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178135 No. 178135
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Thread 1: >>153744
Thread 2: >>155091
Thread 3: >>158584
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RESULTS

[X] Perform a scrying and track Meiling down. This will clear you of your obligation to Sakuya sooner, rather than later. Besides, if Yukari’s got her merry band of incident solvers, then you’ll not reveal yourself if they’ll deploy to do what’s needed – after all, you’re likely to end up revealing yourself at the exact same critical locations and times, which might be awkward. But what’ll happen if you turn your back on the battle? Can you really put your trust in them to act when needed, when they’re led by that overly-paranoid gap hag?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It’s excruciating. Every fiber of your being wants to teleport out there into the fray, blasting away every trace of Taint until the land is pure once again. You can’t even blame it on the Hope infusing you; no, this is purely a personal vendetta.

Every trace of Him should have died long ago.

But no. As long as Yukari can seal you away in an instant, you don’t dare risk revealing yourself so brashly.

Sai?

Kogasa’s mental prodding rouses you. We’ll find Meiling. If we can’t reveal ourselves in force, then the least we can do is rescue a few people.

And if Meiling is Recette’s mother, then… you can hope that Meiling has Hope in her as well. Maybe. It’ll give you one more effective weapon in this fight, at the very least.

Your karakasa companion picks up on your intent immediately, and walks back over to the mirror by the wall, dragging it over by the frame even as it squirms slightly as if discomforted by the manhandling – well, sentient-object-handling. “Recette?”

The girl jumps a bit, the fairy on her shoulder leaping up to hover over her head as she does so. “Yes?”

“Come over here for a second?”

Obediently, she walks up to the mirror. As Kogasa reaches out towards the girl’s robe, though, she surprises you by anticipating your request, pinching the bloodied cloth around the site of her former wound and offering it forward towards her.

“Scrying focus?” she asks, with an unreadable expression on her face.

“Y… yes,” Kogasa says slowly, reaching forward to wet her fingertips with Recette’s blood.

“Useless.” Her expression is somewhat sad – distant, even. “Take a few of the threads – they’ll probably be more useful.”

“Your clothes are hand-me-downs?” Kogasa asks for you. The confusion in her voice mirrors your own.

Recette shakes her head. “No. Mother did handle the outfit at some point, but more importantly it’s just like hers, and that uniform is unique to the gate guard of the Scarlet Devil Mansion – that similarity is the best link I can think of.” She touches her hair, frowning. “It’s too bad I lost the hat. That’d have helped.”

“Meiling’s your mother, isn’t she?” Kogasa wrinkles her brow just like yours even as she takes Recette’s advice, plucking off a bit of the frayed fibers around the hole in her outfit.

The girl shrugs slightly, looking down. “Adopted.”

Mamizou and Sakuya suddenly look very sheepish, making you wonder if that was a fact they were trying to conceal from her. You let out a mental sigh of frustration. Not having the blood connection means this process will be a lot slower than you thought it would be.

Kogasa flicks her fingers, wicking the blood away from the threads with a quick prestidigitation for a cleaner focus. As she reaches out towards the mirror, you load a scrying with “find the only other person wearing clothes like this”. You wish you could have picked “find this person’s mother” – that would have be so much simpler. Blood connections are basically the strongest bond for this sort of spell; even after being diluted through multiple generations, it’s still better than the most prized keepsake.

… but you can’t perform the scrying until you’re out of Sakuya’s time stop. Well, you could try, but from what you could gather tells you that at best the spell will be ineffective, and at worst, you might rip some kind of hole in space. “I can find Meiling, but only after we exit this timestop,” Kogasa says.

“It sounds like things are out of our hands, mostly,” Mamizou sighs, resigned. “The village will be safe in an hour, and the tengu – well, I have a line of contact with them. We’ll deploy warriors there if we can spare them here, and move them in force once the Sanctum is complete.”

“Then let’s get the scrying started,” Recette says, voice prickly with some dark emotion. Is it anger? Sadness? You can’t tell. “Sakuya?”

The maid curtseys as she’s called. “Yes, Recette?”

“Can you leave us and perform a personal reconnaissance of the entirety of Gensokyo?” You blink, surprised at how direct that command is; coming from the adolescent to the adult, it seems almost degrading, and yet there’s a firmness that prevents it from reaching that point. For that matter, that request was one you were about to have Kogasa bring up yourself, but it seems that the girl asked first of her own accord.

A second curtsey from the maid. “But of course.”

“You are not to risk yourself in any way. Do not intervene, do not engage anything.” Recette chews her lip for a second in worry.

“And why not? With the Luna Dial, I can – “

“The nature of the enemy is something alien. I’d not have to risk coming into contact with something that can match you, somehow. The giant’s poison, for example?” Recette raises an eyebrow. “I’m sorry, Sakuya, but you were originally confident that you could just run headlong into it, and if you made a mistake like that out there… you’re not invincible, Sakuya. We can’t afford to lose you here.”

She says that in a tactical sense in a clipped tone of voice, but you can tell the sentiment runs deeper in the way that their hands fidget nervously, that their eyes uneasily slide away from each other, then back. Meiling is both Recette’s mother and Sakuya’s close friend, after all.

