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[X] … keep it with you. The Hakurouken, now reinforced with a piece of your own Hope-infused soul, will have to suffice.


You try to locate the Roukanken’s sheath on Youmu’s corpse. However, the sheath isn’t at all magical, which surprises you; most sheathes for magic blades have some minor form of magic charm woven into them, whether it’s one to quiet the blade as its drawn out – or make it loud and bombastic, in some cases – or to keep the blade oiled and cleaned. Such charms are often accompanied by protective enchantments, sometimes to protect against the very blade the sheath holds but more often just against everyday wear-and-tear. This sheath, however, is nothing but lacquered wood, leather, cloth, and metal; was, rather, because your earlier attack on tore it to bits.

You contemplate blowing a fabricate to reconstruct it, but ultimately you decide to conserve your magic; the threat of thousands of animate spirits still looms overhead, and burning your power for a mere convenience isn’t something you ever did as a matter of habit. Instead, you merely hold onto the naked blade, feeling the leather grip’s roughness against your not-quite-solid fingers. Even through the hilt, the blade seems hungry to you, sending a shiver of discomfort down your spine.

Before you get up, you rip a bloody shred of green vest out from underneath the breastplate and throw it over her face. Youmu may still be alive in another sense, but the sight of an unhonored corpse just bothers you on a fundamental level. You wish you knew the words to say, but you don’t, so you just get up and turn away.

Yuyuko still isn’t making a move, still sulking about the loss of her favored servant. A few minutes later, the two of you have flown back to the mansion without incident, over the walls still adorned with your illusory banners to return to the rock garden’s patio. Your gaze unconsciously guided through the shikigami bond, you quickly locate Ran sitting at one of the tables, her back facing you. There’s a steaming pot of tea and a set of cups in front of her, a touch of the everyday during a life-or-death crisis, a perfectly tranquil everyday scene that manages to quirk the corner of your mouth in a smile.

Chen on the other hand is nervously pacing and forth behind her master – your master? – as if guarding her against the threat beyond the wall, moving at a speed that most humans would consider a sprint. As you draw near, she stops, giving the two of you a cautious look. “Youmu, you’re dead,” she says softly, eyes going wide. “Why isn’t Yuyuko controlling you like the rest?

“Death is only a minor inconvenience in this realm, it seems,” she replies, ducking her head in a half-bow of deference from one servant to another. “And Lord Kawarou is protecting me from her misguided influence.”

Chen doesn’t respond, only staring at the blade in Youmu’s hand; you realize she must be identifying it as the vessel for a soul. Even as you talk, Ran remains seated, making no outward acknowledgment of your return. She reaches out for a cup, slowly bringing the tea to her lips and slurping loudly; the tea’s just been brewed, then, still boiling-hot. “Ran,” you call out, feeling as if something’s wrong.

“Lady Ran is very tired,” Chen explains, looking contrite. You notice how Ran’s tails, normally held up in a fan as if radiating from her body, are all limply dangling through the gap between the chair’s back and seat. As the unease begins to fester in your chest, you step forward to her side as Chen sidesteps to let you by, kneeling to put yourself on the kitsune’s level.

What you see sends a shiver of discomfort down your spine. Ran looks exhausted. Her hair hangs over her eyes, matted with sweat, and as she looks up at you, you can see that her eyes are surrounded with large, black shadows. “… oh, Sai,” she sighs. “You look healthy. That’s… good.”

You mentally review all the reasons Ran might be exerting herself. She supplied most of the power for the spell that freed Youmu, but Ran’s stronger than that. You make an educated guess, and try to confirm it by asserting you. “… Ran, we’re not fighting right now. I’m here, I’m safe for now, you can relax.”

She looks at you blankly for a second, then giggles slightly to herself. “Oh, Sai, you are more perceptive than you seem.” She leans towards you slightly, and as you stiffen involuntarily she lands a quick peck on one of your cheeks. “I guess I can relax a little right now…”

A heartbeat later, you feel your physical form slipping as Ran relaxes her energy flow into you. Earlier you’d thought that that energy intake was simply a result of the shikigami bond, but after seeing her with so little energy you’d guessed that she was consciously diverting her own to help you heal. Now without that lifeline, your entire body from the waist down turns into an amorphous blob. It takes a supreme amount of focus to even start to form your legs and feet again, so you stop trying immediately.

Chen watches your shapeshifting with interest, while Youmu surprisingly looks contrite. “Lord Kawarou, I am sorry for the severity of your wound –“

“Not your fault,” you interrupt her. “There’s no need to apologize for things out of your control, and ultimately, your participation worked out for the better.”

The swordswoman – swordsghost? swordssoul? – looks baffled. “Lord?”

“If you hadn’t been there, Yuyuko would have overwhelmed me anyways after that failed attack. Your body was tougher than I had imagined. But your presence meant we could turn you – and that saved me, ultimately.” You’re kneeling, so you can’t do a proper bow, but you give her a long, low nod to approximate one.

Youmu flushes, and bows jerkily back as if unsure of what to do. “My Lord… there is no need to thank me for things out of my control,” she says, an embarrassed smile crossing her face.

Oh, you walked right into that one.

While Ran is nodding off and the two of you are having your match of who can bow lower, it’s actually Chen who brings you all back to the present. “Sai, you may have beaten Yuyuko once, but won’t she just come back and blow us up like she wanted to last time?”

Rising from her bow, Youmu puts a hand on her chest, and holds up her quicksilver-coated blade – herself, rather. “I do not think Yuyuko will try that again. Her words about loving her servants…” She swallows, looking embarrassed. “They were sincere, even through all the evil. She will not endanger me by attacking indiscriminately.”

“So you expect we will be assaulted up close, then,” you say.

“That is correct.”

“We can withstand such an attack, I feel,” Ran thinks out loud. “They cannot bring nearly as much strength to bear as they can at range, and we are stronger than any of those animated spirits, one to one.”

Youmu looks unsure. “Yuyuko was reinforcing me with her own energy. Why won’t she do the same to the spirits?”

You open your mouth to speak, but Chen, eager to appear knowledgeable about necromancy, speaks first. “She animated Youmu, giving her a more intimate bond than with the spirits she’s just controlling. When I control a spirit, I can’t make it bigger or stronger, not without other magic.”

“Yuyuko might have that magic,” you warn the younger shikigami, “but that is a good point. Even if she does, it’ll be less efficient than with any spirit she’s animated herself.”

“You seem to be well-versed in necromancy,” Ran says, confused

You turn to your master – is it really correct to call her that? – and furrow your brow, befuddled yourself. “Have you forgotten what I was most of my life?” You wince after you finish saying that sentence. You can’t call it life, exactly, if you were, well, dead.

She blinks, then sheepishly puts a hand over her eyes. “Of course. You simply seemed so – lifelike, earlier, in those years ago; I just forgot.” This coming from the impossibly intelligent spirit you know her as? She must really be tired. Still, though, even after a scant few minutes of rest she looks better than she initially did. “… regardless, they’ll be coming any minute now. How will we meet them?”

You start analyzing your available assets. “Chen… Youmu.” As they perk up, you continue thinking aloud. “Youmu, how does that body of yours feel?”

Youmu stands up straighter, looking every bit the loyal retainer. “Better than my physical one did, Lord. In this form, I am faster and stronger than what Yuyuko made of my physical body…”

You wave off her further words. “That’s all I need to know. Chen?”

The younger shikigami looks to Youmu, then imitates her attentive posture. “I’m every bit as strong as I have been. Let me fight, Sai! You let me fight that one time, I’m even stronger than I was then!” she pleads.

A chuckle bubbles out of your mouth – Ran’s too. Chen’s enthusiasm is catching, to say the least. “Sai,” Ran says, “how do you feel, without reinforcement from me?”

You look down at your amorphous leg-tail-thing, and shrug, feeling how even that movement takes effort to make. “Weak. Many of my spells escaped me when I was stabbed earlier; that’s a phenomenon I hadn’t expected. Even with some energy from you, I’ll be dry in a few minutes of earnest combat.” You frown. “I’m not sure if I can, but…”

“Yes?” Ran’s points her woozy gaze in your direction. “Go on.”

“If Jizo’s barrier doesn’t exclude me from accessing a hidden planar space, then I can acquire something that can help our current power deficit.”

Her ears perk up underneath her cloth hat, and she manages to straighten her posture, sitting up and off the back of her chair. “Why do you hesitate, then?”

You cringe slightly as you recall exactly what that something is. “I’m sure I can stomach it, but you may find it… disturbing.”

“Is it anything to do with Taint?” she asks, suddenly suspicious.

You only respond with a blank stare, and she realizes who she just accused of succumbing to temptation. “I’m sorry. But – please, Sai. I’m sure you of all people realize the gravity of the situation. If you have anything that make us more powerful, we need it. Now.

You tighten your lips in distaste – only then does Ran realize she’s blundered further, touching a sore spot of yours. Hastily, she tries to apologize. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean – “

“You meant well.” You let the unspoken warning hang in the air, or more accurately, through your mental link, bringing up memories of your combined fight against Him. We don’t want to have to fight like this.

To avoid having to look you in the eye, she makes a long show of standing up from her chair, holding out a hand so that Chen can pull her up. “Regardless, if you’re to do it, you should do it now. Yuyuko will be coming for us any moment now.”




[ ] … open the vault. You’ll burn your remaining energy now to reach your reserves right here, right now. Ran will cringe at the experience, and you’ll grit your teeth and tolerate it, but you need the power to survive here.

[ ] … leave the vault closed. You might not even be able to open up a cross-planar portal here with Jizo’s wards on the plane in place. That, and you’d rather not put Ran through the experience; it can be traumatizing.
For archival purposes:

First thread: >>153744
Second thread: >>155091
[x] … open the vault. You’ll burn your remaining energy now to reach your reserves right here, right now. Ran will cringe at the experience, and you’ll grit your teeth and tolerate it, but you need the power to survive here.

It's a risk... hopefully it'll work.
[x] … open the vault. You’ll burn your remaining energy now to reach your reserves right here, right now. Ran will cringe at the experience, and you’ll grit your teeth and tolerate it, but you need the power to survive here.

Kinda hard to make a solid decision when all we know about the vault is that opening it is unpleasant and that it'll be useful somehow.
But okay.
[x] … leave the vault closed.

Do not want traumatized Ran.
[x] … leave the vault closed.
No reason to waste all our energy attempting something that probably won't work. Also Traumatized Ran is not a good Idea.
[x] … open the vault. You’ll burn your remaining energy now to reach your reserves right here, right now. Ran will cringe at the experience, and you’ll grit your teeth and tolerate it, but you need the power to survive here.

Ran's a big girl. Unless Chen can somehow see through Ran's shikigami link as well I think we're fine.
[x] … open the vault. You’ll burn your remaining energy now to reach your reserves right here, right now. Ran will cringe at the experience, and you’ll grit your teeth and tolerate it, but you need the power to survive here.

My thoughts exactly. All we can really do is hope hurr that it will be enough and that, with a little luck, the Hope might be able to purify it and it still be usable as we need.
[x]Open The Vault
[x]Screaming MONGRELS is optional
[ ] … open the vault. You’ll burn your remaining energy now to reach your reserves right here, right now. Ran will cringe at the experience, and you’ll grit your teeth and tolerate it, but you need the power to survive here.

So far we've managed to scrape by with a silver tongue and some tricks, but if we want to have a chance of actually turning the tide somewhat, we need some more actual power.

I found that a lot funnier than it should be. Still, he is rather awesome.
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Reading back through my own writing, it seems I completely neglected to put in the part that clarifies that the energy within the vault is not "evil" in the (rather vague and radioactive) way that Taint is, but is rather "deeply emotionally disturbing" to utilize. That's what makes it unpleasant. It's useful in the fact that it's, well, more energy to use in a crisis where energy is scarce. Hope and Taint have nothing to do with it.

That's my bad, and I should write at three in morning less often.


I'll be honest, I lol'd.
[x] … open the vault. You’ll burn your remaining energy now to reach your reserves right here, right now. Ran will cringe at the experience, and you’ll grit your teeth and tolerate it, but you need the power to survive here.
-[x]Kill Commander Steele

First thing I thought of.

Nothing to do with Taint at all you way? Shit. I'm even more for it then.
Thank you for that clarification; it swayed my vote alone. I'm leery of the risk of burning all our energy opening it, failing to open it, and dying a horrible death (again) and becoming Yuyuko's slave as she conquers the world of the living before getting Hakurei'd. That said, sitting on our butt and futzing around with minimal power anyways is about as bad an option, so

[X] … open the vault.

Fuck cringing. Fuck trauma. This isn't even a life or death situation, this is a life or death-and-eternal-hellish-slavery situation. A little bit of trauma is a small price to pay, especially when the energy is non-Tainted.
'sides, Ran's a big girl. 900+ years old, shikigami to Yukari, the works. I wouldn't treat her like a delicate flower or anything. She's been around the block a few times and can probably deal with trauma just fine.
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Votes called. Pic related. Writing now. Please wait warmly~
Dont you mean hotly? It's fucking 98 degrees over here!
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[X] … open the vault. You’ll burn your remaining energy now to reach your reserves right here, right now. Ran will cringe at the experience, and you’ll grit your teeth and tolerate it, but you need the power to survive here.


With a long sigh, you reluctantly nod. “I understand. Chen, Youmu?” The two girls snap to their respective, mismatched forms of attention. “Keep watch. This will take a few minutes.”

“We may not have a few minutes, Lord Kawarou,” Youmu needlessly warns you. Already you can hear drums and horns sounding out marching orders; it seems Yuyuko is still indulging her “army” delusion.

“Then the two of you will buy us a few minutes,” you reply icily. Your tone causes Youmu to tighten her lips and Chen to wince slightly, and you rush to clarify. “I’m not asking you throw yourselves away, just to keep us guarded. Don’t get yourself killed. That’s an order.”

Chen looks wide-eyed upwards towards the sky, arms tucked defensively in front of her, hands hovering near her chest as if ready to staunch a wound. “But… what if it comes to that…”

“Chen!” Ran admonishes her. “I will repeat Sai. Do. Not. Die.

The change in Chen’s posture is dramatic. Her twin tails, initially curled near her legs, shoot outwards, practically flapping from side to side in enthusiasm, and she widens her stance and bends her knees, looking for all the world like a hunting cat about to pounce… that wouldn’t be an inaccurate description of her, actually. “Lady Ran! I will not fail!” she cries, devotion clear in her voice.

It’s more than the shikigami bond, you realize. They truly are something you’ve always envied –


Ran gives you an uneasy look, but before you can snap back at her, Youmu asks a question of her own. “Us?” she asks, eyebrow raised. “I thought you were the one, uh, ‘accessing a hidden planar space’.”

“And then Ran will be sharing from what I ‘access’. Neither of us are in fighting shape right now.” You don’t add a needlessly condescending ‘do you understand now?’ to the end of that, but instead simply turn to Ran where she stands before you. By now she’s wiped the uneasy look off of her face, replacing it with the grim one you’re much more familiar with.

Tails up and out in a posture that screams “determined”, she nevertheless reaches for you through the shikigami bond. Water and fire grab a glob of molten metal, reworking it into a tiny statuette. Sai, do you require any additional energy for this?

Your brow wrinkles of its own accord as you look up into Hakugyokurou’s “sky”, trying to gauge the degree of the wards Jizo said he put around the entirety of Hakugyokurou. As expected, you can’t sense a thing out of the ordinary. … it’ll boil down to one matter. I can’t oppose Jizo’s ward if it’s been set to oppose mine. If I know me, the ward will just dismiss the spell immediately.

Without even a chance to contest?

You contemplate what you’ve seen of Ran’s battle magic, which has been nothing but direct offense. Unlike what I know of your magic, and most of the magic you’ve seen from me as of yet, much of our more esoteric magic – my magic? – does not attempt to “fight”, per se, but instead is binary: a yes or no. Recall when you attempted to break out of the circle in the demiplane?

A mental pause. I – I presumed it was because of superior preparation. Of course I could not break it right then and there, but with sufficient time, I would have eventually –

No, you wouldn’t have eventually done anything, at least not as long as you tried to blast your way out. That circle was designed to negate any form of outward attack, and without reality warping levels of power, that circle might as well have been permanent. Ran blinks in surprise, but you decide to pass over the issue. Regardless, I digress. We have a portal to open.

She shuffles awkwardly for a second, as if digesting this fact, but then settles her feet, staring straight at you without fear. … begin. I’m with you.

Without any further ceremony, you fall into your own mind, kicking off of your iron core of training to swim through rivers of steel and flit through floating clouds of shrapnel, searching for the buried knowledge in your mind of just how to access your stores. As you travel, a paired set of streamers made from fire and water tail you at a cautious distance. Intentionally, you and Marcus insured that the information isn’t anywhere near your surface thoughts, concealing it deep in your subconscious, far away from your main purpose where any unwelcome probing mind would think to look first.

If you were translate the amount of effort such deep delving was taking, it would be multiple days of hard marching by foot for a normal human. The time certainly feels that long, even though you know that at most a minute has gone by.

Ran is content to travel in silence for some time, but now the two streamers curl quizzically, grabbing an errant piece of scrap and molding it into a wireframe structure of sorts. I see nothing that looks like useful information. Random, errant thoughts; comments on observed phenomenon, discarded as irrelevant; this is the detritus of the everyday. A beat. It looks so… uniform.

I’ve spent most my conscious hours doing nothing but develop my skills. We started near the results of that; this is the chaff, what I was thinking while I crafted myself.

… you never wavered, not once. There’s no fear here, no hesitation, no second-guessing –

My purpose was absolute.

Ran’s growing sense of unease betrays itself as the streamers begin brushing each other, throwing off gouts of steam. Then how did you –

Unimportant. Right there, you interrupt her. Your focus moves to a small, irregular plate that looks exactly like the billions of others floating around.

It looks like discomfort. The streamers swirl around the plate for a second, then cringe away. You’re preparing yourself to die, but there’s nothing… arcane about that.

It only looks like that.

You would disguise something within your own mind?

Illusionist. It comes naturally.

You fear mental scouring so much? Her tone is wounded. Sai, I would never dig so deep without permission.

You wouldn’t, perhaps, but He would. And after you experience what this will do to you, you may understand why such knowledge needs to be buried.

Try me. I’m sure my mind can handle it. You turn the tiny statuette of the message over in your mind, feeling as if something’s off. It’s not honest overconfidence, you realize, but bluster, a falsehood meant to encourage others, not oneself. Your mind rapidly draws a conclusion: if you who has experienced death calls something “unpleasant”, then that something is not to be taken lightly.

Shoving aside your psychoanalysis of your master before she notices, you handle the shard – there’s no real word for it, for within the recesses of your own mind there are no actual manipulators. Ran has her twinned streamers, but she is a foreign presence, and thus requires a distinct form. The mind is you, so to her senses the metal blossoms of its own accord, defying laws of material space to turn into a magnificent obelisk that is nothing like the scrap of everyday that it once was. Not that the laws of material space have any sway here, but it’s a similar concept: for this volume of detailed information to be buried in a scant, errant thought makes absolutely no sense.

… I won’t question what just happened, she eventually concedes.

I’ll explain later if you want me to.

The streamers suddenly twist in a way that you can only describe as “conniving”. It’s a promise.

… something to look forward to, then. Somewhere in the far distance, the glowing flows of metal bubble in amusement.

It’s the act of searching, not the travel that took you time; the fact that your mind isn’t constrained by actual physical law means that you can drag the obelisk back to your core in an instant, Ran not leaving your “side” for an instant. The large structure fits right into the clouds of floating objects orbiting the huge solid sphere, blending in without a hitch, looking as if it belonged there the entire time.

That’s all it takes. You blink – actually blink, with your physical eyelids over physical eyes. Okay, they’re not really physical, but rather a manifestation on the Material Plane of your soul and mind and other strange magic that you know you should study in more detail, but you have more important things on your mind. Completing the ritual you just relearned, for one.

You hastily reorient yourself, trying to gauge the current situation. It’s awkward work, as most of your outward senses are slow to return. No sight, no smell, no touch – you’re still holding the Roukanken, you know that, but you can’t feel the rough hilt in your hand. You’re not enchanted with any of the sense-augmenting divinations that you used to have the power to maintain indefinitely, so gathering information through those is obviously not an option. You do have a few other more esoteric senses, so you can still tell what’s going on if not to the level of detail you’d prefer, but they’re only useful to perhaps a few hundred feet in all directions, which (thankfully) isn’t far enough to detect Yuyuko’s spirits right now. Ran is slow to react herself, carefully putting a hand over her eyes as if confirming that she is also unable to see. Such sense deprivation should only take a few seconds to get over, but you don’t even know if you have those seconds. “Youmu, Chen?” you quickly ask, looking for a status report.

“They’re coooooommming…” Chen says. She’s dancing in place, shifting her weight from one foot to the other at a pace that you can only describe as “vibrating”. Her aura is flaring up, as if preparing to unleash a volley up into the incoming waves.

Youmu on the other hand is completely still, slowly falling into a crouch. Her own aura actually shrinks, but only because it’s concentrating itself, building up within her as she prepares to blast off the ground, reinforced Hakurouken swinging. “We have seconds at most. Do it now.”

Seconds? That’s all you need to complete this uninterrupted. Your fingers unconsciously bend, fold, and flick in increasingly complex patterns as the knowledge unfolds from your mind, a recollection of the buried rote memorization. Arm movements have your hands define a roughly two-foot square parallel to the ground even as you murmur baffling combinations of syllables underneath your breath, feeling the requisite energy bleeding out of your form, reducing more and more of your lower torso to indistinct wispy spirit-stuff. That energy’s not the same energy that fuels your spellcasting, but rather the energy that sustains you – you’d hesitate to call it “life” energy, as you don’t have any parts that could be called living, but the moniker would apply in a metaphorical sense.

Aside from the energy drain, there’s no feeling of resistance, no sudden halting force. There is the sensation of time and space bending, of reaching through the multiverse to find what essentially amounts to a tiny speck of dust, of grabbing that mote and dragging it back to you. You’ll need to have a talk with Jizo later about just why his wards aren’t blocking you, but for now, you’re not going to question your luck.

You reach into the square, and from what appears to be thin air pull out a finger-length vial filled with a thick, red liquid. The aura surrounding it is dark and shifting, as if something within it is alive. Without a moment’s hesitation, you snap off the sealed crystal top – the vial was literally formed around the liquid inside – and tip half of its contents into your mouth. The viscous fluid takes a second to drip from its container, hitting you with a nauseating flavor of iron. Upon swallowing, it has an aftertaste of rot, one that leaves you exhaling shakily. You have a sudden recollection of how you felt long ago while dying on the cross, organs failing one by one as Marcus scurried around you, ensuring that the Ritual of Crucimigration went off without a hitch. That reminds of your mortality now – of how despite not having a physical, living body, you can still be pierced by blades and blasted by magic to be reduced to nothing more than a nonsentient wisp of a spirit.

The knowledge that you can still recover from such a state with time, though, is comforting, and the sudden crisis of confidence fades away, the side effects of the potion ultimately nothing more than an annoyance. The elixir you crafted so long ago begins filling you with energy from the soles of your feet all the way up; literally, as your lower half reshapes itself from a formless blob into distinct legs and feet, all the way down to the sparing amount of hairs on the tops of your toes.

You wiggle your fingers experimentally, enjoying the distinction each one has. More enjoyable is how the massive boost to your arcane reserves feels. Without a single gesture or arcane word, you begin weaving yourself with enchantments starting with arcane spellsurge, feeling your arcane energies go into overdrive. Green and yellow sparks pop off your body for a second, swirling in a spontaneously generated wind in complex patterns around your limbs until you suppress the visual effect by covering yourself with even more augmentations.

Ran holds out a hand; you place the half-empty vial into it, but don’t let go. “Ran, you need to know that drinking this will change everything about how you see the world,” you warn her.

“I’m already used to power, Sai,” she says irritably, tugging slightly.

You refuse to relinquish it just yet, though. “This isn’t about power. This is about what people are willing to do to acquire such power.”

She stares at you blankly. “Sai, you’re being melodramatic. We fought together – “

“We fought against a villain once, yes. But this isn’t about Him.” You sigh, letting go of the elixir. She brings it to her lips, but doesn’t yet drink. “This is about… me.” She looks at you strangely. “Just let me in. I want to be there.”

She exhales sharply, offended, but nevertheless relaxes her mental barriers, allowing you, a small whirlwind of shards and molten globs of metal, access into her mausoleum of art. Taking in a deep breath, she throws back the other half of the elixir in a single gulp.

Two seconds later, you grit your teeth, reach forward, and slip your hands onto her sides. She looks down at your hand curiously, uncomprehending of the sudden intimacy. It’s three seconds later that the statues in her mind begin to writhe and twist, actions that she imitates as she convulses, collapses, throws back her head, and releases a gut-wrenching scream of pain. Guiding her gently to the ground, you can only close your eyes and hold her as you fly through her mind, trying to find some undamaged section to communicate with.

I’m sorry.


No vote yet, because the next section is being a bitch to write.

Thanks to Treia for taking the time to pore through the boorus for a suitable image. I'm now loaded for bear many of the next future updates, so that'll be a huge time saver.

Feel free to file a complaint, ask a question, and/or leave a comment as you desire. Hopefully I'll have a vote up in a couple of days.
Interesting stuff. About how old is Sai, give or take? I know he's over a thousand years old, and he stopped counting after a while, but even to the nearest century would be nice. It seems a bit odd that Ran would have trouble with the power, though, given how Sai described her mind in the first thread. An intelligence far, far beyond his own. But I suppose that intelligence and age don't have much to do with sorcerous power.

Oh, and which edition of the rules are you working from in building Sai? 3? 3.5? Pathfinder? 4? I haven't really been keeping up with D&D of late, so I'm not as familiar as I should be.

>Sai's age

I did the math somewhere in the first thread: just over 900 years was the result. Ran by contrast has said that she is in her 800's, as evidenced by the 8 tails beyond the first she has (for a total of 9).

Yes, Ran is actually younger than Sai in a sense, although Ran has had rich life experiences while Sai has had... little of the sort.

>Ran's power troubles

If Ran has more power than Sai, why does she appear to be having the equivalent of a magical seizure when Sai is just cruising along? Note that Sai didn't stomach the elixir (the origins of which have not been fully explained yet) without some discomfort. Let's just say that there's some strong foreshadowing with these lines:

>“Ran, you need to know that drinking this will change everything about how you see the world.”
>“This isn’t about power. This is about what people are willing to do to acquire such power.”
>“This is about… me.”

Incidentally, this is also the part that's crushing my writing ability right now. While I know the overall message I want to convey, my method doesn't read smoothly at all. I think I may just give up it and try and write it in a different way.

If it helps, let me say that there are certain emotional and physical traumas are not resisted by intellect, but pure force of will.

>rules editions

No one actually uses straight 3rd edition, heh. I'm drawing most of my inspiration from 3.5 with nods towards Pathfinder (far more spells known than 3.5, automatic Eschew Materials, never have a formal character sheet; I'll never tie myself down so tightly. A character sheet's ability to paint a narrative character into a corner is astoundingly powerful, and that's a wall I never want to be backed up against.
Oh, no, I realize that he has no character sheet and will never have one. I wasn't really asking about that, but just what edition(s) you were drawing inspiration from. I figured that Sai was a bit older than Ran by a few centuries, so I'm somewhat surprised that he hasn't hit the millennial mark yet. Anyway, thank you for the answers. I have a few guesses as to what might be the problem with Ran at this point, but I see no real point in cluttering up the thread with them as it'll be explained relatively shortly.

Anyway, thank you for the answers. I will say that Sai's explanation of the potion didn't feel quite "right", somehow, though I rather liked your description of his mindscape. Mindscape descriptions always remind me of Psychonauts, which isn't a bad thing to be reminded of at all.
I'd just like to say I feel bad for not commenting more on this when there's not a vote and such. (While I'm at it, I also feel bad for not thinking of any great write-ins with the shield.)

I honestly have no idea what could be the power source. It might come with temptation, but that wouldn't wreck mindscapes, it'd turn them all dark. It might come with trauma, but Ran's experienced most to all of our life at the Sanzu. Maybe it has something to do with preparing to die or dying on the cross?
Crucimigration? Probably not. Dying is the hardest part of the ritual; the rest is almost trivially easy. Sai's unlived for so long and has so many tricks up his sleeve that I really couldn't guess what this power source might be, though we do know, unless I'm misremembering or misunderstanding something, that it's sort of a backup power-well stored on some pocket dimension. The closest thing I remember is a mechanic from the prestige class Guild Wizard, but accessing that would hardly be traumatic.

Incidentally, crucimigration is probably one of the best portmanteaus I've ever heard, but then the fine folks at TSR and later WotC have always had a lot of fun with words.
How does weather interrupt a writefag? By denying him the resource most precious: consistent electricity to power his needed devices, throwing trees across power lines and transformers.

These harsh thunderstorms in the past week have additionally caused significant property damage, and I've been pressed into service; so no writing even on paper. I work by day and dream of a fantasy-land at night.

I should be back to normal by next week, stepping back into the normal Friday-Saturday update schedule.
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“I’m sorry,” the construct sighs. His words don’t salve the pain that consumes you as he pins your right hand to the cross. Yet you don’t flinch at all – although the unholy iron of the cursed nail is supposed to begin corrupting your bloodstream, killing you from the inside out, you don’t feel a thing.

No, you’re too occupied with the wound in your back. Perhaps it would be more accurate to just blame your back in general; at this point, the corruption is so widespread there’s little skin left, just festering sores. For that matter, it’s gone far deeper than the skin, and far wider than your back; seeded throughout your muscles are hardening nodules of – something unpleasant – and thin-skinned pustules, some of which have burst through the muscle and skin to be exposed to the air. Some of those have burst upon contact with the desecrated wood of the cross, covering it with dark green, brown, and black liquids, but quite importantly not staining it.

