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File 130002305918.jpg - (554.07KB , 1500x1500 , ThisCityisKillingMe.jpg ) [iqdb]
136605 No. 136605
Third thread.

...Wish me luck?

Thread 1: >>86709
Thread 2: >>120476

X “So, uh, how're we supposed to get me out of Gensokyo, anyway?”

"Shikkou". Sure, fine. You only asked to keep up this charade of politeness, anyway. The guy could call himself "Mickey Spillane", if he wanted to--from where you're standing, you couldn't care less. In fact, that just about sums up your reaction to this whole shady procedure: Couldn't care less.

Couldn't care less, even if you tried.

Sure, this baldy's undoubtedly got his own agenda, and that "searching" bit makes it sound like he was looking for you, specifically for you--but it doesn't matter. Or, rather, you can't afford to let it matter, not at this point, not when you're so close to escaping. You start asking questions, and you just might remember that you've actually got morals--and while there's nothing wrong with morals, per se, they can lead to some rather inconvenient decisions, such as refusing the easy way out just because it contradicts some overdeveloped sense of righteousness.

And you don't want that, that's for sure.

Still, as content as you are with letting things run their course without you rocking the boat, you have to admit that you're just a little curious about a certain facet of the deal. And so, before you can stop yourself, your mouth opens and:

"Okay, so, Shikkou," you hear yourself say. "How is it that you're going to get me out of Gensokyo, exactly?"

Shikkou's eyes gleam. "A good question."

...Oh, no. That's the "I'm about to take great pleasure in showcasing my intellect" look. You know that look. Damn it, you can practically see the air of self-importance that Shikkou's emanating.

"Mr. Harker," Shikkou says, spiking each syllable with incomparable sobriety, "what do you know about faith?"

You consider several very rude replies before remembering that you don't want to alienate this guy. Not yet. You'll settle for polite honesty, instead, or polite enough.

"Nothing," you answer. "I'm an atheist."

Oh, and now he's raising an eyebrow. Of course he's raising an eyebrow. That's just the cherry on top of the sundae, isn't it? Flavor: condescension 'n' cream. "Not surprising," Shikkou says. "In fact, if I were to choose a word...appropriate, I might say. Gensokyo was built on faith; that a person devoid of faith should arrive and almost immediately--"

"Do we have time for this?" What is no doubt shaping up to be an invigorating monologue is interrupted by the bundle of nerves that is Road Map. You thank him, a little, silently, even as he quakes. "Tategami's still not here!” the man whimpers. “I'm telling you, she got caught! We should start, now, before that witch catches us, too--"

"Nobody got caught," Shikkou reiterates, a bit stronger than the time before. You're sure you see a speck of annoyance, there--but he rearranges his face quickly enough as he resumes his speech that you can't tell for sure.

"As I was saying," Shikkou says, over the sound of Road Map murmuring distressedly, "Gensokyo was built on a foundation of faith."

Right. Faith. You can believe that. Explains the temple, and the ruins of that shrine you saw. "So the people here are religious, then," you say.

"Oh, it goes further than simply 'religion'," Shikkou quickly replies. "In Gensokyo, 'faith' and 'reality' are strongly interwoven. A stubborn, widespread belief, in Gensokyo, has the power to affect reality--thus reinforcing faith, thus affecting reality all the more.” The edges of Shikkou's lips twitch, as if the man is remembering some private joke. You don't like it, for some reason. It makes you want to hit him--

“A pair of snakes,” Shikkou says, “devouring one another by the tail. It would be wise to keep that imagery in mind, Mr. Hand. For whatever reason, the faithless in Gensokyo...tend to diminish.”

...Apparently, scare tactics and proselytization go hand in hand no matter what corner of the earth you're in. You decide to push Shikkou back on tracks before he tries to induct you into some freaky cult. “So, how is it that you're going to get me out of Gensokyo?” you ask again.

Shikkou frowns, obviously disappointed. “Impatient, Mr. Harker,” he tuts--but it seems he gets the hint, because after a moment he closes his eyes and sighs, muttering:

“Very well. If you are so eager...”

And then he opens his eyes again and lifts them to yours.

“Here's a story,” Shikkou says, his voice hushed, like someone trying a spooky tale around a campfire. You'd snicker, but you're too busy digging your fingernails into your palms. “In the west, there is a sword. In its hilt are the blood, hair, and bone of three holy men, and the cloth of one holy women. Blood, hair, bone, and cloth do little themselves--but that sword cannot be destroyed by normal means.”

You glance at Road Map, who is shifting his weight uneasily from one leg to the other, quietly. He won't give you any trouble. “I'm not seeing the relevance,” you say.

Shikkou continues, ignoring your input completely. “Another story,” he says. “In the west, a holy man was interred. Some time later, a second dead man was thrown into the tomb. When that second man touched the holy man's remains, he was resurrected--but bones do little themselves.”

Shikkou pauses. Looks into you, carefully.

“Do you understand?” he asks?

'No', you never get to say, because that's the moment a shape drops from the rooftops, landing next to Shikkou nearly soundlessly. You take a step back in surprise, but all Road Map does is look up--and Shikkou doesn't even turn his head, though he does raise his eyebrows. Both of them, this time.

“Tategami,” he says, “complete with her usual flair for the dramatic.”

It's an introduction, you realize, as the shape--woman--looks in your direction. You get the brief impression of round eyes sizing you up before she turns towards Shikkou, her hood hiding her face.

“Is this the guy?” she asks.

Shikkou, on the other hand, has still got his gaze fixed on you. To be honest, it's giving you the creeps, just a bit.

“Were you followed?” he asks, ignoring Tategami's question. You're beginning to think he's very good at that.

“No,” says Tategami sharply, impatiently, and repeats herself. “Is this the guy?”

“It is.” Shikkou says.

He holds his hand out.

The knife is long and thick, the inside edge curving to a point. The blade reflects even the low ambient light. Tategami places the handle into Shikkou's outstretched palm, and his fingers close around it.

“I apologize,” Shikkou says. “It's regrettable, but it seems that our side together has come to an end. Hold still, please.”

_ Self-defense
_ Diplomacy
_ Run
_ Other... (write-in)

>> No. 136636
So faith makes the sword indestructible and the bones able to revive. Maybe they think this knife is special or dying can send you back outside? Either way getting stabbed is not optimal.

Outnumbered and they've shown themselves to not be good listeners.

[x] Run

Not sure if he can outrun Tategami, who apparently had to distract Marisa though.
>> No. 136640
[X] Run

Obviously they wanted an unwitting shmuck that nobody would miss to test their theory. Too bad they forgot the unwitting part.
>> No. 136655
[x] Self-defense

Fuck these creepy yahoos.
>> No. 136816
File 130014930410.jpg - (150.38KB , 800x573 , 127498233748.jpg ) [iqdb]
136816
>“I apologize,” Shikkou says. “It's regrettable, but it seems that our side together has come to an end. Hold still, please.”

...

Mother of--

Why do I always typo the important bits, is what I want to know.

TIME. Time. How do I type "side" when I mean "time"? Damn it all. Damn it.
>> No. 136884
[x] Run

Ah, shit.
>> No. 137363
[x] Self-defense

Use of excessive force is authorized.
>> No. 137466
File 13005241051.jpg - (638.25KB , 700x700 , data_superhelix.jpg ) [iqdb]
137466
X Run

You want to say you're surprised, you reflect, as Shikkou advances. You honestly, sincerely want to say that you had no idea that things could possibly turn out this badly--but you can't, of course. Somehow, from the instant you laid eyes on Baldy over there, you knew something like this was in the works.

The only question now is what you're going to do about it.

Your first instinct is to stand and fight. You find yourself shifting into the old stance, arm held at the ready--all you have to do is wait for this Shikkou guy to get close enough, wait for him to get within striking distance, and you'll pop him a good one. You'll see his nose erupt, won't you? And If that doesn't work, you've got a stiff suggestion to the solar plexus you're just itching to articulate.

You're absolutely saturated in this sort of bravado, absolutely one hundred percent drenched in it right up to the moment that you realize you're an idiot. Because not only is this guy armed while you've got little more than your bare knuckles to rely upon, but he's not alone, either. Fighting isn't all strength; it's smarts, too, and right now those smarts are telling you that this is a situation likely to end with you bleeding out your guts alone in the dark.

And that's not an ending with a lot of dignity to it, so you ignore the little bloodthirsty whisper in the back of your skull that keeps insisting that you can take them all on, and hoof it.

You lose no time in making your exit, managing to bowl over Road Map in the process, not bothering to apologize--he's either integrated into this conspiracy or dull enough to miss it completely, and in either case he deserves whatever bruises you've given him. Still, as you flee the scene (tremendously difficult, considering the new moon), it occurs to you that Road Map, at least, would know where he was going. Shikkou, and that Tategami woman too--you hate to admit it, but it seems you're at a disadvantage no matter in which direction you turn, literally or figuratively.

Doubly so in the case of Tategami, seeing as--

Tategami drops squarely into your path, confirming your bleak hypothesis. Right--with all that jumping about, it doesn't really matter which route you take, does it? Twists and turns don't amount to a cup of joe when the other party can make a straight line across rooftops.

The woman straightens herself to her full height, eying you like a parent at some mischievous offspring. “Don't run,” she says, and advances, clearly seeking to apply persuasion of the old-fashioned kind.

You back away at a matching pace, which is technically not running. “I'm declining your boss' offer,” you explain, glancing Tategami up and down. Her hands are empty, but that doesn't mean much--for all you know, the chick's a martial arts prodigy. “If you like your bones,” you say, a bit of that earlier bravado creeping into your voice again, despite yourself, “scram.”

Tategami does not scram. She lunges--leaps, instead, her face contorted into a snarl to match a wild animal's, and you scramble sideways across the ground only barely in time to miss her claws. But even this small victory is ultimately fleeting--the moment you're back on your feet she's on you again, having recovered far too quickly for your liking. It's desperation, mainly, that fuels you as you swing blindly, hoping to score a lucky blow--maybe, you think, if you can stand your ground, then--

She catches your wrist, rendering that train of thought thoroughly moot. “Got you,” she says, and smirks.

Oddly enough, it isn't panic you feel, or hopelessness, but rage--a red-hot and sudden rage that floods your head and fills your ears with the sound of your own heartbeat. Got you, you think, feverishly, got you--you'll show her who's got who. She thinks she can grab you? Touch you? Disgusting.

You promised. Bones. You promised. You'll break them all. You'll start at the bottom and work your way up until she stops moving--until she can't do anything, anymore. It won't be difficult, not for you. All you have to do is reach out, and--

There is wind, and a bolt of lightning sideways that burns away your sight. The pressure of Tategami's hand disappears, and you fall forwards, into the dirt. You feel no pain. “I don't know what you're doin' here,” you hear a somebody say, from very far-off and perhaps underwater too, “but I figure I'll take you all out now and sort through it later. Hold still, got it?”

_ Get it
_ Get up
_ Get out
_ Get bent
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 137476
X Get bent

I've had it with this sassy witch
>> No. 137494
[x] Get it

So, despite the weird, crazy murder-time shit that is being poured into Terrence's head from somewhere-- and I defy any of you to tell me that isn't happening, anymore --I think I'm going to vote for listening to the witch and NOT getting LASERED.
>> No. 137499
[x] Get it.
Let's put off dying for sometime later shall we?
>> No. 137526
[x] Get it
>> No. 137591
[X] Get out
>> No. 137598
[x] Get on the floor
- [x] Everybody walk the dinosaur
>> No. 137605
[x] Get it
>> No. 137608
[x] Get it
Not really in the condition to argue.
>> No. 137610
[x] Get down

Hit the deck.
>> No. 137613
[x] Get bent

I'm not sure what this option would result in exactly, but someone's gotta vote for it. Besides, it's the most snarky and sarcastic sounding one out of all of them.
>> No. 138387
File 130129732472.jpg - (113.89KB , 953x953 , QuietFire.jpg ) [iqdb]
138387
X Get it

No, you will not “hold still”. This is your fight--your battle--and whoever this newcomer is, their assistance is neither appreciated nor necessary. Did it look like you were losing? Did it look like you needed somebody's help?

You can beat Tategami just fine on your own. You would have beaten her already, if this interloper hadn't gone and ruined your chance. Well, no matter; you're still in this. All you have to do is...

You blink.

All you have to do is...

You blink again.

All you have to do...

You blink again, again. And again and again, and again and again, and all the fight runs out of you just like that as you realize, to your dismay, that you can't freaking see.

Actually, that isn't wholly accurate. You're not permanently blinded--at least, you don't think you are. But there is something like a great, pea soup-colored splotch taking up the majority of the vision, and try as you might, you can't seem to banish it. You'd really like nothing better than to rise to your feet heroically, spit off a sardonic one-liner, and execute a royal beatdown, but barring an unexpected transformation into a comic book character, that would probably require sight.

And so you lie there, with your nose in the dust, and try to ignore the sound of fighting--try to ignore how utterly humiliated you feel. You used to be somebody. You were a figure of authority, given the respect you deserved. Now? Now, you're the freaking damsel in distress, depending on the kindness of strangers to pull your bacon out of the fryer.

...Speaking of which, you'd better get your mask on. While you were busy feeling sorry for yourself, all that crash-boom-bang went and tapered off. Seems like the fight's over. You don't know who won, not yet, but you hope it wasn't Tategami.

Fixing a properly vacant expression, you lift your head from the ground, and--

Hell.

Oh, hell.

Maybe you'd prefer it if Tategami won after all, because standing over you in all her five-foot glory, clearly identifiable even through the haze that remains, is Witch Girl.

And boy oh boy, but that scowl's starting to look familiar.

--- --- --- --- ---

She drags you through the streets. Drags you by the arm, with a grip like death, and without the decency to let you find your balance. You end up performing something of a strange dance as you trail behind her, stumbling over and over your center of mass like a demented flailing tilting doll--normally, you'd find it humiliating, but you're all tapped out of that emotion for now, so you'll settle for halfhearted irateness instead.

It doesn't help, of course, that the entire village seems to have come out to rubberneck at your predicament. You can't honestly say you blame them--a fight's the sort of thing that draws attention, even in the middle of the night. Especially in the middle of the night.

“So,” you say to Witch Girl, “are we going somewhere in particular? Or is this just a friendly stroll?”

Witch Girl twists your arm towards an angle that is not wholly comfortable. You decide not to ask any more questions.

Eventually, the two of you get far enough from the scene of your scuffle that the crowd is left behind, save for a handful of folks curious enough to tag along in order to glean the latest gossip. One woman among them, dark-haired and clutching a notepad to her chest, is particularly energetic in this regard, nearly tossing herself into Witch Girl's path as she rattles off questions incessantly--you note the oddly-shaped red cap atop her head and wonder if it's the Gensokyo equivalent of a press pass.

...Then again, maybe this woman isn't even from the press. You jumped to that conclusion pretty quickly--that's weird, even for you. Still, you can't deny that this woman's got a certain something to her that reminds you of some eager freelancer digging for a scoop. Witch Girl, to her credit, maintains her stony silence even as she's peppered with the woman's endless supply of “is this the guy” and “what happened” and “where are you taking him” and “what has he done”, the immovable object to the woman's unstoppable force.

It's not until she pulls you to the doorway of a great old familiar Japanese house that she even deigns to notice the woman's presence, and only to say:

“Leave.”

The woman blinks, putting pencil to paper and peering probingly. “No comment?”

“Leave!”

She leaves. They all leave, but she leaves the fastest, down the street and around the corner before you can even think to blink. Witch Girl grumbles darkly--something about “tangle”, or maybe “tango”--then shoves you into the building ahead of her, then shoves you again, across the hallway, then opens a siding door and gives you final shove, this one harder than the others, nearly sending you flying into the room beyond.

“Hey,” you start, but Witch Girl cuts whatever protests you're about to make with a:

“Sit down and shut up.”

And she closes the door and you're left by yourself.

...Well.

Once again, through no fault of your own, you've landed yourself into another rotten mess, haven't you, Terrence? That's just wonderful. No doubt they're busy discussing your upcoming execution in the next room. Never mind that you're the victim here--you're a cop; you know how it all works. You can pin murder to a nun if the wind is right and you've got the general populace behind you.

Still, there's a certain security in being so totally screwed. It can't get any worse at this point, so you might as well relax. Luckily, this place seems fully furnished. In fact, looking at the little cloth-covered table and the lamp to the side, you suspect Witch Girl just shoved you into some random room and took off to...do something? You don't know, and honestly, you don't really care.

A little sleep before the big one, you think, and, making yourself comfortable at the table, you lie back, grab a nearby cushion, tuck it underneath your head, and close your eyes.

It's past midnight, and you're tired enough already, so it's no surprise when you find yourself quickly dropping off, the last traces of conscious thought beginning their farewell journey, running themselves in ragged circles into oblivion. Shikkou, you think of, just for a moment, but you don't want to think of Shikkou at all, so you banish his image away. Tategami appears as a replacement, and you swiftly give her the same treatment. Witch Girl, then--what about Witch Girl? You'd rather not mull over Witch Girl at all, honestly, but your mind is insistent on turning towards her, like a mosquito towards a lantern.

Witch Girl--what was her name, again? You're certain it isn't actually Witch Girl. You heard it once, and then you promptly forgot it because it was all that she deserved. Maybe you ought to thank her for saving you, you think. Not from Tategami--you didn't need any help with Tategami. But she saved you before, maybe. Didn't she? You should ask her. Maybe you should ask her. But maybe you shouldn't ask her anything, just in case--

The sound of the door sliding open is ice in your blood, but you manage to keep your eyelids shut tight--even as you're yanked out of half-slumber and deposited squarely into reality. “Ah,” you croak, “you returned quick.”

“Maybe--on the other hand, you've taken a long time.”

The voice is most definitely not Witch Girl's. You recognize it, but you can't be sure, so you squint--and indeed, standing in the doorway is Akyuu, Hieda no Akyuu, smile across her face as wicked as the one from the night you met. She steps into the room, closing the sliding door behind her silently with the heel of her foot, an action with the air of merry conspiracy about it. “I'm glad to see you again,” Akyuu says, and wonder of wonders, you think she might actually mean it. “How are you?”

“Right now? Not so good.” You smile anyway, as you sit up--her mood is infectious. “And you?”

“Oh, so-so. I'm not dead yet, and certain circumstances have...become very interesting.”

Now, there's the look of a girl who's got something to say! You'll play nice and oblige her. “Interesting circumstances, huh? And what kind of interesting circumstances could there be?” you ask.

Akyuu holds her hand lightly over her mouth, as if to hide her laughter--it strikes you as almost ladylike, not something you'd expect to see from a kid like this. Then again, Akyu's probably the most mature person you've encountered since you landed here. “Oh?” she says, playfully. “Don't you know? Can't you guess?”

“If I knew, I wouldn't have asked, right? So tell me.”

“Alright then.”

And at once, Akyuu crosses the room, setting herself neatly opposite you--elbows on the table, hands supporting her chin, gazing into your face with that unabashedly mischievous smile--

“It's you,” she says, simply, and she leans towards you, and her face tilts closer. “Understand?”

Honestly? No. No, you don't understand at all.

“Why me?” you ask, voice laden with confusion. Akyuu smirks--she must be enjoying your be bewilderment. Cheeky brat.

“Mr. Harker...”

“Terrence,” you correct her, quickly. If you're going to be on good terms with this girl, you might as well nip that in the bud.

“...Terrence?” Akyuu raises her eyebrows. “Well, then...Terrence, do you know what life was like in Gensokyo before you came here?”

That's a strange question. “Do you mean years before, or...”

“Oh, nowhere that long. Let's say a week before. Or a month, even.”

...Gensokyo a month before you arrived? Yeah, that's definitely a strange question. You don't know, and you don't see how you could know, not unless you knew someone around here who was good with history. “I give up,” you say. “What was Gensokyo like?”

For a second there's something strained in Akyuu's smile, like the shadow of a bad memory. And then it's gone again. “Just as terrible as it is now,” Akyuu admits, sweetly, “but I like this one better. It's louder.”

“Louder?”

“Yes. You see...”

The door opens over Akyuu's shoulder, and this time you do react, starting slightly. Akyuu, meanwhile, simply closes her mouth--closes her eyes--and you know then that your conversation is over. Not that you wouldn't know it was over anyway, seeing as it's Witch Girl who's standing at the door, as steamed as always. “Hello,” you say, playing your best at nonchalance.

Akyuu's mouth twitches.

Witch Girl, sadly, is nowhere as peaceable. “Get up,” she snaps.

“So soon?”

“Get up, or I'll make you get up.”

Ah, seems you haven't got much choice in the matter. And you just got all cozy, too. Reluctantly, you stand--and then stop, and look in Akyuu's direction, not really sure why.

“Hey,” you say.

Akyuu lifts her eyes. Her expression is unfathomable. “Yes?”

“Nice talking to you.”

“Same.”

Akyuu smiles. You smile. You follow Witch Girl out, into the hall.

--- --- --- --- ---

There's a man with an utterly unremarkable face standing outside the room. He's not doing anything--he's just standing there, looking between you and Witch Girl and the doorway and you again. Still, there's something about him that you can't help but find familiar...

It's not till you're yards and yards away that it occurs to you where you've seen him before. That guy--he was one of the two that dragged you out of the last room you saw Akyuu in, right before that rinky-dink village version of a trial. He's got the same sheeplike eyes and everything, so you're surprised you didn't figure it out sooner. Talk about déjà vu! Here you are, getting yanked towards an uncertain fate, and who do you meet but the last guy who yanked you towards an uncertain fate...

Or maybe that's not déjà vu at all. You're not sure. Shannon was always better at that French stuff.

Okay, enough with the flashbacks. If you don't pipe up now, Witch Girl might think you enjoy getting dragged around on a leash. “Alice get better?” you ask cheerfully, hoping that she hasn't. Alice getting better means the trial finishing, after all. And the trial finishing means...

Witch Girl's scowl becomes heavier. “No such luck,” she says, and you realize she must be thinking along the same lines. Ha--maybe you're not as screwed as you thought? You grin a small, private grin, even as Witch Girl opens another random door to another random room and shoves you inside.

It's dark. That's the first, obvious thing you notice--that it's dark. You can see, but between the single lamp in the corner and what's seeping in from the hallway, your eyes actually have to adjust a bit before you feel you can move around without bumping your shin on something. You needn't have worried--the next thing you notice, once you're in a state to notice anything else, is how utterly bare the room is: the only furniture is a tall, western-style table, flanked by a pair of chairs.

One of the chairs is empty. One of the chairs is hosting yet another familiar face. You're encountering those an awful lot today--did you interrupt some kind of reunion? This time it's Laces, Kamishirasawa, looking all very very serious.

You think you know this setup.

_ Hostility
_ Irreverence
_ Cooperation
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 138404
X Irreverence
>> No. 138420
[x] Cooperation

Sooner or later, Terrence needs to shut the fuck up and start listening. Better that it happen sooner before he fucks up even more.
>> No. 138423
[x] Cooperation
[x] Be a prick to witch whilst treating keine with the upmost ammount of respect.
As long as theres no Higurashi punishment/torchure gear in here, we should be fine.
>> No. 138429
X Cooperation
Let's see if we can get a line of communication open.
>> No. 138430
[x] Cooperation
>> No. 138436
[x] Cooperation

It's how we've played it so far toward those with actual authority.
>> No. 138439
[x] Cooperation
Being mean spirited to people who can help wont help you innocent. Of course this might be about more than just the case.

>>For a second there's something strained in Akyuu's smile, like the shadow of a bad memory.

There have been quite a few hints now that something went down in Gensokyo some time before Terrance arrived. hm...
>> No. 138447
>>138439
Speaking of which I don't recall Reimu making an appearance.

Could that be the reason why Terrance was brought here?
>> No. 138450
[x] Cooperation

>>138447
You know, this reminds me of something I've been curious about for a while now.. Surely anyone who spends any amount of time in Gensokyo would have heard the name Reimu Hakurei, but has Terrance? I wonder how he'd react to that name considering his grandmother was a Hakurei.
>> No. 139201
File 130206527170.jpg - (69.77KB , 500x500 , PieIX.jpg ) [iqdb]
139201
X Cooperation

Well, might as well get this show on the road. You plop yourself into the chair obviously intended for you, and grin up at Laces cheerfully. “Hey, it's you!” you exclaim, as if you've only just noticed. “Kamishirasawa, right? I haven't seen you in a while!”

Laces frowns. She's looking a bit uncomfortable, and you'd be willing to bet that this isn't her usual job. “Yes, that's right,” she says, hesitantly, as Witch Girl moves behind her--moral support, maybe?

Well, you wouldn't mind knocking out that foundation.

“Anyway, I have to thank you,” you continue, “I was unconscious at the time, so this is all secondhand information--but Akyuu said you gave me some kind of medicine? A salve, maybe? Is that right? I don't know the extent of my injuries, but thanks for that.”

Laces nods, still off balance. “You're welcome,” she says, entirely on autopilot, and then you watch as the embarrassment floods in and she shifts in her seat. Poor woman. This isn't how it's supposed to go at all, is it? She's clearly not the kind that should be stuck questioning suspected murderers. You wait patiently as she recollects herself, carefully refastening that very very serious expression upon her face. It takes a moment or two, but finally her gaze is back to its original sharpness--as sharp as glass, you think--and she can look you in the face once more.

“Mr. Harker,” she says, gravely.

“Do you have a recipe?” You interrupt her before she can get anywhere remotely useful. “For that salve, I mean. Something like that has got to be useful. I'm not asking for a tub, but I would like to know how to mix up a batch on my own. My sister, Shannon--do you have a sister, Miss Kamishirasawa? My sister, Shannon, she's all into that stuff--biology, chemistry, medicine. A little bit of everything, really. She's clever. Cleverer than I am, but I'm not so clever, so you know how it is. You know how it is, right? Miss Kamishirasawa?”

Funny thing about glass: it's brittle. You apply a bit of stress, in other words, and it'll shatter rather than deform. Poor woman--she looks like a minefield victim who hasn't a clue which limb to go after first. She's much too nice, that's the problem. She should have done something harsh by now to signify she meant business--like banging her fist on the table, maybe. Banging her fist on the table and shouting--

Witch Girl bangs her fist on the table and shouts. Ah, see? Like that. Laces ought to take notes. “I don't care about your sister!” Witch Girl says. “What the hell were you doin' out there?”

“Talking.”

Well, wasting a good night's worth of sleep, actually, but you doubt that's the sort of answer she's looking for.

Witch Girl curls her lip disdainfully. “Talkin',” she sneers. “Talkin', huh--is that what you were doin'? Talkin'? You always use your fists when you talk?”

You smile. It's a careful smile. “The talking came first,” you explain. “Then the running. And then I defended myself.”

“...Self-defense again.”

...Oops. Looks like you just made this personal.

As if it wasn't already.

Luckily, Laces decides to butt in at just the right time, venting Witch Girl's abundance of rage before it can reach critical levels. “You said that you were talking,” she says. “What is it that you were talking about?”

Ah. Now, there's a good question. You knew you liked this woman. “Nothing to important to you, I'd think,” you say. “Basically, I wanted to go home.”

“...the Outside.”

“Yes--that's where my home is.” And you'd rather not think about how hard you were hoping to be out of this hellhole by now, so you descend into meaningless babble instead. “I'm from Los Ojos--have you ever been to Los Ojos? It's a nice place, on average. Small, too. I'm a bit eager to get back there and talk to my sister--hey, have I told you about my sister?”

“So you talked with these youkai about gettin' to the Outside,” Witch Girl says. She's ignoring all the irrelevant bits, homing in on the only thing you've said that's been of immediate importance. That's probably a good move on her part, but it's hard to tell from this angle. “What did they say, huh? They say they'd let you go back if you did somethin' for them, maybe? A favor?”

You wave your hand in the air lazily, as if shooing off a fly--or maybe a stupid question. “No, nothing like that,” you say. “At first they seemed pretty generous. Contacted me, asked me to meet up with them at midnight. I went. Obviously it didn't turn out so well.” Oh, and quickly, before Witch Girl can move on. “What's a youkai?”

Witch Girl snorts, and moves on anyway. Oh well, you suppose. “You just went? Without tellin' anybody? You weren't suspicious?”

“Of course it was suspicious. But I had to go.” You form that careful smile again, but your face is stiff. “My sister, Shannon--have I told you about Shannon yet? She's not here; she's on the Outside. She's a lot more cleverer than I am, but I still can't help but worry about her.” You glance towards Laces, who proceeds to duck your gaze and look even more uncomfortable than before.

“You know how that is,” you murmur quietly, “don't you? Don't you?”

Laces coughs. “Mr. Harker, if you could start from the beginning...”

You end up telling them everything, from Road Map to Shikkou to Tategami getting blown away (and escaping, if Witch Girl's sullen expression is of any indication). You don't mind, really--there's nothing about this situation that makes you look like the bad guy, and even the part where you snuck out right under Kotohime's nose is easily overshadowed by the part where you almost got a knife in your ribs. Laces is gentle and kind throughout the entire interview, obviously cognizant of your state of mind, even going so far as to stop Witch Girl whenever the latter gets a little too heated. You appreciate that; you really do. Your hosts run out of questions, eventually, and Laces is allows you to live on your own while she discusses things with her partner, an offer you're happy to take.

