh goodness, just how powerful were Shion and I?”

“Rather, the thing you ejected,” I correct.

“A celestial should be able to extinguish the misfortune of that reported creature even should it be left to fester for a week more,” Ran states. “Longer than that it would be a grueling fight even for the most powerful of their people.”

“But it’s unlikely that the misfortune could go unnoticed for that long, right?”

“Correct. The tengu are able to argue about possible damages, but it is now known what forces can negate the issue, thus possible future events would not be considered catastrophic to Gensokyo.”

“Ah,” Sanae utters, putting fist to open palm. “So we need to look at how to say that shouldn’t be an issue?”

“I’m getting to that part,” I hold her off. “Next question, now. What do you think we should do next to strengthen our case?”

“It would be figure out how hard it would be for the same thing to happen later,” Sanae confidently answers quicker than I’d expected.

“Right,” I agree, taken aback by Sanae’s speed on the uptake. “That’s what we want to find evidence supporting, but what are we going to do, exactly?”

“We…” Sanae pauses, wrapping her head around the question. I only have a vague idea myself, so what she answers should be a well informed thought we can work off of. “We should check out where Hina and Shion fused together. Maybe they were closer together than the tengu think they were. I mean, like, physically, though.”

“Do not worry, Sanae. I wouldn’t take offense to the idea of being on good terms with Shion,” Hina reassures.

“That’s definitely one avenue to take,” I conjecture. “We’re gonna need everyone back here before we go out, though. Shion, obviously, and her sister as well.”

“Miss Jo’on?” Hina confirms. I nod. “Why would miss Jo’on be important to also have present?”

“It’s been a thought I wanted to confirm: would other ‘misfortune adjacent’ gods be effected by you the same as Shion?”

“Oh, so then her sister would be the closest we have to testing that?”

“Well, we could always use lady Suwako’s partner god,” Sanae notes. “That doesn’t sound like something we’d really want to deal with, though… Regardless if nothing happens…”

“I mean, Moriya is also in hiding,” I point out. “Anyways, we’re gonna be waiting here for a while, so I might as well continue asking you questions, Hina. Would you be fine with that?”

“By all means,” Hina says, gesturing to the crate across from her. Sanae hops out of the seat for me to take again.

It’s only a short time before Mokou and Jo’on return, followed by Tenshi and Shion several minutes later, but I do learn something of interest in that time. There’s a sort of active period that Hina has where she cannot contain the misfortune she absorbs. As it turns out, she has it tracked down to the day, and despite the trouble yesterday, she feels like it will still happen some couple of days from now.

There’s something worthwhile for me to see. Ran pesters me, knowing that I’m eyeing down the exact time Hina speculates, and says it would be stupid to go with my injury.

Correct. It would be, but I’m going anyway, since I need to see firsthand what misfortune of a not apocalyptic level does to the world around Hina.

With my cohort still unwilling to back down on the subject, I decide it’s time to move on now that everyone returned. Hina guides us out to her common ritual ground, where the center of the cursed forest used to be. We deduced that must have been where it happened since the last thing Shion remembers was being in the forest, drawn to something in this area.

We observe the opening in the trees, circular, with the tree branches just above cleared away. The ground is etched with a spiral pattern blatantly etched in the dirt. Hina assures us that this happened after a while from channeling the misfortune here, and that she could always choose to ‘perform’ somewhere else.

Choosing to not explain the odd word choice, Hina takes one of the paper dolls she brought with her and places it at an edge of the circle. There’s no obvious reason for the spot she chose, other than it sitting on a tendril of the multi ended spiral.

Hina places herself in the center, and I suppose, begins to perform. She spins on the balls of her feet, hands folded to the front of her skirt. The movement is too consistent and at a speed too slow to normally be possible. Yet still, she spins in place, as sure as the movement of the clouds in the sky. At the end of the ritual circle the doll seems to permeate a dark gas. It’s so light you’d think it was just a hallucination, but I’ve seen misfortune much stronger than this, and can tell that the doll is giving off an absolutely minuscule amount by comparison.

I glance about to the rest of the group, seeing if anyone else is paying attention to the doll. Ran, unsurprisingly, stares at it in an attempt to calculate… something about it. Mokou and Sanae are entranced by Hina’s spinning, so they don’t notice. Tenshi and Jo’on are looking at something else entirely.

Shion. It isn’t supposed to be a surprise at this point, but seeing Shion’s limbs trail towards Hina, as if compelled by a natural attraction, doesn’t look natural.

“Keep a good grip on the idiot,” Jo’on commands of the celestial.

“Sis, that’s mean…” Shion moans.

“Yeah, obviously I’ve got a good grip on her. I’d be the one that has to pull them apart again,” Tenshi bickers.

The others don’t pay attention to me nudging Sanae and murmuring, “Remember what I was talking about before?”

She sits mouth agape for a second, but then a gleam sparks, a mischievous yet innocent smile takes over her. She sneaks around the back of our line of people, ambushing Jo’on with a bear hug from behind, and begins to walk toward the inner ritual circle.

“Hey, what the hell are you doing?! Put me down before I need to smack you around more!” Jo’on snarls, flailing about in Sanae’s grasp. She also forgets that her nose is still somewhat bruised, weakening the weight of her threat.

Sanae doesn’t show any hesitance, continuing forward unabated.

“What the hell is she thinking..?” Mokou comments. She starts to step in and stop whatever madness this is, but I hold my hand to stop her. She acquiesces, maybe getting that this is my idea or just being fine with seeing whatever insanity transpires.

“Hey, we can talk about this, right? Like sane adults…” Jo’on pleads with her captor as they further approach Hina.

Hina herself is only curiously watching the two as they continually approach. In between each rotation, anyway.

“Wait, wait, wait!” Jo’on shouts, bracing herself for anything.

Our group collectively react the instant Sanae pushes Jo’on directly onto Hina. No half measures, Sanae shoves them into each other, keeping an iron grip on Jo’on just in case.

And then, in that very instant..! Nothing happens. We all release a held breath, thankful that nothing went wrong. Hina even stopped spinning, but that’s more likely because she’s supporting Jo’on’s body weight as much as Sanae is at this point.

Sanae, for her part, makes sure to push her luck and really rub the two people together, acting as if a sudden surge of static electricity would do something. When sure nothing is going to happen, she releases Jo’on, who keels over from shock, and declares, “Nothing happened, Mr. Regis!”

“Yeah, I can see that,” I exasperate.

Jo’on is quick to recover after realizing she’s still alive, and proceeds to smack Sanae in the back of the head, shouting, “What the hell are you thinking?! You wanna get us all killed?!”

“I was testing if you were the same as Shion!” Sanae explains, more emotionally hurt than physically.

“But nothing happened!”

“And what if something did?!”

“I would’ve backed up!”

Jo’on growls out her frustration, but before she can start another all out war, loud clapping calls everyone’s attention. Hina has put her hands together, looking stern for once.

She starts speaking in a tone I’d expect of a daycare worker, “Now, you two! None of that! Think about each other’s view.” She points to Sanae, implying her last sentence wasn’t just rhetorical.

Sanae stutters a bit, but scratches her chin and answers, “Jo’on didn’t want to do something that could be dangerous?”

Hina harrumphs, satisfied with the answer and then points to Jo’on.

Jo’on flinches back at the sudden shift and shuts up for a moment to think, stuck with a concerned stare at her accuser. “This vegetable–“ Hina interrupts her, thwacking her head. “This idi-… girl here, was… researching..?” Jo’on eventually answers with more of a question. The last word was especially drawn out because she wasn’t sure how to describe it.

Hina harrumphs once more, and in the two’s bewilderment grabs their hands, forcing them into a handshake. The girls look at each other, with more than a little confusion that this is really happening. At the very least, their contempt is gone. Not sure if treating them like children solved the issue, but they’re not paying attention to it, so… sure?

“So… uhm…” Sanae attempts to reign control of the situation again. “Jo’on, did you feel anything?”

Jo’on looks at her oddly, asking, “Feel? Like what?”

“I don’t know. Like, an attraction to Hina, or something?” Sanae guesses.

“Attraction?” Jo’on states, with a bit too much bile for it to be considered a legitimate question. “Not on your life I would be attracted to this European nanny.”

“Answer the question, jackass!” Tenshi pipes up for the rest of us.

“Up yours, damn tomboy!” Jo’on tags back, not missing a beat. I’m beginning to wonder if Ran or I should step in to bring this back on topic…

“I didn’t feel a thing. No tingles, no shocks, nothing,” Jo’on decides to give a straight answer. “I hope that helps.”

“A lot, yes,” Sanae answers as the straight man, reddening Jo’on again.

Hina attempts to calm Jo’on back down again as Sanae marches back over to me, her next mission completed. She stands tall and proud, hands to her hips, awaiting my praises.

“So… what did you learn?” I tepidly ask.

“Hina does not combine with Jo’on,” she confidently answers.

“Right,” I lamely confirm. “So, if we- I know rather laxly- but if we were to extrapolate from this information…” I wave my hands, hoping for Sanae to continue my thought.

She breaks her confident pose, attempting to answer me in a way I might word it, “Hina… will at no point in the future… fuse with a god that isn’t Shion.”

“Yeah, pretty close,” I nod and praise. “Just remember that it can be any god that is basically misfortune, which Shion happens to be. The point being pestilence, and maybe curse gods depending on our definitions, are not ‘made of’ misfortune. Whatever the hell that means in the grand scheme of things…”

“What should we do next?” Sanae asks, hungry to continue her productivity with the case. At the rate she’s currently going, she’ll definitely come to a decent argument that’s sure to give those winged snobs some headache.

“For now, I think I should turn in for the day. My meds are starting to wear off,” I deflect the girl for a moment as I think of what to do with her.

“What, Eirin didn’t give you any packets?” Mokou questions me.

“Well, sure she did, but there’s no way in hell I’m taking her powders and pills without something to drink.”

“No, you can’t mix alcohol with your medications, Mr. Regis!” Sanae scolds.

“Just because I say drink doesn’t mean alcohol…” I bemoan. Perhaps alcoholism is the true affliction plaguing Gensokyo. “Here, let me give you a homework assignment. Something to keep you focused before the next time we meet. Alright?”

“Oh, uhm, sure,” Sanae accepts.

[x] “Finalize your case argument. A solid foundation should get you on the offensive from the get go.”

[x] “Make a list of plausible arguments the prosecution will use and come up with counterarguments. Being the defense doesn’t mean you need to play reactionary.”

[x] “Any fun ideas, Ran?” (Write-in)

If it’s not obvious, this is gonna be a time jump a couple days over to that little bit I mentioned in this post. If I gotta take a blunt object to bash the story over the head with, then damnit I guess I have to.

Particularly for this section I noticed it was very difficult to give a sense that all of the characters were present. Such that they have presence in a scene. It’s not been something I’ve thought much about since this is the first time I’ve had so many characters together in the story with a proper reason to be so.
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[x] “Finalize your case argument. A solid foundation should get you on the offensive from the get go.”

foundations above everything
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It's kinda funny to see how Regis and Sanae are actually similarly hotheaded.
However Regis has the years to check himself and fall back into his teaching role for the good of the "student".
The two make for a good combo.

Even Ran was sceptical, but Sanae really is a smart cookie when she reigns in the temper.
Honestly rather (vicariously) proud of the progress she's showing.

So, Hina has a "misfortune menstrual cycle" of sorts?
Please excuse the somewhat vulgar comparison, but that's what it sounded like to me.
It definitely would be interesting to see the natural effects of this in action.
Maybe we can set up a paper doll during that time and use the misfortune in that one to compare to the really dirty ones from when she was possessed?
It will likely show that this natural rise in misfortune is nothing to worry about normally.
We never actually brought up those scraps, I believe.
Well, that's fine. We did come to the conclusion this is where it likely happened, anyway.
Side note: loved stern daycare worker Hina. Incredibly precious.

We got some good research in: Jo'on is entirely unaffected and we can probably assume a curse god like the Mishaguji should be fine too.
As a preventative measure Shion probably shouldn't come to this part of the woods again, but I'd feel bad if we just told them to never get near each other ever again.
Hina sure didn't seem like she didn't mind getting along with her.

Perhaps if there's some regularity to Hina's ritual, maybe she could just inform Shion to not show up at X hour or on Y day?
Actually, for that matter, could Hina not just simply put up a sign outside of her "territory"?
If there's a regularity to her it can be a static one, but if she works entirely by feeling she can use one she can write on or otherwise adjust as neccessary.
So if Shion wants to visit she could check the sign and if it says Hina's spinning, she just comes back later.
...That's probably too optimistic. Shion's misfortune affects herself and it'd probably mess with the sign or cause her to get too close for some other reason.
A shame. I'd like for them to get along. Maybe only come over when she's with Tenshi?
Still think having a sign like that would allow for Hina to receive more guests and thus feel less lonely if said guests feel less at risk because of any misfortune leakage due to her, uh, "misfortune menstruation".

As for the options, both are perfectly valid things to focus on, but different strokes for different folks and in the case of Sanae I think giving her a solid base to work from would work best for her way of doing things.

That is not to say she shouldn't think of plausible arguments and counterarguments, but that can come after she has something to center herself so she doesn't overload herself with what-ifs.

I just want to make one small adjustment to the wording of the first option: it sounds like the event we're gonna see in a couple days could be and likely is very important to the core of the case. so instead of telling her to finalise her argument, I'd want her to have a final draft ready.
You can say this is just semantics and it probably is, but it might indicate to Sanae just how important we think Hina's misfortune leak could be.
Of course, if people disagree and think that'd just make Sanae nervous about the whole thing for no real reason feel free to voice your opinion.

Small aside, I know that asking Ran is actually the write-in option, but asking her about "fun" just to see her reaction is too tasty an opportunity to let go. Just imagine the frown she'd make at him!
Maybe it's a little mean, but they've got enough chemistry going that jabs get thrown around, right?
Besides, if for some reason she does give some serious response, it's probably worth thinking about. (That does not mean she should, of course, it's just an empty write-in for all intents and purposes.)

[x] “Finalize the draft for your case argument. A solid foundation should get you on the offensive from the get go.”
-[x] “Any fun ideas, Ran?” (jokingly)

No problem with moving the story on if it's something you want to do, Poingnant.
Just do whatever you think is best, I'm along for the ride regardless because it's been a great one so far.

As for character presence, I don't think it's necessarily bad for some character to simply be in the background during a scene when they're not currently incredibly relevant.
Sure, you can have them interject where you feel they would, as you have in the post, but I just don't think you should feel forced to do so; if that makes any sense.
For what it's worth, I think you incorporated it all rather well here.
The only time while reading initially (ie. before reading the postscript and realising it was maybe done in other places as well) where I felt like there was a...
Weird cut-in?
A break in the flow?
Not sure how to put it.
Anyway, the one time that I thought that was when Mokou wanted to step in and stop Sanae from bringing Jo'on to Hina.
An action that honestly is entirely reasonable and understandable for her to do, but I dunno, that's just how I felt about it.
On the other hand, a thing I liked alot was the banter from the peanut gallery here and there, because you can't really expect these people to sit there and be quiet, either.
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[x] “Finalize the draft for your case argument. A solid foundation should get you on the offensive from the get go.”

I give Sanae a straightforward answer, something that should be easy to follow through on. She chews on my words for a spell, deciding if it’s an easy or hard task.

“Is… -n’t that what I’m doing anyway?” Sanae questions.

“Yeah, fair point. Let me rephrase it, then. Do what you’re already doing, but work on finalizing the argument,” I explain. She seems dissatisfied by this and starts to question me again, but I halt her and continue, “Yes, yes, I know. Let me stop kidding and actually explain. You could either go after making your side of the case better or looking for ways to make the prosecution’s case worse. Does it make sense why those two would likely be mutually exclusive?”


“Like you can’t do both,” I break it down.

“Oh. I guess?” Sanae more gives up than comes to understand, but she’ll get there later.

“And that’s it?” Tenshi critiques. “Do exactly what you two have already been doing?”

“Sure,” I simply answer. “… Although. Make sure to join Sanae for whatever she might need. It’s her show, here.”

“What are you gonna be doing?” Mokou asks. I eye her a bit. She seems to be asking less out of concern for the case and more for my sake, maybe as expected.

“I will be writing the incident report before anybody else decides to, since it’ll be easy to wedge my firsthand account over the secondhand information the tengu will have,” I detail to the group. Of course, I also plan to visit Hina a couple days from now, but the rest don’t need to know that.

“Will that be enough guidance for you, Kochiya?” Ran queries Sanae.

Sanae is still unsure, so I decide to shove some words in her mouth, answering, “She’ll get there, even if she doesn’t think so right now. Why, did you have some fun idea in mind, Ran?”

Ran looks over at me, and stifles a sigh into a long breath. She judges me unfavorably, without even so much as a word, only using her eyes. I nervously laugh, hoping to play off her disappointment as a regular jab.

“Kochiya, convene here two days from this time,” Ran commands.

“Hey, Ran!” I start.

“Two days from now? Oh… right. Yes, will do,” Sanae assents without further comment.

Mokou grunts with some interest, “Something you care to share with the rest of us?”

“I’m going to be further interviewing Hina as part of my research, that’s all,” I try to deflect.

“But that will be when I need to release misfortune to the area,” Hina worries, having heard me as she walked back up to the group.

Mokou raises her eyes at me for lying so fruitlessly.

“Haah…” Mokou shrugs and sighs. “Well, I won’t get in the way, then. Not exactly like I’m immune to the stuff, either. Hell, I’d probably end up burning the house down if it’s done by then.”

Done? The entire house in that time? Do those horned men work that fast?

While I’m not paying attention, Ran starts to drag me away from the scene, bidding everyone farewell. In her usual stiffness, of course.

Over the next day I do as I said I would: write. With my one good arm I write, and write, and write. It makes a good excuse for Keine to not worry about my injury, since I still can’t tell her the real nature of it. Not yet, at least. I need to finish this next interview with Hina before I open up the floor on that can of worms.

Ran also decides to personally oversee that I’m working and not attempting any insane plans that could further stress my body. Her presence also invites some concern during a surprise visit from Byakuren. She decided to check in around the early morning because of the formal missive I sent out. Not being satisfied with completely sitting out, by her admission. My injury doesn’t escape her notice, and nor does my current house arrest under Ran’s thumb. We ease her worries, somewhat, but she does leave her prayer beads with me after mentioning that I was still planning to return to the cursed forest the next day.

Now armed just that little bit more, Ran and I arrive to Hina’s new abode in the early evening before the day of the trial. Sanae is awaiting our arrival as we touch down. She says it was a wonder to watch the oni work on the house, erecting the skeleton in no more than a couple hours after Ran and I left.

While it’s pretty amazing that three workers would be so organized to get an entire house done this fast, something else captures my attention. The wood on some of the patio beams already seem to be showing the beginning signs of weathering. That’s probably because they reused whatever good wood they found in the scrap heap, but a part of me also doubts that. I jot a note to ask how old the house is alongside my growing list of questions. I also scribble in the correction: how old the house was.

We cease the initial small talk and knock the freshly constructed door. Hina greets us merrily, maybe satisfied that I’d wanted to have a regular conversation. Or at least something not having to do with the trial. Or maybe even just showing interest in learning about her.

Even Akyuu had to send a servant to see Hina, choosing not to come out herself. While for the best, since frankly Akyuu could snap like a twig in a mean breeze, I doubt it feels good to Hina’s ego to warrant so much precaution.

Hina shakes my hand and thanks me again for the dream catcher I found, informing me that it was one of the first decorations she put up in the house. She even made sure Yamame put a proper hanger above her bed for it.

While her sentiments are appreciated, it’s a little embarrassing to hear her sing praises of a simple gift so openly. But then again, the rest of her house makes it clear that she stocks all manner of occult interest. Items that reek of dark origins, from voodoo dolls to statues of probable chthonic origins, line walls and shelves in the living room, the upstairs near her bedroom, and even the kitchen.

Sanae and I take seats at a small circular table at Hina’s request as she readies a tea kettle that has been sitting on the kitchen burner. The kitchenette strikes me as odd since it not only has a mix of modern outside world cabinets surrounding the older style of cookers used by Gensokyans, but the stove is also a model of the dirt and ceramic that would usually be integrated into the ground. I know that it’s like that because the house is raised at least a foot off the ground by supporting beams, but as to how Yamame managed to recreate such a mundane fixture almost like an art piece is something of a wonder.

Hina collects some serving dishes and apologizes for not having proper cutlery and ceramics. I think she’s being pedantic until she presents Sanae and I with thick, colorful plastic cups and trays, like what I would use when I was a child. Seeing our faces, she realizes that it must be strange for people of the outside world to look at these reclaimed articles. Sanae gives a short explanation that the kitchenware evokes more… youthful spirit, to put it kindly.

It makes perfect sense that Hina would have this, considering that her misfortune effects her own house. Any ceramic plates would have a death sentence sitting around here. I keep that thought to myself, of course.

We have tea with Hina (Ran excluding herself from being served) as she tells us the story of how she acquired the plastic finery from a group of fairies in exchange for a few paper dolls. The scene would be heartwarming, if not for the disconnect of colorful, childish cups in the same view as a well framed depiction of Baphomet.

Hina’s collection is nothing short of impressive if she’s including even pagan traditions from western cultures.

With the tea drying up, Hina notices my interest in the depiction and bids us to start the proper interview in the living room where she can explain what she knows and feels from a lot of her collection.

Our way out of the kitchen is interrupted in the doorway when I stub my toe on the framing.

“Ow!” I exclaim in surprise. “Shit that hurts. Getting clumsy in my old age…” I brush off habitually.

Hina thinks otherwise, claiming, “Oh, is it that time already? I thought we had a little longer to talk in peace.”

We disperse around the living room. More of an entrance room connected both to the kitchen and the upstairs, but still a living space with items such as sewing needles, knitting threads, and an overfilled bookshelf that would eat someones time away. As well as the many antediluvian knick knacks.

Sanae is brave enough to risk taking a wooden chair while Hina uses a padded chair hugged by the knitting materials. I, on the other hand, decide to stay where it’s safe: behind Ran and with my back to the thick bookcase. I’m not risking the support beams coming for a second strike.

Ran takes interest and investigates Hina’s previous comment, asking, “Is that to say you do not have the active period defined to the minute?”

“No, not quite, but… that’s not it, either. If I had to say…” Hina wracks her mind to come up with an explanation. She decides to go by analogy, “If I had a bucket… we can fill it with water…”

Hina pauses for a moment, prompting Sanae for an awkward, “Yeah..?”

“Yes,” Hina agrees. “That bucket with the water is like me with misfortune.”

She remains quiet again, Sanae looks back to us prompting me to ask, “And what does that mean?”

“The bucket can keep filling with water and be fine, but it’s hard to tell just how full it is at any time if you aren’t looking at it.”

“Then why don’t you just, uhm, ‘look’ at it?” Sanae asks.

“I cannot. I am the bucket,” Hina haphazardly explains with confidence.

This line of logic is starting to strike me as strange. I question with less uncertainties, “Then why doesn’t someone else look inside using a spell of some kind?”

Hina looks me square in the eyes, and eerily states, “As is often said, ‘stare into the void.’”

She’s read up on a lot of bad influences, hasn’t she?

“Then you consider yourself as the vessel more directly than initially assumed,” Ran hypothesizes. “Should that be to the extent of a sense of communication with misfortune as a form of energy?”

“Nothing like a couple days ago, let me rest your worry,” Hina is quick to deter. “However, it’s easier to tell a full bucket from an empty one, but as for when it might overfill…”

She shrugs. It seems to be on a level of normalcy to her, for all that’s worth. It’s all the more tragic that she sits here on her own with this demon, others unable to be close to her.

That said, after stubbing my toe nothing seems to have happ–

The thought is cut short by a book falling square on top of my head from the upstairs banister. Felt like it was the binding, too. I slump into Ran’s tails, who is quick to understand what happened. She weaves into a hold on my arm over her shoulder, and she helps me to one of the few empty chairs. Hina whims at the bad luck getting to me, while Sanae remains confused as to what happened behind her view.

Ran checks me over for injury as the conversation continues.

“So that’s why you could tell it was today, but not what time?” Sanae confirms what Hina last stated.

“Correct. It’s easier as it draws closer, but never quite what miss Ran may want,” Hina elaborates.

“Alright, then, what do you do on days like this?” I ask, bringing a hand to rub my skull as Ran finishes checking me.

“Well… for a long time, I thought that doing my regular ritual to draw out misfortune might be helpful. A monk once thought that I would hold it in while it clears away, like dirt in water.”

“… Wouldn’t that just make dirty water?” Sanae retorts.

“He wasn’t very good at explaining things…” Hina admits.

“But does his idea work?” I redirect to the topic.

Hina stands and answers, “Sadly, no. But it would be better to show you.”

She fishes out a paper doll from under one of her ribbons, apparently she keeps a lot on her, and asks Sanae to hold it.

“Been meaning to ask,” I interject, “sorry for bringing up the investigation, but why did you have shredded paper scraps on hand? Were they one of these paper dolls?”

“Paper scraps? Oh, yes. I had thought a malicious god buried itself inside the torn one, since I was carrying it when Shion found me in the woods. I was hoping to try and release it by force,” Hina explains.

The moment Sanae touches the intact doll an extremely faint wisp of misfortune seeps out. No more than that which would fit through a pinhole.

I suppose it would make sense that misfortune also tries to actively avoid Sanae, of all people. Her luck is her literal power, after all.

Hina seems mildly surprised by this and comments, “You truly are blessed, Sanae.”

The half goddess herself blushes, saying, “Oh. Thank you.”

“This should be even better to show, then,” Hina notes, taking a spot in the center of the seats of the room.

She spins. The ephemeral, otherworldly movement entrancing us once more. This time, however, the wisp from the doll doesn’t budge. Not even slightly. Not even while it’s being ejected to the open air already. So this is what she means. She no longer gravitates the misfortune, it’s just sitting around her at this point and doesn’t tend to move. As if it were in complete equilibrium between what she could pull and the space around her.

But something doesn’t make sense here.

“Hina,” I ask her attention, “If you have this period where you can’t absorb misfortune which you described as like a bucket with water, why would the bucket be emptied out, so to speak?”

Hina continues to spin, thinking on my question, and answers, “I… do not know. I suppose I’ve always taken it for granted. Oh my, is that bad?”

“It is unlikely that anything has changed due only to your pseudo possession by Shion,” Ran speculates.

“But what if the release doesn’t stop?” Hina worries, ceasing her spin.

No sooner does she finish her sentence do the back legs of my chair give way, tumbling me over. My head slams straight into the ground, and next thing I know the three women are surrounding me overhead.

“Wait! He’s awake again,” Sanae holds Ran off from picking me up. “How many fingers am I holding up?”

She puts up her hand and two fingers.

“Fuck off,” I reply, groggily.

“He’s actually rather rough, isn’t he?” Hina conjectures.

Ran helps me off the floor. She holds me lightly to see if I can still stand. “You overestimate your own durability, human,” Ran scolds.

“Screw off, I know,” I grunt and shove myself out of her grip.

This… was a horrible mistake. I lose my balance instantly and fall face first into the staircase.

[Please wait warmly…]

Finally got some loose ends I was worried about. I reread the original lectures from time to time only for the chapter at hand, so it can end up touch and go around the midway points. That said, I really wanted to spoil myself and think about some of what Hina’s house might be like.

Also, pardon the liberties of using western occultism as opposed to true to form eastern. I imagine Hina would have quite the interest in the historical use of goats in religious practice.
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Did Regis not bring the talismans and prayer beads with him for passive protection? Or have they already burned out?

Seems like he got a full course meal when the amulets should've weakened it considerably.
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Hina having an interest in occult objects from across the globe is a rather cute quirk.

The bucket analogy is rather apt, considering what she is.
Emptying the bucket does seem like an important piece of the puzzle.
If she does purify that which he has inside her, it'd only be a boon to the world; removing however much misfortune that is from existence.

Conversely, they are working and weakening the effects of the misfortune; with this slapstick sequence of events being only a fraction of what it would've been.
Actually rather chilling to think about.
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[… Continued]

The pain comes before the realization of consciousness. It feels as if my skull is cracking across my entire head. Even the pillow my head is on makes the feeling worse. I open my eyes more easily than time I was in a hospital bed, understanding that no amount of lying down will make the feeling go away.

To my surprise, I’m not in a hospital bed. With only a glance I can tell this is still Hina’s home. Ran stands tall beside the head of the bed. It’s an amusing sight since with the bed is stuffed into the corner and the triangular roof sloping down so much, Ran is forced to lean forward.

“He is awake,” Ran calls to the rest of the home.

I roll up in the bed, intense vertigo washing over me. I hold myself steady, Ran lending a hand as well, and sit along the edge. I don’t look up to check, but hear Hina and Sanae clamber the top of the stairs .

“How is he?” Sanae asks, noticing my lack of motion.

“Regis is highly likely to have a concussion,” Ran states. “A migraine is also possible, but it is not possible to determine how long either may last.”

Hina kneels next to me, clasping my hand and saying, “I’m so sorry that I keep doing this to you.”

“No… you’re alright,” I manage to speak out.

“Well I don’t think you’re alright,” Sanae says to me. “Ran, shouldn’t you take him to the hospital? I mean– Eientei.”

Ran puffs and answers, “Yagokoro will certainly prescribe him more pain reducers. Anti-inflammatory medicines were already prescribed. Let him feel the consequences of his choices for longer.”

“Yeah, yeah, you’re always right,” I grumble to the devil woman.

Sanae stutters a bit, unsure if she wants to argue with Ran or not. I appreciate her concern for me, even if it’s undeserved.

“Tanner? How are you feeling?” Hina asks.

“Like a hammer was dropped on my head,” I answer.

“Without the amount of protection you adorned on your person, it would have been far more than a comical metaphor,” Ran warns.

We settle down for a brief moment. A welcome respite for my head, as I let it sort itself.

Sanae breaks the silence with the obvious question, “So, will he be able to go to the trial tomorrow?”

“I’ll be there,” I somewhat slur out in my haste.

Ran bickers with my answer, “He will attend so long as Yagokoro does not disagree. How helpful you may find him is an entirely separate question… Hm. Perhaps it would be best to expedite him to Eientei immediately, after all.”

“Oh?” Hina mutters as Ran shifts in front of her, moving to grab me from the bed.

I don’t bother arguing, even if Ran did leave me here I would complain nonstop to get some pain medication for my damn migraine. I’m only on a small dosage to help with my shoulder’s healing, a bit of pain tells me if something goes wrong, Dr. Yagokoro said…

I wonder if she was bullshitting me?

One trip to the clinic, and one disappointed doctor writing me off, later, and we’re back at Keine’s for the evening.

Keine is only somewhat surprised by my dangerous trip out, but is otherwise relieved that a concussion is the worst I received. Ran helps me to my room and onto the bed before stepping out for the evening, noting that she won’t be able to escort me tomorrow as she is part of the judge’s panel. We bid her a good evening and all that, leaving just Keine and I in the same room.

It’s been several days now since we last spoke about anything of importance, my work being a convenient excuse to let me get around her and go out today. Can’t really do that while she’s sitting down next to me. And the part where I’m unfit to work.

She’s not wearing her hat, so I know she isn’t going back out for the evening. I expect a very long lecture about my duplicitous behavior as seems to be half of our chats, but instead Keine starts with a question, “Tanner, why do you take your work so far?”

I’m taken aback. Not only from the simplicity of the question, but also by how Keine seems to be asking this out of concern and curiosity. For a split second I think I’m having some auditory hallucination from head trauma, but Keine stares me down with intent of an answer, so I know I didn’t mishear her.

“What do you mean ‘so far?’” I ask for clarification. My head is still reeling from a newly forming concussion, so I don’t blame myself for being a bit slow.

“You research what is asked of you, and you are expected to do it within a two week time frame. We agree on that much, right?”


“So when you aren’t able to do your job, instead of putting it off or going back and saying it’s unreasonable to work like that, you force the work.”

“Yeah, that sounds like what I’ve done,” I agree.


“Why?” I repeat her question.

“Yes, why? Why did you decide it was reasonable to follow a fairy around Gensokyo to any number of places she could have taken you? Why did you think things would go smoothly by living with the yamawaro for an entire week? Why did you obligate yourself to help resolve the misfortune miss Kagiyama was building up?” Keine barrages me with questions.

As I’m processing the questions, attempting to think of answers one by one, Keine sighs. “I just… I don’t get you,” she says.

“Well… that makes two of us,” I jest with a smile. “I don’t really get myself either. I guess I do whatever feels right. Only thing about it is that Gensokyo is a pretty messy place, so what feels right is muddy.”

“Maybe that’s it,” Keine bemuses. “Maybe you think about others before yourself to the point that you tunnel vision. Dragon knows Mokou is much the same…”

“So, why bring it up right now? Did something happen?” I caution to guess.

Keine shakes her head and replies, “No. It’s more like nothing happened that seemed unusual. I thought about when we spoke in the bamboo forest a few days ago. I thought about how I’ve been… against your modus operandi. That maybe I just don’t see your view of the world.”

“What?” I utter in shock. “What got you thinking like that? You’re right to worry about me the way you do. I constantly put myself into places I shouldn’t be without even thinking about it. I got hurt today because I didn’t take your warnings seriously!”

“But even with all of that,” Keine argues, “you still were the reason that we didn’t have Kagiyama destroy a sizable chunk of Gensokyo as a whole. Have you thought about how much damage could have happened if you didn’t need to visit her? How many days would have gone by that she was sitting in her home gaining strength? A lot of people shudder to think of the consequences that could have been…”

“Keine, that isn’t a reason that you should excuse me for my choices,” I argue back.

She seems almost sad when she says, “I think it is, though. If your choices help people– help the place we live, then wouldn’t it be wrong if I didn’t?”

That’s… a depressive state of mind. Not one that I can answer confidently against, either. It’s all too philosophical for me right now. There is something that I know, though, and that’s Keine is conflicted because of me. I sidle over to her side from the bedding, my balance barely able to handle the motion, and embrace her.

“I’m sorry,” is all I can really say. I’m not sure what I even say it for, but it just… ‘feels right.’

We sit like that for a while into the night, letting the time pass. People are right to poke fun at us, we really do have an estranged relationship. At the very least, though, we care for one another. That’s the best I can do.

The next morning rolls over with a strange mood persisting in the house. Nothing really came of our talk last night, only more concerns and confusion. For right now, though, a clear objective is at hand. Make sure the trial goes well.

I beggar Keine to have Mokou take me to the tengu village, but to my surprise she says she planned to cancel classes today to attend herself. She tells me that this trial is a lot more important than I might think it is, but doesn’t elaborate further from that.

Our journey to the tengu village takes a while, and is notably uncomfortable. It’s the first time I’ve had to be flown around by Keine, and neither of us are really in the mood to try and continue any conversation that might bring up last night, so instead we remain silent.

By the time we get to the village, we’re ushered through the area in a rush to arrive at the official’s building. There’s not even enough time for me to speculate what the various buildings in the village are for, much less memorize the layout.

The trial room is intensely official. A dimly lit wooden flat space that evokes stuffiness and atrophying bones. With two low tables a few paces into the room the rest of the space is dominated by a semicircular collection of draped seats, hiding the identity of occupants from the rest of the room. A single row of people against the wall adjacent to the entry suggest next to no public seating, and the low tables are for the prosecution and defense, not even necessarily enough space for their clients to be seated next to them.

That said, Hina sits beside Sanae without any accompanying seating arranged. Whether it be because the tengu didn’t accommodate her or because she decided to be there on a whim is hard to say. Keine helps seat me in the little open space left against the wall.

With my concussion in full swing, I can’t sit in seiza like the rest of the crowd, at least without falling over. I get a couple weird looks from the other public watchers, tengu mostly with a few kappa and yamawaro mixed in, but they decide to ignore me after spotting the cast on my shoulder.

Or… no. They start mumbling something to each other. It’s too quiet for me to catch.

“All, the proceedings will be started now,” a wizened female voice from one of the center curtain boxes calls to the room. A low amount of light from the far back wall allows a vague silhouette through the covers.

It’s not hard to spot the box Ran is sitting in, but the others aren’t as easy to place. Two of the boxes look like Yasaka is sitting in them, without her massive pillars, that is, but the rest have fairly regular builds. There is one box that has someone with an odd accessory taking up their sides. It’s a bit familiar, but it physically hurts to try to reach for things in the corners of my mind.

Speaking of… it physically hurts to think hard. Yeah maybe I shouldn’t have left the hospital… Christ I just had a conversation with Keine about getting hurt by trying to be helpful. Oh well, in for a penny.

“To those in attendance, let it be known that one member of this panel has been substituted due to injuries sustained prior to the trial,” the official woman speaks again. Wait… why would they have positioned someone who was injured for the trial? How could that have happened?

No, I could probably take a guess that the tengu did something on that end. No, that doesn’t make sense, either. Ran told me the non tengu judges were supposed to be chosen by her and Yasaka…

A second voice clears his throat, nasally and higher pitched. An older man, but hard to say if he’s older than the female by voice alone. He speaks, “As per tradition, I will now describe the basics of the proceedings so all may follow along. The apologist will present their opening statement and first argument to which the vindicator will rebuttal their own opening statement and counterargument. After this is completed the vindicator will open the second argument to which the apologist will counterargue. This will continue until both sides have concluded their points. At the beginning of an argument the presenting side may bring in witnesses for questioning. The panel have already been given the items of interest to the case...”

Fancy names. I guess it’s not surprising, though. Sanae at the ‘apologist’s’ table appears stiff as a brick. She’s been prepping for this but it’s test nerves with gross repercussions tied to them. I don’t envy her position, but even injured I would still feel better shouldering this for her. The tengu woman from the other day sits in the ‘vindicator’s’ position. She appears cool and collected, ready for a long haul.

“… And as such we will not tolerate any interruptions during the trial, regardless of their severity.”

Oh, crap. The older man was still talking. Maybe Ran wasn’t joking when she said I’d be useless like this…

“That is the end of your explanation, yes?” Ran asks. I don’t imagine she’s in a rush, but at the same time I wouldn’t put it past her to be on edge. She’s usually the one to be at the top of the pecking order.

The older man grumbles, “Nrgh, yes. Apologist, make your opening statement. Bring in a witness before the first argument, if you intend to.”

Sanae sits paralyzed, seemingly not paying attention. Hina nudges her, and even the vindicator waves an arm for her to start. She stirs, scrambling to her feet.

“Yes, of course!” Sanae starts, jogging her energy. She takes a script and carefully follows with mild practice, “The… apologist side argues Hina Kagiyama, nagashi-bina and misfortune goddess, to not merit sealing. Reasons being a lack of chance for dangerous events to occur as they did four days ago and the clear actions that can be taken should another event still occur.”

Ah, it’s felt like a while since I guided her to write that. A lot of it was convincing her that it’s fine to sound pretentious if you’re right. Also that she needs to be sure of herself that she’s right until proven otherwise.

This is only getting started, though. I need to pay attention if I’m to even pretend like I can be of use.

Good, we’re here. Now to fumble my way through a courtroom scene… yeesh. As for the obvious lack of vote… I just didn’t have any ideas here. Turns out it’s difficult to give a character agency when they’re not allowed to ‘protagonize.’ That said, the next vote should be a good one, even if you might consider me egotistical for it.

As for fun discussion: it won’t come up in the trial, so who do you think caused this and why? There’s a real answer here, and I believe you partially know the answer.
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aya tried to photograph the curse goddess and rammed into a wall
hatate tried to photograph the curse goddess (remote) and rammed into a wall
after that, the rest of tengu high command rammed into a wall trying to figure this out and their pride did the rest
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>Or… no. They start mumbling something to each other. It’s too quiet for me to catch.

uh-oh. I think Tanner/us shot ourselves in the foot here. We'll likely be used as a witness against Sanae or as an example for the consequences of Hina's misfortune.
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can't he refuse to testify? i know in 'murika you can refuse to testify if you know you will implicate yourself but could tanner refuse to testify if it will implicate hina?
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[Whoops, I forgot to ask you to wait warmly… oh well, I guess we’re continuing cold now]

“Hold, now,” a different male voice interrupts Sanae before she can present her first argument. His tone is brutish and unforgiving if I am being rude. Distinct if I’m being nice. “Explain yourself on the latter point. What ‘clear actions’ are there? This has seemed opposite of what the tengu know, and I believe it should be addressed before anything else.”

“No need to be impatient, friend,” the higher pitched man warns his cohort. “She would get to it within the trial. That being said, I do agree with my compatriot, this topic is extremely important to open the case with for some amount of perspective. If no chair sees it impertinent, would you be willing to speak on this not as your first argument, but as a preliminary, apologist?”

Sanae looks over my way, unsure what to respond. I wave her up, she should be able to talk about this part fairly quickly. It only depends on how much the tengu woman is going to poke at her arguments. She’s keenly aware of that being the case, after all.

“Uhm, right…” Sanae mutters, sitting back down and scattering her notes across the table, searching for the page that can help her. The room waits in silence, only perturbed by the pages flipping and Sanae’s growing frustration in the moment. “Just one second, I need to find the note for that one… aha!”

She stands up again, the silhouettes jump back to attention, waiting for her to start.

“By ‘clear action’ I mean steps that can reduce damages another event would have, if not stop it before anything happens. Ran Yakumo had sealed off the area, what we would say as quarantining it. Then Tenshi Hinanawi was contacted to help purify the misfortune, ultimately separating Hina Kagiyama from Shion Yorigami. These two steps would not be hard to do again, should it be needed,” Sanae brandishes the previous event in a simplified description. Perhaps overly simplified, given the logistics of it all, but it should be easy enough to follow that the logistics can be ignored.

“Hold, apologist,” the tengu woman retorts, standing to argue. She seems to have a flair for the dramatic, tossing her arm in Sanae’s direction as she states, “It is a large leap of logic to claim that both Ran Yakumo and Hinanawi Tenshi would be both available and willing to sort out a new event. Hinanawi especially is known to be apathetic to the needs of others, inciting an incident directly atop the Hakurei shrine maiden’s abode solely out of boredom.”

Yeah, it was pretty optimistic to assume a prosecutor wouldn’t pick up on that issue.

“It would be apt to note that the young Hinanawi, while belligerent, is still subject to reason,” Ran counters as part of the chairs.

“A moment, my lady,” another new male voice criticizes Ran. His distinctly smooth tone is nothing short of the slimiest son of a bitch I’ve ever had the displeasure of hearing. “The report given by the human describes the process of ‘subduing’ the misfortune. It sounds like much danger was involved in doing so. Even before sealing in the cause, one of our poor chair was injured.”

“You refer to Kawashiro, yes?” the old man clarifies.

“Indeed,” the slick man assents, sounding of grease to my ears. “In fact, one of her siblings is also here, if I recall. Might we have word for the rest of the chairs on the state Kawashiro is in?”

“Tch,” a woman, or maybe a girl, clicks at the question. “I’m not gonna give you the pleasure. In fact, not hearing you at all sounds much better!”

It’s Takane. The silhouette with the strange object is Takane with her large weapons box. Unsurprisingly, it seems I’m not the only one with a negative opinion of the slick man.

“Order, all of you!” the old woman commands of the room. This seems to pull the chairs into a pause, not even so much as a breath from them. “We are getting off topic. Vindicator, your point is given, and as such we will move on in topic. Apologist, present your first argument.”

Sanae appears confused over the sudden shift in the room, noticing that even the prosecutor has shut up from the woman’s demands. I look next to me and see that Keine has a stern expression, mixed between worry and hopefulness.

“Right, then,” Sanae takes a page from the table without even having to search this time. “The… apologist’s first statement is that the chance that the same event happens in the future is extremely low. From what Tanner’s report lists, Shion Yorigami and Hina Kagiyama have to be within three meters of each other before the two ‘pull’ together. This is also only while Hina is performing her regular ritual within her forest outcrop.”

“You said ‘Tanner?’” a new, younger woman’s voice asks. “No, never mind. It makes sense how he would be involved, this report is his, after all.”

Wait, I know that voice. Who was it again?

“To the chairs, then, how rare would be rare enough?” she continues, inflecting the question to the panel of people.

That’s Akyuu’s voice, isn’t it? It’s been a hot second since I last talked to her, but there’s that daintiness hiding a self assured nature. She’s characteristic for it, at least.

“Preferably never,” the brutish man states. “Of course, that isn’t realistic unless we decide to take drastic measure after this hearing.”

“Presuming a conclusion before knowing all facts is of poor judgment, chair,” Ran doles the man.

“One can never know all facts, my lady,” the old man notes.

“Let’s move on before you start arguing semantics, of all things,” Kanako suddenly makes herself known. She’s been quiet up until now, given that Sanae is the defense for this case.

“Agreed,” the old woman coincides. “As for an answer that we may agree on, I propose once within each half a century. I understand that to those with shorter lifespans in the room this may seem unwieldy, but the impact misfortune can have on the entirety of Gensokyo should not be trifled with so.”

“If I may, my lady,” the tengu prosecutor finds a point to interject, “if it is within so large a time frame and is worried about the impact, then would it not be better fitting to think on hypotheticals where it can happen?”

The old woman harrumphs, and tuts the girl, saying, “Did the chair say that it is time for the vindicator to state their counterargument?”

“No, forgive me, my lady. I believed that what you are touching on is the same point that I had in mind,” the tengu defers her pressure.

“You need not ask for apology, fledgling, now make your statement.”

“Yes, my lady,” the young tengu says in order. Without consulting any notes from her table, she continues, “If we imagine an amount of time between each event, it would diminish the average impact the events have over a long time, this is true. That does not mean, however, that each event is small or inconsequential, as we’ve learned from the one prompting this hearing.”

“Is that to say that discussing a time frame for where we want nothing to happen is useless?” the slick tengu asks.

“If I may be so bold, that is precisely what I’m saying,” the prosecutor stakes. “When we imagine a time where nothing happens, we only design for around that set timeline. Should we want only allow one thing to happen within a month, then so long as it only happens once, it would be acceptable. Should we want only one thing to happen in fifty years, then so long as it happens once in those fifty years, it would still be fine. This argument does not take into account the circumstances of what is designed to be contained.”

“Ah,” Kanako grumbles in understanding. “So your point being that we can stop it for a time, but if we let it eventually happen by believing that it can’t be completely contained, then we must accept the damage it might cause.”

The prosecutor nods, “Indeed. That would be the logical conclusion. I cannot further press this point as it is separate from the current argument.”

The brutish tengu grunts and answers, “Very well, vindicator. Then move on to your first argument.”

The tengu prosecution then goes into her first note of contention, related to the previous, the spontaneity that Hina presents to the area. While logistics for the exact frequency are highly debatable, the pure chance that it can happen as by how I reported is concerning. Even I admit it.

The crux of her argument is that tracking both Hina and Shion, both of whom are dangerous to be around or at least actively obstructing others, is virtually impossible to consistently do. This means that somehow, some way, the two will meet again by accident. It’s effectively ordained by the bastard nature of misfortune itself that the worst possible outcome is guaranteed.

Sanae then argues back that it is easy to implement a check, maybe weekly or so, where one or two people find and checkup on Hina and Shion. This was met with a lot of contention from the panel, the tengu mainly arguing whether that could even logistically work. Again, we’re dealing with people who live in a magic force that muddles the wants or desires of those around them.

Taking a page from her competitor, Sanae forces a segue into her next major point. Or rather, the last point we worked on. Most of our evidence has shown a lot of counterpoints to the prosecution, but nothing to definitively stand our ground with.

