You are a necromancer. As a practitioner of what many in the magical world revile, you have been forced to skulk in the darkness to seek precious knowledge. It is in the shadows of humanity, far away from the any civilized denizens, that you have faced countless horrors. The simplest, the giant half-spiders that could bisect a man with the strength in their legs or the mutated locust swarms that could deafen a town and strip it bear of life in under an hour, would be enough to drive any modern human into a panicked frenzy.
Such mundane worries don’t trouble you. You have seen worse. You have encountered the raving madman looking to resurrect his daughter. The self-proclaimed scientist preyed upon a small village, kidnapping women in the night, dragging them kicking and screaming to his underground lair where he strapped them to a blood-soaked table where he sawed off their limbs, sliced open their bellies, and extracted their throbbing organs. He entrapped their souls with magitechnical devices and slowly picked those women apart, stripping skin and gouging brain matter to see what effects the body and mind had on the soul.
You animated the mutilated corpses that were discarded in the corner and mobbed the madman. Then you cut apart his stitched together doll of a daughter who could only weep blood all night long. She was unreasonably, unfortunately, durable.
You have infiltrated the gibbering cults that worshipped astral nightmares. They had rituals for summoning tentacled monsters that would punch a hole in a man’s chest, chewing through his fleshy innards and tunneling into his chest cavity to nibble at the victim’s heart.
All manner of demons and devils have assailed you, brought forth by powerful Satanists. Some demons were towering in stature, the fiery generals of Hell capable of crushing you underneath a hooved foot. Devils little more than whispered words on the air have attempted to subvert your mind and subsume your thoughts.
You have encountered the abominations of your ‘fellow’ practitioners more than you care to count. You have watched a seemingly normal woman approach you, howling bloody murder as she dug her nails into her skin. She ripped off the flesh from her face and chest, revealing a host of magically-imbued maggots that cascaded forth from the Swiss-cheese of her pungent meaty bits.
You’re not ashamed to say you’ve run from these horrors more often than you fought. Unlike most unfortunate humans, you had a little bit of magic to help facilitate your escape.
And in most of the cases, you managed to keep your sanity and think out a plan that helped you kill those God-forsaken fuckers. Or at least, get someone else to do it for you.
Which is why, as you sit here on a tombstone in the middle of the night with a short turquoise-haired girl hanging over your shoulder, you can’t really muster much fear at all.
Sure, she might be able to crush you silly like most of the little girls in this nonsensical sealed realm, but she is not the picture of terror.
Her umbrella is a little freaky with how it’s gazing down at you like a tasty meal. Her heterochromatic eyes might upset some God-fearing farmer from the medieval ages. Her shouted cry of ‘Boo!’ could probably scare the crap out of a baby.
With all that in mind you react in the only sensible way.
You scream and tumble forward, carefully controlling your fall and roll so you come to a stop with your back against a different tombstone.
The turquoise -haired girl’s eyes go wide for a moment before she throws her arms up in the air in delight. “I did it!” she giggles. Her umbrella floats next to her, bobbing up and down in a joyful way.
You grunt and stand up. You sweep the dust off your pants and grumble, “Well, I’m glad someone is happy about almost giving me a heart attack.”
The youkai giggles again and pulls herself up onto your former seat. She leans forward at you while kicking her legs in the air. “Hey, were you really? I’ve never managed that before!”
“It’s possible,” you state. A quick glance at the girl with your mage sight proves completely underwhelming. She’s a youkai, sure, but not a beacon of death and destruction like some of these other girls. Feeling rather confident, you take a step closer to her. “Do you do this often Ms…?”
“Kogasa! Kogasa Tatara!” she gleefully answers. “I’m here ALL the time!”
Is she? You’ve never seen- well, you haven’t really come back to this cemetery after your first visit all those nights ago. You spend more time in Muenzuka with all the dead outsiders than here.
Did Byakuren ever mention someone haunting the temple’s cemetery? I don’t believe it ever came up.
“All the time?” you ask. “Even during the day?”
“Well, no,” she admits before jumping to the ground. “I can’t surprise people during the day! I like coming around just before the sun starts to set. I can watch the last of the visitors leave and then catch any stragglers! Or, sometimes, one of the temple monks comes through for cleaning and I surprise them!”
She slams one fist into the palm of her hand, hammering home her point.
Then she stops. Slowly, ever so slowly, you see her back begin to hunch.
“Well,” she continues on in a less exuberant tone. “I try to surprise them. I really do! I make sure to find the old man that doesn’t want to leave his grandson or the daughter that misses her mother.”
Kogasa…deflates. You watch her knees slowly bend and her arms slip to her sides. Even her floating umbrella closes in on itself.
“I try really hard to make it perfect. They’re alone and its getting dark and they’re already a bit sad and I even make sure not to try too often so they won’t expect me…”
She hits the ground and hugs her knees to her chest. You kneel in the dirt so you can hear her slightly muffled words better.
“B-But they usually don’t even scream! They may not notice me or just give me a glance and sigh and walk home or- or sometimes the monks shake their heads or- or they scold me! They tell me I’m not scary and I- I- sh-should just-“
Kogasa sniffs and shakes, her words slowly becoming unintelligible. You- Oh geez, would it be a bad time to leave- YES.
Okay! You weren’t going to anyway! It’s just, ugh, now there’s this crying child and- She’s probably older than you are!
Whatever! Now she’s just bawling into her knees and what the hell can you even do? Sure you can sing a few songs you copied form your mentor and hug someone but- Just get to it!
You inch closer, trying to put as much warmth in your voice as possible. “Hey Koga-hurk!”
She barrels into you and wraps her short arms around your chest, sobbing into the front of your jacket. You sigh and hug the girl back, rocking her gently from side to side. Above you, the umbrella glares down at you and- okay, that’s a little freaky with its massive tongue wagging in the air.
“There, there,” you ineffectually whisper, giving the girl a few pats on the back. You hum the melody to a little hymn, the long and drawn out notes bringing stability to a chaotic and unsure life.
Eventually, the girl’s sobs grow weaker to the point where she may be able to hear you. “Hey, Kogasa?”
“Mmm?” she mumbles.
“Feeling a bit better?”
“A-A little,” she admits, carefully looking up at you. Her eyes are puffy and red while her face is- ew. You reach into a pocket and pull out a cloth to wipe her face. She crinkles her nose and shuts her eyes as you do so.
“T-Thanks,” she whispers, a little smile reaching lips.
“Not a problem.” What is a problem is the fact that you have a little girl that was bawling her eyes out in your grasp.
Really, it shouldn’t be a problem. Your problem, at any rate. You just met her when all she wanted was to scare the life out of you. But- We’re helping.
Of course. “Can you tell me something, Kogasa?”
“W-What?” she asks even as she nods furiously.
“Is not being able to surprise random people worth crying about?”
You’re afraid that your question would start off another explosion of waterworks, but thankfully that doesn’t come. Instead, Kogasa mutely nods her head and snuggles closer to you.
After remaining quiet for another minute, Kogasa elaborates. “Y-Yeah. I t-try r-really really hard but it just n-never works and t-then they’re so m-mean about it even t-though I try and try and I’m j-just really really hungry but it d-doesn’t work and and it never ever- But then I surprised you! Y-You said y-you were surprised and I was r-really happy a-about it b-but I’m still r-really hungry and and-”
You tighten your arms around the youkai girl and she falls back into silence, curling up into your arms.
Hungry, huh? That puts a spin on it. Maybe she’s just literally hungry? She probably is, too, but you’re dealing with a youkai. Feasting on a person’s fear is…actually a lot more normal than you’d expect from this ridiculous place.
Lunarian genius? Horrors from the beyond? Last living heir to a clan that was a regional power? A Buddhist-turned demon-disciple-turned Buddhist? You have no fucking clue how to deal with all that.
You grin. “Hey Kogasa?”
“Maybe you can’t tell from looking at me, but I try to scare people too.”
“You do?” she asks, her eyes filling with an inquisitive glint. “But, you aren’t a youkai?”
“No, I’m not. Do you know what a Necromancer is?”
She shakes her head. “It’s a type of human?”
“Yeah. Most people don’t like us because we do a lot of things that scare them. Want me to tell you about it?”
You came out to the cemetery to clear your head, to try and take a breather from the roller coaster of the past few days. You started this trip fuming and irrationally angry because you were too afraid to confront all those confusing emotions that your relationship with Byakuren bubbles up.
You can’t say you hashed out any long-term plans. You still don’t know how you’re going to approach Byakuren and the anxiousness from Tewi’s attempt to get you the Necronomicon from Eirin doesn’t help matters.
Yet, as you sit on the cobblestone path of the cemetery, you’re confident you have your brain in a good space. For now, at least. You’ll have to apologize to Shou, and Ichirin, and all the other disciples.
That’s all problems for tomorrow morning.
You while away the night whispering stories and advice to an enraptured audience. “Every person is scared by something different; humans are pretty inconsistent like that. A child and bugs or a parent for their child aren’t at all constant. A spooky atmosphere is a…”
The chanting of the monks awakens you. They’re actually a rather useful alarm clock since otherwise you would wake with the sun – several hours too late for the rest of the temple.
You don’t want to leave your futon. It’s warm and there’s a comfortable weight on your arms. Turning your head to your left, you smile as you find Yoshika clinging to your arm and- no, that’s abnormal. Usually she’s just cradling your arm, careful not to crush your weak human flesh. Today she’s squeezing your arm, tightly, more than capable of waking you up if you were less exhausted.
Once she notices you stirring, Yoshika’s gaze switches from your chest to your face. She’s glaring- then she smiles, a warm gurgle of “Master~” greeting you. You smile and reach to ruffle-
You don’t reach over to ruffle her hair, because your right arm doesn’t move.
You glance over to your right and find a certain turquoise-haired girl snoozing atop your arm. She has it mushed against the ground with her body as she rests her head on your shoulder.
Glancing back to the left, you find Yoshika glaring once more. Not at your chest, as you assumed, but at the other unexpected occupant of this futon.
The shaking of your body draws a growl from Yoshika and awakens the youkai on your right.
“Mrhhm?” Kogasa murmurs, her eyes not cracking open as she tries to readjust her position and return to sleep. When you sit up all the way her bed becomes vertical and she’s forced to open her eyes.
She sleepily looks up at you and smiles. “Morning,” she yawns. “Dish I ssuurprise yah?” After rubbing her eyes twice, Kogasa looks remarkably more alert. “What are we doing today?” she asks.
Yoshika growls louder.
[ ] Evict the umbrella [ ] Keep the umbrella
[ ] Breakfast first! [ ] Find Byakuren, now. [ ] See if Shou is still in her hole [ ] Visit Ichirin [ ] <Write-in>
Onwards! My inability to maintain a steady update rate for significant amounts of time will not stop me!
>>186757 I need a fire underneath my ass to stoke my motivation.
On second thought, maybe don't wait. I went on IRC and asked about it; they said the admin has to manually run the archive script. This normally happens roughly every six months and the last update was in November. If you bug Kapow about it on IRC you might get it done faster. Sorry I can't be any more help.
Despite however much Yoshika wants to growl, it seems like Kogasa is dead set on ignoring her. Childish but, unfortunately, super effective.
This…could be a problem.
Maybe Yoshika will learn to be a bit less spoiled with a sister to take share attention with?
And yet, both of them are over ten times older than you. Strange how the world works like that.
The umbrella tsukumogami’s gaze almost shifted away from you when it looked like Yoshika was about to lunge forward and bite her. Naturally, since it seemed like Yoshika really was going to try and bite her, you nudged the jiang-shi to stop with your shoulder.
“So!” you interrupt the growing tension, “How about breakfast?”
That should be enough to- Whoa!
Yoshika is up an instant and using her inhuman strength to lift you to your feet. Kogasa comes along for the ride, squeaking in surprise but managing to firmly keep hold of your arm. You have to snag your jacket off the floor with your foot before Yoshika drags you out of the room.
Maybe you just need to carry some snacks with you to defuse any situation in the future?
I’m surprised you didn’t decide to go tearing through the temple to find Byakuren or something.
Why would you? If you didn’t go crazy searching for her last night, more waiting won’t kill you.
Well, good. I’m glad.
It turns out you can act somewhat civilized if you try. And have a night to de-stress.
The three of you reach the kitchens in record time, a wide grin plastered on Yoshika’s face. It seems like meals are one of the few times Yoshika readily relinquishes your arm, the jiang-shi needing both hands to carry the tray piled high with food. You would have thought that the cooks for the day would learn that Yoshika eats anything, but they nonetheless always seem so glad that someone is excited to eat their food.
Except Nue. She’s always a grump.
“Here, Kogasa,” you guide the lost-looking umbrella along the line, pointing out the workings of the temple to her. The disciples manning the breakfast line are all smiles for the turquoise-haired youkai. They give you a few questioning looks, of course, but thankfully its more due to the new face than you yourself.
The three of you take your meal outside, eating under the burgeoning sunlight. Monks chant and spar, eat and stretch. Some doze, curling up for a nap underneath the decks. It’s just like any other morning in the temple, the chilly autumn air not long too last.
On one side, Yoshika pours bowl after bowl of porridge down her gullet like a vacuum cleaner. On the other, Kogasa daintily picks at a biscuit. “What’s wrong Kogasa?” you ask. “Not hungry?”
“Huh? Ah, no, uhm,” she stammers. The guilty look on her face lasts until she stuffs the biscuit completely into her mouth. Eventually, she manages to break it down and swallow. “It’s just not quite…complete?”
Something you guessed at before, then. “Regular food isn’t enough to keep you filled?”
“It…is? It mostly is! I won’t die of hunger or anything as long as I eat, but there’s always a feeling of…emptiness? If I don’t surprise anybody.”
You nod your head along at Kogasa’s description. Her condition, if it can be called that, isn’t unusual. If her hunger is like how some spirits operate then she’s hungering for soul.
Not as dramatic as it sounds, of course. A human soul is plenty resilient and capable of repairing any minor damage to itself just like the rest of the human body or mind. If Kogasa scares a little bit of soul out of people then her victims probably aren’t too worse for wear.
Something about her wording though… “Can it just be a surprise, something unexpected, instead of an actual scare or fright?” Not quite the norm if true. Taking bits of soul generally requires something more violent than an unusual experience.
“I think so?” she responds.
You shake your head at her hesitance. It must be terrible not knowing exactly how to scratch that itch of hers. “Well, if that’s the case, then you’re in luck. It’s actually very easy to surprise most humans without a scare. Just show them something slightly unusual, something completely opposite of what they expect based on their societal norms.”
For a second you’re afraid your phrasing is a bit beyond Kogasa but your fear is unfounded.
“How do I know what’s normal for them, though?” she asks you.
“Watch them,” you shrug. Observation is a good first step.
“Okay!” Kogasa cheers. As if filled with renewed determination the umbrella youkai begins to tear into her breakfast.
You swear that Yoshika picks up her eating pace as well.
Geez. This can’t bode well for the future.
At least this will give you great experience for dealing with children!
…Isn’t your sister jumping the gun there?
Can’t I think about things like this?
Hm. You’d rather think about useful things, like what are you going to say to the others?
Sorry Shou, I shouldn’t have picked at your largest insecurities?
Sorry Ichirin, I didn’t mean to make you put your close friend into the floor?
Thanks for protecting me from the wild tiger lady?
Sorry for calling you wild?
If you’re being serious…
Sometimes it’s hard to tell! But no, even you can do better than that.
It’s fairly obvious where you went wrong, and why. Your temper and your worry got the better of you – unacceptable, but what happened happened. You hope explaining that to the others will be enough of a reason for them to consider accepting your apology.
You’ll probably need to do something further, too. Offer to do their chores? Buy them something nice? As scary as handing out something as nebulous as a favor is, it’s probably called for. The follow-up to the apology needs some thinking upon.
Unless Eirin comes rampaging out of the bamboo forest with an army at her back, you should have plenty of time to think of something reasonable.
After a few minutes of pleasant fuel consumption, something unordinary occurs. A line of youkai nine strong goes marching into the kitchen area. The dirty and unkempt youkai are ones you haven’t seen before. They look like different types of beasts, something like dogs and cats. More importantly, Minamitsu is at their rear, shepherding them into the dining hall with a none-too-pleased expression.
That she has her ghostly anchor materialized and resting on her shoulder might mean something.
[ ] Go bother Minamitsu [ ] Search for Byakuren [ ] Apologize to Shou [ ] Talk with Ichirin [ ] Check on Nazrin [ ] Should probably wash up [ ] <Write-in>
>>186775 I have a downloaded copy of each thread after it finishes, as well as all my own original manuscripts and drafts and whatever. Let me know if you’d like me to upload a copy somewhere or something.
>>186760 I am, thanks! Trying to whip myself into good routines before any farcical New Year Resolutions are made. How about you?
The three of you remain seated and finish your breakfasts. A quick stop back at the kitchens, a friendly wave to Minamitsu, and you’re off!
To check items off your to-do list. Really, its times like this you wish you had a bit more of a normal life. ‘Go pickup milk’ sounds a lot safer than ‘Apologize to a youkai who could break you in two.’
We’re starting off with Shou? Not going to go get advice from the others or check on Byakuren first?
You are capable of more than fixating yourself on the beautiful head nun.
Sure about that?
All the others have already been up and about longer than you but nobody has raised a fuss yet. It might be a day too late to take the others’ advice yet they made a valid point; Byakuren is a grown woman that can take care of herself.
You, meanwhile, have a lot of shit to clean up.
You really hope Shou doesn’t immediately try to put a claw through your chest.
Off to the side, you see Kogasa jump slightly when Yoshika starts growling again. The umbrella youkai does an admirable job of looking casual as she checks over her shoulder for an attacking jiang-shi.
But no, Yoshika is still firmly attached to your left.
“Hey, hey, what’s wrong?” you ask her.
“She attacked Master,” Yoshika responds, her angry glare directed away from you.
Already? “Look Yoshika, Kogasa was-”
“Not her,” the jiang-shi bites out.
“The kitty,” she growls.
Huh. She must have recognized the path down the halls towards the barracks. “You weren’t here for that.”
That angry glare whips around onto you. “Master ditched me!”
You told Yoshika not to follow you when you went to Byakuren and did stuff, then never went back to pick her up when you left for that meeting or anything else.
“Sorry, Yoshika. But really, don’t be angry at Shou. I deserved it.” The jiang-shi’s rageful countenance doesn’t waver even with several head pats. Damn. “Please Yoshika, I was wrong and need to apologize. It won’t help if you’re going to try and bite Shou’s head off.”
The jiang-shi growls again and turns her head. “Dumb Master.”
Not untrue. Kogasa gives you a slightly pitying look followed by a supportive smile.
Looks like before you apologize to Shou, you’ll need to start here. “I’m sorry for leaving you behind, Yoshika. I had to…talk with Byakuren about some things and you would have found that village meeting boring.”
Her annoyed shoulder is positively chilly.
It’s not like she doesn’t lie there and watch you sleep for eight hours every day.
A different track, then? “Can I ask what you did without me for the day? Play with the others?”
Yoshika deigns to glance at you out of the corner of her eye. “No.”
You are not cut out for this.
If you can’t handle this I don’t know how you’re going to handle Shou.
You were hoping groveling on the ground might work. “Hunt something on your own? Eat something delicious, then?”
“Went to see master.”
That puts a halt to your step immediately.
You hear Kogasa squeak in surprise as your eyes flood with magic and turn a sickly green. Yoshika lights up under your mage sight and…
…and you force yourself to breathe.
You flick your mage sight on and off as you examine Yoshika. For her part, the jiang-shi stands there in the hall with both her hands on her hips as she watches you examine her.
Fuck, how did you miss this? Obviously, you aren’t anywhere near the top of your game.
Physically speaking, Yoshika is looking better than ever. After your run in with the monstrous Eientei experiments, you had to replace many of Yoshika’s teenaged body parts with spares from the adult cadavers that Eientei had on hand. You did an admirable job for the time you had, but a close inspection would reveal the irregularities – the slight mismatch in limb lengths, the discolorations and the fine stitches.
A magical examination would reveal the not-quite aligned streaks making up magical wards and the overall simplicity of the enchantments on her new body parts. You never put the time in to fix Yoshika up to the standard you first provided her and the others.
Now she’s whole. Complete, in a way you were never able to achieve.
When you first came across Yoshika and the other jiang-shi they were decaying in every way. The magical enchantments on them were geared towards preservation of form, of endurance and vitality. You tried to repair the warding as best you could but much of the magic, just like their magic-generating engine-like stomachs, was beyond you without further intensive study.
So instead you heaped on you own enchantments. Many were cosmetic while others focused on strength and resistance to damage. They looked amateur compared to what originally was there, in part due to your rush to enhance all the remaining jiang-shi. Yet, you also doubted your capabilities compared to Seiga Kaku.
Your own spellwork was shredded in the face of Eientei’s experiments. Seiga’s was not.
Seiga Kaku, the jaing-shi’s former master. A strange woman nominally aligned with the Taoists and your…not enemy.
She has rubbed you in all the wrong ways several times, even trying to destroy your mind on your first meeting. You’re aligned with different groups in Gensokyo and her morals are non-existent as far as you can tell.
Yet, if nothing else, she seems to care for her jiang-shi in some fashion. Despite what you first thought given the initial state you found them in, Seiga has only ever shown herself to tend to her undead minions when she can.
Another example is standing right before you.
Minor adjustments to the body parts, realigning bones and trimming flesh. The addition of extra meat, extra muscle and flesh to balance her form. You imagine someone like Eirin would need to examine Yoshika to see anything more than a well-muscled and striking young woman.
More frustratingly, Seiga worked your enchantments into hers. Elegant lines of magic form stunning geometric patterns that glow brightly to your mage sight. It’s- it’s humiliating, if you want to be honest about it.
Seiga bridged the gaps in your broken enchantments then added onto them in ways you never would have thought possible. The remnants of your power rune broken down and split apart, a conversion rune worked in-between what it powers instead of connected off to the side. You never could have fit it without the two spells interfering with each other but- but Seiga’s conversion rune is slimmer and more efficient, and her handiwork far more careful such that-
Maybe that’s what hurts the most. You aren’t necessarily less knowledgeable than Seiga. Originally, the jiang-shi were missing what you consider to be vital enchantments to increase their physical performance beyond human. It was possible that Seiga had never used them because she preferred magically-oriented guards, but in was more likely she wasn’t aware of the possibilities.
Because now you see your own slightly-warped handiwork glaring back at you, stretched all along Yoshika’s body in a manner you never could have achieved with your skill.
If she knew anything better she would have used it, right? Unless she was just being considerate of you and replicating what you thought was important.
Either way, the only conclusion you can draw, “Seiga really is incredible, isn’t she, Yoshika?”
“Mhm.” Yoshika grunts in acknowledgement.
“You, all of you, really do belong with her. She can do so much more for you than me.” It really hurts to admit. You’ve spent over half your life on this. Of course there will be more experienced and more naturally talented people but you hate to admit-
“Oof,” you let out as Yoshika’s arms wrap around you in far-stronger-than-usual hug.
“Master is nice Master!”
You grin. “Aren’t you supposed to be angry with me?”
Yoshika frowns for a moment, her eyes reaching for an answer on the ceiling, before she shrugs and leans her head on your shoulder.
You give Yoshika’s hair a good ruffling before continuing down the hallway.
That wasn’t too good of practice after all. You doubt you can guilt Shou into a good mood.
Seems like even Yoshika can’t overcome her natural exuberance.
And aren’t you blessed for that?
“Come on Kogasa or you’ll get in someone’s way,” you call back to the umbrella youkai standing dumbly in the center of the hallway. Your voice shakes her out of whatever deep reverie her thoughts were caught in as she rushes back.
And then, in far too short of a time, you find yourself outside of the room that houses the Bishamonten disciples. A few of them saw you coming and quickly cleared out of the way. A few dirty looks, a few pitying ones – all ominous.
From outside the door-less gateway you can hear the scritch scratch of pen on parchment. You stand there for several seconds, indecisive.
Then Shou breaks the deadlock. “Come in,” her stony voice says.
“Good morning, Shou,” you greet the tiger youkai sitting at her desk on the floor. She glances at you once, nodding her head, before returning to her writing.
You lower yourself and kneel awkwardly in front of her, both Yoshika and Kogasa quietly waiting by the doorway.
Well, you guess you’ll have to start this.
“I apologize, Shou,” you begin by giving the woman a slight bow. “What I said yesterday was completely uncalled for and wrong of me. I was angry and upset but I should never have taken those emotions out on you.”
“A noticeable lack of self-discipline,” Shou comments.
You close your eyes a moment. True, it’s true.
“Ultimately, I’m still a new-comer to the temple. I let my worry get the better of me and made assumptions about your relationships and actions that I shouldn’t have. I should have listened to your opinion in regards to Byakuren’s safety.”
“Of course. Nobody as young as you can presume to know what we have gone through.”
Deep breaths. One. Two.
“I came here this morning to apologize for my behavior yesterday and do whatever I can to make amends for insulting you. Please, forgive me.”
“I will not.”
You avoid clenching either of your hands while you kneel in front of Shou, head bowed. You do shift your head slightly to lay an eye on the growling Yoshika behind you, to make sure she doesn’t do anything rash.
“As is your right. I was exceedingly rude towards the one who first offered me shelter out of the kindness of her heart. If there’s anything I can do in recompense…”
You sit quietly as Shou studiously ignored you, instead favoring to continue to write.
You have patience for a lot of things. You can dig a hole in the ground for hours at a time and take hours to draw a perfect circle. Sitting in this oppressive atmosphere with an intractable youkai?
You can feel yourself cracking.
Not a problem. We should leave, anyway. This bitch obviously isn’t going to change her mind.
Not necessarily true.
I don’t care. Here you are trying to apologize and she obviously wants none of it. If she’s going to just throw everything back in your face despite also losing control of herself then there’s nothing you can be faulted with.
You smirk, however inappropriate for the situation.
Hey, the person who got himself into this mess doesn’t have the right to smirk.
But Shou is a bitch?
But Shou is a bitch. You’re trying and she’s not so screw her.
You hold back your laugh and then sigh. You bow low one more time before rising to your feet-
“If you’re truly apologetic,” Shou comments, “then you can tell me about everything you know about Eientei. Your dealings, their desires, the dispositions of their youkai, the types of technology they have, what Yagokoro writes her notes in or what Princess Kaguya eats for breakfast.”
You gently lower yourself back to the floor and meet Shou’s eyes.
“Can I ask why you’re interested?”
“Have you not spoken with Byakuren today?” she asks you.
“No,” you respond, “I felt coming to apologize to you was my first priority.”
Shou stares at you for a second, no hint of what she might be thinking on her face. Then she shakes her head and taps her pen on her desk. “Lady Hijiri returned early this morning after hunting the youkai that were harassing the human village’s farmland. She subdued and interrogated those youkai then brought them back to the temple. In short, the youkai were run out of the bamboo forest.”
“According to them, several highly armed lunarians forced them away from their homes the other night. With the incident that also occurred with Hikaru and Kaoru I am now giving the bamboo forest my full attention.” Shou sets her pen down and narrows her eyes at you. “With how little you have told the rest of us despite the large amounts of time you have spent with those of Eientei, I am now demanding you account for yourself.”
[ ] Tell Shou about… -[ ] The experimental monsters -[ ] Eientei’s layout and defenses -[ ] The lunar rabbits -[ ] The Earth rabbits -[ ] Meetings with Eirin -[ ] Mokou’s disposition -[ ] Your own business --[ ] The Necronomicon --[ ] Your deal with Tewi --[ ] The fight against the experiments --[ ] Nazrin’s involvement [ ] Politely decline -[ ] Best to tell everybody at once -[ ] You’ve told Byakuren -[ ] Tall with <someone else> first [ ] Fuck this bitch and her rudeness [ ] <Write-in>
Here’s a google drive for a backup of the threads that I have:
Demanding you account for yourself? This cat is CRAZY is she thinks she has ANY-
“Somehow,” you begin amicably and not at all confrontationally, “I doubt you want me to sit here and spill all of my business for the past month.”
“Which I also know precious little of beyond your infatuation with certain members of this community,” Shou quips in response. “Yet, you are correct. Time is a commodity in short supply. I need any pertinent information you have trapped in that skull of yours.”
“Pertinent to what?” you ask in a calm and non-combative tone. “Are you planning on attacking Eientei or something? If you do, that might just become the worst decision of your life.”
The tiger youkai sets her pen on the desk and stares at you. “I am in charge of security for this temple and its disciples. You might not understand given how you freely cavort about, but it is my responsibility to consider our position compared to the rest of Gensokyo. I am the one, more than any other, who must keep track of worrisome developments. Before, we had neither the inclination nor the capability to gain a greater understanding of Eientei’s potential threats. Both aspects of that equation seem to have changed.”
You nod slowly, holding back any biting commentary about how lax her guard has seemed in your time here.
Doing your best to remain non-antagonistic is more difficult than you expected. At least you’re keeping it calm compared to- facing fucking REAPERS while she sits here on her ass meditating or-
“First I can say that given a few days Nazrin will probably be able to give a better account than me. She had a windfall in her operations the other night.” Shou simply nods and picks her pen up again, quickly scratching notes as you speak. “As far as people go, I assume you know more than me too. I’ve seen Princess Kaguya once and Eirin is stupidly powerful from my perspective. Immortals aren’t really something you can win against.”
“I am aware. We have…considered their unique dispositions and beyond a few extravagant plans have decided to work around them.”
It makes you glad to hear you aren’t the only one to think them ridiculous. “Then, the rabbits. I also assume you know more about Tewi than I do; she’s cunning and has the loyalty of all the Earth rabbits. I can’t give you an accurate estimate of how many Earth rabbits there are but I’d ballpark it as two times the number of residents of the temple. Luckily most of those runts seem rather incompetent. None too serious, a few klutzes, and a hodge-podge of equipment that belongs to the last century; even when Eientei was on a full-alert there were more than a few earth rabbits dragging their feet or resting out of sight.”
“Yes, many of us are aware of the earth rabbits and Tewi’s brand of humor. Unlike some, we have co-existed on this Earth for many years.”
Oh-hoh look at me, I’m an ancient windbag that is soooo much older than you.
“Then, the Lunarian rabbits. Reisen and seven others, as far as I’m aware. They’re armed to the teeth with all sorts of space weapons. I haven’t seen anything that can’t be summed up as hyper-powered Earth equivalents but even then that can be terrifying. Laser rifles which explode heads, armor-piercing tasers, rocket-powered net guns, and whatever else they might have. Since they’re all basically deserters from the Lunarian military, they each have their quirks and skillsets which I’m none-too-sure on other than they’re all a bit crazy.”
Shou looks remarkably unimpressed. “Then, that’s all you have? General impressions with nothing specific?”
I’LL SHOW THIS BITCH SPECIFIC!
You feel like you should be worried about-
You pinch the bridge of your nose and start reciting your sights from your visits to Eientei. Images flash across your mind in perfect detail, from the identification codes etched into weaponry to the dosage instructions for hundreds of different prescriptions. The little cracks in the rocky outer walls or the loose floorboards’ squeaking that could give away infiltrators. An exhaustive mental image of crisscrossing lines and dots that route out patrol patterns along with the location of every single rabbit’s sitting location.
You do your best to be the bigger person and not relay all that information to Shou.
This level of detail, is, not, helping.
The unwanted memories recede, letting you detail the more important facts, like your fight with Eirin’s experiments.
After you begin to recite the events of the night of the play to Shou, you have a rather unpleasant realization that you haven’t actually told anyone in the temple this yet. You meant to tell Byakuren but you put it off in favor of your feelings and then…well…
You told Reimu. You left Nazrin your notes. You conspired with Tewi. You went through it with Mokou and Yoshika. You talked about it with Reisen and Eirin.
But Byakuren? Minamitsu, Ichirin, Shou?
You haven’t said a word to them about it for some thrice-damned reason.
That the reason is your emotions, you sense of priorities, in concerning.
Shou’s distrust isn’t completely unfounded, you guess.
With that thought settling your nerves you carefully recount the night. You lay most everything you know on the table. Your firsthand experience with the S-Virus afflicted rabbits, with their physical capabilities and temperaments. Shou, for once this entire morning, loses her frosty mood when you talk about the monstrosities. You avoid mentioning your own business and thus your suspected origin of Eirin’s creation but it doesn’t seem to concern Shou.
The tiger youkai continues to write after you finish speaking. Once her parchment is filled she sets her pen down again and stands up. “I see. Whether she has them under control or not, these infected rabbits represent a significant threat. It seems you did have something useful to say; the brothers had far less concrete information.”
Task completed and conscience satisfied, you listen to that other voice in your head and let her anger flow through you.
“I’m glad. I can’t imagine how badly bitten someone who was floored by Ichirin might be if they go up against those monsters.”
Shou doesn’t even stop to look at you as she briskly walks past you. “Disciples of Bishamonten are not so easily intimidated. I shall be training with the others.”
Easily enraged, perhaps.
Ugh, I’m glad that’s done with.
Surprising. You should be the one relieved that the talk is over. You are the one who is supposed to be pissing people off left and right while your sibling acts as the voice of reason.
Sorry. I just…
Love you very much?
Yeah. You know how it goes, Bro.
That should be the least pleasant of the day. Hopefully, at any rate.
Then, what now?
It’s a good question. You aren’t exactly sure. This whole mess is obviously at the forefront of your mind. Your standing with Byakuren, your deal with Tewi, whatever info Nazrin might gleam about Eientei…
Considering it, you’re not even sure if bothering any of those three is a good idea. Shou said Byakuren came back early this morning – and the sun just came up. Hopefully that means she’s resting now. Tewi said she would come to you once she knew how to approach your goal. Nazrin was swamped in her reports.
You want to do something, work towards your goal, fix matters, prepare yourself! Yet, maybe this antsy feeling isn’t quite right? All in all, you’re feeling rather directionless at the moment.
[ ] Go see… -[ ] Byakuren -[ ] Tewi -[ ] Nazrin -[ ] <Someone else?> [ ] Spend time… -[ ] Around the temple -[ ] At the Hakurei Shrine -[ ] In the village -[ ] Near Muenzuka [ ] <Write-in>
>>186836 >I wonder if Byakuren has told her what we said… I don’t know when this might come up but the answer is no, for the curious
If you don't tell your waifu, your waifu will ruin your laifu.
A woman in Byakuren's poaition will find out eventually, especially since Shou now knows. As a sign of trust, do not hide this from her.
Also, we need to get to her before Shou. She's the enarest thing to a rival we have, and if Princess Kaguya/Mokou have taught us anything in this fandom, we should be incredibly petty about little things where our rival is concerned.
>>186893 Fortunately, she seems more mature than that. It's obvious that we had other things on our mind when that happened: their chats were preceded by: the festival kidnapping, the festival aftermath, the rejection and the hollow-intimacy lovemaking. With that in mind, when, exactly, was a good time to tell her?
My money's on yesterday, when, yet again, we couldn't find her.
What are you even thinking? The answer should be obvious. You need to go talk to the person you’ve agonized over more than anybody else before save one.
Shou- That pushy little- might have had to force the story out of you but you’ll willingly tell Byakuren. It is best you tell her first anyway, lest Shou decide to be petty about it and try to spin it all to put you in a negative light.
…Fuck, how could you not have told Byakuren about this before?
It was only a couple of nights ago.
It was a couple of nights ago you should have done this! When have you ever cared about some nebulous social atmosphere?
I thought it was kind of you, Bro, sparing her any worries after such a magnificent performance.
How did it actually turn out? You spared her from practical worries about Eientei and gave her worries about your murky relationship instead.
That wasn’t wrong either, you know. It’s not like your feelings are less important.
Maybe they should be in comparison to a super-genius’ horror-virus monstrosities.
I don’t think so.
The bias shows.
Hmph. Whatever. It’s not like this small delay amounted to much. Nothing went horribly wrong by waiting until now.
Maybe. This whole business with youkai getting forced out of the bamboo forest and raiding human territory – you don’t have a timetable for it. Maybe they were forced out during the containment breach, maybe it was earlier. The extra day of missing preparation could become critical.
I don’t think it will.
Nevertheless, delaying in informing Byakuren was horribly negligent.
Well you’re doing it now. You should get points for that.
It’s possible this is only happening because Shou forced it.
Which she had no right to do! That prissy woman; someone her age shouldn’t be as hormonal as a teen!
You did insult her rather- She tried to kill you! She’s little more than a wild animal reaching for her claws despite all the years she’s supposedly been training.
Maybe your sister could cool down over this?
That you are trying to be the level-head here should speak-
Yeah, yeah, I get it already! I won’t suddenly materialize a body and stab her or anything.
Well. Other members of this temple non-withstanding, here you are!
You shrug off your tag-alongs, who seem to have been playing their glare and ignore game, and knock lightly on the door. “Byakuren?”
You try again.
With your ear to the door, you hear nothing.
She…is in there, isn’t she?
Shou did say she came back. How early, undetermined. Maybe she’s in the shower or visiting disciples.
All possible. You place a hand on the sliding door and carefully crack it- What are you doing?
Just a peek. Nobody will- She’s sleeping?
You quickly glance both ways down the hall. Nobody. Sliding the door open more, you silently usher your two companions inside and then shut the door.
There Byakuren is. She’s passed out in her futon. Far from an orderly sleep, she is sprawled out. Her hair is wild and unkempt, her nightdress slipping-
In the corner of the room, you see the ruins of Byakuren’s beloved black-and-white outfit. The jacket is littered with holes and tears. So too is her white dress. Scorch marks are clearly visible on the white fabric. Thankfully, there are no obvious blood stains.
Still, this presents a problem for you.
Byakuren was out since the meeting in the village yesterday afternoon. For some portion of that time she searched for the offending youkai. Eventually she found and subdued nine of them. She returned some time before you woke up; thus at an abysmally early time in the morning before the sun rose.
She deserves to rest.
Yet, depending on how urgent this business really is…
There is an option that doesn’t involve you waking her up.
We could talk to her in her sleep.
Mind magic? You aren’t particularly confident in your abilities there.
Maybe you aren’t but I think we can get it to work. Byakuren shifted your dreams and also entered them before; I’ve broken down what she did a bit and if we analyze it together…
Then yes, you can probably shore up your own knowledge with first-hand experience.
Crazy; has it been so long since your sister met Byakuren ‘in the flesh’ and took her on a trip down memory lane?
Crazier; did you actually show Byakuren essentially everything that makes you, you, on your…second night in Gensokyo?
Puts everything in perspective, doesn’t it?
In a way.
[ ] Wake her up [ ] Do the dream thing… -[ ] In your mind -[ ] In her mind [ ] Let her rest -[ ] Wait for her to awaken --[ ] Inside her room --[ ] Not inside her room -[ ] Go <do something else> [ ] <Write-in>
>>186894 Obviously you need to follow her around like a stalker. Then you’ll have all the time you want to talk to her!
>>186894 Well, you could have, if there was an attempt. For those hazy on the details, after the afternoon delight it was a boring village meeting, a nice get-together with Akyuu, a stop off at the Hakurei Shrine, working rat reports with Nazrin, deciding to talk to Shou, then cooling off in the cemetery.
Additionally, between the end of the festival and the funtime there were night-time shenanigans with Minamitsu, blowing holes in the shrine with Marisa, chatting with the nekkid Reimu, and negotiating with Tewi.
And when I say ‘those hazy on the details’ I mean ‘me’ and ‘I hope my brain and my notes match despite my hideous scheduling.’
[X] Do the dream thing… -[X] In your mind --[X] Try to be courteous - emphasize that there is something important that we need to discuss, but let her choose whether or not she wants to talk about it right now.
[X] Do the dream thing… -[X] In her mind --[X] Try to be courteous - emphasize that there is something important that we need to discuss, but let her choose whether or not she wants to talk about it right now.
[X] Do the dream thing… -[X] In your mind --[X] Try to be courteous - emphasize that there is something important that we need to discuss, but let her choose whether or not she wants to talk about it right now.
[X] Do the dream thing… -[X] In your mind --[X] Try to be courteous - emphasize that there is something important that we need to discuss, but let her choose whether or not she wants to talk about it right now.
[X] Do the dream thing… -[X] In her mind --[X] Try to be courteous - emphasize that there is something important that we need to discuss, but let her choose whether or not she wants to talk about it right now.
Ruining Byakuren’s rest is the last thing you want to do. An unobtrusive dream visit is probably for the best – does your sister have any solid insights into Byakuren’s mind magic?
Maybe not the technicalities as you want them but I’ve got a feel for it from my end. Here, have a look at this. I think this is the kind of magic flow you’d find useful?
Yes. Mmm, that’s helpful. It makes sense;a very elegant way to bridge a connection.
Magic is imagination. It’s the art of bending reality to your will. Unfortunately for you and most other modern humans, the kind of blind belief needed to work magic is impossible after having grown up learning the laws of reality.
Yet, that same dedication to knowledge and process can be a boon in its own way. You will never accomplish the heights of power that the greatest of madmen can claim. However, by forcing magic into a ruleset you and all the other learned spellcasters of the world introduce a powerful generality to your craft.
You specialize in necromancy, true.
What does that mean? Communication with the deceased? Then that would be transcending boundaries, manipulating souls, and destroying warding put in place by the wardens of the afterlife. Sufficed to say that is hardly all you do. Knowing how to animate corpses, destroying such animation, binding ghosts, and more are all built on what you know as magic fundamentals.
Where a natural psychic might have trouble communicating how it is they manage their feats, picking apart your memories of Byakuren’s intrusion in your mind is not so indescribable if you use the building blocks you’ve acquired over the years.
You think you have it?
Mostly. It’s not particularly different from pushing your mind into an animated corpse and dominating its will; less destructiony and more communicationy.
However, there might be a problem if she resists, consciously or not. You question your finesse on the matter. Cracking open minds and barriers is all well and good if you don’t care about the aftereffects. I think I can soften it all. I’ve gotten a fair amount of practice at the whole mind intrusion shtick too.
A fair point. Both of you have recent practice thanks to Yoshika. I had some considerable practice with the reaper as well.
Then there’s nothing left but to try it. You’ll put together a quick ritual to facilitate the spellcraft necessary to communicate with Byakuren in her sleep.
It doesn’t look like she’s sleeping well, does it?
Byakuren? Perhaps. She definitely isn’t smiling. There are no shouts and screams of night terrors, which is a plus, but you’ll have to be careful going about this. Bad dreams are volatile and toxic in some of the worst ways. There’s a reason even the humblest of tribespeople figured out how to craft dreamcatchers or the equivalent.
There’s less danger of hurting Byakuren if you pull her conscious into your mind. You have more control over the connection between your minds and you don’t risk accidentally breaking something important in hers if something goes wrong.
I don’t know if I like you substituting her health with yours.
It shouldn’t be an even trade. With your sister along to help contain any situation, it only favors you being the host more.
You fish through your pockets and pull out a few useful reagents. You could make do with as little as a prick of blood on Byakuren’s cheek but if you have the time to create redundancies then why not make use of it?
“What’s he doing?”
“Really? Is sprinkling that ash- Hey! What are you trying to-”
“Quiet! Master working!”
“Well how about you- No no no don’t you dare-”
“Girls,” you interrupt the two. Kogasa is using the literal foot of her umbrella to jab at Yoshika’s forehead, desperately trying to keep the jiang-shi’s teeth away.
The two of them pause and look at you. Honestly, these two will- “Yoshika!” you shout.
The jiang-shi freezes again, her razor teeth nearly closed on the umbrella’s foot. Kogasa looks down and yelps, quickly pulling the umbrella back and hugging it to her chest.
“Yoshika, please stop trying to eat Kogasa. We can talk later but for now, she’s like a guest. Watch out for her like you would me or the others.” Your order forces Yoshika to sit back, but she isn’t smiling about it. You have to stop yourself from going over and consoling the pouting girl. It wouldn’t do to accidentally drip hot wax onto Byakuren.
You finish up your preparations and take a seat next to Byakuren. Around the two of you are simple concentric circles of ash mixed with drops of your blood. A few candle stubs are strategically placed and lit to help focus any flares of energy.
“Don’t fight while I’m away, okay?” you ask the two girls.
They both grunt at you. Yoshika is fastidiously staring at the door while Kogasa is pacing around and examining the Spartan room.
Hopefully they’ll behave.
After pulsing your magic into the small ritual you set up, you let yourself fall into a trance. It’s a meditative state where you can slowly slip into…
An empty landscape. White, as far as the eye can see, with no dimensions to speak of.
“A bit cliché, don’t you think?” you ask.
“Well it seems like a nice, neutral atmosphere. We have to entice her in here somehow, right?” the short-haired brunette to your right responds.
Your sister graces you with a smile and crosses her arms over her chest. The simple sweatpants and pale t-shirt she wears is a sight for sore eyes, one of the most common outfits she started and ended the day in.
“You’re not wearing a white suit to complete the look. I think something like a living room would be more comfortable.” You start to sweep your hand to emphasize a change in the mindscape, but your sister grabs your hand.
“I think a bedroom for the two of you would be the best dream to lure her in. Alas, we aren’t doing that.”
You swat away her hand and she laughs, wrapping her arms around you and dragging you into a fierce hug. You protest and flail your limbs but ultimately succumb to her grip.
After your hair is good and mussed your sister lets you go to stand on your own two feet. “We probably shouldn’t delay this too long,” she says with a smile.
You shrug and flip into the air, landing in a one-finger stand. “We’re in my mind. We have as long and as short as we think we do. It’s not like any of this is real anyway.”
Sis floats upside down, or right-side up as you see it, in front of you. “Are you trying to say I’m not real?”
“I’m just saying it’s literally a figment of our- Ow!” She flicked your nose!
Your sister grins and reaches towards you. “I’ll show you a figment of our imagination!”
“Stop! Quit- Ow! Fine, if you want to play it like that!”
After what feels like an hour but is in truth a passing moment, you and your sister finally settle down to business.
“Do I need to do anything here?” you ask your sister.
“Stand over there and look pretty. You’re the welcoming committee.” Roles assigned, you watch your sister’s mental avatar furrow her brow in concentration.
You stand there dumbly in your own mind and wait.
Rather boring, to be honest. Endless white doesn’t have much appeal. You make sure to not do anything that might accidentally change your focus and warp the mindscape. No searching through memories, no planning for the future, no fantasizing. Just you, staring at nothing.
Pretending to be, nothing.
And then, not nothing.
The white landscape warps. It twists and turns, the perspective-less backdrop gaining depth. And it darkens. Spots, smears, colors.
Intellectually, you know this is your mind touching hers. In an instant, thoughts and emotions are conveyed and exchanged. A mind meld, something greatly adored by fiction writers everywhere.
Your puny mortal mind can’t visualize such communication. To have any control at all, you morph the experience into something your body is used to handling.
A richer, darker reality quickly subsumes your empty mindscape. The darkness explodes like fireworks, painting the now-discernable ground and walls. Your sister falls backwards as the hues of- of the cavern burst into existence.
It rushes around you, streaking outwards like missiles towards the furthest corners of your mind.
You don’t panic as the force of Byakuren’s dreams runs roughshod over your own mind. Even if this was slightly unexpected, it isn’t your place to worry about this. You’re just supposed to stand around.
Jagged black lines cut into the dark greys and browns of the rock walls around you. The lines cut across the three-dimensional environment, framing it like some warped comic book panel.
Your sister stands outside her boundary, limiting the intrusion of Byakuren’s mind into your own.
Your only job is to speak with Byakuren yet you can’t beat out the slight apprehension gripping you. She must be caught deep within her dream to so recklessly expand into your mind. When you feel into another’s mind there is an instinctive separation. Humans, unlike some species, are big on individuality. Probing into someone’s mind is a strange, illicit affair. To completely jump into your mind like this? Byakuren can’t even recognize the difference at the moment.
Or, she is really, really excited to be with you.
Now who’s dreaming?
Shaking your head, you begin to walk forward. The lightless cave you walk into has none of the restraint you’ve come to expect from Byakuren.
Damn, you can’t see a thing.
You keep your hand on the wall as you walk, the rough and uneven rock abrasive to the touch.
Step after step, you descend deeper into the earth. The tunnel-like cave feels like it gets warmer the further you go. You can’t feel any of the pressure that should build up from venturing deeper into-
A faint light ahead, dark enough you believe you’re hallucinating for a moment. A deep purple that-
You drop to the floor, a soundless arc of purple lightning coursing through where your head was.
“Well damn,” you curse before rolling to the other side of the tunnel. A wave of energy eats into the wall, an explosion of gravel showering you. The crater in the wall is roughly the size of your body.
You stay crouched and swiftly advance down the corridor. You keep yourself ready but it turns out that you are not the target. The farther you go the worse damage the cave walls have suffered.
Enough so at one point that it feels as though you’ve stepped into an arena.
There, everything is illuminated.
Rich purples and striking reds are thrown around the cave with abandon. Powerful, obvious bursts of magic; each spell has enough magic behind it to run you dry.
Closest to you, a demon ducks and snarls. If you didn’t know better you’d think him a normal human male. Well-muscled in physique, of course, but no obvious wings or horns. Yet the somewhat sickly tint to his magic is a clue to you. After all those years training with holy warriors you developed something of a bias.
Still, you wouldn’t be entirely sure if you didn’t know this was Byakuren’s dream.
Across the carved-out cavern, a wild-looking woman dances with black magic agitated around her. Her outfit, nothing more than a ragged maroon smock, loosely hangs to her body. Bloody scratches run up and down her limbs and her long hair whips around untamed.
You have to look away from Byakuren as she brings both her hands together. A torrent of negative energy rushes from her hands. The gravity the beam generates tries to pull you in and end you. There’s nothing to do but dig your hands into the rocky ground and hang on for dear life. Your gaze sweeps across the cavern, looking out for any loose stones that might fly into you.
People like to think of powerful magic being flashy, all bright lights and loud explosions. They think of Marisa’s over-sized lasers blazing or Eirin’s nuke-like arrow shimmering.
This is not that. You glance over and see the demon raise a hazy red shield of energy that is corroded away by Byakuren’s attack. His magic fails him and the dark energy drills through his body. You see his mouth open and tongue stick out, but no screams can escape the vortex that is engulfing him.
Soundlessly, you watch the demon unravel, layers of his flesh and then innards sucked away into nothing. Far from an even drain, you see his intestines get slurped away like noodles. His vertebrae break and fly away; his teeth vacuumed down the back of his throat and into his chest where they disappear into the magic that even light can’t escape.