How you manage not to collapse in relief the second you clear the doorway is beyond you.

She bought it. She actually bought it. The worst performance of your career, and she swallowed it, hook, line, and sinker. You didn't lie or anything--every word out of your mouth was the honest truth, right down to wanting a recipe to that gunk they put on you--but that guilt trip, the one you shoved onto Laces, there? You weren't even planning on doing that until you were doing that, and it worked. It actually worked. How the hell did it work?

Damn, you really were right. Poor, poor Laces. Much too nice to be questioning suspected murderers.

Well, you've managed your miracle, so maybe you ought to get moving. Witch Girl was slow to protest in the face of actual cooperation, but knowing her venomous streak she's probably informing Laces right now that she's had her heartstrings hoodwinked. Sure, she may not have any proof, but for all you know the chick's got a gift for conviction--in which case your continued existence outside this particular doorway might be hazardous to your health.

You'll apologize to Akyuu for not delivering a decent goodbye later, if you ever see her again. For now? Time to make like a tree.

--- --- --- --- ---

Oh, hell.

That's a phrase that's been going through your mind an awful lot lately, but who could blame you? Tonight's been a night of unwelcome surprises, starting with Shikkou pulling a knife and continuing all the way through to that round of twenty questions. You're not sure why you didn't expect this, actually--when things are bad, they only get worse, and this definitely counts as worse:

It's Defender of the Village Officer Kotohime herself, here to pick you up.

“You shouldn't make that face.” She's all smiles, of course. And why wouldn't she be? She's got the authority here. You scowl a bit deeper, just to spite her.

“Why?” you ask, sarcastically. “Is it suspicious?”

“Mm-hm. And it's ugly, too.”

And having said this, Kotohime begins her merry jaunt towards the building you just might be spending the rest of your life in. You aren't skipping alongside her, though, and when she realizes this she stops and turns to look at you curiously.

“Aren't you coming?” she says.

“Do I have a choice?”

“Yes.”

“...And if I choose not to come, then what happens?”

Kotohime blinks at you slowly, almost dazedly, that little half-smile floating on her face, the very idealized image of an maiden from some old fairy tale. Princess, even. All she'd need is a flower in her hair and the illusion would be complete.

“You not very cooperative, Mr. Terrence Harker,” she says, softly.

You consider mentioning that you've cooperated plenty, with Laces and Witch Girl, but decide against it. “If you were me, would you be cooperative?” you say instead.

Kotohime ignores you, continuing in that soft, gentle voice of hers. “I let you go,” she says, “and you didn't even find me anyone to arrest.”

...What?

Wait.

What?

“You let me go?” you say. Your voice is a little bit high-pitched, a little strangled. You don't care. “I mean...you let me sneak out?”

“Oh, I don't think so. If I let you go, you can't have 'sneaked out'. It's a contradiction.”

...You're trying to handle this bombshell and she's arguing semantics? What the hell did you do to deserve this? You close your eyes and breathe deep until you're certain you can talk without choking on your own throat. “Forget 'sneaking out',” you say, carefully. “You...let me go, you said?”

Kotohime nods. “Mm-hm.”

“...Why did you let me go?”

“Because you were bait, of course.”

And you can't even summon a proper interjection in response to that--hell, you can't summon a proper emotion in response to that. Even simple unthinking rage is beyond you. All you do--all you can do--is gaze, stock-still, at Kotohime's crescent moon of a smile as it moves. It moves, and words come out.

“The youkai attacking the same carpentry team you were on wasn't a coincidence, I don't think,” she says. “It's police officer's intuition. So I decided to let you go and see if anyone tried to attack you again, and they did. That's very exciting, isn't it?”

A stray thought escapes your head, nearly dies on the way to your mouth.

“Exciting?” you say.

“Oh!” Kotohime straightens for a moment. A lock of hair passes over her eye. “But you aren't allowed to tell Marisa, because I'm a police officer, and crime isn't for youkai, and I like to be me. This is a secret between police officers. Investigative confidentiality!”

She nods, assured by her own words, and that's what finally breaks you out of your shock, releases the anger that's been building up in your skull. You stride forwards--grab Kotohime by the lapels of her kimono--pull her face up to yours--

“Maybe I'm a police officer,” you snarl. “Maybe you're in charge, here. But that doesn't mean you can use me. I am not your underling.”

“Do you want to be?”

Her smile doesn't slip, not one inch.

It takes all of your restraint, every drop of decency you have, but somehow you manage to set Kotohime down without maiming her. You don't say a word, but your hands are shaking. You are certain that you have never hated anybody before in your life as you hate this woman right now.

You turn away from her and put one foot in front of the other. And then you do it again, until you are stumbling on heavy legs towards the building you just might be spending the rest of your life in.

Kotohime strolls cheerfully beside you. “I'm hungry. Aren't you?” she says.

“Shut up,” you say, quietly. “Shut up. Just...shut up.”
>> No. 139202
File 130206545571.jpg - (1.51MB , 2560x1920 , 2011-04-05 21_42_53.jpg ) [iqdb]
139202
End of part five.
>> No. 139203
Kotohime is on the case! I wonder who she communicates with since she wasn't involved in the interrogation.
>> No. 139209
File 130207247259.png - (388.94KB , 870x661 , maniacal princess.png ) [iqdb]
139209
That was awesome. Respect for your Kotohime.
>> No. 139616
File 130277778661.jpg - (44.61KB , 500x500 , Coconut.jpg ) [iqdb]
139616
“It's colder now,” Kotohime says suddenly over lunch one day.

You peer over your own meal at her smiling visage, chewing slowly to excuse your silence. Not that you plan on talking once you're finished--past the occasional forced grunt, you haven't given Kotohime a single word in the past two weeks, and frankly, you're more than happy to let things stay that way.

It may be childish--scratch that, you know full well it's childish--but it's the best you can do now in the way of resistance.

If your host is affected in any way, though, she doesn't show it. “I'm going to build a snowman!” Kotohime declares cheerfully, and you bite your tongue before you can point out that snowmen generally require snow. You've been doing that a lot--tongue-biting. “Do you have a bucket? If I'm going to build a snowman, I'm going to need a bucket.”

Two weeks ago, you figured that silence on your part would effectively put an end to household conversation.

...You figured wrong.

If don't whether Kotohime's simply oblivious to your suffering or all too aware of it, and to be honest, you don't care. It all comes down to the same thing in the end, namely: she won't stop talking. It doesn't even matter that you aren't talking back--she just continues her literally one-sided conversation, filling your ear with the things she's done and the things she wants to do and the things she doesn't want to do and the things she doesn't want to do but which she wouldn't mind doing--

You can actually feel yourself losing it as the days pass. If this goes on, you won't be wearing handcuffs--you'll be wearing a straitjacket.

The frantic pounding on the door, coupled with the equally frantic calling of Kotohime's name, therefore, is something of a miracle.

The woman in question doesn't even have a chance to stop mid-sentence before you're on your feet and into the entryway, sliding the front door open with such force that the frame rattles. “Hello,” you say, smiling. It is not a pretty smile.

_ What immortal hand or eye dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
_ An' forward, tho' I canna see, I guess an' fear!
_ And then my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils.
_ A sadder and a wiser man, he rose the morrow morn.
_ They also smelt a great deal.
>> No. 139628
File 130279586949.jpg - (55.19KB , 400x400 , 43fcd35f924ecd724ecc246848cbb076.jpg ) [iqdb]
139628
>>_ What immortal hand or eye dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
The tyger.

>>_ An' forward, tho' I canna see, I guess an' fear!
To a mouse.

_ And then my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils.
I wandered as lonely as a cloud.

>>_ A sadder and a wiser man, he rose the morrow morn.
The rhyme of the ancient mariner.

>>_ They also smelt a great deal.
Clearly some work of literature I am not familiar with.

[X] A sadder and a wiser man, he rose the morrow morn.

As fun as it was lets hope she is not drunk this time.
>> No. 139646
[x] And then my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils.

Clearly the best and most positive option. Clearly.
>> No. 139648
[X] An' forward, tho' I canna see, I guess an' fear!
>> No. 139650
[x] They also smelt a great deal.

Byakuren or Nue?
>> No. 139654
[X] What immortal hand or eye dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

The ditzy tiger and airheaded policewoman make a great match-up.
>> No. 139656
[x] They also smelt a great deal.
>> No. 139668
[X] What immortal hand or eye dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
>> No. 139690
[x] They also smelt a great deal.
>> No. 139691
[x] A sadder and a wiser man, he rose the morrow morn.
>> No. 139796
[x] An' forward, tho' I canna see, I guess an' fear!

I liked his Nazrin.
>> No. 139853
File 130329878345.jpg - (86.28KB , 500x500 , InTheMorning.jpg ) [iqdb]
139853
X They also smelt a great deal.

“Hello,” says Shannon.

You stop smiling.

You stop breathing, too.

“Shannon?” you croak as your brain fizzles. It can't be Shannon--can't possibly be Shannon--but here she is nevertheless, standing in the doorway and wearing that same deceptively innocent smile you've seen across her face a million times before. Same overgrown pixie cut, too--it's crazy talk, but you'd swear she hasn't changed a bit, not in the two months since you saw her last.

Maybe she found a way--the thought hits you suddenly. Solidifies. She must have found a way--realized what happened, the moment you disappeared. Something like breaking on through to the other side of the Gensokyo border--for Shannon, that must have been child's play. Toddler's, even. But she slipped in the timestream--ended up two months later than she should have. Of course--of course. For you it's been two months, two miserable months. For Shannon, it probably hasn't been two days--

“How did you get here?” you ask. You'd do more--you want to do more (hug her, touch her, make sure she's real), but your muscles won't move.

Shannon's smile grows a notch--but all she says, in perfect Japanese to your English, is:

“Is Kotohime here?”

...Well, it's her moment of triumph (and in a way, yours, too), so why shouldn't she be allowed to milk it for all it's worth? You nod, eager to please, and turn around to fetch Kotohime--only to realize she's already standing there. Either the woman's a master of stealth, or you're so deliriously happy you wouldn't notice an African Bush Elephant in the kitchen.

Personally, you suspect the latter.

It doesn't matter, though. You're so damn happy you're even willing to forget you're not talking to this woman. “Kotohime,” you say, and your smile is so damn grand it's about to break your face in half at the ears, but you can't help it. “Kotohime, this is my sister--”

“No, it's not,” says Kotohime.

There is a very awkward pause, during which Shannon smiles brightly, and Kotohime smiles serenely, and your smile gracelessly slips. “Kotohime,” you finally say, when nobody else seems to want to take the lead. “I think I know what my sister looks like.”

Kotohime peers first at you, then at Shannon, her face boredly pleasant, a woman stuck with a second-rate brainteaser but finding entertainment in it just the same. “Does Shannon look like an old, grey-haired man with thick eyebrows and a large nose?” she asks, slowly.

The question is odd. “No,” you answer.

“I see,” says Kotohime, and then, “It's not your sister.”

And you are prepared to reassert your position in this matter when Shannon does something you find peculiar: she throws her head back, laughs cheerily, and then clearly isn't Shannon at all.

“Ah, I've been found out,” the woman who isn't Shannon says. She's holding something firmly between her thumb and index finger--but then there's a twist of the wrist and it's gone (up her sleeve, you'd think, but her sleeves only barely cover her shoulders). “Too bad, but I'm not surprised. It's easier to fool one person than two. Is this that Harker person?”

“Mm-hm.” Kotohime nods. “Terrence Harker. He's suspicious, and a police officer.”

The woman who isn't Shannon raises her eyebrows, smiling politely. “Another police officer?” she says. “You two must have been trading stories.”

“No.”

“Really? Huh.” Not even a blink. “Well, Byakuren said I should go and get you. There's been an incident at the Temple, and she said I should get someone with authority, but I couldn't find Kirisame, and--”

And then the woman who isn't Shannon stops talking, all at once. This is because you have punched her in the face.

--- --- --- --- ---

“He punched me in the face!”

Oh, what a whiner. You only punched her once. And it probably isn't bleeding anymore, anyway.

Unfortunately, most of the room seems disinclined to see things from your point of view. Out of all the stares and glares, Hijiri looks the least overtly hostile, and even she's fixing you with a decidedly neutral expression. And then there's Nazrin, eyebrows scrunched up like every other time you've ever seen her...Murasa, with a disposition that may or may not be primarily alcohol-fueled...

And some sort of nun with a cloud, and the cloud has a face, and the nun is glaring at you and the cloud is also glaring at you.

Yeah. You don't know what's going on with that.

As it stands, the only women you don't suspect of secretly wanting to trip you into a ditch at the moment are Kotohime, Hoodie-Shou, and Not-Shannon herself: Kotohime's all smiles (as usual), Hoodie-Shou keeps vacillating between concern and inquisitiveness (the former towards Not-Shannon, the latter towards you), and Not-Shannon's too busy throwing her pity party to manage a good hate (though you're sure the condition's only temporary). Just those three, and you wouldn't dream of imagining that any of them are on “your side”.

...Of course, there are also those three men milling about in the corner, but they seem more nervously uninterested in you than anything else--like they're trying to figure out how to go invisible before anyone notices they're still there. You have to borrow from Kotohime here, honestly: They're suspicious. They're suspicious as all hell. You wonder if they might be connected with that “incident” Not-Shannon mentioned before you interrupted her.

Eh, probably.

“Kotohime,” Hijiri says, one eye still fixed on you.

Kotohime snaps out of her vapid air-staring and back to (relative) attention. “Mm-hm?”

“Shall I show you the where the incident took place?” Head priestess she is, she's nothing if not respectful. Too bad it's all a waste.

“What sort of incident?”

See, that's the funny thing, you think, as you watch the bewilderment creep across Hijiri's face. Kotohime's actually plenty entertaining--just as long as you're not the one stuck talking to her. You'd call it schadenfreude, but to be honest, most comedy is built on the principle, isn't it? It's all funny, provided you're not the punchline.

And someone as full of herself as Hijiri is just begging for a laugh track. “Didn't Nue tell you?” Hijiri asks, once it becomes clear that Kotohime's not just messing with her. “There's been...a murder.”

“Oh,” Kotohime says. “That's wonderful!”

_ Go with Kotohime and Hijiri to investigate
- _ Optional: Talk to... (specify)
_ Stay with Nazrin, Hoodie-Shou, Not-Shannon, and the other one (as well as the three odd men)
- _ Optional: Talk to... (specify)
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 139869
[x] Stay with Nazrin, Hoodie-Shou, Not-Shannon, and the other one (as well as the three odd men)
- [x] Talk to Shou

Not sure if they'd let a suspicious person like Terrence investigate a crime scene. Shou seems most likely to give up some information, even if by accident. I suppose angrily approaching Nue about her transforming is another entertaining option.
>> No. 139885
[x] Stay with Nazrin, Hoodie-Shou, Not-Shannon, and the other one (as well as the three odd men)
-[x] Talk to the three odd men

I would think they're probably involved with the murder in some way, so it might be best to try and see what they have to say first.
>> No. 139904
[x] Stay with Nazrin, Hoodie-Shou, Not-Shannon, and the other one (as well as the three odd men)
- [x] Talk to Shou
>> No. 139951
[x] Go with Kotohime and Hijiri to investigate
- [x] Optional: Talk to Kotohime
>> No. 139957
[x] Go with Kotohime and Hijiri to investigate
- [x] Optional: Talk to Kotohime
>> No. 139991
[x] Go with Kotohime and Hijiri to investigate
- [x] Optional: Talk to Kotohime

Kotohime is best.
>> No. 139993
[x] Stay with Nazrin, Hoodie-Shou, Not-Shannon, and the other one (as well as the three odd men)
- [x] Talk to Shou

We should probably explain why we punched Nue.
>> No. 140013
_ Go with Kotohime and Hijiri to investigate

Talk fuck that.

(Okay I want to talk to Nue, but no way does Terence.)
>> No. 140024
[x] Go with Kotohime and Hijiri to investigate
- [x] Optional: Talk to Kotohime
>> No. 140503
File 130436169250.jpg - (54.91KB , 500x500 , PaperCities.jpg ) [iqdb]
140503
Damn it, no matter how I tried, I couldn't get Terrence and Kotohime to talk to each other. Not in the way I meant to, anyway.

This is the best I can do.

I'm sorry.

X Go with Kotohime and Hijiri to investigate

She's missing more tact than usual. Or maybe this is on purpose, too. You can't tell, and you're not going to assume again.

That said, a murder?

Kotohime and Hijiri continue their little talk as they head down one indiscernible hallway out of a hundred. Well, Hijiri talks, haltingly--somehow, you get the impression that the authority figure she got wasn't at all the sort she expected. Kotohime, meanwhile, just makes a variety of meaningless sounds that seem calculated to exasperate. Par for the course, really. You follow behind and try not to look obvious about it.

“Over the past few months, we've been allowing villagers to stay at the temple,” Hijiri exposits, and you start listening--if there really has been a murder, you want to know every little detail. You're a detective, after all. “It was Nazrin's idea, actually. She thought it might be a good way to promote our teachings, as well as the temple itself. And of course, a way to show the villagers that they had nothing to fear from us.”

...To be honest, you don't think you could fear Hijiri if she were trying to displace your head with a chainsaw. The woman's got a cape. That's not scary, that's just...tacky. Laughably tacky.

Now Nazrin--Nazrin would make a fine axe murderer. Granted, she is a little short...

“This afternoon, when Morikawa didn't show for lunch, I assumed he had lost track of time,” Hijiri continues. “I sent Shou to fetch him, but...” She trails off there, apparently too stricken to state the obvious. For a Buddhist, she seems awfully uncomfortable with this “death” thing. “In any case, as soon as I saw what had happened, I knew it would be best to contact a figure of authority.”

...And here you are.

Wonderful.

Kotohime hums some more, the tune soft, cheerful, and utterly ill-suited to the occasion. She closes her eyes tight. Opens them again. Looks up at the ceiling and holds her gaze there without breaking her stride. “Now,” she says, finally, “I'm supposed to ask you what you were when the person who was murdered became the person who was murdered, I think.”

It takes Hijiri a few seconds to muddle her way through that, but you can tell when she's got it: she stops in her steps at once, an odd expression staining her face. Surprise, offense, embarrassment. “You suspect me?” she says, her voice very calm.

You smile. “Is there a reason not to suspect you?” you ask.

It isn't until both Kotohime and Hijiri have both turned to look at you that you remember you're technically the civilian here. Whoops. Luckily, Hijiri doesn't seem to have anything against answering your question anyway: “It couldn't have been me,” she says. “It couldn't have been any of us. Between breakfast and lunch, I held a discussion with Shou and Nazrin about the number of villagers interested in becoming disciples. There has been a sharp increase, over the past six months...”

And she trails off again, just as uncomfortably as the first time. More uncomfortably, even. Like she just said something she wasn't supposed to say.

Kotohime smiles steadily into the silence. It's the same smile as usual (half serenity, half opium), except for the fact that it isn't. “I see,” she says. “But, even if you're three people, that's a lot of people you aren't.” And she looks at Hijiri and doesn't say anything more, and Hijiri looks back and doesn't say anything either.

For not the first time since you ended up in this stupid place, you feel like you're missing something.

Still, what did Hijiri say? “Six months ago”? That sounds familiar. Or almost familiar, maybe. You're so set on figuring out where you might have heard that phrase before that you nearly miss seeing Kotohime's eyes slip sideways, slowly--straight towards you. Some hint of a repressed expression must show on your face, though, because the moment you do catch it, Kotohime's smile returns to normal--like one of those rubber action figures kids used to play with. Stretch their limbs across the living room, let go, and watch them snap back to how they were when they came out of the box.

“Terrence Harker,” says Kotohime, pleasant as always. “Let's see a body!”

_ Go with Kotohime and Hijiri.
_ Return to the others
- _ Optional: Talk to... (specify)
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 140509
[X] Go with Kotohime and Hijiri.
>> No. 140511
X Go with Kotohime and Hijiri.
>> No. 140512
>>140503
[X] Go with Kotohime and Hijiri.

Oh boy, corpses!
>> No. 140518
[x] Go with Kotohime and Hijiri.

If this degenerates into a buddy cop CYOA I would have no problem with it.
>> No. 140529
>>140518
You say "degenerating" like you think it would be a bad thing.

[x] Go with Kotohime and Hijiri.
>> No. 140714
File 13047552796.jpg - (15.82KB , 450x450 , EasyMuffin.jpg ) [iqdb]
140714
Updates may be shorter, further apart due to the advent of allergy season.

Yeah. I'm serious.

_ Go with Kotohime and Hijiri.

You don't care to get caught up in this. You're already caught up in this, but you'd rather not get caught up in this further than you've already been caught. What you really ought to do, you know, is make some excuse and retreat back to the others--

But something holds you you here. Curiosity, or perhaps that persistent sense of duty. Either way, you stand and frown and say little and this is enough for Kotohime.

Hijiri, too. “Morikawa's room,” she says, and opens the door.

The low table in the center of the room is mostly bare, save for a small pile of envelopes, and what you presume to be Morikawa himself, slumped across the surface. “Presume”--of course, you're wholly dependent on eyewitnesses here. Out here in the boonies, you doubt there's anyone around who's big on forensics. Then again, you're no expert on Japanese history, so what do you know?

No seriously, what do you know?

Back in Los Ojos, you'd be comfortable enough rifling through the victim's pockets, secure that someone with a kit would take care of the fingerprints and DNA and all the rest. Here, though--here, there's no crime lab. It's a Luddite's paradise, and you've got a hunch that you and Kotohime are thoroughly in charge of this case, from start to finish, top to bottom. No blaming anybody else if the killer gets away with it. It's all on you.

No pressure, right?

Dark-haired male. Japanese, you'd think, with a name like Morikawa, but you don't care to guess at ethnicity yet, or age, not till you've had a good look at the face. Cause of death...something to do with all those stab wounds across the back, probably, but that's a tentative guess. You crouch at the other end of the table, careful not to step in anything, and lift the head.

Hijiri makes a soft sound, not a word. You ignore it.

The man's features certainly appear Asian--Japanese is an apt assumption, after all. Mid-twenties, you'd estimate, or thereabouts. Face is thin but healthy, hair is neat--the word “appearances” comes to mind, and you consider it for a second or two before letting the head drop and moving on to the hands. The fingernails are immaculate. “Did you touch anything?” you ask.

There's no answer. You look up. Kotohime and Hijiri are both staring. Kotohime, at least, has that same old smile on, but Hijiri--Hijiri's looking at you like she doesn't know what to think. How annoying.

“Did you touch anything?” you ask again, a little louder.

Hijiri makes a reentry into reality. Answers. “I didn't touch anything,” she says, and then, hesitantly, “I don't think that Shou touched anything, either.”

You frown. She doesn't think, she says...

_ Ask Hijiri some more questions... (write-in)
_ Investigate the room/the body a bit more... (write-in)
_ You're finished here.
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 140716
[x] Investigate the room/the body a bit more...

Investigate how and when he died. (To the best of our abilities and what is avaliable)
>> No. 140719
[X] Investigate the room/the body a bit more...
-[X] Check the contents of the envelopes on the table, and check if there are traces of blood on them.
-[X] Check the body's back to try to gauge how long ago the wounds were inflicted, and the size of the wounds. If possible ask to see the weapon.
-[X] Check the front of the body for stab wounds. Also check the mouth for any irregularities.
-[X] Check the floor for blood. To be more exact find out if the victim was standing or sitting when they were stabbed.
[X] Ask Kotohime if she recognizes the man.
[X] Ask Hijiri to go confirm whether Shou moved or touch the body in anyway.
-[X] When Hijiri leaves ask Kotohime if she recognizes those three old men we passed by.
--[X] If she does, ask if they would have any motive for killing this man.


Feel free to add or change things if I forgot some other piece of information.
>> No. 140721
[X] Investigate the room/the body a bit more...
- >>140719 's options.

That seems very through.
Very clean fingernails strike me as odd, I wonder what his job was. Or perhaps the temple just has good cleaning facilities.
>> No. 140732
[x] This >>140719 with:
-[x] Check if any personal effects have been stolen or disturbed: Tan lines where rings were removed, if he's wearing any other jewelry, or a coin purse.

Presence of anything of value would rule out theft as a motive.

We'll want to interview the residents, take inventory of any of the victim's other belongings, and contact any family.

>Face is thin but healthy, hair is neat--the word “appearances” comes to mind, and you consider it for a second or two before letting the head drop and moving on to the hands.

An unshaven head means that he's yet to take vows.

>The fingernails are immaculate.

Pretty rare in an agrarian society. We don't know what duties junior disciples have, but it could indicate either privilege or laziness.
>> No. 141346
File 130604073696.jpg - (69.46KB , 500x500 , MaidofGold.jpg ) [iqdb]
141346
X Investigate the room/the body a bit more...
-X Check the contents of the envelopes on the table, and check if there are traces of blood on them.
-X Check the body's back to try to gauge how long ago the wounds were inflicted, and the size of the wounds. If possible ask to see the weapon.
-X Check the front of the body for stab wounds. Also check the mouth for any irregularities.
-X Check the floor for blood. To be more exact find out if the victim was standing or sitting when they were stabbed.
X Ask Hijiri to go confirm whether Shou moved or touch the body in anyway.
X Ask Kotohime if she recognizes the man.
-X When Hijiri leaves ask Kotohime if she recognizes those three old men we passed by.
--X If she does, ask if they would have any motive for killing this man.

“Are you sure she didn't touch anything?” you ask. You turn back to the body and lift the head again, this time to check down the front of the chest. Those wounds in the back are obvious enough, but sometimes obvious is too obvious. “Do you know for certain?”

Hijiri falters for a moment, but recollects herself. “I'm certain she wouldn't do anything like that,” she says, resolutely. “Shou is responsible. I'm certain that telling me was the very first thing she did.”

...No good. The woman's got far too much confidence in her lackeys to provide anything meaningful. It's all secondhand, anyway--you'd have better results questioning Shou directly. There are no wounds in the front of the body, no irregularities about the face (save, perhaps, for the undignified expression of a man who's been stabbed in the back), and for the second time, you allow the victim's head to come to rest against the table's surface. “Is it alright if I talk to Shou?” you ask, distractedly. Next, what you ought to do is check if the body has been moved.

It's at this inopportune moment, however, that Hijiri appears to remember that you aren't a police officer. Or even the sort of individual she'd normally put trust in, for that matter. You aren't looking at her face, but you can imagine perfectly well the scrunching of her eyebrows, half confused, half wary, as she says:

“Mr. Harker...why are you here?”

No, no sign of movement, as far as you can tell, anyway. “That's a little rude, isn't it?” you say, and stand up, put yourself in a good position to peer down at Morikawa's wounds. Yes, you decide, he probably died here, with his legs tucked under the table, just as they still are. The murderer stood right here, and with a blade...

“Why so many times, though?”

You mutter the question out loud, but it's in English, so it shouldn't matter if they hear you. Hijiri seems preoccupied with other matters besides--such as trying to get you to shove off. Of course, she's very diplomatic about it: “Mr. Harker,” she says, “would you like a guided tour of the temple? I'm sure that if you talked to Shou yourself, she would be happy to show you around the grounds. Considering your circumstances, you might find a place like this very peaceful...”

You ignore her a bit more obviously this time, and she trails off again. She's been doing that an awful lot since you arrived here, trailing off. Maybe she should simply keep her mouth shut. Or, if she must hem and haw, at least hem and haw about something remotely useful. “Have you seen some kind of blade around here?” you ask.

What is left of Hijiri deflates. “I haven't,” she says, resigned. “I'll ask Ichirin to look into the cutlery.” You do not know who Ichirin is, and you do not find out--before you can form the question, Hijiri is gone, the woman having finally retreated from the room. How annoying. You slide the door shut behind her the second her footsteps start to fade away. It's a gesture borne purely of frustration--

And then you look at the inside of the closed door. Just look, just for a second.

You're from California. You've got no experience with Japanese architecture. So you can be excused for not noticing sooner, what with these Japanese doors. It's purpose that's in your steps as you stride over to the side of the room--and open the door there, the door connecting this room to the room one over. Two doors. Two ways to get into this room and stab a man in the back. Two routes of escape.

This could complicate things. Or maybe it won't. You'll find out, sooner or later.

“Do you know who this Morikawa person is?” you ask Kotohime. You pick up the pair of envelopes from the table, looking them over--luckily, they were far enough into the corner to escape a blood-drenching.

Kotohime nods. “Mm-hm,” she says.

You understand your mistake immediately. “Tell me who this Morikawa person is,” you say. They're still unopened, these envelopes. You should open them--

Kotohime smiles. Stands impeccably straight, like a student giving a presentation at the front of the class. It occurs to you, suddenly, how strange this is--that she let herself fade into the background from the moment the two of you stepped into the room, seemingly content with watching you wander around the crime scene--but before you can process that thought further she's talking about the dead man, and you've much more important things to worry about. “Morikawa Kazuhiro,” she says, and you think that you don't like her smile at all, not at all. “He gives money.”

You look down at his man again, his hair sleek, neatly combed. “Generous?”

