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Previous thread: >>189261


I held off from asking too much all at once. It was already too easy to get bogged down by Tewi’s ceaseless interjections. As amusing as some of the things she said were, I actually had a few things that I wanted to know.

More than once, I had reason to doubt I was being told the whole truth. “Peace and quiet is something that everyone here loves. We’re really just really boring people if I’m honest,” Reisen said at one point, her slight laugh betraying some of her nervousness. But I didn’t press too hard. If there were things that they didn’t want to tell me, that was fine too. I could piece together enough to have a coherent idea of what things were really like.

Putting it succinctly: Reisen was nominally in charge of the rabbits. Most of the work was delegated to Tewi, who had a longer history with the local rabbits. I couldn’t quite figure out why have Reisen be a leader at all; blunting Tewi’s whims wasn’t reason enough. Maybe her parents had been rabbit leaders as well. At any rate, Reisen reported to her master, a doctor of some sort who also apprenticed her in the ways of medicine. This master was more or less in charge of the big decisions, judging by Reisen’s praise-filled words and Tewi’s relative quiet on the subject. But the mansion, this Eientei, belonged to someone else – a friend of the doctor – who was a kind and quiet figure. She was a princess if Reisen were to be believed.

Tewi held back from making any jokes about those two. Clearly there was a level of implicit respect or, at least fear, that kept her from voicing whatever her real opinion was in front of a stranger like me. All she had to add was that rabbits were happy living at Eientei. Both normal and youkai rabbits lived side by side and they had shelter, food and a space to play and be happy.

“You should see us pound mochi!” Tewi said, her arms crossed as she bragged, “It takes a while, but all the camaraderie pays off. It’s the best stuff you’ll taste anywhere.”

“Most of our days are pretty carefree,” Reisen smiled. It seemed that at least that feeling was genuine. She was a poor liar. “We’re lucky to live with such understanding people,” she continued, “Master also takes care of any injured rabbits too. We sell medicine to villagers, too, or treat them if they’re really sick. But like I said earlier, it’s mostly peace and quiet.”

“Way better than your noisy tengu society, right?” Tewi prodded, an impish smirk on her lips. “I bet if you were starving to death, no one would lift a finger to help out.”

“I don’t know, the mood on the mountain these days is pretty good,” I told her. No need to tell her that I would never starve. Even if I was a complete failure, I’d be sent away, but would still have basic necessities. Life wasn’t equal for all youkai. “Things are pretty tight between us and the kappa,” I said, “nearly everyone has a job and they do it well. So such a thing is hard to imagine.”

“Mmm, I wonder how much it’d take to get one of your friends to sell you out...” she mused.

“Tewi, don’t be rude!” Reisen glared at her, her eyes fiery. It was the strongest show of emotion I had seen from her yet. I tried not to stare too much, as I felt strangely compelled to keep looking right into her bright eyes.

“It’s just a joke,” Tewi scratched her short, very messy black hair with a finger, “no need to get so worked up about it. Just heard that the tengu are shrewd, so I was wondering if this one here is good at swindling.”

“I’m not offended,” I said, trying to defuse the situation. More importantly, I felt that Tewi was simply testing the boundaries. If I got worked up, she would hold it over my head. I tried not to smirk, even though it’d be the most natural thing in the world; she would fit in just fine with the masses of tengu that spent their leisure time playing shogi. People might think that thinking ahead is the only skill necessary, but bluffing and keeping your opponent guessing about your ultimate strategy is also a big part of it.

“See? All in good humor!” Tewi smiled at me. She was probably trying to figure me out too. Or maybe I was being too conceited. She was good at making herself seem the happy fool, but she was definitely the real leader of the household. At least when it concerned the day to day and managing the rabbits. All of that while making herself seem like she was a relative nobody. So there was a good chance she had figured me out the very instant we met. As womanly and soft-looking as Reisen was, I had to admit that I was more interested in Tewi’s mind at that moment. Spending a few days with her would probably be better training than most statesmen ever got.

But I couldn't exactly be too bold. I simply didn’t have a good enough excuse.

As I continued to probe and piece together about the household, the more convinced I was that there was something big that they were keeping from me.

But I lost my chance to keep investigating.

Another rabbit darted in and interrupted the conversation. It made its way over to Tewi’s side and sort of just propped itself over the other one that was already laying there. She looked down and smiled at it, nodding at unheard speech. The fact that Reisen and I were completely ignored showed what the real hierarchy between rabbits was like. Given the way that Tewi carried about, it didn’t surprise me in the least. Reisen held no real power and depended on Tewi to get anything done. The wily girl in pink was used to manipulating people’s perceptions day in and day out. Our conversation had been proof of that.

“Your girlfriend is here,” Tewi told me. The two rabbits next to her darted away towards the door and went off somewhere else in the mansion.

“She’s not my girlfriend,” I replied, feeling that my denials were beginning to verge on the pathetic.

“And he’s not my boyfriend,” Aya said, standing at the door. She held her small little notebook open, as if she was expecting to write down new material for an article.

“So you’ve still got a shot eh, Reisen?” Tewi laughed, delivering her punchline to the needless setup. She patted the mat near the empty side of the table. “Come and join us for tea. There might be juicy gossip too, if that’s more your speed.”

“No, I’m afraid I can’t stay too long,” Aya declined and tilted her head towards me, “he can’t really stay much longer either.”

“Why all the hurry?” Tewi did the talking for us, “while you’re here you can try getting a few good interviews. We haven’t talked in a while, so consider today your lucky day.”

“This is a trick, isn’t it? Don’t be so shameless,” Aya shook her head while smiling. Part of me was curious to see how they’d get on. With her unrelenting boldness, I didn’t think that Aya would suffer gladly much of Tewi’s constant misdirection.

“I’ve never tricked anyone in my life, you know that,” Tewi said. She hopped to her feet swiftly. And surprisingly gracefully, without even so much as rocking the table. I exchanged a curious look with Reisen; neither of us seemed to really know what was going to happen next. Tewi moved with her hands clasped behind her back, her arms swinging slightly as she skipped towards Aya. I could see the skepticism clearly showing in Aya’s face.

Aya crossed her arms. For a moment, her gaze fell upon me and it seemed like like she was telling me to get ready to leave. But she faced Tewi diplomatically enough, giving her the benefit of the doubt. Tewi made an somewhat basic joke about this or that Aya smiled politely at. The rabbit motioned Aya to get a little closer to her and then stood on the tips of her toes to partially bridge the height difference between them. Aya leaned in as Tewi began to whisper something to her. She smiled, looked at Tewi with an arched eyebrow but said nothing.

I cleared my throat. Reisen looked at me expectantly, but the two others ignored me more or less.

“Come on,” I protested, “don’t leave us out of the conversation. That’s just rude.”

Predictably, there was no real answer. Tewi whispered something else to Aya and she nodded her head vigorously, In a rather sudden development, Tewi put her hand behind Aya’s back. Aya said something, smirked and then they both laughed. And just like that, they left together. On her way out, Aya added as like it was an absolute afterthought, “I’ll be back soon, just sit tight.”



Reisen and I looked at each other, neither of us really understanding what had just happened. Evidently Tewi had gotten bored of playing around with us and had moved on to fresher prey. It was a conspiracy in the making that did not bode well for sanity. I sighed and leaned back. There was a lot to process about everything that had happened.

“I wonder how she tracked you down,” Reisen broke the silence.

The how was pretty obvious. I explained, “the newspapers have their destinations marked. Since I took the one intended for the bamboo forest, she knew that I’d gone here.”

“Mm, yeah, that makes sense,” she nodded a little sheepishly, like she felt stupid for having to ask.

The real question was: why? It wasn’t like we had any special plans. I didn’t have a schedule and Aya had more than enough things to distract herself other than me. Plus, if it was something really important then she wouldn’t have just gone off with Tewi. Probably. So it had to be something between an emergency and something utterly mundane.

“Have you known each other for very long?” Reisen continued to prod. Maybe she felt like she had to justify her nosiness beyond just casual interest, and she then added, “I don’t mean to pry, it’s just that I’ve never really thought of tengu as sociable. Not like us rabbits.”

“Oh, us tengu get along just fine with one another,” I said, sitting up. “Aya is something of a casual acquaintance that I’ve only just recently started to know well. She’s helping me out with a… well it’s all very boring to an outsider, so I’ll spare you.”

“It’s not boring to me,” she shook her head, “since I came here, I’ve learned that I should try to understand how other see things more. But I’m afraid that I’m still a little slow when it comes to figuring out these things. Master would know all of this already.”

“The short of it is that we tengu live in a very structured society. Our leaders need to have certain qualities, otherwise no one will trust them to be good at their jobs,” I explained. And, with a smile, added, “I suppose it’s somewhat similar to you guys here: the rabbits report to Tewi, Tewi reports to you and you report to your master. I guess I’m trying to prove myself in the eyes of others.”

“Hmmm, sounds tough,” she said, “don’t take this the wrong way, but you look a little young to be shouldering so much responsibility.”

She was half-right about that. But I wasn’t about to tell her that blood mattered more than experience when it came to being inducted. And, besides that, it was just a first step. It would be very many years before anyone actually thought me worthy of a serious position.

Instead of telling her how I really felt, I chose to redirect, “looks can be deceiving,” I said, “Tewi looks almost too young, yet sometimes she says things that show she’s more grown up than she’s letting on.”

“You sure about that?” Reisen shrugged, “I trust what she has to say about the rabbits but… ”

Perhaps she just chose to ignore the canny acts. It didn’t matter, it wasn’t really something I wanted to dwell on for too long. I shifted the topic slightly, “we probably shouldn’t let those two push us around so much. How about we go out for a walk or something? That tea filled me with energy.”

Reisen frowned, “oh, we shouldn’t. I’ve still got chores to do. And, more importantly...” her voice trailed off.

“Something more important than chores?” I asked, trying not to let my internal sarcasm bleed through.

“Well,” Reisen flicked a strand of hair away from her face, “don’t you think that she is going to mind if we go together?”

“Who? Aya?” I shrugged, “I don’t care if she minds. She ran off with Tewi somewhere. Putting my life on hold until she returns is ridiculous.”

“Are you sure about that? Might she not get really upset? Being alone somewhere else, I mean...”

