Dark brown hair, light brown eyes, five feet five inches tall, twenty-one years of age. The victim was preparing dinner before for her second job when two armed intruders forcibly entered her apartment. She screamed and moved towards her phone but was intercepted by one intruder and forced to the floor. The victim's wrists and ankles were restrained by zip ties and she was threatened with bodily harm if she, "Even think of screaming your bitch mouth off." The two intruders proceeded to ransack the apartment, shoving items into a black duffel bag. The two intruders, disgruntled, demanded of the victim where she kept the rest of her valuables. The victim insisted that there was nothing else of value and that she could not afford anything more expensive. The intruders proceeded to threaten the victim and then enact upon their threats with the knives they carried. Only six minutes after the forced entry, the intruders left. Approximately ten minutes later, the victim's younger brother returned to their ruined apartment from school and found his older sister barely responsive on the floor. He proceeded to call the police and, upon his sister becoming unresponsive, enacted a desperate ritual which miraculously managed to extract his sister's soul from her dying body and combine it with his own.
The police didn't get all that, of course. Our rundown apartment building's cameras hadn't worked for years and with a lack of serious evidence, they suspected that you murdered me and ran considering how quickly we dropped off the map. It was a bad day when you saw that on the news - it was you freaking out and nearly turning yourself in that managed to get me to coalesce a fragment of consciousness, after all.
And it's all been history from there. I can't say that being a disembodied mind freeloading in your body has been amazing, but it certainly could have been a lot worse. For all that's happened, I can't imagine how terrible a life you might have lived if I hadn't taken you away from our parents or if you had come home a few minutes earlier or if you had been arrested.
At least, I tell myself you would have had it terrible. I tell myself that instead, collapsing against a tree in the middle of some backwards European forest because you had just killed a shape-shifting druid which had nearly clawed your arm off, is better.
I know you think differently, but I can't rate myself as one of the top ten sisters of all time. I doubt I'm even in the top fifty percentile.
Yet, I'm happy. I'm so happy to have seen you grow. I've been slumming it in your body for nearly a decade now and I've managed to watch my sweet baby bro develop into a strong and passionate young man. Sure, you've been forced into ungodly arcane rituals, mutilated your body beyond modern comprehension, partaken in some sinful activities on a church floor and overall disrupted the natural order of life using the forces of creation too many times to count, but you've done it. Despite everything that's happened, you've been thriving.
How often have I done this now? Just float around in the back of your mind, reminiscing and chatting when you can't hear me? Ghosts and phantoms are anchored to this existence by their fixations - am I the same with you, Bro?
For all that we've traveled and discovered, we really know so precious little about me. I know we both worry about it but I'm too weak and too scared to bring it up and you, you're just happy I'm still around.
I think that might be my greatest fear. If you finally manage this crazy quest, what happens when your prized Necronomicon doesn't hold the answers you think it does? You've said that it won't matter, that you'll just move on to the next clue, but?
Maybe I'm just worrying too much, as usual. it's my prerogative as an older sister, I think. Someone has to question your decisions for you.
Though I admit, I'm honestly glad you decided to go through with punching a hole in the Great Hakurei Barrier. It was the most skeptical I'd been in a long time after all, since we knew so little about what was inside the sealed realm.
Yet, it turned out so well. So amazingly well. Sure you had your hand lopped off by a reaper, nearly had your face eaten by an eldritch abomination and have toed the line in getting destroyed by any number of freakishly strong girls.
You also got a rocking kappa-made prosthetic, have come closer than ever to your holy grail, and have made several friends in a little less than a month's time. Found love in less than a month's time?
A month! How has so much happened in so little time. You've patched up and armed your cadre of jiang-shi. You've staked out a niche for yourself in the temple and out in the village. You're integrating!
And of course, you've blundered into all the world's problems. Byakuren and her brother issues, Minamitsu with her Fujiwara issues, Mokou with her image issues, Reimu with her family issues, Marisa with her family issues, Reisen with her family issues?
Sheesh. I guess everybody has their problems. Whether you've made it better or worse for them, you've interacted. You've made a difference.
If only those differences hadn't been grounded in years or decades or centuries of emotional baggage and left your heart bleeding. If I could get my hands on these crazy girls?
Mmm, that's not a productive line of thought. I should probably start getting my head into the game - we're all going to need to be in top shape when we finally get to Eientei. I'm still astounded that we're rushing headlong into that alien deathtrap but we're committed now. I hope Nazrin was right when she said the Necronomicon is in there and I hope Tewi truly can be reasoned with so we can get out without being fried by lunarian lasers.
I hope, I hope, I hope?
"Have you heard of the Necronomicon?" you ask.
Tewi's nose scrunches but there's no gleam in her eye or sudden revulsion at the mention of the name. "Maybe I have," she hedges. "This is the book you think Eirin has?"
You nod, thrumming your fingers on the low table. This closet-like room makes you feel slightly claustrophobic. "It is. A Japanese copy, perhaps, but the same book nonetheless. In certain communities the tome is infamous and I can assure you, transforming your rabbits into protoplasmic monsters is the least of the tales that have been told."
Monsters in the dark erupting from beneath the feet of unwary adventurers. Creatures capable of dragging men down and wrenching out their brains through their spines. Corrupting whispers that promise fates worse than death, clinging to the unfortunate
Plenty are likely nothing more than fairy tales, even by the standards of the magical communities of the world. Every little fear has found a home in a story.
Still, you have run across the isolated witch that had her innards painting the room, her sole child found limbless and shoved back inside her cut-open womb, all a component of some ritual that had left stinking scorch marks on her cottage floor. You know about diabolists and warlocks. The ends they need to go to chain their demons and familiars were none so gruesome.
You make sure to let Tewi know all this and more.
"And before you accuse me, I'm not trying to scare you again." Tewi gives you an incredulous look but you persevere. You'd never tell a normal human all you know but you imagine the ages-old youkai can handle it all better. "I'm trying to inform you of all the very real possibilities if someone with no inhibitions is let loose to study and abuse this knowledge."
"I won't say Eirin knows her limits," Tewi offers, "but I'm more inclined to trust the centuries old genius than some emotional human boy."
The rabbit slurs her last words. The prejudice is strong in her, huh?
Well, you can't blame her. Humans are kind of terrible on a whole? What? Don't agree with her!
"Age? Species? Why can't you trust motivation?" you argue. "I don't want to study it more than its necessary to bring my sister back to life. Afterwards, it can be destroyed for all I care. It'd be the best, actually, considering how dangerous it is."
This is the crux of your stance. It hurts to know how little negotiating power you have against the ages old rabbit. As far as you are aware, there is precious little you have to offer her. Any convenience in the world is available to her through the Lunarian super-genius she partnered with. Her fellow youkai rabbits have been flourishing under Lunarian tutelage.
You get the feeling that your usual ace-in-the-hole, the ability to reunite loved ones, means little to the emotionally-stable youkai. Hell, you even left your entourage of jiang-shi outside to gain this meeting - not that a spunky young human and his long dead compatriots would ever intimidate the ancient youkai sitting across from you.
Knowledge of the unknown. Understanding of her position. They are all you have to forge ahead with.
"Your sister, huh? You should let the dead rest, kid. There ain't no helping it."
"I can't. I won't. Not when I was the one who took her livelihood from her, however accidentally.? That sounds terrible, Bro. ?She was already dying in front of me, Tewi. I was young, desperate to save her, but I didn't have a hundredth of the ability I do now. I failed her in the worst way."
You try to keep your voice even but it's difficult. As it stands you have to clench your fists tightly; you'd draw blood if your finger nails were any longer.
The rabbit youkai sounds unaffected by any of your emotion. "And you want to undo that mistake?"
"More than anything in the world."
Your raise your eyes and meet hers. The woman across from you stares right back, evaluating. "I know this song and dance. What happens when you fail? What would stop you from taking this book you want me to hand over and piling on the regrets before ending it all?"
"I know my limits. I'm perfectly aware of all the potentialities that this study can cause. If it comes down to it, though, I imagine the one stopping me would be her."
Tewi's brows bunch slightly. "You lost me there."
"My sister might be dead but she isn't gone, Tewi." You carefully tap the side of your head. "Part of my accident. She's right up here.? Crazy levels rising. ?Before you toss the loony necromancer out of your home, Byakuren can confirm this. She's taken a walk in my mind and met her."
Tewi huffs, "Magic."
"it's a crazy thing, isn't it? You can live for decades and still discover something new. It is why I question Eirin. She might have centuries of life over me but I would ask you how much of that time was spent studying Necromancy."
You've laid any of your good arguments onto the table. All you can do is wait in silence for Tewi's response.
The rabbit girl leans forward, resting both her elbows on the table between you two. "Tell me why you came to me about this, again?"
"Because the last time I saw Eirin it was at the end of a magical arrow with enough force behind it that I wouldn't leave a smear on your floors." It wasn't the most comfortable of partings, but you did come to realize just how much she values Kaguya's safety. "Also, she has a?way with words that wouldn't leave me in a calm state of mind for proper negotiations."
"She can be a right bitch." You both chuckle at Tewi's succinct description. The smiling rabbit jumps to her feet and begins to walk around the table. "As much as I like ya, Womanizer, I don't like the smell of someone trying to go behind Eirin's back like this."
"I'm not!" You shout. Deep breaths. ?I'm just looking for the best outcome, for good advice. If you think my best chance lies with talking to Eirin directly then I'll go do that right now."
The rabbit stops halfway ?round the table and sits atop it, her gaze never leaving yours. Despite how uncomfortable it is you don't move, fumbling for the right words. "I'm just?floundering about trying to achieve my life's ambition. I would pay anything for it."
The rabbit leans low, her face only a few inches away. "Any price, is it?"
"Well, I imagine there are a few things I'd be forbidden to give up. My sister can be awfully persistent on things like my own safety. But, I know this isn't something simple to ask of you. So, name your price."
"Whatever I want?" Tewi whispers, then grins. "You sure know how to treat a lady right!"
The rabbit girls falls back, lying down on the table and kicking her legs off to the side. "There are a few things about Myouren Temple and the people inside that a widdle ?ole rabbit like myself isn't supposed to know. A person in your privileged position can likely answer a few questions I have, though, don't you think?"
She wants info on Myouren Temple?
On daily schedules? Shou and her disciples? The guards and their rotations? The history, the secret passages, Nazrin's network?
She's a little gossip
She was a cruel monster, destroying lives all around her.
She does not believe she is capable of returning your- Caaalm down there Bro.
One step, one thought, at a time. Keep your mind on the present.
[ ] Okay -[ ] Full disclosure -[ ] Only the useless things -[ ] Lies are fine, too [ ] No way -[ ] What else would Tewi want? -[ ] Any dead people you'd prefer alive? -[ ] Any living people you'd prefer dead? -[ ] Plan B: Lunarian Direct -[ ] Plan Z: The Great Heist [ ] <Write-in>
Something something fucking writefag something something dead story something something dead site something something desperate apologies.
For a bit of transparency, I originally started writing on THP at something of a low-point in life with little else to do. After finishing my first amateur story in full I felt amazing! Life got better and better and busier and busier, until we finally arrived at this massive disappointment.
Even during my disappearance I checked in on the thread occasionally, discouraged and delighted to see that it somehow still survived on the front page despite zero activity on my part. It was a surreal and frustrating experience having finally arrived on the side of the fence I swore to never stand on; as I saw them, those under-committed assholes that let their soul-spun child rot from neglect.
There's really no good excuse. Everybody else has already said anything I might try to justify with. I hate that I can understand where all the other disappearing writefags were coming from.
From what I feel, horrendous mismanagement has thrown any hope for a well-crafted and well-written experience out the window. Any attempts at subtleties are long forgotten by all, only to be found in the original plan (and the post-first-hiatus re-plan?). My method of writing, in an attempt to lend each part some amount of quality, horribly bogged down the release cycle as I slowly drafted, proofread, and edited.
In conclusion, this story needs to return to the roots that it was created from - the purpose it had been conceived for and that it abandoned in, like, two posts from the beginning.
Let's get questing. Time to shovel this shit out like dirt from a grave to try and reach an end before GRRM dies of a heart attack.
>>184105 Do you see purple elephants floating around too?
[x] Okay, it's a deal then? You wouldn't want to do this for free because she didn't specify she'd cooperate. -[x] Full disclosure, but only give the most private details if she leaves you no choice. I think this will bite him in the ass, so he should, at least, attempt to protect their privacy. The prize is just too good though.
-[X] What else would Tewi want? -[X] Any dead people you'd prefer alive?
Giving away personal information feels like a betrayal of trust to me. I would prefer to see what alternatives exist before committing to that. Regarding the situation with Daikoku, I remember reading that he is not dead, only imprisoned somewhere due to Lunarian meddling, and therefore unavailable for necromancy. If I am wrong, however, it would be very interesting to see what Tewi might have to say to him.
Which is more important: the temple or our sister?
Also, you don't just say "I'll do anything" then refuse the first time you're asked to do something morally objectionable. I'm pretty sure that Tewi is testing the limits of what we're willing to do, which is why she hasn't agreed to the deal yet. If we refuse or show too much hesitation here, the chances of successful negotiation with Tewi will plummet.
I'm not so sure about the testing part, but yeah, refusing the very first demand is bad for further negotiations. And we need her cooperation, it's too late to turn back, she could rat us out to Eirin after all.
File 144047022194.png - (333.20KB, 600x300 , it lives it dies it lives again.png) [iqdb]
[x] Okay -[x] Full disclosure
Is it the best idea? Probably not.
Does it make sense for Necroanon right now? I think so. He's so close to the Necronomicon that he can taste it, and he's not in a terribly stable emotional state regarding Byakuren right now. With this offer on the table, he's not going to scramble for another angle - the way forward is right in front of him.
Goddamn, I missed this story. Wherever this leads, you'd better believe I'm in for the ride.
"I'm just an emotional human boy," you respond. "But if know what you think I do then I'll tell you in exchange for your help here."
"Great!" Tewi rolls closer to you, the grinning rabbit bumping up against your chest. "Where should we start?"
You frown and poke the rabbit's forehead.
Tewi scrunches her nose and bats at your finger. "What?"
"Before we begin, I'd like to set some conditions for this deal."
"Conditions?" Tewi scoffs, spinning in place to thump one foot against your chest. "Kinda pushy there, ain't ya? You're the one who desperately wants my help, right?"
Tewi spins again, smoothly whipping around so that she ends up facing you, resting her head on an elbow. She reaches up with her left hand and grabs the front of your jacket, pulling your face down to hers. "Shouldn't we just go until I'm completely, utterly, satisfied?"
You glare at the smirking girl. "I don't care if you can smell desperation dripping off me, not even devils deal without an agreement in place."
A few sniffles slip away from the rabbit girl. "You don't trust me?"
"I'd rather not be the poster child for human stupidity if I can help it."
Tewi grins and pushes away from you, sliding to the center of the table where she proceeds to sit up. "Don't worry about that, you'd be hard pressed to out-stupid some of your kind. Anyway, fine, let me think."
The rabbit girl taps her bare foot against the table. While you wait for her to think of acceptable terms, you wonder how lethal the pink-clad rabbit girl actually is. She's a youkai and thus likely capable of ripping you in half, but it's not like she exudes the magical power that all these other ridiculous girls do. Maybe she's hiding all sorts of lunarian weaponry in that dre-
"How's this sound?" Tewi asks. "You tell me three facts about the temple and its people that I find interesting, and that I couldn't figure out on my own, and I'll help you out."
"You're not a faerie, right?"
She rolls her eyes. "Or a devil or a genie or whatever else you're used to dealing with. You put in your good faith effort and I will too."
You nod. This seems a lot cheaper than what some might ask for. Just three things?
Are you sure about this, Bro? You really don't need to- You do. You absolutely do. The reward here is the crystallization of a lifetime of effort.
Besides, if what Tewi finds interesting turns out be completely unreasonable then you can always walk. You would likely be in a worse off position than before but it's worth the risk.
But isn't this a bit too-
Clearing your throat, you ask, "Is there anything specific you're looking to hear?"
Tewi shrugs in response. "I don't know what I don't know."
Of course it couldn't be so simple. You didn't expect any less, naturally.
Where can you start? Somewhere safe, nothing that would offend but bland enough to figure how far you need to go?
"You already know about how Myouren Temple was not built from the ground-up?" you ask.
"It used to be a ship. I was there when they landed it."
"Right," you shake your head, recalling when Byakuren first told you that little fact. You couldn't quite believe it.
"Do you doubt my integrity?" Byakuren had asked you.
"Of course not! it's just, well, a little farfetched," you had responded, stopping only for a moment before continuing to wash the floor with a rag.
You panicked for a moment when you suddenly had begun to fall, your arm shooting straight through the floor. You pulled yourself back, only to scream as your leg suddenly dropped through. You scrambled about for several seconds, desperately fighting to stay atop the wooden flooring that seemingly opened on its own.
It was Byakuren's giggling which caused you to swivel your head to look at her. She was touching the wall, her hand dim behind the shadowy haze of her magic. Black streaks spread out from where her finger made contact with the wood, flowing along the creases in the paneling. You tracked those thin lines of magic as they cascaded down the floor and out to where you kneeled.
"Very funny," you had deadpanned.
"I quite think so," Byakuren had replied before pressing her full palm against the wall.
You tried your best to get away but the very floor you stood upon was your enemy.
That was also the day you found out the Myouren Temple had numerous crawl spaces and not-quite-basements. Secret entrances in the walls, hidden rooms within hidden rooms, and a core that completely responded to Byakuren's will - you're surprised the woman isn't a massive fan of spy movies.
"Well, I guess I really need to stop underestimating magic," Tewi sighs after you finish telling her of Myouren Temple's unique configuration.
"You found that interesting, then?"
"Interesting enough, I'll count it. What else do you have for me?"
Internally, you relax. Perhaps this will be easier than you thought? That wasn't the worst secret to give up and, really, wasn't a secret all your own. All of the temple's senior members knew that. And it only truly matters if someone is trying to break in or some such anyway, so it really was fine to tell her. Absolutely fine.