“And,” Kotohime says, “he takes money.”

“So then...not generous.”

“And,” Kotohime says, “he takes more money than he gives.”

“Ah,” you say, though you still don't understand. A businessman? A banker? Some kind of investor, perhaps...

You look at the envelopes again. Consider them. Consider perhaps getting somebody's permission before opening them up--but who cares, really? You tear the first envelope open, and keep your eyes fixed with Kotohime's all the way down, just in case she decides to jump you for messing with evidence.

She doesn't, though. In fact, she's back to that odd passivity, though there is something in her gaze that you can't readily identify. Not approval, you think. Couldn't mistake it for approval. Why would you think of approval? It's not important, anyway, so you turn your attention to the other envelope, which tears as easily as the first.

Two letters. Not a lot, but hey--you're used to mountains of junk mail. Anything would seem paltry compared to that.

The first letter is messy. Hastily written--or excitedly, perhaps (it all looks similar at first glance). Most of it is padding, speaking of the weather and the addressee's health and the addressee's father's health, but eventually it gets to thanking Morikawa for some kind of vaguely defined help, with mention of a meal, if Morikawa's interested (too late for that). There's a name at the end of the letter but you have no idea how to pronounce those characters--Uchiumi? Uchikai? Naikai?

…Damned kanji.

The second letter is much neater than the first, with obvious care given to the writing. It is half plea and half command, a respectably yet strongly worded request that Morikawa stop doing what it is he's doing and return home. Whoever the writer is, it's clear he doesn't think much of Morikawa's lifestyle--careful language besides, what the whole thing boils down to in the end is something along the lines of “cut the foolishness and get back to where you belong before I get angry”.

There's no signature, but it's probably from his father. You bet it's from his father. It sounds like the sort of clichéd thing that would come from a stern father figure, though of course you wouldn't know yourself, would you?

“Those three men,” you say to Kotohime. “Those three men we saw when we came in--what are their names?”

Another wrangling later, you've got a nice collection of syllables: Honda-Miyamoto-Toshio-Hiroshi-Takato-Mitsuo. Spinning your head may be, but you're reasonably certain that none of them match whatever it is that's written at the end of the first letter.

How exceedingly annoying.

“And you?” you snap. “What do you think? You've been standing there all this time.”

You're just taking your bad mood out on the nearest available target, but it's not like she doesn't deserve it, right?

Kotohime smiles, and her eyes wander off into the distance momentarily before coming back to you. “I'm hungry, I think,” she says, and what the hell are you supposed to say to that?

--- --- --- --- ---

Supper is a thoroughly strained affair that does nothing to alleviate your annoyance. There's no way to take a proper statement here with everybody in the same room, for one thing. For another, the liberal dispensation of the stinkeye by nearly all parties attending--

Well, it's just about destroyed your appetite, frankly.

You play with your rice, moving it around with your chopsticks.

There's a lot of glaring being done around this table, and for a change, it's not all directed towards you. Nazrin and that nun are glaring at the men, the men are glaring at the women, and Murasa is glaring at a spot about a foot away from her nose, just about ready to fall sideways. It's almost like a scene out of a TV drama: the dysfunctional dinner, and any minute now, some poor unfortunate sucker will set off a spark--

“Aren't you going to say anything?”

Ah, Not-Shannon, then. She's a very unpleasant one, Not-Shannon. Even her appearance is grating. Little black dress, and stockings all the way up--who wears that kind of outfit to a homey dinner like this? Granted, you are a little biased against the woman. And by “a little biased”, you mean you might be convinced to look the other way if somebody were to hang her up and try to get the candy out.

“What do you mean?” you say, knowing exactly what she means.

The tentacles on her back flourish angrily. She's got tentacles on her back. Of course she's got tentacles on her back. “You punched me in the face,” she says, all very righteously indignant. “Aren't you going to apologize?”

You don't think it over for a second, but you pretend to. And then you say, “No.”

Not-Shannon's cheeks turn a healthy shade of red. Like apples, you think. Not apple cheeks. She's got a long way to go before she can call those apple cheeks. “You punched me in the face!” she reminds you, as if you hadn't figured it out the first time.

“And you pretended to be my sister,” you say. You pick at your rice and don't look up. It's gone quiet. No talking during the main event. “We aren't even,” you say, and you make your voice very gentle, very calm, “but I'll be generous. I forgive you.”

Not-Shannon decides to go for the whole hog, decides cheeks is small potatoes. Begins developing apple face instead. Hijri offers another helping of rice quickly and loudly and to nobody in particular.

Supper is a thoroughly strained affair.

=== === === === === === === === ===

Life stays the same. That's a bad thing.

It didn't take long for the FBI to show up and ask for custody of Nakamura. They were firm, polite, and full of crap. You didn't listen to their justifications. It was out of your hands, anyway.

Graham was sympathetic, afterwards. That made it all worse. You didn't want his sympathy.

Kirikami squirms in his seat next to you, drawing his hand over his face. “Dude,” he says, in that quick, compressed voice that sets your teeth on edge, “can we hit a coffeeshop?”

You ignore him.

Kirikami is undiscouraged. “I gotta get my latte,” he insists. Whines. “I mean, not just 'gotta', but 'gotta gotta'. I'm jonesin' for my caffeine fix.”

You ignore him. Tighten your grip on the steering wheel.

A knuckle cracks softly.

“Look, man, I'm not even kiddin', right? I need my latte. If I don't get something first thing, my whole day sucks--I'm seriously not kiddin' here. I'm totally gonna end up zonkin' out at the crime scene or something--”

You hit the brakes. Kirikami's head jerks. You grab his collar out of the air and pull, your thumb pressed against the knot in his clip-on tie.

“You are not going to 'zonk out',” you calmly inform him.

Kirikami agrees. You let him go, and he quickly finds something very interesting in the far corner of the passenger side window.

You can't even see the police tape, at first, but you stretch your badge out over the crowd and that is enough to part it, with Kirikami following you through. The space within is already thick with uniforms. You pick out the friendliest face. “Maxim.”

Maxim doesn't smile. “Ritchie.”

He says nothing to Kirikami, and Kirikami says nothing to him.

“Emily Palmer, fifty-five,” Maxim starts before you can ask. “Someone found her lying in the street--no way anyone could miss her like this. Still had her wallet, and everything.”

You glance past Maxim to where the circle is thickest, but you can't see the body from here. You'll have to move closer. “Not a robbery,” you say.

“No,” agrees Maxim, and then abruptly, almost awkwardly, “I thought you'd want to see it.”

“...'See it'.”

Maxim says nothing more, only inclines his head towards the body, frowning. You follow his sight, just as a photographer steps back, and out of the way--

The woman seems older than you, the lines etched deep into her face. Her hair is kinked and grey, cut short. A pair of glasses balance askew on the bridge of her nose, and her sweater is dull and faded, torn in places.

One tear runs long and deep across her stomach. Deep, very deep, from hip to rib.

Terrence's apartment isn't three blocks from here.

_ Her work
_ Her family
_ Her home
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 141360
_ Her family
>> No. 141361
[x] Her family

Terrence's apartment getting rented out to random youkai?
>> No. 141362
[x] Her work
>> No. 141371
[x] Her family
>> No. 141402
[x] Her home

Oh shit nigger, better check on Shannon.
>> No. 141405
[x] Her home

>>141361
What the fuck are you on about?

In case nobody remembers the last time somebody was killed by claw-based disembowelment, go read Thread 1 from the beginning.
>> No. 142457
File 13081997052.jpg - (88.89KB , 600x600 , TwoWeeks.jpg ) [iqdb]
142457
...Hey, can everyone see my text alright?
Because I just noticed my quotation marks are odd.

X Her family

--- --- --- --- ---

“You ask the questions.”

Kirikami looks up from a stack of paperbacks. Mysteries, of all things. “Huh?” he says.

Your gum is a weight in your pocket. You ignore it. You can't chew it here, anyway. “You ask the questions,” you say again. “The most I've seen you do in the last month and a half is answer the phone and look things up on the computer. If you're going to be tied to me, I'm not going to let you stay quiet all the damn time.”

Kirikami's smile wavers. “Hey,” he says weakly, “I don't do just that kinda stuff--I mean, I do other kinda stuff too--”

You point at the front desk. Kirikami flinches, and follows after your finger, back slouched.

Maybe you can train this kid.

“'Scuse me--Palmer, right? Zola Palmer, right? Detective Kirikami--that's Detective Valentin--”

Zola Palmer doesn't cry, or even show shock when Kirikami breaks the news. She just looks downcast, and she looked downcast to start with. “Of course,” she says. She shakes her head. Her hoop earrings twist. “She was always too trusting. I knew it'd get her in trouble someday.”

“You're not surprised?” Kirikami says.

Palmer exhales loudly. “Let me guess--she died in her own apartment, sitting in her own chair, book in her hand. You did find a book, didn't you?” She doesn't wait for the answer. “If you didn't, that's what they took. Nothing else to take--she didn't even have a TV, last I checked.”

The woman gets angrier the longer she talks. It's a dangerous anger, unfocused. Kirikami doesn't notice. “Well, y'know, we dunno for sure it was a robbery, really.”

“What else could it be?”

“...Y'know if your sister had enemies or somethin'? Someone that'd hate her enough to wanna hurt her?”

“Emily didn't have the sense to have enemies. She was friend to every living creature. Saint material.” The scoffing is more pronounced, this time. “She loved everybody and everybody loved her--Emily in a nutshell.”

“'Cept you?”

“...Sorry?”

Palmer's fingers curl around a doorstop of a novel. Kirikami had best word his next sentence carefully. You don't like to play good cop.

“I'm just sayin',” Kirikami says, “you seem kinda not-broken up about this, y'know?”

“She was an angel--and I had to grow up with her. I visited her twice a month, the least blood demands.” Palmer slips the book out of the cart and waves it, towards Kirikami's head. “Anything else? Or can I go back to shelving?”

“That was weird,” Kirikami says, once he's in the car. He grabs empty air twice before finally managing to pull the door shut. “Doncha think that was weird?”

“No,” you say.

You start the car.

“But I mean, all that stuff 'bout her sister,” Kirikami insists. “I mean, she was her sister, y'know? You don't just talk 'bout someone like that if they're your sister, y'know?”

You look at Kirikami, and immediately wish you hadn't. He's got that look in his eyes again, that painfully honest sincerity.

'You're naïve,' you almost say, but in the end you roll out of the parking lot with your mouth shut tight.

=== === === === === === === === ===

It's not a memory, and it's not a dream. It's something in the middle, some amalgam of both, with spindly arms to take what you love and twist it into some new trauma. You pass through a cloud, and the cloud becomes a hallway, white walls and white doors.

You follow it to the end. Your mother is dead.

Your father's face is bandaged. The machine counts his heartbeats, and you feel the world pulse in time. The bandages run down your father's face, become the white bedspread, become the bed. They twist in on themselves, wrap themselves over and over until nothing remains but a cocoon, white and bulbous and dead-alive. “You can talk to me,” Shannon says, but Shannon shouldn't be here. It's too dangerous. You shout at her to run--

The door opens. Your eyes open. Your nerves are trying to hop out of your skin.

“Breakfast is ready.”

You squint through the sleep, tilting your head back to appraise the woman in the hall. Your neck muscles protest--did you really fall asleep here, huddled against the wall like this? You meant to do some thinking (in lieu of actual investigation), but...

“Sorry,” you mutter, wiping at your face. “What did you say?”

“I said, 'Breakfast is ready'.” The nun frowns. The cloud does, too. The voice is pleasant enough, but there's a bit of sternness in it you're not very fond of.

Of course, it doesn't help that you're a month and a half deep into caffeine withdrawal.

“Oh,” you say, and let your chin drop into your chest. Maybe if you're very, very still, she'll think you've gone back to sleep and leave you be?

“You're not coming?”

...No. No such luck. “I'm coming,” you say, and rise to your feet, your joints popping every inch of the way.

You'd give most of anything to be home again.

The nun's nice enough to escort you, or maybe she's keeping an eye on you to make sure you don't kill anybody. No matter. You follow her down the hall, and resist the temptation to stick a limb into the man-faced cloud puffing mist down your collar. Your foot would probably go straight through, anyway, like with that Mima ghoul--being grappled around the throat once was enough, thank you. “So, you woke me up,” you say.

The nun looks at you strangely. It is, you have to admit, a fairly inane thing to say, like 'so, the sky is blue' or 'so, I'm made out of meat'. “Yes,” she says, carefully. “I did.”

“Did you lose a bet?”

“I was the only one free--and besides, I made breakfast.”

The sternness becomes a little less “bit” and a little more “bite”. Wonderful. You prod further, ignoring the caffeine monkey making gouges in your back. “Do you have a name? Or should I just call you 'Miss Nun'?”

But the reaction you get isn't the one you expect. There's the annoyance and irritation you were shooting for, sure, but there's a muted embarrassment, too. “I haven't introduced myself, have I?” the woman says, and you can almost believe she meant to give her name to you earlier but honestly forgot.

You can almost believe that.

She bows.

“My name is Kumoi Ichirin,” she says. “This is Unzan.”

It takes you a second to figure out who “this” is. Only a second, though. “The cloud is...?”

“Yes, Unzan is the cloud.”

...Slightly sore spot there? You shrug, putting on your dullest face. “I don't know much about clouds,” you say, and look towards the being in question. Still frowning. Or maybe that's his default expression. Who cares? “Should I just talk to you like I talk to anybody, then?” you ask.

The air in the hall becomes thick, pea soup thick, just for a moment.

“Unzan says you can,” Kumoi says, “but he might have trouble talking back.”

“I see,” you say.

You follow Kumoi down the hall and think of air pressure. Think of the bends. Wonder if Unzan could make your sinuses pop inside your head, if he were so inclined.

There's a buzzing in your head. If they try, you'll kill them first.

--- --- --- --- ---

Compared to dinner, breakfast isn't so bad. A good night's sleep has tempered tempers all around, and while nobody's welcoming you to the dinner with a wave and a hurrah, nobody's calling for you to be drawn and quartered, either. So that's fine. Heck, with Kotohime's vacantly cheery “you're here” and Hijiri wishing you a good morning, you actually come out ahead!

...Oh, wait, you forgot: they're idiots. Have to adjust for deflation, first. Turns out you barely miss breaking even, owing to Not-Shannon's continued glare-athon. Who pissed in her cornflakes?

“So,” you say, turning to more important matters, “did anybody find the knife?”

The sweet taste of a good mood annihilated! The murder was only yesterday, but with the sun shining down the same as it ever did you don't doubt that one or two of your suspects managed to convince themselves it was all but a bad dream. Human beings are funny like that--funny-stupid, anyway. You watch the reactions carefully. Kotohime is all smiles, as expected, but Hijiri's expression is visibly strained, and her disciples aren't faring much better: Shou is downcast, almost sad, Nazrin seems grumpy to the point of anger, and Kumoi just looks plain uncomfortable. The three men at the end of the table (removed from the women, you notice) look wary as well.

The only oddities in the room are Murasa and Not-Shannon, and only because one's hungover and one's hot under the collar. You pay them little mind, and make to repeat your question: “So,” you say.

And that's as far as you get before Not-Shannon explodes.

...Not literally, of course, but she does spring to her feet and get awfully loud all of a sudden. “I don't believe this--this guy almost kills Alice, and then he punches me, and now--and now we're supposed to listen to him and answer his questions?”

“Nue.” Hijiri's voice is gentle.

“Don't just say 'Nue'!” Not-Shannon points at you, beginning to shout in earnest now. Murasa sways, nearby. You're pretty certain she's going to be sick. “Who are you, anyway? You're an Outsider--you're not even from Gensokyo! Who do you think you are, walking around like you live here and asking us these weird questions?”

And she may be an unpleasant tentacled imp of a woman, but she's got a point. What are you playing at here, exactly? Rummaging through the crime scene, looking for evidence--

You're miles and miles away from California, Terrence. Deny it all you want, but the truth's still hanging there: in this time, in this place, you're not a police officer. Not in the slightest.

“He's a police officer,” Kotohime says.

“What?” you blurt.

“What?” Hijiri says, eyes wide.

“What?” Not-Shannon screeches, likely destroying every glass object in a five-mile radius.

“Sorry,” says the mailman, “should I come back later?”

Murasa vomits.

--- --- --- --- ---

The mailman peels off a small stack of envelopes and a taller stack of flyers, handing them to Hijiri directly. So, they do get junk mail here. Some things are just universal, you guess. “I have mail for Miss Kumoi and Miss Toramaru, too, but...”

The mailman trails off.

The problem is, of course, that Miss Kumoi is currently hard at work cleaning up a puddle of sick with a mop that's entirely too modern and an expression that's entirely too blank. You might ask about the mop, later, but definitely not now--there's a nasty stench coming up from it. Murasa, incidentally, is huddled in the corner of the room, looking as miserable as...well, as miserable as a woman who just supplemented breakfast with a serving of acid chowder. Shou's rubbing her back a bit, trying to comfort her, but somehow you doubt it's taking--you may not know hangovers, true enough, but you know misery, and what you're seeing now is some Grade A misery.

You consider it due comeuppance. Jump on your back, will she? Drunken lout...

“I'll make certain they receive their mail later,” Hijiri says reassuringly.

The mailman bows, at the same time tipping his cap. It strikes you as an oddly western gesture, though of course it probably isn't--how else would a man with a cap bow? “I'm sorry for troubling you,” he says, and as Hijiri takes her leave he turns towards the other three men: “Mr. Honda--Mr. Miyamoto--Mr. Takato--”

And here's where something very curious happens, because the moment two of those men get their fingers on their letters and leaflets, they're gone, fleeing into the temple like their heels are on fire--Honda first and Takato seconds behind. Honda is large, tall and hefty, while Takato looks like a beansprout in comparison--the sight pulls at a memory, but you're unable to place it before the two of them duck into the hall. Some old movie, perhaps. Something to do with baseball?

“No,” you mutter to yourself. “Not baseball--baseball was the other guys--”

You don't finish that thought--too difficult, with the eyes on the back of your skull. You turn around, switch to Japanese. “Do you want anything?” you ask, only barely polite.

It's the last man, of course, the only one who didn't go running off. Miyamoto, you presume. He's turning his mail over and over in his hands, his gaze fixed on you, sneering--or maybe that's just his face. “Can you leave, already?” he says. “I want to read my mail.”

“I'm not stopping you, am I?” you retort. You don't like him, you decide. Hell if you'll move just because some scruffy dope's afraid of someone looking over his shoulder. “Just read it. I don't care.”

“Well, I care. It's mail--personal mail. The least I deserve is a little privacy.”

You glance at Kumoi. Shou and Murasa have hobbled away by now, but the nun's still here, still mopping away at what needs to be mopped. If she's here, then you don't see why this guy should any problem with--

“She's busy, so she's not going to bother me,” Miyamoto says, irritatingly one step ahead. “Go, already. I've got mail to read, and you're an eyesore.”

...Yeah, you really don't like this guy. But hell--you're feeling almost generous, so you'll dispense some helpful advice. “If you're so worried about privacy, maybe you should go to your own room,” you point out.

Miyamoyo snorts. “Are you kidding? I don't have my own room. Nobody has their own room!”

It's an odd statement, seeing as you're pretty sure the dead man--the one with all the stab wounds--did, in fact, have his own room. You pick an expression: astonishment, and wide eyes and shock. “Nobody has their own room?” you ask.

“Yeah,” Miyamoto says. “They're all idiots here--and that priestess is the biggest idiot of them all!”

Miyamoto says the last part with deliberate loudness. His eyes shift in Kumoi's direction--but the woman is no longer there. She must have finished sweeping and left. Miyamoto looks disappointed, and continues at a more normal volume.

“Look, I don't know the whole story--there are three women who do know, but one of them's not here, one of them's some kind of recluse, and one of them doesn't like anyone. Apparently this youkai, Hijiri--she got trapped underground for ages, and by the time someone let her out she'd forgotten what humans were like.” Miyamoto snorts again, still rolling his mail around his fingers. “She doesn't get humans. She doesn't get that we can't just share space with people we don't know. Me, I'm lucky--i got a room on the end, so all I have to watch is the door to the hallway and the door to Mitsuo's room--”

“Wait, wait.” You interrupt Miyamoto, because something's important here. “You're saying that the rooms are connected?”

“Sure, those four, yeah. Connected.” Miyamoto glances down at his hands--and seems to remember, suddenly, that this discussion was originally about mail. His eyes narrow. “What, you didn't notice?” he asks, lapsing back into snideness. “All the rooms are like that. You must've been real busy or something.”

...Busy?

Busy, he says.

First Kotohime vetoes even considering the case after dinner, then you fall asleep thinking the thing over--and this guy thinks you've been busy.

You're kind of an embarrassment, aren't you, Terrence?

_ Pick three, in any particular order:
- _ Nazrin
- _ Kumoi
- _ Murasa
- _ Hoodie-Shou
- _ Not-Shannon
- _ Honda
- _ Takato
>> No. 142458
1[x] Hoodie Shou
2[x] Honda
3[x] Kumoi

Should probably give the guys some time to read their letters before talking to them, they'll probably be pissed if we interrupt them. Maybe we can talk to Shou about what she knows about these guys while we wait.

We should also only talk to one of the guys for now, so they don't get to high strung and think we're pressuring them for information. We'll talk to Takato another time if we can. Then we could talk to Ichirin afterwards just to see if what she has to say about what we found out, if we found anything out anyway. This is all assuming these options mean what order we talk to them in. If not, I still stay by these votes.

It also doesn't help that Terrence was exposed to being a cop to the three men, assuming they were all there for breakfest.
>> No. 142459
>“He's a police officer,” Kotohime says.

Deputized!

[x] Honda
[x] Takato
[x] Nazrin

From Miyamoto's mannerisms and attitude, as well as the letters, I suspect the reason for the humans being here is not entirely piety, and they might be cloistered because they're social misfits with rich families. I think they're most likely to give an unguarded appraisal of Morikawa and the temple.

Murasa is likely still hungover, and Shou may still be attending her. Probably want to save Nue for last, just so we'll have an excuse for not talking to someone else. That leaves Nazrin and Ichirin. Ichirin and Unzan seem pretty cool, but Nazrin is apparently the one who is responsible for the idea of having humans stay at the temple, so she might be expected to be closer to either the victim or the living humans, and is best suited to corroborating their stories.
>> No. 142460
_ Hoodie-Shou
_ ??
_ ??
>> No. 142461
[x] Honda
[x] Takato
[x] Nazrin
>> No. 142499
- X Murasa
- X Takato
- X Kumoi
>> No. 142514
[x] Honda
[x] Takato
[x] Nazrin
>>142459 Has sound reasoning. I also find the other humans suspicious.

That was also the most perfectly awkward breakfast.
>> No. 142518
>>142514
>I also find the other humans suspicious.

They're also the most likely to become the next victims, if we're dealing with a serial murderer.
>> No. 142721
...What the hell happened six months ago?

I know I'm fairly late in asking this, but it's really bothering me, now.
>> No. 142760
>>142721
>...What the hell happened six months ago?

We don't know. Alice mentioned it herself when talking about the impossibility of leaving Gensokyo.

Terrence has only been in Gensokyo for like a month.
>> No. 142885
[x] Honda
[x] Takato
[x] Kumoi

My reasoning is entirely selfish: I want more than just a brief peek at his Ichirin.
>> No. 143502
updates?
>> No. 143503
He's been struggling with it on IRC for a bit.
>> No. 143712
File 131045133389.jpg - (443.49KB , 700x700 , OneDay.jpg ) [iqdb]
143712
X Honda
X Takato
X Nazrin

You leave, no clear destination in mind. Miyamoto can be as smug as he wants on his own, anyway--you can't decide which is worse, the fact that he hit a nerve, or the fact that he could tell he hit a nerve. You saw it in his eyes, that expression of unquestionable victory. You've worn that expression many times yourself.

Not so often since you came here.

You're slipping, Terrence. Slipping bad. Back in Los Ojos, you could have laughed his comments off--played dumb, confused him, jostled him off his high horse. Here? Everything's coming to the surface of your skin and there's a certain freedom to it, sure, because there's no reason you have to pretend to like any of these people--

But you're losing control. You're letting yourself bubble up more and more often that you can't keep it down when you know you ought to keep it down. Few people like murderers, Terrence. And fewer people like murderers who are jerks--but it's too late now. You've alienated everybody in this crapsack fantasyland by this point, you wouldn't hesitate to guess. You blame it on that Alice chick. If that Alice chick hadn't decided to kidnap you, none of this would have happened. She wouldn't have dragged you to her shack in the woods, and you wouldn't have--

You didn't mind what you did, and you still don't mind, but you mind the consequences.

The closed door is utterly unremarkable in every way except for the fact that someone got slaughtered just a little distance beyond it. You sigh. Somehow, you were so busy whining up a storm in your own head that you didn't notice when your feet decided to drag you back here. Not that it's a bad thing. A crime scene's just the right thing to distract you from self-pity. Maybe you'll find something you missed the first time, even.

You slide the door open.

Pause.

...Well, this chunky idiot wasn't standing around the first time, so technically that fits, doesn't it? You scramble for a smile. “Honda, isn't it?”

Honda looks a bit like a kid who just got caught raiding the cookie jar. He's visibly sweating. Averting his eyes. The fact that he's got one of the deceased party's letters in his hand is just icing on the cake. “Yes,” he says, pretending there is absolutely nothing wrong with this picture.

Your smile grows wider. You don't even have to fake it. Now, then--good cop or bad?

“Hauling you away for theft might be a little hypocritical of me,” you say, kindly. “Might”--now, there's a useful word. “Besides, the man's dead, so it's not like he'll care. Did they already take his body?”

Honda relaxes. Not a lot, of course. But enough that he doesn't look so much like he's going into a coronary. “That's right,” he says, the letter crumpling by millimeters in his fat-fingered grip. “During the night--Hijiri went to meet with Morikawa's father--”

“While everyone was sleeping, right?” You smirk your for-show smirk. “You know, that Hijiri woman acts nice, but she's as sneaky as everybody else.”

Honda frowns. “She's a youkai,” he says, as if that explains everything (and maybe it does). “She can't be trusted.”

...Didn't you already say she was as sneaky as everybody else?

“So,” you say, “are you going to open that letter? You're not the only one who's curious.”

Honda's eyes widen as he realizes what you're letting him do. He even grins--but that grin drops off his face once he's actually taken a look at the contents. “Just garbage,” he grunts, tossing the letter back onto the table. “Utsumi--I've been to that guy's restaurant. It's nothing special.”

...Well, of course it's garbage. Does he honestly think you would have let him read that letter if it were anything remotely special? “Too bad,” you say, with false sympathy, and then carefully wait two seconds before jerking your head slightly towards Honda, fixing him with a bright-eyed look. It's your “I've just hit upon an idea” expression. “Ah, by the way, Honda--”

You hesitate. Honda leaps for it: “Hm?”

“Are you busy right now? I need some help, and I can't find Kotohime.”

Because you haven't looked for her, but of course you're not telling him that.

“I saw her leaving, after breakfast,” Honda says. He's still scowling about that whole letter thing, but he's talking to you, so it's all alright for now. “You didn't know she left?”

You smile, tiredly. “Have you tried talking to her?”

“Ah. Aha. Well.” Honda coughs into one meaty fist. Apparently he has. “Well then...what was it you wanted my help with?”

You avoid Honda's eyes. Try to look awkward. Low. Hell, you're feeling low enough, aren't you? “It's embarrassing, but...” Pause for effect. “I was hoping you could tell me about Morikawa's murder.”

Honda frowns. “You're the police officer. Isn't that your job?”

Careful now, Terrence. “Ah, sorry--I mean, I was hoping you could tell me what happened before Morikawa was murdered--the last time you saw him--that kind of thing.”

“Ah, well...” Honda trails off, very thankfully not asking you why you don't know this already. Could Kotohime's reputation for flightiness actually be helping you out here? That's a weird thought. “Breakfast. The last time I saw him was breakfast.”

“What time?”

...That came out a bit too overeager. Luckily, Honda doesn't notice. “I'm...not sure. Earlier than usual. The table was cleaned up by the time the mailman came by, anyway.” He reaches for the other letter--then stops, arm stretched out, halfway there. He blinks. “Wait,” he says, hesitantly.

You raise your eyebrows. “Hm?”

“After breakfast, I went to my room, but...” Honda pauses. He's drawing his words out. Digging out a memory. Or faking it, possibly. You can't know for sure. “I heard something. An argument, maybe. Some yelling.”

“...Yelling?”

“It was Morikawa and Miyamoto...I think.” You gaze at nothing in particular, trying to fit this new puzzle piece into the picture, and Honda mistakes your expression for incomprehension. “Miyamoto Toshio,” he explains. “That loud...unwashed fellow.”

Unwashed? Well, Miyamoto did look like he needed a shave, now that you think about it.

...Though, seeing the look on Honda's face, you kind of doubt a simple two bits would raise the guy in his estimation.

“Well, do you know what the argument was about?” you ask.

Honda doesn't--but he's willing enough to give you the name of someone who might. You thank him, ask him what he was doing himself between breakfast and lunch (it's standard procedure, you're quick to assure him, and of course he was resting alone in his own room without anyone to corroborate it, of course)--

And then you're off to see Takato.

