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185275 No. 185275
It's getting pretty warm. Warmer than is comfortable for a nice mid-morning nap. That's a fact that's increasingly annoying.

Oh well, no use in fighting it. It's probably about time to get going, anyhow.

Slowly, with your body still struggling against your mind, you open your eyes. The leafy canopy above is swaying gently with the breeze. It was a good idea to take a nap under the shade. You just forgot that the sun was going to move across the sky. That's why your lower half feels so annoyingly warm. You feel yourself frown as you sit up and then tuck your legs back towards the shade. A yawn escapes your lips as you grab your legs.

It's fine. Really.

You didn't mean to sleep for very long. It was just that the lone tree on the hillock was just too tempting a spot to pass up. It's not like you really have to be anywhere anytime soon – in fact, it'd probably be silly to show up before noon. Knowing the others, they would be very quite late as per usual. The last time you went you ended up staring up at the sky for hours all alone before anyone else showed up.

Mm, the heat did feel kinda good though. It's filled you up with energy. Mr. Sun likes it when we run around and play under his watchful gaze, you think. That's why the gatherings happen during the daylight and why dangerous things tend to come out when Mr. Sun goes away. It makes spring and summer the best times of year too. There's more sun and more time to play around without it getting dark. And a cool stream or the lake is always nearby if it gets too hot.

The vast grassy field in front of you stretches all the way down to the big lake in the distance. You were going to the shoreline by following the dirt path that borders the vast forest on one edge of the field. It's the most direct way of getting there without flying from home. Opposite the woods are a few plots of land worked by humans as well as the occasional wild patch of flowers or shrubbery. Beyond that still is the village and, because the sky is so clear, you can see faint trails of smoke coming from distant houses.

Ir's all downhill from your home which is nestled discretely between the field, the woods and a lazy stream. That lazy stream eventually widens and merges with a larger river that passes through the middle of the village. Humans keep away from the area because of the occasional youkai that's spotted wandering about. You can't blame them. It can be a real scary experience to meet a hungry youkai. Thank goodness you can fly if you need to.

You stand up and stretch. Another yawn escapes you as you brush off the dirt and grass that's stuck to the bottom of your dress. Luckily the mix dark colors and earthy tones you picked out to wear hide any stains that you've missed pretty well.

Might as well start walking at a relaxed pace towards the lake, you decide. Even if no one is there, you can at least practice skipping stones on the water's surface.

Oh, but wait.

You look down at your chest, feeling that a familiar weight is missing.

Oh dear, oh dear.

You begin to worry almost immediately, loosening up your blouse and vest and plunging a hand down the neck hole.

It's not there!

You check your pockets and then look around on the ground.

Nothing.

Just to be sure, you comb the area for a solid quarter hour but your search turns up empty.

You take a deep breath, trying to calm down. It was certainly there when you got dressed in the morning and it was certainly there when you took a nap. You held on to it as you drifted off into sleep as per usual, so that's how you're sure you had it. The string that you used to hang it from your neck is gone too, but it'd be pretty hard to get it off of you without you noticing. At least, you think. It's something you wear all the time, never taking it off – so it's not like you could just forget it somewhere.

With a sinking feeling of dread in your stomach, you sit back down and try to think. It must have been stolen. No other explanation makes sense. Why? You're not sure. It was a pretty stone, one that changed color every week without fail, but it wasn't otherwise special. Months of playing around with it hadn't revealed any special powers or anything. It was about the size of a pebble too so, even if it was valuable, it probably couldn't be sold for much. So just your run-of-the-mill magic knickknack. No reason for anyone to want it when there's so much more lying around everywhere in Gensokyo.

Who would take it? You couldn't think of anyone. At least not anyone who wouldn't first challenge you to a battle. That's how most things are settled these days.

You hold back a tear. It won't do you any good to cry right now. Even if it's really unfair and it hurts a lot. Your pendant was the only possession you really cared about. The only real choice you have is to toughen up and try to find it. Your heart begins to beat a little faster as you struggle with the idea of being courageous.

Another deep breath helps to calm you down.

The obvious first step is to go somewhere where you can find something or someone that can help you track the pendant down.

Going somewhere scary like that mansion by the lake alone isn't really smart. Even if they have all sorts of weird magic doodads that might help you out. Those places will have to wait until you can protect yourself better. Places the average human could go to during the daylight are the best choices.

[] Go to the meeting spot in case someone else has arrived. They might be able to help you find it.
[] Sneak into the edge of town and go to that weird shop full of junk. Maybe your pendant ended up there.
[] That place in the bamboo forest has all sorts of neat tools. One of them could help you find what you're looking for.

----

Hi hi, doing the >>/gensokyo/13978 thing let's have some fun.
No. 185276
[x] Sneak into the edge of town and go to that weird shop full of junk. Maybe your pendant ended up there.

Good luck with the contest, OP. Remember to put a link your story in the contest thread to formally enter the festival.
No. 185277
[x] That place in the bamboo forest has all sorts of neat tools. One of them could help you find what you're looking for.
No. 185282
[X] Go to the meeting spot in case someone else has arrived. They might be able to help you find it.

Friends~
No. 185284
[X] Go to the meeting spot in case someone else has arrived. They might be able to help you find it.
No. 185286
[x] Go to the meeting spot in case someone else has arrived. They might be able to help you find it.

The more the merrier! They can help you look and they can also be the first suspects!
No. 185293
[x] Sneak into the edge of town and go to that weird temple full of youkai. Maybe Nazrin could help find your pendant.

Not sure if Myouren Temple counts as "A place that the average human could go to during the daylight".
No. 185297
[] Sneak into the edge of town and go to that weird shop full of junk. Maybe your pendant ended up there.
No. 185298
>>185293
Please no writing in votes unless I ask you. It's hard enough to do a well-paced and coherent story in a month without possibly wild tangents cropping up. For now please limit yourself to the knowledge and feelings that the protagonist has. There's good reason the choices are laid out the way they are.
No. 185303
[x]Sneak into the edge of town and go to that weird shop full of junk. Maybe your pendant ended up there.
less boring choice
No. 185304
[x] Sneak into the edge of town and go to that temple full of youkai. Maybe Nazrin could help find your pendant.

No way I can't vote for this.
No. 185305
>>185304
Whoops, just saw the post above and wouldn't you know that I can't even delete my post.

Change my vote to [] Sneak into the edge of town and go to that weird shop full of junk. Maybe your pendant ended up there.
No. 185306
[x] Go to the meeting spot in case someone else has arrived. They might be able to help you find it.

Letting everyone else know that you'll be looking for your pendant is only proper.
No. 185308
[x] Sneak into the edge of town and go to that weird shop full of junk. Maybe your pendant ended up there.

Love the thread pic. Gensokyo can never have enough scenery porn.
No. 185324
guess I should have mentioned it earlier but called and writing.
No. 185333
It's not so easy to get close to the human village unnoticed. For one, there's usually farmers in the outlying fields. And between the fields there are houses and very little in the way of cover. Only a few trees survive in the area, mostly orchards. That's why the best strategy is to move from orchard to orchard, dashing in the open spaces. If everything goes well it's only be less than a minute between cover.

Of course all of that hassle could just be avoided if you stick to the road. But that would go against the goal of making it in unseen. Someone once told you that humans don't really trust strangers and, seeing how some of your friends have gotten beaten up over the years, you're inclined to believe it.

Plus, it's a perfect excuse to play a little game.

You count as you run run between cover, feet struggling to find firm footing on the moist earth. Each time you try to go faster, winning more points for knocking off as many seconds as you can. Naturally, getting spotted is a big deduction. But if you manage to then hide successfully, you don't lose. But getting caught means it's all over. Then you'll have to run away as fast as possible. That's a whole different kind of game.

Luckily, the game goes well. You have fun beating your time each time. And none of the villagers in the fields notices you, you think. But the price of getting a good score is that some mud splashes the hem of your skirt. Now you look slightly less cute. Just a smidge less.

The weird building in front of you must be the place. It's the first time you've come this close to the village. And, though you're at the very edge near the fields and a ways from the village proper, you're still wary that at any moment someone might spot you.

Still, you can't help but take in the exotic sight. There's all sorts of colorful signs pasted to the walls and a few large objects lie outside the door. You can't even begin to guess their purpose. Why would anyone want a large box with a shiny-but-dirty glass in the middle? If you got close, you might be able to make out your own reflection there but surely a mirror would be better. Why is there some sort of brightly-colored statue of a man in a striped outfit out front? Maybe the building doubles as some sort of shrine.

You decide to approach the building with caution. Sneaking around is also kind of a game. You imagine you're some sort of great hero going into a cave full of evil, looking for a magical artifact. You were told a story like that once and since then it's really fun to pretend to be that hero instead of getting scared. Brave heroes don't ever get scared, after all.

Crossing the threshold is tough but you manage it without making any noise. The wooden floor wants to creak under your weight, you just know it.

But you barely have any time to look around.

“Oh, come on~” a girl's voice jolts you. You dive behind a stack of boxes, heart pounding wildly.

You take a deep breath and try to calm down. A hero wouldn't be nervous. You prick up your ears and take a good look around. All you can see are are more boxes and the occasional strange object on a shelf. A black tube or something that looks like a stuffed animal. Oh, that's supposed to be a bear. That's pretty cute. It'd look nice in your room.

“Sorry, but I have to earn a living,” a man's voice snaps you out of your nascent daydream. “I can't let you just borrow everything without paying.”

“But Kourin~” the voice trails pleadingly, the pitch rising and making her sound like a whiny child, “come on, do it for me~”

“At least give me some money,” the man replied, sighing. You sneak a peek from around the boxes and spot both of them at the store's counter. The man is facing you but is too busy looking at the girl to notice your peeking. He looks like a normal villager for the most part… except that something feels off about his eyes. It's something you've seen elsewhere, but you can't remember where.

“Making a cute girl happy should be enough payment,” the girl says, laughing. She's dressed in black with a few patches of white here and there. There's something familiar about her too, but you're not quite sure what it is.

“Hm?” The man's attention is diverted towards you. You;ve accidentally leaned on the stack of boxes and made their contents rattle. You take a quiet breath, hiding behind the stack with your heart pounding away furiously.

“What's wrong, Kourin?” you hear the girl ask.

“I think there's someone else in the shop,” he says.

[] It'll be fine if you stay quiet. So very very quiet.
[] Run for your life!
[] A hero doesn't cower. Jump out and put on a brave face.
No. 185334
[x] It'll be fine if you stay quiet. So very very quiet.

Don't get spotted! You'll lose points! The game never ends!
No. 185335
[x] A hero doesn't cower. Jump out and put on a brave face.
SHOW YOUR DETEMMINATION
No. 185336
[] A hero doesn't cower. Jump out and put on a brave face.
No. 185337
[x] It'll be fine if you stay quiet. So very very quiet.
No. 185339
[x] It'll be fine if you stay quiet. So very very quiet.

Bravery is for heroes who AREN'T being scored for stealth!
No. 185341
[X] It'll be fine if you stay quiet. So very very quiet.
This is a sneaking mission.
No. 185342
[x] It'll be fine if you stay quiet. So very very quiet.

Gotta train our Sneak skill.
No. 185345
[x] It'll be fine if you stay quiet. So very very quiet.

Hoping we don't get blasted by Marisa.
No. 185347
[X] It'll be fine if you stay quiet. So very very quiet.
No. 185350
[x] A hero doesn't cower. Jump out and put on a brave face.

Surprise!
No. 185352
[] Run for your life!
No. 185357
[x] A hero doesn't cower. Jump out and put on a brave face.

Remember the basics of CQC.
No. 185378
It's hard to be perfectly quiet when your heart is beating like crazy. In your imagination, you think that the noise will give you away. It's a struggle to take those deep breaths without making much noise but you make the effort. The objective is not to get found, after all.

“I don't hear anything,” the girl speaks up, “must be the wind or a mouse or something.”

“The village cats keep the mice out,” the man states flatly. You then hear movement. Cautious steps on the hardwood that amplify your panic. “What do you think you're doing?!” the footsteps are inturrpted.

“I'm grabbing your arm and looking at you with my best sad eyes, what does it look like I'm doing?” the girl laughs, and you hear her move quickly about. You don't dare take another peek but you imagine her basically throwing herself onto the man. That kind of thing is naughty and unfair, you think.

The man sighs. He sounds worn down when he talks to the girl, “fine I'll lend you the book and the other item but I'll expect payment eventually.” The mechanical way that he talks gives you the impression that it's something that he's used to saying to her.

“Hooray!” the girl exclaims happily, “you're the best Kourin! I'll cook ya something and bring it over as thanks one of these days.”

“No thanks, I don't want to die just yet,” the man sighs again and you hear his footsetps again. There's some rustling and the sound of something heavy being moved. “Here you are,” he says, “at least try to return these soon.”

“Will do!” the girl squeaks, sounding excited about her victory.

Feeling more calm, you risk another peek from out behind the box. The girl slings a big black book under the arm. And then…

Your heart quickens yet again.

It must be!

The man hands her a ruby-red pendant about the size of a pebble. It's on a simple string. Yours was red when you last saw it. And on a simple string.

“It just came in earlier,” the man says, “so you're lucky that you got to it first.”

“It sure is pretty,” the girl holds up the pendent to her eyes, letting the light filter through it. “Are you sure about what it does?”

“As always.”

You watch as the girl puts the pendent into her pocket. She turns around suddenly, forcing you to duck back behind the boxes.

“Well, thanks Kourin, see ya again soon!”

“I'll probably have more of those later,” he says as the girl begins to come close to the stack of boxes you're hiding behind. “I don't understand it myself but those have been turning up all day in strange places.”

“Thanks again, take care~” she blurts out as she comes into view, waving a hand casually toward the man.

The girl passes without so much as a glance in your direction. She's grinning, obviously pleased with herself. Prettier up close. Maybe a braid would look cute on your too. But you'd need to get a ribbon from somewhere. She's definitely human because her eyes don't feel scary.

Maybe she'll be as careless as most humans. Or as oblivious. You feel like you're about to do something stupid. But there's no helping it! It's so close that you can practically feel its smooth surface in the safety of your hand.

[] Try to pick her pocket.
[] Follow her quietly to wherever she's going.
No. 185379
[x] Try to pick her pocket.

Not giving up on shenanigans.
No. 185380
[x] Try to pick her pocket.

It's no crime to steal from a thief.
No. 185381
[x] Try to pick her pocket.

In my country we have a saying for this: "He who steals from a thief, gets 1000 years of pardon."

It sounds better in my language because it rhymes, but I think the meaning still gets across.
No. 185383
[X] Try to pick her pocket.
We're stealing our stolen item, so it doesn't count.
No. 185385
[x] Try to pick her pocket.

How much you wanna bet we botch this and get a Master Spark to the face.
No. 185387
>>185385
>You feel like you're about to do something stupid

No bet. But it is worth a shot.
No. 185388
[X] Try to pick her pocket.
No. 185393
[x] Try to pick her pocket.

We won't get blasted! At worst, we'll probably just end up falling under the SHIP-EVERYTHING-WITH-MARISA curse.
No. 185399
File 144661745650.jpg - (1.75MB, 1000x1432, at other times.jpg) [iqdb]
185399
For a brief moment you forget that you're all alone and scared. Your pendant is right in front of you so why should you think about anything else? The girl really lacks awareness. You didn't plan it nor did you think you'd be able to, but you quickly slink out of the shadow and reach out with your hand.

It's all over in an instant. You grab your pendant back with a nimbleness that surprises even yourself. The girl doesn't even feel it and continues to walk by like nothing had just happened.

You've got it!

Without skipping a beat, you toss it over your head to its rightful resting place around your neck. The tiny weight is comforting.

The relief you feel, however, is fleeting.

Your world has a massive upset. You loose the feeling of the ground beneath your feet and suddenly you're staring down at the floor. Something is wrapped around your waist tightly and you can't move. The obvious reaction is to begin kicking your feet wildly. “Let me go!” you cry out, realizing that you've been caught.

“Sorry, but there's only so much stealing that I can deal with in a single day, little one,” the man's voice is steady. It's the same guy from before. How did he come up from behind so quickly? You wiggle and thrash about, hoping to loosen his tight grip on you. “I'm not going to hurt you,” he continues, “but I need you to calm down and return what you've taken.”

“I won't!” you exclaim, managing to land a kick against his side. The grip loosens a little, enough for you to exploit it and slip out. Of course, because there's not that much room, you fall flat on the floor, smacking the floorboards with a sharp thwack.

It really hurts but you don't really have time to worry about it. You leap to your feet and begin to run. Sadly, your run to freedom lasts the whole of three seconds. At the door, you smack right into the girl, almost knocking the both of you over. She seemed ready for the impact and as a result manages to grab on to you, keeping you from making it out.

“What's your hurry?” she asks, smiling at you.

“She took the stone I handed you,” the man comes up from the side and grabs you from the back. With a single hand he manages to move you away from the door. That's definitely not human strength!

“Mmm, a cute little thief, eh?”

“I'm not a thief, you are!” you blurt out, trying to figure out how to best run away. If it was just one of them you'd kick them and then go hide until you could get a clean getaway. But the both of them together seriously limit your options.

“I'm not a thief!” the girl laughs, not taking you seriously at all. You feel your cheeks puff up in indignation. She teases further, “dontcha think she's kinda cute Kourin? I want to see her get even more worked up.”

“Don't push it,” the man adds, “I don't want her to go crazy and trash my shop. Everyone here is so hotblooded.”