The desecration isn’t just there to assist with the undead-raising ritual. It’s also meant to protect the implements from being inadvertently Tainted by its victim: you.

“Don’t be,” you rasp out past desiccated vocal cords, trying to force a smile. You can’t manage it, but it wouldn’t make a difference; even if you could move any of your facial muscles, the corners of your mouth have been physically extended into your cheeks by two streaks of gangrenous tissue, looking for all the world like the idiomatic ear-to-ear grin. Instead, you give the white marble ceiling of the demiplane a lazy-eyed wink, your eyes rolling back and forth and even all the way around of their own accord. You can’t see Marcus, but he lets out a comfortingly hearty laugh to let you know he’s still there.

“Mate, you better start finishing your own half now. I’ll lift you up and start the chanting in just a second here,” he calls out past the rap-tap-tapping of his hammer. The Ritual of Crucimigration isn’t the only thing that’s happening to you right now; you’re responsible for managing a second ritual even as you inch inexorably closer towards death.

Being moved from a living body to an unliving one merely has death as a byproduct of the procedure. You’ve never believed in wasting resources, so you’re going to ensure that what kills you isn’t the asphyxiation or organ failure that normally causes death when crucified, but this second ritual you’re performing independent of the Crucimigration. Additionally, this ritual should make sure that you’ll die; you’re not even sure if merely being crucified will kill you. You’ve survived this long with lungs that should have suffocated you a long time ago, and yet you still draw hissing, agonized breaths; it feels as though you’re trying to breathe through a straw the width of an embroidery needle. Or maybe breathing’s not really required now because a wind can blow through the rotted holes in your torso now?

Maybe that’s it, but that doesn’t explain how you’ve made it this far without any actual blood. When the Taint wasn’t as widespread, you took a chance and bled yourself dry so that you could instead fill your veins with alchemically treated and enchanted quicksilver. Just as you’d suspected, it made no difference whether your erratically beating heart was pumping a thick, near-gelatinous goop that was once your blood, or a poisonous metal, despite the fact that the only thing the two liquids had in common was their consistency.

Truthfully, words alone are insufficient for describing the pain you feel. Such torture is the punishment for not embracing Taint. You look forward to dying.

You’ve completed all the parts of the ritual that needed somatic gestures before you laid yourself down onto the cross, so having your hands nailed down isn’t a problem. What vocal components there were have already been hissed out, one near-incomprehensible syllable at a time. Such actions have created what feels like a waterwheel in your pool of arcane power, a pool you’ve dammed carefully away from the Tainted body that contains it. All that’s left for you to do is let your arcane power flow and turn that wheel, thus ending your wretched life.

But… you find out that’s it’s hard to bring yourself to do it. Some instinct-driven part of you doesn’t want to die. And there’s something else that doesn’t want you to do it either – some part of your mind says that you can’t let yourself die here, that if you let the floodgates of the dams open, you can tap into wells of power so deep and dark you can’t “see” where the end is. By doing that, you can break your bonds, shatter this cross, extract these damned nails out from your hands and feet and take control of your situation.

But you don’t do any of that. Such an urge is just the Taint tempting you once again. The rotted grin on your face is a suitable expression for expressing how absurd you find that notion.

You’ll never be like Him.

The sensation of movement; your lopsided, out-of-focus view goes from solid white to a series of vaguely defined white shapes in front of a slightly different shade of white background. The cross must have been lifted up again. You wait to hear Marcus’s voice begin uttering the background chants needed for the Crucimigration to progress smoothly before you –

– kill yourself.
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Keine Kamishirasawa. Formal Historian, first and current head professor of Gensokyo University, and a fat load of other titles that were too long to engrave onto the nameplate of your lecture hall’s door. Not that you want them up there – some of them are rather embarrassing, to say the least.

You don’t give the words a second glance as you walk in through the back entrance, moving to your lectern without making an undue amount of fuss. Your hands would normally be carrying the notes for today, but you’ve already left them in the room in advance, leaving your hands free to flick open a pair of spectacles before sliding them upon your face. The action is a small one, but one that begins to diminish the chatter of children, students, and adults alike as they put aside their friendly chatter, eagerly anticipating your coming lecture. Yes, children are in the hall as well – while this institution is large to the point where it was universally agreed upon to have the name “university”, you’ve ensured that its duty of teaching does not merely extend to those officially enrolled as students.

It’s not as if you need the lenses to see properly, but the bookish alchemist Mattias, who’d run a university on his home plane before coming here, had suggested wearing them to appear “more distinguished”. You personally think it’s a load of nonsense, but you wear them anyways.

The crowd are a motley mixture, classifiable in so many different ways that you’ve given up on organizing the student roll by anything but name. Just like your old classroom in the village, many are youkai native to Gensokyo, mainly tengu of varying tribes along with a few kappa and moon rabbits, while the remaining youkai are the bewildering array of unique creatures that they’ve always been. Similarly, there are humans as well, humans that have been born and raised in Gensokyo just like the youkai. Unlike before this university was built, though, there’s also a smattering of Travelers – they still identify by that title, although the name no longer has the stigma amongst the natives that it did a decade ago.

Lurking in a corner trying not to be noticed is a new outsider from the “modern world” just on the other side of the border, who unlike everyone else here hasn’t been in one of your classes before. With a sigh, you really hope she won’t judge you by this lone, offbeat lecture. She’s already in near catatonic shock about the existence of magic and gods, calling herself an atheist; showing to her that said magic of all types and schools, the effects of faith on gods, and other such mystical topics have been studied and analyzed to a point near indistinguishable from science won’t do her any favors.

But you’ve more important things to concentrate on right now. To be exact, you realize that your students for today have quieted sufficiently for you to begin, and so you cut your reminiscing short. You may be older than almost everyone here, but you’re not senile.

“First of all, let me thank you all for coming here today,” you call out over the last few whispers, putting a stage smile on your face; too wide to be realistic, even if there’s a real smile behind it, so it can be visible to even the elderly in the backrow. Make your audience feel good about coming here – positive reinforcement. “I’m sure that you are all very busy people, but after the most recent incident many of you have been mailing the university questions relating to it. I decided that the best way to do this would be to hold the lecture you’re attending today. For those who were unable to make it, we’ve also prepared informational pamphlets; you should have seen them by the door when you walked in.” Surely everyone at least saw them – the booklets are everywhere in the hands of the audience, although as always there are a few who decide to not take one.

“Before I begin, I’m giving everyone one last chance to walk out the door. We won’t judge you for having second thoughts about attending this lecture; the subject matter is rather sensitive to many of you, I’m sure.” You make a show of scanning the entire audience, making them think you’re looking straight at them even if you aren’t.

A few people you do know catch your eye despite your attempts to the contrary, though. Your immortal friend Mokou, who’s here more out of solidarity than any interest in what you have to say; the jiangshi Yoshika who unlike Mokou seems to have an honest desire to learn, leaning stiffly forward in her seat, hands on her knees and neck craned forward; the mage and former resident of the Scarlet Devil Mansion Patchouli, beaming radiantly as she holds the hand of her new husband, the devil doctor of a clinic in Makai, Sauro Dante. He looks a little uncomfortable in his suit as if he’s not used to wearing one, rubbing his hair and two short horns with his free hand, but far outweighing the discomfort on his face is an expression that matches Patchouli’s. Lost in each other’s company as they are, they haven’t really begun to pay attention to you.

Newlyweds, and expecting. You’d make fun of them if you didn’t know exactly how they felt. Ignoring the flutter in your stomach at that thought, you decide that you should dig into the meat of your lecture before they decide their time’s better spent making out in an empty classroom somewhere and take your offer of leaving.

But they don’t. For that matter, neither does anyone else. You’re not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that Gensokyo’s populace is so interested in such a morbid topic.

“Death,” you begin. You weren’t going to put a long pause there, but you do when you watch that lone word straighten backs all over the audience. Others shift uncomfortably, despite knowing exactly what the subject of today would be. “Death is a strange experience, and not one easily described in mere words,” you continue.

“Death of cells is not the same as the death of something with a soul. A drop of blood does not have a soul, nor does a kidney. For that matter, the same is true of a heart or brain, despite what some of you have argued before.” You narrow your eyes in mock accusation as a chuckle ripples through the room, and a knot of your students in the audience has the shame to look slightly sheepish although it seems the “no soul” side can’t resist a few victorious elbow-nudges to those who believed the contrary. That group of friends had gotten thrown out of a tavern by arguing over such a topic a few days earlier; “arguing” in this case meaning banging on tables, leaping onto bartops, screaming at the top of their drunken lungs, other such dramatic nonsense.

You put a hand on your chest and slide it down to your abdomen – no one thinks anything of the way your fingers curl slightly at the end of that movement. No, you’re not senile – just distracted by more pressing matters. “All of those organs are part of a body, and it is this body that as a whole has a soul. Bacteria, algae, plants, tiny insects and worms; these very basic lifeforms rarely have souls. When they do, it is the exception, not the norm.” Nods of understanding. “More unusually, as initially reported by Archmage Marisa and confirmed by staff who have traveled to other planes, sometimes animals as complex as fish and birds do not have souls, nothing more than bundles of tissue and organs driven by electrical impulses. That is not to say that a soul is intelligence. That would be a mind, and the aforementioned birds and fish certainly have those.”

Uncomfortable shifts once again – not just at the information, but at the mention of Marisa, simply due to her reputation. You’ll always know her as that experimenting little girl, breaking into people’s homes, borrowing without permission nor intention of return in the next few years, but to others in the village she’s a terrifying enforcer of discipline. To be precise, her own sense of discipline. She’s never been good with the rules of others, even if she’s a good person at heart, and it seems that her time with Reimu has only taught her that she should enforce rules, not that she should subscribe a sensible set of them. It’s rather endearing, actually.

“We still say such organisms, tissues, organs, and cells ‘die’ because there’s no other good term for it. In a biological sense ‘death’ is accurate, but in a cosmic one the term fails to apply. In cosmic terms, the death of an organism is the severance of the soul from its current body. As long as a soul is connected to its body, it still has the potential to act through that body.” You begin to see uneasy expressions amongst some of the students, although those who lack a background in magic simply take your word for it. “Yes, a body that’s little more than dust may have a hard time detailing one’s final wishes and regrets, but magic enacted purely through one’s will and power can still be used even when the body is merely ash on the wind. Many myths and fables that tell of a hero or villain’s actions “beyond death” misuse the term; the soul had not yet departed.”

Heroes. You think of your own husband, and the (mis?)adventures he had had – is having. No, he’d never experienced death, although he’d certainly come close to it, and hopefully he won’t experience it anytime soon. “As you’ve seen, magic is capable of drawing a soul back into a body, although the method by which the body is made into a capable host varies. Rare and powerful magic can either restore a soul to its own former body by revitalizing and restoring the corpse, essentially rewinding the process of death. Of course, this has its limits, and even then the soul must consciously decide to give up the reward of the afterlife.” Inwardly, you think the gardens of Hakugyokurou would swiftly become tiring, but perhaps you’ll have a different perspective on them when you actually die.

“It’s also possible for a soul to be hosted in an undead body, and, although it’s generally more difficult in either case, the body doesn’t necessarily have to be the soul’s former one. An entirely different body can be used as a host instead.” Those sitting near Yoshika give her a sidelong glance, although she doesn’t notice herself, enthralled as she is with the sight of her own fingers, as if seeing herself in an entirely new light. Is that body not her own?

“Other magics can cause a soul to manifest physically, drawing them away from their destination planes to haunt their homes. Sometimes magic isn’t even required, as the souls in question may decide to return on their own in extenuating circumstances… or sometimes, just because they want to, if they find their afterlife not to their taste. It’s a matter of force of will.” Jaereth gives you a sardonic half-wave to you from the back, just barely hovering an inch above his seat while his feet phase through the floor. A self-labeled “eidoloncer”, he fits the last to a T.

“So how does the soul part from the body, exactly?” you ask, planting that question in the minds of your audience so that you can answer it in the next breath. “Normally, the bond between one’s soul and body is supposed to thin over the body’s lifespan. Near the end of that life, the bond is little more than a filament, one that pops painlessly pops free as the soul’s unconscious draw to an afterlife of one type or another finally becomes stronger than its attachment to its current body. Such is the fate of old grandfathers who die in their sleep, those who have wasted away in illness or after nursing a mortal injury for some time, those of the newborns and infants who have not yet grown hardy enough to last against the strains of the physical world.” Again, your hand rises to your abdomen unconsciously, and you disguise the motion by quickly brushing an imaginary bit of dust from your vest.

“Violent deaths are obviously less pleasant experiences. However, as I said before, the soul still remains attached to the body for a small stretch of time, even when experiencing massive injury such as dismemberment or decapitation. The bond does rapidly thin due to the weakening of the body; the only difference between this and natural death is that this atrophy progresses much more quickly. Again, such evidence of this can be seen in strong-willed heroes and villains enacting final actions in their dying moments despite injuries that would have “killed” a lesser man; biologically, both are dying at the same rate, but a powerful soul can drive the dying body to final actions before the it finally departs. And while a sword may hurt as it pierces one’s heart, and flames may sear as they consume one’s bones, the thinning of the bond is no less uncomfortable or even noticeable than during natural aging.”

You put on your grimmest teacher face for this part. “Now, death magic meant to instantly kill generally interferes with this mechanism of the separation between soul and body. Some magic referred to as “death” magic merely interferes with bodily processes in a way that is not immediately visible; heart attacks, strokes, neural disruption. However, these types of death are “painful” only because of the body’s pain. A finger of death, the wail of a banshee, certain youkai; all of these have the same ultimate result. The soul-body bond is not thinned at all, but rather simply torn apart.”

You swallow nervously, as do many of those in the audience. “And while I can’t speak from personal experience, let it be said that whatever pain the body may feel, it is absolutely incomparable to the pain a soul can feel when damaged. This is not an enjoyable experience, for the soul feels pain as well. The pain is indescribable, and often drives the soul to madness.”

Your hand thrusts forward, jabbing forward repeatedly for emphasis. “This is why we, the mages of Gensokyo, were so quick to apprehend and execute that last mage. He promised us power for little effort – using a ritual to “recycle” those on their deathbeds into wellsprings of magic energy. Yes, it would have been easy. Yes, they were going to die anyways. But he knew, as did we, that the pain that would cause is absolutely incomprehensible.” A stomp on the wooden stage, thumping loud enough to make the crowd jump in their seats. “We do not. Tolerate. Torture. Not to our enemies, not to those we don’t know, and certainly not to our own friends and family.”

But what about to oneself? You have to wonder. If it came down to it, in a desperate time, could you turn your life into a packet of energy to give your allies?

The thought sends shivers down your spine. You don’t think you could – not when you have so many things in life to live for.

No, even in such dire straits, one would have to be insane to subject themselves to that pain.


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“… you’re awake,” a warm baritone rumbles above you.

You snap open your eyes, attempting to bolt upright. Instead, you merely thrash in place – you’ve been strapped down to a marble slab, just as you’d asked. Calming down, you crane your neck to look down at your body, then let your head fall back, unable to stomach the sight of your torso completely split open, revealing all sorts of unsavory… changes.

“I must say, I’m glad that Taint binds inertly to undead flesh,” Marcus chuckles by your side, scooping out what appears to a deformed head oh dear gods that’s sick before squashing it to a pulp in a metal fist. When he opens it, the flesh resembles… a heart, actually. A pulsing, bleeding, heart, looking for all the world as if it were freshly plucked. Gently setting it back into your split-open ribcage, he tears something else out, what appears to be a foot wow you didn’t know you had one of those inside you, and crushes it similarly.

“It’ll be a few days of this until I’m done,” he sighs, giving the mass of pulp a leery look before putting it aside. “Sorry, but I’m going to have to keep you tied down here for now.”

“Nothing to be sorry about.” You close your eyes, trying to ignore the sensation of Marcus’s hands reshaping your body, removing the Tainted mutations until you resemble a living, breathing human once more – even though you’re actually undead. “It’s not like this is involuntary.”

“I must say, you were the one who suggested the straps, but you don’t seem to be as violently opposed to me digging around as you thought you would be. As I thought you would be.” His metal faceplate leans into view. “Something happen while you were out?”

“… it was worse than I could have ever imagined,” you sigh. Sighing – that action’s amusing somehow. It seems that being undead means you can voice without lungs.“Having you dig around and pull out things that shouldn’t belong doesn’t really inspire anything other than mild distaste, by comparison.”

That was meant to be funny in an offhand sort of way, but Marcus only leans further into view, the abstract etchings on his faceplate somehow looking concerned. “Humans aren’t meant to feel this sort of thing,” he warns you, pulling out a handful of cysts from around your spine to emphasize his point. “Are you sure you haven’t been harmed somehow?”

“It’s not as if there’s any pain,” you say, trying to sidestep the point. “The body’s dead. Not designed to hurt. There’s the acknowledgement that you’re doing things, removing parts, putting things back, but it doesn’t hurt.”

“It’s still supposed to be cringeworthy.” Marcus isn’t convinced.

“… I’ll bite. There’s this feeling of… impending doom.”

“Like there hasn’t always been?” he chuckles. “We’re screaming towards danger here.”

You try and lift a hand to wave it dismissively, but the straps stop you. You settle for squirming in the facsimile of a shrug. “The memory of that pain… it’s as if nothing matters. All the world, this physical world, is temporary.” Something in you waxes eloquent; you let it flow. “Empires shall crumble, mountains will turn to sand, worlds will become barren, but me? I will forever be haunted by this pain, so… why try to make things better? We live to escape pain, but I’ve already experienced the worst that exists across the planes, and can’t help but recall it at every waking step.”

“Traumatized.” Marcus leans back and crosses his arms unhappily, uncaring of the ichor that drips off his hands. “I’m telling you, that wasn’t worth it. It’s a lot of energy, yes, but there’s no telling if you’ll be able to access it once we enter the plane, and – “

You shrug, and he quiets. “I lied. It seems to come and go.”

“… you’ve been conscious all of two minutes.”

“It comes and goes very quickly,” you chuckle. “But there is one thought that makes it bearable.” Your laugh softens, but the small smile grows into a grin. You pull on another part of your body, one that isn’t restrained. Tendrils of mercury begin flowing out of your veins towards your chest, coalescing into a long shape above your chest – a blade. Marcus whistles as he steps back, uncrossing his arms to start a slow clap of appreciation.

“I’m going to kill Him. That thought alone is enough to get me through anything.”


… but He’s dead now. My task is done. The pain hasn’t returned but once, just now, when I took the power back in, so, why…?

Ran’s stopped screaming now, content now to simply curl into a fetal position and stare blankly into the distance. Chen’s come to grab one of her hands, pulling insistently as she breathlessly calls her master’s name again and again; you shoo her away with a flapping hand. “Off! That won’t help her recover.” You set her down in a chair, pursing your lips in dissatisfaction as the kitsune’s head lolls limply from side to side. She’s still conscious, just… apathetic. Unable to bring herself to care about herself, her servants, her life, anything.

“What did you do to her?!” Chen cries, turning on you instead, seizing the front of your robe and pulling you to face her, fast enough to give you whiplash.

You step back, letting your robe dissolve and reform. “Nothing she didn’t ask for. I warned her – “

“Why are you okay, and why is Lady Ran like that?” the younger shikigami shrieks, advancing until she’s practically standing on your toes, staring up at you defiantly as one arm flings itself to the side, pointing to her master.

“Because I’ve experienced things that no one ever should,” you growl right back at her, childishly attempting to intimidate her right back with your height. “For me, this was nothing new. For her, it was the first time.”

“Lord Kawarou! Lady Chen! This is no time to be arguing! They’re here!” Youmu cries – and then she’s gone, launching into the sky that’s by now filled with Yuyuko’s spirits as they rapidly descend towards the patio. The whine of slashing metal fills your ears, raising the hairs on the back of your neck and the anger drains right back out of you as Chen grits her own teeth, clearly not happy that this confrontation has to end now.

“We need to keep her safe,” you snap. It’s a sentiment that Chen has to agree with, as she gives you a curt nod of acknowledgement. “We’ll…”



[ ] … keep Ran with you. She’ll be a load and a burden, reducing your collective mobility while being nothing but a liability in turn. But if the mansion takes too many stray shots from the battle above and around it, she might be killed out of hand. Worse, a detachment of spirits might capture her, brought to Yuyuko, and turned against you.

[ ] … garrison Ran in the mansion. The mansion has some basic wards for defense, so it shouldn’t collapse out of hand, and perhaps you can throw up some illusions to disguise the fact that she’s there. Your own combat capabilities won’t be hampered in the meantime.


[ ] Sally out. Since each of you – Ran excluded for now – is much stronger one for one than any of the spirits Yuyuko is controlling, an offensive battle is the one you want to fight. Keep moving through the enemy, cutting a swathe through them before they can react and respond in a coordinated fashion.

[ ] Bunker in. You don’t need to beat the enemy, just survive. Let them come to you. The grounds of the mansion are large enough so that your mobility won’t be unduly hampered. You shouldn’t be surrounded as easily, and the roofs, enclosures, gardens, and walls can all be used to your advantage.


[ ] Write-in? Sai, Chen, and Youmu are all currently combat-capable and at 100%. The writefag has an idea of how the fight should flow, but if you want to see anything special, now’s the time to speak up and ask if it’s a possibility.
[x] … garrison Ran in the mansion. The mansion has some basic wards for defense, so it shouldn’t collapse out of hand, and perhaps you can throw up some illusions to disguise the fact that she’s there. Your own combat capabilities won’t be hampered in the meantime.


[x] Bunker in. You don’t need to beat the enemy, just survive. Let them come to you. The grounds of the mansion are large enough so that your mobility won’t be unduly hampered. You shouldn’t be surrounded as easily, and the roofs, enclosures, gardens, and walls can all be used to your advantage.

With ran in her current state, an offense is out of the question. Defense on the other hand might allow Ran to recover and join in.
Can you keep the focus on Sai?

I understand how you feel.

I initially wrote Keine's part from Sai's perspective, but the end result felt really, really, offbeat, as he has no one to give a long lecture about the details of death to; not realistically, anyways, not while in the middle of a brewing battlefield.

So, Keine exposition/infodump device yay.

It's clunky in its own way, but at least it doesn't stretch believability in the "Captain there are missiles about to hit us in two seconds but let's take five minutes to explain how their guidance systems work and exactly how we can use our craft's unique properties to avoid them". That always annoyed me in the sci-fi animes so very much.

I'm not trying to jump perspective around deliberately, but sometimes certain methods of exposition just feel more natural. Believe me, anything plot-related is going to be Sai all the way through.

inb4 i eat my own words
I see someone's using DebugMode 1 for that screengrab.
I rather liked it myself.

[x] ... Garrison Ran in the mansion.
[x] Bunker in.

The way I see it we have three goals here:
1) Survive until Jizo does whatever it was he is doing
2) Keep Ran secure until she recovers & is able to look after herself
3) Avoid losing anyone if at all possible

I think this will be the best way to accomplish this.
I didn't mind the Keine info dump though you might want to shunt such things into a shorts thread perhaps as not to disrupt the flow of the story.

And I liked the two references made.
[x]- keep Ran with you.
[x]- Bunker in.

Character generation gaems. Want a hand in the Tainted Bonds's growth? You can help, and enjoy a slice of future-of-this-future Gensokyo life while you're at it.

Direct all related questions and comments to that thread, if you please. And yes, I'm planning to update my short.
Personally, I'm interested in whether He was sincere in his offer to be partners in crime way back when he killed their mentor.
Don't want to be rude, but do I really need to read the he Keine part? I'm more interested in Sai and Ran's situation, and if it's indeed just an infodump, I fear it could break the momentum and reduce dramatic impact.
.. Why would the university have moon rabbits.

Revolution? Even more defections?
Are you seriously that lazy

Immigrants? Visiting friends? Tourists? People travel all the time in the modern world.
[x]- Keep Ran with you.
[x]- Bunker in.
[x]- Ran can probably be gently laid on the floor when there's fighting to be done, or if she's garrisoned an Alarm around her would be nice.
[x]- These spirits are physically manifested as skeletons. Don't bother with anything that can only cut flesh.
-[x] Attacks on joints will also either be extremely effective or utterly useless, depending on if they have jointy bits or are just bones floating in the proper position.

Also I really liked the the Keine cutaway. Good cliffhanger, and it revealed just how crazy the plan was wonderfully.
For the record, I'd like to say that I was *technically* correct here, as the ritual of Crucimigration wasn't directly the source of the well of power. And, as we all know, technically correct is the best kind of correct.

Anyway, I'm not really sure what to do on the Sally Forth vs. Fortify option. Logic seems to dictate that, with a defensible position against a numerically superior foe, sallying out is a fools' errand. However, the defensible position is, in fact, the residence of the attacker, and the person who erected most of the defenses. I quite suspect that the mansion is worse than useless, because it presents an immediate and alluring choice that may well be nothing but a honey-trap. I'll have to take more time to decide.
Alright, I've decided.
[X]Keep Ran with you.
[X]Sally Forth
[X]Use Yuyuko's arrogance against her

To Yuyuko, this is all one giant game, and if we hide away she'll get frustrated and throw the monopoly board off the table, as it were. By striking against her army, we keep her entertained and feed her pride, making her less likely to react in an entirely logical fashion.
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For the record, the short at >>/shorts/568 has been updated, and the next of the character generation votes is up as well. Feel free to comment on the former and vote on the later.

Votes called. Pic very tangentially related. Writing now. Please wait warmly~
Writefag has been mysteriously assaulted by girls for the past week, and at least for the next few days.

Sorry for the lack of updates, but thou shalt not deny the woman.

Should have an update Saturday or so.

[X] Bunker in. You don’t need to beat the enemy, just survive. Let them come to you. The grounds of the mansion are large enough so that your mobility won’t be unduly hampered. You shouldn’t be surrounded as easily, and the roofs, enclosures, gardens, and walls can all be used to your advantage.


You quickly decide that as attention-catching as going forward to meet Yuyuko is, it’s not as if she’s not going to attempt to attack you if you don’t. “We’ll garrison the mansion. Chen, take Ran and get her inside.”

“They’ll come from all sides,” the younger shikigami snaps, even as she follows your order. It’s a slightly strange sight to watch the slip of a teenage girl throw her older master into an over-shoulder carry with a single arm. “There’ll be nowhere safe to leave her.”

“I must agree – “ Youmu starts, and then breaks off as she sidesteps so fast she seems to simply teleport. A series of iridescent bolts, the first volley from the incoming wave, smashes the wooden patio where she once stood and in a dozen other places as well. Instinctively, you raise the arm not currently holding the Roukanken to shield your face from the flying splinters, then continue the motion to point your hand upwards in a focusing gesture. You freeze halfway through, though – you’re completely without your normal wards and enchantments at the moment, and attacking will do nothing more than paint a target on your currently unprotected head. Cursing, you duck your head and chase off after Chen through the open doorway, Youmu trailing after.

The roof above your head shudders underneath a few stray shots, but the impacts cease soon after. Youmu hangs back just a few steps away from the threshold while Chen continues charging blindly deeper into the mansion. You yourself slow your steps, putting yourself between them, and focus

arcane spellsurge,, and your blood begins to sing as the forces within you boil just as you remember them for all those centuries

– and it feels good.

Your hands and mouth –

moment of prescience

– work on one set of spells even as –

primal senses, heart of water

– the power within you works of its own volition –

superior resistance, energy absorption, true seeing

– roiling within you, out of control and yet at your whim –

displacement, battlemagic perception, greater mirror image, greater mage armor

– as your feet carry you back to Youmu’s side. Even as you finish your preparation, you see two dozen or so spirits touch down upon the patio, the outlines of their cosmetically skeletal forms slightly blurred due to the rapid descent. The half-phantom beside you stiffens and raises her sword – herself? – to brace against the incoming charge, but you’re not having any of that.

A flick of your hand, and the greater arcane fusion blossoms in your mind, delivering a massive arcane payload to your targets. Widened wings of flurry causes half the patio to practically evaporate underneath a thousand slashing blades of force with a sound like an angry swarm of hornets the size of bears. The second half of the patio swiftly disappears from view as the second half of the fusion, a twinned maximized magic missle, unerringly finds targets amongst the back row of attackers. There’s an electric feeling that you’ve never felt before as you cleave the Taint-fueled spirits with Hope-reinforced magic; is it some sort of neutralization?

But the second group is already landing and returning fire, their own shots halting in midair against the wall of force you immediately throw up after your own salvo is done. “Youmu, I’ll cover the rear,” you say coolly, carefully pulling her back and beside you with a hand on her shoulder. It feels odd underneath your hand; what appears to be a cloth vest feels like a living body, almost intimate, and you both involuntarily shiver, just ever so slightly, at the contact. Putting that random incident out of your mind, you continue, “I need you to lead Chen to the safest place in the house so we can store Ran there.”

The girl gives you a complicated sideways look, but purses her lips and nods her assent. “Yes, Lord Kawarou. Don’t be a hero.”

“And you as well,” she replies, a small smile crossing her face. She dashes down the hall to where Chen has been impatiently jogging in place, and they both disappear in a blur of movement a moment later. For your part, you begin half-jogging, half-floating your way down the same way at a slower pace.

The wooden walls beside the doorway you covered with the wall of force splinter and suddenly balloon inward as the forces landing outside seek an alternate method of access. Launching a few parting orbs of force, you begin creating a tactical nightmare.

Wall of force is the foundation of your efforts, alternately reinforcing existing walls and ceilings or forming entirely new hallways within hallways. Solid fog and freezing fog, whether invisible, visible, or appearing in some confusing form far removed from a fog, fills the tight spaces – you somehow know, rather than think, that the Hope/Taint interaction will make the spells effective even against incorporeal foes. You don’t have much in the way of prepared defense, having trained yourself mostly for an attacking movement, but you’re still able to seed key chokepoints with delayed blast fireballs. Persistent images are multipurpose, fooling the enemy into thinking they’re still travelling in the mansion when in reality they’ve walked into an entirely artificial corridor, presenting them with sudden dead ends independent of actual path, or just plain weirding them out with alien geometries and basic optical illusions, foolproof against even magic sight due to their indirect mind-affecting nature, just like with the quicksilver double you constructed of yourself against Him.

