#039;s Public Enemy - Thread 3 | THP - The Destination for Touhou fans

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170820 No. 170820
Thread 1: >>163303
Thread 2: >>166295

And now for someone completely different. I think I might make this a tradition.

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

The Underground is slumbering.

The always bright and rowdy city is now enveloped in shadows and silence. The festive decorations are disarrayed on the ground, broken; the streets are left unattended and gathering dust and waste; the windows of the houses are pitch black, and the bonfires and chimneys have long stopped fuming. Normally you can hear onis, fairies, pets and many other youkai shouting, singing, laughing and partying like there was no tomorrow. Now not even that typical breeze of solitude dared to break the ominous silence that looms over every house, every square, every alley.

"The fair and gracious maiden went off to wash her clothes~~"

Okay, not exactly "ominous". It's the kind of silence you find when you sneak on Sister's room while she sleeps. You know, the one you are so afraid to break because then she would wake up and ban you from eating sweets for ten years? Yeah, that kind. Those are the third worst type of silence. Now imagine that instead of Sister, it's your whole city, and you get a silence very similar to the one the Underground is enveloped in. Especially since the Underground is your city.

"She waaaaatered, she waaaatered, she watered them in the crook, and she washed them while she sang~~"

Except that, no matter how much racket you make, they won't wake up. And you've tried everything, from tugging their shirts and skirts to biting their ears, or hitting them with mallets and empty bottles in the head, to blowing tubas in their ears, or throwing boiling water at them, or dancing ballets on their tummies, or singing The fair and gracious maiden went off to wash her clothes up to fourteen times. You even shouted obscenities at the top of your lungs that would make your sister - or anyone, for that matter - pale in utter shock. If they were awake, that is. And even so, most of them would simply ignore you as always, so in retrospect all that was a complete waste of time from the beginning.

"Rubbing it in a stone and hanging them on a birch, tralalalalalalah~~~~~"

In short, you tried everything and nothing worked. And you're bored because nobody is awake to play with you. And hungry. You can't remember when was the last time you ate something warm. Actually, you don't actually need to eat, but you got to maintain traditions, Sister says. However, after almost three weeks of eating the same things, you got fed up of canned food and syrups.

"Heeheehee, 'fed up'. Do you get it? Because I was talking about food, and 'fed up' has two different meanings, and I made a wordplay with those meanings. Now that's a good pun, don't you think? Why, of course it was! That's what a pun is. It says so in one of Sister's books, so it must be true!"

Of course, nobody answers back to you. Because they're all asleep. And even if they were awake, most of them would simply ignore you as always, so in retrospect all of that was a complete waste of time from the beginning. But that's okay. You're already used to this, aren't you? You brought this upon yourself time ago, yeah?

And now you made yourself sad. Way to go, girl. But it's nothing to worry about! Miss Redhead Cat Carter and Miss Heavy Horned Drinker always say you have to sing a song if you feel down, and that'll lift your spirits up like foam from a beer!

"After washing all her clothes, the maiden went to the market~~;
and a shepheeeeerd, and a shepheeeerd, and a shepherd selling sheeps touted loudly~~;
'See my sheeps, see its wool! Such an animal, such a beast!' Tralalalalalalah~~~~"

The fifteenth is the charm! You just need to keep singing, and everything will turn out alright somehow!

"The maiden saw it too skinny, however she liked it~~;
'I will pay you twenty coins and let's argue no more.'Tralalalalalalah~~~~
Off the maiden goes singing, quite happy with her sheep~~;
When they went to the forest, the little sheep ran away~~;
The maiden, desperate, plunged over it~~, quickly and artfully, she pounded it from behind~~
Tralalalalalala... lalalah?"

You spot a small light up ahead... a lamp or lantern? But weren't all the lights off because everybody was sleeping? Maybe someone finally woke up!? That's great! You trot towards the small flame, and as you get closer, the figure of the one holding it becomes clearer. It was a girl with short blonde hair, wearing clothes very similar to the ones the fairies from Sister's castle have. Is she a maid too? With one hand she is holding the lamp to light her way, while she holds something wrapped in wool with the other, pressing it to her chest so that it doesn't fall.

You don't recall seeing her in the Underground before, but then again, your memory isn't to write home about. She kinda looks like a fair and gracious maiden who went off to wash her clothes. She also seems nervous, because she's looking back and side to side every once in a while. But more importantly, she's awake unlike the others!

[]Ask her to play with you!
[]Ask her to sing with you!
[]Ask her to cook something for you!
[]Ask her out for a date!
[]Play a prank on her!
[]Peek-a-boo!
[]Follow her for a while!
[]Sell her a sheep!
[]Write-in


>> No. 170823
[x]Ask her to sing with you!

Because singing with two people is better than singing with one!

Yay, Koishi!
>> No. 170824
[X]Follow her for a while!

The underground got hit too? This is starting to look bad.
>> No. 170825
[X]Sell her a sheep!
because, who can't use a sheep.
>> No. 170836
This is extremely worrisome. Not only was the Underground hit by the Raijuu's taint, but the maid from the Human Village is also lurking around. Whatever choice we choose, we should prepare for a confrontation in case things go south.
>> No. 170850
[x]Play a prank on her!

Up with the skirt! And the best thing with our prank is that we can do it in a way that she doesn't even know who did it! Yay!
>> No. 170851
[x]Ask her to sing with you!

Yay. Singing!
>> No. 170859
[x]Sell her a sheep!

I don't think we have a sheep so it'll be good fun trying to scam her.
>> No. 170872
[X]Sell her a sheep!

Who cares if we don't have one? We're going to try anyway!
>> No. 170902
[X]Sell her a sheep!

...I... Okay?
>> No. 170906
[X]Sell her a sheep!
Koishi could sell ice cubes to Eskimos, seriously.
>> No. 170930
[x]Play a prank on her!
skirt Lifting and other hijinks ensue.

If that doesn't work.

[X]Sell her a sheep!
>> No. 171252
[X]Sell her a sheep!

Everything happens for a reason, says Sis. Some people say logic escapes you. But the fact that maid appeared just when you were singing The fair and gracious maiden went off to wash her clothes doesn't escape you. If she is in fact the fair and gracious maiden who went off to wash her clothes, then that'd make you... the shepherd? So you must play along and sell her a sheep! It's only logical! That means you can catch up with logic! Sometimes. Ha! Take that, grumpy blondy bridgekeeper!

As you get nearer her, you get the feeling you're forgetting something very important, but you dismiss it. A good bartender must focus on the moment and keep talking until you sell your product! So you plant yourself just in front of the blonde maid and wave at her.

"Ahoy, pretty lady, would you kindly take a look at my herd?" Flattery and education before anything else. You're off to a good start, you think. "See? My sheeps are the best ones around he- eeeeeeeeeeh?"

Oh no! The unthinkable happens! Despite your polite and correct approach, Maid Maiden simply walks past you, not paying any ounce of attention to your efforts! It's almost as if she's deliberately ignoring you... How rude!

Or maybe it's because she can't pay attention to you in the first place. It already happened many times. Yeah, it must be that. Therefore you must try harder to be noticed!

"Look at them! Look at their pristine, white wool! See how healthy and happy they are! Come on, you know you just want to snuggle them and take them home!"

Still no reaction from Maid Maiden, who keeps trotting away. You're used to being treated like a little rock on the floor, but today you're not giving up so easily!

"Normally I would charge you two thousand yens, but because it's you, it'll be only two point five! C'mon, what do you say? Pretty good, right?"

You walk by her side and beam her with your best cutesy smile, but Maid Maiden doesn't even acknowledge you. So she's playing hard to get, huh?

"Alright, alright, one and a half," No reaction. "One two fifty, deal?" Nothing. "One? Final offer. I can't lower it anymore, lady," Still nothing. "Oh come on, don't do this to me! I'll sell you one for just five hundred yen! Don't you see this fella's sad face? He's telling you to buy him! Pretty please?"

You go to pat your sheep's head to further drive your point, but when your hand reaches to nothing it occurs to you. You haven't any sheep to sell. Or anything else for that matter. Oh dear. Now you understand why Maid Maiden was ignoring you; she thought you were just spouting nonsense. This is so a big blunder indeed! You must think of something to save yourself from embarrasement! But what can you sell her when you don't have anything?

Wait, you do have your body. Maybe...

"Okay, miss, I'm going to show you my best wares! Take a good look!"

You stand just in front on her, and with a quick flick you lift up your skirt to reveal your "wares". Miss Redhead Cat Carter says there's nothing more eye-catching that the sight of white panties, so you're sure you'll get Maid Maiden's attention for sure!

"Is it of your liking? It's available for fifty thousand! A limited offer! C'mon, I know you can resist~~~!"

On the contrary, Maid Maiden is looking everywhere except at yourself, like she has lost her bearings. You pout in annoyance, as she walks past you. Is she implying you're not palatable enough for her by giving you the cold shoulder? That simply won't do! You can't let your pride as a proper lady be tarnished like this and do nothing about it!

"Ummmm... twenty five thousand!" you exclaim while wiggling your hips. "No? twenty 'k' coins and let's argue no more!"

At this point you're no longer surprised at Maid Maiden's lack of reaction. But no, seriously, at this point she should have noticed you already. Everybody else does after a while. Maid Maiden's must be making a willing effort to ignore you.

"In that case..."

You can't think of any other way for her to notice you, so you give up on trying to sell your body to her. But that doesn't mean you can't have your revenge! Since you had exposed your underwear to her, thus smirching your purity, it's only acceptable for her to do the same! So you do the only thing that can be done:

"Up with the skirt!"

With a technique mastered by extensive usage over the centuries, you quickly circle the unaware maid, get a grip on the frills of her skirt and apply the exact amount of strength to lift the piece of cloth without being too forceful. This lets you get a good, long peek at her pale and delectable thighs, covered by semi-transparent stockings, and at her black panties, sporting an unusually intricate pattern.

Oh yeah, she's got some nice legs. Hmhmmmmmmm. You wonder how would they feel in your hands once you give them a nice, strong squeeze...

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!" the maid screams, unsurprisingly.

Before you get the chance to sample those fine hindlimbs of hers, the maid uses her free hand to grab her skirt and pull it down, in an attempt to retain her dignity. Then she frantically looks around to spot the culprit of the shenanigan... only to find no one around her.

"Huh?" she mutters. "Must be the wind, then. Or one of those spirits. Better get moving fast."

Wha-!? What? Just what? How could she-? But that's-!

No, enough is enough. There is a line that cannot be crossed, and Maid Maiden has just jumped right through it. This joke has gone for too long. You're going to grab her and get an apology for her for ignoring you so blatantly!

And so you scoot after her, trying to match her fast rhythm...

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

That task proves to be much more difficult and exausting than you thought. The maid kept going to and fro all over the city, suddenly changing directions and taking the side streets. You almost lost her in the corners a couple of times, but somehow you managed to keep on her heels. Still, that's not enough to catch her. Truth to be told, not even you are able to be this random at walking the streets.

Eventually, Maid Maiden looks behind her back, completely glancing over you without registering your presence, and then takes a sudden sharp turn towards a dead end. Haha! You finally got-

-her?

She isn't here!

"But how-!? Where did she go!?"

That's when you notice a small hole on the wall, in the other side of the alley. It was covered by a darkish brown blanket, but it had been hastily removed and tossed to the ground - that's how you spotted it. The maid must have gone through it, for sure! You crawl down and cross it. It is barely wide enough foy you to fit, and you're quite nimble and skinny. The maid must have had a harder time at it.

When you appear at the other side, your clothes are all sullied with dirt. Sister is going to nag you so bad for this... If she were awake. But that's not important right now! You find yourself at a secret passage you have never explored in all your years in the Underground!

"Oooooooh, this is so exciting~~~~!" you sing, all pumped-up.

You lost the maid's track, but there's only one way ahead, so you don't worry too much; you will surely see her at the end. The cave you're in is extremely dark, but somehow you can still make out the outlines of the natural walls and its slatagm- staglam- sgalta- those pointy rocks that hang from the celing. Being careful not to smack your head against any of them, you weave through the tunnel until you hear a loud banging noise ahead - like when Sis knocks on your door. So there must be a door there.

"... you in? I need your help! Answer me!" the maid's desperate cries reach your ears, albeit muffled.

You rush towards her voice, and you find yourself in a kind of "clearing", where the cave gets suddenly bigger. And in the middle of it, there's a big house. Well, if you consider a massive heap of rocks, bricks and metal plates placed randomly a "house". Whoever built this, they had definitely no notions of architectonics. Not that you have them, either, so you shouldn't complain... But your Sis' castle looks so much better and stable than this pile of crap, that's for sure.

"Come on, I know you're in there!" the maid keeps shouting and pounding at the door. "We have a huge problem! I need your help NOW!"

She keeps at it for a few seconds, and you take the chance to approach her slowly and silently, Oh, she's going to get the biggest scare of her li-

"Password!"

WHOA MAMA WHAT IS THAT NOISE HOLY HEL-
Oh, it was just a speaker that came from one of the "windows". Nothing to be scared about. No, your heart isn't pounding like crazy for that. And you're definitely not hyperventilating. Nope. Not at all.

"I don't have time for this," the maid punctuates every word. "Let me in already!"

"Can't let you in yet. Identify yourself," retorts the speaker with its insufferable blaring.

"Listen to me, you obnoxious turtleworm. This is a matter of life and death, and if you don't let me in, it's going to be about yours as well," the maid is starting to lose her cool.

"'Obnoxious turtleworm'? Man, I bet you were up all night working on that one."

"You open the goddamn door right now or we're going to have a real problem, you hear me!?"

The speaker rings loudly for a second, making you plug your ears with your fingers in response. Then, after a few seconds, it speaks again:

"Fiiiiiiiine, geez. Make sure you haven't been followed, will ya?"

"Who could possibly be following me? They're all fast asleep," says the maid. Despite that, she still checks her surroundings - and as before, she totally ignores your presence. "We're safe. Open the door."

In front of the maid a door - or rather a metal plank painted in a door fashion - screaks and turns, revealing an opening to the dark insides of the house, and she steps in quickly.

What could be inside this house you've never been in? It is a mystery, it is! So exciting! You quickly prance to the door and-

"Ouch!"

But before you're able to get inside, the "door" quickly closes in your face, leaving you with a sore nose and forehead.

"It huuuuuuursh!" you whimper, as you rub the itching zones.

You hate the ouchies. Closing the door in front of someone is very impolite, Sister taught you. That maid needs to be taught a lesson in manners!

[]But not right now. You're going home for the moment.
[]Wait for her to come out. Even if it takes hours.
[]You're going in and have a word with her, no matter what!
-[]Knock at the door. Like Sis taught you.
-[]Go through the window. Like the Burglar Witch does.
-[]Climb down the chimney. Like Santa does.
-[]Look for a backdoor. Like... like you usually do, you guess.


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

I don't think a pic of Koishi flashing her panties warrants a NSFW tag, but eh, better safe than sorry, I guess.

I wonder if I'm doing a good job at portraiting the POV of a character with no rational mind at all. It's actually much harder than I thought.
>> No. 171253
-[]Climb down the chimney. Like Santa does.
We'll tunnel from our front yard into her backyard!
>> No. 171256
[X]You're going in and have a word with her, no matter what!
-[X]Climb down the chimney. Like Santa does.

We're here to deliver some fun!
>> No. 171257
>>171252
Aw, no write-in option. I wanted Koishi to danmaku her way through the wall~
[x]Do your best Santa impersonation
>> No. 171258
-[x]Climb down the chimney. Like Santa does.

I think koishi may be the only one who can actually get away with this and not be seen.
>> No. 171260
-[x]Climb down the chimney. Like Santa does.

It just seems very... Koishi.
>> No. 171265
[x]You're going in and have a word with her, no matter what!
-[x]Climb down the chimney. Like Santa does.
>> No. 171269
[X] You're going in and have a word with her, no matter what!
-[X] Go through the window. Like the Burglar Witch does.

>When you appear at the other side, your clothes are all sullied with dirt. Sister is going to nag you so bad for this...
Chimneys are caked in soot, so the chimney will just make the inevitable nagging even worse.
>> No. 171299
-[]Climb down the chimney. Like Santa does.
>> No. 171361
[x] Maybe we should wait rather close to the conversation before starting our own. It's rude to interrupt, after all.
[x]Down the chimney, Santa style!
>> No. 171386
[X]You're going in and have a word with her, no matter what!
-[X]Climb down the chimney. Like Santa does.

This just sounds so right somehow
>> No. 171391
Silly Anons, Christmas is in five months!

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

[X]You're going in and have a word with her, no matter what!
-[X]Climb down the chimney. Like Santa does.


You scout the pile of scraps from all sides, looking for any kind of entrance. Most houses in the Underground have a secret hole in one of the walls that very few people know about, granting easy access for someone like you. Then again, those houses were built in caves, not from a mishmash of several random construction materials. However, despite the pellmell aspect of the "house", you find no ways to enter it aside from the "door" and the "window". It's as if the owner of this place was afraid of people intruding in her house or something - what a joke! How are you supposed to get your Christmas presents if you-?

"Oh! I've got an idea!"

At that moment, your not so metaphoric lightbulb lights over your head. There's a small chimney at the top of the pile, so why don't you just be like Santa and come down it? Too bad you don't have your costume right here... But you'll give the maid and the owner of the house a pleasant surprise nonetheless!

You nimbly climb up the mountain of rocks, bricks and metal plates until you reach the top. The chimney itself is just a tube barely big enough for you to go in, and that's if you squeeze a lot. How does that big fat old man fit through such tight places with that sack full of presents? Not to mention the cinder and soil stuck in the walls. Everytime you went down a chimney, you got your clothes all black and dirty, and Sis would punish you for that.

Actually, you recall it was for "trespassing" more than anything. But how come Santa can go to children's homes at night, yet you can't? Wouldn't that make the old man an intruder as well? What is more, unlike Santa, you have at least the forethought of stripping your sullied clothes out when you go inside a house, so that you don't dirty the floor and the walls. Yet still people are always scared and call you "exhibitionist" whenever they see you. You wonder why is that...

"Alley-hop!"

You jump down the chimney, and after a short fall, you land feet first in a small heap of ash, lifting a cloud that dirties your shoes and stockings.

"Aw, gee, not again..."

It was to be expected, so you don't worry too much, but the owner of the house should really clean the ashtray once in a while. You take your shoes and stockings off, and place them "neatly" at one side of the tray for easy access when you have to leave, then step inside barefoot.

"Excuse me, I'll be intruding~~"

Proper etiquette having been taken care of, the first thing you register is a loud, metallic noise; the constant purr of machinery scattered all over the place. As you walk around what you think it's the living room, you see plenty of strange artifacts and devices you don't know their names or purpose.

Aside from those, the place looks quite dreary and plain; there are only two stools, an old commode, a rather unkempt tatami, and a small household shrine with candles, amulets and all those other things you don't recall their names or purpose. No paintings, no books, no wall decorations, nothing. It's as boring as a room can be. You quickly lose interest and are about to go to another room in search of Maid Maiden. There are three doors: one that you suppose to lead outside, seeing as the window is in the same wall as the door; a simple wooden door that smells very sweet, and a metallic gate with all kinds of red and yellow warning signs painted on it.

"Well, I hope 'Do not enter' means 'Enter immediately'."

Because the more you're told not to do something, the more you want to do it, of course! So nobody could reproach your sudden interest in what's behind that flashy door! You come closer to the door and are about to slide it open, but before you do so, you step on something warm...

Blood. A single, crimson, warm and drop of blood staining the floor - and your toes.

"Ewwwwwwww! Spooky," you squeal while you attempt to shake the red liquid out of your foot in vain.

If all the horror books you've read are of any indication, a door with many danger signs plus stains of blood equals something very nasty on the other side. Since you don't feel like meeting the monster of the week yet, you back away from the door. Maths really can save lifes, eh?

As you glance at the living room another time, you catch a glimpse of something on the commode. How could you miss it the first time? It is a used logbook, with its cover all scratched and torn from use, but you can still make out what it says.

"A diary? Cool~~!"

There are lots of fascinating things written in their pages; you have a lot of fun peeking on them while their owners are still asleep! And you can learn a lot of interesting stuff about them as well. You wonder what exciting thoughts and dirty secrets this old notepad holds...

"Seriously, I don't think this is a good idea at all."

"Well, what else do you propose to do, huh? Got a better plan?"

Before you get the chance to open the diary, you hear the voices of the person talking from the speaker and the maid coming from the metallic door. You sharpen your ears and listen to their frantic conversation.

"Actually, why don't you do it?" the gritty voice of the speaker says. "You are a maid, right? Don't maids know how to sew?"

"It's a disguise, alright? I'm actually not a maid and I don't know how to sew!" exclaims the maid, nervous. "And you? You're good with fixing stuff, so why don't you just-?"

"I'm an engineer, not a vet, for god's sake! I don't know how to treat wounds like that!"

"Look, you just stop the bleeding the best you can, while I keep it calm and stable, okay?"

The engineer lets out what you think it's a weary sigh - the thick metallic door and the machinery almost drown it in your ears - before speaking again.

"You're going to be the end of me, I swear."

"I thought that was already clear from the get-go. C'mon, let's get to work, double time."

The conversations dies as the engineer and the maid go on with whatever they're doing behind the dread door. Must be something pretty difficult, you guess. Still, you went here to have a word or two with the maid, but should you really disturb them right now? You can kill time by reading the diary on your hands, or exploring that door that smells sweet, or maybe playing around with all those strange machines. Or, you know, stop intruding and go back home like a good girl. Decisions, decisions...

[]Enter the DANGER ZONE!
-[]Knock knock! Interrupting satori!
-[]This is a sneaking mission.
[]Gossiper gonna gossip. Let's have a look at the diary!
[]You're kinda hungry. That wooden door smells sweet. Therefore, SWEETS behind the door!
[]You hope that red button that reads "DO NOT PRESS" means "PRESS IMMEDIATELY".
[]Nope nope nope. This place gives you the creeps. Better go home while you still can.


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

Alright, time to get serious. Same deal as with Marisa back in Thread 2. You have a chance to discover information about what the hell is going on. Depending on your choices, you will discover different pieces of this puzzle. And who knows, maybe you'll be able to make a big impact on the future of the plot as well. A little rock on the works can pretty much bust apart an entire factory.
>> No. 171393
[x]Gossiper gonna gossip. Let's have a look at the diary!

Reveal your secrets to Koishi!
>> No. 171395
[X]Gossiper gonna gossip. Let's have a look at the diary!

We're here to gather information, so I'd assume that the diary should have some important information about the engineer and the maid.
>> No. 171396
[x]You hope that red button that reads "DO NOT PRESS" means "PRESS IMMEDIATELY".

My intuition says that things can only get better with this choice
>> No. 171400
[x] Oooh, what does THIS button do?

Really, is there any other choice here for Koishi
>> No. 171417
>>171396

[x]You hope that red button that reads "DO NOT PRESS" means "PRESS IMMEDIATELY".

I shall trust your intuition.
>> No. 171421
[]You hope that red button that reads "DO NOT PRESS" means "PRESS IMMEDIATELY".

Dude. The button. I HAVE TO PRESS IT.
>> No. 171422
[x]You hope that red button that reads "DO NOT PRESS" means "PRESS IMMEDIATELY".

This calls to me.
>> No. 171448
[X]Gossiper gonna gossip. Let's have a look at the diary!
Butons schmuttons. We can press it some other time.
>> No. 171479
[x]MUST... PRESS... BIG... RED... BUTTON
>> No. 171598
The good thing about summer holidays is that, apart from having more free time, I am much less stressed, and I can come up with ideas easily. Hell, maybe I'll return to that story at /eientei/ I left abandoned.

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

[X]You hope that red button that reads "DO NOT PRESS" means "PRESS IMMEDIATELY".

You look briefly around the room one more time, this time focusing on the machines you had no interest in before. Every single one of them is wired with multitude of tubes and cables and little blinking lights and keys and levers and dials going wild and you don't understand what any of those do. You are about to return to reading the diary when something catches your attention:

A big, red, round button. And it reads 'DO NOT PRESS except in case of emergency'.

Miss Red-Creepy-Eye-In-Chest Bird would always scold you if you ever got near the buttons at her workplace. Something about "accidentaly setting off a nuclear meltdown" or whatever, but it sounded pretty dangerous. Then, because she was a nice girl, she would give you a candy and promise you to play with you after she finished her turn. Of course, being the bird-brain she is, she usually would forget about that promise, but hey, at least the candies were good! However, now that this isn't a nuclear reactor, and there's noone to give you candy, you concur there's nothing stopping you from pressing that big, red, round button. So...

Boink!

"Heehee, 'boink' it goes."

And then, suddenly, it all goes pitch black. The rumbling of the machines dies down after a loud flick at the same time the lights go off, leaving the whole house in thick, almost palpable darkness.

Just like that time.

"Hey, who turned off the lights!?" you hear the voice of the maid from the Danger room.

"Damn generator must've broken down again," the engineer cusses. "Hold up, I'mma go fix it in a sec."

"B-but we're in the middle of-!"

"Look, it's simply impossible for me to patch 'im up if I can't see what's in front of my nose. Or do you want me to accidentally sew his legs together?" There's a pause, as the maid doesn't respond. "Thought so. Try to keep 'im asleep while I-"

"Okay, okay, I got it, now go and do your thing!" urges the maid.

You hear a set of footsteps getting nearer and nearer. Soon she'll open the metallic door, enter the living room and may or may not spot you. You know you should get the hell out of here fast, lest you risk getting caught.

But you body simply does not respond. No matter how much you order your legs to move, they have been reduced to a quivering mass of flesh and bones. Your heart starts to pound faster and faster; your palms are sweaty; your knees, weak; your arms, heavy, and your external ocular nerves have curled and entangled up more than Sis' spaghetti.

Just like that time.

Yet the worse part is not the ills of your body, but of your mind. You can actually feel the shadows enveloping you and trying to crush your body, your lungs, your limbs, your soul, until you're reduced to a shivering, whining, crying doll, lying in the floor, forgotten and forsaken. And then they would swallow you whole, consume you, and you'll lose your sense of identity. The darkness will devour you, just like that time, and the mere thought of it is absolutely terrifying for you.

Fortunately, or not, you hear the metal door sliding open, and in that split second you see the engineer coming out of the danger room. Everything about her is red: her hair, tied in two pony tails with red hair bobbles and covered with a red cap, her face stained in crimson blood; her eyes, her dress with puffy sleeves, her also bloodied undershirt and hands...

"Damn woman. Why on Makai did I have to agree with all this crap?" she sighs. "Now let's see what's wrong with Buzzy..."

... all except that huge, golden, striking keylock she wears like a belt. Normally you would laugh at her extravagant choice of accessories, but all you can think now is how she will use it to lock you in a small, darker room for a whole week. Just like that time. Only that this time it won't be an unfortunate accident, and even if you scream for help, nobody will hear you and get you out of here. Because everybody is asleep.

Oh god, she's getting closer!

[]Curl up on the floor. Try not to cry. Cry a lot.
[]If you scream with all your might, the problem will go away!
[]Ask for forgiveness to the engineer. Beg for mercy. Anything but getting locked up!
[]PANIC ATTACK! SHOOT EVERYTHING!
[]Calm yourself! She can't see you. She doesn't know you're here.
-[]Quickly bash through the main door and get out of here.
-[]Just hide behind something, remain invisible and don't make a sound. She'll never notice you.
-[]Silently open the door that smells sweet and wait there until the coast is clear.
-[]Sneak past her and go to the Danger Zone. You still need to talk to the maid.


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

Your efforts at staying in character are laudable - especially with a cloudcuckoolander like Koishi -, but that doesn't make potential threats any less dangerous, Anons.
>> No. 171601
[X] Grab the diary in a moment of hysteria.
[]Calm yourself! She can't see you. She doesn't know you're here.
-[]Quickly bash through the main door and get out of here.
-[]Just hide behind something, remain invisible and don't make a sound. She'll never notice you.
-[]Silently open the door that smells sweet and wait there until the coast is clear.
-[]Sneak past her and go to the Danger Zone. You still need to talk to the maid.
>> No. 171612
[X] Grab the diary in a moment of hysteria.
[]Calm yourself! She can't see you. She doesn't know you're here.
-[]Quickly bash through the main door and get out of here.
-[]Just hide behind something, remain invisible and don't make a sound. She'll never notice you.
-[]Silently open the door that smells sweet and wait there until the coast is clear.
-[]Sneak past her and go to the Danger Zone. You still need to talk to the maid.
>> No. 171613
>>171601
>>171612

Uhhhhhh, you're suppossed to pick only one of those. If you read carefully you should guess all of those suboptions exclude the others.

And I don't know what to think of you, >>171612, seeing as you literally copypasted a vote that was badly done. Are you even reading the story at all?
>> No. 171614
[X]Calm yourself! She can't see you. She doesn't know you're here.
-[X]Sneak past her and go to the Danger Zone. You still need to talk to the maid.

To the danger zone!
>> No. 171617
[X]Calm yourself! She can't see you. She doesn't know you're here.
-[X]Sneak past her and go to the Danger Zone. You still need to talk to the maid.

Breathe. Deep, slow breaths. You'll be fine.
>> No. 171618
[X] Calm yourself! She can't see you. She doesn't know you're here.
-[X] Sneak past her and go to the Danger Zone. You still need to talk to the maid.

Probably not a good idea to stay in the generator room. Best to take a look at the maid and whoever they're patching up.
>> No. 171620
>>171613

Ooops, my mistake. Sorry! Corrected Version here.

[X] Grab the diary in a moment of hysteria.
[X]Calm yourself! She can't see you. She doesn't know you're here.
-[X]Sneak past her and go to the Danger Zone. You still need to talk to the maid.

Hopefully grabbing the diary is possible. It shouldn't take more then a moment and then it is off to another place.
>> No. 171621
[X] Calm yourself! She can't see you. She doesn't know you're here.
-[X] Sneak past her and go to the Danger Zone. You still need to talk to the maid.
>> No. 171629
[X] Grab the diary in a moment of hysteria.
[X]Calm yourself! She can't see you. She doesn't know you're here.
-[X]Sneak past her and go to the Danger Zone. You still need to talk to the maid.

Diary's important. It contains simple and straight forward information.
>> No. 171636
[x]Curl on the floor. Try not to cry. Cry a lot.
[x]Ask for forgiveness to the engineer. Beg for mercy. Anything but getting locked up!
Tide, meet my piss~
>> No. 171727
[x] Calm yourself! She can't see you. She doesn't know you're here.
-[x] Sneak past her and go to the Danger Zone. You still need to talk to the maid.

Diary-grabbing option sounds like bullshit. No, it is bullshit.
>> No. 171738
[x]Curl on the floor. Try not to cry. Cry a lot.
[x]Ask for forgiveness to the engineer. Beg for mercy. Anything but getting locked up!

Holy shit those are some dark memories.
>> No. 171879
[X]Calm yourself! She can't see you. She doesn't know you're here.
-[X]Sneak past her and go to the Danger Zone. You still need to talk to the maid.


Easy there, girl! Nothing is lost yet! That red-haired woman isn't going to lock you up because she can't see you. But that fairy locked you up precisely because she didn't see you. No! Shut up, repressed trauma! Nobody likes you! Go away! This time is going to be different, because you are going to sneak past the woman before she closes the door.

And thanks to your ability to remain invisible, you manage to reach the door with no problem. The engineer just passes by your side, not even remotely suspecting there is another person in the room, and quickly goes to check the strange big machine you touched.

"Oh my god, who touched Buzzy..." she mutters. "Who touched the generator!?"

You feel like that shout was somehow directed at you, even if the engineer didn't know it herself. Another reason to scurry to the Danger Zone while you can!

You find yourself in a small, dark room, but unlike in the living room, there's a little window leading outside, dimly illuminating the area. Thanks to that, you can at least make the outline of the many pieces of furniture scattered all over the place without any semblance of order: shelves, cupboards, boxes, a bed, a closet, another machine you don't know what it does, and a desk in the middle of the room.

And there's the maid, doing something at said desk. You tiptoe closer to her, unable to restrain your curiosity.

"Shhhhshshshshshhhhhh, it's all going to be okay, little guy," she whispers, on the verge of tears. "We're going to patch you up, and you will survive, so please, please don't die on me..."

'Die on me'. Well, that sounds awful. Who is the maid speaking to, anyway? You take a peek over the maid's shoulder...

... and see a small, blue squirrel curled up in a ball, bleeding profusely from its behind, where its tail should be, but isn't. The maid is whispering soothing words at its ear and petting its head, but that does nothing to alleviate the obviously pained grimace on the animal's face. It's easy to put two and two together, even for a person like you: someone had cut the poor squirrel's tail off, and the maid and the engineer are trying their hardest to save it from bleeding out. The mere sight of the maid, cradling the agonizing animal in her arms, is enough to make your heart throb with pain. Now you feel incredibly bad for turning the lights off and interrupting the operation.

Suddenly, there's a loud crash, and the light returns to the house, accompanied by the loud rumble of the machines again.

"Finally! Why did it take her so long?" mutters the maid, impatiently. She then realizes the great amount of blood that was pooling under the squirrel, and hurries to move him away, take a cloth and wipe the smelly red liquid from the improvised operation table.

You take a chance to look at your surroudings in more detail. You were expecting some kind of super secret lab with lots of incubation tubes, death rays, screens with unintelligible numbers on them, and things like that. However, this looks like a normal bedroom. Extremely disarrayed, but it's a bedroom. Kinda like yours. Except that you would never put a desk in the middle of the room. That ruins the feng shui.

"Mugetsu, we have a huge problem."

You hear the engineer at the door, a worried and weary look on her face as she stands there.

"Ah, there you are!" Mugetsu says. "Come on, we've got to finish th- What's that?" the maid points at something the engineer is holding in her left hand.

"Someone has sneaked inside," the red-haired woman lifts her hand to show what she has.

Hey, those are your shoes and stockings! Why did she take them!? You haven't given her permission! You have the urge to lunge and recover them from the rude engineer, but you remember in time that you're supposed to keep a low profile, or else you'll be caught and locked in a dark room. Though by the looks of it, they already know you're here.

"Shit..." Mugetsu brings her own hands to her head, staining her visage with fresh blood unknowingly. "Tch. We have to go on. The raijuu doesn't have much time left."

"With an intruder in my house? Not on my watc-"

"Mitori! If that intruder wanted to do us harm, he would've done it by now," the maid tries to speak calmly and rationally. She failed at the first part. "We can search for him after we're done with the cure. Assuming he hasn't left yet."

Mitori the engineer clearly doesn't agree with Mugetsu's logic, but for some reason, she doesn't speak up. Instead, she just grits her teeth, shakes her head, and throws your shoes to the floor in anger.

"Ahhhhh, screw it! We're gonna get killed anyway. Might as well save a life before it happens," she shouts, part in anger and part in resignation.

The red-haired engineer rushes to the "operation table", picks up a bloodied needle with some kind of wire attached to it, and- uuuuuuuuuuuugh, that's disgusting! Is that how you're supposed to sew a cut? With those instruments? Where did she get her medical license? Maybe she lost it? Anyway, this imagery is too disturbing for you to contemplate, so you decide to turn around and stare at the wall until they're finished.

You get the feeling you're forgetting one or two important things you were about to do, but you don't give it much importance. It just feels wrong to interrupt them now.

...

Ten tense minutes passes, until your hear Mitori letting out a long relieved sigh.

"Phew! I guess that's enough for now," she sweeps her sweat off her forehead with her arm, also dirtying it with the raijuu's blood. "I managed to stop the bleeding, but you should still get him to a real vet."

"Gods bless you, Mitori. You've actually been helpful for once," Mugetsu says, cleaning the squirrel with a clean rag.

"... You're welcome? Anyway, are you gonna tell me what happened?" Mitori asks. "That raijuu is powerful enough to heal from that wound by itself, maybe even grow the tail back. But that cut... That cut was not normal."

"That's... none of your business," spouts Mugetsu coldly.

"Yes it is now! I know we promised to keep our matters to ourselves, but you've involved me in your schemes too much for me to simply ignore them!"

"You're much better off without knowing," the maid finishes cleaning the blood off herself and the raijuu, and goes for the door. "I'll leave the raijuu in your care, but I'll check up on him every night. Meanwhile, I have some things to take care of-"

"I can't let you do that, Mugetsu. We still have to deal with the intruder."

Mitori blocks the door with her body and shoots a furious glare at the maid. But Mugetsu, not intimidated in the slightest, simply brushes her off and goes out of the room, probably to leave the house. The engineer stands there for a second, before speaking again, this time in a voice imbued with a impressive, powerful magic that admitted no refutal or defiance.

"Mugetsu, you're not allowed to leave. Not until you've answered all my questions."

The maid stops on her tracks - not by her choice, it seems -, and slowly turns around to face the angered engineer. She is about to say something, but Mitori closes the sliding door behind her, and the metal plates drown the voices of the maid and the engineer.

That leaves you alone at the "Danger Room" (or should you call it Operation Room?) with the sleeping raijuu. The animal looks like it's having a bad nightmare (do pets have nightmares too?), but at least it isn't bleeding anymore. However, that wound looks extremely awful, and you don't need a degree in medicine to know the cure Mitori provided wasn't a clean job. That's going to leave a bad scar after it heals - if it ever heals completely.

"Poor guy... Who did that to you?"

You stroke the raijuu's head mindlessly and watch its little slender chest heave slowly with its light breathing. Now that you look at it, it is kinda adorable seeing it sleep like this. It makes you want to take it home with you, add it to your collection of pets and take care of it~~. You could snatch it, put on your shoes and socks, escape through the window and make it back home, and nobody would notice anything until it's too late! But Mugetsu seemed rather infatuated with the squirrel as well. Wouldn't be wrong to steal it away from her? But if she really cared for it, she would've taken it to a real doctor, not to a engineer who barely knows how to sew... You'd definitely take better care of the raijuu than her!

You notice you still have the diary you found in the living room. You hadn't had time to read it, but somehow you took it with you here when Mitori almost surprised you. Might as well read it in the peacefulness of your home's library. Who knows what secrets the diary is hiding? It'll definitely make for an interesting reading! On the other hand, you don't have enough hands to carry both the raijuu and the diary; given how high the window is, you need at least one hand free to reach it.

But a third part of you - the gossiper part - wants to know what are Mugetsu and Mitori arguing at the living room. The metallic door is closed, but if you just slide it a tiny bit open you should be able to hear their conversation perfectly. Just what's going on between those two?

[]Eavesdrop Mugetsu and Mitori.
[]Time to put your shoes back and go home
-[]Take the poor raijuu with you!
-[]Take the mysterious diary!
-[]Stealing is bad! Don't take anything.
[]That poor squirrel is in great pain... You should relieve it from its suffering.


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

>>171738
>those are some dark memories
>dark memories
>dark
Goddamit Carlos. Puns are supposed to go on the previous thread!
>> No. 171883
[x]Time to put your shoes back and go home
-[x]Take the poor raijuu with you!
-[x]Take the mysterious diary!

Eavesdropping on those 2 will probably give us extra information (and maybe a bonus scene) but I consider it too big a risk.

I was going to kill the raijuu but I can't bring myself to kill an innocent creature and therefore I'll choose to bring it home and take it out of action.
>> No. 171884
[X]Time to put your shoes back and go home
-[X]Take the mysterious diary!

Meh, let's get Koishi outta here. Besides, this may be more immediately relevant.
>> No. 171886
>>171883

Only one suboption, please. I thought I made it clear that Koishi can only bring either the raijuu or the diary with her, not both.
>> No. 171894
[X]Time to put your shoes back and go home
-[X]Take the mysterious diary!

Time to bail out.
>> No. 171895
[x]Time to put your shoes back and go home
-[x]Take the poor raijuu with you!

We can obviously take better care of it! We can't leave it in the hands od those people. More pets for the satoris!
>> No. 171896
I won't risk Koishi for the sake of a bit more of information. And I think the story will be more interesting and difficult without knowing this.

[x]Time to put your shoes back and go home
-[x]Take the poor raijuu with you!

Poor thing ;..;
>> No. 171898
[X] Time to put your shoes back and go home
-[X] Take the poor raijuu with you!

We're taking it into protective custody. It should have been brought to a vet, not a mad scientist.
>> No. 171905
>>171886

alright then.

[x]Time to put your shoes back and go home
-[x]Take the mysterious diary!

Ok then. Information is more valuable than removing our enemies. The Raijuu may cause a ruckus in Koishi's mansion so it's best not to take it with us if it means we can't take the diary.

and if I can then:

[x]That poor squirrel is in great pain... You should relieve it from its suffering

If the format's correct then I can also do this. If that's not the case then ignore that last part. Unfortunatley killing the raijuu may ruin their plan so for the sake of the mission I'm unfortunatley also killing the raijuu.
>> No. 171906
[]Time to put your shoes back and go home
-[]Take the poor raijuu with you!

Voting with no meta-knowledge
>> No. 171910
[X]Time to put your shoes back and go home
-[X]Take the poor raijuu with you!

Here's to hoping this won't cause even more problems...oh who am I kidding?
>> No. 171938
[X]Time to put your shoes back and go home.
-[X]Take the mysterious diary!

