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182674 No. 182674
You are Charlotte McGallagher, and you are having a bad day.
That’s no small feat, considering other things you’ve gone through to earn the rank of Gilded among the Templar Order. You’ve slaughtered Draugr with arcane lightning, fried entire mobs of zombies to cinders, and literally stormed the gates of the Hell dimensions - and that was all before you earned the middling title of Honored.
What you’re trying to say is that you’ve seen some shit.
It’s a shame that none of the assorted monstrosities you’ve encountered before have prepared you for the dripping, Filth-spreading abomination looming across the battlefield, the thing the Bees call ‘The Bird of the Zero-Point Pathogen’.
Or, as you and most other Secret Worlders know it, ‘Flappy.”
You are currently standing on a huge branch of a Yggdrasil, massive tree-like supercomputers that populate Agartha, the divine space within the Earth from which all life flows. In the distance you can see other enormous branches belonging to the same tree. Most of them are being choked by inky tendrils wrapping around them.
Flappy spreads its four membranous wings wide, and opens what passes for a maw, releasing a keening wail that grates against your skull like wendigo nails across a chalkboard. You clamp your hands over your ears and grit your teeth against the inherent wrongness of the sound, and through the edge of your vision you can see your allies doing the same.
The Filth’s getting bolder. The tar-like corruption had always festered and flared up across the world throughout history, but never before had it spread into the subterranean expanse of Agartha.
Into the heart of the world.
Flappy’s mere presence is testament to how deep-rooted the corruption has set in this region. You don’t even want to imagine what manner of monstrosity will show up if you allow the infection to grow. At its essence, Filth is more of an idea than a substance, and boy oh boy do you know that it can spread like one.
You are, of course, immune to its corruptive effects courtesy of the biomechanical Bee nestled along the underside of your brain. You know from experience that prolonged exposure to Filth will still kill your body, but thankfully that sort of thing doesn’t stick for the Chosen of Gaia.
As a matter of fact, you’ve already died twice in this battle, once as you were shredded into ribbons of flesh by its claws and once as you were bisected by a swooping charge. You imagine that quite a few fellow Chosen have died more than twice during the battle, and even now you can see a few as they run across the massive branches to rejoin the fight in fresh bodies. You hope to yourself that none of your colleagues have noticed; you have a reputation to keep, after all.
A voice calls to you, cutting through the roar of battle as more of a thought than a noise.
“Charlotte, it’s almost dead! Pin it down so we can finish it off!”
Its owner is Junko Mori, part of the front line against the beast and a terrifying close-combat fighter. A fellow Chosen and just about the only person in the entire Secret World that you trust to keep heavy-hitters off your back long enough for you to thoroughly carbonize them.

“Way ahead of you.” You ping back, and you flex both your hands as your will pushes Anima through your body, engulfing one in fire and arcing electricity between the fingers of the other. Meanwhile, you’re smiling as if it’s the most natural thing in the world to face reality-consuming aberrations with elemental death at your fingertips. You can’t help it. You love the part that comes next.

>> No. 182675
Your attacks join a prismatic barrage of fire, ice, lightning, and bullets from the other Chosen on the branch, crashing into Flappy’s sides with enough collective power to send it reeling. Once again, you feel rather than hear Junko shouting with her fellow brawlers as they charge Flappy’s recovering form and viciously tear into it with swords and sledgehammers and did someone really bring a chainsaw-?
And then Flappy roars again and slams against its attackers as it straightens up, sending a handful flying off the tree into the amber void and scattering the rest. You release a breath you didn’t know you were holding as you see Junko leap out of the way with centimeters to spare.
Then you choke it back in as Flappy rears up and flings coagulated javelins of Filth from its wings at the more distant fighters. The people around you scatter as a salvo arcs towards you, and you break towards the left, trying to shift into an intangible lightning state before the missiles land.
You almost make it. A spike of Filth punches through your right knee and sends you stumbling into another that lodges itself between two of your lower ribs before the magic goes off and you find yourself sprawled face-first a few dozen meters forward with two holes blown through you. You try to crawl upright and groan as you’re stopped by the hole where half your knee used to be.
This sucks. How are you supposed to burn anything in this condition?.
To your side, you recognize someone in a gas mask and a blue-black uniform crouch down and unload anima-infused hell through his rifle, covering the fighters injured by Flappy’s sweep. Abruptly, he turns to the side and fires once into Junko’s back, and she straightens up with renewed vigor.
“Hey, Caleb!” You ping at him. “Quit eating the eye candy and do your damn job!”
Caleb hardly looks at you as he waves his hand in your direction and a crimson jet of blood magic goodness splatters into you, regrowing your lost flesh in a matter of seconds.
“Thanks”, you say as you stand up. “Looks like there’s something Lumies are good for after all.”
“Stuff it, Charlotte.” is the response. “Save the cross-faction bickering for after the beast is dead.”
That’s Caleb Chandra for you, you suppose. Illuminati field agent, combat medic, and fun police. It’s a shame that not every Chosen appreciates healthy banter like you. Regardless, he’s right about one thing. Flappy needs to die, and the sooner the better. You raise your hands again as you channel the entirety of your Anima through your magical focus, leaving it glowing a dull red on your belt.
The sensation feels like the jagged weight of stormclouds pressing down the sky, like the snapping and hissing of a fire’s spreading glow, like the soundless stillness of moisture on a molecular level.
It feels powerful.
It feels right.
This time when you bring your arms down, an elemental storm flies forward. Flappy screeches as you break as many laws and constants of nature as you can for the sole intent of ending the monster’s mockery of life. The other ranged fighters follow your lead, and a second salvo strikes Flappy, simultaneously freezing, melting, burning, and blasting apart oozing chunks across its slithering body. You raise your hands again, and this time there’s no magic in their grip; just a pair of lovingly tooled Colt Single Actions. You sight Flappy’s head and blank your mind.
Your heart beats once.
The revolvers spit fire and death at a rate that would be impossible if you were firing mundane metal bullets rather than sparks of your own Anima at the monster, splitting off particles of your inviolate, Bee-bound soul. The bullets pulp Flappy’s flesh wherever they land, leaving football-sized cavities in the writhing blackness, but you’re not done yet. You bring your two guns together one last time and squeeze both triggers at once. A pair of bolts fly forward at speeds that blur the air as they streak towards their mark.
Your heart beats again.
Flappy’s head bursts like a rotten fruit, showering the vicinity in splatters of Filth that the brawlers are quick to jump away from. Tottering dumbly as if unsure whether to be dead or alive, the creature stumbles to the ground with a crash that shakes the World-tree down to its roots.
You and your comrades erupt into cheers and shouts of joy.
The combatants grin and wave their arms in the air, their weapons stowed and silent for the first time in hours. People mix and embrace with no thought of faction or affiliation: Templar, Illuminati, and Dragon all celebrate together on yet another Filth Guardian down. Junko and an unmasked Caleb disentangle themselves from the throng and make their way towards you. As they approach you, Caleb produces a bottle of champagne and a few plastic cups from somewhere on his person.
“Christ, Cale, were you seriously lugging that around for the entire fight?” You rib, even as you and Junko accept your cups from him.
“Don’t make that face. It was nice and safe the whole time.” He replies, filling his own cup before putting the bottle back into his inventory.
“I swear there’s something messed up with you. Give most people a pocket dimension for storage and they’ll put fun, interesting things in it.” You tease. “Yours is a glorified wine cellar.”
He shrugs and smirks. “Unlike you, I don’t have nearly enough guns to fill up mine. Might as well put the extra space to good use.”
“Are you two done with the ridiculous posturing yet?” Junko interrupts with a lopsided smile, offering up her cup. The three of you clink glasses before downing their contents in a single gulp.
You sigh contentedly as you finish your drink and toss the empty glass back at Caleb’s face, snickering a bit when he curses, scrambling to catch it before it hits the floor. Junko is enjoying the moment with a cigarette between her lips.
You feel good. Great, even. The task force has just brought down another Guardian and exposed a bit more of the infection for the Bees to clean. Already, you can see the nearby Filth stains shrink and evaporate into nothing even, revealing the golden wood of the Yggdrasil beneath it. A handful of the carousing fighters look like they’re ready to return to their headquarters in New York or Seoul or London to report their success and enjoy a well-earned break from the madness and conspiracy of the Secret World. There’s just one problem with this scene.
Flappy is moving.
>> No. 182676
For the briefest of moments, everyone stands stock-still, staring in disbelief at the shifting, groaning abomination. Junko’s face turns as white as the ash leaking from her dropped cigarette. Caleb is the one who breaks the silence, unslinging his rifle firing a grenade directly at one of Flappy’s limbs.
“MOVE!” He pulses with furious, desperate intensity to everyone present.
The next moment is filled with the sounds of guns being unslung, blades being unsheathed, and the scent of ozone filling the air.
“No no no no-” You hear someone blather before you realize that it’s yourself. Shaking your head, you sling your usual fire and lightning at the struggling form of the creature, but even as your attacks join the volley of force and energy raining down on it, even as its pseudo-flesh is blasted off, Flappy refuses to stay down. The monster manages to clamber up on its remaining three limbs and face the trunk of the tree. It raises an arm with too many elbows and brings it down with impossible force against the sacred bark.
In the process, you discover a sound that, somehow, is even worse than wendigo nails against chalkboard as you’re forced to the ground by the screaming, splintering protest of the wood.
Christ, you thought coming back from the dead was your schtick.
As you get back up, you grit your teeth and push all of your killing fury into dancing halos of fire around your hands. You throw them forward, and in place of a mere ball of fire, a river of flame issues forth, racing towards its mark-
and harmlessly splashing off the pockmarked side of the Yggdrasil alongside a dozen other attacks as Flappy slithers into the gash it carved in the wood. You and the rest of your compatriots stand in confusion with still-glowing gun barrels and magical foci.
“What’d it just do?” Someone calls out among the mental chatter.
Suddenly, a wave of nausea washes over you, worse than anything you’ve ever felt, including that time you barbequed an Egyptian plague golem comprised of flies. It’s the most you can do to avoid losing your lunch all over the branch you’re on. Judging from the wet noises you’re hearing around you, others aren’t so lucky. Caleb in particular sounds like he didn’t get his gas mask off in time. Whatever Flappy just did disturbed the Bees so much that it had all of you retching on the ground from your connection to them.
The fighters move closer to the trunk to examine the damage. The gouged-out openings shimmer with the same rippling effect on portal branches in the rest of Agartha that you use for global travel. Not one of the portals are large enough to allow Flappy, even it is wounded state, to pass. Looking at the hissing piles of black sludge around the trunk, it seems plausible that the beast shed most of its mass to escape.
Escape.
A Filth Guardian, escaping into the portal branches.
Oh shit.
That Filth-dripping cancer-of-worlds horror could be anywhere.
You’re already running out of time. Right before your eyes, the Yggdrasil is knitting itself together, oblivious to the abomination that jumped into it. You have seconds before the trail goes cold, and by the time the beast is tracked down again who knows how far the Filth will have spread-
Junko thankfully cuts through your paralyzed indecision by grabbing your shoulder and pushing you forward, with a still-retching Caleb supported by her other hand.
“What the hell are you thinking?” You shout at her even as the three of you stumble forward. “Forty of us died multiple times! There’s no way to fit enough people-”
“We don’t need forty!” She snarls back, without losing momentum. “We’ll follow it through to call in backup!.”
She’s got a point. You don’t need to kill it with a skeleton crew, just figure out where it’s buggered off to and call the cavalry to clean up.
You brush off Junko’s arm and dash towards the shrinking portal under your own power. Goddamnit. There isn’t going to be enough room for two people to go through the same portal at once, and not enough time to fit one person after another. Looks like you’ll have to rely on yourself for a while.
The portal you enter displays:
[] Pink flowers as far as the eye can see.
[] A vast expanse of green and yellow.
[] The glistening surface of a wide lake.
[] Dense screens of bamboo in every direction.
>> No. 182680
Something to consider: Having no line breaks between paragraphs makes the story really hard to read. That being said.

[x] The glistening surface of a wide lake.
To Misty Lake.
>> No. 182681
>>182680
My mistake. This is my first time posting on an image board and I don't yet know how to format properly.
>> No. 182683
TRANSMIT - The Ex-Taito Syntax - HALF-BLESSING - circa 1885 - RECEIVE - The Wonderland Frequency - CAUTION - abandon sense all ye who enter here - WITNESS - Gensokyo

You’re asleep.

Half-asleep, to be precise, that no-man’s land of consciousness where you weightlessly drift at the edge of wakefulness. You’re aware of your body and how it’s sprawled on top of something soft and yielding. It’s a nice feeling. You can’t remember feeling like this for a long time, at least since your Bee chose you and you started fighting back the Filth-

Filth.

Aw, shit.

Your body tries to do several things at once: your eyes fly open, your limbs scramble to flip you upright, and your hands grope around your belt to check on your weapons. The result is that you get one glance at your surroundings - the sandy shore of a vast lake - before your struggling flings sand into your eyes and you blindly belly-flop back onto the empty beach with your Elemental focus gripped in your hand against a non-existent threat.

At least nobody was around to witness that embarrassing display.

“Hey! She’s finally awake!” A youthful voice calls out from directly above you.

You slowly turn your head upwards until you come face-to face with a pair of children with bright primary-colored clothes and hair floating several meters above you.

Oh, and they’ve got wings poking out from behind their backs. Because today clearly hasn’t been ridiculous enough yet.

You take the chance to scan your surroundings, but you don’t see any distinguishing landmarks or signs of civilization. There’s not much in sight but the calm waters on one side of the shore and a lush green forest on the other. Maybe a speck of red on the far side of the lake?

Meanwhile, the blue-haired child grins and waves cheekily at you while her green-haired partner floats behind her friend a little. Unsure of what else to do, you wave back at the pair while clutching your focus.

“Watching you sleep was boooooring!” Blue-hair shouts at you. “We were going to throw you in the lake to wake you up if it took too long!”

Green-hair’s eyes widen a bit at this. “No no no, we weren’t going to do anything like that! Cirno just likes to make jokes!”

‘Cirno’? That’s the first time you’ve heard of a name like that. Is it Russian or something?

“Don’t worry about it,” you assure green-hair. “but I really need to know where I am right now. I’m lost and I need to find-”

“That’s weird!” Cirno cuts you off. “I thought you were from the Outside at first, but then I got closer and you smelled kinda like me, so I thought that maybe you were a really fat fairy or something, which would mean that you’re from here, but I guess that you’re from the Outside after all!” she declares with pride. “Did you see that, Dai? I’m getting good at de-duck-ting!”

Well, she mentioned that she was a fairy. That would help explain the floating and the wings, but not the rest of their appearance.

“Are we in Iceland?” You venture, racking your head for known Fey population centers. “Scotland? Wales?” It doesn’t seem like appropriate weather for any of those places, though.

This time, it’s the fairies that look at you with confusion on their faces.

“We’re in a whale?” Cirno asks, with an expression of growing horror. “DAIYOUSEI!” She yells while shaking green-hair by the shoulders. “WE GOTTA GET OUT OF-”

Daiyousei sends Cirno plummeting from the sky with a hammerfist to the head.

“Oww,” Cirno whines as she pulls herself off the sand. “Miss, Daiyousei’s hitting meeee.”

In all honesty, you’ve never been great at dealing with small children, fairy or no, and you don’t consider the possible start of a Filth outbreak a good time to start.

“Look,” you say as you drop to Cirno’s eye level by kneeling. “It’s very important that you tell me where I am right now. A lot of people could get hurt if I’m not fast enough.”

“Oh.” Says Cirno, the fairy brightening up straight away. “That’s easy. You’re in Gensokyo!”

Gen... sokyo? You feel like the name’s vaguely Japanese, but you’ve never heard of any place. ordinary or occult, with that name. Still, it’s something to go by. Maybe someone else knows more about this place than you do. You reach inward to whisper the name through your Bee into the shared thought-space of the Chosen-

And that’s when you make two equally chilling discoveries.

The first is that your mental inquiry is met with total, deafening silence. You’re cut off from the divine light of Agartha and Gaia.

The second is that there’s a roiling mass of darkness silently bearing down on the three of you from the trees behind Cirno.

WHAT DO YOU DO?

[ ] FIGHT. Filth is a threat to everything right in the world, and Templars don’t run and hide from corruption.
[ ] Ask Cirno and Daiyousei to find help. At the very least, you can buy them time to escape..
[ ] Ask Cirno and Daiyousei to help fight. You don’t know where the others are and need all the help you can get.

[ ] FLIGHT. You’re in no condition to fight Flappy, however weakened it may be.
[ ] Stick together with Cirno and Daiyousei. You’re not leaving anyone behind. Nobody deserves Filth
[ ] Split up. At least one of you needs to warn the rest of this place about the threat, and the fairies should know the place.
>> No. 182684
[X] A vast expanse of green and yellow.

Garden of the Sun, maybe? Not sure about the green.
>> No. 182685
[ ] FLIGHT. You’re in no condition to fight Flappy, however weakened it may be.
[ ] Stick together with Cirno and Daiyousei. You’re not leaving anyone behind. Nobody deserves Filth
>> No. 182686
[ ] Stick together with Cirno and Daiyousei. You’re not leaving anyone behind. Nobody deserves Filth

I don't know what a lot of this means, but fairies.
>> No. 182687
[X] FIGHT. Filth is a threat to everything right in the world, and Templars don’t run and hide from corruption.
[X] Ask Cirno and Daiyousei to find help. At the very least, you can buy them time to escape...
>> No. 182690
[X] Ask Cirno and Daiyousei to find help. At the very least, you can buy them time to escape..

[X] Stick together with Cirno and Daiyousei. You’re not leaving anyone behind. Nobody deserves Filth
>> No. 182698
[x] FIGHT. Filth is a threat to everything right in the world, and Templars don’t run and hide from corruption.
[x] Ask Cirno and Daiyousei to find help. At the very least, you can buy them time to escape..

PRO TIPS FOR PROS:
http://www.touhou-project.com/gensokyo/res/6052.html
Read it, love it, live it.

Some tips relevant to the immediate situation:
THP is a very slow imageboard. Only leaving ~3 hours between updates is gonna cut a lot of people out of the votes.
Also, you really don't want to burn yourself out. It's quite common for stories to go weeks, or even months, between updates. Obviously it sucks for the readers when they do, but everyone would rather a story go into temporary hibernation rather than, y'know, die. Take it easy!

Also, most imageboards ignore whitespace at the start of a line. If you wish to indent, use a dash.
[ ] Like
- [ ] this
- [ ] maybe.
>> No. 182699
[X] Stick together with Cirno and Daiyousei. You’re not leaving anyone behind. Nobody deserves Filth
>> No. 182703
[X] FIGHT. Filth is a threat to everything right in the world, and Templars don’t run and hide from corruption.
[X] Ask Cirno and Daiyousei to find help. At the very least, you can buy them time to escape..
>> No. 182723
Calling vote in favor of:

[X] FIGHT. Filth is a threat to everything right in the world, and Templars don’t run and hide from corruption.
- [X] Ask Cirno and Daiyousei to find help. At the very least, you can buy them time to escape.
>> No. 182776
[X] FIGHT. Filth is a threat to everything right in the world, and Templars don’t run and hide from corruption.
- [X] Ask Cirno and Daiyousei to find help. At the very least, you can buy them time to escape.


You’ve done a lot of things in the field that you aren’t proud of, but letting children die in your stead isn’t one of them.

Damned if you’ll let that change today.

The inky mass is almost out of the treeline by now, and some primal part of your brain screams at you to run for your life. It’s voice is drowned out by the crackling electricity around your fingers.

Cirno and Daiyousei gasp - at you or your imminent doom, you’re not sure -but there’s no time to worry about bad first impressions.

“Cirno, Dai, Run!” You shout at the pair of fairies before turning to face the darkness. You’ve got no illusions about your chances of victory against Flappy. It’s not a question of if you’ll suffer a gory death, but rather when you will.

As your lightning arcs into the center of the blackness, you just hope that you can distract it long enough for the fairies to escap- did Flappy just squeal?

The scraps of shadows lingering around the blast site dissolve to reveal the prone, singed, and sporadically twitching form of a young girl with blond hair.

The only thing you understand about what just happened is that you now need a drink. When you find Caleb, you’re taking his entire stash.

Your alcoholic musings are cut short by a whiff of cold air from behind you. You turn around just in time for Cirno’s supercooled missile to knock you down. With most of your lower body encased in ice, you’re in the perfect position to observe a furious Cirno flailing at you against Daiyousei’s grip.

“STOP HURTING RUMIA, YOU IDIOT!” Cirno roars at you before digging her elbow into the green-haired fairy’s side. Now free, she plummets towards you with all the momentum she can muster.

Which is a lot, if the cracking sound from your ribs is any indication.

“Hold on, Cirno, I just-” you try to explain, but a combination of being divebombed and the blue fairy now pummeling your face stymie your efforts.

“Thought-you-were-in-danger” You splutter between punches. Cirno doesn’t seem to be listening, however, with her eyes scrunched up and her voice overpowering yours.

“STUPIDSTUPIDSTUPIDSTUPID-” She shouts.

Damn kids. You suppose that this is what you get for trying to play hero.

You flick your hand, shattering the ice pinning you to the ground with your own elementalism and grab Cirno’s forearms as you come up, interrupting her barrage of ineffectual punches.

“Cirno! I’m sorry! I thought that thing was going to kill us!” You say, trying to placate the puffy-eyed fairy.

Cirno responds by headbutting you back onto the sand before pouncing on you again.

Before she can resume her attack, both of you freeze as a dull groan interrupts your scuffle. The blond-haired child responsible for the cloud of darkness seems to be stirring while being propped up by Daiyousei, with the fairy shooting both of you nasty looks.

You exchange angry glances with Cirno before the two of you pick yourselves off the shore and make way towards Daiyousei.

“How bad is she hurt?” you ask Daiyousei while doing your best to ignore Cirno’s death glare. The amount of power you put into that attack could have sent an elephant into cardiac arrest, but you’ve got a sinking feeling about little girls from this ‘Gensokyo’.

Daiyousei shakes her head. “She’s okay. I think she justs needs to sleep for a while.” She says. “Why’d you hit her so hard?” She asks, eyes narrowing at you.

So many questions. You’re supposed to be tracking down a Filth monster, not playing twenty questions with fairies.

“I promise that I’ll tell you, but can we get moving for now? It’s really important that I find whoever’s in charge around here.” You say.

Cirno and Daiyousei hesitate, probably looking at the focus on your belt, before Daiyousei grabs the fallen girl’s shoulders and Cirno hoists her legs. Together, the three of you travel along the lakeside, with the two fairies floating noticeably above reaching height.
>> No. 182778
“What’s your name?” Daiyousei pipes up after a bit.

Thinking it over, you decide that there’s no harm in giving them your name. “Charlotte.” You answer. “Call me Char if you like.”

“So, Charlotte, why’d you hit her so hard?” Daiyousei asks again. “I know that Outsiders don’t know danmaku, but that was kind of scary.”
Cirno nods. “I’ve only seen magic like that from the oarfish lady before, and she’s from heaven! Are you sure you’re a human?”

“Mostly.” you say, which earns you a matching set of questioning looks from both fairies. “It’s complicated and now isn’t a good time to discuss it.”

Cirno pouts at this. “Come ooon. There are lots of weird people in Gensokyo. You’ll fit right in!”

“Anyways, like I was trying to explain earlier,” You say with a meaningful look in Cirno’s direction, “I’m chasing something very, very dangerous that happens to look a lot like your friend did. When she came out of the woods at us, I thought that she was going to eat us.”

Cirno and Daiyousei both fidget a little at the last bit.

“Look, I’m sorry that I hurt your friend-”


“No, I think I can see why you did that. It’s, uh, I’ll tell you about it later, okay?” Daiyousei offers. “Anyways, thanks for trying to help us. Not many people around here would stand up for fairies.” she says, smiling at you.

Heh. Dai looks pretty sweet when she’s smiling. Despite yourself, you’re starting to like these ‘Gensokyo’ fairies. Much less stab-happy than the Welsh ones.

“It‘s because fairies don’t need anyone to stand up for ‘em.” Cirno mutters. Daiyousei nudges her friend with perhaps a little more force than necessary, prompting a hasty “Thank you” from the blue fairy.

Your party continues on in silence beneath the afternoon sun. You eventually come across a dirt road by the lakeside, and as you follow it, the red speck you saw in the distance resolves into a stately mansion of red brick. Apart from the massive clock tower, it feels like it wouldn’t look out of place in the Scottish countryside where you spent your childhood. Then again, since joining the Templar Order you’ve spent far more time razing such buildings to the ground than admiring them.

You were also whisked away to London when you were six, but you don’t want to think about that right now.

“So, are we going to that mansion over there?” you ask, breaking the silence.

“No, but I think Rumia lives around here.” Daiyousei responds, as your group comes to an intersection in the road. “’I’ll go drop her off and come back for you.”

“I appreciate the gesture,” you call after Daiyousei as she flits away with Rumia in tow, “but I don’t need an escort.”

“Oh yes you do!” says Cirno as she plants her hands on her hips. “Do you have any idea what sort of stuff comes out of the forest at night?”

“Not apart from Rumia. Can you tell me?” You ask back.

Cirno visibly deflates at that. “Um, no. I actually don’t know too much about most of them. See, most of the really nasty ones can’t fly.” To illustrate her point, Cirno floats higher in the air, her crystal wings glinting in the fading sunlight.

You make a mental note to figure out flight. Nevermind how practical it is, being outclassed by a fairy stings.

“Well, it’s too bad that I don’t have enough time to learn flight magic.” You retort. However, you do have a pair of forty-five caliber surprises for anything that tries to surprise you.

Or rather, you should. Your fingers close over empty space above your holsters as your mind fruitlessly rummages through your inventory. Your best pair of pistols, guns you crafted with your own hands and used to reduce archdemons to hamburger, are gone.

Oh no.

You distantly hear Cirno’s voice. “Hey Charlotte, are you okay? Your eyes are getting kinda twitchy.”

This shit does not fly.

---

There will be a thorough inventory check at the beginning of the next update.
WHAT DO YOU DO?

[ ] Drop everything and look for your pistols. More than just sentimental value, you need the firepower, and they’re probably at the lakefront.

[ ] Calm down and stay with the fairies. You’re not going to accomplish anything with a wild goose hunt, and you have a very urgent matter to take care of.
>> No. 182779
[X] Calm down and stay with the fairies. You’re not going to accomplish anything with a wild goose hunt, and you have a very urgent matter to take care of.
>> No. 182780
[X] Calm down and stay with the fairies. You’re not going to accomplish anything with a wild goose hunt, and you have a very urgent matter to take care of.
>> No. 182781
[X] Calm down and stay with the fairies. You’re not going to accomplish anything with a wild goose hunt, and you have a very urgent matter to take care of.
-[X] Highlight the situation for them. Try to be simple in your explanation, but get the point and importance of your mission across. Right now, they're the closest thing you have to allies and support in this area, so they might as well know what's going on.
>> No. 182784
[X] Calm down and stay with the fairies. You’re not going to accomplish anything with a wild goose hunt, and you have a very urgent matter to take care of.
>> No. 182789
[X] Calm down and stay with the fairies. You’re not going to accomplish anything with a wild goose hunt, and you have a very urgent matter to take care of.
>> No. 182856
Calling vote in favor of:

[X] Calm down and stay with the fairies. You’re not going to accomplish anything with a wild goose hunt, and you have a very urgent matter to take care of.
- [X] Highlight the situation for them. Try to be simple in your explanation, but get the point and importance of your mission across. Right now, they're the closest thing you have to allies and support in this area, so they might as well know what's going on.
>> No. 182870
[X] Calm down and stay with the fairies. You’re not going to accomplish anything with a wild goose hunt, and you have a very urgent matter to take care of.
[X] Highlight the situation for them. Try to be simple in your explanation, but get the point and importance of your mission across. Right now, they're the closest thing you have to allies and support in this area, so they might as well know what's going on.


Deep breaths. Calm down.

You bring yourself back to reality one long breath at a time. Cirno seems to have moved closer during your moment of panic, and is currently hovering around your eye level.

“You okay?” Cirno asks, concern etched across her face.

“Yeah.” You respond. A thought occurs to you. “Cirno, did you take anything from me before I woke up?”

“No!” Cirno huffs at your question. “Although I would have taken that stupid doll if I knew what you were going to do with it!”

Hey, it’s not a doll, it’s a sophisticated piece of occult enginee- wait, back it up. You’re not about to debate Elemental foci design with a fairy, are you?

“Fair enough.” You admit while patting yourself down to check the rest of your kit.

You’re still wearing the wargear you had on during the fight in Agartha: A gold-trimmed red and white greatcoat crafted from the hide of a Nemean Lion. A masterwork of both mundane and magical engineering, what it lacks in raw protection it makes up for with a number of subtle enchantments that fine-tune reflexes and maximize your killing efficiency.

As an added bonus, blood doesn’t stain the fabric, which is great because you’re pretty sure that it would be a nightmare to wash the whole thing.

Next are your various occult talismans, lesser objects of power that enhance your magical potency and resilience. You’re pleased to see that they all remain active, undamaged, and attached to your person.

Of note are a Wabanaki dreamcatcher on your belt, an arcane battery of Soviet make on a pendant, and a bracelet you made using ‘liberated’ Rakshasa fingerbones.

To the untrained eye, it must look like a particularly tacky assortment of jewelry and trinkets. To the trained eye, well, it doesn’t look much better, but you don’t really care. You’d almost wear a clown suit into battle if it helped you kill things faster.

Everything you were wearing seems to be in order - surprising, given the fact that there were two fairies watching you for who knows how long. If they were like any other fairies involved, you’d probably be hanging upside-down from a tree branch or something.

Something to consider at a later time, you suppose.

Still, most of your stuff is stored in your inventory, and while you don’t think that something of Cirno’s power could get in there, you might as well confirm for yourself.

“I need a moment, alright?” You tell Cirno. “I’m going to look for something real quick. Please don’t disturb me unless Dai comes back.”

Cirno hesitates for a brief second, then nods and floats up a bit and starts scanning the trees.

As much as you want your pistols back, you have to admit that now is a terrible time to lose sight of priorities. You’re alone in unfamiliar territory with no idea whatsoever where Flappy is, and every second you spend could mean the difference between saving the place or having to atomize it.

You close your eyes, pace your breath, and look inward.
>> No. 182871
The world is reduced to the impossible, abstract landscape of your soul.

It’s hard to tell where you end and the Bees begin- you’re pretty sure that the big metal buckyball belongs to you, but that seems to be it. The only other features are the chunks of amber orbiting the spheroid, the honeycomb built over its struts, and the glowing, golden core in the center of it all.

You reach out to the rings of amber and they respond to your approach, each particle singing across the imagined distance as they converge upon you and resolve into the contents of your inventory.

There’s not as much as you’d like. Then again, you could hardly have expected this to happen.

Your list of immediately relevant supplies amounts to one flare gun, three “Daisy-Cutter” satchel charges, a number of inferior Elemental foci, your Anima conduit, and a Benelli M4 shotgun.
Taking hold of the latter two items, you withdraw from the thoughtspace just as you distantly register a tugging sensation on your arm.

You blink your eyes open to find Cirno pulling your sleeve with Daiyousei floating some distance away with a confused expression.

“You are the weirdest human ever, you know that?” Cirno says. “And that’s saying something.”

You shrug. “Eh. Weird is fine when normal gets you wiped out.”

Your group continues moving down the dirt path as the sun crawls ever lower in the sky.

“So Daiyousei, what did you mean when you said that people don’t stand up for fairies around here?” You ask.

Dai’s wings flutter in agitation at your question even as she tries to hide the discomfort on her face. “Well, lots of people around here think that fairies are pests. You know, loud, dumb troublemakers?”


You nod. If you’re being honest, you’ve only met a handful of fairies that didn’t fall into that category. You’ve always let the problem cases off lightly singed, but-

“So they kill us.” Dai continues.

Wait.

Hold up.

You stop in place as you digest that.

“People around here... just kill you guys? What the hell?” You growl between clenched teeth. That is not cool. You’re seriously beginning to question the worth in protecting this place.

“It’s not as bad as you think!” Dai hastily adds. “You see, we come back when we die. So really, it’s not that bad, please don’t shoot more lightning at people-”

“Oh.” You say, anger deflating. “Kinda like me then.”

The two fairies are giving you that look again as the party resumes walking.

“I suppose I should tell you more about me.” You say.

You go on to summarize your status as a Chosen: The Bee in your head, your ability to channel and manipulate Anima, your regenerative and ressurective properties, and your inventory.

For their part, Cirno and Dai pipe up with interesting tidbits on some of the local occult creatures. The colloquial term appears to be ‘youkai’, and a significant number of them appear as children of around elementary-school age. Oh, and they can all fly.

Next, you tell them about your mission. You try to give enough information to express how serious the threat is without sending them into a panic or leading you to a psychiatric ward.

You elect to leave out information concerning your Templar affiliation for now - you’re far from the best diplomat around, but even you have to recognize that you ought to respect the ‘secret’ part of secret society.

If anyone asks about the big red cross on your coat front, you’ll have to hope that they think it’s a fashion statement, you suppose.

The thing about your job is that by the time you’re needed on the ground, there isn’t a point to hiding the Secret World anymore- either it’s become pointless to hide the existence of the occult from the survivors, or there are no survivors.

You don’t want to dwell on what this implies for the future of Gensokyo.
>> No. 182872
Cirno and Dai don’t seem to be too worried or suspicious right now, though, since both fairies are enthusiastically finishing off a pair of chocolate bars you produced to demonstrate your inventory.

By now, the three of you have left the woods, the path winding between countless rice fields as the setting sun paints the water orange and indigo.

“So that’s why you didn’t mind getting your ribs cracked.” says Cirno through a mouthful of chocolate. “It’s too bad. I thought I had finally found someone as tough as me!”

“Ah, stuff it, you blue-haired baby.” You tease, lifting a few strands of Cirno’s hair using static cling. Cirno yelps and clamps her hands over the dangling hairs, wings ringing like windchimes behind her.

“We’re almost at the village, Charlotte.” Dai announces, indicating a growing mass of hard angles and lit windows. “There’s only a few more minutes to go on foot. Cirno, could you-?

“Leave it to me!” Cirno declares, and zips down the path and across the fields towards the lights of the village.

“What’s she off to?” You ask.

“Well, the thing you told us about. Filth?” says Daiyousei. “It sounded really important, and Cirno knows Miss Keine. She protects the village, so she needs to find out as soon as possible.”

Sounds like a plan to you.

“Hey, Char?” Dai ventures after a moment. “I was thinking about something Cirno said before. Sometime right after you woke up?

Huh? Oh, that part about “smelling like a fairy” or something?

“Yeah.” Dai nods. “Now that I think about it, You do feel a lot like a fairy. Especially when you do something like shoot lightning.

Well that’s interesting. You don’t exactly enjoy being compared to a fairy, but the Gensokyo variety seems very different from the sort you’ve dealt with. While most are immortal in the sense that they don’t die until something kills them, you haven’t heard of any that resurrect.

You’ll have to leave this thread of thought behind, though, because it looks like there’s a welcoming committee at the village gates. You spot a grinning and waving Cirno, a blue-haired woman wearing something that resembles a Christmas present on her head, and one familiar face.

Caleb.
>> No. 182874
You know, not to be picky, but you know you can probably fit all three of those posts in one post, right? THP's post size limit is rarely reached.
>> No. 182879
Your face breaks into a grin as you catch sight of your favorite combat medic and you rush towards him.

He hardly has time to react before you’ve swept him into a bear hug and given him a solid thump on the back.

“Cale, you lucky bastard! It’s good to see that you made it.” You say, laughing as you turn to face the polite smile of the blue-haired woman.

“Pleased to make your acquaintance.” You say, offering your hand. “I’m Charlotte McGallagher.”

Don’t think about the hat don’t think about the hat don’t think about-

“I like your hat.” you blurt out before you can stop yourself. You notice Cirno double-take at you from behind Keine.

“Thank you.” Keine says, a small smile creeping up her face. “Welcome to the Human Village, Charlotte.” the woman says, returning your handshake. “I am Keine Kamishirawa, the protector of this community. Caleb has informed me of the situation.”

She has a nice handshake, you decide. Not at all limp, but not vice-like or too vigorous. Firm and confident, like that of Richard Sonnac, your liaison with the Templar Masters. It’s clear that you’re dealing with a strong leader.

Caleb speaks up. “Now that introductions have been taken care of, let’s get to business.”

“Junko isn’t here?” You ask.

Caleb shakes his head. “I saw her go into a portal before me, so she’s probably somewhere here. I didn’t see her when I got dumped into the bamboo forest, so I was hoping that she’d be with you.”

Well, that sucks.

“Anyways,” Caleb follows up, “we should discuss our business in a more appropriate place.”

Keine nods, and the five of you pass by the village guards without further incident.

Interesting. Either the villagers are all incredibly nearsighted, or they just aren’t bothered by the two fairies floating through the air in front of them.

You all remain silent as you travel through the busy streets of the village. Most of the buildings seem more or less old-fashioned and Asian in style, but you keep passing distinctly western structures here and there. Similarly, the villagers themselves seem to typically wear relatively mundane clothes of simple cloth and muted colors, but you occasionally spot figures dressed in all manner of outlandish clothing.

The feeling you’re getting is that this place is some kind of patchwork, like some drunken, reality-distorting community planner borrowed a good amount of the buildings and people from other places and times.

Or maybe you’re just leaping to conclusions. One rule of thumb that’s served you well is that things can get really strange in Japan.

After a bit of walking, your entourage reaches the front gate of a well-kept mansion, and Keine opens the door for the group.

Within the walls you see the very picture of a proper Japanese estate, with a carefully manicured garden and even one of those odd fixtures that go ‘doink’ every few seconds. Through the windows you can make out a few servants milling about, but none of them step out to greet the group.

You whistle appreciatively. “This is a very nice home you have, Miss Keine.”

“Thank you, but it isn’t mine.” she replies. ‘It belongs to a friend of mine, Hieda no Akyuu. She is currently out on business but has graciously allowed us to use it for now. Anyways, we should be able to talk freely in here.” Keine says as soon as the gate shuts. “The estate has a number of privacy and security enchantments that should be useful for tonight’s security conference.

Conference?

“Cale, just how many people did you guys invite?” You say, exasperation creeping into your voice. “This isn’t a slumber party, you know.”

Caleb’s cool demeanor doesn’t change. “It’s alright, Charlotte. As you’ve surely noticed, what is typically considered abnormal is seen in this village as ordinary.

“Alright, fine, but the Secret histories-”

“Actually, both I and Akyuu are aware of the Secret histories.” Keine offers. “Though I would imagine that our understanding as outsiders may be limited compared to yours.”

“Quite.” Caleb says. “Continuing with what Miss Keine has said, most if not all of the figures we have summoned here are aware of the Secret world. It seems that some of them have participated in it.”

What.

“Um, what’s this secret stuff that you guys keep talking about?” Cirno butts in. “And why do you always say the ‘secret’ part differently?”
>> No. 182880
“Um, what’s this secret stuff that you guys keep talking about?” Cirno butts in. “And why do you always say the ‘secret’ part differently?”

After coming to an heated and whispered agreement with Caleb and Keine, who turns out to be their teacher, you all sit down on the porch and spend the next half-hour or so giving Cirno and Dai the spark notes on the Secret world.

You are a member of the Templar, a society that sees itself less as a participant in ‘the war on evil’ and more as the war itself.

Caleb is a member of the Illuminati, with their hardball, corporate perspective on both the occult and mundane.

Junko is a member of the Dragon, fixated on refining their indecipherable equations that let them peer into causality.

While the big three have clashed for millennia, they have always put aside their differences in order to battle Filth. And that’s the rundown of what’s brought you here.

The fairies sit in silence for a few moments. They’re not laughing you off or calling you crazy like most normal people try to do at first, which you take as a sign of encouragement.

“Loo-men-naughty. Huh. I wonder if they have anything to do with the youkai in charge of the Underground.” Cirno muses.

“I highly doubt it.” Caleb replies. “I didn’t know that this place existed until maybe three hours ago, and I doubt that anyone else did. I gotta give props to the people who sealed this place off.”

“Sealed? This place is a pocket dimension?” You ask.

“Of sorts.” Keine answers, before producing a small book from a pocket on her dress and passing it to you. “This is a copy of the Perfect Memento in Strict Sense.” she says, pausing for a moment before adding: “An unedited, unabridged copy. It should give you a very good idea of Gensokyo’s history and major inhabitants.”

You flip the book over and glance at its author.

Hieda no Akyuu.

Well, it looks like you’ve figured out how she pays for her mansion.

You leaf through the pages of the book, skimming over most of the entries but stopping at ones marked with symbols of warning. Which is most of them.

Is this an occult bestiary or a fashion book?

For whatever reason, virtually every individual appears to be depicted as an attractive woman wearing some sort of physics-defying, frilly, brightly-colored dress or a hat that looks like it belongs in a video game. Or both.

Oh, and every last one of them can fly. You conclude that whoever sells bloomers around here must be rolling in money.

Then you get to reading their descriptions.

By the time you put the book down, you’re all but trembling against the wood of the porch.

“Cale?” You say.

“Yeah?”

“Who on Earth thought that packing a pocket dimension full to bursting with the most dangerous occult creatures was a good idea?” You explode. “I mean, Christ, this place should be nothing but rubble twenty times over by now! Have you taken a look at what some of these things can do?”

“As a matter of fact, I have” He responds, eyes flitting skywards. “though it looks like we’ll be able to see for ourselves soon enough.”

What does he mean by tha-

You follow his gaze to see almost a dozen women slowly descending from the sky towards the front gate. You recognize some of the faces.

Your heart skips a beat.

Keine and Caleb rise to their feet, and you do the same.

“It looks like the delegates have arrived.” Caleb says, his voice terse, stoic, unemotive.

He only sounds like that when he’s terrified.


WHO ARRIVES?

Note: The four characters with the most votes will arrive in person. The remainder will send a liaison in their place. You can vote for up to four different characters at once.

[ ] Byakuren
[ ] Toyosatomimi
[ ] Kanako/Suwako
[ ] Satori
[ ] Eirin
[ ] Remilia
[ ] Yuuka
[ ] Cirno

[X] Reimu
>> No. 182881
[x] Byakuren
[x] Toyosatomimi
[x] Kanako/Suwako
[x] Yuuka
>> No. 182882
[x] Satori
[x] Remilia
[x] Yuuka
[x] Cirno
>> No. 182883
[X] Satori
[X] Eirin
[X] Remilia
[X] Yuuka

Having a mind reader and Yuuka in the same room just sounds wonderful. ...And Remilia, for that matter. One could be plotting how to take advantage of it, while the other could be plotting a horrible joke and/or some form of torture, depending on if fanon is in play! Satori is just plain fun to have around, too. And having a vampire around would likely be at least a little awkward for the secret worlders, as they have been to Transylvania.
>> No. 182885
[x] Suwako
[x] Satori
[x] Remilia
[x] Cirno
Pettanko brigade, assemble!
>> No. 182886
[x] Suwako
[x] Satori
[x] Remilia
[x] Cirno

>>182885
I laughed much more than I should have at this, so it gets my vote.
>> No. 182889
Unlike the others on that list, Cirno is currently confirmed to be within the same room as us. Thus; her losing this vote would turn her character into some sort of haughty bitch who feels she needs a liaison to traverse the five feet between her and everyone else.

I can't let that happen.

[x] Suwako
[x] Satori
[x] Remilia
[x] Cirno
>> No. 182891
>>182889
The reason I was imagining is that Keine and Dai get worried about Cirno's childishness irritating the other characters and making them less likely to take you seriously.

That's not to say that such an outcome will necessarily happen, but Dai, who would stay in Cirno's place, is definitely more level-headed.
>> No. 182892
I'm interested in hearing any feedback you guys have to give me. I worry in particular about the story making no sense and the writing itself being bothersome to read.

Since I'm getting votes and none of you have told me otherwise I'm going to assume that I'm doing okay.
>> No. 182893
[X] Cirno
[X] Satori
[X] Eirin
[X] Kanako/Suwako
>> No. 182894
[x] Remilia
[x] Cirno
[X] Eirin
[x] Byakuren
>> No. 182897
>>182892

Story makes sense and isn't bothersome to read.
>> No. 182904
Current Tally:

Satori: 5
Remi, Suwako, Cirno: 4
Yuuka: 3
Eirin: 2
Byakuren & Toyo: 1
>> No. 182905
[x] Satori
[x] Suwako
[x] Remilia
[x] Yuuka
>> No. 182912
>>182892

You have skill as an author. You are doing a crossover I have wanted to see for quite some time, and I'm loving every minute of it.
>> No. 182931
I'm going to be calling the vote at around 8PM EST, which is around 3.5 hours from now.
>> No. 182933
Top five are:
Satori: 6
Remi, Suwako: 5
Yuuka, Cirno: 4

I get the feeling that it's bad etiquette to vote in my own story, so I guess I'll call it on the next vote that breaks the tie between Yuuka and Cirno.
>> No. 182934
[x] Satori
[x] Suwako
[x] Remilia
[x] Yuuka
>> No. 182935
[x] Satori
[x] Suwako
[x] Remilia
[x] Yuuka
>> No. 182936
And that last double was my mistake. Womp womp.