“I'll do it too!” you threaten them. It's an empty threat, however. It's not like you know how to fight very well. Your friends make fun of you for being a pushover all the time.

“Give back what you've taken and we'll let you go,” the girl says with a smile, daring to pat you on the head. She's liable to mess it all up. How annoying.

“But it's mine! You guys stole it from me. I'm just here to take it back.”

“You know what?” the man takes control of the situation, “the two of you come to the back. I'll make some tea and we'll talk about this like civilized folk. There's too much passion in the air right now.”

“Tea's always nice,” the girl nods her head in approval. Directing herself to you, she adds, “that does sound nice, now doesn't it?”

“I-it's okay,” you say, feeling that you have no choice but to go along. Part of you is afraid of upsetting the man. Though measured, you still can't get past the strange energy that shows deep behind his golden eyes.

And so you join the girl and the man for tea in a humble room adjacent to the public area of the store. It's a crowded little place full of junk. There's barely enough room for a single square table in the middle. You have to move between piles of books and weird objects just to sit down.

The tea isn't bad, you have to admit. And despite your misgivings, it turns out that they aren't bad people either.

“So where'd you find that stone anyways, Hana?” Marisa asks with a smile. She's been staring at you nonstop, like you're some sort of curiosity. It must be because you're so darn cute, you decide. The time you spend picking out your clothes is worth it.

“I told you, it's Hanako!” you complain. Your cheeks puff up again as you give her your best glare. She keeps cutting off the last bit of your name and it's annoying. She doesn't even apologize every time you correct her. It's not nice. You hold back a sigh, feeling that you'll get dumber if you keep going back and forth with her. You tell her the story of how you found the stone in the clearing in the forest one day after a really starry night. Since then you've kept it on you at all times.

“I don't think she's lying,” Mr. Morichika says, “it really must be hers.”

You smile at him. He's not scary at all once you got to know him a little. He seems cold but is really understanding. One of the first things that he told you after pouring the tea was that everyone was welcome to the store and a little lady like me shouldn't hide around in the shadows. It was nicer to just talk and get to know each other.

“I don't think she knows what it is,” Marisa sighs, drumming her fingers against the table. “Hana dear, do you feel strange when you hold onto that pendant tight? Maybe it only happens late at night?”

You bring up a hand to your chest and clutch the pendant. It's something you often do when you're thinking.

[] It just makes you feel happy, is all.
[] It makes you feel important, like someone is watching out for you.
[] It gives you insight about stuff.
No. 185402
[X] It just makes you feel happy, is all.

I want to wax poetic about this option, but I've got nothin'. Just protect our happiness.
No. 185403
[x] It gives you insight about stuff.
No. 185405
[X] It just makes you feel happy, is all.
No. 185407
[X] It just makes you feel happy, is all.
No. 185409
[X] It just makes you feel happy, is all.
-[x]And it's Hanako, thank you.
No. 185411
[x] It makes you feel important, like someone is watching out for you.

Someone watching out for your would make you happy as well, no?
No. 185422
[X] It just makes you feel happy, is all.
-[x]And it's Hanako, thank you.
No. 185427
[x] It gives you insight about stuff.
No. 185429
[X] It just makes you feel happy, is all.
-[x] And it's Hanako, thank you.

Don't back down.
No. 185436
“Maybe you're wrong about that stone, Kourin,” Marisa states, not looking particularly impressed with your answer. She played around with the rest of the tea in her cup, sloshing around the remnants, looking like she was thinking something over. “It's not like I felt anything when I held it either,” she says, “so maybe it's a false lead.”

“I told you that it's only really noticeable at night,” he says, eyeing the movement of her cup. He winces as a particularly strong swirl almost spills some of the content onto the table.

“Dunno, Hana here doesn't seem like the type to get mixed up with this sort of thing anyhow.”

“It's Hanako,” you correct her yet again, frowning. Marisa smiles your correction but doesn't show any signs of taking it seriously. How can someone with such a pretty braid be so stupid? Maybe her big floppy hat is squishing her brain down, you figure. “Why do you care about my pendant at all? I mean it's pretty but the way you guys are talking about it, I think that there's maybe something else to it.”

Mr. Morichika nods silently to Marisa, and fields the question, “the pendant you treasure is made out of a small part of a larger stone. That large stone apparently came from somewhere really far away but broke when it hit the ground here. And now the pieces are all over the place. Other people like you have the other parts. The thing is, however, that these are causing strange things to happen all over Gensokyo. So Marisa is investigating along with a few of her friends in order to resolve the situation.”

“Hmm, so Marisa is actually a dependable sort of person? I didn't really expect that,” you say.

He tries to suppress a smile but the corner of his lips curl up and give it away. Marisa opens her mouth, as if to say something, but then shuts it quickly enough. Mr. Morichika continues explaining the situation, “the thing is that apparently the pieces also like to get together and they fuse when they do, getting bigger. And their effects get more powerful. So it's important to track and control all the pieces before something really scary happens.”

“I don't like scary things,” you say, immediately convinced by his explanation. You can trust him because he trusts you, you feel. Also that he called you “Ms. Hanako” earlier made your face feel hot and still kinda makes you feel good about yourself. You've never been called that before. “So what can I do to stop these scary things from happening?”

“You could give me your stone for safekeeping,” Marisa says, stretching out her hand, “I'd really appreciate it if you did.”

You shake your head and tell her what you have in mind, “I wanna help you guys track down the rest of the stones. If you guys have the rest under control, you won't need my pendant, right?”

“I suppose that might be the case...” Mr. Morichika muses, “but you need to understand that we may need your piece too if it proves to be too dangerous to leave lying around.”

“Okay, I promise, Mr. Morichika, if you say that I need to get rid of it, I will. But until that happens, I want to keep it,” you tell him.

He adjusts his spectacles by lifting them up with a finger and smiles. “That's alright by me,” he says, “how about you Marisa?”

“Eh, I can live with that,” she shrugs.

“Then it's settled,” he proclaims, “we'll enlist her help and hopefully get all of this sorted out quicker. I can give her a list of places so you can split up to cover more ground.”

“Umm...” you interrupt, feeling uncomfortable with having to bring up something so embarrassing. You can feel your cheeks burning up as you tell them, “I can't read very hard words with kanji. But I can do hiragana! It just might take me a while if the word is really long. So please don't make the list too complicated for me.”

“I won't, don't worry,” Mr. Morichika says, thankfully not making fun of you. Even if most of your friends weren't as good as you at reading, you know that it's still nothing compared to a normal human. They get to go to school in that building in the town. And between classes they go out and play together. It looks like a lot of fun to both learn and play.

“Maybe we shouldn't bother, Kourin,” Marisa weighs in on the situation. She sits back and folds her arms, adding, “it might be more efficient if she just sticks with me. I could probably use an extra pair of eyes and ears when going to some of these places. Not to mention that some people don't exactly enjoy seeing me pop up and ask for things.”

“That's never stopped you before,” Mr. Morichika chuckles. It makes you feel a little jealous that they so obviously have a long history together. They're pretty comfortable about one another, almost like they're family. At least that's what you think. At one point earlier, Marisa leaned up against him and used his shoulder as a headrest. Your thoughts distract you so much that you only catch what he's saying mid-sentence, “...in account then it would be a good idea if she's with you.”

“Okay then,” Marisa agrees with him. “Make the list anyhow so that we can split up later if we want to.”

Mr. Morichika gets up and fetches a roll of paper from a shelf somewhere. He uses a small finger-sized object to write on it. It's not a charcoal pencils that you've seen before and it has a metallic tip. It doesn't take him very long to write a few names down. He hands the list over to you and you look at it – his handwriting is big but crisp and somehow even stylish. You'll have no trouble reading it when you need it. “Those are the people who we know have pieces of the stone,” he explains, “their general location is next to their names. Try not to tell them why you really need the stone since some of them might be tempted by something that has any power in it.”

“If push comes to shove, I'll just blast them and take it by force,” Marisa brags, “it won't be too hard.”

Mr. Morchika sighs as Marisa mimes shooting something with her hands. The little 'kaboom' she adds at the end tells you she won't be holding back if necessary.

After finishing your tea, you go outside and say your goodbyes. Mr. Morichika waits at the door as you talk to Marisa.

“I'm going to go see a friend first and then I'm going to go to the most troublesome places first. With those out of the way, it'll be easy to gather the rest of the pieces. I think I'll be fine on my own but, like I said, I'd welcome the company,” she says.

You look at the first spot on your list as you decide what to do.

[] Stick with Marisa for the time being.
[] You can handle the Garden of the Sun by yourself – it's fun to sunbathe there.
No. 185439
[x] You can handle the Garden of the Sun by yourself – it's fun to sunbathe there.
No. 185443
[X] You can handle the Garden of the Sun by yourself – it's fun to sunbathe there.
No. 185447
[x] You can handle the Garden of the Sun by yourself – it's fun to sunbathe there.

What's the worst that could happen?
No. 185452
[X] You can handle the Garden of the Sun by yourself – it's fun to sunbathe there.

Sounds like Fun, everybody loves Fun.
No. 185453
[x] Stick with Marisa for the time being.

Why not?
No. 185457
[X] You can handle the Garden of the Sun by yourself – it's fun to sunbathe there.

Every Fairy's Scary Big Sis Yuuka-San GO!
No. 185458
[X] You can handle the Garden of the Sun by yourself – it's fun to sunbathe there.

We don't need no stinkin' person who can't even say our name properly.
No. 185463
[X] You can handle the Garden of the Sun by yourself – it's fun to sunbathe there.

Yuuka time!
No. 185475
[X] You can handle the Garden of the Sun by yourself – it's fun to sunbathe there.
No. 185495
Marisa doesn't look too happy with your decision, raising an eyebrow at Mr. Morichika. But she doesn't insist and instead wishes you good luck.

Truth be told, you're kind of nervous about going out by yourself. All the stuff they were talking about was a little boring but you took away that it was important that no one did anything silly with the stones. So you get to go on an honest-to-goodness adventure! The thought puts a spring in your step and carries you quickly away from the shop and back through the fields.

That is, until you remember that it's just faster to fly. It's not a big deal to fly around safe areas like the village during the day. So it's easy to just relax and enjoy the cool air on your face as you make your way to the big flower field close by. The area is partially hidden away by a nearby mountain but is otherwise really close to the village.

You land at a sunny spot at the edge of a massive field of sunflowers, where fairies usually like to get together and play. They play hide and seek through the talk sunflower stalks and splash around in the nearby brook. If tired, they nap on a big flat rock that's near the dirt path that leads back to the village. It's close to midday and a small group of fairies are doing all of that, making noise as they play around without a care in the world.

It's close to midday and Mr. Sun is almost directly above you. The sunflowers are all tilted towards him in unison – that's something that's always impressed you. You wonder how they're able to move their necks like that and turn to track Mr. Sun in the sky all day long. You walk towards the edge of the sunflower field, looking for some obvious sign of what you're supposed to be doing.

“Tag, you're it!” a fairy comes running out of the field and taps you on the shoulder. She doesn't even care that you're not playing; she giggles and runs after a few other fairies, repeating the same line whenever she catches up to one of them. You feel tempted to give chase but the comforting weight of your pendant reminds you that you agreed to do something important.

It's not just sunflowers that grow around the area. There's plenty of bushes, both with berries and flowers, as well as all sorts of small plants that like the area. They're not always in bloom but for almost the whole year something is flowering. You delve in deeper into the vast field and try to make a game out of spotting as many different kinds of plants as possible. A few fairies are around, talking and playing, but they mostly ignore you.

Eventually, though, you stop seeing fairies. They generally don't go too deep into the fields because it's easy to get lost if you're not flying. Even with the small paths between the rows of flowers, it's easy to get really lost real easy. Once a human child got lost after coming to the flower field with his brother and the whole village had to come to find him before it got dark. Even then it was lucky that they found him.

“Ow!” you yell out, having bumped into something big. Thinking about stuff made you forget where you were going.

“Oh, what do we have here?” the lady asks, turning around to face you. You at once recognize that big smile of hers and what it means.

“I'm sorry!” you yell out, “I wasn't looking where I was going. Please don't hurt me!”

“Now, now,” the woman shakes her head, slinging her large parasol onto her other shoulder, “why would I bother hurting a small fry like you? It's not worth getting upset about.”

“Oh… thank you,” you say uneasily, feeling that you're not quite forgiven yet.

“What's your name, little one?” she asks, her sharp green eyes a contrast to her nominally friendly smile.

“Um… it's Hanako,” you say.

“That's a lovely name,” the woman remarks, “I quite like it. Yet another pretty little flower in this endless sea of beauty. A fortunate, or perhaps foolish, little girl all alone and lost here with me. The others would have run away by now, you know.”

You know they would have. The only thing that got those carefree fairies moving was the appearance of someone scary. Her hair short and her smile bright, the woman before you doesn't seem to fit the bill at first glance. But appearances can be deceiving. If there are no feral youkai about the area it's because the woman in front of you keeps them out. She might spend most of her time talking to the flowers and walking around smiling but your instincts tell you that there's much more to her than meets the eye.

“So, my little flower,” the woman leans in close, her face less than a hand's length from yours. She smells really nice. Kinda like those fancy flowers that bloom only once a year. You find that your head is swimming and your face feels a little hot. “tell me something,” she pauses, “and be truthful. Are you feeling scared right now?”

[] Nod. She's a rather scary.
[] You're too brave to be scared... much.
[] She's too pretty to be scary.
No. 185499
[X] You're too brave to be scared... much.

She's kinda scary, but not THAT scary.
No. 185500
[X] You're too brave to be scared... much.
No. 185502
[x] You're too brave to be scared... much.

Just a little.
No. 185505
[X] You're too brave to be scared... much.
No. 185506
[x] She's too pretty to be scared

She smells very nice and makes our Mc flustered. Yeah, what she is feeling isn't fear.
No. 185509
>>185495
[X] She's too pretty to be scary.
No. 185510
[x] She's too pretty to be scary.
No. 185511
[x] She's too pretty to be scared
Sounds the most fun
No. 185514
[x] She's too pretty to be scary.
No. 185516
[X] She's too pretty to be scary.
No. 185527
[X] She's too pretty to be scary.
No. 185533
[X] She's too pretty to be scary.
No. 185539
“That's a lovely answer,” the woman said, folding her arms across her chest in self-satisfaction. “You're not too bad yourself, my little flower. That ponytail of yours makes you rather pretty too.”

You look up at her, feeling an ever-increasing sense of comfort being around of her. You can't understand why the other fairies all run away when they see her. She's perfectly nice. More than that, she's absolutely lovely. You feel like smiling just by looking at her own lovely smile.

“I've an idea,” the woman says, “come with me.”

You follow her like a puppy with her owner, moving between tall stalks of sunflowers keep a sunny disposition. She leads you to a small wooden building by the edge of the field, at the foot of the mountain. It's a rustic sort of place without much in the way of a fancy exterior. A carefully-painted white picket fence and a well-kept bed of flowers are the only things that distinguish it form the average home in the human village.

She heads on inside, motioning for you to wait. When she reemerges, she has a small bag and a water can in her hand. “Let's water some flowers,” she tells you, smiling all the while.

You spend some time watering the plants nearby, enjoying her gentle humming all of the while. You find yourself talking to the plants while trying to act like her. They obviously don't reply but it kinda feels nice to tell them that you're watering them because you want them to grow into something healthy and beautiful.

At one point you find her staring at you while you work, her parasol raised as she leans against her fence.

“You really are an exotic little flower,” she tells you, coming closer, “it's hard to find people with anything resembling a work ethic these days.”

“I'm happy to help,” you tell her, wiping off a bead of sweat from your forehead. The midday sun is unrelenting.

“You know that sometimes the prettiest flowers are the most dangerous, right? Bright colors and sweet scents can be very deceiving. Half of the fruits produced here are harmful to living creatures. It's any wonder that we keep them watered.”

“It's okay if they're pretty,“ you tell her, “pretty things make me happy so it's also good if I make the world as pretty as I can.”

After a while, the pretty lady invites you into the house, offering you lunch. You didn't really feel hungry but anything that she had to offer was probably going to be worth it. It turns out that it's not too fancy. She offers a thin broth with a piece of freshly made bread. It's a meal for a cold day but the inviting smell overrides any complains that you have.

She sits opposite you at a small wooden table, only helping herself to a piece of bread. She smiles as you eat, seemingly pleased with your enthusiasm.

After you're done, you sit back and take a careful look at your surroundings. The wooden house is about as plan as they get. Besides the basic set of furniture including a bed, a few chairs and a table, there's only a few cushions and curtains decorating the space. The small stove where she heated up the broth was tucked away in a far corner, near doors that probably lead to storage rooms.

“Ate your fill, little one?” she asks, resting her chin on the top of her upturned palm.

“Yes, thank you,” you reply, “it was quite good.”

“Would you like to take a nap?” she asks.

“...actually I think I do,” you say, barely containing a yawn. All of a sudden you feel tired and it gets harder to think about things. Maybe being out under the sun without a hat on drained away a lot of energy. The fairies out by the rocks were probably all napping too, finding shade wherever they could.

“Use my bed if you like,” she offers, “it's no trouble at all.”

[] A nap will help you get it together.
[] Fight the urge as best you can.
No. 185540
[x] A nap will help you get it together.

SOUNDS LEGIT.
No. 185542
[X] A nap will help you get it together.