Koishi is a Youkai. The Raijuu inflicts lethargy on Youkai. Do not take the Raijuu.
>> No. 171939
>>171938
True, but does Koishi know that?
>> No. 171942
[X]Time to put your shoes back and go home
-[X]Take the poor raijuu with you!

Well, now I'm intrigued.
Anyway, Koishi stealing a cute animal seems fine to me.
>> No. 171943
>>171938

>You stroke the raijuu's head mindlessly and watch its little slender chest heave slowly with its light breathing.

The thing is that we have already stroked it and nothing happened. Meaning that she doesn't know that. Or if she know, maybe she knows how to handle them and is not affected because of it?
>> No. 171946
>>171943

It does take a while for the effects to kick in so of course there would be no immediate effect. Unfortunatley we don't know if Koishi is now affected by it or if she will be effected at all.
>> No. 171984
[X]Time to put your shoes back and go home.
-[X]Take the mysterious diary!

They've worked so hard to look after the guy... It'd be a shame for that work to go to waste.
>> No. 171985
Going to call it for taking the raijuu with you. Things are going to get very interesting in the near future... Also, next update will bring us back to MC and Nitori.
>> No. 171997
Considering that the raijuu is almost certainly going to meet up with a mind reader? Hm.
>> No. 172003
I am not sure if the Raijuu is intelligent enough for anyone to read its mind, or more animalistic in nature.

Taking it is certainly a smart Option. It will take away a powerful weapon from These villains. (Or whoever the villains are) and inform the People of the Nature of their sickness.
>> No. 172006
>>172003

Satori can read the minds of feral animals; that's why she's fairly adored by her pets, especially the non-youkai ones. As to taking the raijuu with us, I can only hope that it will survive being taken away from the only veterinary care in the Underground as far as I can tell. After all, everybody else is asleep, and we have no idea if Satori or Koishi could help the raijuu if any complications arise, assuming that the former is awake.

As a final note, I doubt that the raijuu's ability can affect Koishi whatsoever. It affects one's self-motivation and drive to live, both of which are things that Koishi distinctly lacks according to canon.
>> No. 172178
>>172006

For some reason, I can imagine the Raijuu trying it's best to affect her before just looking at her like "There's something really wrong with you."
>> No. 172299
And then Koishi will hug it and pet it like a stuffed animal.
>> No. 172621
Apologies for taking so long. I was on a trip to Paris, country of baguettes (ah hon hon hon!), huge churches and looooong stairs, on a vacation with my family and other stuff. I inteded to have at the very least the first part of the update up before I left, but alas I wasn't able to finish it on time. The second part - with Nitori and the MC - will come up shortly.

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

[x]Time to put your shoes back and go home.
-[x]Take the poor raijuu with you!


The maid and the engineer can wait. There's a hurt little squirrel that requires your attention.

"Hey, fella, how are you doing?" you ask to the raijuu, running a finger along its spine.

The animal does not respond at all, deep in its healing sleep. You inspect the stitches that close the wound in the missing tail's place. Blood is coagulating and stopping the bleeding for the most parts, but the patchwork is definitely amateurish and badly done. Hell, Sis can sew sweaters better than this, and she's such a klutz with the needle! If you can't cure your injured pet, you should be responsible and take it to a vet, not do a half-assed attempt at stitching wounds! In fact, a good owner wouldn't let her pets get hurt this badly in the first place!

"Those two suck at taking care of you," you murmur. "I can be a better master than them, don't you agree?"

You say that, but you realize that you don't know how to stitch wounds either. That means you should take your new pet to a vet, since you're responsible unlike Mitori and Mugetsu.

"But everybody here is asleep..." you ponder outloud. "Maybe there's someone up there that isn't taking a nap? The bunny people at the Bamboo Forest? Or the Tengu Village, or the Kappa?"

In anyway, whatever your destination finally is, you'll need to head outside. You put your dirtied socks and shoes on again, take the raijuu softly in your arms, and head for the small window. For now, you'll just focus on getting out of here, and then you'll decide on the spot. That always worked for you. Deciding things on the spot, that is.

"I'm getting us out of here. Hold on there..." you tiptoe to reach the frame of the window and open it, but your short stature and holding the squirrel makes it diffcult. "By the way, you don't have a name, do you? What should I call you?"

At that moment, you discover that attempting to climb a high window while holding an animal in your arms and thinking of names for your new pet - hey, it's not easy! - makes you even more prone to cause accidents all over the furniture. In this case, you kick some strange kind of wrench to the floor, which falls to the metallic floor with an extremely loud 'clang' noise.

You freeze in your place, knowing very well you just got into big trouble. Likewise, the argument going on behind the door died down as well.

"What was that?" you barely hear Mitori's voice. "The intruder?"

"It came from there!" Mugetsu exclaims, seemingly upset and worried.

"Uh oh," you say.

Yes, you're deep in trouble now! Even if they are very bad masters, they will be angry at you when they see you are trying to kidnap adopt the raijuu without their permission. You'd better scram out of here fast, or else you will be locked up in a dark room again, and you really don't want that and-

Your trainwreck of thought is interrupted by the sound of the door sliding open, and the shocked gasps of the maid and the engineer.

"What the-!? The raijuu is floating!?" Mugetsu exclaims.

"No, you dumbass, that girl is stealing your damn squirrel!" Mitori shouts at the maid's ears.

"Girl? What girl? There's noone there!"

"Are you kidding me!? She's right there, paralyzed like a caught deer!" the engineer had lost her marbles.

Which reminds you, you should really, really get moving. Now that they're bickering about something, it's your last chance to escape!

"I honestly don't have any idea of what are you- hey, he's moving!" Mugetsu points at you - or rather, at the raijuu in your arms, as you vault over the window and land outside with a soft thud.

By the corner of your eyes, you see the maid running toards the window and about to nimbly jump through it... only to inexplicably stop in midair and fall flat to the floor, still inside the house. Although she's out of your sight, you can hear her pained 'oomph', though.

"What the hell..." Mugetsu groans.

"Oh, right, my prohibition of leaving this place is still in effect," Mitori says, her voice suddenly turning more... cunning? "That's why you can't go outside."

"Well, don't just stand there! Undo it!" the maid urged.

"It's not like you to lose your cool like that, Mugetsu. You needn't lift a finger, except..." the engineer chuckled. "To press this little button over here."

You imagine Mitori must be showing something to Mugetsu. And by the maid's reaction, it isn't anything good.

"Oh, no, not this again. I am not setting those mechanical abominations of yours free again!"

"Ah well, your loss. So you don't mind that girl taking it away from you?" you imagine Mitori must be doing the shrug of the century. "And here I thought you cared about your little squirrel... Guess I was wrong after all."

You imagine Mugetsu must be giving Mitori the angry glare of the millenia by now. You've been saying 'imagine', because you had finally decided to skiddle-daddle out of here; the further away from those two, the better. They talk and behave kinda like the bad guys from the fantasy books Sis read to you, but do bad guys fight between each other like that? In any case, they're definitely not people an injured raijuu should be with. Or you, actually.

That's why you start to make the run of your life towards the tunnel you came from, that one with all those stalag- pointy rocks from the ceiling. As you quickly evade the obstacles in your way back, you feel the squirrel squirming in your arms. All that shaking must be hurtng him...

"Shshshshshhhhh, it'll be over quickly," you whisper to it in its sleep. "I'm gonna take you to a person who can heal you up properly, and then I'll take you home, and we'll play a lot and I'll give you food and sweets and-"

Suddenly, you hear a loud humming coming from the house you left behind, very similar to the sound Miss Red-Creepy-Eye-In-Chest Bird's machines do when she turns them on. And then, an unnerving metallic clatter that is getting closer, and closer to you very fast. Before you're able to react, more of that clatter comes from the walls and the ceiling as well, like a swarm of cockroaches or spiders. Then it stops, and you're left in the dark, in the most absolute silence.

"D-don't be scared, it's nothing, it's nothing, it's nothing..." you mutter, trying to calm the sleeping raijuu. Or maybe yourself too. Either way, it's not working.

A green flash from one of the walls startles you, and you turn around slowly, slowly until you eye it. It's an eye made of little green lights, and it's staring right at you. But it's not an eye like Miss Grumpy Blondy Bridgekeeper's, not the eye of a youkai, not even the third eye of a satori like Sis or you. It's unnatural, and it makes you feel extremely uneasy. You try to say something, to make a sound, but your throat refuses to comply. So do your legs. The only thing you can do is to kneel down and hug the raijuu tighter, to protect it from the green eye.

Another green light lits up in the ceiling. Then another behind that stagla- pointy rock. Then another in the wall, another in the floor behind you, two more in front of you, and more and more and more - you're surrounded by green round lights, all of them pointing at you. In their sparkling, you can barely tell the outline of whatever things are giving those scary lights. Huh, they look like-

Following an order you don't catch, some of those things jump at you in unison, ready to pounce on their prey and snatch him into their webs.

And finally, your mouth responds and lets out a terrified scream into the dephts of the Underground, hoping someone will hear you and rescue you. But deep inside you, you realize nobody will come for you.

The Underground is slumbering.

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

And that marks the end of Koishi's Paralogue! Regardless of the satori and the raijuu's fates, at least you - as the readers - have come out of this with a big bunch of meta-knowledge. Of course, it's up to you to take all these tidbits of information I'm giving you and weave them to discover and understand what the hell is going on here. The succesful resolution of this incident and a few lives hinge on that, so discuss between yourselves and all that. They say two minds think better than one, so eight or nine should do the work.
>> No. 172624
>>172621

...Good job guys?

Now I feel bad about Koishi. Nothing that we can do about her, but jeez...

Anyways, here's for the debriefing:

First of all, Mugetsu. We saw that she's been lurking around the Human Village and has a definite connection with the raijuu, since she's trying to save it after Meira almost butchered it. In fact, I found this quote unusual just after Koishi was discovered:

>Ahhhhh, screw it! We're gonna get killed anyway. Might as well save a life before it happens.

She knows that she is doing something that will get her crucified, so we can presume that she is attempting to disrupt the status quo.

Additionally...

>The engineer stands there for a second, before speaking again, this time in a voice imbued with a impressive, powerful magic that admitted no refutal or defiance. Mugetsu, you're not allowed to leave. Not until you've answered all my questions.

Although it is clear that Mitori has some control over Mugetsu, I presume that Mugetsu has lassoed Mitori into some sort of scheme with unknown objectives. Mitori seems to be an interesting person; as an engineer, she is probably a Kappa who is trying to do something about the bad luck her counterparts on the surface are encountering, but that's just conjecture. Her private army of green lighted robots indicates that she has prepared for this incident for quite a while, since I doubt that industrial-grade materials is abundant in Gensokyo. Based on her reaction when Koishi was kidnapping adopting the Raijuu, Mitori doesn't seem to care much for the Raijuu itself, but Mugetsu does on the other hand for suspicious reasons.

That's all I can point out. Maybe this analysis will prove useful, maybe not.
>> No. 172635
>>172624

Well, hey! Now we can rescue Koishi like a princess and get some satori lovings!

I don't know much about Mitori, other than that she is a fan-made character with the ability to forbid anything. Also, she's kind of a jerk, I think.
>> No. 172679
As promised, part 2 of the update. Warning: Incredibly lame puns and offensive jokes ahead. They might hurt some people's sensitiviti- pffft, who am I kidding? Few things can faze imageboard dwellers, and these jokes ain't one of those.

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

"I don't know, what do celestials catch when they go fishing?"

"Holy mackerels!"

"Pfffthahahahahahaha!" Nitori breaks into loud laughter once more, to the point she's on the verge of tears. "That's so stupid... I love it."

Although you weren't initially in the mood for jokes, the kappa's relentless volley of jokes mellowed you out, and eventually you responded in kind with some bad puns of your own. This only ellicited groans and winces from Rin, who refused to take part in this 'trite and lowly form of humor', in her own words. But, truth be told, you actually are grateful for this enjoyable moment with Nitori - even if it's not by the kirin's high standards. After all the tough moments you've lived in the past two days, you appreciate this chance to unwind and let go of the tension you've accumulated; to forget for a brief time all the torments you've experienced, and the harships you will face in the near future. Besides, you're sure the kappa needed to have a laugh too and relax after all she's been through.

"Ooh, ooh, I got another one!" you say. "How many oni does it take to replace a light bulb?"

"One to hold it and the rest to drink until the world starts spinning. Come on, that joke's older than me!" Nitori scoffs.

"Got to respect the classics," you chuckle in return.

"Classics, huh? Then lemme tell you a joke of my people."

You nod in expectation, curious about the kind of jokes the kappa have in their own culture.

"Jokes someone your age should not- ah, it's too late now," Rin sighs.

"So you're walking in the snow, and you come across an unconscious, naked girl who looks like she had her shirikodama stolen," Nitori tells. "Now what would you do?"

A girl in the snow whose shirikodama was stolen? What a weird set-up for a joke. You shake your head, not having the slightest clue.

"Check your bearings, because you're going in circles!"

The kappa then laughs yet again, obviously thinking her joke was extremely hilarious. You chuckle with her, mostly finding her own laughter funny and because you're already in the mood, but the truth is you didn't quite get the joke. So you mentally ask Rin for-

"No. Absolutely not. Never. I will not explain that joke to you," the kirin exclaims, half flustered and half outraged.

But why? It's only a joke. What is it that she finds so-

"It is wrong. Period. But I thought you would get it. Guess you are a bit more innocent than I pegged you as..." she adds, mumbling to 'herself'.

You mentally sigh and wonder why would Rin be so... butthurt about that joke.

"Did you just-? Oh, you did! You lying-!" The kirin groans, after discovering she had been rused. "It was all a set-up for that, right? I bet you were waiting all your life for this chance to happen. Well, har har har, congratulations, you did it, Master Ruseman. You must be so proud of yourself."

Actually yes; poking fun at Rin fills you with a pleasant feeling of accomplishment and victory. Getting back at her is fine and all that, but you remember you have another person in the "real world" who you shouldn't keep waiting too long.

"Well, I'm joked out," you speak to Nitori. "Say, are we there yet?"

"Hmmm... yes, we're here!" the kappa says, after scouting your surroundings.

"Eh? Really?"

But you don't see any kind of house, or hut, or cave, or anything remotely related to villages or dwellings. It's just another random area of the Youkai Forest that the river crosses. In fact, you haven't even reached the tributary crook from before, and that means you have passed through here on your way to the Waterfall of the Nine Heavens. If there was a village here, you or Rin would have seen it.

"Wait here and watch my bag for a while, please," Nitori takes of her bulky backpag at your feet, then heads for the center of the river. "When you see it, you'll be amazed."

And with a smile, she dives off the water. You raise your eyebrows as you see the kappa's shadow vanish in the depths of the river. It didn't look so deep when you were walking it.

"There must be a kind of secret hole at the bottom, built by the kappa," Rin hazards a guess.

"So it's an underwater city?" you wonder outloud.

"In my time it wasn't, if I recall correctly. But they could have relocated in the meanwhile."

Then you'll just have to wait and see for yourselves. Your gaze wonders upon Nitori's bag, lying at your feet. You walk slowly around it, eyeing the pockets as you circle it.

"I hope you aren't thinking on searching it," Rin says. "It's very rude to rummage a woman's bag. Or anyone's, for that matter."

"I wouldn't do that!" you retort. "Besides, I don't want to set that drill off by accident."

Speaking of which, how can such a massive thing inside that bag? And by its bloated look, that instrument can't be the only thing Nitori hast in there. You wonder what other kind of gizmos she keeps inside... You give the bag an experimental tug by its handle, but it doesn't move an inch.

"Yeouch, this thing is really heavy. How the hell can she carry it around so easily?" you say.

"Youkai tend to be much more powerful than humans."

Ah. Yeah, it was a stupid question. It's funny, though; for a moment you forgot Nitori has the strength to tear your limbs apart with ease if she wished so. Now that you think about it, you still can't get over the fact that youkai can be so friendly, so... human-ish.

"Ah, but couldn't it be humans the ones acting youkai-ish?" asks Rin.

"Except that we don't scare and eat youkai," you retort.

"But you do hunt them down to survive, don't you?"

"Well, nowadays we don't do it as much as we used to, but..."

But neither do youkai scare and eat humans as much as in the past, you realize. They only feast on those stupid enough to wander off the village at night, and on the unlucky Outsiders that don't make it to the Human Village or any shrine. So really, despite your attempts to justify the contrary, humans and youkai aren't that different in the end. Still, there is something that has been nagging your mind, ever since your encounter with the raijuu.

"Tell me, Rin. Is it normal for youkai to attack other youkai?" you ask the kirin.

"Do humans attack each other?" she says in return.

"Sometimes we fight each other, yes. But to go as far as to kill your kin... that's outright psychopathy."

"I'll be honest with you. We also have our share of homicidal maniacs in our side, just like humans. Or should I say 'youkaicidal', hm?" she chuckles, lightening the mood a bit. "I know that's not the answer you really want, but if it makes you feel any better, that raijuu is an anomaly. It's just crazed, it acts on instinct. We, as in the more... 'developed' youkai, so to speak, normaly do not behave like it does."

'Acting on instinct', Satsuki says. Somehow, you don't believe that part to be true. You recall the memory of the raijuu pouncing on you, just before Meira literally cut in. For a brief moment, you stared at the enraged creature dead in the eye, and you remember seeing the spark of intelligence at the bottom of its black eyes; something that set it apart from common beasts and fiends. Yes, it looked to you like it knew what it was doing, that it wasn't attacking people out of instinct, but deliberately so.

And contrasting it with what Nitori told you of the current situation in the Youkai Mountain, then it is very probable that the one stealing the corn and cutting the power off is related in someway to the raijuu. If by any chance, that person was ordering the raijuu to attack people on purpose...

"In any case, that beast must be stopped before it hurts more people," interrupts Rin. "Right now it's our-"

Rustle rustle.

You suddenly hear the sound of leaves shaking behind you. Startled, you turn around and adopt a defensive stance - an ineffective one at that, since you don't know jack about self-defense, so it'd be more correct to describe it as "alarmed", if not "chickened". You think you saw a strange pair of eyes rushing to hide behind the bushes just as you turned around, but it might as well be your imagination playing tricks on you.

"After all that has happened to us, do you really believe that?"

No, of course not. You and Satsuki have experienced too many ambushes by now to simply brush that off as the wind. It's better to assume the worst and think of that as yet another stalker going after you.

"Maybe we should strike first and save us the trouble," Rin advises. "Who knows, we might even bag us the culprit in a single hit if we're lucky!"

But what if it's another one like Nitori, with no intention to jump on you? Then you'd be attacking an innocent out of paranoia, and you don't want that. Besides, the kappa asked you to keep watch on her bag while she's away, so you must not go too far away. And she shouldn't take too long to come back, so...

"We could be dead by the time she arrives."

Still, that isn't a good reason enough to shoot wildly at the smallest hint of danger, is it? Then again, you are a fugitive on the run, after all.

[]You're just being extremely paranoid. Relax! Just calmly wait here until Nitori comes back.
[]Don't leave, but stay on your toes. If anything comes out of the bushes, shoot.
[]Tell the stalker you know it's there. You might scare it away for good, or make it come out to the open.
[]Unleash your magic! You aren't having any chances with whatever is there!
[]Inspect the bushes. It may be another shy person afraid of you, like Nitori.
[]Pretend to drop your guard. If it comes out, you'll pounce on it and pin it down.

>> No. 172680
[x]Pretend to drop your guard. If it comes out, you'll pounce on it and pin it down.

Bide your time, but remain cautious.
>> No. 172681
[x]Pretend to drop your guard. If it comes out, you'll pounce on it and pin it down.
Classic misdirection.
>> No. 172682
I would like clarification on:

[]Pretend to drop your guard. If it comes out, you'll pounce on it and pin it down.

What, so we're just going to jump onto the whatever comes out of the bushes, knowing that it's either a well-prepared human or a physically superior Youkai? Additionally, how far away are we from the bushes? If the stalker can dart a few meters faster then an eye can see, then distance matters; it doesn't matter how attentive we are if an attacker can close the distance in the space of a second.

We are at a psychological and situational disadvantage. We're in the open, we don't know the capabilities of the stalker, the stalker probably knows what we are capable of, and we'll be forced to react defensively if the stalker attacks us at the rate the votes are going, which is not a favorable combination. The fact that the stalker chose to hide indicates that he/she isn't friendly to us, and that alone triggers too many alarm bells.

It's better to be paranoid than be sorry, and I prefer to know more about the situation then react inappropriately on the get-go.
>> No. 172683
[x]Tell the stalker you know it's there. You might scare it away for good, or make it come out to the open.

Paranoia with chance of not embarassing yourself and turning your back on the bag.
>> No. 172684
[X]Tell the stalker you know it's there. You might scare it away for good, or make it come out to the open.

I hope by "Pin it down" we mean magic. Because even a small youkai would be able to kick our scrawny ass if we tried to physically wrestle it to the ground.
>> No. 172685
>>172682
If you wish to know, there's about 15 meters (~50 feet) between you and the bushes where you heard the sound.

And as always, the options I give are just guidelines. You're free to do slight modifications on them. Since you seem to be so adamant about using physical force against the possible threat, you can re-write that vote to "Bind it with Wood magic" if you want, to put an example. However, since there is no "Write-in" option here, you are not allowed to go wild and create ground-breaking choices or out-of-the-box alternatives this time around.
>> No. 172689
[X]Tell the stalker you know it's there, and order it to come out into the open or you'll blast it. You might scare it away for good, but you're facing it on your own terms.
-[X]Give it a few moments to respond, then unleash your magic if it hasn't revealed itself. You aren't taking any chances with whatever is there!

Whoever is hiding in the bushes clearly doesn't want us to see it. Any Youkai or human would know that their current behavior is cause for suspicion, so by declaring our intentions, we can cover ourselves by pointing out their behavior if they aren't hostile, but I doubt that. The fact that it hasn't rushed us the moment we heard it indicates that it probably doubts that it has the strength to overwhelm us, even if it assumes that we're just a simple human, so our threat/bluff should work.

I could be horribly wrong about my assumptions, but at least this would put us in a position of dominance in this situation. At the very least, it would force the stalker to reveal itself, and we'd also have the benefit of expecting whatever comes next, unlike the stalker, who'd be hard-pressed to make a decision.
>> No. 172937
I said earlier I don't like to put soundtracks for my stories, but this time I'm willing to make a exception, since some writers here are starting to experiment with it too. You tell me how it goes.

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

[X]Tell the stalker you know it's there. You might scare it away for good, or make it come out to the open.

Strategically speaking, you're in an awful position right now. Supposing there's actually a stalker hiding there, it clearly doesn't want you to see it. On the other hand, you're vulnerable in the open, and worst, you don't know the stalker's intentions or power, while the stalker probably does if it's been tailing you all this time. It clearly has the advantage if it decides to attack you, seeing as you're just a weak human, and Nitori is not with you now. But then, why hasn't it done so?

"Maybe... maybe it isn't sure it can overpower us when we're alert?" comments Rin.

That makes some sense. Smart hunters won't make a move until they're totally sure their prey won't pose a threat for their wellbeing. If the stalker is not as powerful as the raijuu, maybe you can stand a chance... if you force its hand and level the tactical ground. If you tell the stalker its cover is blown, it'll be forced to come out and face you, or desist and leave you alone. Or you could be just making a fool of yourself by screaming at the forest, because you're just being paranoid and there is nobody there. Whatever, as long as you don't get mauled to death, you'll endure a little humiliation.

"Hoy there!" you shout at the bushes. "I know you're there hiding from me! Come out, whoever you are!"

Your call gets lost in the depths of the forest and you get no response. On the other hand, you feel like you're being harshly stared by someone, something, as if it was telling you to stop being ridiculous. But that means there must be someone there for you to feel that way, right? Right?

"I'm a little antsy today, and I'm not in the mood to play hide and seek, you hear me?" you say, feeling more restless. "If you don't come out right now, I'll... I'll burn the forest down!"

"And how do you plan to do that, exactly? I haven't taught you any fire magic yet."

Details, details. You'll think about that when the time comes. Hopefully you won't have to.

When you hear the rustling of leaves again, it's made clear that you don't. You tense up even more than you were, and get ready to react...

"Calm down, human. Burning forests kills people, you know?"

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yEDM-ogtBY)

A female, childish, squeaky voice speaks to you from the bushes you were cautiously looking at. For some reason, the voice has dropped an octave, attempting to sound more adult than it naturally is - like a kid trying to talk like a grown up, and failing rather horribly. You were going to lash out a witty retort to her, but what you see afterwards robs you of your speech:

Slowly, as if making a dramatic appearance, a slender human arm rises from the bushes, with the hand doing a variant of the horn gesture. The index and pinky fingers - what are supposed to be the horns - are holding a strange brown, wide-brimmed hat with even stranger, cartoonish eyes on top of it. That's when you realize whoever that arm belongs to isn't doing the horn gesture, but holding the hat as a hand puppet, with the other three digits acting as its mouth.

"What's wrong? Can't stand the sight of a magnificent goddess?" The "hand-puppet"'s mouth moves in accordance to the girl's voice.

"You- eh- um- argh- wha-?" Your own tongue entangles, trying to say four or five things at the same time. All of them variants of the same dumbfounded expletive.

It doesn't help that your own thoughts are equally in disarray. You try to reach out for Rin, hoping she'd help you to form a coherent response for this... situation. Yet you recieve no answer from the kirin; she must be as flabbergasted as you are.

"You should close your mouth. You look quite silly standing there agape like an idiot," the 'goddess' says.

If you had something in your mouth you'd have spat it all over the place. Instead you make do by choking on the pure irony distilling from the hat's "mouth".

"I don't want to hear that from a makeshift muppet!" you retort, as offended as you can.

The hand goes tense, and you swear you saw the hat's eyes frown for a second. The child speaks again, this time more loudly and slowly, hoping her words would sink in deeper that way:

"How rude! I am not a muppet! I am the goddess of the mountain! I am... Pyonta!"

"Okay. Cool. Whatever you say."

But you are definitely not going to put up with the antics of this Pyonta kid no longer. You slump down next to Nitori's bag, stare at the starred sky and let out a weary sigh. Having withstood so many stalkings on a single day, both your mind and body have taken a toll, and you only wish for Nitori to come back so that you can finally rest in an actual bed.

"You don't believe me, do you?" Pyonta mutters. "If I proved to you I am truly a goddess, would you listen to me?"

"Hm-mmmm..." you say mindlessly.

"Very well, then. Now behold, ye of little faith, my divine powers!"

By the corner of your eyes, you see the hat muppet swaying and shaking in a bizarre ritual dance of sorts, but you pay no heed to it. Instead your gaze wanders around the scenery of the river at dusk-

"Hey, did you see that?" Rin snaps you back from your reverie.

See what? Pyonta's moves?

"No, it's the air. I swear I saw the air fl- oh, there it is again!"

This time you see it too: the atmosphere around you flicks and wavers, or rather the last rays of sunlight in the air. After half a dozen of those, the air starts to distort much more, and like a curtain sliding open, a town appears before your eyes.

"What in the..." you slowly stand up and stare, surprised and confused.

What you see before your eyes are a conglomerate of houses aligned along both of the river's shores. It practically resembles your own village, but what set this town apart are the clever designs of the huts - camouflaged to resemble big stones -, a couple of water treadmills in some of the buildings, and a set of electric lamp posts interconnected by black cablings, illuminating the area with bright yellow lights.

"This is the Kappa Village!" Rin exclaims, confirming your suspicions. "But how-? Was it there the entire time and we haven't noticed? What kind of sorcery is this?"

"How was that?" Pyonta exclaims smugly. "Will you now pay me due respect and listen?"

"She's lying. I didn't pick up any kind of magical reading around her."

Heeding Rin's warning, you shake your head and attempt to regain your composure quickly, then face the hat muppet.

"What are you saying?" you respond. "That was clearly the kappa's doing. You had absolutely no hand in this. You're just an opportunist!"

"Are you calling me a liar?"

"I'm certainly not calling you a truther."

"How dare you..."

There it goes, the hat's eyes frown again, and you're sure it wasn't an illusion this time. That hat is alive! Or magically animated to an astounding degree of real likeness. You start to wonder if there's actually some truth in Pyonta's claim of godness.

"I don't think so. Animating an object is somewhat easy with the right kind of magic. Or she could just be a tsukumogami."

Tsukumogami, forgotten objects possessed by spirits. If you suppose Pyonta is one of them, it would explain why the hat seems so full of "life", because the hat is the girl you're talking to - the human figure would be just an illusion. In any case, you shouldn't gloss over the fact that, regardless of her being a goddess, a tsukumogami, or another being, she survived the raijuu's onslaught with no apparent signs of taint. It takes either insane luck or power - or both - to avoid succumbing to it for a whole month.

"So you are willing to believe her, then?" Satsuki groans. "The rantings of a delusional child make for tedious listening, but if that's what you want, I won't stop you."

"Well, I suppose I could spare a minute or two for you," you tell Pyonta, albeit making sure you don't sound interested in what she has to say.

The hat perks up visibly, grateful that she finally gets to talk with you, or maybe because she knows she's picked your curiosity after all.

"Alright!" You even think you heard a tiny excited squeal from her. "Listen up. I don't have much time left, so I'll spare you the pretty rethorics. I was never any good at it anyway. She's the one who usually does the talking..."

You let out a couple of educated coughs to let Pyonta know she's derailing the topic.

"Oh, yes, moving on! I suppose you're familiar with the cause of the forest's current state of... inactivity, right?"

"Too much for my well-being," you nod.

"Of course you do. Not many people are able to fend off the mighty beast of thunder by themselves, with nary a scratch."

Actually, you did become infected in the fight. And you were with Meira at that time. So you see no reason why this person is making such a fuss about you. On the other hand, that raises a very important question:

"How do you know that?" you ask.

"Well, duh. I'm a goddess of the mountain, I always know what happens in my territory!"

"I doubt so. Gods are powerful but not omnipotent, much less omniscient," Rin comments. "I'm think she was stalking us ever since we entered the forest."

Geez, what's with you and all those stalkers? Having people following you while hiding doesn't help your developing paranoia case - with good reason. When did you become a Peeping Tammy magnet, anyway?

"That I wish to know too..."

"I'll let that slide, and I won't ask why didn't you prevent this incident in the first place," you say to Pyonta. "So where are you getting at? Are you asking me to be your champion, slay the raijuu in your name and spread your influence all over the mountain?"

"Someone's been reading a lot of fairy tales in his free time," the hat muppet chuckles. "Although that sounds appealing, I already asked another person solving the incident, so no. Instead, I want you to perform another task more suitable for someone with your particular set of skills."

"My particular set of skills?"

Pyonta was about to respond, but the hands jumps in surprise, reacting to something you can't sense. Then, with all the urgency in the world, she hurriedly speaks to you one last time:

"Whoops, my time's up! Go to the shrine at the lotus pond! I'll tell you the rest there! Bye!"

"Wait!" you shout.

But before you even attempt to reach out to her, the arm and the hat dissappears in the bushes, leaving you completely alone again. You think you see a blonde girl prancing away in the depths of the forests, but it's too dark to be sure of your sight.

"What was all that about...?" you mutter.

"Come to think of it, Meira was also intent in getting you, before she got in a fight with Reimu," Satsuki ponders. "Did she have the same intentions as this... girl? Are they related?"

You can wonder all you want, but you won't solve any mysteries standing here. The only way to get the answer for those questions is to ask Pyonta directly at that lotus pond - but first you need to know where it is.

"Don't tell me you're seriously considering going there."

Well, what else can you do? Nitori made it clear you weren't allowed to go to the Tengu Village, and that her hospitality only extended to this night in these circumstances. Right now, Pyonta's the only other clue you have regarding the raijuu incident, as untrustworthy as Rin thinks she is. What is more, if she's truly a goddess, she might grant you permission to enter the Tengu Village after you help her!

"Hmmm..." the kirin clearly doesn't sound completely convinced, but she must be realizing you don't have any other plan after spending the night at Nitori's place.

And speaking of the devil, you hear the water behind you splash, and the kappa's head peeks out of the river's surface.

"Sorry for the delay!" Nitori greets you, smiling. "One of the generators was malfunctioning and I decided to patch it up while I was there."

"Ah, hello there," you give the best greeting you can muster in your confused state.

The kappa doesn't seem to notice your troubled face as she gets out of the water and begins to squeeze her pigtails dry.

"So, what do you think? Pretty cool, huh?"

"Hm? Ah, the whole 'making a town appear out of nowhere'. Yeah, that was impressive," you intended to sound more cheerful, but what comes out of your mouth is just a half-hearted praise. "How- how did you do that?"

"Ho ho, glad you asked!" Nitori puts on her bag again with extreme ease, while she smiles quite smugly at you - something you didn't expect from the kind-hearted kappa. "This is my latest succesful invention, the invisibility cloak! To put it very simply, it bends light around the area to hide it from plain sight. I first used it for individual suits, but I managed to make one extra sized for the entire town."

"Bend light? How is that even possible?"

"To be precise, it only obscures certain objects in a very limited range of the EM spectrum. Certain animals and youkai can still see things above the visible spectrum, so it's not really infallible... Wait, I shouldn't be telling you this out in the open!" she exclaims, and then she takes your hand and drags you off to the Kappa Village. "I'll answer any doubts you have at my house. Come on, let's hurry!"

You mentally thank the gods - the ones up there, you mean - Nitori's enthusiasm turns to be contagious. They know you need to get your mind out of all this and relax for a while. You decide to think about plans for tomorrow later after a good meal, and enjoy the kappa's hospitality for the time being.
>> No. 172938
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbwYb1FrEMw)

"Well, here we are!" Nitori takes a key from her neck and opens the door of her house. "Watch out for the cables on the floor."

"Sorry for intruding," you say out of habit, while you step inside and take out your boots and socks.

Your first peek reveals the kappa's hut to be a strange blend of traditional oriental dwelling mixed with all sorts of machinery and wires. Some of them you believe you recognize from the Outsider books you've read at Kosuzu's bookshop, but the great majority are a big mystery to you. By the looks of them, they seem to be all turned off, including the lights, probably to save energy. Following the brightness of her candle and making sure you don't trip with anything, you let Nitori take you to her living room, as you soak in the anachronistic schizo tech of the kappa society. The kappa slides the door to the room open, and as soon as she does, you hear a female, raspy voice from inside.

"Hey, Nito, you're back. We're all out of coffee."

Slumped in a sofa, there's a brown haired girl all covered in red sheets slumped on a cushion. You'd say she seems to be around your age, maybe a bit more, but between the massive dark circles under her eyes and the stress lines in her brows, she looks twenty years older. Heck, for a brief moment you thought she was a zombie at first sight!

"What do you mean, all out of coffee? I filled the kettle full this morning!" Nitori exclaims. "Don't tell me you drank it all!"

To which the sleepy girl points at the couple dozen mugs laying on the table.

"I can't believe it, Rika. I know you're sick, but that can't be healthy for you!" the kappa sounds understandably worried.

"Better this than never waking up..." Rika yawns, not even bothering to cover her mouth.

She returns to fiddling with something you can't see behind the table, ignoring both you and Nitori. The kappa sighs wearily, and speaks to you in a hushed voice.

"She's Rika, a friend of mine. She's been tainted by the raijuu too, and she's trying her best not to fall asleep like the rest of us."

"I see. How long has she been awake?"

"Around... six, seven days?" the kappa scratches her cap.

"Dear gods, that's insane!" you exclaim, almost letting your voice up.

"She's been drinking coffee non-stop ever since she got sick. Between the caffeine and the lack of sleep, she's feeling... a tad irked, to put it very mildly," Nitori explains. "You should avoid disturbing her unless it's necessary. She gets really mad, lemme tell you. You don't want her to get angry with you."

"Okay, got it," you nod.

"Right. Take a seat, I'll prepare dinner and then a bed for you," she waves to the living room. "Bathroom's the first door at the right, if you need it."

"Thanks."

Nitori and you now step inside the room. Rika doesn't even lift her gaze from whatever she's doing in her lap, not even when you sit in front of her at the table.

"By the way, Rika, I brought a wanderer I found at the waterfall," Nitori says as she goes to the kitchen. "He'll be staying for the night. Just so you know."

Only then does the beady eyed girl notice you. She eyes you with almost zero interest, lets out an acknowledgement "hm", and gets back to her work. You briefly consider introducing yourself to Rika, but you decide against it, following Nitori's adivce. The room then gets submerged in a heavy awkward silence, one neither you nor Nitori dare to break. You shift uncomfortably in your seat, darting your eyes all over the place. That's when you notice a toolbox laying there, with an assortement of tools bestrewed all over the floor. Seems like Rika was - or is - using them at the moment. Maybe you could borrow them for a little while?

You find yourself with a little free time while Nitori cooks dinner. What could you do in the meantime...?

[]Help Nitori at the kitchen. You do want to keep talking with her.
-[](Write-in any questions for her)
[]Talk to Rika. Despite what Nitori said, speaking with someone should help her stay awake.
-[](Write-in a way to strike a conversation)
[]Take the tools and attempt to break the handcuffs open somehow.
[]Quietly take Rin's book out and attempt to read some more pages.

>> No. 172940
[x]Take the tools and attempt to break the handcuffs open somehow.
-[x] But ask permission first. Maybe she can recommend a tool for that.

Well, first things first.
>> No. 172946
[X]Quietly take Rin's book out and attempt to read some more pages.
>> No. 172947
[x]Take the tools and attempt to break the handcuffs open somehow.
-[x] But ask permission first. Maybe she can recommend a tool for that.

We need to be trustable to other people. Getting rid of the automatic criminal prejudice will benifit us greatly. Still, permission is pretty important. We're in a guest's house so we should be polite.
>> No. 172957
As some of you might know, DDC has just come out today. While I was cheking out the new girls, I stumble upon her (pic related). It's like Lady Luck has decided to punch me in the dick and laugh at my face as she teabags me mercilessly, and then congratulate me for having the exact same idea as the Almighty Kannushi.

ZUN has made the Extra Boss extremely similar to an OC I planned to introduce later in this story - ability, deity she's based on, appearance... Hell, she even has the same fucking name! I don't know if I should feel ashamed, smugly proud, sad, or a combination of the three.

Why this rant, you might be asking? Well, this means canon has decided to fuck up my plans for this entire story, meaning I either have to change quite a lot of details of the upcoming plot, change the characters (aka use the new Extra Boss instead of the OC, with the risk of her being totally out of character) or pray you readers don't pick a certain route so I don't have to worry about all this.
>> No. 172962
>>172957

Wow man. I'm not sure if being happy for you is the right kind of reaction but I'm almost proud of this. Sure it's messed up our story but I'm in awe of this. I want to congratulate you but I'm not sure if it would offend you or not. You've pretty much come up with the same idea as ZUN did so go with your original idea in the story. Hopefully ZUN's opinions of her personality will be the same as yours.
>> No. 172963
>>172957
So, you used a monster called raijuu who turned into a girl called Raiko? Pic related.

Anyway, use the actual character: if it turns out OOC you'll manage to add a motivation.
>> No. 173096
To put it short, for about two weeks/a month I'll be studying for university exams, leaving my two stories here paused temporarily until I finish them. Unlike in June, I'm going to be away from the Internet completely, so that hopefully I won't get distracted so easily. That's how I ended up having to repeat them.

Sorry for the inconveniences, and wish me luck.
>> No. 173236
Alright, I said that I would be away from the keyboard for a long time. But I had this update half-written, and I hate leaving things half done. So I took whatever little free time I had to finish it. After this, the hiatus is truly in full effect. Should let you guys more time to think about the votes.

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

[x]Take the tools and attempt to break the handcuffs open somehow.
-[x] But ask permission first. Maybe she can recommend a tool for that.


You decide it is high time to get rid of the handcuffs, once and for all. That was the original motive you wanted to go to the Kappa Village. You take another look at the toolbox laying at Rika's side; there must be something in there that will help you in the task. But manners come first:

"Rika, do you mind if I borrow some things from the box?" you ask the girl.

The brown haired girl squints her eyes, and after a couple of seconds of consideration, she slowly nods, all of that without ever looking away from her own job. Taking that as permission granted, you reach for the toolbox and pull it closer to you, peeking at its contents. Inside there is an assortment of hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, levels, rulers, saws and nails of all types and sizes, and other items you - nor Rin - have never seen in your life. With so many tools at your disposal, you can't decide which way is the best to get your job done.

Actually, it would be much easier if you had any idea how to open handcuffs without the proper key.

"Well, that is a problem. I don't know how to do it either," says the kirin.

And you intended to ask her for advice. What a dissapointment.

"Hey, who do you think I am? I'm a musician, not a locksmith!"

Then, before you screw up, you should ask the expert here. You don't know if lockpicking has anything to do with whatever field the kappa are good at, but it's worth a try. You stand up from the table and walk your way towards the kitchen, where Nitori should be.

"Hey, Nitori, could you lend me a-?"

As you peek through the door, you see the kappa staring intensely at the kitchen table, deciding which goes better with the sunomono she's making: soy sauce or vinegar. The look on her face is that of absolute concentration at the important task of preparing dinner to her two guests, and not wanting to disrupt her ministrations, you decide to leave her alchemizing sauces alone.