Enjoying the story, keep up the good work.
>> No. 182937
Calling vote in favor of the following characters arriving in person:
Satori
Suwako
Remilia
Yuuka

The following characters have been sent as liaisons:
Ichirin
Futo
Tewi
Daiyousei
>> No. 182952
>>182937
I hope you're going to run with >>182889.
>> No. 182954
>>182952

OP's "Cirno is an idiot and can't be trusted" explanation makes sense as for why she would take the backline in this situation though. I don't want to see him force his characters out-of-character just to appease us readers
>> No. 182960
Calling vote in favor of the following characters arriving in person:
Satori
Suwako
Remilia
Yuuka

The following characters have been sent as liaisons:
Ichirin
Futo
Tewi
Daiyousei

Keine and Caleb seem better suited to making the requisite greetings, so you stay back and watch the visitors file in through the gate. Some of them give you interested looks. In particular, you catch the nun with her pink nyudo partner and the girl with bat wings lingering over the red cross on your coat.

Recognition flashes in their eyes.

It seems that only half of the figures that were invited arrived in person. Byakuren, Toyosatomimi, and Eirin aren’t here. That’s disappointing - there’s no telling how bad the Filth could get if it isn’t dealt with soon enough. Still, they did at least send stand-ins, which suggests that they think your warning deserves attention.

However, a certain shrine maiden isn’t among them.

Cirno snaps you out of your introspection. “Char, I think that I should go home.”

That gets your attention. “Right before the meeting? Are you sure?” you ask.

Cirno nods. “You already told me about Filth on our way here, so I can go back and warn the other fairies. ‘sides, a lotta those guys are jerks.” she says, casting a baleful glance at the group by the door.

“Alright,” you say. “Just promise me not to tell anyone else about the ‘Secret’ stuff. My boss’ll get mad.”

“Promise!” Cirno shouts in a singsong voice before taking off over the walls of the garden.

“What about you, Dai?” You ask, turning to face the remaining fairy.

“Um, I think I should stay.” she responds, squirming in her seat. “At least one fairy should hear about this, and I think that the others won’t mind me as much as Cirno.”

“You don’t sound too sure about the last part.” you point out.

“Sorry, it’s just- It’s just that this is the first time I’ve been close to so many really strong people at once. It’s kind of scary.” Dai says.

You can commiserate. Temple Hall is packed to the brim with people that give nightmares to unholy monsters for a living. Your latest promotion ceremony had so many of them present that it took the better part of your grit to keep your knees from knocking together.

“Don’t worry about it.” you say, patting Dai’s head. “You’re a good kid for staying.”

Daiyousei beams up at you.

It’s at this moment that Hieda no Akyuu appears from the front door and formally invites the crowd inside. The dozen-or-so of you are led by the purple-haired child through the halls until you come to a room with a large, round table surrounded by hardback chairs.

“Charlotte, it may be a good idea to leave our weapons at the door. Diplomatic gesture.” Caleb pings to you.

You’re not eager to leave behind your only means of defense while surrounded by this much power, but you have to admit that it’s not like they’d make a difference. The green-haired one - Yuuka, you recall - is speculated to outclass the rest of the room several times over.

Anyways, Caleb’s mental ping raises an interesting question: Your mental link has given you nothing but silence the entire day, so why is it working now?

“There’s not enough time for a thorough answer, but my guess is that communication range is much lower, and we’re cut off from the rest of Agartha.” Caleb answers.


Well, that’s just brilliant.

“Wait a moment. You invited someone here - Satori. Satori Komeiji. Her Memento entry said that she’s a telepath.” you ping back.

A pink-haired head smiles from the middle of the crowd. Satori gives a slight wave right at you.

Fuck.

You can almost hear Caleb’s mind sighing. “We’ll just have to think happy thoughts or something. Nothing else we can do about it for now. Still, it’s a tool we can use during the meeting.”

You take off both your shotgun and your foci and leave them in full view against a wall. Caleb unslings his Sig 550 rifle and detaches a pair of gauntlets, adding his two weapons to the stack before taking a seat with the rest of the delegates. You choose a spot to the left of Keine, putting her between you and Cale. For her part, Dai settles into the chair to your left.

You note with considerable pleasure that the servants are pouring tea for the guests. It’s probably green tea, but hot damn could you go for a good brew right now.

“Interesting how the natives are sitting.” Cale pings.

“What do you mean by that?” you reply, taking a deep drink from your cup.

“Bad blood between the Buddhists and Taoists - Ichirin and Futo are putting distance between themselves, but not too much. Three people sitting between them, any less and they’d be too close, any more and they’re in each other’s field of vision.”

You take a look for yourself. The hooded nun is sitting ramrod straight in her chair, Unzan floating out of the way behind her. Meanwhile, Futo has adopted a similarly stiff position. Both seem determined not to look at the other.

“Good observation. Anything else worth noting?”


“Nothing definite.” comes the answer. “Although... you see those two people? The green-haired one in the red plaid, and the vampire girl with the maid behind her?”

“Yeah, what about them?”

“I’m pretty sure that they’re making our mind-reading friend uncomfortable.” Cale pings.

Satori’s eyes flick over to Caleb, but betray no other sign of acknowledgement.

“Personal history?”

“Possibly.” Caleb pings. “Can’t rule it out. Also possible that they’re thinking about something nasty. Whatever the case, I’d keep an eye on them.”

The only sounds for a few moments are the scraping and settling of chairs as the women take their seats around the table. Then Keine’s voice.

“Thank you all for coming.” she announces. ‘I regret the short notice, but a matter of grave importance for all of Gensokyo has been brought to my attention.”

“Perhaps you might tell us more about how this threat was discovered.” the vampire says, voice cool and smooth. Like a silk glove over undead skin.

“Of course. Close to three hours ago, Fujiwara no Mokou escorted this man out of the Bamboo Forest of the Lost.” Keine says, indicating Caleb. “According to her, this Caleb said that he and a two associates were separated when they pursued a dangerous creature through a portal.”

“I find it difficult to imagine this creature posing a threat to Gensokyo.” Remilia answers, not even looking at Keine. “What is threatening for fairies and humans is trivial for any of us with real power.”

“Great. Less than a minute into the meeting and already the vampire is ruining things.” you ping Caleb.

“Perhaps not. I think she’s needling us, wants to see how we react under pressure.” he pings back.

“You misunderstand the nature of this threat, Lady Remilia.” Caleb says, turning to face her.

The vampire folds her hands together and leans closer with a false smile on her face. “Then ‘enlighten’ me, servant of the eye.”

Caleb stiffens. Every pair of eyes is watching him. The blue pyramid on his coat catches the light.

“Do your masters think us fools?” Remilia continues. “Trying to worm their way into a realm yet untouched by their mountain of sins? None of the societies are welcome anywhere in Gensokyo.” She looks at you for a moment, eyes glinting crimson.

Ichirin chimes in. “The Myouren Temple has had a thousand years to reflect upon who sealed us. It is a thousand years too early for us to trust the Templar once more.”

“They clearly weren’t around thousands of years ago.” Keine says, frustration creeping into her tone, “So they cannot answer for what has happened in the past. I assure you that neither of them are here on society business.”

“So the Templar, the Illuminati, and probably the Dragon all show up at the same place at the same time, and you expect us to believe that this isn’t another power grab?” asks Suwako. She’s reclining with her arms supporting her head and her legs propped on the table, the most irreverent god you’ve ever seen.

This is crazy. Feels like only half the little girls in Gensokyo are actually girls- the rest are gods or darkness monsters or vampires or you don’t-even-WANT-to-know in disguise, acting like little girls.

“Actually, that brings up a good point.” the girl with rabbit ears - Tewi - speaks up. “Where is the Dragon’s agent?”

“I was hoping we could get to that later.” Caleb says, cutting through the muttering around the table. “For now, Lady Satori, can you confirm that neither I nor my associate have any subversive goals here?”

The room goes silent for a few seconds as Satori closes the eyes on her face. Her external third eye instead swivels around to stare directly at you-

-and you feel Satori digging through your thoughts and memories like a strip mine goddamn can’t she be more delicate-

-and then turns to face Caleb, releasing you to sag in your chair. You’re too busy appreciating not having your mind rifled through to laugh at how Cale’s whole body locked up as the eye focused on him.

“They’re genuine.” Satori announces with a straight face, third eye retreating beneath the table. “Speaking of which, have any of you heard of something called ‘Filth’?”

That shuts them up.

Yuuka finally speaks. “Filth? In Gensokyo?”

Caleb grimaces as he recovers. “Yes. Filth, Nergal’s Rot, the Black Death, Anti-Anima, the Eater...” Caleb ticks off a list of names. “Whatever you choose to call it, it’s here, somewhere. That’s one of the reasons we have a fairy with us. Think of how quickly it could spread if it got into one of them. They'd be horrifically effective disease vectors.”

Dai grabs your hand, shaking. You squeeze back.

Around the table, you notice a few other faces reacting to the awful news.

Keine shows nothing but grim determination. Caleb explained the situation well to her.

Akyuu looks about ready to have a heart attack.

Remilia pales even further. Sakuya places a hand on her mistress’s shoulder from behind.

Suwako has dropped the child act and is watching with a cold, calculating intent.

Tewi’s face doesn’t show anything beyond casual disinterest, but her ears are twitching.

Yuuka is also impassive, but you can see disgust and fury pooling behind her red eyes.

However, a number of others seem unimpressed. Ichirin, Futo, and Satori don’t seem to be reacting at all.

Maybe she's just got a good poker face.

You frown. You can see how the first two, having been sealed for centuries, might have missed information, but Satori just went through your memories. You know for a fact she looked at the ones involving Filth because you were reliving everything she was.

“Has Yukari been informed?” Yuuka asks, eyes narrowed.

“The Yakumos aren’t exactly easy to contact.” Akyuu says.

“That’s right” Keine confirms. “Everyone here is all that could be reached so soon. For similar reasons, we are still waiting for Higan, the Netherworld, and Heaven to respond.”

Remilia seems unsatisfied with that answer “Then what about Reimu? One of the greatest threats to Gensokyo’s safety, and she just decides to not show up? That’s too impertinent, even for her.”

“I’m going up to the shrine after the meeting.” Keine says. “We can worry about it later.”

You don’t like the sound of that, but you suppose that it’s better to focus on the problem in front of you. Right now, that happens to be convincing the Buddhists and Taoists that there is a problem.

“This ‘Filth’ you speak of. It is just a name to me.” Futo says, arms crossed. “I remain unconvinced.”

Ichirin nods assent. “Byakuren will need proof that it even exists before we take action.”


“That is unfortunate.” Caleb says, exasperation beneath his words. “Filth is highly corruptive and contagious. It twists everything it touches into an insane mockery of itself. Presenting it to you in any form would be horribly dangerous.”

“If Filth is a disease, then surely the Lunar doctor-” Ichirin begins.

Tewi interrupts her. “Filth ain’t a disease. It ain’t even a substance, really. Sometimes its a liquid, sometimes it’s a fog or a sound or a symbol on a wall.” Her ears flick. “If it gets on you, sometimes if you just look at it, even Eirin can’t help.”

“Too convenient.” Futo declares. “You warn of a terrible threat and in the same breath deny that it can be confirmed.” The immortal in white shakes her head. “Too much like a Templar’s fumbling attempt at subterfuge.”

You stop paying attention. Keine and Caleb appear to be arguing with Futo and Ichirin, but you just feel like throwing your hands up in defeat. Your preferred strategy for inter-faction disputes consists of eliminating every other side with maximum prejudice. Now, you’re trying to save everybody, and some of them are being real bitches about it. You wish that there was a simple, easy way to show them.

Wait. There is.

It’s the same way that you were first introduced to the Filth: reliving the memories of Sarah, a Chosen present on Ground Zero for the Tokyo outbreak.

She was still sane and coherent the last time you saw her, but just barely so. It turns out that having hundreds and hundreds of people forcing you to relive your desperate struggle against horrors from outside reality isn’t good for your health.

Still, it continues to be the only effective way to inoculate new Secret worlders against the Filth. You also know that any Chosen can access those memories in a one-way information transfer from virtually anywhere, even in the few places isolated from Agartha.

You ping your idea to Caleb.

“Normally, I would say no, absolutely not.” he pings after a moment of hesitation. “I mean, Sarah’s gone through too much already. But right now? We need Ichirin and Futo to believe us, and I’m all out of nice ways to do make that happen.”

That seems to be an implicit ‘yes’ from Caleb.

You’re about to open your mouth and make the suggestion when you spy Satori gesturing at you.

She’s looking right at you and shaking her head.

---

WHAT DO YOU DO?

[ ] Showing is better than telling, and Sarah’s memories of the Tokyo attack can be used to indisputably demonstrate Filth without risking infection. While having the entire group view it will be a great strain, it is unlikely to inflict greater long-lasting trauma.
What’s a bucket of water after a rainstorm?

[ ] As tempting as the idea is, there’s no telling what sort of trauma you might cause Sarah if you cram everyone into her head.

- [ ] Do your best to explain conventionally. Quite a few of the other groups represented here have encountered it.

- [ ] Don’t bother trying to convince the two. It’s clear that they will be liabilities, and you did try to warn them.
>> No. 182961
- [X] Do your best to explain conventionally. Quite a few of the other groups represented here have encountered it.

I have no idea what half those options mean.
>> No. 182962
[x] As tempting as the idea is, there’s no telling what sort of trauma you might cause Sarah if you cram everyone into her head.
- [x] Do your best to explain conventionally. Quite a few of the other groups represented here have encountered it.

What's the normal course of action the Societies take when dealing with factions that refuse to acknowledge the threat posed by Filth?
>> No. 182963
[X] As tempting as the idea is, there’s no telling what sort of trauma you might cause Sarah if you cram everyone into her head.
- [X] Do your best to explain conventionally. Quite a few of the other groups represented here have encountered it.

We haven't done much more than flip through Gensokyo for Dummies. Satori knows these people and deals with them at least semi-regularly, not to mention the whole mind-reading bit. She thinks we shouldn't do the thing? We probably shouldn't do the thing.
>> No. 182964
[X] As tempting as the idea is, there’s no telling what sort of trauma you might cause Sarah if you cram everyone into her head.
- [X] Do your best to explain conventionally. Quite a few of the other groups represented here have encountered it.

Might as well bandwagon. Although, I feel as though it might be a waste of time trying to convince the taoist. She probably wouldn't trust the words of anyone in the room, what with them either being secret worlders or youkai, save for Akyuu. However, the buhdist might be able to be convinced with some help.
>> No. 182970
>>182961
Option 1: You take the entire group into Sarah's memory of battling Filth. Proves Filth beyond a doubt, but probably inflicts great mental stress on an already traumatized person. Satori seems to oppose this action. Note that there is no risk of infection when viewing Filth through a Chosen's memories.

Option 2a: Don't go into Sarah's memories, attempt to persuade Futo and Ichirin. This avoids the likely stress of having a dozen-odd people marching through her head but limits your ability to express to Futo and Ichirin the threat that Filth poses.

Option 2b: Don't go into Sarah's memories, don't attempt to persuade Futo and Ichirin. You think that you've done all that is reasonably possible. If they insist on being liabilities, they will have to face the consequences.

---

I hope that this is a good summary of what the different choices represent. If you found the original options confusing, I guess it would be fine if you want to change it. Just reply to your old choice with a new one.

Of course, if you're totally new to TSW as a whole... then I'll try to do a better job of introducing its lore.
>> No. 182971
>>182962

Society SOP for dealing with parties that do not recognize the threat posed by Filth:

Kill them.
The idea is that leaving that sort of people alive will just result in more of a mess later on, and all societies have demonstrated that they aren't afraid to get their hands dirty.

Of course, that isn't exactly practical in Gensokyo, since any sort of 'lethal' force will be met with overwhelming resistance from the entire community. Imagine an ancient Greece vs. Persia scenario: Once the external threat is great enough, people put aside their differences in order to survive.

Needless to say, the three Secret Worlders here don't have nearly enough firepower for that option to be even remotely viable.

Now usually when there's a Filth outbreak, there's a tacit understanding that it's better to be safe than sorry. Remember that Filth can be transmitted in a number of different ways, so just because that guy didn't touch the oozing black pus doesn't mean that he's clean. There are tests that can be done to detect Filth infection, but they are fallible and the consequences of even one slip up are so costly that SOP is to kill everyone with a reasonable chance of exposure and annihilate the corpses.

Now, there are a number of countermeasures against Filth.

Sacred Geometry: Basically occult urban planning, the patterns formed in/by certain areas enable magic that repels or attracts certain things. Most major cities have SG that wards against strong occult activity, which also comes in handy at limiting Filth transmission.

Gaia Engines: More of a preventative measure than an actual cure. These giant machines operate on the principal that the Filth is merely the tool of another party - the Dreamers. Filth is merely their desire, their dream to consume and subvert all of creation. With that in mind, GE's actively inhibit Dreamer activity by lulling them into a sort of 'slumber', with catastrophic consequences if they awake.

Agartha Guardians: Footsoldiers of Agartha. Chosen (player characters), Custodians (clockwork golems), Bees, etc. Basically anything that manifests on a physical level and fights Filth. Immune to Filth infection, but not indestructible.

Anima Infusion: The only known treatment for Filth Infection, and it's only worked once. As such, there isn't that much data on it, but it seems that if a person isn't too far gone (i.e. horribly mutated and insane), direct and sustained doses of Anima can drive out the Filth and restore the victim.

---

I think that covers the basics. Its possible that I missed some stuff, though. Basically, SOP will not work here.
>> No. 182972
>>182964

The Child of Miare has been around for a long time. Something like 1200 years, thanks to her reincarnations? She's had direct contact with the societies, though she's never been directly affiliated.
>> No. 182973
[X] As tempting as the idea is, there’s no telling what sort of trauma you might cause Sarah if you cram everyone into her head.
- [X] Do your best to explain conventionally. Quite a few of the other groups represented here have encountered it.


Sounds like the best option to me.
>> No. 182976
The Child of Miare clearly has understanding of what is going on here given her reaction, if the two factions are unwilling to listen to her I would be incredibly surprised - she is the closest thing to reincarnating pure human that Gensokyo has, her input should be above reproach.

This will be interesting.
>> No. 182977
I'm a bit confused, can't we just take Futo and Ichirin into Sarah's mind and leave the rest? Why do we have to take the entire group?
>> No. 182978
>>182977

Fuck, that's something that I overlooked. Good point. I'd be willing to accept this as a write-in.
>> No. 182979
Then the smart thing to do would be to think that at Satori and she if she still disapproves before falling back on conventional arguments.
>> No. 182981
>>182971
>Of course, that isn't exactly practical in Gensokyo, since any sort of 'lethal' force will be met with overwhelming resistance from the entire community. Imagine an ancient Greece vs. Persia scenario: Once the external threat is great enough, people put aside their differences in order to survive.
They also put aside their morals and excise any weaknesses. The Secret Worlders don't need to kill anyone; they just need to ask Yuuka nicely to do it for them.
>> No. 182984
I'd like to posit that viewing the dream may also be risky in Gensokyo -- what is normal outside of the barrier is definitely not while inside of it.

The barrier of such things is weaker here, or at least it is in my mind.

Satori is someone who I think is easily able to judge people (for obvious reasons). I would trust her judgment here.
>> No. 182986
>>182981
That's a good point. However, I imagine that the situation would have to greatly deteriorate for infighting to break out.

Certain groups like Myouren Temple and Sendai are intense rivals, but they've also united against threats in canon.

Also, if your neighbors are eliminated, they're liable to show up again twisted by the Filth, which really sucks. Though I suppose that they're fair game for Yuuka to spark at that point.

Just hope that Yuuka doesn't get Filthy.

What I take this to mean is that even the most bitterly opposed or survivalist groups in Gensokyo will at least hesitate before directly harming another group's prospects of survival.

Gensokyo is small. Filth will spread everywhere in it if not beaten back at every step.

There may be no predicting how people will react to the end of days. Some ignore the borders set by faction to stand together. Others throw their comrades to the gaping maw to save themselves.

Gensokyo's future might just come down to who you can trust and who trusts you. Dark days are upon us, but that's no reason to let the light gutter out.
>> No. 182987
I'm not familiar with the source material (though I've heard good things about the puzzle design and this story has pushed me to check it out), but couldn't we show them our memories of watching this other person's memories?

[x] Satori probably knows these people better. If she still doesn't like the different ideas, stick to conventional explanations.
>> No. 182990
>>182987

Or our memories of like....30 minutes ago?
>> No. 182991
[x] Satori probably knows these people better. If she still doesn't like the different ideas, stick to conventional explanations.
>> No. 182992
What I want to know is, who the fuck is this Sarah person?
>> No. 182993
>>182992

I just kinda figured it was an aspect of the soure material that the fans understand. Still...inflicting mental trama on random, unexplained background characters ain't my style, ya dig?
>> No. 182995
>>182987

Your ability to share your own memories with non-Chosen is much more limited. The Bee in your brain protects against mental attack and subversion (like Filth corruption), but it does so by encoding your thoughts in such a way that only other Chosen can understand them. However, Sarah's memories of Filth in Tokyo are not subject to that limitation: They've been almost blasted free of her mind, making them easily accessible and minimally-encoded.

Travelling to Agartha is fatally traumatic for non-Chosen. Direct mental connections with those who have been touched by Agartha is painful and blinding.
>> No. 182999
>>182995

>encoding your thoughts in such a way that only other Chosen can understand them

Yea....except Satori can understand them just fine. Most fanon depictions of Satori claim she is actually reading a person's heart, not their mind...so perhaps that's how she gets around the Bee.
>> No. 183000
>>182999
Fuck. I keep digging myself into deeper holes. It's never clearly explained how player characters in TSW access Sarah's memories, which forces me to explain how.

Maybe Satori Youkai get a pass - mind reading is pretty much all they've got in terms of unique supernatural abilities, so they develop that one ability very well. Well enough to leaf through a Chosen's thoughts.

No-selling Satori's powers on Caleb and Charlotte felt too... easy on them. Like, "Hey guys I'm an outsider that's just dropped in and already I'm an untouchably powerful chosen one." I don't like seeing Mary Sues. I want to see comparatively ordinary people forced to use their wits and resolve, not OP power levels, to turn a bad future into a good one. Satori being able to listen in on them is an example of something they will have to work with or work around.

---

So that's how I feel about it. I don't know if I'm going about executing that sentiment in the best possible way, but I am trying and I am grateful when these contradictions are pointed out to me. This is the first time I've written a story for an audience. Maybe I should spend more time editing.
>> No. 183006
>>183000
Having people theorizing about the mechanics in your world is one of the best signs you can have as a writer of interactive things. It means they don't just see your story as a collection of dramatic events stitched together by premade choices, they see it as a functioning world where with enough ingenuity, you can do almost anything. You may not think you're able to make a story that versatile, and you're probably right. But all you have to do is make it appear that players can do anything, and then figure out what happens when they decide they want to try to murder Reimu or learn to fly or whatever. In a lot of cases, the answer will be 'you don't know how to do that', 'that would be a really dumb thing to do, given what this character knows', or 'that's physically impossible, even with magic/super-tech/both'. That's okay. Restrictions such as these keep the story grounded in logic and requires players to think about how to achieve what they want to do.

Of course, I make it sound like the story's going to go all over the place. Generally, this won't be the case. As long as you provide an immediate problem to go along with a vote, people will focus on resolving that in the best way possible. If you give a number of options (where to go next, what ability to train in), people will vote on that and perhaps toss in their own ideas.

I've gone off on a tangent, though. The existence of a contradiction you could only have foreseen and fixed by thinking way too much about the mechanics is something nobody reasonable will hold against you. Coming up with an explanation often works, and even if it doesn't it's no more a big deal than the contradiction was. Explaining why it is in terms of story is also a good idea. One other method is to just let readers speculate about it until they find an explanation you like and just use that. Readers want your story to make sense just as much as you do, and they'll happily toss out theories to explain things You probably shouldn't ignore it until somebody comes up with an idea, as it's also a good opportunity to interact with the readers.

Having typed probably too much, my theory is that whatever technology does the telepathy is based on satori anatomy or something, and thus Satori is somehow able to act as an 'admin'.
>> No. 183010
I'm going to be calling the vote approximately 16 hours from now. To clarify:

If you vote to enter Sarah's memories, it will cause Sarah non-negligible mental stress but will indisputably prove the threat of Filth to Futo and Ichirin. There is no risk of infection from this action. It may be wise to take Daiyousei with you. While unlikely to inflict long-lasting damage to Sarah, there may be consequences for overloading her.
Satori shrugs when you think this at her. You get the impression that she's uncomfortable with it, but would be fine with you taking 3-4 people rather than the entire 13.

If you vote to explain conventionally, you, Caleb, and the other parties in the room will do the best they can to verbally persuade Futo and Ichirin to take the threat seriously. This does not strain Sarah's mind, but is less persuasive than showing. (Not a guaranteed failure, just not a guaranteed success).

What is being considered here is the best way to prepare Gensokyo in the shortest amount of time. The three of you (the third is still missing!) can't hold down the entire place by yourselves.

If you want to change your answer in light of new information, just reply to your old vote.
>> No. 183011
>>183000

I dunno. Being immune to mental attacks kinda seems like the only thing that makes chosen different from normal humans who can do magic. It's not OP if their abilities only hard counter one or two touhous.
>> No. 183013
>>182999
>>183006
>>183011

I'll do my best to resolve the problem posed by mind-reading and the mental immunity of the Chosen.
>> No. 183015
Why don't the Templar just video tape a filth attack? Seems like it would save this Sarah chick a lot of trouble.
>> No. 183018
>>183015
It's possible to become infected just by perceiving Filth. Holding on to a direct depiction of Filth would be like carrying used needles in your pocket: Bad idea.

Filth can spread memetically: Ingame, the Bees give you an example of a trucker that reads graffiti on a wall and becomes infected by Filth. He reproduces the writing along his journey, infecting more people. Text, images, sounds, they're all fair game.

The longer explanation is that Filth isn't the transmitter, it's the transmission. There are beings outside this reality that want in. They are known as Dreamers, and Filth is their desire, their dream of subjugating and consuming all creation made manifest. When Filth is concentrated enough, it warps space, opening a portal to the Dreamers.

That is bad.

There are countermeasures in place against Filth intrusion, but at the rate things appear to be going it's a matter of time before everything's buried under tentacles and tar.

Still, struggle hard enough and some chance at victory may appear. None of the big three are giving up their planet without one hell of a fight, and Gaia still has a few surprises left in Her.
>> No. 183020
How can you say MC is overpowered when there are apperantly several touhous here immune to filth infection without having a Bee? Also, if filth spreads so easily, why would we risk including the Touhous who don't already know? How can we be sure their resistance to filth is such that they won't become an immediate liability?
>> No. 183021
>>183020

As far as I know, Filth is one way or the other. You're either immune, or you're not. I mean, I could be wrong, as I'm only to Egypt in the game, but still. Also, knowledge of its very existence doesn't seem like it could be on the list, or else those in the room would be infected. Although, I do wonder what would happen if Akyuu were infected. Would the next child be fine?
>> No. 183022
>>183021
From what OP is telling us of Filth, nope. The fact that each incarnation retains the memories of the previous would mean she'd be infected, probably while still in the womb.

Frankly, Gensokyo is a nightmare scenario for containing a memetic infection. It's geographically small, pretty much everyone can fly, and everyone of any import who gets infected will be shitting Filth-laden concussive confetti all over the place.

Unless Filth is forced to play by spellcard rules, the whole place is fucked from the beginning.
>> No. 183023
>>183022

Spell Card rules are 100% voluntary. Youkai are "encouraged" to obey them so they don't get their ass kicked or their powers sealed into a tiny ribbon on their head.

So...which one of you guys wants to be the one to go ask the Dreamers to play nice?
>> No. 183024
>>183020
There are non-immune characters that are able to fight against Filth. The Orochi under Lisa Hui in Egypt are able to contain the Ankh, and Danny Dufrense's "League of Monster Slayers" had some knowledge of Filth without being infected. Clearly, there has to be something stopping Filth from just covering the planet in a radio signal and infecting everything.

Filth has appeared and been contained before. It spread across Europe as the Black Death, but Europe's still around. Unless Chosen were doing all the work back then, that implies that there are effective ways for ordinary people to combat Filth.

The vast majority of Touhou characters are not immune to Filth. Some maybe be resistant, while others may be vulnerable. Tewi, Remilia, Suwako, Yuuka etc. are all occult beings that have been active in the outside world for centuries, and have at least some understanding of Filth and how to deal with it. They are unlikely to be infected without a lot of struggle.
>> No. 183025
Calling vote in favor of conventionally explaining the threat.
>> No. 183026
Annoyance flashes through your mind.

You’ve dealt with Filth before. You’ve waded knee-deep in the stuff as you put its victims out of their misery one bullet at a time. For Christ’s sake, you once flipped off a Dreamer in its own realm. You know what you’re doing.

But with or without telepathy, Satori knows the people in this room better than you. After all, you’ve only been in here for less than a day, and most of your knowledge came from reading Akyuu’s book. If she thinks that taking Futo and Ichirin into Sarah’s memories is a bad call, you’ll respect that.

At least for now.

“On second thought, going into Sarah’s mind may be a bad idea.” you ping, not taking your eyes off the pink-haired girl.

Satori smiles at you, lips forming a thin crease.

“Well, how else do you think we can convince them?” comes Caleb’s aggravated response. “Futo and Ichirin are convinced that we’re trying to make a power play, and while I have to admit they’d be right any other day, them being wrong right now is going to cost everyone.”

He’s losing patience- you can tell just by paying attention to the way his mental pings feel. More than that, you sense a genuine fear for the people here.

For all the shit you give him, Cale has always been strangely soft-hearted for a Lumie. You just hope that it doesn’t catch up to him one of these days.

In any case, he’s right about one thing: You’ll never make enough progress with just the words of two outsiders.

Satori picks up on what you’re thinking.

“Futo, Ichirin.” she says, interrupting their heated exchange with Keine, “Let’s assume that you are right, and that these two Outsiders are here to seize control of Gensokyo. Why in the world would everyone else in this room be agreeing with them if that was the case?”

The hermit and the nun both grow quiet at this. Ichirin’s eyes seem to flit between the various faces, as if trying to find a conspirator among them. Behind her, Unzan roils as if agitated. You think. You’re not sure how to read cloud body language.

“Please forgive my earlier brashness,” Ichirin says, cowed, “Anything that requires such united effort is not beneath our attention.. I will hear what you have to say.”

Futo doesn’t speak - the Buddhists and Taoists seem to dislike agreeing with each other - but she nods.

Caleb outlines the basics of the situation while Akyuu transcribes his words: A description of Filth, its effects, and how it spreads, a description of Flappy, an overview of your abilities as Chosen, and how you arrived in Gensokyo. Both the hermit and the nun pay attention, but you don’t feel the same quiet urgency that’s radiating from the other natives.

“A claim most exotic.” Futo says, reading over the notes. “Though I admit my ideas of normalcy have been greatly challenged since arriving in Gensokyo. This Filth can spread without substance?”

Caleb nods. “The most common form resembles tar. However, like Tewi has said, it can appear in a number of forms, all of them dangerous. It could be a symbol on wall that someone sees and is compelled to copy.” He pauses. “It can be a sound. Your leader is known for her ability to hear the desires of others. She could be vulnerable.”

“Impossible.” Futo objects. “The crown prince is a statesman and warrior without peer. As a Hermit, she has transcended death and disease. No corruption can touch her.”

“Perhaps that was once the case,” Caleb says, deflecting the issue. “but Filth adapts. It finds new ways to infect, and almost everything is vulnerable.”

“On the contrary,” Yuuka interrupts, “the Great Hakurei Barrier should prevent non-physical manifestation of Filth.”

“How do you know that?” you ask. You can feel the curious looks of the others at the table.

Yuuka responds with the least reassuring smile you’ve seen in a long time. “Take my word for it. I’ve had a long time to examine the Barrier.”

Not the most persuasive argument you’ve heard, but all you see is Satori giving Yuuka an odd look before returning to her usual almost-bored expression. If Yuuka is hiding the truth, you’re sure that Satori would react more.

But like Caleb said, Filth adapts. She might have her facts wrong. If she is lying, Satori might be hiding her reaction out of fear.

You almost groan. So much paranoia and uncertainty- it’s almost like being back in Temple Hall. You’ll just have to ask Satori in private.

Silence reigns. Your tea’s gone cold by now.

Ichirin speaks up. “What can be done to fight it, then? If just hearing it can be enough to infect someone, it is foolish to send anyone against it.” Unzan seems to whisper in her ear. “Are you certain that there is no cure for the infected?”

“There is only one potential cure.” Caleb begins. “Anima transfusion. We can’t guarantee that it will work. The premise is that we flood the patient with large amounts of Anima and burn out the Filth. But there’s a lot that can go wrong .” Caleb says, drawing a diagram on blank parchment.

“To begin with, the victim can’t be too far gone, and you need to gather and contain an enormous amount of Anima without it dissipating or blowing up. You’d have to infuse all that Anima into the patient without either killing them outright or getting the source contaminated, and even after all that trouble it’s unclear if you can save all of the patient’s memories and cognitive functions.” Caleb concludes, passing his writing over to Akyuu.

“Prevention is better than treatment is what we’re getting at.” you offer.

“Yes, although that’s a cavalier way of putting it.” Caleb says, frowning.

Dai tugs your sleeve. “What does this mean for fairies? Since we come back when we die.” she whispers.

You consider her question for a moment. “Depends. You keep your memories when you come back, right?”

Daiyousei nods, trembling.

“I hate to say this, but any fairy that gets infected is going to stay that way. I think that’s what Caleb was getting at earlier.”

Dai looks about ready to faint. Poor kid.

“Anyways, I believe Ichirin brought up the question of defence.” you say, changing the topic. “It’s possible, but complicated. First things first, you don’t need to be a Chosen to fight Filth. Of course it helps a lot, but people have been dealing with outbreaks since Sumer, and there weren’t a lot of Chosen back then. The basics come down to rotating your fighters so they don’t spend too much time close to Filth, using Anima in your attacks, and to always watch for traitors or carriers.” you say, going into further detail about each topic.

Remilia raises her hand. “You speak of carriers. Is it possible to determine if someone’s infected before it’s too late?” she asks.

“Well, anyone who’s infected proper is beyond help.” you say. “But if you’re referring to the people around them, there are tests you can run. Caleb and I can scan a person for Filth if you bring them to us.

Remilia seems displeased by that answer, but accepts it. “Any other guiding principles?” she asks.

You think about it for a moment. “Be relentless.” you say. “Hunt down and burn every trace of infection with Anima-charged fire.”

You catch Yuuka smile at this from the corner of your eye. Satori gives the Flower Master that odd look again, but otherwise remains stoic.

“Now that the basic rules have been established, I think we should start planning Gensokyo’s defense.” Caleb says. “Is there a large map I can use?”

Akyuu furrows her brow. “Not one we can use for planning. I can try making a rough copy-”

“I got it, shorty.” Suwako interrupts as she places her hat on the table.

“Short? Well, you’re one to speak-” Akyuu’s grumbling is cut off as the googly eyes on the hat glow and project a geopolitical map of Gensokyo on the wall.

Huh. It’s a good thing you didn’t comment on Suwako’s hat. At this point you wouldn’t be surprised if she shot lasers from it.

If Cale’s as weirded out by the hat as you are, he isn’t better at hiding it. “That’s... helpful. Thank you, Suwako.” he says.

Suwako grins, and you all get to work. Your group rearranges the chairs so that you all have a good view of the projection.

A number of points of interest are soon identified. The first is the Human Village, which is more or less in the center of topside Gensokyo. There’s the Scarlet Devil Mansion, which you connect with the estate you saw on your way here. Other names get pointed out on the map: Eientei, Youkai Mountain, the Garden of the Sun, Myouren Temple, and Sendai. Other places are more difficult to locate: Higan and Hakugyokuro are both pocket dimensions themselves.

“Pocket dimensions in pocket dimensions. Incredible. Possible strongholds?” you ping to Caleb.

“Don’t know. Filth might be able to bypass Sanzu river or Nethergate.” he replies. “Also, I think you die if you stay in either place too long.”

That’s disappointing.

You look to your side - Dai seems to be having trouble with the scope of the plans. Not for lack of trying - you can almost see the steam coming from her ears - but maybe just limited by fairy brainpower.

“Hey” you say, nudging her. “You don’t have to worry about this on your own.”

Dai gives you a weak smile. “I know. I just hope that miss Keine and miss Yuuka will be alright.”

Hm. Your reading suggested that the overwhelming majority of Gensokyo is scared shitless of Yuuka. Why does a fairy, bottom-rung youkai, care for her well-being?

‘Oh? Aren’t you afraid of the big bad flower youkai?” you tease.

“Don’t talk about Yuuka like that!” Dai pouts. “She lets me and Cirno and Rumia play in her fields.”

Soft spot for children, then? That’s interesting.

Dai goes on. “She’s a nice person. Unless you mess up her plants.” The fairy shudders. “Then she stops being nice and starts being scary.”

You glance at Yuuka, who’s discussing something with Remilia. If she’s overheard your conversation, she isn’t indicating it.

The last areas of interest are underground: the Ancient City, the Palace of Earth Spirits, and the Former Hell.

“Speaking of Hells,’ you speak up, “does Gensokyo have an actual one?”

“Could you be referring to Makai?” Yuuka asks.

“I might be. Is Makai a barren wasteland with a toxic atmosphere and populated solely by demons?”

“It was for some time after I invaded it along with Reimu, Marisa, and an old friend.” Yuuka says with a hint of pride. “Though I imagine that its creator has been busy restoring it.”

“Hold on.” you say. “Hell? Creator? Restoring? That’s big news.”

Keine looks interested. “Could you explain why that’s the case?”

“Well, I’ve been to Hell. There’s no restoring what it once was.” You shrug. “It’s an entire dimension that’s been condemned to die a slow death from Anima deprivation. As for the things that created Hell, before it broke down...”

You’d like to pursue that train of though further, but it’s just been derailed. Specifically, it’s been derailed by a blonde girl in a black dress with a matching hat who must have climbed in through a window while you were all facing the map, and is in the process of picking through the gear you and Caleb left against the wall.

A small gasp tells you that Daiyousei also sees her, but it appears that nobody else does apart from Satori. She looks content to let you make the first move.

“Miss Charlotte?” Keine’s voice sounds distant through the rush of blood in your ears. “Is everything alright?”

No. But it soon will be.

“Thief picking through our stuff. Raise your voice, cover my approach.” you ping to Caleb.

To his credit, Caleb’s face registers only a second of confusion before his usual professionalism reasserts itself and he picks up the slack.

As for Satori, you don’t need to be a mind reader to feel how eager she is to see what comes next. You’d guess that she has some unfinished business with the person you’re about to smack down.

“Oh, don’t worry about my colleague here, miss Keine.” he says, exaggerating both volume and enunciation. “She’ll be fine! Now, Suwako, I don’t suppose you could expand your hat’s projection a bit?”

Attention now back on Caleb and the map, you creep forward the thief. She seems to have resolved her dilemma of choosing which of your weapons to steal by stealing all of them.

After carefully securing your gear to prevent it from clanking together, she rises up, eyes darting over to check the main group-

And now her eyes are bulging out, courtesy of your hands around her windpipe.

“Drop my stuff.” you order, and you hear the rest of the room turn around to look. “Now.”

The thief reacts with admirable composure for her situation by immediately punching your throat.

It might be your imagination, but you think she goes a little bluer as she registers just how much effect (none) her attack had on you. But you’ve had enough play. You draw her in as you bring your forehead down, and your skulls connect with a satisfying crack.

She’s sent sprawling against the floor, with two items dropped on the way that you hurry to pick up. The first is your shotgun. The second is a peculiar, octagonal object with occult markings on it. A magical focus of some sort?


“Give that back!” the thief cries.

Wow. You’ve got to give her credit - she’s been choked, headbutted, surrounded and probably disarmed of her main weapon, and even now she’s clambering to her feet.

“Drop the rest of my kit and I’ll let you go.” you retort.

“My Hakkero.” she growls, brandishing a vial of something volatile-looking. “Give it back. Now.”

“I’m aiming a shotgun right at you.” You point out. “You’re not going to throw that in time.”

“You’re bluffing.” the girl sneers at you. “I checked. You don’t have any shells in-”

She’s interrupted by your slug of Anima. The non-lethal shot slams into the thief’s center of mass, knocking her to the ground while the vial sails out of her grasp and through of the window. By the time it explodes, you’ve got your boot planted on her back and your shotgun leveled at her head.

You also register that you can no longer hear the ‘doik’ of the odd contraption outside. You hope that Akyuu won’t mind.

Remilia snickers from behind you. “My, my. At long last, it appears that you’ve picked the wrong person to steal from, Kirisame.”

---

HOW DO YOU PROCEED?

[ ] Aggressively: Now more than ever, you need to be equipped for what’s coming ahead. Casual murder isn’t your style, but she doesn’t need to know that. After all, you can’t guarantee that the next shot will be nonlethal if Kirisame doesn’t cooperate and explain herself.

[ ] Leniently: You’ve already made your point: Kirisame is beat, making now the perfect time to play the graceful victor. There’s no need to continue this unpleasantness, especially not with witnesses around..

[ ] Write-in: You dislike forced binary choices and are better at writing this story than me.

Note that your actions will influence how certain individuals and groups will perceive you, and how they interact with you will be important in determining Gensokyo’s future.
>> No. 183031
[X] Aggressively: Now more than ever, you need to be equipped for what’s coming ahead. Casual murder isn’t your style, but she doesn’t need to know that. After all, you can’t guarantee that the next shot will be nonlethal if Kirisame doesn’t cooperate and explain herself.

I believe this is points with Yuuka. She's probably a good person to get points with, not that she's the only one this would likely get you points with. Of course, conversely, we would also likely be losing points with Reimu, once she finds out.
>> No. 183034
[x] Aggressively: Now more than ever, you need to be equipped for what’s coming ahead. Casual murder isn’t your style, but she doesn’t need to know that. After all, you can’t guarantee that the next shot will be nonlethal if Kirisame doesn’t cooperate and explain herself.
>> No. 183036
[x] Aggressively: Now more than ever, you need to be equipped for what’s coming ahead. Casual murder isn’t your style, but she doesn’t need to know that. After all, you can’t guarantee that the next shot will be nonlethal if Kirisame doesn’t cooperate and explain herself.

At another time, under different circumstances, we could afford to be lenient. Not right fucking now. Filth is loose in Gensokyo, and until we find Flappy and end him we need to be absolutely, 100% in control of the situation. Or at least as close to that as possible, which, in Gensokyo, is not very close at all - all the more reason we have to assert all the dominance we can.
>> No. 183038
x] Aggressively: Now more than ever, you need to be equipped for what’s coming ahead. Casual murder isn’t your style, but she doesn’t need to know that. After all, you can’t guarantee that the next shot will be nonlethal if Kirisame doesn’t cooperate and explain herself.

Jeez Marisa, why you gotta be such a jerkface and make us fight you?
>> No. 183039
[x] Aggressively: Now more than ever, you need to be equipped for what’s coming ahead. Casual murder isn’t your style, but she doesn’t need to know that. After all, you can’t guarantee that the next shot will be nonlethal if Kirisame doesn’t cooperate and explain herself.
>> No. 183075
Calling the vote in favor of:
[x] Aggressively
>> No. 183085
[x] Aggressively: Now more than ever, you need to be equipped for what’s coming ahead. Casual murder isn’t your style, but she doesn’t need to know that. After all, you can’t guarantee that the next shot will be nonlethal if Kirisame doesn’t cooperate and explain herself.

Kirisame groans beneath your foot.

“You know her?” you ask Remilia without looking away.

“Secondhand.” the vampire tells you. “Her name is Marisa Kirisame, and she has a habit of breaking into my home to steal books.”

Caleb speaks up from behind you. “I thought that this place was secure.” he grumbles.

“No one is at fault here.” Remilia says, sighing. “Believe me when I say that it is near-impossible to keep her out of places she doesn’t belong.”

Marisa seems to be in good cheer for someone stuck to the floor. “C’mon, Remi. You guys wouldn’t let me in so easy if you didn’t like me, right?” she banters.

You shut her up by pressing down with your foot. “No sudden movements. Caleb, grab our stuff.” you say.

“So I take it you two are new around here?” Marisa says while Caleb pats her down for hidden surprises. He slings his rifle over his back, fastens his gauntlets, and grabs your focus for you.

You ignore her. “How’d you find us, and why are you getting in our way?” you ask.

“Don’t see why I should answer.” Marisa quips.

“Don’t see why I shouldn’t use your ‘Hakkero’ as skeet.” you counter. “Start talking.”

“Good point.” she says, still facedown. “Long story short, I saw a lot of big names meeting up at Akyuun’s.”

“Stop calling me that!” Akyuu calls out from behind you.

Keine shushes her. “Go on, Marisa.”

“Anyways. I was kinda bored, so I figured I would go crash the party, maybe grab some free food. That’s when I see two Outsiders with terrible fashion sense and some loot with strong magical signatures on them just sitting around like nobody wants ‘em.” Marisa says.

Terrible fashion sense? Really?

“Yeah, you bumpkins ain’t even wearin’ hats or anything. ‘Sides, tell me with a straight face that the big honkin’ cross on your coat isn’t tacky.”

“She doesn’t know about the Secret world.” you ping Caleb.

“So are you going to give my Hakkero back, or what?” Marisa asks from beneath you.

“Marisa, I’m this close to turning you into confetti.” you threaten. “How much did you hear?”

“Char, no!” Dai says, clamping herself to your thigh. “I know you’re mad, but Marisa isn’t a bad person!”

Like you give a damn. You’re already missing your pistols. Losing your shotgun and your elemental foci would take you out of the picture, and Flappy is still loose. You’re not interested in killing her, but she picked the wrong time to pull this kind of stunt on you.

That’s what you want to say.