… was that really so long ago?

You begin to feel the concussions of the fireballs even through the walls and floor as you catch up with your allies; normally the spell doesn’t include a physical force, just a burst of searing elemental fire, but that’s your own special touch of magic. Chen left a trail for you, the most transient string of energy that dissipates the moment you touch it, but you hardly need it – Ran’s troubled aura carved what might as well be a river of red paint behind her, a path that you take the time to scrub clean.

Half a dozen long hallways of wood and paper walls later, the angry path of the aura suddenly goes down a trapdoor leading below ground level. Swiftly throwing an illusion of continued floor over the opening, you drop down the eight or so feet, ignoring the ladder, to see Chen seating the comatose kitsune in a chair by the soft light of dim magefire. You examine the surroundings, taking stock of the shelves, stacked boxes and bags, crates and hanging sides of various meats…

… it all seems to be food. Well, knowing the appetite of the mistress of the house, it makes sense, especially since it goes on as far as you can see in any direction.

Burying the Roukanken tip-first into the earthen floor, you beckon the two girls closer. “I covered our escape, but surely she sent some to outflank us to avoid my preparations. How many entrances are there into here?” Even as you speak, you throw an arcane eye up and back out, sending the sensor hurtling through the hallways opposite to your own approach, searching for the surely advancing enemy.

“Not many, but enough,” Youmu replies, gaze flitting amongst the shadowy shelves as if expecting a marauding squad at any moment. “There are five entrances down here scattered around the mansion – more than we can hold with us three. Three of them are ramps for moving goods; the last one is another trapdoor like the one we took.”

“No other method of infiltration?” you ask, just to be sure, although you’ve already found two of the other entrances. That, and the first group of spirits, about a minute away from the closest entrance.

She shakes her head. “The walls and floor are warded against spirits. Otherwise, they’d just wander into the house as they pleased, and we’d not have the slightest bit of privacy. With the solid ground above us, we won’t be bombarded here, but it’s a corner.”

“Does it go deeper?” Chen asks, receiving a shake of the half-phantom’s head in reply. “Maybe we should find a more escapable place…”

“No, this is fine,” you say, kneeling beside Ran. Of its own accord, your hand rises to her chin, tilting her head back into a more comfortable position as you study her face in more detail.

“We need to put something down here, or else she’ll suspect. But no, we won’t be fighting down here; we’ll hold the upper floor.”

“That’s a lot of ground to try and secure,” Youmu warns you.

“There’s a lot of them. It all works out. Here…”

You point at both of the girls, weaving a complicated set of illusions and auras. As they look down, you layer yourself with the exact same as you explain. “We all look like all four of us now, to the magical senses. I’ve no doubt Yuyuko saw her drop, and she’ll be looking to pick her off. This will lure her in.”

“It’ll be obvious which one is the real thing,” Chen disagrees, “the moment we have to fight in person.”

“Allow me to handle that,” you say, swiftly thinking. You explain, receiving a pleased grin from Chen and a satisfied nod from Youmu.

And then you’re all up and away, ready to face the coming onslaught.


I apologize for the spotty updates, but my personal life took a wrong turn from simple to overwhelmingly troubled in an instant after meeting an old friend. I have a very good idea of what needs to happen in the next few updates, but there really isn't much opportunity for votes or choice, much to my chagrin. Call it railroading, but I'd rather not contemplate off-the-wall possibilities for the story right now; I've all sorts of other real-world possibilities to worry about myself.

Yes, the old friend is a girl.
Writefag becomes haremfag.

So left for dead huh. How soon before the tank comes kicking down our nice corners?

Actually, the Tank is coming next update. Have fun!

Unrelated: a fey mood struck writefag here, and he produced something awful in /at/ here: >>/at/25694

I should really stop writing visions of the future and work on the damned present. Put the horse before the cart and all that.
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Blasted meddlers. You don’t even know your way around your own home anymore.

The wing of your forces that you sent to outflank their retreat should have met no resistance moving through the gardens, and then curved around to start sweeping the halls. Instead, they disappeared halfway through in a baffling spray of magical auras – you think that was all four of them waiting in ambush. Probably; there was a lot of noise in your senses.

The troubling thing is, the same thing happened to the group who went in from the left side; the moment they passed through the doors, that same mess of magical noise swallowed them up just as cleanly. Same with the right, and while you haven’t tried the front door yet, you have enough pattern recognition to think that the same fate awaits your minions that way too, and most certainly in greater force. If three attacks have been met like this, you’re not going to press a fourth. You’re not stupid.

No, you’re going to be smart about this. It’s not like you care about them or anything, but every soul that slips out of your compulsions, freed out of your shackles by that disgusting magical force they’re wielding, is an insult.

You want control over them. Influence. Power.

You want Youmu – the misguided girl thought to charge you, to “cut through your confusion” and make you “see sense”. No, you’re thinking perfectly clearly, and you know what you want: her, completely under your thumb and at your beck and call.

But right now, your former guest and those shikigami are giving you no end of trouble. They need to be taken care of to retrieve your erstwhile servant.

It’s time to call in the master to deal in with the student.


Well, that was cleaner than expected. You relax your mind as the last few spirits in the room melt out of their skeletal forms and back into their natural misty ones, watching them flow out of the mansion straight through the walls in a rather random fashion as if dazed and confused. You’re not sure what it feels like to be freed of mental compulsion, but apparently it’s disorientating to living creatures; it’s probably the same for spirits, especially ones that are by default rather placid and clueless.

Now that the combat is over, the conditional aura-imitating spell you set over yourself fades away. That one was the “screen”, or the one meant to obscure the method with which you handled your foes. It doesn’t leave you exposed to detection, though – the second spell you cast remains in place, dampening your personal signature until it’s undetectable through the background of the house’s wards.

You’re not the only one so prepared – Chen and Youmu have these same spells woven over them. They handled the sides while you guarded the rear; their fights are already over, two storms of baffling information blooming before swiftly fading away.

There’s been no attack at the front, but you don’t think there will be – not of the sort that were launched at the flanks and rear, anyways. Yuyuko was planning to see how the supposedly more unexpected attacks went before launching her main assault through the front; by stopping those, you’ve made her hesitate about attacking the front, as she fancies herself to be smarter than to try the same failed strategy a fourth time. That’s fortunate, because if she had just charged in at all four sides, the three of you wouldn’t have been able to defend all of them.

But she won’t give up here. She’ll try something soon.

Time. There’s never enough time. You shoulder the massive blade that Youmu once carried as you reflect on how things have gone downhill ever since Jizo decided to initiate his bright idea. This entire battle has been nothing but a stalling action, a waiting game, waiting for Jizo’s rescue that has yet to arrive, waiting for Ran’s stupor to run its course.

And this blade – it’s terrifying. You’d used it to block and parry a few attacks as you flitted through and around the attacking force, devastating their ranks with a variety of augmented force spells, but you couldn’t bring yourself to bring it to bear against them directly.

Minutes pass. Yuyuko’s legions at the front aren’t marching, still stalling. What are they waiting for? Is the ghost princess really so frozen with indecision that she won’t do anything at all?

You’re about to move to the front in person to see exactly what the hold up is yourself – you don’t trust Yuyuko to not intercept or feed false information to a remote sensor – when the enchantments on Chen suddenly fizzle and burn out.

Your blood runs cold. There are only two things that could do that – a dispelling effect of some kind, or their carrier’s death. Given that you’ve seen very little evidence of arcane talent from Yuyuko…

Heedless of a possible ambush, you sprint at an impossibly fast speed through the wood and paper walls of the house at a breakneck pace. Literally through, as you cleave aside the flimsy construction with the two-handed sword without a thought. You’d felt nothing from Chen’s side – what kind of attack had killed the younger shikigami?

Chen’s personal aura faintly bleeds through the final few walls as you approach her position, and you stop yourself from crashing into any further. So she’s alive, then, but weak. You lower the Roukanken and abstain from slashing any further, instead throwing your senses ahead, searching for any further signs of an intruder. Nothing.

“Sai…” Chen’s voice weakly hisses. “Don’t come…”

A trap? But if it was a real trap, it’d be too late already. And there’s nothing around you that seems out of the ordinary for the house.

“On the contrary, you should come and face me,” a male voice suddenly speaks. “I’d hate to leave her here bleeding out because I couldn’t see to her wounds, having to wait for you to show yourself.” It’s older, and almost kindly – which gets your full attention, because you weren’t even aware there was another person besides you and Chen for a hundred meters around.

Chen laughs weakly. “You’re too kind. I’m a… creature of magic. I won’t die from… something as simple as… this.”

“Oh? Is that so?” A moment passes. “… would you prefer to be wounded further?”

Chen wisely abstains from further comment. There’s no malice in the man’s voice at all, as if he’s truly considering the fact that Chen might consider it a favor to be further injured. The unsettled feeling in your chest only heightens.

You remain still for a minute, preferring to listen to Chen’s advice for now as you attempt to find the man. Now that you’ve calmed down a bit, you’re able to pinpoint what must be his position – a distinct lack of matter in a small spot where air should have been flowing through.

As a master of illusion, you’re disturbed that you didn’t detect something that obvious immediately. You take a few deep breaths in an attempt to calm down, then sweep the door open as calmly as you can.

After the wood soundly splinters against your fist, the first thing you notice is the arm on the ground. It’s a youth’s arm, covered in a white cloth sleeve. Crimson stains the upper arm, where the arm suddenly and cleanly ends, not even a flap of skin or stray thread remaining.

The second thing you notice is its mate laying several feet away.

Chen herself sits up against a wall, her eyes open but staring straight forward, looking at nothing in a daze. Her posture is limp, like a doll with its strings cut, but her chest is still rising and falling for now. The bottom of her dress is staining dark with the blood oozing from the stumps of her arms. She’s been declawed in the most brutal way possible, with the apparent ease of a man plucking the wings off a butterfly.

Her assailant is standing slightly away from her, his back turned away from you in a deliberately insulting gesture. He gives you a glance over his shoulder, showing you a keen, focused expression behind a long white beard and mustache. Around him flows a white misty orb, similar to the one around Youmu before she perished.

More importantly, you recognize the cut of his robe as similar to the sort that swordsmasters from your home plane wore. Most importantly, you eye the massive sword in his hand, longer than he is tall. A part of you scoffs at that, says to you that a blade of that size is nothing but an impediment indoors. The part of you more used to dealing with the unusual says that mere walls are nothing to such a beast.

“You didn’t have to do that,” you admonish him, referring to Chen’s injuries.

“It saddens me to see her in pain, but she surely would have attacked me first if I announced my intentions. I may as well keep myself safe,” he sighs. For a moment you believe him, but there’s an icy edge to his voice that

“He blindsided me,” Chen hisses. “Came right through the wall before I knew he was there.”

“Faster than you?” you ask, pursing your lips together in worry. Your brows knit when Chen swallows, and slowly nods, still not looking at you directly. The younger shikigami is the fastest person you know. That this man is faster than her –

“Allow me to tell you why I’m here to kill you,” he says, finally turning around to face you. His lack of emotion is showing itself to be a façade now, as his voice grows more and more heated with every word. “You insinuate myself with my lady. You deceive her with tales of loss. You seduce her servant away from her, and now you show your true colors. You sacrifice my lady’s servant, release the Saigyou Ayakashi from its seal, corrupt another servant to your side.” He motions towards Chen on the floor with that last condemnation. “Now you call upon a foreign demon to take control of Hakugyokurou.”

“None of that is true!” you splutter, taking a step back, almost literally staggered by the accusations.

“Explain the new barrier, then; the one that isn’t Yakumo’s. Meant to seal this place more tightly than a jail, to prevent escape or aid from the outside from reaching here.”

You open your mouth, and realize that the explanation of Taint is too long to summarize before this man gets tired of what he’ll think is an attempt at stalling. “But I am expecting aid from Gensokyo,” you dare. “This isn’t what you – “

“You even have allies outside.” Damn it, not the conclusion he was supposed to draw. “How many years have you been plotting this attack? I knew that Ran should have never stopped her investigations, even after the Travelers came.”

Travelers? That’s the first time you’ve heard that term, but the way he puts emphasis on it… it can only be the survivors from your home plane; the odds of another massive migration into Gensokyo after your mission are microscopically small.

“You know Ran?” you ask instead.

He actually pauses for a second there. “Lady Yukari is a friend of Lady Yuyuko’s,” he says, narrowing his eyes as if considering this conversation to be a delaying action. “Of course I know Ran.”

“Then of course you know Chen,” you continue.

“If you’re trying to guilt me about her current condition, then you’re going to fail.” He points at her with his free hand, balancing the motion by pointing his oversized sword away from his body. “I can smell your corrupting magic on her body. She needs to be out of the fight until we can heal her.”

“You’ve got it all backwards,” you say hotly. “That’s not corruption, that’s – “

He doesn’t let you finish, but instead strikes from across the room. His blade is that long.

Celerity saves your hide, letting you scramble back out of reach of the sweeping blade before it cleaves you in twain. You have to use that time-borrowing spell; the half-phantom is that fast. For a second you contemplate attempting a wall of blades to halt it, but something deep inside you doubts the blade in your hand. Arcane fusions explode from your mind instead, filling the hallway with solid fog to cover your escape while sliding an erratically curving wall of force in the midst of it to further baffle pursuit and/or detection. You’ve kept all your long-lasting standard personal enchantments up, so there’s no need to further reinforce yourself; you focus on further examining the nature of your opponent with a spellbreaking arcane turmoil and illusory greater mirror image.

A blank spot in your mind as time is repaid.

And then you find yourself frantically throwing up the wall of blades anyways as the swordsman cleaves unimpeded through the fog, the thousand independent snapshots of the Roukanken through time shuddering underneath the massive impact but holding. The force barrier still stands, but he must have found it and started cleaving around it through the walls to get to the other side. The solid fog isn’t hampering his movements at all, although he does seem to be striking somewhat at random; misdirection seems to affect him to some degree, although he’s doing a good job of making it irrelevant.

Is Chen alright? She is; she’s awkwardly crawling away from the chaos, powered only by the kicking of her legs and squirming of her torso to get away.

“Where did you get that blade!?” the swordsman cries aloud, snapping your attention back to the fight at hand.

Stall, stall, stall. Everywhere you turn, you’re surrounded by beings more powerful than you. Talk your way out of this.

“I needed a weapon,” you say slowly, taking tiny steps back away from him. His presence – it fills the whole hallway, spilling over into the grounds that are now visible through massive slashes in the walls. He’s terrifying.

“And so you just took it from her? Youmu would have never allowed that.”

You blink. The man’s presence recedes, concentrating itself into a single look of pure hatred.

“Give me back my daughter.”

The blade cuts for your neck.

Oh shit.



[ ] Stand and fight. The man is clearly misinformed, but he’s enraged. There’s no sense in arguing or discussing the truth, so just try and survive for now; even take him out of commission, if you can manage it.

[ ] Withdraw and kite. He’s too strong, and there’s no point in trying to be diplomatic for the time being. Escape with your life; hopefully your illusions will continue affecting him.

[ ] Stall and argue. His fury stems from a lack of understanding. It’ll be hard to get to him while attempting to fend off his attacks… but the best way to defeat an enemy is convince him to stop of his own accord.
[x] Stall and argue. His fury stems from a lack of understanding. It’ll be hard to get to him while attempting to fend off his attacks… but the best way to defeat an enemy is convince him to stop of his own accord.

I feel this is the best option as I doubt he's too clouded by his emotions.... though getting Youmu might help.
[x] Stall and argue. His fury stems from a lack of understanding. It’ll be hard to get to him while attempting to fend off his attacks… but the best way to defeat an enemy is convince him to stop of his own accord.

This seems like the best option.
[x] Withdraw and kite, destination Youmu. He’s too strong, and there’s no point in trying to be diplomatic for the time being. Make it to Youmu as fast as possible, if this guy really is her farther he should hesitate at her presence, and hopefully listen to her. If nothing else it will even the odds somewhat.

No point in Diplo now, straight up telling people their wrong will often cause them to dig in and ignore your words. Throw in parental instinct and we're not getting through anytime soon. Said parental instinct should cause him to listen to Youmu however.
[x] this!
[x] Withdraw and kite, destination Youmu.

Damn, Youki's cool. The Tank's a fitting enough comparison, seems like.
[X] Withdraw and kite, destination Youmu. He’s too strong, and there’s no point in trying to be diplomatic for the time being. Make it to Youmu as fast as possible, if this guy really is her farther he should hesitate at her presence, and hopefully listen to her. If nothing else it will even the odds somewhat.

Youki is angry. Angry people tend to lose reason. Youmu can make him see reason again.
The reasoning seems sound. I'll second.
[X] Kite Youki to Youmu
[x] Withdraw and kite, destination Youmu.

Yuyuko must have confused him, but left him mostly intelligent in order to keep his skill. Once his daughter contradicts him, he'll be forced to analyze his actions and what he believes, and he'll discover that he was misled.

Then he either gets unmade courtesy of Yuyuko, or we get a kickass ally.


Boy I'm glad I decided to pick this story up. Gensokyo is getting a little grimdark though, especially in the side story. All the familiar faces growing up and moving on with their lives, the status quo changing, becoming more like the outside world; A far cry from the peaceful reservation Gensokyo used to be.

With all these outsiders (and Outsiders) running around, it's only a matter of time before a demon or devil reports on its existence, and then the Blood War spills over into another plane.
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Votes called. Pic related. Writing now. Please wait warmly~
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[X] Withdraw and kite, destination Youmu. He’s too strong, and there’s no point in trying to be diplomatic for the time being. Escape with your life; hopefully your illusions will continue affecting him.


Your basic life-preserving instincts say to leap away as fast as you can, but your fighting instinct tempers that suggestion into a mere step, bending back from the waist to lower yourself while slashing upwards with the flat of Roukanken. Surely enough, the swordsman’s blade diverts from its original course, turning into a thrust towards your chest that you just barely deflect.

“Things are not what they seem!” you shout out. Whipping upright, you hold out your palms in a placating gesture, pinching the hilt of your weapon between your thumb and forefinger; but waggling your other fingers in an arcane pattern.

The man narrows his eyebrows, then smiles, grunts in satisfaction, and leaps sideways towards a shattered wall, expecting the wall of force in front of him. His graceful flight ends abruptly when his head thunks against an invisible surface; you bracketed him with two instead of using putting one between you and him.

You wish you could assemble a full cage of force around him, but you simply haven’t the time. Instead, you drop a second solid fog to cover the exact direction of your hasty escape. You intentionally allow your feet to melt into wisps, choosing to float inches above the floor rather than actually run to avoid creating footfalls, a sound that he could use to track you.

Seconds later, though, he comes charging through the rooms and walls right back at you, still taking the most direct path possible at the detriment of the architecture. For a second you consider going fully incorporeal and hoping the walls will slow him, but when the last wood and paper barrier between the two of you crumbles, you realize the foolishness of that wish.

Again, the two of you are within striking distance. This time, you lead with a stinging missile storm. The air shimmers with dozens of pockets of contained force, and your foe growls as he bats his blade in tight arcs in front of him, prematurely setting off the vast majority of them. A few hit his limbs, but to apparently little effect as he closes the distance unhindered. An expression of absolute terror flies over your face, and he shouts with triumph as you fail to even parry properly, instead lamely raising an arm in an impotent gesture.

When he slices you in half, you explode into not two but two hundred pieces, each one a separate illusion of your fleeing body. The illusory swarm goes in all directions, causing him to shout in rage as he stands baffled, unable to digest the massive information overload that is illusions of you escaping through the ceiling, floor, and every single room and hallway, tumbling over, around, and away from him. You make sure that some illusions with a physical component bump and shove him around as they pass by; his response to slash wildly around him. To only add to the confusion, some of the images fall to the ground in an unconvincing death, others take realistic injuries and die gurgling deaths or roll back and forth on the floor screaming as they clutch stumps of severed limbs, a few explode as if they were nothing but sacks of blood and gore, and still many more run through without noticing at all. A few figments you specifically reserve for distraction duty, dancing around him while slashing with duplicate Roukankens or flicking their hands in spellcasting gestures.

His head jerks in all directions as he tries to make a decision. With some interest, you note that he looks only towards the illusions that you surrounded with a duplicate aura of the Roukanken, and that he looks at these illusions whether or not you also gave them your own personal aura or not. So he can track the blade somehow? Interesting.

Quite deliberately, you form a final aura of the spirit-killing sword a stone’s throw away behind him and have it start slowly creeping off; as if you had been hiding there all along and just started trying to make your escape. With a grunt, Youmu’s father makes one final slash at the illusions still harassing him and steps away towards it, causing you to throw this final illusion away from him as fast as you can convincingly make it run.

Only when he disappears from sight do you allow yourself to begin moving, your body floating underneath the protection of every stealthy spell in your arsenal: nondetection, mind blank, a thousand different variations on magic aura, and greater invisibility, to name a few. Should you go back for Chen? No, the last time you saw her was at the start of your flight, and you’ve already made it halfway through the mansion. She said she wouldn’t die, from such injuries; you’ll have to trust her on that for now. Youmu’s father seemed reluctant to harm her further despite maiming her without provocation, so you don’t think she’s at risk of execution either.

You find it interesting that Youmu’s father is the equivalent of an antimagic field as far as his personal aura goes; when he wants to, anyways, when he’s not staring you down and trying to intimidate you with an aura of murder. You’d understand it if he were a mage, using spells as you do to disguise your own presence, but he obviously has little to no talent in that area. No, he’s more like a predator, moving undetected until he strikes.

Still, though, your own ability at remaining stealthy seems to surpass his abilities of detection, as you’re able to make it three quarters of the way through the mansion towards Youmu’s side without further incident. The illusion her father’s chasing had to run too far away for you to continue consciously controlling, so you load it with a generic command to flee erratically until the magic powering it runs out. Due to his lack of aura, you’ll have no easy way to know when he catches up with it, and you didn’t have the time to load the illusion with a visual sensor. You guess you could launch an arcane eye, but even though Yuyuko hasn’t moved directly upon the mansion, you don’t trust her to not find it and subvert it somehow. Such sensors are like pieces of yourself, both in usage and in vulnerability.

Instead, you spin together a message, sending it whispering throughout all the halls where Youmu should be patrolling. I’m coming to meet you -

You’d have said more, but you’ve been cut in half.

A millisecond after you feel the blade rip you apart, the sound of his incredible attack reaches you. The turbulent air in his wake booms so forcefully that the paper panes in the walls explode outward. This damage is nothing compared to the walls directly between the two of you as the splintered remains shower your dissipating form, adding insult to injury.

As your halves slide apart, their corporeality diminishing as your energy bleeds away from the trauma, you look down the freshly excavated corridor in the mansion. You can see the gardens at the far end of it, and all the various halls and rooms and closets and chambers that he blasted through in an instant to come here, cut you apart, and somehow manage to stop himself without so much as scarring the floor underneath his feet.

Just how far had he traveled… in a single slash…?

Your consciousness fades out, only to screech right back as what feels like a burning brand stabs through your incorporeal form, somehow managing to pin your nonexistent body to the floor. No, it hurts worse than a burning brand – it hurts even worse than the nails that hammered you to the cross. Those merely caused you pain; this is actively consuming you, grinding away at your very soul.

You scream from newly formed lips as you feel yourself snap back into a rough humanoid shape, forced into wasting your last dregs of energy by manifesting by some outside force. “I want you to feel every bit of pain Youmu did when you killed her,” the man hisses as he begins dragging the sword through your body. It’s not his sword, the one taller than him, no – it’s the Roukanken, the one that you instinctively feared, rightly so as you now know from personal experience.

“I didn’t – kill her,” you splutter. Blood is flowing over your lips, a curiosity as you don’t actually have blood in your body right now.

“It matters not who the executioner was.” Another inch in your body, another blast of impossibly intense pain. “Your hand is at fault here, her blood on your hands whether or not you did it yourself.”

You try to speak, but you have to clear your mouth first, vomiting a vile mixture of blood and other fluids. You should be able to simply make sound; why is this like you have a real, physical body again? “Yuyuko…” is all you manage to splutter before you have to vomit again. You feel sick, weak, near death; this feeling is just like when you underwent the Ritual of Crucimigration. But what will happen to you this time?

“What have you done with her?!” he cries, yanking the blade out and stabbing it into you anew.

“Are you blind?!” you shriek in response. You spit again, watching your blood evaporate in smoky swirls from his cheek where it landed. “Did you not see her, floating in the sky?! Did you not see the army?! Can you not tell that something is wrong?!”

“Stop your lies!” he cries, and this time the blade stabs into your open mouth to silence you. Your eyes roll into the back of your head as you choke on the new obstruction, and then the back of your head ceases to exist as he drags the weapon up through the top of your head and through your brain.

Unable to speak with your head and jaw so maimed, you can only lay there as you feel your body begin to crumble into dust. Consciousness escapes you a second afterward.

[x]Bad End
[s]Return to last choice..."
Well, it's been a good story. A shame it's over. See ya on your next story, ballista.
You guys didn't actually think this story was going to END here, did you?

Hells no. Next update is in progress, and should be done within a few days.

As a mental experiment, feel free to speculate on the totally contrived plot element that will allow the story to go on.
>feel free to speculate on the totally contrived plot element that will allow the story to go on.

Youmu is capable of channeling energy to Sai due to Roukanken (which was already determined to basically be her phylactery) having a protective coating of Sai's soul-mercury. Calling it.
I really don't think any of those posters were serious.

And it's probably what >>160709 said. I was thinking Jizo intercession or something like a Crafted Contingent Revive Undead, but neither seemed particularly likely.

Maybe the Yama is going to get involved, to help rein in Yuyuko? Energy transfer from Ran and/or Youmu are also distinct possibilities.
Ran is gonna recover from her stupor and send some energy to Sai, or stop Youki?

Let's make Youki commit suicide when this is all over. What a shamefur dispray from him.
Oaths to Youki.

At least, there'd better be, or there's no tie-in to the thing on /at/.
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Yes, he needs to commit sudoku to redeem his honor.
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I’ve been dented. How annoying.

It’ll only take me a moment to fix myself. Perfect.


A huge cut. Something similar must have caused the first dent. Ugh. Gotta fix myself again.

Would it stop already? This is getting tiresome. Put that bit there, and maybe reinforce there, and… ow!

Okay, this is getting ridiculous. What’s the problem here?

Oh! That isn't good.

My wielder seems to be locked in combat with a man who’s definitely compensating for something. Seriously, that sword has no reason to be that large. Surely he’d get better use out of a smaller, nimbler –

Oof! Okay, maybe that man isn’t compensating. He doesn’t need to compensate for anything with a swing like that.

Well, how’s my wielder doing? Oh, that’s not good. She’s getting overpowered. Well, anyone would, against that ape.

She could change her style a bit. Hey, you! Yes, you! No, don’t stand still and slackjawed in surprise, he’s going to – back! Dodge, don’t parry, you fool!

Ah, she listened.

No, stop trying to use his style against him. Yes, he taught it to you. No, that doesn’t make it a good choice. He knows it better than you ever will, that’s why it’s his style, and not yours. Try using something new.

I’m aware he’s your father. You spent a few minutes shouting various complaints about abandonment before you guys started fighting, I remember that much. Yeah, I’m sorry, that was me he sensed when he declared you were being controlled from the outside. No, I’m not controlling you. Hey, if I were controlling you, I’d have you running away as fast as you could! I’m not crazy!

You’re not scared of him? Don’t be ridiculous. It’s all over your surface thoughts, crying ‘Doom! Doom!’ ‘Oh, no, I’m facing my father, who taught me everything I ever knew!’ Except that’s not true, and we both know it. You’ve learned more than that. Maybe you should start trying to use it. Stop focusing on the past.

… oh? That? You’d like to try that? But of course! You think I’m not familiar with how it works? I’ve been put through that move so many times I’ve lost count; and it’s not like I have much else to do! I can help you!

No, I’m not going to control you. There’s a difference. Besides, if I control you, you’ll never learn for yourself. Just… guide you. Advise you.

See, here. He’s going to make that huge swing when he sees you in that stance. Because his reach is so much longer, that attack both threatens you and protects him, and unless you plan on deflecting that attack off course – and we’re both pretty sure you can’t – then he’s completely safe.

But see, if you were in this position, then that attack would do nothing more than lower his guard for nothing. Now, it’s not in that position; and no, don’t try to put it in that position, you’ll drop your guard.

But it’d be nice if it were in that position, right? Focus on that. And now he’s going to attack, so you – no, not that. You still need to protect yourself most importantly. Not dying is the most important thing here. Block, take the hit, yes, you’re going to get sent flying, but it’s not like this isn’t unpleasant for the both of us.

Ouch! Okay, forget attacking for now, he’s getting really aggressive. Don’t worry about whether or not I’ll be okay! I’m a hunk of metal, this kind of treatment is exactly what I’m made...

… okay, okay, I’ll stop putting up the brave face if you’re so concerned. I don’t want to break. He’s cutting me awfully thin here. If I break, then that woman might get you. That could be a problem. A big problem. I don’t want to fail, you know. That’s what my job was. Keep you safe and all. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t thinking of this sort of situation when he put me here, but hey, complications happen. I’m sure he won’t mind.

I’ll be honest here, being a mere coating is an issue. I did my best to maintain the weight, balance, shape – you didn’t notice a difference at all, did you? Ha, I’m good at that. But it’s still a coating, not, well, an actual part of the sword.