Maybe Rika knows a way to open the handcuffs? From your new position, you can now see what's the sleepy girl working in: something that looks like a bracelet with a screen and a lot of tiny wires? Rika's no slouch at the repairs department, evidenced by the fast and skillful tweaks she's giving to the screws with one of the screwdrivers of the box. That's what you thought, until she dozes off, loses focus and the tool slips off her hand, prompting a silent curse from her lips for all of her undone hard work.

"Irked indeed," Rin comments on her. "I don't think she can help us in her state."

That, if she even wants to. Chances are she'll aim that screwdriver at your eye if you do as much as muttering a word to her. It seems you are alone in this.

"They say humans are witty and creative when facing a problem. Time to prove that rumor true!" Satsuki chimes. "I'll be cheering you, so good luck~!"

"Honestly..." A sigh escapes from your mouth. You can count on her in your time of need, but for anything else she's just- you'd better stop thinking about it and get going.

You crunch your knuckles, sit back at the table and start to rummage the toolbox. The truth is, you don't remember ever using any of these tools, so aside from the obvious ones, you don't have any idea what are they used for - you'll have to rely on the wit and creativity Rin spoke of. You begin by introducing the smallest screwdrivers inside the tiny keyholes of the cuffs, but as expected, they do nothing. Forcing the handcuffs open with pliers and wrenches only serves to hurt your wrists even more. You seriously consider sawing them off, but ultimately decide it's too dangerous.

You were about to hammer the screwdriver in hopes of breaking the lock open, when Rika slams her hand on the table in great frustation. You look at her startled, and find out that it's not for another slip up of hers but, in fact, she's annoyed at you.

"What in the bloody fires of hell are you doing, you clumsy twat!?" If she wasn't so tired, you're sure she'd be screaming her lungs at you with the fury of a thousand gods. "You can't go chiseling things with a screwdriver, much less a lock, for fuck's sake!"

You drop the screwdriver and the hammer in shock, and stare wildly at Rika as she brings her hands to her face.

"Wipe that 'o' outta your mouth, will ya? It's making you look more retarded than you already proved to be," she sighs.

Nitori told you that you shouldn't disturb the girl, but she said nothing about responding to disturbances from her. And certainly, she's taking it too far, so it's understandable that you're becoming gradually more pissed with Rika. You manage not to raise your voice in anger, but you make sure there's hostility distilling in your words:

"Excuse me? Are you trying to pick up a fight with me? I'm not in the best of moods either, and I don't take bullies kindly."

"A bully? How dare you. How dare you!" Rika points a threatening finger at you. "Don't ever, ever call me a bully! I'm so much worse than that. Do you want me to remove you from the gene pool? That level of stupidity shouldn't be passed on. I'll be doing Gensokyo a huge favor for a bloody change."

You don't know if she's being serious or if the excess of caffeine is making her this jumpy, but you decide to play it safe and not say anything, staring blankly at her instead.

"That's a joke, by the way," Rika hushes, apparently calmer, "not a very nice one, a nasty one, which masks a lot of very negative feelings about your incompetence."

"Comedy gold," snarks Rin, quite amused by your conversation.

"Y-yeah, I can tell that," you finally say. "But I got a better idea. How about you tell me what I was doing wrong so I don't repeat the same mistakes again?"

"What you were doing wrong? You were like a sweaty octopus trying to unhook a bra. Do you know how a lock works in the first place? Nah, of course you don't," Rika doesn't even let you a chance to answer, but she isn't wrong anyway. "Otherwise you wouldn't spend ten minutes botchering around with the tools like an autistic monkey."

"Um..."

"I'm doing this just once, so pay attention, m'kay?"

The girl sloppily scoots closer to you, and you take the chance to have a more thorough look at her. Her sharp features, her pallor and the shadows under her eyes give her a suitably sickly appearance for her current condition, but you have the impression she'd look much prettier were she not under the effects of the raijuu's taint. Other than that, there's nothing else that stands out in her - unlike Nitori's unusual hair colour, for starters. In fact, Rika could pass as a normal girl from the Human Village, though a quite skinny one.

"The way these handcuffs work is simple," she begins. "The key gets inserted into the lock to its stopping point. The stopping point is just enough to allow the key to slip past the handcuff housing and turn free in the lock. When the key is resting in the proper position, a turn towards the cuff’s direction of travel will release it."

"'Towards the cuff’s direction of travel'...?" you ask.

"The direction to turn varies with each cuff. One is clockwise, and the other is counter-clockwise," Rika clarifies. "Now watch closely."

The girl takes a small pin from one of her braids, letting her auburn hair flow free. Then she bends the pin into a right angle and removes the plastic tip at the end of the straight section.

"No need for tools to open those cuffs. Just an improvised bobby pin is enough. Look."

Rika takes your left hand, slams it in the table - you're sure it'd have hurt if she wasn't feeling so weak - and slowly inserts the straight sided bobby pin into the upper portion of the lock on the handcuff.

"You don't wanna screw this up, so listen up: only insert the pin halfway into the lock," she emphasizes. "It's pretty much like lovemaking: If you put the pin all the way in and force it, it won't bend properly. You could break the pick, or even the lock itself. And that hurts a lot."

"What kind of metaphor is that?" Rin says. "She doesn't look like the kind of girl who gets around that much. Looks truly are deceiving,"

You simply nod in understanding, like a student at class. You're too focused on Rika's demonstration to pay heed to Rin's comment.

Rika bends the bobby pin to the left, creating a 90 degrees bend. Then she inserts the pin again halfway past the first bend, and bends to the left again another 90 degrees. After that, she pulls the pin out so that you can see the modified “S” shape it adquired. Without a single word, Rika reintroduces the newly made pick into the upper cutout of the lock, and points it to the right - this cuff’s direction of travel, you guess.

"This will work as the key’s serrated part, pressing against the locking mechanism," she explains. "Now add a little bit of tension carefully and..."

You unconsciously hold your breath as Rika turns the pin slowly, and three seconds later the handcuff slides open, finally releasing the painful grip on your wrist. You were expecting a victorious "click" to be heard, but the sense of relief and freedom after two days of uncomfortable clasp is very satisfying nonetheless.

"Gods bless you, Rika, You saved me! Thank you so much!" you could kiss this girl in the mouth right now, previous resentment be damned. Except that if you did, she'd surely slap you senseless and then Rin would berate you when you wake up. But you know what you mean.

Rika doesn't respond, but the smirk that appears in her tired expression is enough for you to know she appreciates the praise. Or maybe she's just pleased at having schooled an ignorant fellow. In any case, that smile quickly vanishes when she returns to take care of the bracelet.

"And now I've used all the minutes on my 'Talk until you get brain cancer' tariff," Rika calls the lesson off and dismisses you with a wave of her hand. "You do the other one. Practice makes master and all that stuff."

"Charming," says Rin sarcastically. "Still, you got her to teach you despite her bad mood. I'm impressed! Good job!"

Well, it wasn't that hard, really. You just swallowed your rage, went with her flow and saw the chance to ask her.

"Modesty is fine and all, but don't belittle yourself. It takes cunning to use someone else's anger in your favor."

To you it seems like you took advantage of a sick person, so you don't take pride in that. But instead on dwelling on that, you focus on the reddenned mark on your left wrist, where the handcuff was painfully tightening. All that movement in these past two days left the area practically on the flesh, as the burning sting only reinforces the fact. That's going to leave an ugly mark for sure. Maybe you should go look for a bandage or a bracer to hide it until it heals? That reminds you, there's still the left cuff, and it's not going to open by itself. You'd better get to work.

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

As it turns out, picking locks isn't as easy at Rika made it look. Twenty minutes and several pins broken later, you still haven't managed to open the right handcuff. You know it'll take a lot of practice to become proficient at this, but you're starting to lose your patience. If Rika said "practice makes the master", you wonder how much time did she spend developing this... shady skill.

You try again for the umpteenth time, trying to mimick everything Rika showed you. After bending the bobby pin, you introduce it - halfway, always halfway - on the upper part of the lock and slowly turn it right. She said you had to put some pressure, but how much exactly, and when? You focus entirely on the sensations the pin is transmiting to you, waiting for the tiniest change of resistance in the lock mechanism, when Nitori finally comes out of the kitchen, tray in hand.

"I heard you two bickering from there. Is everything okay here?" she asks.

"Hmhm, everything is a-okay here..." you respond, fully concentrated on the pick. "I'm just- trying to- open this-"

At that precise moment, the lock gives up the tension, the pick fully turns and the handcuff slides open. You stare at it for a couple of seconds, letting your success sink in, and in a triumphant fit, you pump your fist in the air, making the cuff fall to the floor.

"Ha ha! Yes! Yes! I did it!" you practically yell in glee.

"Ooooh, nice job!" Nitori puts the tray in the table and begins the slow clap. "I take this is your fist time?"

You nod in response. "Well, I had a little help..."

"Took you long enough."

Both the kappa and you look to Rika, who had raised her voice, but not her gaze from the bracelet. Nitori then looked at you, back again at Rika, back at you, and then grins like she just figured out something funny.

"Oh-ho! I see now! My, I'm rather surprised, Rika! Didn't expect you of all people to do that," the kappa nudges the girl teasingly.

"Sod off."

Rika, annoyed, swats Nitori away, who laughs merrily. Meanwhile, you stare at them without any idea what's going on. But for a second there, you forget all the problems that haunt you, and enjoy the sight of two good friends doing things friends do. You wonder how long will it be until you see your own friends again...

You sense Rin was about to say something to you, but she ultimately decides not to speak. She probably can't bring herself to admit she doesn't know the answer to that. But you already know it - in fact, you have already come to terms with your situation. And you're not going to let it ruin this moment of calmness.

"You know, now that I take a look at you two, you remind me of..." Nitori begins to speak, but she trails off and shakes her head. "Nevermind, let's eat! The food's getting cold!"

The meal Nitori prepared was simple: a rice porridge with a sidedish of sunomono, a cucumber salad with vinegar and soy sauce that tastes surprisingly sweet.

"Kappas do love their cucumbers, don't they?" comments Rin.

COmbining the sunomono with the thick rice soup with the cucumbers makes for a quite nutritional meal, yet not very tasty. Nitori must have cooked it thinking on the sick Rika, who needs an digestible yet filling meal, but you find you were also quite hungry. Spending two days in the wild eating nothing but fruits surely depletes your hidrates and proteins reserves, and the rice porridge has them in spades.

And so, despite not being the best food you've ever eaten, you practically devour the food on your bowls with canine anxiety. Nitori happily munches on the cucumbers, clearly enjoying the flavor, while Rika makes an herculean effort just to lift the spoon. She does complain about her not being really hungry, but the kappa always reminds her that ill people need to eat to get better, and the girl groans and slurps the soup slowly.

Once you've partialy satiated your hunger, you notice that there's a silence looming over the table. Neither Nitori nor Rika seem to mind, but you find it strange that nobody is talking while eating. Maybe you should start the conversation? You sure have a lot of questions to ask.

>Choose up to five topics to talk about.
[]General:
-[]What are the plans for tomorrow?
-[]Does the invisibility cloak around the village really protect us against the raijuu?
-[]Are you two the only organized survivors on the Youkai Mountain?
-[]I came across a youkai hunter, Meira, who was after the raijuu. Do you know her?
-[]I should tell you that I found Reimu, the shrine maiden, at the forest.
-[]Do you know a goddess called Pyonta? And about a 'shrine at the lotus pond'?
-[]I heard there was someone good with beasts and animals in this mountain...
-[]Write-in.
[]To Nitori:
-[]Searching for the culprit all by yourself, with a dangerous youkai going rampant... That's very brave of you.
-[]I knew kappa technology is way ahead of the rest of Gensokyo, but I wasn't expecting this level of advancement.
-[]So what's this pact between humans and kappa you told me about? I've certainly never heard of it until now.
-[]You said earlier that Rika and I reminded you of... May I ask who or what?
-[]Write-in.
[]To Rika:
-[]What is that bracelet you were working at?
-[]Why are you so afraid of falling asleep? It's not like it will kill you, right?
-[]You said you were 'much worse than a bully'. Dare I ask what you meant by that?
-[]Sorry if it sounds offensive, but you don't look like a kappa to me.
-[]Write-in.

>Or to skip the conversation...
[]Eat your dinner in silence and go to sleep early. They're not the only ones who are tired, actually.

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

Each topic will be counted individually. The five most voted will be the ones that will be discussed in the next update (coming very late). In general, the General topics will give you information about what the heck is going on and/or possible side routes, while talking to Nitori and Rika individually will... well, I hate using the term "route", but that's what it practically is. Talking is the cornerstone of good relationships. Will you focus on collecting info? Getting to know the girls? A mix of the two? Or just go straight to the next day? Oh, and if you go for it, know that each write-in counts separately.

Why that limit of five topics? Because I know you'd just pick every single option if I let you. You already did it before, and if you do it again, next update will be simply too long and boring. And besides, this will also force you to choose and prioritize what you most want: information, or getting to know the two girls better? This will be the last chance in a long while to get information/affection for free, by the way, so choose wisely.
>> No. 173239
-[x]Are you two the only organized survivors on the Youkai Mountain?
-[x]Do you know a goddess called Pyonta? And about a 'shrine at the lotus pond'?
-[x]I heard there was someone good with beasts and animals in this mountain...

This helps us learn who else is around here, sets us up for our meeting with Pyonta, and also might help us learn more about the raijuu.

-[x]I knew kappa technology is way ahead of the rest of Gensokyo, but I wasn't expecting this level of advancement.

Get her talking about what she loves!

-[x]What is that bracelet you were working at?

Likewise. Anyway, these are my choices.
>> No. 173241
[X]General:
-[X]I came across a youkai hunter, Meira, who was after the raijuu. Do you know her?
-[X]Do you know a goddess called Pyonta? And about a 'shrine at the lotus pond'?
[X]To Nitori:
-[X]Searching for the culprit all by yourself, with a dangerous youkai going rampant... That's very brave of you.
-[X]I knew kappa technology is way ahead of the rest of Gensokyo, but I wasn't expecting this level of advancement.
[X]To Rika:
-[X]What is that bracelet you were working at?

These seem to be my preferred subject to go over.

>What are the plans for tomorrow?
Neither likely thought that far ahead. And I do believe Nitori assumes we’ll be leaving tomorrow, unless we do something about that tomorrow, if we get a chance that is.

>Does the invisibility cloak around the village really protect us against the raijuu?
Judging from the previous event happening in the kappa village, I’ll call a positive here. The cloak is likely to have been down doing the encounter, and besides that they could have gotten infected outside the village.

>Are you two the only organized survivors on the Youkai Mountain?
Personal guess. No. there are others, they just make an attempt to hide and wait it out, or maybe prepare counter measures in case of future encounters.

>I should tell you that I found Reimu, the shrine maiden, at the forest.
They’ll probably ask in to it. It’ll be better to stay off the topic all together.

>I heard there was someone good with beasts and animals in this mountain...
Kasen’s house was designed to that not just everyone could come and go. And unless we get extremely lucky if we get lost, we won’t reach it. And I mean extremely lucky.
Unless we met her of course. Then she might take us there and force us to undergo hard physical training and become a hermit as well.

>So what's this pact between humans and kappa you told me about? I've certainly never heard of it until now.
Doesn’t seem like the best idea to say that you have no idea about something you should know, to the person who’s helping you, based on that reason.

>You said earlier that Rika and I reminded you of... May I ask who or what?
Privacy~

>Why are you so afraid of falling asleep? It's not like it will kill you, right?
Should be obvious

>You said you were 'much worse than a bully'. Dare I ask what you meant by that?
Might be a good story for later. Maybe.

>Sorry if it sounds offensive, but you don't look like a kappa to me.
Well duh. This will just give part of her story. The above gives another part.

>Eat your dinner in silence and go to sleep early. They're not the only ones who are tired, actually.
Might actually be the most logical choice since we ARE tired. And we SHOULD get moving before Reimu catches up to us.
>> No. 173265
[x]General:
-[X]I came across a youkai hunter, Meira, who was after the raijuu. Do you know her?
-[X]Do you know a goddess called Pyonta? And about a 'shrine at the lotus pond'?
[X]To Nitori:
-[X]Searching for the culprit all by yourself, with a dangerous youkai going rampant... That's very brave of you.
-[x]So what's this pact between humans and kappa you told me about? I've certainly never heard of it until now.
-[x]You said earlier that Rika and I reminded you of... May I ask who or what?

A classic infodump. Plot advancement ahoy!
>> No. 173276
-[x]You said earlier that Rika and I reminded you of... May I ask who or what?
-[x]Are you two the only organized survivors on the Youkai Mountain?
-[x]Do you know a goddess called Pyonta? And about a 'shrine at the lotus pond'?
-[x]I heard there was someone good with beasts and animals in this mountain...
-[x]What are the plans for tomorrow?

Mission first. I believe that these will give us the most information. I chose the first one because I'm damn curious though
>> No. 173676
I managed to find a tiny weeny little bit of free time in my tight schedule, and I decided to recount the votes. Honestly I expected one or two more voters... So far it goes:

Pyonta: 4
Survivors: 2
Kasen Person good with beasts: 2
Kappa Technology: 2
Rika's Bracelet: 2
Meira: 2
Nitori's bravery: 2
You remind Nitori of...: 2
Human and Kappa's pact: 1
Plans for tomorrow: 1


Pyonta will be discussed in the conversation for sure. However, there's a perfect tie between all the other topics, and I need a tie-breaker to decide on which four will be chosen. The topics with one or zero votes are no longer allowed (that wouldn't break the tie).

I still have one week before I finish the exams, so there's still time for at least one of you to vote.
>> No. 173683
>>173676
Huh, I didn't notice there was a tie here. Anyway, tie-breaker comin' up!

[x]General:
-[X]I came across a youkai hunter, Meira, who was after the raijuu. Do you know her?
-[X]Do you know a goddess called Pyonta? And about a 'shrine at the lotus pond'?
[X]To Nitori:
-[X]Searching for the culprit all by yourself, with a dangerous youkai going rampant... That's very brave of you.
-[x]So what's this pact between humans and kappa you told me about? I've certainly never heard of it until now.
-[x]You said earlier that Rika and I reminded you of... May I ask who or what?
>> No. 173697
>>173683
Well, since you've voted for Pyonta (which was a clear winner) and asking about the pact (which only had one vote, and now it only adds to the tie), that tie breaker only solves three quarters of the tie.

So right now the topics that will be discussed in the next update are:

>General:
-[x]I came across a youkai hunter, Meira, who was after the raijuu. Do you know her?
-[x]Do you know a goddess called Pyonta? And about a 'shrine at the lotus pond'?
>Nitori:
-[x]Searching for the culprit all by yourself, with a dangerous youkai going rampant... That's very brave of you.
-[x]So what's this pact between humans and kappa you told me about? I've certainly never heard of it until now.

And now I only need only one of the following topics to truly break the tie:

>General:
-[]Are you two the only organized survivors on the Youkai Mountain?
-[]I heard there was someone good with beasts and animals in this mountain...
>Nitori:
-[]I knew kappa technology is way ahead of the rest of Gensokyo, but I wasn't expecting this level of advancement.
-[]So what's this pact between humans and kappa you told me about? I've certainly never heard of it until now.
>Rika:
-[]What is that bracelet you were working at?
>> No. 173795
-[X]What is that bracelet you were working at?

This is listed as a 'to be discussed' item, but it's also in the last voting list.
-[]So what's this pact between humans and kappa you told me about? I've certainly never heard of it until now.
>> No. 174204
Still with us?
>> No. 174209
>>174204
Yes, still with you. College, the Writing Contest and GTA 5 ate most of my time. Now that the second is out of the way, I will focus on updating the Youkai Crusade since someone revived it from the cemetery that is /eientei/, and then I'll continue this.

And once the next update is done, the real fun will begin
>> No. 174597
I'm back in the game, bitches! Well, sorta. College is still too time consuming. And GTA V doesn't help either. But anyway, I said the real fun would begin now, right? Sadly this update turned out to be too laden with information, and I decided not to rush things up just yet. So, here you go, two months later, another big update for you guys!

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


[x]I came across a youkai hunter, Meira, who was after the raijuu. Do you know her?
[x]Do you know a goddess called Pyonta? And about a 'shrine at the lotus pond'?
[x]Searching for the culprit all by yourself, with a dangerous youkai going rampant... That's very brave of you, Nitori.
[x]So what's this pact between humans and kappa you told me about? I've certainly never heard of it until now.
[X]What is that bracelet you were working at, Rika?


You can't stop thinking about what's going on right now. The situation in the Youkai Mountain and the Underground is, without a doubt, critical. Most of the tengu and the kappa have fallen ill to the raijuu's curse, so you can't expect any help in your own mission to restore Rin's memory until they're cured and the incident is resolved. But despite what Nitori told you, you still feel like you're missing many things, and you can't ascertain the best course of action until you've fully understood what's happening.

However, when you look at the kappa and the sickly girl eating in front of you, you can't bring yourself to break their moment of respite with your questioning. Maybe you should wait for a better moment?

"We don't have another moment," Rin butted in. "Nitori plans on taking us out of the Mountain first thing in the morning, remember? If you have questions, you should ask them now."

But is it right to do it? In the end you're just a human that wants to go to the tengu village despite being forbidden to do so, and just happened to come at the worst moment. Surely they won't reveal how really bad their conundrum is to an intruder.

"This is when a bit of silver tongue goes in very handy," says Satsuki. "You don't have to ask them straight out of the bat. Just try to make small talk and go roundabouts. Sooner or later the topic will be mentioned, and that's when you shoot your questions."

That's easier said than done, though. How can you expect to start a conversation and then intentionally derail it to your interests while making it sound natural? But doubting yourself isn't going to take you anywhere. For now you'll just talk to Nitori, then you'll see.

You sneak a glance at the kappa while you rise your cup to drink. The blue haired youkai is happily munching one slice of cucumber, savoring it like it was a rare delicacy. Looking at her alone, you wouldn't guess she's currently on a world of problem at the moment. Rather, her cheerful, relaxed disposition makes you think everything's fine, and that no matter how bad it looks, the problem will be solved. What's more, she even went out of her way to give shelter to a young human who wandered in at the worst of times. When you'd normally expect her to ignore you, she even promised to lead you to safety. Putting your own wellbeing before her own neighbours, because of a pact...

"Say, Nitori."

"Hm?" The kappa doesn't stop eating when you address her.

"What's all that about the pact between kappa and humans?"

"Oh, that? Well, you're young, so I'm not surprised you don't know about it," Nitori speaks. "Time ago, kappa and humans weren't on the best of terms. Your kind used to pollute and destroy our rivers and our lakes with your 'industrial expansion projects', and we... um..."

"Engaged in sodomy of an unconsenting nature in order to improperly extract an imaginary ring from our unsuspecting rectums."

You and Nitori shoot a stern look at Rika after she made that overly descriptive statement. The girl, however, pays no heed to your admonishing gazes and keeps on eating sluggishly, as if she never opened her mouth to speak.

"Well, yeah, we stole your shikirodama, part in retaliation, part on instinct," Nitori explained, quite abashed. "But then I- we realized that cycle of fear, hatred and revenge couldn't go on, especially after the Hakurei Barrier was built and we had to live together. So, after long negotiations, the elders decided on our respective territories, and from then on humans promised not to alter the landscape outside their zone, and the kappa promised not to go after the humans' shikirodama. Thus, our relationship improved a lot from the old days."

"Is that so? I've never been told of this at school..."

"Because nothing was signed, and what's not in paper is as good as non-existent," blurts Rika.

"So that means there's no pact," you look at Nitori, demanding an explanation.

"U-um..." the blue haired youkai fidgets around in a failed attempt to hide her embarrassment. "Technically speaking there is one, since I made it, but... uh... I guess I'm the only one who did it."

"We are just being nice to each other for coexistence's sake, but only Ni goes the extra mile," Rika points at the kappa with her chopstick. "What a good girl she is, huh?"

"And you must be glad I am," the kappa quips back. "Otherwise you would've been moping around that house in the middle of nowhere, craving for coffee until you finally fall asleep."

The girl just grunts in response to that, but you're sure she would've said something - not very nice, you reckon - if she wasn't feeling so sick. But you don't understand why Rika is being so rude towards her friend.

"Sleep deprivation tends to sour people's mood and modals," Rin reminds you. "Or maybe this friendship is actually one-sided, and Rika hates Nitori. I don't know. I shouldn't be wild guessing about this, and you shouldn't pry into it for now."

You'd do well in heeding Rin's advice; you don't want to plant the seed of infighting in this critical situation. Or if it's already there, as you suspect, you sure don't want to make it worse.

"But still, going out of your way to help two people when there's a feral beast on the loose hurting people," you say, in hopes of changing the unpleasant subject.

"That's pretty impressive, Nitori, regardless of your pact."

"Awwwww, don't flatter me!" the kappa rubs her neck and smiles, clearly pleased by your praise. "I'm just doing what any other in my position would do."

"Pfffft, yeah, and I can wrestle oni with my pinky alone," scoffs the sick girl. "Nobody on their sane mind would want to risk catching the curse just because it's the right thing to do."

And again with the contrarian attitude. You resist the urge to sigh in exasperation, and you can see Nitori is trying the same.

"Why must you always be so negative, Rika?" she says. "Does it kill you to look at the bright side of life?"

"Oh no, I'm a realist. You're the one being too optimistic," Rika answers. "And as a matter of fact, that overconfidence of yours will eventually get you killed."

"I appreciate your concern, but you're worrying too much about me," the kappa shakes her head. "I can look after myself just fine; you should focus on getting better yourself."

Again, Rika only grunts as a response. She looks like she's got a lot to say about the matter, but alas, her condition won't let her speak her mind without wasting the scarce and valuable energy she has left. But if her intention was to start an argument with Nitori, then that's for the better after all?

"She does have a point, though," comments Rin. "Most people are too powerless to do something to improve their situation, and they just lock themselves up in their homes and wait for someone else to solve the problem, or until it's all over."

Even so, you believe there's always something everybody can do to help the neighbor, however small and menial it is.

"Unfortunately the normal person never does anything to change his situation or his friends' by his own will alone, even if he can. Apathy and fear are sometimes obstacles too high to overcome by oneself."

You notice the bitterness in Rin's voice inside your head as she lays bare her thought on the matter. Even though you know she's right despite your desire to prove her wrong, you wonder if something happened to Satsuki in her past life that made her think like that.

"The common folk only acts when their lifes are in dire danger, or when their drive is spurred by someone of great charisma and will."

Rin murmurs to herself, but clear enough for you to hear as well. She doesn't want to answer the question you were about to ask her, but rather she gives you something to mull about. Still, that's a rather negative view on the matter, you think. You should ask her about it once she recovers her memory. You can't fathom why would anybody be so distrustful of people without a good reason.

Leaving the kirin alone with her thoughts - and yours too, as much as it pains you, though there's not much you can do about it, - your gaze fixates in Nitori. Is the kappa one of those people of 'great charisma and will'? Or is she just risking her wellbeing because she knows she and their people are in danger if she doesn't?

"I think it's a bit of both. You don't find people as kind-hearted as her very often, and the current incident certainly qualifies as 'life-threating'," Satsuki says. "That, or she's really the only person in the whole Youkai Mountain who is able to do something to remedy it," she adds, in a more somber tone.

But what about Meira and Reimu? Even if they don't live in here, they are powerful enough to search and stop the culprit by themselves, and they're in condition to do so. That Pyonta girl also comes to mind; she showed an interest in you and wanted you to so something. And let's not forget about that person working for that muppet goddess, and that friend of Reimu's who was good with animals...

"Oh yeah, I forgot about them!" exclaims Rin. "If they're willing to lend us a hand or not, that's another matter. But for the time being we should tell them they aren't the only ones in the Mountain who haven't fallen to the curse."

"So girls," you say, catching the attention of Nitori and Rika. "I've been meaning to ask you..."

"Ah, wait! Do not mention Reimu!" Satsuki remembers. "The less people who know we aren't in the best of terms with her, the better."

You already knew that; she didn't need to remind you. But you thank her anyway. Politeness is never unwelcome.

"What is it?" says Nitori.

"Do you know by any chance a goddess called Pyonta?" You decide to start with the mysterious girl you met before entering the Kappa Village.

"Pyonta? I don't think so..." the kappa closes her eyes and thinks hard for a second. "Do you, Rika?"

The sick girl just shakes her head weakly in response.

"There are a lot of minor deities in the Youkai Mountain, and many of them have several names," Nitori explains. "Perhaps Pyonta is just a moniker?"

"That I don't know," you admit.

"Describe her," asks Rika.

Deciding it's best if you just tell them everything about her, you prepare yourself to recount your encounter with the muppet goddess. But as you make your mind, you realize how utterly ridiculous said meeting really was. Will they believe it when you tell them? Nitori and Rika are looking at you expectantly, so you can't back down now even if you want.

"This might come off as reeeeeeally strange..."
>> No. 174598
It takes you a couple of minutes to give the two girls a summary of your brief conversation with Pyonta. As you expected, Nitori displayed a wide array of increasingly confused faces as you told her the story, while Rika, on the contrary, remained expressionless. You blame that on her lack of energy to do so, rather than her being flabbergasted.

"You weren't kidding when you said it was strange," Nitori finally comments. "I-i don't know what to think about this."

"Just dropping it to let you know you're not the only ones alive and kicking," you shrug. "Anyway, does this give you any hint of who she might be? A goddess of the mountains with a strange frog-like hat?"

"I don't know about the hat, but there is a goddess of the mountains living at the Moriya Shrine," Nitori nods. "Suwako Moriya. Have you heard of her?"

"Some tidbits. She's one of the three deities that came from the Outside not so long ago, right?"

"Yes, that's the one. Come to think of it, that childlike behavior you told us about is very like her," the kappa ponders. "But I wonder why did she call herself

'Pyonta'..."

"To hide her involvement with this whole thing," Rika comments.

"Huh?"

"The Moriya have been involved in practically every major incident there's been ever since they arrived. I wouldn't be surprised if they were the ones who let that beast free in the first place."

"That's just a baseless assumption!" jumped Nitori. "Why would they do that in the first place!?"

"Beats me," Rika lets out a big yawn and rubs her eyes. "But you can't deny her behavior is suspicious as fuck."

"Suspicious?" You ask.

"Powerful almighty goddess stalks a random stranger who is definitely not a local, introduces herself with a fake name, does some stupid muppet shit, and asks him to meet at a forlorn shrine in a swamp in the middle of nowhere when she has a big pretty temple up here," the girl, having talked for too long in her condition, takes some time to catch her breath. "Given their previous record, I'd wager this deal is fishier than that mermaid princess at the Misty Lake."

Nitori opens her mouth to speak, but closes it and frowns when she realizes she has nothing to rebut Rika's assertion. You don't know exactly how far were the Moriya involved in all the previous incidents, but it's true they have built themselves an infamous reputation. And they aren't going to live it down any time soon, what with them always trying to change things around the Youkai Mountain. As you recall from the newspapers' feed, the Moriya have been putting into work many plans to 'modernize Gensoky', but more often than not they either failed spectacularly or kickstarted an incident on their own. Because of that, it's not unusual for conspiracionists to blame every single strange event on their aggressive .

"A forlorn shrine in a swamp in the middle of nowhere..." you mutter. "You mean the shrine at the lotus pond she asked me to come to?"

Rika nods weakly. "Go down the river, and when you arrive at a fork, take the crook at your left."

"That's the path we didn't take before we met Nitori at the waterfall," Rin helpfully reminds you.

"But you shouldn't go there!" the kappa exclaims. "It's risky to go alone with the raijuu wreaking havoc! And there are pesky fairies and other feral beasts living there too. They might attack you if they're not cursed yet."

"Then how about we go together, Nitori?" you propose. "You are searching for the culprit, right? This is a lead as good as any."

"I'd rather not. I don't want to put you or Rika in danger," she says.

"I can look after myself too, remember?"

"You don't have to do this. This is something that affects the Youkai Mountain, and it concerns its residents alone."

"What about the pact? We humans and kappa are allies, and allies are supposed to stick for each other, to lend a hand in their hour of need!" you press on. "And right now you're in a world of problems."

"Only one person keeps that pact, though," sighs Rika.

"You can add one more to that list, as far as I'm concerned."

"Hey, hey, you shouldn't be so hasty about making this kind of oaths," says Rin. "If you adher to it, then you must keep it for better and for worse. You must think it through, or it'll eventually come bite you in the ass."

But you just want to help Nitori! Is it really such a bad thing?

"I can give you an extensive list of people with chronic hero tendencies who ended up rather badly, both real and imaginary," by her tone, you guess Satsuski isn't exaggerating in the slightest. "Besides, do not forget what we really came here for."

You haven't forgotten that. Your first and main objective was to go to the Tengu Village to search for something that could jog Rin's clouded memory. That's always been in your mind. But still...

"It's your life. Do whatever you want," the kirin sighs. "But try not to get side tracked by every other problem we find on our way. And don't get tied down by more pacts and oaths. Remember you also made a promise to me..."

Talk about passive-aggresive.

"I appreciate it, friend, I really do," Nitori says, breaking the silence in the room. "But I need to think about it, consult it with the pillow. We should get some rest after this day."

"The ones who can," grumbles Rika.

"Aw, Rika, I'm very sorry..."

"Wait," you interrupt them. "I also met another person, besides Nitori and Pyo- Suwa- whatever."

The kappa, who was about to clean the table, stops and sits down again.

"Another person?" she asks. "Oh, yes, you told me about her, I think..."

"Yes, that samurai weirdo, Meira."

The second that name escaped your lips, you hear the sound of a cup falling to the floor. Rika is staring at you, her eyes wider than you have ever seen them, as if she just woken up from a nightmare. Or the complete opposite.

"What did you just say?" Her voice is filled with absolute incredulity.

"I saw a samurai called Meira back when I was still lost in the forest and-"

"Describe her!" he girl repeats, but this time she nearly shouts it with urgency.

"Uhhh, she was tall, in her twenties, had long, purple hair, and-"

"Impossible. No way it was her. It can't be her!" To stress her words, she pounds the table with unusual strength coming from a sick girl.

"Whoa there, calm down!" Nitori says, worried about her - or the table? "What's wrong, Rika?"

"What's wrong!? This kiddo here, this little rascal right here, he either sees ghosts, or is a fucking liar!" The girl shakes an angry finger at you like you were a despicable thing.

Ghosts? Hold on, what the hell does that mean? It doesn't make any sense! Meira was pretty much alive and kicking last time you saw her. Hell, you even hogtied her when she tried to jump on you! Not that you can say that openly, though. But more importantly, does Rika believe she...?

"But there are ghosts in Gensokyo," points out the kappa. "So it wouldn't be that strange for him to see one. Especially in these circumstances."

"No, I'm pretty sure she was very tangible," you correct her. "In fact, if it weren't for her I wouldn't be sitting here speaking to you two. I owe her my life."

Rika stares at you with the intensity of a hundred suns, as if she's trying to open a hole in your mind and see what's inside. For a moment, the girl in front of you looks impossibly threatening, almost inhuman. Before neither you nor Nitori can react, the girl lunges over the table and grabs you by the shirt's collar.

"Where is she!? Tell me!"

Her eyes are filled with fury, but her voice is a strange mixture of intimidation and pleading that throws you off. You meet her piercing glare, trying to look calm and composed when you're really fearing how she will react when you say your answer:

"I-i don't know. We got on our separate ways after she saved me," you tell her half the truth. "She was, uhhh, looking for something, I think. Wasn't very clear about

it," you tell her the half-truth.

Rika just keeps glaring at you, and your uneasiness keeps growing by the minute. If her eyes were lasers you're sure your head would've been vaporized a while ago. You could swat her grip on you very easily, but you're too paralyzed with fear to move an inch. How can she be so damn scary even when she's so weak? You can't even begin to imagine what she'd do were she in her prime.

"You know what happens to people who crossed kappa back in the day, kid?" Rika's voice is as cold as ice.

"They... get their arseholes tickled with a herring for two hours?"

"Don't! Play smartass with me!" She tries to shake you, but in her condition she can only tug at your shirt weakly.

"He's right, though."

Nitori, who until now was simply watching from the sidelines, speaks up in an attempt to stop the fight that was about to break. It seems to work, as Rika's temper is quickly substituted by exasperation. You, for one, welcome this brief respite, but you're also curious about what Nitori said:

"You mean that wasn't a joke?"

"Believe it or not, it helped relax the entrace for us to extract the shikirodama more easily," the kappa explains matter-of-factly.

...

"Too much information," Rin breaks the silence, at least inside you.

"But that's irrelevant!" Nitori, realizing she made the whole thing even more awkward, shouts this time with much more impetus. "You, stop harassing my guest!" She orders Rika. "And you, stop taunting my friend!" This is directed at you. "You both are in my house, and I won't tolerate this kind of behavior!"

"I'm not taunting her!" You protest. "Everything I told her is true as truth!"

"... Really?" Rika asks quietly.

"Honest! Why would I lie to you, Rika? Especially after you helped me with the handcuffs."

The girl closes her eyes, deep in thought. You fear she might fall asleep on you, but after that display of anger, you're not sure if that's a bad thing or not...

"Alright, I'll believe you," she finally lets go of your shirt, and you almost let out a sigh of relief... "But if I find out you've lied to me, there won't be any tickling with herrings to ease the pain I'll inflict upon you, you hear that?"

At such declaration, what else can you do but nod meekly? Rika, with a burning determination alight in her weary eyes, tries to stand up from the table, but her already diminished strength abandons her and almost falls head first into the table. Luckily, Nitori manages to catch her before she plants her forehead in the wooden piece of furniture.

"Hey, you okay?" The kappa asks. "You shouldn't overexert your body too much."

"Leave me!" Rika wiggles herself out of Nitori's grasp, stands up with difficulty and totters towards the door. "I'm- I'm fine, okay? Don't worry about me."

"Rika..."

"Leave me alone. I need to... think."

Having said that, Rika exits the room, and you hear her lurching up the stairs towards what you think it's her room. That's when you finally let your stress flow free in a long, long sigh.

"Is she always this quick to anger, or is it because of...?" You say outloud for Nitori to hear.

"A bit of both, I think," the kappa simply responds while she picks the dishes up.

"What was all that about, anyway? Sure she might be stressed, but there was no reason to jump at me like that for mentioning Meira."

The blue-haired youkai looks down, a troubled grimace stamped in her factions.

"I don't know much about Rika's past. She doesn't like to talk about it," Nitori explains. "From what little I heard, I believe Rika had a work colleague back then, whom she was very good friends with. But that person died, and that's the reason Rika moved to the Youkai Mountains to live alone."

"And that friend is this Meira person?"

"Based on her reaction, that's very likely," Nitori hums. "I can't imagine how it feels when all of a sudden, a random stranger appears and says he saw the friend you believed to be dead for so many years. I would've flipped my stuff too if I was on her shoes."

"When you put it like that..."

You close your eyes and isolate your mind from the exterior, submerging yourself deep in thought. There is an awful lot of stuff going on, so much information you've learned in these two or three hours, it's getting really hard to keep track of everything.

"If you ever need help sorting things out, I can help you out," comments Rin. "But if you believe this will become an usual occurrence, maybe you should consider writing a journal to keep everything that you learn in check."

A journal, huh? It does sound like a good idea. Many heroes and travelers keep a diary where they write their adventures on, in case they need to remember important stuff. And you can always sell them once your adventuring is done. But is it really the time to pick up the pen now? You also have some matters to att-

A loud metallic noise from far away snaps you out from your reverie, but when you open your eyes, everything is as dark as if you still had them closed. That can't be normal, right? You surely haven't gone blind all of a sudden, have you?

"Oh crap," Nitori's worried voice reaches you from somewhere in the blackness.

"Nitori! Where are you? What happened?"

"Backup generator is down! I had a feeling that ancient machine wouldn't last long."

"Wha? Don't you always run maintenance checks on all your stuff every now and then?"

"Not since we switched to nuclear a couple years ago. Hydroelectric energy is so last thing!"

"And now you're paying the price!" you quip.

"As they say, there's no use crying over spilled cucumbers. If we got time to complain about problems, then we got time to fix them!" You hear the sound of fabric rustling somewhere at your left. You guess it's from one of Nitori's pockets. "Now where did I put the-? Aha, there you are!"

Just when your eyes are getting used to the darkness, Nitori clicks something on, and a wave of light hits you hard and burns in your retinae, forcing you to squirm your eyelids shut and cover your face with your arm.

"Ah, sorry," you hear Nitori apologize. "Wait here, I'll get another flashlight for you."

A few seconds later, you've recovered from the blinding and you've got a long, heavy and sturdy lantern in your hands.

"Like I said, I'm going to check the generator and get it working again," the kappa picks up a red tool box from somewhere in this mess of a room. "Hopefully I won't need any special instruments for the job."

"Okay. Do you need me for something?"

"Could you keep an eye on Rika while I'm not here?" Nitori asks. "I understand if you don't want to, after... that, but the way she was acting worries me a lot. I fear she might try to get out and search for Meira."

"In her state? She can barely move at all!"

"Oh, you would not believe how stubborn she can be," the kappa sighs. "Well, I'm off. Take care, and don't open the door to anybody suspicious!"

"What are you, my mom?" You ask jokingly.

