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“Alright,” I need only a moment to think it over, “throw some of you not being celibate with me in there, and we have a deal.” I laugh, meaning it as a bit of a joke—just to keep the atmosphere light.
“…You’re not one to mix words, are you?” she replies, taking my lighthearted jest at face value as a serious offer. I try to cut in to explain myself but she doesn’t really allow me a chance, “Okay, I’m fine with a little roll in the hay before we get things moving. We can share my bed if you’d—“
“Just… a moment!” I raise my voice over hers, putting my hand out and forcing her to silence with a combination of words and body language, “That was a joke, I didn’t think you’d actually go and--”
“I know,” she says, chuckling, “But I wasn’t.”
“Wasn’t… what?” Dare I ask…? Even if I dare not the words have already fallen from my lips.
“Joking.” She smiles rather deviously, putting a hand to her chin, “…Well this is awkward.”
“You know,” she adds, still grinning, “I think it’d be a good bit of fun. Well, at the very least. And you look like you could use a bit of stress relief, if you know what I mean.”
I can’t keep up, and I’m beginning to feel that I shouldn’t have opened my mouth in the first place. In all honesty I’m a bit torn on the matter. Part of me wants to follow through on the joking offer and find out what it’s like to go and mate with her, and the other part of me, well, doesn’t. The fact of the matter is, she’s serious about it—more so than I for sure, and I’ve not the will to make a serious decision because of some joke. I just want her to stop talking about it.
“Can we… maybe, change the subject?” I ask, hoping to drop the notion entirely in exchange for something a little more… desirable. I’d be satisfied at least with stalling for a while; talk about the weather while the thought sits and rots away the inside my brain like a parasite.
“What else is there to talk about? Caves? The ship? Oni?” she replies with another question, clearly eager on continuing down this path I’ve so clumsily laid out before her, “Besides, you brought it up.”
“Ugh,” I groan, a brutal reminder that I am indeed the one who set this course, and that nothing I can do will divert her attention from it. She continues to pressure me, as if she’s trying to tell me that I can and must commit to a decision here and now. Of course I’d rather not, but this is a hole I have dug myself into and all she seems to be doing is shoveling more dirt over top of me.
“Look,” I say, “You’ve been nothing but kind to me thus far, but I don’t want be forced into this because of some stupid joke.”
“Nobody’s forcing you,” she smiles, stating a plain fact. Only from a certain standpoint of truth, but no lie by any means.
“That isn’t the issue.”
“If you don’t want to just say so.”
“That isn’t the issue either!” I find myself growing frustrated. In her mind she only sees the possible outcomes of I will or will not have sex with her, but in my mind stands the heart of the issue that I merely do not wish to discuss the matter in a serious light at all.
“Besides, it really isn’t that big a deal,” still she refuses to let well enough alone, “Youkai don’t carry disease, and since we’re both female neither of us have to worry about pregnancy! I think it’s a win-win. …You are female, right?”
“It would seem that way, yes,” I say, unwilling to say more. Truthfully I’m a little perturbed by the fact that she had believed me to be anything but, though prior to my awakening in this cave gender identity—or the very concept of gender itself—was a non-issue. “Can we please just not talk about this anymore?”
“I wish we couldn’t, but you’ve started my mind down the slippery slope into the dirtiest filthiest depths of the gutter. A simple yes or no will satisfy my end just fine.”
…Why do I suddenly feel so tired? She continues to miss the point entirely, though she explains it more like she’s simply refusing to drop the subject. She tells me that she isn’t forcing me into anything, when her intention was to simply force me into making a decision.
>“I wish we couldn’t, but you’ve started my mind down the slippery slope into the dirtiest filthiest depths of the gutter. A simple yes or no will satisfy my end just fine.”
These sentences together are so wonderfully lewd.
[x] Why not have some fun? And this way you won't have that curiosity bugging you.
[x] Look at it this way: you can screw with people a lot more effectively once you know what it's like to screw.
This is complete and utter bullshit used in place of logic. Also, wings, tentacles! She's got toys!
[x] Why not have some fun? And this way you won't have that curiosity bugging you.
It's not like the first time is anything but a clumsy what-is-this-i-don't-even fest.
A good teacher with low stakes, relationship-wise, is pure gold.
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But if I’m going to be dragged into this kicking and screaming, why not have some fun? I’ve no reason to refuse her beyond my somewhat subdued dislike for spirit creatures, and I believe that in her case it would be a non-issue.
“Well then I suppose you’ll have to suffice with a simple ‘yes’,” I say, smiling as I start to pull the dress over my head.
“Woah, woah! Woah!” But she pulls it back over me. I don’t quite understand why; the garment is an obstruction that should be removed. I’ve seen humans strip before mating several times—enough times to know what is and isn’t normal.
“What?” I ask, “You don’t want to anymore?”
“Err,” she seems suddenly uneasy, “I can see that you’re eager and all, but… You’re not really supposed to strip out in the open…”
“Why not?” Again, I fail to comprehend her reasoning. Ah, or could it be that perhaps she doesn’t want others to see me? Has she begun coveting me like some prized possession so soon? Is it entirely healthy for her to think of me in such a light? Perhaps this has something to do with the reason humans wear clothing in the first place—that being seen naked out in the open by others revolts them.
“What’s with that stupid grin?” she asks, putting an arm around my waist. It takes a good amount of effort merely to keep from attacking her.
Sometimes, reflex can be a spiteful thing, and I’m not used to nor am I particularly comfortable with this casual sort of contact. Normally I’d just attack anything that came within arm’s reach of me, but it would appear that I’ve got to do away with a number of nasty habits merely to be close to her. I feel that this will be a long, long, oh so very long night.
“Come on,” she pulls me with her arm, guiding me into the belly of the ship, “We can do it in my room.”
The room she leads me to is familiar. In fact, it just so happens to be the same room in which I first met her. Nothing of course has changed since my first visit; the place is still run down and smelling of rot. She sits me on her bed and begins to take her top off.
“Last chance to change your mind,” she says, smiling. Truth be told, I think she’s nervous and projecting her own wishes onto me. I fail to see the reason for her unease, especially when she said so herself—that nothing but pleasure can come of this. Though I wonder if it would be wrong of me to re-think my decision.
I think this is a fairly obvious 'ARE YOU SURE' moment. Nothing particularly stressing about it. All you gentlemen need do is ask yourself, ARE YOU SURE?
Are you suuuuuure you want sex, audience? Are you 100% double sure? Well I'm gonna keep withholding it because sex must come with consequences and worrying and deliberation, even though our main character is an ancient tentacle monster and this entire section is completely out of character.
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I decide firmly against rethinking my choice. I’ve come too far and have become much too curious to turn back.
“Any reason why I should?” I ask, now finding time to pull the clothes off that Satori had stuffed me into. I look across the room to find Minamitsu pointing at me with another weird look on her face. I believe she’s begun to blush.
“You,” she stammers, “you don’t wear anything underneath that?”
“No. Why? Should I?”
“It’s up to you, I guess. I can’t exactly say I was expecting you to be so…”
“Defenseless? I dunno,” she shrugs, “It kinda makes me wonder if you even realize the severity of what you’re getting yourself into. …Do you?”
“Do all humans as so many questions before mating? Or is this just one of your quirks?” I’m beginning to half-expect she’ll back out at the last minute. Were I to answer her question plainly, yes I understand what this is and the importance it holds in the minds of humans. Of course I’m no human, and the act of sex to me is a simple matter of enjoyment in my mind. Perhaps she had expected me to act differently, and my seeming lack of concern bugs her.
I get to my feet, tired of waiting as she fumbles with her top. I push her up against the wall and press my lips to hers. Though…
I’ve no clue where to go from here. I’ve seen humans do it all the time, but I neither understand the act nor the greater significance of it. I simply know it’s a manner of courtship ritual designed to put both parties at ease.
Fortunately, she takes the lead, wrapping her hands around my shoulders and neck and— Wait, she’s serious? Her tongue? Is this how it works? Lost and confused, I fall quickly to her advances.
“Ahh…” I have to step back; my mind is a blur. I didn’t realize it was quite so effective. …But what if what comes next feels even better? What then? I now realize just how unprepared I am for this sort of thing. I hadn’t expected that such a simple contact with her would cause my body to react so drastically.
She smiles at me, throwing the rest of her clothing off far quicker than before. She seems plenty more eager than before to get started. I consider it proof that the method works.
“You know,” she says, pushing me onto the bed by her shoulders, “You’re not a very good kisser.”
“Well I’ve never done it before!” I argue, failing to produce a more emphatic rebuttal. My mind is focused entirely on her at the moment, and I want her to kiss me again. Arguing with her will not help to facilitate that.
“Call this hands-on training, then,” she quickly becomes comfortable with me, and quicker still does she take the lead. I can’t even think of resisting her at this point, and even if I wanted to the impossible is still impossible. I want her to do more of these things with me.
She kisses me again, and my mind goes entirely blank once more. Any unnecessary thoughts; any unease or reluctance I had disappears in an instant. I can only concentrate on the warm and fuzzy sensation of her kissing my lips. I feel a cold but comforting hand sliding down my body…
“Yeah,” she says, throwing a tattered bedsheet over the two of us, “cold hands, I know.”
“Eh?” I hadn’t realized it, but my body seems to have begun to act on its own. I find myself jolting and twisting at her every touch, crying out as a pleasure unimaginable envelops my senses. I hadn’t realized just how good a human body could feel.
Ahh, I don’t think I could ever want to go back. I love this. The closeless, the strange and new sensations, the base drives and instincts I never thought I had. I want to enjoy this. My body merely reacts to the sensations of her closeness, and can take a hike as far as my will is concerned. And then, she touches me. I nearly scream out as her fingers slide down to invade my body. It feels awkward, but the sensation brings with it an impossible feeling of warmth.
“You’re pretty sensitive,” she says, though I seem to have lost all capacity to speak. My body does most of the talking as she digs deeper and deeper into me as if trying to reach out through my navel.
“Ahhhhhhhh…” is about as much as I can manage. Were I in a more proper state of mind I believe it would sound something like, ‘hey, not too rough!’
But she pays little mind to my wishes, enjoying the tastes and sounds and sensations of my body at her own leisure. “Hey,” she whispers, “Not so loud!”
“Uhhnn…” I bite my lip, but silencing myself seems to be an exercise in futility. The moment she touches me somewhere that feels good I cry out even louder than before, and with each passing moment connected with her do I feel a sensation welling up and burning away deep inside me. I feel like it wants to get out, but every time I think about it the sensation dies down again. It’s frustrating.
I latch onto her body, looking for warmth. She cries out as I find it, and I try with all my might to simply not hurt her. Every part of my body that I can still control completely gravitates toward her, seeking to pull her closer. She yelps, “Ah, hey!”
“Mmm, sorry…” I mumble as I release her.
“Heh, a little lower if you don’t mind.” I listen, moving one of the blade-like appendages on my back down her body while still trying to stave off my body’s will to simply flail about, “No, no! Use the other side! The bluish ones!”
“Hahah, Ngh!!” I try to laugh, but then she strikes a nerve. The feeling becomes unbearable, and my body moves on its own as the heat buried inside me comes rushing to the surface, “Mmmh!”
“That’s right!” Minamitsu cries as I find warmth, “Right there!” I have difficulty realizing that I’ve begun to reciprocate what she’s been doing to me this entire time. I simply feel warmth and try to crawl deeper into it.
She begins quickening her movements as my insides feel like bursting. But what explodes is not only my body but my mind as well, as if every nerve in my body capable of feeling anything at all fires all at once. What previously was pleasurable before becomes a sensation near that of pain, and I fear that I might lose consciousness or simply die from it.
But I don’t. Minamitsu relents, and I’m left a quivering and heaving wreck of a youkai on her bed. I feel her hand and fingers withdraw, shuddering with the sensation. She kisses me yet again, not as deeply as before, and sits up beside me.