Takato Hiroshi really is something like Honda's polar opposite. While Honda was more than a little hefty, Takato is rail-thin. Honda had a ruddy complexion, but Takato's as pale as a ghost. Honda handled your unexpected presence with dignity...

Takato, on the other hand, jumps a foot into the air with a shriek the moment he sees you. It's an impressive feat, too, considering that he's sitting on the floor when you walk in. You can't begin to imagine the guy's blood pressure. “Takato...Hiroshi, is it?”

“I didn't do it!”

...Oh boy. “I didn't say you did it,” you say, gently, and contract the muscles underneath your eyes. It's not even lunchtime, but you feel like you've been smiling all day. “Is it alright if I close the door?”

“...Yes.”

It's an obvious lie, but you slide the door shut anyway. Takato twitches. Well, you can smile for a bit longer.

“Nice room,” you say. It's an utterly meaningless comment. An attempt to put Takato at ease.

It doesn't really work. “It's not my room,” Takato mumbles. “I just stay here.”

“Well, you've kept it clean,” you say. And it's true--it is rather spick-and-span. In fact, other than a pile of letters and a cup full of the usual swill, the place hardly looks lived in at all.

But Takato just lowers his eyes and mutters nervously into his chest. Geez, this guy can't even take a compliment. You hate having to treat people with kid gloves.

Better to get to the point.

“So, I was talking to Honda earlier...”

Takato's head lifts at once. “Mitsuo?” he squeaks.

...Mitsuo? Yeah, that's him isn't it? “He mentioned that your room is right next to Morikawa's,” you continue. “That's why I'm here. Did you hear...an argument, or something like that?” You accompany this with a hopeful sort of look. Eager.

Takato does that whole “muttering and looking away” thing again. This time you can actually understand him, though. “Ah...if Mitsuo told you to talk to me,” Takato manages, “I can tell you...I guess...”

Well? Come, now. Out with it, out with it.

“It was after breakfast,” Takato says. “I went right to my room. A little while after...” He pauses. “A little while after, I heard some yelling, from Morikawa's room.”

Another pause. They're all pausing, aren't they? You really can't stand it. This one's longer, too.

“It was Miyamoto,” says Takato.

...And that might be very valuable information if you didn't already know that. “So, did you hear what Miyamoto was yelling about?” you ask.

Takato looks frightened. Not just nervous--he looked that way from the start--but frightened. His eyes wander from the table to the door to the letters and back to the table again--everywhere but in your direction.

“Takato,” you say. You make your voice soft, very soft. “I know this entire thing has been unsettling for you. Somebody was killed--and you were probably in the room room while it happened, right?”

Takato nods. “I...I stayed in this room. From breakfast, until Miss Toramaru called.”

“But before that, you heard Mr. Miyamoro.”

“...Yes.”

And you don't say anything more because you don't need to say anything more, not just yet. He's halfway there on his own already. You just have to...

“Everybody knows it.”

Takato doesn't really say the words--it's more like they burst forth from Takato's lips, unintended. A little like vomit. Takato himself looks terribly embarrassed, which is another point in favor of the simile.

“Everybody knows what?” you ask, playing at curiosity.

“Everybody...everybody knows it,” Takato says again. His chin dips towards his chest, and you almost feel you're about to lose your temper when it lifts again, and for the first time, Takato's looking straight at you. “It's because of Morikawa's father.”

The guy's...father?

Takato fidgets, but now that's he's started, he can't stop. Also like vomit. “Morikawa lent money, sometimes, but...it was just because his father did it. Only his father was a lot more serious about it. Do...do you understand?”

You don't, not yet. But you think, maybe, that this story sounds a little familiar...

“Most people who went to Morikawa's father,” Takato continues, “they couldn't get a loan anywhere else.”

Yeah. You get it, now. “And Morikawa's father made these loans at a high interest, right?” you ask.

Really, you can feel Takato's relief at not having to say it himself. The guy nods rapidly.

“Miyamoto's family owned a shop...”

You shut the door quietly behind you, turning this new information over in your mind. Miyamoto's family owned a shop. And then they didn't. And then Miyamoto's father decided it would be best for the whole family if he took a walk into the forest and didn't come back. And then...

“The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children,” you mutter. “Is that it?”

...You're feeling a bit peckish. Maybe there's someone in the kitchen you can press into fixing you a nice brunch.

--- --- --- --- ---

The kitchen is mostly empty when you wander in, unfortunately. There's a woman there, sitting at the side of the table, but it doesn't take a genius to figure she's not in the mood to make you a light salad, much less a real meal. She's got her face angled downwards, but you recognize her easily enough. You'd recognize those freakish ears anywhere.

“Yo,” you say.

Nazrin lifts her head. She wears no emotion. She also doesn't react to your greeting in any meaningful way, which is just rude. Maybe she didn't hear you?

“Yo,” you say again, a bit louder.

...And Nazrin still doesn't say anything, but this time she nods at least, once, sharply, and that's something. Or better than nothing, anyway. You already knew this woman wasn't the friendly type, so what did you expect?

You take a seat opposite her. If there's not going to be any food now, you might as well wait until lunchtime. A full stomach's just the thing for cases like these. Makes people lazy. Careless. Accustomed to opening their big fat mouths.

“Did you really punch Nue in the face?”

And now it's your turn to lift your head.

That was Nazrin's voice just now, as far as you can tell, but Nazrin's back to that pensive pose you found her in--face tilted forwards, eyes fixed past some point on the table. She looks nothing like she just asked you that question, in other words, which makes you doubly sure she asked it. “What?” you ask, after a second or two of silence.

“Did you really punch Nue in the face?”

Blunt and to the point. You answer in kind.

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“...Hey, shouldn't I be the one asking you the questions?”

Nazrin opens her mouth--to snap back at you, undoubtedly--and then hesitates, as if she's suddenly remembered that no, you aren't just some schmuck staying at the temple on his vacation time, you're a detective--a police officer--deputized. You can see her hanging there, stuck between pride and obedience to the law, too far to turn back and at the same time too far, period.

...You might as well help her out. You do have questions of your own, don't you? And spare time. Lots of spare time, until lunch rolls around. “I've got an idea,” you say.

You look at Nazrin to make sure she's listening. She is.

“Quid pro quo,” you say.

Nazrin arches an eyebrow. “Is that Japanese?” she asks, clearly expecting the answer “no”.

“No,” you say. “It's Latin. It means 'something for something'.” You quickly explain: “In other words, let's take turns. You answer my question, and then I'll answer yours--is that alright?”

You're expecting her to turn you down, to be honest. There's no way she needs to know that badly--but then her eyebrows dip, and she's scowling at you, and then you know that you've got her where you want her to be. “Fine,” she says. “Why did you punch Nue?”

You smile. “Don't be so eager,” you say. “You already asked your question. It's my turn.”

“You already asked your question,” Nazrin says.

...What?

“You wanted to know if you weren't the one who should be asking the questions,” Nazrin says. “That was your question. It's my turn.”

...This woman. She's tiny, but she's clever, isn't she? Terribly clever.

But you're no slouch yourself. “That's true,” you admit, “but you never answered that question, so it doesn't count. Plus, you asked me if 'quid pro quo' was Japanese. That means I get two questions.”

“But you asked if it was alright if we took turns. That cancels out one of my questions.”

“But that still means it's my turn.”

And you smile and Nazrin scowls, and Nazrin scowls and you smile, and you're moderately sure you're enemies now. Wouldn't you know it?

“So,” you say, “when's the last time you saw Morikawa alive?”

“At breakfast. He finished before anybody else. He said he was going to his room.” Nazrin gives you a clear, straightforward answer, which is fairly disappointing. You were hoping she'd be difficult. Then you'd be justified in being difficult back. The way things are going here, this question and answer session might end up a bit boring. “Now, it's my turn,” Nazrin says, quickly, as if to cut you off before your start something. “Why did you punch Nue?”

“...Because she made herself look like my sister.”

You're not sure what Nazrin was expecting, but you don't think this was it. She actually loses her scowl for a second there. “You have a sister?”

“Yes, I do have a sister. Unfortunately, I don't have a photograph or anything, so you'll just have to believe me.” Nazrin still looks mildly astonished--it's irritating. You frown. “Is it really that strange?”

“No, it's not that it's strange...”

Ugh. Forget it. “Well, it's my turn now,” you say. “What were you doing between the last time you saw Morikawa alive and the time Shou found Morikawa's body?”

Nazrin doesn't stop to think. “I was talking with Byakuren and Shou,” she says. “We were talking about how to make the temple more approachable to the villagers.”

...Which jibes with what Hijiri said yesterday. “Pretty long conversation,” you mutter.

“Yes. It was.” And now she sounds pissed again. Great. No doubt she's going to hit you with something annoying. Back to Margatroid, you expect. It always goes back to Margatroid.

Only Nazrin doesn't say anything about Margatroid. In fact, she doesn't say anything at all. She just looks at you, with that odd combination of irritability and--

And--

“Why are you helping Kotohime?” Nazrin asks.

“I don't understand the question.”

Nazrin pulls her mouth into a tight line. You can feel her gaze on you. Iron. Like the time before.

“I mean,” Nazrin says, “why are you trying to solve this case? Kotohime says you're a police officer, but we both know that doesn't mean anything. You're not from the village--you're not even from Gensokyo. It shouldn't matter to you whether the murderer is caught or not. So why are you trying to solve this case? Why are you helping Kotohime?”

And Nazrin finishes, and Nazrin is silent and she looks at you, and waits for her answer, and you think:

Help Kotohime?

Because that's never been your motive, not at all.

_ Curiosity
_ Duty
_ Truth
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 143731
[x] Blowjobs
>> No. 143733
[x] Blowjobs
>> No. 143739
[x] Truth
>> No. 143745
[x] Blowjobs
>> No. 143749
>>143731
>>143733
>>143745


Honestly, this is how you morons are going to greet him when he comes back with updates?
>> No. 143755
_ Curiosity
>> No. 143759
>>143731
>>143733
>>143745
ಠ_ಠ

Good update, glad that Terrence told someone the reason he punched Nue.

[x] Truth

Old investigative habits die hard?
>> No. 143762
[x] Fun

Even in this conversation with Nazrin, he's intentionally trying to bring about an adverse situation between him and her. Why would he want her to be uncooperative? Is it a ploy somehow extract information she's even more reticent about?

>Nazrin gives you a clear, straightforward answer, which is fairly disappointing. You were hoping she'd be difficult. Then you'd be justified in being difficult back. The way things are going here, this question and answer session might end up a bit boring.

No. The plain truth is boring. He values the chase as much as the result. The end result isn't a great concern for him outside of this role he's taken up. None of this means however that he's in any way bad at getting those result, or that he won't work hard to solve the case.

Terrence is motivated by impulses rather than designs. He reacts to things, and this murder is a good example of him reacting by adopting a new role. He's really doing the same thing now that Kotohime has been doing: Not being a police officer, but playing at being a police officer.

And he definitely is having fun. Despite the dread of an upcoming criminal trial, he's cheerier and more assertive than he was before he carved up Alice.

Finally, I think a drunkard would appreciate such a self-indulgent motivation.
>> No. 143766
[x]Curiosity

Investigating is much more interesting than just sitting around waiting for a trial.
>> No. 143769
[x] Truth
>> No. 143771
[x] Curiosity

Not only does it beat sitting around for a trial, this may be a roundabout way for him to unravel the mystery of getting back to Los Ojos. Besides, this investigation is the first time that Terry's been in anything like familiar territory during his stay in the 'Soak.
>> No. 143773
[x] Curiosity
>> No. 143779
[x] Fun

>>143762
Dat reasoning.
>> No. 143829
[x] Duty

"You primitive screwheads would just fuck this up."

>>143771
>The 'Soak
Was Kriegsaffe the first person to use this?.
>> No. 143979
[x] Fun
>> No. 143996
[x] It just... feels right.

Thrust in an insane world he can't comprehend, mind addled with distrust and regarded poorly by many of Gensokyo's residents, playing along with Kotohime's police act helps give Terrance something to do that makes him feel closer to home, gets his old instincts going, keeps him from going insane from inactivity in this crazy world.

Falling into the part of detective and playing it... it's not because of Justice or Duty; he's doing it because it's something he can do, something that he's comfortable with.
>> No. 144040
I'd like to change my vote at >>143829 to

[x] It just... feels right.

I'd delete the old one, but passwords and all that.
>> No. 144146
[x] It just... feels right.

Seems to fit the character best.
>> No. 144270
File 131184102762.jpg - (353.96KB , 525x525 , NeverStops.jpg ) [iqdb]
144270
X Curiosity

“Curiosity,” somebody says. It's you.

“Curiosity?” Nazrin seems incensed, and you wonder if it counts as another question burnt. “That's it? Curiosity?”

You can feel the crow's-feet at the edges of your eyes. A real smile, then. And you didn't even have to work at it. “Curiosity,” you say again. “You look angry all the time, but it seems you've got a pretty hopeful nature. You were expecting me to say something nice, like 'duty'.”

Very carefully not a question.

“But you're right,” you say, “I'm not from Gensokyo. And it doesn't matter to me if the murderer is caught or not. But Kotohime made me come here, so here I am.” You spread your arms wide. “Police officer Terrence Harker. Not a bad promotion, I think.”

Nazrin gazes at you with an expression of horror and disgust and maybe a few other somethings wedged in there. You've never seen that expression before--but you've never opened yourself up for anyone to see before, not to this extent, so there you go.

“My turn,” you say.

“No.” Nazrin makes to stand. Doesn't do it very well. Like she's been wounded. “You're not a police officer. You--”

“Sit. Down.” And you must have said it just right, because Nazrin stops. “Quid pro quo. That was the promise. I keep my promises, and I expect you to keep yours. We'll keep asking questions until we haven't got any left, so sit down.” Nazrin still doesn't move. You raise your voice. “Sit!”

She sits.

Still looks pretty damned cross about it, though.

“My turn,” you say once more. You're cross, too. You can feel it simmering in your head, but it's not important right now. “What order did everybody leave the breakfast table?”

“I already told you Morikawa left first.”

You wait for the rest of it.

Nazrin looks like she might strangle you. “Honda and Takato left a few minutes later, at the same time.”

“So that just leaves the people who live here.”

Nazrin nods. Good. She may be angry, but it apparently she knows better than to stop cooperating completely. “Nue left next. She said she wanted to take a walk--”

...If that's all that imp did, you'll find a hat and eat it.

“And then Ichirin left, to do the shopping.”

“I assume Unzan left with her.”

Nazrin nods again. “And Murasa went to her own room.” She says this quickly, rushing to get to her feet, clearly intending to escape. You stop her.

“We're not done.”

Nazrin fixes you with a glare you're sure could curdle milk. “What is it?” she asks, rather vehemently. “We're done, aren't we? I don't have any questions to ask, so this conversation is finished.”

“Well, you still haven't finished answering my question, so no, we're not done.” You sit back, closing your eyes for a moment to skim through the whole cast of characters and confirm what you need to. “You left out Hijiri, your friend Shou--and yourself, I think.”

Nazrin looks like she might do a whole bunch more than strangle you. “I already told you,” she says. “The three of us were talking--”

“Yeah, but I'm not sure if I believe that. Like I said--that's a pretty long conversation. Sitting at a table for hours must be real uncomfortable, right?”

“No. We took a walk.”

You let Nazrin storm off, after that. There's no point in keeping her any longer, not with that attitude. You'll just have to find her again later.

Shouldn't be too difficult. She's not going anywhere, after all.

...Of course, barring any developments, neither are you.

Hm. It just might be time to try out a different strategy.

--- --- --- --- ---

Kotohime still hasn't returned by lunchtime, which is just fine and dandy as far as you're concerned. The last thing you need is her messing something up. Not that there's much to mess up--to be honest, you're flying by the seat of your pants here.

Cross your fingers and duck that evil eye, Terrence. You need all the good fortune you can get.

“Miss Kumoi,” you say, before anyone can shovel food into their mouth.

“Yes?”

Everybody is staring at you. All of them, all around the table. You pretend to ignore it.

“I apologize--I've asked this before, but--do you know if any of the knives are missing?”

Nue doesn't interrupt this time, sour as she seems, but it still takes a moment before Kumoi catches up to what you're saying. “No, none of the knives are missing,” she says. “Or misplaced,” she adds.

“I see. Thank you.”

Kumoi nods. You nods back. It's nice to see that there's someone in this temple without the desire to beat your brains out. Seriously, who else have you got in that category? That Shou woman, maybe. You can't be sure about Hijiri.

You cough. Turn your eyes quickly around the room. Yes, they're still looking at you.

Good.

“This sure looks tasty,” you say. “It's a lot more food than I'm used to. At home, I just put some meat between two slices of bread and say that's a meal.” You pick at the fish. Make sure your chopsticks don't fall out of your fingers--or would it be better if they did? Might make you look silly. Nonthreatening. “Who made all this food, anyway?”

“Oh, it was Ichirin. She does most of the cooking here--”

Nazrin elbows Shou (or is that Toramaru?) seconds too late. You look at Kumoi. She's got her eyes slightly downcast, but she's smiling faintly. Embarrassed?

You take a bit of fish, a bit of rice. Chew. Look thoughtful. “This food is as delicious as it looks.”

Ah, yes, that's definitely a smile. Only barely there, but it's a good reaction. You press on.

“By the way, where do you do your shopping? I've only been in this village for about a month, so I'm not familiar with the place.”

“There's a marketplace near the center of the village,” Kumoi says. “I go there about once a week.”

“Huh.” Even more thoughtful. “Does it take a long time, buying food for a whole temple?”

“No, not that long. Only about an hour.”

...Only, she says. Right.

You gather another mouthful of rice. Really, this is some good stuff. It's not haute cuisine or anything, but it's pretty good. “I didn't see you leave today, though,” you comment.

Kumoi shakes her head a little. “It was yesterday I went shopping--”

Nazrin pounds the table with her fist, sending dishware clattering and all heads swiveling in her direction. Her expression is murderous. “If you're going to question her, just do it normally!” she shouts.

You pull on your concerned face. “Interrogating people during mealtime ruins the atmosphere,” you say.

“You're interrogating her already!”

“And until you started screaming, it was all very peaceful.” You turn back towards Kumoi before Nazrin can think of anything else to say. Unzan's frowning at you, you notice. Or was he already frowning? It's hard to tell. “I'm sorry,” you say to Kumoi, “but is it alright if I interrogate you?”

It takes another moment for Kumoi to answer. You don't blame her, exactly. It's an odd question. “It would be fine, I suppose,” she says, a bit unsure.

“That's good!” You raise the edges of your lips. Sculpt your face into good cheer. “Well, then,” you say, “what were you doing between breakfast and lunchtime, yesterday?”

“I went shopping, and then I took a walk.”

“And what time did breakfast end?”

“Nine-thirty.”

The answers are immediate. This is a woman who's got her head screwed on straight. You like that.

“So you left the temple to do your shopping at about nine-thirty?” you ask.

“Yes.”

“And that took about an hour?”

“Yes.”

“And then what did you do?”

“...I came back to the temple.”

A slight pause, there. Maybe it means something. Maybe not. “A little more specific, please,” you say.

“...I came back to the temple,” Kumoi says again. “I put the food away, and collected my mail. Then, because it was too early to make lunch I decided to take a walk--”

“Do you always collect everybody's mail?” You interrupt Kumoi before she can rush past you.

“No,” says Kumoi. “I only took my own mail. I left the rest of it on the table.”

“Ah. Alright, then.” Another friendly smile, another bite of rice. “And did anybody see you?” you ask.

Kumoi frowns to match Unzan. “Yes,” she says. “But I don't think that person remembers.”

“And how do you know that?”

“Because she was drunk.”

Kumoi's tone is unemotional, very matter-of-fact. You glance at Murasa, who is suddenly very interested in the bottom of her bowl. Uh-huh.

“And then?” you ask.

“I took a walk. When I returned to the temple it was eleven-thirty, so I made lunch.”

“I see. And lunchtime was...”

“Noon.”

No hesitance again. Maybe it was the part with Murasa that was giving Kumoi trouble. You wouldn't blame her. “I see,” you say, and nod and smile and smile. “Thank you.”

Kumoi doesn't smile back, but her lips twitch. Good enough.

_ All the suspects are here. Bestter get the questioning out of the way... (write-in, specify character)
_ You're finished here.
>> No. 144286
Well, hell. Any ideas?
>> No. 144290
Unzan is the killer.
>> No. 144291
File 13118798956.jpg - (256.21KB , 680x800 , 8fac77f8f685f0ad7e01eb851fb3f8d9.jpg ) [iqdb]
144291
Oh my goodness this Ichirin. She needs to become a good influence on Terrance.

The people we haven't questioned are: Shou, Byakuren, Nue and Murasa. Murasa was most likely drunk the whole day so isn't the best choice and I doubt Nue would cooperate.

[x] All the suspects are here. Bestter get the questioning out of the way (Shou)

Shou is honest to a fault, even if she spent most of the time talking with Nazrin and Byakuren we can at least confirm that.
>> No. 144295
File 131189121618.gif - (218.38KB , 500x300 , tumblr_ljn910Zrhn1qe0eclo1_r3_500.gif ) [iqdb]
144295
>Bestter
>> No. 144298
[x] Ask Ichirin if Unzan was with her the whole time yesterday.
-[x] If not question Unzan, using Ichirin as an interpreter.

They might not be joined at the hip. Even if he couldn't stab a guy, he might have seen or heard something.
>> No. 144301
[x] Ask Ichirin if Unzan was with her the whole time yesterday.
-[x] If not question Unzan, using Ichirin as an interpreter.
>> No. 144354
[x] You're finished here
>You glance at Murasa, who is suddenly very interested in the bottom of her bowl.
Murasa knows something methinks, but questioning a second person doesn't seem like a good idea with Nazrin as defensive as she's being.

And, uh, guise. I'm pretty sure canonically Ichirin and Unzan are with eachother 24/7. I mean, this being touhou cyoa and all, that might get thrown out the window without a second thought, but I doubt it.

>you'll find a hat and eat it
I snorted.
>> No. 144401
[x] Determine Unzan's whereabouts at the time of the incident.

Also, finding a hat to eat would be ridiculously easy in Gensokyo. The real trick would be to get it down before its owner takes it back.

>>144295
Haha, I hadn't even noticed that until you pointed it out.
>> No. 144462
[x] You're finished here

It is possible that Unzan might have a clue about what might be going on, but asking him right now to speak in front of everyone else, one of whom might be directly involved, would not be the wisest thing. Chances are, if Unzan saw something that was important, it'd be better to ask the two of them alone.

I would so love to see a reaction from Terrance if Satori decided to take a visit to Myouren after all this is settled. Hell, her very existance renders his job unnecessary.
>> No. 144582
[x] You're finished here.

>>144462
>I would so love to see a reaction from Terrance if Satori decided to take a visit to Myouren after all this is settled. Hell, her very existance renders his job unnecessary.
Satority Report?
>> No. 144584
[x] You're finished here.

Like >>144462 said, we can ask him later.

Hopefully.
>> No. 144776
File 131312170038.jpg - (19.83KB , 300x300 , SongSungBlue.jpg ) [iqdb]
144776
X You're finished here.

Having finished your bout of interrogation, you dig into your meal with sincerity. There's the temptation to move on to a new target--Shou, perhaps; she seems easy to read--but one look at Nazrin's face warns you off. She let you mess with Kumoi because you were already partway through when she caught you.

She's not going to let you start anything else. You understand that at once.

So you alternate fish and rice and condiments, and chew slowly to keep the noise out of your ears. Unfortunately, on the whole, the group's appreciation of the meal is all too genuine, and what words do float across the float are neither important nor interesting--simply variations on “this food is good” and “please pass the salt”. Even the men, marinated in their mutual suspicion, only open their mouths to fill them with food.

...Not that they'd say much if the food were rotten, you expect, after you took your time pulling yesterday out from between Kumoi's lips in front of the entire company. They'll all be careful, now, even more careful than before, and you still don't know if that interview got you anything remotely useful. Damn.

Damn, damn, damn.

It's shaping up to be a terrible evening, and it isn't even three in the afternoon.

...Well, if there's one thing that can get your mind off this substandard situation, it's meaningless babble. Or, as they call it in other circles, “small talk”. Is your smile still on? “By the way, how does the postal service work in Gensokyo?” You ask this around another mouthful of rice. “If people are sending me mail, I'd like to know.”

“...You haven't gotten any threatening letters yet?”

“Nazrin!” Shou's clearly embarrassed. She shoulders your question herself--as if to make up for her dear little friend's rudeness. “Ah...you live with Kotohime, right?” she asks.

Not by choice. “That's right,” you say.

“Then there's no problem! Everybody knows by now--so if anybody writes you a letter, you'll get it.” Shou smiles, like she's very honestly happy to have eased your worries, but you're not completely satisfied.

“Really? That's it? I don't need to fill out any forms or anything like that?”

Shou's smile flickers. “Why would you need to fill out a form?”

“...A change of address form?”

“...But everybody already knows where you live.”

“Yeah, but...”

You trail off, a bubble of comprehension popping in your skull. This woman--she's got no concept of bureaucracy, has she. At all. And if what she's said is to be believed, that's actually the norm here. Once again, you're rudely reminded that you're trapped in some mystic, faraway land where they've never heard of social security numbers--

That's either refreshing or scary; you don't know which. You don't want to think about it, besides. You quickly put your head down and fill your mouth with more rice.

...Oh.

You're out.

Huh.

Well, that's fine. Nothing wrong with that. You haven't been eating well lately, so it's only to be expected that you tucked into that as heartily as you did. You'll just have to sit here a while until you come up with a reason to leave. Or would anybody mind if you stood and left right now?

You peer around the table, hoping for a sign. Or maybe a clue. Or maybe just something to occupy your senses.

_ Sit here and wait a bit.
_ Forget it, you're outta here.
_ Do some thinking... (specify character)
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 144778
[X] Forget it, you're outta here.

No obvious leads to talk to/think about and they aren't very conversational right now. I doubt anyone will loosen up. Might as well leave and see if we can't bumbling into something.

Later, Terrence returns to a pile of angry letters from Marisa.
>> No. 144793
[x] Forget it, you're outta here.

Homicide cases aren't usually single-day affairs.
>> No. 144802
[x] Sit here and wait a bit.

Think!
>> No. 144955
[x] Sit here and wait a bit.

Don't wanna miss anything important if he was to leave the table.
>> No. 144989
[x] Sit here and wait a bit.
>> No. 145071
[x] Forget it, you're outta here.

Going for a walk after a meal aids digestion and clears the head, after all.
>> No. 145570
[x] Forget it, you're outta here.

He wants to occupy his senses. Not everyone does their hard thinking sitting at a table.
>> No. 145769
File 131522162023.jpg - (65.96KB , 500x500 , LastHorseontheSand.jpg ) [iqdb]
145769
I started writing when the other choice was winning.
I apologize. I took too long.

X Sit here and wait a bit.

Nothing is forthcoming, unfortunately. With the exception of Nazrin's little outburst, everyone at the table is on their very best behavior--a fact you find both amusing and irritating. It's all fake, after all. You only need to catch Nue's eyes for a second to understand that she still wants to twist your arm the wrong way around, and she's the most emotional of the bunch. What hatred lurks hidden within the rest of this dismal company?

...Well, that's what you're trying to figure out, aren't you? Only it isn't going so well. Maybe you're not cut out for this. Foreign ground--culture differences--no partner to rely on--

You wonder who they partnered Valentin with. They must have given him a new partner by now. Phan, maybe. He's adequate enough.

Oh, what the hell. You'll start your own conversation, then, if everyone else is so determined to keep silence. “But what about now?” you ask Shou. Toramaru.

Toramaru Shou?

Whatever her name is, she appears to have lost the thread of the conversation. “Huh?” she says, rather unintelligently.

“What about now?” You pause, hoping that repetition alone might jog the woman's memory--but no luck. You explain: “Right now, I'm living here. In this temple. Of course, I don't expect to live here very long--”

You glance towards Nazrin and Nue. Their expressions are very easy to read.

“--but right now, I'm living here. In this temple.” You fold your hands in front of you. Roleplay a man out of his depth, building up to an innocent question. It doesn't take too much effort, save the “innocent” part. “Will the postal service deliver mail here, or to Kotohime's residence?”

Toramaru Shou Toramaru rolls an absent smile, visibly pondering the question. “I'm not sure,” she says. “I should ask somebody.”

“Make sure they give it to you directly.”

All eyes turn to Miyamoto, who chews his food slowly, like he didn't just toss his two cents onto the table just now. There's a bit of rice stuck in his moustache. He doesn't seem to notice.

Nazrin's eyes narrow. “And what do you mean by that?” she says.

“I mean,” says Miyamoto, with deliberate, sneer-colored enunciation, “make sure the mailman gives the mail to you directly.”

You can feel the tension in the room climbing rapidly. You'd have to be a fool to miss it, and you aren't a fool--but you can pretend. “Why directly?” you ask, eyes wide and clueless.

Miyamoto snorts. “Are you an idiot?” he says.