Be sure to thank Momma' Yuuka before we get into her bed while we're drowsy in a PERFECTLY SAFE situation that in no way screams STRANGER DANGER.
No. 185544
[X] A nap will help you get it together.
There are worse ways to go.
No. 185549
[x] Fight the urge

Didn't she just praise her work ethic? We still have an investigation to do!
No. 185550
[X] A nap will help you get it together.
No. 185551
[x] A nap will help you get it together.

zzzz
No. 185560
[X] A nap will help you get it together.
No. 185583
File 144698764072.jpg - (152.97KB, 875x600, moon.jpg) [iqdb]
185583
By the time you get to her bed, you feel like your head is as light as a cloud. That's a sharp contrast to your body that feels like an impossibly heavy boulder. You collapse immediately, barely taking in the soft comfort of clean sheets and proper padding. In an instant you're lost to a deep slumber.

You don't feel like you've rested much.

When you next open your eyes, it's the middle of the night. A sole candle on the table casts long, jagged shadows that sway as the wick burns away. Your body still feels heavy but your mind feels closer to normal. It doesn't feel like you rested at all and you can't recall having any dreams either. It's like parts of you simply decided to stop working for a few hours.

Oh.

After a few minutes you realize that you're all alone.

Your heart sinks as you realize that your pendant is gone, too.

A few minutes pass before you're able to gather the strength needed to get up from the bed. There's definitely no one in the house.

A bright flash comes through the window. Loud popping noises follow. Then a series of faster flashes happen. You get closer and peer outside; clearly there's a battle going on outside. It's nearby. The night is cloudless and a large gibbous moon hangs close in the sky, bathing the world in soft light. Against the backdrop of the clear sky a figure moves about, firing off wide arcs of bullets at an unseen foe.

It's all over very quickly. With a final burst of fire, the figure hovers in the air before setting down near the house.

Not thinking clearly, you set off to investigate.

The smell of power is in the air. Though the night is cool, as you approach you can feel the temperature getting higher. Your instincts warn you that whatever happened was not just for show. A figure emerges from between stalks of sunflowers and stops to look at you. Something red glows in their hand.

“Awake already?” she asks, taking a few steps towards you. The short-haired woman looks very different with shadow covering most of her body. If it had been the first time that you had met, you think that you would have recoiled instead of being attracted to her. Her body language is assertive to the point of hostility. A half-concealed smile shows on her face as she continuous to speak, “little girls ought to spend the night in bed lest they get into trouble.”

“W-what just happened?” you ask, your voice coming out unsteady despite your best efforts.

“I took care of a pair of nosy intruders,” she brags, folding her arms across her chest. The glowing object rests at her side. “Some people just don't understand that it's incredibly rude to play in another person's garden. Though they weren't exterminated, remembering the pain will be enough of a deterrent in the future.”

You understand in that instant that she wasn't even halfway serious about dealing with intruders and instead just found it a convenient excuse to play around. They probably had no warning either… she was all too eager to blast them away.

“Have you seen my pendant?” you ask her, just blurting out the thing that's most present in your thoughts.

“Yes,” she says, taking a few steps closer. “I took it from you while you slept.”

“Why?”

“Because I could,” she explains nonchalantly, “there was nothing stopping me.”

“But it's mine!” you snap, feeling flustered.

“No, not really,” she says extending her hand. The glowing object is before your eyes – it's a larger version of your pendant. The irregular stone is emitting a subdued light from within, pulsing slowly. It's almost three times as big as your stone. “It fused with the one I had. So now I'm afraid that it belongs to me.”

“Ah!” you try to figure out what the right words to say are, but none come to mind. Instead, strong feelings overwhelm you and cloud judgment. The stone was something that belonged to you and she had no right to take it. But bringing it up is pointless – with the smell of energy still in the air you know that if you annoyed her you'd probably suffer the same fate as the intruders.

“Oh dear,” the woman's voice softens, “are you crying, little one?”

You nod your head, still struggling to find the words to express what you're feeling. Tears stream down your cheeks, lit up by the light coming from the stone. You wipe off one of these red tears and look at it before wiping away the whole of your face. The resemblance to blood upsets you even more.

“Why are you crying?” the woman asks, leaning in closer, “was the pendant that important to you?”

You nod again, sniffling a little.

“I see. I suppose it was a mistake on my behalf to assume that there would be no interaction between our respective stones. It's always unfortunate to see a flower that's not doing very well,” she says, pauses and then asks, “is there anything that I could do to make you feel better?”

[] A hug.
[] A promise that she won't hurt anyone else.
[] Advice on how to become as strong as her.
No. 185585
Ah dang it, we should have seen it coming. Heck, we were warned about it the previous update. Why didn't we listen to Marisa?

[x]Ask why does she care about her own pendant, and why does she want it to get bigger.

I think none of the three options would really console Hanako much, considering she was pretty attached to her pendant. She'd like to believe there is another ulterior reason why would Yuuka be so aggressive... even if it turns out there really isn't one beside "because she can".
No. 185586
[] A hug.

I don't think the other two options will get anywhere.
No. 185589
[x] A hug.

Always hugs.
No. 185594
[x]Ask why does she care about her own pendant, and why does she want it to get bigger.

It's obviously influencing her, as it was influencing us.
No. 185597
[x] A hug.
[x]Ask why does she care about her own pendant, and why does she want it to get bigger.
No. 185599
[x]Ask why does she care about her own pendant, and why does she want it to get bigger.

A hug would be nice, but I don't know if Hanako would get anything from that.
No. 185612
[x] Advice on how to become as strong as her.
No. 185618
[x] A hug.

Momma' Yuuka needs one too.
No. 185622
“You're easy to please, aren't you?” she asks, taking you in for an embrace. Though you feel that she has more to say to you, she keeps quiet. Instead you press your head up against her chest, leaning in as close as you can get. Her heartbeat does the speaking for her. It's regular and it's calm – and it soothes your nerves.

It's nothing but pure comfort and it were up to you, you would stay like that all night. But she doesn't think it necessary. She pulls away, a smile on her lips. “There you are, I hope that's enough,” she says, “you've made a mess of my clothes with your tears, it would seem.”

She exaggerated, of course, but even in the dark you can say that there isa moist spot on her blouse where your cheek came to rest. “I'm sorry,” you say, “I didn't realize.”

“It's quite alright to be selfish,” she says, laughing it off with an effusive chuckle. Because of the silence of nighttime, her voice travels far. Wasting no time, she starts back to her home, expecting you to come along.

You think you've stopped crying but your eyes still remain somewhat wet. With a final wipe across your face with your hand, you follow her back into the house. Everything is as you left it and she closes the door behind you and then draws the curtains at a nearby window.

She disappears into the nearby storage room for a minute and then emerges wearing an entirely different outfit. Looking soft and silken, it's clear that the matching pink top and bottom are a pair of pajamas. “I think it's about time that I turn in,” she answers your stare with a simple statement. She grabs the candle from the table and brings it with her. The stone is in her other hand, still glowing as she walks on to the far side of the bed and sits down.

“What if they come back?” you ask, trying to make sense of the quick change in mood. From serious and on edge to relaxed and harmless, it's got your head spinning.

“They won't come back,” she asserts. “Not tonight. Perhaps tomorrow. As for the observer – well I don't think they're too likely to go away so long as the stone remains here.”

You frown, trying to make sense of what she's saying. She pats a spot next to her on the bed, where you were sleeping before, inviting you. You sit at the edge of the bed, not quite ready to lie down like she has.

“Pretty flowers like yourself ought to expect to be looked at by many pairs of eyes,” she says, closing her eyes and placing the stone and candle on the nightstand next to her. Reaching out haphazardly with one hand, she pulls a sheet over herself, letting it rest at about knee level. She continues to speak, saying things that you don't quite understand, “some people enjoy admiring from a distance while others use it as an excuse to prepare to all sorts of dastardly plans. Yet others still look but don't see value and think it's all just coincidental. Still, that pendant of yours was no coincidence. I have no doubt that you were the Beauty under the Moon whom they came to watch and not me.”

“I don't understand,” you tell her, feeling that maybe she's making fun of you.

“Maybe you won't need to. But then again...” her voice trails off and she yawns, “sorry but without the sun I feel like I run out of energy just a little too quickly. I'm going to turn off the candle now, get in if you want to sleep.”

You climb in under the thin sheet. She extinguishes the light. The bed is barely wide enough for the both of you and you stick near the edge, lying on your side facing outwards. The stone casts a faint reddish light onto the wall. “Um...” you risk trying to talk to her, feeling that if you wait it'll be too late.

“I don't have the answers you want, only malformed half-thoughts and abortive speculation,” she preempts, turning over and pulling up the sheet on her side. There's a pause. And then she chuckles, shaking the bed slightly. She adds, “I've been told that I must understand the language of flowers. And that they understand me. Yet it doesn't seem like you understand me at all. How bothersome.”

[] All the same, ask her to share what she can.
[] Think and think and think about the stone and what you've seen.
[] Simply enjoy the pleasant experience of sharing a bed with her.
No. 185626
[x] Think and think and think about the stone and what you've seen.

Maybe she'll realize something that she should. About the stone and its power, I mean.
No. 185627
[X] Simply enjoy the pleasant experience of sharing a bed with her.

Such difficult subjects are best approached when our dearly beloved friend has the energy for them.
No. 185628
[X] Simply enjoy the pleasant experience of sharing a bed with her.

Best to think about these things with a clear head. Also youkai moe~
No. 185631
[x] Think and think and think about the stone and what you've seen.

Oh, bother.
No. 185632
[X] Simply enjoy the pleasant experience of sharing a bed with her.
No. 185641
>>185622
[x] Think and think and think about the stone and what you've seen.
No. 185647
>>185641
Sorry, I suppose I should have mentioned that I already started writing and so your vote is a bit late. I didn't expect anyone else to chime in after waiting all day. In the future, if it's close and I begin to write, I'll say something.
No. 185655
You lay quietly in the bed, trying not to think too much. It feels nice not to sleep alone. Even if it is just a little uncomfortable to be on the edge of the bed. The nights back home are long because all you have to keep you company is your head and your pendant. And without your pendant, the night would otherwise be extra lonely. You reach for the spot around your neck where it usually hangs and, finding it empty, you sigh softly.

But that's not really important!

You push back silly sad thoughts and focus on the nice here and now. Despite the fact that you're not really talking, there's something incredibly comforting about having her near. Her warmth tickles your back under the covers. You close your eyes, enjoying the mix of clean sheets and her still-lingering perfume.

Sleep finds you with a smile on your face.

“Would you like something to eat before you leave?” she asks as soon as you sit up and rub your eyes. She's been awake for some time now even if you're not sure just for how long. The first rays of sunlight are filtering through the sides of the curtains.

“Where am I going?” you ask, sleepiness seeping into your words. A yawn works its way up from your throat, forcing open your lips. It catches you by surprise and you barely have time to cover your mouth. Sitting at the table, she smiles while watching you.

“You're continuing your journey,” she says, “I shouldn't detain you any more.”

“Detain?” you ask, not really understanding what she means. It's too early in the day to make sense of anything. If you were home, you'd sleep in.

“It's not much, but I suppose I can at least give you some of the leftover bread,” she ignores your question and points to a plate on the table. “Eat up, I have the feeling that you'll need to keep your strength up for the foreseeable future.”

You straighten out some of your clothes, putting back on bits that you took off earlier. What's important is that she's being nice to you so you're not about to turn down good hospitality. You share a light meal with her, eating the bread and drinking some water with honey dissolved in it. It seems to please her to watch you eat since she watches you with an affectionate smile.

“Hanako dear,” she starts as soon as you're done, “there's something I want to give you.” She reaches into her pocket and hands over the stone. It's changed color overnight to a cool blue and it's no longer shining.

“Why are you giving it to me?” you ask, thankful but not quite understanding the gesture.

“I don't need it,” she states, offering no real explanation.

“Thank you!” you beam, holding tightly onto the stone. It's bigger than your pendant was but still not too big that you couldn't hang it around your neck if you got string and somehow managed to make another hole.

“I still cannot decide if that smile of yours looks best under the moonlight or under the light of day,” she chuckles, brushing aside a messy lock of hair from her cheek. “You're a lovely little flower and it's better to see you happy and in bloom than sad and wilted.”

“Ah, thank you,” you say softly, feeling embarrassed with such a direct compliment.

“Now that you've got what you came here for in the first place, you ought to be more mindful of how you approach the others. I humored you because I don't need that thing to achieve my goals but others might not be so enlightened. Avarice and lust for both power and other things will color their expectations. Force may be needed and I think that a pretty flower might find itself disadvantaged if that becomes the case.”

“I don't want to fight anyone...” you tell her, at least understanding the simple truth that not everyone is nice.

“You'll lose if you do,” she says, crossing her arms, “at least without the rest of those pieces and a fierce will.” She shakes her head and laughs, “don't worry about it. I'm sure that if needed, others will put in the effort for you. All you need to do is have good timing.”

She didn't really explain things any clearer than that. There's no way to get anything else from her despite the few followup questions that you make.

“Thank you for everything, Ms. Yuuka,” you thank her yet again when you're at the door. Mr. Sun is almost clear of the far-off mountain and it'll soon be full daylight.

“Good luck, little queen of the night,” she says, patting you on the head, “I hope to see you again sometime soon. I've left a little something for you in your pocket for you to use when you can't take with just words but don't have the strength either. Make them smell or swallow some. Now go on, run along.”

A part of you doesn't want to leave but she's right. You really should get a move on. You start to fly away from the small house and over the flower fields. Gensokyo is just waking up. You stop somewhere just past the edge of the flower field and rummage through your pockets. In one of them you have the stone and a small clear vial with a bit of white powder in it. In the other you have the list that Mr. Morichika gave you.

You pick another name from the list.

[] Go to the big mansion by the lake
[] Go to the temple near the village
No. 185659
[X] Go to the temple near the village
No. 185660
[X] Go to the temple near the village
No. 185668
[x] Go to the temple near the village

Damn, we should have asked something else. At least, ow to get stronger.
No. 185672
[x] Go to the temple near the village.

UFO crew yay
No. 185674
[X] Go to the temple near the village
No. 185712
As you fly, you make a game out of guessing who you'll spot on your way. For a span of a few minutes it's: fairy, fairy, fairy, human, fairy, a sleepy youkai, another human and then a whole bunch more fairies. You get about half of those right. Not too bad. That said, you must be sleepier than you realize. You think that you see a person staring up at you from the side of the road but you blink and they're gone.

It doesn't take very long to make it to the big temple. It's on one edge of the village, past most of the houses. You've only seen it from a distance before and it looks much larger up close. Trees and statues flank a wide paved path that turn into stairs and lead up to the main building. You feel it best if you walk from where the path starts because something tells you that just flying in might attract unwanted attention. Mr. Sun has broken out completely from behind the mountain and is now shining gently on the path as if to guide you.

You wonder how they managed to get the whole temple ready so quickly. It was suddenly there one day and all the statues, lamps, railings and all other ornamental bits were there too. It's not like there are any fairies in the area that do the work, like that big mansion. Maybe some of it was there from before? Off to one side of the temple in the distance there's a cemetery. You know that some of those stone buildings and grave were there before the temple appeared. But other than a few weird fairies and some youkai, no one really went there.

“Hullo, Hullo~” a girl holding a broom jumps out in front of you when you reach the steps. She laughs when you jump back. “Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you,” she says. The big furry ears atop her messy short hair give away the fact that she's a youkai. They twitch as she speaks, “I was just about to sweep up and saw you walking over, I couldn't resist greeting you. It's rare to get visitors so early, especially if they're like you.”

“Like me?” you ask, cocking your neck to the side.

“Yes!” she explains loudly, “non-members. Fresh faces prefer coming in in the afternoon, I've noticed. Unless...” she inspects you visually from top to bottom, “maybe you've been here before and I've never noticed?”

“No, I haven't.”

“OH!” she nods her head excitedly, her ears bob in sync. “Well then, pleased to meet you. I'm Kyouko, a priest-in-training, welcome to the Myouren Temple.”

Her eagerness makes you smile. You have friends like her, eternally excitable. “I'm Hanako,” you tell her, “it's nice to meet you too.”

“Feeling lost and confused by life?” Kyouko asks. And doesn't wait for a reply, adding, “you must be, that's why most people come over to the temple. They want to hear about our ways and maybe start on the part to enlightenment. It's a good choice too since we don't discriminate between human and youkai. So all are welcome.”

“I'm actually looking for something...” you say, trying not to give away too much about your mission. She seems nice but Yuuka's advice is still fresh on your mind.

“Yes, purpose, I know,” she nods her head again. “I was like you once but I was really lucky to meet up with everyone here and my life has now changed for the better. If you go inside I'm sure it'll be the same for you!”

“Is sweeping with a purpose really that much better?”

“Um, well,” she laughs a little, dropping her volume considerably, “it's not always fun but it's for a good purpose. Even if I'm bored sometimes it's still a great opportunity and… I have a lot of time to myself where I can reflect on my lessons or go out and have fun.”

“Mm… maybe it's better to be carefree...”

“No, please don't have second thoughts!” Kyouko grabs you by the shoulder and looks into your eyes pleadingly. “I was just being a little selfish,” she admits, “I try my best but I'm not all there yet. But there are better teachers and I promise that you'll have fun if you listen to them. I'll go take you to them right now if you want.”

[] Accept her offer.
[] Go alone, it's easier to sneak around that way.
[] That cemetery might be worth checking out first.
No. 185714
[X] That cemetery might be worth checking out first.
No. 185716
[X] Accept her offer.

And now we start the infiltration mission...
No. 185717
[x] Accept

Once more unto the breach
No. 185718
[x] Accept her offer.