You see, if I were to alloy myself with –

Hey, hey, hey! I know that’s a little intimate for your liking. Do you think I’m stupid? Of course I know that sword contains your soul. Yeah, those bits might touch and mix. Stop acting so squeamish about it. No, we won’t completely mix, you’ll still have a part that’s you and I’ll still have a part that’s me. … yes, there will be a little mixing though. Can’t do anything about that.

Is it even possible? Yes, I can do that even when you’re waving me around like that. I’ve taken stranger shapes under duress before. Try shaping yourself like a person and flying around. Now that’s awkward.

Yes? Alright! And just in time, too, that’s a pretty big slash coming your way. He goes how far? That far? And if all that energy stops short and goes into one attack… ow. Yeah. I’d definitely break. Good thing we’re doing this now.

What, surprised that took all of a split second? Before he could clear half the distance? Yeah, I did some preparations while we were talking. Sorry. I could have still taken them back if you said no, though, don’t worry.

… you feel strange too. Not insulting you or anything, but… eh. Is it age? Gender? Body shape? The fact that I’m not actually a full person, just a fragment? No, wait, that’s how you feel. Ugh, that’s confusing.

But never mind, back to the present! He’s attacking right now; bait out the attack early. Fake the opening, if he thinks you’re as unschooled as you are, he’ll definitely take the bait –

That slash! Throw out the parry there! He’ll let you make it, because he thinks that he’ll end up in a superior position regardless. But what if you make that same movement a millisecond later? He’ll be the one in the inferior position, and I don’t care how fast he thinks he is, he’ll take a hit there.

Surprise! Congratulations. You marked him. Oh, I know he’s your father, but there’s something satisfying about seeing that expression of impotent fury on his face. That’s right. You didn’t need him to continue your education. And that stings. Oh, he’s feeling guilty now.

… great, this is all you. I don’t know this guy that well, why do I feel so good about throwing his lessons in his face? You see? You’re influencing me as much as I am you.

Hey, that sword in the floor? There’s… something odd about it. Keep guilt-tripping him, walk over there.

… wait, that’s yours too? I thought he was carrying it for now? Then… oh, look at that hole the wall. Walls. Everything. Oh… my. That… can’t be good. I don’t think he got away safely.

I don’t care that it makes you feel strange, how do you think I feel about it?! Pick it up!

Sheesh. It’s like holding a voracious predator by the scruff of its neck, just wondering when it’s going to turn around and eat you. And… it seems to have fed. Can you sense it? He was eaten. His soul, at any rate. Mind seems to be intact though. Stuck inside the sword like a gemstone in a dragon’s belly. Horrible way to go, but you know, he put himself through a situation like this earlier.

We’re lucky your father’s not coming at us for now. Just look at him crouch there, holding his side, glowering impotently. He could probably still kill us if he put himself to it, but he’s off balance. Not all hits have to even seriously wound to be effective. We’ve scared him – shamed him. He doesn’t want to fight nearly as much now.

Or perhaps that’s an added side effect of that “cutting through confusion” you’re thinking of? We’ll have to see. Keep him talking, keep him busy. I don’t want to get cut down the moment I stand up again.

… hey, it was nice being with you. I – look, there are priorities here. I’ll still be helping you out if things get heated again, but it won’t be as direct. More important is that I get him – myself – back up and into action. Two is better than one, we’ll have better odds.

Hey, you won’t be alone for long. Just until I get my host’s mind out of that soul-eater of yours. I may be just a fragment, but I’m still a soul; his soul, at that. I’m sure I can work something out here between the two of us. And worst comes to worst, if I somehow fail here… as long as you manage to escape from here, then, well, I’ll still have left a piece of me behind with you. You’ll never truly be alone. Isn’t that wonderful? Yes, it is, isn’t it?

… goodbye now!

… we’ll still be parts of each other… always…


I'm not entirely sure how you write from the viewpoint of a source of motivation (soul) that lacks a real intellect of its own (mind). I tried this three different ways, and this was the one that seemed most coherent and enjoyable to read. The first attempt was a very broken, very choppy style, and I didn't think it would be clear enough to the reader, while the third was a little too sarcastic for my liking. More like Bob the skull from the Dresden Files than a piece of Sai.
Also, while I work on the next update to Tainted Bonds, I'd like to continue work on the sidestories over in /shorts/, but I honestly think I'll only have time for one of them.



[ ] So just does Gand decide to do, after the angels leave him and charge after that noise in the dark? allargando; a tempo, aka background of future character Gand and exploration of the present changing Gensokyo
[ ] I know that she came from the Outside, but just what kind of person was she? A Sleepy Afternoon with the Elderly Akyuu, aka character generation process/glimpse of the Good End Gensokyo
[x] So just does Gand decide to do, after the angels leave him and charge after that noise in the dark?
>[ ] So just what does Gand decide to do, after the angels leave him and charge after that noise in the dark?

I swear, if this trend of randomly dropped words in awkward places continues any more I'm just going to
[X] I know that she came from the Outside, but just what kind of person was she?

Seems interesting.
It was his sled silver...

[x]Neither. Stay on target writefag.
He said he was going to make the next update but was gathering opinion on what to do after that.
[Y] Neither. Stay on target writefag.
[X] I know that she came from the Outside, but just what kind of person was she?
I think this style worked decently enough for getting the soul's "viewpoint" across.

>More like Bob the skull from the Dresden Files than a piece of Sai.
Although I wouldn't have minded this at all either.

[x] I know that she came from the Outside, but just what kind of person was she?
Updates delayed while the writefag works from 8:00-22:00 every single day of the week. No, not kidding.
>14 hours
holy shit
Take your time man, don't run yourself into the ground over some stories.
Still waiting warmly though
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… presence. It’s returning. Presence of mind, presence of body, presence of the outside –

There’s a void, though. You don’t feel the same, and that’s not taking into account the horrific trauma you remember undergoing. It feels almost as though as part of you is missing. And yet there’s something… else? Unfamiliar. Something more martial, more rigid, more keen, more – swordlike.

You’re not sure how you feel about that yet.

Regardless, it seems that time didn’t stop while you were out, for things seem to have – happened, for the lack of a better word. “Where were you, Father?! Where have you been all these years?!” Youmu cries. You make a judgment call and refrain from manifesting, instead continuing to lurk in an incorporeal form.

Her father fails to reply immediately. He’s holding one large hand to his side, where his robe is torn and a red stain is growing. You were able to deliver him a solid cut to the ribs, deep enough to cause pain, interfere with breathing, and bleed freely. Not enough to take him out of action, of course – that’s what a ribcage is there for, to protect the more important vital organs. He may possess inhuman strength, but as a creature of flesh and blood, too much damage will shut him down – kill him.

And now he knows that you can hurt him. His overwhelming confidence, that terrifying, all-consuming presence he once had, is a mere shadow of what it once was. The way he holds himself, with his chin up, eyes slanted, and shoulders squared all give the impression of poise, and yet you can tell that those little movements are deliberate and intentional, his apparent cool created by his posture, and not the other way around as true conviction is.

… how was it you that delivered the blow? You were as dead as a spirit can get just minutes ago. At least you think it was minutes.

“Youmu, that’s not of concern right now,” he hisses, his teeth clenched. “I know I did some things wrong, but – “

“I should very well think that this is of concern now!” the phantom swordswoman screeches, advancing three steps closer across the splintered wooden floor. “Your absence for all these years is precisely why you don’t understand the true nature of this situation!” Youmu tosses her head, her own personal presence expanding through the battle-ravaged room, pushing against her father’s. Borne of honest anger, it swiftly crushes her father’s until he seems as insignificant as a man on the gallows, noose around his neck. “Tell me, Father. What precisely brought you here?” She scowls, cutting him off before he can make it past opening his mouth. “And don’t say it was because of me. We both know that’s not why.”

Her father scowls right back, removing his hand from his side to pick his blade back up again. That oversized blade, a clear sign of inhuman nature, compensates slightly for his position, speaking for him where his words fail. “Lady Yuyuko… said that a mage had come and attacked her. Her summons sent me here immediately.” He glances at you, then back at his daughter. “There’s magic corrupting your spirit. Not only can I smell it, but I can see what it’s doing to you. You wouldn’t be talking back to me like this if – “

“Oh – oh!” Youmu is speechless with wrath, knuckles white as they clench her own blade. You don’t have to do a thing; yet again, she practically shouts her father down. “That’s just rich! An entire decade of you just gone, and then the first thing that you do is strike down one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met and expect me to thank you for it – “

“Selfless?! How is killing you and twisting your soul to his whims selfless – just listen to yourself talk!”

“You don’t even know who he is, do you?”

“I can see what he’s done to you, and that’s all I need to see to know that he needed to die!” he splutters, falling back upon self-righteousness. So he does think of what happened as a death.

Youmu lets out a short, humorless bark of laughter. “Maybe if you’d been in Gensokyo some time in the last few years, you’d have a clue! There are hundreds of new faces, not Outsiders from the other side of the Border, but a completely different world. Lord Kawarou is responsible for them; when their world was literally ending, he brought them here to continue living. But wait, you don’t know about that, do you? Do you? No, you were off haring – gods know where, after gods know what!”

Her father swallows. “That is… that… I…”

“And he didn’t kill me!” Youmu spits back. “He hasn’t done anything to me!” Technically incorrect, although she is right in thinking that you’ve done nothing malicious. “Who even told you that?”

“Lady Yuyuko did – “

“Lady Yuyuko has gone mad, have you not seen her?”

“No, I haven’t, but I’m sure that the only one mad here is – “

Lady Yuyuko killed me!

Her father’s jaw actually drops in disbelief. “You’re being absolutely absurd. Lady Yuyuko loves you more than anything. Do you know that she once admitted to me she would rather lose her entire existence rather than see you die?” Youmu looks stung at that; her father presses the attack. “She’s been getting soft; sentimental; tired of her eternal existence without end, of watching people she loves, us, the Konpakus, bloom and fade like the transient sakura – “

A shiver runs down your spine, and you can somehow feel it run down Youmu’s as well. A realization. “And that… explains why she decided to kill me.”

“You make absolutely no sense.”

She holds her arms wide. “Do you wonder exactly what I am, to stand before you now, seemingly solid and living before you?”

Her father blinks. “A ghost, the soul of a deceased body, of course.”

Both you and Youmu take a step forward, making your final, triumphant advance. “But why, then, am I not awaiting judgment at Higan, at the hands of the Yama?”

“Because he bound you here, in defiance of natural order and law.”

This is it; this what you will use to break through to him, to get him to lay down his arms and stand beside you. The hairs on your neck – the both of you, manifested spirits alike – rise up. “Then what do you see in our family sword, Father?” you cry. Youmu reverses her grip on the Hakurouken and swings it across her body, ultimately holding it blade-up as if presenting it to her father.

Wait, did you just call him – Father?

Her father looks nonplussed at that sudden comment, but seems to dismiss it as a strange trick or ploy of yours. That dismissal turns into absolute confusion as he seems to realize the true phylactery nature of the blade. “That – how did you – but that would have taken – “

“ – centuries to create, hundreds of years of layered enchantments to slowly but surely augment the base nature of the weapon without altering or destroying its current properties,” you reply, your knowledge of creation spilling forth in your minds – mind? shouldn’t it be mind, singular? – pointing out a fatal flaw. “There is no way I could have done that – unless you’re implying that all of your ancestors were so negligent as to not notice such a thing happening to something they carried with them until their dying day.”

“No – that’s impossible – “

“But there was one person close enough to perform such a feat. Your very own charge, the very person you were sworn to protect – “

“You cast it in a strange light, Lord Kawarou,” Youmu interrupts you. A moment of discord; both of you reach for your brows simultaneously, with the backs of the same hand, touching the same knuckles to the same spot. “When Lady Yuyuko was controlling me, before you released me – she told us the reason, yes?”

“I believe she was telling me, but you remember as well?”

“I was being controlled, but I was still conscious,” she nods.

She sighs, and turns back to her father. “She loves us, Father – which is why she did what she did with the blade. What she did to me afterwards is caused by something… different.”

“… you didn’t corrupt Lady Yuyuko yourself… did you?” His expression is doubtful, but this time it’s against your guilt, not your innocence.

You spread your arms wide this time. “Do you think I could?”

“… no,” he concedes with a small smile. “The two of you are on complete different levels.”

“But I can tell you what might.”

“Go on.”

“When you were in the gardens, chasing what you thought was me… did you take a good look around?”

“Situational awareness is the most important skill for a bodyguard,” he assures you.

“Did you see the Saigyou Ayakashi?”

“… I… yes?”

Now you’re absolutely sure that her father is under some influence or charm. With a quick gesture, you hit him with a break enchantment. If Yuyuko had been dominating him outright like she had Youmu, you wouldn’t have a hope of unrooting her grasp, but for such a minor alteration in memory…

Your power carries away the tiny seed of misdirection as a tsunami would. And it is like a seed, perhaps a sign of the tree-youkai’s influence on Yuyuko in turn. It was subtle, completely subsumed by Youmu’s father’s personal aura without altering at all, but now that’s gone.

And just like that, a wisp of white boils into existence, coiling around him as if greeting an old friend. It occurs to you now – if Youki is a half-phantom, just like Youmu was before her death, where had it been the entire time?

“… no? No. No! That was all a lie! Gods, what have I done?!” he cries, eyes widening with horror, turning away from the two of you to stare down the path he cut through the walls of the hose, trying to get a glimpse of the gardens beyond all the wreckage but failing. “What happened?!”

You’re about to answer when the roof flies off.


Back. 14 hour workdays suck, and then the chaos of moving into a new apartment and classes starting. I’m starting to settle down now, though, finally, so rejoice! Regular updates should resume, with classes to pace my writing into an actual, real schedule.

And I swear, there will be a vote next update. And before that update, character generation vote continuation.

There will be cake.
Tut-tut, Sai. Forgot the number-one rule of all spellcasters. Always cast Dispel Magic, Break Enchantment, and whatever other magic-dampening effects at your disposal on enemies.


The fact that I forgot as well has no bearing on the situation. He's 900 years older than me, he should know better.
Ah crap now he's gone and soulbonded himself to TWO people. That's gonna be awkward.

And good to know Youki's Idiot Ball wasn't voluntary on his part.
Off my normal schedule due to unforeseen laboratory shenanigans. Should be on track (albeit with a shorter update than normal) within 1-2 days.
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It’s not a gentle affair. Splinters rocket around willy-nilly from the shattering timbers. While the Konpakus raise their arms to protect their faces, you stand resolute, bending a wind wall around the three of you, harmlessly grounding the majority of the deadly storm. Upon realizing that she’s not about to be turned into a pincushion, Youmu bolts from her position beside you out of view. With some disconcertment, you watch two halves of a jagged beam the size of a tree trunk fly past either side of you. You blink in dismay. You should have noticed such a threat long before it got near you.

You’re in abysmal condition, though, so you have an excuse. That simple spell took the last drop of power you had. How much massive trauma have you endured by now?

“Youki, my dear friend… don’t let them fool you,” Yuyuko croons, floating some hundreds of meters in the air above you. Youmu’s father – Youki – blanches and raises his massive blade into a guarding position. You can’t blame him. Yuyuko looks nothing like she did before, with her monochromic eyes, deathly pale skin, and, of course, the aura of Taint so thick you can practically taste it.

Also, her spirit army is back.

“Lady Yuyuko, what are you doing?!” he cries, eyes wide with disbelief. “You’ve – you’re – “

“Realized why I was fated to have this power of mine. I’ve done nothing to hurt anyone – “

“You killed my daughter!” he shrieks. Even though his wrath is no longer aimed at you, you still flinch inwardly in reflex. His phantom half by now has curled itself tightly around his torso, looking all the world like an armored breastplate. Actually – is it armor? It could be.

“Is that such a poor fate? Look at her now! Is she not the very image of beauty?” The girl in question purses her lips and steps away from you to give herself space to fight, raising her own blade as well. Her stance is an exact copy of her father’s, all the angles of her legs, arms, knees, wrists, hands, and even fingers exactly the same. And yet her true status is in the perfection of her imitation; she’s nothing but a manifested spirit, not flesh and blood like the man she learned her technique from. You yourself are barely holding together, your legs and feet unable to decide whether or not they want to remain separate or not; Youmu’s in far better shape than you are.

And… she is beautiful. In her own way – her shorter hair maintains its own feminine dignity instead of looking boyish; her limbs while slender are not gangly and awkward; while muscled, she’s sculpted rather than bulked out. But this is hardly the time to be contemplating aesthetics; you turn your attention back to the matter at hand.

“Does that excuse the act? The perversion of life you’ve given her?” Youki shouts back.

“She will live forever in this state! I’ve given her eternal youth! She should be thanking me!” Yuyuko cries, growing more and more hysterical as she realizes that Youki disagrees with her actions. “You should be thanking me!”

The half-phantom swordsman shakes his head. “No, Lady Yuyuko. The woman I knew would have never been so irresponsible with her power. I know not what happened in my absence, but I cannot possibly regret leaving more.” Youmu glances down from the spirit-filled sky at her father in surprise for just the slightest instant, but says nothing.

Yuyuko doesn’t instantly respond. You watch her expression twist from shock to remorse, and then from remorse to hatred. “I see how it is, dear friend. Of course you can’t understand.” She raises a finger.

… shit!

“You haven’t experienced it yet.”

A torrent of necromantic energy crashes against Youki’s body, so thick it distorts your auravision despite that sense being suppressed. But instead of writhing in death throes, he stands proud, his expression steely. As Yuyuko gapes in surprise, Youki allows himself a grin.

“You really aren’t yourself, are you?” he hisses. “My Lady Yuyuko would have remembered that she was the one who taught me how to strengthen the bonds between my soul and body. How else could I have wandered Hakugyokurou for so long without losing myself?” He gives a grunt that somehow conveys his disdain. “You’re a monster.”

But Yuyuko only responds with a predatory grin. “Oh, maybe I did forget. My mistake. But unfortunately, I made you forget something a very long time ago.”

“You did – what?” he says quizzically, shifting his stance ever so slightly, a movement that belies his unease.

“Oh, you were just a little boy, eager to please… so cute,” she giggles. “You swore that you’d always obey me…”

“But you aren’t her!”

She gives a haughty laugh of triumph. “Does it matter? I know what I did to you then. I have power over you, Youki.”

Another tidal wave of power – even if you were completely uninjured, you don’t think you’d be able to stop it. It’s compulsion, similar to that that controlled Youmu before you protected her with your quicksilvered soul.

And like Youmu before her protection, Youki succumbs.

Youmu hisses in dismay and skitters between the two of you. “Father!” she cries as he shifts his gaze from the sky to you, narrowing his eyes with killing intent. “Don’t – don’t give into her lies! You don’t have to do this!”

“It’s pointless!” Yuyuko cackles. “Now, Youki, cut them both! Make them bleed, make them wish they could die! It’s my power – my right – to control them when they die! Die! Kill them both! If they won’t love me now – I’ll just make them! For my love, Youki – make them love me!”

The incoherency of her shrieking reduces itself to a small buzz in the distance as you take in a deep breath, trying to think of something – anything. No more solid fog, no more walls of force – you’re completely entrusting your life to Youmu… and while she marked him once before, somehow you doubt that she’ll be able to do it again.

Youki leaps, blade already leaving afterimages of itself in your vision as he slashes forward. Youmu takes a step back, already bracing to absorb the massive blow, unwilling to sidestep and leave you open.

And that’s when he seems to trip over thin air, his blade tumbling from suddenly clumsy fingers. You watch as he does a half-tumble, righting himself and regaining a grip on his blade.

A… reversed grip. Meant for sheathing a blade.

And carrying no scabbard, he sheathes the blade within his own body, knees crashing into the splinter-strewn floor right in front of his own daughter.

Yuyuko and Youmu simultaneously let out cries of shock and grief as he pulls the blade sideways through himself, turning a possibly survivable stab wound into a fatal mutilation of his entire torso.

The Hakurouken falls from Youmu’s fingers as she falls to her own knees in front of her father, embracing him without care that he was intent on killing her moments ago. Denial and disbelief escape her lips like water from a stream as her fingers crush themselves into his shoulders and back, but he has no eyes for her, only you.

“My daughter is the most precious thing to me in this world,” he says, as calmly as if the two of you were sharing a pot of tea on the tables overlooking the rock garden, unfazed by the river of blood that begins running from his lower lip. You’re not even sure how he’s able to form words without a functioning set of lungs.

“I understand,” you reply, stepping just beside Youmu and kneeling so that the two of you can talk face-to-face. You should be shocked, but somehow – you know exactly what he’s calling you here for.

“I will be unable to protect her any longer. I ask of you to take her hand, so that she may have someone watching out for her in her future, whatever it may bring.” His daughter’s blubbering words suddenly reverse themselves in a gasp of surprise as she whips her head towards you.

There’s no way you can deny him anything in this state, at least not in this state. “I shall.”

“Swear it.”

You don’t hesitate for a moment. “I swear.”

For a second, his eyes close in quiet satisfaction. “You let an old man die happy,” he sighs. “Youmu?”

“Y-y-y-yes?” she sobs, turning back to him.

“Take your sword – yours, not our family's. Finish me with it. Otherwise, that monster will simply pervert me for her own intentions.” His soul – he wants his soul destroyed, so that nothing of his self remains for Yuyuko to reanimate. He’d literally be nothing more than a sack of flesh without its original owner's knowledge and power - harmless.

“N-n-no. No! Father, you can’t die here, not when I – we – we’ve just seen each other again…!” she cries, fistfuls of his robe in her hands.

“Do it, Youmu! Now! Before I die, while my soul and body are still one… I’m… sorry…” he hisses, voice growing more urgent as his eyes slowly glaze over… as he slips closer to unconsciousness.

He’ll still be alive for a few seconds, but you have to act now.


… it’s all your fault. If only you had never returned…

[ ] Pass the Roukanken to Youmu. He wanted her to do this final act for a reason – to force her to accept his passing in no uncertain terms, and leave no lingering doubt or remorse for later.
[ ] Do the deed yourself. A daughter having to kill her own father is crueler than anything else you can imagine. You’ll take responsibility here in her stead as her betrothed.
[x] Pass the Roukanken to Youmu. He wanted her to do this final act for a reason – to force her to accept his passing in no uncertain terms, and leave no lingering doubt or remorse for later.
[x] Pass the Roukanken to Youmu.

It sucks, but this is between them. We don't have a right to intervene. Hopefully Youmu will realize that she was saving her father from an eternity of slavery.
[x] Pass the Roukanken to Youmu. He wanted her to do this final act for a reason – to force her to accept his passing in no uncertain terms, and leave no lingering doubt or remorse for later.

I feel that this is something she has to do herself.

By the way , any update on the catatonic nine tails ?
[X] Pass the Roukanken to Youmu.
Seems like the right things to do.

She's on standby to rescue us later on in the story.
[X] Pass the Roukanken to Youmu. He wanted her to do this final act for a reason – to force her to accept his passing in no uncertain terms, and leave no lingering doubt or remorse for later.

It's a legitimate request. It's unpleasant, but there's already so much built-up trauma here that I'm not sure that this'll do much more.
[ ] Do the deed yourself. A daughter having to kill her own father is crueler than anything else you can imagine. You’ll take responsibility here in her stead as her betrothed.

Tide pissing simply because I like the sound of betrothed~
[X] Pass the Roukanken to Youmu. He wanted her to do this final act for a reason – to force her to accept his passing in no uncertain terms, and leave no lingering doubt or remorse for later.

Let the dying man have his final wish...
[X] Pass the Roukanken to Youmu. He wanted her to do this final act for a reason – to force her to accept his passing in no uncertain terms, and leave no lingering doubt or remorse for later.

This, too, is for Youmu to grow. :V
[x] Pass the Roukanken to Youmu. He wanted her to do this final act for a reason – to force her to accept his passing in no uncertain terms, and leave no lingering doubt or remorse for later.

You know, I've seen this whole seppuku thing happen in a LOT of stories, But I'd be lying if I said this didnt tug at my heartstrings. You are an impressive motherfucker, balista.
[x] Do the deed yourself. A daughter having to kill her own father is crueler than anything else you can imagine. You’ll take responsibility here in her stead as her betrothed.

I can't help but feel that having a daughter end her father's life is something that one just should not allow. It just seems unconscionably cruel to me.
Does anyone know where I can find the index for all the stories on this site?

I want to read the first two threads of Tainted Bonds.
Click on the storylist link on top of the page.
Please wait while I slap myself for being blind.

They're also linked in the second post... I believe that all the threads have a post of mine linking to the adjacent posts somewhere near the beginning or end.
[x] Pass the Roukanken to Youmu. He wanted her to do this final act for a reason – to force her to accept his passing in no uncertain terms, and leave no lingering doubt or remorse for later.
-[x]"Free him."

If she looks at it as simply killing her father, yes, it's hellaciously cruel. If she looks at it as bettering his lot? Not quite as much. Let's move her viewpoint to a gentler place.
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Votes called. Pic related. Writing now. Please wait warmly~
It seems I can't finish an update on time these days. Chemistry, man, these labs are just stupid time consuming.

Should be up with a vote by Friday night.
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“… no…”



There’s no time for a drawn out explanation. After roughly peeling one of Youmu’s hands off of her father’s shoulder, you thrust the hilt of the Roukanken into her palm. Her fingers limply fold around it without truly gripping it; you cuff the side of her head just hard enough for her to instinctively clench her hand into a fist. “Do it!”

“I – can’t!” she wails, eyes wide and unseeing. It’s a thoughtless response – her mind has frozen, endlessly replaying the events of the last few minutes over and over again in disbelief.

But for the sake of the future, one must move on from the past.

“In a few seconds, your father will become just another one of those puppets above! Would you let that happen to him?!”

“I – no, I wouldn’t – no – “

“Then you know what you must do.” You keep your expression stony, the very image of a judge handing down a sentence.

Youmu squeezes her eyes shut and ducks her head, her shoulders rising up while shaking like leaves upon the wind. For just a second you begin considering your odds of snatching the spirit-killing blade back and doing the job yourself.

For just a second.

Her shoulders stop shaking, but they don’t freeze in fear once again. No, they limberly roll back down into a natural position as she raises her head, her expression matching yours.

Youki’s head bounces when it hits the floor.

“Be at rest, father,” she whispers as the rest of his body gently sags to the floorboards. With a chill, you notice her eyes are no longer… the same. There’s no blatant change; no unusually shaped pupils, no color change in either the iris or the white, no light escaping the sockets. They just… change. As if belonging to a different person.

You don’t have any time to dwell on that further, though. Someone else saw Youki die, and she’s about to throw the mother of all tantrums.

“… no,” Yuyuko sighs, her hands rising to her face. “He would rather… die, than serve me. Didn’t he – didn’t we – I – “

Exactly what they did you’ll never know, because she breaks down, clawing her cheeks while shrieking with what you hesitate to pin down as purely grief, disbelief, or hysteric laughter. “Aha! Ahaha! Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!~ I understand now. This is true power over death, isn’t it? He wasn’t going to go to Higan anyways. He’s just – dead. Gone. Completely. Nothing remains. Isn’t that – just so very – fitting?! The world. It’s against me.”

Her gaze falls back upon you where you stand staring defiantly up at her. “This is all your fault. If it hadn’t been for you… that meddling spirit you pay homage to… even you, Youmu! This is the last time you disobey me! Why should I bother keeping a servant who – kills her own father – turns her back on her own family!”

And the entire sky glows with the aura of ten thousand charging blasts.

“Sai?” Youmu whispers, sliding into a guarding stance. Her old stance – the nodachi and katana one, with the Roukanken in her main hand and the Hakurouken in her left. “Run or fight?”

You look at her upward turned face, consider your options, and sigh. “We have nowhere to run. Even if we fight, Ran and Chen are still in the house. The crossfire alone will kill them.”

“This cannot be the end!” she hisses. Her gaze falls back down to you, full of fire. “If we have no choice, we may as well fight.”

“I do have a choice, though.” You wave your hand loosely; a series of tessellating walls of force begin forming themselves in the sky above you. No, not of force. You haven’t the arcane energy to do so anymore.

No, they’re made of Hope. It’s the only thing you have left, desperately dredged out of your resources when nothing else remains – Ran’s flow of energy is far from enough to fuel casting of this level. There’s nothing in the books about using Hope so directly – that’s a funny thought, as Hope seems to be an invention not even a day old. But you recall Him using Taint in a similar way, if with a different ultimate application; the wound that forced you into undeath earlier was caused by a bolt of pure Taint.

Your walls won’t block projectiles, they won’t disrupt magic requiring a direct line of effect, and they won’t even remain stationary, gently bobbing up and down of their own accord, but that’s okay; against a Taint-powered barrage like the one they currently face, they’ll do exactly what they need to. Unlike their force counterparts, these glow with a faint but warm light, meaning that the phantom girl can see them as well. She narrows her eyes, reaching upwards as if wanting to touch them. The quicksilvered Hakurouken twirls in her hand as she watches the shields of light grow across the sky until they enclose the mansion grounds, hundreds of yards away in all directions.

No words are needed. Youmu kicks off into the sky, blades drawn, and with a final push, you send your Hope flying with her, a final wish to see everyone you know come through this ordeal safely.

You left no such hopes for yourself. Too late, you realize the error of your actions.

Your vision disintegrates in a spray of sakura petals.





[ ] Chen
[ ] Ran
[ ] Youmu


[ ] Kogasa
[ ] Reimu
[ ] Kasen
[ ] Alice
[ ] Marcus
[ ] Shanghai
[ ] Hourai
[ ] Gand
[ ] Doll Legion
[ ] Sanae
[ ] Iku
[ ] Tenshi
[ ] Komachi
[ ] Yukari

And yes, you only get to pick one.

Why, balista? Why? So many choices! And I don't even know what it'll mean!