Then to continue on in that vein?
"At least ninety-percent of the temple members have cursory training from Shou in martial arts, but it's her core disciples that truly dedicate themselves to preparing for war. They-"
"Let me stop you right there, Womanizer." Tewi rubs one of her ears idly. "I don't know what you think I'm looking for here, but let me just say this. If we wanted to invade your temple or the village or the mountain or anywhere else then nobody is stopping us.."
They what? "Are you-"
"Don't give me that look," she cuts you off. "I'm saying that unless you know of something that you think could slow down Eirin, Super Genius of the Moon, then I'd rather hear something interesting. Personal. Juicy, if you like."
There goes that plan.
Someone like Reisen might have been happy to report back every little nuance of temple life. Twi is not nearly so dedicated. Mokou already warned you about the extent of Tewi's loyalty to Eientei. it's the reason you're talking to her, after all.
What could interest Tewi? You just need two facts that might interest her. Surely you've had at least that many experiences in your time here? You cast through your memories, thinking of everything you had learned throughout the weeks of living in the temple. Bro?
[ ] Nazrin -[ ] "listens closely to her mice, some of which have even made it inside Eientei? [ ] Ichirin -[ ] "more than manipulating her partner, studies magic under Byakuren? -[ ] "is a dirty little gossip who happens to have her own interests? [ ] Minamitsu -[ ] "as a spirit of vengeance, is fixated on something particular? -[ ] "is still a girl, despite what her surly captain persona portrays? [ ] Byakuren -[ ] "despite her religious preaching, is rather fond of alcohol? -[ ] "is an accomplished magician, having been taught by a demon? -[ ] "as a sister, has her own fixations? -[ ] "as a person, is completely uninterested in me? [ ] <Write-in>
Vote for whatever you like but remember that order matters. The order of your votes is the order they'll be brought up!
>>184804 Naw, I plan on hitting everything I was originally planning on hitting just in fewer amounts of text and with less quality control. The original intent of this story was short, fast updates befitting a quest (and to fill my NaNo quota) but it quickly transformed into my usual long, plodding updates.
[x] Ichirin -[x] "is a dirty little gossip who happens to have her own interests? [x] Byakuren -[x] "as a person, is completely uninterested in me? -[x] "despite her religious preaching, is rather fond of alcohol?
Hopefully the sorts of things Tewi wants to hear. Well, she'd probably be very interested in Byakuren's deeper complexes, but we're not going that far. Hopefully.
[x] Nazrin -[x] "listens closely to her mice, some of which have even made it inside Eientei? [x] Ichirin -[x] "more than manipulating her partner, studies magic under Byakuren? -[x] "is a dirty little gossip who happens to have her own interests? [x] Minamitsu -[x] "as a spirit of vengeance, is fixated on something particular? [x] Byakuren -[x] "as a person, is completely uninterested in me?
In order. If the first two fail to appease her, try the next one and so on and so forth.
She could simply lie, but, like she said, you have to put some faith.
The more and more I read this story the more I keep finding myself drawn to the same threads.
Either Necroanon finally lets go of his past, and starts a new life in Gensokyo, while he sister moves on to wherever the dead go Or, Necroanon doubles up on his goal to give his sister her life back, and sacrifices what ever happiness he's earned for it.
Those two paths feel like the only two real plausible endings given his characterization, though I suppose I'm rooting for the former because it feels like the most natural and meaningful growth of his character
[x] Nazrin -[x] "listens closely to mice, including those that have been into Eientei? [x] Ichirin -[x] "is a dirty little gossip who happens to have her own interests? [x] Minamitsu -[x] "as a spirit of vengeance, is fixated on something particular? [x] Byakuren -[x] "as a person, is completely uninterested in me?
It just has to be interesting. Personal. Embarrassing. But not necessarily compromising?
If you look at this from the perspective of a bored thousand-year old rabbit?
"You know Ichirin, right? Bluenette constantly flittering around Byakuren? Well she has a pretty unrelenting side of her?"
"And you're sure you don't prefer cold, rough fl-"
The blue-haired nun takes a step away from you, shopping bags swaying in her arms. You watch her glance around, taking in the disapproving stares from several villagers, but she remains unrepentant.
You grab your jiang-shi's cap and pull it over her eyes. "Don't sound so disappointed, Yoshika. Honestly."
You wrestle with the clingy undead girl a bit longer before you finally get back on track to following Ichirin through the village.
"I hope you are not offended by my little jests," the nun says.
"No, it's fine. You've only tried to worm your way into my love life every single time we've gone shopping."
"It is a bad habit of mine, I'm afraid." Ichirin smiles and shrugs, the dozens of bags held aloft by pink clouds moving with her shoulders. "Worry not as I only bring it up to tease you now."
"Well thanks I guess."
After working with Ichirin more often than not during preparation, you're starting to recognize that gleam in her eyes. "You are welcome! After all, I know Lady Byakuren has already laid claim to you!"
"You little-" Your movement towards the little trouble-maker is brutally arrested, strong arms holding you in place.
"Yoshika! Stop that!"
It takes a few minutes but you finally manage to get Yoshika to settle down. Taking parts from the fully grown adult cadavers Eientei had on hand might have been a boon for Yoshika's combat abilities but it's only turned these childish bouts into a gigantic pain in the ass. Not to mention you feel like your reputation falls every time you visit the village.
"So other than causing a scene, are we done here?"
Ichirin taps a finger against her chin before tilting her head down the street. "One last stop, if I may?"
You pull out the checklist one of the moth youkai had passed you. "Didn't we get all the supplies the costumers asked for?"
"Ah, this would be a personal stop, not for the festival preparations."
You wordlessly gesture for Ichirin to lead on. Unzan does most of the heavy lifting in regards to carrying things so another stop isn't much of a bother.
Ichirin carefully makes her way down the streets of the village before abruptly turning into a simple looking stop with large window displays.
"A flower shop?"
"Yes," she replies as a bell above the door jingles. "I was thinking our gardens are looking a bit unfit for the oncoming winter."
The nun steps away from you for a moment to speak with the older man at the counter. You honestly can't say much about the store. There's a bunch of bright and colorful vegetation in all manners of pots on display. The store itself is surprisingly large, a few person-tall shelves creating tiny aisles to navigate. You can't see over them as even the tops of the shelves are covered in green.
When the presumable owner heads into back Ichirin walks over to you.
"You come here often, then?" you ask her.
"Often enough. I have always been very fond of flowers ever since I was a child helping my mother in the family garden." The blue-haired nun is all smiles as she carefully touches some of the plants on display. "Much like with tending the temple's disciples, there is powerful work in cultivating flowers. Nurture them and take pride in them and you shall find the greatest reward in their appreciative blooms."
"Well said, Dear."
Ichirin freezes in place, just as surprised as you by the hand ruffling her hair. "Ah, Y-Yu-Yu-ah, ah, thank you," she manages to stutter.
As quickly as the head-patter arrived, she leaves. The green-haired woman drops a few coins on the counter before quickly vacating the building.
You didn't sense her presence at all but she must have already been in the store since you only heard the bell chime when you entered and after she just left.
You didn't see her walk up behind Ichirin, either.
Speaking of, your companion still stands with her hand outstretched, unmoving. You poke her shoulder. "Someone you know?"
It takes a moment for the girl to move, the tension in her form dissipating. "She is Yuuka Kazami. H-Has Lady Byakuren not informed you of her?"
"Yuuka, Yuuka?the crazy strong youkai that Byakuren said would smush me with her pinkie if I offended her?"
"T-That is a fair description."
"Huh. I didn't get that vibe from her at all." Having met several entities more than capable of reducing you to paste, you are well-accustomed to the feeling of overwhelming power. The smiling woman twirling a parasol over her shoulder, a single flower cupped in her other hand, did not give you that impression.
"Looks can be deceiving."
"I guess so if she has you this afraid."
"Perhaps not afraid? After all, you don't see Unzan at all except for the faint mist holding the shopping bags above your heads. If there is one thing you have learned about the strange pink cloud man thing is that he is always there to support Ichirin. You're positive he would've responded to a threat with more presence.
Then maybe? "So, you fancy the tall, refined types huh?"
"She certainly had a very elegant air to her, more real than whatever Byakuren tries to maintain."
"That's not it at all!"
"So it's the green hair? Or is it just the flowers?"
"No! Do you think I am so shallow? Yuuka is stunning but that has little to do with-" The bluenette claps her hands over her mouth.
You can't help but grin. "Ichirin has a cruuuush~"
You laugh as she storms away from you and out of the store. Girl can't take what she dishes at all.
"Hah! That is interesting!" Your audience of one chuckles as you finish your story. "I know the Flower is rather fond of the bug girls, but this?" Maybe you can help it along?"
"I'd rather not mess with things that could pulverize me."
"Yet here you are."
"Yet here I am." You do tend to interact with all manners of things that could pulverize your fleshy human body. it's a terrible stroke of misfortune. Misfortune he says. There's one thing in common?
"So how is that working out for you?"
You look down at the rabbit girl who has repositioned closer to you once more. "Hm?"
"Everybody noticed how enamored Byakuren was with you. it's been a solid month; when's the wedding?"
She asks with a grin but you can't stop those less-than-pleasant feelings from bubbling up inside you.
"Ah, well, that?s?" You look down at your hand, grasping it open and close, the minor stall for time not helping in the least. "That probably isn't happening."
You segue into your next story, however reluctant you are to tell it. You don't dwell on the details, rushing through the end of your night with Byakuren. It might not be as interesting for Tewi but you can't really force yourself to linger on how your feelings were brutally crushed and torn to pieces.
No, that's unfair. Byakuren struggled, related to you all her worries. She considered your feelings, she considered them before dragging them over the rocks.
You try to focus more on your own wallowing in failure than Byakuren's when you tell the story to Tewi.
"Well shucks kid, sorry to hear that," she declares when you finish. "I knew your luck was bad but that's a pretty rough one."
Despite what you might expect, she doesn't make fun of you or laugh. You sort of had the feeling the centuries old youkai was just looking for kicks but maybe she can empathize?
Tewi gives you her largest grin yet and bumps into your shoulder as she stands. "Let's see if we can your turn your luck around, huh? Let's talk about what I can do about this book of yours."
"Of course!" The black-haired girl gives you several hard pats on the back. "You're an honest kid that's helped me out a bunch so there's no reason I can't try to return the favor."
"But I haven't done anything for you?"
"Not me directly maybe but you've already helped Reisen plenty of times. You were there to help clean up our mess and you've been doing wonders for Firebird too. So you ticked Eirin off a bit - we all do that."
Maybe you really should have centered yourself before coming here?
You had some terrible foreboding feelings beforehand but this looks like it's turning out alright.
Tewi moves back to her side of the table and sits down properly. "One last question before we get to your business. I'm curious; do you actually understand why Tenderfoot rejected you?"
[ ] "Yes." [ ] "No." [ ] "Maybe?" [ ] "Can we just move on?" [ ] <Write-in>
>>184829 Dark, ain'tcha? Why can't everything be happy happy rainbows? Have your cake and eat it too!
"Do I?understand?" What kind of question is that? "How could I not? Byakuren took a pretty minute explaining to me where she was at!"
"Explain it to me, then."
"I'm rash and oblivious! I'm emotional, jumping straight into things without another thought! And-" Tewi's unimpressed gaze cuts your rant off short.
Really, you need to get a handle on yourself. Forget about trying to have a discrete meeting, you shouldn't be yelling at your host like that over your own problems. You continue on in a more level tone. "And it doesn't particularly bother her. Honest, straightforward, optimistic, not visually unattractive?
"it's just- Not me at all. But it is me. Because of how I am I remind her of all the unpleasantness in her life. A living monument to her failures, as it is. Just by existing and trying to be by her side I throw her mind for loops, an unnecessary weight and complication. Apparently I just give her too much to think about.
"Not that she can't! She definitely can. She just- it's me, right? Not that I'm so important either but if I wasn't just so- me, there'd be less problems. I'd be less of an embarrassment in public, at least. Wouldn't be a walking PR nightmare for her, let alone the nightmare in her dreams.
"Then again, she rejected me while speaking from her heart, didn't she? Her raw emotions as they were?
"If that's the case?" you sigh. Externalizing your thoughts leaves you feeling drained. "I guess I don't really understand at all."
"That's life for you! If it's not one confusing thing it's another," Tewi takes your confession in stride. "If it helps any, I think you're overcomplicating things."
She speaks with such certainty. "I am? Do you have some insight I'm missing?"
"Into Tenderfoot and her emotional problems? Not at all! I can say that the her of the past wouldn't have worried nearly so much about public appearances if that's bothering you." Tewi shakes her head, her ears flopping around. "What I'm talking about is you humans. You should just chase her around a bit, nip her on the ears and then fuck her."
"Not a problem! Happy to help. Speaking of help, let's talk about how we're going to go about this." Tewi's smile doesn't fade as she begins to talk business. "I figure there are two approaches we have. First, I go up to Eirin right now and ask her if I can have the book, nice and direct like."
The obvious method. "She wouldn't agree to that, would she? At least, Mokou warned me about hard negotiations."
"And she was right to. True, I do think I could get it better than you. She'd ask why I want it and I'd beat around the bush until she gets exasperated and either tell me to go away or make a demand of some sort. I do it often enough that it shouldn't be too suspicious. Sure a magic tome is a tad unusual for me but if Eirin is willing to give it up I think she would."
Tewi holds up two her fingers. "Second option is I scope out the field, maybe over a week or so. Figure out what exactly Eirin is doing with your little book and then put the pressure on Reisen and the other girls to help out."
So she'd look into the situation on your behalf? Given her position, she could definitely manage to find more information you ever could as an outsider. But, "Doesn't that have the same problem as option one? If Eirin says no it's over."
"It depends. Eirin is busy lady and is always researching multiple topics at once. it's no surprise if she goes through a dozen different experiments in a day. If you ask her she'll lecture you about time efficiency or something." She rolls her eyes. You imagine she's had to deal with more than her fair share of lecturing throughout her long association with the Lunarian genius. "It could be that she's done with your book, or won't need it for another month, or maybe it's just unimportant enough it can slip away without too much worry. It might just come back to me asking directly but it could save both of us a lot of favors in exchange for some time."
Two options, both of which are not too far off from what you imagined Tewi could do for you. it's all a matter of expediency and how much you want to try and avoid Eirin.
Time-wise, you can theoretically afford to wait. Another week on top of a decade of searching is nothing. Yet, taking longer gives you an uncomfortable feeling in your gut. Eirin's monstrous dabbling isn't a good omen in your mind.
Eirin-wise, well, it's Eirin.
[ ] Clarifications or conditions -[ ] <Write-in> [ ] Ask now [ ] Gather information [ ] Take a recess [ ] <Write-in>
>>184852 [x] Gather information -[x] We're desperate, but not rushed, and Eirin doesn't seem the type to destroy the book if it's left in her hands for a while- even if she makes things go horribly, horribly wrong by misusing it. Better to avoid as much potential trouble from her as possible. -[x] If Tewi can keep an eye out for any evidence that things are in fact going horribly, horribly wrong, that would probably be prudent. Not only is that dangerous, if someone else comes to clean up Eirin's mess we'd risk never getting the book at all.
[x] Gather information -[x] We're desperate, but not rushed, and Eirin doesn't seem the type to destroy the book if it's left in her hands for a while- even if she makes things go horribly, horribly wrong by misusing it. Better to avoid as much potential trouble from her as possible. -[x] If Tewi can keep an eye out for any evidence that things are in fact going horribly, horribly wrong, that would probably be prudent. Not only is that dangerous, if someone else comes to clean up Eirin's mess we'd risk never getting the book at all.
[x] Gather information -[x] We're desperate, but not rushed, and Eirin doesn't seem the type to destroy the book if it's left in her hands for a while- even if she makes things go horribly, horribly wrong by misusing it. Better to avoid as much potential trouble from her as possible. -[x] If Tewi can keep an eye out for any evidence that things are in fact going horribly, horribly wrong, that would probably be prudent. Not only is that dangerous, if someone else comes to clean up Eirin's mess we'd risk never getting the book at all.
"If Eirin would leave well enough alone then there shouldn't be a rush. I should have at least another half-century in me, right?"
"With your luck? I wonder about that."
"-Are you serious?"
Tewi laughs and throws her hands in the air. "What do I know? Unlike some people, even I'm not lucky enough to see your fate or your future or some other bullshit."
That does nothing to make you feel better. If she can see luck then is your misfortune like a thick miasma waiting to strangle you as soon as it-
"Relax, you'll probably be fine if you would stop messing with people thousands of years older than you."
Yeah, Gensokyo, land of thousands-of-years-old little girls.
"I don't think there's much a chance of that while staying here."
"Guess not, huh?" Tewi smirks and taps a finger on the table. "You're fine with waiting on this for a bit?"
You nod your head. "Another week or so shouldn't harm anything. I don't think Eirin would go and destroy the book or something once she's finished with it?would she?"
"She shouldn't. I guess it's possible if she thought it was dangerous enough but the things she finds dangerous pretty exclusively start with Lunar."
"Then I can wait. I came to you in the first place because I thought it would be prudent to avoid any trouble working directly with Eirin might cause; no reason to break that idea.."
The chances of Eirin causing trouble are likely near a hundred-percent, unfortunately.
"Although if you could," you continue, "I'd ask to keep an eye on any trouble Eirin could cause on her own with her research into the book. Ignoring all of the highly lethal dangers I outlined before, I'd really hate it if someone like Reimu came around and destroyed everything in response to another accident."
"You don't have to worry about that, I'm always keeping an eye on?everyone. Sheesh isn't this supposed to be Reisen's job? Honestly. I think the Princess would be the only one I could leave alone." The rabbit youkai frowns and shakes her head. "And even then that's just because she's immortal. She'd probably get run over by a car or something."
Now there's a worry you haven't had in years. For all the interesting things you find in the magical communities of the world, modern conveniences aren't one of them. A car wouldn't do well in murky swamps and underground crypts. ?I didn't think automobiles were a thing in Gensokyo."
