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173993 No. 173993
>>170942

You’re a competent but low-powered necromancer that is on a worldwide journey to find a way to give your sister her back the life that was cut short by chance. The difficulty comes in separating her soul from yours after you took it into yourself in a desperate hope to keep her alive in the first place.

You believe that the Necronomicon, more than the mad ravings about aliens written by a powerful wizard, is a tome that holds the secret. To seek what he considered beyond the human condition, the Mad Arab had mastered everything there was about being human – including their lives and deaths. The scraps and pieces of the Necronomicon you have found throughout the world leads you to believe that a whole copy is the key you need.

To that end, you’ve spent the years since your sister’s death groveling in the dirt and stooped over books, getting whacked by wooden training swords and chased by monstrous spiders that were intent on liquefying your innards. You’ve fought and fled and traveled across the world and through a few different bounded territories in your single-minded quest.

That quest has brought you to Gensokyo, a land of fantasy replete with thousands-of-years old nuns, ghosts, and immortals. To be very specific, it has led you to eat a meal on the floor of Byakuren Hijiri’s room with a jiang-shi snuggled against you. It’s been a long, painful journey.

Now, you’re thinking about a break. Downtime. A vacation. A little breather, a small hiatus, a temporary pause. It…can’t be that bad.

You’re actually going to do it?

Your sister made very good point. There are many things you need to do, want to do. As important as your quest is, you’ve been at it for years. Delaying it a few weeks so you can work on other matters won’t be the end of the world.

“How can I help, Byakuren?” you ask the woman sitting across from you.

Byakuren opens her eyes, a look of confusion on her face. “What was that?”

“I asked how I can help, with Obon preparations or whatever else the temple needs.”

You watch Byakuren blink once, twice. “You’re asking what you can do for me?”

“Geez, normally you’re a bit smarter than this,” you complain. “That’s exactly what I’m asking. I’d be happy to help.”

“Why-” she stops and closes her eyes. You watch with curiosity when then nun rubs her cheeks with her hands. She folds her hands back into her lap and then leans forward, giving you a warm smile. “No, that is to say, I would be more than glad to accept your assistance.”

She brings her arms up slowly, almost cautiously. You watch as she wraps them lightly around you.

You can feel her breath on your neck, her hair tickling your skin, during the hug. It’s…nice.

“There is much to be done,” she says to you, her lips centimeters away from your ear. “I hope you understand that there is a gratuitous amount of menial labor that needs to be completed, along with larger and more expansive projects.”

“I can do anything I put my mind to,” you answer, “but my specialty does happen to be digging holes.”

You can feel her entire body chuckle before she pulls away. “A professional hole-digger? That is exactly the kind of man I need right now.”

“Hey,” you give the nun a look of mock-annoyance, “don’t insult the hole-diggers of the world. Although, I suppose I have a few other talents at my disposal.”

Byakuren laughs and stands up. “Yes, I would much prefer a door-to-door plastic surgeon.”

“Tch, I knew I’d regret using that one.” You gather your used dishes and follow the nun out of her room, back to the kitchen to drop them off. “Speaking of my work, is it okay if four more of my companions are let into the temple?”

“Four more? You mean the jiang-shi that are still with you?”

“Yeah. I feel bad about forcing them to wander around outside at night.”

“I have no qualms with allowing them into the temple, but unfortunately my hands are tied. The moving dead would bother far too many of our residents, human and youkai alike.”

“They aren’t dead anymore,” you say. “I mean, they don’t look it. I fixed them up like I did Yoshika.”

“Did you?” Byakuren’s serious and business-like denial melts away. “How fortuitous. That gives us much greater leeway. Yes, I see no problems them if they can blend in at least partially with the general populace. I will see about finding accommodations for them tomorrow morning.”

“Thanks. I appreciate it.”

“No thanks are necessary,” Byakuren assures you. “Now, as to what you can do tomorrow…”

The nun goes on, in great detail, about just what you can help her with to prepare for the festival.

You’re…not regretting the decision to help, but it’s a long list of tasks. Worse, it’s a list of tasks that could get foisted on a male for no reason better than ‘he’s a man.’

By the time Byakuren finishes explaining how they need someone to carry an oversized cauldron in some performance or another, the three of you have dropped off your dishes and made it to the courtyard.

“Then, I shall see you early tomorrow?”

“Yes,” you respond, not quite feeling up to your words.

“Excellent, then I- Oh, Kuzuki, a moment if you please?” Byakuren pauses to flag down a passing-by monk.

“Yes, Lady Byakuren?” the tall, likely human, man asks.

“I have found another to help you tomorrow with the lumber.”

Lumber? What did she just sign you up for? She definitely mentioned something in that list… There were a few different tasks. Building the stage, hauling bonfire wood, making some deliveries to interested parties…

“Him?” the monk asks, looking at you with an interested stare. It isn’t a hostile one, just cold and analytical. “Very well. Meet here tomorrow at sunrise.”

With not another word, the monk walks off to bed or wherever he was going.

When you glance at Byakuren, she has an pleased smile on her face.

…You hate waking up early.

Still, you asked for it.

Time begins to fly as you do your part to help your adopted home prepare for the festival. You jump from group to group, diligently following the instructions of different leaders as they pass you around like a used toy.

You thought the Buddhists would be more distrustful, but it seems that the need to finish work outweighs any suspicions most of them have. That and you get the feeling you’re being directed only to groups with more moderate-minded people.

It isn’t horrible, though. You work and talk, slowly getting to know the other residents of the temple. The variety is absolutely astounding. Village girls interested in independence mix with reforming drunkards and formerly predatory youkai. When you swat a mosquito it isn’t the insect youkai that chastises you but her former engineer-in-training friend that nearly shouts your ear off.

They’re good people. That’s the only conclusion you can come to. They are normal, honest, and hardworking people with their own fears, flaws, strengths, and hopes. You can’t say if the more extreme elements of the temple or Shou’s merry troupe of war-disciples are the same, but the monks, nuns, and part-timers you meet all warm up to you in no time.

It’s nice to walk down the halls and receive a glare of death only a third of the time.

---

“Thank you for your help,” Ichirin tells you while the two of you are walking away from the village.

“Yeah, no problem. But uh, somehow, I think you would have been fine without me.” You heft the few paper bags of food in your arms and look behind the nun. Fifteen shopping bags are floating behind the blue-haired girl, head aloft by pink clouds that closely resemble hands.

“Your help is appreciated nonetheless, especially by Unzan. I doubt he would have liked to carry everything on his own.” In response to Ichirin’s words, you see the pink clouds bob ever so slightly. The indirect thanks is probably the closest you’ve come to interacting with Ichirin’s nyuudou guardian. “Besides, I find the chance to speak with you pleasant.”

“We haven’t had much time to chat, have we?” Before festival preparations began, you only really saw Ichirin accompanying Byakuren or Minamitsu.

“It’s a shame that we have not. Communication leads to community, to understanding and mutual valuing,” Ichirin comments, her voice carefully modulated. She walks down the road with head held high and back straight, the two bags in her hands barely swaying.

“Whew.”

“What is it?” she asks.

“I just thought there was an adorable mini-Byakuren walking next to me.”

Instantly, she loses her composure. The Byakuren-in-training flees, leaving behind a flustered young adult. “I-! I, uh, thank you? I think?”

“Is that what you’re going for?” you ask.

“Sort of? I think Lady Byakuren is a very admirable person. I want to learn as much as I can from her.”

“So do you have your sights set on the head of Myouren Temple?”

“Oh, no, I don’t think anybody can replace Lady Byakuren.” She sounds confident and proud of that fact. “She might be grooming me for the role, but I’m nowhere near ready at the moment.”

“But it’s in your future, right? You aren’t going to kick me out when you take over, are you?”

“Never! It’s hardly my place to rescind on what Lady Byakuren has offered. Besides, you’re a nice man. You and Yoshika are always welcome,” she assures you.

The jiang-shi at your side cheers at the declaration, almost dropping a few of the apples from the stack she is carrying.

“Thanks,” you tell Ichirin. When you look at her the nun is smiling, but there’s a strange twinge to that smile. You would say she’s nervous. “Something wrong?”

“Huh? Oh, no, it’s nothing,” the nun quickly denies.

You smile and take a step closer to the girl. “I thought Unzan was supposed to be the shy one?”

Ichirin giggles in a halting, fake way. “Truly, pay my thoughts no heed.”

“When you say it like that, I can’t help but be curious. But,” you relent, “if it makes you uncomfortable I won’t pry.”

“Oh no, it isn’t about me.”

Ichirin’s reply is instantaneous and conversational, giving hint to the girl’s thoughts. After she gives a second of thought to what she says, the girl lets out a little “oops” and looks away.

You were all set to drop it, but how can you with that kind of reaction? “You’re throwing me for a loop here. Why don’t you just say what’s on your mind?”

“I can’t. It isn’t proper.”

“Okay then, but I hope you don’t regret not speaking up.”

“Are you and Yoshika sleeping together?” Ichirin blurts.

You stop walking and look at the blushing nun.

“…What?” you ask.

“Yes~!” Yoshika responds at the same time.

“Agh, I knew I shouldn’t have asked! It goes against everything I’ve learned but still-”

“Uh, no, we aren’t,” you interrupt Ichirin’s excited muttering. You also glare at Yoshika, the little trouble-maker clearly pleased at the misunderstanding. “Not in the way you’re asking, anyway.

“You aren’t?”

“No.” There’s not really much more to say.

“Oh, I see. Then, are you and Lady Byakuren-”

“No!” you shout.

That was an awfully quick denial. When you feel heat entering your cheeks you turn away from the nun and start walking again.

“Reimu?”

“No.”

“Minamitsu?”

“No.”

“Mokou?”

“No! Nobody!”

“Oh.”

You glance back at the nun and see a frown on her face. “Sheesh, you don’t need to sound so disappointed. What were you expecting out of me?”

“I wasn’t sure what to expect. We haven’t talked much.”

“Well, I’m not doing any of those things.”

Your negative responses don’t deter her. “Are you interested?” she asks.

You narrow your eyes. “Why is this important?”

“I’m sorry, I’m just curious.” She apologies, but the glint in her eyes looks predatory. She’s a girl on a mission. You’re the one who asked for this. “Are my questions making you feel uncomfortable?” Ichirin asks.

“A bit. “

“Sorry, I’ll stop. Let me make it up to you! Let’s see, let’s see…” Before you can think of something to say, the girl has already begun to speak again. “Oh, I have it! Did you know that Minamitsu was rather upset the other day?”

“Yeah…” Whoops. You’re positive she’s talking about the ghost’s state after running into Mokou and your subsequent prying. Minamitsu had interacted with you normally the day after, but you still felt like an idiot.

“Well, do you know how she calmed down?”

“How?”

“One of the novices spilled a bucket of water out back. I found Minamitsu sailing a little paper boat in the puddle!”

You hang your head immediately and focus your will. If you don’t then you’ll- hahahahaha that’s too cute!

You manage to reign in any laughter before you do you ghostly friend a disservice. “Is that really something you should be sharing with me?” you ask Ichirin in a mostly serious tone. A few laughs try to sneak in, but you stamp them out.

The glistening in Ichirin’s eyes dull slightly after your question. “Y-You’re right. Oooh! I just get so caught up-” the girl stops speaking, as if listening to another voice, before suddenly speaking up again. “I know Unzan! I’m supposed to stop but- I know I know!”

Ah, now you get it. You know where the look in Ichirin’s eyes comes from. It’s a childish version of what you’ve seen in information brokers across the world.

She’s a little gossip. It shouldn’t be so surprising, but underneath her nice and sometimes tenacious personality lays a girl that loves to stick her nose in other peoples’ business. You suppose that isn’t too unlike Byakuren, either.

“Okay. I’m done,” Ichirin eventually declares. Then, in her mock-Byakuren tone, she gives you a light bow. “I am sorry for showing you that unseemly display.”

“Did you really think Yoshika and I were doing something?”

“You two always seem to be together, and she is rather…affectionate.”

The jiang-shi in question decides it is the perfect time to nuzzle her head in the crook of your neck. You sigh and give her a little, discouraging shove. When a single apple falls slips away because of the motion, Yoshika’s teeth race out to reclaim it in one large chomp.

“Fair enough,” you say. “But me and Byakuren?”

“Honestly, I thought that was the more likely of the two.” If the slight blush on her face is anything to go by, you’re afraid the girl might be imagining something more than just a simple relationship.

“Well, sorry to burst your bubble.” You shake your head and look away. “Hell, I don’t even know what we are,” you mutter.

“What was that?”

“N-Nothing.”

Ichirin pointedly stares at you, but you don’t meet her gaze.

“You know, Lady Byakuren isn’t as strong as she likes to appear,” Ichirin says.

You think back to when you first met the head nun. “I’m pretty sure she usually hides her monstrous dark magician getup.”

“I’m not talking about her magical power.”

“Seems like everybody but me knows all there is to know about Byakuren, then.”

“We all only know what we think we do. Lady Byakuren has many facets to her,” Ichirin explains, the slight giddiness in her voice from before gone. She’s serious now, contemplative. “When she’s teaching me about Buddhism or how to run the temple, she’s nothing but kind and easygoing. She reiterates a lesson however many times she needs to, in different ways, until I understand. But it’s not quite her. If she needs to explain a second time, a third time she starts…regurgitating. She pulls out analogies and metaphors and examples I would never expect out of her. The explanations always work, but it’s only repeated information.”

“She’s teaching you things she learned from her brother?” you guess.

“That’s right. Her magic lessons are different. There’s only one right way, her way. If I don’t get it she’ll just keep beating the information into me. Sometimes, I regret asking the woman that learned from demons to teach me magic.”

You let Ichirin’s personal anecdote sink in for a moment. Then you ask, “Is she that harsh?”

Whatever mood had overcome Ichirin is gone when she answers you. It seems her self-condemnation for gossiping lasted only a couple of minutes. “Sometimes I’m aching all over after a lesson! I can’t call it fun when I’m walking away with minor burns. Oh! Speaking of burns, I hear that Remilia Scarlet had a rather unfortunate accident the other night…”

---

“Why did you think I would be the expert on cosmetic shops in the village?” Minamitsu asks while pushing her way through the crowd.

You follow the ghost as best as you can. She sets a fast pace, though. Even with Yoshika at your side, the sheer mass of people on the streets slows you down.

You think she’s cheating; a twitch of incorporeality here and there to grease her path through the crowd. “You said you’d always be willing to navigate for me.”

The three of you manage to break out onto a less crowded street, giving you more time to chat and insult each other.

“For something like this?” Minamitsu asks, pulling a small tube out of one of the shopping bags you’re carrying. “This isn’t even your shade of lipstick!”

“It’s not for me!” you snarl and snatch the cosmetic back. “It’s for the temple.”

“Really.” She speaks her not-question dismissively, turning her back on your pathetic form to stride down the street.

“Yeah, really!” You grumble to yourself before quickening your pace to catch up with Minamitsu. “Ichirin started talking to me, and then Yoshika, and then the rest of the jiang-shi, and between us all that crafty girl might have somehow roped me into doing everybody’s make-up for the festival.”

“Well, aren’t you the manliest man to ever sail the high seas?”

“Shut it. I do what I do. Now, next on the list is-” The paper in your hand disappears in an instant.

“Corn starch? Food dye?” Minamitsu reads the next few items uncrossed off and then tosses the paper over her shoulder. “Why?”

You jump up and snatch the drifting paper before stuffing it back into a pocket. “Fake blood and other props. They’re for costuming in a play or something. That’s my job, too.”

“Look at you! Who would have thought the drowned rat Byakuren fished out of the sea would turn out to be a useful crewmember?”

“Har har har. And what, may I ask, is our vaunted Captain Murasa doing to help out?”

“Eh? I’m, uh…” Minamitsu glances around her, before letting her eyes linger on you. “I’m helping you! Obviously.”

You nod wisely. “I see. Basically, you’re going around distracting people up until the festival?”

“Of course not! If I was going to distract anybody, I could just stand around back at the temple. Right here, I’m managing to not distract them and help you at the same time.”

“Then you’ll go on to enjoy the fruits of my labors?”

“Exactly! And not just your labors. I’ll be sampling everything Gensokyo has to offer in one lucrative route!” Minamitsu slips an arm around your shoulder, drawing an unhappy moan from Yoshika on the other side of you. “Every ship from across the lands will be in port for this. It’s during the festival when you can taste the freshest food from the harvest goddesses and the rarest of underground delicacies brought up by the Komeiji retainers!”

“Why is the ghost only thinking about food?”

Minamitsu scowls at you. “There are plenty of other events, too. Everybody who’s anybody in Gensokyo is out to curry favor, to look good and be seen. It’s as much a competition for influence as it is a time to enjoy.”

From what you understand, Byakuren has worked her magic in usurping the majority of the important events for the temple. The human population of Gensokyo, you’ve come to realize, holds a disproportionate amount of influence. It’s mostly due to the fact that the greatest powers, like Reimu, are on their side. Currying favor with the humans creates a large advantage for whichever supernatural faction manages it.

You shrug. You’re no public figure. The fairly pleasant rapport you have with Reimu is enough for you. Being a nobody in the crowd, albeit an oddly dressed nobody, sounds great.

“Is there anything I’d find interesting?” As much as you enjoy a nice meal, you wouldn’t spend too much sampling and dining.

“Since you’ll be working with what you find most interesting, I don’t- Ow!” You slug the ghost in the shoulder before she manages to go incorporeal.

She shoots a glare at you before shrugging. “I’m only half-kidding about that.”

You take another swing at her, but she dodges away. “Fine, fine. Let me think,” she says. “If Remilia somehow gets her librarian out and about, you’d probably enjoy whatever magic show she puts on. Even if it isn’t Patchouli, the Scarlet Devil Mansion always makes sure to maintain a presence in these events. You seem like the kind who’d be interested in their magical showboating. They all can pull of some ridiculous stunts I’m sure you’d like to analyze.

“Whatever Eientei puts out my interest you too. They usually just use the time to hawk medication and take advantage of medical emergencies, but sometimes they have some new concoction or device to present. Even better, there’s half a chance it’ll involve something dead, right up your alley.”

Damn. You hate to be predictable, but her last sentence does pique your interest. “What? Why would it involve something dead?”

“That’s a joke. It only happened once, but one time they tried a public testing of a vaccine on a cow and it started to ooze before shoving off for cow heaven.” Minamitsu laughs and leads you down an abandoned alley. “Personally, I think that doctor has a fetish for death. She’s always looking into it. Maybe it’s because she’s immortal, but let me tell you, it isn’t that great of an experience.”

“And that didn’t discredit them?” You can’t imagine using a product that brought a swift end to something as large as a cow.

“It was an animal, nobody really cared. If nothing else, Yagokoro is scrupulous with her testing on products she plans to use. If one of her products is finished, it’ll do damn fine work. Those rumors of horrid side effects are all user error from what I hear.

“She’s the exact opposite of, say, the kappa. Most of those water-lovers prefer ideas more than implementation.” Despite Minamitsu’s criticism, you’re kappa-made mechanical hand has been nothing but wondrous. Nitori seems more invested than her peers on not messing up.

“I can’t really say what else might interest you. I think the half-phantom sword girl might put on a display if she’s asked and the musical poltergeist trio is booked to play sometime, I’m sure.”

“I’m interested in more than dead things.” I don’t know about that…

You are! There’s more to life than dead things and magic.

“Yeah, I know. You like really old things too. But like I’ve already said, you’ll be with her all- Whoa!” Minamitsu ducks your slap and wags a finger at you. “Didn’t you ever learn to use your words?”

“Sorry, I see how you use yours and I don’t want anything to do with it.”

“Ah, afraid you can’t keep up with me, is it?”

“Yes, actually,” you admit. “You’re a pretty forceful girl. I feel like your words can beat someone harder than that anchor you carry.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere!” she says with a grin. “I’ve had more years than you’ve been alive to learn how to jabber well. I’ve learned from the best and the rest, kid.”

“With that kind of personality, I don’t know who would stick around to speak with you.”

“People that couldn’t get away, obviously.” Uh-oh.

You swallow once, intimately aware that the conversation might have just hit a glacier and could be sinking rapidly.

“Sorry. I-”

“You’re fine! I’m not some fragile maiden afraid of her past. You skirt the subject like the nice guy you are, but that’s not necessary.” Minamitsu steps closer to you, the cheer and bluster in her voice gone. “I’ve found that death brings out the best and the worst in men. The scummiest, most lowborn and cruel pirate isn’t much different from tje regal captain of a royal ship. They were all more similar than they ever liked to think of while they lived. I could see them, hear them, remember them, when they were at their extremes. In the last sinking moments of their lives, they laid bare everything that they were. I took it all from them as I watched them sink into the briny depths.”

The ghost leans in close. You can feel the chill of her emotions. It isn’t like her previous rage-filled outburst with Mokou. The cold she emits now is from…enjoyment; perverse pleasure.

When you blink, you see her. In the darkness of your imagination, you can find yourself lashed to heavy wood, chains entangling your legs. You struggle to free yourself, to rip off the bindings, but frozen hands embrace you from behind. You can imagine that deathly voice accompanying you as you sink, deeper and deeper…

“Does this make you uncomfortable?” she murmurs. “Does your skin crawl while you stand there, the whispers of a murderer crawling their way into your ears? You liken me to some silly ghost of a girl, uncouth yet approachable. Does the knowledge of what I am eat at you, terrify you? Do you feel repulsed as my true nature is dragged back to the surface?”

Evil spirits, vengeful ghosts, maddened specters – there are different terms and myths in every culture, but the concept of a dead human taking their revenge on the living is universal.

“No, of course not.”

She is what she is. She couldn’t help it that she changed from what she used to be into what she is now. By the time her consciousness resurfaced, by the time she could reason and think clearly, she would have killed dozens if not hundreds.

Your honest answer does not end the ghost’s strange mood.

It actually makes things worse, as tends to happen.

“Why?” she screams. The temperature drops further, the ghost’s icy fingers digging into your skin. “How can you possibly say that?”

Yoshika hisses and shoves, forcing the ghost to release you. The sudden aggression seems to calm Minamitsu somewhat, but the ghost is still extremely agitated.

You have nothing to say but your honest opinion. “Lucky or unlucky, your past is your past. The person in front of me is a girl doing her best not to bother others, not to be a burden or disrupt her family. How could I have a problem with that?”

As quickly as the storm of emotions appeared, it disappears. “You aren’t normal,” Minamitsu mutters.

“I hear that. A lot.”

“Good. As long as you understand.” The deflated ghost walks on, both her teasing and vengeful nature spent. “By the way,” she calls out over her shoulder, “I already knew all that.”

“Well, sorry for giving you my unnecessary view, then.”

“Yeah, it was. Byakuren has already given me the same message in twenty different ways.”

>> No. 173994
“Wah! Hey, hey, hey, watch it!” You watch the pink-haired jiang-shi scream and shout, duck and weave around the steel longsword.

The brown-haired jiang-shi is merciless, his powerful sweeps perfectly capable of severing an arm if they connect. “Your guards are too simplistic and do nothing to seize the momentum.”

“I’m just a beginner with this thing!” Shilverase squeaks and smacks the sword away with her iron-reinforced staff, the flail end of it swinging around and nearly smacking her in the head. “I didn’t even think he’d find one! I don’t know how to use this!”

Nekurow recovers his stance and charges again. “Then learn quickly!”

“Yikes!”

You sigh and kick your foot out idly. “I’m not sure if it was a good idea to buy them these weapons.”

Standing next to you, Dio brandishes a throwing knife. “It seems like a sound purchase to me, Master.” The jiang-shi with a teenager’s body flicks his arm out, the knife spinning until it wedges home into a tree. The blonde nods in satisfaction and adjusts the black gloves on his hands. “I certainly didn’t expect for you to buy us special gloves as well.”

“If I was going to buy something enchantable for our two brawlers over there, it was a better deal to pick up more for all of you.” And yourself too.

You think the gloves are rather stylish, personally. They’re black leather with white highlights around seams and joints. They’re also surprisingly comfortable to wear, although you suppose the jiang-shi don’t care as much about that. It’s the beginnings of a uniform for you and your army of the dead.

After an afternoon of enchanting in Muenzuka and a bit of dentistry, the jiang-shi are decently equipped to handle a variety of specters and ghosts.

It isn’t a perfect solution. While the gloves can theoretically turn corporeal anything they touch, that’s highly dependent on what they’re trying to grab. They should be able to affect low-powered spells and most incorporeal spirits, but there are many applications of magic that could give your gloves the slip.

Maybe something like one of those reapers you fought could also work around them on sheer ability alone. You don’t really know, but without many more hours of research and experimentation this is the best you can do.

Likewise, you enchanted some of the jiang-shi’s teeth with the same magic along with a bit of destructive power to give a ghost a good bite. You weren’t surprised to find that their teeth were already subtly enchanted with a kind of magic poison that acts as a corrosive agent as well as an infection agent. Seiga’s spell work was incredibly intricate – it would have taken you a day per tooth to inscribe what Seiga had already done.

You sincerely hope it took her a day per tooth. It’s doubtful, though.

Getting the other weapons proved easier than expected. Tapping into your stash of expensive jewelry proved unnecessary.

When you went looking for weapons, there were a few different blacksmiths and other merchants in the village willing to sell. Most of them list prices you didn’t even care to haggle down, until you met one man down on his luck. Apparently, he had a delivery to make to a youkai out in the forest – it spoke volumes that he hadn’t shunned the customer in the first place.

Unfortunately, the man’s son turned delivery boy was attacked by a different youkai at the meeting place and had to leave the goods behind while he fled. The blacksmith offered you generously reduced prices if you could retrieve the goods, whether the original deal was a setup or not. Apparently, with nothing damaged except the blacksmith’s profits, it wasn’t a case Reimu would investigate. Humans were warned against entering the forest alone, after all.

A bit of treasure hunting with your undead companions quickly led to the raccoon-like culprit. The bandit youkai…didn’t fare so well.

He was alive, albeit missing a few pieces in his arms, when you last saw him. Once you returned the goods and subsequently delivered them to the proper customer, the blacksmith was grateful enough to slash his prices even more.

It all worked out wonderfully, netting you Nekurow’s sword and Dio’s set of throwing knives. You also managed to bring Shilverase back and have her custom design her staff-flail thing.

“Whoa!” You watch Rea fall onto her butt, knocked over by an open-palm strike.

“Stance wasn’t sturdy enough~” Yoshika comments. She bends over and helps Rea to her feet, then prepares another attack.

They seem to be adjusting well.

That’s right. They’re well-adjusted to their new bodies and learning more every day. Socially speaking, they are also adapting. The jiang-shi still like to group together but every now and again they split off to do their own things. You’ve seen their individual social groups widen, encompassing different members of the temple and the village.

“Oof!” Metal and wood clatter against each other when Shilverase drops her staff-flail.

“You are still not employing the proper techniques.”

“Well how am I supposed to? I’ve never seen them!”

“You require a demonstration then? Master, I could use your assistance in this endeavor.” Nekurow looks to you and gestures with his sword.

“Sure. I’m up for a bit of sparring.” You stand up and roll your shoulders, sliding a bone out of your jacket and elongating it into the familiar shape of a sword. You run more of your magic through it, strengthening it appropriately to meet your needs.

The knight-like jiang-shi gives you a few moments to ready yourself before charging. He brings his longsword down in a powerful overhead chop which you deflect with a modicum of force. You strike back, lashing out multiple times with your faster yet shorter weapon.

Nekurow dodges what he can and deflects what he has to. When he manages to catch your sword and knock it aside, the follow-up stab is quick and deadly. You have to backpedal away, giving up your advantage to the man with a longer reach.

The informal spar is a losing venture from there. You have some training and a moderate amount of skill, but you don’t have however many tens or hundreds of years of experience in swordplay your opponent does. You haven’t clashed with pit demons and vampiric dread lords. You haven’t hunted dark dragons or freakish chimeras with only sword and armor. Supposedly, the muscular jiang-shi has.

When the man neatly cuts into your sword, metal gouging out a chunk of bone and knocking the improvised weapon away, you throw your hands into the air. “I yield.”

Nekurow nods and sheathes his sword. “Passable skill, although you too can benefit from further training.”

“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.” Fighting the jiang-shi reminded you of when you were first learning the sword. Your mentor could always toss you around in a fight. After years of fighting for your life, this was barely different. If your life were actually in danger, you could dip into your bag of tricks to easily reclaim the advantage.

That fact does not sooth the disappointment of your performance. You feel like you shamed your mentor’s training by losing out in a duel. Of course, your jiang-shi aren’t nearly as affected by personal reproach. “Wow master that was cool!”

“Master strong~”

“Not really,” you try to dissuade them. “I lost, after all.”

“That does not discount your valiant effort, Master.”

“Heh, if you say so. Did you have any revelations while watching, Shilverase?”

“A few. I’m starting to see how I can use this more effectively!” When the pink-haired jiang-shi hefts her ridiculous weapon into the air, the chained rock bounces and taps its wielder in the side.

“I still don’t understand how you think that is a good weapon,” you comment.

“Maybe it isn’t? I mean, it wasn’t really meant to be used as a weapon, I think.”

“What was it used for, then?” You don’t know much of the jiang-shi’s pasts, although you do know that the strange weapon has some sort of sentimental value to Shilverase because it was used by some guy of undetermined relation.

“It was a focus for necromantic resurrections.”

You didn’t expect that.

The surprise on your face must be obvious. “Oh, but it wasn’t like what you do, Master! His work was powered by a demonic contract! And there were many, many downsides.” The girl’s smile, shaded by memories, is bittersweet. “Heh. If he had known how you do what you do…well, I think what we have now is really great!”

Although the hints of her past are enticing, the implications about her present are what interest you most. “Wouldn’t you prefer to be alive again? To never have died?”

“I guess so, but that can’t happen anymore. Instead of being buried in the dirt, I’d much rather be moving around like I am now!” Shilverase raises her arms and hops in place. “In a lot of ways, these bodies we have are much better than living ones. Have you seen how fast I can run now? And I can fly!”

Dio nods in agreement. “Master, you should not overly concern yourself about us. I believe I have said it before, but this second chance, no, this third chance is more than we normally would have gotten. For that we are only thankful.”

The rest of the jiang-shi say nothing to dispute what Shilverase and Dio agree upon. “I guess I’m just curious how,” you pause to think of the right word, “sustainable you think living as you are now is.”

“I think we can live like this for a long time,” Rea concludes.

“I agree!” Shilverase shouts. “No bad guy is going to get the jump on me when I’m like this!”

“We need no sleep, need not satiate any hunger. Whatever I will hunt will find no quarter, no respite.” Nekurow’s input is a bit intense, but his sentiment is understandable.

Dio toys with the edge of his knife before sheathing it. “There are many more inconveniences in having a live body, Master.”

“Life is melting snow.”

You blink and look to your side where your ever-present companion has resumed her customary location. “What was that, Yoshika?”

She inclines her head and looks you in the eyes, a huge toothy grin on her face. “This is fun~”

You smile and pat Yoshika on the head.

Your sister heard her, right?

Of course I did. I’ve said it before; there’s something more to her but I can’t tell what without being too intrusive.

“Is there-” you can’t continue the conversation because you feel the ripples in the air. “Everybody together!”

With your mage sight active, you can see the distortion in the air. Against the backdrop of the setting sun, you can see purples and blacks that do not belong in the skyline of Muenzuka.

Not even two seconds after first noticing it, a familiar redhead appears in the distance. It looks as though she crosses hundreds of kilometers in a single step. Magic is curling around your fingertips when the reaper takes the final step to stand in front of you. “Delivery!” she cries out and thrusts a stack of books and papers into your hands. With the lack of any malicious aura, you end up reflexively grabbing the handoff. The pile is ridiculously oversized and heavy, stretching from waist to shoulders when you hold it all.

You recognize Komachi, one of the four reapers you have met. After asking around, you discovered this one crosses the Sanzu River, ferrying recently deceased spirits from the realm of the living to the realm of the dead using her powers of distance manipulation. She is also renowned for her laziness, for what that’s worth.

“What the hell is this?” you ask her.

“A hellish load of paperwork,” she answers, a cheeky grin on her face. “I’m supposed to come by and pick it up same time tomorrow, so get it done.”

Before you can protest, you remember the events of your altercation with the reapers. Specifically, the reaper called Ragsmuena made a deal with your sister. I still stand by my decision. This is a small price for your life.

You sigh in resignation and set down the stack on a large grave marker. Opening the first book on top, you find it to be an instruction manual for filling out the paperwork. Conveniently enough, it’s a magical grimoire. Although written in some infernal script, ideas and concepts flow into your mind as you leaf through the pages.

They have to be kidding. Who signs forms in triplicate these days?

If the processing soul has dead family, you need to find their personal information to fill out the extra forms?

This doesn’t make any sense! Why do you need to look through their life record and note down every single name the spirit was ever called be, including pronouns and titles?

You set down the first manual, of four, after skimming through it. “Hey, Komachi?”

The reaper is sitting on a gravestone, seemingly delighting in your slow realization of what you’ve been forced to agree to. “What is it?”

“Is this serious?”

“You bet. The Ministry of Right and Wrong doesn’t joke around. Trust me, I know.”

If this is what you have to look forward to in the afterlife, you might as well begin to consider lichdom. You’re not sure what the spirit itself needs to go through, but you’d hate to jump through any bureaucratic hoops to get this all fixed if something were inputted wrong. “You’d think they could update some of these forms, at least. Even better, a good computer system would save them a lot of trouble.”

“Hah, you think we have the money for modern computers? There’s not enough budget to buy a few nails and wood to fix my boat!” Komachi leans back and stretches, doing something impressive with her rather large chest- Stop it. “Besides, they would never adopt such a new idea anyway.”

“This ministry has been around as long as humans, right?” you ask. Humans have always been obsessed with death, but the topic of the afterlife has always been much disputed. The different concepts of Hell and Purgatory and the Elysian Fields are all right in their own way, but also wrong in the face of reality.

From what you understand, how the afterlife is dealt with appears different across the world, in different cultures, but it all somehow…fits together. There is an overarching system in there, but no one living seems to have connected it all yet.

“Not quite, but close enough,” Komachi replies.

“They’d have to adopt some sort of reform, wouldn’t they?”

“I don’t think you understand how old-fashioned the system is, kid. It’s a miracle that there are any changes at all. I’m glad Eiki is forward thinking enough to try and resolve our money issues.” The redheaded reaper jumps to her feet and swats the air with her hand, your sight in that direction distorting once more. “If this paperwork doesn’t kill you, make sure to stop by our booth during Obon! I was hoping we’d get to sell the experience of death, but I think there’ll just be soul candy and knock-off scythes. Sorry I can’t stick around and help, but I’ve got my own work to do. Good luck.”

After rushing into your life and providing a heap of complication, the reaper leaves you alone.

Great.

It’s not like you wanted to spend more time practicing with the jiang-shi anyway.

“Okay everybody, we’ll just-”

“I’m sorry Master, but I can’t read!”

“Wait,” you pause, trying to process what you just heard. “What?”

Shilverase takes a step back, her eyes downcast. “I’m afraid I never learned to write, Master. It was above my station…”

That’s bullshit. You know she’s lying through her teeth.

“I can only fight with my sword, not a pen,” Nekurow scoffs before he turns around and begins to march off.

“I, uh, uhmm…” Even Rea, the one who is obviously a well-brought up and modern young lady, begins to edge away.

“Yoshika.”

“Yes?”

“Stop them.”

“Okay~”

---

“Hey Reimu, how’s it going?”

The shrine maiden inclines her head, letting the sun wash over the smile on her face. It’s good to see her relaxed and well-rested.

You and Yoshika arrive at the shrine and find Reimu in her default location, sipping tea on her porch. Although you have a few minor things to confirm for Obon, taking a quick break with the Hakurei Shrine Maiden sounds wonderful.

You’re taking a break during your break?

As far as you’re concerned, helping to prepare for Obon is more hectic than seeking the Necronomicon. While your hunt involves bouts of blood-curdling terror, this preparation work is a never-ending stream of tasks.

When you sit down next to Reimu, the shrine maiden graciously pours both you and Yoshika a cup of tea. You wonder, on average, how many empty cups she keeps with her to be prepared for eventualities like this.

It’s after one long sip of tea that warms your body do you notice the other shrine maiden gardening off to the side. It looks like a little blonde child, the girl dressed in a miniature version of Reimu’s standard attire.

You watch the girl pull one last weed out of the ground and throw it onto a pile. Then she turns to you, to Reimu, and shouts. “Reimu! Can I stop now?”

You recognize the girl and her voice, correlating it with her scream. Reimu had mentioned her name…Rumia. That’s right. It’s the youkai that Reimu had been manhandling while you questioned a dead man’s spirit.

She looks cute. Perhaps the outfit is Reimu’s old clothes? Between the red-white ribbon in her hair, her red eyes, and the white-painted wooden talisman around her neck, the little youkai girl is perfectly adorned in the Hakurei colors.

Reimu slashes her arm to the side, commanding the little youkai girl without setting her teacup down.

Rumia moans once before trudging off to the side of the shrine.

“Is that, uh, the girl that helped to murder the book thief?” The entire case was a mess of accidents and coincidence. When you finally learned of the possible location of the Necronomicon, a no-life thief had already taken it. He was killed by a supposed combination of Rumia’s wild attacks and then medical complications on the part of Reisen, the lunar rabbit with a good, if entrepreneurially aggressive, heart. Of course the Necronomicon was nowhere to be found afterwards.

Reimu nods and takes another sip of tea.

You watch the shrine maiden for another second before shrugging. She probably has everything under control.

A minute late, Rumia comes walking back into the front yard, a bucket of water held in her hands. She sets it down next to the donation bin and falls over onto the porch. “Fwah! Is this all?”

The shrine maiden nods and sets down her cup. You lean away when she pulls out an umbrella and flares it open. Reimu holds the shade-casting object out from her, creating a circle of shadow centered on the little youkai.

“This is cruel and unusual. A travesty!” Rumia complains while rolling onto her back. She looks exhausted.

“So is this, uh…”

“Watching her.”

“She has imprisoned me here!” Rumia shouts, rolling again so that she can look at you. “Enslaved me! Forced me against my will to burn in the light and-” The girl’s rant is broken when Reimu picks her up. The shrine maiden sits the little youkai on her lap and gives her a cup of tea.

Rumia looks petulant but nonetheless sips her drink quietly.

“Too dangerous,” Reimu comments, alternating between sipping tea and running her hand through Rumia’s hair.

“Oh.” You aren’t sure what else to say in the face of Reimu’s declaration.

I do; they’re adorable together!

That’s a vicious youkai that nearly killed a man and a monstrous shrine maiden that is far beyond a normal human, and they’re adorable?

That’s right. She looks like a young mother with her kid.

Rumia has blonde hair and red eyes.

So she’s adopted.

You…guess you can see that. Even with all her complaining, Rumia doesn’t look particularly upset with the arrangement. In fact, she looks to be settling in rather comfortably on Reimu’s lap. The blonde girl is leaning back into Reimu’s chest and her legs are curled slightly back, almost wrapping around Reimu’s own.

They’re both smiling, too.

“Is this how incidents are usually resolved?” you ask.

Reimu shakes her head. “Exterminate or no need.”

A binary solution to most of her problems seems naïve, but who are you to criticize? “How do you decide?”

“Seriousness. Results and fatalities. Sometimes intent.” She cares more about the aftereffects than the intentions. In a world of ridiculous people with ridiculous powers, judging based on what actually occurs is one way to create an objective base.

“So if that man hadn’t died, would you have Rumia here?”

Reimu shrugs.

Probably not then.

You think about some of the major incidents of Gensokyo’s past you’ve heard about. The realm-wide incidents vary wildly. A terrible mist that occluded the sun, threatening all the life in Gensokyo seems incomparable to the moon disappearing and being replaced by a fake moon. Yet, they each received the same response. A hard driving, charm slinging shrine maiden stormed in and instilled her rules on the culprits without further fuss. Then she left them alone, harmed but only lightly chastised.

On the other hand, a wandering youkai that was following her instincts and ended up following the rules when she realized her error was chained and put under personal watch.

You’re not trying to trivialize anybody, but it’s interesting to think about.

“Do you think there’ll be more incidents soon, Remiu?” you decide to ask.

“Definitely,” the shrine maiden responds. She glances up, looking at the underside of her umbrella while she is thinking. “During Obon,” she says.

“Something will happen during the festival?”