“Not bad,” she giggles, “for a first-timer.”
“Uuugh…” I still seem to be unable to form words coherently, “Wha—What was that…?!”
“Call it the joy of the human form.”
“That’s not what I meant!” I pause, having second thoughts about arguing with her now. But she stands, throwing her clothes on and not even allowing me the chance, “Where’re you going?” I ask, sitting up.
“Well,” she explains with levity, “After a good pillowing it’s only normal to go have a bath. And there’s a hot spring nearby that I think’d really hit the spot. But it’s up to you.”
“I’m tiiiired~!” I grumble, wallowing in some of the unwanted aftereffects of the exertion. I find myself coming out of a daze unlike any other, and though I don’t necessarily dislike what I had done. I am having difficulty understanding the sensations I felt and am still feeling, however. The one sensation on my mind most troubling is of course the re-emerging hunger. Any meal I ate prior to this feels as if it went to waste. Ahh, eating an entire city of humans now wouldn’t even begin to fill my stomach.
“Well you can stay here if you’d like, but you’ll stink tomorrow and nobody will want to be around you. Come on, let’s go.”
[X] Latch onto her, and let her lead the way. After this little adventure, it's safe to say you wouldn't mind having people around you.
A very good take on the reaction of a first-timer (not in sex, mind you, but in humanity)
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I begrudgingly concede, though as uneager as I am to get out of this bed a bath does sound like a promising proposition. I don’t expect the experience to be quite as lavish as my previous one, much the same as Minamitsu’s bed isn’t as comforting as Satori’s. But which would I prefer: physical comfort or peace of mind? I throw on some clothes and follow Minamitsu from the room, but only after a good bit of grumbling.
“Say,” I remember something as we walk, “You said something earlier, about how you can’t leave the ship? Is this okay?”
“It’s a short walk,” she says, leading me down to yet another deck I haven’t explored yet, “So long as I’m near the ship or a body of water I’ll be fine for a good while. An hour at least, a day at most. It seems to depend on a number of things, like how I’m feeling.”
“That sounds…” Awfully convenient, I think; almost custom-tailored to fit this particular situation. I wonder if she may be hiding something from me. I may have become somewhat intimate with her, but I still know little to nothing about her. “How exactly are you feeling, then?”
“Hey, don’t you worry about me,” she adds, “I can handle myself just fine.”
“Who says I was worried?” I ask, only curious to know her thoughts after our encounter. She doesn’t seem to be keen on sharing. My loss I guess, but I’ve yet to tell her anything either, so we’re both equal on the playing field.
“Down here,” she opens a small round hatch built into the hull of the ship, and throws down a rather long rope ladder. My guess is normally this hatch would be used for divers, but then again the room doesn’t appear to be pressurized. Were someone to open this over open ocean the ship would surely sink. Perhaps the ship really can fly, and this is used for surface access…? No, that’s too insane even to hope for.
Well, maybe this hatch helps to explain why this ship is buried down in this ravine. Perhaps it did sink, and by some miracle the trench into which it fell was drained of water. I look down through the hole into the deep blackness that extends below. When I look closely, there does appear to be a bit of light emanating from a protrusion a fairly long ways down. My guess is that this is our intended goal?
“A little while back,” she explains, being the first to climb down the ladder, “I went and did some exploring. Turns out this cave runs awfully deep. Like, stupidly deep. Walk far enough and you’ll simply melt away with the heat.”
“Interesting…” I say, impassive. I’ve seen how far these caves go, and could have gone wading knee-deep in magma had I the desire to become legless like a snake. None of what she tells me is surprising at all.
I climb down without a second thought. Heights don’t bother me, though she doesn’t seem to be thinking much of staring straight down into the abyss. No fear, not even a slight sense of awe. Come to think of it, a ghost has no reason to fear death, now do they?
“I can see up your skirt, by the way,” she adds, grinning.
“Keep staring,” I reply with delight, “If you look hard enough something might happen.” I refer of course to my ability to change shape. I could easily make her squeal, but think twice of doing anything in fear of sending her hurtling down to the depths below.
The climb down ends without incident, and she grabs a torch to light the way. She seems to know where she’s headed, and walks with confidence. Perhaps it’s merely an after-effect of her time spent with me; I’m feeling a similar effect myself. This human body is certainly full of quirks, and not all of them unwanted.
Before too long the warm glow of what smells like burning rock is enough to light the way, and she sets the torch against the cavern wall. I wait as she wipes her brow, staring into the yellow-orange light ahead. Honestly though, I didn’t know ghosts could sweat. I wonder if she’s more than she claims to be…
“See, it’s pretty amazing what I’ve found down here,” she says, “You go straight ahead you’ll find an entire sea of magma. Not where we’re going of course, but…”
“But, what?” I ask out of curiosity. I begin to feel that I’ve seen a place similar to this before. It reminds me of where I woke up. I don’t like it. I want to get out of here. But I stand steadfast; I won’t let a small feeling of distress drive me away.
“Yeah, I went a bit too far,” she turns around abruptly, “it all starts to look the same down here, and most of the markings I’ve left get worn away by the heat and gasses. Right this way, little lady!”
She quickly regains confidence, and this time leads me to the proper place. I start to smell sulphur, and something else I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s faint, but recognizable. I smelled something similar shortly before crawling up into Satori’s palace. Devices that appear similar to torches light the entrance to the springs and beyond with a crisp white light. I expect some manner of magicks are at work, and judging by the apparent lack of age of the devices their caster is still quite alive.
“And heeeeeeere… we are!” Minamitsu is beaming with excitement, but upon walking in I remember what it is I smell.
Corpses. The smell of death has filled the room, and the perpetrator sits alone as a single blemish in this otherwise heavenly scene. Satori’s corpse collector, what’s-her-name. I can’t remember much about her, and judging by her gaze she remembers nothing of me.
“Ahh?” she smiles at me, and only at me. An unnerving grin, “Visitors? Ohh~! And a familiar face! Still stuck in the underground I see?”
[x] Act smug "It's not so much being stuck than Captain Murasa convincing me to join her cause."
[x] "Are you going to be here long since I can't speak for the captain, but I cannot take a relaxing bath with the stink of corpses, no offense."
[x] Act smug "It's not so much being stuck than Captain Murasa convincing me to join her cause."
[x] "Are you going to be here long since I can't speak for the captain, but I cannot take a relaxing bath with the stink of corpses, no offense."
[x] Act smug "It's not so much being stuck than Captain Murasa convincing me to join her cause."
[x] "Are you going to be here long since I can't speak for the captain, but I cannot take a relaxing bath with the stink of corpses, no offense."
[x] Act smug "It's not so much being stuck than Captain Murasa convincing me to join her cause."
[x] "Are you going to be here long since I can't speak for the captain, but I cannot take a relaxing bath with the stink of corpses, no offense."
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“And you still reek of death,” I say, taking some minor offense in her words, “Though when the air is clean it really stands out.”
“Aww~ How mean~” she purrs, “You’re just a mean-spirited person, aren’t you~?”
“I’m no person, that’s for sure,” I throw my clothes off, hopping into the water.
The temperature is perfect; warmer than a human could withstand but not so hot that my flesh boils and melts away from my bones. The proximity of the spring to the magma below makes me wonder why it doesn’t just boil away into vapors.
“Then what exactly are you?” The girl shoots back, passing me a sly glance, “Most living beings can’t even come near this place because of the heat.”
“…” I Immediately look to Minamitsu, wondering if she might have knowingly put my life at risk. She seems perfectly comfortable with the heat though, and I doubt the thought had ever crossed her mind in the first place. The peaceful look on her face tells me plenty. Truly, this is heavenly.
I turn back to the affront to my relaxation time, eager to tell her nothing of myself. The smell alone is making me revile her presence; her personality is hardly an issue, but I don’t like that part much either. She’s far too… sneaky. I suppose it’s true that likes repel.
“”In any case,” she says, “You’re in for a world of hurt.”
Was that a threat just now? Does she intend to fight me? Here of all places? I don’t know if she’s stupid or just plain reckless. I prepare myself for a bit of mindless brutality—violence seems to be in no short supply in these caves, that’s for damn sure.
“Relax, gal,” she says, “You’re not gonna catch hell from me. Okuu is the one out for blood.”
“Still?” I don’t believe her. Nobody, not even that girl is dumb enough to pursue me after what I did to her the first time she attacked me.
“Still~” The nekomata slouches deeper into the water, trying a little harder than she should be trying to look relaxed, “That girl is a bit stubborn. Her head is as hard as it is forgetful. Try not to hold it too hard against her?”
“I might kill her.” I say, still disbelieving. The girl gives me a harsh look in response to my words, but Minamitsu interjects suddenly, brushing up beside me before either of us can add anything.
“So,” she says, “Pardon the intrusion, but just what the hell is going on here?” I can tell she’s breaking in at this moment only to keep us from fighting. I can say without doubt that I am truly grateful that she’s here at this moment to intervene. Without Minamitsu, the two of us would surely be going for each others’ throat at this point.
“Ahh~” the flame-haired girl replies, “About that~ Your friend there made a fool of my boss, see, and my bird-brained idiot of a friend has taken a bit of personal offense to it~”
“Heh, sounds like a real loser,” Minamitsu giggles, trying to side with me. I appreciate the gesture but I prefer to handle my own issues myself. Of course, I say nothing and allow the two some time to talk. The less effort I expend on gabbing the more I can relax, and taking a step away reminds me of how little the whole thing means to me.
I lean forward until my face is below the surface. The heat of the water warms my cheeks and allows me to be distracted from what the others are discussing. This is irresponsible of me as one of the main parties involved, but I’ve said all I wanted to say. The girl has given me a proper warning, despite the fact that she need not do so, and I appreciate her kindness.
But that doesn’t stop me from disliking her and the smell she brings along with her. I pick my head up and return to the fray.
“So,” I say, interrupting, “what brings you all the way down here?”
“Oh, this and that~” she gives me a vague reply while smiling toothily, “I’d already finished what I came here to do, and I just decided to relax a little. But talking with you is anything but relaxing. Way to go ruin somebody else’s fun~”
“Ah, something we can agree on,” I smile back, baring my own teeth. These animal youkai sometimes see the gesture of showing one’s teeth as either a challenge or as a cautionary. I don’t particularly care for one reaction over the other, but as much as I’d like to avoid a fight while I’m trying to relax I can’t help myself from teasing her just a little bit more.
“Hey, you two,” Minamitsu interjects once again, “Can’t we all just be friends?”
“I’d rather die.”
One of the replies was mine, but the sentiment shared was the same so it hardly matters which. The girl gets up to leave, and having had her bath disturbed she departs in a rather foul mood. I could call that an easy victory, were I to have even considered my exchange with the girl to be more than a simple display of spite.
“Hey, Nue,” Minamitsu leans over to me, cupping a hand around her mouth, “Who was that girl?”
“Dunno,” I reply honestly, “But I don’t like her, nor do I particularly care for the company she keeps.”
“I see,” she thinks quietly for a moment, I can’t tell if she’s thinking of what to ask me next or how to respond to me personally. Her quiet stare bugs me to no end, and I’m about ready to scream out in frustration when she finally does speak.
“So why don’t you like her?”
A simple question; too simple for the amount of time she spent thinking to ask it. I understand that she’s trying to get a better grasp of things, but I don’t wish to explain myself. I know, however, that I may have to tell her regardless of what I want. But I don’t have to now, so I decide to stay sketchy on the details.
“Long story,” I say, looking to the roof of the cave as my eyes search for something to keep my attention. Something immediately strikes me as odd about the rock structure, so I point up and ask, “Hey, why are the rocks up there so full of holes?”
“Oh, that?” she laughs, patting me on the shoulder, “Well, technically this is a reservoir for a dormant geyser. The rocks are porous to allow for a pressure buildup to vent to the surface, though… Before you say anything, yes you can get to the surface through them and no, you won’t come out in one piece.”
