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File 141794093071.jpg - (219.30KB, 660x502, farmersfarming.jpg) [iqdb]
[x] What's all this about a 'were-hakutaku' anyway?
[x] She seemed kind of cranky when I talked to her. Is that normal for her?
[X] This "outside world trinket" shop seems interesting. Maybe they could give me some more precise directions.

"Oh, are you guys talking about her being a, er… were-hakutaku?"

One of the guys, just out of his teens with patchy facial hair, let out a laugh. "Yeah. Don't ask me how it works; I doubt even the Hiedas know. The gist of it is: get bit by something and change into it on the full moon. This something happened to be a hakutaku.” He waved over to someone a few years older than him. “Masa, you know more than me. What was that thing again?"

"I've heard that a hakutaku is a beast that appears to give advice to kings once they've proven they’re all virtuous and sagely,” his friend answered. “It can name each and every type of youkai in the world, how to exterminate the evil ones, how to cozy up to the good ones, all that good stuff." He drew lazy circles with his hand. "So, kinda like the youkai equivalent of the Hiedas, heh."

"The Hiedas, huh?" I scratched my head. The name was sort of familiar, but all I had to go on was what Kasen told me, which was very little.

A grin spread on one of the older women's faces. "That's right, it was that Yasumi girl who wrote that book for outsiders, wasn’t it?"

The whole bath shared a chuckle. Oh, right, there was that rivalry over ‘plagiarism’ or something.

The beardy kid spoke up again. "The Hiedas are the ones you'll want to trust when it comes to youkai. They’ve kept all the notes for the Gensokyo Chronicles. Of course, it was Lady Akyuu that wrote it."

Akyuu, huh? I’d have to keep that name in mind. "Quite a story. Anyway, what about Keine?"

"Hm? Oh, yeah. The weird part with her is, nobody can be quite sure what's true or not since her powers affect history."

"Yeah, that's something else I was wondering about. Sounds awfully weird and vague to me."

"It sure is weird and vague. Real hard to explain, but she’s hidden the whole village from youkai before. Somebody asked and she gave a bunch of half-answers about 'eating the village's history'.”

“That explains her weight,” somebody said with a cackle. The remark was quickly met with splashes from every direction to the laughter of everyone else.

“It gets weirder, though,” continued the teen. “On a full moon... well, last month some 'records' of jade being found in the great river appeared out of nowhere. Some kid damn near drowned his fool self hunting for some of it."

The crowd's color commentary finally returned.

"Kids these days, so impulsive."

"What kind of fool would fall for a rumor like that?"

"Hey, watch your mouth. That's my nephew."

"Ah," I added. That made things slightly clearer, but her abilities still sounded like they could do almost anything.

Gensokyo: Land of spirits, phantoms, and Weekly Jump rejects.

"Does that have anything to do with..." I lowered my voice, steering the conversation from a casual exchange of information to behind-the-back gossip. "...how touchy she was when I met her?"

One of the men just shy of middle age let out a rolling laugh. "Ah, she's a sweetheart, but she can be an odd one. Still wants everyone to believe her powers are hush-hush and she's just a plain old teacher. You get used to it soon enough."

Two of the older women pounced on him.

"Genya, have you ever thought of courting her?"

"You talk about her so much, it could be love!"

"I do not," he mumbled. "I just think she's good for the village."

"It's not every day you see a woman of her importance still single. If you act fast, your name might end up in history books."

"Auntie, please..." Genya mumbled, sinking into the water.

"He's like a young boy with his first crush," the other woman said. Genya sank down until he was blowing bubbles. Poor guy.

"Where's Kourindou, by the way?" I asked, changing the subject to spare him from any further embarrassment.

"Hah, hope you're not looking to buy anything. Last I heard, the only 'customers' were loud and drunk youkai,” said the partially bearded teen. “But if you're feeling brave and foolhardy, take the road west from the village capital, towards the forest. After a little walk, you'll see a tiny sign pointing the way. It's a bit of a winding route, but there's a path to guide you.” He waved his hand. “But, again, I wouldn't recommend it if you value all your fingers."

"It's not that bad. I went there on a dare," a different teenager joined in. "You just have to walk quick. Not worth the effort, though. The old man wasn't even selling anything. He shot me dirty glares every time I touched something and insisted it wasn't for sale."

"What an odd fellow," I said.

The guy in his thirties who wasn't Genya suddenly stood up. "Ahh. Good soak, but I need some sleep. Night watch is rough."

I glanced away to avoid an eyeful of crotch as he left the bath to towel off. Other people began to follow him out, pruney from staying for so long. Each one said it was a pleasure meeting me as they left, even tomato-faced Genya. Was there any social barrier a good public bath couldn't break?

There was, actually. I still had no clue how to react when one of the aunties stood up stark naked and strolled away, and wound up giving a thousand-yard stare straight ahead for a few seconds.

The bath was nearly empty now. There was only the old man, who looked like he might have fallen asleep, and a younger man who looked like a relative making sure the old man didn't drown himself.

I climbed out of the bath. I was still worried my eyes would wander to the naked women, but one accidental eyeful of granny stopped that real quickly. My clothes were still rather dirty, but they weren’t smelly dirty, so I slipped them on. If they were grimy on the inside, I was too busy feeling squeaky clean to notice.

Back out front, I plopped the towel on the counter. The half-pint attendant was reading a comic book, some old-looking story I didn't even recognize. He didn’t even look up to grab the towel, saying something about my patronage and returning soon. I was about to walk out when my fresh, clean self had a sudden flash of inspiration.

I turned around and called over to the boy. "Hey, out of curiosity, how do you heat your water here?"

"Charcoal boiler,” he said, and turned the page in his comic. “Why?"

Ah-ha! I took out the pen and little notepad I kept in my pocket. I flipped through the pages filled with industry codes and phone numbers to a clean page, then scribbled down my name.

"I used to repair boilers in the Outside World. If you ever run into problems, I could fix it up for you."

I ripped out the page and pinched it between my index and middle finger, then passed it to him by pointing. That's right, I could be a badass when I wanted to.

The kid looked up at the paper like I was just showing it off to him. "It's working fine, but thanks."

Ugh. This kid was no fun. I put the piece of paper on the counter anyway and left. I'd just take my business elsewhere, then.

Focusing on the positives, I took a minute to scribble down some basic things before I started down the hill.

Goal 1: get out of here
Figure stuff out. Possible sources: Keine Reimu Akyuu Kinu
Kasen? what's her deal
Fuku secretly mastermind behind everything?
that's dumb

I'm hungry

703 yen.

3 days left of renting book?

This wasn't as helpful as I was hoping it would be.

Heading down the hill and back down the road I came, I looked around. The way to Keine's place from here was pretty straightforward. Fuku and Kasen were nowhere to be seen outside the gate. They had lives of their own, so it wasn't a big surprise.

I cleared my throat for no real reason, then whipped my notepad back out and kept going. I wrote as I walked, a handy skill of mine, occasionally stopping to watch people tending to fruit trees, cotton fields and vegetable gardens.

Reimu: meet up w/ her again. She's all important and stuff, she should have advice for leaving the border.

Tall guy in the wealthy street willing to buy my clothes if I run out of money.

Get business cards for boiler repair service?

How to get replacement materials? Doubt local blacksmith can build pieces to 0.1 mm precision. Magic?

Find way to casually ask whether the purple fluid in my poop was beet juice or internal bleeding.

The doors to Keine's place were still wide open when I got there, but she was nowhere to be seen. I was holding back the urge to snoop when I heard her yelling and nearly jumped out of my skin. After a second, I realized she wasn't yelling at me. Her voice was a little bit away, coming from the other side of the nearby school.

I hurried over to find three kids, two of them gangly and one of them pudgy, sitting on their legs in the seiza position, hanging their heads. Fuku, of all people and fairies, was nearby. She was huddled on the floor, pouting hard, her face caked with dirt. None of them noticed me yet, so I listened quietly.

"--some respect to living creatures, even fairies!” Keine pointed her finger at the boys. “You ought to be ashamed of yourselves. What would your parents think, seeing you bullying an innocent fairy like that? I ought to drag you by the ears to your parents right now, you troublemakers."

I let out an involuntary snort at the phrase 'innocent fairy'. Fuku saw me first and flew straight towards me, ready to burst into tears.

"Iwao, Iwao, Iwao! It was awful!” she sobbed. “They held me up by my ankles and poked me with sticks and laughed at me!"

"C-Can I say something in my defense?" The pudgy kid with a serious case of babyface raised a hand.

"No," Keine said.

"Okay, so, fairies are immortal, right? Nature spirits, right? So, in that way, are they really 'living creatures' any more than water or fire is a living creature? 'Cause water and fire don't disappear, and they can't feel pain, right?"

"Oh, Bunpei." Keine smiled and stepped closer. Bunpei got up to his feet, shaking with fear. She clasped a hand on his shoulder. "That's an interesting argument you just made. It's also wrong."

And then she headbutted him -- an actual, honest-to-god pro wrestling headbutt right to the dome. He flopped on his back, his arms and legs flopping out, too surprised to react.

I reeled away with a new respect for all teachers through history.

"I'll spare your parents the heartbreak of hearing you were raising more trouble, but you'd better keep yourselves in check from now on. I only give one warning if you're lucky." She wiped her hands and turned to face me. Oh god, she already knew. "Now, did you need anything?"

"No, ma'am," I squeaked.

Fuku grabbed me by the collar and tried to shake me with her scrawny fairy arms. "Iwaooo! They bullied meeeeee!"

"I-I'm very sorry to hear that."

She stopped to look up at me. Tears were already welling up in her eyes. "You’re sorry to hear that?” she shouted, tugging harder on my collar. “If you’re so damn sorry, then do something about it!"

[ ] See sad fairy. Hug sad fairy.
[ ] More pantsing for the pantsing fairy.
[ ] Panic, stare at ground.
[x] See sad fairy. Hug sad fairy.

This is the only option and you know it.
[X] Panic, stare at ground.
I really hope she doesn't read the news.
[X] See sad fairy. Hug sad fairy.

God is fairy route the best route.
[X] Panic, stare at ground.
File 141796186924.png - (210.20KB, 860x755, 2lewd.png) [iqdb]
[X] See sad fairy. Hug sad fairy.
[x] See sad fairy. Hug sad fairy.

You no you can't resist the huggles.
[X] Panic, stare at ground.
[X] See sad fairy. Hug sad fairy.
[x] See sad fairy. Hug sad fairy.
[x] See sad fairy. Hug sad fairy.

It is destiny.
[X] See sad fairy. Hug sad fairy.

Hugs are the best.
Fairyhugs? Fairyhugs.

[x] Fairyhugs.
File 141802741363.jpg - (843.59KB, 800x1200, SinnersinthehandsofanangryKeine.jpg) [iqdb]
[X] See sad fairy. Hug sad fairy.

"Aww, c'mere." I picked her up and gave her a big ol' hug. Fuku latched onto my chest, pressing her face to my collar. She was so light it felt like hugging a slightly bony pillow. I pat her on her lower back, avoiding her gently buzzing wings.

"They're big dumb poopy fuckheads," she said. I made a single chuckle at the mix of grade-school insults and genuine foulness coming out of her mouth. My chest pushed out from the chuckle, making her bounce slightly.

The delinquents snickered at us. Keine edged towards them, forehead shining in the sunlight. They went quiet. "Get out of here before I change my mind about not telling your parents," she said, narrowing her eyes.

They rose up, the pudgy one named Bunpei gingerly touching his forehead, no doubt still feeling that headbutt. They shuffled past me like prisoners, the word ‘fairy-fucker’ muttered by one of them in passing. Fuku stuck her tongue out at them.

"Any reason you came by?" Keine asked once the air had cleared.

"Nah," Fuku said, still latched to my chest.

"Not you.” She pointed up to me. “Actually, I'd like to have a word with him."

Fuku beamed. "You have my blessings."

"Without you on him."

"Boo." Fuku dutifully let go of me and went back to hovering off the ground.

I followed Keine back to her house. As I sat down at the low table, which was stacked with papers at the moment, I was glad I hadn't messed with anything. Keine shoved everything out of the way and took a seat on her cushion across from me. She pursed her lips and pressed her fingertips together, resting them on the table.

"So,” she spoke up. “Iwao. You seem to be awfully close to that fairy."

I reacted as though I'd gotten an electric shock. I started pointing to nothing in particular, looking for someone or something to take the blame. "Totally chaste. No dicks going on, or in, or around anything."

Keine leaned forward in her seat. "Iwao."

"Don't want none. Nope. No, ma'am."


"Don't even get it. Creepy. Weird. No deal. No sell."

"Iwao. Shut up."

I shrunk back, putting my hands on my knees. "Yes'm."

"I'll take you on your word that you aren't lying. I bring it up only because we've had a few previous outsiders who... were interested in fairies. You see, fairies can be clever when they want to be, and they know how to make you start doting on them. These certain outsiders found some measure of... success,” her lip curled in disgust saying that word, "but they all ended with the same story: fairies playing horrific, unmentionable pranks on their genitals."

My legs clenched involuntarily.

"So, while I'm assuming you're telling the truth and not planning on doing anything unwholesome with her, I must warn you."


"Tiger balm."

I grunted in pain just from the thought and squeezed my thighs together.

"What's that?" Fuku peeked her head in through the door. Keine chucked a pen at her. The pen only hit the doorframe, but she made herself scarce.

"However, I will add that there are a few scant exceptions,” Keine went on, unfazed. “A certain green-haired fairy of unusual height has proven to be friendly to humans. How and why, I have no idea."

"Hey, I know her!" Fuku shouted, showing herself again. “She’s boring and--“ Another pen flew at her, beaning her right between the eyes. "Ow! Jerk."

Keine nodded to herself and straightened her hat. "As I was saying. Aside from the green-haired one, who doesn't have a name to my knowledge other than 'the big fairy', stay wary around fairies."

"Right, duly noted. Um, I actually came here about something else," I said, sitting up straight. "Is it possible to go back home? You know, go across the, uh... the Hakurei Border, right?"

"Yes. It is possible, but... Hmm. It takes an intense effort, and getting the current Hakurei miko to perform the ritual would be a challenge." She looked away, drumming her fingers on the table.

"What, is she just lazy?" I snapped. "Lazy enough to not care about me disappearing from the rest of the world?"

"It's not like that," Keine shot back, following it with a sigh that indicated it was exactly like that. "Reimu Hakurei is a busy girl. Just keeping Gensokyo from falling apart takes up most of her day."

"Yeah, well..." I had no idea how accurate that statement was, so I made an indignant ‘flurf’ and dropped the subject.

"I never said it was impossible. You just need to be dutiful and patient about it. I've lived to see quite a few outsiders find their way back home and even see a few of them stay.” She balled her hand into a fist, making a strong-arm pose. With her flabby arms, it looked kind of funny. “Don't give up just because it'll take some effort."

"Bluh. Fine."

"Iwao." She gave me a teacherly glare.

"I got a job. Isn't that dutiful enough?" My stomach rumbled. I always got pissy when I was hungry.

Hearing my empty stomach, Keine’s face softened. I looked down, a tiny bit embarrassed.

"Sorry," I said. I didn't feel particularly sorry, but my gut was telling me I was overreacting. It also said 'Put food in me!'

"I understand. I couldn't imagine disappearing from my home like you have, so you're entitled to a little complaining. And I don't say that very often."

"I just need food. I'll come back when I'm more level-headed, maybe." I stood up and stretched my back.

Keine smiled. "Take care of yourself. You can't do yourself much good if you're starving."

I saw the paunch around her waist and imagined the jokes I could make. Most of them would probably get me killed. I settled for a simple "Thanks again."

"Take care," she called.

I left and was immediately enbackpacked by Fuku. "I'm hungry too, food please," she said.

"Fuku. You're not allowed in the village," I said.

Fuku looked around. "Fuku? Who's Fuku?"

"You are." I looked back at her and poked her on the forehead.

She tilted her head, raising an eyebrow at me. Oh, right, that was just a nickname I gave her.

"Psh, my name isn't Fuku. It's..."


There was a very long pause. "...I forgot," she said with a shrug.

"Right. Then you're Fuku from now on."


"You're also not coming with me."


"Fuku," Keine called from her seat.

"Boo you too."

"You don't want to get bullied again, do you? Stay out in the forest for now. I'm sure Iwao will come to see you again," she said. Keine obviously had years of experience of talking with difficult children.

Unable to argue with that, Fuku floated off, showing her disapproval with a pout. "You better come back to see me," she said.

"I will, I will. I just need food first."

I went off in search of lunch. I had expected to find lots of food carts or noodle stands. It seemed like that's what would fit the time, a bunch of rickety old wooden carts with lanterns and mysterious but friendly old men serving noodles. Instead, the first thing I came across was actually a large building that looked something like a cafeteria on the inside. A crusty balding guy pointed at the menu pinned up nearby and grunted. A line of middle-aged women with pleasant faces were sweating and cooking up food behind him.

I looked over the menu of cheap, filling dishes. I assumed it was cheap, at least. In my head, when I saw food listed for 50 yen I still went "A full meal for less than a candy bar?" The menu may have been plain anywhere else, but seeing curry and spaghetti Napolitan in folklore-Meiji-land was impressive. In the end, I settled on the yaki onigiri set, fried rice balls with soup and salad on the side. I chose it for two reasons: I could eat it one-handed while reading, and I didn't want to try my luck with an exotic dish that might ruin my stomach.

"Yaki onigiri set, please," I said, passing the money to him.

He scribbled down a ticket, tore it off, and passed it back. I watched from the side as a tanned woman with freckles cooked it up, ready to catch it the second it was done. The toasty rice balls topped with a rolled omelette couldn't have looked better.

Food now in hand, I leaped over to the nearest open seat and got settled, rice ball in one hand, book in the other.

[ ] Chapter 1: Gensokyo From Above
-- [ ] The Capital
-- [ ] Hamlets and Provinces
-- [ ] The Great River
-- [ ] The Outskirts

[ ] Chapter 2: Gensokyo From The Ground
-- [ ] Economics
-- [ ] Government
-- [ ] Notable Persons
-- [ ] Our Shared View

[ ] Chapter 3: The Four Occupations
-- [ ] Administration and Government
-- [ ] Farming the Blessed Lands
-- [ ] Artisans and Crafters
-- [ ] Merchantry

[ ] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [ ] Organized Defenses Against Invasion
-- [ ] The Everyman's Duty for Protection
-- [ ] Shrines, Seals, and Magical Protection
-- [ ] Spellcard Duels

[ ] Chapter 5: A New Era: Cooperation with Youkai
-- [ ] The Tengu
-- [ ] The Kappa
-- [ ] Common Spirits
-- [ ] Trade With The Mountain
-- [x] Our Shared View

I'm also tempted to vote for trade with the mountain just to finish off the chapter, but I think this one will be more useful right away.

I kinda wanna teach Fuku how to get along with human children, but that's for later.
[X] Chapter 2: Gensokyo From The Ground
-- [X] Our Shared View

We should get back to that "defense against youkai" chapter at some point.
[X] Chapter 2: Gensokyo From The Ground
-- [X] Our Shared View
[X] Chapter 2: Gensokyo From The Ground
-- [X] Our Shared View

More understanding is better.
[x] Chapter 1: Gensokyo From Above
-- [x] The Outskirts

I'm gonna go ahead and assume this also includes the Hakurei Shrine.
[x] Chapter 1: Gensokyo From Above
-- [x] The Outskirts
Closing votes.

[X] Chapter 2: Gensokyo From The Ground
-- [X] Our Shared View

Also, heads up: for the next few weeks, updates will be every other day. College prep, busy at work, all that good stuff.
File 14182032638.jpg - (429.22KB, 1350x1050, ca37366e23b64ffe94ce2fc373578cef.jpg) [iqdb]
[X] Chapter 2: Gensokyo From The Ground
-- [X] Our Shared View

Centuries ago, Gensokyo was a wasteland. With an overabundance of youkai, its only human inhabitants were the bravest, the strongest, and the smartest. Though they provided a necessary service and kept the rest of our world safe from danger, they lived without respect, and as these warriors came to build a small village from the untamed land, it was seen as hopeless, just another backwoods settlement of no importance, save for the ferocity of its forests.

(It's rumored the shogun made a habit of sending unwanted Jesuit missionaries to Gensokyo, asking for them to be 'converted'. The unprepared missionaries quickly got the hint.)

And so Gensokyo lingered, growing its own identity as the children of warriors managing to force a life of peace into the chaotic lands. With our heritage, every man, woman and child in Gensokyo possesses a spiritual attunement greater than any outsider. Though direct magical talent is still a gift given to a select few, we express our abilities in other ways. Without fail, every household has a humble-looking object with a storied past which, through the generations, has gained magical properties and kept the family safe from harm.

They are occasionally weapons, but more often they are tools, simple jewelry, or anything else that was used to fend off youkai at some point. One family of coopers, for instance, had a large wooden bucket that they claimed their great-great-great grandfather had stuffed a youkai inside to keep it from terrorizing them. When a nosy outsider continually asked how a moldy old bucket could do much of anything, the father of the family proved its value by striking him in the chest with it. Despite its mold and rust, the bucket remained intact.

Speaking of subjects that would touch a Gensokyoan's nerve, it's important to note that the women of Gensokyo are a capable bunch. They can drink, wrestle and hunt as well as any man. Even if they may seem polite and weak, they will speak their minds and will not accept any patronizing.

As you can see, our innate sense of the unnatural has drawn us to a life of peace. For its faults and insecurities, Gensokyo is a land without poverty or indulgence. Surrounded by the cruel acts of youkai -- selfishness, laziness, violence -- we have become truly dedicated to our own humanity.

I sat for a minute with a half-chewed mouthful of rice. I mean, it's not like anyone had been a jerk to me, but that seemed like some pretty elaborate praise, and a pretty big leap from "We used to fight a lot of youkai."