Although the attack looks like a beam, it has tendrils whipping out from it, the gravity in the room distorting in some god-forsaken way. You feel yourself pulled in ten different directions and nearly lose your grip several times.
Eventually, all that remains is the innards-less flesh sack that was the demon’s skin, his face and legs not pulled into the attack even though the lower half his skull had fracture and been disappeared.
Relief floods you as you feel your body collide hard with the ground, normality returned.
A minute after the beam subsides, you can finally hear sounds. The slight creaking of the earth and the panting of breaths manage to make their way to your ears.
Ever so cautiously, you stand and approach the woman kneeling on the ground.
You don’t want to find out what happens if the mental representation of that kind of attack is turned on you.
“Byakuren?” you ask, as quietly as you can.
It must be as loud as a cannon to her. Byakuren jolts to her feet like a frightened rabbit, wide-eyes latching on to you. That dark magic in her immediately wells to the surface-
“Y-You-” is all she utters before she stops.
You don’t move, in fear of startling her and provoking a response.
Then the statue before you twitches. Her neck muscles tense, her head shaking slightly from side to side. “N-No,” she utters. “Y-You’re d-dead. You were- I just killed- No- no I didn’t- I really didn’t that was a fake and-”
This isn’t going to-
“A fake a fake A FAKE I’M TIRED OF YOUR GAMES!” Like a tensed spring Byakuren lunges, hands invisible, encased as they are in dark energy.
You backpedal, a crazed swipe making your heart grow numb. She reaches again and-
And fuck this!
“Byakuren!” you scream as you narrowly scrape by her hand and grab her shoulder. “You’re dreaming! Dreaming, damn it!”
“EVERY SINGLE DAY HAS BEEN A DREAM AND I’M SICK OF-”
You can’t hear the rest of what she says because you can’t hear anything.
You see the arm to the right of your head.
Sort of. It’s a bit hazy.
You can’t really feel much of anything either.
You try to blink, but the twitch of muscle doesn’t change anything.
It’s hard to tell if something is wrong with you, or the world.
That probably isn’t good.
You feel like-
Around you, the cave shatters.
There’s someone you think you recognize in front of you. Your sister? She raises her- her appendage and brings it down-
To slap you silly. After her fourth meaty smack to your cheeks you feel chills and jump to your feet.
“Are you okay?” she asks you, nose touching yours.
“Yeah,” you mutter, “I think so. What- Oof.” You can’t finish as your sister tries to crush your mental avatar with a hug.
“Stupid,” she snaps at you. “We’re never doing this again. We expected the mental contamination but I never realized how fully someone can trap you in your own mind.”
“Was it that bad?” you murmur.
“Terrible.” She’s not visually crying, but your sister is petty enough to will her mental image to have dry eyes. You can feel her emotions buffeting you like a gale. “Everything that you are was wrapped up in that. I couldn’t get in. There was an unsurmountable barrier keeping us apart.”
You nod and hug your sister’s image tighter. With your souls entwined as they are, the two of you are connected in a powerful way. If your mind is a castle and your soul the ground it is built on then your sister knows all the tunnels leading in and out. Mental attacks, like Seiga’s destructive trap that was your introduction to Gensokyo, fail because your sister can always be there to bolster you. Witches have tried to turn your memory and thoughts to their whims but your sister was always capable of interfering.
That Byakuren managed to stonewall your sister, either instinctively or as a trained response…
Maybe it’s a result of her knowledge? Nobody in the past was aware of your sister before she interfered. You could think of a few tricks to prepare to keep a second-mind at bay in some manner. Your sister is something like a guardian spirit, in that respect.
So, has Byakuren prepared?
You let the thoughts go and focus back in on important matters. After one last stiff squeeze your sister lets you go and turns you around.
Byakuren is, well, not well.
The last vestiges of her dream melt away around her. She sits on a small pile of rubble, knees drawn up to her chest. She isn’t clad in the rags from before, nor the black and white combo she seems to favor in reality. Instead she is draped in those traditional Buddhist robes. The dull yellow is not as vibrant as the scarf that sits around your neck, yet it is undoubtedly the same material.
She’s smaller, too. When you walk closer to her and kneel down a polite distance away, it becomes startlingly obvious. Byakuren appears roughly teenaged now, not quite fully grown. The proportions you’ve come to expect are not all there.
“Hey, Byakuren?” you whisper.
There is no response. You know she can ‘hear’ you. The mere fact that she is still in your mindscape shows the connection between the two of you is working in full.
“There are some things I was hoping to discuss with you. Given all this, if you’d rather wait until when you wake up I understand.”
You wait for a response.
In a mental representation of a mind meld that is relatively timeless, how long is too long?
The answer is, when your sister decides it is. Her hand comes to rests lightly on your shoulder. “Bro,” she says.
“Yeah, okay,” you respond. “Can you manage ending the ritual by-” You stop when you finally get a response.
One of Byakuren’s arms extends outwards, her hand deftly catching your wrist.
[ ] <Write-in>
Write-ins can be exact wording or sentiment suggestions, of course. Anything you give me makes it less likely I twist your intent into something magnificently horrendous.
I was going to throw in a few jokes for options but my brain is fried. I’m not very humorous anyway.
[X] Acknowledge Byakuren, but wait for her to say something. We've just intruded upon a very dark part of her past, and she should give us answers in her own time. Prodding her isn't going to accomplish anything good.
If anyone has better ideas, I'm all ears. Sometimes I think I might be more socially retarded than necroanon.
>>187020 I think its important to imply or show that we are not ashamed, afraid or anything of that sort by what we have seen in her dream; everyone has their own demons (ha) to deal with, she's seen some of ours, we've seen some of hers. Acceptance, patience, and listening.
You glance down at the slim hand holding your wrist. There’s no callouses or scars marring this young Byakuren’s appearance.
Slowly, you shift your weight and spin to sit next to Byakuren. The gravel underneath her gives way, tumbling from the small mound she sits on and disappearing as it crosses the threshold into your mindscape. Almost immediately you feel Byakuren lean into you, her head finding rest against your shoulder.
The two of you sit quietly for several timeless moments, soaking in the physicality that your brains provide. Like this, the youthful Byakuren next to you cannot control her emotions. You can see every uncontrolled shake and feel every agitated shift of her body.
“Bro,” your sister, your timekeeper, says.
You sigh and readjust yourself, leaning into Byakuren and moving an arm to her back. You toy idly with her long locks of gradient hair. The soft curls glide between your fingers. The Byakuren you know tends to look well-kempt, but she stopped caring for herself as well as she did when she was younger, apparently.
“A dream,” you mutter, “can be a terrible thing; an anomalous blending of truth and fiction, of hope with the often gruesome reality.” You, who often dreams of events past, know this well. Without your sister to help control them, your depressing memories would become horrific nightmares plagued by all your worse fears.
You remember your sleep immediately following her death. You’d rather never return to those types of dreams again.
Byakuren huddles closer to you. With your ear pressed lightly into her jumble of hair you think you hear her whisper to herself.
“But they’re just dreams,” you continue. “The past is gone. I don’t think any less of you for what happened in the past.”
You feel the need to say more, to let your words try and carry your every single thought on the matter.
You restrain yourself before you can continue rambling into hypocrisy. There’s a fine line between comfort and pity. An accidental insult is only one misunderstood word away.
Besides, you aren’t sure your audience is listening.
Byakuren has barely reacted to you after breaking free of her nightmare.
Or has she?
Did Byakuren recognize the damage she was doing and ‘wake up’ in her mind? Is she sitting next to you feeling guilty for her transgressions, her mental avatar not tightly controlled because of her emotions?
Or is this just another dream to her? If she couldn’t distinguish before then there might not be any difference now.
Can she see you?
Does she notice you?
Has she ever been able to recognize your feelings?
“Byakuren.” You flinch at the harshness of your own voice. Despite how you collected your thoughts last night, it seems like you can’t quite escape the feeling of hurt inside your own mind.
Still, your voice shocks her into motion.
You see Byakuren’s mental avatar jolt, her legs flopping out and away from her. She momentarily loses her balance on the rubble, a teddy bear and more rocks falling away into nothing. She quickly grabs your arm to steady herself even as the color you two sit on disappears entirely. She looks at you for the first time.
Her eyes are puffy and red. She’s biting her lip. You see the tear stains down her cheeks. Yet, you can barely read anything from that face and she continues to say nothing. You’re not even sure where to begin speculating about what is going on in Byakuren’s mind.
You wonder what this would have been like in her mind, if you hadn’t been killed immediately. If your surroundings weren’t stark white, controlled, what would you see?
Byakuren’s gaze does not waver from you, and you her. You can feel your sister’s indistinct emotions pulsing out of sight. Worry, concern, trepidation.
It doesn’t help your thoughts any.
Do you continue with your intended goal? Do you only recount the night of the play, of the monstrosities rampaging in the forest? Do you go above and beyond what you told Shou? Your disagreements with the other temple members?
Do you leave her alone, to hopefully get some actual rest? Wait until she’s awake and sure of mind to process what you tell her?
Sit with her in silence until she awakens or wants to speak?
[ ] <Write-in>
I can’t say I’m particularly happy with what I wrote. Oh well.
I was also sorely tempted to just roll with the strict majority vote and keep events moving but, alas, my heart wouldn’t let it happen. If I’m just a dumbfuck that can’t actually read into the sentiments behind the majority vote, feel free to vote the same way again and tell me how my brain is miscalibrated.
My main hang-up was mainly in the wording of the votes and how most of them had a fairly strong conditional component. For the curious, the update could have looked like:
You gently lower yourself back to the ground and take Byakuren’s wrist as she does yours. The loose dirt and rock just underneath Byakuren shifts as you scoot next to her. The teenaged girl leans into you slightly when she feels you at her side but doesn’t look up.
You sit there, silent support, waiting for her to speak.
“Bro,” your sister says.
You shake your head, and wait.
The endless white of your mindscape-
Instantaneously darkens. With a sigh, you open your eyes and see the drab bedroom…
>>187156 Sure, I can be explicit. Sort of spoilers in this post, for those that might care.
>and wait for her to speak. When...
This type of condition was included in about 75% of the votes. If I were to strictly follow the majority vote along the lines of:
>[x] Sit down next to Byakuren, hold her hand, and wait for her to speak. When we do start actually talking, apologise for barging in on her dream and explain why we're here.
Then something like the spoiler text would have happened. The dream interaction would have ended since, if you wait forever, she’s going to wake-up eventually.
So, I instead relied more on >>187027 along with general sentiments to try and extend the scene. I didn’t like what I wrote because there wasn’t much substance to it – I didn’t want to go further based off of what was ultimately two votes. Obviously I tried to add some more info, through in a few speculations, but I’m not even sure how helpful they were. If I had a more frequent update rate, I could have easily just written:
‘You wait, but Byakuren doesn’t say anything. What now?’
Without feeling bad. Yet, given the week’s wait (if not longer), I always feel the need to try and ‘get the most’ out of each update, which doesn’t always work out with how I structure the votes.
Now, while I generally avoid pointing things out, here’s a thought on the ‘importance’ of this scene from my eyes:
A couple of nights ago love was confessed and then turned down. The next significant talk possibility was opened by a joke that got real. Then, the two of you wandered in different directions until now.
I’m not advocating one way or another. However, Tewi is working towards the Necronomicon. Nazrin is digging through secrets. Youkai are migrating. Shou is worrying. Reimu wasn’t relaxing in her temple. I’m finding it hard to imagine that you and Minamitsu will get to plan ‘Byakuren’s Day Off’ before matters come to a head.
I might be wrong with a few predictions but, if anybody is concerned with how this relationship fares, they might want to figure out how to dig deeper here. Or not. There’s merit to other possibilities.
In regards to votes in general. With this large free-form write-in, I’m obviously hoping for more instead of less. For example, looking at >>187141
> [x] Whisper to her that you'll be there for her when she wakes up, break away slowly,
That’s fine, a useful action vote I can work with.
> Then curl up beside her in the real world and have a mundane nap. There is no greater show of trust than easily falling asleep by someone.
>If she won't listen, then show your feelings with actions.
This is great too. A clear indication of the sentiment anon wants to express, plus reasoning for the actions that can give me a mindset to keep in mind for later.
> and if she doesn't stop you, end the dream connection.
Here’s the rub. If she DOES stop you (which, as seen in the update before this last one, she did) then what? This vote doesn’t give a good else condition for the if, leaving me floundering for something to write in the immediate future. This is the same problem as the ‘let her speak first’ idea if she doesn’t end up saying anything at all.
I either have to assume that sitting there in silent support until she wakes up is fine, or use some connotations and take decisive action from what I see as ‘the spirit of the vote’ – neither choice makes me comfortable.
Well I guess firstly ask her how long ago was this and whether she actually does keep having this dream every night. If she actually does respond, ask her hows shes feeling, show some concern for her.
If, more likely, she does keep quiet through the questions, keep talking. Talk about what happened last night where we got angry at shou and that we picked up an umbrella. Stay by her side, keep talking at an idyllic pace to fill the air abit if shes still not willing to talk.
>>187172 Well I am definitely glad you said something, because evidently nobody was able to divine "better say something if you want to romance Byakuren" from the story alone.
So change my vote to...
[x] Well I guess firstly ask her how often she has dreams like this. If she responds, ask her hows shes feeling, show some concern for her. Assuming there's still time, goto next part. [x] If she does keep quiet through the questions, keep talking. Talk about what happened last night where we got angry at shou and that we picked up an umbrella. Stay by her side, keep talking at an idyllic pace to fill the air abit if shes still not willing to talk.
So really this is more of an if followed by a nonconditional than an if-else.
>>187174 >because evidently nobody was able to divine "better say something if you want to romance Byakuren" from the story alone.
Yeah I don’t know. I was hoping the write-in only would have clued in a bit on the importance and encourage some brainstorming. It looked like all was well after I posted the update and then I checked later in the week and was all, ‘Well shit.’
There’s been insightful commentary in the past. I feel like the massive real-time delay is one of the biggest killers, after my own writing capabilities of course. It’s always a worry how subtle or obvious things are. I’ll probably cut out the silly write-fag stuff after this update and just keep things simpler moving forward to get to the conclusion.
In regards to the previous votes, quiet support could work but, well, stuff.
>>187176 187141 here. Sorry for the stumble; let me explain my brainspace. I didn't mean to have you trip over that one bit of the idea.
Right now, we're under a handful of pressures. It feels as if the last thing we want to do is take advantage of Byakuren. No one wants to 'force' anything.
That said if she's not going to passively let us go away, and she's not cognizant of the danger of sticking around in the dream space, we're in a bit of a rut. The last thing we want to do is break away and hurt her feelings. If we broke away it'd be for safety, but in dream space small actions like that can have larger subconscious echoes.
Or at least, that's how I like to interpret it.
So, assuming she's going to be greedy-adorable and keep us close, we're going to have to respond in kind. Is she embarrassed about the earlier dream? Afraid you're reject her over it? Or something else? We don't know.
I'd go for something niftier, but I was afraid anything we did in here while fucking around might have dire brain melting consequences.
So, to soothe OP's soul, while the spirit of my vote doesn't change, I'll run along the assumption that she's not going to let go and replace my vote:
[x] "My feelings haven't changed. If you'll have me, then I'll stand by your side as we face down our nightmares together." Let that line soak in, then take control of the link and show her a dream/nightmare of one of your non-finest hours, of similar impact as the one she exposed to you.
[x] "My feelings haven't changed. If you'll have me, then I'll stand by your side as we face down our nightmares together." Let that line soak in, then take control of the link and show her a dream/nightmare of one of your non-finest hours, of similar impact as the one she exposed to you.
A wide-eyed stare. Inquisitive? Disbelieving? Surprised?
Whatever the look, you prefer it to the sheer rage and anguish you saw of Byakuren in her nightmare. She’s mentioned her past to you before but in sage and regretful tones. Her explanations never conveyed the raw emotions you felt here.
You know she had a rough time, a very long rough time, following her brother’s death. You know she sought out power unattainable through religious means. She’s jokingly mentioned her pestering of an almighty demon and the eventual training she received, all ludicrously dangerous.
You wonder what this counted as. Was this part of her training? A horrid byproduct of her shattered mental state? How much of what you saw was truth and how much a delusion, time and emotion warping her memory of the events?
The cold and objective part of your mind assesses the kind of power Byakuren can wield. Was the display in the cavern her at her best, or did she gain further power still? Has it degraded with time? Could her magic compete with that alien arrow of death you faced?
With a sigh, you hug Byakuren tighter against you. Her eyes close as she leans more into you. There’s isn’t a single syllable out of her mouth to you.
You get the feeling that won’t change. Whatever thought processes are going through her mind, voicing them isn’t in her plans.
“Hey Byakuren?” you murmur.
The girl rolls her shoulders and turns her head, her cheek flattening against your chest.
“My feelings for you haven't changed. I'll stand by your side however long it takes. We can face down our nightmares together.”
She barely moves from her comfortable position, yet you can feel the faint quiver that runs through her body.
You also feel the disbelief from your sister, the almost-disgust at your choice of lines. Luckily, her thoughts on your ‘cheesy’ words have no place in this dream.
You exert your will, taking grasp of your mindscape and twisting it to your whims. White background is painted in dark hues, a city rising up around you.
The two of you sit under a flickering light, the shoddy alleyway piece meant to cover the backdoor and muddy green dumpster next to it. The cold bricks on either side of the alley are covered in graffiti, competing for coverage just like that gangs who sprayed them.
Above you the buildings loom ever higher, ragged apartments above the storefronts reaching into the sky. Clothes lines and antennae are nearly invisible against the black of the night.
“Really, here?” your sister’s words are whispered into your ear.
Why not here? This alley is so like many others you’ve visited and yet nothing like the others at all. It’s distinct, a solid edifice in your memories. It’s a locale you’ve revisited too many times to count.
“Because you torture yourself every night.”
Torture? Hardly. Just vivid reminders of what drive you. A nightmare loses its terror over time.
“That’s why your heart skips a beat every time you see me sprawled on the floor, right?”
Regardless, you chose this memory for a reason. Your sister already took Byakuren on the grand tour of seeing naked baby you running around the neighborhood during the nun’s first visit to your mind.
This is more relevant.
You feel Byakuren shift. Her eyes are open and she is craning her neck around, curiously taking in the sight you’ve painted.
You nudge her with your shoulder and point to where the streetlights’ coverage ends.
The two of you watch as a figure stumbles into the alley, hand against the wall. They’re hunched over and barely make it three steps in before falling to their knees.
Ever so slowly they shuffle forward, hands groping along the wall and ground before they reach the dumpster. They crawl around it and collapse with their back against the green metal, only an arm’s reach away from where you sit on the step of the door.
The kid looks like absolute shit. His grey long-sleeve shirt is fraying and coated in dirt. His jeans and his windbreaker are in equally shit condition.
“No big deal,” you hear him mutter. “They’ll never miss it. ‘s fine.”
With shaking hands the kid reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out gleaming diamond ring. The jewelry shines in the shoddy alley lighting, completely out of place.
The kid turns the ring over and over in one hand, as if checking to make sure he really has it. He holds his other hand out in front of him and glares at it. Gradually, a sickly green cloud seems to seep out of his fingertips.
“Y-yeah, they’ll never know. Won’t find me. J-just need…some mint. And a few teeth. Yeah. That’ll be easy. So easy- SHUT UP!”
The ring falls from kid’s grasp as he shouts and slams his hands against his ears.
“It’ll work it’ll work this will- It worked! It obviously worked so- I didn’t kill you! I didn’t! It worked and you’re fine and I’ll be fine and this, this will work and- fuck, the ring, I need the diamond, the diamond-”
The kid scrambles to his knees and frantically slams his hands against the dumpster. Despite the dull echo it doesn’t budge, forcing the kid to desperately reach under it. He pumps his hand shaking hand in victory when he manages to pull the grime-coated ring out.
“Just need, need, half a day. E-Easy.” The kid grins as he watches the curls of magic wrap around his fingertips. “Real power. Won’t be a problem. Cops’ll never find me before I can finish it and then we’ll be fine, fine fi-”
The kid jolts to his feet when the creaky metal door swings through your body and slams against the wall. A slacks-covered leg juts through your chest.
“What the fuck is going on out here?” the burly man shouts.
He fully steps through you and into the alley. The broad-shouldered man only needs a second to look to his left and find the kid that is staring at him.
“Another one of you little fuckers, eh?” the man growls. “I’ve warned you rats to quit going through my trash and leaving a fucking mess!”
The kid quickly looks down at his hand before clenching it shut and stuffing it in his pocket.
The quick movement draws the man’s eyes. “What’s that you got there? Steal something like the little thief you are?”
The man’s voice goes deeper and louder as he takes a step towards the kid, hand outstretched. “Tryn’a ruin it for honest folk eh? C’mon here you brat. The police can sort you out and take you back to whatever hole you ran-”
The man’s meaty hand wraps around the wrist that is sticking out of the kid’s pocket. The contact jolts the kid out of his shock. “Let me go!” he shouts, throwing a sharp kick into the man’s shin.
Given the size and age difference, it’s no surprise the man ignores the feeble attack. “Damn runaways,” the man bites out as he tugs on the kid’s arm.
“Let me go! They can’t find me they can’t I need to go I need to prepare I need to-” the kid uselessly tugs on his arm as he’s dragged into the building. The underfed and poorly rested kid doesn’t have the strength to resist. Yet, he’s the kind of brat that does everything possible to defy expectations.
He bites the man’s exposed forearm.
“Ouch!” the man grunts and quickly turns, slapping the kid silly and sending him sprawling to the ground. “Fucking animal.”
The kid stays on the ground, staring at his twitching fingers. “I can’t- have to-”
“Alright you little thief. Let’s go-” the man stops dead, his second grab for the kid interrupted.
The kid yanks his arm back, blood running down his arm. Bits of skin and flesh dangle from his fingernails.
Half of the man’s lungs hit the ground with a wet splorch.
The man himself follows.
The hole through his chest isn’t clean. It’s a jagged tear from where magic coated fingers slid in and writhed around. Bones were shattered and shoved around, organs cut through and left to tumble like meat in a dryer.
The kid’s gaze doesn’t waver, his mouth set in a light grin.
“See?” he says, “I can do it. N-not a problem.”
He stares at the body on the ground for a cool minute before slowly kneeling down. “He said he collaborated with that fraud Joseph for that ritual,” the kid mutters. “If that one worked, and the next doesn’t then- then I should look to Joseph’s stuff, right? I- I- shouldn’t dismiss it so easily. Not when he was right.
“It’s just- a backup. It’ll work, but if it doesn’t, I should- Yeah, I can gather the materials and- and try it right after. Yeah. It’s simple enough.
“The materials are so simple. So elegant. Yeah, it would probably work. Don’t doubt me. Don’t. I can do it. I have magic now. It was real. I can do it. It’s easy. I just- I just need- hair, pure water, ashes, heart-”
You look away from the harvest and back to Byakuren. She watches the scene with a tiny frown but otherwise little emotion.
“Sometimes I wonder,” you whisper, “how sane I really am. Over the years, taking a rest in some graveyard or another in the dead of night, having a conversation with a voice in my head; maybe my delusions only grew more complex instead of being fixed.”
You can feel your sister’s displeasure radiate. She always gets pissy when you consider the idea. ‘I didn’t recover from death in record time to let my little brother think he’s still crazy,’ she has so often griped.
“Everybody has at least a few unpleasant memories,” you say. “Some of us just have it a little worse than most, I guess?”
As the kid stumbles away, pockets full and bloody, you wave your hand and banish the memory. In its place, a bright vista forms. Below you, calming white clouds stretch out to the horizon. Mountain peaks dominate, the snow-covered rocks standing indomitable over all.
One of the many gorgeous sights you’ve seen in your travels. Those cloistered monks in the Himalayas were totally not worth the visit.
A quick glance shows Byakuren as silent as ever. Still, the frown from before has shifted into the slightest of smiles. You can feel how she relaxes to the scenery in your mind.
“There were a few things I wanted to tell you about. About those monsters in the forest and what’s been going on with me and your loveable tiger companion, to name a few of them. I hope you don’t mind.”
No spoken response, but you think you can feel the interest from her.
So you talk. In the crisp mountain air, far warmer in your dreams than it was in real-life, you tell Byakuren about everything that comes to mind. From how your rescue of the acting youkai twins during the festival went to how the temple disciples somehow fixed the floor perfectly overnight.
You talk slowly and steadily, talking until-
You wake up.
Your eyelids flutter open as you blink away the vestigial visions your brain thinks it sees.
There’s a weight on your lap. You’re almost tempted to believe it a psychosomatic aftereffect of the magic as well.
Of course, it isn’t.
Looking down, you confirm that Byakuren is resting partly on top of where you sit. While she was asleep she rolled and squirmed, dragging her futon all over your carefully designed ritual. Frankly, you’re glad she didn’t catch on fire due to the candles.
Isn’t that why you used the barely lit stubs?
Byakuren is out from under her covers, resting her head against your lap and draping an arm over your knees.
The slight movement that vibrates through your body seems to be enough to encourage Byakuren to fully awaken.
She squirms around on top of you. You can’t see much other than the voluminous mass of her hair but you can imagine her blearily looking around.
She cycles her legs, kicking away her blanket covering and rolling slowly to her knees. Even a minute after awakening, after a long day and night of work, she manages a respectable seiza with little hint of any exhaustion.
“Good morning,” you greet her with a smile.
“Good morning,” Byakuren returns. Her own smile is pleasant and warm.
Byakuren has given you plenty of smiles before. Absolute elation after the play. Self-disgust as she reminisced. Regret when she responded to you feelings. Seduction while you two had some fun.
This smile? It’s the kind free of any extraneous thoughts. Maybe the best kind? You like to think it’s the kind of smile where you woke up to your favorite person in the world and know that everything is all right.
Probably too hopeful. Aw, that’s cute Bro.
You open your mouth to tease-
Your mouth opens in shock.
No, not at the little turquoise cannonball that barrels between you and Byakuren. Not at her antics which, almost guaranteed, are entirely your fault. You aren’t shocked at how the mood suddenly careens around like a rollercoaster.
You’re shocked that Byakuren squeals.
A more forgiving person might call Byakuren’s utterance a higher-pitched gasp. It certainly wasn’t a long, drawn out sound. Perhaps an audio engineer could analyze the frequency of her voice and discover it was on the borderline. Opinions are murky; perhaps defining the noise is the next great problem of the world.
You grin at Byakuren.
And she reddens, ever so much.
You laugh. Kogasa joins you, exuberant in her success. Yoshika also giggles along, always in a cheerful mood.
After a few seconds of death glares that couldn’t touch you right now, Byakuren laughs too.
“I might have forgotten to mention her,” you eventually apologize to Byakuren. Kogasa grins as she rocks in place. Both she and her umbrella look like they’re on the top of the world.
“It is quite alright.” Byakuren waves away the incident like it’s nothing. “Kogasa Tatara, correct? I understand you have been frequenting our cemetery.”
“Yeah, that’s where I met him!” Kogasa cheers and points.
Byakuren’s welcoming smile doesn’t leave her lips but you see the way she eyes you. “Oh, and what is he to you? Someone special?”
You frown at the line of questioning and Yoshika starts growling from your side. You reach over and pull the jiang-shi’s hat over her eyes. Like a bird, it’s enough to make her think its nap time and throw her weight against you.
“Hmm,” Kogasa ponders. The turquoise-haired youkai looks you up and down; her heterochromatic eyes squinted in thought.
“A special kind of umbrella?” she offers.
“You keep the zombie from falling on me and eating me!”
Byakuren starts laughing as you shake your head.
“As pleasant as this meeting has been,” Byakuren continues, quickly putting herself under control. “I’m afraid it must be cut short. My…rest was longer than I expected and what you have told me should only hasten my action.”
The nun stands and walks over to her closet. She opens the door with one hand and lifts her nightdress with the other, pulling it over her- hey!
“Master bad!” Yoshika shouts, her cool hands clapped over your eyes.
“Yoshika, quit it! I-”
You struggle in vain to throw the massively stronger undead off you. She has everything, including leverage, wrapped around you like a straitjacket as she is.
You’d swear you hear giggling but you can’t tell because- “No! No!” Yoshika insists on screaming in your ear.
Maybe because you keep screaming at her. Not helping!
Eventually, reinforcements arrive. You feel Yoshika lifted away from you. Byakuren stands above, holding Yoshika like a cat.
She’s fully dressed in her favorite clothes. She must have spares in her wardrobe.
“Thank you, Yoshika,” the nun sets the jiang-shi back on her feet. Yoshika smiles and cheerfully accepts the complimentary head pats.
“You’re really pretty,” Kogasa innocently comments from where she stands next to Byakuren.
“Why thank you. You are quite cute yourself, Kogasa,” Byakuren pats her on the head too, “remember you must be aware of the lusting of others, for their desires and cravings could sweep you away into addictive hedonism.”
You clamp down on the embarrassment washing over you from the look that Byakuren sends your way.
“I don’t get it,” Kogasa grumbles.
“That is quite all right. There are many other lessons to learn first. Unfortunately I haven’t the time to teach, at the moment. Perhaps later we might cover what you need to know?” Byakuren walks towards the door with a zombie on her arm and an umbrella trailing after her.
So this is what abandonment feels like.
At least you still have your sister.
Daughter of a bitch she left with Yoshika didn’t she?
After a moment of stewing in your own helplessness you rise to your feet and follow the girls out into the temple. They didn’t get very far at all as they stand almost immediately outside of Byakuren’s room.
They’ve stopped next to another little girl, a youkai with teal hair and fluffy ears. She has her hands cupped to her- Oh crap.
You weave emergency magic around your head, just in time.
Kyouko’s shout rings out, echoing down the hall and all around the temple.
Whew. That girl has a set of lungs on her.
“Thank you Kyouko.” Byakuren says, giving the youkai a quick bow.
The Buddhist-in-training gives the head nun a snappy salute before picking her mop and bucket back up and continuing with her chores.
Byakuren immediately sets off down the hall, forcing you to follow in her wake like a punished puppy. How frustrating.
By the time the four of you reach the temple’s courtyard, many disciples are already waiting. At a glance you’d say a fourth of the temple residents have gathered. You quickly pick out the more important temple members.
You’ve only seen a couple of temple meetings before and never suddenly summoned like this. Usually only the members with some manner of responsible show, letting information and news filter down through the ranks if it’s necessary.
Byakuren moves to stand in the center, her hanger-on’s not leaving her side.
Fine. You can go sit with your other friends.
The courtyard isn’t big, but there are more and more people filtering in. Where are- Ah hah!
You spot the gaggle of dead people loitering in the shadows and make your way over.
Minamitsu floats in the air at shoulder height, seated on her ghostly anchor. A couple of your jiang-shi stand next to her. The three of them chatting, Rea voicing questions while Dio answers them and Minamitsu snarks.
“But surely it must be something important?” Rea wonders.
“Who knows. Maybe she wants to announce that she’s retiring to go get married to this scallywag here,” Minamitsu comments as she kicks her foot at you.
“Is that true Master?” the two jiang-shi immediately turn on you. Those are some surprisingly intense looks.
“Not at all,” you sigh.
Everybody has time to be disappointed in that fact before Byakuren begins speaking. All the chatter elsewhere in the courtyard immediately ends when the head nun raises her hand.
“That should be good enough. I shall get straight to the point. I understand that the Bon Festival ended only just a couple of days ago however I must ask that we all continue to work hard without respite. I fear we may have to contend with an incident.”
The courtyard explodes in activity. It feels like everyone that heard Byakuren immediately turned to their neighbor and began talking. You hear shouts of surprise and of anger. You see the worried expressions and the suddenly nervous stances of your peers.
“That’s a lot of noise,” you comment, not sure what to make of what just happened.
“Ya think?” Minamitsu glowers. “Did you know about this?”
“That Byakuren was going to announce this? Not a clue.”
“But you know what she’s talking about?”
“I think I have a good guess.” You understand the potential danger that Eirin and her experiments pose. It worries you, probably a lot more than anybody else given what you know yet… “It might be worrying, but I don’t see why everybody is fussing.”
“You don’t-” Minamitsu growls and lands on her feet. “Do you even know what an incident is?”
“Like the Scarlet Mist incident or the Eternal Night incident?” Damningly also caused by Eirin, you note.
“Yeah. How can you not- Where did you learn about all our incidents?”
“Byakuren gave me a crash course but Marisa and Reimu told me the most about them.” From what you understand, every time someone gets out of line or tries to unleash something catastrophic, Reimu or someone else is there to beat them up and end the threat.
Given how absurd Reimu is, or the raw power Marisa was capable of putting out, it sets your heart at ease. You already alerted Reimu to the possibility and she said she’d watch the issue. She wouldn’t immediately intercede in Eirin’s worrisome experiments, but you have no doubt she’d put a stop to it if Eirin tried to reach too far.
“That’s-” Minamitsu freezes. The sailor girl grunts and readjusts her hat. “Yeah, okay. Listen to me.”
Minamitsu floats a bit so she can stare you right in the face.
“The colors don’t have the right perspective. They fly around doing whatever the hell they want, something inconveniences them, then they go and flex their power before shipping back to no-fucks-given land.
“The rest of us? Think about what those incidents means for everybody else, both in the village and this temple. Someone blocks out the sun? All the crops die and we all starve. Someone makes it permanently night? All the crops die and we all starve. Someone sets off a nuclear catastrophe? All the crops die and so do we!
“I’m dead and I understand those kinds of basic consequences. Incidents in the recent past might have been resolved in a few days, before any permanent damage happened, but that’s always the question isn’t it? What if it takes more than a few days?
“And I’m not as good a word on this, but Gensokyo has a long history. There’s a reason youkai like us are still hated by many of the villagers. Things were so much worse in the past, it’s no surprise that plenty of people think recent incidents are more flukes than anything.”
Minamitsu ends her speech with a finger flick to your forehead. “Me and you might be exotic outsiders in the grand scheme of Gensokyo, but most of the disciples? They made sure Byakuren understood their fears right away.”
While Minamitsu helped educate you, Byakuren had quieted the crowd and started speaking again.
“-potential danger for us all. Hikaru is still hospitalized at Eientei for his injuries from the night of the play. As a matter of fact, I will be visiting to escort him home later. Remember, while the creatures have only been seen in the bamboo forest, you should always remain vigilant.”
She left out anything about the source of the monsters, or ramifications, or any extraneous details. Byakuren simply lined out the clear and present danger to everybody. It seems more than enough to motivate her disciples.
Byakuren continues by delegating tasks to the different leaders and groups of the temple, all in order to help prepare for a potential catastrophe. Obviously, everybody hopes it won’t come to that. Everybody prays that the extra supplies and preparations can just be used for a big party later on.
You wonder how likely that is yourself.
[ ] Help Shou train. You and Yoshika are the ones with the most experienced fighting Eirin’s monsters at the temple. Maybe Shou will appreciate your genuine desire to help. [ ] Visit Nazrin with Minamitsu. Who knows how much more Nazrin has been working on her reports and what she has uncovered. [ ] Go to the village with Ichirin. Some villagers hate you but others love you. There’s bound to be a few minds that would be swayed towards preparation by your unique negotiating prowess. [ ] Visit homes in the forests with Byakuren. You’d probably just slow Byakuren down if a fight breaks out, but at least you can gain more perspective on this potential ‘incident.’ [ ] Help out around the temple. Everybody will be busy running errands and readying supplies. Another pair of hands won’t hurt. [ ] Make your own preparations. You and your jiang-shi need to be in top form. Further, if Tewi actually manages to get you the Necronomicon it’s not like you’d be able to just open it and start casting. Careful study requires careful plans. [ ] <Write-in>
Oh god. You get sick and then you get behind then you start prioritizing and it all comes tumbling down.
>>187186 >Sorry No, I’M sorry. Everybody still voting on this molasses-slow ride, especially those that are giving me the time for write-ins, deserve more than my nitpicky little gripes. A lot more. Like, a lot more updates.
[X] Visit Nazrin with Minamitsu. Who knows how much more Nazrin has been working on her reports and what she has uncovered.
Eyes on the prize. We've got Nazrin and the mice with eyes in Eientei; we're best served keeping up with what they find, and helping out if possible. That intel could mean the difference between a full-blown disaster incident and one quietly resolved with little collateral damage.
[X] Make your own preparations. You and your jiang-shi need to be in top form. Further, if Tewi actually manages to get you the Necronomicon it’s not like you’d be able to just open it and start casting. Careful study requires careful plans.
[X] Make your own preparations. You and your jiang-shi need to be in top form. Further, if Tewi actually manages to get you the Necronomicon it’s not like you’d be able to just open it and start casting. Careful study requires careful plans.
[X] Make your own preparations. You and your jiang-shi need to be in top form. Further, if Tewi actually manages to get you the Necronomicon it’s not like you’d be able to just open it and start casting. Careful study requires careful plans.
[x] Make your own preparations. You and your jiang-shi need to be in top form. Further, if Tewi actually manages to get you the Necronomicon it’s not like you’d be able to just open it and start casting. Careful study requires careful plans.
[X] Make your own preparations. You and your jiang-shi need to be in top form. Further, if Tewi actually manages to get you the Necronomicon it’s not like you’d be able to just open it and start casting. Careful study requires careful plans.
I do not wanna miss the chance to save our sister just because we got caught with our pants down when we finally have the Necronomicon.
[X] Make your own preparations. You and your jiang-shi need to be in top form. Further, if Tewi actually manages to get you the Necronomicon it’s not like you’d be able to just open it and start casting. Careful study requires careful plans.
[X] Make your own preparations. You and your jiang-shi need to be in top form. Further, if Tewi actually manages to get you the Necronomicon it’s not like you’d be able to just open it and start casting. Careful study requires careful plans.
People all around you bustle with energy. Nobody is quite panicking, but the sense of urgency is palpable. You see pairs of disciples run off to inform others and draw together the groups they need to accomplish the tasks they’ve been assigned. A vast majority is on supply duty; food and water are to be stored in large quantities. Others were restocking medical supplies, basic toiletries, spare clothes, and more. Some temple residents were tasked to negotiate and ensure cooperation from blacksmiths and farmers, guards and lumberjacks.
You could probably lend a hand here or there. Carry things, intimidate people, provide some useful spurts of magic.
You do none of that.
Your mind is focused on bigger things.
You give Minamitsu a brief goodbye as she flies away to receive and then settle her duty. After waiting a few extra minutes for the crowds to disperse you take a step off the balcony and towards the center of the courtyard. You hear Dio and Rea form up behind you dutifully.
“Byakuren,” you call out as you approach.
The nun quickly dismisses the pair of cats she is speaking with and turns to you, a smile on her face. “Ah, excellent, you’re still here. We can-” Byakuren pauses and frowns after seeing the serious look on your face.
“You have your own plans in mind, then?” she asks.
You nod your head. “Sorry, but I think it’s for the best. I’m better off preparing elsewhere than helping around here. I’ve already let you know everything from my end.”
Byakuren sighs and rubs her shoulders. “I understand. Menial tasks squander your talents. You are our resident expert on this matter; I assume you do not wish any assistance?”
“I assume you aren’t offering yourself?” You ask hopefully.
She chuckles and shakes her head. “Unfortunately not. If there is the potential for danger as much as we might think, it is for the best that I am the one closest to it.”
The thought of Byakuren in danger unsettles your stomach until you remember she’s a thousand times stronger than any of you.
“Of course,” you respond. Byakuren always considerate of those she feels responsible for. “Well, I think you and your mastery of...alternate magic would have been the most help. For anything else I can rely on the jiang-shi.”
“Then I shall not hold you any further. Good luck,” Byakuren wishes.
“And you too. Please, stay safe.”
The two of you stand across from each other for several moments, watching.
It takes one rather rude monkey coughing into his hand for you to give up and turn away, Byakuren herself shifting her attention once you leave.
The sound of two additional pairs of light footsteps confirms you managed to attract away the girls that Byakuren had stolen. “Does anybody know where the other two are?” you ask your followers.
The jiang-shi behind you confer for a quick moment. “The lake,” Dio proclaims, “for a morning spar most likely.”
You nod and focus your magic into your scarf. “Then we’ll pick them up en route to the village.”
Sure enough, Shilverase and Nekurow are where the others think they are. The pink-haired girl and ashen-haired man are swinging away at each other. Nekurow’s swordsmanship is as solid as ever, the knight resolutely hacking away at his foe. Shilverase is as erratic as ever, her staff-flail swung around with abandon.
The two jiang-shi put an end to their spar and join up with you when you call them. They both listen to your explanation of the situation and come to a quick understanding. “Then, we’re to gather supplies for your rituals?” Shilverase asks.
“That’s right.” Before you reach the village proper, you hand out several lists. Your hasty scrawls note everything that you might need in the future. You might not know exactly what you’ll need to separate your sister’s soul from yours but you have a decent idea from the scraps of rituals you’ve encountered in the past. Further, you need more basic reagents to work on everything from defensive wards to enchanting the jiang-shi further.
At the village, you and your jiang-shi split up, each going their own way to cover the shopping trip as quickly as possible. Kogasa sticks with you, the little umbrella asking questions every step of the way. “What’s this?” She asks holding up a jar of tapeworms.
“A snack,” you answer, taking the jar from her and putting it back in its bag.
“And this?” She asks, pulling out the plastic bag of cow eyes.
“That’s not what these are at all!” She shouts. You wince at her loudness, as do several of the other villagers on the street.
“No they aren’t,” you agree, “but the less attention we draw from these superstitious villagers the better. My jacket alone scares them; don’t mention what I’m carrying.”
You’re not blind to your surroundings. People already don’t particularly like you thanks to your dress and your associates. They aren’t glaring as much as when you walk around with Minamitsu, but Kogasa isn’t much better in their eyes. Talking about how you have a pound of various animal hearts on you is ill-advised. Showing the goods to the world is worse.
Kogasa looks none too pleased by your cautious behavior. In fact she-
You try and swat her hand away but you’re carrying too much. The youkai deftly swerves around you and dips her hand into one of your bags and pulls out a paper-wrapped bundle. You swipe at her again but she simply dances away.
You hanged yourself.
The girl runs away from you and up to a mother and her child.
“Hi,” you hear Kogasa greet.
“Hi,” the child meekly responds.
“Do you like kitties?” The youkai asks.
“Yeah!” The child cheers, stepping out from behind his mother’s dress. The woman has her eyes narrowed and looks ready to pull her child away from Kogasa but, like you, she’s too slow to stop-
“Great! Here, hold mine,” Kogasa grins and holds the unwrapped bundle to the child.
The high-pitched cry hurts your ears. Fucking hell.
You finally catch up to Kogasa and cuff her on the head. Moving as quickly as you ever have before you manage to set your bags on the ground and rewrap the bloody cat corpse that has its head stomped in by a hoof, one eye mashed to a pulp while the other bulges out of the socket. You shove several of the bags into Kogasa’s grasp and grab her umbrella, dragging the youkai after you as you hurry down the street and away from the wailing child.
Thankfully, the woman is too busy comforting her son to do more than send glares at your back.
Even as you hurry away from the scene of the disturbance, one of the guards patrolling the streets begins to approach you. Luckily, you recognize him and grin while holding up a fist.
The guy notices you and freezes in place before quickly turning away. You also see him unconsciously place his other hand over his stomach. Who woulda thunk one punch could be that effective?
It is not until you’re safely far down the road and absconded into an alley do you stop. You whirl and glare at Kogasa, the youkai setting down your bags and dusting off her skirt. When she raises her eyes to meet yours she grins.
“I never would have thought people expecting a problem could be so surprised!”
You bite your tongue and try to calm yourself. Not going to scold her?
Would it even be any effective? She’s not a child.
It could help. She’s listened to you before.
A bit too much. “They weren’t really expecting a problem,” you answer Kogasa. The umbrella girl stops twirling around and looks up at you with surprising focus. “When was the last time an actual youkai caused problems for them? Everybody knows Reimu will beat up anyone that does. Speaking of Reimu-”
With your immediate shopping completed, you make one last stop.
A bell tinkles as you push aside the cloth and enter Suzunaan.
“Greetings!” Kosuzu cheers, the young girl quickly rising from her desk. “Oh, it’s you! How can I help?”
“I had a few questions about your demon-”
“Ah! I’m sorry, I couldn’t quite hear you.”
“I-” the girl’s eyes are wide open as she desperately tries to shush you.
“Kosuzu? Do we have a customer?” An older male voice calls out from the back.
“Just a friend visiting, dad!” With a surreptitious glance over her shoulder, she rushes past you and reaches out to the front, the wooden ‘open’ sign being turned with a clack. The young shopkeeper just as quickly pulls you away from the front and down a hall.
You wave goodbye to Kogasa, the little umbrella startled by your rapid disappearance.
If Kosuzu had the same aura as other Gensokyans you’d be terrified of being pulled into a dark room. As it stands, you’re only mildly worried.
“Sorry about that,” Kosuzu apologies as she yanks on the light’s chain. It looks like you’re in her room given the bright colors of the bedding and decorations.
Also the vaguely evil looking book laying closed on her desk.
“What did you want to ask me?”
“Just for some advice with your, ah, particular hobby.”
“Aren’t demon books fascinating?” She asks you, suddenly three steps closer.
“I guess so,” you smile, “but I haven’t had much experience with the ancient Japanese variants. I was wondering if you had any advice that could help me understand them.”
“Hm, I see. You can read modern Japanese?”
“Yes. Past the twentieth century I get closer and closer to clueless. I’m sorry to say most of my studies have been in other languages.” Luckily, you’re a master at deciphering unintelligible, madness-induced scribblings. Understanding the words once you have them is another matter.
“That should be fine? Obviously the book origin has to be taken into account, but I have several references that should help with any era of the written word. Let me see…” Kosuzu bustles around her room, stacking heavy-set books onto her desk for you to peruse. The girl, assuming she can be trusted, is a fount of information on all manners literary if not magical.
“And really, if you have any further problems that I can’t help you with, Akkyun would definitely be able to!”
You smirk at the cutesy nickname. “Hah, thanks Kosuzu. You don’t mind me borrowing these?” You heft the stack of books she thoughtfully pulled out.
“Not at all! Anything for a fellow enthusiast! I won’t need them until the end of the month anyway when I read this next one.” Kosuzu gently pats the book on her desk.
“Why so far away?”
The girl’s hand freezes. “Ah, well, I’m sure you can imagine that sometimes things don’t go as expected and well…”
“You can only cause so many problems before someone investigates,” you surmise.
The sheepish grin on Kosuzu’s face is all the answer you need.
“Speaking of,” you continue, “should I worry about any after-effects?”
“Maybe? As a magician, I imagine you’d know better than me. I can say that all my books are well-sealed enough to not cause problems for me when closed. And, well, I haven’t caused anything that couldn’t be fixed yet?”
With that ringing endorsement, you bid the smiling part-time worker goodbye.
As you re-enter the front of the shop, you find Kogasa sitting on a large man’s shoulders, eagerly following his finger as he talks about books.
Eventually, you and jiang-shi all meet outside the village.
“Any trouble?” You ask your jiang-shi.
“No~” Yoshika answers you. None of the jiang-shi were accosted by the villagers or even had difficulties with their purchases. Granted, you gave them the more mundane things to buy like chalk and parchment but still…
You’re just too shady looking Bro. I suggest switching colors to blue.
Shilverase is carrying a weapon twice as large as she is! How did the guards not stop her?
Your gaze sweeps across the rest of the jiang-shi, taking note of all the baggage they hold.
“And you didn’t eat the food?” you ask Yoshika.
“Not all of it?” Yoshika grins.
I am really not sure what you were thinking with these assignments.
A lapse in judgement. Shaking your head, you marshal your troops and consider the future.
How much time do you have before things blow over? Either Tewi gets you the Necronomicon, you have to go get the Necronomicon or some sort of incident that needs your attention occurs. You’d estimate only a few weeks at most; given the spirit of your deal, you can’t imagine Tewi taking much longer than that without any word whatsoever.
In terms of being prepared for any of those situations: you aren’t. Not specifically, at any rate. Hell, you don’t even have a workshop, or an atelier, or a base, or a lair, or anything of the sort to begin such preparations. At most you have a room at the temple and you doubt the disciples would appreciate you breaking the laws of reality in their home.
Handling Kogasa [ ] Reprimand her. She might be a youkai, but she is far from the largest fish in the pond. Causing problems for others is only going to lead to worse in the future. [ ] Encourage her. She’s a youkai. You can’t expect her to go against her nature. Aiding her confidence and skill will only give her better odds and perspective later on.
A place to work [ ] Muenzuka. The nexus of borders is a powerful location for spell craft. On the border between life and death everything Necromantic feels stronger. However, it is an open area and perhaps worst, you don’t know if the agents of the afterlife will seek to intrude or not once you begin. Then again, some of them seemed rather reasonable… [ ] A cave in the mountains. At the edge of the barrier that bounds Gensokyo, a long line of mountains stretch. Where the single large Youkai Mountain towards the center is heavily populated, the boundary mountains are not. There are numerous caves you could choose to hide away in. The only question is who else might call those dark tunnels home. [ ] A forest hideaway. The forest of magic is thrumming with ambient energy. You could easily tap into its power to further enhance your preparations. However, the stronger energy is found deeper into the forest; areas of which you have only been warned to stay away from. Yet, would you not be more secluded from prying eyes the further you go? -[ ] Shallow. Even the edges of the forest aren’t the easiest to traverse or search. Roughly analogous to where Marisa lives, the danger and benefits are both low. -[ ] Moderate. You have seen the edges, felt the magic and beasts that lurked within. It was obvious where powerful figures made their homes, clearly demarcated to your magical senses. From what you understand, Alice lives in this zone. -[ ] Deep. All you have to go on are rumors and warnings of danger. Even those you respect like Reimu and Byakuren have advised you to stay away. If you can manage to setup your own base here, who would dare to come after you? [ ] <Write-in>
A focus [ ] Study Kosuzu’s literary references. It would be hard enough reading the Necronomicon in its original form after you’ve studied the language and scraps of it for years. The fact that it’s been transliterated or transcripted into Old Japanese could be deadly for you. There is uncountable nuance to be lost depending on one interpretation or another. [ ] Lay down spells. You need rituals to keep yourself safe from the magic you conjure and defenses to keep yourself safe from any possible intruders. A magician’s workshop should be the center of their power, an unassailable bastion. Interruptions during a critical moment could end in disaster. [ ] Enchant the jiang-shi. Your strength is not your own. As much as you hate to admit it, the smallest and most innocent looking of the girls in Gensokyo could probably devour you. Your swordplay and prepared tricks won’t be enough against most foes. Yet, your loyal followers give you the edge. Supernaturally tough, indefatigable in body and drawing upon years of experience the jiang-shi that still walk amongst the living are preeminent fighters and survivors. Luckily, they seem to like you too. [ ] <Write-in>
Chances for socialization (choose 3) [ ] Byakuren -[ ] Daily morning tea -[ ] Terrifying afternoon sparring -[ ] Somber evening reminiscence [ ] Reimu -[ ] Family -[ ] Money -[ ] Responsibility [ ] Reisen -[ ] A day in the life of a salesbunny -[ ] A day in the life of a drillbunny -[ ] A day in the life of an overworkedbunny [ ] Marisa -[ ] Power of friendship -[ ] Power of love -[ ] Power of hate [ ] Mokou -[ ] D-Dating... -[ ] Fighting... -[ ] Killing... [ ] Minamitsu -[ ] Cast off emotions -[ ] Laying anchors -[ ] Distant horizons [ ] Akyuu -[ ] History of life -[ ] History of love -[ ] History of death [ ] <Write-in>
Long delay? Obviously, that doesn’t mean a long update ‘cause why would I be useful like that? Have a long vote instead.