And, glaring, he sweeps his arm out to gesture about the table: at Nue--at Murasa--at Kumoi--Unzan--Nazrin and Toramaru--Hijiri and her painfully false smile. His eyes twitch, for one moment towards the other two men, quiet and stone-face, and then back again to you, marking you with naked contempt.

“They'll read it,” Miyamoto promises. “They'll all read it. They don't trust even us--do you think they trust you? They'll open your letters and fold them closed again and pretend they never saw them--”

“Miyamoto,” Hijiri says weakly.

But Miyamoto only turns his glare onto her. “You want to deny it?” he says, his voice dangerously composed. “You want to say you've never looked through our mail? Or maybe that's true. Maybe you just need better disciples--”

Nazrin stands. “How dare you--”

And then there is shouting and screaming and Hijiri trying futilely to make peace and Shou covering her head and Murasa running off to goodness knows where and soon you are quite certain that nobody is paying you a lick of attention so you allow yourself a very small smile.

---

Miyamoto's father died. Of course--lost among the trees as the tall ghosts tore out his throat. There are many important veins there. You know that.

Blood doesn't die, though, even spilled. Blood sings--

“Some blood sings louder,” says the woman in the purple dress. Her ribbon is slipping. She must get it tightened at the next stop. “Sometimes too loud,” says the woman in the purple dress. The steering wheel locks. The car window shatters. You are your dad. He is the last person you would ever want to be.

“Did you know,” says the woman in the purple dress, “that you never get on this bus?”

Motive, you think. It's taken care of. The usual suspects. The usual suspects--

“Did you know,” says the woman in the purple dress, “that you never get off?”

You sit upright the moment you wake up, cursing into the wind. Damn it--damn you--that's the last time you take a nap on a full stomach. It's still the middle of the afternoon, but you can feel the cold sweat all the way down your neck.

You scowl. What time is it, anyway? Kotohime ought to be back by now. You think you ought to have a serious talk with that woman, the next time you see her.

You think you just might have this all figured out.

=== === === === === === === === ===

Keeping secrets is a difficult business, but it starts with closing your mouth. Everything else follows from that.

Spreading secrets? That's something else.

You think you've got it figured out, though. The trick is remembering that human beings are generally lousy.

“'Robinson Crusoe', by Daniel Defoe.”

People lie. They cheat. Steal. Break their promises. You should know. You're a detective. You've seen the worst of it.

So you were perfectly aware what you were doing two weeks ago when you lay next to Sandra after another missed dinner and said:

“Don't tell anyone--”

“'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court', by Mark Twain.”

Was it too much to keep to herself, or petty revenge for all the late nights away from home? You don't know. And frankly, you don't give a damn.

Funny thing, though. Last time you visited Shannon at the coffeeshop, you noticed a certain Japanese man with high cheekbones getting some pretty dark looks from the clientele.

That was yesterday.

Sandra's a shrew. No doubt about it. But she gets her work done.

“'Kidnapped', by Robert Louis Stevenson.”

But right now, Shannon and your wife should be the last of your worries. You've still got a fifty-five-year-old dead woman on your hands, and you're no closer to finding her killer. With the exception of the sister, the only reaction you've been getting to Emily Palmer's death has been shock:

“What?”

“No way.”

“I can't believe it.”

“That can't be right.”

“You're screwing with me. You're screwing with me. Don't you dare screw with me--”

You've interviewed her neighbors, you've interviewed the punks hanging around the front steps, and they all say the same thing. She was nice. Kind. It didn't matter who you were, she was kind to everyone. She trusted everyone. She'd let you borrow from her no matter for how long. Enemies? She didn't have enemies. How could she have enemies? Why would anybody be her enemy? She was a saint. A saint. She loved books.

She loved books.

“'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz', by L. Frank Baum.”

She loved books. They all said that, but you didn't understand what they meant until you let yourself into her apartment and found it floor to ceiling with paperbacks. Zola Palmer was right: no television. Just a tattered armchair, a dead lamp, and enough literature to justify a new wing at the library.

Nothing else to take. She was right about that, too.

As motives go, it's more than a little unlikely. But you have no other leads, and there have been murders for less. You should know. You're a detective.

“'A Princess of Mars', by Edgar Rice Burroughs.”

Kirikami pronounces it “Burruffs”. “Borroughs,” you correct him, and he squints down at the receipt.

“You sure?”

You were reading Burroughs before even Graham could walk on two feet. Of course you're sure. But you swallow back the response you feel climbing at your throat and find the shelf with the B's. It's there.

They're all there.

You're wasting your time in this room. You know that. But there's nothing else to follow.

=== === === === === === === === ===

You barely slept. You skipped dinner, went to bed early and still you barely slept. Too restless. Too eager--

Finally. You're getting out of here.

Kotohime's place may not be the comfiest hut in this fantasyland, but it's a large step past hanging around a bunch of Buddhists that hate your guts. No more ducking the midget's glares, no more putting up with tentacles! You'll still be stuck with Kotohime, of course, but hey--one thing at a time, right?

One thing at a time.

First, you move up. Then, you move out--

Kumoi looks a bit surprised to see you in the kitchen. She's not too severely shocked, but it's pretty clear she was expecting to have to wake you up again. “Good morning,” she says.

You smile, because why not? “Good morning,” you say back.

Unzan hangs around Kumoi's shoulder. If he has anything to add to the exchange, you don't catch it.

“Are you making breakfast?” you ask.

It's a stupid question, because the woman is clearly doing something with food, but Kumoi just smiles (though a smidgen wanly). “Yes. It'll be finished in just a little time.”

“That's good. I like your food.”

And that's no lie, though your extreme ravenousness may be having an effect on your judgment. Who knew tossing and turning could use up so much energy?

Kumoi's smile seems to have turned up a bit. She looks nearly cheerful. That's good, too. It means she won't mind more questions.

“Did Kotohime come back yet?”

“Yes, she returned last night--a little before midnight. You didn't see her?”

“I was asleep.” You shrug. “No one tells me anything.”

“...Huh.”

Kumoi goes all quiet. Either you just killed the mood, or there isn't anything more to say.

Just as well, you suppose. You don't have anything more to ask.

Presently, Kumoi finishes with the preparations and begins dishing out breakfast. She's got everything set out when she looks towards you, an awkward sort of expression across her face. “Oh--” she says, “if it's not much trouble--”

She cuts herself off--closes her mouth, and looks even more awkward. You wait. Nothing wrong with waiting. You've got the time yet.

“If it's not much trouble,” Kumoi starts again, once she's properly recovered, “could you tell everybody that breakfast is ready?”

You'd rather not, to be honest. You might miss something. Luckily, there's no need for you to conjure up an excuse, not when the truth will do just as well. “I'm sorry. I don't know where the bedrooms are,” you say.

“Oh. Of course.” Kumoi turns away. You catch a glimpse of her mouth, set in a thin, flat line. “Of course.”

She heads off to fetch her companions herself while you find a spot at the side of the table that covers all the entrances; you've just about managed to make yourself comfortable there when the rest of the company spills in, almost entirely at once (either Kumoi's frightfully efficient, or the breakfast routine is serious business). Kotohime (and there she is at last) seems to accept your presence at the table with ease, slipping wordlessly into the space beside yours, but the rest of the temple denizens are nowhere as graceful--Hijiri starts, Honda grunts, and the rest of the reactions are somewhere in between. Still, there's no excessive fuss, so it's not really too important.

You make a headcount as everyone settles around the food and find yourself one short. “Where's Miyamoto?” you ask.

Nazrin squints suspiciously. “Why do you want to know?”

“Miyamoto said he wasn't hungry,” Kumoi explains, before war can break out. “He's skipping breakfast again.”

Huh. And you were hoping for full attendance. Well, no matter; you'll just have to make do with what you have now. Chopsticks gripped tightly, you raise your wrist...

“Oh--is he sick?”

“I'm not hungry either.”

“I have mail for Miss Hijiri--”

...And then bring your utensils down against the edge of your bowl with a loud, echoing clunk.

All conversation stops.

“Excuse me,” you say, “but I know who the murderer is.”

_ (specify character)
>> No. 145775
[x]Honda

Probably wrong but his reaction to Terrance's questioning was the least suspicious, which makes him guilty by default.
>> No. 145794
File 131526066588.jpg - (204.01KB , 773x980 , 428ee9c178aea134109d135bf59d3951.jpg ) [iqdb]
145794
Posting more Ichirin in a story with a lovely Ichirin.

[x]Miyamoto

It all adds up to Miyamoto being the killer.
Motive: His father owed Morikawa's father a large debt, they had to give up their shop to pay for it. His father then decided to commit suicide via forest. Morikawa apparently was less 'professional' than his father, but doing the same business. Revenge killing.

Where/When: Morikawa's room, after breakfast.
From talking to Miyamoto and Takata we can understand the layout of the rooms. Miyamoto is between a hallway and Takata, while Takata's room bridges Miyamoto's and Morikawa's. After breakfast Miyamoto met with Morikawa and they got into an argument, Miyamoto kiled Morikawa with a weapon he possess (no missing kitchen knifes). Miyamoto left the room through the hall exit,rather than passing through Takata's room, while the temple residents all were out(shopping, walking).

He has no alibi, was confirmed to be with the victim right before the time of death and has a motive.
>> No. 145834
[x]Miyamoto
>> No. 145843
>>145794

Wow.

[x] Miyamoto
>> No. 145938
>>145794
Welp, I can't come up with any arguments to this reasoning, so I'll vote likewise:

[x] Miyamoto
>> No. 146268
[x] Miyamoto

Not yet enough for a conviction, but definitely enough for an arrest.
>> No. 146362
[x] Miyamoto
>> No. 146496
[x] Honda
As good and sound as the the reasoning for Miyamoto being the killer might be, I can't help but think it'd be too damn obvious. My entire basis up for thinking Honda is the killer is that Miyamoto didn't have the balls to kill the guy, so Honda, being the good friend he his, did it for him.

This only really works out if Honda and Miyamoto were friends prior to this murder, and I can't quite remember if it was implied or mentioned at all that they were friends, but oh well. It also interests me that Miyamoto's been so loud and obnoxious about this whole thing, and I feel he's acting like that because he has nothing too serios to hide and he wasn't the murderer. Of course, this could be the sort of vote where whoever gets voted as being the killer turns out to be the real killer, so we essentially get to choose who the murderer is.
>> No. 147207
File 131793708169.jpg - (63.74KB , 500x500 , YouFuckingPeopleMakeMeSick.jpg ) [iqdb]
147207
You look at Hijiri. Hijiri looks at Kotohime. Hijiri looks at you. Nazrin looks at Hijiri. Nazrin looks at you. You don't look at Nazrin; you look at Toramaru. Toramaru looks at you. Kumoi looks at you. Murasa looks at you. Nue looks at you, looks at Miyamoto, looks at Honda, looks at Takato, looks at the mailman, and finally looks back at you.

“What--” says Nazrin.

“Really?” Toramaru cuts off the usual crankiness before it can start, leaning towards you, her eyes shining. She looks like a child, almost. “That's wonderful! Who is it?”

“The murderer...”

You pause. Take a bit of rice. Put it in your mouth, chew, swallow. Suck at what's left in your teeth. Begin again.

“The murderer...”

“The murderer?”

“The murderer...”

“The murderer?” Toramaru would be on the edge of her seat by now, only she hasn't got one. “The murderer--”

“The murderer,” you confirm. “The murderer...”

You pause.

“...is,” you add.

“The murderer is?”

“The murderer is,” you agree.

“The murderer is?”

“The murderer is...”

“The murderer is?” Toramaru's leaning almost entirely across the table now, quivering in barely concealed excitement. “The murderer is?”

“The murderer is,” you intone, gravely, “somebody in this room.”

There is a quiet moment within which this latest dramatic revelation is processed by those sitting around the table and then you are hit with what are probably five of the dirtiest looks to exist on Earth. Ever.

“Sorry, just a joke,” you say before somebody can throw a plate at you. “But seriously, I do know who the murderer is.”

Toramaru rebounds from confused despondency at an impressive speed. She's the only one. “Good! Who is it?”

“Well, it's difficult to explain.” You dig into your rice again, taking your sweet time. “Do you know what DNA is?”

...Of course they don't. Wrong century entirely. You soldier on.

“Basically, DNA is made up of molecules--” No, wait. “Basically, DNA contains genetic information--” No, wait. “Basically, DNA controls what proteins the body makes--”

You pause again. More rice, while you figure out how to word this. Somehow, you'd rather not try to walk this company through ninety-nine years of biology. That would be excessive. And boring.

“Basically, DNA is something inside the body. It tells the body how to work.” You settle on vague. Vague's good. “That's not the important part, though. The important part is this: unless you're twins, your DNA is pretty unique.”

“So, it's unique enough that you can tell who it is?”

Nazrin looks thoughtful. You ignore her. Her head's far too big already.

“Anyway,” you continue, “DNA can be found in blood, spit, skin, and hair. And it's very difficult to stab a man so many times in the back without leaving something behind.” And, having expressed this little tidbit, you stop talking and return to what's truly important:

Breakfast.

This is good rice. It's different from what you usually get in Los Ojos. Not better or worse, though. Just different. Really, it's too bad Kotohime doesn't serve anything like this. All that tofu--

“And?”

You look up. It's Toramaru again. She almost sounds frustrated this time. “And what?” you say.

“And who's the murderer? If he left something behind, you know who he is, right?”

“...Hm.”

Seriously--good rice.

“Let's make a deal,” you say. You gesture into the air with your chopsticks. Jab. It's a good thing Toramaru's back to sitting or you might've poked her eye out. “Tests for DNA take time. But we'll be eating lunch today, right?”

Shou glances at Kumoi and nods, obviously unsure where you're going with this.

“Well, if Kumoi makes a lunch that's absolutely delicious--”

The nun in question starts. Stares. Opens her mouth--

“I just might find a way to speed up the process.” You finish your bowl and lean back, smiling cheerfully. “How's that?”

Nazrin's the first one to shout at you, of course, but far from the last. You gaze at a spot past her shoulder as the room erupts into pandemonium.

--- --- --- --- ---

Really, whoever spread that “no rest for the wicked” line didn't know what they were talking about. As long as you have peace of mind, napping's a breeze.

A short nap between breakfast and lunch. That's normal enough, right?

Your pillow's fluffed, and you've got all the extra sheets you want. It's overcast, too, which is just plain fortunate--you don't see how a bright sunny day would be of any use to you, at least not at this moment. As it is, your room is steeped in shadow, which suits you just fine. You grin, still as cheerfully as ever, and slide the door closed.

...And wait.

...And wait.

...And wait.

...Huh. Still too soon to relax? The grin disappears off your face as you consider the last two days once more, uncertainty finally taking the time to rear its nasty head. Maybe you missed something. You said you knew who the murderer was, but maybe you're wrong. It's more than possible, considering what little you've got to go on. Sure, you'd like to say you put two and two together like some twenty-first-century Sherlock Holmes, but the fact is, what you've got amounts to little more than an educated hunch--and while hunches are handy, they're very rarely grounds for prosecution.

Doubt. It spreads, fills up every square inch of your skull. You close your eyes and nearly miss it when the hallway door opens.

The man in the doorway wastes no time surveying your room, his attention focused at once upon your futon. He steps forwards and closes the door behind him, the motion swift, silent--well-practiced. He's holding something in his hand, and you can't see it too well through your half-squinted eyes, but you'd bet your bottom dollar that it's sharp, very sharp, sharp enough to make a number of unwelcome openings down a rich boy's back. He's not wearing gloves, you think, as he approaches the bedding--stands over it. It's a stupid thought, one you ought to be having when you have the time for it, but you think it anyway, and then you think it again:

He's not wearing any gloves.

...How perfectly idiotic.

The knife comes down. The blade sticks through the sheet. The man yanks the knife out, brings it down again. He does this four more times before you decide you've seen enough and slide the door from the adjacent room further open than the crack you've been peering through. “Are you finished?” you ask, and add: “That was a perfectly good futon.”

The man with the knife stares at you, flabbergasted. Looks down at the pile of folded up cloth he's been punching holes through. Stares at you again.

You roll your eyes. “Oh, don't look so surprised. You didn't even check for a body, before you started stabbing--did you really think I'd just go to sleep?”

Ugly realization dawns in the man's face. He drops the knife and turns to run, sweeping the door open. He doesn't seem to care about how much noise he's making this time--not that it matters, what with Kotohime standing right there, in the middle of the hall.

She smiles her strange little smile.

Better luck next time, bucko.

--- --- --- --- ---

“But who was it?”

You pause between crackers, blinking at Akyuu across the table. The girl's been listening politely for such a long while, it's almost a surprise now that's she's reasserted her existence. “Who was who?” you ask.

“Who was the criminal? You seem to have left that part out.” Akyuu's mouth curls into a model of sheer cheek. “Another head wound, perhaps?”

...Brat. She's lucky you're feeling charitable. Still, you make sure to take your sweet time chewing before finally giving up the answer. “I don't remember his name. Anyway, it's not important.” And another cracker. What are these made of, anyway? Rice? Something else? Maybe you can get the recipe. They taste terrible, but there's this strange, addictive quality about them...

You brush your face for crumbs. Push the box away, towards Akyuu. If you eat any more of this crap, you're going to end up with a stomachache, that's for sure.

“It was the mailman,” you say.

“The mailman?” Akyuu raises her eyebrows, though you suspect it's more theatrics than any real expression of surprise. “But why would he kill Morikawa?”

Ah. And that's the million dollar question, isn't it? Because...

“I don't know,” you admit. A bit too softly, you think, when Akyuu barely reacts. You clear your throat and say it again: “I don't know. I didn't figure that part out. Kotohime knows, though.”

“And she didn't tell you?”

“...I don't want to ask Kotohime.” It's a pride thing, which sounds stupid even to you, but Akyuu seems to understand. In any case, she doesn't press it, and you continue your poor man's denouement. “To tell the truth, even near the end, I wasn't sure if it was the mailman who was the criminal. I never had any proof. It was all...guesses, and intuition.”

“But you were right, weren't you?” Akyuu says. “It was the mailman, after all.”

You make an expression. You don't know what it is, exactly, but it hurts your face. “I wasn't right,” you correct Akyuu. “I was lucky.”

“And when people remember, later, will there be a difference?”

...It's a heavy thought. Uncomfortable, too, once you realize that despite your moping, you aren't too strongly opposed to becoming the hero of this story. You change the subject quick: “Anyway, like I said, I don't know why he killed Morikawa. I don't know anything. If you have any questions, you ought to talk to Kotohime.”

Akyuu smiles. “But I don't want to talk to Kotohime. I want to talk to you.”

And for the second time in less than five minutes, you're left blinking stupidly.

Luckily, the awkward moment is broken as Laces enters the room, eyeing you suspiciously, as if your failure to have suffocated Akyuu with a throw pillow in her absence can only be a signifier of some even more dastardly scheme. You can't exactly blame her; the knee-jerk sympathy's surely worn off by now, and it must have occurred to her that your improv in the interrogation room was more sob story than substance. “Mr. Harker,” she says, her voice painfully polite, “there is a person outside who wishes to speak to you.”

“Witch Girl again?” You can't help but roll your eyes. Seriously, what's with that chick? You weren't even the one with the knife this time.

“No,” Laces says. She pauses, almost mid-word, before constructing her next sentence carefully. “I don't think you've met him before--Morikawa's father.”

...The moneylender? What, does he want to thank you personally or something? Ugh. It's chilly enough during the day; step out now, in the middle of the evening, and you're liable to freeze off a finger or two. You gesture noncommittally, not for the first time considering hibernation. “Tomorrow,” you say. “I'll talk to him tomorrow. If he wants to talk to me, I'll talk to him tomorrow.”

And then you say: “Why are you making that face?”

This is because Laces is looking at you like you just told her that you popped down to the local graveyard, dug up her grandmother, and took the skull for use as your personal salsa bowl.

Surprisingly, it's Akyuu who decides to shoo you off: “Actually, I have a feeling you should see Mr. Morikawa,” she says. “Nobody likes to wait. And besides, he might say something very important.”

...Now it's your turn to make a face. “You know something.”

Akyuu places her hand on her chest and opens her eyes wide--the very caricature of astonishment. “I know something?” she says. “Oh, no, I don't know anything. It's only a feeling.”

“...Like a guess?”

“Yes. Or intuition.”

...Brat. But Akyuu's usually not this keen to see you leave. Maybe there's something important to hear after all. “Alright, alright,” you say, extracting yourself from the table. “I'll go talk to this guy. Thanks for the crackers.”

Akyuu waves, already stuffing her own mouth. You smirk and show yourself out, ignoring Laces' eyes on your back.

The man standing outside is not what you expected to see. Morikawa's father, the moneylender: you expected someone short, maybe, overweight, maybe, decked out in a rich man's clothes to compensate (not that you know what constitutes a rich man's clothes in a place like this). The clothes seems classy enough, but this man is tall, taller than you, even. His face is thick, but with age, not fat. He regards you with an dark, flintlike gaze, his lips drawn into a line that is decidedly neutral.

“You are Terrence Harker,” he says.

'Really? I didn't know that,' you mean to say, but it comes out, “Yes.”

The man stares into you silently, as if turning over your one-word answer in his mind, feeling it for soft spots, defects. Feeling it for what you intended. He speaks again:

“Do you know who I am?”

Easy question. “You're Morikawa's father,” you say.

Another long silence. Another long stand in the autumn chill as an old man and a young man look at each other, and you're getting real cold out here, so you'd be much obliged if this guy just went and got this thing over with already--

“You found the man who killed my son.”

And there it is. “Yeah,” you say, maybe a bit too quickly. “Something like that happened.”

This is the wrong thing to say. Morikawa's father's eyes flash cold, with affronted dignity--and then his shoulders fall, his body bends with the weight of what has happened. He can no longer maintain his gaze. “Come with me,” he says, his voice subdued. “I wish to talk with you.”

He turns. Walks away, his gait stiff.

You follow.

You're a good distance down the road, Akyuu's home almost hidden from sight among its surroundings and the darkness when Morikawa's father continues. The strength has returned to his voice, but there is strain there, and for a moment you wonder which quality is indicative of the man underneath, but only for a moment. “Gensokyo is dying,” he says.

He says it matter-of-factly, as a doctor proclaiming the fate of a patient too far gone for medicine to be of any help. You shrug. It is a useless gesture, with you walking behind him, but what can you say to a statement like that?

But perhaps he did not expect you to answer. “For one hundred and twenty five years,” Morikawa's father says, “Gensokyo has been the last true stronghold of faith. There are other places, but they are too small, too weak. They only barely continue to exist. Gensokyo alone thrived from the time of its creation. And now Gensokyo is dying.”

The man's short monologue has given you enough time to gather your courage. You tackle the main point. “This place doesn't look dying,” you say, and it is true; although it is night, and the streets are almost completely empty, there is plenty of light escaping from the confines of the buildings that the village has an air of liveliness about it.

Morikawa's father's face angles towards the same light. “They are unwilling to change, or they are unable to change,” he says. “They were born in the village. They know nothing else. To them, perhaps, Gensokyo is the entire world. But I cannot say for certain. I do not deal with the hearts of men, only their purses.” He is at least honest, you think. “Each day the Border weakens, and nothing can be done. When it falls, their blindness will be of no use.”

...And though it is surely your imagination, it seems almost that the light grows dimmer, the wind colder with his pronouncement.

You shiver. You need a coat.

“The Border,” you say, once your teeth are done chattering. “Isn't that what separates Gensokyo and the Outside?” You're impatient, and this is important, so you don't wait for the answer. “Does that mean I'll be able to go back home soon?”

Morikawa's father stops walking. Turns to look at you. “That is the question,” he says. “What will happen when the Border falls? Will Gensokyo be once more exposed to the outside world? Or perhaps we too will cease to exist along with the Border. Perhaps nothing of Gensokyo will remain save a barren patch of land in the mountains.”

He clasps his hands together. Smiles, ironically.

“But who can say? I do not deal with magic, either.”

...So in other words, if you believe this guy, there's a distinct possibility of this place pulling a Jericho and crushing you underneath. Sure, maybe the Border will just harmlessly dissipate instead, but your luck's been lousy so far. Why should it change now?

Great.

That's just...great.

“So why are you telling me this?” you ask. “I can't fix this problem. You say you don't deal with magic--well, neither do I.”

Morikawa's father smiles again. This smile seems more true to you, somehow, if only just a bit.

“Men such as me,” Morikawa's father says, “are always interested in men such as you.”

And with that enigmatic comment, he turns around again and resumes his walking.

And you follow.

As the two of you continue on down the road, you begin to notice an increase in activity--minutes ago, the streets around you were empty and bare. These streets, on the other hand, are host to the occasional pedestrian (always passing by as far away as possible, you notice). The residences, too, have been left behind, substituted here by numerous bars and businesses. It is at one of these businesses--a restaurant, if the smell is anything to judge by--that Morikawa's father stops, holding open the curtain to usher you in.

...Well, you never did get that lunch.

The man behind the counter is fat-faced, with the beginning of a double chin creeping over the bottom of his jaw. He looks up as you enter. “Welcome--” he says.

He doesn't get much further than that. The sight of Morikawa's father is apparently of such surprise that his voice simply quits, his mouth flapping open and shut like that of an oversized goldfish.

Odd.

Morikawa's father makes his order and the man behind the counter goes scrambling for foodstuffs almost before the last syllable is out. While he's putting it that together, you settle yourself into the nearest seat, Morikawa's father already having fit himself in the one beside it. It takes you about five minutes before you realize that if anybody's going to jump start the conversation, it's going to be you. “What did you mean by 'interest'?” you ask.

Morikawa's father does not answer immediately. You expected that, but this time it's a little different. Somehow, you get the feeling that he is considering his answer very carefully--for your sake. “In this world,” he says, finally, “there are certain kinds of men, men who for one reason or another are caught up in matters of great weight. Sometimes these men start towards their destinies themselves, sometimes they are unwilling. It does not matter. Such men are always worth watching for.”

He pauses. And then, after a moment--smiles. It is the third smile you have seen from him, and much different than the other two. It is a bittersweet smile, painfully nostalgic.

Honest.

“Reimu Hakurei was like this as well,” Morikawa's father says. “She did not seek her destiny, but time often sets such things aright. Reimu Hakurei became the center of Gensokyo. She made enemies, and she made friends.”

You watch, as Morikawa's father allows himself to linger in the mist of that memory for a few seconds longer. And then it is back to reality, and the smile disappears. He closes his eyes.

“But now,” he says, “Reimu Hakurei is dead. Her friends are scattered. Even the youkai of boundaries has disappeared. Gensokyo is dying. And you, Terrence Harker, are alone.”

...To be honest, you're not sure what to make of this weird tangent. Who is heck is--was--Reimu Hakurei? Some distant cousin of yours, maybe? You stick to what you're comfortable with, away from the heavy stuff. “Yeah, I'm alone,” you admit. “So what? There's nothing wrong with being alone.”

“This may be true,” says Morikawa's father, “but I am old-fashioned. I believe in friendship.”

The fat-faced man returns, bringing the food with him. He places it in front of you and the smell hits you like a physical blow, so much that it takes nearly all your effort not to dig in right then and there. “So, what are you saying--that we should be friends?” you ask.

Morikawa's father holds up a hand, as if to ward off your desperate beseechment. “Do not make your decision now,” he says. “Consider it carefully. And when you have done this, when you wish to come to me with your decision, ask for directions to my home.”

You raise your eyebrows. “Ask who for directions?” you ask.

“Anybody.”

Morikawa's father smiles. This smile is neither ironic nor bittersweet nor nostalgic nor honest. It is a shark's smile.

You stare at it for some time.

And then you eat.

It's meat.

It's good.

=== === === === === === === === ===

The next day, Captain Graham calls you and Kirikami into his office.

He's gotten a call from Chief Modeste.
>> No. 147209
File 131793718884.jpg - (1.40MB , 2560x1920 , 2011-10-06 14_29_33.jpg ) [iqdb]
147209
End of part six.
>> No. 147225
>>147207
>The mailman's the murderer. Goddamnit, I even thought to say it was him as a joke vote.
>> No. 147226
Man this story makes you into a misanthropic confused jerk.

I love it.
>> No. 147227
the mailman?

wut
>> No. 147231
Terrence and Kotohime are less like Sherlock Holmes & Watson, and more like Jake & the Fat Man.

I smiled many times throughout this update.
>> No. 147268
I am enjoying the shit out of this story.

Looking forward to part 7.
>> No. 147269
File 131805782361.jpg - (61.68KB , 468x390 , Kerry-Skarbakka-falls-fro-005.jpg ) [iqdb]
147269
Okay, so here's the thing.

That last update, it took a long time. And there is no reason it should have taken half the time it took. Which is what it took. Double.

I feel quite bad about this.

So, as a sort of apology this is what I'm going to do: consider this question time. Ask me anything--about the characters, about the story, about some niggling bit you don't think I explained too well, about writing the story itself--and if it isn't spoiler territory I'll answer with the 100% unvarnished truth, you bet your beanie.

It's not much--in fact, I know full well it's next to nothing--but it's the least I can do.