[X] Ran
[X] Kogasa
May as well get a surprise.
Ran and Yukari respectively. I wish to witness the depth of the Yukari's utter HATE for us.
[х] Ran
[х] Yukari.
[x] Kogasa

Is it a surprise if you're expecting a surprise?
[x] Ran
[x] Marcus
[X] Chen
[X] Komachi

Komachi seems appropriate. Who else but a Shinigami would check up on a rampaging Queen of the Netherworld? Well, besides Yukari checking up on her shikigami.

Actually, can this be like one of those polls where, if your original vote has no chance of winning, it falls to the backup vote? Because, if so, my second choice for cavalry is

[X] Yukari

As much as I desperately want to choose Kogasa, it just doesn't seem to make a lot of narrative sense, and choosing her ruins the surprise, making it completely unsurprising. To us, at least. Maybe not to Sai and Youmu.

The whole family together.
[x] Ran
[x] Yukari

Disreguarding that Sai sort of subverted Ran in a sense, I don't think Yukari should have too much reason to hate Sai. I mean, it's not like it's sort of his fault that Yuyukos been corrupted by the taint or anything, even if it was other him, right? Surely Yukari won't hold him accountable for this.

>Gand option
Oh snap
[x] Chen
[x] Kogasa

Kgasa if we only get one.
[X] Ran
[X] Yukari

Must...resist...voting for Kogasa

Surprise, bitches.
When I said only pick one... I meant one total, from both lists. I made a subdivision that really didn't need to be there, and as I can see most of you took that as "vote once in both categories".

All multiple votes will be counted as multiples for now, but in order to create a clearer majority I'd like for further votes to only pick one choice, despite the apparent existence of two categories.

This is for who will be the next update's point of view, to clarify things. Not who you'd like to see in the story. That latter decision has already been made. Every single one.
It'd be nice to get some cavalry, but I dunno who'd notice a disaster taking place solely in Haku.


Maybe she'll be able to wake Yukari.
[X] Marcus

Guize, why have we forgotten our cleric?
[X] Iku

[x] Youmu
[x] Yukari

I would vote for Marcus or the Doll Legion, since one makes perfect sense and the other is fuck awesome, but all these kogasa votes forced me to vote for Yukari.
[x] Komachi

I want to see what's going through her mind during all this.
It's like he can't take two steps without dying these days.

[X]Komachi, because we all need more Komachi.
[ ] Marcus

His PoV wshould explain a lot of things.
While Kogasa would no doubt be surprising to us, I feel that it would be an even greater surprise were she to show up without being voted in. Therefore...


I've been wondering what, exactly, is going on with the former and what the reaction of the latter will be.

Who? It may just be the combination of exhaustion and the late time but I cannot place the name.
[x] Gand

About time he shows up in this story, gand god damn.
[X] Marcus
[x] Kogasa

Well then, surprise me, willya?
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Thaat spoiler tag....I just...can't...wait. My body is ready. I would be delighted to see your take on the characters.
Seconded. Waiting at approximately 9001 degrees. (For the vote to be called.)

You guys do know that if you vote Kogasa, it won't be a surprise, right?
Kogasa is always a Kogasa.
I'm disapointed with how people forgot that bonding experience Komachi had earlier.
See title. I don't get free time this week until Thursday, so I may as well declare my intentions early to get the last stragglers in.

Also, I see what you did there. You surprised me with the amount of Kogasa voting.

>It's like he can't take two steps without dying these days.

Once you get used to life after death, death starts becoming an everyday occurrence.


To be truthful, I done fucked up my pacing. The short was supposed to have been resolved by now, before this moment in the story.

It won't really affect anything in the writing except a not-quite-a-cameo-kinda-minor-role-but-definitely-backstage role.

[ ] Spoiled mode. The short will still get finished at some point in time (the guilt of this timing failure will probably drive me to update it rapidly after this update), but I'll lay down the SparkNotes version just so I feel better about reader information.
[ ] Spoilers mode. Fuck no, leave the story to unfold as it gets written!
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>checks the /short/


No votes?

[ ] Spoiled mode. The short will still get finished at some point in time (the guilt of this timing failure will probably drive me to update it rapidly after this update), but I'll lay down the SparkNotes version just so I feel better about reader information.
Could'va sworn I voted already myself. Oh well.

[x]EZ modoSpoiled mode
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[X] Chen 2
[X] Ran 11
[X] Youmu 1
[X] Kogasa 5
[X] Marcus 4
[X] Iku 1
[X] Komachi 4
[X] Yukari 9


Votes called. Pic related. Writing... in a few days. Please wait warmly~

By the way, SPOILED MODE is coming up in /shorts/.
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Long overdue update is long overdue, but also long. I hope that makes up for the tardiness a little bit.



[X] Ran





… Sai…?







… Sai…!


… Sai is dying!


And as easily as breathing, the haze around your mind melts away, as if boiled away by the phantasmal heat.

Status: laying supine. Wood floor. Scent of seasoned timbers in the air. Far stronger than normal, corresponding to an increased amount of exposed surface. Increased amount of exposed surface due to general structural failure in the vicinity, creating jagged shapes and fragments. Simultaneously, the wet, damp smell of earth all around. A cellar – you were carried underground, yes – but again, the scent of earth is too strong. Too much surface area. There are probably craters surrounding you – surrounding, and not underneath you. If they were underneath you, you wouldn’t still be alive.

You raise a hand and carefully brush splinters and clods of earth off your face before sitting up, feeling a few errant floorboards slide off your front as you do so. Satisfied that your face is clear, you open your eyes to a scene of ruin. You had been carried into the basement and warded by Sai – but Sai – Sai is –

It burns! Is this how Lady Yukari felt when Sai stole you away? No, it couldn’t have been like that. That was clean, quick; it hurt for both of you, but it only lasted an instant before you were recontracted to Sai. You squeeze your eyes shut when the pain intensifies, a sensation not unlike your blood boiling. Something is attempting to sever your shikigami bond, and failing.

Sliding your legs into a crossed sitting position, you shake your head and body a bit, letting your hair and tails flick out and dust themselves off slightly before settling into a meditative position. Ignoring the sounds of whistling bolts and booming explosions in the sky up above, you shut your eyes again, and dive into your own mind.

What you ‘see’ initially makes you sick to your stomach. Connected to your own mind of roiling fire and water – and now shining orbs and flows of Hope – in perfect counterbalance are two links. One is a perpetual tornado so strong it keeps itself clear of the rivers of liquid that surround it – that’s Chen, the zephyr in both mind and body. The other is a literal iron pipe, stoic and unmoving – or it would be, if it weren’t currently being choked by vines and ivy so thick you can hardly tell there’s something underneath.

Immediately, you know what that must be. Some attack from the Saigyou Ayakashi, even if it hadn’t announced itself as such. Without even a moment’s further thought, you hurl fire against it, overwhelming it with nothing more than your literal identity. At this level, there are no impossibly complex spells to weave, no chants or mantras to be cast – combat is purely done through force of personality.

And you are mad that something dares strip your servant away from you. That anger – that anger is what roused you out of your comatose stupor, the stupor that Sai’s magical recharge had thrown you into.

The intrusion doesn’t stand a chance. As if truly nothing more than weeds, and not the merely the projected avatar of an outside power, they crumble to ash, leaving behind a series of dark stains upon the surface of the metal. You bring rivers of water near them to attempt and scrub them away, but before you actually make contact you recoil away. Taint. It’s Taint, an energy so strong it cannot be destroyed, so persistent it cannot be cleansed. You can tell that it’s attempting to seep into the metal as if to corrode it, but instead it merely bubbles and pops, as if the pipe itself is rejecting it.

Like ants seeking a meal, the orbs of light floating nearby gravitate towards the stains. Wherever they contact, they spark and hiss against each other, destroying each other in equal amount. But there’s far more of you than there is of it, and within seconds the pipe is clean, if looking somewhat worse for the wear.

But that’s merely Sai’s link to you, and already fresh tendrils are creeping out of the inside back around the lip. Your physical body shudders in reflexive revulsion – how badly has Sai been overwhelmed?

It’s clear what you have to do now. By marshaling your focus, you gather your fire, your water, your Hope, and then twist it together into a torrent of iridescent steam. Another moment of focus, and it blasts into the entrance, instantly withering the creepers and wiping the Taint from existence.

You travel through… and in the blink of an eye, you’re within Sai’s mind once more. It’s a scene of horror, compared to its former iron glory. There are no more fragments of crystalline thought orbiting around anymore – they’ve been replaced by floating seeds, tufted not with white filaments but black miasmas. The rivers of molten steel have been choked with roots, the surface carpeted with leaves. You can only imagine the mental duress that he’s under. The only thing still resembling its former state is his solid core. You watch a cluster of seeds gravitate towards its surface as if borne upon an invisible wind, sprouting instantly upon contact and throwing out tendrils all over. As stems and leaves begin to unfurl, though, the metal surface seems to surge outward, despite not actually moving – whatever the case, the vegetation suddenly melts into so much black ooze. The Taint lingers for a moment, but then evaporates away, mutually destroying itself against the Hope within.

So he still has a little Hope left. Just a little bit.

Hope. Hoping for someone to come and save him.

… of course you will!

Sai’s mindscape turns into fireball as you expand yourself within, touching Hope-infused flames anywhere the Taint has spread – which is to say, everywhere. The pain that you felt earlier, Sai’s pain, is your inspiration as you project that sensation into a cleansing wave. The Tainted ash swirls amongst the air currents produced by the flames as if attempting to escape, only to be caught and pinned down by torrents of purifying water, leaving no traces behind. But the damage is done; with his mind in this state, he won’t regain consciousness until someone goes back and painstakingly heals the warps and corrosion left behind.

It can’t take more than a few seconds by Hakugyokurou’s time to finish the job, but when your eyes reopen, your robes are sodden with sweat. The pain is still there, still as fresh as it was the moment you woke up, still intense enough to tempt you into unconsciousness to escape it. The pain of the Saigyou Ayakashi attempting to destroy Sai was just as painful, yes, but not more so – a second pain, but one of the same intensity. That pain, however, dragged you back out of your coma, instead of driving you into one.

And right then and there, you feel your will harden. You won’t succumb. Not again. You almost lost Sai because you succumbed to it once. You won’t do that again.

Exhaling hard, you stand up, looking back up through the hole in the cellar’s ceiling – through the room above’s ceiling – through the roof. A burst of pinkish needles and a streak of lightning crisscross a line of black bolts heading in the opposite direction, and then a cluster of disproportionately small figures jet towards the source of those black bolts, wildly firing off their magic-infused firearms. You can feel, rather than hear, the mansion protest as stray shots, either aimed at lower-altitude foes or knocked astray by various magics, collide with it.

You recognize Reimu’s trademark Persuasion Needles, and Iku’s control of the atmosphere – and those were Alice’s dolls. Therefore, the barrier must have been broken… and from the sound of things, those three are only a few out of the people to have responded. You’re actually more surprised that the mansion hasn’t been completely annihilated simply from stray fire at this point.

Hakugyokurou has been turned into a warzone.

A few carefully placed blasts widen the three holes above you, and then you’re floating up, up, up into the sky above. Automatically, you start dodging errant shots, spinning, rolling, banking as you rapidly ascend the thousand or so feet needed to have freedom to maneuver. Superman “Soaring En no Ozunu” flows throughout your body, amplifying your physical aptitude until it seems that the enemy’s shots are travelling slower than leaves to the ground on a still autumn day.

Chen? you hazard. You know your other shikigami is alive, if somewhat weakened from an earlier wound – Youki. Youki had ambushed her, yes. But she seems to be alive and well, and –

Lady Ran! Even mentally, her normally bubbly tone is dampened, almost as if she’s exhausted. We need help! Where’s Sai?

You feel a guilty twinge. Maybe if you had been stronger, you could have resisted the pain from earlier. Sai is incapacitated for now. The Saigyou Ayakashi tried to subvert him. He’ll recover, but until I can repair the damage he’s in no condition to fight.

… then…

I will be sufficient for this. Brief me on the situation.

Chen may be silly at times, but she, and no other, is your shikigami for more than sentimental reasons. A flow of pure, raw information begins to flow through your bond, her memories and experiences through a nekomata’s heightened senses. Cracking your figurative knuckles, you get to work dissecting it.

How prepared your allies are for this? Do they know just how dangerous Taint can be? From the relatively conservative way they’re fighting… they seem to. Although initially the sky seems to be nothing more than a maelstrom, you soon pick out a border between two groups; one of uniformly skeletal Tainted spirits surrounding an increasingly annoyed looking Lady Yuyuko, and the other of Gensokyo natives, perhaps a dozen and half again of them, a rainbow of color against the lavender sky. Exchanging shots at what might be considered arm’s length in a danmaku battle, neither side seems to be able to conclusively outmatch the other.

While Lady Yuyuko’s Tainted spirits are far inferior offensively and defensively, taking hit after hit while only able to return fire in blind mass volleys, their Tainted forms are for the most part able to regenerate every single attack. Only a few attacks seem to be effective, but there’s not enough of them; they have all the effect of raindrops upon a stone. Chen has received a dosage of Hope, but her black magic is hardly as good as yours, and Lady Yuyuko is able to deflect her attacks in time given the range. She needs to close to melee range to truly be effective, but that’s hardly an option given the amount of shots being exchanged.

The horned hermit Kasen is in similar straits; with a mighty punch she was able to completely banish a spirit to wherever she does – wherever that is – causing it to leave its Taint behind, but then that Taint adhered to her arm, and unlike Chen, she’s not Hope fortified. She made a judgment call and amputated it high on the shoulder before it could spread any further, and seems to have contented herself with launching shots from afar.

Even at the relatively long distance, surely more of your allies must have taken hits, yes? You scan the flow of information to find whatever abjurations are protecting them. Alice’s dolls are present in force, and it seems that she’s delegated those not busy behind the barrels of firearms into interceptors, floating in small knots around each person, carrying large shields to block incoming shots. Additional divine magics beyond your scope of knowledge have been woven as well – Alice’s husband seems to be responsible for those. But what protected them while entering? Continuing to scan through Chen’s memory, you see that they had to filter in through a series of portals that Lady Yukari was finally able to force through the border. Surely that must have been a window of vulnerability – ah.

There has been one fatal casualty. They say that playing danmaku is like playing in the rain, and not getting wet. And those who cannot dodge the rain, yet still wish to remain dry… carry…

Nothing’s left of her than a few splinters of her handle, to which a couple of scraps of blue cloth still remain. The traces of divine magic still hover over it – she must have been expanded somehow to act as a shield for the entire party while they deployed.

Lady Yukari ported them in – and she’s also here in person. Of course she would be – Lady Yuyuko is a personal friend of yours. She’s been contributing both offensively and defensively with shot redirection, either shifting allied spellcards to point-blank range to give the enemy no time to dodge or swallowing up enemy volleys and spitting them out in safe directions. You fear her wrath when this is all settled and done – no, concentrate on the now, or else this will only be settled after more deaths! Chen has positioned herself at her side. She reported to your own master in your stead while you were incapacitated – you won’t waste time trying to explain the situation to her.

Satisfied that you’ve familiarized yourself with what you’ve missed, you turn you attention back to the battle at hand, and not of a few minutes ago. Your ascent doesn’t go unnoticed. Several spirits peel away from the main body, making throwing motions as they fire at you. Austerity Sign “Eighty Million Holy Boards” smashes them into mist – literally, as the cascading waves of rectangular shots delivers a payload of Hope, reverting their Tainted forms to those normal spirits, which is to say dopey and confused at the current situation. You can see Lady Yuyuko stare in surprise, but before she can reach forward and take control of them again, those spirits disappear into a gap, evacuated far out of reach.

That gets the attention of those from Gensokyo. Shouts of surprise, then encouragement ring out, and Lady Yukari immediately contacts you in turn. Ran! You can tell she must be swallowing demands of explanation. … you seem to have a way of freeing these spirits. Continue!

Baring your teeth in a grin, you begin preparing your next attack, now strengthened even further by the command. Lady Yuyuko seems to panic, peeling away from your allies to bring her force to bear upon you and you alone.

“For Lady Yukari!” you cry. Butterfly Sign “Swallowtail Butterfly Pattern’s Death Spear flies forth alongside a massive wave of Tainted shots from her spirits to meet your Secret Sign “Hierarch’s Arcanum”. But she’s turned completely away from your allies – Chen and Youmu dive in, shredding through dozens of her spirits in seconds as portals swallow up the newly freed ones in fistfuls. Shrieking in anger, Lady Yuyuko turns her forces once again in unison to target them as they disengage, spiraling back to the safety of their lines as opposed to taking the same portals out to intentionally taunt her and draw her attention. Knowing an opportunity when it’s handed to you on a silver platter, you broadside her forces from within with Shikigami “Wizard Fox Thoughts”, deploying an outward-firing source of shots to deal massive damage. If Lady Yuyuko had been paying attention, she could have sacrificed a few spirits while withdrawing the rest, or simply have blasted it and ended its shooting spree prematurely. But instead, her forces scatter in a blind attempt to minimize the damage.

And that leaves her unshielded, open and vulnerable.

Almost immediately she’s blasted hundreds of feet downward by the combined might of your allies. Without Hope behind those shots, her body underneath the her now-ruined robes is apparently no worse for the wear, the Taint repairing her undead body in the blink of an eye – but she’s disoriented.

Your mind instantly takes in millions of variables, taking into account psychology, metallurgy, meteorology, and more to assemble the plan with the highest rate of success you can manage. “Youmu! On my mark!” you call out.

Lady Yuyuko curses and unleashes ”Death Butterfly, Floating Moon”, focusing the majority of the shots towards her former servant. But it’s a ruse – Youmu is already retreating for safety, swatting aside the deadly orbs with her blade, while it’s actually Chen rifles through the deadly beams behind her, borne upon Flight Sign “Flight of Idaten” to make her hundreds of times faster, letting her deliver Direction Sign “Kimontonkou” at point-blank range before retreating just as fast. You can see the Taint literally being blown out of her, the white light of the hundreds of shots seemingly knocking dark clouds of her body as the two elements mutually destroy each other.

Just as quickly she turns her back to attempt and respond in kind to Chen... but she turns her head back towards you just in time to watch the first beams of Shikigami’s Shot “Ultimate Buddhist” whip towards her.

Her body flies upwards, borne by a thousand explosions of Hope against Taint. Yet even that is not enough to cleanse her, for she throws out her arms and legs, slowing her tumble into a controlled roll until she slows to a stop. Face contorted, she tries to put up one last defense –

And the Hakurouken sprouts from her chest like a silver sapling as Youmu clears hundreds of meters in a single lunge.

For a second, all is quiet. Lady Yuyuko folds her arms back inward, plucking at the blade, nicking her bloodless fingers against the edge. The last dregs of Taint bleed from the wound, sparking and disappearing against the steel.

“… thank you… all… for saving me… from myself…”

Her eyelids flutter, and what initially appears to be black, coagulated blood floods out from around her eyes, draining out until the color of her irises fades to a dull grey. And then the magics keeping her aloft unravel, and she slides off the sword, body limp. She doesn’t fall more than two inches before Youmu wraps an arm around her, gently bearing her body back to earth.

The Battle for Hakugyokurou is over.
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… hot…

… soft…

… wet…

… hissing…

… steam…

It’s still steaming. Why is it still steaming? You were cleansed of that damned tree’s attack a long time ago. So why do you still feel water droplets over your… body?

“But what happened to her soul?” you hear your voice croak of its own accord. You can taste water on your lips. You’re laying flat on your back – mostly flat. Your upper body is inclined slightly upward.

Something shifts underneath your head. “Oh? You spoke!” That thing – is warm and soft. Not perfectly smooth, though. Furred. Like your old bed. Your bed didn’t smell this good though.

You… spoke?

Your eyes snap open to a rather heavenly view of Ran’s torso and beaming face from about waist level and – you immediately squeeze them shut again. Not that that helps you much. Your blindsense is drinking in every inch of your surroundings of its own accord – you seem to be in a wooden-floored and walled bathhouse, and in Ran’s lap.



“… never mind.” You’re not about to contemplate just why she decided to wake you up without any clothes on in here of all places. Not that you have any on either.

“Would you prefer me to continue replaying the events for you, or would you simply prefer to talk?”

As tempting as the first option is, now that you’ve awoken you feel a strange aversion to being so deeply immersed in memory once again. “… just talk. I’d prefer to feel like I’m still conscious.”

“I understand,” she replies, not questioning your decision.

A thousand questions all starting with “why” float around your mind, but you decide to change the subject before this conversation goes in a direction that you are scared to contemplate don’t want to think about for now. Instead, you try and focus on what you were asking earlier. Still keenly aware of your position, with your head pillowed on a couple of curled tails, you ask again, “So what happened to Yuyuko’s soul? Did it go to Higan, or is it getting preferential treatment somehow?”

You can feel her nod, a slight up and down sway in the lap underneath you. “Yes, it did indeed go there. Lady Yukari is there right now, bargaining with the Yama and explaining the situation.”

“… is the Yama angry at what happened?” you hazard.

She pinches her lips. “She’s apoplectic. Such a breach of Hakugyokurou’s security is a serious matter. It sets a dangerous precedent.”

You sigh. “She and Jizo… she’s going to want my head for what he’s done.”

“I made it very clear that while Jizo may be your original mind, the you here talking with me is nothim. If the Yama has any grievances with Jizo, then she can take them up with him, not you.” She’s acting… very protective of you. It must be something deeper, she’s acting strange is probably just the instinctive nature of a master to her shikigami.

“I still shouldn’t even be here,” you sigh.

“Stop that. You’re here right now, and that’s what matters. Jizo may have made a huge error, but if you hadn’t been here, the entire scenario could have ended far more tragically. I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit – “

“Everything was supposed to end with me and Him. I killed Him, I sealed myself away, it was supposed to be the end of that story, and people are still dying because of us.” Youmu, and the umbrella youkai you don’t even know the name of, but its death is still hanging on your conscience –

“You’re already far more comfortable with death than I’m comfortable with,” your master chides you. She wiggles her thighs to disturb your headrest, as if to punish you that way. “Can you think of anything else for a minute?”

You can think of a lot of other things, actually Perhaps you should concentrate on your current status, then. “I’ll take it I’ve recovered from the attack?”

“Yes. It took a lot of work to heal you back to a state where you could think straight again. The Ayakashi really did a number on you.”

“… what kind of damage was it?”

Her fingers trace your brow in a gentle caress, and you shiver, wanting more shaking your head slightly to dislodge them. “General psychological damage. Destruction of logical processes; eventually, they would have replaced with its own. I should have never let it get that far.”

“It’s not your fault. You were indisposed.” You wrinkle your brow. “You were just in time. You found something that was worth awaking for?”

She takes in a quick breath, hesitating oh gods she awoke only after you were attacked it’s you isn’t it what are you supposed to do about that probably because the question was too personal. You rush to fill in the space before the silence strings out too long. “Anyways, that sounds too complex to simply… heal.”

“… you forget where your mind initially came from, Sai.” The blood rises in your cheeks as you recall Jizo’s explanation. “I reforged, recast, retempered the parts of your mind that it twisted out of shape.” The reason she’s about to do such a feat so casually… it’s a longwinded, preposterous one: that during Ran’s servitude underneath you, your mind had imprinted itself onto hers deeply enough for her to unconsciously reassemble it. But the fact that you’re laying in her lap here right now, once again restored to your normal thinking state… a second demonstration of Ran’s ability to restore you is only lending that reason further credence. “How many hours have I been out?”

She pauses for a second, as if contemplating how to break the news to you. “By Gensokyo time… a few hours. By this demiplane’s time… about a day.”

Demiplanes. You’ve had it with these godforsaken time-distortions on these godforsaken demiplanes. “… so, where is this demiplane?”

“Mayohiga. The stray house found at the end of a lost man’s path. For me, Chen, Lady Yukari – this is home.” There’s a hint of pride in her voice at that.

“That description is fitting, isn’t it?” you muse.

“You’re not lost anymore,” she suddenly whispers, as if telling a secret. Her fingers slide down your wrist, and find your hand. Automatically, you open it, and she holds it in a closed-finger grip, giving it a quick squeeze.

It’s enough to make you want to “So, the rest of the spirits?” you ask.

“After Lady Yuyuko fell, her spirits stopped putting up any sort of resistance. It was easy enough for me, Chen, and Youmu to cleanse the remaining spirits.”

“Did they get taken to Higan as well?”

“No, they simply returned to their stay in Hakugyokurou as before. Yuyuko is a… special case. Being actually resurrected and rebound to her original body, she needs to go through the entire procedure once more.”

“… her actual body?”

Ran sighs. “Lady Yukari kept a secret from me, one that if I had known… maybe this entire fiasco could have been averted. The Saigyou Ayakashi was sealed… but part of that seal was Lady Yuyuko’s soul. She was buried underneath its roots.”

“But Yuyuko – she walked with us, she ate, she – “

“All merely a projection. Ghosts are strange creatures.”

You find yourself wishing that the relationships between the mind, body, and soul were universal law. “And so Jizo set her free with all that Tainted mana. Smart. How very smart,” you drawl bitterly.

“Calm yourself. None of us knew.”

“If he’s so powerful, shouldn’t he have noticed something like that?”

“Everyone makes mistakes, Sai,” she scolds you. “Even super-powered deities.” You’re reminded of your deception of Marcus’s Lady, and you sigh, ceding the point. “And something good still came out of it,” Ran says, squeezing your hand again. Her fingers press against the creases between yours, but you resolutely keep your fingers together. You really want to lace fingers with her to feel closer together don’t want things to escalate. “Hope. He gave us Hope.”

“Hope,” you repeat, looking into your mindscape for just a second. To shield Youmu’s initial attack, you threw most of it out into a series of walls, which in retrospect may not have been the wisest idea, seeing as it left you vulnerable to attack from another party –

“The Saigyou Ayakashi is free, isn’t it?”

Ran’s jaw clenches as her fingers squeeze down on yours. “It is, and it’s escaped into the planes. Jizo has taken responsibility. He’s out of contact for now, but he swore to us that he won’t stop hounding that monster of youkai until he brings it down and purifies the Taint it escaped with – and any Taint that it spreads.”

“… he’s starting to sound more like a god with every passing moment,” you sigh. “As narrow-minded as the rest of the. Portfolio: cleansing Taint. I’m worried that he’ll take that goal too far.”

“Nonsense. You may merely be a shadow of what he is –”

“Gee, thanks,” you mutter sarcastically.

You can feel Ran’s disapproval. “ – but I’m sure that he has nothing but good intentions. I’m not sure I’ve said this yet, but – “ She swallows. No, no, please don’t say what you think she’s going to say –

“I admire you, Sai. My first impression of you may have extremely harsh, but – you meant for it to be like that. Because I wouldn’t have helped you otherwise – and we then we wouldn’t be here right now. And when you revealed what your plan actually was, I – I became interested in you. Your past. Your history. The way you thought, the things that might have driven you into making such sacrifices, without asking anything of anyone – your drive to destroy yourself because you had come to conclusion that that would better the world.”

“Don’t you dare idolize me!” you snap, bolting upright, almost slamming the top of your head into her chin. You scowl into her face, only to be met with a similar expression. Her hand lets go of yours to try and restrain your wrist, and you automatically reverse the hold, painfully pinning the limb to the bench. She winces, but only responds by grabbing your shoulder; again, you reverse the attack, your other hand swatting aside her hand. The parry sends it high, and you pin it down in turn by body-checking her with your own, twisting your hips into a full body blow. She doesn’t even try to remain upright, letting herself fall to the bench, her crossed legs flying open. You in turn twist your legs so that you gain mobility, throwing yourself forward to keep her controlled with your own body weight, using your lower legs to lock down her knees.

She stares up at you, defiant, and your anger suddenly flows out of you as quickly as it rose. Ashamed of your lack of control, you let go of her, carefully balancing your knees in the space between her legs while bracing your hands to either side of her head. She was so… soft, especially in two spots, except for those two points against your own chest.

“I don’t think your mindset is healthy, Sai,” she declares, eyes hard. “I want you value yourself. To believe that you’re worth something. That you have a life worth living.”

“I – I…” You stammer, and look away. “I’m sorry I’m troubling you.”

“Stop being sorry for yourself, then.”

“I’m sorr – “ Your breath leaves you in a single laugh as you realize the silliness of your next apology. This was supposed to just be you defending yourself, but it seems to have taken a… completely different turn.

“Sai?” Her eyes are warm now, just like the rest of her body. “It’s okay. Just try to be a little happier for me, alright?”

“… I’ll try.”

“Good boy.”

“I’m not a child,” you automatically retort, but a chuckle escapes alongside of it, one that she matches with one of her own.

“No, no you aren’t,” she admits. “If you were a child… I wouldn’t…”

Her arms slide down from above her head back towards her sides no, they slide underneath your own arms until she links her arms together, hugging you closer. Surprised, you can’t resist, letting your arms fold downward until your bodies are pressing together once again. Her tails come up and around, stroking gently across your sides and back, causing you shudder.

She wants more than just a hug Maybe you can allow her this moment of intimacy before you break free. Maybe she’ll just be satisfied with this, and then you can ask for a moment of privacy until something goes down shit, it’s too late, she can hardly not notice that when it’s betraying you, pressing against her abdomen without caring what your mind is thinking.

Feeling your voice tighten, you ask, “Ran… can you let go of me…?”

She responds by squeezing her eyes shut, violently shaking her head, and nestling it into your shoulder. After a few seconds, she raises it, pressing her lips into your neck. Her tongue briefly traces across your skin.

yes, yes, yes, yes, yes wait no what shitshitshitshitshitshitshitshitshitshitshitshitshitshitshitshitshit



[X] No. No, this is too fast.

Not that you don’t think Ran is a good person, or that she isn’t nice, but you don’t – you can’t – you can’t help but shiver as her hands and tails begin stroking up and down your back. Even her legs begin participating as she curls them inward, pressing the insides of her thighs against the outsides of yours, firmly pushing against your calves with the insoles of her feet. Her skin is warm, smooth, and soft, and before you know it you’re turning your head towards hers.