Oh. What she meant slowly dawned upon me. For some reason she thought that Aya and I were a couple. No matter how much we denied it, it seemed that Tewi had poisoned her perception of me. I wondered if that was the way people were going to see us everywhere we went. Sure it was rare for her to spend extended periods of time with anyone, but just because I was a guy was no reason to keep assuming that we were lovers.

It looked like Reisen was treading on eggshells, trying to be as delicate as possible about the subject. It was amusing to see her try to hard, her ears twitching every so slightly from anxiety.

[] Flat out deny it. Again.
[] Shrug and say nothing. Leave it to her imagination.
[] Lie: say it’s the truth and whatever we felt for one another could be our little secret.

You may be wondering why this option won out. Simple: there was votespam in the last vote, which invalidated the posts made by that person. It left us with a tie.I waited a few days but I didn't get any more votes that could break that tie. So, in tried and true fashion, I flipped a coin as I usually do when there's incompatible ties.

As it was apparently the first time the person spammed votes, there's little but a warning here. I appreciate that you may feel strongly about a choice, but part of the reason I insist on comments is so that you can talk to your fellow voters. Make a good argument why you think you have the right idea. Convincing others to switch their votes or your own is not something that should be rare. I encourage it at all times. And, unless I explicitly state that I'm writing, votes are to be considered to be open. So feel free to go back and forth with your fellow readers. The story will be better for it.

Please don't vote spam here or in any other story. Not only will you get banned for increasingly longer periods of time but you'll also break my heart. We're creating a story together and your input is valuable so let's treat one another with respect. I also encourage you to reach out to other people you know and tell them to read and vote, wherever you can, since that's the healthiest way that we can the story sustainable and it sure helps keep me motivated and in the zone.
[x] Flat out deny it. Again.

I hope it's in a fashion that lets her be assured nothing's wrong.
[X] Flat out deny it. Again.

It's the rule of the world, if we keep saying the same thing over and over again sooner or later people will begin to believe it.
[x] Shrug and say nothing. Leave it to her imagination.

We already told her she wasn't our girlfriend; let Reisen believe what she wants to. Less boring than just denying it again.
[X] Flat out deny it. Again.

We don't want people thinking that he's going out with Aya.
[x] Deny it. Again.
I wouldn't expect her of all people to believe Tewi's lies. Also, are we really going to leave without finding out who Tewi wanted us paired with? Of it was Kaguya, it might be just the excuse we need.
[x] Flat out deny it. Again.

I mean, we could tell her we're betrothed to Sanae, but that she doesn't mind an open relaionship.

Honestly, I want to see quite how far a single untruth can get us, if we just spread it every so often.
[x] Shrug and say nothing. Leave it to her imagination.

I feel like denying it outright will not serve the wanted purpose here so it is not giving up per se but just letting her think whatever she wants to.
[X] Flat out deny it. Again.

let's not get too out of hand here. While I see and appreciate the effort taken to build up Aya's redeeming qualities and make her character a little more 3D, her first impression just left a bad taste in my mouth.

Also, in this situation, there is much to be gained by emphasizing the fact that Hide is single. Tewi and Reisen both seem to enjoy Hide's company, which leaves us an avenue to explore in the future should we decide to return.
[x] Flat out deny it. Again.

Might as well stick with it. It'd be one thing for nobody to believe it, but being vague could probably be even worse.
[X] Flat out deny it. Again.

A bit harsher than I want to be, but saying nothing is going too far the other way
[x] Shrug and say nothing. Leave it to her imagination.

Mainly because it seems like the most amusing option. Besides, it's not like being vague about it will get ourselves killed.
[X] Shrug and say nothing. Leave it to her imagination.
A full denial is too boring. ladies like a guy with a bit of mystery to them don't miss a chance to intrigue her
[X] Flat out deny it. Again.

We actually are single. A bachelor. And Reisen knows Tewi can be a fibber so we might as well tell Reisen we're ac5ually single.
[x] Lie: say it’s the truth and whatever we felt for one another could be our little secret.

Voting for the tengu option. This is the clever and audacious part. Embrace the wilder side, get wild results.
[X] Shrug and say nothing. Leave it to her imagination.

I don't really care about her false impression.
[x] Lie: say it’s the truth and whatever we felt for one another could be our little secret.
[x] Lie: Obviously our waifu is Suwako.
[Z] Flat out deny it. Again.
-[Z]"We're related."

spreading the idea that she's kin should put a pin in most the rumors that could spread through Tewi about us.
Wouldn't that just get Tewi to spread rumors about incest or something?

If were going to start lying let's at least make sure it's about things that matter.
File 146940572796.jpg - (102.71KB, 994x938, scraw some more.jpg) [iqdb]
Gentle reminder that that sort of thing wouldn't be weird unless they were, like, brother and sister (they're not). Even if they were first cousins it probably wouldn't be looked down upon. Japan has a long history of intermarrying with cadet branches of clans and families that's somewhat analogous to nobility in Europe. It's only really in the last century that marrying your cousin has become drastically less common worldwide.

Besides, it's a given that Aya and Hide are related.The tengu are a somewhat small and insular community so everyone is related in some not-too-distant capacity.

With that spirited and utterly pointless response stated, I've been meaning to write and update but haven't had much success because of a lot of different reasons. I'll be giving it another attempt nowish, so maybe there'll be something soon.
The urge to sigh was hard to keep in check. Retreading issues thought solved tried my patience. But it’d do me no favors to show too much emotion either way. Reisen was emotive and generally straightforward – it was easy to understand where she was coming from and easier still to relate to her. The downside to being open was, however, that anyone who wished to deceive knew exactly how to play them given their reactions. That was why I always tried my best to not show too much emotion or interest; it was easier to keep the situation under control.

That’s why my responsive was firm but not too eager. I told her, “Aya is not my girlfriend. So there’s no reason why she would care about anything we do.”

“If you say so...” she nodded stiffly. It didn’t seem like she believed it. “I didn’t mean to imply that you were together like that.”

“Maybe not, but the answer is that she won’t mind,” I said. She had a point – caring was not the same thing as being together. I made an unnecessary assumption. “The only thing Aya cares about is her newspaper.”

“I just don’t want to be the cause for any trouble,” she said quietly, staring down at her empty teacup. Her ears drooped towards the ends, matching the uncertainty in her words. “Getting caught up in something I don’t really understand isn’t my idea of fun.”

“Yeah, that’s a smart attitude,” I told her, trying to figure out if I hadn’t maybe just made a mistake. The more carefree atmosphere from earlier was nowhere to be found. Maybe it was inevitable or maybe it was just my forceful response; I would wager that it was all that she could think about. She sat stiffly and avoided making eye contact too much. So I tried to keep the ball rolling, adding, “I guess it pays to be careful. Still, there’s nothing stopping us from spending a little more time together, so I think we should make the most of it.”

“I can’t really wander off too far,” she said, shaking her head.

“Oh, I’m not proposing anything too strenuous. Just got bored of sitting around,” I said, trying to sound chipper to counter the low-energy in the air. “If you don’t feel like it, though, we can just stay here.”

She sighed. “I shouldn’t. I’ve chores that need doing,” she told me, her excuse sounding flimsy. It wasn’t a lie but it wasn’t the whole truth either. She’d made time to sit down with us earlier, so it couldn’t have been too time-sensitive a task. Her body language indicated that the apologetic tone was somewhat sincere all the same.

“Just my luck,” I shrugged, trying to show her a more carefree smile. Making her feel guiltier about it wouldn’t accomplish anything. “I guess I shouldn’t keep you then,” I told her, “I wonder if I should keep on waiting for Aya here or just forget her?”

“You’re welcome to stay here as long as you need,” Reisen said, chancing a reserved but polite smile as she made sure all the cups were on the tray.

“Hm, thank you,” I said, crossing my arms for a moment. I was trying to give the impression that I was weighing my options carefully. The truth was that I had made up my mind long ago.

As she stood up and picked up the tray, I followed suit. “Just waiting around is boring ,” I told her, “I’m leaving. If she really needed me for something, she wouldn’t have just left me here.”

Reisen raised an eyebrow. But didn’t give me a direct comment. The self-satisfaction in her eyes hinted at what she was thinking, however. But polite company had its rules and her curious spirit from earlier was nowhere to be found. She slid the door open for me and escorted me back to the entrance. “It was nice meeting you,” she said, seeing me off.

“Yeah, likewise. I wouldn’t mind it if we crossed paths again sometime soon,” I smiled, already feeling that the mood had changed significantly.

“Might be nice,” she agreed, returning a smile of her own.

And that was that. I began to walk away as she went back inside with the tray. It only took me a few steps to realize that I was wasting my time walking and I began to fly. There was no sense in making my way out from the bamboo maze on foot – I’d just get lost right away. Eientei was remarkably well camouflaged and even from the air it was hard to make it out between the tall leafy bamboo stalks. I got my bearings by looking for the youkai mountain and began to head on towards home.

The sun was high in the sky. It’d be midday soon. Delivering copies of the newspaper had been quite a bit of work. I was starting to get hungry. Part of the reason I was going back was that I had a craving for a certain stall’s hearty soup full of mushrooms.

It would seem that I’d have to wait a while longer to eat. Somewhere just beyond the edge of the bamboo forest, away from the village and over open terrain, I ran into a familiar face. Rather, she very nearly crashed into me. I only just managed to dodge her. It had almost definitely been on purpose.

“Your reflexes are sharper than what your dumb face would indicate,” she said, stopping to hover just in front of me. Hatate crossed her arms, looking down at me from the tip of her nose.

“Good day to you too,” I said with a forced smile, trying to keep my thoughts from showing on my face. The hell was her problem? Besides being pissed off at the way she got mauled yesterday. That was on her, though.

“Where’s your mistress?” she asked, impatiently.

“Mistress?” I frowned, playing dumb. “I’m currently single, for your information.”

“You know what I mean,” she snapped at me, none too impressed at my attempt at humor. “I lost track of her somewhere around here a while ago. And since you appeared, it must mean that you must have seen her recently.”

“Not necessarily,” I said, meeting her boorish attitude with unhelpful argumentation, “it could just be a coincidence. It’s not like our relationship is anything more than casual and circumstantial.”

“Oh shut up,” she snapped again, shaking her head in displeasure, “I know you’re living with her. And I’m certain that you know where she is. I don’t really care to hear about what being her latest boy toy is like.”