The chapter done, I focused on my food. It was alright, kind of plain for me but I could imagine some foodie going on and on about "local and seasonal." I finished my meal quickly and left. The perfect peaceful land of superhumans seemed even more disorganized than before as I walked back to Keine's place. I wished I had a watch. Not knowing how long it took to walk back and forth was bothering me. Fifteen minutes, I guessed. My mind was busy enough when I walked that time seemed slippery.

As I got close to her place, I caught a glimpse of Fuku sunbathing on top of her house, petty revenge for the pens she threw at her. I decided not to wake her up. For all I knew, she was plotting something.

"That was fast," Keine said when I showed myself at the door.

"Didn't have much else to do," I said, trying to figure out if my early return was a good or a bad thing for her. Judging by her expression, she was trying to remember what it was like to have a free schedule.

"Right, where were we." Keine put her elbows on the desk and tilted her head up.

I thought back. "Reimu and her being busy."

"Right, right. Have you met her yet?"

"Briefly, I think. When I first came in here, she was there. Kind of short, thin, black hair with red tube-things in it?"

"Yes, that's her."

"She was drunk when she saved me from some youkai."

"Ah." Keine's face soured for a second. "That, uh… Everyone in Gensokyo enjoys sake. And beer."

"You mentioned I'll have to keep bothering her if I want to get out, right?"

"Yes. She's a bit out of the way, so that makes things difficult."

"Is it dangerous? I can always bug Kasen for a ride. I'm good at bugging people."

Keine pinched her lips together. "Kasen," she said.

"Yeah, Kasen."

"Kasen..." She sucked her teeth.

"Is something wrong?"

"No, no."

"Okay, what's wrong with Kasen?"

"Well... she's around Reimu a lot these days."

"Isn't that good?"

"She always seems to be trying to steer her one direction or another."

"Isn't that good too?"

"And nobody seems to know where she is when she's not around Reimu, or whoever's taken her interest at the moment. For a hermit, she seems rather suspicious."

"Oh. That's not good."

"I'm not going to stop you. Just, watch your back, okay?"

"Right." I was already trying to watch my back around everyone else, sometimes with a fairy latched onto it.

[ ] "I'll try to avoid her for now."
[ ] "I'll see what she has in mind for me next."
[ ] "I'll get her to show me to Reimu."
[X] "I'll get her to show me to Reimu."
[x] "I'll get her to show me to Reimu."
We might even get a double lecture
[x] "I'll get her to show me to Reimu."
[x] "I'll get her to show me to Reimu."
[x] "I'll get her to show me to Reimu."
[x] "I'll get her to show me to Reimu."

Show me the goods.
[x] "I'll see what she has in mind for me next."

Trusting an oni a hermit does seem a bit iffy, but we can't tip our hand too quickly. She seems to know a lot about where we go and what we do to begin with.

I reckon that if she has any ominous plans for us, she'll make some excuse to delay us from leaving Gensokyo. That'd be one way to tell.
Closing votes!

[x] "I'll get her to show me to Reimu."
File 141836421616.jpg - (581.63KB, 800x1000, lotofpicsofkaseneatingforsomereason.jpg) [iqdb]
[x] "I'll get her to show me to Reimu."

Even considering what Keine was telling me, I didn’t see any reason to think Kasen had it out for me or anything. Sure, the way she always seemed to find me was a bit unnerving, but I probably wouldn’t have made it this long without her help.

"I'm going to go ahead and ask her about Reimu. If, for whatever reason, she's up to some scheming, then hopefully I'll make it out of here before anything too awful happens," I said.

Keine cocked an eyebrow, but after a moment of thought she nodded at me. "Sounds like a good plan."

“Then, if you’ll excuse me.”

I bowed and started to walk off when I quickly remembered something. "Oh, one more thing before I forget. See, I had beets for the first time a couple days ago..."

She let out a snort, then coughed to cover it up. "A little purple in your movements is normal."


"Also, when you leave, if you could take Fuku with you..." She pointed up above her.

"How did you know?" I asked.

She smiled. "A teacher's natural senses."

True enough. Teachers are fearsome, whether or not they're were-hakutaku. I stepped out the door and called up to Fuku, who was still fast asleep.

"Hey, Fuku!" I shouted. "Wake up, I'm back!"

The sleeping fairy babbled in her sleep and turned over, showing no sign of waking up or even wanting to.

I took a deep breath, getting ready to call out to her again, when Keine tossed me a worn-down nub of chalk. "Here."

Poor Fuku. Everyone's throwing things at her, I thought -- and pelted her on the shoulder with the chalk.

"Whoza," she grunted, kicking her feet. She lost her balance on the slanted roof and tumbled towards me. I reached out to catch her, but she rolled over and flapped her wings, floating in midair. Her foot bopped me in the side of the head, enough to rattle my head a little but still too scrawny to do any damage.

"Why'd you do that?" Fuku groused, rubbing her eyes and smoothing out her dress.

"You're a heavy sleeper." I grinned.

She crossed her arms. "Your butt's a heavy sleeper."

"It's your fault for sleeping on the roof, anyway."

"Nuh-uh!" She crossed her arms harder, like a self-hug.

"Whatever. Let's get moving, sleepyhead."

"Where are we going?" she asked. She hovered at my side, all insults suddenly forgotten.

"We're looking for a certain hermit."

"Who?" She looked genuinely curious, her mouth slightly open.

"Kasen. Remember?"


"The pink-haired lady."


"You'll know her when we see her."


We walked -- and floated -- back towards where Kasen had dropped me off. Seemed like half of today was spent just retracing my steps. Kasen was right, walking sucks. I'd rather take the train or the bus.

This would've been Saturday back home. A delightful day off.

I sighed, putting my hands in my pockets and kicking the ground as we went along. "Hey, Fuku?” I said. “I miss video games."

"Those boxy things, about this big?" She stuck her hands out, motioning for something about the size of a console.

I lifted my head up, surprised she even knew what I was talking about. "They have them here?"

"Yeah, but they're boring." She heaved her shoulders forward and rolled her eyes as if just mentioning it bored her to tears. "They don't do anything cool. Last one I found, I threw it at a youkai."

"Oh." Oh, well. Not like they'd be much use without electricity. And the games themselves. Not to mention a dozen other things.

The walls of the little commercial area weren't too far away now. Fuku flew straight up, making a small gust of wind.

"I'll find her!" she hollered as she rose. Her eyes darted around, on the lookout for Kasen. Suddenly, she pointed off towards somewhere I couldn’t see. "Pink-haired lady spotted! Sitting outside the sweets shop!"

Fuku dove down towards her like a hawk. I ran after her.

"Fuku, you're not allowed! Remember?"

It really was like dealing with a kid.

I ran into the wall and circled around to the nearest gates. The guard just shrugged, not even making an attempt to extort any money as I ran inside.

I heard a crash and a yelp, and I hurried around the corner. Kasen was sitting on a bench out in front of a sweets shop, dango in one hand, Fuku held by her ankles in her other.

"No respect, I swear," Fuku grumbled.

"Hemlo," Kasen said through a mouthful of food, swallowing it down as quickly as she could. "Didn't expect you back so soon."

'Oh, sorry." I was so focused on what Keine said that I hadn't even considered she had her own schedule. Maybe all that time she spent when 'nobody knows where she is' was just her checking out some restaurants.

Though a sweet tooth would have been unusual for an ascetic.

"Could we go over to Reimu's place when you're done?" I asked.

Kasen picked up a still-steaming cup of tea and took a sip. "Sure."

"Lemme go!" Fuku said, flailing her fists at the air.

Kasen took one of the sweet balls of rice dough off the stick and moved it towards her. "Here, you can have this if you'll pipe down."

"Deal." Fuku snatched it up with her teeth.

Kasen took her time with the rest of her food, enjoying each bite. I sat there awkwardly, not wanting to interrupt her little moment. Several minutes later, she picked the last little bit of dango off of the stick and set it down.

"Ready to go?" She let go of Fuku and stood up.

"I'm free, I'm free!"


"Sure, let's go," I said.

Kasen pointed to her back. "Can we fly again? It's pretty far for a walk."

"Uh, sure." Scary as it was, it was still better than the alternative.

I grabbed her back -- keep it clean, Iwao -- and Fuku grabbed mine. My stomach sank as she launched into the air. It was easier now that I knew it was coming, but it still felt like a roller coaster ride with no chair.

A nice handlebar though -- focus, Iwao!

We went up much higher this time, high enough to get over the trees. I looked down, knowing I shouldn't, and let out a squeak.

"I won't let you fall, don't worry," Kasen yelled over the noise of the wind.

A long minute later, we landed outside of a rickety, beat-down shrine that just about looked abandoned. A miko, who I assumed to be Reimu, was near the torii, sweeping the entryway and looking bored. I just barely remembered her from when I first came here.

"Reimu Hakurei?" I asked as I climbed down from Kasen.

"Oh, joy. A hermit, a fairy, and an outsider," Reimu responded with a tired, apathetic sigh.

[ ] "What an interesting gathering, right?"
[ ] "Hey... are you busy? I'd like to ask a favor."
[ ] "I'm trying to get back home."
[ ] "If you do your job, I won't hang around to bother you."
[X] "Sounds like the setup to a bad joke."
Unless you aren't taking Write-ins, in which case I would change my vote to
[X] "Hey, are you busy? I'd like to ask a favor."
[X] "Sounds like the setup to a bad joke."
Always bet on write ins.
[X] "Hey, are you busy? I'd like to ask a favor."
[x] "What an interesting gathering, right?"
-[x] "Sounds like the setup to a bad joke."

"So a fairy, a tengu, and a kappa walk into a bar..."
[x] "What an interesting gathering, right?"
-[x] "Sounds like the setup to a bad joke."
[x] "What an interesting gathering, right?"
-[x] "Sounds like the setup to a bad joke."
[x] "What an interesting gathering, right?"
-[x] "Sounds like the setup to a bad joke."

inb4 Fantasy Heaven.
[X] "I'm trying to get back home."

I doubt she'll have the patience for any of that, let's just cut to the chase.
[x] "What an interesting gathering, right?"
-[x] "Sounds like the setup to a bad joke."
[X] "Sounds like the setup to a bad joke."
[X] "I'm trying to get back home."

Reimu's not interested in banter, just tell her what you want.
Closing votes!

[x] "What an interesting gathering, right?"
-[x] "Sounds like the setup to a bad joke."

I'm glad the write-in won because it made me laugh.
I didn't expect so many people to like my write-in, haha.
File 141853770382.jpg - (228.35KB, 850x850, Reimusip.jpg) [iqdb]
[x] "What an interesting gathering, right?"
-[x] "Sounds like the setup to a bad joke."

"Crazy, right? It's like the setup to a bad joke. 'So, a fairy, a hermit and an outsider walk into a bar...'"

"Alcohol? Where?" Fuku glanced around.

Reimu smirked. A cheesy joke and a little humility always helped when needing a favor. "So, I take it you're not here to sightsee?" she asked.

"You know, just getting my bearings." I wasn't quite ready to bring up the subject yet.

"I was wondering why you wanted to come here as well, to be honest," Kasen said. Then why did she agree to take me here so quickly?

I shrugged to hide the nervous shudder in my shoulders. "Well, I was hoping it was a little obvious."

"Do tell."

"I'd heard, see, I'd heard things about...” I gestured at Reimu. “Outsiders can go back home if you do stuff?"

Reimu stopped sweeping and propped her broom against the wall. "Looks like I'm going to need some tea," she grumbled.

She motioned for us to follow as she went inside. The interior of the shrine was, to be honest, pretty dumpy. The Shinto artefacts looked out of place in what was otherwise a peasant house. The pillows around the table had been sewn up multiple times, and newspapers were stuck to the paper doors, patching holes from either damage or age. She disappeared around the corner into the kitchen.

I took a quick look at the papers. They were all from the "Bunbunmaru News". My secret was still safe here, so I could breathe easy.

"Shiny," Fuku said, picking up a lacquer carving of Fuujin.

"Careful with that," Reimu hollered from the kitchen. "I've exterminated fairies for less."

Fuku glared at the corner wall, then licked the carving before setting it back up on the shelf. In short order, Reimu reappeared with a single cup of tea for herself and took a seat at one end of the table. I sat across from her. Kasen stayed standing, and Fuku hovered a careful distance away from the artefacts, still looking at them hungrily.

"So. Going home," Reimu said, punctuating it with a sip of tea.

"Yeah. It, uh… it'd be nice."

"No offence, but aren't there more pressing matters at hand?" Kasen chimed in.

Reimu rolled her eyes and grunted. "If Miss Crown Prince wants me to visit her, that's her problem. I'm not some travelling advisor."

"Really?" Kasen crossed her arms.

"No. No, no, no." The shrine maiden hung her head backwards. "I am not in the mood for this."

"You never are."

"Kasen, please," I said.

"Priorities are important."

"But, come on. Whose side are you on? It shouldn't take that long to get me out. Should it?"

Reimu straightened her head. "Sending someone through the Hakurei Border is no small feat. It wouldn't be much of a border if it was easy to get through. It takes a good deal of preparation. More importantly, it takes peace and quiet."

"But it seems pretty peacef--" A snore pierced the air, loud enough to make me jump up in my seat.

Reimu flashed a smug smile, as if she had timed the snore herself. Tired, but with a look of righteous indignation, she stood up and walked to the door on the left wall, then slid it open.

A short girl, more of a child-shaped woman than an actual child, was passed out snoring on the floor. Her sleeves were ripped like she had burst out of them by flexing, and curled horns stuck out of her head. An oni? Was that what oni children looked like? I could believe it.

It took a moment to notice there was another girl standing on her. She couldn't have been more than three inches tall, like a living doll in a red kimono. The oni kept burbling and mumbling as the tiny girl jumped on her back. The sharp, grainy smell of sake hung in the air.

The dwarf turned around in mid-jump, seeing Reimu in the doorway. "Reimu, help," she shouted in a tiny, squeaky voice. "She's lying on top of my hat. Wake up, you stupid oni!" She stomped on her back with each word, bouncing up and down like a bug. She stopped when she saw me.

"Outsider," she said to herself, her mouth hanging open slightly. It was like seeing a miniature version of Gon's daughter from before. "Can you wake up Suika for me?"

"Don't." Reimu glared at me.

I glanced behind me, looking for someone else to take the heat. Kasen had vanished.

"What," I mumbled to myself.

"As usual. At least I avoided another lecture," Reimu said.

"Did you do that on purpose?"

"No. Kasen's just odd like that, always running from place to place. Probably keeping some kind of lecturing timetable."

"Excuse me, my hat is still underneath this stupid drunk!" The toy-sized girl switched from jumping to stomping on Suika's back.

I glanced at Reimu again. She raised an eyebrow. "Do you really want to wake up a drunken oni?"

Good point.

"Mmmmmaybe." Fuku picked up on the conversation and floated closer, wiggling her fingers at the prospect of chaos and disarray.

[ ] Wake the oni up before Fuku does.
[ ] Let Fuku wake the oni up.
[ ] Stop Fuku and the dwarf from waking the oni up.
[ ] Stop Fuku and the dwarf, but focus on Reimu.
[X] Wake the oni up before Fuku does.
Anything we do is infinitely preferable to what Fuku does.
[x] Gently lift Suika up and take her home find a comfortable place to lay her to sleep. Personally place the hat back on the inchling's head.
[x] Stop Fuku and the dwarf, but focus on Reimu.

Eyes on the prize.
[x] Stop Fuku and the dwarf, but focus on Reimu.
Let's hope this doesn't somehow blow up in our face.
[x] Gently lift Suika up and find a comfortable place to lay her to sleep. Personally place the hat back on the inchling's head.
[x] Gently lift Suika up and find a comfortable place to lay her to sleep. Personally place the hat back on the inchling's head.
[x] Stop Fuku and the dwarf, but focus on Reimu.
[x] Gently lift Suika up and take her home find a comfortable place to lay her to sleep. Personally place the hat back on the inchling's head.

Very gently and personally.
[x] Stop Fuku and the dwarf, but focus on Reimu.

I feel like adhering to the 'No-Touch' rule is a good way to go
[x] Gently lift Suika up and find a comfortable place to lay her to sleep. Personally place the hat back on the inchling's head.
Closing votes.

[x] Gently lift Suika up and find a comfortable place to lay her to sleep. Personally place the hat back on the inchling's head.
File 14187173004.jpg - (198.26KB, 500x701, SleepykaIbuki.jpg) [iqdb]
[x] Gently lift Suika up and find a comfortable place to lay her to sleep. Personally place the hat back on the inchling's head.

"Hang on. I got this." I flexed my arms, then gestured for Fuku and Reimu to stay back.

I knelt down by Suika's side. "I'll just pick her up. If she's as drunk as she smells, she could sleep through a bombing raid."

"Be my guest," Reimu said, hiding a smirk behind her sleeve.

I tried to slide a hand under her stomach. As soon as I touched her, she let out a sleepy ‘murg’ and waved her arm around. What looked like a limp slap hit me in the shoulder like somebody had thrown a brick at me. I tilted over in surprise, lost my balance, and hit the floor.

"Ow, shit," I grumbled, rubbing my shoulder.

Reimu shrugged her shoulders. "That's an oni for you."

Fuku stopped in her tracks, no longer wiggling her fingers.

Right, this needed a delicate strategy. I moved away and stretched a leg out, then tapped her on the side with my foot.

"Careful," Reimu whispered.

"Murgle, Ray-boo, quiddit…" Suika gurgled, her face twitching. She moved an arm again, this time just lifting it up an inch, then letting it flop back down. I gave a second tap and she barely moved.

"What are you doing?" the three-inch tall girl asked.

"I don't know," I whispered back.

I shuffled closer on my knees and put a hand on Suika’s side. I reached underneath, tried to lift her, and nearly threw out my back. Grunting and clutching my aching back, I moved away from her.

"What the hell? She's like a bag of concrete."

"Like I said, oni." Reimu snickered.

I glared at the shrine maiden. "You knew, didn't you?"

Reimu snickered harder. Suika let out another sleepy murmur and shifted in her sleep.

"There it is! I see it!" The tiny girl bounced down from Suika's back like sliding down a hill. The rim of a small black bowl poked out from under Suika's belly.

"Roll over, roll over, roll over," the tiny girl said as she pushed hard on Suika's side. The oni rolled onto her side with a loud snore, not all the way but enough space to show about half of the bowl. I yanked it out. It was a tiny black bowl with yellow flower patterns around the top of the rim.

"I got it,” I said, holding it up. “Is this yours? It's cute."

"Sure is!" the dwarf said proudly.

I turned it over and placed it delicately on top of her head. "There you are. What's your name, by the way?" I asked.

"Thanks. I'm Shinmyoumaru Sukuna." The bowl covered her eyes when I put it on, so she tilted it up and smiled up at me.

"I'm Iwao Oose. Nice to meet you."

Despite telling myself to focus on Reimu and not get distracted, I laid my hand down near her and let her step into my palm. It felt a little like when a mouse or some other small rodent crawls on your hand. I lifted her up and brought her with me as I walked back to the table. Still snickering to herself, Reimu shut the door behind her and let Suika sleep it off in peace.

"So, going back home," I said again in an attempt to get back on-topic.

"Hang on." Reimu ducked into the kitchen, then came out a moment later with a few grains of rice. She set them on the table, and Shinmyoumaru hopped off of my hand.

"Thanks for lunch," she squeaked and picked up a single grain in one hand. At her size, it was big enough that she could hold it like a stick of jerky, munching on it.

"I hate to break it to you, but going home is going to be even more complicated than usual for you." Reimu took a sip of her tea and winced. It must have gotten cold.

"What? Why?" I asked.

Reimu sighed. "Yukari had closed--"

"Yukari? As in, the big, scary, mysterious gap monster?" I blurted out. The almanac had made it pretty clear that Yukari Yakumo was somebody -- or something -- not to be messed with. The writer was vague on what exactly she did, but it made me nervous all the same.

"Yes, I kind of have to deal with her. Now let me finish.” She took another long sip. “Yukari said she was patching up the holes in the border for real this time. Something about keeping better control on them. Said she wouldn't let so much as a pencil through. Well, it seemed to work for a while. Personally, I wasn't for it. I like having the odd knick-knack show up here. Anyway, you made it through here, and you're a lot bigger than a pencil. If I sent you straight through, Yukari would throw a fit."

Reimu rubbed her chin. "Actually..." After a second, she grinned. "Well, I can handle Yukari being mad at me, but she might take it out on you. If you’re really hard up to go home, I'll have to talk to her as soon as I can."

"What can I do to make it easier for you to contact her?" I asked, though I wanted to say 'How can I trust that you'll do your job for once?'

"Grease my palm a little?" she offered. "How about this: Leave five hundred yen with me and come back in three days. If I haven't made any progress, I'll pay you back in full. But, if I’ve had a talk with Yukari, or managed to get one scheduled, that'll be my payment."

I fidgeted in my seat, scratching my head and sucking my teeth. "That's pretty steep."

"My services are valuable. And it's not like I can run off with the money or anything. In fact, if I don't do anything, I'll throw in a charm or something for you. Consider it a win-win investment."

I touched the pouch that held my money, thinking it over. I looked at Shinmyoumaru for some advice, but she was too busy munching on rice. Aww, she looked like a hamster eating sunflower seeds.

Four hundred was more than half of the money I had. If a cheap lunch was forty yen, hmm... how much was it at the last inn? I'd have enough money to keep myself afloat for the rest of today, at least.

A thought occurred to me. "Hang on. How am I going to get back to the village after this?"

"I'm sure Kasen will be back in a bit. That's how she always seems to operate,” Reimu said shrugging. “Now, tell me what you think. Are you in or out?”

[ ] "Alright, I'm in."
[ ] "Forget it, I'm out."
[x] "Alright, I'm in."