“Hmm…” I think for a moment. With my ability to reduce myself to a vapor I could easily escape from this wretched cave. I look at Minamitsu and then back to the cave ceiling, and decide on what I should do while the idea is still fresh in my mind.
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But I think twice on it, which is all it takes for me to have second thoughts on going to the surface alone. A bad decision on my part, I feel, but I now know that the option for escape always remains at arm’s reach. I’ve come across an interesting group of folk down here, and if staying with them means I have to spend a few more days—or even weeks—in this place, then it’s a price I’m willing to pay.
I say nothing to Minamitsu, who still knows very little in regards to my abilities. She has yet to fight me or even see me in combat, and it’s rare that I ever utilize my ability outside of combat as it has little purpose in the mundane events of day-to-day life. Or perhaps it does; whether it does or does not will not detract from the fact that it takes a lot of energy to use.
So I sigh, look to the ceiling longingly, and surrender the opportunity to escape—for now. And Minamitsu is none the wiser. She looks at me and smiles, in her eyes seeing a girl simply enjoying the warmth of the waters. I wish to keep it this way.
“So,” she says abruptly, without any warning at all, “You’ve already made enemies with the locals, then.”
She phrases it not as a question but as a statement—an observation. She wishes for me to explain why I’ve behaved so poorly in regards to the nekomata, I’m sure. Otherwise why bring it up again at all?
“I wouldn’t say enemies,” I reply, feeling a little more eager to discuss the events now that the initial emotions surrounding the unexpected meeting have passed, “at least I don’t particularly think of them as enemies. I simply don’t like them.”
“Why not?” she asks, leaning closer. Her shoulder brushes up against me.
I don’t quite know the answer myself. They’ve simply rubbed me the wrong way either by action or by personality. The particulars evade me, but the feeling of disgust and unease does not escape my recollection.
“I just don’t,” I simply say, unable to elaborate much further.
“But you like me, right?” she pushes her chest into me, a very human showing of desire and affection. I enjoy the sensation, but I don’t feel aroused by it. I’m sure that, were I human in even the slightest, I would be feeling the effect without a doubt.
“I see no reason not to,” I say plainly, scooting away as she smiles and nudges me. I avoid her now not because I dislike her or because I wish to avoid a second sexual encounter, but because breathing with her added weight upon my chest is difficult.
Come to think of it however, with my current stamina I doubt further sexual contact would be in my best interest. I should at least find something—someone—to eat first. As humans are in short supply down here in the underground, I may be forced to make a second trip to the Oni village for yet another bad-tasting meal.
“So you do, then?” she scoots over with my, nudging into me again and again as her smile grows wider and her cheeks become flushed. Her intention is very clear to me at this point, though her intent was fairly transparent to begin with.
“Do… what?” I ask, leading her on. I can’t exactly fulfill her wishes as I am now, but I can at least allow myself to enjoy a bit of playing around.
“You know~” she giggles, laying a hand on my belly and sliding it downward.
I stop her.
“No?” she asks as I hold her by the wrist.
“No,” I reply, letting her go. She seems surprised, but not upset, “At least, not now.”
“I don’t have the energy,” I explain, feeling strangely relieved to see her smile.
“Okay,” she says calmly, showing to me by withdrawing her hand that she’s willing to relent. Good, I think to myself, because I don’t want to have to fight over it. “But you do like me, right?”
“Like I said, I see no reason not to.” I don’t mind repeating myself in this instance. And maybe elaborating a bit, too, “You’ve shown me nothing but kindness thus far.”
Though I do wonder if her kindness is without ulterior motive. She has suggested nothing to validate my suspicions, but she has done little else noteworthy but bed me. I remind myself that I know so little about her, and that it might be fitting to give her a fighting chance. She has proven her worth in sexual relations at the very least, and perhaps she may meet many of my other needs as well.
“So, are you ready to head back then?” she asks, changing the subject, “or would you prefer to stay around here and chat a little more?”
I believe that I’ve answered her main question and, upon having her goals met she wishes to retire for the night… day… whatever time it is. I believe it in my best interest to head back as well, so we head back. The short trip through the caves wears heavily on my legs, and it feels much more tedious and difficult than the trip down. The fact that it is an entirely uphill walk in this direction does not help at all.
But we soon arrive back at the ship, and I am thankful to see it’s slowly disintegrating form over my head again. The two of us climb the ladder back up into the hull of the strange vessel and quickly return to Minamitsu’s room, where we are soon met by a certain blonde-and-pepper-haired girl.
“Ah, Shou,” Minamitsu says, taking a seat in her chair, “What can I do ya for?”
“We’ve examined much of the damage,” she says, “and all of it can be repaired with time and the proper materials, but…” her ears, eyes… everything about her seems to just droop, “we still can’t figure out a way to get us out of here.”
“Ah, yes,” Minamitsu doesn’t seem to share her hopelessness, “We’ll figure something out. Hell, I’d be willing to strap the ship’s timbers to my feet and walk out at this point if I felt up to it.”
“That,” Shou shares with the Captain a little giggle, “seems too silly to possibly work.”
“It is. Which is why I bothered mentioning it at all.” Minamitsu slouches in her seat, smiling, “You guys do what you can to get ‘er up and running. I’ll try to think of a way out of here.”
Shou nods and leaves, and Minamitsu breathes a heavy sigh as soon as the door is closed.
“This is bad. Real bad,” she shakes her head, covering her eyes, “I hate giving them false hope, but…”
I’ve seen this sort of demeanor before. Minamitsu’s eyes suddenly remind me of Satori. Her anguish shocks me, but I understand its purpose. I wonder if there isn’t anything I can’t do pull her out of this…
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I don’t feel like serving as a distraction to her sorry temper; it’s too demanding and I’m exhausted as it is already. I’d likely die of exhaustion were I to humor her or entertain her… Sexually, of course. I lay down in her bed as she frets over the possibility that there might be no way out of here. I come up with an idea or two at my leisure, none of them even remotely feasible. Or perhaps…
One thought stands out in my mind, and though I may regret this later I decide to put it to words.
“Hey, I have an idea,” I say, laying on my side and watching her perk up slightly, “Why don’t we use the geyser to our advantage? You know, blast our way out of here?”
“I’d thought about it a bit already,” she replies, “but the source is too localized. There isn’t enough heat to produce that sort of pressure. And even if there were… The steam already has a way to get to the surface. Rather than explode it would simply fizzle out. There wouldn’t be even a drop of water in this cave system were it to erupt.”
“So plug up the holes and flood the chamber with magma!”
“I wish it were that easy…” Her head falls back into her hands hopelessly.
“It is,” I say, “I can plug up those holes easily if I wanted, and I’ve made a powerful enemy who can generate a whole hell of a lot of heat.” I giggle at my own pun. I bet Parsee would appreciate its comedic value. Heh, Hell.
She seems to be intrigued by the idea, but not so confident as to run into my arms like I’m the best thing in this cave. …Which I am, don’t get me wrong; others are sometimes slow to realize. I’ve got a feeling that if I can lead Okuu into the geyser’s core for a fight, I can plug up the roof with my own body and generate enough pressure to blast this ship up into the sky. If the plan fails though, Minamitsu’s folk are back to square one and I’ll either be in a very deep grave or—more likely—having boiled bird for dinner for a while. The brooding Captain sees the confidence I have in my idea and smiles.
“Alright, I don’t see why we shouldn’t give it a shot,” she pauses briefly, troubling herself over something different, “well, beyond the very likely possibility of a complete cave-in where we’re all buried under a few miles more of rock and either die horribly or become trapped down here for all eternity… But I can’t think of anything better, so what the hell?”
“…” I appreciate her sudden levity, but I’m troubled that I hadn’t figured in the possibility of a collapse. The lack of sunlight in this place does point out the obvious fact that this is a cave, and that there is a ton of rock over our heads that could come crashing down at any moment… The environment in which we live truly is a fickly beast, is it not? But if that rock can be cleared away--somehow removed… or blown away…
Perhaps if we can build up enough pressure in this particular cavern at the very bottom, the rock above might explode outward were we to plug up any and all of the smaller offshoot caves. Divert the flow of water and heat it to a boil in a second’s time, this cavern would act as a sort of canon. My power of course cannot do that, nor would I expect even Okuu’s stupid power to control heat to provide the sort of force that could turn water into an analogue for black powder.
But I’ll think about that later. Something may just fall into place or come to mind after I’ve rested up—which is the first thing on my mind at the moment: rest. I find myself desperately wanting to sleep; this is a level of fatigue I’ve never in any of my previous days experienced. Yet another one of the wondrous weaknesses of the human body, I presume…? I could start a collection of these damnable limitations were they tangible.
So I motion for Minamitsu to come over and join me. She does so without much coaxing, though I expect she still desires sex that I am far too tired and hungry to perform. That’s another thing: I’ll need to satisfy that hunger soon as well, lest I collapse and waste away to nothing. And this human body I’m stuck with is nothing but skin and bones as it is, which begs the question, how long has it been since I’ve last had a decent meal?
Ah, yes, I’m reminded yet again that I’ve been asleep for what feels like ages. I’m sure it’s been centuries at the very least, and perhaps even a millennia or greater. Oh, I so very desire to see what kinds of trinkets humans have put together in my absence!
“Mmmmm,” Minamitsu interrupts my thoughts, pulling me closer, “You’re warm~”
“As are you,” I reply, feeling a bit stifled, “now go to sleep.”
“Mmmm~” I dare say the sound of her voice comforts me; a buttery smooth lullaby perfectly suited for driving me into a deep sleep. I close my eyes and fade into the world of darkness in which I am most at peace.
I awake from a dreamless blackness to find her gone and with the bed—and seemingly the ship as well—to myself, I…
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I have nothing to do, so I fancy a look around. I grab my staff and clothes, give myself a quick looking over in a small mirror on Minamitsu’s desk and head out once I feel that everything is in order. I’ve been through much of the upper deck already, so I decide to start at the lowest and work my way up from there. The diver’s port seems like a good place to start, so I head there.
The hatch is open. I find it strange only because I remember very vividly watching Minamitsu close it last night. It’s possible that everyone on board has gone for a morning bath and I had been left behind to sleep. An act of kindness or a simple abandonment I’m not sure, but I feel well rested and nothing much else matters. Further down are a series of small bulkheads for securing and storing cargo—all empty of course. Anything edible or drinkable would have spoiled since this ship first fell here.
What I find most intriguing, however, is not any of this but the seemingly out-of-place locked door ahead of it all. An obvious lock and bolt keep the door secured, but with all the cracks in the wood I can easily slip by without having to so much as blink at the mechanism. Inside is a small room too cramped for use by any human—too small even for use as a privy. A small ledge juts out and a decorated wooden box sits atop it. And despite its obvious value I am unable to figure out just what it does. Were I able to return to my human form I might be able to open the gold-frilled mechanism to see what’s inside, but this room is too small to allow me the space. I’m forced to give up and leave the box alone for now, but I won’t forget my curiosity.
I exit the room, returning to my original form. Of course as luck would have it I see one of the others climbing into the ship through the hatch. It’s Shou! I think for a moment whether or not I should question her about the room, and I fail to see any possible harm in simply mentioning it.
I approach her with a smile, “Hey, hey!” I say, unable to hide my childish curiosity, “What’s in that room?”
I point to the locked door which can easily be seen from here and watch as she considers simply ignoring me. Fortunately she does not, but her smile makes me feel a little uneasy.
“That,” she says, “is none of your concern.”
“Ohh~ Don’t say that~!” I figure that acting like a child may fool her into treating me like one. It makes the possibility of her humoring me and letting something slip a bit more likely, “What’s in there?”
“Nothing is in there,” she lies, “at least, not now. It used to be a storage room for our alcohol, but we had to put locks on it to keep Murasa out.”