Mamizou harumphs, then flicks her tail underneath her jacket. “I’ve completely forgotten what was last being said before Sakuya arrived,” she complains, trying to make light of the situation. “Getting back into the flow of communications is going to be awkward…”

“Are we all ready?” Sakuya snaps, glaring from side to side.

With nods all around – pop, and the squawking of subordinates through the sending stones fills the room once again.

Kogasa raps the mirror, prompting it to obediently tilt a little more towards her while also releasing the scrying you loaded earlier, humming in mock concentration. Mamizou is silent for a few seconds, but now seems far more collected than she was before the timestop, and starts barking commands, her words rushed not with panic, but with authority. Recette sits by Mamizou, filtering through the waves of incoming information and presenting the salient points to her teacher with a practice that reminds you of when you worked on rituals and other circle magic with your own, except there’s a distinct lack of a third… person…

You decide to look for Sakuya instead of continuing that line of thought. She’s already gone… except she comes back a second later, her initial reconnaissance patrol complete in an instant.

Time pops again so she can report without losing further time to the process. Without missing a beat, Recette begins firing questions at her, carefully sculpting her words so that Sakuya answers as concisely as possible. Her mind isn’t that of a child – it’s that of a master strategist. Perhaps not as advanced as Mamizou, but when her mistress is busy giving orders instead of analyzing the situation, Recette’s cunning stands on its own two feet. Even in the discussion, Recette presents herself as an equal amongst the two older women and your own companion, and is treated as a peer, not a child.

You and Kogasa can’t think of much else to do but stand and listen. This is relatively new information to you as well, after all.

There’s a lot of information to be swallowed, but from what you can understand, it’s not pretty out there. There are no “lines of battle” in something like this, against an overwhelming, invincible enemy. Instead, deception and evasion are the names of the game. The tengu are using lightning fast units to strike at packs of Tainted wildlife, but only as far as to get their attention. Immediately, they turn tail and flee, but only just barely faster than the birds and beasts to keep them interested, leading them away from the mountain which they call home. The village has similar units, although they seem to be relying on illusions and deception more than physical baiting.

That’s only the wildlife, though. The youkai and fairies are far more dangerous, not only because of their original power in life but because of their heightened intelligence. Already the tengu are reporting casualties to ranged attacks, the villagers to detection during their escapes. More worrying is that here and there, entire teams have gone silent.

If this is anything like what you remember, it’ll only be a matter of minutes before those teams reappear, and not for the better.

Finally, there are a few high level threats. There’s a skeletal giant, some ‘gashadokuro’, that’s twice as tall as the highest tress in the forest it’s in, and there’s something swimming in one of the lakes that’s even larger, lurking in the water after having devoured an entire patrol that flew too close to the surface in a single lunging bite.

The last of these is the miasma-covered giant from before. It’s still making a beeline for the village, and will be there in minutes, but apparently the village’s defender, that huge construct, is already operational, and on an intercept course.

You can’t leave Mamizou’s office in person, not if you want to maintain the scrying, and while you could take the mirror with you, that would raise questions you’d rather not try and answer later. But you’re adept enough to continue your scrying while also casting an arcane eye, and there’s little reason to not personally keep an eye on things while the outside world is in motion. You won’t be able to offer any assistance, but the viewpoint might be worth something.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

CHOOSE YOUR TARGET OF SECONDARY RECONAISSANCE

[ ] Scroll through the human village and watch the ‘Sanctum Project’ move closer towards its activation. What kind of preparations were made, how long ago, and how are the civilians in the village handling it?

[ ] Find wherever the tengu elders have holed up and see how their own leadership is handling this crisis. They’re not in direct contact with Mamizou, even if a few of their patrols are. Knowing the status of the other fighting force on Gensokyo is important.

[ ] Find and follow a unit as they attempt to keep the enemy from reaching either of the two centers of civilization. What do the subordinates, the common people of Gensokyo think about the current situation?
-[ ] A tengu unit.
-[ ] A village unit.
--[ ] Of purely Travelers.
--[ ] Of mixed Travelers and villagers.
--[ ] Without Travelers.
-[ ] A unit consisting of all three factions.

[ ] Watch the battle between Alice’s construct and this miasma-spewing giant, to judge her capabilities. She was present at ground zero of your fusion with Kogasa, and she and her husband stood with the Hakurei and Yukari as peers – you should learn more about her.

[ ] Something I’ve completely overlooked.

Using the arcane eye to also search for Meiling is the equivalent of trying to sort through a haystack to find a needle by hand. The scrying is a metal detector by comparison – there’s no reason to use both for the same goal.

I apologize for seemingly presenting you with more “filler”, but realistically Sai isn’t going to turn down an opportunity to learn more.

>> No. 178137
[x] Find and follow a unit as they attempt to keep the enemy from reaching either of the two centers of civilization. What do the subordinates, the common people of Gensokyo think about the current situation?
-[x] A unit consisting of all three factions.
>> No. 178138
[x] Find and follow a unit as they attempt to keep the enemy from reaching either of the two centers of civilization. What do the subordinates, the common people of Gensokyo think about the current situation?
-[x] A village unit.
--[x] Of purely Travelers.
>> No. 178139
[X] Find wherever the tengu elders have holed up and see how their own leadership is handling this crisis. They’re not in direct contact with Mamizou, even if a few of their patrols are. Knowing the status of the other fighting force on Gensokyo is important.