(That said, if you can think of a better way of making up for this, I'm all ears--unless it involves writing. I'm not going to put off writing this in order to write something else. That'll just delay the next update, which is the sort of thing I'm trying to put an end to in the first place.)
>> No. 147310
Is there a greater reason why Reimu's dead, shit is increasing and Terrance felt the urge to stab the unholy shit out of Alice?
>> No. 147315
>>147310
pretty much this
>> No. 147334
File 131820533769.jpg - (21.04KB , 460x276 , CeQKZ.jpg ) [iqdb]
147334
>>147310
...If there was, do you think I would tell you?

Heck, do you think I would tell you if there wasn't?

That's like cracking open a mystery novel featuring an ambiguous death and asking the author, "So was this death accidental or was this guy murdered?" He's not going to tell you, and neither am I.

I mean, seriously, dude.
>> No. 147741
File 131883328380.jpg - (58.32KB , 400x400 , Circling.jpg ) [iqdb]
147741
With the end of the temple incident comes a handful of days that are peaceful enough--for a given value of peaceful, anyway. Sure, you've still got Kotohime looking over your shoulder (and the woman seems more than eager to make up for letting you hobnob with Morikawa's father unsupervised), but other than that--no knives, no murder mysteries, and no unpleasant visits by angry women in pointed hats. You'd consider it good karma paying out, if you believed in that sort of thing.

Even the dreams have let up.

But of course it can't last. If there's one thing you've figured out in the last two months, it's that the world has little interest in cutting you a break. So when your lunchtime is interrupted by a sudden knocking at the door, you're only barely surprised.

“I'll get it,” you sigh, pushing away your dish. You weren't going to eat that tofu anyway.

The woman at the door is tall, dark, and actually kind of nice to look at, with long red hair and a conservative blouse and dress getup that somehow manages to come off as charming instead of plain. This only serves to make that bad feeling in your gut even worse--when has a dashing dame at a detective's doorstep not resulted in trouble? That she's got two sets of bat wings--one pair from her back, the other out of the sides of her head--is just bitter icing on this devil's food cake. You make a smile, solely for show.

“Hello,” you say.

“Good afternoon.”

The response does not come from the redheaded woman; the response comes from the woman beside the redheaded woman, a woman much shorter and much, much frumpier than her companion. Actually, “frumpy” might be too generous a description--with that sickly pale skin and the dark circles under the eyes, it's no wonder you overlooked her in favor of something, well, prettier. The fact that she apparently didn't bother changing out of her pajamas to go out is also a factor--seriously, even if that gown isn't for sleeping in, that's clearly a nightcap she's sporting.

“Are you here to see Kotohime?” you ask, desperately wanting the answer “yes”.

“No,” says the ill-looking woman. Her voice is hoarse. She peers up at you, expressionlessly. “Are you Terrence Harker?”

...Well, crap. “Yes,” you say, still smiling. “I'm Terrence Harker. Were you looking for me?”

The woman does not answer. She simply continues to peer at your face--although for some reason it suddenly seems more of an examination than simply an effort to see you from where she's slouching. “You don't look special,” she says, finally.

...Great. Apparently they're coming over just to insult you now. You try not to grind your molars--that's sure to give you away. “I'm sorry,” you say, “but I don't think I caught your name?”

The woman blinks blearily, curiously, as if she's having some difficulty understanding you. “Ah,” she says, and swallows. You can actually hear the mucus going down her throat.

“My name is Patchouli Knowledge,” she says.

You hold your smile and wait for the punchline. It doesn't come.

“I'm sorry,” you say (another apology). “I think I misheard. What is your name?”

The woman frowns. It's a frown of impatience, like you're the one playing around here. “My name,” she says, slower than the first time, “is Patchouli Knowledge.”

...Right. That's what you thought she said.

And that's the point where you stop smiling, because honestly, there's no reason you should have to put up with this.

“No,” you say. “I refuse.”

The woman raises an eyebrow. “I see,” she says. “And what is it that you're refusing?”

“This whole thing.” And you should shut the door and go back to killing time now, but there's something that keeping you standing there and talking. Pride, maybe. “'Patchouli' isn't a name,” you say. “'Patchouli' has never been a name. 'Patchouli' is...'Patchouli' is a plant. It's a plant.”

The nightcapped woman looks at you tiredly. “Yes,” she says. “Like 'Rose', or 'Basil'.”

You feel your face heat. The addition of a small curl to the redhead's smile doesn't help matters.

“Okay, fine,” you say. “'Rose'. 'Basil'. Doesn't change the fact I've never heard the name 'Patchouli' before.” And because this sounds like the opening to some zinger, you continue, quick. “Besides--'Knowledge'? That's not a name. That's not a real name. That's the sort of nickname kids give themselves when they want to look cool. Like 'Crusher' or 'Smoke' or something.”

“You know something about nicknames, it seems.”

...Is that supposed to imply something? You'd scowl if you weren't scowling already. “I'm a police officer,” you say. “A detective. And I stand by what I said. I can be helpful, but don't do this 'Patchouli Knowledge stuff. I don't want to do it with you. Understand? I refuse. So--goodbye.”

And this time you do shut the door, right in the greasy little woman's face.

Or at least, you try to.

Only--

“Koakuma,” the woman rasps, and suddenly her redhaired companion has her hand in the doorway and you barely manage to pull the door to a stop before it crushes her fingers. There's no reason you shouldn't crush her fingers, you think, staring at the digits crooking elegantly around the frame--but you pull the door open again anyway, clenching your teeth.

“What do you want?” you ask.

“I want you to come to Eientei.” The woman who calls herself “Patchouli” makes that swallowing noise again, then continues: “There is a mystery that should be solved--and you are the detective, are you not?”

_ No.
_ I'm listening...
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 147775
[X] I'm listening...

I doubt it's something we can run from... and it might improve Terrance's standing.
>> No. 147811
[x] I'm listening...

Helping out could be good in the long run, and exposure to more people could provide Terry with some valuable clues.
>> No. 147815
[x] Tell me what this mystery is first
>> No. 147836
[x] I'm listening...
>> No. 148159
>>147815
You know that means exactly the same thing?
>> No. 148187
File 131969495343.jpg - (55.44KB , 561x561 , L'amourestbleu.jpg ) [iqdb]
148187
X I'm listening...

...You've got the rotten feeling you were tricked somewhere along the way, but you can't back down now. “Yeah,” you say. “I'm the detective.”

“Good. Koakuma--”

Koakuma, you figure, is the name of the woman who'd be much more attractive without the bat wings attached. And that's as far as you get where deductions are concerned before the woman in question has her fingers curled around your arms--

“Hey--”

--and suddenly you are pulled, forwards--no, forwards and up--and your feet are hanging because there is nothing beneath them--

“Hey--” you say again, a bit weaker.

--and you are being lifted by a grip that is far stronger than you would have ever suspected, looking at her slender form, and even now you are being pulled higher--higher than the roof of the building you were just in, higher than any of the buildings in this village, you're certain, further up and further out and further and further still--

You don't say 'hey' a third time. The word dies on your tongue when you look down and see your shoes, and the ground, and the very significant distance in between. You close your eyes in a damned hurry, and somehow, amidst the panic, a single kernel of thought occurs to you:

Maybe you should have crushed her fingers after all.

Too late now.

--- --- --- --- ---

With your eyes shut tight, your first sense of solid land is its weight against your feet, and you have just about an instant to process that before Koakuma decides to let you go. You collapse at once.

Forwards.

Into the woman herself, damn her.

“Well, if you wanted to stay close, all you had to do was ask.”

...It is the first time you have heard this woman's voice, and it is a doozy. There's something about it, something like innocence even though her words aren't innocent in the least, and almost as if in response you feel an odd sense of attraction--and then it passes, and you remember that you've got your head in her shoulder and your hands around her back.

You disentangle yourself, quick. Maybe too quick. You had dignity at some point, right?

...Apparently not, if the giggling's to judge by.

Luckily, “Patchouli” is there to jerk at your metaphorical collar. “Are you finished?” she asks. The tone's dispassionate, but somehow you get the feeling that she wouldn't be too pleased if you answered in the negative. Just as well, then, that she doesn't give you the chance: “I didn't bring you here so you could play with my familiar.”

“Yeah, that's right,” you say. “You brought me here to solve a mystery.” Well, two mysteries, now, with all your brainpower dedicated to the second one. Namely--where the hell are you? You look around, but the area you're in is absolutely choked in bamboo. You can't even see the horizon from here. Hell, with these plants towering above you, you can barely see the sun.

Getting lost in here would probably kill you. You've got half a mind to go Livingstone anyway. You just need to take out this woman, first...

The only obvious refuge from this nightmare of grass, it seems, is the large building over your shoulder. Or maybe it's multiple buildings--you can't tell with the wall blocking your view. Who'd have expected that faux-ancient Japan would have gated communities?

You suddenly realize that Patches' wrapped up whatever she was droning on about. You hastily tune in. Well, as much as you can tune in on somebody who's already finished.

“So,” you say, “what's the mystery you want me to solve?”

Oh, Patches looks nearly huffy there. “You weren't listening,” she says.

You shrug. “It's a little late,” you say, “but I realized something. You kidnapped me, so I don't need to listen to you. Funny, right?”

“I didn't not kidnap you. You agreed to come.”

“You had your 'familiar' grab me by the arms and fly me over here. That's not agreement!”

You gesture towards Koakuma, who is looking less chipper as the two of you argue. Patches' deadpan expression hasn't changed, though.

“You are the detective,” she says. “We both agreed on that. If you were unable to fight off my familiar, that is your own fault.”

Something is burning behind your eyes. Self-righteous anger, you think, and then you think: righteous anger. You hands twitch. They want something. What do they want? “That's not the point,” you hiss. “And that wasn't an agreement. You just kidnapped me from the village. You can't do that. You can't do that--I have rights--”

“'Rights',” Patches mimics back to you. She makes a coughing sound that could almost be a snort of derisive laughter. “Yes, I can see why you attacked Margatroid now. The two of you are much too alike--arrogant, narcissistic, and eager to talk at length about subjects you know nothing about. With the two of you under one roof, it was unavoidable that one of you would attack the other.”

_ What?
_ Leg it
_ Punch Patches in the face.
- _ Optional: ...And then keep at it.
>> No. 148188
[x] What?
- Also, find out what Patches thinks that a detective is, if defending himself against her demonic familiar is something she expects Terry to be capable of.
>> No. 148191
[x] What?
>> No. 148192
[x] What?
>> No. 148200
[x] Leg it

Rational response to being in the presence of a crazy
>> No. 148213
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148213
Aw, nuts, I forgot to include the requisite "Other... (write-in)" choice.

I knew I was tired, but I didn't think I was that tired.
>> No. 149149
File 132088080487.png - (388.90KB , 500x500 , DoorOfOurHome.png ) [iqdb]
149149
X What?

“What? Margatroid?” Your rage is momentarily forgotten, edged out by confusion. “What does Margatroid have to do with this?” you ask.

Patches gives you a look you suspect is reserved for lower life forms. “Your lack of attentiveness is not my concern,” she says, “but if you want to understand--then follow.” And with that, she turns her back to you and shuffles through the entranceway.

Koakuma trails behind, but not before throwing one last undecipherable glance in your direction.

As for you...

As for you, what you really ought to do is leg it. You don't know what's going on, exactly, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out you're in trouble up to your knees. The creep with the nightcap and the rotten personality kidnapping you from under Kotohime's nose is somewhat of a hint.

It's the second time you've been kidnapped, too. You'd better be careful--it's an unpleasant habit to develop.

Still, that mention of Margatroid--not only was that fortunately timed (another ten seconds and you would've done something too drastic too soon, no doubt about it), but it's also done a nice job of piquing your interest. Because apparently, if Patches' mutterings are to be believed, Margatroid's got something to do with this. Probably not directly--she probably didn't mastermind this, since if she were awake, pulling you back into court would've been so much simpler. But she's involved somehow, mixed up into all this mysteriousness. And heck if this isn't waltzing into the dragon's den, but you're itching to know how.

You can call it a cleaning up of loose ends if you want, but you know full well it's only grim curiosity. How has poor old Margatroid been doing, since you left her on her cottage floor? Well, you won't find out just standing around, right?

Right?

Right.

You follow Patches and Koakuma through the opening in the wall, practicing your smile.

--- --- --- --- ---

“Nice-looking place,” you say. “Very...clean. Very Japanese.”

Koakuma looks your way for a moment, smiling faintly, but Patches says nothing, no doubt sensing that your compliment is so much empty air. You try again.

“I'm serious, these are some very clean...walls. Walls that are made of paper.” There's a proper term, but of course you've forgotten it. You switch gears. “Is this your place?”

“No.”

“Huh.”

...Really, you're even trying to act all friendly and everything. Would it kill her to cooperate? She dragged you here; the least she could do is let you pump her for information.

“So,” you try again, after a handful of painfully awkward seconds, “I haven't seen anyone else. Does the person who's living here know you're here?”

Patches actually turns her head so that her sheer disdain for you can get a proper viewing. It's the biggest reaction you've gotten from her since the three of you set foot in here. “For a detective,” she says, “your ability to detect is lacking.”

She turns away again.

“Three points,” she adds, almost as an afterthought.

You blink a bit stupidly. “Three points?” you echo. “What's 'three points'?”

“Your worth as a detective. Three points.”

“...Out of ten?”

“Out of ninety-six.”

...Why the hell ninety-six?

...And more importantly: is it just you, or did she just imply that you aren't as alone in this place as you might think?

_ Seriously, though, three points?
_ What does she mean, three points?
_ I'll show you “three points”!
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 149158
[x] Seriously, though, three points?
>> No. 149165
X Seriously three points?
>> No. 149215
>>149149
(X) Three points is about how much I'd rate you as a person.
>> No. 149229
>>149165
Changing my vote to
(X) Three points is about how much I'd rate you as a person.
>> No. 149233
File 132096132863.gif - (1.64MB , 300x205 , 6a00d83451b8c369e2012876f91b3f970c.gif ) [iqdb]
149233
Ahhhh, wait, crap, I wasn't supposed to put "other" on this one

I forgot to put "other" on the other one and now I put "other" even though I wasn't supposed to

Aaaaaaaaah everything is terrible
>> No. 149235
[x] Three points is about how much I'd rate you as a person.

This is the most in-character response, since, as we've seen throughout this story, Terry usually reflects people's attitudes back to them.
>> No. 149327
[x] Three points is about how much I'd rate you as a person.

Unless you don't want write-ins in which case
[x] I'll show you “three points”!
>> No. 149368
[x] Three points is about how much I'd rate you as a person.
>> No. 149933
[x] Three points is about how much I'd rate you as a person.

Screw her.
>> No. 150073
You're not a cat, either.

[x] Three points is about how much I'd rate you as a person.
>> No. 150135
[x] Three points is about how much I would rate you as a person, It's also the ammount a nazi would get if one shot you for sport.

What? She does wear striped pajamas after all.
>> No. 150269
File 132265752043.jpg - (169.54KB , 800x800 , d47248c90bbe8c5d43f6836c230254e5.jpg ) [iqdb]
150269
>>150135
Are you malfunctioning?
>> No. 150710
File 132342013276.jpg - (41.34KB , 500x446 , IntheEnd.jpg ) [iqdb]
150710
X Seriously, though, three points?

“But seriously, three points out of ninety six? Just three points?” You jog a bit, catching up to Patches' back until you're close enough to peer across the side of her nose. If the invasion of her personal bubble bothers her any, she doesn't let on. “That's a pretty harsh grading system, isn't it?”

A wet cough. “It is a very accurate grading system.”

Humorless as a drained corpse, this woman. Or maybe not so much, considering all that phlegm. You grin and press at the issue, in any case, because, well--

Well, it's not like you hold any worth in whatever messed up criteria Patches has, but seriously--

Three points?

“So are you going to tell me why I'm only three points, or are your standards some kind of secret?” You lean forwards just a bit, just far enough that you'd be resting your chin on her shoulder if she weren't six inches shorter than you. The eye you can see flickers.

“You are the detective, are you not?” Patches says. “You should be able to figure it out on your own.”

...Well, touché. You glance back at Koakuma for a second, a sort of “can you believe this” look on your face, but the bat-winged woman refuses to meet your gaze. Not that you blame her, when the alternative is getting mixed up into some crazy grading system. Is your smile still on?

“Don't be so stingy,” you say to Patches. “Hey, I solved a mystery, right? Like a good detective. That should be worth something.” Fifteen points. Ten, at the very least.

“It is worth something,” Patches says. “It's worth three points.”

“Just three points? What, no points for style?”

“Excuse me.”

“You're fortunate to receive three points at all,” Patches retorts. “I understand you caught the criminal only because of his naïveté. A more intelligent criminal would never have fallen for such a simple trap.”

...Probably true, not that you'll ever admit it. “Well, if I'm three points as a detective, you're three points as a person,” you say. “How do you like that?”

“Er, excuse me.”

“Whatever you think of me, and whatever points you may award are irrelevant,” Patches says. “My only concern is--”

“Excuse me--”

Patches turns to glare at her underling, nearly walloping you in the sternum with her shoulder. She doesn't notice. She's a bit too irritated to notice. “What is it?” she says, somewhat loudly.

Or rather: “What is i--” and then a series of gasping, hacking coughs.

Koakuma patiently waits for Patches to finish, an undecipherable expression on her face. “Excuse me, Mistress,” she says, once all that's left is sniffling and a wheeze, “but I believe we passed the room thirty seconds ago.”

If looks could grill, you'd have yourself a plate of fried bat wings right about now.

--- --- --- --- ---

You don't know what you were expecting, really (a mindset that is quickly becoming familiar). Patches brought you here to solve a mystery, so--a body on the floor? A throng of worried-looking folks in nice clothes, like something out of a production set in Christie Time?

But there are no corpses, no black ties, no fluted wineglasses for anyone to poison or shatter. There isn't even a rug--just the same old Japanese sterility, broken up by a desk and a chair and a bed and a nurse. Or possibly a clown, because you can't imagine someone wearing that outfit willingly. It's half red, half blue, split down the middle, and whoever designed it apparently couldn't even decide on which color to put on which side because they switch over at the belt.

It's not nauseating (not quite, anyway), but it's certainly jarring--like a set of police lights suddenly going off in a bare white room.

The nurse (or clown; you haven't decided yet) looks at you. Really looks at you. “Examines” might be a better word, though how she can manage a thorough examination from a chair across the room is a mystery. Finally, she turns towards Patches.

“He doesn't look special.”

“Yes, I thought so too.”

...Oh, come on!

“Are you sure this is the right person?” The woman in the terrible dress seems to realize you can probably talk on your own, asks you directly: “You are Terrence Harker, aren't you?”

Patches, at least, managed to keep “Terrence” to two syllables. You smile anyway, all very friendly. “Yes, my name is Harker. And you are?”

“Yagokoro Eirin. Just a simple doctor.” A smile back. Professional. Controlled. A little like yours, but in other ways not so much. “I apologize for not welcoming you myself, but I was immersed in a rather interesting case,” she says, and doesn't gesture towards the bed.

You look anyway. There's a body in it, of course.

“Well,” you say, “I apologize for intruding. To tell the truth, I'm not sure why I'm here.” Though you're sure she knows, her and this nightcapped drip both.

Yagokoro's smile remains a smile. “You're a detective, I've heard,” she says, “so I'm sure you'll figure it out quickly.”

“Thank you,” you say. You imagine this woman's head though a paper screen. Wouldn't hurt her. Could be therapeutic. “I might need a hint, though; I've been told my worth as a detective is only three points. I won't be any help here, I'm sure--”

“Stop this inane conversation.” Patches cuts in right at the end there, the pot calling the kettle black--you clack your teeth together and smile indulgently. Over her shoulder, Koakuma is not quite smirking. This time, you do manage catch her eye. “This is the right person, and you know already why I've brought him here,” Patches says--and, with a suddenness that's surprising from such a sickly woman, she grabs you by the arm with both hands and drags you to the bedside.

Hey--wait a minute.

Isn't that--

“Begin your diagnosis at once!” Patches says, and you stare at the face of Alice Margatroid.

--- --- --- --- ---

Margatroid lies face-up in the bed, the covers up to her neck. She breathes slowly, her expression calm. Peaceful.

Her face hasn't got a single blemish on it.

The memory is a cacophony of light and sound and emotion and your mind filling in the blanks in between, but you remember that day well enough. You remember what you need to. There was a thin white arm that reached up against you, from the body on the floor. You turned it to the side and stabbed Margatroid in the neck, hoping to find something important.

Later, when she stopped, you made sure.

And then you took her eyes.

But there's no sign of that now, no scars raised or grooved where you did your deed. And the area around the eyes: you were diligent, but not neat, not that neat. What would you see, you wonder, if you could reach over right now and pull open one of those eyelids?

“I brought him to you,” Patches is saying. “There is nothing left. You already have the blade.”

“There's plenty left--and you've examined the blade yourself, haven't you?” Yagokoro takes a certain small object from the mess of tools and papers and tchotchkes cluttering the desk, turning it in her hand, letting the light play across its surface. You recognize it at once. It's the straight razor, from Margatroid's cottage.

The one the doll was holding.

The one you took, before everything went all the more to hell.

“There's nothing particularly special about this blade,” Yagokoro says, still smiling her polite little smile. “It's merely a blade. You know this. It's without history or spiritual significance.”

“Then it must be him!”

Patches' voice is loud and frustrated. You see Koakuma flinch, see Yagokoro open her mouth to exacerbate things further--but what really gets to you in the end is Patches herself, who decides to punctuate her statement with another yank on your arm that is clearly without regard to your joints. Nuts to that: you yank right back, just sharply enough that Patches loses her grip.

The woman almost looks puzzled, like she didn't expect you to do that. Like she forgot you could do that, maybe.

“I'm sorry,” you say (and you are sorry about a lot of things, so it is technically not a lie), “but please don't take my arm. I need it for my job.”

The scowl returns. “The loss of one arm is not the disadvantage you should be concerned about,” Patches shoots back, and you are certain she's got quite a lot more to say--but then she starts coughing, great wet hacking coughs that make her bend and stagger. Koakuma is at her side in an instant, catching her and supporting her weight, rubbing small circles into her mistress' back as the coughing continues.

She's a lot stronger than she looks, this lackey of Patches', you think. But of course she is. She managed to carry you, didn't she?

The coughs taper off after a while--too long a while, maybe, but what do you know? You're no doctor, and the only person in the room you suspect has had any medical experience is just standing there, hands folded in her lap as Patches wheezes with each breath. It's a very ugly sound and a very ugly sight, but Yagokoro looks almost fascinated, and you don't understand why until you follow her line of sight.

Somewhere along the line, somewhere between the choking and the hacking and Koakuma whispering meaningless reassurances into her ear, Patches coughed something up. It's splattered against the floor now-- mucus, you'd think,only it looks a lot more solid than mucus has any right to be.

And it's got branches. Rubbery mucus branches.

That's just...seriously gross.

If Yagokoro shares your sentiment, though, she doesn't show it. “That cough sounds different,” she says to Patches instead, as if the fact that the woman's expectorated something that oughtn't to be expectorated is more banal than anything else. “Have you been taking care of yourself?”

Patches makes that froggish swallowing sound. “The same as always.”

“That's what I was afraid of.”

Yagokoro has two hands, and only one of them is busy with a razor. The fingers of the other are free to snap--and apparently to summon a lackey of her own, a longhaired woman in conservative dress who appears in the doorway almost instantly.

You recall Patches' remark, the one about detecting and how you weren't very good at it. Could this woman have been following you all this time? Is that what Patches was implying? It would certainly explain how she managed to show up so quick.

Then again, if this woman was tailing you, maybe Patches wasn't far off docking you so many points. Not that she's particularly conspicuous or anything, but spy flicks aside, a suit jacket and tie don't lend themselves very well to sneaking. Also, rabbit ears.

Rabbit ears.

She's got rabbit ears. Real, actual rabbit ears. They're moving on their own. Rabbit ears.

You want out of this place.

“Reisen,” Yagokoro says, incognizant of your ongoing freakout, “go and prepare a room for our guest.”

“There's already a room ready. Should I take her there now?”

“Please do.”

Reisen nods. Her ears nod with her. She takes one shoulder, Koakuma takes the other, and the two of them guide Patches out the door, ignoring her feeble protests.

_ To Yogokoro:
- _ The hell's up with Alice?
- _ The hell's up with Patches?
- _ The hell's up with the ears?
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 150711
x To Yogokoro:
- x The hell's up with Alice?
>> No. 150717
File 132343250633.jpg - (31.29KB , 592x432 , 1264614624470.jpg ) [iqdb]
150717
>Yogokoro
>> No. 150869
- x The hell's up with Alice?
- x The hell's up with the ears?

BUDDY COP?
>> No. 150873
- x The hell's up with Alice?
>> No. 150879
Let's prioritize.

- [x] The hell's up with Patches?
Terry should ask this first, since she just got walked out.
- [x] The hell's up with Alice?
This second, since that's why he's here.
- [x] The hell's up with the ears?
Because it's funny when he dwells on Gensokyo's idiosyncrasies.
- [x] If she gives him any lip, ask if ol' Yogo is colorblind or lost a bet.
>> No. 150880
[x] The hell's up with Alice?
[x] The hell's up with the ears?
>> No. 150891
- [x] The hell's up with Patches?
- [x] The hell's up with Alice?

If asking them in this order means that the Alice stuff won't be talked about as much, then scrap the Patchy vote.
>> No. 151147
>Nuts to that: you yank right back, just sharply enough that Patches loses her grip.

>The woman almost looks puzzled, like she didn't expect you to do that. Like she forgot you could do that, maybe.

Patch doesn't demonstrate youkai strength in front of Terry, surprising her.

>Somewhere along the line, somewhere between the choking and the hacking and Koakuma whispering meaningless reassurances into her ear, Patches coughed something up. It's splattered against the floor now-- mucus, you'd think,only it looks a lot more solid than mucus has any right to be.

>And it's got branches. Rubbery mucus branches.

Did Patchouli just literally cough up a lung?

- [x] The hell's up with Patches?
- [x] The hell's up with Alice?

Because I think they're related and we don't seem to have a large time constraint.

My theory is that Terry carries some kind of walking 'null magic zone' or at the least a dampener.

Building on that, as for why Terry is there, I think his presence would allow Eirin a proper biopsy (or other laboratory test) from Alice.
>> No. 151154
>>151147
I figured that Patches was suprised at how strong Terry is.

Quite possibly, in the absence of Reimu, Terry is gaining the Hakurei powers.
>> No. 151157
>>151147
magician types aren't that much stronger than a human if at all and seeing how immobile Patchy is usually, she'd be even weaker than that physically.
>> No. 151400
>>151147
>Did Patchouli just literally cough up a lung?

He mentioned this on IRC, and said no, but that it was meant to look like a lung.

Make of that what you will.
>> No. 151643
File 132516711249.jpg - (50.55KB , 500x500 , Moon.jpg ) [iqdb]
151643
X To Yagokoro:
- X The hell's up with Alice?

You watch them depart, and Yagokoro closes the door behind them.

“Is she alright?” you ask, because she brought you here, and the least she can do is be well enough to take you back.

Yagokoro doesn't lose her smile for a second. “Of course she's not alright,” she says. “Most people who are alright don't expel mucus in the shape of their bronchus. Unless the outer world has changed more than I know...”

...In retrospect, that was probably a stupid question. And the medical terminology Yagokoro's slinging around isn't making you feel any smarter. “I'm a detective, not a doctor,” you grumble. “The bodies I look at have worse problems.”

“They must have worse problems, if you're the one looking,” Yagokoro says. “In any case, it's probably just pneumonia again--nothing to be worried about.”

...Pneumonia.

Don't people die from that?

But like you just said, you're a detective, not a doctor. And this woman seems pretty authoritative, so you'll give her the benefit of the doubt. And it's not like Patches is really your friend, anyway. Besides, there are much more important things to be concerned about at the moment. For example:

“Alright,” you say. “So what's wrong with her?”

“Her”, of course, is Margatroid. Somehow, even with Patches having thrown a fit in the same room, she's still sleeping soundly...if you can call it “sleeping”. The fact that this nurse is here at all seems to say otherwise.

Yagkoro raises an eyebrow. “Interesting,” she comments. “I wouldn't have thought you would want a diagnosis as well.”

You fold your arms and look towards Yagokoro silently. This isn't the time for jibes. This is you asking for some important information. Margatroid's next morning awake could very well be your last, and you'd like to get an estimate of how far off that might be.

The nurse, or doctor, or whatever she is rises from her chair to join you at Margatroid's bed, razor still in hand. She peers down at her patient in a way that brings to mind the image of some scientist studying a specimen under a microscope. “So, what's wrong with Alice Margatroid...”

She tosses the question back at you with a voice like she's only started mulling over it now. And then she smirks. Not just that deceptive smile, but an actual smirk. You don't like it.

“That,” she says, “is the interesting part.”

...Because apparently, nobody in this wonderland knows how to give a straight damned answer.

You hate this place.