You bite back your harsh words. “Fine. You guys seem to know her. What do you suggest?” you address the rest of the room.

“No harm in letting her up.” Suwako says. “She’s not a big threat without that Hakkero.” A number of voices seem to agree.

You step off Marisa’s back, though you keep your shotgun pointed at her as she rolls to her feet with surprising nimbleness.

“Thanks for that.” Marisa says as she dusts herself off. “Saves me the trouble of having to use my skirt bombs.”

“You didn’t check her skirt?” you ping Caleb, frustrated. “I thought she was clean.”

“It didn’t feel wise to put my hands there in a room full of such powerful women.” he pings back.

“Pussy.” you jab. Though now that you think about it, you see some interesting questions about local gender politics.

Eh. Something to ponder once Flappy is dead and gone.

“So...” Marisa says. “You plannin’ to give my Hakkero back, or what?”

“No.” you and Caleb immediately respond. “I’m not arming you three minutes after you try to nick all our stuff.” you say.

“Oh, come on!” Marisa huffs. “I was just gonna borrow them to have a look, that’s all! It’s not like there’s an incident going on or anything.”

The room falls silent.

“Oh.” Marisa says, expression growing somber. “Um... I didn’t know, alright? I’m sorry.”

“Sorry means jack shit against what’s loose in Gensokyo.” you say. “And I still don’t have a good reason to let you go.”

Marisa holds her hands up. “Woah, hey, take it easy! Put that thing down, would ya?”

Ichirin interrupts. “Miss Charlotte, please! While your frustration is understandable, there is no reason to continue threatening her with this unnecessary violence.”

Unnecessary? You’re fighting for the whole of Gensokyo here, and you’re not going to compromise your chances of success for the sake of a thief.

“I’ve got every reason to do that.” you say. “She came this close to crippling my combat ability while Flappy’s still out there and you think that I should let her off the hook?”

“That’s still no justification for murder.” Ichirin counters.

“Try not to antagonize too many of the locals. We need as much cooperation as we can get.” Caleb pings to you.

“What? You see any better options?” you hiss through the connection.

“You could have been more lenient. Ichirin, Daiyousei, Keine, and Akyuu seem put-off.” he pings. ‘Although Yuuka, Remilia, and Suwako look rather pleased with things.”

Satori speaks up. “I believe that Marisa is trustworthy. It would be helpful for everyone if we shared our information with her.”

Remilia nods. “Despite her petty burglary, Marisa has always fought well against threats to Gensokyo.”

“So speaks the cause of one.” Futo mutters.

Remilia ignores the hermit. “While I admit that watching you teach Marisa humility was satisfying, it would be best if we explained Filth to her. She’ll need her Hakkero back.”

You sigh as you stow your shotgun. Dealing with people is complicated in a way that you don’t appreciate. Keeping everyone happy - now that’s a losing game if you ever saw one. How does Caleb manage to put up with this?

You toss the Hakkero towards Marisa with a lazy underhand. The witch plucks it out of the air and stows it somewhere on her dress.

“I’m Charlotte McGallagher.” you say. “He’s Caleb Chandra,” Everyone else seems to know each other already.

“Nice to meet ya.” Marisa grins and bows. “Marisa Kirisame, ordinary magician at your service.”

She’s taking your earlier disagreement in remarkable stride.

“No offence, but I’ve stared down much scarier things than guns before.” Marisa says.

Just like you, Cale, and Junko. Maybe you guys will get along in the future. If there is a future.

”Anyways,” she says as you all sit back at the table. “tell me about this Filth.”

Keine passes her the notes on Filth defense that Akyuu and Caleb have been writing. The next hour is filled with Marisa asking questions and the others clarifying.

“This is some bad stuff we’re dealing with.” Marisa concludes. “Do you think I could study a sample of-”

“NO!” half the table shouts at her.

Marisa holds her hands up in surrender. “Okay, okay. Dumb question.”

Caleb pinches the bridge of his nose. “Marisa, better mages than either of us have been eaten alive by it. I’m pretty sure that I emphasized the importance of not trying to mess with it somewhere.”

He’s right: written on one of the pages in your hands are the words “NO EXPERIMENTATION - TOO DANGEROUS!!!” written in capital letters, circled, and underlined several times. You pass them over to Marisa.

“Noted.” Marisa says. “Alright, so let me get this straight: the two of you have these little bee youkai in your brains that boost your magic, bring you back when you die, and make you immune to Filth. They also somehow translate for you, which explains why we’re having this conversation to begin with.”

“Yeah, sounds about right.” you say.

“You guys’ve followed a giant Filth monster into Gensokyo with a third associate, and you don’t know where either of them is.”

“Yeah.”

“And this Filth stuff is really nasty.” Marisa continues. “Get it on you and you’re better off dead.”

“Yep.” says Tewi.

“Okay. Now according to this, Filth can show up in a bunch of different, non-material forms, but according to Yuuka here we don’t need to worry about those inside the Barrier, just the black oil.”

“That’s right.” the green-haired Youkai confirms.

“So our strategy comes down to finding and killing this ‘Flappy’ as fast as possible, then mopping up any Filth it’s spread. Meanwhile, we gotta keep an eye on population centers like the Human Village. Flappy probably hasn’t moved yet, since we haven’t gotten a big distress signal or anything.”

“Correct.” says Satori.

“Flappy’s really strong, so we need to send our best guys against it. At the same time, we have to make sure they don’t get infected, so that means constant tests and rotation.” Marisa goes on.

“Yeah.” you say. How long is this going to take?

Marisa is shaping up to be the most inquisitive person you’ve met, and while you have to concede that it’s best for her to be well-informed, every second you spend explaining things to her is a second where Flappy could be almost anywhere. You want to get moving.

“Huh. Can’t say I like the look of things. I don’t suppose Flappy’ll use spellcard rules?” Marisa asks.

“Don’t bet on it.” Caleb deadpans. “Shoot to kill.”

“Alright.” Marisa stands up from her chair and stretches. “I say we get goin’. Reimu hasn’t showed up yet for some reason, but she’s about the first person that needs to know. I think we’ve got enough plans made for now. As for Yukari, I could pay Mayohiga a visit, maybe spark a few houses to get Chen’s attention.”

“Who’s Chen?” you ask “And what’s Mayohiga?”

You read through Yukari’s entry in the Perfect Memento - you’ve never heard of a ‘Sukima Onna’ before now, but you’re willing to accept that they’re a regional creature. Besides that, Yukari appears to be a big deal: she’s more or less a god within Gensokyo, maybe even out of it - and you don’t use that measure lightly. You’ve fought a god before, or at least an aspect of one.

“Yukari’s got a shikigami, I guess you’d call her a familiar, called Ran.” Marisa says. “Ran’s a kitsune with enough power to have her own shiki, a nekomata called Chen who spends most of her time in this empty village called Mayohiga. If I get Chen’s attention, she can call Ran, who can call Yukari.”

“Sounds complicated.” Caleb says.

Marisa shrugs. “Yeah, but it sure beats the other way to get their attention. They get pretty mad when someone damages the Barrier.”

Before you can continue the discussion, you hear a muffled boom from outside the window. The group rushes to take a look, and you see a circle of green sparks hovering some distance away in the sky. Inside the circle is the familiar face of a stylized dragon.

You recognize it right away. “It’s Junko’s emergency flare.” you say to the gathered Gensokyo natives. “We’ve found our missing friend, but she’s in trouble. Big trouble.”

Why would Junko use her flare now? She’s been in Gensokyo for as long as you have, and it’s not like she has to worry about her own well-being when she can just pop out of the nearest Anima Well. Even as you deliberate, two more flares soar into the sky and burst apart into the same pattern.
“Quiet down!” Tewi hisses. “I think I hear something.”

You think you hear something as well. It’s so faint that you almost dismiss it as your imagination, but you can’t be imagining the way your bones are vibrating. You’re hearing something far away - something familiar and sticky and black.

You’re hearing Flappy. Caleb, Tewi, Satori, and Yuuka seem realize this as soon as you do.

“Dragon help us.” Yuuka whispers. “It’s coming right from the Hakurei Shrine.”

The rest of your group takes a moment to connect the dots. Then Caleb presses your Elemental focus into your hand. Your group rushes out the door.

Keine and Akyuu both seize the first servants they run into and shout orders at them. The village gate is to be shut, all residents are to remain indoors, and guards to keep watch of every direction. This is not a drill.

“Sakuya!” Remilia shouts as you reach the front door. “Warn the others!”

The white-haired maid looks ready to protest for a moment. Then she nods, reaches into a pocket on her apron, and is gone.

Marisa whistles, and a broomstick whizzes out from behind a bush and into her hand.

Yuuka conjures a number of sunflowers with a wave of her hand, one for each member of your party. “Everyone who’s going to fight needs to take one!” she shouts. “It’s not full immunity, but they’re strong enough for the short term.”

“What is our plan of battle?” Futo calls out as the group fastens Yuuka’s wards to their clothing.

“Get there as fast as possible, assist anyone already fighting, and protect the Hakurei Shrine.” Caleb says, doing the same with his own. “That thing is probably trying to force its way out by attacking the Barrier.”

Damn it all to hell. You should have expected this. Filth always, ALWAYS finds the best way to cock things up as fast as possible.

---

SET YOUR FORMATION:

Vote for the characters that will accompany you into battle. You may vote for as many as you wish, but it may be better to send some back.

Notes:
- Any character not immune to Filth will be contaminated by proximity to Filth.
- Contamination does not count as ‘true’ infection. As such, it cannot be spread to others, does not cause insanity/mutation, and will decrease over time.
- However, anyone sufficiently contaminated will become infected, which will require drastic action and will probably hurt your standing with certain groups.
- You can send back anyone that you think will be a liability. Characters that don’t trust you may also choose to stay back. However, absent characters may send you reinforcements.
- Other than Junko, you do not know for certain who is occupied with Flappy at the shrine.
- You don’t know where the Anima Well nearest to the Hakurei shrine is.


Secret Worlders:

[X] Charlotte: You have Shotgun and Elementalism abilities available. Due to not having your pistols, you are forced into close range to maximize your damage potential. However, you have a number of summoning and area-denial attacks to compensate. You are immune to Filth, and can resurrect your body from Anima wells when you die. However, you cannot fly.

[X] Caleb: Has his Rifle and Fists, making him an effective healer but a awkward source of damage against Flappy. Like you, he is immune to Filth and can resurrect his body from Anima wells when he dies. He cannot fly.

[?] Junko: Unknown loadout. Evades what cannot be blocked and blocks what cannot be evaded. Very hard to kill and puts constant pressure on targets, but useless outside of point-blank. Like you, she is immune to Filth and can resurrect her body from Anima wells when he dies. She cannot fly.

---

Gensokyo Natives:

[ ] Yuuka: Huge destructive power and durability but sluggish and has little regard for collateral damage, which may be troublesome considering the location of the fight.

[ ] Marisa: A veteran youkai exterminator and a wielder of potent magic. Good at raining death from range and has potions with all sorts of effects. Can use strong spells like Master Spark but is limited by reagent supply.

[ ] Tewi: Dodges almost every attack due to her luck manipulation and blocks the rest with her massive hammers. Functionally a tank, she bounces around like Yoda and is almost impossible to hit but lacks raw killing potential.

[ ] Remilia: Destiny manipulation is less effective at dodging attacks but better at exposing the enemy. Has innate Blood magic as a vampire, giving her healing, shielding, and gradual damage abilities. Has access to Gungnir, a long-ranged javelin of death.

[ ] Futo: Conjures expendable plates that can be used as shields and projectiles. Good tactical planner, able to immediately recognize and exploit advantageous positions. Force multiplier, though vulnerable on her own.

[ ] Satori: Can tap into the experience and instincts of allies, copying their skills. However, she is limited by the extent of her own strength. It is unclear how her mind-reading will interact with Flappy.

[ ] Suwako: Manipulates earth and water. Shapes and moves terrain to form shields and projectiles. Shields are more useful for characters that cannot fly. Blasts targets from range with conjured water jets.

[ ] Keine: Limited offensive potential against Flappy in human state, but can periodically “undo” unfavorable events with some sort of Temporal magic by resetting her targets.

[ ] Daiyousei: Elementalism, healing, and resurrects when killed. Relative weakness is matched by versatility and her ability to keep coming back to the fight.

[ ] Ichirin: Ferocious and durable close-combat fighter. Can act independently from Unzan, but reduces both of their effectiveness. Otherwise a straightforward brawler.
Will go back to Myouren Temple if not persuaded otherwise.

[#] Akyuu: Nowhere near enough combat ability to face something like Flappy. Staying behind to lock down the village.
>> No. 183086
Please let me know if something isn't making sense to you. I'm getting the feeling that I might be biting off more than I can chew by going in this direction, but at least it's better than sitting through TSW: 101 - Introduction to Filth for another update.

I'll do my best to answer any questions that you have about mechanics or background in this setting.
>> No. 183087
Since there's only going to be physical manifestations of Filth in Gensokyo, if Daiyousei dies, that means she got tentacle stabbed/raped. We probably don't want her resurrecting after that. which means her main selling point is less than useless.

[X] Yuuka
[X] Tewi
[X] Satori
>> No. 183088
>>183087

I thought that fairy resurrection worked by dissolving the corpse into dust and reconstituting it somewhere else. If Dai gets offed, then she gets back up from somewhere else and flies back.
>> No. 183089
[x] Yuuka: Huge destructive power and durability but sluggish and has little regard for collateral damage, which may be troublesome considering the location of the fight.

[x] Marisa: A veteran youkai exterminator and a wielder of potent magic. Good at raining death from range and has potions with all sorts of effects. Can use strong spells like Master Spark but is limited by reagent supply.

[x] Remilia: Destiny manipulation is less effective at dodging attacks but better at exposing the enemy. Has innate Blood magic as a vampire, giving her healing, shielding, and gradual damage abilities. Has access to Gungnir, a long-ranged javelin of death.

[x] Everyone else to get the rest of their factions for support. Remilia already sent Sakuya to do this, but this should make it quicker and push the sense of urgency.

[x] Satori should specifically stay back. I'm concerned about Flappy managing to infect her through her mental link. If she sends Okuu, that would certainly be enough firepower to make up for her loss.
>> No. 183091
[x] Yuuka
[x] Marisa
The Shrine gets blown up all the time. It's probably down already.

[x] Tewi
She's too lucky to get hit. Perfect counter to a Flappy restricted to physical infection.

[x] Remilia
>long-ranged javelin of death

[x] Futo
[x] Suwako
-[x] Avoid using water directly on Flappy. Filth-laden splashback would be bad.
Tactical genius and terrain manipulation, what's not to love about either?

[x] Plan: two teams, melee and ranged. Secret Worlders and Tewi focus on restricting Flappy's freedom of movement, Futo provides direction and support. Sparkers and Remi rain death and destruction from afar, at Suwako's guidance and under her protection.
>> No. 183092
So we'll need to keep to a strict schedule of rotation, as having anybody go from contaminated to infected is bad fucking news.

I'm planning based off the assumption that fighting on the front lines for one 'shift' will require two shifts to recover from.

Essentially, everyone will split up into three groups. Frontline, Containment, and Recovery.

Charlotte, Marisa, Tewi, and Futo should go join Junko on the frontline. Tewi will use her luck to get any shrine residents who need assistance to the field hospital, while Futo will assist Marisa, Charlotte, and Junko in attacking the bad thing. Since Junko needs to be at close range, perhaps she could make a stairway of plates for her to run up and punch the bird.

Yuuka, Remilia, and Daiyousei will keep Flappy where it is, destroy any spreading Filth, and throw in the occasional supporting laser, fireball, or vampire blood curse.

Caleb, Keine, Satori, and Suwako will set up at a safe distance, the former two being healers and Satori copying healing skills or quickly checking to see how contaminated somebody is. Suwako's on guard duty.

Non-immune fighter's roles will switch every so often.

Ichirin can go back to the Buddhist Temple if she really wants to, but she might first want to go take a look at the giant devil-bird messing up the shrine.

I don't know if Anima is the same as Mana, but if it is we could ask if anybody knows anyplace nearby that magic comes out of the ground in great quantities to find out where the nearest Anima Well is.

Sorry for the wall of text, I have a hobby of playing wargames. Please feel free to ignore it if you were planning something different, it proposes something unreasonable, or it's just really hard to read.
>> No. 183093
>>183092
The only thing I don't like about your plan is how it makes massive assumptions about what we're going to face when we get there.

Which is amusing give that the Secret Worlders assume there are any Anima Wells in Gensokyo at all.
I guess we'll find out for certain when someone dies.
>> No. 183094
>>183093
I'm unfamiliar with the series's lore, so I've quite probably made some assumptions somewhere, but I'm not aware of anything beyond expecting that there would be the big devil-bird. Also, the containment team is partially to eradicate any corruption that gets started, which would probably include Filthlings (I don't know what the term is for a basic Filth monster) if any are present (to be fair, I was not considering the possibility of an army beyond Flappy. Team would still work, with Yuuka for AoE, Remilia for lancing any bigger Filth monsters, and Dai as Medic).

Also if nobody's injured at the shrine Tewi can just get them sunflowers and then serve as a tank (that said, the fact that they don't have sunflowers doesn't bode well for Reimu and Suika, or at least it wouldn't if Reimu didn't have billions of sealing amulets lying around to shoot as danmaku). Speaking of sunflowers, I'd assume they begin to wilt when they're starting to wear off, so Satori might not be as necessary as a psychiatrist as I thought. I still don't really want to take the risk with her telepathy, though...
>> No. 183098
[x] Yuuka: Huge destructive power and durability but sluggish and has little regard for collateral damage, which may be troublesome considering the location of the fight.

[x] Marisa: A veteran youkai exterminator and a wielder of potent magic. Good at raining death from range and has potions with all sorts of effects. Can use strong spells like Master Spark but is limited by reagent supply.

[x] Remilia: Destiny manipulation is less effective at dodging attacks but better at exposing the enemy. Has innate Blood magic as a vampire, giving her healing, shielding, and gradual damage abilities. Has access to Gungnir, a long-ranged javelin of death.

[x] Everyone else to get the rest of their factions for support. Remilia already sent Sakuya to do this, but this should make it quicker and push the sense of urgency.

[x] Satori should specifically stay back. I'm concerned about Flappy managing to infect her through her mental link. If she sends Okuu, that would certainly be enough firepower to make up for her loss.

We need to remember not to use everyone all at once. We need a stable rotation, and for now, we only have a couple groups worth of people. Eventually we will have more, but for now, we need reserves.
>> No. 183105
Calling the vote approximately 12 hours from now.
>> No. 183120
I find you guys' lack of faith in Satori disturbing. for all we know, she could be more powerful than the dreamers.
>> No. 183121
Calling vote in favor of:

Front Line: Charlotte, Caleb, Tewi, Ichirin(?)
Support Team: Futo, Suwako
Ranged Team: Remilia, Marisa, Yuuka

Shrine Defenders: Junko, Reimu(?), rest unknown

Staying back/calling for aid: Keine, Daiyousei, Satori, Sakuya
>> No. 183151
A cursory headcount of the group in Akyuu’s courtyard turns up a total of twelve people, which is far less than what you’d prefer. That’s not even considering the natives’ combat ability or lack of immunity.

You don’t like these odds.

Plan A was to find the nearest Agartha portal and call in Chosen reinforcements. It got sunk right away by two immovable factors.

The first was unanimous disapproval from the locals. Turns out that most of the big players hold grudges against the Societies and aren’t comfortable with the idea of having dozens of their undying agents running loose in Gensokyo.

You can see where they’re coming from: As a card-carrying Templar, you’re pretty sure that you’re contractually obligated to kill youkai like Remilia somewhere down the line. You wouldn’t trust yourself from Remilia’s perspective either.

The second is that, as far as anyone can determine, Gensokyo has no Agartha portals. While some quick consultation with Yuuka, Dai, and Akyuu had confirmed the presence of Anima Wells, Gensokyo itself is more-or-less isolated from the rest of reality. You can’t even get a signal from the Outside on your phone, something that didn’t happen even when you invaded Hell.

That raises some interesting questions of its own, such as but not limited to “how the hell are we going to get home?” It seems that certain individuals can cross the Barrier at will, but you’d venture that it’s tactically unsound to open a door while the enemy is attacking it.

You’ve only been this cut off from Agartha where the Filth was so dense that it opened a window to the Dreaming Prison. Since none of the people around you are sprouting tentacles or blathering about being ‘made of stars’ or ‘the end of days’, that possibility seems ruled out.

For all intents and purposes, you are going to have to kill Flappy without any help from the Outside.

“We need to step in, direct the locals.” Caleb pings.

“You sure about that? Vampires don’t like being ordered around.”

“I’m pretty sure that we’re the only ones with meaningful experience against Filth.” Caleb replies. “Besides, saving the Barrier has got to earn us a few favors from the natives.”

He’s assuming that you will save the Barrier, you’re about to point out before you catch yourself. Cale’s trying to reassure you.

“Yeah. Listen, I’ve got something I need to confirm with Satori real quick.” you ping, watching the pink-haired youkai’s eyes flit to you. “I have some ideas on how to organize the people here against Flappy. How about you?”

“I started the moment they walked through the door.” Caleb pings back, perhaps with some smugness. “Beats rushing in blind and getting slaughtered.”

You roll your eyes as you ping your suggestions to him.

“Alright, listen up!” he announces to the group. “Charlotte and I have killed these things before, so follow what we have to say if you want to stay alive.”

Everyone’s attention is on Caleb now. People that could reduce either of you to red mist in seconds are now hearing him out because you’re all threatened by something much worse. Caleb begins by talking about Flappy’s attack patterns - stuff you’re already familiar with, and Satori can just read from someone else’s mind.

“Satori.” you say as you approach her. “I need to ask you-”

“Yuuka wasn’t lying about Filth being limited to physical manifestation.” she says, cutting you off with a placid expression. “At least, she believes that she’s telling the truth. Same thing about her sunflowers.” she says, tugging on hers.”

You frown. “Well, that’s good to know. Thanks-”

Satori shakes her head. “I wouldn’t trust her. She’s hiding something - I don’t know what, it’s blinding to look into her mind for too long.”

Well, that’s worrying. The strongest one here is hiding something that’s worrying the mind reader?

“She’s not out to kill any of us.” Satori says, preempting you once again. “But she’s fixated on something now that Filth’s here and she going to great lengths to hide it.”

Both of you shoot a furtive glance at Yuuka. Like the rest of the group, she appears to be paying close attention to a rough model of the shrine grounds that Suwako has shaped out of the turf. One point of interest is that there appears to be an Anima Well located right behind the shrine itself - it’s centered around a large tree in a small clearing. Convenient.

“Thanks for helping me make sure, Satori.” you say. “Anything else-”

“Nothing else is of immediate concern.” Satori says. “Although I have seen the reasons for the others’ distrust of you.” Her eyes narrow. “Your societies have much to answer for.”

With that, the Satori turns to face Caleb. You follow her example after you ping the information back to Caleb.

You’d like to clear some stuff up with her once this is put behind you. One issue in particular is how she can read your mind - aren’t Chosen supposed to be immune to that sort of thing?

“We know that Junko’s on the ground over there, but we don’t know who else is.” Caleb says, indicating areas around the model with a laser pointer. “Once we reach the shrine, Char and I will meet up with Junko and draw as much attention from the beast as possible.”

“That seems unwise, given what you’ve told us of the creature.” Remilia says, frowning.

“Yeah, we’ll probably die a lot.” you say. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll just pop out of that Anima Well over there and jump back in.”

“We’re the only ones who can stay close to Flappy without the risk of death or infection.” he agrees. “If it comes down to it, we’ll take lethal blows for you.”

“Still, it’s best if that doesn’t happen too often.” you interject. “We can come back as many times as we need to, just not instantly.”

Caleb checks his watch. “Almost two minutes.” he pings. “Marisa says that we can get to the shrine in two. We need to hurry up.”


“Moving on!.” Caleb says. “Yuuka’s sunflowers should ward against the worst of the Filth, but they can still be overwhelmed, so don’t get cocky.”

Yuuka nods. “That’s right. If yours starts to wither, fall back immediately and take a new one.”

“We’re organizing this group into three teams.” Caleb says. “Char, Tewi, Ichirin and I will engage the Filth at close range. Yuuka, Marisa, and Remilia will bombard from range. Suwako and Futo will support the other teams with earth-shaping and plate shields, respectively.”

Keine raises her hand. “What of the rest of us?”

“Anyone else just isn’t prepared against something like Flappy.” You say, voice grim. “Keine, Char and I are expendable. We come back. You don’t.”

Keine looks unsatisfied with that answer, but doesn’t interrupt as Caleb continues.

“Daiyousei’s a child, and I’m not going to expose a child to Filth. Not up for discussion.” Caleb says. “As for Satori, I’m really, really not interested in finding out how her telepathy interacts with Filth today.”

“Isn’t there anything I can do?” Dai begs, grabbing your sleeve.

Actually, there is.

“We’re going to need backup.” you announce. “Anyone who’s not going with us should get help.”

“We could use that nuclear raven of yours, Satori.” Suwako offers. Disdain flashes in Satori’s eyes.

“If I may,” Ichirin says, “It would be best if I returned to the Myouren temple for help.”

“I don’t like this. We’re already low on capable fighters.” you ping Caleb.

“She doesn’t trust the people here.” Caleb responds. “Especially not you, since you’re Templar. The details don’t matter right now and we can’t force her to fight. Do you think you can persuade her without wasting time?”


Yeah, you do. You’re probably the least well-spoken and charming between you, Cale, and June, but you have a knack for browbeating people forward in do-or-die situations.

“We can’t force you to come with us, Ichirin.” you begin. “And I can’t undo whatever my order has done to you in the past.”

“But I’m not on Society business,” you say, gathering momentum. “I’m trying to save your new home from being consumed, and I need your help. Are you going to allow your history to condemn Gensokyo’s future?”

There’s silence for a few moments as you finish, arms folded across your chest. Ichirin’s eyes dart between you and Futo. Finally, she relents. “Very well. I apologize for my previous imprudence. I will go with you.”

“Nice job.” Caleb pings to you.

Tewi approaches Keine with her carrot necklace in her hand. “Show this to Eirin. She’ll come to help out.” she pauses. “And if I don’t make it, tell the doc that I want her to lead the rabbits. And tell Reisen that I’ll be looking out for her.”

You turn away.

Much of the remaining group has followed Tewi’s example and are giving the three messengers various trinkets and messages - half of them to guarantee authenticity, half of them final goodbyes and last requests.

Only Marisa and Yuuka aren’t participating. Marisa, with her white-knuckled grip on her broomstick, seems to be refusing to acknowledge the possibility that things could go sideways.

On the other hand, Yuuka looks... resigned. Not defeated like a prisoner facing the gallows, but sad like Mom was when the Templar knocked on the door for you so many years ago.

Something clenches inside you. You should be going, but you can’t bring yourself to interrupt the intimacy of these few seconds.

Caleb does it for you after giving them a respectful amount of time. “Don’t get just anyone.” he calls out, prompting the stragglers to finish. “A few, stronger people will be more help than lots of weaker ones. And make sure that they grab a sunflower.”

Keine, Daiyousei, and Satori nod in acknowledgement before each takes a handful of sunflowers and fly off into the night.

You check your watch. Four minutes.

“We need to get going!” you announce, and the rest of the group spring into action.

Ichirin brandishes her chakrams, and Unzan manifests above her. He plucks Caleb off the ground and seats him next to the nun before taking off.

You hop behind Marisa on her broomstick, grabbing onto the witch as you soar into the air with the rest of the group.

Urk. You’re having serious questions about the safety of broom flight. There’s nothing to hang on to but Marisa, and did she just attach her Hakkero to the back of the broom-?

“Consider this payback for before!” she shouts over the wind.

What’s she mean by- ohhHHH NOOOOOOOOOOO-


You find yourself some distance above the Hakurei shrine once the world stops blurring.

At least, where it used to be.

The giant, four-winged abomination and the four people fighting for their lives amid the wreckage probably have something to do with that. You recognize one of them, a black-haired woman wearing a green coat over armor plating.

“June!” you ping with as much urgency as you can muster.

“Char? About fucking time!” she pings. “You better have more people coming or we’re not going to kill it in time!”

You take a moment to assess the situation.

Flappy is currently engaged in an aerial duel with what appears to be a hole in reality with the dimensions of a teenage girl. Probably Reimu, from what you’ve read. Flappy can’t seem to strike her, but she isn’t doing much beyond driving it away from the other three on the ground.

Junko and two other combatants - a girl with horns and another with a smoke-like right arm - are bunkered down next to an important-looking red archway - a Torii, you remember your occult studies. This is presumably the gate that serves as the keystone for the magic of the Hakurei Barrier.

It and its three beleaguered defenders are being attacked by animated, vaguely-humanoid Filthlings that Flappy excretes from its body whenever it passes overhead. It’s another stalemate: Between the three of them, the black horde can’t reach the gate.

However, you don’t know how long Reimu can stay phased out, and you don’t think that the three by the gate can hold off Flappy without her.

Marisa interrupts your analysis with a Master Spark, searing a path through the Filthlings clustered around the gate with the beam. With the area cleared, she swoops down and you shove off before Marisa takes to the sky again.

“Junko! What’s the situation!” you ping as you draw your shotgun and blast a head off.

“Long story short, Flappy showed up after Reimu and I warned the other two. Suika and Kasen here got talismans that should ward against Filth, and Flappy’s trying to do something to the Barrier through the gate. No casualties so far, though that’s not going last much longer.” she pings while driving her sword through the torso of this wave’s last Filthling.

You take advantage of the lull to fortify the gate’s makeshift perimeter, willing Anima through your shotgun and drawing it out as landmines and sentry guns that you scatter in a rough circle. Suika and Kasen watch the display with some apprehension.

“You must be one of Junko’s friends.” the one in pink - Kasen - says. “Is help coming?”

A fresh wave of Filth falls from the sky onto the ruined pavement in front of you. The four of you reduce it to stains on the ground before you continue.

“Yeah, about ten coming right now with more on the way.” you tell her. A quick glance at the paper talismans affixed to their clothing shows minimal deterioration. Reimu knows what she’s doing.

Okay. Things could definitely be worse. Then again, they’re pretty bad as is.

Marisa has been peppering Flappy with bolts of magic to little effect. You can tell that she’s using the lethal sort - you can feel the killing purpose in them - but they’re nothing compared to the torrent of Anima contained in the Master Spark.

Reimu’s still phased out, each pass through Flappy’s body stumbling the creature midair while she flings salvos of needles and paper talismans at it. You contribute by arcing a bolt of electricity into Flappy, prompting it to roar with the same tooth-grinding sound you faced in Agartha.

On one hand, neither you nor the other Secret Worlders can do more than harass Flappy while it’s in the air. On the other, the gate’s more vulnerable if Flappy gets on the ground.

“What’s the situation down there?” you register Caleb ping as Flappy’s cry ends.

It looks like the rest of your group has arrived.

---

HOW DO YOU PROCEED?

Notes:
There is an Anima Well on the Hakurei Shrine grounds. Chosen that die can get back into the fight with minimal travel, but will require time to reconstruct their bodies.
Reinforcements will arrive at random at in small groups.

---

Front Line: Charlotte, Caleb, Tewi, Ichirin
Support Team: Futo, Suwako
Ranged Team: Remilia, Marisa, Yuuka

Shrine Defenders: Junko, Reimu, Suika, Kasen

Calling for aid: Keine, Daiyousei, Satori, Sakuya

---

Suggested Strategies:

[ ] Force Flappy to the ground: This lets the Secret Worlders get in Flappy’s face, but requires you to deal with both the bird and its minions at the same time.
-[ ] Fight aggressively: Occupy Flappy while the locals blast it to death. If that means having to resurrect a few times, so be it.
-[ ] Fight conservatively: Play the long game and wait for reinforcements before crushing Flappy. It’s too risky to go all-in with your limited numbers.

[ ] Keep Flappy in the air: This lets the Secret Worlders lock down the Filth on the ground, and keeps Flappy from the gate but leaves most of the work against Flappy to the locals.
-[ ] Fight conservatively: Play the long game and wait for reinforcements before crushing Flappy. It’s too risky to go all-in with your limited numbers.

[ ] Write-in.
>> No. 183153
[x] Keep Flappy in the air: This lets the Secret Worlders lock down the Filth on the ground, and keeps Flappy from the gate but leaves most of the work against Flappy to the locals.
-[x] Fight conservatively: Play the long game and wait for reinforcements before crushing Flappy. It’s too risky to go all-in with your limited numbers.

Ah, the old 'Yuuka is an ex-Outer God' plotline. Or ex-Dreamer in this case.
>> No. 183154
[X] Keep Flappy in the air: This lets the Secret Worlders lock down the Filth on the ground, and keeps Flappy from the gate but leaves most of the work against Flappy to the locals.
-[X] Fight conservatively: Play the long game and wait for reinforcements before crushing Flappy. It’s too risky to go all-in with your limited numbers.
>> No. 183167
Bro, stop F5'ing your story; it's rude to use your phone at the table.

Also it's your turn so hurry up and untap your mana.
>> No. 183169
[x] Force Flappy to the ground: This lets the Secret Worlders get in Flappy’s face, but requires you to deal with both the bird and its minions at the same time.
-[x] Fight aggressively: Occupy Flappy while the locals blast it to death. If that means having to resurrect a few times, so be it.

GO DEEP GO HARD.
>> No. 183238
I'm going to call the vote in around 15 hours from now.
>> No. 183241
>>183238
lol
>> No. 183242
[x] Force Flappy to the ground: This lets the Secret Worlders get in Flappy’s face, but requires you to deal with both the bird and its minions at the same time.
-[x] Fight aggressively: Occupy Flappy while the locals blast it to death. If that means having to resurrect a few times, so be it.

And hey author? Give yourself some kind of name would ya? It's hard to tell which posts are yours if you're anonymous.
>> No. 183256
Calling on next vote that breaks tie between:
[ ] Keep Flappy in the air/conservative
and
[ ] Force Flappy to the ground/agressive
>> No. 183262
[x] Keep Flappy in the air: This lets the Secret Worlders lock down the Filth on the ground, and keeps Flappy from the gate but leaves most of the work against Flappy to the locals.
-[x] Fight conservatively: Play the long game and wait for reinforcements before crushing Flappy. It’s too risky to go all-in with your limited numbers.
>> No. 183270
Calling vote in favor of:
[X] Keep Flappy in the air
-[X] Fight conservatively
>> No. 183323
>>183242
But he's already using one.

Seriously though, Sage is as good a name as any. Don't forget to make a trip too.
>> No. 183354
>>183323
Some guy already did that.
Of course, he's MIA and his story is dead so whatever.
>> No. 183430
>>183354
Not dead. He was up at night a few days ago hacking out notes for this.
Best guess is "sidetracked with cramming for finals".
>> No. 183468
[ ] Keep Flappy in the air: This lets the Secret Worlders lock down the Filth on the ground and keeps Flappy from the gate but leaves most of the work against Flappy to the locals.
[ ] Fight conservatively: Play the long game and wait for reinforcements before crushing Flappy. It’s too risky to go all-in with your limited numbers.

---

“We need to hold on long enough for reinforcements to arrive. The others should keep Flappy from getting too close while we keep the gate clear.”

Ichirin and Unzan swoop down to drop off Caleb as the rest of the group open fire on Flappy. The ground rumbles beneath your feet as Suwako raises a protective wall of rock around the gate.

The hair on your arms stands up as Yuuka points her umbrella at Flappy and fires off a Master Spark of her own. The beam pierces through the air, grazing the edges of the beast as it coils and twists with surprising agility. Meanwhile, you and the other four on the ground are busy dealing with the non-stop waves of Filthlings shambling toward the gate.

Junko is a green blur in the horde as she flits from kill to kill, sword glinting as it bites through her victims. Caleb is firing precise bursts and launching an occasional grenade to break up crowds. Kasen keeps yanking Filthlings around with her bandaged arm and punching holes through them with her other one. You can’t see Suika, but you can hear her laughter and see her carnage as she runs through her enemies, leaving little oni-shaped holes in their remains.

As for you, you’re busy covering the area in turrets and traps to even the odds. With waves of your hand, sentry guns, landmines, and crackling spheres of elemental might materialize onto the remains of the shrine grounds and unleash hell.

“Charlotte? Caleb? Can you hear me?” Yuuka’s voice calls out.

“Yuuka? I thought you were in the air.” Caleb says as he scans the sky.

“I am.” she replies. “We can speak through the sunflowers you took.”

So in addition to being anti-Filth wards, they’re also walkie-talkies? That’s odd, but you won’t discount the convenience..

“Alright. Is someone in trouble?” you ask.

“Ichirin’s sunflower is withering.” says Yuuka. “She keeps getting exposed.”

You look up at the aerial fight. Tewi and Ichirin have joined Reimu in attacking Flappy during pauses in the rangers’ fire. Tewi is dancing around the bird, evading its strikes and counterattacking with a hammer larger than she is. Ichirin is more aggressive, acting in tandem with Unzan as the pair whales on Flappy with a flurry of punches.

Flappy sweeps in midair, missing Tewi and passing through Reimu but catching the Buddhist duo with its tail. Unzan is able to block most of the impact, but the force sends Ichirin tumbling for a few moments before she rights herself. Even at this distance, you can pick out some Filth clinging to them before it gets dissolved by their wards.

Remilia, Marisa, and Yuuka fly around the edges of the fight, looking opportunities to take a shot. The Master Sparks appear to be the most effective attacks - Flappy frantically evades whenever the whine of one charging up is heard. On the other hand, Remilia’s thrown Gungnir find their mark again and again, but seem to deal little damage as they pierce clear through Flappy’s body.

Futo and Suwako are busy creating obstacles to box in Flappy and block its projectiles. They don’t have the offensive potential to do more than pester it, but they’re keeping the situation manageable for everyone else. Futo in particular is doing an admirable job of directing the battle in the air, marking critical areas with rings of plates and occasionally shunting a too-slow fighter to safety.

“Ichirin! Don’t try to kill it, just buy time!” you speak into your flower.

Ichirin turns to face you, confused. You tap the sunflower pinned to your coat before turning back to the situation on the ground.

A fresh wave of Filth drops from the sky, closer to the shrine gate. A top-heavy hulk of Filth crawls out of the puddle and faces you with glowing eyes set into a half-melted face.

“Guys! Big one over here!” you call out as you throw a gout of fire in its direction.

Suika brings the hulk to the ground with a flying tackle and tries to tear its head off before Kasen’s bandaged arm shoots out and yanks her off.

“Don’t touch it any longer than you have to!” the pink hermit admonishes. Suika pouts.

The hulk is rising to its feet again, now with a number of tentacles waving on its back. It roars and breaks into a running charge straight at you and the gate behind you.

“Come get some, fugly!” you shout before you shift into lightning and jolt through the monster. You re-appear several meters behind the beast as it flails into one of your mines and is blown backwards towards Junko.

A grin spreads across her face as she draws her sledgehammer and brings it down on the hulk’s head again and again. The tentacles stop writhing after the fourth wet splatter.

You look back to the aerial fight to see that some reinforcements have shown up. A group consisting of Sakuya, a redheaded martial artist, a purple-haired mage in a nightgown, and a green-haired miko join the fray. To your relief, all four of them are wearing Yuuka’s sunflowers. The maid points the mage toward the ranged team and the miko towards Suwako before vanishing from sight.

The readhead wastes no time in closing the distance and hammering at Flappy, fists shrouded in a rainbow light. She seems to be taking over for Ichirin - the nun and her partner are sagging in the air. Ichirin’s clothing is torn and stained, and Unzan seems to be blurry around the edges.

You blink. Sakuya is floating next to Ichirin with her hand held out. Ichirin grabs it, arm limping, and they disappear.

“Ichirin is out.” Yuuka reports. “Sakuya says she took her to Eientei.”

“Have her keep doing that.” you say. “Nobody else is free to retrieve casualties, and I don’t think her knives can do against Flappy.”

A growing light from the edge of your vision cuts you off. You turn around to see the purple mage conjuring a miniature sun and the rest of the fighters scrambling away.

Suika recognizes the attack. “Royal Flare! Get behind something!.” she shouts.

Flappy flings a hail of spines at Purple. Futo stops in midair and conjures a wall of plates around her. The disks are pulverized by the javelins but succeed in keeping the mage safe.

Seeing this, Flappy rushes past the front line, seeking to kill Purple or force her to stop casting. Futo creates a second wall to block Flappy’s movement with little success - the monster plows through the barrier, shattering it into a thousand shards.

“Yuuka, tell her to get out of the way!” Caleb shouts into his flower.

“I’m trying.” she snaps. “She’s too busy chanting to hear.”

Reimu swoops down in front of Flappy and punches it in the face as Green brandishes her baton at the creature, summoning gale-force winds to buffet it back. Meanwhile, your group is forced into the shadow of Suwako’s rock walls by the heat of the growing sun.

An idea occurs to you.

“Have Suwako raise a wall of boulders.” you call out to Yuuka.

A second later, the ground in front of you groans and rises upward. You rush out of cover toward the new rocks, sinking as much of your Anima as you can manage into landmines and planting them on the boulders.

“What are you doing out there?” Kasen cries out in desperation.

“Making fireworks!” you shout back, adding two of your daisycutters to the mix before Kasen’s arm drags you back to safety. You watch as the rocks float up, blocking your vision of Purple.

Flappy slips past Reimu and beelines for the mage, smashing through Suwako’s boulders - and is thrown back as your bombs vaporize the stone, exposing the finished, blinding radiance of the Royal Flare. Purple smiles and points a finger at the still-reeling beast.

Night turns into day. Flappy howls.

---

Ground Team: Charlotte, Caleb, Junko, Suika, Kasen
Front Line: Reimu, Tewi, Meiling
Support Team: Futo, Suwako, Sakuya, Alice, Sanae
Ranged Team: Remilia, Marisa, Yuuka, Patchouli

Calling for aid: Keine, Satori,
Casualties: Ichirin

---

You peek out the moment the light fades. The shrine grounds are smothered with black clouds of soot, leaving you blind beyond a few meters. All of your turrets must have been destroyed by that attack.

“Whooo!” Suika cheers from somewhere next to you,. “I’ve never seen her make it this big before!”

“Guys. Status?” you call out to the murk.

“We’re fine.” Junko answers. “Cale’s eyes got burnt out by the flash, but he healed them back up.”

“Suika and I are fine.” Kasen responds, coughing. “Our wards also appear to be intact. Though I must insist that you warn me the next time you attempt something so foolhardy.”

Well, things must be looking up if she’s got enough energy to lecture you.

“Yuuka, how are you guys doing up there?” you ask your flower.

“We’re fine, but we can’t see through the ash.” comes the reply. “Another thing: the puppeteer magician just arrived with her Goliath doll. Daiyousei sent her - hopefully she won’t be needed at this point.”

“Can you do something about the dust?” Caleb asks.

“Obviously not.” Yuuka snarks. “One moment- Tewi says that she can.”

A strong gust picks up as Yuuka finishes speaking, blowing the clouds away. You see the dozen-odd Gensokyo natives silhouetted against the night sky.

You also see Flappy, bruised and battered and with most of its right side melted off, but still alive.

Still alive, and staring you down from within shattered wreck of the shrine.

You don’t even have time for an expletive before it unleashes a hail of spines, catching Purple and Marisa off-guard. Purple crumples as black spikes slam into her, while Marisa is clipped and sent spiralling down some distance into the forest. Remilia rushes over to splash Purple with a liberal dose of Blood magic before Sakuya blinks in to whisk her out of the fight.

“Patchouli’s down.” Yuuka announces. “Sakuya got her out.”

“What about Marisa?” you ask, backing away from Flappy as it roars in triumph. “I saw her go down-”

“It takes more than that to kill Marisa.” she responds. “This is the first time I’m happy about it.”

Flappy launches a second barrage of spines, but without surprise on its side all of the projectiles are turned away between Futo, Suwako, and Green. Abandoning that approach, Flappy breaks into a running charge towards the gate, leaping over the barriers that Suwako raises.

Junko surges forward as the rest of you beat a fighting retreat, driving her hammer into the ground with enough force to split the pavement and project spikes of rock into Flappy’s underside. It’s almost unfazed, seizing her between its jaws and biting down. Green shrieks as blood pools beneath its mouth.

Reimu tries to pry its mouth open with no success. Not that Junko needs any at this point - between your gunshots, you don’t see any fear or pain in her face - just unrestrained fury as she brings out her sword and stabs it into Flappy’s head, carving its flesh in as many directions as she can.

Reimu is interrupted by an earth-shaking thump as a two-story tall doll lands on top of Flappy and lays into it with dual swords the length of lampposts. Flappy’s jaws are forced shut in the assault, and Junko comes apart into three blood-trailing pieces that flop on the ground.

Junko pings as her remains dissolve into nothing. “You’d better make use of the time I just bought you. That fuckin’ hurt.”

Suika yells a battle cry. You glance up as a shadow passes over you to see that the oni has followed Goliath’s lead - she’s now about the same size as the war golem, and it looks like she’s trying to pull Flappy in two with the doll’s help. It’s not working - Flappy’s struggles gouge deep wounds into both Suika’s flesh and Goliath’s armor as the three giants grapple.

Remilia intervenes with a flash of red light and a thunderclap - a jagged Gungnir streaks from the sky and pins Flappy to the ground like the world’s most grotesque butterfly display. A giant, oozing, black bullseye.

Yuuka trains her Spark on Flappy’s head while Suwako conjures jets of water to blast its wings off. The close-combat fighters set to work ripping into its flanks and limbs.