I think a big picture perspective would help more than spying on a random group of people.
>> No. 178141
[x] village
They're the "usable" resource: we will never convince anyone else to follow our orders.
Besides, it is the only giant attacking directly. It the giant doll falls, all of the settlement is at risk.
>> No. 178142
Couldn't we also use Prying Eyes (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/pryingEyes.html) to observe a few of the other things? We won't get real-time information and the sensors have to stay within a mile, so we'd need to spend our Arcane Eye on anything far away or that we need info on immediately. Seeing as we do have infinite spells, we might be able to set up a relay so we can get updates every fifteen minutes or so - orders can only be so long, but even without editing them, each of the votes have room for an extra bit. If we have to, I can make orders that are under 25 words for each vote, but this seems like the kind of thing that'd be skimmed over, so yeah.

[x]Use Prying Eyes
>> No. 178163
Prying eyes:

>Each eye can see 120 feet (normal vision only) in all directions.

Arcane Eye:

>It sees exactly as you would see if you were there.

Layer on things like greater arcane sight, blindsense, and even just plain ol' darkvision, and arcane eye's utility rises greatly.

Normally arcane eye does have a painfully slow speed, making it less useful but for the sake of plot and frustration-dodging the thing will move far more quickly.

More to the point, prying eyes feels weird as its one of those spells with a pseudo-intelligence, since it doesn't maintain a constant link with its caster and only makes its "report" if/when it returns. Even scrying requires concentration, like some guide of semi-guided missiles; prying eyes requires none, which is kind of funky. Just doesn't fit someone as hands-on as Sai.

As for concentrating on arcane eye while simultaneously casting another spell, well, there are a thousand and one ways to make concentration on a spell a free action, and to quicken casting times.

/neckbeardy handwaving
>> No. 178180
[X] Watch the battle between Alice’s construct and this miasma-spewing giant, to judge her capabilities. She was present at ground zero of your fusion with Kogasa, and she and her husband stood with the Hakurei and Yukari as peers – you should learn more about her.

Half of Mamizou's plan hinges on the construct being able to delay the giant. If it isn't going to work, we need to know ASAP.
>> No. 178257
[x] Find and follow a unit as they attempt to keep the enemy from reaching either of the two centers of civilization. What do the subordinates, the common people of Gensokyo think about the current situation?
-[x] A village unit.

Hey balista I sent you a PM while on IRC. Did you ever receive it?
>> No. 178320
>>178257

If you're who I think you are, then I think we're clear now.

And yes, I do have plans for the "lost" Ran x Sai scenes. Later. After Dolls.

In any case, this vote was probably a little too scattered to receive a strong consensus. Those of you who have already voted for a "follow" choice are still counted; those of you who voted for something else have new votes, and of course anyone who hasn't voted is still free to do so.

CHOOSE YOUR PARTY OF INTEREST

[ ] Find and follow a unit as they attempt to keep the enemy from reaching either of the two centers of civilization. What do the subordinates, the common people of Gensokyo think about the current situation?
-[ ] A tengu unit.
-[1] A village unit... (someone voted for the village in general)
--[1] Of purely Travelers.
--[ ] Of mixed Travelers and villagers.
--[ ] Without Travelers.
-[1] A unit consisting of all three factions.
>> No. 178323
>>178320
>later
>after Dolls

Sounds like 'never' to me.

hue
>> No. 178331
[X] A unit consisting of all three factions.

Have a tiebreaker.

inb4 i create another tie
>> No. 178690
[x]JUMP IN THE TAINT
>> No. 178692
[X] A unit consisting of all three factions.
>> No. 178693
[x]a unit with a member of each of the three factions
Interaccions ho!
>> No. 178701
[X] A unit consisting of all three factions.
It'll be interesting to see how the three can work together
>> No. 179971
[X] PLOT

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A mental whisper, and a newly created tiny, invisible sensor flits up and through the ceiling. It quickly flies high, high into the sky; first the office becomes a mere smear of color amongst a sea of others in the village, and then until the village is a brownish discoloration in the rolling waves of green that are the rest of Gensokyo’s wilds. There’s a second discoloration, more diffuse, on the large mountain that dominates the landscape; those must be the tengu settlements.

Buzzing around both areas of brown are dozens of dark clouds of Tainted creatures, like drops of soot swirling in water. You scrutinize a few such clouds for a second. At the center of one of them, You can easily see through the cluster of major images that imitate a pack of helpless women and children who scream and wave their hands in panic as various ferals attempt but fail to rip their insubstantial forms apart. Another surrounds a dozen or so glowing, blocky, quadruped constructs – astral constructs, some deep part of your education reminds you – that, while unable to inflict meaningful damage upon their Tainted foes, are doing a magnificent job of returning the same insult as energy blasts deflect off of their formidable armor. Bold tengu skirmishers strike and retreat at the edge of a third cloud of fairies, and a fourth mob of shambling giants has no chance of catching the airborne crow tengu that harry them just out of arm’s reach.

Those are merely the success stories, though. A huge explosion that flattens a copse appears to have hit nothing but trees, but true seeing reveals the twisted, charred corpses of a duo of invisible mages. Here, a huge sinkhole suddenly crumbles out from underneath an airborne tengu unit. Just like in the wars that you remember, an impossible number of birds and bats suddenly scream out from the yawning pit, the swarm shredding the flesh of those before it until nothing remain but bones, and even those are swept back into the pit as the swarm retreats.