Naz where
No. 185725
[X] Accept her offer.
Might as well.
No. 185728
[X] Accept her offer.
INDOCTRINATE
No. 185757
Kyouko leads you onwards with very apparent satisfaction. She brags about these many humans showing up to the temple and that many youkai coming too for the most part. Her ears continue to bob as she speaks, matching the timing of the lateral sweeping of her tail. It’s a good thing that you’re used to dealing with high-energy people, because you get the feeling that most people would get tired of her in only a few minutes.

The temple itself is even more impressive up close. As you finish climbing up the steps you pause for a minute to admire its size. There are tall columns and horizontal beams that are carved out of what were probably once really big trees. Not only that, but there’s plenty of small decorations on them and above them in the form of signs, inscriptions and symbols. A large bell is in a semi-detached building off to the side and you wonder what kind of noise it makes when it rings. Probably something deep and sober, matching the overall feeling of the place.

“Come on, we’re going inside,” Kyouko calls after you, having noticed that she was talking to herself while you paused to take in the sight. You follow her through the main entrance and then through a path off to the side. With its polished wooden surfaces and high ceilings, the temple is no less imposing on the inside. “Makes you feel small, huh?” she asks with a laugh, reading your thoughts.

“Done sweeping already?” a woman asks as you come upon her after turning a corner. Her hair is wavy and she’s wearing flowy blue and white clothes that hide most of her figure. Got pretty eyes though. More importantly, it seems like she’s a youkai too: a weird cloud hovers behind her at all times, moving along as she does. You would take a closer look to see what it is exactly, but it’s rude to stare.

“Not yet!” Kyouko replies, and the woman signals with her hand that she should keep her voice down. It’s a sensible request. Sound carries easily in the silence of the temple. “Sorry,” she brings her voice to a whisper, “it’s good that we ran into you, you could teach her a bit more about stuff.”

“I can’t, sorry,” the woman smiles, “I have to go up on the roof and see if we need to do a few small repairs. I don’t know where the others are, but she’s probably awake by now anyways. So you might just want to go see her right away.”

“Oh, okay, thanks,” Kyouko nods, still mindful that she should keep her voice down.

The woman turns to you as she passes by, nodding. The cloud does the same. It’s really weird. And you kind of wish you had let your curiosity win out and had stared at it.

You’re ultimately led to a room somewhere in the rear of the temple. The smell of incense hangs heavily in the air. The smell of flowers and the trees is way better, you think. But you keep your thoughts to yourself as Kyouko knocks on the screen door. A soft “yes, come in,” from the other side prompts her to open the door.

Indicating for you to wait a moment, Kyouko heads on in and you overhear her exchange a few words. Words that she repeats a few moments later when she comes back out, “I told her that you’re new and you’re interested in joining us. Go on in, I’m going to go back to sweeping out front.”

And just like that, you’re left to face whatever comes left on your own.

It so happens that inside the room was a pretty lady with long hair that changes color from dark, at the top of her head, to light at the ends. She’s sitting in the middle of a somewhat empty room with her legs crossed and a scroll on her lap. Her clothes aren’t really what you’d expect someone religious to wear - the tight strips of cloth across her chest and wrapped around her arms and legs make it seem immodest. Then again, you don’t really know any holy people, so maybe that’s fine.

She welcomes you with a smile, “welcome to my temple. Please have a seat. I’m Hijiri, or Byakuren if you want to be more casual. I don’t mind either way.”

“I’m Hanako,” you tell her, taking a seat opposite her on the floor. You try to imitate her posture by keeping your back straight and crossing your legs.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you. This temple is open to everyone in Gensokyo and I’d be more than happy than to start you on the path to enlightenment.”

“Hmm…. what’s so great about enlightenment, anyhow?” you ask.

Byakuren laughs, apparently not expecting your question. She doesn’t chide you however, keeping her voice steady, “you’ll find peace with enlightenment. That’s why it’s great. No more conflicts, no more suffering. It’s fulfilling. It’s my hope that youkai and humans can understand one another if they try. My goal is to make everyone happy.”

“I’m happy most of the time, though,” you tell her. It’s the truth. Sure, sometimes it’s a bit lonely being by yourself but you laugh and play with others almost every day.

“And yet you’re here…” she says, smiling patiently, “surely there are things in life that frustrate you. I’m sure there are times you are sad too. And I want to help if I can with that. I can teach you a few sutras and words of wisdom to get you started. But if you feel that you're not ready for that, we can just talk a little. A lot of people come to me for advice and that’s a good first step. Realizing one’s limits is important.”

[] Listen to her lessons on all that stuff and hope it's not too boring.
[] Tell her the truth about why you’re there and ask for help.
No. 185758
[x] Listen to her lessons on all that stuff and hope it's not too boring.

Namusan route go
No. 185763
[x] Tell her the truth about why you’re there and ask for help.
No. 185764
[X] Tell her the truth about why you’re there and ask for help.
No. 185766
[x] Listen to her lessons on all that stuff and hope it's not too boring.

PATIENCE.
No. 185771
[x] Listen to her lessons on all that stuff and hope it's not too boring.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njMP4c3SJJA
No. 185772
[X] Tell her the truth about why you’re there and ask for help.
No. 185776
[X] Listen to her lessons on all that stuff and hope it's not too boring.
No. 185779
[x] Tell her the truth about why you’re there and ask for help.
she gives advice so lets ask for advice
No. 185780
[x] Tell her the truth about why you’re there and ask for help.
No. 185790
Calling it here since there's no longer a tie.
No. 185797
Byakuren takes the truth rather well. She doesn’t get upset or yell at you or anything. You were afraid that maybe because she takes her temple so seriously she’d feel like you were being disrespectful and wasting her time. At one point when you’re explaining things, her brow creases a little but it’s just for a second.

“I hope you wouldn’t mind helping me out,” you repeat, still feeling a little uneasy.

She smiles and closes her eyes. You take it that she’s thinking it over. “I’m not sure that I can help,” Byakuren says at last, “but I’ll at least try.”

“Thank you!” you bow slightly.

“There is something curious here that I would have you explain first,” she says, putting her scroll aside. She doesn’t wait for you to reply, instead getting right into what she wants to know, “collecting these stones sounds like something those shrine maidens would do personally. Why were you entrusted with a list of names in the first place?”

“That was Mr. Morichika,” you answer, smiling at the thought of him. “Marisa wanted me to go with her but I prefered to go alone. Seemed to me like she was going to go to places that were less nice than these.”

“She is rather obstinate,” Byakuren remarks with a soft laugh, “maybe it’s for the best that you decided not to go with her. In my experience it’s easy to get caught in entirely ridiculous situations when she’s around.”

“Oh, so you know her?”

“We’ve met,” she states simply, “she can be quite abrasive without it being called for.”

“Mmm,” you gather that they didn’t get along so well. There was a lot that she probably didn’t feel like telling you and it was okay. Maybe next time you saw Marisa you’d ask. For some reason you think that maybe she’s pretty popular with youkai.

“At any rate, let’s change the subject back.”

“So you’ll help me?”

“Whatever that stone may be doesn’t sound like it’s particularly useful for growing spiritually. It would also be a shame if some of the people I know started to look for these on their own.” She sighs, adding, “they can get quite unruly and forget all about their lessons.”

“Kyouko seemed to be pretty excited about following the temple and that lady with the cloud I saw also looked like she would be a good follower too.”

“They’re both fine,” Byakuren tells you, nodding her head, “but sometimes it feels like an uphill battle. More than once I’ve found that members have gone off to drink and eat meat though the teachings tell us that we ought to abstain from both.”

“Oh, you don’t drink?” you ask, genuinely surprised, “but it’s so tasty! When all my friends get together it’s only natural that we drink. It makes us all feel super happy. Even if sometimes someone drinks a little too much…”

She frowns, clearly disapproving. You feel like she’s about to wag a finger as she speaks, “drinking clouds your judgment and fills your body with impurities. A good friendship is just as good without intoxicants. I’m sure that you can have as much fun talking and playing around without it.”

You laugh. It’s a little too funny that she shows more emotion about drinking being bad than you not coming to join the temple. Everyone in Gensokyo likes to drink. Or at least you used to think. Maybe she likes to drink too but just pretends not to like it because her faith? You bet that if someone put a little in her tea she’d love it.

“I think my friends would be really upset with me if I told them that we shouldn’t drink,” you tell her, “what’s wrong with having fun, anyways?”

“It’s not about not having fun,” she sighs again. “Maybe you’d understand better if I put it this way: you want to be happy, right? Drinking might make you happy for a bit, but it’s a fake happiness. There’s a way of being even happier when you realize that you don’t need it in your life.”

“Can’t I realize that and drink?” you ask, “I mean then I could double my happiness.”

“No, you don’t understand… in order to awake you let go of the temporal distractions.”

“What’s ‘temporal’ mean?”

“Of this world,” she explains, “I’m saying that earthly desire and pleasures isn’t going to get you anywhere. It’s what this temple is about.” Byakuren reaches for her scroll again and brings it up. You think that she’s showing it off because she reads something from it that goes in through one ear and out the other. How could anyone understand what that’s supposed to mean? All the same, Byakuren nods happily after reading. “Understand now?” she asks.

“Nope!” you reply with a big smile, “stuff like that is too hard for me to get. But I can see why all the youkai and humans follow you now. You’re really passionate about this junk.”

She frowns again. “It’s not junk,” she corrects me.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that,” you tell her, “I’m just not very good at speaking about hard topics for very long. Thinking about stuff isn’t what I do best. I prefer to play and take it easy and junk.”

“Alright,” Byakuren shakes her head and her expression softens to a smile, “I won’t take offense then. But I’ll ask you to consider listening to what the other priests and I have to say while you’re here. There’s a lot of wisdom to be found in the teachings of those that came before us.”

“‘kay,” you nod your head, “but I don’t know if I’ll be any good at praying.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t force you to do anything you don’t want to. Just keep your heart and mind open.”

All the talk about keeping an open mind makes you curious. But not about the things she’s talking about. Maybe she’s right about the secret to happiness but you’re pretty happy already, so it’s not like you’re eager to learn about that. Instead, you want to know about something completely different. About her. She has to have a less serious side to her, one that isn’t so polite and so focused.

[] What does she do for fun with her friends? The parties must be boring with no drinking.
[] She’s really pretty. So she must have a boyfriend, right?
[] If she’s so right about being happy, then why are there other shrines in Gensokyo?
[] Something else cutesy but misguided (make up a write in)
No. 185802
[x] She’s really pretty. So she must have a boyfriend, right?

Fairy logic is the best. Not that great at following a topic though.
No. 185804
[X] What does she do for fun with her friends? The parties must be boring with no drinking.
No. 185806
[x] She’s really pretty. So she must have a boyfriend, right?
No. 185807
[X] She’s really pretty. So she must have a boyfriend, right?
No. 185833
[x] She’s really pretty. So she must have a boyfriend, right?

Sure.
No. 185843
[X] If she’s so right about being happy, then why are there other shrines in Gensokyo?

Taoist rants HO!
No. 185846
You just come out with what comes to mind. “So how does your boyfriend feel about you being the head of this temple?” you ask.

“Eh?” confusion creeps into her expression as she creases her brow again. It seems like she wants to ask something back but instead she just gives you a direct reply, “I don't have romantic attachments.”

“Oh, why not?” you press, feeling like that didn't seem right. “You're pretty so I bet plenty of the worshipers ask you out.”

“None of them has,” she says, “and even if I did, it's not something that I desire.”

“Why not? You're really pretty. You'd have lots of fun.”

“It goes against denying the self, for one,” Byakuren explains, “carnal indulgence goes against self-restraint. The root of all suffering is desire, after all.”

“Mm, maybe you like girls instead?” you say, trying to sound helpful, “one of my friends is like that and it's okay. It doesn't change how much fun I have playing around with them.”

“No, that's not it either,” she replies with a chuckle, “I just don't really wish to become involved with anyone.”

“That'll break the hearts of all your followers, I think.”

“I should hope that they're not here just because they're attracted to me!” Byakuren laughs, dismissing your suggestion outright. “I offer much more than the simple pleasures of a physical relationship. And I think that by and large the people who come to the temple understand that.”

“Except they don't really listen to your lessons, like you said. They drink and eat whatever they want. Probably they also don't feel the same way about becoming a couple.”

“You just say the first thing that comes to your mind, don't you?”

“Sorry if I'm being rude,” you pout a little. Maybe you've gone too far. With your friends you talk about pretty much whatever comes to mind without a filter. Fancy temple folk might not see things the same way.

“It's alright,” Byakuren reassures you with a pleasant smile, “it's refreshing to find someone who doesn't worry too much about what others expect of them. Half of the problems of the humans that come here can be boiled down to anxiety over their role in society. How they should behave and the like.”

“Good thing I'm not human then!”

“Indeed,” she nods her head in agreement.

“Still though, I think that you'd be happy if you spent some time with someone you liked,” you tell her.

“What about you? Is there anyone you like?” she asks.

“Naw, no one like that. I'm having too much fun to need a boyfriend or anything like that. I dress pretty just in case but I don't feel like my life is missing anything if that's what you're getting at,” you explain. Impressing others isn't really a priority for you. Picking out a nice dress is more for your own sake than for others. It's only natural you'd wear something cute.

“Well then, you could say that I'm having too much fun in my own way to worry about something like that too.”

“Feels like a shame, somehow...”

“Anyhow,” she interrupted, clearing her throat, “shall we go see what we can find out about your stones? My personal life is just not that interesting I'm afraid.”

[] Keep quiet. It's probably best not to annoy her too much.
[] She at least has to have someone she fancies. Or a type. Ask her about that.
No. 185847
[x] Keep quiet. It's probably best not to annoy her too much.
No. 185848
[X] Keep quiet. It's probably best not to annoy her too much.
No. 185849
[x] She at least has to have someone she fancies. Or a type. Ask her about that.
No. 185851
[x] She at least has to have someone she fancies. Or a type. Ask her about that.
No. 185853
[x] Keep quiet. It's probably best not to annoy her too much.

Yeah, let's not
No. 185880
“Luckily there's someone here that's likely to know about them,” Byakuren speaks as she leads you elsewhere in the temple. It's clearly a less public space. There's almost no fancy ornaments or engravings and instead it looks a lot more like the inside of the average home.

“I hope I'm not keeping you from doing your normal priest stuff,” you say quietly, following a few steps behind her. You passed a couple of people on the way who all greeted her with a mix of respect and affection. And she treated them with kindness in return. It felt like she was maybe like a big sister to them, someone they looked up to. That's why you've become a little more self-conscious about asking her help.

“So long as I'm helping you, I am doing what I'm supposed to be doing,” she replies and stops in front of a sliding door. She knocks lightly and there's no reply. So she knocks again. And still nothing. Showing you a 'I guess it can't be helped' sort of smile, Byakuren opens the door.

The room is dark – there seems to be a small window in the back that's bleeding some light in at the edges but it's otherwise been covered up. It's hard to tell if there's anyone in there as there are various dark blobs all over the floor and next to a small table. Also seems like there's little airflow in or out, so it's a bit smelly.

Byakuren squints and scans the room, turning her head from one side to the other. “Are you in there?” she asks the dark.

“Mmm, what time is it?” a darkened blob asks and shakes a little.

“A time that those with duties should be awake at,” Byakuren looks like she's set to hold back a sigh, “have you been drinking again?”

“It was a late night and the others wanted to cut loose a little.”

“You really are incorrigible. I hope at least you had the decency not to drink at the temple.”

There's a groan as the blob shuffles and discards its outer layer. A young woman in pajamas rolls out from the blanket and looks up at Byakuren, still half-hidden by shadow. Her hair is light in color, not very long and currently wild. “It's rare for you to come wake me up,” she manages to say before being overcome by a powerful yawn.

“There's someone here that you can probably help,” Byakuren said, “though after seeing you like this, I'm sure that she probably has her doubts.”

The woman's eyes dart towards you and you make eye contact. She sighs, “I suppose that this isn't the first impression I normally wish to make.”

“Sounds like karma to me.”

“I suppose it is,” the woman sighs again. She sits up and stretches both her arms and legs some. “I'll get changed and be with you in a moment, let's go to the usual place,” she says.

Byakuren nods and closes the door. She leads you further down the hall and out through a door to a small porch. It's to one side to the rear of the temple and you can see part of the village off in the distance. Most of the immediate space is taken up by a well-tended vegetable garden. You sit down and wait quietly, enjoying the gentle breeze.

“Let's have a more proper introduction this time,” the woman appears after a while, looking calm and corrected. Though she wears her hair in a somewhat chaotic fashion, everything else about her looks carefully considered. You can't say that the colors work perfectly but the long-flowing sleeves and patterns on dress are nice. “I am the representative of Bishamonten and follower of the ideas of this temple. I am called Toramaru and it is a pleasure to meet you.”

“Not 'Shou' after what she witnessed?” Byakuren needles her while keeping a completely innocent smile on her face.

“As you like,” Shou tells you, “I need to apologize for the undignified display you saw earlier.”

“It's okay,” you tell her, “not everyone is a morning person.”

She smiles broadly, “yes, I suppose not.”

“Now with all that out of the way, we can try to help our new friend here,” Byakuren says, moving things along. She fills her in on the situation, explaining why you're there. Shou takes a seat next to us, crossing her legs.

“I may have exactly what you're looking for,” Shou says, “in fact, I believe I have three of the fragments. They were found by others and brought to me because they looked so much like gems. I haven't taken a close look at them but I believe they're the same ones because they've changed color since I've had them.”