Nitori throws a hearty laugh, returning to her usual joyful self for a second. Then she waves you goodbye and dissappears around the hallway. You hear the main door sliding open and close a few moments later.

"Okay..." you let out a deep breath. "Now what?"

"Well, we're alone now in the dark, stuck in a house full of machines we don't know how they work, with a sleep-deprived caffeine junkie with anger issues, and nothing to do except to wait and play babysitter," Sacchin sums up your situation. "That, if you decide to honor Nitori's petition."

... Where is she getting at?

"I'm saying we don't need to stay here. Now that Nitori's left us alone, we're no safer than when we were on our own. I'd even say we're more in danger with Rika around."

But what about staying here for the night? Isn't it supposed to be safer here than outside?

"With the power gone, that's no longer the case. If you're worried about shelter, we can fabricate ourselves one with your powers. Besides, once night passes, Nitori will throw us out of the Youkai Mountain anyway, remember?"

Yes, that's true, but she really asked you to keep watch on Rika. She's just worried about you and her.

"Just giving options. Maybe you should consider taking this chance to go visit Suwako," Rin suggests. "I think it'd be interesting to talk about one of the major deities in the Shinto religion."

That's certainly one possibility. You guess Nitori won't let you visit that shrine when she escorts you out, so now that you're alone you could sneak out for a while. With this lantern the kappa gave you, you shouldn't worry about getting lost in the forest. If you're lucky, you might even be back before Nitori returns!

As you consider your options, you knock something with your foot. You point the light at the object, and recognize the strange looking bracelet Rika was working at before dinner. You pick it up and give it a closer inspection under the lantern's bright light. It's very bulky and long - it'd cover almost all of your forearm if you put it on -, most likely to accommodate the huge screen on it. The screen is made of a greenish thick cristal, and there's an assortment of buttons around it; four at each side, and some dials as well. The writings under them seem to be in English, but sadly you don't understand what they say. Kosuzu gave you some lessons, but this is on a whole different level!

"I don't understand English either. Sorry," Rin reads your question before you even get to formulate it.

Shucks. You hoped she would help you out.

"Nonetheless, this is quite a strange artifact. I don't think I'd know what it does even if I could read the labels."

Then the only option is to...

"Hold on, we shouldn't tou-!"

Too late. You press one button that stands out from the others: one that has a strange symbol like an "O" with a vertical line going from its upper part until its center. Moments after, the bracelet starts to make machine-like sounds, and a dim light emanates from the screen. Some green letters in English show up on screen, but they move too fast for you to read. This goes on for ten seconds before the flood of green freezes:

>Pthread support ABORT when sync kernel primitives misused
>Booting via boot-uuid from /chosen: 1765638FB-4724-58GE-9TE3-038265GFD21G
>Waiting on <dict ID="0"><keyZIOProviderClass</key><string ID="1">
>FireWire runtime power conservation disabled. (3)
>com.hearn.HearnFSCCompressionTypeZlib kmod start
>com.hearn.HearnFSCCompressionTypeZDataless kmod failed
>com.hearn.HearnFSCCompressionTypeZlib load succeeded
>com.hearn.HearnFSCCompressionTypeZDataless load failed
>Cannot boot system
>Rebooting...
>/

And that's all there is to it. The green lines don't change anymore, and the bracelet's noises have almost died down completely, as if it gave up working. Quite a dissappointment.

"Well, Rika was very focused at it," Rin comments. "I guess it's broken, and Rika was trying to fix it."

That seems to be the most likely explanation. Or maybe you're operating it wrongly. Maybe you should keep at it a bit longer and see if you can make it work?

In any case, you are now in the dark with a strange machine and a bit of 'free time' in your hands...

[]Go to sleep. You're very tired. Better replenish your strength for tomorrow.
[]Pick up Satsuki's book and give it a read once more. Maybe this time you'll be able to decipher something else.
[]This is as good time as any to start that journal Rin proposed. (AKA recap everything until now)
[]Experiment with Rika's bracelet some more. With luck you might even get it fixed!
[]Go to Rika's room. Try to speak with her, maybe apologize, and if the chance arises, ask her about Meira.
[]Screw waiting, you want out!
-[]Go after Nitori. Maybe you can help her out at something.
-[]Go to the shrine at the lotus pond and meet with Pyonta/Suwako.
-[]Go explore the surroundings. Who knows what will you find in the night?
[]Write-in.


And what should you do about the bracelet?

[]Keep it for yourself. You don't know what it does yet, but chances are it might be an useful item.
[]Give it back to Rika. And maybe ask her directly what it's supposed to do.
[]Leave it where it was. Rika might not appreciate it you touching it and playing around with it.


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

A clarification: if you choose to go for writing the journal, it will also add a certain "functionality" as a bonus: from now on, I will showcase at the end of every update all the quests, favors or missions given to you and their current status, much like any RPG of the mill. This will hopefully help you keep tabs on your goals.
>> No. 174599
[x]Pick up Satsuki's book and give it a read once more. Maybe this time you'll be able to decipher something else.
[x]This is as good time as any to start that journal Rin proposed. (AKA recap everything until now)
[x]Go to Rika's room. Try to speak with her, maybe apologize, and if the chance arises, ask her about Meira.

Unfortunatley, I feel some responsibility with Nitori. I think that having Nitori on our side will benefit us but I believe we're playing a risk here by staying in the same spot for too long - that's why I'm not voting for sleep. Also, the Rika/Meira situation seems interesting and maybe we'll get bonus help if we re-unite the 2. I don't know how GTA 5 ends but this little bit reminds me of it. Nonetheless, getting Rika on our side is bound to help us in some way.

I believe that meeting Suwako will help push the story forward faster but if we play this right then the trust of Nitori may be something we can make use of.
>> No. 174600
>>174599

Whoops, I also forgot to vote for:

[x]Give it back to Rika. And maybe ask her directly what it's supposed to do.

When I was a kid and I accidently touched something, I'd tell an adult. Although leaving it alone has benefited me more, I think this is a moral thing to do. Plus it wouldn't help asking what it is. It seems to be a computer of some sort but that's all we know.
>> No. 174601
[x]This is as good time as any to start that journal Rin proposed. (AKA recap everything until now)

[x]Give it back to Rika. And maybe ask her directly what it's supposed to do.


Yeah, I wanna play square with Nitori for the time being. She's been good to us, we should return the favor.
>> No. 174604
[x]Pick up Satsuki's book and give it a read once more. Maybe this time you'll be able to decipher something else.
[x]Go to Rika's room. Try to speak with her, maybe apologize, and if the chance arises, ask her about Meira.
[x]Give it back to Rika. And maybe ask her directly what it's supposed to do.

I'm not very keen on keeping a journal that has our acquaintances, destinations, and progress. The chances of our pursuers getting their hands on it seems low, but you can never be too careful.
>> No. 174722
So there's a tie between starting the journal, going to speak with Rika, and reading Satsuki's book. First vote that breaks this tie closes it.
>> No. 174723
[x]>>174604

Here, is this a tie breaker?
>> No. 174728
>>174723
Yeah, that'll do. Though I'd preferred it if you only chose one, but I feel in a writing mood so I can work with two options at the same time. I won't be participating in the Nanowrimo Challenge, by the way, but I'll try to update more often. Luckily that'll be easier for me considering what's to come in the story... Be afraid, my readers!

So anyway, I'm calling it for:

[x]Go to Rika's room. Try to speak with her, maybe apologize, and if the chance arises, ask her about Meira.
-[x]Give the bracelet back to Rika. And maybe ask her directly what it's supposed to do.
[x]Pick up Satsuki's book and give it a read once more. Maybe this time you'll be able to decipher something else.


And in case I do not finish the update for Halloween, I wish you Happy Spooky Halloween! Special pic too just because.
>> No. 174755
>>174728
I really love that picture. So cute.
>> No. 174798
[x]Go to Rika's room. Try to speak with her, maybe apologize, and if the chance arises, ask her about Meira.
-[x]Give the bracelet back to Rika. And maybe ask her directly what it's supposed to do.
[x]Pick up Satsuki's book and give it a read once more. Maybe this time you'll be able to decipher something else.


You have nothing better to do, so you decide to make ammends with the 'sleep-deprived caffeine junkie with anger issues', since apparently the mere mention of a friend she thought dead was enough reason for her to try to strangle you.

"Even though you have nothing to apologize for," adds Rin.

Rather, you want to offer her forgiveness, to wipe the state clean and forget that scuffle. After all, when she helped you get rid of the handcuffs, she seemed a nice girl at heart.

"Ah well, suit yourself. Just try not to set the bomb off again."

You pick up the bracelet and head upstairs, tiptoeing around the myriad of cables, furniture and machinery littering the floor - a task made even more difficult by the blackout. Nitori should really mind her house more, you think. There's no way she'd be able to find the tools she needs when everything is so disorganized. Maybe she's the kind of person who finds order in her own disorder? Or rather this isn't her home, but a workshop? No, it doesn't matter if she wasn't expecting to take in two lost people and have them sleep here; this level of disarray is simply unacceptable in a work or home environment, both.

"I never thought you'd be such an order freak," comments Rin.

Having spent a lot of time in libraries, you know how important it is to have things clean and organized for easier access and better preservation. Nitori's just asking for things to get lost or broken. You'll have a serious talk with her when she comes back.

"Oh, give it a rest, will you? Didn't you know geniuses are often disorganized?"

Huh, it almost sounds like Rin is actually one of those people who don't bother to tidy up their rooms...

"What?"

Yes, yes, you can see it! You bet she had all her music sheets all over her desk and the floor. She must have had lots of troubles whenever she had to get the notes for a specific song and couldn't find them in the heap of paper.

"That's-"

Or worse, she actually took the wrong sheets accidentally and only realized it in the middle of a performance. That must've been embarrassing.

"That never happened!" The kirin exclaims flustered. "I mean, I don't think I ever got my sheets confused. I don't remember many things about my life yet, so I'm not able to prove it, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't that disorganized."

But she doesn't deny she kept her room unkempt. Shameful.

[i]"Like I said, I don't remember it! Weren't you going to talk to Rika?"


Chuckling to yourself, you make your way through the dark hallway at the upper floor. With your flashlight you can see there are four doors, but no indication as to what was behind them. Just as you were wondering which room is Rika in, you hear the sound of clothes shuffling behind the door immediatly at your right. You guess that must be Rika's room, so you knock at it.

"Rika, are you there?"

The shuffling sounds stops once you hit the door, and you hear faint, slow footsteps approaching from the other side. The knob turns, the hinges screech, and the door opens a little to reveal another flash of light that blinds you for the second consecutive time.

"Whaddya want."

When your eyes recover from the bright attack, you see Rika looking at you from the slit, definitely not in the mood to talk. In fact, you suspect she pointed her flashlight at you eyes with malice and treachery. Still, even if she doesn't want to have a conversation, you should at least give the bracelet back to her.

"You left this back at the table," you say.

Rika looks at the strange machine in your hand, furrows her brows, and then takes it.

"Hm. Right," she simply mutters.

"What is that thing, anyway?" You ask, in hopes of making conversation. "It just went on and started flashing letters very fast..."

That's a lie, of course, but you don't want to risk being on the recieving end of Rika's anger because you touched something you weren't supposed to.

"Dunno," Rika responds.

You blink once, and twice. That answer caught you offguard.

"You don't know?"

"It's from the Outside. I'm dismantling it," she explains, looking at the machine's screen and pressing a couple of buttons. "I'm surprised it still works after what

I've done to it."

"But isn't Outsider technology very valuable? Why would you want to dismantle it?"

The girl sighs wearily, clearly exasperated by your dim wits. "Reverse engineering. Look it up."

"I know what reverse engineering means, thank you very much," you quip back, offended.

"Good for you. Now get lost."

The girl goes to close the door in your face, but before she does, you put your foot in between and stop her.

"Wait!"

Rika's eyebrows twitch, clearly annoyed and tired with you. Her eyes order you to 'leave her alone', but you aren't going to back away now. You have something important to tell her. Then again, your mind lets you down in the critic moment, and you struggle to find the proper words. How do you bring this up? Right now you must look like a fidgeting schoolgirl to Rika, and oh gods it's so embarrasing just imagining it! You should've put more thought into it before you knocked at her door. Now it's in for a yen, in for a pound...

"So... um..." You stutter. Way to go, guy. "I know we've started with the wrong foot back then, and... What I'm meaning to tell you is that... uh..."

"Are you hitting on me?" Rika says flatly.

"No! No, gods no! Of course not!" You shake your head with vigor to reinforce your point. "No, no, it's just that you're clearly pissed with me, and I- uhhh, got the feeling you're about to do something very dangerous considering your health and the situation at the mountain, and I've just come to tell you that I don't mind much that you've tried to strangle me at the dining table, I still think you're a pretty cool girl, although very grumpy, to be honest, and I really appreciate your help with the handcuffs, and I'd hate it if you risked your life for something I said-"

"So you're saying it was all a lie?" Rika cuts your blabbering.

"No, I didn't lie to you!" You try to withstand her piercing glare. You've thought it once already, but it never ceases to surprise you how intimidating she can be.

"Just... don't do anything reckless, okay? If not for your own wellbeing, for Nitori at least."

The girl closes her eyes, either pondering what you told her, or taking an impromptu power nap. She stays still for one, two, three... five... ten seconds, and you're beginning to fear it's the latter case, but she slowly breaths out, clicks her tongue, and slams the door closed with nary a word.

"Should I take that as 'acknowledged'?"

You raise up your voice, but there's no response back. However, you do hear the sound of things rustling and clicking again. At the very least she hasn't fallen asleep on the spot, but...

"In a rate of zero to ten, I rate that a 'canned spaghetti'."

"What?" You are both surprised at Rin's sudden intromision and confused at how little sense makes what she said.

"Ah, nothing, nothing, it's just an inside joke. Forget about it."

What does she mean, 'inside joke'?

"Nothing, nothing. A joke I had with one of my friends."

Then that means Rin's starting to recover her memories!

"No, I mean, yes! Maybe?" Satsuki struggles to make sense. "It just that your adorkable conversation reminded me of something a friend and I used to joke about a lot... But I don't recall anything else."

That's... a bit of a letdown. But at least you know the way to cure Rin's amnesia is to jog her memory somehow. Just as it happened when she saw the erhu back at that store in the village. As soon as you recall that, you're hit by a wave of nostalgia and melancholy. It's been only three days since you made your escape out of town, but those days were so hectic, it feels like it all happened months ago.

"Speaking of things that happened months ago," Sacchin interrupts your line of thought. "When was the last time you tried to read my book?"

That would be two days ago, after your fight with the raijuu. But what does that have to do with anything? She blatantly aborted your attempts at doing memory lane for this?

"You've already done it before, and I don't want you moping around again when we could be doing something more productive," she admonishes you. "Like catching up with the book, if you have nothing better to do."

Rin seems quite eager to get on with the deciphering. You wonder if it has something to do with how she's recovering tidbits of her memories little by little.

"Probably. I have a hunch this time we'll find something new."

She's got a point. Everytime you tried your hand at deciphering the strange lines in those pages, you'd experience a vivid dream that seems to be part of Satsuki's forgotten memories, and afterwards she'd remember more things on her own. But that also scares you to no end. They're too vivid for your liking. And considering how the last one ended... Just the mere memory of it makes your hand twitch in pain. If you use your imagination, you can almost see the scar where Sacchin's friend stabbed her. You don't ever want to experience that pain anymore, and all signs points at that nightmare continuing from when you left it.

"I... I understand your fear. I really do," Satsuki whispers, much more meekly than before. "I also felt the pain you went through, and not only because I experienced it in my past life. I also dreamt it, along with you. I understand if you don't want to do it, and I won't force you. But if you do, you'd be doing me a great favor, one I'll be eternally grateful to you for."

...

Geez, when she puts it like that, you can't say no... Damn this manipulative youkai wench.

"I'll take that as a compliment," the kirin chirps. "But seriously, thank you for putting up with my unreasonable request. I'll make sure I'll repay you somehow."

And so, you slowly make your way back to the living room, search for your bag in the darkness, hit your toes with unknown things in the process, spout some cuss words that left Rin mortified, finally find your bag, rummage through your few "possessions", and take the green book out. Your muscle memory kicks in when you unconsciously dust the cover, as you always did with Kosuzu's ancient books, but you clear your head of melancholic memories before they get you. Instead, you make yourself comfortable in the table, point your flashlight at the pages, and go over the tedious process of tracing the swirling lines with your index, over and over and over...

And over and over...

And over... and over...

And... ove...
>> No. 174799
"I'm sorry, Rin."

You can only watch helplessly as your friend yanks you by your left arm, slams your hand against the surface of the table and grips your wrist strongly. You try to fix your eyes on your friend's face... what you find in her ebony eyes is a cold resolve and a determination of steel, tainted by the smallest of stains of what it seems to be honest regret and apology.

T&$("^ lifts her knife over her head and brings it down with the fury of a thousand gods of thunder, and you close your eyes and grit your teeth in anticipation for-

Ah! Nothing could have prepared you for this. Itching. Coldness. Shock. Burning. All of it condensed in a hundreth of a second, to the point you don't know if it went in progression, all at once, or several times in a row. It was all so sudden, you don't even yell or cry like you expected; only a hiss and a whimper that fell very short of the excruciating pain you're really feeling. Your strength abandons you definitely this time, and your head slumps down, letting the tears forming in your eyes cascade down your cheeks.

Yet all you can think about is that now you won't be able to play your erhu - or any instrument of worth, for that matter - until this injury heals. How curious. Is this what being in shock feels like?

T&$("^, however, brings you back to the reality of pain by yanking your head down by your hair, making your watery vision meet her gaze under the broken mask. Those ebony eyes, filled with regret and contempt in equal parts. You don't like them, you can't stand that look in her eyes. You avert your own and close them, refusing to see your friend's face, but T&$("^ tugs at your hair again and makes you open again.

"Do you take me for some kind of blind fool?" T&$("^ spouts with cold fury. "I suspected it all along, the signs were there from the beginning... But I was naïve. I never wanted to imagine you two would actually do it for real. I should've realized it sooner!"

"What... what are you talking about?" You manage to speak through the pain.

"Do not play coy with me!" She yells at you. "I'm talking about this!"

With her free hand, T&$("^ reaches for one of her pockets, produces something from it, and shows it to you. Your vision is blurry and hazy from the tears and the pain, and your mind can't quite register it, but you think this is some kind of flask made of crystal.

"I found this at the
░█░░░░░░░░░░▒▒░░░░░­░░ere trying to p░░░░░░░░░░░█░░░░░ello?░░▒▒▒▒▒I right?"

"Nnnn... What is..." You mutter in confusion.

"Enough with the fake ignorance!" T&$("^ pulls at your hair even harder. "Your gig's over, Satsuki!"

The pain forces you to open your eyes and focus on the ornated crystal bottle in her hands. Now that you look at it... You've seen that flask before. Yes, you do know what is this flask, what was inside it, and what was it used for. What you used it for. But you can't tell T&$("^. No. You simply can't tell her. And as much as it makes you feel horrible, you have no option but to hide the truth from her.

"I don't know! I don't know what is that, I've never seen it in my life!"

"Gah! The lies! How do you do it!?" T&$("^ holds her tears back, as she screams her frustation at you. "How can you have the gall to lie to my face like this!?"

"Please, T&$("^, I really don't know what's this about!" You whimper in pain. "Please, let me go! It hurts!"

"I won't listen to another one of your goddamned lies, you trait
░░░░░░░█░░░░░Helloooooooo?░░▒▒░░░░░­░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░­
░░░oth of you! You two were my friends! How could you░░░░░­░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░Can you hear me?░▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒ut I know! I know exactly why did you try to commit this despicable crime!"

You can only cry in pain and desperation, unable to withstand your friend's gaze. From the very beginning, you realized your crime was terrible, barbaric and extreme, but it was also necessary. You have already come to terms with what you've done, but you weren't prepared for your best friend's utter disappointment and hurting. That's why you wanted to keep it a secret from her. You knew how'd she feel if she found out, and for a damn good reason. You knew it, yet you still were scared of her reaction. And your fears have come true.

But despite how much it hurts to betray T&$("^, you've come too far; there's no turning back now. If your actions deserve the very justified hatred of your friend, then so be it.

"Then you must understand it had to be done," you say as calmly as you can. "I don't expect you to forgive me, or to share my point of view. But at the very least, you must real[/i]░░░░█░░░░░░░░░░▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒Testing, tes░░░░░­░░░░░░Sorry to interrupt your dream but░░░░░░░█░░░

T&$("^ just stares at you for gods know how long, and then she lets a long, sustained breath out that washes her flood of emotions away, until her usual coldness and sternness remains.

"You're right. What you've done is unforgivable, and I do not agree with your reasoning. But still..."

T&$("^ looks behind her, checking there's no unwanted witnesses to what she's about to do, and then, she takes a small 7he/34$( from another of her pockets.

"Despite our differences, you're still my dearest friend," the tengu throws the 7he/34$( at your feet. "Go to the fifth floor and turn right at the Chinese jar, then move th
░░░░░░█░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░­░░░░░░░░ou got to snap out of it!░█░░░░░░░░░░sert this 7he/34$( in th░▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒re's not time! I'll░░█░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░yank you ou░░█░░░████░░░░░░░░░░­░░░

"T&$("^..."

Your friend takes the knife she pinned your hand with and swiftly removes it, freeing your hand while it starts bleeding profusely. The sudden pain makes you grunt in response and fall to the floor, and you almost pass out.

"Run away from the Youkai Mountain, and never come back," T&$("^'s cold words reaches your ringing ears from far away. "That's the most I can do for you, and it's already more than you deserve. If I ever see your face again, I will not show you any mercy."

You hear her footsteps drawing away from you. No, she can't leave you like this! You
█░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░­░░░

"Wait! T&$("^!"░░░░░­░░░░░░░░░░░░█░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░
░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░­░░░░░░░░░
░░░░░░█░░░░░░░░░░▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒­▒▒▒▒████████

█████████████████████████████████████████

████████████████▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒░░░░░­░░░░░░░░
░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░

"Thank goodness! I thought you were gone for good."

The first thing you notice after opening your eyes is the pain in your head. You feel as if a few veins popped inside your brain, and it's going to break apart.

"Oh, don't be a sissy. It's just a little headache. A small price to pay for breaking a spell that turned you into a mindless sleepwalking zombie."

Those three last words have the effect of a whip in you. You turn your head to the source of the voice - you swear you've heard it before -, and what you see almost makes you jolt from the surprise. A translucid human figure with no definite facial features is sitting right besides you. Is it a ghost? No, wait, you've definitely seen this thing before...

"Glad you remembered. We used to sing and play word games together."

... Oh. Yes. It's that... 'person' you saw in your dreams, before you had to run away from your town. The one you found sitting alone with no memories, singing a song it didn't remember. You check your surroundings and confirm that, indeed, you're in the same vast nothingness from those dreams. But isn't this ghost Satsuki herself? Why does it feel like it's a different person?

"That's a long story, one I lack the time to tell."

You try to speak, but for some reason, the words never come out from your mouth. To your horror, you find you are completely unable to utter a sound. WHat the hell is going on!?

"You needn't speak. Right now, you only have to listen to what I explain to you."

You look at Satsuki(?) bewildered, but she(it?) doesn't pay mind and immediatly begins her explanation:

"A while ago, a very powerful spell was activated, and it affected all the people in the Youkai Mountain who were either asleep or unconscious, you included. This spell turns them into somnambulists who wander around without direction until the caster assumes direct control over their slumbering minds, turning them into puppets. That's the reason why you were in the middle of the forest, walking around like a zombie. At least until I reached you.

"You see, for reasons not very relevant at this moment, this spell also allows me to introduce myself in your subconscious and speak to you in your dreams. However, I don't have much time until the caster notices me. That's why I must keep this very brief.

"Long story short, I can save not only you, but everybody in the Mountain, from an eternity of sleepwalking. But right now I lack the power to do so. That's where you, and your special power, come in. Somewhere in the Youkai Mountain, there's a special book, very much like the one you have in your possession. I need you to retrieve it, and bring the two books to me, so that I can muster enough energy to break the spell. Sadly, I do not know the second book's exact whereabouts, but thanks to your innate ability, you should be able to find it easily.

"In summary, bring me the books, and I'll be able to free you, and everybody else. I know sounds overwhelming, but I have confidence in your abilities. I've seen what you're capable of, and you possess a great power, waiting to be unleashed. Still, I feel like you could use a little push to help you achieve your true potential. That's why, for this time only, I'll give you a small 'gift', to choose from the following:

"First, I have a special mysterious item that I think it suits you like a glove. But it isn't a glove, no, it's... When you see it, you might think it's a bad joke, that it's just an useless toy or something like that. But believe me when I tell you, if you combine it with your cunning, your skills and the knowledge you have on magic, this little 'toy' will become an useful weapon and tool if used the right way. By the way, despite its looks, this thing can be quite lethal, so be careful with it!

"Next, it's not an present per se, but it's also related to items. And it has to do with your power! Whenever you tried to use magic to modify a thing, you went the long, hard way and learnt the whole name of said object before attempting to change its properties from the root. I'm not saying that's wrong; in fact, what I can teach you is just a step further of this technique. As you've been taught, every object in the world has a name that only belongs to it... and they also have a history behind them. What were they made for, what they were used to, who they belonged to, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Knowing how to unravel the history of certain objects can be a very useful ability in your journey, if you ever come across a puzzle of a mystery, or something like that.

"And last, I can give you a... 'hint' of sorts. I can see you're very concerned about the memories of Satsuki. Especially after what you've just witnessed. That's very unsettling, isn't it? I can do you both a favor, and point you to a certain hidden place where many of the mysteries behind Satsuki's past can be answered, with enough investigation and questioning.

"Well, what will it be? The mysterious present, the power upgrade, or the hint? And before you ask me, no, you cannot have all the three. As much as I'd like to, I simply don't have the time and the power to teach you everything. So, pick one! The clock's ticking, time's flying, tick, tock, tick, tock. You may speak now."


[]The mysterious present.
[]The power upgrade.
[]The hint.
[]What the hell is going on here!?
[]This is some kind of sick joke, isn't it?
[]Let me out! I want to wake up now!
[]Who
are you?
[]Who is the one who put that spell?


-------------------------------------------------------
>> No. 174801
[X]The hint.
>> No. 174812
[X]The power upgrade.
>> No. 174815
[x]The hint.

Gonna go with information here.
>> No. 174817
[X]The mysterious present.

Since we don’t have time to ask any questions (or so she claims), that leaves us with the 3 choices only.
The hint may be something we’ll find out later. The upgrade in magic can be something Rin will teach us at some point.
That’s why I deem the tool as the best option.
>> No. 174818
[x]The mysterious present.

Mission first. Curiosity killed the cat and the power upgrade isn't anything we can't level up to later anyway.

The biggest risk is often the biggest profit. I think once we find it's true power, it'll become our most useful tool.
>> No. 174821
[x]The power upgrade.

Items can be taken from us; hints can be unraveled. Power that cannot be taken away and would otherwise take time we don't have to gain, though? That's priceless.

After that's settled,
[x]Who are you?
[x]Who is the one who put that spell?
>> No. 174851
Everytime I check this story out there's always a tie going on. Seriously.

[x]The power upgrade.

I agree with >>174821's logic. The item could be something incredibly awesome, or not so useful. But despite being a wild card, it also carries the risk of getting lost or stolen from us. And I think we will stumble upon that secret location at some point, with or without hint, so I see no reason to pick it. I also don't like playing with hints, so.... Therefore I pick the only option remaining.
>> No. 174864
>>174851
iknorite?

So in order to prevent another tie from happening, and in accordance with my plans to update more often, I'll call the vote here for the power upgrade. Next part will be short, so I should be able to have it done very soon.

Pic not related to said update in any way.
>> No. 174954
[x]The power upgrade.

"So you want the power, then?"

You hadn't even finished opening your mouth to speak when the figure steals the words from your tongue.

"How did you-"

"-know what you were about to say?" It finished your question for you. "Because I'm inside your subconscious, and I heard the seven voices that impel you discussing and comparing how useful each present was."

Right, it's all in your mind. Makes sense. Kinda. You still don't get the part about the 'seven impelling voices', but you have the feeling that's something far beyond your measly comprehension, and that it'd be a waste of precious time to ask about it.

"That's right. Now, shall we begin?" The phantom points at a patch of plain-looking grass just in front of it, motioning you to scoot closer. "Apologies in advance if this seems too complicated, but we're on a tight schedule. Don't worry, I'm sure you'll understand everything eventually."

"If you say so..."

You feel your own voice very distant, almost as if you weren't the one who was speaking, but rather a mere spectator watching the conversation from a first (or second?) person view. Not unlike the time when you let Rin take over your body to fend off the raijuu, except that you still are in control of your movements. Or so you like to think. The truth is that it feels like your feet are moving on their own towards the friendly faceless figure...

"Do you remember that time when you tried to build yourself a shelter by growing a tree, but you went too far?" The 'ghost' begins.

"I do. But I wonder how do you know about it," you answer. "Were you spying on me too?"

"I'm in your subconscious, I can read your memories."

That's just great. As if one youkai living inside your head wasn't enough, now there's another being reading your mind like an open book. Why is privacy such a rare privilege for you?

"Focus," the phantom snaps you back from your 'inner' rant. "So do you recall what happened?"

Of course you do. The moment was short-lived, but it was ingrained yourself in your mind, and you're sure you'd be having nightmares about it were you not experiencing Rin's dreams instead. After all, seeing your fingers turn into roots was a rather terrifying experience.

"Moreso considering it came very close to happen for real," it adds.

Yes, Rin warned you about the dangers of 'imposing your will against nature itself', as she put it. And about 'understanding living things' too, when you subconsciously connected with the raijuu. Both of them are out of your league, and Satsuki advised you not to use your magic to heavily modify a thing, or to connect with beings with a mind of their own.

"Only that you are not going to modify anything, just scan it."

"Scan?"

"Yes. What you've been doing up until now was changing the growth speed and the size of the plants you manipulated. In other words, you modified characteristics that were inherent of the object. However, when you connected with the two branches, you saw their true and complete codes, or 'names' as you call them, and forced your will to change them into something different, not inherent. That near-accident happened because you were trying to add attributes that the thing didn't possess, which falls under another field of magic you aren't ready to use yet, and you almost paid the price of equivalent exchange for using it."

You nod in half-understanding, recording everything the figure is telling you in your mind even if you don't completely get what it's saying. Meanwhile, you think about how much it sounds like Sacchin right now.

"Still, whilst altering the attributes of an object is too complicated and dangerous, you should still be able to see those attributes," it continues. "With your innate ability, there should be no harm in learning what's a thing made of in its most profound level, as long as you don't try to alter it."

"Then are you saying I already know how to... 'scan' things?" You ask.

"That's basically what I'm saying," the figure nods. "The only new thing I'm teaching you is to be careful while you're at it. But I believe the best way to teach is by practice."

Having said that, it conjures a small ball of light in its hand (or was it always there?) and wills it to float towards you. You cup your hands and feel its warm light heat your body. Is it a small star? A will-o-wisp? A spirit?

"Heheh, I can see your eyes brimming with curiosity," the phantom chuckles. "Why don't you give it a nice look?"

Right, why spend time wondering when you can just see the answer for yourself? You focus on the luminous sphere, trying to establish a connection with it, to understand what it's made of, to see it's 'name', or 'code', or whatever that is. At the same time, you try to stay away from it, fearing you might touch something you musn't. But at this rate, you are not making any progress. The ball of light is still as mysterious as it was before.

"Need a little push?"

As soon as you hear the figure's voice, you can feel its hand touching your forehead... or rather, the effect it has. You can't quite describe the feeling, but something inside your mind flicks on, everything becomes clear as day, and suddenly you're flooded with tons of data and information about the object in your hand.

>Small Luminous Orb
>A magic construct of pure light that shines and warms like a torch.
>One of the first basic spells all mage and sorcerer apprentices learn.
>Many travelers and adventures also use it extensively.

>Light Sign: 「Luminous Orb」
>Simple level spell. No catalyst needed.
>Very low energy consumption.
>Floats above the caster. Can be moved away.
>Can shine underwater.
>Can be stickied on surfaces.
>Cannot dispel magic shadows.
>Cannot melt ice/metal.
>Cannot harm enemies.

>As this spell needs no catalyst, it uses the caster's energy instead to function.
>This particular Luminous Orb is powered by demonic energy, provided by G░░░░▒▒▒▒

A piercing pain strikes your mind - the sensation of a hot red nail driving into your skull, one you're sadly getting too familiar with -, making you gasp and lose your focus. Thus your mental link with the Luminous Orb is broken, and all the information vanishes, and with it the pain goes away.

"Whoops, that's enough!" the ghost exclaims, flailing its arms nervously. "Anyway, you get the gist of it, right?"

"Uh, yeah, I think..."

"Like people, some objects also have a hidden potential, and if you learn of it by analyzing it enough, you could become able to unleash that potential whenever you use that object, or in the case of this spell, learn how to cast it yourself!"

"Oh, really?" Now that's useful! "So that means I can cast a Luminous Orb myself?"

"Why don't you try?" The ghost chuckles.

The phantom makes it sound like it's easy, but still, one thing is to know how one thing is made, and another is actually making it. If it were for knowledge alone, you would've been a very decent magician a long time ago. You know it takes a lot more than reading tons of books to be proficient at something; you need practice and talent too. Is the ghost implying the level of understanding you've attained will make for the lack of magical expertise?

"Not for the most complex spells and artifacts, that's true," it concedes. "But something as simple as an orb of light should pose no problem."

"Only one way to find out," you mutter to yourself.

You clear your mind of any superfluous thoughts and focus entirely on the mental image of a Luminous Orb. You think about the characteristics you've learned when you analyzed it from before, and exert a force of will to materialize it in your hands, just as Rin taught you to do with the branches and the plumbs....

A small flow of energy running through your arms tips you off that something just happened, and when you open your eyes, you find an exact replica of the Luminous Orb hovering over your cupped hands.

"Oh wow..." You whisper in amazement.

"Well done!" The ghost claps.

It's not the first time you've used magic, but it's still as impressive and astonishing as the first time! To think that three days ago you were just a normal boy, and now you're growing giant trees and making orbs of light like it's nothing!

Still, something has been bugging your mind, ever since you've tried your new technique for the first time. When you were experimenting with the ghost's orb, you could have keep going learning more facts about the light ball, but the ghost deliberately interrupted you before you completed your analysis. And you don't think it's because it's running out of time. It's too much of a coincidence to be stopped you right when you were about to learn who casted the spell - which is obviously the ghost itself. Yes, it's definitely trying to keep its true identity secret to you. But why?

That doesn't make any sense! Thinking back to your first meetings with it, you distinctly recall it was completely amnesiac, save for a part of a song it allegedly repeated over and over for hundreds of years, while it was still trapped in a book. Maybe it recovered its memories? Or did it lie to you back then? What could be it hiding? More and more questions and suspicions begin to pile up, but you're pretty sure this figure knows much more than it tells you.

The phantom just stares blankly at you - as blankly as a faceless figure can -, still and calm like always. You know for a fact that it can read your mind, so it must know of your growing mistrust about it. Why isn't it saying anything? Why doesn't it confirm nor deny your doubts? You don't care if it tells you the truth or a big fat lie, but being left in the dark like this is extremely upsetting.

"Stop this charade right now!" You grit your teeth in frustation. "What are you not telling me?"

The phantom (or demon, should you call it?) just tilts its featureless face, as if it didn't really know what you were talking about. Of course, you don't believe that act for a second.

"You must know who is responsible for this incident, right?" You press on. "Tell me, who is it? Actually, who are you?"

"I'm risking my life to help you, that's all you need to know for now," the figure remains unflappable. Yet in its tone appears a certain sternness that wasn't there before. "Instead of distrusting me, you should be grateful."

"How can I trust you when I know you're hiding something from me?"

"Oh, good heavens, look at the time!" The ghost completely ignores you and stands up. "I must go now, and you have to return to the real world."

"Huh!?"

You stand up and reach for the figure, but your arm just stops midway, as if it just decided to stop obeying you and not move. You watch helplessly as the ghost drifts away from you, leaving you in a sea of confusion and solitude.

"Wait! You can't just leave like this!"

Your screams do not affect the demon phantom in the slightest, as it dissappears from your vision, leaving a rather ominous farewell:

"Everything will be answered once you bring me the books back. Until then, godspeed to you... And try not to get killed too fast."

Then you hear a snap of fingers, and immediatly after the world starts to spin and swirl in your eyes...


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

The next thing you know, you find yourself in the most absolute darkness. Yet this time around, you can move your body just fine, with all the limbs accounted for and acting as you will. Unfortunately, so you feel the aches and pains of a sore body in need of rest, and most of all, the thumping headache. All of that gives you enough reasons to believe you're in the real world, just as that demon said.

Your mind starts to ponder about that strange encounter again, about the ghost's identity, its purpose, its relation to you... But soon you realize this is all for naught, and you'd do better in finding your bearings before attempting to solve mysteries you don't have the answers for.

Despite how suspicious and mistrust-worthy its lesson was, you have to admit the great usefulness of what you've learned from it. You focus and cast a 「Luminous Orb」, finding it a bit easier this time, just like when you got a bit more of experience at growing plants. You just hope this darkness doesn't come from a 'magic shadow', whatever that is.

Apparently not, because as soon as the small ball of light materializes in your hand, the world around you takes colour and shape. A vast, tupid forest surrounds you, with bushes and trees filling everything your eyes can see. Judging by the darkness and the cold, you infer it must be close night right now, but as before, there're no signs of life. However, while last night the forest seemed peaceful and beautiful, this time it feels... Eerie. Dreadful. Dangerous. You can't quite put the finger on it, but if you had to describe it, the atmosphere has changed for the worse.

Nothing has really changed as far as you're concerned, but somehow, the once idyllic landscape of the Youkai Mountain has turned into a scenery from a nightmare. You half expect some kind of monster to pop up from the bushes and eat you whole. Which, considering the last thing the phantom demon said to you, it might not be just your imagination.

"...And try not to get killed too fast."

Now that you think about it, everything about this raises yet another important point.

"How the hell did I end up here?" You mutter.

If you recall correctly, you were peacefully reading Satsuki's book in the comfort of Nitori's house when you fell asleep. Did someone carry you here while you were out in Dreamland? Your mind aches; it doesn't let you think with clarity...

"It's just a little headache. A small price to pay for breaking a spell that turned you into a mindless sleepwalking zombie."

That demon talked about some kind of spell that affected the whole Mountain. If that's the truth, then that explains why did you wake up in the middle of nowhere, and also the strange vibe the forest gives you. In anyway, you should go back to Nitori's house, and for that you need to know exactly where you are...

... Too bad your map was destroyed in your first encounter with Nitori. Not that it'd have been of much help in the middle of a dense forest, anyway. You'll have to rely on the environment to determine your position. By looking at the moss growing on the crust of the trees, you get an approximate idea of where the North is. Though considering how damp and dark this forest is, and how moss grows everywhere as a result, that measurement is not too reliable. Your knowledge of astronomy isn't too impressive, but you should at least be able to know where Polaris is in...

... the dark red... sky?

"Eh?"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUmmCDyB0EI

Through the dome made of branches and leaves, you spot glimpses of an unnatural crimson sky instead of the dark blue linen you were expecting. The moon is nowhere to be seen, nor there are any twinkling stars or clouds to embellish it. Just a plain, endless, foreboding red, reminiscent of many depictions of Hell. The more you stare at it in bewilderment, the more pungent and oppressive the bad atmosphere feels.

This must be a nightmare. Yes, there is no ther explanation. But everything feels so real... What is dream? What is reality? Ever since you opened Satsuki's book, you've been having a hard time differentiating the two. The only thing you know for sure is that you don't want this. If you stay here, something bad is going to happen.

By the way, you haven't heard from Satsuki ever since you woke up here. Usually she would just tell you to calm down and advise you on the best course of action. But no you get no response, no matter how many times you call her in your mind. Of all the times, she isn't there where you most need her guidance...

No. No use in panicking or lamenting. You need to establish yourself an objective, a goal. The demon phantom said you had to recover a book just like the one you have in order to break the spell, and then bring the two books back to it. But she didn't tell you where to meet with it once you adquired them. No, rather, shouldn't you think about how to find that book first? Maybe you ought to worry about getting somewhere relatively safer before doing anything. There's nothing more dangerous than standing in the middle of a forest choke full of youkai and fairy under a red sky.

That said, where should you head to? What should you do? There's some kind of path that seems a bit clearer than the rest of the forest, albeit brimmed with huge roots and branches you'll have to jump over or go around should you decide to go there. And you have no idea where does it lead to. Maybe you could try to go through the thickness and see where the trees take you. Or is there another way to check your bearings you haven't thought of?

[]Take the path.
-[]Go right.
-[]Go left.
[]Traverse the thickness.
-[]In front of you.
-[]Behind you.
[]Try something different. (Write-in)
[]Analyze one item in your possession.
-[]Book of the Kirin.
-[]Gourd.
-[]Ripe plum (x5).
-[]Ofuda (x5).