Yagokoro's eyes flicker between you and Margatroid, one hand tracing a line along the bedsheet next to Margatroid's arm like an old-fashioned crime scene investigator marking the outline of a corpse. She's got a strange, eager sort of look in her eyes. You don't like that, either.

“Do you know what a coma is?” Yagokoro asks.

Yeah, of course you know what a coma is. It's what they have someone fall into when the soap opera's gone on too long. You watch Shannon watch that stuff all the time. That might be a bit obscure for this discussion though. “It's when someone won't wake up, right?” you offer instead.

“Not a precise definition, but acceptable. I award you a fourth point.”

“Ah, wonderful! I humbly accept your kindness.”

...They say Japanese people can't detect sarcasm. You doubt it. There's a point where sheer derision breaks through any culture barrier, and right now, the two of you are five miles past it--or whatever the proper unit of measurement for sarcasm is. “Snark”?

“So, anyway.” You return to the main subject. “She's in a coma?”

“Your powers of observation are unparalleled. I award you another point.” Yagokoro touches Margatroid's face lightly with one hand, the razor gleaming in the other. For a second you have this crazy thought that she's going to start on surgery right there in front of you. “Her eyelids don't move. Her limbs don't move. She neither speaks nor responds to speech; nor does she react to painful stimuli. It's a deep coma, no matter which scale you follow.”

“Right, right. So she's in a coma.” You think you could've figured that out on your own, somehow. “And why is that interesting?”

“Because she shouldn't be in a coma.”

...Say what now?

“Sorry, maybe it's because I'm not a doctor, but I still don't understand,” you say. “She's in a coma, right? So isn't the fact that she's not waking up normal?” It's not like there's a handy drug for comatose patients, after all. When someone's in a coma, you're pretty sure you can't do much more than wait for them to come out of it.

“That may be true for human beings in the outer world,” Yagokoro answers, “but for youkai in Gensokyo, it's a different situation altogether.” She looks straight at you, as if waiting for a sign of comprehension.

You don't give her one.

She keeps looking.

You still don't give her one.

Yagokoro's smile flatlines. “You don't know what a youkai is, do you?”

“This is the first time anybody's bothered to ask me that, I think,” you say a little tiredly. “Most people just assume I know.”

“...And how long have you been in Gensokyo?”

How long? A year. Two years. Three. Five. A decade. A century and a fourth.

“About two months,” you say.

“I see.” Yagokoro says. The smile forms slowly again as she finds her rhythm. “To speak simply, 'youkai' is a general term for various nonhuman beings, though many often appear similar to humans. It isn't the most accurate or detailed of definitions, but it would be the most useful for somebody like you, I would think.” She pauses. “Could it be, then, that human beings of the outer world no longer know of youkai? How interesting...”

...And apparently it's more interesting than actually explaining that whopper of a definition, because Yagokoro suddenly turns towards the bed, all of her attention drawn to her comatose patient. If this were a TV show, you expect, this would be the part where the innocuous comment triggers some sort of climactic epiphany, leading the brilliant and attractive doctor to solve the mystery and subsequently provide a summation of the episode's events...but this isn't a TV show, and if Yagokoro is monologuing her eureka moment she's doing it inside her head. It's an awkward moment, to be sure: just you, a girl in a coma, and a doctor you're pretty sure has forgotten you exist. Plus, she keeps twirling that razor between her fingers, and the light keeps flashing off it, so that's annoying.

Not to mention dangerous.

Seriously, you could keep the beat by that thing. Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth--

“Would you stop that? It's giving me a headache.” You say this harsher than you should, but it snaps Yagokoro out of her little world well enough, so you don't really care. “And why do you have that knife, anyway?”

Oh, and there's the smirk again. “As a detective, wouldn't you want to examine the murder weapon?”

“It's not a murder weapon if the victim is still alive...”

“The principle remains the same.”

“...Sure, but that's not the problem.” You eye the razor, which is still swinging like a pendulum from between the joints of Yagokoro's fingers. It's a familiar enough blade--you had it on you, when Witch Girl decided to knock you out--but it's not that familiar.

“If you wanted the knife I stabbed Margatroid with,” you say, giving the elephant in the room a good yank on the trunk, “you've messed up.”

Somewhere, in a cottage in the woods, there is probably still a small buttering knife. Perhaps some Good Samaritan has even gone so far as to pick it up, wash off the blood, and place it back in its drawer. Perhaps not. What you can be reasonably sure of, right now, is that you've ruined Yagokoro's diagnosis, and there's no reason for you to be feeling this pleased over it past petty schadenfreude.

It's a good thing you like petty schadenfreude.

=== === === === === === === === ===

Los Ojos makes a nice postcard, but it's just as dirty as any other city in America. Or maybe the grime's only now spreading inwards.

You're not sure which is worse.

The first death didn't bother you. Some foreign government worker no one wanted to admit knowing--you didn't complain too much when he got swept under the carpet. Let someone else deal with it, you figured. Someone higher up. Not your problem.

But Emily Palmer wasn't a foreign government worker, as far as you know. Emily Palmer was born and raised in Los Ojos. She had parents here. She had a sister here, three years older than her. There wasn't any reason for her to get caught in this mess, but she died anyway. And then she was swept under the carpet, too.

Captain Graham was very sympathetic.

Sympathy doesn't do much for the dead.

But you're not doing much either, falling sleep in your sofa with the TV tuned to a mindless sitcom. The volume's off, but the colors burn through your eyelids. You can sense Sandra moving behind you to put her hand on your shoulder and order you to bed. It's not a bad suggestion. You might take her up on it.

Your cellphone rings. Once. Short and sharp, like a prison toothbrush.

Habit's stronger than sleep. You've got your phone open before you even consider it. There's one new message:

'Knife: Sending you a nice package. Don't unwrap it till I get there or there'll be problems. Comprendes?'

You don't recognize the sender.

Sandra perches on your shoulder like a bird of prey. If she understands the message, she doesn't let on. “Who is it? Your girl on the side?” she asks.

“It's your mother.” Sandra's mother has been dead for years. “She's still in hell.”

“Decided to beat the welcoming committee, I see.”

“Sure. She wanted your number.”

Sandra's about to return fire when another sound goes down your spine. This one's a knock, coming straight from the front door. You glance at your gun on the other side of the coffee table.

“That's her now,” you mutter.

_ Open the door.
_ Open the door carefully.
_ Lights out.
_ Sneak around the back.
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 151647
X Open the door carefully



What could possibly go wrong.
>> No. 151648
[x] Open the door.
It's probably the delivery person. The one to be careful about is the sender, who has already said they'd be over. Best to play this by ear.
>> No. 151651
[x] Sneak around the back.
>> No. 151689
[x] Open the door carefully.
>> No. 151697
Open the door carefully
>> No. 152162
File 132628846314.jpg - (76.27KB , 300x300 , BigChiefPart1.jpg ) [iqdb]
152162
X Open the door carefully.

Months ago, a text message to the wrong address wouldn't have worked you up. Today, a rotten imagination's too close to a rotten reality. You answer the door with the chain hooked and your fingers around your pistol grip.

But the person on your doorstep isn't the knife-wielding thug you expected. Instead, what you've got is a woman. She's small, and Asian, which is a point against her with all the Nakamuras and Shinomiyas making your life miserable. She's also dressed up in black, from the stitching at her ankles to the shawl and her ribboned fedora. She looks like she came from a funeral in the wrong century.

You don't recognize her either.

“Who are you?” you say. You keep your pistol behind the door, out of sight.

The woman looks up at you. She doesn't say anything.

“Who is it?” Sandra says.

“Not your mother, unless you like reincarnation,” you say. You don't look back. A second of distraction's all anybody needs. “Who are you?” you say again.

This time the woman does say something, but it's not in English. That's another point against her. You're all set to slam the door in her face and feel fine about it, when a second voice rises through the gap:

“Hold the door, Valentin! I'm your interpreter!”

That's a voice you do know. You shut the door, but just to undo the chain. When you open it again, Shannon's standing next to the woman. Her smile's as bright as always, but she's breathing hard, her face red.

“Sorry I'm late,” she says. “The stooge was a lot warier than usual--I think he knows Usami's in town. I had to take the second floor exit.” She brushes dirt that isn't there off her shoulder. “Cut through your neighbor's yard, too. Smushed their peonies.”

You couldn't care less about peonies. “What are you doing here?” you ask. “Who's this woman? Who's Usami?”

“Who is it now?” Sandra adds.

“Harker's sister,” you say. “And somebody else.”

You feel Sandra's hand curl over your shoulder again. Sandra knows Harker. She doesn't know Shannon. “I didn't know you liked that type,” she says to you.

“What type?”

“Oh, you know. Young, Asian...”

Shannon smirks. “If we swear not to have a threesome, will you let us in?”

Sandra lets them in. She doesn't look sour, but that doesn't mean anything. She's never been obvious. Best to get this done quick. “Now, what are you doing here?” you ask Shannon. It's the second time tonight you've had to repeat yourself.

Shannon looks at you like you're the fool. “I sent you a text. I called you 'Knife' and everything,” she says.

Talking to this woman is like trying to work a puzzle box from the inside. “Why would you call me 'Knife'?”

“A butter knife, maybe,” Sandra says. You shush her before she and Shannon start getting along.

“Forget it,” you say, “who's the woman?”

That's the third time. You're losing your patience, now. Maybe Shannon can tell, because she finally gets down to brass tacks:

“Right, right, this woman!”

She puts her hands on the small woman's shoulders. The woman looks more than a little uneasy. She probably doesn't understand English, either.

“This is Usami,” Shannon says. “Renko Usami. She's the one who runs that site you printed off. You remember that, right?” You do, but you don't get the time to say so. “As it turns out, she's as emotionally invested in this Hakurei mess as you are, so I got her to fly over.”

You don't get to say anything to that, either. Before you can put two words together Shannon's already off, speaking to the small woman in that language you don't know. You hear your name once or twice and figure she's doing introductions, but then Shannon says something else, and the small woman looks at you. She doesn't look too uneasy anymore.

In fact, she looks downright determined.

She starts talking. You still don't understand, but this time you've got Shannon to translate.

“She's Renko Usami, but you already know that. She was friends with one of the Hakurei family, and she made that website after the deaths happened. The deaths. You know about the deaths, right? Of the Hakurei family?”

She waits, this time. You tell her you do.

“Right,” says Shannon. “So that happened. The police still haven't caught anybody, and it doesn't seem like they're planning to catch anybody, either. Supposedly they're clueless in more ways than one, but word on the wire says their ignorance is more willful than anything else. After all, you can't perform fourteen-plus involuntary gastrectomies without leaving trace evidence somewhere along the line.”

She makes a line down the middle of her shirt with her thumb. Usami looks away.

“Ring a bell?”

It does.

“Yeah, of course it does.” Shannon's smile goes bland. “I want to know what happened to Terrence, and she wants to know what happened to her friend. There's a connection, and seeing as there are less Shinomiyas on this side of the ocean, here she is.”

She finishes by grabbing Usami's shoulders again. The small woman looks irked. You don't blame her. You'd be irked, too, if you were stuck on the far end of a game of telephone. For her to head to a country full of people she can't even talk to because of a “connection”...

Hell.

That must have been a good friend.

_ Ask Usami about... (specify)
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 152171
[x] Ask Usami about... her friend

It's only polite
>> No. 152172
Sounds good to me.
>> No. 152173
[x] Ask Usami about her friend
[x] Ask if anyone had a reason to want the Hakurei family dead
[x] Ask if she knows of any link between the Hakureis and the victims here in Los Ojos other than way they were killed.
[x] Ask if she knows anything about Makoto Nakamura

I feel like these questions are kind of grasping at straws, but I can't think of anything better.
>> No. 152554
[x] Ask Usami about her friend
[x] Ask if anyone had a reason to want the Hakurei family dead
[x] Ask if she knows of any link between the Hakureis and the victims here in Los Ojos other than way they were killed.
[x] Ask if she knows anything about Makoto Nakamura

They're general and obvious questions, but she probably has something to say about them anyway.
>> No. 152566
>“So that happened. The police still haven't caught anybody, and it doesn't seem like they're planning to catch anybody, either. Supposedly they're clueless in more ways than one, but word on the wire says their ignorance is more willful than anything else. After all, you can't perform fourteen-plus involuntary gastrectomies without leaving trace evidence somewhere along the line.”

With this number we may be looking at more than one velociraptor here.

[x] Ask Usami about her friend
[x] Ask if anyone had a reason to want the Hakurei family dead
[x] Ask if she knows of any link between the Hakureis and the victims here in Los Ojos other than way they were killed.
[x] Ask if she knows anything about Makoto Nakamura
>> No. 153917
File 133026722487.jpg - (176.08KB , 576x576 , ITurnMyCameraOn.jpg ) [iqdb]
153917
This took a bit too long, didn't it?

I'm sorry.

X Ask Usami about...
- X Her friend
- X Why anybody would attack the Hakurei family
- X Connections between the Hakurei family and the victims in Los Ojos
- X Makoto Nakamura

“So you brought her here,” you say. “Why?”

“If you're going to interrogate the girl, at least let her sit down first,” Sandra says before Shannon can translate. “The kitchen table's clear. Either of you want something to drink? Coffee?”

Shannon makes a face. “Don't talk to me about coffee. I spend so much time around coffee I can see through things with half-shut eyes. The last thing I need is night vision with them closed. No, got any OJ?”

You'd like a cup yourself, but it's too late for it. You end up sitting in the kitchen with a stick of gum in your mouth and your gun in the waistline of your pants, staring Usami down as she nurses her own mug. You can smell the caffeine across the table.

Your jaws clack. You taste blood and mint. “Anything else?” you say. “Cushion? Bowl of grapes?”

“Mirandize her for the authentic American experience?” suggests Sandra, topping off Shannon's glass. You ignore her and wait for Usami's reply.

Usami shakes her head, eventually.

“Then maybe we can start,” you say. You lock eyes with Usami. She doesn't even flinch. That's good. “Tell me about your friend.”

There's some back and forth between Shannon and Usami. They're stuck on a point. You don't know Japanese, but you know an echo when you hear it. “Maryberry Hearn,” Shannon says finally, “or possibly Merryberry Hearn or Mellybelly Hearn or something else just as difficult to wrangle out of Japanese syllabary.”

As names go, you've heard worse. “You said her name was Hakurei,” you say.

Shannon says something to Usami. Usami says something else. “No, she said Marryberry was part of the Hakurei family,” Shannon explains. “There's a difference. Apparently her grandmother met a nice European, got hitched, and lost her surname. It caused a big brouhaha, too, though now I'm wondering why they got a walk while our mom got the boot.”

For a second, the devil-may-care grin lifts away from her face like a set of Venetian blinds. There's something else there, lurking underneath, and you don't like the look of it.

Then Usami's talking again, and Shannon's back with her cheery translation. “Anyway, Marybelly and Renko here were close. Met at the U, formed a club and everything. A regular two pair. I don't want to paraphrase, but from what she's saying, I'm getting a real 'through thick and thin' vibe. You remember that printout?”

Of course you remember the printout. You're the one who gave it to Shannon in the first place. “Yes,” you say.

“She's the gal with the purple waves.”

“Waves?” you say.

“Waves,” Shannon says. “Waves. A dress.”

“Ruffles,” Sandra clarifies. She sits next to you with her own mug.

You can smell that too.

“Purple waves,” you mutter. You need another stick of gum. There was a picture like that, though, now that you think of it: a girl with a sweet smile and an arm around somebody's shoulder, purple dress past her knees and a mob cap on her head. You assumed she was playing dress-up, but considering who that “somebody” was...

Usami sips her coffee. The fedora hides her eyes.

“Fine,” you say. “Do you know why anyone would kill the whole family?” You don't bother playing nice. It won't survive translation anyway.

Usami's got a strong reaction to that one. Shannon's eyebrows rise before she passes it on to you. “Huh,” she says. “That's interesting. Seems with everyone else out of the picture, the money lands square in the hands of the folks who helped the Hakureis with their business. Three guesses for a surname, and the first two don't count.”

You don't need to guess. You already know. “Shinomiya.”

“Bingo!”

You break open another packet of gum. “You were staying with them when your brother went missing.”

“Bingo!”

“And now you've got one of them following you around here.”

“Again, I reiterate the 'bingo'!” Shannon shows her teeth. “Mom dead, Terrence missing...as far as those schlubs see it, I'm the last Hakurei.”

“So why aren't you dead yet?”

That's not you. That's Sandra. She puts her mug down and looks surprised at the stares. “It's a reasonable question,” she says. “If the Shinomiyas want the Hakureis dead, by all rights you ought to be stashed away in the same attic as your brother.”

The lurking thing nearly breaks through. This time Shannon's smile doesn't stick. “Yeah? And what do you know about my brother, anyway?”

“Believe it or not, these flaps on the sides of my head aren't for signaling.” Sandra makes a big show drinking her coffee. When her mug's empty and still nobody's said anything she continues: “You didn't think I'd play good wife with a much more interesting subject at the table, did you? I'm more just than a pretty face.”

“You haven't got a pretty face,” you mutter.

Sandra smirks. “And yet I still managed to trick you into marrying me. How is that?”

Shannon puts her drink down, hard. “I hate to break up your dilly-dalliance,” she snaps, “but Terrence? Missing? Or maybe you forgot?” She's not even trying for a smile anymore. “Let's get back to business, alright?”

You try. You might as well have stopped there for all the good it does you. Usami doesn't know who Kensuke Yamamoto or Makoto Nakamura are, let alone Emily Palmer, and Shannon can only make her orange juice last so long before Sandra starts itching to toss her out.

“One more thing,” Shannon says before Sandra can put her on the other side of the door. “You wanted to know why I haven't been offed, right?”

She says it to you and not Sandra.

Shannon smiles. It's all teeth. You can see the fangs. “I think the stooge's trying to woo me!” she says brightly.

“Tell Usami to look out,” you say. “Someone's shutting us down. I don't know who's pulling the strings.”

“Sure,” Shannon says. “Sure. No problem. Abyssinia, Valentin.”

She leaves. Usami does too. Sandra closes the door before they get to the sidewalk.

“Well,” Sandra says, “you certainly know some interesting people.”

It sounds like she's accusing you of something.

“You measure up,” you assure her.

“I hope I do more than just measure up.”

“So do I.”

“Ha.” Sandra smiles. “Keep that gun in your pants.”

She heads back to the kitchen, humming to herself. You hear the sink run.

“Shrew,” you mutter, but only when you're sure she can't hear it.

=== === === === === === === === ===

“Your detective,” Yagokoro says, “is devoid of faith.”

“He's not my detective.”

Bedridden status aside, Patches looks a lot healthier than the last time you saw her. Then again, she could have snot dripping down her chin and it'd still be an improvement. It's only been an hour since you saw her dragged out the door, anyway, so you doubt she's finished or even started her treatment.

...Not that you know what the treatment for pneumonia is. A week's rest and plenty of fluids? Yeah, right.

It probably doesn't help her that Yagokoro's more interested in acting all clever than actually curing any ills. “You brought him here, didn't you?” she says to Patches, smiling. “That makes him your responsibility.”

Patches' eyebrows draw low. Well, lower than usual. “I assume you are here to do more than annoy me,” she says. “Perhaps he's mentioned something of import?”

“I'm standing right here,” you mutter. Nobody notices, not even Koakuma or Reisen, and the thought occurs to you: maybe you should leave, now, while everyone's distracted by this dialogue. Just give them all the slip. Down the hall and out the door and through the bamboo. It'll be easy. Nobody closed the room behind you, so all you've got to do is back away, carefully, carefully, carefully...

“Patient response consistent with mild to moderate hearing loss,” Yagokoro mutters, and cups her hands around her mouth:

“Your detective,” she says again, carefully and loudly enunciating each syllable, “Is. Devoid of faith.”

...And of course, seeing as you've nearly made it to the doorway, now they all decide you're worth looking at. Damn it. You sigh, and make yourself comfortable on your feet.

Yagokoro's big reveal seems to mean next to nothing to Patches, unfortunately, which does not bode well for your heels. “He's from the Outside. It is to be expected,” she says.

“Not to this extent,” Yagokoro says. “Even to the outside world, knowledge of youkai is common enough. Outsiders don't seem to believe in youkai, but they at the very least know of them. Your detective, on the other hand...”

She pauses. Tilts her head and smiles. Doesn't unpause, just keeps her head like that. Tilted. And smiling.

You can feel the frustration coming off Patches in waves.

“...Well?”

“Oh, so he is your detective after all?” There's glowering. Yagokoro ignores it cheerfully. “Your detective, on the other hand,” she resumes, “is completely unaware of youkai. Almost impossibly unaware, actually.”

Patches' gaze in your direction becomes all the more intense. “Unaware,” she parrots, sounding skeptical.

You shift your feet uncomfortably.

“I took the time to ask him a few questions,” Yagokoro says (and it's an odd definition of the word “few”--she started quizzing you the moment you let slip about the knife, for goodness' sake). “He doesn't know what tengu are. He doesn't know what oni are--in fact, I'd be surprised if he knew how to write 'oni'.” The doctor looks at you expectantly, as if daring you to prove her wrong.

...You can't.

“A square on two legs, right?” you guess. It's the wrong answer. You know it's the wrong answer as soon as it comes out of your mouth. Everyone else knows it's the wrong answer as soon as it comes out of your mouth. Everyone else knows you know it's the wrong answer as soon as it comes out of your mouth, and somehow that just makes it worse.

“So then, he's ignorant,” Patches says. “This explains nothing.”

“Well, there's certainly no point in knowledge if you don't apply it,” says Yagokoro, and you appreciate a sick burn as much as the next guy, but not on your time.

“There's no point in knowledge if you don't share it, either,” you butt in. “I don't know as much about magic as either of you--what does faith have to do with this?”

“Faith has everything to do with this.” Yagokoro provides an actual (if vague) answer. Maybe you're too clueless to belittle properly. “You remember what youkai are, don't you?” she asks.

You do, of course. Or rather, you remember her explanation, even if it was sort of lacking. “Yeah,” you say, “something nonhuman, right?”

Patches makes a sound from her pillow, like a snort. You ignore her.

“Well, it's not a bad start.” The smile on Yagokoro's face shifts, and you decide you don't like this look, either. It's too anticipatory. Like the woman's about to drop something weighty on your toes and enjoy the reaction.

“The important thing about youkai,” Yagokoro says, very simply, very clearly, “is that they scarcely ever remain dead.”

You consider this.

“What?”

And if that expression isn't “enjoying the reaction”, you'll find yourself a hat to eat. “Oh, don't misunderstand,” Yagokoro says. “Killing a youkai is simple enough. The difficult part is keeping them dead.”

“...What?”

“Your bedridden friend is a good example.” Yagokoro gestures towards Patches, who stiffens slightly. “Even with her limbs cut away, she'd easily regenerate.”

“...What?”

“Although, it might be better if you weren't the one to do the cutting. It all comes back to your utter lack of faith.”

“...What?”

“W-wait.” Reisen, eyes wide, ears tense, clearly sees a conclusion where you see an unpleasant plot twist. “What you're saying is--”

She catches herself, looking towards Yagokoro. Looking for something. Permission? Whatever it is, she finds it:

“What you're saying is--he negated her regeneration because he didn't believe in youkai? But that's--that's impossible!”

“Not impossible in the least. Improbable--undoubtedly improbable--but not impossible.”

Yagokoro's declaration settles heavy on the shoulders of the company gathered. You don't understand it, but you can see perfectly well the faces of those who do--can see perfectly well that the words mean something, something important, something significant. What was it that baldy said about faith? Something about it being tangled up with reality?

You didn't believe it then, and you don't believe it now, but it's clear enough that you're the only one who feels that way. You briefly try to put yourself in one of these folks' shoes--try to imagine living in a world where physics is decided by vote. You don't like the idea at all.

“...Of course,” Yagokoro says, once the silence has reached peak drama, “I could very well be wrong, which is why you should run along to Margatroid's cottage. Bring back anything that looks like a knife, would you?”

“...What?”

You like it a lot better when you're not the one confused out of your head, you note.

“Considering the murder weapon is still there, it would be prudent.” Yagokoro does another sort of smile. If you squint and tilt your head a bit you can almost pretend to believe she's the very image of innocence. “Oh,” she says. “Did I forget to mention that?”

Patches stares. “But the knife...”

“The wrong knife,” Yagokoro says. “If it makes you feel any better, I don't think Kirisame knew, either. Is there a reason you're still standing there?”

That last sentence is directed towards Reisen, who snaps out of her daze and exits the room quickly enough to nearly stumble over her own feet. The moment she's gone, Patches folds her hands above her covers, somehow managing to look very puffed up despite her sorry state.

“Then I was right,” she says. “It was him.”

“It might be him,” Yagokoro stresses. “It might also be the knife, or Margatroid herself. We'll see soon enough, won't we?”

She snaps her fingers, as she did once before. This time, however, it isn't a woman that shows up in the doorway, but...a girl? A girl, in a simple, lightly colored tunic of some sort. At least, you think that's a tunic. At least, you think that's a girl.

...Because, sure, this one's got the ears, too, just like the last one, but there's something else that's nagging at you, here, setting off some reflex. The face is no good, you think, and that makes no sense but you think it anyway: the face is no good. The eyes are fine, yes, the mouth is fine, and maybe the ears are too long but everything else--nose, chin, hair down her back--it's fine, fine, all of it is fine, up to there point where it all comes together and then the face is no good.

Stress?

Could be stress.

Could be intuition.

_ There's no helping it, whatever's going to happen next.
_ You'll stay a bit longer here, thank you very much.
_ Whoa, hey, time to skedaddle.
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 153959
[x] There's no helping it, whatever's going to happen next.

I wonder when we will have reason to tell everyone that we aren't from Japan?
>> No. 153962
(x) "What the fuck is wrong with your face?"
>> No. 153965
[x] Whoa, hey, time to skedaddle.
>> No. 153986
[X] I'll go find your butter knife with that crazy rabbit girl
>> No. 153991
(x) "What the fuck is wrong with your face?"

Their actions have not increased my willingness to cooperated peacefully.
>> No. 154073
[x] There's no helping it, whatever's going to happen next.
>> No. 154075
[x] There's no helping it, whatever's going to happen next.

I doubt pointing out that a youkai has a freaky face will help anything, and it's not like they'll just let us walk out of here either. May as well try to keep our cool.
>> No. 154083
[x] There's no helping it, whatever's going to happen next.

It can't be helped.
>> No. 154125
[x]"What the fuck is wrong with your face?"

There's evidently something wrong with her face, and it's Terrance's job to point out the obvious. Or the not-so obvious. But usually the former.
>> No. 154488
File 133176181828.jpg - (39.27KB , 600x600 , NightSteps.jpg ) [iqdb]
154488
X There's no helping it, whatever's going to happen next.

Could be it doesn't matter either way.

Face it, Terrence--you're behind enemy lines here. It's a dangerous place enough already, and the last thing you need to do is make things worse by punching this girl in the face and making a run for it. You don't even know where the nearest exit is, for one thing, and there's that bamboo to consider--all in all, not a very smart decision, which is why you aren't making it. Instead, when Yagokoro asks the girl to show you to your new room...

Well, what else can you do? Off you go.

That said, it rankles with you, having to play follow the leader with a girl who can't be half your age. She's got familiarity with the place that you haven't, so of course it's reasonable, but still--

Your rabbit-eared guide turns a corner and then suddenly stops, nearly sending you tumbling over her. You catch yourself just in time, but the mental map of this place you were trying to keep straight goes flying out your ears. What's wrong now?

...Oh, another girl with rabbit ears. Of course.

This girl's actually got a modicum of fashion sense about her, wearing a passable pink dress rather than the potato sack equivalent the other girl's stuck in. She also looks more like a girl than the first girl does. There's still something wrong with her--something wrong in the same way--but if the first girl's an ugly stain on a white wall, this girl's more of a blind spot. You might have missed it, if you hadn't already known what you were looking for.

“Leave him to me,” the new girl says.

Your guide hesitates.

“Don't worry,” the new girl says. “Look--I'm the one telling you, so you won't get in trouble. And if you do get in trouble, I'll talk with the master myself, alright?” She makes a shooing gesture. “Go, go.”

And apparently this is reassurance enough for your guide, because--well, she goes. Just turns and leaves, all without saying a single word. You let yourself ponder that oddness for a second before regarding the new girl--and finding that she's regarding you as well, looking you up and down.

Mostly up.

“You don't look special.”

“You don't look special either.” Sorry, but you're all out of civility. Even the fake stuff.

This girl seems to take the jab in stride, though. “You can't judge by looks, you know,” she says, and leans in conspiratorially, a wicked grin on her face. “You treat me nice, and you might just get a little lucky.”

“...Lucky enough to leave Gensokyo?”

“Well, luck's a funny thing. Maybe.”

...You're not sure what she's hawking here, but it sounds a little suspect. Or a lot suspect. “Who are you, anyway?” you ask.

Pink Dress Girl shows off her megawatt smile. “Me? I'm Hakurei Reimu.”

...Uh-huh.

“...Hakurei Reimu.”

“That's me. You're an Outsider, so it's no wonder you haven't heard of me, but I'm the Hakurei Shrine's famous shrine maiden. Nice to meet you!”