Choose one from each, a response to Kogasa’s antics, a focus for your efforts and a place for future endeavors. Then, assuming it’s possible, three bonding moments.
Note that the focus vote is for above-and-beyond effort; for example, it’s not like you’ll be unable to read the Necronomicon if you don’t choose to hit the books.
Also, the socialization options aren’t meant to be useless fluff (not completely, anyway). Feel free to write-in if you want to (try to) guarantee a certain topic.
>>187463 Well, it’s unfortunate that a lot of Gensokyans are fans of high-powered ranged warfare. Or else can shatter buildings with their hands. Being a squishy human without any real cheats, minions are really the way to go about it.
Another solution is never entering straight up fights. Enough prep time gives the possibility for some far out rituals; powerful enough to compensate for the lack of pure magical prowess, in some cases.
>>187499 >WAR Getting a little ahead of yourself, aren’t you? The Buddhists are just more skittish than the bunny rabbits. Everything is fine.
Handling Kogasa [ ] Reprimand her. She might be a youkai, but she is far from the largest fish in the pond. Causing problems for others is only going to lead to worse in the future.
A place to work [ ] A forest hideaway. The forest of magic is thrumming with ambient energy. You could easily tap into its power to further enhance your preparations. However, the stronger energy is found deeper into the forest; areas of which you have only been warned to stay away from. Yet, would you not be more secluded from prying eyes the further you go? -[ ] Shallow. Even the edges of the forest aren’t the easiest to traverse or search. Roughly analogous to where Marisa lives, the danger and benefits are both low.
A focus [ ] Study Kosuzu’s literary references. It would be hard enough reading the Necronomicon in its original form after you’ve studied the language and scraps of it for years. The fact that it’s been transliterated or transcripted into Old Japanese could be deadly for you. There is uncountable nuance to be lost depending on one interpretation or another.
Chances for socialization (choose 3) [ ] Byakuren -[ ] Somber evening reminiscence [ ] Reimu -[ ] Family [ ] <Write-in> [ ] Seiga Kaku -[ ] Information sharing on a possible upcoming incident. If the people in the village are at stake, best that the powers that affect the place be ready to take action as well. If shes able to provide support on reinforcing our Jiang-shi or anything else, that'll be a nice bonus.
[X] Reprimand her. She might be a youkai, but she is far from the largest fish in the pond. Causing problems for others is only going to lead to worse in the future. [x] You've heard tales about a lake of blood... [x] Study Kosuzu’s literary references. It would be hard enough reading the Necronomicon in its original form after you’ve studied the language and scraps of it for years. The fact that it’s been transliterated or transcripted into Old Japanese could be deadly for you. There is uncountable nuance to be lost depending on one interpretation or another. [x] Date Byakuren. [x] Recruit Reisen. [x] Recruit Komatchi... *shudder*
[X] Reprimand her. She might be a youkai, but she is far from the largest fish in the pond. Causing problems for others is only going to lead to worse in the future.
[X] A forest hideaway. The forest of magic is thrumming with ambient energy. You could easily tap into its power to further enhance your preparations. However, the stronger energy is found deeper into the forest; areas of which you have only been warned to stay away from. Yet, would you not be more secluded from prying eyes the further you go? -[X] Moderate. You have seen the edges, felt the magic and beasts that lurked within. It was obvious where powerful figures made their homes, clearly demarcated to your magical senses. From what you understand, Alice lives in this zone.
[X] Enchant the jiang-shi. Your strength is not your own. As much as you hate to admit it, the smallest and most innocent looking of the girls in Gensokyo could probably devour you. Your swordplay and prepared tricks won’t be enough against most foes. Yet, your loyal followers give you the edge. Supernaturally tough, indefatigable in body and drawing upon years of experience the jiang-shi that still walk amongst the living are preeminent fighters and survivors. Luckily, they seem to like you too.
[X] Byakuren -[X] Somber evening reminiscence [X] Reisen -[X] A day in the life of an overworkedbunny [X] Mokou -[X] Killing...
[ ] Reprimand her. She might be a youkai, but she is far from the largest fish in the pond. Causing problems for others is only going to lead to worse in the future.
Not much to say here, but we don't want to earn any more enmity from the people of Gensokyo than we have to.
[ ] A forest hideaway. The forest of magic is thrumming with ambient energy. You could easily tap into its power to further enhance your preparations. However, the stronger energy is found deeper into the forest; areas of which you have only been warned to stay away from. Yet, would you not be more secluded from prying eyes the further you go? -[ ] Moderate. You have seen the edges, felt the magic and beasts that lurked within. It was obvious where powerful figures made their homes, clearly demarcated to your magical senses. From what you understand, Alice lives in this zone.
Our best balance of risk versus yield, I think. Barring something going Horribly Wrong, there shouldn't be any problems.
[ ] Study Kosuzu’s literary references. It would be hard enough reading the Necronomicon in its original form after you’ve studied the language and scraps of it for years. The fact that it’s been transliterated or transcripted into Old Japanese could be deadly for you. There is uncountable nuance to be lost depending on one interpretation or another.
The last ending we want to get is "no, we are the demons."
[ ] Reimu -[ ] Responsibility
This may be about to get very relevant, depending on how badly this incident explodes. Also, Reimu is wonderful.
[ ] Reisen -[ ] A day in the life of a drillbunny
Doubles as a bit of a peek into Eientei's defenses, but depending on how things go down, reinforcing our friendliness with Reisen could make a huge difference. Flip side, though, is that in the worst case, this could make it that much harder to fight her.
[ ] Minamitsu -[ ] Laying anchors
Probably our closest bro since we entered this eastern wonderland. How can we turn down the chance for one more heart-to-heart before the shit hits the fan? A talk about the future, no less - which may be a bit of perspective Necroanon sorely needs, lest he focus absolutely on the goal in front of him. What comes after?
Handling Kogasa [ ] Reprimand her. She might be a youkai, but she is far from the largest fish in the pond. Causing problems for others is only going to lead to worse in the future.
A place to work [ ] A forest hideaway. The forest of magic is thrumming with ambient energy. You could easily tap into its power to further enhance your preparations. However, the stronger energy is found deeper into the forest; areas of which you have only been warned to stay away from. Yet, would you not be more secluded from prying eyes the further you go? -[ ] Moderate. You have seen the edges, felt the magic and beasts that lurked within. It was obvious where powerful figures made their homes, clearly demarcated to your magical senses. From what you understand, Alice lives in this zone.
[ ] Study Kosuzu’s literary references. It would be hard enough reading the Necronomicon in its original form after you’ve studied the language and scraps of it for years. The fact that it’s been transliterated or transcripted into Old Japanese could be deadly for you. There is uncountable nuance to be lost depending on one interpretation or another.
Encourage to improve her confidence. Forest because it provides plenty of ambient magic. Shallow to avoid nasty surprises at a critical time. Spar to understand our strengths and to remind Hijiri of what we expect. Responsibility to remember that our actions have consequences beyond us and to remind Reimu what could be at stake. Killing to keep our resolve no matter what happens and to inform Mokou of how dire our situation may turn into.
[X] Reprimand her. She might be a youkai, but she is far from the largest fish in the pond. Causing problems for others is only going to lead to worse in the future.
[X] A forest hideaway. The forest of magic is thrumming with ambient energy. You could easily tap into its power to further enhance your preparations. However, the stronger energy is found deeper into the forest; areas of which you have only been warned to stay away from. Yet, would you not be more secluded from prying eyes the further you go? - [X] Moderate. You have seen the edges, felt the magic and beasts that lurked within. It was obvious where powerful figures made their homes, clearly demarcated to your magical senses. From what you understand, Alice lives in this zone.
[X] Enchant the jiang-shi. Your strength is not your own. As much as you hate to admit it, the smallest and most innocent looking of the girls in Gensokyo could probably devour you. Your swordplay and prepared tricks won’t be enough against most foes. Yet, your loyal followers give you the edge. Supernaturally tough, indefatigable in body and drawing upon years of experience the jiang-shi that still walk amongst the living are preeminent fighters and survivors. Luckily, they seem to like you too.
[X] Byakuren -[X] Terrifying afternoon sparring [X] Reisen -[X] A day in the life of an overworkedbunny [X] Mokou -[X] Killing...
You shake your head. “This little habit of yours is going to cause real problems one day.”
The girl glares up at you and stomps her foot. “What habit?” Kogasa demands.
“Scaring people,” you respond.
“What’s wrong with that? I’m a youkai!”
She is. You’re aware of how different supernatural beings are compared to humans. They may feed on life energy or emotions, may have unstable or impressionable mental thoughts, and may inhabit physical forms that might just break every law of physics that humans have deigned to name.
However ridiculous they may be, it does not change how others react to them. It only takes a little logic to follow the trail of occurrences to their conclusion. “And do you see what has happened to the youkai of the world? Look around you! Your home is surrounded by one of the most complex barriers in the world and I can assure you, it’s not meant to keep you all in.”
Kogasa grimaces and begins to open her mouth but you cut her off. “The supernatural preyed on mundane humans for generations, until the humans finally got fed up with it and improved themselves. Now,” you sigh, “now we all skulk in the shadows, trying to avoid irritating the very powers who could wipe us out.”
“M-Maybe that’s how it is in the Outside, but this is Gensokyo!”
“I’d argue its worse here, Kogasa. How many people can you piss off before you bother someone strong enough to end you?” You frown as you watch Kogasa’s expression fall, her face scrunching up. “You should know as well as I do that the vast majority of Gensokyo’s inhabitants are too much for us to handle. Reimu? Byakuren? A lunarian? A tengu? Hell, even one of the greater fairies could probably do us in on a bad day. You can’t just go around surprising people and expect it to be okay afterwards.”
You feel like it’s a mature and responsible stance to take. There are far too many beings in Gensokyo that could flick a pinky finger of magic around and destroy a home. It only takes one bold attempt to go wrong before Kogasa would suffer terrible consequences.
Even with these cautious thoughts filling your mind, you still feel like you were kicked in the gut when you look at Kogasa’s sorrowful stance. She clutches her umbrella to her chest with both hands, slightly shaky. Her eyes are squinted and her lower lip is jutted out and-
Dear lord, you really hope she doesn’t start crying.
You stand there in that alley awkwardly. After a minute, Kogasa shakes her head rapidly and croaks out, “B-But told me h-how to be scarier…”
Build them up to knock them down, eh? Score another one for douchebag humans. Don’t be like that. You didn’t intend to let her run amok.
“I’m…trying to say you have to be careful with it, Kogasa. You don’t see me terrorizing every person I come across, do you?” You kill the urge to qualify that statement; you’re fairly positive half the village would in fact prefer you to disappear.
Kogasa doesn’t look up at you again. Instead the little turquoise-haired girl hangs her head and slowly marches out of the alley. “You’re not Youkai…” you hear her grumble.
You sigh and follow her out. Despite how harsh or hypocritical Kogasa might have found you, the girl does end up following you as you continue with your errands.
Plans roughly hashed out in your mind, you and your followers return to the temple to drop off your purchased supplies. You give the group a brief overview of your plans over lunch.
“And you all are free to do as you like for the rest of the day. Tomorrow is the earliest I’d consider trying to get anything set up,” you finish.
The jiang-shi all give some forms of acknowledgement before turning to each other and making plans.
“We need to settle our duel, Knight! I had you on the ropes!”
“Would you like to help me around the temple, Kogasa? I heard Sakura was looking for help preparing medical supplies.”
“I assume you will be following Master, Yoshika?”
“Don’t make me laugh child. You have lost our matches and will continue to lose them.”
“Ooooh I’ll smack the smug right off of you!”
“Would it be fine for me to wander, Master?”
“You don’t have to ask for permission, Dio. Like I said, the day is yours,” you assure the blonde haired jiang-shi. “You’re not planning on anything dangerous though, are you? If you’re going to investigate or-”
“I should not be in any danger, Master. I was intending to…float around, as it were, and see who I might find.”
“Okay then. Have fun everyone,” you wave goodbye to your merry band of followers and take to the air, Yoshika happily clinging to your arm.
Setting up in the Forest of Magic is the most sensible decision in your mind. You’re confident in your ability to take advantage of the ambient energy while mitigating any of the major risks. It wouldn’t be the most hidden location, but it’s hardly out in the open either. Overall, the forest is the best choice for efficiency and safety.
The only problem might be the forest critters that want to eat you.
Luckily, there are some friendly neighborhood magicians who can tell you all about staying safe in the big scary forest. You fly over to Marisa’s home, hoping that the black and white witch is in.
Really, you need to introduce cell phones or something to Gensokyo. The fact that flying anywhere takes no time at all is the only saving grace of trying to meet with people at a moment’s notice.
You could magic up a solution?
Maybe, but most of those would take time or mutual effort to set-up. You could always bind a few spirits to act as messengers…
As you draw closer to the home you hear the rhythmic pounding of a hammer. The witch is sitting on her broom, floating next to her house. A makeshift sling is hooked underneath the broomstick, several planks of wood suspended inside by the cloth. A modern-looking utility belt is loosely sitting over Marisa’s standard witch’s outfit.
The girl herself is banging away at the wall of her house, patching over the gaping hole in her bedroom wall.
“I can’t say it’s the prettiest looking repair job,” you comment.
Marisa laughs and throws a hand out. “It’ll hold until I get someone to fix it better.”
“How did it hold over until now? Hasn’t it been a couple of days?”
“I threw a blanket over it. I spent the day distracting Reimu from her constant worrying and then that night she wanted me to fix the door to her room. How ridiculous is that?”
“Probably less ridiculous than lasering the door down in the first place.”
“It worked out in the end, didn’t it?”
Instead of answering you put a little magic into your scarf and float over to Marisa. With Yoshika to help hold the board in place, you morph a bone hammer and help with the repair.
A few minutes later the hole in Marisa’s wall is covered. “Thanks for the help!” Marisa cheers, “I hope you aren’t looking for too big a reward. I’m poor!”
You shake your head and scoff. “Poor from paying for all these repairs, I bet.”
Marisa chuckles and doesn’t deny a thing. “I assume you aren’t here for a social call,” she says.
“I can’t visit a friend?”
“Sure you can!” Marisa grins, “But, uh, you don’t really strike me as the sort when things are going on. Too focused. And things are going on so…”
Instead of arguing the hopeless point you get straight into it. “I was looking for some advice on living in the forest.”
“Oh! Finally decided to move into the cool neighborhood instead of shacking it with the stuffy religious types, eh? It’ll be great to have another neighbor! Have you already decided on a location?”
“No. I was hoping you would have some advice before I started blindly searching around.”
“Ah-hah, of course! This ordinary magician can offer all the consulting you need for the low, low price of-”
“Sorry for bothering you. Have a nice day.”
“Wait!” Marisa shoots forward, hooking her arm with yours before you can fully turn around. “Just kidding, come on, I’ll do it for free. Wait, really! Don’t leave!”
Shortly, you’re sitting at the counter in the foyer of Marisa’s home. Immediately upon opening her front door you were greeted by the sight of several shelves stacked with bottles of varying shapes and colors. Instead of a normal entranceway, the front of Marisa’s normal-looking home truly was a storefront.
Marisa has little placards placed all around her displays, each with a single word written on it. There are fairly standard potions like ‘strength’ and ‘love,’ but those aren’t even the half of it. You see ‘insight’ potions and ‘indigestion’ potions and ‘hangover’ potions and ‘logic’ potions.
You also see what looks suspiciously like a bottle of alcohol labeled as ‘courage.’
How many customers does Marisa even get out here? Her home isn’t exactly optimally placed for foot traffic. The shelves look mostly full, although there are noticeable vacancies in the displays. Did people actually buy her potions or are those spots strategically left empty?
Marisa walks back into the room and sets down some murky looking tea on the counter “Sorry it isn’t the best. I’m not picky like Reimu or Alice.”
“No worries. Gensokyo hasn’t turned me into a sophisticated tea-drinker yet.” Neither has it affected Yoshika, given how she immediately downs her entire cup with joy.
Marisa drops a ratty-looking notebook onto the table. She flips past dozens of pages of scrawled notes before finding a mostly clean sheet. “Great. Now, first things first, have you thought about…”
What follows is a surprisingly thorough interview on what, exactly, you’re looking for. You don’t go into any of the reasons or what you plan on doing in your forest retreat, but Marisa doesn’t ask. She’s surprisingly professional and diligent with her questions and comments. She helps you narrow down the sizing, location, and even the types of defenses you should consider.
Eventually, she spins the notebook around and lets you have a look. Her notes are jotted down in a messy yet legible font, the nested bullet points all arranged neatly despite the penmanship put into them.
“That…looks like everything I could ever ask for,” you admit to her.
“I’m glad!” Marisa grins and snaps the book shut. “Unfortunately I don’t think we’re quite done. With how deep you plan on going I would feel a lot more comfortable with getting Alice’s opinion on all this. Do you mind?”
“I’m fine with that. Do you not trust your own plans?” She certainly has exuded confidence while she worked.
“Of course I do! But it’s pretty obvious that should we go ask the person who lives deeper in what they think, isn’t it?”
“It is. Sorry,” you end up apologizing, “I didn’t expect you to be so thorough with this.”
“Ouch, that hurts. Someone polite would have just kept that to themselves, you know?” Marisa grins and carelessly swaggers into the forest proper. “Don’t worry about it. We shouldn’t underestimate the forest, you know?”
“You don’t seem particularly worried right now.”
Marisa just shrugs. “Most things know better than to hang around the path between my house and Alice’s.”
It isn’t just a boastful statement, you quickly realize. With your mage sight and the clue to look, you find all manner of spells weaved into the path around you. Most of them are the same crisscrossing wards you find close to Marisa’s home. They’re a type of magical deterrent – they project a feeling of unease that anyone with a magic sense can recognize as a warning.
As you reach deeper into the forest, the magical defenses along the path become more obvious. Clearly inscribed trap wards begin to litter the path. You recognize some of the patterns; proximity-based explosive wards and pressure-based chain-bindings. Others are unfamiliar to you, but obviously just as powerful.
Interestingly, it’s not all magical based either. There are trip wires and neatly hidden pressure plates. You see discolorations which make you think of pit traps, loose coverings over what look like metal pikes. Hell, you catch what looks like a spiked cage hanging in the canopy at some point.
“Most of these aren’t your work, are they Marisa?”
“Aw, you guessed that?” The witch laughs. “Yeah, all that fine spell work isn’t what I’m suited for. I helped Alice with a bunch of the ideas, though.”
You’re clued in to how close you are to Alice’s home when you run the very literal perimeter marked out by a shining metal. No, not a fence, a miniature wall. A miniature wall atop which miniature people patrol.
Dolls, that is. Half a dozen dolls are within sight, dutifully marching back and forth along their section of the fence. A few sit atop tiny watchtowers that rise up to your chest. Naturally, the dolls and the fence are one big mess of overlaid enchantments to your magic senses.
One of the dolls floats into the air and approaches as you do. The doll is about the size of your head and dressed in a frilly emerald gown. She carries a gleaming rapier with a basket hilt modeled after thorny roses. The doll taps Marisa on the head once before starting a lazy orbit around the three of you.
“Hey there,” Marisa greets the doll. “Alice is home, right?”
The doll nods and continues her flight path. As your eyes follow her around you take in more of the warding put in place. You wonder how long Alice spent simply inscribing runes into her creations. How many rituals have been carved into this perimeter?
It’s all a little overwhelming, to be honest. You were impressed with the sheer density of magic you saw at Alice’s performance during the festival. This is all that was and more.
“Sheesh, you didn’t look this star-struck whenever you visited my home,” Marisa grumbles, jabbing an elbow into your side to get you moving again.
“Sorry,” you mutter, “this all just seems like…”
“Overkill?” Marisa finishes. “Yeah, Alice is uhm, meticulous like that. It’ll get worse.”
It is only a short distance after the perimeter fence that the trees of the forest are completely cleared away. You step through the pulsing barrier dome and onto the grassy lawn of Alice’s home.
The western-style house looks very similar to Marisa’s. In fact, with how natural the lawn looks and how plain the front of the house is, you’d call it completely unexpected. The only irregularity is how much vast empty space surrounds Alice’s home. She has more than enough room for several more houses if she desired.
Are the traps in the lawn just more cleverly hidden?
You hear Marisa guffaw when you get on your hands and knees to inspect the grass.
“Don’t worry. The back and the inside will be crazy like you expect.” Marisa walks around the side of the house, beckoning you with a hand.
As you turn the corner around the corner you are greeted by an industrial complex.
Maybe someone with more technical expertise would disagree, but what you see is a metal-coated manufacturing plant. There’s no simple hearth and anvil in Alice’s forge. It’s all human-sized vats and containers, solid steel pipes looping around all the structures with little metal gantries for dolls to scurry about on. High powered furnaces and massive metal drums and- you really don’t know a thing about modern manufacturing. However, this is what it reminds you of.
The magician herself is standing at a large slab of a table, flowing metal rising up and forming into the shape of a miniature human head. Alice lifts the doll-part close for inspection before flicking her fingers, the creation pulled apart and the metal left to fall back into its receptacle.
“Hello,” Alice plainly greets you. “What do you need?”
“Hey Alice, I’m doing well. Thanks for asking,” Marisa retorts as she hops up to take a seat on the table.
The dollmancer rolls her eyes and then her hand. Her pointed stare is all she gives Marisa.
“Fine, you old lady. He’s looking to carve out a workshop in the forest. I wanted to take what we came up with and run it by you.”
Alice nods her head before swiftly turning towards her home. “Prudent. Yes, I can do that for you. Let us take this inside.”
You follow the rainbow-colored magician into her home and are greeted by dolls.
Dolls, dolls, dolls.
Everywhere. On the ground, in the air, along the walls, on the table, in the kitchen, on the lights – dolls.
This would fit nicely into a horror set, I think.
No kidding. Tiny dolls the size of your fingers in a tiny little house, large dolls that ape humans standing inanimate in the corner. Dolls sitting on shelves lining the ceiling; a brave doll in realistic plate mail, a bulky doll dressed as a professional wrestler, a spooky doll restrained by chains, a round doll wrapped up in a furry parka and more.
Before you comment on anything, the dolls at Alice’s table stir. They float into the air and take with them the various fabrics and threads that had messily covered it before. Three of the larger, child-sized dolls vacate their seats at the table and pull the chairs further out, standing at attention like butlers.
You take the wordless offer for what it is and sit down. The dolls helpfully push in your chairs as Alice opens Marisa’s notes and begin to read. “Let us see…”
Speaking of- “Where did Marisa go?”
Alice doesn’t look up from her reading to answer you. “She is playing around outside.” You see Alice’s lips curl downwards slightly as she continues to explain. “Marisa finds the interior of my home uncomfortable.”
Yeeeah, completely justified.
You give Alice quiet to study Marisa’s notes, instead inspecting some of the dolls that remained in the tabletop. This cloth doll is a miniature Marisa with cute button eyes. There’s Reimu, and there’s Nitori.
Look out Bro, she’s got your replacement in the works over there. Oooooooooh!
It doesn’t take long for Alice to form her opinion. “I can’t say I have much to add. Marisa’s thoughts are as diligent as ever.”
“Oh. That’s good.”
“Quite,” Alice smirks. “However, it reflects poorly on my competency if I say nothing. Allow me to further caution you about the forest itself. The Forest of Magic was not always so extensive. However, once humans consolidated their villages into what you see today there was no one to keep the forest at bay and it thusly expanded. It takes constant vigilance on the part of the villagers to stop the forest from encroaching on their farmland.”
“Is the forest alive?” you ask. The last thing you want is for the trees to be screaming for your bloody death.
“In many ways, yes. Sentient? Perhaps not. I cannot say for sure about deeper in, however. With the depth you plan on, think of the trees as a particularly malignant weed that can grow in hours and can somewhat retaliate should you choose to fight them.”
Great. Fighting trees. “I see. Any tips on helping my future workshop clean? It doesn’t look like Marisa has this problem and you have that barrier.”
Alice nods. “Marisa generally clears the trees from her around home with extreme prejudice. Once a week from what I’m aware of. As for me, I am sorry to say you will need to find your own method of maintaining a perimeter instead of copying mine.”
You frown. While the perimeter warding was extensive, the bubble-like barrier that kept the trees off her lawn seemed simple enough. “Is the magic that complicated?”
“Not as such, no, but it is based on a few old artifacts and a threshold that was established long ago. Any location you choose will likely not hold the same capability. Do you need help designing a spell?”
You stroke your chin as you think about it. “No,” you say, “if all I need to do is keep the trees from growing then I have my own solution.”
Alice primly nods. “Excellent. Then two last pieces of advice. First, begin your search for a location just before noon. It affords you the most time before any of the more aggressive creatures might begin stirring. Second, do not be afraid to harshly reject any animals or youkai who take offense to your presence. Many of the forest’s residents are, frankly, dumber than bricks and more aggressive than the worst of demons. It takes a long while for them to recognize anything like claimed territory.”
“A long time and a lot of traps?” you ask with a smile.
You spend some more time with Alice and Marisa, the three of you taking to Alice’s extensive yard to practice a few useful spells. The two magicians are exceedingly helpful in working through your preparations.
You leave the two of them once you notice the sun dipping lower in the sky. There are plenty of ideas they’ve given you to work with and you need to work quickly if you’re going to get them ready before you venture back into the forest tomorrow.
Yoshika acts as your assistant as you scurry around your room in the temple, organizing everything you purchased. You setup and begin what rituals you can. Vials are imbued with explosive properties and necklaces transformed into catalysts for magical nets. The preparation work is exhausting but familiar.
If you were left alone, you’d imagine you would keep working until you fell asleep. Unfortunately, fate has other plans.
Your butt slides along on the wooden floor as you’re dragged away from your work. “Where are we going, Yoshika?” you sigh.
It’s for your own good you workaholic.
You roll your eyes but don’t resist the conspirators. The pair of them can dominate mind and body; it’s easier to just give-in to their demands.
One quick dinner later and you’re being dragged off again. “Now where are we going?” you wonder.
It’s for your own good you workaholic.
You shrug and- and you smile. “Hey, Byakuren!” you call down the hall.
The head nun looks over and changes direction mid-step. You feel yourself speed up as Yoshika tries to put some spring into her step but she can’t outpace Byakuren.
“And what,” Byakuren asks as she looks down at you, one eyebrow quirked while she keeps pace with Yoshika, “are you doing?”
“Getting kidnapped. Help?” you raise up your arms like a child, hoping the kindly nun will take pity on your unfortunate situation.
With a shake of her head Byakuren reaches down and grabs your hands. You jerk, your forward momentum suddenly arrested. Your clothes chafe your body as Yoshika keeps trying to drag you away by the neck of your jacket.
Byakuren clears her throat once.
Yoshika whirls around and glares at the nun, her hands possessively grabbing the top of your head. “No! Master mine~”
“I promise I will return him-”
“No! Master gone all night and ditch me again!”
“I promise I will return him to you, tonight.”
Yoshika’s gaze dips down to you and back up to Byakuren several times. Eventually, you feel the jiang-shi squat down behind you and reach her arms underneath your armpits. She hauls you up to your feet like a kid and gives you a rough push into Byakuren.
“Thank you, Yoshika.”
Your jiang-shi grumbles as she stomps away, off to bother someone else.
You and Byakuren share a smile before wordlessly setting off down the hall. You follow her back to the kitchen where the two of you pick up some tea, and then follow her outside to the courtyard.
The two of you take a seat on one of the free benches, the moon creeping into view overhead. A few of the nocturnal youkai are training in the courtyard. A few other pairs of disciples sit around and chat. It’s all background noise to you.
“Did you run into any problems today?” you ask.
“None, thankfully. A few of our more outspoken disciples did not feel as though they were endangered in their forest homes but they agreed to temporarily relocate.”
“And you were safe visiting Eientei too?” The thought of Byakuren visiting that place on her own is a worrisome one. You can’t imagine Eirin or the rabbits simply attacking Byakuren out of the blue…but the image of an exploding head after a long-range assassination bothers you. Greatly.
“Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to step inside. The rabbits at the gate stopped me and then brought Hikaru out. It is good to have him hale and hearty once more; his brother was overjoyed.”
You frown and tap your fingers on the bench’s armrest. Is it more due to Hikaru’s nature as a Youkai or the Lunarian’s technological capability that let them regrow the aspiring actor’s arm so easily?
Regardless, “All according to plan then?”
“Surprisingly. I admit I was expecting more indignation and resistance from our disciples.” Byakuren takes a sip of tea and looks to the sky. “Myouren and I had forced many youkai to change homes. They were much less agreeable back then.”
“I see.” You kick yourself, trying to think of something more meaningful to say, but you can’t.
After a pause Byakuren picks the conversation back up. “And how was your day? Did you accomplish what you set out to?”
You describe your day to her and go over your plans of creating a secluded workshop in the forest. “I’m not trying to move away,” you assure her, “I just need a place to work.”
“Of course. A place to work away from prying eyes is most useful.”
The two of you take a sip of the same time. She looks up at the sky, you down at the earth.
Why does this feel so awkward?
There’s so much to say but you aren’t sure how to go about it. As poorly as you acted when your emotions were high, at least it was easy to make a decision.
What about now, when everything is seemingly calm? Do you take the initiative? Muse about the future? Go on a tangent about your passions? Crack jokes? Try for seduction?
Your emotions are stable but you’re just as confused as ever. Tearful rejection, lustful acceptance, professional worry-
“I’m sorry, what was that?” you ask. Glancing over, you find Byakuren giving you a faint smile.
“I apologize for this morning,” Byakuren repeats. “I placed you in horrible danger, all because of my lack of self-control.”
You pause and squint at the woman. “You were asleep.”
“And I apologize-”
“You were dreaming. Not conscious. You shouldn’t be apologizing for something you couldn’t control.”
She shakes her head. “I disagree. It is because of my poor state of mind and my inability to prepare appropriately that-”
“No,” you disagree. “You were exhausted after fighting all night. I snuck into your room and cast some magic you didn’t consent to and had no prior warning of. There isn’t a jury in the world that could blame you for anything that might have occurred.”
Byakuren, thankfully, doesn’t continue arguing the point. However, the frown on her face betrays her continued disagreement.
That annoys you. “Do you think you need to be perfect?”
“I know you try and set a better example for all the disciples of this temple. I know we’ve also talked about how we’re both flawed. Being able to predict every little thing and berating yourself when you fail to…isn’t that a bit much?”
You hold Byakuren’s gaze for a second before dropping your eyes away. She was barely looking at you. Her apology might be for you in the present yet you can imagine her thoughts linger in the dream, in her past.
“Sorry,” you sigh. “I have no right to even begin to assume what you’ve been through.”
After all, your situation isn’t at all similar to Byakuren’s.
What would have happened if I had been better? It’s an irrational question for you. As your sister has pointed out countless times, you had no influence on her death. That you managed anything at all afterwards is a miracle.
It isn’t the same for Byakuren. If she had been more wary, more resilient to poisons, more adept at restorative techniques…
If that were you, there would be no argument that could appease your guilt.
Damn it. Even on a peaceful evening like this you can’t help but destroy the mood with your combativeness.
A hand touching your thigh draws you out of your thoughts. When you look over at Byakuren again, she still has the sad frown marring her face. “It was my own personal Hell,” she slowly says, “brought about by my own greedy desires. I had asked for the Devil to teach me, and teach me she did.
“What you saw was a nightmare, one that I had lived through. My mind was already unwound after Myouren’s death. Shinki simply capitalized upon that fact, striking at my mind, body, and soul through every means possible. Physical assault coupled with magical bombardment and illusion was a popular choice. I could not tell you where my personal delusions ended and her servants’ ploys began.”
You set down your teacup and rest both your hands over hers. She graces you with a quick quirk of her lips before continuing with her thoughts.
“She rebuilt my scattered psyche like a blacksmith reforges a blade. She melted everything I was to nothing and filled a Byakuren-shaped mold with everything she understood to be power. She instilled in me as much fear, loathing, and lust as she could. It was in her image she tried to remake me, a proper God-fearing devil that could greedily absorb power to force all her hated rivals into submission. The poor girl with fanciful dreams for the future is long since dead. In her place is nothing more than a selfish devil-made woman with distant memories.”
“I don’t see any devils here,” you comment.
Byakuren nods. “I wonder. But yes, I am hardly a spawn of evil. As much as Shinki tried to force her ideals unto me, another’s were stronger. Once I could think properly, I could remember. I could compare what I was becoming to what he had been and I understood how wrong it was.
“I was weak. I was pathetic. I had crumpled. Yet, it was in his ideals that I could regain a semblance of strength. It was his beliefs that, ultimately, even Shinki fell sway to.”
Byakuren shakes her head and leans to the side. Her shoulder stops against yours. “How shameful is it that now my memories of him and are fleeting? You saw the nightmare I had. I can recount almost every encounter with Shinki’s spawn. I can show you every spell I learned after they were carved onto my body. I can recite the debates we had on morality, inform you about what she was looking for in an ideal home.
“I can’t tell you what he preferred to eat for breakfast. I don’t recall the jokes we would share. I can’t see the details of his face. The youkai we fought and subdued and taught are clearer to me than he. Of him, all I have are blurry, misremembered lessons and the doubts that well up inside me.”
She closes her eyes, content to rest.
“Thank you,” you eventually whisper. “It…can’t be easy.” Recalling this. Sharing this.
The sad, tired woman leaning on you looks up. “These memories have been a personal companion for a lifetime. Speaking of them, showing them…”
After a moment of contemplation, despite the heavy air, Byakuren sits up and smiles. “I must admit to some confusion in regards to…everything. Am I allowed to apologize for not making much sense?”
You smile back at her. “Nope. Then I’d have to apologize too and I think I would take much longer than you.”
She doesn’t laugh but does let out a short huff of bemusement.
Thereafter, the two of you sit in silence and sip your cooling tea.
It’s more comfortable than before.
Once the tea runs dry the two of you stand to part ways. After the two of you bid each other good night and take off down separate corridors you hear Byakuren call back, “It is only recently that I have begun to have brighter dreams. I am sorry you did not get to see one of those instead; it might have caused a strange sense of déjà vu.”
You wake up early the following morning. The extra time is, obviously, spent preparing. Your jiang-shi also busy themselves, making sure their weapons are sharpened, stomachs are full and limbs are stretched.
You’re not actually share if stretching helps their bodies any but you suppose it’s helpful in a mental state sort of way.
“Thanks for looking after her, Byakuren.”
The smiling woman pats Kogasa on the head. “It is only natural. As I stated before, there are many lessons to be taught.”
“I still don’t get it…” you hear Kogasa grumble. It’s hard to tell exactly how she feels on the matter since she’s practically shoving her umbrella in your face.
“This isn’t going to interrupt your plans?” you ask the head nun.
“It should not. With all our disciples safely brought in behind these walls, managerial duties that shall be consuming my time today.” Byakuren pauses and then slowly continues. “In fact, until something occurs or we bring in more information, there is nothing I could not delay. The Forest of Magic is highly dangerous.”
“So everyone has continually told me. You don’t have to worry Byakuren, we’ve taken the proper precautions,” you reassure her.
“So you say. Yet-”
“Yet nothing,” you cut her off. “We’ll be fine.”
An unamused look overtakes Byakuren’s face, the woman crossing both arms across her chest.
Oooh. You don’t like that look. “Sorry,” you immediately apologize. “I really appreciate the thought. But in times like these I think it’s better if you aren’t disappearing with the black-cloaked man into the forest. It wouldn’t be…proper. Not that I don’t want your company. I’d love it! It’s just, well, I’m sure plenty of people would be upset with the idea and-”
Warm. Your rambling is ended by a hug.
You feel the smooth silk of her jacket against your fingers as they ghost along her shoulders and back. Locks of hair are brushed aside by your jaw as your nose nuzzles against the tip of an ear. Her arms stay wrapped firmly around your stomach. You feel your back muscles resist the tight clutch of her fingers.
Then, the comforting weight against your shoulder lifts away. “Stay safe,” she whispers.
With your other affairs settled, you focus your sight and your mind on the green canopy of the forest. You and your party float above the Forest of Magic as you consider your approach and communicate the last minute modifications to your plan.
Finally, with the sun shining bright and high in the sky, you descend.
Your jiang-shi take up a loose formation around you. Nekurow, the armored knight, takes the lead and acts as trailblazer. He roughly hews aside any vegetation unfortunate enough to get in the way. Yoshika stalks next to him, her senses and abilities the greatest out of any of you thanks to the tune-ups that Seiga gave her.
In a way, you suppose abandoning her for that day worked out. The poor girl’s feelings. Were a minor casualty, true.
Rea and Shilverase each take a side, the barely armed and overly armed girls each alert. Dio follows from the rear, a throwing knife ready in hand.
You have the privilege of being the fleshy human in the protected center of the formation. Your jiang-shi were rather insistent that you take the honored positon and you didn’t have the heart to refuse them.
Instead of having to worry about immediately defending yourself, you instead get to focus on the task of finding a good spot for your workshop. Overall, the terrain of where you choose matters little. The greatest consideration is magical energy.
You want to be greedy and take the spot that has the highest concentration of energy. It’s frankly a no-brainer. The more energy available, the more flexible you can be in regards to everything.
The problem, of course, is that it doesn’t take a magician to take advantage of such a powerful location. Any magically-tuned creature would find comfort and advantage in such a place. In this, Marisa and Alice were very helpful. While Alice tended to protect her own territory, Marisa occasionally ranges deeper into the forest for more exotic ingredients for her potions. While the witch smartly avoided encountering any creatures and their homes, she could point out the general locations of high concentrations of energy.
Thus, you had several promising options of where to start looking. Unfortunately, carefully scouting all the possibilities proved to be a harder task. Marisa and Alice agreed that given the density of the forest, by the time you realized what home you were intruding upon it would probably be too late get away unnoticed. There were possibilities for more intelligent magical scouting, but you didn’t want to waste any time.
In the end, you settled on an exceedingly simple plan. Your experts agreed there shouldn’t be anything impossibly dangerous this far into the forest. With five jiang-shi at your side, you’re counting on your ability to overpower whatever you find.
“Just ahead,” you warn your jiang-shi. While looking at energy concentrations with your mage sight gives you a headache, it trivializes the search into a a simple matter of following the brightest light.
Your group navigates around a particularly large tree and run straight into an even larger mushroom. The tree-sized mushroom is almost pure white, standing in stark contrast to the earthen tones of the forest. When you look around, you can see similar such mushrooms further into the forest. Their monotone color also makes the bright reds and blues of the fairy dresses stand out. The diminutive creatures circle and frolic near the top of the mushroom and-
And they all stop. You see their joyful playing cease as they all look down at your group.
There’s a bunch of fairies up there. Too many to count. It actually surprises you how many there are considering how few you’ve seen in your trek-
There…haven’t been any fairies this far into the forest, until now?
Uh, now that you’re asking, no. I don’t think so.
Fairies are actually everywhere in Gensokyo. They loiter around people and places. In fact, they’re so common that they’re really just more part of the background. You see the occasional fairies floating around the temple’s walls or taking shelter from the sun under the shade of Muenzuka’s grave markers. They fly in the sky and sit on signs in the village.
Seeing so many cloistered here reminded you of that.
Maybe they were hiding?
Or every single fairy in the nearby area was drawn here.
Above you, the cloud of fairies descends. Your jiang-shi take several cautious steps inwards, tightening their formation around you.
The fairies don’t come any lower than the tops of your heads but they do spread out. Their beady eyes gaze down at you, countless expressions on the countless fairies faces. They whirl around your group like they did the mushroom, some laughing and frolicking while others give death stares. The orbit of fairies grows larger as the ones from farther away flock to the ever-growing group.
None of your jiang-shi lift their weapons and you, likewise, don’t reach for your magic. Fairies might be the weakest existence in Gensokyo but quantity has a quality all its own. With a few nudges you get your group to begin slowly backing away.
You’re forced to stop when hundreds of the fairies flow like a waterfall behind you. Their descent causes a ripple, a reaction, in the rest. Their orbiting flight paths become wild, erratic. The end result is whirling, living dome that surrounds your group.
Yoshika growls and you have to catch her arm before she reaches out to grab one of the bite-sized morsels. “Relax, Yoshika, everything is absolutely-”
The wall of fairies part, a doorway forming in their absence. Someone steps forward.
She’s tall, taller than you. She has curly red hair that flows down her slender form and flairs out past her hips. Her flesh, or what little you see of it underneath her onyx-colored Victorian dress, is unearthly pale. The most striking aspect of her appearance, however, is her amber eyes. Those eyes are unblinking and starting straight at you.
“Human,” she addresses you, her voice echoing in the living dome.
No. Her single quiet word, laced with danger, was simply repeated by the hundreds of fairies flying around you. The moving voices slurred together to form a disturbing, haunting echo.
You hold her stare and don’t utter a word or take an action.
Should we be worried?
Probably, since you have no idea what’s going on.
The woman seems content to take the initiative. She takes one imperious step forward and tilts her chip upwards. “Human. Servant, you have entered the Court of Riannon. Kneel.”
Now you understand what’s going on.
Should we be worried?
Usually not. While you might not specialize in dealing with them, the Faerie Courts of Europe are not unknown to you. Generally, supernatural groups worked around the faeries since they’re a capricious lot that could be trusted to hold to their bargains but not make fair bargains in the first place.
The weaknesses of faeries are fairly well-known and documented, having been unchanged for ages. Avoiding them is the best. Simple courtesies and bribes of pastries work surprising wonders. Poultices created from mixtures of different herbs oft work as deterrence. If all else fails, a good length of cold iron could weaken and slay even the strongest faerie if given the chance.
Then we’re fine?
You would be, if you had been expecting to find a European faerie in the middle-of-nowhere Japan!
The eyes of the faerie Riannon drill into you, demanding.
You’ll wing it. Oh for fucks-
“Lady Riannon,” you demurely answer while falling to one knee. “What do you wish of me?”
The faerie takes one dainty step to the side and sweeps her arm out towards the gap in the fairy wall. “Bind your blood to my Court, Servant. Then we may commune.”
Bossy, isn’t she?
Surprisingly direct. You thought faeries enjoyed their trickery. Blatantly ordering you around like this? You wonder what has her so antsy.
Maybe she’s a defective one.
Possible. She certainly worked hard to make a strong first impression…
Your feet carry you to the mushroom of the faerie ring. Behind you, your jiang-shi look on with hard faces. The fairy swam never stops whirling. Riannon’s amber eyes never leave you.
You gaze up at the mushroom before taking out a bone shard and running your magic into it. The bone elongates and sharpens, a small knife forming in your hand.
“I must say, Lady Riannon,” you call back even as you lift the knife and your free hand. “You really picked a good spot to hold your Court.”
You flare energy of death and decay into your knife and plunge it into the mushroom.
You have a quarter of a second to enjoy the pure surprise that wracks the faerie’s face, her otherworldly presence of authority fleeing away and leaving behind someone as shocked as a teenage girl.
Then your quarter of a second is up and an enraged faerie has her arm grasped out towards your, her claw-like nails ready to rip your face from your skull.
You tuck your head and lower your shoulder, driving your body into then under the faerie, tossing her over and away. You can feel the pressure her fingers leave as she tries to rend the flesh from your back and arm before passing by you completely. Luckily the protections you’ve woven into your jacket hold against such a normal attack vector.
The maneuver bought you an extra second. You let your hands glide in long-practiced motions as you liberally empty your pockets. You toss your enchanted items about with abandon. Dust muddies the ground and leeches magic from those who tread upon it. Crosses and rosaries expand into multi-layered barriers. Bone shards explode in a cloud of noxious necrotic energy based on proximity, time, or magical pressure. Streamers hang in the air, ready to uncoil and ensnare whatever passes by.
It all buys you another few seconds as the faerie flips on her feet and charge you again. She does her best to bull her way through your defenses with sheer strength. If you were more confident you would approach while she is distracted and attempt to end her with a bone blade enchanted with death.
Instead you dive to the side, avoiding a flurry of bullets, and look around. With your hyper focus on the immediate threat fading, you can take in the sounds of battle.
“Justice sign, homicidal intent!” The shout heralds thousands of more bullets filling the forest, the deep black danmaku difficult to see amongst the rest.
It hurts the eyes to look at. The tens of hundreds of fairies are zipping around in the air and along the ground, each spewing magical bullets. Your jiang-shi, not to be boxed in or outdone, follow suit. They dance inside the storm of projectiles and unleash their own, relying on their spellcards to pump bullets into the air. It's a simple attempt to try and clear the air of opposition.
It looks like it’s working, to some extent. You watch stray fairies unable to keep up with the fight. The collide with the magical bullets and are sent screaming to the ground. Once they stop moving, they’re done. The jiang-shi are all over any too slow to flee, breaking them apart with teeth and hand, sword and knife.
You grunt and hunch your shoulders, doing you best to ignore the bullets that start to pound against you. In that, you are no different from your jiang-shi. No matter how apt the denizens of Gensokyo are at their spellcard duels, it is physically impossible to avoid the mass of bullets in the air in this fight. You can only hope their enchantments are enough to keep their skin together and unpenetrated – their relentless undead endurance can hopefully handle the rest.
A screech of anger draws you attention back. The faerie comes at you like a wailing banshee, her formerly glamourous hair flecked with dirt and webs. The ground craters where she slams her foot into the ground to launch herself at you, the last of your precautions in her path shattering like glass.
You flood your magic into your limbs, into your skin, to prepare and meet the charge that never arrives.
The faerie is sent careening off path and collides against a different mushroom of her ring. She goes through it, the large white cap tumbling down and crashing into the forest floor, barely heard over the din of battle.
Yoshika lands on all fours after her flying tackle. She wastes no time in snarling and lunging after her prey like a large cat.
A smattering of bullets impact against your face. You growl and flourish your sword, taking a few ineffectual sweeps at the fairies flying by. You reach into your jacket, fingers resting against the corner of a spell card-
You’re sent crashing to the ground as a half-dozen bullets slam into your knee. A hundred more follow up, impacting against your side and flipping you over like a pancake on a griddle.
“No,” you decide. “Fuck this.”
You have to close your mouth before a stray bullet finds its way in.
A shielding talisman gives you the moments you need to rise to your feet and then run away from the rain of bullets. Some of the fairies follow after you like a pesky gnats, yet even they swerve away as you draw closer to the faerie and Yoshika.
You duck the tree that swings through where your head was. The faerie looks to swing it back again but Yoshika put an end to that, diving at the faerie’s exposed legs.
There’s a crunch as the faerie stamps her foot right on top of Yoshika’s head. Your jiang-shi sinks halfway into the ground under the heel of the faerie. Yoshika strains to rise but is planted further into the ground with another two stomps.
The faerie looks like she’s enjoying herself as she grinds her dirtied heel into Yoshika.
You let the bone in your hand reform from a sword and then toss the newly-made javelin. The weapon flies true, spearing the distracted faerie through her shoulder.
She stumbles backwards a step and Yoshika takes advantage, pushing herself out of the ground and latching onto an ankle.
The faerie screeches as one of her feet is bitten off.
The once composed faerie flails like a mad woman, her errant leg striking Yoshika and sending her flying like a golf ball. You hurry over to where Yoshika lands and help the jiang-shi to her feet.
A quick appraisal shows just how much more resilient she is after Seiga’s improvements. The faerie is striking with enough force to shatter stone walls but Yoshika’s body only shows minor indentations. No parts of her body have been caved in and- No, wait, a few of her fingers have been crushed.
“Master~” Yoshika coos before shoving you to the side.
You roll back to your feet in time to see the faerie speeding through the air and impacting against Yoshika.
Your jiang-shi is dragged to the floor by the faerie and the two become a blur of crossing limbs. It’s hard to tell who would win from here; the faerie is obviously vastly stronger and likely capable of ripping off Yoshika’s limbs if given the chance.
There are no chances, however, since Yoshika quickly dissuades unfavorable prolonged contact with a quick bite. Those teeth are probably her greatest weapon, capable of ending the fight in one bite if the faerie is careless.
The two grapplers fall into a type of stalemate, neither side capable of committing to an offense without endangering themselves.
Your new bone-sword has no such compunctions. You carefully approach and thrust it into the fight, Yoshika aware enough to hold the faerie in place for a second longer than usual.
The faerie immediately reacts when the magical weapon pierces her side. Her arm swings out, wrenching the blade from your grasp before the bone crumbles under the pressure. Her arm keeps moving and- Fuck!
The faerie throws her body into her reach and manages to clip the edge of your foot, the pain enough to bring you to a knee. It doesn’t feel like your foot is broken in any way, but your boots are not as enchanted as your jacket in terms of magical protection.
The faerie’s arm is swinging back towards you and you-
You reach out to grab it, to stop it. Damn your instincts.
You wince prematurely in advance of the wave of pain that radiate down your arm and up your shoulder upon impact. It’s like trying to catch a fucking wrecking ball. Your arm is annihilated under the impact and-
No. You flex your fingers slightly. Your arm is mostly fine.
Maybe a few bones in your arm are fractured, but it’s far and above better than being collapsed into your body.
The faerie looks at you in surprise for a second time and you grin.
You firmly grab her wrist with your hand before she can pull her arm away.