“You know, I think we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot,” I said, ignoring her provocation. I was more interested in learning what her problem was with Aya than facing her down. Aya hadn’t really revealed anything when I asked – just saying that we were alike.

I introduced myself. And got a somewhat fuming introduction, “Himekaidou, writer and owner of Kakashi Spirit News. Now stop wasting my time.”

“Oh come now, Hatate. You can do better than that,” I smirked, “if you continue being so pissy, people are going to start thinking you’re just another petty brat.”

She couldn’t hide the surprise in her eyes. It quickly morphed into outright anger, she then came back at me strongly, “if you already knew my name you’re simply trying to provoke me. Exactly the kind of thing that I’d expect from a scumbag associate of hers. Now I’m going to give you one last chance to tell me where she is,” she barked and clenched her fist menacingly.

Things were edging towards a fight. One that I’d be sure to lose if she moved as quickly as she had the day before. But it wasn’t one that I would back down from if it came to it. She had come at me, so I had to come at her harder. It was a matter of pride, after all.

[] Take the initiative in attacking and try to catch her by surprise.
[] Demand an apology - tell her that she doesn’t know it but she’s making a powerful political enemy.
[] A proper fight is inevitable: keep taunting and provoking her so she makes stupid mistakes.
[X] A proper fight is inevitable: keep taunting and provoking her so she makes stupid mistakes.

If Miss Happypants wants a fight, she can throw the first punch. We're not going to become known for starting fights.
[X] A proper fight is inevitable: keep taunting and provoking her so she makes stupid mistakes.

Don't really want to be the guy who throws out the "do you know who I am?" card
[Z] A proper fight is inevitable: keep taunting and provoking her so she makes stupid mistakes.

I feel this is the only real clever option. The first one would only work if she hadn't seen you yet. now that hostilities are building she's going to be expecting some kind of shot.

Throwing around the birthright card over something so frivolous is weaksauce.

best option is to get in her head, get under her skin, help her make a mistake.
[X] Demand an apology - tell her that she doesn’t know it but she’s making a powerful political enemy.

If this doesn't work, then the entire premise of this story would be meaningless.
[x] Demand an apology - tell her that she doesn’t know it but she’s making a powerful political enemy.

I assume our protagonist knows how to do this properly without sounding like a petulant child, of course. Going into a fight that has no real point to it and that you know you're likely to lose seems like the decision of a plebeian with nothing to lose. It wouldn't do for a future leader.
[X] A proper fight is inevitable: keep taunting and provoking her so she makes stupid mistakes.

We ain't no bitch! We're a smart tengu!
Man, we DESTROYED the mood with that last vote.
As for this one... Taunting her won't do us any favors, pulling on the political card can only show her that we are spineless and attacking first seems dirty.... But no really. Someone has to, it might as well be him.

[x] First strike, trample

Maybe if he wins and doesn't lord it over her... I don't know, Hatate is going to be though.
[X] A proper fight is inevitable: keep taunting and provoking her so she makes stupid mistakes.

No need to fight dirty over a petty matter, that's just a good way to get bad rep.
[x] Demand an apology - tell her that she doesn’t know it but she’s making a powerful political enemy.

Talking to Momiji and now Hatate, we've been in uncomfortable positions from the start simply by virtue of immediate association with Aya. Even if this option seems petulant at first glance, it might serve to better differentiate us or at least lead to further conversation. Like it's been said, we're a budding politician, not a child in the schoolyard. And even if this doesn't work out, we can still fight the good fight without looking the worse for starting it or provoking Hatate into starting it.
File 14694697546.jpg - (124.84KB, 850x531, hatate serious.jpg) [iqdb]
[X] Demand an apology - tell her that she doesn’t know it but she’s making a powerful political enemy.

Oh crap, here come the spoilers!

Perhaps there could be a reconciliation of our ideals without a fight? True progress can only be achieved without bloodshed, after all.

Seriously though, I think that finding some kind of peaceful option is the best thing we can do. I certainly don't want to be getting into fights because of our affiliation with Aya, and with two people that evidently hate her flying around, it would be good to show that we're a separate person, with a separate agenda.

I mean, if I could I'd try to point Hatatatatatate to Eientei, because I couldn't care less about their "rivalry". Put it to rest, guys, geez.

Although, having said that, not knowing why they're rivals in the first place does not give us the best position from a democratic point of view.
[x] Offer to help Tewi search for Aya
[x] Take the initiative in attacking and try to catch her by surprise.

He already said it, she come at him not the other way so now it is time for have at you.
[X] A proper fight is inevitable: keep taunting and provoking her so she makes stupid mistakes.
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I think we have a major disconnect here: the same kind of disconnect in thinking that led to a lot of you being surprised that the previous choice turned out the way it did. My initial instinct is to just not say anything and keep going in hopes that you'll come to realize that you're approaching things with the wrong mindset but in the long run that is just more frustrating for both reader and writer. Some of you don't seem to be taking into consideration the context of choices; why they've come about and what impact they'll have.

I could spend hundreds of words talking about theory for this story but instead I'll try to be succinct: This choice is about putting Hatate in her place. It's a direct result of fighting her earlier on and the choices made that have built up the protagonist to be the way he is. I have been as unsubtle as I could be as a writer in establishing what the tengu are like and how they interact with one another. Don't project foreign values onto them because you'll only end up disappointed and not getting things done. I'd also suggest thinking about what happened the last time you interacted and extrapolating each approach accordingly.

I know it can be hard to think about but I'm not designing things around screwing you over. If you have any doubt and it's reasonable, I'm more than happy to clarify what I mean with something in the story or with the particular wording of a vote. I fully expect this post to be ignored but if I didn't post it, I'd be miserable and you wouldn't know it. And if you didn't know it, you'd wonder why I wasn't updating or why I wasn't motivated enough. Well, besides the external real life factors that vie for my attention that no one can do anything about.

I'm not sure what I'm expecting with this. I doubt anyone will change their vote and I don't exactly favor one choice over another from a writer's point of view. I want the majority of you to understand why they're there, how they make sense in the context of the character and their motivations, and how they're likely to play out. I think some of you are there but the majority is not. Generally, more careful consideration in the future would also be great. I'm not going to be writing anytime soon because, to be honest, I'm kind of bummed out that we're not on the same wavelength about the kind of story this is and how the choices should be approached. If you think I'm full of shit - feel free to call me out too, that's valid. Just explain why. I try to keep an open mind and maybe I'm wrong about things. I just have been writing long enough to know that things won't be good in the long run if we aren't all on the same page.
So basically, if I'm getting this right, our choices are all about being a Tengu and whatever choice we pick is going to be done in the most 'Tengu' manner possible?

I'm >>190757 and I'm going to change my vote to
[Z] Demand an apology - tell her that she doesn’t know it but she’s making a powerful political enemy.

because if this is executed in the most Tengu way possible, riling her up and getting her angry is probably the least good outcome of these choices.
>>190832 after thinking about it, that's an easier way to explain the disconnect. Won't delete my post above because it's also correct albeit long-winded.

tl;dr: You're pretending to be a tengu. And doing things in a tengu way. Approach votes in thinking about how to be as tengu as possible. These three choices are different ways of being a tengu with the clear goal of continuing to be a tengu and accomplishing tengu things without apologizing for it. Attitudes and perspectives can change but at the end of the day you're still a tengu with all the associated baggage. So roleplay as a glorious tengu and prove you're that you're clever, audacious and wise enough lead other tengu. Tengu yourself into shape and accept no substitutes. Also:Tengu, tengu, tengu

So Aya acts the way she does because mind fucking those who aren't as clever as you are into forwarding your personal agenda is encouraged in Tengu society.

Hatate acts the way she does because strong arming and threatening weaker opponents who aren't audacious as you is encouraged.

That's what I'm getting from this.
[X] Demand an apology - tell her that she doesn’t know it but she’s making a powerful political enemy.
[X] Demand an apology - tell her that she doesn’t know it but she’s making a powerful political enemy.

Don't have really anything to say.
Thanks for posting that. I'll try and keep that in mind in the future.
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Hatate stared at me, her contempt just barely kept in check. Her arms were crossed a across her chest and the the tips of her fingers tapped her arms impatiently. There was no doubt in my mind that she could lash out at me in the blink of an eye. There was something a little charming at how on edge she was, I thought – the confidence and unambiguous posturing was sure to be intimidating to someone who wasn’t used to seeing a tengu be serious.

Of course, my body language mirrored hers. There was likely to be no doubt in her mind that I was also serious and that I would act if necessary. It came down to a matter of patience and that was fast running out.

“I’m not an unreasonable person,” I said, failing to hold back the cocky smirk on my face. It was a look that she would also adopt if she were in my position. “Apologize and I’ll forget all about your rude behavior.”

“Quit wasting my time,” she fired back, flaring her nostrils.

“Your ignorance is just going to lead you to ruin. I’m not the type of person you want to turn into an enemy,” I warned her. If I wanted to surprise her, my window was closing. She was listening, but was starting to watch me even more carefully. Soon, if either of us moved suddenly, the other would react immediately.

“All I hear is the mewling of someone who can’t do anything without rigging the odds in their favor,” she taunted.

“Don’t be stupid,” I shot her a glare that would put anyone btu the most foolish tengu on the back foot, “feuds have started for less than this. One day soon I may have a lot more status than I do now and, if that comes to pass, it would be trivial for me to crush you wholly.”

“I enjoy a challenge,” she replied, but her resolve wavered slightly. It was the seed of doubt being planted in her mind. The realization that she didn’t really know me and that that somehow could put her at a disadvantage dawned upon her.

“You attacked me to begin with,” I drove the point home, “any impartial observer would find me in the right. And you should know as well as I do that letting your enemies form a coalition against you will only end in disaster for you. I have no qualms with using Aya to destroy you and your business.”

“...I don’t care who you are, you’re still a jerk,” she said, likely meaning it. But her body language had become less aggressive. Her brown eyes still showed contempt but they no longer showed a pressing desire to translate that into action. She had lost the initiative.

I tried not to laugh. The feeling of self-satisfaction threatened to undermine my efforts. “You are free to think that I’m a jerk,” I said, my smirk morphing into a toothy grin, “I don’t care what you think about me. All I need from you is an apology and we can put these pointless incidents behind us.”

“Only if you apologize as well!” she snapped, bargaining from a position of weakness.