Hina lives alone, in a cursed part of the forest that is obvious even to the dullest of animals. It would be hard for Shion and Hina to encounter each other again so long as Shion knows to avoid the cursed forest if she wanders near there. One of the two would obviously need to be supervised during any gathering, but it’s a better bet than arguing with the judges on logistical nightmares.

Of course, that’s ignoring a lot, and hopefully with good intent. After all, Hina isn’t bound to her forest. She takes her namesake dolls from the mountainside river, just past the edge of death and decay surrounding her. She sells her dolls in the human village on occasion, but it’s entirely on whims. ‘The way fate decides her to go,’ she said to me. She only stays in those words a vast majority of the time.

It’s sketchy at best, even the judges are bickering over the tenuous consistency of the argument. The prosecutor dissuades the thought of even arguing against the idea, thinking it completely fallacious based on her previous arguments to use Hina’s regular isolation as proof of security.

Instead, she pushes along the court to her next argument. The one I’m afraid of: the damages. Saying this is the most vital part of the case for the panel is an understatement. Hell, if it wasn’t for me needing to talk to Hina more, damages would be the only thing Ran is sitting here for.

The tengu girl flourishes when presenting a new idea, “Though it may be abnormal, I believe it would be fit to ask Tanner Regis to the witness seat.”

That incites a real stir between the seats, unsurprisingly.

Shit. I expected something like this, but if I wasn’t notified then she must have come up with it on the spot. Maybe she saw something in the report that I didn’t think of. Sanae looks over to me, blanched from the surprise.

I unconvincingly get up to move toward the seat, but Keine catches my arm, nearly toppling me, and says, “You don’t have to go up. She didn’t even mention to the panel that you’re a witness.”

I kneel back down and relay to Keine, “I know, but it would also look really bad for us if the incident report writer didn’t participate in questioning even though he’s in the room…”

“Vindicator,” the old man pipes up, “is the human in the room? It is of interest to all of us as he has a report more whole than our own reporters. Of course, it is unusual to have a witness that wasn’t verified before the proceedings.”

“Yes, I understand the irregularity, but I believe it pertinent enough to warrant,” the tengu girl belies intentions of poking holes in me.

Keine lets go of my arm and I take a couple of steps before nearly toppling over on a yamawaro. The girl catches my torso and Keine gets up to lend me her shoulder. She escorts me to the room’s center just past the apologist and vindicator tables and smack in front of the judges’ veiled boxes. It didn’t even occur to me that it would be right here, since we haven’t had a witness yet, surprisingly.

“Is he alright? What happened?” Takane speaks up.

“He tumbled onto one of the other observers. Thankfully, Miss Kamishirasawa was kind enough to lend her assistance and help him to the witness seat,” the tengu prosecutor states.

“What? Is he still injured? He should be healing fine if it was a small injury as by his report,” the old tengu ponders.

I feel a flinch in Keine’s hand as she’s helping me down.

After I’m seated she leans far in and breathes, “You lied..?”

A chill runs through me. My mind races to try and parse what part of the lie she’s specifically mad about. She keeps a hand on my shoulder to keep me upright, but it feels like a lot more pressure than it really is.

“Sir,” the tengu woman tries to focus me back to the here and now. “If you are not in the mind to testify, then please do not approach the seat.”

“No… no, I’m fine,” I mutter out.

“Very well… Kamishirasawa, does he require your assistance to stay seated?”

“Indeed he does,” Keine states back. “He has a concussion.”

“What does he–?” the tengu stops and composes herself. She addresses me again, “Why do you have a concussion?”

“It is unrelated to the matter at hand,” I deflect the question. Even when my soul was leaving me I wasn’t that stupid.

“Very well…” the tengu repeats, a hint of agitation in her voice. “Let me go over information we should already know, then.”

She moves behind me and takes a piece of paper from her table, stepping back over and asking, “You claim you are a researcher for the human village, yes?”

“Yes,” I answer.

“Can anyone confirm this?”

“Yes,” Akyuu answers.

“Indeed,” Ran chips in.

“Affirmative,” Takane adds.

“Sadly,” a voice that has spoken little for the panel remisses.

“Good,” the prosecutor nods in content. “Then, if you may forgive me for being direct, you work with Ran Yakumo, yes?”

“That is correct,” I answer.

“How does the Youkai Sage’s shikigami support your work, exactly?”

I attempt to think a step ahead of her, but the back of my head isn’t having it. Instead I simply answer, “She protects me as I’m in the field.”

“But from your report: during the incident, the Yakumo was outside of the barrier, was she not?”

I pause a moment. Only the feeling that I know where this is going sets in; the intuition itself escapes me. I answer, “Yes, she needed to tend to the barrier over the area.”

“It was safe for you to enter the barrier, then?”

“Certainly, Kochiya and Fujiwara were with me–“ I stop dead. Oh that was a mess up. The tengu does her best to freeze a grin from forming.

“In other words the danger present required someone of either Ran Yakumo’s caliber or the combined force of a shrine maiden and a Hourai immortal to keep you safe?” the tengu relishes in one upping my rhetoric.

“Now, hold on!” Sanae exclaims from her seat.

“Let the vindication finish, apologist,” the old woman demands.

“Am I incorrect, witness?” the prosecutor taunts.

“I would rather see it as they were fighting the misfortune, not protecting me,” I lamely disparage.

“This does not change the point here, Mister Regis. Because you were injured it should go to reveal that even the two with you were not enough to hold back the force of the misfortune. If that be the case, then would that mean there isn’t some point that the misfortune grows in power, enough so it would be equal in power to a celestial?”

“I believe that is enough, vindicator,” the old woman stops the rampaging attorney. “You have made your point. The chairs do not need your further speculation on the matter. Unless you should make that a separate point of topic, that is.”

“Indeed, my lady. I would claim that as the last argument for the vindication.”

The old woman waits a second before commanding, “Take your seat, vindicator. Apologist, is there any questions you have for the witness?”

I look over my shoulder to Sanae. She’s stumped. Stumped to the point of frustration.

In this frustration, she makes a call that surprises the room. “I have no questions for the witness. Could we have a recess to discuss the ‘apology?’”

“Apologist… you do understand that you will not be allowed to put the witness back to the stand after, correct?” Yasaka prods Sanae’s judgment.

“Yes, I understand,” Sanae ensures everyone.

So she wants to restrategize… that’s alright. But she should have attempted to ask me something, still.

Well, I can’t fault her too much… that was my fault for falling for that quick ruse. Not to mention… what do I plan to bring to the table for Sanae?

[x] It may be conceited, but the tool idea from before might be helpful if we can pull any resources in a short time.

[x] Maybe we need to have another opinion, like Hina’s.

[x] Perhaps there’s a better way out of this situation? (Write-in)

How we feeling? Tell me on a score of ‘fell asleep in lecture’ to ‘had to grab snacks to enjoy.’ The beginning and the end felt solid to write up, but the center portion felt iffy at best. Hopefully I can round this out believably.
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Honestly, as a voter/reader who anticipated this outcome, I'm ever so slightly miffed we didn't get a chance to vote on whether we should've gone up to testify or not. Especially seeing as how our presence and testimony bit us on the butt.

Us refraining from testifying due to the concussion would've made us look bad, but it would've prevented the prosecution from pressing as to the circumstances either surrounding it or how we sustained injuries.

Looking at the case wholly, I probably would've gone with an argument that there's been multiple other incidents that warrant the same, if not, higher reactionary forces than Hina's. What makes Hina's case special? Is it because it's happened so close to the mountain? In which case, if it's a matter of the Tengu getting uppity because of proximity, then there may be a case of overstepping jurisdiction because of paranoia. But we still don't know where Yukari is.

The tool idea to act as as a warning tool in case of a fusion or high-density misfortune was a good compromising idea, but the tengu apparently doesn't want that.

As much as I hate to say it, feels like the options presented don't really give a clear path and I can't think of any potential write-ins at the moment. I'll have to get back to this later.
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The Tengu are trying to use our injuries as a weapon to prove that Hina is too dangerous to remain unsealed. I think we need to turn that weapon against them.

We are a human. And not even a particularly impressive example of a human at that. We are weak, pathetic, powerless, and insignificant. We are so pathetically weak that we need a guardian as powerful as Ran Yakumo protecting us to ensure that we survive even 10 minutes in Gensokyo. The lamest, weakest, most pathetic youkai in all of Gensokyo could easily snap us in half like a twig if they wanted to. By any measurement, we are an absolute loser. So it is absolutely no surprise at all that we have a broken arm and a concussion after walking into Hina's bad luck fog.

But here's the thing. A broken arm and a concussion are the ONLY major injuries that we have. We walked directly into Hina's bad luck fog and stayed in there for a good 30 minutes at least, and the bad luck fog was even more concentrated than it should have been because Ran's barrier was keeping it from spreading out and diluting. But despite walking into a veritable bad luck hurricane, we are still standing.

If Hina really is as dangerous as the Tengu claim, then someone as weak as us should have died horribly as soon as we entered that bad luck miasma. But we were in the center of the miasma literally cradling Hina's body next to us, and the worst thing that we suffered was a broken arm. If Hina's bad luck concentrated to Hell and back wasn't even strong enough to kill a single weak, pathetic, powerless little human, then surely someone as mighty and powerful as the Tengu would have absolutely nothing to worry about.

Surely the Tengu could not be so insecure and cowardly as to be afraid of something that wasn't even strong enough to kill one powerless human. After all, Tengu are superior to humans in every conceivable way. Strap a few lucky charms on, and the Tengu would be able to come out of that bad luck miasma virtually unscathed. There is no reason for a race as strong and powerful as the Tengu to bother sealing up such an insignificant threat. If a powerless human could fix the problem with only comparatively minor injuries, then the Tengu should be able to effortlessly solve the problem should it happen again. The Tengu sealing up Hina would be like a human killing a fly with an atom bomb. Its a completely unnecessary waste of time, effort, and resources.

[x] Perhaps there’s a better way out of this situation? (Write-in)
-[x] I am a pathetically weak, powerless little human that walked directly into the middle of a bad luck hurricane, and I only suffered a broken arm. Surely the Tengu are not so cowardly as to fear something that couldn't even kill 1 powerless human.
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This is a really dirty trick that gives us trouble the second the tengu spot Reimu's fortune god talismans we were wearing. It might be accurate to say that it would make tengu depend on fortune deities a little bit harder. That's why it's a little devious, and that's why let's go with that. Gods do own that place, after all.

[x] Perhaps there’s a better way out of this situation? (Write-in)
-[x] I am a pathetically weak, powerless little human that walked directly into the middle of a bad luck hurricane, and I only suffered a broken arm. Surely the Tengu are not so cowardly as to fear something that couldn't even kill 1 powerless human.
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Man's sick with stupid disease fr (stupid disease is canon to the lore)

[x] Perhaps there’s a better way out of this situation? (Write-in)
-[x] I am a pathetically weak, powerless little human that walked directly into the middle of a bad luck hurricane, and I only suffered a broken arm. Surely the Tengu are not so cowardly as to fear something that couldn't even kill 1 powerless human.

We're long past the point of not talking. Might as well start talking too much. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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Much to my dismay, I haven't really had the time recently to properly dissect and analyse the last few posts.
I'll try to get a more comprehensive post out over the weekend, but I wanted to quickly comment on the recent write-in.

Frankly, I'm not a big fan.

The logic is there, but the last time we tried to be devious it all blew up in our face, people got hurt and Ran really chewed us out for trying to emulate Yukari-level scheming.
Mind you, this was when we fully sound of mind and body.
Right now, we're a total wreck. Physically... less broken than we should be but still heavily concussed.

Putting aside whether or not we could properly formulate and enact this plan, there's some more inherent problems with it:
The tengu want the misfortune all gone, saying it can be mitigated was already Sanae's preliminary point and it got shot down pretty quick.
Besides, they could just counter with Nitori's example, who quite literally lost her head.
Now, having a concrete positive example in the form of Regis is a lot better than just conjecture, but that brings me to the next problem.

Sanae just waived her right to use us as a witness.

Basing a core argument on the testimony of a witness that you can't summon (anymore) looks very, very bad.
At the very least, it'll look like Sanae is grasping at straws and just drawing out the trial.
I just don't see this argument helping the case now, in its current form.
Note I said "current form", I'll get back to that in a bit.

The situation is pretty dire right now, and I'll agree with >>44300 that the baseline choices don't immediately seem helpful.

The tool idea was rather harebrained to begin with.
Not to say the idea doesn't have merit, but it'd need way more workshopping to be a proper argument.
Throwing out a concept for some item you clearly just made up on the spot isn't going to fly.
I'd rather use this to round out the case, after all the core arguments have been discussed.
Having thought of possible ways to work around the problem could help mitigate the sentence if it comes to that, for example.
Maybe work it out with Nitori once she's recovered.

Of all the options so far, I'm actually most inclined towards letting Hina speak her mind.
Nobody who has spent more than 5 seconds with Hina can say she is in any way malicious.
Yes, she has a tendency to be vague or put things in a sinister way, but she always has everyone else's wellbeing in mind.
So, I feel we should ask what she's thinking.
It doesn't matter whether that means we're putting her on the stand or only asking her opinion.
Of course, all this drama must be draining for her too, so I'm also just a little worried about her in general.
She believes in Sanae, so I don't think she'll give up or starts thinking that maybe she should be sealed; but if so that is unacceptable and we need to reassure her that we'll never give up fighting.
Too much of a Phoenix Wright cliché? Perhaps, but I can't help but care about this fictional character's wellbeing.
Putting that tangent aside, having the extra perspective might reveal a new angle for Sanae to argue.

Now to get back to what I mentioned about the write-in's argument.
Considering we can't use Regis as a witness anymore, we're better off retooling the example of Regis being a somewhat battered but alive human as a supporting argument for something else.
If, for instance, asking Hina for her opinion would result in us putting her on the stand; we could use Regis' example to illustrate that Hina's misfortune is properly mitigable.
Though I might be jumping the gun with all this, I don't know if we'll immediately resume the trial next time.

[X] Maybe we need to have another opinion, like Hina’s.
-[X] Remind Sanae that she can use Regis as an example of the fact that Hina's misfortune is mitigable, if put in a way that wouldn't require calling him to the stand again.

P.S. Wew. If this is me "quickly" commenting, I dread to think how long my post going over all the non-choice-related points I wanted to address will be.
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gosh golly gee, let's call a defendant to the stand and see how that fares
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To hop in quickly, sorry for not making the votes more comprehensive. Reading through all of these responses makes me realize that I've been behind on my own foresight with planning the scenario.

Love all the chatter! Never be afraid to pitch in everyone.

>>44305 make sure to keep things civil, you never know what might work in a tenguroo court.
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>Besides, they could just counter with Nitori's example, who quite literally lost her head.

When Nitori lost her head, she did not have a single lucky charm on her and was standing like 2 feet away from Hina while Hina was spewing out misfortune like a fire hose. Nitori basically got blasted in the face by a misfortune bazooka at point blank range. And yet, the misfortune STILL was not powerful enough to kill Nitori. She is just fine recovering in the hospital right now. Even in a worst case scenario, Hina's misfortune was too weak to kill someone.

Now imagine how little damage Nitori would have taken if she had been as prepared as we were in the lucky charms department. That house beam probably would have bounced off her skull leaving nothing more than a slightly painful bump if she had as many lucky charms on her as we did. Kappas are a lot tougher than humans are after all, and yet still considered weaker than Tengu. A Tengu decked out in lucky charms would be practically invincible.

>Sanae just waived her right to use us as a witness.

We are still on the stand. We have not technically been dismissed yet. If we want to stay up here, Tanner could just say something like, "If it pleases the court, I have not finished giving my testimony yet. Would the Apologist kindly ask me to continue before going to recess?" This might technically break court protocol, but us being called up here in the first place already broke protocol. If the Vindicator is allowed to break the rules by calling in a surprise witness, then the Apologist is allowed to break the rules by asking the surprise witness questions after saying she didn't have any.
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I've been thinking about the identities of the judges, which are perhaps not immediately useful to us, but knowing them could be helpful for our overall strategy. Particularly, there are some that are hinted at but not outright revealed, which makes it seems like a relevant thing to try to figure out.

We already knew Ran and Kanako would be among the judges, and Tanner was able to identify Akyuu based on her voice. Based on what Iizunamaru said in >>44227, there should be five judges in total, none of them tengu. There are some hints towards the other people in the curtained boxes in >>44286, though not all of those would necessarily be the judges. Firstly, I'm not sure what it means that:

> Two of the boxes look like Yasaka is sitting in them, without her massive pillars, that is

By what characteristic would he be identifying her? If she had her shimenawa (the big rope on her back) with her, she would immediately be identifiable, and no other characters have that.

Apart from that, in the same paragraph I also noticed this:

> There is one box that has someone with an odd accessory taking up their sides. It’s a bit familiar, but it physically hurts to try to reach for things in the corners of my mind.

Firstly, I thought that the "odd accessory" might be wings that Tanner just wasn't seeing correctly, but the trial administrators (old man, old woman) are also in the boxes and are probably tengu, but Tanner only singles out this one individual, which makes me think it was something other than wings, and with a bit of application of Occam's Razor I think I might know what he saw. Who do we know that:

a) Tanner has met before in this story,
b) wears an accessory (in the official art) that could be seen sticking out their sides,
c) has a measure of authority in Gensokyo in the way that Ran, Kanako and Akyuu have, and
d) has a reason to be involved in this specific case?

I suspect that this may be Takane. Now, would it be fair for the tengu to put someone who is a sibling of one of the victims on the jury? Definitely not, it wouldn't even be allowed in a human court, but the surprise witness-calling shows that the tengu are not necessarily committed to running this trial fairly. Though, this identification does depend on Takane wearing her box-like backpack while sitting down for a trial, which may be unpractical. Finally, if this identification is correct, then they would have an obvious reason to be biased in favour of having Hina sealed, but we might be able to turn this around to our own benefit because after the last story arc, Tanner knows Takane's personality quite well.
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I'm fairly certain it's already been confirmed that Takane is one of the chairs, referring to this bit.

>“Tch,” a woman, or maybe a girl, clicks at the question. “I’m not gonna give you the pleasure. In fact, not hearing you at all sounds much better!”

>It’s Takane. The silhouette with the strange object is Takane with her large weapons box. Unsurprisingly, it seems I’m not the only one with a negative opinion of the slick man.

Unless I'm reading it wrong.
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>>44304 here.

I don't mind when people find fault with my reasoning.
In fact, I encourage it; it's part of the reason I try to write out my entire thought process in my posts.
It helps me to better formulate my opinion, but it also allows others to scrutinise and find flaws in my reasoning I might have missed.
I vastly prefer promoting discussion over simply posting my vote and being done with it.
That's not a jab against people who do by the way, to each their own.

It's more than fair to say it's very risky, but I also want to point out that I mentioned that I am not actually sure whether this option means that we simply ask her for her opinion on how to proceed, or that that immediately involves us putting her on the stand.
My reasoning was that either result, one obviously way riskier than the other, had a chance to give us the edge we desperately need right now.

Don't worry about it.
If anything I should apologise for not having been able to properly give the story the attention it deserves, recently.

Good point about Nitori, it makes me wonder if the effects of misfortune correlates to a person's... durability, I guess.
For example, from Nitori's perspective this was, at risk of selling it short, an inconvenience.
It put her in hospital but there's no permanent damage.
If Regis was the one who took that misfortune blast, would he simply have died; or would the accident be comparitively less damaging?
Breaking a leg or something.

I also want to bring attention to the fact that you make a fantastic point on the part of not officially being excused from the witness stand yet.
Tengu are sticklers for rules and hierarchy, so this "fledgling" going against protocol should give us at least some leniency here.
The risk is that we'd maybe not be considered a credible witness if we start (more) obviously taking sides.
Or we just get ejected from the courtroom for disrupting the proceedings, I guess.
But that aside I think what you wrote is absolutely the best way to do the write-in if that is what gets chosen.
I've been a proponent of letting Sanae be in charge from the very start, so I wrote my post with that still in mind; but it'd make far more sense to Regis to try and step in himself if this is his plan.
I still stand by my original vote for believing in Hina for now, but there is definitely merit to your reasoning and I wanted to point it out.

Um, I appreciate the in-depth analysis and I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but Regis already recognised Takane himself.

The identity of the remaining judges was actually a point I wanted to touch on in the post I mentioned I'll try to write over the weekend, but since you mentioned the topic I'll try to convey my own thoughts.

I'd forgotten how big the panel of judges actually is.
In my mind I was expecting a larger group of both tengu and non-tengu, but it makes far more sense for any tengu to be administrators for impartiality.
But also, they're tengu, so them trying to getting the upper hand like that is not unthinkable.

Poingnant, could you clarify how the court is actually set up, please?
No need for an actual description, I'd just like to know how many officials (curtained boxes) there are in total, for example.
I might've missed it in the post, but it'd help clear things up.

Back to my thoughts on who's left to be identified.

>“Sadly,” a voice that has spoken little for the panel remisses.

If we assume there's only one (non-tengu) judge left to be identified, it'd be this person.
Obviously one word isn't much to go off of, but we can surmise a few things:

-They know about our job.
-They're not very happy about it or just don't like us very much in general.

Every judge so far has been a representative of a different faction in Gensokyo, so it stands to reason this person represents a group not yet mentioned.
If we go over the judges we have already identified we can see that these factions are represented:

- Akyuu | The Human Village
- Ran | The Yakumo
- Kanako | The Moriya Shrine
- Takane | The Yamawaro (this seat was reserved for Nitori, so it stands to reason Takane is representing "Kappakind" as a whole)

Now, that leaves our mystery judge.
See, at first glance I thought this judge was Ichirin.
There aren't many factions left that we personally have interacted with, and she doesn't like Regis all too much.
This theory doesn't stand up to scrutiny at all, however.
First of all, she doesn't represent her faction; if this faction was invited they'd obviously send Byakuren.
Furthermore, this faction doesn't have much of a presence on the mountain at all, which seems to have been a criterion for the other judges.

Instead, writing this out has made me realise there's a painfully obvious candidate left: Reimu
Of course she would be invited to an event like this.
It'd be outright farcical to not invite the Hakurei miko to an event concerning Gensokyo as a whole.
The thing is that I thought Regis and her were on decent terms, but she might just be exasperated by the fact he just recklessly charges into situations that could easily get himself killed.
Or she's just annoyed that she got called out here to officiate, that's entirely plausible.

I can't think of any other important people or factions we've interacted with at length, but maybe I'm forgetting someone?
Unless the last judge is actually just a tengu of some sort, but we'd probably have recognised anybody would could corroborate our statement.
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Thank you for pointing that out, I must have skimmed over that bit because Takane does not really say or do anything meaningful in the current part of the trial.
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Yeah, sorry about that.
I really did appreciate the effort you went through with your analysis, though.
I'm a big fan of reading other people's thoughts and discussing story points.
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Hello mid discussion again!

I just checked over things and noticed I never gave you the count of the boxes and judges... uhm. My bad.

I don't have time right now to read through everyone's discussion, but to peel the curtain a bit, there are nine seats total with five being used by non tengu participants. I believe I've named each of the outside faction characters, hopefully. If you're wondering why the tengu gave themselves the close minority, it's because they're jerkoffs!
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Thank you for the clarification! However, I do believe that, as >>44311 surmised, there is one non-tengu who has not yet been identified, who is most likely the person who said "sadly". I can identify four people-in-boxes who are probably tengu – "old man", "old woman", "brutish-voiced man" and "slick-voiced man" – and so this "voice that has spoken little" is most likely the last non-tengu participant, who has not yet been identified.
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>>44311 here.

Just also wanted to thank you for the clarification.
It also confirms that the situation is as how I imagined it; the tengu are (unsurprisingly) playing dirty.
I'll need to digest for a bit to see how this factors into any planning.

I concur with your observation of which voices are the tengu judges, but that's actually gotten me thinking.
The old woman speaks with such authority that she can quiet the entire room, so much so that there is "not even so much as a breath from them".
...Is this Lord (Lady?) Tenma?
I can't really think of any tengu personage that could possibly cause even a god as prideful as Kanako to practically hold her breath with but a command.
Unless that line just referred to the more mundane mountain dwellers shutting up and this is just a more generic, but still very important tengu.
It's not Iizunamaru, the judge sounds old (for a tengu, mind you!) and Regis would know what she sounds like from their last meeting.
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As I mentioned in >>44304 here are my thoughts on some loose points I wanted to address.
Unfortunately I didn't get to get this out over the weekend, but I wanted to at least get it out before the update, even if only by a hair.
It's going to be pretty messy and I don't know how long it'll be, I'll possibly also have forgotten some details I wanted to touch upon, so apologies in advance.

>Byakuren showing up.

Relatively minor event, but it's cool to see something come from the report we sent her way.
It's probably the whole extent of the Myouren temple's involvement this time, as it was mentioned she didn't want to completely sit out.
It is also unlikely for another reason that I already mentioned when I speculated on the identity of the 5th non-tengu judge.
We should remember to return the beads when we can.

>Not putting Regis' decision to take the stand to a vote

More a thing that came up in discussion I wanted to give my two cents on than a story beat.
I understand that this would've been a fairly important choice to make, but I'm actually somewhat in favour of Regis making this choice himself.
He is rather severely concussed and thus not really thinking straight, so him simply going ahead on a perhaps poorly thought out action makes sense.
I tend to (over)analyse the pros and cons of every choice to draw my conclusion, which might be more in line with how he might act when he is thinking clearly rather than how he is now.
Basically, I just feel that taking away "player agency" in this case was, whether it was intentional or not, a neat expression of story events influencing "gameplay".
Now, that might be diametrically opposed to the opinion of others and I worded it pretty poorly, but that's more or less what I think on the matter.

>Regis lying to Keine and being found out.

This has really frustrated me.
Not because of writing or anything, but more because of Regis as a person.
I do not mean that it was out of character for him or that it isn't understandable that he did what he did; in fact, I fully understand his logic.
That does not mean, however, that I agree on the way he handled things.
Ran might be his partner, but it has been Keine who has been his rock from the moment he was unceremoniously dropped into Gensokyo.
Whether it was to avoid causing her worry or to prioritise his mission doesn't really matter to me; I just fundamentally disagree with lying like this to the people you care about.
They're both... socially clumsy, so of course it can happen that one wouldn't know what to do.
In fact, that happens to everyone; social interaction is an inherently messy thing.
He had just sworn to try and be a better friend to her. I see this as no less than a betrayal of the trust he'd asked of her.
To compound this, Keine made a conscious effort to try see his side of things, the good he does and has done doing his job, which at (most) times comes at the cost of his personal wellbeing.
Basically, I'm mad as hell at Regis and once this mess with Hina is over and done with he'd better take a good long think about what Keine means to him after he's done kowtowing to her for forgiveness.
Frankly, she'd be entirely within her rights to give up on him, in my opinion; but I do not think Keine is the kind of person who could bring herself to do that, or would even if she could.

>The write-in set to win

Speaking of the mess with Hina: we've already discussed my thoughts and the counterpoints of other readers, but I just wanted to mention again that earlier one of the judges mentioned that any interruptions of procedure will not be tolerated.
Obviously this is too late to bring up for the intents of arguing for the choice that I voted for, but I brought it up because I wanted to comment further on the implications.
It was already mentioned that as a surprise witness called forth by the prosecution, we might be excused a certain degree of selfishness; perhaps also on account of our concussion.
Even if we were to get ejected from the court for a potential outburst, the words will have been said; it's nigh impossible to make a jury simply forget what happened just because an official ordered it to be stricken from the record.
The second point I wanted to mention calls back to my earlier mention of Regis' concussion and emotional state.
I wrote that I at least somewhat agreed with Regis going with a more emotional choice of his own accord when he took the stand because he is simply not thinking straight at the moment, or is even capable of doing so.
As such, by my own reasoning does it actually make sense for Regis to have a (perhaps small, perhaps large) outburst like the write-in dictates.


Frankly, I have no concrete idea at this time.
I wanted to read back and have a proper theory set up for this post, but I simply have not had the time.
The best I can do as it stands is wildly speculate.
The tengu have a vested interest in seeing this happen, but frankly I just can't see them orchestrating this.
We were the ones who brought the situation to attention in the first place and their reaction seems genuine; then again, you can never truly tell with tengu.
The Yorigami sisters both have absolutely no reason to instigate this intentionally. Dysfunctional as they may be, I do think that Jo'on really doesn't want to see her sister sealed.
Suwako and/or the Mishaguji have been suspiciously absent this entire time.
The reasoning given to Sanae by Kanako is sound, but just because it is doesn't mean it's true. Maybe this was the result of some curse on Hina causing a worst case scenario to happen, drawing in Shion.
The problem is that I don't see any good motive; perhaps the Mishaguji are acting out on their own?
Hina... is actually a candidate. Not a likely one, but still.
She clearly dislikes hurting people via the misfortune she gives off. If she orchestrated this whole event as a sort of assisted suicide so she would not hurt people anymore, it'd be truly tragic.
Of course, there's reasons why this is likely not the case:
First, she'd possibly be roping Shion into getting sealed with her. I just do not see Hina ever allowing that to happen because of her.
Second, Hina naturally just goes with the flow of things.
To foresee something like a total extermination or sealing to happen to her as the result of an incident she caused for the express reason of getting neutralised takes somewhat ludicrous amounts of planning considering all the factors involved. Just not something I see Hina do.
Anyway, that was all the possibilities that immediately came to mind without properly taking the time to go back and read older posts.
I have no real evidence to base this on, but I'll tentatively look towards the Mishaguji/Suwako as most likely suspect simply because we know the least about them at this point.

Well, there it is. Truly sorry about the messy writeup and I might add more points I might have forgotten this time in a later post once I've properly went back and analysed old posts for possible culprits.
I sincerely hope we can still get Hina out of this crisis (relatively) unscathed, but you can bet that I'm gonna do my darnedest to make it happen.
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[x] Perhaps there’s a better way out of this situation? (Write-in)
-[x] I am a pathetically weak, powerless little human that walked directly into the middle of a bad luck hurricane, and I only suffered a broken arm. Surely the Tengu are not so cowardly as to fear something that couldn't even kill 1 [one] powerless human.

In the back of my mind, my state of stunted thought urges baser desires to be acted on. A piece of raw spite takes hold. In this case, antagonism.

While I could continue to be passive and support Sanae from the sidelines, this obviously needs an intervention. I’ll do just that in the way I know best: pissing people off.

“Your honors. A moment,” I beggar the room’s attention. Keine stops helping me up, careful not to jostle my arm.

“What is it, witness?” the old man speaks, having not even bothered to move an inch.

“I think there’s more to talk about here. I offered the report so I think it should only be fair that I offer my understanding of the case.”

“A witness giving arguments for the case? How errant,” the prosecutor states.

“We’re already outside of your usual trial codes, though,” Yasaka counters. “If the apologist doesn’t wish to use the witness, then maybe the witness themselves might have something worthwhile to add in the opposing camp.”

“I agree with the vindicator, that’s as errant as you can get,” the brutish man opposes. “It’s to the point that the madman should be tossed out immediately.”

“And what’s stopping you, big man?” Takane taunts from her high chair.

“My,” the slick man muses at me, “how presumptuous we are to add more of our own paint to the canvas.”

Oh, he’s handing this one to me. I make sure to speak clearly, “Oh, you want presumptuous? I can do better. I don’t see why everyone’s so afraid.”

Anyone that had been moving for the break now freezes. Those last words are clearly ringing in a few skulls, and in most scenarios are words liable to kill me instantly. Here, though? Well, I guess it’s still pretty suicidal but at least they’re gonna have trouble finding an excuse to hang me.

“Choose your next words very, very carefully, human,” the old woman cuts into the silence.

“Isn’t that it, though? I’m human,” I lead. Even if the prosecutor wanted to stop me there’s no way the judges wouldn’t want to hear out such a blatant provocation to practically everyone.

“Make your point,” the woman says, patience thinning by the word.

I try to not beat around what I’m saying, “I’m a human, one with absolutely no combat potential in Gensokyo, and I have walked into what should be the most deadly scenario I can find myself in. Did I die? No. I got a nice puncture wound, but that’s about it. What would you all be worried about? Gods, Youkai, experts in magic, the lot of you wouldn’t even need to worry about injury with enough preparation, right?”

“What are you fibbing?” the old man posits. “It is in your own report that Kawashiro was injured before the misfortune became immensely dense! It’s absurd to claim that a set of charms could cause such a gap in outcome!”

“You wouldn’t trust the protection of fortune gods or barrier charms from the Yakumo themselves to stave off misfortune?”

“That’s a fallacious question,” the prosecutor refutes, attempting to find a legitimate striking angle on me. “Not to mention this line of reasoning is entirely beggaring emotional ploys against the chairs!”

“Let me rephrase, then! Charms with the protection of fortune gods or the Yakumo barriers would stave off misfortune, correct?”

“Correct,” Ran calmly corroborates.

“Yeah, what else would they do?” the seldom heard voice makes herself known again.

“If they could stop a human like myself from dying, could the same be said for any other specie?” I ask the main point.

“Any specie may be stretching the definition, but for species that this room may wish to circumstantially refer to, yes,” Ran elaborates in her usual cantor for specifics.

“Right,” I allow. “Then it would be unlikely that a tengu, much less a celestial, strapped with fortune charms would be in any meaningful danger against the misfortune storm.”

“That is still only an assumption. A dangerous one, that could lead to injuries or fatalities in the worst case,” the prosecutor speaks, staunch to my shenanigans.

“The human does make a point, however,” the brutish man speaks. “It does ease my mind to know there are ways to combat a catastrophe, and maybe even make it possible for tengu to handle one on our own. That is not the source of the problem, though.”

Looks like I’m breaking through to at least one person here. That’s basically the best reaction I can get on this point. Asking to switch sides for one detail, even if it’s pretty substantial, is too optimistic.

“Sir, that still doesn’t negate the damages that the misfortune has on the surrounding area! Nor does it lessen impact to bystanders that are not prepared for the area,” the prosecution speaks in full swing against me now.

“Hina lives in only one place,” Sanae returns to the conversation, cutting in before the chairs get a chance to consider the thought. “Even if we look at environmental damages or the location being dangerous for others, it’s still only one location. People would already know to not laze around there. Forest animals are turned away by the misfortune, already. You can’t even grow any plants there, it’s just barren ground. Moving Hina away wouldn’t change that.”

“That last point,” the old man comments, “is it true that plant life cannot survive in the cursed forest? Though not any surprise, we should have a confirmation from experts.”

“That much is true,” the prosecutor allows. “The kappa have confirmed the ground to be… ‘unnaturally dried, more like weathered down stone than dirt’ is what they wrote for me. They were concerned that the state of the ground there would spread to places around it, the misfortune unable to occupy the space already filled. They did not specify if they meant during incidents like the previous or at any time.”

Sanae jumps in again before the chairs get a chance, countering with, “We know that the spread is based on the power of misfortune Hina has, so any spread they saw was from that.”

“So it’s a literal sphere of influence, much like native gods,” the old woman concludes. “That isn’t terrible if it isn’t growing with time, but is problematic if an incident gets out of hand.”

“My lady, I would say that is no less concerning since we would not know when the area is spreading from a sort of ‘high-tide’ time,” the prosecutor rationalizes.

“However we’ve also discussed that there would need to be periodic checkups to the misfortune goddess’s abode,” the old woman persists.

Oh? Maybe… that sounds like somebody’s been hooked to another side.

The prosecutor clams up, unsure how to proceed from here. She chooses to let the point drop and instead asks, “Witness, would you say we’ve run this topic through? I’d prefer we take a break at this point as well.”

“I have nothing more to add,” I say.

Once more the chairs agree to a break. The crowd feeds out the door, the prosecutor following after stowing her undisturbed stack of papers. The chairs feed out to the opposite side of the room where a door hides in the corner. The light is dim enough in their section to keep identities obfuscated. The old man still doesn’t bother to move around.

Keine lifts me to my feet. She seems less happy with me as the day progresses. Of course, I said something a bit too bold that would normally be stupid if I didn’t have so much reasoning behind it. We’ll have to sit down and talk after this, since she seems to have a few pressing questions now.

Before that, though, it’s time to convene with Sanae for a bit. She looks relieved that I pulled some nonsense to help her. The case isn’t over yet, but we did find an out for the strongest argument the prosecution has against us.

She has trouble gathering the papers on the table, trying to keep some semblance of organization with them. After a few moments of this a tengu official comes into the courtroom to see if we’re ready to move to a small seating room.

We arrive to a small room with a low table and pillows surrounded by bookshelves holding scrolls and books at full capacity. The decorations aren’t lavish, but the furniture surely is. Sanae once more spreads her papers out for us all to see. Her notes are extensive, but it’s obvious that she would have some trouble finding anything like this. She basically wrote down whatever came to her mind at the time that she wrote.

“Alright. I think things are going good,” Sanae speaks to Hina, Keine, and I as we each take a seat. “Thank you, Tanner. I was stuck on what to do when that girl started working on the fly.”

“Please don’t boost his ego,” Keine interjects. “His actions could have very quickly backfired if the prosecutor noticed that one of the misfortune creatures probably didn’t target him only to incapacitate.”

“You read the report?” I ask.

“Yes. I was really hoping it wasn’t the final draft since I knew your injury was worse than you told me,” Keine admits.

“I’m just doing what I think I need to. I promise I’ll explain later!” I rationalize feebly.

Hina clears her throat, grabbing our attention, and she says, “Before we move on in topic, thank all of you for everything you’re doing. It’s all for me and I simply don’t know what I could ever do to repay you all.”

Keine and I stop our current spat and Sanae looks away bashfully. Hina’s gratitude is so honest compared to the cutthroat nature of the courtroom. That prosecutor was more cunning than I expected, not even being afraid to cut corners in an attempt to win. A far cry from the nonsense I’d gotten used to with that Iizunamaru person from the other day.

“Wait, don’t thank us!” I say, coming back to reality. “We’re not even done yet!”

“R-right…” Sanae also comes to. “Things are back on track, but is there more that we can do?”

“It’s impressive how things are going for you as it is, even garnering the Tenma’s interest,” Keine notes.

“The Tenma?” I ask, “You mean one of those men?”

“No,” Sanae corrects me, “the Tenma is that woman sitting in the middle. She’s the only tengu voice I could tell apart in there. I don’t even know the vindicator.”

Right, that’s my fault for using assumptions more in line with the outside world.

“Moving on,” I redirect, “what else might the prosecution have? We don’t have any further point ourselves, do we?”

Sanae checks through her papers meticulously, but comes up empty, saying, “No, we didn’t find anything worthwhile we didn’t think the prosecution wanted to bring up. I mean, she’s obviously saving the whole ‘we don’t know how strong Hina is’ thing for last, right?”

“While I agree, I also don’t want to underestimate her. We just got out of a fix from me doing that,” I contemplate. “Sanae, you have your arguments ready for when she brings it up?”

“Yes!” Sanae confirms with pride.

“Then we’re probably good for now. I’m starting to feel light headed again from the heavy brain work today… Just keeping up is taxing,” I complain, feeling against my temple.

We sit for a couple more minutes in general silence, Keine glancing at the books and scrolls at her leisure, likely to take her eyes away from glaring at me. A tengu comes back around to receive us for the trial. We get back to the room just before the small crowd trickles in and the judges take their places.

“Is everyone ready to continue?” the old man asks.

“Yes sir,” the prosecutor answers.

“Yes,” Sanae answers.

“Good,” the old man states. “Then we can keep going. Does either party have any more to add from the previous topic? Certainly we don’t need to bring the… ah… ‘witness’ back to the stand?”

Sanae and the prosecutor look at each other, waiting for the other to speak. The prosecutor shakes her head and Sanae gestures for her to go ahead.

The tengu clears her throat and says, “No, sir. We do not have any more to discuss, we can move to the next point.”

“In that case, does the apologist have a topic to discuss?”

“No, sir,” Sanae tells the panel.

“Hmm,” throats the old man, “What is your next statement, vindicator?”

“Yes, I wanted to discuss the lack of information we have on Kagiyama’s ability,” the prosecutor states. “Specifically we don’t know how powerful Kagiyama’s ability truly is, nor how she combines with other spiritual entities, nor how she could possibly purify misfortune.”

“I can guess, but please tell us why this is an issue,” the brutish man commands the prosecutor.

“Of course, sir. If we do not know how her power works, then there’s a possibility that something even worse than before can happen,” the tengu explains.

“Right, then would you have any backing on this concern? Any witnesses to forward?” Yasaka asks of the girl.

“Yes, my lady,” the tengu is quick to comply. “I ask that the witness Lady Moriya be brought to the room.”

“Wait, what?” Sanae gasps along with the audience.

“What is the meaning of this?” Yasaka demands of the tengu, any of them.

“Stay your nerves, dear goddess,” the old woman’s imposing voice matches Yasaka. “I knew things would have gotten out of hand if it was public knowledge that Lady Moriya herself was taking the stand for today’s hearing. I preceded this decision, so I ask that you all allow it.”

Yasaka grumbles but doesn’t argue against the old woman’s wishes. The rest of the panel is either stunned by the sudden new addition or generally unimpressed by the whole debacle.

A guard comes into the room, escorting a small girl. A girl with a short dress emblazoned with frogs. Her hat is a wide brimmed bucket adorned by two porcelain eyes, giving good competition to Keine’s for strange design. If she weren’t a goddess I would pin her as a modern fashionista. One that likes frogs.

Or… wait. Is she a goddess of frogs? That might still be true…

The guard waves the diminutive goddess forward. Diminutive should have been reserved for her, Jo’on was average size by comparison. Moriya is more akin to the size of Cirno or other fairies.

She holds a palm towards the guard and replies, “Thank you, but I can find my way to a seat. Take your leave.”

To my surprise, the guard obliges and leaves the goddess unattended to take her seat.

“Sanae, Amitsu,” she greets Sanae and the prosecutor as she passes.

“What hell did you summon to get her to talk about this?” Yasaka exasperates to the old woman.

“Nothing, Kanako. I came because I decided I should,” Moriya says when taking her seat. I thought it was an accident but she seems to have no patience for the smoke and mirrors the tengu asked for with hiding identities in the courtroom. “Now, then, Tenma. Why don’t I tell you about curse gods?”

[Please wait warmly…]

Here we are once more. A courtroom where Tanner isn’t able to contribute much. Oh well, this next section should be the end of it. That isn’t to say I expect this next part to be boring, however.

And, of course, I’d be the remiss one if I didn’t bring up the sheer amount of discussion happening. It’s fantastic seeing everyone wrack their brains on these different issues and points of view.
I totally don’t steal it when convenient to generate good ideas.
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Well done, Regis!
His skill in pissing people off might begin to rival the likes of Aya or Satori.
We made a strong point that even some grouchy tengu had to concede.
It's a small win for our side, but the trial ain't over yet.

>“Yeah, what else would they do?” the seldom heard voice makes herself known again.

I think this all but confirms that my guess as to who the fifth non-tengu judge was was correct.
Well, how much it matters that we know who it likely is will become clear with time.

What is definitely confirmed, however, is my read on Lady Tenma being present.
It makes perfect sense for her to be here after all.
Don't see Tenma all that often, so I'm actually kinda interested in seeing what she's like.

That does makes me wonder a bit about the identity of the old man tengu.
He didn't even move from his seat during recess.
But speculation on that doesn't seem immediately important, anyway.

Keine is mad.
She absolutely should be.
She's either too professional or too kind (or both) to let it stop her, though.
I'm very interested in seeing what happens with those two when it's all over, though.
Regis better [X] CLENCH THOSE TEETH when there's a forehead flying at him at mach 5.
Or she might not even bother.
That'd be a far more sad outcome, if you ask me.

Now on to the Big Whammy of the post: Suwako.
I honestly don't know how I didn't see this coming.
I've been pushing to call on Suwako as an expert witness from the start; only backing off after Kanako herself gave a plausible reason for her absence.
But for the exact same reasons that I would value her as an expert witness for the defense; of course so would the prosecution for their case!
It's so obvious I feel like an utter fool.
These are the tengu, information warfare is practically their MO.
Of course they would be able to both locate Suwako and suppress the info about her being a witness to prevent leaks, even to her family.
Keeping my suspicions focused on Suwako and the Mishaguji might prove to have some merit, but we'll have to see what she has to say first.
Speaking of, I am both dreading and intrigued by what she might say.
She's a witness for the prosecution, but that doesn't mean she'll completely shill the prosecution's case.
Unlike Regis she was prepped before court, but the short bit that we've seen of her already shows that she is a bit of a free spirit.
Basically, she's a wild card and all we can do is see what happens and weather the storm.
Rather befitting of a god that controls calamities.
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[A frogged continuation.]

“Hold a moment, dear goddess,” the old man pipes up. “Whilst your words will surely be insightful are they relevant to this trial? A curse god and a misfortune god are separate things, are they not? At the least, the goddess on trial is her own person, and no two gods are alike.”

Moriya tilts her head back and forth, deep in thought on the question. She then replies, “Ah, I know that old ragged voice. I’m surprised they could get you out of your workroom, old Sophocles.”

“Please, do not use nicknames. Furthermore, you are not supposed to refer to individuals in the courtroom,” the old man bemoans. “Now if you could answer my concern.”

The little goddess waves her hand, dismissing said concerns and replying, “Gods love stepping on each others shoes. Curses and misfortune stem from the same place, so you really gotta look at them with some knowledge. One is more directed than the other. Boring, but important.”

One of the silhouettes raises their hand, what looks to be Akyuu, who asks, “Forgive me for my lack of background on this subject, but are you saying that curses are misfortune?”

“Sure,” Moriya answers laxly. “You can look at both of them as the human belief that some bad force in the world is against them. That’s how it was in ancient times and the same for how it is now.”

“Err, right. So may I ask how this relates to testimony involving Hina Kagiyama?” Akyuu tries to move the point along.

Moriya chuckles, lowering the cheerful facade when replying, “I see you all are thin on patience today. Alright, let me be clear, then. Curses are negativity. Misfortune is the same negativity. A few of you are gonna think its funny to hear me say so, but a god that controls misfortune is a recipe for trouble if not treated right. Kinda like Kanako’s old underground experiment.”

“You’re right, that is funny. But not for the right reasons,” Yasaka grumbles. “Bringing up the underground incident on a whim isn’t very informative.”

“Oh? I think it’s very fitting. Something able to destroy this little slice of the world is the usual for these situations,” Moriya retorts.

The chairs aren’t feeling very talkative, now. I had the impression when she came in, but it seems like she might be the highest of the pecking order in the room right now, or at least on par with her partner god Yasaka. It’s strange she decided to come here at this time, or rather that the prosecutor, Amitsu apparently, brought her so late into the trial. What is the prosecutor hoping to add by just letting the goddess speak her mind? She hasn’t even said a word since Moriya entered…

“Uhm, forgive me, Lady Moriya, but I don’t know why you’re the one talking about this. Could you explain for me?” Takane squeaks out in an uncharacteristically formal way.

Moriya shifts tone back to her more lighthearted demeanor, replying, “Oh, sure, kid. Back in the long past, before the lands were even called Japan, a certain deity sat itself on the humans of a region. That deity was called Mishaguji, the curse god, and the land was called Suwa. He was a nasty piece of work, Mishaguji. Cursing harvests, births, weather, you name it. The native people were so afraid of him that he had enough faith to rival the Yamato. Now, of course, I tamed him and he’s still around with me today, but that’s a different story.”