If Kasen is up to something, then she'll probably end up keeping us from losing that money somehow.
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[x] "Alright, I'm in."
Risk everything.
[x] "Alright, I'm in."
[x] "Alright, I'm in."

We really need some income.
[x] "Alright, I'm in."
>500 Yen
>A lot
Being poor is awesome.

[x] "Alright, I'm in."

I'd rather stay in Gensokyo and romance Kasen, but hey.
It seems like Gensokyo's yen is more valuable than outside. Or their commodity prices just haven't scaled the same way. Either way, it seems like 500 yen would be a touch more than daily living expenses.

But, yeah, Iwao is pretty close to broke, the poor guy. Time to get back on the boiler grind.
Closing votes! We're in it to win it.

[x] "Alright, I'm in."


[x] "Alright, I'm in."

500 yen is like 5 bucks.
In modern exchange rates. Who says Gensokyo follows modern exchange rates? It's stuck in the 1880s at best. Probably quite a bit earlier in general. Different money was used back then.
By the 1880s, Japan was already using yen, with fractional divisions of sen and rin. Given how prices are quoted in yen alone, it seems Gensokyo has given up on the sen and rin like 1950s Japan. Things in general do seem to reflect an earlier period than that, of course.
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[x] "Alright, I'll do it."

Reimu seemed to perk up as I pulled out the five hundred yen from my pouch. It’d leave me with less than two hundred to get by on, but going home was worth the expense. I put the money down on the table, my hand still on it to keep Reimu from snatching it up.

"One last question," I said.

"What is it?" she asked, eyes fixed on the money.

"What happens if you contact Yukari and she doesn't give a straight answer, or says I can't leave?"

"I'll give you half back as a consolation prize, just please, stop tempting me with it." Her hands inched across the table, drawn to the wad of bills and coins like some kind of magnetic force.

Gingerly, I moved my hand towards hers and let the cash fall on the table with a rustle and a clink. She pulled the bills out and took a moment to admire them before stuffing them into her shirt and shoving the coins in her skirt pocket, humming happily to herself.

With my money safely tucked away, she looked around. "By the way, where's the fairy?"

Oh, dear. Fuku had opened the door back up without us hearing and was now kneeling over Suika. The oni was lying on her back now, and Fuku had a charcoal pen in hand, scribbling on her face.

"You were right. Nothing makes her wake up." Fuku chuckled. "Watch."

Fuku lifted Suika's shirt up a little, put her face on her belly and blew a raspberry.

I half-way got up from my seat. "Fuku, I don't think that's a good idea.”

Fuku blew even harder to prove me wrong, then got up and took a breath. I waited. Any second now, Suika's hand was going to shoot up and grab Fuku. Any second now.

Well I'll be damned, she was right. She stood up and sauntered away from the still-motionless Suika.

"What'd I miss?" Fuku took a seat at the table, smiling smugly.

"Well, Reimu offered to--"

"Don't care." The fairy cackled to herself. Reimu let out a snort. That settled it. Making small talk with these two would just result in more insults.

"Right, I'm just going to read and pass the time 'til Kasen gets here," I announced, and found a comfy spot by the wall and took out my book.

[ ] Chapt--

"Hot-cha!" The book vanished from my hands. I looked up to see Fuku careening off at top speed, the almanac clutched in her hand.

"Fuku. Fuku, give it back! That's a rental!" I hurried to my feet and chased after her.

"I bet it's delicious," she called as she circled around the room. She nibbled the corner of the cover just to make me worry more as I tripped around the room.

Reimu sat quietly at the table but observed everything, waiting for the instant one of us knocked something over. I didn't want to know what was coming if that happened. As we rounded the corner for the fifth time, a hand flicked out and grabbed Fuku by her collar.

I skidded to a stop and nearly ran right into her. Suika was awake now, and from the way she was clutching her head with her other hand, she wasn't feeling well.

"Swear to flubberin' flabberin'... you better keep it down with... noise... words..." The oni blinked, her eyelids struggling to stay up as she tried to look at the fairy.

Fuku fidgeted in Suika's grasp, too shocked to flail but not enough to freeze. After watching her blink for a few seconds, she raised a hand and patted Suika on the head, between the horns. "Go back to sleep, little oni. It's your bedtime," she whispered.

"M'tired..." Suika mumbled.

"Sleep tight," Fuku whispered.

"Stomach... fuzzy..."

Suika let go of Fuku, then fell backwards and landed on the floor with a heavy thud. The floorboards gave a loud groan and bent underneath her weight.

"Dammit, not again. I just fixed that floor," Reimu said.

"Well, now that that's solved," I said, yanking the book out of Fuku's hands while she was still stunned, "I have some reading to do. In peace."

"Then what am I supposed to do?" Fuku grumbled.

I pointed over to the table. "I don't know. Try and make friends with Shinmyoumaru over there, I guess?"

"About time you remembered me," Shinmyoumaru said, wiping flecks of half-chewed rice off of her cheek.

Fuku turned, noticing the dwarf and fluttering over to poke her on the cheek. "She's so cute and tiny!" Fuku squealed.

Shinmyoumaru stood up as tall and proud as she could manage. "I'm a descendant of Issun-Boshi, and the last of the inchlings! I'm not just some tiny cute thing. I'm a living legend… sorta!"

With Fuku and the inchling -- she still looked like a dwarf to me -- now suitably distracted, Suika still passed out, and Reimu sipping her tea and looking as aloof as ever, I slipped away while I still had the chance. I went out to the end of the porch that was hung over a donation box covered in leaves and other flotsam. Probably unused in a while, I guessed. A thick straw rope and a set of bells hung from the roof above it. A gentle breeze blew by, rustling the trees, the breeze and the soft jingling of the bells covering up the sound of Fuku and Shinmyoumaru's squealing.

I took a deep breath to steady myself and felt a little grin on my face. Facing away from the wind, I opened the book again.

[ ] Chapter 1: Gensokyo From Above
-- [ ] The Capital
-- [ ] Hamlets and Provinces
-- [ ] The Great River
-- [ ] The Outskirts

[ ] Chapter 2: Gensokyo From The Ground
-- [ ] Economics
-- [ ] Government
-- [ ] Notable Persons
-- [ ] Our Shared View

[ ] Chapter 3: The Four Occupations
-- [ ] Administration and Government
-- [ ] Farming the Blessed Lands
-- [ ] Artisans and Crafters
-- [ ] Merchantry

[ ] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [ ] Organized Defenses Against Invasion
-- [ ] The Everyman's Duty for Protection
-- [ ] Shrines, Seals, and Magical Protection
-- [ ] Spellcard Duels

[ ] Chapter 5: A New Era: Cooperation with Youkai
-- [ ] The Tengu[s]
[s]-- [ ] The Kappa[s]
[s]-- [ ] Common Spirits

-- [ ] Trade With The Mountain

Based on equal parts number-crunching of historical prices and making stuff up, I've figured that Gensokyo prices are about eighteen times lower than modern-day ones. Of course, given their smaller economy and development, it's far from exact, but it's a rule of thumb I'm using.
[X] Spellcard duels.
-- [x] The Everyman's Duty for Protection

We might be getting a bit ahead of ourselves with the spellcard rules. I imagine that would require either knowing magic, or if spellcards are actually a container for a spell instead of just a framework for named attacks, enough money to buy one, which we don't have. Until we actually have a card, the spellcard rules are probably useless to us.
[x] Chapter 3: The Four Occupations
-- [x] Artisans and Crafters

Might as well start looking into human society since he's gonna have to get a fair bit more comfortable with it.
[x] Chapter 3: The Four Occupations
-- [x] Artisans and Crafters
We're going to learn about the olden boiler repairman ways one way or another.
[x] Chapter 3: The Four Occupations
-- [x] Artisans and Crafters

This option would probably be more prudent, now that we're almost broke.
[x] Chapter 3: The Four Occupations
-- [x] Artisans and Crafters
Closing votes. It's like watching How It's Made, except not!

[x] Chapter 3: The Four Occupations
-- [x] Artisans and Crafters
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[x] Chapter 3: The Four Occupations
-- [x] Artisans and Crafters

Gensokyo has had to reinvent the art that is crafting. Only a few generations ago, the only things the average human possessed were the barest requirements for daily life: cooking tools, a place to lay his head, and weapons and armor to defend against the threat of youkai. As some degree of peace was reached with these beasts, we found more opportunity to settle and turn the Human Village into a place fit for human life. For comparison, in a household which runs a decent business one can now find tatami mats, paper doors and screens, woodblock prints, teapots, musical instruments, board games, or any number of different products one might have considered a luxury some time ago. Instead of barley and hot water, we have rice and tea as staples. All manner of goods are available to purchase, and this brings us first to the topic of those who make them.

For those manufacturing-minded outsiders seeking to take advantage of this new birth of industry, there is both good and bad news. As humanity’s numbers have grown too large for everyone to have an intimate relationship with everyone else, labor organizations have come into practice to keep fair market prices and craft associations to keep fair production practices, not unlike a guild. One's craft is passed down to generation to generation, and an outsider attempting to edge in on another's market would be viewed with, at the very best, suspicion.

Manufacturing workshops have appeared for certain industries requiring little manual dexterity and high manpower. Amongst others, steel, soap, sake, vegetable oil, cloth, and sugar have workshops devoted to their production to meet growing demand, and an outsider may find ready work there.

Oh boy. I already had my fair share of assembly-line work in the outside, so I wasn't especially eager to see the Gensokyo version of it.

The next few pages were filled with charts detailing the exact amounts of steel and lumber made, the average income of crafters in certain villages, and all sorts of other details that only a census bureau would be interested in. In other words, nothing of any use to me.

Right when I shut the book, a loud caw came from overhead. A bird of some kind was flying in circles above me, close enough that I leaned back towards the floor. After a moment, I realized it wasn't very close, it was just so big that I thought it was. It disappeared on the other side of the shrine, then I felt a rush of wind in my eardrums as it circled around and flapped its wings, gently landing right in front of me; I could've kicked it in the legs if I wanted to. It looked right at me as well as it could with eyes on either side of its head. It bobbed its head, tilting its neck, making those rapid, jerky motions that birds do. Considering the bird in question was twice as tall as me, it looked rather strange.

The giant bird opened its beak and a small piece of paper fell out and onto my lap.

I have other business to attend to, sorry. This dapeng will take you back to the town center so you don't have to risk walking on roads. Will see you later, maybe.

-- Kasen

Well, that was a turnaround. Did something unnerve her? Did I do something that made her mad? Also, what's a dapeng?

As I pondered my possible slights against Kasen, Fuku came barreling out of the shrine. "Bird! Birdbirdbird!" she yelled.

She flew straight towards the ‘dapeng’, which casually lifted its beak and spiked her to the ground. She made a cloud of dirt as she bellyflopped against the ground.

Unable to help it, I let out a snort. Whether she knew it or not, Fuku had wonderful comedic timing.

Fuku flapped her wings and lifted herself up off the ground, fists raised. "Hey! You wanna go? You wanna pick a fight? I'll--"

Thud. The big bird knocked her on the head again.

"Fuku, stop. This thing's my ride.” I put my hand up on the side of its head. It made a quiet chirp and leaned closer. “Also, it's twenty times bigger than you."

Fuku pouted as she dusted herself off. "How can I ride on a bird that just sullied my honor?"

"Like this." I grabbed her by the waist and picked her up.

The dapeng spread its wings and bent over. I plopped Fuku on its back, putting her as close to the center as possible.

"Well,” she harrumphed, crossing her arms, “I suppose I could do it like that."

I climbed onto the dapeng behind her. "Yep."

"I mean, it is kind of cozy… and these feathers are pretty soft." She sat up and stroked the dapeng on the back of the neck.

Without any warning, the dapeng spread its wings and took off. The force of the sudden takeoff made Fuku fly back and hit me in the chest. I gripped the thing's sides, sandwiching Fuku underneath me as I leaned down to keep the wind from blowing me off. "Not a word," I said over the noise of the wind. "Not a word, not a word."

Fuku responded by making a kissy-face.

"I’m serious. Stop that or I'll throw you off this thing."

"I'd take you down with me. I can fly, you can't," she said.

"I'd like to see you try. Wimp."

"I'm not the wimp, you are! Mortal."

"I'm gonna-- Oh, we're here."

The rush of the wind had let up. I sat back up and saw the walls of the town center in front of me. "Uh, thanks for the ride," I said as I slid off the dapeng.

It nodded at me, then took off with barely a pause. My ears rang again from the sudden burst of wind. Fuku flopped through the air in a cartwheel as she was launched from its back. She spun her arms in the air and caught her balance a few inches above the ground.

"Jerk bird. I could've flown here myself if I wanted to. I'm just tagging along with Iwao so I can get him to give me stuff," she said, then stuck out her tongue. It had already soared out of sight, so it probably didn’t care too much.

"Good luck with that,” I said, stretching my arms. “I'm broke. Any ideas for--"

"Petty thievery!"


"Major thievery!"


"Overthrow the village chiefs!"

I tapped the side of my head. "That dapeng must've knocked something loose in your brain."

"It's not my fault. Humans don't let fairies do anything inside the village. Sometimes they let us into the shops at night, but where'm I supposed to get the money to buy anything?" Fuku scowled and kicked at a rock.

Aw, man. I felt bad for her now. Once I got some money, I'd buy her a candy apple. Maybe.

The town center was big enough and close enough to so many places, I could take my pick of what entry-level grunt labor I 'wanted' to do. Maybe I could even talk some place into letting Fuku work too, even if it felt a little like child labor.

[ ] Isn't there a harvest going? I could probably get a job picking fruit and stuff.
[ ] Go back to what's his face for more hauling carts.
[ ] There's got to be a boiler around here that needs repairing.
[ ] I'll temp at a workshop. I've done worse things for money.
[X] There's got to be a boiler around here that needs repairing.

My boiler senses are tingling.
[x] There's got to be a boiler around here that needs repairing.
[X] There's got to be a BOILER around here that needs repairing.
[X] There's got to be a boiler around here that needs repairing.

We need to boil Fuku.
[x] I'll temp at a workshop. I've done worse things for money.

Sweatshop labour ho!
[X] Go back to what's his face for more hauling carts.
Closing votes.

His blood boils, etc.

[X] There's got to be a boiler around here that needs repairing.
File 141923962772.jpg - (71.78KB, 650x650, 10168081_1_l.jpg) [iqdb]
[X] There's got to be a boiler around here that needs repairing.

"Fuku, I've got a plan." I clapped her on the back and hit one of her wings by accident.


"Sorry.” I pulled my hand back. “Anyway, step one is that you and I are going to look around for boilers. Preferably old ones that aren't working anymore. Step two, we fix those boilers. Step three, we get paid."

"Step four, we get rip-roaring drunk?"

"Only if we get paid well."


The town center seemed like the best place to start. I walked towards the entrance, Fuku by my side.

"Act casual, maybe they'll let you pass," I said quietly.

Fuku smirked. "Don't worry, I have a plan."

The two guards standing on either side of the gate gave us a look. The closer we got, the more their eyebrows curled. One of them raised a hand when I was a few feet away.

"That fairy…" he said, trailing off to let me fill in the blank.

"Here." Fuku produced a ten-yen coin and tossed it to him.

"Excellent." They both stepped aside and let us in.

"Where did you get that?" I whispered.

Her smirk grew into a full-on grin, showing a face full of pearly whites. "Reimu got distracted."

"Oh, great. Keep the stealing to a minimum from now on."

"I suppose I could try. You'll want these back, then?" She held up my pliers.

"How did you..."

Fuku giggled to herself. I snatched them back from her and tucked them in my belt, chastizing myself for letting my guard down.

Though Fuku was the only fairy around, there was surprisingly little reaction to her. A few people did double-takes, and most people who passed close by us checked their pockets a moment later, but other than that they let us be.

"I can't get any business cards printed with a couple hundred yen." I took out what remained of my change and jingled it in my palm, just to remind myself how poor I was. "I suppose I could make some with my notebook."

"This?" Fuku handed me my notebook.

"How-- I told you to knock that off!"

"I promised nothing."

I grumbled and opened the notebook, taking a few pages and tearing them out. I folded each one in half and wrote my name on each one, with ‘Boiler Technician’ underneath. I took a few deep breaths to brace myself for the incoming uphill battle.

I forced myself to walk towards the sound of business. Compared to the din of the mountain trading post, it was almost quiet here. There was still lots of noise, but nobody was obnoxiously shouting and hawking. Shoppers were rushing about, unconcerned with anything but what they were going to buy next. With one more deep breath, I held up my business cards.

"Boiler repair?” I called out. “Know anyone who needs a boiler fixed? Boiler repair?"

The people passed by fast enough and paid me little enough attention that the constant rejection didn't feel too terrible.

"Bored," Fuku said. "Booorrreeeed." She landed on the sidewalk and laid down next to the building, inches away from the stream of feet.

"Careful there. And don't steal anything.” Another stream of people came by, so I quickly turned to catch them. “Boiler repair? Boiler repair, miss?"

"Boiler repair, you say?" A pleasant thirtysomething woman stopped and smiled. She had a basket full of fruits and vegetables, with a spring onion sticking straight up out of it. "That's an awfully specialized service to offer in the market."

"I'm not particularly established," I said with a chuckle at my expense. "Once I get a few names I'm hoping I won't have to offer it like this."

She touched a hand to her cheek. "Ahh. The first few customers are always the hardest."

"What do you do, ma’am, if you don't mind my asking?"

"Oh, nothing much. My family keeps a plot of land, and my husband and I make tatami slats. Just some simple crafts, you know." False humility, a key element of socialization. I couldn't really do that with my line of work. 'Yeah, I'm not that great at fixing boilers. I'd probably cause an explosion. There'd be some fatalities.'

"I don't mean to impose, but do you know who might have a need for some boiler repairing?"

The woman shrugged. "I'm afraid I don't even know what they are. Are they some Outside World device?"

"They're furnaces designed to heat water. Most of the ones I work with are from the Outside World, but I've come across a few here. One of the bath houses around here had one."

"Really? Ahh. I mostly go to the hot springs that appeared after that eruption from Old Hell."

I let out a loud, sharp laugh and only realized it wasn't a joke when the woman stepped back with a worried look on her face.

"Pardon me, I'm pressed for time. Good luck." She scooted away.


Really though, hot springs from hell?

I looked back down at Fuku. "Did hot springs really pop out from Old Hell or something?"

"Iunno." Fuku flopped her arms against the floor. "This is boring."

"I gathered. You could try helping," I said.

She hopped up into the air, and I realized the mistake I had just made. She flew right up to the face of some innocent passerby and leaned in close.

"Where's boilers?" she screamed. "I need boilers! Broken boilers!"

He shrugged and walked past Fuku, only slightly bothered. "I tried," Fuku said, and floated back towards me and took her place back on the ground.

"This obviously isn't working. Maybe I should go back to carting, or find some workshop or mill."

I sat down next to Fuku for a few minutes. If I got up, I told myself, I'd be admitting defeat. Even though I had just admitted defeat. How expensive was a begging cup around here?

Dangit, Iwao, don't be a sad sack. Try moving to somewhere else.

I scanned the surroundings, looking for some clue. The first thing that caught my eye was one of the big, handsome walled-in houses. Aha, rich people. If anyone would need my services, it'd be them. I moved towards the house, but when I reached the wall, one of the servants stopped me.

"Are you here on business?"

"Kind of. Not exactly," I admitted.

He didn't have to tell me to leave, I got the message on my own and slinked away. My enthusiasm was further dampened when, after a half-hour of walking, I realized there wasn't a 'rich part of town', just big houses with big yards that I came across every couple of blocks. The slapdash layout of this place got on my nerves the more I explored. I could understand why some wealthy rancher would want to live right by his pastures, but do those couple of acres really have to be in the middle of a bunch of shops?

I was getting ready to give up yet again as I passed another mansion and lacked the courage to walk up and knock on their door. A young boy, probably twelve or so, came out of one house and ran towards me on short, skinny legs. His loose sleeved apron flapped on his arm as he waved at me.

"Pardon me, sir. Pardon me."


"I am Satoru. By your clothes, I see that you are from the outside world. The young master of my family has been troubled by an Outside World trinket of his malfunctioning. Would you, by any chance, be able to help?" He talked like he was in some kind of old folk tale.

Thought the man being followed by a fairy.

"Very much so," I said.

"Is it a boiler? I hope it's a boiler," Fuku said.

The boy-servant shook his head. "I'm afraid not. It is a 'tie-priter'."

"A typewriter? I can handle that. Lead the way." People haven't used those since the eighties or something. How complicated could they be?

Satoru led me past a well-kept flower garden towards the estate. "We'll have to be quiet. The master is holding a tutoring session right now," he said as we got into the doorway.

I nodded and slipped off my shoes before entering. Compared to all the other buildings I'd been in, the amount of stuff here was intimidating. I let out a quiet chuckle, hearing Kinu's voice in my head. ‘This house has a woodblock print, a porcelain tea set, a shogi board...’

"If you touch anything," I whispered to Fuku, "I'm not buying you any beer."

She folded her hands behind her back.

The muffled sound of a stern, older male voice came from the other side of a wall as we walked to the other end of the house. The ‘young master’ -- probably in his twenties by my guess -- was sitting in the middle of his room, hunched over a scroll, practicing calligraphy. His clothing matched the image I was expecting: a black kimono with small white dots along it, plain gray pants, and a small black hat tight on his head. Satoru knelt outside the door, waiting until his master finished writing before he spoke.

"Master Nobutoshi, I found someone who might be able to repair the typewriter."

"Splendid. Let him in." Nobutoshi looked up. He had the beginnings of a moustache and the soft, pale look of a pampered kid. Calligraphy, poetry, and paintings decorated the wall like band posters, and the typewriter in question, a big block of iron with 'Aspeed' on the front of it, sat in the middle of his desk with a glass lantern on one side of it and a stack of paper on the other. This guy obviously fancied himself a writer. If he was in the Outside World I could picture him going on and on about how he's going to move to Tokyo and make it big.