“What’s this about me now?” Says the woman herself, popping her head up through the porthole. She spots me rather quickly, “Oh, Nue! You’re awake!”
“Yeah,” I play dumb, figuring that if I can incite something between these two, somebody might slip up. At the very least the ensuing argument would prove to be amusing, “Shou was just telling me how she had to lock you out of the alcohol closet.”
Minamitsu gives Shou a peculiar glance, “What alcohol closet?”
“Err, that one,” Shou points to the locked room, the look in her eyes begging for Minamitsu to play along, “You remember, right?”
“Oh, uhh…” Minamitsu grows even more confused, failing to understand the meaning behind Shou’s words. Suddenly though, she becomes agitated, “Waaaaait a second! You mean you’d been storing booze in with the hihatsu all this time and never told me?!”
Success! Thank you Captain Murasa!
“Captain!!” Shou yells.
“So hey,” I intercede, finding a good springboard for an interrogation, “What’s a hihatsu?”
“Don’t tell her,” say Shou, shooting Minamitsu a very angry glare.
“Hey babe,” Mimamitsu assumes a much more relaxed tone concerning the whole thing, “Cat’s outta the bag now, so why not let her in on it?”
“I don’t trust her.”
“You don’t trust anybody.”
“That isn’t true and you know it!” Shou becomes defensive, but also realizes that she can’t win this. Even if she convinces Minamitsu to stay silent while in her presence, I feel that I could easily work the information out in her absence. Shou may not be able to see quite so deeply into things, but she’s well aware that I won’t quit so readily.
“So are you gonna tell me or not?” I ask, smiling.
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“Sure,” I agree, seeing no reason not to at least join them while they eat. Despite my inability to gain any nourishment from the food humans and most youkai eat, it doesn’t mean I can’t consume or enjoy the taste of it… I think. It’s a safe assumption that this human body at least has the ability to eat normally, but I’ve been wrong before and I can’t quite say I’m ready to test my theory right yet.
So I follow the two to a small dining hall located on the first deck somewhere, and I take a seat next to Minamitsu. Shou sits across from us, perhaps to distance herself from me. Why she dislikes me is a mystery, but the fact is evident every time her gaze passes over me.
Food is brought out by the hooded girl while the three of us look at each other in silence, and a plate of… something… is set before me. I push it away at first, watching as the others eat heartily. The food is edible by their standards at least, but I cannot say I’ve seen it’s like before.
“You don’t like mushroom stew?” asks the hooded girl.
“Dunno,” I reply, knowing her intent to at least make me try it, but still feeling hesitant about actually consuming it. The last time I ate human food was out of desperation, and I remember very clearly being violently ill for days afterwards.
“What do you mean?” This girl is persistent, I’ll give her that.
“I can’t eat it,” I explain, “Human food makes me sick.”
“Hey, hey,” Minamitsu laughs, pointing at the girl with her spoon, “She’s insulting your cooking, Ichirin.”
“…Nazrin was the one who made it.” Ichirin replies meekly.
“So what’s in it then,” Shou asks with a jeering smile, “rat droppings?”
“They’re not rats!!” I hear a voice yell from the kitchen—presumably that of this Nazrin.
“She didn’t deny it,” Minamitsu laughs harder, pounding hard on the table.
“Is this… normal?” I ask, finding myself enjoying the somewhat jovial mood that hovers around the table.
“Normally,” says Ichirin, taking a seat next to Shou, “they’d have somebody to keep them in line.”
The mood seems to fade as soon as she says that, and Minamitsu mutters, “Way to crash the party.” I suppose there is still quite a bit I need to learn about this group. It’s apparent in the way this depression has so suddenly taken hold of them that they’ve seen some hardship.
So I think of something to take their minds off it, and act a little spontaneously. A bit of my energy finds its way into Shou’s food…
And she screams, “WAAAAAH!!”
“What?! What is it?!”
“Nazrin!!” Shou yells into the kitchen, hurling her spoon at the doorway where it simply curves toward and bounces off the wall, “Just what the hell are you trying to pull?!”
“Eh?” A head with mouse ears leans through the doorway, “…What are you talking about?”
“You know what I mean!” Shou thrusts a finger at her plate, “This!! You think that’s funny?!”
“Yeah!” Minamitsu jumps in, “Why does she get all the good stuff and I’m left with this swill?!”
“WHAT?!” Shou turns to Minamitsu wide-eyed, “Don’t tell me you actually [b]like[/i] shit like this!!”
“They’ve lost their minds, Naz,” the hooded girl, however, remains incredibly calm. She seems to see nothing out of the ordinary, or is very good at simply disregarding it, “Ignore them.”
The two standing idiots turn to Ichirin with eyes full of hate, and all I can do is smile and laugh quietly to myself. Undortunately my snide giggling seems to attract some unwanted attention from the others, so I just look up to them, shrug, and say, “What?” while trying to maintain somewhat of an innocent look on my face.
I also recover the energy put into Shou’s food before attracting any more attention from the two. Enough is enough, I think, and it’s time I try to bring the conversation back on track.
“Huh…?” Shou looks back to her food in confusion.
“You were seeing things,” Ichirin explains, “Probably inhaled too much sulphur in the baths, is all.”
“Oh,” Shou takes her seat.
“Does sulphur even work like that?” Minamitsu asks, hardly stopping to breathe as she inhales the rest of her meal. She turns to me all of a sudden, Ah, hey Nue, lemme go show you what’s in that locked room.”
She grabs me by the hand, at which moment Shou grabs her wrist as well. And here I’d thought the situation had worked itself out, but my motives still seem suspect to a number of them. The idiot blonde-and-pepper girl shakes her head, and I half expect the black spots to simply fall right out. Seriously, how does she get it to stay that color? Does she wash her hair in ink or something?
“Whaaaaat~?” Minamitsu scowls, finding no fault in her actions, “If she’s going to spend some time here she has a right to know.”
“No, she doesn’t” Shou says, “Not until she proves her dedication to our cause.”
“Oh, that, pfft~” Minamitsu waves her hand, “Don’t you even worry about that. I got this one, alright~?”
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“So uh…” I have nothing further to add, and no striking questions on my mind to distract me, “lead the way then!”
I’m particularly enthusiastic at the moment, probably only because Shou is treating this as what to her I’m sure seems a life-and-death situation. And who knows, perhaps it is, which makes me all the more excited to see what they’ve hidden.
“Not!” Shou bars the doorway, “…so fast!”
“What now…?” Minamitsu seems more annoyed than deterred at this point. Shou’s perseverance knows no bounds and frankly, it’s gotten on my nerves as well.
“I’ll permit her to see the hihatsujust this once, but don’t expect me to be so forgiving later,” Shou takes a firm stance, but moves aside.
Minamitsu leads me from the room, and back down to the hold. She stands staring at the locked gate and says, “You know, to be honest, I didn’t think Shou would have caused such a stir about it.”
She fumbles with a keychain she produces from her pocket, and removes the lock. The chains come off and the door creaks open. Inside is that gold-encrusted wooden box which seems to serve no purpose but to look attractive.
“I guess it’s no wonder,” Minamitsu continues, “After we lost Byakuren it’s been somewhat of a downhill spiral for her.”
I reach out to touch the box, but Minamitsu grabs my hand, “Now, I don’t mind showing it to you, but I’d never hear the end of it if Shou found out I let you touch it. I know you want to, but it’s really all we have left of her…”
“Of who?” I ask, watching closely as she removes the box from the storage compartment. Upon further visual inspection it seems to have a hinged lid, which signifies that it holds something. Ohh, do I ever want to see what’s in it!
“Byakuren,” she explains, “I suppose you could say she saved our lives, or in my case what little I had left. Here,” she sets the box down on an overturned and empty crate and opens it. What comes out is not what I had expected.
“That’s…” I say, feeling somewhat disappointed, “just a dirty old clay bowl.”
‘Dirty’ is about as accurate a description as the thing could have. It’s made of clay, covered in dust, with a small crack running down its side. I’m surprised the bowl didn’t turn to dust the moment Minamitsu laid a finger on it. It must be ancient!
“It sure is,” Minamitsu seems far more enthusiastic about it than I could ever be. I guess it does hold a bit of significance to her as belonging to what I can only assume is a dead old friend.
And then, she drops it.
Her hands fall, but the bowl doesn’t. It simply stays put, floating in midair as if held up by strings. Or more likely cobwebs given the bowl’s outward appearance. It neither spins nor wobbles, and seems incredibly stable as Minamitsu slowly and gently passes it from one hand to the other.
“How are you doing that?” I ask, wondering if Minamitsu isn’t secretly some manner of sorcerer.
“It’s an old Buddhist magic,” she explains, “I can’t explain how it works but the bowl is basically enchanted. It’s what makes the ship fly.”
Disbelieving, I wave my arms below and above it, looking for the wires or some other cheap trick. Minamitsu seems displeased with me for doing so, but I need to verify for myself that this is real. I’ve encountered a limited number of enchanted weapons in my days, but never something so mundane as a clay bowl.
“…What purpose does it serve?”
“I just said, it makes the ship fly.”
“It’s just a bowl. How can it make a whole ship fly just like that?”
“’If you have faith that it will, then it will,’ is what Byakuren said to me,” she smiles and laughs, reminiscing, “I thought the same thing as you when she said it, but for what it’s worth it works.” She takes the bowl and carefully places it back into the box, “Is your curiosity satisfied now?”
“I was honestly expecting something more… you know, grandiose.”
“I dunno,” I reply, unsure of exactly what I had expected, “but definitely something more than a silly old bowl that flies.”
“’Not all that glitters is gold,’ was it?” She smiles and locks the room back up, “Come on, Shou’s probably wetting herself worrying right about now.”
“Not exactly,” says Shou, having followed us the entire way down. She doesn’t seem pleased at all, but come to think of it she never seems too pleased when I’m around. I wonder to myself, just how many bugs can one person have shoved up their ass before they start to vomit flies.
“Oh, Shou…” Minamitsu doesn’t seem to have expected this either, but takes it somewhat in stride, “and for what reason did you see fit to follow me all the way down here?”
“I have my reasons,” Shou replies, scowling.
“You thought I was gonna break it, didn’t you~?” I decide to speak up. A decision made against my better judgment, but I’ve grown tired of Shou’s distrust of me, “That dirty old bowl~”
“I still don’t trust you, girl,” she says.
Her insult is unintentional I’m sure, but still very tangible in my mind. The fact that she has called me ‘girl’ implies that she thinks of me basically as a lesser being than herself. And now, because of her poor choice in words, this girl suddenly feels the need to remind her of the fact that she is addressing a full-fledged youkai; especially one not to be taken lightly. I hold back my impulse desire to tear her face off where she stands, and I continue down a more civilized path.
“So,” I say, taking a seat on the upturned crate beside me, “am I going to have you spying on me the entire time I’m here? Because I’d rather like to put a stop to it here.”
“I had no intention to spy on you,” she declares, an obvious falsehood given her entire demeanor. I can see in the way she holds herself that it’s a lie. That, and she blinks too much!
“Oh, don’t lie,” I say, “I’m not as naïve as you think I am, nor as young. You were still stuck on your mother’s teat while I was out prowling the countryside, of that I’m sure. Now, let’s start again. Are you going to keep this up or will I have to kill you?”
“Nue!!” Minamitsu yells, trying to intercede between the two of us. Of course, she’s too late. I have issued a challenge and only Shou or myself can see it through. Minamitsu’s outrage is duly noted, but pushed to the back of my mind.
“Well?” I press her for an answer, allowing a bit of my energy to seep out into my surroundings. So long as I recover some of it later I won’t go hungry right away. “It’s your choice.”