Where are those bodies going? It’s not hard to figure out. The shades of former Traveler mages boil onto the material plane to choke the life out of a tengu squadron here, while there, skeletal forms of crow tengu somehow keep their former aerial mobility in life to reach a fleeing Traveler with their newfound talons.

But these are all merely battles between Gensokyo’s inhabitants, both those still alive and those Tainted. The font of Taint from earlier is nowhere to be seen, but it hardly has to reveal itself at this point with the number of Tainted creatures already teeming all over the land.

Muttering curses to yourself, you take stock of the high profile threats. The gashadokuro seems to have been defeated by a single silent image as it dumbly attempts to grab the insubstantial, raspberry-blowing human over and over again, while the lake-bound creature waggles hundreds of tentacles into the air above, unable to even reach the tengu archers that harry it. The miasma-spewing giant has met its match, carrying its severed arm with its intact one as it beats a hasty retreat from the sword and shield wielding construct that boldly chases after it, their footfalls leaving a wake of craters the size of houses behind them.

It is a short-lived victory. The giant suddenly gains a massive lead as the construct pursuing it suddenly stumbles. Something – something immensely powerful, pulsing with Tainted power far beyond almost anything you’ve ever seen, short of Him and Jizo – has latched onto its leg, but before you can identify it, it’s bodily thrown the hundred-meter tall machine another one hundred meters into the air. Trees bend back and snap from the ensuing shockwave, and while the construct miraculously seems not to have taken any serious damage, there’s not a moment’s respite for it. That impossibly strong something, still holding its grip on the construct’s ankle, casually flicks hundreds of tons of metal back and forth to slam it onto the ground twice in the space of the same number of seconds, the whiplash launching the construct’s sword and shield into the sky where they fail to reappear.

Somehow, the entire machine hasn’t disintegrated from the forces being exerted upon it, but as it raises a hand upwards, that entire limb is ripped off and torn away. As the something digs into the chest, ripping away several feet of armor plating with nothing more than its clawed hands, you can see that it’s roughly humanoid in stature, although it’s far bulkier and boasting a thick tail about as long as its own body as well as a long mane of red fur. In response to the breach, two figures leap out of the hatch, landing in fighting stances atop their fallen weapon in a last show of resistance.

They don’t have a chance. The beast seizes one, and then the other, and then only two corpses are left of them, their crushed heads and torsos resembling burst berries, spurting crimson blood all over the twisted remains of the village’s trump card.

… so much for that, then.

Raw physical strength doesn’t normally intimidate you, but the ease with which this beast handled the construct disturbs you. As you examine it closer, you realize that the red “mane” is actually hair from its head. Its limbs shrink as the rough chitin that had been covering them recedes, revealing muscled skin, and as its thick tail recedes back into its body, you realize that it’s not a beast, but actually a woman, standing tall and proud on the remains of her foe, her expression fierce and… somehow dissatisfied.

Suddenly, you feel a surge in your scrying as your personal attentions override the original parameters of the spell, as personal experiences alter the specifications of what had been originally stated. Almost immediately, you can feel the scrying run into the equivalent of a barrier, a will so unyielding and unwilling it refuses to allow you through. Through the arcane eye already present and watching, you watch the woman scowl and blink, and then all of a sudden the barrier falls away as all resistance to the scrying disappears.

Kogasa spins in her seat to look at the scrying mirror, but you have her disguise the movement by getting up and pacing the room instead. Suddenly concerned about how Mamizou and Recette might react, you drop an image of Mamizou’s still-blank mirror into the room to disguise the fact that your scrying has already completed. The next second, you’re staring past your own illusion to look at Meiling as she stares straight back, scrying, unafraid, defiant and most heartbreakingly of all, Tainted. Not that she’ll be able to identify anything about you at all, not without her own divinations, but her absolute lack of fear or caution is unsettling.

“Come and stop us,” she hisses, baring a grin. Then she disappears from sight of your arcane eye, but the scrying comes with her to her new position, this one high in the sky, just underneath the clouds – and beside a figure that you instantly identify as the one behind all this.

It’s the only conclusion you can draw from this situation. Beside him, Meiling drops another place in the category of the most powerful beings you have ever seen.

Is this what a true god is? You try and gauge anything that you can beyond his raw power, but you can discern little about him other than an imposing physical presence and an attitude of absolute, impossibly smug superiority. Meiling’s leer at your scrying sensor mirrors his own, and he casually outstretches a hand and crushes your spell in defiance of magical law. A surge of Tainted power, some kind of targeted backlash, “races” towards you in that magical-nonspace of divination magic, but you’re too keen to be caught by such an obvious trick, breaking your connection with your now-defunct spell “long” before it reaches you. It’s safe to say that if you had let it make it back to you, though, you’d have been struck… well, not dead, but the results would not have been pretty.

Your scrying may now be defunct, but you still know exactly where they are. A mental flick sends your arcane eye screaming a mile into the sky. This untargeted sensor slips underneath both their notices as they float stationary in the sky, content to simply watch the chaos far beneath them. He lifts a hand, and a tiny mote of darkness lifts up out of his hand, rising floating into the space in front of them. As half a dozen bow-decorated rifts suddenly appear to swallow them away –

Day turns to night, as the entire sky turns as dark as a moonless, starless night, and Yukari’s rifts instantly melt away in the darkness, as if fundamentally unable to exist in the same space.