“No, I won’t,” I shook my head, “you attacked me first both times. There is nothing I have to apologize for.”

“…!” I watched as Hatate tensed up again. I thought for a moment that she would lash out, but the fight was gone from her. As if she was dealing with an annoying headache, she said quietly, “I really don’t like you.”

“I like you, however,” I said, gloating at how quickly the reversal in attitude had come about, “to be honest, I’m not very used to having people stand up to me. Usually they know what I represent and barely treat me like a real person. Not that all those things you said about me were compliments, but it’s certainly different.”

“You’re, really, really, really annoying,” she bit her lip.

“I’m sure that the same has been said about you,” I laughed, failing to control myself. Forgetting the annoyance of being assaulted, I liked the thrill of having been challenged. It was also why I had been able to tolerate Aya despite her prodding and occasional barbed comments. I pushed her further, “so are you going to apologize or must start a pointless rivalry?”

“I’m sorry!” she barked at me, sounding more like it was a curse than an apology. Her cheeks had become ruddy with emotion, anger and frustration driving the blood in her body wild.

“That wasn’t so hard, now was it?” I said. Holding a grudge would do me no favors. If I wanted to really show her the difference between us, I had to be the bigger person, “I’ll gladly accept your apology and, in the spirit of understanding, invite you to come back to the mountain with me. We can celebrate our new friendship over lunch.”

“I’m not your friend,” she said, her words lacking some of their earlier vituperative edge. Her expression softened, changing from upset to merely conceited, “besides...”

“I don’t care,” I interrupted. She was going to make things about Aya again, I was sure. “You should learn to be gracious enough to accept these sorts of invitations.” I mused out loud, shaming her, “what is with all the tengu I meet lately not wanting to have potentially useful allies? If it wasn’t for the clans knowing how to set aside differences we’d still be fearful of the oni and all the wolves would be living elsewhere.”

“I really don’t like you,” she complained, but didn’t really disagree with what I was saying. Somehow it didn’t feel like the end of the world that a girl my age was being difficult with me.

I was sure that if I led, she would follow. At least for the time being. So I started towards a the mountain and a meal, the nonsense with Aya going unmentioned.

[] Abstain from being too familiar while learning more about her.
[] Treat her more like a normal girl to put her at ease.

I'd have left this to a write-in but I don't think we're all that comfortable in-character yet. Feel free to tell me what you'd like to accomplish though, I'll definitely take that into consideration either way with the next update. And no, making Aya jealous in hopes of a hatesex threesome is not appropriate! Yet?
[x] Treat her more like a normal girl to put her at ease.
Now both these choices are pretty interesting and I can see merits and demerits for both.

She doesn't like us at all. And we know that. And the main reason by is that no matter what - to Hatate we're too closely associated with Aya and we're seen as Aya's friend and ally.

And that's a pretty decent description of what we are and without some sort of way of resolving or deescalating her conflict with Aya it's going to be difficult to overcome that.

And the thing is she is right. We are associated with Aya. She is our ally and our friend. She's a very important political support for us and we've none each other since we were children so she's either aligned with our clan that we will one day lead or our clans are at least allies.

It's not going to be possible, especially at this stage, to dissociate with Aya (not that we want to or have any reason to do so).

Given Hatate doesn't recognise us she's presumably from a completely different clan. Which makes her a pretty good opportunity to try to connect more and find out what concerns other tengu might have. And in the view point that she'll be reluctant to get close until we manage to resolve whatever the issue with Aya is i'm going to go for

[x] Abstain from being too familiar while learning more about her.
[X] Abstain from being too familiar while learning more about her.

Considering her sheer hostility, I don't feel being too friendly with her would be helpful.
[x] Treat her more like a normal girl to put her at ease.

I'd like to find out more information about this whole rivalry with Aya but it wouldn't be pertinent for asking that directly, perhaps some small talk over lunch while inquiring her about her newsletter and why she started it could help us find a way to segue into that.
[x] Treat her more like a normal girl to put her at ease.

might as well
[X] Treat her more like a normal girl to put her at ease.

Even if he treats her like a normal girl she probably won't be at ease, but it's a start.
Well, that was a little more direct than I was hoping. You don't wanna outright inflict humiliation on your threat victim by telling them to apologize like a teacher after a schoolyard fight. You wanna give them a veiled warning and space for them to maneuver themselves out of the hole they've dug themselves into. Or so the movies have taught me.

But as long as it works, I suppose.

[x] Treat her more like a normal girl to put her at ease.

Maybe attempting to gather a little good-will after that unfortunate start will do us some good. Hopefully we don't push her pride too much.
[X] Treat her more like a normal girl to put her at ease.

Honestly, I feel like I overthought the last vote, so I'm going to take it easy and not worry too much about it.

Whoops, sorry about that, bad connection. That's only one vote, please don't call it votespam.
[x] Treat her more like a normal girl to put her at ease.

The way I look at it, we can treat her somewhat more nicely and put the ball in her court. If she wants to engage, then we'll accept. If she doesn't, then it's no skin off our back.
Besides, if I understand the power dynamic at play here, she would have more to gain by having us as an ally rather than the other way around.
[x] Treat her more like a normal girl to put her at ease.
[x] Treat her more like a normal girl to put her at ease.

I feel like acting normally is a subtle way of reinforcing that we're the superior here. If she wants to go along with it, we might gain her goodwill; if not we lose nothing.
[x] Abstain from being too familiar while learning more about her.

No need to rush things.
[x] Treat her more like a normal girl to put her at ease.

The other votes have pretty good logic and if she wasn't open, she'd have just left. Even if she doesn't go along, I doubt it'd be a real loss.
>Or so the movies have taught me.
The movies have taught us the wrong values for tengu society.

[Z] Abstain from being too familiar while learning more about her.

Treating her like a normal girl might turn out to be insulting, especially since we just let on we're of a higher station.
I led and Hatate followed. She kept her distance, two or so body lengths behind me, as we flew back towards the mountain. At any point she could have easily overtaken me or run away. There was no need for me to keep checking on her as I was sure that she had been deflated enough to keep up the course. For her to break away or act rashly after talking would be for her to admit that she wasn’t able to rise to the occasion. A tengu was better than most of the youkai who were just interested in fun and violence – we also listened and reasoned and were all the stronger for it.

There was no need to change my plans to accommodate her. Going to somewhere fancier just to impress her was just a waste of money. We weren’t on a date and I didn’t really feel like impressing her. Besides, I had a feeling she would just think I was trying too hard if I put on too much of a show. Soup would do just fine.

We circled down into the middle of our village, where lines were beginning to form around the various stalls and restaurants that catered to the hungry working-class tengu. The midday rush brought all sorts of tengu and other youkai together. Whatever else it may have meant, it was a welcome break for most from work. While not as spirited as the conversation at the end of the day, there was still plenty of banter and ribaldry in the average conversation. Communal bonds were on full display and it made me smile despite not really fitting into their particular class.

Hatate remained silent as we lined up together. She seemed to be lost in thought, her eyes somewhat blank and her brow occasionally creasing for fractions of a second. It wasn’t that she was quite unapproachable, but it would have been intimidating to chat her up out of the blue. I could tell that I wasn’t the only one thinking that either; a few stares came from the nearby groups of younger tengu. The checkered pattern of her skirt and the strong contrast between her pale skin and the dark colors drew the eye naturally to her figure. There was no doubt in my mind what they were thinking about, since I also shared those thoughts.

Someone squeezed through the line to go somewhere else. Hatate was forced closer to me for a moment and I felt her body press into my back. I smiled at a tengu my age who had been staring at her for a while. He looked away. I had no need to act outright possessive but it would do to let anyone who wondered that she wasn’t alone. I had dragged her along for a reason, after all.

“What kind would you like?” I asked her, breaking the silence for the first time when were were almost to the front of the line.

“I can choose for myself,” she growled softly, snapping from her daze to look at me with irritation.

“Yes, I know,” I said without emotion, “that’s why I’m asking.”

“I don’t need you to pay for me either,” she said.

“I didn’t offer to,” I replied with a shrug, “this is just a normal question I’d ask anyone.”

“...” she pouted, but opted not to say anything else. I went with mushrooms and she opted for buckwheat noodles, treating the vendor with none of the moody impoliteness she had reserved for me.

Hatate still followed me to find a spot where to sit without prompting. The quiet spot I found that overlooked a steep drop in the slope. It was clear that she was still on edge, the occasional looks she shot towards me said everything that needed saying. But I wasn’t going to feel intimidated by her combative spirit.

“It’s a nice day out, isn’t it?” I said while popping off the lid from my disposable bowl. She sat to my left, at about an arm’s length on another stone. She had already started eating her noodles without waiting for me.

“It’s fine enough,” she said between mouthfuls, her attitude still icy.

“There’s no need for us to be so reserved, you know,” I said, bringing a spoonful of soup to my mouth. I sampled a bit of the still-hot liquid, enjoying the rich earthy taste of the local mushrooms. It was exactly what I wanted. “We’re about the same age, so there’s no need for formality or all those other barriers.”

“So what, if we’re peers, then why are we here? Because we enjoy being together?” she was a smartass about it, her words almost infused with acerbic glee, “or is it because you’re about to confess your undying love for me?”

“This isn’t a date, at least,” I said, trying not to match her harsh tone. It’d be easy to get into a shouting match if I let her drag me down. “We’re just getting to know each other, there’s no need to put labels on things. Friends might be pushing it, but we’re two people who have chosen to get a bite to eat together.”

“Oh joy,” she added, “at least I don’t have to worry about you patronizingly tell me to smile, then.”

“You can act however you like,” I said, “I’m just here to enjoy this soup and your company.”

We stayed quiet for a while after. It was difficult to treat her as normal if she wouldn’t even meet me halfway. Luckily, my patience was boosted by the flavorful meal. Any fatigue that I may have carried from waking up early and doing work was dissolved by the relaxing effect of a nice hot soup. Maybe it was just my impression but Hatate seemed to relax a little after finishing up, too. She put down her bowl and stared out at the vista quietly, her eyes no longer quite so hostile.

“So were the noodles any good?” I asked, adding, “I don’t think I’ve had them from that place.”

“They’re alright,” she answered, her tone flatter.

“What other kinds of food do you like?”

“I’m fine with mostly anything,” she said, “I like roasted yams a lot. But that’s really seasonal.”