The typewriter itself was thankfully one of the simpler ones that wrote in katakana. I'd heard in some tech school class from forever ago that there were typewriters like tiny printing presses with thousands of kanji blocks, which would've been a much bigger task to fix. A sheet was loaded into it with a blotch of ink on the upper-left corner. My superior deduction skills, along with a few button presses, told me that the keys were working but the slidey-thing that moves back and forth wasn't.

The machine clacked loudly when I pressed at the keys. I glanced back at Satoru and Nobutoshi, hoping it wasn't loud enough to cause a distraction, but they seemed fine with it.

I lifted it up -- it must've weighed a good twenty pounds -- and turned it sideways. There were all sorts of gears and switches around the slidey-thing mechanism. I decided to call it the slider for now. I pressed a key a few more times, looking for what moved and what didn't. I fiddled with one thing, then another. Fifteen minutes of trial and error later, the slider moved when I pressed the key.

"Nailed it." I stepped back.

"Nailed what?" Satoru asked.

"I fixed it."

"Really? May I try?"

It had been a fairly simple fix. All I had to do was take the thing on the thing and connect it to the thing. If the problem was on the inside, I probably wouldn't know how to fix it. Nobutoshi looked surprised as he looked at the fixed typewriter, and I wondered if I shouldn't have opened it up anyway to make it look like it took more effort.

"Go ahead, sir."

He sat in front, pressed a few keys, and marvelled at the machine as it worked again. He wrote out the lines to some old poem, more interested in the dings and clacks than the letters themselves.

"Thank you, you did an excellent job."

I paused. I wanted to ask about the money, but I wasn't willing to take that risk in a place where I still didn't know the specifics of formality.

"My father will handle the payment. His tutoring should be finished," he said, reading the silence.

He stood up and led me to the door that was closed before. His father, a thin and serious-looking man, was checking over some papers. As he explained the situation, his father didn't have much of a reaction to his son inviting in a random technician to fix his stuff. I had a few moments to plan. Payment was one thing, but it wasn't the only opportunity here.

[ ] Ask about the family. Potential repeat business.
[ ] Ask about other families. There's more boilers somewhere, dammit.
[ ] Ask about Outside World goods in general.
[x] Ask about the family. Potential repeat business.
We have to sustain ourselves during our boilerquest.
[x] Ask about Outside World goods in general.

Curious to know what, if any, effect the whole "closed border" thing might have here.
[x] Ask about the family. Potential repeat business.

"Say, is that a BOILER I see in your basement there?"
Closin' votes!

[x] Ask about the family. Potential repeat business.

After this update the next update will probably be around the weekend-ish, because Christmas, then recovering from Christmas.
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[x] Ask about the family. Potential repeat business.

Nobutoshi's father looked up from his papers and saw Fuku floating by my side. His stony expression cracked into a smile for a split-second, and he let out a quiet ‘heh’ before going back to his serious face.

I bowed deeply. Fuku mockingly imitated me by doing the same but facing the other way. Good thing this guy didn't seem to mind fairies.

“Pardon me, sir, I’ve just made some repairs for the young master,” I said, gesturing to Nobutoshi.

"So, your fee, then,” he said. His voice came out in almost a croak, an intimidating mix of leather and gravel.

When he stood up, his back stayed so straight it looked like he was levitating. I didn’t think he was quite that tall when he was sitting down. His eyes were stuck to me as he rose, and I felt a slight shiver in my spine, like someone would grab me if I tried to run. Even as he lumbered past, he half-kept his eyes on me.

He disappeared into a room in the back, and I relaxed a little. "Seems serious," I managed to say, swallowing hard.

"He ought to be. A family as large as the Sens requires a stern patriarch," Satoru boasted. His face brightened, as though he lived for those moments where he could talk big about his master's family. His scraggly hair bounced as he nodded at me.

"Oh, uh, good to know."

Satoru glanced over at Nobutoshi. Underneath his peppy smile there was a hint of 'You didn't even tell him what family this is?'

Mr. Sen came back into the room carrying a cloth with money on it, which made him a lot less scary in my eyes. "Four hundred and fifty yen should do, considering the specialized work involved," he said.

"That's… That's great," I said. I resisted grabbing the little bundle of cash out of his hand, and instead watched as he set it down on the table. Specialized labor is awesome. "Any, uh, other Outside World stuff here that needs a look?"

Mr. Sen's eyebrows, so straight and level you could use them for geometry lessons, lowered just a fraction of an inch. "I believe Nobutoshi would've told you if that was the case."

"Yessir, sorry, sir." I bowed again.

He waved at Nobutoshi. "Go on and enjoy your toy, son."

Satoru stayed behind, still rosy-cheeked and excited. Put a pair of wings on him and he'd make a good Exposition Fairy. Speaking of fairies, Fuku was silently fuming at the lack of attention anyone was paying her. Her already-thin patience at its limit, she slipped behind Satoru and gave him a pair of bunny ears.

"I can tell by your face that you've got a couple questions. Keep it quick and I won't charge you for tutoring," Mr. Sen said.

"Oh, uh…” I stopped in the middle of reaching for my money. “Well, since I'm new here and all, I figured I should get to know who's important, and stuff."

"Do you usually ask important people personally?" His face made the same soften-heh-back-to-stern motion.

"I guess not."

Fuku floated above Satoru and made a silly face, pulling her lower lip down and sticking her teeth out. I glanced back at her, then back to Mr. Sen, looking for any change in his expression.

"And do you usually travel with a fairy?"

"So far, yes. Though I don’t know if it’s a matter of choice."

"I know the feeling." Mr. Sen stood up, this time with a grunt, and took a wrapped piece of hard candy out from under his desk.

Fuku's eyes shot open. Mr. Sen held the candy between his fingers, not paying any attention to it as he kept looking at me.

"Sorry if this is a silly question, but what do you do?" I asked.

She flew towards him, but right before she could grab the candy, he closed his hand. He opened it up a second later to show that the candy had disappeared.

"I tutor. Advise. Assist."

"The Sen family is very close friends with the village council," Satoru added.

The candy appeared in Mr. Sen's other hand. Fuku went for it, only for him to close his hand again.

It looked like that was the only answer I was going to get out of either of them. A fraction of a smile appeared on the edges of Mr. Sen's mouth as he made Fuku run in circles around him, always missing the candy by a hair. It was a pretty impressive stunt. With those beefy hands of his, I wondered if he was some old samurai, now settled down.

"Your son seems to like Outside World stuff."

"He likes a lot of things."

Even though he didn't look at her, he was obviously distracted with the fairy. He held both hands closed, and she waited eagerly to see where the candy would appear next. He opened both hands to show nothing, then reached for her ear and plucked the candy out from behind it. Her eyes followed his hand in awe. Then he tossed the candy straight through the open door, and Fuku dove for it so fast it's a marvel she didn't break anything.

Once she was out of the room, Mr. Sen held up his hand to show the piece of candy still sitting in his palm. He tilted his head back and let out a single bellowing laugh. "We'll get a few moments of peace while she figures out what happened."

Satoru smirked. "Master Sen may seem scary, but he's soft at--"

"That's enough explaining on my behalf, Satoru.” Mr. Sen looked back to me. “Now then..."

"Oose. Iwao Oose."

"Oose. You'll have to ask my son about any other repairs to be done here. He's the one with a fascination for Outside World things. Along with, off the record, a rather serious case of middle son disease."

"The young master is--"

"Enough, Satoru. I'm sure we've bothered Oose too much already."

Fuku stomped back into the room. Her wings bounced with every foot she slammed on the floor, trying to make a satisfying stomp with each step but only managing a scrunching sound on the tatami.

"Razza-frackin' no-candy-havin' trickster son of a butt," she said.

I giggled.

"S'not funny," she grumbled at me.

"Alright, quit your bellyaching." With another single laugh, Mr. Sen flicked the candy with his thumb, sending it towards Fuku. She snatched it out of the air, unwrapped it, and ate it with glee, as though this counted as a victory for her.

"Anything else you wanted?" he asked.

"No, that should be fine. Thank you very much for being patient with me." Another deep bow. Can’t ever skimp on the humbleness.

"Well, then, take care," he said.

"Wait. Any more candy?" Fuku asked.

"Don't push your luck." Mr. Sen rubbed his chin and grinned, this time for more than a few seconds.

All that aside, I finally grabbed my money off the desk. I took the almanac out of my pocket and hid the bills inside. Seeing the cover, Mr. Sen's face levelled out.

I prodded him one last time. "Something about the Yasumis?"

"Ah, no," he said, clearly meaning 'yes.' Even Satoru was silent on the subject. "I shouldn't be judging a family I know so little about, anyway."

The room went quiet with unspoken rumors. Feeling a little awkward, I followed Satoru out of the room, Fuku obediently trailing behind me, making smacking noises with her mouth as she ate the hard candy.

"Any other Outside World things Nobutoshi's got?" I asked Satoru before I lost my chance for a straight answer.

"Plenty, although he has no idea how most of them work." He lowered his voice. "Master Sen doesn't particularly like his spending on frivolities, but the cost is low enough that he allows it."

"I was wondering. Well, if anything ever breaks down again, just look for me."

"Iwao Oose, right? Will do." He nodded, not quite a bow but with a little more tilt than a usual nod. He led me to the door.

It might not have been a fantastic amount of information, but it was still a good haul for such a prim family. More importantly, I had almost earned back Reimu's fee and it was still early afternoon.

"Booze time?" Fuku asked as soon as we hit the street again.

"Not quite yet. I'll want more than twice of this before I'll consider wasting some of it on alcohol."

"Getting wasted is never a waste." She crunched the candy loudly in her mouth.

We left the Sen estate into a slow, warm afternoon. Not quite sure where I was going yet, I passed by a small pasture where horses were grazing and a plain-looking, brown-haired woman was practicing the koto.

"C'mon. The way you've been making money lately, you've obviously got some god of luck smiling down on you. If you go to the bar, you'll probably run into a living boiler with a headache or something."

"Nah, this is just straight-up skill." I flexed an arm and patted my bicep.

Fuku snorted and rolled her eyes.

She was right, though, I'd had some good luck lately, considering money wasn't my most immediate concern anymore. As for my other issues, I didn't have to return the book yet, it was too early to check back on Reimu, and Kasen wasn't around, for whatever reason. Without anyone dragging me by the arm, I was at a bit of a loss for what to do.

[ ] When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.
[ ] I'll try to do some peaceful reading. That way, something crazy will happen to distract me.
[ ] I don't know if I made Kasen mad, but I should try to check on her just in case.
[X] When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.
[x] I don't know if I made Kasen mad, but I should try to check on her just in case.
[x] I'll try to do some peaceful reading. That way, something crazy will happen to distract me.

There's more to this book than just a helpful guide to Gensokyo. I just know it!
[X] When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.
[x] I'll try to do some peaceful reading. That way, something crazy will happen to distract me.

No shopping yet, I think.
[x] I'll try to do some peaceful reading. That way, something crazy will happen to distract me.
Closing votes!

We're either settling in for some reading or tempting fate. Which is it? Only time will tell.

[x] I'll try to do some peaceful reading. That way, something crazy will happen to distract me.
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[x] I'll try to do some peaceful reading. That way, something crazy will happen to distract me.

The almanac slapped against my thigh as I walked, reminding me that I had to read the rest of it or risk that Kosuzu girl's wrath. I remembered when I had just arrived here, and I was too embarrassed and confused to read on the side of the road. Was it really just a couple of days ago? Now my biggest concern for reading would be keeping Fuku quiet for an hour or so.

"Hey, Fuku," I said.

"Yeaaaah?" She floated in front, looking down at me.

"I'm going to read soon."


"If I buy you some candy, think you could keep yourself in check for a bit in return?"

Fuku thought for a moment. "Make it beer and we've got a deal."

"You kidding me. It's like--" I looked up at the sun. "--three in the afternoon."

She cocked an eyebrow. Of course a fairy would have no idea why the time of day should matter when getting drunk.

"Fine," I said, with a resigned sigh, "but you're getting the cheapest drink available. Don't blame me if you get sick."

"Score!" she whooped.

I shook my head as she did a victory dance, throwing her hands up and singing out-of-tune. Hopefully she was getting the energy out of her system in advance.

After some more walking through the farm fields, we found a small block of houses and shops with an open-air market going. A handful of farmers were sitting and drinking, crowded around benches over a canopy to protect them from the sun. A sign saying '15 yen a mug!' in big, thick letters stood outside the canopy. Not too bad at all -- especially for some momentary peace.

"Lot of people drinking," I said to myself.

"And no fairies drinking. Let's change that." Fuku hustled towards the stand, more excited than I'd ever seen her. She hopped up and stood on a stool, going up on her tiptoes to look at the bartender.

"Gimme your biggest, strongest, alcoholiest drink!"

"I believe you mean 'cheapest'." I took a seat next to her and handed the barkeep fifteen yen.

"Alright," he replied with a brief glance between us. He poured out a mug and handed it to Fuku, who was too hyped up at the prospect of a ‘free’ drink to get mad at me cheaping out.

It looked like a gallon-sized jug as she grabbed it with both hands. She tipped it up and tried to take a sip, then sploshed beer all over her dress. Coughing and choking into the mug and spraying beer-foam on her face, she slammed the mug back down on the bartop. The barkeep, halfway through handing her a straw, let out a half-sigh half-snicker.

"Gimme." Fuku snatched the straw out of his hand as soon as she caught her breath. She started drinking as fast as the straw allowed, not bothering to wipe the foam off of her face.

The barkeep stepped towards me. Fuku was too enraptured by her drink to notice anything else. "Want to keep her off your back?" he said, not really a question or an offer.

"How did you know?"

"Not to get involved in your business, but I dunno if a drunk fairy's any quieter than a sober one."

"Hopefully, she'll just pass out. That mug's as big as her head." I paused for a second. "Fairies do sleep, right?"

"Sometimes. One of'm was sleeping on the roof a few weeks ago, waiting for a chance to get some free samples." He scowled.

Fuku set her mug down and let out a tremendous belch, then leaned back and sighed with relief. "Mmh, good one."

Some folks nursing their mugs and eating nearby let out a laugh as Fuku went back to work on her mug. I felt a little awkward being the only one not drinking, but my pocketbook and the rules of decency kept me from getting a drink for myself. Instead, I went to the emptiest bench and sat down across from a happily chatting couple who, judging from the dirt on their arms, were probably just back from working on the farm.

Even with people talking around me, the open air kept the sound at a tolerable level, nice enough for reading. I took the almanac out of my pocket. I’d have put it on the table, but the tabletop felt sticky on my arm. Kosuzu would definitely charge me extra if I brought the book back with beer-grime, so I propped the spine against the edge instead.

[ ] Chapter 1: Gensokyo From Above
-- [ ] The Capital
-- [ ] Hamlets and Provinces
-- [ ] The Great River
-- [ ] The Outskirts

[ ] Chapter 2: Gensokyo From The Ground
-- [ ] Economics
-- [ ] Government
-- [ ] Notable Persons
-- [ ] Our Shared View

[ ] Chapter 3: The Four Occupations
-- [ ] Administration and Government
-- [ ] Farming the Blessed Lands
-- [ ] Artisans and Crafters
-- [ ] Merchantry

[ ] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [ ] Organized Defenses Against Invasion
-- [ ] The Everyman's Duty for Protection
-- [ ] Shrines, Seals, and Magical Protection
-- [ ] Spellcard Duels

[ ] Chapter 5: A New Era: Cooperation with Youkai
-- [ ] The Tengu
-- [ ] The Kappa
-- [ ] Common Spirits
-- [ ] Trade With The Mountain
[X] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [X] Spellcard Duels

At this point, the other chapters all seem like either stuff we already know or could find out on our own pretty easily, or probably biased ramblings. Spellcards are something that haven't come up at all, though.
[X] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [X] Spellcard Duels
[X] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [X] Spellcard Duels

Course we might find out we have no magic potential which axes this idea
[X] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [X] Spellcard Duels

If it were ANYONE else, I'd be so pissed at this heresy.
Can't get pissed at Fuku, though; not for that at least.
[X] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [X] Spellcard Duels

We don't really need to be able win one, though. We only need to be able to participate enough for the rules to protect us.
[x] Chapter 5: A New Era: Cooperation with Youkai
-- [x] Trade With The Mountain

It must be completed.
[X] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [X] Spellcard Duels
[X] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [X] Spellcard Duels

I just bagged the world's stupidest fairy!
Closing votes.

Pew pew, shootin' boolits.

[X] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [X] Spellcard Duels
File 142052159437.jpg - (185.37KB, 850x878, Akisareobjectivelybesttouhous.jpg) [iqdb]
[X] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [X] Spellcard Duels

Though it is exceedingly unlikely you will find yourself participating in one, spellcard duels are a wonderfully unique aspect of Gensokyo, a feature at every major festival, and always a source of news and discussion.

Spellcards themselves are difficult to explain. All at once, they are a game, an artistic endeavor, a means of solving disputes, and an expression of one's power. In the barest terms, a spellcard is a slip of paper into which a kind of power has been imbued. Each spellcard is hand-made, and can only be used by its author.

Originally, cards, staves, scrolls, amulets, and other ordinary objects were used as conduits for magic. Before the official spellcard rules, such power gave its user potential free reign to coerce and extort at their will. The balance of power was held only through the gods’ benevolence and humans designing spells as strong as what the youkai were using.

I heard more chuckling from the crowd. Fuku had finished off her beer in record time, and was now attempting to fly. Her wings flapped out-of-sync with each other, making her stumble and stagger in midair. Whenever she hovered too close to a table, someone shoved her off, making her bounce around like a slow pinball.

She worked her way over to me and collapsed on the table. "Bweeeee-waoooooo," she slurred.

"Give her a push," someone called.

"Push! Push! Pusssssh, hic!" Fuku chanted.

Oh, well. I picked Fuku up and tossed her back towards a table full of drinkers.


Under the spellcard system, however, things are much different. Before the duel, both participants agree to a set number of cards that will be used, and what the wager for the duel will be. This wager only comes with one caveat: human life cannot be listed as the stake.

In a duel, the raw force of a spellcard is secondary to its beauty; in the truest sense, its beauty [i]is
its strength. In other words, a spellcard duel is a battle of the senses. Attacks cannot be repeated, and no attack is based purely on physical stamina. That does not mean, however, that strength plays no part. Sometimes the line isn’t so clearly drawn. For example, an oni once contended that her ability to throw boulders was, quote, 'a work of art.' Such an argument would in fact hold water, as spellcards are not limited solely to magic. The use of extraordinary technology, godly favors, and paraphernalia have been approved for use in spellcards so long as they are thematic and expressive.

In the most recent decade, the spellcard duel has become the de facto way of resolving incidents, the end result benefitting all of Gensokyo. Youkai can whet their appetite for chaos and mischief without killing, and humans gain an edge in defending themselves when provoked. Not to mention conflict is made much more amazing than simple bloodshed this way.

Incidentally, if you find the time, it is highly recommended that you visit the town center during a festival and catch a glimpse of a spellcard duel for yourself. I assure you that it is an inimitable experience.[/i]

The next page had a copy of the official spellcard rules -- which was mostly a stripped-down version of the article – followed by a few pages with prints of spellcards in action. The various patterns certainly looked complicated, but I didn't exactly get an 'inimitable experience' vibe from them. Seeing it in action must have been a lot different. Or maybe I just didn't get it. I was never the tea ceremonies and flower arrangement type.

There was the scraping of wood on wood and a raised voice, and then the sound that every bar-crawler knows: A dozen stools sliding back all at once. My head jerked up reflexively, and I spotted Fuku a couple tables over. She was biting onto someone else's mug, holding onto it with her teeth and both her hands as someone else tried to pry her off of it.

"I worked for this beer, fairy! You won't get one drop of it."

"Mrgrgr," Fuku growled back.

After a brief struggle, he wrenched her off of his mug. Holding her by her feet, he swung her in circles like a baseball until she was a blur, then threw her with all his might.

Despite her small size, she landed with a heavy 'thud' in a nearby herb garden. She staggered to her feet and took a few unsteady steps back towards the bar. Halfway there, she stopped mid-step, bent over, and threw up.

A few people laughed at first, but after that I saw a few people wrinkling their noses and heard a few others mutter "poor girl." A solid minute of puking later, Fuku wiped her mouth, collapsed backwards, and went to sleep right next to the fresh puddle, causing a few more laughs from the crowd.

"I got it," I called, standing up.

A few people watched as I walked over to Fuku, taking care to avoid the vomit puddle, and picked her up. I slung her over my shoulder like a bag of rice, the back of her head hitting my shoulderblade and her legs in the crook of my arm. Once again, the crowd had a mixed reaction: a few chuckles, a few polite there-you-go smiles. An older woman turned to a friend with a cynical smirk saying, "He'll learn soon enough."

Fuku mumbled and coughed as I carried her away from the bar. I walked aimlessly for a bit, something that I had become quite good at. Shoppers and laborers in open-air workshops stared as I passed by. I stopped for a bit to watch some people working on an oil press. Cakes of mashed sesame seeds were stuffed into a wooden tube, and four people pushed a metal-tipped pole of wood as big as a battering ram against the tube. With each push, oil was wrung out of the seeds and gathered in a bucket below. There was something neat about the simplicity and efficiency of old wooden machinery.

With a grunt and a grumble, Fuku came back to the world of the living. "C'mere, why I oughta," she said to nobody.

She sat up on my shoulder, then slid down onto the ground.

"Oh," she said, glancing around with squinted eyes.


She looked away. "Thanks, I guess."

"You're welcome."

After a pause, she jumped up and hovered in the air until she was the same height as me. She stumbled slightly in the air, and I held out my hand to steady her.

"Why're you being so nice to me anyway?" she asked, a mixture of confused, curious, and suspicious.