"Not usually, but we've ended up with a few wayward souls on occasion that managed to bring along their screaming metal deathtraps. Anyway, how does this sound? You try to fix your mess of relationships and I nose around for a bit. I'll come find you once I've figured out how we should go about this. I won't forget, but if you get worried I'm taking too long you can come see me and we'll talk from there."
You nod along. "If you see an opportunity to make a move, don't feel obligated to keep me in the loop. I trust your judgement in this."
"Well thanks Womanizer! With lines like that, you'll have Tenderfoot back with you in no time!" Tewi's friendly jibes sting a little- a lot if you give yourself time to consider it. "We done here?"
"I guess so. Thank you for your help, Tewi."
"Yeah, yeah." The black-haired rabbit youkai waves her hand nonchalantly before strolling over to the door and poking her head out. Then she puts her fingers to her mouths and whistles.
The single clear note rings down the halls. A moment later, Bunny comes bouncing towards you both. The blue-haired rabbit youkai throws a sloppy salute.
"Help him get out of here, would you?"
With a nod of her head Tewi walks off deeper into Eientei.
Your guide is all smiles as she leads you back the way you came. "I'm guessing things worked out for ya then?"
"It went well," you tell her. "I hope it ends well, too."
"If the boss is helping ya out then there ain't nothing to worry about! She'll get you whatever you need, no problem."
"Sounds like you're pretty confident in Tewi."
"Well ?course I am! The boss is real good to us all." Your blue-haired guide vigorously nods with all the confidence in the world. "Now, we should be able to get ya out of here without anyone else noticing. Already scoped out where all the other stuffed shirts are, well, except for-"
"No, not me, Reisen." Your guide looks up at you, a confused look on her face. You tilt your head back and she turns to look. "Reisen!"
Despite becoming a youkai, it seems like instincts are hard to break. You watch your diminutive guide completely freeze and stare at the oncoming Lunarian. Then she turns tail and bolts, bouncing off the walls to escape.
Reisen's eyes narrow in response. She plants her feet and snaps her hand up.
With a squeak and a crash the fleeing Earth rabbit it shot down mid-leap. Reisen's precision danmaku handgun is something to fear.
"That's right you little slacker. You think you can skip your lessons with a lame excuse like ?Tewi needs me?" None of you would ever attend if that worked!" The blue-haired rabbit groans in response.
Reisen hauls Bunny up by the back of her shirt and throws the smaller youkai over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes. She turns to go back down the hall she appeared from and finally meets your eyes.
"H-Huh?" she utters.
"Hi," you respond.
[ ] "How are you?" [ ] "What have you been up to?" [ ] "Read any good books lately?" [ ] "She really was helping Tewi." [ ] "Nice aim." [ ] "I like your outfit." [ ] "Good luck with that." [ ] "You never saw me." [ ] "Catch you later, Reisen." [ ] <Write-in>
Let's see, what order will probably go fairly smoothly...
[x] "Nice aim." [x] "She really was helping Tewi." -[x] And we really do need a guide out of here, so we'd like her back, please. [x] (Optionally) If our purpose here is questioned, we were getting relationship advice from Tewi. Terrible relationship advice. And we would rather not talk about it. It's even true! [x] "What have you been up to?" [x] "Catch you later, Reisen.."
There, that should cover our bases reasonably well.
[x] "Nice aim.." [x] "How have you been holding up?" -[x] And we really do need a guide out of here, so we'd like her back, please. [x] (Optionally) If our purpose here is questioned, we were getting relationship advice from Tewi. Terrible relationship advice. And we would rather not talk about it. It's even true! [x] "Catch you later, Reisen.."
Changing the 'it was really helping tewi' because it'll come when she inevitably asks. And, besides, I really do want to see how she was doing.
[x] "Nice aim.." [x] "How have you been holding up?" -[x] And we really do need a guide out of here, so we'd like her back, please. [x] (Optionally) If our purpose here is questioned, we were getting relationship advice from Tewi. Terrible relationship advice. And we would rather not talk about it. It's even true! [x] "Catch you later, Reisen.."
Hint Reisen might not remember NecroAnon because of Eiren memory fuckery. Maybe. Wasn't this story supposed to have some Shadowrun tier paranoia in it?
[x] "Nice aim.." [x] "How have you been holding up?" -[x] And we really do need a guide out of here, so we'd like her back, please. [x] (Optionally) If our purpose here is questioned, we were getting relationship advice from Tewi. Terrible relationship advice. And we would rather not talk about it. It's even true! [x] "Catch you later, Reisen."
[x] "Nice aim." [x] "I like your outfit.." [x] "She really was helping Tewi." -[x] And we really do need a guide out of here, so we'd like her back, please. [x] (Optionally) If our purpose here is questioned, we were getting relationship advice from Tewi. Terrible relationship advice. And we would rather not talk about it. It's even true! [x] "What have you been up to?" [x] "Catch you later, Reisen."
Adding the outfit line to hopefully fluster and confuse her.
Reisen seems horribly confused. You didn't think the two words would be beyond her. You bend your fingers and point your own handgun down the hall. "It was pretty stylish but also very effective. I wouldn't have been able to hit a panicked rabbit with one shot."
"Right. Well, if I didn't hit her I wouldn't hear the end of it. I am the best pistol shot here at Eientei. I always scored top marks back in the academy too!" Reisen glares at the semi-conscious rabbit and shakes her around. "Can't say this one was making it easy."
You feel a little bad for the limp rabbit swaying in Reisen's hand. "Just in case it becomes important, she wasn't lying. Bunny there really was helping Tewi out."
"She was?" Reisen glares at Bunny again before turning her gaze to you. "Doing what?"
"I needed a guide so I wouldn't get lost before and after our meeting."
"Then you're here?to meet with Tewi?" Reisen intuits. Her brows are furrowed, as if the very concept is inconceivable.
"I was," you confirm. "Is that so surprising? Am I not supposed to?"
"What? No, of course not! it's perfectly fine. Just, unexpected. I'm surprised I didn't hear anything about it." Reisen takes her free hand and covers her mouth, eyes staring at the ground in concentration. After a moment, her eyes slowly rise back up. "You aren't helping her plot one of her pranks, are you?"
As much as you want to be offended, her suspicions are completely justified from what you've heard. "If I am she didn't tell me about it. I was, uh, asking for some advice."
"Advice? On how to be more annoying?"
"Relationships? You're having problems with Byakuren? What, is she not putting out? If she isn't feeling it then I have the perfect supplement-"
"No! That's not it!" You cut off the Lunarian before she can start trying to sell you something. "Why'd you even assume it was with Byakuren?"
Reisen rolls her eyes. "Well who else would it be? I think everybody has seen the two of you together often enough."
"If we're just talking about time then I'm with Yoshika the most."
"That?s?true. It was just the air you two had about you I guess? Are you trying to tell me you weren't looking for advice about Byakuren?"
"-I was. But not in the way you're thinking. She, uh, doesn't feel the same way about me."
You manage to not completely stutter over the words.
As soon as the words are out of your mouth, you watch Reisen's rabbits ears droop by a hand. "I'm sorry to hear that, I really am. You-" Whatever she was about to say is cut off by the incessant beeping of an alarm. Reisen swats at her wrist, immediately canceling the sound. "But we're always meeting at the worst of times, you know? I'm on duty or I have to direct someone or have to get this one's butt back to class."
She shakes Bunny once more.
"You should really stick around or, ah, come back a bit later. We can go out for drinks or something. Time to chat, you know?"
Before you can answer, a whistling Lunarian turns the corner. The teal-haired rabbit girl has a bag slung over her shoulder, her militaristic outfit looking only a little less fanciful than Reisen's getup.
"Chiester!" Reisen shouts, "What are you doing?"
Honestly, it's somewhat incredible how quickly Reisen manages to jump between duties. As quickly as she turned her attention away, you don't feel slighted at all. You only felt a pervading sadness from Reisen when you mentioned what's happening with you, not any annoyance at delaying her from her other duties.
"-Sup Reisen," the teal-haired Lunarian replies. "Heading into town to see what I can sell."
"This late in the day? it's almost noon!"
"And? Unlike the rest of you I've done good work; I've met my quota!"
"You what? When?"
"Haven't you been keeping track of the lists, Reisen? Go ask the Doctor if you don't believe me." The other Lunarian lets out a hearty chuckle, her entire body shaking with her mirth. "At this point I'm cruising. A bit of pocket change, a bit of fun, it's great!"
"Fine," Reisen concedes. "If you're heading out do you mind showing him out of the building? I have to get back to class."
"Can do, Captain!"
The situation begs the question, what are you going to do? With your business with Tewi concluded, all the urgency that brought you to Eientei in the first place has been scattered to the winds. Now you need to do one of the things you've never been particularly good at ?wait.
[ ] Back to the temple -[ ] Find Byakuren -[ ] Bug Minamitsu -[ ] Chat with Ichirin -[ ] Train with Shou [ ] Wait around -[ ] Sit in on class -[ ] Hang with the earth rabbits -[ ] Explore [ ] Visit Muenzuka for Necromantic preparations [ ] Return to the shrine [ ] Back to Mokou?s [ ] Visit the village [ ] <Write-in>
>>184867 Never played anything/read anything in the setting (even though I've been meaning to) so I couldn't tell you!
With little pause in her step, Reisen waves goodbye and drags away the slightly flailing earth rabbit.
That leaves you staring at this teal-haired lunarian. "Lead the way, uh, Chiester?"
She gives you a crispy salute before smartly turning on a heel and marching down the hall. "This way!"
You trail behind the lunarian, watching her messenger bag not sway in the slightest. "So do all the lunar rabbits sell things in the village?"
You've seen them all at different places and different times. Reisen is usually the one hawking all sorts of remedies in the morning, while others setup stands or take a seat by the village gate. Sometimes you see the lunarians making deliveries, sedately walking or running about as it suits them.
"Yes we do!" Chiester replies, her march not changing pace at all even though she turns her head sideways to speak with you. "It is one of the many duties we have to accomplish. The Doctor sets a quota of goods and services we have to sell for a given month. The goals vary based on our previous performance as well as any other tasks we complete that the Doctor wanted done."
Even if the Lunarians didn't need the money, it makes sense for them to sell anyway. It keeps the workers busy while building reputation and goodwill in Gensokyo.
"What happens if you don't meet your quota?" you ask.
For a moment, you think that Chiester loses composure. It almost looks like she takes a step off tempo. "Terrible things," she responds
Ominous. Quite. Everything about Eientei, the Lunarians specifically, sets you slightly on edge. It doesn't take much to remind you about Reisen's breakdown or Eirin's demeanor. "Like what?"
"Last month I was slightly behind. And I-" She stops, stutters, as if her mind just went blank.
No. This can't be real. "You what? Can you remember?"
"Of course I can!" She explodes, her crisp countenance thrown and shattered against the walls. "How could I forget singing while stark naked in front of the Princess! And I'm positive those damn stumps have it recorded somewhere!"
Chiester is breathing heavily by the time she's done, her arms held stiffly at her sides. She takes a moment to center herself before beginning to march again. "N-Never again. I made sure to get credit for as many of the Doctor's requests as I could this time."
"Oh. I see." You do your best not to comment further, instead following Chiester quietly as she makes her way through the halls, lost in whatever rut her mind wandered into.
"Thanks for guiding me back outside!"
You quickly make your way across the yard, the lazing and playful rabbits mostly making a path for you. The gate guards, or perhaps watchers is a better term, barely glance up at you from where they're stuffing their faces with food.
As you walk down the path away from Eientei, your jiang-shi fall into step next to you.
"How are you all? I hope I didn't keep you waiting."
Yoshika, as is her nature, immediately latches onto your side with a sigh of pleasure.
"Not at all, Master," Rea answers you. The refined jiang-shi helps you out, sort of, by reaching over and adjusting Yoshika's hat to properly sit atop her head.
The rest of your jiang-shi give their own grunts of confirmation. Shilverase casually strolls off to the side, her long pink hair somehow managing to not get tangled in that staff-flail abomination of a weapon she uses. Dio walks on your other side, the blonde boy casually tossing a knife around. Behind you, Nekurow clanks in his half-assembled armor.
"Nothing interesting happen out here?" you ask.
"You were barely gone for half an hour Master," Dio answers.
Well, you're glad they didn't go and try to eat any stray rabbits or anything. "Alright then. To keep you all updated, it looks like we're not assaulting Eientei today. Tewi agreed to investigate for us, so I rushed us all over here for very little."
"Not at all! Best be prepared for the worst!" Shilverase assures you.
"That is impossible," Nekurow scoffs, "It can always get worse. You cannot prepare forever."
"Well if you want to be like that-" and just like that, your jiang-shi settle into a comfortable banter. You suppose, even before they came into your custody, that they spent a fair amount of time getting to know each other. Even after they had been abandoned they seemed to communicate with their decaying bodies to a surprising depth.
Before you realize it you're out of the bamboo forest. From here, it's a short flight back to the temple.
Well, yeah. You might have rushed over to Eientei once Nazrin let you know what was up, but now you're on tap to wait again. What else are you going to do?
Just wondering what you were planning on doing at the temple.
Whatever comes to mind.
Well, probably find some people. Talk to them.
People, or person?
And you're fine with that?
Why wouldn't you be?
What are you going to say to her!"
[ ] "Tewi suggested we fuck." [ ] "I want to take the time to carefully discuss our feelings." [ ] "You look gorgeous today, baby." [ ] "Don't worry about it [ ] <Write-in>
You and your jiang-shi touch down right outside the gate. For some reason you can't imagine, people generally don't fly directly into the courtyard. it's not like there's enough people to crowd the air. If everybody slows to a reasonable, non-Marisa speed there probably wouldn't be any collisions.
Either way, you nod to the elephant youkai on duty at the gate and step into Myouren Temple proper. it's just after noon which means the amount of activity in the yard is subdued. A few disciples walk here and there, a few of Shou's people are practicing forms but the vast majority is eating lunch.
"Welcome back~? one rather drowsy armadillo greets you from where she lays, basking in the sun.
"Maria," you nod to the youkai. "Snoozing already?"
"We deserve it~? she mumbles before shifting slightly and falling back to sleep.
That might be what is different. Whereas in the weeks before the festival the temple had a determined air, and the days of everybody was frantically busying themselves, today the mood is relaxed. Many of the disciples are glowing in success; the previous night's performance still resonates in their minds.
It helps to warm you heart. Most everybody here walked away from the festival in a wonderful mood. The warm greetings you receive help lighten the weight on your mind. Hell, even the disciples who believe you have no place in the temple manage polite smiles towards you.
You and your companions quickly make your way to the temple's kitchens. it's the place with the second highest concentration of temple residents at the moment, so either Byakuren will be here or someone will know where she is.
Also, you're pretty hungry. No doubt your jiang-shi are as well.
When you reach the front of the serving-line, you find Byakuren on duty.
No, that's wrong.
The Byakuren look-alike grins and raises her ladle. "Greetings."
"Nue, how are you?" you ask as she fills several bowls full of soup.
"Well enough. With the festivities finished, our home might finally settle for some time." Nue tucks a lock of her black-purple hair behind her ear as she speaks. You wonder if she is unable to change her hair and eye color, or if she doesn't out of respect for the others.
So you ask.
"Indeed," she comments dryly. "Despite the supernatural senses of the others, my power is not petty. Those who can identify my?illusions, if you will, can be counted upon two hands. The Hijiri suggested such common identifiers to ?Better integrate myself with the other disciples.?"
"Do you not like it?"
"It is?palatable," she answers. "It is habit for humans and weak youkai to fear the night I haunt, aware yet unknowing of that which stalks them. As others have told me, times change."
You carefully distribute the soup bowls and send your jiang-shi further down the line. "I see. For what it's worth, I know fitting in isn't the easiest of things, even for those of us who have barely seen life compared to you."
"Quite. Is there something else you desire from me?" Nue asks as you slightly hold up the rest of the food line.
"Do you happen to know where Byakuren is?"
"She was here not ten minutes ago. Her room perhaps?"
"Thank you for your help, Nue." The youkai simply nods and waves you on.
You and your jiang-shi move into the courtyard to eat, finding nice seats in the grass. When you look around, you see Ichirin eating with a few other girls and Shou taking a small lunch with her own disciples. Is Byakuren eating alone?
You finish most of your lunch quickly and excuse yourself from the group. Yoshika makes to follow but you sit her down and tell her to stay. She pouts but nonetheless allows you to leave without attaching herself to you like a limpet.
With only a small piece of bread stuffed into your pocket, you begin the trek to Byakuren's room. The path is well known to you by now, any number of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners having been taken in there.
You step up to the door and raise your hand to knock, but pause.
Thought about what you're going to say?
"A little bit.
Before your confidence abandons you completely, you rasp your knuckles against the wood. "Byakuren?" you raise your voice.
You slide the door open and find the head nun kneeling at her folding table, empty dishes for one sitting atop it.
"Hi," you say to her.
"Hello," she answers.
You close the door behind her and then stand there, looking down at the woman.
Her smile at you grows a little. "Please, sit."
You nod and make your way over to the other side of the table. Not too fast. But not reluctantly or anything. Just, normally. Normal.
Across from you, Byakuren's eyebrows hitch together in what you imagine is amusement. "You left the temple rather early this morning."
"It wasn't too early," you reply. "The sun had been well up when we left."
"Is that so? My apologies then. I believe a vast majority of the disciples had a late beginning after the end of the festival."
Byakuren tilts her head slightly and takes a sip of tea.
You nod and nibble on your bread.
It looks like Byakuren ate all her lunch. She isn't the cleanest, most refined eater but she knows how to be polite and seems loathe to waste any food. You've seen her lick her chopsticks clean and- "What have you been up to?" you ask her.
She hums and sets her teacup down. "Nothing so strenuous. Mostly confirming the safe return of all of our disciples."
You look to the side and pop a piece of bread in your mouth.
Byakuren closes her eyes and sips more tea.
Didn't you think about what you were going to say?
You're having second thoughts?
This is?a bit more oppressive than you expected.
Pfh. Like that has ever stopped you before.