“Hm, yeah, those are nice. Shame it’ll be a while before we can get any.”

“So… is this all we’re going to talk about?” she asked, turning to look at me directly for the first time since our earlier almost-fight. There was no anger in her eyes, but cautious curiosity that was so common in our kind.

“I don’t know, what else do you want to talk about?” I asked, smiling, “how annoying I am? How little you like me? I feel we’ve covered both fairly well.”

“We probably have,” she said, “though I can probably keep going on at length about your flaws. Just ask anytime if you want to hear it.”

“I’ll bear that in mind,” I forced a sigh.

“So what’s your deal?” she asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve been trying to figure out why you would keep me around if you already got your apology. Is your ego really that big that you need to keep humiliating me over and over?”

“I’m not trying to humiliate you,” I told her, “honest. I consider the hostility between us from before to be all in the past and I’ve moved on.”

It didn’t seem that she bought it. She shook her head, the hair tails on either side of her head swaying with synchronicity. For a moment, I thought she would sigh. Instead, she chose her words carefully, pausing between sentences, “I don’t understand why you would make a big deal of things to begin with then. If you don’t want to lord over your superior status and you don’t really want anything from me then… I guess I don’t really understand you at all.”

I laughed. It caught me by surprise, too, if I was being honest. She looked at me with a confused frown as I explained, “I told you that I like you. Is that so hard to believe? I enjoyed the soup and am enjoying your company.”

“That’s a strange approach to picking up girls,” she failed to hold back the sigh.

“I’m not trying to pick you up,” I said.

“Good, because you’re doing a poor job at it.”

“I don’t know,” I winked playfully at her, “girls like a little mystery in guys. You just admitted that you couldn’t figure me out. So surely you’ll be thinking about me long after we part ways. Sounds like a winning strategy to me.”

Hatate smiled. It was the first smile I’d seen coming from her that wasn’t contaminated by haughty confidence. Certainly cute because it was unguarded. Maybe she was right about my ego. She shook her head again, stating, “I still really don’t like you. You’re annoying and all that this proves is that you’re not to be trusted.”

“Pretty much anything I could say would probably make you conclude that,” I defended myself, telling it how I saw it. I wasn’t really trying to put her in a corner but it was clear that she wasn’t going to trust me right away.

“Unpredictable and cheeky...” Hatate said, yet again shaking her head, “yeah, you’re definitely not my type.”

“I’ll make sure to cry myself to sleep tonight,” I added sarcastically, “you’re really flattering yourself too, you know. It’s not like you’re necessarily my type either.”

“Then why are we even here, having this conversation?” she asked, like she had caught me out on something obvious.

“Like I said, I like you. So it’s only natural that I wanted to find out more about you.” I then added, in case it wasn’t obvious enough, “and I don’t mean romantically like, by the way.”

“This is the weirdest date I’ve ever been on,” she shrugged, “or the most frustrating one, at least.”

“It’s not a date,” I reminded her. “Also, with the way the other tengu were staring at you while we were in line, I bet you’re popular enough to get lots of offers.”

“Nice try, but I’m not stupid enough to tell you more about my personal life just like that,” she smirked at me, confident in her cleverness.

“I’m starting to feel offended that you haven’t asked about my own personal life,” I joked, my voice somewhat deadpan.

“What’s there to ask about? A spoiled arrogant crow who fancies the infuriatingly smug Shameimaru. I had you pegged for a loser from the very beginning.”

“Ouch,” I pretended she had hit a nerve by miming that my heart had just exploded. An unambiguously sarcastic message.

Once she had mentioned Aya, she wouldn’t shut up about her. Hatate complained about my companion and source of grief without hesitation. There wasn’t much that was interesting in her colorful insults. Sure, mule-headed, vain and pushy were accurate ways to describe her but she said nothing that explained why she thought all those things about her. It was clear that she was getting worked up over it and she seemed to forget herself and forget the hostility she had shown towards me quite quickly.

That is, until she combined the topic with me. “...and furthermore,” she changed the subject mid-sentence, “I don’t even know why she’s chosen to dig her talons into you. I mean, I know it’s probably because she’s a power-hungry harpy and she just wants to use your good name to further the influence of that sorry rag of hers that she calls a newspaper, but it’s not like you’re really her type personality-wise. Sure, a face that isn’t hard to look at probably helps, but I don’t think she’s capable of loving anyone but herself. If I were you I’d stay away from her and forget all about her wicked ways.”

It took every last drip of willpower to not burst out in laughter. Her invective rant was as wildly off the mark as it was amusing. Whatever feelings of loathing and contempt she felt towards Aya, it had become clear to me when she started raving about underhanded and spiteful behavior that there was also a touch of envy there. Of things Aya had accomplished and of the relationships she had fostered. Not only that, but when it came to talking about the newspaper, there was clear jealousy about her own pursuits as well.

What else could I do but have fun at her expense? She wondered what my association with Aya was like and made altogether too many assumptions. The barbs about me she had mentioned would have done her no favors in polite company. So since we were being familiar and forgetting all about status, a little mischief as means of payback couldn’t hurt.

[] Satisfy her curiosity and see if she could really handle the “truth”: detail the “real” reasons why Aya and I were together. Spare no salacious detail.
[] Point out that if she really wanted to get back at Aya, she could try stealing me away. Seduction was a classic way to make someone else jealous.
[x] Point out that if she really wanted to get back at Aya, she could try stealing me away. Seduction was a classic way to make someone else jealous.

Knowledge is power. Maintaining the mystery of his relationship to Aya is going to keep Hatate interested. Despite not being her type (or whatever that means, ha), her intense feelings regarding Aya will make this option quite viable.
I think you misunderstand. Neither choice clarifies our real relationship with Aya, it's a given that we don't. The choice is how exactly to fuck with her.
Apart from that I'm not sure exactly what each choice signifies if anything, so I'm just gonna go with the more fun one.

[x] Satisfy her curiosity and see if she could really handle the “truth”: detail the “real” reasons why Aya and I were together. Spare no salacious detail.
[X] Satisfy her curiosity and see if she could really handle the “truth”: detail the “real” reasons why Aya and I were together. Spare no salacious detail.

Because I don't think Hatate is stupid enough to fall for the other one.
[X] Satisfy her curiosity and see if she could really handle the “truth”: detail the “real” reasons why Aya and I were together. Spare no salacious detail.

Time to mess with her a little. Just a little.
I don't think you should focus on what's believable or not, or could deceive her for any extended period of time, neither option is the kind of thing that would survive much scrutiny.

How you go about something is sometimes more important than the end result. Somewhere between taking planting a seed and watching it bloom there's a lot of interesting things that can happen. Cryptic enough for you? Sorry but I can't say which is more fun without introducing my own bias.
Wait, are we talking to Hatate or Tewi? It wasn't really clear, and we need to apologize to Hatate.
That's me.
I think that I'll change my vote to the other one, then, if there's any hope that it won't get shot down in a single retort.

[X] Point out that if she really wanted to get back at Aya, she could try stealing me away. Seduction was a classic way to make someone else jealous.

We're in the Tengu village hanging with Hatate?
[x] Point out that if she really wanted to get back at Aya, she could try stealing me away. Seduction was a classic way to make someone else jealous.

Solving the mystery will make the MC lose a ton of appeal. Besides, we have to stop making this about Aya and her and more about her and us.
[x] Point out that if she really wanted to get back at Aya, she could try stealing me away. Seduction was a classic way to make someone else jealous.
[x] Point out that if she really wanted to get back at Aya, she could try stealing me away. Seduction was a classic way to make someone else jealous.

I enjoy being a smartass too much to not make a cheeky remark
[X] Satisfy her curiosity and see if she could really handle the “truth”: detail the “real” reasons why Aya and I were together. Spare no salacious detail.

The second choice isn't going to work unless we build up more relationship points with Aya. She clearly doesen't see Hide as a potential partner at the moment.
Wouldn't Hatate lose interest rather quickly if she knew all about our agreement with Aya? She's already mentioned that our tengu isnt her type at all. This presents a unique situation and if we play our cards right then we can build an attraction here.

She's interested precisely because she doesn't know the details and her mind is jumping to all sorts of conclusions.

Just think about it, why did she agree to come along and stick around this long?
[x] Point out that if she really wanted to get back at Aya, she could try stealing me away. Seduction was a classic way to make someone else jealous.

It is the classic afterall and a nice plotline to follow. At last in my hentai games it always works.
I thought we were in the Bamboo Forest with Tewi. Teruyo, I'm certain of this and now you've gone and screwed up the timeline.

Could I have a recap to regain my spatiotemporal bearings?

We had tea with Tewi and Reisen in Eientei. Aya came along and she and Tewi ran off somewhere, then we chatted a little more with Reisen before deciding to go home, but once we flew above the bamboo, Hatate almost attacked us. Now, having vaguely calmed her, we are having tea with her in some Tengu cafe.

I believe that's what's happened recently, but I may have missed some things completely, so a bit of confirmation may be necessary.
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“I just don’t know anymore,” I said, frowning, trying my best to look like I was in the middle of a crisis of conscience. As transparent as I was being, I thought that someone who was so easily carried away demonizing someone else probably wasn’t too keen on sweating the details. Hatate didn’t immediately react with suspicion. Thoughts of Aya and her faults clearly still clouded her judgment. I went further, adding, “I get along with her well enough, but if what you’re saying is true...”

“It is,” she nodded vigorously, “she’s the lowest of the low.”

“...if that’s the case then I’m not sure how I feel about being with her.”

“It can’t feel good,” she said. I got the feeling that she was trying to sound understanding, but she just came off as abrasive and smug, “wasting your time with a harpy who is just using you is horrible. Getting tricked never feels good.”

Normally, I’d get annoyed at hearing something like that, but I was playing a part. My pretend hurt needed to morph into something else if I were to get her where I wanted her. I balled a fist and grit my teeth, overacting because I was sure she was too self-absorbed to register anything but the most blatant of overacting. “No,” my words were stilted, coming from between teeth, “it really doesn’t feel good.”

“I’m sorry that you had to learn the truth like this,” she veered towards more outright sympathy, but that self-satisfied twinkle in her eyes very much undermined the message. A very crow-like thing to do.