It’s in the next blink of an eye, when the night mysteriously reverts back to day, that you lose your arcane eye as well, and realize just what’s happened.

The bright day’s sky is a fake, concealing a huge border that reaches from horizon to horizon, ceding the entire sky to Meiling and her godly companion.

Time stops again as Sakuya pops into the office once more, her expression incredulous. “What the hell was that?” she splutters.

“Was what?” “Was what?” Inside the windowless room, neither Mamizou nor Recette noticed the sudden change in the sky.

“The entire sky – “

In that instant, you make your decision. You know where Meiling is now, for Sakuya’s sake, and also where the perpetrator of this entire incident is. The only question is how to get to them, and that’s a question only you have the capability to answer. There’s nothing more you need from Mamizou and Recette, and… you’re not sure how to tell the latter what’s happened to her mother.

Let others sort that out. Later. When the world isn’t about to end.

If the world turns out not to end.

Kogasa steps forward and grabs Sakuya’s wrist. “Time.” When Sakuya stares blankly back, your karakasa hisses, “We are leaving.

You teleport the three of you out of the office, right underneath the confused looks of Mamizou and Recette. Some part of you screams that you’re simply running away, but you squash your remorse.

You never intended for yourself to feel anything but vengeance in the first place.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Posting as I write. No brakes, no breaks except sleep and food, until I get to place with a vote.
>> No. 179972
Updates, awesome. Tainted Meiling, useless Yukari, lurking evil.

Post as fast as you can! And welcome back Balista
>> No. 179986
Tainted Meiling is gonna be way more dangerous than I thought.

Here's to hoping Sai levels up again so he can get balista' custom Wings of Vengeance because Goddamn.
>> No. 179988
You only transported the three of you to the roof of the building, where Sakuya instantly freezes time again. “I found her,” you start tentatively, dropping your illusions to make yourself visible for her benefit.

Sakuya’s expression leaps – you don’t look forward to what’s about to come. “She’s alive?”

You try and keep a stony face, but Kogasa coughs awkwardly and looks away, giving away the situation. “For… a certain definition of the word,” you admit. “Something got to her first.”

Instantly, Sakuya’s expression turns just as steely as yours. “How badly is she injured? Why did you stop to tell me this, instead of taking us to her directly?”

You ponder that question for a second. ‘Injured’? How do you explain what it is to be Tainted, to be consumed with a ravenous power that drives you to seek nothing more than personal gratification and gain?

“… the short answer is that she’s been dominated; mindcontrolled; subjugated. She’s unhurt, physically, but she won’t come willingly. Most likely, she’ll see us as foes to be dealt with.”

If her expression was merely steely earlier, now it’s colder than the Elemental Plane of Ice. “Who did this to her?”

This time, you can’t help but frown. “Something incredibly strong, most likely the same thing responsible for everything right now.”

“Of course she’d try and face it down herself, the brave fool,” Sakuya spits. “Do we have a hope of fighting it?”

“I was watching. When the sky went dark, all of a sudden – it was something that it did. Yukari tried to send it away, but failed.”

Sakuya lets out a low whistle. “That’s… bad.”

You shrug. “I’m as surprised as she must be. She already did that to me once, and I saw no way to prevent it from happening. That’s one thing the enemy knows how to do that I can’t.” Sakuya opens her mouth, as if wanting to ask more about your earlier brush with Yukari, but you wave off the inquiry. “Regardless, she’s not used to fighting this sort of foe. Indirect methods and misdirection – you have to strike directly at the source sooner or later, and in this case, later means when this entire land is reduced to cursed undead.”

“Yukari’s taken good care of Gensokyo for as long as it’s existed, though,” she says with some trepidation. “What makes you think you can succeed where she failed?”

“He can do it!” Kogasa suddenly chirps. “You didn’t get to see him wipe the floor with those beasts – “

“I’ll… work something out,” you say, cutting your companion off with a sideways motion of your hand. A few Tainted beasts are less than ants compared to that god. “I’ve got more experience than her, I’ve done this before.”

“Define experience,” she demands.

You raise an eyebrow at that, and she looks away, a bit embarrassed. As long as you’re playing the part of her mysterious, magical friend from who-knows-where, she hardly has any place being sharp with you, even if your promised reward of a place to stay out of Yukari’s sight is technically what you’re cooperating for.

After all, if the situation isn’t resolved… well, technically you might be able to survive on a plane infested by the Taint, but damned if you’ll let that come to pass.

That would be letting Him have a victory even after his demise, and that’s something you’ll never allow.

“… once,” you admit. “Well, arguably twice. And I had a lot of help. A lot.

Sakuya coughs, pats her own chest, and then points at your karakasa companion where she hovers behind your shoulder. “You still have some.” Kogasa preens herself underneath the attention, and you can’t help but crack a small smile. A time-stopping fighter and a sneaky youkai? They’re no construct cleric and kitsune shikigami, but you’ll take what you can get.

“I plan on using it as much as I can.” You point upwards towards the sky, and she obediently lifts her head. “On that note – notice anything unusual?”

“It went dark earlier, but then what?”