Your mechanical fingers close on her pale skin like a vice. The bones inside her wrist are ground into dust by your Kappa-powered grip. When you let go, her hand is left hanging from the rest of her arm by the skin, like a swing in the wind.
With only two functional appendages the faerie’s chances drop precipitously. She thought you the easier target, an annoyance she could take care of a heartbeat.
Now she has an even angrier Yoshika to deal with.
You grunt and push yourself away from the pair, carefully controlling the flow of magic to your arm and foot to try and assess the damage. You pointedly ignore the ripping and screaming you can hear nearby.
The curiosity gets to you exactly once. You glance up to find one of Yoshika’s hands smashed through the faerie’s ribcage. The jiang-shi is holding the faerie’s head up by her long red hair as she bites clean through the faerie’s neck, blood and screams-
Whew. You can’t be disgusted by that, can you?
No, but you’re rather more concerned with the waves of agony running through you as you try to get your arm in a sling.
At some point in Yoshika’s wanton slaughter, you feel the faerie’s passing. Some of the energy bolstering the faerie ring instantly disperses, no longer bound by the Queen’s presence.
At her death, the much thinned fairy horde seems to lose their nerve. The voluminous barrage of bullets ceases almost immediately, the fairies instantly shooting off into the forest instead of continuing the battle.
As quickly as it begins, it ends. You and your jiang-shi are left the sole occupants of the are.
Well. That went better than expected?
Everybody’s alive. I guess that counts.
You wonder what exactly went wrong for the faerie. With such a large ring for her court and the magic held within, you would’ve expected her capable of incinerating you with power.
Perhaps her nature wouldn’t allow it or the Gensokyan fairies aren’t the best courtiers.
Both very possible factors. A Faerie Court derives much of its power from its members, melding individual characteristics to create something greater. Given that in general, most of those members would be faeries blessed with some aspect of nature…
Maybe the fairies here weren’t even members of the faerie’s court. She wasn’t launching super-powered danmaku, after all. Regardless, it does no good to ponder sine you’re likely never to find out.
At the end of it all, the encounter does make you wonder one important thing.
If a lonely European Faerie somehow found its way to the Forest of Magic, what else lurks?
As it turns out, the trees of the Forest of Magic protest vigorously at being turned into lumber.
“Hyah!” your pink-haired jiang-shi shouts as she swings her staff-flail around, the heavy stone at the end bludgeoning grasping roots into submission.
You dart towards one of the trees, Yoshika at your side to tear away offending branches and shield you from razor leaves. Palm coated in swirling energy, you reach the tree and push your magic past its protective bark. Instantly you feel the tree begin to wither, decaying rapidly from the inside out.
Combatting aggressive vegetation is not what you had in mind when learning the dark arts of Necromancy. Unfortunately, life is life and death is death, plant or not.
You and your group manage to clear a fair amount of trees out from the direct center of the former faerie ring. After you effectively kill the trees, it is a mostly simple effort to uproot them – normal men might need large machinery to scoop the ground out with the trees, but you have five supernaturally strong jiang-shi with hands.
“Is this fine, Master?” Dio asks, gesturing to the stack of trees lying on their sides.
“Yeah, I shouldn’t have a problem with it.” You get to work, taking your supplies and etching out magic circles around the wood.
Do you actually know what you’re doing?
Of course you do! Transmutation magic is complicated with potentially lethal side-effects when done incorrectly but it is also a well-documented practice. Even though you’re no alchemist this much is within your ability.
I seem to recall some rats exploding when you tried to ‘enhance’ their properties.
Eyes are delicate! Besides, you figured it out eventually.
Also, that is hardly relevant. These trees are dead! You’re great at working with dead things. More to the point, you’re looking to change very little about the composition of the materials. Shaping is the least dangerous form of alteration.
If you say so…
Your jiang-shi look on with curiosity as you kneel down and let some of your blood drip onto your ritual. The ambient energy around you shudders, waves and ripples forming after your magic takes what it needs.
The dead trees morph. From the bottom of their roots to the tips of their branches, the wood begins to flow like sludge. No different from liquid metal filling a mold, the wooden slush fills the structure you inscribed into the ritual.
First into the holes drilled into the ground, the wood forms long pegs to act foundation. Then the perfectly square base, the walls along the sides, and the slanted roof above.
“Ooooh,” you hear Yoshika coo. It is certainly strange to see liquid rise up into a shape seemingly of its own accord and solidify in place. The process completes quickly and you are left with a simple cottage.
“Nekurow,” you speak up, the undead knight responding with a raised eyebrow. “The workshop needs a door and some windows.”
Without a moment’s waste, the jiang-shi draws his blade and approaches the building. He effortlessly stabs his blade through the wood and hews out holes in the structure.
With the beginning of a shelter in place, you split up the jiang-shi and begin the long process of making everything livable. A few fly out of the forest, back to the temple to pick up more of the supplies you bought in the village. The others help you prepare your next ritual. A larger circle takes form, exactly the size of the faerie ring. You leverage the still-standing mushrooms and incorporate them into your nascent defenses.
“And here we go,” you mutter as you begin your next spell. Also relatively basic, as far as Necromantic spells go.
With a sort of grim satisfaction, you watch as your sickly green magic runs around the mushrooms. Like a quick-settling fog, that cloudy green hue appears in the air inside the circle. A drop of dye into a well of water – your necromantic energy infects the ambient energy around your workshop.
It has the side effect of rapidly killing every living thing inside the former faerie ring.
The people of the world have had pretty good reasons to shun Necromancy almost universally across all ages.
It’s disturbingly beautiful.
The vegetation takes on dark hues, preserved forever in its position thanks to an unnatural death. The forest around gives the feeling of unbridled life, of constant ambitious growth. In contrast, your new workshop instead is an unchanging picture of the past. The scene is almost content, accepting what it is without complaint. At its center is a paradoxical home that shares the same sense of finality as its surroundings.
The barrier of death, anchored to the structure of the workshop, should be more than enough to deter any minor forest wild-life. At the very least, any new tree growth will be inhibited. You plan on enchanting it all more, of course, to increase durability and add in some more tricks that can give you the edge in defense. However, as long as nobody takes offense to the patch of death as their neighbor you don’t imagine having many problems.
Yoshika jumps forward and flops onto the ground, spreading out like a starfish. “Neku, Neku, come here! Feels good~”
Your other jiang-shi takes a few steps forward into your workshop’s perimeter. He nods in appreciation. “Indeed.”
You march past the pair of basking jiang-shi to inspect the grounds and make sure nothing went wrong. Despite your restraint, you smile. It is exactly as the two undead note. Entering the grounds comforts you like a warm blanket.
I’m starting to worry about your future bride and children again…
Hm, a good point. You might have to be careful if you invite anybody over to your workshop. You don’t think you have a good way to give out immediate and full immunity to the barrier’s effects. Then again, most of the people you associate with are so beyond you that they all probably have their own methods of resisting it.
You continue to setup your workshop, using and arranging supplies as the jiang-shi arrive with them. You uproot a few more trees to form furniture for the workshop; mostly tables, chairs, and bookcases. Magical enchantments imbued into the paint protect the window and door openings, boxes are magically chilled and heated to store food, and various reagents are buried underground for emergencies.
Everybody takes part in unloading supplies if they aren’t ferrying them. You feel like you should be worried when the jiang-shi start to argue about how items should be arranged, but the workshop is small enough that you can hopefully find whatever you need quickly enough.
You alternate your time between laying down more magical runes and unpacking. In particular, you handle the box of texts yourself. What other books might you need for your studies? You give all the reference books Kosuzu gave you a cursory second glance as you stack them onto the shelves. You yourself don’t have many written notes but-
“My, how quaint.”
You feel your blood chill at the sound of the voice. You carefully set down the books and turn around.
Standing in the doorway is one Seiga Kaku, her eyes roaming indecently all over the interior of your workshop.
Dio stands off to the side, his curly blonde hair covering his eyes. He still notices when you look over at him and seems to shrink under your gaze. “She found me shortly after I left the temple,” he explains.
Seiga smiles and walks over to him, wrapping her arms around his head and neck. “And of course I was concerned when I learned my cute little underling was planning on head into the Forest of Magic alone. Who would dare set him on such a dangerous journey?” While seemingly relaxed as she lounges against Dio, Seiga’s fearsome eyes betray how irritated she is.
You take a breath and take stock of the situation. The lightest of probes lets you know that the other jiang-shi are outside, tactically situated underneath the windows where they can eavesdrop while pretending not to.
“I had faith in his abilities and didn’t feel the need to obsessively follow his every move,” you walk over to your supply boxes and pull out the tea set you bought. It seemed like a good thing to have considering Gensokyan habits. “As you can see, he had a safe destination to directly return to.”
“Hmm, I suppose so,” Seiga relents, releasing her hold on Dio and moving take a seat at your table.
The jiang-shi glances between you and her before deciding his best bet is to run away and hide with the others.
What helpful companions.
Maybe it shows their faith in your abilities to not piss off their creator?
The two of you say nothing while the tea is made on your magical burners. Seiga seems content to observe your workshop and you take the time to consider how to deal with the witch.
Frankly, you have no clue.
Unless Seiga’s capabilities solely extend to crafting meticulous enchantments for her jiang-shi, she can probably mop the floor with you if she wanted.
So, talking her away is the best bet. Yet you don’t know what she wants here and you barely have any insights to her as a person. Disregarding tone, your conversations with her have been almost exclusively small talk or about the jiang-shi.
Worst case scenario you suppose you overload your barrier and hope Seiga is unprepared for what amounts to a suicide attack. Please don’t.
Thankfully, after you set the steaming tea onto the table and poor Seiga a cup, she sees fit to take the initiative.
“The greeting you have weaved into the air is quite striking,” Seiga comments. “You can feel your dedication to the Tao and your eagerness to experience all phases of life.”
You contemplate giving up on any conversation, giving her the stink eye, and going back to rearranging books.
That’d make you a poor host.
You sigh. “I’m not a Taoist.”
“Our words may differ but is our intent not the same? You seek life in death and in that, we are no different.” Seiga taps a finger at the side of her mouth and smirks. “Perhaps we are no different in other ways as well.”
“What did you want, Seiga?” You’re too tired to try and read deeply into whatever games Seiga wants to play.
The blue-haired woman sets her teacup down and rests an elbow on the table. “Directly to the point, then? Your lover and her followers are fussing overly much, their panic causing those who look upon them no casual amount of curiosity. I have been tasked to discover what has stressed you all so. To fulfill this task I decided to seek you out.”
You nod slowly. It should be fine to take her claim at face value. You and Byakuren’s relationship aside, you can imagine the Taoists catching wind of the temple’s preparations and start seeking more information. But, “Why me?”
“I had assumed that which has scared the residents of the temple into action would have been caused by you.” Her accusation is delivered with a smirk. “Am I incorrect?”
You school the features of your face into neutrality but your silence only causes Seiga to laugh. It’s more like a sophisticated chuckle, subtly mocking and all-around smug in tone.
“It is only natural,” she chides you, “that those such as us are the root and end of such problems.”
It’s only been a minute but talking with Seiga gives you a headache. Unfortunately, you can’t just leave her words alone. “What do mean, us?”
Seiga frowns at you and sips her tea. “Anomalies,” she states. With the tip of her pinky finger, she casually runs loops along the table. You smell the stench of her sickly magic before you see the pattern she is etching into the wood.
It’s a formation with the aspect of collection. It’s one of the foundations for practically all your rituals, as each necessitates an offering of blood or body. “Outcasts,” she says.
With a look of boredom Seiga takes her empty teacup and taps it, some sort of magic entering the vessel. Then she tosses it to the floor near your book- the ceramic shatters as a spike of bone spears it through. Threat neutralized, the trap recedes back into the ground.
“Butchers,” she names you.
“Listen,” you growl, doing your best to not jump out of your chair, “I don’t know what you think I do for Byakuren but-”
“But you would, would you not?” Seiga turns to inspect her nails. “If you possessed the power and she the desire, or if circumstances led you to discover an imminent threat. We would strike, ruthlessly and without remorse.”
You close your eyes and take a breath. Then two. After your third, you find you still have nothing to say to Seiga.
She’ll believe what she wants to believe and you…
…You’ll still need to deal with this situation, no matter what else.
“You want information that you think I have. Why would I tell you anything?” you ask her.
This insufferable woman grins at you. “The kindness of your heart?” she offers.
She laughs again at your unamused look. “I would propose a professional exchange of information. Nothing less, but perhaps something more?”
Tell Seiga about
[ ] Nothing. [ ] Preparations for an incident [ ] Youkai being driven from the Bamboo Forest [ ] The mutated rabbits [ ] The Necronomicon -[ ] It’s location -[ ] Eirin’s possible experimentations -[ ] Your own interest [ ] <Write-in>
Ask Seiga about
[ ] Her views on -[ ] Taoism -[ ] Buddhism -[ ] Gensokyo [ ] Threats she has ended [ ] Yoshika’s improvements [ ] Future cooperation -[ ] Magic lessons -[ ] Further jiang-shi enchantments -[ ] Contingency plans -[ ] Combined research [ ] <Write-in>
Well, a long wait isn’t surprising at this point. At least the length is somewhat comparable!
In regards to the vote, you get what you give. Take it as far as you want with write-ins. If there’s anything you’d like to say to Seiga in general, actions to perform, deals to propose, etc. feel free to make note.
If you want a first set of information to inform a second decision, just ask and I’ll write a quick answer in advance of the actual update (assuming there aren’t major consequences for bringing the topic up).
Also, assuming you don’t begin trying to work out a deal or take some other action due to this conversation, time is going to keep on moving past the workshop setup and into social/other stuff.
[X] Preparations for an incident [X] Youkai being driven from the Bamboo Forest [X] The mutated rabbits [X] The Necronomicon -[x] Mention not to go anywhere near Eientei if you value your sanity. There are mutant rabbits there, and you know Erin's a dabbling necromancer...
>“It is only recently that I have begun to have brighter dreams. I am sorry you did not get to see one of those instead; it might have caused a strange sense of déjà vu.”
>>187980 Do you want to provoke her into engaging Eirin for us? If she knows Necro will try to get the Necromicon anyway, then what reason does she have to not wait until he gets it/fail and distract Eirin and grab it?
Seems like the conversation should be structured like such. When information has been exchanged, we can move on to possible cooperation.
Also, I'm think that we should share our final goal while asking for hers? That might make cooperation work smoother if the goals are known, not saying we tell her of the means yet. She'd probably snatch the book first.
[x] Preparations for an incident [x] Youkai being driven from the Bamboo Forest [x] The mutated rabbits
[x] Her views on -[x] Buddhism -[x] Gensokyo [x] Future cooperation -[x] Magic lessons
I'm a bit hesitant to mention the mutated rabbits since she might be able to connect it to the Necronomicon. But if we don't give her some info we miss a chance for some interesting info and hopefully some help.
Here you are again, sitting across from an unbelievably powerful spellcaster while you consider saying something stupid.
Business as usual, then?
With her offer for an information exchange on the table, Seiga Kaku seems content to let you stew. The witch alternates between watching you with an amused lilt to her mouth and gazing at the various features of your newly constructed workshop.
What can she see? Given how she’s obviously staring at your warding she must have some sort of magical sense permanently active. Is it a natural intuition or simply a better hidden construct than what you- Focus, Bro. You’re procrastinating.
Seiga wants to know about the brewing incident which you totally did not start. Eirin’s experiments, and the doctor herself, are at the root of it all. You only provided a useful measurement stick for the Myouren Temple’s expectations.
That information, at least, is nothing to worry over. There isn’t much to be gained by hiding info on Eirin’s monstrosities.
If this woman wants anything else from you then she’ll have to-
To pry it from your cold, dead hands?
That’s what you’re having trouble considering. Seiga has never rubbed you the right way, probably stemming from your first contact where she tried to kill you by detonating a mind rending trap inside of Yoshika’s head.
Probably the worst way to make a first impression.
Unfortunately, your first impression to her probably wasn’t much better. You were attempting to ‘steal’ one of her ‘cute little underlings’ after all.
What, you’re admitting that you’re at fault as much as she is?
Of course not. However, you can see that you’ve been biased against her from the beginning. Wary. Your closest friends and confidants warned you against the Taoists and their ways. When you did meet, her attitude never did much to alleviate those concerns. Seiga is supremely confident, eager to prod others and quick to rise to any potential challenges.
She had as much a reason to dislike you as you did her, yet her actions were never so ambiguous. Yoshika and the other jiang-shi flock to her whenever she appears, always at ease. She supposedly sent the other jiang-shi to you because you looked like someone who could care for them when she was forbidden to. She has only made improvements to your enchantments, she hasn’t tried to stop you or kill you past that first time.
And really, would you have reacted any differently? If it looked like the mind of someone you loved was going to be twisted and enslaved…
Despite what your gut is complaining about, Seiga hasn’t given you a reason to distrust her. She has only been helpful.
Perhaps you should be willing to give a little, at least as much as she has to you. That’s a very mature conclusion.
“You want to know why the Temple is preparing for an Incident, then?” you ask Seiga.
The Taoist stops tracing her finger along intricate patterns atop your desktop. “That is the task set out for me, yes.”
“Blame Eientei,” you shamelessly point a finger at the Lunarians. “Eirin was experimenting with things she shouldn’t have and created her own personal monsters.”
Trying to hide the information does no good. In fact, even if you weren’t on decent terms with Seiga you would have told her this. The better prepared Gensokyo at large is, the less damage Eirin’s experiments can do.
Simple rabbits, mutated by a virus that Eirin no doubt engineered with inspiration from what she read in the Necronomicon. You have only come into contact with the barest scraps of that knowledge but you’ve seen more than enough from the innumerable cults wandering the world to confirm your suspicions. The type of insanity that the knowledge of those abominations brings is always horrid.
You make sure to elaborate on the capabilities of Eirin’s experiments as much as possible; their extreme durability, strength, endurance, and even elevated intelligence. They regenerate and have numerous prehensile limbs. They can be relentless and maddened in behavior, but apparently are capable of perfect calm and following orders if created correctly. If you could make an army of such creatures you would hardly need your Necromancy at all.
Seiga listens attentively, her serious demeanor at odds with her usual taunting and suggestive manner. You don’t see her write anything down but you assume she’ll be able to recite your information word for word to the other Taoists. Once you finish, she is quick to pickup with questioning. “Are you aware if these mutated rabbits only follow Eirin’s commands? Do they require training or are they naturally subservient?”
Her questions are direct and well thought out. Unfortunately for her, you know only what you’ve experienced. Even your speculations into the mutations origins wouldn’t help address the type of functional information that Seiga asks for. Even though it is clear to both of you the information she seeks is unknown, she asks all her questions diligently.
Then, all at once, her serious expression breaks. She leans forward and rests her elbow on the table, holding up her head. She’s practically splayed forward, the low cut of her cerulean dress-
The witch smirks at you as your eyes rise back up to meet hers. “Now then,” she drawls, “what do you wish to know of me?”
An exchange of information. Assuming Seiga has been operating on good faith, you have carte blanche to ask her almost anything. While you doubt you could get a straight answer about all her weaknesses, any information on the Taoists and their potential is laid bare before you. Just imagine the possible intel that could be gleaned, all the powerful preparation you could put in place-
How much of that would be useful? Do you honestly need to prepare to fight the Taoists when other, larger problems loom before you?
No, you’ve already resolved to talk with Seiga here and now. Labelling her as a problem to fight is…wrong. I thought you would have called it prudent.
Prudent is ambushing the necromancers that you know are ferrying victims away for ritual sacrifice. What you have here is a person, a powerful person, whom you barely know.
“What would you find interesting?” you ask, “Since it seems like what has sent the temple into a panic barely makes you bat an eyelash.”
Maybe that was the wrong question.
There’s a certain kind of light that starts to shine in Seiga’s eyes. The blue-haired witch straightens ever so slightly, her lips opening into the tiniest of o’s.
“Of all the information you could seek, you choose to investigate me?” Seiga ponders. She reaches for a lock of her hair, twirling the azure strands around a finger.
She stares at you a minute longer. You don’t make any outward moves, no nervous adjustments. Yet, whatever she sees in you seems to satisfy her as she sits up fully and gestures with her hands.
“Life, and death, as it goes. Such simple concepts known to us all, from the lowliest insect to the mightiest of the gods. What are life and death but fundamental concepts that define the universe? We value ourselves by how we live, how some supposedly cannot die. Yet, it is nothing so simple as that. How dare we define what we do not understand?
“Does life begin with a birth and end with a death? Surely even the afterlives decided by the Bureaucracy of Hell have an end? How dare anybody attempt to describe the indescribable nature of the universe with such ineffectual terms that not even the Gods of Death can fully explain?” Seiga takes a deep breath and smiles. “Unfortunately, these terms are all we have. We are but mortals and must make do with our philosophies and our experimentations. You ask what interests me? It is the search for the truth of existence. It is magic. It is what I know as Taoism.”
You nod, taking a few seconds to digest Seiga’s impassioned explanation. Is she the professor type that simply likes to hear herself talk or is this something that honestly drives her? “I don’t think that is what the world acknowledges as Taoism.”
The spike in murderous, agitated energy around the witch is palpable. It’s enough to set you on edge, to make you immediately regret poking at her. It would have been enough for you to trigger all the traps you’ve built into your workshop if you thought that intent was at all directed at you.
As quickly as her anger waxes, it wanes. The blue-haired witch simply shrugs in resignation, a few nail scratches in your table the remnants of her emotion. “Understanding of the Tao is as diverse as starts in the night sky. All do what they can to learn, to see. Some are incapable of reaching for the truth. Some are led astray and see only what can be applied. All I may say is that my own understanding has been forged over centuries by dozens brilliant minds.”
“Centuries…” you mutter and close your eyes. It always comes down to age in Gensokyo, doesn’t it? Who have you met that is even close to being of age with you? The teenagers Reimu and Marisa? Shouldn’t a decade be a large age gap? And yet Reimu is a dirty cheater and Marisa is a font of magical energy. How are you expected to keep up with all these people?
You jolt slightly when Seiga’s finger taps your head. The witch has silently stood up and wandered over to your side of the table. She has seated herself on the edge of the wood, a mere arm’s length away.
“Fret not,” she chuckles. “For your age, you have already progressed unnaturally far along the path. I wish any of my family or disciples had shown the same drive that you do.”
A compliment? Should you feel proud about that? “They all have to be long dead by now,” you retort.
“Has anyone told you your attempts to aggravate are adorable?” Seiga laughs off your feeble jabs and continues speaking. “Not all of my disciples, but my family most assuredly. Alas, as lovable as they were none of the family I married into were practitioners. In fact, they were highly superstitious. It was horribly stifling. The only relation I have who sought the truth was my father. I can only hope to reach what he has achieved.”
Seiga speaks of her father with a shining tone. “What? Is he some sort of famous Taoist?”
“Famous? No, not in the slightest. He left my mother and me when I was young to become a hermit and follow his own path,” Seiga replies.
“Sounds like a great dad,” you quip. Leaving for good is probably better than being a drunken and drugged detriment, at least.
Seiga shakes her with a smile. “Despite what you might imagine, I do not begrudge him of it. No, I have only admiration for that man I barely know. He left behind a wealth of writings for me to begin my own search for the truth. Hopefully, once I am capable of transcending to something more I shall find him awaiting me.” For a woman hundreds of times your age, she sure is speaking with the admiration of a child.
As if sensing your internal criticism, Seiga rolls her eyes at you. “Do not give me that look. I am fully aware the man probably died starving in a ditch somewhere.”
“And yet you still admire him?” you ask.
“Why not? While his fate is uncertain, I certainly would not have achieved all that I have without his help and guidance. My love for him is no less diminished,” Seiga confidently assures you. Then, after a moment of thought, her eyes narrow slightly as another smirk develops on her face. “Hm, that was a hefty amount I have told you. Some might call this deal unfair in your favor.”
You grunt in response. She started talking about her family first. But you did ask a couple of questions in there.
Isn’t your sister supposed to be on your side? Just keeping the facts straight. I’m not telling you to do anything here.
You grunt again and decide to dredge up more facts of the situation. “Eientei has been making further ripples beyond these creatures of Eirin’s. Problems for the village in the form of stray youkai, evicted from their homes in the bamboo forest.” You give Seiga a short description of what Shou had begrudgingly informed you of. Many belligerent youkai have been bullied away from their homes by armed Lunarian rabbits. Byakuren sorted out one group that had caused problems for the farmers of the village but you imagine only more problems will crop up somewhere else.
Luckily, your own workshop is deep enough in the Forest of Magic that you doubt you’ll face too many wanderers questing for shelter, temporarily or not. While you might have taken the space by force you hope none of these other youkai are equally determined.
“And your temple’s members are amongst those forcibly displaced?” Seiga asks, only mildly interested.
“Byakuren had those living in the bamboo forest temporarily moved into the temple to prevent that exact possibility,” you tell her. “It’s safer that way.”
“Hm, surprising. You all have truly beaten the pride out of your youkai if they felt it more prudent to move than give up their homes,” Seiga levies the accusation with a straight face.
“Nobody beat them-”
Her eyes widen in surprise. “Then those mindless hour-long chants are not a punishment?
They definitely wake you up at far too early in the morning…
“No,” you eventually settle on. “They are not punishment.”
“A bore then,” Seiga shrugs, “as expected of you Buddhists.”
Her dismissive nature is really getting to you. It’s not like you aren’t responding in kind. You two are mutually nettling each other.
Yeah, but you’re poking directly at her! Meanwhile she’s going after everybody that isn’t you. “If all you’re going to do is insult-”
A wooden chopstick is flicked forward, stopping in front of your mouth. “Peace. No need to jump to the defense of your lover. I find all of Gensokyo equally dull, not only your precious woman and her trappings of religion.”
“She isn’t-” You stop yourself, flaring at the amused smirk on Seiga’s face. Fine. No more rising to her bait. You reorient yourself and find something else to respond with. “This sealed land isn’t filled with enough interesting magic for you?”
“What purpose is all this power if it is never used? Practitioners outside are constantly struggling to seek new knowledge with what limited energy they can grasp. You are a fine example.”
This woman tosses out backhanded compliments without a care.
“No,” Seiga sighs. “There is no point in playing at peace like this when any group has the ability to destroy such tranquility. Maintaining such an environment breeds contentment, stagnation. It is horridly restricting.”
“Like your Jiang-shi, then?” you ask.
Her eyes take on a suspicious slant. “What of them?”
“I remember,” you say as vivid memories float into your mind, “Miko saying how she had told you to send them off. It was, what was the word- meant to deescalate. Isn’t that Miko’s way of keeping the peace, of stifling you?”
Seiga doesn’t bother to hide her disgruntlement. It is not quite the sneer she had on before when speaking on Gensokyo, but it’s close. “Indeed it is.”
“Then why are you even here?”
Seiga stops in the middle of placing that ornate chopstick back into her hair. “Pardon?”
You wave an arm around, gesturing to all of Gensokyo. “You’ve already said you’d find people like me, Outsiders, more interesting than what is here. If Miko is ordering you to do things you dislike, enough that you’re turning me into your loophole for your jiang-shi, why haven’t you left?”
Might want to straighten that face of yours. Your self-control is too slow as Seiga takes one look at you and chuckles. “Do not look so shocked. Am I not allowed to be bound by affection? Why would I abandon one of my most successful disciples?”
Seiga sighs and kicks her legs out straight. “Yet, you are right. Perhaps I have given enough to this life. The others are none so devout and even Miko has never truly pursued what might lie beyond this realm. Perhaps I shall move on once this incident of yours settles.”
At the thought of Seiga leaving, one thought from your brain immediately jumps to your mouth. “Would you take the jiang-shi with you?”
It’s the possessive part of you. Of course. How charming.
“Oh? Feeling attached to my cute little ones?” Seiga asks.
At their mentioning, and Seiga’s beckoning, you watch the jiang-shi slink into the room. They leap through the window they had been eavesdropping from and array themselves around you. Yoshika moves to sit on Seiga’s lap while the others find stools and boxes to sit on.
“Yes,” you say without shame.
“An honest answer. I do not fault you.” Seiga remove’s Yoshika’s hat and puts it on, all so that she can stroke the jiang-shi’s lavender hair. “Alas, I have relinquished their care to you. It would be two-faced of me to insist on their return.”
You watch Yoshika act like a woman-sized pile of putty in Seiga’s arms. You consider her, and then the other four. “No matter what we decide in the future, the jiang-shi would need to be intact if they were going to travel with you.”
“Not quite true,” Seiga corrects, “but I understand where you are going with these thinly veiled insinuations. You wish for me to work into the others what I have Yoshika?”
“Yes.” There’s no reason to try and negotiate here. Seiga has consistently shown her favor to the undead. If nothing else, this feels like common ground between you and her. You’re confident that she will-
“Very well, I agree. However, I am afraid there is a problem.” She draws out the word problem.
“What?” you ask, suspicious.
“My own workshop is located in Senkai, somewhere Miko has forbidden the jiang-shi from returning. I had worked on Yoshika amongst nature, but such a setup is ill suited for-”
“I get it,” you cut her off. Is it worth it, though?
What kind of danger does Seiga pose? You haven’t even worked in a quarter of your workshop’s planned defenses, defenses that would have given you the advantage in repelling someone like Seiga…if she didn’t know about them in advance.
It’s far from ideal. Who purposefully invites the snake in the grass into their home?
However, when you weigh everything logically, it becomes a non-issue.
“You can have space here,” you grunt. “A quarter of the room inside and wherever outside as long as it doesn’t compromise my security.”
“A half,” she shoots back. “I can hardly fit a bed and my supplies into a quarter.”
You grit your teeth. “One half,” you ground out. The jiang-shi are an unparalleled asset. They are top fighters, resourceful, and intelligent in a variety of ways. Any spells you create within a week or two cannot compare to them. Having all five of them in pristine condition, capable of fighting on par with what Yoshika has shown, is an invaluable boon.
Seiga smiles and raises her hand. “A deal, then?”
You reach out to grab her hand, but pause. Your self-centered thoughts of personal secrecy had dominated your initial assessment but, really, watching Seiga work? Seeing how she sets up her rituals and the methodologies she uses? It’s true she would only bring what she wants you to see but it’s still an obscene level of exposure. Why take such a risk?
Maybe she’s not as paranoid as you?
She put suicide traps into the seals on her jiang-shi.
…Maybe she doesn’t think you’re smart enough to get anything out of seeing her work.
“Second thoughts?” Seiga asks.
“An extra quarter of my workshop’s space is a bit much,” you hedge. “I would need to cut back on space for my own practical work. If you’re going to be bringing your supplies here then it seems reasonable that I have access to it all.”
“Supplies which you likely cannot fully utilize? I see, you want lessons then?” Seiga smirks, the fingers of her outstretched hand widening as if eager to eat you whole. “You admit I am your superior in your own magical arts?”
She has to phrase it that way, doesn’t she? “Your spellwork is far more intricate than anything I have managed. We both know that already,” you grind out.
“Thank you for the compliment,” Seiga preens, the smugness oozing from every one of her pores. “I would not be opposed to providing a few tips for one seeking them.”
You sigh and grasp her hand.
The witch dares to grin at you, the happiest you’ve seen her yet.
As good as this deal should be with you receiving practically everything you asked for, you still feel like you lost to this smiling predator in front of you.
Why did this happen? You brought it on yourself, I think. You made yourself interesting.
With enough time having been wasted on talking and head scratches, everybody gets back to work. Seiga immediately requisitions half of your jiang-shi labor force and flies off with them, only to return a few hours later with some tetris-monstrosity of furniture and bags held together by frayed rope.
You’re fairly certain her pile of possessions is as tall as the workshop.
The jiang-shi holding it all aloft look about as pleased as you feel.
“Hey there,” the white-haired immortal greets you, setting down her axe and walking closer. “You’re here pretty early. Sorry but I’m not opening my stand today. Keine wants to go shopping.”
You hear Yoshika groan behind you. Rolling your eyes, you shoo away the ever-hungry girl and she runs off to go roll around on the ground or something.
“That’s fine. We’ve already had breakfast at the temple. I Just thought we’d stop by to chat for a bit, if that’s okay with you.”
You and Mokou relax at her stall, you taking a stool while she jumps onto the counter.
“So,” Mokou begins with a hint of nervousness, “did that favor you wanted to ask of Eirin the other day work out okay?”
“I think so,” you respond, “I ended up making a deal with Tewi. She was pretty helpful, said she’d do her best and would get back to me soon. Thank you for that advice, by the way.”
Mokou beams at you. “Not at all! Like I said, despite how annoying they can be, the earth rabbits are all a good-natured group. I was a bit worried you were going to do something drastic.”
“Like crawl inside and set Eirin’s underwear on fire?”
The immortal blushes lightly. “A-anyway, whatcha doing here so early? Not that I mind the company, of course, but I feel like this is pretty far out of the way for you. I mean, I guess if you just came to talk to me then it’s not out of the way…”
“It honestly wasn’t far off,” you answer with a smile. “I’ve been setting up a workshop in the Forest of Magic, so that means long days of drawing funny symbols on the ground and the like. Plus, there’s a pretty dangerous person wandering about so it’s a little straining mentally. I thought coming to see you would be helpful to relax.”
“Glad I can help!” Mokou smiles widely before quickly frowning. “A dangerous person, though? Did you need help? I can come by and set them straight if they’re looking to hurt you!”
“No, no. They’re a welcomed guest…sort of.” You did make the offer, after all.
“Okay?” Mokou wonders.
You don’t even want to try and take the time to explain your relationship with Seiga. The best you can offer Mokou is a shrug. When you don’t bother to elaborate on the situation, Mokou shrugs too. “Even if you did invite them it sounds like difficult work for you.”
“Not as difficult as learning how to put on makeup and dressing up for Keine, surely?” You laugh when Mokou fidgets and looks away. “How did that end up going? You two looked great together during the festival, by the way.”
“T-Thanks. For the compliment, I mean. But also for your help with all that girly stuff too, a-actually. I know I would have messed it all up without your help. Keine really appreciated all the work that went into it, I mean me, I think.”
“Oh, did she?” you ask. “Then she must have rewarded all your hard effort, right? A favor, maybe? A pat on the head, a back rub, a trip to her room-”
“No! Nothing like that. Geez, what are you even trying to say?” You swear little licks of flame rise from the tips of Mokou’s burning red ears. It takes a good minute for the immortal to calm down and even consider talking to you again.
When she does, it’s with a much more serious air than before. “Hey, so Keine was mentioning some things to me the other day about how all of your temple people were acting all panicky.”
You nod. “Remember those mutated rabbits of Eirin’s?”
“Of course I do, persistent little monsters.”
“Yeah, well, apparently everybody else living in the bamboo forest here is being run out by the Lunarians. That fact, combined with the creatures existence, made Byakuren think an incident was brewing.”
Your mention of the I-word doesn’t throw Mokou into a tizzy like the others. Instead, the immortal rapidly nods her head and starts to ponder. “Uh, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I can’t really say I’ve paid any attention to when things were going to hit the fan until they hit me directly. People usually visit me when they want something, you know? Like, a lot of times it’s just someone that wants to fight me for some reason so I guess that’s another reason I really like it when you come visit. Erhm, anway, Reisen has stopped by a bunch recently, actually a couple of times a day. She’s so overworked that I usually only get to see her when we run into each other at the village and then we don’t really get to say more than a few words.”
“So if she visits you at home that means she was sent? Like part of her work?”
“Yeah, pretty much. She never really says the same thing twice though so I can’t tell why she’s stopping by. They aren’t exactly friendly catch-up visits but she never asks me for the same thing twice. Maybe she’s just got a lot on her plate, more than usual? I don’t know, it’s weird,” Mokou admits.
What does Eirin want? After all, you have no doubts that it’s Eirin’s bidding that Reisen is acting towards. “She’s not threatening you is she?”
“No!” Mokou shouts. “Sorry, I’m not trying to make trouble where there isn’t. Usually it’s just a few questions, or a few minutes of greetings. It’s nothing to make me think that they want me out of the forest, at least. I don’t know what’s going on there. It’s not like I ever talk to my neighbors much; they can’t pay for my food and I don’t make good eating. Still, I feel like if they wanted me out they’d probably just blow up my house and me with it.”
“Hm.” The dynamics of this group are too much for you to decipher. They spent years murdering and torturing each other but now they’re pretty friendly, except when they’re not. “Well, if you do have any problems or if Eirin’s experiments get out again then you can come find me or go to the temple for help.”
“Thanks, but it won’t be a problem. That little monster got the better of me the first time but I think I figured out a better way to fight it. I’m not going to lose to a ball of black gelatin again!” The flames of Mokou’s passion ignite behind her.
You point, causing the immortal to turn around and squeal. She quickly flops onto her stomach and reached underneath the countertop of her stall, grabbing a fire blanket to throw over the little flames growing on her nice woodwork.
“Could you fight it without burning down the forest?” you ask while she frets. You remember what Reimu said when you told the shrine maiden about the attack. ‘Mokou held back,’ she had spoken resolutely whilst sitting around in her underwear.
“It wouldn’t be the first time I did,” Mokou mutters. She carefully grabs one corner of the blanket and peeks under it. “But um, yeah I think I can. You’d think living as long as I have I’d be better as using my powers but I’m really not that smart at the end of it all. It’s hard for me to get creative in the heat of things. A little bit of time after, and I guess chatting with Keine, gave me all the plans I might need. I can definitely keep those monsters from hurting anybody now. If you ever feel free threatened don’t worry about relying on me!” Mokou pumps her arm with energy but quickly shakes it off and glances around warily.
“I’ll be sure to,” you grin. “I don’t suppose you-”
“Hello!” Your conversation is broken by a silver-haired woman walking into the clearing.
Mokou immediately jumps to her feet and runs over to the newcomer. “Keine, hey!”
You want to laugh at how eager the immortal is. You slowly get up and walk over to the pair, Yoshika falling into step at your side. You try and wipe off the dirt print that Yoshika’s hand leaves on your sleeve but the jiang-shi simply leaves her mark elsewhere.
“I’m sorry for making you wait.”
“No, no, not at all! You know I’m never that busy out here, Keine.”
“That isn’t true. Ah, but I am sorry for interrupting your conversation,” Keine directs the comment towards you. The schoolteacher bows to you with her apology.
“Not at all. I was just helping to pass the time,” you respond. “Don’t let me get in the way of your trip.”
“Please, do not feel as if you are unwelcome. In fact,” Keine stands up and reaches out her hand. “I believe I should be the one thanking you for helping Mokou, both for the festival and other times.”
“Again, not at all,” you say while giving Keine’s hand a quick shake. “I was glad to help. I was afraid Mokou was going to burn down her house with how panicky she was.”
“Truly? She looked astonishing when she arrived at the festival. Were her first attempts not as refined?”
“I’ll just say that I’ve seen better attempts from-”
“Stoooooop,” Mokou moans.
Keine mouths a quick ‘later’ to you before graciously moving on “Then, shall we head out? It would be better to get to the stores as early as possible. I know you’d rather not shop with the crowds around.”
Mokou quickly nods, glad to be escaping from any further embarrassment. “Yeah sure, let me just-”
“Hey, Mokou!” A cheerful voice rings.
You all turn to look at Reisen as the Lunarian bounds out of the forest. She’s dressed no differently than you usually see her, blazer and skirt all perfectly laundered. Looking carefully, you see the rabbit youkai’s eyes quickly dart around the clearing, carefully assessing everybody there. The smile on her face and pep in her step don’t change.
Mokou glances at you once, her exasperation clear, before addressing her newest visitor. “Hey, Reisen. What do you need this time?”
The purple-haired rabbit wastes no time in pulling out a fancy looking tablet and swiping around on it. “I was actually hoping if you had time to come over for-”
“Right now?” Mokou surprisingly interrupts her. “Sorry, but I’m heading over to the village with Keine. I don’t have the time.”
“Oh, I see,” Reisen responds, the slightest of frowns making its way onto her face. “Then can I get your schedule so I can see when you’d have the time to stop by? There were a few things I and the others were looking at and we think you’d be a big help in-”
“Perhaps later, Reisen?” Keine asks, a tone of what might be impatience creeping in.
The rabbit girl looks up from her device, eyes widening as she takes in the two women standing with their arms locked together. She nods once, then twice. “Yeah, yeah, okay. That should be okay. I’ll find you later then.” Her frown deepens as she swipes quickly at her tablet. After hooking the device back onto her belt the rabbit girl bows once. “Sorry for taking up your time.”
Reisen quickly takes a few steps backwards and briskly walks away, giving you a quick nod and smile before disappearing back into the bamboo shoots.
The three of you simply look at each other.
“See what I mean?” Mokou asks.
Despite how the week began, time passes without incident. No army of monsters comes crawling out of the bamboo forest. There are no mysterious deaths in the village. Seiga doesn’t murder you while you’re working. You don’t trample all over the hearts of innocent young girls.
Well, mostly. Kogasa hasn’t bothered to start following you around again, but that’s probably a good thing.
“One, two, three, hah!”
“One, two, three-ahh!”
You and Byakuren both chuckle when Kogasa falls flat on her face, unbalanced by the spear she holds in her hands.
The two of you take a sip of tea.
Even from across the courtyard, you can see Shou’s shoulders shrug as she releases her stance and walks over to her newest pupil. The tiger picks up the umbrella youkai with one hand and places the girl on her feet. You watch Kogasa perform her lunge in slow motion, Shou lightly tapping the girl’s arms and legs to adjust her form.
When Shou steps back, Kogasa resets her position and begins anew. It’s hard to tell considering she’s facing away from you but you think Shou seems proud of Kogasa’s effort.
Maybe that’s just your imagination.
“Why did you think this was a good idea, again?” you ask the head nun beside you.
“It should build character?” she responds.
You look to your right, Byakuren turning slightly to catch your eyes with her own.
You smile and give her a little nod.
She smiles and inclines her head.
The two of you raise your teacups and drink to the little umbrella’s fortune.
Time passes with little moments like that. Throughout the week, you are busy improving your workshop and studying the texts you borrowed from Kosuzu. Byakuren is hard at work leading the temple, preparing her disciples and taking the time to better integrate the bamboo forest youkai.
Even with your wildly differing schedules, the two of you manage to find the time for each other. Sometimes it’s breakfast, maybe a few minutes of rest in the afternoon, or perhaps a cup of tea before bed. Generally, you just talk; what happened during the day, what little favors could be done, mild concerns for the future. None of your moments together seem to stray into the same intensity that some of your previous encounters have.
Thank goodness for that. I don’t think my heart could take it.
Wasn’t your sister encouraging you to talk about feelings and emotions before?
Frankly, it always seems to go either very well or very poorly. I’ll settle for average, for now. Also, pay attention.
“Sorry,” you say as you focus on the woman sitting next to you. “You were saying?”
Byakuren shakes her head and kicks out her legs, naked feet beautifully contrasted with the darkened nighttime grass. “Nothing of importance. You were speaking with your sister?”
The slight breeze you feel sitting atop the wall surrounding Myouren Temple turns the rather pleasant autumn night chilly. How can Byakuren stand having her legs bare? Isn’t she cold in her nightdress? Sure, she has a jacket on too, but the nippy wind can travel up her legs to- distraaaaactions.
You cough and quickly glance up. Thankfully, Byakuren has her head inclined towards the moon so she didn’t see- her eyes flick over towards you, a knowing smirk forming.
“Um,” you lamely respond, far later than you should have. “Yes. Sometimes I, uh, get lost in my thoughts.”
Byakuren’s airy giggles are unmistakable in the quiet night.
“But usually it’s my sister trying to occupy my attention, honest. Like she doesn’t already take up enough space in my mind.”
Hmph. Kids these days, no appreciation.
“I see,” Byakuren comments. There’s only the slightest moment of hesitation before she continues, “Does your closeness not bother you? Boundaries restrict us, but also make us who we are in many respects.”
“Well, I can’t say that it doesn’t. I wouldn’t be working so hard to separate us if I thought the situation was perfect. Still, I guess we just learned to live with it?” You lean back, recollecting the first days of your joining. “If we perfectly communicated and always felt the same emotions, I’m not sure if we would still feel like two people. At least from my perspective, we’ve always been of two minds.”
You sigh and fall back forwards, resting your elbows on your knees. “With everything that I’ve learned, I can’t honestly tell you if that’s an illusion or not. I wasn’t exactly in a sound mental state to notice any changes to myself at the beginning. And my sister, well, death and consumption of her soul should have broken down all her barriers and left her…malleable to me. Even if my sister isn’t just a hallucination of my mind, she should have been unequivocally changed before she managed to build her own barriers and piece together her individuality.”
I couldn’t think of a better person to have been changed by, if that’s the case. Still, I don’t know why you’re speculating on this. I thought we were pretty confident in what happened.
“As she’s pointing out right now, we think it’s probable that because we were so close in life that I had a good mental image of my sister. Even if she got all of me, she could find something of herself somewhere in that mess.” With a wave of your hand you cast away all the long-suffered speculations. “Ultimately, it’s one of the many reasons I want her to live her own life again. I can’t give her back what she may have lost but she can certainly start gaining new experiences of her own.”
A comforting hand presses against your back. “And I pray for your success. Have you discovered anything further to help you there? Any new information in your studies?”
“Not yet. Without the information from Tewi, without the Necronomicon itself, I still can’t verify if it contains all the answers I seek. It should, but even if it does I’ll have to sort through the chaff. At least that part is looking up. The reference books I received from Kosuzu are very helpful.”
“Wonderful. Do you believe any of your prior magical experiences will be of use?”
“Perhaps? The very basics will, at least. I don’t think making skeletons walk around will be of much use.”
“It is truly a wonder,” Byakuren hums.
“What is?” you ask with a smirk. “How beautiful you look tonight?”
Byakuren rolls her eyes and shoves you with her shoulder. “How magic so astounding as to summon the dead cannot immediately solve all your issues.”
“I think Necromancy has caused me more problems than anything. A lot of the solutions involved running away, after all.”
“A poisoned apple, then?”
“I think of Necromancy as a tool, just like any other magic. I guess it’s unfortunate that it is easier to do harm than good with it and that it is thought of as poorly as it is. Can’t have people running around using this evil magic, after all.”
Byakuren’s long locks brush against her shoulders as they move from side to side. “I do not think it evil. I spent many hours agonizing at the thought of your Necromancy being my panacea.”
You swallow. “Did you? The thought certainly crossed my mind but…you never asked.”
“And had you offered I doubt I would have refused.” Byakuren shifts and searches your eyes. “If you noticed, why did you not suggest it?”
“Suggest that I could bring back your brother for you?” Her quick gasp of breath fills you with anger at yourself.
When you look at Byakuren, she doesn’t seem angry. Startled at hearing the possibility spoken aloud, perhaps, but otherwise fairly stoic. It’s been so long since the topic was last broached, with how she speaks she makes it sounds like- She’s worked through it all herself already.
Well, thought about the possibilities at least. Coming to terms is always a different beast entirely. Emotions hardly follow logic. Yet, Byakuren isn’t asking you to do this for her now. No. She just wants to hear your thoughts.
You try to remember your reasoning, your feelings on the matter. The thought of offering certainly had passed through your mind plenty of times. It would have been hard to not figure out how much…emphasis Byakuren places on her brother.
Whenever you thought to make your special brand of offer, it felt irresponsible somehow. Why would you bring up her hope only to crush it if you couldn’t? Would speaking with her brother again for mere minutes help resolve centuries of pain or only worsen all the negativity she felt? Would it be a slippery slope? Or could you have swooped in like a guardian angel and fixed everything with a wave of your hand?
It was a practical uncertainty as well as a moral one. You were surprised that you managed to reach Mokou’s mother. You would not have managed Reimu’s if the girl herself hadn’t broken something with her ridiculous powers. It should have been the other way around given the vast difference in time spent dead but perhaps the rules are different for those who were powerful in life.
If that is the case, could you even touch someone long dead and who held power equal to the strongest in Gensokyo?
“I guess I never offered because I was uncertain,” you conclude with a grimace. “A poor reason as any, I guess. It might not have helped, it could have worsened everything, it may not have worked, I could have failed – my excuses are endless. Sorry.”
“You should not be,” Byakuren quickly reassures you while grabbing your hands. “It is better to leave that box unopened. No matter how much it still hurts me, I should be listening to some of the precepts I preach. I dwell in the past when I should not, when there are people in the present I should be focusing on instead.”
She gives you a small smile, one you return as widely as you can.
Then she slides around, peacefully resting her side against yours, one hand still held.
The night is calm, beautiful. Much like how the week is going. It feels like you should be winding up, on edge as calamity slowly approaches. Instead, your preparation is almost lackadaisical. Perhaps it is because you aren’t so alone this time?
Facing the terrors of the night with only your disembodied sister is nerve wracking.
With others? Even a single friend can act as a light in the darkness.
It’s been so long since you’ve felt this feeling of safety. The thought that there are those who will watch your back no matter what may-
“I had another nightmare the other day,” Byakuren abruptly says. “A new one, surprisingly. The revenants of the dead rose from the ground, all those we had caused the deaths of. Villagers we could not save or that we ignored to strengthen our relations with youkai. Soldiers that were killed, families that had been sundered. Yet even with all of the dead rising around me, the one I wished to see was not there. I went insane, in that nightmare, and watched those vengeful spirits murder everybody sleeping in the temple. The few who were strong enough to resist, experienced enough to turn aside the tide, met death at my own hands.”
Byakuren is leaned against you, but her head is not. You can’t see what she is staring at, off in the darkness.
“I was in tears when I awoke. I had been in tears when I first fell asleep, as well. Minamitsu had just finished telling me of Mokou’s mother and how she could not believe that such a shrew of a woman could have a child as mild-mannered as Mokou.”
“I-” You clench your fist once before unfurling it and wrapping both your arms around Byakuren. You squeeze her as close to you as possible. You’re a poor comforter, a poorer barrier against all her woes, but you try.
“I don’t know what to say,” you admit.
“Nothing is fine.” Her hands reach up to cover yours. With as tight as you have her clutched, her loose grip seems far more secure. “Telling this to you feels selfish, but there was nothing more I wanted at the moment. I expect nothing in return.”
Despite what she may claim, you start to speak anyway.
Nothing intelligent. Nothing deep. You speak of the vines in the forest that tried to melt your foot earlier. You complain about the newest cauldron of foul-odored liquid Seiga had dragged to your workshop. You tell her that as stunning as you think she looks tonight, your sister is more in awe of her and her proportions than you are.