Maybe you were trying to tell her to stop, to let you think about what the two of you are doing, that this is the sort of thing that should only be done after marriage after you get to know each other better. Instead, your lips find hers, and for a few seconds everything is hot and warm and wet. You break away slightly to catch your breath – even though you don’t actually need it, but you feel like you need it – and your foreheads press together, the tips of your noses bumping together. Those tips then rub back and forth across each other as you mutually swivel left, right, left again, pecking at each other’s lips in a series of quicker, close-mouthed kisses.

One of her legs abandons its position as she plants the sole of her foot against the bench for leverage. You find yourself being pushed upright, with her pressed against your side, your left arm firmly embedded within her bosom. With a heartstoppingly hungry grin on her face, she plants two kisses on your temple and cheek before rising from her seat. You automatically try and rise with her, but she stops you with a hand on your chest, maintaining pressure until you stop trying, swallowing hard as you watch her take several deliberate steps away from you. She keeps her back to you, teasing you by feigning inattention. At least you have an unobstructed view of her legs, her back, her butt – no, not even that, as her tails fan out in a large circle, completely obscuring her from view.

For a few seconds, she simply stands there, letting the tension rise. You find yourself leaning forward with bated breath. And then she raises her arms out to either side, turning around… just as her tails curl around her body, covering her like a garment, albeit a skimpy one as her arms are completely uncovered, while her legs are visible up to mid-thigh – to say nothing of all the tantalizing glimpses of her belly and sides that her tails don’t quite cover.

And then she dances.

Something – something isn’t right here. You have will stronger than this, so why…?

Her arms sway hypnotically sway back and forth as her feet point on the wooden boards, sending her body writhing several steps to the side. You hadn’t thought about it earlier, but she’s not wearing her normal cloth cap on her head, exposing the pointed fox ears on the top of her head. She makes statements with the smallest parts of her body; the angles of her feet relative to the ankle, her fingers alternately curling into circles, closing to emphasis the backs and palms of her hands, or pointing to bring attention to other parts. Parts like the curves of her hips, her calves, the blades of her shoulders – every part of her is simply enchanting. Her body is rounded in all the right places, but it’s also fit – she’s no sedentary stay-at-home mage.

She brings her feet together while stretching her hands towards the ceiling, then takes a quick flurry of steps towards you so small and close together she practically seems to float towards you. Leaning forward, she lets the tops of her breasts come into view by letting one of the two tails covering them slide off – not just slide off, but bend towards you, gently stroking the underside of your chin. Before you can lose control, though, she leaps away like a sprite, most of her tails flicking away from her body for balance, giving you the quickest glimpse of the body underneath before she absorbs the energy of the landing with a spin, collapsing to the floor in a sitting position.

This is an enchantment. Not an obvious one of arcane energy, but a far more basic, primal one.

From there, she rolls her body in a series of teasing positions; crawling towards you, only to turn on her knees to treat you to a view of her entire body from the side. The one tail she let loose from her body is joined by another, revealing even more skin underneath, and then a third. From there, she curls her torso up, hugging her knees closer to her chest in a sitting position before kicking those legs out again. Only one tail is left on her body, wrapped around her breasts, and she grins as she shifts that away, letting the four free tails fan out behind her in a display as her breasts slip free, thrust boldly forward towards you. In a deliberate move, she lets her knees fall to either side, spreading her for your viewing pleasure – that is, if two tails didn’t snake their way over her lower body just in time.

Laughing, she rolls onto her stomach from there, her legs still spread in a wide V. Slowly shifting her weight to the balls of her feet, she pushes off the ground with her arms about a foot, then suddenly folds those arms behind her back. In a move that must demand an impossible amount of core strength, she pulls herself upright into a standing position from there, keeping her upper body parallel to the floor as it rises up. Two tails curve outwards then back towards each other to cross right in front of her sex, still keeping her shielded as she demonstrates her agility.

Once her legs are straight, she twists her upper body to the side, turning her face back towards you. One leg kicks up into an angle, and she begins swaying back and forth once more.

The kitsune crosses her arms in front of her, hugging her own hips while throwing her head back as if in ecstasy – you hear her actually sigh a little bit before she throws a sultry glance at you, as if asking why you haven’t… “helped” her with her frustration yet.

It’s not just an enchantment. Whether she knows it or not, she’s tugging at your shikigami bond, making it seem as if it would be a far better idea to sit there and let your urges build rather than attempting to avert your gaze.

And then all the tails are off her body as she relies instead on shielding herself from a distance as she continues to dance, making an exaggerated walk sideways across your field of view with her fingers laced above her head, each step causing a wave to rise up throughout her entire body, flawlessly transferring the energy from her ankles to her knees to her hips, through her entire spine, and then her shoulders, elbows, wrists, and fingers. She retraces her half her path backwards with a gentle pirouetting motion, giving you tantalizing, tiny glimpses of her bosom, rear, and mound where you can get them between the tails that are now whipping around her independently of her body like wide ribbons. But when she would cross directly in front of you, she stops, and shifts her movement to bring her directly in front of you. Hands across her own body as if to shield herself from your view once more, she finishes revealing herself as her tails return to their customary relaxed position in a loose fan behind her. But instead of covering herself, she grabs herself, moaning as she teases her own rosy nipples, and… the finger she brings up from her crotch to before your face is slick, and not with sweat.

Only now do you remember to swallow. You can’t tell if your mouth is dry with anticipation or moist with hunger.

Lowering her head, she glances significantly downwards at your arousal, as if pleased at the reaction she’s wrung from you. Sinking to her knees, she keeps her head down as she rests her fingertips on your knees, easing them aside as she scoots into the newly available space. Gently thrusting her chest forward to emphasize her breasts while turning her head back upwards, she graces you with a mischievous smile. Her arousal-slicked finger points forward and touches your sternum, sliding down, down, down, down…




[X] Let her have her way with you.


inb4 take this shit to /at/

I’m bad at writing erotic dancing. None of this part was proofed, so if there are any glaring errors, eh.
Kogasa is dead. Were you surprised?

....Me gusta.
It wasn't a bad display of dancing. Definitely looking forward to the next part.
Hells Bells, was that epic!
Your Ran is a total Badass and I was grinning through all the update(s)!

I'm fully aware of the fact that this isn't a real vote, but I'm still voting.
You're a terrible person & I'm a terrible person for laughing at that.

I liked the use of strike-through in the second part.
Not sure if I like the way this is headed. Let's see where it goes, I guess.
[x]"Ran, I'm gay."

I mean, Marcus was our 'best' friend.

File 134985172743.png - (383.07KB, 600x480 , 3eb9ef326e865e72eb61b231dade7657.png) [iqdb]
>Nothing’s left of her than a few splinters of her handle, to which a couple of scraps of blue cloth still remain.

Kogasa, we never even got to meet you ;_;
It will be a surprise when she returns.
It was pretty good, but you should realise that you cannot post a joke option like that and not expect people to run away with it.

[X] This tugging on your shikigami bond is a condition that is affecting you.
[X] This feeling of arousal is a condition that is affecting you.
[X] This boner is a condition that is affecting you.

[X] Maximized Twinned Shivering Touch

Wait, wasn't Marcus a warforged? I don't- Does he even have- How would they-

Truly, true love knows no boundaries.
good thing he won't listen. And I would figure that people would want to disprove the /th/ stereotype of being Stupid with a capital S.
That is true, but omakes are always fun.

I wonder if the not-a-choice posted is just his way of saying he's working on the next part, or a hint that we can choose to find a way out of the situation. Not that any of us would want to.

And I kinda doubt Sai would know Shivering Touch anyway
[X] Let her have her way with you.
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Not so fast, balistafreakfag! Thought you could get away with blatantly railroading us, huh? Force your Ran on us? Well what if we don't want hot, steamy, lewd Ran sex with all those fluffy tails and her perfect curvy body and... fuck.

You win this time, balistafreak.
More a split point of updates.
I, for one, am legitimately unhappy with the railroading. Curvy Ran may be curvy, but still, do not want.

Besides, we're betrothed to Youmu now. We promised Youki. As he died. And now we're cheating on her...
So long as I got a laugh I am okay with this.

Its skinship between servant and master. Youmu will understand unreasonable requests from master to servant. A polygamy is fine too.
First time I ever got a boner from a dance.

[x]let her have her way with you

Surrender isn't always bad.
It's okay, didn't you read the /at/ story? Ran doesn't mind if we... fulfil our duty.
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MOD NEEDED: please delete the above two fail-posts, I somehow reset my password on them and can't do it myself.

Warning: pure smut ahead, proceed with caution.


“What’s ‘fast’ supposed… to… mean…” You find yourself silenced as her tails suddenly flick towards you aggressively, seemingly expanding in size to cross the whole distance up and over her body to you. Despite their soft fur, they’re still appendages of muscle, and they make that fact known. Each of your four limbs suddenly finds itself with one tail spiraling a fair distance up its length, keeping you from moving by force, if necessary for fear of hurting her – although it’s not like you would, because the intimacy is like being embraced even while she services you and herself. It seems like your hands won’t be leaving her head any time soon. You stroke the back of her head and neck to confirm that this is what she wanted wing of flurry. You stop thinking about that when one tail slips between her own swollen nether lips she moans and slips two more over your shoulders, pulling your body downwards until you’re hunched over your lap and, by extension, her. One worms its way around the back of your neck, stroking it until you shiver before moving down your spine, and the last pushes up slightly… underneath your balls.

She leans forward to let her tail penetrate deeper inside of her until her forearms rest on top of your thighs, her hands splayed out against the base of your cock once again. Her ears trace against your abdomen when she ducks her head, making you both shudder ever so gently nibbles when she’s working herself down slightly further deep, or how she never swallows anything down once, soaking you with your combined fluids. Both of you are sweating profusely, and you take the time to wipe her brow with your thumbs, blotting the sweat off on what dry hair remains hawrd.

The tails at your shoulders push back at you slightly, straightening your posture to make space for her to scoot even closer, letting her sit straight up on her knees. Her tail, slick with her own arousal pooled sweat, writhes up between the two of you, and she takes a second to press it with her hands. Seeing that you’re watching – not that you haven’t ever stopped – she makes a small show of it, sticking it into her mouth teasingly and stroking at the length, moaning slightly despite herself before nestling it between her impact-reddened breasts, pressing the soft globes together and pulling at her own peaked nipples. Laughing shakily at your hungry expression, she lets it fall back down to the floor before stroking down your thighs one last time, gathering her now-slick bosom and lifting it over the bench onto your lap. Her hands slide down her own body out of sight, crossing over each other underneath the bench and curling back into her own sex, now that her tail can’t reach herself any more, and she moans once again, her arms and shoulders clenching inward intentionally in reflex, simultaneously squeezing her breasts around your shaft to form a tight, wet canal.

The reason for her sloppiness with all the fluids becomes clear as she begins lifting herself up and down on her knees, crushing the softness of her breasts against your erection, the varying textures of her mouth replaced by the sheer smoothness of her skin – no, augmented, because she lowers her head just far enough to at first touch her tongue to your tip with each stroke, and then far enough to take in the entire head, sometimes popping off to lap repeatedly with short, sharp movements of her neck, sometimes suckling at you in not your thought.

And she knows you know.

She freezes just as you do, and the two of you hastily pull your faces away from each other, staring at each other in growing horror. As a sinking feeling begins in your chest, you manage to leak out, “Did you just – “

“I – “

“ – it was – “

“ – I swear that it – “

“ – never expected – “

“ – please don’t – “

“ – not what I – “

She lets out a choked sob. Her tails fall off you like felled birds, and her limbs tense up as if to bolt.




[ ] Write-in.

please don’t hate me

I just want to be loved
[x] Attempt to console Ran, she only did this out of desperation.
-[x] If the matter of what happened comes more into focus, tell her you really didn't mind.
[x] Assure her that you care for her.

I know this could use some improving but I really think Ran could use a hug and some kind words. That and telling her that Sai does have some sort of feelings (might too soon to say love)
...Yukari's gonna be PISSED!
Well, Ran just raped Sai, abusing the shikigami bond, a bond they made out of desperation and in trust of each other, for a selfish act of her own desire, and then she pulled the "i just want to be loved" card. Ran needs to go to a therapist, and Sai needs to get the hell out of this contract.

Luckily, this isn't a real situation, and we got some smutty writing out of it. Anon will be pleased.

[x] Console Ran, she only did this out of desperation! Really!
-[x] If the matter of what happened comes more into focus, tell her we didn't actually mind being raped. The mind control really helps, you'd be surprised!
[x] Assure her that you care for her. Just as long as there's no more rape. Well, maybe a little will be alright.

Actually, just ignore these this vote. I'm sure anon will com up with something sensible.
Semi-rape, Sai didn't mind completely. Though I knew this knee jerk response was going to come.
Ending was great. Poor now-panicky Ran, though.

Also, while I see what you did there with the spoiler tags, I don't know if there might have been a better way to do it. Just a thought. More thoughts: Fluids. Fluids everywhere, and the word too. That always seems to happen with porn, doesn't it? Breasts slapping and sword nipples I couldn't stop laughing at. You've also proved Atai wrong, as the usage of 'balls' was good, and did not feel out of place at all. Finally, facials, bluh. But then again I've never liked the whole 'bodily fluids everywhere' kind of porn.

Well written, definitely better "non-comedy" porn than I could write myself.

For my vote:

[x]Freak the fuck out.
[x] Kiss Ran, by your own will. Comfort her.
-[x] If the matter of what happened comes more into focus, tell her you really didn't mind.
[x] Assure her that you care for her.
-[x] Tell her to not use the shikigami bond next time. She doesn't neede it; you have desires for her as well.

It's fine Ran. We want to love you too.
Balista, I'm just going to ask you now: Promise your story wont turn into some like City Quest where its a great thing then all sex sex sex. I'd love to see more Ran loving, But try not to revolve the story around it, ok? I'm way too paranoid{/spoiler]

[x] Sever the Shikigami bond as soon as possible.
-[x][spoiler]You want to be willing

[X] Put that huge Charisma mod to some use and roll for Diplomacy.

Sai knows her well enough to know she isn't a horrible person; Sai wouldn't condemn her utterly for making one rash decision. That said, as we know, abuse of power is one of the things he will not stand for; no matter how he may try to console her, the sheer disappointment will surely show through the bond, regardless of whether she's reading for it (or how much Sai secretly wanted it - it was practically rape, subconscious desires be damned). She'll know we don't hate her, but we're far from in love with her.
Consoling her will not work, but it's far better than not even trying.

And now for the joke vote:
[X] Ran, Ran, Ran, I'm disappointed. I'd have thought you'd have understood by now - forcibly contracting you, mercilessly training Youmu... If anyone's doing any raping around here, it'll be me.
[X] Black Tentacles.
[X] Hug her, don't let her run.
[X] Desperation makes fools out of everyone.
[X] I forgive you. But not like that, NEVER like that, unless I ask for it.
[x] No matter what else happened, she's a beautiful woman that you have feelings for, and she obviously returns them.
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Is it bad that I've specifically noted that yes, black tentacles is a spell known for him?
[x] Hug her, don't let her run.
[X] Desperation makes fools out of everyone.
[X] I forgive you. But not like that, NEVER like that, unless I ask for it.

This has to be defused now, she shouldn't have done this alright, but I don't think Sai was really opposed to this.

Also they have to

[x] Sever the Shikigami bond as soon as possible.

[x] Return the favor
Well, I was under the impression that the exact spell list was made mostly of Handwavium, but you did mention Conjuration as one of his known schools, which is why I said Black Tentacles, as opposed to, say, Hold Monster.

As for actually having it noted as one of his known spells, I can only say: you bastard, you planned this out right from the beginning, didn't you?
[x]Tail feel good

No, I'm serious.
Seriously, I'm all for making nice, but in-character, Sai was promised by Ran that she'd only use the shikigami bond to defeat Yuyuko, so I think this constitutes letting the power go to her head, which is exactly what Sai abhors.

Also, as an addendum to >>162185 to further illustrate Balista's long-standing nefarious intentions, consider the OP image's filename.
>Smooth, Ran.
You cunning bastard.
I have to say, I really expecting Ran to go that far for Sai - you're doing a great job with this story, balistafreak.

[x] Hug her, don't let her run.
[X] Desperation makes fools out of everyone.
[X] I forgive you. But not like that, NEVER like that, unless I ask for it.

[x] Sever the Shikigami bond as soon as possible.

[X]Black Tentacles
[x] Comfort/Hug/Kiss her.
-[x] It was a unique experience that you do not mind trying again; the link of shared mindsmade it even better.
-[x] Tell her to use the shikigami bond better next time. She doesn't need it to make love with you; you have desires for her as well.
[x] Let her know that when (if?) the shikigami contract ends, you will be returning the favor. Maybe except for the dance; it doesn't work that well when the man is the one dancing.

Hm, not actually sure if I even want the contract to end. I've enjoyed the master/servant thing every time it was brought up, specially how their minds interacted with each other.

And now this, heightned sexual experiences. It's a shame it will have to end.

Also, more Ran please.
>you don’t remember it ever being this large, and it’s not like you haven’t had an erection before

Wait - did Ran, accidentally or otherwise, give Sai a larger cock? I mean, if she's been thinking about him long enough to be able to create a facsimile of his mind, then I guess she thought he'd be larger, and therefore he is.
[X] Hug her, don't let her run.
[X] Desperation makes fools out of everyone.
[X] I forgive you. But not like that, NEVER like that, unless I ask for it.

I like Ran, and I think this was just sheer desperation talking here. She got carried away and feels terrible for it. That said, she went too far, and needs to know never to do that again. So let's be understanding, but firm in our position. If it's gonna be with Ran, it's gotta be real.
[X] Hug her, don't let her run.
[X] Desperation makes fools out of everyone.
[X] I forgive you. But not like that, NEVER like that, unless I ask for it.

works for meh
I agree with


These guys. However, we shouldn't be so quick to go "oh it was a one time mistake, just don't do it again."

Ran done fucked up. She didn't just rape Sai, she mind-raped him too. Through a connection she promised not to abuse, that we made with her with the understanding that she would use it ONLY to help us with the fight.

So we're gonna need to break that link, if for no other reason than to maintain our own mind. Sorry Ran, but you just proved we can't leave our mind in your hands.

That sex scene man, DAT SEX SCENE. My only complaints is that some of the "Ran's thoughts spilling over into Sai's" phrases weren't properly crossed through, making it jarring to read. Had to sit back and double-check what I had just read, and that makes properly enjoying the scene harder.

>My only complaints is that some of the "Ran's thoughts spilling over into Sai's" phrases weren't properly crossed through, making it jarring to read.

Well, just between you and me...

There are three distinct voices in this section: Sai's observations (normal narration), his resisting inner voice (crossed out) and Ran's spillover (spoilered).

Originally, all three were without any alternative formatting, but I didn't make it farther than two paragraphs before realizing that wasn't going to fly.

Then I crossed out anything that wasn't Sai's main narrative voice, but obviously the distinction between Ran's spillover and Sai's own thoughts was impossible and still too confusing. I then went and put spoilers on Ran's spillover instead, creating the three distinct layers that you see now. I see at least two places where I left Ran's spillover crossed out and not spoilered, and another where I simply failed to format properly period. Ugh.

But how did it work otherwise?

>That sex scene man, DAT SEX SCENE.

G-g-g-glad you liked it.

I won't be updating until after I finish my writeathon contest entry, so while there seems to be a building bandwagon, you've got plenty more time to discuss alternative possibilities, reactions, theories, character interpretations, etc.
Consider what she went through before hand (such as being subject to Sai's life trauma), and the fact he practicallyed double-died a couple of times, it may be understandable.
Well, it's nice to see you're all getting into character and acquiescing to Ran's final two can't really forgive her until the link's broken. Until then, neither he nor Ran can possibly know whether Sai actually means it, or whether it's just Ran's influence making him say it -- and, depending on how deep the bond goes, possibly even making him mean it.

And now, at least, both of them know that.

(After the link's severed is a different matter, of course.)

Pretty much my thoughts. This is really out of character for Ran. I think she was acting out of emotion, not reason, and tried to rationalize it to herself by saying 'I'm just trying to make Sai happy.'

Now, this doesn't make it RIGHT. It wasn't, but at least there was no malice behind it, and Ran's going to be beating herself up about it enough as it is. Either way, those two need to have a long talk about this.
Definitely, nothing worth a lengthy grudge, but rather a talk about not doing that again and why. That and it's not as if Sai did not enjoy it some, but the matter of the how. That dance would have made most guys putty as it is.

Though about the link, I suspect Yukari's going to do it anyways.
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>Well, it's nice to see you're all getting into character and acquiescing to Ran's final two orders, there.
that's assuming they're doing them because they're orders.
I mean I like Ran as much as the next guy, but this is really the only course of action that we can take here and KNOW that our decisions are our own.
Finally, a sensible vote that takes into account she mind controlled us.

[x] Tell her to sever the link immediately.
[x] Don't even think about forgiving her until you're yourself again.
[x] Sit down and have a serious talk about what she did. Sort out the feelings you have for each other, and start this relationship from the beginning.

Or something like that.
[x] Tell her to sever the link immediately.
[x] Don't even think about forgiving her until you're yourself again.
[x] Sit down and have a serious talk about what she did. Sort out the feelings you have for each other, and start this relationship from the beginning.
>[ ] Write-in.

It occurs to me that lerhaps a cut-away to another character might be an acceptable vote, giving us more background info and freeing Balista from having to write awkward comforting scenes. But it would be hilarious if you actually meant this entirely literally, Balista.

[X] Where in the Planes is the Saigyou Ayakashi?, with Jizo, epic-level spellslinger.
[X] Crossovers with numerous other universes, including alternate Gensokyos from other THP productions.
[X] Opening for each 'verse will be written by its original author where possible.
[X] First Plane visited is Favors Owed.
[X] Brace for inevitable AWiY crossover.

Do it.
Anonymous 12/10/12(Fri)12:13 No. 162212
[x] Tell her to sever the link immediately.
[x] Don't even think about forgiving her until you're yourself again.
[x] Sit down and have a serious talk about what she did. Sort out the feelings you have for each other, and start this relationship from the beginning.
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Drop the 'the' before Saigyou Ayakashi, and it completely matches 'Carmen Sandiego' in meter.

>crossover with AYiY

I wouldn't even know where to start with a canonical crossover there. black tentacles (lol)

8 (arguably 9-10 if some people meant to vote but didn't use [X], 6-7 if samefags are merely blue-posting discussion and aren't new voters) for variations of gtfo the contract. Most of these are mutually exclusive with comforting.

Things are looking tight, gentlemen. Place your bets. Or surprise me with a third option. Y'know.
[X] Hug her, don't let her run.
[X] Desperation makes fools out of everyone.
[X] I forgive you. But not like that, NEVER like that, unless I ask for it.
I'm in favor of "acceptance and forgiveness, as long as it never happens again. At least not like this", and all that.
So add one vote for that.
[X] Hug her, don't let her run.
[X] Desperation makes fools out of everyone.
[X] I forgive you. But not like that, NEVER like that, unless I ask for it.

I get why "sever the link now" is a good notion, but I don't know if dropping it on her unceremoniously is a wise idea.
I'll clarify my vote here
Should also have "sever connection" checked off. Because that is downright abusive. I mean, we're all just OKing it because she's Ran and Ran is delicious, but what if this was some fat KAWAII-UGUU whale straight out of a convention? We'd be clamoring to kill her.

Think with your brains, not your dicks. Fapping time is already over.
Some of us believe it wasn't a fully intentional rational move.

I bet if the positions were reversed I doubt you'd be so upset over it.
We know it wasn't a fully intentional and rational move, which means Ran is currently mentally unstable and in command of our mind. She needs really counselling or something.

Optimally I'd like some sort of combination of these votes.
[x] Tell her to sever the link immediately.
[x] Don't even think about forgiving her until you're yourself again.
[x] Sit down and have a serious talk about what she did. Sort out the feelings you have for each other, and start this relationship from the beginning.

If it'd been me the first reaction wouldn't've been freezing in shock and horror, but attempt murder. :V
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for the love of god this is not a serious vote

I think I've been playing too much X-COM recently.


(No seriously, I think there was an actual vote almost exactly like that in Wizard, with the appropriate names subsituted of course.)

Damn, was there really? To be fair here, X-COM is public nerd domain. If he used these too, well, I was never claiming creativity here; the basis for these three lines is deeply ingrained into the original X-COM mythos, as any of these three status messages were capable of inspiring absolute terror/rage/despair in the player.

And with the power of the search function... wow. Down to the exact syntax. X-COM 4 lyfe yo.

But yeah, when one person makes a joke from highly quotable material, and then another person does, please don't automatically assume the later one is only doing it because the first one did. It makes me feel insecure about my nerd interests. I'm allowed to like the same things, am I not? ;_;

Hey Rabbit, I expect to be a Colonel by the next stream.

Well, I was joking with that vote. Kinda. Guess it didn't come off so well. Sorry.
>enjoying the new x-com

Maybe you would be if you stopped dying like a bitch.
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Looks like delicious Ran wins in the end. Sorry >>162178, but the ride isn't over yet. ikywim

Votes called. Pic related. Writing now. Please wait warmly~
How could delicious Ran NOT win?
Not sure how to say this and not look like a jerk, but you have lost me as a reader with those last two posts.
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[X] Hug her, don't let her run.
[X] Desperation makes fools out of everyone.
[X] I forgive you.


The shikigami shoves at your chest with her hands, scrambling to put her feet underneath her. She sobs, “No, get away from me, don’t look at me – “

Like hell.

Your hands grab at her wrists, causing her to come up short. Her tails have locked together to minimize their profile; just as you remember they do when she fights. With a cry and a sudden surge of strength LET GO OF ME she braces her heels into the floorboards and pulls – just as you let go and extend one of your own feet.

Her feet slide out from underneath her. They furiously backpedal, and might have found traction but for your own movement. Instead, her calves slam against your extended foot, and her upper body tips dangerously back, her arms windmilling frantically to either side as she instinctively searches for her balance, eyes wide with surprise.

And with her guard down, you seize her around the waist and pull her back into her original position on your lap.

You face slams rather hard into her shoulder, but your manifested body doesn’t actually have a brain that can bruise, and so you simply tolerate the pain, grabbing one wrist with the opposite hand to LET GO OF ME firmly imprison her against you WHY WON’T YOU LISTEN TO ME.

Her palms slap against your shoulders, and you realize your shoulders are being mangled by the sudden growth of claws from her fingers. The pain is dull, more an acknowledgment that your form body is under attack than actual agony. Her presence in your mind flows out as she ceases trying to compel you and instead begins wildly flaying the skin from your shoulders, the shredded, bloodless bits puffing into nothingness. Her feet stomp painfully onto your toes with surgical precision, and you squirm your knees to either side of her thighs, using them to lock her legs together.

With your arms and legs thus tied up, you resort to your final option all to soon. Her body stiffens like a drawn wire as you gently kiss her neck. “Sai?” she whispers breathlessly.

“Hush,” you exhale. You try and think of something to say, but you can’t even think straight right now.

Her claws pull out of your shoulders; when her fingers return, they’re once again smooth and warm, and soon enough your skin is again too. Her hands slide up to the back of your neck and gently come to rest there, as if afraid you’ll be the next one to escape. All throughout this, you can feel her face contorting into a wide variety of confused, elated, and pained expressions. After a certain point, you cease trying to make sense of them.

“Ran,” you start tentatively. “That was…”

“It was a rape, and it never should have happened,” she says stiffly. “Unforgiveable. I don’t even see how you can sit here now so calmly – ”

You disrupt that however by lifting your head up and leaning back far enough to look her in the eye, her hands sliding back to your neck as you keep her from falling back by lacing your fingers together in the small of her back. “Unforgiveable, huh? Says you. But I say you’re forgiven.”

She blinks, glances aside almost as quickly, and ducks her head to avoid having to look at your face. Her abdomen contracts as she takes a series of short, sharp breaths, as if – no, not as if, she is – as she holds back sobs. “How…”

“… how what?”

“… how can you be so… nice?” Nice is probably not the best word she could have used – that says a lot about how frazzled she must be. “Some things should never be done – “

Your head tilts of its own accord, letting you peer up under the hair that’s falling over her eyes. Again, she jumps slightly in your grasp, and turns her head all the to the side. “You had no malicious intent. To me, that means you can be forgiven, no matter how severe the crime turned out. Not that doing so excuses you from having to work to right whatever wrongs you’ve committed, but you should not be condemned.”

The bold statement draws her attention against her better judgment. “… no matter how severe?”

You shake your head. “Desperation drives people to do many things, and you certainly were, and you certainly did something regrettable. But you hardly wished me ill.”

“But, but think of the scale of all the things that could happen, not just between us; do you think the same about everything?”

“I can think of no greater mistake right now that what Jizo did,” you say. “He made a mistake, and we all paid for it, but as you said yourself – he meant no harm.”

“You seemed annoyed with him earlier,” she says, turning back to look at you once more with a confused look on her face. Unconsciously, she shifts into a slightly more comfortable position, her earlier remorse forgotten as you rapidly lead the conversation in a more neutral direction. You let go of her thighs and restraighten yours, not protesting at all when her knees find their own bracing on the bench, her thighs settling on top of your own. Her hands slip forward as she does, her forearms sliding over your shoulders so that her clasped hands hang a few inches behind your neck.

“I’m allowed to be dissatisfied with myself, aren’t I?” you chuckle.

“Self-criticism is only a virtue in moderation,” she warns you, but a smile flits onto her face,

“And so you shouldn’t be so quick to condemn yourself either,” you say, sliding right back to the original topic at hand. She flushes, and squirms as if realizing her new position, but you keep your arms stiff enough to dissuade her for the time being. With a sigh, she holds herself still for the time being, not quite embracing you but not pulling away either.