“That’s not the sky from before. It’s a fake. Conceals a barrier that reaches as far as the edges of this entire plane, as far as I can tell.”

She squints. “Looks real enough.”

“It’d be a poor illusion if anyone could see through it.”

“Fair, but – is it a barrier or an illusion? You’ve used both to describe it. Can’t we just fly through it if it’s the latter?”

Now you lift your head up to the sky, pursing your lips in thought. “It’s perfectly capable of being both. That being said, while the barrier’s Yukari’s, it’s the enemy did something with the space beyond it, something that drove her to cut it off from the rest of Gensokyo.”

“She must have sealed it for a good reason, though.”

“What if I told you Meiling is also on the other side?”

Sakuya blinks. “So, how long do you think it’ll take to get through it?” she asks without hesitation.

You give her a hopeful look. “Depends. Do you think you can affect the barrier with this time stop of yours?” you indicate with a wave of your hand at the surroundings.

“I can travel a long distance, but that’s by bringing the field with me. You want me to freeze all of Gensokyo?” she asks, incredulous.

“… that thing you have is ridiculous, so I figured it was worth asking,” you say sheepishly.

She shakes her head. “I don’t dare. It tells me when I’m trying to go too far – like an overworked muscle. Something like that, I don’t even need to try to tell you it’s impossible. Why not simply part of the barrier, though? We needn’t break through the whole thing.”

It’s a good point, as you’re only thinking to get through it yourself, and while it pains you to admit it, it’s not as though Yukari’s barrier is actively harmful. It’s just interfering with your own movements. “I ask because… as far as I can tell, the barrier is one whole entity. I’m not sure if I can meaningfully affect it at all without dealing with the entire thing.”

“We’ll just have to find out then, won’t we?” Sakuya says, already rising into the air. Kogasa lifts off as well, so eager that she actually ends up in the lead, and you find yourself bringing up the rear.

You travel at a relatively leisurely pace, straight upwards towards the fake sky, the artifact’s time-stop field constantly replacing old space in your wake with new space in front of you. Sakuya pointedly keeps her gaze focused forward, away from the chaos on the ground below. You’ve already surveyed it through your arcane eye, so there’s little point to reviewing the turmoil a second time, especially since the situation hasn’t progressed any further than a few seconds since you teleported out of Mamizou’s office. For Kogasa, however, it’s her first proper look at the devastation with her own eyes, instead of viewing it vicariously through your own, and she gapes in undisguised awe like it’s a surprise to you. Even after joining with you, it seems that she still has a long way to go before she’s as hardened.

Some part of you has you refresh your illusions. Can’t hurt to be too careful.

Before ‘long’, you carefully reach out and grab Sakuya’s shoulder, slowing her to a halt. Kogasa somehow misses this fact and manages to bounce off the leading edge of the time stop, where the unmoving air is as resistant as any wall of force. “There. Two meters ahead of the leading edge. Can you extend the field to try and include part of the space there?”

With a twitch of her cheek, Sakuya concentrates, and the field reaches forward –

The only thing you really have time to realize is that the rifts extend and swallow you like the limbs of an old lover, and then your two companions are sprawled out before you, coughing and disoriented from the shift. You’re still in the possession of your own senses, so you gauge the new situation as quickly as you can.

As it turns out, you didn’t have to even do anything. No misdirection with illusion, no subversive abjuration, not even destruction with evocation or transportation with conjuration. The barrier seems like it was set up to react with anything interacting with it from this side.

But you’re not through the barrier, but within it. That much is clear, from all of Yukari’s trademark eyes decorating the… space. It’s definitely some form of chamber, most likely a prison, given the absolute lack of features other than the ubiquitous eyes. While there isn’t any source of light – obscuring the maddening eye pattern from your two other companions for the moment – a “down” and “up” at the very least, and there’s “ground”, and the space seems to be full of perfectly breathable air, so –

Actually, that’s a very good question. You’ve gone through the Border proper, and that was a disorienting adventure through non-space you don’t care to repeat. Here, though, it seems that every physical law you’re familiar with has been perfectly replicated. Aesthetics aside, it’s as if you’re still on the Material Plane. Why would Yukari intentionally make a prison that still allows its occupants full operation, when she already has one that denies them the same?

“Sakuya Izayoi? Kogasa Tatara?” The alto voice is slightly deeper than you remember it, but it’s certainly one you’re familiar with. Its owner blinks into the chamber a few feet off the demiplane’s ground, the sound of her feet hitting the ground softer than the hiss of steel cutting air as two swords, one far longer than the other, spin around her body, settling into an aggressive, points-forward stance. A shining, Hope-infused wraith twines itself around one blade and the arm that wields it, casting long shadows that seem to make the eyes blink in disbelief just like yours. “I was expecting fairies, ferals, giants – anything but a head maid and a resurrected karakasa.”

The reason for the regular physics is clear now. This isn’t a prison, then, but an execution chamber.

As your two companions struggle to their feet, Youmu Konpaku begins her charge, blades already cocked for a pair of decapitating slashes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

CHOOSE YOUR METHOD OF CONFLICT AVERSION

[ ] I’m the one you want. Youmu is one of the few people you might possibly consider an ally. Revealing yourself to her should delay her hand, and the chance to exchange information is too valuable to pass up. You might be able to get her to let you out of here – through, even. If that doesn’t sway her, then, well – you’ve beaten her once. You’re sure you can do it again. However, Youmu’s post here in Yukari’s realm says a lot about who she’s reporting to. Can you risk that?