[ ] "Because you look like a little kid, and I was taught to be nice to kids."
[ ] "Because nobody else wants to be nice to you."
[ ] "Because I know what it's like when everyone else is an asshole."
[ ] "Because why the hell not? I'll be out of here in a couple weeks, tops."
[ ] "Because I'm evil and mischievous. Wahaha."
[ ] "Because nobody else wants to be nice to you." 
[X] Because the voices in my head told me to.
I don't really like this question. Joke vote go!
[x] "Because why the hell not? I'll be out of here in a couple weeks, tops. a Derridean until the day I die."
>[ ] "Because you look like a little kid, and I was taught to be nice to kids."
>[ ] "Because nobody else wants to be nice to you."
"I'm only your friend out of pity."
>[ ] "Because I know what it's like when everyone else is an asshole."
It isn't as bad, but sympathy alone is a pretty poor foundation for a friendship. It isn't like we're just being polite at this point.
>[ ] "Because why the hell not? I'll be out of here in a couple weeks, tops."
"Don't worry, I'm only being nice to you on a whim."
>[ ] "Because I'm evil and mischievous. Wahaha."
Let's just dodge the question! I think Fuku wants a serious answer.

[x] Do I need a reason to be nice to you? It seems to me like being mean to someone just because they're a fairy is a shitty thing to do, regardless of how many see it as the norm. We might have gotten off on the wrong foot, but by now you're certainly a friend to me. What else matters?
[x] I don't need a reason. We're cool, and that's all that matters.
[X] Do I need a reason to be nice to you? It seems to me like being mean to someone just because they're a fairy is a shitty thing to do, regardless of how many see it as the norm. We might have gotten off on the wrong foot, but by now you're certainly a friend to me. What else matters?
A write in convinced me to read.

[X] Do I need a reason to be nice to you? It seems to me like being mean to someone just because they're a fairy is a shitty thing to do, regardless of how many see it as the norm. We might have gotten off on the wrong foot, but by now you're certainly a friend to me. What else matters?
[x] I don't need a reason. We're cool, and that's all that matters.
[x] I don't need a reason. We're cool, and that's all that matters.

We're totally bros, yo. Uh... Siblings, yo.
[x] I don't need a reason. We're cool, and that's all that matters.
Closing votes!

I'm cool. You're cool. We're cool. It's all cool.

[x] I don't need a reason. We're cool, and that's all that matters.
[X] Do I need a reason to be nice to you? It seems to me like being mean to someone just because they're a fairy is a shitty thing to do, regardless of how many see it as the norm. We might have gotten off on the wrong foot, but by now you're certainly a friend to me. What else matters?

It's a good write in and I feel it also explains, why we're friends with her instead of just dodging the question.
Hey folks, you've probably noticed that my update pace has slowed down considerably. I've returned to college this semester, and balancing it with life and writing has been more difficult than I expected. Updates will probably be around every third day for the future.
File 14209562669.jpg - (104.36KB, 640x360, morewordsaboutbuildingsandfood.jpg) [iqdb]
[x] I don't need a reason. We're cool, and that's all that matters.

I thought it over for a minute. It was such an open question that I could say just about anything. As soon as I thought I had an answer, though, the heavy thump of the oil press would bump my stream of thought off-course. They probably weren’t any good anyway.

One particularly hard bump from the press seemed to knock something in place. Who said I needed an answer?

"Let’s just say we’re cool and leave it at that,” I said finally.

It was Fuku's turn to ponder now. She rubbed her chin, trying to form a thought through the booze haze. Now that she wasn’t in the air, she wasn’t wobbling near as much. She looked more hungover than drunk. Fairies must have quite a metabolism to process beer that quickly.

"Yeah,” she said, “we're cool."

"That's all that matters."

"Coo'," Fuku said

I laughed a little. "Coo'."

That nagging question thrown aside, we both went quiet. Our eyes wandered back to the oil pressers who’d been working away all the while, not paying any attention to us.

They were a lot like me just a few days ago, doing their job, keeping their heads down. I was getting used to the rhythm, letting it become background noise. People have an amazing ability to get used to anything. Even fairies.

"Hey Fuku," I spoke up. "Ever heard of high-fives?"

Fuku looked up, tilting her head slightly. "Uh-uh. What are they?"

I bent down, raising an open hand. "Open your palm like this and slap it against mine."

She opened her hand like me. With a tiny grunt, she leaped up to smack my open palm. Not too much of a stinger, but she could put some force behind it.

As soon as her feet touched the ground again, she hunched over. "Oogh, too much moving." She coughed and retched, then dropped the last remains of her stomach on the road, making a tiny puddle.

"Oh, yeesh. You okay?"

"Better," she said, sighing. "Though I could really use some water."

"Is there a well or something around here?"

She massaged her temples and let out a suffering groan. "Blegh, I don't know," she grumbled.

"Hang on, don't move. I'll try to get some water."


I wasn't sure where to look for water, or even if I could find it around here. The oil press made another loud thunk. I'd have to ignore the awkwardness and ask them about it.

I approached them at a careful distance. "Pardon me," I called over. "Sorry to interrupt your work, but do you have a cup of water or anything I could borrow?"

"Ah, sure." One of them, a guy in his thirties with peach-fuzz hair and a prematurely wrinkling face, let go of the press. He gave me a measured smirk when he saw poor Fuku, hunched over near her yark.

"You know how it is," I said. I wasn't sure how it is, but I figured he knew.

He did. "Of course," he said, still smirking as he dunked a ladle into a nearby barrel of water.

I took the ladle without any further comment and hurried back to Fuku. "Here, this should help your stomach."


She quickly finished gulping the water down with a loud ‘ahhhh’. Some color returned to her cheeks, brightening up her complexion. She summoned up the energy to flap her wings and float in the air, then drifted towards the oil pressers. One by one, their eyes turned towards her.

She fidgeted slightly, not used to being seen by that many people. "Th-- Thank you for the water," she said. Her face was furrowed and serious as she almost barked out her thanks.

"No problem. It's just a glass of water," one of them laughed.

"Well, it was still nice. So, there," she said.

Suddenly caught by another thought, Fuku spun around in midair and flew away.

"Where are--" I started to ask.

"Follow," she ordered.

I chased her around the corner, then down a block or so.

"Where are we going?"

"Don't you smell that?" She turned around to face me and nearly flew right into a house. She swerved to the right and kept going.

After a minute of following her, I caught a whiff of something. Something familiar and delicious. As we rounded one more corner, Fuku came to a stop in front of one of the largest buildings I'd seen so far. It might have been as big as the Buddhist temple from earlier. The smell of soy sauce was overwhelming, so thick it felt like it was being poured directly up my nose.

The doors of the building were wide open, letting the steam float away in the summer heat. A worker was laying heavy stone weights on top of a square wooden box. The dark brown liquid emptied out through the cloth on the bottom of the box, into large barrels below.

A gaggle of kids and teenagers lingered outside the door, pushing and shoving each other to be closest to the front, Fuku along with them. A middle-aged woman with a friendly face that was starting to get some spots had stacks of rice crackers for sale. She raised an eyebrow when she saw Fuku.

"No free samples," she said.

"I wasn't touching nothin'." Fuku crossed her arms.

My stomach gave a little growl at the delicious smell. Rice crackers and soy sauce sounded pretty good, and I had worked off lunch doing all that running around. I could spring for some, I told myself. I'd just mark it up as a food expense. After paying for the beer, I was at six-hundred and five yen. I'd round it down to a nice, even six hundred by buying some rice crackers.

All this thinking about snacks -- as Fuku hungrily stared through the open doors of the soy brewery -- reminded me of Kasen. She always seemed to be munching on something when I ran into her. I wondered if I should take a look for her after this. Given my luck, she’d probably bump into me as soon as I went looking. Gensokyo did seem to run on coincidences, after all.

[ ] Go looking for her after snacking.
[ ] Not now. Find something else to do.
[x] Go looking for her after snacking.
[X] Not now. Find something else to do.
[x] Go looking for her after snacking.

Nom, rice crackers.
[x] Go looking for her after snacking.
Closing votes!

[x] Go looking for her after snacking.

As a little thank-you to you all for sticking with me through my erratic schedule, have a very silly thing.
File 142103239110.png - (758.36KB, 1000x1000, sprung.png) [iqdb]
The Road of Liminality, Gensokyo's path to the afterlife, may have been even louder and busier than the Human Village. Near its end, within sight of the Sanzu River, all manner of living, dead, and ageless creatures bought trinkets and baubles, enjoyed performances, and filled the road of the dead with a surprising amount of life.

Further up on the road, Lily White, a squat blonde fairy in a dress as white and ruffled as the last snow of winter, was playing shogi. She was seated on her knees, casting an onion-shaped shadow away from the lantern-lights of the stands. She bounced on her knees and brushed her long hair out of her eyes as she waited for her opponent to make her move.

That opponent was Shizuha Aki, a pale beanpole of a goddess. Unlike her sister Minoriko, who was lucky enough to be the plump, sociable goddess of the fall harvest, Shizuha was tasked with the changing of the leaves. While not a thankless job, its symbolism of death and decay was clear enough to the people of Gensokyo that they gave her a wide berth, and in return she had developed a certain misanthropic streak.

"Sorry for interrupting. What were you saying?" Shizuha asked as she scooted a pawn forward on the board.

"Right, so!" Lily chirped, "Certainly Confucianism makes many mentions of tian, which can loosely be translated as 'heaven', as in 'looking to the heavens'. It was a political symbol as much as a religious one, and its meaning changed over the dynasties. A not uncommon phenomenon when divine right to rule is an aspect of a religious system. Though Confucius alludes to the Mandate of Heaven as a metaphysical ethical system whose will must -- or ought to -- be followed by human agents, it would be premature to use this to claim that Confucianism is a 'religion', per se. Rather, the belief in the Mandate of Heaven far preceded Confucius, and the Analects are more of a philosophical and societal doctrine which exists within the religious framework of Heaven."

"Right," Shizuha said.

"In fact, Xunzi, one of the most important Confucian scholars aside from Confucius himself, proposed that Heaven as a divine force did not exist," Lily slid a lance forward, "and the signs of a ruler having lost his mandate, namely, the usual forms of natural disasters such as floods and typhoons, were simply nature at work. Instead, it was when such disasters wreaked exceptional havoc, perhaps, for example, because a corrupt ruler had skimped when funding the construction of dams, dykes, and irrigation projects, that it became clear that the ruler wasn't doing their job properly. In this sense, Xunzi dismisses Heaven as a common logical fallacy. If you pray for rain long enough, eventually it will rain, because it always rains eventually, whether you pray or not. In the same sense, natural disasters only become catastrophes when poor management exacerbates their effects. However, even so, he recognized the societal importance of ritual. It's a remarkably pragmatic and humane approach to what could be described as proto-atheism, recognizing the innate importance of communal events and the uniting power of shared belief, whether or not those beliefs hold any basis in reality."

"Mhm." Shizuha captured one of Lily's pawns.

"Perhaps the differing views could be synthesized, and Heaven could be a sort of secular yet metaphysical ideal, like when people talk about capital-T Truth or capital-B Beauty. Such a concept would--"

Lily stopped suddenly. A sudden fog appeared behind her, and through it stepped a tall, ghostly-pale woman, her figure hidden under thick layers of purple and white cloth.

"Ahh, damn fine freezing that was." The figure shook some snow off of her hat. "Anyway, March is about halfway done. You know what that means."

Lily sat straight upright, then began to tremble like an overworked heater.

"It's... it's..." she murmured.

"Here it comes." Shizuha knelt away and raised her arms in front of her face.

"It's..." Lily's trembling turned into shaking, like a runaway washing machine.

"It's spring," the woman behind her said.

"IP'S SPLERNG!" Lily screamed. She flew up from her seat as though a spring had launched her.

"IB'S SPLORNG! IB'S SPRERNG!" She bounced back and forth like she was constantly hitting invisible walls, her limbs trailing behind her like a ragdoll's as she flew uncontrollably, letting out explosive crackles each time she changed direction.

"ERG'S SPLURNG! ARP'S SPLANG!" Her violent jerking began to point her in a certain direction, zigzagging her inch by inch away from the world of the dead and towards the world of the living.

"Thank Heaven. I was afraid she'd never shut up," Shizuha said.

Letty heaved out a sigh. Her back creaked as she sat on her knees, taking Lily's place. She looked over the board and let out another long-suffering sigh.

"Lily's so shit at shogi."
I thought that was pretty great.
ITTTSSSS SPPPPRRRRIIIINNNNGGGG-Not, there's still 3 more months.

Left in some proofreading notes.

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[x] Go looking for her after snacking.

Right, I thought to myself. I'd already had enough loose ends and mysteries piling up. After a little snack, I'd see if I could find her.

I waited in line for rice crackers for a few minutes. I felt out of place, looming at least a head taller over all the teenagers in line.

"How much'll five yen get me?" I asked when it was my turn.

"Ten." The rice cracker lady started counting up the palm-sized discs.

I had a sudden good idea, which was a rare surprise. Kasen seemed to always be snacking on something or other when she was around the village. Maybe she had a taste for rice crackers, too.

"Seen a hermit around, by any chance? Pink hair with buns, about this tall?" I brought my hand up to around my ear.

"Yeah. Don't get too many customers like that."

I passed her the money. "Does she usually come here, then?" The kid next in line jostled me.

"Sometimes. You'll might find her soon enough if you wait around here." She passed me the crackers.

"Great, thanks." I stepped to the side and let the impatient ten-year-old behind me get his turn.

One of the muscular workers, possibly a foreman, given that he was relatively free of sweat, brought out a small bucket of soy sauce. The kids linked up again, dunking their crackers in. Seeing some of them dipping their grubby pubescent fingers in the bucket making me grimace. Not that I wasn’t going to take advantage of it anyway. A little finger-grease isn't enough to steer me away from free toppings.

Not even when I saw people inside working in nothing but loincloths as they mashed up piles of soybeans for the next batch. For all the things that were quaint and wonderful about Gensokyo, I definitely missed modern food regulation.

Fuku exercised some patience for once and resisted the urge to start eating until we both had our turn to dip. Even if it was a little dubious, having soy sauce minutes after it was made was a whole different world from the bottled stuff. Despite all the fingers that went into it, it tasted clean and smooth, almost a little whiskey-like with the wooden barrels giving it some extra flavor. Money well spent, in my opinion.

The crowd scattered, the kids all going back to their families or jobs or whatever they did around here. I leaned against a nearby wall and waited, trying not to look like a loiterer. The peddler lady handed a share of the profits back to the workshop. A nice little mutually beneficial relationship.

Someone walked quickly towards me. I recognized the loose clothing, and the thin build that made him look taller than he really was. It was the guy who wanted my clothes from days before. Before I could even wave or say hello, he got right next to me.

"Ah, good to see you again."

"Hey, I--"

"I'm sure those old clothes must be bothering you. Let me take them off your hands. You see..." he trailed off and smiled, laying it on as thick as he could without saying it.

"Hey! I'm the only one who gets to pants him," Fuku said.

His smile made me uncomfortable, like his hopes and dreams depended on getting some random guy's strange clothes. I shuffled away from him, grabbing my almanac and raising it up to my chest like a shield. "Hey, look..."

His eyes lit up when he saw the book. "Ahh, how's she doing?"


He moved to put a hand on my shoulder, then stopped just an inch away. I felt a chill, like he was holding a bag of ice. He jerked his hand back. "How's the business?"

"Excuse me, sir."

There was a slight breeze as Kasen flew down and landed behind him. Well, that's one way to find someone. Kasen put a hand on his shoulder. She put some stink on the 'sir,' like a club bouncer.

"Pardon me, ma'am?" He turned around, confused.

"I'd rather you not bother him."

"I was just asking him a few questions, that's all." He stiffened and reached to pat me on the shoulder again, but Kasen snatched his wrist.

"Please don't touch him."

He bristled. "We can talk about this later. I'd hate to get in the way of her business," he said, thick with sarcasm as he turned and left, silently making a show out of it.

"What a weirdo," I muttered.

"He's a ghost," Kasen said.

"Is… Is that some kind of slang?"

"No, he's a genuine ghost. Try not to let him touch you."

I shook my head. "A ghost? A ghost ghost? But he was all... not like a ghost."

"He could've punched you and you wouldn't have felt a thing. Well, you wouldn't feel anything right away, but getting touched by a ghost means bad stuff for humans."

But her hermitly magics must have protected her, I assumed.

"Did I get cursed?"

"No, but I'd advise you to stay away from him. I don't know the full story, but apparently years and years ago his family ran a business that was starting to fold. The rest of the family jumped ship and found work elsewhere, but he stuck it out and kept trying to keep the family business afloat 'til the day he died. Penniless. He was so stubborn he wouldn't even let death stop him from trying to make a wealthy, prosperous business for himself."

Fuku followed him, floating above his head. She kept reaching down, trying to grab at his topknot, but each time she seemed to grab it, it slipped out of her fingers.

"This is bullshit," she shouted after her tenth attempt.

He looked up at her in surprise. "Get off! And stop messing with the hair."

He swatted at her. Fuku raised her arms. Even though it looked like his hand touched her, there was no sound, and she didn't budge.

"I'll be damned," I whispered. "He's a ghost."

Kasen crossed her arms. With the stern looks she could give out, it didn't feel like she was shorter than me. "Did you practice trying to sense things, like I asked?"


Kasen cranked the sternness up a notch.

"I mean, sort of. W-Well, you didn't exactly 'ask' me to. It was more of a suggestion, from your tone. It was open-ended."

"Don't move," she said, then turned and vanished with a gust of wind. I expected to hear a cartoony 'pyeoow' sound every time she did that.

Fuku came floating back. "Lousy ghosts. Can't even mess with their hair."

Kasen reappeared. In her non-bandaged hand, she had what looked like a half-dozen white balloons filled with solid smoke.

"What are--"

"Phantom spirits. Think fast." She tossed one at me.

[ ] ITEM
[ ] RUN

Good catch, thank you.

Close eyes and hope sparkly things appear
[x] ITEM
Phoenix Down! Phoenix Down!
Closing votes!

Do you believe in [x]MAGIC?
File 142148056757.jpg - (168.81KB, 850x1133, thinkfast.jpg) [iqdb]

This is it, Iwao. This is my moment. All the signs I've got so far say that I'm here for bizarre, super-special reasons. This is going to be the moment where, driven by some innate power, I unleash my true potential and become a mighty wizard.

I shut my eyes and thrust my arms out. I felt an intense electric tingle, followed by something cold.

Ice powers! This is it, I must be a mighty ice wizard, capable of freezing entire holy shit that's cold.

My eyes snapped open. As it turned out, all I had accomplished was sticking my hands right into the phantom hovering in front of me. It wiggled a little like I'd just tickled it. I yanked my hands out before they got frostbitten.

Right, so I might not have been able to sling icicles. Yet. But I knew someone who could probably use a little magic.

"Fuku!" I hollered and grabbed her. I held her up in front of me, aiming her at the phantom.

"Sha-pow!" She pushed at the air. With a loud pop, a burst of tiny magic beads, like a wad of buckshot, sprayed out.

The bullets phased right through their targets, then lost their momentum and fell to the ground, crackling and leaving tiny craters as they landed. The unharmed phantom wriggled and looped about in the air, floating in circles. If it had a voice, I guessed it’d probably be giggling its tail off. Or maybe it was just surprised.

Kasen loosened her grip just a tad and let one more phantom go free. "Try again."

"Right, no good." I pushed Fuku aside.

I stared down the phantom, assuming it could see. It drew closer to me, and I backed away until I hit a wall. I lifted the almanac over my head and swung it down. Maybe the book had magic properties.

Nope. The book passed right through it. The phantom seemed to turn slightly gray and moved right in front of my face while its partner came close to me.

"Whatever you're planning, please don't," I said. I felt something in the pit of my stomach. Not quite panic, not quite sadness, just a big lump of weird in my gut.

I tried to stay calm, but something about them, even though they were just floating blobs, made my hair stand on end. I stood as still as a statue for what felt like hours as they continued floated around me. Whether they were toying with me or just hadn't noticed me, I couldn’t tell.

When I heard a yelp, I knew they had certainly noticed someone else. Kasen had let the other three phantoms go and they were surrounding Fuku, one of them rubbing against her cheek like a dog.

"Kasen," I said. Through the phantoms I could just barely see her put her hands on her hips. "What do I do?"

"Stand up for yourself," Kasen shot back.

For a split-second I thought she was insulting me, but then I had a flashback. A very dramatic one. I must lean into the crazy.

I turned away and crossed my arms. "Oh, p'shaw. Go away, phantoms." I waved them away. "I don't care for you."

After a few silent seconds of pretending not to care, curiosity got the better of me and I looked over my shoulder. The phantoms were pointed at each other, as if asking each other ‘What's up with that asshole?’ A few feet away, the three other phantoms were playing monkey in the middle with Fuku as the ball.

"Wheee!" she cried as she bounced between them. Apparently, all species are fond of fairyball.

The two phantoms near me decided that I was no fun anymore, so they turned and floated off. As soon as they left the shadow of the house behind me, they fizzled and turned to smoke.

"Whoa, yikes." I jumped back. "They just died."

"They were already dead. They just came to terms with it," Kasen said.

The other phantoms turned, shocked at their friends' disappearance. I ran forward and caught Fuku before she fell to the ground.

"Aw, shucks. I didn't know you cared." She smiled, her lip curling slightly in the middle like a cat.

"I figured you've been through enough today." I set her down and watched as the other three phantoms wandered aimlessly and dissolved one by one.

"C minus at best," Kasen said, "but at least you managed to figure it out. A little confidence goes a long way in Gensokyo."

"What was the point of that, even?"

"You want to know how to make it in Gensokyo, don't you?" She raised an eyebrow. "You'll need to stay safe."