“Definitely. Drunk, rowdy humans and youkai. Terrible mix.”

“Do you have some specific incident in mind?”

You’re curious how far Reimu’s intuition extends. You aren’t expecting a perfect prophecy of the future, but you’d like to establish some sort of bounds on Remiu’s abilities beyond ‘cannot fight multiple reapers after fighting everybody else in Gensokyo and not sleeping or resting in between those fights.’

Reimu cutely stares at nothing again, her face scrunching slightly while she concentrates. “Fight between Buddhists and Taoists. Drunk Marisa destroying old home. Trickster rabbits pranking the festival.” The shrine maiden pauses in her conjecture and looks at you. “Uncontrolled, inhuman monsters attacking the village.”

You aren’t truly offended by her implication. By now you know Reimu is a relatively straightforward young woman with little intent to insult. “Your accusations hurt, Reimu. Why would I unleash a horde of monsters on the village?”

“Watching you.”

“Trust me, I don’t want to cross you.” Reimu stares at you, eyes hinting at past missteps. “Don’t want to seriously cross you,” you amend.

Reimu gives you the death stare a second longer before nodding, smiling, and returning to her tea.

“Reimuuuuu!” Rumia begins to whine once the conversation slows to a halt. “I’m huuuuungry!”

The shrine maiden in question sighs and picks Rumia up by the waist before standing the child-like youkai on her feet. Then Reimu stands up and snaps the umbrella shut. She waves at you once before taking Rumia’s hand and guiding the youkai off into the shrine.

You finish the last of your tea and leave the cup on the porch. Back to work, then. You drop your spare change into the donation box and fly off.
>> No. 173995
It’s hot. A little more and you expect flames to start burning. You run your hand through the long white hair as softly as you can. “You need to calm down, Mokou. You’ll hurt yourself, and me, if you don’t relax.”

Far from calming down, you feel the immortal jitter even more. “How am I supposed to relax? I’ve never done this before!”

You nod in understanding, bringing you hand to her backside to draw light, comforting circles. “It’s something every girl experiences once. Sure, you’re late by a couple hundred years, but there’s no shame in that.”

“I never thought…I never thought this would be so difficult!” Mokou isn’t one to cry but you can feel how uncomfortable she is.

“It isn’t,” you whisper. “Here, let me put it-”

“No!” she shouts. She slaps your guiding hand away, reminding you just how slender she is. For all her boyish attitude and hot flames, her unchanging body is that of a beautiful, fragile noblewoman. “I can do it! I know I can!”

Mokou whimpers and slowly begins to move. She’s extra careful in order to try and offset her clumsy, inexperienced movements. “T-There. Is it…?”

You grimace and pat her on her bony shoulders. “Open your eyes and look for yourself.”

“Ah!” she exclaims when she looks down.

The small hand mirror she holds reveals the fruits of her efforts. Looking over shoulder, you too see the splotches of eye shadow surrounding one of her eyes. “That looks really terrible, doesn’t it?” she asks, lifting up the mirror and looking at her handiwork from multiple angles.

“It’s a bit overbearing.” It makes her look a high school delinquent after a fight, really, but you aren’t going to say that.

“Ooh, I’ll never get this just right! Why is putting makeup on so difficult? Who even thought of this idea in the first place? Why is it even a thing? Who actually wants to a buy dozens of little bottles of overpriced stuff only for it to smear or run or whatever if you even so much as touch it or worse if you’re trying to run from a bear or climb a tree or gather food! It’s useless!”

You chuckle at her completely valid but out-of-place complaints. “Yet, you’re the one that wanted to learn how to put it on.”

“That’s because everybody else does it! Can you imagine how surprised Keine would be when I show up for Obon in a proper outfit with proper makeup and look all proper and normal?”

As always, Mokou knows what she wants. Her friend’s wish that she adjusts to modern human society, instead of living an animalistic life of solitude, is almost always on her mind. “Alright, I get it. Here, let me guide your hands a bit so you can get a feel for it.”

“Okay.”

You talk about each type of cosmetic as you help Mokou apply it, showing her the minute motions and adjustments one needs to look their best.

“Isn’t makeup supposed to be a woman’s thing?” she asks. Unlike other people, Mokou’s voice isn’t judging. She’s simply curious.

“Traditionally, I suppose so. I wouldn’t have chosen to learn it on my own.” When you were younger, you couldn’t imagine ever touching the feminine products. Well excuse me for helping you out then, Mister. “But, it has turned out to be an invaluable skill.”

“It doesn’t seem very practical to me, but I guess I don’t know enough. The jiang-shi playing in my yard look so alive, after all.” Mokou nods in understanding, a slight hint of awe for a skill she does not possess evident in her voice. “I don’t think I could ever make a group of corpses look that good.”

“Who knows? I’m sure after another hundred years of trying you could figure it out,” you tease the immortal.

“I suppose that’s true. Although, everything about your necromancy seems a bit too complicated to just pick up naturally. I would have to study hard and really learn the concepts like you have, but I’m not sure if I’m cut out for that kind of learning. I couldn’t follow a thing Alice was saying when she was explaining how I could possibly improve my own abilities and if I can’t work on understanding what I do, what hope is there to learn what you do?” You meant that as a joke, but the immortal answers with full, endearing honesty.

Mokou’s casual name drop forces you to think about the list of ‘important people’ in Gensokyo. “That’s the puppeteer magician, right?”

“Oh, yes, it is. I’ve seen her more now that I try to spend more time inside the village itself so we talk on occasion. I guess it’s because she fascinated by what I am and what I can do even if I don’t find it particularly special myself. She isn’t like all the other normal humans who see me as someone to respect, avoid, or possibly even hate.”

“Your reputation isn’t that poor, is it?”

“Oh no, it’s nothing like that. It’s just that after everything that’s happened to them, most of the humans of the village and distrustful of anything inhuman. Hell, some of them don’t even trust Reimu and she’s the one that managed to protect them from being culled even further once the rest of the Hakurei clan died.” Mokou twirls a few strands of her overly long hair around her fingers while she speaks. “That’s the problem with sticking everybody together, I guess. From what I understand, you could go and trace which human came from what village and see where they were located to figure out just how differently they view youkai and the like. It’s one of Keine’s hobbies, if you’re interested.”

The humans of Gensokyo, you’ve learned, used to live in a variety of villages throughout Gensokyo. A majority were protected by the wide-reaching and, according to some, rather oppressive Hakurei clan. Other villages had their own defenses or sometimes even amiable relations with groups of youkai. Yet, a series of incidents manage to decimate the humans. Once the Hakurei were also devastated with a rapid number of deaths, the backlash against the humans was enough to drive them into a single mega village for their own safety.

“So, most of the humans still feel uneasy around you?”

“I think most everybody does, even youkai. Some people find it interesting to be around someone who could have spoken with their ancestors, but apparently there’s that little wriggling sense of resentment when you know that the girl with the long white hair will outlive you.”

“Well, most people are idiots then,” you conclude.

Mokou grins. “I think you’re the weird one for treating me as normally as you are.”

“I’m not sorry for being a bit weird.”

Mokou shakes her head and falls back into her chair, her head coming to rest against your stomach. “I’m glad you are. It’s relaxing to have another place where I can be treated normally.”

That doesn’t make any sense. How could her home not have been a place of relaxation for? “What do you mean?”

“Usually it’s just me and only me in this house. If I get a visitor, I’ll turn them to where they should be quick enough. With you here, well, it’s another place I can be me and not be judged or criticized or anything.”

“What are the other places?” you ask while brushing the immortal’s cheeks with rouge.

“Keine’s home and schoolhouse, mostly. A few different shops in the village too. And Eientei, I guess.”

“Eientei?” You suppose that the residents of Eientei would be most used to immortals, given that they have two on residence, but the fact that Mokou is professing it makes you wonder. “I thought you had less than stellar relations with Eientei.”

“It varies, really. On a bad day, sure, Kaguya puts snipers on the roof to blow my head off. On a good day, the much famed lunar princess is perfectly willing to play me in a game of Go. We used to have a problem but it was really more my fault. I guess you could say I’ve gotten over it. A little bit of death between us doesn’t mean much anyway. It’s almost like a friendly greeting in a strange and twisted kind of way which is one of the reasons that other humans avoid us I guess. As for everybody else, assuming I’m let inside, it isn’t so bad. The rabbits are rabbits and most of them are nice and friendly, except for the lunatics who could stand to learn to be a bit less uptight. I don’t really mind Eirin as long as she isn’t trying to experiment on me with some crazy new medication that I refuse to take.”

You let Mokou wipe off some of the makeup before asking, “She experiments on you?”

“In the past yeah, although it hasn’t happened recently now that I tend to burn her if she gets too close. As far as I can tell, Eirin only has two goals in life: protecting Kaguya and advancing her science and honestly, I think that second goal is only a method of managing the first. I don’t even think Kaguya is someone worth that kind of devotion. She’s way too impulsive and temperamental, although maybe she only acts that way in regards to me because everybody else seems to think she’s the most beautiful and well-behaved person in the galaxy-”

“You know,” you interrupt her, “when you’re trying to put on lipstick, you should try not to talk so much.”

“Huh?” Mokou brings up her hand mirror. Then she quickly rushes for her towel. “Oh shoot!”

---

You haven’t had days as peaceful as this in a while.

Nice, isn’t it?

You’re enjoying not running for your life once a week or so. It’s a change for the better, you think.

That wouldn’t happen so much if you didn’t pick so many fights you couldn’t win.

It’s not like you usually intentionally try to instigate fights by possibly upsetting the people who aren’t as level-headed and easygoing as they should be.

I’m not even going to waste time thinking about that denial.

The point is, there’s no fatal pressure at the moment. You suppose your sister was right about this.

Of course I was. That is why you should listen to me when I tell you to stop staying up for hours into the night and get some sleep for the next work-filled day.

You can’t compromise on that. It’s absolutely necessary to make sure you’re in as best a shape as you can be. How could your sister ever disagree with that?

Because you’d be in better shape if you had a decent night’s sleep every day! What’s worse, you keep tearing holes in yourself when you already know you can’t do anything more.

You don’t, as a matter of fact, know that for sure. That’s why you’re investi- Of course you know that! What was the first thing you thought of when you finally managed to inspect the damage?

That the reaper attack was- Wrong! It was ‘Fuck, how am I supposed to fix this?’

Which you’re looking into- Fruitlessly! You know it as well as I do that just opening yourself up won’t get you anywhere. Any spontaneous, miracle solution you might think of would be too crazy to attempt without further research anyway.

You- Please stop arguing this. Tell me the two ways you can see of fixing your black onyx system.

That’s a leading- Answer it or so help me I’ll- The first way is a replacement. Your soul-protection system is anchored by the five black onyx gemstones in your body. Stopping the reapers’ scythes took its toll on the gems. They all show various signs of mana depletion. Preventing reapers blows from cleaving your soul from your body took an absurd amount of energy.

The mana stored in the system, however, will naturally replace itself by siphoning off from your body’s reserves. You’ve made a couple of expeditions into the Forest of Magic in order to help them charge as well, getting you back to a relatively safe level of energy.

The real problem is that the gems also show signs of physical deterioration. You suspect the sudden and sustained channeling of the protection spells is what caused it. The former lich phylacteries were meant for slow, sustained used in storing and regenerating an undead wizard, not sudden flaring of energy needed for your protection. The physical warping and cracking is concerning for two reasons. First, it naturally weakens the spell by interfering with the runes. Second, you don’t want sharp rock fragments situated on your circulatory system to be sitting around.

So, the first method is replacement. Remove the overly damaged gemstone and stick in a new one. It wouldn’t be a simple process. You would need a week or two of constant work to prepare everything for a proper replacement, but it would be doable – if you had a replacement.

You are, unfortunately, lacking in high-powered magical artifacts you could surgically insert into your body.

The second way you have imagined would be a more comprehensive fix, an upgrade to the system in other terms. Relying on the gemstones, on mana batteries to fuel your soul-protection, is not ideal. Preferably, you would want to be able to use your own body’s mana to fuel the spell. Of course, if you had any such potential for that, you’d shore up your own spell casting first.

However, you have a very good example of beings that generate a not-insignificant amount of mana, enough to keep all the spells maintaining their bodies running. In theory, if you could gain a fraction of those abilities and apply them, you could have a generator fueling your soul-protection instead of batteries.

But that method leads through Seiga or months of theoretical research. So that’s a no go.

In other words, the number of plausible ways to reliably fix this issue, especially in the days left before Obon, is a resounding…zero.

Excellent, you agree! Now, pay attention to what you’re cutting. Don’t slice a finger off.

Why are you even on kitchen duty? It feels like a waste of time compared to what else you could be doing.

Byakuren asked, remember? Then you leapt up and ran here.

As you recall, you were rudely dragged from your room while you were preparing another minor inspection of your black onyx system.

And I’m glad she did.

Traitor.

I’m on your side, Bro. I only have the best of intentions in mind. Didn’t we just go over this?

You just don’t understand.

What’s so hard? I don’t like it when my little brother cuts bloody holes in his own- Not that.

How can she endorse you standing here, making soup? How can your sister be willing to take things easy when you know that the method of returning to her life is close at hand?

Everyone needs a break- Which is just an excuse. You’ve given your sister consent to snoop around in your mind as much as she’s given you to snoop in hers. You don’t usually do it, but even you can feel the lack of excitement coming from her.

Rather, she’s excited, but not at the thought of regaining her life. She’s deflecting the issue by focusing on your conditions and feelings instead of hers.

You’ve noticed that for a while?

That’s right. But, this is probably the first time in a long time your sister has pushed so insistently on a non-trivial subject.

It’s not like there are any leads- You’ve already gone through the logic. What you’re curious about are her feelings on the matter. Does she think you won’t succeed when you can finally study the Necronomicon?

I passed the point of doubt long ago. When you were a kid, I found your hobby cute. Once you started practicing, I was horrified on some level. Now? I don’t doubt your ability, Bro. I’m sure even without the Necronomicon, you would devote your life to experimenting and find a way to succeed.

Then what? Is a return to life just not valuable?

It’s a dream, a dream that has seemed closer to reality than ever before. The thought of returning to a life of my own is astounding. Who wouldn’t want to walk on their own two legs, to feel the wonders of independence?

But it’s not exciting.

It’s…complicated.

You have time to listen. It’d be more interesting than watching soup simmer.

Well…I’ve gotten used to life like this, I guess? I don’t want to just list advantages and disadvantages, but this is as close to you as I can ever get. You know, when I got home after work and saw you sitting in a corner of our apartment, I wished I could have done more for you.

You were given- more than you ever deserved, yeah yeah I’ve heard it before. I’m just saying, just how you think I deserve more, I wished I could have done more for you. I wished I could have spent more time with you, understood you more, helped you to see the world and grow into a bright young man. But, I had a job. I had bills to pay, schoolwork to complete, superiors to please, obligation after duty after responsibility.

In a way, how I’m living now was also a dream. Our journey has been a dream. We’ve seen the world, often without responsibility to anyone. We could see the sights we wanted and do whatever we pleased. Sure, there was ridiculous levels of danger, but it was also like a long, dreamy vacation in a way.


You…understand that. Hours spent studying ancient texts and running from horrible monsters might not have been the most enjoyable, but it beat sitting in front of a computer browsing the internet. Looking at the world from the top of a mountain? Swimming in an ancient lake undisturbed by civilization? Those shared experiences will remain with you forever.

And you’ve grown. I’ve been blessed to see every moment of it. How many parents wish they could see all of their baby’s firsts? I’m not sure how much of the current you I’m allowed to take credit for, but I like to think my influence hasn’t been insignificant.

The thought of losing this all is just…confusing. I can’t say what’s better and what isn’t. After living years like this, I guess you could say it’s my comfort zone. Returning to my old life, my own life, is scary in a way. And those are all just my feelings on the matter. My thoughts on the technicalities, on understanding what and how your magic could work, and planning for possible futures only adds on extra layers of complication to think about.


Huh.

That satisfy your curiosity?

…It did. Thanks, Sis.

No problem. It was good for me to think out loud, or as ‘out loud’ as I can get. Now, start stirring. The ladle’s hanging above you and to the right.

---

As the sun slowly drops in the sky, the real party is set to begin.

For the temple, the major events are scheduled for the latter half of the three day festival. After preparing throughout the day, you’re allowed to have this first night to enjoy. All of the temple residents involved with the big projects are likewise taking it easy now before settling into the hot seat later on.

It took some coercing, but you and the others managed to extract assurances that the head nun of the Myouren Temple would also enjoy this first night without the stress of work. Supposedly, she has one last meeting with some villagers that should end before night falls.

Even though you didn’t vote for it, you were landed with the duty of making sure the nun sheds her duties for the night.

You aren’t sure how that happened, but you’re positive Ichirin and Minamitsu were conspiring behind your back.

Nevertheless, you agreed.

At least you managed to avoid them dressing you up for the occasion. You’re not Japanese, so you most definitely don’t need to wear a yukata or whatever other crazy clothes they have for you.

That leaves you standing awkwardly on the side of the road, watching everybody rush around with last minute preparations and the beginnings of business. Behind you is one of the mansions of the village. From what you remember, you think it’s the commander of the guard’s home or something.

You’ve already been waiting for twenty minutes already…

[ ] Wait outside, patiently, for Byakuren
[ ] Rescue the overworked damsel! Barge into the meeting!
[ ] Look around some
[ ] Quickly pick up a gift
-[ ] A mask
-[ ] Something tasty
-[ ] A fake charm
-[ ] A real charm
[ ] Visit a friend for a few minutes
-[ ] Reimu
-[ ] Mokou
-[ ] Jiang-shi
-[ ] Minamitsu
-[ ] Ichirin
-[ ] <Someone else>
[ ] <Write-in>

---

And here we go. How many more threads will this last? I wonder…

Again, apologies for this late update. Adjusting to a new routine is tough, and there happens to be a certain writing competition slated for the end of this month, among other things, I’m also working on.

>>/gensokyo/11756
As always, I highly encourage anybody reading this message to write something for the contest. Whether you’re a time-honored veteran or a lurker who’s never tried this painful hobby, this is the perfect time to produce a masterpiece (or a steaming pile of very fun shit.) You still have a week, which is more than enough time for a little drabble.
>> No. 173999
[x] Quickly pick up a gift
-[x] A mask

Get her a nice fox mask or something. Tiger mask? I dunno, just something nice.
>> No. 174000
Thanks for the meaty update. I appreciate that you let us vote for so many options.

Mokou and Murasa remain pretty damn interesting, and I liked how the Reaper's paperwork/Jiang-shi scene was handled.

Wish we could see a little more Ichirin, since I think she's might develop into a fun character.

[x] Visit a friend for a few minutes
[x] Ichirin
>> No. 174002
[x] Visit a friend for a few minutes
-[x] Mokou

While the other options are attractive, if the scene with Mokou was any indication she could really use some encouraging words from a friend before the festivities get into full swing.
>> No. 174003
[x] Visit a friend for a few minutes
-[x] Mokou

Same reasons as >>174002

also, nice job on the update, it was great to read
>> No. 174004
[ ] Look around some
[ ] Quickly pick up a gift
-[ ] A real charm

Don't see why not for the later. It's not like we aren't loaded.
>> No. 174012
[x] Visit a friend for a few minutes
-[x] Mokou
>> No. 174013
[X] Look around some

I can't decide out of all the great options, so yay for neutrality! also thank you for giving me an explanation on the black onyx system. now i can stop yapping about it like an irate chihuahua.

P.S. Let's keep reimu's intuition in mind during this, and if we see trouble brewing between the temples, lets stomp that out quick. or run away very fast, as our intervention may simply make things worse.

P.P.S. Let's keep an eye out for patchouli as well as the other mages in gensokyo, as talk amongst peers can yield useful info, and their contribution to the festival will be entertaining indeed. Please let Alice do a puppet show, complete with different voices, I beg you.
>> No. 174014
Why is Reimu talking like that, anyway?
>> No. 174016
[x] Pick up a fake charm.

[x] Visit a friend for a few minutes
-[x] Jiang-shi

Fake charms for all the Jiang-shi!
>> No. 174017
[x] Rescue the overworked damsel! Barge into the meeting!

This option calls out to me, that and if not this just waiting would better than risking looking "late" or whatever.
>> No. 174019
>>174014
She always talk like that.

[x] Quickly pick up a gift
-[x] A mask
I want to see where this goes. Besides, since his job is being Byakuren's chaperone, going too far away isn't really wise.
>> No. 174022
[x] Visit a friend for a few minutes
-[x] Mokou

Let's go cheer her on for a little bit.
>> No. 174023
[x] Quickly pick up a gift
-[x] A mask
>> No. 174024
>But that method leads through Seiga or months of theoretical research. So that’s a no go.

Is talking to Seiga that much of a problem? She forgot to warn us about Reapers, but she cares about her Jiang-Shi, so apparently either she honestly forgot or she thought we could handle them. The fact that she cares about her Jiang-Shi gives her a reason to help us - we can't look after them if we're dead. She sent her zombies after us - after we took Yoshika from her. We were acting in self-defense, but did she know that? Why did Yoshika attack us anyway? In fact, do we even know she was going to attack us? She said "Brains" a few times and then we rammed ourself into her mind. Could she have been pranking us? If not, was she sent to kill us or was she just hungry?

[X] Visit a friend for a few minutes
-[X] Jiang-Shi
--[X] Ask Yoshika about when we first met her
---[X] What was she going to do to us?
---[X] Why was she going to do it?
---[X] Was she sent by her master, or acting on her own?
--[X] Ask the Jiang-Shi about Siega
---[X] Why did she not warn us about Reapers?
---[X] How secretive is she about her magical techniques?
---[X] Did she have them fight people often?
----[X] For what reasons?
---[X] Did she let eat people?

There's also the problem of finding her, but she's probably going to attend the festival, and if not Byakuren should be able to find either her or another Taoist who can pass on a message to her.
>> No. 174025
>>174024
She is a direct enemy of us and either she or her boss is in possession of the Necronomicon. So yeah, talking to her will happen, but it won't be on friendly terms.
>> No. 174026
>>174025
The Taoists have the book? I must have missed the bit where we learned that; could you link me to it?
>> No. 174028
[x] Quickly pick up a gift
-[x] A mask
>> No. 174029
>>174026
Pure, unadulterated and unfounded speculation.

All I could think of that supports the theory is meta:

-When a story has a mystery (Who ordered the murder? Who has the book?) it is just bad form to make the culprit someone we've never seen, so that reduces the possible candidates.

-Regarding sides, we're definitely rooted in Byakuren's so the most likely candidates are from the opposite faction: the Taoists. Besides, they're two revived people a ghost a zombie and a necromancer: I can't see any other group that could use the Necromicon so much. More on that up next.

-Regarding him in particular, Seiga has been his nemesis since the very beginning. He opposes her in moral terms (regarding the state of Yoshika) in professional terms (She's her better in Necromancy ) and in personal terms (A bit of Jealousy and an instant dislike of her character, see the next point)

-Regarding Seiga herself: as I mentioned before he feels an instinctual dislike towards her. Maybe because they're not so different? I feel like she's what would happened if our MC decided to cut one too many corners in his quest. Also, she's one of the only two necromancers in the land and we're talking about the fucking British encyclopedia of death here.

-Regarding Drama: Who is our most trusted companion? Yoshika. The 'two masters' thing hasn't run dry yet and it's obvious that there's something more to her than what meets the eye. A conflict directly related to her is the most dramatic moment for it to be revealed. (If this, perchance, happens to be correct, this is the second update I'm really looking forward to)

I once read that speculation is the best gift you can give to an author in THP; so here you go.
>> No. 174031
We're overlooking a particular other sorceress who is closely associated with the spirit and darkness, who harnesses the power of the stars and possibly the creatures who are linked to them.

We are so focused on the Taoists that we don't even notice that MIMA HAS THE BOOK

...

Okay, maybe not, but I can dream!

(Seriously though, it could very well just be in Marisa's possession. She might have saw it on the ground and, having saw it at Suzunaan that one time, decided to pilfer it.)
>> No. 174034
>>174029
>We're definitely rooted in Byakuren

Not yet we're not!

Ba-zing!
>> No. 174039
>>174034
ZIMBAWE
>>174031
>Mima
Do you feel it in your booooones?
Anyway, it isn't unlikely. Considering the book's knoweldge, we should put in anyone who may want to revive someone.

-Hakugyokurou: (Saigyou Ayakashi's corpse) Does Yuyuko know the possible consequences of her own revival? AFAIK, she doesn't even know who is buried under the cursed tree.
-Mokou (His father) Even more unlikely.
-Mima (Mima)
-The Prismriver Sisters (Layla)
-The Buddhists (Myouren)

et all.
>> No. 174046
>>mfw fuckhuge update

Thank you so much.

[x] Quickly pick up a gift
-[x] A mask
>> No. 174063
[X] Quickly pick up a gift
-[X] Something tasty

Nuns like hotdogs right?
>> No. 174104
Any news writefag? You working on your writing contest entry?

Pick unrelated.
>> No. 174109
>>174104
Yeah, although I don’t think it’s particularly good. I haven’t had a lot of writing time for the past month or so – hopefully life will slow down and let me back on a regular writing schedule soon™. Sorry for the excessive delays.

>black onyx replacements
That could be…interesting…

I’d find that fun to write, I think.
>> No. 174172
You take one more look at the building behind you before wandering off. Byakuren is running late. On one hand, it would make sense to wait for her to emerge from her meeting, which could happen at any moment.

On the other hand, it’s really boring standing around. And, if your intuition is correct, whatever is keeping her probably isn’t close to being resolved.

With that in mind, you take a quick walk down the street, staying close enough that you can see where you’re meeting Byakuren if you float a tad. Stalls have been erected on either side of every street. It’s a large variety of different foods, games, and silly merchandises. There are antiques on sale, miniature fireworks, paper fans, and all sorts of other knick knacks. More exotic goods, from outsider technology to special magical devices and empowered charms are also on display. It feels more like a decorated market day then a tine to honor one’s ancestors.

Maybe she would like a mask? It’s a gift that could get her in the festive mood.

The cart you stop at seems to have every kind of mask available. Most of them look like cheap, mass-produced plastic pieces with silly animals for faces. They’re placed low on the cart, in prime position for hyperactive children to beg their parents to buy them.

However, there appears to be very well-crafted ones as well. Some are wooden, other ceramics, and there are even a few metal masks. They range from simple animals to facades of ferocious youkai and demigod-like figures.

“Are you interested, sir?” the man standing nearby asks. He has a backpack on, with even more masks strapped to the outside.

He looks a bit sketchy, but you suppose that’s a healthy trait in any salesman.

“Just browsing,” you tell him.

Naturally he ignores you and begins extolling the virtues of one type of mask or another. His babble about the mystic and transformative power of his masks would be convincing, if you couldn’t see for yourself the lack of magic in them.

You tune him out.

What kind would she like? Something fierce like a tiger? Intelligent like a fox? Perhaps she’d like this cat mask?

A cat mask? That sounds good.

Really? You pick up the mask and spin it around in your hands, testing the weight of it for no real reason.

Definitely. I mean, a gift should mean something, don’t you think? And I’m pretty sure that’s a cougar mask, so the message you’re sending-

Har har.

You wish you could extract some sort of retribution from the voice in your head, but the most you can do is ignore her.

Placing the feline mask back on the cart, you decide to go with one of the more antique masks on sale. Sure it isn’t as flamboyant as the others and maybe a woman would be offended by its lack of decorative beauty, but you feel like it’s a good pick.

The mask is a mostly featureless, a plain white piece with eyes highlighted by purple lines. You doubt it’s a noh mask or some similar theatrical prop because it seems too plain, but it might be. From one angle the mask looks like its smiling and another, frowning.

You don’t know what it is about the mask, but it seems right. Maybe because it feels sort of familiar?

Well, I wouldn’t be thrilled with this pick.

If it turns out to be a horrible choice, you’ll just have to make it up. You have all night.

Before you can pay the mask salesman and leave, another mask catches your eye. You decide to buy it for yourself while you’re here.

And a skull mask for you? Really?

Cliché, but it appeals. Would Yoshika want one?

She’d be happy with any gift. Although, since a mask generally interferes with eating…

Maybe not, then

It’s strange not having her hanging off your shoulder.

Your faithful jiang-shi surprised you when she asked to go somewhere else for the beginning of the night. When you asked, she happily answered, “I want to go say hi to master!”

Naturally, you couldn’t refuse. Since Yoshika made the request for herself, you weren’t going to deny it. Besides, all the other jiang-shi went off to enjoy themselves during the night too.

The thought of her meeting with Seiga makes you nervous, but she said she would be back sometime before the night ended. If she doesn’t, you’ll have a problem them. Or start making some.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

With gift held securely in hand, you head back to the building Byakuren said her meeting was in.

Nobody is waiting for you outside and, after knocking once and inquiring about the meeting, a servant tells you it should be ending soon.

After another twenty minutes of waiting, a certain nun finally emerges.

Byakuren walks over to you, looking only a bit haggard compared to usual. “I am sorry for the delay. Have you been kept waiting long?”

“Don’t worry about it,” you tell her. “Did everything go as you expected?”

Byakuren pinches the bridge of her nose and makes a frustrated grumble, any veneer of Buddhist ataraxia smashed to pieces. “Unfortunately, yes. These meetings are far from the most productive use of my time, but they are a necessity.”

“Well, you’re free from all that. No need to worry any further.”

“So you say, but ensuring the security of our performers is-”

“Half the performers are youkai! What do they need protection from?”

“Nevertheless, it is my duty to-“

“Take the night off. No more working for you, Missy!”

The nun stares at you, one eyebrow slightly raised. “Missy? Do you realize how old I am?”

You grin and present the mask that you held behind your back. “Not old enough to wear one of these?”

“A mask?” she asks.

“Yeah. Festive mood and all that. It’s enchanted so that while you wear it, you aren’t allowed to work.”

“I see…” Byakuren reaches forward and gently takes the offered gift from your fingers. She turns it around repeatedly, examining it in great deal. You watch her trace the few lines of color and all of the minimal contours with her fingers. “…I haven’t worn one of these in a long time.”

How old is she again?

Why?

You’re just wondering what time she’s referring to. Was it a festival in the past? Some play? During a rebellious stage in her life? And is she talking about any mask, or that one in particular? Because that’d be a pretty ridiculous coinci-

Byakuren slips the mask on, but not over her face. She keeps it on the top side of her head, a new accessory that bridges the transition from purple to brown hair.

A silly mask shouldn’t make such a large change, but for some reason she looks especially-

“How do I look?” she asks.

“Great,” you say as you turn towards the street, your elbow crooked in a gentlemanly fashion. “ Let’s go.”

You expect Byakuren to laugh off your shenanigans and start walking towards the festivities.

She laughs, but she also takes you up on your offer and links her arm with yours.

She isn’t hanging off you like Yoshika, but her decision to touch you at all is…shocking.

Byakuren gives you a knowing smirk, the dark-witch-in-disguise confident in her ability to catch you off-guard. “Did you honestly decide to buy yourself a skull mask?” she asks.

You frown and place the mask on your head at a jaunty angle like Byakuren. It gives you enough time to recover your voice. “Why is everybody criticizing my decision? I’m surprised they’re even selling this many masks.”

“This surprises you?”

“Well, other Bon festivals I’ve been to haven’t been as lively as all this.” Some might call it shameless profiteering off of an honored tradition.

“That is true, isn’t it?” At some unspoken cue, the two of you choose to walk down the road, nearly perfectly in step. “Gensokyo’s specialty, I must say, is partying. The many types of groups and cultures mixing together ensure that our customs are rather extravagant.”

Byakuren sighs and, if ever so temporarily, rests her head on your shoulder. “The true meaning of these celebrations, whatever they may be, is oft loss upon the majority, humans and youkai.”

You cough once and then ask, “And that’s why you plan on having big shows and productions? Because it keeps with the spirit of Obon?”

“We have them for entertainment. They’re fun. We are residents of Gensokyo as well.” Byakuren looks at you and rolls her eyes. “If you wish to be that critical, we also host those expected traditions you cherish.”

“Oh, I’m not complaining about what you choose to do. It’s not like I’m big on religion. But a play about the founding of Myouren Temple? That’s supposed to be fun?” Sure, you get that some people like opera and other people like Shakespeare, but the Myouren Temple’s main production sounds decidedly uninteresting.

“Of course it is,” Byakuren assures you confidently. “And it will be. And it will be educational. And spread our message. And bring many people by those of us who which to offer their wares. Money is like water; open your hands and it will flow to you.”

Somehow, that inspired bit of wisdom seems a bit dodgy.

You turn your head slightly when a finger pokes your cheek. “You just said you don’t fault me for what I choose to do,” Byakuren accuses.

“And I don’t. I’m not judging you. Business is business.” You grab the nun’s finger and toss away, sweeping your arm out to encompass all the lights and people in one grand motion. “But that isn’t important right now. There’s two days before the big performance, and tonight is supposed to be relaxing!”

“If you are so enthused, does that mean you have an activity in mind?”

“Huh? Well, uh…”

Your lack of forethought is showing.

Byakuren giggles and politely stands still while you deliberate.

[ ] Time for some games!
[ ] Is that a puppet show?
[ ] Eating never hurts
[ ] She enjoys shopping, right?
[ ] Start off with some conversing
-[ ] Including <someone else?>
-[ ] About <what?>
[ ] <Write-in>

---

Thanks for all the feedback! Also, make me write all that again and you’ll regret it!

Although, this was way too short for the time taken. I need to start kicking myself to work harder.

>>174014
She’s special.

>>174024
I must say sir, those are very interesting questions. Bias can be a problem in all parts of life.

Ah, if only different choices were taken, where would we be?

>>174029
Also interesting speculation. I’m glad you can appreciate the connection between the characters. I won’t say much more other than:
>I feel like she's what would happened if our MC decided to cut one too many corners in his quest.
From my perspective, if he had more magical potential and less moral guidance in his quest for power…

>>174031
Yeah! That’s the way to think! Too bad there’s one major, inherent flaw in that theory. (The first one, that is. As for the second, yes, that seems possible.)

>>174039
Considering what is known about the book and relating it to potential uses is an excellent way to go about things.

>>174063
>hotdogs
>tasty
>> No. 174174
>>174172

That was the Zelda Mask Salesman.

Are we sure Byakuren isn't going to try dropping the moon on Gensokyo any time soon?

Also!

[x] Shopping!
[x] Conversing!
-[x] About Gensokyo! And her! And the festival! Really, just making pleasant small talk.

Also, why not a Mima? She's the bestest Evil Spirit to ever be an Evil Spirit!
>> No. 174175
>From my perspective, if he had more magical potential and less moral guidance in his quest for power…
Oh I get it! Seiga is her sister FROM THE FUTURE where he succeeded in giving her a body but died as a result.
She went a bit too far back and had to wait thousand of years. That's why she hates him so much: (and treats him with contempt) she had more than enough time to think about his mistakes and surpass him in her craft, in a failed (and ironic) effort to revive him.
In the end, she realized that the only way she'd see him again is by going back to where to it all began: Gensokyo.

...no? Not a chance? I'll sit on my corner then.
>> No. 174176
>From my perspective, if he had more magical potential and less moral guidance in his quest for power…
Oh I get it! Seiga is her sister FROM THE FUTURE where he succeeded in giving her a body but died as a result.
She went a bit too far back and had to wait thousand of years. That's why she hates him so much: (and treats him with contempt) she had more than enough time to think about his mistakes and surpass him in her craft, in a failed (and ironic) effort to revive him.
In the end, she realized that the only way she'd see him again is by going back to where to it all began: Gensokyo.

...no? Not a chance? I'll sit on my corner then.

[x] She enjoys shopping, right?
This seems interesting
>> No. 174177
[x] Time for some games!

I feel it's a nice mood maker as in getting Byakuren to fully relax.
>> No. 174178
>“Are you interested, sir?” the man standing nearby asks. He has a backpack on, with even more masks strapped to the outside.

[X] Time for some games!
[X] Eating never hurts
[X] She enjoys shopping, right?
>> No. 174179
[X] Time for some games!
[X] Eating never hurts
[X] She enjoys shopping, right?
>> No. 174180
[X] Eating never hurts.
[X] Is that a puppet show?

Also, while Byakuren isn't the best Buddhist, I doubt she's enough of a materialist to be a fan of Buying Stuff As Recreation.
>> No. 174181
[X] Time for some games!
>> No. 174182
[X] Is that a puppet show?

I'm honestly curious how an interaction with Alice would go.
>> No. 174183
[X] Is that a puppet show?


>>174172
Why does the mask in that picture look so familiar?
After a quick google search to confirm my suspicions all I can say is "Well shit".
>> No. 174186
Am I the only one who went "Oh shit" at the sight of the Happy Mask Salesman? No? Damn. I suppose I ought to vote now.

[x] Start off with some conversing
-[x] Including Murasa
-[x] About the Fujiwara Clan as a whole

It seems like a bad idea to let old wounds fester further, and while the disinfectant may hurt momentarily, it is better in the long term. Also, I'm quite interested to see Byakuren's opinion on these matters.
>> No. 174187
[ ] Is that a puppet show?

>Nun date

It begins
>> No. 174188
>>174187
She's not a typical nun judging from some of her actions and words.
>> No. 174189
>Thanks for all the feedback! Also, make me write all that again and you’ll regret it!
No, we won't.

Puppet show is too lacking in actual interaction with Byakuren, eating is an excellent thing to save for later when we have no idea what to do but want to extend the evening's activities, and we've already bought her something so shopping isn't ideal unless we want to end the evening weighed down in knickknacks (we don't).

That said, talking combos with everything. Not inclined to go for the heavy stuff so early in the night, though. Too much risk of her deciding to ditch us and go back to working if we're not keeping things at net fun.
[x] Time for some games!
[x] Conversing!
-[x] About Gensokyo! And her! And the festival! Really, just making pleasant small talk.
>> No. 174193
[x] Start off with some conversing
-[x] Including Murasa
-[x] About the Fujiwara Clan as a whole
>> No. 174197
[X] Is that a puppet show?
[X] Eating never hurts
[X] Start off with some conversing

Alice Alice Alice Alice Alice Ali-*AHEM* sorry, what's going on? i got distracted for a moment.

seriously though, i think that conversation is a great idea, but we need to keep it light, nothing too heavy. I can't think of any suitable topics though, so i will let others vote on that. a puppet show seems like just the thing to help byakuren relax. it may not spur much dialogue or bonding, but it's simple and probably fairly carefree, considering the varied audience for a puppet show. Games might be nice, but I'd rather go a bit longer before getting trounced in every game we try by the sweet nun. I also am desperate for some alice, i admit. I don't see much benefit from getting something to eat, but you can't go to a show without food, so let's do it anyway. This whole ordeal is making me think of renaissance fairs and the like.
>> No. 174198
[X] Is that a puppet show?
[x] Conversing!
-[x] About the Fujiwara Clan as a whole
>> No. 174199
>>174197
We're on a date on Byakuren and you're only thinking of Alice!? What's wrong with that is rather obvious.
>> No. 174202
[X] Eating never hurts
[X] Is that a puppet show?

You expected Alice? Too bad it's me Dio!
>> No. 174357
[X] Eating never hurts
[X] Is that a puppet show?

Alice learning Puppeteer Adventurequest tier Necromancy when?
>> No. 174385
“Uh, that looks interesting, doesn’t it? Let’s go look at that.”

You steer Byakuren towards the crowd of people. The nun only shakes her head in mock disappointment. “Honestly, you all conspire to prevent me from working but do not plan what we shall be doing instead?”

“I didn’t think it’d just be me.”

“This wasn’t your plan?” she asks.

“Those girls left me out to dry!” You have the suspicion that the Minamitsu and Ichirin are avoiding the two of you, yet are hovering close enough to watch you flounder. It seems suitably clichéd for them.

“I see.”

You turn your head to look at Byakuren and catch her full gaze. Is that curiosity? Disappointment? Boredom?

You quickly turn away. “Not that I hate this or anything. I mean, I’m glad to be here with or without them.” Maybe more so without them? Quiet.

Byakuren hums out a response but says nothing more.

When you reach the edge of the crowd, you realize how seriously you misjudged the number of people involved. There might be close to a hundred people crammed into the small space. Some of them are standing around in a semi-circle but most are sitting on metal benches that lower downward into the earth.

You’re pretty sure the village doesn’t normally have a miniature ancient Greek theatre built into the side of the road.