“I don’t know what I should do with myself now,” I said, turning to her. It was difficult to keep a straight face. I didn’t know what sort of articles she carried in her paper, but what was playing out was a scene that would make even the trashiest tabloid think twice about publishing. I paused and then, as if sudden inspiration had come to me, widened my eyes and smiled. “What if there was something that we could do to get back at her?” I asked.

“Like what?” Hatate asked in turn, sounding earnest rather than suspicious.

“Your feelings for her are also mutual,” I told her, “before sitting down and talking to you, I assumed that she was right in calling you all those horrible things. So clearly I’m being used and even if she doesn’t care for me like you say, she still cares that I think she cares about me...”

“Yeah, you’re a means to an end,” she nodded, agreeing with the premise.

“So… um, I know it’s a bit forward of me to say this,” I cleared my throat and cast down my gaze, doing my best impression of a bashful young man, “but maybe we should become a couple? Before you say anything!” I preempted the obvious objection by keeping the initiative, “if Aya thinks you’re stealing me away, she’ll be upset and jealous. It’d make her miserable. There’s nothing worse than feeling insecure about yourself and seeing slowly someone you thought was into you be taken away.”

“That’s probably true,” she conceded, nodding like I had just said something profound. She folded her arms across her chest and puffed her lips out into an almost pout as she thought. The conclusion wasn’t very interesting. “I don’t particularly feel like stealing you away,” she said, “don’t take that the wrong way.”

“It doesn’t have to be for real,” I told her, “it’s just enough that she thinks it’s really happening. If we become close, it’d be great, but just seeming like it is enough, don’t you think?”

“Yes, it might be,” she nodded again, actually buying into what I was saying.

“I can’t just break things off with her at the drop of a hat,” I told her, mindful that I’d still be hanging out with Aya for the foreseeable future, “but if she starts noticing a change in attitude from me…. Or if we start meeting in secret. It might take her a while to suspect but it’ll eat her up inside.”

“Cruel,” she smiled, “but I think it’s fair. Love is a battlefield, after all. I guess you’re more than just a pretty face from a good family.”

“Thank you,” I smiled back at her, ignoring the damning with faint praise. “Maybe we could be pretend to be careless in public one day too… be seen holding hands or maybe even kissing.”

“Rumors are what she lives off of,” Hatate didn’t reject the idea, “it might be extra devastating for her to learn about this affair while doing work for her stupid paper.”

Her desire to hurt Aya forwent the feminine modesty that one would expect at such a suggestion. Obstinate and single-minded, I had to admit I still found myself liking her. She had drive, and that was a trait to respect, even if that willpower was directed towards a dubious end.

“Well, I wouldn’t want to make you too uncomfortable,” I said, shrugging, “if you want we can take it slowly...”

“Alright, Tokushige, even if it we aren’t really serious, it’s worth a shot,” she said.

“You should be more familiar with me,” I told her, smiling, “we’re lovers, having a secret affair, after all.”

“Good point,” she nodded again, her hair bobbing. “Um, I’m not really too good at this sort of thing though,” she confessed, her smile morphing into something altogether more sheepish, “is ‘darling’ a little too much?”

“I would have settled for my given name,” I said, trying not to laugh – she seemed to get oddly worked up about such a trivial detail. The anger had evaporated and in its stead was something resembling a normal young girl. “But I’m really fine with whatever, sweetness,” I proffered a lame pet name of my own with a wink.

“Ahaha,” she laughed, letting down her guard some, “I guess it’s something that we can work on.”

“There’s no rush, whatever feels right will feel right,” I told her.

“Yeah, I guess,” her ire deflated, she quickly found excuses to end our interaction. “we should leave it at this. It’s a lot to think about and plan. This is the sort of thing that I’ll try to savor as much as possible.”

“Sure,” I didn’t offer resistance, “we can continue to hash out details some other time. Maybe over dinner sometime? Something proper, not this fast food. So we can take our time.”

“We’ll see, um, honey?”she replied and then shook her head, commenting, “...not sure that one works either.”

“Yes, we’ll see,” I agreed, moving in closer to clasp by the shoulder. She squirmed some, evidently not expecting physical contact with me so soon. Her thin frame felt incapable of harboring those intense negative feelings that I had witnessed earlier. Not willing to leave it at just that, I gently brushed her cheek with a hand. Anything more than that, I felt, would maybe tip her off that I was just taking advantage of her. “I’m glad we had this talk,” I whispered, taking the tone of a lover sharing sweet nothings, “even if we’re not really going out, remember that I still like you. Who knows how this kind of thing will play out?”

“We’ll see, yes,” she agreed, her voice mimicking my own intimate tone by reflex. A dash of color had spread across her cheek, more or less following the brush stroke of my fingers. “A tryst is a very exciting thing to punish her with...”

“Punish… her… with you helping me… even though I’m not your type and you’re not really mine...” I averted my eyes and took a step back, acting like I had just realized how suggestive my posturing was. There was no need to push too hard. I was just getting to know her. I cleared my throat again, “let’s leave things here. Take care, Hatate.”

“Mm, yes, you too,” she spoke as in a daze, lingering needlessly before finally gathering her wits.

I sat back down on the rock sighing loud enough for her to overhear. Youthful melodrama was oh so tiresome. I wasn’t sure where I was going with things but it sure beat having her as an enemy. I waited for her to leave, walking back to the village, before placing my arms behind my head and looking up towards the early afternoon sky.

As the scion of my family, I was expected to know how to court. Though I supposed that I wasn’t applying Father’s advice about dignified refinement at all. It didn’t matter. He was a giant hypocrite anyhow. Mother had hinted that their courtship was anything but decent and dull. What I gathered from our relatives with looser tongues, some of it was outright scandalous. Their personal disdain for us was probably why we only saw them a limited number of times per year. It wasn’t like they showed disrespect directly – they wouldn’t dare – but even as a child I had felt that there was a gulf there.

I sighed, wanting to forget all about the ways of so-called ‘polite’ society. All those lessons on being proper and living up to my birthright just drained my spirit. All the freedom that I had had to rebel I had to use subtly. Being subversive meant being outwardly in line with their expectations and only being able to enjoy the small improprieties I could get away with.

“Hey Aya,” I greeted as a shadow loomed over me. She was my first prolonged chance to experience freedom. Even if she was annoying, I appreciated what she represented.

“You didn’t wait for me,” she said. I tilted my head back down. She stood arms akimbo, but with a broad smile on her face. “I suppose that you were eager to get to your secret rendezvous as soon as possible.”

“Oh, so you were watching?” I asked, knowing full well that she was.

“I was in that tree over there,” she pointed her chin at a tree above us on the mountainside, quite a ways from where we were. “I got a few interesting pictures. I thought you were going to kiss her at one point.”

“Nah, she’s not really my type,” I told her, “you misinterpreted the situation.”

“Hmm… is that so?” she raised an eyebrow.

“Too skinny, don’t you think? Slender legs are fine and all, but I imagine she’s a little bony under those clothes of hers,” I said.

“Yes, I agree, I’m definitely more of a woman than she is,” Aya said shameless, with a laugh.

“You’re definitely curvier in places,” I smirked, thinking back to the bath, “but then again, you have an unfair advantage over her.”

“And what would that be?” Aya asked.

“You’re more confident about yourself,” I explained, “maybe I’m being unfair about Hatate’s body without having taken a proper look, but being comfortable in your own skin goes a long way in enticing others.”

“Oh, what a grownup way of thinking,” Aya praised me, patting me on the head as if I were a child, “I think that things will go just fine tomorrow as a result.”

“What’s happening tomorrow?” I asked.

“It’s why I came to find you in the first place before you rudely left,” she said, “I’ve got an interesting offer that I think will do you a lot of good. But, we can talk about it later. We ought to get our affairs sorted out around here first since we might not be back for a while.”

“...that sounds ominous,” I couldn’t help but remark.

“Oh, it’s nothing too bad, I think you’ll enjoy yourself,” Aya reassured me. “But like I said, we can talk about it later. Let’s go home first, I need your help sorting out a few things.”

“Fine, fine,” I got up and sighed.

We began to walk together. We were close enough that flying was pointless. Aya took a few snaps of the village from the distance while we were at it. Just because, I supposed. If I asked her, I was sure she would tell me that it was because one never knew when they’d see something interesting. I thought about asking her about what happened at Eientei, but she beat me to the punch, putting down her camera as we walked up a narrow path.

“So what do you think of Hatate?” she asked, “besides not being interested in her romantically.”

“She’s okay, just a little too quick to get worked up,” I replied.

“She does have a tendency to obsess,” Aya nodded, “probably not a bad person but a little single-minded. I bet she had a lot to say about me.”

“Yeah, she did.”

“Not much good, I imagine?” Aya asked, chuckling.

“Not really, no,” I said, “she doesn’t like you much.”

“A shame, she could stand to learn a lot from me,” she said, “but she’s predictably stubborn and clearly has an inferiority complex.”

“I wanted to get to know her better, but she sure hasn’t made it easy...”

“I doubt she ever will. It’d probably be really hard to get her to trust you. In fact, I’m surprised that she didn’t just try to punish you for what happened yesterday,” Aya said, “you must be more skilled with your tongue than I thought. Another good sign.”

[] Tell Aya about the ‘agreement’ with Hatate – she’ll definitely want to play along.
[] It’s more interesting to see how things develop without her knowing.


Just reread this thread. It's just been 10 or so days and 4 updates. Things should be pretty clear.
[X] It’s more interesting to see how things develop without her knowing.

This is too good to just spoil all the fun by telling her now!
[X] It’s more interesting to see how things develop without her knowing.

She'll most likely figure it out anyway. It will be more amusing this way.
[x] It’s more interesting to see how things develop without her knowing.
I don't wanna cozy up to Aya too much. Better to be as detached from her as possible, I'd think.
Beside, her reaction should be fun too.

This and the Sanae thing really seem like they could turn into a horrible troublesome mess to me, but hey. It's youth, ya know?
[x] Do not tell her anything

Let's see how this plays out. I wonder if she'll actually get jealous.
[x] It’s more interesting to see how things develop without her knowing.

Aya seems to have just enough jealousy in her for this to be the more amusing option
[x] Tell Aya about the ‘agreement’ with Hatate – she’ll definitely want to play along.

I don't think we could it a secret. Let's not draw ourselves into a corner.

Hell, who am I kidding, the other option will probably end up being the hatesex option.
[x] Tell Aya about the ‘agreement’ with Hatate – she’ll definitely want to play along.