That use of future tense made me worry, but I knew just by looking at her that she wouldn't give me any more details.

"Anyway, good job on passing your test for now. Stay vigilant and keep learning. How'd the visit with Reimu go, by the way?"

I sighed and scratched my neck. "I gave her a ‘nominal fee’ to talk with Yukari about sending me back. Then I fixed some guy's typewriter and made most of that money back."

"Huh. Well done. Sounds like you're doing alright for yourself."

"When people aren't throwing ghosts at me, yes."

"Phantoms," Kasen corrected me. "And besides, now you've got some extra experience to your name." She shifted on her feet. "Mind if I leave you be, then?"

"So soon?"

She looked off behind me, then back at me. "You've got another visitor. I shouldn't keep her waiting."

"Oh, dear."

"Take care. And, remember, I'm only vaguely affiliated with you." Kasen turned and left, soon out of sight behind a building.

I looked up and let out a quiet groan. A pair of black wings flapped nearby, obviously a tengu circling close. In seconds, an old friend touched down right in front of me with a flourish.

I'd have recognized that round forehead anywhere. It was the crow tengu reporter from Amaden: the one who'd written about my domestication at the hands of a certain fairy.

Fuku's eyes lit up. She must've recognized her too. "Let me tell you all the details," she said.

"Not a chance in hell," I said back.

"Part two. Human captive fights against tyrannical fairy reign, struggles to break free from his bondage." The reporter scribbled down notes, her hand moving so fast it became a blur.

"Why not just write fiction, if you're going to make things up?"

"The truth is inherently subjective. I can only provide my perspective on the things I see and hear." She finished writing something with a long swipe across the notepad for emphasis.

Translation: ‘I’m no better than a tabloid writer.’

"Who are you, anyway?" I asked, carefully glancing around for any possible escape route.

She stopped writing and looked hurt for a second. "You didn't read my card?"

Right, she did give me a card earlier. I dug the now crumpled wad out of my pocket, noting her sour face as I unfolded it.

Teru Fumii
Editor-in-chief, Correspondent, Publisher
Mountain Sentinel

"Well, Miss Fumii, I was a little too busy being enslaved by Fuku, if you remember."

"Aha, her name is Fuku!" She started writing again.

"I come from a long line of Fukus. My mother was a Fuku, as was her mother before her." Fuku stuck her chin up, beaming with pride.

”Fairies have mothers,” the reporter whispered breathlessly to herself. "This is good stuff."

It's a shame the almanac didn't mention how gullible the tengu were -- or how gullible this one was, at least.

[ ] Tell some small lies. Give her a story so she leaves.
[ ] Tag-team with Fuku. Feed her the most ridiculous lies you can imagine.
[ ] Let Fuku go crazy with whatever her little head can come up with.
[ ] Just ignore her. Her ego seems too fragile to bother you for too long.
[x] Tag-team with Fuku. Feed her the most ridiculous lies you can imagine.
Go big or go home.
[x] Tag-team with Fuku. Feed her the most ridiculous lies you can imagine.
[x] When she catches on, offer to give her a real interview at some point in the future (not today) if she behaves herself in regard to you.

Just fucking with her seems a bit mean. If we can make proper acquaintance with her, though, she might be a valuable source of information regarding rumors.
[X] Tag-team with Fuku. Feed her the most ridiculous lies you can imagine.
Fairy death cult, slowly turning humans into fairies with the power of dark magic.
[x] Tag-team with Fuku. Feed her the most ridiculous lies you can imagine.
[x] When she catches on, offer to give her a real interview at some point in the future (not today) if she behaves herself in regard to you.

I was going to go with something different, but I kind of like this. There's no telling if dear Miss Fumii might be of some help to Iwao later.
[x] Tag-team with Fuku. Feed her the most ridiculous lies you can imagine.
[x] When she catches on, offer to give her a real interview at some point in the future (not today) if she behaves herself in regard to you.
[x] Tag-team with Fuku. Feed her the most ridiculous lies you can imagine.
[x] When she catches on, offer to give her a real interview at some point in the future (not today) if she behaves herself in regard to you.

We need more companions. More companions = more... stuff.
Closing votes!

[x] Tag-team with Fuku. Feed her the most ridiculous lies you can imagine.
[x] When she catches on, offer to give her a real interview at some point in the future (not today) if she behaves herself in regard to you.
File 14217339854.jpg - (151.79KB, 600x650, Teru is this but older.jpg) [iqdb]
[x] Tag-team with Fuku. Feed her the most ridiculous lies you can imagine.
[x] When she catches on, offer to give her a real interview at some point in the future (not today) if she behaves herself in regard to you.

While Teru was distracted scribbling things down, Fuku and I shared a knowing glance. She wanted a story? We'd give her a story alright.

"You know Nostradamus, right?" I began.

"Of course!" Teru lifted her head. The sunlight gleamed off of the rims of her glasses and the top of her forehead.

I wasn't sure if Nostradamus ever said anything about fairies, but I was sure her mind was already churning with verses about dethroned kings and the natural order being reversed.

"Are you perhaps receiving some sort of divine punishment?" Teru offered.

"Well, it all started with an explosion in Neo Tokyo..."

Teru raised an eyebrow and grinned. Her large teeth joined in the gleam-fest. Her pen raced across the page, her own (no doubt cockamamie) thoughts practically spilling out of her dome-like forehead onto it.

"Iwao told me all about it!" Fuku jumped in, literally, wedging herself between me and Teru. "Fairies re-entered the public consciousness of the Outside World."


"Not too much, but juuuust enough for a couple fairies to start sneaking around. You know, causing havoc and whatnot."

"As fairies do." Teru flipped through her journal's pages so hard she nearly ripped them off. "But if you don't mind my asking--"

"Hang on, let me finish. Secretly, subtly, bit by bit, we started rearranging the social order. Little things, see..."

"Rich people get tans, and pale people are considered socially maladjusted," I added.

Fuku slapped my shoulder. "Yeah, like that!"

"What's this new Outside World like?" Teru leaned in. If she wasn’t hanging onto every line we fed her before, we’d hooked her good now.

"Monsters," I said, bumping Fuku over as I spread my arms wide. "Big, radioactive monsters. Roving motorcycle gangs."

She paused for a moment but quickly kept on writing. "Did the bakufu really fall with the emperor taking its place? Many in Gensokyo seem to have accepted that as fact, but…"

Right, I reminded myself. Her frame of reference was less nuclear apocalypses and more peasant revolts.

"It super fell. The new emperor is a dinosaur with swords for arms." Fuku made chopping gestures with her arms.

There was a loud scratching sound. Teru held her pen in the air, way past the end of the page. Her brows were furrowed and her mouth was shut. She flipped the notebook closed. I made a reel-it-back gesture to Fuku, who looked ready to launch back into it.

"Right, I should've figured you'd feed me a line of crap," Teru said quietly, stuffing her pen in her shirt pocket. I had expected anger, but her face fell and she let her arms hang at her sides. "Sorry I asked." She turned around and looked up.

I had started the whole thing hoping she'd just get angry at me and we'd all have a big laugh about it afterwards. I didn't expect her to actually be invested in it.

"Wait," I said as her wings fanned out.

"What?" It came out as a half-hearted growl, barely enough anger in it to sound annoyed. She barely turned her head to look over her shoulder at me.

"I -- we -- will give you the full story, no fooling. Not right now, but later. Soon."

Her head lifted up. "You mean it?"

"Yeah. Just give me a chance to tell the whole honest truth from the beginning and I'll give you what you want. The real story is pretty good anyway."

She turned around to face me. "Alright." A smile returned to her mouth, and she whipped her pen back out, tapping it on the edge of her lips. "Soon as in tomorrow?"

"Sure, so long as I don't have any other major catastrophes. I have a way of getting involved in everything by accident."

"Maybe I'll save you when you get yourself into trouble." She tapped her pen on my forehead. "And then you'll owe me the true story and then some."

"Ow. Deal." I touched my forehead.

Teru looked behind her, ready to leave, then stopped. "Promise you'll take me seriously?" she asked.

"Um. Sure." As seriously as I could, anyway.

She raised a finger to say something, then cycled through her emotions, from anger to happiness, and then a resigned heave of her shoulders. "It'd be a first."

I risked patting her on the shoulder. "Hey, I know the feeling."

She made a sad half-smile, and Fuku floated close to us. We had a silent bond, three schmucks united in their efforts to be taken seriously.

"See you around," I said.

"Yeah, later." Teru clicked her pen and stowed her journal away, then stepped back and leaped into the air. I watched as her wide black wings flapped in the sky. What a great way to travel.

Hang on, I thought, if she was so 'invested' in the story, why did she make up the first article to begin with?

"Fuku?" I said.


"Did she just play me?"

"Maybe. If she did, then she played you like a cheap flute." Fuku bit her lower lip and grinned until her cheeks puffed out.

"Oh, well. I'll count this as a good deed anyway." I cracked my knuckles. "First a ghost, then Kasen, then a tengu. I'd say I’ve had my fill of visitors for the day. I'm gonna go read. You got anywhere you want to go for the next half-hour or so?"

"Well, uh," Fuku fidgeted. "Would you mind reading to me? I mean, if I have you read stuff to me, I can hold a tactical edge over other fairies."

I chuckled. "Sure. I'll read you The Art of War after this."

"Yesss." She pumped a fist.

"Let's go by Keine's place. Seems like a good place for some education."


I had done enough wandering that I only got lost a couple times on the way to finding Keine's house. My hope was we could get away with some loitering. As it turned out, though, Keine was busy in her garden, picking fresh heads of cabbage and cucumbers. Even with a large straw hat and a sleeveless blue dress, she looked more like she was pretending to be a farmer. She straightened up and looked at us.

"Oh, uh, hi," I said with my trademark smile, equal parts harmless and brainless. I took out the almanac and pointed to it. "We were going to do some book-learning, so I figured we'd come here."

Keine looked at me like she had a question for me. Probably more than one. Instead, she sighed and took off her hat. "Alright, I'll get some tea going."

"No, you really don't have to-- I mean, we just came to read, and..."

Fuku dropped onto my shoulder. "Yes, please. And grill some of that eggplant while you’re at it."

Keine bore down on Fuku with the full might of her maternal glower, then passed by her and went into her house.

"She was this close to bopping you," I said as soon as Keine was out of earshot.

"That means I won." Fuku smirked and crossed her arms, nodding at her own tactical brilliance.

I bopped Fuku on the head with my book. I was a teacher now, and that was almost like having diplomatic immunity.

"Let's get to reading before you find some more trouble."

"Right." She landed on the ground, sat down and crossed her legs. It was easy to forget how short she actually was when she spent so much time in the air. I sat down across from her and cleared my throat.

"So, would you like to learn about..."

[ ] Chapter 1: Gensokyo From Above
-- [ ] The Capital
-- [ ] Hamlets and Provinces
-- [ ] The Great River
-- [ ] The Outskirts

[ ] Chapter 2: Gensokyo From The Ground
-- [ ] Economics
-- [ ] Government
-- [ ] Notable Persons
-- [ ] Our Shared View

[ ] Chapter 3: The Four Occupations
-- [ ] Administration and Government
-- [ ] Farming the Blessed Lands
-- [ ] Artisans and Crafters
-- [ ] Merchantry

[ ] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [ ] Organized Defenses Against Invasion
-- [ ] The Everyman's Duty for Protection
-- [ ] Shrines, Seals, and Magical Protection
-- [ ] Spellcard Duels

[ ] Chapter 5: A New Era: Cooperation with Youkai
-- [ ] The Tengu
-- [ ] The Kappa
-- [ ] Common Spirits
-- [ ] Trade With The Mountain
[x] Chapter 5: A New Era: Cooperation with Youkai
-- [x] The Kappa

Oops, sorry. I forgot to cross that one off. The kappa chapter was in the previous thread.

Blame Iwao, he's bad at record-keeping.
[X] Organized Defenses Against Invasion

This is the most entertaining one, I would imagine. Or, at least, it sounds entertaining, which could lul her into a false sense of security.
[x] Chapter 3: The Four Occupations
-- [x] Farming the Blessed Lands

Good little faeries learn how to farm.
[X] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [X] Organized Defenses Against Invasion
Sunny Milk's the Art of Levity
[x] Organized Defenses Against Invasion

reimu, marisa and sanae are very organized
Closing votes!

[X] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [X] Organized Defenses Against Invasion
File 142216310759.jpg - (206.83KB, 800x1200, 3e25e9f6503b8765adaefabb47a0d4d0.jpg) [iqdb]
[X] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [X] Organized Defenses Against Invasion

"Aha, you might like this. It's all about how the humans defend themselves against youkai."

"Insider tech." Fuku rubbed her chin and raised an eyebrow.

"Ahem hem hem..."

Though we Gensokyoans are a strong bunch, it would be irresponsible to lay the burden of our defense on every villager’s shoulder. To this end, a village guard, centered in the village proper, was established long ago, composed of the best and most capable warriors available. That is not to say they are a meritocracy, however. All able-bodied humans are welcome to join, counting not just men but also many women amongst the ranks, but most will never be in a leading position. In order to be considered for leadership, one has to claim a particularly heroic bloodline. This limits the number of such positions heavily, maintaining a stable, hereditary line. That said, some isolated hamlets do lack this encumbrance, considering the relatively small reserves needed allow for a more lax structure.

"That explains why the gate guards always seem so grouchy. They need better dads," Fuku said.

"Yep. Nepotism at work."

"What's nepotism?"

"Good dads." I chuckled and continued reading.

The central guard, totalling a few hundred people, functions as Gensokyo's militia. At the base are watchmen and patrolmen, taking care of the day-to-day safety of the village's inhabitants. Above that are captains, each responsible for the training and scheduling of ten watchmen. Leading them are six militia heads who answer to the village council. They are responsible for maintaining the status of the guard as a whole, a position which some outsiders have likened to 'PR'.

The services of the Gensokyo militia are only needed in extreme circumstances; our strong sense of collaborative defense is enough to handle most minor incidents. In case of greater threats, the safety of mankind is trusted to the Hakurei shrine maiden. Thankfully, Gensokyoans are a pious bunch, and thanks to regular tribute and prayers, Inari, Bishamonten, Hachiman, and other mighty gods are likely to defend us and come to our aid should all else fail.

I looked up at Fuku. "Do they really do that? Have you ever seen that? Hachiman shooting down out of the sky and stuff?"

She hummed in thought. "Not that I ever saw."

Finally, spellcard duels contribute to Gensokyo's defense as well. Not simply a gentleman's agreement, a spellcard duel, once agreed upon, is magically binding. The mechanisms of this are too complicated to all but the most mentally and magically gifted persons, so suffice it to say that the widespread propagation of spellcard rules has been an immeasurable boon to us.

There was a drawings of old heroes saving humans from big, scary youkai. One in particular stuck out to me: a muscle-y guy hanging from a building by one hand, holding his bow in his other hand and drawing the string with his foot. On the ground below him, a grotesque youkai with blood-red skin and tangled white hair had an arrow stuck through his head. The big hands of the archer reminded me of Mr. Sen.

I showed the picture to Fuku. Her eyes went wide. "That is badass!"

She snatched the book out of my hands and flipped through the pictures. She gasped. "This guy has two swords! And this guy has a really big sword!"

Someone came floating towards us on the other end of Keine's yard. She looked like an exceptionally tall fairy, the size and shape of a teenager in the middle of a growth spurt. Her wings weren't the usual misty blue color, but actual thin white wings attached to her back with what looked like gold trim.

"Excuse me, are you the outsider Iwao?" she asked.

"Me? Yeah, how did you know?"

"Some of the other fairies were talking about you and saying you're a jerk. But, I, uh… um, I-I just wanted to say, um…" Her wings buzzed. She moved her arms without direction, trying and failing to communicate with body language. After a few seconds of flailing, she raised up her fists and squeezed her eyes shut. "I saw you reading to her and being nice, s-so... t-thank you for being nice to fairies!" she yelped as though it was tortured out of her.

"You're welcome," I said as calmly as I could to keep her from having a heart attack.

Fuku jumped up and floated until she was eye-level with the new fairy. "Hey, it's her! Remember who me and Keine were talking about, the boring green-haired fairy?"

"B-boring?" she gasped.

"And a wuss! She gets scared so easily."

"Am not, and do not!" She stuck her fists up and squeezed her lips together.

"Ahem, is that shouting I hear?"

Keine stepped out from her house with a tray of teacups. Fuku and the other fairy froze, instantly becoming frightened students from Keine's stern voice.

"Hello, Dai-dai," Keine said, her face brightening.

"Hi, Miss Keine," the new fairy called back.

A snicker slipped out of me. She was taller than the other fairies I'd seen, sure, but 'Dai-dai' was a pretty impressive title.

"This is Iwao," Keine pointed to me, "and Fuku."

"Hello. I'm... well, I'm the fairy of clovers, but everyone calls me Daiyousei 'cause I'm so tall." She bowed. Something about her politeness weirded me out, as if Keine was going to hurt her if she didn't do it right. Or maybe she was just naturally fidgety.

"What were you up to?" Keine asked me as she passed out cups of green tea.

"I was just reading to--"

"Check this out!" Fuku pushed the book in Daiyousei's face. "This guy is shooting an arrow upside-down!"

Daiyousei flinched and shrank away. "Personal space, please."

Keine sat down next to me. "Do you know about the summer festival coming up?"

"Can't say I do."

She watched Fuku and Daiyousei for a minute like a parent at the park. "It's a big event." She sipped at her tea.

"Will there be spellcard duels?"

She chuckled and took another sip. "Of course. Probably quite a few, along with some other things. Did that book mention anything about fake kidnappings?"

"I don't think so."

"It's a silly thing, honestly." She sighed. "Just because humans aren't in constant combat with youkai doesn't mean we should do such silly things as staging kidnappings. Humans need to keep a healthy fear of youkai."

Fuku and Daiyousei had calmed down, and Daiyousei was flipping through the pages, sounding out a few characters she recognized.

"Aren't you a..." I began, then trailed off.

"It's complicated." Keine finished her tea. "The relationship between youkai and humans can't be summed up in a few sentences. Think about it this way: I'm a teacher, and as such I contribute to the village. But everyone thinks twice before crossing a stern teacher, even the adults."

She glared at me, and I backed away, shielding my forehead. "See?" she said, laughing at my reaction.

"Point taken." For a very brief moment, I thought she might have really wanted to headbutt me. That’s a teacher for you.

"Anyway,” she went on, leaning back on the veranda, “I brought it up for a reason. I can't say with any certainty, but I have a feeling one of the festival organizers might propose you as a target."

I looked down at my cup. "I don't know what to say."

"You're the perfect victim, after all. People are already mentioning you just because you're new and mysterious."

"Heh. Me being mysterious. There’s a funny idea." I drank my tea before it got too cold. "Will they come up to me on the street and ask me or something?"

Keine cleared her throat. "In a sense, yes."

"I mean, it will be my choice whether I do it or not, right?"

"Like I said, I don't like the whole affair either." Keine put her hands up and shook her head.

"What should I do?"

"You'll be fine, don't worry. Every fake kidnapping has gone without a scratch so far. The worst part'll be being the center of attention when it's done. And again, this is all if they actually choose you."

Oof. How did she know I didn't like being the center of attention?

"Say I get chosen," I said.

[ ] "How do I make absolutely sure I don't get hurt?"
[ ] "Who do I complain to?"
[ ] "Could I use it to my advantage?"
[ ] "How do I get un-chosen?"
[X] "How do I make absolutely sure I don't get hurt?"
[X] "Could I use it to my advantage?"

Yeah even if it's a "fake kidnapping" who's to say occasional slipups don't happen? Some youkai have a definition of "play" that's a little too rough for humans.

As for my other choice, well how can we use being the center of attention as an advantage here?
[x] "Who do I complain to?"

I wanna talk to the manager!
[x] "How do I make absolutely sure I don't get hurt?"
[x] "Could I use it to my advantage?"

Maybe they'll have boilers that need repairing.
[x] "What would happen if I were rescued by a group of fairies fighting for justice?"
-[x] "Non-violently, of course."
[X] "Who do I complain to?
[x] "How do I make absolutely sure I don't get hurt?"
[x] "Could I use it to my advantage?"
[x] "How do I make absolutely sure I don't get hurt?"
[x] "Could I use it to my advantage?"
[X] "Could I use it to my advantage?"
Closing votes!

The plot thickens.

[x] "How do I make absolutely sure I don't get hurt?"
[x] "Could I use it to my advantage?"
I've got a biology exam this Thursday, so this update is going to wait for a couple days.
I still believe!
Oh ye gods, I'm sorry for letting this thread sit for so long, and without a hint of activity.

Long story short, I tanked the aforementioned Biology exam, and for the past month I've been retripling my college efforts. I got a nice B- on the midterms!

Of course, that led to the thread going quiet for a while, but I promise I haven't forgot about you guys. I'm glad you like the story and I genuinely enjoy writing. I can't make any promises for the next update (oh god papers due) but rest assured that I'm going to see Iwao's story through to the end.
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[x] "How do I make absolutely sure I don't get hurt?"
[x] "Could I use it to my advantage?"

"So, um..." I took a slow, pensive sip of tea. "Nobody's been hurt so far, you say."

Keine took off her hat. Her hair fell down her shoulders in a tangle that stopped at her waist, slightly matted with sweat from the heat. "Here's how it goes: During a festival, usually in the early afternoon, a youkai swoops in and kidnaps a human."

I fidgeted in my seat. Adjusting to the matter-of-fact tone people used when talking about getting spirited away was still a struggle.

"The human usually has something subtle to mark their role, a hairstyle or patch," Keine continued. "The youkai kidnaps the human and takes them to an agreed-upon place. That's where they give the youkai a reward to keep them honest."

A loud yelp caused me to almost spill my tea. I looked up and saw Fuku chasing Dai back and forth as they flew some feet up in the air. The clover-colored fairy squeaked and yelped like a frightened animal every time Fuku got close. Meanwhile, Fuku cackled, holding her hands up like a hungry monster and letting out a high-pitched bellow.