Nevertheless, it is here and it is packed.

“There’s more of a crowd than I thought. Should we just stand? Or maybe move-on?” you ask. Pushing your way to a place where you can get a view wouldn’t be hard, but it might not be worth it.

Byakuren looks up and unhooks her arm from yours. “That will not be necessary.”

“What does that-” you imitate Byakuren and look up to find a doll staring down at you. She’s a little one, about as tall as your forearm. She is wearing a black vest over a white dress shirt, with matching skirt and stockings. The doll also has a sword in hand that she waving around as she lowers into the crowd.

The people standing around clear space, letting you see that the doll is floating above the top of the steps. She curtsies to you, head bowed low in respect.

You jump slightly when Byakuren grabs your hand and leads you down the steps like a child. She heads all the way down and takes two convenient, front row seats where more of the usher-dolls are floating. Once both of you take a seat they float off, their duties in reserving space fulfilled.

“What’s this?” you ask.

“Shush,” Byakuren commands. She proceeds to ignore you and focus on the stage.

In the center of the semi-circle theater, an epic confrontation is occurring.

A dragon in miniature is twirled around in the air, its snake-like body rippling. It’s a blue beast, every single one of its scales shimmering in the magical lighting that shines from above. You listen as the beast roars, the sound echoing all around the theatre, eliciting screams from the younger children in the audience.

You’re not ashamed to admit your heart skips a beat or two.

Columns of water rise up around the dragon, taking on the appearance of multiple wide water spouts.

It’s amazing. When you manage to tear your vision away from the dragon and look at the rest of the stage, you feel like you are at the ocean. One half of the circular stage is filled with rolling water, the other half a sandy beach.

On that beach stands another doll. A woman. A rather familiar looking one.

The miniature Byakuren is instantly recognizable. She radiates white light, her doll fists held up in preparation. “Stop this at once!”

You have to check to make sure it wasn’t the nun sitting next to you that spoke.

“Foolish mortal, you dare to challenge me?”

“Yes! You shall be punished for your misdeeds! Return to your lair and bother not these humans any longer!” You want to laugh at how cheesy the line is and how squeaky Byakuren’s voice sounds.

Interestingly, the imitation of a younger Byakuren sounds like it originates from all around. You partially activate your mage sight, enough to get a glimpse of the webs of magic stretching across the theater. You want to examine it all, see what magical effects are being put into the production beyond the obvious, but you can’t because the doll is leaping into the air, her black-and-white clothes flapping in the wind.

The doll-Byakuren spins mid-leap. The light that extends from her arms slices through the tornadoes of water closing in on her. Where she strikes, water falls, crashing back into the ocean below with a splash.

The splashing water is controlled. Despite landing with a crash and throwing up huge waves of water, nobody in the front row is splattered.

The dragon roars again and coils it body, water rushing along its length before spearing towards Byakuren. She blocks with her arms and begins to fall, landing on the surface of the water with only a few ripples. The nun kicks off from the surface of blue and leaps towards the dragon again, the dance of high-pressured water and martial skill continuing on.

The entire audience gasps when a jet of water loops around and slams into Byakuren’s side. The nun goes flying, plowing a trough in the sand as she crashes and slides.

“For your insolence, mortal, I shall slay you quickly!” The dragon roars, his deep voice causing the seating to vibrate.

The dragon spears downward, mouth opened wide and claws outstretched. Everything of the creature ends in a sharp point, whether it’s the dragon’s teeth or its scales. Once could argue its sole purpose is to shred human flesh.

Gasps of surprise and excitement ring out with the sound of impact. Sand particles are kicked up by the collision, blocking the audience’s view for a moment, only the shadow of a monster closing its jaws visible.

When the sand quickly settles, you see Byakuren sitting up, one hand propped against the sand. In front of her, a different doll stands.

It’s a male Byakuren, if you had to describe him. He wears white pants and a white shirt, a purple vest, and a black over-jacket that is stupidly stringy just like Byakuren’s dress. His multi-colored hair is cut short and his build is more muscular than the other doll on stage.

He also has his arm caught in the dragon’s jaws.

The arm looks perfectly fine. In fact, you think parts of the dragon’s teeth are cracked.

The male doll says nothing as he slides his feet into a strong stance and punches with his free arm. Light shines and whips off the arm while it moves, making it look like his fist is generating shockwaves of wind and energy.

The dragon roars and is sent tumbling through the air, end over end. Before it can recover, the man is up into the air, one giant leap taking him past the dragon’s snout.

He lands on the beast’s head and begins to deliver a series of powerful jabs and stomps. The dragon shudders with every impact, quivering in the air like a loose string in the wind. It rolls and spins, trying to dislodge the human standing on it, but nothing works. The man maintains his footing, gracefully skipping between different sections of the dragon’s body to continue the assault.

After a minute of sustained attacks, you see the man hop off the dragon’s back and deliver a spinning, midair kick to the head.

The dragon breaks.

It loses all the tension and force in its body as it falls into the shallow tide. The dragon lays crumpled and defeated, the man looking little worse for wear.

H dusts grains of sand off his jacket before striding towards the other doll. Byakuren is already standing, her head tilted in a way that radiates annoyance.

“Why did I do all the hard work?” her squeaky voice demands.

Contrasting mini-Byakuren’s voice, the male doll speaks with a much deeper tone, yet still slightly childish. “I appreciate your assistance, Sister.”

“Next time, you can be the bait!”

“I would consider reversing our roles if you would devote yourself to mastering what I have showed you.”

“You really expect me to stand still and breathe for three hours?”

“If you wish to take more responsibility upon yourself, then yes.”

“Forget that. Let’s head back and get that feast they promised us!”

“A reward of food is not the reason we-”

“Hurry up Myouren!”

The stage begins to darken when the two strikingly similar figures walk off into the distance. They disappear once blackness dominates the stage, their banter trailing off into nothing.

The audience stands and applauds the performance. You feel yourself clapping as well, even if you only caught the tail-end of the show.

Villagers begin to file out of the theater once the entertainment is over. You and Byakuren stand as well, but don’t leave.

A woman in a blue dress, white shawl, and numerous colored ribbons approaches you. The blonde holds a book in her hand and has a couple of the usher-dolls floating around her. You notice many more of the flying dolls are streaming out from below the stage, metal brooms, buckets, and mops in hand. They begin cleaning up, washing seats and sweeping away trash. The dragon is out too, snaking between seats and spraying them with water. The Hijiri siblings follow along after, their glows possibly drying the seats or doing something else to help clean.

“I hope this performance was satisfactory, Byakuren,” the blonde woman ask.

“It was an excellent rendition, Alice. Although, there seems to have been a few misunderstood details in regards to what I told you.” There’s a lilt of amusement in Byakuren’s voice.

“Rest assured, I have your tale written down in perfect detail. However, you also asked for something impressive, something flashy, no? It is a storyteller’s prerogative to change a few minor details.”

“Turning the youkai into a dragon isn’t exactly minor. Also, Myouren practically never wore those clothes I got him.

“I thought the matching outfits would look cute; it was hardly a life-altering change. And the dragon? We both know that is hardly a change in strength compared to what we have faced.” The blonde laughs in a subdued and mature manner, Byakuren chuckling along with her. You have no idea what joke they’re sharing or how the two are related but you really want to know. Compared to the formal politeness Byakuren employs when dealing with many others, this Alice woman feels like one of her closer friend. “At any rate, is there something else you needed? Some changes I should make to my schedule?”

“No, no, I was not expecting to be here, but I see you are delivering what you promised and more. You can continue with what we have arranged.”

“Ah, you did not come to see the performance? That hurts.” The two women share a grin. “Then, the reason you came was…”

The blonde turns her gaze to you.

You can’t get a read on her. You assume she’s the one controlling the dolls, the one that was working the magical effects during the performance. You weren’t watching the magic closely, but it was definitely a complex mixture of spells. Controlling the lighting, manipulating the terrain, amplifying voices and more would normally be a task for a group of mages.

Except, it was all perfectly coordinated. As if one person were accomplishing it all.

The general ability to pull off so much and to micromanage it all is scary in and of itself.

What’s worse is how normal she seems. She has a complicated, well-groomed outfit, but no killer aura. If you didn’t know better, you would assume she’s a normal young woman. But she can’t be, not with the magic you presume she is casting. There has to be a trick you’re not feeling with your normal, unenhanced senses.

As much as you analyze her, she takes the same time to analyze you. She turns to look at Byakuren and asks, “A date?”

“No!”

“Not at all!”

Seems like she’s analyzing you in a different way.

She looks surprised at the reaction and raises one hand in a calming gesture. “Forgive my presumptions. A friend, then?”

You start to respond immediately, but Byakuren is quicker. “Yes. He sought my help in a search of his and has been helping out at the temple since.”

Does that hurt, Bro? Shut it.

The blonde magician nods once before stepping closer to you, her hand outstretched. “My name is Alice Margatroid. It is a pleasure to meet you, sir.”

You shake her hand, relishing the western greeting. “Yeah, same to you. I enjoyed the play. These dolls are very well-made; did you make them all yourself?”

“Thank you and yes, I am rather proud of my creations.” Alice smiles and twirls her fingers. The metal dragon comes at her call, the creation snaking around her shoulders and looking at you.

Amazing. Looking at it up close, you see that it seems to be made entirely of metal. Despite that, it heaves slowly as if breathing, twitching and fidgeting like any other living creature.

When you look around, you realize all the dolls behave in such a way. One of the ushers at Alice’s shoulder is idly twirling its sword and the other is standing at attention, hands held behind its back. Across the theater, you see a pair of dolls goofing off, swinging brooms at each other, before a third comes by and smacks them both back to work.

Despite it all, Alice seems to be focused on you and Byakuren. “Such fine control,” you note. The dragon snaps at you when you reach a finger toward it. “Have you endowed it with some sort of automation enchantments or have you linked it to your subconscious in some way?” The other option is that she is so strong and intelligent that she can micromanage such tiny, natural movements.

That would be terrifying.

“Yes, but no. My subconscious control is more related to a natural affinity for magical energy manipulation, not grounded in a spell. However, I have also automated my creations for other purposes.”

“Then, the water manipulation spells came from an enchantment on the dragon, not you? You also had the lighting and other stage effects automated?”

Alice nods once. “That is correct. How did you come to that assumption?”

“Many of the concurrent, wildly different effects happening would take extremely precise attention to form. It all looked too natural to be the efforts of one mage,” you comment, working through your thought process.

You expected Alice to nod along, to agree with your logical reasoning. Instead, she sounds slightly surprised. “Oh. I suppose that would be a problem for conventional spell casters.”

Well.

Fuck.

You can’t ignore a statement like that.

Bro, don’t do something stupid, please.

You won’t, but you’re too intrigued now.

The familiar feeling of your mage sight floods your eyes. You know that the magic turns the whites of your eyes a dark green, entirely unsubtle, but it’s necessary. Your mage sight is- “A temporary magical enhancement that emulates the magical sense found in natural practitioners. You can see magical energy as clear as day, with a slight emphasis on static, empowered energy as opposed to the ambient flow. Ah, and a slight true vision effect through minor illusions as well.”

You blink, losing focus for a moment. “What?”

“Was I off the mark?” Alice asks. “The spell you just cast seems to be a slight derivative off of basic sensory enchantments.”

“N-No, y-you were spot on.”

Well, damn.

I don’t think she minds the investigation…

She seems fine with it.

You got off lucky, I suppose?

Yeah.

Alice is a walking enchantment.

There are few more ways to describe it. When you look at her with your mage sight, you can see the voluminous amounts of runes and wards on her clothes, on her skin. They’re everywhere, covering every square centimeter of her dolls.

The enchantments are so dense you have trouble isolating single spells. Perhaps that’s because there are no single enhancements? Many of the runes are weaved together, spells entangled and entwined for god knows what reason.

Flight. That’s the easiest one to see on all the dolls. Resistances to…everything, are also on them and Alice’s clothes. Fireproof, lightningproof, waterproof, swordproof, and more if you had to guess.

Speaking of swords, the weapons the dolls are carrying are both lethal and non-lethal. You think they can act like tazers, but are also enchanted to cut through anything or everything. Or something.

You just can’t tell. There’s too much magic in one place.

The only other enchantments you can readily make out are the sealing enchantments. Barriers, meant to contain, are plastered across portions of her dolls as well as the book she carries in her hands. It looks like the book is one giant ward, locked down tighter than Alcatraz. The wards could be used for a number of purposes, from containing stray energy to acting as soul jars. You look around at every doll and laugh to yourself. You imagine each doll entrapping a human’s soul to be used at the evil witch’s leisure; it sounds like a gaudy, terribly-written horror story.

Strangely enough, you don’t see much mana in her. Past all the wards and enchantments, she is not thrumming with energy. It reminds you of, well, you, with how little mana her body seems to be generating. Maybe that’s because it’s all hidden and used up by the warding?

No, that isn’t right. If she is self-powering the voluminous number of enchantments then that would mean she has a mountain of internal mana as well as a perfect conversion rate that doesn’t emit any excess, wasted energy.

You think you see…strings? You think there are very thin strings of mana, connected to her dolls and also branching out into the air. You lose sight of them after a meter, but there’s no reason the freely flowing strings don’t extend out of your vision. They ripple slightly in your vision. That…could work.

What?

She could be drawing ambient mana in through the strings to power her enchantments - a slow drain, to sustain them. But if they reach far enough, you see no reason she couldn’t rapidly drain the air of mana if she needed it an…

…Why are all the women in Gensokyo terrifying?

“Is something the matter?” Alice asks.

“You…” Fix your face. It’s broken.

You school your features by closing your hanging jaw. These are all possibilities, possibilities! Nothing to get worked up over.

“It is rather impolite to peep on a lady.” Alice doesn’t sound offended, but she is reminding you she is aware if of what you’re doing.

No matter how rude it might be, you can’t stop examining her. You need to know more.

When you focus, you get a certain feeling from her. It’s faint enough that the aura wouldn’t bother a cat, but you’ve immersed yourself in the same feeling for years, now.

It’s mostly radiating from that book. It feels like death and knowledge, magic and purpose. What the hell is that supposed to mean? You don’t know, but you can guess why it’s plastered in containment runes.

“What is that book?” you find yourself asking. You have to.

“This?” Alice raises the black book held shut by pink ribbons. “It is my personal grimoire I have had for years.”

“Oh, I see.” It isn’t the Necronomicon, Bro. Yeah, you know that, but you can’t help but keep digging. You want to know more. “And you keep it sealed?”

“Yes, I do. I hardly need it during these shows in the village.” You should calm down… It contains more magic, then? Something powerful? Dangerous?

What’s in it? What secrets are there? Why won’t she tell you? Is she keeping it for herself? “It’s not like you’re trying to hide what it really- Ow!”

Byakuren slaps you on the head.

“Forgive him. The item he is searching for is a book that was fairly recently stolen. He is much the same as a puppy, in that sense, growing excited when he catches a scent.”

“That’s harsh…” you grumble.

Damn, that’s subtle.

What’s subtle?

A…compulsion…on your mind. More like a tantalizing scent? A suggestion? It’s muted, but it’s there. I’m trying to shut it out, but it keeps slipping by me.

A compulsion for what?

For that book.

Alice laughs at the byplay between Byakuren and you. “I see. I wish you luck, then, on your search. If you wish to see if I have a copy, feel free to visit my home in the Forest of Magic. I would love for the chance to speak with a fellow magician about magic, or perhaps hear your story.”

Is it something Alice is doing?

I don’t think so.

“My story?”

Accidental then, not malicious?

Right.

“Indeed. I feel that you have a great many to share.”

You suppose whatever compulsion can be found in the book would be greater without the extensive warding, then.

“More fodder for your plays, huh?”

“Only if you allow it. On a whole, I am interested in recording the stories of everybody’s lives. Life can change, suddenly end, all because of one simple mistake. Allowing one to disappear from history, forgotten by any who live is…tragic. I do not wish for that to happen any longer.”

She’s beyond you.

Alice looks to be around your age, but she holds herself in a mature demeanor and has hints of many more years of existence in her countenance. You can’t even begin to imagine what she’s remembering right now, but it probably isn’t it pretty. She reminds you of someone who has seen more, done more, than is healthy.

The morose pause is interrupted by a shout. “Alice!” A metal shield appears on Alice’s left, a large and impressive piece. Only a second later, a wash of flames impact against it. “Oof!”

You take a step to the side to get a better look at the projectile.

It’s a girl, the flames around her and on her clothes slowly flickering out. She is dressed similarly to the usher dolls, with a black vest and skirt on, but she is definitely living. The sudden newcomer is a redhead with a slim teenaged figure. She also has wings on her head.

“Is the fire necessary?” Alice asks.

The redhead jumps to her feet. You see she’s shorter than Alice by half a head. “Neat trick, isn’t it? I’m finally getting the hang of this!”

Alice simple shakes her head, a smile on her face. “Is there something you needed?”

“Yeah, you! Let’s go!” The redhead latches onto Alice’s arm and tugs, pulling the puppeteer into the air.

“Where? Why? I still have a-”

“No you don’t! I remember your schedule in detail! I’m claiming this thirty minute break for myself. Hurry up!”

As suddenly as she appears, the little redhead kidnaps Alice and flees.

“Should…we be worried?” you ask.

“I don’t…think so?” Byakuren responds.

Byakuren and you are the last ones to clear out of the theater. You walk up the steps and onto the street while making casual small talk.

That was…interesting.

Exciting too, but maybe not for the right reasons. Gensokyo is a minefield of powers.

You don’t think this Alice is going to be an enemy, do you?

Probably not, but she’s another person to avoid pissing off. Besides, meeting her raises a number of worrying issues in your mind.

Like what? That book wasn’t the Necronomicon – you don’t have to fight her for it.

But you’ll have to fight someone for it, and if all the magicians here are like Alice or Byakuren, you’ll be in trouble.

I chose the wrong words. You don’t have to fight, you could just ask nicely to borrow it.

Even if that somehow manages to work, it introduces another problem. You’ve only read fragments of the text, but the full copy of the Necronomicon is likely to be a powerful magical grimoire; a book with a kind of sentience of its own. If it’s anything like the one that Alice was holding…It might try to influence you while using it?

Or it might try to take over your mind. There might be defenses that try to destroy your soul. But you’ve prepared for that. With me here and your black onyx system- It might not be enough. Your sister had trouble stamping out the influence from a heavily warded grimoire – who’s to say she or you can handle something like that at full strength?

Or maybe the Necronomicon isn’t as strong as Alice’s grimoire and you’re worrying over nothing? That’s also possible, but you wouldn’t rely on that fact.

Then, perhaps you should delay the search? No, that’s silly when even the slightest delay could lead to it being shipped off halfway around the world for some god-forsaken reason.

You’ll just need to be careful once you find it. Maybe invest in some more preparation after the festival is over.

“Are you listening to me?” Byakuren asks.

“Of course.” The money brought in from the festival could help renovate the temple, expand it to meet the demands of the many new occupants. “But I thought you agreed not to worry about work.”

“It is hard to cast my responsibilities from my mind. I must always be aware of them so I do not make a misstep.”

Without any particular goal in mind, the two of you walk down the crowded streets, enjoying the sights while conversing. This time, you do devote your attention to your companion for the night.

“You have adjusted to living in Gensokyo?” she asks.

You think about the rampant bullshit that pervades this bounded territory and laugh. “I’m not sure I’ll ever be comfortable wondering if the little girl I just met can drop a meteor on my head if I upset her. But yeah, I’m adjusted, I think.”
>> No. 174386
“Excellent. For all its idiosyncrasies, I believe Gensokyo can live up to its reputation as a paradise.”

“Paradise, huh? There’s nowhere else in Japan, in the world, better?”

“Not that I am aware of.”

“I don’t disagree, but on occasion I think I’ll miss all the sights of the world, the hustle and bustle of my home city.” Really? We lived in a dumpy apartment.

But it was your dumpy apartment and your trashy neighborhood.

Byakuren doesn’t fight you, instead nodding in understanding. “Yearning for home is a natural feeling.”

She has a modicum of her wiser-than-thou tone in her voice. It makes her sound as if the problem doesn’t affect her. “You don’t miss yours?”

“This is my home.”

“Oh. So what was it like a couple hundred years ago? Nothing really change?”

“I am sorry. I did not mean to mislead you. I have only arrived to Gensokyo recently, but I already consider it my home.”

“So the place where you were born, where you grew up is-”

“Not home.” Her voice comes out sharply. You feel her squeeze your arm tightly for a moment.

Lucky you; she isn’t using any sort of Buddhism-powered super strength.

You let the waters calm. As always, Byakuren is quick to let her flares of emotion mellow. “Forgive me. I should not have snapped at you.”

“We’re chill. I’m prying where I shouldn’t.” Not that you wouldn’t like to know, but it’s not vital information. You can respect what she does and doesn’t want to speak about.

“No, that is not true. You have a right to know considering everything you and your sister have already shown me. Perhaps I am unsettled because I speak so little of the past.”

Pfh. “You’ve got puppeteers and your temple putting on plays.”

Byakuren smiles. “That is different.”

You think she might let the topic lie, but after a few seconds she starts speaking again. “The village I am from was much smaller than the one here. It was rural, a farming village, noting of particular note. There was a temple relatively nearby, but we were one of the many villages surrounding it. I always found life there rather dull.”

Byakuren watches you for several seconds. Her stare is slightly unnerving, but you meet it. “I am surprised you are not asking about more in your usual insensitive manner.”

“Hey, didn’t I just say I’m not trying to pry? I know I seem a bit blunt,” a lot blunt, “but I respect you enough to take what you offer.”

“Thank you for the sentiments, but I would appreciate it more if you speak your mind. Do not change yourself to conform to my expectations.”

“Don’t worry, I’m still me. Maybe your lessons are finally rubbing off, eh?”

The two of you laugh a moment at your stellar joke. Sarcastic as that was, I think you are improving.

“I do not consider that village and the area around it, where I spent most of my normal life, my home. The people there did not care.” Byakuren sighs and leans into you again, as if dredging up her memories is an exhausting affair. “Myouren accomplished a great many things for them, completely selfless, but they did not care when he was killed. Some, I remember, were delighted my brother died. They thought him too radical, too much of a wild card. Of course, he was anything but. His ideas were simply too progressive for the time, too great for the majority to comprehend. They were all shortsighted fools, idiots.”

The venom in her voice surprises you. When was the last time you heard Byakuren speak with such hate? When she thought you would be a threat to her temple? When she was verbally sparring with Eirin?

No, this is a different level of intensity, one that you can understand. If your sister had moved on and you had been left alone to deal with the police and your neighbors, the murderers and those who did nothing for justice, your hatred would have flowed exactly like Byakuren’s.

“I’m sorry.”

“Do not be. It is hardly your fault, and what is done is done.”

She brushes off your words, but you’re really feeling it. “It upsets me too. I haven’t heard the full story, but I can imagine it. A bunch of dumbass humans letting their fears of the monster cloud reality. They start hating on the sensible guy, ruining the peace he’s creating because they can’t get past their prejudices. I get pissed off thinking about it.” It’s that kind of narrow minded thinking that starts wars and destroys the lives of innocent bystanders. It affects everyone, even you, but some people try to work past their bias and some don’t.

Byakuren gives your upper arm a few strokes. “Calm yourself. Those people are all long dead.”

You grumble a bit more, drawing a few chuckles from your companion. “But thank you. If there were more men like you and he…”

The two of you keep walking and talking, nothing along the sides of the road particularly catching your eye.

“Can you tell me about the Fujiwara?” you ask.

It’s a bit random, a bit of an awkward transition, but the question had been weighing on you.

“Excuse me?”

“You were living when they were at their height of their power, right?”

Byakuren takes your question in stride, unbothered by your non sequitur. “Yes. What would you like to know?”

“I guess I’m just curious about how life was for the average commoner.”

Byakuren rests her fingers on her cheek while she thinks and responds. “The life of the common man has hardly changed throughout time. One must pay taxes, deal with the bullying of those above one’s station, and try to eke out a living for one’s family with hope for the future. The Fujiwaras made some aspects easier, some more difficult, but it was little different overall. Why this sudden interest?”

You shrug. “Minamitsu and Mokou. There’s a lot of bad blood on Minamitsu’s part and I’m trying to understand why.”

Byakuren’s shoulders noticeably slump. “Ah, I see. Has she told you about her death, then?”

“Drowned, along with her dad and some Fujiwara officials from what I understand.”

You feel bad about dragging down the festive mood with your question, but it’s something you’ve been wondering. This is the first time you’ve had a chance to have a long talk with Byakuren in a while.

“That is correct,” Byakuren sighs. “It is a hatred I have tried to lessen, but to little avail. An entire family does not deserve Minamitsu’s hatred, but I fear little can dampen the nature of her existence.”

“Don’t feel bad about it. I can guarantee you the lively ghost girl we see now is far better off than the specter from the past and she’ll only keep improving with you nearby.” Your reassurance isn’t empty. A vengeful ghost that isn’t regularly murdering others has definitely improved.

Byakuren nods in appreciation, but doesn’t necessarily agree with you. It’s probably a sore point, being unable to fully support and ‘fix’ her friend.

Great job depressing her.

Damn, someone could have cut you off if it was that bad of a topic.

I told you, I’m letting you flounder by yourself for a while.

Hm. How to salve the situation? What to do, what to do?

You scan the crowd, looking for something relatively interesting. Naturally, your eyes gravitate towards the unusual. Long purple hair and prominent rabbit ears act as a lighthouse.

“How about a game or two?” you ask Byakuren.

The nun stands straighter and looks at the stall you single out. “I am unsure how much aptitude I have for this.”

You wave away her concerns and step closer. “Don’t worry, it’s a warm-up and it’s just for fun. Besides, I doubt you can do worse than that.”

You point at the rabbit youkai that is throwing a fit. She has long white hair and a blue witch’s hat on. She stomps her feet and waves her arms like a child, her blue dress and white apron fluttering.

“This game is a cheat!” She’s screaming and causing a scene. The only ones standing close to her are Reisen and a few other lunar rabbits. A few look upset, others worried, but none of them are interfering with the white-haired rabbit’s tantrum.

The owner of the stall, a fat kappa standing on a wooden stool, leans against the counter with one hand. “It’s the same chances for everybody that tries. Stop complaining!”

His words enrage the white-haired rabbit. She quickly reaches down, as if to grab a weapon at her waist, but her hand comes away empty. She settles for clenching her fists and slamming them on the counter, nearly crushing the kappa’s hand. “You little skink, I ought to-”

Reisen puts a hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Let it go, Irisu.”

The white-haired rabbit slaps away her friend’s arm. “No way! My aim was perfect! If this wasn’t rigged I would have-”

“Next!” the kappa calls out.

The white-haired rabbit whirls and looks ready to murder. Her lunarian friends jump on her, dragging her back and away from the stall.

Reisen is left standing on her own, uncomfortably adjusting her blazer.

“Having trouble there, Reisen?” you ask.

The sales rabbit nods to you and Byakuren in greeting. “A bit. I’m afraid she is rather overconfident in her shooting skills.”

A scream of frustration accompanies someone getting elbowed by the fuming white-haired rabbit.

Reisen stomps her foot and starts yelling. “Settle down! You’ll ruin our day off if you keep this up!”

The other rabbits start shouting in response. The white-haired one might be cursing in some alien language, while the others echo Reisen’s anger. It’s a rather dysfunctional group; you think some of the youkai will walk away from this with bruises.

“Geez, that girl. Master should hurry up and fix the screws loose in her head. It isn’t worth keeping her like this.”

A story there? “Is she-” Not something you should be prying about. What? Why? You don’t ask about why someone’s friend is psychotic. But it’s a perfectly justified question for the situation!

Reisen is looking at you with a tilt to her head. Right, you suddenly stopped speaking.

“Uh, I would’ve expected you to be taking advantage of the crowds and selling some medicine,” you say.

“That’s for tomorrow,” Reisen holds up her hand and counts the days off with her fingers. “Master is letting us enjoy today so we can sell tomorrow and help her with her experiments the day after.”

“Isn’t the third day of the festival the busiest? Wouldn’t it make sense to try and market your goods then?”

Reisen shakes her head and gives Byakuren a pointed stare. “Not with the maneuvering some people have managed. We’d get squeezed out in a heartbeat. Better to drive hard on day two and move on to other work.”

Byakuren is unashamed. Hell, she’s smiling.

“Is it that bad?” you ask the nun.

“Not at all,” she smoothly replies. “If others wish to sell their wares, we are not in a position to-”

“Myouren Temple events drawing attention all day, directing the crowds to the Myouren Temple peddlers all around?” Reisen interrupts. “We’ll be lucky if there’s any spare change floating by then. Not worth the effort.”

Byakuren frowns. “We are not-”

“Relax, it’s not like I’m out to crucify you,” Reisen assure the nun. “I can appreciate a well-planned stranglehold. I’ve been too comfortable resting on my base – I’ll need to start drumming up new business after the festival.”

You worry about this rabbit. She seems a bit too invested in filthy lucre for her own good.

Reisen waves a hand at the stall and turns to the side. “Anyway, don’t waste your money here. We’ve done the math and it should be impossible to win this. Dumb Irisu over there thought of it as a challenge to her skills, though. See you later.” Reisen waves goodbye, off to enjoy herself with her lunarian friends.

“Damn rabbits, trying to ruin my business…” you hear the kappa mutter.

“Shall we move on, then?” Byakuren asks.

You look at the game. It’s a simple one, all things considered. You just need to take the crossbow and knock over the stack of bottles. Each bottle would give you a different level of prize, a different size of stuffed animal. Hitting all three nets the largest prize.

“Nah, I want to try this. I like a challenge.”

Byakuren groans slightly as your declaration.

So, you’re on level with a crazy sniper rabbit now?

A what?

That was the girl who blew Mokou’s head off when we went to Eientei, if you forgot.

Oh.

Well.

It’s still a challenge. Shameless.

“You do?” the kappa asks, surprise evident in his expression.

“Is this some misconstrued attempt to impress me?” Byakuren asks.

You don’t give her an answer and slap your money down on the counter. The kappa hands you the crossbow and three balls for projectiles. They’re like Ping-Pong balls; you can see why the odds would be against the shooter. The weapon in your hand doesn’t feel substantial enough to knock over an upright paper cup, let along whatever the stack of bottles are made up of.

“Is there any way I can win this?” you ask the kappa.

“Of course!” he shouts, indignant.

Well, if he says there is, he can’t complain when you do.

You take aim with your first shot and fire at the center of the tri-stack. The bottles shake a bit, but the ball bounces off harmlessly.

You use the second shot and hit the lip of the top bottle, but it doesn’t go down. It wobbles in place, taunting you.

Right, rigged. You can work with this.

You reach into your pocket, coating your fingers before you spin the ball in your hand. You let your magic ease out of your fingers for a few seconds, making sure the majority of the ball is covered. You see Byakuren giving you an interested glance, but she says nothing.

You place the ball on the crossbow and lackadaisically aim at the stack of bottles. A twinge of your fingers launches the ball which proceeds to smash through the three bottles, sending them scattering to the ground.

“C-Cheater!” the kappa shouts while jumping to his feet.

“How am I a cheater? You said this was winnable, right? Shouldn’t I be getting my prize?”

He gapes like a fish. You can tell he wants to out you, to protest, but he can’t. His credibility is at stake. Hell, you’re doing him a favor by winning this.

You point to the overly large teddy bear. The kappa angrily punches a button, releasing a mechanical hook which drops the bear into your arms. You walk away with a grin, not another word spoken.

You suppose you can see why he would draw business. The bear is kappa-made, eccentric. There’s a dial on the back. When you turn it, the bear shrinks and grows in size. It reaches a size as small as a frying pan and as large as a poster board. You aren’t quite sure how it works, but you do see traces of magic when you check. You think you hear motors whirring inside it as well, but it doesn’t weigh more than cloth filled with stuffing.

“Congratulations, despite your dubious claim to victory,” Byakuren says.

A little magically-enhanced white bone dust is so very useful. Being able to imbue different properties in the bone like strong adhesives and added mass is useful in surprising ways. “Hey, thanks. Here you go.”

You have the bear grow to maximum size and heave it at Byakuren.

“W-What?” The nun fumbles for a moment, having to grab the massive teddy bear around the stomach. For a few seconds, all you see is a brown teddy bear with legs coming out of its ass.

Then she manages to turn the dial, shrinking it down to where she can comfortably carry it in her arms.

“It’s a present. I won it for you,” you tell her with a grin.

Byakuren glances down at the bear once before holding it out at arm’s length. “I could not possibly accept this.”

“Don’t worry about it. My reward was seeing the look on that guy’s face when I won.”

“I still cannot accept this.” She continues to hold it out. She makes it seem like a ball of fire, ready to burn her.

You frown and take the bear back. “Why not? Don’t like it? Not good enough for you? It’s because the dirty, evil necromancer touched it right? Aren’t you offended, Mr. Bear?” You look down and Mr. Bear nods, clearly upset at his treatment. Hah, what a child.

Byakuren scowls. “You know those are not the reasons. Such a gift is an attachment that can tempt us from the proper path.”

“So, you’re refusing the gift because of religious reasons?”

“Yes.”

“It’s because of religious reasons that you’re selling Buddhist themed-apparel, hiring puppeteers to tell stories about how amazing you are, and performing in a grandiose play to attract more attention?”

“Well…” Byakuren looks down, her hands held together in front of her.

“We both know strict religious interpretation is not exactly your strong suit, Byakuren. If you don’t want my gift you can just refuse, you know? I’d appreciate not being given the runaround.”

You feel yourself grow a little angry that she would even try to feed you that bullshit.

“That’s not it,” she says.

You look at her.

She looks away.

You sigh.

Then she steps forward and yanks the bear from your hands.

She looks down at it, stroking its fluffy head before holding it against her chest with an arm. She reassumes her place at your side, linking her arm with your while refusing to meet your eyes.

“Thank you for the gift,” you hear her whisper.

“You’re welcome!” you chirp.

The two of you start to walk again, letting your mind wander amidst the crowd of people. There are plenty of traditional game stalls lining the roads as well as more modern, inventive ones. You see someone has several arcade games setup while next to that is a mall goldfish pond.

“I have not received many gifts,” Byakuren suddenly begins to explain. “Your offer took me by surprise. My apologies.”

You look at her and she looks back, eyes serious.

“That’s a pretty lame reason,” you respond.

Byakuren growls. You laugh and receive a face full of bear. One hit, two, three.

“Sorry,” you choke out. The assault of the bear ends after another couple of whacks. “Is it that hard to take free things?” you ask.

“No, I suppose it is not.”

Not hard, but she reacts like her secret collection of racy lingerie just spilled on the floor in front of you. You come up with the worst similes.

If it works it works.

“Is this really so rare, then?”

“Yes. I believe I can count the number of people who have given me gifts on one hand.”

That can’t be true. “What? Really?”

“Yes. Minamitsu, Ichirin, Shou, Myouren, and now you.”

“That’s…what? Nobody else? Your parents didn’t get you anything for your birthday? Neighbors didn’t drop off food or something?”

“Our parents could not spend what little money we had on such frivolities, not that they would if they had more. We all celebrated on festivals, but those were communal feasts, no individuality. Once a year for everybody was the most we could afford,” Byakuren doesn’t describe her home- not home, birthplace? She doesn’t describe it warmly. “I think it is part of the reason why Myouren decided to live the life he did, why he left and turned to a monastic life. He thought he could be less of a burden and help improve our lives by leaving, the fool.”

That doesn’t track. “Yet, he’s one of the ones who gave you gifts?”

“My own fault. I was a rather poor elder sister. I could not stand the thought of Myouren living such a lonely, barebones life, so I followed after him. I bugged him and pestered him every step of the way. I never let up, never let him immerse himself in his religious life. Even once he grew strong, once he was casted away from the others for his different beliefs, I stupidly kept bothering him. Teach me, play with me, eat this, try that, do not sit there, come this way, take this job, help these people, do not waste time there, this is where we should go.

“He played along with almost anything I asked. One time, while we were traveling on my birthday, I complained about the lack of presents. It was a silly complaint, born of boredom. He made me a charm, that day. Every year after, he found something else. Sometimes home-made, sometimes surprisingly expensive, but always thoughtful.”

Byakuren blinks and laughs a quiet and self-deprecating laugh. “Apologies for my rambling.”

“No, don’t be.”

“At any rate, presents have been rare after his death. Demons do not happen to be generous souls or recall important dates and I considered the meager thanks from different villagers and youkai as payment for services rendered.” Thankfully, Byakuren’s voice begins to warm again. “It was only Minamitsu who was stubborn enough to force gifts onto me. Only Shou gave me weapons and items so practical I could not deny her. Only Ichirin left me little things on special occasions, innocuous gifts I would feel terrible to heartlessly toss away.”

The two of you continue to walk and talk, the conversation moving on to more frivolous topics. You let Byakuren slowly cheer up again, distracting her with silly stall games and cheap entertainment. You waste the night away, enjoying the present together.

Late in the night, the two of you decide to eat. “You’re okay with a bowl of noodles, right.”

“That sounds wonderful.” You choose a ramen stand, simple and easy.

The two of you dig into your meals, savoring the food after all the hunger-inducing activity. Halfway through your bowl, you speak up. “I know what you mean, though.”

“Hm?”

“About gifts. For years, the books my sister bought for me were the best gifts I received.” You bet they were. “They were the only ones, too. Once she died, I almost never stuck around in one place long enough to receive them.”

Byakuren decided to share. The least you can do is reciprocate. Besides, these are ideas you think she’s already seen straight from your memories, only unelaborated on.

“You traveled because of your search, yes? How often did you move?”

“I’d say I stayed in area for a week or so. Long enough to follow up on whatever lead brought me there in the first place and then find a new hint to pursue. Sometimes, there was a specific reason for me to stick around longer in one area. Maybe I was researching a spell in an old library or I was setting up a larger ritual.” After your stint with your first necromancer cult and then the tender care of your mentor and her paladin friends, you made sure to never involve yourself with another large group. Trying to gain favor and tutelage from some well-established wizard was not worth the time and potential betrayals.

“I see. It must be fascinating, to interact with people of many different beliefs and practices.”

“It is interesting, but it’s frustrating too. It turns out that most people skulking in the dark are complete assholes or are otherwise exceedingly ruthless.”

“Surely not all of your time was spent with less-than-upstanding individuals.”

“Not all of it, sure, but my visits to other groups were equally short. Maybe a quick few hours to different temples to talk about the afterlife before moving on, for example.”

“Buddhist temples?”

“Yeah, but other religions too. I’ve tried to meet with everybody that has an opinion on the afterlife.”

“Why?” Byakuren asks between slurps.

“Despite being a necromancer, what happens to people after they die is still a big grey zone. I can tell you for a fact that the Ministry of Right and Wrong you’ve got here in Gensokyo is ridiculously organized compared to other areas.” Ridiculously inefficient, too. You might get nightmares if you think about all that paperwork foisted onto the reapers. “There was a little pocket out in Europe, closer to Russia, where everybody who died got to fight a giant soul-rending apparition.”

The idea causes Byakuren’s eyes to widen in surprise. “How do you know that?”

“I tried to talk to them. The spirits I pulled back either spoke to me about that trial or they didn’t answer my summons at all.”

The topic is a little dark, but it doesn’t seem to bother Byakuren. She seems excited about this strange unknown. “Then, this afterlife monster…destroyed them? Their soul? Their very existence?”

“Maybe. Or it’s possible some judge of the afterlife was holding onto them and misdirecting me. All I know is I couldn’t reach them. If it was because they were removed from existence, moved on, reborn, or whatever else, I can’t say.”

“Rebirth? If an individual were to return to life, to become again, you cannot contact them?” Trust the Buddhist to ask about that.

You shrug. “I’m not sure if reincarnation, revival, or anything else like that is even real, no offense meant to anybody’s religion.”

Byakuren waves off your concern and smiles at you. “None taken. I too used to find the idea of one long dead being rebirthed to the world unlikely. However, the idea has gained weight over time.”

If she believes, then she believes. You don’t have enough information to make a conclusive statement either way. “On a theoretical basis,” you go on to explain, “if someone’s existence were to be brought back to the world of the living, I shouldn’t be able to pull it from the afterlife. But if I can’t reach a spirit, my magic isn’t refined enough to give me more than a vague sense of why. It might be some form of reincarnation; it might be something else at play. Usually, I’d chalk it up to not having a strong enough connection. That’s the simplest solution, Occam’s Razor applied.”