[ ] Nope. Time to go. You’re not risking any more than you have to. A redirection of your internal capabilities, and you can channel enough fighting capability into Kogasa to cover Sakuya until she recovers as well, all while you try and figure out a way to escape this place, whether that means going in deeper or back out from whence you came. Anywhere’s better than being locked up with a highly capable warrior – that you helped create, no less – who’s loyal to Yukari.

[ ] Write-in. Some combination of the two? Something creative? Surprise me.
>> No. 179989
[ ] I’m the one you want. Youmu is one of the few people you might possibly consider an ally. Revealing yourself to her should delay her hand, and the chance to exchange information is too valuable to pass up. You might be able to get her to let you out of here – through, even. If that doesn’t sway her, then, well – you’ve beaten her once. You’re sure you can do it again. However, Youmu’s post here in Yukari’s realm says a lot about who she’s reporting to. Can you risk that?

You promised to marry her...
>> No. 179990
[X] I’m the one you want.
diverting Youmu into chasing after us if we leave would be pretty bad for the fight against Tainted!Meiling and that god so lets not do that.
>> No. 179991
[X] I’m the one you want.
>> No. 179998
[x]"Are you sure you want to do this to us Youmu?"
-[x] Keep any fight centered on you in you undisguised state, but try not to attack her unless truly necessary: your goal is to wear down her will to fight using your bond.

The shock of hearing Sai combined with being prompted to answer a question should be enough to throw off her attack and make her reconsider the situation. If not simply making sure that Sai is the one whom she has to fight and not provoking her to attack any further should wear down her will to fight.
>> No. 179999
[x]"Are you sure you want to do this to us Youmu?"
-[x] Keep any fight centered on you in you undisguised state, but try not to attack her unless truly necessary: your goal is to wear down her will to fight using your bond.

I'm alright with this.

Good to see you back, I've missed this story!
>> No. 180006
[x]"Are you sure you want to do this to us Youmu?"
-[x] Keep any fight centered on you in you undisguised state, but try not to attack her unless truly necessary: your goal is to wear down her will to fight using your bond.

Sounds like a plan.
>> No. 180008
[x]"Are you sure you want to do this to us Youmu?"
-[x] Keep any fight centered on you in you undisguised state, but try not to attack her unless truly necessary: your goal is to wear down her will to fight using your bond.

Talking may be the best option here. Now it threw me at first that Youmu was willing to just attack with no warning, but the most likely explanation is that she thinks Sakuya and Kogasa are tainted, and need to be cut down. If we can talk her down, she might let us pass without depleting our energy. Hell, she migh even lend a hand, though that could be a long shot. Besides, Sai can only keep hidden for so long.
>> No. 180012
[X] Nope. Time to go. You’re not risking any more than you have to. A redirection of your internal capabilities, and you can channel enough fighting capability into Kogasa to cover Sakuya until she recovers as well, all while you try and figure out a way to escape this place, whether that means going in deeper or back out from whence you came. Anywhere’s better than being locked up with a highly capable warrior – that you helped create, no less – who’s loyal to Yukari.

Eh. I don't want to reveal who we are so soon, especially when Yukari is taking a personal interest in this. She can manipulate a person's borders, like the border of truth and lie, and obedience and disobedience. If we get seen and Yukari starts asking people who we are, they might not have a CHOICE to answer, and then Yukari certainly won't tolerate people keeping our existence secret from her.

She lobotomized her closest subordinate, she won't hesitate to mess with anyone else for helping us. We're protecting Youmu from a bigger enemy, who she might still think is her friend.

>"Are you sure you want to do this to us Youmu?"

Don't think that will work. Youmu stood against Yuyuko when she was Tainted. If she thinks Kogasa and Sakuya are tainted too, she certainly won't hesitate against what she sees as resurrected thralls trying to make her hesitate. She might even think she's putting us all out of our misery.
>> No. 180013
>>180012
I was waiting for someone to put my fuzzy half-thoughts about this into an intelligible post. Thanks for that.

[X] Nope. Time to go. You’re not risking any more than you have to. A redirection of your internal capabilities, and you can channel enough fighting capability into Kogasa to cover Sakuya until she recovers as well, all while you try and figure out a way to escape this place, whether that means going in deeper or back out from whence you came. Anywhere’s better than being locked up with a highly capable warrior – that you helped create, no less – who’s loyal to Yukari.
>> No. 180014
[x] I'm the one you want

It can easily backfire, but who gives a shit
You see, the problem with worrying about keeping our identit secret is that the whole realm is in peril. Hell, with Gensokyo's nature and a tainted Yukari (shut up, she is Gensokyo so she probably can be tainted if everything and everyone is tainted as well) the entire world may be in danger.
Priorities man.
>> No. 180016
>>180014
>Sai's identity isn't as important as the defense of the realm!
You see, that's implying that Yukari feels the same way. Which she has shown she DOESN'T. She banished us, lobotomized her closest confidant for having an opinion, and Mamizou said she's hindering the incident solvers.