“The question now would be why is Kagiyama on trial if there were never any measures taken against Mishaguji, correct?” Ran examines Moriya’s story, trying to remain a step ahead of the conversation.

“Sure, that’s the next place your mind would go to, but now we’re back to misfortune and curses. I said they come from the same place, but they don’t end up the same,” Moriya explains. “Curses are directed, misfortune is not. Curses are usually some farmer or another despising a rival, misfortune is the wrath of something on existence.”

“Spare the dramatics,” the one voice I haven’t pinned down says, remaining heartily disinterested.

“Oh, I’m sorry Hakurei, I didn’t realize these stories bore you,” the goddess remarks. She loses her jolly temperament when continuing, “Let me try this again, then. Curses are controlled, misfortune is a part of nature. Controlling nature is of the divine, but not everything…”

She pauses, hesitation on her face. There’s no telling why such hesitation is there, but it’s clear whatever she’s about to say will change someone’s opinion of her. Drastically.

“Lady Moriya?” Ran queries the small goddess.

Moriya sighs, “A god of misfortune will eventually lose control of itself. They are already disgusting, but one fat as a pig on their own power isn’t something anyone here can handle. Don’t get me wrong, I know the girl here is prim, but… we ain’t worried about her body, are we?”

It apparently isn’t rhetorical as she waits a moment for someone to answer. She realizes no one cares to do so and continues her deliberation.

“Whatever game you’re all playing here, make sure to take it seriously. Talking’s fun and cheap; cleaning up dead and diseased ain’t.”

That last sentence was said with layers I can’t even start to unravel right now. Clearly a hatred for how the tengu do things and stick their long noses where it doesn’t need to be. But just as well, there’s a full belief she herself seems to have in disliking misfortune gods, especially one like Hina.

While irrational to take one person’s word of mouth for a decision like this, hearing a god’s belief of something rings a complicated emotion. Something I imagine could rattle the boxes the chairs are sitting on.

“I think we’ve heard your concerns, Moriya,” the Tenma states, stony voiced same as before. “But if you have nothing to add to what we know, then we must ask you to step away. That is, unless the vindicator or apologist actually have questions.”

Not surprising that one of the judges would notice the mouthy prosecutor being so quiet, it’s been bugging me for a while as well.

“No, my lady,” the prosecutor declares, “I only have my closing statement to give before relieving the floor to the apologist.”

“You have our ears,” the slick man appeases.

The prosecutor stands to her feet, paper in hand ready to deliver her last gasp, “To the chairs, I surmise that sufficient arguments have been presented to show the goddess Hina Kagiyama as a dangerous entity for Gensokyo. Capable of causing mass amounts of environmental and personnel damages, being near impossible to keep under surveillance, able to go critical on any occasion,–“

It’s clear she only wrote that up intending to win every argument, but I think it’s fair to say that hasn’t been correct.

“-and holding a power that is only poorly understood, one meant to bring about disasters of unforeseen degrees. This has been corroborated by the goddess Moriya as an unpredictability that should not be tolerated. For these reasons it is of the vindicator’s suggestion to the chairs that Hina Kagiyama be sealed for an intended permanent period so as to not jeopardize Gensokyo.”

“Yes, good, good. We will keep your words in mind as we hear the apologist finish out the debate,” the old man states.

Sanae springs to her feet at the old man’s word, walking up by the boxes in front of Moriya. She doesn’t seem concerned that Moriya has taken the prosecution’s side here, instead showing intrigue and understanding on her face.

“Ugh,” Moriya grumbles, turning away from the shrine maiden, “It slipped my mind that you were the defense, Sanae. Sorry you have to see me act all serious.”

Sanae giggles, finding amusement in the odd situation she has found her two gods in, saying, “It’s pretty refreshing. Sometimes it feels like the only thing you take seriously is the menu for dinner, so it’s nice to hear you care about where we live.”

The little goddess looks up to Sanae. Her cheerfulness is infectious.

“Kochiya,” the old woman berates in tone, “please leave small talk for after the hearing.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’m sorry, it’s just been some days since I’ve seen Lady Suwako,” Sanae apologizes, almost giddily.

She returns her attention to the goddess. At first her smile fades, and in the next second her face is completely screwed into thought. She didn’t seem to have come up with a question in the window she made for herself, she really just wanted to talk to Moriya.

“Uhm…” she intelligently utters.

“Uhm?” Moriya repeats back.

“Why…” Sanae starts, clearly delaying as she to formulates a proper sentence. “Did the tengu find you? I couldn’t find you anywhere the last few days.”

“What?” Moriya says, baffled by the thought. “I told you when I came in that I’m here because I decided I should be. I reached out to the prosecutor and she forwarded me as a witness to the Tenma.”

Sanae grows quite the grimace as she takes in this information. She slowly nods in understanding and does something questionable, but probably for the best, once more saying, “I have no questions for the witness.”

The chairs have a bit of indigestion processing Sanae’s decision, prompting the older man to ask, “Are… are you sure? This will be your only chance to ask this witness anything, after which will be your rebuttal statement and closing statement.”

“I know, thank you,” Sanae says unabated.

“Then the witness is asked to retire from the room or to the observational seats without further comment,” the brutish man commands.

Moriya stands up and eyes Sanae, attempting to scrutinize her priestess’ thoughts. It doesn’t seem to work, so I guess it isn’t just me that can’t always tell what Sanae is thinking. She walks back to the entryway, where instead of leaving she points to a kappa sitting next to the aisle and then to the door. The kappa blanches, getting clear out of the way and out of the room. Moriya takes the seat unceremoniously afterwards.

That wasn’t pecking order, that was outright harassing someone. Is this just how it is with gods?

“Apologist, your word on this current topic, if you will?” the old man asks of Sanae.

“Of course! The vindicator argues that Hina’s abilities are dangerous because we do not understand them entirely, however I will state that we do know some things. Hina does not combine with gods related to misfortune or curses or similar, she combines with gods made of that energy. We also know that she does not spread misfortune endlessly, as she has times where the misfortune cleanses from her body and instead thins out. Lastly, she does not spread misfortune far from herself, instead only a very short distance which eventually pooled into the cursed forest’s environment. Because of this, we can say that Hina’s abilities are not entirely a mystery even if we don’t know much about how they work. But even though we don’t know much more, we do know that it is easy to avoid danger from it. So long as a person isn’t close to her, Hina does not spread misfortune to them. This is back to my point that Hina most often being in the cursed woods means there will be less chance for things we don’t know about her power to become a new problem,” Sanae dictates to the chairs. While largely from a script that I helped her workshop, it’s still an impressive spiel. Or maybe it’s just impressively long..?

“Do the chairs have any questions?” Sanae finishes by turning the discussion back to the judges. Nobody speaks up, but I don’t think it’s from disinterest. Rather, I think that they’re either thinking through what Sanae said or have no disagreements with it.

None of the judges end up asking anything after several minutes. It could easily be that they’ve come to their own conclusions at this point, so nothing else is needed. Regardless, the old man states, “We seem to have nothing to discuss on this, thank you, apologist. Now if you could conclude the hearing with a final word, we should be quick to come to a consensus.”

Sanae clears her throat, her voice having long since mixed with gravel after talking for hours. She states, “I have provided to the chairs evidence of the fact that Hina Kagiyama is of no great danger to Gensokyo. Her power is most often used in an area clearly showing her presence, does not further spread with time, and any major issues are rare and able to be dealt with timely. Anything we do not know about her power only further supports these points, as she has not had any issues historically for where she lives.”

“Good,” the Tenma speaks up. “I think that should conclude the hearing, then. It was a tenacious bout, leaving rules behind at points. Perhaps it would be good if I looked over the records explaining the proceedings, sometime.”

The brutish man grunts, noting his queue to speak, “With the hearing over, the presiding chairs will discuss our individual decisions, with a majority vote deciding the sentence. This will be a closed room decision, meaning all spectators, no matter their importance to the case, will leave now. Only the apologist and the vindicator will be exempt to hear the decision and communicate it to the accused. Such is their burden and responsibility.”

Keine helps me up to leave the room. I realize as I’m getting up, Hina’s getting up, too. The judges really did mean everyone. That’s why they explained how the attorneys tell their clients about the results. That has to be bad for the nerves, waiting out your sentence without a hint of the outcome.

Sanae sees us off nervously, but I’m not too stiff about it. Hina seems to be fine as well, though understandably quiet after having Moriya come in to speak against her. At first you’d figure the mountain gods would all be tight knit, but it seems that isn’t the case. The tengu guard from earlier escorts us back to the small room, now claustrophobic with the pressure of waiting.

It’s been a long day, and none of us are much for conversation now. Hina holds a smile, but it ain’t hard to see some nerves freshly opened to the air. Keine picked out a book from the many shelves to read. Seems she knows that being nervous won’t change anything. Of course, she’s correct, but it’s a hard thing to internalize.

The time passes in a grinding shuffle. I’m not left with much to do but twiddle my thumbs and check my watch. The halls outside of the room are deathly quiet, with only an occasional set of footfalls to break up the silence.

Exactly twenty three minutes later, a knock at the door grabs our attention. Sanae slides the door open and greets us.

She’s elated, and it lightens the room in an instant.

“They said Hina’s allowed to go! There wasn’t any penalty given at all!” she cheers.

Sanae can hardly contain herself, taking Hina’s hand and bouncing up and down with her in the hall. Hina seems to loosen up with Sanae’s goading, and returns to a natural smile because of it. All in all, I’d say that this should be the end of the hill we’ve been climbing. It’s an easy walk down from here.

At least for some of us, that is. One incited woman is quick to excuse us and take me away from the conversation, before even giving me the chance to ask for specifics on the decision itself. It burns me even worse when I spot Moriya pass us by in the direction we came from. What I wouldn’t give to hear two principally opposed gods speak to each other.

Keine tightens the hold on my arm, knowing that my curiosity is like a burning hot iron.

We descend from the mountain, mostly in silence. I know she wants to talk and has decided that it needs to be before I find an excuse to stay busy again. Or perhaps that applies to herself, as well.

I guess it’s time to decide if I should keep quiet about… no. I can’t. Not necessarily out of my own morals, but because I know how her power works. If it’s important enough for a newspaper to know about it, then it isn’t a secret to her. I would be shredding up her trust if I don’t say a thing and it comes up later.

So, maybe what I should contemplate before she sits me down is not what to say, but what I think about it.

What do I think about this strange occurrence with my body?

[x] Clearly it’s useful. Consequences be damned if it means I’m not dead now.

[x] Clearly it’s malicious. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

[x] There’s another perspective, it’s not so black and white. (Write-in)

And we’re out of the building! It felt longer to me than it really was because I had shoed this section in. It wasn’t quite right to leave things back at the midway point of this chapter since it wasn’t necessarily about Hina. Even here you would say it only loosely is about Hina, but I think that’s fine. Some characters have circumstances that make them more important by just existing, rather than what it is they do.

To peel back the curtain again, Suwako was a late addition to the plan, so if it felt a bit moot for her to be there, that’s one reason why. I can be fair on myself and admit that I don’t think she’d be good with bureaucratic nonsense like Kanako, though. She always strikes me more as the doer rather than the talker.

It will also be good for you to know that the judge decisions are not quite what you might expect, and it will come up again at some point, but maybe just as a commentary.

And, of course, this choice. This will be an important choice, but remember, it’s a choice. No option is entirely right or wrong here.
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[x] There’s another perspective, it’s not so black and white.
- [x] be cautious about it. It's helped you get back up and going when you needed to. But it's definitely not something you should be relying on. You never know when it'll suddenly stop working and sustain an injury that'll incapacitate you indefinitely. Figuring it out should be one of the highest priorities.

This probably falls within the "clearly it's malicious" choice. But "malicious" feels a bit too harsh of a determination.
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It amuses me how the original thing Tanner was asked to research the "ecology and lives of minor youkai", and now he's observing the trial of a youkai so un-minor that several of Gensokyo's powers want her sealed up so that she does not destroy the entire realm...
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I agree that knowing what is happening is important before making a session, just like with what we went through with Hina.
[x] There’s another perspective, it’s not so black and white.
- [x] be cautious about it. It's helped you get back up and going when you needed to. But it's definitely not something you should be relying on. You never know when it'll suddenly stop working and sustain an injury that'll incapacitate you indefinitely. Figuring it out should be one of the highest priorities
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[x] There’s another perspective, it’s not so black and white.
- [x] be cautious about it. It's helped you get back up and going when you needed to. But it's definitely not something you should be relying on. You never know when it'll suddenly stop working and sustain an injury that'll incapacitate you indefinitely. Figuring it out should be one of the highest priorities

Poor Tanner missing that conversation between Suwako and Hina I truly do pity him
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Couldn't be happier for Hina.

I don't really know what to think about Suwako.
Even though I did suspect her at first, I'm not really sure now whether or not she had her fingers in this pie. (Author note aside.)
She clearly has some form of dislike towards misfortune gods, so there's motive, but it still doesn't sit right.
Sanae's question is actually rather interesting, even if Suwako just avoided giving a straight answer.

Yeah, I'm basically back at square one for possible culprits.
I guess it could've been the tengu, but that doesn't sound right either.
Sure they pulled shenanigans, but they also assigned a fledgling as the prosecution. Granted, she was very competent.

I'm still of the opinion that Hina getting sealed would've had terrible consequences.
Isn't her whole job taking the misfortune of humans unto herself so they experience less hardship?
What would've happened to the village, for example, if that misfortune heat sink was to suddenly be missing?

All that speculation aside, Hina is free to go and that's great.
We can catch up with her (and ask about what Suwako said) later as we currently have some very pressing matters to attend to.

Regis really had it coming, so it's time for him to face the music and accept responsibility for his treatment of Keine.
He has to be completely honest here or it might actually cause a permanent rift. He can't keep screwing up like this.
So instead, we vote about our stance.

Basically, the write-in of >>44324 sums it up perfectly.
He might be concussed, but Regis is still a researcher.
Declaring the outcome of something one way or the other without proper data is not conducive to the scientific method.
The write-in combines a healthy dose of caution together with acknowledging the boons and risks involved, while also prioritising the need to investigate further.
It is skeptical, intelligent, pragmatic and curious.
Basically just Regis in a nutshell.
The one point I would want to disagree on is that I don't think this write-in necessarily falls within the "clearly it's malicious" choice.
In my opinion it lies right inbetween the two options, but it's being sensible about things.
Expect the worst; hope for the best and all that.

[x] There’s another perspective, it’s not so black and white.
- [x] be cautious about it. It's helped you get back up and going when you needed to. But it's definitely not something you should be relying on. You never know when it'll suddenly stop working and sustain an injury that'll incapacitate you indefinitely. Figuring it out should be one of the highest priorities.
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[x] There’s another perspective, it’s not so black and white.
- [x] Be cautious about it. It's helped you get back up and going when you needed to. But it's definitely not something you should be relying on. You never know when it'll suddenly stop working and sustain an injury that'll incapacitate you indefinitely. Figuring it out should be one of the highest priorities.

Here I am again. Sitting at Keine’s living room table while she keeps a stern look meant to chastise. I understand that she has every right to. After all, we’re talking about me not being a trustworthy person.

“So, what is it this time?” she asks, cutting from usual small talk and banter.

I can’t hold a chuckle when responding, “I seem to be good at making you worry.”

“Tanner,” Keine reprimands, narrowing her eyes. “I’m not playing right now. You just lied to the tengu during one of their formal proceedings. It wouldn’t take more than a trip to Eientei for them to learn the truth. Now explain what’s happening with you.”

“R-right, sorry,” I recoil. She’s more serious about this than I expected. “I guess it’s time to tell you that something abnormal is happening to my body.” I put a hand to the cast on my opposite shoulder.

“Abnormal how?” she continues in stride.

“As in, I’m healing faster than I should,” I state. “It’s helped me, so I haven’t looked into why, but it doesn’t take Dr. Yagokoro to tell me it’s strange.”

“Right, Dr. Yagokoro treated you. Did she not say anything about it? That’s strange for her,” Keine contemplates.

“No, she tried to figure it out, but couldn’t tell why I’m like this.”

Keine’s eyes go wide. She is taken aback thinking of the implications.

After some thought, she asks in a low voice, as if the sentence itself is amoral, “How bad was your shoulder, really?”

“It was almost entirely torn off,” I answer matter-of-factly. “From what Reisen was saying, I should have been knocked out overnight from the blood loss alone.”

Keine doesn’t say anything. She just looks at me, disbelieving what she’s hearing. I sort of knew she would react like this, so I’ve only delayed the inevitable. Lying to use it as false evidence in a trial for someone’s life was only happenstance compared to the rage that burns deep in this woman.

“Keine?” I try for a reaction. “Keine, this is a good thing. Even if Yagokoro couldn’t tell me what it is, it probably saved my life.”

“But…” Keine attempts a thought, false starting instead.

I wait for her to collect herself.

“But, you don’t know anything about what it is? You went right back to work instead of looking into it?” she interrogates.

“I… yeah. I suppose I did,” I unsurely answer. “I was in the middle of helping with the whole Hina case.”

“No, your health is clearly something that you should prioritize!” Keine simmers.

“I couldn’t just leave things as they were!” I argue. “Is it really so bad for me to try to do good?”

“If it means you’re throwing all self preservation to the wind, then yes! Yes it is!” she boils.

“Then I’d do it! If it means I help someone then I would, damnit!”

“You’ll get yourself killed like that! Why can’t you shut up and drop your pride when it matters?!” she steams.

“Because I have a chance to do good by someone! I can’t let those chances slip by because I’m told to, not even by you!” I burst.

A moment passes in gouging silence. At some point, we had stood up and gotten into each other’s faces. My finger points to her in accusation. It’s stubborn. It’s shameful. It’s misguided.

She looks as tense as I feel. Spite or aggression or something clearly in her eyes. Trying to prove that she’s right and I’m in the wrong. The raging and shouting seems to have not affected her, but on closer inspection I can see the faintest tinges of red on her cheeks.

We’re in the post phase of two waves constructively combining in a head on collision, the trough soon to come much the same. It takes some time to calm our breathes. We find ourselves with a sigh and sit back down.

“Listen to us, we didn’t even talk through the first issue,” I whim. “It’s like I left all rationality in the courtroom.”

“Speak for yourself,” Keine retorts. She gets back up and wanders over to the kitchen. With a bit of clinking she’s fetched two cups and the alcohol I brought home a while ago. We haven’t had the mood to sit down and drink together in a while. She waves me along to the back porch.

She’s already poured us a couple of servings when I sit down.

“’Speak for yourself?’ You’re not drinking ‘cause you’re stressed, right? Trust me when I say that doesn’t really help anything,” I joke.

“If we can just relax for a moment that would be nice,” Keine says. “I’m only ever bickering with you, it seems.”

“Does that mean we’re good or terrible friends?” I jest, taking the cup to my lips.

She doesn’t answer.

“Sorry… I guess that isn’t nice to ask, even as a joke,” I apologize.

“You haven’t even wondered why you suddenly changed?” Keine returns to the previous topic.

“I have, but I was busy. There weren’t any red lights to tell me something was completely off, either. I heal faster, don’t know what else. You’re right to think it’s irresponsible I haven’t looked into it, but I’m sure you can imagine it would be touchy to find the right people to go to for this,” I explain myself properly this time.

She takes a sip and responds, “I… can’t say I can imagine, actually. What do you mean?”

“Well, it wouldn’t look good if I were becoming more like a Youkai.”

“Are you?” she asks partly in concern and curiosity.

“No, Yagokoro was able to rule that out. Doesn’t mean anyone in the village would think the same,” I mutter.

A moment of silence passes as we take drinks in sync.

“I would vouch for you,” Keine calmly states.

I grumble, “I don’t want to get to that point. You’ve already put yourself out for me so much as it is.”

“Whatever do you mean? Bashing the skulls of village elders has always been one of my duties. Telling villagers what to trust in is another,” she replies with a devilish smirk.

“You know what I mean,” I state. “I need to be a big boy and fix my own issues once in a while. Doesn’t help that I’ve been sneaking away from here like a grounded teenager.”

Keine looses a cough, “I would’ve tied you down, so you aren’t entirely exaggerating.”

“Still, whatever this magic or whatever is, however helpful, if I don’t understand it, it’s a liability. It’s not like I can’t die.”

“Well, it’s nice to see someone can remain cautious in Gensokyo,” Keine muses.

“… Was that a joke? Did you just make a joke about Mokou’s immortality?” I find myself surprised.

“What? It’s not like my sense of humor is dead when we’re in the middle of these serious talks,” Keine chuckles.

We each down a cup in silence. The sun closing in on the horizon. The vibrant orange of sky and light gives Keine a fickle shading, something not quite fit to her dominant blue colors.

As if affected by this blurring, she quietly asks, “Hey, do you think all I do is nag you?”

I keep my eyes trained on hers, though she isn’t looking my way, and respond, “What gives you that idea? You’re always right, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’m just more of a handful than I think.”

She puffs, and replies, “I’m not always right. No one is always right.”

“I think you could fool me,” I playfully remark, feeling a smile creep it’s way on my face.

We do a little more light banter for a few drinks. Both of us realize we didn’t directly address the issue, but I think she understands that I do intend to look into it when the chance comes up. I didn’t realize how worried she was about this. I really should have figured it out after I saw her on my way out of the clinic.

I seem to be good at distracting myself from obvious things, huh?

Distracting myself and making people mad. What a skill set.

My smile’s faded. A thought… a need to ask something that has appeared as a pattern surfaces in my mind.

“Tanner?” she asks for my attention, already standing with the drinking articles in hand. “You’re thinking about something. What is it?”

She sets the pieces back down.

I’ve half a mind to take another swig before asking, “Keine, would you say we have much of a… healthy… relationship?”

Keine stares down at me. Some inner voice tells me I’ve lost the right to look up at her. Maybe because I’ve burdened her even more with the judgment of the question, a self fulfilling prophecy. Maybe because I feel like I’m acting more shameful than I knew I could be, reaping the consequences of not trusting everything to my closest friend here.

She thinks… And thinks… And continues to think…

The pressure is agonizing. I would prefer Ran glaring at me like an unholy abomination any day over this.

After what feels like forever, her hands lower to lift my head. Before I can look at her, she embraces my forehead against her belly. It’s warm. A kind warmth. One that yearns for me to realize how blessed I should feel to have it around. We stay together like this for only a short time.

Cautiously retracting her hands, Keine releases me and is quick to head inside. I can’t imagine that she was smiling…

The time before the lecture passes faster than usual. Part of it is that there’s less time to directly interview Hina due to the multi day ordeal, but the main factor is doing my report in conjunction with the interviews. I’d once thought it was a pain in the ass using computers to do writing when they started being commonplace in colleges, but I now understand the pains of my forebears in research. Even investing in a typewriter hardly makes it faster to redraft large sections of writing, much less a single sentence. And yes, I can type with one hand faster than I write, so I still don’t regret the purchase!

That isn’t even covering the content that I needed to adapt to the lecture. There was… a lot I needed to change out in my public facing version. Nothing fibbed, of course, but quite a lot’s omitted.

In fact, I took a separate trip out to Hina’s abode when Ran notified me that Hina was having another ‘episode’ the week over. I tried to come even further prepared than last time, but as if in response, my misfortune ended up being even worse. I’m starting to understand just how much of a bastard misfortune truly is. Also, it apparently slipped everyone’s minds the other day to tell me that I tried sitting in a chair after falling into the stairs. The chair decided to take issue with that. Further explanation why I was not all present.

To a little more of my luck, though, I was able to heal up enough to convince Yagokoro to leave me with wrappings instead of a cast for the lecture. That meant no questions even remotely concerning the entire catastrophic event. That’s the most I can ask for. Hopefully I’ll heal up the rest of the way in another week. I’m at the point where it looks like something ripped the skin clean off of my shoulder, but the muscles, sinew, bones and whatnot are back in the places they should be.

I dared not ask if there would be a lot of pain when my nerve endings came back, but that’ll have to be an unpleasant surprise to come.

The crowd for today’s lecture were pretty receptive to the topic, if not a little to quick to banter. I even got an opportunity to start rambling about a theory I was working on with tsukumogami. Nothing concrete, but made for a fun exercise in terms of real research, and not the ‘research’ I usually do.

That’s my own personal preference talking, though.

“That’s quite the different story from what was on your report,” Saki, one of the Hieda servants, calls me out after the room’s cleared and I’m packing up. “You think it’s alright to leave out as much as you did?”

“I’m more worried that you are also reading the full report. Whose eyes is it for, anyway?” I question in kind.

“Whom ever’s asking for them,” Saki continues the back and forth with a shrug.

“Right, whatever. The villagers don’t need to know about the ordeal I was a part of. I don’t want any fear mongering to take place,” I sternly state.

She laughs, “I thought that’s what Youkai were in the first place?”

I eye the brunette down. She acts younger than I expected, or maybe is just prodding me for a reaction.

“Saki… don’t,” I grimly state. “Fear is good. Letting fear fester, though, doesn’t bring people to good places.”

She looks oddly at me, maybe expecting more light banter from the mood of the lecture, but when contrast with serious topics like your home turning to ruins, it’s hard to keep a light attitude. I walk out with her fresh stack of papers before she can further disagree with me.

I glance down to the cover page. The name Hong Meiling appears at the head of a page. Or, rather, Meiling Hong.

It hasn’t come up in a while, so I sometimes forget, but something about the barrier to Gensokyo decides to let me read Japanese. While it remains fairly consistent, some oddities arise, such as name ordering. Usually it gets placed into English order, and even fools me into thinking people address names in English order, but not this one. I’ll have to look into what reason that might be.

Hello everyone. I could move into the next chapter now, including the basic descriptions, but I’ll cut it short for my little intermediate corner!

So, of course, side story time (if you so wish).

[x] Yea
-[I] Dreams…
-[2] Shrooms…
-[C] A wolf…

[x] Nay, get on with the story!

Now I can sprinkle tidbits of sillies or gags I didn’t get to in that last chapter, since it was dense with possible details to add. First up, I did decide on a definitive writer for that silly little poem way back when. It was Hieda no Aya, when one day tasked to create a short piece to put with other bedtime stories to scare children from wandering the woods. It was one of her less proud works, enough so that her current incarnation would be quite mortified to see it again in person!
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[x] Nay, get on with the story!
vroom vroom
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[x] Yea
-[I] Dreams

This could mean anything when it comes to Touhou.
Mystery box! Reveal your contents!
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[x] Yea
-[I] Dreams…
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[x] Nay, get on with the story!
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[x] Yea
-[I] Dreams

Do you think so? To me it seems pretty clear there is a single character this would refer to.
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[x] Yea
-[I] Dreams
Let's get you to bed, grandpa.
Found this place a few days ago and binged this. Might as well participate. Was wondering where the lectures were but I found the story threads at the bottom.

Perhaps Miss Kamishirasawa bought a new pillow.
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Congratulations on another arc done!

I still have so many questions nagging at me, though.

Who is responsible for this, in the end? And why?
I have no idea who it could be anymore.
I've finally read the lecture now too and being reminded of Hina's title referring to a "hidden god" (Okina?) gave me another wacky suspect, but in reality I just don't know.
I've basically only focused on persons and groups that actually came up during the chapter, but maybe there's some more obvious suspects in people who haven't directly shown up that I haven't considered.

Missing out on the chat between Suwako and Hina meant we missed out on a potential lead, but I'm also just curious what she'd have to say to Hina in the first place.
Apparently Regis didn't get to ask during his even more disastrous second visit mentioned in this post, either.

Anyway, I can wildly speculate all I like, but I prefer having my theories based on facts, so I'll put this aside for now.
Also, just to be clear, this isn't me asking for answers or anything, just ranting at myself for being unable to figure this out.

So, Keine.
That was messy.
It was gonna be regardless, but it still stung to read.
In the end they got at least some of it out of their system, and it's not the worst result that could've happened.
I just hope they can work out the awkwardness over time.

Not too many comments on the lecture itself, but just like the knife from the yamawaro chapter; another detail came up that somehow managed to fit in perfectly in hindsight, the bead chain.
Was pretty cool to see something like that happen again.

So, next up is Meiling.
Very cool, always been a fan of her.
Again, I haven't read the next lecture yet, but preliminary thoughts are that it's likely to be a less intense series of events than this last study has been.
But who knows, anything can happen. Maybe somebody in the mansion will want to stir things up.
I can only wait and look forward to what happens next.

Choice time.
I don't particularly mind either way.
Having a segue could be a nice change of pace before getting into the next arc, since this one was pretty heavy, I suppose.
In that case there's three options

Dreams: Likely to be Doremy, but who knows.
Shrooms: Marisa, perhaps?
A wolf: Kagerou? Possibly even Enoko? It'd be a bit surprising if it was the latter, though.

I'm actually kinda curious about what sort of dreams Regis would have.
Nightmares about his time in the army? Nostalgic dreams about his old life in the outside world?
Or, maybe it'll be about more recent things.
Like, say, nightmares about the rather strained relationship with his best friend/housemate?
One way to find out, I guess.

[x] Yea
-[I] Dreams
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I mean, dreams can be used as a story device to e.g. show a flashback of some important piece of backstory, or set up a future plot point in a vague, ominous way – but considering that I'm pretty sure Tanner doesn't have any relevant backstory beyond what we already know, and future story arcs are already known from the lectures, I think this is just going to be Doremy time. Not to say that can't overlap with the other options, like Doremy giving some exposition on Tanner's past or future in her usual vague, smug way – but in any case I'm pretty sure it will be a mini-episode involving her similar to the previous interludes.
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[x] Yea
-[ I] Dreams

It’s a night like the rest. As we’re moving to the end of summer, the nights still grow hotter. It’s like how something cooking in an oven still gets hotter after the gas is turned off. Not applying heat doesn’t mean lack of heat, per se.

Things get to me. Stress with Keine, my recovering injury, any clausal nonsense the tengu might try to apply after the trial. This is all simply compounded by the fact that my body is changing without a single explanation.

In short, I’m having trouble sleeping. It’s just too hot for me to rest. I toss my sheets off and swivel aimlessly in place for a bit, but to no avail. I decide to dress myself and take a short walk outside. Keine has warned me that while rare, it’s still technically possible to encounter a Youkai right at the edge of the village wall where her house and school are, but my insomnia is a far worse opponent right now.

The night breeze isn’t refreshing, but the fauna of the dark make for a soothing ambiance. The crickets chirp in the distance, the occasional bird calls, I even hear an owl at one point. While to a small city goer this may seem like a cacophony, something that can’t be droned out like motor vehicles, these night sounds are a far better volume than the terror of the daytime cicadas. I used to think mosquitoes were the worst bugs in existence, then I learned how the cicada mating call sounds in the summer.

I could swear I’m accumulating a case of tinnitus with each stacking day of the noise. It’s still too early for me to be reminded of my age, damnit!

And the worst part of all is that they’re resting soundly while I’m up and wandering about like a moron. Ugh, I should probably go back and try to sleep again. Spite isn’t much of a sleeping supplement, but I could care less when nothing else works at the witching hour.

I return home, heading back to my room and preparing for bed again. I skip the sheets entirely, knowing they won’t help, and land my head on the pillow. Nothing’s changed, but the pillow feels like it’s enveloping me, letting my head sink. It’s comforting, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve gone delirious if my pillow even feels different. I’ve never been one to handle sleep deprivation, it’s just one of those things that you live with in the modernity outside.

I sink, my eyes closed and yet I see. I feel as if I’m spread out, yet I’m wholly together. My vision cannot pick a single direction that I’m looking in, so instead I take in all directions in a pitch black void. I land.

The visions are more vivid than casual daydreams. I can understand what I’m doing, though that understanding only runs so far as conscious thought is concerned. I’m running through some part of a forest, but it’s not taking me anywhere. As soon as I question this impossibility, another happens. I’m standing by the lake, the weather familiar, and Cirno floats next to me.

“What?” I ask.

“What?” Cirno asks in turn. “Are you okay, old guy?”

I try to ascertain my own thoughts on the question, but my mind escapes me, “I… don’t know, I…”

Cirno stops me and asks in a serious tone, “You need your pants back, right?”


I’m on the lakeside, back on the first day of my field studies. I seem to have lost my pants somewhere. This is a dream, then. I’ve never experienced a lucid dream. Cirno looks at me concerned. She must think I’m out of it, or at least my idea of Cirno thinks that.

I do wonder, though, “Cirno, what are you up to?”

“Learning to be stronger!” she answers with the same bravado of the real article. In the end, that is her entire being.

A splash comes from the water next to us. A vague recollection surfaces of this. What I could expect is a mermaid with blue hair. There appears to be too much blue, though. The woman stands up, not a drop of water drips from her clothes. The water doesn’t pretend to be physically sensical, instead leaving her dry.

Keine looks at me with disappointment and fatigue, thinking she’s going to have to help me with yet another problem. Being without pants is a grave misdemeanor of public decency. I’m walking around without a part of me that I left the house with. A complete blunder of my reputation. Who would trust a teacher without pants?

She wordlessly instructs Cirno to search nearby for my drawers, the forest next to us now being a sandy shoal, one the lake definitely doesn’t have. While I’m paying attention to the forest, Cirno finds the tree, a wooden chest of unremarkable make. It’s quite remarkable to find one like that, though. She digs into the chest, the thing having a rusted open lock that can’t secure anything, and lo and behold she holds my underwear.

The underwear I am presently wearing, in fact. I look down and shriek like a schoolboy, realizing the dire strait I’m in. Keine looks at me unimpressed. She already looked at me that way before I covered up.

What is happening? Aren’t I supposed to be controlling what’s taking place in my own dream?

Laughing fills the world. My embarrassment is the subject of this entire dreamscape’s amusement, the cackling taking up all sense of anything not me. As it happens for more than a small unit of imaginary time, I can focus on it. There’s something peculiar about it. The cackling, no longer a cacophony, is resolved into one person’s voice. I focus more, and as I do it goes down to a single direction of origin.

The world fades. Not entirely, but enough to show the seams that make up my false reality. The sky fades to an inky blackness dotted with many stars, and the ground degrades into a bright pink mush. The lakeside takes on the same color and texture, but somehow in liquid form.

I observe the world around me and focus back to the source of the noise.

Two women sit on a couch, one of them munches from a bag of chips.

I stare at them, surprised that I could feel baffled while dreaming. A blue haired one dressed in black and white with a Santa cap grouchily sits next to the blonde one feeding on chips. The slob is the one taking pride in her own booming guffaw.

The grouch catches me staring and smacks the arm of the other woman, berating, “Look what you did now! He noticed us, you idiot!”

“Huh?” the blonde contains her giggles to utter. She looks over to me, too. “Oh,” she emits, less than amused by the development.

Whichever controls it, lets the couch scoot forward, approaching conversational range. The blonde proudly opens her mouth to start whatever horrendous conversation this will turn into, but I hold up a hand to stop her.

“Uh, before we talk, can you help me get decent?” I ask, huddled on the ground in my half clothed form.

The Santa-hatted woman wryly… curls her lips? It’s more than a simple smile. Not really giving off any feeling of well meaning joy, either. She gets up and tells me, “That is easier to do than you’d think.”

She squats down and traces a finger through the ‘ground.’ She shapes it into the rough outline of a pair of pants, like what a toddler would manage if focused on the task. With her sketch completed she grabs the article from the top hem and pulls it out. It really doesn’t looks anything like a pair of pants, instead more like a blobby pink mass with two outstretched arms, but I reluctantly take it anyway.

I manage to get a leg through it, and to my surprise this works. I am now wearing a crudely drawn pair of pants in a dream, fantastic.

“Oh, don’t look so disappointed,” the woman muses. I look at her skeptically. “It’s a perfect fit. They love you.”

She points back to my legs, and I look down to see the crude drawing has been replaced with tailored drawers. In a hot pink, sure, but basically a real pair of pants that fit to my less than impressive form.

“Wait, what do you mean ‘they?’” I realize what she said.

“Hey, I’m right here, still,” the blonde woman grunts. “You don’t get to ignore me.”

“Quiet, you,” the magical dream woman tuts. “And as for your question, those pants are made of dreams. Literally. Don’t let any hyper-dimensional objects get close.”

“I… what?” I ask once more. Everything she says leaves more questions. Her lax attitude and uncanny smile continues to perplex me.

“Oi!” the blonde woman gripes, shoving the other out of the way. “Introductions, now! Hi, I’m Yukari.”

The blonde does a curtsy in an oversized white shirt stained with a noticeable amount of grease stains. Yukari is… not at all what I’d expect her to be.

“Is something the matter? You’re staring at me as if I weren’t real,” Yukari remarks.

“Well, technically, nothing should be real here,” the Santa-hatted woman elaborates.

Yukari sighs, disapproving of her cohorts wiles, “That’s quite enough, Doremy. I’d like a normal conversation with this man, now.”

Doremy raises her eyes to the command, and from a sidelong gaze mocks, “Who was the one that wanted to spy on him in the first place? Which of us was having the time of her life watching a grown man bereft of clothes?”

“My, you make me sound like some sort of perverse individual,” Yukari dismisses. “I simply wish to know about the human that my dear shikigami has become so fond of.”

“You’re laying it too thick if you think she’s ‘fond’ of me,” I dispute.

“Agreed. How gross, trying to steal someone’s trust through flattery,” Doremy bolsters my point.

Yukari pauses for a moment, stupefied by the direction of the conversation. She then asks, “Have I actually done anything to you? I sense hostility but I can’t place why that would be.”

“Consider it paying forward Ran’s anxieties,” I retort. “I had to convince her to house herself on the first day. Imagine if I wasn’t the type to care so much. She’d still be sleeping out in the wild like a beast.”

“Hah, beast,” Yukari snorts to herself. “No, not the point, forgive me,” she catches herself and attempts to reclaim some modicum of decency. She looks far from the regal master of Gensokyo that precedes her name.

“This is the part where she tries to convince you that she planned everything out from the beginning,” Doremy snarks in a low voice.

“My dear Sweet, whatever are you on about?” Yukari feigns ignorance. “Clearly I had a role in the very conception of this man. Nay, his previous generation, even.”

Never mind, she’s just being sarcastic.

“Wow, how convincing. Maybe you could even trust ‘this’ Yukari,” Doremy murmurs.

“Of course you can. But don’t ruin the fun for him, Doremy,” Yukari admonishes. “It’s no fun if he isn’t left with more questions than he started with.”

“That would involve giving me at least one answer,” I stab at the topic.

“Ooh, his canines are growing in,” Doremy reacts.

“See what I mean?” Yukari glows. “Ah, and as to your point, here’s one answer to the many questions left to your subconscious: I’m testing.”

“What?” I say again in repetition.

“No, no, that’s all you get,” Yukari giggles. With a wave of her hand, she continues, “And now, you should be off.”

I stand still, waiting for something to happen. Nothing does, and Yukari breaks her statuesque expression to complain, “Hey, Doremy. Could you be a dear and send him off?”

Doremy floats on her side, reading from a book that she took out of nowhere. She looks up and responds with false surprise, “Oh! I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was at your beck and call.”

“Doremy…” Yukari sighs.

“Listen, it’s alright to come here and ask for simple things once in a while, but to outright spy on a dream self and interrupt this natural balance by disturbing them pushes the limits,” Doremy lectures.

“Oh, my, I don’t remember telling you off when you decided to start selling your pillows in the real world,” Yukari retaliates.

This confuses me on how that’s supposed to be some kind of comeback, so I ask, “Why would selling pillows be a problem? Were they defective somehow? Can pillows be defective?”

“Oh no, they were excellent,” Yukari states, “but they were made from dream matter. It happens to be what we’re standing on. I shouldn’t have to tell a physicist that mixing matters from separate dimensions is a poor business decision.”

Doremy glances aside in embarrassment and defends herself, “I mean, it was only a few people that couldn’t wake up. I worked out the kinks pretty quick.”

“I’m not sleeping on one of those pillows right now, am I?” I throw out.

“Hm? Oh, of course not. I used one of the more recent articles,” Yukari dissuades.

Wait, they’re still being sold, then?

“Actually, I think he is on one of the old pieces,” Doremy notes. “I keep the old ones in the surface layers since they aren’t dangerous to dream denizens.”

“Oh, that does make sense,” Yukari casually admits.

“Wait, so… I’m trapped in a dream?” I ask, concerned for my life. The both of them don’t seem to share the same concerns, though.

“Oh, don’t be so dramatic,” Doremy shrugs while floating along. “It only takes someone to come along and jolt your body awake. They were discontinued because people would be asleep past their usual waking time.”

“Ah, and you live with your romantic partner already,” Yukari furthers. “Excellent. I didn’t want to do it myself.”

“That’s assuming that she didn’t leave the house already,” I argue.

Both of them freeze up, unsure what to do if that is the case. Yukari pops open one of her tears in space to peek through.

She takes a second to observe before informing us, “Ah. She’s actually–“

I snap to consciousness. A burning sensation on my cheek. I rub it while my eyes adjust to the daylight.

“Oh, thank goodness,” Keine says in relief. “I was worried that something happened to you.”

“What? What did I do?” I ask, groggy and unable to grasp any thoughts of what I dreamt of.

“You weren’t waking up. I called for you to get out of bed but you were nearly comatose.”

“Oh, yeah that’s bad,” I casually dismiss. Keine helps me up, making sure that I can stand on my own.

“Yeah, that is bad,” Keine emphasizes. “We don’t understand your condition, so this might have to do with that. Hopefully we don’t need to keep a watch of your sleep.”

“It… should be fine, right?” I try to dismiss.

“We’ll need to talk about that later. For now I need to get to the school,” Keine defers the topic to another time.

I stand in my room, sheets strewn about during my desperation last night to properly fall asleep. I go to the closet to grab my clothes for the day, and on the top of the rack, displayed above the rest of the pieces, is a hot pink pair of pants. The things are absurd looking, but undoubtedly tailor made with a professional hand. Of course, I don’t remember where these came from, but I feel like it was recent enough for me to know.

Here we are, back at it again with making fun of everyone in the story simultaneously! It’s been a hot second since I was engaged in this story, so exacts I wanted to deliver from this side episode were somewhat vague even to me. I think it came out alright, though.
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As a separate note, if you don't know why I went away from this story for a month, then I'm here to tell you that I was participating in this year's NaNoWriMo event for the site.
There's the page to the event itself, go check out everyone on there.
And there's my story specifically. I had fun doing it, so take a glance through if you want more of my nonsense.
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damn. Tanner doesn't even remember a lick, huh.

Odd Yukari for this story, but I'm a fan of casual sarcastic Yukari. Bit of a fresh air from the usual, "SERIOUS MASTER PLANNER." that everyone writes her as. So it's nice to see one that takes the piss a bit.
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>“Ah, and you live with your romantic partner already,” Yukari furthers.

>“That’s assuming that she didn’t leave the house already,” I argue.

Well, he didn't deny the accusation...

Well, she's still a bitch for basically abandoning Ran, whatever the reason; "testing" be damned.

Speaking of Yukari:

>“Wow, how convincing. Maybe you could even trust ‘this’ Yukari,” Doremy murmurs.

Dream Yukari, maybe?

The preceding sarcastic line about her having her fingers in Regis' conception (or that of his previous generation) is a little unnerving when it's being said by Yukari of all people, though.
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Checked. Nice digits.
Ah, nice. Wasn't expecting gapper. What a goober.
Will do.
She got interested in human reproduction and "helped" with the pregnancy. When it all lays bare, he will use the revelation to call her a nerd and inflict irreversible mental scarring, thereby ending her career.

Btw, what internal voices for Tanner do you all have? I've comfortably settled with Campbell Scott's Richard Parker.
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Well, looks like it’s time for me to meet some fellow foreigners. Meiling Hong is a gate guard for a western styled mansion called the Scarlet Devil Mansion. Colored per its namesake. Inhabitants mostly per namesake, specifically including a European vampire all the inhabitants are related to in some way. Europe may be as distant as Japan is for a western American, but the cultures are much closer overall.

Of course, that isn’t the case for Hong. She’s clearly oriental by both characteristics and dress. If I’m to believe the ridiculous title Akyuu gave her, then she’s from China. These odd titles Akyuu gives are only getting stranger as I read more of them. I mean, how is it that her only important characteristic feature is that she hails from China? Surely there’s more people in Gensokyo that come from an entire neighboring country.

I decide to not let the thought bug me too much. After meeting Hina in person her title seemed to be something from left field, nothing truly important to understanding her.

For Hong it might be pertinent for at least one thing, though. Why is she enlisted under the mansion’s master, a western immigrant to Japan? Europe may as well be on a separate hemisphere of the planet for a majority of the countries that the word includes. Hell, is the Lady Scarlet Turkish? That wouldn’t be my first pick for the origin of a vampire.

You know what, I’m getting stuck on the lesser of the questions here. Hong has something far more absurd about her than anything else, her species. She is strictly listed as a Youkai, but not as any specific Youkai. I didn’t even know that was possible.

Akyuu’s own words have no species used to describe Hong. This strikes me as absurd for the context, since that would be the equivalent of attempting to describe the traits of a species of dog without naming what that species is. It’s serviceable, but only at the most rudimentary level. It means that Meiling Hong has no historical precedent that I can use as a frame of reference. Hina was similar, but she was created off of a known object with significant cultural value. Here I only know Hong is Chinese and works for a vampire.

“Still pouring through those?” Keine asks me as she walks by, ready for bed. “You had a late morning, but make sure it doesn’t turn into a late night, as well.”

“Yes, I know,” I reply without leaving the newspaper page I’m reading. “I’ve got to get back to field work tomorrow. Ran would especially hate it if I were late to the first day.”

Keine sniffs in amusement, replying, “Someone keeping you punctual is a blessing. You can never be too early, after all.”

“Oh, I know. Students love to hear that one, after all,” I joke back.

She walks out of the room with a yawn, her sliding door shuffling into place a few second later.

I finish reading the article that’s caught my attention, and idly note, “A crop circle in the middle of their own garden, huh? They’re pretty easy going to show zero concern for that kind of thing.”

I pause and search my senses, trying to catch a hint of what I did once before.

“Ran, do you have a moment to chat?” I say to the empty air of the room.

The front door slides open as quietly as it can, Ran attempting to not disturb a certain lady’s sleep. She shuffles over by the table and sits at my behest. While she may begrudgingly do so, I appreciate not having to talk with a crook in my neck.

“Your senses are acclimating further,” Ran notes.

“Maybe. It helps to know it isn’t my imagination playing tricks on me. I could always be a good guesser, too,” I share.

“You aren’t going to ask about the crop circle, correct?”

I fan my hand and reply, “Of course not. I can ask Hong about that. We’ve got something more important to discuss.”

I shift around a few pages to find the article that caught me earlier. An article from the Gensokyo Chronicle on a magician, Patchouli Knowledge. She resides in her own domicile just under the mansion.

“If what Akyuu says here is true, then she’s the most likely to know if what’s happening to me is magical in nature,” I inform Ran of my thoughts.

Ran hums at the idea, and replies, “You wish to enter the mansion and speak to the witch, then? A suitable idea, but logistically troublesome.”

“In what way?” I ask.

“Numerous,” Ran surmises. “Chiefly, the mansion residents are an eclectic group. This is from previous experience dealing with them.”

It’s also from someone who has to deal with the most nefarious schemer in this world, so I shouldn’t take the statement lightly.

“What’s your take on the group, then? Maybe we could glean some important ideas from their personalities,” I press my intrigue.