"That's a good point, isn't it?
Of course it is, I made it.
"Would you like some tea?" Byakuren asks you.
"Ah, yes please." Even though she chose to eat alone, she still took a second teacup with her meal. Her normal preparedness, or was she expecting?"
You take a quick gulp of tea, probably rather rudely, and set the cup back down with a clack. "I ended up at Eientei this morning. Talking with Tewi, you see?"
Byakuren raises an eyebrow as she takes a sip.
"I was looking for some advice, some help, with a few of my problems. After a bit of talking, she agreed to help and also gave me some advice."
The woman sitting across from you doesn't interrupt, her eyes soft and waiting.
You make sure to look directly into those sedate eyes.
I suddenly regret-
"She said we should fuck."
Oh my god?
Surprise. A slight widening, pupils dilating.
Her teacup freezes in midair, slightly tilted yet not having reached her open lips.
Faint blush, a ramrod straight back.
If you activate your magesight you get the feeling you'd see a slight excess of magical energy leaking off of her.
Then life seeps back into Byakuren. Her eyes close and she sets her teacup onto the table as she rises.
The woman takes four graceful steps and then lowers herself back to the ground, an arm's reach away, eyes still closed.
She leans forward, one hand on the ground to support her. Other hand out, grasping the yellow scarf around your neck. Eyes open, beautiful almonds, lips pursed, voice low-
?Shall we, then?"
[ ] ERROR [ ] Faint [ ] Push her to the ground [ ] "E-Excuse me?" [ ] Magic! Magic! [ ] Cry [ ] <Write-in>
And I mess up the day after I mention it. Well, one solid week was a good enough start I guess.
>Her teacup freezes in midair, slightly tilted yet not having reached her open lips. You couldn't wait another half-second for the full spittake, could you, NecroAnon? And the setup was perfect, just as planned. I despair of you.
[x] Push her to the ground
She might be attempting a countertroll, but you know what? That kind of invitation from a girl that we have confessed our love to and then specifically told that we're not going to give up when she rejected us because reasons isn't something to be turned down because of paranoia or doubts.
Besides, we're playing to our strengths here. Remember what she told us last thread? >As much as you admire me, I find you amazing. Your ability to simply act, to do what you feel is right in your heart, is astounding. Where other men might be hindered by their doubts or their fears, you simply do. You claim yourself single-minded but that is not a bad trait. I wish I could maintain such a focus on a single task. I wish I could avoid these thoughts that plague my decisions, question my every move. I find this part of you charmingly direct
If she considers our ability to move forward toward our goals directly without hesitation one of our best features, we can't very well ruin that by failing to press the romance if there's even a faint hint of success in the air.
Her light, warm breath tickles the side of your neck.
Gorgeous, alluring, drawing you in-
You reach out, a hand to each shoulder. And you-
You take a moment.
At first, you were ready to flip out. To shove Byakuren to the ground?and then run away, escape. Anger, confusion, heartache - they all demanded you leave and sort yourself.
You still want to, in some ways. You're not afraid to admit that when something surprises you, when some hungry monster sets their eyes on you, fleeing in one of your go-to options.
it's only prudent.
But here, you crush the instinct underfoot. You ignore your pounding heart and command your mind in spite of your raging emotions, all thanks to one simple observation.
This beautiful, mystifying woman is fucking smirking. That little twist of her lips that she can't control because she thinks she's in control.
It shouldn't be a surprise. Byakuren has little shame; whether she lost it after lifetimes of experience or years of poor influence from demons and other rowdy youkai you don't know. No matter where it came from, she's definitely flustered you more than you have her in the time you've known her.
But you started this, didn't you?
Your grip on her shoulders tightens ever so slightly. Perhaps something shows on your face, giving away your intent, because Byakuren's eyes widen just a tad. Her mouth forms the smallest of o?s-
And then you lean forward.
She hits the floor and you loom above her.
She's beautiful. The first thing that had struck you about her was her subdued perfection. Her poise and grace had surprised and astounded you.
Even when she's working or sparring or drunk or performing or crying her heart out. Byakuren has an elegance that is all her own.
You love her. You want to be by her side. You want her to be happy, not suffering in quiet misery.
"Still want to do it?" you whisper with a smirk of your own.
Despite your best effort, Byakuren seems even calmer than before. Her breathing is almost even, her chest barely rising and falling beneath you.
She reaches up, her right hand cupping the side of your face.
A few strands of gradient hair have fallen between her eyes, down her nose and off to the side. Her eyes aren't half-lidded, simply open. No smirk to her mouth, just the slight natural curve downwards at the corners, lips glistening.
You thought this was a joke-
"Is it not your heart's desire?" she asks, voice quiet and reserved.
[ ] Green light [ ] Red light [ ] <Write-in>
>>184907 But what if your partner can control the floor~
>>184915 We live and die and live again; the cycle of write.
[x] <Write-in> - [x] "not so much just this moment but you"
I know this is flawed but the point is showing that what Nerco anon wants is her heart, not ust one night in the sack (though it stands to read that many nights in the sack would be a side benefit to her heart)
Byakuren and NecroAnon are both pretty screwed up people. This is not the ideal situation.
That said, there's an immediate question before us, and while I doubt we can divine the right answer, we can probably find a not-wrong one.
Reading back in >>182386, most of why Byakuren likes us is based on our personality- who we are. Most of why she shot us down is based on her own problems, who she is. Remember, her line wasn't "I don't like you", and in fact she said that she likes us quite a bit, but rather: >I do not believe I am capable of returning your affection.
Because she's obsessed with the past. Because her emotions are all screwed up, and she wants something impossible. She's not in a centered mental place, and knows it; in her own judgement she's not capable of a relationship.
But she's been badmouthing herself as long as we've known her. I'm willing to discard her judgement on this one as hopelessly biased and say that it doesn't matter if she thinks she's capable of returning our affections, because she actually is. She smiles and laughs in our company, enjoys our personality, dances and cuddles and generally is happier with us than without us.
And that might not be some kind of epic romance or a fairytale destined total love, but it's frankly more than a lot of people get in a partner. The perfect is the enemy of the good here, and the available evidence seems to point to things being pretty good if neither of us shoot for perfect.
So. How to explain that in brief (because too many words will almost certainly make things stall and crash) so that we can proceed forward?
[x] Green light -[x] "Only a small part of it, but I've lived my life making the most of small victories."
Hopefully my analysis isn't unreasonable here and things will go okay. Byakuren isn't the flighty or panicky type and NecroAnon doesn't think he has a magical penis that will make girls fall for him completely the moment it touches them, so at least they've got that going for them when sorting out feelings however this shakes out.
>>184934 >Only a small part of it, but I've lived my life making the most of small victories."
Damn man, spot on. I can imagine his face with a 'I've seen some shit' look after killing the 500th amateur with delusions of grandeur and destroying the 3000th to 3100th reanimated corpses. only to find that he was getting his magic from a copy of a copy of a copy of a babelfish translation of the Necronomicon.
His sister is worried, but all he says is "One down, a hundred thousand to go" with a bittersweet smile
Not just her body, but her mind and soul. You want her to feel the same love you do, whatever that might entail. That is what your heart tells you.
So this, having the woman you love lying beneath you?
You worry some. it's hard not to second-guess yourself, to overthink things. Byakuren's tone, her behavior - it isn't quite right.
it's a start.
You can't expect to be able to greedily claim all of her at once.
You lean down, so close, the tips of your noses a hairsbreadth apart.
"Only a small part of it," you admit. "But I've lived my life making the most of small victories."
Her eyes widen, emotion slipping back into her face and-
Oh God- "Not that you you're just another victory. Or triumph. Or small, at all. You're huge!" Fuck fuck fuck. "But not in that way! Like, a huge not-victory but still a prize- but you're more than some cheap thing you can win a crane game- Not to say that you're cheap but-"
You feel like an ice statue outside on a blazing summer day. Your muscles are all stiff and your face is on fire and-
She laughs at you.
A belly deep howl, her beautiful voice filled with mirth.
All directed at you.
You never should have-
You choke when your backwards crawl is arrested and you're dragged back in. Byakuren's toned arms wrap around your neck and pull you down to her. You can't hold yourself up against her strength. Your chests come together roughly, your face suddenly smothered in her voluminous hair.
"Where do you think you are going?" she asks.
"It would be horribly rude to leave the leady waiting, would it not?" she asks as her fingers work, carefully unravelling the yellow scarf from your neck and tossing it to the corner of the room.
You manage to raise your head, enough to see her smile.
it's a small thing, little more than a quirk of the lips, a partially formed smirk.
It is far more welcoming than what you saw before.
You feel Byakuren's hands slip away from your neck. From the tips of her fingers you can feel the thrum of power. A small application of your mage sight lets you take in the roiling of her magical energy. With all of her careful grace she lays her hands out to her sides, palms down.
Her magic courses through the floor and zigzags underneath the two of you. The energy reaches the walls and door, streaking up them and imbuing them with a certain property. You feel the barrier-style magic take root in the wood, separating the two of you from the world.
You stare into her hazel eyes, your brain righting itself quickly. "It would be."
Carefully, you lower yourself down once more, elbows to the floors. You brush aside locks of gradient hair and place a feather of a kiss upon her cheek. You feel her breathe in as you plant another on the side of her chin, the top of her neck.
Your fingers slide over the top of her white dress, along her collar bone, then underneath the neck of her black jacket dress.
What a useless garment.
Your hands quest downwards, brushing along the sides of her breasts as they grope for the straps of the dress. One by one, the strips of fabric holding the halves of Byakuren's jacket together fall to the sides.
She rolls her shoulders, the motion pressing her chest against yours while letting the silky black jacket droop to her sides. Her white underdress is a simple piece that hugs her curvy body like a loose glove. You slide down, pressing your face into her cleavage and feeling the wholeness of her chest. Byakuren gives a light moan as you take the tip of her nipple in your mouth through the fine white cloth. Your hands roam, taking in every contour of Byakuren's body, putting the sensations of touch to all the beautiful curves you've only seen; the fullness of her chest, the slight muscle to her abdomen and exact width of her waist, the sharp definition of her pelvis.
Byakuren grabs your wrist with one hand and begins to push herself off the floor with the other. She brings your hand up against her shoulder, sliding it along the length of her bicep and forearm.
The both of you smirk as she proudly thrusts her chest out at you, letting you press against her again as you reach behind her to completely remove her jacket. As soon as the black piece hits the floor you find yourself falling backwards, Byakuren leaning heavily atop you.
You gasp slightly as one of her hands begins unbuttoning your jacket and the other goes straight for your crotch. Her palm rubs roughly against you, the tips of her fingers teasing you through the rough fabric of your pants. The commanding smirk on her face doesn't abate even when you growl and roughly grab her ass. She just wiggles her butt against your hands and reaches under your t-shirt and into your pants.
You grunt and push yourself back up but Byakuren takes the opportunity to grip you and squeeze. You freeze for a moment, her wiggling hand rubbing up and down your member.
The black jacket you cherish so much is discarded in a quick shrug of your shoulders. Almost as quickly Byakuren manages to strip you of pants and underwear in one victorious tug.
Eyes focused, she begins to reach down again before being stopped by your raised knee. "Not so fast," you admonish her while gripping the back of her white dress and yanking it over her head.
Byakuren simply laughs and blindly gropes her fingers against your chest, grabbing fistfuls of your shirt and tearing them away.
There's no defense against that strength. Once again she's straddling you, doing as she pleases as you stare at her lacey black brassiere. Before you can reach up and remove it for her she takes control of your wrists and presses your hands against the floor. She's all smiles as she rubs her black panties against your hard cock, her breasts swaying tantalizing in front of you.
You shake your hand, biting back a moan, and focus. This isn't any different than escaping from a crazed spider cultist who wants to liquefy your innards.
You brace your feet, jerk your shoulders and twist your hips, pushing through the tingle of pleasure the motion causes.
With a shocked gasp Byakuren quickly finds herself on her back again, this time her hands held above her head. You grin down at her, plucking her bra off and sliding her panties down her glorious legs.
Finally. The woman you love naked before you, exposed for your eyes to take in and do as you please. She whines ever so slightly, her weak struggles not nearly enough to regain usage of her hands.
You take a deep breath and? ??????????????????????????????????"
"You sigh in contentment, Byakuren echoing the noise next to you.
The two of you lay together on the hard, warm, wooden floor.
You stare up at the ceiling, Byakuren casually curled at your side.
You lightly grasp her hand, her fingers easily intertwining with yours, and look at her.
She?looks back. Then smiles.
You can't say your feelings have ever been well-known to you. Goals and motivations, along with the paths to reach them, have always been in the forefront of your mind. Precious few times growing up or on your journeys have you needed to closely examine your feelings, let alone the feelings of others.
You feel the heat radiating from her body, the stickiness of her sweat-soaked skin, her slowly evening breaths.
You feel how comfortable she is next to you, the lack of tension in her shoulders as you lightly massage them. You feel how she snuggles closer, gripping you like a stuffed animal.
In her smile you feel her happiness, her exultation in satisfying her base desires. You feel her good mood, her ease of mind in your presence.
In her stare, you can't help but feel some amount of pity.
After some amount of time lying on that floor, a none-too-subtle thumping on the door begins.
"Byakuren! Why in the Seven Seas won't this door open? If you're planning on skipping all your appointments then don't tell me to come remind you about them!" Minamitsu's voice gains a strange echoing effect in the room; likely thanks to Byakuren's barrier that still lines the walls.
Byakuren glances to you, her inquisitive expression seeking your opinion.
[ ] Let Minamitsu in -[ ] All's normal -[ ] Play coy -[ ] Blunt truth [ ] No disturbances -[ ] Time to talk about <what?> -[ ] Wait, then a trip to? --[ ] The village --[ ] The lake --[ ] The forest --[ ] Muenzuka -[ ] Round two? [ ] Leave by yourself -[ ] Sneakily -[ ] Through the door [ ] <Write-in>
[x] Quietly, to Byakuren: "Just roll with whatever I say here." -[x] Then, at the top of your lungs, shout "GOD DAMMIT YUKARI!" Minamitsu will likely ask why we are cursing Yukari. --[x] "BECAUSE she took our CLOTHES!"
Minamitu's thumping on the door doesn't end. Vengeful spirits certainly are a persistent lot.
You answer Byakuren's gaze with a shrug. What can you do?
Ever so slowly, the two of you manage to sit up and look around at the mess.
With a sigh of her own, Byakuren rises. You get a beautiful face full of her firm ass before she makes it over to her closet and chucks a towel at your head.
The two of you clean up as best you can - which isn't much.
"What am I supposed to do about this?" you ask Byakuren while holding up the shreds of your t-shirt.
"Put it on?" she asks you while slipping back into her white dress.
"Oh yeah, that's discrete." You give the shredded clothing one good look before tossing it away. "Whatever." it's not like an undershirt is even particularly noticeable when you button up your jacket.
You finish wrapping your scarf around your neck as Byakuren pulls on her black dress jacket. She looks down at the loose straps dangling in the air, then up at you.
She whimpers, almost as whiney as when she's drunk. "I must take down my magic."
You grumble and scoot over to the woman, carefully tying the straps back in order. You poke her sides and brush against her body as much as you please, earning you several solid whaps on the back of your head in the process.
You hear the instant Byakuren's barrier near the door retracts as, ??open right- Sonnuva bitcch!" Minamitsu's incorporeal form falls through immediately.
The phantom hits the magic-infused floor with a whump but before she can start screaming again Byakuren's magic retracts further. The ghost falls straight through the unenchanted floor and out of sight.
It takes a moment for Minamitsu to reappear, her eyes just barely above the floorboards.
"Don't look at us like that," you tell her as you finish tying down the last strap across Byakuren's chest. "That should teach you for trying to phase through doors. Open them like a normal person."
Minamitsu's look of rage suits her rather well but the emotion is quickly chased away by her own confusion and then surprise. You watch her quickly rise out of the ground and sit down on the floor, eyes wide as she looks around.
Her finger shakily rises, accusing you.
"You- You two actually did it!?"
Byakuren sedately takes a seat at her table and moves to take a sip of tea. She blanches at its coolness and sets the cup down with a clack. "It is rude to point, Minamitsu."
The chastisement goes unheeded.
"But you were-"
You tilt your head.
"She said she-"
Byakuren raises an eyebrow.
"You were feeling-"
?You were feeling-"
Your phantom friend continues to open and close her mouth, her face twisting in rather interesting ways. As amusing as it is, this does feel like a waste of time.
"Yes," you tell her, "we had sex."
Minamitsu shakes her head vigorously for several seconds before dropping her face into her palms. "I give up! You two must be hornier than a ship full of seamen."
At least Byakuren has the decency to blush, ever so slightly. You know you are.
With Minamitsu temporarily out of commission, you turn to Byakuren. "Why is she here?" you ask.
"With the successful conclusion of the festival there is still more work to be done. This specific meeting, that Minamitsu came to remind me of, is with the village council and other affiliated parties. Consider it a debriefing. We shall go over what went right and what wrong in order to identify any immediate issues or lay the groundwork for next year's preparations." Byakuren grimaces. "It is not the most enlightening of discussions, but it must be done."
"Do you really need to go to it?"
"It would be remiss of me not to. As head of the Myouren Temple, it is only proper I attend. Perhaps more importantly, it would be shameful to leave Ichirin and the others to sit through such a gathering alone."
You understand it on some level. Luckily you've never had to deal with it firsthand to any great extent. In your time with the Order your mentor usually managed all that for you.
"Doesn't a good leader delegate?"
"Perhaps," Byakuren concedes, "But I cannot say I ever received any such lessons on the matter. Myouren, and later myself, were generally directly involved in affairs as they were."
You don't envy being the figurehead and leader of an entire sect of people. Come to think of it, you don't remember Byakuren ever taking a day-off. Sure, she would enjoy her daily meals with friends or occasionally partake in an after-hours and discrete drink. Those are breaks, though, not a full day's separation and rest.
Perhaps those first few days she was escorting you around were the closest to a day-off from being the head of Myouren Temple she's had?