“What is this connection?”

“It’s something that lets me get in contact with the dead spirit. I can’t go and try to raise the first Japanese Emperor’s spirit because we’re too far apart. Anything of his left in the world is too nebulous to use.”

“Hypothetically, then, what would let you speak with his spirit?”

“Best case? Bones. Or flesh or blood or anything else body related. I don’t want to say it’s guaranteed, but it gives me the best chance of success. Failing that, a direct blood relative would do. I can’t say how DNA or whatever plays into my magic, but a child’s blood can bring back their parent. Anything past that is unlikely. I’ve managed with a grandchild’s blood before, but that was with a little magical boost from others.” You draw the runes with lines of pepper while you speak, letting Byakuren examine the magical constructs you would use in such a ritual.

Byakuren asks for a few clarifications, working through the runes you use to simulate the natural command a more talented necromancer could create. “Fascinating. These workarounds you have devised are incredibly creative.”

“Thanks. I’ve worked hard to compensate. I’m proud of it all.” You let yourself bask in the compliment for a few more moments. “So, what’s with all questions? Do I have an aspiring necromancer sitting next to me?”

“Hardly.” Byakuren dismisses your insinuations. “I am simply curious about you, what you have spent your life achieving, and how it can be applied. It is interesting topic.”

The conversation dies off, thee two of you returning your attentions to your meals.

[ ] Eat in silence
[ ] Talk
-[ ] “Nervous about the performance in two days?”
-[ ] “What is having a demon teacher like?”
-[ ] “What’s going on with Alice? Pen pals?”
-[ ] “This scarf has been a lifesaver.”
-[ ] “How long have you known Shou?”
-[ ] “Myouren seemed ridiculously strong.”
-[ ] “Want me to win something else?
-[ ] “Thanks for the help with the jiang-shi.”
-[ ] “When do you plan on letting Ichirin succeed you?”
-[ ] “What do you think about me?”
-[ ] “Does Minamitsu’s past bother you?
-[ ] “Can you teach me some of your magic?”
-[ ] “If I said ‘Marriage’ you would say…?”
-[ ] “Can you put that mask on and spill some blood on it?”
-[ ] “Let’s fuck, right here.”
[ ] <Write-in>


---

I’m probably going to apologize for these sluggish updates, every update. Slowing down right when we’re hitting an interesting arc is extremely annoying.

Anyway, show me your conversational skills! This is…possibly, fairly important.

>>174174
She might be a bit…indisposed, at the moment. Someone else should know (I really hope someone else knows or I’ll be crushed) what I’m talking about.

>>174175
I want to say you’re close. I really do, because that sounds awesome!

>>174182
I am too, although I must say I’ve been actively avoiding it in general up until this point. After someone brought it up in the last vote, I thought about it, and the idea really grew on me. Will this lead to more fun and exciting things down the road? Probably not, for the good of this story, but my author’s bias so hopes....

>>174183
No worries. It’s not like she, Byakuren, is going to harm you herself.

>>174187
>It begins
Indeed it does. Indeed it does.

>>174188
Depending on who you speak with, they might even say she’s not a nun at all!
>> No. 174391
And because I ran out of characters:

>>174197
>renaissance fairs
A more accurate comparison than not. The people of Gensokyo take every excuse to party they can.

>>174199
I don’t see anything wrong with that~

>>174357
Who’s to say she hasn’t already?
>> No. 174392
[X] Talk
-[X] “Nervous about the performance in two days?”
-[X] “What is having a demon teacher like?”
-[X] “What’s going on with Alice? Pen pals?”
-[X] “This scarf has been a lifesaver.”
-[X] “How long have you known Shou?”
-[X] “Myouren seemed ridiculously strong.”
-[X] “Thanks for the help with the jiang-shi.”
-[X] “Does Minamitsu’s past bother you?
-[X] “Can you teach me some of your magic?”
-[X] Ask about Seiga and about the Taoists in general
>> No. 174396
[x] Talk
-[x] “Nervous about the performance in two days?”
-[x] “What is having a demon teacher like?”
-[x] “What’s going on with Alice? Pen pals?”
-[x] “This scarf has been a lifesaver.”
-[x] “How long have you known Shou?”
-[x] “Myouren seemed ridiculously strong.”
-[x] “Want me to win something else?
-[x] “Thanks for the help with the jiang-shi.”

These seem the safer options.

Damn... gotta love a huge update!
>> No. 174398
[x] Talk
-[x] “Nervous about the performance in two days?”
-[x] “What is having a demon teacher like?”
-[x] “What’s going on with Alice? Pen pals?”
-[x] “This scarf has been a lifesaver.”
-[x] “How long have you known Shou?”
-[x] “Myouren seemed ridiculously strong.”
-[x] “Want me to win something else?
-[x] “Thanks for the help with the jiang-shi.”

Don't worry about sluggish updates when updates are this large.
>> No. 174399
[x] Talk
-[x] “Nervous about the performance in two days?”
-[x] “What is having a demon teacher like?”
-[x] “What’s going on with Alice? Pen pals?”
-[x] “This scarf has been a lifesaver.”
-[x] “How long have you known Shou?”
-[x] “Myouren seemed ridiculously strong.”
-[x] “Want me to win something else?
-[x] “Thanks for the help with the jiang-shi.”

I liked your Reisen story, but it needed more porn.
>> No. 174400
>"Fix your face. It’s broken."
>Notices hostile mental attacks
>Tells us what was being said so we can effectively claim to have been listening
>Reminds us who people are when we forget
>"You come up with the worst similes."
Our sister is the best sister.

>I was a rather poor elder sister. ... I stupidly kept bothering him. Teach me, play with me, eat this, try that, do not sit there, come this way, take this job, help these people, do not waste time there, this is where we should go.
>I was a rather poor elder sister.
...

Well, we can't let this kind of opinion stand.

[x] Talk
-[x] “What’s going on with Alice? Pen pals?”
-[x] “Myouren seemed ridiculously strong.”
-[x] "You know, my sister is constantly nagging me and telling me what I should and shouldn't do, or even think. She follows me everywhere, and I wouldn't give it up for anything. Life without her would be... empty. Sad." Not that we can speak for her brother or anything.

In that order, those should segue into each other fairly neatly. Then we can shift topics for a bit.

[x] Talk
-[x] “What is having a demon teacher like?”
-[x] “Can you teach me some of your magic?”
-[x] “This scarf has been a lifesaver.”
-[x] “Thanks for the help with the jiang-shi.”

And then our mind can turn to other, more serious topics.
[x] Talk
-[x] "We should do this again sometime."
-[x] "And next time can be a date." Since this one wasn't. Just ask Alice.
>> No. 174408
Oh damn. I forgot. This is the same universe as your OTHER story. We.. we won't be seeing Mima, I fear. That said, having read your other story, and seeing Alice here is excellennnt. Always going to love your alice.

Ha. Byakuren asking what would allow him to contact a long-dead person? And of the options, one of the best cases is the blood of a close relative? Once again, Ha.

[x] Talk
-[x] “Nervous about the performance in two days?”
-[x] “What is having a demon teacher like?”
-[x] “What’s going on with Alice? Pen pals?”
-[x] “This scarf has been a lifesaver.”
-[x] “How long have you known Shou?”
-[x] “Myouren seemed ridiculously strong.”
>> No. 174410
>>174386
[x] Talk
-[x] “Nervous about the performance in two days?”
-[x] “This scarf has been a lifesaver.”
-[x] “Want me to win something else?
-[x] “Thanks for the help with the jiang-shi.”

In general, the conversation should be focused around her and Necroanon. Don't bring other people into it, the Minamitsu segment there showed us that its a good way to depress her.

-[x] "Of course, now that I've won you something, it's only fair if you win me something in return!"

Might undercut the idea of a gift, but it might get her to play a game and loosen up.
>> No. 174411
>(...)but a child’s blood can bring back their parent.
>Byakuren asks for a few clarifications, working through the runes you use to simulate the natural command a more talented necromancer could create. “Fascinating. These workarounds you have devised are incredibly creative.”

Am I the only one who suspects that she still can't let go?
>> No. 174414
>>174411
>>174408
The best part about that is that you know we'd be 100% behind her in any kind of crazy scheme to contact and/or resurrect her dead brother. We don't exactly have grounds on which to criticize that kind of genius plan, after all, and we do rather like Byakuren.
>> No. 174415
>>174408
really? I find it hard to connect the two considering how it's makai grimdark edition.
>> No. 174416
[X] Talk
-[X] “What do you think about me?”
-[X] “If I said ‘Marriage’ you would say…?”
-[X] “Let’s fuck, right here.”

Make it so.
>> No. 174419
>>174415
Well, This topside gensokyo isn't all sunshine and butterflies, and he's said before that though we hadn't interacted with anyone from the other story, they did indeed happen in the same storyverse. That and with his spoilered comment at the end of >>174386 he just confirmed again they're the same storyverse
>> No. 174423
[x] What >>174400 said.
>> No. 174426
>>174425
Whooops, disregard that, it was meant to be posted at another thread, I forgot to add a password and I suck cocks.

[x] Talk
-[x] “Nervous about the performance in two days?”
-[x] “What is having a demon teacher like?”
-[x] “What’s going on with Alice? Pen pals?”
-[x] “This scarf has been a lifesaver.”
-[x] “How long have you known Shou?”
-[x] “Myouren seemed ridiculously strong.”

Jumping on the bandwagon because otherwise I'd just pick every single conversation topic available. Seriously, is because of this that all your updates are so fucking huge. Not complaining, though.
>> No. 174434
[x] Talk
-[x] “Nervous about the performance in two days?”
-[x] “What is having a demon teacher like?”
-[x] “What’s going on with Alice? Pen pals?”
-[x] “This scarf has been a lifesaver.”
-[x] “How long have you known Shou?”
-[x] “Myouren seemed ridiculously strong.”
-[x] “Want me to win something else?
-[x] “Thanks for the help with the jiang-shi.”
>> No. 174448
[ ] Talk
-[ ] “Nervous about the performance in two days?”
-[ ] “What is having a demon teacher like?”
-[ ] “This scarf has been a lifesaver.”
-[ ] “How long have you known Shou?”
-[ ] “Myouren seemed ridiculously strong.”
-[ ] “Want me to win something else?
-[ ] “Thanks for the help with the jiang-shi.”
-[ ] “Can you teach me some of your magic?”

Because ultra-speed necromancers are the best kind.
>> No. 174454
[x] Talk
-[x] “Nervous about the performance in two days?”
-[x] “What is having a demon teacher like?”
-[x] “What’s going on with Alice? Pen pals?”
-[x] “This scarf has been a lifesaver.”
-[x] “How long have you known Shou?”
-[x] “Myouren seemed ridiculously strong.”
-[x] “Want me to win something else?
-[x] “Thanks for the help with the jiang-shi.”

-[x] "You know, my sister is constantly nagging me and telling me what I should and shouldn't do, or even think. She follows me everywhere, and I wouldn't give it up for anything. Life without her would be... empty. Sad." Not that we can speak for her brother or anything.
>> No. 174458
[x] AND THEN THEY FUCKED

Not really.

But seriously.
>> No. 174466
[x] Talk
-[x] “This scarf has been a lifesaver.”
-[x] “Want me to win something else?
-[x] “Thanks for the help with the jiang-shi.”
-[x] “What do you think about me?”
-[x] “Can you teach me some of your magic?”
-[x] "I think I can feel Myouren's pain: my sister is constantly nagging me and telling me what I should and shouldn't do, or even think. She follows me everywhere, and I wouldn't give it up for anything. Life without her would be... empty. Sad.”
-[x] “If I said ‘Marriage’ you would say…?”
>> No. 174545
[x] Talk
-[x] “What’s going on with Alice? Pen pals?”
-[x] “Myouren seemed ridiculously strong.”
-[x] "You know, my sister is constantly nagging me and telling me what I should and shouldn't do, or even think. She follows me everywhere, and I wouldn't give it up for anything. Life without her would be... empty. Sad." Not that we can speak for her brother or anything.

-[x] “What is having a demon teacher like?”
-[x] “Can you teach me some of your magic?”
-[x] “This scarf has been a lifesaver.”
-[x] “Thanks for the help with the jiang-shi.”
-[x] "We should do this again sometime."
-[x] "And next time can be a date."

This seems like a good write in wall o text
>> No. 174558
>>174545
except the last two bits imply it's over not doing the possible mid point of the date.
>> No. 174779
You reach for the first topic that comes to mind. “So, are you nervous about your big performance?”

Byakuren slurps her noodles and then shakes her head. “No, I am not. What is there to worry about? We have planned and practiced for it. If everybody arrives and plays their parts then it shall be a brilliant performance.”

“You’re just a regular actress then?”

“Hardly. This is the first time I have attempted a performance so grandiose.” Byakuren doesn’t go for your joke. “If you wish to pick apart every layer of emotion, then I could tell you I do feel slightly apprehensive about how well the performance is received.”

You imagine that being the center of attention during what amounts to the culmination of a three day festival could cause a bit of stress. “You think your big PR stunt will be hated?”

“Disregarding your unflattering description, no I do not think that. However, I fear what the audience will perceive. This is a more realistic than idealistic depiction of our past. Even presented in a better light, if they react with disgust or worse, I-”

“Relax,” you interrupt before your companion can spiral into self-loathing. “They definitely won’t have that kind of reaction.”

She gives you her best skeptical glance. “You cannot say that with any certainty.”

“Of course I can,” you reassert yourself. “You’re a good person.”

“That does not sound like a well-founded argument.”

“Yeah, well I think-” Careful there. “Oh, damn.”

Byakuren immediately sets down her cup of tea and turns to look you up and down. “What is wrong?”

You appreciate her concern. “Some of the broth splashed onto my scarf. Nothing big, but it’s annoying.” You grab your napkin and dab at the liquid. The yellow cloth is a bit damp but nothing worse.

“Is it?”

“Well, yeah.” You grab the ends of the scarf and lift it in your hand. “This is one of the many things you’ve given me. It’s been a lifesaver, and I want to take good care of it.”

“Has it truly been that useful?”

“Sure.” You pause and think back to your most recent terror-inducing near-death experience. “Okay, maybe it hasn’t saved my life quite yet, but being able to fly around Gensokyo like everybody else has been incredibly useful. Thanks for this, by the way. I’m not sure if I’ve said that yet.”

“As always, think nothing of it. I am more than glad to have been able to help.”

“And that’s why I think the villagers here can’t hate you over one performance. See how that works?” You smile at the nun. “Even oblivious and paranoid idiots like me can see your kindness. A play won’t change that.”

“Mmm.” She sounds unconvinced while she wordlessly sips her tea.

Well, if she wants to worry, she’ll worry. Considering how much planning that has gone into everything, you can’t exactly criticize her for taking it all seriously.

You inspect the end of your scarf again. The tea won’t stain it but you doubt much of anything will. You’ve spent some time investigating the magical item and it’s certainly loaded. It’s mostly layers of undecipherable script, foreign and religious magic, but there is more basic protection and durability ward that you understand mixed in, albeit stylized. “Geez, I still think it’s crazy how you managed to make this so quickly. It’s all Buddhist magic, right?”

“That is correct. I applied several different basic and advanced spiritual forms to create this spell.” Byakuren reaches out and pokes the fabric of the scarf. You feel the pressure of her finger against the side of your neck. “Unfortunately, my method was rather circuitous, so it is nowhere near the quality I would wish.”

That doesn’t track. “Your Buddhist magic doesn’t have a direct method of flight?” You’re positive she had said it was possible.

“No, it does, but I am incapable of accomplishing the feat myself, let alone imparting it unto an object.” Byakuren slides her chopsticks on the counter, drawing out imaginary symbols for you to follow. “My variation of flight involves a number of small enhancements to accomplish the effect. They reduce weight, strengthen connections, affect pull, and more. A dozen small changes part of a greater whole. It is something I created only after learning other magic.”

Basic enough. It’s simple magical theory to break a concept, an effect, down into manageable parts. Rituals are like that; your overly complicated spell circles for summoning the dead encapsulate a massive number of different spells. The magic isn’t meant to go together, but it all plays well enough to achieve what you want.

Byakuren sets her chopsticks down and sighs. “However, there are better methods to achieve flight, more theoretically simple ones. In fact, the method of flight Myouren used was a near perfect example. With the right mindset, one can distance themselves from the world to achieve what others would see as flight. A master would understand their place in reality so thoroughly that they could invoke everything that is not real. To them, the air is the ground and the ground is their mind.”

Sounds like bullshit to you; familiar bullshit. “That description reminds me of Reimu.”

After a second of thought, Byakuren nods. “Yes, that is a fair comparison. Reimu’s floating and manipulation of borders is a close approximation to how Myouren would achieve flight.”

Well damn. “Maybe I should have studied His religion more closely…” you mutter.

“You should have what?” Byakuren asks.

“All these powers are ridiculous!” You should have converted! True believers obviously get the best powers. I don’t think that’s the point of any religion. “I already know Reimu is a monster in her own right, and what you’ve shown me of Myouren puts him in the same weight-class. All you religious-types astound me in ways the run-of-the-mill hedge-mage never has.”

“I will not dissuade you from that line of thought,” Byakuren replies, “But Myouren was oft reluctant to use his abilities in the same manner as our Hakurei Shrine Maiden. He preferred negotiation and compromise to permanently resolve issues.”

“He didn’t like to fight?” After that snippet of puppet show, you can imagine Byakuren’s near twin drop-kicking a variety of over-sized beasts.

“No, he did not. However, although he preferred a more pacifistic style of thinking, he was fully capable in meting out acts of justified violence.”

“He did what he needed to, then?”

“That is an accurate description. I believe you and he share that trait.”

You think about the people you provoke on a daily-basis and- it isn’t daily anymore. Maybe a couple times a week with the guards or shop owners and even then you don’t escalate to a fight- you think about the variety of magicians and supernatural creatures you have quarreled with over grains of knowledge. “I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. If you haven’t noticed, I don’t hate resorting to violence.”

“But you do not like it either, no?”

“Well, I guess not.” But that’s mostly because most fights you’d like to fight would kill you. Really, if you had Myouren’s powers, you think you might be cracking quite a few more heads.

Nah, I doubt it. I think you’d enjoy a fair more intimidation games, though.

Maybe. Being in a position of power does sound rather fun to abuse.

“At any rate, it is not as though he had the power to crush all who opposed him.” Is she reading your mind?

No, she isn’t.

You’re almost positive she’s- Focus. “I thought you agreed he was similar to Reimu. I’m pretty sure that puts him in the top bracket for all combat.”

Byakuren seems slightly uncomfortable. She’s speaking slower and her voice is a bit less controlled. “There will always be opponents one cannot fight. My brother learned that.”

You think back to the puppet show. “Alice had mentioned that too, right? What could stop Myouren if a dragon couldn’t?”

The nun blinks, as if confused at your question. She composes herself quickly enough. “There are many such beings. Exceptional magicians, mighty deities, and powerful demons are a few examples that come to mind.”

It sounds almost like she wants to go on with the list, but doesn’t.

“Demons, huh? Like the one that taught you?”

“That is correct.”

You search through a few memories, stringing together what little information you have. “How is that, anyway? Learning from a demon? I guess it was pretty bad considering you were tossed off cliffs and the like.”

“It was not as terrible as you are imagining,” she assures you, a wry humor in her voice. “In truth, it was worse. At the time, I was not quite in the right of state of mind, and the demon I was pursuing was disinclined to take on any students.”

“Which means?”

“She nearly killed me with a bolt of energy the first time I approached. When I managed to get a word in the second time we met, she placed a dozen debilitating curses upon me. The third time I was met with demonic infernos and the fourth time I was promptly turned nearly completely into stone. After I had pursued her halfway across Japan, she finally agreed to tutor me in what she knew. The first lesson, flight, involved the cliff tossing. Truly, without the techniques and spells Myouren had left me with, I would have quickly joined him.” Byakuren smiles while she recalls the events.

That’s creepy. Don’t say- You know not to say that, although it’s one of the least insulting observations you could make.

“That’s uh, rather extreme. Most people would take the implied ‘no’ for what it was.”

“I was not in the most rational states of mind,” she says, but explains no further.

“Because-” you stop.

You drain the last of the broth from your bowl.

Maybe you could order more? Or maybe there’s a dessert stand somewhere nearby?

There has to be. What’s an overblown festival without sweets?

A grumbling noise draws your attention to your side, back to your companion. Byakuren looks distinctly unhappy as she sets her empty bowl down. “Go ahead and ask before your curiosity destroys you.”

“That’s not fair. If you don’t want to talk about it then you shouldn’t.”

When you meet Byakuren’s eyes, you imagine the shadows stretching out behind her, ready to devour you whole. “I am asking you to ask me, am I not?” she hisses politely.

Yikes.

Even with her encouragement, you’re unsure of how to phrase your question,

“This was after Myouren’s death, then?” you ask.

Byakuren motions for the stall owner to refill her tea cup before answering. “Almost immediately after, yes. With those that Myouren had worked with in life betraying him and abandoning his ideals after death, I had never felt more alone. At the time, I gave no thought to preserving my brother’s legacy - I tried to persevere myself. ‘Live’ he had told me. If I could live, forever and ever, I could always keep his memory alive.

“That was my justification, at least. In truth, I think I was simply fearful of death. Seeing one I imagined to be near invulnerable fall, not to some otherworldly monster but to mere humans, was incomprehensible. I was terrified then of dying myself. I think that is the real reason I walked the line of death pursuing whatever I could to keep me alive.”

Well, damn. You’re just bringing up all the old wounds. You should really just learn to shut your mouth. “Sorry.”

“It is fine. I was the one who invited such a question.” She gives you a melancholic half-smile. “But, I think I would prefer to talk about something other than that side of my past.”

“Multiple sides…” Far too depressing. You’re supposed to be distracting her from her work, aren’t you? It’s supposed to be a fun festival, not a walk down past-trauma lane. Damn it.

You put on your best grin. “Does that mean your spooky dark magician half is up for interrogation?”

Byakuren pokes her chopsticks at you. “That is a rather unflattering name for my other talents.”

You smile while you get back into the flow of your banter, the back and forth a comfortable safe zone. “Well I haven’t gotten to see it much. First impressions count for a lot.”

It helps Byakuren too. You see her foul memories and mood wash away as the tensions lifts from her shoulders. “Would you care for a second? A duel could serve well to hone my unused talents; perhaps a direct display will improve your opinion?”

“Somehow, I don’t think being on the receiving end for your shadowy inferno demon whatever spells will make me feel more favorable toward them.”

“Probably,” she giggles.

You lean back on your stool. “So, what was it like learning from a demon?”

“Shinki was an interesting one. She came from the west and was searching throughout Japan for more power and a possible new home if hers was eventually destroyed as she predicted. Utterly ruthless, with a hint of a cat’s predatory playfulness, would be an accurate description of her personality when we first met.”

“That sounds so much better than her repeated attempts to murder you.”

“Yes well, she eventually apologized. Some hundreds of years later.” Byakuren rolls her eyes and continues. “At any rate, I managed to impress her somewhat. Once we began to talk, I was able to learn more of her and she of me. I…was rather empty at the time. All I had was Myouren’s words to share. I parroted him, yet my demonic teacher soaked up all the information. She saw it as a source of my unnatural power that placed me far above a normal human.

“Likewise, she spoke of her own beliefs. She waxed about her home, of the depravity and cruelty of her hell. According to her, power was everything. Without strength, one would be hammered and flattened by the world. I believed her. If I had been stronger, if Myouren had been less bound by societal rules and trappings…”

“He wouldn’t have been him if he didn’t follow his beliefs,” you comment.

Byakuren nods. “Just so, but at the time I could not rationalize such thoughts. I was drawn in by the allure of her words that made much more common sense to me than anything Myouren ever preached. Funnily enough, Shinki was equally enraptured by the teachings I orated. We both came out of it somewhere closer to the middle.” Byakuren leans back on her stool, holding onto the counter to balance herself. “Or maybe not. I had gone to meet Shinki just this past year. The changes in her personality, her demeanor, have been astounding. Alice tells me that for a time she was almost saint-like, effusing positivity in a way no human would be capable of. Perhaps she is not so ‘good’ right now, but I still barely recognize her from my time under her tutelage. She is calm and orderly now in a way I had never seen her before.”

“I still don’t see how Alice fits in here.” She isn’t normal, certainly, but…

“Ah. Shinki introduced me to her daughter when I first visited in recent times.”

You watch her with an eyebrow raised. Once it’s clear you aren’t getting it, she speaks again.

“She is a demon.”
>> No. 174780
Eh?

Her?

The mature yet somehow childish blonde?

“Or rather, she was once a human and is now a magician after living part of her life in Makai with Shinki and her family. She is not normal even if she likes to pretend, but nor is she a specter of vengeance and death. She is something else entirely.”

Something else entirely? What the hell is that supposed to mean? She looked like an ordinary, if powerful, magician to you.

“She also happens to bake surprisingly well and can be relied on in a pinch to provide intricate metalworking. Most of the pots and pans in the temple have been created courtesy of her. She is an individual with many talents.”

“Huh.” A human that lived with demons?

What is Byakuren hinting at? This really isn’t that important, is it? No, but you like to know things. This Alice, in the end, barely means anything to you at the moment, but she sounds like a person with an interesting past.

It makes you wonder what her life was like, how it compares to yours. How normal of a human was she? Or did she come from a lineage of magicians? How did her time with a demon-turned-good affect her?

What would you be like if you had lived with the darkness, never basking in the light?

“May I ask a question?”

Byakuren’s voice snaps you out of your thoughts. “What? Of course, of course, go ahead. This isn’t supposed to be an interrogation.”

“I would ask then of these positive influences in your life. Who were the people that set you on the right path?”

Why does she always take a sip of tea to punctuate her statements? It’s eerie, like a super-villain who is calmly waiting for the hero’s reaction to their dastardly plan that- Getting sidetracked… “Are you reading my mind?” you ask.

“Not at all. It seemed appropriate for the topic at hand, and I have been curious ever since I caught the glimpses of your memories.” Oh, right. Your sister tried showing all your embarrassing moments to Byakuren while you slept. Relax, it wouldn’t have been all of them.

Oh?

I would have saved some blackmail material for later!

“Well, you’ve met my sister. I would say she’s the biggest influence. It’s hard to ignore your moral compass when she’s constantly nagging and can shut you down in a pinch.” I do not nag, I advise. “Otherwise, not many people. Some mercenaries have been standup guys, adhering to their own personal moral codes. The brief meetings I’ve had with the crazies and evils of the world put me off from those paths.”

You pause, sighing and glancing around, before continuing. You don’t understand how Byakuren can talk about herself so easily. “But, I guess if we’re laying out our pasts here, the other biggest influence would be my mentor. I think I’ve talked about her before. She’s amazing, a modern-day knight that runs around in her shining armor bashing in the skulls of those who commit evil atrocities. Her and her whole group of crusader friends that fight in His name were my brief but motivating stint in the light of the world.

“I didn’t part with the best of terms from the group, but my mentor is the second person in the world who I feel completely indebted to. With the first person being the one that’s currently traveling in my head, well, I hope that says enough.”

“Indeed it does. You give the mountain to those you speak highly of,” Byakuren notes. “You learned much from her, then?”

“That’s right. All my basics come from her, I think. Sword fighting, dish washing, hymn singing, conducting surgery, haggling for prices, and more. She really wanted me to be prepared for everything.”

“And she knew about your condition, then?”

“…At the end. When it threatened to finish me, when it counted for most, she learned. I don’t have many regrets in life, but not trusting her completely might be one of my biggest. Things could have turned out differently…” You still remember the night clearly. There was a whole lot of screaming while she cut you open with her sharpened knife, an accidental swipe capable of severing an artery. “Instead, I dragged her name through the mud. She did what she thought was right and helped me with my dark and evil ritual even in the face of what she had sworn to her group. I trusted her to cut me up and lace together gemstones with a weave of magic, and she did it.”

How the hell does Byakuren do it? The vivid memories jump to the forefront of your mind. You fucked up there. You should have planned more, told her in advance, gone to all of them for help, done anything you could have to keep what you had. But you didn’t. You were stupid, paranoid, kept everything to yourself, slaved into the night alone except for your sister. You haven’t learned anything, have you? You’re no better than the cultists that you helped sever in twain, the men and women spraying blood in your face as the crusaders shouted and swung and-

No need to panic.

The rapid-fire memories begin to deaden and de-color into monochrome before slipping from your attention entirely.

It isn’t time for a bout of hysteria.

That’s…right. You never want to forget; you’ll remember every gritty detail no matter how torturous they become, but now isn’t the time.

Thanks. It isn’t nearly as painful for me to experience these. Don’t worry about it for now.

It takes a second for you to refocus your senses out of your head. When you do, you realize Byakuren has scooted closer to you and is gently rubbing your back. You smile at her comforting gesture and keep talking. “I know that after I ran away, quickly sewn back up, she stayed to face her former comrades. They didn’t kill her, but she lost everything she worked for years to achieve because of me and my stupid weakness. She sacrificed it all for my plans and I wish-”

“No.” Byakuren interrupts you, her voice firm. “Do you think your mentor regrets assisting you?”

You barely need to think of it for her amused words to come back to you. “After all my years in His service, I think some free agent work might be a nice change of pace.”

“No,” you say with a smile, “I know she doesn’t.”

“Then why would you unnecessarily worry yourself into a panic?”

“Because she deserves better,” you answer immediately.

Nobody should pay for your mistakes. Your mentor should live how she wants, not be forced to enjoy whatever events fall her way.

Byakuren hums in response. “Is that not your reasoning for aiding your sister as well?”

“It is. Because they do. They both deserve more.”

Byakuren places both of her hands on your shoulders and stares you in the eyes. “Do not let yourself get caught up in such wishes, such dreams. We all receive exactly what we deserve, no more and no less.”

“That’s bullshit,” you respond, shrugging off her hold. “Life is unfair, as everybody likes to parrot. I’m going to try my damndest to tilt the scales into the favor of those who have earned it.”

The nun narrows her eyes at you. She reaches up with a hand for a moment before clenching her fist and placing it in on her lap. “That line of thinking will destroy you when you fail. When you continue your journey for years on end, each new hope crushed as it fails to achieve the goal you want, you will begin to despair. You will find that because life is unfair like you say, you will never reach your dream. You will never find salvation in what you desire.”

Is this some sort of twisted joke? “So what? I just give up? I just let all of it fall by the wayside? I lose to the terribly unjust world? No way. Fuck that! I’ll make things right. I’m never going to stop.”

“Do you not feel it already? Every night of every day you will think about how all of your efforts have been ineffectual. Your guilt and hatred will grow and fester as each new hope is crushed. As time wears on your memories will fade but your emotions will still feel fresh and sting you forever.”

Like that’ll ever happen. Your mistake and desire is with you every single moment of your life! “I won’t lose sight of my goal. I can’t! Every single fucking day when I wake up and my sister is there to greet me good morning hurts! It shouldn’t happen!”

“Why will you not enjoy your time? Appreciate the presence of your beloved sister who is still with you! Do not squander your life by chasing after a fool’s dream that can only lead to failure!”

Fail, fail, fail! You slam your hand on the counter and stand up. “Why the hell are you insisting on this? I won’t fail! That’s not going to happen! I’m so close to an answer right now!”

“How many times have you already thought yourself ‘so close’ to the end? Every day your self-imposed journey continues on will allow your sense of duty to gnaw away at you! Slow progress or none at all will whittle away at you and leave you with absolutely nothing! You’ll be an empty shell, continuing forward with the momentum of years, barely able to feel, to remember, what you actually desire!”

“Screw that! It doesn’t matter how long it takes! I’m not that weak! I won’t let something like little disappointments stop me! As long as I keep trying I won’t fail! I’ll-” Shut up right this instant.

You- have said enough. I can’t let this keep going on. Cool off.

This- is you not looking around. Try it.

You try to open your mouth, but find it snap close almost instantaneously.

It sends a chill down your spine. Your mouth is numb, strained, as you instinctively fight to control it.

You clamp down on the reaction and stop fighting before you hurt yourself or your sister.

I’m serious. Stop talking and look.

You give up trying to control your vocal chords or your mouth. You…don’t remember the last time your sister tried to forcibly control you. It’s an unspoken of line that hasn’t been intentionally crossed in a long while.

If you needed to, you’re sure you could wrest control from her, but you’re too shocked to do so. That, and you understand this is about as strongly worded a message as your sister can send you short of messing with your thoughts.

You breathe and look around. You’re standing. You know you’ve been shouting, too. The stall owner is giving you a deadly glare from where he is standing. The few other patrons have cleared out, it seems. Outside, you see a few of the passing pedestrians slowing down, looking at you. A few are pointing, whispering.

Byakuren is still seated. She was yelling too, you remember, but she didn’t rise from her seat. You look at her and see the top of her head, her purple hair prominently displayed. You think she’s shaking too, most noticeable in her fists that are kneading into her thighs.

You can hear that the festival is still going strong even though it’s probably closer to midnight by now. That doesn’t matter though because in this stall here, it’s dead silent.

The background noise filters out to where you can hear your breathing and her breathing as clear as birdcalls in the morning.

“Weak. Yes, I suppose that is true…”

The words are whisper, and they don’t come from your mouth.

That’s…

You’re an idiot.

…yeah. You agree.

Nobody, not Byakuren and not your sister, say a word.

It felt like she was attacking your life choice, the goal you’ve pursued, but she wasn’t. Not really. No matter what she may think, Byakuren is a polite and kind person. She’s too courteous to so flagrantly criticize you like that, even considering how up and down the night has been.

Self-criticism? She’s full of that, just like you are.

Living for her brother, despite her personal misgivings in the ideology, right?

Every day spent with him, helping him, distracting him, supporting him, looking out for him.

Every day, spreading a message. A message that was heard by many but heeded by few. A message containing an idea too open-minded to cross the divide of man and monster. Spreading a message every day until the messenger was murdered for it.

Then she ran in fear. She fled from the life she had lived until…what? She grew regretful? Ashamed of abandoning the one she loved? So she continued on, trying to make others understand. She picked up the banner left to her and bandied it about until she was imprisoned for all her years of efforts. You’ve heard of that from the others; another one of Gensokyo’s famed ‘incidents.’ After hundreds of years of waiting, she’s freed.

What does she do?

She continues trying to make people understand.

Do they?

You look around again at the flashy displays, the modern marvels and circus-level performers in the streets during what’s meant to be a sacred time. You watch like a hawk for the more unnatural in the crowd, the inhuman elements. The majority of the youkai are the ones running their businesses, catering to and being laughed at by human patrons.

Why?

To ingratiate themselves to the human village, so they can live a peaceful life. Perhaps make some money, to buy products from the humans at higher prices.

She continues trying to make people understand.

Do they?

You suppose they don’t.

You sit back down and look at your empty teacup. The stall owner turns away when you glance at him for a refill.

That’s fine.

A stirring from the person sitting next you draws your attention. Byakuren looks at you through a cascade of hair. “Tell me,” she whispers. “Can you see me? Can you see my future? With your superior understanding, can you tell me what I have been doing, where I am heading?”

[ ] “I…can’t. I don’t have that power. The past is gone and the future isn’t here.”
[ ] “You’re right. We’re right. What we’ve done until now…is right. And we can’t stop. It’s the worst betrayal if we do.”
[ ] “I’m not smart. I can be wrong. Everybody can be wrong. What we have chosen to dedicate ourselves to…may not be right.”
[ ] <Write-in>

---

Well, damn. Sorry for the wait. I apologize when I want too! You don’t control me!

If you make a write-in, maybe even if you choose an option, I highly suggest you write out your thoughts behind it. It’ll help me and maybe help you all too.

>>174398
Just image large updates at a weekly rate! Twice weekly! There is always room for improvement!

>>174399
Thanks. Both it and my other submission were rushed. If I had spent more writing time, I definitely would’ve added more in. As it stands, I’m glad (should I be?) for the little practice I managed to obtain.

>>174408
>>174419
>same universe
On that note, I’d love to think all my writings fit together nicely into one continuity.

>>174426
>picking every single topic
I could talk about a vote for everything is a vote for nothing or how something would probably interrupt and make things worse etc. etc, but I’ll settle for enjoying the implied compliment and leave a cautionary note of choosing an order of speech carefully.

>>174458
It’s almost like you want to read my atrocious porn.
>> No. 174781
[X] "Trying to do something for someone dead and gone won't satisfy anything but your own conscience, but I have someone here who I can help, and give a better life. If you think that your current path will help these people here and now, then you're still right."

I find that the biggest problem is that the answers present both their situations as equivalent. He is trying to actively help a real semi-living person, whose condition he could improve, whereas Byakuren may just be driven to her path by underlying guilt. I tried to word my response best I can, but I still don't feel quite right about it.
>> No. 174782
[X] “I...can't. I don't have that power. The past is gone and the future isn't here.”
>> No. 174785
[X] "Trying to do something for someone dead and gone won't satisfy anything but your own conscience, but I have someone here who I can help, and give a better life. If you think that your current path will help these people here and now, then you're still right."

I feel this sums up his opinion best as well as addressing their cases.
>> No. 174786
[X] "Trying to do something for someone dead and gone won't satisfy anything but your own conscience, but I have someone here who I can help, and give a better life. If you think that your current path will help these people here and now, then you're still right."


I think this is pretty good.
You can't bring back the dead, but his sister is still, technically, alive. Giving up on her now would be more like giving up on Myoren before he was killed.
>> No. 174790
[X] “You’re heading towards your own future. Sure, helping people is ‘the right thing to do’. But if you want to help someone, then help them because you want to, not because your brother would have done so. I’m helping my sister because that’s what I want.”
- [X] “So what is it you want, Byakuren?

This vote focuses on the question. I believe it’s an important question she’s been avoiding asking herself. The mini speech before is more or less buildup, as well as my personal opinion in this matter.
>> No. 174797
>>174786
I have to think a bit before making a vote, but I have to say I disagree with you. She's already dead. She doesn't even want to leave his mind. And we all know that the price the necromicon (or any other book) will ask for the miracle we're looking for is way past what he's capable to do while staying true to himself. This is a fool's errand and has been since day one.

He's just a kid who hasn't learned to let go and wastes all of his life daydreaming about how things would have been different while wasting away the now as well.
She's not much better, parroting things she barely understands to honor someone who doesn't care about honor anymore. In her case, however, she has learnt to love Myouren's beliefs and, in time, she will let go. She will use Myouren as a springboard to jump ahead and not as a lifelong clutch.
>> No. 174804
>>174797
This kind of logic is understandable. Necroanon is..."selfish" in his pursuit of the Necronomicon. He basically threw his own life on the back burner to scramble after a hope that might not even exist. This "vacation" is the first one he's had since he started on his quest and he's missed out on building relationships with the people around him pretty badly. Everything nice he's done has been for the benefit of helping him find the Necronomicon. He's failing to grasp the present and always looking towards the future; and it's hurting himself I think. I'm not sure how his sister feels about this.

Or maybe I'm just overpsychoanalyzing and adding in bits of myself.
>> No. 174806
>>174804
And now my write in based on this.

-[x] "...Are we really doing all this for the sake of others? I know I'm being selfish; I'm doing this because it's what >I< want for my sister. If you're doing all this for Myoruen; you're walking down the same path as me. But is that what he would want, Byakuren?"
>> No. 174807
[x] "...Maybe it's the journey itself that's important, and not the destination. The Necronomicon... I have to accept the possibility that the secrets I seek... don't exist within it. But that doesn't mean that the trip here wasn't worthwhile. I've managed to help people from time to time while looking, to meet new people. And maybe that's what's really important. Even if the goal is elusive, it's what keeps spurring us onward. And when you look around, and see the things you have done, and the people you have touched... doesn't that alone make the trip worth it?"


I don't feel that they've wasted their time, at all. But some perspective might be in order.
>> No. 174813
Man, this anon strikes me as a pathetic shell of a man, who's relied on his sister to be his mental censor for so long that he can't control his own thoughts or actions any more. He's frequently and easily caught up in other people's arguments, and is very easily led on. I know that he's had a shitty life, but if it weren't for his sister, he'd be unable to function in regular society. The way he flies off at the slightest provocation, ignores social boundaries, and ignores his own well-being makes him totally unattractive as a character to me. So far, he's only survived by dint of other people helping him. He's practically a caricature of extremist behavior. I really wish he'd learn to tone it down a notch. A good asskicking by someone completely out of his level would go a long way towards teaching him to watch his words. That said,

[ ] “You’re right. We’re right. What we’ve done until now…is right. And we can’t stop. It’s the worst betrayal if we do.”