You phase on top of Flappy and close your eyes as you stop perceiving the world in terms of and color and start seeing in rays, particles, atoms, attraction and repulsion. The world is reduced to a few laws - laws that you reach out to and break for the sole purpose of inflicting maximum pain.

You open your eyes and bring the fundamental rules of the universe crashing down onto the beast.

A kaleidoscopic storm blooms on top of Flappy. Eddies of shifting gravity stretch and crush the beast while the air around you transitions from solar flare to superconductor to absolute zero in a matter of seconds.

As you come down from the soundless high of bending the universe to your will, you notice three things. The first is that Flappy is missing half of its original mass and all four wings. The second is that the rest of the fighters are falling back. The third is that Flappy’s flesh is bubbling in a way that strikes both dread and recognition into your gut.

You’ve seen this attack before. Flappy’s about to expel a wave of Filth from its body, coating everything within fifty meters of it in the cancer of worlds. Caleb saw it as well - it’s why the others are running to safety. You were too busy casting to notice.

Well that’s just great, considering that you’re standing right on top of a ticking entropic time bomb and all.

“How the hell isn’t this thing dying?” the martial artist shouts as Flappy clambers to its feet yet again, shaking you off.

Goliath’s master has it pin its swords in Flappy’s limbs and try to wrestle it to the ground as Reimu strikes its joints whenever it tries to get up. You can make out a bit of what she’s saying at this distance.

“-fucking fucker! Nobody does this to my shrine and gets away with it-”

Even as you alternate between sprinting and phasing away from Flappy, you can see that it’s not going to be enough to save you, though that’s fine, since you can always come back. What you’re worried about is the close combat team. Martial artist is going to be fine, and Suika just got grabbed by Kasen, but Tewi’s still stuck in range with only moments to go and nobody to help her.

All the luck in the world can’t save you from the heat death of the universe.

“Fuck it! Incoming!” Caleb pings.

Well yes, obviously, but what does he mean by -

You fling yourself to the ground as soon as you hear the boom of Caleb’s grenade, and the bleeding, legless form of the Illuminati agent flies over your head a moment later, slamming Tewi forward to safety. The rabbit girl stares at him for a moment, numb with shock, before scampering to cover.

“I don’t know what’s more stupid: the actual stunt, or that it worked.” you ping.

“Eh. If it works, don’t knock it.”

With that, Caleb points his rifle at his head and finds the trigger. His body slumps before crumbling into dust and vanishing - two Chosen down. As Flappy’s flesh pulses with increasing violence, you brace yourself for that number to reach three.

A black bubble of Filth erupts with Flappy at the epicenter. You close your eyes and grit your teeth against the brief agony of your body being liquefied -

But it doesn’t come. You crack an eye open.

Is this some trick?


No, it’s not. Yuuka’s standing in front of you with her parasol held open against the deluge of Filth. Looking back, you see that the two of you are standing on a V-shaped wedge of clean ground, two dozen or so meters deep into the inky blast.

“Thanks. I owe you one.” you say.

“No need to thank me.” she grunts. “We need at least one immortal meatshield around.”

“Did the others make it?” you ask as Yuuka folds her umbrella back up. You see people fighting Flappy some distance away, but a number of figures are missing from the crowd. Your heart sinks.

“Nobody got hit by the blast” Yuuka reassures you as she Sparks the Filth left on the ground. “but some have become too contaminated to keep fighting. The two oni, Tewi, Remilia, and Suwako have all been evacuated. Also, Alice reports that Goliath was forced to self-destruct by the Filth.”

“Can she do much against Flappy without Goliath?” you ask.

“Not much, I’m afraid. Her smaller dolls can only scratch something of this scale.”

You grimace. You’re losing too many people.

“Speaking of immortal meatshields, Keine’s back with the moon doctor and the phoenix, and your friend in green is back up.” Yuuka tells you.

“Is Satori going to show up?” you ask. “I could really go for some backup right now.”

“It’s not exactly easy to travel to the underground and back.” Yuuka responds. “Satori says she’ll be here in around five minutes.”

Fucking fantastic. At this rate, that nuclear hell raven of hers might be the only one of you able to put Flappy down for good.

“Yuuka! Answer me!” Remilia’s voice barks, interrupting the two of you. “Sakuya, get her to Eientei!”

“We’re fine.” Yuuka speaks into her flower. “What’s the matter? Shouldn’t you be heading back?”

“Not you, Reimu!” Remilia says.

Yuuka goes pale.

“What do you mean?” she demands.

“The idiot miko kept attacking, and the explosion knocked her out of her Fantasy Heaven! She wasn’t waking up, so Sakuya took her to Eientei-”

You’ve heard enough. With Reimu gone, you no longer have anyone that can go toe-to-toe with Flappy for more than a few seconds without ending up dead or worse. The monster’s already knocked out or forced the retreat of nine of you - ten if you count Goliath - and the chances of a fatality only increase the longer the fight drags on.

This needs to be settled now.
>> No. 183469
Ground Team: Charlotte, Junko
Front Line: Meiling, Mokou
Support Team: Futo, Sakuya, Alice (no Goliath), Sanae, Keine
Ranged Team: Yuuka, Eirin

Calling for aid: Satori,
Casualties: Ichirin, Patchouli, Marisa (?), Caleb (Rezzing), Suika, Kasen, Tewi, Remilia, Suwako, Reimu

---

You grab Yuuka’s sunflower. “Listen up!” you shout. “We’re going to have to finish this with the people we have right now. With our numbers getting this low, it’s going to make another run for the gate soon, and we might not be able to stop it. If you can slow Flappy down, you need to lock it in place for the heavy-hitters to snipe. If you’re a brawler, get in its face and force it on the defensive! It can’t keep itself alive and attack the gate at the same time!”

Message delivered, you run past Yuuka with your focus glowing and smoke trailing from your shotgun barrel.

Flappy wants to be a little bitch? Fine. You’ll make sure it dies like one.

Keine and Green have taken your advice to heart: Keine’s keeping Flappy stuck in a time loop while Green’s winds stymie its attempts to find purchase on the rubble. Each loop is weaker than the last, though. You can see how it lunges just a little bit further between each stutter, and you don’t know how long Keine can maintain the effect.

For the time being, though, Yuuka and a newcomer - Yagokoro Eirin - are taking advantage of things by laying waste to Flappy. Yuuka shimmers before two doppelgangers of herself appear and fire their own Master Sparks. Eirin shoots bolt after bolt of brilliant white light from a at the trapped bird. Each arrow explodes into a miniature supernova that leave glowing craters in its target.

Contained antimatter? Just what sort of tech or magic do these people have?

Flappy finally breaks free of the loop, leaping upward to snatch Keine out of the sky. Firebird puts a stop to this by crashing into it headlong, reducing herself to pulped flesh and bone in the process. As it falls back to earth, Flappy roars and vomits a spray of Filth into the sky. Green tries to blow it back at the beast, but some of it flies through the conjured wind and onto her. She screams and flails blindly for a few moments before a flock of dolls catch her and carry her away.

“Sanae’s down.” Yuuka reports.

You choose this moment to phase next to Flappy and grab its attention with a point-blank blunderbuss shot. The bird screeches and reels to hit you with a sweep of its tail that you roll beneath. As you come up, a very alive, very angry Firebird rises from behind Flappy and hoses it down with a spray of flame from her hands.

“Resurrection and pyromancy. Looks like you’ve got some competition, Char.”

“Can it.” you ping back to Junko. “And get your ass back in the fight.”

“Way ahead of you.” comes the response. You look over to see Junko crouched on one of Futo’s plates, riding it on a collision course with Flappy.

Despite the gravity of the situation, you wish you had a camera to preserve this scene. It’d be the surreal cherry to top off this entire ludicrous day.

Flappy claws at Firebird tearing her into scraps of meat. As it turns to face the gate, Junko leaps off the plate and lands on Flappy’s back- she wastes no time in grabbing on and planting her sword into the base of its neck.


“Dance, you fucker! Dance!” she shouts as she works her blade, trying to sever the creature’s head.

Junko manages to get halfway there before Flappy bucks her off. She sidesteps and rolls around its attempts to squash her with impossible ease as she switches to her hammer and starts bashing its knees. Meanwhile, the telltale crimson jets of Blood magic among the more distant fighters tells you that Caleb’s back in the fight.

Beneath your group’s fire, Flappy’s head finally comes flopping off its shoulders. It rolls on the cratered landscape for a few moments before melting into an indistinct puddle of black goo. Somehow, it roars again from its stump of a neck.

It’s flesh is bubbling again, and it’s shambling toward the gate.

“Come on!” Yuuka shouts with desperate fury. “One last push and Gensokyo is safe!”

As if waiting for that cue, a jet of fire and light shoots out from behind you and engulfs Flappy. You turn around to see something that brings a smile to your face: Utsuho, the cannon on her arm glowing orange.

“Now we’re talking!” Junko pings.

You hear a clattering by your feet. Looking down, you see pebbles and splinters of wood skidding along the ground to converge on one point.

Flappy.

It’s adapting again, trying to draw you into its Filthburst attack with a gravity well.

“It’s trying to pull us in! Get to a safe distance and keep shooting!” You yell. “Anyone that gets hit by this is as good as dead-”

You freeze. Yuuka’s flying forward with all of her might, but she’s too far in to escape. Even as the others group up around the Utsuho and lends their fire to hers, Yuuka is pulled back inch by inch through the air.

“Yuuka!” you call. You don’t think that her umbrella can shield her at this range.

She snarls and plows her hands into the ground - through solid stone, goddamn is she strong - before drawing her umbrella and pointing it at Flappy.

“Forget about helping me.” her voice growls through the flower. “If you want to give this old woman comfort in her last moments, you can start by putting down this monster for good.”

You rack your mind for anything anyone can do to save her. You come up blank.

Still, that’s no reason to at least try.

You sprint forward and jump into the air, letting the expanding field of gravity drag you towards Flappy.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Yuuka hisses at you.

“Saving your whiny ass!” you shout back over the wind. You point your shotgun away from Yuuka and put all of your Anima into a blast that propels you towards her at an angle.

“Grab on!” you call as you hurtle closer.

To her credit, Yuuka complies without delay, letting go of the ground and latching onto your hands and being swept into the air.

“I ho-o-ope there’s mo-ore to your pla-an” Yuuka calls out as the two of you spin around. The color of her face is starting to match her hair.

“Yup!” you grin, calculating your window of opportunity. Too late, and Yuuka gets thrown farther in, too late, and the angle isn’t good enough. It has to be...

Now.

You let go, allowing momentum to hurl you towards the still-charging Flappy and Yuuka towards safety. Halfway to Filthy oblivion, you manage to slam yourself into piece of broken timber and cling to it. You break most of your ribs and a leg in the process, but that’s pocket change compared to what you’re about to suffer.

Time slows to a crawl as you watch her struggle against Flappy’s gravity. Just as the momentum you gave her grinds to a halt, she turns around and fires a Spark from her Umbrella. The force of the spell pushes her forward, but she can’t keep it up forever. As soon as the light dies, Yuuka starts getting dragged back in.

You think you see Utsuho trying pull Yuuka with some sort of gravity Elementalism, but it isn’t working, you couldn’t have used that so far in, why did you have to fuck up so close to the end -

You stamp down your impulse to look away. You’ve just met Yuuka, but she doesn’t deserve to die like this. It’s only fair that you should see your own mistakes to the end.

You’re forced to close your eyes by a comet blazing through Flappy’s gravity well like it isn’t there. When you open them, you see two figures on it. One is a confused Kazami Yuuka. The second is a bleeding Marisa with her left leg bent the wrong way and grim determination on her face.

“Marisa, you magnificent bastard!” you whoop at the top of your lungs, ignoring the fact that one of them is punctured.

Well, in a roundabout way, you accomplished what you suicidally jumped in here for. You might as well give Flappy something to remember you while you ressurect to kill it for good.

You release your grip on the splintered wood, drawing the last daisycutter from your inventory and taking one last good look at Flappy. It’s headless, wingless, and missing the majority of its flesh - you can see what looks like a goey black skeleton peeking out through the wounds. After all the grief it’s caused you, you’re going to do your part to put it down for good. You flip the plastic cap of the detonator and press the red button.

You’re not sure what causes your vision to black out: your bomb, the miniature sun Utsuho had parked on top of Flappy, or the Filth explosion, but what you do know is that you’re dead. The sudden, unmistakable lack of physical sensation settles that question for you.

Even for an immortal, death sucks ass.

“What’s the situation out there?” you ping.

“Charlotte, you crazy bitch!” Junko pings back. “We did it! The nuclear girl baked Flappy to a scorch mark on the ground!”


Relief comes flooding in.

It’s over. You’ve done your job.

---

Ground Team: Charlotte, Junko, Caleb
Front Line: Meiling, Mokou,
Support Team: Futo, Sakuya, Alice (no Goliath), Keine
Ranged Team: Yuuka, Eirin, Utsuho

Casualties: Ichirin, Patchouli, Marisa (?), Suika, Kasen, Tewi, Remilia, Suwako, Reimu, Sanae

---

“Now hurry up and stop being dead, would you?” Junko pings to you. “The three of us need a proper celebration, and we can’t do that while you’re atomized.”

“On it.” you ping. You cast your consciousness around the gloom, searching for the soft glow of the closest Anima well. You find it somewhere behind the shrine grounds, far enough away that it was missed by Flappy’s rampage.

You take the metaphysical equivalent of a deep breath before you force your way through the pinprick of light -
>> No. 183471
1---

TRANSMIT - The Ex-Taito Syntax - HALF-BLESSING - circa 1885 - RECEIVE - The Wonderland Frequency - CAUTION - mind the gap - WITNESS - Gensokyo

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.
How many kind thoughts does it take to construct paradise, Sweetling? Good intentions have always made for poor foundations. Even the path to Hell is paved of sterner stuff.

---

The Buzzing fills your head. The Bees don’t usually transmit their knowledge to you this way, but you suppose that things are different in Gensokyo. In a place otherwise cut off from Agartha, maybe Anima wells are the sole window of access to you.

Hold on, you’re getting another broadcast. It’s strange, too - it feels almost like white noise save for the barest glimpses of images and feelings that appear and disappear within fractions of seconds, almost too fast to notice.

The voice of the Bees sounds like ‘buzzing’, a chorus of biomechanical wingbeats. The voice of the Filth you heard in Tokyo sounded like ‘bubbling’, the swelling and bursting of blasphemous fluid. This signal more closely resembles the second. It sounds like ‘blinking’, data popping in and out at random across an ocean of nothing.

Nothing to do but bear with it for now.

---

I am the REM constellation - May I have a word

You there. Little bee buzzing about aimlessly. Don’t think I can’t see you.

Why have you come here? Was it your Immaculate Machine who led you to this place?

Is Gaia so quick to renege upon her word, when I have upheld mine?

I will have answers.

---

Well, that was nothing if not weird. You’re probably the ‘bee’ they’re talking about, and the ‘Immaculate Machine’ is another name for Gaia, but the rest is just a heap of ambiguity and threats.

If there’s one thing you hate about getting voices broadcast into your head, it’s that all of them seem to speak in nothing but frustrating riddles. You’d love to have it given to you in plain talk for once.

In any case, it looks like you’re about to ressure-
>> No. 183473
You awaken to the sound of sobs.

That’s not right - didn’t you just win? You don’t remember any confirmed fatalities among the fighters.

You take inventory of your surroundings. True to Dai’s word, you’re sprawled at the foot of a majestic oak tree, its leaves dappled with the colors of autumn. In the distance you can see the smoking ruins of the Hakurei shrine and the remaining fighters as they limp towards you, but what seems more urgently important are the fairies in front of you.

There are three of them - a long-haired brunette in a blue dress, a blonde with ringlettes in white, and a twin-tailed blonde in red. The latter is lying on the ground with her two friends crouching over her and crying.

It only takes one glance to see why.

You spot a spike of Filth jutting out from Twintail’s dress, one of the countless javelins Flappy flung throughout the battle. The fairy herself is delirious, incoherent and mumbling - she must be in the first stages of infection.

“Get to the Anima well now. Filth infectee.” you ping to your comrades.

You spring to your feet. “Get away from her! She’s infected!” you shout to the fairies. They don’t respond to you - probably still in shock. It’s as you try pulling them away do they react to your presence, kicking and flailing with little effect. You send questioning pulses through your hands into both fairies and find them clean.

“Let go of me! Sunny needs help!” the blue one sobs.

No kidding. You’re not sure what kind of help that would be. You’d normally just end her suffering with a headshot before burning the corpse, but Gensokyo’s fairies come back from death.

A smattering of gasps and whispers tells you that the rest of the fighters have arrived.

“Shit.” Caleb curses. “How do you make a fairy stay dead?”

The two fairies pale at his words.

“You can’t!” Ringletts protests. “She’s our friend!”

“I’m sorry.” he says. “but in a few minutes she’s not going to be your friend anymore.”

You kneel down to Sunny and lift her up a little for a closer look. Her skin is ashen and slick with sweat. You take hold of the the spike through her stomach dissolving it as your Anima flows into it. A small gesture to ease some of the pain.

Sunny whimpers. “Hurts. It hurts. Saph, Luna -” she croaks out.

Yuuka speaks up from the back of the group. “It’s possible to kill a fairy.” she says, in a matter-of-fact tone. “Most people think of them as manifestations of nature. That’s true on a day-to-day basis, but when it comes down to it, fairies are manifestations of the land’s Anima.”

Yuuka’s words click in your head. It explains how fairies keep coming back. It also explains what Cirno said during your first meeting - that you smelled like a fairy. With the Bee in your head, you must smell like family to something made of Anima.

“How might one permanently end the life of a fairy?” Futo asks.

“A Master Spark. A real one, not the Danmaku kind.” Yuuka explains over the cries of the increasingly agitated fairies in her arms. “It’s a massive stream of Anima. Of course, one of the Outsiders here could likely achieve the same effect.”

“Hold on!” Keine calls out. “Caleb, during the meeting, you said that there was a cure for Filth. Surely- “

“I said that it had only worked once, under very specific conditions.” he says, voice equal parts remorse and ice. “Are you willing to risk Gensokyo’s safety for one fairy?”

The group goes silent.

“I’d never forgive myself if we didn’t try.” Keine says after a moment. “If it doesn’t work, I’ll bear the weight of failure myself.”
“You wouldn’t be the only one paying for that mistake.” one of the newcomers - Eirin - speaks up. “You know many things, miss Kamishirasawa, but this magnitude of disease is not among them. The only mercy left for this child is death.” she concludes, sadly.

The group breaks out into argument at that. Keine, the flaming immortal, the martial artist, and the puppeteer in favor of trying to save Sunny, while Caleb, Yuuka, and Eirin support euthanizing her before the infection worsens.

Meanwhile, you’re just sitting down with the fairy in question in your lap, listening to the noise of nothing getting done while an innocent suffers.

Maybe if you had acted faster -

No, you couldn’t have known. You did the best you could with the knowledge, allies, and skills available to you. There’s no point in fretting over what can’t be undone.

Something touches your hand - you realize that you’ve been stroking Sunny’s forehead without noticing, and she’s latched onto it with both trembling hand for comfort. She’s getting sicker by the second - whatever choice is made needs to be made soon, because Sunny isn’t going to stick around much longer.

Unfortunately for her, the crowd doesn’t look any closer to making a decision.

You grind your teeth. You hate this - you hate watching and listening and waiting when there needs to be doing.

You come to a decision. You squeeze Sunny’s hands back, and place your other hand over her...

---

[ ] Throat. You’re going to destroy Sunny’s soul while it still belongs to her. This is the grim reality of what you fight - sometimes the single remaining mercy you can give to the innocent is to let them die as themselves and not a tentacled, slobbering mockery of who they were.

[ ] Heart. You’re going to try to cleanse Sunny. You’re fighting a losing battle against the rising tide of Filth, but you’ll be damned if you’ll let a little sludge make you give up on the innocent. You’ll tap into the Anima well and try to scour Sunny’s soul clean for the greatest ‘fuck-you’ you’ve ever given the Dreamers.

---

Ground Team: Charlotte, Junko, Caleb
Front Line: Meiling, Mokou,
Support Team: Futo, Sakuya, Alice (no Goliath), Keine
Ranged Team: Yuuka, Eirin, Utsuho, Marisa

Casualties: Ichirin, Patchouli, Suika, Kasen, Tewi, Remilia, Suwako, Reimu, Sanae, Sunny
>> No. 183474
[X] Heart. You’re going to try to cleanse Sunny. You’re fighting a losing battle against the rising tide of Filth, but you’ll be damned if you’ll let a little sludge make you give up on the innocent. You’ll tap into the Anima well and try to scour Sunny’s soul clean for the greatest ‘fuck-you’ you’ve ever given the Dreamers.

This is Gensokyo. Leave your common sense at the Border. We are going to do every last thing we can to save this fairy's life, damn the odds.
>> No. 183475
[x] Heart. You’re going to try to cleanse Sunny. You’re fighting a losing battle against the rising tide of Filth, but you’ll be damned if you’ll let a little sludge make you give up on the innocent. You’ll tap into the Anima well and try to scour Sunny’s soul clean for the greatest ‘fuck-you’ you’ve ever given the Dreamers.
>> No. 183480
[X] Heart. You’re going to try to cleanse Sunny. You’re fighting a losing battle against the rising tide of Filth, but you’ll be damned if you’ll let a little sludge make you give up on the innocent. You’ll tap into the Anima well and try to scour Sunny’s soul clean for the greatest ‘fuck-you’ you’ve ever given the Dreamers.

I'm pretty sure that was Yukari 'contacting' us during resurrection. And from the sounds of things, she doesn't know of Flappy nearly tearing the border a new asshole. Might as well try to get into her good books before she comes knocking. And considering this involves Gensokyo's safety, she won't be playing missus nice youkai.
>> No. 183484
[X] Heart. You’re going to try to cleanse Sunny. You’re fighting a losing battle against the rising tide of Filth, but you’ll be damned if you’ll let a little sludge make you give up on the innocent. You’ll tap into the Anima well and try to scour Sunny’s soul clean for the greatest ‘fuck-you’ you’ve ever given the Dreamers.

If we're winning, we might as well win big. All or nothing.
>> No. 183486
[X] Heart. You’re going to try to cleanse Sunny. You’re fighting a losing battle against the rising tide of Filth, but you’ll be damned if you’ll let a little sludge make you give up on the innocent. You’ll tap into the Anima well and try to scour Sunny’s soul clean for the greatest ‘fuck-you’ you’ve ever given the Dreamers.

I have no idea what's going on because I just hopped on this crazy train, but now I have to read the rest of this story thanks to this update. Good stuff.
>> No. 183487
[X] Heart. You’re going to try to cleanse Sunny. You’re fighting a losing battle against the rising tide of Filth, but you’ll be damned if you’ll let a little sludge make you give up on the innocent. You’ll tap into the Anima well and try to scour Sunny’s soul clean for the greatest ‘fuck-you’ you’ve ever given the Dreamers.
>> No. 183491
[x] Heart. You’re going to try to cleanse Sunny. You’re fighting a losing battle against the rising tide of Filth, but you’ll be damned if you’ll let a little sludge make you give up on the innocent. You’ll tap into the Anima well and try to scour Sunny’s soul clean for the greatest ‘fuck-you’ you’ve ever given the Dreamers.

Time to find out if this works, before someone powerful gets infected.

I'm betting filth fairies become the major problem of the story. But hey, maybe it got another random fairy and we can at least save Sunny.
>> No. 183498
[X] Throat. You’re going to destroy Sunny’s soul while it still belongs to her. This is the grim reality of what you fight - sometimes the single remaining mercy you can give to the innocent is to let them die as themselves and not a tentacled, slobbering mockery of who they were.

Sometimes, tough choices have to be made.
>> No. 183502
[X] Heart, godamit all.

Just started reading today. Finally an mc that could stand to gensokyo standard without being a whinny bitch or straight up assholish.

I do have a question to ask. If flappy want to get out of gensokyo, why didnt just let him?
>> No. 183503
By the way, are you planning any romance here?
>> No. 183504
>>183502

Speaking as someone unfamiliar with The Secret World, would you want a Filth-spreading monstrosity rampaging across dimensions, where it will inevitably kill and corrupt everything it comes across? The sheer amount of collateral damage it could wreak before getting tracked down and exterminated would be horrific. I'd bet most places aren't nearly so prepared as Earth or Gensokyo, either, and Flappy in the opening was still a large threat against a forty-strong group of Filth-immune immortal warriors who specialise in destroying such abominations.

Shit's not good to leave unchecked, is what I'm saying.
>> No. 183505
>you realize that you’ve been stroking Sunny’s forehead without noticing, and she’s latched onto it with both trembling hand for comfort.

Cuuuuuute~
>> No. 183506
Calling vote in favor of:

[X] Heart. You’re going to try to cleanse Sunny. You’re fighting a losing battle against the rising tide of Filth, but you’ll be damned if you’ll let a little sludge make you give up on the innocent. You’ll tap into the Anima well and try to scour Sunny’s soul clean for the greatest ‘fuck-you’ you’ve ever given the Dreamers.

>>183502
Flappy was trying to get out through breaking the Hakurei Barrier. Breaking the Barrier = no more Gensokyo = bad.
Corrupting the Barrier = Filthy Gensokyo = worse.

>>183503
I don't have anything definite planned right now. It could happen, but I don't want to include a romance that detracts from the rest of the story.
>> No. 183507
this is the first time i'm bashing my f5 button for a story.
>> No. 183508
>>183507
My last final is on Tuesday the 16th. I'll be able to update more frequently after that point.
>> No. 183509
[x] Heart. You’re going to try to cleanse Sunny. You’re fighting a losing battle against the rising tide of Filth, but you’ll be damned if you’ll let a little sludge make you give up on the innocent. You’ll tap into the Anima well and try to scour Sunny’s soul clean for the greatest ‘fuck-you’ you’ve ever given the Dreamers.

---

mfw I realize that Sunny has auburn hair

---

You take a last look at your surroundings. It’s evening, and the only light on the ground is coming from the scattered fires of the battle and the various glowing orbs that the natives have conjured.

Looking up, you see the waxing moon floating among countless stars, more than you’ve ever seen. Are the Dreamers watching, leering at you from between the glare of long-dead suns?

Well, they can go suck it.

You place your left hand over Sunny’s chest and take a deep breath. You close your eyes, tune out the noise of the arguers, and reach out-

-into the choking, tarry space of the fairy’s soul.

Sunny’s soul is different from any human or Outside fairy you’ve seen before, with clouds of white particles that dance and whirl around a central... core? It’s a lot like yours, actually, though much smaller. Her architecture is much more compact and fluid than yours.

It’s also being strangled by thick tendrils and tumors of Filth, clinging on the surface of her core and entangling some of the orbiting particles in stringy webs.

You hesitate for a moment. You’ve never seriously tried this before - It’s only worked once, and the person who did it is an outlier, even by your standards.

Well, the only way out is forwards. If worst comes to worse, Yuuka can always spark everything clean, you suppose.

You reach out to the soft glow of the Anima well behind you and begin to siphon its golden nectar into yourself. Reaching out to Sunny, you touch a web of Filth-

owFUCK that hurt. Physical pain doesn’t faze you anymore, but Filth on your soul hurts on a level that bypasses biology and conditoning.

If your soul had teeth they’d be clenched right now.

Now prepared for the pain, you clamp on to the Filth even as a terrible fire spreads through your consciousness. You’re rewarded for your perseverance by the wet sizzling of Filth being annihilated on contact.

Some of the trapped particles don’t seem to survive. You try not to focus on them as you make your way to the other webs and repeat the process.

Suddenly, a mat of Filth launches itself at you - it’s trying to get into the Anima well!

You put a stop to that with a pulse of Anima, burning up the offending Filth into nothing.

Nothing else accosts you as you clean out the rest of the outer infection. You tear down vines sagging with grotesque, fruit-like growths and sweep the remaining specks of Sunny’s soul for lurking infection.

Meanwhile, the pain grows into a searing knife, plunged into your skull with every bit of Filth that you purge. ‘Keep going’ you tell yourself. You’re almost there. You’re making progress - you can pull this off.

With the outer reaches of her soul cleaned, you move closer to Sunny’s core. Here, the Filth seems to be covering it in a network of tumors, linked to each other with black arteries. You get the feeling that they’re trying to root themselves in.

You move to burn out one node, but as you grasp it, the Filth shrinks and retreats through its tendrils into neighboring tumors. What’s it playing at?

You continue to jab at the boils, but after a while the Filth all converges to a single, massive, pimple of Filth.

It’s throbbing, like a pimple trying to imitate a heart. Ewwww.

Disgusting or not, it’s the last remaining body of Filth on Sunny’s soul, and it’s got nowhere else to run. You reach out to it, bracing for the blood-bleaching pain of contact-

The tumor lunges forward and swallows you.

Your mind goes blank for a moment. The pain is too intense to even try screaming - not like you have a mouth - the only thing you can do is let your projected body writhe.

This was a stupid idea. The absolute worst idea you’ve ever had. Your soul is going to drown in Filth, which might actually kill you for good, and Sunny’s still infected.

Something punches through the Filth surrounding you and drags you out. It takes a few moments of reeling from relief to identify it.

“Yuuka?” you ping.

“I understand that humans can be foolish.” she pings back. “But I didn’t expect you to be insane.”

“What, the maneuver in the gravity well didn’t clue you in?” you ping, looking at Yuuka’s soul.

If you dwarf Sunny, Yuuka dwarfs you by several times as much - her core is enormous and brilliant - you can see why Satori called her ‘blinding’. It’s surrounded by screens of flowers, all sorts of flowers, and lattices of wood and vines. She probably plucked you out of there with one.

“Well, if you can make poor jokes, it’s a sign that you can go on.” Yuuka pings. She’s half-right - you’re exhausted. Your own core is flickering like a worn-out lightbulb.

“So, what are we going to do about that?” she says, indicating the tumor she saved you from. It’s busy trying to shuffle around to the far side of Sunny’s soul, as if in fear.

“We chase it down, pull it out by the roots, and burn it out of existence.”

Approval radiates off of Yuuka. “Well said.”

“Without killing Sunny.” you add.

“Of course.” comes the bemused reply. “It’s the least I can do after the struggle you’ve put in.”

That’s quite a reversal from her original position. “I heard you saying that Sunny should be mercy-killed.” you ping.

Yuuka pauses, the tumor wriggling around in a glowing cage of wood. “The fruits of your struggle, though stupid and suicidal, have shown that it is possible to save this child. However, this is an extraordinary case - you’re dealing with a creature of Anima and little else, you’re on top of an Anima well, and you have my help. Furthermore, this encounter has put great stress on your body and soul that you will have to endure once you awaken. This is hardly a practical solution.”

“That’s fine.” you ping. “We can find a solution later. The immediate thing is that Sunny’s going to make it, right?”

“That’s true.” Yuuka says. “I must admit that I had my... doubts concerning the ability of Gaia’s Chosen. The events of today have forced me to revise those beliefs.”

Yuuka seems strangely familiar with Gaia, Anima, and Agartha.

“Yuuka, how do you know so much about Gaia?” you ask.

“A fair question.” she says “You see, it’s my duty to administer Gensokyo’s nature. Everyone knows that.”

“What they don’t know is that nature is only an offshoot of my true duty.” she continues as the cage begins to contract.

“Well, what would that be?” you ping with growing annoyance. You really don’t like roundabout answers.

“Gensokyo’s Yggdrasil.” Yuuka answers, before the cages collapses upon itself and the trapped Filth dies with a pitiful squeal. With that, the Flower Master grabs you, and pulls you back in-

-back into your own body. Your eyes fly open, and after a moment your vision resolves into the group huddling next to you. Foremost are Caleb and Junko with genuine fear on their faces.

“Shit, what on earth were you thinking?” Junko growls.

Yuuka waves her off “I saw her through without lasting harm.”

As for you, you just look down to find Sunny still on your lap and soaked in sweat, but no longer moaning in pain.

The sight of her peaceful breathing alone makes the whole ordeal worth it to you. Not that it erases the memories of pain - you’re feeling pretty beat. It’s strange - you don’t normally feel tired. It’s a property of being Chosen- you think, it’s getting harder to focus as your own breathing slows to match Sunny’s and your eyelids droop down.

And that’s when you die for the second time.
>> No. 183510
---

12---

Her half is to change the rules of the losing game we play.

We seek a shield, a sword, a cure, a vaccine against the enemy seeping into your gray matter. -DO YOU COPY?- We cannot peer beyond the curtains of gangrenous stars. We weave a single thread into the new tapestry. An agent is planted in her sandbox to see how well oblivion keeps its promises.

Begin year zero of the Gensokyo experiment.

---

The Buzzing again. You hope that you don’t have to keep getting yourself offed to get answers from the Bees, but knowing your luck-

---
>> No. 183511
You wake up only a few feet away from where your previous body gave out. Everyone’s staring at you.

“What, you’ve never seen someone rise from the dead before?” you quip as you get to your feet. You see Luna and Star pick up the sleeping form of Sunny and fly into the branches of the oak tree.

You hope Sunny will be alright.

“Yeah. ‘Unharmed’.” Junko drawls with evident sarcasm. “She died as soon as she got out! What the hell happened in there?”

“The two of us were able to scour the Filth from this fairy’s soul.” Yuuka explains. “However, Charlotte had already suffered heavy damage to her own soul by the time I found her.”

“What are the immediate consequences?” Caleb asks.

“She’ll recover with time, say, between a few days and a week.” Yuuka says. “Until that time, her various abilities as a Chosen will be drastically reduced.”

Uh oh.

“Try not to die in the meanwhile.” Yuuka says, smiling at you.

“We’ll see about that.” an unfamiliar voice speaks.

The crowd parts to reveal a woman with short blonde hair and nine fox tails fanning out behind her.

You recognize her. Yakumo Ran, divine Kitsune and retainer of Yakumo Yukari. Both of them are powerful, super-intelligent, and are responsible for maintaining the Hakurei Border. Crossing either of them is one of the most foolish mistakes anyone in Gensokyo can make.

Ran looks rather cross right now, as she splits her slit-pupil glare between you, Caleb, and Junko.

“Three agents of the three largest Societies appeared in Gensokyo at noontime.” she begins. “Several hours later, Filth appears at the Hakurei Shrine, which gets utterly destroyed in a massive battle that involves both you three and some of the most powerful figures in Gensokyo.”

“Cale, please take care of this.” you ping. “Without getting me killed.”

“You believe that we’re responsible?” Caleb ventures.

“I’m saying that you three are the most likely sources of this disturbance until I get more information.” Ran says, eyes narrowed. You can feel a palpable aura of menace from her - most of the others are backing away.

It’s worrying when the nuclear hell raven looks terrified of something.

“Well, we get the chance to explain ourselves.” Caleb pings. “It could have been worse.”

“We’ll give you answers.” Caleb says. “But could we continue this discussion elsewhere? Perhaps somewhere indoors, with chairs?”

Ran gives him a moment of consideration - estimating the odds that the three of you will try to escape? The pros and cons of just snatching the three of you for interrogation? - before nodding affirmative.

“I can teleport this group to Mayohiga. Everyone else who does not wish to come should leave now and not speak of this.” Ran says.

You resist the urge to roll your eyes. Just because you’re part of a Secret Society doesn’t mean that you enjoy cloak and dagger bullshit.

In the end, only Utsuho goes back, sent by Satori. Ran raises her hands, and the rest of you find yourselves standing in the streets of a deserted village.

“This is the place I was talkin’ about before.” Marisa says from beside you. “Mayohiga.”

You give her a once-over. Her leg isn’t broken anymore, but it looks like she’s got trouble putting weight on it. She’s using her battered broom as a walking stick.

“Are you sure you’re fine?” you ask her.

“It’s fine. I drank a potion for it. I just gotta walk it off ‘fer now.” She says, grinning. She’s missing a tooth.

“This way!” Ran announces, and your group follows her into one of the bigger houses. A young girl with cat ears and two tails sticks her head out the doorway as you get close.

“Chen!” Ran calls out. “Prepare one of the larger rooms.” Chen ducks back into the house.

You enter to find a room similar to the layout at Akyuu’s mansion, with a large, round table and seating for everyone.

Chen has just finished pouring the last cups of tea as you walk in. Ran pats her head, and the bakeneko scampers off. You pick a chair between Caleb and Junko.

“Don’t drink the tea.” Caleb pings to you. “Not until we’ve got a clear picture of Ran.”

“Now” Ran begins in a severe voice. “Give me the full account of today’s events.”

Caleb does his best to summarize the convoluted sequence of events that led to this point: The original fight with Flappy in Agartha, chasing it into the portals, raising the alarm in Gensokyo, the battle at the Shrine, and you curing Sunny.

Ran listens intently, her eyes searching Caleb’s face for hints of deception. Intelligent as she is, she’s no telepath.

Eirin is also paying attention. She elected to send Tewi in her place for the meeting at Akyuu’s mansion, but she’s taking this seriously now.

Between the two of them, you’re not sure if Caleb could hide the truth if he wanted to.

It’s quiet for a moment after Caleb finishes his account of events.

Ran breaks the silence. “Can any of you verify this?”

There’s a chorus of affirmation. Keine raises her hand. “I can personally vouch for the Outsiders. Without them, it’s difficult to imagine how bad the battle could have gone.”

“Speakin’ of the battle.” Marisa says. “Why didn’t you show up, Ran? I thought protectin’ the border’s supposed to be your job.”

“I was protecting the border.” Ran says. “Lady Yukari and I successfully repelled a coordinated assault from the Outside.”

“I hope you didn’t ‘repel’ a rescue attempt for us.” Junko says.

“On the contrary. While this ‘Flappy’ was attempting to destroy the Barrier from within Gensokyo, additional Filth was trying to invade from outside.”

“And both of you are clean?” you ask. You don’t even want to imagine something like Yukari getting infected.

On that note, where is Yukari?

“Both of us are healthy and uninfected.” Ran declares. “However, Lady Yukari is not able to appear in person at this time, and as such I have taken over her duties for the time being. Beyond that much, I cannot say.”

You don’t like the sound of that, but you can’t do anything but take Ran’s word for it. A glance at Satori shows an impassive look on her face.

“If I may.” Caleb says. “Today has been nothing if not busy, and our respective superiors are certain to be expecting word from us.”

Ran dismisses him. “It would be irresponsible of me to allow you to expose Gensokyo to the Outside. In any case, all traffic in and out of Gensokyo has been sealed.” Ran says. “This is the worst possible time for a weakness in the Barrier to be exploited.”

“What about curing Sunny?” you ask. “That report could help the Outside to battle Filth!”

Ran frowns. “This isn’t up for negotiation.” she states.

Yuuka smirks. “Ran, I’ve got to call your bluff. We both know that the Barrier isn’t impenetrable. If they want to contact the Outside, they will find a way. Why don’t we avoid a lot of unpleasantness in the future?”

For the first time, the Kitsune looks off-balance. She wasn’t expecting Yuuka to expose her.

Ran sighs. “Very well. I will allow you to send your reports and receive relevant information from your superiors. In exchange, I will censor any sensitive information that you attempt to include. I will also require you to deal with any Filth that may remain in Gensokyo.

“I say we take it.” Caleb pings. “Killing Filth is our job, anyways, and we go find those other ways Yuuka mentioned if Ran doesn’t cooperate.”

“We accept.” Junko says. “Now that we’ve taken care of that issue, I’ve got a question about the Hakurei Shrine.”

Ran stiffens at the question. “What do you want to know?”

“How much is it going to cost to rebuild? I feel pretty bad that the whole thing got wrecked in the fight.”

“The cost is no issue.” Ran says. “Chen and I will have it rebuilt within the week.”

Junko looks cheered at this.

“What of the wounded?” you ask.

“The Scarlet’s maid delivered them to Eientei.” Eirin answers. “I can assure you that they are all stable and receiving the best possible care.”

“All except for one.” Satori says, looking at Ran. All eyes are upon her.

“Miss Komeiji.” Ran growls. “Please do not try to undermine Gensokyo’s security.”

“I should ask the same of you.” Satori retorts, returning Ran’s glare. “Why have you removed Reimu from Eientei?”

Eirin reacts as if slapped. “What? Of all the idiotic, irresponsible things to - Ran, you ought to know better!” she shouts.

Ran scowls as the room breaks into chaos.

You remember hearing about Reimu getting knocked out from Remilia during the fight, and you assumed that she was more or less okay. If the genius Lunarian is flipping her shit, something is going wrong.

You reach for your focus under the table. You can sense Caleb and Junko following your example.

“Quiet!” Ran shouts, and the room falls back into order. “I am well aware of the danger that Filth poses!” she glares at Satori. “Lady Yukari is the only being in Gensokyo who is able to treat Reimu in these circumstances. As such, I have delivered Reimu to her care.”

Satori’s expression is still one of hostility, but she makes no objection.

“Why was I not informed of this?” Eirin hisses. “Your master’s authority does not permit you to violate the estates of others.”

“It does in times like these.” Ran concludes, weariness replacing the anger in her voice. “Dark days are coming, and I am bound to keep Gensokyo safe from them. At any cost.”

An uncomfortable silence fills the room. You, Cale, and June slowly release your weapons.

“I am sure that Ran is acting with our best interests at heart.” Keine says. “Before we can all return home, we need to settle where the three Outsiders will stay for the night.”

“You are welcome to stay at Eientei if you so choose.” Eirin offers. “Though I can no longer speak for its security.”

Ran looks somewhat abashed. Her tails are drooping, and you think her ears are too, beneath her cap.

“Lodgings at the Human Village are also available.” Keine says. “Akyuu won’t mind your company.”

Caleb looks skeptical. “I’d have thought that Ran would want us somewhere she could monitor us.”

Ran flicks her tails. “As Yuuka has pointed out, even if I were to try to restrict your activities, I could not succeed indefinitely. Furthermore, you have proven yourselves in the defense of the Shrine.” the tails perk up again. “In light of that, certain exceptions could be made, a certain degree of trust might be given.”

“Well, thank you for your consideration, Ran.” Junko says. “And thank you for opening your doors to us.” she addresses to Eirin and Keine. “We’ll give it some thought. Now, about those reports...”

With nothing more for them to stay for, most of the others stand up from the table and exit.

“Personally, I would recommend staying at Eientei in light of your temporary vulnerability.” Eirin addresses you. “Though I suppose that I can no longer vouch for its security.” With that, she leaves the room.

In the end, You, Caleb, Junko, Ran, and Yuuka are left.

“Not leaving, Yuuka?” you ask.

“Oh, don’t mind me.” she says with a smile. “I just need to have a word with Ran once you three are finished.” that said. she walks out and leaves the four of you together. Ran follows Yuuka’s movement warily.

“I’d like to start now, if it’s alright with you.” Caleb says, drawing her attention back to you.

“Of course.” Ran says, taking a moment to compose herself.

The three of you spend the next few minutes going back and forth with Ran. You want to report as much as possible, while she wants you to report as little as possible. You can see where she’s coming from, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

In the end, you all agree on an account of events with a number of names redacted, such as Reimu’s and Yukari’s.

Why is Ran so concerned with Reimu? It probably has to to with Yukari, but you can’t go on from there since you’ve never met the gap youkai. What’s the connection?

Leaving that aside, the three of you tap out the message onto your cellphones and press send. You only have to wait a minute before the replies start coming in.
>> No. 183512
---

Re:Unforeseen Consequences
Sender: Charlotte “Highlander” McGallagher
Recipient:Richard Sonnac

First things first: I commend you for your performance under these bizarre circumstances. Your actions have represented the Templar order with courage and honor, and the council of masters have seen fit to award you a promotion in light of your performance in the field. Congratulations, Executor McGallagher, on rallying Gensokyo and eliminating the Bird of the Zero Point Pathogen.

Now that that’s out of the way, I must admit that your report gives us much to consider. Gladstone is practically frothing at the mouth from some of the names you’ve included - it’ll be some time before he calms down enough to get coherent information out of him. There is another one of our academics who claims to have insight into ‘Gensokyo’, but like Gladstone, Professor Okazaki can be rather scatterbrained at times. We will attempt to contact you with further information.

In light of Gensokyo's ‘Youkai’ activity, a significant part of the Council of Masters is in favor of going to war with it. Thankfully, calmer heads have prevailed for now. Gensokyo does not pose a direct or immediate threat to us, and none of the Societies have the ability to affect it in turn, though we are in the process of searching for its real-world location as we speak.

Your report on curing the Filth infection of the fairy is encouraging - though we are unable to replicate this in the real world. There are no ‘fairies’ of the type you’ve described, and the consequences of that small cleansing are quite serious for you. We cannot win the war with this, but it is a step in the right direction.

With your data, we have been able to restart hundreds of investigations into unexplained Occult deaths. Furthermore, we have reason to believe that many of the inhabitants of the “Human Village” that you described are descended from task forces that went missing in the late nineteenth century. They were investigating strange migratory patterns of Occult creatures before they went dark - and here we have a pocket dimension full of them.

Incidentally, you mentioned that you encountered a certain Remilia Scarlet and her hostility towards both you and your Illuminati associate. The reason for this lies primarily with her sister, Flandre, and her unique affinity for Quantum magic. To make a long story short, the Illuminati attempted on multiple occasions to capture the younger Scarlet for their own use while we merely aimed to remove the threat she presented. I must say that we were the more successful of the two - you may find that Flandre’s Laevatein has a noticeable dent. That’s the handiwork of Dame Julia Beatrix Tyburn’s grandmother, who engaged the vampire in single combat and survived. In any case, the last reported sighting of Remilia was in the late 1800’s, and that marks the last of our involvement with her. I would argue that one ought to move on from centuries-old offenses, but from a Templar that would be quite the proverbial kettle and teapot.