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

You've adquired a new spell:

[b]Light Sign: 「Luminous Orb」
: Creates a small incorporeal orb that emanates light and warmth akin to a torch's flame. It floats above the caster, and it can be moved away and stickied to any surface. Unlike a torch, it can also shine underwater, however its low power isn't enough to melt ice or metal, nor is it capable of dispelling magically constructed shadows. It lacks offensive power, so it's best used as a miscellanous spell to help you in exploration.
-Simple level spell. No catalyst needed.
-No special requirements needed.
-Very low energy consumption.

---------------------------------------------------------------------
>> No. 174955
You've adquired the Analyze ability:

With this ability, you can learn the inherent characteristics of an object and learn of its history and of any potential it might hold. It takes a while to Analyze an object in depth, meaning you can't do any other action while doing it, and you can't do it in the middle of a battle (save for some exceptional cases which will be pointed out accordingly).

The usefulness of Analyzing lies on the information you can learn about an object. Everytime you come across an object you think it has some kind of importance, you should spend some time Analyzing it. You may find a valuable hint buried among the pile of trivia about the item.

You can also Analyze a weapon or a catalyst to learn of hidden potentials or spells they hold. However, there are some rules regarding the usage of said potentials and spells.

Weapons: You can learn skills by Analyzing certain weapons. You must be able to meet the requirements to wield that weapon properly to be able to unleash its potential. Once you do, you will be able to use those skills with other weapons, following the skill criteria:
--Basic level skills can be used with any weapon.
--Advanced level skills can be used by weapons of the same category (one-handed swords, lances, bows, guns, etc.). The skill has more effect when used with the weapon holding that potential.
--Expert level skills can only be used with the weapon holding that potential.
--Legendary level skills cannot be learned by Analysis.

Catalysts: You can learn spells by Analyzing certain catalysts. Regardless of the catalyst used, you must be able to meet the requirements to use that spell in order to cast it, following the spell criteria:
--Simple level spells can be casted with no catalyst. They tend to use the caster's energy instead, so beware of over-exertion.
--Apprentice level spells can be casted with any catalyst. The spell will be stronger if it's casted with the catalyst you learned it from.
--Master level spells can only be casted with the catalyst you learned the spell from.
--Lunatic level spells and Spell Cards cannot be learned by Analysis.

In short, learning skills from weapons and spells from catalysts work almost the same. The only difference is that skills only depend on the kind of weapon you use and your ability to wield it, while the spells have requirements of their own, regardless of the catalyst used.

If you have any questions regarding the usage of the Analysis skill, feel free to ask me.
>> No. 174957
[X]Analyze one item in your possession. 
-[X]Book of the Kirin. 
>> No. 174959
[X] Analyze one item in your possession.
-[X] Book of the Kirin.
[X] Try something different.
-[X] See if there is a tree you can climb nearby so you can get a better view of the sky.

Red sky or not, there should be SOMETHING there to navigate by. Even if it's not the moon or polaris or whatever, any land(sky?)mark is better than nothing.
If you find something, try heading towards it. We won't be able to know which way is north, but as long as we have a direction we can at least get out of the forest without walking in circles.

If we can't ascertain a direction, let's aim for what appears to be north according to the moss.
>> No. 174997
[X] Analyze one item in your possession.
-[X] Book of the Kirin.
[X] Try something different.
-[X] See if there is a tree you can climb nearby so you can get a better view of the sky.

Analysing the book seems necessary. We need to know ourselves as well as our enemies.

It's also not advisable to proceed without a plan. Seeing where our paths end up would be best. If not then I'd vote for going forward through the thickness. Paths are too predictable and, seeing as there is a high chance we're still being followed, too much of a risk.
>> No. 175003
[X] Analyze one item in your possession.
-[X] Book of the Kirin.
[X] Try something different.
-[X] See if there is a tree you can climb nearby so you can get a better view of the sky.
>> No. 175154
[X]See if there is a tree you can climb nearby so you can get a better view of the sky.
[X]Analyze one item in your possession.
-[X]Book of the Kirin.


You can't simply wander aimlessly without knowing exactly where are you going. Not in a seemingly hostile environment like this one. You decide the first thing in order is to move to a vantage point and get a feeling of your surroundings before doing anything else.

Fortunately for you, the trees seem to be relatively easy to climb, and they should be high enough to give you a nice view of the forest from above. After picking your tree of choice, you put your foot on one of its many crevasses, and pull yourself up the trunk. It's definitely easier than when you were climbing the wall to escape the village, but that might be because you're not particularly in a hurry now. As you slowly ascend, you feel a small wave of nostalgia, remembering the times you climbed up trees when you were little. It's a wonder how an active kid like you ended up as a bookworm when he grew up.

And look at that, while you were busy remembering your childhood, you reached the top almost unconsciously! All those years of pranking and making hurried escapes in the rooftops served you for something.

"And I... didn't even... break a sweat!" You huff and puff, trying to catch your breath.

Once you've calmed your heartbeat down, you push the leaves away to get a clearer view, and stare at the distance. The sight that greets you is enough to sink your heart further in the depths of despair.

"Welp, this can't be good."

As if understating the problem would make you feel any better, you bitterly think afterwards. Although you were somewhat expecting it, seeing everything above you in ominous red is still disheartening to a great extent. That phantom demon was in the right; whatever that spell is, it affects the whole Youkai Mountain. Darkness covers the whole area, but you still can manage to make out a few silhouettes from afar despite having only your Luminous Orb as a source of light. You guess the red sky somehow illuminates dimly the whole area, or that it still lets some light pass through.

The first landmark you notice is an extremely big tree a couple of miles to what you designated as Southwest. You immediatly recognize it as the tree you accidentally created when you tried to make yourself a shelter for your first night in the forest. As you remembered it, its trunk is quite wide, and it's so high, the top cannot be seen in the sky... except that the sky seems a bit too low than usual.

"What if it's not the sky, but a massive cloud?" You ponder aloud. "A cloud that isolates the Youkai Mountain from the rest of Gensokyo?"

It could be worth checking it out by climbing that tree, and see if you can reach the top or stumble onto something more solid than a cloud. However, you doubt you are prepared to make such a big ascension as you are now. You'd need some kind of mountaineering equipment to attempt to climb it in safe conditions... or think of a more unorthodox way.

Further away to the East, you see a massive cliff in the distance, about five miles away. The Waterfall of Nine Heavens stands tall above the lower forest level, and beyond it there must be the Tengu Village and the Moriya Shrine, somewhere beyond the dark horizon. If there's a place where that second book could be, chances are it's one of those two locations. On the other hand, something about the Waterfall itself worries you greatly:

"The water... is red?"

Instead of the usual crystalline blue, the torrent of water looks bright red from where you stand. It might be a trick of the light due to the red sky, but it really seems like what's cascading down the cliff is not precisely water... Just the thought of it sends a shiver down your spine. In anyway, despite its spookiness, the Waterfall is still a good spot to go first if you plan to travel to the Tengu Village and the Moriya Shrine (by climbing up the cliff), or the Kappa Village and the Lotus Pond Shrine (by walking down the river).

"I wonder how Nitori and Rika are doing... hm?" An unusual glint at the corner of your eye catches your attention. "What is that?"

Not very far from where you stand, to your South, it's a weird looking row of flashes, gleaming in every colour in the visible spectrum and some more. The different sparkles erratically bob up and down and dissappear in the trees to only appear again, but they appear to be floating to the Northeast.

"Are those fairies, spirits, orbs of magic?" You ask to nobody in particular. "I can't quite make it out from here."

You think back of what the demon phantom told you. The spell apparently turned everybody in the Youkai Mountain into 'sleepwalking mindless zombies'. But they seem too organized for mindless puppets; they appear to be headed somewhere. It might be dangerous, but there's probably something interesting to be found or learned if you follow them. Unless they're not going anywhere at all and they're just flying at random.

You slump back in the root you're sitting on and place your back against the trunk. You don't know what's going on, but whatever it is, it's definitely bad. All of the plans you've come up with entail some risk, risks you're not sure you're powerful and brave enough to take. If only Rin was here to counsel you...

Speaking of Rin, you come up with the idea of using the new 'skill' you've learned from the phantom demon on Satsuki's book. From the very beginning, the green tome has been a constant source of mysteries and wonderings. What does it say? Who wrote it, and when? What is the curse that didn't let Kosuzu read it? What about they youkai living inside it? What kind of power does it hold? Will you learn more about Rin's memories if you analyze it? And more importantly, will you be able to contact with her again?

Wasting no time, you take the Book of the Kirin from your pack. You've already examined it many times before, but this time you're attempting to look at it at its most basic level to learn things you didn't know, so you feel as excited as when you're opening a present. You lay your hands on it, get a feel of it for the umpteenth time, and focus. For a moment, nothing happens, and you begin to worry if this is going to work at all, but soon enough, your mind is flooded with tidbits of information you struggle to compose as best as you can. Eventually, you manage to order your thoughts...

>Book of the Kirin (III)
>A demon book that holds a part of the soul of a forgotten youkai.
>Doubles as a Wood catalyst, slightly improving the effectiveness of Wood spells.
>Due to the youkai's great power, its soul had to be split into three and put in three different books.
>This particular book was written by the ruler of the Realm of Demons, to be the container for the youkai's last remaining piece of soul.
>The lines in its pages are written in a special demonic language that allows the book to funnel and channel the magic energy present in nature, hence its potential as a catalyst.
>The lines of the book are meant to be read with its other two counterparts, Book of the Kirin (I) and Book of the Kirin (II). The three books need to be put together to make their contents understandable.
>
>Flower Sign: 「Ivy Blossom」
>Apprentice level spell. Power increased if casted with Book of the Kirin (III).
>Wood affinity.
>Consumes 1 Ripe Fruit per cast.
>Rapidly grows whips made of vegetal tissue from the fruit. The properties of said tissue depend on the Fruit used.
>Lashes at targets in a small area. After the growth ends, the vines stay there, hindering movement.
>May entangle targets, rendering them unable to move until they break free.
>
>Wind Sign: 「Folk Dance of Feng Bo」
>"Feng Bo, the Earl of the Wind, carried the wind in a goatskin bag. Sometimes he let a breeze flow free, imbued himself in its gentle power, and caused mischief everywhere he went. Quite an unbecoming behavior for the human avatar of the Chinsese God of the Wind, but his misadventures make for an interesting tale worthy of a song."
>Master
level spell. Can only be casted with Book of the Kirin (III).
>Wood affinity.
>Medium level consumption.
>Unleashes a quick gale around the caster, pushing projectiles and humanoid beings away.
>Improves the caster's physical attributes for a short time.
>Can be selected as Bomb Spell Card.
>
>Perish Song: 「Third Dance - Eternity」
>"Leaves falling from the trees. Petals withering at our feet. Life escaping our bodies, swiftly carried by the wind. But before all the leaves have fallen, before the petals have withered and the wind is gone, there must be a third and last dance, one that will last forever..."
>Legendary
level spell. Can't be casted without proper training.
>Very high energy consumption. Puts the caster's life at risk outside Spell Card Rules.
>Very long casting time. The spell is interrupted if the caster suffers a physical attack.
>Requires a musical instrument to be performed.
>As the spellsong is being played, a light barrage of sound bullets shoots from the instrument.
>As time passes, the barrage increases in density and tempo.
>After 15 seconds, the catalyst starts shooting unguided magic beams at the targets.
>Can be selected as Survival Spell Card. Time Limit: 60 seconds.
>
>(III)The visionary kirin was scared of being stranded in the soon-to-be isolated Land of Illusions. She convinced her two best friends to help her, but ultimately she was betrayed by one of them.
>Alone and persecuted, the kirin tried her hardest to stop the plans of erecting the Barrier. But eventually she was apprehended by her enemies, and thrown into the Realm of Demons to carry out an impossible mission.
>Bitter and disheartened, the kirin realized she was too weak to make her dreams come true, and succumbed to the Demons' tempting words. The kirin made a pact with a lonely demon, and she staked her soul, her identity and her very existence, so that one day she'd be reborn anew and stronger, and create a world that suited her ideals.

As soon as the flow of information stops, you open your eyes and breath heavily. That... that was too much information to take at once. And while most of it is still hard to grasp, some characteristics of the book are extremely worrisome. You definitely need to have a long and serious chat with Satsuki, and not only about the book. If you guess right, the last thing you've learned was part of the life of the youkai trapped inside the book, and by the sounds of it, those were very bleak moments to say the least.

But right now you have no time to order your thoughts. The place you're standing is not very safe, and you risk being ambushed by a mind-controlled youkai or beast if you linger for too long. You have to keep moving for the time being, but where to?

[]The Great Plum Tree.
[]The Waterfall of Nine Heavens.
[]The conglomerate of twinkling lights.
[]Write-in.
[]Analyze one item in your possession.
-[x]Book of the Kirin.
-[]Gourd.
-[]Ripe plum (x5).
-[]Ofuda (x5).

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

You've adquired new spells:

[b]Flower Sign: 「Ivy Blossom」
: Grows a tangle of vine whips made of vegetable tissue that whips targets in a small target. It can also be used to wrap a target to stop their movements. The vines remain in the area even after the spell is completed, providing a physical obstacle. The strength, reach and resistance of the vegetable tissue depends on the fruit used to grow the vines - experiment with different fruits to see their effects.
-Apprentice level spell. Its effectiveness is increased if it's casted with the Book of the Kirin (III).
-Wood affinity spell. Its power increases the more adept the caster is at Wood magic, and while using certain catalysts.
-Consumes 1 Ripe Fruit per cast.

Wind Sign: 「Folk Dance of Feng Bo」: A quick spell that unleashes a gale around the caster, with enough force to push projectiles and humanoid beings away. The gale itself doesn't have much offensive power, but it can push targets towards enviromental hazards if used right. It also grants a small improvement to the caster's strength, speed and endurance for a short while. This spell is best used as a defensive ability, if you find yourself surrounded, allowing you to escape relatively unscathed.
-Master level spell. Can only be casted with Book of the Kirin (III).
-Wood affinity. Its power and effectiveness increases the more adept the caster is at Wood magic.
-Medium energy consumption.
-If used in a Spell Card Battle, it will function as a defensive Bomb.

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

I feel like I gave away too many secrets this time. I was reserving some of them for later, but you had to come up with the idea of analyzing the book, didn't you? In retrospect, I guess it was kind of obvious... Oh well.

On another note, now you have three spells: one for exploration, one for offense/support and one for defense/buff. I think you're more than well prepared on the magic department to survive the first part of your adventures in Nighmare Land.
>> No. 175156
[x]Analyze one item in your possession.
-[x]Gourd.

Yeah, analyze EVERYTHING
>> No. 175157
[X]Analyze one item in your possession.
-[X]Gourd.
>> No. 175158
[X] The Waterfall of Nine Heavens.

We can reach both the temple and the kappa village from there, which are both useful places to go rather than just wandering the forest.

Also, do we have any reason not to analyze everything?
If not, let's just do that so we're done with it.
>> No. 175159
>>175158
If you want an in-story reason: During the last two updates, it's been repeatedly stated that something's off, and that it might not be a good idea to stay in the same place for too long. Now I'm not saying you should trust the MC's instincts blindly, but I know you like to lean towards the cautious side, so maybe you should listen to him...

The real reason, though? I think the plot is moving extremely slow, and frankly, I'm getting bored of dilly-dallying. That's why it looks like I'm dropping the mystery bombs all at once. But most importantly, when I get bored, I feel like throwing divine bolts of retribution to spice things up. Or worse.
>> No. 175160
[X] The Waterfall of Nine Heavens.

Let's keep moving for now. Staying in one place for too long is dangerous.

So... I wonder what this 'demon' was? Gengetsu? Mugetsu? Shinki?
>> No. 175178
[X]The Waterfall of Nine Heavens.

The lights might not be friendly, and there's little point in visiting the tree. Back to the original goal.

>>175160
>So... I wonder what this 'demon' was? Gengetsu? Mugetsu? Shinki?
Let's see:
>Sorry to interrupt your dream but
>demonic energy, provided by G░░░░▒▒▒▒
>"Oh, good heavens, look at the time!"
Take a wild guess.
>> No. 175205
[X]The Waterfall of Nine Heavens.
>> No. 175209
[X] The Waterfall of Nine Heavens.

For the pure reason that it's closer to Nitori and we need Rin back - even if it is just to scold her for making a deal like that. Retracking what we've done may help us return to the position we had before falling asleep.

[x]Analyze one item in your possession.
-[x]Gourd.

I would've picked the ofuda but I don't really know why you put the gourd in there so I think it may be extra information.
>> No. 175222
>>175178
Again, it was somewhat obvious it was Giant Catfish, right? I suck at keeping secrets, or maybe you're good at discovering them before you're supposed to. But that's not the only mystery I have up in my sleeve...

>>175209
The gourd was one of the very first items you stole from the Kirisame shop, right at the beginning of the story, and it's been in your possession all this time. You chose it over a knife and a lamp, arguing it would help you survive in the open. And after being ignored for so long, now it might become much more useful in the near future.

So anyway, I'm calling it for going to the Waterfall. But I don't know if I should update this or the other story at /eientei/. Whatever I feel more like doing tomorrow, I guess.
>> No. 175298
It feels refreshing, writing short updates for a change.

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

[x]The Waterfall of Nine Heavens.

Betrayed by her best friend. Tempted by demons. Staking her very existence. You didn't know what would you find when you had the idea to analyze Rin's book, but you weren't expecting such a dark past. You briefly recall something Kosuzu mentioned, the day you left home:

"I'd say that youkai must be a rather powerful or fearsome one, a youkai that everybody wants it to remain forgotten."

In retrospect, you should've guessed Rin was no saint from the beginning. After all, no youkai would willingly split her soul and put it into three demon books, thus erasing her own memories, unless it was a last resort. As far as you know, demon books are a way to preserve a youkai's soul when its existence has been forgotten or denied. Although the first case is still a possibility, you believe it's more probable that somebody went through the hassle of chasing her out, capturing her, and making everybody forget about her. You have no idea how does someone even accomplish the last part, but no doubt it's extremely complicated.

That means Rin must have done something really awful to deserve that fate. Something about impeding a 'Barrier' to isolate the 'Land of Illusions', according to you analysis. What does it mean exactly? The description was fairly cryptic, and even more, it was clearly incomplete, so you can't hope to come up with an answer with that alone. The scattered dreams you've been having only add more fuel to your speculations.

"Rin... Just what the hell did you do?" You mutter, putting the book back in your bag.

But it's no use pulling your hair over this, you realize. Currently you're alone and in the middle of a place that screams 'danger' from every direction.All your questions can be asked later, once you're safe and Rin's back. Right now, your priority is to find that safe place, and for that, you need to get your bearings back. For that purpose, you decide to go to the Waterfall of Nine Heavens; a landmark that will lead you to the other few places in the Youkai Mountain you know of. Once you get there, you'll think of the next step, but for now you'll focus on getting there safe and sound.

"Sounds like a plan," You tell yourself, mostly for much needed reassurance. "Time to get moving."

Granted, you're not accounting any unwanted random encounter you might have with one of those 'mindless sleepwalking zombies' the demon phantom spoke of, or any other danger that was already there before the spell. A magic forest, home of many youkai and fairies, must be full of natural traps and hazards you must watch out for if you plan on trekking through.

"Come to think about it, every forest in Gensokyo is like that..."

Of course they are magical. They all are. When was the last time anyone saw a regular, non-enchanted forest? You can't grow two trees next to each other without some magician or youkai or fairy coming along and enchanting them. One pesky perk of living in a fantasy kitchen sink. But it was this very phenomenon that allowed you to be witness of such breathtaking sceneries, too. You're not unfamiliar with the Youkai Mountain forest, but you never failed to be enchanted by the beauty of the vegetation around you, a beauty that could very well be hiding something that can kill you six ways from Sunday. Beautifully deadly, or deadly beautiful?

Regardless, the atmosphere ramps up the 'deadly' vibe too much for your liking. It feels as if a nightmare is binding your mind as you cross the millenial trees; an imitation of eternity, so that, as you pass through the forest's shade, time passes from before you. And, as you leave them behind, you seem to have lived a thousand quiet and utterly forgotten lives, all piling up in your shoulders and weighting you down more and more. Time has no meaning in these haunted woods; the seconds and the minutes haunt the woods at their will, and abide by no law. But you do not give up, you do not let your legs falter, for if they do, it'll be the end of you.

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

Eventually, your efforts are rewarded by an even more eerie and calamitous sight. In front of you, the Waterfall of Nine heavens stands as tall as you remember it from last night, but a single and startling difference is all it takes to turn from majestic to outright ghastly. Namely, your first impression of the water being red was right. The crimson water falls down and pours violently in the puddle below, inspiring quite obviously - but still creepily, nonetheless - the image of a fountain of blood. The sight below is even more unpleasant: at the huge trunk floating in the middle of the lake - the tree you grew up and Nitori tore down -, you can see some bodies entangled and snagged as a result of being pushed by the current...

"Huh!?" The realization of the gravity of the situation strikes you.

Judging by their blue attire and the huge backpacks littering the lakeside, those bodies have a high chance of being kappas. However, you are standing too far to see if they're alive, hurt or dead. The opacity of the red water impedes you from distinguishing if the redness comes from heavy bleeding, or if it's just the water itself, or both. You'll need to get closer to take a good look and clear up the doubts.

The question is, should you? If it turns out they're really injured, that means something out there has attacked them, and that something might still be in the vicinity, waiting to attack you... On the other hand, it would be heartless of you to just leave the kappa there, probably bleeding to death. Then again, youkai like them are resistant to injuries, and should be able to heal quickly even if you leave them there. And in the worst case, they could be playing possum and try to lure you in to attack you... or they might as well be helplessly waiting for someone to rescue them.

[]Get closer and inspect the bodies entangled at the tree trunk.
[]Inspect one of the kappa's bags at the lakeside.
[]Leave the bodies alone.
-[]Climb up the Waterfall.
-[]Check behind the Waterfall.
-[]Go down the river.
--[]To the Kappa Village.
--[]To the Lotus Pond Shrine.
[]Write-in.
[]Analyze one item in your possession.
-[x]Book of the Kirin.
-[]Gourd.
-[]Ripe plum (x5).
-[]Ofuda (x5).


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

Picking multiple options is possible, as always. However, the chances of being interrupted increase the more things you try to do at once. If you still go for it (which I'm sure you'll do), I'd recommend at the very least choosing the order in which you perform your actions.
>> No. 175299
[X]Get closer and inspect the bodies entangled at the tree trunk.
[X]Analyze one item in your possession.
-[X]Gourd.


We have more empathy than survival instinct (judging by our behaviour on the wall, at least) so of course we can't just leave them.
And when we have the chance, we should get to analyzing more of our inventory. You never know what useful things you might learn.
>> No. 175300
[X] Scoop up some of the river's fluid with your hand and attempt to Analyze it
>> No. 175301
[X]Get closer and inspect the bodies entangled at the tree trunk. [X] Scoop up some of the river's fluid with your hand and attempt to Analyze it
>> No. 175305
[X]Get closer and inspect the bodies entangled at the tree trunk.

I dunno, I just want to do this before deciding on anything else.
>> No. 175317
[X]Get closer and inspect the bodies entangled at the tree trunk.
-[X] Might be a good idea to analyze the red water, just in case.
>> No. 175321
[x]Get closer and inspect the bodies entangled at the tree trunk.
[x]Inspect one of the kappa's bags at the lakeside.
>> No. 175328
[X] Inspect one of the kappa's bags at the lakeside.
[X] Scoop up some of the river's fluid with your hand and attempt to Analyze it.
[X] Get closer and inspect the bodies entangled at the tree trunk.
If ‘safe’ afterwards
[X] Analyze one item in your possession.
-[X] Ripe plum (x5).
-[X] Ofuda (x5).

Inspecting the backpacks can reveal whether or not they were attacked. It’s hard to attack a youkai to the point where they’re unconscious in a river with potential blood leaking from their bodies, without actually damaging wearable belongs such as a backpack.

Analyzeing the water will reveal whether or not it is blood. In case of yes, it’s likely theirs and showing empathy could be in our favor. (“Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is the same as doing wrong.” Or so the saying goes.)

Lastly, if everyone including them are just mindless zombies, then they probably wouldn’t be smart enough to plan an ambush like that.
>> No. 175329
I'm going to call it here before any more votes come in, since I already have something written off and I don't feel like changing it.

>>175328's plan is good, but sadly it's a bit too late for me to introduce some things you've said. Sorry about that. Not to mention that's the kind of long plans that tend to be interrupted before completion, if you catch my drift.

With luck I should've the next update in a few hours. If not, definitely tomorrow.
>> No. 175352
>>175329
Same guy >>175328

That was the reason I prioritized it like that. If anything, the kappa are likely asleep if they aren’t injured. Checking the backpacks could also allow us to raid “borrow” things that could help us, since I doubt an unconscious kappa is going to need its equipment. And we would likely give it back again afterwards since that’s just how he is.
>> No. 175392
[X]Get closer and inspect the bodies entangled at the tree trunk.
[X]Scoop up some of the river's fluid with your hand and attempt to Analyze it


Your survival instinct tells you to run as far as you can from the creepy looking lake and the even creepier looking bodies floating in it. That's definitely the smartest thing to do considering everything could be trying to kill you. But since when were you the kind of person to leave other people in danger? You risked being arrested when you saved that officer from falling to her death. Why would you stop now?

And so, ignoring your sense of self-preservation in favor of the well-being of others, you decide to take a closer look at the bodies stuck at the tree trunk. First, you put your foot on the trunk several times, testing its buoyancy and toughness, each time with more strength. When you determine the trunk is stable enough to support your weight, you step up on it, and slowly and surely advance. You take extreme cautions to not lose your balance; since you don't know if the river's red liquid is hazardous, or if there's something under the surface that will attack you, you'd best not fall into the river. Fortunately, the trunk is wide enough for you not to be forced to perform any kind of jugglery. That's good, because you plan on dragging the kappa out of the water if necessary, and you need much more balance to cross the trunk while carrying a limp and heavy body.

Half a minute later, you've managed to drag your body to where the closest kappa is. Her head and limbs are underwater, but her slender body, cladded in the typical blue coat, is at your reach. It's a wonder why didn't the current push her under the trunk. However, when you try to pull her out of the water, you discover what was preventing it from happening, as well as impeding you from dragging her out: by the wills of a god, or by sheer dumb luck, her right arm is stuck around a branch.

"Damn!" You cuss, applying more strength to your pull, but to no avail. "The branch isn't budging. Guess I'll have to stick my hand in the water after all..."

If only there was another way... You just hope your hand won't vaporize in contact, or that a piranha won't bite it to the bones, or that the kappa will suddenly wake up and drag you in, or- No, no, no, do not think about that. You try your best to expel the terror from your mind, as you close your eyes and introduce your right hand inside the red water.

The first feeling you get is that it's as ice cold as you remember it from before. Next, that your hand hasn't burned or disintegrated or anything yet. And nothing's trying to pull you in neither. Still, the less time you have your hand in there, the better. You feel the kappa's arm with your fingers, untangle it, and after grabbing her tightly, you pull the kappa out and lie her in the trunk, not without a great effort.

"Dear gods, how can a girl so tiny be so heavy?" Dragging her dead weight was much more tiresome than you'd like to admit. Luckily nobody's here to hear you whining and wheezing. You hope.

But you have something else to worry about! You check your hand, and thankfully, your extremity looks fine, save for the red water making it look as if it was bloodied. However, unlike actual blood, the red water runs down your fingers and your palms, without staining it.

"I guess I should count myself lucky I still have my fingers intact," you mutter.

However, you don't have time to bask in your abatement. You still need to carry the kappa to the shore, arguably the hardest part. Her short, dark and wet hair covers her face, but judging by her lack of reaction, you guess she's out cold... or dead. A quick pulse check confirms it's the former, much to your relief. But that doesn't mean she's fine, as she's unconsciously grunting in discomfort, and her face sports a sickly paleness.

You suppose the other two kappa must be in a similarly bad shape, hence you need to hurry. You put your arms under the dark haired kappa's own arms, and drag her along the tree by her armpits - you don't feel confident enough in your strength and balance to attempt a more dignified method. But you resolve yourself to save the three kappa, no matter what it takes, even if you need to drag their fat asses over a wobbly tree.

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

A few minutes of excruciatingly hard work and a few close calls later, you succeed at fishing the three bodies out the water, so to speak. You finish laying the third kappa besides the other two, and take good look at the three unlucky girls. The dark haired kappa, the skinniest of the three, is also the youngest one by appearance - not that you have any way to confirm it, considering how slowly youkai age. The kappa with green hair tied in a side ponytail - asymmetry is the hottest trend now? - is the shortest one, and also sported a pair of (broken) glasses you managed to recover from a nearby branch. The blonde one with hair ties is the tallest and bulkiest of the three, and somehow managed to get entangled in such a way that contortion pros would hang their heads in shame.

Three cuties stricken by great misfortune. They give no response to any of your attempts to wake them up. The raijuu's taint is evident in their pale, tired expressions, and by their pained grunts and furrowed brows, you can tell they're not having the most pleasant of dreams precisely. If you had to guess, they must have been in bed until the spell went off, and then they were mind-controlled and forced to go up the river. But somehow, they became stuck in the tree you and Nitori threw there, and remained there until you came back. That's kind of poetic, in a somewhat twisted kind of way: you inadvertently set up the trap, and later rescued the three distressed damsels from it... Destiny has a funny way to hook you up with women in danger. And it makes you work your ass off an awful lot, at that.

"How can you have such slender bodies and still be so damn heavy? No offense," you ask the slumbering kappa, knowing very well you won't be answered back. You just feel the need to talk to someone. "But seriously, you three need to lay off the cucumbers.

"Cucumbers do not make anyone fat. You are the one who needs to get fit.

"What, so you're going to make me lift on top of learning magic and theatrics?

"As they say, 'a sound mind lies in a healthy body.'

"Why do I get the feeling you just made an awful pun...

"You can find word plays everywhere if you search for them.

"Pfft. Whatever you say, Rin..." You let out a long, depressed sigh. "Man, I should stop impersonating her. Actually, I should stop talking to myself, period. But if I don't, I'll become insane from loneliness! On the other hand, it's much better to shut my trap and go crazy, than opening it and look like it. Wait, I don't think that's how it goes..."

No! Focus, focus, focus, goddammit! Don't go losing your mind now! Seriously, it's only been like... what, an hour? And you're going insane already? That can't be normal! Surely the spell has something to do with the overly accelerated descent into madness, but how can you fight it off?

"Hmmm... Maybe the best way to not lose your mind is to keep it busy with something?" You think outloud.

What do you have here that can keep your mind off the slippery slope? Something strange and mindboggling... like red water. Yeah, you'll focus on the red water for the time being. You are curious about how the water changed colours overnight. Moreso, now that you know the water isn't dangerous to your hand, you can safely analyze it and clear your doubts.

After giving a last look at the three kappa and confirming they weren't going to wake up on you any time soon - you hope so -, you walk towards the red lake, cup your hands and scoop some water. Then you focus your five sense and your whole mind on it, just as you did with the book moments before...

>Polluted Water
>Water from the Youkai Mountain's river.
>It has an unusually high amount of iron dissolved in it, tinting it red, and rendering it undrinkable.
>Poisonous. Ingesting too much can produce nausea, stomach ulcers and, in severe cases, liver and/or brain damage, which in turn can lead to death.
>
>The river's source is located at the heights of the Youkai Mountain. It runs quickly to the recently moved Wind God's Lake, then crosses the Tengu Village, and falls down the Waterfall of Nine Heavens.
>The current then slows down and quietly traverses the Youkai Forest, and along the way the river deviates to several locations, such as the Lotus Pond Shrine or the Genbu Ravine. The main course runs down the Kappa Village, exits the forest, and flows into the Misty Lake.
>
>The water's high concentration of minerals are one of the main reason many enormous fish and fruit trees abound in the Youkai Mountain.
>However, a strange body is releasing great amounts of rusted iron and other metallic compounds into the current, somewhere up the river.
>High amounts of iron in the water are hazardous, endangering the fauna and flora that depend on it.

"Poisonous!?" You exclaim in surprise. "Oh damn, this is horrible!"

This river is one of the main sources of water not only of the Youkai Mountain, but of Gensokyo. If it gets poisoned to an irreparable extent, the consequences would be catastrophic! It would basically kill the plants and animals living in the forest and the plains, and ruin the tengu and the kappa's settlements. Especially the kappa. Youkai may be more resilient than humans, but even they can become sick if they ingest too much poison. And given that kappa practically live underwater... Thank goodness you got those three kappa out the water, or else-

Speaking of which, where are they? You looked behind you to check on them, but they are nowhere to be seen. Panicking, you stand up and scout your surroundings, wondering how the hell did they vanish like this. Did they wake up and leave by their own feet? Or something else has snatched them, and now you're about to be attacked too?

"Come on, this isn't funny... Oh, hey, there they are!"

You find them at the other side of the lake, slowly walking - or rather tottering - along the shore. The first impression you get is that they really do walk like zombies, minus the outstretched arms. Or puppets being lazily dragged through the stage. Rika also walked like that; you conclude the kappa's erratic pace must be an effect of the raijuu's taint too, plus some mind control as a tip.

Using the tree trunk as an improvised bridge, you cross the polluted river, catch up with the kappa and stand in front of them, blocking their path. The moment you take a good look at their faces, a chill runs down your spine. Although their eyes are open, their expression is dim and glazed over, without recording what they see - if they see anything at all. Never before have you seen people so... absent.

"H-hey, you OK?" Worried sick, you try to speak with them, even though you don't get your hopes up. "Are you awake?"

As you expected, the three kappa do not respond, and simply walk past you like you weren't there. You turn around, and watch them stumbling towards... the waterfall's base? Irregular their pace might be, but they do have a destination set in their tired feet. Just like the group of lights you spotted earlier. You can't shake off the feeling of dread while watching this creepy display, but your curiosity also begs you to follow them and see where are the three girls going.

[]Follow the kappa to the Waterfall's base. Curiosity may kill the cat, but you're a human with magic!
[]Attempt to wake the kappa up. You haven't tried hard enough!
-[]Shout!
-[]Shake!
-[]Slap!
-[]Punch!
-[]Magic!
-[]Write-in.
[]Your NOPE levels are off the charts. Better get out of here before something nasty happens!
-[]Climb the Waterfall (Tengu Village, Moriya Shrine).
-[]Go down the river (Kappa Village, Lotus Pond Shrine).
[]Forget the creepy kappa, there are some bags full of stuff that need to be inspected!
[]Analyze one item in your possession.
-[x]Book of the Kirin.
-[]Gourd.
-[]Ripe plum (x5).
-[]Ofuda (x5).

>> No. 175393
[X]Follow the kappa to the Waterfall's base. Curiosity may kill the cat, but you're a human with magic!

We can come back for the bags, and the iron source isn't likely to go anywhere.
>> No. 175401
[X]Follow the kappa to the Waterfall's base. Curiosity may kill the cat, but you're a human with magic!
[X]Analyze one item in your possession.
-[X]Gourd.

We should have time to analyze another item since the kappa aren't exactly fast right now.

Also
>something is releasing enough rust into the river to turn the entire river red, "permanently"
That's... That's like as if the entire youkai mountain was made out of rusty iron and eroding at an insanely accelerated pace.
There is some form of shenanigans going on here. Besides the zombie mind-control magic. And the raiju taint. And someone not wanting that taint to be cured. And... Well, it's just another thing to add to the list of "shenanigans at youkai mountain".
>> No. 175402
[x]Your NOPE levels are off the charts. Better get out of here before something nasty happens!
-[x]Go down the river (Kappa Village, Lotus Pond Shrine).

I'd like to check up on Rika and Nitori, and see if "Pyonta" can help us any.
>> No. 175424
If they're moving as slowly as they seem I think we should

[x] Quickly examine the contents of the bags for clues and or useful items, such as weapons, possible items useful for magic, or anything that looks useful.

I'm reluctant to go through and take other people's stuff, but this situation we need all the help we can get and there might be clues.
Then
[x]Follow the kappa to the Waterfall's base. Do so carefully and as stealthily as possible, ask Rin for suggestions on how to wake them up. If they're good ideas follow them. Ask her for stealth advise.
[x] Be careful.

Don't want to waste too much time here so whatever we do needs to be done quickly. I wouldn't want to analyze anything else at the moment it consumes too much of our attention.

Tried to make a plan that allows us to do as much as possible in a minimum amount of time. We need to be as efficient as possible. Unless the bags are just giant, which nothing written implies they are, we should be able to glance through them quickly, before the kappa are out of sight. I chose to follow them cause I think we need to do what we can to help solve this mystery, but I could be talked out of it.
>> No. 175568
>>175424

Ignore the parts about Rin in this vote. When I wrote it. I completely forgot we weren't able to communicate with her right now.
>> No. 175747
[X]Follow the kappa to the Waterfall's base. Curiosity may kill the cat, but you're a human with magic!

For a group of pseudo-zombies, the three kappa seem like they have a very definite direction. Rin would say it's not be wise to follow them, but she's not with you, and curiosity gets the best of you. More so, you may find something important where they're going. And if it comes to worst, you can defend yourself. At least that's what you believe.

Keeping a nice distance, you tail the sleepwalking girls along the river side, until they arrive at the waterfall base. Then, they simply cross the wall of water, completely unfazed by the force it was poured upon their whole bodies, as if there was nothing there. You can only stare in surprise as they disappear behind the red liquid curtain.

"W-well, they are kappa, after all. They must be used to high pressures."

That said, the fact that they went through the waterfall means there has to be some kind of cave behind it. And caves behind waterfalls usually have secrets inside it. And travelers like you have the moral obligation to discover them! So you stick your back to the stone wall and slip behind the waterfall, trying not to get too wet with the polluted water, and enter the dark cave. Your Luminous Orb reveal the wet, cramped walls, but you cannot see the three kappa anymore. Therefore, you decide to shoot the orb forward and illuminate the whole path ahead.

"Let's see what's ins- huh!?"

No matter how much you think you won't get surprised by what you find, the things you come across with just keep getting weirder and weirder! After all, seldom you can find a mob of kappa and fairies with snorkels - you think there's also a wolf tengu mixed with the crowd - all lying asleep in a cave behind a waterfall. You spot the three kappa you've been following, while they make their way through the slumbering bodies, somehow not trip with anyone, find a clear spot, and let themselves fall flat to the floor, like the rest of them.

Interestingly, all the fairies, kappa and the wolf tengu seem to be organized around something that shines with an eerie dim light. You can't see what is it from where you are, but the way they all snuggle and try to get close to it reminds you of a bonfire at a camp; everybody tries to stay near and get warm. But bonfires do not give this aura of wrongness you are feeling right now. Something inside you is screaming at you, wanting to be as far as possible from whatever that is, that something bad will happen if you disturb the sleeping youkai and fairies' dream.

However, if you look at it from another perspective, that sense of danger only makes this light even more suspicious. In other words, because it appears that it's the cause of the bad vibes you've been getting ever since you awoke in this nightmarish spell, it means it has to be related to the spell somehow. Checking it might give you very valuable clues to understand what the heck is going on... That is, if nothing bad happens when you do it. Have you mentioned that you feel like the sleeping people will not take kindly any kind of disturbance? You think you did.

[]Thread your way through the slumbering bodies and get closer to the eerie light.
[]Attempt to wake the sleeping youkai and fairies up.
-[]Shout loudly at them! TIME TO GET UP!
-[]Cold water works wonders! At least it does with you...
-[]Ready your pimp hand and slap slap kiss!
-[]Kick them in the jimmies! PAIN is the best alarm clock.
-[]Nothing like a magic hurricane to get the job done!
-[]Write-in.
[]Too spooky for you. Get the dodge out of here pronto.

>> No. 175750
[X]Too spooky for you. Get the dodge out of here pronto.
>> No. 175755
[x]Thread your way through the slumbering bodies and get closer to the eerie light.

Time to analyze.
>> No. 175762
[x]Thread your way through the slumbering bodies and get closer to the eerie light.

Come on, you guys! Do you want to live forever?
>> No. 175766
[x]Thread your way through the slumbering bodies and get closer to the eerie light.
>> No. 175885
[x]Thread your way through the slumbering bodies and get closer to the eerie light.


Analyzin' time!
>> No. 175886
[X]3spooky5me

If we could destroy it, we'd solve everything? Sure, but we can't and we're alone. Priorities.
>> No. 175932
[x]Thread your way through the slumbering bodies and get closer to the eerie light.

Against all sensible judgement, you decide to make your way forward and approach the source of the bad vibes. Carefully, you tiptoe across all the bodies lying in the floor, minding not to stomp on them by accident.

"If you excuse me... Sorry... Don't mind me, just passing through... Excuse me... Very sorry..."

As you get closer to the light, you make a rather curious observation after looking at their sleeping faces:

"How can those fairies even breathe with those huge snorkels in the way?"

That's probably a question not worth answering, knowing how stupid most fairies are. Instead, you should wonder about your other observation:

"Now seriously, they look so peaceful... That kappa's even drooling," you point out, looking at the youkai that is smiling and humming happily in his sleep. "Figures what kind of nice dream is having right now."