“Oh, three of them?” you can hardly believe your ears. That's two more than appeared on the list! How lucky.

“If I understand correctly, you're gathering them for safekeeping, aren't you?” she asks.

“Um, yes, it'd be bad if someone used them for something naughty,” you tell her. That's what Mr. Morichika said, anyhow.

“Then why not leave it with us?” she asks. “No one here will abuse them and there's secure places where we can store them.”

“Maybe you should talk with Marisa about it,” you tell her, “all I know is that I want to help as much as I can. And I think that getting all the pieces together is pretty important.”

“She's not really the type to listen to suggestions,” Byakuren weighs in, “I'm not sure that we could convince her that there are alternatives.”

“Yes, she's very stubborn, much like those other two,” Shou says. “And if it's something important like you say it is, you can expect that they won't be open to reason once they've made up their minds. Maybe we should consider stepping in, Hijiri...”

“Maybe that would be premature,” Byakuren tells her. She wears a serious expression, like she's giving it a lot of thought. “Perhaps we should just be passive and watch how things play out. Our friend here seems cooperative enough.”

“Trusting as always, huh?” Shou chuckles.

“I'd rather avoid misunderstandings wherever possible,” she explains, “it's not easy dealing with people who are quick to make up their minds. It may be for the best if we simply give her the stones and let her go on her way.”

[] Encourage them to meet with the others.
[] It's best if you stick to the original plan.
No. 185882
[x] Encourage them to meet with the others.
No. 185884
[X] Encourage them to meet with the others.
No. 185887
[x] Encourage them to meet with the others.
No. 185890
[X] Encourage them to meet with the others.

Diplomacy via naivete
No. 185900
[x] It's best if you stick to the original plan.

Here's hoping they don't steal it from us. Again.
No. 185915
[X] It's best if you stick to the original plan.
No. 185918
“Umm,” you interrupt their discussion, “it may not be my place to say this but maybe it's best if you talk it over. Taking and giving things without asking or understanding can lead to problems. If it's out in the open then there's less room for misunderstandings.”

“I think this warrants further discussion,” Byakuren replies.. Shou nods in agreement. “With your patience taken into consideration there is no reason not to. But that's our decision to make and it may be unfair to keep you here while we discuss it. If there's no rush, I would propose that we meet again in the afternoon to act upon our decision.”

“Feel free to stay in the temple if you like,” Shou chimes in, “there's plenty of spaces for meditation or quiet contemplation. And if you would like to learn more about our beliefs you may seek out another priest who I'm sure will be glad to teach you. I think we'll have this sorted out before sundown”

“I'll be patient,” you promise with a smile. Patience is something that you're good at. It's won you many a game of hide and seek when the others give up after getting bored of hiding.

Byakuren stands up and excuses herself and Shou follows in tow, saying goodbye with the look in her eyes. They're nice people, you suppose, but it's a bit weird to you how they take all this stuff so seriously. Not just the stones but the temple. Isn't just having fun the most important part of life? There's no need to fight or anything because laughing feels better.

For a while you sit out on the porch, watching the sky. It's a nice day with a few clouds in the sky. So, to pass the time, you decide to start seeing if the clouds have any funny shapes. One of them is a cat but that's about all you can find after looking for a while. So it gets boring, fast. You let out a yawn and decide to take a walk instead.

Oh, the cloud lady is up on the roof. She's hard at work dealing with a few loose tiles by the look of it. The cloud hangs back and notices you. It's a bearded guy! You giggle to yourself, finding that a bearded cloud is just too perfect. The ones up in the sky would be more interesting if they were people. You wave at the cloud man. It doesn't seem like it has anything to say to you as it turns around, showing you its reddish back.

You stick out your tongue at it. If it wants to be a dummy, fine, you'll ignore it for now. There's bound to be other interesting people around who wont be big jerks. It's still morning so there's plenty of time to waste exploring around and having fun.

[] Look for Kyouko or anyone else you can play with at the temple.
[] Temples are boring so explore elsewhere like the woods or cemetery.
[] Find another stone in the meanwhile – there should be one at the school in the village.
No. 185919
[x] Temples are boring so explore elsewhere like the woods or cemetery.
No. 185920
[] Find another stone in the meanwhile – there should be one at the school in the village.
No. 185921
[x] Go find people meditating and outlast them
Patience queen 2015 is looking for challengers!
No. 185922
[x] Look for Kyouko or anyone else you can play with at the temple.

Naz? Naz.
No. 185923
[X] Temples are boring so explore elsewhere like the woods or cemetery.
No. 185924
[X] Look for Kyouko or anyone else you can play with at the temple.
No. 185935
[x] Find another stone in the meanwhile – there should be one at the school in the village.
No. 185944
[] Find another stone in the meanwhile – there should be one at the school in the village.
No. 185948
File 144780067588.png - (791.15KB, 1023x723, udon.png) [iqdb]
185948
Temple stuff is silly, you conclude. And not just because that cloud man really ticked you off. If there's time to be wasted, it's best wasted elsewhere.

The village is a not very far and so you decide to walk. You pass a few humans near the temple and you overhear them talking about Byakuren. They're so focused on their conversation that they don't notice you at all. “What kind of flowers do you think she likes?” one of them asks.

“You're not going to win her over with that, you dolt, ya gotta go with perfume,” another says, patting a vial snug in his pocket.

“Both of you are simple idiots,” a third pipes in, “you're going about it all wrong. I'm going to impress her with all the mantras, koans and that other thing I've been learning. That's the only way into her saintly drawers.”

“I think that she'll see through your act if you keep showing that lecherous smirk,” the first man prods. All three laugh and say a couple of quite saucy things about Byakuren. They really shouldn't talk about a lady's anatomy in public like that. You're pretty sure that that doesn't stretch like that… and… that bit isn't as smooth and soft as they make it sound. Those bits definitely aren't meant to be used like that!

And, oh dear, it's nice that they get along but is it really alright to share someone like that? They certainly think that she has the stamina for it. Apparently something about reciting sutras all night means that she can do other things all night long.

For some reason they change subject to farming; they talk about seeds, milking things and vast tracts of land and whether or not there's grass on the field. Are they worried about their crops? Then why are they laughing about it? Each thing one of them says makes all of them laugh uproariously.

You shake your head and move on, feeling your face a little hot. It's always a learning experience to be around humans. Even if you're not sure that you quite understood what it is you were learning.

At any rate, it's easy to focus on other things while you make your way to the village. A nice breeze keeps from Mr. Sun making you feel too hot. You see a couple of butterflies here and there and are tempted to chase them out into the fields and have fun. At one point a human with a wooden cart passes you and smiles, like it was the most natural thing in the world. You smile back, your mood getting even better.

It's not just the guy with the cart that doesn't seem to mind you. As you get into the village proper a few ladies and older men nod or otherwise acknowledge you like you were a natural part of their lives. Maybe it was wrong to be scared of coming into the village, you think. Everyone seems to be really nice. Those stories about hating everyone that's not a human must have just been your friends exaggerating as usual.

Maybe it's because there's other youkai around too? In the distance you see a girl with a big bag and long white ears talking to a villager. Definitely a youkai and they don't seem to mind her. Oh, there's another one with a lot of big fluffy tails that sway and move along as she browses a stall with fresh fruit. You'd be scared to run into her in the woods but in the village she looks about as approachable as a cute little puppy. Well, maybe not that much. She's could swat you away easily.

The various shops are distracting. The sights and smells are all very new to you. You particularly like that there's all sorts of signs on buildings, some of them with drawings of animals or related objects next to the names. With so much choice, how does anyone ever decide where to buy something, you wonder. You're lucky that you don't really have any money. Otherwise you'd have stopped by every single shop on your way to the school.

Instead, you manage to find the school just fine. It's on the other side of the village, nearer to the fields and homes than the busy commercial area. It's a modestly-sized building, not much bigger than a home and a half combined. There's a fenced off area to the back with trees and a swing set where, no doubt, the children play when they get a break. There's a sign by the main door which you think says school but you can't read the characters on it.

In order to make sure that you've got the right place, you go along the side of the building and peer through a window. There's a lot of children of different ages in a long room, each sitting in a chair with a small table in front of them. Most of them are looking forward, at a tall lady in a blue dress, but some of them in the back seem to be paying no attention, laughing among themselves. The lady in blue notices this and points at one of the children with a stern look. The child stands up, looking flustered.

If only you could hear what they're saying… the window muffles the voices.

Oh, one of the children notices you. A young child with straight black hair near the front of the class. While the lady in blue is busy talking to the older child in the back she waves at you and smiles. Another child next to her looks at her classmate and then towards the window at you. She also smiles.

[] Wave and smile back. They're probably just bored of classes.
[] You don't want to risk causing a scene. Hide until their next break.
No. 185950
[X] Wave and smile back. They're probably just bored of classes.
No. 185952
[x] Wave and smile back. They're probably just bored of classes.

Wave away boredom
No. 185953
[X] You don't want to risk causing a scene. Hide until their next break.
No. 185954
[X] Wave and smile back. They're probably just bored of classes.

I'd plow those fields if you know what I mean
No. 185955
[X] You don't want to risk causing a scene. Hide until their next break.
No. 185985
File 144786826886.png - (270.63KB, 750x850, pointy.png) [iqdb]
185985
You wave back at the children, smiling. They seem delighted, giggling and poking their classmates to look at you too. That causes several more waves and smiles. And it escalates from there, with a few more of them quickly drawing things on pieces of paper and showing them to you.

Mmm, they look like they're drawings of you. It's strange to see you reduced to a short little stick with a circle for a head with a small ponytail coming out of it. In the drawings you're surrounded by other sticks with circles for heads and you're all smiling under a watchful Mr. Sun.

But the commotion stops as the lady in blue finally notices what is going on. With a single wave of finger and a sharp stare, she gets the children to stop playing around. It's then that her attention turns to you: she spies you through the window and her expression darkens. She is a blur, saying something to the children and rushing out of the room.

“What do you think you're doing!?” she yells as she rounds the corner and bounds towards you. Her long hair and silly box of a hat are anything but charming at the moment. With her hands placed rigidly on either hip, she looms over you, chiding, “don't disrupt my classes!”

“I-” you're in a bit of shock, not really having expected her to storm out and yell at you. You can hardly think of giving her a proper explanation or excuse.

“I know your type,” she speaks sternly, her otherwise pleasant features warped by the irritation in her voice and eyes, “always thinking of playing. Just because your existence is carefree doesn't mean that you have the right to interrupt one of my lessons. These children deserve a proper education and as their teacher I have to try my best.”

“They started it!” you blurt out, having been put on the spot. Feeling small and powerless, whining is all you can do to keep from outright bursting into tears. “I haven't done anything wrong! I came to talk about important serious stuff, not to play around. The children waved and so I waved back, no foolin'!”

“What you need to learn are manners,” she says, apparently not bothering to take in what you're telling her, “you can't just upend other peoples' lives because you feel like it. Show some respect and courtesy .”

“Like I said, I didn't do anything!” you say, feeling like it's totally unfair that you're getting yelled at. Coming to the school wasn't supposed to feel bad.

The children, however, are having a riotous time. Seeing you get scolded by their teacher has them all laughing and actively messing about behind her back. What little order there was left when she left the room completely vanishes as she dresses you down. She notices as much since, even through the wall and windows, excited squeals and shouts can be heard from the classroom. Her frown is no longer aimed just at you and she turns back and scowls through the window at her students. The ones in the immediate line of sight slink and quiet down but others are still going strong.

“If you wish to talk, then fine, let's talk, but it better be worth my time,” she says with a sigh, looking just a bit overwhelmed. Clearly she doesn't wish to waste more time than she has to with you. “Wait in my office until I'm done,” she commands, her voice regaining some of its authoritative edge.

You nod in understanding and follow her inside. She points to a door on the left and she leaves you alone, returning to her class. She raises her voice to the mob of children, calling a few out by name, telling them to behave and settle down. Since you're no longer the direct recipient of her ire, your heart begins to stop beating so fast. The unpleasant feeling like you were fighting not to cry begins to fade away as you begin to take in the room.

It's nothing special. There's nothing really fun. There's a big desk with an inkwell and a lot of scrolls on it, a chair behind the desk and a couple more on the other side. It's a small room made even smaller by tall shelves that were somehow squeezed in through the door that take up space of the desk. It's packed to he brim with books, parchments and scrolls of all sorts, you think. It doesn't look like she has any real personal effects or anything from the children on display.

Clearly she was doing something with the half-opened scrolls on the desk. One of them is unfinished and another is a map. Maybe it's of Gensokyo because there's a big lake and a village near it. A few circles have been made on it marking places but you can't really guess why.

[] Get a little payback with a small prank.
[] You're a good girl and good girls behave themselves.
No. 185986
[x] You're a good girl and good girls behave themselves.

We're already in enough trouble. Adding more will only stop her from listening to us.
No. 185987
[x] You're a good girl and good girls behave themselves.

Nice choice of update pic
No. 185989
[X] You're a good girl and good girls behave themselves.
No. 185990
[X] You're a good girl and good girls behave themselves.
No. 185991
[x] You're a good girl and good girls behave themselves.

I think Keine has the best hat.
No. 186024
It's really boring to just wait without doing anything. There's nothing colorful or shiny lying around to keep your attention. So you take to playing around with your stone. It's smooth and still fits neatly into the palm of your hand. The watery blue color it has is fine too. It's no red or, your favorite, green, but it's totally cute too. All in all, it's still wearable as a pendant. Fashioning something to tie it around your neck shouldn't be too hard.

You hum a little to yourself, feeling like your butt is becoming a permanent part of the chair. If school is about sitting around, doing nothing while the teacher is doing as she please, no wonder the children get so bored. Even a good girl like you is having trouble doing what they're told. Day in, day out, it'd be practically impossible to keep up.

Before you can really let your imagination go wild, your wait comes to an end. The teacher comes back . She's holding a stack of papers and doesn't look to be in a much better mood than before. The children seem to be doing better, however. At least judging from the joyful shouting that's now coming from outside. They're probably outside playing. Makes you feel a little left out and a little jealous.

“Ah, you're still here,” the teacher says like she had forgotten that she told you to stick around in the first place. She places the papers she's holding on her shelf and sits down behind the desk. Sounding less imposing than before and more tired, she asks, “so, what was it that you wanted?”

“Um, I came here because I heard that you had a stone. And I'm collecting them to help other people out,” you tell her. You figure that if she's tired she won't want to hear the long version of the explanation.

“Hm, a stone?” she doesn't seem too interested, “you interrupted my classes because of that?”

“It's pretty important,” you tell her. “There could be trouble if bad people have it.”

“And you're a good person?” she asks, smiling.

“I try to be. I want to be helpful. That's why I chose to help out and it's why I can be patient and sit around even though it's really boring to be by myself in a small room.”

“You're certainly more patient than my students,” she chuckles. With a sigh she leans in and says, “I'm sorry, but I can't really help you.”

“Eh, why not?” You pick up the crumpled note in your pocket and unfold it. “The list says that, um, a Kei-ne, uh, Kami… Kamiji… Kamishira-”

“That's Kamishirasawa,” she completes the sentence for you. “I'm her, Ms. Keine Kamishirasawa, the teacher here.”

“Oh, I would have gotten that!” you tell her, pouting, “I can read alright, it just takes me a long time for long words I haven't seen before.”

“Right,” she nods, looking like she understands. That's good. You're no dummy and people ought to know that. “Anyhow, I can't help you because I don't have the stone anymore, I gave it away yesterday. I'm pretty sure it's the same stone that you want.”

“Who has it now?”

“A brash young lady who has a poor grasp on the concept of private property,” she says with a shake of her head, “Really now, it always seems like she's always on some sort of adventure. She and her friends are always getting into some sort of trouble. Shooting first and then asking questions, usually. Honestly, she makes youkai seem like they're a well-behaved and civilized bunch.”

“Who is she and where can I find her?”

“Her name is Kirisame. Marisa to her many unfortunate acquaintances. She lives by herself in the woods, you can't miss it if you can fly.”

“Oh, I know Marisa,” you tell her, “she told me all about the stones with Mr. Morichika.”

“You might want to forget all this stone business then,” Ms. Keine warns, “you'll only get yourself in trouble if you keep at it. Speaking from experience here: anyone who isn't strong ends up getting hurt by her.”

“I'm strong!” you shout without really thinking. It's not fun to be thought as silly and useless. Maybe you can't defeat a scary powerful youkai and you cry a little bit too easily but you're strong because you don't give up easily.

“Well, it's none of my business,” she says, “but human or not, I'd feel bad if I didn't warn you. I'm sorry about yelling earlier, it looked like you were about to cry.”

“Was not!” you shout again.

“Must have been my imagination then,” Ms. Keine says. You feel like she's humoring you but maybe it's because she's a nice lady, after all. After a bit of small talk, you feel much more at ease. She does smile a lot and maybe she does care. Even if you can't admit it to her face, the advice feels like it's genuine. She doesn't want to see you get hurt even though you've just met.

“I should probably get going,” you tell her after a while, “I got to keep working on the stone thing.”

“Be careful, Hanako,” she says, “remember that it's sometimes braver to run away. It's what I tell my students in case they run into a feral youkai. It'd be a shame if you got hurt because of something silly.”

“I'll be fine,” you tell her, “I'm careful and smart, so it's not a big deal.”

It doesn't seem like she really pleased with your answer but she lets you go without scolding you again. Maybe school isn't so boring, after all.