Moving on, there is also the case of the Buddhist group. Hijiri Byakuren had affiliated herself with our operations in turn-of-the-millenia Japan when it was discovered that she was aiding and abetting the very occult creatures she had promised to keep in check. Furthermore, she had begun to dabble in Demonic magic - an even greater taboo back in the day. As punishment for her deception, our agents overpowered her and performed a planar banishment, sealing her in the Hell Dimensions. Planar banishment has fallen out of favor as an execution method, for reasons apparent in her renewed freedom that you report. As for her ‘Youkai reformation’ scheme - it’s an admirable, thoroughly unattainable goal. Odd that one freed from Hell would immediately take up a sisyphean struggle, but I suppose we can chalk that up to the thousand years of desolation.

The Taoists are all Illuminati long presumed dead. I say ‘presumed’ with a touch of disappointment, as it is we who sabotaged Toyosatomimi’s resurrection. She tried to manipulate her way into power under the name of ‘Shoutoku” in the sixth century. and by the sound of things she’s tried to do it again, which goes to show that the Illuminati never do learn when to quit. Trust Miko at your own peril.

That’s all the data that I have been able to gather so far based on the names you’ve given me. I understand that your communication is being monitored - try to circumvent it, if at all possible. We need information, and more importantly we need to ensure that the other Societies do not gain a foothold.

It may be some time before we are next able to communicate, so for now I will give you several general orders to carry out at your own discretion:

1)Exterminate all Filth on contact
2)Assess the situation at the Human Village
3)Gather information on dangerous figures
4)Investigate the construction of the Barrier
5)Investigate ‘Makai’ and its connection to Hell
6)Investigate the Lunarians
7)Locate a passage out of Gensokyo

Godspeed, Executor.

R. Sonnac

---
>> No. 183513
Wow. You weren’t expecting a field promotion.

In addition to your increased paycheck, you now have the right to direct your own operations in the field and access Keter-Class documents and relics.

Of course, you’re stuck in Gensokyo, which means that none of that is of any immediate use to you, but hey - you also don’t have to deal with any bureaucratic nonsense.

“Kickass!” Junko declares, exuberant.

Caleb is less visibly enthusiastic, but you can guess by his grin that he’s gotten a promotion as well.

For all of their inter-faction bickering, the Big Three are pretty similar when it comes down to it, you’d say.

“Thank you, Ran.” Junko says after she’s calmed down. “We’ll live up to our end of the bargain.”

Ran nods. “Be ready to fight Filth at a moment’s notice and don’t cause trouble.”

The first you can guarantee. The second, not so much.

“So, if we’re done for tonight.” Ran says. “Where will I be teleporting you?”

---

[ ] Eientei: Lunarian enclave, high security, can talk to wounded characters, bunnies everywhere

[ ] Human Village: Center of human activity, questionable security, geographic center of Gensokyo

[#] Palace of Earth Spirits: Maybe once you’ve gotten your immortality back
>> No. 183514
[X] Eientei: Lunarian enclave, high security, can talk to wounded characters, bunnies everywhere

I feel like setting up in the human village is a good long term goal, what with it being the geographical center of Gensokyo, but I'm not certain that it's the best choice right now, so yeah... Let's try and gather some information on/from the Lunarians for now.
>> No. 183515
[x] Eientei

>Bunnies everywhere.

You are trying to lure us, aren't you?

>I commend you for your performance under these bizarre circumstances. Your actions have represented the Templar order with courage and honor, and the council of masters have seen fit to award you a promotion in light of your performance in the field. Congratulations, Executor McGallagher, on rallying Gensokyo and eliminating the Bird of the Zero Point Pathogen.

Totally reading that in the voice of The Council of Nations from XCOM:EU.

>Keter class.

I'm not too familiar with the TSW lore, but if that's a reference to a certain other secret society, then I wonder how 682 would react to the filth.
>> No. 183516
>>183515
Unlike the X-COM project, the Templars are able to afford sufficient background lighting for their top brass.

As for 682 - just shove it through a Hellrift. Earth no longer has to deal with an unkillable muder monster, and 682 doesn't have to deal with humans anymore. Everyone wins, except for the Demons, but it's not like things can get much worse for them.
>> No. 183517
[x] The Garden of the Sun
Because Yuuka.
>> No. 183518
It's not like The Foundation doesn't have access to Hell, y'know. so there must be a reason they haven't tried that.
>> No. 183525
>>183518

Well, every time the Foundation tried to get rid of it by sending it away, it always came back, nastier than before.

Heck they tried to launch it into the sun twice, and all it did was that it came back on fire, and with wings made of fire, respectively.

This is also the reason why they don't nuke it from orbit, because they're afraid it will survive the hit and start producing radiation naturally. And considering that it was able to survive the very laws of physics being warped and possibly laughing at that attempt...
>> No. 183534
[X] Eientei: Lunarian enclave, high security, can talk to wounded characters, bunnies everywhere
>> No. 183544
[x] Bunnies
>> No. 183548
Calling the vote in favor of:

[X] Eintei.

The following characters are recovering at Eientei:

Ichirin, Patchouli, Suika, Kasen, Tewi, Remilia, Suwako, Reimu, Sanae

Due to the stress of curing Sunny, Charlotte is currently restricted to basic (inner wheel) combat abilities. This is expected to last between a few days and one week. It is unclear if her resurrective immortality will work during this period.
>> No. 183549
Nice. Just fyi, the flow of votes almost always decline later on. This is normal.
>> No. 183621
Finals are done, writing will resume shortly.
>> No. 183627
JOY
>> No. 183697
>“Both of us are healthy and uninfected.” Ran declares. “However, Lady Yukari is not able to appear in person at this time, and as such I have taken over her duties for the time being. Beyond that much, I cannot say.”

I seriously hope she used the word "both" by chance, cause if Yukari's infected and Ran's covering up for her we're all types of fucked. That said, she's probably fine.

The villagers being descendants of Templars is interesting. I wonder how much they've passed down over the years.

Also, I've gotta say I like how you're tying in things from TSW to Gensokyo. I don't know much about it other than what I've picked up through the story, but it's been well explained so far. The battle scenes are great too, I can't think of any other story that's had this many participants in a battle while still describing all their actions.
>> No. 183713
[X] Eientei

---

“I say we head to Eientei.” you ping Caleb and Junko. “Chat with the locals, see what Eirin has to say about what happened to me.”

“Dunno about that.” Junko pings back. “The sooner we get to the Human Village, the sooner we can figure out what’s going on.”

“I agree with Char.” Caleb chimes in. “Besides, our bosses seem to be interested in the Lunarians. We could use this to learn more about them.”

Junko sighs. “Christ, can’t you look at social interaction like a normal person?”

“My point still stands.” he counters. “We can always go to the Human Village tomorrow.”

“Fine.” Junko relents. “But I need to ask Ran some stuff before we go.”

“We’d like to go to Eientei.” Junko says. “But before we go, I want to clear some things up.”

Ran’s brow furrows, but the Kitsune-woman nods after a moment. “Very well. What do you wish to know?”

“Well, first on the list is what’s up with Reimu.” Junko begins. “I heard that she got hit by Flappy’s Filth explosion. I’ve seen that attack melt straight through people. I’ve been hit by it a few times myself. You’re absolutely, one-hundred percent certain that Reimu’s going to be fine?”

“I guarantee that Lady Yukari has the situation under control.” Ran says. “While I appreciate your concern, both I and my master understand the threat of Filth, and only Yukari is able to look after Reimu in this condition.”

Junko looks less than convinced, but doesn’t press the issue. “Alright. How about the Barrier, then? Reimu didn’t manage to explain much before Flappy showed up.”

“The keystone at the Hakurei Shrine is intact and uncontaminated.” Ran says. “I owe the three of you significant thanks for that. However, the danger isn’t gone. It’s possible that the monster was able to spread Filth elsewhere in Gensokyo before it attacked the shrine.”

“Gensokyo’s not a big place. What’s your plan for dealing with that?” Caleb asks.

“There are already a number of individuals in Gensokyo with the ability and experience to confront Filth.” Ran says. “I am one of them. Yuuka is another. However, we are few and far between.”

That reminds you of something.

“Yuuka told me that Gensokyo’s Barrier would stop non-physical Filth transmission.” you interrupt. “I hope that she’s right, because it’d make our lives so much easier.”

“She is correct.” Ran says. “I won’t bore you with the details right now, but suffice to say that the Barrier will eliminate the possibility of non-physical Filth.”

“That’s not totally reassuring.” you point out. “What if it gets into the water, or starts floating spores everywhere?”

“The Barrier can inhibit, though not halt, the spread of physical Filth.” Ran says. “It’s one of the reasons it was built.”

That’s something to consider. It may be worth examining the Barrier if it’s that effective at resisting Filth. Marisa did say that messing with the barrier is a good way to get beaten up by a certain gap Youkai, though.

You’ll leave that for later. It’s not a pressing concern.

Caleb’s words snap you out of your thoughts. “You mentioned that you need boots on the ground to help fight. I assume that this is where we come in?”

“That’s correct. We should be able to detect Filth activity early enough, but the three of you would be a tremendous help in actually containing any outbreak.” Ran says.

“With that in mind, what are we not allowed to do while in Gensokyo?” Caleb asks.

Ran sighs.

“You are not allowed to report sensitive information to your superiors, interfere with the Barrier’s operation, or kill any non-infected sentient individual.” Ran lists. “I understand that the societies will want more information about Gensokyo. All I am asking is that the information you release does not compromise the safety of Gensokyo’s residents. Should you attempt to deliberately act against Gensokyo, I will be forced by my Shikigami contract to respond with force.”

Caleb nods. “That’s fair.”

There are ways to deal with Chosen. You’d rather not have to find out if Ran knows them.

“Though it may be too much to ask at this point, I also request that you do not go out of your way to disturb the peace.” Ran adds.

Ah. The tricky part.

“Define ‘peace’.” you ask. Ran fixes you with a stare of disbelief.

“What? It’s a serious question! I’ve read the recent history of this place- it seems like every other month someone’s summoning a red mist or stealing the moon or starting a religious war around here.”

Ran looks annoyed. “Well, yes, but they use the spellcard rules. All I’m asking is that you don’t try to kill anyone. Gensokyo is meant to be a sanctuary for all sorts of Occult creatures, and it would invite disaster to disregard Reimu’s system.”

“Reimu’s out of the picture, though.” Junko pings to you. “And from the sound of things, so is Yukari. Ran might be the only one enforcing spellcard rules for the near future.”

“But anyone who steps out of line is going to get attacked by all the rest.” Caleb points out. “And that’s not even considering what Reimu would do when she got back.”

You shrug. “It seems that we ought to learn this ‘Danmaku’ thing then.” you say to Ran. You’re not quite sure why the humans of Gensokyo are playing magical dodgeball with dangerous Youkai instead of exterminating them, but anything that helps you fit in better can’t be all bad.

With nothing else to ask, Ran has each of you give your word to fight against any Filth that shows up in Gensokyo and to avoid needless violence. It’s more of a verbal guarantee than the sort of magical oath you’re sure Ran would otherwise have you make, but it’s impossible to bind a Chosen’s soul to a contract. The experts still aren’t certain why, since the only other parallel seems to be with soulless creatures. However, that’s clearly ridiculous - you have a soul! You nearly lost it when you saved Sunny!

You’re going off on a tangent. Point of the matter is that the three of you more or less promised to do things that you were going to do in the first place. In exchange, you’ll be given some degree of freedom to get the intel that your respective bosses are so eager to have.

“Alright, I guess that’s about it for now.” Junko says. “Ran, is there anything else that you want to say to us?”

Ran thinks for a moment before shaking her head. “We have covered everything of immediate concern. There appear to be no fatalities from the battle, and the more remote regions have been warned by now.”

“However,” she adds as her eyes flick to the doorway, “Keep in mind that certain individuals will seek to manipulate you for their own ends.”

“Interesting. Anyone in particular?” Caleb asks, following her gaze.

“There is a Tanuki of considerable age and cunning in Gensokyo.” Ran says, not looking away. “Futatsuiwa Mamizou. She has been making connections and gathering power in the Human Village. She’s known to employ lesser Tsukumogami as spies, and it’s likely that she will try to monitor you.”

“In addition, I would advise caution around the gods of the Moriya shrine and the Taoists. While both groups have respected the spellcard rules, they have also made their desire for power clear. They may try to use you to upset the balance of power.”

“Eh. We’re not exactly strangers to clandestine power games. We can handle ourselves” Caleb says. “Thanks for the heads-up, Ran. We’ll uphold our part of the bargain.”

She’s been indicating Yuuka the whole time, who you’d guess has been listening to the entire exchange from behind that door. You’re not quite sure what sort of being the flower master is at this point, but she’s got some connection to Ran and Yukari. You’ll have to keep a critical eye on her as well, it seems.

The three of you stand up and move in front of Ran. As the kitsune-woman raises her hands, Caleb moves to brush a non-existent speck of dust off his sleeve-
>> No. 183714
-and the four of you are no longer in Mayohiga. You hear the soft rustling of the wind as you look at the towering screens of bamboo. In front of you is the gate of another classical Japanese-styled estate that makes Akyuu’s look like a modest hut in comparison. Looking inside, you can spot rabbits and humanoid rabbit Youkai scampering away from your group’s sudden appearance.

“You did let them know that we were coming, right?” Caleb asks Ran. “I’d hate to be greeted by sniper fire after all that’s happened today.”

“Perhaps if we appeared within the walls of Eientei without warning.” Ran says. “Eirin takes matters of security quite seriously, considering the rivalry between her princess and the human immortal living in the forest. I’ve heard that there’s been a detente as of late, though-”

She’s interrupted by the gate as it swings open. A handful of the humanoid rabbits peek out at you.

“Um, it’s alright for the humans to come in now. Master Eirin was expecting you.” the lead one says as she fidgets about. She doesn’t meet any of your eyes. Looks like Ran wasn’t kidding about word getting around.

“This is where we part for now.” Ran says. “My absence here will not be missed in light of my recent intrusion.”

“You did what you had to.” you say.

“Yes, I think we all understand what it’s like to have a crazy boss.” Caleb adds with a sheepish grin.

It’s brief, but you see Ran smile for the first time at that. “Indeed. I am heartened to see people such as you three working for the societies. Perhaps the Outside has changed for the better.”

Ran looks up at your group as you feel her portal magic start. “Remember,” she warns, looking each of you in the eye. “Be careful of who you trust.”

With that, she raises her arms one last time and vanishes in the blink of an eye.

“Well that was ominous.” you ping as you turn to head into Eientei. “What’d you two make of that?”

Nothing.

“Guys?” you turn around. Caleb and Junko are still at at entrance, huddled over something. Caleb’s phone? “What are you doing?”

“Oi, pipe down.” June pings back. “We’re trying to listen in over here.”

“I dropped an audio bug in the room before we teleported here.” Caleb clarifies. “It’s picking up an argument between Ran and Yuuka.”

Oh. Caleb must have dropped one of those annoying cufflink bugs. What can you say: Illuminati are nothing without their obsession for control and surveillance.

You hurry over to them and put your hand on the phone.

---

“-olutely ineffective. You can’t keep the barrier closed forever. The ferals are going to get hungry, Ran. Tell me, can you calculate how long it will be before the Human Village retaliates?”

“The humans can be made to see reason.” Ran growls. “The Barrier must not open so soon after a concerted attack. We are doing all we can.”

You hear Yuuka chuckle to herself. “Then your best isn’t enough. Perhaps it’s Gaia’s time to-”

“NO! Ran shouts. “We have not failed. We will not fail. I have seen what we can accomplish, Yuuka!” Ran pauses, catching her breath. “Together. You still represent your half.”

“And have I not delivered on my promises, Ran? Have I not paid for them?” Yuuka hisses. “What of your master? Does she plan to keep the three Bees to do her own work for her?”

“The Outsiders are cooperating with us of their own will.” Ran begins.

“That’s because you’ve been hiding-”

The audio cuts out.

---

“God DAMNIT!” Junko shouts, echoing your sentiment. She sends a pebble careening into the night with a well-aimed kick. “Can’t you use something that doesn’t crap out after a minute?” she pings.

“Not without getting caught.” Caleb pings back. “That model self-destructs after being activated. I don’t think either of them would appreciate finding out that we’ve spied on them.”

Ugh. So much conspiracy bullshit. You can’t ever get away from the mind games, can you?

“Well, we know that something’s up between Yuuka and the Yakumo’s.” you ping as your mind sorts through the facts. “There’s some sort of bargain that Yuuka’s a part of, possibly someone on Ran’s end. Ran’s hiding something from us, something that Yuuka thinks would make us hostile if we knew. However, Yuuka hasn’t seen fit to tell us about it so far.”

You’re certain that Ran was asking Yuuka to have faith in Yukari. You don’t like that - the first thing any occultist worth their salt learns is to not put faith in the unknown. What’s unknown must be studied, subjugated, exploited, and eliminated. Blind trust just gets you eaten.

Right now, Yukari is a huge unknown, and by extension, so is Ran. The overseer of Gensokyo seems to going out of her way to avoid you, and you’re pretty sure that it’s not because she’s afraid. A divine Kitsune of Ran’s age is a force with few equals in the world, and you’re willing to bet that she could take on all three of you if she wanted. To think that Yukari is powerful enough to have her as a shikigami is just plain scary.

Still, you can count on one thing from her if she’s half as dedicated to Gensokyo as her words indicate. Ran is going to pull out all the stops to fight the Filth. Right now, that means working with the three of you.

“I get the feeling that Ran is trying to be the good guy here.” you say. “But even with her intellect, there are too many competing plots and secrets for her to handle. Yukari might be hiding stuff from her as well.”

“That’s true. Ran reacted with hostility when Yuuka mentioned Gaia.” Caleb notes. “That’s unusual. When’s the last time you heard that reaction from a centuries-old divine Kitsune?”

A terrifying thought occurs to you. “Are we absolutely sure that both Ran and Yukari are clean?”

Caleb and Junko are both silent for a few moments as they mull that question over.

“Well, we can deduce that Ran is clean, given that Yuuka didn’t start Sparking her.” Caleb says. “As for Yukari... well, if she was infected, I get the impression that we would be too busy drowning in Filth to be having this conversation.”

Talk about cold comfort.

“What I want to know is how this ‘Yuuka’ person knows so much about Gaia.” Junko grumbles.

“She told me something when we were cleaning Sunny’s soul.” you ping. “She said that she oversees Gensokyo’s Yggdrasil.”

Both Caleb and Junko look at you with incredulous expressions.

“You’re sure about this?” Junko asks.

“I’m sure that she said it.” you say. “I’m less clear about what she meant.”

Caleb pinches his nose. “This just raises more questions.” he says with exasperation. “Whatever this conspiracy is about, we’re not going to be able to resolve it tonight. Come on, we should go find Eirin.”

“One last thing.” you ping. “When you guys got killed during the fight, did you... hear anything?”

“I heard the Buzzing, if that’s what you’re asking about.” Junko pings. “What, are you getting the Black Signal in here?”

“No,” you say, “It’s different. Not ‘Buzz’ or ‘Bubble’. Almost a ‘Blink’, if I had to give it a sound.”

Caleb and Junko exchange looks.

“I got nothing like that.” Junko pings back, shrugging.

“Same here.” Caleb says. “But now that you mention it, we ought to pool the messages from the Buzzing. Maybe they’ll shed light on something.”

For once.

You grasp both Caleb and Junko’s hands in your own, close your eyes, and open your mind.
>> No. 183717
1---

TRANSMIT - The Ex-Taito Syntax - HALF-BLESSING - circa 1885 - RECEIVE - The Wonderland Frequency - CAUTION - mind the gap - WITNESS - Gensokyo

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.
How many kind thoughts does it take to construct paradise, Sweetling? Good intentions have always made for poor foundations. Even the path to Hell is paved of sterner stuff.

2---

Can you read the zero-point writing dribbling down the walls?

The hands that set the First age into motion toil to preserve the Fourth. Solutions are incubated, hatched, culled, refined, discarded. Woe, all the Queen’s men and all Her horses are not enough. The whispering tide laughs as it overflows long-buried wells.

12---

Her half is to change the rules of the losing game we play.

We seek a shield, a sword, a cure, a vaccine against the enemy seeping into your gray matter. -DO YOU COPY?- We cannot peer beyond the curtains of gangrenous stars. We weave a single thread into Yukari’s tapestry. An agent is planted in her sandbox to see how well oblivion keeps its promises.

Begin year zero of the Gensokyo experiment.

16---

Initiate the Twelve Labors. What of our Heracles, our Hera and Zeus?

The dust settles. Hakurei wishes it to be so, and so it is. Violence is the language spoken since the first protein devoured the second, and here her fluency becomes peerless. The peace is kept by virtue of her monopoly on war.

Kandakoro rebuilds without intervention. He is careful to avoid the cardinal sin: going native. Still, He is glimpsed in the mottled half-light of sleep by the more perceptive residents. They tell stories of a great dragon and erect a statue in His image.

Yukari surpasses our greatest expectations. Gensokyo is rebuilt: Mountains and forests and a river to contain all the dead are on permanent loan from where they won’t be missed. The histories are not so much masked as they are erased. Why? Who? Where? When? How?

Initiate the gaze-aversion. The answers lie behind too many unblinking pupils. It’s rude to stare at a lady.
>> No. 183718
You blink your eyes open and stagger away from your comrades. You can see them doing the same as you fight against the waves of head-whirling dizziness that always accompany receiving the Buzzing while alive. You’re pretty sure the knowledge does its best to be of little help as possible and not just because it’s written in riddles. You’d swear that the Buzzing... hides from you in some shadowed fold of your subconscious. At least until you get all the parts of the broadcast, but you’re not sure when that’ll be. Until then, the information is going to be hard to retrieve, like trying to scoop up water in a paper bag.

You’re tempted to just bullet through your head for however many times you need to- wait. You’re not immortal after curing Sunny, at least not right now. You should wait for a while before you give that a shot.

heh. shot.

“If you three are done with your little heart-to-heart,” a new voice calls out, “Master Eirin is expecting your presence.”

You turn around to see a young woman with lavender hair coming down to her waist and a pair of striking red eyes. A set of rabbit ears stick up from her head. They’re less floppy than Tewi’s looked.

The rabbit girl meets your gaze with a soldier’s discipline. “You’re either very foolish or very brave to look into my eyes. Do you know who I am?”

“Not an earth rabbit, I presume.” you offer. “Beyond that, I can’t say that I do.”

She keeps the steely look for a few more seconds before her allowing her expression to soften. “You’re a perceptive one. I’m Reisen. Eirin and I have just finished checking up on the casualties from the fight, so she’ll have some time to talk.”

“Lead the way.” Caleb says. The three of you follow Reisen through the courtyard and into the mansion.

You notice something about Eientei’s interior. With how the sliding paper doors and the reed mats on the ground make the halls feel old-fashioned and subdued, you almost fail to pick out the traps built into the manor. You’d bet that some of the tatami mats and wall panels are concealing surprises- sentry guns, deployable cover, pitfalls, unmarked passages, ammo caches, who knows.

“Is it me, or is Eientei really, really well fortified for a mansion in the middle of nowhere?” Junko pings. “I’m starting to think that the Lunarians are Bond villains.”

While you can appreciate this kind of interior design, you have to wonder what it’s meant to guard against.

“Judging by how the defenses are laid out, they’re supposed to keep things out, not in.” you ping. “ Eirin seems to appreciate form as much as function.”

The fact that Eientei is better-fortified than most Templar firebases you’ve been to is very interesting, but you don’t think it’ll be an issue for now. You don’t have any plans to attack the mansion, but it’s always better to know about this sort of thing in advance.

“Either of you guys know anything about Reisen?” you ping.

“I do.” Caleb answers. “She’s a lunar rabbit - you can tell by the height, the ear shape, and the eyes.”

“I always knew that you were into bunnygirls.” Junko smirks.

“Very funny, June. As it turns out, the Illuminati had a major role in the manned moon landings of the seventies.”

“Neil Armstrong was Illuminati?” you ask.

“According to what I’ve been sent, he was more of an independent contractor. I don’t think he cared much about who was footing the bill, just that he got to fight Lunarians before the Soviets.”

“So what about the conspiracy theorists?”

“Correct in the sense that the official photographs are staged, incorrect in the sense that they were staged to cover up the actual invasion.”

“Huh. You think Eirin will hold that against you?” Junko pings.

“She and Kaguya were exiled from the moon centuries ago.” Caleb pings. “Besides, she wouldn’t have invited us over if it bothered her that much.”

Your report didn’t give you much intel on the Lunarians, but you’re sure that Sonnac, Gladstone, and Okazaki will dig something up.

The last name causes you to shudder. You still have flashbacks to the latter’s comparative physics lectures. You didn’t know it was possible for a curve to be that brutal.

“We’re here.” Reisen announces, bringing you back to reality. You’re standing in front of an unassuming western-styled door. Reisen knocks twice, and Eirin’s voice calls out.

“Come in!” you hear. There’s a distinct feeling of being a schoolchild called before the headmaster.

The three of you file into Eirin’s office, and Reisen respectfully closes the door. You don’t hear footsteps- either this room is soundproofed. or Reisen isn’t moving from the door. Probably the latter - from what you’ve seen, Eirin has more than enough security measures without a lunar rabbit standing guard.

The room itself feels like an ordinary office, albeit a very spartan one. The wall opposite from the door is occupied by cabinets filled with binders and notebooks. To your left is Eirin, seated behind a desk that wouldn’t look out of place at Temple Hall. To your right is a large window with the moon in full view.

All of you take your seats in front of the silver-haired Lunarian.

“Before we begin, I must thank you for eliminating the Filth creature.” Eirin says. “Tewi says that mister Chandra here saved her life in quite a spectacular fashion.”

“We had a lot of help.” Caleb says, deflecting the praise. “I‘m just glad that Tewi was able to make it. I take it that the others from the fight have recovered by now?”

“The majority of them have.” she confirms. “However, Patchouli, Sanae, and Suika were critically injured in the battle. They won’t be up and about for at least two more days, but they will make a full recovery.”

That’s good to hear. You’d like to check out that ‘Royal Flare’ attack sometime.

“So everyone else has been discharged?” You ask.

“Yes. Their contamination has dropped to acceptable levels, and any physical wounds have been treated.” Eirin says. “Though they haven’t yet left the premises.”

“Why’s that?” Junko asks.

“It’s a tradition in Gensokyo to celebrate at the Hakurei Shrine after the resolution of an ‘incident’.” Eirin explains. “While this incident was certainly more... severe than the rest, taking care of it with no loss of life is something to celebrate. However, given the current state of the Hakurei Shrine, the combatants have seen fit to celebrate in the rear courtyard.”

Junko grins at this. “I could go for an after-fight party right now.”

Eirin smiles. “You’ve certainly earned it. However, I need to address the matter of miss McGallagher.”

She turns to face you. “I have a hypothesis for what happened with the fairy. Are you familiar with the mechanism of your abilities as a Bee-host?”

It’s been a while since you’ve brushed up on this knowledge, but you think you can manage.

“Familiar enough.” you say. “What I’ve been taught is that Bees are biomechanical organisms from Agartha. They’re connected with Gaia, so when one of them bonds with a human, we get access to Her as well. The connection enhances our latent ability to manipulate Anima and preserves us when our bodies die, among other things.” you summarize.

“A rudimentary analysis, but sufficient for most practical matters.” Eirin concludes.
“In any case, I suspect that your connection to your Bee has been damaged by your unusually close exposure to Filth. To put it simply, you will not be able to rely upon any of your various traits as a Host while the bond repairs itself.”

That’s upsetting. It’s not enough to make you regret saving Sunny, not by a long shot, but it does mean that you won’t be able to use your traditional problem-solving approach. Besides, anything that prevents you from inflicting fiery death is a bad thing in your book.

“Hold on, not all of her abilities have been cut off.” Junko says. “She’s been able to use mental communications.”

“That’s fortunate for her, then.” Eirin says. “However, that leaves the matter of her resurrection, regeneration, and combat potential. We can conduct tests for the latter two, but I’m unwilling to risk the first.”

“Do you think she’ll be vulnerable to Filth in this state?” Caleb asks.

Eirin thinks in silence for a few moments. “Damaged bond or not, Charlotte still has a Bee in her body. That alone would confer a great deal of resistance. However, I cannot be certain, and there is no safe way to find out.”

That’s not good. Jeez, the universe really hates you for trying to help Sunny, huh?

“How confident are you that Charlotte will regain her power?” Junko asks.

“Completely.” Eirin affirms. “It’s just a matter of when. Anima is a persistent thing.”

“Do you have an estimate?” you ask.

“This isn’t something I can directly examine, so I’m afraid not.” Eirin says. “However, I would be surprised if you didn’t make a full recovery by one week.”

It looks like that’s the only good news you’re getting.

“What about Sunny?” you ask. “I’d hate to go through all this trouble to leave her clean but cognitively impaired.”

Eirin shakes her head. “The only thing we can do is wait for her to recover. Excessive stress could worsen whatever damage there is.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you, Eirin.” you say.

“My pleasure.” she responds. “Now, if you’d like to join the others-”

“Excuse me.” Junko interrupts. “Eirin, you reacted strongly when you found out that Reimu was removed from Eientei. Ran told us that only Yukari could treat Reimu, but we’d appreciate your perspective on this.”

Eirin’s expression shifts from cordial to stony in an instant. “As the Hakurei Shrine’s miko, Reimu is of great importance to the integrity of the Barrier, and by extension, Gensokyo itself. While that relationship means that it’s near-impossible to defeat her, her death could result in the destruction of the Barrier.”

“Well, is she going to die?” Junko asks.

“No.” Eirin says. “Reisen’s report lists that, disregarding her unresponsiveness, Reimu was in perfect health and tested negative on a preliminary examination for Filth.”

“So what’s the problem?” you ask.

“The problem is that I don’t know what happened.” Eirin says, growing more agitated. “Judging by your account of the battle, that magnitude of Filth should have annihilated anything it struck. Instead, Reimu was found merely unconscious some distance away from her original position. It’s possible that she’s clean, but it’s also possible that she’s incubating a new strain of infection as we speak. Ignorance is deadly.”

You think back to Kingsmouth and the Fog. An airborne, slow-acting manifestation of Filth. Caleb had to clean up that incident, and it changed him. He doesn’t like to talk about it.

“Ran’s not stupid.” Caleb points out. “Why would she act to jeopardize Gensokyo’s safety?”

"Yukari.” Eirin says simply. “Ran’s loyalty to her master is unshakable, even without the Shikigami contract.”

“Yukari’s not stupid either.” Caleb counters. “And I find it hard to believe that she’d be foolish enough to mess around with Filth.”

Eirin sighs. “True.” she admits. “Perhaps some of my indignation is simply from being burglarized.” the Lunarian chuckles. “In any case, let us set aside such matters for the rest of the night. I’m sure that your company would be appreciated downstairs.”

Yeah, that sounds nice. Nothing beats coming back from a successful op to a cold beer and your best friends.

The three of you bid goodbye to Eirin and step outside. Reisen isn’t in sight, but there’s a small cluster of rabbits lounging around in the hall.

Caleb’s face lights up.

“Hey there, little guy.” he says, stooping down and holding his hand out to one of them.

“C’mon Cale, you’re going to embarrass us.” Junko says.

“Aw, you’re just jealous.” Caleb replies. “See? He likes me!”

The rabbit creeps toward Caleb, little pink nose twitching. It seems to deliberate for a moment before leaning forward and nibbling the tip of Caleb’s finger.

Junko’s right. Badass hunter of occult horrors doesn’t mesh well with small, fuzzy... fluffy...

You reach over to stroke the head of the rabbit. It flicks its ears before giving your finger a soft nibble as well.

Junko can go stuff it.

“I hope I’m not interrupting anything” Reisen’s voice calls out. The rabbit scampers off with its compatriots.

“Of course not.” Caleb says, face stoic as he stands up.

“Good. Keine just arrived with two fairies who have been demanding to see ‘the Tamplr lady’.”

Junko stifles a laugh. “Sounds like you’ve got some admirers.”

“They’re waiting in the rear courtyard with everyone else who’s celebrating.” Reisen says, indicating for you to follow her.

After a bit of walking, your group steps outside to a throng of carousing fighters from the shrine. You make out some familiar faces: It’s hard to miss Keine’s hat, and Marisa is looking much better as she laughs with Alice. Her teeth aren’t missing anymore-

“CHARLOTTE!” a familiar voice cries out as something collides with you. You look down to see Daiyousei wrapping her arms around your waist. The fairy looks like she’s on the verge of tears.

“Hey, it’s alright.” you say, half-heartedly trying to tug her off. “I’m fine. Everyone’s fine.”

Cirno floats over. “That’s right, you wimp! If she can withstand the power of Cirno, nothing can stop her!” she pauses.“Except for me, of course!”

“Oh my.” Keine sighs as she comes over. “Come along now, you two. Miss Charlotte’s fine.” she coaxes. At that, Daiyousei lets go of you at last.

“Miss Keine says that you got hurt. Are you going to be okay?” she asks, sniffling.

“Yeah.” you reassure her. “I’ll be as good as new in a few days, so don’t worry.”

Daiyousei gives you one more hug before Cirno and Keine lead her away.

You look over the scene. There’s tables of food set up around the courtyard, with rabbit Youkai running to and fro with dishes of food. Most of them look vegetarian, but you see a cart of meat skewers being tended to by the flaming immortal from the fight.

You hear the hiss and pop of a bottle being uncorked from behind you.

“I see some new faces in this crowd.” Caleb pings as he pours out glasses of champagne.

It takes a few moments, but you spot Hijiri Byakuren next to Ichirin and Unzan, the other Moriya god next to Suwako, and most interestingly, a red-headed succubus in business formal skulking by Remilia’s side.

“Check out the succubus.” you ping.

Caleb gives you a look of mock revulsion. “You’re into that sort of stuff?”

“No! Of course not, you idiot! I mean that nobody’s giving her a second look.”

“Whatever, Char. It’s hardly the weirdest thing we’ve seen today.” Junko pings back as she hands you your glass. “Cheers!”


You clink glasses with Cale and June before you tilt yours back and empty it in one take.

“Alright. It’s mingling time.” Caleb pings. “I’m going over to chat with Reisen.”

“See? I was right! Cale does have a thing for bunnygirls!” Junko teases as Caleb heads towards the moon rabbit.

You’re too busy looking at the crowd to pay attention to their banter. Now is as good a time as any to get closer to the locals. Some other people of note that you see in the throng include the exiled Lunar princess and Kasen drinking with Marisa and Alice. However, you can’t find Futo anywhere.

Come to think of it, now’s a good time to start your investigation. Everyone’s guard is going to be down-

You shake your head. Where did that thought come from? Caleb is supposed to be the one who thinks like that. Still, you can’t deny that you could learn something useful tonight.

But priorities come first. You’re here to have a good time with everyone.

---

Who do you approach?

Vote for up to three different groups. The groups with the highest number of votes will be talked with in no particular order.

If you have any specific questions for a particular character, you may specify that in your vote.

---

[ ] (Shrine) Marisa, Alice, Kasen: You ought to thank Marisa for getting Yuuka out, and the golemancer seems interesting. Also, you’re pretty sure that Kasen is an oni, which would be great since that means oni liquor.

[ ] (Devil) Remilia, Meiling, Redhead Succubus: It might be worth it to patch things up with Remilia. Also, you’re interested in what the succubus has to do with Makai.

[ ] (Moriya) Suwako, Kanako: Getting a feel for these two now could pay off if they try to catch you in a conspiracy.

[ ] (Myouren) Ichirin, Unzan, Byakuren: It might be worth it to patch things up with the Myouren temple. You’re interested in hearing how well Byakuren’s dream of human-occult coexistence is working out, though discussing Makai is probably out of the question.

[ ] (Village) Keine, Mokou, Cirno, Daiyousei: Keine and the fairies have been nothing but helpful to you. You’re also interested in talking with the flaming immortal - you’ve got a lot in common.

[ ] (Lunar) Kaguya, Reisen, Tewi: You gave up on being a princess when you realized that it was the princes that got to beat up the bad guys, but Kaguya looks pretty cool. You’re also interested in hearing more about Lunarians.
>> No. 183720
[x] Shrine
[x] Village
[x] Lunar
What's that, an excuse to see Mokou and Kaguya bickering like old spouses? Sign me up!
>> No. 183721
[X] Shrine
May be worthwhile seeing their perspective on Reimu and her current status. This is in no way an excuse to justify going where the booze is. Nope. Nuh-uh.

[X] Devil
[X] Myouren
If we're going to be here a while, making an effort to get on better terms with the groups most predisposed toward enmity seems like a good idea. If/when the plotting starts up, it may pay off in spades.
>> No. 183724
[X] Shrine
[X] Devil
[X] Myouren

It may be worthwhile to talk with those the societies have wronged, as well as those that know Reimu.
>> No. 183727
[x] Shrine
[x] Village
[x] Lunar

Booze, Fairy, and Bunnies.
>> No. 183732
[X] Shrine
[X] Devil
[X] Lunar

Base entirely on who is cool and interesting instead of strategic.
>> No. 183733
[x]Village
[x]Devil
[x]Lunar

Fairies, vampires, and bunnies, oh my!
>> No. 183742
[x] Shrine
[x] Devil
[x] Myouren
>> No. 183743
[X] Shrine
[X] Devil
[X] Myouren
>> No. 183744
Calling vote at 12pm EST, approximately 6 hours from now.
>> No. 183748
Calling on next vote that breaks tie between Lunar and Myouren:

[X] Shrine (7)
[X] Devil (6)
>> No. 183749
[x] Shrine
[x] Devil
[x] Myouren
>> No. 183750
Calling vote in favor of:

[X] Shrine
[X] Devil
[X] Myouren
>> No. 183751
Feel free to speculate about the lore entries, by the way.
>> No. 183752
>>183751
I speculate that Yuuka is best girl.
>> No. 183753
That's not speculation.
>> No. 183758
>>183751
>>183717
1---

>TRANSMIT - The Ex-Taito Syntax - HALF-BLESSING - circa 1885 - RECEIVE - The Wonderland Frequency - CAUTION - mind the gap - WITNESS - Gensokyo
No idea what this means, though ZUN apparently used to be employed at videogame developer Taito. Also, there's a line like this at the beginning of the story, except that the bit after "CAUTION" says "abandon sense all ye who enter here"

>Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.
Apparently an actual quote from the Bees.

>How many kind thoughts does it take to construct paradise, Sweetling? Good intentions have always made for poor foundations. Even the path to Hell is paved of sterner stuff.
Fuck if I know.

2---

>Can you read the zero-point writing dribbling down the walls?
Vaguely ominous gibberish probably indicating Filth.

>The hands that set the First age into motion toil to preserve the Fourth. Solutions are incubated, hatched, culled, refined, discarded. Woe, all the Queen’s men and all Her horses are not enough. The whispering tide laughs as it overflows long-buried wells.

The Secret World's mythology has time divided up into four ages. Currently we're in the Fourth. Whispering tide's probably Filth, and it's doing pretty well despite somebody's efforts to stop it. Queen probably means something, but the only notable queens I could find in TSW were boss enemies, though the Bees also apparently have a "machine-goddess" queen. Who knows though.

12---

>Her half is to change the rules of the losing game we play.
Probably "her half" as in "her half of the agreement". More on this later.

>We seek a shield, a sword, a cure, a vaccine against the enemy seeping into your gray matter. -DO YOU COPY?- We cannot peer beyond the curtains of gangrenous stars. We weave a single thread into Yukari’s tapestry. An agent is planted in her sandbox to see how well oblivion keeps its promises.
They want to cure Filth. Also they can't see into what I assume is Gensokyo, and going off this and the convo between Yuuka and Ran, there's apparently an agreement of some sort between Gaia and Yukari. I'd assume it's allowing the creation and continued existence of Gensokyo in exchange for finding a way to stop Filth. Basically Gensokyo's a giant R&D lab. Since the Blinking mentions an agreement with Gaia, I'd assume it's Yukari speaking. Name certainly fits with all the eyes in her gap dimension.

>Begin year zero of the Gensokyo experiment.
Single thread is probably Yuuka rather than us, since we just got here.

16---

>Initiate the Twelve Labors. What of our Heracles, our Hera and Zeus?
No idea. Could be relating the three people mentioned later to mythological roles, but while the Hakurei(s) certainly would fit as a Hercules, we don't know enough to say anything about the others.

>The dust settles. Hakurei wishes it to be so, and so it is. Violence is the language spoken since the first protein devoured the second, and here her fluency becomes peerless. The peace is kept by virtue of her monopoly on war.
probably referring to the Hakurei Shrine forcefully keeping the peace, though whether it refers to the current spell-card rules or the more violent keeping of the peace in the early days of gensokyo is unclear. I'd guess the latter, though.

>Kandakoro rebuilds without intervention. He is careful to avoid the cardinal sin: going native. Still, He is glimpsed in the mottled half-light of sleep by the more perceptive residents. They tell stories of a great dragon and erect a statue in His image.
Kandakoro appears to be an Ainu (original inhabitants of Japan) sky deity, responsible for the creation of the world. The second half all but states that he is the true identity of the Dragon, what with the mention of the statue. Who knows what "going native" means.

>Yukari surpasses our greatest expectations. Gensokyo is rebuilt: Mountains and forests and a river to contain all the dead are on permanent loan from where they won’t be missed. The histories are not so much masked as they are erased. Why? Who? Where? When? How?
Gensokyo's made up of land taken from elsewhere, possibly multiple separate locations. The history behind them has been erased, presumably either by a were-hakutaku or the actual thing.

>Initiate the gaze-aversion. The answers lie behind too many unblinking pupils. It’s rude to stare at a lady.
All the eyeballs in Yukari's gaps? Probably mostly gibberish.
>> No. 183802
[X] Shrine
[X] Devil
[X] Myouren


---

“Say, June.” you begin. “What were you up to before the fight at the shrine?

Junko turns her eyes from the other partygoers as she considers your question.

“Well, Caleb said he woke up in a bamboo forest. You said that you woke up next to a lake.” she takes a sip from her glass. “Me? I found myself sprawled under a cherry grove in a huge mansion.”

“So who’d it belong to?” you ask.

“I was getting to that.” Junko says. “So I call out, see if anyone’s home, and this white-haired samurai-wannabe girl comes out and starts grilling me for who I am, who sent me, how’d I get in, my blood type, zodiac, the works. I tried telling her about Flappy, but all she cared about was brandishing her swords at me.”

“Swords, plural?” you grin and shake your head. “One in each hand?”

“Yeah, but anyways, this other woman shows up. Wavy pink hair, a poofy old-fashioned dress, and some kind of frilly hat. Oh, and a ghost, judging by how she floated through the wall.” Junko continues, gesturing with her drink still in hand. “So the samurai girl, Youmu, stands down at first, and I think that I finally get a chance to explain myself. Except that she goes even paler when she sees the Dragon on my armor.”

“You’re talking about Yuyuko, right?” you ask. The Princess of the Netherworld is someone whose profile you paid more attention to.

“Yeah, that’s right. Next thing I know, she’s popped my soul out of my body and is trying to give me the whole interrogation spiel that Youmu was.” Junko goes on. “And I’m just like, what the hell, that was pretty uncomfortable. And when I tell them that, both of them really start to freak out.”

She must be describing Yuyuko’s death invocation and compulsion abilities. Things with her level of necromantic power are typically unholy, baby-eating abominations, but it seems that Yuyuko spends all her time enjoying Youmu’s cooking instead of trying to spread undeath across the land.

“Why’d she react that badly?”

Junko shifts from side to side. “Turns out that there was this occult tree back in the twelfth century, the ‘Saigyou Ayakashi’ or something, that kept luring people close, killing them, and absorbing their spirits. The more it ate, the stronger it got, and things got to the point where the deaths couldn’t get swept under the rug anymore.”

“Is this where the Dragon comes in to save the day?” you ask, already aware of what direction this story is heading.

“In a way.” Junko looks uncomfortable with her answer. “Around that time, there was a young lady whose father seems to have been involved with the appearance of the Ayakashi. Inadvertent creator or first victim, we’re not too sure, but he was there.”

“And Saigyouji Yuyuko was his daughter.” you realize.

“Right. And it seems that she had her necromantic powers even while she was alive. That plus her close blood connection to the Ayakashi made her the perfect candidate for putting an end to it.”

“But she’s dead.” you point out, frowning. “Did something go wrong?”

“No.” Junko says, looking rather unhappy. “The Dragon did what it does best and started a convoluted chain of events that resulted in Yuyuko committing suicide, sealing the Ayakashi in the process. She’s had a lot of time to figure out what happened.”

Wow. You can’t say that you’re surprised that it happened, given the time period, but still. That’s morbid.

“Ooh. Awkward. So what happened after?”

“Things went much smoother once Yuyuko got over the shock of her soul-control ability fizzling on me.” Junko says, expression brightening. “After they calmed down and I explained what was going on, I jumped back into my body and they called Reimu over.”

“Huh. I guess that explains why she didn’t show up for the meeting at the village.” you say.

Come to think of it, it’s fortunate that you didn’t run into anyone from the Scarlet Devil Mansion earlier today.

“You’ve known Reimu for longer than either me or Cale. What’s your take on her?” you ask.

Junko shrugs. “I mean, I still haven’t seen much of her. I’d say that she’s kind of stoic, a bit bad-tempered, but doesn’t screw around when it comes down to it.”

You smile. “Sort of like you, then?”

“Nah, I’m not stoic at all.” she laughs a little before sobering up. “I hope she’s fine. Not just because she’s important to the Barrier or whatever. Anyone who’s been able to keep the peace in a place like this deserves better.”