Ran eyes me, knowing this is purely curiosity taking over and not something of necessity. Even so, she responds, “So long as you understand this as only idle gossip, then it’s fine to indulge your whims. The head of the mansion, Remilia Scarlet, is the vampire the mansion takes its name for. She is very egotistical, yet immature. She hides it behind a veil of aristocracy thicker than Lady Yukari’s.”

Nothing different from Akyuu’s own words so far, but that might just be expected. Scarlet does seem like a straight forward individual. I’m going to let that comment of Yukari pass by, though. Now’s not the time to ask.

“There is something to keep in mind, however,” Ran continues. “Her nobility is certainly falsified, but due to not wanting any challenge to it, she reserves all actions to her subordinates.”

“Wait, so you mean… she doesn’t lift a finger because that would be her going against her own lie?” I paraphrase.

“Correct. Anytime that she does act on her own would be after her lowers have been bested. This includes even the gate guard outside of the mansion, should it be apt. It is very rare that she accepts a direct challenge.”

I think on it for a moment, but come up empty and say, “Not something I’d hope comes in handy. Thanks, though.”

“Then on to the next resident,” Ran points to one of the other chronicle pages, the maid’s, and explains, “Sakuya Izayoi. Head maid. Head grunt worker. Head of arrogance. If it doesn’t involve her lady or the betterment of her house, she scoffs at it. And that is no exaggeration.”

I wait a moment for her to continue, but when she doesn’t I ask, “Is that it? From what I’ve read there sounds like a lot more.”

Ran closes her eyes in thought before relating, “Indeed. There is certainly more, but there is also too much more. With how likely she will appear after our arrival, she will surely be brought up again. You need only worry about the basics for now. She should not have direct need to intervene in our goals.”

“If you say so,” I defer, still looking at the extensive article that Akyuu wrote about her. Izayoi is going to be the hardest enigma to unravel, so hopefully she’s not around too much. “What about the witch? Think it’s going to be hard to get the attention of someone literally named knowledge?”

“Possibly,” Ran confides. “The witch of the Scarlet mansion may be temperamental, but is also the most in tune to the nature of witches within Gensokyo. When discussing witches, she should be the most prominent figure to come to mind.”

“Something of magical intrigue should catch her interest, then. That’s good news,” I conclude.

“It’s highly likely, yes. A sidenote, though. ‘In tune’ is the appropriate description but there is also a certain level of naivety that her thirst for knowledge brings on occasion. Take that as you will.”

“Right. Then Hong, now.”

“Gate guard. Gardener. Martial artist. Generally lighthearted.”

I pause again. “And?” I press.

“She’s surprisingly detached from the other residents of the mansion. Not emotionally, but in terms of position and duty. It may be hard to gauge how her mind truly works, as there’s little people know about her,” Ran deliberates.

So she’s much like someone you might see more often, but don’t think to stop and talk to about anything important. I guess that fits for someone at the gate of a mansion. Kind of like the novelty guards at the royal house in London. I’ve never thought about how their days go.

“So where does that leave us?” I move on with the topic. “Do we need any kind of self defense measures like what I needed for Hina? Any master plan to get inside? Do we need someone to introduce us?”

Ran sniffs, the faintest hint of amusement from the sound, and replies, “Nay. It will be a more direct approach this time. Little arrangements are needed for this group. You have become accustomed to these political maneuvers, I see.”

“Yeah, well I guess it’s better to be adaptable,” I retort. I’m taken aback. Ran sounds like she’s enjoying the conversation. This isn’t her usual attitude with me. Political drudgery must be something that keeps her interest. Not my first pick of conversational topics, though.

“That should round everything up, then. I know we didn’t talk about the younger sister, but personally I’d prefer to not even think about that one, lest I will meeting her into existence,” I only half joke. At this point of knowing that bad luck is a real and serious force of nature, tempting fate would be the next best thing to kill me.

“There is one more oddity that you may be interested in,” Ran attracts my attention. I started sorting papers together but stop and prompt her to continue her thought. “The mansion employs more maids than Izayoi, but they are all fae.”

“An oddity, sure, but why does that interest me? Don’t tell me I’m that much of a subject for fairies after interacting with Cirno…” I groan my concerns.

“Nothing emergent like that,” Ran defuses. “You, however, should have a good understanding of the nature of fairies, and as such should find their employ not simply a statistical outlier.”

That’s an odd idea. Does Ran mean that there’s something more to fairies than I already know or that there’s something strange to their employ at the Scarlet mansion in particular? I go to ask her but as soon as I turn my attention back to the conversation Ran has fled. Without a sound and in just a fraction of a second she’s exited the room.

Looks like she really just wanted to get the last word in for the usual Youkai mystique. Jerk off.

The morning starts uneventful. Part of my brain still thinks I’m going out to Hina’s house again, but I know that job’s packed up by now. I still need to pester Ran and see if she’ll tell me the results from the judges. I’m too curious and it’s too useful to know. I need to treat it with respect, though. If Keine gave me an earful for my little stunt with the tengu, then Ran may just gut me.

I haven’t been stopped by such a thing before, though.

I grab all of my utilities, unsure what I may need for sitting in front of a wall all day. Maybe a chair would be good. I notice I’ve put on my charmed shirt without thinking, and while I have a few extra button ups after searching the shops, this (less than) white shirt feels sheltering. A sort of spiritual armor. I make my way out of the house while Keine has already headed out for the day.

I spot Ran at the Northern gates. It’s obvious that she’s been driven from the shrine again. Her clothes have been pocked with light scratching and a spot on her visible skin is burnt from something. My mind may be playing tricks, as I think I even spot a needle stuck in her tails again.

“Host get rough with you?” I joke.

“The Hakurei shrine maiden decided she no longer wanted Youkai at the shrine,” Ran answers in her usual unamused tone. She’s frowning more than usual, though.

“Oh, uh… is that going to be a problem?” I change my tune from how severe this sounds.

“No,” she simply answers, opening her arms to grab me.

We lift over and across the lake. Ran takes a few moments to explain that Reimu tends to have bouts of distrust for all nonhumans. It ends up being to Gensokyo’s benefit, so nobody ever feels concerned about it.

In other news, Ran sounds perfectly fine to go right back this evening as if nothing happened. Daily occurrences like these are what I’m steadily finding normal.

The mansion comes into sight. I’ve seen it from a distance plenty already, and even up close it still seems like a stain or blotch stabbed into the land. The greenery surrounding the place only amplifies the otherness. The treeline along the outer wall is basically pressed up against the red stones, forcing its position in nature. The walls along the front gate on the other hand are kept as a bare strip of dirt, wide enough to land a small plane.

We aren’t a small plane, but it’s the best place to land regardless. At the front gate stands the mixture of these natural and unnatural colors: fiery red hair down to her waist, green Chinese tunic, one Meiling Hong.

It takes me a moment to observe the scene, but it quickly becomes obvious that we’re going to have a problem. She isn’t standing, she’s leaning against the wall. She’s asleep while standing.

I look over to Ran and gesture at the gate guard, asking the obvious without a word.

“This is a common sight,” Ran truncates to a bare minimum explanation.

“So… do we just wake her?” I ask the second obvious question.

This time Ran gestures to the sleeping gate guard. “You would be one of the first to do so.”

“Ha ha,” I emit dryly.

It’s not much of a surprise to say that I need someone to be awake to talk to them, so there’s really only one thing to try.

“Excuse me? Meiling Hong?” I call to the woman.

She doesn’t react in the slightest. I walk over in front of her and try again.

Still nothing. I yell straight into her ear and shake her shoulder. A few woodland creatures scatter from some brush in the distance.

She moans in disturbance, but not much else.

I look back at Ran, dumbfounded as to what I’m dealing with. This is supposed to be the expert guard to a mansion filled with extremely powerful individuals. Those inside may be a different story, but Hong is… disarming. To put it lightly.

“Any ideas?” I ask Ran as she walks over to me as well.

“Continue as you are, something is sure to work,” she blandly prompts. It’s only barely hiding her clear enjoyment of my frustration, but that’s neither here nor there.

[x] Feign various actions nearby her. If she’s like an old cinema martial artist, maybe she detects things in her sleep.

[x] Screw it, just walk in. Not like there’s anything other than a wall protecting the interior.

[x] Might as well have a bit of fun with it. (Write-in)

Here we are. Starting a new chapter has been a different feeling every time, but I’m excited for this one. That’s for sure.
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[x] Might as well have a bit of fun with it. (Write-in)
-[x] Draw on her face
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[x] Might as well have a bit of fun with it. (Write-in)
-[x] Draw on her face
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First, I'd like to say that I had to put off reading this story for a few months, so I spent the last 5ish hours catching up on everything. The amount you've written is impressive, as well as how captivating it was! I only wish the court scene part was longer and had more interactivity since I love court drama, and seeing Sanae not do any interrogations feels like a missed opportunity. She didn't really get to have a big explosive moment, Tanner kinda stole that thunder. I hope we get to see more of the Moriya trio, because it feels like their arcs were left without a finale.

Was there any solid theory about what actually happened? Aya seems very suspect to be involved in it somehow since she was entirely absent that arc (unless I missed something) when she shouldn't have been. Momiji seems a bit sus as well, I think her excuse of not looking over her territory has more to it. Momiji is a shogi player, she knows how to be a strategist when it's needed. I think she's at the least lying about how much she knows, maybe she accidentally had a run in with Shion and sent her that way.

Anyways, for this vote!

[x] Might as well have a bit of fun with it. (Write-in)
-[x] Draw on her face
-[x] We're near the lake, Cirno might be nearby! Why not call out to her, see if she'll have some fun with us! (Or, if Ran deems no fun allowed, at least ask Cirno what she's seen from the gatekeeper and the mansion)
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Lazy Kari
Also, last thing I almost forgot to say
But I'm so glad we're getting the best Yukari interpretation. Now we know why Ran is the way she is
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The start of a new arc, and it's Meiling! how exciting.

Ran's rapport with Regis is pretty charming; the cheek she gives him nowadays!

Concerning Patchouli: we already have a foot in the door.
We've already had correspondence with her before while researching Cirno, so we won't be a complete stranger.
If lucky, we'll even be remembered as a scholar.
On the other hand, though...
Our interaction was less than civil to get her to share her materials on fairies; so we'll have to see if our foot in the door prompts Patchouli to bring out the proverbial shotgun or not.
Can go either way, really.
She either is still stuck on that earlier event or she is interested in having a learned, scholarly discussion partner that actually managed to get the Unmoving Great Library to act.
Also, he'd be an (at least somewhat) interesting case study regarding the magical effects currently surrounding him.
Leaning mostly the latter, she's a scholar first and foremost, but I can see her at least being ornery about it. Well, more than usual, anyway.

As a small aside: what did Regis correspond with her about?
He mentioned other topics but glossed over those.
I suppose it was to help him orient himself in Gensokyo and around magical creatures beyond the chronicle, but it'd be nice to know.

Ran's fairy comment...
Hm, I can't immediately see the full implications of it, but I do feel that it was more than a simple jab to "get the last word in".
So, instead I'll throw in some preliminary (very) wild speculation.
As mentioned in the lecture on Cirno (Regis, 2021), fairies are the embodiment of the natural energies of a place; not just nature itself.
If we extrapolate that fact when considering the Scarlet Devil Mansion, something interesting becomes apparent.
There are fairy maids.
A maid is a type of servant, in other words someone who is in the employ of and thus is controlled by or subservient to another.
Effectiveness of these servants aside (they're still fairies after all), that would imply that some part of their, and thus their surrounding, nature is that of "control" itself.
By that logic the Scarlet Devil Mansion itself is a zone of control so potent that it is reflected in the actual nature of the place.
But then, who or what would exert such control as to warp a place so that even its natural energies exude a sense of it?
Resident Youkai expert Yakumo R. (2023) attests that the apparent mistress of the house is effectively putting on a front and thus would not appear to be a valid candidate.
Thus, I posit: who else would more effectively embody and demarcate the "area" known as the Scarlet Devil Mansion than the one right outside its red walls and iron gate, controlling the space within?

Well, as highly unlikely as it is to be in any way correct; it was funny to type up a crazy hypothesis.

Anyway, weren't we supposed to return those charms back to Reimu?
Well, the ones that survived, anyway.
Maybe she doesn't want em anymore, steeped in misfortune as they are.

About time I move on to the actual choice of the update.

I like the "testing her sleep-reflexes" option, it's funny and if it somehow works it'll actually be decent data for our research.
If it doesn't work, whatever, we can figure something out.

She may be generally considered good-natured, but antagonising her duty sounds like a great way to make a poor first impression, so just walking in is completely out in my opinion.
On that note, however, maybe we can sort of create the illusion of somebody trying to actually get in by rattling the gate once or twice; it wouldn't be actual tresspass that way.

The write in is also pretty fun; it's just a prank, so it'll be less likely to garner as bad a reaction as actually walking in could provoke.
Not personally gonna vote for it, but it's nice.

[X] Feign various actions nearby her. If she’s like an old cinema martial artist, maybe she detects things in her sleep.
failing that
-[X] Rattle the gate a little, maybe the noise will alert her. Just make sure we don't look like we're actually trying to trespass in case she wakes up.

I actually would've preferred if we were kept in the dark about Yukari for a bit longer.
Keeping up the mystique, so to say.
Regis doesn't remember, of course, but we will.
Just my opinion, though.

Excited to see how Meiling arc goes!
Always a fan.
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[x] Might as well have a bit of fun with it. (Write-in)
-[x] Draw on her face

Who's been drawing dicks?
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[X] Feign various actions nearby her. If she’s like an old cinema martial artist, maybe she detects things in her sleep.
failing that
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[x] Might as well have a bit of fun with it. (Write-in)
-[x] Draw on her face
I wanna give her whiskers.
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[X] Feign various actions nearby her. If she’s like an old cinema martial artist, maybe she detects things in her sleep.
-[X] Rattle the gate a little, maybe the noise will alert her. Just make sure we don't look like we're actually trying to trespass in case she wakes up.

How about having Regis either grab a very long stick or throw a bunch of rocks at the gate instead? That way he doesn't have to be at ground zero when the sleeping dragon wakes.
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[X] Feign various actions nearby her. If she’s like an old cinema martial artist, maybe she detects things in her sleep.
-[X] Rattle the gate a little, maybe the noise will alert her. Just make sure we don't look like we're actually trying to trespass in case she wakes up.

The write-in is funny, but this seems more like a thing Tanner would actually do, particularly without Cirno or others there to egg him into more chaotic actions.
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>“Continue as you are, something is sure to work,” she blandly prompts. It’s only barely hiding her clear enjoyment of my frustration
Cute!!!! I do hope Ran is enjoining herself
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[X] Feign various actions nearby her. If she’s like an old cinema martial artist, maybe she detects things in her sleep.
-[X] Rattle the gate a little, maybe the noise will alert her. Just make sure we don't look like we're actually trying to trespass in case she wakes up.

Honestly, it's not like this and the write-in are mutually exclusive options.
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[x] Might as well have a bit of fun with it. (Write-in)
-[x] Draw on her face

It’s truly awe inspiring how Gensokyo residents try to uphold some type of image or reputation even when it makes no sense. The idea of a gate guard sleeping on the job is unfathomable in isolation, but here where people can regularly fly, teleport, or any other manner of bastardization against physics leads me to wonder if something like a person guarding a place is anything other than set dressing. I mean, honestly, why is this woman even out here? The most she probably encounters on a regular day is fairies. Feral or budding Youkai are unlikely to appear this close to the village without something bigger happening.

But with all that said, while I do understand this woman’s desire to nix her duties, it still pisses me off that she’s standing here without a care in the world. It makes me think there’s something I can do to relieve at least a small amount of my frustration.

I set down my pack and fish for something out of my now numerous tools and supplies. Every time I’m told to go somewhere I end up putting more items into my pack, attempting to prepare for more and more scenarios. One thing I grabbed for the yamawaro is a small stick of charcoal, one meant to leave markers on any surface.

In this case, one idiot’s face. Ran looks at me curiously as I take out the utensil and get to work letting whatever creative passion flow from the drawing implement. At first it starts simple, a mustache with curls on the end. This is a generic prank that other army guys liked doing, but I’ve never done it myself. Getting the black soot to apply a healthy amount of boldness takes a few passes, but it leaves quite the kind looks to the woman’s face.

I decide to also add a goatee and a simplified eye on her forehead for good measure. Ran seems unimpressed by this, so I hold out the brush for her to put in her own thoughts on the matter. She pushes the stick away at first, but I continue to insist and she reluctantly takes the writing piece for her own purposes.

Ran steps forward and contemplates what to add, maybe disappointed that I’ve taken the better spaces for my own use. She reaches over to Hong’s cheek and I lean around to see what she’ll write. When the stick touches, Hong jolts from her slumber, arms snaking up to Ran’s. In the next instant she torques Ran into a spin, crashing the fox’s tails onto me as she turns. Ran attempts to keep up and grabs Hong back, hurtling the guard overhead. They tumble over each other for a few tosses before returning to their feet.

Hong stretches from her combat stance, yawning. She was still sleeping when retaliating against Ran. I’ve seen the bar raise for absurdity and it’s not even been an hour. Good things will be in store for me this week, I’m sure.

Hong rubs an eye, barely missing some of the soot on her face as she observes Ran and I, gauging what’s happening. “Ran, were you trying something just now?” she asks.

“Nay. Merely required you conscious,” Ran curtly replies.

“Mm? Need me to fetch Milady?” Hong assumes. I get up as she walks over to us calmly, acting like she didn’t toss Ran onto the ground just now. That was an automatic response, then? She didn’t even feel her body move until stopping again?

“Once more, nay. This human requires you,” Ran gestures over to me.

“Watch your phrasing,” I scold my partner.

Hong looks between us, thinking about something, before arriving to the understanding, “You’re the human Cirno was talking about. And apparently the one Sakuya mentioned.”

She looks at the talismans on my shirt with interest, cupping a chin to investigate their state. I take a step back as she leans closer.

Clearing my throat, I confirm, “Yeah, I guess I’ve been around a bit now. What did they each say about me, though?”

“Oh, well, you know Cirno. Always wanting to prove herself. She did say you were a strange one though,” Hong summarizes. “Sakuya… was perplexed that you survived the blighted lands. Honestly, I am, too. I could feel the world shudder at the time. Fearful of what could happen.”

This catches my attention, “What? Were there earthquakes then?”

“Ah, forgive me,” she says, motioning for me to slow down. “I mean the qi of Gensokyo. I was performing t'ai chi ch'uan that morning and could tell something was happening. I asked Sakuya to look into it when she was leaving for the village.”

“Izayoi heeded your request? Uncharacteristic of her,” Ran comments.

“That’s rude. We servants of the mansion trust one another,” Hong refutes. A very bold line for someone with smudges on their face.

Ran decides to keep tight lipped, ignoring possible arguments she has against the statement.

“Anyways,” I awkwardly move the topic along, “do you have a good idea what I’m doing here, then?”

Hong hears me and thinks for a moment, but ends up scratching the back of her head and saying, “Not the faintest. Cirno talked about you, but not why you talked to her.”

Good, that makes this easy enough. I puff up a bit and state my usual lines, “I am a researcher from the human village. Tanner Regis, nice to meet you, Hong.”

I put out my hand, Hong staring at it oddly before reciprocating the movement.

“I have been tasked with researching various Youkai and similar peoples. Would you be alright with me asking you some questions?”

“I, uh,” Hong responds in confusion. “Sure..?”

I take out my note pages and begin the first interview session. We don’t have any seats on hand, so I try to not let my knees buckle, but I can feel the weight of my body bear down. It happens when you work while sitting for a while.

The questions start as the usual drudgery, the things that make me confuse myself for a physician. What’s her usual diet. How her day to day looks. People she often interacts with.

“There is one thing,” I extend maybe a bit far as I ask, “What is the purpose of you standing out here? People in Gensokyo fly, after all.”

Despite my blunt framing, Meiling doesn’t seem offended by the question. In fact, she’s more so despondent when going to answer, “Ah, well. I am–“

“Hong!” a voice breaches the area. Not a voice I recognize, and I feel like I would with how aggressive it is.

We all turn to face the source of the outburst. One woman? A man? Hard to say. Purple hair in a long ponytail, heavy looking red and white cloth I’d associate to traditional samurai. Sure enough, a sword on their left hip to complete the image. Or maybe it’s the scowl that really finishes it.

Doesn’t look like someone I’d want to be associated with. And from their tone before, they’re not associated with Meiling, either.

“Meira,” Meiling states simply. Neutrally noting the person’s arrival rather than rising to their anger.

The samurai walks up to us. A closer distance tells me that she’s a woman, her outline and face broader than average, but not enough so to throw me off.

“Trying a new look?” the woman asks. “Stop whatever you’re talking about. Let’s have a go.”

She slides her right foot backwards, wide sleeves hiding what her hands are doing. Meiling mumbles, trying to understand what Meira meant, looking down and checking herself. She lets the thought pass and sighs, the challenge obvious enough to force a reply.

“Again? How many days is it now, Meira?” she asks. Even still, she steps past me, returning to her combat stance. One foot back, one arm far forward, and one arm bent upwards. She slides to mid height in this fashion, her tabard-like dress trailing to the ground.

Ran remains silent, letting the next part play out on its own. Meiling and Meira shoot at each other, faster than Cirno and Chen had. They clash, in the instant they stop moving I can see Meiling having held the pommel of Meira’s sword, which the woman herself had tried to draw with her left hand. Meiling swings with her open hand, missing Meira by an inch as she’s kicked back. The two separate explosively.

Their feet rapidly beat against the dry dirt as they circle around one another. Meira stops first, pivoting on a foot and kicking off the ground with another. She draws her sword underhanded mid flight and rushes Meiling. Meiling prepares to catch the earnest warrior head on, the sword being swung from the side towards her skull. She deftly deflects the sword above her, and just as before she snakes her arms on Meira’s sword arm and opposite shoulder, torquing the woman about her left shoulder.

But where I think this ends in Meira being pinned, something happens: Meiling’s shoulder gets caught on something I only catch a glimmer of. Both women topple over, Meiling harmlessly landing on top of Meira’s sword flat against the ground. Meiling is the first to recover, throwing a punch from her grounded position, and Meira is only left with enough time to react by guarding with her right hand.

“Augh!” Meiling cries as her fist is stopped against Meira’s face. A piece of metal is piercing the top of her hand, immediately drawing blood.

Meira takes the opportunity to try and slide her sword from under Meiling and find a hit, but Meiling is still aware enough to dodge back off the ground. It’s not to her favor, though, as Meira jerks her hook back, hoping to force Meiling back to the ground. It doesn’t. Instead, Meiling’s left hand has a nasty chunk taken off deep behind the index and middle knuckles, vigor dripping to the ground. Neither woman appears to concede the fight, as roughed up as they are.

“You’re getting better, Meira,” Meiling admits, checking her wound. She further inflects with a troubled look, “I’m also losing my form, though.”

Meira brandishes her blade forward and open hand above, revealing a blood drenched metal hook where I expect her hand to be. The edge of a leather strap hints that this is a prosthetic item. Could that be why her sword is on the wrong side for drawing?

“Just shut up and fight,” Meira scoffs at the praise.

Meiling doesn’t take the dismissal lightly. Her face shapes into a hard and stony form. She raises her fists up once more and takes a step towards Meira, seeing if her opponent will do anything. Meira is content to stay at the ready, the slightest hint of a flinch undetectable.

A reversed situation from before, or so I think. Where Meira ran with all human ferocity, Meiling floats across the ground like a spectre. It’s in no way slow, either. Meira tenses in preparation, barely reacting in time to Meiling getting no further than arm’s reach. She swipes her hook arm across, Meiling slides under unperturbed.

Meira isn’t open, though, as she drives her sword downwards in a frenzy. It’s too fast for me to see, but as the sword comes down, Meiling must have slid sideways to avoid it. A cloud of dirt shifts from the movement. Standing at full height against Meira’s coiled and tense pose, Meiling has full access to hit Meira in any way she chooses.

A snap punch with her right to Meira’s temple, the same spot the samurai’s hook stopped the last attempt. Meira recoils, but is fast to retaliate, wildly flinging her weapons up at Meiling. Once again Meiling sidesteps the danger as if nonexistent and choicely burrows her fist into Meira’s gut. The swordswoman keels over, the pain too great to keep up the rhythm she had.

Meiling slides a foot back, preparing a mighty blow. She turns on the forward heel, impacting Meira’s shoulder with the back of her heel. The location of impact is the only mercy given, though. The force of a Youkai’s kick sends Meira into the air, blasting back to the trees several yards from both of them.

Meira slams into a tree at the small of her back. Impressively, the tree is the one to give way before the human body, splinters flying from the collision as the wood contorts.

Even more impressively, Meira is conscious, catching herself with the hook and an elbow before the ground greets her fully.

Meiling stands hands still raised. Everyone present knows her opponent has no more fight left in her.

To her merit, though, Meira tries with all her concussed and battered might to prop her body up with her sword. She totters feebly with shot balance, her scowl only intensifying. Blood trickles the side of her face. Something must have cut her scalp during the scuffle. It only enhances the venom in her eyes. It’s a wholesale rage that looks akin to Ran’s magical presence.

“Getting rusty? Fuck off,” Meira spits and slurs. “You’re still holding back like always. Don’t take gods damned pity on me! Warriors need to give their everything! You’re only playing around!”

Meiling lowers her fists, relaxing her shoulders. The stony face from before shows visible cracks at Meira’s accusation. She doesn’t attempt to argue against the slander, either, letting the words sink into the air around us.

Meira gives her foe another moment to defend herself, but nothing comes of it. She curses and rages with every step as she hobbles away. Her crippled form is held up by nothing but a sword point used like a cane.

Meiling doesn’t return to Ran and I. She’s… forlorn. No better description comes to mind, and I don’t think she has the wherewithal to realize the same.

I approach her, hoping to ask what that was all about.

“Lady Ran. Gentleman from the human village,” a new voice interrupts the scene once again. This time, it’s coming from the direction of the mansion.

I turn and see a familiar maid. The resident incident resolver of the mansion, who was present at the misfortune singularity. I remember what Ran and I discussed yesterday, and realize this is a poor situation for me.

Silver hair with two braids in the front, blue maid outfit much closer to modern maids rather than the proper historical equivalent, and eyes sharper than a razor. She’s the embodiment of a silver knife, her weapon of choice.

Ran looks back over to her and greets, “Servant of the Scarlet mistress. What is the reason you approach?”

Izayoi looks unamused at Ran’s barely hidden prodding. She replies, “Two odd individuals distract the house’s guard from performing her duties. Cause for concern is an understatement.”

Ran and I eye her down. Izayoi’s whims are hard to parse, and if she doesn’t want us to know, then she won’t tell.

“The lady was spectating your presence, and wished for me to make contact,” she immediately tells us why she’s really here. I can start to get why people don’t like her. “She wishes to invite you to her audience, human researcher.”

“And what might she want to talk about, exactly?” I ask, cutting the formalities.

“Would that I knew,” Izayoi shrugs. It’s neither emphatic or convincing, but I’m quickly learning that’s usual for this one.

“And why not steal me away?” I ask, hoping to get some kind of response in the positive.

Izayoi points over to Ran and states, “She would wish otherwise. Better to not create any grudges.”

“A logical conclusion,” Ran says.

Well, what to do…

[x] Assent to the invitation. Getting into the mansion is at least one step closer to the secondary goal here.

[x] Decline the mistress invite (politely, of course). Instead ask for a message to be delivered to Patchouli Knowledge. Better to go directly after my objective.

[x] Something else entirely. (Write-in)

Combat section. Hope these are good, because I plan to have quite a few in this chapter.

As to >>44418 yes, it is. To some extent, anyway. Everything takes time, of course, but it was possible. I didn’t think of it when I went to start writing, though. Reminder to everyone, I usually attempt to start drafting my writing on Thursdays, but will flex to a vote shift by Sunday.
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[x] Assent to the invitation. Getting into the mansion is at least one step closer to the secondary goal here.
Seems like the best thing to do. Don’t wanna snub the Lady after.
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Hook-hand warrior/exterminator Meira was not something I was expecting today.
But damn if it wasn't BADASS!
I've always enjoyed that detail about Meiling where she'll oftentimes get challenges from various martial artists wanting to try their luck, so having that be more or less the first thing we see of the friendly gatekeeper is a great intro.
Looking forward to see what beef Meira has with her.

Regis must've been more than a little frustrated with everything going on in his life recently to just take it out on Meiling's face like that.
Still, at least it's a harmless prank, he can apologise for it later if necessary.
On the bright side, not deciding to do the whole "feigning various actions" thing was probably smart, because if he was the one getting thrown instead of Ran he'd be in a lot worse shape.
Then again, she didn't react at all to him drawing on her face; so I guess in her slumber she didn't register Regis as a threat, while she did react to Ran. (Maybe it's based on her Qi-sense?)

Anyway, we got a direct invite from the mistress of the house.
From the phrasing she probably saw what we did to Meiling, so she might have either found it entertaining or offensive.
One way to find out, I guess.
Regardless, declining this invitation from the boss of our research subject could prove rather problematic down the line if Remilia decides to stonewall us in retaliation.
Same thing with getting access to Patchouli; it's still the vampire's mansion, so it pays to be at least tolerated.
So, we should assent.
Meeting with the lady Scarlet can have its downsides, but declining this would be much worse.
As long as Ran gets to accompany us, that is.

Still, we should at least excuse ourselves to Meiling; we were in the middle of talking to her, after all.
Youkai constitution or not, she still got a nasty chunk taken out of her hand; maybe we have something in that pack of ours for first aid?

[X] Assent to the invitation. Getting into the mansion is at least one step closer to the secondary goal here.
-[X] If Ran is allowed to join.
--[X] Ask Hong if she needs any aid, then excuse myself before leaving. She might be sturdy, but that wound is still rather nasty. Besides that, we were technically still talking to her, interruption or not.

Really though, what does Regis pack?
Besides provisions and the research essentials like his writing supplies, I've kinda forgotten.
I guess it'd just make sense to me for him to pack some first aid basics, what with army experience and all.
Also considering how beat up he's been getting every time he steps out of Keine's house.
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[x] Assent to the invitation. Getting into the mansion is at least one step closer to the secondary goal here.

If Remilia is LARPing as nobility, then declining her invitation at any way, no matter how polite, would imply that we don't see her as important enough to meet. Going straight to Patchouli without meeting with the mistress of the mansion might even be taken as an insult.
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[x] Assent to the invitation. Getting into the mansion is at least one step closer to the secondary goal here.

"You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?"
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[x] Assent to the invitation. Getting into the mansion is at least one step closer to the secondary goal here.
-[x] Grumble about it
god I hate LARPing
"you decided not to meet me YOU ARE COURTING DEATH" hey ran hold me back ran hold me back
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[X] Assent to the invitation. Getting into the mansion is at least one step closer to the secondary goal here.
-[X] If Ran is allowed to join.
--[X] Ask Hong if she needs any aid, then excuse myself before leaving. She might be sturdy, but that wound is still rather nasty. Besides that, we were technically still talking to her, interruption or not.
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[x] Assent to the invitation. Getting into the mansion is at least one step closer to the secondary goal here.

“If I go with you, will Ran be allowed to come along?” I ask the most pressing question.

Izayoi stares for a moment, weighing if it would be possible to say no.

It isn’t, of course. Entering the mansion is entirely off the table without Ran by me. When I entered the yamawaro camp I had good reason to believe that I was safe within the premise and had Chen to escort me. Here there’s no reason to think, not even so much as mention, that interlopers are treated cordially. As easy as it is to assume that Scarlet would upkeep her noble attitude, treating me favorably, it isn’t as easy to say so conclusively.

“Lady Ran is under no restriction from the grounds,” Izayoi tells us. She gestures behind her to the gate, continuing, “If that is your only concern, then please, this way.”

“Ah, there is one other thing,” I reexamine my priorities. I turn to the gate guard and ask, “Meiling, is your hand alright? I saw what that woman’s hook did. Looked like a nasty wound.”

Meiling stumbles out of her thoughts to answer, “Ah, no. It’s nothing, really.”

She says this while waving the injured hand back and forth. However, it’s already bandaged, and better than what I could do with the simple bandage and cloth I have on hand. She looks at the foreign object covering her extremity, hardly fazed by the sudden change.

“Thank you, Sakuya,” she addresses the maid.

Izayoi looks at the guard, a stern and judging expression to match her words, “Far be it of this house to have an injured guard. Especially one that isn’t aware of her surroundings.”

“Come again?” Meiling recoils in shock. “I am perfectly aware of what’s around me, thank you.”

Sakuya reaches behind herself and reveals a white towel that had nowhere to hang before. She tosses it to Meiling and states, “You might want to say that again after you wipe that embarrassment off.”

Meiling shoots her a confused look, but does as asked and wipes off the soot I marked her face with. She looks into the towel, as if unsure what she’s seeing is real. She presents the black stains left on the cloth to us, like a child showing something they don’t understand.

“Honestly,” Izayoi grunts.

Meiling frowns at having been duped, unsure when it would have happened. She shows anger and uncertainty as she passes Izayoi back towards the gate, leaning against the wall once more. The maid gestures inside the grounds once more, and I oblige the command, Ran narrowing the space between us as we enter the garden.

This outside area is very well kept, one glance tells you that Meiling takes great care to keep it tidy. I didn’t ask her what her schedule for tending the outside was, but it must be laborious if it’s this elaborate. Numerous bushes, many pads of flowers, multiple benches that look spotless, the list goes on and on. As I look back over to the gate I see a crowd of fairies having hidden behind the wall. Were they spectating the excitement earlier? Who have they been hiding from?

“I would scold them for shirking their duties,” Izayoi comments from behind us, “but then I’d have no choice but to scold you for playing pranks on our guard.”

“I think that’s hardly a prank that even needs scolding,” I argue. “There wasn’t any harm done, after all. I think even that swordswoman payed it any mind.”

Izayoi steps ahead of us to get the front door of the mansion. With a hold of the handle, she first smirks at me and replies, “You should hope that you’re correct to say so. Defacement is a sin to the house of the devil.”

She opens the red lacquer door to present us to an even more garishly red entry hall. The entire place is nothing but red. So much so that I’d figure we’ve walked into a monochrome painting made solely of red. The same kind that forces your mind to think that other colors are still present, but in reality it’s a different shade of red taking on the facade of other personalities. The walls appear a marble stained with pinkish hue to not dominate the entire view. The wooden banisters making the second floor walkway a deep maroon hidden behind a rough shade of brown. The carpet lining the central passage up to the grand rounded staircase a vibrant crimson meant to captivate any onlooker to venture deeper inside. Busts of the two little matrons of the house stand before the columns upholding the second floor’s decorated fencing.

Lavish. There’s the word to truly encapsulate this view. A word with many connotations good and bad. I’d think no such word would better fit someone that enjoys calling herself the devil, regardless of her true intentions or nature.

Izayoi takes us up the stairs and into a short passage at the front of the room, a way leading to the overhang outside. The odd part of this, though, is that there should be no space at all between the front and the balcony, and yet here we are standing in a hall traveling further past the front of the house than should be possible. The walls are without windows, the only light being electrical lamps hanging from the ceiling, keeping the area lit, but with the unnatural lighting of the outside world. Fairies in maid uniforms are… I can’t say hard at work, but they are doing something. One plays with a broom shrunken to her size to comfortably hold, another uses a feather to brush a random cabinet decorating the hall, yet another waves a hand above a lamp’s bulb.

“Do not break the light bulbs, indoor crew. The repercussions will not be pleasant,” Izayoi tells off the last fairy. The little maid backs away from the fixture, lowering back to the ground to find another activity to keep her occupied.

Ran did have a point, these fairies are acting different than I expect. They may be goofing off, but they’re doing so in such a mundane way that even I wonder how they’re not bored to tears. And ‘indoor crew.’ What designates them? Is it something on them that says their position? Is that the case for the fairies back in the garden? I’ll have to keep an eye out for any detail I can catch.

Izayoi opens the door at the end of the impossible hall, taking us outside onto a spacious balcony tangential to, you guessed it, the flush exterior wall of the mansion, the same plane as the front door. I despise this place with a purely rational wrath. On the bright side, no fuckery is happening to this outdoor venue. The balcony has two doors leading back inside to the second floor’s halls, with planters adorning each. Near the stone fence at the center of the platform sits a shaded round table. Its umbrella holds off the harsh sunlight, further bleaching a once saturated red. There in one of the wooden chairs sits the diminutive lady of the house.

Remilia Scarlet looks out over her garden and to the front gate, watching for any more items of interest. Her wings are folded behind her, and she leans back with a teacup and plate in hands.

“My, has the guest arrived, Sakuya?” she asks without looking behind her.

“Indeed, mistress,” Izayoi curtly replies.

“Bring them over, and bring in more tea. Unless the gentleman should prefer coffee?”

“Actually, coffee would be great,” I accept. I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth for a rarity like that. Gensokyans cultivate some tea leaves, and really only out of spite to the environment that isn’t suited to them, but coffee plants aren’t even a thought for them.

Izayoi pulls out a seat for Ran and I both, Ran’s seat being without a back for obvious reasons. Ran decides to remain standing on my flank. I sit down and get a good look at the lady who is trying to play up her mystique more and more. Her face really is that of a child’s, but her eyes are sharp and discerning. Can’t say I’m surprised since it’s in line with what I imagine vampires would be like. She decides to keep looking over to the front gate rather than address my arrival directly.

“This is my favorite spot in the house. Could you imagine why?” she quizzes me.

“You can overlook people’s arrival to the gate,” I offer the simple explanation.

“For those that may come in, certainly, but its such a rarity that I cannot find meaning in that alone,” she dejects my answer. “Truly, it is not for the people that enter, but those that stop by. Those like that human woman, and you, Regis.”

She turns to face me, eyes neither fierce nor passive. Their nearly glowing red and vertical pupils give off the feeling of true interest behind her dry and wry smile. She has no shame in her face plastered into a grossly smug expression as it is.

Scarlet continues to prod, “You only planned to sit at the gate, as it is my guard you wish to talk with, yes?”

Is she prodding me for ulterior motives? She couldn’t possibly be thinking that far ahead already.

I decide it would be best to half lie, as are all good lies, “I didn’t plan to enter the mansion itself, if that’s what you’re asking. Visiting dear old Ms. Knowledge would be nice, though.”

“I suppose as much is to be expected,” Scarlet sighs. “My dear Patchy has become nigh on obsessed with you. Whatever rhetoric you mustered has stirred her so that she even attempted to leave the house for a change. The moment she took stride halfway into the garden she had momentarily passed out coughing. In all of her time indoors, it seems Meiling has accidentally made a sickly witch barrier from her brimming foliage.”

“Patchouli Knowledge tried to leave the house? The last recorded notice of this, aside from Hakurei shrine parties, was twelve years ago due to earthquakes,” Ran examines. “Obsession is understating this event. Does she intend physical harm to Regis?”

“Oh, no such thing,” Scarlet dismisses Ran’s concern with an amused reply. “I believe she wants to ‘give him a piece of her mind,’ as she put it. But let’s not hang ourselves on the details for now.”

Izayoi reappears behind us with a coffee and tea to set down at the table, she is quick to do so and step back, leaving herself out of the conversation. It’s clear why she does that as in the next moment the vampire gets out of her chair and leans into the stone fence, the umbrella barely shading her.

She then points to Meiling’s post and says, “You wish to study my guard, one of my own family. I wish for you to do something in return for this. There will be no arguments against this request, as it is not your place to do so. It is by my own mind alone that you are allowed to perform the tasks given to you, and so it is also by my mind that you may not–“

Ran clears her throat. She’s given a mightily mean look for her trouble, but is otherwise granted its intended effect.

“Hong Meiling has been weakening in her martial arts practice since we’ve arrived to Gensokyo. Both Sakuya and I have seen it firsthand as of late. Today’s little mishap was simply a good showing of why this leaves me incontent. The two of you, with your skill sets and knowledge, will find for her a worthy sparring partner that can tug the liveliness back out into the open.”

“So… find her someone that can fight her on her level or we don’t get to peacefully work?” I surmise.

“Indeed,” Scarlet confirms, her wings fluttering from behind her back in satisfaction.

“Aren’t there a lot of people that already fit that requirement?” I ask for elaboration.

Her wings stop flapping and she looks at me for a moment, expression still as she contemplates what I said. “Oh yeah,” she mumbles under her breath.


She recuperates her haughty demeanor and continues, “Never you mind. You are quite correct to think that. If we were discussing damnaku rules, that is. You see, there are two types of danmaku: both parties fight at a distance or each party allows the other to approach for fisticuffs. I refer to neither of these, though. My gate guard is not suited to danmaku matches, but she is well skilled in martial arts.”

She stops her explanation, instead staring directly at me. I take a swig of coffee before she rolls a hand for me to finish the thought.

“You want us to find martial artists, specifically? Do people even care to fight like that in Gensokyo? I mean, danmaku matches are the law, right?” I drill into the subject. Far be it from me to take any request without fully understanding everything I want to know.

Ran answers me first, “It’s correct to say that danmaku matches are the closest thing to a law in Gensokyo. That is under the conditions of a Youkai and human fighting, but for two Youkai to fight one another they have no such restrictions.”

“You are intentionally leaving out the fact that humans can also acquiesce to such fights, dear Yakumo,” Scarlet nicks at the explanation. “I can assure you it will not be perilous to the participant. Meiling only needs to spar, after all. That said, the more the merrier. There will certainly be those interested in the idea.”

“Interested in fighting just for the hell of it? There’s no way it could be that simple, right?” I spot pessimistically.

The little mistress grunts dissatisfied, “Yes, well, I suppose some small reason should be given. Perhaps… tell them that I will be hosting a competition, one to find the greatest martial artist in Gensokyo. For now we will say my dear Meiling is the clear champion, but another may claim the title.”

“They’ll want a real reward, you know,” I conspire with some doubt.

Ran bounces off of me with, “Monetary value is not sufficient impetus, to be clear.”

“Hm, then mayhaps you two will consider a worthwhile reward in my place? You are both well attuned to the Youkai of Gensokyo, after all,” Scarlet dismisses our criticisms.

“Right, because I’m such a trustworthy source of information that everyone knows already,” I blithely state. “Ran too, for that matter. People will love to see us.”

“I’m happy to hear you think I have the right members for this venture,” Scarlet politely mocks.

My eyes roll up in their sockets. “How much do you know about me, exactly?” I finally decide to ask.

“Tanner Regis, a human researcher of Youkai,” Izayoi denotes. “Common drunkard of the village yet seen as hardy and reliable.”

“Hardy? Wouldn’t know where that comes from,” I comment.

“Enough chit chat, the both of you,” Scarlet demands. “You are to start on this immediately. This is not a request, it is a role you have been mandated by the great devil herself to complete.”

“And where exactly do we start?” I counter. “All of Gensokyo and beyond is a sizable area to look around for people.”

“That, my researcher, is up for your discretion.”

“Uh huh,” I complain.

Well if it’s down to me, guess I should decide.

[x] Checking a group would be the optimal choice. A group like the Myouren temple might have multiple members that use their own styles.

[x] I need to find quality individuals. People with a fixation on the art of combat, such as that Meira woman.

[x] Ran always likes to surprise me when I ask her. (Write-in)

And here we have one tiny sassy child to add to the list of characters. Remilia is fun to write for since she never shuts up. It’s honestly hilarious how easy it is to get into.
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[x] Ran always likes to surprise me when I ask her. (Write-in)
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[x] Ran always likes to surprise me when I ask her. (Write-in)
Kasen Ibaraki.
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[x] Ran always likes to surprise me when I ask her. (Write-in)
Suika Ibuki (basically all the onis)
Byakuren Hijiri (magician that specializes in body-strengthening magic)
Youmu Konpaku (swordswoman)
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Well, Sakuya told us off a little, but our prank was harmless enough to get a bit of a pass, it seems.

>I believe she wants to ‘give him a piece of her mind,’ as she put it.

Oh man, Regis has his hooks in Patchouli bad to get the Unmoving Great Library to move as easily as that.
Can't wait to see that meeting happen someday.

Well, it wasn't entirely unexpected that indulging Remilia's request for an audience would cause her to take a mile with some silly request of hers.
Still, it's a fair concern to worry about your gate guard (and family, she has admitted) getting rather lax in her martial arts practice.
Though I'm pretty convinced there's more to this, even if it's just her personal entertainment for hosting a martial arts tournament.

For what it's worth, I agree with the sentiment.
Leaving Meiling in this slump of hers will only cause it to worsen over time.
Also, Regis is just the kind of busybody who can't just turn a blind eye to something like this, in my eyes.

Anyway, we're to be tournament organisers, huh?
Then we'll have to go over prospective fighters.
I usually only use the chronicles for reference, but as those (that have been published) only go up to Ten Desires, it's not that comprehensive anymore.
Lucky, Regis reads the papers. Or has access to a newspaper archive. (Hieda-owned?)
It's how he thought of the Yorigamis as persons of interest in the last case.
Still, it is very unlikely he could think of everyone who could be a potential participant; luckily, that's what Ran is for.
Though she would need reasonable cause for her selections. I don't really see her as the kind to throw names at the wall and see what (who) sticks.
Well, this'll be long but I'll try to go over as many as I can in game order, leaving the default options of the Myouren and Meira for last.

Youmu Konpaku
A swordswoman of comparatively (to a youkai) few years, but exceptional skill and talent.
We've already seen that Meiling accepts armed challengers, so that shouldn't factor into considerations.
A problem point could be contacting her, but Ran might be able to deliver on that front.
Aside from that, a fine candidate.

Suika Ibuki
An oni. She punches things hard.
Not the best idea for a candidate; there's no real art behind a muscle wizard's spell of choice.
As such, she wouldn't make for a very technically challenging opponent, but she could serve as a wake up call to Meiling when there's a punch flying at her that could obliterate a mountain.
However, she is interesting for a second reason: her ability to manipulate density might help with the organisation of the tournament and the attraction of contenders.
Finding her could be either extremely easy or extremely annoying.
She goes where she pleases, but our best bet is going to the Hakurei Shrine and hoping that she's there.
If not, we could ask Reimu to keep an eye out, I suppose, but that means explaining this whole debacle to Reimu.

Reisen Udongein Inaba
Bit of an outlier, but she might prove interesting because of her abilities.
The chronicle doesn't state that Reisen is a lunar rabbit or an ex-soldier, so it stands to reason that Regis wouldn't know.
The only hint he's gotten that we've seen (that I remember, anyway) is that Chen called her an alien, once.
To him, she might as well be just a mild-mannered nurse from Eientei.
Luckily Ran would know and could reasonably suggest her, though.
The main reason Regis would consider her is her ability to manipulate wavelengths.
Meiling's ability is the manipulation of Qi, maybe Reisen's ability interacts with that somehow? Pure speculation, though.
She comes to the village often, and even when she doesn't we have our checkups in Eientei often enough. Easily found.

Fujiwara no Mokou
An immortal who has gotten in a lot of scraps during her long years.
She's probably picked up a thing or two about fisticuffs during her life separate from her fire magic.
Easily contacted: we're personally acquainted with her and her best friend.

Yuuka Kazami
Regis might be a skeptic and takes what is written in the chronicle with a grain of salt, but I doubt even he would easily disregard an article as unflattering as Yuuka's.
Approaching Yuuka is asking for trouble at the very least, and Ran might just veto the option as a matter of course.
Still, there's few candidates quite this powerful.
Unlike the oni, she's described as using graceful attacks; whether that means that she simply moves with finesse or actually makes use of some form of martial art is unclear, though.
Easy to find, in the sense that everyone knows what to be afraid of in the Garden of the Sun.