Not getting a stone makes you feel really unsatisfied. You know that you can beat Marisa if you just try harder.

[] Go to the forest where she lives. There's definitely a couple more stones there.
[] Maybe someone the foot of the mountain has one.
[] Check back with Mr. Morichika because he's nice and helpful.
No. 186027
[X] Maybe someone the foot of the mountain has one.
No. 186028
[X] Maybe someone the foot of the mountain has one.

The forest is Marisa's turf and checking with Rinno will leave us behind. We must beat Marisa (at this game)!
No. 186032
[x] Maybe someone the foot of the mountain has one.

More awoo.
No. 186035
[x] Maybe someone the foot of the mountain has one.
No. 186038
[] Maybe someone the foot of the mountain has one.
No. 186058
You walk past the children on your way out. They're all happily playing outside and barely acknowledge you. It's fine, though. You don't really have time to play around anyways. You walk past the back of the school and towards the edge of the village. Being useful is more important than just having fun. At least, that's what you tell yourself as you take flight.

The youkai mountain looms large in the distance no matter where you are in Gensokyo. On clear days you can make out distant wisps of smoke coming up from the mid section up. You hear that a long time ago it used to be a big scary volcano and whenever it erupted, the whole land was covered in ash. It's just kappa these days though. And tengu. They like to do weird things with smoke and fire. Why? You're not sure. You don't even think you've ever seen a tengu properly, let alone can understand what they're thinking.

Some of your friends have had experiences dealing with the folk up on the mountain. They tell you that they're willing to pay money if you stand guard or do simple labor. But work is boring, so you've never been too curious to find out what it's all about. Plus, the mountain is pretty far away from your home. So you don't really want to waste a good chunk of your day getting there and back. It's sometime past noon when you finally arrive to the forest at the foot of the sloping mountain. If you had walked it'd have taken you at least a couple of hours.

There's not really much going on there. In the distance a couple of fairies are mucking about, playing a private game of tag. They don't even care that you're there. Beyond them is the beginning of the thick forest that clings to the sides of the mountain for about half of its height. Plenty of youkai live there and it's not exaclty the kind of place that you usually go to.

“Where would I be if I were a stone?” you ask yourself, fixing up an errant strand of hair that got loose from your head. The answer is, of course, everywhere. There's boulders, rocks and pebbles everywhere as far as the eye can see. The real question is where a special stone would be. And the answer to that is that you haven' the foggiest idea. But then again, it's hard to think when it's lunchtime and you've nothing to eat. A growling stomach isn't really cute but luckily no one besides you is around to hear it.

If you had had any money, it would have been a better idea to buy something in the village. But since you have nothing, the usual improvisation is in order.

[] The trees by the water usually have fruit.
[] Go mushroom picking in the woods.
No. 186060
[x] The trees by the water usually have fruit.

froot
No. 186063
[X] Go mushroom picking in the woods.

shroooms
No. 186066
File 144807072090.png - (670.16KB, 675x675, marina-and-the-diamonds-froot.png) [iqdb]
186066
[x] The trees by the water usually have fruit.

Like fro-o-o-ot
No. 186067
[X] The trees by the water usually have fruit.
No. 186092
File 144814069470.jpg - (601.61KB, 1350x1525, waggysoggy.jpg) [iqdb]
186092
Early in the mornings the banks of the lake are full of mist. It usually goes away by the time the sun is high up in the sky but sometimes it returns suddenly without any warning. It gets hard to see anything, since it sometimes even gets as high as tree level, and it can ruin a perfectly good moment of fun. Tag isn't as fun if you're flying around instead of running in between trees, after all.

Luckily there isn't any fog when you approach the shore. There isn't much of anything, actually. Usually on a warm day like this, you'd expect there to be at least a dozen fairies playing around the water, splashing and laughing without a care in the world. But that's good! That way you won't get distracted when looking for something to eat. Nor will you be tempted to go out and play instead of looking for more stones…

You sigh for some reason. But you perk right back up when you see the big trees which usually have the tastiest fruit around. It's too early in the year for all of them to be heavy with fruit but, for some reason, some of them start growing them earlier than others.

Oh wait. There's no need to actually climb a tree. There's a pile of three plums right next to the shore. Lucky! Truth be told, you didn't want to mess about branches and leaves because it'd get your dress all dirty. You clean off one of them in the cool lake water and take a bite.

“U'm, excuse me, what are you doing?” someone asks just as you realize that the fuit is, at best, semi-ripe. Still pretty hard and tart.

“I'm eating,” you say, a tiny bit of juice dribbling from your mouth to your chin. It turns out that the person talking to you is in the water. Dressed in a green outfit that curiously isn't wet at all, the girl with shoulder-length hair and really queer ears seems almost reluctant to talk to you. She's clearly a youkai but you can't sense any hostility at all from her dark blue eyes. If anything, you might be scaring her.

“I can see that,” she says quietly, her eyes on the plum in your hand. Her lower half is in the water and she leans in on the grassy bank, coming closer. “I'm afraid that those were the plums I gathered for lunch.”

“Oh, sorry,” you tell her, “I thought they just fell.”

“I just hid because I saw someone approaching because you never know when someone scary is going to come along,” she explains, “I don't think you're like that.”

“You don't look to be scary either,” you tell her, apologizing, “I'm sorry about your plum. I'll go get you another one.”

“No, no, that's fine,” she says, smiling, “I don't mind sharing.”

“Let's eat together then!”

Her friendly gesture is all that it takes for you to like her. She comes out of the water and introduces herself. Wakasagihime is really nice, even though she's half-fish. “I'm a mermaid,” she tells you once again after you keep talking about her fishy bits. The weird ears are really like fins and all her bottom half is a scaly tail that flops around when she's on land. You'd never seen anything like her before, even though you've heard stories about big youkai fish that can swallow a fairy whole living in the lake. She doesn't look like one of those at all, so it's fine.

It's always good to make new friends and, although she seems a bit shy at first, she eventually starts talking to you about all sorts of things. You ask her a couple of questions about what it's like under the water and she tells you that it's really, really nice. Apparently once in a while a hapless human who feels overburdened by his sins, whatever that means, will jump in hoping to die. But she's saved a few of them from drowning, bringing them back to shore and giving them a new reason to live. Maybe yokai and humans can get along, after all.

“That's a really pretty stone, Hanako,” Wakasagihime stares at the blue stone after you take it out to show it to her. Since she's your new friend, you're more than happy to tell her what you're doing. Besides the curly bits of her hair are really, really cute. Maybe you should try wearing your hair like that sometime. “It's so blue and cool, it's like a drop of water turned solid," she says, "it'd look really great on a necklace.

“Yeah, I used to have it as a pendant!" You're excited that she thinks like you do when it comes to fashion. "I'm trying to find more like them, have you seen any?"

“I think I might know where you can find another,” she tells you, “I think I saw one at the bottom of the lake yesterday. It was glowing and I was going to grab it but, before I could, a large carp came in and swallowed it. Now its belly is glowing.”

“Can we ask it to give us the stone?” you ask.

“I can't really talk to fish,” she says, laughing, “despite my appearances.”

“Oh, then what should we do?”

“We have to catch it, somehow,” she tells you, “it's tricky to grab a fish underwater but I guess I could go try.”

If only you could breathe underwater… then you could go get it yourself.

[] Get some bait and go fishing!
[] Ask her to go underwater try to make the fish swallow the stuff in the vial.
[] Try blasting the fish the fish up to the surface.
No. 186093
[x] Get some bait and go fishing!

Gone fishin'
No. 186095
[] Get some bait and go fishing!
No. 186096
[X] Get some bait and go fishing!
Wakasagihime best fish.
No. 186101
[x] Get some bait and go fishing!
No. 186104
[x] Try blasting the fish the fish up to the surface.
Vial is for emergencies
No. 186123
It turns out that trying to fish without any equipment is pretty hard. Harder still is trying to fashion a rod that's both sturdy and flexible enough to withstand a fish tugging at it. Frustrated by the scarce raw materials you can find around the banks, for a while you consider making a net instead. Turns out that tying vines together is pretty hard too. So you quickly do an about face and focus all your energies into making the best fishing pole ever.

Luckily Wakasagihime helps test things out, tugging at the improvised pole and string like she were hooked herself. Through trial and error, and much patience, you're able to finally get a final product that you're sure will not snap when you hook that carp. The really hard part, though, is getting the bait. Digging into the soil is icky. Doubly so if you're looking for worms. But there's no helping it. You dirty your hands getting a half dozen wiggling, slimy worms.

“Why do fish like worms, anyhow?” you ask your friend.

“Beats me,” she shrugs, “I think it's because they look like easy meals. When you're underwater things that wiggle and look soft are the easiest to eat. Scales and claws are really tough.”

“Mmm,” you think about it, not really convinced.

“What are you asking me for, anyways?” she puffs her cheeks, looking a little insulted, “I eat fruit. Sometimes fish.”

“Fish eat fish?”

“I'm not a fish, I'm a mermaid!” she protests, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Sorry, sorry,” you apologize, “I meant in general.”

“Yes they do,” she says, still looking a bit cross at you, “not everyone likes algae and plankton.”

“Underwater stuff is more complicated than I thought it would be,” you say, hooking up a worm onto the tip of your pole. It continues to wiggle even though it's been impaled. Pretty disgusting. As per Wakasagihime's recommendation, you take off your socks and shoes and wade into the lake. The water is cool but not unendurable. Being knee-deep in water isn't exactly how you pictured your afternoon going.

Wakasagihime sits in the water next to you, watching with a bored expression as your bait floats up near the surface of the water. You talk about stuff and things for a while but there's no escaping the fact that fishing is about time and patience. It's not like you don't catch anything at all – your bait succeeds in luring a small fish more than once. But you discard your small catches. There's not point in getting anything but your target.

“Maybe it'd go faster if I had a harpoon and dove underwater,” Wakasagihime says a few hours into things. “I could spear that fish and get back to the surface in no time.”

“We're invested in this already, might as well continue to be patient,” you tell her. Even though you feel sleepy and even though you feel really, really bored, you figure that it's best to stay the course.

As it turns out, you were right to keep your faith. A hard tug at the end of your pole almost catches you off balance. “It's him!” Wakasagihime shouts, her tail splashing around excitedly. It's him alright! A soft blue glow shows through the increasingly-choppy water. You tense up your muscles, hoping to haul him out outright. No such luck, he's a fighter. You strain to keep from sliding into the soft mud bottom of the lake.

More than once you feel like your strength is about to fail you. Wakasagihime intervenes at just the right moment, helping you pull against the fish's efforts by grabbing you around the waist. You huff and heave and puff. Finally, with an energetic final pull, you fall flat on your butt, soaking yourself thoroughly with lake water.

But the fish is caught! The carp flails helplessly, being flung up on dry land by your final effort. It's rather pretty too, sploshes of silver and red glisten with the afternoon soon. Its belly glows blue leaving no doubt that it's the fish that you're looking for.

“Yum yum!” Wakasagihime leaps out of the water, closing in on the helpless fish with a determined look on her face. With a bright flash and a few quick movements, the flopping fish is no more. It lays there, lifeless, its eyes emptily turned towards the sky. Your friend is quick in gutting it and removing the scales. You don't know how, but she gets a fire going in a blink of an eye. The dried branches you rejected as fishing poles are tinder.

“Umm...” you start.

“Have your stone!” she tosses the small pebble of a thign to you as she impales the fish onto a stick. Using a few other sticks, she hold is up above the fire and starts grilling the catch. “There's nothing tastier than freshly caught fish! Even if it's a bony carp, it'll still be good!”

You can't really complain. The second, smaller, stone is a bit slimy but safe in your hands. Though that's easily solved by dipping it in lake water. You get close to the improvised campfire to dry off. Wringing the bulk off the water off your skirt, you stand as close as you can without risk of burning yourself. Stripping to your underwear seems like a poor idea given that the sun is hanging low in the sky.

Wakasagihime seems happy with your catch. She eyes the medium-sized fish with an intesne stare as it cooks. When it's brown and crisp, she parcels out pieces of fish with a knife she kept up her floppy sleeves . It's pretty juicy.

It's only when you're done eating and the sun is dipping over the horizon that you remember that you're supposed to be somewhere else. Though they're grownups and can handle themselves.

[] Try to beat Marisa by looking for more stones nearby with your new friend.
[] Return to the temple.
No. 186124
[x] Try to beat Marisa by looking for more stones nearby with your new friend.

Best fish mermaid.
No. 186125
[x] Return to the temple.
No. 186127
[X] Return to the temple.
No. 186129
[X] Return to the temple.
No. 186138
[x] Return to the temple.
No. 186170
“You're really going to go?” Wakasagihime asks, sounding really disappointed. The lake water reflects a red sun onto her face. Dark shadows make her seem more sad than she probably really is.

“I hafta,” you tell her, “but you could come with me if you liked.”

“A temple sounds really boring,” she says, “why would I leave the comfort of the lake for something so lame?”

“I can't really blame you,” you tell her, “it is really quiet and I really don't get all the religious stuff they mention. Memorizing stuff was never my strong suit.”

“We can still have fun messing about here,” she suggests with hpe in her voice. Truth is, you were having loads of fun just talking and eating together. Fresh fish was a really good idea. But now the fire she started is reduced to a couple of embers. So it's time to go.

“It's something I got to do,” you tell her, “boring maybe, but tstill something I got to do.”

With a wave and a 'take care' you leave your new friend behind and speed towards the temple. The land below is quickly being overwhelmed by shadows as the sun disappears over the horizon. Soon all sorts of scary youkai will be up and about, looking for an easy meal. Or to have their own wicked brand of fun. It's not a time of day you enjoy much and, circumstances permitting, you'd rather be safe and snug at home. Making dinner and drinking tea is way nicer than becoming dinner.

Even going as fast as you can, you reach the temple after the sun has set. The building acquires a different sort of mood when the sun is out; the tall wooden beams seem even more solemn and somehow even more ancient. Cloud lady is not on the roof anymore and there's no one at the main entrance. So you let yourself in.

The thing is that you can't really find the people you're looking for. You manage to retrace your steps to the room in the back where you first met Byakuren. The room still stinks like ash and perfume, or incense, but she's nowhere to be found. There's no signs of anyone being in there recently. Same with Shou's room. You knock on the door and find that there's no reply. Boldly choosing to slide it open, you find a heap of rubbish but no one inside.

There's no one around the rear porch either. The vegetables sway slightly in the wind but, obviously, don't tell you anything about the the missing temple people.

No humans, talking about farming techniques, are around either. Has the temple been abandoned? Maybe they're all drinking tea together somewhere…

“Oh, hello again,” you run into Kyouko after wandering the halls for a while. She's holdilng a bottle of what looks to be sake.

“You're still around?” she asks, smiling, “so you're joining our temple?”

“No, not really,” you reply, “I'm looking for Byakuren and Shou. I was supposed to talk to them in the afternoon at some point.”

“They're gone,” she says, “so we're all getting ready to have a little fun in their absence.”

“Fun?”

“You know, merrymaking,” she smiles, “surely part of enlightment means having fun with your friends, right?”

“Maybe it does. I think so,” you like to believe that that's the main point of following the temple's teachings. Feeling good about yourself and life surely starts with your friends, right?

“Right, right” she says, joyfully, “want to join us?”

“Um, I'm not sure...”

“Come on, it'll be fun, it's a bunch of us drinking and cutting loose while the boss isn't around. What's not to love?” Her ears wiggle as she speaks. She's certainly at ease.

[] She's right. Have a little fun.
[] Nah, track down Byakuren.
No. 186171
[x] She's right. Have a little fun.

Naz where
No. 186172
[X] She's right. Have a little fun.
No. 186178
[X] She's right. Have a little fun.

Marisa can find the stones just fine anyways.
No. 186179
[x] She's right. Have a little fun.
No. 186185
[x] Find Byakuren
Uh, deja vu.

Well, it worked last time, right?
No. 186198
[X] Nah, track down Byakuren.
Responsibility ho!
No. 186201
[x] Nah, track down Byakuren.
No. 186213
[x] Nah, track down Byakuren.
No. 186226
If I don't get any more votes nor anyone switches theirs within three hours, I'm just going to go ahead and write based on a coinflip. Otherwise it'll be too hard for me to get the update done before the day is over.
No. 186227
[x] Nah, track down Byakuren.

Here, have a tiebreaker.
No. 186229
“I can't,” you tell her. Her ears droop. Looks like she's disappointed.

“Cutting back to deal with stress is really important,” she says. It doesn't seem like she understands why you'd rather go elsewhere rather than have fun with her. Truth be told, you don't really understand it either. You want the stones they have but there's probably a lot of other places you could check for them too. So, it's not like it's the only option you have.

You try not to be at a loss for words and hope to change the subject while you're at it, “Do you know where they've gone? It's important that I find them.”

“Beats me,” she smiles, like not knowing where her superiors were was something to be proud of. “I'll pour you some so you can forget all about your worries,” she says, somehow producing a small cup from the sleeve of her dress.

The offer is still really tempting. But you frown in disapproval.

It looks like she finally gets it. Looking like she's trying to hold back a sigh, she says, “if it's important business they're usually meeting with the other bigwigs somewhere important. Try that shrine a ways from here. You know, the one with the shrine maiden that likes exterminating youkai. It's much better to have fun with friends than to risk extermination, don't you think?”

“Yes, but I made up my mind already!” you tell her, finding that there's a newfound energy to your movements. You thank her and go away, trying to think of how to best get to the shrine.