Seems like it fits him best. He's totally given himself over to his quest, ignoring all other options and possibilities. It would be impossible for him to consider that his actions may have been wrong. It's only fair to extend that judgement to people behaving the same way.
>> No. 174814
>>174797

While I think you have some solid points, I think you're making statements where you can't really know these things.

She didn't say she didn't want to leave his mind, just that she had gotten comfortable with how things were and that she wasn't in a rush. And you can't say "We all know he can't bring her back while staying true to himself" because we have no idea what the ritual to bring her back would entail, and before assuming that this "Black Magic" would cost him something so dearly, I would suggest we actually FIND it and see for ourselves. If it were so destructive to him, his sister wouldn't let him go through with it in the first place. It being a fool's errand isn't how he sees it, nor how his sister sees it. The only one saying that is Byakuren.

Beyond that, yes, he is essentially a kid who hasn't learned to let go, but i'd wager its pretty damn hard to let go with a reminder in your head 24/7/365. So I have to say I stick by my original vote of >>174781
>> No. 174820
>>174779
>update with neither of my write-ins, and instead horrible arguments
So much sadness. I wanted to use those.

I'm not sure there was any way around the horrible arguments, though. It seems to have emerged mostly from Byakuren's conversation choices rather than ours. Put a socially dysfunctional man next to a woman with deep-seated issues and it's only a matter of time before everything goes horribly wrong.

Actually, look at some of what Byakuren says here.
>We all receive exactly what we deserve, no more and no less.
>When you continue your journey for years on end, each new hope crushed as it fails to achieve the goal you want, you will begin to despair. You will find that because life is unfair like you say, you will never reach your dream.
>Every day your self-imposed journey continues on will allow your sense of duty to gnaw away at you! Slow progress or none at all will whittle away at you and leave you with absolutely nothing! You’ll be an empty shell, continuing forward with the momentum of years, barely able to feel, to remember, what you actually desire!

If Byakuren's first statement is taken as true, then we're looking at someone who believes they deserve their continuing failure and suffering- that somehow, they don't merit success at all. She thinks that she deserves to fail, to be reduced to nothing more than an empty shell.

Yet she also says that it's "because life is unfair like [we] say" that we would fail. This seems like a direct contradiction of her previous position, to me. If someone else understands it better, please explain.

>“Tell me,” she whispers. “Can you see me? Can you see my future? With your superior understanding, can you tell me what I have been doing, where I am heading?”
For the moment, I'm voting thusly:
[x] “I…can’t. I don’t have that power. The past is gone and the future isn’t here.”
-[x] "But you're someone who deserves more, who has earned it, whatever else you've done."
>> No. 174828
>>174820

I think she's just accepted that kind of cruel reality through the years of guilt and self-loathing.
>> No. 174878
... I'm not sure where all this hopelessness is coming from.

Honestly, Necroanon has been doing the right thing. What, is he supposed to just let his sister die outright?

Maybe if he someday finds a logical proof that the not-quite-resurrection he wants is impossible (and I find this really really unlikely, given the number of outright resurrection rituals out there even in Touhou canon), he should give up and move on. Until then?
>> No. 174883
[X] “You’re heading towards your own future. Sure, helping people is ‘the right thing to do’. But if you want to help someone, then help them because you want to, not because your brother would have done so. I’m helping my sister because that’s what I want.”
- [X] “So what is it you want, Byakuren?

>>174408
Which "other story" has this author written?
>> No. 174888
>>174883
Girl of Death, in /underground/
>> No. 174908
>>174814
Good points, except the one about my assertion regarding the price of the miracle. I think there's no doubt about the evil nature of the necromicon: the best we can hope for is that it only asks one life for another.

>>174878
A LOT of people would say 'yes' to that question. Respecting the natural cycle of life and death is something that comes naturally.
But I guess we can't simply take things so smoothly. Also, I can't see a single case of resurrection in the Touhou canon that applies to this situation.



[x] "...Are we really doing all this for the sake of others? I know I'm being selfish; I'm doing this because it's what >I< want for my sister, I have no illusions on the contrary. If you're doing all this for Myoruen; you're walking down the same path as me. But is that what he would want, Byakuren?"
-[x] Forcing yourself to be the shadow of a man that is man no longer, to parrot beliefs you do not believe in all to honor the memory of someone who didn't care about honor even while he was still alive... I don't know.
--[x] But I think you'll be okay. You really seem to believe in most of his teachings and that has lead you to become an incredible person. Much kinder than the image that comes to mind when you think 'Evil Magician who consorted with demons to cheat death' Doesn't that mean that there's value in endless journeys?
>> No. 174939
I notice we don't respect the natural desire to shelter in caves or kill subordinates over mild threats. Why is life and death any different?

Natural is not the same as good.
>> No. 174969
For the people arguing because it is "Natural" for life and death to exist, we should keep to the same path.
>> No. 174973
>>174969
Man, you sound really frustrated. Is something the matter?

Also, sage, would you kindly?
>> No. 174974
[x] “I…can’t. I don’t have that power. The past is gone and the future isn’t here.”
-[x] "But you're someone who deserves more, who has earned it, whatever else you've done."
>> No. 175114
Really, this whole subject of the cycle of life and death is pointless. IIRC, our sister wants to come back, we have the (hypothetical) means, and we've already fucked up the cycle of life and death to piss off the reapers. Things can't get that much in regards to that...Not that it would surprise me if they did.
>> No. 175126
[x] "...Maybe it's the journey itself that's important, and not the destination. The Necronomicon... I have to accept the possibility that the secrets I seek... don't exist within it. But that doesn't mean that the trip here wasn't worthwhile. I've managed to help people from time to time while looking, to meet new people. And maybe that's what's really important. Even if the goal is elusive, it's what keeps spurring us onward. And when you look around, and see the things you have done, and the people you have touched... doesn't that alone make the trip worth it?"

So as I pray, Unlimited Necromancy Works.
>> No. 175155
[x] "...Maybe it's the journey itself that's important, and not the destination. The Necronomicon... I have to accept the possibility that the secrets I seek... don't exist within it. But that doesn't mean that the trip here wasn't worthwhile. I've managed to help people from time to time while looking, to meet new people. And maybe that's what's really important. Even if the goal is elusive, it's what keeps spurring us onward. And when you look around, and see the things you have done, and the people you have touched... doesn't that alone make the trip worth it?"
>> No. 175179
>>175155


Uh.

This goes against every bit of characterization Necroanon has had yet.

Why are people so quick to give up on a perfectly reasonable goal he's had his entire life?

[x] "...Are we really doing all this for the sake of others? I know I'm being selfish; I'm doing this because it's what >I< want for my sister, I have no illusions on the contrary.
--[x] But I think you'll be okay. You really seem to believe in most of his teachings and that has lead you to become an incredible person. Much kinder than the image that comes to mind when you think 'Dark Magician who consorted with demons to cheat death' Doesn't that mean that there's value in endless journeys?
>> No. 175182
[x] "...Are we really doing all this for the sake of others? I know I'm being selfish; I'm doing this because it's what >I< want for my sister, I have no illusions on the contrary. --[x] But I think you'll be okay. You really seem to believe in most of his teachings and that has lead you to become an incredible person. Much kinder than the image that comes to mind when you think 'Dark Magician who consorted with demons to cheat death' Doesn't that mean that there's value in endless journeys?
>> No. 175184
I'd like to remind everyone that the Second Noble Truth stated by the Buddha is (roughly) that desire is the root of all suffering. Asking Byakuren "what do you want", and encouraging her to go for that, puts us squarely in the role of Mara.

[X] "Trying to do something for someone dead and gone won't satisfy anything but your own conscience, but I have someone here who I can help, and give a better life. If you think that your current path will help these people here and now, then you're still doing the right thing."

(Underlines are to indicate where I've lightly edited the original phrasing, not for stress.)
>> No. 175185
>>175184
Funny, I thought Mara was more like a penis with tentacles sitting in a chariot.

I know, I know. It's just a joke. Don't kill me.
>> No. 175231
>>175185
Nope. It's not just a joke. That's just a different depiction of the same Mara.
>> No. 175331
[x] “I…can’t. I don’t have that power. The past is gone and the future isn’t here.”
-[x] "But you're someone who deserves more, who has earned it, whatever else you've done."
[ ] “You’re right. We’re right. What we’ve done until now…is right.

I'm not sure i can argue the morality of all that's going on here, other than I don't see his sister as "alive", and i don't think we should go and say byakuren's situation is totally different from ours, regardless of whether or not it is, as that implies our mission is better than hers or something along those lines, but I do think that anything that makes necroanon give up or decide that this whole quest is pointless, would be completely atrocious in light of the fact he has dedicated himself to this his entire life. Following my view of his characterization from what we have had him do so far, and what he has done without any input from us, regardless of whether or not it is the right choice, I can't possibly see him coming to this conclusion so easily. he is brash, hot-headed, impulsive, and stubborn. a realization like that would require him being dragged to it kicking and screaming, maybe through a choice between his sister and something else incredibly important to him, like byakuren (please dear god don't get ideas from that it's just an example oh god please). He sees this as necessary, and just yelled and argued about it moments ago. He got more defensive and emotional supporting it, but he meant it with every fiber of his being. He might someday conclude that he should just live his life, but not here, not now. I have more I want to say, but I can't quite put it into words, so I will stop for now. Sorry if this is hard to read, I'm not good at composing my thoughts.
>> No. 175390
[X] "Trying to do something for someone dead and gone won't satisfy anything but your own conscience, but I have someone here who I can help, and give a better life. If you think that your current path will help these people here and now, then you're still doing the right thing."
>> No. 175862
[x] "...Are we really doing all this for the sake of others? I know I'm being selfish; I'm doing this because it's what >I< want for my sister, I have no illusions on the contrary.
--[x] But I think you'll be okay. You really seem to believe in most of his teachings and that has lead you to become an incredible person. Much kinder than the image that comes to mind when you think 'Dark Magician who consorted with demons to cheat death' Doesn't that mean that there's value in endless journeys?
>> No. 175909
Update soon? I'm curious as to what we're gonna say.
>> No. 175918
[x] "...Are we really doing all this for the sake of others? I know I'm being selfish; I'm doing this because it's what >I< want for my sister, I have no illusions on the contrary.
--[x] But I think you'll be okay. You really seem to believe in most of his teachings and that has lead you to become an incredible person. Much kinder than the image that comes to mind when you think 'Dark Magician who consorted with demons to cheat death' Doesn't that mean that there's value in endless journeys?
>> No. 175926
Byakuren has her head hung. Her curly, multicolored locks of hair drape across her face. Through the tiniest partings, you manage to see her downcast eyes.

You look away.

Words come to your lips but fall into the abyss before being spoken. What was supposed to be a break, an average meal, was ruined all thanks to your damn emotions.

You glance around again. A few people have begun to cautiously filter in; people that were already looking to eat but paused when the shouting began. Outside, more bodies are standing around, watching, listening and gossiping.

Catching the eye of the cook and stand owner, you carefully set down a large wad of money on the counter.

Once you glare at him long enough he manages to catch the hint. He quietly shoos away the potential patrons and then heads out front, making sure the traffic around the stand keeps moving.

You’ve already hit her emotions and her reputation. Since you’ll probably completely destroy one of those in this conversation, it’s best if you don’t cause the other to sink more than it has.

Deep breaths. “I...can't. I don't have that power,” you answer her. “The past is gone and the future isn't here,” you say.

Byakuren stirs slightly, subconsciously nodding in tune with your words.

Did she expect that kind of response? Assume you would answer ineffectually?

You make sure your voice doesn’t hold any anger, just passion, as you continue. “But you're someone who deserves more, who has earned it, no matter whatever else you've done.”

She laughs a low, mocking chuckle. “I have earned more, have I?” Byakuren raises her head and looks around. “Funny. I do not see those benefits anywhere.”

That annoys you. Her bitterness doesn’t suit her. “Do you help people so that they will praise you? Shower you with gifts, applause, and adoration?”

At least she manages to look offended at your suggestion. “Of course not. How shallow do you believe I am?”

“I don’t think you are at all, but if that isn’t your motivation then why have you trekked across Japan helping others? Why have you tried to foster good relations? Why have you built up this temple?”

Her eyes narrow more with every question. As her emotions whip back and forth, less and less restrained, you can feel the heat of her annoyance grow. “…Have you not been listening at all? I-”

“I’ve been listening,” you cut her off, earning yourself a growl of displeasure, “but I haven’t heard a real reason. You’ve talked around but haven’t nailed it on the head. So why? Why have you worked so hard in life, emulating a man who’s long dead?”

“You-”

“Trying to do something for someone dead and gone won't satisfy anything but your own conscience. Is that why you’re working? To assuage your own guilt?”

“I-” You’ve pushed her too far. Instead of remaining on the back foot and reflecting on herself, Byakuren gets defensive. “What about you?” she snaps. “Who are you to ask me?”

You might constantly question yourself and your actions, but not in this case. When confronted like this, your true feelings rise to the surface.

“Haven’t you been listening to me?” you echo her. “I have someone here who I can help and give a better life to. I know I'm being selfish; I'm doing this because it's what I want for my sister. Don’t try to turn this around. Tell me what it is you want, Byakuren.” You know it isn’t as simple as ‘dealing with it,’ but she isn’t even trying to work with you! You’re trying to be direct while she’s skirting the issue!

How quickly the two of you go back to glaring at each other. Her meek attitude frustrates you to no end. Your annoyance and anger at her depression and her misdirection is infuriating! You-

You don’t shout. You fall into your emotions easily, but you can’t do that here. Not now, not after you’ve already fucked it up. Your sister isn’t reining you in – if you don’t try, you’ll ruin everything.

Think. It’s obvious that your demands are needling her into uncustomary anger.

You’re unfortunately good at this, at not controlling yourself, at annoying others. Why is it so hard to stay calm? To not shout when it matters most?

You try to breathe. “Sorry,” you apologize, “for being pushy.”

Byakuren might be drained from the flares of anger as much as you are.

She gives another slight nod. Reactionary acceptance.

Damn it. That isn’t better.

You really wish your sister would help out, but it seems like she’s finally rooted herself in letting you sink or swim. You imagine you can feel her watching, judging, and cheering you on like a person watching television.

This situation doesn’t make sense if you stop and think. Byakuren is not somebody you should be getting angry at. Definitely not. She’s just a person. Her insecurities are normal, if on a slightly larger scale. Why do they upset you so much?

Maybe you should take your own advice and figure out shit on your end first.

It really isn’t that easy.

Why does Byakuren provoke such rage in you? You don’t hate her. You want her to be happy, to feel well. When she isn’t, it hurts you. Makes you upset.

Why so much? Why so explosively?

Seeing her hurt causes your gut to churn. It’s…not an unfamiliar feeling. You’ve felt it before, at times with your sister, your mentor, yourself.

You’re concerned for her and feel terrible that you aren’t helping. You feel useless, impotent, as if all your efforts have been for naught. You’re angry at the fact that Byakuren hasn’t improved from before.

…is that it?

That doesn’t feel right. It’s not like you’ve known her for long.

Does that matter?

But now you’re stalling. Wasting time. You like her and genuinely want to help her - you want to be able to do something for her. If you keep it simple like that, then you can move on.

It isn’t much to go on, but it’s good enough for now.

You’re also humming, you realize. The melody of some hymn is on your lips; you can’t recall the words but you think they’re something about resurrection of the faithful.

You’re such a child, needing lullabies to calm you down.

Byakuren almost looks like she’s sleeping. Her eyes are closed and she is swaying slightly in her seat. You can’t tell if she’s meditating or listening to your half-remembered song.

“What do you really want, Byakuren?” you whisper.

Her eyes flutter open. “I would like to know what I want as well,” she whispers back.

The two of you naturally draw closer, leaning in to hear each other’s voice.

“Am I not allowed to let my brother’s legacy be my duty? Is not enlightening others and helping them along their path in life a just reasoning?”

“That can be fine.” You stop and try to think about your next words. Even though she’s hundreds of years old, Byakuren is still searching, just like you are. You don’t want to give her a half-assed thought. “You’re heading towards your own future. Sure, helping people is ‘the right thing to do’. But if you want to help someone, then help them because you want to, not because your brother would have done so. If you think that your current path will help these people here and now, then I think you’re on the right path.”

Helping people for the sake of another, in the name of religion, because it’s the right thing to do – if you’re still helping them, does the reason matter?

Byakuren eventually shakes her head, your words not striking a harmonious cord within her.

“I am not allowed to honor what my brother tried to achieve?”

It isn’t about other people, then. You understand that – it’s not like you go out of your way to help strangers, it just sort of happens. “If you're doing all this for Myouren then you're walking down the same path as me, with everything that entails. I’m under no illusions. I know that as supportive as my sister is, our thoughts and goals don’t always align. Would your brother want you to chase after his past like this, Byakuren?”

“How am I supposed to know what he would want? He isn’t here!” You wince as the tranquil mood is broken by a near-shriek. “As you have so profoundly said, he is dead and gone! I have not heard his voice in hundreds of years!”

Your poorly chosen words come hurtling back in your face. It feels as good as being hit with a mud pie.

Despite the flush of emotions that Byakuren’s outburst draws out, you bite your tongue and remain quiet.

“Despite what he had promised me, his presence has been missing all this time.” The brunette unclenches and clenches her hand again and again. “Always be with me? That sentimental nonsense…”

You thought that would be it, but you see Byakuren’s lips quaver. The faintest of words pass out, forcing you to lean in closer.

“…hoped that when you appeared he might have…” you hear her mumble.

“What was that?” you ask.

Before you can berate yourself for being an idiot, Byakuren sighs. “Nothing. More nonsensical wishes, I suppose.” She doesn’t apologize for her previous outburst and you don’t expect one – not until later, at least. The two of you are beyond those vapid social customs at the moment, every thought and feeling raw and uncensored. “At any rate, I never had as close a connection with my brother as you do with your sister. I do not, cannot, know what he would have thought.”

“Aren’t you overcomplicating this?” you ask. “He told you to live, didn’t he?”

“…He did.” Byakuren lets her head roll back, easing the tension in her neck and shoulders. “That simplistic advice is not enough. Live how? As in the example he set forth? How we had been in the past? How I thought was best? Should I try to move one? Honor him? Lose myself in vengeance? Try to be better? I don’t know, will never know, what he was thinking with those words.”

That uncertainty isn’t as definite as she thinks. But, you ignore that possibility for now. “I think you'll be okay,” you assure her. “You really seem to believe in most of his teachings and that has led you to become an incredible person full of life. It’s-”

She laughs. “Am I? Is that all you see in me? Some incredible Buddhist that helps others? Have our conversations meant nothing?”

You clench your teeth, casting her remarks aside. “No. I’m not blind to everything. I know about your doubts and concerns and can imagine the masks and little fears you carry. But I’m saying that you’re not as lost as you make yourself out to be. I think the person you are isn’t as unconnected from Myouren’s beliefs as you think.” Maybe she can’t see herself and how much she’s done, but you haven’t lived her life. You’re free of the years’ worth of bias she has built up. “So you don’t necessarily want to help people because it’s the right thing to do. You aren’t some worldly saint or enlightened teacher. That’s fine. Even if these results are complete accidents, they’re still part of you, perhaps in-line with what Myouren wanted, perhaps not.

“Either way, you don’t need to worry about all that. Don’t worry about anybody else you’ve met. Just worry about you, yourself, what Byakuren Hijiri, wants.”

No acidic response is forthcoming. Your words manage to pierce true instead of nicking the dragon with a distract papercut.

“What I want…isn’t so simple.”

“Then make it simple.”

Byakuren shakes her head.

You play with your empty glass, spinning it on its circular base.

“I want…” Byakuren pauses.

She’s debating internally. You see it in the slight squint of her eyes, the uneven line of her mouth.

She doesn’t leave you waiting for long.

Her answer is soft and true, spoken from the heart.

“I want my brother back.”

She stares you in the eyes while she speaks.

“I want him back. I don’t want just the memories or the half-hearted reminders. I don’t want his legacy or his shadow or his spiritual descendants or his words or his beliefs.”

No anger. No annoyance. No frustration. For once, you aren’t exhausting her or aggravating her.

“I want to see his mop of hair and his hear his passionate voice and hug that stupidly thin body of his until he snaps like a twig. I want to laugh at his social missteps and cry when he comes back from a meeting, bloodied and bruised yet still smiling.”

Likewise, you feel nothing. You’re listening as best you can, taking in every nuance of her words.

“I don’t want to live with this heartache. I don’t want my last memories of him to be tainted with the blood of people we thought we could trust and then further frayed by time. I don’t want to wake up every day being reminded of how much he isn’t here, how little I am compared to him, for the rest of my life.”

Byakuren speaks in a resolute tone, tinged only by the slightest hints of desperation.

“I want to walk at my silly little brother’s side once again. Even though I know it won’t happen, even though I don’t believe that he will reincarnate or transcend death or find a way to pass a message on, I hope. I hope, so I try to fool myself every day into believing in whatever gives the slightest chance of him returning to me.”

Tears leak from the corners of her eyes and travel down her cheeks unmolested by blinks or shirt sleeves. The hints of sorrow are carved into her face, but they only add to her statuesque appearance.

“Does this satisfy your curiosity? I want my Myouren to return to me.”

The wish closest to her heart. The desire that has motivated her for years on end. A weighty and deeply held hope. Y

You barely listen to those final truthfully spoken words because you’re already constructing tentative plans.

You could offer.

It’s the first thing on your mind, the words almost out of your throat.

But you manage to restrain yourself.

It’s not something you should bring up without thought.

As always, you somehow feel like you know where she’s coming from.

You believe in your necromancy, in the power of the Necronomicon. But you don’t know. In this case, the difference between Byakuren and you is a matter of time and confidence. Your journey is still relatively young, still brimming with all the energy you can muster. The woman before you, while not on her last legs, is on the descent. And what awaits her at the bottom might not be her sought after goal.

You don’t want to definitely shatter her hope with a failed promise, a false belief in your magical specialty. You know that such a realization could break you, if it ever were to occur; what might that do to her?

The scrape of a stool against the ground breaks your chain of thought. “Where are you going?” you ask.

Byakuren is standing steady on her feet. Other than the slight redness of her eyes, the slight slouch in her posture, she looks fine. Certainly, nobody would expect her to be anything less than the spotless nun they know her as.

Her ability to control herself, no, disguise herself quickly is as amazing as it is unfortunate.

“I believe I should return to the temple.”

“So soon?” Sure, it’s probably past midnight by now, but that could still be considered early compared to the festivities outside.

The head nun of Myouren Temple nods. “There is still much preparation work to be accomplished and I shall be starting early tomorrow.”

Byakuren interlaces her fingers and holds them in front of her. “I have enjoyed tonight, as short as it may have seemed, as much as has happened. I thank you for that.”

Just like that?

You reach forward and lightly grip Byakuren’s hands in your own.

[ ] An offer that cannot be refused
[ ] Just a little more lighthearted fun?
[ ] A few more words
-[ ] <What else to say?>
[ ] Find someone else to bother for the rest of the night
-[ ] <Who?>
[ ] Early to bed for all, then
[ ] <Write-in>

---

Whew. That was tough. Synthesizing write-in’s sucks. Hopefully everybody comes out equally unhappy with this update, including me.

I was tempted to tank the discussion by rearranging the order of the conversation a smidgeon, but decided that because of the wide-variety of write-ins in addition to these ridiculous wait times between updates it wouldn’t be fair of me.

In speaking of wait times – goddamn that was bad. Three weeks? Fucking ridiculous. At least the next update(s?) should be quick-ish. Because I’ll be sitting all alone for Thanksgiving with only 2hu’s to keep me company ;_;

>>174813
Yeah, that’s a fairly accurate description. He was not well-adjusted or socially-normal before his life took a turn for the fantastic. Gaining powers has only magnified his traits, not changed them. In fact, because- well, that’s all I’ll say for now.

>>174820
>update with neither of my write-ins
Which is unfortunate, because I really liked them. I couldn’t in good faith justify their use though considering how much of large effect they would’ve had compared to how few votes they received.

>and instead horrible arguments
That’s pretty much par for the course at this point. However, they were ‘avoidable’ in some senses. What topics the conversation drifted between was most important in deciding that overall tone and direction. More past-related, more present-related, less serious, more serious, etc.

>>175331
>(please dear god don't get ideas from that it's just an example oh god please)
Hah, no need to worry about that; I’ve already thought up plenty of horrible, gut-wrenching moments on my own!

>I'm not good at composing my thoughts.
Don’t worry, I’m not either. Proof? Look at these stories!

>>175862
Are there really people checking the second page and voting three weeks after the last update, or is this someone trying to get their write-in to go through?

Either way, thanks for the care.

>>175909
Wish granted

>>175918
Sage you piece of shit, have you heard of it?

Just kidding, I don’t particularly care, but you may be disappointing some people (at least I hope someone is) who were hoping for an update. Rest assured that I check my stories without them being bumped.
>> No. 175929
[x] Early to bed for all, then

Mrrrrhr vooooootes
>> No. 175931
[x] An offer that cannot be refused
>> No. 175934
[ ] Just a little more lighthearted fun?
>> No. 175936
[X] Find someone else to bother for the rest of the night
-[X] Alice.
I was tempted to try and go with Komachi but we didn't even see her here. Also, we should leave Byakuren to herself for now. Pushing any further then we already have is quite honestly insane.
>> No. 175937
....I'm not sure if we did a good job or cause a horrible backfire. I'm not sure where to go from here as I'm afraid of screwing things up even more.
>> No. 175939
[x] A few more words
-[x] Why do you endure my relentless intrusions in things that should be left alone to you and your heart?
-[x] I don't know why I care so much. I just know that it hurts when I realize that I can't help you. Your sadness hurt more than losing a hand did.

If someone can guess the intent and make it even clumsier, be my guest.
>> No. 175940
>>175926
[x] Find someone else to bother for the rest of the night
- [x] Your sister
>> No. 175945
>>175937

Well, we aren't exactly Admiral Eloquence, so there's no way of knowing. At the very least, we got Byakuren to open up to us a little bit. All of her problems won't be solved in one night; it'll be a long process of working through it all. Just as she helps us work through her own issues. Anyway:

[x] Find someone else to bother for the rest of the night
-[x] Reisen

Because we haven't seen a lot of the moon bunny lately, and she amused me to no end in this story.
>> No. 175946
[x] Find someone else to bother for the rest of the night
- [x] Your sister

Time to back off and regroup.
>> No. 175947
[x] An offer that cannot be refused
-[x]I don't know if I can... But I can try.

I can already see multiple problems with this option, not the least of which is dragging Myouren out of the cycle of reincarnation, and making sure he's still himself... But we can try, I guess?

Inb4 we're Myouren's reincarnation and bringing him back to life requires us to die.
>> No. 175948
[x] A few more words
-"Maybe I'm not the best person to say this, but for someone who is as good of a person as you are, it hurts to watch how easy you slip into your mask. Sleep well Byakuren."

[x] Find someone else to bother for the rest of the night
- [x] Wander around till you run into someone you know.

Not sure if this is the right thing to say, but I feel like we should say something. It was painful to see how she acted at the end.
>> No. 175949
>>175945
too bad she's still likely mind wiped.

I wonder how much the writer is laughing at our confusion/misguided attempts to do things right.
>> No. 175952
>>175947
I hate you. All my hopes where in that theory but, now that you said it out loud, it won't come true.
>> No. 175953
[x]>>175948
Forgot my vote
>> No. 175958
>>175952
Don't be silly. That would make Byakuren route weird and creepily incestuous! Clearly Myouren's reincarnation is actually our sister.
>> No. 176007
>>175958
>> No. 176013
>>175958

Well, the common fairy tale is that romantic lovers in past lives tend to reincarnate as siblings. Maybe it works in reverse.
>> No. 176014
>>176013
Honestly I hope we aren't a reincarnation, or have any connection, of/to Myouren. That really would make the protagonist here some sort of Super Special Snowflake thing and that's annoying. That's something I'd expect to find on FF.net.
>> No. 176015
>>176014
A premise like that is hardly to blame for the quality or, lack thereof, of a story. It's all in the execution.

Also sage, you misguided fool.
>> No. 176017
>>176014
More importantly, it reduces his value as his own person, as people look at him and see "Myouren reincarnated" rather than "Necroanon."
>> No. 176022
[x] An offer that cannot be refused
-[x]Do you want to try and contact him?

Let's actually see if we can do this before we start making tragic promises that we might not be able to keep. If it fails, we can take the issue off the table for the foreseeable future. If it works... well Byakuren can decide whether she wants to go all in with us.
>> No. 176045
>>176014
>implying "X gets into Gensokyo" stories like this isn't already common on FF.net
>> No. 176119
“If…you say so,” you end up saying. “If you ever want to take a break from that work, I’m available.”

“I will keep the offer in mind,” Byakuren says before trying to pull away.

She tugs with her hand, but you don’t let go.

You watch her eyes, the little shock of surprise, the tiny shiver of fear, the small edge of suspicion, the- you’re bullshitting.

You can’t discern the emotion in her eyes. You don’t know what she’s thinking behind that mask.

You open your mouth to explain yourself, but you can’t decide on what to say. Do you offer your peculiar service? Reassure her? Make a lame joke? Try to say something insightful?

Paralyzed by indecision, you instead release Byakuren’s hand from your grip.

The nun slowly retract hers hand and rubs it with her other, watching you with that indiscernible expression. Then she gives you a half-smile and a nod. “Goodnight then.”

“Yeah, sleep well,” you automatically respond.

You watch Byakuren get up and weave her way through the crowd, all of her false confidence on display for others to be fooled by.

You stay seated for a minute, absentmindedly staring out at the crowd and the wake of the nun’s passing.

Then someone clears their throat. You refocus your attention on the stall owner, standing tall over you in his apron. He’s no doubt miffed at your continued presence which still keeps other customers at bay.

You’d like to cause some trouble for him, to stir up a ruckus. Hell, you probably slipped him enough money to cover the rest of the night! A good fight, a brawl or at least another shouting match, would do wonders to relieve your stress.

Instead, you give the man a thankful nod and head out.

There’s no energy left in you to cause him problems. Besides, he’s an innocent bystander in all this. No need to wail on him because of your own issues.

That leaves you standing outside like an awkward duck.

Huh.

What to do?

You suppose you could go find other people to bother.

You’re not going after Byakuren?

Oh, now your sister is speaking up with advice?

Not advice, I’m just curious.

Well no, you’re not, because if you can’t decide on how you want to approach the situation then you’re not going to. No need to go into something important with half a mind.

Fair enough.

So is your sister going to completely ignore what just happened, or is she going to be nice and offer her thoughts on the matter?

I’ve got nothing to say.

No criticisms? Witticisms? Nothing?

Nope. What are you expecting of me? I think you handled the situation with Byakuren as best as you could.

No comments on the words you spat out? Your assumptions? Your insults or your insinuations or whatever else you stupidly said?

I don’t know why you’re so insecure about this Bro. We’ve gone over stuff like this before. I think you hit a lot of things spot-on while you were talking with Byakuren, even if you didn’t lay them out in the nicest of ways. Your method of approach has its benefits and its disadvantages.

So she’s just going to leave it at that? What has happened, happened? Not going to berate you for treating a decent human being like shit?

Yes sir.

That’s unexpected.

What is?

You thought your sister would get angry and lay into you about this.

What’s there to get angry about? You clearly stating what you want? Your assumptions about what I want? Your mistreatment of a lady? Nothing to get angry about there. I’d like to think that after years of living in your head, we know each other well enough for those to be non-issues in the grand scheme of things.

That’s true, isn’t it?

Yeah.

In the end, you sister wants the best for you and you want the best for her.

Still, despite it all, you feel like shit after talking with Byakuren. It feels like you always inevitably mess things up.

Beat yourself up more, why don’t you?

That attitude from your sister doesn’t make much sense, either.

What’s not to get?

You don’t know. You’re just a confused flop after all this. At this point you’re running on emotion and that’s telling you your sister should be angrier.

About what? I swear, you’re the weirdest little goofball, always anticipating the worst. Maybe you’ve got some nascent masochist tendencies in you?

Hah, sure.

With all the weird shit you’ve been a part of, I wouldn’t be surprised. Not that I’m judging, mind you.

You aren’t. You may have plenty of strange proclivities, but you could do without any sorts of life endangerment or domination. Definitely not.

Maybe not you, but me then? What if I’ve grown a few tendencies? Would you be willing to take a few blows to your pride and, ah, other places, for me?

Not going down this road! There’s already some mental images cropping up- Here, let me help with- Nope!

You clamp down on the wholly inappropriate images your sister is feeding you- But you’re thinking of them yourself! And whatever else is in your mind and flush it down the mental drain.

Not.

Cool.

I’m not some pure, unsullied maiden you know. I’ve got some needs that- No! No! No! That’s blatantly false. You know your sister isn’t affected by hormonal biology because you’ve discussed this- Look kid, it isn’t all about biology. Intellectually speaking, there’s an appeal in feeling subm- Stop!

You’ll smash your head into the counter if this keeps up.

Fine, I’ll stop.

Good.

Just remember that the next time you do it, maybe you could try and be more considerate of my needs.

You step back into the flow of traffic, letting the sounds of the festival wash over you and drown out whatever mental thoughts and images are bouncing around in your head.

How rude.

You mentally groan, lamenting the company life has roped you to.

If you’re going to be like that, then- Thanks, Sis.

Oh. No problem. Surprised you noticed.

That kind of manipulation is rather blatant. You feel better, nonetheless.

Everywhere you look there are people enjoying themselves. Some are drunk, some are too young to drink, some are both. There are bachelors roaming for companionship, couples, and families of four out and about. When you examine faces more closely, you recognize a few. There are some temple-goers, a few shopkeepers you visited and your own jiang-shi running about.

Shilverase, the hyperactive tomboy there is leading Rea around, showing your cloistered, high-class jiang-shi the ropes of enjoying herself. You spy Nekurow pitting his swordsmanship against some silver-haired girl in a duel that has onlookers exchanging money. Dio is over by a fish stand talking up some black-haired girl holding a camera. Further down the street you see a very familiar mop of purple hair crammed against unfortunately familiar blue.

You stop yourself from marching over and swatting the tray of food out of Seiga Kaku’s hands. She’s feeding Yoshika something on a stick, smiles on both of their faces. Whatever it is could be poisonous or laced with magic.

Feeling jealous are we?

Not jealous. Protective. You don’t trust that witch.

I don’t either, not entirely, but I get the feeling that Yoshika will be okay.

You don’t like it.

Then look away.

You do so after another minute of careful watching.

All around you, faces you recognize and faces you don’t. You think you see Alice being pulled by her red-haired friend around a corner and into an alley. Down the middle of the street you spy Kotohime marching along, an entourage of guards at her heels. Above you, Marisa is flying about, spraying her colorful magic like fireworks into the sky.

Instead of stopping to buy anything or play games you simply wander, enjoying the sights and sounds. Gensokyo might have irreverent parties but they are fun, no doubt about it.

Watch out!

You-

Ooof.

You stumble and reach out, catching the lady you accidentally ran into.

“Sorry,” you immediately mumble.

“It’s-”

You stumble again when a hand shoves your shoulder. “Watch where you’re going!”

“How about-” you bite back your response when you look at who’s shoved you.

Red eyes watch you, the fury in them slowly dimming when their owner realizes who she just pushed.

“Are you two finished?” The woman you ran into steps in between the two of you. She dares you with her eyes to make further trouble.

You take a step back and look at the pair of ladies. Keine and Mokou. It’s easy enough to put names to faces, but you certainly didn’t expect to run into them like this.

They have on flowery, expensive-looking yukata. It doesn’t look out of place on Keine, even though you’ve only ever seen her in her schoolteacher’s outfit. You mindlessly bumped into her, but she doesn’t look perturbed at the accident.

Mokou, on the other hand, looks very out of place. Nothing is wrong with her getup – the clothes fit fine and her makeup only highlights her looks. Yet, it’s all wrong. You’d say she’s too rugged to look comfortable in the more civilized clothes. That’s harsh, Bro.

You don’t mean it in a bad way, necessarily. You like Mokou. She’s a great person, but she just doesn’t have the attitude to match her situation. Her posture is all wrong and, well, her shoving you and naturally preparing for a fight has messed up her clothing. Even before that, you can’t imagine her comfortably mingling in the festive atmosphere. You wouldn’t be surprised if some drunk idiot stumbles into Keine and leaves with first-degree burns.

She’s trying hard, sure, but she hasn’t managed to get it. You’d rather see her comfortable in her usual shirt and pants. She wants to fit in, don’t hate her for that.

You’re not! You’re just making mental notes. That isn’t a crime. You hope she accomplishes her goals, no matter what happens along the way. You just know it’s an ongoing struggle for the immortal.

“I’m sorry about that Keine, Mokou. I wasn’t being careful.”

“As I was saying, that’s quite alright.” Keine smiles at you before giving Mokou a swift elbow in the side.

“Yeah, uh, sorry about shoving you,” Mokou mutters while trying to straighten her outfit. She’s looking down, but you see the blush as red as her fires on her cheeks.

You laugh. “Not a problem. I’m glad to see you managed it put it all together.”

“It wasn’t so bad after I practiced a few more times,” Mokou says with a grin, her guilt quickly vanishing. “You should’ve seen the look on Keine’s face when I showed up at her door.”

“I’m sorry to say I was rather shocked,” the schoolteacher admits.

It’s wonderful to see the two of them happy. Feels nice doing a good deed.

“I’m glad it worked out. You two have been out for a while now, then?”

“Yes we have,” Keine responds. “We’ll be heading back soon. Too much longer and I’m afraid Mokou will faint.”

“I’ll what?” the immortal shouts. “No way would I do that! This is nothing.”

“If you say so,” Keine reassures her friend with a doubtful pat on the back. Then she returns her attention to you. “How about yourself? Did you come to the festival alone?”

“I didn’t, but I guess I’m not interesting enough to hold on to company. I’ve been summarily abandoned,” you throw your arms up in despair and let your head droop.

Keine laughs at your exaggerations, although when you bring your head back up you see that Mokou looks rather worried.

“If you needed to, there are plenty of groups looking for new companions of the, ah, male variety.”

When you look around again, thanks to Keine’s rather pointed suggestion, you notice it. The hook-ups. The roving bands of drunk, horny, or otherwise fun seeking individuals. Then there are those with keen eyes, scanning the crowds, searching for their prey. Hell, from where you’re standing, you see a band of rabbits starting to make a move on one group of guys. Those men stare hungrily at the exotic beauties, entranced and bewitched, completely unaware of the grins a few of the lunarians are sporting.

Yikes. “I’m fine, really. I’m just looking to enjoy the atmosphere a bit before turning in. I’ve got work tomorrow,” you tell them.

“Oh, do you?”

“Yeah. I’m planning on helping out some with the temple’s preparations and then setting up my own booth for the night. Festivals are the perfect time to make a spot of extra cash.”

“I understand completely. I’ll be helping Mokou with her stand tomorrow night as well.” The school teacher pats her immortal friend on the shoulder. “Isn’t that right?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, yeah,” Mokou hurriedly replies, none-too-subtly trying to hide the fact that she was staring at you. “We’ll be cooking the day and night away and making a killing. Hopefully none of those bird brains or animal lovers tries to bother me again. It just doesn’t make sense how someone can get so angry over me grilling some meat and skewering it with a stick.”

“If I need a bite to eat I’ll make sure to drop by,” you say with a smile. “Anyway, I don’t want to keep you two from enjoying the night.”

“Thank you, and it isn’t a trouble. Have a nice night.” Keine gives you a quick bow before walking down the street, arms locked with Mokou.

“You too,” you call out with a wave.

What now? Just keep seeing the sights? You’d prefer not to be caught by some rabbits that might, uh, live up to their stereotypes when all factors are considered. Why not? It could be- She’s coming back.

You half-turn in time to see Mokou hurrying towards you as quickly as she can without ruining her clothes.

Once she’s a few steps away she tries to stick her hands into her pockets but instead lamely slides them along her thighs. You stifle a laugh at her awkward pause. “What’s wrong, Mokou?”

Your prompting is all she needs. “Hey uh, are you really okay?”

“I’m fine, Mokou.”