That isn't in any way remarkable on its own. The strange thing you notice is that the nearer they are to the light and the heavier and foreboding the atmosphere gets, but the merrier their expressions look. Normally you would think that a spooky thing like that light would give spooky nightmares, but the contrary? You definitely need to inspect it thoroughly.

You finally reach the light and identify the source: a massive magic circle of three meters radius painted in the wall. Three rings of mystical, unintelligible runes surround it, pulsating with energy and light, and a certain... aroma? You don't know what the runes mean, or what is the circle supposed to do, or why it smells in the first place, but you have the certainty it is leagues beyond the measly pentagon Rin taught you a few days ago. However, with your new useful ability you don't need to be an expert wizard to learn of its purpose.

The atmosphere of wrongness becomes much more unbearable now that you're close, to the point it's like a wave of force actively pushing you away. But you brave through it and place a hand over the painted circle, ready to analyze it...

"I would not advise doing that."

The moment you hear the cold, impersonal female voice right behind you, your body jolts in surprise like a spring let loose, and you almost trip over your own feet when you attempted to turn around and prepare a 'defense stance' at the same time. You grab the nearby rock to balance yourself before you fall, while you take the moment to look at the woman that has appeared out of literally nowhere (you believe). Blonde short hair; tall and slender build; blue maid dress; perturbing yellow eyes that look at your very soul while at the same time feigning complete disinterest, and above all else, the enormous amounts of magic coming from her - the same kind of bad vibes of the magic circle.

Elegant looks, imposing aura and gratuitous maid clothes, all in a single package. This cocktail of seemingly incompatible characteristics leaves you unable to respond or make a move for a good five seconds, stunned as you are. It also helps that you were totally not expecting anyone to sneak up on you like this, though.

"There are things men are not supposed to know, and this magical contraption falls under that group," the maid girl continues. "Your young, untrained mind is not prepared to understand the beautiful complexity and brilliance of this spell."

She slowly and elegantly strides towards the circle, running her pale, slender fingers along the lines. Her ocher gaze focus intently on the written runes, reading over them with a critical eye, searching for the smallest mistake. It'd be rude to interrupt her, but you feel the need to say something, even if it's just to snap out from your stupor.

"U-um..."

Your humming snaps the girl out of her trance, and she looks at you as if it's the first time she sees you.

"Ah, forgive my manners!" She dusts her apron off of imaginary dust, grabs it by its sides, and performs an educated curtsey bow. "My name is Mugetsu. Pleased to make your acquaintance, Master."

[]"...What?"
[]Write-in.

>> No. 175938
[x] Since you can't escape, you might as well analyze it anyway.
Trainwreck ahoy.
>> No. 175941
>>175932
[x] Let's... uh.. play this casual, and try to get some information during the conversation phase before everything goes horribly wrong.
-[x] "Pleased to meet you as well, Mugetsu."
--[x] "Thank you for the warning."
--[x] "...'Master'?"
--[x] "This is your work?"
--[x] "What is it meant to accomplish?"
>> No. 175942
[x] Let's... uh.. play this casual, and try to get some information during the conversation phase before everything goes horribly wrong.
-[x] "Pleased to meet you as well, Mugetsu."
--[x] "Thank you for the warning."
--[x] "...'Master'?"
--[x] "This is your work?"
--[x] "What is it meant to accomplish?"
>> No. 175943
[X] Let's... uh.. play this casual, and try to get some information during the conversation phase before everything goes horribly wrong.
-[X] “Pleased to meet you as well, Mugetsu.”
--[x] “Thank you for the warning.”
--[x] “...‘Master’?”
--[x] “This is your work?”
--[x] “What is it meant to accomplish?”
>> No. 176039
The Bandwagon hath spoken, it appears.

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

[x]Play this casual, and try to get some information during the conversation.
-[x] "Pleased to meet you as well, Mugetsu."
--[x] "Thank you for the warning."
--[x] "...'Master'?"
--[x] "This is your work?"
--[x] "What is it meant to accomplish?"


It's all okay. Just a girl dressed like a maid appearing behind you, telling you not to touch the magic circle, and calling you 'Master'. Yeah. Nothing to fret about. Only one more thing to add to the heap of weird things you've seen today. Just play it cool. No need to get nervous now.

"Uhhhhh... yeah, nice to meet you too, Mugetsu," you say after a while. "And thanks for the warning, I guess."

"I am just ensuring my creation does not provoke unwanted deaths," the maid responds matter-of-factly. "Careless manipulation could bring forth disastrous consequences, and it would be a shame if you died of a perfectly avoidable mistake, right, Master?"

You can only nod meekly at the unflappable girl. There are so many things wrong with what she just said, you are having a hard time to search for the next words to continue the conversation. As a consequence, the cave falls silent, with only the calmed breathing of the sleeping youkai and fairies filling the tense air between you and Mugetsu. Eventually, you decide to start off by the very last thing she said:

"Why are you calling me 'Master'? If it's not much of a bother to tell..." You add, after the maid glares at you intensely.

For a moment, Mugetsu remains still as a statue, until she slightly tilts her head to the side.

"What do you mean?" She says, a bit confused.

"I'm saying it's just strange that a maid I've never seen in my life is calling me as 'Master'," you explain. "I don't recall having anyone serving me. Unless I've missed something, and I'm actually a long lost child of a rich king or something."

"As far as I know, you are no heir of any wealthy family. And no, I am certainly not serving under your command," Mugetsu replies coldly.

"Then...?"

"Because it's customary for maids and butlers to address guests as 'Master' or 'Lady'."

You raise in eyebrows in mild incredulity. You knew there was something wrong with Mugetsu, but this is a completely different kind of wrongness than before. The stupid kind of wrong, namely.

"Uh, I'm pretty sure it's 'Mister', not 'Master'."

"Where did you get that from?" Mugetsu is quick to retort.

"... From novels," you admit.

"Novels, of course! Tell me, Master, have you ever worked as a butler in real life?" The maid gives you a few seconds to respond, and smirks when she sees you can't answer. "I didn't think so. Real serfdom isn't as romanticized as in fiction."

"But isn't calling every man 'Master' closer to romanticism than-?"

"Your only source is literature, therefore your argument is invalid. End of story," Mugetsu cuts you off.

However, you are too stubborn to drop the discussion at this point.

"And what source do you have?"

"First-hand knowledge," she says, breaking from her impersonal facade for the first time to sport a prideful grin. "I'll have you know, Master, that I am under the tutelage of the eminence in domestic labors of Gensokyo. This uniform is the real deal!" The maid tugs at her apron to show her point.

"...'Eminence in domestic labors'? What kind of title is that?"

"It's not an official title per se. That's how we workers at the Scarlet Devil Mansion call the head maid," the blonde girl explains, returning to her previous calm demeanor.

That revelation comes off as a small surprise to you, but not exactly because of what Mugetsu said. You thought that, save for the head maid and the gatekeeper and the librarian's assistant, all the staff was composed of fairies. You've never heard of another human working there - assuming Mugetsu is human in the first place. Come to think of it, didn't Kosuzu say she got Rin's book from the head maid?

Regardless, there are more pressing matters you need to discuss with Mugetsu, matters that are staring you right in the face and cannot be left unattended.

"So you work for the Scarlets, right. Did they order you to turn the whole Youkai Mountain into Nightmare Land too?" You ask her, pointing at the magic circle in front of you.

"What? Oh, no, no, this is... a side-job of mine, to put it somehow. They have nothing to do with this," Mugetsu explains. "By the way, it's called the Dream World."

"Dream World, whatever. So it was you who turned all these youkai into sleepwalking mindless zombies?" Even though you try to hold it in, your bottled up anger is starting to seep in your voice.

"You make it sound like I am some kind of heartless monster, Master," she replies nonchalantly, "when in reality, I am just helping them to achieve true happiness."

You blink once and twice in surprise, since you weren't expecting that kind of declaration from her.

"I fail to see how's that helping anyone."

"Then you must be blind. Do you see how peaceful and happy they look?" Mugetsu crouches besides a sleeping fairy, who is smiling in her dreams. "She must be dreaming something nice..." She then removes the snorkel out of her face and puts a hand over her temple. "Hmmmm, a picnic at the base of the Waterfall with her friends. How soothing. And this one is..." The maid approaches a kappa and does the same to him. "Playing a shogi match with a wolf tengu. And dominating him at that! Well, I think so, at least. I don't know the rules."

"Very nice, yes, but I reckon they'd prefer to be awake."

"Really now. Are you sure?"

Behind those teasing words, there's a certain bitterness and cynicism implied in her tone, and it freezes the words in your tongue. Somehow you have the feeling that if you pursue that line of discussion you'll upset Mugetsu greatly, and that's something you don't want just yet. Not before you learn of her true intentions.

"More importantly, I don't believe you put up this spell just to give people pleasant dreams," you say.

"And you would be right," Mugetsu flatly concedes. "After all, very few people do things for pure altruism, and I am not interested in becoming an hermit or a saint."

"Then you must have an ulterior motive to spend so much work and time in putting the Mountain to sleep."

"Yes I do."

...

...

...

The long silence turns more uncomfortable as seconds pass, mostly because of the fact that Mugetsu left the conversation hanging very awkwardly. And you just keep waiting for a response you think it won't come from her alone. Why is she being this adamant to keep her agenda hidden? That only spells trouble.

"W-well, go on!" You urge her. "If you please."

To which Mugetsu sighs wearily, thinking it's a waste of time.

"Family issues," she simply says. "And I have told you more than necessary."

"Aw, I was hoping you would delve further..."

"Fat chance," the maid shrugs. "Now if I were you, I would stop prying into private matters, leave the magic circle alone, and make full use of this once-in-a-lifetime chance."

"A chance for what?"

The way she deflected and ignored your implied question didn't escape you; Mugetsu definitely wants to keep her true goals hidden. But you are also curious to hear her suggestions on how to take advantage of the incident that has struck the Youkai Mountain.

"These are merely suggestions, but now that all the tengu are sleeping like little babies, you could try to sneak into their archives, which are usually closed to the public," You were expecting some kind of immoral barbarity from the suspicious maid, but she actually gives you sensible advice. Surprising. "It is my understanding you were searching for a special book. The archives seem like a good place to start looking."

Wait a second, how did she-?

"Or you could just lie here and go to sleep. That would help me a lot," Mugetsu adds.

[]Write-in.

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

You might have noticed I didn't give you any list of options these two updates. That's because I've already given you a lot of information in the last updates. The rest, you'll have to discover by yourselves. Besides, as I've already said, I know that you'd pick every question available if I just gave you a long list of topics.

And as a little bit of off-topic: did you ever feel angry when the figurine you've spent $30 comes with the shoe sole broken, and the platform's pegs don't fit with the figurine's sockets?
>> No. 176040
[x] Walk away. There's nothing more to be gained here.
-[x] Go see if you can find Pyonta at the Lotus Pond Shrine. Maybe the God has some advice for you.
--[x] Finally, take the maid's advice. Head for the village and search the archives.

Okay. It's obvious that we're a pawn in her game here. Even without meta-knowledge, she must have some connection with the voice in our dreams, and it seems clear that she's baiting us to visit the SDM next. All told, she's the gamemaster, and we're her pawn. That's why I think we should visit "Pyonta" first, to keep from becoming too much her playing piece.
>> No. 176042
[x] Walk away. There's nothing more to be gained here.
-[x] Go see if you can find Pyonta at the Lotus Pond Shrine. Maybe the God has some advice for you.
--[x] Finally, take the maid's advice. Head for the village and search the archives.
>> No. 176047
Indeed... A good idea

[x] Walk away. There's nothing more to be gained here.
-[x] Go see if you can find Pyonta at the Lotus Pond Shrine. Maybe the God has some advice for you.
--[x] Finally, take the maid's advice. Head for the village and search the archives.
>> No. 176073
[x] Walk away. There's nothing more to be gained here.
-[x] Go see if you can find Pyonta at the Lotus Pond Shrine. Maybe the God has some advice for you.
--[x] Finally, take the maid's advice. Head for the village and search the archives.
>> No. 176183
Exactly one year ago, the 1st of December, I started this story, mostly out of a whim. As I said at the end of the first thread, I didn't have much hopes of finishing it, since I didn't plan the story accordingly. Hell, I still think I don't have the plot completely outlined yet. I still keep changing things over and over again, to the point my plans for the future story are totally different from the ones I had just a month ago.

But still, I kept on writing away, not wanting to let my first CYOA here to die like many others, even if it meant it'd turn into a senseless clusterfuck. And it was thanks to you guys, who keep on reading this story. I send you my sincerest appreciation and regards to you readers, both voters and non-voters, for sticking and putting up with me, and I hope you find Gensokyo's Public Enemy enjoyable.

That said, if you have some recommendations to help me make this CYOA better, or if you have an idea for what direction should the story take, then by all means, please tell me. I'm writing the next update as you're reading this, but I'm always open to suggestions.
>> No. 176186
>>176183

Personally, I'm glad you stuck around this long, and I'm really liking the way the story's come along! I would like to see more interaction with Satsuki; she was one of the big selling points for me.
>> No. 176187
[x]Walk away. There's nothing more to be gained here.
-[x]Go see if you can find Pyonta at the Lotus Pond Shrine. Maybe the God has some advice for you.
--[x]Finally, take the maid's advice. Head for the village and search the archives.


No matter how you look at Mugetsu, there's something really wrong about her. Appearing out of nowhere, claiming ownership of the spell that has wreaked havoc in the Youkai Mountain, implicitly threatening you if you touch it, and to top it off, knowing about that favor the mysterious phantom from your dream asked you... This maid sorcerer is really bad news, you realize, someone who you would not want to mess with. Since there's nothing you can do to help these poor sleeping youkai without angering Mugetsu, you'd best be off.

"T-thanks, but no," you force your words out of your scared throat. "I have... some stuff I have to take care of."

"Ever so diligent, huh," says Mugetsu, amused. "Well, do what you must if so you wish. Worldly matters will be of no importance soon, but who am I to stop you?"

Now she's just being creepy for the sake of it. You ignore her, while you make your way through the slumbering youkai and fairies.

"One last thing," Mugetsu's voice stops you on your tracks. "I do not think I need to remind you, but... Well, bad fortune befalls those who disturb the dreams of the sleepwalkers."

She punctuates that remark with a playful, dissonant chuckle, if you were having any doubts about her creepiness. You turn around to give her a piece of your mind, but to your surprise, Mugetsu's not there. She left like she came: blinking in and out of the air. Mysterious indeed.

It pains you to leave those people there, and you would have liked to inspect the magic circle a bit longer, but there's nothing you can do for now. You exit the cave behind the waterfall, as you ponder about your next course of action. Mugetsu said the book you are looking for is very likely at the Tengu Village's archives, and since everybody there is suffering from the same illness than the kappa and the fairies, you won't be bothered by them if you sneak inside. But as it is, you'd rather not trust the advice of someone as shady as her.

"That leaves... that 'Pyonta' goddess," you say with sarcastic enthusiasm.

The fact that you're even considering asking a troublesome child deity for help shows how really desperate you are. But who knows? Maybe she is actually able to fix this disaster! It's worth a shot, at the very least. Not like you can do anything on your own, as you stand right now. Furthermore, the Kappa Village is on the way to the Lotus Pond Shrine, so you can pay a visit to Nitori's house and see if the kappa and Rika are okay.

You walk down the red river, pondering about what will you say to Pyonta when you meet her. She said she wanted you to 'perform another task more suitable for someone with your particular set of skills'. You wonder what does she mean by that... and if that task has changed with the recent development of events. You're pretty sure she'll take action, now that the forest and its inhabitants are in danger. With luck, you might get yourself a valuable ally! Well, as valuable as a child playing muppet is. Regardless of her behavior, she does claim herself to be a goddess...

Focused as you are in your own thoughts, you don't notice the big something standing just in front of you, and you inevitably bump painfully into it, hurting your nose and falling on your butt to the ground.

"Ouch! What is... it..."

All your colour drains from your face when you get a good eyeful of the ominous something you failed to avoid. You find yourself staring at a giant floating eye, twice as big as you, with a crimson pupil and bloodshot sclera. Two massive bat wings keep the abomination aloft, and an halo hovers over it, completely in contrast with its demonic appearance. But what really terrifies you are the two long, slimy tentacles protruding from its bottom. They're exactly like those you saw in the most depraved comics from the Outside, used to do unspeakable things to the fictional girls.

And by the way this giant, evil eye is staring at you, it might intend to use them to 'engage in sodomy of an unconsenting nature', as Rika would put it.

[]Bravely fight for your lower virginity!
[]Bravely implore for mercy and forgiveness!
[]Bravely run away!
[]Bravely ignore it and keep going!
[]Bravely accept your fate!
[]Bravely attempt to communicate with it!
[]Bravely do something else! (Write-in)
[]Why does it have to be of unconsenting nature, anyway?

>> No. 176188
[X]Why does it have to be of unconsenting nature, anyway?
-[X] Or at least, you don't have to be the unconsenting party.
>> No. 176190
[x]Bravely attempt to communicate with it!
-[x] Um... hello. Sorry about bumping into you. Can I help you with anything?

It's just a floating, tentacled eye. If it tries to violate us, that's just a sign of affection! No reason not to be polite, now is there?
>> No. 176193
[x]Bravely attempt to communicate with it!
-[x] Um... hello. Sorry about bumping into you. Can I help you with anything?
>> No. 176194
Anonymous 2013/12/01(Sun)20:05 No. 176190
[x]Bravely attempt to communicate with it!
-[x] Um... hello. Sorry about bumping into you. Can I help you with anything?
>> No. 176195
[X]Why does it have to be of unconsenting nature, anyway?
-[X] Or at least, you don't have to be the unconsenting party.

Do it.
>> No. 176196
[x]Bravely fight for your lower virginity!
Jesus christ what the shit is this
>> No. 176205
[]Why does it have to be of unconsenting nature, anyway?

Time for /at/!

Okay, for serious:

[x] Bravely scoot past it, keeping our eyes on the, uh, eye. Surely if we don't make sudden movements and not ignore it it'll not act violently. And if it does, well, with one eye it doesn't have good depth perception, right?
>> No. 176214
[x] Bravely scoot past it, keeping our eyes on the, uh, eye. Surely if we don't make sudden movements and not ignore it it'll not act violently. And if it does, well, with one eye it doesn't have good depth perception, right?
>> No. 176312
[X]Why does it have to be of unconsenting nature, anyway?
>> No. 176395
Well, um... So we got a tie here, between 'talking to the evil eye' and the 'secret kinky rape scene'.

However, there's the matter that one of the three votes for the secret kinky rape scene does not want to turn the tables on the evil eye, so technically the recounting would be 3-2-1 for the 'talking' vote.

Still, if you really, really want me to, I can make the secret kinky rape scene happen too. Just don't ask me to actually write it in /at/. I'm not an expert in the anatomy of a floating tentacled eye.
>> No. 176396
>>176395
For what it matters, I really really don't want you to.
>> No. 176397
Same here
>> No. 176398
I want it. Do it. Please.
>> No. 176399
[x] Talk to the evil eye

else

[x] no kinky rape scene. Not with this story please
>> No. 176400
>>176395

No tentacles. Please no tentacles. Please?
>> No. 176401
Alright, it's clear what the majority wants, so I'm calling it for trying to talk with the big scary eye. Sorry, >>176398, but you'll have to search for your tentacle rape elsewhere.

Would have been interesting to write, though. The scenes after the act, I mean.
>> No. 176413
[x]Bravely attempt to communicate with it!

No! Stay cool, stay cool. That is just a normal floating eye. It is not going to do anything bad to you. If it really wanted to, it would have done it already. But as it is, the big eye is just hovering there in front of you, without moving its slimy tentacles, just eyeing you intensely. In fact, it's looks like it's waiting for you to do something. Despite your instincts telling you to get the hell away from that, you slowly stand up and speak to the evil-looking eye:

"Uh... hello?" You manage to force a pitiful murmur out of your throat.

The eye doesn't move an inch. For the longest of times, the two of you just stand there, staring at each other, judging the other.

"So... you want something?" You say, mostly to break the tense silence.

Finally, the floating eye reacts, by moving its tentacles in a seemingly random patterns, as if it was doing signs to you. Yes, it definitely is trying to communicate to you!

"What's that?"

The eye repeats the same signs, seeing as you don't understand it. Sadly, whatever the eye is trying to tell you escapes you... Or does it?

"You said a girl is hanging upside-down from a tree?"

Glad that in the end you seem to get it, the eye nods and does more sign language, which you try to follow the best you can:

"And she needs my help?"

The eye nods again, and keeps on relaying its message:

"But part of you would rather leave her there because she's kind of an asshole?" You scratch your head. Something's a bit off about all this. "Well, that's not very polite, is it?"

The eye waves its tendrils, annoyed.

"But you're doing your civil duty? What kind of civil duty has a floating evil eye, anyway? No offense, just curious."

The eye begins to explain the duties of a floating eye to you, but part way it realizes it doesn't have time for that, and instead motions you to follow it. Most likely to that girl in need of your help.

It is only now that the realization of what you've been doing strikes you. True, since you've last woken up, everything's been all kinds of weird, but this takes the cake! If you told this to Rin, she wouldn't believe you, even if you showed her your memories of this "conversation". She'd believe you have went insane or something.

"Yeah, I've officially lost my goddamned mind," you mutter to yourself.

The evil eye, oblivious to your internal thinking, is still waiting for you, but you can read the urgency in its body language, as if telling you to hurry up.

[]"Alright, show me the way."
[]"Sorry, but I have more pressing matters to attend."

>> No. 176414
[X]“Alright, show me the way.”
>> No. 176415
[-]"Alright, show me the way."
>> No. 176416
[X]“Alright, show me the way.”

Well. This is certainly a something.
>> No. 176417
[X]“Alright, show me the way.”
>> No. 176584
[X]“Alright, show me the way.”
>> No. 176926
Sage bump
Update soon?
>> No. 176984
>>176926
>sage
>bump
wut
Well, at least someone still cares for the story enough to go check it beyond the front page. Thanks for your support! Have a very late update, and Late Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year too, why the hell not!

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

[x]"Alright, show me the way."

Before the most sensible part of your mind can warn you of the probable dangers of following a giant floating eye with devil wings into a forest where even more nightmarish things could be hiding in the shadows to ambush you - deep mental breath - you have already voiced your answer. The eye seems most pleased with you, and lets you know by another of its cryptic waves of tentacle. As you both make your way through the dense vegetation, the ocular being addresses you again.

"What you say? She was strolling through the forest, looking for someone?"

The eye nods - or what passes as nodding for a thing without a head - and it keeps on explaining the situation to you.

"And she stepped on a snare that same someone put a long time ago?"

More random, annoyed flailing.

"And you kind of wish she breaks her neck when I cut her free and she falls down?" You shake your head disapprovingly. "Even if you do hate her guts, that's an horrible thing to wish, don't you think?"

The eyes shakes its... well, its everything.

"But morality is a human construct and you are not hardwired to think that way?" Confused, you scratch your head for a second. "... I can't believe I'm getting smart-talked by a freaking giant floating eye."

Then it waves its tentacles suggestively, and you swear if it had eyebrows it would have raised them in an equally insinuating way.

"Say what!?"

This time the eye must be joking, you're sure of it.

"Wait, you're talking about my kind of 'good girls' or yours?"

The eye is about to say something else, but apparently it sees something and points it to you. You have to force your sight to spot whatever it saw between the brushes, but once you do...

"Huh, you weren't kidding. There is someone hanging there," you exclaim.

Withou doubting for a second, you prance closer the the figure trapped in the snare. As you get closer, you are able to recognize those beady eyes and twin braids the upside-down girl sports, and you have to hold a groan from coming out of your mouth. The truth is, you were half-expecting it, but it doesn't make it any less... excruciating.

"Hey, Rika, what's up," you greet the girl as blankly and non-chalantly as you can manage.

For a moment you fear the engineer girl had finally fallen to her curse, but you can see her head twitch in response. Rika then tries to spin and face you, but be it because her weakness or because of her precarious position, she can only flail weakly in a pitiable manner.

"Oh, if it isn't Mister Lost Teen in the Woods," she speaks after giving up. "If you came here just to say that pun or to mock me, you can go away now."

Since you feel kind of awkward talking to a girl with her back in front of you, you walk around her to speak to her face to... belly. A flat, skinny belly at that, but it can't be helped.

"Actually, believe it or not, I'm here to help you," you explain. "Think of this as repayment for the handcuff thing."

"So you're the type of guy who cannot live with a debt owed?" Despite her state, she still finds time to scoff at you. "I wonder if you really looked for me all over the forest like a sixpenny charming prince."

"In your dreams, hon," you retort. "The truth is, that floating eye over there told me of your... predicament."

"Floating eye?"

"Yes, there's a big, winged- huh?"

Somehow, the big, winged evil-looking eye has completely vanished, like it was never there to begin with. You begin to scout the area frantically, looking for it, but to no avail. Surely all that wasn't a trick of your increasingly deranged mind, was it? Was it?

"Anytime, pal!"

Oh, right, Rika is still hanging from that snare, and you left there hanging very rudely, if her offended glare serves of any indication. Yeah, that was rude of you. You should do something to remedy it, don't you?

[]Cut the rope and let her fall down.
[]Climb up the tree and untie the snare.
[]Leave her there. The less you interact with her, the better for you.
[]Before you free her, you have some questions needing answer:
-[]Is she hurt?
-[]Why did she leave Nitori's house all by herself, in her state?
-[]Does she know what the hell is happening?
-[]Any clue on how to solve this incident?
-[]Does she know what the hell happened to you when you fell asleep?
-[]How did she end up like this?
-[]Any signs of life, aside from me?
-[]Does she, by any chance, know that floating eye? Assuming it wasn't just an hallucination...
[]Write-in.

>> No. 176985
[X] Climb up the tree and untie the snare.
>> No. 176986
[X] Climb up the tree and untie the snare.

Seems the gentlest way.
>> No. 176987
>>176984
>>176926 here
You'd rather have me bump the thread to the top of the front page instead of politely using the sage when asking for an update?
I'll vote when I can think straight again.
>> No. 176989
>>176987
No, it was more about how the term "sage bump" made no sense, because you can't bump a thread while saging. You actually followed the board etiquette and for that I respect you and I love you and I would bear your children no homo.

Oh, and since now it's officially 2014 in my country... HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OF YOU, THP! Picture may or may not star a soon-to-appear character in the near future.
>> No. 176991
[X] Climb up the tree and untie the snare.
>> No. 177030
Had a bit of free time, and unanimity in the votes, and this updates was going to be short anyway, so why wait?

Also, is it just me or Zalsa almost always updates immediately after I do? Stop stealing mah spotlight, damn you!

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

[X]Climb up the tree and untie the snare.

"Geez, alright, alright, just give me a moment!" You respond at Rika's impatient call.

The search for the disappearing floating eye will have to wait, you guess. For now you need to focus on getting the girl out of the snare without injuring her. The easiest way would be to simply cut the rope and let Rika fall, but the giant eye's words from before worry you enough to disregard that option. Instead, you decide to climb up the tree, untie the rope from the branch, and slowly set her down. In a routine that is becoming awfully usual lately, you place your foot on the bark's crevasses and impulse yourself up, all the while Rika looks at you with a curious glance.

"Huh, that explains a lot," the engineer comments. "You have the agility and the intelligence of a monkey."

You would have responded to that gratuitous insult, but you are too focused on not slipping and falling down to think of any witty retort. It takes you half a minute to reach the branch the snare is tied to - you're getting faster at this! -, and once you've settled yourself so that you don't lose your balance, you proceed to do your ministrations on the rope.

"A more efficient person would simply cut the knot instead. Just saying," Rika scoffs from below, seeing you struggle with the binding.

"Sure, if you don't mind breaking your spine when you fall to the floor," you explain to her, not without a certain disdain. "Think you'll hear the bones cracking before you die?"

"Yeouch, no need to get that graphic," she grimaces. "But I guess that's considerate of you, in a way."

You think you see Rika blush a little, though you can't say if it's because she's embarrassed, angry at you, or angry at herself for not realizing such an obvious flaw to her idea. That said, this damned knot is too damn tight! Whoever put the snare, he (or she, if it's who you suspect it is) made sure that it wouldn't come apart so easily by using a 'constrictor knot', you believe it is called. The kind of knots that can only be undone by cutting them - as it was probably intended. This will prove quite inconvenient.

"Did you hear that?" Exclaims Rika, all of a sudden.

"Hear what? I didn't-"

A sound of bushes rustling a few meters in front of you makes you stand in alert. Tense moments later, a group of five, six fairies appear from the leaves, floating erratically, without a definite direction. Judging by that strange behavior and their tired, closed eyelids, you conclude these fae are victims of the raijuu's taint and the mindcontrol. It is your first time seeing these being this close, actually, and the sight is a bit bleak. They look like small children with those round, soft baby faces and those short, slender bodies, beaming with joy, mischief and magic. However, the curse had taken a big toll on the poor fairies: now they seemed dull, lacklustre... but probably more dangerous.

"C'mon, cut me free, quick!" Rika hushes urgently.

The engineer looks up to you with pleading eyes, asking you to make haste. She knows, same as you, that you two might get in a world of hurt and problem if you do not act carefully and fast. Pulling her up to the safety of the tree cups seems like the wisest idea, but that will take you considerable time and effort. Maybe you should take the offensive and strike the fairies preemptively, using the advantage of surprise and height? You could either use Rin's book and try out the magic you've learnt from her. Or you could use the pinecones hanging from up those branches and throw them to the fairies, with a little kick of your Wood magic - with luck you might even immobilize them for good. Or stay hidden and still, hoping they do not see you and ignore you.

[]Hoist Rika up to the tree cups. Time and effort consuming, but probably safer for her.
[]Cut the rope and gently put Rika down. Much easier and quicker, but you might put her in danger.
[]Leave Rika momentarily hanging. There is no time to waste in rescues when the enemy is near.

[]Drop down and face the fairies at ground level. Be prepared to fight if necessary.
[]Stay where you are. You have the height advantage; put it to good use.
-[]Ambush the fairies with magic and pinecone projectiles.
-[]Let them pass through, and pray they do not attack you.
[]Run away. You don't want any troubles with sleepwalking fairies.
[]Write-in.


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

Here's to hope there's no more unanimity. Unanimity is boring.
>> No. 177033
[X]Cut the rope and gently put Rika down. Much easier and quicker, but you might put her in danger.
[X]Drop down and face the fairies at ground level. Be prepared to fight if necessary.

I don't believe the fairies will attack us, but better stay alert.
>> No. 177036
[x]Cut the rope and gently put Rika down. Much easier and quicker, but you might put her in danger.

Not much time. We need to cut her free so she can hide from the fairies. Either that, or we can help her up the tree somehow.
>> No. 177081
[X]Cut the rope and gently put Rika down. Much easier and quicker, but you might put her in danger.
[X]Drop down and face the fairies at ground level. Be prepared to fight if necessary.
>> No. 177101
[X]Cut the rope and gently put Rika down. Much easier and quicker, but you might put her in danger.
[X]Drop down and face the fairies at ground level. Be prepared to fight if necessary.


The moment you see the fairies slowly float towards you, you realize you have no time to go with your original plan. Right now, Rika's in a very inconvenient place, dangling a few feet above ground like a pinata above a group of kids. And if what you've read is true, fairies can be very destructive kinds when they get excited. Your earlier encounter with the three slumbering kappas in the waterfall proved that people under mindcontrol do not react to sound or visual stimuli, but you actually didn't try to shake them, slap them or any other form of physical contact. You don't know what will happen once those fairies crash into Rika, and frankly, this is not the best moment to make such experiments.

Not enough time to untie the knot. You'll have to listen to Rika and directly cut it to free her before the fairies get too close. That, however, poses a problem on its own: you lack a blade to slice the rope. If only you had taken the knife when you were at that shop back in town! But now is not the time for lamentations! You'll have to make do with the tools at your disposal. Too bad you don't have any tools per se with you... Then you'll use what Mother Nature gives you! With a bit of magic, even a slim, feeble twig can become a decent knife, after a bit of alteration.

What you plan to do ought to be much easier than growing a tree out of a simple fruit. Of course, you don't want to make the branch stronger; you just need to pour a bit of your magic into it so that it grows sharp and serrated, nothing too overblown. That should be still inside your permitted area of transfiguration, according to both Rin and that girl from your "dream". With no further loitering, you snap the closes twig you can find and get to work. In merely two seconds flat, you already have a wooden "knife" sharp enough to cut the rope - noteworthy considering you are still a novice at magic. Rin would be proud.

Immediately afterwards, you put your newly created blade on the rope, and saw away. Rika looks at you somewhat confused, seeing that in the end you decided to go along with her suggestion, but she seems to accept it and just urges you to be careful. Right, you would not want her to break her neck in the fall after you put so much effort in freeing her. That would be terrible. You make sure to grab the rope with your free hand while the wood knife cuts it from above. The more it saws off, the more you feel Rika's weight pulling down on your hold, and the more strain your arm suffers. Will you be able to hold the rope once it snaps off?

When you finish cutting the snare off the tree, gravity takes full hold of Rika's body, something which you were somewhat prepared of. But you miscalculated how much the girl weighs; she must be hiding something under her clothes, because it's simply impossible that a skinny gal like her could be so heavy! Not that you'd say it out loud; it's rude to complain about that topic to women. But that doesn't change the fact that it suddenly caught you off-guard, and you almost drop poor Rika headfirst to the floor, were it not for your thankfully quick reflexes. Before the rope slips from your hand, you manage to grab it with the other, losing the makeshift knife in the process. At the very least, you managed to stop Rika's fall before she cracked her neck down there. That ought to count for something.

"What the hell are you doing!?" Rika hisses, evidently altered. "Are you trying to kill me!?"

Turns out that something is a death glare coming from your "distressed princess", for that close call. You're sure Rika would have screamed at you too if she wasn't trying to lay low. Well, you aren't telling her that it's not really necessary keep quiet. The last thing you need is her nagging to break your concentration. You mutter a quick 'sorry' and then slowly, ever so slowly, let the rope slide down the few inches left, until the girl is gently put in the ground. The engineer doesn't waste any time, and crawls as fast as she can towards the safety of the bushes, before the fairies catch up to her.

With Rika hidden from view, you only have to wait until the fae pass through. But in the off chance that they actually detected you both, or that something unexpected happens, you should stay close to Rika to be able to protect her. For that reason, you decide to climb down the tree and join Rika at her hiding spot.

But before you even move a muscle, you hear a loud crack, just behind you.

"Really? Now?" You manage to blurt in disbelief, before the branch you were sitting on snaps in half.

The fall itself wasn't too high; just a couple of meters. The main difference between you and Rika before was that at least you aren't falling head first, and the worst thing you can expect is breaking a leg or spraining an ankle if you are really unlucky. Thankfully, your experience at climbing trees in your childhood has also taught you how to break falls to avoid the most pain possible. As soon as you touch the ground, you cushion the fall by immediately leaning your whole weight forward, resulting in a sloppy roll that ends with you sprawled on the dirt, but safe and sound at least.

However, getting hurt in the fall was the least of your concerns. When you finally snap out of your dizziness, you find yourself surrounded by mindcontrolled fairies. You dare not to move an inch, lest you accidentally bump into one of them and risk making them aggressive. For the moment, they are completely ignoring you, as if you weren't more than an oversized rock in the middle of the way. But as before, you don't know what will happen when one of them "stumbles" upon you. Will they keep on floating without destination like usual? Will they wake up and be freed from the spell? Or will they...?

"Aha! Finally!"

Your worrying becomes moot, as all of a sudden, the potential threat just vaporizes courtesy of a powerful blast of wind coming from the same place as that voice. The fairies explode in a puff of magic, making a sound that you'd write as "pichuun", when the slashing gale neatly cuts them in half. Somewhat drastic and graphic, but you aren't going to complain about the methods used by someone who just saved your life.

"About time I found the midboss! Fire away~~!"

... Or not. A second blast of wind comes from the depths of the forest, but this time it's aimed at you with not very good intentions. You barely manage to roll to the side before you meet the same fate as those fairies, and quickly whip out your book, on the lookout of the attacker.

Said attacker doesn't remain hidden for long. From the area where the wind shots came from, a girl of more or less your age appears from the bushes, menacingly pointing a rectangular gohei at you. The first thing that stands out is her long, green hair, flowing wild and free in the wind save for those two strange hairpins shaped like a frog and a snake. Her attire, while certainly not colored as per tradition, instantly reveals the girl as a miko.

Well, this is just great. As if Reimu wasn't enough of a problem. What do you have that makes mikos antagonize you? Wait, that's actually an stupid question; of course you know why. But better not make assumptions just yet. This one might have a different reason altogether.

"Midboss? What are you talking about?" You ask the green haired miko. Come to think of it, didn't Reimu use a similar term when she talked with you? Is it some kind of priestess slang or something? But more importantly: "And why are you shooting at me!?"

"Because you're the first being I found that isn't under the effects of the spell," the girl responds, as if it was the most obvious thing. "And looking at how those fairies totally ignored you, it means you have something to do with this incident!"

"What!? What kind of insane logic is that!? That doesn't make any sense!"

"Come on, you still let logic guide you? Get with the times!" The miko flails her gohei at you, shooting a third gale of wind at you. "In Gensokyo, might makes right!"

This time, you are more alert, and evade the attack with relative ease. Still, why is this girl shooting at you so freely, with such a stupid motive?

"What the hell is your problem, girl!?" You shout at her, agitated.

"When I beat you, you're going to tell me everything you know!" The green-haired girl boasts. "Those are the rules of danmaku!"

"That's a load of baloney! Even if I knew anything, I don't see why I should tell you."

Though, to be honest, you do know some very important things regarding this incident, though you don't know if this overly aggressive miko also has learned such information. But anyway, after shooting you like that, you sure as hell are not going to reveal her anything, for the gods' sake!

"You can resist as much as you want, but that won't change the end result," the miko says. "It's always like this: I shoot fairies until I find the local boss, I beat her, she gives me a clue, rinse and repeat until I find the real culprit, I beat her too, and then we have tea. That's how we miko resolve incidents."

"I didn't know I qualified as a 'local boss'. First notice I have of that," you snark.

"Nah, not really. You're not that powerful," she waves her hand dismissively. "I'd say you're be a midboss, at best."

Somehow you feel like you've just been insulted, but how can you feel offended when you don't even know what she means?

"Though for a midboss, you have an awful lot of dialogue..." The miko mutters to herself.

"Uh, listen, I don't really know what's your deal, but beating random people to get information won't get you anywhere," You try to reason with her.

"Why not? If it works for the Hakurei, then it should work for me too!" She exclaims.

Dang it, there's just no way to get through that thick head of hers, is it? At this rate, a firefight will be imminent, and you're not sure you'll be able to face a seemingly seasoned priestess in danmaku combat.

"I don't want any troubles. I assure you, I am not involved with this incident in any way," you attempt to plead with the miko for the last time, though you don't have high hopes.

"Most early bosses aren't," she shrugs. "At the very least, you'll drop a few power-ups when I defeat you."

"Ugh..." This girl is hopeless.

"Now give peace a chance! Or at least stand still!"

Well, at least you tried. Though that feeling won't be of much use when you're full of bullets holes, or sliced in half by one of those gales of hers. And by how she's raised her gohei, the miko is about to shoot you. Honestly, the only strange thing is that it hasn't happened earlier.

[]This girl wants beef with you? Fine, you'll give her some prime steak!
-[]What she needs is a good ol' punch in the face! If you can get close to her, that is.
-[]She's not the only one who can call the wind. Fight gale with gale!
-[]Use your Wood magic, and whoop her with some whips of your own vintage!
-[]Yo, Rika, a little help here?
[]To hell with these zealot priestess! You're out of here!
-[]Oh, and don't forget to grab Rika on your way.
[]Don't give up on talking just yet! You just haven't reasoned with her hard enough! (Write-in)
[]Just let her beat you up and be done with this quickly. You hope she won't hurt you too much.
[]Write-in.


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

I noticed most of this story's reader base's attention has waned, and I thought long and hard as to why. My unexplained absence for two weeks probably has a lot to do with it, but I can't help that. I also noticed that this whole thread has been much more... calmer, with much less moments where your life has been on the line. Maybe it's because you're too good at evading such situations, or that the plot has slowed down too much.

Regardless, I decided to speed things a bit and invoke Chandler's Law to throw an obligatory "boss fight" at you. Hopefully this will spark at least some discussion, because I'm quite fed up with you always voting unanimously on the same thing. And as I've said before, that's very boring! So there you have it.
>> No. 177102
>>177101

Eh, probably has more to do with the holiday season than any waning interest. Still, a vote for you:

[x]This girl wants beef with you? Fine, you'll give her some prime steak!
-[x]Use your Wood magic, and whoop her with some whips of your own vintage!

Sanae is a priestess, and a schoolgirl. Fight her with her natural enemy: tentacles! And when she's cringing in horror, try to talk some sense into her thick skull.
>> No. 177103
>>177101
[x]This girl wants beef with you? Fine, you'll give her some prime steak!
-[x]Use your Wood magic, and whoop her with some whips of your own vintage!
--[x]Why does it have to be of unconsenting nature, anyway?
We can do this, stay calm.
>> No. 177104
[x]This girl wants beef with you? Fine, you'll give her some prime steak!
-[x]Use your Wood magic, and whoop her with some whips of your own vintage!
>> No. 177106
>"I'd say you're be a midboss, at best."