She responds in kind, voice quavering. Breakfast was particularly bad as the newest residents were put on their first kitchen duty. She thinks you need a bit more color in your all-black ensemble, more than what your gifted scarf provides. She wants to go into the village at the end of the week to buy new undergarments.
The night passes as the two of you speak. Nothing bothers the two of you on your perch. The waxing moon glows beautifully.
When you finally separate and head to sleep in your respective rooms, you still feel troubled.
“And thus, the harmonization of the greater effect becomes apparent. Can you see it?”
You put your face lower to the table, eyes straining to make sense of the shapes. “Nine by nine circles to beseech the celestials and draw upon otherworldly fortitude?”
“Correct.” Seiga claps and goes from standing over your shoulder to sitting on the table. “It seems you too can recognize superior forms if you put your mind to it.”
“Thanks,” you say with all the appreciation you don’t care to muster. The practice sheet with Seiga’s peculiar brand of spellwork goes onto the pile with all the rest. “It feels crass to imitate something so anciently ornate with dots the size of half a grain of rice.”
“Imitate?” Seiga demands, her indignation clear. “No, I assure you ours is closer to the truth of the matter than what anybody else might have attempted. The heavens do not care for a flat world or lavishly large structures.” Miniature rant finished, Seiga turns her nose up with all the poise and disdain she can.
You ignore the diva and grab the stack of examples of her work. The Taoist had taken all afternoon to dumb down the basic wards and inscriptions she uses in her spells in order to try and teach you. “But yes, with this as a basis I think I can see where most of the rest of your work grows from.”
It makes sense, although some of the forms required more than her fair share of prompting for you to understand the methodology behind them. Unfortunately the basic forms aren’t enough to be more than a curiosity. The final product is still much too complicated for you.
You grab Yoshika’s arm, the jiang-shi herself sitting on the ground next to you like some kind of dog waiting for a treat, and lift it up to inspect it. “Of course I can’t replicate it, but this set of glyphs here are-”
“Outdated,” Seiga interrupts you.
“How so?” you ask while letting go of Yoshika’s arm. The limb doesn’t go anywhere, fingers still wiggling towards your face.
“Not yet, but soon.” Seiga tells you. She turns her entire body before she begins talking. You can feel the lecture oncoming and thus hunker down to listen. “A thought had occurred to me. Common belief is that one must search for the truth individually. Yet, without outside guidance how can one possibly begin to look? Hermits from all ages have gazed inwards and scrutinized outwards, alone. A group of individuals breeds complacency and groupthink, a homogenous compromise of truths which distort the matter of things. What of a single individual made of different groups?”
Honestly, who would have thought this slightly terrifying and amoral woman would like to run her mouth so much? “You might think you are clever with all your philosophical and religious prattling but you’re saying a whole lot of nothing right now.”
“Children,” Seiga tuts. She hops off the table, long legs taking her across the room to her bed where she promptly falls onto her back. “You told me of the faerie ring that you constructed your workshop in place of.”
“Fairies, as Gensokyo knows them, are simple manifestations of nature. Faeries, as you described them, are an individualistic hive-mind; a perfect unison of thoughts and abilities that can be drawn upon by their Queen and members to varying degrees.”
That’s the other thing about Seiga. She really likes her cryptic teacher bullshit. It’s like she’s built specifically to annoy you. “And that makes these wards outdated because…you want to link the jiang-shi? Spread their defensive enchantments through the group?”
Seiga hums her assent. “In a sense, yet that is not all. Their strength is in their individuality. Alone, each one of my darlings is a powerful supporter. Unite them such that they can bring any individual’s talents to bear for any situation? Harmonize their enchantments in order to specialize instead of generalize? Power lies that way.”
“But, practically, it doesn’t work.” You’re quick to shoot down her idea. “For the same reason a faerie ring of insufficient size is fragile, this would be too. You would need to remove some of their strong individual enchantments to make room for the magic to link them. Then, if even one of them were to fall, the group falters and becomes prone to a chained collapse.”
Seiga sits up, pointing one long nailed finger at you. “If you leave them vulnerable as they are, perhaps. What of the liches you have described to me?”
“What about them?” you shoot back. “Store your mind and soul somewhere else and you can make your body disposable. Pseudo-immortality. It’s a powerful concept, definitely. I mean, there’s a reason practically every Necromancer ends up heading in that direction. I don’t see why this matters.”
“If the group was no longer vulnerable to individual members falling?” Seiga asks.
“You want to turn the jiang-shi into liches and then link them together like a faerie ring?”
“In some respects.”
Your answer is immediate. “Impossible.”
“Oh? What makes you believe that?” While Seiga seems to thoroughly enjoy belittling you, she doesn’t always. If nothing else, you can’t fault her capabilities as a student; she knows when to listen and contemplate other perspectives.
“A lot of reasons,” you respond. “Liches are strong because while their bodies have nothing, they return with their magic and knowledge intact. The jiang-shi’s strengths come from their physical abilities, from the wards embedded into their skin. You can’t just move those wards to a phylactery and expect all the power to transfer.”
“But I do not, for the initial concept. A group of five stronger than they are now, with strength undiminished if one is removed. We may always restore the spellwork on them after the fact.”
Left unsaid is that if you and she are not around afterwards, neither would be the jiang-shi.
“Fine,” you continue. “The phylacteries themselves, then. If you’re linking all the jiang-shi together then you’d be connecting the bodies to each other, to their phylacteries, and then the phylacteries together too! If you’re expecting any kind of distance on this system then the size of the phylacteries would have to be massive!”
“Then they are massive, what of it?”
“They make an easy target, whereas self-contained bodies are mobile and can retreat.”
Seiga nods and reaches behind herself. She grabs a paper from her shelf and then struts towards you. “Perhaps that is your problem? You consider scurrying away like a cockroach in the face of danger.”
“And you wouldn’t? Half the people living in Gensokyo could probably snipe this workshop from where they live!”
“Your weakness makes you overestimate their abilities,” Seiga scoffs. The Taoist sets down a map of Gensokyo in front of you and begins to trace circles with her fingertip. “Any long-ranged spells would distort thanks to the ambient energy in this forest. With further proper defenses in place they would need to approach to chance at damaging the phylacteries. If they decide to do so without deterring the jiang-shi and me then that is their folly.”
“And the energy requirements?” you poke back.
“We have an entire forest to draw upon. This faerie ring you subjugated is but one of many sources. A largescale ritual, or a simple hunt, could suffice.”
Her proposal is crazy. You admit the idea itself may be tantalizing, but setting up the system and then sustaining it would be far too costly. You can’t imagine the man hours you would need to put in to gather everything as Seiga suggests. “I don’t think I-”
“The root of your objections surfaces,” Seiga smirks. “This system is far more fallible at your level of strength than mine. You object because you do not believe yourself capable. You do not wish to rely upon me.”
You’re fairly certain she doesn’t get to add mind-reader to her list of talents. Unfortunately, that means your thoughts are frustratingly transparent. “You can’t fault me for that,” you defend yourself.
“No, I do not,” Seiga agrees without venom or mocking. “I shall remain within the confines of our agreed to bargain if you so wish. However, I see much potential in this system for both our safety and as a potential model for my own studies.”
“I’ll have to think-”
“Hey there Womanizer!” Your conversation is interrupted by a cheery rabbit in the doorway. You watch Tewi bounce into your workshop, the other jiang-shi sheepishly standing just past the door.
If Seiga raised them as guards then you completely understand how Reimu blew through them all and put the Taoists in their place. You hope your raised eyebrow conveys that entire piercing thought to Seiga.
“I have to tell you,” Tewi continues on without a care. “I woulda thought this creepy shack of yours would have been a big turn off but I see I was mistaken.” She hops up onto your table.
She drops her package- her book down.
Oh, here we go…
“Seiga,” you almost bark. The blue-haired Taoist tears her eyes away from the book to look at you. “Would you mind giving us some privacy?”
She is silent for a few seconds. You can’t tell what thoughts run through her head, but she ultimately gives you a quick bow. “As you wish. I assume my lovely darlings shall be watching me?”
You smile at her and grab Yoshika’s arm again. The jiang-shi rises without further prompting and runs over to Seiga, wrapping the blue-haired woman in a hug. “Count on me, Master~!”
The two women quickly make it out the door, Yoshika pushing her former master along.
“Oops,” Tewi says while watching Seiga leave. “Guess I should have been more subtle about this? I figured you wouldn’t have let someone untrustworthy into your hidey-hole.”
You bite your tongue and your retort. You can’t be angry with Tewi, not right now. “I’ll deal with it. More importantly, is this…?”
“Yup!” The rabbit girl grins. “Surprised?”
You glance back down at the book again. You can’t keep your eyes off it for more than a few seconds. “I was expecting just some information. Not this. Not this soon, either.” It’s only been a week since you spoke with her.
Tewi sits down, kicking her feet in the air. “Yeah well, you told me yourself to make a move if I thought it’d be good. I did, and I guess it was.”
“I’ll say.” It’s right there. “You didn’t have to sell your soul or something, did you?”
“Nope! That’d have been way more than what we agreed upon.” Tewi flicks her ears. “After you left I started snooping around. I’m fairly certain I wasn’t being any more overt than usual, but I guess Eirin is more on edge than usual. She stopped me in the hallways one day and was completely straight about it.”
The rabbit girl puffs up her chest and crosses her arms. “Tewi, we are entering a critical phase of my testing and my assistants would be able to work far more effectively without you bothering them over inane issues. What are you looking for?”
“She was like that,” Tewi huffs.
Her impression is startlingly accurate.
“And you just told her what you wanted?” you ask.
“Please, give me some credit. I already had a decent idea she was finished referencing all those books she has, yours included. I worked out all the terms before telling her what I wanted.”
“So you worked it out, told her, and she just handed it over?” You can’t keep the incredulous tone out of your voice.
“Sure. All for the low, low price of keeping my curious little nose out of her business for a week or two.”
So simple. It looks like you were right to go to Tewi with this idea.
You reach for the book. “Then-”
Tewi’s catches your hand midway. “Ah-aah.”
Adrenaline flairs. You do your best not to glare at Tewi. “Are you really going to-”
“Cool your head, Womanizer. I ain’t looking to start anything in this lovely cabin of yours. I just want to see what you think about extending our deal before you go off into magical la-la-land. I won’t keep your prize from you.”
“Extend it? I can’t say there’s much more that I want.”
Tewi leans back and raises an arm to her forehead. “Ooh, that’s cold. You would think there’d be a little more gratitude since I brought the actual goods over.”
Really, Bro? Try not to lose all these wonderful social skills you’ve been developing.
“Sorry, I’m just a little impatient. What do you have in mind?” You try to calm yourself and sit steady in your seat.
Your guest jerks a thumb to the side. “When you start reading that book over there, I was hoping you could come tell me what Eirin was looking at and for what reasons. With the deal I just made, I’d rather like to know what I won’t be prying into.”
Is that honestly her concern? “I’m sure you’ve noticed those blob-like ‘lab assistants’ wandering around.”
“Those are just a side benefit,” Tewi assures you. “Some random idea Eirin came up with one day while looking for something else.”
Eirin wasn’t only looking at inspiration for her magical virus? “Are you sure?”
“Almost positive. She was cooped up in her lab before and after getting her ‘stable’ infections in my rabbits. Plus, a bunch of the lunatics were caught pretty blind-sided by getting all those cages together. They complained soooo much.”
“Eirin keeps confidence with the lunar rabbits?” You can’t imagine the headstrong doctor would ever trust her seemingly-flakey attendants like that.
“Not really. Maybe Reisen but even then only the basics. No, you just have to know what to look for. Eirin is pretty meticulous about preparing for what she wants. If she comes across something new and unexpected that she wants to take advantage of then she has to suddenly shift everything. That means I can see the lunatics get a bunch of new requirements they have to rush to fill. The problem is, I can’t tell what she’s working towards this time. I know she only started looking at the book of yours in the past couple of months, but I didn’t see any big shifts in her patterns.” Tewi’s ears droop a bit as she admits what she hasn’t been able to notice.
“And that means?”
“Could mean anything. This is all hindsight, you see? Maybe that book of yours is involved in one of her long term projects. Or maybe she was personally conducting all her work on this new thing. What does that mean? It’s too dangerous for the rest of the Lunarians, maybe it’s too critical for something of hers, or maybe she doesn’t want me to catch wind of it. I just don’t know.”
“Which is why you want me to find out,” you conclude. “Specifically, if it’s something that might threaten you and yours?”
Tewi nods and jumps off the table. “I can’t imagine it being too horrible for us, but you never know. So, do we have a deal?”
Just read through a grimoire translated from an ancient language to one you still aren’t native to, and then insert yourself into the mind of a Lunarian super genius in order to see what would interest you? “I can’t guarantee I’ll find anything, but I’ll keep it in mind.”
“Thanks. Anything is better than nothing.” Tewi gives you a quick wave before bounding towards the door. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve already been away longer than I like. Gotta keep a closer eye on what I can for now.”
“Good luck, Tewi.”
“Don’t worry, I’m full of it,” she calls back. “Maybe a little of that will go your way?”
In no time flat, the rabbit has left the premises. Seiga and the jiang-shi are still loitering at the edge of your deadly boundary, leaving you alone inside.
This is it, then?
Certainly ominous looking, isn’t it?
Some type of scales covers the book, forming a rather disturbing design. A tortured face? A dragon? You can’t quite tell.
You can see the basic enchantments thrown on the book. A transcribed manuscript it might be, the appearance of magical protections speaks to its legitimacy.
Or its danger.
There are all sorts of grimoires in the world. Some act as catalyst for spells while others are enchanted to impart their knowledge onto the user. Some are meant to entrap those that seek their forbidden knowledge while some can only be read in the correct conditions.
Perhaps the most powerful of grimoires, the ones that are coveted and sought after by magicians worldwide, are texts. Simple, plain, text. They are texts that, although written with mere ink on paper, still manage to draw in and exude magical energy. They age and only grow more potent. After all, true knowledge is the most powerful thing there is.
With a slow, careful movement, you grasp the chain crossing the book and run your fingers up its length. A quick twinge, a small amount of force, is enough to-
With your mage sight you can see it, the slow leakage of energy from the closed book. You can feel it.
It feels a lot like you.
What about this pesky hermit, from now on?
[ ] Allow Seiga to remain at the workshop -[ ] Request her help in researching the Necronomicon --[ ] <What topic?> -[ ] Let her work on the Jiang-shi --[ ] Conservatively --[ ] Experimentally [ ] Ask Seiga to stay away -[ ] Violently force her if necessary -[ ] Report her to Miko if she does not -[ ] Negotiate her away --[ ] Knowledge --[ ] Goods --[ ] Favors
[ ] Begin studying as soon as possible -[ ] Focus on cleaving your soul, restoring your sister -[ ] Investigate Eirin’s previous research, her possible interests -[ ] Search for information pertaining to those long dead [ ] Wait… -[ ] <For what?>
>>190070 Not that the length has much to do with it, unfortunately. It’s unfair that y’all need to be patient with my lazy ass. I honestly can’t comprehend how people pump out daily updates and what not. Better time management? Healthier lifestyles? Nothing else to do?
Luckily we’re almost (maybe…? ohoho) at the end here. I’m glad this’ll be finished before I become too busy (read: too lazy) to complete it. It’s been an unfortunately long fucking journey and you all deserve far better for always sticking around. Nonetheless, I greatly appreciate it.
[x] Allow Seiga to remain at the workshop -[x] Request her help in researching the Necronomicon --[x] Strike a bargain with her - access to Necronomicon in our workshop in exchange for something of equal worth [x] Begin studying as soon as possible -[x] Investigate Eirin’s previous research, her possible interests
[x] Begin studying as soon as possible -[x] Investigate Eirin’s previous research, her possible interests
Pay your debts. I know he has been searching for a way to put her sister in a body for a long time; I know that, unless he binds his soul to the book (something I would do, if I were a necromancer) some bullshit will destroy it or something, I know. But he has a debt to pay. To Gensokyo in general and to Tewi in particular, he owes them both to find what Eirin is on about. Why Gensoyko? Because if those monsters are a goddamn side effect, how could the result be any better?
[x] Allow Seiga to remain at the workshop What I've learned in the last, long and beautifully written update by our handsome and hardworking writefag, is that the die is cast. As in, NecroAnon has already trusted his workshop, Jian-shi allies, and knowledge to Seiga. And, let's be honest, she can kill/possess him even without that. Not that she would betray him for no gain though, she has shown herself to be a lovely lady and incredibly smart and cunning.
Now, does the Necronomicon hold enough value for her to do double cross him? I don't think so. I think she could write one, if she felt inclined to do so. And I think that she seems in him another student-one with good potential. Now that is something I'd want to see and I hope she doesn't decide to pass on before that.
Theory: she was lying about that part. She fears oblivion and thinks that the new perspective brought on by the demonic Necronomicon can help her. Meh, it's just a theory.
-[x] Let her work on the Jiang-shi --[x] Experimentally
We need to ingratiate ourselves with her after the 'Step away from the book' scene. And, like I said, if she wants to double cross him, there's nothing he could do. And goddamnit, I like her. A ton.
[X] Allow Seiga to remain at the workshop -[X] Let her work on the Jiang-shi --[X] Conservatively
[X] Begin studying as soon as possible -[X] Focus on cleaving your soul, restoring your sister
I would really like to repay our debt to Tewi as soon as possible but instinct tells me that doing so would complicate getting our sister back, and that's priority number one.
As for Seiga I would prefer her to concentrate on getting the Jiang-Shi in top shape but the experimental option sounds like making them more into weapons at the cost of individuality so the regular enhancements that were discussed earlier is fine.
And if Seiga wants to help with the Necronomicon, let her. She is already in pretty deep so it feels like more trouble to keep the whole thing secret then just telling her.
You might not update the quickest Zalsa but when you do it's awesome quality. It's always a blast to read the interaction between Necroanon and Byakuren. And after the scene with Seiga I wanna see "Seiga's adventure in the outside world"
Woohoo! I've caught up after 3 full days of binge-reading. Slightly sad that the umbrella didn't show up until Thread Ten, given we started at the temple graveyard, but never mind. We still got a very cute companion for the ride. No offence to any Byaku-shippers, but I don't understand why we went the (slightly creepy) bro-con instead of our lovely zombie. Speaking of, will we get closure on what's going on with Yoshika? The hints of deep understanding and articulation we sometimes notice, I mean.
As for the vote,
[X] Allow Seiga to remain at the workshop -[X] Let her work on the Jiang-shi --[X] Conservatively -[X] Allow her to help in researching the Necronomicon, if she has such a desire drive
I feel that we can trust Seiga, but in regards to the Jiang-shi, I feel that it's a step over human (soul?) rights to make them into a hive mind. However, this may just be a lack of understanding on my part. Should her experimental work not destroy their sense of individuality, I'm all for it. It's been proven that the Taoists are basically good people, especially Miko. Our only problems we have are as a result of an admittedly bad first encounter with Seiga, but that's quickly becoming a non-issue. If she wants to research the Necronomicon, that's fine with me. After all, it was a library book, so it's not that big a deal, right?
[X] Wait… -[X] Ask Alice to seal any potentially hazardous magic --[X] Afterwards, investigate Eirin’s previous research, her possible interests
This is possibly the most well known magic tome in history. Entire sects have gone mad over a scrap of its paper. We have seen this. Surely there is room for caution? Admittedly, with this copy Eirin seems to be unaffected, but she is an immortal and very powerful. Alice should be a good choice. Not only is she a skilled magician, but we have a connection with her through Byakuren, and at the festival we saw her own grimoire: that one had all manner of seals upon it and we were still almost enthralled by it. We're only human. Any survival skills we've can call upon are mostly from our array of trinkets (and a helpful sister).
Whatever the case, we need the Necronomicon safe more than anything. Only once this has happened can we try to read it. We owe a debt to Tewi, and since it looks like trouble might be brewing, it's probably better to find out what Eirin has been up to anyway.
Shorter updates is the primary way to go about it. Sure, I can pump out longer ones in a day, but I know it's not a sustainable work rate. Back before I was writing a votey story, I would just plain set a goal of 500 words a day. Usually took about an hour to get that much done, and it helped prevent burn out while promoting working on it. I mean, an hour is a short time. Just set aside an hour a day and do your best to keep to it.
Miss a day? That's fine! Just try harder the next day. Thing about daily and/or consistent updates is that you need to be bursting with determination. You have to want it and be willing to put out the effort day in, day out.
Daily updates are great an all, but they can burn people out if they get too ambitious. In the end, you have to ask yourself if you're happy with your work and work rate. If you struggle, work around it. If you think you're too slow, get into a routine. It doesn't have to be a lot of writing, it just has to be writing.
If you want to write more, all you have to do is write more. If it becomes too much, write less. Find your sweet spot and stick to it.
Now to get back to writing for the contest while completely ignoring my own stories!
[X] Allow Seiga to remain at the workshop -[X] Let her work on the Jiang-shi --[X] Experimentally [X] Begin studying as soon as possible -[X] Investigate Eirin’s previous research, her possible interests
I could've swore I already voted. Oh well, MOVE YO ASS WRITENIGGER
>>191454 If you want to ask something if her, repairing/improving his onyx system is a must. I'm not sure why he hasn't considered it himself, he mentioned that only Seiga has the know how to do it in a short time.
Either he doesn't trust her enough or he forgot. The last one is ridiculous though, how can you forget details of something you made yourself?
You reach for that demonic front cov- Aren’t you going to do something about that, first?
You feel your sister nudge your head upwards. Through the window, you see Seiga slowly walking back towards the workshop. The jiang-shi drag along behind her like a plough. Their feet are even tilling the dirt.
Before your mind even begins to race, you kill the thoughts where they rise. There’s no reason to go through all that worrying and second-guessing you normally do. You’ve already grown so many white hairs because of this woman; you refuse to give her another thought of concern.
Maybe it would be different if she hadn’t already been living out of your workshop for a week. It would definitely be different if you planned on researching your heart’s desire.
[i]What? You’re not?
You- You weren’t going to. Not with Seiga here, not with Tewi’s worried request looming over you. Eirin’s research seemed more critical. But shit, your sister is right. You’re horrible, even considering something else other than- NO!
No. That wasn’t upset surprise on my part. I can wait, Bro. Keep to your plan.
We’ve been together for years. I don’t think some more time will hurt.
Good luck, Bro.
“Thanks for trying you guys.” You give the jiang-shi a few thankful hand claps as Seiga forces her way through the doorway, her undead leeches being scraped off by the frame. Most of them proceed to stand up like normal people and enter the workshop through the door in mild embarrassment.
Yoshika jumps through the window like some action hero. You grab her hat out of the air and the silly girl herself mid-roll. She falls limp into your hands immediately and you have a hell of time trying to set her on her feet.
“Your secretive business is concluded?” Seiga asks.
You don’t answer her because the ragdoll in your arms is highly uncooperative.
The Taoist sighs and steps closer to you. She hooks her arms under Yoshika’s armpits while you reach to- Fuck! You try and take a step to the side when you feel Yoshika start to fall but a treacherous leg sweeps your feet and then a hand grabs your jacket-
You grunt when you hit the floor, and then again when the fleshy and magically self-propelled brick lands atop you.
“Lovely…” Seiga mutters.
You turn to look at your comrade-in-arms. The two of you share a tired look while a giggling jiang-shi rolls around atop you.
A flailing leg hits your cheek. “Ow.”
You definitely got the worse end of this deal.
Yoshika can’t bite you with her feet.
“Are you all going to stand there and watch?” Seiga huffs from her place on the ground. You watch the jiang-shi carefully. The two other girls are looking mighty susp- “And do not dare to think of joining this mess on the floor.”
Suitably chastised, the combined might of four jiang-shi and two magicians is enough to heave Yoshika away and dump her somewhere else which isn’t on top of you.
“To answer your question,” you return to the conversation, “I’m just beginning. I have some research to do for Tewi.”
“Research? On that book?” Seiga walks over to the table and peers at the foreboding tome laying there. Perhaps showing her years of wisdom, she makes no move to touch it or open it like a curious toddler would.
“That’s right. Eirin was interested in this book for some reason and we’re assuming it has something to do with all the commotion.” You fearlessly reach out and drag the book to the edge of the table.
If it didn’t spawn a face-rending terror after unlocking it, simply touching the unlocked cover couldn’t be much worse.
You sure about that? There was the time with that vomit-inducing trap...
“Indeed? It is a valuable source of information, then. Does the book have a title besides ‘That with a Gauche Cover?’”
You’re proud to say you hesitate only slightly in answering, “The Necronomicon.”
The Taoist tilts her head, messy hairdo drooping unflatteringly. “You say the name with such gravity. Should I be aware of it?”
“You-” cause such unnecessary stress- “Not really, I guess. The original was written by a mad poet, adventurer, and magician who spent years alone discovering harrowing secrets of human life.”
“Ah, the memoirs of a hermit, then? If he accomplished anything of note then that text is a treasure. This is not the original, however?”
You shake your head and point towards the Kosuzu’s stack of books. “A translation into kanji, some way or another. My mastery of ancient language isn’t where it should be, hence the study materials.”
“Ancient language you say? It cannot be that bad.” With a careless- no, you can see the subtle barriers Seiga weaves around herself- careful move the Taoist flips open the cover to the Necronomicon.
There’s a light waft of dark-tasting energy.
You watch Seiga blink once, and then twice.
A wall of imposing, poorly inked characters fills the first page.
With a clean, deft motion she closes the front cover. “Good luck,” she says to you.
Her curiosity satisfied, Seiga turns on her heel and wanders over to a chair. She grabs Yoshika’s hand mid-stride and drags the lazy jiang-shi along with her.
Is that it?
Wasn’t that disinterest too quick? She’s just lulling you into thinking she won’t try to-
You grab your cheeks and shake away the paranoid thoughts. Focus.
Pulling out your chair, you slide the reference books closer and re-open the Necronomicon.
That’s not Japanese. They are kanji, aren’t they? Yes, but they don’t mean anything. Well, you don’t think they do. Unless the man behind the writing was eating a delicious plum when he first started writing…
You sigh and open a reference text. This is going to suck.
“This is not what my cute servants were brought back for.”
“No, Yoshika. I am not-”
“I am not- Fine, fine, I’ll-Mhmph.”
You glance over at the chewing Taoist.
She meets your eyes and frowns. Swallows. “This is surprisingly tasteful.”
“You can thank the wonderful talents of the Myouren Temple kitchen crew.” You return to your book, but not before Yoshika ladles more of the rice and meat into your mouth.
Is this what will happen if you become a rich snob? You’ll have cute girls wait on you hand and foot?
This is not your fault. If Yoshika had any sense of shame then this wouldn’t be a problem.
If you had the sense to take a break and go eat then this wouldn’t be a problem.
After you finish this page, up to the tab- No! That’s what you said the last dozen times!
Its fine, you’re close to translating this- This always happen. Always! I’m just glad you have people to take care of you this time, before you collapse.
I mean, really, you’d think that your body screaming about hunger and exhaustion would force you to do something other than stare at the books and your notes but somehow, it doesn’t. I know you haven’t done something stupid like magically damaging your brain so it really comes down to you-
Oh! That’s what this means. It’s a sound effect, onomatopoeia. Something to...to...approximate the noise of a material body...de-delinking? Is that right? Distorting? Deteriorating? This first one seems closer...
Why do I even try to bother? Do I make bets with myself about how long you can keep this up? Let’s see, four days so far. It takes a couple of weeks for pressure sores to develop- I guess you might move by then. Hunger isn’t a problem with Yoshika there. Thirst too. Chances you get bored? Not likely. You only passed out for a couple of hours last time. I guess doing that every half day is enough sleep for you.
Maybe I can get someone to take your references away? You might do something stupid like fight Seiga to the death for them, though. Maybe I bet on you not wanting to rip apart Yoshika to get those references back? I can’t risk that for the poor girl, though.
Fuck! Another one! That goddamned bitch, you’ll rip her throat out when you get chance to, consequences be damned. No, that’s too quick. You should break all her fingers first, one by one. Those dirty, heretical- It’s just a highlighter!
It’s the principle of the matter! This translation is basically one-of-a-kind! Who the fuck ruins books that aren’t theirs like this? It’s a travesty!
Assuming she stole it in the first place why wouldn’t she mark up the damn book to her heart’s content?
Because maybe she had a shred of common decency in her soul! Besides, the highlighter is just one in a long line of- I know! Trust me I know since you rant about it every time it’s happened!
She cut out a square in the middle of a page! Who does that?
And that’s a real fucking tragedy because now you don’t fucking know what was there! It was probably a recipe she at least partly based that virus off of but now you don’t know what was in it! Does it even matter? You weren’t going to use it!
Once you finish going through all these meticulously marked passages you’re going to have words with that woman. Words! She’s living on Earth now and she doesn’t even have the decency to take notes in an Earthling language!
She Lunarian! Of course she’s going to write in her native script!
Yeah, but now you have these godawful looking runes running up and down the sides of passages! They look terrible and you can’t read them!
Is it too late to pass on? I don’t know if I can handle this for another day, let alone the week or three it might take to go through the rest of this book.
Why would she even highlight this text? It’s...an interrogative transition? Trans- Transmutation? No, that’s the wrong pronunciation. F...Fre…Freezing? Interrogative freezing? Interro- Inter- Inter...min...able? Interminable?
And now he’s ignoring me again. Great. You’d think he’d be happy that the genius scientist explicitly marked what she thought was important to her research.
Instead it’s all fire and fury. Every time I start to think he’s matured some… What a dork. How am I ever going to get anybody to look after you? At least Yoshika is here to be loveable. If I’m really lucky, you and Byakuren can go be dorks together-
The door to your workshop roars open. The poor wooden piece smashes into the petrified walls and promptly shatters, the metal hinges flying off to the corners of the building.
Nekurow glares at everybody who turns to look at him strangely. “It seems I do not yet know my own strength.”
The thought causes you to look at your personal food pilot standing nearby. Hasn’t Yoshika had these same enchantments on her the longest? It’s a wonder she never accidentally broke your spine.
A small form bounces out from behind the armored jiang-shi still standing in the ruins of the door.
“Hey, Womanizer!” Tewi leaps up and-
“No!” You flail forward, jamming your chin into the table. Two bare, dirty feet impact your back.
“Hey,” the rabbit girl says while tapping one of your vertebrae with her big toe, “have you found anything yet?”
“You’ve given me like, four days.”
“And? Less complaining, more info!”
You try to slip out your notes from underneath your chest. “I’m getting there, but I haven’t seen enough to get a good picture overall. Just bits and pieces-”
“What of it would have to do with Mokou?” Tewi asks.
You shake your shoulders. Tewi catches on immediately and leaps off of you.
When you manage to sit up, you come face to face with Tewi as she sits on the edge of the table. She’s not smiling in the slightest.
“Mokou?” you ask aloud.
“Yeah,” Tewi answers you. She takes a quick glance around, up and down at you too. “Have you even left from here since I dropped this book off?”
“I, uh…” You...you’ve needed to use the bathroom, at least. So maybe not the forest, but the building most definitely.
Your reaction doesn’t draw so much as a quirk from the rabbit. Instead she glances down, lips tight. “I guess you haven’t heard, then?”
This doesn't sound good...
“Mokou went missing,” Tewi bluntly replies.
She- “That’s what you’ll hear from any sane person,” Tewi continues. “If you listen to Keine, you’ll hear that Mokou was kidnapped.”
“And if I listen to you?” you ask the ancient youkai.
Tewi swishes a single foot. Left, right, left right.
“If you listen to me, if you do…” Tewi looks around again, eyes calculating. Jiang-shi, jiang-shi, jiang-shi, Taoist, you.
She bites her lip.
“If you listen to me, you’d hear that Mokou was kidnapped.”
Sit back down!
You are not going to- Get killed by some random Lunarian gun? Sit back down and use that vaunted brain of yours like you sometimes do.
You clench your fist and land roughly back in your chair. You’d like to imagine your radiating anger is so hot that you could eat fried rabbit for dinner.
“Well?” you demand from the bearer of bad news.
“I’d really like to know what you’ve found out,” Tewi says with weariness in her tone you’ve never heard from her before.
“Like I said before, I haven’t gotten a clear picture of it all.” You tap your foot and thrum your hand on the table, anything to bleed the surge of adrenaline away. “If I had to pick a common thread I think it would be the transformation of living beings.”
It feels like every mention of a substance transmutation is marked. Anything about breaking down a living being into parts and turning those parts into something else was looked at. It becomes easy to see how Eirin ended up creating her mutated rabbit monstrosities with all the mentions of growing limbs, changing flesh, and on a whole emulating the form of monsters.
Not every highlighted passage is that extreme, however. There was plenty of scribbled notes next to instances of flesh melting off of bones, brains extracted from unwilling victims and spirits twisted and placed into fleshy forms. That and more, really.
“I don’t see what this might have to do with Mokou, though. I can’t imagine these descriptions being any more torturous than whatever has already happened to her in the past.” That’s the problem, at the end of it all. Mokou is immortal. Changes to her form are reset with fiery efficiency. She’d make the worst test subject for any long-lasting effects.
“Yeah,” Tewi agrees with a kick of her foot. “I can’t say I know what that woman is thinking.”
“Can’t you just go break Mokou out?” you ask.
Tewi shakes her head. “I made a deal, remember? Breaking a direct bond with Eirin like that would have some far reaching consequences. Besides, she has the lunatics out on guard duty.”
“How is that any different from normal?”
“It’s twenty-four seven. Two of her toy soldiers are always guarding the entrance to her lab. The others vary between sleeping, eating, watching the Princess and watching the front gate.” Tewi lays out the affairs of Eientei without hesitation. “They’re not doing anything else. That’s another aspect of this whole mess, really.”
“What do you mean? So you can’t get anybody to Mokou-”
“Not just that!” Tewi snaps, eyes wide and pupils tight. Her bestial fury subsides as quickly as it rose. “Sorry, I’m a little high-strung at the moment. Forgot you’ve been doing the hermit thing. Give me a second; I’ll summarize it all for you…”
Tewi recomposes herself and then raises a hand, fingers counting while she speaks. “First, no Lunarians means no medicine and no treatments. Those girls sell cheap stuff every day in the street but they also supply to more critical cases. Humans are getting antsy that their loved ones will die without their weekly, specialized medications.
“Two, Keine is raising a hellish storm all her own. She’s whipping everybody she can into frenzy as far as I can tell. She’s doing her damnedest to rile up the villagers and guilt trip other people to her side.
“Third, Reimu just flew off to go inspect the Border. She visited us the other day and Reisen turned her away. I hear that she did some of her magic afterwards to check for Mokou and couldn’t find her within Gensokyo.”
You try to digest the information as quickly as possible. “This isn’t much worse than the past though, right? It’ll all work out.”
“I really hope so, Kid. What I know is that if any of Keine’s mob tries to force their way into Eientei there’s some highly lethal Lunarian weaponry ready to vaporize them. If that happens…” Tewi grunts and hops off the table. “Thanks for what you could get me. Can’t say it was worth it right now.”
Tewi, wait… [ ] <More questions? Plans?>
Who to visit? [ ] Byakuren [ ] Keine [ ] Reisen [ ] Akyuu [ ] Marisa [ ] <Write-in>
What to say or do? [ ] “What the fuck is going on?” [ ] <Write-in>
Super broad vote, but I couldn’t think of a good way to narrow it without leading. The world is open and it’s Dawn of The First Day.
>>191479 >I honestly didn't think I'd see this again. I’d like to think I’m consistently inconsistent, at least…
>>191477 I appreciate the compliments! As unfortunate as my update rate is, I am still mostly satisfied with the content of everything I’ve written. Time takes its toll on any sort of quality or continuity but I try to keep it all consistent. My main hope is that I can finish anything I start and then if some random person reads everything at once it isn’t a complete clusterfuck. Speaking off…
>>191480 Shhh, it’s okay. Let the long unpursued plot points rest in peace.
>>191490 Yeah I figure that’s how it is for a number of people. Alas, if we go back yeeeeears(!) we can see the original intent was for shorter, daily updates. Unfortunately at this point in time I’ve crashed so far down the slope it just isn’t possible to switch things up. We’ll just build a nice castle here at the bottom of the abyss and call it a story.
>>191520 Yo, instantly make my skills pro-tier at any game I touch and then I’ll get you more writing.
>>191559 Well, I can tell you at the very least that the writer didn’t forget…
Why doesn't this appear in the recently updated threads? Has it reached autosage?
Anyway, wild and ridiculous theory time!
Fact 1: Eirin's priority is Kaguya Theory 1: The idea behind this approach is protecting Kaguya.
Fact 2: Eirin has already experimented with Mokou. Specifically, with her immortality. Theory 2: This capture is related to her character an immortal. Addendum 1: While Mokou makes a good test subject in ANY situation, due to her condition as immortal, this theory is reinforced by fact 1: the only thing Mokou and Kaguya share is her immortality.
Fact 3: Eirin's notes on the Necronomicon point to substance transmutation with a focus on living beings. Fact 4: Eientei's experiments resulted on rabbits being modified into something monstrous. Theory 3: The experiments Mokou was kidnapped for are related to modifying human beings.
Theory 4: Given Theory 1, 2 and 3 we can say that Eirin wants to change Kaguya to assure/improve her immortality in some way.
Question: why hasn't Mokou being detected within Gensokyo? Was she sent to the moon? Or does Eirin expertise defeat Reimu's divine detection? I'm guessing it is the latter but... Reimu has been seen as infallible. If we don't count Eientei or the moon, we have to discard the afterlifes as well because she is immortal. That'd leave... Senkai. Uh, weird.
[x] Byakuren -[x] Mokou has been kidnapped. I suspect that Eirin is the culprit.
We don't have any proof yet, but... we shouldn't abandon Mokou a second time.
It's a bad idea to charge straight in, but it seems like security is pretty tight in Eientei. I can't see more than one ways to infiltrate; it seems like the only way is all guns blazing. We should, however, get an insider to help. Tewi's no good, and we should probably stop relying on her, since we don't want her to lose trust at Eientei.
This leaves Reisen, in lieu of going to Marisa or Byakuren for pure firepower.
Of course, this may not work as Reisen doesn't have any memory of our best bonding time, but it's necessary. With any luck, we can make a plan of action before attacking.
[X] Reisen -[X] We need info. Floor plans, guard shifts, weapon specs, all that good stuff. If possible, find Mokou's location.
“Isn’t that obvious?” you bite back at Seiga. You’re running around your workshop, grabbing bags and stuffing all types of reagents into them. It’s shameful. You ended up unpacking your supplies to make your practical work quicker. You were too engrossed in your studies and were not prepared to move out at a moment’s notice.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. You should have repacked your supplies after every lesson Seiga gave you, to be better prepared to take advantage of the new knowledge. You could have created all manner of new enchanted equipment and ready-made traps. You-
Spent your time on more important things. We hardly expected the world to go crazy in as little time as it has.
You shake your head and draw the bag in your hands shut, quickly tying it off at your waist.
What good was that, though? You can’t say you’ve gotten much from your limited studies of the Necronomicon. If only you had more time, always more time. You could have reached even further, given Tewi more than a few hypothetical thoughts about what might be happening. The answer to whatever Eirin is doing to Mokou is somewhere in that book, you’re positive.
Unfortunately, ideas of what Eirin has done are not particularly useful at the moment.
You hold out your hand, stopping the jiang-shi in their tracks. “I’ll only be taking Yoshika with me. You four still need time to adjust to all the changes of your body.”
The other jiang-shi had all wandered in through the broken doorway after Tewi bounded away. They look ready to travel, their weapons already in hand from when they were practicing outside.
“Master, it’s going to be dangerous,” Dio retorts, the blonde jiang-shi grim-faced and serious.
“Not yet. Hopefully. I’m only going out to get a handle on the situation. I don’t plan on starting any fights.”
“You’ve never planned on it…” the blonde grumbles but takes a step back.
“Sorry,” you apologize to him and the others. Neither of the other two girls looks pleased about your decision. Shilverase is giving you a deep glare and Rea a weaponized pout. At least Nekurow seems accepting of your decision, the heavily armed knight already turning to go back to his drills.
He seems extra cautious of not breaking anything else on the way out.
You adjust the scarf around your neck as you step outside your workshop. You take a quick glance behind you, the blue-haired Taoist only a pace or two behind you.
She rolls her eyes. “Your impression is wrong. If such events truly are occurring then Miko will doubtlessly be wishing to speak with me.”
“Oh good, I was afraid you had gotten attached to me.”
“Hardly. However, I will be cross if you manage to get yourself killed in the interim.”
Isn’t that sweet? As sweet as a vaguely threatening blue-haired hermit can be. Seiga might be a better person than you were expecting given your first impressions, but that doesn’t mean she’s all cuddles.
In fact, she’s positively prickly as long as you push the right buttons. “Not as cross as Miko will be with you, right? After all, wasn’t your excuse for visiting me in the first place all the excitement? As unhappy as I am to be blindsided by this news, I didn’t have an agent that I sent out there to-”
“Yes, yes,” Seiga growls. “Some time apart shall do us quite well I expect. Take care, Love.” With her countenance soured, the Taoist pushes past you and shoots off into the air, dress and hair whipping with speed.
I didn’t think she’d be the type to wear stripes.
You chuckle and take off as well, Yoshika spiraling around you like a moon.
You land outside the village and walk through the front gate. No reason to give the locals reasons to shoot you.
I think that plan already failed seeing as how those two guys are unconscious on the ground.
It’s not your fault they poorly chose to try and deny you entry. If the young one had kept his spear to himself, he wouldn’t have been hit by the Yoshika Express. It was essentially self-defense!
I don’t think they’ll see it that way.
Maybe. At least you pointed the other guards in their direction?
I hope you’re prepared to run.
You’re always prepared to run.
Not like everybody else around here. The village isn’t in full panic. Not yet, at least.
However, the mood is certainly on edge. During your previous visits the village was always full of life; kids running around, housewives gossiping, men lounging during their breaks. You don’t see any of that now. Sure the merchants are still selling their goods and some people are out underneath the sun but everybody is subdued. It’s an uncomfortable level of tension, the kind generated from people preparing for worse to come.
You approach the one-room schoolhouse and notice how lonely it seems. There are no buildings adjacent to it and no stalls around either even though the building is located near the center of the village. There are no classes in session, no kids making a ruckus, and no parents idly waiting around.
What are around are dolls; lots and lots of dolls. Alice’s signature creations are flying all around the schoolhouse. Some sit on the lip of the roof, others on the sills of the windows. They’re all patterned in brightly colored clothing, their metal fingers gripping equally shining weapons.
“Hello,” you greet the diminutive doll floating at head height in front of the door. The girl is dressed like a little witch, her purple robe and floppy hat hanging loosely. She doesn’t have any noticeable accessories other than the miniature broom she rides on but you assume the doll is no less deadly than the rest.
The miniature witch nods to you.
“Can I assume Alice and Keine are inside?” you ask her.
The doll nods again and tilts her head.
“I’m looking to speak with Keine about everything that’s going on.”
The witch tilts her head back and forth a few times before drifting lower. She squeezes her knees more tightly around her broomstick before she grabs the doorknob with both her little hands.
Although her arms jerk roughly, the knob itself only turns slightly. The door barely moves, the wooden edge misaligning with the frame by a fraction.
Yet, that minor disruption is enough. All at once, noise floods out of the schoolhouse, the silencing ward that had been in place cracked open by a smiling doll.
“-you Cow! You do not need her!” Alice’s shout reverberates through the wood of the door.
“Yelling at me won’t change the facts.” In contrast, Keine’s stoic voice is barely audible. “She is excited to help with this, eager as I’ve ever seen her. I would be stupid to turn her away.”
With a short moment of concentration you work magic into your ears, enhancing your hearing to something a little beyond human.
“You would be stupid to keep up with this foolish nonsense!” You wince, Alice’s shrill voice grating. Damn, what you would give for a volume knob on this magic.
“You can insult me all you want. It won’t be changing my mind. This needs to be done.”
“And you haven’t agreed to help.”
“Why the hell would I?”
“You’re a better magician than Marisa, are you not?”
“I don’t want to hear it. You told me yourself, she chose to help. I might not like it, but I’m not going to tie her up in my basement to keep her safe.”
“At the same time, I hardly need to assist you, either.” Alice’s angry tone cuts back. “I can leave your ritual well enough alone and simply protect Marisa from the inevitable fallout.”
“Even if she asks for your help?”
“I’ve been ignoring her pouting face since she was a child. That will not change now.”
“You can keep your condescension to yourself. You are in no position to judge me.”
“How am I not? I want to make things right!”
“By dragging everybody else down into the mud. I will not abet such foolishness.”
“You won’t? That’s unfortunate. What the other villagers say must be true. Despite her dazzling shows, the witch of the forest is a cold person. She keeps everybody at arm’s length, tempted the Kirisame girl away from her family, and holds a demon for a lover.”
“Are these insults meant to impress me?”
“No. Despite what they may think, we both know the village gossip is wrong. The fact that you’re here proves it. You care deeply for those you hold affection for.”
“And? Are you going somewhere with this? I already said I will not help you.”
“Your relationship is precious to you. I can see the love you hold for that child. Did you know? I work with children every day. I’ve seen so many of the villagers grow up. I talk to my former pupils often. Do you know what I realized? Those who were wronged as children foster the greatest anger. Too many of our children lost their parents to youkai and developed irreversible grudges.”
“…And?” Alice’s voice is quiet, almost a whisper even to your magical hearing.
“History is an interesting thing. I think it is true that those who fail to learn from it are doomed to repeat it. At the same time, most people are happier not knowing the past at all. How would Marisa feel if she learned what happened to her beloved teacher?”
That, you’re positive, is the sound of a pair of hands being slammed through the top of a wooden table.
“I’ll kill you.”
For a moment, you imagine the threat became real. A doll, sneaking up behind an unassuming schoolteacher, knife glinting in-
“I can’t tell you which murder would look worse.”
There’s more crunching, splintering of unenhanced wood. “You want my assistance for your damned ritual, then?”
“If you would be so kind. An experienced magician like yourself would be-”
“Save it. Just remember that an experienced magician like me knows exactly what you are capable of. Screw with me and you will not have another moon to regret it.”
“This was so unpleasant. If you had accepted my first offer-”
“Screw with anything of mine and you are finished. When this is done I never want to speak with you again.”
“And all I want is Mokou back. We have a deal, then?”
You hear the smack of a hand slapping a hand and then the thumping of booted feet against the floorboards.
Your little witchy friend released her hold of the door handle and quickly flies into you, urging you to take several steps away from the schoolhouse. The dolls outside move in a flurry, lining up in two rows like an honor guard.
Their creator slams open the door a second later, a scowl set on her face. Alice doesn’t even take a look around. After exiting the schoolhouse she’s away, off into the air with a trail of dolls behind her.
I suppose it’s our turn then?
Not that you’re looking forward to it, now.
The schoolhouse door opens without complaint, perhaps glad that you treat it so lightly.
The inside is unremarkable. Rows of desks and seats for children take up most of the space. At the back of the room is a large chalkboard and in front of it, the teacher’s desk.
The teacher herself is sitting behind the desk, her head in her hands. Sure enough, there are two ragged holes in her worn-down wooden furniture.
You walk forward and lean against one of the children’s desks, Yoshika likewise taking another.
Keine doesn’t look up until you clear your throat. The schoolteacher looks rather horrible. Compared to the wide smile and healthy glow you saw on her when she was with Mokou, the woman before you looks exhausted. There are bags under her eyes and a general look of frustration etched into her face. She’s jittery, too. She’s trying and failing to hide it by holding on to her crossed arms.
Still, when she catches sight of you she manages a small smile. “Hello,” she greets. “Are you here to help?”
“With what?” you cautiously ask. “I’ve been in the forest for the past week.”
“Then, you haven’t heard?” Keine’s clenches her fists, all her weary features giving way to a burning anger. “Mokou has been kidnapped, taken by those aliens living at Eientei!”
“Are you sure-”
“Of course I am!” she snaps. “I heard it from the earth rabbits themselves and Mokou always said I could trust them over the ones from the moon. They took her and now they’re torturing her in their crooked hideout and nobody wants to give a damn! Absolutely nobody. It’s sickening!”
You pause and think, cautious of Keine’s anger but still in need of information. “Nobody? Not Reimu? Not Marisa?”
“Reimu,” Keine almost spits the shrine maiden’s name. “What does she do for us anyway? I had always given her the benefit of the doubt when the others accused her of favoring the youkai over her own people, but now I know better. One of the people she should be protecting is kidnapped and what does she do? She asks one question and then flies off to who cares where!”
“I don’t think that’s fair-”
“Fair? What in this place is fair? Is it fair that the youkai can do as they please without so much as a scolding from our supposed protector? Is it fair that she believes their word over mine when I have witnesses and they have nothing? It’s nonsense!”
You hold up your hands. “Sorry Keine, I didn’t know. You know that Mokou is one of the few friends I’ve made here.”
The schoolteacher falls heavily back into her chair, fingers clenching and unclenching. “Yes, you are. I apologize for how wound up I am, but it’s hard. So hard. I thought that I knew the measure of the people I considered friends. Yet, nobody here cares. Do you know how many people Mokou has saved? How many dozens of people she’s guided to the village? When I went to them and told them what happened, they put on a frown and gave me their condolences. Not a single one offered to help.”
Keine gives a few fake, halting laughs. “Not a single offer. I wasn’t expecting them to storm Eientei. I would have been happy if any of them offered to spread word of what occurred. But none of them did. I went to Lady Hieda but she said she couldn’t convince any of the counsel to take action with my word alone. They all had their excuses prepared. If nothing else, Reimu at least went to investigate, however shallow it might have been.”
“And now?” you ask. “Things have changed some, from what I hear?”
“I tried harder,” Keine replies with a smile. “When it became obvious that Eientei wasn’t visiting the village anymore some people grew concerned. Those with family members endangered by this change were finally willing to listen to me, once it was convenient for them. From there I was able to do more. I realized I could convince more people; I just had to change my reasoning. Nobody wanted to care about the few of us who actually keep them safe so instead I told them all about the dangers they were in. When they heard about the bleak future that I could see from what has happened in the past they finally started to listen.”
“Even if you had all the villagers in Gensokyo on your side, that’s no leverage against Eientei,” you comment.
“No, it isn’t. But with public opinion on my side I could start to convince others, those that could help me with my plan.”