“You sure? Because Keine and I won’t mind if you want to come with us for a bit. I know it isn’t the easiest being new to a place or a situation and I really thinking having a good friend or two is enough to-”

“I’m fine,” you say, stopping the immortal before she can go on and on for another half hour. “I was kidding before. I never really feel lonely. Go enjoy the night you spent so long preparing for.”

Mokou stares at you dubiously for several seconds before relenting. “Okay…”

Then she continues to stand and stare. “But if you feel-”

“Don’t worry so much or else you’ll age faster.”

The immortal snorts. “Fine. If you say you’re okay, then I believe you. Cya later.”

You wave goodbye to the white-haired girl who hurries to catch up with her partner for the night.

Honestly, do people see the man in black wandering around alone and think he’s suspicious or just pathetic?

A little of both, I imagine.

Bummer. Shame you don’t care too much what they think of you.

Is there anything your sister wants to do or experience?

If you can find some cotton candy to eat that’d be great, but otherwise I’m good.

Well, that’s one last thing to do for the night. Hm, is there anything else you want to get done?

[ ] Wrap up for the night
[ ] Find somebody else…
-[ ] <Who?>
[ ] <Write-in>

---

Simple vote here. Find something important to do tonight or we’ll speed up time a bit.

For this update, scattered votes do not an update full of purpose make. None of the votes interacting with Byuakuren had a majority for me to be comfortable writing them, so I went with the plurality of the age old ‘go bother other touhoes’ vote.

>>175926
>Komachi and others
Don’t feel restricted by what whom you’ve ‘seen.’ There are plenty of characters running around that aren’t getting screen time. If you can’t find them then you can’t find them.

>>175949
>I wonder how much the writer is laughing at our confusion/misguided attempts to do things right
I’m enjoying myself. To be fair, from what I have imagined things could be going a lot worse so keep up the good work!
>> No. 176120
[X] Get some gotten candy. You might be done enjoying the night, so let your sister enjoy it for a bit.
>> No. 176121
>sexual predator rabbits

Oh my. On that note, I wonder what the internal dialogue for our character and his sister would be during sex. Must've been awkward.

[x]Get some cotton candy, find games, attempt to win prizes.

You can never have too many backup gifts.
>> No. 176122
>>176120
Preeeeeeety sure he's going to do that regardless of our vote.

[X] Go find someone
-[X] Taotists - You're too sad to be really angry and you might learn information about them now that your emotions are in control.
Well, more accurately, one emotion is overriding the rest.
>> No. 176123
[x] Accidentally bump into Reisen.

Because I think Reisen would try to jump him and I think his efforts to avoid that entanglement would be absolutely hilarious.
>> No. 176125
[X] Go find someone
-[X] Taotists - You're too sad to be really angry and you might learn information about them now that your emotions are in control.
Well, more accurately, one emotion is overriding the rest.
>> No. 176126
[X] Go find someone
-[X] Taoists
>> No. 176127
[x]Acquire Cotton Candy
[x] See if you can find Reisen.
>> No. 176128
[x]Acquire Cotton Candy
[x] See if you can find Reisen.
Maybe we can learn something new.
>> No. 176129
[x] Get some cotton candy, find games, attempt to win prizes.
- [x] Chat with chance encounters.
>> No. 176131
[x]Acquire Cotton Candy
[x] See if you can find Reisen.
>> No. 176133
[x] Acquire cotton candy
[x] Find somebody else…
-[x] Alice
-[x] Taoists

Alice is too interesting to pass up.
>> No. 176135
[x]Acquire Cotton Candy
[x] See if you can find Reisen.
>> No. 176137
I hope you Reisen fans know that trying to run into her would be awkward due to the mind wipe (if this doesn't provoke another mindwipe)
>> No. 176139
[x] Acquire cotton candy
[x] Find somebody else…
-[x] Alice
>> No. 176143
[x] Acquire cotton candy
[x] Find somebody else…
-[x] Alice
>> No. 176146
[X] Acquire cotton candy
[X] Find somebody else…
-[X] Alice

I like the Alice option.
>> No. 176147
[X]Get some cotton candy
[X] Find somebody else…
-[X] Alice
>> No. 176148
[x] Acquire Cotton Candy
[x] See if you can find Reisen.

>Groups of horny bunnygirls picking up foolish and lucky men.

Reisen seems level headed enough not to try to jump his bones. I also want to see how Irisu is doing.
>> No. 176185
>>175926
>Are there really people checking the second page and voting three weeks after the last update, or is this someone trying to get their write-in to go through?

>Either way, thanks for the care.

Ah. That was me on an archive binge.
Also:
[X] Get some cotton candy
[X] See if you can find Reisen
>> No. 176430
>>176119
A most excellent post-6 month THP vacation read!

[X] Wrap up for the night
>> No. 176435
[X] Get some cotton candy
[X] See if you can find Reisen
>> No. 176475
[X] see if you can find alice
or if that falls through
[X] chance encounter
roll of the dice walking on the overworld map.
a way to meet someone new without saying LOOK FOR PERSON NECROANON SHOULDN'T KNOW ABOUT, and a chance for our gracious author to write whatever scene or character he may want to throw in. Another carnival game, a hangover-style string of hijinks, or bumping into someone that might be useful (or not).

Honestly, I'm just too torn with the possibilities of a party in gensokyo to pick anything besides interact with alice. I'd love to see the residents of the SDM, or party with Marisa, or binge with suika and yuugi, or screw with aya while she's reporting on the festival, anything really. someone come up with a beautiful write-in already!
>> No. 176751
Does your sister want to poke around the festival herself?

Nope, I’m good with just this. Controlling your body is too exhausting to be worth it. Just stop chewing and let it dissolve. Yeah, just like that. Mmm.

You roll the spun sugar around in your mouth, letting the individual strands grow moist with your saliva and stick. The floss dissolves into specks, coating your teeth in uneven bumps that you can gloss over with your tongue. You lather the sticky substance on the inside of your mouth, letting the sugared fluid flow across your tongue and down your throat.

That’s enjoyable, huh?

You’re the weirdo in this equation, not me.

Uh-huh.

You’re the one destroying life’s simple pleasures! Go find something else to do other than think about this.

Fine.

Observing the happenings of the festival, people watching, always makes for an interesting time. There’s plenty to think about and speculate on.

Is the guy with the child a single father? The mother might just be working. Maybe she’s dead? If so, it’s been awhile because they’re both so cheery that you can’t believe she died recently. Maybe they’re both just psychopaths, looking for their next victim in- Okay, that’s not what I meant.

What? You’re thinking about something else.

You know what I mean. Stop it!

Sheesh, what kind of future is this world moving towards? These restrictions on thought are the real crime!

Go do something!

Honestly, no respect.

You look around, wondering what you can do to pass a bit more time. The temptation to try your hands at a few more games is there, but you’re trying to unwind. The last thing you need is another rigged game.

Maybe some conversation would do it?

Similar to the one you just had?

No, nothing like that. You’d prefer a less volatile topic. Something more…professional?

That sounds like a good idea. Maybe you can find Alice or Marisa? Talking magic is a relaxing, neutral subject. It’s neutral until you start complaining about ‘bullshit impossibilities.’

They are and it’s true. Still, you wouldn’t fly off the handle due to something as benign as absurd spells.

I guess it’s a decent idea. You won’t fly off the handle when you’re acting like a giddy kid. A professional and interested researcher. Please, choose proper metaphors.

Whatever. Alice, then?

She’s the only choice available. You’ve only met a few of Gensokyo’s magicians in person and Marisa is still up there, zipping around and blasting away. With Byakuren returning to the temple, that leaves your recent acquaintance.

And Seiga?

The point was to find an unwinding conversation.

Fair enough. Do you know where Alice is?

You think you saw her go that way a few minutes ago.

Wasn’t she with her friend?

Oh, that’s true. If she’s already busy then you won’t bother her.

Her magic was fascinating, though. Alice is one giant mystery box waiting to be unraveled.

You make your way through the crowd and retrace the steps you saw Alice get dragged along. From main street to side street the crowd grows thinner. There are still people wandering and stalls set up, but they’re not as festive as those on the main road. This section of the village is quieter. The people are more lonely, or looking to be alone. Some look seedy, others depressed, while others are simply enjoying the less frantic atmosphere.

It’s less touristy.

That’s a good description. The main roads are gaudy yet attractive, decked out in festive consumerism. The side roads aren’t.

It takes another couple minutes of walking, but you eventually manage to catch hint of the blonde magician.

Her distinct doll servants are sitting on a stack of crates just outside of an alley.

Walking up to them draws their attention. The dolls float into the air and down towards you. Even though the pair of them are dressed up in their vests and dress pants, it doesn’t stop them from unsheathing their knife-like swords from the scabbards at their waists.

You raise your hands and take a step back. “Whoa there, just looking for Alice. If I’m not supposed to be here then I’m gone.”

The two dolls let their weapons drop to their sides. They turn to each other and gesticulate, swiping their hands and tilting their heads. That’s adorable.

It’s interesting. The dolls are clearly inorganic, non-living creations but it certainly doesn’t seem that way. Your mage sight lets you see the thin wire of magic branching from their backs and shooting off into the distance, but you don’t think Alice is directly controlling these dolls. If she is, that shows a dedication to her craft that borders on creepy.

But if she isn’t that begs the question of what’s going on. Are the dolls sentient? Are they actually communicating? Is it all for show? All your questions back from the spectacle Alice put on spring back into your mind. Frankly, the dolls are fascinating-

“Ack,” you utter as you swat at your face. One of the dolls is floating in front of you and poking your skin with her porcelain- no, metal- finger.

Your attention grabbed, the doll floats into the alley and beckons you with a hand. The other doll floats off the side, rapidly rising and lowering.

Huh. The one trying to get you to follow her is also rather vigorous. They’re…excited?

Seems that way. I’d love to have a few of these dolls for myself.

You can make dolls too. Out of bone. They’d be just as good!

You’d better hurry up. They look impatient.

Despite the lack of possible facial movement, the two dolls do seem rather agitated. By the time you start walking between the buildings they’re practically shoving at your back.

What’s up with them? Weren’t they just about to bar you entry?

You glance over your shoulder at the pair, but it turns out the body language of dolls is a bit more difficult to read than an average human’s. You can’t even read regular body language, so- That’s totally uncalled for. You can do it just fine.

Hell, even with the dolls, you’re already getting a few different feelings. The way they float together, slightly hunched, heads almost touching – they remind you of a pair of conspirators. You’re almost positive they’re doing the doll-equivalent of chuckling as their nefarious plot is-

“Aah.”

You freeze.

“Aaaah…”

You closed your eyes the moment the sound reached your ears.

“Who- who have you been practicing with?”

Now you slowly open them. Just a squint, though. Barely enough to see. Oh my.

“Nobody. I’ve just been by myself all, day, long.”

The darkness of the alley does nothing to stop creamy skin from reflecting moonlight. Vibrant colors lay scattered around the place, but those discarded garments are quickly being collected by swiftly moving dolls. The other servants are sitting on windowsills and floating in the air, all watching with rapt attention.

The muted squeals and groans assault your hearing once more.

You immediately begin taking slow, noiseless steps backwards.

And this is why you don’t- No. Your sister did not see this coming, so she doesn’t get to lecture you.

You tread very carefully, avoiding the bottles or cans that could alert the pair of, uh, friends to your presence. It’ll only take another few steps to turn a corner so you can hightail it out of here. They’ll never- She’s looking at you.

Your body seizes up. The red-haired girl is pushing Alice against the wall and doing some stuff but she knows, she sees you and she’ll tell- Alice doesn’t know, just her friend.

Right. Right, she’s uh, holding Alice’s chin and has pulled her into a- er, is having her face pointed away from you, giving the red-haired girl the perfect position to watch you while she, uh, works.

Her eyes bore into yours, locked on while she-

Damn it, why does that creepy girl look like she’s enjoying this?

You begin to back up again, quickly. You have to- “Ooooh!”

Fuck this. But not literally because-

You turn around and bolt. You make some noise but you don’t particularly care.

That alley fades to memory, never to be recalled.

When you spill out back onto the side street you compose yourself, straightening your back and doing your best to look unperturbed.

You also swing your arm, smacking the pair of floating dolls into a building.

A quick glance backwards shows the pair of animated objects waving at you, weapons drawn, both of them making rather suggestive and obscene gestures as you leave.

That was horrible.

I don’t know, if you had spoken up maybe they’d have let you- Stop! This is not the time for jokes!

Hahaha, fine, fine. What’s next?

You’ll…

You don’t even know.

You start walking down the street while considering it.

Maybe…find Reisen? Oh, I see.

See what?

You’re a bit agitated at the moment after all that but feeling none too adventurous, so you need a single partner that you can trust to- Enough!

That’s not what you had in mind at all. But- Not. At. All. You’re still worried about her, in some ways. While she’s seemed perfectly happy the past few times you’ve seen her, you don’t think the image of tears streaming down her maddening eyes will ever leave you.

So you’d like to check how she’s doing, if her friends have caused her any more trouble. Maybe you can bother her for some conversation.

You sure?

“Hey there.”

Yeah, you’re sure. That’s all-

You stop and turn around.

The rabbit youkai is standing behind you, tapping her foot, looking none too pleased with being ignored.

“Sorry about that, I was caught up in my thoughts,” you apologize.

“No worries, I understand that completely,” Reisen tells you. After a quick glance around, she asks, “Byakuren isn’t with you anymore?”

“She has a lot on her plate for tomorrow so she went back early.”

Floppy white appendages bob up and down with the movement of her head. Whether Reisen is in business mode or casually standing on the street her ears are always expressive. How much control does she have over those things? Are they prehensile or- Focus. “Oh, that’s a shame, but I can definitely respect her work ethic,” Reisen says.

“Maybe you both overwork yourselves?” The two of them always seem like they’re on the job. “And how about you? Abandoned by your friends?”

“Nah, I’m just keeping lookout here.”

“Lookout? For what?”

Reisen raises an eyebrow and waves an arm backwards at the alley.

It only takes a few seconds of concentration for you to pick out the distinctive noises emanating from further in. The screams and cries echo off the walls.

Seriously?

You smack the palm of your hand into your forehead. “Damn, is this Gensokyo’s strange, pervasive fetish? Is back-alley sex some kind of rite-of-passage here?”

“It isn’t, but do you want it to be?”

You whip your head to the side and stare at the rabbit girl. Her almost purred offer lingers in your mind, bouncing around and destroying thought processes. “I, uh…”

She stares you down, her half-lidded, red eyes drawing you in.

The rabbit girl takes a few steps forward, the swing in her hips causing her lavender skirt to swish from side to side. She draws up to you, back slightly arced as she leans in.

Then she grins and pats you on top of your head. “Hah, relax, I’m just kidding. I wouldn’t be out here if I was looking for some.”

“O-oh?” you stutter. That’s a relief. Is it? It should be, right?

You spend several seconds recovering your thoughts.

“Still, you could be a bit more polite,” Reisen admonishes you with a wag of her finger. “I’m almost offended you wouldn’t jump on the chance I offered.”

You slap the last of the stupefaction away and answer her in your usual suave manner. “You are a very delectable woman that any man would love to partake in! Just not me and not now.”

Thankfully, Reisen neither capitalizes on your words nor takes offense. She only chuckles lightly, amused at your struggle.

“Is talking a decent substitute?” you ask.

The bunny girl nods and leans against a wall. “Chatting sounds great.”

You walk over and join her, glancing up past the undecorated side street to the night sky above. “Enjoying the festival?”

“Oh, definitely. It’s nice having time to relax without any pressure.”

“Pressure?” You remember Reisen running around with a bottle of pills in her hands, pestering random pedestrians. “Is selling medicine that stressful?”

Reisen scrunches her mouth together. “I don’t just handle sales, you know? I’m Master’s assistant. I do everything.”

“Everything, huh?”

“That’s right,” she declares. She sticks her hand out and begins counting on her fingers. “I keep everything back in Eientei running ship shape, deal with the trouble Tewi causes, study to pass Master’s exams, run errands, fetch supplies, help with experiments, nurse any of the less serious cases that drop by, entertain the Princess’ requests, maintain our sophisticated equipment, and plenty more.”

It certainly is an impressive list. “That sounds rough. Can’t you delegate?”

“Have you seen the others?” She makes a convincing argument. “I parcel out what I can, but nobody else does everything I do. Master is always nose-deep in her research, I can’t reasonably ask Princess Kaguya to do my chores, Tewi and the earth rabbits make it their job to shirk work and the others are a bit flakey themselves. I mean, honestly, I can’t trust any of them to make dinner without supervision or else they’ll try to slip rabbit meat into the soup or something.”

“Isn’t that kind of…sick?” you ask. That sounds like cannibalism! Normal rabbits eat their own feces, so maybe it isn’t that strange?

Reisen nods eagerly. “I know, right? But nobody else thinks it’s even a problem! Half of the lot thinks it’s hilarious and the other half thinks it’d be nutritious. With all the nonsense they try to pull on one another I’m surprised Eientei runs as well as it does.”

“All thanks to you, right? I doubt I’d be able to put up with everything you’re describing. I have enough trouble living my own life.” Not that your life it trouble-free, but at least the problems come in manageable spurts. If you were constantly hounded, you wouldn’t sure how you’d fare.

“It doesn’t bother me all that much. Sure, life is hectic, but it feels good to be busy and to be making the most of my life. It’s definitely better than being some low-rung grunt on guard duty.”

“I can’t imagine guards really being necessary when there are rabbits lazing about all around Eientei.” You’re not sure how anybody would take a step in there without an alarm being raised.
>> No. 176752
“Oh, there usually aren’t unless Master or the Princess sets up a rotation for some reason. I was talking about my time back on the Moon.”

“I see.” In a world of fantasy, it’s hard to remember that some of the Eientei residents are aliens. “You didn’t have many responsibilities back then?”

“I used to,” Reisen explains. “I had managed to work my way up to the rank of captain in the defense corps, but even that wasn’t as difficult as managing things here at Eientei.”

“You were a captain?” you ask.

There must have been some amount of surprise in your voice because Reisen responds, “Yes I was. Is it that unbelievable?”

“I guess not?” You can imagine it. She has an orderly air about her. She could easily run around handing out orders like she is now but dressed in combat fatigues. “A military girl, huh? What did you do up there?”

“I mostly filled out reports and made sure we went through our drills every day. It wasn’t intellectually difficult or hectic. When we were at peace, making sure my boys and girls were in top shape was all I really needed to do.”

You begin to put pieces together while you think about it. The tight-knit grouping of the lunar rabbits and their weapon expertise start to make more sense. “Were all the soldiers under your command the same as the lunar rabbits at Eientei?”

Reisen’s eyes grow wide before she laughs heartily. “Not at all! These misfits would never last long in the defense corps. A few of them didn’t.”

A certain sniper rabbit comes to mind. “Irisu?”

“That obvious, huh? Yeah, she got a bit too carried away in the past and was going to land in a fair amount of trouble before she escaped.”

“So she deserted from the lunar military?” You find yourself asking in a lower tone of voice, as if the topic is taboo.

Reisen reciprocates, leaning in and whispering, the secret slowly slipping from her lips. “That’s right. It’d be tough to hide somewhere on the moon given how often the defense corps patrols. Rank-and-file deserters…aren’t treated the best. The Earth is a natural place to run to, and Eientei a natural haven.”

“Sorry, I’m not very familiar with most of Earth’s politics, let alone the Moon, but if Eientei is harboring deserters…” you let the sentence hang, not wanting to insult anybody or drag yourself into trouble.

“Oh, yeah. All of us lunarians there are hiding from the Moon, for one reason or another.” Reisen lets the fact drop without fanfare. Instead, she smiles slyly and sidles up closer to you. “You’re curious about me, aren’t you?”

“Isn’t it natural to be curious? If you don’t want to talk about it I understand completely.”

The lunarian leans back away and rests her hands behind her head. “I wish I could tell you. I don’t particularly remember why I deserted myself.”

Suddenly, you feel your stomach turn upside down.

“You what?”

“It sounds pretty silly, doesn’t? People should remember those kinds of important life events, but I forgot the details,” Reisen answers nonchalantly.

“You just forgot?” You clench your hands into fists and try to quell your anger as you voice your suspicions. “Your memories were erased, weren’t they?”

If the good doctor Yagokoro has pulled this shit again you- “How’d you guess?” Reisen asks, surprise in her voice.

She did? She did! You swear she- “I didn’t think an Earthling like you would know much about lunar veils.”

The anger growing in you stalls and begins to flounder. “Lunar veils?”

“That’s right. You mean you don’t know about them?”

“Uh, no.”

“They’re one way to easily travel between the Moon and the Earth, although using one causes you to lose a few things. Usually it’s a few memories here and there.”

You take a deep breath. “That’s what you were talking about?”

“Yeah. A lunar veil was the only transportation I could snag quickly and quietly.” Now it’s Reisen’s turn to give you the strange look. “Why would you ask about my memories if you didn’t know about that?”

She puts you on the spot. “Well, uh,” you pause, any smooth lie or misdirection failing to come forth. You only have the truth to fall back on. “I was thinking more about Eirin.”

“About Master?”

“Yeah.” Is this smart?

Probably not, but you’re stuck. It’ll be blatantly clear you’re hiding something if you don’t come out with it now.

Besides, she has a right to know. “Reisen, did you know that Eirin-”

“Represses some of my memories?” the rabbit interrupts you. “Of course I do.”

Huh.

Well.

“You do?” you ask for clarification.

The look Reisen gives you makes you feel like the dumbest kid on earth. “Duh? Do you think I wouldn’t?”

“Er,” you begin, only to end with silence.

This, by far, is the funniest joke you’ve ever told. It’s enough to cause Reisen to stumble and slap a hand against the wall to support herself while she laughs. “Really? Hahaha, I know we lunarians are pretty godlike compared to you earthlings, but Master doesn’t have some sort of pen she can click in front of me and make me forget everything without any problems!”

“Oh.” Well don’t you feel silly? Unless the very way she thinks is being controlled! Now you’re just reaching- “There are magic spells that can do that.”

“And there’s technology that can do that too,” she responds.

“But you just said-”

“I said she doesn’t have them, not that they’re impossible.” The rabbit composes herself in short order and quickly begins to lecture you. “Wiping memories like that is ridiculously unsafe with our current level of equipment. Mental stress accumulates at such an exponential rate, the slightest incongruity between mind and reality would threaten ridiculously high traumatic backlash or worse.”

You don’t even know what to say anymore. “But, you know that she does alter your memories?” you try to confirm.

“When it’s warranted. It’s part of our contract in maintaining my mental health. If there’s a situation that inhibits my daily lifestyle, we deal with it.” Reisen tucks her arms under her chest while she explains. “The right regime of medication and hypnotic therapy can effectively treat a traumatic experience without further harm to the patient. Subconscious suggestions help to direct my conscious mind away from situations where spontaneous recoveries might occur and, if the worst does happen, any extreme distress is suppressed through reactionary medications that are relieved in a tiered system over the course of a week or so to ensure the quickest and most healthy recovery.”

You half-expect the rabbit girl to whip out several charts and graphs to highlight each point of her talk section by section. “So you, uh, are fine with that?”

“That’s right,” she declares. “It’s practical. If It wasn’t Master overseeing the treatment I’d be a bit leery, but I know she only has the best in mind for those she’s responsible for.”

The evil conspiracy turns on its head. You latched onto your dislike for Eirin and her brusque methods to the detriment of a more rational analysis. Nothing abnormal there. “…Sorry.”

Reisen takes one look at your downcast eyes before giving you a pat on the back. “I don’t mind. I know she comes across as rather, well, let’s say abrasive to strangers but it’s just that she focuses on her top priorities. Keeping the Princess and the rest of us safe are her life goals at the moment. Adequate PR is only necessary to keep the money flowing.” Then she glances upwards before grimacing. “And she likes to mess with people, too. Her jokes just seem less harmless than others’.”

You sigh. “I’m too quick to assume and judge, aren’t I? I guess I’ve been worrying about how you are every time I see you for nothing.”

Huh. When you turn to look at Reisen you can see the blush on her cheeks.

She doesn’t look away, but she does avert her eyes. “Can you not do that?” she asks.

“Do what? Worry about you?”

“Yes! I mean, no. I don’t mind you acting overly familiar, but it’s kind of awkward for me.” Reisen explains while nervously rubbing her hands together. “I don’t exactly remember us having any big touchy-feely moments even if it sort of feels that way.”

Right. Memory wipe. Repression. Same thing. “I get it. I shouldn’t be making you second guess it all and accidentally cause you greater problems.”

“Sorry about that,” she responds with a frown. “Honestly, I’d love to remember what you did for me, but it’d have to come paired with something else. If it’s bad enough to knock me out? I can’t really afford that right now.”

“No, I get it. I understand. It’s logical in a way I’m not. I’m more used to thinking with my emotions. My memories are some of my most precious possessions, whether they make me feel loved or terrified. I wouldn’t give them up for most anything.”

Reisen closes her eyes, maybe letting her imagination wander. “Mmm, that does sound rather romantic, but pretty impractical.”

“Oh, it definitely is. Have you seen how I operate? It leaves people gaping at how stupid I am, even after years of knowing me.” Despite how it all works out, those ingrates. Please, we both know it doesn’t always work out, so I’m completely justified.

“It isn’t that bad. You’re the one that gets a neat mechanical hand.”

“There’s some up sides, definitely.” You turn your hand around and examine it. The prosthetic replacement been helpful, letting you hammer in nails and the like without carrying around tools. Not exactly what it was meant for, but what works works. “I suppose I should go get this thing checked up on soon. Do you think mid-festival is a good or bad time?”

“You got it from the kappa right? Was it Nitori?” After your nod, Reisen continues. “It should be fine timing. I don’t think that girl has broken out of her shell enough to come to this festival, so she’s likely sitting at home without any customers.”

“Then it shouldn’t take long at all?”

“I doubt it. Why? Do you have a lot scheduled for tomorrow?”

“Me? Nah. Just helping out with some preparations for the temple and then setting my own little business up for the night crowd.” You will have most of the day to rest or do whatever else you want assuming it all goes according to plan.

Reisen pushes herself off from the wall and adjusts her blazer. “Ooh, you’re getting in on the festival? I hope you’re not trying to compete with me. I’ve got my clientele pretty locked down.”

You don’t imagine much intentional overlap between those needing medication and those wanting to contact the dead. “I wouldn’t dream of it. I’m just looking at giving some interested people a type of closure.”

“You’re being vague about it but it sounds heavy.”

For the most part it’s a con. Still, there have been a few instances where you sincerely tried to summon a customer’s relation from the dead. Those went wrong more than right, but were enlightening in their own ways. “It’s a service that depends on the customer’s mind set.”

“Well when you put it like that, I might just have to show up and partake.” Reisen rubs her hands together in front of her. “It sounds exciting.”

“Can you find the time in between all those sales you’ll be making?”

Your joke is tossed to the side by a flip of her hair. “Hah, it’ll be fine. I’m ahead of my quota for the month anyway, and I think Master will be a bit lenient anyway. Whenever she gets wrapped up in her studies and experiments she tends to detach from these more mundane aspects of our life.”

You can relate to delving into an interesting topic and losing track of everything else. However, before you can respond, a high-pitched squeal interrupts your conversation.

A few seconds later, the owner of that voice pokes her head out of the alley’s entrance. “Heeeey Reiseeeeen! Can you go fetch me some towels?”

The white-haired rabbit is familiar. It’s your favorite potentially crazy sniper rabbit girl. When your eyes meet, her grin grows even wider. “Why, hello there! Come to join in the fun?” she asks.

“I, uh,” you pause, taking a step to the side so you can see more than just her head. Blood is smeared across her neck and down the front of her dress. The white apron she has affixed to the front is torn in half, likewise soaked in scarlet. She’s also holding a bloody thing, maybe a bag or- “No,” you decide.

Reisen snaps her fingers to gain Irisu’s attention. “Fine, fine, just go back and wait.”

“Okaaaaaay,” she sings. “One more thing. Do you have more of the ES six oh nine with you? I’ve got some powder left but that’s soooo inconvenient.”

“Yeah, yeah, here,” Reisen replies while tossing a bottle of pills to the other rabbit.

“Thaaaanks!” Requests given, the bloody lunarian skips back into the darkness of the alley, off to who knows what.

Almost immediately, Reisen turns to you. “That, uh, shouldn’t be anybody’s blood. Recent blood, anyway. She carries around these packs and-” Reisen jerks her flailing arms to a stop and sticks her hands in her pockets. “It really isn’t worth explaining. Trust me.”

“As long as nobody is going to die…?”

“They won’t. Everything that’s happening in there is completely harmless and definitely pleasurable for everyone involved.”

Crazy rabbits, mysterious drugs, darkened alleys – sure, you’ll believe everything is just peachy back there. “Uh-huh.”

Despite your clear disbelief, Reisen makes no further excuses. She looks just as excited to escape the proximity of whatever is happening as you are. “I have to go get a few things, but I enjoyed the conversation. I’ll see you later, okay?” she asks while taking a step down the street.

“Yeah. Have a nice night,” you bid her goodbye, taking the path towards the outside of the village rather than further in.

As disturbing as some of that was, you enjoyed talking with Reisen. You certainly feel somewhat better after it all.

One less concern to worry about?

Exactly.

You suppose it’s time to head back. You don’t know how much more wandering around the festival will hold your interest and you honestly do have preparations to make during the day tomorrow.

You’re not going to pick up Yoshika or anybody else?

Nope. They all know their way back to the temple and they don’t even sleep. If they want to party until the drunks pass out in the morning, that’s fine with you. It’s their decision. Unless they start cutting themselves open, you doubt any of the villagers will notice anything different about their undead forms.

You step back out onto the main street and head towards the gate. Halfway there, you notice one of the jiang-shi approaching you.

It’s Dio. You wait for the teenaged blonde off to the side.

“Master,” he says after escaping the flow of traffic, “how is your night? Is Lady Hijiri with you?”

“No, she went back early. Did you need something from her, Dio?”

He shakes his head. “I am asking for a moment of your time.”

“Of course. What do you need?”

“I was exploring the festival and I met,” he pauses a moment, a cross look on his face, before he waves a hand. The girl next to him steps forward, beaming. “I met Aya, and she wished to speak with you.”

“Aya Shameimaru. Pleased to meet you sir,” the woman declares as she steps forward and offers her hand.

She’s a youkai of some sort. It’s not the black wings on her back that give it away – those look kind of fake – but it’s her eyes. Those red eyes scan you like a predator sizing up its prey. It’s a presence that feels beyond human somehow. Otherwise, nothing would give her away. Her white top, black skirt and silly red hat atop her black hair all seem to be standard attire.

Maybe she’s just an abnormally confident human? Could be. I can’t say for sure.

When you clasp her hand she gives the shake three solid pumps before releasing you. At the very least, she’s definitely not a normal resident of Gensokyo. “How can I help you Aya?”

“You see Sir, I’m a journalist for the Bunbunmaru Newspaper, Gensokyo’s premier newspaper. I was hoping to ask you a few questions for one of my articles. Would you mind?”

“I’m not sure how much I can help. I’ve only been here for a couple of weeks.”

“That’s quite alright Sir, given that the article is about you. I was hoping for a quick interview of sorts.”

“You’re writing an article about me?” You’ve never been newsworthy before. As flattering as this is, you can’t help but feel paranoid about it. “Why?”

“It’s fair to say, Sir, that newcomers to Gensokyo come and go quite regularly. Few, especially humans, seem to find a niche and settle down as you have. I’ve heard a variety of reports and testimonies about your presence and thought I could paint the clearest picture by meeting you myself.” Aya delivers her pitch with confidence. She’s an expert speaker, the kind of person who is never at a loss for words.

It makes you even more suspicious, but you still don’t have good evidence towards blowing the woman off. “I’m…okay with that, depending on what questions you ask.”

“Please don’t be worried. I do my best to represent the truth as closely as I see it and you’re always welcome to decline any of my questions.” She raises the old-style camera hanging around her neck. “Do you mind a picture for the article?”

“I’d prefer if you don’t show my name or face.” Not that it matters overly much, but you don’t like drawing attention to yourself.

“Right-o, not a problem,” she responds, pulling a pen and notepad out. “Then, a few questions?”

“Ask away.”

“Okay.” She begins to tap her pen against the notepad, quickly scribbling a few words, before beginning her questions. “Are you a lazy freeloader attempting to corrupt the Myouren Temple’s values?”

You see where this is going. “No.”

“A flesh dealer looking for his next victim to sell on the black market?”

Do you regret your decision yet? “No.”

“A demon in human guise attempting to seduce Byakuren Hijiri?”

“No! I’m none of those things!”

“Hm, I see. So then are you-”

“No, I’m not,” you cut off the journalist. “And I think we’re done here.”

You stomp one foot into the dirt and turn away, intent on returning to the temple as quickly as possible.

“Ah, wait!”

You ignore Aya’s cries and keep walking.

“Wait!”

If anything, you pick up your pace to get away faster. Honestly, these people are- “Whoa!”

You plant your feet into the ground and nearly fall backwards as you try to avoid running into Aya.

How the hell did she get in front of you?

The woman is bowed, her hands clasped together. “I’m terribly sorry if I gave you a poor impression, Sir, but I’m simply trying to ascertain the truthfulness of these rumors.”

Her humility helps to alleviate your annoyance, but not by much. “If you’re just going to waste my time-”

“I was trying to save you time!” She springs back up to her full height, explanations coming out a mile a minute. “You’ve already shown no interest in revealing your identity, so I skipped over any of the more personal questions you might expect in a standard interview. That leaves verifying the reports I’ve recorded and obtaining your own statement.”

That’s annoyingly reasonable. “Fine. So, what do you need?”

“Okay, I’ll assume you deny most of these…” Aya mutters while furiously swiping away at her notepad. After a few seconds, she raises her head and meets your eyes. “Can you please agree if this statement is correct to your understanding?

“You arrived in Gensokyo a few weeks ago in search for a cure for your sister’s unfortunate ailment that has no known cure readily available in the outside word. You happened across Ms. Hijiri who magnanimously offered her aid both in your search and in accommodating a daily life. In return, you help with odd jobs around the temple as well as provide minor medical care with your training.”

She looks at you expectantly, pen tapping all the while.

“That sounds…very accurate,” you respond. “Who told you that?”

“I’m afraid I do not release my confidential sources for any-”

“It was me, Master,” Dio speaks up. You almost forgot the blonde jiang-shi was there. He had simply fallen in line with you when you made to leave.

“Just so,” Aya confirms. “May I ask about the relationship between you two?” As if knowing you’d be more difficult to ask, she directs her question at Dio.

The jiang-shi wastes little time in answering. “Master fixed my rather grievous injuries and improved my overall health. For his generosity, I seek to repay him for his kindness with my servitude, as much as I am able.”

Not much different than the answer you would have given.

“Interesting,” Aya notes. “Was this aid magical in nature? Or advanced science? Do you see Doctor Yagokoro’s clinic as competition for-”

“No I don’t, because I’m not an actual doctor.” You make sure to impress the fact that this line of questioning is over.

Aya picks up on your tone instantly. “Ah, fair enough. Then, can I have a statement from you about your situation with the Myouren Temple?”

She’s certainly persistent. “What’s there left to say? I think Dio covered all the basics.”

“The overall summary is good, but the article needs a little depth. Some mention of an interpersonal relationship, perhaps?”

“Is this supposed to be some trashy tabloid rag?”

“Nothing of the sort!” Aya protests. “However, the Bunbunmaru Newspaper is popular and caters to a wide variety of readers. A humanizing tidbit of information like this would serve many purposes. Apart from increasing interest and adding legitimacy to my information, it helps give you an identity so others know how to treat you.

“Obviously, the article will say little of worth about you even with this kind of more personal statement, but it sends all the right messages. Anybody powerful reading up on the newest unknown would dismiss them as a nonfactor if their first story is about them chasing skirts.” Aya pauses for once. Then, slowly, she continues. “It, ah, distracts them from your motives that are potentially adverse with their line of thought.”

You none too subtly reach into your jacket, magic being readied as subtly as you can. Despite that, you feel like Aya is all too aware of the energy building up inside you. “What do you think you’re implying?”

She doesn’t bat an eye at your activity. “Nothing! Just that my hearing is rather sharp, my eye sight sharper, and my information sources next to none. So when a guy like this,” she jerks a thumb at Dio, “is seen walking around all gussied up, well, it gives a well-informed girl a few clues. It isn’t anything I would use in my article, Sir, but I thought I could give you a heads up.”

You can’t tell who this woman is supposed to be. Is she dangerous? Is she giving you a helpful warning? Threatening you with a friendly veneer? “Just ask your damn question,” you tell her.

“Sure, sure. One last question and I’ll be out of your hair. You’re free to refuse, of course, or offer something else up.”

“Just ask.”

“Ahem.” Aya scribbles another few notes before asking her question. “What is your current opinion on a certain Byakuren Hijiri and your future intentions involving your relationship with her?”

[ ] “Go away.”
[ ] “Sorry, I’m not answering that.”
-[ ] “It’s too personal.”
-[ ] “It’d affect more than just me.”
-[ ] “But, off the record…I’m hoping for something special.”
[ ] “Ms. Hijiri is a generous person that I need to repay for helping me so much.”
[ ] “She’s a friend, someone I really want to help the same way she’s helped me.”
[ ] “Byakuren reminds me of a fussy older sister, kind and caring.”
[ ] “I’d like to ravage Byakuren and violate every single aspect of her person.”
[ ] “She’s someone I admire, someone I can aspire to be more like.”
[ ] “I don’t know what will happen. I can only play things by ear.”
[ ] “She isn’t all that she seems, but I think I can support her in my own special way.”
[ ] <Write-in>

---

Well shit. Thankfully, the ridiculous wait times should now be behind us (for now). Rev up the writing train! Chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug choo-choo!

If the content of these past few updates are not to your taste: We’ll be done with this silly festival in another couple of updates, one way or another.

>How do I hold this many Alices and Resiens?
That was…unexpected? Then again, maybe not? I’m curious how many of you saw this was coming, how many simply liked the characters, and how many of you were the same person.

>>176121
>internal dialogue for our character and his sister would be during sex. Must've been awkward.
Aw, naw. Why would it be awkward? After all, when everybody’s getting into it, who has time to talk? Afterwards might be a different story… Of course, if everybody isn’t getting into it, some live, directed advice is and isn’t appreciated…

>>176430
Thank you and welcome back!




Also, to the anon who decided slapped this story on to the Tvtropes Rec page, thanks. When I checked the page on a whim and found this story there, little warm fuzzies found an opening into my heart. The recommendation might not mean much in the grand scheme of things but considering I first came to this site through that page it means a helluva lot to me. So thank you, and again, thank you.

Aight, enough of that sentimental blogshit crap, get to voting! Hyah!
>> No. 176754
[x] “Sorry, I’m not answering that.”
-[x] “But, off the record…I’m hoping for something special.”

I feel the others are either too sexual or too friend/sister-zone.
>> No. 176755
[x] “She’s someone I admire, someone I can aspire to be more like.”
So, basically, like everyone else in the temple. Can't think of a better way to draw attention away from us.
>> No. 176756
>>176755
true but I think it's also something that'll affect our standing with Byakuren, the wrong answer might mess things up even more.
>> No. 176757
Soooo.... Before we put our foot in our mouth and cock everything up:
1) We can't say anything that would ruin Byakuren's reputation. We're tied the temple as a base of operations and relocating would be a pain in the ass
2) Any non-PR answer is going to bone us in the future, and not in the good way.

You're welcome for the rec on TvTropes.
>> No. 176758
[x] "... Soooooo about those rumors!"
>> No. 176761
>>176756
Byakuren's better than that. She wouldn't believe what she reads in an interview so easily... but even if she did, is there anything wrong with that answer?
>> No. 176763
[x] “She’s someone I admire, someone I can aspire to be more like.”

Don't really want to cause rumors to spring up. Creates too much stress for Byakuren and Necroanon.

>Your body seizes up. The red-haired girl is pushing Alice against the wall and doing some stuff but she knows, she sees you and she’ll tell- Alice doesn’t know, just her friend.

>Right. Right, she’s uh, holding Alice’s chin and has pulled her into a- er, is having her face pointed away from you, giving the red-haired girl the perfect position to watch you while she, uh, works.

>Her eyes bore into yours, locked on while she-

>Damn it, why does that creepy girl look like she’s enjoying this?