It's not somewhere you've been before. But you've heard of it. Who in Gensokyo hasn't? It's trouble to show up there unannounced, you think, but if Byakuren's there then that means that you should be there too. You can sweat the small stuff later. The real worry you have is getting anywhere with daylight basically totally gone. There are lights off in the distance in the village, but everywhere else is really, really dark.

Even flying over a few trees that you know are good for taking a nap under during the day scares you. Without the daylight their branches seems longer and more gnarled, like they could reach out and grab you if you flew by too close. It's even worse when you go over an actual forest – the endless dark treetops make it seem like any manner of wicked things could be hiding below them.

Youkai like to exploit that kind of fear. Humans don't venture far away from the vilalge after dark because it's very possible that a hungry youkai is lurking in the shadows. Red eyes often really are within a bush or between the cover of the trees. The more clever ones even disguise themselves as innocent-looking things and lurk near roads, waiting for a luckless victim to happen upon them. The best thing to do once the sun goes down is to simple go home and sleep. Drinking with friends around a fire is a close second.

You let out a scream, being startled by a hand being placed on your shoulder. You waffle about in a panic and head towards a clearing just below. What in the world?

“I'm sorry, I'm sorry!” a girl laughs, floating down towards the clearing with you. In the twilight her eyes seem unusually bright. The twin tails and pointy ears atop shaggy hair remove all doubt that she's not human. “I called out to you but you didn't hear me! So I had to catch up.”

“W-who are you?” you ask.

She folds her arms across her chest and takes a few steps towards you. She's about the same height that you are but, because she's a youkai wandering around at night, you feel that her presence is much bigger than that. You notice that she has a pierced ear. Maybe she's one of those 'punks' you've heard so much about? They like to go out at night and make a lot of noise. The girl laughs again, simply saying, “my name isn't important, I'm here to tell you to keep away from the shrine.”

“How do you know I'm going to the shrine?”

“I just do. Anyhow tell me you're not going there anymore and I can leave you alone. I hate being told to go do stuff.”

“But I really need to go. Why shouldn't I go?”

“Because you can get really hurt if you go there right now,” she says, sounding really bored. Seems to you that she's just barely a moment away from letting out a big yawn. “I guess they don't want you to get really hurt.”

“Who and why?”

“Certain people and beats me,” she shrugs after unfolding her arms. Out of the treeline, a pair of cats dart out in a hurry towards her. They purr and rub themselves against her legs. The girl frowns, saying, “I can't believe you guys have followed me all the way out here.”

“Those are some really cute kitties,” you say, getting down to pet the closest one. It's brown and white and looks at you with some distrust. It seems like they're waiting to see what the girl does first.

“They're the only ones that follow me, sadly,” she says, “it's okay, I guess they're nice enough.”

The second cat, a dark one with a few streaks of color approaches you and sits at arm's length. It stares at you with some intensity, like you're not to be trusted. How cruel, you've just met!

“It's been nice meeting you but I should get going,” you tell them.

“I really don't want to fight you if I can help it, I want to go back home. Eating dinner and then curling up in a quiet corner is really all I want to do,” the girl says, sighing.

“I don't want to fight you either. But if someone doesn't want me to get hurt, wouldn't fighting me go against that?”

The girl grins, flashing her teeth. There's a few that look painfully sharp. “I'm sure it's fine if you're hurt only a little, so long as you don't get exterminated or anything. I suppose that dinner can wait just a little while longer...”

[] Run away! If she can't catch you, she can't stop you.
[] Okay, okay, you won't go right now but she has to keep you company.
No. 186234
[X] Run away! If she can't catch you, she can't stop you.

We have things to do and places to be!
No. 186235
[X] Okay, okay, you won't go right now but she has to keep you company.
No. 186236
[X] Run away! If she can't catch you, she can't stop you.
No. 186238
[X] Run away! If she can't catch you, she can't stop you.
No. 186240
[x] Okay, okay, you won't go right now but she has to keep you company.

Chen joined the party.
No. 186272
“Um, just checking, but no way you’ll let me go?” you ask her once again, just to make really sure. It’s a shame that you can’t just get along.

“Nope!” she exclaims, looking almost glad that she can’t.

“Oh dear, one of those cats is being really naughty,” you say, pointing at her feet.

“Mm?” she looks down. And that’s when you make a run for it. It has to be a run too. Flying would just make you easy to spot and catch. Of course, there’s absolutely nothing going on with one of the cats so it only takes her a moment to realize what you’ve done. You’re barely into the treeline when you hear her curse and give chase.

Your heart beats wildly. You really don’t want to think what she’ll do to you if she catches up. Under the leafy canopy, the whole world is dark. There’s very little light and a lot of stones and roots you can stumble upon. Your dress is getting all dirty too with the various bushes and branches that you brush past in a rush. Already after a few minutes your feet hurt a lot. Running on the uneven ground as fast as you can is really hard.

It’s something hard that’s made even harder by the fact that you’re being chased. Besides the rustling and noise you’re causing you can hear much of the same noise coming from behind you. You don’t dare turn, in fears that she’s bearing down with incredible speed. Initially, she was shouting as she ran, telling you to stop and to quit playing around. As she came with grips that you weren’t going to stop, she shut up.

And got a little bit more serious.

Something bright whizzes by your ear and hits with a dull ‘thump’ onto a tree just ahead. Then another, this time on your other side. Bullets. She’s shooting at you. Quite a lot more bullets follow. You try to dodge the barrage by changing course suddenly. Feels like you just avoided a certain miss. It doesn’t let up. She keeps following you. So you dodge again, going hard to the right, scratching your cheek slightly when you snag a branch.

“Just stop running!” you hear the girl shout, sending a full barrage moments later.

It doesn’t feel like you can keep at it much longer. Getting hit would really, really, really hurt.

Worst of all, you have no idea where you’re going! Trying to make it to the shrine is really impossible without flying. The dense wood doesn’t let you see much farther than the next couple of trees. You think you might be going in the right direction but with so much dodging and so much turning you can’t be sure.

Up ahead there’s a patch of clear woods as a small stream cuts through the trees. It’s then that you get a little lucky break. By instinct you turn around when you hear the girl yell out a string of profanity. She is on the ground, having tripped on a fallen branch. Not only are her eyes alight with frustration, but her nails have grown to a stupid degree and makes her hands look more like claws. She is quick to scramble up as you turn back forward, just barely missing a rock in the middle of the stream. The distance between you increases. Enough to make you risk trying out the cleverest idea you can think up.

You reach the next line of tries. After passing a few, you dive behind a tree. And then another. And another. All in quick succession. What you’re really doing is doubling back in a big circle of trees.She’s still a ways behind you, so you’re pretty sure that she’s barely got time to see where you’re going next.

You spotted a small hole under a tree, where riverbank and trunk met. Without hesitation, you dive into it when you reach it. At best, it’s where a fairy lives. At worst, you’ll just run into another angry youkai.

Since no bullets hit you or really long nails scratch at you, you assume she didn’t see you go in. You hear the dull sounds of bullets hitting the foliage for a while yet. Seems that she’s just shooting anywhere and everywhere.

Then nothing. Maybe she’s looking around? The hole you’re in is pretty dark and you can barely hear anything above the sound of your panicked heart. You retreat further in. And wait.

You wait for a while, hoping that she won’t find you. The minutes pass. Has she given up?

You wait a bit longer. Your heart settles down a little. And you can’t hear anything.

You wait even longer. It’s been close to a half hour, you reckon. Maybe an hour, you hope. Your sense of time feels really off.

It should be safe…

[] Wait a lot longer.
[] Walk and try to be stealthy.
[] Just fly out as fast as possible and hope for the best.
No. 186273
[X] Walk and try to be stealthy.
No. 186274
[X] Wait a lot longer.
No. 186275
[x] Ruuunn
No. 186279
[x] Wait a lot longer.
No. 186285
[x] Just fly out as fast as possible and hope for the best.

What about the meeting?!
No. 186295
[x] Walk and try to be stealthy.

Tactical Fairy Action.
No. 186296
[X] Walk and try to be stealthy.
No. 186312
You take a deep breath and try to steady your nerves. It’s no good to rush into things but it’s also not good to wait around for too long. If anyone lives in the hole, they might decide to come back soon. With all the care that you can muster, you scooch up to the entrance, ears pricked up and hopefully sensitive to any sudden movement.

No one tries to scratch your eyes out right away. So that’s an encouraging sign. You scooch a little more and come out into the forest. You check left, right, up and ahead.

Not a soul.

You crawl up and stand up, fairly certain that she’s not around. Still, you don’t want to risk attracting any attention. Since the stream is probably going out towards the lake, you think you can use it to orient yourself. If you’re wrong… well then you could always fly. Not that you want to unless it’s the last possible resort.

There’s something really really weird about walking alone in a dark forest. Even forgetting that you’re being chased, it’s still strange. It feels like anything could be hiding just beyond the next bush or behind every tree.Sure, it could be a mean youkai but it’s not necessarily something bad. It could be like the clumps of mushrooms that you find behind every other tree. You know enough about them to know that some of them are not only edible, but pretty darn tasty. It’s thinking about making a nice rich soup that keeps you from completely freaking out.

Wherever possible you stick behind the thickest trees in case you have to jump behind them to hide. You’re mindful of rocks and twigs too, making sure not to stpe on anything that could give away your position. Noise is an issue. Only the rustling of the treetops serves for continuous background noise. Other than that, only the occasional distant cry of one of the forest’s nocturnal inhabitants breaks the quiet. And if at all possible, you’d like to avoid them too.

You make good progress you think. A half hour of walking around in the dark and you haven’t yet run into her again. It might be a little too soon to let down your guard but you’re more confident that you’ve successfully avoided being found. It makes you feel a little better after being found by Mr. Morichika the other day. Being confident in being able to hide gives you an advantage when you play hide and go seek.

It’s when you start realizing that you’re going uphill that you realize that you’ve been on the right path after all.

The trees start thinning as you go up a slight slip until they’re almost completely gone at the top. It gets lighter since the moon is out. It’s really really full; it’ll probably be completely full tomorrow night. You grab your stones as you stare up at the moon. Or, well, stone. You look down to find that hte blue stone is glowing and that it’s gotten larger than before. How sneaky… deciding to combine all by itself.

Up top, it’s flat and mostly paved. A somewhat sizable building is right in front of you. Though it’s smaller and looks more worn down, there’s no doubt that it’s similar to Byakuren’s big temple. What’s the difference between a shrine and a temple, anyhow? Both have stone statues out front, an altar somewhere and priests running the place. Sure, there’s a few wooden arches positioned above the main steps around the front. But still basically the same.

You work your way around the side of the main building out to the front. There’s an entrance on the side but you think it’d probably be too rude to just go in without first trying the front. It’s there that you discover that there’s no one around. A small lamp has been left by a box out front. The lamp barely manages to illuminate a small sign: it says something but you can’t read it. How inconsiderate not to write it out simply for visitors.

There’s a rope with a bell attached nearby. Maybe you got to ring it to let them know you’re around?

[] Ring the bell a little.
[] Maybe taking a look inside won’t be too rude.
[] Keep looking around outside for anyone else for a bit.
No. 186314
[X] Keep looking around outside for anyone else for a bit.
No. 186315
[x] Take a look inside
No. 186316
[x] Maybe taking a look inside won’t be too rude.
No. 186318
[x] Maybe taking a look inside won’t be too rude.
No. 186320
[X] Ring the bell a little.
No need to get on the shrine maiden's bad side
No. 186327
[X] Ring the bell a little.
No. 186331
[x] Ring the bell a little.
No. 186349
File 144866799945.jpg - (255.59KB, 1044x748, hakurei at night.jpg) [iqdb]
186349
You decide to take a look inside the shrine. It's more of a house than an impressive building like the temple. There's very little in the way of decoration in the hallway and a series of sliding doors further in hide what feels like are living spaces. Where are people supposed to worship? Maybe they do it outside. But what if it rains? Maybe they just get wet because religious stuff is serious, at least to priests, judging by your experiences earlier.

It's all very neat inside. Even with your shoes off, you're mindful of the fact that you got dirty because of the woods. You try not to lean up against anything so as to not leave marks. It might be dark inside but that's no excuse to leave a mess. You stumble upon a kitchen by going through a random door. It's well-organized but a little cramped and a half-open cupboard reveals that meals seem to mostly be rice and a few sorry-looking vegetables.

You're pretty sure that no one is home. You walk carefully, feeling out of place, but don't hear anything or see anyone. The shrine is pretty small and so you explore it all fairly quickly. The only real signs of recent activity are fact, a couple of cups in a small room off at the back of the shrine. There's a small porch there and a small lamp is still shining dimly. There's four cups and one of them is still half-full with tea but they're all cold to the touch.

You go back around the front to put on your shoes. There's a small building detached from the shrine in the back. That's the next place to check.

Oh, it has a large lock on the door that probably weighs as much as you do.

“I'm really not in the mood to deal with someone trying to steal from me,” you turn around to find a girl standing behind you, her arms crossed. In the pale moonlight you can make out enough detail to instantly know that it's the shrine maiden. Stories about the red white girl and the wake of destruction that follows her is well known to just about everyone. Anyone who tries to play around or be even just a little bit naughty are quickly exterminated.

You tense up, feeling that you ought to choose your words carefully. You're so afraid of getting blown away by her that you can't even properly appreciate that cute frilled ribbon of hers. “I-I'm not a thief,” you manage to stammer.

“Sure you're not,” she says, her body language none-too-inviting, “go away and leave me alone. I'm through dealing with troublemakers for today.”

“I'd b-be glad to,” you say, mustering up all the courage that's left in your bones, “but I'm looking for someone that's come here.”

“You better not mean those annoying youkai from earlier,” she shakes her head, “some people just don't take the hint that they're not welcome.”

“I mean the priestess from the other temple,” you say, “they were supposed to talk about something important.”

“Those are the ones I meant,” the girl chuckles, piling on another insult, “I'm nice enough to leave them and their ship alone - that despite them being jerks who think that they're better than everyone else. They still insist on making trouble for everyone, messing with those stupid stones. I chased them the hell away from here and even managed to score a hit in. I bet that self-righteous woman will think twice in the future before telling me junk like that it would be best for me that I cooperate with her. As if I would for something so stupid!”

“Getting along is nice,” you tell her, “Byakuren is a nice lady.”

“You don't know her like I do,” the girl shakes her head, frowning, “at any rate, I'm sure she's gone back to her temple to lick her wounds and continue to be boring. Go annoy her there and leave me alone.”

“But it was important that we talk about the stones! I wanted everyone to cooperate,” you say without thinking.

“It's bad enough that I have Marisa coming in and trying to get me to look into this, as if it was an incident,” she sighs, “I don't want to hear this from a rude little thief. I'm going to give the ones I took from those temple people to her and let her sort out this mess. Since it glows under moonlight it's got to be the handiwork of those moon weirdos. And I don't want anything else to do with them.”

“I'm helping Marisa and Mr. Morichika too,” you say, “I've been collecting stones for them because my pendant was-”

“I really don't want to hear it,” she sighs, “if Marisa and Rinnosuke know you are involved, go sort it out with them.”

[] But Marisa is dumb and you would do anything she wanted if she gave you the stones.
[] There's more stones elsewhere so it's not worth risking getting exterminated.


---

I waited as much as I could but I flipped a coin before cutting it too close to not being able to make it in time to update.
No. 186350
[x] But Marisa is dumb and you would do anything she wanted if she gave you the stones.

Being nice and polite isn't getting us anywhere. Time to beg, borrow, and steal.
No. 186351
[x] But Marisa is dumb and you would do anything she wanted if she gave you the stones.
No. 186352
[x] But Marisa is dumb and you would do anything she wanted if she gave you the stones.

It's true.
No. 186355
[X] There's more stones elsewhere so it's not worth risking getting exterminated.
No. 186362
[x] There's more stones elsewhere so it's not worth risking getting exterminated.

No sense in asking her for the stones if she's so convinced we're a thief. Guess we picked the wrong choice before.
No. 186365
[x] There's more stones elsewhere so it's not worth risking getting exterminated.
No. 186386
As soon as it's clear to her that you're going away, she becomes a little nicer. Her arms uncross and her expression softens. She escorts you to the front of the shrine and even wishes you a good night. With a sigh, she warns, “try not to get taken advantage of. Powerful youkai and magicians don't tend to care about the collateral damage.”

You nod and fly away, not really sure what's with her change in attitude. It doesn't take very long for you to orient yourself properly when you're in the sky; using mountains and the lake as reference points you can get just about anywhere in Gensokyo. The tricky bit is flying around without attracting too much attention. It's extra tough when the moon is out, since she likes to make things in the sky stand out when they're bathed in her silvery night. The reasonable solution is to fly close to the tops of the trees so you stand out less. It means you've gotta be careful not to get distracted and accidentally hit the occasional really tall tree.

There's really not much else you can do at night. Skimming the top of the forest is as much excitement as you're ready to handle. Running into another youkai would be terrible. You scuffed up your dress running and not to mention that you could probably do with a bath. So you decide to head on home.

Luckily, you manage to make it in one piece. It's a secret location by a few trees near a stream. Humans and most youkai wouldn't even know it was there unless they knew what to look for. Your cozy little home is as welcoming as always, with your various knickknacks proudly on display all along the interior. After washing off some of the grime you've accumulated during the day with water you collected from the stream, you change into something a little more comfortable and get to work.

The bits of string, cloth and other sewing materials you have are all in a small chest in the back. You fetch the chest and light a candle and place it on your small table. Carefully and methodically, you darn and mend your dress, restoring it to a more acceptable state. You swap out a few of the buttons since one of them fell off and it wouldn't do to have them not match one another. When you're satisfied, you put the dress away and decide to turn in early.