“You’re taking this too far, Nue. Knock it off, okay?” Minamitsu grabs my arm, despite her obvious hesitance to do so. Her voice quivers and her hands shake. I don’t know what she sees, but in her eyes I can see a mix of disgust and abject terror. Her ignoring those feelings and latching onto my arm anyway makes the move that much more profound in my mind, and for her determination I relent.
Alright, alright,” I say, deciding yet again against my better judgment to give Shou the benefit of the doubt. I turn to Shou, who’s face has gone a deathly white, “I think she gets the idea.”
I step past her, giving the scared-stiff girl a pat on the shoulder. She jumps and screams, but I take it in good spirits, “No more spying, okay?”
“Good, then it’s settled,” I switch gears, “I’m hungry. Let’s go find some humans!”
“Th-there aren’t any!” Shou chokes back her fear and speaks, “Not down here.”
“Well then hurry up and get me to the surface,” I pass her an angry glance. Now that she recognizes me for something closer to what I am, her reaction to the look is… favorable in my eyes.
But not entirely so, “There’s a way out of the caves just past the Oni village, if you’d be so kind as to leave and not bother us ever again.”
“Is that so?” I wonder why I’ve heard nothing of this before. Perhaps I should give it a look.
>“Is that so?” I wonder why I’ve heard nothing of this before. Perhaps I should give it a look.
[x] Perhaps you should give it a look.
-[x] Think of a way to get to the surface ASAP. If not for Minamitsu, then for the idea of feeding on something that doesn't taste like shit.
Well, they didn't take it too badly I guess. That's a victory right?
I was in a bit of a writing mood yesterday, so yeah. With big lumps of text sometimes comes a bit of forced direction. And the issue of Nue eating normal food will be revisited shortly, provided she doesn't just leave the cave system as per Shou's advice. I'd apologize and say it won't happen again, but I never am completely sure what'll be thrown at me next.
So slow day on THP today, huh? I'll take what I can get since I'm in the mood for writing, but I'll try not to go overboard like before. I'm depending on you guys to keep me in line~
“Oh?” I don’t see the harm in at least looking, at least to keep a list of options open, in case the business of getting the ship out of the ground goes on for longer than I’d like. I feign a bit of surprise, trying to hide the fact that I already know of a way to be rid of this wretched cave, “There’s a way out? Why didn’t you say so?”
I head to the upper deck, and Minamitsu follows me the whole way with a troubled look about her. “You’re not really leaving… are you?” she asks me hesitantly. It’s obvious that she wants me to stay, but I still don’t know if I really want to if Shou continues to be overly wary of me.
“I’m gonna go give it a look,” I tell her, “No promises, but as it stands I wouldn’t mind hanging around here with you a little longer.”
She seems relieved to hear that I might return, but still worried about the possibility that I won’t, “Mind if I have one of the crew go with you? They know the way, at the very least.”
Has she grown suspicious of me as well? Or is she simply trying to help. I wonder if it isn’t a mix of the two, though I doubt her suspicions about me are quite as severe as what Shou has brought to the table. I’d give her the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t want to deal with the hassle.
“I’d rather you didn’t,” I say, “but so long as it’s not Shou you send, it’s your prerogative.”
“What about Ichirin? Or Nazrin?” she asks. The fact that she even bothers to ask me is somewhat reassuring, but she is asking me who I’d rather have supervise me, so I’m still none too pleased. She seems intent on it though, and I wouldn’t doubt that she’d still send someone after me even if I had forbidden her.
“Fine,” I sigh, “but I won’t stand for them getting in my way.”
“Oh, don’t worry, she won’t,” Minamitsu smiles.
“Better hop to it then,” and without warning I jump over the side of the ship, disappearing into the cave system before Minamitsu has a chance to rally the troops. I really, really don’t want to be followed, after all. I am a little loathe to leave in such a fashion despite its necessity.
And it seems I’ve gotten away cleanly; so far I see nobody coming down after me. I navigate the maze of tunnels by memory alone this time, and upon reaching the larger cave system I turn away from the fires of the Oni village and head off into the darkness in the opposite direction. Shou was none too clear on her direction, but where I am now there are only two ways to go and one leads straight to Satori. It’s a sure bet that what I want isn’t that way.
My eyes adjust quickly, and I spend no time waiting around. At the very least I’d like to take a quick trip to the surface for a bite to eat before coming back down, but there’s no telling if I’ll be able to make it out so readily. I’d hardly be surprised if the Oni were to leave a guard or two by the cave’s exit, so I stay on my toes.
I see lights up ahead, and am surprised at how quickly I come upon them. In the darkness they seemed to be farther away than they truly were. A long bridge ahead spans over a colossal chasm, the depth of which seems endless. A lot of bottomless pits down here, it seems. A familiar face stands leaning on the railing, and she smiles at me.
“Oh,” says Parsee nonchalantly, or if anything with a hint of disdain, “You.”
“Hi to you, too,” I keep walking, not bothering to stop for idle conversation. I’d rather not be bogged down here and allow Minamitsu’s babysitter the time to catch up.
“So where to?” she asks, following me, “You know there’s a toll to cross this bridge, I hope.”
“I won’t be paying it, that’s for sure,” Having no money or belongings to my name I find this to be self-evident. No need to beat around the bush here.
“Well then,” she matches my speed as I begin to grow eager to get away from her. Something about her suddenly makes me uneasy, “I suppose I could throw you into the pit~”
“Nah, I’ll pass,” I say, unable to pinpoint exactly what about her is bothering me. She didn’t give off this feeling of negativity before… Perhaps it has more to do with the way she hounds me and less to do with her aura than I think.
“No,” she stands in front of me, “You won’t.”
“Oh?” says a voice from behind, “If it’s payment you want I’ll gladly pay for us both~ Would you like it in gold or cheese?”
I look down to the small mouse-eared girl standing just behind me. I’d been so focused on Parsee that I hadn’t noticed her. What a disgrace; I should have noticed her!
“…Nazrin, I take it,” I grumble, barely able to put her face to a name. I believe this would be the third time I’ve laid eyes upon her.
She ignores me, staring intensely at Parsee, “I have peanut butter if you’d prefer? It’s delicious!”
“Ugh, just go!” Parsee stomps her foot, causing the bridge to rock, “Just… Get out of here!”
“Thanks,” Nazrin smiles, “We’ll be back~”
“So,” I say as I walk, watching Parsee’s figure fade into the distance, “How did you do that?”
“She hates mice, I guess,” Nazrin grins slyly, “most elegant women like that do.”
“Elegant…?” I wonder if there’s something that I’d missed regarding Parsee’s… elegance. Then again, I did first run across her when drunk, laying in a pile of rocks with her shirt half undone, so perhaps my impression of her is unique.
“Suure~” Nazrin crosses her arms, paying no mind to the very, very steep drop just a misstep away, “All women have a certain elegance about them. Even you.”
“I do? Really?” Now she’s just humoring me, “Where?”
“You need to spend more time in front of the mirror, girl,” she nudges me with her elbow, to which I respond by nearly falling head-first into a never-ending free-fall over the bridge’s railing.
“Ah, sorry, sorry,” she giggles, tugging on my shirt, “I take it you’re not used to heights?”
“Heights are one thing,” I say, “being pushed over the edge is another.”
“Again, apologies,” she doesn’t seem to ever stop smiling, “Well don’t you worry about me. I know I should be following you and whatnot, but I have my own reasons for being here. Run away if you like, I won’t bother chasing you.”
“Good to know,” I say, glad to finally be on hard ground when the bridge finally does end. I take a single look back and, other than the lights keeping the bridge illuminated, I can’t even see to the other side anymore. It certainly has grown dark in here.
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Dark, and the cave has begun to taper down. I must be nearing the end, or at least I hope I am. I’m as lost as I ever could be down here, and since Nazrin seems to know where she’s going I might as well follow her.
“So,” I say, trying to strike up conversation, “you’re saying… That if I just decide to run, you’re not going to try and stop me?”
“Nope,” she answers, plain and simple.
“…Well where’s the fun in that?”
“Can’t say there is any,” she points ahead, “Here we are by the way. Oh, and it looks like we have company.”
Company…? Ah, she’s right! I can see the silhouettes of two figures standing in the dark. I can smell them from here, the oily scent of feathers and putrid rotting flesh. What my nose tells me fills me with dread; I had hoped I wouldn’t have had to meet these two here, and at this proximity I don’t think turning tail is an option. I come up to face the two properly.
“Well?” I ask, “What is it this time?”
“I thought you’d come this way eventually,” says the taller of the two, taking two foreboding steps forward, “You’re gonna pay for what you did to me!”
“Oh, give it a rest Okuu!” the smaller one says, “You brought that whole mess upon yourself, remember?”
The both of them step closer to where I can see them, and I know for dead certain now that my nose hadn’t lied. Before me stands Okuu and that nekomata… what’s-her-name, and neither of them look too pleased to be out here greeting me. I’m none too pleased to see their filthy ilk as well, so I suppose we’re all on even ground. I ready my spear just in case they decide that talk is cheap.
“You did,” I answer, ignoring Nazrin… if she’s still even beside me. I can’t quite see her in this level of darkenss. These two seem eager for a fight, and it doesn’t seem like it’ll be long until they get what they wish for.
“I wasn’t talking to you! Shut up!” Okuu yells, flames licking at her feet as she begins to grow irritated. The sudden instant of light allows me to see clearly what surrounds me, though hardly long enough to commit it to memory. What remains of the fires casts a small enough glow that I can at least see the two’s faces.
“Hey!” The nekomata slaps Okuu across the head, “What did we just talk about?!”
“No. Fights!” The two seem to come to an understanding quickly, if only by the nekomata’s complete domination over the other.
Well it’s obvious who the one in charge is, and I turn to her, “So if it’s not a fight you’re after why bother coming to meet me all the way out here?”
“Oh, that?” she grins, “That was just an excuse to have the bird-brain ta—“
Slap! “Don’t interrupt me when I’m talking, woman! …Now, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted--!” The cat-girl’s words in combination with an awful threatening stare cause Okuu to jump back. She’s got the girl completely under her thumb, doesn’t she? “That was what I told her to get her to come out here. Now in reality, it’s come to my attention in the short while we’ve been separated that Satori would like to speak to you again, and I aim to bring you back. Would you be so kind as t--”
“No,” I say, seeing straight to the crux of the issue at hand. Satori wants me back at her place, and her pet has seen fit to bring this about… Is what the nekomata has said—all she knows. In reality, I think Satori just wants another pet, and thinks me to be the perfect candidate. She wasn’t entirely willing to let me leave when I was there initially, and I figure that for her it was a good solid chance to increase her repertoire slipping right through her fingers. This cat-girl standing before me is insightful, sure, but she fails to see the issue in that I don’t have any want or reason to ever see Satori again. There is no manner of bribery that could change my mind!
“You sure?” she asks, bowing her head in just the slightest.
“Absolutely.” I cross my arms.
“Can I kill her, then?” Okuu asks, pulling together the weapon on her arm. It seems to simply appear out of thin air, which tells me it runs on some sort of magical energy.
“No, you may not,” the cat-girl puts up her hand, making Okuu cringe slightly. She looks back to me with a smile, “Won’t you perchance… reconsider?”
Ah, I see now. This is classic strong-armed extortion. I either comply with the nekomata’s wishes, or she lets her little Okuu loose on a rampage. The former is no good, as a return to Satori’s palace is out of the question entirely. The latter isn’t much better; I’m too far away from the geyser to give the fight any purpose, and I don’t think Okuu is stupid enough to simply follow me the entire way.
That, and Nazrin actually hasn’t vanished completely! Surprisingly she’s still right at my side, smiling as if trying hard not to laugh. I don’t think I could use her to my advantage.
[x] Do you want the long answer or the short answer?
-[x] If a fight does break out, try your theory about the geyser, the following and the crow's stupidity. You might end up being surprised.
It seems like the easiest way to get the crew to the surface.