Considering what he just said to Aya, the date would be obviously a set up to her.
[X] It’s more interesting to see how things develop without her knowing.

I wonder if Aya will actually get jealous.
[x] It’s more interesting to see how things develop without her knowing.

But I like Aya AND Hatate! What ever can I do?
[X] Tell Aya about the ‘agreement’ with Hatate – she’ll definitely want to play along.

Feels like I'm pissing into the tide, but it could potentially get really ugly and out of hand if we're not careful here.
[X] Tell Aya about the ‘agreement’ with Hatate – she’ll definitely want to play along.
[x] It’s more interesting to see how things develop without her knowing.

Telling her removes all the fun.

Plus if Hatate finds out that Aya knows that this is a joke she's going to feel really bad
[X] It’s more interesting to see how things develop without her knowing.

Honestly, I like Hatate more than Aya at this point, and I think that while it's fun to mess with her, we shouldn't make her into a laughing stock. We can reasonably infer that if we tell Aya, she will naturally want to sneakily take photos and publish things in her newspaper about this, so I'd rather she didn't know at all.
That assumes she won't figure it out quickly.

I suppose so, but there's a chance we won't get found out if we do it this way. Even if we do get found out, it won't be because of us (so Hatate shouldn't blame us), and we're close enough to Aya that she might laugh it off.
[X] It’s more interesting to see how things develop without her knowing.

This is by far the most Tengu thing to do. Aya is a slippery little devil, at this juncture in the story, we can't really be sure of her motives or political influence. Securing the dumber and more impressionable Hatate as a partner is the safest thing to do. I personally don't think we should seek an alliance with Aya unless we are absolutely sure we're holding aces.

Hatate's straightforward character motivations will let us be forwarmed and ready for trickery and deceite since we already know where her priorities lie. I'd much rather get double crossed by the devil we know than the devil we don't.
It's going to be tough, but I think this is the most enjoyable option here.
I ended up agreeing with her and not saying much else. She didn’t really need to know my thoughts about Hatate. Besides a few polite replies to show I was listening, I let keep her sharing her thoughts without interruption. To her credit, Aya was much more restrained in her criticism about her would-be rival. Most of what she pointed out seemed to be intended to inform rather than merely trash talk. She didn’t want me to have the same failings as her.

They weren’t good character traits for a leader to have, simply put. I wasn’t about to question her motives for driving home that point. At least not to her face. Thankfully, her dismissive attitude meant that she happily changed subjects as soon as the opportunity arose. I was treated to a few observations about daily village life as we climbed up the trail home; Aya seemed to be fairly knowledgeable about who lived where and generally described the daily schedule of the average tengu in between taking snaps with her camera.

Reaching her home, Aya didn’t spare any downtime before getting to work. She urged me to help out as well. After the last run of her paper, all sorts of materials were laying about her house. I put away inks, tools and tidied up most surfaces. The smell of chemicals and inks lingered in the air even after we put away the large drums that were necessary to print the latest edition. Getting rid of the clutter made a huge difference. The house felt at least twice as large without every table being packed with paper and printing equipment.

Truth be told, I wasn’t really used to that type of work. At home, I only took care of my own room. There was no need to worry about the rest of the house. It wasn’t that it was beneath me, or anything like that, it was just something that I had never had to think about. Keeping my wits about me was way more important than knowing how to sweep or wash up. Helping Aya out wasn’t something that I enjoyed but it wasn’t too much of a hassle either – cleaning up only took a little more than an hour with the both of us pitching in.

There wasn’t really much to talk about while we cleaned up. Any talk about fellow tengu or, really, anything other than coordinating our work, was pointless. It was only when we were done and we wiped away the beads of sweat that we got back to our more usual pace.

“A cool drink would be nice right about now, wouldn’t it?” Aya sighed, sitting at a stool at a now-empty work table, “beer maybe, but I think I’d settle for just a drink of water from a stream.”

“Nothing’s stopping you from fetching some,” I said, sitting down on the opposite of the room, near where my hammock was.

“Just thinking about walking is making me feel even more tired,” she said, getting back up with a groan, “I guess we’ll have to just settle for what’s available.”

Aya poured herself some water from the half-full jar she kept by the kitchen area. She offered me some and I couldn’t say no. I drank my cup in basically one go. The room-temperature water was still incredibly refreshing. It was only after we stopped that fatigue kicked in. I started feeling that an afternoon nap might not be such a bad idea…

But apparently Aya wasn’t quite as tired as I was. More than accustomed to cleaning up after every run of her paper, no doubt. “You’ve been a real lifesaver, helping me out like this,” she said, smiling. She poured more water and then sat back down at the stool, “gotta thank you all your hard work.”

“It’s okay, I enjoy doing manual labor for no pay,” I said with a smirk, taking a more measured sip from my cup.

“You’re getting reimbursed in other ways,” she chuckled, “free boarding, chances to network and getting a lot of guidance from me. That’s something all the money in the world can’t buy, normally.”

“Oh yes, your wisdom is legendary,” I said, the sarcasm as heavy as a mountain.

“Don’t be snotty,” she fired back, “I know how things work in the real world much better than you do. I bet that before today, you had never even been as far as the bamboo forest. Knowing your limitations is the important first step to improving yourself.”

“…sure, you know more but that doesn’t mean you’re more clever or wiser.”

“It’s enough to have made your father entrust your care to me,” she said with a shrug, clearly not really wanting to get into a pointless back and forth. “You’re being given opportunities, so at least recognize that. Which brings me to the subject of tomorrow...”

“Right, the mystery trip,” I said with some snark, still not quite ready to tone it down entirely.

“It’ll be a big opportunity for you to show you’re not just a pretty face,” Aya explained, “an acquaintance has had a growing problem with her neighbors could use some help sorting things out. You’ll be investigating and mediating, basically. Exciting, right?” she asked with a smirk, “it’s the kind of thing the tengu in charge here do on a daily basis.”

“Hm...” I couldn’t say I was too excited about the reveal.

“Everyone has to start somewhere,” Aya said.

“I suppose,” I replied. Thinking about it, I supposed that actual governing wasn’t too glamorous. Yet another reason why I wasn’t too motivated to live up to expectations people had of me.

“Oh, you’ll have a blast once you get into it,” she assured me, “don’t look so glum.”

“Right, right,” I held back a sigh, because I felt she was perilously close to being outright patronizing. Instead, I tried to find out more about her planned event, “who’s your friend and where will be going?”

“Didn’t say she was a friend,” she corrected me, ”and I think that explaining where she lives might be a little hard for you to process. It’s somewhere close but also quite far away in a sense. Seeing is believing, so it’ll be easier for you to understand once we’re there.”

“That’s a terrible answer,” I told her. I couldn’t mask the frown that naturally formed on my face.

“It is, I know,” she shrugged, “but I’m too lazy to get into it right now. We’ll be leaving early in the morning. You should take a change of clothes with you, since I don’t know how long you’ll be there. Probably not long, but you never know.”

“How specific,” I sighed. “Are you even going to stick around or will I be on my own?”

“It’s not much of a learning experience if I hold your hand throughout, is it?” she said, “you have to make decisions on your own. I’ll make sure you’ve got everything you need to succeed but you shouldn’t expect anything more than that. After all, it’s not like you’ll always be able to have help.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” I conceded. I didn’t have to like it but she didn’t really owe me much more than that. Still, I wondered why she was being so evasive. “Not going to share any more details about anything else?” I asked.

“It’ll be pretty straightforward, so no need. I don’t want to taint your first impression either with my bias, so it’s best if I don’t say anything else.”

“Fine,” I leaned back and closed my eyes. Still tired. I had to work on my stamina.

“Hm, do you want to take a nap or something?” Aya asked softly, “you look like you’re not long for this world.”

“I’m not used to waking up early,” I said, not bothering to open my eyes, “and all the work didn’t help either. It’ll pass, I suppose.”

“Feel free to go ahead,” she said, “I’m going to develop some film and don’t really need you for the rest of the day. I enjoy your company but I’m not going to take it the wrong way if you rest up or go do something else.”

“A bath might be nice,” I said, stifling a yawn.

“A bath would be nice,” she agreed, “I’m going to wait until later myself. Otherwise I’ll get too lazy and won’t get anything done.”

“Good point,” I opened up my eyes, and forced myself out of the chair. Man, was I ever tempted to just climb into the hammock and give into sleep. I gathered a few things and put them into a rucksack I had brought from home with me. Aya allowed herself to space out for a moment, watching me work, before finally getting up and going to the darkroom. In the few days we had been together, I’d never really seen her just idle around. Even when she was just talking to me, I got the impression that her mind was busy processing several thoughts at once.

No point in thinking too much about her habits. At least, not for the moment. I was half-tempted to ask her to show me how her camera worked. Ever since she’d shown me some of her pictures before, I had thought it wonderful how she could manage to capture the essence of her subjects so effortlessly. But I brushed those thoughts away, too, and chose to instead go back into town for a quick soak. If I didn’t, I was sure that I’d wake up the next morning with a sore back.

As with the day before, the bath was rather empty when I went. A pair of older tengu were soaking in on the men’s side but bathroom etiquette meant that we each minded our own business quietly. I didn’t spend too much time there and got out as soon as I felt reasonably cleaned and relaxed. There wasn’t much reason to linger. Boring as it might be, I thought it might be best to take it easy for the rest of the day. I had to get an early start the next day. Leaving the mountain again was out of the question.

[] Get a blessing at the shrine so that everything goes smoothly tomorrow.
[] The current shift for the guards would end soon. Look for the wolf from yesterday.
[x] Get a blessing at the shrine so that everything goes smoothly tomorrow.

I think we have enough awoo supply from other stories. Shanaenegans is better.
[x] Get a blessing at the shrine so that everything goes smoothly tomorrow.
Sounds more interesting.
[X] Get a blessing at the shrine so that everything goes smoothly tomorrow.

I'm sure we'll have an enjoyable time tormenting Sanae while we're at it.
[X] The current shift for the guards would end soon. Look for the wolf from yesterday

Momiji time. I will not be turned aside!
[x] Get a blessing at the shrine so that everything goes smoothly tomorrow.

Only because it's more open-ended than the Momiji option, which will inevitably end in something less than taking it easy.
[X] Get a blessing at the shrine so that everything goes smoothly tomorrow.