You really wish you had second opinion on the matter.
Or someone to comb through your memories for facts.
F-Fine! And I completely trust your ability to figure out what needs to be done.
But that's not-
You can do it!
[ ] Tag along [ ] Shirk duties -[ ] To the lake! -[ ] Why not the Garden of the Sun? -[ ] Mess around in Muenzuka [ ] Say farewell -[ ] Now? <what?> [ ] <Write-in>
>>184976 Life is just full of disappointments, ain't it?
>>185004 >Sis, please stop getting off from NecroAnon's happy fun times. Honestly, I can't mind that. It's not like she's got the chance to get any somewhere else, and the two of them are both adults who have been sharing one life for a very long time. They can be mature about it.
>You'll get used to feeling you have a dick. If body image issues were going to be an issue for NecroAnon and sister they already became one a long, long time ago.
I do like the idea of clearing Byakuren's schedule, though. How about...
[x] Say farewell -[x] Talk with Minamitsu about Byakuren's schedule for the next few days, and figure out who we need to talk to in order to reshuffle and delegate things so that she's got an entire day clear sometime soon without giving her an excuse to feel guilty for shirking. Then make it happen. -[x] Recruit others into the Byakuren's Day Off project on an as-needed basis and per Minamitsu's recommendations.
[x] Say farewell? -[x] Talk with Minamitsu about Byakuren's schedule for the next few days, and figure out who we need to talk to in order to reshuffle and delegate things so that she's got an entire day clear sometime soon without giving her an excuse to feel guilty for shirking. Then make it happen." -[x] Recruit others into the Byakuren's Day Off project on an as-needed basis and per Minamitsu's recommendations.
Skipping out on her feels bad and not only because it's just after having sex: if you plan on staying by her side by some point, are you really going to leave the moment something boring is in her schedule?
[x] Tag along... -[x] If she thinks it's okay for you to go. --[x] If not/on hold: --[x] Talk with Minamitsu about Byakuren's schedule for the next few days, and figure out who we need to talk to in order to reshuffle and delegate things so that she's got an entire day clear sometime soon without giving her an excuse to feel guilty for shirking. Then make it happen.
[x] Tag along... -[x] If she thinks it's okay for you to go. --[x] If not/on hold: --[x] Talk with Minamitsu about Byakuren's schedule for the next few days, and figure out who we need to talk to in order to reshuffle and delegate things so that she's got an entire day clear sometime soon without giving her an excuse to feel guilty for shirking. Then make it happen.
[X] Tag along... -[X] If she thinks it's okay for you to go. --[X] If not/on hold: --[X] Talk with Minamitsu about Byakuren's schedule for the next few days, and figure out who we need to talk to in order to reshuffle and delegate things so that she's got an entire day clear sometime soon without giving her an excuse to feel guilty for shirking. Then make it happen.
I like this plan. Everyone needs some time to kick back.
>>185010 I guess I assumed that a meeting between Byakuren and various community leaders/festival organizers wouldn't really be a meeting where we had anything significant to contribute. And if we show up without anything to contribute, people wonder what the hell she's doing by bringing us and generally we don't make her life more convenient.
So it was less about bailing on her because things were boring and more about not getting in the way of her duties, since those are important and she does care about them.
Just asking if she wants us there is a fairly direct way of ensuring that we don't get in the way of anything she doesn't want us to be, though.
[x] Tag along... -[x] If she thinks it's okay for you to go. --[x] If not/on hold: --[x] Talk with Minamitsu about Byakuren's schedule for the next few days, and figure out who we need to talk to in order to reshuffle and delegate things so that she's got an entire day clear sometime soon without giving her an excuse to feel guilty for shirking. Then make it happen.
Byakuren raises a hand to the side of her head, as if the very thought gives her a headache. "I cannot imagine why you would wish to attend."
"Well, you would be there."
Those hazel eyes quickly fall to the side. "I see."
"Would I not be welcome?" you wonder, not commenting on Byakuren's slight discomfort. "I wouldn't want my presence to inconvenience you or hinder the meeting."
She looks at you again, a hint of something drifting onto her face. "No?no, I believe your presence would be more than welcomed at such a meeting. I warn you now, meetings in the past have been boring at the best of times."
"Okay." As long as you aren't unwelcome. You decide on one more question, to strike to the heart of the matter. "Do you not want me to be there?"
"I am?.? Byakuren pauses, mouth open. Then warmth returns to her countenance as she smiles. "I enjoy your company very much. And if you were to come to this meeting, I believe it would be the least boring one yet."
"Then I guess we should go get cleaned up?" You offer your hand to Byakuren and help her up.
As you leave the room, you think you hear someone yelling, "Sex!"
After a quick stop at your room for a change of clothes, and then a quick shower, you're as well-dressed as you'll ever be. You consider putting on some of the more normal atire you have available to you but Byakuren assures you that ?For those in the meeting, your state of dress shall not matter in the slightest."
As you follow Byakuren out of the temple and down the path to the village, several of the other disciples join your group. You begin to separate from Byakuren as they gather around and push you away, all vying for attention on some matter or another. Ichirin leads the pack, handing Byakuren some sort of notepad. Behind them is the temple's master clothier; you think her name is Mako. The wolf youkai who acts as the temple's accountant, the red-haired girl who mainly handles the food logistics, the long-haired blonde who acts as the chief doctor, Shou as head of the security - everybody you know that helps the temple run smoothly and some you don't are walking here.
"And then there's me, slumming it in the back with a useless ghost over my shoulder," you comment.
"Hey! I captain the ship!" Minamitsu protests. "What do you do for the temple?"
"I tend the graves."
"Don't you mean rob them? I haven't seen you in our cemetery once!"
"Definitely. Giving Byakuren all the support she needs, huh?"
You roll your eyes and move on. "Has Byakuren ever taken a day off?" you ask.
"What?" It seems like the good captain wasn't prepared for your masterful change of subject.
"Something I was thinking about. I don't think I've ever seen Byakuren take a full day off from running the temple."
"You've been her for a month," Minamitsu scoffs. Then she frowns. "But, no, I can't recall her ever doing so. She has been too sick to make decisions, if that counts."
"No," you comment. "No, it really doesn't."
Minamitsu leans in close. "Planning something?" she whispers.
"Perhaps. I just think she deserves some relaxation, without any guilt or worries."
"I'd say you did a great job in relaxing her."
You grimace and shove the damn ghost away.
She howls with laughter, floating off into the sky. "We'll plan later!" she shouts before drifting off.
Eventually, your group arrives at the village and is ushered over to the Hieda estate. The household servants show your group in to a large, open room inside the mansion. Numerous plush cushions have been laid out on the floor in a rough semicircle. At the only low table in the room sits Akyuu herself, empty books and brushes laid out in front of her. The little historian gives you a wave but doesn't move to socialize, instead concentrating on writing something in her notes.
Your group isn't the first to arrive, but it seems to be the largest single delegation. Byakuren leads you all over to a place near the table but not directly next to it. The head nun takes one of the front most seat and Ichirin next to her. The rest of you filter in, roughly sitting behind the two leading ladies and filling in towards the back of the room.
It seems like only a few minutes later that the rest of the seats are occupied. Something like sixty people all told, not counting the numerous servants flittering about carrying drinks and snacks. Notably, your group is the only one to include any noticeable youkai.
Still, it doesn't appear as if any of the villagers are particularly upset. Those sitting next to your group chat amicably with their youkai neighbors, the entire room a low buzz of conversation.
A few minutes after the last guest steps in, Akyuu claps her hands. The room quiets in a near instant.
"Thank you all for coming," her childish voice commands the room. "As always, I shall be taking the notes for this meeting which will be available for perusal at any reasonable hour. Now, the floor belongs to the festival committee chair. Ms. Kaname?"
"Thank you, Lady Hieda. While I would generally maintain a set schedule in order to keep this meeting on track, I believe we all know where we would like to begin."
We do? You're pretty sure you don't know- why is everyone looking at you?
You can't see Byakuren's face but you're pretty sure-
"How did we do compared to the Outside Bon festivals?"
"What kind of snacks do they sell Outside?"
"Are modern fireworks any better than ours?"
"Hey! Have you ever driven a car? What's it like?"
"You had some of my special brew, didn't you? Better than anything you ever had Outside, right?"
"More tea, please!"
"Are these DVD-recorders used for festivals Outside? I had the greatest idea that nobody thought would-"
"Do they still even celebrate Obon Outside?"
"Of course not! No new-fangled Outside contraption will be better than traditional fireworks!"
"Can you tell me another story?"
"Security cameras are everywhere Outside, aren't they? Does that actually help reduce-
"I heard you're a magician. Why don't you come to the village and help train-"
"Everybody if you would please-"
"You don't even look Japanese! Can you even tell us anything about-"
-you're pretty sure she's smirking.
Your head hurts.
[ ] Try to answer everybody [ ] Deflect questions to the others [ ] A little magic? -[ ] To ask for order -[ ] To give the floor back to the chairwoman -[ ] To spite- To credit Byakuren [ ] Silence is golden [ ] <Write-in>
>>185017 [x] A little magic? -[x] To ask for order [x] Try to answer everybody -[x] Sis, the confidence in us remains touching but start sorting through our memories and helping out here!
Our actually answering all these chaotically posed questions and taking up a bunch of time is no way to run the meeting properly and actually get useful things done. That said...
>Then warmth returns to her countenance as she smiles. "I enjoy your company very much. And if you were to come to this meeting, I believe it would be the least boring one yet." >You can't see Byakuren's face but you're pretty sure- -you're pretty sure she's smirking. Byakuren knew this would happen, and let it happen. She's smiling about it, even. If we can provide her with a bit of entertainment and cheer by taking up a bunch of the meeting's time and generally providing information and amusement to the attendees here, why not?
And it wouldn't hurt to try and make a good impression on other people here in general, either. We can try to be patient and nice. We won't necessarily succeed, but we can certainly try.
In the far past, having everybody clamor for your attention would have freaked you out. Now? it's just a nuisance.
Yet, you're alone under this deluge. All of the temple disciples sit picture perfect, bastions of calm amongst the rowdy humans. They all do their best to avoid laughing. You can tell.
Still, it's probably about time for this farce to end. As much as you enjoy throwing the meeting into chaos, the unproductivity eats at you.
A little bit of your will is enough. Familiar dark green hues gather in your hand and a casual flick of the wrist is enough for-
Well, more like a pop. General purpose magic is not your forte and even simple cantrips can trip you up compared to a naturally talented magician.
Your attempt at an auditory illusion, a simple gunshot, is more like the explosion of a balloon. it's hard to get a focused sound instead of the more general release of energy that you managed.
Nonetheless, your meager display of talent quiets the crowd.
"Ms. Kaname?" you utter, drawing a smile and nod from the purple-haired woman.
The festival committee chairwoman easily picks up from your incredibly subtle and restrained display. "As I was saying, I am positive," she glares around the room, "we all have questions for Gensokyo's newest Outsider. However, accosting him for the entire meeting shall only bog us down."
You clear your throat and the chairwoman gives you a slight nod. "I am willing to answer questions," you declare to the hopeful eyes of all. "But I don't want to detract from this meeting too much. Perhaps one question from each group here and then we move on?"
The chairwoman nods her head sagely. "I like it. One round of questions and then we get to other business. Who wants to- Just kidding. Ebisu, you start. We'll go clockwise from there."
What proceeds is a rather dull interrogation on topics you never particularly thought of before. it's not like you've ever needed to consider the ingredients and flavors of different chocolate-dipped bananas. With a small amount of mental prodding your sister helps you out, letting you recall relevant sensations and knowledge to answer the villagers? questions.
You hadn't spent much time around the general Japanese populace, so in some cases you really are straining your mind trying to think of anything relevant to say. Exploring monasteries and caves and cursed forests doesn't lend itself to understanding the intricacies of Japanese festival mannerisms. Yet, any answer you give seems to satisfy the villagers. Even though Outsiders aren't rare in Gensokyo, the ones who come from modern times are still an unusual sight. Access to any modern opinion seems to be more than enough for the isolated villagers to be ecstatic.
Careful how you answer, you might become a trendsetter.
Everyone is suddenly going to dress in a stylish all-black ensemble? Great.
Byakuren, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, doesn't ask a question when her turn comes around. You were expecting some sort of veiled joke or innuendo, but then again this is an official public appearance. She's on her best behavior.
Once the villagers finish asking their questions, the meeting moves on.
Oh, so, slowly.
You really don't think everybody in the room is needed to discuss whether it was worth it to place an extra two stalls along the street after buying the space in front of the herbalist's shop for the festival's duration, but they do.
Oh do they do.
Why aren't only the qualified people making points on certain topics? Why is the kite-maker making suggestions for future security rotations? Why is the one of the food merchants criticizing how the mask-sellers displayed their wares? Who cares if the guards are wearing red or blue in the middle of the night?
At some point along the way you end up nudging the bat youkai next to you awake. You think she was in charge of managing pedestrian traffic flow for the temple's designated areas.
If you didn't have your sister in your head to chat with you undoubtedly would have fallen asleep.
Not that the two of you talk about anything important. Mostly reminiscing on all the different memories the two of you drudged up. You would have thought your sister would have immediately jumped on the obvious topic - Byakuren and all those wily emotions involved - but she seems content to table the issue.
One stray thought that grips your mind is that you hope Yoshika isn't eating some poor, unlucky Youkai in a fit of rage. While she is more than capable of being by herself, you've noticed she tends to get?upset when it's not of her own volition.
And you may or may not have completely forgotten to grab her before you left.
Not that you knew where she was. If she wasn't waiting out front, or in your room, then she must have found something better to do, right?
She's a big girl. She'll be fine.
You certainly hope so. Wherever she and the other jiang-shi went, it has to be more interesting than where you went.
Because you get to sit here.
You don't even realize the meeting ends before people start to rise. At least, you hope it is ending and it's not just the three hour break.
Around you people talk of visiting family, running errands, or returning to the temple.
You begin to walk towards where Byakuren is conversing with several of the other villagers, but pause when you see Akyuu deftly squeezing through the crowds.
The little (but not young!) archivist stops in front of you, giving you a quick bow before launching into what she wants to say. "As the most popular person in this room, I have no doubt you shall be assailed by all as soon as you step foot outside. So! I thought I would be the first to bother you!"
Akyuu charmingly continues on, taking a step closer as the other Myouren Temple disciples move past her. "Would you care to linger here and talk? I can show you the full hospitality of the Hieda! Perhaps an early dinner? And lots of stories, of course! Not that I only want your stories. I am curious as to how things have gone for you since we last talked. I truly regret not having been able to offer you a better introduction to our home."
"Did you ever give her a story of your journeys like you promised her all those weeks ago? Once she had led you to Suzunaan and helped you discover your lead on the Necronomicon, you kind of dropped everything to pursue that. Then the festival preparations came around and?well?
What were you even planning on doing after this meeting? You didn't think that far ahead. I'd say you didn't even think about the meeting before coming here.
You glance at Byakuren out of the corner of an eye as you answer Akyuu.
"I would love to," you tell the archivist.
"Wonderful!" Akyuu exclaims, clapping her hands together. "It may take some time for everybody to filter out, but I do look forward to this! Sakura!" With a quick bow, Akyuu turns and signals one of the servants. The two of them wander off to make preparations or whatever else she has to do.
You, meanwhile, step up beside Byakuren. You catch the tail-end of her conversation with the?farmer delegation? Your memory of the meeting is already hazed over.
"-shall attend to this matter immediately," Byakuren tells them. Those three farmer guys don't look particularly happy when they leave.
"Everything okay?" you ask her.
Byakuren glances at you once before closing her eyes. "As well as things usually are, I suppose. There is pack of youkai that has apparently decided to harry the farmers working the edges of the fields closest to the forest."
"Is that your problem?"
"It is when they ask for assistance. There may also have been the implication that these particular youkai have attended our lessons in the past - doubtful, but it is a simple scheme to pass the responsibility to me."
It sounds like flimsy reasoning to you. "Why is Reimu not taking care of it? Or the village's own guards?"
She twirls a lock of her hair around her finger as she answers. "There have been no deaths or violent assaults. A few minor scares and some trampled or stolen crops is not enough to ?jump the line?, so to speak, for the Hakurei shrine maiden's attention. The village regulates itself in that regard, aware that overburdening Reimu with requests would be ill-advised."
Byakuren obviously wouldn't lie in this matter, but you feel like her reasoning isn't entirely correct. As far as you are aware, the villagers are reluctant to involve themselves with Reimu in the first place.
"And their own guards?"
Byakuren almost seems to scoff but thinks better of it in consideration of where she stands. "Why rely on their men when I am just as available?"
Disgusting. "Sounds like a load of bull to me."
"Whatever it may be, I have committed to it. I have not arrived where I am at now by remaining idle."
"And that's not a bad thing," you remind her.
"So you say."
You want to argue further, to protest the almost defeatist-sounding declaration from Byakuren, but you restrain yourself. This is neither the time nor place to air all her emotional baggage again.
"You told them immediately," you comment instead. "Does that mean you're going now?"
"As soon as I leave here, yes. I believe some of the others will wish for a moment of my time before I do so." With a smile on her face, Byakuren leans a fraction closer to you, her voice dropping to a whisper. "What of you? Making plans to liaison with Lady Hieda so soon after we-"
"No!" you shout.
The few villagers still milling around all look over at you. The few temple disciples in room do as well, but quickly go back to whatever they were doing as soon as they see it's you causing the commotion.
"Never," you continue in a whisper. "I wouldn't- No. She, ah, wants to talk. About my time here, the past, and all that."
Byakuren hums in contemplation. "Then you shall be staying here in her tender care?"
"-Do you really have to phrase it like that?"
"My apologies. I am sure you will greatly enjoy your time in her company."
A warm hand strokes the top of your head, mussing with your hair as if you were a child. "Relax," Byakuren speaks. "I am only teasing. I?know where your attention lays."
You feel yourself tense at the slight that hitch in her speech.
Perhaps she was trying to be playful, soothing, but Byakuren also quickly realizes how awkward it is to comment on the situation between the two of you.