I looked at Keine. "Should we...?"

Keine sighed and shook her head. "Dai-dai needs to learn to stand up for herself sooner or later."

"What a weird fairy."

"You're telling me." She shrugged her shoulders and took a seat, propped up on her hands with her legs stretched out in front of her. "Anyway, moving on, some time passes after the kidnapping while the militia captains put on a show pretending to fret over the kidnapped human and plan their attack. Someone owed a big favor by a captain or council member's picked to lead it. He calls out the youkai, they fight, the kidnappee is returned, cheers and drinks all around. Of course, that requires the youkai to be willing to play the fool for the humans' benefit."

"I'd imagine fairies don't volunteer for it much, then."

"Nope!" Fuku and Dai said in unison, both pausing to glare at me while the former held the latter's leg in a midair Boston crab.

I was about to take another sip of tea when I saw my cup was empty. With nothing else to occupy my hands, I fiddled with it. "Sounds like all the stuff that could go wrong is out of my hands."

"Makes sense, doesn't it?" Keine hid her smirk behind her cup as she drained the last of her tea.

"I mean..." I squeezed the cup. "Are you telling me the world doesn't revolve around me?" I asked, only half-joking.

"Sad, I know. I'm afraid all I can do is advise you to keep your eyes open and be careful." She looked down into her cup, her smile a little dimmer.

I scratched my head and stared down at my feet. With so many people telling me to keep my eyes open, it was a wonder I still had eyelids. Of course, I'd also learned a few times over that nobody was kidding around here. One wrong move and I could be somebody's lunch. This place would be great if it wasn't so terrifying.

Thinking of lunch only reminded me of how mine was already starting to wear off. Peaking up at the sky, tinges of orange were already starting to sneak in.

There was a shout, followed by a great thud as Dai finally got the upper hand and torpedoed to the ground with Fuku in tow. "Say you're sorry!" Dai shouted, pinning Fuku down with a knee against her back.

"Never!" Fuku giggled, then yelped when Daiyousei pushed her knee harder. "Ow! I give. I giiiiiiive!"

"Say it."

"I'm sorry! There!" Fuku grunted. Dai immediately let go of her, offering a hand up, which Fuku grudgingly accepted.

Covered in sweat and dirt, both of them floated over. "We've reached a truce," Fuku said, wiping some sweat off of her brow.

Dai brushed her skirt off primly. "Let's go with that."

"It's not some major event, anyway. It's just a silly little side-show, like being a volunteer for a magician." Keine furrowed her brows and grumbled, ignoring the two of them.

"Sounds like you really don't like it," I said.

"We're Daifuku!" Fuku announced. "Daiyousei and Fuku."

Daiyousei squeaked, happily this time, and brought her clasped hands to her face. "I love daifuku."

Keine took in a long breath, then closed her eyes and sighed. "Why do you think I know so much about it?"

I gulped, the lurch of the conversation turning in an entirely different direction without any warning almost bowling me over.

"I was the 'victim' for one of the fake kidnappings years ago."

"And years and years and years..." Fuku snickered to herself.

Keine stood up and stared down at Fuku. Her large frame almost blocked her from my view. She leaned down and cupped Fuku's head in her hands.

"Tread softly," she said coldly, her eyes boring holes through Fuku, "for you tread on very thin ice."

Her point made, she sat back down. Fuku stood in terrified shock for a few seconds, then narrowed her eyes and briefly looked tempted to say something. Daiyousei slapped a hand over Fuku's mouth.

"Don't," she warned. Fuku squinted at her, but didn't say another word.

Keine's expression soured again. "Anyway. Back then, people were even more suspicious of me than they are now. One of the chiefs saw the good I was doing for the village, though, and roped me into the process. He went on and on about how all would be forgiven and forgotten and I'd be given the respect I deserve." She paused to look down at her empty teacup again.

"What happened?"

"In case you haven't noticed, I'm not much for sitting back and playing the victim. The youkai was hiding underground, tunnelling under the roads like a mole. When it popped out in front of me and grabbed my wrist, well..." she chuckled sadly to herself. "My instincts took over, and that's where my headbutt first became a running joke." She rapped her fist against her head. "I knocked that moleman out cold and got a lump on my forehead the size of a goose egg."

"The festival-ruining forehead," Fuku whispered to herself. Keine shot her a look, not sure if it was an insult or a compliment.

"The militia captain tried to play it off like I was a vigilant hero, but they were obviously pretty upset that I ruined the plan. They sure weren't going to make any accommodations for the youkai, so they hauled him off to the garbage heap. He was not very happy when he woke up. He barged into one of the councilmember's houses and loudly demanded to get his end of the bargain, plus a little extra for the insult." She set down her cup and leaned back. "Most people knew or at least suspected the whole thing was a play, but you know. It's pretty improper to just talk about it so blatantly, even if I don't like it."

"Wow." I swirled the stray leaves in my teacup, letting a little silence hang. I'd had an idea while she was talking.

"Does that mean they really want to make sure I'll cooperate?"

Keine raised an eyebrow. "How so?"

"Maybe I could use it to my advantage? 'Gee councilman, sounds scary, I hope I wouldn't mess it up, but maybe if you greased my palm a little...'"

Keine snickered. "You've been spending too much time around fairies. Or merchants."

"I trained him good." Fuku grinned, showing off the gap between her front teeth.

"You seem to have given him your memory skills too. Everyone wants to keep quiet about the issue when they can. If you brought it up with any of the organizers, they'd deny it up and down. And probably tell the youkai to rough you up a little when the time came."

"Okay, scratch that."

"The reward's supposed to be the cheers and support of the villagers," Keine said with a friendly sarcasm.

I winced. Attention usually meant danger for me. Maybe I could pass it off to Kasen instead.

I had a sudden mental image of me along with Kasen, Fuku and Teru doing karate poses after successfully fighting off a youkai.

"Hey! I don't have a memory problem," Fuku said.

Keine paused in thought. "I suppose, if you weren't afraid to be a little manipulative, and if you managed to catch the ear of someone important, you could talk about your plans to go home and see if you could get anything out of that."

I straightened up. "Ooh, is the Sen family important?"

Keine jerked her head and looked at me.

"Is that bad?" I asked.

"Have you met them?"

"Yeah, I fixed their typewriter."

She blinked. "You've got quite a streak of luck. Not sure if it's good or bad."

"Is he a general or something?"

"Does he have big swords?" Fuku asked.

"No and yes, respectively."

Fuku squeaked with excitement at the thought of big swords.

"They don't really hold any official power, but they've got lots of good friends. They're a family you don't want to get caught insulting, but it doesn't sound like that's a problem for you," Keine said.

"Hell yeah."

"He also got an article about him and me in a tengu news--" Fuku began.

I gestured at Daiyousei, who put a hand over Fuku's mouth again, but it was too late. Keine slapped her forehead.

"Sorry," I mumbled.

"Ah, it's fine. Most everyone has learned to tune out what the tengu--"

Fuku yanked Daiyousei's hand off of her mouth. "She's coming by tomorrow for a follow-up interview."

Keine paused, then her smile widened and she shook her head. "Oh well, we can't do anything about it now."

I still didn't know if Teru was crying crocodile tears or not, so I decided not to say anything else about the subject. "True. How soon is the festival?"

"Probably in two days."

The same day I'd be returning to Reimu, I noted to myself. Keine stretched her arms and her back, then stood up. She rolled her shoulders and muttered something under her breath. If it was a complaint about getting old, I wasn't going to ask.

"It's getting late, I should start on dinner," she said.

Fuku squeezed her lips shut and trembles, trying hard to fight what I assumed was the urge to make a fat joke.

"Would you like to come along?" Keine asked.

"I'd be honored, thank you very much." I stood up and started cleaning up the tea set for her.

Keine let out another stifled snicker. I looked up and put on an innocent expression.

"I don't know how they do things in the Outside World, but next time you should try not to look so desperate," she said.

"Er, sorry."

"What're you making?" Fuku asked, changing her tone at the prospect of free food.

"We will be having steamed fish and greens, and you will be helping us cook."

"Say what?" Fuku's face scrunched up.

"Don't be a spoilsport, cooking's fun." Daiyousei patted Fuku on the back and followed Keine back to the house.

I trailed behind them. It felt somehow wrong to just stroll into someone's house, even if she invited me. I had a brief mental image of Keine turning out to be evil and serving Iwao Stew to the cackling fairies that seemed so friendly. Even seeing Daiyousei happily tie an oversized apron around her waist couldn't remove every trace of doubt. I need to keep my eyes open, right?

For all of Keine's very strong thoughts about humans and youkai, she sure didn't seem to mind doting on Dai-dai. Was Keine lying to herself? Or is Daiyousei just too loveable?

Her wings fluttered against Fuku's face in the cramped kitchen. Keine gave me a sideways smile.

"It's pretty crowded in here already. Could you clean the table for us and sit tight?" she said.


There wasn't much on the table besides a few books and and a pile of papers. I did my best to get them into a neat stack, hoping that I wasn't messing anything up. Keine and the fairies kept up a steady chatter. Fuku was enjoying it despite herself, ripping up mustard greens with relish.

With the table as clean as I could make it, I didn't have much else to do, and I probably wouldn't fit in with the girls night out going on in the kitchen. I ducked around the corner. Walking away from the sounds of laughter and talking reminded me of my misanthropic high school days. I had already worked through a lot of the book, and if I got it done, I wouldn't have to worry about the deadline.

I wondered what would happen if I took the book with me if -- when -- I made it back home. I imagined Motoori hunting me down to the ends of the earth, across dimensions, for a library fine. I cracked open the almanac.

[ ] Chapter 1: Gensokyo From Above
-- [ ] The Capital
-- [ ] Hamlets and Provinces
-- [ ] The Great River
-- [ ] The Outskirts

[ ] Chapter 2: Gensokyo From The Ground
-- [ ] Economics
-- [ ] Government
-- [ ] Notable Persons
-- [ ] Our Shared View

[ ] Chapter 3: The Four Occupations
-- [ ] Administration and Government
-- [ ] Farming the Blessed Lands
-- [ ] Artisans and Crafters
-- [ ] Merchantry

[ ] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [ ] Organized Defenses Against Invasion
-- [ ] The Everyman's Duty for Protection
-- [ ] Shrines, Seals, and Magical Protection
-- [ ] Spellcard Duels

[ ] Chapter 5: A New Era: Cooperation with Youkai
-- [ ] The Tengu
-- [ ] The Kappa
-- [ ] Common Spirits
-- [ ] Trade With The Mountain
[X] Chapter 1: Gensokyo From Above
-- [X] The Capital

Welcome back.
File 142659615444.png - (419.54KB, 1280x1024, chencomp.png) [iqdb]
[X] Chapter 1: Gensokyo From Above
-- [X] The Capital
[X] Chapter 1: Gensokyo From Above
-- [X] The Capital

Hey, welcome back.
[x] Chapter 3: The Four Occupations
-- [x] Administration and Government

I wanna speak to the manager. The service here stinks!
[x] this
Politics are a good thing to learn right now.

Also I just started with this story and I love it. Does anyone have a link to the first thread though? The storylist came up empty
Closing votes for a capital idea.

[X] Chapter 1: Gensokyo From Above
-- [X] The Capital
In the first thread:

"Rotten Meat Seal: This common seal is worn on the body or on the clothes. The bearer will taste like rotten, poisoned meat if any youkai attempts to eat them. A common and easily-obtained means of defense, it can be found for a good price at many stores. If so inclined, you can make your own by taking a sheet of enchanted paper and burying it with a recently deceased corpse for a few weeks. "

10/10 would read again, good job u cheeky bastard.
Sorry for the update taking a while. Again. I'm a total nerddork so I've been putting together something of a history of Gensokyo's origins, trying to provide a historically sensible answer to the question of "why would you step into god-forsaken youkaiville and call it home?" Next update's coming along, and it will have all the worldbuilding you can handle.
File 143001885294.jpg - (121.43KB, 850x626, spookyscarySeigas.jpg) [iqdb]
[X] Chapter 1: Gensokyo From Above
-- [X] The Capital

No time like the present to get words read. I opened the book back to a page I'd dog-eared. For a second, I considered turning the page and going on from there. Then I thought better of it and flipped all the way back towards the beginning.

The Human Village -- Our Origins

At its very beginning, what was to become the Human Village was little more than a camp. Centuries ago, Gensokyo was like an unclaimed land of shadows, with feral youkai waiting perched on every branch and behind every rock. It was in the middle Heian period that Gensokyo became a subject of interest. Inatsuki, a small neighboring provincial power, sent a survey party to Gensokyo in search of a land route between the Yatsugatake mountains. Months passed and only a single surveyor returned, clutching the severed hand of one of his compatriots. The governor of Inatsuki, outraged at the loss of good men, sent the following message to a temple within his lands:

"This menace cannot be allowed to draw breath any longer. You monks serve the public benefit; it is your imperative that you cleanse these foul valleys of evil spirits by any means necessary. From now until this foulness is dealt with, Inatsuki shall not be your home."

Fifteen monks were selected from the ranks, charged with the mission handed down by the governor. Before heading out, they proceeded to gather a respectable amount of food and supplies from Kyoto, claiming Gensokyo posed such a great threat that if they were not properly equipped and supplied, all of Inatsuki would be dispossessed and fall into disorder.

Thus began the Human Village's first iteration as a handful of tents that served as the base of the fifteen monks who went to fight. Judging by the records, the expedition lasted for several weeks, likely due to the dense foliage which slowed travel and made landmarks rare. Despite facing grim odds, they managed to carve their way through Gensokyo and find strips of cloth with sigils matching those of the slain surveyors, along with scattered pieces of steamed wood and horse skin. When they returned, their message was bittersweet:

"It is only through constant vigilance and much careful fighting that we survived. We were forced to hide as often as we stood our ground, but we managed to slay several youkai and permanently eradicate them. However, a festering wound cannot be cured with a simple cleaning; it requires constant attention, medicine, and changing of bandages. To keep Gensokyo safe would be to be in constant war with it."

No sooner did the monks get a few days to rest and heal their wounds than they were sent back out again by the governor. From here, records become unclear. To the best of our knowledge, the monks travelled deeper into the darkness of the valley and found a grove of flowers and fragrant herbs, and a god slumbering peacefully on a bed of daffodils that did not bend under his weight. Reportedly, the clearing was a botanical miracle, with flora from the valley, mountains, plains and shore all able to grow within this small patch of land, and it shone as though it produced its own light.

The slumbering god's name escapes recording, but upon the monks' seeing him, he woke and instructed them to provide him faith. The monks took ropes from their own supplies and constructed a simple altar decorated with shimenawa, a branch from a nearby tree serving as the shintai, then spent the evening praying for the god's karma until they drifted to sleep.

When they awoke the next morning, the god had vanished. All around them, small beads of jade were left balanced on the stigmas of the daffodil flowers. The monks had only to sweep their hands over the flowers and hold a bag underneath and they would gather the tiny pellets as though they were winnowing millet. They triumphantly returned to Inatsuki, but the majority of their treasure was seized by the governor, and they were sent back again.

Offended by the governor's greed and enchanted by the idea of more treasure, the peasants of Inatsuki's other estates offered to join the monks, carrying supplies, performing night watch, and fighting alongside them in return for a share of the treasure.

Despite days and days of backtracking, the daffodil grove was never found again, but they found something almost as good lying tipped on its side near the Great River: the broken caravan that had started everything, still loaded with bolts of cloth, bags of rice, and a modest sum of metals for trading. The explorers came to an agreement that they would clear some of the flat land by the river and form their own collective estate, thinking it better to risk the threat of youkai than to subject themselves to the tension between governors and the estate-holders, whose impatience with Kyoto grew every day. Their resolve must have been great, for the death of two undertrained night watchmen did not stop them from spreading the word when they returned, claiming to be low on supplies.

For months, settling the mass of chaos that was Gensokyo was little more than a dream. As the provinces attempted to shrug off Kyoto's weight, regional powers crept closer and closer to Inatsuki, bringing the constant threat of assimilation. After several more tense months, the dream became a revolution, as several hundred peasants went in a daring night escape led by the entirety of the local monk populace.

The sudden loss of the peasantry sealed Inatsuki's fate. The exact cause of its downfall was not known, but when an emissary returned to Inatsuki, he found only a decrepit, abandoned town infested with youkai.

The group of several hundred that braved the valley of Gensokyo could be called its first true settlers. Finding fertile land free of the taint of aristocracy, their numbers were enough to provide sufficient self-protection, and they enjoyed ample meat from hunting and roaring fires every night.

Now separated from the rest of Japan, Gensokyo's records become fragmented. Excavations and explorations have revealed some scattered bits of history: Apparently, the remains of Inatsuki were at one point reclaimed, some houses being refurbished and others being stripped for material, which explains the sudden change of architecture to the north. The daffodil shrine was found much later and, the identity of the god lost to time, was dismantled to be replaced with a shrine to Inari. In fact, it's likely that the replaced shrine is the very same one that currently stands in the southeast quarter of the Human Village proper. Finally, Buddhism's hold on the native gods grew weaker, eventually fading out generations later.

This brief history of Gensokyo should give you a good idea of our local character and culture. The remaining historical records are too scarce to make much of outside of conjecture.

I blinked. Even the apparently official records wound about into a long-winded fairy tale. It was weird to think Gensokyo was some place that used to exist in Japan, just another clump of trees by the mountains that happened to be filled with magical spirits and beasts.

Leaning back to stretch, something soft touched me. I turned around to see Keine standing behind me. Her smile became a worried frown as she stepped back and straightened her dress.

"Sorry. Just looking for something to do. Dai-dai and Fuku are almost done."

I heard a loud smack from the kitchen and looked around the corner. Daiyousei was brandishing a ladle and glaring at Fuku.

"We do not eat rice out of a pot with our hands," she harrumphed.

"I do," Fuku said back.

"Well... stop it!"

Keine smiled at their antics and turned back to me. "What do you think of it so far?" she asked.

I paused before responding. "Wait. You've got history-erasing powers or something, right? Don't tell me you're hiding the real story."

Keine laughed softly. "There's some things even I don't know."

"Is there some kind of... magic-ey, shield-ey, curse-ey thing keeping you from looking at it?"

She shrugged. "It'd take as long to explain as it did for me to learn."

I glanced back at the book, then back at her. With little hope of a straight answer from her, I went back to reading. She stood back for a second before slowly creeping over to lean over my shoulder. Some of her hair brushed my face, but I did my best to ignore it, reminding myself it was only awkward if I made it awkward.

The Human Village -- Our Present

We have proven ourselves capable of handling the challenges that Gensokyo brings. The Hakurei Border -- that which separates us from the outside world -- has passed its 125th birthday, and we dare say that Gensokyo is seeing a level of peace and prosperity it has never experienced before.

The epicenter lies on a prime piece of real estate within Gensokyo: one of the largest flat pieces of land to be found here, not too far from the river but not so close as to be at a risk of flooding, and not too deep into the forests dark and thick with youkai.

Even so, the Human Village is far from 'finished' in any true sense. Construction can scarcely keep up with expansion, and fortifications become obsolete before they finish. More pressing is the divide of opinion on Gensokyo's government. Some are of the opinion that we have grown too big to stay organized without dedicated officials, respecting government as that which separates us from beasts. Others fear that assigning tax collectors and judges is the first step towards the burdens that our ancestors fled from.

While concerning, these issues stay under control thanks to the shared humanity that unites us. Though you may miss out on some modern niceties like telegrams and electric streetcars if you choose to stay, there is no denying the unique experience of living amongst the gods.

I looked up from the book and up at Keine. She stepped back again, smiling. "What do you think?" she asked.

"Quite... a thing."

"Some folks wonder why I'm so interested in the Outside World." She folded her arms, shaking her head. "They think it doesn't have any meaning to us, but learning is a noble pursuit in its own right."

I felt like I was supposed to say something, maybe offer up some juicy outsider tidbit, but I was interrupted by another thud. I peeked back just in time to catch Daiyousei bopping Fuku on the head. Seeing the smaller fairy's hand planted square in the rice, I cringed a little and missed modern food safety regulations once again.

Just pretend you didn't see. It'll taste that much better.

"I said no!" Dai hollered, tapping Fuku on the head again.

"Ow!" Fuku squeaked. "Who died and made you Miss Pretty Princess of table manners?" She wrenched her hand out of the pot, grumbling as she licked up a few grains of rice.

"I'm princess by divine right." Dai picked a stray blonde hair off of the ladle and turned to us, instantly transforming her scowl into a beaming smile. "Dindin is ready!"

I cringed again. Women with emotions that changed like the wind always made me nervous.

I followed Keine to the table, still feeling the pressure to say something. I opened my mouth and mentioned the first thing that came to mind.

"Do you know about vending machines?" I asked.

"Actually, yes." She took a seat.

"Say what?"

"What's a vendy machine?" Dai asked as she set the covered tub next to the table, filling our rice bowls one after another.

"A lot of brick-a-brack makes its way through the border. Magazines, wrappers, things like that. So we've been able to piece together a fair amount of information," Keine said.

Fuku fluttered over, haphazardly plopping bowls of soup and little dishes of pickles. "But what's a vendy machine?"

"It's a big box with glass all on the front. You can put money in it and it'll give you toys and beer and cigarettes and stuff." Not that I knew much about the first one. Only a fool would spend his precious youth (and allowance) camping out train station vending machines looking for rare catches.

"Can you break it open and take everything?" Fuku asked. I saw that gleam of trouble in her eye.

"You'd get in trouble if you did." I took a sip of soup. Pretty heavy on the miso for my tastes, but I was a Kyoto boy, so what did I know?

"So, yes," Fuku said, grinning ear-to-ear at the thought of a free beer box. A mechanical Iwao, in other words.