You put out all the lights. The stone glows stronger than the previous night, so you put it under your pillow. It's safe there and it won't keep you from falling asleep. Since you ran around a lot and met a lot of different people, you're pretty tired. Sleep finds you easily.

In the morning, you eat a few biscuits with some jam you still have around. You get dressed and fix up your hair, making sure that you look as cute as possible. There's a smile on your lips as you look yourself over in a mirror. Maybe it's also there because of the really nice dream you had. You and all of your friends were together and you were telling them the most incredible story about adventure and bravery that they ever heard. The cheers made you feel great and the pendant around your neck felt comforting as always.

You look down at the stone in your hands. It's gone green now, like some sort of clear grass color. The shrine maiden's words echo in your head. The thing is, you really don't know where else to go. You've gone through most of the names on the list and you don't recognize where you're supposed to go.

[] Go see Marisa to sort out how to best gather the remaining stones.
[] Try your luck going somewhere important and looking by yourself.
No. 186390
[x] Go see Marisa to sort out how to best gather the remaining stones.

I think we'd have won the competition if we didn't sneaked up on the shrine.
Oh well, we should let Marisa know that a few of them are waiting for her in the shrine.
No. 186391
[X] Go see Marisa to sort out how to best gather the remaining stones.
No. 186392
[x] Try your luck going somewhere important and looking by yourself.

Marisa a poop.
No. 186395
[x] Go see Marisa to sort out how to best gather the remaining stones.
No. 186400
[x] Go see Marisa to sort out how to best gather the remaining stones.
No. 186406
[x] Go see Marisa to sort out how to best gather the remaining stones.
No. 186420
File 144883945729.png - (475.86KB, 600x839, wakey wakey.png) [iqdb]
186420
It's another beautiful morning outside. It's been about a week since there was any rain and the sky is still mostly cloudless. Perfect weather for flying, in other words. You hum a little song to yourself as you soar through the sky. Ms. Keine said that Marisa lived in the woods so it can't be too hard to find where she lives.

As it turns out, it only takes you about a half hour of flying over the Forest of Magic to find what you think is her home. It's not a very big house and is in a style different to most of the homes in the village. Parts of the walls are covered with vines and shrubs and the whole place looks like it might be consumed by the forest within the next year. Instead of flowers, like you've seen some humans care for in their homes, there are instead a whole bunch of different-colored mushrooms scattered both on the front and the side of the building. You approach and find that there's a sign on the door. You can't read the top bit but the bottom bit asks what you're going to do.

You knock on the door. There's no immediate reply. So you knock again, a little louder. You wait. Still nothing. So you knock yet again, even harder. The sound of movement comes from within. You can hear wood creaking and a general clamor as something falls and other things are knocked about. You stand back as the door opens and reveals a scowling Marisa dressed in her smallclothes. “We're not open yet,” she stifles a yawn without even really looking at you. The slender girl looks like she's still half-asleep.

It's pretty indecent to show herself off like that! Even if a camisole and bloomers aren't too daring… it's still not really the way one should answer the door. “I'm here to talk about the stones!” you bark out, really annoyed. Her hair is all frazzled and she hasn't done up her braid. That was the best part of her look, too.

Marisa rubs her eyes, and looks right at you. Clearly you gave her a jolt as she seems to snap out of it. With a smile on her lips, she greets you, ”my, if it isn't Hanako the Fearless! I knew you were still alive. Kourin doubted your chances of making it and went so far as paying for your funeral. Me? I knew you had it in you to survive.”

“Um, that doesn't sound true,” you tell her. Mr. Morichika barely knows you and even though he's nice, why would he arrange for a funeral? You decide that it's just Marisa being dumb and try to move past it, adding, “I got a few more stones but I think that it's time we worked together directly.”

“Sure, sure,” Marisa says, quickly regaining her energy, “I'll get dressed and we can do something about it. Come on in.”

Marisa quickly retreats into her home and disappears to a room to the right. Go inside and find that the main area is a complete mess. It's hard to describe just how big of a mess it its. There are stacks of books here and there, things that look like junk and other things that look like treasure casually strewn around the room like they're all equally worthless. And then there were the truly weird, like oddly-shaped potted plants and cupboards full of dark and opaque jars. From what you can tell there isn't any organization of any kind to the space. You think that she might simply come in carrying stuff and toss it on the floor without looking. Surprisingly, however, the space doesn't smell too bad. A bit earthy, is all.

You spend a few minutes trying to make sense of some of the objects you see. “Hey, Hana,” Marisa talks to you from the other room, “feel free to make yourself at home but careful because some of the things I have there are magical and can hurt you if you don't know how to use them. Don't eat any of the mushrooms either. Even if they look really tasty!”

“As if I'd just eat any strange mushroom I saw!” you shout back to her, shaking your head. How can she live like this? You take care of your few precious possessions. Seeing her have no respect for any of her stuff is just heart-breaking.

At last, Marisa emerges. She's fully dressed. Her hair's been combed and her braid's been done up – she's even up a green little ribbon on it. “Right, right, so about those stones,” she smiles, holding up a green ball in her hand, “I think I've got most of them. This orb probably doesn't get much bigger.”

“I've got this much,” you show her your much smaller stone, “and the shrine maiden has a bit more that she'll give you. She wouldn't give it to me!” you complain.

“Ah yeah, Reimu is kinda like that. Doesn't trust anyone she doesn't know. Something about youkai always blowing up her home or causing trouble,” Marisa laughs, “you shouldn't pout though. Because I'm totally not going to be able to resist hugging ya.”

“I'm not pouting!”

“Sure,” she laughs again, “but that's not really important. Let's go get that stone right away. Afterwards we can decide what to do next.”

Marisa grabs her hat from a peg on the wall and puts it on. Then she grabs a broom that's propped up against the wall. She heads out, urging you to come along. You follow her and watch as she sits on the bamboo handle and beings to fly up to the sky.

What a weird way to fly! Wings are so much better.

You follow her and she slows down so you can keep up with her. Though the shrine isn't that far away by air, the trip still gives you time to talk a little bit. She tells you that she's been a lot of places over the last two days, looking for the stones. “Those tengu sure as stingy!” she chuckles, “they really won't let you borrow anything anymore. And don't even get me started on the kappa… but at least the moon weirdos were helpful. Good manners too, that was some good tea.”

Marisa continues to cut back and forth between the various places she's been and the people she talked to, offering very little in the way of coherent storytelling. But it's okay. When it's your turn to talk, you don't do much better, mixing in meeting Ms. Keine with the temple people and sleeping over with Ms. Yuuka.

“Rare of her to just like anyone that easily,” she comments as she begins to set down. The shrine looks completely different in the daylight; the small building seems far more welcoming and less run-down. The shrine maiden is out front, sweeping away. Marisa calls out to her, her voice trailing a bit, “good morning, Reimu~!”

“Oh, hi there, Marisa,” the shrine maiden smiles as she sees who it is. She looks at you, too, but it's more with curiosity than with warmth.

“My little friend Hanako here told me you had something for me?” Marisa jumps right to it.

“I got stones from those annoying buddhists,” she says, “hold on a second and I'll go fetch it.”

Marisa nods and then starts whistling as the shrine maiden enters the building. She pats you on the head, which is a little annoying but also somehow comforting. It's her way of telling you that everything is right with the world. At least she hasn't mussed it up.

The shrine maiden returns, carrying a stone of a similar size to yours. “Here you go,” she hands it over to Marisa, “just destroy the stupid thing when you can. Nothing good can come from youkai wanting it.”

“Thanks, Reimu,” Marisa nods, “but you should have just given it to Hana here in the first place. Woulda saved me the trip.”

“Excuse me for not trusting someone who was prowling around at night in the shrine. If she's a friend of yours she better not pick up that terrible habit you have of just taking things you want.”

“Don't sweat it!” Marisa giggles, “it's like what I always tell the others: life is too short to worry about who's taken what where. Besides, your real problem here is that she's really cute but not a human. So you're all jealous!”

“That's stupid,” the shrine maiden shakes her head and sighs.

“You have a soft spot for youkai, admit it! You might talk about exterminating them all the time but I've been around when you're having a good time with the others. All smiles, no scary face,” Marisa says playfully.

“They're just a pain in the neck,” the shrine maiden says. And then turns to you, leaning down and speaking softly, “I know your kind is naturally curious, likes to play around a lot and be cheery. So try not to learn anything weird from Marisa, okay? It won't be good for you.”

“Oh shush, I'm a good influence. I like her and she likes me. Plus she gets along with Kourin, so that's a plus,” Marisa states.

“Oho~, a love triangle?” Reimu stands up straight again and folds her arms across her chest. Instead of appearing menacing, like yesterday, she looks like incredibly approachable. She continues to tease Marisa, adding, “careful you don't lose out. Like you said, she is rather cute. Not to mention that she seems to have rather better manners than you do.”

“Shaddup, it's not like that,“ Marisa frowns, “I don't think of him in that way. But, all the same, you shouldn't be filling her head with this nonsense.”

“Oh, so you're suddenly the responsible one here? Let me remind you about what happened last time we were together in the village,” Reimu laughs, clearly enjoying leaving Marisa scrambling for a comeback.

“Really now, you're just being spiteful. Why bring that up at all? Poor Hanako is going to think that all shrine maidens are mean and bossy.”

[] Marisa is dumb sometimes but she's also nice and you like her. So no more teasing.
[] Reimu isn't so bad, after all. Her hair tubes and ribbon are also nice.
[] It's not like Mr. Morichika would be interested in you anyways!
[] Stay out of it because you're a good girl.
No. 186422
[X] Stay out of it because you're a good girl.
No. 186423
[X] Reimu isn't so bad, after all. Her hair tubes and ribbon are also nice.
No. 186425
[x] Reimu isn't so bad, after all. Her hair tubes and ribbon are also nice.
No. 186427
[X] Reimu isn't so bad, after all. Her hair tubes and ribbon are also nice.
No. 186428
File 144885301490.jpg - (587.79KB, 734x592, sad person.jpg) [iqdb]
186428
[x] Reimu isn't so bad, after all. Her hair tubes and ribbon are also nice.
Reimu is loev
No. 186435
[X] Stay out of it because you're a good girl.
No. 186461
[x] Reimu isn't so bad, after all. Her hair tubes and ribbon are also nice.
No. 186463
“She's not mean and bossy!” you cut in, “Reimu is nice. I really like the stuff in her hair. It makes her hair look cool.”

“Even you?!” Marisa sighs, defeated as Reimu laughs.

“Face it, your little friend knows how to tell between good people and bad people,” Reimu says and turns to you, “your hair isn't too bad either. It's clear that you care about your appearance. Which is more than I can say for certain people who are always half-assing everything.”

“You think that braids just happen without effort?” Marisa shakes her head, “this awesome getup took me a while to put together too. I'm a trend setter!”

“You're something alright,” Reimu shakes her head, smirking.

“Okay, fine, don't appreciate my awesomeness!” Marisa puffs, “I think it's about time we get going, anyhow. That is, if Hanako minds removing the knife she plunged in my back.”

“So dramatic,” Reimu rolls her eyes, “go on then. You take care of her because she's liable to go wild if unsupervised,” she tells you.

Marisa takes off and you scramble after her. You wave goodbye at Reimu and smile as she watches you fly away. It's only once that you're in the air that Marisa speaks to you again. It seems that she wants to ignore what just happened, changing the subject to the stone. Setting a course towards the lake, she tells you, “there's really only one place that I've been patient at and I'm no longer feeling very patient. So we're going to go get the large stone and with that we should have nearly all of them.”

It's fairly obvious where you're going as you cross over the lake. She speeds through, ignoring the walls and the large gate that's some distance from the weird building. Why is it so red? And why does it look like nothing else in Gensokyo? Why is there a big clock on top of the building? You know that there are fairies that like to dress up who live there too but they're not the ones that own the place.

“Is it really okay for us to just go in unannounced?” you ask, feeling plenty nervous. It's the first time that you've been to this side of the lake, let alone this close to the mansion. The large, oddly semi-windowless, walls are imposing. It's more like a great wall than a home. Since you keep hearing all sorts of weird rumors about the place, you've normally steered clear before. It's a place only for strong youkai since you're pretty sure that even humans don't come around much.

“It's fine, trust me,” Marisa says, bringing you around the side of the building. You cross over a large and elaborate garden, full of pretty flowers and carefully-trimmed shrubs. From the air, you see that they form patterns and shapes, like a checker box of green and red in one part. There's a few tall trees near the fence, making the whole outdoor space isolated from the rest of the world. She leads you onward to a wing of the building that has even less windows. Through a small side door you're led into a vast room, one that feels like it'd be impossible to fit in the section you saw from the outside.

From nearly top to bottom, as far as you can see, countless shelves full of even more books line every wall and surface. Large lamps hang from the ceiling in between rows of shelves, providing ample illumination. It must be impossible to find anything here! You can't see any way anyone could possibly look for a specific book and not be driven mad.

“Come on, quit staring and let's go,” Marisa nudges you and leads you down a corridor of bookshelves. It's oddly quiet in the library. Large spaces like these have a lot of echo, you thought. Maybe it's the carpet that's muffling all your steps so completely. The plush red floor feels really padded. Still, you feel like it'd be wrong to try to see if there was an echo at all. So you just follow silently as she guides you through a few more turns and to a central area.

Marisa clearly doesn't have the same respect for quiet that you do. “Heyo!” she calls out to someone, shattering the silence. There's a girl sitting at a large round table, piles of books all around her. The piles remind you a little of the clutter at Marisa's home except that they're neatly stacked as opposed to just thrown anywhere.

The two of you approach her. She doesn't bother to acknowledge your presence until you've basically come up next to her. “I've told you that you shouldn't yell here,” she says, looking up from a book. Her deep dark eyes are the same unnatural color as her hair. In fact, her whole appearance is dominated by shades of purple – clear lilac and violet seem to be the main ones. You judge her outfit almost immediately – it looks comfortable but isn't cute at all. You probably won't borrow anything from her appearance.

Even though you spend your time looking her over, she doesn't so much as even glance in your direction. Her stare is hard and reserved for Marisa only.

“Not even a, 'hello dear friend, it's been months since I last saw you, how the hell have you been'?”

“I saw you yesterday,” the girl says quietly but firmly, “and I told you not to yell then too.”

“Okay, so, did you talk to her?” Marisa asks, shrugging.

“We spoke,” the girl nods, “Remi is still unwilling to look at the bigger picture. To her it's a worthy bauble, one that's to be made into a fine ring.”

“I guess I'll just have to borrow it then!” Marisa laughs, “whether she wants to lend it or not!”

“Don't do it here,” the girl says, “the help I have is barely competent at restocking the shelves.”

“Okay, well, have you looked up the necessary magic for afterwards?”

“Of course I have,” the girl smiles. It's a smile of clear confidence, as if to ask who do you think you're talking to?

“Right, no time like the present then!” Marisa says excitedly, beginning to move away at a brisk pace. You follow as the girl returns to her book, apparently uninterested in what happens next.

“Um, where are we going now?” you ask, mustering up the courage to speak up in the library.

“We're off to remind a vampire that she sucks. More than just blood, that is!” Marisa laughs at her own stupid joke. “Stick close by since things are going to get really exciting soon. Overwhelming assault at full power ought to do the trick. Get the stone when she's distracted, possibly dazed and overcome by my awesome power. Think you can do that? We should be in and out in two minutes.”

“Um… maybe?” you really aren't sure. Things are moving way too fast. Nobody said anything about a vampire! As you leave the library, you enter a large corridor full of paintings and expensive-looking tables and lamps. Marisa leads with a smile and in the distance you see people scurrying away. They're too far away to get a close look at what they are. Up the stairs and down another corridor. Finally you stand in front an impressive set of double doors. There's gold trimmings and everything on the frame.

“Ready?” Marisa asks.

[] Ready! Follow her lead.
[] Hug Marisa to stop her. Vampires are too scary!
No. 186464
[X] Ready! Follow her lead.
No. 186465
[x] Hug Marisa to stop her. Vampires are too scary!

Being adorable has worked for us so far.
No. 186468
[x] Hug Marisa to stop her. Vampires are too scary!

Never not hugs.
No. 186473
[x] Hug Marisa to stop her. Vampires are too scary!
No. 186476
[x] Ready! Follow her lead.
No. 186483
[x] Ready! Follow her lead.
No. 186488
[x] Hug Marisa to stop her. Vampires are too scary!

nooooo stop
No. 186491
[X] Ready! Follow her lead.
No. 186492
[x] Hug Marisa to stop her. Vampires are too scary!
No. 186493
File 144901447334.jpg - (57.83KB, 680x772, dc1.jpg) [iqdb]
186493
[x] Ready! Follow her lead.

I'm ready.
No. 186494
I skipped the day today because the carnival is over and I thought I might as well let myself be lazy. It also helped that the votes were tied for a lot of the day so that gave me an excuse to wait and not write. They're tied yet again so I missed my window to write for today. But it's okay, I'll get to it tomorrow morning when hopefully there's a tiebreak. If not, coinflip again.

I plan to finish this story so don't worry if you were wondering if it would be abandoned post carnival. It won't take that long, I think. I can definitely keep up with daily updates but I might go a bit faster or slower depending on votes and my schedule. Thanks for reading thus far. There'll be a new thread going forward.
No. 186497
[X] Ready! Follow her lead.


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