You just nod in agreement. It’s nothing short of a miracle by conventional standards that Gensokyo isn’t a smoking crater by now.

“You know that Yuyuko and Yukari are close friends, right?” you ask, changing the subject.

Junko’s face scrunches up in thought. “Really? I didn’t know that. It never came up.”

She taps the side of her glass. “You know what? I can’t be bothered to care about this stuff right now. I’ll worry about centuries-old grudges when I’m on the job tomorrow, and so should you!”

Junko gives your back a hearty thump, empties her drink, and slips through the crowd in search of a refill.
>> No. 183803
You decide follow Junko’s advice by heading over to the steps where Marisa, Alice, and Kasen are sitting together and laughing. The witch deserves your thanks for salvaging your attempt to rescue Yuuka, and you’ve got a good feeling about the liquor that Kasen keeps sneaking from a drinking box when she thinks nobody is looking.

“Well speak of the devil!” Marisa exclaims as you draw closer. “You had a pretty good showing out there.”

“You too.” you respond, grinning as you sit next to them. “Thanks for getting Yuuka out, Marisa. You’ve got a lot of grit.”

“Now if only she would use it for something more productive than petty theft.” Kasen sighs before raising the shou box to her mouth.

“Hey, I’ll have you know that I do much better than petty.” Marisa objects with mock indignance. “Could a mere petty thief manage to acq- uh, borrow as much as I do from the depths of the Scarlet Devil Mansion itself?” she waves her hands for dramatic effect. It’s clear that she’s been drinking for some time by now.

“Most would have given up the first time Patchouli threw them out.” Alice says, steadying Marisa’s swaying by putting her arm around the witch’s shoulders. “I’m Alice Margatroid, by the way.” she says, extending her other hand. “You must be Charlotte McGallagher.”

“Pleased to meet you.” you say as you return Alice’s handshake. “Your dolls are quite impressive. I’ve never seen anything like them before.”

Alice laughs and brushes a stray strand of hair aside. “That’s nice to hear. People tend to pay more attention to flashier magic.”

“Golemancy can be quite impressive in its own right.” you respond. “Shame about Goliath, though.”

Alice sighs and shakes her head. “Yes. It’ll be difficult to rebuild her, but at least the sacrifice was worthwhile.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, what are the tricky parts?” you ask.

“Oh, it’s very complicated stuff.” Alice says with some degree of pride. “I’ve yet to meet someone in Gensokyo who could give me a run for my money.” to illustrate her point, a foot-tall doll floats up from behind Alice’s shoulder. She sticks her tongue out at you before retreating out of view.

You crack a smile and stand up. “I’ll take that as a challenge.”

This calls for something you’ve cooked up just for moments like these. You reach into your mind and grasp one particular schematic: a heavily-modified rocket turret.

A two foot wide metal cube appears on the ground in front of you with a modest pop.

Alice gives you a quizzical look. “That’s your challenge?” The doll is caught in a fit of silent laughter behind her master.

Something goes clunk from inside the box, and within seconds, the kit unfolds into a full-length reclining chair complete with umbrella, footrest, fan, and icebox. An series of antigravity panels along the bottom leave it floating a foot or so above the ground.

The doll’s jaw drops open.

“As you can see” you address Alice as you hop into your rocket lawnchair, “I know a thing or two about artificing.”

You crack open the cooler to be greeted with disappointment and lukewarm water. Seems like you forgot to restock.

“Hey, Kasen!” you call. “Mind hitting me up?”

Kasen looks unsure. “I’m not averse to sharing, but alcohol from this container-”


“Is really damn good, right?” you interrupt, eager for some Oni liquor.

“’mon, Kasen.” Marisa slurs, draping herself across the hermit’s back. “Let teh good stuff flow t’night!”

Kasen frowns as Marisa shakes her back and forth. “Yes, but there are certain... risks from using the Ibaraki medicine box.”

You wave her off. “I’m a Chosen. I can walk off anything Oni liqu-”

You’re cut off as Kasen rushes over to you, all but knocking Marisa over in the process.

“Okayalrighthereyougdon’tsaythatagain” the pink-haired hermit stammers out as she fills your glass. “Not that I mind, of course.” she says after taking a moment to compose herself. “A hermit has to keep a certain reputation, after all.”

“Of course.” you’re more than a little confused but willing to play along. You’d bet good money that Kasen’s an Oni, but why’s she trying to cover it up? Oni have an almost-pathological hatred of lying.

“What.” Alice seems to be recovering from the shock of your floating seat. She shakes her head as if to confirm her sight. “I never- how?” she asks, shifting her analytical gaze from your chair to you. “How did you manage to compress so much into such a small space?”

You spend the better part of an hour talking shop with Alice and getting more and more sloshed on Kasen’s liquor.

Turns out that alcohol tolerance is another passive effect that you don’t have while you’re recovering from curing Sunny.

As for the difference between your tech and Alice’s, it turns out that Alice practices a form of Golemancy you’ve never heard of.

The dolls themselves are made from ceramic inscribed with occult glyphs and equipped with miniature, though potent weapons, and given different roles. There’s a job for everything - swarm dolls, gunner dolls, bomb dolls, and even master dolls, Shanghai and Hourai, capable of limited independence, that can help her direct. The internal mechanics are relatively simple - most of them don’t have anything beyond the most basic circuits, power supplies, or processing foci, making them weak but easy to construct, program, and deploy. It’s when Alice or a master doll takes control of the common dolls that they realize their full strength. All in all, Alice has forgotten more about golems than most magi have ever learned.

On your side of things, artifice magic complements rather than comprises your fighting ability. You’ve always seen your various turrets, drones, and elemental manifestations as helpful in battle, but you still trust yourself more. Barring certain minor support functions, there’s nothing they do that you can’t do better. Furthermore, your Anima abilities mean that you can just draw out a new minion whenever one gets blown up, freeing you to aggressively drop expendable war machines all over the place in support of your own firepower.

“‘s real interesting.” you manage as you lounge on the chair. “Mind if I take a look at Shanghai?”

“Look, don’t touch.” Alice cautions, stumbling over her words, and Shanghai floats in front of you, arms crossed. “Manners, Shanghai!” the doll master admonishes, and Shanghai performs a small curtsy.

Most magi aren’t fond of sharing their knowledge with others for fear of having their hard-earned research stolen. While Alice hasn’t given you access to anything compromising, she’s opened up a lot more than you would have expected. Maybe it’s the upbeat atmosphere of the party, maybe it’s Marisa’s constant prodding or the drinks or the chance to talk to another half-decent artificer.

You hold Shanghai with a delicate grasp, and send a questioning Anima probe through your fingers to get a feel for her internal workings. Though the doll is quick to push you away from critical areas, what information you do manage to gather creases your forehead. After you release Shanghai, you press a button on your armrest. A desk pops out, and you sketch out a mess of notes and diagrams before you realize that you’re too hammered for much of it to be coherent.

One thing you do manage to get is that Shanghai doesn’t have a soul, which is unusual because the traditional way to animate a Golem is to implant something else’s soul into it. Due to the instability and distastefulness inherent with that procedure, true Golemancy has been banned by the Council of Venice for centuries. Yet somehow, it seems that Alice was able to solve the problem on her own?

Your mind jumps to the lumbering Custodians of Agartha, massive biomechanical constructs from the Third Age. From what limited understanding is available on them, the Custodians seem like the closest parallel you can find for Alice’s dolls, but you don’t see how she might have encountered them. Maybe she found a blueprint somewhere?

“Need some help?” Caleb calls out.

You groan turn to find the Illuminati agent leaning over the side of your chair with Reisen some distance behind him.

“If by help y’ mean more of what Kasen’s got, then yeah.” you say with total, drunken certainty.

Caleb rolls his eyes. “Whatever you say, you Scottish pyromaniac.” A dark red globule of blood magic forms in his hands.

“Eh? Wuzzat?” you squint at the blob.

“It’s a harmless detox spell.” Caleb says.

Your eyes widen. You remember the last time Cale used that on you.

“Don’t be such a baby about this.” Caleb coaxes. “You know it’s dangerous to drink Oni liquor.”

“Not fer’ Chosen!” you protest as you try to get to your feet.

“That’s right, but remember what Eirin said? You don’t have most of your powers right now.” Caleb points out. “Powers such as poison resistance.”

“I did warn her of this.” Kasen says, somewhat apologetic.

You pause at that. “I’m drunk!” you exclaim, pointing your finger at nobody in particular as you totter from side to side. “You don’t have an excuse!”

Caleb sighs as he raises his fist. “My point exactly. Now just hold still for a moment-”

You try to dodge, but despite your best, inebriated efforts, the jet of blood arcs enroute to splash onto your stomach.

“Hey!” you sputter. “Just what in the bloodyralghrafghl-”

Caleb thankfully manages to hit you with a second dose before you sully the ground. It doesn’t get rid of the taste in your mouth, though.

“Ugh. Bleagh. Thanks for that.” you cough out. “I feel an idiot.”

“Oni sake tends to do that to people.” Reisen notes.

“Listen, if you’re going to die, at least make it something better than ‘liver failure’.” Caleb says before he heads back to the lunar rabbit.

“And don’t let Daiyousei see you like that.” he pings.

You shake your head as he leaves. “I hope nobody saw that.” you mutter as you kick the side of your chair turret, causing it to fold up and disappear just as quickly.


“You may be comforted to know that most did not.” Kasen says as she sits down next to you. “Though you also ought to be ashamed of yourself! Gluttony and poor discipline ill befit a Templar.”

“So I’m not always a model Templar.” you retort.“I still fought at the Shrine with you.”

Kasen’s indignant expression softens. “And for that, you have my thanks. I can only hope that Reimu will be well.”

Ah, that’s right. You ought to get some outside views on what’s going on.

A quick glance at Marisa and Alice reveals that the former is currently sprawled out with her head on the lap of the latter. You don’t have the heart to intrude.

“I can think of a few Kappa who would want to look at your machines.” Kasen says as she adjusts the bandages on her arm.

“Kasen” you say, lowering your voice. “Ran took Reimu from Eientei to Yukari. Did you know that?”

Kasen blinks several times. “Are you sure? I heard that she was sent here shortly after me, but not much more.”

“Satori revealed it to everyone still standing after the fight.” you say. “Eirin lost her cool when she found out.”

Kasen rubs her chin with her bandaged arm. “I can’t think of a reason why Satori might lie about something like this, and anything that gets such a strong reaction from Eirin is something to be cautious of. Still, I don’t think there’s enough evidence to suggest malicious action.”

You’re taken aback by that. “What makes you so sure?”


“I’m not.” Kasen replies. “I don’t trust Yukari, but I do trust her to do what’s best for the Barrier. She’s powerful and cunning enough that I have a hard time believing that she would be easily infected.” she goes quiet for a few moments. “Still, I do agree that Yukari must be up to something. She’s always plotting, though most of the plots don’t amount to much damage.”

“Alright. So you think Reimu will be fine?” you ask.

Kasen nods once. “Yes. Though I don’t know what condition Reimu is in, Yukari has always looked after the Hakurei mikos. So far, there is no reason for her to stop. Beyond this, I can’t say.”

“Thanks, Kasen.” you say as you stand up. “Any last nuggets of wisdom?”

“Yukari has friends in unexpected places.” Kasen says after a moment of thought.

That gets your attention. “What do you mean by that?”

“I know that Suika and Akyuu have been acquainted with Yukari for centuries.” Kasen answers. “Beyond that, she also employs Zashiki-warashi as spies in the homes of wealthier humans.”

You think back to the Akyuu’s mansion. It fits the bill for a Zashiki residence, to say nothing of the allegiance of its owner.

“That isn’t to say that either of them are bad people.” Kasen adds. “But if Yukari does act, I’m not sure if they would act against her.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, then. Thanks.” you say. With that, you leave Kasen and the two indisposed magi to themselves.
>> No. 183804
You head over to Remilia’s entourage, sitting near a cluster of bamboo stalks away from the other revelers. You don’t want to go see Keine and Daiyousei so soon after the episode with Kasen’s sake.

You wave as you approach. Remilia gives you the smallest of nods, while the succubus practically yelps and steps behind the martial artist, who grins and returns your wave with enthusiasm.

“Hey! I’ve been looking forward to meeting you!” she says. “I’m Meiling.”

You take your first good look at her. She’s wearing an olive-green vest over a white undershirt with puffy sleeves. There’s a long skirt that matches the vest, and you can see white leggings through the slits in its sides. On her head is a beret in the same green as the rest of her outfit. She’s tall, at least two meters without her beret, and her short sleeves expose the muscle on her arms.

“You work for Remilia?” you ask.

“Yeah, I’m her gatekeeper and gardener.” Meiling tells you. “I gotta say, you did well out there.”

You wouldn’t have expected such a warm greeting from someone close to Remilia. Maybe she doesn’t know Remilia’s history with the Templar. In any case, the vampire looks like she’s letting Meiling do the talking for now.

“Thanks. You handled yourself great out there as well.” you say, returning her greeting.

“Yeah, you’ve already met Remilia, so let me introduce you to Koa!” Meiling says, dragging the stammering succubus out from behind her. “Come on now, don’t be shy!”

Koa’s eyes flit between yours, the cross on your coat, and the focus on your belt. “N-no thanks.” she squeaks out within Meiling’s grip.

“It’s fine.” you say, watching Koa struggle against Meiling’s headlock. “I mean, I wanted to ask her about some stuff, but I’d rather not force her.”

Koa straightens herself as Meiling lets go. You take the opportunity to observe how human she looks - most of the dead giveaways like scales, horns, or ashen skin are nowhere to be seen, likely concealed by a glamour. Koa looks more like a red-headed office lady in business formal attire than a refugee from a dying world. Sure, she’s got those head-wing things, but the unmistakable indication of her true nature is the subtle, constant drain of Anima centered around her.

“How’s Patchouli doing?” you ask as you sit on the blanket with them. “I saw her get hit pretty hard.”

“Patchouli will be fine.” Remilia says, fixing her ruby gaze on you. “In fact, she regained consciousness a while ago, though the moon doctor has warned against moving her for the night.”

“Looks like I didn’t give her enough credit, eh?” Meiling says. “Oh man, for a second there I thought she was a goner. Patchy’s about the noodliest person in Gensokyo.”

“Nonsense.” Remilia says, dismissing Meiling’s commentary with a flick of her hand. “Patchouli didn’t earn my respect by being easy to kill.”

Somehow, you feel like that part was directed at you.

“Uh, yeah, haha!” Meiling laughs, trying to break the awkward silence. “So, I heard that you, the dodging hammer lady, and the gas mask rifleman, are all part of these ‘secret societies’ or something from the Outside.”

“Well, I guess they’re not that secret around here.” you offer. “But yeah, you got the gist of it.”

“So what sort of stuff do you guys do?” Meiling asks, eyes wide with anticipation.

Besides trying to assassinate elder vampires and their sisters of mass destruction?

“Well, we, uh - it’s complicated.” you say. “We’ve done lots of things. Some of it worked well, and some of it caused a lot of pain for people that it maybe shouldn’t have.” you glance over Remilia and Koakuma, but the former doesn’t look any less irritated by you and the latter doesn’t look any less fearful. “I can’t speak for the other two here, but as for my society, the Templar, what we do comes down to keeping the peace.” you say.

Damnit, you wouldn’t have slept through so much of that media training program if you’d known that you would have to represent the Templar. Maybe you should go ask Cale for some tips, though you’ll have to punch the smug grin off his face after.

Remilia’s wings flap once. “Miss McGallagher’s opinion is rather biased, Meiling.” she says. “The Templar are hardly the noble crusaders they love painting themselves as.”

“Well, maybe as a whole, but I’m sure Charlotte’s alright.” Meiling says. “Oh, that reminds me. I’d like to ask for a fight.”

You blanch. “Right now?”

“Ha! Of course not!” Meiling reaches over and slaps you on the back. It takes most of your concentration to not double over from the blow. “Sometime later, when you’ve adjusted to Gensokyo better.”

“I’ll consider it.” You say, trying to stop your voice from wheezing. “You do know that we don’t fight the same way, right?”

“But that’s what makes it interesting!” Meiling exclaims.

You frown. There’s been a lot of Chosen competing in the Fusang Projects arena with a very particular, very annoying loadout, and all of them have been saying the same thing to justify what you think of as an utter disregard for sportsmanship.

Oh man, Fusang. You never thought that you’d miss that giant mess of a three-way battlefield.

But Meiling just reminded you of a question you had.

“Say, Meiling. Where are you from?” you ask.

Meiling shrugs. “Gensokyo. Where else?”

“Well, I just figured that someone with your ability would have had to run into the Secret World in the Outside.” you say.

“I gotcha.” Meiling says. “I mean, I’m flattered, but I don’t deserve all the credit.” she flexes her hands, and an aurora of rainbow shimmers around them. “Genes are part of it. One of my parents was human, the other was a dragon, the Asian kind.”

“You don’t know which?” you ask before you can think better of it.

For the first time, Meiling looks downcast. “No. There was a big war here when I was still a baby. All I knew growing up about my parents was that they died.”

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Should have kept your damn mouth shut.

“Oh, geeze, I’m sorry about that.” you say. You’ve never been that fond of your own parents, but at least you had them.

“Yeah, it’s alright.” Meiling says, shaking her head. “I’m sure they’re happy, wherever they are. Things have gotten a lot better between humans and Youkai.”

Before your foot can lodge itself further in your mouth, Sakuya appears, out of breath, in front of Remilia.

The vampire gets to her feet in an instant. “Sakuya? What’s the matter?”

“Milady!” Sakuya gasps. “The vault is empty!”

All three residents of the Scarlet Devil Mansion go rigid as the blood drains from their faces.

“Have you checked the rest of the mansion? The grounds?” Remilia asks, stopping just short of grabbing the maid by her shoulders. “When did this happen?”

“The vault was breached between two and three hours ago, around the time of the battle. I looked everywhere. She could be almost anywhere by this time.”

Remilia abruptly whirls around to face you, eyes glowing a dangerous red.

You hold your hands up. “To be clear, I have no idea whatsoever of what you’re panicking about.”

“You.” Remilia hisses. “Why can’t you degenerates leave Flan alone?”

Of course. It all comes back to the same few ancient grievances that you’ve got no hand in. You ought to shoot Sonnac another email, get a heads-up on who else is out to get you.

“Remilia, I’ve been in Gensokyo for less than eight hours.” you retort. “I’ve got eyewitnesses that will vouch for every single one. Hell, I was in full view of you for most of them.”

Remilia keeps her eyes locked on you for a while longer before Meiling puts her hand on her shoulder. “Hey, I don’t know your history with Charlotte’s temple guys, but she’s at least not involved with this. Come on, I’ve got a few ideas for where Flan might be.”

Meiling turns around to face Koa with a fresh smile on her face. “Yo, Koa, we’re going to be gone for a bit, so why don’t you stay here? I’m sure Patchy’ll appreciate the company! Oh, and Charlotte too!”

Before the succubus can voice a coherent protest, the other three rush towards Mokou’s grill. After a exchanging a few words with her, the four of them fly off into the night.

You look around. Despite the raised voices, nobody seems to have paid much attention to the scene just now. Junko is horsing around with Tewi, trying to match her Chaos magic against the rabbit’s. Your friend flings a deck of cards into the air, forming a multi-story house of cards on the ground. Elsewhere, Caleb is leaning against Mokou’s cart as he talks with Keine, and the fairies are busy cuddling bunnies.

Lucky little blighters.
>> No. 183805
You shift your focus back onto Koa, who seems to have just realized that she’s been left alone with a veteran Templar.

“Um, hey there.” you say, trying not to spook her. “You know that I’m not going to hurt you, right?”

“Y-yes, I know.” Koa stammers, hands half-raised in a futile defense.

You sigh. “Would you believe that I just want to have a nice conversation right now?”

“You’re well-armed, if that’s the case.” Koa retorts.

Oh, right. You’ve still got your focus and Rakshasa fingerbone bracelet in full view.

“Nobody else seemed to mind.” you point out. Still, you stow both items into your inventory. “So, want to chat?”

Koa looks a little less agitated once you do that, but you still catch her eyeballing potential escape routes. “I can’t give out any compromising information about the mansion, my employer, or Remilia Scarlet.” she says.

“So Remilia isn’t your employer?” you ask. Koa looks ready to kick herself. “I didn’t have to hear that if you need me to.” you offer.

“No, it’s fine.” Koa says, forcing herself to calm down. “It’s Patchouli. I’m Patchouli’s servant.”

Now that’s interesting. This Patchouli is a Diabolist in addition to her potent Elementalism?

“What sort of servant?” you ask.

“Oh, you know, library assistant, secretary, lab assistant...” Koa trails off.

“Did you make a contract with her?” you ask again, this time stressing the word ‘contract’. Koa seems to be ducking the issue.

“Well, of course.” she says, trying to look nonchalant. “I mean, don’t all servants have to sign contracts these days?”

“Look, Koa.” you say, patience running thin. “You’re a demon, right?”

Koa flinches when you say that. “Yes, alright, I’m a demon, now what of it?”

“Do you know anything about Makai?” you ask.

Koa cracks one wary eye open. “Eh?”

“Makai.” you say. “Hell. I’ve heard that its creator is trying to restore the place, which is fine and dandy, except it’s actually getting results this time.”

“Why should I tell a Templar about Makai?” Koa asks, glaring at you.

“Because I’m interested in Hell becoming less of a hell-hole?” you counter. “Granted, most Templars, especially the older ones, hunt demons for sport, but I’m not one of them.”

“I don’t know about that.” Koa says, starting to smile. “You’re looking kind of run-down, grandma.”

Grandma? That’s not insulting, that’s just plain inaccurate! You’re twenty-six. Seven. You think? It’s kind of fuzzy, but the point is that you’re still in your prime.

“Ha ha.” you monotone. “So, Makai. Do you have anything you’d like to say, or are you going to make more age jokes?”

Turns out that Koa does have a lot to say. According to the stories, a long time ago - neither of you is sure how long, time works differently in Hell - there was a visionary named Shinki. She seems to have been on the same level as Eblis, who stood alone against an entire platoon of angry Chosen. Perhaps another fallen Titan, then?

Koa’s eyes all but sparkle as she describes the saviour of Makai. Unable to unite the thirteen tribes and unwilling to open a Hellrift to Earth, Shinki instead chose to cordon off a section of Hell itself and move it to a more hospitable location. Like a Demonic Noah, she summoned all of her followers onto her ark and abandoned the rest of her world. Koa was one of the faithful who answered Shinki’s call to the seat of her power, Pandaemonium.

The changes were drastic and immediate. Long-lost splendor began to reawaken - gears rusted shut by the weight of eons started to turn. The crystalline forests of Hellish myth became reality. Hell was still hellish and awful, but it was getting better instead of worse for the first time as far as anyone could remember. The demons were ecstatic, and gave their new home a new name: Makai.

Then, there was a bit of unpleasantness when a number of demons decided that they’d like to share the news with Earth and soak up some Anima. They opened up a number of Hellrifts, except they found themselves in Gensokyo, rather than Earth proper. The locals flipped their shit, and Reimu, Marisa, Yuuka, and somebody named ‘Mima’ stormed through and wrecked a good deal of Makai as they fought with Shinki.

The incident was resolved with no loss of life to speak of, but relations between Makai and the rest of Gensokyo have been tense ever since. It seems that Shinki has forbidden all travel to and from Makai in response to the invasion.

That’s a shame, since Shinki sounds like the biggest thing to happen to Hell since the Fourth Age. Theodore Wicker, the visionary magus that the Council backed against Eblis, had a similar goal of restoring Hell, but as far as you know, he hasn’t had half as much success.

You used to feel a savage joy when you tore through packs of demons. Now, you just feel pity. Caleb once described them as ‘interplanar Mexicans’ - often forced to travel to a dangerous and unfamiliar land to sign unfair, exploitative contracts because the prospect of home was even worse.

“So what about you?” you ask Koa. “I mean, if Makai is sealed off, then aren’t you going to be missed?”

“I mean, it’s not totally sealed.” Koa says. “The problem behind the Gensokyo invasion really came down to the lack of a good customs office. Someone from Makai can get a work visa to make a contract or a visitor visa to just, you know, visit.”

You squint in confusion. “And nobody’s died?”

“Not really.” Koa says, folding her hands on her lap.

It’s like you’ve fallen into an alternate universe where screaming and blood has been replaced with laughter and tickles. Hell hasn’t been able to escape savage, mindless violence since the end of the Third Age until Shinki comes along and now you’ve got demon bureaucrats? Next thing you know, the Illuminati will donate their coffers to charity and Sonnac will start twerking in the middle of Temple Hall.

Speaking of Sonnac, you make a mental note to run the name ‘Shinki’ past him and see what he finds.

“Oh, I just remembered something.” Koa pipes up. “You see that nun over there, the one with purple in her hair?”

You follow her pointing finger. “Hijiri Byakuren?”

“Yeah.” Koa affirms. “Seems she and a few of her friends got shoved into Shiki’s turf long before it got tied down here. Would you have had anything to do with that?”

“Yes.” You admit, sheepishly scratching the back of your head. “I mean, not me personally, but the Templars, so yeah.”

Koa regards you with an impish ‘thought-so’ expression. “Anyways,” she continues, “I heard that Shinki was the only one to keep her company until a giant, flying ‘fuck-you’ boat broke through Shinki’s border and busted Byakuren out. Shinki was pissed that Makai’s security got breached again, but I think she was kind of happy in a sad way for her to be free.”

You consider Koa’s words. “Where are you going with this?”

“I’m saying that you seem to be trying to make amends.” she says, putting her hands on her hips and leaning forward as she pouts. “You’re not actually apologizing-”

“I can’t actually apologize.” you object. “For starters, I don’t know all of what happened, and I wasn’t there for any of these things! Not that it stops people from pinning it on me!” you huff.

It’s also against everything the Templar Order stands for. You can’t recall a single instance in the entire history of the society where it has acknowledged a mistake. Even as an Executor, you don’t have the authority to issue any sort of apology. As fas as you know, nobody can.

“Well, still.” Koa says, tilting her head. “It’s a start, considering that most Templar never seem to think of it in the first place. And if you want to say sorry, I think she needs it the most.”

“Alright.” you say, standing up and stretching. “Thanks for telling me all this, Koa.”

The succubus giggles. “It was my pleasure. Most people here aren’t interested in Makai’s history. Of course, if pleasure is something you’re interested in...” she trails off, waggling her eyebrows.

“No.” you say with impassive finality. “I’m not into that sort of stuff.”

Koakuma pouts.
>> No. 183806
You decide to pay Byakuren’s group a visit next. The head nun is sitting with Ichirin and Unzan. You note with a smile that while the former two aren’t drinking, Unzan is surrounded by a growing pile of drained sake jars.

“Hey.” you call out as you walk closer. “Mind if I join you guys?”

The three Buddhists regard you with some trepidation.

“Miss McGallagher.” she greets you with a curt nod. “I heard of your courage today from Ichirin.”

You deflect the praise with a wave of your hand. “Everyone did what they could. I’m just glad we’re all fine.”

“Indeed.” Byakuren says.

The conversation stalls for a while as none of you make eye contact. You imagine that the cross on your coat feels heavier.

Across the courtyard, you make out Kaguya and Tewi sidling up to Mokou and Keine. The Lunar princess is enjoying how Mokou fumes at her proximity, but things aren’t escalating beyond verbal barbs. Maybe this is the detente that Ran described to you.

Well, if the two immortals can make peace, so can you.

“Look, I don’t know what happened back then.” you blurt out. Anything to break the silence. “But I wasn’t there. I hope you won’t hold it against me.”

None of the Buddhists look sure how to respond to that. Are you accomplishing nothing but bringing up painful memories?

After a second pause, Byakuren turns to face you with a certain weariness on her face. “I appreciate your consideration. Buddha teaches that clinging to resentment causes one to stray from the path.”

“Buddha also forgives only thrice.” Ichirin cuts in. “I was there when your people came for us.”

“Ichirin, please!” Byakuren pleads. “Let us leave aside such unpleasant matters for tonight.”

You think back to the circumstances of Byakuren’s banishment. She was an occult exterminator who began sheltering Youkai, which the Templar took issue to. The resulting struggle cost the Templar the better part of their local garrison and killed most of Byakuren’s followers, with the nun herself and a handful of survivors booted off Earth into a part of the Hell Dimensions that would become known as Makai.

That they’ve survived their exile is nothing short of extraordinary, but what’s more bizarre is Byakuren’s current goal of reforming Youkai to no longer attack humans. The very principle flies in the face of millennia of research - predatory occult creatures require the fear and suffering of their prey for sustenance as much as the flesh. Even the rare individuals with self-awareness and a moral compass aren’t free from that gory constraint.

Meanwhile, Ichirin appears to have been pacified for now. Unzan is still staring daggers at you, and Byakuren herself doesn’t look that pleased with your presence, but you try not to let that faze you.

You’ve headbutted a werewolf alpha down a mountain before. A little small talk isn’t going to kill you.

“I’ve heard about the Myouren temple.” you begin. “Are you guys really trying to make peace between humans and Youkai?”

Byakuren perks up at that. “Yes. Our temple welcomes worshippers from all walks of life, provided that they are willing and able to live in peace.”

“You mean to say that you’ve got lots of Youkai under the same roof, next to the human village, and there hasn’t been a spike in attacks or anything?” you ask.

“We are more than capable of enforcing order.” Ichirin asserts. “While there are occasional troublemakers, they are always dealt with swiftly.”

Byakuren nods. “We are still relative newcomers to Gensokyo. The trust the Human Village has in us is still fragile.”

“Well, how do they feel about what you’re trying to do?” you ask.

Based on what Sonnac told you, the Human Village might still have some Templars around. If that’s the case, you’re probably going to be in charge of them, what with you being an Executor and all.

“A few support us.” Byakuren tells you. “They wish for an end to the endless conflict between Human and Youkai. Others think that Youkai are their enemies, and so are we for helping them. Most simply either do not care or are waiting to see what we accomplish.”

“How are things in the Outside world?” Byakuren asks, turning the question back to you.

You squirm. ‘Nearing extinction in the wild’ isn’t something that you think Byakuren will enjoy hearing.

“Things were pretty bad for a while.” you say. “There were major culls all over the world from your era up to the twentieth century.”

“I’d call one thousand years more than just ‘a while’.” Ichirin mutters.

You shrug. “Things have stabilized. Humans can coexist with the Occult. There are laws protecting Youkai now.”

Byakuren mulls over your words. “What is life like for your average Youkai, then?”

“Depends a lot on where.” you say, taking a crumpled tourist’s map from your inventory. “I can only speak for London, so let’s go with that. Most of the law-abiding Youkai live in the borough of Ealdwick, right under the shadow of Temple Hall.”

“So you force them to live in a ghetto?” Ichirin asks, eyes narrowed at the area circled on your map.

“We don’t force them to do anything besides not kill innocents.” you counter. “Yes, a lot of them live in a very small part of the city, but it works out better for everyone that way. It’s much easier for Youkai to look after their needs without raising eyebrows, and having Templar HQ in your backyard does wonders for the crime rate.”

“Interesting.” Byakuren looks thoughtful. “And what of their need for food?”

“A good number of the Occult population there isn’t predatory.” you say. “But for those who are, well... there aren’t a lot of tasteful solutions. I know that the Templar have skimmed from death row prisoners in the past, but things have moved beyond that. We’ve found that you can satisfy most of the Youkai need for suffering without anyone dying. There’s this underground fight club - I mean, literally under the ground - where humans and Youkai sign up to fight each other.”

“Sounds like a more brutish version of Danmaku.” Ichirin says.

“I don’t know enough about Danmaku to compare the two, but our fights are closely supervised.” you say. “There’s always referees, healers, and bouncers ready to handle things.”

It’s slight, but the Buddhists look less guarded around you. Unzan and Ichirin have relaxed to the point where they aren’t visibly ready to pounce at you on a moment’s notice, and Byakuren’s started to smile a little.

Before you notice it, you’ve already begun telling them about London. You’ll argue with Caleb about this until the end of time, but in your eyes, London is hands-down the greatest city in the world. You’ve spent most of your life there, learning to live alone, patrolling alongside the LPD, spending sleepless nights drinking whole pitchers of coffee while studying for your uni exams. It’s grown on you the way ivy grows down the weathered brick of your apartment front.

“There’s this taco cart in a little corner of Ealdwick” you find yourself saying. “It’s run by this ghoul called Dante, friendliest bloke you’ll ever meet. His tacos are amazing, and don’t even get me started on his hot sauce. Now, I know what you’re thinking - isn’t it suspicious for a ghoul to be selling ground meat to people? But he checks out, and that little taco cart is famous across the entire Secret World. Folks will come for all over just to grab some of Dante’s food and chat a bit...” your voice peters out, trembling.

A wave of homesick washes over you. Goddamnit, you miss London. You miss the winding alleys and the spices in the air of the Haitian market. You miss swapping stories with Gladstone in the smoke-heavy Temple Club. You miss the Thames and how dirty and smelly it gets. You miss the stupid little cardboard fort in Ealdwick park where you would shoot the breeze with John Galahad and Callie James. You miss Professor Okazaki and her ball-busting exams. You miss Dante.

A tear makes its way down from the corner of your eye. You make to brush it away, but Byakuren already has you in a loose hug.

“It’s alright.” she soothes. “Do you need anything?”

Ichirin looks rather jealous as she pulls her hood further down.

“Nah.” you respond, gingerly returning Byakuren’s embrace. “I just got a little emotional, thinking about home.”

“I could really go for a taco right about now.” you add, wiping the droplet away.

Byakuren laughs with genuine warmth. “I feel the same way, after listening to you.”

How? How is this woman still capable of compassion and warmth and hugs after all she’s been through?

Gensokyo is crazy, you decide.

“Why don’t you tell us a story, to take your mind off things?” Byakuren suggests as she pulls away.

‘Us’?

You turn around to be greeted by the sight of the other locals gathered around you and the Buddhists. The Scarlet group and Mokou are back, though the latter looks kind of winded, and Keine is busy fussing over the immortal’s many hair ribbons. The fairies are wrestling in midair, and Kaguya is still teasing Mokou from behind a pink silk sleeve, with Eirin, Tewi, and Reisin by her side. Caleb and Junko are standing together, smiling a little at you.

Something of note is that the remaining three patients have been let outside for now - they’re still bedridden, and you think that Suika’s IV connects to her drinking gourd, but they’re here. Sanae is being scolded by Suwako and Kanako like an irresponsible child, and Koakuma is wheeling Patchouli’s cot over to the other Scarlets.

“Good idea.” you say, shuffling though your own exploits. You rule out a lot of memories as too boring, traumatic, or grim, but that still leaves you with a sizeable number.

“I’m thinking of two right now.” you announce. “One involves a snowmobile chase, the other is about defeating what amounts to Satan. Eblis, Evil in the Deep, and all that.”

Eirin, Koakuma, and Byakuren all react at the mention of Eblis’s name.

“If I may.” Eirin says, brow creased. “The subject of Eblis is of-”

“OOH! OOH! SNOWMOBILES!” Cirno shouts, waving her arms in excitement. “It it like those moving pictures from the Outside with the guns and rockets on them?”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, kiddo.” Meiling says as she catches Cirno and lowers the fairy to the ground as she makes little ‘pew pew’ noises. “Stuff like that doesn’t happen in real life.”

“Actually, it did.” Junko offers. “Guns and rockets. I drove with Char riding shotgun. It was pretty awesome. I’ve got the footage in my inventory somewhere.”

“Oh. Well in that case, hell yeah!” Meiling enthuses, pumping a fist. Marisa looks similarly giddy, though that might just be the alcohol.

You check the time on your phone. According to the number Ran gave you in Mayohiga, it’s 11:34, meaning there’s time for one story before people have to start heading back.

“I vote for snowmobile, for obvious reasons.” Junko pings.

“Come on, that’s unfair.” Caleb pings back. “I had to stay back and cover Dzoavich.”

“Whatever. Sucks to suck, don’t it?” Junko grins.

---

What story do you tell?

[ ] Snowmobile: That time when you and Junko blew up an entire Orochi convoy in the Carpathians using a snowmobile equipped with enough military hardware to make a Terminator blush.
Cirno, Meiling, Marisa, and Junko want to hear this story.

[ ] Teufel ist Tot: That time when you joined a battalion of Chosen to defeat a fallen Titan in Hell in order to prevent a demonic invasion and allow Wicker to lead the demons,
Eirin, Koakuma, and Byakuren want to hear this story.

---

I’ve got a weird feeling about this vote, but I feel like going ahead with it. Not sure what I’ll do if something goes wrong, but I think that I can figure it out. I’ll have a recap thread after update 15. For the record, this batch is update 14.
>> No. 183808
[x] Snowmobile: That time when you and Junko blew up an entire Orochi convoy in the Carpathians using a snowmobile equipped with enough military hardware to make a Terminator blush.

And we end the story by asking our audience a question: 'why is there a second Mokou?'
>> No. 183809
[X] Snowmobile: That time when you and Junko blew up an entire Orochi convoy in the Carpathians using a snowmobile equipped with enough military hardware to make a Terminator blush.

Our fairy friend wants to hear this story. That makes this an easy choice.
>> No. 183811
[X] Teufel ist Tot: That time when you joined a battalion of Chosen to defeat a fallen Titan in Hell in order to prevent a demonic invasion and allow Wicker to lead the demons,
Eirin, Koakuma, and Byakuren want to hear this story.

Honestly, this sounds like a better story. Less explosive, sure, but it might be good to get on Byakuren's good side.
>> No. 183814
[X] Snowmobile: That time when you and Junko blew up an entire Orochi convoy in the Carpathians using a snowmobile equipped with enough military hardware to make a Terminator blush.

You do a remarkable job of welding TSO and Touhou lore together.

Meiling seems to be in a more friendly term with remilia here instead of the usual master servant relationship. which is interesting.

I wonder if you would delve further on Kasen's nature.

Something is up with Yukari and Reimu, but Reimu should be fine under Yukari's protection, right?

Also, if curing Sunny resulting in us being permanently dead, then. quoting a great man;

'At the very worst, we've failed to do the right thing.'
>> No. 183816
[X] Teufel ist Tot: That time when you joined a battalion of Chosen to defeat a fallen Titan in Hell in order to prevent a demonic invasion and allow Wicker to lead the demons,
Eirin, Koakuma, and Byakuren want to hear this story.

Honestly, this sounds like a better story. Less explosive, sure, but it might be good to get on Byakuren's good side.
>> No. 183819
[x] Teufel ist Tot: That time when you joined a battalion of Chosen to defeat a fallen Titan in Hell in order to prevent a demonic invasion and allow Wicker to lead the demons,
Eirin, Koakuma, and Byakuren want to hear this story.
>> No. 183820
[X] Snowmobile
Who doesn't want to hear a story about a snowmobile loaded with explosives??
>> No. 183821
[x] Teufel ist Tot: That time when you joined a battalion of Chosen to defeat a fallen Titan in Hell in order to prevent a demonic invasion and allow Wicker to lead the demons

This seems more important, especially considering the people who want to hear it. The ones who want to hear the other story are already openly friendly, it doesn't seem like it would help build relationships as much, and we're going to need more friends if not allies.
>> No. 183822
[X] Teufel ist Tot: That time when you joined a battalion of Chosen to defeat a fallen Titan in Hell in order to prevent a demonic invasion and allow Wicker to lead the demons

I want to see Afro-Satan get his face punched in.
>> No. 183823
Calling the vote at 12pm EST tomorrow, approximately 17 hours from now.
>> No. 183824
Cool. Happy new year, btw.
>> No. 183825
>>183824

You too.

Thanks to everyone for sticking around so far, and happy New Year's.
>> No. 183826
[X] Teufel ist Tot: That time when you joined a battalion of Chosen to defeat a fallen Titan in Hell in order to prevent a demonic invasion and allow Wicker to lead the demons.

The people who want to hear the second story are not only less friendly, but also correspond with our objectives of investigating the Lunarians and Makai. Junko will tell the story eventually anyway, and she has footage, so she can't blatantly lie about it. Even if the footage shows us doing something morally grey, she was there too so she'd be incriminating herself. Finally, there are notable parallels to the current situation, and anything attesting to our ability to work with others for the greater good is something we want to say.

This is, of course, assuming there's nothing we wouldn't want said in the second story. Like if we'd end up bragging to Byakuren about shooting tons of demons.

Also, you seem to have mentioned something here:
>a lot of Chosen competing in the Fusang Projects arena with a very particular, very annoying loadout.
Would you mind explaining it for those of us who don't play TSW?
>> No. 183827
>>183512
Also, I just noticed this:
>the Illuminati attempted on multiple occasions to capture the younger Scarlet

The vault was breached around the time of the battle, so despite my initial suspicions, I don't think it was anything other than most of the SDM crew being elsewhere. I couldn't find any point where Caleb was unaccounted for, and he could only have found out about Flandre after the battle, when everyone received messages from outside. That said, he definitely got objectives too, and I wouldn't be surprised if one of them is to capture Flan.
>> No. 183830
Calling vote in favor of the Hell Story.
>> No. 183831
>>183826
Its a giant PvP battleground with people just being dicks and everyone that is not high level or has a good build gettin stomped beyond belief. There are people that roll builds that make you pretty much immortal without a squad of 5 DDs to take em down. So pretty standart pvp.
>> No. 183866
Hey mate, I really didn't want to use the thread to contact you (it seems rude), but I'm basically stranded in the middle of nowhere, with net that is slower and more unreliable than Demetrious, which means our usual methods of communication are unavailable to me at the moment (can't call or text outside of the States).

Got an email from the bank, the rent is paid for the month, check was delivered on time etc.
>> No. 183879
[X] Teufel ist Tot

---

While you are tempted to relieve the snowmobile chase, it feels more prudent to go over Eblis’ downfall. Maybe another opportunity for the former will show up sometime.

At the very least, you don’t have to worry about whether or not Junko spliced out the footage of you being ventilated by that Orochi gunship like she said she would. You’ve got a reputation to uphold, damnit.

As for the people who’ve expressed the most interest in hearing about the Hell invasion, it’s plain to see why Koakuma and Byakuren would care. Eirin’s investment, though, is something that you didn’t foresee. What does a Lunarian have to do with Eblis?

“So, what’s it going to be?” Marisa asks.

“The story about Hell.” you say. “Operation Eternal Respite.”

“Awwww.” Cirno whines. “But I wanted to watch the snowmobile movie!”

“Maybe another time, eh?” Meiling says as she carries a number of chairs over. Behind her, most of the other locals are finding seats in anticipation for your story.

“I appreciate your interest, but do you guys know what Hell is?” you ask the crowd. Around half of them respond with puzzled looks or shaken heads. Even Marisa, who Koa and Yuuka said invaded Makai, doesn’t look sure.

From her bed, Sanae raises a hand. “Are you talking about Christian hell?”

“Not quite. Well, you’ve all heard of Makai, right?” you ask, trying to find a good parallel. “Barren, alien landscape, crimson sky choked by toxic clouds, starved demons picking through rubble and wreckage from past glories-”

“I don’t mean to interrupt, but you’re about to give the Buddhists a panic attack.” Caleb pings you.

You pause mid-spiel to glance at the nun. It’s subtle, but Byakuren’s jaw is clenching as her eyes wander around the premises as if to confirm that she’s still in Eientei. Meanwhile, Ichirin is on the verge of flat-out hyperventilating, and Unzan’s trying to conceal the scene with his bulk.

“I’ll assume that you know what I’m talking about.” you say, switching tracks. “Now picture an entire world like that, and you have the Hell Dimensions. Not a nice place. Thing is, Hell wasn’t always so bad. As dumb as it might sound, Hell used to be a paradise.”

Several faces look at you with quirked eyebrows.

Patchouli speaks up from her cot. “Impossible.” she coughs as she props herself up. “Little more than a fiction the demons cling to in order to escape their reality.”

“Are you sure about that?” you ask. “I mean, I thought Makai was doing well.”

“Relatively speaking, yes.” Patchouli says, purple eyes focused on you. “But based on what little information there is, Makai hasn’t even scratched the barest of the myths.” Behind her, Koa’s head-wings twitch at that.

You shrug. “Well, I’ll take your word for it, but think about it - all of those ruins had to be something once upon a time, right?”

Patchouli frowns. “Yes, I suppose. Where are you going with this?”

“To understand this chapter of Hell’s history, it helps to know about Theodore Wicker.” you say. “A magus with peerless mastery of portal magic and a vision of peace. Sort of like a modern-day Byakuren.” you say, gesturing towards the nun. Byakuren blushes and brushes a lock of hair out of the way.

“He jumped into Hell and spread word of his plan to restore things to the way they once were. Of course, not everyone believed in him.” you go on. “From day one, Wicker was an outsider, and for every demon that was drawn to his message of hope, two more were pushed away.”

“Now why would they do that?” Kasen asks. “It sounds like this Wicker could hardly have made things worse.”

“Plenty of reasons.” you say. “Some didn’t like the idea of following a human. Some thought that Wicker’s plan was suicide. A lot were just too bitter to believe in something better. But what it really comes down to is Eblis.”

Koa shivers at the name. Kaguya whispers something to Eirin, who nods but otherwise remains neutral.

“Domini Inferni in Profundis.” you continue. “Master in the depths of Hell. Eblis had been around for as long as the plane itself, and he did not like the idea of an upstart human coming in and stealing his demons.”

It doesn’t feel prudent to mention that Eblis had a hand in creating Hell to begin with. You don’t have the time to explain the Ages and the Titans right now.

“To make a long war short, everything came down to this battle.” you say as you pull a weathered map out of your inventory and unroll it in front of the group. A faint, metallic smell of sulfur and copper escapes into the air.