You're half expecting her to glom onto your hand with that, but of course she doesn't. It's Japan. They don't do handshakes in Japan. “The Hakurei Shrine, huh?” you say. “I've been there before. It looked pretty beat up.”

“Times are tough,” Pink Dress Girl says. “There isn't any money for repairs, so I've been wandering Gensokyo and collecting offerings on my own.” Her smile droops momentarily, only to return to full power--and then some. “Speaking of which...”

You hold up a hand to stave off the sales pitch. “Sorry, I'll pass,” you say. “I'm an atheist.”

“Seriously? It's no good if you don't believe in something--what about Buddhism? Do you like Buddhism? You're in luck--I'm collecting offerings for the Myouren Temple too.” And your expression must be incredulous as heck, because: “What? Don't give me that look--there's nothing wrong with subcontracting. I told you, times are tough--”

“I don't have money.” And the farce has gone on long enough, you think.

“Aw, come on, don't be like that.”

“No, I really don't have money. I'm staying at Kotohime's. I don't work, so I don't get paid.”

Pink Dress Girl looks faintly disgusted. “You should have said that earlier,” she mutters, and turns away to continue your guidance where that other rabbit-eared girl left off.

You shrug, even though she can't see it with you following behind. “It might not help, but I probably wouldn't have donated even if I'd had money,” you say. “I'm in a bad mood, and you're...”

“Pushy, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Tch. I'm off my game.”

“Better luck next time.”

...And the weird thing is, you sort of actually mean it.

“So then,” you say, as Pink Dress Girl leads you down another featureless corridor, “what's your real name?”

“How do you know Hakurei Reimu isn't my real name?”

“Because Hakurei Reimu's dead and you're not. What's your real name?”

“...You caught me. I should've gone with someone else, huh?” Pink Dress Girl glances at you over her shoulder. Oddly, she doesn't look put out at being exposed. “Inaba Tewi. Nice to meet you.”

You refrain from pointing out that it's the second time she's said that. “You already know who I am--did you want to talk to me or something?” Or did she just want to scam you out of the cash you don't have?

“I wanted to see the guy everyone's making a fuss over, that's all. You're popular, you know.”

You take a moment to digest this, as you follow in your guide's--Inaba's--tracks. There's no such thing as bad publicity, right?

...You don't know who started that line, but if he saw you today you figure he'd revise his opinion quick.

“So now you've seen me,” you say. “What do you think?”

“Like I said, you don't look special.” Inaba stops and gestures towards a door. “Your room. Someone will come and get you when dinner's ready. Till then...I wouldn't leave, if I were you.”

“Yeah? Why not?”

Inaba smirks. “You need to be real lucky to not get lost in a place like this.”

And with that, Inaba turns tail--literally--and hop-skips the hallway down, ears bouncing with every step, cackling all the way.

---

Awareness comes as a shock. One instant you're asleep--and then you're most certainly not, with your feet scrambling backwards into a corner and your heart beating fast enough to set tempo for a bebop composition. You can remember where you are. You can barely remember who you are.

And then it all comes back in bits and pieces. Eientei--Tewi--Inaba--showed you your room--and of course you had some time to kill till dinner, so of course you decided to get yourself a little shuteye--

Deep breaths, Terrence. You're not the sort to get panic attacks, or anything like them. So what brought this on?

It doesn't take too long before you're alright again. You don't even need a bag to breathe in--which is fortunate, seeing as you wouldn't know the first place to find one. You stand up straight, brush the dust off your shirt, and prepare yourself for a few more z's.

This is when the wall explodes.

_ Valor
_ The better part of valor
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 154490
[x]The better part of valor
As much as Terrence might want to punch people in the face, walls are exploding here and it would be best not to join them.
>> No. 154497
[x] The better part of.
>> No. 154501
[x] The better part of valor
>> No. 154521
[x] The better part of valor

Let me guess, Marisa decides to get uppity and is trying to shank us with some good ole vigilantism.
>> No. 154524
[X]Better part of valor
>> No. 154571
[x] The better part of valor

I guess someone is trying to find out if Terrence is more special than he looks. It's probably best to disappoint them.
>> No. 154637
[x] Valor

If it were Marisa, there have been many better opportunities to abduct/incinerate Terry. Unless she'd recently heard some very alarming news we're not yet partial to.

The first person that comes to mind in committing violence against Eientei, while having relative familiarity with the floor plan, is Mokou. Being non-native herself, she could be interested in recent news from the outside. Or she could be trying to 'rescue' him again, like she did with Mima.

And 'valor' here probably doesn't mean Terrance is going to attempt a take-down on the new arrival--just that it's the converse of the 'better part of valor' (i.e., running away). If it's really an Eientei resident, they could just as likely intend to get him lost in the halls for countless hours.

From a metagame prospective, the staying option is possibly a vehicle to re-introduce Mokou, while the running option would be to introduce Kaguya.
>> No. 154770
File 133276887034.jpg - (16.20KB , 216x216 , Can'tTouchTheBoots.jpg ) [iqdb]
154770
X The better part of valor

Wood. Wood and bits of paper. You back away (second time's the charm), covering your eyes with your arm to protect yourself from the debris. Your first thought is stupid--a bomb? Your second thought is less stupid. It's that girl, you think. Witch Girl. Patches, and Alice unconscious, freaking Alice unconscious, you should have seen this coming--

But then you lower your arm, and the person standing in the gap where a wall should be isn't petite, isn't dressed in black, isn't even a woman.

Instead, it's big, and muscles, and a guy, and--

He just smashed through the wall.

Everything else in your head stops. It's just that thought alone, like a song you can't shake: he just smashed through the wall. This guy just smashed through the wall. And then it grows branches, and you can feel it, almost physically: he just smashed through the wall. He's smiling. It's not a nice smile. He just smashed through the wall. He doesn't even have a fire axe or a hammer or anything, but he just smashed through the wall. He smashed through the wall with the weight of his own self.

And then:

Nobody smashes through a wall with the intent of peace.

There's a fist. You throw yourself to the side just in time for it to go through the door instead of your skull.

Your body's so flooded with adrenaline you can almost taste it. There's a split second for your brain to pick between “fight” or “flight”--and it picks “flight”. You duck, quick--dart under your attacker's arm and scramble through the space behind him where the wall isn't anymore.

The sound of a snarl tells you someone's not too pleased with your escape. Normally you wouldn't be pleased, either. Normally you'd feel like a coward. But right now, all you can feel is the blood pounding in your head.

Door's open in this room. It seems like the guy wasn't just indiscriminately smashing up the place--not that it matters. Door or hole, either one's fine as long as you can keep moving. You stumble into the hallway, nearly tripping over your own shadow in your haste and--

Your brain shorts. Left or right?

Then the guy smashes another hole through your room, joining you in the hallway, and you realize it doesn't really matter as long as it's away.

You turn.

And you run.

---

You're no stranger to running. Of course not. You're a police officer. Los Ojos may be quiet, but there's always the occasional idiot who thinks they can give you the slip. You once chased some girl into a mall and out the other side before you managed to catch up to her halfway up a chain-link fence. You pulled her by the collar and she came right off.

It wasn't even anything serious. She'd been smoking a joint, and then you'd shown up, and she'd been so spooked by the sight of you that she'd instinctively made for the hills. It was so pathetic you nearly let her off with a warning.

Nearly.

So you can run. You can do running fine.

But this is different. For one, it's the first time since you were a kid that you've been on the wrong end of a chase. And while you never risked anything more than a rough noogying if Shannon caught you, odds are this guy wants to apply a lot more pressure to your skull, which is why you've been doing your best to lose him since he decided your living quarters wanted renovating.

It's not easy, though. In fact, you're beginning to suspect it might be impossible. The hallways in this place are too straight, too long. There's no way you're going to get this guy off your heels if he can see which direction you're taking every time.

Persistence hunting, you think, and then wave that thought away in a hurry. It's not exactly helping your morale, and to be frank, you need all the help you can get. Your muscles are burning, your breath is shallow, and for goodness' sake--your socks keep slipping.

Forget “beginning to suspect”. You're screwed, plain and simple. When you turn the next corner and find that the hallway you're running terminates at a blank wall, it's just an ugly confirmation. It's not quite a dead end, what with the abundance of doors lining either side--but if your pursuer can bust through a wall with no trouble, you doubt that something actually designed to open up will seriously impede him.

...Too bad you're out of choices.

For a second you consider not bothering with the door behind you, but your sense of self-preservation wins out. There's a chance, however slim--and thinking that, you turn your eyes to survey your new surroundings. It would be exceedingly handy for you to have happened across Eientei's weapons storeroom in your mad dash around the premises.

But unfortunately, this isn't a weapons storeroom. In fact, it isn't even an anything storeroom--it's a walk-in closet's worth of empty space, save a wooden crate in the corner, and even that's been pried open and left without its contents. You grip the edge of the box, hoping against hope for something to materialize at the bottom. Saw, scalpel--anything. You're not picky.

You're not lucky, either. There are no miracles today. The crate remains empty--and doesn't that just fit, in a way? An empty, broken crate inside an empty, broken room. Like a set of matrëška. And maybe the room isn't empty or broken just yet, but it's only a matter of--

The door disintegrates.

He's here.

Your muscles lock up. You don't even turn around--just stand there, bent stiffly over a useless crate, as the footsteps sound behind you. The guy isn't running anymore. He doesn't need to run. He knows where you are, knows you're used up.

You barely dodged his strike last time. Now you're worn out. Tired. There's no way you can turn around, dodge it again, and make it to the door without tripping up somewhere along the way, and he knows that, too.

For the first time, he speaks. And maybe it's the stress heightening your senses, maybe it's just all in your head, but you swear you can actually feel his voice moving towards you with each step.

“We've been waiting for this for a long time,” he says.

But you've only been here two months, you think, and with one last desperate motion turn and swing at him with the only weapon available--which is the crate itself.

The crate crashes against the side of the man's head. He grunts, and staggers to the side, and for a second you're sure you see his eyes cross, for a second you're sure he's going down--but the grunt is more annoyance than anything else, and he regains his footing easily, glaring down at you, nothing gleeful about his expression now. “You'll pay for that,” he says, or at least that's what you think he says. You're not sure. There's a roaring in your ears that started about the instant the crate landed across his skull and it must show somehow because the anger lines on his face smooth out and he almost looks confused--he almost looks concerned--and doesn't that make it all the more funny when you take the crate and hit him a second time?

You're certain it does. You're certain. You're certain that this is the right thing to do.

This time he actually yells--yells in pain as the crate shatters around his head. But that's alright, because there are enough pieces scattered across the room and across the floor and across his face that you don't have to search long before you find the right one. The man is distracted enough, anyway, clutching at the side of his head and looking at you like he can't understand how you've made him bleed. He tries to hit you with his other hand but you meet it partway with a stick of wood.

It has a nail in it.

When you yank the stick away it tears a ragged line to the base of his fingers and this time he screams instead of yells, and in that moment he is distracted but you don't have the crate anymore so you use what you have on hand and it works.

The screaming stops. The man's face becomes blank.

He falls to the ground with the nail still stuck in his skull and it is right.

You regard the body with disgust. It doesn't move. You detect no signs of breath but of course that doesn't mean anything, because Margatroid looked dead too and aren't you in this mess now? You know you cut her open but apparently that wasn't enough, apparently she didn't even scar. She still has her eyes. You didn't look but you know. And if eyes can grow back you don't know what else can.

But if you remove the head--

Yes, that's right. You lick your lips and pry the stick away, and place the tip of a nail against the body's thick neck. It's not going to be easy. It's going to be quite difficult, in fact, and time-consuming. But if you want to do this right (and you know that this is right), then you'll have to go the whole way--

And then there's a sound. From somewhere far-off, but not too far-off. A crash.

Of course, you think. You didn't honestly think someone would try to attack a place like this all alone, did you?

And then you think: Wait, what the hell am I doing?

You look at the stick of wood in your hand. It's a passable weapon, especially with the nail sticking out of it, but that's beside the point. What's more important is the fact that--just now, were you seriously considering using it to hack off some body's head?

Granted, it's not the craziest of whims, considering Margatroid's current state, but...

You withdraw the stick, feeling faintly uneasy. Something's...off about all this.

_ Open the doors you pass.
_ Try to make your way back to the entrance.
_ Go back towards your room.
_ Go further away from your room.
_ Stay with the left wall.
_ Stay with the right way.
_ Try to find any route outside.
>> No. 154771
Ah, it's the return of Terrance, Murderer Extraordinaire.
Should probably check our shirt this time to make sure there isn't more bloodstains like last time.

[X]Stay with the left wall
>> No. 154774
Seems like he didn't expect anything to harm him. So Terrance has some unpleasant friends who also aren't entirely aware of what makes him special.

[X] Stay with the left wall.
Sticking to a wall is a bit more concrete than just running in a vague direction.
>> No. 154791
[x] Stay with the left wall.
>> No. 154792
[X] Open the doors you pass

Probably the best way for Terry to get help. He doesn't have to be alone, here.
>> No. 154802
So was Reimu murdered?
>> No. 154804
File 13328431551.jpg - (87.94KB , 500x500 , IRememberClifford.jpg ) [iqdb]
154804
Yeah, so the choice "Stay with the right way" should actually be "Stay with the right wall". Somehow, I always manage to make my mistakes where they really count. Feel free to delete your post and revote if this revelation changes anything for you.

While I'm at it, >>154488 has a typo, too. "You can remember where you are" should be "You can't remember where you are".

Hell, while I'm fixing mistakes, here's a doozy. See this picture? This is the picture that >>88101 was supposed to have. That link probably doesn't work, since >>88101 was all the way back in the first thread.

I'm really terrible in a lot of different ways.
>> No. 154807
[X] Open the doors you pass.

HOW MANY EMPTY ROOMS CAN ONE PLACE HAVE


Terrance took a few levels in frenzied berserker, it's awwwright.
>> No. 154808
[x]Open the doors you pass.
>> No. 154819
[x] Stay with the left wall.
>> No. 154842
[x] Open the doors you pass. Randomly.

Maximize your pursuers' confusion. You want to throw them off your trail, but you don't also want to create a trail of open doors.

What did we just kill, an oni? Because it was terribly surprised we were able to hurt it. Terry is a murder machine when he refuses to suspend disbelief.

Also, fuck yeah, nailbat.
>> No. 154972
[x] Open the doors you pass. Randomly.

Note: bludgeons seem more effective against youkai than knives
>> No. 155072
[x] Open the doors you pass.
>> No. 155309
File 133404879626.jpg - (82.13KB , 600x566 , conehead.jpg ) [iqdb]
155309
Okay. Um.

So I actually stopped counting votes a while back, and didn't tell you. At all. Awkward. The winner was "stay with the left wall", so...yeah. That's a thing that happened. Sorry about that.

Also, while I'm here, talking to you ("typing to you", maybe), I should probably apologize for the delay of the next update which is and which is going to be. I seem to have become swamped with college things, which is sort of...a bummer.

So. Yeah.

As a token of my apology...ask me for something, I guess. I don't really have anything to give you, past an aborted rough draft of the last update, a list of song titles I've spent too much time agonizing over, a collection of Original Character(s) Do Not Steal-related self-indulgence, and a metric load of notes that...don't actually seem to make any sense, now that I read back through them.

Are these song lyrics? Why have I got...?

Anyway, in summary: voting closed, sorry, update delayed, sorry, I'm very sorry, sorry.
>> No. 155333
>>155309

Alright, i'd like to ask a question then:

If we hadn't gone with the STABSTABSTAB option a while back at alice's house, how would that have affected the plot?
>> No. 155338
File 133409254129.jpg - (30.30KB , 405x600 , tumblr_luce4ovLQ81qc0ha5o1_500.jpg ) [iqdb]
155338
>>155333
That's a very good question. A very, very good question. And I'm afraid my answer is going to be a little bit disappointing.

I have no idea.

Oh, sure, I had a vague idea at the time. I probably intended for Terrence to befriend some forest denizen, or make it back to the village and hob-a-nob with the locals there. It would have all led to some kind of youkai attack, most likely, and from there on...?

The truth is, I often feel like I've got only half a handle on my story, and those are the good days. I set out plot seeds, and they thoroughly fail to germinate. I whimsically allow a character a line of little importance, and it unfolds into something very important indeed. And of course, there's you, Anonymous: always picking the choice I had the least planned for--or inventing your own.

Make plans and the devil smiles.

But don't misunderstand, Anonymous. Sure, my plans keep getting defenestrated--but I really don't mind. In fact, it's quite exciting. Writing this story has taught me something about improvisation.

Namely, that I'm awful at it. But I'm getting better.
>> No. 155414
I think it'd be interesting to read some of those notes, would you mind sharing some of them?
>> No. 155467
File 133426470474.jpg - (1.64MB , 1600x2100 , Scan_Pic0003.jpg ) [iqdb]
155467
>>155414
I don't know what you were expecting, but I daresay this isn't it.
>> No. 155488
>>155467
You are missing a hydrogen atom in your propane molecule.
>> No. 155503
Noon!
>> No. 155687
File 133508094176.jpg - (133.26KB , 350x350 , Beverly'sMarch.jpg ) [iqdb]
155687
X Stay with the left wall.

You leave. You take your weapon, but the body stays where it is, to do whatever bodies do. Lie there. Decompose. Heal up, maybe, and come chasing after lost detectives. It's not a satisfactory arrangement, but you've got to keep moving.

Though, if you knew where you were moving to--well, that'd be neat.

Lacking a map, you make do as you can. There are a number of handy methods on getting oneself unstuck from a maze--unfortunately, you never bothered committing the more complicated ones to memory. The best you can do is stick yourself to a wall and hope this place is simply connected, which is about as likely as you switching careers and becoming an astronaut.

You pick the left wall. It looks no better than the right, but--heck, why not? It fits the theme, anyway. A sinister wall for a sinister situation.

You think--you're not sure, but you think--that your brain may be a tad jumbled up right now. Stress, probably. You grip your stick-with-a-nail-in-it and do your best to bear it.

The hallways are quiet--too quiet, as clichéd as that is. You keep your footsteps quiet and strain your ears, but you don't hear any other crashes to follow the first, and somehow, that's even more worrying than the opposite. You hurry along the left wall, not even bothering for a quick duck into the rooms you pass--which means of course that you aren't doing it right, but as far as you're concerned, the fact that someone might be trying to kill you is a mitigating factor. “For a long time,” he said--

What the hell did he mean by that?

But you don't get to put much thought into the question before you pick up another sound beyond your own unsteady breathing--voices, some distance ahead, in one of the rooms. You slide up against the wall you've been following, your nail-stick held in a batter's grip, and listen in.

“Four teams are standing guard at the four nearest intersections, with a fifth team protecting the princess personally.”

“Uh-huh.”

“The remainder of our forces have been tasked with the protection of patients and visitors.”

“Uh-huh.”

“We were taken by surprise, but the majority of our casualties should be mobile within the day.”

“Uh-huh.”

“The largest concern is the breach in the west wall. No additional enemy forces have been sighted since the initial attack; however--”

The official-sounding voice cuts off. There's a pause of a few seconds (which you spend wondering if you've been detected) before it resumes, sounding slightly incensed:

“You aren't listening.”

“Of course I'm listening.”

“You aren't listening at all!”

“...That's pretty harsh. I'm saying 'uh-huh' and everything, aren't I?”

“It's because you're only saying 'uh-huh' that I know you aren't listening--”

Well, whoever they are, they don't sound like the murderous sort. At least, they don't sound like they're going to murder you, and that's what's important. You open the door with deliberate casualness.

Oh. It's Inaba and that other girl. That other other girl. The rabbit-eared girl who isn't Inaba and isn't Reisen, either. No wonder you didn't recognize her voice. Pretty hard to recognize the voice of someone you never heard speak before (not that you recognized Inaba's voice, either, but that's a fact you ignore for now).

“Yo,” you say.

The other other girl does not say, “Yo” back. She doesn't say anything at all, actually, preferring instead to tense up and pull a pose like she's readying herself to leap into your face and claw your features off. You'd like to see her try--honest, you would. This girl's given you the cold shoulder since the moment you saw her, and if she attacked you you'd be well within your rights to introduce her to the business end of your nail-stick.

She deserves it--is the point. Her and that freakish eyes-ears-mouth-nose-everything of hers both. You've got your chosen weapon in a steady grip. All you have to do is take two, two and a half steps and swing. You can see it now, clear as crystal. You can feel it. You can--

“Yo,” says Inaba.

“Yo,” you say again. And then you realize you've said it again and move on, quick, before anyone can point it out. “I didn't think I'd see you here,” you say.

Inaba's sitting at one of those low Japanese tables, one hand propping up her chin, the other hand closing in on a bowl of fruit. She seems amused. “Yeah?” she says. “Who did you think you'd see?”

“I didn't think I'd see anybody,” you admit, and you're too tired to pretend you know what you're doing so you just let the whole deal slip: “I got lost. You were right about this place.”

“Well, you found me, so your luck's that good, at least.”

The girl settles on a particularly ripe-looking fruit, plucking it from the bowl and holding it close to her face as if to check for blemishes. You want to tell her that no, you're not lucky at all; if you were lucky you wouldn't be here--but there are more important things happening right now, aren't there? You can complain later.

“So, uh...what's happening?”

“Nothing is happening,” says the other rabbit.

“Eientei's under attack,” Inaba says at the same time.

The other rabbit looks between you and Inaba like she isn't sure who she wants to be pissed at first. You both ignore her.

“Is there a secure room somewhere around here?” you ask. By all rights, you shouldn't have been able to beat down that last guy. If you really are lucky, you know better than to push it.

Inaba shrugs absently, most of her attention focused on her tangerine or clementine or whatever it is. “Eh, not really,” she says. “There might be a pretty well-guarded room, though. You ought to ask Gin about it.”

“Gin?”

Inaba points her edible orange thing towards the other rabbit, who has been quietly clenching her teeth and screwing up her face as if trying to communicate something along the lines of “stop talking be quiet don't tell him anything”. The moment Inaba gestures in her direction, however, her face goes carefully blank. Also red.

Apparently this is Gin.

“Oh,” you say. “Nice to meet you.” You incline your head, keeping your voice light. “Is there a well-guarded room somewhere around here?”

Gin gives you a glare that could stop a truck. “I heard you the first time,” she says icily.

Apparently Gin's got an attitude problem.

“Well, if there is a well-guarded room somewhere around here, could you take me there?” you ask, making a mental note to kick this girl down a long flight of stairs later. “I'm not comfortable just standing here while someone's trying to kill me.”

“Ah, hold on a second.” Inaba stretches her arms behind her head--then almost seems to kick herself to her feet, tossing her orange whatever-fruit-it-is into the bowl in one smooth motion. “I'm coming with you,” she says. “I know Reisen, and that girl's probably lost without me helping her along.”

Gin looks like she doubts it. She also looks like she'd rather spend eternity eating shards of broken glass than spend one more minute with you or Inaba. Nevertheless, she nods (though the motion is stiff), turns on her heel, and walks briskly out of the room.

You're just about to fall into step behind when Inaba catches your attention.

“Hey.”

“...Yeah?”

Inaba stands close to you. Right up close to you. You're just about wondering if she's ever heard of personal space when she reaches up, leans forwards, and--

--presses her thumb to your breastbone.

“You've got red on you,” she says, and bounds after Gin, smirking wickedly.

You blink down at your blood-flecked shirt for a moment, feeling a bit thick. Yeah--that's red, alright. Probably from when you stuck your nail-stick into the wall-smashing guy. No wonder that other rabbit was looking at you like you were Mr. Hyde.

“And I bet there's no laundry detergent in Gensokyo, either,” you mutter, and follow Inaba and Gin into the hall.

_ Talk to Gin about... (specify)
_ Talk to Inaba about... (specify)
_ Other... (write-in)
>> No. 155691
[x] Talk to Inaba about... (specify) People who can smash through walls on their own.
>> No. 155717
>>155691
[x] Talk to Inaba about... (specify) People who can smash through walls on their own.

"Oh, that man was a drink mix from the outside world that was abandoned for a hundred years..."
>> No. 155724
[x] Talk to Inaba about... (specify) People who can smash through walls on their own.
>> No. 155762
File 133524030234.jpg - (18.38KB , 300x320 , Pic Related.jpg ) [iqdb]
155762
[x] Talk to Inaba about... (specify) People who can smash through walls on their own.
>> No. 155794
[x] Talk to Inaba about... (specify)
-[x] People who can smash through walls on their own.
[x] Talk to Gin about... (specify)
-[x] Clear up the misunderstanding: It's not your blood.

Should really reassure her.
>> No. 156140
>>155794
>[x] Clear up the misunderstanding: It's not your blood.

I'm quite positive that she already knows it's not his blood, and it's why she was so tense when she saw him. Affirming this could only possibly make things worse for him.

[x] Talk to Inaba about... (specify)
-[x] People who can smash through walls on their own.
[x] Talk to Gin about... (specify)
-[x] Clear up the misunderstanding: It's not your blood.

Terrance, everyone's favorite little awkward bundle of cheesy one-liners and mental unstability.
>> No. 156141
>>155794
>[x] Clear up the misunderstanding: It's not your blood.

I'm quite positive she already knows this, and why she was so tense when she first saw him. Affirming this could only possibly make things worse.

[x] Talk to Inaba about... (specify)
-[x] People who can smash through walls on their own.
[x] Talk to Gin about... (specify)
-[x] Clear up the misunderstanding: It's not your blood.

Terrance, everyone's favorite little awkward bundle of horrible one-liners and mental unstability.
>> No. 156267
>Affirming this could only possibly make things worse

Exactly, that's why it should be done.
>> No. 156302
>>156140
>I'm quite positive that she already knows it's not his blood, and it's why she was so tense when she saw him. Affirming this could only possibly make things worse for him.

It would just be Terry messing with her. He needs the fun; we don't want his 'must stab' instincts to kick in because of stress.
>> No. 156862
File 133807692875.jpg - (28.15KB , 300x300 , OnToCheckpointBravo.jpg ) [iqdb]
156862
Alright, birds, this thread's sitting pretty at 240 posts, and while I've got no illusions that any update of mine would be worth nine points, I figure better safe than sorry.

So feel free to use the rest of this thread as your scratch paper. Ask me questions, or commiserate over the price of beans. Either is groovy. I've got an actual update in the works, but I'm having the usual trouble finding the right picture for it, so it may be a day or two yet.

(On an unrelated side note: >>92961 ought to have had this picture instead. Man, my brain must've been toasted.)
>> No. 156865
>>156862
Is this story worth the reading?
From what I saw, there are a lot of OCs, and, well, I don't really stories with 535,158,654 original characters.
>> No. 156868
>>156865
Who knows?

It would be nice if you didn't bump the thread just to ask these kinds of questions though.
>> No. 156870
>>156868
Sorry. I saw that the thread was bumped recently, and I thought it would be useless to sage my question.
>> No. 156876
File 133808057237.jpg - (105.39KB , 600x773 , toilet_foot.jpg ) [iqdb]
156876
>>156865
>>156868
>>156870
Nothing wrong with bumping, seeing as I'm the one who just did it. Restrain your jerking knee, fellows.

As for your question, I'm a bit biased, but I'd have to say...no. It's a pretty terrible story overall. You can tell at the beginning that the author didn't have the faintest clue what he was doing. I'm talking not the semblance of a plan, here. At one point he ignores a vital plot point that the voters ask about--apparently he forgot about it completely and was too lazy afterwards to actually put it in?

Of course, the story sets off once the protagonist gets to Gensokyo--only by "sets off", I'm afraid, what I really mean is "stalls in the mud because the author still had no idea what to do and figured doing nothing was the best choice overall".

There's also the fact that Terrence's personality goes a dramatic upheaval with about zero point zero foreshadowing.

Finally, there's the author himself. Apparently--and IRC bears this theory out--he's about garbage when it comes to communication. At one point--and I'm not making this up--he apparently meant to say "there are no right or wrong votes", only it came out "vote to stab Alice lol".

Trash, trash, rotten all the way through. Don't bother. You'd have more enjoyment peeling used gum off stucco.
>> No. 156878
>>156876
Woah. That's very rare for a writer to flogs himself. Last time I saw that, it was when that dude broke down and tried to leave.

You okay, dude? You sound very depressed.
>> No. 156879
I think it's one of the best stories on the site, as long as you don't mind the slow updates. I guess the author would disagree with me though?

Only one of the OCs is actually in Gensokyo. There's kind of a detective thing running on the side in the outside. It's done in a way that doesn't wreck the story, in my opinion.
>> No. 156881
>>156879
>Only one of the OCs is actually in Gensokyo.
Oh wait shit, that's not right what the hell am I thinking. There are few in Gensokyo, but they're pretty minor.
>> No. 156910
>>156878
What dude?

If you're talking about Taisa, he's still hanging around on IRC, doing God knows what.
>> No. 156916
File 133809429170.jpg - (1.39MB , 1600x2100 , Scan_Pic0004.jpg ) [iqdb]
156916
Alright, I've got my update ready, so I'm just going to close up this thread.
>> No. 156917
File 133809461490.jpg - (121.91KB , 600x690 , 266046782_7d4170d5e2_o.jpg ) [iqdb]
156917
One for luck.