“… not everyone will be as forgiving in the world,” she sighs. “You shouldn’t be so naive.”

“It’s not nativity, it’s optimism,” you retort. You wonder just how this conversation turned around. Before the two of you… well… she was just telling you how she was going to make you value yourself. But now she’s chastising herself for what she did, and you’re the one trying to reassure her; how swiftly the tides turn.

“… or is that just Hope?” she murmurs. You frown. When Jizo infused the two of you with that Taint-anathema, it did cause a rather unusual case of emotional instability. Not that you haven’t gone through a far more severe episode of that just a few minutes ago.

“It’s not the Hope,” you growl. “We both got over that soon enough.” Of course, the memory of that brief moment of indiscretion is now far overshadowed by something far more carnal.

“Are you sure?” Something soft brushes against your arms; her tails are swishing in thought now, stroking your hands and wrists with every pass. “Look at us now.”

“Okay, maybe it opened my mind to certain prospects,” you admit. You really hadn’t thought of doing anything sexual with her until after you both had been exposed to Hope. For that matter, you’re pretty sure you didn’t have a sexual appetite until after that. You’ve been encased in an undead body with only an animated construct for a companion for so long that you’d forgotten how to feel, period. Only after reawakening did the vices of living creatures start to creep their way back in; the coolness of the air. The taste of food. The scent of gardens. And now, something new that you had never experienced in life: the warmth of a woman’s body. “But when you confessed to me, before we…” You swallow. “I was impressed. And honored. Honestly.”

“If all it took was a short speech and a flash of leg to win all men over,” Ran says wryly, “there would be far fewer complaining wives in the world.”

“You exposed a lot more than leg,” you grumble. “But regardless… I wouldn’t know,” you admit.

“You’ll learn soon enough,” she says confidently. One of her hands comes up to gently stroke your hair; you both shift to compensate for the reduced grip. “… but, is this really okay? I didn’t give you much of a chance to make a proper response, before I… seduced you.” She reddens. “I was afraid you would reject me, so I just… moved fast.”

“I don’t think loving someone is a crime,” you sigh. “There’s no reason I would reject you.”

Her body shivers, and she lifts herself up and back down into a sitting position, her feet crossing behind your back in a closer hold; now a full embrace, as her arms slip fully around you. “… you really think of love so casually?”

“There’s nothing frivolous about it!” you hastily add.

“… perhaps I shouldn’t remind you, but you are betrothed,” she says sternly. Yet she rests her cheek against your shoulder at the same time; clearly, she’s not about to leave you just because of that fact.

“… marriage does not mean love,” you argue. “I respect Youmu, and I did not want her father’s last request unfulfilled.”

“Nor would I,” she agrees. “But… so you don’t consider what we’re doing here to be wrong?”

You shrug, or at least try to. It’s hard with a woman draped languorously over you. “My master… she entertained guests from time to time. I may have been young, but even I understood when a guest was… of a romantic nature. And there were more than just one. At the same time.”

Ran’s tails wave and stand up in surprise. “I thought monogamous marriage was the norm on your plane. The Travelers – the people from your plane,” she clarifies, “court in much the manner we normally do. One man, one woman, one family.”

“My master was… unusual. But I’m sure that she loved each of her paramours for more than just the time she’d spend in her own chambers with them – as strange and odd as I find that concept.” You wrinkle your nose at the unbidden memory of the first time you had linked the idea of a married couple in the local village with your master’s visitors. You can’t imagine how anyone could consider her body attractive… or maybe she did something with it. Or maybe she didn’t. Love is strange. You remember how during one of those unscheduled holidays from your lessons you’d talked about your master with Him –

Him. What you wouldn’t do to find him again, if that were at all possible, and kill him again

The sudden spike of hatred bleeds away just as quickly as it arose as Ran quickly grabs the sides of your head and draws you to her lips in a quick, breathless kiss. “And that is something you should keep in check,” she exhales, her eyes blazing as she pulls away.

The realization makes you flinch. You’d begun drawing up memories from your living past as a child and teen without the slightest bit of fear, regret, or aversion. Up until you’d thought of Him –

“And He’s gone now,” the kitsune reminds you sternly. “There’s no need to get yourself so… angry.”

You bite your lip hard enough to draw blood – if you had any. She notices, and, with another light kiss, coaxes you to let go. To let go…

… no, you can’t just let go. Just as she opens her mouth to deepen the kiss, you draw away just far enough to discourage her from pursuing. “But it’s not over, is it? There’s still traces of Him in this world. There is Taint in the grasp of that tree now, and I don’t want to even think about what it might do with it.”

“And Jizo, your original you, has that well in hand. You can relax, at least for a little bit.” She wraps her limbs a little more tightly around you, as if to hold you in place. “You don’t need to go flying off into danger again without a moment’s rest. You’ve earned that much.”

You manage to stop yourself from biting your lip again, but your lips still purse until they turn white. “Fine. For now. But only because you’re asking so nicely.”

“That’s the point,” she says, the slightest hint of a giggle escaping her.

For a few seconds you sit like that, simply enjoying the intimacy. You find yourself asking a lame question to fill in the space. “Where’s Chen?”

“Patrolling the Border,” she murmurs into your shoulder. “I may dote on her, but she’s perfectly capable of handling any of the typical threats. And should a crisis happen… it’s not like I can’t immediately respond.”

“You’re not Yukari,” you say, confused.

“Mayohiga naturally leads to any part of the Border, if you’re experienced enough to know how it twists, turns, loops back in on itself. Should she request aid, I can come to her aid within seconds from here.”

“… we can,” you try and correct her.

Ran only frowns in response, though, shaking her head. “No, I’m afraid. Just me. You are supposed to still be floating around unconscious. Lady Yukari doesn’t want you to find your way into trouble yet again.”

“I don’t try to,” you protest.

“Trouble found its way to you even in Hakugyokurou,” she reminds you. “Not that I personally think anything will happen now, but Lady Yukari freely admits her paranoia to those who know her. Given all the things that have happened recently with the Border’s security… such paranoia seems justified now, even if it didn’t just a few years ago.”

Something occurs to you. “I’m not even supposed to be awake, am I?” you guess.

Her tails bristle. “It gets boring to babysit an unconscious spirit in Mayohiga’s dilated time. The odds of me having to leave you alone here are astronomically low anyways. Should I have to leave – in my opinion, I’d rather have you awake and ready to assist me than have you remain a liability.”

“In your opinion. I take it Yukari has a different one?”

“Lady Yukari would like nothing more than for you to have never existed,” she informs you, her voice cold. You can’t help but flinch a little bit.

“… she wouldn’t do anything to me now, though, would she?”

“I wouldn’t provoke her,” she says lightly.

Not that you ever planned to intentionally antagonize her, but perhaps you should tread extremely lightly around her. “I’ll remember that. I’ll also take it that you are not to allow me off the contract we formed?”

She nods, her ears brushing against your neck when they flick slightly. “Lady Yukari would not allow you roam completely free. Through me, she maintains at least some control over you.”

You nod in understanding. You won’t ask Ran to break it now, when the answer will certainly be no.

The conversation dies away again. Ran’s breaths turn slow, regular, and relaxed. “… Sai?”


“As much as I enjoy this… could we move to my chambers? The heat is getting to me.”

“I’m sorry,” you apologize automatically. You may feel touch now, but that’s still far from having a living body that can grow uncomfortable. As Ran shifts herself off of you, she shyly hugs an arm across her breasts as she walks towards a familiar set of robes hanging on the far side of the room; you take the cue to form clothes around yourself as well. You decide to not form your original robes, which had a rather rugged cut to them; you decide that a simple long robe with a full skirt and undershirt will suffice.

As she dons her normal cloth cap, concealing her ears once more, she leads you to her rooms. The cool, dry air of the hallways hits you like a wall, nothing like the damp heat of before. You try and gain some insight about the construction of the place during the few seconds it takes for you both to make it to her rooms. As far as you can tell, this home has a similar architecture as Yuyuko’s mansion in Hakugyokurou did: wooden floors, paneled paper doors, and the occasional magelight as needed, except that these lights are kept extremely dim. “Lady Yukari prefers the house to be darker,” Ran explains without so much as looking back at you.

Your master’s chambers are surprisingly spare; there isn’t so much as a desk. There’s a closet with some spare linens and clothes, but other than that the only other furniture of note is a futon in the center of the floor. Noting your gaze, Ran flushes slightly. “It’s not that I have no pastimes,” she hurriedly explains. “I just don’t need aids to help me think. Meditation is normally enough for me.”

“It wasn’t this time,” you say, raising an eyebrow.

“… I wanted to speak with you,” she admits as she sinks to her knees onto the blankets. Before you can pursue that line of conversation any further, she clicks her tongue and looks embarrassed, as if realizing the only hospitable seat is the bedding. “Ah, I cannot offer you a seat – “

“No, no, the floor is fine,” you assure her. But when you kneel down, Ran frowns, and beckons you to her. Feeling your blood begin to race, you half-shuffle, half-float onto the futon as far to the side as you can.

“Oh, just come here – “ With a tug on your sleeve, Ran pulls you to a more natural distance across from her as she sits herself down. You follow suit, and soon you’re both cross-legged in front of each other. Again, silence. She looks as if she might have something to say, except for the fact that every time she looks like she’s gathered up the will, her mouth simply opens and closes to no avail. Perhaps you should lead the conversation somehow?



[ ] Write-ins.
-[ ] The other people that responded to the Hakugyokurou crisis.
-[ ] More about your relationship and nascent love.
-[ ] Mayohiga.
-[ ] Her insistence that you move on from your hatred of Him.
-[ ] The Border.
-[ ] Influence through the shikigami bond.


[ ] Take the initiative this time and surprise her.
[ ] Cuddle, but it’s too soon to think of going at it again.
[ ] This distance is comfortable enough.


This is really a free vote for Sai to essentially initiate a Q&A session about whatever Anon wants to know. Consider continuing a subject touched upon earlier but not explored in satisfactory depth, or raise additional questions. The next post is your oyster, really.

Any questions that Sai already knows the answers to I’ll simply answer myself, OOC.

And yes, that is a vote for more/no more H. I’m getting the distinct impression that some people are tiring of the erotica, so perhaps cuddling will be enough; or perhaps even that’s too much, and it might just be better to remain at arm’s length.

There is no “rejection” vote for a reason. There might be later.
[x] More about your relationship and nascent love.
[x] Cuddle, but it’s too soon to think of going at it again.

My opinion stands still.
-[x] More about your relationship and nascent love.
-[x] Her insistence that you move on from your hatred of Him.
-[x] Influence through the shikigami bond.

If it's just one, then the first one then.

[x] Cuddle, but it’s too soon to think of going at it again.

As much as I'd love for Sai to show a real love making, I don't think the moment is right after what happened. Cuddling against her soft body on the other hand is quite doable.
[X] Cuddle, but it’s too soon to think of going at it again.

This was a pretty huge event, and both parties will need to recover from it. Getting right back into the action might actually do harm.

[x]What happened to the others who helped out with the Demon Tree?
[x]My entire immortal life was defined by opposition to Him. How can I just forget that?
[x]While this wasn't unenjoyable, I'm a little concerned that it was accidental. Could you end up accidentally controlling me without noticing it?

You should already know that when given the choice between multiple non-mutually-exclusive options, we will choose everything. And if there's a write-in option, then we will choose MORE THAN EVERYTHING.

[X] Cuddle, but it’s too soon to think of going at it again.

And, in no particular order:
-[X] The other people that responded to the Hakugyokurou crisis. Notably, how has Marcus been faring?
-[X] More about your relationship and nascent love. Tangentially related, what to do regarding Youmu. Could there be any ill effects from how our souls were touching not die?
[x] Questions, hooray.
-[ ] The other people that responded to the Hakugyokurou crisis.
-[ ] Mayohiga.
-[ ] The Border.
-[ ] More about your relationship and nascent love.

[ ] Take the initiative this time and surprise her.

Leave the relationship topic for later, so they can put words into practice~
[ ] Take the initiative this time and surprise her.

-[X] The other people that responded to the Hakugyokurou crisis. Notably, how has Marcus been faring?
-[X] More about your relationship and nascent love. Tangentially related, what to do regarding Youmu.
-[X] Mayohiga. So... how likely are we to be interrupted..."
-[X] Her insistence that you move on from your hatred of Him. It's still too soon.
-[X] The Border.
-[X] The prevalent forms of magic in Gensokyo. The concept of that Spellcard System still feels rather foreign. Also, we need to get higher level spell slots sometime.
-[X] Other than Yukari, who else might we need to tread lightly around because of the effects our arrival has caused?
-[X] What else does she think might be important for us to know so as to not die?

I'm fine with some real love making.
[x] Cuddle, but it’s too soon to think of going at it again.

-[x] The other people that responded to the Hakugyokurou crisis.
-[x] More about your relationship and nascent love. Tangentially related, what to do regarding Youmu.
-[x] Mayohiga.
-[x] Her insistence that you move on from your hatred of Him.
-[x] The Border.
-[x] Influence through the shikigami bond.
-[x] A brief history of Gensokyo.
-[x] The prevalent forms of magic in Gensokyo. The concept of that Spellcard System still feels rather foreign. Also, we need to get higher level spell slots sometime.
-[x] Other than Yukari, who else might we need to tread lightly around because of the effects our arrival has caused?
-[x] What else does she think might be important for us to know so as to not die?

I want all of the words.

No bandwagon-bucking for me today.
[X] The other people that responded to the Hakugyokurou crisis.
[X] More about your relationship and nascent love.
[X] Take the initiative this time and surprise her.

I'm not going to copy and paste that all.
[x] Cuddle, but it’s too soon to think of going at it again.

Keeping at arm's length doesn't quite fit the current mood, but I'm not really interested in more erotica. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I just skipped everything in the last two or so updates.
As you yourself implied, if I were here for that kind of stuff, I'd be over at /at/.
Still, it adds another layer of interesting personal interactions in the story so I don't mind that it happened. I just didn't bother to read it.
-[X] The other people that responded to the Hakugyokurou crisis. Notably, how has Marcus been faring?
-[X] Mayohiga.
-[X] Her insistence that you move on from your hatred of Him. It's still too soon.
-[X] The Border.
-[X] Influence through the shikigami bond. Might she end up doing it unconsciously?
-[X] A brief history of Gensokyo.
-[X] The prevalent forms of magic in Gensokyo. The concept of that Spellcard System still feels rather foreign.
-[X] Other than Yukari, who else might we need to tread lightly around because of the effects our arrival has caused?
-[X] What else does she think might be important for us to know so as to not die?

[x] This distance is comfortable enough.

I'll take a large order of words please.
>I’m getting the distinct impression that some people are tiring of the erotica

I don't think that's a reason for this kind of vote. If more sex fits the story/scene more than its absence, then there should be more sex. You don't have to write it, though. Something like two shadows that become one should suffice.
>I’m getting the distinct impression that some people are tiring of the erotica

I'm extremely indifferent about it as long as it doesn't become an overly large part of the story.
>I’m getting the distinct impression that some people are tiring of the erotica

I'm not; I just don't think it's the right time for more. Some people tend to be asspained about sex because they're too used to VNs where sex only happens at the end of the route.
Fuck romance I want to know what happened. :V

[x] Cuddle, but it’s too soon to think of going at it again.

-[x] The other people that responded to the Hakugyokurou crisis.
-[x] Mayohiga.
-[x] Her insistence that you move on from your hatred of Him.
-[x] The Border.
-[x] Influence through the shikigami bond.
-[x] A brief history of Gensokyo.
-[x] The prevalent forms of magic in Gensokyo. The concept of that Spellcard System still feels rather foreign. Also, we need to get higher level spell slots sometime.
-[x] Other than Yukari, who else might we need to tread lightly around because of the effects our arrival has caused?
-[x] What else does she think might be important for us to know so as to not die?
On the topic of dicking touhous, I think its a great idea so long as its used in moderation. Sex is a GREAT way to tell a story, but I've already voiced my concern on this story becoming another City Quest.
That's an insulting comparison as I doubt Sai will be fucking.... what's in city quest.
File 135093485513.png - (62.83KB, 360x200 , Yukkuri Shiteitte Ne.png) [iqdb]

If my elementary Japanese is correct, if we redefine "yukkuri" as a noun (as it is treated in the fandom) instead of an adverb and insert the particle "wo" (を) with links a noun to a verb to make it a direct object, we can make the meme say "Hey, go do a yukkuri": ゆっくりをしていってね. Where "do" has the same sexual connotation in Japanese as it does in English.

Hehehehe, go fuck a yukkuri. Maybe I should insert this into the Gensokyo vernacular as a curse/insult/swear.

with the alteration:
[X] This distance is comfortable enough.

Within the last few updates, Hakugyokurou was leveled, Kogasa died, and Ran raped Sai. Coupled with Ran's earlier breakdown due to Sai's Taint-blood and the Hope induced lust before that, I get the impression that Ran and Sai are terrible for one another's mental health.

In any case, we need to know how things work, how the status quo has changed, and where to go from here. The least we can do in that regard is try to retain some dignity by keeping our hands to ourselves.

Hey now, CQ isn't bad. Things just got out of control at a moment or two. It has calmed down considerably, side-quest or not.

But enough of this topic. I'm disappointed in you Anon. Ran needs some real loving.
>CQ isn't bad.

Alternatively, you could just stay carefully away from any mention of such a topic, and keep everyone all the happier for it.
-[x] The other people that responded to the Hakugyokurou crisis.
-[x] Mayohiga.
-[x] Her insistence that you move on from your hatred of Him.
-[x] The Border.
-[x] Influence through the shikigami bond.
-[x] A brief history of Gensokyo.
-[x] The prevalent forms of magic in Gensokyo. The concept of that Spellcard System still feels rather foreign. Also, we need to get higher level spell slots sometime.
-[x] Other than Yukari, who else might we need to tread lightly around because of the effects our arrival has caused?
-[x] What else does she think might be important for us to know so as to not die?

[ ] Take the initiative this time and surprise her.

If taking the initiative wins (unlikely, I know), will they discuss things while making out?
>people banding my ridiculously large wagon
Oh god Balista's going to take months to write the next update isn't he I'm so sorry I'll never do it again I totally will

My guess is that if taking the initiative wins, Balista will be use it as an excuse to spare himself more agonizingly long writing and interrupt our glorious exposition partway with porn.

[X]Cuddle. It's just too soon to re-engage.
You know, I just realized... Jizo's interference never actually came through. Yukari's group came in on their own.
Something that's a little odd I just noticed - shouldn't Reimu or Yukari have been able to deal with the Taint? I mean, sure, it's being portrayed as a huge multiversal threat here, but then it can also be cleansed with a fifth level spell from an area. Now really isn't the time to be holding back, and while Yukari's manipulation has rather infamously ambiguous limits, Reimu as a miko should certainly be able to purify things, and she's been played up as someone no-one is willing to cross outside of danmaku duels...
File 135129329867.jpg - (33.98KB, 400x300 , fuuuuuuuuuu.jpg) [iqdb]
Votes called much to my dismay. Pic related oh fuck me. Writing now writefagging is suffering. Please wait warmly~ while I burn in hell

Just kidding, I love you guys.
File 135137417229.jpg - (25.68KB, 600x338 , just as planned.jpg) [iqdb]
Writefag status report. Update at 5K+ words and still rising. However, it should have been completed last weekend; I got ill and vomited up half my guts instead.

Should be completed this weekend, or I'll go hang myself.
Like hell. You can die after you finish the story. You should know better than to think you can get away that easily.
We'll dig him from his grave and sit him at a computer, then bitch when his moldy hands don't type for us.
If by bitch you mean, cast raise undead, then yes.
File 135261414869.jpg - (12.27KB, 105x150 , H Ran.jpg) [iqdb]

Pffffft. Raise undead makes unintelligent undead, and those can't writefag, can they?



Your arms just happen to wrap around her body, your hands resting on her knees. With an exaggerated lift to telegraph the movement, Ran slides her own hands down your arms until they come to rest over yours, her fingers flowing between yours as naturally as water through a river. She gives a small sighing hum of satisfaction, the sound moving straight through her body into yours, and you can’t help but copy it.

Her pitch rises slightly in acknowledgment, and her hand squeezes yours as she deliberately bends her pitch higher, making you the tenor to her alto, sending shivers down both your spines. Your own pitch drops down, but eventually finds purchase in a baritone register, and she shifts the harmony in turn, which leads you to the next note, and the next, and the next –

And without a single word of communication, without even a consciously arranged message through your bond, you find yourselves going through a small, placating song, your respective parts moving in perfect rhythm, never once landing on a dissonant chord. The melody – neither of you carries it alone, and truthfully it flows between the two of you without a seeming border despite your different timbres of voice.

And then both of you land on the final note in unison, so in tune that the single note explodes into a thousand overtones high and low, a spectrum of notes reaching from to deepest bass to the daintiest soprano, as far as either of you can hear.

One of her hands detaches itself from yours, coming up to touch your shoulder, trembling uncontrollably. You kiss the back of her head, her golden hair rustling pleasantly underneath your lips, before bringing a similarly unsteady hand to her chin, gently turning it to the side. Her eyes are shut, and remain that way as you lightly kiss her several times more; her temple, at the corner of her eye, the soft part of the center of the cheek, the part of the jaw underneath the ear.

“Where’d you learn that trick?” you murmur, even as the two of you lace your fingers again.

She presses into you slightly as she nestles back into your chest, her head just barely resting on your shoulder. “I would ask you the same…?”

You each take moments to delve your respective memories for anything that might explain the entirely unexpected phenomenon. Flicking through the shikigami bond, the time you spent contracted, her time in your service, your current time in her service –

And the childhood memory of you, your mentor, and Him all in a circle participating in a similar synchronicity exercise hits you with the force of a sphere of annihilation. That is to say, there’s no shock, just a void where you once felt the pleasure of such a spontaneous sign of trust and connection.

“It’s not really far removed from what you showed Komachi and I, when the Yama judged you,” Ran whispers.

“It’s not,” you whisper back in automatic reply, but if you were enjoying this, you aren’t anymore. But when you peel your hands away from Ran’s, she turns, her newly freed tails flexing. Her gaze bores into yours, and when you attempt to avert your eyes, she leans forward the scant inches needed to press her brow against yours, pushing until you fall back onto the blankets, the kitsune perched above your body on hands and knees.

“That was the past, Sai. Please, let go,” she sighs, slowly lowering her weight on top of you as if preventing you from going anywhere. Not that she can make you, but – no, she can.

And that thought fills you with almost as much horror as the thought of Him does. Almost.

Something comes in and chases those thoughts of horror out. For a moment your mind rebels and protests, saying that no, why would you give up your core tenets, why would you leave your path, why would you ever care for anything other than an end to Him, an end to the abuse of power, and then Ran’s scent fills your nostrils, and you find tears rolling from your eyes as you hug Ran closer to you, your hands linked in the small of her back as she whispers nothings into your ears, gently wishing you to relax, to let go of your hatred, to let yourself be happy for a little bit, even if it’s just for this moment.

… can you really? How can you? And… how can you not? The dissonance in your mind is impossible to tolerate, you need to escape it somehow.

She offers you her lips, and you devour them in an attempt to find solace. Then she gives you her breath, her tongue, and eventually, as you find yourself slipping the robe from her shoulders, her body. She doesn’t resist your hunger at all, and only matches your every advance with one of her own, not resisting in the slightest as you roll her over onto her back. You’ll work this out later, of your own centuries-long mantra to correct the past mistakes of others, against her wishes to open your eyes to a future of your own – yours and hers both.

But now, you have other things to distract yourself with. Things like rolling her over and suckling at her nipples. Things like combing your fingers through the curls between her legs. Things like slipping a finger into those folds, then replacing that finger with your mouth. Things like listening to her moans, watching her back arch, her hands fist in the sheets, tasting her upon your tongue. Things like way she cries out when you take her then and there, the feel of her around your member as you both race towards climax together.

And in the haze of passion, for just a little bit, you find solace from the storm of your thoughts.


“… did I hurt you?” you murmur as the afterglow fades, your breath escaping you in panting breaths. They’re synchronized with her own, as they have to be; her back is against your chest, your legs curled behind hers. “I was… quite rough…”

She shakes her head. “You were, but… I’m made of sterner stuff than that,” she laughs, her hands rising up and hugging your arms closer to her.

Relieved, you crane your neck to kiss her shoulders, and then her collarbone, nibbling down its length as you enjoy the view of her cleavage, slightly squashed together from both your arms and hers, how her rosy nipples stand proudly from the mounds. “But… I smell blood…” You also heard the difference in her cries, at least until the pain faded away and fully converted to please; and you knew when that happened not only through your ears, but through the lack of pain leaking through the bond. Not to discount the feedback loop of pleasure, of course.

Her cheeks redden to match the sex flush in her chest. “I know I may seem experienced, and – yes, I have practiced other things, but this was… Sai, you were…”

“… you mean, it was also your first?” You lift your head enough to meet her sheepish gaze. “But – but you were so, so…”

She silences you with a quick pick on the lips. “You are not my first man,” she admits, somewhat sheepishly. “Or even my first partner. I am not sexless, I have needs as well, at times; but although Lady Yukari has been kind enough to grant me a partner from time to time to work off the occasional frustration… I’ve wanted to save… that. For someone special.”

For someone like you. She doesn’t say that, but you don’t even need the shikigami bond to know it. Some part of you wants to challenge her idea of intimacy as slightly hypocritical, that sex is sex, but you can’t help but be touched by the idea, the gesture, regardless of the reality.

“… when you shouted out like that, I felt your pain,” you murmur. “When – when you were contracted to me, did you feel what I felt like that?”

She shakes her head. “No. You were like a stone slab, impenetrable, only readable when you wrote on it, and that text was as transient as ink in a storm.” Her tails, laid upon your sweaty, sticky bodies like blankets, twitch slightly in recollection. “You’re warm now though,” she reassures you. “But as for now…”

She swallows. “I’ll be honest. I’d like to say it’s intentional, that I’m letting you feel what I feel during our lovemaking to multiply the sensation. But… truthfully… if I were doing that, then I could exclude the pain. But I couldn’t. I… wanted to be closer to you. To be more in tune with you, to be one with you, and it just spilled over by itself before I could control it. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” you whisper back, hugging her just a little tighter to you.

For a little bit, you just hold each other, listening to each other’s breathing. “How do you feel right now?” she asks. Her toe strokes down your calf.

“Tired. Confused as well,” you chuckle, somehow in good humor. “But… also… good.”

“… happy?”

You hesitate for a second. Can you say you’re happy, when there are things that still need to be done, when you have work that must be finished? But can you say you’re not, with this woman here in your arms?”

… no. No. No, you can’t.

“I’m not sad,” you say evasively, but it seems the answer is good enough for her. With a giggle, she spins in your grasp and kisses the tip of your nose. You automatically nip at her chin in return, and for a few seconds you simply peck at each other’s faces like birds.

“Stop,” you laugh, waving her off when she starts making tiny high-pitched squeaks with every nip. With a small push you turn her back around, only to rewelcome her into your embrace when she wiggles close again, after which you both let out simultaneous sighs of comfort. “Tell me about the battle. Who took up the fight after I fell?”

“… a lot of people,” she starts, hesitating slightly.

“That’s rather broad.”

“Well, there were a lot of people!” she huffs, but you both end up simply chuckling.

“Just take your time.”

“… Reimu was there.”

“She is?”

“The Hakurei maiden. We talked about how she enforces the spellcard system.”

Oh. That Hakurei maiden. “The two of you talked?” you infer, as Ran’s referring to her less formally.

She nods. “Yukari brought her here while Chen and I were recovering for a debriefing; actually, she brought everyone who fought there, except for, well…”

You squeeze her slightly, and she replies with a small kick of her foot against yours. Except for those who died, the umbrella youkai and Youmu’s father, Youki. Arguably Youmu as well, for common people’s definitions of death. “We discussed on what to do with you,” she continues.

“I’ll take it that most everybody wanted to banish me from whence I came,” you joke darkly. Her foot kicks you again, slightly harder this time.

“Quite the opposite, actually. Only Yukari was in favor of that… and not from where you came, but into one of her dimensions for safekeeping.”

“Of course.” Loosely interpreted, that phrase could mean going back to your now-Ascended home plane, implying that you would regain all the power you abandoned. “And you compromised by imprisoning me here, for the time being?”

“It was a compromise, yes.” This conversation feels weird; you’re receiving cues from Ran, snapshots and snippets of information as you lead the conversation further. It would be interesting, if it didn’t feel so unnatural. “But you should know that everyone wanted to take you with them, and have you all to themselves.”

“Idiots. I have you, why would I leave – “ You end the sentence with a peck on her shoulder, causing her to shiver slightly.

“You didn’t a few hours ago,” she points out, unable to point out the logic despite being pleased with your response.

“Fair enough. But where would I have been going?”

“Iku claimed that you were clearly a sage of high regard, and that it must have been your enlightenment that let you rise above the influence of earthly magics. By her logic, the most beneficial thing would be to take you before the courts of Heaven and have your philosophies expounded upon until they can produce codices of your teachings that others can follow in order to combat ‘the threat’, as she put it.”

You decide it’s in your best interest to not pursue the line of questioning that starts with ‘Heaven’. “I’m afraid she’d be quite disappointed in my lack of upper-level thinking.”

“You’re cunning,” Ran agrees. “Not learned; except in some very specific topics.”

You take the cue. “Did you have to explain just how Taint and Hope work?”

She nods. “It was a long, confusing talk. Everyone has different ideas and theories about magic. It wasn’t just Iku who wanted to abduct you for some faction’s own purposes, though. Reimu then said that because of the threat the free Saigyou Ayakashi represents, it would be best if she kept you sealed at the Hakurei shrine as a spiritual advisor.”