That bitch!
>> No. 177107
[x] "A foe appears out of nowhere, blabbers some nonsense and wants to fight no matter what? Are you a random encounter"
-[x] Use the wind to dodge her danmaku and provoke her into Close quarters combat
-[x] then, cheat and try to use wood against her. Punches are okay too, whatever goes.
I sure hope the engineer gives us a hand.
As for the wind-dodge thing. Blame MGQ's Sylph and her windwall/playful wind/vanishing gale
>> No. 177108
[X] Don't give up on talking just yet! You just haven't reasoned with her hard enough! (Write-in)
- [X] “Are you really going to sink as low as the Hakurei maiden and go brawns over brains? You seemed like one who’d be smarter than that, guess I was wrong.”
>> No. 177115
[x]This girl wants beef with you? Fine, you'll give her some prime steak!
-[x]Use your Wood magic, and whoop her with some whips of your own vintage!
>> No. 177363
Six votes! Now we're talking! Although we still have to work on the unanimity part. But baby steps, baby steps.

This should have been posted around a week ago, but I fell ill and wasn't in the mood for writing anything. Forgive my tardiness.

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

[x]This girl wants beef with you? Fine, you'll give her some prime steak!
-[x]Use your Wood magic, and whoop her with some whips of your own vintage!


There is a kind of unspoken rule in human society that dictates that if there are so many people wanting someone beaten up, then that person is supposed to get beaten up sooner or later. Like a mark for death, only less drastic. Though that rule would work for an assassination target too - and you hope that is not your case yet. But it's true that since that day you got Rin's book, the number of people who tried to pick up a fight with you for some reason or another has increased an awful lot.

Likewise, if someone keeps witnessing and experiencing crazy hijinks for an extended period of time, that person will eventually lose his mind. Of course, there are ways to cope with the process of going insane, possibly even prevent it. For example, solving puzzles like Rubic cubes train your brain to be sharp. Or writing specific sentences to keep your mind focused - rocking your body along is recommended. As a last resort, lashing out at an object to vent the frustration is acceptable too.

Considering your current situation, what you are about to do is actually the most logical and sane course of action, despite your subconscious telling you the contrary. If you decide to break down after seeing so many weird things as of lately, your "fate" will catch up with you and you will get beaten up to a pulp by an overly aggressive miko with a few screws loose. And you don't want that, after going to such lengths to avoid getting beaten up. Therefore, you must do something to not become any crazier. Sadly, you don't have any puzzles at hand (if you consider this incident a puzzle in itself, you lack too many pieces to attempt to resolve it), nor a pencil or brush to write something down. Not to mention it'd be hard to perform those tasks while being shot at.

In conclusion, the only way to prove you are definitely not crazy is to beat the green-and-blue miko up first and whip her a couple of times. It's super easy!

"Miracle: 「God's Wind」" The girl declares her Spell Card just as you come to terms with yourself.

It might not be that simple, though, as you have to evade her waves of danmaku before that. The power that she had been storing in her gohei materializes in the form of a huge magic ring centered around her, surrounding the miko with characters you aren't able to decipher. But you have other things to pay attention to: namely, the myriad of white bullets appearing out of nowhere, forming several concentric circles around your enemy. The rings of bullets start to converge on her as they spin, vaguely reminding you of a tornado, with the miko in the eye of the storm. That is, until the magic projectiles suddenly change direction and take aim at you, slowly floating towards your position.

On second thought, what you're about to do might not be the most logical and sane course of action. Sure, if you stretch your imagination and supress any sort of moral shackle in your mind, you could consider the girl an object to lash out at... Wait, why do you even need to forgo morality? She attacked you first! That means you are only acting on self-defense! Just because you are going to use a magic whip made of plants doesn't change anything. But in the not-so-off-chance you do get indicted after the deed, it'll be a hard thing to explain to the authorities. "Yeah, I flagellated that girl forty-seven times, but it was in self-defense! And I would have gone crazy if I didn't!"

"What, are you trying to time my Spell Card out?" The miko complains loudly.

No, that's not going to work. Maybe you should appeal to your jovial looks? Surely someone as young as you couldn't whip someone to death, right? Oh, you forgot, Gensokyo is inhabited by loli pint-sized powerhouses of destruction incarnate. When the culprit of the Scarlet Mist Incident looks like a ten years old girl, that justification falls flat on its face.

"Stay put, dang it!" Your opponent grows restless by the second, seeing how none of her countless bullets connect. "Midbosses aren't supposed to prance around like a ballerina! Especially a boy like you!"

Gods, why is it so hard to justify therapeutic murder!? You know what, screw it! You'll come up with something on the spot if the need arises. For now, you'd better focus on evading the incoming wave of bullets. Which ought to be easy; after all, you've been doing it all this time while paying no attention, engrossed in your inner monologue. If you put your mind into it, it'll be a piece of cake! Unless it's actually one of those things you stop doing well when you try to think how the hell are you doing it. Thankfully you don't have a hundred feet, so tripping over shouldn't be a problem for you. Hopefully.

"Why don't you give up already!?" The girl screams in frustration. "You know you stand no chance if I get serious."

"Aw, sure you do!" You quip back. "I can do this all day!"

Truth is, you actually don't. You don't quite remember why exactly, but you have the feeling you must finish this fight quickly. The miko's danmaku is easy to evade, but it's also impenetrable, not allowing you to close on her. You expect that if you annoy her enough, she'll leave a weak point exposed that you can exploit. Granted, taunting an already exasperated miko can backfire horribly, but what else you can do? You'll eventually get tired and get hit if this drags on for too long.

"Oh ho ho, you asked for it!" She cackles.

As you expected, the miko takes your taunt as her cue to intensify her attack, by throwing more waves closer to each other, and shooting additional bigger bullets to close the gaps in the pattern. It quickly becomes apparent that you have miscalculated how much she was holding up her wide sleeve. The addition of those big bullets, while apparently not very substantial, turns out to be much more troublesome than expected. With fewer gaps and safe spots, you are having a very hard time evading the waves of danmaku, and soon enough you find yourself pinned down by an impenetrable wall of bullets coming down on you.

"Is that your best?" Now is the girl's turn to mock you.

You didn't want to indulge her and play along with the danmaku battle, but things as they are now, you are forced to try out those Spells you learned a while ago.

"Ha! Not even close!" You shout back, all excited. "Watch this!"

Concentrate. Listen to the whispers of the wind through the forest. Feel every object around yourself. How many insects there are, how many birds are flying nearby, how many bullets are rushing towards you. The wind tells you everything - it knows the safest nooks beneath the waves of magic to squeeze through unharmed, the quickest way to close in your opponent. There!

"Wind Sign: 「Folk Dance of Feng Bo」"

Just when the girl's bullets were about to shoot you down, you unleash your own Spell Card. The energy of the wind you were accumulating in Rin's book explodes in a powerful gale, blasting all the bullets away, like that time with Kotohime and her officers. And just like that time, that energy comes back to you and invigorates your body. That sensation is not strange to you, but now's the first time you had time to experience it fully. With so much power inside you, you think yourself capable of running faster than the wind, or bringing one of those huge trees down with one punch.

Is this truly the power of Wind magic? It's frightening, yet liberating. It's feels so wrong, yet so right...

But you can't dwindle too much on that. You have a fight to end. After your Spell Bomb opened a path beneath the miko's danmaku, you take advantage of your heightened physical condition and sprint towards the unsuspecting girl. When she realizes your intentions, her scowl of concentration turns into the expression of dawning surprise and horror. That face, it's so gratifying to see - and you reckon it'll be much more satisfying to break.

As you practically leap in the air, you raise your arm above your head, mustering all your strength to deliver the mightiest punch you've ever-

"Not going to happen!"

But the miko snaps out, reacts in time and grabs you by your arm before your fist connects. Using your own momentum, she applies a little twist of the wrist, and throws you away like a ragdoll. The world spins uncontrollably as you get sent hurling through the air even faster than you ran on the ground.

In this brief moment of resignation before the inevitable crash, a part of your mind reminds you of the flaw of your so-called "plan". You can even imagine Rin berating you for being so predictable. This is what happens when you forget to take into account the close-combat training all youkai-hunting miko are required to do. Just because this green-and-blue favors Spell Cards doesn't mean she is defenseless against opponents who try to bring the fight up close and personal.

Oh well. Nothing you can do about it now. You can only learn from your mistakes, and hope you don't break your spine when you hit a tree. Which should be about-

"Ack!"

A loud crack makes its way through your whole body, followed by a sharp pain in your back. The air is knocked out of your lungs - both literally and figuratively. When you slowly fall down to the ground, you are left gasping for a much needed breath and curling in agony. Thankfully, you didn't break any bone thanks to the effects of your Spell still being active, but it got broken the moment you suffered the brutal impact. You guess you ought to count yourself lucky for not ending up paralyzed or dead. But this pain, these shocks that run through your nerves like boiling water, it's unbearable!

That is not the biggest of your concerns, unfortunately. In the corner of your eyes, blurred by tears welling up, you can see the miko slowly approaching you, most probably savoring her victory, and about to deliver the coup de grace. No, you can't let her! This is not over yet! You can't give up...

"You should've thought twice before dueling a Deity of the Moriya Shrine!" The miko boasts.

Great, now she's got delusions of godhood, to add insult to injury. And what injury! This is pissing you off so much. Just another good reason to smack her across the forest. But it's no use; your body just can't stand up after receiving such a blow. The miko lifts you off by your shirt's collar, leaving you dangling helplessly in the air. Appearances truly deceive: this girl hides formidable strength beneath her soft looks. And she didn't even need to use it to knock you out. Maybe there is some truth to her claim?

"Did you honestly think you could beat me with with that little Bomb?" The girl shoves you to punctuate her question. "What were you thinking?"

"I think you've got a problem," you groan. Of all the things that still work well in you, it has to be your mockery. And your sarcasm too. Thank goodness.

"Yeah, I'm looking at it! Now tell me everything you know."

The miko keeps shaking you, as if she hoped the answers she's looking for would fall out of your pockets of something. No sell from you, of course. In fact, you're going to try to be as obtuse as possible, if only to spite her.

"I can tell you my name, my age and why the chicken crossed the road," you chuckle bitterly.

"Not funny!" The miko pinches your cheek in annoyance.

"Ouch! It hursh, it hursh!"

Despite your pleading, she doesn't let up on her punishment. At this rate your mouth is going to grow a few inches in size. The girl raises her gohei and points it at your chin, in a very similar way one would use a sword to threaten someone.

"You better be a good sport and spill the beans. Or else!"

Okay, not similar, she is threatening you, period. And she already demonstrated she can back it up in a painful way. But you're not going to let that scare you into submission. You still have a little trick on your bag left. Her intimidating, burning glare, is melting a metaphorical hole on your own face; but that means she isn't aware of what you're doing below the belt.

"Alright, alright, I'll talk!" You raise a hand in 'surrender'. "But only if you answer my question first."

The miko keeps staring at you dead in the eyes, deciding if she should accept your condition, or just beat the answers out of you and be done with it. Those long, tense seconds are just what you wanted to get what you need out of your bag, without her noticing. Finally, the girl lets out her breath from her nose, and speaks:

"... Shoot."

Very poor choice of word, you think to yourself. You can't help but grin devilishly when you answer her:

"How do you like them plums?"

"It's 'apples', you- what?"

The girl stares in confusion as you raise your other arm and shove the plum you've sneakily produced from your bag into her own melons. The meaning of this action becomes clear to her when you utter your second Spell declaration.

"Flower Sign: 「Ivy Blossom」"

The fruit throbs in your hands, about to burst, while the miko stares increasingly worried. And then, nature's hell breaks loose in an explosion of fruit meat and roots. She lets you off in surprise, freeing her hands to fight against the growing vines surrounding and constricting her whole body. You take the chance to scurry out of harm's way, and witness the spectacle of the miko trying to break free of your spell's hold.

"Ah! What in the name of-!? Ugh!" The girl screams frantically, waving her hands all over her body, pushing the roots away. "Not this again! Stop it! Where do you think you're touching!? Let me off!"

Her squeals of fear and disgust are like music to your ears, and the sight of her futile struggle, the most beautiful paintwork. It isn't before long that the vines have completely immobilized her, tying up her limbs tightly. And as a neat bonus, some of her... features are being highlighted by the vine ropes' pressure around them. Which makes for a nice treat for your weary eyes. But you don't have time for this! Before she breaks free with another of her spells, you have to regain the advantage!

"Alright... alright," you stand up, dust your clothes off, and walk to the bound girl. "I know you're a bit tied up at the moment, but I need you to listen to me for a bit."

The miko tries to speak, but finds out that another root has her completely gagged, and is only able to let out incomprehensible muffled whimpers.

"Mmmmph! Mmm! Mmmmmmphhhhhh!"

"Yeah, i know. That joke's been used to death," you retort. "But it's almost obligatory to say it at this kind of situations, don't you think?"

"Mmmmmmmph! Mmmmmmphhhphhhhh."

"A serafuku? Why do you want a serafuku now? Do you think I go carrying a sailor uniform everywhere just in case?"

"Mm. Mmmmmph. Mmmmmmph mmmmph!"

"Tradition? Hm, guess you have a point there," you concede. "But you'll have to excuse me. This is actually the first time I've ever tried to do this to another person, so I wasn't very prepared. It was more of a desperate move."

"Mmmmph. Mmmmmm mmmmph mph mph. Mmmmph mph mmmmmmphphphmmm, mmmph mmmmmmph mmmmph."

"Duly noted," you nod, taking mental notes of her advice. You never cease to be amazed of how surprisingly well versed some people can be about the most obscure things. "Wait, why am I even discussing this with you!? This is supposed to be a... A... Um."

Come to think about it, you don't know what to do now with your opponent bound, gagged, and defenseless. In her state, you can practically do to her whatever thing crosses your mind, and get away with it - as long as your captive doesn't remember she can use magic to break free. However, she doesn't seem to be trying particularly hard to do so. In fact, you would go as far as to say she's willing to cooperate. Might be just your imagination though.

[]Interrogation!
-[]Her name.
-[]Her age.
-[]Her job.
-[]Her mission.
-[]Her vital statistics.
-[]What she knows about this incident.
-[]Write-in.
[]Punishment!
-[]Tickling.
-[]Poking.
-[]Verbal abuse.
-[]Punching bag.
-[]A taste of the lash.
-[]Harassment.
--[]The line that must not be crossed.
-[]Write-in.
[]Torture!
-[]Any combination of the above.
[]... No. You don't have time for this.
-[]Leave her tied up.
-[]Set her free, once you make sure she won't retaliate.


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

I don't even know what I am writing anymore. Must be my feverish mind. I have a feeling I will regret it later. Oh well.

>>177103
Yours is the fault this update has toned up the lewdness factor by tenfold. I hope you're happy.

>>177103
Call back write-ins? I like it! Too bad I couldn't find a way to integrate it into this update yet.

>>177106
dat Disgaea reference. I love it. Think we should call the MC Midboss from now on?

>>177107
Not too familiar with MQG's lore, sorry.
>> No. 177368
[X]Interrogation!
-[X] Name, rank, service number, and date of birth.
-[X] Her mission.
-[X] What she knows about this incident.
>> No. 177369
[X]Interrogation!
-[X] Name, rank, service number, and date of birth.
-[X] Her mission.
-[X] What she knows about this incident.
-[x] ...Does she have any clue what a 'Pyonta' is, by any chance?

At least Sanae has a sense of tradition.
>> No. 177370
[X]Interrogation!
-[X] Name, rank, service number, and date of birth.
-[X] Her mission.
-[X] What she knows about this incident.
-[x] ...Does she have any clue what a 'Pyonta' is, by any chance?

So, since we won, does that mean that Sanae is the Midboss?
>> No. 177371
[X]Interrogation!
-[X] Name, rank, service number, and date of birth.
-[X] Her mission.
-[X] What she knows about this incident.
-[x] ...Does she have any clue what a 'Pyonta' is, by any chance?

[x] Once you're done, leave, quickly. She'll probably attack you again if you free her.
>> No. 177373
[X]Interrogation!
-[X] Name, rank, service number, and date of birth.
-[X] Her mission.
-[X] What she knows about this incident.
-[X] ...Does she have any clue what a 'Pyonta' is, by any chance?
[X]Punishment!
-[X]Harassment.
>> No. 177374
[X]Interrogation!
-[X] Name, rank, service number, and date of birth.
-[X] Her mission.
-[X] What she knows about this incident.
-[x] ...Does she have any clue what a 'Pyonta' is, by any chance?
[X] Obligatory taunting!
-[X] "For a scripted encounter, you weren't much of a challenge, really."

It's tradition to taunt incapacitated heroes...I think.
>> No. 177386
[X] Obligatory taunting!
-[X] "For a scripted encounter, you weren't much of a challenge, really."
[X] Interrogation!
-[X] Name, rank, service number, and date of birth.
-[X] Her mission.
-[X] What she knows about this incident.
-[x] ...Does she have any clue what a 'Pyonta' is, by any chance?
[x] Punishment!
-[X] Harassment.
--[x] There is a line, and we're going to see how close to it we can get without actually crossing.
[x] Extortion! Demand future favors...
-[x] For giving her information about the incident: The raijuu
-[x] For giving her information about the incident: Mugetsu and the Dream World
-[x] For letting her go
-[x] And immediately cash one in to Analyze her gohei without her attacking while we do so; she's treating it like a weapon so it might give us something useful

>[x] Once you're done, leave, quickly. She'll probably attack you again if you free her.
I don't know that we want to leave; Rika is still in hiding over here. Better to convince Sanae that she's learned everything she can here and get her to do the leaving.
>> No. 177407
>>177363

-[x]Harassment.
--[x]The line that must not be crossed. Because Sanae is a slut.

Someone's gotta vote for it.

And I thought you WERE making the Disgaea reference when I said that...

But yes, our new name should be Mid Boss, even it's just satire.
>> No. 177420
[X] Obligatory taunting!
-[X] "For a scripted encounter, you weren't much of a challenge, really."
[X] Interrogation!
-[X] Name, rank, service number, and date of birth.
-[X] Her mission.
-[X] What she knows about this incident.
-[x] ...Does she have any clue what a 'Pyonta' is, by any chance?
[x] Punishment!
-[X] Harassment.
--[x] There is a line, and we're going to see how close to it we can get without actually crossing.
>> No. 177441
[X] Obligatory taunting!
-[X] "For a scripted encounter, you weren't much of a challenge, really."
[X] Interrogation!
-[X] Name, rank, service number, and date of birth.
-[X] Her mission.
-[X] What she knows about this incident.
-[x] ...Does she have any clue what a 'Pyonta' is, by any chance?
[x] Punishment!
-[X] Harassment.
--[x] There is a line, and we're going to see how close to it we can get without actually crossing.
>> No. 177455
[X]Interrogation!
-[X]Her name.
-[X]Her age.
-[X]Her mission.
-[X]What she knows about this incident.
-[X]Her measurements.
-[X]Her ten desires.
[X]Punishment!
[X]Torture!
-[X]Tickling.
-[X]Poking.
-[X]Harassment.
--[XXX]The line that must not be crossed.
-[X]Set her free,if you can make sure she won't retaliate.
-[X]Leave her tied up otherwise.
>> No. 177492
[X] Obligatory taunting!
-[X] "For a scripted encounter, you weren't much of a challenge, really."
[X] Interrogation!
-[X] Name, rank, service number, and date of birth.
-[X] Her mission.
-[X] What she knows about this incident.
-[x] ...Does she have any clue what a 'Pyonta' is, by any chance?
-[]After we are done the interrogation set her free, once you make sure she won't retaliate.
>> No. 177590
[X] Obligatory taunting!
-[X] "For a scripted encounter, you weren't much of a challenge, really."
[X] Interrogation!
-[X] Name, rank, service number, and date of birth.
-[X] Her mission.
-[X] What she knows about this incident.
-[x] ...Does she have any clue what a 'Pyonta' is, by any chance?
[x] Punishment!
-[X] Harassment.
--[x] There is a line, and we're going to see how close to it we can get without actually crossing.


To the victor goes the spoils, the saying goes. If you remember the Spell Card rules correctly, the winner of a danmaku battle has the right to do anything to the loser except taking her life. But what to do with those spoils? That is the question. Well, not really. There are many more things you want to learn about this whole incident, and while this miko doesn't seem to know much, she might give you more clues to piece the whole puzzle together.

Yes, that seems like the best course of action. As much as you'd like to have your way with her, getting answers comes first.

"So now that I beated you, I suppose you must give me some clues, am I right?" You ask aloud. "You said that yourself, if I recall correctly."

"Mmmmmmph! Mm mmmph mmm!" The miko seems offended. "Mmmmmm mmmmph Phhhmmmmm mmmph mmmmmmm mmmph."

"I don't know what you mean by 'scripted event', but you weren't that tough, really."

And now you've really pissed her off, seeing as how you've struck a nerve there. Maybe taunting the loser is a bit unsportsmanlike, but hell, after all the crap you've been through, you feel you deserve it.

"Mmmmmmph! Mmmmmmph mmmmph mmmmmmmph! Mmmmph mmmmph!"

"'Easy modo'? Seriously, stop with the jargon. I'm having troubles to follow you here."

"Mmmmmph, mmmmpg mmmmmphhh mmm."

"... You have another point there."

You crouch down and untie the vine rope from her mouth, and she lets out a big breath of relief. This way, she'll have it much easier to answer your questions. After all, how could you understand her if she was gagged? That would make no sense!

"Pwah! That was awful, you know?!" The girl exclaims. "It's okay to poke fun at your opponents, but you took it too far!"

"That's not what it says in the reference material..." You say meekly.

"What kind of weird books have you been reading?"

"Uh..." That's probably something you should not tell a girl, if you still want to retain a semblance of respect. "Wait a second, I am the one doing the questions here!"

"Well, go on, ask away..." the girl sighs.

Right. Yeah. Hum. When you finally manage to build back your composure, you run through the typical questions asked in interrogatories. Or at least, what you believe it should be asked beforehand.

"Okay, first and foremost. Tell me your name, rank, service number, and date of birth," you count.

"Rank? Service number? Do you take me for some kind of soldier or mercenary?" The miko says. "And did you know it's rude to ask a lady about her age?"

"Just answer me and be done with all this, do me the favor..."

The girl glares at you, not willing to disclose anything. And it's grating you to no end. How can she be this thickheaded? Doesn't she realize the sooner she spills the beans, the sooner you will free her? Although with such a rebellious attitude, the thought of punishing her is becoming more tempting by the second...

"Oh, fiiiiiiine, I'll tell you," she finally gives up. "But forget about my age. You ain't getting it until you ask me nicely."

Well, it's not like you really needed to know that, anyway. It was just to know how should you address her. Though that point is practically moot seeing as how denigrating this situation is for her in the first place. You motion her to talk with your hand.

"I thought you knew already about me, though," she comments. "After all, I'm kind of a big fish around these parts-"

"Out. With. It."

Before she continues her rant, you return her glare with all the intensity and annoyance you can paint in your eyes. It seems to work, because the girl slumps down under your gaze and responds meekly:

"... Sanae Kochiya, head priestess of the Moriya Shrine."

You feel the blood draining from your cheeks, making you pale in an instant. You turn around not to let Sanae see you metaphorically crap your pants in the spot - after all, you're the one supposed to be doing the interrogation. If she discovered you are getting scared, she might use that to turn the tables on you.

But seriously, the Moriya!? You just had to go and mess with the shrine maiden of the mountain you are trying to climb up from the very beginning? Well, curse your damn luck. Making an enemy out of the second most powerful faction of this area will surely make your life more difficult than it already is. Especially considering how wary of humans is the other group...

Ah, cripes. You'll just have to roll with it after going so far, and pray it won't come to bite you in the arse later.

"Okay, Sanae..." You say, mostly to buy you some seconds to compose yourself... again. "What where you doing out here, beating up sleep-walking fairies?"

"I think I told you before, that's the usual incident solving protocol in Gensokyo," the miko responds.

"And what incident would it be in this particular case?"

"Uh, helloooooo? Have you not noticed the freakin' red sky over your head?"

"Of course I have, you dork," you perform a light chop in her head, which provokes a cute whimper from the miko. "I mean, surely you know the cause of this, right?"

"Well, I don't!" Sanae exclaims. "That's precisely what I was investigating before you showed up!"

Welp, that was a disappointment. Turns out you know much more than her about this topic. That, or she's deliberately hiding something from you. But before you press on that matter, you have more things to check with her.

"And you think there's a relation between this and the chain of mishaps that have occurred at the Youkai Mountain?"

Sanae reacts surprised to that; if she wasn't tied down, she would have bopped in the place.

"What... what mishaps are you talking about? There was... there was nothing wrong before this happened," she is quick to reply, but fails to convey any sense of security.

"There's no use on lying to me. I have veritable sources on that," you simply say. "What I want to know is if there's a connection, if there is something or someone orchestrating this whole thing."

You don't mention exactly what you know - the raijuu, the taint, the corn thief, the red water, Mugetsu, and the circle behind the Waterfall. You probably have most of the details of this incident, but you hope Sanae has those other pieces of the puzzle you lack, and that she will mention them.

"Hum, well, there's... quite a lot of things that happened this last month," Sanae admits.

"Start from the beginning, if you please," you sit on the ground in front of her and listen to what she has to say.

"Okay, so one day, the tengu lose all their electricity and the city goes dark. Some guys went to check it out and found out the cable supply was broken, so they went and fixed it up..."

"I already know that part," you cut her off. "That's when the thunderbeast appeared."

The miko jolts in surprise yet again. She was clearly not expecting you to be aware of that.

"Yeah, the raijuu," she nods. "He went and cut the wires again. Probably to feed on some easy electricity. We hadn't had a thunderstorm for very long, thanks to Lady Kanako's blessing. That must have messed the beast's organism, or something."

So Sanae is implying the raijuu went for the cables because it was 'hungry' for electricity? That would make sense, except that Nitori told you it was cutting the same spot over and over again. A rather strange behavior for an animal - they often learn to give up when they can't get food easily, and try another place.

"It went on for a few days: the kappa repaired the wires, the beast cut them off and fed on the electricity. And then, the Underground got hit by a storm."

"Whoa whoa whoa whoa, hold it up there!" You stop her. "The Underground? As in...?"

"Yes," Sanae's expression turns sour. "The raijuu must have overloaded after absorbing more volts than it should, so he had to let go, you know what I mean? And it used that excess of electricity to create a storm."

"But why the Underground? It's a closed space, it wouldn't be possible to make a storm inside there."

"Actually, after the whole Underground Geyser incident, they have an opening to the sky," corrects Sanae. "But now that you say it... it is strange that the raijuu chose the Underground to throw the storm. Maybe..."

Sanae goes deep in thought, trying to come up with an explanation to that seemingly random occurrence. Normally, the easiest way to get rid of an excess of electricity would be to touch the ground, but maybe that doesn't work for a divine beast of thunder. If it really needs to let it out by air, then why choose a cramped place with only a relatively small crater connected to the outside? Wouldn't it be much easier to go outside in the first place for that? Unless...

"Maybe it was its territory!" Sanae reaches a conclusion at the same time you do, but her answer was completely different than yours. "What if it was one of Lady Komeji's pets?"

"Lady Komeji?"

"The ruler of the Underground. Her hobby is to collect and raise rare animals in her mansion," the miko explains. "Her pets love her because she can read their minds and understand them, but despite that, she has way too many, so she probably can't spend enough time with each one of them, and that's why the raijuu felt excluded and..."

"Wait a second," you interrupt her again. "You said this Lady Komeji can read minds?"

"Why, yes, she's a satori! Didn't I tell you that?"

"Uh, no?"

"Well, now you know. And knowing is half the battle!" Sanae chimes.

So a mind reader collector of pets neglected the raijuu, and the beast had to go sap some zaps by itself on the Outside. You don't know what to make out of that, but you guess it makes some amount of sense. Probably. Still, you feel like you're missing something in that line of reasoning...

"And you didn't ask her?" You say.

"Well, I didn't realize this until just now, so no, I hadn't thought of that. And even if I did, it would have been impossible..."

"Impossible?"

"Yeah. That thunderstorm brought the raijuu's taint with it, and everybody fell asleep, unable to wake up."

"Everybody?"

"Everybody," the miko states somberly.

"Damn..."

You rub your temples, soaking in this new worrisome piece of info. This is getting worse the more you learn about it. Whoever staged this whole incident, he or she knew exactly what to do to target the most people possible, while being completely inconspicuous. But the million yen question is why?

"After that, the tengu began to sent soldiers to escort the mechanics, in hopes to catch the thunderbeast when it appeared again," continues Sanae. "But... well... they..."

"They failed," you complete her sentence, seeing as she is unable to finish on her own. "The raijuu not only managed to sneak past them, but it also tainted them with the curse."

"So you were aware of that too, huh," the miko mutters. "With the tengu soldiers falling ill, it was only a matter of time before the raijuu absorbed too much energy and created another storm again."

"And that's when the Tengu Village was hit."

"Exactly," Sanae nods. "But that time, we were prepared. We knew that the cure for the raijuu's curse is corn, so we made powdered rations to distribute among the population once the storm passed..."

The miko goes silent and stares at you, probably expecting you to ask her something along the lines of 'Corn? What?'. Of course, since you already knew that from Reimu, you didn't find it strange to hear that. Now that you think about that, didn't Meira have one of those? But she is not one of the residents of Youkai Mountain, how could she get her hands on one of those rations?

"... but they got stolen," Sanae goes on. "All of a sudden, the whole mountain of boxes full of corn powder, they were gone! Poof! Like they never existed! And at such an inconvenient time! Must've been quite an uncontrollable craving for popcorn if they couldn't wait at least a few days."

"Or, you know, someone wanted the cursed to stay that way," you say.

The green-haired girl opens her eyes in surprise, not having considered that possibility, and you can almost see her cogs beginning to grind inside her mind. Nitori had a very similar reaction too. Seriously, is everybody here too innocent to come up with the most obvious yet maleficent answer, or are you just too much of a cynic?

"That... that makes sense. That makes too much sense," Sanae mutters. "So the raijuu tamer, the corn stealer, and the one who made this... thing, it was the same person all along?"

"Maybe not by just one person, but it's clear all this wasn't just a chain of coincidences," you ponder aloud. "I believe everything was staged from the very beginning."

"So the culprit behind this incident used the raijuu to make everybody fall asleep, stole the cure to make sure nobody woke up, and then made this magic dome to turn them all into walking zombies," she summarizes. "Holy smokes, this is far more serious than I thought!"

"Eeyup."

Though it's nice that this miko finally caught up with the whole situation, you can't say you're satisfied with how this interrogation turned out. After all, she really didn't know much more than you did, just a few more details that don't make the whole picture much clearer. In fact, you could even say you helped her more than the other way around. It's a shame, really.

However, while she couldn't give you much information about the incident, maybe she knows about that other thing that has been bugging you...

"Say, Sanae, do you...?"

"Hm? What is it?" She gives you a curious glance.

Actually, it turns out to be much harder than you thought. The mere motion of asking this air-headed miko about a talking hat is just ridiculous. But if you want to get somewhere in this mess, you'll have to swallow your embarrassment and fire away.

"It's... uh... is there a goddess around here called 'Pyonta'?"

"Pyonta?" Sanae furrows her brows. "... No, there is no such deity with that name. Where did you hear that?"

"Oh, well, you know. I, ah, stumbled upon a little girl with a very silly hat-"

"Everyone in Gensokyo wears a silly hat," the miko deadpans.

"No, but I mean, a really silly hat," you stress. "Like, it had two big wobbly eyes that gave me the creeps! And this girl used it to talk with like, kinda like a puppet. Very weird, I tell you what. You know what I'm saying?"

No, of course she doesn't know what are you saying. Even you have troubles to make sense of that brief conversation you had with her, so obviously Sanae...

"As a matter of fact, I do," she responds, all serious.

"Huh? Really?"

"She's my great great great great great great great yadda yadda yadda grandma."

You blink once, twice, thrice in utter disbelief.

"The girl, of course," the miko clarifies. "What, you thought I was the descendant of a hat?"

"Uhhhh..."

"You silly person!" She laughs while she flicks you in the nose, which makes you rub it against your arm in annoyance. "

Wait, she flicked you? But wasn't she supposed to be hogtied!? No, scratch that, she's standing up and dusting her garments off as if nothing had happened!

"How the hell did you manage to free yourself!?" You shout at her, readying your book in case she decides to retaliate.

"Oh, it was quite easy, actually. I already freed myself a few minutes ago," Sanae explains, rubbing her wrists. "You need to practice your knots if you plan on doing this kind of stuff again."

"Shuddup! I was in a hurry," you grumble, more embarrassed than annoyed.

"Whatever you say," she chuckles. "Now, I need you to go with me. The Moriya Shrine is in need of your assistance!"

"... Eh?"

You shake your head in surprise when the green-blue-'n'-white miko grabs your by your arm and begins dragging you to somewhere in the middle of the forest.

"W-wait, what!? Where are you taking me!? What do you mean, 'my assistance'? Why should I-?" You are having a difficult time trying to keep up with this sudden development.

"We're going to the Lotus Shrine to meet with Lady Suwako," Sanae tells you, not stopping her quick pace. "She probably knows what to do better than we do, and I think she wanted to have a word with you too."

"A-ah, that..."

Yes, you recall that Pyonta, Suwako or whatever her name was, wanted you to go to that pond for some reason. And you've been delaying that appointment for very long, truth be told. Not that you actually wanted to avoid it - you just hadn't the time to go, what with all this weird stuff happening all at once. But...

[]Let Sanae take you to the Lotus Pond. You were planning to go there anyway.
[]No, you aren't going to let this miko drag you off to anywhere! Break free!
[]Actually, there's somewhere else you need to go first:
-[]The Kappa Village
-[]The Waterfall of Nine Heavens
-[]Write-in
[]Wait, aren't you forgetting something here? (Write-in)


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

Sorry there wasn't actually any harassment, but this update was dragging for too long and it's already quite heavy with info, so I didn't want to overload it too much. I promise I'll make it up for it later.

>>177370
Maaaaaaaaaaybe? She is the EX-midboss of SA, anyway.

>>177407
I usually like to throw references here and there, but this one completely went over my head. And I do like Disgaea a lot... Seriously, how could I forget that?
>> No. 177596
[X]Let Sanae take you to the Lotus Pond. You were planning to go there anyway.
-[X] "My rope-work might have been less than perfect, but you sure made a quick work of it for a miko..."
-[X] "Have you perhaps...been all tied up before?"

Teaming up doesn't sound all that bad...and since we didn't get to see the harassment option, let's poke some more fun at Sanae instead!
>> No. 177599
[x]Let Sanae take you to the Lotus Pond. You were planning to go there anyway.

Righto, been waiting for this.
>> No. 177601
[X]Let Sanae take you to the Lotus Pond. You were planning to go there anyway.

Logic!
>> No. 177603
[X]Let Sanae take you to the Lotus Pond. You were planning to go there anyway.
-[X] "My rope-work might have been less than perfect, but you sure made a quick work of it for a miko..."
-[X] "Have you perhaps...been all tied up before?"
>> No. 177608
[X]Let Sanae take you to the Lotus Pond. You were planning to go there anyway.
-[X] "My rope-work might have been less than perfect, but you sure made a quick work of it for a miko..."
-[X] "Have you perhaps...been all tied up before?"

Do ho ho ho
>> No. 177610
[X]Let Sanae take you to the Lotus Pond. You were planning to go there anyway.
-[X] "My rope-work might have been less than perfect, but you sure made a quick work of it for a miko..."
-[X] "Have you perhaps...been all tied up before?"

Finally, the truth of the secret bondage lair within the Moriya shrine will be revealed.
>> No. 177616
[X]Let Sanae take you to the Lotus Pond. You were planning to go there anyway.
-[X] "My rope-work might have been less than perfect, but you sure made a quick work of it for a miko..."
-[X] "Have you perhaps...been all tied up before?"
>> No. 177635
[X]Let Sanae take you to the Lotus Pond. You were planning to go there anyway.
-[X] "My rope-work might have been less than perfect, but you sure made a quick work of it for a miko..."
-[X] "Have you perhaps...been all tied up before?"
-[X] Ask Rika if she would like to come with you to the Lotus Shrine.

Although I think that this write in is brilliant, I would like to point out that Rika is still hiding in the bushes. I don't really know what she can do if we leave her in the middle of the forest, so shouldn't we, you know, invite her along?
>> No. 177636
[x]Let Sanae take you to the Lotus Pond. You were planning to go there anyway.
[x] Wait, where the hell is Rika?

It's kinda been bothering me.
>> No. 177637
>>177590
[x]Let Sanae take you to the Lotus Pond. You were planning to go there anyway.
- [x] But demand that she acknowledge you as party leader. After all, we have Rika with us already. That means either us or Rika is the hero, and she's half asleep.
-[X] Ask Rika if she would like to come with you to the Lotus Shrine.
-[X] "My rope-work might have been less than perfect, but you sure made a quick work of it for a miko..."
-[X] "Have you perhaps...been all tied up before?"
>> No. 177657
[X]Let Sanae take you to the Lotus Pond. You were planning to go there anyway.
-[X] "My rope-work might have been less than perfect, but you sure made a quick work of it for a miko..."
-[X] "Have you perhaps...been all tied up before?"
-[X] Ask Rika if she would like to come with you to the Lotus Shrine.
>> No. 177660
[X]Let Sanae take you to the Lotus Pond. You were planning to go there anyway.
-[X] "My rope-work might have been less than perfect, but you sure made a quick work of it for a miko..."
-[X] "Have you perhaps...been all tied up before?"
-[X] Ask Rika if she would like to come with you to the Lotus Shrine.

This.
>> No. 177814
To all of you who still follow this story:

You probably noticed a lack of updates for the past month. I know making excuses does not exempt me for neglecting my stories, but the truth is that I've been having a very rough time writing the next part of this story. Reasons for this writer block include exam stress, a particularly nasty flu bout, a pressing need to focus on college more, and resulting loss of writing practice after being away from the word processor for too long.

Now this doesn't mean I am going to abandon this story. I made a promise not to let this die, and I will definitely stick to it even if it kills me. In fact, I have a lot of plans in the afterburner for the future. I just need some time to put some order in the clusterfuck of my life and work on getting my inspiration back. Until then, I will put Gensokyo's Public Enemy on a (hopefully short) hiatus. I know those words are dreadful for anyone who has been in this imageboard for a time, but trust me on this, GPE won't disappear, for better and worse.

Have a Satsuki as an apology. She will be coming back soon, I promise.
>> No. 178530
Proof that "indefinite hiatus" doesn't necessarily mean "dropped story".

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



[x]Let Sanae take you to the Lotus Pond. You were planning to go there anyway.
-[X]"My rope-work might have been less than perfect, but you sure made a quick work of it for a miko..."
-[X]"Have you perhaps...been all tied up before?"


You do have some complaints about how forcibly Sanae's dragging you to meet her ancestor-who-also-happens-to-be-a-deity. More so considering you were shooting at each other not a few moments ago, and that you tied her up and taunted her. After that, such cheerfulness and friendliness only puts you on edge - who knows if she's only acting all gung-ho because she's actually bringing you to some sort of sacrifice ritual? That might be your paranoia blowing things out of proportion, though. On the other hand, because you're a felon, you really shouldn't be quick to trust people, especially mikos who are supposed to impose order in these lands.

Oh well, it should be fine, you tell yourself. The Lotus Shrine was your destination all along, so you might as well let yourself be taken there. Traveling with company is safer than going alone in this nightmarish enchanted forest. And since you're stuck with Sanae's company, you could start a conversation with her, if only to break the silence.

"So..." You'll begin by asking the first thing that comes to mind. "How did you manage to escape my vines so easily?"

"I told you already, didn't I?" Sanae says, shrugging her shoulders. "Your knots were too weak, and I managed to squirm my way out. Simple as that."

"Okay, I concede my binding skills leave much to be desired," you sigh, "but still, you did break free very quickly. Do you have practice in this sort of things?"

"Actually, yes," the girl answers. "It's part of our training in youkai extermination. We miko need to be prepared for anything."

"What does youkai extermination have to do with rope binding?" You ask, out of honest curiosity.

"Oh, it doesn't have to be ropes alone. You would not believe how nasty and naughty are the things some youkai do to pure maidens like me!" Sanae brings her hand to her forehead, feigning exasperation. "Before I came here, I thought that stuff only happened in dirty books, but boy was I wrong! Or maybe..." The miko hums in deep thought. "Maybe because it is unthinkable in the Outside, it becomes reality in Gensokyo?"

"Huh?"

"Ah, nothing, just musing aloud, don't mind me!" She waves her arms in embarrassment, dismissing what she just said - although you didn't quite catch it in the first place.

"Does that mean you... uh... you've been in that sort of... sticky situations before?"

Sanae arches her brows in surprise. She really wasn't expecting you to be this straight-forwards about this topic. After she collects her thoughts for a second, she turns a mischievous smirk on you.

"Why, do you want to know?" The miko asks, with a hint of haughtiness.