PS: If you don't know the joke (if that's even posible) the short answer is 'No' and the long answer is 'Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo'
To use her is one thing, to ask for her advice is another. She seems to have something on her mind, so I turn to the little rat and say, “Hey chuckles, any ideas?”
“Yeah,” she replies, as my two aggressors stand patiently awaiting my answer, “How’s about you go with ‘em.”
“What?” I don’t believe this! She’s siding with them? I suppose she wants to get me off her back as much as Shou, huh? Why does she seem so confident? The little brat!
“You heard me,” she grins, “go with ‘em. Just make sure you stop by the ship on the way back, got it?”
“Huh…” That’s right! The ship is on the way to Satori’s palace! The little runt couldn’t have been more obvious in her insinuation had she gone so far as to wink at me. Of course, to avoid sudden suspicion from these two idiots I’ll need a reason to head back that way. Well, maybe.
“Yeah, that’s right…” I say, thinking on the fly, “I completely forgot. Heh, silly me.”
Of course if I say anything specific at least the nekomata would start to question me about it. Keep the details vague and she won’t know where to begin. If I just stay quiet until I get to the ship there will be no problems.
“Alright,” I say, resolute and heading back the way I came, “I guess it won’t hurt to at least hear her out.”
“Excellent!” The nekomata seems happy, to say the least. Okuu still seems eager to fight, and frowns when I simply decide to comply. Happy to disappoint her. Both of them follow me, Okuu more or less in silence. The cat-girl is, as I expected, chatty as hell.
“So it’s nice that you’ve finally decided to see reason,” she says as I try to ignore her and walk, “but why the detour? I don’t believe Satori will take up too much of your time.”
“Yeah?” I tread lightly across the bridge, wondering to myself what would happen if I simply were to push one of them over the ledge. Okuu has wings, and is likely capable of at least limited flight, but the nekomata… Ohh, she’d be so dead! I smile just thinking about it.
“Of course!” oblivious to my silent scheming, she continues, “She isn’t quite as terrible as you might think. Actually, she’s rather—“
“’Pitiful,’ is the word I believe you’re looking for,” I say, trying to drive a dagger or two under this girl’s skin. With each passing step I intend to aggravate them both just slightly more. Perhaps she’ll make the mistake of attacking me while we’re still on the bridge, “Your owner is pitiful.”
“She is not!” Okuu yells, flaring up again.
“Stop that! You’ll light the bridge on fire!” the nekomata swiftly disciplines her for it, too. Then she says to me, “I’d like it if you’d not do anything to anger Okuu further.”
“I’m only stating what’s on my mind,” I laugh, “she should learn to hold her temper.”
“…” Point made, I assume. Both girls fall silent.
I reach the end of the bridge, and the two behind me are suddenly a little worse for wear. Emotionally, at least. My plan seems to be working flawlessly; insult the master and the servants become upset. I almost envy their level of loyalty, as something like that doesn’t come easy to youkai. Too many insults though and I’ll find myself in a greater heap of troubles than I’d like. I’m not even near the damn boat yet!
“So,” I change the subject, asking for a bit of clarification before I decide to outright attack them, “what does your master want of me?”
“Dunno, err… Satori wasn’t too clear on the details, so…”
“So you’re just an errand girl?” I sigh, “Just my luck…”
“Actually, she’s more of a meddler than anyth—“
Slap! “Shut… UP, Okuu!”
“Ahh, well…” I can see the cave from here, “This is close enough.”
“Close enough to what?” The nekomata becomes suspicious and on her guard as I turn around…
…And lay a punch straight to Okuu’s jaw. Surprisingly she doesn’t lose consciousness that instant, but she does go weak in the knees. As she falls to the ground I step into the darkness and turn into mist. The nekomata rushes to her aid, but Okuu simply casts her aside.
“Come and get me, you bitch!” I yell before my ability to speak is lost in the transformation.
But I don’t run yet, oh no. I need to give this bird brain a bit of direction before she goes and starts setting things on fire. So I reach out, my hand materializing just enough so that I can give her hair a good hard yank while she’s still getting up.
“You… little…!!” she gets to one knee, aiming her arm-torch straight for me. I come up behind her and kick her.
“Come out where I can see you!!”
At this point the nekomata is simply ineffective and unable to control her ‘muscle’. She tries to calm Okuu again, but Okuu makes a strong point as she pushes the arm cannon into her face. As expected she backs down quietly, and I make myself whole just long enough for them both to see me before running off into the tunnels ahead.
Okuu gives chase, following me in a blind rage. Her only intent is to grab me and rip me apart or maybe roast me alive, but thanks to her inability to see past her hate I find it difficult to lead her through towards the ship. She gets lost several times, and I have to verbally and physically berate her to put her back on the right path. And when she finally does take the right path, she sees the ship and aims directly for it.
“Woah!” I yell, tripping her, “We can’t have that, now can we?”
“I’ll blow it up!” she yells, scrambling to her feet, “I’ll blow it up and then I’ll KILL YOU!”
The weapon on her arm begins to glow, so I throw her down into the pit before she has a chance to fire it off. The foolish bird, she doesn’t even try to fly, and hits the rock floor chest-first with a heavy thud. Coughing and gagging, she jumps up.
As she clutches at her chest, I take her by the head and throw her into the tunnels ahead. I don’t have the freedom to sit idly by and wonder if this will work, so I run in after her, dragging her along the walls and floor before thrusting her into the reservoir.
She lands in the steaming water, struggling as the hot liquid sizzles against and burns her skin. Seems she isn’t as acclimated to the heat as the nekomata or myself, which strikes me as a bit odd considering her choice in weaponry.
Ah, no, wait. That’s not it! It’s not the water that’s burning her, but her own power starting to run wild as her rage channels it! The heat from her own body is causing the water to boil around her!
“RRRAAAAAAAARRRGGGHHH!” she lets out a feral roar, seemingly unable to even form words any more. I collect myself in the far end of the geyser’s reservoir and, laughing, I continue to berate the girl.
“Hahahaha! What’s wrong?” I ask her as she charges, “it’s just a little hot water!”
I catch her mid-charge and hurl her into a wall, which produces a satisfyingly hollow sound as her head impacts. Fitting her head is as empty as her threats. I scatter myself again and rush up towards her, pulling her into the water by her throat. I hold her under until she starts to struggle, then let her go. She comes up gasping for breath. I can’t have her drowning until I’ve succeeded doing something to help free the ship.
“Really, you’re such an idiot…” I frown, taking a step back and giving her some room to breathe, “How’s about when I’m done with you I go back up and take care of your little friend, huh?”
“Ahh… Hah, Do--*cough* Don’t you dare!”
“Hmmm…” I give her a moment to collect herself, and wait to attack until she’s standing. I suppose I could continue with her where I left off… That is, if I didn’t think it would negatively impact my entire plan to free the ship, but ahh… Well, who cares? I’m having fun as it is, so why not—
I gave her too much time. The room bursts into flames, and the water vaporizes instantaneously. A column of dense flame shoots from her torch and impacts the wall behind me. She missed, but as I look back I see the damage it caused.
To my amazement, she bore a hole straight through the bedrock. Rapidly cooling magma spews forth into the chamber, nearly engulfing my feet. Even with my tolerance to the heat, I’ve begun to sweat.
“Hey,” I say to myself, “This might actually work!”
I can’t allow her to fire that thing again, but as I approach her I’m suddenly sent reeling backwards. She didn’t attack, so why is it--!
I jump up for another go, only to face the same result. I fly backwards, nearly landing in a pool of hot lava. The heat singes my hair and clothing as I roll quickly away.
“Nue!” Okuu yells, “Satori be damned, you will die NOW!”
[x] Focus all your power in a single point and use it to send her flying.
-[x] Then high tail the fuck outta there
Whatever is sending Nue backwards, won't probably work if Okuu's sent flying away and, with the difference in technique, she will probably be able to defeat her brute force.
[x] Wait. Did she just say Satori? Damn that woman and all the trouble she is causing you.
[x] Who the hell does this pet thinks you are? You are the goddamn Nue. Show her the true meaning of the word fear.
[x] Use your full power to crush her. No more use for plans, if she uses raw power, you use raw power too. Defeating her pet will surely send a clear message to that woman.
I roll away as she slams her food down where my head used to be and, grabbing her by the leg I can easily pull her over. She screams with rage as she falls into the magma, which rather than burning away her flesh as she sinks down deeper into its flow, it seems to grow brighter and hotter where it contacts her bare skin. Her clothing catches fire and burns away as I push her face into the wall of the reservoir. The rock begins to melt as I press and try to crush her skull, and my hands start to sizzle and burn.
“AAAARRRGGHH!!” She’s burning hot! I quickly pull away and make a mad dash out before she recovers. I need to get back to the ship, and my resistance to the heat is fading fast. Damn this hunger! It saps my power, weakening me more and more as I try to fight this girl. I can do naught but run away.
I scurry through the cavern and, seeing light up ahead I run for it.
Daylight! The sky! My plan worked! …Somewhat. The hole in the roof of the cavern is hardly wide enough to fit the whole ship through, but they seem intent on trying regardless.
The shadow of the ship turns the cave to dark yet again as it tries desperately to force its way through, and pieces of it come crashing down. They weren’t planning on leaving me behind I hope, because the monster I left back in the geyser would certainly kill me as I am now. I had her matched for a while, but now I seem to be having difficulty even changing shape. It’s all very sudden.
The heat from below begins to rise up, and a scalding gust of hot air blows me upwards. I take the chance and try changing to mist again. The heat burns, but if I don’t do something I won’t make it out of here. I can hear Okuu screaming down below as the floor of the cave begins to melt and boil into a sizzling ball of magma. Is she trying to turn this place into a volcano?!
The sudden change in pressure blows me up past the ship and out into the open air, where I suddenly revert and plummet to the ground. I land hard in a tree, and the branches split and break under my weight. For a moment I see the red of my own blood, and then nothing at all.
“Ugh,” My vision returns, and I find myself lying at the edge of a burning forest. It doesn’t appear that I was out for long. I see what remains of the broken ship hovering overhead, and behind it a huge hole in the ground spewing lava into the sky.
Ash and molten rock burst forth from the earth, painting the sky black and grey with clouds of toxic gasses. I look down at my beaten and battered body is a daze. What’s left of my clothing smokes and sizzles, and the palms of my hands are charred black. Nothing to cry home about. I get to my feet.
“What the hell happened…?” I wonder aloud, heading for the ship as the blaze spreads throughout the forest. As it stands there is nowhere else I can think to go, and the immediate threat that Okuu posed seems to have gone. I don’t think I’ll be seeing her again, if I can help it.
Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. No matter what state I’m in, I’m glad to be rid of those awful caves. I’d gladly trade claustrophobic spaces and corrupted youkai for bruises and burns any day so long as I get to see the sky when it’s all over.
But I don’t have time to dawdle or admire the view. The ship seems to be slowly sinking to the ground, and I need to keep up lest I lose sight of it. As I watch it, I can’t tell if it’s sinking intentionally or if it’s simply too broken up to fly.
I let my eyes wander as I move, looking for something I could snack on without having to stop or at least be able to take with me. Alas, nothing; my luck has hardly changed since I woke up. I’ll need time to recover from these injuries first, and then I’ll have the freedom to look for a meal properly.
The ship touches down in a small valley behind some hills, hiding its shape from view entirely. I disperse myself and catch a draft to move faster, using just that much more of what little energy I have left. It feels like I’m trying to flex a torn muscle—I can do it just fine, but it hurts intensely.
The warm air from the fires pushes me in the right direction, and I find myself floating above the ship in hardly an instant. I drop down to the deck, landing heavily on my feet. I feel a pain and fall forward, but I gather myself quickly as I hear footsteps coming closer.
“I suppose this is your doing?” I hear Shou ask as she steps into view. For once, she seems to be almost happy to see me, “Good to see you’re still alive after causing such a ruckus.”