You point to the rough markings on the parchment. “Sheol used to be a great city. In another age, humans and demons walked side by side here. Of course, it’s just a dead husk of what it used to be, but the name is still a symbol, and symbols have power. Defensible symbols that overlook crucial mountain passes are even better.”

“The longer Wicker held Sheol, the more demons rallied to him. Eblis can’t let this happen, so he’s forced to commit everything he has to crush the rebels. Eventually, the walls get breached, and the city falls into the nastiest urban fighting you can imagine. Lava golems toppling ruined ziggurats onto enemy forces, packs of rakshasa prowling the streets, and Djinn dueling for aerial supremacy.”

“That’s where we came in. On the verge of being overrun, Wicker broadcast a call for aid to Earth. We knew that if Eblis won the war, there’d just be more fruitless, bloody invasions from Hell.”

“Invasions?” Marisa asks, head tilted. “What for?”

“Well, when your place sucks and your neighbor’s doesn’t, you sometimes try to move there so that things suck less.” you explain. “So every now and then, when the demons get angry or hungry enough, they force their way to Earth through a portal.”

“Is diplomacy ever attempted?” Alice asks, leaning forward from her seat on the ground.

“A number of times, not that it did much good. The pattern of ‘human hates demon, demon hates human’ goes back as long as anyone can remember, and it’s not going to change anytime soon. On a practical level, you can’t have too many demons in the same place or else they’ll drain the life straight out of the soil, so that’s another obstacle.”

“Anyways, back to the battle. We got cross-faction approval to go support Wicker, and a battalion of us from all three societies jump through a portal that leads to the outskirts of Sheol.”

You laugh as you remember something. “Oh man, the looks on their faces. I kind of feel bad for the chumps who realized they had Wicker’s forces on one side and a small army of Chosen bearing down from the other.”

“Half of the first loyalist unit we first ran into surrendered on the spot. The other half was too busy panicking to put up a fight. Only their commander, a Djinn in tarnished gold armor, had the guts to stand against us. Even as his soldiers fled and fell around him, he wrapped fire around his hands and roared his lone challenge to us.”

“‘The demons had suffered enough,’ he said. Fair enough, if you ask me. With that, he brought his hands together and flung jets of magma at us. His attack only made it halfway across before he got killed by return fire.”

Patchouli scoffs, oblivious to the way Koa shifts behind her. “Sounds like a typical Djinn. Equal parts proud and foolish.”

“Sure, but I’ve never met one that wasn’t brave.” you say.

“By now, both sides are aware that we’ve arrived. Eblis calls his artillery on us, so we scatter. The three of us here linked up with a lumie swordsman, a Templar blood mage, and a Panopticon from the Dragon.”

“What’s that?” Suwako asks you from Kanako’s lap.

Right. You never explained what a Panoptic Core is.

“What we are isn’t a big secret at this point.” you say. “Chosen: Otherwise ordinary humans granted power through a connection to Gaia. Now, a Panopt is a veteran Chosen that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Fearless, peerless, and able to shape Anima like water.”

You remember that particular Panopt as the first you ever saw in the flesh, though you never got her name. You’re not sure if she would have given it to you - they’re not big on conversation, eating, sleeping, laughing, or just about anything else that isn’t necessary for purging Occult horrors, chief among them the Filth.

“You guys get stronger?” Cirno asks with a wide-eyed expression of awe.

“Not all of us. At most, the Panopt rate is just under three percent of all Chosen, and there aren’t that many of us walking around...” you scratch the back of your head. “Suffice to say that a Panopt is essentially a much, much stronger Chosen.”

“Anyways, our little six-man fireteam and a handful of rebel demons ducked into one of Sheol’s alleys as the shells start howling through the air. Eblis was one of the few who still knew how to make the old machines work, so we figure that he must have set up a battery somewhere. After double-checking with our demon buddies, the Panopt pinged the site’s coordinates to the rest of the force, and we pushed on through the choked streets.”

“We met with total chaos at every corner. Thousands of tortured years made the demons familiar with pain. Made them numb to it. Made them desperate for any end to it, in some cases. In Sheol, it made them fight with unmatched fervor. The Panopt didn’t let us stop in any one place to get a good picture of things, but what I did see... well, that’s a story for another time. One incubus broke his sword in a fight, then pounced on Caleb and tried to tear his throat out.”

“Don’t make it sound so bad,” Caleb chides. “I made him regret it, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, after you finished squealing like a schoolgirl.” Junko snickers.

You roll your eyes and continue.

“It’s as we entered the city proper that we started taking casualties. From the top of a broken tower, Eblis sent his deadliest minions against us. Our team got lucky - we managed to avoid the worst ones until we ran smack dab into the Hadean Guard. Eblis’ most trusted warriors, led by Brutus, Cassius, and Iscariot.”

Sanae regards you with raised eyebrows. “Are you sure you aren’t talking about Christian Hell?”

“Yes, I’m very sure. For one thing, Hell isn’t related to the afterlife. I mean, most mythologies get part of the truth right, but never the whole picture. It’d be a disaster if people found out too much too soon.”

Keine frowns a bit when you say this. She opens her mouth to speak but seems to think better of it.

“Back to the story.” you say. “So the six of us, a few other squads, and a mob of rebels we picked up along the way came face to face with the Hadean on a pavilion. Behind them is the path to Eblis. Behind us is the skeleton of a city in flames.”

“Iscariot raises his sword, Brutus his hammer, and Cassius his clawed gauntlets. The Hadean guard bellows their last warcry and charges across the open ground. After that, it’s a blur of metal and blood for a while. Our swordsman tried to fight Iscariot mano-a-mano and got his head taken off with one stroke.”

“They put up a good fight, but there’s nothing the Hadean guard could do to stop us. Cassius went first, though it took a few rockets, enough lightning to fry a whale, and a chainsaw to get the job done.”

“A chainsaw.” Mokou says in disbelief, arms crossed. “You’re telling me that you use those things to fight? They’re worse than useless - believe me, I tried using one on Kaguya before. It didn’t work out.”

Kaguya covers her amused smile with a long sleeve. “Oh, but I thought it suited you, Mokou. A crude tool for a crude woman.”

Mokou grinds her teeth, but a tug from Keine curbs any further bickering.

“After watching Cassius fall, the surviving loyalists got conservative, grouping up and letting us come to them. By this time, they realized that they couldn’t hope to stop us, but they could still delay us, bleed us enough for Eblis to finish us off. As far as plans go, it wasn’t bad.”

“Anyways, Iscariot was next. An allied golem got knocked out and fell onto the battlefield, cutting him off from the rest of the Guard. Didn’t even flinch, just wiped the blood off his sword before pointing it at us. Daring us to take it from him. We killed him, but left the blade in his grip. He deserved that much.”

“All that was left was Brutus, the one soldier of Eblis still standing, and he was furious. Not just because everyone else had perished. You see, to him, to a lot of demons, we humans had a hand in every injustice and misfortune handed to them. Whether it’s the contracts, the safari hunts, or the simple fact that our world has Anima and theirs doesn’t... there’s a lot to be bitter about.”

“Angry as he was, Brutus didn’t even get the chance to raise his hammer before he caught a bullet between the eyes and crumpled to the ground. With him out of the way, everyone left on our side races forward to take out Eblis.”

“I had a last look at what the results of the battle. Some of the best and brightest left in Hell now scattered on the ground like broken toys. It took me a while to remind myself to keep going.”

“Turns out that hanging back probably saved me. Eblis was waiting for us on top of that tower, something far more ancient and powerful than man in the shape of one. Eldritch glyphs glowing on ashen skin and six white wings silhouetted against the glow of a dead sun. That was the last thing most of the first wave up got to see before he reduced them to ash.”

That causes some muttering among the crowd. “Did they... did they stay dead?” Dai asks, huddled behind Keine.

“Nah.” Caleb says. "They were fine after a minute or so. Only problem was that they got rezzed back in Earth, so they were out for the rest of the battle.”

“Eblis launched into us with the grace of a swan and the rage of a boar. He brought the weight of imprisoned millenia down on each strike, breaking up our ranks and whittling our numbers down. We couldn’t do much but die against him.”

“I heard the sound of more artillery incoming and figured our time here was over. Eblis was going to shell us all to death and personally finish off Wicker. That’s when the barrage struck Eblis himself, right in the middle of throwing our blood mage off the tower. Turns out that some of our guys had managed to capture the cannons from before, and while only Eblis could turn them on, anyone could use them.”

“Eblis is as tough as anything gets, but even he can’t just ignore that much ordinance to the face. He got knocked to the floor by the sheer force, and that’s when the Panopts jumped him. By this time, I was on my last legs. My guns were wrecked and my focus was a piece of slag, so all I could do is watch the carnage and try not to get caught in it.”

“One-man armies clad in black and gold, they shot, stabbed, and zapped Eblis as one. Nothing was on their faces, not fear or exhaustion or even a warrior’s fury. Nothing but blank focus.”

“Never had I ever been more appreciative of being in Gaia’s good books. Eblis lashed out as he recovered, took out a few, but it’s like the rest didn’t even notice. It didn’t matter what he did, the Panopts didn’t stop coming after him, and any one of them could be replaced by another in a moment.”

“They hit him with everything, every second. I saw our Panopt turn aside a swing of his blade with her bare hands before using the momentum to spin behind him and deliver a punch to the back of his head that I could feel through the floor. It wasn’t enough to kill him, but she made Eblis stumble, and that was all the opportunity the rest needed to finish the job. One of them brought their hammer down with enough force to level a skyscraper, and it was all over. The Battle of Sheol ended with the final judgement of Eblis.”
>> No. 183880
There’s a few seconds of silence after you conclude You hope that you didn’t put anyone to sleep with your story.

“What happened afterwards?” Reisen asks after a while.

“We didn’t stick around.” you say. “With Eblis gone, there was no reason to stay. Wicker kept to his promises and shut the portals after we left, so there hasn’t been much communication.”

“Did he die?” Koa asks, voice catching. “I have to know. Did you kill him?”

“Shoot. I was hoping you wouldn’t notice that.” you say. You look to Caleb and Junko.

“We can confirm that Eblis was defeated in combat and removed from power.” Caleb offers. “Anything beyond that is classified.”

Koa just looks downcast, but Eirin seems to have caught on. The lunarian looks caught between relief and wistfulness.

“Good riddance.” Koa mutters. “He finally got what he was due.”

“If you ladies and gentlemn don’t mind, I’m interested in hearing more about the three demonslayers right in front of us.” Kanako says for the first time.

You, Caleb, and Junko all look at each other.

“You first.” you ping.

“Come on, nobody wants to hear my boring-ass life story.” Junko pings back.

“Fine, I guess I’ll go first.” Caleb says.

“I grew up in a place called New York City in a country called America, and I can see that most of you have never heard of those places. Alright. Well, New York is one of the biggest, richest cities in the world. Millions of people from all over the world call it home, and it just so happens that the Illuminati are based there.”

“Me, I had a normal life with nothing supernatural going on until I was twenty-three. I had just finished cutting ties with my folks, and my life consisted of medical school, eating cheap food, and trying to survive on five hours of sleep per day.”

“You’re a doctor?” Reisen asks.

“Not really.” Caleb answers, lowers his gaze. “Still bugs me that I never got to finish my degree, but things happen. Sometimes your car breaks down or there’s illness in the family. Sometimes a Bee stings you while you’re sleeping and you wake up with occult power you’ve got no idea how to control. The Illuminati detected me blowing up my apartment, sent some people over, and the rest is history.” he finishes.

“So why’d you leave your parents?” Sanae asks.

“Oh, lots of reasons.” Caleb says, sighing as he counts off on his fingers. “Narrow-minded, treated me like a child, expected me to follow in their footsteps, control freaks, generally unpleasant to be around, take your pick.”

You give June a plaintive look.

“I guess I’ll go next.” Junko huffs. “Though there isn’t much to say. I was an accountant working for Anansi in Kyoto. Boring city, boring job. I was doing a pretty good job of killing my liver before I swallowed a Bee and woke up in some back alley in Seoul. It’s been crazy, but there’s nothing I would go back to those days for.”

“An immortal office lady with danmaku levels of dodging skill?” Tewi teases. “Don’t sound too bad to me.”

Junko laughs at that. “Well, I guess if you put it that way...”

With that said, everyone turns to you. You shift in your seat.

“I got sent to London when I was six.” you say, doing your best to ignore the heat growing in your cheeks. “My mom and dad fought all the time. I would have been stuck with them if the Templar hadn’t found out I had latent magic. They told my parents that I was needed to help keep the peace, and it worked out for everyone involved. With me out of the way, my parents stopped fighting, I got away from my parents, and the Templar got me. Win-win-win. Getting the Bee later on was just a bonus.”

“Don’t you guys ever, you know, squabble among each other?” Ichirin asks, gesturing to the three of you. “The big three aren’t known for cooperation.”

Junko leans back. “We used to. First time we all met, we spent half of our time doing our jobs and the other half trying to backstab each other like good little agents. I remember one time I tracked an enchanted pendant up a rickety little lighthouse, except that its previous owner came back as a specter and tried to kill me. After I dealt with her, Char crept up from behind and set me on fire before kicking me down at least thirty feet into the ocean, and then Caleb sniped Char from a rooftop and grabbed the damn thing.”

Junko abruptly drives an elbow into Caleb’s ribs.

“Hey, Char’s the one that killed you that time!” he protests, rubbing his side.

“Yeah, but you got away with it. Anyways, it got old. Eventually, that sort of fighting wound up letting something incredibly dangerous fall into the wrong hands. It got cleared up in the end, but each of us started thinking that there had to be a better way to do things.”

You nod. “The next time we met each other, we started working together. Our bosses don’t approve, but they tolerate it, and they can’t argue with results, so there you go.”

Some of the audience looks thoughtful at that. “Hm. Well, I can’t say that it would be worse than the old days.” Tewi says after a while. “You kids seem alright.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.” you reply.

There’s not much to say after that. Everyone’s full, tipsy, sleepy, or some combination of the three, and they start heading out. You’re getting sleepy yourself. The physical need to lay your head down and shut your eyes is weighing on your mind for the first time in years. Yet another convenience you’ll have to deal with for now..

Keine approaches you on her way out. “That was an interesting story.” she says, a drowsy fairy holding onto each hand. “Would you mind if I shared it with Akyuu?”

“No, not at all.” you say. “I wouldn’t have told it if that was the case.”

You remember something you wanted to ask. “Keine, are there any Templars in the human village?”

Keine hums to herself as she thinks about your question. “I don’t have anything concrete right now. If you were to ask me on the full moon, I could give you a clear answer, but that’s two weeks from now. You’d have to ask around to find out. Why do you wish to know?” she asks.

“I got a promotion, and my boss told me that some of the villagers might be our guys. If that’s the case, I’m now responsible for them.” you tell her.

“Well, if that’s the case, we should work out the details some other time.” Keine says, stifling a yawn. “Perhaps tomorrow, though Eirin might want to keep you here to recover.”

You exchange farewells with Keine as she flies off, fairies in tow.

A sudden clap on the back snaps you back to reality.

“Tonight was fun!” Meiling exclaims as you clutch your chest. You ought to have a word with her about this, maybe get her to hold off until you get your resurrection back.

“Thanks.” you wheeze. “Hope I can see you around sometime.

“Yeah, same!” she says. “So, uh, listen. I’ve got orders from Remilia to give you a message. Basically, she doesn’t want any of you guys to mess with Flan. At all. On pain of death and all that ”

“I’ll do my best, I suppose.” you say, not sure of how else to respond. “I mean, it’s not like I could do anything even if I managed to reach her.”

“Yeah, I know,” Meiling says. “I’m sorry that you got off on the wrong foot with Remilia. She’s not a bad person once you get to know her. Just, I’d recommend staying clear of the mansion for a while.”

“It’s fine.” you say, brushing it off.

“Oh, one last thing, thanks for chatting with Koa.” Meiling says. “I’ve never seen her that engaged with someone who’s not Patchy. I think she’s kind of into you!” Meiling gives you a knowing grin.

You blink. “You sure?”

“Ack, gotta go!” with a final wave, Meiling runs back to Remilia, leaving you with a bit of an awkward situation.

It’s not that you have anything against Koa, it’s just that you know what constitutes demonic sexual practice and you want nothing to do with it. You like leaving your nerve endings unplucked, thank you very much.

You shake your head. You’re overthinking it - things like this are on the back end of your to-do list.

The rabbits have already cleaned up the party with remarkable efficiency, leaving the courtyard empty but for the last stragglers. A few rabbits come to cart away Patchouli, Sanae, and Suika, leaving the three of you with the Eientei crew.

Kaguya settles down across from you three, with Eirin taking a place by her side.

“Now that the other guests have left, I hope you don’t mind if we continue to discuss certain matters.” the princess says.

“Not at all.” Junko pings. “We can talk for as long as you like.”

You cover a yawn with your elbow. “Not me, though. Looks like I need to go to bed.” you say.

Kaguya claps her hands, and a pair of rabbits appear at her side. “See to it that miss McGallagher receives fitting accommodations.” she instructs. The rabbits bow and slide the doors back into Eientei open.

“Go on ahead.” Caleb says to you. “We’ll bring you up to speed in the morning.”

“Stay safe. Call us if you need something.” he pings you.

You get up and follow the two servant rabbits through the halls of Eientei again, coming to a well-furnished bedroom after a couple minutes of walking. There’s a small bathroom off to the side and a modest window on the wall facing the bed.

There aren’t any special security measures in this room that you can see. None of the flooring, walls, or furniture appear to be concealing any kind of trap or passage.

You thank the servants, take a shower, change into some sleepwear from your inventory, and lay down on the bed. As your mind slows down, you take the opportunity to reflect on the events of the past day.

Of all the possible ways the mess with Flappy could have gone, things worked out great. No deaths, a promotion, and an entire pocket dimension for you to get to know. Even the mattress you’re on right now feels better than usual. You’d forgotten how sublime it could be to just close your eyes, drift away on the weightless dark, letting go of the constraints of the physical world and hey wait a second something’s weird.

You open your eyes to find yourself standing on a shattered island of rock, floating alone against a field of dead suns. As you look around, you catch sight of a familiar shape silhouetted against the sickly orange glow - the Hakurei Shrine gate, disgusting fingers of Filth wrapped around the red wood.

So much for sweet dreams.
>> No. 183884
You’re in a dream right now, you’re certain, You’ve seen it before. It’s not your dream, but that of the Dreamers: The creators, the masters of the Filth. What you’re looking at right now is just their ideal vision of a world subverted and bound to their will.

After a moment of panic, you confirm that you’re fine. Neither your body nor your mind are under attack, which means that you just have to sit tight and wait to get booted out of this madhouse.

You try pinging Caleb and Junko, but all you get in return is silence.

Still, that leaves the question of why you’re here in the first place. In the past, whenever you had the misfortune of finding yourself in one of these warped visions, there was always something trying to talk to you. Usually a Dreamer itself, but if that was the case here they’d already have spoken up by now.

Incomprehensible reality-eating aberrations sure love to hear themselves talk.

That’s fine by you if they’ve gotten tired of prattling on about the end of days and how they might have a place for you when the world is buried in Filth. On your end, you’ve gotten tired of flipping them the bird with both hands and chanting obscenities into the void until you wake up. It still wouldn’t hurt to know just what’s going on here, though-

“Wretched, isn’t it?” A voice rings out across the bleak nothings.

You turn back around to the gate to find someone standing in front of it with an elaborate parasol, a tall woman wearing a frilled white dress with a purple tabard. Her face is framed by long golden hair spilling from beneath a ribboned cap as she gazes out into the bleak horizon of a rotted universe.

Yakumo Yukari. Even if you hadn’t seen her picture, there can be no mistaking it.

A guttural snarl tears itself from your throat at the sight of her as your fingers reach for missing weapons. In your experience, perfect beauty more often than not is used to conceal unspeakable foulness. The current location isn’t giving you much reason to trust her, either.

Yukari goes on, not reacting one bit to your outburst. “This future of ours, that is. Everything beautiful and alive fossilized in black resin. Nothing left but ruin and sorrow.”

Something feels wrong about her on an instinctive level. She’s too coherent to be Filth-infected, but one doesn’t simply take a day trip to a place like this.

“If you’ve got something to tell me, get to the point.” you growl, drawing yourself up to your full height.

Yukari sighs, then folds up the parasol and stands it in front of her as she turns to face you. Eyes of the richest purple you’ve ever seen bore into your own.

“I’m sure you’ve seen this place before.” she says, hands resting on top of the umbrella’s curved handle. “This reality where the whispering tide swallows everything. The end of days has been foreseen for centuries, hasn’t it?”

“Doesn’t stop me from fighting.” you retort.

Yukari smiles at that, a dainty curl of her lips accompanied by a small chuckle. “Of course. That’s what you were conscripted for, after all. Gaia needed more soldier bees, so she plucked you and your friends from your cocooned lives and sent you to fight in her war. She chose you, am I right?”

You frown. “You’re still not telling me what you want. Don’t waste your time trying to threaten me, either.”

Your words are dismissed with the flick of a gloved hand. “I am all too aware of how little time any of us have, miss McGallagher. Wasting any of it is the last thing I intend to do, and I have very effective ways to deal with your kind should you become troublesome.”

Violet eyes glint in the twilight.

“Instead, I have a small proposition for you.”
>> No. 183886
“No.” you answer. “Whatever it is, no. I already made a promise with your familiar.”

“This doesn’t concern Ran.” Yukari says. “And you don’t have to accept right away. Though I would recommend taking it sooner rather than later if you want to save your queen.”

Your mind races back to before the party. “The bargain Yuuka fought with Ran over.”

Yukari smiles and nods. “That’s right. Don’t worry about being found out, by the way. I’ll keep your little trick a secret from Ran.”

“Still not enough to even consider it.” you say. “You haven’t told me what either bargain is about.”

“There’s not much you are ready to know.” Yukari says. “But I suppose it would be alright to humor you for your work at the shrine.”

“Gensokyo is more than just a refuge for the forgotten and forsaken, though I can’t discount the importance of that function.” she goes on. “But this place is first and foremost a testing ground. A means to prove a theory in practice.”

“And that would be?” you ask, patience running thin.

“An end to Filth.” Yukari says, letting the words hang in the air.

Your jaw goes slack as you consider the implications of what Yukari just said.

“But- how- exactly what are you trying to do?” you sputter. “And how does Gaia fit in with this?”

“It should be obvious that I’m not ordinary by any measure of the word. It follows that I’m capable of extraordinary things, yes?” Yuuka answers, smirking. “As for the latter, who do you think let me have an entire world-tree to myself?”

“Alright, assuming that your plan, whatever the hell it is, has even the slightest chance of success, what do you want me for?” you ask her.

Yukari’s smile turns matronly. “I want you to accept a small amount of my own power in exchange for your assistance in certain sensitive matters.”

“That sounds incredibly shady.” you say. “Given that I don’t know you and we’re standing in the middle of a fucking Filth dream.”

“I won’t make you act against Gaia.” Yukari says. “In fact, you would be helping Her through working with me on my bargain. I don’t even mind what your superiors in London ask you to do, so long as it doesn’t affect the Barrier. And if it’s freedom you’re concerned about, consider that I’m going through the trouble of giving you a clear choice in the matter. Something that your Immaculate Machine never bothered with.”

The uncomfortable feeling peaks for a single moment as a sharp pulse in the center of your skull.

“As I’ve said, you don’t need to make your decision now.” Yukari says while you grit your teeth and shake your head. “I will respect whatever choice you make, though I hope you make the better one.”

“You’re not telling me the whole truth.” you say as you collect yourself. “For that matter, where are we? Where is Reimu?”

“We’re in a dream.” Yukari says, sounding for the world like she’s talking about the weather. “To be particular, we’re in your dream right now. As for the question of why this dream in particular, I suppose we can attribute that to your encounter with the Filth creature today.”

“On the subject of Reimu, she couldn’t be in better hands. Though it is unfortunate that she had to be taken from under the Lunarian’s nose, I assure you that neither her body nor soul will be compromised, though not even I can say when she will be fit to resume her duties.”

“Beyond that, I have agreed to abide by certain restrictions, restrictions that I cannot violate without losing vital... partners in this enterprise.”

A tremor racks through the suspended ground, stumbling you and causing the gate to creak in protest. Yukari remains upright throughout the quake, unmoving except to brush off an imagined spot from one of her gloves.

“It seems our time here is coming to an end.” she announces, raising her umbrella once more. “Before we leave, I have two parting gifts of information for you. Consider them tokens of goodwill.”

“The first is that Kazami Yuuka is not your friend. She has worked with you because it was convenient for her, because it aligned with her own goals and prejudices. If you let her, she will dig her roots into you and use you to fulfill her own petty grudges, the discard you once you are no longer useful to her.”

“I don’t have many reasons to trust you.” you point out.

Yukari continues, indifferent to your objection. “The second is that your body is in grave danger right now.”

As if to illustrate her point, the ground shakes again with increased violence. You’re forced to your knees as chunks of rock crumble and fall into the void.

“Your dream is collapsing around us. When you wake up, you will have to fight for your life against one of Gensokyo’s more... unstable residents. Why she isn’t following the spellcard rules is something Reimu will have to address when she recovers.”

Yukari smiles one last time, eyes and lips radiating a warmth that seems to be lost into the infinite wastes.

“For now, you’ll just have to do your best not to die. I’m sure your colleagues wouldn’t appreciate having to free you from the afterlife.”

Before you can ask her what’s happening, what she means by half of what she said, or just tell her to go stuff that umbrella up unmentionable orifices, your vision of the end of the world fades into total darkness.
>> No. 183887
18---

Hakurei the Second, granddaughter of sweetest light and foulest dark, creates her answer. Lead is replaced by sound and fury. An uneasy understanding grows between man and monster. Is this placebo-pill measure the solution to the end of days?

Of course not, Sweetling. It will take more than a child’s game to save us all.

Golden blood stains white gloves. Trust Yukari and her promises at your own peril. Still, if there is anyone in a position to salvage our investment, it may be you.
>> No. 183890
You open your eyes, this time in the real world. You’re still in Eientei, still in the bedroom you went to sleep in. Judging by the pale blue filtering in through the window, it must be early morning, no more than a couple hours at most since sunrise.

You look around the room. The door’s shut, the walls are intact and blood-free, you don’t hear screaming, and nobody else is in here with you. It’s just a quiet, undisturbed morning. Was Yukari messing with you? That’s a pretty bad prank by any standard-

Hold on. This isn’t just standard grogginess you’re feeling. You’re breathing, but your heart isn’t beating.

Shit shit shit.

“Help heart isn’t working help now” you ping as you flail around, kicking off the sheets in your struggle with the heaviness in your limbs and the blackness growing at the edges of your vision.

Did someone poison you? Impossible - you didn’t eat anything after getting detoxed by Caleb, and he wouldn’t do this to you. Some sort of discreet, slow-acting injection?

Less speculation, more survival!

Your struggling smacks your head into the wall, bringing your face in front of a small, out-of-the-way electrical outlet.

An idea occurs to you.

With your last vestiges of consciousness, you bring your elementalism focus out of your inventory with one hand and lay the other on top of your chest. With time running out and no better options presenting themselves to your oxygen-deprived and currently mortal brain, you surge electricity into your own body.

You buck up for a drawn-out second as every last one of your muscles contracts. Your eyes are shut, your hands are clenched into fists that dig into your palms, and for a moment you think that your heart is going to pop. In the next, you feel something catch in your ribcage and you collapse back onto the reed floor. You become aware of return pings.

“Char? What the hell is going on?” Junko pings.

“Heart stopped beating.” you ping back. “Managed to defib myself, but I need you guys over here right now. There may be an assailant around.”

Caleb swears. “We’re on the opposite side of the mansion as you. We’ll be there in less than three minutes. Can you try leaving the room?”

You move towards the door, eyes scanning for any sign of danger. No magical signatures, no spaces an assassin might be hiding, no ripples or distortions of optical camouflage.”

That doesn’t save you from the sudden, sharp pain in your gut. Blood, warm and thick, soaks into your shirt and down your stomach.

You lurch back with a grunt, away from the door. The wound is real, yet that wasn’t anything you recognize that pierced you. You’ve never heard of anything like this - you’d be able to detect a simple spectre or poltergeist, but this doesn’t match up. At least the wound isn’t going to be immediately fatal.

“They’re still in the room with me!” you ping. “I can’t see them at all - don’t know how they’re hiding.”

Junko snarls through the mental link. “We’ll hurry up, then. Cale, get ready to bust some walls.”

You back yourself into a corner and keep watching for the next assault. Despite the crimson now dripping down your leg, there’s nothing to suggest that there’s a stab-happy maniac in the same room with you. Just your bed, a pile of discarded bedding, and yourself.

One breath later, the shapes and colors of the room have disappeared in favor of splotches of light. Your thermal sense doesn’t show anything out of the ordinary, not even a telltale patch of no temperature that would betray some sort of camouflage.

You shift gears in your mind, and the indistinct blobs are replaced with series of concentric lines. You feel the electromagnetic activity of everything inside the room - your heart, beating like hummingbird wings, the current sleeping inside the wiring of the walls, and - an irregular shape, low to the ground, as it comes closer and closer to you.

You move throw a globe of ignited air at the anomaly, but even as you bring back your arm for the toss, it bolts with incredible speed to the side. Your fireball passes right through where it used to be less than a second ago, yet misses it by a margin of two meters.

The attack scorches the wall where it hits, causing the paper wall to blacken and hiss but not erupt into flames. Mokou must have been a strong incentive to invest in fireproofing.

Well, you figured out where your would-be assassin is.

---

How do you proceed?

[ ] FIGHT: Whoever they are, it takes a lot more than underhanded tricks to put you down. You’re going to make them regret waking you up.
- [ ] Aggressively: You can apologize to Eirin and Kaguya about collateral damage later, when you aren’t busy being ventilated by an undetectable murderer.
- [ ] Conservatively: It’d be on the wrong side of hilarious if you burnt yourself to death and saved your assailant the trouble. You just need to hold out for help.

[ ] FLIGHT: Tactical withdrawal seems prudent. Today is not a good day to contemplate existential questions such as life after death.

[ ] Write-in:

---

For the recap, I’m thinking of posting it here in this thread after voting concludes so I don’t clutter stuff up as much.
>> No. 183891
Before I read this update, I want to ask. Why this and almanac always update at the same time?
>> No. 183892
>>183891
No clue. I don't read Almanac yet, so I don't think there's much of a relationship. Maybe I should start, though.
>> No. 183893
[X] FLIGHT: Tactical withdrawal seems prudent. Today is not a good day to contemplate existential questions such as life after death.

Out of a lifetime full of good days to die, today is not one of them.
>> No. 183898
[ ] Aggressively: You can apologize to Eirin and Kaguya about collateral damage later, when you aren’t busy being ventilated by an undetectable murderer. 


Acting in character.

Blast them. Blast them. Blast them. Blast them. Blast them. Blast them.
>> No. 183902
[X] FLIGHT: Tactical withdrawal seems prudent. Today is not a good day to contemplate existential questions such as life after death.

I have to agree; now is the time to live. We already nearly died once, and a second time won't be a good thing.
>> No. 183908
[X] FLIGHT: Tactical withdrawal seems prudent. Today is not a good day to contemplate existential questions such as life after death.

So we're dealing with something that can't be seen, can't be heard, and doesn't have a heat signature.
Joy.
>> No. 183911
[x] FLIGHT: Tactical withdrawal seems prudent. Today is not a good day to contemplate existential questions such as life after death.

Any ideas on identity? I don't remember Flan being able to go invisible and Nitori is actually fairly sane, by both Kappa and general Gensokyo standards.
Is it going to be a surprise?
>> No. 183912
But guys! If we can't see, hear, or feel the enemy, and the enemy is really fast, isn't blasting a good chunk of the map then run like hell actually provide better chance of survival?

There must be a reason that some armies in the world sometimes use saturation bombing or artillery to deal with an enemy they can't see.

The way I see it, dealing with this kind of predator like enemy, the last thing we want to do is showing our back.

Id say we nuke eientei. Its the only way to be sure.

Wai6, wrong franchise.
>> No. 183913
[ ] Conservatively, but also angrily

It's like when you're being mobbed in any and every direction by zombies in l4d and hole yourself up in a corner and blindly right click until your friends come save you. Except the mobbing in every direction is done by the attacks of the invisible dude and the right clicking results in fireballs!
>> No. 183914
>>183912
Except we can see him because magnets.
>> No. 183915
>>183914
My point stands. blast the entire room and run.

The room fireproofed anyway.
>> No. 183918
[x ] FIGHT: Whoever they are, it takes a lot more than underhanded tricks to put you down. You’re going to make them regret waking you up.
- [ ] Conservatively: It’d be on the wrong side of hilarious if you burnt yourself to death and saved your assailant the trouble. You just need to hold out for help.
Oh boy, it's a crazy Koishi story, isn't it? Woulda been nice to see her carefree in this story.
Oh well
>> No. 183921
Calling the vote at 12pm EST 1/9, approximately 11 hours from now.
>> No. 183923
Calling the vote in favor of:

[X] Flight

I never actually asked you guys if you needed a recap thread. What do you think?
>> No. 183924
Thatll certainly help the new readers.
>> No. 183925
A single fast-moving thread doesn't really need a recap. I don't pay attention to anything and even I can remember what's happened so far.
>> No. 183926
I'd say recaps are a good idea, but I'm not sure that we need one just yet. Author's call, though, of course.
>> No. 183928
I don't think it needs a recap just yet as well. Maybe a small recap at the start of the next thread, but not a full on recap.
>> No. 183929
I'll just proceed with update 16 then.
>> No. 183950
[X] FLIGHT

---

Almost any other day, this wouldn’t be a big deal. The worst case scenario would just be having to resurrect before grabbing breakfast.

Today? While you’re aware that there is an afterlife, you’d like to have as little to do with it as possible.

Right now, that means setting the ground between you and the invisible menace on fire and bolting for the exit. You’re halfway to slamming your shoulder into the door before the more rational part of your mind remembers that, given the level of security in Eientei, the doors aren’t coming off their hinges without a lot of firepower.

Your hand comes down on the doorknob just in time for another piercing jab to the back of your thigh. Stumbling, you turn around to call up an indiscriminate storm of electricity, but only a relative trickle comes forth.

Right. Most of your power is gone without your Bee. No phasing away from this fight.

You snarl as you abandon that approach, throwing the door open with one hand and taking hold of the room’s photons with the other. The impromptu flashbang goes off with enough intensity that even facing away, your vision is scoured white.

As you half-run, half-limp down the deserted hall while your eyes recover, you take the opportunity to grab both of your weapons. Flipping through both thermal and EM vision reveals no sign of pursuit as you back away, shotgun at the ready.

Almost as an afterthought, you send a tongue of fire to lick at the fresh wound on your leg. It won’t restore your tendon, but at least you won’t bleed out anytime soon.

This is bad. Whatever this thing is, it’s not pulling any punches. It’s more vicious than half of the spectres you’ve ever seen. How are you supposed to fight nothing?

“Made it out of the room.” you ping out. “But I got hit in the leg. I think they’re using claws.”

“Just stay alive. We’re on our way.” Caleb pings. “What’s your position?”

You glance around for any distinguishing features. “I’m next to a painting of the moon and a waterfall, around thirty feet away from the bedroom.”

“Reisen says she’s near you.” Junko pings after a few seconds. “Stay put and watch out for her.”

With the crippled leg preventing any running, you settle for backing away with your shotgun at the ready. Cycling through your elemental visions isn’t yielding anything, but there’s no way that the attacker would just give up like that. What are they playing at?

The ceiling. You haven’t looked up yet.

You raise your gun, but the anomaly is already dropping to the floor. It lunges at you, giving you time for just one shot that goes wide as you backpedal and swear. You evade the initial attack by leaping to the side, but the attacker recovers faster than you and jumps on you, pining you to the ground and wrestling with you for your shotgun.

You’re not feeling any stabs yet, not even any weight, but you can’t keep this up forever. Even if you got the assassin off your gun, you still wouldn’t be able to use it. Meanwhile, they’d be in perfect range to tear you into messy ribbons of viscera.

You let go with your right hand and reach out to where the attacker’s neck should be-

You hear a pained squeal as you surge electricity through your hand, and something briefly appears on top of you. A figure in yellow and green, wearing a black, wide-brimmed hat. You make out a peculiar shape on on its... her chest. A satori’s external eye-heart organ.

What the hell? Satori aren’t supposed to be able to do this, are you up against some sort of mutant?

You don’t get to think it over as the satori vanishes in less time than it takes to blink. Gone, as if she was never there.

Now it’s your turn to cry out as a new, indisputable gouge appears across your ribs. Intact one moment, cut open the next - how are you supposed to stop that?. Staying on the ground is going to end with you made into confetti - you need to escape, now!

A second attempt to electrocute her is aborted when you notice your own hand being yanked closer to your own chest. Dropping that approach, you try to dislodge the satori from your waist by driving your elbow into her instead. The pressure eases, and you manage to free your legs before you get knocked back against the ground. Your shotgun clatters from your grasp in the struggle.

Shit. You don’t have any good options. You can’t phase out of her grip and you can’t throw anything too strong without the risk of getting hit by it yourself.

You’re going to die, you realize. You are going to get torn into scraps of meat if you don’t break out.

You take a gamble. Using one arm, you prop your body up enough to allow the other to grope for a collar or a throat. With both arms occupied, the assailant wastes little time tearing into your unprotected stomach. Fresh lines of pain sear across your mind as the satori’s claws rake against your exposed flesh. Eyes watering, you push against the arm around her collar and use the momentum to slip your legs from around the satori’s hips and shove yourself a couple of feet away.

Now that you have some breathing room, you immediately set it on fire to block off the murderous satori and stagger away. You make it all of four steps before you collapse, focus held at the ready against a threat that isn’t needed to finish you off at this point.

“Char, what’s your status?” Caleb pings you.

“It’s a satori.” you ping back. “Does something so you can’t directly perceive her.”

“Alright, but what about you?”

“She got me. Losing too much blood. Less than a minute.”

There’s just too much. Too much to cauterize. You can push through the pain until you black out, but judging by the amount of blood you’re trailing...

You shake your head and grimace as you clutch at the gaping wounds on your stomach. A token attempt to reduce the bleeding at this point, but it gives you something to do besides black out.

It’s too much. You haven’t let the wall of fire die down because that would be an invitation for the satori to come back and slit your throat, but that means you have to keep feeding your Anima into it, Anima that you’re running out of drop by drop.

Stop that. You bite the inside of your cheek, fixating on the sharp pain and metallic tang with all the focus you can muster. You’re not dead yet.

Yet.

No. Think of something else. The past. Think of something to anchor yourself to now, something you need to live for.

Fighting. That’s right, you’re not done fighting. You’re going to survive this one way or another just so you can throw whoever did this to you in a vat of saltwater and zap to your heart’s content-

“Charlotte!” you hear a voice call. Reisen? You try to call back, but all you can manage is a wet gurgle before you hack out a glob of blood and spit.

She comes sprinting down an adjacent hallway, eyes glowing an unsettling red and an outlandish submachine gun in her hands.

You crack a weak smile at her, in part to prove your consciousness, in part to distract your mind from the pain gnawing at it like a starving dog.

She curses as she sees you slumped in a puddle of your own blood, and the glow in her eyes fades as she rushes over. “Damnit.” Reisen breathes. “Stay with me. You’re going to be fine.”

The last thing your dimming vision registers is a syringe of amber liquid in Reisen’s hands.
>> No. 183956
You open your eyes to find yourself on a cot in an infirmary. A brief self-examination reveals that you’ve been changed out of your shredded pajamas and into a spotless patient’s gown. Your wounds have been healed, but the tender edges indicate a rush job. Your focus sits on a small table next to you within comfortable grabbing distance. Through a window on the opposite wall, you can see endless screens of bamboo lit up by the morning sun.

A clock on the wall gives the time as 7:09 in the morning. You must have gone to sleep at around 1. Not as long as you’d like, but it’s not as though you can just take a nap after this.

Lesson learned. The next time you go to sleep, you’re doing it in armor with a gun under your pillow.

“Rough morning, huh?”

You turn around to find Suika lying in the bed next to yours.

“Yeah, you could call it that.”

“Must’ve taken a beating out there. You look like shit.” she reaches over the side of her bed to take a swig from her gourd.

“I feel like shit.” you admit, groaning as you sit upright. A slight tugging from your arm leads your vision to an IV drip attached to a bag of the same amber liquid you remember Reisen had.

“Hey, the doc said to not move around so soon.” Suika admonishes, wagging a finger at you.

“I’m not going to walk out or anything.” you say. “Do you know what’s going on?”

Suika shrugs. “Sorta. Some chucklenut broke in and tried to stab you. Your buddies and the bunnies dragged you here, then went back to go smoke her out.”

“She’s still loose?” you say, eyes darting across the room, looking for possible entry points. The door is obvious, but what about vents, or windows, or-

“Jeez, relax, would ya?” Suika says. “Eientei’s locked down tighter than an enma’s butt right now. ‘Sides, You’ve got me here with ya!”

So you’re safe for now. Well, as safe as you can get being locked in the same room with an oni, but it’s a step up. The lockdown explains why you didn’t run into any rabbits.

“I’m awake.” you ping. “What’s the situation on your end?”

“Caught her.” comes the tired, triumphant response from Caleb. “We’ve secured the assassin. Had to gas the satori out of a few hiding spots, but in the end Tewi managed to bop her on the head.” His tone turns smug. “Thanks for getting so much blood on her, by the way. Much easier to track her down.”

“All part of the plan. Did you grab my shotgun?”

“Broken.” Caleb pings. “Twisted out of shape.”

Fuck. You’d better look into getting your pistols back sooner rather than later.

“Well... there are some more complications.” Junko chimes in. “You see, the satori that was trying to kill you is the Satori’s sister. Koishi.”

Your mind goes blank for a few seconds as you try to process this.

“Satori sent her own sister to kill me? Why?” You can’t have bungled the first impression so bad that Satori couldn’t wait literally one day before trying to off you.

“It’s more complicated than that.” Junko sighs. “We’re almost at the medical ward, but the gist of it’s that Koishi’s basically a rogue agent. The locals are telling me that it’s almost certain nobody else was involved.”

Huh. Well, whatever the case may be, you don’t have long to wonder about it before the door clicks and the disheveled entourage comes trudging in. Reisen is wheeling what looks like large glass cylinder with a sophisticated-looking seal on the top. There’s a speaker and presumably some air holes built into it so you don’t need to remove Koishi right away.

“Is it safe, bringing her in here?” you ask, eyeing the ‘empty’ containment unit with trepidation.

“Yes.” Reisen says after pushing it into a corner. “She’s wearing a collar that’s interfering with her powers. Unfortunately not enough to shut down her perception filter, but it should prevent any deeper manipulation.”

As if in response, a small thump is heard from the tank as it scoots in your direction. Reisen puts a stop to that by pushing it back in place and locking the wheels. A pair of rabbit youkai in nurse uniforms come in to cart Suika away, leaving the five of you alone.

“So, the satori that tried to attack me.” you say as the others find seats. “What’s her problem?”

“Which one?” Tewi asks.

It takes some time to get the details, but you get a better picture of things. As it turns out, Koishi isn’t a mutant like you had first though, but rather an ordinary satori who more-or-less lobotomized herself. You couldn’t see her heat signature due to some combination of her unique ability and Satori physiology.

On the subject of Koishi’s unique ability, she manipulates the unconscious mind, rather than the conscious. However, her self-alteration left her unable to access her own conscious mind or be perceived under most conditions. As a result, she wanders across Gensokyo according to nothing but her own carefree whims.

“Except she tried to kill me.” you growl. “That’s hardly what I would call carefree.”

“It’s the first time she’s done anything this... violent.” Reisen says. “There wasn’t any indication that she’d attempt this. Anyways, Satori is on her way over right now. We can get things sorted out then.”

“How do things work around here?” Junko asks. “Do we keep her locked up for the rest of her life or something?”

“She’ll get handed off to Satori.” Tewi says. “Not much we can do after that.”

That... that does not sound acceptable to you at all.

“You’re letting her free?” you ask, incredulous. “So she can have another go at turning me to hamburger?”

“Nothing else we can do without bringing the rest of Gensokyo on our heads.” Tewi retorts. “Trust me, letting Satori take her off our hands is best. She’s not stupid enough to let her run around after something like this.”

You glower at nobody in particular as you consider this. Caleb and Junko don’t look pleased to hear the news either.

Something in one of Reisen’s pockets squawks a burst of static. She pulls out her handset, listens to what the other voice has to say, and stows it before turning back.

“It looks like you’ll have to see for yourself.” she says.
>> No. 183958
Satori ignores everyone else in favor of beelining for the tank as soon as she enters. She raps her knuckles against the glass with a stony expression.

“Koishi, I know that you’re in there.” Satori calls. “You’re not coming out until I get a full explanation of what’s happened.”

Koishi appears for the first time, revealing a pale-skinned girl with wavy green hair coming down to her shoulders. She’s cowering in the tank with her knees held close to her chest and the brim of her hat pulled down to conceal her face. You note with some discomfort that the eye on her external heart appears to have been crudely sewn shut.

Oh, and a distressing amount of blood still splattered on her clothes. Your blood. Kind of gets in the way of feeling sympathy for her.

“Koishi.” Satori repeats. “This is serious. Why did you try to kill Charlotte?”

Koishi mumbles something too quiet for you to catch.

“Louder. Why did you do this?” Satori continues.

“...voices.” comes Koishi’s response, the speaker making her frail voice sound even feebler. “I heard voices.”