This isn't a woman spearheading the taint fighting effort, this is a woman who's trying to keep her grip on Gensokyo while at the same time maintaining order, succeeding at neither. Revealing ourselves will result in Yukari defending her position, aka ordering our death and/or character assassinating us. We can't fight Yukari Yakumo now, and we certainly can't fight the Taint with Gensokyo's forces divided on who to believe. With the undead hordes at the gates people will be turning on each other.

There's also no guarantee that Youmu will believe us. Yukari has the ear of every single power in Gensoyko and has had years to demonize us to everyone. Couple her influence with subtle border manipulation and everyone might hate us now or at least distrust us.

Maybe you guys are right and she won't attack us, but then if she confides in someone else or if Yukari comes poking around "asking" about us what happens then? When our identity is inevitably revealed how do you think Yukari will react towards the people who didn't kill us or granted us asylum?

How many Ran's do you guys want to risk creating?

We can talk to Youmu at a better time when Yukari isn't nearby being her usual overbearing overpowered self.
>> No. 180017
>>180016
Yukari will let him take on the god she failed to deflect before killing Sai (and that's all we need) And Youmu will believe in us (re read her short appearance in Kogasa's memorial)
>> No. 180019
>>180017
Really? She won't pull some AoE attack to kill them both?

She won't retaliate against Youmu or Yukuko for not killing us? That won't make people have second thoughts about offering asylum?
>> No. 180020
>>180019
She failed in a direct move against the enemy. I don't think you understand that means to a Youkai so ancient and powerful. She has to regain he initiative and that means either analyzing him from afar (a.k.a. Doing nothing) or using a pawn and pull up that AOE of yours. Sai is perfect for that role. It won't work anyway.

As for Youmu, I'm willing to bet dead people are Yuyuko's jurisdiction. Remember also that Ran's "lobotomy" was enabled thanks to the shikigami link, something missing in this case.

Man, gotta love WMG.
>> No. 180025
>>180019
She's kinda busy not dying against the god that Tainted Meiling and is all hopped up on Taint PCP
>> No. 180028
Question, what the fuck is Sai right now anyways? Ghost? Spirit? Edgy, chuuni, 15 year old?
>> No. 180029
With only two votes for keeping Sai's cover, I think this is pretty clear.

>>179989

>marriage promise

It's just like my Chinese cartoons! The guy promised to marry a girl but doesn't remember a thing about it!

Well, he does remember, it's just probably not the most tactful point to raise first.

>>180008

>Youmu is attacking because she thinks Sakuya and Kogasa are Tainted

Being Hope-infused, which Youmu is, gives one a murderboner for Taint. She might have plenty of other reasons to attack, though.

Do note that it doesn't give you the ability to detect the same (if it did, Recette would have looked at Kogasa very, very funny), so there's no intentional friendly fire going on here.

>>180014

>Yukari is Gensokyo

She's the caretaker and warden, not the giant turtle who supports the whole place on her back. That's a role more suited towards the original Dragon.

You have to wonder how he feels about all this.

>>180016

>There's also no guarantee that Youmu will believe us. Yukari has the ear of every single power in Gensoyko and has had years to demonize us to everyone. Couple her influence with subtle border manipulation and everyone might hate us now or at least distrust us.

Whispers of "The Shadow" as a shadowy figure of legend circulate among the populace, as Sai has already seen, and Traveler leadership basically told Yukari to shove her powermongering somewhere where she'd need a gap to get it out. Of course, that doesn't mean she doesn't have SOME Traveler contacts, as well as the ears of most of Gensokyo's finest (see: Youmu's current presence), but do realize that Yukari is far from omnipotent, even if she tries to give the impression of the opposite.

>>180028

>what is Sai

An interesting point. He started as a human boy, who then turned himself into a necropolitan (read: intelligent undead) to avoid death by Taint. His soul went with Marcus to Gensokyo, away from his Ascended mind left behind on his (late) home plane, the same mind that would later rouse itself as Jizo. Sai had his power of intelligent thought restored to him by Ran, and has persisted in various manifested forms ever since through twenty different flavors of hilarious trauma.

Neither truly ghost nor mortal, he's transcended any real solid definition. Overlooking the Sai/Jizo soul+manufactured mind/original mind split alone, there's still the question of the parts of him that now rest with Youmu and Kogasa and Ran. What afterlife would dare attempt to hold him, let alone accept him willingly?

If all goes as projected, the next story arc is a return to Higan.






Votes called. Pic related. Writing now. Please wait warmly~
>> No. 180030
>What afterlife would dare attempt to hold him, let alone accept him willingly?

>If all goes as projected, the next story arc is a return to Higan.

Dude, you just answered your own question.
Wait, does that mean that we die? Oh well, fitting for a battle against a true god.
>> No. 180032
>>180030

>implying that one has to die to go to Higan
>> No. 180035
>>180032
Oh look Sai's possible Harem
>> No. 180078
>>180032
What's one more death on top of the, like, 7 others?
>> No. 182015
So I take it this story is actually dead now?
>> No. 183284
story put on hiatus due to ballista's newfound dragon dildo love
>> No. 183286
>>183284
He's busy writing Kancolle fanfic or something
>> No. 183287
>>183284

YOU GAVE ME HOPE AND THEN TORE IT FROM ME
>> No. 183296
>>183284

Does he call it Dragon Force?
>> No. 183332
>>183284
>>183286
Neither are true. This just isn't the easiest story for him to write.