“Magicians? Like Marisa and Alice?” When Keine gives you a suspicious glance, you shrug. “I saw her flying away from here.”
Keine nods. “That’s right. I just want Mokou back. I want for these horrible injustices that keep happening to her to end. She has already suffered more years than I’ve been alive. Isn’t it enough? Her past is an absolute tragedy. Such a kind-hearted person like her doesn’t deserve this at all.”
The worst things seem to happen to the best of people. Be that as it may, “I don’t see how you’re planning to change things. Are you looking to gather enough muscle to force Eientei to listen to you?”
The amused grin that spreads across Keine’s face makes you feel like you missed the joke.
“We don’t need to rely on that kind of unreliable plan. Do you know what I am?” Keine asks.
“A schoolteacher?” you hazard. A scary one.
Keine chuckles. “Yes, I am. And if I could head-butt some sense into Eirin and her rabbits then I would. But no, I am more than that. I am actually afflicted by a curse. It made me into something a bit more than human. Due to that curse, I gained an affinity for knowledge. As a normal human it doesn’t amount to much. I’m told I have startlingly low magical potential. However, as the moon grows so does my power. On a night of the full moon I can change history.”
“Change…history?” That is such an esoteric sounding ability. Unfortunately, as you’ve come to expect from Gensokyo, you can probably interpret it literally. That means…
“The events of the past, the occurrences in the future, I can see all the strands of what has been and what will be and change them to my desires. Whatever you might be thinking right now, I can tell you it isn’t easy. Usually I simply use my ability to peruse the truth of the past. I’m proud to say a number of Lady Hieda’s records are fully factual thanks to me.”
So, she can just change the events of history as you know it? Yeah, okay, why not? “You have that kind of power and all you do is look at the past?” you ask.
“I told you, my potential is low. Viewing history as it was is hard enough for me. Partaking in a few stands of history is the most I can do without tiring. In the past I’ve tried more and it always takes its toll.” Keine runs a hand through her hair. “Yet, I know I am capable of more. With the proper support and the proper reserves, the only limit on what I could change would be the time available to me and my own attention.”
She can change history. If she changes events of the past, of the present and the future, then what happens? Is she actually changing what has occurred? A casual rewrite of reality to make things as she likes? As much as you’d believe given the insanity of Gensokyo, there has to be a more logical solution. Does she simply adjust memories? Make everybody think what she believes?
“You don’t believe me?” Keine asks, a sad tone to her voice.
“It’s a rather fantastic ability,” you hedge.
“Believe me, I’m aware.” Keine walks back to her desks and places her hands on the aging wood. “Marisa has already been preparing me, feeding me potions that she thinks will help condition my body to channel greater energy than it is normally capable of. I’d say it’s worked.”
You feel the tug of energy in the air. You activate your mage sight and watch the magical energy in the air swirl around Keine, into her and through her arms. You blink, and you miss it. In an instance, her old teaching desk is whole. The two large holes that had been smashed into it have disappeared.
“This isn’t much,” Keine admits. “It’s a hack job, really. The strands of history look disfigured around this desk, now, but this might be the most I can do to convince you.”
The wood is old but unbroken. You run your fingers over the aged wood, feeling the knicks and scratches that have come from years of use. You can’t notice anything that would suggest the desk has been repaired after its former accident.
“What did you do?” you ask.
“I changed this desk’s history,” Keine responds. “For this desk, I made it so that Alice only ever slapped the surface.”
As Keine talks, the surface of the desk wobbles. Like an optical illusion, you think you see the massive tears in the wood overlaid on the seamless top.
“History has weight. You can’t simply change one thing in isolation. If you only change one event and not those related to it, the real truth will always try to reassert itself. This desk has been with me for years, and all of my students remember it unblemished, unbroken. Yet, there are three of us in Gensokyo who know differently. I reckon that within the hour my falsehoods will be revealed and the damage to my desk will reappear.” Keine looks to you, steel in her eyes. “This is the limit of the powers I have now. I could do more, I only lack the potential. Marisa and others have agreed to help me, to give me the artificial boost I need to bring Mokou back to where she should be. As her friend, can I ask the same of you? Can you help me bring Mokou back as we remember, back to our side as she should be?”
You carefully brush past bamboo shoots. Yoshika, surprisingly, isn’t clinging to your side. The jiang-shi is an arm’s width away, stalking forward with alertness.
How is this not breaking your promise to the others?
You aren’t planning on starting a fight.
Going to the home of the people who apparently caused this mess sounds like it breaks the spirit of the deal.
Why would it? You’ve been there plenty of times before without major incident. Reimu, Keine, and the others weren’t shot when they visited either.
I recall a certain magical arrow of highly lethal death being pointed at us in those halls.
Well, uh, that was Eirin the turbo-bitch. You don’t plan on going into Eientei that far or even meeting the not-so-good doctor.
Of course, from the looks of it, you aren’t able to even take a step into Eientei.
The mansion is on lockdown. It’s strange that you can say that with confidence when you can only see two people. Regardless, it’s true.
There’s one Lunarian on the roof, highly visible as she points her rifle at you. There’s another Lunarian standing in the gateway. You can’t even see any of the Earth rabbits loitering in the courtyard beyond the guard.
You don’t think you know this one by name?
Nope. Glimpses here and there, but no name to the face for this rabbit girl.
The brown haired rabbit pushes a lock of her shoulder-length hair behind her ear as you draw closer but, fortunately, doesn’t raise her rifle at you. She’s in those dark military fatigues you saw the Lunarians wearing during their ‘containment failure’ incident; each pocket or device on her belt is probably holstering a weapon that could kill you in a heartbeat. Other than the bright pink pistol on her belt, this one is lacking in any distinctive irregularities.
“That’s far enough,” her high-pitched voice says.
You stop immediately, arms raised in peace.
“Eientei is closed for business,” she brusquely informs you. “Turn around and go home.”
“I’m looking for Reisen,” you say. “Mind if I speak with her?”
“Yes I do,” she growls. The girl must not take kindly to being ignored. “Get out of here before you lose your life.”
The threat incites the rabid attack jiang-shi at your side. You have to drop a hand to Yoshika’s shoulder to prevent her from stepping forward. You imagine Yoshika might be able to get to this Lunarian before she raises her gun, but that doesn’t speak to what happens to your head immediately after.
Time for some classic de-escalation. “Sorry. I know everybody is a little high-strung at the moment. Maybe I can just go inside and-”
“No,” the Lunarian growls again. “No one enters, that’s the order. Scram or I really will shut you down.”
Someone’s a bit touchy.
“You look like you’re busy here. Don’t worry, I can find her on my-” The rifle swings up, killing your words in their track.
The brown-haired Lunarian sneers at you from down the sights of her gun. “Last warning. Try me again and it’ll be game over.”
You stare at the Lunarian and she stares right back There’s no doubt about it, another twitch forward and you’ll get to experience just what kind of advanced technology she’s aiming at you.
The brown-haired Lunarian slowly lowers her gun and casually glances over her shoulder. “Boss?”
Reisen slaps her fellow Lunarian on the shoulder twice before jerking a thumb backwards. “It’s time for my shift. Go rest up.”
“Roger,” the Lunarian salutes before turning and jogging off. She doesn’t even give you a hateful glance over her shoulder – you like her.
“Hey there,” Reisen greets you as she leans against the gate.
“Hey yourself,” you say, cautiously taking a few steps closer. The sniper on the roof doesn’t seem inclined to vaporize your head so you’re feeling rather confident. “What’s going on, Reisen?”
“What do you mean?” the lavender-haired Lunarian asks.
You grimace and shake your head. “Don’t play dumb, Reisen. You can’t just ignore the total lockdown you have going on here.”
At least she has the grace to look somewhat embarrassed by her attempt. “People are overreacting,” she claims.
“Is that what you think?” you ask Reisen. “If they’re just overreacting, why not let Mokou go? You can go back to your normal job and everybody can have a good laugh afterwards.”
The rabbit girl frowns. “It’s not my choice. They’re in the middle of testing. I’m not going to interrupt them, especially since Mokou agreed to it all.”
What? “She agreed to the village kicking up enough anger to start a war?”
Reisen grunts, “Of course not, but she did agree to the experiment. We told her it might take a week or two and she said it’d be fine.”
“What did she agree to, exactly?” you ask.
It’s rather telling when Reisen looks down and away. “That she and Eirin would conduct some tests for a week or-”
Her gaze snaps back to you. “I don’t know.”
You sigh. “You aren’t doing yourself any favors right now.”
“Well what more do you want me to say?” she demands. “I don’t know! I only asked Mokou if she’d be willing to meet with Eirin to discuss a potential experiment! Trust me, I didn’t think she’d agree to it either, but she did. Said something about how it was unwomanly to be brushing me off how she was. We walked over here, Master and Mokou spoke privately, and then I was given my orders. Nobody bothers them for the duration of the testing, everybody on duty. Then Mokou waved at me and Master shut the door. That’s all I know!”
Reisen shouts all her frustration at you, but you can’t help but be judgmental. “Do you realize how suspicious that sounds?”
“Of course I do,” Reisen grumbles. “But it’s been three days! If we had to pick the crazy one, I’d say it’s the woman who is losing it after less than a week’s separation.”
You close your eyes and think. Ignoring any outside information, you want to believe in Reisen. You shouldn’t, given what you know about whom she works for, but you want to. As far as you can tell, Reisen has only ever been earnest with you. She’s driven, always looking to make a sale, always looking out for her family, and was absolutely devastated when she failed to save- accidentally killed- a grievously injured man.
Unfortunately, you can’t just leave her alone. Tensions are flaring and your socially awkward friend is missing.
“What about the villagers?” you ask. Reisen’s ears shoot straight upwards, an immediate grimace appearing on her face. “What about the people who are terminally sick?”
Reisen swallows and studiously meets your gaze. “What do you want me to say? You and I both know it’s a damn shame. But I can’t help them.”
“And when they storm Eientei looking for what they need?”
“It’d be an even greater shame. No one enters. These weapons aren’t just for show.” Reisen hefts her rife, the weapon swaying on its swing. “Besides, did you know that without any real factories here we have to make all their medicine by hand? It’s really time consuming. Sometimes we aren’t even sure if we can get them what they need every week since some of the supplies come from the Outside. If they somehow managed to force their way inside, they wouldn’t find anything that could help their worst cases.”
Is that an answer?
An answer maybe, but not a solution. Reisen is deflecting hard by using the supposed facts of the situation. You ignore the disgust welling up in your throat and bite out your accusation. “You don’t even care about their lives, do you?”
“Of course I care!” she shouts.
“Then why not get a letter from Mokou to calm Keine down? Why find time to make their medicine? Why make all these lethal threats? Why did you lie to Reimu?” You push Reisen as hard as you can.
You need answers. No matter how you feel about it, you need to get answers.
“I-” Reisen raises a hand to her face, massaging her temple with two gloved fingers.
She’s swaying side to side, like a branch in the breeze. “I can’t. I can’t just- Nobody allowed inside. Not the lab, not Eientei. Nobody. Not Keine, not Reimu, not you. To do that we need everybody on duty. Can’t rely on the earthlings. Seven people aren’t nearly enough. Have to guard the door, have to guard Princess Kaguya, have to guard the gate – we need to sleep, to eat, the rotations- and- and, and Master said so.”
Reisen takes a deep breath. She closes both her eyes and breathes.
She looks at you again her confidence and composure unshakeable. “There just isn’t enough time in a day to do everything I’d like to, given what we need to worry about.”
“But,” Reisen cuts you off, the beginnings of a smirk playing on her lips. “I understand where you’re coming from. And I would love to help out the people. If we had less to worry about, I think I could have someone run off and do just that.”
You nod slowly. “Then what do you want?”
“We aren’t blind, deaf, and dumb over here. I know all about Keine Kamishirasawa’s rabble-rousing in the village. To be honest, Reimu trying to force her way in was our worst case scenario that we managed to avoid. If I didn’t have to worry about some sort of mob showing up on our doorstep I could relax security a bit.”
Reisen smiles at you. “So what do you say? Want to help us out?”
“You’d help the villagers?” you ask.
Reisen almost looks offended. “Of course. It’d be cruel not to.”
“You’d release Mokou?”
“Well, after the experiment is over I don’t see why not.” Reisen sighs and leans back. “This is honestly a waste of our time. I would love to get back to more interesting work instead of guard duty, but we can’t trust them since it’s obvious they don’t trust us. So, are you in?”
The sun will be setting soon.
That’s fine. You aren’t that far into the Forest of Magic and you don’t plan on being here long.
Marisa’s house is the same as you last saw it. Well, almost. The big hole in her bedroom wall is still boarded up with wooden planks, but there’s some sort of arcane symbol painted on them; hopefully that makes it as good as a fixed wall.
There’s a little sign hanging in her front window declaring the Kirisame Magic Shop, “Closed for now!”
Nonetheless, you hopefully knock on the door.
I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s out.
Yeah, you neither. It’s unfortunate but not terrible. You don’t need-
The curtains in the window slide to the right, a single eyeball looking out the glass.
You smile and wave.
A few seconds later the door swings open, a grinning black-and-white witch standing before you. “Hey there! What can I do for you?”
“Hi Marisa,” you greet the girl. “I was hoping to get your opinion on something.”
Marisa blinks once before grinning. “Sure, no problem! Come on in.”
The witch strides through her storefront and sits behind her counter, propping an elbow on top. “What’s on your mind?” she asks.
You take a seat while Yoshika decides to amble around the shop, looking at all the delicious-looking concoctions no doubt.
When you glance down at the countertop, you find it a cluttered mess. The potions on display have been brushed to the edges of the surface to make way for a canvas as large as the counter. On the- the vellum parchment, you think- Marisa has penned in a massive scrawl of notes. Small geometric shapes, different ward designs, all accompanied by voluminous annotations. You see the same ward repeated four, no, five times in a row with only a minor change of a single rune between each. All across the canvas are separate wards with their own problems and descriptions, but you think you see a few connecting runes between them that indicate-
“Interested?” Marisa asks, eyes gleaming.
“Yes,” you answer truthfully. “Is this all planning for some large spell?”
“That’s right!” Marisa cheers, quickly picking up the conversation. Words come flying out of her mouth as she points to different sections of the canvas. “This is going to be my largest ritual yet! I’ve never planned for an actual ritual like this but I’ve definitely thought of it before so I had some ideas on where to start. I decided to work bottom-up so I needed to figure out all the separate components first. Energy generation was probably the most pivotal part so I started there but I didn’t really like any of the options I brainstormed. I first thought of an ambient collection that I architected over here but it’s pretty obvious it wouldn’t have nearly enough throughput for the time duration we’re working with and I couldn’t figure out how to optimize it anymore so I instead tried to-”
You clear your throat, the sound enough to interrupt the excited witch in front of you. “I appreciate how much work you’ve put into this so far Marisa, but I think I’m missing a few important details.”
“Like?” she asks.
“Like what all this is even for.”
“Oh.” You see a light blush light up across Marisa’s face. If she were wearing her hat you’d imagine she’d be pulling the brim down to hide. As it is, she’s forced to toy with her hair. “You don’t know what I’m talking about, then?”
“I could guess,” you tell her. “Keine was talking about how you agreed to help her boost her, ah, talents. I assume this is the ritual you’ve been planning to do that?”
“That’s right,” Marisa smiles. “Keine’s abilities are supernatural but rooted in magic, the same as most things. With the right ritual we can feed her energy to increase her power. Of course, giving her more energy doesn’t help a lick if she can’t control it – hell, it’d probably cause her to swell up like a balloon. So the ritual needs to have control elements placed into it as well to help her acclimate and expend the energy safely. There are some other safety components too, as well as a dozen other little things I’ve thought up as I’ve been working.”
Marisa frowns slightly before crossing her arms and leaning forward across the counter. “But, if this planning isn’t why you’re here, then why are you here?”
“I was wondering if you had a way to find out where Mokou is. My magical tracking is a bit lacking if I don’t have an anchor.” And it’s a guaranteed fire hazard to try and hold on to anything of Mokou.
“Huh,” Marisa frowns. “You want to verify what Keine has been yelling about?”
“Is that too much to ask for?”
“No, but I’m sorry to say I don’t have a good answer for you. My tracking spells and the like are pretty basic, Alice’s too. We don’t have a good feel for where Mokou is, but it feels like she isn’t in Eientei.” Marisa’s head droops down. “It was the first thing we checked when we heard. It’d be crazy to go through all of this over a misunderstanding, you know?”
You nod. Then this is all-
“But,” Marisa continues on, “I don’t see why Keine would lie about this. As long as I’ve known her she’s only been an honest person looking to make people’s lives a bit better.”
She has such an honest belief. “So you’ll just believe her and go along with all this?”
“Yes, I would. If you asked me who I’d believe more between Keine and Eirin, I’d trust Keine every time. Besides, with her power, we’ll know the truth soon enough. If they really have done something terrible to Mokou, it’ll be in their history. If they’re innocent, then no harm no foul.”
You shake your head, knowing better than to try and point out the potential flaws in Marisa’s beliefs. The witch is the kind of person to double-down in the face of adversity. “What about Reimu? I’ve been told she also doesn’t think Mokou is there. Wouldn’t it make more sense to believe her judgement?”
“I…I don’t think Reimu is ready for it,” Marisa admits rather guiltily. “Did you know she went to inspect the Border for any new holes?”
“Well Reimu works really hard and I love her for that, but sometimes she can be a bit…blind? Reliant is maybe the better word. When it’s her against the world she usually has to dig in her feet and trust in her abilities.”
Marisa glances left and right before leaning closer. “I’m only telling you this because I know Reimu likes you. Her family died before they could really teach her anything so she’s had to rely on her own talent and studies. Yukari has helped her with figuring out maintenance of the Border and stuff, but actually using all those nifty powers that rely on the Border to function? Self-taught. Obviously I’m not an expert or anything but from what I’ve seen, her control of the border is a bit…narrow? She’s been improving, but I still remember when I hid her tea set this one time. She got fed up and used her powers to try and find it, then flew off and beat up those vampires. I don’t know quite how she does it, but I know for a fact that she can get mixed up.”
The witch fixes you with a withering glare. “And don’t you dare spread that around. Like I said, I only told you that because I think Reimu wouldn’t mind and I think it’d help give you some perspective on all this. And I plan on telling Reimu right after this incident blows over so if you fear for your life you better start running!”
Well, that makes you feel better. If you survive all of this, a grinning blonde witch signed your death-by-orb warrant anyway.
Motivation to not hold anything back!
That isn’t a good thing.
“Does that answer all your questions?” Marisa asks.
It probably only created a dozen more. “The one I came here with, at least.”
“Great! So, since you’re a capable magician yourself, you mind telling me what you think about this ward array over here? I was trying to squeeze as much of a distance buffer as I could out of it but I don’t know any better ways to connect the guy-lines…”
You lightly rap your knuckles against the wooden door.
You slide the door to the side and bow your head to Byakuren as you enter her room. Then you have to awkwardly sidestep and shuffle out of the way of a rather serious-looking tiger youkai that marches out through the opened doorway.
“Did I interrupt?” you ask Byakuren while closing the door.
“Not at all. Shou and I were already finished with our discussion. Please, sit.”
You take the seat across from Byakuren, crossing your legs and claiming the still warm spot. Naturally, a tea set is laid out on the low table. Shou and Byakuren must have been speaking for some time by the sense of it as the tea is already lukewarm at best. That’s just as well considering there’s only two teacups and you’d rather not-
Crrrkk. Porcelain scrapes against wood, a teacup pushed towards you. With a faint smile Byakuren spins her fingers, a faint gust of magic jumping from her nails to the cup. When you reach for it there is a pleasant warmth to the touch.
You try to ignore the faint blush on your cheeks and take a long sip. Delicious.
“Thank you,” you say.
“Not at all. I would also like to apologize for Shou. It seems her pride is larger than even I thought. She should not be acting this way towards you, not for as long as she has.”
“You’re not responsible for how she decides to act,” you say with a shake of your head. “Were you discussing something worrying?”
“Nothing beyond what everybody seems worried about,” Byakuren sighs. “Are you aware of what has occurred?”
“Keine and Eientei are having a pissing match over Mokou’s disappearance? I just heard about it today, from Tewi. That’s why I’ve left my hermitage and have been flying all over.”
Byakuren nods. “I see. I admit I was worried when you stopped appearing at the temple but Dio and the others assured me you were safe and unharmed. I- I didn’t wish to intrude in your space and ruin your work.”
“You’re always welcome, Byakuren,” you quickly respond. Your workshop itself is probably defiantly opposed to her breathy, fleshy body from entering but that hardly matters.
“Ah, I’m glad.”
The silence sits for a second. You retreat into your personally handled teacup, considering how much better this tastes than a normal, freshly-brewed cup of tea. “Tewi handed me the Necronomicon, out of the blue. That was why I was secluded for a few days. I was wrapped up in studying it.”
“Truly? Congratulations!” The happiness that exudes from Byakuren is a bit overwhelming. The woman herself is also overwhelming – she manages to make it to your side and wrap you in a suffocating hug faster than a flash flood. “Do you believe the information you need lies within? Ah, this must be so exciting for you and your sister!”
“I think it does. A few days aren’t nearly enough time but the material that I have skimmed over is promising. It’ll take a long time to study properly and work out all the possible meanings and nuances, but I’m hopeful.” Eirin’s interests were roughly coincidental with your own, so you’ve already seen glimpses of what you desire. You have no doubt that the information on the human soul that you need lay somewhere within.
“Absolutely wonderful. Do you need any assistance? I cannot say that I am the most scholarly of people but if I was capable of learning from demonic, ancient Arabic tomes then this could not be much worse.” Byakuren’s bright smile is infectious. How scholarly can Byakuren manage to be? Somehow…you can’t quite imagine it. For all her ability to remain tranquil under pressure she doesn’t seem like the bookish type; she’s much more of a practical lessons kind of person.
“T-Thanks, I think.” You feel a chilly wind blow through the comfortable atmosphere and you quickly continue to speak. “I think I would appreciate that. Unfortunately, I haven’t progressed that far along my studies because I was trying to figure out what Eirin was researching.”
Thanks to your mouth being disconnected from your higher brain functionality, the pleasant mood completely drifts away.
“Ah,” Byakuren comments, sitting back on her feet and straightening up.
“And call me paranoid,” you continue, “but it seems like me coming into possession of the book was roughly aligned with Mokou’s disappearance.”
Byakuren frowns. She snatches your teacup off the table and throws back the rest of the liquid like a shot, the cup clacking resoundingly back against the table.
“Sorry for killing the mood,” you offer. “I really did appreciate your excitement.”
“With the situation as it is, that was only to be expected.” Byakuren leans back, eyes closed and looking up as if beseeching heaven for an answer. Naturally, none are forthcoming and she turns back to you. “Have you spoken with Keine?”
“I did. Have you?”
The brief feeling of disgust that curls Byakuren’s lips is obvious enough. “Did she also pressure and or blackmail you into helping her?” you ask.
“Pressure, yes, but she did not stoop so low as to blackmail.” As a thought strikes her, Byakuren suddenly grows more alert. “Did she do so to you? If she did I can guarantee you that-”
“Don’t worry, she didn’t,” you reassure the nun. “Even if she tried, I don’t know who she would tell about what. You already know practically everything there is to know about me.”
“Ah,” Byakuren eloquently responds, her curly bangs slightly obscuring her face as she looks down.
“But she did pressure you?” you ask again. “If she did then I’ll march right back over to her house and-”
“Peace, peace,” Byakuren chuckles. “She certainly tried to bring up my position with the village and my responsibilities when propositioning me. Unfortunately for her, I am not as beholden to her claims as she thinks. I am fully aware how much more youkai-aligned this temple is, as some might call it. That is no different from the rest of my life. It is the present mirroring the past.”
You frown. “That’s not fair-”
“Peace,” Byakuren repeats, drawing you into a light hug. “You need not try and protect me from myself. This part of my past is not something that bothers me much, these days.”
The two of you spend a precious minute embracing each other.
“Unfortunately for Keine,” Byakuren begins again after slowly separating from you, “the human practitioners of my temple are mostly disaffected individuals to begin with. It turns out that villagers with an extensive support network in the village do not feel the need to seek us out. As such, the only concern I have is what the best decision is for us all. Earlier, Shou was cautioning me as to how we might fare in certain dire possibilities.”
You don’t doubt that it was a fair assessment of the situation. You apparently rub Shou the wrong way, yet even including the little arguments you’ve had with her the tiger youkai has not tried to have you thrown out of the temple.
Well, if she has, it wasn’t something that Byakuren saw fit to tell you about.
Regardless, you think you can trust Shou to prepare for any eventuality. “Do you know what you’re going to do, then?”
“Currently I am of mind to simply let the dice fall as they may. The Myouren Temple, at least, has few stakes in this conflict. While Keine and Mokou are beloved figures in the village, neither have had much sway amongst our disciples. Likewise, the medications Eientei produces are useful but hardly essential. Personally, I have even less of a reason to involve myself…unless…” she trails off, eyes cast to the side.
Byakuren’s eyes flick back to you. “What do you plan on doing? You consider them friends, do you not?”
Plan of action [ ] Assist Keine with her power -[ ] Work with Marisa on the ritual’s foundations -[ ] Add your own special preparations --[ ] Security --[ ] Efficiency --[ ] Power --[ ] <Write-in> [ ] Agree to work with Reisen -[ ] Try to convince Keine to wait -[ ] Get the magicians to withdraw their support -[ ] Change opinions in the village -[ ] Consider Reisen’s more direct plans [ ] Find Reimu and convincer her to intercede more forcefully [ ] See what Seiga has been compelled to do [ ] <Write-in>
Byakuren [ ] Ask for Byakuren’s help with your actions [ ] Advise Byakuren to stay out of it [ ] <Write-in>
Posted in the month of October (according to me) thanks to the power of alcohol!
Obviously if you have some more crazy nuanced plan feel free to post it. If you have questions to ask that would affect your decision ask them! I can (even if no one believes it) give a speedy turnaround time on dialogue-only answers.
>>191645 >autosage Not even close, as far as I’m aware. However, I do sage all my updates when I post them so I can read over the update afterwards and make stealthy edits. Sometimes I forget to bump it once I’m satisfied.
>>191647 As happy as I am to see you vote, of course!
>>191652 Hah. I appreciate your spirit. Hopefully you’ll empower other struggling write-friends with that positivity. After all, we’re finishing up here in…a few months? Hopefully?
>Scenario 1 Mokou got infected with goorabbitis and Eirin sought her out to prevent widespread infection. In that case, it's better to sabotage Keine's plan. Of course, if Eirin's treatment is from scenario 2, it's a tricky situation - some strongarming will be required. >Scenario 2 Mokou got tricked into Eirin Necronomicon-ing away her immortality, most likely by means of forcefully separating her soul from her body, like in the case of our sister. In that case, only way to proceed is Keine's plan. Given that Eirin would rather experiment on Mokou than on herself or Kaguya, it makes sense for her to try it. >Scenario 3 Everyone's okay and playing videogames. Does not explain why mansion is on lockdown.
So, we got a sort of a Schrodinger's cat in the box, except Mokou is a cat and box is Eientei.
Right now, we need to do two things before trying anything - first is questioning Alice on why she was so fucking mad at Keine. Second is Plan Z, except instead of stealing the book we have to see if Mokou is okay and why the fuck she's there.
First of all, was this the fic where Reisen had memory gaps/discrepancies? It's been a long time since I read the festival bits where IIRC that was a thing, so I might be confusing it with another fic, but if it IS a thing it immediately makes Reisen's information extremely suspect. If it isn't a thing, she's probably just tired and overworked and only suspect inasmuch as she has very incomplete information.
Secondly, let's assume that it's a possibility that Mokou is NOT in Eientei. She may be under Eirin's tender custody, but in a separate location. Say, an alternate dimension of some sort or the Moon or something. Maybe something Lovecraftian, maybe something more mundanely Touhou. She could also be under a fuckton of magical wards to keep her hidden, or she could be magically changed in such a way that spells would not recognize her as "Mokou" - the Shoggoth option, basically. But however it turns out, I think the whole thing with Marisa not being able to find where she is may be significant.
And lastly, there's the whole issue with having Keine try to omniscience her way into Necronomicon-related stuff and the question of what negative effects that may have on her. Because let's be honest, there's roughly zero chance that Mokou's situation isn't Necronomicon-related in some fashion.
>>192195 Why? ;..; >>192191 A good recap. I think that helping Keine doesn't really affect Eientei. If they're innocent, then what could they lose? Keine is going to find out what happened first then act later. As for us we need more info.
[x] Mention Keine that Mokou, according to Reisen, is participating into an experiment of her own accord. -[x] While she could have been blackmailed, a common practice here apparently, it would be better if Keine focused on finding the truth first and retailing against Eientei later, if at all. --[x] Also mention Reisen's idea: support for the village in exchange of no angry mobs. Hasn't she got enough support with the Forest's witches? [x] Find out what Seiga was forced to do.
It'd be interesting if Mima was bound to Alice's book and that was the presence that reached out at first instead of the expected reason. Too dangerous to let loose, always kept at hand. I could see Alice choosing that way of handling it.
>>192191 Well, since the Alice thing got cleared up, only thing left to do is tunnel into a mansion full of rabbits and lunarians. Reisen can't be trusted because Eirin can wipe her memory when she wants to and there's a lot of ways that Keine's bullshit ritual can go wrong.
[z] Plan Z -[z] We gotta find Mokou. It's the only way. [z] Suggest that to Keine and make preparations. Two plans are better than one.
Byakuren [x] Explain Byakuren our plan, whatever we decide on, and tell her that, while her assistance would be welcome, this is a political powder keg and we understand she has responsibilities as the leader of the only group that gives a damn about Youkai-Human coexistence.
>>192191 >Scenario 3 Kaguya is losing and is pissed, obviously.
>>192196 >was this the fic where Reisen had memory gaps/discrepancies? Well some artificial repression of traumatic events might have occurred at some point, yes.
>>192197 TL;DR >Mima was an ass to people she didn’t care about
If you want the long, convoluted explanation (which didn’t even get deeper into the background I wanted because of poor planning, so there might not even be a satisfying explanation in there) then you can listen to >>192204.
You probably aren’t missing anything at all, really; just some minor background that hasn’t explicitly come up here. I never planned on letting knowledge from that story have any major influence on this one except for opening a special Easter-egg story branch that has long since passed, I guess.
>Plan Z Oh god the sneaking mission I always wanted. End with a bang!?!?
[X] Agree to work with Reisen -[X] Try to convince Keine to wait -[X] Consider Reisen’s more direct plans [X] Mention Keine that Mokou, according to Reisen, is participating into an experiment of her own accord. -[X] Also mention Reisen's idea: support for the village in exchange of no angry mobs. Hasn't she got enough support with the Forest's witches?
[X] Advise Byakuren to stay out of it
Yes! More updates. I want to trust Reisen on this one, but things are really suspicious.
Before we proceed, we need information. The only way to get this information is to sneak into Eientei and find out whats really going on. Sneaking into Eientei would be suicide if we did it ourselves. Fortunately, all we really need to do is act like a fly on the wall to find out whats going on in Eientei. And since we are a necromancer, we can do that literally.
[x] Go zombify a fly or some ants or something and have them sneak into Eintei to gather info.
Lunarian snipers probably don't care about a random ant crawling under the door, if they even notice it at all. And even if someone does find them and squish them, they are zombie bugs. They just have to play dead until the squasher leaves, then they can keep snooping around like nothing happened.
“This is honestly a waste of our time. I would love to get back to more interesting work instead of guard duty, but we can’t trust them since it’s obvious they don’t trust us. So, are you in?”
Reisen tries to make her offer flippant but you can tell how tight she’s wound. The woman in the combat fatigues looks uneasy, eyes constantly leaving your face to scan the scenery behind you. Her body is stiff, her arms rigid, and her ears are slightly drooped as if exhausted. From your questions alone she’s already bounced back and forth between anger and uncertainty. You wonder how much sleep she’s even gotten. How much has she eaten? If she were slightly more panicked, less in control, you can easily imagine her eyes blazing with insanity as she stands rigid with distraught and in desperate need of a calming presence. She-
You shake your head.
The situation is a mess. You can’t let your emotions get the better of you.
Reisen, unfortunately, can’t be trusted. No matter how she feels personally, she still follows orders. In this big swamp of lies, of ‘she said she said,’ you need more solid information.
“I know I definitely don’t want anything to get worse,” you hedge. “I can definitely talk with Keine and see how she feels about easing off.”
Reisen gives a quick shake of her head. “Good luck. I doubt that will help. It’s not like I’ve been in the village personally but I hear you could roast some rabbit with the anger that’s boiling. Still, if you can get her to listen that’s good. If I can relax our guard rotation then I’ll definitely be able to get someone working on that medication for the village.”
“And Mokou?” you ask.
“They’re done when they’re done, hopefully in a week or so,” the answer comes back.
Not the most satisfying answer.
No, not at all. Yet, if Reisen is telling the honest truth then that’s exactly what Mokou agreed to. It always comes back to that, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately. Who’s lying, who’s telling the truth, who’s misinformed?
Speaking of misinformation, isn’t it strange Reisen is focused on an angry mob trying to break down the gate? It didn’t sound like Keine planned on that happening. Maybe Reisen doesn’t know about it or maybe she already has a plan in place.
Still, perhaps that’s something that Reisen can afford to be truthful on? “If Keine doesn’t agree to back off,” you begin, “what would you do about it?”
Surprisingly, your question doesn’t seem to put Reisen on guard at all. The rabbit youkai simply shrugs her shoulders. “Hard to say. We’d need to scout out the situation more and respond appropriately to whatever the threat is. If the villagers are the problem I’d probably just poison their water. If everybody’s indisposed for a week then we should be fine.”
...That’s her appropriate response? “You think poisoning their water is reasonable?”
“Hey, it’s not a horrible idea,” Reisen pouts. “It may be a little extreme but we could keep the dosage low enough to mitigate most health risks. Just enough to make them feel a bit of a high or- It’s not like I’d do it! It was just the easiest solution that came to mind, okay?”
An exhausted sigh falls from her mouth. Reisen leans against the wood of the gate and frowns at you. “I’d come up with something better if I knew exactly what the threat was. I just want all this to pass by, you know? I really hate having to do all this. Don’t tell them, but I’d rather teach the Earth Rabbits all day than worry about this kind of crap. I could have just stayed at home if I wanted more of this work.”
Byakuren’s eyes flick back to you. “What do you plan on doing? You consider them friends, do you not?” You lean back and hold your magically-warmed teacup. Life would be far easier if one of the groups causing a problem was moustache-twirling evil. Or didn’t magically outweigh you by several tons.
“I think the biggest problem is one of information,” you say. “I don’t know enough to say which side of this story, if either, is true. Do you have any advice on how to figure it out?”
Byakuren’s lips purse. “Unfortunately not. Discerning the truth of the matter is never an easy task if it is possible at all. In the conflicts of old my brother would listen with an even-mind and often create a compromise. I, on the other hand, often acted in accordance with my personal feelings. In both cases, a copious application of force was required if the two parties were intractable.”
“And we can’t force Eientei to do anything with the power we have,” you grumble. “Or even Keine if she has the village and all these magicians at her back.”
“Not without risk. Yet, that is Keine’s intent, is it not?” Byakuren asks. “She wishes to have enough power to make Eientei’s opinion on the matter irrelevant and mitigate all risk.”
You give Byakuren a surprised glance. “So you think Keine’s way is right? Even though you didn’t immediately jump to help her?”
Byakuren scowls and taps her fingers on the table. “I did not say that. I cannot imagine giving her the power she seeks will neatly solve every issue. I learned under a being with god-like power and even with decades of practice she had she could not make all her problems vanish without complication.”
“Then we should talk her down, give Eientei the time they want and trust that they’re telling the truth?”
“Did I say that?” Byakuren asks, her hand resting on her cheek, eyes wide.
You grumble and she laughs. “Apologies. I think you would be a fool to believe Eirin and them innocent of any wrongdoing in the matter. However, I personally would have no issue giving them the time they request. I do not mean to sound cruel but Mokou Fujiwara is immortal. It would make most sense to me to spend time gathering our allies to act if Eientei is proven to be dishonest in their dealings.”
A sensible plan but it has one major flaw. “Keine doesn’t seem to want to give them another second.”
“Indeed. Why wait when she is fully confident that she can act now?” Byakuren stands up and walks over to her room’s window. “And you? Will you act now, or wait?”
You stand and walk over to her. Your shoulders touch as you both stare at the moonlit garden outside. “I guess I can start by speaking with Keine. A few words tomorrow shouldn’t cost me anything.”
“You are going to try and change her mind?”
“Not necessarily. It’d be great if we could convince her to wait but right now I just want more information about that ritual. What does she think she can actually do and what can she mess up?”
“I see. Then, I shall go with you. Keine was certainly eager to acquire my assistance. If she sees me with you then perhaps she will be more willing to tell us about her plan.”
You give Byakuren a glance. With the entire temple behind her it seems a little reckless for her to act. “Can you do that? Weren’t you worried about your responsibility?”
“I am. However, it is not my name on this temple. I hope that fact, that lesson, is one I have truly learned in the past few months.”
“I’m glad you see it that way. Will anybody else?”
“Probably not,” Byakuren admits with a chuckle. “Regardless, what would your plan be for after this talk?”
“Investigate Eientei,” you immediately reply. “I need more information that I can personally trust.”
A hand finds your left shoulder and bodily tugs you against Byakuren. “Well, I am definitely accompanying you tomorrow.”
“That’s- ah, a little tight-”
Your shoulder blades creak from the added pressure. In your right ear, Byakuren’s gentle tones whisper sweetly. “What was that? Did you say you wished to put yourself in lethal danger without my assistance?”
“Uh-,” you choke, “‘course not.”
You take a quick gasp as her grip loosens into something like a comforting hug instead of a death grip. Comfortable enough for you rest an arm around her waist and relax.
You aren’t quite sure how long the two of you are simple standing there. Unfortunately, the quite moment cannot last forever. “Byakuren?”
“Not that I hate it but shouldn’t you let me go now?”
“Hm, perhaps,” Byakuren says. She looks at you, smiles, and nods. Byakuren takes a few steps, pulling you away from the window and closing the shutter in one graceful spin. “You have a long day planned for tomorrow. You should relax and go to bed.”
“Thank you for the advice, Byakuren.” It was definitely helpful. It gave you some more perspective and-
And you try to walk towards the door but get jerked backwards. “Um, Byakuren? I- whoah!”
You start to flail as your feet are swept out from underneath you. A second arm grabs you mid-fall, trapping your arms, and you’re hauled to the ground.
Surprisingly, you land rather softly. Not on Byakuren, but on a futon you didn’t realize was lying there. While you might not be able to move the arms that are reaching from around your back are free to roam. Those wandering hands don’t stop as they slip between your jacket’s buttons and under your collar. “Hey, what-”
“You can hardly relax with all of these clothes on.”
“…Can you help me bring Mokou back as we remember, back to our side as she should be?”
Boy, Keine sure did seem a bit angry when you didn’t immediately say yes. Given that she’s apparently going around blackmailing people…
Your sister says that like it’s a bad thing. Isn’t it? You can understand that kind of desperation. When you are so outmatched and outclassed, you have to find ways to cheat to stay relevant.
Desperation can also breed some terrible decisions.
Also true. Hopefully with Byakuren there you won’t have to bear all of Keine’s misplaced anger alone.
The village guards, as always, give you the stink eye as you walk by; perhaps doubly so because of your large entourage of clearly armed followers. It doesn’t help that Yoshika smacks her lips, Shilverase sticks out her tongue, and Nekurow looks like he wants to glare the guards to death.
Wonderful, they all act just like you. How long will it take the other two to start acting like kids?
“You all can just wait around out here,” you tell the jiang-shi. “It doesn’t look anybody will want to bother us.”
The jiang-shi have plenty of room to spread out along the street. After all, there isn’t a single person nearby that they could possibly bother. The schoolhouse remains as unpopular as before.
You have to shake your arm a few times to dislodge Yoshika. She desperately tries to hold on to her privilege for several seconds before finally giving up with a huff.
Arm free, you share a reassuring look with Byakuren and then knock on the door to the schoolhouse. A cheerful “Come in!” responds.
That did not sound like Keine.
When you push open the door, you find Keine and Marisa standing over one of the student desks, a large canvas dangling off all the edges. Naturally, the black and white witch is making sweeping gestures while she speaks.
“-that should be enough to power everything. In a pinch anybody could start tossing some magic around if our calculations were wrong but it’d be best to maintain a steady rate to ensure it works without a hitch!”
“Thank you for all your hard work Marisa,” Keine says.
“Yeah, no problem at all! I still need to meet with Patchouli and make sure that some of these wards are accurate but- Oh hey, it’s you!” The blonde interrupts herself without preamble and waves hello. “And Byakuren too! Does this mean you two are here to help us? You should’ve agreed sooner you know? I don’t know how much we can risk changing the plans with the time we have left even though I’m sure you both have some better ideas. Maybe you could look over these drafts and find whatever optimizations there are to-”
The schoolteacher rests a hand on the witch’s shoulder. “Marisa, perhaps our guests would like a turn to speak?”
“Oh. Yeah, uh, my bad.” You see the blush that ignites across Marisa’s face only for a moment. The witch’s wide-brimmed hat is pulled down afterwards.
“You have everything finalized then, Marisa?” Byakuren asks with a chuckle.
“Er, yeah, pretty much. Still got a couple of things to go over but we’re pretty much there. After Patchouli agrees to it we just got to gather our supplies and start setting up at the shrine.”
“Setting up so soon?” you ask.
“Well, we only have like a few days until the full moon, you know? Time might be a little tight but we should have it ready. With you two there to help I’m sure we’d be finished with plenty of time to spare!”
Marisa’s excited confidence quickly wilts, again, when neither you nor Byakuren say a word. The two of you exchange a glance. Like a coward, you urge Byakuren with your eyes to crush Marisa’s hopes and dreams.
“Sorry Marisa,” Byakuren eventually says. “We have a few questions for Keine.”
“Oh. Okay.” Marisa looks between everybody else in the room and then takes a step towards the door. “Well, um, I guess I’ll go see Patchouli now, then?”
“Thank you again, Marisa.” Keine pats Marisa on the back encouragingly, managing to find Marisa’s lost smile. She waits for schoolhouse’s door to close before continuing. “Now, what was it you two wished to ask me? I assume based on your expressions that you haven’t agreed to help.”
“Not yet,” you say. “Yesterday I spoke with Reisen-”
Wrong thing to say. The rabbit’s name is the flame that lights Keine’s anger. “So you’re taking their side? Of course you are! I was stupid to hope that anybody else in this thrice-damned place would even think of helping Mokou! You-”
“Should calm down now, Keine.” Byakuren raises her voice, sounding very much like an exasperated parent. “We have not decided either way but immediately assuming the worst of us is hardly helping to convince us.”
“I-” It almost looks physically painful for Keine to reign herself in. Still, she manages it. “Right. I’m sorry. It really hurt to think that someone who helped Mokou, helped us, so much would have just- I’m sorry, this entire mess has gotten to me. You…you were saying?”
“First,” you begin, “a message to pass along. Reisen just wanted to say that if she didn’t feel so threatened then she could spare the effort to get the village’s medicine made.”
“Threatened by what?”
“Like a mob of angry villagers storming Eientei.”
“Ah, so that’s all you told her?” Keine laughs, surprisingly light-hearted. “If that’s all she wants then you can tell her that I agree. I have no plans on forming such a mob. I’ll even ask Lady Hieda to tighten the guard and make sure no such mob forms.” Keine rubs her thumb against her chin, her voice taking on a pondering tone. “I wonder if I will have the time to fix the worst of their ailments. Those suffering by genetics might be difficult but those that suffer from an accident should be simple enough to change.”
Did you just miss something? “Wait, what? Who?”
“The villagers. Many might rely on the medication that Eientei produces but that reliance can lead to difficulties such as this. I was simply considering how much time it would take to fix their sicknesses.”
“Time? You mean, during the ritual you have planned?” you ask.
“Ah, yes. My power is at the height of its potential during the true full-moon but even beforehand I am capable of applying my power to varying degrees. Assuming the ritual is working as intended, I should have a few hours to roughly plan on what changes I will need to make. After fixing Mokou’s situation I imagine I will be able to aid the villagers with whatever time I have left.”
Keine speaking in such absolutes doesn’t give you much confidence. Maybe it’s because you can’t particularly understand her mindset? If you had a power that sounds like it could do so much, figuring out how to take full advantage of it would have been priority number one. “Do you think it will be difficult then to, uh, make the situation right?”
“It’s hard to say. While it’s true I’ve never worked on this scale before it should be no different from before. It is hard to explain in words but I have always felt what I could be capable of during the minute of the full-moon. Perhaps it is a side effect of my curse but my mind…expands while I use my power. I can see what I would need to do to fulfill my wishes. Actually accomplishing the changes is…exhausting. With the ritual in place that exhaustion should be non-existent. One minute may not seem like much time but to me it might as well be a lifetime.” Keine’s expression darkens when her mind seems to wander. “That time would still be nothing compared to what Mokou has experienced.”
“Is your power capable of being that perfect?” Smooth wording. “I’m not trying to insult you but this power of yours is still confusing to me.”
“It can be,” Keine confidently responds. “I simply need to be thorough.”
You can’t help but glance at the schoolteacher’s desk. The wood is splintered, large holes in the surface obvious. “Sorry, but that answer doesn’t work for me. I can’t agree to help if I don’t understand the critical component of your plan. I’m concerned about what could go wrong or what the limit of your ability is.”
“Very well. Let me think for a moment,” she says. Somewhat disturbingly, her eyes don’t leave you while she thinks. “Consider this. Say it was only me and you in this room, and then I fell down and broke my arm. You run outside and tell everyone I broke my arm. But, when everybody in the village rushes inside, they find me in perfect condition. Do you think you are a liar?”
She must be a teacher if she’s trying to teach by hypothetical. “No. I saw you break your arm.”
“That’s right. Now, when you ask me to tell everybody what happened, I tell them that I was fine all along and you are crazy. Do you think you’re still telling the truth?”
“Of course you do. You know what you saw. But, when they inspect me further, they see no sign of any damage. Does anybody believe you if I say I didn’t break my arm and there is no signs of me breaking my arm?”
“True, they could. But if you were an untrustworthy individual to begin with, nobody would. You would be the only one in the whole world to think I broke my arm. And as time wore on, more and more people would be confident in the fact that I never broke my arm on that day. Every time I used my non-broken arm for something it would only become more obvious that my arm was, in fact, never broken. So then I would ask you, which is more likely? That I broke my arm and then fixed it without a trace, or that you remembered the incident incorrectly?”
That’s ridiculous. If she’s trying to imply she was hypothetically using her power then she still had to fix her broken arm with magic. Lying about it shouldn’t change matters. “It can’t work like that. That would mean you have the power to alter reality on a whim.”
Keine gives you a look. “Control over history, yes. The power to alter past events, in other terms. Is it so hard to imagine?”
“It just…doesn’t make sense.” Well damn. If you’re going to admit that then maybe you shouldn’t be questioning this so much. After all, the most powerful magic is always what makes the least sense.
“Not surprising. If it helps, I can tell you my ability does not give me total omniscience or make me omnipotent. I must look for what I want to know and I must force what I want to change. History gains weight with time and it is a fact that more powerful individuals have a weight all their own. For instance, I can do little to change Lady Hijiri as she has both factors on her side.” Keine smiles at Byakuren and gives your companion a little nod. “Perhaps I could change what she ate for breakfast or what she saw in the newspaper yesterday. Yet, if she eats the same meal everyday with little variance then I likely could not. At least, not for any lasting time.”
So Keine is trying to say that immortals like Mokou and Eirin are difficult to change, but not impossible? She makes it sound like the recency of the issue would make it easier. It would be hard to make Mokou’s hair black given it has been silver for centuries, but whether she stubbed her toe or not the other day is relatively trivial?
“I assure you,” Keine speaks up again, probably seeing your consternation, “with the power of the ritual behind me then nothing Eirin thinks she has done can stop me from making sure Mokou is, in fact, safe and sound.”
She sounds so confident.
“One more thing,” you say.
“One more-” Keine draws a deep breath. “On more thing, then. What is it?”
“I want to investigate Eientei myself, actually. Not that I don’t believe you, but I’m still not fully comfortable with everything that’s happened.” You consider the situation and decide to give Keine one last poke. “Did you know? Reisen said that Mokou was there of her own free will.”
“She- She what?” Naturally, your poke is enough to reawaken the volcano that is Keine’s emotions. “And is that what is causing you to hesitate? The claims of that lying rabbit? How could you possibly believe her? It doesn’t seem suspicious that she would tell Reimu that Mokou isn’t there but then turn around and tell you that Mokou is? Which is the lie? They both certainly can’t be true! This is exactly why I need to do this. Nothing they say can be trusted, but there’s no reason we need to trust them at all. With this ritual and my power, I can discern the truth regardless of any lies.”
Passion and firm belief. If nothing else, you can believe in Keine’s staunch opinions. You can believe that she truly wants her dear person back at her side.
“…I’m still going to go investigate Eientei myself,” you almost hesitate to say. The stern look Byakuren is also levying at you doesn’t help.
“Fine, if you insist that this is the better usage of your time.” Keine almost growls in frustration before walking towards the door. She opens it and gives you the clear invitation to leave. “Any information you discover about Mokou will, of course, be a great comfort.”
No, that’s crazy. How would that even work? You work with flesh and bones. Could you even create runes small enough to inscribe onto an insect?
Isn’t it lucky that there’s a certain kind of furry critter that is exceedingly common in Eientei?
“I need a rabbit, Byakuren.”
“Ah? Hm, very well.” Your companion looks around, bangs swaying back and forth. It only takes a moment of scanning the underbrush for her to spy movement. With a flick of her wrist she conjures her magic, shadow-like ribbons shooting forth from her fingertips. The dark magic strikes into the brush without a sound. The ribbons merge together and, like a spider towing in their prey, a darkly-wrapped bundle is dragged out of the brush. “Is this fine?” Byakuren asks you.
Well, at least she’ll definitely be able to keep you on a leash. Quiet, Sis. You need to concentrate.
You kneel down and start working. It’s nothing you haven’t done before. You could create the necessary mixtures and draw the required runes in your sleep with how common they are. Still, there’s no point to be anything less than careful.