The Moriya Shrine goddesses
Putting these two together because my reason for considering them is the same.
I don't think Regis is fully informed as to the history between these two, but they both have their experience with warfare.
As such, it isn't too far a stretch to assume they are experienced combatants, themselves.
Takeminakata is also a god of warfare, but whether Kanako is him or not is hard to say.
We're somewhat acquainted with these folks, mainly through Sanae, but Suwako has managed to elude Regis quite proficiently.

Yuugi Hoshiguma
Honestly, not much to say.
Much of the same I said about Suika (minus her personal ability) is valid here, though Yuugi might be more physically strong.
Going underground and getting her to come topside could prove quite the problem.
Also it could be problematic for an oni that isn't Suika to just pop up topside.

Hata no Kokoro
Not spectacularly interesting.
A skilled dancer and naginata wielder, which is at least a change-up from all the sword wielders.
Shouldn't be too difficult to find and approach her after one of her performances, though.

Mayumi Joutouguu
A highly trained (and, unlike Reisen for example, still acting) soldier crafted for that exact purpose by a god.
Likely a strong opponent, but if her goddess is still based in the Primate Spirit Garden she's basically unreachable.

Kasen Ibaraki
This one, however, is very interesting.
This hermit is highly disciplined; well-trained; and, judging by her usage of crane stance, proficient in Chinese martial arts!
As an opponent it could be just what Meiling might need, a type of opponent that she's lacked in these lands.
Still, we haven't interacted with Meiling nearly enough to decisively say what's really nagging her.
Speaking of nagging, Kasen's preachy nature might just take an interest in helping Meiling when she sees the funk the latter is in.
Could prove a valuable ally, if so.
Hermits live in their own (literal) worlds, so it'll be hard to seek her out; but we might be able to catch her in the village or at the Hakurei shrine if we ask around.

Now for the two options that Regis thought up on the fly:

Myouren Temple
For a temple of pacifists, as mentioned in the option they have a decent spread of combat styles available.
Byakuren is the standout here, her superhuman abilities might stem from her magic, but focusing your magic purely inwards like that to me implies that her technique could be interesting.
Shou is, according to the chronicle, rather weak physically; so she's out.
Unzan and by extension Ichirin could be an interesting matchup.

Honestly, we saw little of her; and frankly, she looks and sounds like she has a lot of baggage, but it's true that she seemed intensely driven by the art.
She's also apparently a regular opponent of Meiling, so maybe she has some insight on what is going on with her.
I'm actually quite interested to see where this might lead.
Besides, if she is based in the human village it shouldn't be too much of a detour.

Frankly, there's a lot of options. I've probably even forgotten some.
The biggest problem with just about all of them is giving them a reason to join, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.
For now, I am not sure how lenient multiple choices are here so I'm gonna slim it down to the two I find most prudent:

[X] I need to find quality individuals. People with a fixation on the art of combat, such as that Meira woman.
-[X] Ran always likes to surprise me when I ask her. (Write-in)
Kasen Ibaraki

I took way too long writing this up and sorry for going overboard, but it was fun thinking of so many possibilities.
Anyway, cool that you got one final update to signal in the new year.
Happy New Year!
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[X] I need to find quality individuals. People with a fixation on the art of combat, such as that Meira woman.
-[X] Ran always likes to surprise me when I ask her. (Write-in)
Kasen Ibaraki
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[x] Ran always likes to surprise me when I ask her. (Write-in)
-[x] Find a Suika
you all miss the fact that the practice partner has to be enthusiastic battle junkie to keep sparring with Meiling, and only Yuugi and Suika qualify
out of those, former isn't gonna come out of Old Hell, so let's use the latter
I wonder if the whale bar is open
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[x] Ran always likes to surprise me when I ask her. (Write-in)
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[x] Ran always likes to surprise me when I ask her. (Write-in)
-[x] Find a Suika
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[X] I need to find quality individuals. People with a fixation on the art of combat, such as that Meira woman.
-[X] Ran always likes to surprise me when I ask her. (Write-in)
Kasen Ibaraki
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[x] Ran always likes to surprise me when I ask her.

I turn over to my partner and say, “I have a couple of ideas right now, but what are your thoughts, Ran?”

She gives me a passive look. Hopefully she doesn’t think I’m pressing her as an escape.

Ran swivels her head over to Izayoi and simply requests, “I require paper and pen, if you are able.”

Izayoi pauses for a moment, looking at Ran and then back to Scarlet, who allows the command. In the next second Izayoi whips a pen into her hand and a piece of stationery from behind her, as if by magic. She likes doing that trick, I’ve noticed.

Ran takes the items without a word and writes. And writes. And continues to write. A list of names, far too many for us to meet in person, but it’s the total list of people that may or may not participate in this haphazard tournament. She’s quick to add names for a couple dozen or so, but slows down by the end, maybe deciding if certain names would be appropriate or not.

“Oh, my, how gung ho you are for this little distraction,” the small Scarlet teases my partner.

I move to defend my compatriot, saying, “If you insist that we do this, then we’ll be as serious as we can. On that matter, have you drafted a formal set of rules? We can’t go around talking about a tournament without clearly drawn lines in the sand.”

“Yes, yes, of course. All games require rules after all, hm?” Scarlet muses to herself. “Sakuya, bring me my letter set, I should create this as more of a formal missive.”

Without any flair, the tea the vampire was drinking on the table has been replaced with ink, quill, paper, and stamps in the blink of an eye. Izayoi gives a curt bow to her master as she pulls the chair back out from the table. Scarlet is quick to sit and start her writing.

Ran hands me the list she created while the mansion’s master is distracted.

I skim through. From top to bottom it appears to be a list ordered in more likely to less likely to participate. I see why she was having trouble about midway or so, the names are almost entirely stretches, but still technically work. Chen, Cirno, Nitori, yeah this is the oddities. The top is the names I put more attention to.

The very first one catches my eye. Kasen Ibaraki. Not a name I well recognize, but at the same time I feel like I’ve read it somewhere before.

A couple more names stand out, one of which I’ve only recently learned, too. Others I have reason to veto for now: too rambunctious, too wily, too errant. The usual for a list of primarily Youkai. Izayoi ended up making the list, too, though.

“It would be recommended to choose two of the offered names. We will address them today,” Ran consults.

“I think we should get to a few of these, though,” I state, marking out the names that I think are promising.

“Those three? They are well separated to get to in one afternoon…” Ran contemplates. “Correction: two of those names have a chance of easily locating. The highest there will be more difficult.”

“But we can find her, right? You wouldn’t put it there if you didn’t think so, would you?” I retort.

She pauses for a moment, closing her eyes and responding, “Yes, I suppose she can be found.”

Well that’s a pensive reply. I wonder what it is about this person that has Ran miffed.

I get up from my chair, folding the list into my pack and bid our hosts a goodbye of, “It’s time we get a move on, then, Miss Scarlet. If the roster has any questions we’ll direct then to you.”

“Yes, yes, of course,” she replies dismissively, stuck in thought of her work. “Sakuya, see them out, please.”

We exit the manor on foot and set off for the mountain by air. Ran remains tight lipped about this Kasen individual that we are finding, but knows exactly where we need to go. Of course, I quickly realize it isn’t so easy to find her as it is to get to where she should be. We land down in a section of the mountain’s forestry, nary a structure in sight. Ran commands me to follow closely, not wanting me to be lost in any nonsensical way.

Mist sets in rapidly with each step forward, a strange thing to happen on a clear and heated day. We’re coming to the end of summer, now, and the heat is leaving its last vestiges behind as the fall is soon to approach. Mist like this would be the last thing I expect on the dry side of a mountain in this time of year, so I can expect this is some magical work done by Kasen or related party to hide where we’re going.

It takes time to get through, and it’s clear that there’s a lot of getting through to do.

Ran remains only a step ahead of me, making sure I’m right on her tails, very literally. I have to brush them from my face constantly as we proceed, but eventually the fog breaks and the sun gleams through to a green roofed house. The place is the very definition of oriental architecture, the curved roof, wooden struts surrounding white walls, the works. Approaching the front yard I see an odd sight.

A group of animals, the likes I wouldn’t expect of Gensokyo. A tiger, an eagle larger than a person, and many more exotic creatures color the area on our approach. They all stare daggers at us, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. I ignore the fur tickling my whole face, deciding its best to stay behind Ran’s tails, protected.

In case it wasn’t obvious enough, this person probably doesn’t like visitors. And yet here we are.

Ran steps up to the front sliding door and taps her hand against it. Some unsettling minutes pass waiting for the occupant to relieve us of her pets. Thankfully, though, she is home. The door slides to show us our first target for the afternoon.

“Hello, who might… Ran?” Kasen greets in some surprise.

She’s a relatively tall woman with pink hair adorned by two hair buns. She wears a red tabard similar to Ran’s alongside a short green skirt and slim shoes. Interestingly, her entire right arm is bandaged from the tips of her fingers to her shoulder. It’s so intensive that there is no skin shown underneath.

“Good day, Miss Ibaraki,” Ran greets. “Please inform your entourage to step down, we are not here for any hostilities.”

“We?” Kasen immediately picks up. She leans over Ran’s shoulder to spot me, stiffened up from the many fangs and talons surrounding my relatively squishy frame. “My, I’ve not met him, is he a new thrall of the Yakumo? But… he’s an ordinary human?”

“Lady Ibaraki,” Ran focuses the strange woman, stepping in front of her again to keep her attention.

“R-right, sorry. Both of you, come in, I’ll put on some tea.”

I don’t question the relative rapport the two have if it means I get out of this yard faster. The animals here are not quite as calm as their master. I step in and move to take my shoes off, but Kasen tells me to leave them on for the front room. The place is simpler than I expected. A single table with a rudimentary tea set laid out and a kitchenette on the side wall to accommodate. While the walls and its trimmings look similar to the luxury of the outside, the room is otherwise plain. It’s bare, in fact, ignoring the table.

I sit down trepidatiously, unsure who we’ve just entered the house of. Kasen takes to a set of jars on a shelf in the kitchenette, starting the stove flame without any tools. Magical is a given to Gensokyo. What isn’t given is that she’s living on her own where I could swear the tengu might take some issue and she personally knows Ran. Not very average things, from my understanding.

“What brings you to my living space, Ran?” Kasen starts the conversation back up from her focus on tea making. “Especially with a human. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you with one other than the Hakurei.”

“Research,” Ran truthfully states. “The human here, Regis, is a researcher from the village. I am his escort.”

“So… you’re working for the village? I hope you’ll tell me that’s strange. I don’t want to imagine I’m dreaming this up,” Kasen tells Ran. The way she talks almost feels like they’ve known each other for a long time. I don’t want to get into the weeds of it while we’re on a tight schedule, though.

“It is correct to assume that this circumstance is rare. Rarity is not mutually exclusive to possibility,” Ran assures the recluse. “This is no pleasure visit, however. This man comes with a request that may be of interest to you.”

Oh, you prick. How am I supposed to be the one to word this in a way to entice her?

Kasen sighs, “I shouldn’t be shocked that you’re not here for pleasantries. It’s not in your nature, after all. I still wish you would, though. Will you be here long enough for tea? Why have you gone out of your way to come here?”

I realize I’m suddenly a part of the conversation and cough up, “Ah, well… you see–…!”

I’m met with a couple pairs of concerned eyes. I slow myself and retry the sentence. “I am currently undertaking a project under the Scarlet Devil Mansion. Ah, you might call it more of a festival, though. Regardless, it is a martial arts tournament. One where close quarters will be the emphasis, as opposed to the major spellcard rules.”

“And you don’t think Reimu will take issue with this? Either of you?” Kasen asks us.

Ran answers for me, “No. There is no incident nor turmoil. She has no reason to break apart such an event.”

“It would also be a public event, I imagine. Remilia Scarlet would want to gloat about hosting the whole thing,” I tack on.

Kasen hums to herself in consideration, then asks, “So why are you here, exactly?”

“We need to gather tournament members that will agree to appear. You’re the first one we came to,” I explain.

Kasen slowly nods, cupping her chin in thought. “Would there be any kind of reward? I don’t imagine many people attending without some sort of incentive.”

“Still to be decided,” I respond curtly.

“The young Scarlet decided to let Regis decide the reward. It would be to your advantage to recommend something,” Ran cuts in.

Ooh, there’s a thought. Using the prime candidate to decide the stakes is a nice redirection of effort. Kasen seems to be thinking about it pretty intensely, too.

“That group are like European high society, right? Then why not… a week’s worth of meals? They might need to be convinced to cater to the winner’s tastes, but I think it sounds fair,” Kasen deliberates.

It makes enough sense to me. Ran covers her mouth, but I can detect the hint of a smirk coming from her. Kasen might have also caught on, but she hasn’t shown it.

“That sounds reasonable enough. Would you be willing to say that we can count on you to sign up?” I lightly pressure.

“Indeed I will go,” she announces. “I believe I should, after all.”


“Ah, nothing. Would that be all? I’m guessing Ran wishes to drag you around more,” Kasen brushes off the subject.

Ran harrumphs but doesn’t otherwise bicker.

“We… kind of drag each other around, honestly,” I admit.

Kasen chuckles, “It really is different in Gensokyo lately, I see. The great nine-tailed fox working as an equal with a regular human…”

“Enough, it is time to go,” Ran seemingly… pouts? Really, what is their relationship? It doesn’t seem purely work related.

We get up and thank Kasen for her time, Ran quick to drag me away and back out of the house. It seems this was a good first candidate, much to my surprise. Now to see how the other two might go.

We head down from the mountainside and back towards the village.

Along the flight I ask Ran from over my shoulder, “Wasn’t this the third choice? Why are we not going to the second?”

“As stated earlier, two of the potential entrants are easily accessible, that being they are in or around the human village,” Ran explains to me.

This comes as somewhat of a surprise to me, pondering, “Meira I can see being the case, but Suika Ibuki shows up here, too?”

Ibuki is an oni, as in a Youkai. As in shouldn’t be in the village at all. I’ve heard of occasions where she ignores this fact, but is swiftly scolded by Reimu afterwards for disturbing the peace. Oni are more than a little powerful, so it’s no surprise that she both does not care for rules and gets told off afterwards for not caring.

Youkai in a nutshell.

“Ibuki is an irrational individual, but does have her habits,” Ran answers me. “Let the objective be saved for later. Ibuki will be best handled in her element. For now, your third choice.”

“Your third choice,” I correct. “I only asked in your order. I’m happy that you decided to play along, as well, by the way.”

“The Scarlet mistress would never let up, had you rejected the diversion,” Ran counters. “Unfortunately, she understands how to make a deal that benefits multiple parties.”

“Even when it involves a threat for not doing things her way? I seem to remember a certain someone saying that’s supposed to be their technique,” I tease Ran for the irony of our situation.

We keep flying over the top of the village. Even more, we sail a way South of the village walls.


“The destination is ahead,” Ran tells me.

There is no Southern gate. The people out this way are the farmers that do nothing but work their fields day in and out. Crazy bastards they are, sitting out here with nothing to really stop wild animals. Nor the ‘wilder’ animals, for that matter. No sort of watch exists for these people, too big of a ground to cover, too few hands. Keine’s told me plenty about the hardiness of the people here. Not that it helps their, uh… turnover.

Ran is still going, though, out to the edge of the outer farmlands. This is Youkai territory and a half. The sunflower fields and nameless hill are out past a small stretch of forest. I would say that no madman should be living at this reach, but of course, I don’t need to be told where this is going.

We land down. A glance around tells me that this spot looks like any other along this treeline. Rice paddies and other fertile fields of colorful harvests carpet the way back to the village walls. Ran is kind enough to point to our destination here. Several yards into the trees hides a ramshackle shed. Had I found it alone or with Kazegou, I’d have mistaken it for an abandoned tool shed, forgotten by humans and taken by the forest.

Not the case, though, as Ran walks up to it. I quickly catch up after the surreality wears off.

She stops before the door and gestures for me to go first, offering that I wake whatever monster is inside.

[Please wait warmly as girl is getting beauty rest…]

I don’t believe I need to explain what’s coming up, but yes, I did allow for three. I originally planned for two characters to visit, but there was a two way tie for the second, so eh. Meanwhile, Kasen. Not much of her right now, so it was only really introductions, but I hope she’ll be another major member of the chapter. I might need to reread WaHH to feel for her naggy nature again.
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Ah Kasen~ It's always fun to read about that gluttonous

Oni Hermit.
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Been away for a bit to catch up with BokuYaba and now we're playing host for some brat's shoddy homebrew tourney and Kasen is joining. Things are building up again.
>Common drunkard
This man has been building a reputation and I don't think most of it is anything about being a researcher.
>cater to the winner's tastes
>sakuya: you will eat the fucking 🍝
Also, he has not yet asked about the crop circle. This is very important.

Well, it's been years ago since I read WaHH and I never got to the end (because it hadn't even ended then) so I'll leave the big brain stuff on her for the more literate readers here. Not like I'd have much wisdom to impart anyways but I did decide to properly *and very slowly* start reading the official books (following that one 2hu reading guide) recently, and I've been listing details I found interesting.

Only on part 2 of the three fairies saga but they did visit SDM in the very first chapter. Some things from there:
>makes for a convenient retreat (if you're a fairy) during the rainy season since remimi can prevent the rain
>fairy maids *do* actually work and, taking remimi's word for it, they enjoy it
>they also apparently do concerts?
>she seems mindful enough about giving them breaks
>reimu & marisa joined a party uninvited of course
>sakuya kicked the three fairies out under the basis of "no work, no food", not sure if official policy or just an excuse
Wonder if we'll encounter the three fairies again anytime soon.
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tournament arc GOOD
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I bring my hand up to knock on the warped door. The thing doesn’t even look like it can handle that. It’s troubling that someone can live like this. There can’t be space for anything more than a bed in there.

A faint sound of scratching can be heard inside, measured and cycling.

I hit the door, gently as I can. The paper squares warble loudly, the vibrations showing the spots ripped up. The scratching stops, and a movement inside is heard. Without a moment’s pause the door slides open.

Meira is in the same white and red from earlier. It’s still late afternoon, so it should be expected, but there’s something off about her clothes. Looking again, it really sticks out for its quality, despite the obvious wear and tear it’s been through. Much can be said for the state her purple ponytail is in. She eyes the two of us for a second, expecting us to start speaking first.

Her patience runs thin quickly, though, and she instead asks, “The hell do you want..? You’re that idiot and the fox watching me and Meiling go at it earlier, ain’cha?”

“Yes, we were spectating your sparring. It was quite something,” I agree in pleasantry. “We’ve come to tell you about something you might like… Though, forgive my curiosity, but this is your home?”

I look the hut around its corners, not a single piece of wood looks like it can handle a stiff breeze. Hardly describable as a shelter, not even for tools, much less a person.

“Hey, jackass, what are you looking at? We’re talking here,” Meira grills me. She then prods me with the blunt of her hook, now stuck with a cork on the end, and continues, “This is my damn home you’re looking at. I live here. I’m not a beggar for you to gawk at.”

“I’m sorry, it’s just, well… I just didn’t think anyone lived out this way. It’s dangerous, after all,” I bluntly state.

“Not everybody’s got that kind of choice, you know,” Meira retorts. “It’s idiots like me that keep this place safer than it could be. Not like those cushy boys in armor would ever come out here.”

“Is that to say that you keep the farmers here safe and they keep you fed?” I ponder.

“You are one sour motherfucker, you know that? I have spending money, I get paid for their protection. Look. Look inside. I have what I want. Don’t act like you’re pitying me!” Meira incenses. She does have a few baubles in place: a whetstone, a wash pan hanging on a wall, a cot integrated to the floor. The space inside is more akin to a tent made out of wood than a storage shed.

“Right, right, I’m in the wrong here,” I apologize. “I’m not used to seeing this lifestyle, is all.”

“Get on with it, you idiot. Why are you here? You said ‘something I would like?’”

“Yes. You’re training against Meiling, right? Do you need to train against the things out here?” I question.

“What? No. That isn’t it at all. I can take out any idiot that comes out this far,” Meira dissuades the notion. “Don’t think about it too hard. I like fighting, if that’s enough for you.”

I bounce from the answer and further, “If that’s all you need, what if I dig on the subject? Say, inform you that a competition is coming up at the Scarlet Devil Mansion. What would you do with that news?”

“The hell do you mean a competition? What kind of competition?” Meira keeps me on point.

“A martial arts competition. No danmaku. Close range only,” I pontificate.

“I’d ask where to sign up,” Meira cuts to her answer. “That’s exactly what I’m looking for. When is this happening?”

“You’ll have to ask the owner of the mansion that one,” I deflect. “She’s still ironing out the rules as we speak.”

“She’s the one making the rules? That can only end well…” Meira grunts.

I can’t say I share the same sentiment, but I’ve only met Remilia once. There’s still room for me to see more of what Ran told me before. And if even Meira thinks Scarlet is a poor choice, well, there may be fire to that smoke.

“So is that to say that I can count on you to join the tournament?” I reassert.

She looks at me for a moment. “… Sure,” she answers, nonplussed by my neutral attitude.

She shuffles back and takes her leave into the shack without another word. The busted up door is the only thing she seems to treat with remote care as its slid back into place.

Ran pronounces her first steps as she’s walking away. I catch up behind her quickly, not wanting to be left on my own out here. She takes me back into the village proper and informs me to wait for the late night hours for us to go after the next person. When I ask her why she only states that it will make more sense when we’re there.

I let the time pass, whiling away at home wondering how the rule drafting is going for Scarlet’s end. I don’t know what Ran has in mind, but it’s odd for her to want to take a roundabout approach to talk to someone. Keine gets home and asks how the day went, we have dinner, and I pass more time into the late night.

Ran arrives exactly when she said she would, assuming that my watch has drifted a few dozen seconds ahead. She doesn’t bother to step inside, only silently beckon me back out from the living room. I step out as quietly as possible to not wake Keine, who only just went to sleep later than usual.

We don’t fly anywhere, this time it’s a walk through the village. The evening village is dead as usual. We’re into the witching hours, now, so I wouldn’t expect anyone but the occasional watchman to be roaming about.

We end up at a little bar across town. A place I recognize. The whale sign out front brings back some memories from a month or so ago. Specifically, a rather belligerent tanuki comes to mind. I look over to Ran and point inside, hoping that she’s made her first mistake in memory since I’ve met her. No, that isn’t so. She walks in ahead of me, and I use my chance to stick behind her.

The place is dimly lit, even more so than the last time I came in. Thing is, no bars are open at this time. There wouldn’t be enough customers for it to be so. Last time I came in was the very last call of drinks in town, most of the farmers already having gone back to their homes. It’s a different situation now, though.

It’s a den of thieves. Mamizou, Ibuki, and Aya are all sitting at the counter, looking over to the entrance that Ran and I occupy. Ibuki hiccups in surprise at our appearance.

The whale-hatted bartender also seems to be in a shock at our arrival, maybe because nobody would be open at this hour, and her three patrons are all very obviously a group of Youkai. All in all not a good look for any establishment in the human village.

I’m not much to talk, though, considering how much my life is only interacting with Youkai at this point. It’s a wonder that I had a full conversation with a real human today. Not counting Keine’s unique perspective on things, anyway.

“Little shikigami? What are you doing around here?” Ibuki asks.

“Geh! It’s the cocky human, again,” Mamizou curses and takes back to her drink.

Aya looks over to her fellow drinker and back to me, thinking that I must be quite the catch to walk in the door. Thinking about it, this would be my first proper meeting with the infamous news reporter. Considering that I’ve already had my interview with Hatate some time ago, I’d prefer to avoid getting sucked into a second gossip rag.

I can tell I already don’t like where this is going.

“This human here has come to speak with you, Miss Suika,” Ran attempts to force the conversation back on track. “He will attest for himself.”

“Oh yeah?” Ibuki blurbs, dropping from her seat, stature around the same height as Chen and Cirno. “This little boy here wanted to find me directly?”

She walks up to me as Ran steps aside. While her size isn’t much, the horns jutting out from the sides of her head are quite the fixtures. She also has a few random shapes attached to the ends of chains on her limbs, for whatever reason.

“I’m here to tell you about an upcoming event. One at the Scarlet Devil Mansion,” I start.

“Ugh, that kid wants to throw another party?” Ibuki slurs through alcoholic breath, the irony not lost on anyone in the room. “The last one I went to had so little alcohol I was only using my supply. Imma pass if it’s more of the same.”

She tosses up a hand and turns back towards her reserved stool at the bar.

“It’s a martial arts tournament,” I elaborate. Ibuki stops and looks over the side of her shoulder for me to continue. “No danmaku. Close combat (likely) mandatory. I’ll have to check what Scarlet put in her ruleset to say exacts.”

“Hm. There’s a thought. Make a show out of how we used to fight. You gotta think about how you’re asking an oni, though, little man,” Ibuki reprimands. “I won’t settle for some pushovers. I want someone that can get my heart racing. A good fight.”

The room pauses for a moment. She’s right that I need to take this request seriously. I only asked Meira several hours ago. Would she even be alive against an oni? How strong is Meiling? There may be more problems than I initially considered with all of this.

“Uhm, Miss Suika?” the shy bartender speaks up. “Couldn’t you use your power to gather strong people together?”

“Oh? You’re putting that cotton head of yours to good use, Miyoi,” Ibuki nonchalantly insults.

“Is that a good idea?” the girl asks, unsure if Ibuki was being serious.

“It would mean she gets what she wants,” Mamizou explains. “It would also be what that little vampire wants as well, I’m sure. She wouldn’t want the tournament to drag on with any dull participants.”

“It can drag some of the rarer residents out of hiding for a bit and interact with people they’ve never even met before!” Aya excitedly expounds. “That would give me some fantastic material.”

“Calm down you two,” Ibuki says. She thumbs over to Ran and I, mocking, “There’s two party killers right here, if they don’t like the sound of it.”

Ran and I look at each other, wondering if we should do anything about this. I’ve read the story in Aya’s paper about the endless days of partying that Ibuki caused. There’s obvious danger inherent to letting her do her own thing, but I wonder if that can be mitigated by containing it to a single deterministic event. There needs to be a single winner in a tournament, after all.

I announce my conclusion, “I mean, I can’t think of a way that she could effect things without us noticing. What do you think, Ran?”

“She wouldn’t be subtle enough to work around us,” Ran affirms with razor-like intent.

“Man, the raccoon was right. You two don’t let up…” Ibuki complains at our harshness. She isn’t angry, though. Maybe because we were being straightforward.

“Whatever happened to that cute young rebel you told me about, Ibuki? All I see is a grouchy old fox,” Mamizou taunts.

“I’m sure she’s buried under all the orders that she follows,” Aya chirps.

“Blame Yukari, not me,” Ibuki retorts, now returning to her seat. “It ain’t my fault that the little hell escapee turned out like her.”

Oh, so Ibuki also knows Ran personally. That makes two people in one day. That’s a first. But what does she mean about a ‘hell escapee?’

“What are you two standing there for? You doing drinks or not? You already know I’m going,” Ibuki bickers at us from her seat. The other three also look at us expectantly.

I glance over to Ran, who notices my look and shakes her head. I’ll take her decision as the best one and see myself out, then.

“Thanks for the invitation, but I think I’ll keep my liver for another night,” I joke as we hastily retreat from the bar.

I sigh in relief as we’re several yards away. While nothing happened, those are some major figures in that room. One of which already doesn’t like me. An altercation with any of them would be the end of me. Maybe. Don’t want to test what I can heal off.

Ran notices my sudden laxness and informs me, “Only the tanuki particularly find enemies in others, Tanner.”

“Really? I can imagine Aya at least having people she doesn’t like.”

“Just the opposite. Aya Shameimaru is everyone’s enemy, but she does not consider anyone hers.”

“That’s pretty harsh, don’t you think?”

“You would defend the reporter?”

I mumble to myself for a moment, knowing that I wouldn’t defend her even though I think Ran’s being unfair. Perhaps there’s a point to that thought.

“So you’ve found three worthy contenders. Very good,” Scarlet amuses herself to our work after we finish our explanation of the day prior.

We’re on the same balcony from yesterday, perhaps to keep a keen on the gate for any arrivals of interest, but otherwise things have hardly changed. Three promises, but given that there was no time frame I could give them, they may or may not arrive today to ask about it. I understood this would be an issue to actually organize things if it wasn’t nailed down immediately, so when Izayoi had arrived to present Meiling a morning meal I had requested to see the lady of the house again.

Thankfully, Scarlet has been at work putting together a formal document for the rules. That’s the most credit I can give her, though. I glance at the rules once more. Picking apart the wordiness again and only discerning the logical statements they make as follows:

Close combat is preferred but not mandatory.

Projectiles are allowed so be it that they are non-magical in nature.

Fight until the other party cannot fight or concedes.

Flight is permissible but the match must be contained to within the boundaries of the arena.

Harming of any body outside of the arena is immediate grounds for disqualification.

Yeah these are all pretty loose. She’s basically pandering to her own dominion as a presiding judge. I’ve half a mind to call out her imagination that she’ll have the chance to give someone the thumbs down. With this ruleset that’s almost guaranteed to happen.

The rules are suspect at best, and liable to any number of troublemakers at worst. I wish I wasn’t coming off of a courtroom trial not two weeks ago and just ignore this altogether, but the lack of care put into this is unpalatable.

She’s the one requesting the whole event, but dear gods if I’ve never seen a harder attempt at self sabotage since the time I had a student write practice test answers on their open notes without the methods they used to get them.

I know how that story ends, though. It’s called remedial lessons. Ones that I’m forced to stay around and teach on weekends. In this case it would be a pouty child not getting what she wants because it all goes to shit. Sadly that also is likely to mean she’ll bar me from doing my work if she gets bored.

Oh she’s looking at me smugly, waiting for me to compliment her work. Ah, I can’t leave this alone, can’t I?

[x] Force Scarlet to rework the ruleset with supervision of the process.

[x] Leave well enough alone. If she wants to treat this vapidly then I would be better to stay hands off.

[x] Perhaps there’s some kind of elegant way to work this. (Write-in)

Now we’re trucking. A good amount of this had characters that haven’t had proper scenes yet even if they’ve been mentioned or seen, so it might be touch and go for some characterization. Also, I don’t expect too many characters to end up being integral to this plotline. We’ve basically decided on the major ones at this point.
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[x] Force Scarlet to rework the ruleset with supervision of the process.
this ruleset implies that property damage is a valid battle tactic
does she really expect Suika not to do that
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[x] Force Scarlet to rework the ruleset with supervision of the process.
>Projectiles are allowed so be it that they are non-magical in nature.
>Define magical.
Kappas would have a field day with this one.
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[x] Perhaps there’s some kind of elegant way to work this.
>[x] Introduce Remilia to the wonderful world of theorycrafting to show her the flaws in her ruleset.

What better way to teach Remilia the flaws than through a fun interactive demonstration? Explain to Remilia the basic idea, we each pick a fighter and explain what they might do in a fight. We then exploit gaps in the rules, encouraging her to make changes to the ruleset on her own so that she can properly win. Repeat until we iron out all of the rules.

Some immediate gaps I see:
>No time limit, something that heavily benefits characters like Mokou. And stall tactics are massively unpopular with crowds.
>Ruleset seems to allow throwing characters outside of the ring ala sumo, which may or may not be desired
>"Close combat preferred" rule is effectively useless
>What determines when the other party cannot fight?
>" Harming of any body outside of the arena is immediate grounds for disqualification. " I don't know how but I feel characters like Hecatia or Aunn with multiple bodies could somehow exploit this
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Let's see how many loopholes we can find in Remi's rules.

>Close combat is preferred but not mandatory.
Reisen: Close combat is most certainly NOT preferred by me, which is why I brought this nifty Lunarian Gatling Gun with me.

>Projectiles are allowed so be it that they are non-magical in nature.
Cirno: I'm gonna Fly up above my opponent as soon as the match starts, and then use my ice magic to create a ten million ton (completely ordinary, non-magical) glacier and drop it on them.

>Fight until the other party cannot fight or concedes.
Yuyuko: I cast death.

>Flight is permissible but the match must be contained to within the boundaries of the arena.
Nitori: This arena has no ceiling, which means the upper boundary of this arena is the edge of space. I'll just use my awesome tech backpack to grab my opponent, activate my rocket boosters to drag them into the stratosphere, and win when they asphyxiate because I have a space helmet and they don't.

>Harming of any body outside of the arena is immediate grounds for disqualification.
Rumia: Step 1- Let Sakuya hit me with a knife. Step 2- Cover the arena in darkness. Step 3- Yank the knife out of me and throw it at the audience while they can't see us. Step 4- Blame Sakuya.

[x] Perhaps there’s some kind of elegant way to work this.
>[x] Introduce Remilia to the wonderful world of theorycrafting to show her the flaws in her ruleset.
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Other anons already have an idea but.

[X] Perhaps there’s some kind of elegant way to work this. (Write-in)
- [X] "So what happens when [x contender] appears and has [y Item or ability that side-steps the rules]?"

Basically don't tell Remilia directly that her ruleset sucks. But make her think of the likely hypotheticals and give her the opportunity to correct her mistakes.

She maaaaay get offended by it if she somehow perceives us as looking down on her. But a simple, "I am simply interested in seeing a good and entertaining contest. As much as you are?" may placate her.
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How's that different from the theorycrafting write in? Outside of the theorycrafting one presenting it more like a game/thought experiment, it seems basically the same
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[x] Perhaps there’s some kind of elegant way to work this.
>[x] Introduce Remilia to the wonderful world of theorycrafting to show her the flaws in her ruleset.
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Now that the okii noumisos have cast their piece, I have to squeeze and wrinkle up my cerebrum as well. I agree with not enforcing AUTHORITY on the Remimi and going for RHETORIC. Let him bring forth his experience as an educator for once instead of the shameless barhopper, blackmailer, pantsless pervert, charlatan counselor and general troublemaker he truly is. I have to wonder though if only chasing after loopholes would spiral them into an endless session of theoretical rumination. Maybe that is what she'd get bored of instead.

To smoothen the process a bit, why not take as well from the obvious? This ain't no danmaku competition, sure, but as a semi-sportive, more-or-less friendly form of combat that is still being practised (for a reason!) there should be some desired commonalities. Even if not in actual rules themselves, the principles behind them can be extrapolated and modified for our use.
i have no idea what i'm doing

[x] Perhaps there’s some kind of elegant way to work this.
>[x] Introduce Remimi to the woeful world of theorycrafting to show her the flaws in her brain.
>[x] Why not take and modify from existing danmaku rules as well?
and most important,
>[x] Cooly and imperceptibly slide an offhand mention of the crop circle. Not because we're expecting an answer from it. No. We just throw it out there. Because it means something. *nods thoughtfully*
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[x] Perhaps there’s some kind of elegant way to work this.
>[x] Introduce Remilia to the wonderful world of theorycrafting to show her the flaws in her ruleset

“Lady Scarlet, how would you feel about a bit of exercise?” I prompt.

She flaps her wings excitedly in her seat, asking in return, “Has one of the guests arrived already? I certainly would care to greet them as the host of proceedings.”

“No. Not yet, anyway,” I sideswipe the topic. I point to my head and continue, “What I’m thinking about is a little bit of flexing the old cranium, not the body.”

She sports an interested gaze, now more amused by my train of thought than the conversation up to this point. “And what might you have in mind, if you care to divulge the rest of your class?”

“A game of sorts. It’s simple really. If we want to find how tight a set of rules is, then let’s think of ways to get around them. Find counterexamples of what someone might do to follow the rules without ‘following the rules,’ basically.”

“Is that to say you disagree with my clearly stated terms, dear teacher,” Scarlet pins my true intents.

She won’t catch me so easily, though, as I continue, “That’s for us to test with this game, isn’t it?”

She smirks, seeing right through my meaning, but all the same understanding that I don’t intend to bruise any fragile egos like this. Scarlet snaps her fingers and another piece of paper materializes in front of her.

“Let us be sure to document our findings well, then. Shall we?” she plays along with a taunting smile, passing the paper and a quill over to me.

I dip the quill to the well at the center of the table and write the simplified rules as I’ve found them. I pass it back to the vampire and ask if she agrees to them being the distilled forms of what she wrote. She fights with herself to stop a twisting face of frustration from mounting over the calm and upstanding demeanor. She’s successful in doing so, but to the compromise of agreeing that what I’ve written is correct.

She passes the page back to me, crestfallen to her own wordiness being her downfall. That first rule especially fell victim to her romanticisms.

“What do you say we come back to the first point here at the end?” I give her an out. She nods in agreement, the light motion of her eyes rolling up carefully hidden.

I start my lesson, “Izayoi, how difficult would it be for you to throw a knives into an undodgeable scenario with your power?”

“Simple, though, no one ever asks how long it takes me to clean up afterwards,” the maid answers with a bashful hand to her cheek. Not in any seriousness, mind. I’ve taken to assume she acts even more coy than Ran does.

“How might that pertain to the rules as you’ve interpreted them?” Scarlet asks.

“Non-magical projectiles does not mean the same thing as projectiles used magically,” I explain. “Basically, while it does get rid of the magic we’re used to from danmaku, it does not get rid of things like teleporting knives. Nor does this stop objects from being magically made, such as a certain fairy’s icicles.”

“I see no issue in this explanation,” Scarlet informs us. “In what way do you see it as such?”

“I’d argue it’s out of the spirit of the competition. We’re looking for people’s martial skills. If their power enhances that, then it’s fine. But if their power can instantly end a match then there’s no point. Would you say that’s a fair summary?” I turn the conversation back to Scarlet.

She closes her eyes and hums, thinking through my statement, before asserting, “I wish to look for those who might overpower others. I would be quite happy if that ends up being my beautiful China-woman, but I’m interested to see if that is not the case. Would changing the rules as you’re recommending be to the benefit of that?”

“I’d say that I’m recommending you to convince yourself of that,” I persist.

“Convince myself, you say? You recommend me to engage with why my work is wrong?” Scarlet baits me for something that I shouldn’t answer.

“Yes,” I bravely and foolishly state in no uncertain terms. “If you find faults in your own work, who is that to the benefit of?”

“Now you’re sounding exactly like Patche when she attempts to lecture me,” Scarlet muses with a wry smile. “Perhaps I’ll entertain your barbaric self yet.”

She stands and walks halfway around the table. Izayoi is at the side adjusting the overhead umbrella to cover the vampire’s stature. With a short gesture, Scarlet motions for me to do the same, such that we might read the paper at the same time. I can feel Ran tense up slightly as I walk over, but nothing happens. I’ve not incurred the devil’s wrath yet. Another piece to add to the resume.

“Now what say you to this next item?” Scarlet asks, pointing to the rule of fighting until one side can’t or concedes.

I argue that someone able to manipulate a person’s mind could tell the opponent to willfully forfeit. No rule broken there, but certainly not what a martial art’s tournament is looking for. Scarlet asks the validity of that as an argument, given how few individuals in Gensokyo could even possibly do that, but concedes after Ran points out that Clownpiece could induce a madness that might cause that, among other more likely attending individuals.

We process the rules this way for the rest, letting Scarlet take the wheel and think of the negative outcomes her rules could generate. From this exercise, she determines that while her rules sound like what she wanted, it isn’t up to snuff. She starts to rewrite each item one by one with input from Ran and I when she gets stuck.

She very specifically targets each counterpoint with the new rules, but a bit of editing by my convincing sees this intent obfuscated as to not target anyone in particular.

The new rules eventually read to a boiled down form of:

Fights will be ruled by the merit of combat.

Truly connecting hits will be given high merit within close ranges. Farther ranges will be given less merit for true hits.

Projectiles are allowed in light of the previous, however, projectiles with any magical influence, including the summoning of, will be subject to disqualification.

Fights will last until one side cannot fight or three minutes have passed. This does not count restrained or manipulated combatants as unable to fight.

There will be no harming of spectators in any way. Should either side have this occur it will be immediate grounds for both sides being disqualified.

Flight is allowed, and the arena may be considered the span of the venue. Note, the venue is one room inside of the Scarlet Devil Mansion unless otherwise specified.

Now that seems like a rule set that might get us somewhere. Scarlet had some trouble forcing close combat scenarios without fully killing of thrown attacks, but Ran came to the rescue and offered herself as a way to track the hits people take. She plans to place herself as a judge, effectively. While I trust Ran, I can’t say what her plan is if she wants be partial to any individual.

Scarlet had no problem with this arrangement, as it took the tedium of the fights away from herself. Instead she’s able to focus on the game itself, watching for foul play that is above her intent for the tournament.

While I can’t say I’m confident in her judgment, we’ll have to wait and see how that pans out.

Surprisingly quiet was Izayoi. I figured the idea of disallowing any magic involving weapons would warrant a glare from her, but she seemed unphased by the proposition.

With a set of rules that I don’t feel will go up in flames on day one, Scarlet amps up her own excitement. She sets upon her maid to begin preparations for a proper noble venue fit for warriors in her home. The maid blinks, to which I assume is from some level of disbelief, but afterwards she accepts the task exactly to her master’s word and sets off to work.

She informs us that it will be a few days and everyone should come by the late morning to begin the festivities. She plans to set the fairy maids to work posting fliers all around Gensokyo to attract more members outside of my picks. I wonder for a moment if three days is enough time to get word around and attract a real crowd, but I dismiss the thought when Ran doesn’t call attention to it.

The wait is lengthy. Without a reason to step into the mansion that doesn’t give myself away, I’m in the dark about the arena and its accommodations. The most I know is that Izayoi must be fully devoted to getting it done since she doesn’t deliver Meiling her meals personally. The meals are still prepared and delivered, but it seems to have largely been taken over by the fairy maids.

Saying the fairy maids are in the kitchen would cause anyone to worry, but Meiling assures me that they do fine work, albeit minimal. Simple sandwiches and the like. They also mistook Ran and I as guests that need tending too, despite being outside of the gates, and so delivered extra portions for us.

This status quo suits me fine as I attempt to get more of my interviewing out of the way before the event starts up. I have a feeling the festivities won’t end in a day, and so I need to be sure that I get some raw material to work with on the off chance Meiling needs to recover from any fatigue or the like.

It really is an off chance, mind, but I learned my lesson about back up planning from last week’s research.

Meiling considers the interviews to actually be a nice excuse for her to have some company, anyway. She only ever stands at the front gate without particularly budging, or tends to the outdoor garden. Admittedly, the garden is well cared for, and impressively varied in the flora present.

We do get the chance to look around properly one day as Meiling performs some routine checkups inside the walls.

She guides us through the garden, pointing out each and every plant with detailed descriptions of how she cares for them and other various facts. She mentions that even before coming to Gensokyo she ended up reading through a large section of miss Knowledge’s library to gather as much botanical expertise as possible. As with most things I ask her, she tells me that she’s had a green thumb for as long as she can remember. I mention the possibility that it has something to do with her reading of qi, similar to Narumi’s magical pursuits, but I only get a quick nod of agreement without any real thought behind it.

For someone that should be as storied as Meiling, she has a surprising lack of things to say about her life. I can’t help but wonder how Meiling doesn’t see any distress in that, given that’s the case for even the most important parts. How she learned her martial arts, how she was born, where she was born, how she learned Chinese culture but ended up meeting a European vampire, there’s many ways that I could piece a story out of that, but all of it is speculation.

Amidst one of my confused ramblings, Meiling spots a group of fairies leaving the premises again.

“I’ve seen a number of the indoor fairies leaving the mansion recently. Is something happening?” Meiling asks us.

Ran and I exchange a glance, probably thinking the same thing.

“Has no one told you that there’s going to be a martial arts tournament?” I ask in turn.

She gives the two of us a stunned look, clearly meaning this is the first she’s heard of it.

“Where is this?” she asks in a slight lisp.

“Inside a prepared room of your master’s mansion, approximately twenty hours from now, depending on her definition of late morning,” Ran answers for me.

Meiling puts a finger to her cheek. “I’m… invited… right?” she questions. Her confusion is palpable under an awkward smile.

We all exchange another look in silence before I speak up, “I… uh… think your master expects you to be like the seeded champion.”

Meiling shrieks something in Chinese that I would guess translates to ‘what.’

I can see the panic start to rise as she realizes the situation she’s found herself in, and she jaunts from where we were in the garden in all due haste. By the time Ran and I catch up at the mansion wall, Meiling’s already started her daily exercise routine, but now in double time.

“So… I can already guess what you’re doing, but do you want to try and calm yourself down by talking anyway?” I half joke.

“The mistress expects a good showing from me. I will not let her down!” Meiling asserts. Her entire demeanor’s changed to something alien from the lackadaisical gate guard I’ve been interviewing. Suddenly she’s moving with a raw intent to hone herself.

The smooth motions of her tai chi have been misplaced in favor of robotic, calculated movements. The poses she moves between show a mastery over the way human anatomy works, balancing on herself in ways I wouldn’t think possible. Her daily routine was only to build muscle memory, this is clearly to train.

She stands upright once more and adopts a combat stance like what I saw a few days ago. She practices throwing various punches and kicks at an invisible target. I follow how she moves as well as I can before changing my attention to the edge of her hits. Focusing on a single point that her fist reaches I notice that she’s striking there consistently. As she keeps going it feels like she draws herself into some sort of meditative state, gaining speed, gaining strength, until at some point she kicks the invisible target with enough force to blast the air itself away. The force was strong enough to emit a shattering crack against the empty space.

If she’s supposed to be rusty, there’s no way in hell I’d know. This is something else to watch. She spends the rest of the afternoon doing nothing but training before I leave, deathly serious about putting in a good look for the lady of the house.

The next day rolls around with Ran and I rolling out to arrive again at eight AM. As we land some people are already crowding around Meiling, asking when the sign ups are gonna start. Izayoi is quick to conscript my companion and I as the grunts to write everyone in. This all took no more than a minute to accomplish.

There are people here I know and don’t know. Morbidly curious villagers, interested tengu, and a warband of kappa and yamawaro waiting to set up inside the premises. This concerns me at first, but Meiling says that they were given permission to do so, and thus I find myself writing enough names to last me into the next hour.

The word must have spread like wildfire for this group to be here an hour earlier than even I’d expect. A few competitors were mixed in and given some specific instructions to go in now unlike the rest of the tourney-goers. I don’t know where they’ve wandered to inside the mansion, but I have a feeling I’ll see them again.

The day starts to roll into the late morning, and as if by prophecy, a horde of people show up. Fighting is something that Gensokyo loves, it seems to be in their blood, or whatever the equivalent is by species, and a tournament dedicated to people fighting like they did decades ago, or for some like what their fathers and grandfathers did, is like a cultural heritage.

It’s like welcoming Germans to an Oktoberfest or Americans to a football game. Sure, we lie to ourselves and say baseball is still the all American sport, but we know that isn’t true. It’s much the same today, and the irony that a foreign mansion is the one sparking this nostalgia is not lost on me.

With the horde sufficiently culled, a fairy maid fetches Ran and I away away from our post, leaving in our place a couple of… goblins? Like, literal goblins. The kind I’d imagine came straight from a Dungeons and Dragons table. I… can’t say I’m entirely surprised, but it’s still quite the odd place to find them.