So will Necroanon and Koakuma get to meet again? Would she've roped him in with Alice if he'd stayed?

>I mean, honestly, I can’t trust any of them to make dinner without supervision or else they’ll try to slip rabbit meat into the soup or something.”

>“Isn’t that kind of…sick?” you ask. That sounds like cannibalism! Normal rabbits eat their own feces, so maybe it isn’t that strange?

Necroanon's sister (don't know her name) really has a point there. If normal rabbits eat their poop to gain more nutrients from what already went through, is rabbit cannibalism that much weirder? I think this needs to be brought up if we speak with Reisen again. Hell you never know if any of the Earth rabbits might do it occasionally (eating their poop I mean).
>> No. 176764
[x] “She’s someone I admire, someone I can aspire to be more like.”

At least Reisen knows about the mind alter. One less thing to worry about in this madhouse called Gensokyo.
>> No. 176765
>>176761
then why are there so many options? If there's so many options, it's usually because of a good reason. Personally it reeks of giving us ropes to 'accidentally' hang our selves on.
>> No. 176766
>>176763
>If normal rabbits eat their poop to gain more nutrients from what already went through, is rabbit cannibalism that much weirder?

Considering that the whole "eat their poop" thing is a natural part of the digestive cycle for an herbivore whose body depends on the re-digestion of their food to get the proper amount of nutrients they need to survive, while eating meat of any kind, let alone from another rabbit is not?

Uh, yeah. Rabbit cannibalism is a lot weirder. Like, no contest.
>> No. 176776
[x] “Sorry, I’m not answering that.”
-[x] “But, off the record…I’m hoping for something special.”
>> No. 176777
[x] “She’s someone I admire, someone I can aspire to be more like.”

Yeah, this one seems safe. Pegs us as a Byakuren-follower, wanting to be more like her. Kinda like many of the vagrants she's taken under her wing. Just another one of her flock, in other words.
>> No. 176778
[X] Thousand Yard Stare
-[X] [monotone]“I’d like to ravage Byakuren and violate every single aspect of her person. I want to leaver a quivering pile of sin and pleasure on the floor along with her closest followers.”[/monotone]
--[X] "But in all seriousness..."
---[X] "She is a woman who dedicates everything to a dream she inherited...she--she reminds me of myself in ways. I feel both great admiration and great frustration when it comes to her."
----[X] "Because of that...because of that--I don't know what kind of relationship I want with her right now. We both have a lot of baggage and...I don't know."
-----[X] "You should probably know that I am very bad at properly conveying my feelings unless is explodes in my face in some way."


This Byakuren reminds me way too much of Counter Guardian Emiya.

But yeah, it's pretty clear that we don't know what the fuck in regards to our true feelings towards Byakuren. Either we genuinely don't 'get it' or we are in denial at the possibility of falling in love with the centuries old dark magic-wielding pacifist war monk superwoman.

Either way, I don't really see how a relationship between us and Byakuren would work out without a LOT of work in all fronts.
>> No. 176779
[X] Thousand Yard Stare
-[X] [monotone]“I’d like to ravage Byakuren and violate every single aspect of her person. I want to leaver a quivering pile of sin and pleasure on the floor along with her closest followers.”[/monotone]
--[X] "But in all seriousness..."
---[X] "She is a woman who dedicates everything to a dream she inherited...she--she reminds me of myself in ways. I feel both great admiration and great frustration when it comes to her."
----[X] "Because of that...because of that--I don't know what kind of relationship I want with her right now. We both have a lot of baggage and...I don't know."
-----[X] "You should probably know that I am very bad at properly conveying my feelings unless is explodes in my face in some way."

There is absolutely no way this answer doesn't end up going amazing.
>> No. 176780
>>176778
A lot of work? Does that include anon's tendency to screw up?
>> No. 176781
[x] “She’s someone I admire, someone I can aspire to be more like.”

I would've voted for >>176778 etc. but I'm not sure if (this version of) Aya would let us explain ourselves after the part about ravaging Byakuren.
>> No. 176782
>>176752
I first discovered this site though that fanfic list. Then I discovered the archive. Then I checked back on the list to find this story here. You've helped solidify Byakuren as my favorite character (with help from Demetori's metal arrange to her theme).

[x] “She's a admirable woman who does noble work. And I live my life as it comes."
>> No. 176783
>>176752
[x] “Ms. Hijiri is a generous person that I need to repay for helping me so much.”

Yay! Helping!
>> No. 176785
>>176780
>Anonymous
>Good at wooing women
>Ever
>> No. 176790
>>176785
Not all stories have cluster fucks in the middle. Most difficulties are writer created with personalities that hinder it, loaded choices (like this one), and openings for interference to happen.
>> No. 176796
>>176782
[x] "She's an admirable woman who does noble work. And I live my life as it comes."

That second part is excellently put. (This supersedes >>176758, which I can't delete. Sorry.)
>> No. 176799
[X] Thousand Yard Stare
-[X] [monotone]“I’d like to ravage Byakuren and violate every single aspect of her person. I want to leaver a quivering pile of sin and pleasure on the floor along with her closest followers.”[/monotone]
--[X] "But in all seriousness..."
---[X] "She is a woman who dedicates everything to a dream she inherited...she--she reminds me of myself in ways. I feel both great admiration and great frustration when it comes to her."
----[X] "Because of that...because of that--I don't know what kind of relationship I want with her right now. We both have a lot of baggage and...I don't know."
-----[X] "You should probably know that I am very bad at properly conveying my feelings unless is explodes in my face in some way."
>> No. 176805
>>176781
She's a bit too hyper, but doesn't seem like a bad person (unlike, per example, Fallout Gensokyo Aya)

[x] “She’s someone I admire, someone I can aspire to be more like.”
>> No. 176816
The risky bit about a PR answer is that it might make says suspicious. She already has a strong contact network and seems to be skilled at people skills. Necroanon has... Neither of those really. A PR answer might come off as fake from him.

Alternatively, we could pick the most boneheaded choice we can. He'd shoot him self in the foot doing so. Or we could say what Aya wants to hear.
>> No. 176818
[x] “She’s someone I admire, someone I can aspire to be more like.”
>> No. 176821
[x] “She’s someone I admire, someone I can aspire to be more like.”

>>176755 >>176777
Just what I was thinking. Really, are we any worse than, say, Murasa?

It might sound a little too reverent after the scene we just caused, but then again, it is true.
>> No. 176823
Does anyone know where to get a goat? I need a sacfrice to the gods to ensure this doesn't backfire on us.
>> No. 176825
[x] “She's a admirable woman who does noble work. And I live my life as it comes."

I am also tempted by something like
[ ] "My ambitions for any relationship end with not thoughtlessly destroying it, these days."

But that probably wouldn't look good if published.
>> No. 176828
>>176823
Goats? You're going to need to upgrade to humans for this one.
>> No. 176829
[x] “She's a admirable woman who does noble work. And I live my life as it comes."

If she tries to delve deeper:
[x] "I don't really have any answer other then that."

I feel like no matter what there's a good chance Aya will try to swing our response to suite her purpose. This is vague enough without seeming like total PR. It's also much closer to the truth then she'll probably believe because honestly, we're not quite sure where we stand with Byakuren. I'd like to stay away from the sarcastic response because I'm not sure how Aya will choose to represent it and I don't want to alienate Byakuren and her followers after we've taken time to open ourselves up to them a bit. At the same time the "someone i admire" option feels like total fluff.
>> No. 176898
“She’s someone I admire, someone I can aspire to be more like.” Short but succinct, your answer describes your view perfectly.

Perfectly? I think you’re missing a ton of nuance here. At the very least, that answer misses all of your confusion.

It does, but you can’t tell her about your mess of emotions. You need to subtract things, pull out whatever you’re not quite sure about. When you do that, you have your answer. If nothing else, what you tell the reporter is true.

Aya had jotted down your short statement as you said it. Now, she’s staring at you.

“Uh,” you begin, “is there something wrong?”

Aya’s gaze feels like it pierces through you. She begins to tap the butt of her pen against her notepad again and again. “Is that it?” she asks.

“Yes?” You cough and glance away for a moment. Your answer is definitely holding up to staunch scrutiny, here. “Yes,” you answer.

Aya flips back through the pages of her notebook. You can’t tell if the page she lands on is has all those rumors written down or some other notes she’s made. “No hinting at an unrequited love?”

You shake your head.

She flips again. “No mention of a budding apprenticeship?”

As interesting as you think learning Byakuren’s style of magic would be, you haven’t had the time to bring it up.

She flips again. “No telling of a surprising, five-star cooking ability?”

You’re a decent cook, but nothing above ‘home-made with effort’ tier.

Aya grunts and flips back through her notebook. She stops on the page where she recorded your statement in flowing, elegant script and shoves it at your face. “Is this all you have to say? Some bland, canned response that I could hear any of the Myouren Temple follower spout?”

“That’s all I’m willing to tell you right now,” you say to her with your mouth set in a slight frown.

There’s heat behind Aya’s eyes. It’s annoyance, maybe even anger, derived from the fact that she knows there’s more to this story of hers, but you’re withholding it from her.

You can’t tell her anything you aren’t sure of. You can’t reveal, possibly to the entirety of Gensokyo, what you haven’t decided upon.

You usually live life as it comes. You roll with the punches, flowing from one challenge to the next with little thought for the far future. When you stop and try to understand yourself, you find you can only flounder. Your differing thoughts drag you in opposite directions.

Do you want to ravage the woman and leave her craving for more? She’s certainly beautiful, a treat for the eyes, but she’s also pure in her own way. She’s dedicated her life to something amazing, even if she believes herself to be less than up-to-it. In a way, that makes her more incredible. You imagine becoming a disciple under her wouldn’t be the wrong life, but there’s something dissatisfying about that. She needs connections that aren’t religious. Yet, how can you be something as simple as friends when you’re hardly stable yourself? Then again, she isn’t, so-

You don’t know.

A dozen voices in your head argue different paths you can take, sometimes intersecting, sometimes not. You can’t tell which one is what you really want.

So you don’t tell. You don’t choose. You put it off, delay it, and give questing reporters only what you know is true.

Oh, Bro…

“Okay, I get it, I’ll work with what I have,” Aya concedes while putting away her notepad and sticking her pen back behind her ear. Then she gives you a wide-eyed, hopeful look. “Maybe we’ll be able to talk later some time?”

It hasn’t been unpleasant speaking with Aya, all things considered. It’s gone better than other conversations you’ve had. “Perhaps.”

“Good enough for me,” Aya tells you with a smile. She reaches forward with both her hands and shakes yours vigorously. “It was nice meeting you.”

When she lets go but before takes off, she raises a finger. “Oh, one last thing. Obviously, it’s not like I know everything, but I like to think I’ve got an intuition matching a Hakurei when I’m searching for a scoop.”

“Going somewhere with this?” you ask.

“Two points. The first, I’m willing to put my talents to use beyond researching news articles. You could call it freelance investigations, if you like.”

That’s…something to keep in mind. If Nazrin can’t find what you’re searching for, you might need to look towards other methods. “The second?”

“I can connect dots and find things out eventually. So, when I overhear the wolves talking about the abnormally large amount of mice they’ve caught wandering the mountain and I know that most anybody who’s anybody in Gensokyo always has a go-to method of poking around, I get curious.”

You stare at the reporter with the same deadened look you’ve been giving her. Hopefully, Aya doesn’t pick any of the surprise and suspicion that briefly appeared on your features.

She probably did. You wouldn’t bet against it.

You don’t think she’s threatening you. She’s not. She’s just…trying to be persuasive. Push you in a direction to…what? To get you talking seems likely. That seems like it. If you don’t spill your guts to her, then she’ll figure it out herself. And maybe be less than confidential about whatever she finds?

Not quite a threat, but close to it. Or perhaps she’s not as good at this as her confidence makes her out to be. “It’s been nice meeting you, Aya. I’ll keep your words in mind.”

“You too. Make sure to pick up a copy of tomorrow’s Bunbunmaru Newspaper from any of our village affiliates!” Aya hops and begins floating into the air. “Well, if you’re staying in the temple, you should be able to find one lying around easily enough. Have a nice night!”

Then she’s gone. You feel the gust of air signaling her repaid departure batter your face.

Super speed. That explains some things about her.

All this talking; your head is throbbing at this point.

You’ll be glad when this night ends.

“Are you returning to the temple, Master?”

You look at Dio. The blonde jiang-shi has fallen in step with you. “Yeah. I’m done for the night. What about you?”

“I shall accompany you back.” Unlike Yoshika, he maintains a comfortable few steps worth of distance from you.

“Thanks for the company, then.” The two of stroll out of the village, easy conversation flowing. “Why were you speaking with Aya to begin with, Dio?”

“She approached me and struck up a conversation.”

“Yeah, I can see that. She was just snooping, knew you weren’t exactly human and-”

Dio stops your speculation in its tracks. “Not quite, Master. Perhaps my answer was misleading. I was simply observing the crowd when she caught my eye. I might have been staring for longer than was polite because she saw me and then approached.” The jiang-shi chuckles to himself. “I don’t think she realized my condition at first. We were having a normal conversation.”

“A normal conversation?”

“Yes, about ourselves, the festival, everything you might expect from strangers in a good mood.”

That sounds too ordinary. Casual small-talk with a complete stranger? No, given what you’ve learned about Gensokyo, perhaps something different was happening. “She wasn’t trying to…proposition you, was she?”

“She was what?” Dio asks.

“You know,” solicit back-alley sex? You manage to stop yourself and leave the statement vague. The confused jiang-shi stares at you uncomprehendingly, unable to fill in the blank. “Don’t worry about it,” you say. Smooth. “So you were talking and then she got to what you are, how?”

“When we started talking about the past. I haven’t told you, but there was this girl named Aya who I used to know. It had been bothering me ever since Ms. Shameimaru introduced herself.” Dio pauses to look up at the stars, a stray thought distracting him, before he continues. “When I mentioned how the Aya I knew has been dead for many years, I must have jarred her into examining me more closely.”

That reporter is a sharp, attentive listener. You imagine many people would gloss over Dio’s apparent age in a conversation and would jump straight to empathy. “She jumped on you then?”

“Not as rapidly as you might think. She eased her way into it slowly. I knew she knew thirty minutes before she outright asked about my condition. I get the feeling she was trying to be considerate.”

“Or maybe she was trying to manipulate you.”

“It’s possible.” He leaves unsaid how paranoid that line of thinking is.

The two of you walk down the dirt path in silence for a minute. Then, you speak up. “Not trying to be crass here, but I’m interested. Can I ask about-”

“Aya? There isn’t much to say. She was just a girl from my past.”

He’s obviously caught up on her memory. “She sounds like a bit more than that.”

“She was the center of many things, you could say,” he remarks with a smile. “I wonder how she turned out after I died again.”

“Again?”

Dio nods. “I was sent back by her mother’s powerful spirit to protect her and subsequently burned down their family’s mansion to make sure none of her father’s influence could escape.”

Huh. “That doesn’t sound too bad.”

“Trust me, it wasn’t as straightforward as I make it sound.” I know my life has been strange when everybody around thinks that particular explanation is straightforward. “I had plenty of time to talk with all the members of that family and none of them were…mentally stable.”

“I see.” Come on, ask him, ask him! What, now you’re allowed to pry? He’s your servant, it’s okay. Just do it! Fine.

You let your voice drop a bit and grow suggestive. “So you and this Aya girl?”

“It was nothing.”

That was a rather fast response. “You suuuure?”

It’s impossible for Dio to blush, but you imagine he would be right now. “It was nothing! I just wonder how she ended up.”

Ah, he’s adorable! Alright, enough of this. “Depending on how long ago it was, I could try and find out. We might be putting on airs for most people tomorrow, but it’s still one of the prime times of the year.”

Your suggestion gives Dio pause. He closes his eyes for several seconds before shaking his head. “I’ll keep your offer in mind, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I’m satisfied with how my life has gone.”

At that, the two of you enjoy the silence until you reach the temple. As always, one of Shou’s disciples is standing guard at the front, lantern and spear in hand.

“I believe this is where I shall leave you, Master. I want to walk under the moonlight for some time.”

“Okay. Stay safe, Dio.”

“You as well, Master.” The two of you part ways without further fanfare.

I wonder what a child like him has gone through.

He’s no child, Sis.

Not anymore. But I can imagine a younger you in his place, going through whatever it is he’s burdened with. Why is it he remembers this ‘Aya’ so fondly? Not a mom, not a dad, not a sibling?

Some people just weren’t as lucky as you.

Well, at least he had somebody special to him.

Yeah. He’s not overly bitter, either. However his life went, it was fulfilling in its own way.

That’s something you enjoy about your strange profession. Meeting these people, long since passed, opens up an entirely new world you never could have glimpsed before.

---

You wake up the next day ready to go. You have to kick away a clingy Yoshika who snuck in at some point during the night and then dress. A quick breakfast with all of your jiang-shi, a little banter with the temple residents who are starting to accept you, and you’re off.

It looks like it’ll be a great day. The temple goers are all busily preparing for tomorrow’s big play.

You thought your day would be filled with smooth sailing.

You thought it would be full of light preparation.

You thought wrong.

“I didn’t think I needed a license to setup a silly tent in some alley!” you shout.

“Well you were wrong!” the fiery redhead shouts back.

You try to stand, outraged as you are, but the handcuffs around your ankles and wrists prevent you from leaving the metal chair you’re sitting in. “Why are these even necessary?” you cry.

“Litterers! Loiterers! Lechers! The three great evils of our society cannot be underestimated!” Kotohime slams her baton down on the table next to her, the loud crack stinging your ears.

You look around the guard house. Beyond the circle of desks around you, most of the proud men and women that protect the village are doubled-over with laughter. A few look on with sympathy, understanding the pain you’re going through, but they do nothing to intervene.

You’re on your own to survive this hellion that- “Look me in the eyes when I’m talking to you!”

You hate life sometimes.

---

“Relax, young ones. I assure you, no spirit from beyond can harm you while I am here to counteract their wills.”

“Sheesh. This is the lamest hack of a guy I’ve ever given my-”

The teenaged girl shushes her male companion. “Quiet Sentaro!”

“Fine, fine, we’ll let him go on,” the male teen relents with a sour expression.

“Young man, even with all my power, I suggest you do not tempt fate while I perform the incantation. Do not interrupt me with your inane prattle.”

The teen scoffs at the warning. He lazily stands there even while his girlfriend grasps his arm tighter.

“Honored ancestors, spirits of the dead, hear my call!”

As arcane and mystic words resound in the tent, the spirits respond. A green light begins to tint the surroundings, strobes of white light appearing all around.

The boy is unimpressed. “What, that’s it? A little light show and-”

“Silence you fool! Don’t interrupt my concen-” The ground begins to shake, the small darkened tent visibly swaying as the earth itself heaves in unrest.

“Aiiiiieeeee!” the girl screams. Her male friend grabs her shoulders and steadies her as he looks around.

“Is that an earthquake or something? We should-”

A booming, otherworldly laughter overpowers his voice. It’s followed by a multitude of shrieks, the cries of trapped women slowly being pulled to their deaths. The haunted squeals of girls long dead join the blaring of an ancient organ. The cacophony of sounds is enough to rile the two teenagers into panic.

It’s when the water comes flooding out of the darkness, spraying them and running in a shallow yet violent stream under their feet, threatening their balance, that the boy begins to shake.

“What the hell is this?”

“You’ve doomed us, you idiot! I warned you! I warned you about what could happen! I warned- AAAAH!” You shriek as you’re yanked off your feet and flung backwards. You kick your legs and flail with your arms as you’re dragged into the darkness, your view of the two children disappearing.

“Ritsuko, stop screaming! We’re fine, he’s fine, it’s all a-” one of the most feminine shrieks you’ve heard tonight rips out of the guy’s mouth a moment later.

You peek out from behind a curtain, just in time to see the teen desperately trying to yank his ankle away from the dead hand that grips it. The corpse drags itself out of the dirt, teeth snapping as it strains to devour his leg.

He trips during his effort, falling to his knees and pushing his girlfriend out of the tent. He continues to scream, violently kicking at the corpse holding onto him. The instant his ankle is freed he scrabbles away on all fours with all the grace of a grounded octopus.

Satisfied that another happy customer has left the premise, you step back into the main area and turn on the lights. The fake candles illuminate the rather small tent you’ve set up in between two of the village’s buildings.

You kneel down next to the head and arm sticking out of the ground. “You did well, Yoshika. I hope that guy’s kick didn’t hurt you.”

“Shoes looked tasty,” she moans.

You chuckle and pat her on the head. There’s something about that pleased grin when she’s just a head in the ground – it’s too cute! “I’ll get you something better to eat soon, okay?”

“Mhm!” she responds as she slowly begins to dig her way back down into the earth. She puts herself into a position where she can quickly duck back out of sight once a customer appears. Half of her head sticks out, her eyes and ears just barely visible above the dirt.

“Well, I have to say, this is working out better than I thought it would. It’s definitely a fun haul!” Minamitsu floats down and slaps you on the back, laughing all the while.

“Because of all of your assistance, I think this is my best year yet.” You pull the ghostly girl into a half-hug, throwing a few bills into the air and letting them flutter to the ground.

With the tent devoid of jiang-shi, your other jiang-shi relax as well. The two girls, Rea and Shilverase, step out from behind a curtain. Their bloodied clothes leak onto their battered-looking bodies, but you’ll clean them all up later. Dio too comes out from beyond the curtains. He sets down his bloody knives and begins to rewind the soundtrack you prepared. Nekurow raises his visor and steps forward, the seemingly inanimate suit of armor coming to life.

You’ve made far more tonight than you have at any other festival before. It turns out that humans living in a land of fantasy, being aware of the magical side of the world, are more likely to humor you and your efforts. Many of those seeking contact with their relatives will believe in what you’re showing them almost wholeheartedly – it hurts, in a way, but you’re glad they walk away feeling satisfied. The others, the sceptics, are too confident. They’re too assured that what you claim couldn’t possibly come true when they see youkai and shrine maidens pull off absurdities on a weekly basis.

You’re fine with that. It means you can charge more and still surprise them.

Even if you split the money with your assistants, you think you’ll wind up with almost double what you usually would once the night ends.

Your earnings tonight make you regret not doing this other nights as well. If you moved your location around night after night, you feel like you could have turned a massive profit.

Oh well. There’s always next festival.

All of you chat and relax, waiting for the next person to get drawn in by the hints and rumors you’ve scattered around the village. The minor wards you’ve set up will alert you when the next customer enters the alley you’ve located yourself in so you can warn everybody to take their positions.

You wonder who it will be and what kind of service you’ll provide them.

[ ] Put on a show
[ ] Put in a real effort

[ ] Curious rabbit
[ ] Awkward phoenix
[ ] Stoic shrine maiden
[ ] Investigative crow
[ ] Salty sailor
[ ] <Write-in>

---

I can’t tell if poor Aya’s reputation has been convincingly dragged through the mud or if everybody is just ultra-cautious of our poor intrepid reporter.

Naturally, you can’t exactly pull a fast one on your scare crew. Feel free to suggest some other non-summoning activity if you don’t care to twist the boundary of the living and the dead. Also, if you try to write someone in, there’s no guarantee they’ll show.

>>176763
>So will Necroanon and Koakuma get to meet again? Would she've roped him in with Alice if he'd stayed?
With the first not as much up to me, I can certainly say in regards to the second that Koa gets to read a tone of interesting and informative books in Pathouli’s library that propose a number of situations she just has to try for herself.

>>176765
>If there's so many options, it's usually because of a good reason. Personally it reeks of giving us ropes to 'accidentally' hang our selves on.
…well, yes, but it’s really just because I prefer to give out options! Most of the time, if I think of it, up it goes. There are nuances to every choice that I like to capitalize upon.

>>176796
>You've helped solidify Byakuren as my favorite character…
Glad to be service. I can honestly say I made myself a big fan of youkai Jesus after writing all of this. It’s been that way with most everything, I think – whoever I write finds a special place in my heart.

>>176790
>personalities that hinder it
>loaded choices
>openings for interference
Whoa, it sounds just like all of my stories!

>>176828
Make sure they’re virgins! Last thing you need is an offended god making things worse.
>> No. 176900
Oh Goddammit, I want to see all of them, which one do I choose?

[X] Put in a real effort

[X] Put in a real effort

[X] Stoic shrine maiden
>> No. 176901
[X] Put in a real effort

[X] Awkward phoenix

Can't not pick awkward phoenix.
>> No. 176902
[X] Put in a real effort.

[X] Curious rabbit

Somehow this seems like the most interesting.
>> No. 176904
[X] Put in a real effort

[X] Stoic shrine maiden
>> No. 176906
[ ] Put in a real effort

[x] Awkward phoenix
[x] Stoic shrine maiden
[x] Salty sailor

These options are just too good.
>> No. 176908
[X] Put in a real effort.

[X] Curious rabbit
>> No. 176909
>The more options you choose, the less screentime each one will take.

Did you write this somewhere, writefag, or I just imagined it?

Anyway..

[x] Put in a real effort
[x] Awkward phoenix
[x] Salty sailor

Dems feels.
>> No. 176910
>>176909
>The more options you choose, the less screentime each one will take.
I don't believe I've said that. What I usually say is that, 'if you choose multiple options they might not all occur which makes choice order important.'
>> No. 176911
[X] Put in a real effort
[x] Stoic shrine maiden
[X] Awkward phoenix
>> No. 176913
[ ] Put in a real effort

[x] Stoic shrine maiden
[x] Salty sailor

I love Mokou, but I get the feeling that it wouldn't turn out well.
>> No. 176914
>>176913
Au contraire, this is the best way to let Mokou's (and Murasa's) demons to rest. Maybe both at the same time.
>> No. 176915
[x] Put on a show
[x] Curious rabbit
[x] Awkward phoenix
[x] Investigative crow

I'd like to stick to doing this for fun.
>> No. 176917
[X] Put in a real effort

[X] Awkward phoenix
[X] Stoic Shrine Maiden
>> No. 176918
>>176898
[x] Actual effort
[x] Awkward phoenix
[x] Investigative crow

I really cannot see Aya staying away or at least questioning those present. The bit with Dio and Aya has me wondering as well. Though I wonder, is Yoshika the good kind of Jiang-Shi who cuddles up or the derpy kind who attempts to sit on your head while you sleep?
>> No. 176921
>>176898
>[X] Put in a real effort
>[X] Awkward phoenix
>[X] Curious rabbit
>> No. 176923
[X] Put in a real effort
[X] Curious rabbit
[X] Awkward phoenix
>> No. 176924
I love the humor in this story, although I'm a little worried about that rabbit in the alley. Backalley surgery must be pretty popular.

Anyways:


[X] Put in a real effort

[X] Awkward phoenix

Mokou seems like the type to miss a family member or have unfinished business with one. If we could legitimately call one up for her, that'd be awesome. Unless it turns out to be an abusive stepdad or something.

And Yoshika is adorable, as always.
>> No. 176925
[x] Put on a show
[x] Curious rabbit
[x] Awkward phoenix
>> No. 176928
[X] Put in a real effort

[X] Awkward phoenix
[X] Stoic Shrine Maiden

Damnit, I want to see them all.
>> No. 176930
[x] Put in a real effort
[x] Awkward phoenix
[x] Stoic shrine maiden
>> No. 176931
[X] Put in a real effort
[X] Stoic Shrine Maiden
>> No. 176932
[x] Put in a real effort

[x] Awkward phoenix
[x] Stoic shrine maiden

Because best reactions.
>> No. 176934
[x] Put on a show
[x] Curious rabbit
[x] Awkward phoenix

>everybody is just ultra-cautious of our poor intrepid reporter

I'm ultra-cautious of everything right now. There's no way something isn't going to go down by the end of the festival.
>> No. 176935
[x] Put in a real effort

[x] Awkward phoenix
[x] Stoic shrine maiden
>> No. 176976
[x] Put in a real effort
[x] Awkward phoenix
[x] Stoic shrine maiden
>> No. 176995
“Okay, next time we need to go with the whole wailing banshee shtick.” Your pink-haired jiang-shi speaks with her hands, miming out the potential scare. “Minamitsu can descend from the ceiling and-”

“Save it for later, Shilverase,” you cut her off. “We’ve got incoming.”

Everybody else scurries out of sight, back to their hiding places, while you adjust your clothing. This is what your all black ensemble was made for. In fact, you even went and bought a black cloth hood to add to the ensemble.

You should’ve used your scarf as a mask.

Somehow, the bright yellow material wouldn’t make it all much scarier. Says you. Full-on dark and spooky is simply blandl. It’ll stay safely stowed away, for now. Maybe next festival.

You turn around the second after you hear the tent flap open. “Welcome, beloved customer. How may I- ah, assist you?”

“Huh, nice setup you’ve got here,” Mokou comments, looking all around the darkened tent. “It seems kind of impoverished, though.”

“I set it up in day. What do people expect?” you grumble.

“Oh! I’m not trying to say it’s bad or anything. I mean, it definitely looks good and, um, creepy for how little you obviously spent on it all and- no wait, that’s not what I mean to-”

“It’s fine, Mokou. I get it.” At this point, you know that if Mokou is being insulting, it’s entirely unintentional. It doesn’t bother you. “What are you here for?”

“Well, I wanted to see what you were up to.” Mokou picks up the skull you left out on display and rubs the forehead before putting it back. “It’s been interesting to watch you work in the past.”

“Right, no problem.” You begin to search through your various pouches and pockets, pulling out the various materials you’ll need. I thought you weren’t going to raise any spirits tonight. Not for random strangers, but you’re not going to try any cheap tricks with someone you consider a friend. “Do you know what you’re in for?”

“Well, those kids I saw running away were screaming about undead, but that’d be an easy guess anyway.”

“I see. Well, do you have somebody from your past you wish to speak with? Due to a variety of reasons, during this time of year it is easier to reach across the boundary of the living and the dead. Even then, my magic is still limited by my own skills. It’s easiest to pull up someone with a connection to you.” You go over your rather basic description on autopilot. You’re much busier focusing on the chalk lines you’re drawing on the ground.

“Huh? Oh, well, I guess. But you know I’ve been alive for a long time, so…”

“That shouldn’t be a problem. Like I said, I work with connections. If you have someone’s personal belonging I can use as a focus, mere time is no barrier. Generally speaking, I can always use your blood to reach a direct relative, but that introduces some more randomness.”

“A blood relative, huh?” Mokou steps out of your way and closes her eyes. She grows quiet, lost in thought for several seconds, before answering you. “That should be fine. What do I need to do?”

You pull a shot glass and a sewing needle out of your pockets. “I’m going to have to ask you to prick yourself with this needle. Any amount of your blood in this cup is enough.”

Mokou quickly does as you ask and hands back the glass. It’s interesting to watch a little whirl of flame ignite over her finger. Once it dissipates, you see that her flawless skin is once more unmarred by injury. “What’re you doing now?”

“Setting up the ritual. It’s all various forms of protection and containment. I won’t lie when I say that messing with the dead can cause a variety of problems.” You stop when you’re half-done with the quarter circle you’re working on. There’s a mop of hair in the way. “Yoshika, can you get out of there? I need the floor space.”

“Mrmk.” The ground trembles slightly when Yoshika shoves herself upwards, her head and arm emerging from the dirt.

“Whoa,” Mokou utters before reaching down and helping to pull Yoshika out of the ground.

You grab your shovel and move the pile of dirt from the side of the tent back into the hole the jiang-shi vacates before continuing with your preparation. “The rest of you can take it easy, too,” you call out.

Your assistants for the night step out of their hiding spots, now sure you won’t be pulling a prank on Mokou. “Are these all of the jiang-shi that were around my house? I remember more of them.”

“There were more of us! But a trio of hussies came and-” Shilverase’s rant is interrupted by Dio, the blonde jiang-shi covering his pink-haired compatriot’s mouth with a hand.

“We had an unfortunate run-in with some Reapers. We’re all that’s left,” he explains.

His calm tone does nothing to alleviate Mokou’s worries. “O-Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t know and-”

“Don’t get you panties in a twist, Fujiwara. Nobody here is insulted by your ignorant words.”

You freeze.

Damn. How do you keep forgetting about situations like this?

A quick glance over your shoulder lets you see the two staring each other down, but not going for the throat.

Hopefully, those two won’t kill each other while you’re working.

“Ms. Murasa could have phrased it better, but we hold no ill will,” Dio speaks up. “Another chance at life is more than we could have asked for. Losing that is nothing to be bitter over. The fact that we managed to escape at all is testament to Master’s skill.”

“Hah. I barely did anything,” you call out. It was your sister that saved the day. You kept yourself alive. That’s the important part, Bro.

You work quickly, filling in the rest of your summoning circle with the necessary wards and enchantments. You set up this ritual much more quickly than the one you used back in Muenzuka. It’s a barebones version. The major difference between the two is the amount of protection on your side – there are no triple-layered anti-spirit enchantments or emergency containments of any sort embedded in this circle. You’re banking on the fact that whoever is summoned isn’t some malevolent, all-powerful spirit that wishes you harm.

Since you’re already assuming the spirit won’t be out to devour your soul, there’s no good reason not to personally dredge up the spirit as well. If you automated it, there’d be another hour of setup.

Another problem you might run into is the underworld authorities, but you don’t think the reapers will care overly much. Your last encounter was a fluke and in your experience they tend to overlook quick, minor summoning like this.

Once you finish your preparations you stand back up. Thankfully, the elephant in the room appears to be tranquilized at the moment. Mokou and Minamitsu are doing their best to avoid each other instead of going at it.

“Thank you for waiting,” you say as you dust off your hands.

“How does this all work?”

“All you’ll need to do is stand outside this circle and then talk to whoever shows up. For safety’s sake, don’t break the circle. There could be a tagalong or something that might wish you harm.”

Mokou nods and walks over to stand next to you. “Okay, sounds good. I don’t get a choice in who you bring back, do I?”

“Not unless you have something more than blood.” You spread your hands and let your magic begin to build, the dark green energy dripping like ooze from your fingers. “I can tell you that a twin is most likely, followed by mother and father, then siblings, kids, and other relatives following that manner.”

“Alright.”

“One last warning,” you remember to mention. “When I forcibly bring them back like this, the dead often do not believe themselves, well, dead. It’s better to play along, act as if they’re still alive, for the time you have.” No need to upset spirits unnecessarily.

Everybody quiets when you begin to chant. Magic dribbles from your fingers and imbues your summoning circle with a sick glow. The words rattling from your mouth are harsh and guttural, complicated phrases memorized by heart. They spill out of your mouth on instinct as your mind begins to wander. Still shackled to your body but slightly freed from such a limited, earthly form, your eyes take in the darkness and see more.

It’s like looking into space, or the void, or a gaping abyss. Everywhere you turn there are crevasses and pitfalls looking to devour you, entrap you, but you’re no fool. You see the stars and following them, the scarlet light spiraling through the darkness. It’s warm, trustworthy, familiar, yet not.

There. You draw close to the figure painted in red and grab it. Tethered together, your senses expand again; the low moans and cries that had been ever present grow in a crescendo of screams and wails. You shake off the pulls and tugs grasping at you, judging you, tasting you, and force your way back, blowing through the slight barriers and divides to rush back, speeding, flying, rocketing, slamming into-

You cough and shake your head. Ugh, there’s a reason you don’t like doing this stuff manually.

Inside the summoning circle, an ethereal figure begins to form. Pure mana whirls together, drawn forth by your summoning circle in an amount concentrated enough to be visible to an untrained eye as a bluish-white blob.

That blob begins to coalesce as the spirit you brought back takes it over. The spirit instinctively molds the mana-formed body into a figure they’re most comfortable with.

It’s obviously a woman that forms. Even with only a body of mana, pale and ghostly, you can tell she’s a real looker. Tall with long proportions, her arms and legs are slender yet shapely. Her hair is put up in an intricate fashion yet still flows down to her back and the designs on her old-fashioned multi-layered robe appear to be equally high-class.

Your immortal customer looks at the spirit and bows. “Hello, Mother.”

“Mokou?” The spirit, Mokou’s mother, has a look of obvious surprise on her face. It’s all set to be a beautiful reu- “What have you done with your hair?”

Or not. “Even if we were to ignore that hideous color, you do not appear to care for it at all! How could you leave it down in a manner befitting a barbarian?” The spirit draws a hand to her mouth, the disgust in her tone blatant. “And stop slouching! Straighten your back and shoulders and- Goodness, what is with those horrid garments you wear. What has happened to you?”

The change that has overcome Mokou is worrying. Instead of stammering nervous as she tends to be when pressured, she’s sedated. Her head is slightly bowed and any of the fire you’ve come to associate with the immortal is missing. It’s like the life is being sucked out of her. “Many things have occurred, Mother.”

You double-check to make sure that no, that ghost of a woman is not magically sucking away Mokou’s life.

“Certainly. I know you have never met the standards for a woman of the court before but this is an entirely different matter!” The imperious ghost unfurls an arm and begins to point. “You, servant! Bring my daughter garments proper for her rank. You, begin to run a hot bath. We’ll have to scrub away the filth clinging to my daughter. Ugh, what kind of drab surrounding is this? And these servants hardly look to be of proper sorts. Daughter, I realize I have been away, but this is unacceptable! To be reduced to this, you appear no better than the peasants!”

“Hey you old hag, would you shut up?” Ah, you thought the air felt chilly. None of your jiang-shi look particularly concerned with the demanding woman, but the ghost you know well is a bit more agitated. “You’re pissing me off with your bitching!”

A lot more agitated.

Mokou’s mother turns to Minamitsu, a surprised look on her face. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me you pompous tart. Lay off your fucking daughter and be happy that you can see her again!”

The Fujiwara matriarch wrinkles her nose in disgust. “How vulgar. Daughter, your other servants are somewhat acceptable, but this one is not fit to tend to the pigs. Why do you not send her away?”

“Not fit for-! Listen here you damn-”

Mokou’s mother drops an octave, her surprisingly deep and commanding voice enough to silence Minamitsu temporarily. “No, you listen to me, Girl. Your attitude is horrid, your words vulgar, and your appearance unsightly. I do not know how your parents ever presented you in any reasonable fashion, but I feel only disdain for the woman who birthed such a-”

“Don’t talk about my mother! She was a great woman-”

“Great? That joke was in poor taste. How could any great woman raise a belligerent child such as yourself?”

“She died giving birth to me you-”

“That explains it, then. Without a civilizing presence in your life, you were left with your obviously unfit father-”

“Don’t you dare talk about my father! He died for you fucking Fujiwaras!”

The mocking surprise in the woman’s voice is painful to hear. “Did he? He was a retainer for my family? I can hardly imagine it.”

“He was a fisherman! He didn’t have a single thing to do with you lot! But your empty-headed family demanded he ferry them out in a damn storm! It was clear to everybody but you spoiled Fujiwaras that it was suicide!”

“If it was so obvious,” Mokou’s mother enunciates, “he should have denied them.”

It seems like every condescending comment only fans Minamitsu’s hatred. With the environment dropping in temperature the angrier she gets, you wouldn’t be surprised to see frost forming. “We did! You bet your fat ass we told them to shove it! But they wouldn’t listen! They ordered us out like we meant nothing!”

“He should not have listened to them, obviously. It is common sense, child. If your father was too slow-witted to see the situation was untenable, then good riddance.”

“Good riddance? Good fucking riddance? You bitch! He didn’t have a choice!”

“There is always a choice, child.”

“They would have ruined us you bitch! Squashed us like little ants! One single bribe would be enough to get us hauled off in chains, a few more coins enough to get some sick bastards to rape me while they force him to watch and chop off all his limbs at the same time!”

The spirit puts a hand to her forehead. “Honestly, the short-sightedness of peasants is why they go nowhere.” Then she turns to Mokou. “Remember Daughter, this is why you need to care more about your appearance. If you cannot bring your intelligence to bear in court, you let this rabble decide-”

“I’ll fucking murder you!” You lunge for Minamitsu before she can move and grip her arm tightly. For a single, rage-filled second her icy gaze turns on you. She roars incomprehensibly and tries to faze through your grip, but the enchantment on your gloves maintains your hold. She tries to throw you off, but you simply hold on to her tighter.

“Such barbarism. I cannot fathom how any man would allow his daughter to behave in this crass manner.”

You want to snap at the ghost of a woman to shut up, but Minamitsu’s reaction is instantaneous. You struggle to keep her rooted in place. “Are you deaf? Or is your head just so empty you can’t form a single smart thought? My father died-”

You can’t imagine anybody sounding less interested than the spirit in the circle. “Yes, yes, the fisherman died because he followed ridiculous orders. Where were you in all this?”