“Wouldn’t my security be jeopardized any time she’d have business outside the shrine, though? Unless they somehow trust me to be without a guard, which is contradicted by your presence here…”

“I’m not a guard,” Ran pouts. “But in any case, it’s not as if the shrine is empty. There’s an oni – a youkai of no small strength – who hangs around there. Kasen visits often – I’m sure Reimu would have convinced her to keep an eye on you. She already came with Reimu to Hakugyokurou, so it wouldn’t be a huge step for her. Oh, and then there’s Genji.” Her voice lifts up slightly at that; she pauses as if composing herself.

“And Genji is?”

“… in retirement. He used to ferry Reimu around when she was younger, before she decided that it was far less trouble for both of them if she simply flew underneath her own power.”

“A mount of some kind?”

“A giant tortoise, to be exact. Not the most dignified of mounts, as you can imagine. Genji was reluctant about leaving Reimu alone; but by that age, Reimu was more than capable of defending herself already. Not as if a big guy like him could do much assuming that they were both ambushed, anyways.” There’s a quirk to her voice, as if she finds the idea of a tortoise protecting a powerful mage silly.

You open your mouth to defend the merit of the tortoise, but shut it. No, Ran would never believe you if you told her that nothing in the entire multiverse is capable of getting the drop on a dire tortoise.

“Well, being sealed there doesn’t sound… so bad,” you admit. “For certain definitions of ‘sealed’.”

“It’s not,” Ran agrees, “and ‘sealed’ is a very loose word. I could argue that you’re sealed here in Mayohiga. But Yukari was able to convince her that she could seal you here just as easily, and that you wouldn’t represent as large a threat in case you somehow got out of hand.”

“How’s that? What are they afraid of me doing?”

“Somehow wreaking widespread havoc as you did in Hakugyoukurou.” Her lips pinch tightly. “Although you have nothing to be blamed for.”

“You’re biased, Ran. Ultimately, you can trace the source back to me,” you admit. Making an unhappy sound, Ran hugs at your arms, her fingers wrapping around your biceps.

“You wouldn’t be able to escape Mayohiga anyways,” she moves on, silently conceding the point. “This place is impossible to force your way into or out of; like I said earlier, you have to know your way already.”

Something shifts in your mind. Like the floodgates to a dam suddenly being thrown open. It’s a strange sensation, not at all like the deliberate transfer of information you’ve experienced before, with the carefully crafted and detailed objects. This is a torrent, a tsunami, of raw information.

“… or know someone who does,” you say slowly, your surface thoughts filled with routes, paths, shortcuts, hideaways, your memory filling as neatly as an empty cup. Ran stiffens in alarm just as you realize exactly what you’re thinking of: the layout of Mayohiga and the Border. The flood stops with the mental equivalent of a slammed door, but you both know that you’ve already seen far more than you should have.

Peeling your arms away from her, Ran rolls to her side, her arms folding protectively in front of her chest as she gives you a wide-eyed look that you return. “How did you do that?” she demands.

“… access your thoughts?” you ask. When she nods, you avert your gaze, unsure of how to answer. “You tell me. I didn’t do anything.” When she remains at a distance, almost like a spooked animal, you reach for her, your fingers at her wrist eventually sufficient to coax her into rolling back into your grasp, although she remains tense.

“… Yukari will be apoplectic when she finds out,” she whispers, voice trembling in fear.

“From what you’ve told me, it’s not like my situation could get any worse. We’ll deal with that when the time comes,” you reassure her automatically, even though you find yourself worrying just the same. Some part of you wonders why you’re playing the protective role now, and not Ran to you. Why you aren’t trembling at the thought of her wrath, and simply feel… neutral. “For now… who else is vying for control over me?”

She swallows, trying to get back on her original topic. “Iku. Reimu,” she repeats in thought. “Lady Yuyuko as well – “

“Ah, she’s… back to normal?” you ask. “I hope she isn’t – angry at us.”

Ran’s breath escapes her in a half laugh, half sigh. “Of course not. Lady Yuyuko has always been nothing but understanding, and kind, and… and that still holds, even after all of – what happened.”

You squeeze her slightly closer to you. “Youmu’s father…”

This time she does sigh. “Even if they were only reunited while she was not herself… truthfully, it was perhaps the best way for him to pass.”

“… what’s that supposed to mean?”

She brings a hand back to your shoulder. “The two of them were closer than they should have been, perhaps.”

Like us? your mind can’t help but ask.

I will make it so that we can stay together, she answers emphatically. You kiss the back of her head, your heart fluttering in an indescribable way. “So, is Youmu – “

“No, Youmu is not Yuyuko’s daughter.” Having anticipated your question, she goes on. “Youmu’s mother… I did not know her, but Lady Yukari said she died in childbirth. After Youmu was just old enough to physically care for Lady Yuyuko by herself, he officially retired as Lady Yuyuko’s servant and went to search for his wife’s soul.”

“Defying death right under the Princess of the Underworld’s nose?”

“Not so much underneath her nose, as tacitly supported and perhaps even encouraged. Lady Yuyuko was fond of Youki, even while his wife was still alive… and after her death, the two of them became lovers within the same year, even as he still pined for his wife and made plans to search for her. It must have driven them both terribly mad with guilt; Lady Yuyuko for thinking she was taking advantage of the situation, of his emotional fragile state, and Youki for not having the strength to resist temptation, for giving into his loneliness. His departure would have meant an end to that moral quandary.”

“But that would just mean another heartbreak for both of them…” you trail off. The kitsune chuckles.

“Of course. Isn’t that the irony of love? Seeking happiness, the only thing we bring upon ourselves is grief. And yet we hurtle towards love without a second thought or doubt nonetheless…”

“What would Lady Yuyuko possibly want of me?” you interrupt her, hoping to move off this thread of conversation, sensing the mood slipping towards uncomfortable territory.

“Youki’s soul was devoured by the Roukanken. As was yours, yet you’re still here.” She arches her back to press her head against your cheek. “She hopes to have you find a way to replicate what you did for yourself… for him.”

“I’m not an archmage,” you sigh, half-exasperated, half-disappointed. “What I did… it certainly wasn’t planned, and I’m no half-phantom. I’m… strange.”

“A boy,” she offers.

“I’d like to think I’m a man,” you complain playfully.

“A boy,” she continues anyways, “who went through far more pain and suffering than anyone deserves to. Who became one with death to extend his life before he ever matured – “

“Someone had to do it,” you protest.

But she’s still building up momentum. “A boy for whom death was an insufficient end, who split his mind and soul to reach total oblivion.”

Realizing that she’s launching into a long speech, you do your best to head it off. “And don’t you have something to do with my return?”

“You came back anyways; the you of Jizo, that is. You came back to report that even in oblivion, you still fought against evil.”

“And look where that turned out! The only thing that accomplished was a bunch of people dying who didn’t have to! Ran, please, change the way you think of me. I am not the heroic crusader you think I am.”

For a second, she’s quiet, and you dare hope that you were able to stop her. But then she turns in your grasp, staring at you with wide, watery eyes, and you feel something in your chest swell.

“But how can I think of you as anything but a hero?” she whispers.

I love you too much to consider you as anything else.

This time she seeks you out for comfort, her arms twining around your neck as she kisses you, her leg sliding over yours. “St – stop, stop,” you protest ineffectually between heated breaths, and then she’s managed to roll you on top of her, and then –
File 135261441589.jpg - (116.27KB, 849x667 , Dreamy Ran.jpg) [iqdb]
Perhaps a half hour later, the two of you are hot and sticky again, laying side by side on your backs, holding hands as you stare at the ceiling, trying to catch your breath. “That’s three,” you pant.

“… three times? It’s only been two,” she jokes.

“You know what I mean,” you chuckle, shaking her clasped hand slightly with your own. “You’ve named three people. There were more.”

“Komachi would have brought you to Higan, to be judged before the Yama once more. Not her idea, but as the Yama’s servant…”

You shudder, remembering the Yama’s awesome strength. Granted, Jizo had swatted her aside, but you find it impossible to relate to Jizo anyways, even if the two of you supposedly share an identity. “And she lost the battle for my custody?”

“Lady Yukari was able to talk her out of that, much for the same reasons that convinced Reimu.”

“Higan is a less secure place than here?” You find that hard to believe. The Sanzu River, by Komachi’s word, seems like a far better jail than any demiplane – especially Mayohiga, now that you have a head full of information about its layout.

“It’s not… but Lady Yukari brought up that Jizo had broken you out of there once before, and insinuated that he might not think twice about doing it again. Lady Yukari argued that he and the Yama were already on poor terms, given the last incident, so he might take offense to you being held there in much the same fashion. And then, given the incident at Hakugyukurou… people became very nervous when he and the souls of the dead are mentioned in the same sentence.”

“Big old scary Jizo,” you grumble.

“Mayohiga is rather empty, by comparison, so it makes a convenient jail,” she says lightly.

“And yet, if Jizo were to conquer Mayohiga, the Border, Gensokyo’s very existence would be compromised. Did no one consider that?”

“You’re awfully protective of a land you’ve never seen,” Ran teases you – yet the point is made, as she flinches at the same time. “… but yes, that is true. Mayohiga is supposedly distinct from the Border, as far as most people know. That it is not is… Lady Yukari’s secret.”

“Why doesn’t she make it distinct, then?”

“Because the logistical conveniences of Mayohiga being contiguous with the Border far outweigh the dangers. And besides, without the proper knowledge, any two points within the Border, Mayohiga included, might as well be on opposite ends of the universe.”

“And with the proper knowledge…”

“I think I can trust you,” Ran sighs. “I just hope Lady Yukari can, too.”

“If it’s really so much trouble, why don’t you simply make me forget, or something?” You have no immediate use for the bolus of information Ran let slip. It’s not like you’ve dwelled on it at length; although Ran’s presence might have something to do with that.

Ran shakes her head. “Planting false memories is easy enough, if the host finds them palatable. But eliminating them is quite different. It’s virtually impossible to do so without essentially lobotomizing the patient in some way – it can change their identity, the way the think, in ways that one might not think. To do it on a mere human from the village is risky enough. In your case?” She rolls her shoulders in the best imitation of a shrug she can manage. “Not worth the risk.”

“As if I’d go on a rampage,” you echo hollowly.

“Who knows? If we alter your memory, it’s not an impossibility.”

“But – I would never do that!,” you try and argue, turning your head enough to stare at her with both eyes.

“If we alter your memory,” she repeats, turning her own head similarly, “you won’t be you, but someone else. Someone else who might have a slightly different idea of how to interpret his memories and psyche… someone else who might find it reasonable to break his shackles, raise his hands against us. I wouldn’t want to fight you, Sai.” She squeezes your hand. “Let’s not talk about this again.”

As little sense as that makes – you’ll always be you, how can you be anyone else? – you decide to let the point drop. “Keep going, then. Who else?”

The creature formerly known as Marcus,” she starts with a giggle, “offered to house you. Joked to me that he’d watched over you for centuries already without incident, so clearly he was the best candidate.”

“And in reality?”

She shakes her head sadly. “Few of us are aware of his past identity; most of us know him as a Traveler. That doesn’t give him the best credentials when it comes to protecting Gensokyo.”

You make an unhappy sound. “So they’re viewed as unwelcome visitors for the most part?”

“It’s… complicated. People are never so cut and dry.” You nod, encouraging her to go on. “The populace and the civilized youkai tribes have for the most part accepted their existence, although it’s mostly an uneasy peace. The villagers enjoy the additional influence and protection they bring to the village – Lady Kamishirasawa is no longer their sole guardian – but the Travelers represent industry, industry that the social structure of the villagers doesn’t fit. The kappa act as though they adore the Travelers, but inwardly they fret over losing their technological monopoly. The tengu are the opposite; while they outwardly denounce the Travelers’ expansionistic, the amount of marriages between them and Travelers is actually higher than that of the villagers.”

You chuckle slightly at that. “And where exactly would I be held? Heaven, the Hakurei shrine, the underworld of Hakugyokurou…”

“Well, he – “ She swallows. “Well, I can’t say exactly where he lives. But I will say that Alice’s family has moved out of the Forest of Magic into the village proper.”

“Family?” you ask. “Did I hear that right?”

Ran smiles and simply nods. You refrain from probing any deeper, but the implication is clear enough. Oh Marcus, how did you ever accomplish that? “The wild youkai have become restless, and they find it more peaceful there. For certain definitions of peace, anyways. Village isn’t really a proper name for it anymore.”

“Town? City?” you offer.

She shrugs. “The population isn’t very large – and yet they’re building a lightning rail, of all things. According to them, intra-city lightning rails are only constructed in the largest of metropolises.”

“That’s because generally it takes such a dense population to find the people able to maintain the bindings,” you explain. “But they, the Travelers, as you call them, represent a very empowered fraction of the normal population. They’d have the skills to run and maintain one, even if it’s hardly a necessary convenience. And you said something about the kappa and technology?”

“The kappa think in terms of gadgets and curios, not in massive projects. That’s their area of expertise. More than a few of them have taken up Traveler artifice as well, creating various trinkets and treasures. The combination of their natural abilities and Traveler work is… interesting. It’s beyond anything either they or the Travelers expected.”

“Have the Travelers brought any greater influence to Gensokyo?”

Ran gives a hum of a thought. “The tengu shamans are all in positions of power, and none of them would be caught dead playing with Traveler magic. Yet the martial arts have grown in popularity despite the threats and warnings of said shamans – those that have adapted the Sublime Way, as the Travelers call it, have arguments of their own as to why they should be learning the ways of the foreigners as opposed to shunning them.”

“What about the human villagers?”

“I haven’t run a census. They’re all over the place; I couldn’t tell you,” Ran admits.

You just chuckle. “Sounds about right. What about religion? Have any villagers been converted?”

“Not in any significant number. The Traveler adoration of the Lord, Lady, and Princess is… almost disturbing in its devotion. Our native gods wouldn’t take kindly to their faith being diverted, anyways.”

“How does it feel to be worshipped?” you joke, receiving a roll of her eyes in return.

“Annoying. I don’t feel any more holy than I normally do, and yet I have to live with the knowledge that somewhere someone I don’t know is going to bed thinking of me.”

You grin, seeing the opening. “Sounds like something I would do.” She scoffs, but lifts your hand to her face for a quick kiss, flashing you a quick grin.

“I guess I just don’t see why the Travelers have to build the lightning rail in the first place,” she sighs.

“They want to rebuild,” you reason. “Recreate their old comforts of home, even if that causes some friction. And believe me, lightning rails are not the worst thing they could be building.”

“Do I even want to ask?”

“A number of theorists wondered what the impact of creating a series of permanent teleportation circles would be.”

“Teleportation circles?”

“Imagine Lady Yukari’s interdimensional manipulations… with many permanent anchors. Step into one end, and will yourself into another with a mere thought. Mages could additional erect temporary circles to create exits or entryways anywhere else.”

“Surely an easily interrupted endeavor!”

You shake your head. “At a certain level of expertise… no. Forget the implications on trade and industry; imagine entire armies dropping into population centers without a moment’s forewarning. Imagine that same army withdrawing with the exact same speed.”

She processes that thought for a few seconds. “It is not a foreign idea,” she says, surprising you slightly. “Lady Yukari and I have hypothesized of such a situation before, if someone with similar abilities as her were to attempt to attack Gensokyo. We concluded that it would take a similar army standing at full attention, ready to fight at full capacity at any given moment, even at night. And the amount of ground would have to be miniscule; you’d have to evacuate everyone and bottle them up in tiny tenements in order to have enough troops to keep them safe. The idea of border guards becomes absolutely obsolete, in the traditional sense.”

You nod. “And then it would take an extremely well developed infrastructure to support such a population density. Shipping in food would be almost impossible. The easiest solution would be to use magic to create your supplies.” But then another thought, far more insidious, makes you “Are you sure she wasn’t calculating the viability of attacking Gensokyo herself?”

“Please,” she scoffs. “Lady Yukari has no interest in military conquest.”

You shrug. “That must be true, or else she’d have taken power a long time ago.”

“You shouldn’t underestimate how deep her influence runs in Gensokyo,” the shikigami warns you. “People may not know her well, but enough people know that she’s the one who protects and maintains Gensokyo’s border. It’s to the point where dropping her name would get the full attention of anyone in a position of power; any elder, human, kappa, or tengu alike would drop anything to carry out her command.”

“Travelers included?”

She hesitates, and bites her lip in lieu of answering. You’ve hit a sore spot, it seems. “The Travelers… did not take kindly to Lady Yukari’s overtures. Those she contacted flagrantly defied her request to keep her offer a secret, and there’s not a single one of them who isn’t aware of her in some way.”

“… I can’t believe she was that bad of a negotiator, to leave such a poor impression. Exactly what did she offer?”

“Basically their continued safety in return for a ‘favor’ here and there.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad.”

“You underestimate just how much you impressed them. There are legends surrounding us, you know,” she giggles.

“… is it a really a legend if it’s only been a few years?”

“When the tales are blown out of proportion… yes, yes, it is. They’ve already worn the tale out, but someday I’ll find you a record of its retelling. Marcus is apparently their Lord, I am their Lady, Chen is the Princess…”

“Please don’t say I have a role too,” you groan.

She giggles again. “You’ll be glad to know that you’re the legend of the legend. We may be the Lord, Lady, and Princess, but you’re not but a rumor. A few mages noted ‘something’ else in the area, something that was attempting to be as subtle and quiet as possible. Added up with the fact that ‘something’ else left otherwise inexplicable holes in the Citadel… no one can provide definitive proof of your existence, but no one can deny it either. Congratulations, Sai ‘the Shadow’!” she chirps. You growl in dismay, but her humor is infectious, and you find yourself nudging her side with an elbow. She swats at your arm in turn, and you grab her wrist, tugging it towards you to roll her over and cease her assault.

Instead, she moves with your attack to come to rest on top of you, and then kisses you so thoroughly you practically forget what you were talking about. Without even thinking, one hand moves to stroke her rear while the other gently grasps her cheek, feeling her jaw tremble as you press your thumb at the junction between tail and back.


This time the two of you come to rest in a slightly less comfortable position, but neither of you are willing – or perhaps able – to move out of it. From a distance you probably resemble nothing more than a tangled knot of limbs and tails sticking out every which way.

“… so what does maintaining the Border entail, exactly?” you pant, rubbing your cheek into the back of her knee.

“Lady Yukari spends the majority of her power maintaining it, but as with any large magical construct, it requires more than just that.”

“No automatic maintenance programmed into it?”

“Yes, actually.” She giggles when you crane your neck to try and give her a quizzical look; she throws a tail over your face in response. “They’re called shikigami.”

Not about to let that slight slide, you tweak her little toe. “Silly. You’re far from automatic.”

“In all seriousness, though,” she laughs, sliding the tail around your shoulders, “it’s a construct of ancient magic. The Border was created in part by the Dragon.”

Dragon. That word is not just a word, it’s the name of a being that is in every way deserving of it. You feel impossibly puny for just a second, as if his gaze is falling upon you, and then the sensation passes.

Ran continues as if she hadn’t noticed though – which is strange, given your bond. You decide not to interrupt her. “Dragon is what you might call Gensokyo’s god. Not only did he create Gensokyo, he helped Lady Yukari construct the Border; after that, he took his leave. He does not appear personally, instead spending most of his time at rest. I have never talked to him in person – goodness, I can’t imagine what that would be like,” she laughs, “but from all the information I’ve gathered about him, he is similar to Lady Yukari. Just as she spends her energy and therefore constantly slumbers to maintain the Border, so too he maintains the entirety of Gensokyo’s existence, and spends his time at rest as well.”

“I’d like to meet him,” you find yourself saying.

“Don’t be silly. After he helped Lady Yukari, no one has ever seen him since. You may as well chase the end of a rainbow.”

“… that still doesn’t stop me from wanting to meet him,” you say, affecting a sulk.

Ran kicks your side lightly. “The best you’ll get is a statue of him in the center of the village, I’m afraid.”

“Is there any form of commune with it?”

“Only if you’re interested in the weather. Its eyes glow depending on the forecast for the day.”

You sigh. “That must be so helpful.”

“Better yet, it’s only right some of the time, just like a real forecast,” she laughs. “Although… whenever there’s been an incident of a widespread and magical nature, its eyes have always glowed red. Dragon knows when something is amiss in his land.”

“Was it red when I brought the Travelers here?”

She nods. “It was actually red for a very long time, from the moment you began creating a link between your demiplane and Gensokyo, pushing past the Border. It got to the point where life returned to normal, and people accepted the dragon’s eyes being red as a new constant of life; which, of course, made it all the more shocking when something actually happened, because for once they hadn’t been on their guard.”

“And yet… did Dragon not do anything that entire time? If I had decided to actually use the power from the Ascension, I could have consumed Gensokyo in the blink of an eye – “

“But you’re you, and therefore you didn’t.” Ran shrugs, her tails flicking in various directions. “Lady Yukari said she attempted to communicate with Dragon, but the only answer she got was ‘wait and see’. Perhaps Dragon was watching you all along, realized what you were planning, and chose not to intervene. It would not surprise me.”

“You seem awfully calm about this now.”

“Hindsight is all-knowing,” she giggles. “And besides, the boy responsible for making sure things ended up the way they did is currently… currently… is now! – “ In response to her calling you ‘boy’ again, you moved your arm a spare few inches to put your fingers in range of a strategic spot.

“Is currently what?” you ask mischievously.

“Oh – stop that – you – animal – “ she moans, squirming uncontrollably.

“Oh, so if I’m an animal, then what does that make you?” you croon, twisting your hand this way and that.

Too late you realize that your comfortable pillow of tails has encircled your joints, and in a sudden rush you find yourself thrown out of range and restrained. “That makes me a beast, I guess,” she says lightly. Rolling onto all fours, her tails pull you behind her, and she bends over, pressing her shoulders into the bedding, leaving her completely open. “And right now, this beast wants its mate to get over here annnnaaaaaaaaah~ – “


“You’re enchanting, you know that?” you gasp. The two of you have cuddled into your original spooning position: your body carefully nestled in a luxurious pile of tails, your arms clasped over her abdomen, her head resting against your shoulder.

“Shush, you flatterer,” she whispers, pushing her head slightly back against you.

“I mean it!” you insist, nipping at her shoulder, enjoying the way it sends a shiver down her spine.

“But I can’t – “

“Explain why I’m still doing this then,” you ask, creating a line of small kisses and bites to the nape of her neck.

“Ah! Okay! Fine!” she laughs, pushing your head away with light push. “Okay, I guess I am capable of some minor enchantment,” she concedes.

“… speaking of enchantment…” you start. Ran stiffens slightly in your hold; you land one last -gentle kiss on her neck to comfort her.

“Yes, I did enchant you back then,” she admits. “But – truthfully – I’ve never been good at it!”

“Really.” You arrange your features in an exaggerated look of disbelief, although you do honestly doubt her.

“I was surprised as you were when you simply… crumbled. I saw you defy the Yama’s will, and I had no idea why you simply didn’t do the same to me. Surely – surely some part of you must have realized what was going on?”

“You also pulled at the shikigami bond too,” you point out.

“That is true, but… someone with your mental strength… I expected you to throw off my feeble attempt without a moment’s hesitation.”

“You were ready to be rejected,” you realize. Possessively, you spread your fingers wide against her stomach.

“Yes,” she whispers. “Yes, I was. And you had all the opportunity to resist, and you simply let me. Did it never occur to you to resist?”

You think back. “Yes… a part of me did. But – “ You feel heat rise up in your cheeks. “That same part also chose not to do anything about it. Perhaps I… thought the situation to be worth seeing through.”

Her hands come up to encircle your wrists. “Thank you, Sai, for accepting me,” she says quietly, her voice cracking with pent up emotion. She sniffs once, twice, her body beginning to shake in your embrace. “It means so, so very much to me that I can be close to you…”

“Ran,” you sigh. “Ran, please don’t – “

“I – I can’t help it, I can’t stop,” she begins sobbing, and yet her voice is completely devoid of grief. Instead, her voice is soaring, flying, rising on waves of happiness, joy, hope –

“Sai, I love you,” she whispers, hugging your arms to her chest even as her tails shift to embrace you once again.

You feel your heart break, then blossom with new feelings, emotions and desires that you’d never experienced until now, in your time with this beautiful woman. There’s only one answer you can give to her words. “I love you too, Ran,” you whisper back.



[ ] Embarrassment
[ ] Apathy
[ ] Anger
[ ] Bafflement


[ ] Male
[ ] Female

[ ] Fighter
[ ] Wizard
[ ] Thief
>Pffffft. Raise undead makes unintelligent undead, and those can't writefag, can they?

Well, for some, I can't tell the difference...

[X] Bafflement
[X] Female
[X] Fighter

Congratulations, Ran, you're an even creepier mind-altering bitch. It's like she's got an unlimited supply of Rohypnol, and is using it like it's going out of style. Seriously. Creepy as fuck. Because liberally fucking with someone's mind to make them love you has NEVER backfired. Ever.

[X] Mild embarassment and annoyance.
It is, after all, common courtesy to knock.

[X] Male
[X] Wizard
I have no idea what I'm voting for.

>Raise undead
Is that even a spell? I thought it was Animate Dead. And couldn't we just Geas or Dominate him before he dies and spare ourselves all that mess with raising the dead?
I'm just gonna leave this IRC log here for you.

<balistaWAT> but updates
<balistaWAT> keep them coming
<balistaWAT> it's a promise
<Rab_Bit> wait me or you
<balistaWAT> both of us
<Rab_Bit> meh
<balistaWAT> i'll update if you update and vice versa
[x] Baffled
[x] Female
[x] Thief

Female thiefs are sexy.
[ ] Embarrassment

[ ] Female
[ ] Fighter

Bikini armor, go.
[x] Apathy

"'sup Yukari. I'm in your base, spooning your kitsune"

[x] Female
[x] Wizard

Kind of want to see another touhou's reaction to this. Maybe Patchouli or Marisa?
[X] Anger
[X] Female
[X] Wizard

Ran route lock?
I'm not okay with this.
Cuddling: balistafreak edition.

I'm not complaining!

[X] Embarrassment

[X] Female
[X] Wizard
File 135266825863.jpg - (42.99KB, 400x400 , GOOD LUCK.jpg) [iqdb]

Yeah, well, at first the entire wall was just the cuddling, and then I realized that my transitions between the LAUNDRY LIST of topics you guys wanted to cover were becoming more and more forced as the topics got less and less related. So, the most natural way to move between two completely unrelated topics is to have them brought up independently from each other. But they can't be independent from each other in the space of a single conversation...

So I had to break up the conversation... somehow.




>animate dead


>geas or dominate me

pic related
You could've made the whole thing sound a lot more natural if you'd implied a significant amount of time had passed by showing them doing various daily duties.
Cut 1: Cuddling.
Cut 2: Cooking.
Cut 3: Dunno, laundry.
Slice of Life, Balista Edition.

Also all the sappiness burns me.
Derp, forgot to vote.


[X] Bafflement
[X] Male
[X] Wizard
(Not really. REAL VOTE BELOW)

[X] Bafflement
[X] Female
[X] Thief

>various daily duties

This was actually the first plan. And then I realized something; Sai has zero experience with such activities, at least for the past X centuries of his life. Doing such little day-to-day tasks would be an eyeopening experience for him; and trying to weave that in with chatter felt even more awkward and forced to me.

>sappiness burn

just as planned

>Wizanon cameo

Wizanon already got his blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo-within-a-cameo, he's not getting another one any time soon!
[X] Bafflement/annoyance
[X] Female
[X] Fighter

>wall of cuddling
There is absolutely no reason you shouldn't post this too.

>wizanon cameo
Keine being pregnant?

>7 simulacra
Fascinating. I forget, do they react well to Dispel Magic?
Alternatively, Black Tentacles. Properly applied, it provides an adequate makeshift solution to most problems.
Need to parley or intimidate? Black Tentacles!
Smother a fire? Black Tentacles, Snowcasted for good measure!
Spice up your sex life? Extended Black Tentacles!

Actually, you know what? We're a sorcerer; our reaction shouldn't be some deer-in-the-headlights emotions as though we're some mere commoner who gets killed by housecats. I submit the following alternative choices:
[X] Celerity
followed by:
[ ] Arcane Lock (vanilla option)
[ ] Mass Invisibility (other vanilla option)
[ ] Wall of Stone/Iron/etc. (preferably with "Learn to knock, plebeian" engraved on it.)
[ ] Solid Fog (later followed by deadpanning "Thank you for ventilating the room; it was getting unbearably steamy from the intercourse Ran and I were having.")
[ ] Write-in (Teleport? Illusions?)
Black Tentacles ("Hey guys, I- oh gods what is this- Help! I can't see! Can't... breathe..." "HUEHUEHUE-" *slap* "Stop it, Sai.")
I know full well this is a joke, but I can't resist.

[X] Celerity
[X] Solid fog

Just for the sheer hilarity of Yukari walking in to a room full of steam and naked shikigami.
Overwhelming popular preference for [X] Female. However, for those who voted [X] Female, class is split 3-3 between Fighter and Wizard.

Votes will be called in 24 hours. Please don't leave me with another ;_;


[X] Female

[ ] Fighter
[ ] Wizard
[x] Wizard
I still want to see what Byakuren thinks of this.
[x] Gish

[x] Fighter
I wanted Thief, but I guess Fighter's fine.

[X] Fighter

[X] Wizard

Inconsiderate, thy name is Wizard.
File 135318534012.jpg - (625.13KB, 713x1000 , Yukari Ran Lap.jpg) [iqdb]

Welp, it looks like your joke is actually happening, because tie-breaker round tied in turn and I'm not waiting any longer.

Next update will be in a new thread. Number 4. Man, this thread is an amazing 5 months long. Hard to believe that the first two went by so fast.

Votes called. Pic related. Writing now. Please wait warmly~
>looks like your joke is actually happening
Huh. Didn't expect that. Oh well. I'm sure it'll be perfectly fine regardless.
New thread: >>162964

Thread Watcher x