We walk into the gate to find that the area has turned into true festival grounds. People wander between stalls set up by all manor of sales- or games-man, the whole front garden has been metamorphosed into a tent city, one with a lot more structure than the term would normally connotate. The fairy leads us through the bustle of people straight to the front door. Even to Ran’s surprise, the festival continues inside, more tables being set up in the front foyer for so many patrons. A number of individuals I recognize host stalls. Cirno’s found herself an ice machine to make ample use of beside a few other fairies on the ground, Hina managed to get a dilapidated folding table to stand with a number of paper dolls on display, even Takane peddles a few of her model guns from her box to those interested.

The mansion is swarming with activity, but the fairy carries us much deeper than that. She stops at an innocuous door, telling me that I’m to go inside. Ran takes a step after me, but the little maid says that my companion is expected elsewhere. She gives the fairy a blood curdling look as she glances over into the room I’ve been ushered to.

It isn’t hard to tell why she reacts that way, either. I think it’s safe to say that we may have inadvertently created the single most dangerous room in Gensokyo. Our choice contenders are here, sure, but so is every single other rough and tumble Youkai or otherwise from the deep underground to the high heavens. I spot Tenshi conversing with Jo’on, for crying out loud!

I quiz the fairy on why she’s lead me here. A quick interrogation reveals that Izayoi said, and I quote, “He’s a teacher, so he’s probably good at organization. Just bring him in.”

I can feel the color drain from my face.

Right, because I’m the best choice to organize an entire platoon’s worth of dangerous women teeming with a bloodthirst they haven’t quenched in years. We return to our interrogation, now asking why Ran is going somewhere else.

I stop midway as I remember that she’s supposed to be the referee for the matches. By my own convincing, even.

Ran sighs and lifts a familiar paper. A second later the cat arrives. To our surprise, though, some of the blue light fades from the other side of the waiting room.

“Chen. Why are you a contender?” Ran questions with a presence to stifle her surprise.

“I walked up and signed in..?” the cat tries an answer. She chuckles only somewhat nervously after.

Ran pinches the bridge of her nose and points to me. “Protect him,” she commands. “We will arrange for a backup once you go to the stage.”

She salutes her master as the fairy maid guides Ran deeper in still, leaving me with only the wily cat to protect me from all possible danger. The miasma bomb was less terrifying than this, honestly.

I step in and find the table with paperwork meant for a coordinator. That would of course be my spot, now. A few cursory glances my way tells me I’ve not gone unnoticed. I bar my eyes from the hungry pack and embrace the work in front of me.

A blank roster tells me the next annoyance: Scarlet hasn’t set the matches. I could either interpret this as she doesn’t want to bother, or that she’s testing me again, seeing if I can put things together in a way to keep them interesting. Well, thankfully I’ve always been naturally studious.

I glance through the room and then the papers, taking stock of the many individuals that have arrived today, before getting to work on the list.

Alright, it’s time to vote. We’ll be doing this a little differently, though, as Tanner will be stuck to this room and won’t have many opportunities to show true agency. In an attempt to account for this, we will be setting up matches one by one each update. I pick one, you all pick one. The house rules for this will only be not to use one of the primary characters of the chapter that we’ve established, but otherwise most else goes. Consider it the monkey’s paw that Suika provided you.

To start, Meiling. Make the opening act something to hook people in.

Her opponent,

[x] Ichirin Kumoi, without Unzan, though, as we put in a rule to get rid of multi-member teams for many reasons.

[x] Mononobe no Futo. Ah, I believe she’s the pyromaniac. What the hell is her fighting style?

[x] Someone else, there’s still a lot of choices here. (Write-in)

You’ll never catch me, Krabs! Not after I shift this plot into Maximum Overdrive!
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[x] Someone else, there’s still a lot of choices here. (Write-in)
- [x] Son Biten

Let's show a Newhu some love!
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[x] Clownpiece.
Honestly, I just want to watch how a martial fighter deals with mind-related abilities.
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Well, it's the first match and the debut of our "champion", Meiling.

As the prompt mentions, we need this to be a real crowd pleaser to set the tone for the festivities.
The key here is to balance crowd satisfaction with sustainability.
We don't want to immediately put Meiling vs. say, an oni like Yuugi and get roughed up too much for potential later fights.

Also, we would want an opening match that exemplifies the spirit of the event.
While ranged combat is more than allowed, to really get the crowd going with a bang we should find a matchup that is likely to be very physical and close-ranged.

Balancing those factors isn't easy, but there's some candidates that seem viable.

Out of the basic options, Ichirin seems more outwardly (as a spectator) interesting than Futo.
Studying under Byakuren should prove her to be a decent melee combatant, even without Unzan.
But it might not make for the most spectacular opening fight as she isn't overly powerful.

Futo talking ye olde smack might add some comedy factor, and as a hermit is at least of some power.
Her ability to manipulate feng shui is an interesting contrast to Meiling, as feng shui manipulates the qi in the environment.
However, interesting parallel aside, it's hard to say whether that will make for anything noticable in a match.
Perhaps one (or both) can disrupt the other?

A combatant around the power level that would make for a good opener, but her personality isn't really the type to (care to) get a crowd going.
It'd be an austere match, which does have its own merits.

Might make for a good brawl.
She's quite powerful, and her hot temper would definitely get a crowd going.
An immortal also makes for an interesting opponent, one you cannot simply disable normally.
Meiling, with her expertise, would probably know areas to strike to maximise pain and possibly make her capitulate, though.
Interesting option.

A showwoman at heart, could make for a nice opening act?
If she's here, that is, but any stage is a stage to perform on.

Honestly just copy what I wrote about Youmu here.

Ichirin, but super-powered.
Would be quite spectacular, but maybe too crazy an opponent to start with?
I assume she is here. Ichirin is, but she's way less of a (technical) pacifist than Byakuren herself.

A god, but a weaker one.
Quite interesting, actually.
Flashy, physical, has a face that everyone loves to see get punched.
Might be a winner.

Son Biten
Actually a pretty interesting write-in.
Even if she is actually a Japanese macaque, the Wukong iconography is still there and it combines well with Meiling's own Chinese style.
Her personality could also add a liveliness to the match that really gets the people going.
My only concern is that she might be a little weak, comparatively.

Is her ability even allowed?
I suppose it would be.
Not entirely sure if she's really the best choice for an opening match considering the spirit of things and for the purposes of hype-building, though.
I'd say Reisen would be better suited if that is your aim.

Not entirely sure yet who I wanna go with.
I intentionally left out most very strong contenders because this is supposed to be a hype match.
Having two real big names square off here could cause matches afterwards to be less exciting.
I'll be back later with a definitive vote, I need a bit to decide/read input from other anons.
Currently on the fence between:
Son Biten
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[jk] Someone else, there’s still a lot of choices here. (Write-in)
- [jk] Giant Catfish
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Unfortunately still a newwho for me so no comment.
Even without her torch, are any fairy contenders actually in the room? Quick, somebody scan the room! Sunny Milk could be right there!
From the picks and your post, mine was between
Futo (futo)
Kokoro (theatrics, hopefully she brought some non-magical fireworks)
Jo'on (punchable face, brawler)
Mokou is a tempting pick but I think she'd work better after. Personally, I'd aim for something to ease everyone into the rhythm first and a good, nice start doesn't need to go too hard. I think it's something the contenders, crowd and Meiling herself, who literally only found out yesterday, would appreciate *whether they realise/admit it or not*.
For more names though, I dunno much but how about:
Mayumi (a newer, infrequent face? combat experience?)
Shinmyoumaru (why tf not, it'd be funny)
Chen (she's right there. asking for it. dew it.)

No vote yet.
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[x] Someone else, there’s still a lot of choices here. (Write-in)
- [x] Son Biten

I'm torn between Biten and Futo.
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[x] Mononobe no Futo

I agree with this. Mostly the comedy part but the ability interaction could be neat.
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We need to think of this like wrestling and pick accordingly. I'm torn between Son Biten, Ichirin, and Jo'on.

Jo'on I think is a fight that NEEDS to happen. Jo'on is a natural heel, she WILL piss off the audience and everyone around with her attitude. Having a heel like her get beaten up by Meiling would be a big boon for her. However, we might want to let Jo'on get a win or two first, so the audience can know her and despise her more before Meiling sweeps her away. Jo'on is also a pretty solid fighter so I imagine she'll make it at least decently far, maybe not to the top but she should score a few wins.

Son Biten I think is a character that will be exciting to see, and her personality as well as what she is should contrast well with the Hong.

Ichirin is a character that I think we should get to see here more often.

In the end, I'll go with
[x] Son Biten

I can imagine Hisami joining this tournament with the sole intent to get far and lose right near the top, or just lose in the very beginning for the sole purpose of embarrassing Zanmu. I almost voted for her too.
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>>44464 here.

Mulled it over. Read anon's input.
I'm pretty convinced it has to be the monke now.
She'll set a good mood for the opening match, her aesthetic pairs well with Meiling, and she's reasonably-powered to be a good first stepping stone for our "seeded champion".

>>44469 has the right of it, in my opinion.
I already mentioned Jo'on is somebody people love to see get wrecked, so building her up as a heel over a few rounds instead of knocking her out here is a fantastic and very astute suggestion.
I know the matchups are supposed to be 1-to-1 decisions between us and Poingnant.
Was the plan to go through every matchup in the first round; or, considering the sheer amount of fighters present, just the matches considered "important"? (Ie. our main 4 contenders.)
If the latter, could we also give some input on less important matchups?
Because I think we should seed Jo'on as mentioned, set her up with a reasonable chance for success in the early rounds, culminating into a big showdown between her and Meiling to start the Quarter/Semi-finals.
Not that I actually know the bracket type of the tournament, so the actual round might vary, but ideally right before our star competitors (Meiling, Kasen, Suika, Meira) start their clashes with each other.
Provided they make it, of course.

[X] Son Biten
If allowed
-[X] Seed Jo'on to build her up as a heel for Meiling to (ideally) beat in a later round.

I wonder when Regis will finally get to meet Patchouli face-to-face.
Probably only when this is all over, I suppose.
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>Consider it the monkey’s paw that Suika provided you.

[x] Someone else, there’s still a lot of choices here. (Write-in)
- [x] Son Biten
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Hopping in for a bit of disclosure on the current vote.

>>44470 I do primarily plan to show only the main cast matches with minor mentions of the minor matches. That said, I still don't fully commit to the idea that the main cast are invincible in the bracket.

As for Biten, I should forewarn you all that I plan to make her a bit different from what we see in 19. Why? I may have hinted at it somewhere previous, but I consider the story to be happening after the events of 17.5 as part of a 'canon' timeline (just ignore that 17.5 came out after 18, lol).

I'll commit to adding Biten, but thought I should note the above.
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Yeah, I understand.
I realise now that the "provided they make it" at the end of my post seems rather flippant, but I did at least somewhat mean it.

We have no way of knowing if, for example, Meira (or Meiling) will make it anywhere.
Seeding the bracket only goes so far and funny comparison aside this isn't actually pro wrestling, so fights aren't staged and how far people get is based on their own merits.
Still, Remilia wanted an enjoyable tournament, so Regis might be able to at least nudge the initial proceedings in this way.
Any outcome makes for a story and, besides, everyone loves a good underdog victory.
Thanks for the clarification/confirmation, though.

I'll be looking forward to seeing how you spin Biten.
Maybe Regis chose her based on her aesthetics/demeanor when he wrote down her sign-up rather than any possible prior knowledge of her?

Actually, talking about the sign-ups got me thinking.

...Could we have chosen the bunny terminator herself, Moi?
I know she's from a different one of your stories, but this does look like an event she'd join in.
Just a passing thought and not really a serious suggestion, but the imagery amused me so I figured I'd share.
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>>44466 again.

ha. was gonna include that in my post but decided to keep it short. somebody ought to introduce remimi to it though.
honestly, part of me choosing futo over her is because i'm not sure how she'd take it if she knew/realised that we are literally in charge of this choice. likely just nothing though.
>seeding Jo'on
dangerous game. i'm gonna start praying for the biggest upset in gensokyo.
>Patchouli when
THE CROP CIRCLE KNOWS we must tease out its secrets

anyway, my vote since i don't know anything about monke.
[x] Mononobe no Futo
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[x] Someone else, there’s still a lot of choices here. (Write-in)
- [x] Son Biten

I take my time sifting through the documents and peeking around the room. Plenty of colorful people around, both figurative and literal. So many walks of life have come here to beat the stuffing out of each other, which to some degree I can respect, but I’ll try to keep that to myself. For now I need to think about what the little mistress of the mansion might want with each round.

One of the many muscle heads stands out, though. A smaller girl with loose brown hair and grossly bold colored rags layered over one another. The outfit on its own is loud and proud, but the girl herself seems to have coated herself in the same image. She’s boasting to a few other participants who give her mocking smiles. They’re only paying attention to her relatively lesser stature, getting a kick out of her overconfidence. She is speaking to oni, after all.

That’s a level of naivety that could work for a first round. Something simple, honest. I mark her down on the spot. Can’t say exactly why I feel certain that it should be good, but I just have some kind of feeling about it that tells me so.

I work through the rest of the bracket, taking into account the dynamics that might happen with every match, but attempt to avoid any one sided stints. With one exception, but I’ll come back to that. Gotta try and sow a bit of drama into the bracket where I can.

I post the page to a side wall where the rules are also sitting, drawing the entire crowd my way. The place is a field of flat benches, causing everyone to take hunched steps through the aisles. One side of the room, though, remains open. A group of people standing at the spot are shooed off by a strange character to find here, one Patchouli Knowledge.

A girl in all purple clothes and colorful ribbons, looking more like she’s ready for bed than to perform magic. Her extra long purple hair only adds to the image of her lethargy. From what I’ve heard, though, it seems she’s anything but with the rut I’ve put her in.

She points to the center of the open area, where next a business woman sporting four too many bat wings sets down a large framed mirror. The thing is larger than the woman herself, probably measuring around my height. It doesn’t seem to have any special properties from here, so I approach in interest. The rest of the crowd keeps a good spitting distance in between them and the magician after they’re done with the roster.

Miss Knowledge barks out orders and points at many places along the ground for her assistant to drag a stick of chalk, rapidly scribing magical symbols to surround the mirror as a centerpiece.

The witch sets up some paraphernalia by the mirror, candles and the like, and begins chanting. Within a few moments the glass ripples like water, displacing the image of us in front of it and showing somewhere else. Miss Knowledge swivels around on her heels, realizing how close I was before the image distorted.

She looks generally annoyed to be here. I wonder if she was ordered.“And who are you?” Miss Knowledge asks very directly, though in an oddly neutral tone.

A funny thought comes to me, by which I mean I say, “Tanner Regis. Human village researcher.”

At first she has no interest nor reaction. Her blank stare persists for a moment, but in the next her eyes trail up to an alert stare. She scowls in a way unbefitting everything written about her personality.

“You… you!” she grinds before magically lifting her book from the base of the mirror and swinging it’s ribbing at me. “Apologize this instant, you whelp!”

The room goes quiet.

I fall to a knee and clutch my side. The edge of the book hit me right against a rib, and damn does she swing that thing hard. I grunt back with my best attempt to play it cool, “Nice to meet you in person, too.”

“Do not play coy. Your blatant insinuation of my very life’s work being inadequate is on its own enough to rile me,” the witch snarls. “That was before Sakuya had investigated you at my behest. When she had reported back that you were a simple and feeble human, one that would not even know his gold from his pyrite, I understood that you would be no better than a menace the likes of the Yakumo you consort with. What shame do you have to show for insulting a mage’s understanding of the world?”

I keep up the near suicidal level of snark, saying, “Not much. You don’t seem to want an answer, anyway.”

Something inside her seems to snap.

She opens the book and begins reciting something without even looking at the page. The rest of the room hits a mild panic as a few members rush to tackle her. The entire purple pajama witch is flattened to the ground.

The person that got the best grip is probably double Knowledge’s body mass. A woman with golden hair built thicker than a tank, and a large red horn protruding from her forehead.

I recognize the oni to be Yuugi Hoshiguma, who keeps Patchouli’s jaw shut with her hands while also using her legs to pin the witch’s shoulders and counter prop her back. Least to say, it is very uncomfortable to even look at. On both of Patchouli’s hands sit Meiling and Kasen, the three quickest in the room to react to the emergency.

“Oh, hey, you,” Hoshiguma greets Kasen casually.

“Not now, Yuugi,” Kasen replies quietly.

I give an awkward chuckle at the situation, compromising, “Thanks for saving my hide. We should probably let her speak her mind, though.”

“Don’t act innocent. Everyone saw you goad her anger,” Kasen reprimands. “Just be thankful that there are people who would even so much as help for what appears to be your own doing.”

I knew that would happen, of course. The people in this room are more than a little serious about combat, so subduing someone being hostile is probably their knee jerk reaction.

That said, I should still be thankful that things could work out this well. Even if I was with Ran I don’t think she’d have this easy of a time with Miss Knowledge. Thinking about it, I should ask how she’s doing lately. She hasn’t said a lot about her weakening power, and she was able to trap the misfortune miasma a couple weeks ago. Huh.

Hoshiguma releases Miss Knowledge’s jaw, causing her head to snap down and puffy purple cap to drape her face.

“Gah! You bulky fools unhand me!” the fragile witch shouts through her filter, using what little muscle she has against her steel gripped restraints.

The three restraints don’t even budge.

“Miss Patchouli, please calm down,” Meiling pleas. “You know you can’t harm him. He’s nice when you get to know him.”

“Are you complimenting me or insulting me?” I half-joke. “’When you get to know him’ is almost universally code for he’s an asshole but you’ll get used to it.”

“That about surmises what I expected of you,” Knowledge retorts. “Honestly even questioning my knowledge on something as simple as fairies. You truly have a death wish.”

“Can we maybe come back to this later? I’m guessing we’re both on the clock,” I reason. I fully realize how I look right now, but damn if it isn’t fun to tease someone like her.

She pauses for another moment, and groans, “Remi put you in charge of the contestants? She’s losing it by the year.”

“She’s calmed down,” Meiling notes, releasing her grip on the magician’s arm. Kasen and Hoshiguma follow in suit. I guess peeved is just her natural state of existence.

The witch rights her hat and I offer her a hand, but she slaps it away in disgust. Without another word she returns to her task, now finishing whatever spell she was doing on the mirror. I hadn’t payed attention before, but the mirror is showing a stone masoned ring in another room of the mansion. The mirror appears to be just inside it as around the ring wraps a thin rope net. Past the net sits an austere throne, one that Remilia Scarlet has laid claim to. She stands in front of it, arms spread in sermon.

Knowledge finishes her chants and sound comes through the image.

We all settle back down and sit around the mirror. Things have already gotten started on the other end.

“Yes, what you have all come for!” Scarlet cries, causing a wave of roars from the crowd around the mirror. It seems she’s been doing good at the MC role. I guess it’s no surprise a vampire could woo a crowd. She continues, “Two warriors will enter and show us everything they have! Their very essence! We must witness their struggle against one another to its conclusion, for that is what they want! Very soon they will arrive, have faith!”

I realize the queue and turn from the mirror to address the group in the waiting room, “Alright, you heard her. First two, you know who you are, get up here and let’s make sure everything is right as rain!”

The group disperses, knowing it’ll be a while before they get their chance to throw down. Only Meiling and the smaller girl from before stand waiting.

“Meiling, Biten,” I address the two. “Have you both read the rules? There’s no shame if you can’t read, I’ll explain.”

“Yes,” Meiling states with a hurt tone, taking my comment personally.

“No,” Biten responds, raising her hand dutifully. Knowledge isn’t surprised in the least by this, but Meiling seems taken aback. Biten scratches the back of her head while playing off, “Someone explained them to me, but I can’t read.”

“Alright, come here,” I order, snatching a folded page of the rules from my back pocket. It takes a few minutes for me to read through all of them, but I don’t need to explain any words for her, so that speeds up the process.

“Do you perhaps know this girl, Tanner?” Meiling asks.

“Not in the slightest. Call it a hunch that she might be a good first fight for you,” I explain.

“I’ll do better than a hunch,” Biten retorts, not actually understanding what I said. Oh she may have no idea what she’s doing after all.

I spot the front door open from the corner of my eye. Izayoi enters, scoping out the area before beelining for the four of us.

She gives a light bow to the first two contestants and states, “I am here to lead you to the arena. It is the both of you first, correct?”

“It is, yeah,” I confirm.

“I believe these two may speak for themselves,” Izayoi nips. She looks at the two of them while they’re still surprised by her sudden undermining.

“Oh, uh, yeah,” Meiling answers.

“Mhm,” Biten answers.

“Then right this way,” Izayoi returns to perfectly polite behavior.

She walks off with Meiling and Biten in tow. Knowledge and I return to watching the mirror for the match to start.

“Hey, so, does everyone in the mansion hate me?” I ask. I’m not even sure if I’m joking about that one, truth be told.

“It’s on split opinions at the moment,” Knowledge answers. “Now as for your precarious wording of my life’s work…”

“Hey, listen, that was from a time constraint. I’ll let you know that the report you shared was put to reference immediately, so I’m grateful,” I backtrack a ways in the conversation. “No ill will and all that. Scout’s honor.”

“Scout? Ugh, I could care less at this point,” Knowledge grumbles to herself as her assistant slides a fully padded chair behind her. She relaxes and opens the book again, properly reading it now, and continues, “We can discuss your motives at a later time. For now we are under Remi’s whims, not ours.”

“Don’t I know the feeling,” I muse, thinking on my previous experiences with Cirno and Chen both.

It’s not long before the crowd starts to roar from the stands. It may be my imagination, but I feel like I’d hear them even without the mirror. I assume someone’s entered, but can’t see who just yet. Scarlet rises from her chair to start announcing once more.

“First for the opening round of the night, give cheer to the Scarlet Devil Mansion’s own gate guard, Hong Meiling!” the vampire booms over the audience.

The cheering crescendos into a constant roar as Meiling makes her way under the net. Thankfully it seems the mirror is a little fish eyed, letting us see both sides of the field at once. Meiling holds her arms up in a power pose, playing up her power to the crowd watching.

She stands solid at one side of the arena, waiting for Biten to enter the other side. Scarlet turns to the other direction and begins to give the next introduction.

“Her opponent for the seminal fight of the tournament shall be a newcomer. A name that has yet to be heard. Make sure to let her be known, the new name, Biten!” Scarlet hams up the announcing as much as possible.

It seems I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know Biten. No news or papers referencing someone’s name in as closed of a community as Gensokyo often means something. I’ll have to see how she does, as I might be the one that ends up handing information to Akyuu for the Gensokyo Chronicles. Wouldn’t blame her if she asks, anyway.

Biten does not shy away from the crowd’s volume as she enters the net. She stands proud with her stick stowed behind an arm. She walks forward to an equal distance from Meiling, a confident smirk plastered on her face. When she stops she raises one foot to the side of her leg, similar to one of Meiling’s tai chi positions, but with some slight differences in the way she’s balancing. Her tail coils in preparation.

The stadium has gone quiet, waiting for the call from Scarlet to start fighting. The tension builds with each second feeling stretched out several fold. Knowledge has started looking up from her book. A number of people in the waiting room sit around me to look into the mirror. This is the opening act and we’re all curious.

“Fighters!” Scarlet calls. “Begin!”

The crowd is sent into a frenzy, but the two in the ring have fallen into their own world.

They take their first movement in unison, Meiling twisting her body back to wind up one fist coated in rainbow energy, Biten crouching from her one leg and launching straight forward. Biten throws a very showy display of spins from both her body and her rod as she flies forward, probably not by magic but pure momentum.

Meiling snaps her fist up faster than I can see, catching Biten’s wooden pole from its flight and releasing a blast of watery color in front of her opponent. The combined forces sustains Biten’s flight as she sails over Meiling. Her horizontal momentum hasn’t lessened, and she uses the speed to spin her rod from Meiling’s fist with her own hand as a fulcrum. She catches a side and drives the other into Meiling’s back. This all takes place before the watery trickles of Meiling’s rainbow energy falls.

Biten is at the edge of the mirror’s view at breakneck speeds, something I wouldn’t even catch in person.

Meiling stumbles forward a step from the imparted force, but is otherwise unperturbed by the hit. Biten continues her travel out to the net, catching into it and swinging out as the ropes distribute the motion. She grips the ropes with one hand and foot, letting most of her body hang down, much like I’d expect a primate to.

“Ah, geez,” Hoshiguma snorts, “I can hardly tell what they’re doing when they’re out there. Hey, rice stalk, any way you can fix that?” she asks, pointing to Miss Knowledge.

“I will not change the spell mid match,” Knowledge deters the oni’s complaint. “Granted, it should have been set up horizontally, I can agree to that.”

“Gah! They just did another trade!” Hoshiguma continues her commentating, “Who hit who?!”

“This is also a two way mirror,” the witch says. “That means they can hear you, too. Try to not shout into the arena.”

I contain a chuckle as the oni proceeds to ignore her warnings and cheers on the match, grabbing the closest attendee next to her to point at things on the image.

Back in the match it seems Meiling and Biten have taken another pause, Meiling with her hands raised to grab the next attack and Biten sitting on top of her pole as it sticks straight up.

“This is more fun than I expected,” Biten comments, her breath drawing in her voice. “You all fight like this all the time?”

“Not really, no,” Meiling curtly replies.

Biten drops from her pose and twists around the pole down to the ground. As both feet plant down she breaks into a run straight for Meiling, who changes her stance to get ready for a rush of hits. Biten gladly slides into range to challenge her opponent, who’s taken a more defensive approach so far in the match. She uses her pole with both hands to rapidly jab Meiling at inhuman speeds.

With the way Meiling’s moving, it seems she’s holding her own, though. Before the flurry lets up, Meiling shifts beside one of the strikes and catches the rod, pulling Biten in to elbow her head.

Biten doesn’t have the time to dodge and tumbles forward a few yards from Meiling. She catches herself back to her feet and preps her pole again. She glances at the pole and then Meiling for a brief instant but returns her focus with a smile.

The two trade back and forth for a while longer. Meiling’s control of her opponent clear to those watching, but Biten’s speed and impressive movement keeps the match up in the air. Just as I wanted with the current rules. The time runs without either side dealing round ending damage to one another. In no way is there a dull moment, however.

“Stop!” Scarlet commands of the stadium.

Biten stops a reverse jab mid motion, her breaths now heaving as she tries to keep up with her own movements. Meiling’s breathing is calmer, but the rise and fall of her shoulders says that she was also breaking a sweat.

Ran shuffles over to Scarlet’s side, hunching over to whisper into her ear. She’s the only one that could keep perfect track of the match, and so she’s the only one who knows the exact score. I can see Scarlet’s smile from here, so I think I can already tell the results.

“In a close match, the one to come out above is Hong Meiling!” Scarlet shouts. “Crowd, let the two in the ring know your thoughts on the match!”

One more continuous roar sounds through the stadium as Meiling takes in the glory, basking in the spirit of the event like it were a true festival. After a moment of showboating she and Biten bow to one another and exit the separate sides of the arena.

There will be a little more before the next fight, but I’ll leave that to the next update.

For now, I choose Kasen Ibaraki as the second major round (perhaps I’ll snag several previously unused characters for a minor round or two while I’m at it).

And for the record I plan to go for four stages total, including the finals and semifinals. So that means for every round here there will be an extra round that I’ll only refer to for now. Maybe we’ll use them for the primary rounds? Let me know if you all think a pure binary choice might be interesting.

Kasen’s opponent,

[x] Hoshiguma Yuugi, atlasian oni

[x] Suika Ibuki, let’s throw the little vampire a curve ball. Send two of my picks at once!

[x] Let’s go with someone else. (Write-in)
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Not gonna give a vote just yet, but I want to say nice going on the fight between Meiling and Biten. It was pretty sick!
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[x] Suika Ibuki, let’s throw the little vampire a curve ball. Send two of my picks at once!
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[x] Suika Ibuki, let’s throw the little vampire a curve ball. Send two of my picks at once!
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[x] Suika Ibuki, let’s throw the little vampire a curve ball. Send two of my picks at once!

Shuten-douji (Suika) and Ibaraki-douji (Kasen) may have been married in the past, so this could end up turning into a lover's quarrel.
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It's >>44476 again. (but you probably already guessed)

[x] Suika Ibuki, let’s throw the little vampire a curve ball. Send two of my picks at once!

Why not
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>meet patchy
>get smacked
>almost turn to dust
just as planned. except we forgot the crop circle tannerthecropcircleaskaboutthecro

like >>44476 said, that was a nice little opener. i realise now how few proper 1-on-1 fights i've read, but this wasn't too long nor did i have trouble following. as a reader who can't help but visualise what i read, the brief bits doubles as a chance for my amateur historical fencing knowledge and imagination to fill in. nice to see some staff play. here's a couple of german and english ones:

well, i didn't finish WaHH as i've mentioned, so again i'm not sure where is more interesting to take these oni. i'm gonna trust the others on this one. maybe add a little something, if i may.

[x] Suika Ibuki, throw a curve ball right onto the remimi!
- [x] psst, make sure to scoop up whatever miss atlas over there might spill on the two.
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So we finally meet Patchouli and almost get vaporised.
Sounds like a regular Tuesday for Regis.
I'm certain they will be the best of friends, such cameraderie brings a tear to my eye.

Was fun to see the monke in action.
Pretty much the exact combination of skill versus character that we were looking for in this opening match.
She also sounds like a very young youkai here, which makes sense considering the somewhat shuffled around timeframes involved.
She did surprisingly well, very satisfying to see in action.

Oh my lord I did not know how much I needed peanut gallery hype crew Yuugi in my life, but am I glad that it is.
This is the best thing, I hope we get to see more of her like that.
Yes, I'm somewhat biased because I like Yuugi, but come on wasn't that great?

I wasn't able to get a reply in until now, so I'll refrain from voting since it's way too late, anyway.
I don't really have strong feelings towards any of the choices, nor do I have an interesting third option instead.
I can see why Regis would default to the two oni as possible matchups for Kasen, she was top of the list after all.
A list compiled by Ran of all people, she'd be put on top for a reason.
Not that Regis knows what that reason would be, as far as he knows she's just some hermit who lives on Youkai Mountain with a bunch of animals.
At least she knows Yuugi, an oni from the underground. How very interesting...

Suika is nice, but I'm really hoping for the Kasen win here.
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> Suika is nice, but I'm really hoping for the Kasen win here.

Same. Though that's probably really because I want to see a battle between her and Meiling.
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Definitely my main reason as well. (Even though I'm just a Kasen fan in general.)

But also consider this: I already mentioned how Yuugi's commentary was great, imagine Yuugi and Suika playing off of each other as they cheer for and possibly (good-naturedly) heckle the combatants!

Give the fans their wide-screen view, Patchouli. They DEMAND satisfaction!
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[x] Suika Ibuki, let’s throw the little vampire a curve ball. Send two of my picks at once!

With the two contenders off the stage, it’s time to set up for the next round. There doesn’t appear to be any fixing needed, as no one steps in to work on it. The field retains a number of scrapes and nicks leftover from the last round but is otherwise unnoteworthy at this time.

“Hopefully not all rounds end by the timer,” Miss Knowledge complains. She returns her attention to her book, the lower clamor of people talking around us easy for her to ignore.

“I hope they do if they’re all like that one,” Hoshiguma counters, a mischievous grin forming. I decide to not point out the obvious danger literally baring its teeth.

I instead note, “It’s also not like Scarlet plans to run too late into the night. If it needs to go for multiple days then it will.”

Knowledge grumbles in her seat, uninterested in amusing herself with present company.

I turn to the crowd and call for the second round’s contenders. Up steps Ichirin and Jo’on. I saw Jo’on not too long ago, but it’s been a while since I last saw Ichirin around.

“Why am I not surprised you’re here?” Ichirin sighs.

“Seems I go to all kinds of places,” I playfully remark.

“All to ruin others,” Jo’on mocks. “I’d know a thing or two of what that looks like.”

“Alright, enough prodding me for a reaction. You both read the rules? I know you’re literate,” I cut to the point.

Both women groan at my sudden shift in attitude. I lecture them for a few moments about the rules and why they’re in place. Only Jo’on needed to be lectured, of course, but I just enjoy getting on Ichirin’s nerves at this point.

The door opens and Izayoi arrives again with the previous fighters in tow, leading them back inside to the group. Biten is still here, to my surprise. Izayoi deftly maneuvers around the congealing crowd, fetching Jo’on and Ichirin for the next round. They squeeze into the exit before it closes off from the bodies in the way.

The rest of the waiting room crowds around Meiling and Biten, exchanging congratulations for their fight. Neither are the type to bask in glory, and I can almost see the redness on their faces from here. It makes me wonder how often they receive any kind of praise.

They wander back over to Knowledge and I. Meiling dutifully presenting herself and Biten along for the ride.

“Miss Patchouli, is there anything that needs to do?” Meiling asks for direction.

The witch tilts her head to look behind the chair and says, “N-no. Why are you asking me? That would be a question for this regular delinquent.” She laxly flits a hand in my direction before returning to her reading.

I pick up the conversation, “No, Meiling. Thank you for making sure. It’ll be a while before the primaries happen, though. Biten, are you going to stay?”

“Uhm, am I allowed to? I already lost,” Biten awkwardly states, a nervous smile stretching on her face.

“That’s up to you, really. Unless the grumpy one here has a problem with it?” I say, thumbing over to Knowledge. The purple cushion harrumphs but otherwise doesn’t have an argument against.

Biten looks at the two of us and then to Meiling before answering, “Yeah, I think I’ll stay around.”

They take a spot next to the mirror, Biten seems to have loosened up compared to earlier. She was boasting, sure, but it was obvious enough to see that she was tense.

We watch through the next round, and while I didn’t expect anything quite as flashy, it seems I was wrong to do so. Jo’on and Ichirin are no slouches in close quarters. Ichirin uses chakrams like they were meant to be swung while Jo’on swings her fists with divine power to generate golden strikes.

They put a lot more dents into the field, both ascribing to the philosophy of hit harder to hit less. Sadly for Ichirin, she couldn’t keep up with Jo’on without her partner spirit to attack with. It isn’t long before Ichirin is beaten senseless. Jo’on’s tenacity for violence is well displayed in an event like this.

As soon as I know how things will inevitably conclude, I start to find the next round’s fighters.

I know these ones off hand.

Ibara gives a curt greeting from behind Knowledge. Seems she didn’t trust the witch to not act up a second time while I’m around.

We wait a few seconds to see if her opponent will make herself known, but that doesn’t seem to happen. I glance around the large room for her to no avail. Kasen taps me to look up instead. A part of me is unsurprised by what I see.

A number of people have decided that fine décor is a fancy word for seating. A grand chandelier with heavy mountings has been repurposed to a glorified bench. Among the many idiots up there, unfortunately including Chen, I spot the next participant drinking amongst them.

“Ibuki! Get down here!” I call. The people still at the ground are surprised by my outburst and follow my gaze upwards as well.

The small oni takes a gourd from her mouth and slothfully looks over our way. “Is it time?” she slurs through drunken cadence.

Seems she realizes that it’s a silly question, though, as she slowly rolls over on the chandelier until falling off. Despite the nearly narcoleptic tumble she lands on her feet in an almost catlike fashion, putting the gourd back to her lips after righting.

One of the great oni. One of the earliest oni to come up both in myth and for modern Gensokyo. Suika Ibuki is certainly larger than life, and she’d have to be, given her violently crippling alcoholism and stature. There are several things of note that make her appearance. The greatest being an odd set of chains coming from her arms and the end of her hair and her horns. The branches sprouting form her head are large enough for me to mistake her for some kind of western occult demon.

I begin to interrogate, though I’m already afraid of the answer, “So… have you both read the rules? You did read them, right? Miss Ibuki?”

“If they matter you’ll tell me,” Ibuki argues with dreary eyes. “Ain’t that how it always works, little yapper?”

“Ughh…” I moan. “Alright, listen close. You’re not exempt from them, and if anything we needed to add more to account for you, specifically.”

“You’ve found yourself on another wanted list,” Kasen comments.

“I sense a hint of pride in your voice,” Ibuki muses. She takes another swig and says to me, “Well? What’re ya waiting for? Keep talking. Thought you liked doing that.”

“Is she always like this?” I ask no one in particular. Of course, I do get universal agreement, so I guess I’m not wrong. Not that that makes her any more pleasant to handle.

I continue as she so politely requested. First, going over the regular portion of the rules. Second, the addendum for… well… mostly her.

“Now for you, please remember that Ran will not count your duplicates for the same amount on each hit,” I explain.

“Huh? What’cha mean?” Ibuki asks.

“As in you don’t score better for hitting more with clones,” I paraphrase.

“Why would I even do that? Trying to play around stupid rules is something humans do, not oni.”

“Like how oni don’t lie?” Kasen questions… though it sounds more pointed than it probably should.

“Yup, just like how hermits only eat mist,” Ibuki retorts.

I point between the two and quip, “Whatever you two are doing can wait for the ring. You’re literally going to try punching each other in like five minutes. And Ibuki, please don’t turn into mist.”

“I hear ya, I hear ya,” Ibuki dismisses. “Honestly, all that comes out of your mouth is rude things and demands. You must really make girls feel wanted.”

The doors break open once again, this time with Izayoi carting in one of the fighters on an old stretcher. Jo’on doesn’t look much better from the many cuts she and her clothes received, but I’m not gonna be the one to tell her that.

“Alright you two, enough banter, get ready for Izayoi to lead you over,” I inform Kasen and Ibuki.

“Great, I was just getting bored of your voice,” Ibuki gratingly asserts as she walks off to the entryway.

“Thank you for trying to keep her in line,” Kasen quietly tells me as she follows behind.

She and Jo’on exchange a cautious look as they pass by each other. When Jo’on stands over by the mirror, she looks no less grouchy than when I saw her before the fight.

“You got the first knockout. I’m pretty sure you can be happier about it than you are right now,” I try to assure her.

Jo’on clicks her tongue and scorns my words, “Screw off, old ass. I’m here to try and ride that vampire for all she’s worth. Having this much trouble in the preliminaries makes me look like easy pickings.”

“Is that advisable to admit to either the room or the close friend of said vampire?” Knowledge retorts.

“Or the organizer of the tournament?” I follow.

“Or the gate guard of the mansion?” Meiling passively adds.

“Or the-… Hey what can I be?” Biten attempts to join in..

“Well aren’t you all cute? Are you gonna disqualify me or something? I thought your jobs are sitting around,” Jo’on taunts, pleasing herself with antagonizing others.

“I think that’s enough out of you,” Hoshiguma walks over and picks up Jo’on by the collar, their height disparity comically on display.

Meiling pipes up with Biten nodding her head in agreement, “I think we should throw her out.”

“That’s not a choice for any of us to make,” I point out. “She’s technically not breaking any tournament rules by stating her mal-intent. She is, however, making a real case for Scarlet to kick her ass.”

Jo’on laughs at the idea, “Hah! As if she’d do something so politically charged as fight one of her own contestants. Might as well say she didn’t plan on giving the reward, either.”

“Really, that’s enough,” Hoshiguma says, jostling the goddess in her grasp. “Looks like the next fight is starting…”

Something about the way Hoshiguma is talking strikes me. It’s not the jolly clamor that she had the previous matches. It’s… almost solemn? Am I somehow projecting after Jo’on’s deplorable attitude?

I strike the thought from my mind for the moment and focus on the image in the mirror.

Scarlet has already given her speech for Kasen and has moved on to Ibuki, announcing, “Her opponent, the great oni herself. The drunken mist, the most dense girl you’ve ever known, Suika Ibuki!”

Despite the slight against her character, Ibuki takes into the ring with one hell of a stupid grin, waving her arms while still carrying the gourd she’s been drinking from. She takes a swig from it and tosses Scarlet a rude gesture before standing at the ready. Kasen shakes her head disappointedly at the show.

The vampire looks at the two of them, her toothy grin shining white all the way across the venue. I think I snagged her attention with this selection.

“Fighters!” she calls out. “Begin!”

The two waste no time, choosing to hit the other at range. Kasen shoots her bandaged arm like a missile, the wrappings trailing behind to stay connected with her shoulder. Ibuki spins up and throws one of the odd shapes attached to her arms by chains. The two inordinate flails twist across each other, while the two using them hop from the ground to avoid the hit. In unison, they tug their respective projectiles back, pulling them closer together for the first engagement.

Kasen takes the initiative to whip the slacked knot up and around the oni while they jettison closer together. She wrenches the line to fold Ibuki’s arm over midair and twists her body to spin kick the open side.

The group in the waiting room shouts in excitement as Ibuki catches Kasen’s leg with her horn. The sentiment is carried by the crowd in the venue.

Ibuki uses her odd position to pivot around by her horn and kick Kasen in the face, unwrapping herself in the process. As the two fall Ibuki draws back an arm, seeking to crash down on Kasen. Kasen barely flips out of the way as Ibuki crashes her fist through the floor, cracking the ground around it.

Kasen yanks their tether once more, pulling Ibuki from the ground like a root, and steps into a kick. Ibuki, at first looking like a ragdoll, tosses a clump of dirt into Kasen’s face the same time she receives the kick straight to her gut. Upside down, even. Wonder if Ran is going to count the dirt.

The crowd is in an uproar over the blitzkrieg tactics. Each side is hitting the other with full force. I almost mistake the vibrations of the waiting room’s cheering to be from the hits as well.

There’s only one person discontent with the match: Hoshiguma. A troubled look strikes her, uncertainty taking hold. Something I didn’t think was possible for the oni to feel. At least not this one. It seems my conjecture from earlier might have merit…

I tap her arm and gesture a question when she looks over. A moment of contemplation comes over her, but she decides to instead wave me off than to answer. She is under no obligation to talk, however curious I may be, after all. It is interesting that this is the match that catches her, though. Ibuki fighting someone should be a completely normal thing, but it’s been obvious that she and Kasen have some kind of history.

I look back to the fight. Kasen and Ibuki are now in a grapple, trying to toss one another over from standing, despite one of them being down an arm. It’s… a bit like a sumo match, I imagine. I wonder how they ended up in this position, especially considering that hitting someone even when grappled is still technically a ‘true hit’ by our ruleset. They don’t seem to care about such rules, though.

Kasen is handling Ibuki by one of her overgrown horns and Ibuki tries the same with Kasen’s hair buns, grabbing each side whole. Ibuki’s attitude has gotten a lot more active, though, as she’s grinning like a maniac. Kasen doesn’t seem to be finding the same enjoyment, though, as a nasty scowl mars her usually calm veneer.

A sudden shift in Ibuki’s weight catches Kasen off guard as she falls the same direction she was pulling. Ibuki swings around using her grip on Kasen’s head as a pivot to get on top. She pulls a hand back, tearing off the cloth hair accessory, and winds up for a punch against the grounded Kasen. By her look of bloodlust, the oni is reveling in her dominance.

The hermit thinks fast, headbutting Ibuki before she can throw a killing blow. Following up on the hit she pushes Ibuki off with her hand wrappings, only stopping when the tied up appendage lifts her to her feet.

Ibuki clambers up. Both are now back to neutral positions. Kasen seems to find her highest priority to be covering up the torn hair bun, though. It’s on the side facing the mirror so I can see it, but there isn’t any blood. I can at least rule out Ibuki tearing off a section of her scalp. But if that isn’t the case, why does she care?

I glance over to Hoshiguma. That’s quite the hardened expression. The kind someone wears when trouble arrives.

“What’s wrong? I hurt your little image, there?” Ibuki openly mocks her opponent.

Kasen doesn’t deign a response for the obvious harassment. She stands tall, almost prideful, despite the lack of a usable arm and the other covering herself.

“Come on, kid. It’s been decades. You’re still gonna play pretend? Isn’t it about time you grew out of that phase?”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Kasen bites.

Ibuki unhooks her gourd from her waist and takes another swig before continuing, “Well… I don’t see how you’re gonna fight me with one hand covering yourself and the other tied up.”

To drive the point, Ibuki whips her chain attached to Kasen’s bandaging.

Kasen doesn’t react to the force against her shoulder. Deathly serious, she retorts, “That’s my problem to worry about, Ibuki.”

“Is it, now?” Ibuki still reflects playfully, unconvinced by Kasen’s drive. “You’re gonna let it be a problem so much that you can’t even go all out? That’s no fun.”

“I don’t remember claiming to be looking for fun,” Kasen doesn’t drop the topic. “Now get back to fighting if you think this much will earn your victory.”

Ibuki thinks on the command for a moment, looking between Kasen and her chained arm. There is no jolly or hysteric grin anymore, only a face clearly worn through countless years.

“Didn’t you get what you were looking for a ways back?” Ibuki queries.

“I did,” Kasen states. “It’s the way I live now.”


“What is she doing?” Meiling speaks up for the room. Hoshiguma is too stunned to do the same.

Ibuki tugs away at the chain binding her and Kasen, attempting to remove it from herself. At first she attempts to remove the cuff from her wrist, but she then realizes how tightly it’s attached, as if bolted to her arm, and so she aims to break the chain off by the links. For her, it is no difficult feat to break off whatever thickness of metal made up the link, but it seems this is some new phenomenon to everyone else.

She holds the broken end in her hand, searching it with emotionless intrigue. She tosses the wrappings to the ground as Kasen watches, mortified.

Not a sound from the crowd, neither from the waiting room or the venue. People take in the scene with confusion, interest, and for very few, understanding.

“I yield,” Ibuki claims with a grin. She can’t hide the pain behind it, as it’s all too obvious compared to her regular visage that this is the case.

“Suika..?” Kasen calls out, still in shock from whatever significance Ibuki’s actions had. That which escapes my knowledge.

And thus Ibuki leaves.

I’ve lost a champion, have I? Well then, how about… Sakuya Izayoi. I’ll take the basic choice while you all get to have some fun with it. Fun in the monkey’s paw sense, as you can see. I love melodrama.

[x] Reisen Udongein Inaba, lunar soldier

[x] Cirno, how did she even get in?

[x] Someone else. (Write-in)

And I somewhat planned for this interaction to happen at some point, didn’t expect it to be so soon. Everyone’s got their own can of worms, after all. How we imagine they grow through it is why we write.
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[x] Cirno, how did she even get in?
And now for today's jobber episode!
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[x] Cirno, how did she even get in?
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Wew, that is some baggage, girls.
Those chains were symbolic of something, obviously.
Truly the most kayfabe of all time. Clearly.

Honestly, both of these default choices are fun
If we pick Cirno, it'd look like we're taking the piss out of Izayoi, even though we know Cirno has been getting better.
Anyway, It'd be funny and spiteful for how she's been treating us.

I actually like the Reisen pick most, though.
The perfect maid versus the... lunar soldier? Did we know she was one or did she sign up with some backstory to spice up fight introductions.
I'm never sure about what is actually "public" knowledge about the Eientei crew.
Anyway, both servants, both have (or sometimes get) red eyes and professional attitudes.
Well, ignoring the fact Reisen is a bundle of nerves and Izayoi can't keep her comments to herself.

No third options immediately come to mind, I was considering Youmu or Mayumi, but I quite like Reisen.

[X] Moi, lunar terminator
I couldn't resist.