“I was there with him-”

“Why?”

“He need another pair of hands to sail the-”

“But if it was a suicidal effort, why let you come along at all? Why not force you to stay behind where it was safe?”

“There was a chance! Maybe we could have-”

“You said it was blatantly obvious as to the conditions of sailing. He did not leave you behind because he was a blind fool, unable to prioritize his daughter.”

“You bitch! What we do then, huh? He dies and lets me get orphaned, probably kidnapped by some damn slavers or-”

“He could have refused service to these officials. That would earn enough time to make preparations for someone else to care for you or potentially sell all of his assets and give you enough money to try for survival.”

“You- You- You-” For once, Minamitsu is left speechless. She’s seething in rage, but the sailor girl doesn’t manage a retort.

Mokou’s mother barely pauses. “Even if he had decided to go into the storm to ensure the officials would not bring their wrath upon you, if he had left you behind you had many chances of continued life. You could have thrown yourself on the mercy of the nearest nobleman. Offer your skills, or your body if you had none. A private whore is better than a public one, and it would give you the chance to perhaps become a valued mistress or leave you in a strong position to steal a small fortune.” The woman speaks slowly and calmly, as if explaining to a toddler. “Honestly, all of these are worst case hypotheticals. If he had simply been a stronger man and refused them, my ‘family’ may have skulked away and found a different fool to swindle. The fault lies with-”

“Mother,” Mokou speaks up for the first time in several minutes. “I think that is enough. It was an emotionally charged situation. Not even you can think clearly when wracked with anger or fear. Remember when father had challenged the emperor to that duel?”

You give Minamitsu’s arm a little shake. She’s standing disturbingly still and-

Damn it! You had relaxed too much. She throws off your arm and rushes away. With her head held low she flies through the side of the tent and out of view.

That was not what you expected to happen at all.

“Of course I do. That entire situation was of the largest farces I am ashamed to have participated in. I cannot believe I thought sleeping with the man was the correct solution. He was my fourth cousin or some such? Dreadful business.”

“And then you were thrown out half-”

“Yes, yes, I remember. Do not look so amused, Mokou, it was a horrifying experience. I understand your point, nonetheless. Emotions can get the better of any of us.” Mother and daughter share a smile and a chuckle together. “I wonder what it was about your scoundrel of a father that drew us to him. Now, which way to the baths? I will work on your hair myself and afterwards we may commission a proper wardrobe, assuming you have already ruined any garments you may still have.”

“It was nice to see you again, Mother. I do miss you.”

“Yes, yes, and I as well. Now, your hair, Mokou.”

When you look at the pair of Fujiwaras, Mokou catches your eye and gives you a slight nod.

Slightly exhausted, you kneel down and channel your magic through your summoning circle and kill the connection. The mana that forms the spirit’s body disperses and, after you disconnect the magical anchor you placed inside of your body, the spirit zips away from this plane of existence.

“That was…something.” You finally say. “You dealt with that every day?”

Mokou smiles. “Hey, don’t make it sound so bad. She was my mother, after all. You get used to it.”

“Sure.” You’re glad you had your sister instead of that kind of monstrosity.

The immortal runs a hand through her long white hair. “I was kind of hoping to talk with my father, but this was nice in a different way.”

“Nice, huh?”

“I think mother cared about me more than anybody else. Father was content letting me sit in the library or play in the dirt, but mother wanted me to have the very best.” The immortal grins. “She was a tad overbearing, though.”

“I’ll say.” You can see why Mokou might be in a good mood. With her hellion of a mother around, what would normally end in a heaping of verbal abuse and hurt feelings…still ended like that, but she didn’t bear the brunt of it. “I really hope she didn’t set off a time bomb.”

“I should have stopped her sooner,” Mokou agrees, a hint of guilt in her voice. “Listen, I know you everything here to watch over. I’ll go find Minamitsu.”

“Is that, uh, wise?” Not that you doubt her ability, but you get the feeling letting those two interact further might lead to disaster.

“I can handle whatever she decides to give me.” Whether it’s harsh words or an anchor blow to the head, you guess that’s true. “Hopefully we won’t get to that point.”

“We do need someone to watch her…” and contain her, if this turns out to be the incident that completely destroys any of the control Minamitsu has built up over the years. “Right. Good luck, Mokou.”

“Thank you. And thanks for this, too. It might turn out to cause you more difficulties, but I found it particularly helpful and nostalgic in a way and I think it’s definitely given me some things to think about and uh-”

“It was no problem, Mokou. I hope the rest of your night goes smoothly.” Well, it could turn out to be a huge problem, but you hope it doesn’t.

With a wave and a smile, the white-haired immortal saunters out of the tent.

Sheesh. Maybe you should reconsider this kind of service. Scams only from here on out. It’s a better path for both your stress levels and your economic stability. The life of a con instead of honest necromantic work? For shame.
>> No. 176996
Hah. Whatever, you’re finished for the night at any rate. “Okay, let’s pack up and-”

“It is dark!” The high-pitched shout draws your attention back to the tent entrance. A young blonde girl runs inside, her red-white clothes fluttering while she moves. Behind her, a brunette cautiously follows.

“Oh, hello Reimu, hello Rumia,” you greet the two girls.

Reimu nods to you while the little blonde youkai twirls around in the center of your tent. You nudge Yoshika with an elbow and gesture towards the youkai. Your jiang-shi needs no further prompting as she runs forward to play.

“What can I do for you, Reimu?”

The Hakurei shrine maiden casts a suspicious eye around the tent. “Behaving?”

“Of course I am. I’m wounded you would think otherwise.”

“Hm.” The shrine maiden wastes no time in kneeling down to inspect the summoning circle you created on the ground. She traces each line of chalk and gently brushes her fingers against every idol and reagent you’ve set down.

Reimu stands up and walks over to you, staring you in the eyes. You don’t flinch or back up, instead calmly meeting her gaze.

“Who?” she asks.

“Mokou’s mother,” you answer, seeing no reason to lie to the shrine maiden, especially when she could probably sniff out the truth on her own.

A strange look, a cloudy one, crosses Reimu’s face for an instant before she nods and turns away.

What was that? If she didn’t beat you up, that means you’re in the clear, right?

She’s an orphan, isn’t she?

Of course. How could you forget?

“Would you be interested in-”

“No.”

Damn, that’s a quick rejection.

Didn’t you just say you’d give contacting the dead up? That you were done for the night?

Your sister and you both know you were kidding about the first part. As for the second, you’ve already setup the circle. Why not make the most of it?

“Are you sure? For a friend, I’d be willing to work for free.”

“No,” Reimu says again, giving you a little glare in turn.

“Why not?” you ask.

“It’s wrong.”

“That’s harsh. Even though you let me help with your investigation, you still insist on stifling my creative spirit?”

A little piece of paper slaps onto your face. You pucker your lips and blow it off in time to see Reimu staring down at the circle, her back to you.

“Are you sure?” you try again. You wait a second, but she doesn’t respond.

You sigh and look away to Rumia who is biting Yoshika’s leg. Wait, what? You should- Yoshika picks Rumia up and returns the favor, nibbling on the youkai’s arm.

Uh, you’ll leave them to that. They’re just playing. You think.

After another minute of silence, you shrug and motion for your jiang-shi to start picking up. You walk over and- A hand grasps the front of your jacket.

Reimu pushes you back, away from the circle, and glares at you once more. She has a fistful of your jacket in her grip and you get the feeling she’s more than ready to toss you through the tent and into the brick wall of the adjacent building.

“Why?” she asks.

You almost stupidly parrot her question but manage to stop yourself. You understand what she’s asking.

Why do you want to do this so badly for Reimu?

Well, you’d like to think you’re being helpful. Returning a favor, so to speak, for all the abuse Reimu suffered to aid you. There’s not much you can do in life, but this? A meeting with the dead? It’s a priceless service only someone like you can offer.

But if Reimu doesn’t want it, you aren’t going to force her into it. If it goes against her religion, her belief, her sensibility, whatever, then you can respect that too.

“I think it’d be something worth experiencing, the best way I can help you,” you tell her.

She stares you in the eyes, searching your soul for whatever it is she needs.

The other sounds in the tent have quieted. Your jiang-shi and Rumia have halted, all of them watching Reimu and you.

Eventually, Reimu lets go of you and gives you a tiny shove.

Well, that’s it th-

“Okay.”

You blink “What?”

“Okay.”

“Okay?” A surprising decision, but not an unpleasant one. You almost ask again to confirm, but Reimu’s none-too-amused face puts a stop to that. “Alright, everything is already setup. I just need to reset a few things and I’ll need some of your blood or other-”

Reimu swiftly pulls a needle out from somewhere and jams it in her arm. Despite the violence of the motion, only a thin line of blood dribbles down from the puncture.

“Uh, right.” You fumble around and proffer the shot glass. Reimu quickly snatches it from you and squeezes her arm until the glass if full. Why did you let her do that? You didn’t think she’d do it so quickly! It’s not your fault you didn’t have time to explain.

“You could use a different connection if you have someone else you want to-” she shoves the cup into your hand.

Whew. “Last thing I should mention, then. Your blood will call back a family member, a twin if you have one, otherwise your mother, father, sibling and if none of them then someone else related to you. Is that okay?”

Reimu nods and alternates between staring at you and at the circle on the ground. You offer a rag which she wordlessly accepts and presses against her arm.

That’s that, then. “Please stay outside of the circle, everybody.”

You let your magic flow once more, the inhuman sensations filling your senses once again.

When you finish and the ghostly figure coalesces, you’re somewhat surprised at seeing two mothers in a row.

At least, you assume it is Reimu’s mother. You can imagine the young shrine maiden growing into a woman like that. She has long hair that reaches down to her lower back and a chest that is quite generous. All of her body is accentuated by her clothes. It’s similar to Reimu’s shrine maiden outfit, but not exactly the same. It’s less feminine, with pants and a top that clings to her.

The ghost of a woman looks around, her gaze quickly flitting all around until it lands on you. She…sees you.

You feel adrenaline shoot through your body.

She’s not like other spirits you’ve called back. There’s recognition behind those eyes.

The ghost stares at you and flicks her hand. A magical explosion washes over you, the minor barriers you had built into the summoning circle destroyed in an instant.

You jump forward, green magic swirling around your hand, ready to dis- Guh.

You stumble backwards, the yin-yang orb bouncing off your stomach and leaving you breathless. The orb continues to careen around, slamming into Nekurow and Dio, forcing the two jiang-shi to drop the weapons they had drawn.

Yoshika is at your side in an instant, helping you to stand. You need to-

You jump away from the bolt of pure mana the woman fires at you.

Damn it. This is a disaster. You need to- Look

But- It’s fine. Just fine..

You try to stuff your alarm back down and observe the ghost. She strides forward, her pale blue form advancing on Reimu. The young Hakurei simply stares at the spirit, the two of them standing only a foot’s length apart.

The ghostly woman raises a hand, palm down, up to lower chest height. Then she smiles and raises it again, up to the height of her nose. “You’ve grown taller, Reimu.”

Reimu’s face, as stoic and neutral as normal, begins to twist. It transfigures, transforms in a way you’ve never seen. Her eyes grow wide and her lips wiggle. She starts to shake lightly and-

You wince when she cries. It’s a harsh sound, sudden, unfathomable.

She hadn’t cried even when the reapers were beating her silly.

Reimu throws herself at the ghost, wrapping her in the tightest hug you’ve ever seen. The woman smiles as the teen bawls into her chest and gently pulls her into a loving embrace.

You look away from the emotional scene and wait. For some reason, it doesn’t feel right to watch Reimu break down.

You can hear the sound of her whispering. Reimu’s mother, that is. She’s saying something to her daughter, but you don’t know what.

After several minutes, the two break apart. Reimu kneels in the dirt, using her detachable sleeves to rub her face.

The woman walks towards Rumia, kneeling in front of the little darkness youkai. The ghost pulls the blonde girl into a hug. They’re close enough that you can make out some of what the spirit says. It’s something like, “…a lot smaller now, huh?”

Then she approaches you.

You stand a bit taller, your jiang-shi arrayed behind you.

“I assume this is your doing,” she says. Her voice is deep, strong and mature.

It makes her more intimidating.

“You’d assume correctly,” you reply, unsure of where this is going.

She cracks her knuckles, her narrowed gaze terrifying. If you thought you could actually defend yourself, you’d start preparing, but she’s already shown you that all Hakurei are dirty cheaters, even when they’re dead.

Then she grins and slugs you on the shoulder. If Yoshika weren’t propping you up, you would have stumbled. “You’re a good kid. Thanks for taking care of my daughter.”

“C-Crazy,” you mutter while rubbing your shoulder.

“What was that?” The ghost woman leans close, her face inches from yours. “A man should speak up!”

Her shout causes a shiver to run down your spine. Damn it, she’s far more ridiculous than Reimu.

Still, you manage to straighten yourself and save some amount of face. “I said, I haven’t done much yet. If anything, I’ve cause your daughter far too much trouble.

“It was thanks for the future, Kid. You’ll do good. I can feel it.” The ghost of a woman gives you a spirited thumbs up. “Make sure to call me back in a few years so I can kick your ass if you haven’t lived up to expectations.”

“There’s no reason you couldn’t watch over her yourself if you’re that worried.”

The bright, vibrant mood of the woman disappears. It’s replaced by a scarily somber person. “I can’t do that,” she answers.

It wouldn’t be hard, you think. A few spells here and there, a few enchantments worked over time, and you could keep her spirit around indefinitely. If you had a spare body to work with you could even give her something like a faux-resurrection.

There’d be risks, of course. The longer she stays, the less likely the afterlife would appreciate it. But they can be beaten. If you prepare properly-

“Kid.” Her voice jolts you out of your thoughts. “No. I can’t stay here.”

“But, your daughter…” looks horrified. Terrified. Stricken. Defeated.

“There’s a reason I’m looking at you right now, Kid. Send me back.”

[ ] Okay
[ ] No way
[ ] <Write-in>

---

Happy New Year, folks. May all of our years be filled with magical girls in frilly dresses and lots of tea.

>>176902
>interesting
It would certainly have been something. I’m somewhat disappointed it didn’t win, but this way has its own fun repercussions.

>>176934
Won’t you feel silly if the festival ends with everybody eating cotton candy together, not an incident to be had?
>> No. 177000
[x] Okay

To prolong it would be cruel and doing such a thing with a Hakurei spirit would piss off things far worse than Reapers.
>> No. 177001
[x] Reimu needs to able to stand on her own, as she has done so far, no? You being here would end up being a clutch?
-[x] thanks for taking care of the hakurei border. This place truly is a paradise.
[x] If she wants to go back, then do so. You aren't that kind of necromancer.
>> No. 177003
[X] Okay
Let's not make a prisoner out of her. The lady wants to leave, the lady gets to leave.
>> No. 177005
[ ] Okay
>> No. 177006
[x] Okay

We can't force her to stay, no matter how much it would benefit Reimu.
>> No. 177007
[x] So long, and thanks for all the ying yang balls.
>> No. 177008
[x] Only if you give your daughter another hug, and some wise words.
- And thanks for taking care of the Boundary.
>> No. 177009
[x] Okay

I see somebody's watched that fanfic video about Rumia and Reimu's mom.
>> No. 177010
>>177001
>clutch
Crutch?
>> No. 177011
[X] Okay
>> No. 177013
[x] Okay

Poor Reimu. If the Byakuren here wasn't so amazingly written I would have loved to give the girl a lot of love she clearly needs.
>> No. 177016
[X] Okay
>> No. 177017
With Mokou's mother coming back after centuries of death, that seems to imply that there's at least no universal reincarnation - that if there any, it's limited to Buddhists (with Mokou's mother not one, naturally).

This suggests that Myouren is still floating around the afterlife. However, Byakuren has built up a massive amount of hero worship around him, and if he doesn't live up to it... Further, from descriptions, he's likely to recognize that he's dead - the deciding factor seems something like that more powerful wills can recognize it - so while Mokou's mother didn't seem to realize it, Reimu's was aware from the start.

One other bit of speculation, on necroanon's encounter with Alice and Koakuma in the alley - while Alice's dolls stopped him at first, they then let him through to stumble upon the intimate encounter. Fanon often paints the dolls as animated by Alice's subconscious, so the ready conclusion from this is that Alice is a closet exhibitionist.
>> No. 177018
>>177017
>Alice is a closet exhibitionist.
Either that or having a succubus as an apparent lover has influenced her a lot.
>> No. 177021
[x] Okay
-[x] ...After you say goodbye.

Don't leave Reimu looking like that.
>> No. 177023
[x] Okay
-[x] ...After you say goodbye.
>> No. 177024
[x] Why can't you stay?

Might as well ask, right?
>> No. 177027
[x] Okay
-[x] ...After you say goodbye.
>> No. 177028
Well, I think its best to point it out early, but,

“Kid.” Her voice jolts you out of your thoughts. “No. I can’t stay here.” / “There’s a reason I’m looking at you right now, Kid. Send me back.”

Same thing applies to NecroAnon's sister, doesn't it?
>> No. 177032
[X] Okay

Just wanna say, amazing story so far, incredible characterization, an interesting plot full of intrigue and surprise, and your ability to come up with such snarky and quirky dialogue is astounding. Necroanon is one of my favorite protags on this site because of his smartass tendencies and strange relationship with his sister. Kudos, and Godspeed
>> No. 177037
[X] Okay

Something tells me... Onasa Reimu
>> No. 177039
>>177028
What same thing? His sister isn't part of a lineage devoted to magically keeping an entire pocket dimension intact. Just having a second Hakurei miko around could be throwing off the balance of things, or maybe she needs to play a role in the afterlife somehow.
>> No. 177040
[x] Your daughter deserves a say in this. It is her right, both as the current shrine maiden of Hakurei and as your daughter.
[x] Why can't you stay?
[x] If you truly feel that you cannot stay, I will not hold you back.
-[x] ...After you say goodbye to your daughter.
--[x] And it is a beautiful night. Would you consider at least spending this festival with Reimu, even if it is only for an hour or two?
>> No. 177052
[x] Okay
-[x] ...After you say goodbye.
>> No. 177068
[x] Okay
-[x] ...After you say goodbye.
>> No. 177080
[x] Okay
-[x] ...After you say goodbye.
>> No. 177121
“You’re sure about this?” you ask the spirit.

She nods. “It’s what’s right.”

“Okay.” You raise your hands, magic thrumming. Then you pause and let the useless magical effect fade. “After you say goodbye.”

The dead Hakurei shrine maiden narrows her eyes, forcing a slight tremble of trepidation out of you. “And what you do you think I was just doing?” she demands.

“Consoling your teenaged daughter who hasn’t seen you for years by providing a comforting, mothering presence.” You fully expect to be smacked or worse for your cheeky response, but you can’t help yourself. You try to reduce the combative tone in your voice and let your sympathy sound through. “I’m talking about a proper goodbye. There’s time for that, isn’t there?”

The spirit looks at you for a moment before frowning. “Eugh, why do you have to be so sappy? Can’t you just snap your fingers and poof me back to where I belong?” When you don’t immediately respond, she takes a step forward and pats you on the shoulder. “Come on, I’m sure you’ll call me back to see her again. We don’t really need a teary farewell.”

Is she really trying to weasel her way out of saying goodbye?

“Er, really, is it-” You fold your arms across your chest, tapping your foot for extra emphasis.

“Fine,” the spirit of a mother relents, throwing her hands into the air and turning around.

Reimu hasn’t moved from where she first collapsed to the dirt. “Hey, hey, stop crying. I don’t want my kid’s tears to be my last sight of this-” Reimu’s wail is ear-piercing. The young shrine maiden fall forward into her mother’s legs and wraps them in a death grip of a hug. “Oh Reimu…”

The elder Hakurei manages to loosen Reimu’s grip enough to sit down and pull her daughter into a proper hug. She strokes her daughter’s back while fresh tears streak down Reimu’s face.

It takes you a moment to realize that between her sobs, Reimu is eking out words. “W-W-Why…”

“You know why, Reimu. I’m not supposed to be here.”

Her mother’s words do nothing to ease Reimu’s stubborn denials. “A-A-Are! D-D-Definitely, t-totally are!”

“Rei-”

“No!” She screams. “Not ‘posed to be dead!”

Reimu’s mother sighs and holds Reimu at arms distance to look at her red-eyed daughter. “I made a mistake, as much as I hate to admit it. I died, so I’m meant to be-”

“No no no!” Reimu surges forward again, burying herself in her mother’s embrace.

“Reimu…” The spirit lowers her head, speaking to Reimu in a hushed yet insistent manner. “I’m proud of you. My greatest worry was that us stupid old people left you with too large a mess. I was afraid our screw-up would get you killed. But it didn’t happen. My little girl turned out to be the strongest Hakurei ever born. Don’t cry, okay? You’ve already done so well. Your beautiful future is waiting for you.”

The current Hakurei shrine maiden responds with sobs.

Reimu’s mother spends another minute focusing on her daughter, hugging her closely and whispering. Then she glances up and gives you a look.

Now?

You stare at the woman who scowls at you when you don’t react further.

Guess that’s your cue, then.

“I might not care much about the ‘natural order’ of the world, but I can respect your wishes,” you whisper. “No matter how much I might hate to.”

You stir up a bit of your magic, pulling on the anchor- “No!” The girl’s shout shocks you into a half-duck, a reflexive action whenever Reimu suddenly tries to move towards you, arm outstretched.

The expected yin-yang orb, paper talisman, or pointy needle does not leave Reimu’s hand.

Her mother reached out in the same instant, grabbing her daughter’s hand and pulling it back.

The spirit gives you one last subdued smile before locking eyes with her daughter. She is restraining the emotional young shrine maiden’s outbursts in more ways than one. “I love you, Reimu.”

You tug on the magical anchor connecting you to the spirit of Reimu’s mother. With the connection keeping her in this realm against the rules of the world broken, the spirit dissipates in an instant.

Reimu jerks when the solid body of mana she had been clutching losses its cohesion. After a second of hugging herself, shivering as if she’s cold, she stops. The struggle and urgency vacates Reimu’s body. The Hakurei shrine maiden slumps in place, deathly still.

“Reimu…” You take a few steps forward, reaching out hand to-

The brunette slaps your hand away without even looking at you. She floats to her feet and rushes out of the tent, never showing you anything other than her back.

Almost immediately, Rumia runs up and kicks you in the shin. You wince in pain while the blonde youkai gives you a death glare and hurries after her caretaker.

“Great,” you sigh.

Good effort?

Yeah. Summoning spirits as a service? Seriously reconsidering it. No joke this time.

---

The next day you wake up far too early, the hustle and bustle in the temple too great to ignore. You and everybody else are put to work almost immediately after a highly fulfilling breakfast of plain porridge.

With a small amount of magical aid, you’re able to lift as much as the average youkai. Your dumb muscle is used to help transport lumber to an area right outside the village. That’s how you spend most of your morning, walking back and forth.

During your break you fly over to the Misty Lake. You’ve heard tales about certain dangers involving the area, but most of it is a non-factor. The main source of annoyance – the fairies – is nowhere to be seen.

After scanning the ground, you spot your target and land. Ichirin’s information was spot-on.

“What do you want?” Minamitsu asks. The ghost’s visible form doesn’t turn around, but you know she sees you all the same.

“What are you doing?” you ask her, coming to a stop a few steps to her side.

“Sitting here.” She’s also dropping things in the lake. She has a pile of stuff next to her made of rocks, cards, coins, and more. She picks something off the pile, twirls it in her fingers, and then drops it into the water, staring while she does so.

“Nobody is bothering you?”

“Nobody but you.” Mokou points without looking. Off in the distance, you think you see a few winged forms crouching in some tall grass. “I already scared off the faeries.”

The ever present pests of Gensokyo are a skittish lot. Apparently, they’re attracted to mischief and large events but the generic fairy tends to avoid other creatures. Yet, they can also get combative, such as when a strange ghost tries to muscle in on their home territory. Well, they would, if said ghost hadn’t done something.

You eye her pile of things again. You wonder if it was made of something else, at first…

“What do you want?” Minamitsu asks again.

“I wanted to see how you were doing.”

“You mean how stable I am?” she responds tonelessly.

You frown, unused to this non-emotive version of the girl you know. “Partly.”

“Don’t sweat it. I didn’t go on a murderous rampage last night and I don’t plan to now.” Minamitsu takes her ghostly ladle and begins to scoop up the lake water, pouring it into the cup she set afloat. “You can go. I know you all have that performance today.”

“Is there anything I can-”

“No. Not really. I came here to think. And drown stuff. Alone.”

---

Luckily, you get to avoid most of the manual labor in regards to the construction of Myouren Temple’s stage. The others hammer away before and after lunch, slapping together a sturdy set in record time.

Although there are theaters or other open areas within the village itself, Byakuren couldn’t wrangle approval from the village leaders. None of them wanted too many youkai in the village at once, it seems. As such, Byakuren decided an outdoor performance would work just as well.

However, you do end up stuck with the mind-numbingly boring task of arranging seating. Benches and foldable chairs are scavenged, bought, or put together from whatever is on hand and lined up in row after row.

After being yelled at for the thirtieth time to, “Get the chair to your left in line with the others!” you’re ready to quit. Luckily, a break for lunch means a picnic of sandwiches put together by the dedicated cooks for the day.

There’s nobody to really eat with, though. The other residents of Myouren Temple you know well are busy working during the staggered lunch break. With your extra time, you decide to try and visit the other girl you ‘helped’ last night.

Hopefully your track record improves here.

The flight to the Hakurei shrine is quick. When you land, you find Rumia lounging in the shadow of the overhang. She doesn’t move when you walk up and only responds after you ask a question.

“She is sleeping,” she tells you while rolling onto her back.

Reimu’s asleep? You glance up at the sky, just to make sure. “It’s past noon.”

“She is sleeping!” Rumia insists. She kicks her legs and sits up, a dangerously cute pout on her face. “I hungered and went to get her to cook me something, but she threw me out and went back to sleep!”

That’s worrying. “And you just let her?”

“Of course,” Rumia answers as if you’re the dumbest human alive. “If she does not want to be disturbed, she is not disturbed!”

Also a fair point.

Excellent work all around. You caused two teenaged girls to slump into depression.

At least Mokou seemed rather chipper?

Success; the immortal is the one in perfect mental health.

There is a positive side is all I’m saying. Don’t be snippy.

Right. Do you need to do something else for Reimu? Tell somebody about her condition?

I wouldn’t suggest it. Not yet, anyway. Maybe if she doesn’t rouse out of it in a few days.

It doesn’t sit right with you, but there’s little more you can do. You have no doubt that if you tried to walk into Reimu’s room right now, you might suffer extreme bodily injury. “You’ll keep an eye on Reimu, won’t you Rumia?” you ask.

The little youkai glares at you. “Yes, I must. Now, are you going to donate to the shrine? A large amount would be good for the shrine maiden’s health.”

---

“Oh man, that’s a lot of people.” They were saying this was the large finale of the festival. It makes sense, doesn’t it?

Peeking out from behind the stage’s curtain, you look at the massive audience illuminated by magic lights and torch light. Hundreds of people are sitting out there, with the number definitely closer to a thousand than zero.

Most of the audience is composed of humans, but you notice quite a few youkai in attendance as well. You can see distinct seating, with most of the youkai occupying the front and right seats, but there is a surprising amount of integration. Maybe it’s just because those brave humans wanted the best seats in the front where there are more youkai, but many humans sit shoulder to shoulder with the ‘monsters.’

What’s even more surprising is the number of faces you recognize. Shopkeepers you have bought from, your own one-time customers, and others you have met fill the audience. Keine and Mokou are seated off to the side, conversing and laughing. Aya is sitting front row with another winged girl, both of them with their cameras at the ready. Akyuu sits with some blue-haired fairy, the two of them surrounded by lightly armed guards. They and all the others are eagerly awaiting the Myouren Temple’s production.

Back behind the stage, you see everybody running around, working on their tasks. Alice’s dolls flitter everywhere while the doll maker coordinates the magical effects. Shou is moving from disciple to disciple, coordinating the guards and running through stunt routines one last time. Ichirin is coordinating the temple peddlers roaming the audience while also fielding any of the minor worries people bring to her attention.

Your own work is almost complete. You and your fellows work on the major costuming for the actors, while any of the last minute brush-ups are being handled by others. You’ve outfitted everybody in the cast, save for one role. You honestly don’t know where- “Where are Hikaru and Kaoru? We have thirty minutes until the performance!”

That’s not good.

Byakuren stands in the center of the backstage, her question drawing everybody’s attention.

“They said they were quickly returning home an hour ago,” someone answers.

“And they aren’t back yet?” Byakuren asks, her question receiving muted stares. “What are those two doing?”

“What’s wrong, Byakuren?” Alice asks, the play’s outside help not as intimately familiar with the casting as everybody else is.

“Our Myourens are missing, that’s what’s wrong!”

Byakuren is understandably upset. You would be too if both the main actor and his substitute were missing. What’s the point of having an understudy if he’s going to disappear along with the main?

“Those two brothers were the only youkai interested in the role!” Byakuren half-yells at Alice and at everybody else. “They live in the bamboo forest, correct? Does anybody know the way?”

Although many people turn to each other and talk, nobody comes forward with an answer.

Byakuren stomps her foot, the stress from the situation chipping away at her emotional control. “Find them, quickly! All our work will be for naught if we don’t have a Myouren!”

Several people begin to move, most notably Shou and her disciples.

Alice also sends away several dolls while continuing to ask questions. “There’s nobody else that can play the role?”

“Nobody else has practiced as much. That is for certain!” The head nun turns in place before pointing out some guy. “Yasuo! Do you still remember the lines?”

“Most of them, but I have not practiced the part since you chose the other two over-”

“Get yourself ready, then! You might have the role like you wanted!”

Byakuren looks ready to have a heart attack. She’s certainly old enough for it.

Not cool, Bro. This is not the time for boorish observations.

You agree. You’re already thinking about what you can do. Or rather, you’re debating the merits of finding the real actors against testing your eidetic memory.

Eidetic memory? You do not have- Perfect recall? Of course you do. If you had to, you could remember every instant of your life since, say, your sister’s murder.

Oh. Right. I guess I could help out if we’re that needed.

Think of it as a last resort. You don’t particularly want to act in front of a massive crowd. They’re all factors to consider.

Byakuren is rapidly losing her cool. There aren’t many spare minutes to think, here. You’ll just tell her…

[ ] “I’ll find the delinquent actors.”
-[ ] In person
-[ ] With undead assistance
-[ ] With rabbit assistance
-[ ] With immortal assistance
-[ ] With crow assistance
[ ] “Don’t worry, Byakuren. I’m sure they’ll show.”
[ ] “I might know one guy who can recall all the lines…”
[ ] <Write-in>

---

Sickness delays, my apologies.

Also, we’re probably at the end of this thread’s life. If you have questions, comments, critiques, or whatever else, I would be happy to address them. If not then place your vote and wait for the new thread with the next update!

>>177032
Thank you for those kinds words; I feel I’m not quite deserving of all that, but it’s a matter of opinion. I hope you enjoy the ride as we continue on and then curse me out when everybody in Gensokyo dies and the fantasy land turns into a desolate, snowy wasteland.
>> No. 177122
[x] “I might know one guy who can recall all the lines…”

This is a really bad idea since memorization of lines =/= ability to act them out. He doesn't know the feel of the play and hasn't worked out the kinks that are ironed out via practice. Nevertheless, I'd like to see what happens.
>> No. 177124
[ ] Step up and prepare to take the role, when they ask, say, "Trust me." All cool and like that.

This isn't an excuse to have NecroAnon attempt to be cool and wind up with his foot in his mouth. Not at all.
>> No. 177126
[x] “I’ll find the delinquent actors.”
-[x] With undead assistance
-[x] With immortal assistance

It is very tempting to take the role and further fuel Byakuren's brother complex though.
>> No. 177128
>>177124
You know, for once, I'd like things to just go his way.
[x] “I might know one guy who can recall all the lines…”

This are but a few snippets of his total success record:
-Tries to help a couple of lost souls. This end with him losing his hand, his pride as a warrior, and half of them the day after.
-Tries to cheer up the one who gives him a roof and food and love free of charge. Then, puts his foot on his mouth and ends up alienating her even further.
-Sets up a prank spirit service and then fucks up when he actually tries to do it correctly, putting 2 girls into deep depression.

Jesus Christ.
>> No. 177130
[x] “I might know one guy who can recall all the lines…”

>>177128
I think Necroanon has to be one of the unluckiest fictional characters I've ever read. At the same time, I can't help but think this time might pan out for him. At least he'd be working with a script and not making his own words (until the inevitable brother complex emotions kick in and things go off the rails).

Or it might just fail miserably, and the alternative is waiting for no-shows. Tough call.
>> No. 177131
>>177128
In Gensokyo! Think of his record before he got here!
>> No. 177137
>>177131
You mean like ruining the reputation of his paladin mentor/friend?
>> No. 177140
[x] “I’ll find the delinquent actors.”
-[x] In person
-[x] With immortal assistance

Something has clearly gone wrong, urge to investigate rising.
>> No. 177143
[x] “I’ll find the delinquent actors.”
-[x] With undead assistance
-[x] With immortal assistance
>> No. 177145
[x] “I might know one guy who can recall all the lines…”
>> No. 177147
[x] “I’ll find the delinquent actors.”
-[x] In person
-[x] With undead assistance
-[x] With immortal assistance

I think you messed up big time with Reimu. I think the biggest mistake was not asking for Reimu's thoughts on the matter before making a decision. As both the acting shrine maiden and the spirit's daughter, leaving her out of the decision process entirely was asking for trouble. No matter which choice you made, she was going to be upset if you didn't consult her first.
>> No. 177148
[x] “I’ll find the delinquent actors.”
-[x] With undead assistance
-[x] With immortal assistance
>> No. 177149
[x] “I’ll find the delinquent actors.”
-[x] With undead assistance
-[x] With immortal assistance
>> No. 177150
[x] “I might know one guy who can recall all the lines…”

Come on Necroanon, you can do it!

Besides, what if the two actors got themselves killed too?
>> No. 177152
>>177128
well one was basically a Diablo est machina (The reapers), which well... combined with being a remarkably puny /th/ magician MC. Not sure if I could even blame Necroanon or anon's tendency for stupidity.

The second? well for that I'd say a mix of things including possible stabotage, hard to tell. It's going to be hard making up with Byakuren as I'd imagine there'd be various obstacles, mainly things coming up out of the blue and anon being themselves.

For the last one? Well we had no way of telling how it'd go down.

in short I'm not sure if it's so much Necroanon's bad luck or social incompetence, compared to the fact "god" seems to hate him.
>> No. 177153
[x] “I might know one guy who can recall all the lines…”

Oh god, please don't let this backfire on us
>> No. 177154
>>177128
Objection! The night is not all dark!
-Definitively helped several lost and abandoned souls and improved their quality of life and obtained a bitching new hand while defying death.
-Overall, provided a feeling of happiness and comfort in both a slightly confused rabbit and a nun caught up in the past.
-Fixed an immortal’s house, helped an immortal learn to apply make-up, and gave an immortal an understanding ear to relax with.

>>177152
This is interesting to me. As the author, I’m obviously working from a position of knowledge, so it’s more difficult for me to put myself in a reader’s shoes and pick out what is feasible to think about. Even with my above answer, I’m not sure how much of that can be read from the story and how much is based on my authorial knowledge of what has occurred.

I’d like to say that in each case so far, there were hints towards possible ‘bad things’ occurring based on certain choices, but I also see that there are times when I probably relied too much on a reader’s ability to make leaps of judgment based on behavior and situational information.

>Well we had no way of telling how it’d go down.
The last vote is a good study case. For instance, I was surprised that >>177147 wasn’t more the norm for the last vote because a blanket yes/no seemed heavy handed to me. Of course, I set something of a trap because I didn’t offer more than a yes or no, but I thought there would be more consideration for Reimu’s feelings in the votes. With the question of ‘How would Reimu feel if we sent her dead mother back?’ I imagined people would start to envision the possible negative effects. Perhaps the reason for Reimu’s emotion wasn’t clear, so this line of questioning wouldn’t have occurred in readers’ minds, but I only see that in hindsight.

Or maybe everybody really did consider this and thought the possibility that the barrier would explode with one more Hakurei around was more important. Or maybe they didn’t want Reaper Incident 2: Electric Boogaloo (which I predicted to be the leading reason in sending Reimu’s mother back). I can’t really say for sure, although I would like to. Naturally, improving my understanding of reader experience allows me to improve the story (and pull the rug out from under people’s feet more effectively).

I guess the end result for me is that I should try harder and should not paint my readers with one brush. Some guys just want to watch the world burn (>>177122 and >>177124), some can curb their desires (>>177126) while others are hopelessly optimistic (>>177150). Hah, just kidding guys, thanks for the votes.

>>177137
Or getting captured by a giant spider lady or causing a feud between two militant groups by killing a Pegasus or attracting the attention of vigilantes and getting his necromantic cult killed or…uh, some other incidents that may have been mentioned offhand.

Life has been good, too! He may or may not have impregnated a girl while doing it on a church floor! Er- Wait, is that supposed to be positive…?

>>177153
Once you start saying that, you lose.

Now, where are those goats and virgins? I don’t see any around here…
>> No. 177157
[x] “I’ll find the delinquent actors.”
-[x] With immortal assistance

Byakuren said they live in the bamboo forest, so maybe Mokou knows them?
>> No. 177158
>>177154
>He may or may not have impregnated a girl while doing it on a church floor! Er- Wait, is that supposed to be positive…?

Will that girl pop-up in-story at some point? That might be an interesting plot point.
>> No. 177159
>>177154
Definitely positive.
As for Raymoo's mom, I was under the impression that her spirit was needed to support the border. Didn't want to kill Gensokyo just like he killed a... Pegasus? What the... Why would he do that??

[x] socially awkward inexperienced actor in the main role option.
>> No. 177160
>>177159

It was asking for it.
>> No. 177161
[x] “I’ll find the delinquent actors.”
-[x] With immortal assistance

we should grab Mokou for this
>> No. 177162
[x] “I’ll find the delinquent actors.”
-[x] With undead assistance
-[x] With immortal assistance

>>177154
>Now, where are those goats and virgins? I don’t see any around here…

We used them all.
They didn't work.
>> No. 177171
> This is interesting to me. As the author, I’m obviously working from a position of knowledge, so it’s more difficult for me to put myself in a reader’s shoes and pick out what is feasible to think about. Even with my above answer, I’m not sure how much of that can be read from the story and how much is based on my authorial knowledge of what has occurred.

As a general rule, anything that's less than blindingly obvious to you will be totally opaque to most readers, especially if it involves information that was given in anything other than the most recent update.
>> No. 177179
[x] “I’ll find the delinquent actors.”
-[x] With undead assistance
-[x] With immortal assistance
>> No. 177219
>>177160
If it didn't want to be killed, it wouldn't have to be born with such a fragile neck.

Anyway, updates where?
>> No. 177234
>>177158
>Random pregnant girls
I’m going to go out on a limb and say, No.

Not this story, at any rate.

>>177159
>Border control
Not sure if this will become relevant later on, so I won’t say much. However, I wonder if dutiful Reimu would be selfish enough to let the whole realm she has painstakingly protected collapse over one spirit.

>Pegasi
My bad, the Pegasus was not quite dead. I misremembered: >>172281
>Sure, you almost killed one of their pegasi and sure, you might have frightened those trainees into thinking you were an undead monstrosity and sure…

But long story short, it did indeed have it coming. A littler later in the next update’s side note:
>…the winged horses are surprisingly aggressive (although not as much as unicorns) and often fall in combat when their rider cannot control them appropriately.

>>177171
>Hit them over the head with it if it’s really, really important
Oh, I’ve already learned that. I know the disparity between authorial knowledge and reader knowledge is huge. However, the differences in perspective that this information causes is something I’m always trying to figure out. But it’s less about ‘make sure the reader can reliably predict what will happen’ and more ‘after the fact, the reader can look back and go damn I’m a blind idiot for not realizing that.’

In some ways, it’s also trying to maintain some of my authorial integrity. Not pandering to the lowest common denominator, as someone once told me. However, that isn’t too large of a concern of mine.

>>177219
In the new thread, you impatient git.

New Thread: >>177232