After around twenty minutes you finish and hold the rabbit up to Byakuren. “How does it look?”
Byakuren tilts her head while she examines the rabbit that is licking its paw. It is a white rabbit speckled with black – that is natural black hair and not some aftereffect of Byakuren’s attack. “Excellent work. Would an animal be able to smell the difference?”
It’s a good question. There are so many details that can give away the dead to the living. The important part is how recognizable would it be to someone who can do something about it? “I don’t think so. You might have given it the freight of its life for a second but at least in the short time we need it should be unnoticeable. I’m more worried about the magical traces on it. I don’t know what kind of sensors the folks at Eientei have.”
“Yes, that could be an issue. May I see it?” You mentally prod the rabbit, using your magic to give it instructions to hop over to Byakuren’s waiting hands. Once more she uses her magic to coat the undead rabbit in deep purple. Then it dissipates and she hands it back. “Perhaps that is a bit better?”
You toss the rabbit back and forth in your hands. You blink, enhance your eyesight, and then nod. “It’s definitely less obvious to me. How did you mask the excess energy?”
“I trapped it for a more useful spell. If your infiltration is discovered then you can erase the evidence of its undead nature as well as misdirect Eientei in assuming the source of the intrusion.”
“You-” Another once over, with careful mental probing of the internals of the undead rabbit, give you some idea. “Did you turn my rabbit into a hopping demon bomb?”
“I added a contingency.”
Her dress and hair twirls as she turns away from you. “If you need it, simply pour more energy into it. Shall we go?”
Only a few minutes later you’re greeted by the familiar sight of Eientei’s walls obscured by magically tall bamboo shoots. You and Byakuren take a knee, wary of getting any closer. Byakuren even weaves a minor illusion, the air in front of the two of you shimmering. “I would feel better if you had brought the jiang-shi with you.”
“We don’t plan on being caught out here, right? Bringing another five bodies would be counterproductive,” you argue.
“That does not change my feelings on the matter.” Byakuren brushes a lock of hair behind her ear. “How will you retrieve information from the rabbit?”
“I’ll be sharing its senses, not projecting my consciousness into it. I won’t have as fine control over its movements but there won’t be a risk of grievous mental injury if something goes wrong.” You look down at your rabbit and double-check the runes you inscribed. “Did you want to see as well?”
“It would be better for me to remain on watch. Safer. If you need my opinion on matters you can show me what you saw after the fact, correct?”
“Ah right, that’s true. Thanks.”
A soft and wet sensation tickles your forehead. “Good luck,” Byakuren whispers.
You look up and smile before you concentrate, flexing your magic to activate the-
Man, those are some good looking boots. Unfortunately muddy but they’re still as black as the night sky on a- Yeah, yeah, get moving rabbit-boy.
You take a step forward and watch the black boot slip. You see the leg coming towards you and goddamnit this always happens-
“Are you okay!?”
You hate doing this. It’s always so unintuitive. You think very hard at the rabbit, willing the magic inside the rabbit to move as you need it to. Your undead construct turns, its little head tilting all around.
Byakuren caught you. That is to say, she has both her arms wrapped around the stomach of your human body. She quickly flips you around and lowers your back to the dirt. You feel her skin brush against your cheeks and hear her worried voice. “Hello? Did you expect this? Answer me!”
Before Byakuren can panic further you give her a thumbs up. Well, you try. It starts by you flopping your hand against her back to grab her attention. Then, you sort of manage to get your thumb slightly bent while most of your fingers curl inwards.
Ah fuck it. You urge the rabbit body onwards. It hops up onto your human body and does a little dance in front of Byakuren’s eyes.
It takes a second for the nun to focus on the strange white critter. A strange half-giggle hiccup escapes her, any tension in her form likewise escaping. Byakuren reaches down, massive hands grabbing your little puppet body. She holds you to her chest and probably strokes the fur atop your head.
Her hair smells nice. Good, you got the smell correctly. Touch didn’t carry over, as intended. What about taste?
You surge the little rabbit body upwards. “Ah- What are you- Hah, stop!” No sense of taste. Everything checks out then!
Not transferring any potential for pain makes sense, but I still can’t believe you don’t link your taste. Many animals find it a useful source of information.
Nope, too disgusting to deal to deal with.
You wriggle the rabbit body as hard as it can. Byakuren releases her hold, letting you hop to the ground and away. It’s a little difficult navigating the body at first but you quickly acclimate. The weirdest part of it all is how much you can see at once – eyes on the side of your head is confusing.
Regardless, you manage to close in on the walls of the Lunarian base. You can see the soldier at the gate as well as the one stationed on the roof. How alert are they for any irregularities?
You watch the area for several minutes. More than trying to understand the Lunarian guards, you try and estimate the distance between where you are and the ground in the courtyard.
Well, you’ll probably get it wrong. Time to get started.
You will the rabbit to dig into the dirt, the ground giving no resistance to your undead puppet. Its paws are filled with fury, soil displaced faster than in a flood. Soon enough the world grows dark and you’re forced to rely on your intuition for navigation. Your rabbit tirelessly tunnels through the darkness.
You don’t hit your head against underground walls, much to your surprise.
Five, four, three, two, one?
And up you go.
You hope you’re inside the complex.
With your luck you’re right at the guard’s feet.
Bright light! Your paw breaks the surface, your rabbit popping its head out like a gopher. In front of your rabbit is another rabbit, nose twitching as it investigates the newcomer.
You have your puppet kick its legs, leaving its home in the ground behind. It manages to get its fluffy white butt free and you’re off! You knock the curious rabbit aside as you furiously hop for the shadowed shelter underneath Eientei’s wooden porch. From your hiding location you observe the activity in the courtyard.
Huh, there isn’t much. From when you visited past times, you couldn’t take a step without fear of treading on a rabbit or a rabbit girl.
Now it almost reminds you of the temple with its tranquility. There are still plenty of normal rabbits hopping around, but the number of youkai is few. A pair of rabbit girls is dozing in the grass and a few are walking along the porch, but no one is running around and shouting. Nobody is preparing pranks or making a ruckus.
Hell, a couple of the Earth rabbits look like they’re working! You see one carrying a pair of boxes, a pair of monstrosities- cuties!- following behind. The grey blobs have a stack of crates five high atop their jiggly forms. The creatures have a single tentacle extended from their main masses and looped like a bungee cord to hold the crates still.
How many “stable” monsters did Eirin create? You know she had at least one as a lab assistant, but-
Your rabbit is lifted off the ground and out of the darkness.
Panic quickly sets in, your feelings causing the rabbit to wildly struggle, but the tentacle around its body is too strong to dissuade.
Shit. What can you do? Bite it? Activate Byakuren’s fail-safe?
The creature’s thirty red eyes stare directly at you, a dozen more grey tendrils extruding from its front to probe your rabbit. The invasive monster’s gooey form reaches into your rabbit’s ears, up its nostrils-
“Avenir, put your cousin or whatever down. It’s not play time!”
All at once the tendrils retract. Your rabbit drops lifelessly to floorboards. Behind you, the Earth rabbit girl looks none too pleased that the monstrosities had stopped following her to harass your puppet.
They don’t pause or turn around after they slither past you.
Got your heart racing, didn’t it?
Unfortunately. You don’t think it will stop, either. That could have been the shortest lived infiltration of your life.
You’re going to follow them?
They look like they’re doing something important. Besides, you need to try and find Mokou. If those monsters return to Eirin then it would be your best chance.
You have your rabbit hop along after the entourage. Completely inconspicuous.
Inside Eientei, things are more crowded. You enter the Earth rabbit’s section of the building and are amazed at how clean it is compared to your last visit. There are hardly any dirty clothes or half-eaten food cartons strewn about in the halls. Rabbits, however, are everywhere. The monsters cannot move down the hall without sliding over the toes of some rabbit girl or another.
They all just decided to move inside instead of loitering around outside?
Soon enough, the monsters are directed to drop their load in some unremarkable room next to a bunch of other crates. “Alright, you two can go back now. And no stops on the way!” the rabbit girl yells before wandering off down the hall.
You warily watch the two monstrosities ooze their way past you.
They seem to give no heed to your puppet. That continues even when you leave behind the rabbit-infested wing of Eientei. It’s a stark contrast between the Earthling quarters and the rest; you can draw a line where the Earth rabbits are and where they are not.
The monsters blithely continue on down the hall, not once turning back towards you. It’s surprising given how interested one of them was when it first noticed you. Why is that? Is it because the youkai had called it off? Was it satisfied by what it felt before?
Either way, the mutated rabbits continue down the hall until your find two new figures to look at. A pair of Lunarians stands outside a metal door. You wonder what could possibly be inside.
The monstrosities, however, don’t stop. They slide right past the two guards and up to the wall. Those sludge-like tentacles extend from the tops of their masses and splat against the wall. They manage to stick to the metal like suction cups. The pair of grey creatures quickly make their way up the wall and into a, an air vent?
More like a doggy door but for mutated rabbits instead.
Which also happens to be built close to the ceiling? That’s so inconvenient!
I imagine it’s meant to keep out curious rabbits that are hopping along.
It’s still frustrating for you. Now how do you- “Hey, what’s that rabbit doing here?”
Damn it! You turn your puppet on a paw and try to bolt but the gloved hand reaching for you is too quick.
Once more, there’s not much you can do. You let the puppet stiffen up with imaginary fright as you come face-to-face with a glaring Lunarian.
“I thought we told the midgets to keep their pets in check.”
“We did. Looks like they’re slacking off as usual, even now.”
“Tsk. You think if we leave it dead in one of their beds they’ll get the message?”
“Hell that’d just set them off, you know that.”
“Fine. Fine. Damn, I don’t want to walk all the way over- Hey! Hey! Shorties! Get over-!” You see the eyes of the Lunarian holding you bulge, her voice squeaking before she shuts her mouth.
Out of one eye you can see down the hall to where an unassuming pair of youkai girls freezes. Just behind them, two taller figures become visible. One is another Lunarian, dressed and ready for battle. The other? Flawless beauty.
You watch Princess Kaguya glance your way, a subdued smile on her lips. It’s hard to see from this distance but she looks amused. You can almost imagine her happy to see you.
The princess gently strokes the ear of one of the earth rabbits accompanying her. You think she says something to them before carrying on down the hall and out of sight.
The pink and blue-haired girls look at each other before hopping over. “Whatcha need?”
Your world spins as the Lunarian tosses your puppet through the air. The earth rabbits leap in panic, the two of them running into each other as they both reach out to grab you. Their catch is good, eliciting a sigh of relief from the both of them. The cotton candy colored earth rabbit cradles your form to her chest as she stomps her foot. “What’s the big idea?”
“Us,” the Lunarian haughtily replies. “Now take your pet and get out of here, shorty. The next one we find wandering this way is getting turned into a snack.”
The blue-haired rabbit takes center stage, doing her best to puff out her chest. Unfortunately for her, she’s still not even half as tall as the Lunarian. “You think you’re such hot stuff! We ought to-”
“C’mon it’s not worth it,” the pink-haired rabbit grabs her friend by the shoulder and pulls away. “Let’s just go.”
The two earthlings hurriedly hop off, your puppet with them. It doesn’t take them long to start complaining. They’re probably not even out of earshot of the Lunarians guarding that door.
“I can’t believe those two!”
“They did warn us.”
“We’re supposed to watch over every rabbit in Eientei? They’d probably be happier to just put them all into cages!”
“They are how they are. You shouldn’t get so-” the rabbit holding you stops speaking. Out of the corner of one eye you see her lean her head down, her lips almost touching your puppet’s fur.
“What’s wrong?” her companion asks.
The youkai holds your puppet up. “Does she smell different to you?”
You get an unpleasantly close look at the rabbit youkai’s nostrils. The blue-haired one takes two big whiffs before nodding. “Hm. A bit, yeah.”
“Does that mean she’s close to awakening?”
“Huh, that could be it. We should get her out of here now then, shouldn’t we?”
“Yeah, let’s go.” Abruptly, the two rabbit girls reverse direction and begin running down the hall, their feet thwumping against the floor.
“Don’t worry,” you hear the youkai holding you whisper, “It’ll all be okay. No one is going to feed you to the experiments.”
The two rabbit girls easily navigate the halls of Eientei, eventually coming to a staircase that they leap down in one jump. Their run continues unabated as they take turn after turn. They come to a stop at what seems to be a random section of a random hallway, featureless as all of Eientei’s halls are except for the occasional door.
The blue-haired youkai slides her fingers along the wall. After a moment of deliberate searching, her right hand jerks to a stop and she begins to tug.
The wall panel comes off. Beyond it is a small amount of metal scaffolding, some wires and pipes, and the outer wall that has been stripped away to reveal the hard-packed ground beyond.
The rabbit girl gently leans the sheet of metal that is larger than her against the unbroken wall and crawls up into the exposed wall cavity. Then, with a soft cry, she punches the underground dirt. It too collapses, leaving a very obvious hole that is perfectly sized for a small girl to walk through.
Before you know it your puppet is being carried back into the darkness. The two rabbit girls carefully drag the wall panel back into place – it looks like it has handles on the inside for this very purpose. Then you’re off, making quick speed through the tunnel in the ground.
This is leading out of Eientei, then?
Presumably, yes. You wonder where it goes. Some other safe haven within the Bamboo forest? Further?
I was more thinking about how this tunnel is on the opposite side of where we are, right?
Yes, that seems to be the- oh, damn. Good point. The rabbit girls are loping along in this tunnel, taking the puppet further and further away from you. The magic linking you to the puppet doesn’t have an unlimited range. If they go far enough, the strings will be cut.
What can you do about it? It’s not like you can intercept the rabbit girls.
There are really not too many options. You ping your puppet, trying to get a feel for how strong your connection still is. It feels the same as ever – which it shouldn’t be, since the rabbits are definitely moving away from you.
Something to do with the Bamboo Forest’s strangeness?
Perhaps. Who knows how long you have until your puppet goes too far, then?
You take a second to mentally prepare before willing your puppet into action. You hear a startled “Hey!” as you force your rabbit to push with its hind legs, using the chest of the youkai as a springboard to launch towards the wall of the tunnel. Dead paws scrape against the dirt wall of the tunnel and barely manage to find purchase.
“What’s it doing? Grab it!”
You jolt your puppet to work faster, giving up any semblance of normality. Your puppet smashes its head into the dirt. A hole forcibly opens and is expanded as your puppet opens its mouth wide. The compact dirt is sheared apart by its teeth and then summarily swallowed, your puppet’s gut acting as a mobile dirt container.
A finger touches the hind paw of your rabbit. You knock it away with a rough kick and continue your puppet’s quick escape into the wall.
Soon you’re more than deep enough in. The echoes of the rabbit youkai bounce into your small escape tunnel. “I can’t reach it!”
“Sheesh it really doesn’t want to leave, does it?”
“Tell Tewi? Get a shovel? I guess either way we have to go back.”
What are they chances they come digging for your puppet? Can’t say.
You angle your rabbit upwards and begin digging your way out of the ground. It can’t be too far down. You were in Eientei’s basement and it didn’t feel like you were ever heading downwards in that tunnel.
After another minute of digging your puppet’s nose breaks the surface. A quick peek around shows nothing but bamboo.
You cut the connection with your puppet and open your eyes.
It’s cloudy out.
You sit up, the sound of your movement drawing Byakuren’s attention. She stands up from where she was sitting and walks over.
“How was it?” she asks. “Did you find Mokou?”
“No. There was a door being guarded by two Lunarians that those monstrous assistants returned to so I assume she was in there.” You roll your neck and stretch your back. You take a minute to look around and tap your hands against things. Byakuren’s looks a little bemused when your draw her into a hug and sniff her hair but she doesn’t push you away.
Senses roughly re-aligned, you focus for another moment and find the magical signature of your puppet off in the distance. “I found something interesting, though. Follow me?”
“Lead the way.”
You follow the beacon that is your puppet, using it as a lighthouse to direct you through the forest. Much like before, it doesn’t feel like you’re getting any closer to it. The magical signature of your puppet is just as distant as it always is – until it isn’t.
Much like when you arrive at Eientei or Mokou’s home, you suddenly find yourself within eyesight of a clearing. “We’re here.”
“What is here?” Byakuren asks while walking ahead of you.
“A tunnel.” You walk over to the little hole in the ground and reach inside. You pick up the undead puppet and brush the dirt off its fur. “There’s a tunnel running from Eientei’s basement all the way out here. It goes further but I didn’t want my puppet to get too far away.”
“I see. Why was your rabbit in this tunnel?”
“A couple of earth rabbits were carrying it somewhere for some reason.” You walk a little ways away and kneel to the ground. You set your puppet down and have it dig itself a new hole and nestle inside. With a small application of magic you smooth over the dirt to be hopefully unnoticed if someone comes by to investigate.
“What are you doing?” your companion asks while looking over your shoulder.
“Making sure I can find my way back here.”
When you stand up and turn around you find Byakuren starting at you. “Please, do not tell me you intend on trying to go inside Eientei personally.”
Please, tell me that too.
“I do not think you are a stupid man,” Byakuren says. “This, however, is a stupid decision.”
“I haven’t decided on anything,” you defend yourself. “Just thinking of our options.”
“And this is one of your options?”
“I think it could be,” you hedge. “From what I can tell, we need to choose a side or try things our own way.”
“Our own way?” You don’t think she could say those words with much more disdain. “Running into the jaws of death is not a path I would advise treading.”
“Does it seem like such an impossible idea to you?” you ask. It’s not like you’re taking the idea lightly. You’re just trying to keep all the possibilities in mind. “If you don’t think it’s possible, I won’t consider it.”
Byakuren’s nose wrinkles, her lips squeezing together in consternation. Eventually, she sighs. “It does not make me comfortable. Impossible? Perhaps not, depending on your goal.”
The magician starts to pace in circles, arms tucked under her chest. “If this tunnel truly allows us passage into Eientei undetected then we could accomplish a number of things. If our only opponents are the Lunar rabbits or Earth rabbits then I am confident in our victory. These…monsters of Eirin’s give me pause, and attempting to fight Eirin or Kaguya in their own home seems like a path to suicide.”
“Would we have to fight them?” While Eirin isn’t the most hospitable person, you still remember the stunning visage of the princess. She seemed much more friendly and willing to speak when you and Mokou ran into her what feels like so long ago.
“I do not know either of them well enough to say. However, I know I would not respond favorably to any unexpected intruders in our home.”
The plan [ ] Assist with Keine’s magical ritual [ ] Inform Reisen about the situation and follow Reisen’s lead [ ] Infiltrate Eientei and find Mokou [ ] <Write-in>
Happy New Year?
It’s far past time to get this over and done with so we can all move on with our lives. Qualify your vote as you wish, but it’d be nice to get a rough consensus vaguely in one of these directions.
>>193455 I shamelessly use references to other works for any named characters I need. Most all of them can be easily googled (we already discussed Dio in the long past). I guess a couple of the rabbits are more esoteric.
I still say we need more information before we can act. My zombie insect plan isn't doable, and the zombie rabbit can't get us into the areas we need to be in. The only other animal I can think of that is large enough to work with, sneaky enough to go unnoticed, and has the ability to wall crawl past the blob vent is a gecko. Unfortunately, I don't think Gensokyo is tropical enough to support geckos.
Fortunately, zombies are not the only tool in a necromancer's tool box. They also have the power to summon and control ghosts and spirits. A ghost is silent, invisible, can fly through small passageways and locked doors, and are common enough in Gensokyo that it won't be immediately obvious we sent it if things go horribly wrong. A ghost can also talk, allowing us to question Mokou if we find her.
So instead of rushing in recklessly, I say we act like a smart necromancer and summon a ghost to spy for us.
[x]Information gathering phase 2: send in the ghost spy
And how do you propose to do that with Eintei on total lockdown? The guards out front won't let us in, and Eirin will hear about it because its Kaguya. And we don't want Eirin to learn what we're doing.
I say we should tip off Gensokyo's best infiltration specialist; Marisa would probably jump at the chance to get inside Eientei. We could even 'hire' her for the price of telling her about the secret tunnel. Advise her to bring bribes for the Earth Rabbits if needed, and lay down the single condition that the tunnel must remain undiscovered; she can blast her way out if she's compromised but otherwise can't be seen leaving via that route.
Of course, we're forgetting something very important.
It doesn't matter what Mokou's status is right now. It matters what her status was at the point Keine intends to revert her. If she was infected at that moment, then it will be a disaster. Keine might revert her to before she was infected at all. If the events of her saving us get reversed, things get messy.
>>193560 I thought she wasn't susceptible to infection because she's immortal? Or did I miss something?
Also, if we're gonna tip off Marisa, think maybe we can try tipping off Reimu as well? Think about it. The two biggest incident solvers in Gensokyo who've gone against Eirin and Kaguya before. I'm not saying we should discount the espionage but (assuming Reimu's convinced to wait instead of doing her usual thing) the backup would be nice if things get hairy.
>>193491 Even if we did find Kaguya, what guarantee would we have that she'd be willing to help? She and Mokou have been killing each other for centuries to the point that it's probably their greeting for Shogi on Sunday. What we need is leverage that neither of them can refuse.
What if we use zombie bunny to steal something from Reisen and try summoning a spirit that can help?
>>194556 No consensus? Its pretty much unanimous that we should infiltrate Eientei and find Mokou. So far no one has voted to not infiltrate Eientei. Somebody wants to get Reimu first, someone else wants a ghost to do it, some other guy wants to find Kaguya in the process, and yet another guy wants Marisa to do it, but everyone wants to infiltrate Eientei somehow.
Yes! I don’t know where all your confidence is coming from but I don’t share it. Why can’t you just leave this alone?
Like fuck you’ll leave Mokou- that’s not what I meant and you know it! I’m glad you’ve become attached to the friends you’ve made here but throwing yourself into danger is not the way to help.
If you don’t help then no one will. Either Keine tries her hand at using infinite power for the first time or Eirin can keep on conducting whatever heinous experiment she’s doing. Neither option is acceptable, especially when you have an alternative.
Oh? And what alternative is that? Getting your head blown-off?
The alternative is cutting out the middleman. If you can find Mokou yourself then you can make a difference. If she’s fine like Reisen claims then everybody can calm down. If something is wrong with her then you have no doubt her problem is rooted in the Necronomicon. You have Eirin’s obnoxiously scribbled notes to prove it. Whether the crazy Lunarians want to help or not, whether the other magicians want to tackle such a problem or not, you’re confident in your ability to cure Mokou of whatever Eirin might have inflicted on her.
And all it takes is foolishly sneaking into Eientei. I can’t believe this.
Every course of action comes with risks. This plan gives you control. As long as you do it right, nobody will know and you’ll achieve everything you want.
A gentle weight on your shoulder focuses your vision. Byakuren has her fingers resting there. Her arm bends as she steps closer to you, her chest bumping against yours. “You have truly decided upon this?” she asks.
She stares into your eyes. Her gaze is intense. It is not anger or annoyance. You can only call it anxiety.
“Yes,” you tell her.
She doesn’t seem to react. Her gaze doesn’t waver. Although Byakuren has always manages a level of polite stoicism in public, on issues that truly affect her she can never remain impassive. Then-
Before you realize it your face is filled with hair. “Very well,” she whispers.
It’s not a long hug. Or a desperate one. Your bones aren’t creaking and you don’t feel like it's leading to wild forest sex. It’s just a hug.
“Have you gone insane!?” Shou’s shout almost shakes the room. Although the walls hold, Byakuren’s poor low-standing wooden table cannot escape unscathed. Shou’s fist leaves a splintered pocket mark where she slammed it.
“Why would ever even consider doing- It’s because of him, isn’t it?” Those rage-filled, wild eyes lock onto you in a heartbeat. Your instincts are screaming at you to beware the predator eyeing its next meal.
You have to carefully grip Yoshika’s hand before the jiang-shi can pre-emptively tackle the angry Buddhist.
Shou does not give Byakuren a chance to breathe, let alone respond. “No. NO!” she screams again. “I refuse to let you put everybody at risk over your damn infatuation with this Outsider! This is outrageous! Your duty-”
“Shou Toramaru be silent!” Byakuen barks. Her authoritative command stops Shou’s rant but hardly cows the furious tiger. “It is only I who shall be going, no one else.”
“And you don’t think that will blowback on the rest of us when this goes wrong?” Shou seethes. “Do you not understand how devastated everyone here will be if they were to lose you? You think the Lunarians will not take offense with us when they see you?”
Byakuren doesn’t have an answer. She stares at her disciple, her friend, with steely eyes.
If Byakuren is as still as a stone Buddha, Shou is a ball of twitching fur. Her claws scrape lines along the tabletop.
Oddly enough, Byakuren’s silent gaze is capable of calming Shou down. The tiger looks less ready to kill, though no less angry. “No,” she says, “not anymore. You’ve done more for us and our kind than anybody else has. Even more than your brother, no matter what you may think. For you, I would strike into the heart of the afterlife. For him? No.
“I haven’t been silent about my opinion. I’ve done my best to listen to you, to try and find acceptance in my heart. But this is too much. I cannot when he is the sole reason leading you into this madness. He’s a cancer I would cut away in an instant-”
You can feel Yoshika buck in your grip.
“-But obviously I won’t. I cannot when he is already so far entangled with you. There’s nothing I can do, Byakuren.” Shou bites out the admission tinged with spite. The tiger stands without ceremony, her eyes still narrow as beads. “Just know that if you follow him from this temple you’re damning us all.”
She strides out angrily once she’s finished, her eyes locked on you as she passes by. Your arm vibrates from Yoshika’s wary growling.
The door slides open with a clack and is quickly shut with a resounding thunk.
Shou takes the majority of the tension in the air with her. You can release your death-grip on Yoshika. Both Byakuren and Ichirin sigh at the same time. Minamitsu leans forward, forehead colliding with the table.
You all use the next minute to collect yourselves in the wake of Feral Storm Shou.
Ultimately, the person without any nerves to cool is the first one to speak. “So, when are we shipping out?” Minamitsu has her classic cocksure grin adorning her face.
What? “You want to come with us?” you ask.
Surprising after that tongue-lashing Shou handed out.
“Why wouldn’t I? You’ll be there and Byakuren will be there. I might as well be there too.”
“No Minamitsu,” Byakuren says with a shake of her head. “I thank you for the offer but-”
“Fuck that!” The spirit shouts. “Are you going to try that bullshit again? You want to go down with the ship while the rest of us sit by and watch? I am not letting that happen again.”
“This is not forwarding any grand design, Minamitsu. It is a personal decision.”
“So what?” Minamitsu retorts. “I’ve had enough of your self-sacrificing bullshit over the years. Shou too but obviously she’s more responsible than I am. It’s not like the rest of the temple cares for me. I’d rather fight with my two friends than skulk in a corner around here.”
Ichirin capitalizes on the pause to interject. “She’s right. You have only been too kind to us, to all of us. After sacrificing so much, you can’t expect us to abandon you now.”
Despite the outpouring of emotions her friends are showing, Byakuren remains resolute. “I refuse to allow it. I did not tell you all about this plan to try and solicit help. Ichirin, you still have a long life ahead of you. I will not let you risk it over this.” Byakuren reaches out and grasps the smaller girl’s hand. “I appreciate how hard you all worked to save me. I have only wanted the best for you all, a place that you could feel safe living in. I have taught you many things. I would hope my lessons are something you have taken to heart.”
The blue-haired nun sways, glancing down at the rings attached to her hip. “You’ve taught me how to fight, too.”
“And I would dearly wish you to use those skills protecting those you cherish, those that cannot protect themselves. Please, I beg you, do not endanger yourselves over this.”
“I-” The two women grow quiet. You can’t even begin to guess at what thoughts are flying through Ichirin’s head right now.
It’s a rough place to be in. I know. What do you do when the person you love insists on making horrifyingly dangerous decisions?
Eventually, Ichirin bows her head. “I am not prepared to be the head of this temple yet. I still have much to learn. Please, come back safely.”
“I have every intention to do so.” The two of them pull each other into an embrace. Student and mentor, friends, family. They don’t speak another word before Ichirin slowly rises and leaves. The blue-haired girl hugs the pink cloud that appears close to her chest like a pillow.
Unlike the other Buddhist, she gives you a slight nod and a smile when she passes by.
“So, when are we heading over?” the ghost slowly floating over the table asks. “Tonight?”
A spectral toe pokes Byakuren’s nose. “Stop it. You can’t get rid of me, not after all the trouble you went through to save me. I had nothing and, without you, I probably won’t have anything in the future either. I’m not like the others who have so much potential. I’m already dead; just an angry spirit staving off rage and madness.”
Yet another staring match begins.
Somehow, this is a battle of wills that Byakuren can’t win. The head nun of Myouren Temple nods once with a slight frown to her lips. “Very well. We have not determined a date yet.”
The spirit grins. “Thank you.”
“Master, master can’t come. Ma-”
You hold up your hand, forestalling Yoshika’s further rambling. Thankfully, the jiang-shi pauses at your command, mouth held open mid-sentence.
You glance around your workshop. It’s a mess of books and supplies. All your other jiang-shi are busily preparing themselves or moving supplies for you. There is a spot on the table that has only a few books covering it. You move those to the floor so that you can sit and then motion for Yoshika to continue.
“-ster’s master forbade master from helping Master because master’s master was worried for master. And then master said she wouldn’t help Master because master’s master said no and Master’s idea was something stupid that master would not even consider!”
“I-” you pause, carefully trying to dissect what you just heard. Maybe you should have used the table space to diagram those sentences. “That’s not unexpected. Thank you, Yoshika.”
“Oh~!” Yoshika exclaims and sticks an arm down the neck of her shirt. You almost ask her about it, but she quickly pulls a golden pin out from…somewhere. You’re fairly certain her clothes don’t have interior pockets.
“Master did give Master this!” The excited jiang-shi quickly hands you the metallic object. It’s a very long pin, around half the length of your forearm. It is beautifully made. There is a faux-floral bulb on one end and a brass point on the other.
“Master also said,” Yoshika pauses, face contorting as she lowers her voice, “If that new Master of yours does not return with all of my precious underlings intact then he better not return either.”
Then she laughs, pleased with her impersonation.
“And what is this?” you ask while twirling the pin between your fingers. Despite how heavy it looks on one end it is actually rather balanced.
“A door opener!”
“Like a can opener.”
“Uh.” No, that description didn’t help me either.
“Like this~” Yoshika plucks the pin from your hand and dashes over to the door. With a swing of her arm she jams the pointed tip into the wall of- whoah.
You quickly stand and jog over to the wall. Well, the door, now. An oval opening has appeared where the petrified wood of your workshop used to be. It’s as if this opening has always been there; the wood looks like a trim was put in place around the edge of the oval. You stick your arm through and touch the outer wall. Then you touch the trim and admire the smooth wooden finish.
“Is this permanent?” you ask Yoshika.
“No?” she responds.
As it turns out, the opening in the wall of your workshop disappears around a minute after it appeared. Further tests show there isn’t an exact time to when the openings return to their formerly solid state. It might have something to do with the material or the size of the opening. Regardless, the golden pin in your hand is a surprisingly powerful tool. Striking any surface creates an opening. You aren’t sure what happens to the material that is displaced and you couldn’t find a material that would be unaffected by being struck.
You sigh and continue to take mental stock of your supplies while mechanically enchanting the small bags of materials in your hands. You can create the grenade-like items in your sleep if you had to; it only takes a minimum amount of attention to make sure you don’t mess up the simple runes required.
No matter what, your greatest asset is still the jiang-shi. The sting of inferiority still touches you when you consider that both the jiang-shi and now this golden pin were both gifts from Seiga. Yet, you imagine you need all the advantage you can get.
As it stands, all of your jiang-shi can move with superhuman grace. They can hit with the strength of ten men and have the endurance of any undead thing. They’re in prime condition, able to leverage the experiences they had from life alongside their new inhuman bodies.
You hope that their abilities, alongside any of the trinkets you can make in the interim, will be enough.
Dio and Nekurow softly land in the clearing. Given that the boy and the man aren’t accompanied by a teenaged girl, you already know what words will be coming out of the blonde jiang-shi’s mouth. “Sorry Master, we couldn’t find her.”
The older jiang-shi takes over next. “We found traces of wandering in the mountains yesterday but that was not enough to track her down. Those we questioned had no new information to report.”
You’re not surprised. Nobody particularly knows what Reimu is up to. Apparently she’s been occasionally seen around the village, stopping in for a quick bite to eat with Rumia in tow before flying off towards the Border.
You really wish Reimu would give up on whatever she thinks the truth is. You could really use an over-powered shrine maiden as backup for this.
Next you turn to your pink-haired jiang-shi. “Shilverase, any luck?”
“Nope,” the girl says with a smack of her lips. She twirls her staff-flail around her body idly while she speaks. “Marisa said she already committed to working on the ritual and wouldn’t stop. I was going to try and talk to her further but the other two gave me some deathly stares. The purple one threatened to roast me!”
Just for talking? Sheesh, talk about antisocial. “I’m sorry to put you through that. I didn’t think they would hurt you.”
“Oh, I don’t think they would either. She made it sound more like I wouldn’t even be worth the energy to fry. Now that I think about it, that’s actually more hurtful!” The jiang-shi jams the end of her staff into the ground and crosses her arms to pout. “One more thing, though! Before I got too far away, a redhead caught up to me and gave me this.”
Shilverase reaches down towards her messenger bag but the top pops open on its own.
A smiling, blonde haired doll pokes its head out and flies out of the bag. The doll looks like a miniature knight. It has a steel half-helm and chest piece. Its legs are not nearly as protected given all you see is a flowing blue dress. Attached to its back is gleaming steel. When it grabs the metal, you watch the steel flow and transform into a finely engraved shield and lance.
“One of Alice’s dolls?” you ask.
The automaton nods its head and curtsies, careful to avoid poking you in the eye with the weapon.
“She told me that Marisa would probably be upset if you died. She also said the doll isn’t something particularly special and you can’t expect someone to come save you if the doll can’t.”
The doll is a small thing, only slightly larger than your hand. It quickly finds a perch on your shoulder, legs kicking while it observes the world.
Then, nobody involved with Keine’s ritual will be personally helping you with your infiltration. You can’t say you’re surprised by that even if you were hopeful.
The fact that they offered any help at all is welcome, isn’t it?
The nine of you shuffle around behind Myouren Temple’s outer wall. Off on the horizon you see the reddish-orange hue of the sky.
You watch Nue tap Rea on the head, your long-haired jiang-shi standing with poise. You try to catch any flow of energy between the two but Nue’s natural talents don’t look like anything to you.
To your eyes, Byakuren and the jiang-shi don’t look any different.
“Complete,” Nue announces, “I doubt this will help much. If Eientei is as empty as you claim, my misidentification will make no difference.”
“We appreciate your assistance nevertheless, Nue,” Byakuren thanks the powerful youkai.
Nue arcs an eyebrow. “If you did you would not do this. They will assuredly accuse me of some absurdity if you do not return.”
“I am aware you think that way,” Byakuren sighs in response. You sling an arm around her back and try to give her a bit of comfort. It can’t be easy to hear the same sentiments from practically everyone she knows.
The black-haired youkai leans against the wall. “I have grown comfortable with this cushy life here and all your silly sermons.”
“You could come with us to make sure-”
Nue’s bellyful laughing interrupts you. “I returned to the surface for freedom, not to be exterminated by an extraterrestrial.”
She makes a joke of it but you can’t help but swallow nervously. It’s grim reminder of what might occur in the absolute worst case scenario. Still, you don’t dwell on it and put it on what you think is a confident smile. I wish you would dwell some more…
“That won’t happen,” you say. “We’ll be in an out before you know it.”
“I hope it is so. You are going now?”
You look to Byakuren and she nods, face stoic once more. If Byakuren doesn’t have any other last minute stops then you both are ready. You’ve spent the past few days creating what items you can and gathering what support you could. Byakuren was putting her affairs in order. After that first tense conversation with her closest friends, the rest of the temple disciples didn’t react much better. You were prepared to be mobbed, to have your food poisoned, or worse. Even if Byakuren made clear she was only temporarily stepping down for a personal reason, the rumor mill knew exactly who she was helping and why.
There was enough ill will in the air to send you scurrying out of the temple and to your workshop where you stayed until now. It hurt to imagine that you ran away with your tail between your legs while Byakuren settled matters. Yet, the small comforts you could provide probably wouldn’t have outweighed the vitriol your presence created.
It would have been best if Byakuren didn’t go through this effort at all. However, she wouldn’t be dissuaded. You aren’t powerful enough to force her not to help and she refused to listen to any of your arguments about why she should stay behind.
You’d be lying if you said it doesn’t make you feel good. It is beyond comforting to know that someone is willing to move the world for you.
Byakuren grasps your hand, a gentle smile at odds with the seriousness of what you’re about to do. “Shall we depart?”
It doesn’t look like much has changed.
Night has fallen and there’s barely any light escaping from Eientei. Nevertheless, the bright glow of the near-full moon shows you everything you need. You can see the Lunarian at the gate idly rocking back and forth. There’s a pair of ears on the roof moving about. You don’t see anyone else or hear the sounds of other rabbits.
With careful step, you back away from the edge of the bamboo. The others all follow you deeper into the forest. Your undead rabbit is still singing to your senses, guiding you back to that clearing above the tunnel you discovered.
When you reach it your five jiang-shi, Byakuren, and Minamitsu all array themselves around you. The little blonde doll that has decided to call its home the inside of your jacket also pops its head out of your collar.
“I could have just sailed through the wall and looked around inside,” the spirit comments.
“No you could not,” Byakuren responds, “because you are not going inside.”
“What?” Minamitsu cups her ear and leans forward. “Do you just try to imply that I’ll be following you into this dingy tunnel instead? Great, since-”
“I did not misspeak, Minamitsu.”
“And you know damn well I’m not accepting that!” The ghost stamps her foot on the ground and swings her ghostly anchor. Unlike her foot, it goes straight through the ground and disappears when she lets go of it. “I already told you that you’re not getting rid of me!”
“I am not looking to get rid of you. However, not everybody can go inside. This infiltration is meant to go undetected. Taking a group eight large is foolish.”
“Foolish eh? That’s why you want the leave the incorporeal ghost outside, right?”
“I will not lie to you, Minamitsu. I will feel infinitely better if I know you are safe out here rather than inside. However, that is not all. If something were to occur, you are the most mobile and stealthy. You can reach us quickly to intercede or take a more measured approach. You remain an unknown if we are discovered,” Byakuren ends her appeal with a hand over her heart.
The plea seems to do the trick. Minamitsu grimaces but uncrosses her arms. “So you want me to ride in and save the day when everything goes bottom up? I can’t say I like it.”
“If it makes you feel better,” you interject, “you won’t be only one not liking it. Nekurow, Shilverase, and Dio are staying out here with you.”
“You leave your strongest fighter-”
“That is totally not fair-”
“Master you should reconsider-”
“You are walking around in metal armor,” you say with a point.
“You are carrying a weapon two times your size and two times your weight,” you say with a point.
“You are actually a great pick,” you hesitate, staring into the red eyes of the blonde jiang-shi. Then, inspiration strikes and you continue on, “But, Rea will be coming with us instead. If we run into anyone in those halls, we might as well have our two best grapplers with us.”
The group is silent, all the disgruntled members seemingly competing in how sullen they can look.
“If there’s no other objections?” you ask. There’s a resounding silence.
I’m glad they all have your back on this.
You nod once and sigh. “Thank you, everybody. I…” How illogical are these people being for standing by your side? Disregard the fact that most of them are already dead and didn’t have much anywhere else to go anyway. It’s still a monumental risk that none of them have to take. “Thanks. Remember the difference between the diversion and the help signals. Please come save us if something goes wrong.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Minamitsu dismisses you as she turns away. “Make sure you two don’t stop for a break in a bedroom.” The group of undead chosen to remain behind all wave farewell and march off into the forest, ready for a long wait outside of Eientei.
Then there are only four of you standing in that clearing.
“Are you ready?” you ask Byakuren.
The woman at your side takes up your hand. “I believe I am. Will you not reconsider this?”
You close your eyes and truly give it another thought. There are so many possible actions you can take; sitting still and waiting is among them. You would only have to wait one day to see the fruits of the other magicians’ work. Yet, you don’t feel like you can trust the other parties in this matter. You have to know you’ve done everything you can. “I’m sorry, I can’t. Thank you for being with me.”
“You are welcome.” Byakuren grips your hand tightly for a second before spinning away. “You shall be paying me back for this for a long time.”
You tap the golden pin against the ground. As tested before a hole wide enough for you to fit through opens. Does it go deep enough? You’ll find out.
You make to jump in the hole but are instead jerked backwards by two ungodly powerful arms. Yoshika sticks her tongue out at you and then brushes her cheek against yours. You have to watch, helplessly, as Rea gracefully drops into the hole first followed by Byakuren. Only then does your jiang-shi release you.
As you fall - or rather, fly down feet first - you catch blurry glimpses of purplish runes spanning the walls. Below, you can see Byakuren’s hands aglow. It’s a smart precaution but might prove useless. Considering you don’t know how Seiga’s pin works you can’t say how effective reinforcing the walls is at keeping the hole open. The plan is to get down as fast as possible to avoid being accidentally crushed to death.
Whoah! You have to jerk to a stop and lift your legs before you accidentally step on Bykauren’s head. “What’s wrong?” you ask.
“This tunnel was not, ah, built with us in mind,” Rea responds from further below. Why is your jiang-shi commenting on that? Due to the glow of Byakuren’s magic you can see the thin ankles of your jiang-shi sticking out. The lithe girl seems to have fit well enough into the rabbit youkai-sized tunnel. You don’t see-
Byakuren’s hand smacks against your calf. The hand then opens.
After a second it twirls once and the fingers wiggle. “Hand it over,” Byakuren orders.
You toss the pin in your hand and catch it by the tip. Thankfully, you don’t suddenly lose your hand and are able to pass the magical item down to Byakuren. You hope the crazy woman didn’t trap it to explode if someone other than you or Yoshika handled it.
Nobody dies and the tunnel into Eientei is made easier to traverse thanks to the power of magic. You soar full speed through the slightly-enlarged tunnel single-file towards Eientei. Woe to any unfortunate soul trying to go in the opposite direction. There haven’t been any smears on the wall that you’ve seen, yet.
Honestly, you don’t think this group of three women thought too hard about the order in which you all would be flying down a tunnel. Or, maybe Byakuren did and- Focus.
After only a minute or two of high-speed underground flight, the two ahead of you begin to slow down. Thanks to Byakuren’s magic lights you can see the metal panels that make up the walls of Eientei. You watch Byakuren poke the pin around, enlarging the space at the end of the tunnel so that you can all crouch near the wall.
Rea carefully grabs the handles welded onto the metal panel that you point out. Just as you saw before, the small section of the wall panel dislodges and pushes outwards. The light from Eientei floods into the tunnel.
Rea freezes, metal panel half-lowered to the ground.
On the other side, in the halls of Eientei, stand a few Earth rabbits.
Four of them are there, sitting at various heights on different stacks of boxes and other containers. The four girls are sitting in a semi-circle. They were probably chatting but now they all have their heads turned to stare at you.
To your left you can feel Yoshika tense, the jiang-shi no doubt ready to lounge into the hall. To your right, Byakuren’s magic swirls, primed and ready.
The first one to look away is a green-haired rabbit. She looks at a different rabbit and pokes her. The two rabbits then lean backwards and put their foreheads together. Their rabbit ears bend and curl low, effectively hiding their mouths from sight while no doubt letting them whisper unheard.
Suddenly, the two rabbits girls stand up and slowly walk over. They disappear for a moment, the partially-removed wall panel fully obscuring them from your vision. That changes once the panel starts to move again. Rea lets go off it like it is fire, her surprised yelp uncomfortably loud.
A dull thunk accompanies the panel being fully lowered to the floor.
You watch as the four rabbits then start to move, pushing their things around. It might be better to call it luggage, now that you can see it well. The boxes are simple cardboard boxes, and those are mixed in with suitcases and other travel gear. You notice that all of the containers are sitting on what look like sleds or wheeled-carts; it allows the rabbits to easily push them aside.
The Earth rabbits stand to the sides of the hall and watch you, their luggage parted to leave an opening.
That looks an awful lot like an invitation.
It’s definitely suspicious. You would be wary of a group of strangers sneaking into your basement.
Still, you do need to get inside.
You nudge Rea with you knee. The jiang-shi glances back at you once with a frown before slowly climbing into Eientei proper. The rest of you follow after her. Your group of four awkwardly stands there in front of the tunnel for a moment. Then you all just...get out of the rabbits’ way.
Once everybody is past the impromptu barricade, the rabbit girls push their things back together and sit back in their circle. You start to take a few steps away and their chatter starts up again. “And, um, she was like no way but I said…”
It sounds forced.
No matter how awkward and unnatural their conversation might be, none of the rabbits so much as look back up. You’re tempted to speak, to break whatever strange occurence this was, but Byakuren grabs you and pulls you down the hall. Byakuren leads the group, where Yoshika and Rea both take up the flanks; the two of them often glance backwards at the group of rabbits you leave behind.
You round the first corner you can- And look, another rabbit girl pulling a wagon stacked with things two times her height.
Once more, everybody freezes. You watch the youkai’s eyes go wide, ears flicking straight up.
Then, she lowers her gaze. She turns her face down and starts moving again. The wheels of her wagon creak by and she rounds the corner out of sight. You can hear the other rabbits greet her, as well as the sounds of labor. You imagine the shifting and the grunting is the diminutive youkai lifting their things into the tunnel.
“Are we going to do something about that?” you whisper, “Or do we not look the gift horse in the mouth?”
“We do not know what they saw. Regardless, can you do something about it?” Byakuren asks back. “Any method I have of quickly silencing a group such as that is also decidedly lethal or equally noisy.”
You decide to glance back around the corner.
It looks like the Earth rabbits work quickly when they want to. You watch the five rabbits lift the last wagon of their things up and slide it into the tunnel. They quickly crawl in after it. The green-haired earth rabbit looks down the hall and waves to you before lifting the metal panel back into place, leaving the hallway as if nobody had passed through.
Doesn’t seem like they particularly wanted to be noticed either. You know, given that they probably dug that tunnel for themselves.
“Do you think it’s safe to continue?” you ask Byakuren.
Your companion lowers her head in thought. “It is possible they have a way to silently raise the alarm. However, I know how greatly you value this mission. I am comfortable with continuing.”
If Byakuren feels it’s fine then you see no reason to stop. “We’ll continue on,” you decide.
You consult your memory and lead the group through the empty, sterile halls of Eientei’s basement. You only know of one pathway through the place, the one that your undead rabbit had been taken on.
The four of you move quickly, soundlessly floating just above the ground. Everybody in your group keeps their magically-enhanced ears open, the slightest of creaks or clanks enough to give everybody pause. More often than not you’re jerked back slightly, Byakuren or Yoshika pulling you to safety at almost every sound. However, those sounds are few and far between.
Despite the start and stop nature of your journey, you feel like your group makes good time. You find the stairs leading out of the basement quickly enough.
It’s not much louder above ground. The halls still seem devoid of life, animal or youkai.
Maybe everybody else is asleep. Or maybe they all left already.
“Do you remember the way?” Byakuren asks.
“Sorry, yeah. I was just thinking about how quiet it is.”
“It certainly is strange,” Byakuren agrees. “However, I do not believe this changes our plan any.”
You continue on, following your memories to the correct location. Truly, there is not another soul to be had. You had expected to find a normal rabbit if not another rabbit girl.
It takes only a few minutes to find a door that leads outside. Then you all backtrack and enter the nearest room. It turns out to be walk-in closet. You suppose it was meant to be something like a janitor’s closet given the cleaning liquids, mops, brooms, and other implements stacked in the corner.
In truth, it looks like a pantry. There a piles of different snacks and sweets on the shelves. Some are in bags while others sit in boxes, all labeled with a name or a paw prints. You even see a printed out sign stuck to one stack of treats, angrily threatening bodily harm to the next person that steals her cookies.
Yoshika and Rea take up positions at the door. You and Byakuren step inside.
“I feel bad for them,” you idly comment while taking out the stack of paper charms you have stored on your belt.
“Do not. You are doing them a favor by curtailing their poor dietary habits,” Byakuren quips. The magician exudes energy from her palms, etching wards directly into the walls instead of relying on pre-made explosives like you.
“All set?” you ask once you use up half of your supply of explosive tags. You’re honestly surprised you were able to make so many in such a short time. If there is something that could be said of Seiga’s designs it is that they made frightening amounts of sense once she taught you her basics.
“Yes. Let us move on. Further down the hall should be fine.”
Luckily the outermost halls of Eientei make rough sense. You only need to follow the halls parallel to the exterior walls until you find another exit to the courtyard. The next room you trap happens to be a sitting room, the only notable features being the cabinet full of teabags.
“Are you sure two will be enough?” you ask.
“No, but I do not think more will help. If Eirin is the type to stay sequestered in her laboratory even after two explosions, I do not imagine more will convince her. She either has faith in her servants or she does not.”
You nod, agreeing with Byakuren’s assessment. You know both you and Byakuren would instantly respond to the first explosion in your home. Eirin? You can easily imagine her continuing doing whatever she’s doing until Reisen goes to get her.
If that is the case then there will be no avoiding the Lunarians. If there is no avoiding the Lunarian then you’ll leave just as Byakuren wishes. It isn’t the best plan, but it’s the best you could consider with limited information. From what Reisen has said and what your undead rabbit saw, you have to assume the guarded lab door is where both Eirin and Mokou are. Given how paranoid Byakuren is of running into Eirin, you have to be able to get the immortal out of and away from her lab.
You also considered finding Kaguya and speaking with her but that plan was nixed almost immediately. A plan built on a vague positive impression of the Lunarian princess was hardly a well-founded plan. Byakuren refused letting you risk your lives on something as simple as the hope that the princess would help you instead of, you know, throwing out the intruders in her home.
The four of you move on, once more following your memories as you make your way towards the lab door that you remember.
It’s somewhat frustrating once the comfortable wooden halls bleed away to sterile metal ones. The metal halls all look the same. If you ever make a wrong turn you imagine you could easily get lost in the depths of Eientei.
Your group once more drifts to a stop at the barest hint of noise. Yet, this time, the noise doesn’t fade away.
Byakuren moves to the front and heads towards the source of the noise. Soon enough you’re confident you can see the open door from where the voices originate.