[X] Reisen Udongein Inaba, lunar soldier
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[X] Reisen Udongein Inaba, lunar soldier

I think >>44499 described the options pretty well. It's honestly very hard to pick which option for me to vote for since they're all really good, but I think I'll go with Reisen this time.
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[y] Yumeko
[X] Reisen Udongein Inaba, lunar soldier
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i am just sipping on the drama.
ah finally time for th
it's reisen's time but goddamnit i believe in fairies

[x] Cirno, how did she even get in?
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[x] 9

Consequences be damned.
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[X] Cirno.
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[X] Reisen

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[x] Reisen Udongein Inaba, lunar soldier

No Bakas Allowed
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[x] Reisen Udongein Inaba

I hope she jobs as hard as Cirno would
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[X] Reisen Udongein Inaba, lunar soldier

There're a few popular theories about Sakuya being somehow related to the Lunarians especially with Eirin "being surprised to see Sakuya" at one of the routes in Imperishable Night. Maybe we'll get more interesting interactions with this matchup like the one with the onis.
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[X] Reisen Udongein Inaba, lunar soldier

The room buzzes with many curious voices prattling about what just happened. Many try to illicit some reaction from Hoshiguma, but the giant remains solemn as a grave. What we witnessed was clearly of greater significance than I could understand, but if there’s an opportunity for me to learn about it I don’t know.

“Oni. Stubborn idiots,” Knowledge spews from her chair.

“Miss Knowledge isn’t that going too far? Do you even know what that was about?” I refute her brazen dismissal of things.

“Enough,” Knowledge touts. “Two oni entered a ring to fight and allowed personal affairs envelop their performance. A terrible showing for the great demons.”

“’Two’ oni?” I pick out. “Kasen is an oni?”

“Indeed. It’s fairly common knowledge for those that have met her.”

“And you’ve met her?”

“No. Detection magic does not lie, however,” Knowledge toots her own horn.

“Uhm, shouldn’t someone go after Ibuki?” Meiling pipes up. “She left the arena without any guidance. Will she find her way back here?”

“Nah, she’s probably out of here,” Hoshiguma points out. “Not like she’d get lost after turning to mist, anyhow.”

“So she’s already out of the building, you think?” I discern her words. “But what about…”

The doors open. Izayoi walks in and ushers the winner back inside. Kasen doesn’t look like she’s won any fight, though. The room crowds around her, but no one really says anything, making way for Kasen to walk through.

She takes to a corner of the room, sullenly keeping to herself. Hoshiguma walks over to her and starts speaking. I can’t make out their conversation, but I think we’ve all seen more than we should of the poor woman’s drama. Some people don’t seem to feel the same, staring over at the two in morbid curiosity.

I shout to the room, “Alright all of you! Give the women some space, you’re not here to gawk at people’s troubles!”

The crowd, even the expectedly antagonistic members, disperse without complaint. I won’t chalk it up to my words, but likely some level of respect to the oni. Everybody’s got their own level of shit to contend with. I never seem to go a day without that reminder.

“Is it about time to proceed?” I hear from behind me.

Izayoi stands over by Knowledge, waiting to lead out the next round’s fighters.

“Well, we’re halfway there,” I note, gesturing to Izayoi.

She points at herself in question, understanding what I mean and asking, “Me? I don’t recall signing up for properly participating.”

“You didn’t,” Knowledge explains. “Remi did for you. Congratulations on being volunteered.”

“Oh goodness. The mistress does enjoy her surprises. Much to my own bereavement,” Izayoi states. All the same, though, she walks ahead of me to where I’ve sat the last few pairs of contestants. “I do wonder who you’ve chosen to be my partner, though.”

I nod and call out to the room, “Reisen, get over here!”

Izayoi’s neutral disposition depresses at the mention of the name, suddenly sprouting many layers of fatigue that are only subtly noticeable when seeing the change occur in real time.

Reisen walks over. The purple haired rabbit has chosen to don a dark blazer for the event and carries a pistol and some other weapon in holsters around her waist. Her skirt is concerningly short, but due to my lack of any death wish, I decide to not draw any attention to that fact. It’s likely to allow for better movement. Functionality always comes over looks, after all.

“Reporting,” Reisen salutes me. “… Sorry, force of habit. Master also had to beat it out of me.”

“Rabbit,” Izayoi lamely greets.

“Oh… maid,” Reisen reflects the deflated attitude.

“Is there a problem?” I ask. I figured these two would be on better terms considering they’re both part of the regular fixers.

“Well, not really a problem…” Reisen trails off.

“Her power is an absolute nuisance,” Izayoi bickers as if stating fact.

“Likewise,” Reisen doubles. “I mean, I’ll do it. I don’t think this will be fun, though.”

“Cute that you’re the one to say so,” Izayoi persists.

“Grah,” Reisen grunts. “You’re one of the last people I want to deal with.”

“If only I could be the last…” Izayoi whinges.

“Enough, you two,” I deter. “We’ve gotta go over rules and whatever.”

The two give me a disinterested and tired look, but are otherwise not arguing.

“Alright,” I start. “I assume you’ve both read the rules carefully enough, so are there any questions about that?”

“Of course not,” Izayoi bluntly states. She senses her unintended rudeness and corrects, “That is, I have no questions. The rules were relatively clear.”

“Well, we agree on something, I guess,” Reisen comments.

I continue my explanation, “Good, then instead, we can start talking about the things I need you two to not do to each other.”

Reisen puts a hand to her head and bemoans, “I can’t believe I’m about to be lectured by you of all people…”

“Oh, I could always have Knowledge do it. She’s a very joyful conversationalist, after all,” I jab.

“Do not put me in front of your squabbles, feeble fool,” Knowledge sends a low hiss my way.

“Right, so,” I start for real, “Izayoi, please do not put a knife directly on top of your opponent using your time stop. I also ask that you do not use your power to grapple the opponent. Miss Scarlet also agreed that she wanted to see you fight, not shutdown the enemy.”

“The mistress does enjoy her troubling requests,” Izayoi muses with an odd hint of pride.

Well, I guess there are those who like even someone’s negatives. Can’t say I’ve ever been fond of my own, much less someone else’s.

“I’d expect no less from you, Sakuya,” Knowledge chimes in. “Though you should complain to Remi more if she intends to force more of such handicaps upon you. She would be embarrassing the both of you for doing so.”

“You may feel free to keep your advice to yourself, Lady Patchouli,” Izayoi politely warns the witch.

“I’d just like to be out of this room. Too much noise to read in. Is that so much to ask?” said witch grieves at her waning patience.

“Uhm, and me?” Reisen draws attention to herself, raising a hand in question.

“Right, well,” I return to the primary topic, “Your power to use insanity with your eyes, while allowed, should not be used offensively. Please don’t hit your opponent with it. And also don’t permanently stun your opponent with it. Nor should you cause your opponent to forfeit by some secondhand effect. Please also try to constrain any adverse effects to the arena. Don’t want the crowd to get hit with them. Also–“

“Alright!” Reisen exclaims. “I think I’ve got enough already. I wasn’t planning on anything more than a couple of parlor tricks, anyways.”

“If you don’t mind,” I change my focus, “would you show me your weapons? I’m curious what you’re planning to use.”

Reisen screw her face over a bit, but relents, “Fine. I feel like you’re singling me out for no reason, but here.”

She unholsters a pistol and a small handle. She gives the handle a quick swing, showing that it’s a telescoping baton. The gun doesn’t appear to be any kind I’ve ever seen before, only generically resembling a model I’d expect in a world war exhibition.

“Not that I don’t expect Izayoi to take a bullet, but are you using live metal ammunition?” I question.

“Ah, well, no. I changed my kit to rubber bullets after reading the rules. Didn’t want to cause any upset with injuries. Was hard to source everything, though,” Reisen explains.

“Sorry, but if you don’t mind me asking, why those weapons?” I can’t stifle my curiosity.

“This is similar to what I used for lunar service riot control. I changed out the body shield for a pistol, though,” Reisen casually elaborates.

“… right,” I try to parse what the hell she just said. I could probably spend hours drilling her from one sentence, but I’ll need to hold back my knowledge-lust for all our sake. “I think that’s everything, Izayoi, head out with Reisen for the next match.”

“My, listen to him. He truly does fancy himself the head of proceedings,” Izayoi mocks.

“Screw off and get beat up for your boss’s entertainment,” I shoot back. She walks away satisfied by my reaction.

Reisen sneaks over next to me and whispers, “Make sure you’re not missing your visits,” before patting my bad arm and leaving.

Jerk, you already know I’m trying to stick to your schedule. I roll my shoulder, causing the still-healing skin to flare up like a scratched rash. I emit a light grunt and my opposing hand lifts to the area in reflex. Still not quite done with the bandages, yet, but I shouldn’t complain about the speed of my recovery. Miraculous would be an understatement for my situation.

“Is your arm in some way injured, Tanner?” Meiling asks with a sense of decency. “I’ve learned many ways to help the muscles heal if that may help in any way.”

“No, it’s alright. Thanks,” I decline.

Knowledge sniffs, “My, the bastard turning down a woman’s–“

“Hey, Meiling,” Biten interrupts. “Would you show me some of that? You hit me on my side and it still hurts.” Patchouli stifles a cough, dropping her current string of insults.

“Oh? Sorry,” Meiling apologizes. “Here, if I do this…”

They continue their conversation to the side. I stand by the mirror waiting for the next match to start.

Though, I do decide to strike up a short word, “Hey, Knowledge.”

“Call me Patchouli, already. It’s grating for my last name to be uttered by the likes of you,” she complains.

“Alright, Patchouli. Would you mind relaxing? I already said sorry for the letter. I can’t do much past that.”

“As said before, we must wait until this is over for that conversation. However, you are right that I’m on edge,” she relents, setting the book down to her lap. Her servant glances down to her, the first thing the winged attendant has done for the last couple hours.

“On edge? Isn’t this basically a festival?” I ask.

“No, you fool,” Patchouli admonishes me. “This is Remi’s misguided love for the Roman cabal of violence at display. A recreation of gladiatorial combat. You should understand that the meaning behind something has power, and as such, an event which honors violence is itself a hazard. Such butchered application of the spiritual is antithetical to any magician. Yet she didn’t heed a word from me, unfortunately.”

I pause for a moment, interpreting what Patchouli means. I take a look around the room. A room filled with many people looking to fight for some minuscule glory that they can’t find in Gensokyo normally. Patchouli may have a point, but I can’t subscribe to the idea yet. Paranoia is a self fulfilling prophecy in a lot of cases.

“You are taking my words too closely,” Patchouli scolds again. “I am no prophet. Only someone who seeks to learn. Sadly, the application of my learnings are often unheeded.”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Why would I be opening this subject to you now? You, whom I dislike, and now, of all chosen times.”

I ponder the question, and guesstimate, “You think this match right now is important. You’re only telling me because I’m the one that put the bracket together. But why would this match be important?”

Patchouli sighs, acting as the professor disappointed in their student for not coming to the conclusion on their own. “Gensokyo is a living creature, as I hope you’ve come to hypothesize, and it witnesses everything. A sense for narrative is its foible. Meditate on those,” she orders me.

I put the thought to the back of my mind for the second as the mirror voices itself to life.

Scarlet announces attention to the audience once more, “Come all, the next round is beginning! Let us push the concern and wonder of the last from our minds and devote our attention to the two that enter in the here and now!”

The crowd seems lukewarm, and that’s being generous to the idle mumblings that can be heard off to the sides of the waiting room’s view.

Still, though, Scarlet uses all gumption to energize the room, continuing, “This round’s first contender: from the moon itself, a girl that causes insanity from a mere glance, taking fight or flight to their extremes, Reisen Udongein Inaba!”

Reisen steps into the ring, giving Remilia a look while doing so. She turns away and rolls her eyes. I guess it is her thing to offhandedly insult everyone joining.

From the moon, though. Didn’t really stop to think about it when I was in Eientei, but they really are as alien as it gets, huh? Not that it’s the strangest thing I’ve seen, still. Maybe I should start to gauge things one to ten in terms of weirdness.

“And her opponent!” Scarlet continues to announce. “Hailing straight from the halls of this very mansion, the vixen controlling time itself! The loyal and headstrong Sakuya Izayoi!”

Izayoi enters the ring through the net, her air of prim and proper never wavering. Does she ever drop the servant of nobility act? Well… probably not. She is one.

A couple of daggers shine as she draws them from holsters at her thighs.

“I have high expectations for the both of you to bring the tournament back to a state of grand excitement!” Scarlet cheers. “Fighters! Begin!”

The instant Scarlet finishes swinging her arm down Reisen ducks into a forward roll, dodging a sharp swipe to her neck from behind. Izayoi stands ready to continue moving, recovered immediately from her whiff. She doesn’t continue her assault despite taking the advantage, though.

Why? Well…

“Patchouli, is Reisen doing something?” I ask the witch.

“Correct, it only effects the perception of those within a range, though. This mirror is out of that range, and does not transmit any magic through either side,” Patchouli gloats to me.

“This is what I thought would happen…” Izayoi sighs, sliding back into a defensive stance, daggers crossed over one another, waiting for Reisen to approach. Her eyes scan across the arena, but whatever she’s seeing exactly is outside our view.

Reisen puts up a finger from her baton to complain, “You’re really saying this after using your time stopping to get behind me? Unbelievable. You even went for my–!”

Izayoi pops from the spot she was standing, reappearing across the arena in a low crouch cresting a knife through empty air. Reisen hops back as if truly dodging the hit, and aims her pistol directly at Izayoi. She finds the right second to fire, which is pleasant when we’re all standing right next to the mirror.

It seems Izayoi moved out of the way, now appearing in a space above the ground. She swipes the dagger downwards, once more to empty air. Reisen has no time to react and aim again as Izayoi has already moved to the next target. This cat and mouse chase speeds up for the next few seconds until Izayoi is directly in Reisen’s blind spot, knife already in motion towards her flank.

Reisen back steps from the straight stab and catches Izayoi’s arm with her baton, swiping the weapon up and out of the way. Reisen jolts her gun arm down to Izayoi, giving no time to escape from a gunshot. Izayoi makes the attempt, though, instead diving forward to throw the knife in her other hand at Reisen’s abdomen.

The bang from Reisen’s gun sounds the room as the two split off. Izayoi slides forward. Reisen recoils a few paces, Izayoi’s knife having landed just shy of center mass. Reisen’s dark blazer is hiding the blood that must be pooling from the spot, but her grimace makes the pain pretty obvious.

Izayoi gets to her feet but almost stumbles over for a moment. Her inner thigh has been shot with a rubber bullet, and a welt is already forming around where it hit. While a rubber bullet may not cause vital injury, they are still meant to subdue people. Izayoi seems to be learning that one the hard way, though.

Reisen jerks the knife from her gut with a grunt and clenched teeth. She readjusts her grip on her baton to hold the weapons back to back, blood still dripping from the dagger.

Izayoi unsheathes a dagger from under her skirt as she settles back into a combative stance, a holster barely visible around her waist as she does so.

“Like I said,” Reisen groans, “not gonna be a fun fight.”

“You’re quite winded for not having moved around,” Izayoi taunts. It loses some mirth with the way she leans off of her bruised leg.

“Not gonna be haughty when I give you back this dagger,” Reisen threatens.

She charges straight at Izayoi, jumping over her head before meeting an empty swing. Izayoi doesn’t follow the motion, instead instantly relocating some paces behind herself. Reisen lands, prompting Izayoi to teleport to another side of the ring, scanning for the rabbit in a panic. It’s as if she doesn’t know where Reisen is at all. Can Reisen go completely invisible?

Reisen turns around to look for Izayoi herself, and takes aim. She fires before Izayoi has the chance to assess the field. There’s no way to tell where Izayoi has been hit, as she appears above the field in the same moment. She floats in place to continue observing. If she understands what is happening is up for debate, but she does descend to the ground. She stands stone still after landing.

Reisen swivels on her heels to keep up the pressure. Izayoi appears on her opposing side by the time she finds her mark. She turns again. The only thing she can really do in this situation.

Izayoi appears behind her again, much closer now. She steps towards the noise and swipes as wide as possible in Reisen’s general direction. Reisen skirts forward at the last possible instant, the knife nicking her coat even when deflecting with her own.

She turns in air to aim high at the maid, but at the same time Izayoi has spun a knife back to toss. The knife and bullet must pass each other midair to their intended targets. Both women collapse to the ground, a spritz of dust jumping around where they land.

Don’t worry, you’ll get the results next week. For now, though, the show must go on. I will be using a lot of characters for minor rounds that I won’t choose the victor of, like I said before I did the Ichirin and Jo’on round, but this time for real. As for this choice, my champion is now Meira. She will fight…

[x] Hoshiguma Yuugi, strongest of all oni

[x] Konpaku Youmu, half-phantom swordswoman

[x] Somebody else. (Write-in)
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[x] Konpaku Youmu, half-phantom swordswoman

A clash of swords would be pretty neat
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[x] Konpaku Youmu, half-phantom swordswoman
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>[x] Konpaku Youmu, half-phantom swordswoman
A Clash between two Swordmasters sounds a lot more fun (and fair) then just seeing Yuugi just overwhelme Meira.
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[x] Konpaku Youmu, half-phantom swordswoman

Yuugi seems a bit overkill when Meira already has a hard time fighting Meiling.
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bit late. seems like a no brainer so i'll do the honours.
[x] Somebody else.
-[x] Cirno

perhaps the point. why do such a thing i wonder.
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[x] Konpaku Youmu, half-phantom swordswoman

The room remains silent. A quiet dread overtakes us. From the sound of it, the audience is in much the same position. Patchouli is even standing up in surprise. Reisen and Izayoi haven’t moved for a moment, subduing one another, it seems. Of course, the real question is just how badly injured are they?

The two women grunt, moving arms to their wounded extremities. Izayoi is the first to get up, a showy amount of blood coming from her forehead. She doesn’t seem to be unstable, so the rubber bullet must have cut the skin at her forehead, but not much more. Much better than wherever else the bullet could do damage, and that would be a lot more than just a bloody mess.

Reisen remains on the ground for a moment, checking the knife very clearly stuck in her chest. The dark blazer still prevents seeing how much blood is coming from the wound, but if I had to guess, it’s hit her just off center of her chest. It may have jammed in between the rib cage’s keystone bone and a couple ribs. She’s breathing, and even better, she’s not panicking, so I doubt that the knife jammed into anything vital.

She gets up slowly and I can see that it’s nested on the side of her heart, sitting damn close to a lot of important pipes.

In some fit of madness, both women return to a combative stance, as if they were not heavily wounded enough yet.

“Cease!” Scarlet calls out, standing at the front of her elevated view. “You have both shown us quite enough, but it would be out of vogue to continue. Relent your weaponry at once!”

The two look at each other, acknowledging the opposing side’s injuries. Izayoi stands on one leg and blood covers her eyes. Reisen has taken two stabs to the torso, one of which she pulled out already, likely causing further bleeding. In unison they stow their weaponry, unable to continue further.

Scarlet calls Ran over to her, whom bends down to whisper the results.

Though legible from her face alone, Scarlet announces to the crowd, “Though a near even match, the winner for this round is the Inaba! Congratulations to both fighters for a wonderful show, please see to your wounds and rest well.”

Reisen and Izayoi walk out of the venue together, shouldering one another. Clapping starts slow at first, but with each step they take more people join in from the audience. It continues to boost up to a roar of applause and cheers until the two are out of the doors.

Patchouli slumps back into her chair, breathing out a sigh of relief.

“You good?” I ask.

“Pay me no mind. I only show concern for how I might get my tea if Sakuya were injured,” Patchouli pouts.

After it quiets down, the venue continues to sound lively. A needed change from the previous round. There’s still rounds to get through, so I’m glad things picked back up immediately. The atmosphere of the waiting room also lightened up again. The oni’s fight will definitely be stuck in our heads for a while longer, but it’s best to try and ignore someone else’s issues. Not that I’ve ever taken to that advice.

I call participants up for round after round, no extra hassles occurring in the meantime. That isn’t to say that the many bright and colorful characters I’m face to face with aren’t notable…

One Mononobe pulled the short straw on my roster picks, ending up paired with Hoshiguma for a round. After meeting her, I’m not all too torn up in doing so, though. The first thing she said to me was how much of an idiot I am for consorting with the Buddhists. Of course, she learned that only after talking with Ichirin about it. I didn’t tell Hoshiguma to hold back.

The two after them were Chen and a rabbit named Seiran. Chen was as snarky as ever, gloating that she’d wipe the floor with her opponent. She’s been wanting to impress me and Ran more and more lately. Seiran, on the other hand, was a rather meek girl, blue haired and clad in a simple blue dress to match. Not necessarily shy, but far less outgoing than I’d become accustomed to in Gensokyo. That being said… she wielded a burly hammer as tall as her, including the rabbit ears adorning her head.

With the cat and rabbit away, I call up the two most troublesome ones here. The next to go are Cirno and Aya Shameimaru. Given that I’ve not already been assaulted by the reporter, I assume she is sparing me of any headache. For now, anyway.

Shameimaru comes up greeting us joyfully, “Hello dear magician! And hello to you, coordinator. Do not worry, I understand the rules and have heard you explaining the grounds to other pairs.”

I chuckle, “Guess that’s expected, huh?”

“Hey old guy!” Cirno greets from beside me. I look down to see the little bastard. It’s been a few weeks since I last did.

I hold in some surprise seeing her wearing a couple of new articles: a grand cape composed of many various plants and an icy crown containing a laurel of flowers.

“Cirno, what is that you have?” I ask, pointing to the new items. I’ll get back to the fact that she’s even here later.

“The king needs a crown and cape,” Cirno declares. “The fairies of Gensokyo gave me this as a sign of being the strongest!”

I’m too confused by the development to utter more than, “You… what?”

“Please forgive Cirno, she’s not good at explaining herself,” a fairy with green hair tied up to the side tells me.

“Dai..!” Cirno draws out in annoyance, turning to her companion. “Stop saying that. I’m the king of fairies, so I need to be proud of it! I want to show the old guy that I’ve gotten stronger.”

“And you’ve done so by… becoming the king of the fairies?” I deduce.

“Right!” Cirno concludes. “Now that I’m the king of fairies, I’ve proven that I’m the strongest fairy!”

“Except to the fairies that disagree and have factioned against her,” Dai denounces.

“Dai..!” Cirno pouts again. “I’m the one everyone agreed was the leader! That makes me the strongest.”

“Haa…” Dai sighs.

“Cirno,” Aya jumps in on the conversation, “have you considered that maybe leading someone doesn’t mean being stronger than them?”

Cirno ponders the thought for a moment, maybe more, and replies, “No. If you tell someone what to do that means you’re the stronger one.”

“Do you tell people what to do?” I counter.

“Mm,” Cirno nods. “I told the fairies of the forest to make things for a king and that I would wear them.”

“Oh, Cirno,” I sigh. Dai laughs along with my frustration.

I spend the time to explain the rules to Cirno. She was able to read them, but there were many things she didn’t understand with what she read. It took some convincing for her to not use her ice projectiles, but that’s expected from her stubborn nature. Izayoi returns with the previous fighters and grabs Cirno and Aya. The exchange has become routine at this point, with very little needing be be said.

Now that they’re going, the last round is coming into view. After Izayoi and Reisen’s fight, I can’t say I’m not worried about this one. I call the last two forward.

Meira slinks over from some corner of the room, brushing multiple members of the room out of the way. She looks haggard instead of prepared. Bags hang from her eyes, her posture is slumped, and her arms hang limply while walking.

“What happened to you?” I question. Patchouli also dips her head around her chair to see what’s caught my attention.

“No sleep. Ever since you visited,” Meira exasperates. “I’ve been awake and can’t fall asleep. Too much energy. What the hell did you do to me?”

“What? I have no idea what’s happening to you,” I deter. “Listen, I know you came at my request, but you should care for yourself.”

“No,” Meira declines, “I’m fighting. Never a better chance for it.”

She hobbles forward slightly, and catches herself again before I can.

“You can’t be serious right now,” I opine. “You’re barely standing!”

“Shut it,” Meira exacerbates. She forces herself to a taller stance, feigning alertness.

I groan, but know that types like her would be too stubborn to listen to reason. If she wants to get beaten so badly then I guess this tournament would be one to oblige.

“Is everything fine here?” a new voice asks.

A white haired girl with green clothes and a black headband makes herself known. If the clothes weren’t enough, the swords tell me that this is Youmu Konpaku, Meira’s opponent.

“I wouldn’t say things are fine. Meira insists she’s fit to fight, but just look for yourself,” I explain to the second fighter.

Konpaku looks Meira in the eyes, staring daggers through her false energy. “Why do you look so drained? It would be a waste for another practitioner to fail in honing themselves, much less their blade.”

Meira scowls back, retorting, “You wanna see if I’m not up to snuff?”

They pierce each other with their glares. Konpaku is far from imposing with Meira standing a foot taller, but that’s hardly indicative of their strengths.

They distort in a flash of motion, the sound of metal hitting metal coming immediately after. The room all turns eyes to the two women, Youmu having drawn her blade against Meira’s right side. Meira was quick enough to get her hook against the blade, blocking the attack. A faint glow comes from Patchouli’s seat, a spell circle floating at the ready.

They disengage, satisfied with their first bout. Patchouli dispels her conjuration.

“Not bad,” Konpaku compliments. “You caught it in a way to snag the blade. There’s thought put in that prosthetic.”

“I’ve had time to think about those things,” Meira asserts. “Though I don’t really know how good I’d be against a swordsman. Never been trained by anyone.”

“Then let’s see. You’ve got me excited,” Youmu says, smiling.

These two are more akin than I thought. Youmu is less vulgar, sure, but just as overtly serious as Meira. I give them the usual rundown without issue. Thankfully, Meira is literate, so that expedited the process.

On to my nagging for this match specifically, I tell them to not cut each other to ribbons. Cuts are expected, but it would be best to avoid either of them getting split clean in half. It doesn’t really matter who I direct that at, both of them are human to some extent, after all. They immediately agree to the sentiment, though I get the sense they only do so out of disciplined response.

Izayoi, with her wrapped head wound still a light tinge of red, returns with Chen and Seiran. Both have taken some hits, so I’ll have to hear about how that went later. I need to see how this match plays out. I can only hope better than Izayoi and Reisen’s. The maid herself comes up to guide the two swordswomen from the waiting room.

We wait a few moments without a word. Now’s a good time to further investigate that thing from earlier.

“Still think something’s gonna happen, Patchouli?” I ask the begrudging witch.

“Likely. Minor exhibition matches, the second set of rounds, not to mention the finals and semi finals; there are many opportunities,” Patchouli states in her common disinterest. She closes her current book and hands it off to her servant. “What you are truly asking is if something will happen now, though, correct?”

“Yeah. I can’t help but shake this weird feeling Meira was giving off. Doesn’t help that she’s fighting Youmu, either.”

“’Weird feeling’ is a terrible description of it, but she was afflicted with some minor ailment,” Patchouli confirms. “Her life energy was manic. Close the point that the untrained eye may observe.”

“Life energy? Like the magic Narumi uses?” I recall. “Does this mean she’s been put under some kind of spell? Should we do something if that’s the case?”

“Difficult to predict. Manipulating life energy is not of my scope,” Patchouli relates. She opens a new book and continues, “As for what actions may need to be taken, the match at hand should be information enough.”

Scarlet greets the contenders to the same mixed compliments as usual. Youmu and Meira seem to not take any heed to this, though. They’ve become fully engaged with each other, probably only waiting for the call so no one interrupts them.

“Fighters!” Scarlet shouts. “Begin!”

They slowly draw their weapons, keeping a keen eye on the other. Youmu flashes her larger sword with a flourish, wielding it with both hands. Meira draws the sword at her hip with a reverse grip, closer to how I’d expect a hunting knife to be unsheathed.

There are no words exchanged, no harsh banter, only their cold, conductive stares. They wade around the arena in steady steps. Well, Meira stays as steady as she can manage right now. It’s impressive she isn’t sick in any physical way from her insomnia. Youmu scours her opponent for the right time to charge.

I catch that moment in her eyes, a certain spark that convinces her to charge forward, sword raised to stab. The distance is closed in mere steps, the speed faster than I can register. Meira has no trouble, however, as she steps to the side of the skewer. Youmu stays on the attack by following her opponent with the blade turned for a swipe.

Meira winds her hook back to swing into the oncoming blade. Youmu anticipates this to serve the same purpose as earlier, reeling back her blade mid swing before it gets caught, but doesn’t predict Meira to fling their armaments upward. The deflection causes Youmu to drop her guard entirely, an opening presenting itself to her side.

Meira drops for her swing to connect with Youmu’s leg. The first hit is all but guaranteed at this point.

Of course… I’ve never been good with that turn of phrase. Youmu’s leg isn’t hit. Instead, a second Youmu appears with a shorter sword to block Meira’s blade.

While a well known fact that she can do that as a half-phantom half-human… it’s still baffling in every respect.

Meira thinks fast, diving forward as Youmu and Youmu collapse their blades together on her spot. They trade blows, one of Youmu’s blades catches Meira’s leg while Meira herself turns to dig her hook into Youmu’s. They separate. Meira rolls back to a kneel while Youmu puts weight against her blade to stabilize.

The second Youmu stows her blade in the original’s scabbard and dematerializes into a ghostly blob.

They raise their weapons in unison, not showing a moment’s weakness. They return to their original stances, ignoring the gashes left in their legs. Youmu charges once more, barreling her blade with a sweep into Meira’s front, forcing the other woman to block with both weapons.

Youmu slips past, drawing her short blade again and slashing Meira’s back.

Separated again. It’s apparent that this is where Youmu’s advantage is, whereas Meira needs to be inside Youmu’s personal space. They’ve come to the same conclusions, and Meira’s frustration is mounting from the disadvantage.

They’re not Youkai. Each cut becomes more that needs to heal. How that works for Youmu, whose human body is only half of her, I can’t say, but for Meira it’s no laughing matter.

The slash glistens red as she turns her back to the mirror. It isn’t shallow looking, but Meira stays standing.

Youmu looks troubled, but doesn’t voice her concern. She shakes her thought away and redoubles her intensity. She leans forward in a crouch, stowing her shorter blade with the longer away from the enemy. Meira changes to a defensive hold.

Youmu becomes a blur. Something that the human eye couldn’t possibly track with its speed. There one second, across the arena the next.

In that instant, no more than a fraction of a second, Meira and Youmu catch each other’s swords. Youmu has appeared next to Meira with force still behind her blade.

She whips her head to look at the trade, but Meira takes the same time to drop an elbow into the small of her back. She collapses against the stone floor.

“What was that?” I vocalize.

“Indeed…” Patchouli coincides, closing her book to spectate.

Youmu rolls out of the way of Meira’s next slash, finding her footing again after gaining distance.

She looks more troubled now that she’d been blocked and countered, but was that some kind of technique of hers? Did she not expect to be blocked after so much lead up?

She focuses her eyes back on the opponent. Meira’s back trails blood down her clothes, staining some of the last spots of white there. They take slow steps towards one another, making sure to not drop their guard. They close the distance enough that the tips of their swords could touch.

Youmu once more turns into a blur striking Meira from high and disappearing down to her side. Meira follows the motion and jumps over Youmu to meet the attack.

At least, that’s what I assume happens, as Meira’s also become a blur of motion.

Meira lands on her feet. Youmu does not, staggering to rise after a hefty tumble. A deep gash can be seen on her shoulder. She has trouble raising her weapon and holds the wound in a tight grip. The sword visibly toddles at our viewing distance. Youmu doesn’t have much longer to fight.

Meira, though, only seems to boil as time goes on. She looks outright feral with blood staining parts of her outfit and eyes bagged and bloodshot.

In a moment of judgment, Youmu lowers her weapon, raises a bloody hand, and states, “I yield.”

[x] Question Meira directly about her newfound power.

[x] Beggar Patchouli to investigate the haywire life energy.

[x] Approach the problem from a different avenue. (Write-in)

Apologies for a bit of poor lead up to this vote, just couldn’t think of a good stopping point to properly implement this without feeling like it goes halfway into the next section. On that matter, it was strange to imagine anyone at all as a match for Youmu’s sword skills. It so seldom comes up that someone else even uses a sword that it was strange to write a half plausible match.

On another note, it’s late at this point, but I owe that teased bit from the last chapter. Tsukasa had a plan in mind for the whole event, but things really got out of hand. Good thing she went into hiding pretty early on.
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[x] Question Meira directly about her newfound power.

The imperishable "wdym you didnt sleep and went on a rampage are you lunatic? did you get driven crazy by the moon? im not gonna dq tho u do u" angle of questioning.
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[x] Question Meira directly about her newfound power.
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[x] Beggar Patchouli to investigate the haywire life energy.

If something goes wrong, we won't be near the danger.
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[x] Question Meira directly about her newfound power.
The direct approach is the best one in these types of situations. A bummer that Youmu lost though.
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LOGIC [Challenging: Failure] - There's only one thing in the whole wide world this could be.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - That's right, old man. Drugs! Now where could she have gotten that?

HALF LIGHT - Get Chen. Anybody. Please.

[x] Approach the problem from a different avenue. (Write-in)
- [x] Get the bnuuy (if possible). Shake her. Ask questions.
- [x] Desperately wave at Chen (or someone) for help.
- [x] "Ma'am, did you take anything recently?"
yes, i'm being silly. partly.
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[x] Beggar Patchouli to investigate the haywire life energy.
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>>44527 here.
Changing vote to:
[x] Approach the problem from a different avenue. (Write-in)
- [x] Get the bnuuy (if possible). Shake her. Ask questions.
- [x] Desperately wave at Chen (or someone) for help.
- [x] "Ma'am, did you take anything recently?"

She's filled with MOTIVATION.
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She needs some MAGNESIUM.
i can't believe you took my vote and now all 3 are tied.
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[x] Question Meira directly about her newfound power.

The direct approach is the best way to break a three way tie.
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I didn't have the opportunity to vote/give my thoughts last time, so I'll briefly add them here.
Not that it really changed anything, I would've voted for Youmu as well.

Youmu is a swordswoman of at least 30 years of experience, likely more.
That alone already puts her at true master levels when you compare it to a human's lifespan.
I just feel that that is a fact people tend to forget about her.
In a way it made me glad to see Poingnant mentioning how odd it felt to imagine her finding her match in a duel.
That and I really wanted to see how the somewhat Baiken-like Meira would clash against a straight-laced Youmu.

The plot deepens, what has happened to Meira, I wonder.
Okina, perhaps?
Rampant life energy is (one of) her thing(s), after all.
But the Secret God is possibly still a secret at this point in time, so we'll just have to see.

As for solutions...
I agree, being direct is best.
If she isn't forthcoming or really doesn't know herself, then we can pursue other avenues.

Though on that note, people have seemed to forget the obvious third option to turn to.
Her ability to sense and manipulate Qi is almost perfectly suited for this; I do not doubt that she's already noticed there's at least something wrong with Meira's life force.
Qi quite literally being the life force in everything.
So I suggest her being our second stop just in case.

Though I don't think at least asking Patchouli for assistance would hurt, but let's leave that alone for now.

Also, I don't expect anybody to vote for Meiling at this stage anyway.
Only just got the chance to vote but it's way too late in the week.
Oh well, I'll at least put in the token effort.

[X] Question Meira directly about her newfound power.
-[X] Consult Meiling for her take afterwards.
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[x] Question Meira directly about her newfound power.

The room’s abuzz again. Words of surprise and shock fly around the group of fighters watching. Youmu may just be considered the best swordsman in Gensokyo, so the fact that she lost…

Something’s off for sure.

Meira scowls again, looking absolutely insulted that Youmu surrendered. She takes a step toward her opponent before our announcer interrupts, “Please give the two swords a round of applause for their artistry. Truly, the blade is always quite the spectacle of finesse to witness.”

The crowd roars, reminding Meira of where she currently is. She looks around the crowd, seeing just how many were watching her fight, and stumbles onto a knee. She reaches to the back of her leg, the blood still trailing from it. The adrenaline seems to have done what it could, but it’s run dry against her injuries. She stands, but it takes her time to do so against a mounting fatigue.

She turns and leaves the venue. Youmu reaches out to try and get her attention, but the chance has already passed for them to exchange words in the ring.

“Alright, you lot,” I call to the room, “That’s the end of the primaries. If you’re here, you should know the rules by now. The exhibitions will be first come first serve, so put your names down up here.”

I plant an empty list on the wall next to the mirror, a pencil sitting on one of Patchouli’s multiple side tables. The page is descended upon by many of the stragglers in the room, looking to get their chance to prove themselves.

The exhibitions will be here to give a sort of finale with the primary bracket, the winner of each going head to head. I don’t expect much to come of it, but thought it would be a good idea to include for the sake of drawing a crowd.

The doors open to the room. No fanfare for Meira and Youmu as the collective mass of the room is signing up to fight. They don’t seem bothered by this, though, instead splitting off without a word across parts of the room to treat themselves. Reisen moves over to Youmu first, looking to help with recovery. I didn’t expect more than a couple of humans to participate, so I didn’t think medical facilities would be needed. Guess I should have considered conscripting Reisen for it in the first place, though.

“What is this?” Izayoi’s voices next to me. “Were you not to coordinate the exhibition matches as well? This looks like a distinct lack of supervising.”

“I was,” I admit, “but something came up that I want to look into. Use the order of names on that sign up sheet there for the exhibitions.”

She looks over to where I point before replying, “It would be best if you saved your idle curiosities until after the tournament is finished. Perhaps you’ve forgotten that you are duty bound to this event.”

“Yeah, sure. Let me know when one of those tengu get their faces caved in by an oni and I’ll get back on duty,” I dismiss.

Izayoi releases a discontent harrumph, but doesn’t stop me. I wander over in the direction Meira fled to find her stitching up her own leg. Others nearby are giving her, and now I for that matter, sidelong glances. It’s up for debate whether they’re looking in some sort of disdain or trepidation. She did put down somebody way above her pay grade.

I originally slotted her there since she wanted to have her opponent really kick her ass, but I guess that didn’t happen.

“Meira,” I greet the swordswoman.

She nocks her leg onto her opposing knee as she cuts the end of the stitching with her hook, then taking a simple cloth bandage roll to wrap around the area.

She looks up at me calmly watching her go through the motions of first aid. “Damnit, you’re still here. What do you want? Can’t you see I’m busy?”

I decide to hold the main subject off for a second and reply, “Well, first and foremost, you should go ask the Eientei rabbit for help with that. She’s already treating Youmu right now.”

“Screw off, I’ve got it,” she drawls. Right, she still hasn’t rested for multiple days in a row now. She went into a fight despite that fact.

I press the issue, “And how do you plan to treat that gash on your back? You might not be bleeding out anytime soon, but you’re sure as hell gonna get an infection if it doesn’t get stitched.”

She audibly groans, giving me a sour eye for my trouble, but does stand. Others in the room turn their heads to see what she’s up to, some moving to their weapons. No one pounces, but it’s difficult to say how far we are from it.

“Where to, mister silver tongue,” she begrudges.

“Other side. Come along,” I command.

We find Reisen finishing her work treating Youmu. She’s appropriated a padded stool and a few dividers from another more furnished room to house her patient. She’s still got her large medicine box handy, so I guess she brought it along for this scenario. Youmu’s bandaging came out to less than I expected for that deep shoulder cut.

“Thanks, Reisen,” Youmu says. “It’s good to have someone that can treat my cuts for me. Never fun to do it yourself.”

“Try not to get cut in the first place, please,” Reisen sighs. “Where’d the other girl go? I should get her, too.”

I greet the two, presenting Meira to my side, “Right here. Contemptuous, but delivered straight to the doctor. How long’s the kid there got, doc?”

Reisen shakes her head, and I don’t need to see her face to know she’s pointing her eyes at the ceiling. “I’m afraid she’s already dead, this one. Half-dead, anyway,” Reisen returns the joke, regardless.

“Half-phantom,” Youmu corrects. “Phantoms aren’t dead. That’s like me joking about how rabbits multiply.”

“It’s just a joke…” Reisen bickers. She flattens down the end of the bandaging and slaps Youmu’s shoulder, meriting a shocked scream from the girl. “Alright, you’re done. Move over for the next patient.”

“You don’t need to be so mean, Reisen,” Youmu whines, rubbing her shoulder as she steps aside.

“I really do, though,” she nags. “Quiet and brooding, get over here,” she snaps at Meira.

“Maybe I should’ve done it myself, after all,” Meira mumbles.

“Act tough all you want. It won’t help the pain that comes with cellulitis,” Reisen replies as she guides Meira into the seat. She reaches to the woman’s cut back, but pauses and says to me, “Regis.”

“Yes?” I answer.

“Meira is still a girl. Give her some privacy,” Reisen enunciates in a way that says she doesn’t want to repeat herself.

I oblige, rounding to the backside of a divider, then call past it, “I’m staying over here. I still have things to talk about with Meira.”

“Meira?” Reisen checks her patient’s opinion on the matter.

“Sure, whatever. Not like he could talk me to death, after all,” Meira spouts.

I laugh, “If you keep up that attitude I might be forced to try.”

“Keep talking, talker,” Meira taunts.

My face lowers, and I start discussing what I really meant to, “I don’t think I need to ask if you felt stronger than usual during that fight.”

“No,” Meira openly admits. “Though what made you catch on that fast? You’ve only seen me fight Meiling like once, right?”

“To be blunt, you sort of got your ass handed to you the other day. I wasn’t expecting that performance against some vaunted swordsman of Gensokyo,” I return her honesty in kind.

“There’s some fighting words. You looking to get punched in the face, old man?” Meira lightly threatens.

“Not right now, you won’t,” Reisen scolds. “At least wait to get your top back on.”

“No, but seriously,” I continue the main thought. “Care to explain what the hell is happening with you? Ran was fairly certain you were quite the normal human.”

Meira lowly hums a thought, unsure of what to answer. “Fuck if I’d know,” she decides is her only conclusion.

“Care to elaborate on ‘fuck if you’d know?’” I reflect. A bit of extra wordiness would certainly help here.

“Not much to it, really,” she furthers. “You left the other day, I got to training, and suddenly I lost the ability to sleep. Pretty much all of my time has been spent training in the meantime. Could tell I was stronger, but figured it was my body drawing on reserves. Might still be for all I know.”

About what I’d assumed, but better to confirm. I’m glad she’s open about questioning, albeit if only because she herself has no idea. But now where do I go from here? Find someone tuned into life magic or something of the sort? Patchouli already confirmed it was magical in nature. What about Ran? No, she’s still going to be presiding on the exhibition matches.

While I’m playing with thoughts of what to do, a bit of movement flits around the corner of the dividers.

“Hey, you still there? You went quiet,” Meira calls back for me.

“Yes, just a moment,” I reply.

Inching up to the corner, I see the movement again. It’s a tail. A cat’s. Peeking around the corner, I see quite what I’d expect at this point.

“Yo,” Chen greets, casually leaning against the divider in human form.

“Chen, why are you hiding away from my sight?” I query.

“Because every time you see me you tell me to do something,” Chen pouts, dragging her eyes off to the side.

“… I guess you’re not exactly wrong. You can do a lot, so I end up relying on you,” I introspect.

“That… ugh. Don’t compliment me. That won’t make me want to help you more,” Chen gripes, pinning a finger into my stomach.

I snort, “I guess it wouldn’t, huh? Then what about your opinion on something? Can I assume that’s free?”

“Get on with it,” Chen goads.

“And take it elsewhere if you’re done with Meira, she’ll need more stitches than I thought,” Reisen notes with the divider muffling her voice. “We can hear all of your back and forth.”

“Right, sorry,” I respond. “Alright, back over to the mirror, then.”

Chen and I walk away from the divider, the room having calmed down after the sign ups for the exhibitions. With the amount of extra people here… a few more hours of matches, maybe? Quite a lot of people are here, but the hand picked fights won’t be on again for a while.

“Chen, where did you get on the sign ups for the extra matches?” I ask the cat. Someone bumps my shoulder as we pass, going in the direction we came. It’s a few guys, actually.

“A dozen in. There’s time to order me around, if that’s what you mean. What did you–… what are you looking at?” Chen follows my gaze back over to the medical station. The few guys walk behind the blinder.

“Something’s off,” I decide. Those guys… just looking at them told me they were wrong. Fit looking guys dressed like common thugs. More than that, though, it’s like I had trouble seeing their shape.

“Were those Keiga members? They’re supposed to be kicked back to hell,” Chen states, glaring at the spot they disappeared.

“Keiga?” I intone back.

“One of the beast realm crime groups,” Chen tells me. She starts walking toward the medical station and continues, “This may be something I have to tell Lady Ran about. Remain silent.”

We shuffle back over, trying to remain inconspicuous to the other fighters in the room. While everyone continues their same small talk, Chen and I lean against Reisen’s spot, eavesdropping the group.

Reisen is already berating the men, “Leave, already. I don’t care what reason you have, you know the rules. Take it outside if you want to fight.”

“As if!” I hear a perturbed man’s voice strike back. “This bitch cheated the last round! We all know the Netherworld Samurai should’ve won!”

Netherworld Samurai? As in Youmu? I… suppose that’s a correct description of her. That title feels a little meaty for the girl. Even I would say she comes off as a little green to conflict. It looks like she’s made a name for herself to somebody, though. Definitely the wrong crowd, but still somebody.

“What about it?” Meira speaks up. “What cheating are you talking about? If I was I’d be kicked out of the building already. If you want to feel bad for somebody else, go whimper in another corner.”

“I don’t think we will,” another man challenges. I don’t hear any weapons drawing, but something must have happened because they’ve all gone silent.

I can hear a light creak as Meira gets up from the stool. Reisen loudly whispers to not provoke them any further, to which Meira swiftly ignores by saying, “Throw it, then, bitch.”

Chen and I both dive away from the spot, knowing things are gonna expand out quick. Sure enough, the deepest divider topples over as Meira’s body rams into it. She rebounds from the force and gets back to her feet. She at least had the time to get chest wrappings on to cover herself, but it seems she didn’t have the same foresight to keep her sword on its hilt.

Two men break from the corner, hounding after Meira. The third smashes against the ground with the closest divider. Reisen keeps a tight grip on his arm, apparently having tossed him over, and efficiently drop kicks his upper arm while anchoring the forearm. A crack resounds from the motion his arm is not supposed to do, and a pained howl follows. Reisen gets up and sprints after the other two gang members who are facing Meira.

While we weren’t looking for all of three seconds, the other end turned for the morbid. Meira has several fresh trails of blood coming from claws against her flesh, but just the same the thugs have entire chunks taken out of them. One of them is basically gutted from his wound, blood and viscera spilling over that he attempts to hold in with naught but his hand. He hangs back hoping to heal, though with Reisen about to fly into him I doubt he’ll last long.

The other guy swipes at Meira, one arm having its bicep torn clean off. Meira uses the blunt of her hook to beat back the man’s swings, successfully keeping her ground. He goes for a low strike, to which Meira performs a similar maneuver from before, stepping back and catching the man’s hand in the hook. She yanks the battered thug’s arm back, throwing him to the ground. With a quick stomp, the hook dislodges from his hand, and the only means of escape is an attempt to push Meira off with his wounded arm.

Suffice to say, she embeds the hook into his neck, and rips with a mighty fervor. Her guttural roar coupled with the freshly made geyser of blood is spine chilling and warrants gasps from several members of the crowd. Most of the maniacs start cheering, of course. I’d expect nothing less of oni come topside.

While all well and good, since the injured men should get kicked out, I’m gonna need to make this new investigation high priority.

“Chen,” I address as the two of us get off the ground, “between Meiling and Narumi, who would you expect to be able to investigate life energy anomalies like Meira’s? Go.”

[x] Meiling.

[x] Narumi.

[x] Someone else comes to mind. (Write-in)

I realize this vote may not be very competitive, but I’d prefer giving the chance to fight for different paths since I arbitrarily choose not to, sometimes. I’m also not counting the previous vote because I’m evil like that.