"Uh, yeah. That's why I'm asking."

But you're not going to fall for that bait. You do really wish to know more about Sanae's line of work, and not for immoral reasons. Sanae looks chafed in the face of your deadpan, probably because she has realized she won't be having fun at your expense.

"Well, I haven't found myself in need to put my skills to use, until today," Sanae says. "So far I only practiced with Lady Kanako's shimenawa and the Mishaguji. But I'm confident in my abilities!" She puffs her chest again with pride, highlighting her bountiful breasts for the forest to see. "There's is virtually no rope or tentacle that resists my escapist skills!"

"I see..." You nod. "Well, good for you, I guess. I'll bear it in mind next time I have to bondage you."

"Oh hoooooo? So you were enjoying it?" Oh dear, there it is that smile again. You really fell for that this time. "Are you really that anxious to try it again?"

"N-no, I didn't mean it like that!" And this time, you really felt embarrassed, something Sanae takes notice of. "Ugh, nevermind..."

The miko laughs heartily, content with her small victory over you. She can do whatever she wants, but that doesn't change the fact that you did manage to tie her up in the middle of battle, and you'll be sure to rub it in her face when the chance arises. No, not that. Geez.

On another, completely unrelated topic, why do you feel like you're forgetting something...?

[X]Wait, where the hell is Rika?

"Oh, shoot!"

You screech to a halt, leaving two deep furrows in the ground with your feet. And if you didn't whip your arm out of Sanae's grip, you're sure she would have teared it off your shoulder from how strongly you pulled the brakes. The green-haired girl turns around, surprised, but she doesn't get an answer from you, because you are already running back to the clearing.

"Hey, wait! Where are you going!?" You hear Sanae yelling at you, while she follows behind.

You were so swept up in the fight, you totally forgot about the girl you were supposed to rescue! You recall she went into hiding when you managed to free her, and when you were trying to get back to her, you fell down, got surrounded by sleepwalking (or sleepflying?) fairies. Then Sanae appeared, and the rest is history. That means you completely neglected Rika for a good ten minutes at least. Enough time for something bad to happen to a defenseless sick girl left alone in a haunted forest.

"Gods dammit! How could I be so stupid!?" You spout in disgust towards yourself.

"Hey, watch your mouth!" The miko screams behind you. "Lady Suwako doesn't appreciate the cursing of deities' names in vain!"

Like you care about that! Your carelessness could have cost Rika her life. You don't have neither the time nor the want to mind your tongue. What matters right now is to find her and make sure she's alright. You eventually arrive at the place where you found Rika and fought Sanae, but you don't see any sign of the brown-haired engineer.

"Rika! Riiiiika!" You call out to her. "Can you hear me? Where are you!? Rika!"

"What is it? Did your pet get lost or something?" Sanae asks, after catching up with you.

You ignore the miko's oblivious jest, and instead focus on remembering step by step everything that happened. After cutting the rope where Rika was hanging from, you carefully put her down on the ground, and... What did she do exactly then? If you were her, what would you have done? Hide, most probably. And supposing you were tainted and practically unable to move...

"Sanae, if you were attacked by a predator here, where would you hide in a pinch?" You decide to ask the miko.

"A predator?" She tilts her head, caught offguard. "That's a difficult question, because they have infrared vision and advanced weaponry, and they are about three times stronger than a normal human, and also-"

"I don't know what kind of monstrosity you're referring to, but I'm pretty sure it's not what I was thinking," you cut her off. "I'm talking about an hypothetical feral beast, like the ones you could find in this very forest."

"Ah, that? You should've started from there!" Exclaims Sanae. "Well, I for one would take the offensive and shoot them in the face! Pichuun!" She mimics a pretend gun with her gohei and imitates the recoil. "Ain't noone messing with this miko!"

"Yeah, uh... Suppose you don't have the means to defend yourself."

"Making up special rules on the go is unfair!" She complains. "But in that case, I... think I'd hide up a tree and hope it can't climb after me?"

"Suppose you can't climb trees."

"Okay, that's just plain dumb. Why?"

"Because... hum... because there are no trees nearby?"

"What kind of forest doesn't have trees nearby?"

"Bah, forget it," you finally give up on getting any good idea from her. "I don't even know why I asked you."

"What did you just say?"

"Nothing, nothing."

You're pretty sure the miko heard you perfectly. In fact, you can sense her glare drilling a hole in your back, metaphorically. And she might as well drill it for real if you push it too far. So instead of keeping up with that rather dumb conversation, you get back to searching for Rika. She couldn't have gotten too far in her condition, and if she can't climb trees, then the next option would be... the bushes? Too bad there are shrubs everywhere you look. You should start by the closest ones, and hope you will stumble upon-

"Gah!"

You freeze when you feel something under your feet significantly softer and squishier than the ground. Coupled with that quiet grunt coming from aproximately that same place, you conclude that, by sheer luck, you did stumble upon the person you were looking for.

"Oh, hi, Rika," You greet her, lifting the foot that was stomping on her stomach. "Didn't, uhhhhhh, didn't see you there."

"Mmmmf... Hursh..." The engineer lets out a pained whimper, but she doesn't move a muscle, not even to clutch her belly.

"Very sorry about that. I didn't mean to get on the wrong foot, heheheh."

Rika groans in pain again, and you're not sure if that little joke you cracked up on the spot hurt her more than the stomp itself. It is at this moment when Sanae decides to join the conversation:

"That was awful. Cracking up lame puns at a time like this..."

"Hey, I'm just trying to liven up the mood," you retort. "I might not be the greatest comedian of Gensokyo, but I try my best."

"There's a time and a place for that! When we have a situation like this in our hands, we must act professional and serious to tackle any-"

"Professional? Serious? Pfft! You're the last person I expected to hear that from."

"Oh ho!" Sanae laughs haughtily. "Sounds like you're trying to pick up a fight with me again!"

"Need I remind you that it was you the one who started it? And regardless, I can easily beat you as many times at it takes."

"You only won thanks to a dirty trick! Let's have a fair rematch; I'll show you what the Shrine Maiden of the Mountain can really do!"

"Works for me. Bring it on, bi-!"

"For the love of- SHUT THE HELL UP!"

Before you and Sanae come to the fists, the most annoyed, furious, and above all else, loudest scream you've ever heard stops you both on your places, and you swear your ears rung for a second after what can only be classified as a sound attack. That fact that it came from the sickly Rika adds even more to the shock factor.

"... Thank you," the engineer groans, clutching her head in pain. "Owwww, my brain hurts..."

"Rika!" Forgetting about your animosity against the miko, you crouch down to Rika's side. "Hey, don't go faint on us yet! You okay?"

Upon a closer look, you can tell she's anything but. After the adrenaline rush from before, and the overexertion she had gone through in her state, her strength has practically abandoned her. The girl barely has energy left to speak properly - even keeping her eyes open is a titanic task for her. At this point, you're starting to worry if she will stop breathing if kept unattended.

"It's a miracle you're still awake, and I know a lot about miracles," Sanae steals the words from your head. "Now, I'm no medic, but even I can tell you need immediate attention."

"And where can she receive that attention?" You ask her, somewhat agitated.

"We could bring her to the Lotus Pond Shrine with us. After all, dealing with curses is one of the jobs of a miko," she puffs her noticeable chest proudly. "And Lady Suwako is literally a curse goddess, so even if we don't have the cure, I'm sure we can come up with something to ease her pain."

Well, isn't that convenient? There must be some kind of higher being that wants you to get there at all costs, and it's taking lots of measures to give you reasons to do so. Your paranoia tells you that following all those pointers are only a means to control you, but really, what other option do you have at the moment? Rika is about to fall to the taint while you're still standing there, thinking about conspiracies.

[X]Ask Rika if she would like to come with you to the Lotus Shrine.

"Well, you heard the lady," you tell the engineer. "We're going to that shrine. Do you want to come with us?"

"Hng..." The only thing she can do now is groan. You should've expected it.

"I'll take that as a 'yes'. Here, I'll pick you up," You reach out for Rika's arms, but she sluggishly moves it away from you. "Ah, of course, silly me! How do you want it: piggyback, princess carry, potato sack, wounded soldier? I'm open to suggestions."

The girl opens her mouth to speak, but apparently she thinks it over - or maybe she just doesn't have more energy to talk left - and in the end decides to close it, instead bellowing air out of her nose in weary acknowledgement; the kind of resignation of someone who knows she can't win the argument. You take that as permission to use your best judgement, and so opt for the princess carry. The most comfortable way to lift what amounts to a dead weight, and the less awkward for both of you - although Rika might be thinking this is mortifying.

"All set?" Sanae asks. "Time's of the essence here."

"Yeah, give me a sec..." You shift Rika around to better accommodate her weight into your arms. Not because she's heavy - in fact, she's a bit lighter than you expected -, but because you don't want her to slip from your grasp. Meanwhile, Rika just eyes you with a cold stare, telling you not to touch her somewhere inappropiate. Or so you think. "Okay, ready. Let's get moving."

"We gotta move fast. You sure you can keep up with me?"

"Sure, sure, no problem. I won't even break a sweat!"

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

"W... Wait... Time out, time... out!" You wheeze.

After a few minutes of full-throttle sprint, your lungs and muscles give up, and you end up needing to catch a much needed breath. Your legs have become weak and wobbly from the overexertion, so you lean your back on a tree and let your weight drop you on the ground - always minding not to hurt the still unresponsive Rika. You had clearly overestimated your own stamina, and Sanae is now chastising you with her green eyes, mocking you for not being able to hold your word.

Then again, the miko was running really fast, almost as if she was floating all the time, and she didn't have to carry anyone. That's a bit unfair, you think, but your labored breaths don't let you voice your rebuttal.

"I'm starting to get why people hate playing escort," sighs Sanae.

"Oh, I'm sorry we're such a burden!" You exclaim, sarcasm dripping from your words like the sweat from your brows. "Maybe we should switch roles, see if being the pack mule is more of your liking."

Rika lets out an offended 'hmm' at that, maybe because you impliedly called her "load". But whatever retort she wanted to say, it was ignored by both the miko and you, engrossed in yet another stupid argument. You realize you really shouldn't pick a fight at this moment, but you just can't help it! Sanae just keeps rubbing you the wrong way.

"And who, pray tell, would do the protecting then?" The green-haired girl says.

"Me, obviously! If I bested you, I can handle a bunch of sleeping fairies easily."

Though your antagonizing attitude isn't helping either. You wish you could blame it on your stress and your paranoia, but the truth is that the miko would still get on your nerves even if you were calm. Something about her just... doesn't click right with you.

"Ha, don't make me laugh! You were frozen in fear when those three fairies got close to you, back at the clearing. Yeah, I saw," She adds when she sees your face of disbelief. "You were on the ground all pale, going 'oh noooooo, I'm so gonna get killed!', and you could've been killed for real if I didn't appear."

"O-of course not!" You immediately reply, offended. "I knew they wouldn't attack me if I didn't move, so I didn't move, that's all!"

Okay, maybe you were a bit scared, but that's still normal for an inexperienced person like you, right? Foolish are those who fear nothing and all that. You get ready to respond Sanae's next jab at you, but to your surprise, she just shakes her head, somewhat disappointed.

"Pal, if you believe you'll get anything done by avoiding fights, then you are sorely mistaken."

"What?"

Instead of responding, the miko turns her back on you and begins to walk away. She doesn't wait for you to pick Rika up again - who is still practically asleep - and follow her.

"Hey, wait!" You shout, trotting to catch up with her. "What's your deal, leaving like that!?"

"I don't know what Lady Suwako saw in you," Sanae doesn't even look at you as she speaks, "because I don't think you're gonna last long in the Youkai Mountain with that philosophy."

"My philosophy? What's wrong with my philosophy?"

Sanae stops and turns at you, pointing her gohei just at mere centimeters away from your nose. You lean away on reflex, and lock eyes with the miko. To your surprise, you clearly distinguish a spark of seriousness and determination in her green irises, way different from her previous aloof behavior.

"Do you really believe those fairies would've ignored you if you didn't shoot at them? You clearly don't know how things work in Gensokyo," she says. "You're only a young human, natural prey for the many creatures that live in this forest."

"Yeah, I knew that already, you don't need to remind me," you try to push the stick away from your face, but Sanae smacks your hand away before you can grab it. "Ouch! What was that f-!?"

"Listen to me!" The miko's voice was full of authority, the kind of tone you cannot talk back to, like that of a parent, a teacher... or an angry deity. "Youkai and fairies love fighting. It's in their blood to attack humans, they just can't help it. Most of the time they don't cause much trouble, but if some smartass intruder appears in their territory, or something big disrupts the order..."

You look around the trees surrounding you, and then at the crimson sky. As if your mere presence in tengu territory wasn't enough, now all this stuff with the sleep spell and the red sky has made the Youkai Forest an even deadlier place than before. You already had a taste of their hospitality when that raijuu attacked you out of the blue, and that was before the incident. What horrors could be waiting ahead now? Having that in consideration, Sanae does speak sense. Rin, too, always said that you can never be cautious enough in your current situation.

"So it's only natural that you have to respond in kind!" The miko shakes her gohei as if to reinforce her point. "Thanks to the Spell Card Rules, even a weakling human like yourself can beat a youkai in a duel if you're skilled enough."

"Weakling?"

"But on the flip side," Sanae totally ignores you, "that means youkai also are more liable to start fights, because the Spell Cards prevent them from accidentally killing their opponents. They take danmaku as some kind of sport, and it's a pretty serious business for some. Therefore!" She smacks her gohei on the palm of her hand, making a loud snap' that echoes in the forest. "If you truly intend to tread on the Youkai Mountain, you must play by their rules and defend yourself when they attack you, for danmaku is the law on this land!"

You can't think of a proper counter-argument to respond to that. After all, despite all your boasting, you're just a newcomer. Sanae is definitely more acquaintance with the creatures of the Youkai Mountain, and on top of that, she's a miko too - whose duties include dealing with troublesome youkai. Really, there's no reason for you to dismiss everything she's telling you. She might be a bit of an airhead, and she does get on your nerves, but she's only giving you a fair warning now.

Still, some idealistic part of you still finds it hard to accept the truth of the youkai society so easily...

"Do you get it now?" Sanae takes your silence as your agreement. "Generally speaking, youkai use danmaku to do mischief, and we humans have to use danmaku to repel them. That's how it's always been, long before you and I were even born. So don't hesitate to fire away if you think the situation calls for it, got it? It's the normal thing around here, friend."

[]"..."
[]"I'm not your 'friend', buddy."
[]"There's always a way to solve quarrels peacefully! Have you ever tried to talk to people before shooting them?"
[]"Look, I just want to avoid unnecessary trouble, okay? The less enemies I make, the better."
[]"You may have a point there, but still, violence should only be used as a last resort."
[]"No, you're just a violent miko who is too fixated with fighting to see other alternatives."
[]"Well, if that's how things are, then it's up to me to change that, huh? Lead by example, so to speak."
[]"Okay, you're right, I don't know how Gensokyo works! I'll shoot first and ask later from now on."
[]"But this situation isn't normal, you said that yourself. And unorthodox problems call for unorthodox solutions."
[]"And what if I want to do a pacifist run?"
[]Write-in.


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

After a long hiatus of approximately two months, I guess the vast majority of you readers (if there is still someone reading this) don't remember the entirety of the details of this story. And it's completely understandable - I even had to go through my notes to remember what I was supposed to write now. But don't fret, because I plan to do a recap update soon on the next thread after the mandatory new guest character introduction to refresh your memories.
>> No. 178531
[X]"And what if I want to do a pacifist run?"
Great seeing you back, is that Palingenesia's author behind you ?
>> No. 178534
[x]"But this situation isn't normal, you said that yourself. And unorthodox problems call for unorthodox solutions."
>> No. 178537
[x] "You may be right. But that aside, this situation is far from normal. Those fairies weren't actually hostile, more like... in a trance."

Sanae's just telling it like it is, and we can't argue with those simple truths of Youkai society. Still, it may be good to point out that this situation is abnormal, and there's no point in wasting energy if a fight can be avoided. Like, say, with a comatose opponent.
>> No. 178538
[x] "Just like you challenged me when we could have worked together to begin with'
[x] "You may be right. But that aside, this situation is far from normal. Those fairies weren't actually hostile, more like... in a trance."

She might be right in a normal situation, I'm not going to argue there aren't times we'll have to fight, but her argument is rather simplistic, especially in light of what we've seen so far. Besides she talks about being clever, but often it's what you do before a fight that to give you the greatest advantage.
>> No. 178539
[x]"But this situation isn't normal, you said that yourself. And unorthodox problems call for unorthodox solutions."
This is bound to be interesting
>> No. 178541
[x] "You may be right. But that aside, this situation is far from normal. Those fairies weren't actually hostile, more like... in a trance."
>> No. 178545
[X] "You may be right. But that aside, this situation is far from normal. Those fairies weren't actually hostile, more like... in a trance."
[X]"And what if I want to do a pacifist run?"

Video game references continue.
>> No. 178548
[X] "You may be right. But that aside, this situation is far from normal. Those fairies weren't actually hostile, more like... in a trance."
-[X]"I was warned that "bad fortune befalls those who disturb the dreams of the sleepwalkers". Although I didn't know the youkai who told me that, something tells me that this phrase applies to those fairies."
-[X]State the following phrase if Sanae refuses to agree with your logic.
-[X]"I was also attacked by the raijuu a while ago, but it didn't use danmaku at all. I almost died when it tried to rip open my throat."
--[X]"This situation isn't normal, you said that yourself. And unorthodox problems call for unorthodox solutions."
---[X]If Sanae inquires about the Raijuu and how you survived, just explain that you managed to drive it away using the magic you used during the Spell Card duel, with a little help from a passing by swords woman. Avoid mentioning Reimu.

When arguing against somebody who has a strong belief in the status quo, one needs to point out evidence which will make them start to question their conviction. Of course, the fairies serve as a minor example, but Sanae may simply point out that they would have reacted the same once they detected us, which we know not to be true.

Mugetsu's warning will service as a plausible counterargument to the fairy question, since it directly implies that the fairies are not acting as they should. In case Sanae asks about our source, we'll just tell her the partial truth: She suddenly appeared in front of us, and gave us that warning after we tried to disturb a trio of kappa sleepwalkers.

The Raijuu example is a sensitive move, but in case I believe it provides us with ample ammunition, and reveals to Sanae that we actually know what we're talking about. She may believe that this is just another incident based on the normal youkai she beat up, but if we reveal that we were attacked with lethal intent by the raijuu, she will be hard pressed to argue otherwise. The problem remains that she may inquire more deeply into how we were able to get away from it, but I'm fairly sure that we can evade any inquiries into the subject.

Even though these choices would indicate to Sanae that we know more than we're letting on, I'm sure that we can hide it from her, assuming that she isn't used to trying to weasel answers out of people.

I'm not suggesting that this is an infallible addition to what everybody's saying, but at the very least, we can disprove Sanae's clearly incorrect beliefs about the incident. It may paint us as somebody who knows more than we really do, but I think that trying to act as if we have even more cards to play in the intelligence game might pay off in some way.

Welcome back Ikaros. You certainly haven't lost your touch after all this time.
>> No. 178549
[X] "You may be right. But that aside, this situation is far from normal. Those fairies weren't actually hostile, more like... in a trance."
-[X]"I was warned that "bad fortune befalls those who disturb the dreams of the sleepwalkers". Although I didn't know the youkai who told me that, something tells me that this phrase applies to those fairies."
-[X]State the following phrase if Sanae refuses to agree with your logic.
-[X]"I was also attacked by the raijuu a while ago, but it didn't use danmaku at all. I almost died when it tried to rip open my throat."
--[X]"This situation isn't normal, you said that yourself. And unorthodox problems call for unorthodox solutions."
---[X]If Sanae inquires about the Raijuu and how you survived, just explain that you managed to drive it away using the magic you used during the Spell Card duel, with a little help from a passing by swords woman. Avoid mentioning Reimu.

I can agree with this vote.
>> No. 178551
[X] "You may be right. But that aside, this situation is far from normal. Those fairies weren't actually hostile, more like... in a trance."
-[X]"I was warned that "bad fortune befalls those who disturb the dreams of the sleepwalkers". Although I didn't know the youkai who told me that, something tells me that this phrase applies to those fairies."
-[X]State the following phrase if Sanae refuses to agree with your logic.
-[X]"I was also attacked by the raijuu a while ago, but it didn't use danmaku at all. I almost died when it tried to rip open my throat."
--[X]"This situation isn't normal, you said that yourself. And unorthodox problems call for unorthodox solutions."
---[X]If Sanae inquires about the Raijuu and how you survived, just explain that you managed to drive it away using the magic you used during the Spell Card duel, with a little help from a passing by swords woman. Avoid mentioning Reimu.
>> No. 178602
>>178531
One can always pray...

>>178548
Wow, I have a touch? Frankly, I don't think I'm that good compared to other writers, but hey, thanks for the compliment!

Alrighty, calling it for >>178548, since most of you voted for a similar option, but his is more expanded. Honestly, I wasn't expecting so many votes after the hiatus. It's a rather pleasant surprise to find I still have so many readers.

Also, if I can ask you a favor, could you refrain from posting anything until I write the next update? I intend to do a sort of transition update between this and the next thread, and I'd rather not have this thread past autosage, otherwise some of you might miss it. It's mostly so that I can keep up that tradition of beginning new threads with new characters, so it isn't really that important, but... yeah.

inb4 you autosage the thread just to mess with me
>> No. 178610
>>178602

It's already too late, autosage is at post #250, and your latest post is post #251.
>> No. 178612
>>178602
As >>178610 said. You need to count 3 above the number shown on at the thread on the board. It tells you how many posts are hidden, it doesn't include the 3 latest posts it shows.
>> No. 178613
>>178610
>>178612
Well shit, I forgot to take those extra three into account.

Okay then, so then I'll ask you, do you want that transition update here, or in a new thread?
>> No. 178617
>>178613

I don't particularly mind, but if you do post it in this thread you should leave a note at the end of the OP in the next one for anyone too lazy to check here before reading the new thread.
>> No. 179106
[X]"You may be right. But that aside, this situation is far from normal. Those fairies weren't actually hostile, more like... in a trance."
-[X]"I was warned that "bad fortune befalls those who disturb the dreams of the sleepwalkers". Although I didn't know the youkai who told me that, something tells me that this phrase applies to those fairies."
-[X]State the following phrase if Sanae refuses to agree with your logic:
-[X]"I was also attacked by the raijuu a while ago, but it didn't use danmaku at all. I almost died when it tried to rip open my throat."
--[X]"This situation isn't normal, you said that yourself. And unorthodox problems call for unorthodox solutions."
---[X]If Sanae inquires about the Raijuu and how you survived, just explain that you managed to drive it away using the magic you used during the Spell Card duel, with a little help from a passing by swords woman. Avoid mentioning Reimu.


Sanae made good points there. You know it as much as the next guy: youkai are territorial creatures that feed on human's fears, and before the Spell Card Rules, they also fed on the whole human until they were exterminated by a youkai hunter. So it has been from the beginning of recorded history. The Rules haven't really changed the status quo, only diminished the casualties of both sides. It's not surprising that Sanae, who has been instructed in the ways of youkai extermination, prefers to adhere to the methods that have always worked.

However, you highly doubt those methods will be useful in this current situation. The rules of engagement have changed, the beasts and the fairies are behaving strangely, and most of the inhabitants of the Youkai Mountain are victims of a curse. Shooting anything that flies might work in your usual incident, but you have a feeling this predicament won't be solved with mindless shooting, based on your previous encounters with various creatures. You have to make Sanae understand that, to make her see the problem from your point of view.

"I'm sure you're much more knowledgeable than me at how things work here normally," you say, picking your words carefully. "But do you really believe this situation is normal?"

"Of course not!" Sanae answers immediately. "That's why it's called an 'incident', because it disrupts normality."

"But didn't you notice the fairies behaving stranger than usual?"

"How so?"

"For starters, those three fairies from before didn't attack me," you explain. "I don't think they were hostile. More like... in a trance."

The miko tilts her head in slight confusion. "A trance?"

"Yeah, they looked as if they weren't conscious at all. If they were really defending their territory like you said, they would have shot at me on sight, but they didn't. You saw it, right?"

"Uh-huh, so?"

Really? How can this girl be that much of an airhead? Must you really spell everything for her? "Well, that's obviously not normal, so maybe-"

"But it is!" Sanae interrupts you. "Fairies are so absentminded, they often forget who are they suppossed to shoot in the middle of a battle, so they just stand there without attacking anyone. I know it sounds dumb," she adds when she sees your face of disbelief, "but that's how they are, really. Trust me, I've seen my share of idiot fairies."

With that final line, the miko resumes your path to the Lotus Shrine, considering the argument over. Again, Sanae's got a point there. It's not a secret how forgetful and whimsical the fae are. They don't usually go beyond annoying pranks, and if they do, it's mostly out of ignorance rather than malice. Because of that, fairies are often regarded as inoffensive even by the normal folk, although it's still advisable to turn tail and run whenever you encounter an angered flock.

Regardless, that doesn't explain why were those three fairies in such a entranced state. You have a feeling the fairies are simply unfortunate victims of this incident, not troublemakers that take the opportunity to cause mischief like many other times. However, Sanae just won't buy that right out of the bat. If she isn't convinced with fairies, then...

"Bad fortune befalls those who disturb the dreams of the sleepwalkers," you blurt out, giving your words a touch of severity.

The miko stops and turns her head to you, and you can see a hint of annoyance in her expression. "What is it this time?"

"Oh, I was thinking about everything that happened, and it came to mind. I forgot to mention I also encountered a bunch of kappas who were affected by the taint," if you weren't holding the sleepy Rika in your arms, this is where you'd bring your hand behind your neck and rub it apologetically. "They were in the same kind of trance than the fairies. And I realized those kappa were sound asleep before the spell took effect because of the taint, right? So in a way, that makes them sleepwalkers."

"Uh... Probably?" Sanae appears to have trouble following your reasoning. "I don't get what you're trying to say, but..."

That's good, you want her to be confused, so that you can unleash a barrage of rapid-fire information to sway her to your favor. You are aware that revealing what you know to a person you just met minutes ago - and attacked you right out of the bat! - is a risky move, but the more allies you can get, the more chances you have to survive this.

"Isn't it obvious!? Disturbing the victims of the taint, the ones who walk in their slumber, is tantamount to being jinxed!" You exclaim with a heavy dose of alarm and complicated words to compensate for the leap of logic you're taking. "If we aren't careful, the spell will make them retaliate unconsciously, and because they're technically asleep, they won't follow the Spell Card Rules when they shoot back at us."

"Ehhhhh!?"

Sanae seems to have caught on, if her surprised expression is of any indication. She is exaggerating a bit, in your opinion, but well, so are you. You aren't going to stop here, though.

"Worse still, we might even incur the wrath of... the Raijuu!"

Cue the scare chord in Sanae's mind, who cannot hold a small (but cute) yelp of terror. Is the girl just too easy to terrify, or are you really that good at surprising people? Or maybe the miko is just indulging you, who knows.

"The raijuu? You mean...?"

"The Beast of Thunder! The Tainter! The Rodent Of Unusual Size! The Harbinger of-!"

"Shuddup... Too loud..."

A shuffling in your arms and a groan interrupts your increasingly hammy speech for good. Rika, who was until now practically asleep, has deemed you to bee way too loud for her comfort, and decided to spend precious energy in making you be silent. To be honest, you were getting carried away; you might have attracted unwanted attention if you kept speaking louder.

"Sorry, Rika," you whisper in apology to the girl in your arms. Then you turn your attention back at Sanae: "So, we shouldn't piss the raijuu off if we can help it. That thing is violent and strong."

"Y-you think I'm not capable of exterminating a taser squirrel?" The miko retorts, recovering her usual proud tone. "I defeated gods, priests and hermits! A feral beast is no match for me!"

"Oh, no, I'm sure you are powerful enough to beat it in a fair fight," you say, appeasing her. But, 'taser squirrel'? What's that supposed to mean? Eh, whatever. "I'm just saying we must stay alert, because that raijuu won't fight fairly in this situation. I know I had a hard time with it."

"Of course you had a hard time, you don't have any exp- Heeeeeeeeey, wait a second! You fought the raijuu?"

Uh oh. Has Sanae finally caught up, despite your best attempts to confuse her? You were taking a risk with your little "tactic" to win the argument: speaking so much meant you could inadvertently reveal information you'd have preferred to keep for yourself for the time being. You hoped Sanae wouldn't notice, but you have underestimated her attention span. Ah well, not much you can do now but spill some of the beans. Not that you need to tell her everything, though, but you still need to act all nonchalant about your slip-up.

"Ah, uh... Did I not mention that?" Again, you must suppress your urge to bring your hand to your neck. Hopefully Sanae will buy it... "I, hum, had a nasty run in with it yesterday."

"You had a nasty run with the raijuu yesterday," the miko parrots, disbelieving.

"It went straight for my neck with all the killing intent in the world, danmaku be damned!" You exclaim. There is more to it than that, but you don't feel the need to explain it further; what you're saying is technically true. "And if I had to guess, it was because a certain someone was going around shooting the victims of its taint."

That last part, however, is a bit of a stretch. There is no relation between the raijuu's aggressiveness and Sanae's extermination spree that you know of, but the possibility is there. You might as well twist the tale a bit and make the miko feel a bit guilt-ridden, if that means she'll think before she shoots next time. So long as she buys what you're telling her...

"O-okay then, how else am I supposed to solve this incident, huh?" Sanae asks.

"Well, I... I don't really know."

"Ha! Thought so."

"But you said it yourself, that this situation isn't normal!" You press on. "And unorthodox incidents call for unorthodox resolutions. There has to be another way to set things right without going through bullet hell, I'm sure of it!"

The miko remains silent, ruminating on all you've said. You finally managed to convince her to be more careful in the future, or at the very least, to start questioning her own methods. You guess you can consider this a success on your part.

"Say..."

But all of a sudden, the girl's tone takes another turn to the 'dead serious' spectrum. That is the sound of distrust and suspicion, and the way she's looking at you with those stern eyes, like you're some kind of shady guy, only reinforces those bad vibes you're getting from her. You begin to think you might have overdone it, that you've pushed Sanae's belief in you too far. With an impulsive woman like her, that only spells trouble for you...

"You know an awful lot of things for a kid who just got here, don't you?" She snarls. "Tell me, what else are you hiding from me?"

Welp. It's no use trying to deny it any longer; Sanae is not that dumb. But information is power, and you're not so willing to give it up so easily.

"I hide many things, like everyone else," you shrug.

"Don't try to be a smartass with me, boy!"

Uh oh, she's getting angrier. And she's waving her gohei menacingly again! Getting into a serious fight now over a little secrecy doesn't go well with your plans, so you'd best concede to avoid an untimely extermination.

"Alright, alright, I'll tell you everything! But not here, and not now," you counter Sanae's scowl with your own serious frown. "Let's get to the pond first, okay?"

Sanae doesn't say anything; she just burns a hole in your skull with her green eyes, trying to unravel your mantle of half-truths and fabricated stories to discern whatever you don't want her to know. Such a severe look would cower even the fiercest of monsters and would bring them to their knees - in fact, you think your own legs are starting to shake. But you aren't going to yield so easily. No, your legs are only shaking due to the effort of carrying Rika for gods know how long. She isn't intimidating you in the slightest. You can do this all day, but you'd rather not, because right now you're sitting ducks for any aggressive mook that could be hiding in the bushes or the trees. You hope the miko gets the message.

"Honestly, you're much better off being interrogated by me than by Lady Suwako," Sanae says. "She has a... way of making people talk."

"Whatever, I just don't want to be standing in the middle of a forest filled with mind-controlled sleepwalkers with a sick woman in my arms. Can we please move on?"

The miko doesn't break eye contact until a few seconds later, then she resumes walking without a word. You'd be lying if you said you weren't worried about that last threat, especially because she didn't say it as a threat, but as a matter of fact. It only makes you feel even more uneasy, to the point you're even beginning to doubt the Lotus Pond Shrine is really a safe haven for you. Regrettably, you don't have any choice at the moment, so you settle for following Sanae towards your destination. You can only pray she was only bluffing, or at least exaggerating. Somehow, your gut tells you she wasn't.

The next minutes are spent in complete silence, as you cross myriads of seemingly identical trees and bushes. Sanae guides you along a path that is clear only to her, occasionally looking behind her shoulder to check you're still following her. Rika still tries to not fall asleep, knowing that it could be her doom. You, on the other hand, are busy thinking of ways to handle the upcoming encounter with this Lady Suwako. The possibility of a fight breaking out is all too real, but you hope your tongue and wits will prevent the tension escalation - although your past experiences show they can ruin your day too. If only Rin was here to advice you on what to do...

"Here we are."

Sanae's voice interrupts your musing, and you find yourself in front of a small clearing. The first thing you notice is the smell of putrefaction, typical of a swamp area. You guess it comes from the dead leaves and plants littering the small pond in the middle, and the must covering the tree trunks. Speaking of the pond, you also notice it is quite lively, compared to the scenery at the forest: many smal insects, reptiles and amphibians populate the area, buzzing and croaking and hissing in a cacophony that normally would be unbearable to hear, but now you find even soothing.

Especially the frogs. Everywhere you look there are at least five or six frogs minding their own business, jumping from place to place, catching mosquitoes with their long, slimy tongues, and generally doing frog stuff. It's as if the taint didn't affect this little place - in fact, the heaviness and dreadfulness you were feeling at the forest is practically gone here. There has to be a sort of higher force that shields this haven and its little inhabitants from the disaster that struck the Youkai Mountain.

You spot said higher force on the other side of the pond, sitting at the small shrine covered in green. The small blonde girl reminds you of an enshrined Buddha, with her eyes closed and her legs crossed in a meditation stance. If what Sanae told you was true, that comparison isn't that far from reality. But how could you believe this small child is one of the gods of the mountain? She looks like a kid taking a nap after spending the whole afternoon running. The weird hat with that covers her brows is even more ridiculous - no, actually, you saw this hat before! The reappearance of the infamous Pyonta confirms your suspicions, though you can't say it makes you any happier.

"Lady Suwako, I brought him as you asked," Sanae addresses her patron with a respectful tone and a formal bow, something you didn't expect from the air-headed miko.

At first, Suwako doesn't move an inch, and you wonder if she simply hasn't heard her, but the miko doesn't make any attempt to catch the child goddess' attention. You suppose Suwako is doing something that you cannot see and that it takes a while to interrupt, so she will only speak when she's done. That, or she's is just bidding her time until she comes up with another bombastic statement of her godhood to impress her audience. She already tried that on you, and first impressions always leave a mark.

"Good, good! Nice work, Sanae!" Suwako finally breaks the silence. "But who's that girl?"

"Oh, her?" The miko looks at Rika, as if she didn't know she was there. "Oh, she's just-"

"You wanted to speak with me, and here I am," you interrupt her. If you're going to get screwed, at least you'd rather do it on your own. "I have only one condition: you must do whatever you can to ease Rika's suffering. That's all I ask of you."

Your bold statement is enough for Suwako to open one eye and gaze at you amused, and you think you see a half-smile forming in her small lips. Pyonta's eyes are staring you as well, scrutinizing you from head to toes, in a mixture of curiosity and expectation that you certainly weren't expecting from a silly hat. Sanae is also giving you that, clearly offended. Being the center of attention of three extraordinary pairs of eyes doesn't exactly help your anxiety, but just like before, you are not intent on backing off.

"Why so serious?" Suwako's cheerfulness contrasts with her hat's glare. "There's no need for this animosity! I didn't spend lots of time and effort to purify and ward this pond for you to come with your grumpy faces and ruin the atmosphere! Yeah, that goes for you too, little guy!" She gets her hand under Pyonta and pulls at something inside, making the hat's eyes shut in pain.

So that thing really has a life on its own, huh? But you have another thing you're more curious about: "You said 'purify and ward the pond'?"

"Atmosphere?" Sanae asks, slightly confused as well.

"All in due time," Suwako waves her hand dismissively. You notice it gleams with some sort of sticky fluid. Yuck. "But first, let's get the poor woman to a comfier spot. Sanae, could you...?"

"Yes, ma'am!"

Sanae turns to you, silently asking you to hand Rika over. At first you're a bit reluctant, but you suppose you don't have a say in this matter any longer, so you finally comply and carefully shift Rika to the miko's arms. The twin-braided girl lets out a quiet groan of discomfort, and you swear she was actually grabbing your sleeve for a second, not wanting to let go.

You watch Sanae walk around the pond and gently putting Rika down in front of the shrine. Suwako then runs a finger along Rika's forehead, checking for something you clearly don't see. The goddess closes her eyes and hums a little tune in concentration - probably some kind of divine chant. If it had any effect, that you don't know, because Rika doesn't react at all; she just lies there, her chest heaving weakly and slowly. After a while, Suwako's finger stops, and for the first time, a frown appears in her childish face.

"Huh, this is unexpected... I thought they were all..." You hear her mutter. "No, there's no time."

"Is- is something the matter?"

Suwako snaps back from her reverie, and turns her head slowly to you. The half-smile that had disappeared for a second appears in full-force, and it unsettles you greatly. They say kids can be the cruelest beings, so what would a child goddess do?

For example, instead of taking the normal human way around the pond, Suwako squats and jumps over the various branches floating in the water, very much like all the frogs there. In four bops, she lands just in front of you, at uncomfortable inches away from touching. By now, Suwako's smirk has turned into a full-blown grin - if she intended to ease the tension, congratulations, it had the complete opposite effect.

"The matter is, young boy, that there is something you owe me," the goddess taps a finger into your chest and presses it.

"Excuse me? I owe you what?"

"Oh, I don't know..." She drives the finger stronger, causing you mild pain. "An apology, for starters, hmmm?"

"And what I should apologize for?"

"It would be pointless if I just told you. Why don't you try to remember?"

Remember? Remember what? What did you do to this little goddess that apparently offended her so greatly? You try to do memory of the short encounter you had with Pyonta, attempting to recall everything you said to it. Sure, you didn't take her seriously when she claimed to be the goddess of the mountain, but she took that in her stride. No, there must be something else that you missed, something more serious. You look at Sanae, pleading for help, although you don't expect her to provide any.

To your surprise, she decides to be benevolent and leave you a clue: she starts to tap her fingers on her wrist. Is she taking a pulse? No, you believe she means something you put on the wrist... A bracelet? A clock? Yeah, a clock it is. So it's related to a clock. Something related to Suwako and a clock... A clock symbolizes time... Actually, Sanae looks quite exasperated, as if... as if she was waiting for someone who was very, very late.

Oh shoot.

"How... how much time has it passed since...?" You ask meekly.

"Behind the red sky, the moon is in its zenith now. So, a full day," says Suwako.

Ah, crap. You stood a goddess up for twenty-four hours?! No wonder why she's so angry with you, despite her best attempts at maintaining a cheerful facade. Any normal person would be understandably offended at such an affront; in fact, you should count yourself lucky that Suwako hasn't decided to exact divine retribution on you right here. You heard most deities are very strict with offenders, so it's a relief to see this one is a more understanding than what the rumors say. Well, either that, or you're too useful for her to discard you over a simple misdemeanor. She did say she needed someone with 'your particular set of skills'...

Regardless, it doesn't excuse you from what you did. You hurriedly kneel in front of Suwako and plant your forehead on the mud, performing the most submissive polite bow you can manage. Yes, you are staining your clothes and your hair, but as long as you don't incur on her wrath, anything goes.

"I humbly apologize for my unbecoming actions, Lady Suwako!" You exclaim.

"Hey, hey, no need to be so formal!" The goddess chuckles uncomfortably. Surprisingly, she doesn't seem used to this kind of displays. "A simple 'sorry' is enough..."

"Come on, Lady Suwako, you need to be more assertive!" You hear Sanae chime in. "You got a guy kneeling before you! That's practically begging you to have your way with him!"

"Sanae... Have you been reading those Outsider books again, by any chance?"

"What!? Oh, no no no no no, of course not!" The priestess exclaims all flustered. Nobody's going to believe her like that. "I don't even know which books are you talking about."

"You're hopeless! Those are not the kind of literature a girl your age should read!" Suwako engages full lecture-mode on the helpless Sanae. "When we get back home, I'm going to confiscate them first thing!"

"No! Uh, I mean, you can't confiscate what's not there!"

"You want me to search your whole room, missy?"

"Never! That's invasion of privacy!"

It's quite amusing seeing those two bickering like a normal family - definitely not a sight you expected to see between a priestess and her patron goddess. Bonus points for the loli character to be the one with the motherly role. For a moment, you forget you are going to get interrogated by them shortly...

"Ugh... So sleepy... And groggy..."

You almost do a spit-take when that voice you missed so much suddenly sounds inside your head again, with no previous notice.

"... Oh hello, how are you? Was my book really that boring?" Satsuki asks. "I hope you got a good sleep at the very- Hey, wait a minute, I don't recognize this place! Where are we? Who are those two? What the hell happened!?"

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

Not 100% convinced with how this turned out. I had to deal with a lot of shit in my life, and I had to pull through my teeth to get something on paper, so forgive me if there's a drop in quality here.
>> No. 179108
New thread at >>179107