You all pause at the T-intersection in the hallways. Ahead are more hallways that lead further into Eientei. To the left, several doors down, is an open door. Although the hallways are brightly lit by fluorescents, that doesn’t stop a faint shadow from spilling out through the doorway.
There’s no good place to hide and to eavesdrop without worry. Ultimately, you and Byakuren each take one side of the corridor around the corners. This way, at least, you’ll be out of the direct line of sight of anybody who decides to peek their head outside that room.
Rea places her back to Byakuren and Yoshika places her back to you. The two jiang-shi watch both directions of the hallway you’re all hiding in while you and Byakuren enhance your hearing to eavesdrop on the conversation.
“-tired of waiting Cap’n. Can’t we start already?”
“No. We’re waiting for Irisu and Vert. I don’t want to have to repeat anything.” That’s Reisen’s voice, as clear as day. It doesn’t take much to assume that she’s talking to the other Lunarians.
“But I already gave you my report. It’s not like anything they have to say is going to change your plans.”
“That doesn’t matter. We’ll need them for a successful operation.” An operation? A glance over shows that Byakuren is listening to the conversation as intently as you are.
“Oh come on Boss, we all know what you’re going to have them do anyway. You always have Vert stay with the Princess and it’s not like Irisu will do anything other than sit on her scope.”
“That’s assuming we even move to stop them.”
“Aren’t we? It seems pretty obvious even to a ground-pounder like me.”
“Shirley might have been wrong in her assessment.”
“I what? Do you really doubt me so much? I’m hurt!”
You hear Reisen sigh. “No, sorry Shirley. I know you’re probably right. It’s not like they were being subtle about it. I just wish you were able to get closer to confirm it.”
“I can still try to buzz through and get a better read on the situation.”
“No, out of the question. Maybe if you had done it at the very start before they managed to get setup, but now those magicians would shoot you down for sure.” You hear a rhythmic thumping and squeaking – someone drawing on a board? “You think this is the weak-point in their setup, right? We’ll concentrate here and break through. We could settle for a disruption of the ritual this time but we need a more permanent solution eventually. That’s why-”
You wince and clutch your ears. You kill your magically-enhanced hearing as quickly as possible. It isn’t soon enough to prevent the ringing from the far-too-loud explosion.
You shake your head once and look up, simultaneously reaching into your jacket’s pocket.
Ahead of- You grunt as you fall to the ground, Yoshika crouched protectively over you. The bright green lasers that scorch the ceiling grab your attention first. You have to jerk your head away to look further down the hall. A blonde Lunarian is there along with your jiang-shi.
You can’t hear them but you can see Rea gripping the barrel of the Lunarian’s weapon. The jiang-shi points it upwards, despite how hot the smoking weapon must be. Although the Lunarian holding the weapon begins to jerk backwards it’s as if she’s moving in slow motion. In one graceful motion you watch your jiang-shi grip the back of the Lunarian’s vest and swing herself between the rabbit girl’s legs. The Lunarian is swept off her feet by Rea’s momentum. You watch the two of them spin, rotating twice before gravity seems to remember its dominance in the world.
When the pair hit the ground you can hear the clatter of the rifle as it skids away. The rabbit girl, pinned to the floor, kicks her legs and looks to break Rea’s hold on her. The jiang-shi looks entirely unamused and head butts the Lunarian into unconsciousness.
“What the fuck is going on out here?” Reisen yells.
Oh, your hearing is returning.
All the Lunarians you were eavesdropping on spill out into the hall behind her with their rifles raised.
“Put that down!” you hear Reisen snap. Her angry stomps towards you are accompanied by her equally aggravated demands. “You two! What the fuck are you doing in here? What the hell was that gun-”
Another gunshot echoes through the hall.
You snap your head back to the right, down the hall where your jiang-shi is.
Rea’s body is still there, partially risen from where she was crouched over the subdued Lunarian.
That’s as far as she gets before her body falls back to the ground, truly lifeless.
“Oy Vert you dumb girl. Are you ali-” The white-haired Lunarian that saunters around the corner only takes one glance towards you all before immediately sprinting away.
Yoshika screeches, the tortured ear-splitting scream impossible for normal vocal chords to sustain. Your jiang-shi’s hat is blown off by the speed at which she rockets down the corridor after the murderous Lunarian.
“Damn it!” you scream.
What the fuck?
How did this happen?
Sure enough there’s nothing you can do for Rea. Your jiang-shi might have the best conventional enhancements that you and Seiga were able to come up with but it wasn’t enough to stop the Lunarian sniper rifle from exploding the upper half of her skull.
“Yoshika!” you shout before your jiang-shi manages to turn a corner. Surprisingly, she hears you and stops. “Don’t,” is the most you can say.
You would love nothing more than to catch that damned rabbit and turn her inside out but- but you won’t lose Yoshika to that. Letting Yoshika chase after that Lunarian would only lead her into worse danger.
It takes a second before Yoshika truly listens to you and comes slinking back.
You can’t even say anything when she growls and drops to her knees next to you, swatting away the unconscious Lunarian so that she can hug her friend’s corpse tightly. You watch the Lunarians body slam into the wall headfirst. You hear the crack of bone and see the awkward angle her head makes with her neck.
Two more deaths to add to your tally.
Abruptly, you’re hauled to your feet. You almost snap at Byakuren for manhandling you, but her flustered expression reminds you of the real situation. “Are you hurt?” she asks.
“No,” you bite out.
“Good.” Byakuren raises both her arms. With one hand she launches a beam of brilliant light into the ceiling. The magic cuts straight through the roof and no doubt illuminates the night sky outside. At the same time, multi-colored barriers fill the corridors and prevent you from seeing much beyond them. “Now, we’re going.”
“What?” you ask. “The lab isn’t much farther and-”
“We’re leaving!” Byakuren shouts at you. “This is over. We are not going to risk our lives playing hide-and-seek with the Lunarians.”
“But-” she died for this. Byakuren’s barrier begins to flash. There’s a staccato of gunfire echoing from the walls but it sounds like far less than you might expect from a troop of Lunarians. “Fine. Yoshika, we’re going.”
The jiang-shi nods and stands ups, corpse still cradled in her arms. She…looks calmer. There is no furious anger or terrible anguish in her expression. She looks at you with a slight smile.
You hear the shouts of the Lunarian, and the thumping of boots. You can feel the backlash of energy as Byakuren’s barrier fails.
It’s all irrelevant given that you watch a pillar of hellishly hot flames shoot from Byakuren’s hands through the ceiling. It’s too hot for even molten slag to fall. The hole she creates is perfectly circular and leads straight out into the midnight air.
Yoshika flies through first, followed by you and then Byakuren. From above, Eientei doesn’t look any different from before. There are no blaring sirens and no panicking rabbits running to and fro. Are there only Lunarians left in the building?
You see Minamitsu and the other jiang-shi circling the mansion. They easily spot you and begin to fly over. Perhaps you should have left all of them outside? It’s disgusting how quickly this turned out. In the distance the near full moon and white pillar-
“Byakuren,” you say with a point.
The magician, who formerly had her attention towards layering a barrier over the hole she had made, looks up.
In an instant she’s in front of you.
You tumble backwards in the air, your control over your flight momentarily disrupted by the flush of energy Byakuren radiates.
In front of you are wings or something like them. You can barely see Byakuren. The large, vine-like yellow wings that have appeared at her back are massive. They stretch outwards a dozen times her height. They curl and scrawl in the air, tiny roses growing amongst the thorns and eyes and it all pulses with energy.
“Oh fuck,” Minamitsu says. She and the other jiang-shi draw close to you, all of you finding yourselves behind Byakuren’s wingspan.
From the four largest flowers at Byakuren’s back you can see the energy coalesce into radiant beams of hellfire. You feel the instantaneous change in temperature, the superheated wash of air blowing over you, cooking you like an oven. You cough and wheeze, letting your own energy course through your body to sustain your fragile eyes. The exposed layers of your skin, fried and dead, become a bulwark which keeps the rest of you hale.
You watch the sheer power that Byakuren releases sweep out into the sky, four pillars of unholy light attempting to vaporize the stars themselves. Amongst them, other projectiles weave. Curved lasers and speedy bullets all try to paint the night sky red.
The question that was forming abruptly ceases as the answer to it expands.
That pillar of white you saw, the one that now reaches as high as the moon, begin to fall.
A rain of arrows that will block out the sun?
Not even close.
The tide of white that arcs around you is the sky itself. Byakuren’s barrage looks paltry in comparison.
You instinctively huddle together with the jiang-shi, trying to form as small a target as possible. It’s a useless gesture in the face of the storm.
Dark red beams meet arrows tipped with white. Every projectile that collides seems to explode, spraying shrapnel of energy that has nowhere to go but directly into other shots. All around you in the air, the chain-reactions of colliding projectiles explodes in a schizophrenic-inducing kaleidoscope of color.
Everywhere you look falls those blazing arrows. They streak through the air in a mass yet, it is no random firing. You watch the edge of the curtain and how it moves at sonic speeds, straight past Byakuren and your group. Some of the arrows land far and wide, embedding into Eientei’s inner walls. No, not embed, they ricochet. The arrow-like projectiles bounce and reverse, slamming directly into other arrows. You see arrows impact the ground below you and explode, spraying pinpoints of light through the air.
Above you, below you, to your sides – the tips of lights, all aimed directly where you float.
You’re buffeted through the air, like a fishing boat at sea, when Byakuren suddenly moves. Around you a hazy yellow sphere forms, the after-images of Byakuren’s brilliant wings. You watch the streams of Byakuren’s hellfire curl into dizzying spirals, shearing the air in untraceable patterns. You can barely see her as she spins around you all and forms a shell of protected space.
Despite all that you see you can barely hear a thing. It’s as if there’s a dull hum in the air. Even the sound of countless explosions and colliding forces cannot penetrate the interference that Byakuren creates.
After what must be a dozen seconds the snow-blind conditions end. You can see the dark skies, the bright moon, again.
Perhaps fittingly, the silhouette of Eirin Yagokoro stands out against the bright shine of her homeland.
All around, you can see the aftermath of that initial exchange. The outer walls of Eientei have been turned into Swiss cheese. The courtyard lawn looks like an over-sized lawn mower chewed up the ground. The closest shoots of bamboo, normally impossibly tall, have been sheared.
Strangely enough, the mansion of Eientei itself looks mostly undamaged. There are stray gouges that have been dug through its roof. All the magical activity must have set off your explosives given that the front rooms where you set your explosives off are on fire. However, the building still stands and without innumerable holes puncturing it.
For a moment, off in the distance, you see that shadowy silhouette move. It looks like the arm rising, a bow held high
Then you lose sight of it, Byakuren’s face in front of yours in an instant. You see her wide, unblinking eyes. You hear her panting and feel the shake in her arms. She gives you one frenzied, pleading, distraught, look.
“Get back inside!” she roars.
There is no elegance in her push. Pure force buffets your ball of undead, sending the lot of you careening back towards the mansion.
As far as you can tell the moment Byakuren turned her back Eirin took advantage. White and dark streaks again fill the landscape, the projectiles seemingly moving at the speed of light. You hear the sizzle and whiz of projectiles glancing by, your descent path somehow free of any such obstructions. You all scream as you all hit the wooden roof and crash through.
Breaking through the ceiling supports bleeds most of the unnatural momentum. Like an egg, your group shatters on impact with the floor. Jiang-shi and thrown every which way, bouncing off of walls and the ceiling too. You hit your shoulder first and then flip and tumble through the air. You roll and bounce off the ground, hitting your head, neck, shoulder, ass, thigh, and everywhere else. Eventually, you stop tumbling and instead slide, friction against the floor finally managing to pull you to a stop.
“Fuck,” you curse and struggle to roll to your feet.
You manage it without falling over. Miraculously, you don’t think you broke anything on the way down. Fuck. You have to get- You are not going back up there! Use your damn brain.
So you should just leave Byakuren alone to fight that battle?
Yes! I know it hurts, but you know as well as I do that we’d only be in the way.
You slam your fist into the floorboard, any sting unnoticeable. The thought of leaving Byakuren alone hurts far beyond any physical pain you can feel. Yet, it truly is for the best.
After you look around and count your companions, the jiang-shi that are quickly consolidating, an extra tendril of fear grips you. Minamitsu stayed behind. You dearly hope she’s capable of competing with those two.
“Everybody okay?” you ask the group.
Each of your jiang-shi give you some sort of affirmation. Naturally, the fall wouldn’t hurt them but you feared that someone may have been hit by a stray projectile.
“What now, Master?” Dio asks, the blonde readjusting his belt of throwing knives.
The threat of high-speed death falling onto you is too real. “We should move downwards and get to the basement.”
You pull out Seiga’s golden pin and then get tackled to the ground.
The loud crack of explosives and the distinctive hum of Lunarian laser rifle echoes down the hall. You nearly fumble the pin when you jerk forward, Yoshika’s arms wrapping under your armpits and dragging you away.
The group zips away, turning down random hallways as quickly as possible to break line of sight with any Lunarian gunners.
You quickly right yourself and fly under your own power, your jiang-shi formed up around you as you blindly fly down another hallway. “How the fuck are they here already?” you shout to the world. Was someone already around? Maybe Eirin told them where you fell. Someone obviously told her about your infiltration.
Regardless, you need distance, enough time to stop and open a hole that everybody can get throughout without the Lunarians taking potshots at an easy target. If you can make it around the next corner then-
Then you can come face-to-face with a pair of them.
They have fast reflexes. The grey-haired youkai manages to get a hand to the side of her head. You hear her utter, “Targets at M-” before you collide with her. You shove your palm into her face and push her into the wall. Her other arm reaches down to her side, for the pistol at her belt, but you quickly grab her wrist. She screams when you squeeze, your mechanical hand snapping bones easily.
Then Yoshika follows up, working around you to throw an elbow into the side of the Lunarian’s head. It knocks her out cold. To your side it doesn’t look like the other Lunarian of the pair fared any better after being dogpiled by three jiang-shi.
“Up ahead, hurry!” you hear. Which hall did that echo from?
Shilverase is the first to react, the pink-haired jiang-shi swiftly flying down a corridor. Without a word of confirmation the rest of you follow her. Before you can even question her decision, far ahead you see another pair of rabbit girls run out from around a corner. They swiftly drop to a knee, rifles raised.
You all slam feet and hands into the walls as you try to turn on a dime and throw yourselves into the closest corridor. The wooden frames of the hallway splinter under the force that you grab them with.
Even so, bullets streak down the hall you leave and you hear grunts from behind. “Someone hit?” you call back, not taking any lapse in concentration to look over your shoulder.
When you hit another turn you try to stop yourself. It takes a good two seconds to actually halt, the jiang-shi behind you pushing you forward until they realize your intentions. All you need is a few seconds break. You have to avoid fumbling the pin as you reverse it in your grip to stab downwards.
The floorboards magically open into some sort of room below. Good enough. Dio jumps down first, the blonde quickly scanning his dark surroundings before beckoning you down. “Let’s go everybody!”
You fall through and Yoshika after you. Then Shilverase looks towards you-
The crack of those damned rifles make you jump. Your pink-haired jiang-shi spins and falls into the opening. You catch the poor girl and inspect her shoulder. Although the sleeve of her jacket burned off completely, her actual body seemed to hold better and allowed her to escape with only some cooked skin.
The last of your jiang-shi drops down, face grim. Thanks to the light from the hallway above you can see that Nekurow’s metal armor has holes and- and he does too. At least a few of the shots through his chest are completely open, the Lunarian weaponry apparently strong enough to break through Seiga’s spellcraft. Or perhaps, it was one of your ideas that was the weak point and-
“Enough staring,” he growls at you. “We need to keep moving. They know our plan now.”
A fact proven true since before you can even reach the door of the room you’ve found yourselves in you can see the Lunarians through the still open ceiling.
Shit. You duck to the side, avoiding the lasers that pepper the floor around you, and toss a handful of finger-bones upwards. You grin when the magical explosions and resultant bone shrapnel draw a flurry of curses.
The rabbits deserve some credit for being undeterred, you suppose, but the next one to try and peek through the hold finds a throwing knife slicing into her cheek. She cries and falls back out of sight.
“Quickly,” you urge everybody out of the room.
The jiang-shi stay low to the ground as they vacate the room, relying on luck that the random laser shots raining down from ceiling don’t hit them. The closure of the magical opening doesn’t stop the Lunarians from shooting through their floor. Once everybody makes it through the door you shut it and move further down the hall, wary of more random gunfire from above.
You look around at another generic hallway, now one floor down.
I don’t recognize where we are.
Flying further down the hall doesn’t help. Trying to figure out where you are is probably hopeless given how unfamiliar you are with the area. Perhaps one useful fact is that the floors and walls still look like they’re made of wood. You kneel down to the ground and jam Seiga’s gift into the ground again.
How many stories above ground does Eientei have?
Through the opening below, you see another dark room.
It’ll have to be good enough. Eventually, there shouldn’t be anything further below. Or, you’ll see metal halls and know you aren’t in the residential portions of the building.
“Alright,” you speak to the jiang-shi. “We’ll keep moving downwards until we’re well away from the Lunarians. Then we just need to find the tunnel and get out.”
Once again, your blonde jiang-shi goes first to make sure the coast is clear.
Before you can follow him, you hear the smashing of wood.
Back down the hall, the door to the room that you came from has been blown off its hinges by a grey cannonball. The cannonball lying on the ground in the center of the hall jitters, shaking itself before turning its red eyes towards-
“In the hole!” you yell at your jiang-shi.
The armored man in front of you doesn’t seem to hear. Instead he squares his shoulders and lifts his sword. He shouts his challenge and takes a step forward, heaving his blade through the air and connecting it directly with the grey mass that was hurtling through the air.
You watch with a horrid fascination as the edge of the sword cleanly cuts into the mass. Yet, it does not slice through completely.
Instead, as Nekurow completes his swing you see that the grey mass has oozed around the blade. Halfway down the sword sits that amorphous blob, an added weight that causes the tip of the sword to harshly dig into the floorboards.
You can see that shifting, curling mass stretching towards the hilt. Thin tendrils snake upwards like a reverse water flow.
Your jiang-shi curses and lets go of the sword-
And then the monster surges.
Grey matter shlicks off of the sword and stretches, propelling itself through the air and directly at your jiang-shi. He doesn’t have time to duck out of the way and instead throws an arm out. The monster splatters against the arm brace your jiang-shi wears. Its body splays out like putty. Yet those random splatter lines quickly solidify into jagged tendrils that hook into the metal and start to dig. You can see the curved metal plate crumple like paper, the metal folding to the outside force.
There’s a horrible lack of noise. The building thrums with every explosion outside but you’ve gotten used to that. All you hear is the crinkle of metal and your jiang-shi’s stoic grunts. He is near silent as he struggles to grip the parasite attached to him.
Then, another sound. Worse. It’s a trill, a quiet but high-pitched vibration. It reminds you of an excited bird that has found a helpless worm to pull out of the ground and tear into tiny pieces.
You flourish your bone sword and unnaturally sharpen the point with your magic. Can you save his arm or is it a lost cause? You still remember what happened to Mokou, to Yoshika, after only a few seconds of contact with the ravenous-
“What are you still doing here?” he asks, voice as gravelly as ever. “Keep moving!”
Nekurow grimaces, the jiang-shi jerking his shoulders as the creature continues to envelop the other hand he has been using to hit it. He swings both his arms into the wall but that hardly deters the putty-like creature clinging to him. You watch the grey skin of that monster bubble up and pop, little beads of red eyes left in place to spin and stare.
Down the hall, more wood explodes.
Another pair of monsters slams into the hallway, flopping onto the ground and splattering like yogurt. They ooze back together immediately, the sheen of light that reflects off their skin dissipating as it toughens. Those red eyes rotate around on their bodies until they find you all center stage. The monsters flatten themselves like pancakes before springing forward, launching through the air.
Shilverase takes a single step forward. The pink-haired girl swings her staff. The heavy metal end pulverizes one monster mid-air, sending it careening backwards like a baseball. She follows through with her swing and catches the second with the butt of her staff. It flies to the side and immediately bounces off the wall, rebounding back towards her without any less speed. She retreats back one step, holding her staff up and catching the monster in the middle.
“See you later, Master!” the pink-haired girl grunts while dashing forward, trying to squash the monster into the wall.
Later? Like hell. You spin your magic, looking to create the most caustic substance you can. Maybe it will- You feel the tug on the back of your collar. “Wait!” Your protest falls on deaf ears as Yoshika manhandles you backwards, dragging you down into the opening in the ground.
Someone must have been counting the seconds. You don’t get but a few moments of light before the opening disappears and you’re left in the dark room a floor below where you were.
“What the fuck, Yoshika?” You demand of the jiang-shi while shrugging off her grip. You look back up. The room may be pitch black now that the opening in the ceiling is gone but you can easily make another-
A hand grabs your wrist before you can float upwards. “Master, we have to keep moving,” you hear Dio say. “Please.”
You can’t believe this. “You want to just leave them?” Yoshika was eaten up when she faced one of the those crazed monsters.
“Yes,” goes his cold reply.
You can still help. You saw Reisen use an over-sized stun-gun on them before. It’s not your speciality but sending a charge through your hands isn’t difficult. You haven’t tried any of the more necrotic spells in your arsenal but plenty of the trinkets you prepared are-
Yoshika opens the door and light from the hall enters the room, letting you see how truly empty it is. The room is a small closet-like space with bare metal walls and floors.
Yoshika steps into the hall, looking both ways before beckoning you.
You can still hear thumping above. It wouldn’t be hopeless. Your magic would be key. Once you found one effective spell you could mop up all three monstrosities. Your jiang-shi could occupy them more than long enough. If the rabbits were to come down, then- then you could still build the time you need if you just- Dio nudges your shoulder.
They would know where you are. You don’t see what is stopping the Lunarians from blasting their way down floors similar to how you have been. If you stayed there to fight then there is no doubt the Lunarians would arrive. No barriers you throw up, physical or magical, could sustain against a constant barrage of gunfire.
When you step into the hall you feel your throat itch. Your laughter comes unbidden and unwanted.
You recognize this hall.
Yoshika begins to walk down the hall one way but you go the other. The two jiang-shi have to rush back over to you.
It isn’t far.
It’s not far at all. It’s all gone to shit but somehow you’re here. Somehow you’re here and you can still hear that Eirin is outside and that the Lunarians are occupied. You can’t not check. You can’t.
They can be here soon enough.
You already won’t be returning with most of your friends! Can you just leave another behind, the one you came to get?
You stop in front of the sliding metal doors from your memory. A quick glance up shows the stupid looking hole in the wall. A quick application of the golden pin opens the door, letting you into Eirin’s lab.
The interior is disappointing. The lab has a fluorescent glow given the recessed overhead lighting but there just isn’t much to see. In the center is a long table with a mesh rolling chair. As expected there’s a mess of documents strewn over the table but you can’t read any of it. The notes are distinctively Eirin’s flowing script, the same as how she wrote in the margins of the Necronomicon.
There are four walls and no other doors that you can see. One wall is entirely black, two others the same drab metal lining the hallway outside.
Behind you, along the wall adjacent to the hallway, are electronics. From floor to ceiling are computer screens. A few are nothing more than light projections, green script floating in the air against the wall. The rest are more mundane, Earthly products. On those LED screens are a number of different graphs and pictures. You can’t say any of them look particularly familiar to you. A few look like x-rays or MRI’s, cross sections of brains and bones, similar to what you have studied in the past. Others are more esoteric, some sort of three-dimensional breakdown of parts and floating particles annotated with Lunarian text.
You move forward, poking one of the foreign images.
It’s not even a touch screen?
Who would have thought Eirin would allow simple, barbaric monitors in her lab.
You look around and find a depression in the wall that you grab. A panel folds down, revealing a keyboard and trackpad that sit nicely underneath the monitor. You tap a few keys and try to scroll out, but you still don’t have an inkling of what the star-like image might be.
Yoshika whispers, her voice carrying in the strangely silent lab. Sound-proofed?
It looks like she found another pull-down panel on one of the empty walls. Behind it are a dozen different switches, a few down but most up. It looks like she simply flicked the next one in line.
It turned on the lights. Specifically, the lights behind the glass wall that used to be nothing but black. The glass wall, the floor to ceiling window, lets you see another room connected to the lab. It isn’t large, about the same size as the lab itself. All together the two rooms are only a little larger than a master bedroom.
The room beyond the glass is empty. It’s empty except for the person sitting in the corner.
You rush forward, banging a fist on the glass. “Hey, Mokou!”
The white-haired girl doesn’t answer. She’s sitting in the corner of the room, her long hair covering most of her body. It doesn’t look like she’s wearing anything, not even a ribbon in her hair.
You let energy build up into your fist. If you broke through Gensokyo’s boundary then this glass will be nothing-
The wind causes your hair to flutter. Loose papers on the table fly into the air, sucked through the air towards the opening in the glass wall.
You turn to look at Yoshika. She smiles at you and waves, her finger on another switch.
The glas wall is more like a sliding door. After flicking a switch the glass pulled away from the wall, about a human’s width of distance.
No time to waste.
Wait, maybe you shouldn’t-
“Mokou!” you shout again as you run through the hole. You don’t see her move or twitch at all. She doesn’t respond even as you drop to your knees in front of her and step on her hair.
Her hair? You look down again, grabbing a few of the long, extremely long strands. It is white and soft, no different from the usual strands that adorn Mokou’s head. But they are far, far longer. You know her hair usually reaches down to her ankles and that she has it somewhat tied back with a ribbon, but this hair is curled on the floor around her. It sits like a pool around her. If she were to stand up and walk you have no doubt it would trail behind her like a wedding dress train.
It’s thick, too. Her hair covers her like a tent. You see the hints of her elbows and toes peeking of her hair but not much else.
“Mokou?” you ask again while brushing aside her bangs.
When you pull your hand away you see a light white dusting on your fingertips. It’s...chalky.
Mokou is sitting with her knees up, arms crossed across the top and head nested inside. Her skin is pale white, no different from normal. Despite spending vast amounts of time outdoors the immortal is incapable of getting a tan of any sort. She-
She’s thinner than this.
Looking closer at her legs, you see the bulge of muscle in her calves. A quick glance up shows the musculature of her forearms too. Normally Mokou covered herself from head to toe but you’ve seen her body before. She was always as thin as a stick, her noble past betraying her into her immortality.
She could split ten-thousand logs everyday for a year and not develop the muscle you see on her now.
You lean a bit closer and have to stop yourself from inappropriately touching the naked girl in front of you.
There’s more different than the muscle. She’s always been pale and always will be. You should be able to see her veins. One arm is almost pure white, the only marks on her skin being the shadows cast from her hair. Her other arm is more normal- but it’s not. Her veins are a darker blue, almost black really. It’s also more visible, more numerous than you’d expect. Are those her capillaries? Except it’s not because they don’t branch-out like veins. It almost reminds you of the striations in marble.
“Hey, look at me.”
Her head snaps up.
She looks at you with unfocused eyes, pupils lolling around. They don’t blink synchronously, each one folding closed after another. The two eyes trailing down her left cheek squish and squeak when they close.
Her jaw drops open but not far. The sudden movement is arrested by a tendon that bulges under her skin. One of the eyeballs elongates as the socket along her cheek stretches, the fleshy deformed bulb straining outwards almost to the point of popping out.
A pure-tone chime vibrates out of her mouth. The sound seems to shake her entire body, rattling her bones with a rhythmic quality.
“Mokou…” What is this? What is this supposed to be? You gently grab her arms and feel the micro bumps along her skin, like a poorly made drywall. She seems to respond to your motion. She lowers her arms and legs on her own and sits up straighter, her four eyes all focusing on you.
Flesh-toned scales run alongside one side of her abdomen. It looks fish-like but larger, perhaps more like what you might imagine dragon-scales to appear as. As you watch her skin it stretches. A small portion, the length of a pencil overall, is elevated and casts a shadow. You see that slight protrusion curve and move, snaking its way underneath her torso’s skin. It travels from her belly button up her sternum and then over her shoulder. Where it moves her skin presses upwards and then snaps back into place.
If you ignore that, if you ignore the discolorations and the markings and all the other anomalies, you notice something else.
You can’t see her ribs.
That’s not to say her bones were liquified or that her torso was consumed by an oversized, pulsating pustule.
No, her hips are well-padded. Her waist is not stick thin but full, curvy in ways you wouldn’t expect to see from her. Her ribs are hidden underneath healthy layers of muscle and fat. Her collarbone is the most noticeable portion of her skelature.
“What the fuck?” you ask yourself. This is her, isn’t it? It has to be. Despite whatever has been done to her, who else would Eirin keep in her lab? This-
You swivel in place and rise to your feet.
The door to the lab slides open, a gun and foot pushed through before it is even half-open.
You and your jiang-shi drop low on reaction. A loud gunshot immediately follows and you see the glass in front of you crack. An honest, physical bullet is lodged within.
A dozen more bullets embed themselves into the glass, none of them coming close to hitting you.
The lunarians try to force their way in immediately. You watch one of the soldier girls drop her gun and spin to the floor, knives embedded along her arms. Yoshika rushes forward and grabs the next to try and enter, throwing the rabbit girl into the corner of a room.
You ignore the subsequent gunfire and shouting. Instead, you run out of the glass enclosed portion of the room and swing your bone sword at the lunarian that Yoshika tossed. The dazed girl holds her rifle up to block. The metal weapon meets your blade and manages to hold, but only just. You can see the interior of the barrel as you pull your sword back for another swing.
A stinging pain in your ankle causes you to fall. You have to catch yourself on a knee and one hand. The lunarian thinks she can go for her sidearm after that cheeky kick?
You grab her ankle and break it.
“OW YOU FUCKING MOTHER-” you tune out the rest of what she screams since it doesn’t matter. She flinched, she shouted in pain, and she stalled on drawing her pistol. It gives you enough time to grab her gun and wrench it out of her hands.
She tries to twist and catch you again with her good leg but you avoid it by rolling to the side. You grimace as you accidentally hit the wall with your shoulder, but the collision doesn’t stop you from standing and kicking the youkai. Her head meets your boot, bounces off the metal corner she was thrown into, and slumps down against her chest.
You take a breath and turn to- “Freeze.”
Of course. You don’t feel a barrel pressed against the back of your skull, but Reisen’s demanding voice is close enough.
“Take four steps backwards,” she commands. She tries to suppress it but you can hear the quiet panting in her breaths. “Then turn to face me.”
You do as she says and find yourself looking over a mess. All of Eirin’s documents that managed to stay on the table have been thrown throughout the room. In their place on the table is Dio, the blonde-haired jiang-shi laying facing down. Standing behind him, rifle pointed, is one of the lunarians. You notice how bloody they both are. Dio has holes throughout his body and she is entirely missing an ear. It’s hard to tell from this angle but his foot might be bent the wrong way.
Yoshika is sitting against the glass wall, fingers curled but hands held low. She looks as equally bloody as her fellow jiang-shi but perhaps with less obvious wounds on her. At least, you can’t see anything too wrong with her. The lunarian holding her at gunpoint is kneeling against the wall and using a pistol.
Eyes roaming, you find the first lunarian to try and enter the room sitting in the doorway. She’s doing something to herself like applying bandages or tourniquets. Are there five of them including Reisen? It’s not- “Eyes on me.”
You snap your gaze back to Reisen and-
You see your sister floating there, looking at you with a frown. Hey- She looks like a hazy spirit, a worrying luminsicent blue. You blink your eyes- and then there’s two of her. Four. Dozens of your sister fill your vision, reflecting and refracting like a poor kaleidoscope. No matter which direction you look you see her watching you, condemning you for-
A snap draws your attention back- left? Right, maybe. You see the sound waves expand outwards in a circle from the fingers that made them. Reisen’s fingers. The rabbit girl is looking down at you with a smile. Damn- Unlike her underlings she looks immaculate, untouched by blood or even sweat. Her military getup looks finely cleaned and perfectly in place, like she hasn’t run a day in her life. This bitch! She doesn’t even have her gun raised at you!
You feel fast as you spin, bone sword cutting low to slice into nothing as you fall back towards the ground. We- You rub your stinging face while you lie sprawled on the ground. She slapped you! Above, Reisen mutters silently to herself while shaking her hand. The youkai runs a hand through her lavender hair and adjusts her blazer and tie. She mouths some words to you but you can’t make them out.
The Reisens take a step towards you. The one on the left sneers and the one on the right grins. They hold a hacksaw and syringe respectively. Forgot- Their light blue scrubs shift against the curves of their bodies. They each use one hand to grab a bicep, hauling you off the floor and pressing you to the wall. The one one the left leans forwards to unbutton the top of your jacket. She traces a finger along your neck, against your larynx. She whispers something to you and looks miffed when you don’t respond.
Try- You grunt when your back hits the floor again. Reisen sits herself atop you, her purple latex bodysuit leaving nothing to your imagination. Hands slap into the metal on either side of you. The rabbit girl grins and rolls her hips. The motion feels like it draws you upwards like hot air.
You mutter- something. The technicolor whorl around you is prettily useless.
You blink and Reisen is curled up against you on the futon. The rabbit girl nibbles on your earlobe. You can feel her wet lips against your skin moving only a second later but the sounds of her words don’t reach you. You can feel her tense up, her angry gaze suddenly entering your vision. You want to ask her what’s bothering her. Her mouth opens wide, like she’s yelling Then I’ll-
You stagger backwards. You steady yourself against the cold metal wall behind you. “Don’t move!” Reisen commands.
Blood has flowed from her hairline and down her face. The crimson liquid outlines her own red eyes. Her hair is a mess, uneven - it looks like one side of her hair caught on fire and had to be chopped away. The rest of her looks just as worn down, as haggard. She’s discarded her protective vest that you see on the others but her military fatigues are nonetheless full of cuts. The cloth at the side of her stomach has a pooled stain of something, blood or some other liquid you can’t tell.
Perhaps most importantly, she has a pistol aimed at your chest. You could reach out and touch the tip of the barrel if you thought she wouldn’t shoot you first.
“Let’s try this again,” she enunciates.
She gestures backwards with her free hand. “I already told them if that if they try anything, we’re all going to shoot you first.”
“Now,” she continues, “I won’t ask what crazy conspiracies they filled your head with or what you did to the others. I won’t ask why you did this. I won’t ask-”
Reisen bites her tongue. After a single shake of her head she continues. “We already know about all of you magicians’ ritual. It won’t work. Tell me anything else we might not know about it and I’ll let you walk away. I’ll let you and yours go despite everything that’s happened. If you don’t…” she jerks her shaky gun once.
[ ] Truth. You can’t afford to take any more risks. Tell Reisen about what the other magicians have been up to and what that have planned for tomorrow, as detailed as you can. Tell her why you’re here and what you wanted. Those closest to you are at risk right now. [ ] Lie. Reisen, for all her posturing, doesn’t know everything. Exploit that. You studied the same book Eirin has. You were able to teach the other magicians how to bypass immortality. If you don’t return with Mokou soon then they’re ready to annihilate Eientei and the threat it poses. [ ] Action. There’s almost nothing left to lose. But there’s a doll wriggling under your jacket and you still have your entire body to sacrifice if need be. You can’t predict how she will react to what you might say and you can’t trust Reisen to follow through with anything she says either.
>>193819 >Active There are a few answers to that question depending on what you meant. I appreciated your input and took it into account while pecking at this update, at least.
In terms of story writing, it shouldn’t be “active” much longer. I’m aiming for one more update. This poor story has been on life-support for far too long and in my stubborn determination to finish anything I start I haven’t already killed the power years ago. It’s a mistake we and the story all suffer for.
>I thought she wasn't susceptible to infection because she's immortal? Or did I miss something? Horrible waits between updates means that any readers I have left are completely justified in misremembering or forgetting details. Yet, there are extraordinary people like you that dedicated too many memory blocks to my story; it’s far more than I deserve.
>>194556 >half-assing it Unfortunately everything is being half-assed at this point. Sorry.
>>194888 >Silent Sinner in Blue I can’t say anything I remember from SSiB has an intentional impact in what I’ve written. If you wanted to use something from it on a future plan of action...sorry. I’m sure you’ll find a better Eientei-based story to apply it to.
[X] Truth. You can’t afford to take any more risks. Tell Reisen about what the other magicians have been up to and what that have planned for tomorrow, as detailed as you can. Tell her why you’re here and what you wanted. Those closest to you are at risk right now.
Damn, this really went poorly. Maybe it's time to cut losses.
[X] Tell her that Keine's planning to heavily alter history such that Mokou doesn't end up an Eientei, and the implications for Eientei behind it (Reisen used to be the Watatsuki pet, right?), but act like you assume she already knew that. Then bluff that you got your hands on some of Eirins notes that could easily be given to Keine. Also mention that one of her idiot mooks blew the head off one of Seiga Kaku's favorite Jiang Shi and that two of the others are being ripped apart by former rabbits, that she will be very pissed when she discovers that, and that all the commotion outside is definitely gonna draw Reimu's attention. So yeah. Assuming she wants to have the magicians rewriting their past, an angry evil hermit who happens to be influential to the Taoists and possibly the Buddhists, since Byakuren's fighting Eirin outside, beating down their door, Reimy coming in to fuck everything up, or a combination of everything, she might as well shoot you now. Hell, shoot Yoshika and Dio too! Give Seiga more reason to plot against Eientei with the aid of the very book that allowed Eirin to create those grey monster thingies.
Most of this is a bluff since we don't actually know but it's still likely anyway.
>>195053 this looks perfect. [X] Tell her that Keine's planning to heavily alter history such that Mokou doesn't end up an Eientei, and the implications for Eientei behind it (Reisen used to be the Watatsuki pet, right?), but act like you assume she already knew that. Then bluff that you got your hands on some of Eirins notes that could easily be given to Keine. ALSO YOU GUYS mention that one of her idiot mooks blew the head off one of Seiga Kaku's favorite Jiang Shi and that two of the others are being ripped apart by former rabbits, that she will be very pissed when she discovers that, and that all the commotion outside is definitely gonna draw Reimu's attention. So yeah. Assuming she wants to have the magicians rewriting their past, an angry evil hermit who happens to be influential to the Taoists and possibly the Buddhists, since Byakuren's fighting Eirin outside, beating down their door, Reimy coming in to fuck everything up, or a combination of everything, she might as well shoot you now. Hell, shoot Yoshika and Dio too! Give Seiga more reason to plot against Eientei with the aid of the very book that allowed Eirin to create those grey monster thingies.
Well, not really threaten. More like inform her of those possibilities. After all, if we threaten her, then there's the possibility that she'll take it the wrong way or call our bluff and shoot. Talk to her like it's a negotiation. Information about what's going down with Mokou and, if possible, springing her out. Either way, whether NecroAnon walks out or not, with Mokou or not, and if Byakuren survives or not, one or two factions'll probably declare war on Eientei.
[x] Lie. Reisen, for all her posturing, doesn’t know everything. Exploit that. You studied the same book Eirin has. You were able to teach the other magicians how to bypass immortality. If you don’t return with Mokou soon then they’re ready to annihilate Eientei and the threat it poses.
Well, now I'm certainly down with wiping out Eientei and everyone inside.
How connected to her dolls is Alice? Can Alice see and hear everything that her dolls experience through telepathy? Because if she can, then Keine's group already knows what happened to Mokou and that Eintei is planning on stopping their ritual. So that's one victory for us.
>Then bluff that you got your hands on some of Eirins notes that could easily be given to Keine.
This also means that the above part of the write in is not a bluff, because the doll has seen at least some of the notes littered around the lab, and therefore Keine has already been given them through Alice. Maybe if we can get Reisen talking, we can get even more useful information to Keine.
This has got to be the most poorly handled infiltration mission I have ever seen. I don't think Necronon could have bungled this up worse if he tried. Just for fun, lets analyze all the ways he screwed up.
1. You have an invisible, intangible, immortal ghost on your team and are trying to sneak into a heavily fortified mansion. Do you: A: Send in the ghost first to find the target and map out a safe route undetected before you go in B: Go in with the ghost and have her scout the hallways ahead of you to warn you of hostiles or C: Leave the ghost outside doing fuck all while you stumble through the mansion blindly.
If you did not pick C, then you are smarter than Necronon.
2. You have found a secret tunnel and are using it to sneak into the enemy's mansion. You come to the end of the tunnel and find the concealed opening leading into the mansion. Do you: A: Open the cover a crack to sneakily peek into the room to check for hostiles first before entering B: Quickly open and close the cover just fast enough to toss a grenade or smokebomb into the room to neutralize any potential hostiles before you go in yourself or C: Open the cover all the way and just barge right in, giving every potential hostile in the room a clear view of you.
If you picked C, you are as bad at sneaking as Necronon.
3. You decide that your sneaking mission requires a distraction to lure enemy forces away. Do you: A: Set up timed explosives outside the mansion to draw most of the hostiles out and away from you B: Sneak into the mansion, find an out of the way area to plant bombs, and set them off after backtracking into a room you previously cleared of hostiles and know is safe or C: Set up a bunch of bombs in a random snack closet, wander off aimlessly through the mansion, and then never bother setting the bombs off at all.
Necronon, the master of stealth that he is, picked C.
4. You have the ability to magically enhance you hearing to absurd degrees, and have come across a group of hostiles discussing their secret plans. Do you: A: Retreat to a safe room and tune you hearing up as high as possible to eavesdrop on them undetected B: Sneak right up next to the door so you can clearly hear them and be close enough to chuck a grenade into the room if things go south or C: Stand just far enough away to hear them, yet not close enough to effectively fight them if you are discovered, while simultaneously tuning your hearing up just enough to hear them, yet not high enough to hear any hostiles sneaking up behind you.
If you chose C, you have gotten yourself into as big a pile of trouble as Necronon did.
If this is how Necronon performed all of his sneaking missions throughout his search for the Necronomicon in the past, I'm surprised he has lasted as long as he has.
Actually, if we survive this, is there any possibility of anyone beating up Shou for the open bitchiness? I know the jab Necronon made a while back was a low blow and all but at least he knows he fucked up and is tried to apologize and atone for it.
>>195079 I was referring to an earlier incident. Byakuren went out for some thing early in the day and didn't return until next morning. Night before Necronon tried asking Shou about it and ended up taking a jab at how they waited a millennium before springing her from Makai. Shou took it very violently, tried to kill him until Ichirin intervened, then when he tried to sincerely apologize, she just up and acted like a bitch about it by throwing a manner of insults his way when he offered help her out even after she (quite rudely) rejected his apology. Even Necro-Sis thinks she was acting like a bitch and Necronon had to be the mature one throughout that mental exchange.
Also the "He is a cancer" thing was kinda excessive. Not to mention the excessive harshness towards Byakuren. She knows her story. She watched the play (I assume), hell she was one of the youkai who busted her from Kamai, and it still feels as though she's getting mad and lecturing Byakuren over what she should and shouldn't be doing. Admittedly Byakuren does have duties as the head nun but Shou had no respect at all for her personal decision to provide aid to someone she's grown very close to, who everyone shunned simply because his manner of dress seem suspicious.
>Action. There’s almost nothing left to lose. But there’s a doll wriggling under your jacket and you still have your entire body to sacrifice if need be. You can’t predict how she will react to what you might say and you can’t trust Reisen to follow through with anything she says either.
I was going to pick this but it is too risky with all of our friends at gunpoint. Then again, we don't have much choice...
Goddamn Reisen, she accuses everyone of being paranoiac but she never, ever explained a goddamn thing that wasn't a lie. He should say 'Don't you know that this is your fault?' but she will say 'I don't know shit' Well, I say, take him out, if you want it so much.
If he moves Yoshi could die. If his goddamn eyes move, she could die. But it might be worth the risk.
[x] Take me out for interrogation, but leave them all be. -[x] If she doesn't agree-Attack her.
I know he won't be leaving here without her, and Reisen is a brainwashed psychopath. Go for broke.
>>195285 Even if that were true, this would still be all Eirin's fault. All it would've taken is one conversation to clear everything up.
Necronon: "Hey Eirin, why are you holding Mokou captive?" Eirin: "Because she was infected by a horrible virus when she fought my blob monsters and needs to be quarantined." Necronon: "Well can I see her?" Eirin: "Fine, but only if you stay on this side of the glass."
>>195296 I imagine quite difficult for someone who's used to being the smartest person currently in existence who's used to things always going her way and everyone not questioning her judgement because they know she's right. Forget the fact that she and Kaguya have been living on earth for thousands of years now, all she interacts with are Lunarian bunnies, who act like she expects them to, or Earth bunnies, who only emphasizes the idea in her head that everyone on earth is exponentially stupider than the Lunarians (she's not wrong though) and shouldn't question her at all because she's smarter than them (now here's the problem).
Honestly. For someone who's supposed to be the smartest brain in the universe, Eirin is a moron. I'm honestly surprised that she didn't consider how Mokou's affiliates would react to her mysterious disappearance, especially when one of them is the protector of the human village capable of changing history, and the other is affiliated with Byakuren, Reimu and, to a degree, Seiga, all three being significant figures in Gensokyo, and that none of them trust her at all. Sure she can just kill them and be done with it but that just causes a chain reaction. Her fireworks may cause Reimu to start investigating, killing Byakuren would bring the Buddhists into an uproar (regardless of how much Shou tries to downplay it), and the whole situation would all but confirm Keine's suspicions that Mokou's in deep shit. Can't really speak for what Seiga would do but I imagine she'd be none too pleased that Eientei is responsible for the death of one (possibly three) of her favorite Jiang Shi.
To summarize, it's surprising that Eirin didn't think or didn't seriously consider that her actions have a good chance of putting a fair amount of Gensokyo against Eientei.
>>195394 Still, everyone makes it a point to emphasize just how intelligent (I hesitate to use "smart") Eirin is and how much experience she has as the literal smartest person currently in existence. You'd think that a couple f thousand years doing all the thinking for the Lunarians would've taught her to anticipate for something like this,
>>195375 Just go to Tewi for that. If I'm interpreting Eientei's backstory correctly, for all their immortal-ness and power, Kaguya and Eirin still had to go to her for aid in hiding from the lunarians. The situation imples that Tewi's the one tolerating them instead of the other way around, so if she also thought that they'd need a time out...
...actually where's Tewi been through all this shooting?
>>195420 >comes to necroanon with the book that he was searching heaven and hell for >asks for a clue about what Eirin's doing afterwards >necroanon doesn't tell her squat, ignores research that he went all the way over into BiteYourHeadOffYoukaiLand for and makes a hasty poorly-thought-out invasion into Eientei almost immediately afterwards
>>195432 How is this our fault? Was it wrong of us to assume that Necronon would be at least halfway competent at sneaking around when we voted to infiltrate Eintei? Its not like this was a poorly thought out write in that went badly, this was an option the writefag presented to us himself. How were we supposed to know that Necronon would be so terrible at sneaking around when we voted for it? If the writefag had given us the option to bake a cake and eat it, I think most of us would assume that Necronon would be competent enough not to use rotten eggs and spoiled milk to make it, so why would we think to question his ability to be sneaky when we are voting for an infiltration mission?
>>195436 Kinda have to agree here, most things >>195073 said are kinda valid. I see what was attempted here with the in story arguing for certain options that popped up but jesus he could have just as well strapped fireworks to himself and run in screaming, hoping that they wont see him in the bright lights.
>>195436 Even if he where stealthy, the infiltration itself was the worst option by far (as literally everyone we met kept telling us) and we choose it (well, I didn't, but it isn't fair to separate myself from anon only when they fuck up)
>>195482 Murasa already stealthily came to our rescue. And by "stealthily came to our rescue", I mean she flew up right next to us while still completely visible and stood in the line of fire doing absolutely nothing as Eirin pelted us with arrows, instead of using her ghost powers to phase through the arrow barrage and invisibly sneak up behind Eirin to bash her over the head with an anchor.
Murasa did stay behind with Byakuren to help fight Eirin, so I suppose its possible that she could still stealthily bash Eirin over the head with her anchor and then invisibly come rescue us, but considering the amount of competence this team has displayed with sneakiness, I'm not going to count on it.
If it's not to late for a write-in, here's something Necronon could say.
"Are you kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me?! I asked you nicely, I REASONED with you to try to tell me why Mokou was missing because Keine will obviously grow paranoid and do something stupid but you told me nothing helpful. How did you think this was gonna end Reisen? Did you honestly think that I'd go up to Keine and expect her, expect ME to believe you when Eirin has given us every reason not to? When it's a well known fact that she regularly tampers with your memory? Just a week or so ago you were breaking down in front of me because a man died in front of you and now it's come to this. Here's what's gonna happen. I'm going to tell you what I know about Keine's little project and some very interesting things I've learned about what exactly Eirin's been doing to make those monsters that are currently tearing up two of Seiga Kaku's favorite Jiang Shi. Byakuren and Murasa, two very important people to the Buddhists, are outside dealing with the full force of Eirin, Seiga's lost one of her favorite Jiang Shi and will possibly lose two more, and Reimu will eventually investigate the commotion that's happening right now. I will, once again, politely ask you what happened to Mokou because she is right there and does not appear to be regenerating like she should. After that you're free to do what you want with me but know that some very powerful people in Gensokyo now have a reason to pick a fight with Eientei because you didn't think of just how many lines you were crossing."
Wow look at all this conversation! I should have pushed the nuclear option ages ago. It would have saved us all a year and some months.
I don’t think I can fairly speak against most of these particulars since I assume any hints, events, or characterization is long forgotten. Well, I could, but it’d come off as combative.
I will say that yes, of the three choices last vote this was the one I planned to lead to this debacle. If I were still majorly invested in this story there would have been planning votes and preparation votes and all that jazz. Unfortunately, we’re pushing towards an ending so this is what you get.
Interestingly, if any of the plans from last vote had formed a plurality (read: had any extra support whatsoever) this could have turned out much better (or a whole lot worse in one particular case).
>>195558 So it's more of a case of people not providing enough write-ins to completely flesh out a successful infiltration plan and we can achieve more desirable outcomes by simply writing like it's the last submission day for a school essay?
There's hope yet boys! Write-in like you mean it! (Undead) Lives are on the line!
>>196559 Well we're gonna have to be more specific and detailed with the write-ins now. If you want to help we're currently trying to give Reisen a reason to not blow out brins out even though everything is completely her's and Eirin's fault.
Honestly I hope Keine just completely eats this little trip into Eintei, it wasa really bad idea from the start, and we've lost so much. As someone who read all of the story in two days I undoubtedly have benefits that previous voters do not but man, what was everyone thinking.