Dai flicked Fuku's ear with the rice paddle before zipping back into the kitchen, Fuku on her tail. Keine shot them a look. Even though they both had their backs turned, they must've felt it, because they brought the rest of the food without much incident.

By the time the table was completely set, my stomach was already grousing at me again. I surveyed the spread. Rice, soup, and pickles -- we had the bases covered there. The side dish was some sort of mountain greens I'd never seen before. I held a leaf between my chopsticks and sniffed it. Not too bad. The first bite, however, was another question. Even boiled to mush in soy sauce and sugar, they were bitter and made me want some potato chips. It was free food though, so I didn't have room to complain.

"Do people know their history in the Outside World?" Keine asked suddenly. I noticed she took great care to chew and swallow after her first bite and not leave a speck of food in her mouth when she talked.

I shovelled rice into my mouth as if trying to make it harder for myself to answer. "Erm, sure, yes."

"Mister Iwao," said Dai, narrowing her eyes at me, "don't lie to Miss Keine."

I darted my eyes back and forth. "I mean, there's a whole lot more history to know. A lot of countries and stuff."

"The newspapers from outside have mentioned 'Yutori education' a few times."

"No comment." I held back a grimace. To me, nothing spoiled a meal worse than bringing up politics. Aside from dirty fairy hands getting in my rice.

"You should be aware of your local issues," Keine said back.

"It's a thing about cutting class hours. School delinquency was becoming an issue so they decided to ease up on the pressure on students a little." I braced myself.

Keine huffed. "That's no excuse. Delinquents need to be put in check and act responsibly, not be pampered."

Like clockwork.

"It's different in the Outside World. School is mandatory for quite a long time."

"I don't see how that makes a difference."

"It's controversial, anyway. A lot of people have said the same things." I hung my head slightly, feeling like a turncoat as I took my next bite. School was already tough enough as it was when I was there.

Keine picked at her food for a moment with a similar expression. "I suppose things must be going well for Japan anyway, being able to afford to put everyone through school."

"Yeah," I said noncommittally.

"Is it? The magazines never seem to agree. First it's an economic miracle, then a crash, then a lost generation." Keine drank some of her soup.

"We'll live," I said. The fairies were unusually quiet, with Dai not wanting to interrupt the somber moment and Fuku focused on her food.

"Hell, I don't know. I'm not a politician, and I'm too young to've lived through half of that stuff. I bounced from job-to-job for a while, but I don't know if that's because of the economy or just me." I swallowed and felt a small lump in my throat. My boiler repairing gig was the most steady job I'd had, and even that got interrupted by falling into a different dimension. Maybe my life was destined to be weird.

The table went completely still for a moment. Fuku looked at me, then picked up some slimy greens with her fingers and put the whole piece into her mouth.

"Do you want to stay here?" Keine asked after the silence. "In Gensokyo, I mean."

"Couldn't do that to my parents." That was what I'd kept telling myself, and it did seem awfully mean to leave my parents without a trace. Sure, I hadn't spoken to them since...

I gripped my chopsticks hard. Come to think of it, dinner that night felt a lot like this up until the end. Up until Dad opened his big, self-important mouth.

Gee, Iwao, it's not like staying in Gensokyo could get you away from all that nonsense or anything.

Then I remembered that Gensokyo also had murderous deer living in it and I drove that thought back.

"Yeah. I should go home," I said quietly. I pushed my empty rice bowl aside. Dai leapt up to grab it, probably eager to get away from the table.

Keine set down her chopsticks, stacking her bowls together and scooting them over to Dai. "I respect that. Family is important."


"Iwao?" Fuku spoke up.


"If you leave, can I take all your stuff?"

That got a smile out of me. I couldn't resist. "No."

"What? Why? You aren't gonna need it!"

"Maybe I'll leave you a pittance."

"Hmph." She glared at me, then went back to picking the last few rice grains out of her bowl with her fingers. Dai leaned in and snatched the bowl from her.

"I was eatin' that."

"And I'm doing dishes. Maybe use a utensil next time and I'll let you finish." She grabbed another bowl and disappeared into the kitchen. Fuku trailed after her again, yapping at her like an angry dog.

"What's the plan after this?" Keine asked.

"Tying Fuku to a tree," I said. The meal was enough for me to feel vaguely full, but it wasn't all that satisfying.

"I meant for finding a place to sleep."

"Oh." I shrugged. "Inn?"

The ruckus in the kitchen died down as Dai put Fuku in a headlock and loaded the dishes into the sink with her free hand.

"Well..." Keine lowered her shoulders and looked back and forth around the room.

There was the sound of dishes clattering. Fuku flew past us fast enough to make Keine's hair blow and went out the door. Daiyousei chased after her. I couldn't tell if it was part of a game or they were fighting again.

"There, that's better." Keine cleared her throat. "You could stay in the guest room if you don't mind some dust. I didn't want to say it with the fairies here. They like to jump to conclusions."

"That's very nice of you, but I couldn't impose like that."

"I'm not going to kick you out to the curb."

"I'll be okay. I have money. Kinda."

She looked me right in the eyes. "I insist."

I sat and thought. Fuku and Dai zipped back and forth across the open door every so often.

"Well, if that's how it is..." I glanced out the door. Being a habit by this point, I had to ask. "How about Fuku?"

Keine breathed in through her nose, then gave me a pitying look. "I suppose I can't talk you out of it."

No, I thought, it would be quite easy. She wouldn't even have to say anything. Just close the door and lower the blinds while they were still outside and I could stop being such an overly-concerned goober.

"Alright, thanks." I nodded and screamed at myself internally.

I looked outside again. There was still a sliver of sunlight left in the day.

"Mind if I read again? I'd better finish this book and return it before I leave or Motoori might hunt me down across dimensions."

"Sure. I'll be busy with other things, so you don't have to worry about me looking over your shoulder any more." Keine stood up with a quiet grunt and moved to her desk.

I thumbed through the book for a minute, not looking for anything in specific, silently dreading and being excited for tomorrow. After the third time of flipping through the book in search of somewhere to stop, I took a deep breath and flipped back to the beginning. This isn't procrastination, I told myself. This is research. You never know when you'll find a helpful tidbit.

[ ] Chapter 1: Gensokyo From Above
-- [ ] The Capital
-- [ ] Hamlets and Provinces
-- [ ] The Great River
-- [ ] The Outskirts

[ ] Chapter 2: Gensokyo From The Ground
-- [ ] Economics
-- [ ] Government
-- [ ] Notable Persons
-- [ ] Our Shared View

[ ] Chapter 3: The Four Occupations
-- [ ] Administration and Government
-- [ ] Farming the Blessed Lands
-- [ ] Artisans and Crafters
-- [ ] Merchantry

[ ] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [ ] Organized Defenses Against Invasion
-- [ ] The Everyman's Duty for Protection
-- [ ] Shrines, Seals, and Magical Protection
-- [ ] Spellcard Duels

[ ] Chapter 5: A New Era: Cooperation with Youkai
-- [ ] The Tengu
-- [ ] The Kappa
-- [ ] Common Spirits
-- [ ] Trade With The Mountain
[x] Chapter 2: Gensokyo From The Ground
-- [x] Government

Good to have you back.
[x] Chapter 2: Gensokyo From The Ground
-- [x] Government

Alright, let's finish this chapter up.
[x] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai

--[x] The Everyman's Duty for Protection
[x] Chapter 2: Gensokyo From The Ground
-- [x] Government

Might as well, since there was some talk of politics.
Closing votes. Time to finish a chapter!

[x] Chapter 2: Gensokyo From The Ground
-- [x] Government
File 143561092652.jpg - (91.44KB, 850x583, teachthechilluns.jpg) [iqdb]
[x] Chapter 2: Gensokyo From The Ground
-- [x] Government

As discussed in the beginning overview of Gensokyo's history, human leadership is stabilizing into a genuine authority.

Hah. And I'd just read up on that.

Now that survival is no longer our immediate concern, the people of Gensokyo have turned their attention to organization. Opinions on the matter have been divided for decades, resulting in rules that conflict from settlement to settlement. Many cannot be found in legal scrolls, but are instead traditions that have lasted through the generations. Do not dismay, though -- all people of Gensokyo are a respectful stock. Local rules need not concern you unless you choose to settle.

The ultimate authority through Gensokyo are the seven, a collection of chieftains who trace their lineage back to the original warriors of Gensokyo. It is a position held for life and passed down to the most competent successor upon the time of a chieftain's death. Their announcements are law which must be respected by all humans within Gensokyo.

Do not let this lead you to believe that they are stiff-minded legalists. In fact, one of their most important duties is the organization of festivals, a regular occurrence here. Not a month goes by without at least one or two festivals to keep our morale high and united in a common cause, and a proper festival needs the work of many people. This responsibility was formerly shared with the Hakurei Shrine, but the shrine's involvement has dwindled.

For a chieftain to be absent from a festival without an explanation would be a source of embarrassment. They are there without fail, mingling freely with the villagers answering questions, giving speeches, or simply enjoying the atmosphere. On the subject of festivals, I advise you against questioning their frequency in any way or your stay in Gensokyo will be a short one.

Governing humanity is not all about parties, however. The seven spend a great deal of time discussing village issues every week in public meetings. Attendance is free, and their discussions are held on the court veranda. Public input is allowed, but any opinion you may voice at these meetings is merely that. Only the decision of a chieftain carries enough weight to become a steadfast rule. Should you disagree, you would be best served bringing a whole party of sympathisers.

Though the decisions of the chieftains apply to all of us, their focus largely remains within the village bounds. Outside the walls, Gensokyo's settlements are self-policing and self-contained. Landlords maintaining agricultural land are involved in mediating disputes, organizing local events, and maintaining the commons. We have been told many times by outsiders that the relations here between landlord and tenant are uniquely amiable. Again, a glance at our history tells why.

There are places at the edges of Gensokyo where humans and youkai intermingle at all hours of the day. Take extra care in such places, as youkai law may be in effect. Prouder species, such as tengu, are apt to take anything short of total deference as a slight against them.

The next few pages went over some of the notable legal differences between the villages. 'Notable' was probably a generous term. In Ishikiriba, it was forbidden to recite certain poems while drunk. A certain settlement supposedly had a punishment 'so harsh we don't speak of it' for knowingly cutting the ear off of a neighbor's sow. Quaint little folk traditions, I guessed, but not what I'd have called laws.

Thoroughly done reading about that, I closed the book. The sun was out when I looked up, but the light had dimmed. The thought hit me that I had no idea what time it was. Maybe I should've been more upset over it, but I couldn't be. The only time I used to check the clock a lot was at work.

"Do you think the fairies are going to show back up? Fuku and... the other one?" I asked Keine.

She turned from her papers and looked at me, happy to have a reason to stop working. "No, but they're fine. Fairies might as well be nomads, even the more polite ones like Dai-dai."

Right, that's what she called her.

"Even if they get in serious trouble, they'll just resurrect the next morning," Keine added.

My guts twisted for just a second. I knew things were different here, but I doubted I'd ever get used to anyone talking about death so casually. Especially not after all the 'you're ruining your liver and relationships' talks from back when I turned drinking age. Better to change the subject before I made an ass of myself.

"I know it's a little early, but would you be willing to show me the guest room?" I asked.

"Of course." Keine stood up from her seat, then pushed on her back and got a few cracks out of her spine. "The guest room's part of the school, I'll take you there."

Outside, the streets were emptying and the faint smell of a hundred pots of rice simmering floated in the air. Merchants and carters were packing up their wagons nestled between houses and against walls, the sounds of rustling and rattling blending together into a steady, smooth ambient noise. The throngs of people around the Hieda estate had cleared out. Even when I visited grandpa out in the pickers, I'd never seen a place get so sleepy.

"Will you be having classes tomorrow?" I asked. We passed a row of manicured trees and flowers on the way to the school.

"Yes, but I'll be kicking you out before then. Sorry." She showed me a not-sorry grin.

We were already standing out front now. The building itself looked like an old warehouse, squat and wide, much larger than Keine's house. "What if I really want one of your lessons?"

"Think carefully. A room full of ten-year-olds isn't to be taken lightly."

She had me there. My relatives told me I was good with kids, but that didn't mean I enjoyed it. Childlike wonder and innocence are all well and good for the first few minutes. After that, a grump like me starts to get uncomfortable. Then again, these were the children of farmers. They could have been more jaded and world-weary than me for all I knew.

Real cheery, Iwao.

There was a lock hanging open on the door at the front of the school. Locks on a paper door seemed a little silly. If I was the stealing type -- and I wasn't -- I'd have just kicked it down. Keine slid it open, waving me inside. Past the small divider for storing shoes was the classroom, which was just a large tatami floor with a chalkboard and table against one wall and a few rows of long tables in the middle. I had been expecting desks and projectors without realizing how out-of-place it would be. At the back of the room was another door, which must've led to the guest room.

"I'm afraid it's not much," she said and slid the door open. Like she said, not much: a window and stacks of spare papers stashed against the walls with a rolled-up futon balanced on top of them.

"I'll be waking you up early tomorrow, before classes." She unrolled the futon in the middle of the room. "In the meantime, don't stay up too late, you hear?" She faced me and gave my hair a quick tousle, then jerked her hand away and glanced at it like it had moved on it on its own.

"Good night," I said after an uncomfortable pause. I touched the top of my head.

Keine cleared her throat and walked back towards the school door. Just after getting her shoes back on, she looked back over her shoulder. "Sleep tight," she said before shuffling out of the school.

I let myself into the guest room and closed it behind me. The room was purple-orange in the setting sun, still bright enough to keep the room lit and keep me awake. I considered taking off some clothes now that I was alone. Knowing my luck, someone would come peeping in and I'd become the town flasher. I took out my journal, looking for something productive to do, but soon got too lost in thoughts to write down much of value.

Sitting in a school made me think about family, and I remembered Gon from a few days ago. He was the friendly guy who gave me a meal and a bed during my brief stint as a carter. He had three kids and a loving wife, and could afford it all on a farmer's salary, or whatever the equivalent of a salary was here. I was living by myself and only just managed to squirrel away some savings -- with the very occasional indulgence.

Maybe I could gather up an army of youkai-fighting children in the next few days to protect me. No, that's silly. And probably illegal. Well, they wouldn't exactly be official army members, more of a militia. No, that's still illegal. And silly.

I scoffed at myself. The word 'family' made me think of an army of ten-year-olds before I even thought of my own kin. Not that there was much to say. Dad was on the force, working an understaffed and underfunded residential police box. The most exciting thing that ever happened there was the occasional call about a lost wallet or a rowdy drunk. When I turned ten, mom started working part-time at a bento assembly place. It wasn't a great job, but I think she was happy to have something to herself like that. Using her employee discount had gotten me through some rough spots.

Dad didn't really like that setup. He was, to put it lightly, stodgy. As if his wife being a part-time laborer wasn't bad enough, his son then couldn't take the bullying any longer and dropped out from his last year of middle school. That was the start of a lot of fights. Even after I got my head right and tested into a trade school, he kept my failures hanging over my head for years and years.

The tatami crunched as I flopped over. In a lot of ways, he had every right to be mad. Hell, I was mad at myself. I would've loved to be a prodigy who aced my exams, got to a good college and had a good career in... whatever. Here I was in my mid-twenties, and I barely felt like an adult. Just the thought made my stomach roil. I kicked the doorframe in frustration. It failed to make me feel better.

After the sound of the frame rattling, I heard a rustling sound. It sounded like footsteps scuttling away. I sat up off the floor. "Keine?" I called out.

I felt a shiver go all the way up to my shoulders. Who knew how many ways I was about to die if Keine had heard me tearing up her door.

No response. I called again and got to my feet. Still no response. Open the door first, I thought. After opening the door, then I could let myself panic.

I slid it open and saw nothing. Maybe Fuku was messing with me. Or sleeping on the roof again.

"Fuku?" I looked to the side and saw the outline of a single dirty footprint near the middle of the room. "I don't know what sort of game you're playing, but it's not funny!"

There was the sound of footsteps again -- much closer this time. I froze in place. The tatami crunched somewhere behind me. Slowly, I turned to look around. There was a face staring at me intently.

"Whoa!" I reeled back, tripping over my own feet. As soon as I picked myself up, I felt dumb for being so scared.

That staring face belonged to a little girl. She looked to be five or six, still the pudgy, rosy-cheeked face of a toddler with her hair done up in a messy topknot. Her feet and hands were covered up by an oversized but rather nice-looking kimono, making her seem more cloth than human. She grinned wide, revealing several missing baby teeth.

Must have been some kid who came to ask Keine a question, or got lost, considering the time of night. I got on one knee and put on my friendliest smile. "Sorry about that. You kinda spooked me. What's your name?"

Either she didn't hear me or she was too busy staring to answer. She moved her arms and I saw she was holding a stick of dango in one hand, some strands of cloth stuck to it. Weird kid.

"I'm Iwao. I'm just sleeping here tonight. This is your school, right?"

She nodded.

"It is?" I asked.

She shook her head and put a hand over her mouth. This is was the other reason I didn't like kids.

I scratched my head and sighed through my nose. "Do you know where your mommy is?"

She took her hand away from her mouth and looked down at her dango. Then she stuck it up my nose.

"Ow, don't do that!" I pulled away and put a hand over my face. I opened my eyes just in time to see her dash straight through the wall, into the guest room.

My legs locked in place for a second. They both sprung into action at the same time and tried to lurch me towards the door. I stumbled over my own feet and fell to my hands and knees, then crawled forwards, scrabbling against the floor like an overexcited cat.

"Keine! Keine!" I screamed. I crawled to the door and thumped my fist against the doorframe, making the whole house rattle. I turned to look behind me and saw the return of the ghost kid. She scowled and put a finger to her lips, shushing me.

"S-Sorry," I squeaked, "you just, uh, scared me. Again."

She shushed me again, then turned and tottered over to the blackboard to pick up some chalk. She started writing on it in big, sloppy hiragana.

My name is

Oh, good. She was friendly enough to communicate with me.


I clenched up again. My limbs suddenly felt pinned to the floor. Of all names, why that? The sound of hurried footsteps came towards the door.

"Iwao?" Keine's voice called. "Are you okay?"

"Guh," I said, unable to let out more than a stressed groan.

Keine yanked the door open. My punching thankfully hadn't hurt it much. She looked at me with a worried frown, which changed to a relieved smile when she saw Sadako.

"Did she startle you?" she said with a snicker.

"Ghost," I said, and jabbed a finger in her direction.

"Iwao, it's rude to point." She jerked her head up. "Oh, have you never seen a zashiki-warashi before?"

"No," I said, and had the sinking feeling that I had just done something very dumb.

She laughed. "They're good luck, silly."

"A-Are you sure?"

"Sure, I'm sure. She's helped my school be so successful."

I turned back to look at the zashiki-warashi. She was gone.

"She's polite enough not to disturb someone's sleep, at least. Don't worry about her." Keine's utter lack of surprise at the ghost helped to calm me down, oddly enough.

"I... okay, I can try."

Keine tousled my hair again. "Can't leave you alone for a minute, can I? Silly."

"Sorry about all that." My face went red as I smiled. For a moment, I wished Keine was my mom. "I'll be quiet now."

"By the way, she left you a message," Keine said, gesturing to the blackboard.

I turned around and saw 'Good Night!' written in big, looping letters. Kind of adorable once I got past the whole ghost thing.

"Goodnight, Keine."

"Goodnight." She walked to the front door and waved at me before closing it.

I went back to the guest room and lay down on the futon, reaching over to close the divider to the room. "Goodnight, Sadako," I said to the empty classroom before shutting it all the way.

Of course, with my mind still racing, I wasn't likely to fall asleep soon. This was... night four of my stay here. My book was due at the end of the next day and I wasn't done yet. If I couldn't fit in a marathon reading session, I'd have to slip Motoori some more money. Speaking of which, I also needed to visit Reimu and see about that border deal. Oh, and I'd almost forgotten that Teru would be poking that forehead of hers around for an interview at some point.

It sounded like a pretty full lineup already, but then there was that festival business to worry about too. Never too soon to start a long-term plan. If I wanted any hope of getting through in one piece, I needed an advocate. The only person who came to mind was Mr. Sen. I'd lucked into being on good terms with him, and unlike everyone else, he actually had a house that he lived in like a normal human being. Having him on my side for this mess couldn't hurt. The only question was how to approach him.

[ ] Be honest with him. He seems like a man who respects that.
[ ] Offer a favor for a favor, even if it means I'll have to owe him.
[ ] Get a gift to bring for him before I ask.
[X] Be honest with him. He seems like a man who respects that.

It's alive!
[x] Offer a favor for a favor, even if it means I'll have to owe him.

So it is!

I almost wanted to say go the straightforward route, but we need to make ourselves less of a charity case. We're already barely getting by on others' kindness as it is.
[x] Offer a favor for a favor, even if it means I'll have to owe him.

What a wimp, almost gets eaten once or twice and starts assuming every youkai is out to kill him.
[x] Offer a favor for a favor, even if it means I'll have to owe him.
[X] Be honest with him. He seems like a man who respects that.
Closing votes. Some day, and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me.

[x] Offer a favor for a favor, even if it means I'll have to owe him.
I still kind of believe!
I refuse to believe... that this story is dead-dead
Bless ye
I think it's probably dead.
I think it's probably dead.

I guess it could be said that we have a lack of sage kings, huh?
I sincerely apologize to anyone that saw this. Autocorrect is a bitch, and I forgot to turn it off.
It's not. Sage-King is around, but things have been weird for a while. Give him time. Read and support active stories while you wait.
Hope he comes back soon. This was a nice story.

Was probably my favorite story from that contest, yeah.
>July 2015

It's dead, Jim.
Just read an alternate story you... YOU... DOUBLE FUKU!

In all seriousness, I miss it, too, but all there is to do is wait.
At least he's still working on Tycoon.
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