Otherwise, quick feeler, here, am I doing well on combat sections? I intended this chapter to be heavy on it but would like to know if I’m doing fine or need to reevaluate my style.
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>Am I doing well on combat sections?
I'd say so. I really liked the fights you've been writing so far, especially Reisen vs Sakuya, and Meiling vs Biten. Speaking of which...

[x] Meiling.
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[x] Narumi.
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Why not both?
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There can be only one.
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[x] Meiling.

This is supposed to be the Meiling arc after all.
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[x] Meiling.
Let's let the Gatekeeper shine more
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[x] Meiling.

They recently fought. Even assuming Narumi might know better, Meiling ought to be able to immediately notice what is off.
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To be honest, not evil at all that you've disregard my old vote, it's a new post and vote with new information after all.
For example, I completely forgot about Narumi as she hasn't been part of the story for a bit, but she's actually a fantastic option to consider for the problem.
The main reason I went with Meiling is because she has been here "in view" so to say the entire time.

Anyway, it's good to know that Meira is generally candid about the situation, that should help with the investigation as it progresses, even if she doesn't know that much herself at the moment.

Remember, this is Chen advising Regis, so it'd be a more impartial assessment than Regis would make knowing Meiling and Meira's connection.
Well, she might know about that too, to be fair, but that'd be a pure guess; so I'm not willing to make a call either which way.

Putting that aside, Regis' request is who could better investigate life energy anomalies.
While implied to be required in the end, of course, this does not ask for a solution to the problem.
Based on that fact I would (same as my old vote) vote Meiling over Narumi.
Narumi is still relatively young for a youkai, while her powers could help solve the problem better than Meiling's Qi manipulation, her comparative lack of experience compared to the gate guard might also hinder investigative efforts to discern the root cause.
Furthermore, Meiling has proven herself to be very much in tune with the Qi of the world, making her more suited for identifying the root cause of the problem.
Meiling's bloodhound to Narumi's surgeon, to put it differently.

[x] Meiling.

This still sounds like Okina shenanigans, but let's assume the Secret God is actually still a secret.
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am late. was sick. still some headache.
>the chance to fight for different paths
thank you. i arbitrarily choose to, sometimes.
>am I doing well on combat sections
well enough, i'd say. clarifying >>44481 a bit, by "brief bits" i mean when the individual attacks/exchanges are not detailed at length. thinking on it now, it helps preserve the momentum and the 'filling in blanks' aspect comes as a (positive?) consequence. on the other hand, one could instead use the extra space/time to focus on other details beyond direct offensive actions as well. a way of adding more without incremental bloat or drag, in that case.

eh, just musings on my part. likely obvious stuff. i don't mean to advise on things i don't even do. i wonder though how i'd write a swordfight with the bits of fencing vocab and framework i have.
captcha: GODDESS
it's a sign!

[x] Gatekeep.
ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Look, if she's not getting any, someone else has to.
-[jk] Request buny to mag you up.
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[x] Meiling.

“Uh… Meiling?” Chen guesses an answer.

“What makes you say that?” I reflect as the crowd moves around us to congratulate Meira for taking out some regular ne’er-do-wells.

Chen recoils in disdain, replying, “You’re asking me for a gut reaction, and now you want a reason?! You’re so unfair.”

“Less lip, more reasoning,” I scold.

She pouts, but it’s a feigned frustration, as she is wont to fool around. “First off, Meiling’s here already. Second, they’re both people that like to fight,” she answers.

Not a point I’d have considered, and one I hope won’t come to full fruition, but it’s good for now.

“Alright, I can agree to that,” I tell Chen. “Let’s move fast, we don’t know what other trouble might arrive to try and fight Meira next.”

Reisen brushes herself off in the distance and scolds Meira, “You shouldn’t have done that. Look at you, now you’ll need even more stitches!”

Meira does her best to split from the crowd congratulating her excessive use of force and reenters the medical corner. Reisen is soon to follow after her, putting the cracked dividers back up as well as she can. Hoshiguma has taken the liberty of grabbing what’s left of the three men, dragging them from the room as they continue to bleed onto the carpet.

This place has turned into a madhouse. It was a powder keg before, in all rights, but now we’re trying to perform a controlled burn using it. Any perturbation has a chance to cause to cause an avalanche of violence. A barroom brawl of the physically strongest people in Gensokyo. So while I know I’m acting to make sure the tournament doesn’t end horribly, I also feel like anything that happens might rock the boat further than we realize.

The first step to this is getting Meiling’s support. I spot her over by the mirror, flanked by a few others that didn’t want to get too close to the commotion in case of danger. Others of this collection include Patchouli and Biten, casting glances our way as we approach. Meiling breaks from conversation with Biten to wave us over. Patchouli attempts her best to not seem interested in the matters at hand.

“Tanner, what happened there?” Meiling asks. “The oni seemed excited, but I didn’t see what happened.”

“Meira got into a scuffle with some animal hell cronies,” I summarize. “Tell me, what do you think the results would be, in your honest opinion?”

Meiling blanches, horrified at the implications and answers, “She’s seriously injured? She should have known that this would be a place above her level.”

“Wrong,” I report. “She has some claw wounds, but the other guys were totally put down. She had some help from Reisen, but the majority of the damage was done by Meira.”

Meiling pauses. It takes her a moment for her to process a response, rubbing her beret across her head.

Biten joins in the conversation, questioning, “Isn’t this human stronger than you think? She won against that other girl with a sword, after all.”

“No, that doesn’t make sense,” Meiling counters. “I’ve sparred with her quite frequently, so I know what her limits are. She’s not good enough with a sword to take down Youmu, so I was surprised that she won. But to take out animal realm spirits right after… how?”

“My thoughts exactly,” I confer. “Patchouli also confirmed for me that her life energy is haywire, to boot.”

Meiling looks over to her mage, who buries herself in a book in lieu of hiding. Meiling lowers the book from her and addresses the witch, “Lady Patchouli, why did you not tell me of this? If she’s a danger then I need to take her from the mansion.”

“This is not of my business,” Patchouli refutes. “It is common practice in many cultures for warriors to ‘dope’ as it were. Using magic is no different from prayer or drug usage. If she is highly aggressive I would have no way of knowing a priori.”

“Don’t go too far, there. She’s not aggressive,” I argue. “The thugs looked like they wanted a fight, regardless. Meira’s personality just gave them their wish.”

Meiling rounds on me now and continues, “So you’re saying you do not wish for her to be escorted out of the mansion? Then why are you telling me this?”

“Because I think you can help figure out if this is an actual problem or something that Meira intentionally did. She said she doesn’t know, but I can’t tell for sure if she’s lying or not,” I explain to the martial artist.

“You want me to help?” Meiling asks, pointing to herself. She sounds more surprised that we’re asking her, rather than the fact that it’s a favor. “I mean, of course I will, but it’s a surprise to hear someone rely on me for knowledge of something.”

My face certainly must twist in concern, as Meiling shies away in embarrassment. I turn to Patchouli and unsarcastically ask, “What have you done to this poor woman to bring her to this point?”

“And what is that implying?! I’m not her master!” Patchouli seethes.

Chen jumps on to support my teasing, “Oh, I’m sure he means nothing by it, he’s only sad to see your gate guard so underappreciated. Come on, let’s get back to it.”

Before Patchouli gets the chance to bite Chen’s head off, she walks away, dragging Meiling along by her hand. Biten follows them closely like a lost child.

“Later, Patchouli. I’ll be sure to be back for the next primaries,” I excuse myself as well.

The room’s quieted down considerably. I’m thankful nothing has escalated from the few chances that’ve come up so far. This last one was by far the worst. Anything more is risking fate. We march to the medical corner and find Reisen on her own, cleaning up a few utensils she used.

“Reisen, where did Meira go?” I ask our resident medic.

“She left the room insisting that she meditate. I’d like to say I tried to stop her, but I have enough blood to clean off my jacket. Both my own and others’. I don’t need to look for more fights,” Reisen rationalizes herself.

“Reisen…” Chen sighs and shakes her head.

“What? I finished stitching her, so she’s not in any danger,” Reisen defends herself.

“Sadly, that’s not what we’re worried about,” I expound. “She’s kinda either in danger or become the danger.”

Reisen blankly stares, and elicits a light, “Ah.”

“So where did she go?” Meiling restates.

Reisen is quick to answer, probably hoping to gloss over her misstep, “Out of the room. Probably out of the building, since the signs lead here from the entryway.”

“There were signs?” I ask, feeling like I might be going senile.

“Sakuya put them up after the first match,” Meiling assures me. “I think I remember her saying she can’t write on paper in stopped time. I didn’t really get it, so I haven’t asked how that works…”

I pinch the bridge of my nose and complain to no one, “Right, because she interacts with the world in a theoretical instant. Being able to move around during that instant is perfectly fine, though.”

“You’ll learn to stop questioning things. Eventually,” Chen comments.

We head out of the building without event. The only people inside the halls are the various assortments of fairies still ‘working’ on their normal tasks. I don’t pay them much mind in their lollygagging.

Back at the main foyer, the hubbub is still underway. Cirno has returned to her stall with the ice shaver, and Takane seems to have drawn a crowd. Hina has sadly left, but I hope that she sold out her dolls. We exit the front entry and are greeted by the noxious smell of food from all corners of the manse. I’m glad someone had the foresight to keep all of the stalls outside, it’s baffling just how many there are.

I mean, I’ve heard Gensokyo loves festivals, but I didn’t realize how hardcore they truly were.

“How many people do you think are here?” Biten ponders. She ended up coming along for the whole search.

“I’m not one to eyeball, but I’d say maybe around six hundred,” Chen attempts to answer. “This wasn’t as much a well planned festival, so we’re missing a large chunk of each population. It would probably be about double this if it was announced earlier.”

“Goodness, I can barely move through the area as it is. A strange state to find my own garden in,” Meiling underscores.

“We can enjoy the activity later,” I try to get the others to focus. “If it’s busy, then we can assume Meira wouldn’t want to meditate out here, right?”

“Couldn’t find me in a crowd like that,” Chen affirms.

“I know I wouldn’t want to hang around to rest,” Biten doubles.

“If it were me, I probably wouldn’t go far. She can fly, but it would also be rude to leave the premise,” Meiling works through a thought. “She would look for somewhere that less people are around to distract her.”

“What, like some hidden alcove or a corner out of sight from the grounds?” I question her conclusion.

“Maybe. The Scarlet Devil Mansion does have those. We made more after coming to Gensokyo,” Meiling confirms.

I think on it for a moment, and try to frame it from the perspective of Meira. Stubborn like a mule. Seemingly hotheaded. Someone who challenges Meiling often to fight.

“What about the front gate?” I conclude. “She strikes me as the type to go to a spot that she knows, even if it might be a point of frustration.”

“It’s close enough that we should check anyway,” Meiling confirms.

We start to investigate the ‘fair’ grounds. Though, I wonder if Scarlet allowed all of these people to set up shop or not. It wouldn’t surprise me if she lets anyone in as a blanket statement. We keep our eyes out in case Meira ended up distracted by the attractions. All manner of food and game sit around the area. Things hosted by human and Youkai alike, offering both the mundane activities of a regular fair grounds and the more mature spots of gambling games. While the people all seem somewhat on edge by their proximity to danger, whether it be physical or political, it doesn’t outweigh their enjoyment of the grounds. I can see an oni playing dice with a human, a tanuki and a tengu sharing drinks, creeds normally separated by outstanding reasons come together in places like this.

An odd image, even by the standards I’m getting used to in Gensokyo, but I haven’t really seen a true festival, yet.

I spot an individual in the crowd and excuse myself from Biten and Meiling. Chen comes along in cat form to stay on me. My shoulder, specifically. I wander over and reach out to the woman, grabbing her attention in front of a stand selling liquor. I feel like I know the girl heading the stand, but it’s unimportant.

The woman turns around and greets me, talking up over the noise of the crowd, “Tanner? Have you been relieved from your duties? I see you have Chen as well.”

“I’m not really needed for the exhibition matches, thankfully. How are you, Kasen?” I reply in a similar volume, leaning against the drink stand’s bar.

Kasen holds the bauble she got from Ibuki in one hand and in the other a couple of skewers of what I believe are ‘dango.’ She doesn’t pay any mind to the tetrahedron in her hand but stops herself from partaking in the sweet on a skewer. “I’m feeling better,” she curtly tells me.

“That’s good,” I awkwardly create small talk. “Listen, I wanted to say sorry for what happened earlier. I had no idea that would happen when I made the competition roster.”

“There’s no need for apology. It was an unfortunate circumstance that’s been waiting to come up,” Kasen emphatically denies.

“Sure, but let me know if there’s any way I can help,” I perhaps overextend the pleasantries.

“If you could find Ibuki so that I can slap her that would be great,” Kasen jokes. Maybe.

I chuckle and leave off with, “I’m no miracle worker. I can ask Ran her thoughts when I see her, though. See you back in the waiting room.”

She waves me off as she’s given a drink. It doesn’t strike me that she’s all that better, but I need to remind myself whose business I should and shouldn’t stick my nose in. A quarrel between oni is not the hard place I wish to find myself stuck in.

Chen and I roam to the front gate, spotting Meiling and Biten observing from a short distance away. We approach and see why they haven’t acted yet.

Meira sits away from the front gate meditating with her back to the crowd. An odd straggler approaches by the outer road. They give Meira a quick glance, wondering if maybe they need to address her to enter, but quickly ignore the thought as she remains unresponsive to any greeting. In fact, she’s still as stone. It’s hard to tell if she’s breathing.

“Either of you try anything yet?” I ask the two that were here before us.

“No,” Meiling responds. “Do you want for me to talk or you to?”

“I’ll go first. She doesn’t know why you’d be looking for her, after all,” I answer.

I approach the woman, clothes still torn and blood stained from combat. True to her word, Reisen did at least bandage up all of her wounds. I kneel down and inspect her posture. Nothing out of the ordinary. I can see her chest rise and fall, even if just minimally.

“Meira, you in there?” I banter at the unresponsive woman.

“Yes, and I would much prefer to be left alone,” she says, keeping her eyes closed but looking annoyed.

I look from her to Meiling, nudging my head for her to approach, and tell Meira, “I think we’re past that point. I have Meiling here to try and figure out what’s up with you.”

This gets Meira’s attention enough to look at me, and then to Meiling. She stands, sword slung on her belt, and interrogates, “Not that it’s a problem for you to know, seeing as I don’t, but what are you gonna do after you find out?”

Did she have a change of heart after her brawl with the animal realm men? This could be bad.

Meiling takes the lead and tries to pretty up our reasoning with, “We just want to make sure that you won’t hurt yourself. Being stronger without knowing why is not a good omen.”

“And if you do find ‘something bad?’ What then?” Meira pricks at the logic. She appears to be moving inward, unconsciously defending herself.

I continue to let Meiling lead our end of the conversation, as she continues, “We’ll… I guess I’ll… try to heal you of whatever spiritual sickness you have.”

“Meiling,” Meira addresses her rival. “I refuse.”

“What?” Meiling and I say in unison.

Meira slowly unsheathes her sword, looking along its edge, before flourishing it at high speed. “I used to think there was no way I could face off against a Youkai. Not the rabid animals that pester farms. No. The ones that can cause incidents,” she explains. “But today, just this once, something has shown me that there are limits that I can still scale. I can keep up with you all. I want to know what it is that I’m missing.”

She points her sword at Meiling, scowl tightening as Meiling doesn’t reciprocate any tension or defensive posture. Chen and I back off to the side, not wanting to intervene at this stage. Biten stays beside Meiling, ready to fight beside her if need be.

There is one thing that gets my curiosity, though, to which I ask, “Meira, why do you feel like you need to be stronger? To what end?”

“Don’t give me your bystander bullshit, bookie,” she scorns. “Everyone knows that the spellcard rules won’t last forever. The moment they go away, the village won’t be ready as it is now. People need to be able to stand up to monsters.”

“There’s a destructive thought,” Chen mocks. “You wouldn’t happen to be one of those idiot humans of the Youkai hunter cult, would you?”

“Chen, do not rile her,” Meiling reprimands. She turns to Meira again and says, “Meira, please. This could be something doing harm to your mind. I don’t know if you’ve had these thoughts before, but please, let me see what’s happening to you.”

Meiling stands nonplussed by Meira’s anger, unwilling to take the bait and fight. Biten is quite the opposite, concerned about what’s to come any second, she holds her staff forward and ready.

Meira crouches, like a snake coiling, and brandishes her sword forward. Like a bolt of lighting, she flashes forward, stopping her blade right against Meiling’s neck. Biten hardly reacted to the movement, not anticipating the speed. Meiling had the reaction time to raise her arms, but she couldn’t catch the blade. It’s now that I ask myself, is she still getting stronger?

Meira asserts, “I refuse.”

This has gotten messy. Looks like I’ll need to step in after all. Somehow.

[x] Continue to argue against Meira’s logic. Try to get her to see reason through words, as stubborn as she may be, she’s not an idiot.

[x] Work against her. If she wants to stress test this power, then find a way to make her lose her upcoming match. Should take the wind from her sails.

[x] Come up with a different plan. Maybe something more involved. (Write-in)

It’s good to hear that I’m doing fine on conveying the action, especially the speed of it. And of course I didn’t rightfully expect Narumi to win, but we’ll see our favorite not-a-druid witch sooner than you think.
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I feel pretty bad for Kasen, but unfortunately we don't have time to get into that right now.

I still find it rather jarring how easily we found out she was an oni, considering it's supposed to be a big secret and all that.

But again, out of all people, Patchouli would know and nonchalantly reveal it if asked. She never sees people anyway.

That sake stall owner... took me a second but is that Miyoi? Nah. Nope. Can't think of anyone.

Biten sorta getting attached to Meiling is pretty cute though. Scratch that very cute.

Speaking of Meiling, poor girl doesn't deserve the treatment she's gotten.


Well, shit.

First things first, Meira needs to calm the fuck down.

She's absolutely riding her high right now. Maybe not in the acting hyper sense, but she's absolutely feeling the power.

Can't we just disqualify her or something if she gets out of line?

We spent all that time drafting the rules; we could probably think of an angle.

I still think we should use our words rather than try to mess with the matches or something. That'll just bite us in the ass later.

Maybe we can compromise: let us investigate, but postpone any decision of "fixing it" until we actually know what this is.

If she's gonna drop dead in half a day that fantasy of protecting the village if anarchy returns will amount to fuck all.

Anyway, Regis getting a little mad here should be justified.

Man doesn't talk much about his army days and who knows how much action he's actually seen, but I don't see him as the kind of guy who would just keep his mouth shut when people have swords to other people's throats.

[X] Continue to argue against Meira’s logic. Try to get her to see reason through words, as stubborn as she may be, she’s not an idiot.
-[X] "Calm the FUCK down!" She can't prove herself or whatever she intends to do if you kick her out for taking it outside the ring, even if it was "only" a threat.
--[X] Offer a compromise: We get to investigate what is going on but will delay discussion of any possible treatment until we figure out what's happening, allowing her to fight using her new "powers" in the meantime.

Scratch that; Regis pretty mad, actually. (Also in the "talk shit to the lightning-fast swordswoman which is kinda suicidal, actually" way.)
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If I remember correctly, Meiling's pretty good at sensing things according to the other thread. Can she multitask and try to examine Meira while the other woman is unintentionally giving a practical demonstration of her power? Maybe have Biten focus on defending her if the diagnosis needs Meiling's concentration?
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I'd rather not escalate this into an actual fight.

We might be forced to actually intervene, then. Beyond words, that is.
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[x] Come up with a different plan. Maybe something more involved. (Write-in)
-[x] "Fine then, let's make a bet. I'll match you up against the toughest opponents gathered here in the brackets. If you lose, you help us figure out why you are so strong for no apparent reason."
When you can't open the door by pushing, try pulling. Besides, she just held up another contestant, it's grounds for DQ as is.

I can't think of what she'd get if she wins, though. Though I wanna rile her up and see what happens.
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Can we even edit the brackets at this point?

Figured it was sorta implied they're all set from the fact we seeded them.
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I need more power
[X] Work against her. If she wants to stress test this power, then find a way to make her lose her upcoming match. Should take the wind from her sails.

Someone needs to beat that attitude out of her.
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[X] Continue to argue against Meira’s logic. Try to get her to see reason through words, as stubborn as she may be, she’s not an idiot.
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[x] Work against her. If she wants to stress test this power, then find a way to make her lose her upcoming match. Should take the wind from her sails.

Honestly, meatheads sometimes only have one way to understand things. Can't say I care much for trying to make her lose but the potential it has for more interesting things to come makes me go for it.
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[x] Though indecisive, needs must.

“Both of you, back off!” I shout at the women. They gaze my way, hardened eyes already set on fighting like they usually would. My feet carry me forward before my mind has time to really formulate an intelligent plan. To everyone’s surprise, including my own, I peel Meira from Meiling by her shoulder. She doesn’t resist, mind, but it’s also about as dangerous as testing a hornet’s nest right now.

“You will not sway me, bookie,” Meira simmers. “I’ve made my stance as clear as can be.”

This hardheadedness is getting us nowhere. I match her vigor, “You’re right, I’m not gonna get through to you. You’ve gotten real full of yourself, after all.”

I can see Meiling react from my periphery, choosing to back off for all that she’s worth.

Meira properly rounds on me, now. Not with blade, but vile tongue, berating, “You don’t understand a damn thing! I’m trying to hold my own here and you’re siding with the gods damned Youkai?! They’re not your friends, idiot!”

“At least they’re in their right mind!” I shout back, brimming with my own fire. One I’m not all too unfamiliar with. “You might keel over in the next day! Or try to slash up the entire waiting room! Or go mad and start slaughtering the fucking fair grounds!”

She bears her blade against my throat. Meiling and Biten both step forward, but are too far to do anything. Chen reacts quickly enough to reach up high and grasp the end of the blade from my flank, but isn’t quick enough to stop it from contacting my skin. The light burn of a cut is hardly noticeable in this circumstance.

“I would not!” Meira lowers her voice, arguing with me while also commanding herself.

“Then why don’t you show it?” I temper my own anger. “Because this isn’t impressing me. You’re just acting like a Youkai threatening to kill me.”

Meira’s eyes narrow. Chen’s breath pauses, and I realize my own does too.

“How are you not dead yet?” Meira asks me. She slowly pulls her blade back, letting me breath again. The Youkai around us don’t attempt anything, still uncertain what Meira could be capable of.

“It helps to not be worth killing,” I retort. “Now I’d suggest you get yourself checked. We can compromise after we know you aren’t turning into a suicidal maniac.”

“And if I still refuse?” Meira questions my demand.

“I can kick you out of the tournament. That would be your best case scenario. Currently I’m thinking to get the bracket to plot against you. I’m sure you can still have some sense beaten into you,” I threaten. “Actually, I might do the latter regardless of your cooperation.”

She hesitates her reply, looking over to Meiling and Biten first. I don’t need Meira to know that it would take a lot of work to convince Scarlet to kick her out, since I can’t do it myself. If the vampire were to hear about this situation, then things would only get muddier.

“Tch,” she clicks. “As if that scares me.”

“Overconfident, then? I had a feeling you would find the idea more amusing than anything. Your ego’s swelled like a balloon,” I taunt.

Meira doesn’t humor the taunt, instead taking a few paces back and sitting on the ground. “’Check’ me, then. I will not be taking any treatment. I will find my limits in the next matches.”

Meiling walks by me, lightly putting a hand to my shoulder and looking at my neck as she passes. She seats herself across from Meira and takes a meditative pose. Biten is quick to rest on her knees next to them, keeping a careful eye on Meira.

“I will fight you, Hong,” Meira scoffs.

“Please stop talking,” Meiling tells her rival. “Start meditating; I can read your qi when you do.”

Despite her hangups, Meira complies with the orders. They sit in silence for a few moments. It’s long enough that I decide this matter has been settled for now, and start to walk back into the courtyard. Chen follows behind me, at a loss for words at my outburst.

I check where the blade sat against my neck, but don’t find blood. I’m sure the feeling was there, that it had cut into the skin more than a couple layers deep. She wasn’t exactly stable, in more ways than one, after all. Had I been cut open, would I be just fine? Would I even care?

Perhaps Meira’s not the only one whose mind is falling out of sorts. Arguing with a belligerent person holding a weapon is quite the opposite of a survival instinct. Maybe death is becoming commonplace to me. Sadly not a first.

Chen convinces me to take a detour through the fair grounds while we’re walking back. I’m uncertain why exactly she wants to, but it could be as simple as her childish side showing. I could say that it would be better for me to be in the waiting room, but in truth I’m also hoping to find Kasen again while we’re wandering. I have no idea what happened between her and Ibuki, and in reality I shouldn’t feel at all responsible for their meeting, but I still want to help. Not that I have any idea at all on how to do so.

Chen drags me across the grounds, stopping at all manner of distracting and entertaining booth. While I focused on the booze and gambling earlier, there’s plenty of other things to see. Chen’s first stop is a small pool owned by a kappa, the clear water holds a vast assortment of small fish. They come in just about every color and shape imaginable. Chen pays the kappa from a golden clasped coin purse and is given a handled ring with an inserted paper disk. I gaze at the ritual, to which she demonstrates her feline finesse by swiping the disk into the water, retrieving one of the many fish atop the soaked paper.

The kappa fetches a sack and fills it with some of the water to a fist size, putting the caught fish in and tying it off for Chen. The kappa convinces me to spend the extra penny to try as well, but I almost immediately break the paper. Chen seems to have used a very precise and practiced motion to act so swiftly, but for a regular human it must require some ingenuity.

I spend a few moments to ponder the solution to the game as we move on. While at first I wonder what Chen intends to do with the fish it doesn’t take long before I remember that she’s a cat at heart. I pretend to not notice a drip of drool on her mouth as we move through more booths.

So many of the available games that we see are a mix of familiar and unfamiliar. A cork shoot. A lottery where you pull a random string from a bundle to find a prize. A tumble box that contains a stick claiming to foretell your luck. As the time draws out, though, I realize it’s time we get back to the waiting room.

The merriment of a Gensokyo festival is truly infectious, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t lighten my mood a bit.

“Chen,” I address the cat, carrying a new assortment of food and goodie. “Why did you want to go through the booths outside?”

She giggles in her usual troubling attitude, “It’s no fun to go alone. But Lady Ran is also frequently busy during times like this. You can do for company, though.”

“So you were bored?” I deduce.

“I’m always bored. Cats are bored until they have something to toy with. Be it a ball of yarn or prey,” Chen elucidates.

We return to the waiting room. Things don’t seem to have changed at this point. Reisen sits outside of her corner, reading through a newspaper to bide the time, while Patchouli and her servant remain seated in front of the mirror. Kasen is also stood in front of the mirror, intently watching whatever match is currently happening. Other fighters are around, but most are wiling away playing cards with each other or otherwise sharing drinks they brought in.

“Anything happening now?” I ask Kasen for her assessment, looking into the mirror to see a match between an oni and tengu.

“Everyone is trying earnestly to win, but that’s no surprise,” Kasen turns and tells me. “There were a few names I found surprising on the extra list. I don’t think I need to mention the little devil here, though.”

She leans down and tugs at Chen’s cheek, much to Chen’s requests otherwise. “Don’t treat me like a child!” she complains after.

“I can see why Ran likes you so much,” Kasen teases.

Ran does? Their interactions have seemed closer to boss and assistant from my perspective, but maybe I haven’t seen enough yet. Chen at least has a lot of respect for the fox, but I’ve not felt it reciprocated.

We stand around to watch through a few matches. As Kasen said, nothing notable in the rounds I see. Chen leaves for her match, hoping to impress us more than the previous rounds, by her own words. The matches were taking longer than we expected considering Chen and I had the time to explore the festival grounds. Thank god I shoehorned a time limit to them.

A voice I recognize as Meiling’s says from behind me, “I’ve finished with Meira. She told me she won’t come inside for now.”

She strolls next to me and I notice, “You don’t look too pleased. What did you find?”

She purses her lip, putting the words together before explaining, “I think she is in trouble. Her life energy is big, but it’s not from something she’s using. It’s coming from in her.”

Kasen comments before I do, “You mean she is siphoning her own power to the surface? That’s an interesting, if not dangerous, method to empower herself.”

“What makes it dangerous?” I ask.

“Hmm… how to explain it,” Kasen ponders. “Imagine your arm muscle, like when you lift a weight to train the bicep, how as you over use it it tears down. When it heals it becomes stronger. But now imagine that instead of letting it heal you keep tearing at it and eventually you develop an injury. It’s like that, but doing the same with a person’s life energy will leave a much larger wound to their spirit.”

“And you don’t mean metaphorically, right? It’s not that she’ll be depressed but that her spirit will have literal tearing as she burdens her body,” I confirm.

“Sadly,” Kasen intones. “Of course, how that effects her we can’t be sure. It does different things to different people.”

“You are knowledgeable in this, miss Ibara,” Meiling points out. “Do you even know what is causing her energies to draw?”

Kasen avoids Meiling’s earnest gaze as she replies, “I… can’t guarantee it, but I have my thoughts.”

“And those are?” I pine for her to not be so evasive.

“I wish not to say for now,” she holds firm, though in an uppity, almost mocking, voice. “If I’m wrong then things will be much simpler for you.”

“Wishing to avoid tempting fate?” Patchouli chimes in from her seat, nose buried in her books like usual. “Not an absurd notion to this house. Your refusal to elaborate your understanding of this matter only stirs our curiosity, however. That does include my own.”

She closes the book and stares Kasen down. While I couldn’t describe Kasen as looking uncomfortable from the mage’s sudden interest, it does seem to drive some anxiety.

Patchouli stands to ask the hermit to her face, “What, pray tell, would cause an oni using hermetic practices to consider something not simple?”

Kasen glances between us all, but remains close lipped. Patchouli’s eyes are burning in their passion of her namesake. Meiling looks impartial but intent on listening if she does speak up. A few seconds pass in grueling background noise from the room.

“Alright, I don’t think she wants to tell us. We’ll find out later, anyway,” I deter Patchouli.

“Later?” Kasen gets caught up on.

“Yes, later,” I reaffirm. “I told Meira that we’d come to some compromise after Meiling checked her. I didn’t think to include the idea of treating her regardless of what we found. Shit, now she’s going to say that it isn’t effecting her mind and therefore we have no right to impede her.”

“Is that so bad a thing?” Meiling queries. “If it’s her own choice to bring herself harm, then we should not interfere. That sounds right.”

“Forgive me for playing devil’s advocate, but I’d usually agree with the sentiment,” I state. Meiling is a little taken aback by my forwardness but doesn’t question it. I continue, “That said, this whole thing doesn’t sit right with me. If she ends up permanently scarred I don’t think I’d feel like a bystander.”

Kasen restores her collected mannerisms and warns me, “Make sure to hold onto that feeling. It’s easy to lose sight of your empathy when in the company of Youkai.”

“Not to imply that she’s an exception of said company,” Patchouli quips.

“Yes, yes, very antagonistic, I’m so angry,” Kasen dismisses. “Now what do you plan to do against the swordswoman if not leave her alone, Tanner?”

I ponder the question, but from my end my hands are tied. Talking with Meira directly will lead me to a wall since we pseudo agreed that I was only concerned about her mental faculties. I did say I would incite the other competitors against her in the bracket, but I’m not sure how much can be accomplished with that.

Of course, I have the second best available resource for how to beat her, so I ask, “Meiling, how hard would it be to train someone against Meira’s fighting style?”

Meiling brushes a cheek in thought, predicting, “Her next match would happen before I finish. I can always give recommendations.”

“If you could, please,” I request.

“Wait, do you know the arts of the native sword, miss Hong?” Kasen asks in a surprised, if not impressed, voice.

“Well… I don’t use one, so I could be better,” Meiling seemingly admits. I wonder how much she’s short selling on that front.

“So now that we have a plan,” I say, “who is it that needs to be trained? I didn’t pay attention to some of the matches, so who won between Cirno and Aya?”

Patchouli gives me an annoyed look and insults, “You do not present yourself as a responsible individual. I hope you’ve been told that before.”

“Anyone tell you you’re unpleasant to be around?” I counter.

“Frequently,” Patchouli confirms, rolling her eyes. Meiling gives a defeated chuckle from beside me. “Enough mundane banter, the winner between the tengu and the fairy was…”

[x] Aya Shameimaru

[x] Cirno the ice fairy

So, remember that thing about making you all choose the winner? It’s come back here, so no write-ins! As for this update, I hope I struck the right middle ground between my thoughts on the previous choices. We ended up in a stalemate between two after a three way tie, so I decided to not draw it out.
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The choice is giving me some deja vu vibes...
[x] Cirno, the ice fairy.
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[x] Cirno the ice fairy
"As the strongest fairy, CirnoGOAT, fought the fraud, the female Samurai, she began to open her Domain. Meira shrunk back in fear, then Cirno said "Stand proud Meira, you are STRONG."
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[x] Aya Shameimaru
The only way I could see Cirno winning is if she either got fortunate or Aya let her win. That's just me though.
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[x] Cirno the ice fairy

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[x] Cirno the ice fairy
aya jobbed lelllll
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[x] Cirno the ice fairy

Aya resigns. Time to have funny things happen.
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[x] Cirno the ice fairy
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[x] Cirno the ice fairy

Let's see Aya try to write a Bunbunmaru article about this particular match.
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[x] Cirno the ice fairy
>"Are you the strongest because you're Cirno? Or are you Cirno because you're the strongest?"
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[x] Cirno the ice fairy

“… Cirno the ice fairy,” Patchouli answers.

“Alright, then let’s train her up to fight Meira,” I continue naturally for a moment. My brain does a double take and I realize what was just said, pondering, “Wait… what do you mean Cirno won?”

“It was rather startling, but yes, she won,” Meiling confirms. “Shameimaru didn’t seem to put in much effort, and underestimated Cirno.”

I cajole with a wave of my hands, “I still don’t think I understand how that’s supposed to happen. I see it everywhere that fairies are supposed to be the bottom rung of Gensokyo, but she won against a tengu?”

“Nominally, you would be correct,” Patchouli notes, seated lamely waiting for her next chance to read. “Cirno is an odd fairy, however. You studied her, I imagined you would understand her potential better than I.”

“Don’t be a bastard,” I spew. “I knew she was strong, but I thought Shameimaru was some kind of famous tengu?”

“Famous for annoying others,” Meiling touts. “She taunted Cirno before turning her back to her opponent. Cirno grabbed her chance to show Shameimaru how foolish that was. She stabbed Shameimaru with one of her icy wings.”

“It was only happenstance that it pierced the tengu’s spinal chord about the small of the back,” Patchouli annotates. “Not to apologize for that nuisance, of course. Some might observe it as the purview of divine judgment given her grandstanding.”

I parse this information and find myself at an odd conjecture, “So… what? You’re saying that Aya was being a dumbass and lost for her hubris? But back on the point, do you both think that Cirno could be trained to take out Meira?”

“I can be trained,” Cirno affirms. “I’ve been training a lot lately.”

“Thank you, Cirno, but I do need an outside perspective to the match up,” I settle the girl.

“…” Meiling and Patchouli stare for a moment that I might assess what’s happening.

I turn on Cirno and start questioning, “Cirno, what are you doing over here? I thought you were wandering the festival after the primaries.”

“I had a feeling my subjects needed me,” Cirno declares. “A strong leader listens to their people!”

“Do you mean we are your ‘subjects?’” Meiling asks with a giggle, kneeling down to Cirno’s toddling height.

“Of course!” Cirno proudly puffs with a pound to her chest. “All of my friends are subjects.”

The green haired fairy presents herself next to Cirno, and continuing to act as the interpreter, says, “She saw the old guy and Chen playing earlier and got jealous.”

Cirno decidedly ignores the comment, but a twitch in her haughty demeanor is evidence enough to what Dai said.

I decide now’s a good chance to ask something on my mind, crossing my arms and asking, “Cirno, do you think that acting like nobility makes you stronger?”

“What?! No!” Cirno defends herself with a swift turn of the head.

“Cirno, I’m not going to scold you. You know that, right?” I press.

She sheepishly looks at me, answering, “Yeah… yeah, being a leader means you’re strong, right?”

“What’s this about?” Meiling chimes in out of curiosity. “Cirno doesn’t often act like this.”

“It’s almost become customary that every time I see Cirno we talk about what makes someone strong, or why being strong is considered good,” I explain to the guard.

“Why being strong is good? It’s never crossed my mind to ask a fairy that,” Meiling admits. “What is your answer, Cirno? Why is being strong good?”

Cirno stands to attention and answers with a wise look, “Being strong means people see me as Cirno and not a fairy. I can make friends like that and protect them.”

“Well, I’m glad you remembered that much after a month…” I sigh. “You’ve gone quite off route of what being stronger means, though.”

“What do you mean?” Cirno asks. “Leaders are strong. Dai told me. Other fairies agreed. Then we all agreed that I would be the best leader.”

“But would those fairies be willing to do things if you asked?” I retort. “Would they fight for you if you asked?”

“Uh…” Cirno thinks on the question.

“Little green one, Dai,” I address, “would you fight for Cirno if she asked?”

“Well…” Dai pauses. She nervously answers, “I don’t want trouble, but I’d help if she needs it.”

“That doesn’t mean you’d fight if she wanted you to, though, does it?” I point out.

Dai screws her face over trying to argue the point.

“Alright, let’s try this, then,” I start. “Meiling, would you die for your master Scarlet?”

“In a heartbeat,” Meiling answers without a second thought. “Well… unless she’s the one trying to kill me,” she gives a second thought.

“I think that goes doubly so for Remilia,” Patchouli addends. “She would die for each of her servants, much to their displeasure.”

“Right, so that’s probably the right grounds for what a strong leader is,” I conclude. “If your ‘subjects’ don’t share that level of trust, you may want to pursue a different means of strength, Cirno.”

Cirno nods to herself, contemplating the meaning of the discussion. Thankfully, the obvious takeaway isn’t the most present thought for her, as she says, “So instead of being a leader, I should be stronger as a person. Right. So what was that you were talking about with the angry woman with a sword?”

“Meira?” Meiling picks up the conversation. “We’re worried for her because she’s gotten stronger as well. We only sort of know why, but we can’t convince her to be helped.”

“We want her to lose the next match,” I divulge the curious fairy. “If she loses she won’t have a reason to hold onto her newfound power. The problem is we need her to actually lose, so that would currently be up to you.”

“So? She’s not that strong, right?” Cirno blusters with an air of overconfidence only she can muster.

“She’s very powerful,” Meiling does not mince words. She puts a finger to Cirno’s neck and continues, “Any wrong move and she takes your throat.”

Cirno frowns at the accost in a sense of disbelief. She asks, “So how do I fight her? I’m the strongest, but I don’t know anything about swords.”

“Come, I’ll show you how to take her on,” Meiling commands the fairy.

Cirno remains totally obedient to the order, too interested in beating a tough opponent to notice her sudden shift to subordinate. That girl, I swear. Sometimes she’ll take out someone leagues above her, other times she’ll play pretend.

With their departure, Kasen, Patchouli, and I are left to spectate the end of the exhibition matches. Chen continues to rise through the ranks, a fairly large pool of participants to go through. I check my watch. 4:01PM. We’re closing in on the later part of the day, and the exhibitions are still trying to finish up. But even so, I decide that I need to tackle the problems as they come up, and I haven’t gotten back to the other one at hand.

I pull Kasen away to a different corner so that we might talk. She seems somewhat concerned that I’d take interest in her problems, but doesn’t mind my earnesty to try and understand the immediate issue. She almost seems to have expected that I’d follow up on my word from earlier, and that it wasn’t platitudes. They weren’t, mind you, but they sounded a lot like they were.

I start as I did before, “Sorry for how things went during your match. I said it before, but I’ll say it again to make sure you know that I didn’t expect any of that.”

“It’s fine, Tanner,” Kasen states, hands defensively waving me back. “And I’m telling you, you don’t need to worry about Ibuki and I. We’re able to handle our own problems.”

“That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t offer you any help that I can give,” I upturn.

“That’s… haah…” she sighs. “I think that a certain someone’s nosiness got to you. I doubt you’ve even met her and yet you’re so much alike.”

“Who do you mean?” I ask.

“Never mind that,” Kasen quickly deters the conversation. “Give me your honest opinion. What did the end of my match look like to you?”

I think on my answer, attempting to not jump to conclusions from the onset. “I’d say it involved two friends, maybe two close friends, but I don’t want to assume anything.”

“Do you think your assumptions are wrong?” Kasen coerces.

“No, not necessarily. It’s more like it’s a foolish thing to try and even approach a problem with assumptions unless you know you’re allowed to make them,” I argue.

Kasen observes the confidence I say that with, cupping a hand over her mouth and saying, “Maybe you’d be fine…” She lowers her hand and continues, “What do you know about Ibuki and I? Ran must have told you some when you visited me.”

“What? No. Ran told me next to nothing about you. She didn’t even mention that you’re an oni.”

“Yet you know?” she interrogates.

“Patchouli told me at the end of your match. It didn’t sound like any secret to her, so I didn’t figure it was… or maybe is?”

“Is,” Kasen confirms. “I would like less people to know whenever possible.”

“So that’s what Ibuki was talking about in your conversation,” I infer. “But that really shouldn’t matter between the two of you. Even if you’re living different lives that shouldn’t mean you can’t be friends.”

Kasen winces a slight amount at having to tell me, “Well… it’s a little more than that.”

“No…” I gasp, realizing that I’m stepping somewhere I really ought not to be. “Oh, geez. I didn’t think it was like that.”

Her eyes shoot to me in horror, flailing her words, “No, no, nothing like what you’re thinking! I was her subordinate, once. I mean, we maybe had that sort of partnership off and on, but we’re big enough to move past it.”

I groan, understanding the depths of my mistakes when involving myself. This is not the direction I want to take this conversation, so I return to the original topic, “Do you think that you would be able to patch things up in the right setting?”

“What would you think is the right setting?” Kasen asks with a gesture for me to share my mind.

“A lot of things would be better than an arena,” I conjecture. “Better question is do you know of a way to get her in person?”

“Sadly, not really,” Kasen informs me, shying away to hold her arm. “I would have left to contact her if I could. If I had to guess, she’s hiding in her mist form to avoid people. She acts like she uses it for nefarious purposes, but really she feels comfortable in that form.”

“She feels comfortable being mist? That sounds like an acetic thing,” I josh. “But, wait, if she’s everywhere at once as mist… does that make her omniscient?”

“As a matter of fact, yes,” Kasen confirms with a hint of surprise. “She’s not going to listen to what either of us have to say, but she can hear everything. She probably didn’t even wander far before disappearing, so she hears this area better.”

Is that how that works? Ibuki can become part of the very air and listen in to everything people say. What an absurd power. But at the same time, that means that she’s technically not hidden, doesn’t it? An idea strikes me, something just as absurd, but maybe possible.

“Kasen, come with me, we need to find Meiling,” I wave her beside me as I make for the door.

We go down the stretch of halls back outside. The fair grounds is a tad more open now that the villagers are starting to thin out. Night is still some ways out, but the walk home can take time. Not to mention how tired they’ll be after an outing like today’s.

“Where do you expect to find miss Hong? And, for that matter, what did you need to ask of her? If it was so pressing you should have mentioned it earlier,” Kasen nags, not unlike a certain someone I know.

As we continue walking further to the corner of the mansion I placate the hermit oni, “No, listen. I just had an idea while we were talking that maybe we’d be able to drag Ibuki out of hiding if we were to try and net her.”

“What?” Kasen asks, baffled by the assertion. “In what sense do you think you can cast any net that could contain Ibuki? She’s an oni that has turned into the atmosphere. You may as well attempt to grasp at the aether.”

“Funny you should say that. That’s about what I was thinking to do. Well, not me, but maybe Meiling,” I springboard from Kasen’s exaggeration.

Kasen stutters her step to stare at me, and says, “You’re serious about this? You want to grab magic and that will be the same as grabbing Suika? I can’t say I know what you’re thinking.”

I explain myself, “You said before that Ibuki has turned into mist. In my mind that would mean that she’s as small as particulates in the air, if not smaller. So if we can think of something that might normally effect her, we now need to do the same at a lower power for a greater volume.”

“So you think that you can have Meiling manipulate life energy to drag Ibuki back to one spot? I want to say I don’t follow, but I think I do. It still doesn’t sound like the correct conclusion,” Kasen mulls over.

“That’s the hypothesis. If Ibuki is small enough she might be approximated as part of the empty space much like a field. That’s only a guess on my part that something like life magic would be akin to electromagnetic fields,” I expand on my previous point.

“How many guesses are you making to create that ‘hypothesis,’ exactly?” Kasen questions. “No, before that, you’re assuming that I’m okay with informing someone of my personal affairs.”

“Ah, well…” I utter, trying not to get ahead of myself. I decide to add on, “I can always ask Ran instead. It will have to wait until after the tournament’s over for today, though, since she’s heading the match rulings.”

Kasen doesn’t respond for a few moments. I pass over my shoulder to see her deeply concentrated on the suggestion before answering, “While I have my withholdings, I also know that time is important. That’s assuming she’s still here; she normally hides when I’m around. I need a moment to think on it…”

We’ve rounded a few corners at this point, finding ourselves at the back of the mansion and away from nearly all of the crowd. Only some drunkards looking for a quiet place to sleep are stationed on various outdoor furniture where they can be, but not a sign of Meiling or Cirno yet.

I beeline to a gazebo over by the mansion’s edge. This portion of the grounds is quite strange, sporting no external wall along the edge. During the summer it seems nonsensical, only separating the manse from the forest by a stone’s toss of short grass, but in the winter the lake’s waterline rises and fills the space considerably. Coincidentally this makes the mansion technically an island in that case. Meiling has complained about forest animals that occasionally approach this time of year, but nothing major.

On approach, I spot Meiling and Cirno in practice. Meiling’s taken a hands on approach to training Cirno. She wields a wooden katana against Cirno’s odd icy mimicry of the same weapon. She drills strikes for Cirno to guard against, but her movement isn’t usual. They aren’t methodical and disciplined like I’d expect of the gatekeeper, but use momentum to get around the opponent.

Meiling seems to be familiar enough with Meira to copy her style, using her sword in a reverse grip and showing Cirno where she might strike with her hook.

They haven’t paid us any mind as we’re watching.

Kasen stands by observing, then quietly says to me, “I’ve made up my mind. You can take the chance to let Hong know if you think its necessary, but my opinion stands that I want less people to know. I’m giving you a conundrum, I know. There may be no way to help me right now, anyway.”

So she’s offloading the choice to me so that it’s my responsibility. She doesn’t seem to do it consciously, but it’s an easy enough ulterior motive to weed out.

I can’t hold in an amused sniff while shaking my head, and reply, “I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.”

[x] Resolve to let Meiling know about Kasen’s issues and seek her assistance on this matter as well.

[x] Wait until after the tournament for Ran to be available to help.

[x] Come up with a different idea. (Write-in)

You’ll get a bit more of Meiling and Cirno training next update, but we’re soon approaching the next rounds, so I expect things to ramp up as we thin out the contestants. As for the beginning of this section, I think I may have had a bit too much fun, but I can’t get enough of philosophical corner with Cirno. It strikes my fancy.
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So I may have been told that we hit the bump limit before posting the update. I went into autopilot while posting, so the update is going to be on the new thread as well to make sense of the votes.

The thread in question.
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