Slowly, Byakuren removes her hand from your head. She makes a half-hearted attempt to brush your hair into place before stopping and rigidly bringing her hand back to her side.
"Will you be fine on your own?" you ask. "I can-"
Byakuren interrupts you, perhaps a bit too quickly. "No, no do not worry on my part. You have already suffered through one dreadfully boring task on my account. There is no danger in this task for me."
"Okay. Well, be safe anyway."
"Yes, I shall. Enjoy yourself."
"I'll try. Bye, then."
Like that, Byakuren walks off, one of the circling vultures immediately swooping to her side to assail her with speech.
Akyuu walks back into the room after she bids farewell to the last guest to leave.
Immediately she hurries to the center of the room and throws her arms up. "At last! An empty home once more!"
"There's six of us in just this room alone," you comment. Akyuu's ever-present handmaidens are milling around the edges of the room, all of them smiling at their lady's antics.
"Trivial details," Akyuu assures you. "Come, come, let us move somewhere less stiff than this boring room! What do you think? Where shall we go?"
"You might be surprised but this isn't my home."
"Also a trivial detail!" Akyuu quickly beckons you to follow her around. You get the feeling that if you were even somewhat closer she would have led you around by the hand. As it is, she walks in step with you and chatters. "Before we finish you will be just as at home here as I am!"
Akyuu leads you on a very merry tour of her mansion home, her gaggle of handmaidens trailing along behind the two of you. She shows you everything and tells you all the accompanying tales; how the foundation for the Hieda mansion has remained the same even though the clan's compound around it has long been divvied up and sold throughout the ages. She tells you about a vase that her great-great-great grandmother had once used to break open a youkai's head when it invaded their home - then the vase was casually restored as gift by her eventual husband. She lets you know all the botanical details of the various flowers being grown in the Hieda mansion and how, after you ask, that a variety of them serve medicinal purposes. One particular species of flower in the garden was used as a catalyst for magical venom by the Hakurei clan head who had exterminated one of the lords of the mountain to begin the long path to dominance.
She tells you all this and more.
Honestly, you wonder how her voice does not grow hoarse with how much she uses it.
Still, you enjoy yourself. Akyuu might be small but she is not young. She is a vibrant young woman that has dedicated her life to learning and recording information. She is also old enough to leverage her lives-spanning memory in a variety of ways.
"-but truly, modern science and old superstition agree that the best position to guarantee children is-"
It is certainly a strange experience to be able to ask practically anything and receive an answer.
You guess having knowledge far beyond her age confers upon her a complete lack of shame. There really is no topic that she is not prepared to discuss.
"-yes, memories corresponding to heightened emotions are the easiest to recall! Thus, the sexual affairs of all my former lives are vivid and in perfect detail. Are you curious about-"
Not that that's all you ask about, but Akyuu seems to enjoy your testing of her memory just as much as any other conversation. She takes all questions with eager ease, from the type of wood used in constructing the floors to accounts of the assassination of ancient Japanese emperors.
At some point in the grand tour of the Hieda estate, the two of you sit down in a western-style kitchen, a near replica of a modern world one. It shouldn't surprise you. Gensokyo is a strange mix of anachronisms, where they can have nuclear power yet ride in carriages.
The stainless steel kitchen appliances still surprise you.
"Thank you Hanabi!" Akyuu cheers as she bites into the homemade chocolate chip cookies provided by one of her servants. She is fairly silent while she chews; you guess she has dozens of memories of lessons to not to speak with her mouth full
What do you want to say to Akyuu?
[ ] Stories! All sorts like from your time? -[ ] "with The Order of Her Faith -[ ] "getting lost in the sentient hedge maze -[ ] "spent intimately close to a spider-god cultist -[ ] "murdering a fellow necromancer for- No! Who wants to know about that? --[ ] "conversing with an aspiring necromancer who later may or may not have been killed -[ ] Something else? --[ ] <List a theme/moral/general time frame> [ ] Talk about the murder case [ ] Ask her opinion about? -[ ] Eientei -[ ] The festival -[ ] Magical books -[ ] Necromancy -[ ] World domincation [ ] Ask for advice about? -[ ] Byakuren -[ ] Love -[ ] Public image -[ ] Negotiations [ ] <Write-in>
Really, choose anything.
>>185032 >Uh, did he finished the upgrades he was going to be the zombies for the D Day or not? If you wanted to stratify the condition of the jiang-shi, you'd see something like this.
Above And Beyond [Possible example: What collaboration with Seiga might provide] Top Form [The most you can do on your own] Improved Perfectly Normal Fresh Patched Up Decaying [Original state] Dead Again
Where all the remaining jiang-shi are somewhere between Perfectly Normal and Improved. To this point, any work has been focused mainly on appearance and durability - remember that the undead are naturally stronger than an average human. The minor enchantments and warding in their skin and clothes enhances their supernatural endurance a small but noticeable degree. The jiang-shi are also kitted out in at least parts of their desired armaments.
Of particular note, Yoshika trends more towards the Fresh side of Perfectly Normal as, although she now has greater capability thanks to her new adult parts, many of her old enhancements were waved into her old, devoured body parts.
All in all, the jiang-shi represent a respectable fighting force that could likely hold their own against most foes, for a time. Remember that those who remain were already the ?better? amongst their peers as they survived culling from reapers even in a Decaying state.
> "-yes, memories corresponding to heightened emotions are the easiest to recall! Thus, the sexual affairs of all my former lives are vivid and in perfect detail. Are you curious about-."
....call me ADD, but I kinda feel sad that we're not in Akyuu route.
In any case, I'm thinking:
Ask Her About: [X] Love (how to deal with it and whatnot. we need this, and certainly a thousand-year-old's insights on love would help our situation with Byakuren) [X] Lovemaking (so that we can more than just satisfy our partner--- we'd burn ourself in her mind)
You paused and straightened your back. A quick glance to the side showed that, "No I didn't."
"Yes you did, right there." The booted toe wiggled in front of your face and directed your attention behind you.
"What? No I-? it's not worth it, Bro.
You sighed; your sister was right, of course.
"Fine. Fine," you grumbled. Slow turn into dragging your bright blue plastic water bin over and sopping your sponge with water and soap. Bend over, scrub, scrub.
Shiny floor tile.
One out of too fucking many.
"And there," that demanding voice came down from up high.
The sponge went flying, splatting into the wall and leaving a wet mess along the way. "Are you going to help me or not?" you demanded.
The white-haired woman lounging on the hallway bench crossed her legs. She clinked as she did so, the armor plates that covered her thighs meeting the metal seat. "What? Why would I?"
"Because Rudolph- Ow!" Your mentor had the strongest arm you had ever seen or felt. Somehow, in her capable hands, a spare sponge became more dangerous than a steel ball.
"Do not talk about the Arch Paladin like that," she chided you, tone haughty.
"But his nose is- Ow! Stop it! You call him that too!"
You had thrown up your arms in defense, having expected your accusation to draw a third projectile. The paladin instead turned her head. "I have no idea what you're talking about. Now scrub."
"But he ordered us both to do this after you had the bright idea of burning-"
"Was this Rudolph your direct superior? Or the head of the order?" Akyuu asks.
At this point you just take the question and roll with it.
Although Akyuu is capable of sitting quietly and listening, she apparently doesn't like to. "He was the militant commander in charge of all acts of intervention. Technically, he and a few others took council together to determine the actions of the Order but his word was law for us stabby-stabby ones."
"Interesting," she remarks, quickly scribbling a few notes into the notebook she had one of her servants bring her. "Then no one person could claim a direct spiritual line to a higher power and seize ultimate control over the Order?"
You appreciate her eagerness and active listening, If nothing else, it gets you thinking about topics you never bothered to before; she would probably make a prized student. "Uh, not quite? The diviners of the group claimed a spiritual connection to the Saint so the head of their branch could have been considered on top. But really, Cynthia truly was the Lady's namesake - a super tomboy that would have kicked the Arch Paladin from his position if she wasn't pegged as the Saint-reborn. She knew she didn't have much of a head for matters outside of fighting or gut judgements."
"Fascinating! So your order, despite having a largely militaristic hierarchy, still managed to avoid the seemingly natural progression that many civilizations devolve into and maintain the separation and balance in their founding? Perhaps due to the meritocratic nature of role fulfillment with the structure of the Order? Hmm?"
You let the history nerd settle herself before shrugging. "It wasn't like we were particularly large. A couple hundred members with only a couple centuries of existence isn't much."
"Still! It is quite an interesting counter-point to- Ah, forgive me, I interrupted. Please, continue."
Akyuu gives you a little wave of her little hands.
"I fucking hate-"
"Ow!" You whirled on the paladin marching behind you. "Why are you hitting me when we're in the middle of a mission?"
Your mentor was unrepentant even though she was wearing a solid steel gauntlet. "We must always hold ourselves to Her standards no matter what situation we find ourselves in." Her focus was only on you for a moment as she kept scanning her surroundings, constantly wary for danger. "And your loud whining will spook our target."
"I'm thinking our ?target? is just as lost as we are." You kicked the dirt, not nearly as concerned as she was. You hefted your longsword around, lazily swinging it an arc and chopping apart the spiked vines that were reaching towards you. "Or maybe the maze ate him already."
"it's possible," your mentor agreed with you. She didn't even draw her weapon. Instead, she simply stuck out her massive tower shield to create a wall between her and the hedge. Occasionally she would reach over and snap a grasping branch in half with her fingers.
"Maybe his bones were the ones we saw decorating the frost-hound's den back there," you hypothesized.
"Or that mud elemental had dragged him under and we walked over his perfectly preserved corpse three turns ago."
Your mentor grunted and turned around, another dead-end holding nothing for the two of you. "Do you have anything useful to say?"
Theoretically you two probably could have forced your way through, but it turned out the actual vegetation of the hedges bled magical acid. A bit discouraging, that.
"Nope! Sorry, but you only taught me how to swing this overly-large hedge trimmer."
For the first time on that thrice-damned mission, your mentor lost her cool. "That is not all I have taught you!"
"Sorry, you've taught me a lot more than that. Like how to get lost in a, quote, "trifling wizard's trick that shall not deter us from our sacred duty.?"
"You little brat!" She moved to grab you but you danced away, the year of training letting you deftly avoid the heavily-armed paladin and the grasping plant walls around you.
"Sorry but it's true, and unless you have something else to teach me I think we're stuck here."
"Fine. Since you do not seem to appreciate anything I've had to say for the past year, let me demonstrate what I thought your tutelage under me and Her teachings would give you."
"A really nice singing voice?"
"Ah?" The certainly gave her pause. It was growing rarer and rarer as she grew used to your personality, but you still managed it.
"No," she eventually said. Instead, she rummaged around in her small utility bag and removed a gleaming crystal flask. "Lateral thinking."
"Does the water combust because it is enchanted too?"
"I don't know. As far as I'm aware, they just say a few prayers and then bottle it. Nothing magical that I was able to tell in my time using them."
"Perhaps it is not water then? Or a direct intervention from a god upon spillage? But your Order was dedicated to a martyred saint?perhaps a lingering duty of the Ministry?"
You snort. "I can imagine some poor soul getting stuck with the job."
Is that a fate worse than death? Watch the entire world for little crystal flasks breaking just so you can point a little fire their way. Mess up and suddenly you have thousands questioning their faith, all on your little bureaucratic head.
"Quite! Still, all this is fascinating. I wish I was able to travel Outside and see all these mysteries in distant lands."
You bite back your initial response; the mysteries get a lot less alluring after you almost die for the fifth time in a month.
But never boring, right?
Of course, never boring.
"Never had the chance to travel?" you instead ask.
"I and my predecessors have never left Japan. Even within this country we know comparatively so little. There is far too much we have missed throughout the ages," Akyuu laments.
"So what about someone like Byakuren, for example. Do you know a lot about her?"
"Lady Hijiri?" Akyuu takes a sip of milk and closes her notebook gently. "I assume you mean her far past and not her recent exploits here in Gensokyo."
"Yeah. She's told me a bit and I've heard some tales from the others, but I've always been a bit at a lost." Most of your knowledge could be summed up in what you've seen in the play or in what you read in the Gensokyo Chronicle after Akyuu showed you her life's work.
Sure, some of the information is wrong, but you only have a few personal anecdotes more.
"I see, I see! Yes, missing out on lifetimes of experience would cause you to feel a sense of alienation wouldn't it?" Akyuu leans back on her island stool, tipping it slightly. You see her handmaidens fluster in trepidation behind her at the little action. "I hope you'll forgive me, but those memories are very far back. I would need time and a lot of ink to write everything in order to recall the correct information. It is certainly possible but-"
"No, that's all right. Don't stress yourself." The archivist has already told you that while she's capable of recalling everything perfectly, it's a lot like searching through a vast library by hand. Not painful, but exhausting in some cases.
"Ah, do not dismiss me so soon! Let me see, let me see. In a general sense I can tell you many of my oldest memories are all impressions from within the Imperial Court. My first predecessors were able to glean tales from the help, but we mostly dealt with official records and court gossip back then." Already you can feel Akyuu ramping up again, no matter how few specific details she might remember. "When I say back then, I refer to the Heian Period of Japan's history. That was when the two Hijiri siblings began to appear in records. Yet, even then, they did not appear much. They were kept track of as a small splinter group of their local Buddhist sect, barely noticeable by anybody in the court.
"Myouren's death was one of the few important records. Or in actuality, the suppression of the supernatural within the region he used to operate in was noted. Traders flocked to the area once it was free of perceived danger and the entire region was rejuvenated in many aspects.
"I'm afraid it was at that point that Byakuren went off the radar, so to speak. Any further records I have of her come from rumors, and even then nothing concrete; sightings of roaming demons or youkai packs, a dark sorceress haunting long-abandoned caverns, a miracle here and there for lone travelers. I would assume that you might know more of such things than me.."
You don't answer her beyond a nod. You know the general concept that Byakuren was a bit unhinged after Myouren's death. However, she never cared to delve into the specifics of her time beyond a few anecdotes of her ridiculous demon teacher.
Not so surprising. It wasn't a happy time for her, and many of your conversations were focused on the less heavy topics.
You can imagine what actions she might have taken and regretted in that time.
A spirit of vengeance might not even compare to a cunning, hurting, person.
"Approximately a century later I believe the records made note of her again, in a similar manner as to how her and Myouren were noted of in the past. However by that time the land was beginning to fracture and our records became more muddled with strife. The very human conflict our land spawned also seemed to reinvigorate the supernatural; several of Byakuren's miracles during this time have living proof in the form of the youkai still beside her. Sometime later, I believe as quickly as within ten years of her reappearance, she disappeared again. I believe she came into conflict with a daimyo and was on the losing end of that fight."
What? "She attacked people?"
"No, no!" Akyuu is quick to put down that thought. "I do not mean to misrepresent. If anything, it should have been the daimyo instigating the conflict; in a time of war and conflict, it is only natural to crush potential rivals and show strength for those you rule."
And so she ended up sealed underground, to be released a thousand years later.
It wasn't much, and lacked specifics, but it's a bit more than you knew before. "Thank you, Akyuu."
"Not at all! I am sorry I could not prepare more information for you in advance. It is a sad and intricate tale to tell." For once, Akyuu's cheery countenance seems to fall. The girlish woman rubs her index finger in a circle on the countertop. "You might have figured it out by now, I find stories fascinating. Do you know why?"
By now, you're used to Akyuu asking questions, from how popular your style of underwear is to what walking through a supermarket is like.
This one, this doesn't have the same feel as those. "You like learning?" you respond.
"True! This living, breathing world is such a wonderful place. There is always something new to be discovered! I wish I could experience it for myself, as you have. Unfortunately there is far too much in the world for anybody to grasp, especially me. So instead I take in stories. I talk to try and catch a glimpse of this fleeting life. I write so that I have record that yes, I was here. I-."
Akyuu's speech is broken when a few servants step in to the kitchen and freeze. Her handmaidens immediately respond, blocking and seemingly berating the other servants for intruding. Akyuu looks moderately embarrassed as she jumps off her stool and goes to mediate the conflict.
After several hushed words Akyuu walks back to you and bows, the other servants moving quietly into the kitchen.
"Ah, pardon me! I'm afraid I tend to ramble. Our dinner preparations shall be beginning soon, so I imagine that if you have matters of your own to take care of now would be a good time to end. Thank you so much for indulging me!"
[ ] Find jiang-shi [ ] Investigate forest [ ] Return to temple [ ] Check on Reimu [ ] Update Nazrin [ ] Visit Mokou [ ] Why not talk more? -[ ] About you --[ ] Hopes --[ ] Dreams --[ ] Worries --[ ] Shame -[ ] About her --[ ] Life --[ ] Time --[ ] Death --[ ] Love [ ] <Write-in>
Slow, low quality, meh content, relatively short - Ew. Fuck me. I also need to start thinking harder to tune these vote options appropriately.
"No, thank you for indulging me! It was wonderful to have the opportunity to speak with you again."
"I'll try and stop by again sometime with some more interesting stories."
"I look forward to it!"
The supposedly eighteen-year old lady waves goodbye from the front door of her ridiculous mansion, rather dwarfed by the multitude of servants around her.
The sun is slowly setting, some of the shops along the road winding down and readying to close after a hard day's work.
Where are we off to now?
Just to stop in and make sure she's fine. Your long day started with making sure she was okay. It only makes sense to end it that way, too.
Why so worried?
Can you not be worried about the poor, overburdened girl? She seemed like she was doing better after Marisa dragged her out of her room, but it wouldn't hurt to ensure it. Besides, the way your day has gone and the talk of an incident at the end of the meeting has you on edge.
You mean the thing Byakuren was going to handle?
Yes. The number of violent human-youkai interactions during your time in Gensokyo has been few. Almost all of them were or potentially were lethal for the human involved.
I don't see how this relates?
Reimu is a hard worker. There's no doubt about that. Others might accuse her, but you've seen the girl run herself ragged to try and maintain peace, to prove herself to practically everybody else. You don't expect her to sit still if she heard about this possible new threat in spite of the villagers? self-censorship.