The expressions of everyone else in the room range between Satori’s vague discomfort and Junko’s grim exasperation. You shut down the impulse to reach for your focus.

Yeah, Koishi isn’t doing much to convince anyone that it would be a good idea to let her out.

“What voices, Koishi?” Satori asks.

Koishi shakes her head. “They weren’t mine. Hers.” she says, pointing a finger at... you.

Things are getting weird.

Koishi peeks up at you, revealing wide eyes that match the green of her hair. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to hurt you, but I had to stop the voices.”

“I have no clue what she’s talking about.” you say, looking at the others. “I get regular psych evaluations. Last one was two months ago, and there have never been any problems. No voices, no unexplained urges, nothing.”

Wait a moment.

“Actually, I think I’ve got it.” you say. “I was visited in my dreams last night. Yukari spoke to me.”

The Gensokyo locals all tense up as if by reflex. Even Koishi shudders.

“This just went above my pay grade.” Reisen says as she stands up. “I’m calling Eirin in.”

“You’re sure about this?” Junko asks you. “You didn’t just, say, dream about her talking to you in a dream?”

Yes, you’re sure. The memory is to clear for it to have been a mundane dream.

“It happened.” Satori confirms.

The Lunarian arrives at that moment to take Reisen’s place, the lunar rabbit stepping outside. She must have been staying elsewhere to avoid contact with Satori, but there’s no helping it now that you dropped Yukari’s name, you would guess.

“Miss Mcgallagher.” Eirin says, expression sober. “Please recount your conversation with Yukari in as much detail as you can provide.”

You tell them of finding yourself on the shattered platform in the Filthy void, Yukari’s proposition, and how the dream ended just as the gap youkai warned you about Koishi.

You leave out the part about Yuuka for now. While it’s something to think about, it isn’t relevant to what’s going on.

The room is silent after you give your account of the dream. Eirin looks thoughtful.

“Miss Komeiji, can you verify this?”

You shut your eyes as you brace yourself for Satori to rifle through your mind again, but nothing comes. You open them to see Satori shaking her head.

“I can only see that it happened.” she says. “Anything further and it’s nothing but those eyes of hers, looking back at me.”

Eirin sighs. “I suppose it was to be expected with Yukari involved. For now, I would like to test an idea.” she turns to the tank.

“Koishi?” she says. “Can I trust you to not do anything foolish if I let you out?”

It takes a good bit longer than you would like, but Koishi gives a slight nod from her fetal position. Eirin walks over, presses as series of buttons on the lid, and pulls it off. The blood caked onto Koishi flakes off with a gesture from the Lunarian, and the satori clings to the older woman like a child before being deposited in her sister’s lap.

Junko doesn’t bother hiding her grip on her sword at this point. Caleb isn’t making any overt movements, but knowing him, his claws are ready to go in a heartbeat. Even with five other people besides Koishi in the same room, you aren’t taking any chances either. You snatch the focus off the table and ignore the glare from Satori.

“Koishi, do you still hear that ‘voice’ from Charlotte?” Eirin asks as she returns to her chair.

“Yes.” she says, muffled by Satori’s shoulder. “It’s quieter now, but it’s still there.”

“What was the voice saying?” Eirin coaxes.

Koishi goes quiet for a few seconds. “There weren’t words. There were feelings. It was watching everything, hungry. Scary, I felt so small.” Her voice cuts off, quavering. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to hurt you but all I could hear were the voices and I had to make them stop.”

“Well, I can assure you that I fit none of what you just said.” you say, still gripping your focus.

“Do you hear anything from the other humans?” she goes on, indicating Caleb and Junko.

“No. They feel different, but not... not scary.”

“How did you become aware of this voice?”

Koishi sniffles. “I was walking around when I found a party here. I helped myself to some food and listened to the red lady’s story, but I heard something as I was leaving, something that kept getting worse as I got closer to her, even though I didn’t know who it was coming from.”

Eirin nods as she listens to this. ‘Likely when she fell asleep, then.”

“So Koishi attacked Charlotte because she overheard Yukari?” Tewi says, head tilted to the side.

“That seems like a reasonable conclusion.” Eirin says. “Without the bond with her Bee, Charlotte is little more than an ordinary human. Yukari’s intrusion is the only apparent trigger for Koishi’s hostility.”

Satori’s third eye flicks to Eirin, but she doesn’t say anything.

“But then it follows that Yukari’s the one who wants to do those things.” Junko says. “And to be frank, that sounds a lot like the Filth.”

“She’s not infected.” you say. “I don’t trust her, but I don’t think she’s infected. She was too coherent.”

“I agree.” Eirin says. “It’s too much of a leap to suspect Filth when all of what Koishi has described can be attributed to being youkai. If, hypothetically, Yukari was compromised, there would be no need to approach you in such a way. There would be no need for talk at all.”

Koishi looks confused by this. Nobody ever got to explain Filth to her. Satori promises to do that once she takes her sister back to the Underground.

“That brings us back to something important.” Junko says. “We can’t just let Koishi walk without making sure she won’t attack one of us again.”

Satori’s eyes narrow. All three of them.

“Confinement only worsens Koishi’s mental state. You would be creating more problems.” Satori says. “I’m not throwing her into a cell, Miss Mori.”

“She broke the spellcard rules.” Tewi points out. “It’s a good thing nobody got hurt, but that’s still attempted murder, mind you.”

“But I’m-” Koishi starts.

“Even if she’s sorry.” Tewi adds, cutting her off.

“We could push for much worse than this.” Junko adds. “Even with Reimu missing.”

‘Especially with Reimu missing’ goes unsaid, but not unrecognized. Despite the sunlight coming in, the room seems to cool by a few degrees.

“I don’t appreciate your threats, or your implication that I can’t manage my own sister.” Satori shoots back. “Perhaps you might understand if you had put in the effort to understand your own family.”

Junko is silent, but you can see the muscles of her jaw working in wordless frustration. Not expecting Satori to use her telepathy like that?

“It seems that Koishi won’t have cause to attack you if Yukari doesn’t go into your dreams again.” Caleb offers. “Personally, I’d suggest putting a tracker on her.”

“That wouldn’t work.” Satori says, shaking her head. “I’ve tried it. After enough time, Koishi’s condition would make you forget what you were keeping track of.”

“Well, I’m not sure what else we can do.” Caleb says, throwing his arms in the air. “Yuuka and Eirin both say that Charlotte’s going to get her immortality back in around a week. Are you sure it’s out of the question to watch Koishi for that time? It’s not like we’re talking about solitary confinement, here. Just avoiding potential conflicts while my colleague recovers.”

Both Satoris look unsure about the proposal.

“Any restriction on Koishi’s movements leads to distress.” Satori says. “With how sensitive she can be, an entire week is at the very limit of what is acceptable.”

Koishi looks apologetic as she fiddles with her sleeves.

“Koishi, what would you do if you heard it again?” Eirin asks.

Koishi squirms in Satori’s lap. “I don’t know. I didn’t want to hurt her, but I had to stop the voices.”

That’s less than reassuring. After all, it’s not as if there’s much you can do to hush that particular voice.

“I’ll do my best.” Koishi adds after a few moments. “Now that I know who it comes from.”

Caleb sighs. “I’ll find some way to contact Ran, I’m sure that we can pass a request along”

Satori shakes her head again. “I doubt it would accomplish much. Yukari isn’t known for bowing to other’s requests.” she turns to face you. “In any case, I suppose that Charlotte has the final say in this as the victim.”

“And we have to determine this right now?” you ask.

“For all intents and purposes, yes.” Eirin says. “I can’t let anyone leave until we’ve agreed on a solution.”

“Isn’t there some kind of legal authority to settle things like this?” you ask.

“The Hakurei miko.” Tewi says without missing a beat. “Maaaaaybe the Yakumos, but they only show up for big things. Barrier things. Seeing how Reimu’s not around, though...”

You frown. If that’s the case, there might be some problems in the immediate future. New opportunities to settle old grudges.

Right now, though, you have to consider the matter with Koishi. She doesn’t appear menacing at all in person, not meeting your eyes once so far, but that doesn’t erase the fact that she goddamn tried to gut you like a game hen.

According to Satori, confinement is the only way to guarantee that Koishi won’t trouble you. However, given the distress it would cause her sister, Satori would like to avoid this if at all possible. There’s also the risk that Koishi might be pushed towards further instability were she to be locked up for a week, but you’re confident that you could survive anything she could throw at you once you get your Bee back. Still, you try to avoid psychological suffering whenever possible. Possible, not just convenient. Koishi doesn’t seem to be a malicious person.

On the other hand - you can’t stress this enough - Koishi came very close to killing you, maybe for good, and you still don’t have a solid guarantee that she won’t try it again.. Sure, maybe you might be able to work something out with the local afterlife, but you wouldn’t bet on getting anything done in a useful time frame. Point is, you don’t want to die. Dying sucks, staying dead sucks worse. Period. In comparison, spending a week in your sister’s cushy palace sounds doesn’t sound like a punishment at all.

“Sis, I’m hungry.” Koishi murmurs. “Charlotte is hungry too.”

Your stomach grumbles as you remember that you didn’t eat any actual food last night. Koishi’s right - you need some breakfast.

You sigh and rub your forehead. Getting clawed half to death on your first morning after getting your dreams invaded isn’t how you thought things would go. You just hope that it’s not an omen.

---

[ ] Confine. Ask Satori to keep Koishi from wandering until you regain your powers, which should take a week. Neither sister likes this, but it’s better to risk your life when it’s immortal again.

[ ] Pardon. Do not ask Satori to restrict Koishi’s movement. Both sisters will be pleased by this, but Koishi will remain a wild card. The less reason you give them to dislike you, the better.

[ ] Write-in.
>> No. 183959
[X] Pardon. Do not ask Satori to restrict Koishi’s movement. Both sisters will be pleased by this, but Koishi will remain a wild card. The less reason you give them to dislike you, the better.

Wildcards aren't necessarily bad things. They can be useful, even, given the right situations. Plus, we'll be gaining points with both satori, not that one of them will necessarily be conscious of this fact.
>> No. 183962
[x] Compromise. Tell Satori to take her back underground and punish her as best she can without causing long term problems, maybe with just enough confinement to tell her this was a bad idea (once bitten twice shy works on a subconscious level, right?). Then, once this mess is over and Reimu gets back she will be told and dole out whatever punishments are normal around here when she finds Koishi again.
-[x] Maybe have her keep the collar for a while too, to limit what she can do with her power and give a constant reminder she did something very wrong.

Probably the best way, stacking both Satori's and Reimu's punishments is as severe as we can get given the circumstances without risking Koishi blaming us for her pain and alienating the incredibly useful Satori.
>> No. 183964
[x] Curfew. Keep her home at night and away from our dreams.

If that's not possible, [x] Pardon.
>> No. 183966
[X] Pardon. Do not ask Satori to restrict Koishi’s movement. Both sisters will be pleased by this, but Koishi will remain a wild card. The less reason you give them to dislike you, the better.
>> No. 183967
[X] Pardon. Do not ask Satori to restrict Koishi’s movement. Both sisters will be pleased by this, but Koishi will remain a wild card. The less reason you give them to dislike you, the better.

In a way, she is also a victim with the real culprit being Yukari or whatever else could have caused those "voices".
>> No. 183968
I'm curious that we think it was Yukari that caused Koishi's problem here instead of the fact that Charlotte had a /filth filled dream/ and dreaming is typically linked to the subconscious mind.

>There weren’t words. There were feelings. It was watching everything, hungry. Scary, I felt so small.

The Barrier may stop the non-physical from spreading but Charlotte's unconscious mind was basically radiating filth-thoughts, and Koishi likely picked up on them regardless. The fact that Yukari's 'eye-wall' is there right now is possible that it's actually a reinforcement barrier to /stop/ Char from screaming those thoughts subconsciously.

For Koishi whose entire realm of influence is the subconscious, I honestly think that Char became the equivalent of a filth-beacon and when faced with that sort of absolutely frightening signal, Koishi attempted to shut it down.
>> No. 183969
Same anon is prior here, I think it would be prudent here to cover the topic of the Filth in some manner with Koishi now -- lest she end up trying to assassinate someone that ends up getting infected or getting infected herself. If she b-lined to Char during this moment, it's possible she would've done the same with Flappy if she was only around earlier.

The thought of an infected Koishi, something that can move largely unseen to most inhabitants of Gensokyo, is super bad++. Neither stock option here I think prepares us properly.
>> No. 183971
[x] Curfew. Keep her home at night and away from our dreams.
>> No. 183973
[x] Curfew for a week. Keep her home at night and away from our dreams.
>> No. 183976
[X] Pardon. Do not ask Satori to restrict Koishi’s movement. Both sisters will be pleased by this, but Koishi will remain a wild card. The less reason you give them to dislike you, the better.
- [X] Have her keep the collar, to limit what she can do with her power and give a constant reminder she did something very wrong.
>> No. 183977
[x] Curfew. Keep her home at night and away from our dreams.

Dammit, Satori, I appreciate your help so far and don't want to be an ass, but I do not plan on dying this week.
>> No. 183989
[X] Curfew. Keep her home at night and away from our dreams.
>> No. 184005
[X] Pardon. Do not ask Satori to restrict Koishi’s movement. Both sisters will be pleased by this, but Koishi will remain a wild card. The less reason you give them to dislike you, the better.

Screw it. we're a fucking bad ass. a wild card or two doesn't really matter.

side, I don't want to punish koishi for something that wasn't her fault.
>> No. 184146
[X] Compromise
[X] Explain Filth

Until you get your powers back:
Koishi will not be explicitly confined.
Koishi will keep the collar on to limit her powers.
Satori will do her best to prevent Koishi from wandering the surface at night.
Satori will contact you if Koishi goes missing at night.

---

You can’t say that you enjoy the thought of your would-be killer being let off, but being punitive about it seems like it’ll just cause more problems for you.

However, you can’t just ignore the incident. It would be unacceptable to let Koishi go like none of this ever happened.

It takes an hour of back-and-forth argument, clarification, and compromise before a plan emerges. Koishi won’t be locked up, but she will keep the collar on and Satori will call her back at nighttime. In the event that Koishi can’t be found, you will be notified through your phone.

It’s not enough to make you feel secure, but it looks like it’s a gamble you’ll have to take in order to avoid antagonizing a major player so soon. Remilia has made it clear just how much she hates you and everything you stand for, and despite your little heart-to-heart with Byakuren last night, the Myouren Temple isn’t going to look past being dumped in Hell so soon.

One thing you’re not leaving to chance is Filth. Between your group, Eirin, and Satori, Koishi gets a basic explanation of what it is, why it’s bad, and what to do if it appears. The last part can be summed up as ‘run in the opposite direction and find Satori’. The younger Komeiji is a little confused by your warnings, but seems willing to at least listen to her sister.

The possibility of an infected, undetectable Koishi running rampant is something that nobody wants to consider.

Another thing worth mentioning is reparations for your broken shotgun. Satori agrees to send you materials to build a replacement. You’ll need to find a machine shop before you can do anything with them, though.

All in all, neither you nor Satori are entirely satisfied, but you suppose that’s the mark of a proper compromise.

You’re interested in how the satori are able to read Chosen minds, but you haven’t even showered yet and you don’t want to sit through a lecture on occult biology.

With the immediate concerns taken care of, the Komeiji sisters take their leave. Before she goes, Satori bows and thanks both you and Eirin for your understanding in the matter before flying away with Koishi.

You hope that you won’t come to regret this decision.

---

Junko sighs as soon as Satori leaves. “Charming lady. Don’t suppose there’s any way to guard against that eye?”

“Not unless you’re willing to spend a lot of money, no.” Tewi says. “Really, it’s not worth the trouble when you consider that they stick to the Underground.”

Junko mumbles something that sounds like ‘goddamnit’ and sticks her hands in her pockets.

“Well, not exactly how I wanted to start my first day here, but things seem to have been worked out.” you offer, pulling the sheets off.

It’s remarkable how fast you’ve regenerated. The IV is almost depleted, but you feel as good as new. If it wasn’t for the scars, you wouldn’t have any physical evidence of the struggle.

“So far.” Caleb cuts in. “I need to hear more about the dream. From the sound of things, you were pretty hostile towards Yukari when all she did was talk.”

“She should have chosen a better way than barging into my dreams!” you protest.

“For the love of- look, did you say or do anything that could have set her against us?.”

Your silence gives the answer away.

“Char, please tell me that you did not just sass the all-seeing, reality-warping owner of this world.”

“Maybe.” You shift around.

Come to think of it, why were you so... angry the moment you saw her?

You shake your head as you get to your feet. “Fight or flight response, I guess. There wasn’t a lot of time to figure things out.”

Tewi shrugs. “Not the best way to deal with her, but you should be alright. It ain’t Yukari’s style to really go after someone who hasn’t screwed with the barrier. She’ll probably mess with you, but she does that with everybody.”

“So just like you, then?” Eirin asks with a knowing smile.

“Come on! It’s funny when I do it!” Tewi pouts.

“No helping it now, I guess.” Caleb says as he gets to his feet.

The rest of your morning goes on without any further delays. After getting a clean bill of health from Eirin, you freshen up and eat a late breakfast. It’s vegetarian, which isn’t what you’d prefer, but you scarf it down all the same. By the time you and your companions are ready to leave, it’s almost ten.

It turns out that Reisen works at the village pharmacy, making Eirin’s cures accessible without having to navigate the Bamboo forest. With this in mind, it’s arranged for her to escort the three of you out. Though it’s going to take her longer to get there on foot, she’s already late thanks to the satori shenanigans. Another forty minutes or so aren’t going to be a big deal given the circumstances.

After a final check of all your things, you thank Eirin and head out on a dirt path into the sea of green shoots.

---

“So how hard is it to learn flight, anyways?” you ask.

Reisen tilts her face towards yours. “To learn? Starting from scratch, most would need at least a week to get good enough for short travel. A lot more if you want to get into spellcard duels. You guys are clearly no strangers to magic, though. You might be able to learn the basics faster.”

“Well, how did you learn?” Caleb asks.

“Lots of practice.” Reisen says. “It’s different for every person, but once it clicks it becomes much easier. Like that saying about riding bikes.”

You wonder how easy access to flight would affect combat. You can see it being the norm for open engagements, but any fighting in enclosed spaces is probably settled on foot.

A vision of yourself raining elemental death as you soar through the air flashes in your mind. You grin.

“And everyone around here can fly?” Junko asks.

“Not everyone. Most of the notable residents can, but not your average villager or lesser youkai.”

“Looks like my job just got harder.” Junko pings. “No use in waving a sword around when the other guy can just float out of reach.”

“I’m sure you’ll manage.” Caleb returns. “I saw a lot of the locals doing fine in close combat.”

There aren’t many practical examples of magic-assisted personal flight that you know of. Sure, you could mess around with gravitational or electromagnetic fields through elementalism, but it’s terribly inefficient to do it with the necessary precision for a prolonged time. Maybe the people here have discovered a work-around. Marisa relies on that broom of hers for flight, after all.

If you had your rocket launcher with you - no, that’s more jumping than actual flight. Besides, it’s terrible for your knees and ankles and just about every other part of you.

“So what made you come to Earth?” you ask.

There’s a slight increase in Reisen’s pace at your question, an almost unnoticeable start.

“I’d prefer to not talk about the past.” she says with a half-smile. There’s a certain weight to her words that tells you not to pursue the topic.

“I forgot that you weren’t up last night.” Junko pings. “I can tell you later. It wasn’t a happy thing.”

“Yeah, sure.” you say, dropping the matter.

You continue on, silent but for the soft rustle of leaves. The noonday sun filters through the canopy in shifting patches on the ground.

“What’d you guys spend the night talking with the Lunarians about?” you ping.

“Smalltalk. Some recent events, some news from the rest of the world. Nothing about the moon, though.” Junko offers. “Seems that Tewi’s been involved with the Korinto-kai before.”

Hm. From what you’ve seen of the rabbit, you can picture her fitting in with the occult yakuza.

“Eirin and Kaguya very politely implied that they aren’t interested in getting caught up in any trouble that comes up so long as it’s not world-threatening.” Caleb pings. “That probably applies to any trouble we stir up. I get the feeling that Tewi might involve herself, though. Shits and giggles kind of thing.”

“On the subject of Tewi, Eientei seems to be her turf when it comes down to it. Most people think that she’s just an older rabbit, but she’s partners with the Lunarians for a reason. They get a vote, she gets a veto.”

It certainly fits what you’ve seen during the fight. It also makes sense for Eirin to let Tewi represent her at the Human Village if that’s the case.

“Why’d Eirin want to hear about Eblis?” you ask. “I’m not seeing a connection between a Lunarian and a fallen angel.”

“I don’t mean to interrupt, but are you three... telepaths?” Reisen says, breaking the spoken silence.

“Kind of.” Caleb says. “What’s up?”

“Well, I overheard some things last night. You read minds?”

“We can’t read minds, not like Satori. Not even other Chosen. It’s just... sending and receiving messages between us.”

Reisen takes a moment to ponder that. “Can you tune it out?” she asks after a while.

“Oh yeah, definitely. Back when we were still fighting each other, this asshole used to spam me all the time.” You say, pointing to Caleb.

“Yeah, I remember that!” He says, grinning. “Y’all need Beesus. Beesus bee with you. Pardon me, but can you spare a moment to hear the buzzing about our lord and savior-”

“Yeah, you get the idea.” you say, cutting him off. “And it’s a good thing, too. Otherwise I’d have gone insane from all the terrible bee puns.”

Reisen laughs for the first time you’ve seen. “You guys seem to get along, considering how you met.”

“We’ve come a long way.” Junko admits. “But we’ve also been through a lot together. Good times and bad.”

Conversation peters out after that, and you take the opportunity to think about what you need to do at the village. There’s Keine to begin with, you’ll need to touch base to figure out basic things like where you’ll be staying. You also ought to get a better idea of the overall situation of things in Gensokyo, since there wasn’t enough time for a detailed look yesterday. Maybe you can get some answers on how to deal with Yukari.

In the meanwhile, the path has taken you out of the bamboo forest and into a stretch of unspoiled meadow. The scent of grass and earth fills your nose, and you indulge with a deep breath. It’s nice to get out of the city from time to time.

“You know, I’m surprised that master Eirin stayed up all night chatting with you two.” Reisen says. “It’s not often that she takes an interest in outsiders.”

“Well, I don’t think she’s that interested in us. Lowly, impure earthlings and all that.” Caleb says.

Reisen blushes and looks away. “I didn’t mean to say-”

“No, it’s fine.” Caleb cuts in. “I’m just kidding. Still, none of us are exactly dumb. Well, maaaaaybe Junko-”

Junko offers a counterpoint by kicking a pebble. The tiny rock ricochets off the ground and bounces off the back of Caleb’s head.

“Social science is still a science.” she grumbles. “Besides, let’s see you do discrete probabilities.”

“Sorry, couldn’t resist.” Caleb says, the grin on his face looking anything but sorry. “Anyways I’ve got the biosciences, Char knows engineering and particle physics, and June does some weird combination of sociology and math with a focus on probabilities and statistics. It’s safe to say that we’re all at least somewhat intelligent and well-read, maybe enough to entertain a Lunarian sage for one night.”

Reisen giggles. “So many people think that Eirin is some unapproachable savant with no social skills, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.” she says. “I mean, it’s true that she’s quick to lose patience with some of the dimmer people around here, but she’s hardly alone in that. Some of the fairies, I swear...” she trails off, shaking her head.

“Anyways, she’s one of the most compassionate people in Gensokyo.” Reisen continues. “I’m grateful to have met her.”

Interesting how Reisen relaxes the most when she’s talking about her boss. It’s not as if the rabbit is without her biases, but it seems unlikely that she’s trying to conceal something. Just speaking her mind.

You zone out for a bit as the next stretch of the walk. It takes you to the edge of the outlying fields and paddies, where the farmers appear to be finishing up before lunch. Scarecrows sway in the breeze, and you can spot some unfamiliar fairies floating in the distance. According to some of the chatter and banter you overhear, Reisen’s dueled some of the toughest people in Gensokyo, up to and including Yukari herself.

“She’s a frustrating opponent.” Reisen says, returning a wave from a stout farmer. “She’s tricky and near-impossible to pin down thanks to those gaps of hers, and there’s always this feeling that she’s just toying with you, even if you beat her.” she shakes her head. “Like you weren’t worth a real effort. The less I see her, the better.”

“Have you ever seen her get... serious?” you venture.

“No, and I hope I never do.” she replies. “I’m not sure anyone or anything in Gensokyo could stand in her way.”

“Not even another one of the big names?” Junko asks.

Reisen thinks the question over. “Maybe one. Maybe. The Yama in charge of the afterlife around here, Eiki Shiki. It’s all just rumor, though. I wouldn’t put much stock in it.”

Well, a rumor is better than nothing.

“I do hope you three aren’t planning on making people like Yukari and Eiki mad at you.” Reisen says.

“Thanks for the concern, but we’re not trying to step on people’s toes.” Junko says. “Anyways, it seems we’re working for Yukari in a roundabout way right now. Ran’s keeping us on hand in case any more Filth shows up.”

One of Reisen’s eyebrows rises at the news. “That’s interesting. Are you three shikigami now?”

“No, we made an agreement, but it’s not that potent.” Junko says.

The subject of Ran reminds you of something. That argument between her and Yuuka has been gnawing at you, and Yukari’s remarks have made it worse.

“Reisen.” you begin. “Do you happen to know anything about Yuuka?”

The smile on her face falters. “Barely. She’s one of the... not exactly hostile, but more dangerous youkai. I bumped into her once, a few years ago.” she winces. “It wasn’t fun. People say so many nasty things about her, and it’s hard to figure out what’s true and what’s not. I’ve heard that she has a lot of blood on her hands from early in Gensokyo’s history, but that was before I arrived here, so...”

“Anyways.” she goes on. “You shouldn’t listen to the people who claim that she’ll spark your head off on a whim, but just be careful around her, I guess. Don’t trample any sunflowers or anything.”

Judging from Reisen’s reaction, Yuuka is more cause for concern than the Yama. From what you overheard, Yuuka might be able to stand up to Yukari to a certain extent. You still haven’t figured out that link between her and Gaia.

But there’s no more time to speculate as you reach the village gate. After a brief conversation with the guards, they give you directions to the schoolhouse and let you all through without incident. Reisen bids you farewell and heads off.
>> No. 184148
The village is somewhat busier now than it was when you first arrived, but your group manages to navigate the crowds on the main roads without slowing down much. Without the threat of Flappy looming over your heads, you slow down and pay more attention to your surroundings.

The first thing you notice is that the village is much more ethnically diverse than most isolated rural villages you’ve been to. Certainly more so than Al-Merayah. The vast majority of the population still appears Japanese, but a casual scan of the main thoroughfare shows a surprising number of foreign features and clothes. Sonnac seems to be onto something with his theory about those task forces.

“We’re getting a few odd looks.” Caleb pings.

You take a moment to confirm that, yes, some of the villagers are regarding your group with mild curiosity.

“It’s nothing to worry about.” Junko responds. “This place is a tiny farming community. Pre-industrial, even. No more than two point five, three thousand people at most. Small enough that new faces stand out.”

“Our uniforms probably aren’t helping things.” Caleb notes.

“I don’t think that it’s that much of a problem.” Junko pings back. “I think these guys are pretty used to seeing weird outfits. You saw what the others at the fight were wearing, right?”

You find the schoolhouse, a two-story building near the center of the village. It’s well-kept, and the laughter and voices of children can be heard from inside. You stow the more noticeable weapons as Caleb knocks on the door.

“Come in!” Keine’s voice calls out.

Caleb opens the door to reveal at least twenty children, all busy talking with each other. Their heads turn in your direction as the door slides open.

“Miss Keine!” a young boy calls out. “Who are these people?”

Keine looks up from her desk at the front of the room and smiles when she sees you.

“They’re Outsiders, dear. I need to talk with them for a moment.” she says to the boy.

Satisfied with her explanation, the child and the rest of the class return their attention back to whatever it was they were doing before.

Keine ushers you towards a staircase. “You have good timing. Recess just started a few minutes ago.”

Looking around the room, you find that the schoolhouse, like the rest of the village, appears to be an odd mix between old and modern. You see what must be a newer heating unit against the far wall and electric lights on the ceiling, but the furniture and construction, though well-maintained, look old-fashioned. The chalkboard in particular looks like it could stand being replaced.

The second story of the schoolhouse is also a classroom, but with chairs and desks meant to accommodate larger occupants. It’s also empty right now, and Keine closes the door behind you before taking a seat at the teacher’s desk.

“Busy class?” Caleb asks.

“Hardly.” she says, straightening a pile of paper on her desk. “Most of the children are helping their parents with the last of the Fall harvest.”

“In any case.” she says, turning to you. “I received word from Eirin about Koishi. I’m relieved to see that you’re fine.”

“It was a close thing.” you admit.

”I understand that you’ve chosen to not to take action against her?”

“More or less. I worked out a compromise with Satori.” you say. “It didn’t seem wise to antagonize her so soon into things.”

Keine frowns at this, but nods. “I see. As news of Reimu’s absence spreads, I fear that we’ll be having more of these incidents.”

“Youkai attacking humans?”

Keine nods. “Yes. Reimu had always been too lenient on them for me to be comfortable, but she still did her job. Without her, I’m worried about what some of the less scrupulous youkai might try.”

“Nonetheless. I would recommend avoiding serious risks while you recover.” Keine says. “Especially in light of Koishi’s attack.”

That gets a frown out of you. It wouldn’t be good to fall behind in your investigations. “I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks for the concern.” you say.

Keine gives you a quick smile before turning to the rest of the group and unfolding a map. “Now, I spent some time looking for more permanent accommodations for you three. Will you all be sharing the same house?”

You exchange glances with the rest of your group. “Yeah, much more convenient for us to be in one place.” Junko says after a moment of unspoken agreement.

“It won’t be a problem with your superiors?” Keine asks.

“Nah. We can keep things professional enough.”

“Very well.” she says, drawing your attention to the map.“I’ve found two openings. The first is a smaller house in the south-western part of the village. It’s not luxurious by any stretch of the word, but it’s liveable and has modern amenities. The other is a larger house on the northeastern edge of the village. It offers more privacy, and though it doesn’t have any electricity, it wouldn’t be difficult to have it set up.”

“The second option sounds much better for our situation...” Caleb muses. “But I’m getting the feeling that there’s a catch. Why hasn’t anyone moved into it yet?”

“I was getting to that.” Keine says, reaching up to adjust her hat. “To make a long story short, an unidentified youkai or group of youkai have started squatting in it not long ago. Less than a month.”

“How bad are we talking?” you ask, leaning forward in your seat. “Probably more than just rattling the windows at night if everyone’s staying away.”

“Nothing fatal.” Keine says. “But it’s troublesome enough that nobody’s been able to spend more than a few days before being driven out. Considering that it hasn’t been affecting anything outside the house and that it’s outside the village walls, there hasn’t been an urgent need to deal with the issue.”

She sighs. “Reimu was supposed to take care of this. With Marisa, there’s a serious risk that she’ll blow the house up in the process, and as for the Moriya priestess...” Keine shakes her head. “I don’t know how reliable she is, and she’s just left Eirin’s care. It’s a bit soon for her to go exterminating Youkai.”

The three of you regard Keine with expressions of puzzlement.

“Exterminate? You’re going to drag whatever’s in there out onto the street and shoot it?” you ask. “I mean, you said that it hasn’t done anything serious-”

“Oh, no.” Keine shakes her head. “Pardon me. It’s just a local term for resolving conflicts with Youkai in general. A relic from a previous time.”

You relax at that. “My mistake.”

Still, ‘exterminate’ is a pretty brutal choice in words.

“Anyways, about Sanae.” Caleb says, going back to the previous topic. “What do you mean by reliable? Is it to do with competence, or something about loyalty?”

Keine shifts in her seat. “Both, to varying degrees. It’s obvious that she has power, but you can’t solve every problem with brute force, and I’ve yet to see her resolve something without resorting to danmaku.”

“As for the other part, to be frank, the Moryia goddesses’ hunger for faith has been evident since day one. Sanae’s too sweet of a girl to scheme, but her guardians aren’t. Throw in the fact that they cater more to the Tengu than us and it’s just much simpler if we do this internally.”

“Thanks for letting us know. Is there anything else we should know regarding the houses, like rent, for instance?” Junko asks.


“Ah, yes.” Keine says. “You see-”

You tune out the the rest. The way you see it, you’re carrying enough Pax Romana on your person to cover any reasonable living expenses well into the future. Failing that, it’s not difficult to imagine being able to leverage your very versatile, very violent skillset to deal with any shortage that comes up.

It’s worthing noting that at this point, the village authorities are so fed up with the youkai squatter situation that they’re willing to give the house for free to anyone that does clear it out. A nice bonus.

You pay attention as the conversation shifts to some of the local customs.. From what you gather, most conflicts in Gensokyo these days are solved through judicious application of nonlethal magical bullets. Just about any self-aware being can wield danmaku, though the limits of what they can accomplish with it correlates with their own power and cunning.

On that note, participation in the spellcard system is ‘voluntary’ in the sense that nobody is forced to follow the rules, it’s just that you’re fair game for the rest of Gensokyo if you don’t respect them.

There isn’t enough time to look into spellcards in more detail, but Keine assures you that it’s easy to start. Flight is something that’s more or less required to prevail in a spellcard duel, but the schoolteacher confirms Reisen’s own words on the matter as something you shouldn’t be stuck on.

All in all, the general prognosis is encouraging. You’ve got a new combat system to learn, but it can’t be worse than that AEGIS tech they had you stomping through Tokyo with.

“Oh, one last thing to the three of you.” Keine says, glancing at the clock. “I’ve had limited success in tracing society lineage in the villagers. Limited in that I haven’t found anything concrete on the Dragon or the Illuminati, but I have found a number of Templar descendants. One of whom is very excited to see you, in fact.”

“That’s good to hear.” you say, a smile spreading across your face. “Any idea when I can meet him?”

“Her, actually.” Keine corrects. “Her name’s Kotohime, and she’s captain of the guard. She’d probably be open to see you at any time..”

A bell rings at that moment, drawing all of your gazes to the window.

“Well, it looks like I’ve got to get back to class.” Keine says, picking up some papers from the desk. “Take this before you go.”

She hands each of you a scroll. You unroll yours to see a detailed map of Gensokyo with the Human Village in the center. It’s clear that there’s some kind of enchantment on it - at least a basic durability suite You can examine it more at another time.

“Thanks.” you say, rolling it back up and stowing it.

“Think nothing of it.” Keine says. “Are there any last-minute things I can help you with?”

Caleb shakes his head. “Nah, we’re good. Thank you for your time, Keine.”

With your business here concluded, you all follow her downstairs and step back outside.

---

“So, I’m planning on going over to the shrine.” Junko says, once you’re some distance from the schoolhouse. “How about you guys?”

“The shrine? What do you think you’ll find there, craters and rubble?” Caleb asks.

Junko shrugs. “It’s close by. Couldn’t hurt to have a look at the fairy who got hit last night.”

“It’s your decision.” Caleb says. “I think I’ll look for any records we can use. Town hall, bookstores, libraries. Keine mentioned a place called the Suzunan.”

You consider your own options.

The whole mess with Koishi has left you itching for a fight, or something else strenuous enough to get it out of your system. The idea of marching into that house and throwing out the squatters is tempting, but the more prudent, boring part of you holds you back. Making the idiot mistake of charging into an enemy-occupied structure alone without any idea of what you’re facing and losing as a result would be terribly embarrassing.

Maybe you can try danmaku as an alternative. If it’s good enough to satisfy the predatory youkai, it’s got to be good enough for you.

Of course, your revolvers are still missing, and you remember with a twinge that the longer you take to find them, the worse condition they’ll probably be in. With both your pistols and your shotgun missing, your combat options are getting uncomfortably limited. With the map in your inventory, retracing your steps to where you got spat out into this place shouldn’t be a problem.

What if they’re in the lake itself?

The question draws an involuntary shudder from you. You’ll have to cross that bridge when you get there.

Lastly, there’s the matter of the Templar descendant Keine told you about. Kotohime? You could probably find her at the local police station or whatever the locals call it.

The thought of getting some more answers out of Yuuka occurs to you, but you dismiss it for now In light of what Reisen’s told you and what you overheard last night, it seems plausible that she wouldn’t be in the mood to talk. Maybe when you’ve gotten your affairs here in order.

---




[ ] Investigate the house with the youkai squatters.
[ ] With backup? (Specify)
[ ] Search for your pistols at the lake shore.
[ ] Practice danmaku and flight.
[ ] Accompany Junko to the Hakurei Shrine.
[ ] Accompany Caleb to Suzunan.
[ ] Meet Kotohime.
[ ] Write-in.
>> No. 184149
[x] Search for your pistols at the lake shore.

Cant be a gunslinger without gun to sling.
>> No. 184150
[X] Search for your pistols at the lake shore.

We're weakened, and possibly able to die, right now. More firepower sounds like the best idea, at least for now.
>> No. 184151
[x] Search for your pistols at the lake shore.

>Come to think of it, why were you so... angry the moment you saw her?
Because she's a pompous, smarmy bitch. Also, she dissed Yuuka, who is Best Girl.
>> No. 184152
[x] Search for your pistols at the lake shore.

I do want to meet Kotohime, but it's probably for the best to make sure that we're prepared for anything.
>> No. 184153
[X] Search for your pistols at the lake shore.

Bandwagoning, but our current mortality does mean we need to be able to defend ourselves. As much as I'd like to get started practicing danmaku, losing a spellcard duel won't get us killed.
>> No. 184154
[X] Search for your pistols at the lake shore.

IT'S TIME.
>> No. 184156
[X] Search for your pistols at the lake shore.

{Q} Jump in the lake.
>> No. 184162
>>184156
Trust me Bee. You want to do this.

[X] Search for your pistols at the lake shore.

{Q} Jump in the lake.
>> No. 184166
Calling vote in favor of:
[X] Search for your pistols at the lake shore.
>> No. 184179
Hey, author here. I'm still working on the update, but if any of you have feedback or questions for me, I'd like to hear them.
>> No. 184180
>>184179
Get a damn tripcode already.
Also, write faster.
>> No. 184182
>>184179

You're doing a great job! This is one story that I always wanted to see happen, and I'm quite pleased to see it done by someone as competent as you. Keep up the fantastic work~
>> No. 184183
I was really confused for a while since I had no idea what this was a crossover with, but it's pretty neat now.

The hard part is going to be delivering on all the intrigue you're setting up now.
>> No. 184185
>>184179
I had often heard about The Secret World's incredible lore, nut I heard it was held back quite a bit by it's game play. But with this story, I get to enjoy one of my favorite worlds with an inspiring twist, and it'sit's quickly become one of my favorite stories on the site. Keep the updates coming, and never give up gushing intrigue.
>> No. 184187
[ ] Search for your pistols at the lake shore.

See if you can find Cirno. maybe you could then visit Sunny together.
>> No. 184234
[X] Search for your pistols at the lake shore.

---

Getting your guns back is your current priority.You have a few elemental foci still in your inventory, but they’re far less powerful than the one you’re using right now. Besides, it doesn’t sit right with you to abandon something that’s seen you through so much.

“I’m going over to the lake.” you say.

“Eh? What for?” Junko asks. “I thought Remilia’s mansion was over there.”

“I’m not trying to pick a fight with the vampire.” you say. “The portal dropped me on the lake shore, and I figure it could have knocked my guns loose.”

Junko shrugs. “Well, it’s your call. Try to come back in one piece, okay?”

Caleb looks you over. “You sure you don’t need to eat anything? Your Bee is still out of it.”

Hm. You do have some appetite, but it’s not pressing. “It’s no big deal.” you say, brushing off his concern. “I’ll just eat an energy bar or something and see if I need dinner later on.”

Caleb nods. “Alright. Let’s meet up at the village gate around, say... seven. Should be sundown then.”

You check the time - you’ve got six hours. That should be enough to figure out what happened.

“Hold up. Take these with you before you go.” Caleb hands you a number of grenades. “You’re inoculated for pink noise, right?”

“Yup.” You look each one over before stowing them into your inventory. There’s the aforementioned pink noise grenade, as well as two knockout gas canisters. Nonlethal, but it should be enough to get you out of most trouble.

With that arranged, you and your companions part ways for now. Caleb heads off into another part of the village, while Junko goes to the northern gate. You make your way to the western gate and find yourself back on the same path that Cirno and Dai led you.

---

Consulting Keine’s map shows that it’s about five kilometers to the lake. Thanks to all the marching you’ve been doing across various occult disaster zones, you’re confident that you can cover the distance in good time.

Before long, you leave behind the fields and farmhouses of the human village as you enter the forest. Further reading of the map raises some interesting questions, such as just how big Gensokyo is. The two farthest landmarks you can find are Youkai Mountain in the northwest and the Bamboo forest in the southeast, with a rough distance of fifty-five kilometers between them.

Yeah, it’s not hard to imagine why flight seems to be so popular around here. You haven’t seen any evidence of motor vehicles, but you remember a number of horses and donkeys at the village.

Back to the map. Some fiddling reveals that you can use it like a modern touch-screen. Zooming in on the human village shows a detailed street layout. You turn the map over to inspect the glyphs on the back. The quality of the enchantments are much more impressive than you had first thought, especially if Keine made this by herself. Where’d she learn that from? There’s probably more to the scroll, but you won’t be able to check until you get settled down somewhere.

You put the map away and turn your attention back to your surroundings. You’re back at the fringes of the woods now, which means that it’s not far to the lake shore. The growth isn’t enough to block the sunlight or crowd the path, but a look farther in suggests that it gets much denser.

A spot of color catches your eye. You turn around to see an unfamiliar fairy staring at you.

“Hey there.” you call out, waving at her.

She gives a hasty squeak before darting back into the canopy.

You frown. What was that all about? You certainly don’t look armed or otherwise hostile right now. Maybe word about the fight or Sunny has spread, although you got the impression that people like Keine and Ran would try to cover certain things up. It might be that Cirno and Dai have told other fairies about you by now.

Nothing else presents itself as you continue along the trail. A little bit later, you find yourself in sight of the lake, gleaming in the afternoon sunlight. Small clusters of wildfowl float here and there, and some fish swimming in lazy arcs near the surface.

A brief scan reveals nothing out of the ordinary except for a small group of fairies playing over the middle of the lake, too far away for a good look and beyond shouting range. Well, that’s pretty much ordinary for this place, as far as you can tell, so you don’t spend more attention on them.

You start retracing your steps along the shore. Soon enough, you reach the spot where you fell through. Unless someone else was throwing around powerful elementalism, that distinctive scorch mark on the ground was your work.

You start combing the area in earnest, occasionally switching to EM vision to check for metal. There’s nothing in the tall grass closer to the woods, and there’s nothing within a generous distance on the shore. There’s nothing under it, for that matter. Turning your focus to the shallow water also turns up no sign of your guns.

Which means that they’ve been taken by someone, or they’re in deeper water. Neither of those possibilities are good.

You suppress a shudder as you consider that. There’s durability enchantments on your pistols, but you had always delayed putting a tracker on them. It just didn’t seem necessary before when you could just shove them back in your inventory.

Shame it came back to bite you like this.

Well, nothing’s going to be accomplished by standing here and stewing. You start going over options.

You could rig up a scanner to one of your drones and see if it picks up anything promising. There’s no reason to suspect that there would be other metallic and magical items around here similar enough to throw you off the trail. As a bonus, a sweep could give you interesting data on the area.

However, rummaging through your inventory reveals that you only have one intact drone left. It seems that the fight at the shrine burnt through most of your supply. It’s not life-threatening, but you ought to assemble new machines sometime.

Furthermore, while your drone should be tough enough to deter a run-of-the-mill fairy from messing with it, it’s simply not equipped to pick things up. If it found something, you’d have to retrieve it yourself.

Better hope the lake’s not too deep, if it comes to that.

You recall from Akyu’s book that there’s a youkai around with dowsing abilities. However, she’s also associated with Byakuren, and you can’t imagine that those people would be eager to help a Templar get more firepower. There would certainly be less hassle if you had her help, but it would give the Buddhists something to hold over you.

The thought occurs to you that it might not be in your best interests to inform the Buddhists that you’re weaker than usual or missing something important. Out of all the actions you’ve considered in your career, this one doesn’t strike you as the most strategically sound.

Flipping through your copy of the Memento gives her name as Nazrin - some sort of mouse youkai. She’s not directly affiliated with Byakuren, but she did get sealed along with the rest of them.

That probably did not improve her view of your Society.

In any case, she lives far enough away that you wouldn’t get any results today. Maybe if you could fly, but there’s no helping that at the moment.

You check the time again: almost 2:30. Not too bad, though you’ll need to get back to the village by sundown.

You sit down on the sand and stare at the calm surface of the lake as you weigh your course of action. If nothing else, Gensokyo is rather scenic.

---

[ ] Sweep the vicinity with your drone.
[ ] Balance the search between both areas.
[ ] Focus on the lake.
[ ] Focus on the woods.

[ ] Go back and appeal to Nazrin.

[ ] Write-in.
>> No. 184235
[X] Sweep the vicinity with your drone.
>> No. 184236
[X] Sweep the vicinity with your drone.

Getting our pistols back should outweigh the potential loss of combat ability on the off chance the drone is lost. Hopefully.
>> No. 184237
[x] Sweep the vicinity with your drone.
>> No. 184240
[x] Focus on the lake.

Shiny things are always in the lake
>> No. 184241
[x] Sweep the vicinity with your drone.
>> No. 184289
[X] Sweep the vicinity with your drone.
>> No. 184318
Thread 2: >>184316