“Yeah, just barely,” I say, taking a seat on the ship’s railing to rest my legs for a brief moment, “You’re welcome, by the way.”
I’m exhausted, and lacking the energy to bug Shou about why she isn’t kissing my feet in gratitude at this very moment. I don’t believe I’ve ever been this starved before, though it’s no surprise. I used up what little reserves I had trying to push Okuu into a blind rage, and I succeeded, sure, but now what? I need food bad, and I won’t find it here. At least, not food that I’m accustomed to consuming.
Shou seems tired as well, but her exhaustion is purely mental. I figure the others are a little worse for wear too, and I feel the urge to go see them. I get to my feet and stumble below decks, where I find everybody else sitting around in the mess hall.
“Hey, Nue!” Minamitsu waves to me, all smiles, “I’d get up and kiss you but my leg took a bit of a hit.”
So hearing that, I go over and kiss her instead. I nearly collapse onto her I’m so tired, but I try to keep my legs straight. Her warmth recharges me, but I know the feeling is no panacea; I feel weaker than ever when I come away from her.
“You really pulled my ass outta the fire back there,” she says, hugging me, “I owe you one.”
“Considering how I’m feeling, you should owe me two,” I laugh, taking a seat beside her. My head and arms flop onto the table as I let myself relax, “Got anything I can eat around here?”
“Plenty you can, but I’m not sure if you should, with how you’re looking…” she pauses, looking me over. She seems worried about my numerous burns, “What happened to your hands?”
“Oh, that?” I look to my palms, noticing that they’ve already begun to heal, “Lava’s pretty hot, you know. So about that food…?”
“Yeah, all’s we got is that mushroom stew Naz made this morning, erm… Hell, I don’t even know what time it is anymore. I thought it was morning at least, but seeing the sky now I guess it was more like—“
“Ah, right. Want some?” She looks across the room at the hooded girl, Ichirin, and smiles.
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“Yes,” I say, “Absolutely!”
“Hey, you heard the lady,” Minamitsu seems amused by my rather forceful answer and maybe my sudden change of heart as she turns back to Ichirin, “I’d get it myself but, well… You know.”
“I’ll have it ready in a moment,” the request is understood and the hooded girl immediately sets out to fulfill it. Such a diligent girl; I wish I could have had one just like her in my earlier years.
But despite their eagerness to have me fed, I am left wondering if this is such a good idea. I get sick in this state I’m as good as dead, but my hunger cannot wait a moment longer. Ah, there’s the rub! Humans are going to be scarce in the middle of a forest, and the food on this ship seems to be my only remaining option unless I’d rather go out and gnaw on some tree bark… Which I wouldn’t. At all!
It takes a good long moment for the food to finally arrive; it looks like the girl saw fit to heat it up for me. How nice of her, but I’d have happily eaten it cold or even lukewarm at this point. I still manage to appreciate the gesture despite my annoyance at her having taken so long to come back.
I stare for a moment into the bowl of brownish-grey muck these ship-going youkai call food… And consume it before I begin to second guess myself. I don’t even taste it going down, and in my haste I nearly mistake the bowl for an edible tidbit as well. That mistake really would kill me, I’m sure.
My stomach is at long last full, but I don’t feel much better otherwise. My hands still itch as the burns slowly heal, and my strength doesn’t return. This food is edible, it seems; I haven’t gotten sick yet. But it isn’t as invigorating as hunting, catching and consuming a live human.
“Did you even taste that?” Minamitsu asks, giving me an odd look.
“No,” I say, “but I’m sure it’s delicious.”
The process repeats in basically the same pattern. Ichirin warms another bowl, and I consume it just as frantically as I did the last. I now begin to feel sluggish, having eaten more than what is probably necessary to sustain me. I want to sleep for a while, but decide to stay awake at least until nightfall. Granted, nightfall is usually when I would awaken, but this is a special case and these are special times.
I wait around the mess hall as the others come and go. Minamitsu, with her injured leg, stays with me the entire time and while making idle conversation with me gives the others directives as they come in for an occasional rest. Shou never once shows her face, and I begin to wonder what she might be up to. Perhaps she’s avoiding me? Something seemed odd about her when I landed, but I still can’t quite figure out what. I decide to ask Minamitsu.
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry too much about her,” she explains, “Shou’s always been a little distrustful of others.”
“That doesn’t answer my question,” I repeat myself, “I haven’t seen her since I first walked in here. What is she doing?”
“Oh,” Minamitsu’s eyes light up with comprehension, “Oh! Sorry, I thought you were asking me why she was treating you like… Nevermind. I bet she’s probably down below tryin to keep herself occupied. She doesn’t handle stress as well as the others. I know the ship’s gonna need a hell of a refit after this just to get off the ground, and that there’s a hell of a lot of work ahead of us… but she probably just thinks it’s hopeless.”
“On another note,” she adds, “you said human food makes you sick… And you’re not coughing up your guts yet.”
“I noticed,” I smile, “but let’s not jinx it, okay?”
There is still a chance that this body only takes longer to reject the meal, and I’m unwilling to write it off as safe to eat human food until what I’ve consumed is completely digested. Only time will tell, and I seem to have plenty of time. I rush nothing and try to stay relaxed.
“But you know,” she says, with a shrewd glance passing over me, “it’s entirely possible that you ate something spoiled. How many times have you tried eating human food?”
“Once that I can clearly remember.” Her insight is surprising. I hadn’t thought of a possibility like that. I’ve heard from various sources that human food spoils rather quickly when speaking comparatively, and the chance that I had eaten something rotten does seem feasible. Perhaps my reluctance this entire time was presumptuous of me, and that I was merely misinformed of my body’s own aptitudes.
Well, too late to beat myself over the head for it. If my stomach doesn’t fly through my teeth within the next day or so I’ve learned a valuable lesson.
“You may have a point,” I say, “but whether it was or wasn’t can’t exactly be proven one way or the other with me in this body, now can it?”
“Yeah, yeah,” she grins, “so I was gonna have you try some beer too, but it looks like what I brought with me all fell overboard during the escape. A damn shame, really. It was good stuff. Gets you drunk like no other.”
“Now you’re getting a little—“
The door slams open, and Shou suddenly rushes in. Her eyes are red as if she’d been crying. Minamitsu was right, I must say. She does not handle stress well at all. She’s hysterical, and blubbering like an idiot! Hah! I cannot afford to let this one go!
“What’s wrong?” I ask, “Catch a tiger by the tail?” Ah, but I’m ignored. Rightfully so, I should think, but it’s a little distressing knowing how easily I’d been blown off without making so much as a peep about it. I have to force myself to remember that now is neither the time nor place for me to be teasing the girl.
“Captain!!” she cries, running into the room and collapsing to her knees in her anguish, “It’s gone!”
“What’s gone?” Minamitsu seems worried all of a sudden, “Shou? Er… What’s gone?”
“It’s gone! It’s gone!” Shou just keeps on repeating herself; I can’t tell if her reaction is warranted or simply melodrama, “What do I do?! It’s gone!”
“Shou, calm down,” Minamitsu winces, trying to get to her feet. She turns to me in her desperation, “Nue, gimme a hand here.”
She doesn’t’ need to ask me twice. I help her up and over, staying quiet. Minamitsu is genuinely worried, and she doesn’t seem the type to be shaken up so easily. She leans down over Shou, and would surely fall and knock the girl over were I not here to hold her up.
“Shou,” she says, grabbing her by the cheeks, “look at me. What’s gone?”
“The bowl, it’s… it’s… GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONE!” she bursts into tears, breaking down in the middle of the floor, sobbing and wailing. Minamitsu simply falls silent, disheartened—or rather, the look in her eye is almost that of despair.
But she snaps out of it, pulling herself together in my arms. Her anguish turns to anger turns to fear, and finally back to anger.
“Shit!” she yells, tensing her leg to kick the table but thinking better of it at the last second, “Shit, shit, shit shit shit!”
“Er… I take it, that’s bad?” I’m at an utter loss. She tried explaining the meaning and function of the bowl, and I didn’t understand a word of it beyond the part about it making the ship fly…
“Oh, you bet it’s bad,” her voice is shaking, terrified of what losing the silly little bowl entails, “we gotta go get it back!”
“Aaah, *sniff* It-It could be anywhere!” Shou manages to at least speak as she tries to put herself back together. “Wha- *Hngh* What do we do?!”
“Go find Nazrin, tell her what happened,” Minamitsu acts quickly, “And for god’s sake, stop crying!”
“No buts! You don’t see me bawling like a baby! Take Nazrin and go find it, you fucking--!” Minamitsu nearly boils over, raising her arm as if to strike Shou, but she catches herself and holds her tongue, “…I’d go myself if I could!”
“Ungh, Okay,” Shou stands, leaving with her tail between her legs.
Minamitsu slumps backwards when the door closes, all her energy and vigor drained. I sit her down back at the table.
“Nue,” she says, looking to the floor, “help me?”
…Why is it that, when everything else is beginning to look up something even worse always happens? I’ve half a mind to jump ship at this point… but I can’t just leave her like this! …Can I?
[x] "I guess... it'll be nice to have her (Shou) owe me one."
-[x] "Is there more to the plan than 'Tell Nazrin'? It's the first time I've hunted an inanimate object."
Interesting. Also, get some goddamned humans already.
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I can’t leave. Not now. I want to, and normally I would without a second thought, but something within me does not permit it. I feel rotten for even having considered leaving despite my having done so on many other occasions. Why is that? I didn’t feel this way leaving Satori under similar circumstances. Is it because of Minamitsu? Was it the sex? Yes, it must be.
“Alright,” I say, “Just tell me what I need to do.”
She hesitates, turning her head to face me. She’s depressed, but seems hopeful. Perhaps it is not something within myself but the spark in her eye that keeps me here with her; it was something Satori lacked after all, and it makes me glad to see that Minamitsu hasn’t sunk to the very depths of hopelessness. I feel that I can respect this girl for staying strong even in desperate times, and despite not fully understanding her desperation my respect for her drives me to help.
“Find Ichirin,” she says, holding her head in her hands, “stay close to Shou and Nazrin. They’ll lead you in the proper direction, but they’ll need everyone’s eyes to find it.”
“Er,” I’m confused, “how exactly do they know where to go?”
“They say it’s intuition,” she sighs, “please, no more questions right now. I need a moment alone.”
“I’ll be back in a bit, then.” I think for a moment if it’s wise to simply leave Minamitsu alone like this, but then I remember the strength I’ve seen in her. She’ll manage just fine, so I head out looking for the hooded girl.
Thankfully, she finds me.
“Nue!” she flags me down, appearing wholly confused as I ready to enter the lower decks, “what’s going on? Why did the others just leave?”
“Something about a bowl getting lost,” I say, watching as her expression turns to horrification, “which way did the others go? We need to find them.”
She points out towards the still very active volcano, and without thinking twice I grab the girl by the arm and pull her with me as I head towards it. She doesn’t struggle—probably still in shock after hearing my words. She grips my hand firmly as I pull her into the forest below.
Shou and Nazrin are nowhere to be found though, and because of all the smoke ahead I can’t see very far. It only gets denser from here on, and it becomes hard to breathe. To add insult to injury, Ichirin suddenly trips over an exposed root.
“Agh!” she holds her knee, wincing and hissing at the pain where she fell. But she stands, trying to ignore her own body’s reluctance to keep going. Her injury doesn’t’ seem particularly serious at the very least, and we proceed ahead.
“Bah!” I grumble waving my hands into the thick smoke in the very futile hope that I might be able to drive it away, “I can’t even find their scent!”
The only scent I can find is that of burning wood, and the more caustic odor of volcanic ash. I look around, beginning to see parts of the ship strewn about the forest. Most of it amounts to small fragments of wood, but I do see the occasional chunk of hull in the treetops as I venture forward. No telltale signs of a golden box, though. Broken or intact, I would easily recognize it among the split timbers.