Worse, you had mentioned Eirin's shenanigans with her monster-creating virus.
And? It was responsible of you to let her know.
That's right. And she was seemingly all set to ignore the issue, until you pushrf and drew that look of concern out of her.
You would love for her to put her foot down on the issue - when she's in the right state of mind. That's what it comes down to; she locked herself in her room for days. She shouldn't be flying around trying to beat people up until at least tomorrow.
Naturally, with the amount of thought you put into the issue, she isn't home.
"Reimu!" you shout with as much strength as your normal human lungs give you. As small as the Hakurei Shrine is, there's no way she wouldn't hear you unless she magically sealed off her room again. A quick peek inside - it isn't trespassing!" confirms she didn't.
So she went out.
Hopefully Marisa brought her home or something.
What, to have her way with her? Is all you can think about now s-
No! It makes sense, right? Friend visits, go to friend's home, have a nice quiet night with no hunting or explosions or anything else.
If you say so. Not going to go look for her?
With how she could be anywhere for any reason? It'd be a fool's errand. You just have to hope that she can take care of herself.
Well this was a bust. On to the next one.
The mouse youkai gave you the lead that sent you on your merry quest into the den of madness. it's only fair that you visit her as well to make sure the two of you are on the same page.
Plus you need to thank her.
You just hope she's home, otherwise you will have flown all around for no reason.
You reach Muenzuka as the sun turns the world golden. it's?not quite unsettling, but you haven't managed to get used to how thin the border between life and death is around twilight.
If you weren't sure that Nazrin was home, the steady stream of rodents moving to and from the house is a good indicator.
The little pests seem to disappear into the walls of the building. Tiny holes, little tunnels, cracks in the window - anywhere they squeeze through they can.
I'd imagine all the little entranceways are intentional.
You suppose they are. Nazrin's home looks perfectly well-kept otherwise.
You rap your knuckles on the wood. Almost instantly, Nazrin's surprisingly deep voice answers, "Come in!"
The handle turns but the door doesn't move.
You blink. You didn't mishear her, did you?
I don't think so.
You shove harder.
A chorus of squeaks rage at you. You shake your head and push, displacing the horde of rodents that decided to make the doorway their dining spot.
You think there's more cheese than rats in here.
Nazrrin's small home is like a studio apartment. The bathroom appears to be separated but everything else can be seen from the doorway. Her bed in the corner, covered in cheese and rats. Her kitchen with a wood-burning stove, covered in mice and cheese. Her office setup along the side wall, a large wooden desk and accompanying bookcases, all covered with cheese?and papers.
A lot of papers, so many that there are piles around the desk as tall as the desk.
Enough paper that you can barely seen Nazrin's ears poking out above the stacks.
Amidst the droning of chattering rodents, you can hear the scritch scritch of a pen furiously meeting paper.
"Nazrin?" you ask.
"What?" she replies without laying eyes on you. "I'm busy. Eirin's little monstrosities apparently double as hyper-alert house cats so unless the temple is on fire I'm gonna have to ask you to come back later."
[ ] Ask if you can help [ ] Don't disturb her -[ ] Return to the temple [ ] <Write-in>
Ugh, let's see if we can't get back on pace. And look at all these split votes.
"Yeah." Nazrin's response is immediate and short. "Get me the chocolate bar in the second cabinet to the right of the ice box."
"O-Okay." Not what you expected, but you guess your opposable thumbs are helpful for something.
Huh, now that you're looking, the blocks of cheese might stand out the most, but the vast majority of the mice and rats and eating other foods. You see them diving into jars of peanut butter and mauling baskets of fruits.
The hard part in fulfilling Nazrin's request is navigating the mess of rodents and their food. You don't think she'd appreciate you crushing or maiming her?servants?
Nonetheless, you manage to get over to the kitchen section and then Nazrin's desk. "Here."
Nazrin simply opens her mouth.
Her eyes never flitter up to you, all of her concentration on the paper in front of her and the mouse twitching on her shoulder. She takes the paper she's writing on and slaps it onto a pile before slamming down a new sheet and continuing her mad writing.
You carefully remove the paper enwrapping the artisan chocolate - fancy and freshly made from the village by all appearances - and break off a piece.
You can't help yourself.
Oh, that's delicious.
The mouse youkai clears her throat but doesn't chastise you further.
With only a little embarrassment you break off another piece and carefully drop it into Nazrin's mouth.
She mumbles something, likely a thanks, before ignoring you again.
"Is?is this all you need?"
"You can sort the reports."
"Sure. In any particular fashion?"
"Whatever works for you. I'm not thinking about anything I'm writing right now."
You can tell. All her concentration is on transcribing the reports.
Not the most impossible task you've ever been tasked to do. Grabbing a reasonable looking pile and dragging it closer, to pull the top sheet of paper and-
What the fuck is this?
Not even. They look like random lines. A bunch of them, forming some sort of modern art picture? The nonsensically vague picture is surrounded by words. Singular, not even sentences.
Soft. Long. Dirt. Sweat. Blood.
You quickly grab the next sheet. No picture on this one, but still not useful sentences.
You shuffle through a few more papers, each completely unhelpful in their contents. "Nazrin-"
"Stop being a self-centered human and think like a five centimeter tall rat," she snaps back. Her tone of voice isn't particularly angry or frustrated, but it seems like she wants as few distractions as possible.
I think I get it?
Your sister can actually read this?
Well, not any more than you. But, it's just like a puzzle, right? The reports should relate to each other somehow. We can see Nazrin is straight writing down what the mice are telling her.
And she's switching pages when she has to or when a rat changes. Okay.
World's loosest puzzle. The drawings, as vague as they are, should relate to the words which relate to how a single rat would see the world?
"This might take a long time.
[ ] Slow down, comprehend [ ] Speed up, bigger sample size [ ] Give up and leave -[ ] Apologize -[ ] Get her some cheese -[ ] Promise to help with something you're more suited for [ ] <Write-in>
Well, this seems interesting. It'll probably take a while to get our mind around it but in the meantime we shouldn't be making anything worse, and once we've figured it out this time we should be able to help similarly in the future, should the occasion call for it.
We can possibly start finding clues by slowing down and concentrating.
I'm wondering something: can the Necromonican drive someone mad through their messengers and Servants? Can it possibly be affecting Nazrin even through the information she's finding through her mice & rats?
You sit down on the wooden floor and grab the top sheets of paper, sorting through them until you're fairly confident you've separated one report from the rest.
it's been a while since you last sat down and studied; before you entered Gensokyo if you recall correctly.
Thankfully, compared to your lackluster magical reserves or your roughshod swordplay, studying is something you've always been rather decent at. You were able to shove aside schoolwork in favor of reading everything occult because you didn't need to spend much time on that basic material to understand.
Learning rat shouldn't be much harder than any other language, should it?
Why so modest in your own mind, Bro? You're amazing at this kind of stuff!
You wouldn't say that?
Then what would you call becoming fluent in Japanese in only a year?
Conversational maybe, not fluent.
By your second year you were, and you were reading just as well. And it's not like you only learned Japanese during those years.
Maybe because you sat down and simply studied texts and references for literally the entire day.
Exactly! That kind of dedication is remarkable.
Your sister usually has less praiseful words for that trait of yours. Maybe single-minded, narrow-focused, stubborn, obsessed-
When you do it too much! But I've never met anybody who can soak up knowledge better than you.
Maybe. You really see it is more of a necessity, though. You learned languages as a kid because not everybody translated the best stories and rumors into English. Then, as you began travelling, languages only became more important. Even dead languages - you couldn't rely on anybody else to help translate that scrap of Illryian or Anatollian you needed to further your magic or your search. Human anatomy, modern medicine, arcane rituals?
Nothing more than a spot of studying.
Staring at Nazrin's efficient scribbling and dashed art is almost a comfort.
Yet, there's something missing before you can begin.
"Nazrin, do you have a pen and paper I can use?"
The sound of a drawer opening precedes the ballpoint pen flung high into the air over to where you sit. A dozen sheets of notebook paper - college rule, strangely enough - flutter down after it.
You clear a bit more space on the floor by pushing away stacks of paper and furry bodies. Something presses into your thigh and you almost swat at it. Luckily, you look first and see the cushion that the mice dragged over for you.
With the reports spread out on the floor you just'drift away.
You read and reread the report, the lines blurry together and standing apart. You're focusing on it, but not as intently as students in school might when they cram for a test. You just need to draw more information from your mind. You'relate, things. Draw connections.
Obviously, there isn't an actual language to learn here. Everything written down is in Japanese, as parsed through Nazrin. You ask her a few questions as you go, her curt answers giving you all the background information you need.
Five senses, of which the worst is their eyesight. Each rodent tells Nazrin what it can, communicating everything it experienced. Some of the rodents are older, more experienced, or more magical and have greater depths of explanations.
Ultimately, you come to understand, it's exactly as Nazrin suggested. You need to change the perspective of your thoughts.
What if you couldn't use your eyes and had to draw a picture from your touch? You would reach around, feeling for something you could recognize. Something large and solid like a wall, perhaps. You can tell its drywall because of how thin it feels or the uneven paint. In fact, you can smell that paint. You follow that wall until you run into the edge of a pit - or stairs, since you know you're indoors. You can feel the airflow and there's some interesting smells you can't identify down them, so you go. There's nothing but musky rabbits on the surface.
Further below you feel terribly uncomfortable. The metal floor underneath your feet is cool and slick to run on. The slight increase in pressure constricts your lungs. The metal walls offer no comfort.
it's scary having this wide open space to your left. A quick run over confirms that it's a hallway so you know that it's only so wide and perhaps forever long. You scurry back to the wall you prefer and move a bit quicker. it's dangerous, out in the open. You can't smell any predators but you've heard that there are dark hunters lurking, capable of moving faster and reaching farther than you.
Bits of fur, flecks of blood - all the scents of your own have been scattered about these halls where the predators roam. All your kin sent with similar tasks, similar purposes. You hesitate, you fear, but you keep moving down the hall since all these rooms have been marked.
Eventually, thankfully, you come across a threshold unmarked. You dart inside, the door slightly ajar.
It gets ?less obvious, from there.
The room is large, enough that it takes the rat a couple of minutes to run around the perimeter. The room itself had more rooms connected. Compared to metal lined walls there was one without the taste of aluminum. Plastic, or maybe glass. Perhaps a sliding door, a full wall window into another area?
There was definitely clutter in the room, countless clutter. All manners of fabrics in textures and sizes; the majority of them were dresses? There were more than clothes, though. Bandages, packaged foods, blankets, pillows, and more.
it's not a storage room since it's all covered in a myriad of scents. Sweat the most obvious, but also things like blood, feces, and urine. Bits of rabbit fur and the strange, almost scentless slime that seems associated with the hunters. A laundry room? But there would be no reason to place it so far in the basement.
Eirin's monsters are on the prowl and apparently there's far more than the single ?successful? S-Virus specimen you saw during your visit to her lab. Unless she's letting out the captive, unstable ones which is an entirely different mess of problems.
You wonder how any of the rodents avoided being eaten when those monsters could fling themselves around with a fury.
"There's power in numbers," Nazrin tells you.
This particular rat, it seems, explored that one room for some amount of time before getting spooked and bolting for home.
You're missing things. Too many things. Not even because the rat couldn't explore whatever tabletops might have been in the room - your reading of the report is only a very cursory summary. The devil is in the details and those still elude you after only a short time. There has to be more you can get from this?
Occasionally you hear Nazrin get out of her seat and wander about. Sometimes she absently reads over her new records and other times you feel her peer over your shoulder, analyzing the furious scribbling of notes you've been taking.
At some point, she even returns the favor and feeds you a few cheese-coated crackers to keep your energy up.
Hey, it's getting pretty late, don't you think?[i]
it's?only been a few hours. You're fairly confident the sun only went down a short while ago.
You don't get it.
[ ] Keep working [ ] <Write-in>
>>185095 Get your buzzwords out of my story. Next you're gonna tell me we should store spells in the cloud or something.
>>185131 [x] No, wait. We gotta go! Byakuren is waiting for us at home. [x] Offer to come back and help out some other time. [x] Don't forget to mention the purpose of our visit. To let her know we have an in on the book through Reisen and that theres no need to rush things on her end.
it's been hours! You've been staring at these papers for hours!
So? Nazrin's one room house is very well-lit by all sorts of magical lights. With how hard she is working you doubt she'll kick you out any time-
You haven't eaten since lunch!
Snacks have been-
Cheese and crackers don't count! Cookies don't count!
You're still not seeing-
Of course you don't.
Wasn't your sister just complimenting on your- That was hours ago you doofus.
Don't you have anything more important to do?
You get the feeling there's something in these reports, but that could just be your paranoia speaking. It wouldn't be the first time. You can't say anything coming out of Eientei has given you any less than awful premonitions.
Assuming the information hidden in these scribbles isn't too important then?
Someone at the temple might miss you?
I think that's a very real possibility.
Like Yoshika! You've ditched her for half the day. She must be ready to bite your head off.
Or maybe the other jiang-shi? Nekurow has been badgering you to sharpen your sword skills.
Who else would Minamitsu complain to after a long day?
What? Those are all real possibilities aren't they? it's not like anybody else sees you as a particularly integral part of their evening routine. Nobody else would worry a wink if you didn't show up until sometime tomorrow.
But maybe someone does.
If someone were waiting to see you after a hard day's work then it would be incredibly uncouth to keep them waiting.
You shake your head several times and shuffle together your notes. You give the reports around you a quick once-over before restacking them as well. "Nazrin, I think I should head back to the temple."
"Sure," she dismisses you with a wave of her hand. "Just leave your stuff on the shelf over here, I'll keep it for ya and go through it myself eventually."
It takes a minute to carefully pick your way through all the clutter but you eventually manage to drop off the papers and then reach the door. "Thank you for your hospitality," you tell Nazrin before leaving.
The mouse youkai answers with a grunt.
You consider saying more but Nazrin's too busy to focus on your words. If you end up needing Nazrin again or if she needs you you'll find each other. After all, you originally only asked her to find you the Necronomicon. Now that she has, both of you seem to have more important matters to attend.
Leaving the youkai to her work you let your eyes adjust to the darkness before taking to the air. You keep yourself primed for danger but nothing tries to shoot you down or intercept you as you speed over to the temple.
The gate guard waves you past, the cat girl on duty being one of Shou's more apathetic disciples.
Unfortunately for you, it's a bit past dinner time for most. All the well-mannered and dedicated disciples are already winding down for the night. On the other end of the spectrum, all the nocturnal youkai have already fled the temple for their evening outside.
Overall, there's barely anybody to pester to find the person you want to find.
A quick walk over to your room reveals nobody awaiting you. A dip into the kitchen yields nobody. A visit to Byakuren's room does not find you a nun.
This'makes you feel terribly disappointed.
Not that you were expecting anything particular.
Nonetheless, you feel paranoia creeping back into your mind.
Where is she?
As you wandered the temple in search, you are confident you recognized that the others are around. You thought you saw Shou nestled amongst her disciples in their barracks and the light in Ichirin's room was on. Yet, nowhere did you hear Byakuren's soft voice or mild-mannered hm's of disbelief. Maybe you weren't searching hard enough?
Backtracking down the halls, you stop in front of Ichirin's room. You give a gentle rap on the door and quietly call out, "Ichirin?"
"Come in," she answers.
Ichirin's room is rather plain, like every other room you've seen in this temple. Is personalization supposed to be an earthly excess or something?
The nun herself is sitting at her low table, clad in a sleeved white nightgown. She sets her pen down on the paper she was writing on and smiles up at you. "Welcome back."
"Thanks. What are you up to?"
"Writing a few notes for tomorrow before bed. And you? I heard you enjoyed an afternoon with-"
She what!? ?You heard what? I- I definitely did not- Er, that is to say, we- uh-"
"Pfh haha!" The dirty little gossip throws her head back and laughs before settling down. "Relax. Even I know it's absurd to think you could do more than talk with Lady Hieda. Her guards would never allow anything more."
That's what she was talking about.
"I- ah, yeah. Yeah."
Ichirin peers up at you. "Is something wrong?"
"No, no, uh, did Byakuren tell you that before you left the village?"
"Have you, uh, seen her since then?"
She takes a second to think before shaking her head. "I suppose I have not. She told me she had a task to attend to so I simply finished my business in the village and returned home after the meeting."
"Has nobody seen her since then?"
"Perhaps. Are you worried? From how she described the task to me I would not fear for her. Lady Hijiri is more than capable of handling a few stay youkai."
With that much magical power how could she not? You've only ever seen her posturing, but that was enough to make you taste fair. "I don't doubt it."
"Yet you still worry, hm? I cannot say if she has returned or if she went alone. If anybody were to know then it would be Shou. If she thought Byakuren would be in the slightest danger then I'm sure she would have sent some of her disciples along."
[ ] Go bother Shou [ ] Head over to the edge of the farms [ ] Don't worry -[ ] Early to bed early to rise -[ ] Chat with Ichirin --[ ] About <what> [ ] <Write-in>
Eientei experiments may have left the bamboo forest already. Bothering Shou won't work because she doesn't think she's in danger, as Unzan's familiar just told him, and we can't explain the Necromicon's creatures without severely harming our chances to recover it (Diplomatic or otherwise)
"Well, thanks for your help Ichirin," you tell the blue-haired girl.
The nun shakes her head and rises to her feet. "You are not heading out there, are you?"
"What? Of course not," you deny. "What? Don't give me that look."
Ichirin rolls her eyes. "Pardon me if I do not quite believe you."
"I'm really not! What would I even do, blindly fly around at night and hope I run into her?"
That's not entirely honest, of course.
You brush the edge of your scarf and bring your hand back down to your side. If you had to, you could probably jury-rig a sensor off of it to guide you to her. Or you could take something from her room and use that. Along with one of the lightly enchanted necklaces you own, a rushed magical compass would be good enough to get you in her general vicinity.
"I suppose not. Yet, you do no plan on letting the matter drop?"
"Not quite. I saw Shou was still awake when I got back earlier. I thought I'd go ask her about Byakuren."
"Hm, I see. Let us go then." Ichirin passes by you and opens her door.
"You're coming with me?"
"That is not a problem, is it?"
"No," you answer, "but you didn't sound particularly worried before."
Ichirin nods once before gesturing you through the door. "I am not. Lady Hijiri is more than capable of combatting any foe if she knew a fight was remotely possible. However, I am curious what she might have told Shou."
Together, the two of you backtrack down the halls until you reach the large common room that serves as the barracks for the disciples of Bishamonten. Just as before, most of them are still awake.
One lazy looking cat is snoring away, true, but the rest appear to be meditating or otherwise slowly preparing for sleep.
Shou is sitting off to the side, legs crossed and eyes closed. She is clad in a long red robe, the cloth not the finest looking material around. Interestingly, the pagoda she always carries floats in front of her chest. A quick glance shows no extra magic buoying the artifact - you wonder if it's a natural property of the pagoda or simply a well-crafted enchanted that gives off no excess- Ahem.
When you appear in the doorway, a good half of the disciples turn to look but almost all of them quickly dismiss you and return to what they were doing. Seeing that as good of an invitation as any, you step into their domain, Ichirin following along behind.
"What may I do for you?" Shou asks as you walk near her corner of the room.
"Hi Shou," you reply, "sorry to bother you this late at night."
"Not at all. You just recently returned for the day, did you not?" The tiger youkai opens her eyes and stands, grabbing her pagoda gently and setting in on the nightstand to her side.
Before you answer, you see the woman's eyes narrow slightly. Shou leans forward, almost breaching what you would consider your personal space, before giving you two large sniffs. "You were with Nazrin?"
"Uh, yeah. Sitting in her house with her and her horde of rodents. Is the smell that bad?" You honestly didn't notice any horrid stench, but you are the one that spends a great deal of time around corpses.
"No, it is not. Nazrin takes pride in keeping her possessions clean. Nonetheless, she has a particular scent I am accustomed to. At any rate, what can I do for you?"
On to business then. "I was looking for Byakuren but I couldn't find her anywhere in the temple."
"That would be because she is not here," Shou's tone is mild, conversational. If it was someone like Minamitsu or even Byakuren, you'd be sure they were mocking you. "I'm surprised she hasn't returned yet."
"Do you know where she went?" you ask the avatar of Bishamonten.
"The forest, from what she told me. The village was having a problem with marauding youkai and she went to handle it."
"Yes?" Shou replies. She seems more suspicious of your questions than of whatever might be happening out there.
"And that was hours ago, wasn't it?"
"It was. You're worried?"
You hear Ichirin giggle and you scowl. "Now I'm wondering why nobody else is."
"Lady Hijiri is strong!" someone shouts.
Others take up the unintended question. "She could mop the floor with us."
"You haven't seen her when she's angry!"
"You haven't either, numbskull."
"Who are you calling a-" Shou claps her hands once, the sound quieting the rowdy disciples.
"They would be correct, of course," Shou says to you. "Why would we worry about Myouren Temple's head nun when she is the strongest among us?"
"Because she hadn't come back yet?" Really, this seems rather obvious to you.
"Are we her parents? Should we set a curfew on her to not frolic about after dark?"
"I just don't get how you can be so calm when someone has disappeared."
"Disappeared? This is hardly a disappearance. She told us where she went."
"The forest full of dangerous monsters? Yeah, totally safe." Not that you've had any particularly terrible incidents there yourself but it's the principle of the matter.
Shou lightly taps her foots and gives a few shallow shakes of her head. "There is not a single youkai in the forest's outer edges that could so match as scratch Byakuren. I have kept careful track of such dangers. Any youkai that supposedly raided the humans? farms would be a non-issue."
How can she be so dismissive? "it's not like anything unexpected could happen. Traps don't exist or anything. Nope."
Shou points at your chest. "The only possibility of danger she could be in is if she were to venture deep into the forest's interior, but she knows better. I can assure you that the beasts that lurk those depths do nothing so petty as setting a trap."
"And you think she wouldn't chance if it there was reason? If someone was in danger, perhaps? Do you really think she couldn't be lured into-"
"Enough!" Shou stomps her foot once. "She told us where she went and I expect she will return when she is ready."
That's it, then? Like hell it is. Don't-
"You expect, huh? Just like you expected her to return to your cozy mountaintop and instead let her get sealed for a thousand-" A clawed hand-
You stumble backwards, arm raised to ward off a lunge while your other hand imbues shards of bone with crackling energy. You squat lower, bracing to collide with-
You vision fills with pink.
It takes a moment for you to gain control of yourself and shove your instincts back down. It helps that you feel the fluffy cloud on your face, firm but not dangerous.
You take a deep breath, then two, before dumping your supplies back into a pocket.
Unzan's bulky form begins to fade, turning translucent before disappearing completely.
Across from you, technically a few steps away, is a monster.
Shou is snarling, her feline nature readily apparent. Her mouth is clenched shut, teeth dangerously barred. You hear her exhaling deeply, rage barely contained as her clawed-fingers twitch. She is stooped slightly, as if she would be more comfortable on all fours and preparing to pounce.
You bite your lower lip and cautiously glance around the room.
Everybody is staring intently. It seems like the more feline-youkai are taking cues from Shou, their anger rising with every second. The others, vary. The most level-headed ones, you suppose the ones you've talked to more, look like they're preparing to intervene. Their lot is still outnumbered three to one.
"Sorry," you mutter, before slowly half-turning and exiting the room, careful to keep one eye on everybody.
A growl stops you in your tracks.
Shou's eyes haven't left you, her snarl growling louder as you try to retreat.
You move your foot, take one step.
And so does she.
Five steps from the wall. Get back to it, assess threats. Too many, too fast, can't run. No weapons save your own, extend reach to ward off, armor up if needed, call for-
Before you can plan further, the deadlock is broken by a blue-haired girl.
Ichirin casually strolls between you and Shou. The nun has her back to you, her entire attention focused on Shou.
"Shou," she speaks, softly, "calm down."
The tiger youkai sways, obviously craning to look around Ichirin, to gaze at you. She growls, and takes a step around.
"Shou," Ichirin repeats, one palm slowly extending out, "I said to-"
Once Ichirin's hand is close enough, Shou slaps it away and throws the girl off balance. Ichirin tumbles to the side, leaving you wide open to the rushing-
Shou falls forward, her legs swept out from under her by Ichirin's swift kick.
The feline youkai lands on all four before spinning and jumping back to her feet. Instead of continuing the charge after you she rotates further and brings her arms up.
She blocks a second kick aimed at her midsection and then deflects a punch to her face. Shou moves fluidly, easily throwing aside all of Ichirin's own lightning-quick jabs. In the few seconds of fighting you can already tell that Shou can't be beat-
Unless the pink fist of God smashes her through the floor.
"-CALM DOWN!" Ichirin shouts, her fist meeting the ground right in front of the hole in the floorboards. The pink wisps of clouds swirling around her fade just as quickly as they appeared, leaving Ichirin dramatically kneeling on the ground.
Ichirin slowly stands and rubs her knuckles. After a second of peering downwards, she sweeps a hand through her hair and turns to the room at large. "I am sorry about that display. And the hole. Fixing your floor shall be the first task on my list for tomorrow."
Nobody bothers to chastise her.
With a decisive nod, Ichirin strides out of the room, grabbing you by your scarf as she leaves.
In the hall, she gives you the look.
"Tomorrow," she carefully enunciates. "After that meeting before and all of this now, I am done with today. I will round up Shou and the others to search for Byakuren, tomorrow."
You dumbly nod and earn a smile from Ichirin.
"Good night," she tells you, before making her way back towards her room, a small skip in her step.
I'm not going to ask you what the fuck that was.
I'm not going to point out how managed to turn off your brain so quickly.
You got caught up in it.
I'm going to do my best not to scream at you for five hours straight.
Need to stop. Everything.
It feels like it's been months. In reality, you were almost eaten by tentacle horrors, nearly vaporized by an alien, rejected by someone you confessed your love to, found your lifelong obsession, entered high stakes negotiations, and along the way managed to wrap yourself up into even more paranoia and apprehension, all in the span of two days.
So, just stop.
[ ] Search for? -[ ] Byakuren -[ ] Yoshika -[ ] Minamitsu [ ] Try to sleep [ ] Go and think? -[ ] By the lake -[ ] At the cemetery [ ] <Write-in>
Oh god I'm slipping back over the edge and it's teeeeerible. Nooooo?
Seriously. Fuck me and my lack of discipline with updates.
You stop by the kitchen and rummage around in the cupboards. A quick search finds a few pastries that someone tried to hide behind the pots and pans. You liberate one and head outside. Once under the stars you slowly lift into the air.
The problem with communal living is, unsurprisingly, the lack of privacy. As a result, one of the things you've found that unites all the Myouren Temple devotees is their ability to hide their vices - or the food they don't want eaten.
Perhaps Byakuren teaches them more than she realizes.
You and Minamitsu discussed the idea one bored afternoon while you both slacked off from preparing for the festival. That led to a merry day of scouring the temple and carefully watching the residents move about. You probably freaked out more than a few people.
Still, your labors now bear fruit. Strawberry, specifically, crushed and sweetened inside a still soft bun.
This isn't a filling dinner.
No, it's not, but you aren't going to make a racket cooking for yourself when you can simply wait until tomorrow.
Considerate of you.
Yeah, if only you could be like that all the time, huh?
Bro, that isn't-
it's totally fair. You know you fucked up even more than usual. There's no good excuse for insulting Shou like that. With how much you were baiting her, she had every right to tear your face off.
it's not like you've had many conversations with the temple's resident avatar of Bishamonten. Sometimes she eats with you around Byakuren's breakfast table and you give a wave and a smile as you pass in the halls, but she's the one you are least close to amongst Byakuren's trusted circle.
The most interaction the two of you have had is when you've sparred on occasion, your sword versus her spear. At least now you know why the disciple of a god of war and the head of the temple's security always felt so underwhelming to train with.
Nonetheless, despite glowing none too close, you heard more than enough from the others about Shou and her past with Byakuren. Poking her one-thousand years of guilt was almost too easy.
And you did it for no fucking reason. How pathetic is that?
I wouldn't say no reason. Maybe not a good reason, but it's not like you were thinking straight.
Yeah, if you were thinking you would have managed a few more seconds of conversation, right?
That's not what I mean and you know it. You're not going to help anyone by beating yourself over this so stop it.
On the contrary, beat yourself enough and maybe something will stick one day.
it's just too fucking frustrating. You've been in situations like this a thousand times before. You just have to ask your question then shut your mouth and- Argh.
We can't control how we feel.
And that's the problem. First thing you're going to do after you set your sister free is turn yourself into a lich. Maybe a dead body will help matters.
That's not even funny.
No, but it has its merits. No cascade of chemicals telling you to get angry, to deny, to push and push and fight. No sense of touch or taste means less external stimuli to provoke you.
Can something heartless feel love?
Now you're being ridiculous.
Maybe, but it sounds appealing right now. Instead, you have to deal with all the slight irritations and annoyances building up until they cause you to explode. How little of you, taking it all out on this poor cat who just doesn't seem to fucking care about-
You shake your head and take a deep breath.
Looking around, you see that you haven't drifted far from the temple. You've mostly been slowly spiraling upwards until you could feel the autumn chill on your nose and ears.
Back down then. If only your emotions were as easy as magic.
I don't think something the entire human race manages to figure out is difficult.
What's eating you, Bro?
Your sister knows full well what's ?eating? you.
I think it'd help if you said it.
"What, out loud? Talk to myself like I'm crazy?"
What can it hurt? it's not like anybody else is out here.
You glance around at the tombstones surrounding you. Here you are again, huh?
You haven't actually been back here much at all as you've preferred working in Muenzuka. The site of your first incident and the start of everything is quiet, as well-kempt as ever thanks to the temple's residents.
"Fine. Let's just tell the world that I'm hopelessly confused."
"Her. Byakuren. Who else? She's half of my problems right now. The other half, in case you weren't keeping track, is a terrifying extraterrestrial that is apparently mucking around with one of the Earth's most mysterious dangers."
Yes, yes, our lifelong quest has hit another hurdle. Stop trying to deflect.
"Deflect from what? I can't even tell you what I'm deflecting from! Confusion, sure. Some anger at being rejected, why not. Sadness, and then some more anger, for all this shit that has happened in her life. Embarrassment and awkwardness whenever I step on this bullshit invisible boundary that sprung up between us. Guilt for pushing and prodding even after she rejected me and then more confusion because we just fucked! Don't think I missed you skipping over that one, Sis!"
W-What? I was pointing out the bad things, but that seemed rather?pleasant.
"And now I'm getting a bit of disgust at the thought that my sister was inside my head masturbating to-"
Okay! Okay! We can stop right there.
You grin. "Why would we? I thought we were talking about our feelings. Why can't we talk about how you feel? For instance, do you like the feeling of a man or a woman more?"
I swear the first thing I do after you set me free will be to help you turn yourself into a lich.
Nothing deep or boisterous, but it's a start; that little bit of levity back into your mood.
Well I'm glad we could transform my embarrassment into your happiness. Check another power off our list.
Yeah, yeah. Now, I hate to veer back towards uncomfortable topics, but I think we really should talk about that.
"Fine." You kick the dirt and sit down on a rather ornate monument. "I thought we were joking, teasing, but then?" Then you weren't.
it's not like you forced her.
"No, and I never would have. I was all set to leave my spaghetti on the floor and leave but she'she didn't reject me?" it's not like she was some wilting, insecure maiden. No, she knew what she wanted and reeled you back in.
Shouldn't that tell you everything you need to know?
The she felt bad for throwing your emotions into the roaring seas and decided to throw you a very comfortable lifejacket?
What? No! That maybe she honestly likes you but isn't quite ready for a bigger commitment.
Or maybe she likes the look of you just enough for a casual fling but nothing deeper.
Jeez, that's not what I'm saying you depressing dummy.
it's equally likely, isn't it?
No it's not! The only ones in the entirety of Gensokyo, no, the entire world that doesn't understand what a nice relation you and Byakuren have been developing is you two.
Or nobody else really understands just how far apart you and her are.
Fine! The two of you can just wallow in your grief instead of going that extra little distance to find that person who truly makes you happy!
"What's that supposed to be like, huh? Can you tell me that when you never managed to find that person either?"
Of course I did.
You're positive your sister never found someone before the incident. When she was younger maybe? "When? Who?"
Oh you know, maybe twenty years ago or so. I was handed this ugly little rat thing and told that he was a new member of the family. I almost dropped him on the ground because he was stinky and I wanted to go outside and play with my friends. Who would have thought that thing would grow up into an adorable little goof?
Of all the cheesy- "That's not the same?"
And be glad it isn't. Can you imagine how weird it'd be if for the last ten years I was actually lusting after you inside your own mind? Every time you needed to relieve yourself, there I was going at too, imaging that you were-
Ugh- "Stop! Stop!" That is not something you need to be thinking about!
Then here's something you can, since you like your hypotheticals so much. Maybe, your special someone is a bit uncomfortable with how things snuck up on her. Maybe she needs a little time compose herself. Maybe a bit of talking can work out the kinks and then, who knows?
"it's a nice thought but somehow, you don't think it will be that simple. You know, don't you? You know that, as it stands right now, that kind of happy dream will never materialize.
Sue me for wanting my little brother to have a normal relationship. If my imagination is far from reality, why don't you tell me what needs to be done?
Hell if you know. If you had the answer to that you wouldn't be in this mess. You've had a few inklings in the past, a few stray thoughts that felt correct to you?
But how to act on them? If there's one constant in your life it's that talking alone never accomplishes much. Mere words are never enough to sway minds and change heartfelt beliefs. You can't talk down your enemies without a blade in hand or compulsive magic in your voice. Why would winning Byakuren over be any different?
Can you really think about this like an enemy that needs to be out-thought and defeated? Wait, never mind, of course you can.
Damn right. You're not sure if this whole conversation has helped any, but you do feel better. More centered, stable.
"Byakuren," you utter. At the very least, you can say her name without your stomach twisting in all sorts of pleasantly unpleasant ways. That's progress.
Now we'll see if you make someone else want to kill you in the next twenty-four hours. That's the real measure of it.
Sounds like a high hurdle.
Please don't, that wasn't a challenge. What now?
You're not sure. You suppose you could just go to sleep now that you aren't likely to bite someone's head off. Maybe look for Yoshika?
Do you even know where she is?
No, but you can find out. Easier than finding where Byakuren is, too. Yoshika and the other jiang-shi have your blood painted on their skin. More to the point, she has spent far too many hours pressed against your side.
The connection the two of you have is surprisingly deep. You can feel her in a way you never have with other undead you've raised before. An effect of Seiga's lingering enchantments? Yet, you can't feel the other jiang-shi like that at all.
A placebo effect from those pesky emotions? Natural enhancement from the magic-filled realm of Gensokyo? After-effect of entering her mind? Or perhaps-
No, it doesn't matter. Yoshika is fine and if you want to find her she is just a quick tracking spell away. For that matter, Byakuren probably is too. You reach into your pocket to pull out a necklace that can-
You pause and turn your head.
Right behind you is a girl. Turquoise hair, heterochromatic eyes, large purple umbrella that is waving its tongue at you.
[ ] Ignore her -[ ] Find Yoshika -[ ] Find Byakuren -[ ] Just go to sleep -[ ] <Something else> [ ] Act surprised [ ] Give her some advice [ ] Show her something actually scary [ ] <Write-in>
I was so excited to see someone bring up the Carnival idea! I thought about it a bit and reworked an old idea into something that seemed really good and then-
Then I remembered I can't even update this damn story every week.
So I stuck the idea back on the shelf, crawled over to my corner and cried.
Next time, I tell you, next time! Good luck to all participating in the Carnival!
On a related note, it's our birthday! This story is now?3?years?old?I think it's raining guys.
>>185253 The only one looking silly is the one taking a nap in the ground, yo.
>>185323 That doesn't actually exist, does it? It'd jump up to being my number one fan game if it does.