“I can’t see!” Ichirin yells, coughing the whole time, “The smoke is… too thick!”
Yeah, I feel it too. It burns; tears well up to fight the burning but in the end only make it worse. The smoke is so thick now that I can hardly see my own arm’s length in front of me.
“What a mess…!” I think of turning back, of the possibility of coming out later to search. I begin to think that I’d have been better off remaining aboard the ship.
And then I remember that Shou and Nazrin are out here too, braving the same elements in search of this elusive object. I can’t allow them all the glory, now can I? I can’t show any weakness out here either, now can I? I can’t let them beat me, now can I? To know that they’re still out here while I run back with my tail—or ‘tails’--between my legs would be unforgivable!
“You can head back if you want,” I say to Ichirin, seeing her awful state. She grips my hand now not only for direction, but also because her eyes are screwed shut from all of the ash in the air. It must be bothering her something awful, considering what it’s doing to me.
“No!” she protests, gripping my hand tighter, “I’ll be fine. Just lead the way!”
“You can’t see, can you?” I say, trying to tell her that she’ll merely be a burden as she is now, “Head back to the ship and search the area around it. I’ll catch up to the others alone.”
“I’m fine, I said!”
Such difficult people, these folk. Her determination is second to none, but in spite of her will she won’t be much help to me. I honestly don’t know what to do with the poor girl.
[x] Whatever. Leave her be, she's a big girl now.
[x] In this form, it'll be next to impossible to find my own ass right now. So let's get out of this form and into something a little more comfortable in these conditions.
[ ] "Would you happen to have a way of dealing with the smoke? If only you knew a large, cloud-like man who could blow it away for us..." [X] "Listen. You are blind and useless right now, and all the willpower in the world will not change that. You can still be helpful in this search, but not here."
[X] Lead her through to the other side of the fire and let her search there. If nothing else, she might run into Shou and Nazrin.
[X] "Listen. You are blind and useless right now, and all the willpower in the world will not change that. You can still be helpful in this search, but not here."
[X] Lead her through to the other side of the fire and let her search there. If nothing else, she might run into Shou and Nazrin.
It’s not like I can leave her here or anything. As much as I’d like to simply ditch her and go about searching on my own, I was the one to take her along without knowing what she is capable of, so I at least owe it to her to take her back safely.
So I turn around and say, “We’re not gonna find anything out here in this smoke. Let’s go back for a bit.”
Of course I plan on coming back out here, but there’s a chance she’d follow me if I told her what I have planned. She resists as I turn around at first, but ultimately sees that she has no other choice but to follow me. She’s blind, possibly injured, and completely at my mercy. I might like to have Shou grabbing onto my hand instead, I think to myself. That way I’d at least be able to have some fun.
We make it back to the ship safely, and I drop her off on the deck. She’s still rubbing her eyes and calling out to me as I leave.
The inability to see clearly in this thick haze sends me in a completely different direction, despite my initial path of heading straight for the volcano. As I close in on the epicenter of the fires, I am forced to tear a piece of my own dress away just to breathe. The ash burns not only my eyes but my lungs as well.
“Who’s idea was it to go running around in this anyway…?” I ask myself, knowing full well what the answer is and refusing to acknowledge it. I want to help Minamitsu recover the lost item, but when I can’t even see the trees through the smoke it feels like a fool’s errand.
I contemplate turning back, but decide initially to keep searching for a while longer. Deferment of my return proves to be a wise decision, as I come upon a number of familiar voices in the smog.
“See anything?” Shou’s voice asks. I assume she’s still out with Nazrin.
“No, nothing. Not a damn thing.”
Both of them seem fine, but just by the sound of her voice I can tell Nazrin is fed up with searching. Well, that makes two of us, but if losing this bowl has Minamitsu making that kind of face… I can tell it’s important to all of them.
“Hold on, I’m getting something,” Nazrin says, the sound of her footsteps drawing closer.
“I’ll stay,” I say, not liking the girl’s tone. Rather than making an offer, she seemed to be demanding that I return, and considering that I’m no subordinate to her nor do I wish to play the part of one, I become defiant.
“Suit yourself, then,” she shakes her head, unconcerned, and walks away into the fog. As her figure becomes obscured, she waves back and says, “Don’t come crying to me when you change your mind and get lost, you guys.”
Strange that she makes a demand and then does not follow up on it or become more insistent when I choose to disobey… Er, wait. Perhaps she wasn’t demanding after all, and I was the one mistaken? I did assume that she was when-- Ah, never mind! I turn to Shou, who is no longer in tears but looks just as miserable as if she were, and might as well be.
“So,” I ask her, choking down another hearty breath of oh-so-delicious volcanic dust, “got any brilliant ideas?”
“I’ll find it by force of will if I must!” she stands tall, but the redness around her eyes betrays her misery. It’s a good showing of courage, sure, but I’m not convinced. She may not have directly answered my query, but I can take a hint.
“So no plan then, right?”
I state the obvious, thinking nothing of it. But my words were enough to take all the wind out of her sails. Her shoulders droop and her ears sag and even the clothing around her seems to just wilt, and she whimpers, “…Right.”
Well, rather than tell myself how useless this girl is to me right now, I look on the bright side. At least she doesn’t seem to be gravely affected by the smoke in the air like the first one, nor is she in a foul mood like Nazrin, so I can at least work with her. It also occurs to me that perhaps it’s not that Shou’s been crying so much as the irritating smoke that’s made the area around her eyes red. I would expect I look no different after breathing all of this stuff in. Ugh, I’ll be blowing black boogers out for weeks!
“Normally,” she says suddenly after a brief silence, “The box would just gravitate towards me, but my powers don’t seem to be effective at all out here…”
“…Powers?” I ask, “What powers? You never said anything about powers!”
“I cannot even hope to explain it to you, seeing as I don’t fully understand myself,” she says as she begins walking aimlessly, “But it acts as a sort of gravity well that attracts heavier metals like gold and silver, and repels lighter ones like aluminum.”
“Uhh…” Now is not the time for a lesson in alchemy. I understand none of it, and to sit and chat amidst soot and ash and smog will make this no easier.
“I attract treasures,” she looks back to me as I shake my head, “you could say. But seeing as I repel certain valuable metals like aluminum, and that I also attract more toxic metals like lead and like mercury, that explanation is no catch-all. It is something I was born with.”
“I see…” I don’t quite understand, but I can see this ability’s usefulness… And uselessness. Truth be told it seems rather mundane.
She pauses, stopping dead in her tracks with her hands out in front of her palms up. I come around ahead of her, and feel a drop of something warm and wet hit my head.
“…Rain?” she thinks aloud, “No, it can’t be. Rain isn’t warm…”
Suddenly, a surge of hot water rains down from above, and amidst the white noise of water hitting earth I hear a series of eruptions—a sound not unlike…
“It’s the geyser!” I yell, coming to the sudden realization that the geyser’s reservoir is not far from the cavern the ship and all of us used to escape to the surface. So this is where those tubes end up! …Not that I know exactly where here is, but I have a general idea.
The water dissipates some of the surrounding smoke, and for a while we can see clearly ahead. The forest comes to an end not but 20 paces from where I stand, and I can see the geyser spewing out jet after steaming jet of boiling water just up ahead. I grab Shou by the arm and run towards it.
“You were right…” she stands agape in amazement as she sees—and more importantly, smells—the geyser straight ahead. The stink if of sulphur, the same smell it had about it underground, floods my senses. A welcome change from the caustic scent of erupting volcano, I must say.
Soaked, I shiver as the water begins to cool around my body. Heat I can manage, but I was never good with the cold. I remember digging into the earth during winter just to avoid it. The closer I get to the geyser, the warmer the air becomes—until I’m nearly sitting over top of the hole in the ground.
Another wave of water rushes to the surface, blowing me a short ways into the air as I lean over the punctured ground. I come down on my feet, catching something as it impacts my chest. Something… strangely solid. And very unhappy by the looks of it. I release it as soon as I recognize just what the object is—a spirit from Hell itself! How it came to the surface is clear, but how it got out of Hell isn’t. I’ve only seen this sort of thing once before in my life, and if I recall correctly…
“Ah!” I jump aside as it swoops down for an attack. That’s right, they attack anything and everything living within their reach! The filthy little devils envy the living, and this one seeks to take my life as its own.
But one evil spirit is no match for me, and as it comes down again I hold it between my hands and puncture it with one of my scythe-like ‘wings’. The bony substance that makes up its skull-like shape cracks and burns away as the flames that surround it engulf the fragments and invade it’s hollow cranium. It squeals pitifully as I crush it and erase it from existence. Then, as I recover, Shou taps me on the shoulder.
I look up to see thousands more streaming up from below—each one gnashing its teeth and glaring down at us with empty black sockets where their eyes should be.
[x] Well, the spirits aren't your problem as long as they don't attack you directly, evade and stay on your primary target.
>>121630 I don't think there's a need to warn Shou, considering she just warned us.
So hey guys, no updates for a short while. I've got a job interview on Wednesday and I need some time to prep for it. Possible I might sneak one in tomorrow evening, but highly unlikely. Expect things to return to normal by Thursday at the latest, and provided I get the job frequency of updates might be less than one a day, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.
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“Uh oh,” I start to back away, hoping that if I move slowly and make no sudden movements the spirits will leave me be. Shou is panicked, but does the same.
“What now?” she whispers, eyes darting between me and the hundreds of floating skulls staring the two of us down.
“Err…” I’ve just about reached the forest when one of the beasts lets out a piercing screech and flies directly towards me, “RUN!”
I do what any good youkai would do when overwhelmed, I flee. Fleeing may not be the dignified approach to the situation, but when it comes to fight and die or run and live the choice is obvious. I dash blindly into the smoky forest as the spirits nip at my heels, and quickly lose my heading.
…and Shou. I’ve lost her too. It seems that the majority of the spirits are chasing me, judging by the sheer number of cries I hear in the gray behind me. I can’t see a single one, but I keep moving. I run and I run until my lungs burn, and then I run some more. My guts threaten to leap out of my chest but ignore my body and keep on running.
I nearly run into an active volcano. Well, actually, I do run into an active volcano, but I end up leaping right over it. I could use my powers to escape, but then I’d become hungry and sluggish again. Can’t have that, not with a hundred flaming skulls just out of arm’s reach trying to possess or consume my body.
Err… They seem to have given up, the little bastards. I stand at the edge of the volcano, legs on fire, and I turn around. My ears detect not so much as a whisper in the burnt remains of a forest around me, and my eyes can barely see clearly enough to be of use. As my body grows calm, I sink to my knees. My legs demand that I sit, and I do just that, panting and wheezing and coughing up mouthfuls of black soot.
“Ugh…” I keep alert, but knowing that evil spirits don’t know how to keep quiet when they’re on the hunt puts me at ease. I’ll be able to hear them coming.
Then, I remember that I’ve lost Shou. I wonder if she hasn’t been caught by them already. If she has, I’ve seen her skill with that spear and know that she’s capable of fighting them off. Of course, if she can’t… Well, I never really liked her to begin with.
I lean forward over the slowly cooling hole in the ground that had become a volcano due to Okuu’s blind rage, and wonder if that girl hadn’t been holding back when fighting me. The thought makes my stomach turn in anger, that she would look down on me so much as to hold back in a fight. I can’t say I’ll miss her, either.
To be honest, I don’t have any particular attachment to the others I’ve met at all, despite all of us being youkai. What strange times these are that youkai act like humans. I wonder if the humans act like youkai as well. Hmmm…
Well, enough is enough. I’ve taken a good ling rest, and it’s time to get back to searching.
…Ah, but the number of things I must seek out have grown, haven’t they? Shall I search for Shou first, or should I keep up the aimless walking and look for that silly old bowl?