I really like how you've written Momiji so far, but I would prefer to find out how Suwako has reacted to our 'betrothal' to Sanae.
[x] Get a blessing at the shrine so that everything goes smoothly tomorrow.

A blessing never hurts, that and I'm curious what's happened since then.
[x] Get a blessing at the shrine so that everything goes smoothly tomorrow.

I want more from Moriya shrine
[x] Get a blessing at the shrine so that everything goes smoothly tomorrow.
[x] Get a blessing at the shrine so that everything goes smoothly tomorrow.
-[x] Flirt with Suwako
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Sorry about no updates. Originally was waiting for a day or two but then things got busy for me for a while. Now it's mostly a motivation to write issue and I've been trying to pull myself together with mixed results. Inspiration is also a factor and I don't want to just half-ass an update just to get it done. All that said, I'll aim to do something by the end of the weekend if it's possible.

Have an irrelevant character as means of apology.
[x] Get a blessing at the shrine so that everything goes smoothly tomorrow.
-[x] Flirt with Suwako
[X] Get a blessing at the shrine so that everything goes smoothly tomorrow.

The gods must be appeased.

Thanks for the woof! Going straight to my backgrounds folder!
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what did they do to you teruyo

cut him some slack. He's probably taking a break or writing an entry for the contest.
Silence isn't good, he'd at least say something if it's a planned pause.
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Neither of those.

Kicking a man when he's down mostly.

Definitely unplanned. Don't want to throw out any ETAs because I'm not sure I can keep them. It's been hard to sit down, concentrate and write lately. And be happy with results. I'd like to say "expect something later today" but the truth is that it's just as likely to be today as it is tomorrow or a week after.

I will try in a bit, that said, so who knows? I've said the same thing to myself every day for the last few weeks

On the plus side, you are alive at least. That's made me a lot happier to know.

thanks for the status update, we'll be waiting!
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Feeling refreshed, I left the bathhouse. Things were quiet in the village. I thought, briefly, about finding out where Hatate lived but that could wait until another day. I wasn’t much in the mood for looking for distractions in the village. I was looking ahead to the future and that meant facing the unknown.

The playful smile of a certain goddess came to mind. What better way to prepare for whatever may come than to get a blessing? I felt that I was more likely to get an earful of unsolicited advice rather than any real divine boon but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. There was nothing to lose from trying.

I flew the short distance around the mountain to the shrine. I wasn’t in the mood to walk, plus the wind was guaranteed to dry off areas of my body where the towel hadn’t done too thorough a job. The shrine was quiet, looking as solemn as it had the day before. A lone figure stood outside the main building, broom in her hand, methodically pushing dust and leaves away from the stone tiles. I landed near the entrance and walked towards her.

Sanae recognized me as I approached. “What do you want?” she asked, her firm voice being carried far by the still air.

“I’ve come for a blessing,” I replied.

“We’re all out,” she barked, intensifying her sweeping. Clearly, she was none too pleased to see me.

“All out, huh?” I asked and made small talk, trying to figure out her deal, “must have been a busy day then.”

“Just your average day,” she stated, stretching the limits of politeness with her clearly soured expression. I wasn’t too popular with her. And I could begin to imagine why though I didn’t want to jump to conclusions just yet.

“You did a good enough job there,” I said. She was concentrating on the same spot, basically just polishing stone with the bamboo bristles. “There’s a few leaves over there, you’ll be done faster if you move on.”

Sanae scowled, not taking too kindly to my unprompted sweeping advice. She swept harder in reaction.

I shrugged, but was otherwise undaunted, adding, “can’t you just make a new blessing, anyhow? Sounds like the kind of thing a shrine maiden would be in charge of.”

“No, I can’t,” she said, shuffling slightly away from me. I saw right through her pretending. As if I’d think she was actually sweeping a new patch instead of trying to get away slowly. “Some things can’t be done so haphazardly, no matter what you might think.”

“Hm, maybe I’ll ask ask Lady Suwako for a favor then,” I said, placing a finger on my chin, as if I was musing aloud, “it’s kind of a big deal and I’m a little bit nervous about things… I’m sure she’d be willing to bless me right on the spot.”

“She isn’t around,” she made sure I had no doubts that I was unwelcome, “and I don’t know when she’ll be back. Try some other day.”

“Let me guess, no Lady Kanako either?” I asked, smiling because I already knew what the reply would be.

“She’s not here either,” she said, looking a little too pleased at the fact.

“Just my luck,” I forced a sigh. I more or less figured what her deal was. Maybe the more prudent thing to do would be to just leave her alone and not push my luck. My lack of plans for the afternoon may have inspired unnecessary boldness in me. I was confident that I wasn’t going to get burned too bad for playing with fire. I tried not to show any of my thoughts on my face as my lips relaxed into a dumb smile, “at least you’re still around.”

“I have work to do,” reminding me of the urgency of her chore by scraping harshly the stones with quick, punchy sweeps.

“Maybe I can help,” I said, with no intentions of actually doing any work. We both knew that it wouldn’t happen. The shrine could be on fire and she would sooner strike me than let me help.

“I have somewhere where I have to be soon,” she spun her next lie, showing way more patience than I thought her capable of having. “Just go away, I’ll be leaving in a minute.”

“Oh?” I cocked my head, pushing even harder, “maybe I could keep you company on the way then? We can chat a little before we part ways.”

“No thank you,” Sanae looked to be at her limit. Her eye twitched as she tried her best to avoid eye contact with me. She took a few steps to the side, acting like that was the last area that she had to sweep. I half expected her to chuck the broom away and simply bolt.

I wasn’t really interested in seeing her get worked up. If I was reading the mood right, I couldn’t really expect much in the way of coy charm or fluster. And that was fine with me. First impressions mattered – the assumptions she made about me almost completely shut down any real interest I might have had in her. What I wanted was to know why she was being so evasive despite seeing right through my flimsy premise.

In short, curiosity got the better of me.

“I know it must have been very sudden, and it’s a bit much to expect you to favor me with a smile just yet,” I was forceful and reckless, “but surely you can open up to the man who may one day marry you. At least, just a little. Clearly something is bothering you.”

Her reaction was immediate: her arms stopped and a darker, more unfiltered scowl appeared on her face. The resentment that had been there all along, just below the surface, gushed forth and directed itself directly to me. She made eye contact and, almost breathlessly, inveighed, “drop the act, it’s not cute at all.”

“You first,” I said, keeping my cool. If looks could kill, hers would have impaled me on a thousand blades. “You’re not a very good actress,” I told her, “I could tell you already knew from the first moment.”

“And yet you kept at it,” she said, looking like she was holding back a few choice expletives.

“I can understand getting angry, it’s the pretending that you weren’t part that I don’t understand. Especially given your dislike for my kind.”

Sanae raised an eyebrow, her lips pinching themselves into something that resembled a smirk, “unlike you, everyone at this shrine favors harmonious coexistence.”

“Do they…?” I crossed my arms and thought about it. I tried my best not to smile, realizing why she was restraining herself from attempting to beat me into a bloody pulp. She didn’t need any more fuel for that fire. “You told her and she laughed at you, I imagine?” I asked, picturing the scenario in my head. Perhaps I had already been blessed without realizing it.

“No… well… it doesn’t matter!” she blurted, gripping the broom’s handle so tightly that her knuckles whitened. With the frustration dripping heavily from her words, she added, “at any rate she made me promise that I wouldn’t retaliate. I don’t know how she could like someone who tries to make a fool of gods and their servants!”

“I got nothing against the gods here,” I said, “it’s more you. In case you haven’t noticed, this whole land is home to loads of youkai. If you really value harmonious coexistence you have to learn to be more tactful. You can’t blame me for playing a trick on someone who was an ass to me.”

“That doesn’t make any sense at all,” she loosened the grip on the broom and, with one hand, signaled downwards dismissively. “You don’t get to decide when you can trick someone or not… it’s because of that sort of thing why humans want youkai to be exterminated.”

“I guess that’s something you’d be altogether too happy to do,” I needled.

“I’m not going to lose any sleep over someone that’s disturbing the peace,” she replied.

It wasn’t a very diplomatic answer. But it wasn’t an unreasonable one either. Most youkai probably would say the same thing about any troublemakers. Still, given the relationship of her shrine to the mountain, she had to be more mindful. I reminded her of that fact, “I’m not sure your goddesses would appreciate the bad publicity your attitude is going to cause.”

“Oh, stuff it,” she retorted, “just because I promised I wouldn’t exterminate you doesn’t mean that I have to accept your stupidity. Go away, you won’t be getting a blessing from me anytime soon. Nor much more of a rise.”

“I’m not leaving until I get one,” I said, defiant. Even if I hadn’t really cared about one to begin with, getting a blessing had transformed into a matter of principle.

“Lady Suwako and Lady Kanako may not be coming back today at all,” she informed me smugly, her rage giving way to unjustified conceit. The quiet chuckle and little smirk as she turned her attention to her broom was annoying, “you may be waiting for quite some time yet. Now stop pestering me, I have things to do.”

I seriously doubted that either goddess would approve of her attitude. A part of me suspected that she was just looking for an excuse to blow off some steam. Having to follow orders even though you were pissed off couldn’t be easy.

[] Wait for the goddesses to return. They’ll scold her and give their blessings directly.
[] Keep insisting on having her do it. It’s the shrine maiden’s duty whether Sanae likes it or not.

Not the best, but it's something. Even if I changed the focus of the scene, it's probably alright to build things up before trying to write too much at once again. Let's see how things go.

I'm okay with stuff in the threads since I check the site fairly often but I encourage you to just talk to me on IRC if you want more specific answers as to whether/when I'm writing or not. So long as it isn't every 5 mins, it's fine. I'm connected most of the day and, if I'm around my computer, you can expect to get an answer fairly quickly. I don't mind talking about story things, the site or writing in general either. It's always at least a little bit motivating to talk about touhou stuff too. And sometimes that little bump can go a long way in helping get things done.
[X] Keep insisting on having her do it. It’s the shrine maiden’s duty whether Sanae likes it or not.

It's less boring than sitting around waiting, so we may as well bug her.
[X] Wait for the goddesses to return. They’ll scold her and give their blessings directly.

It'll probably take a while for her to give in, if she even does in the first place.
[x] Insist

She does need to blow off some steam. But his approach is terrible. I think they're too alike: way too stubborn for their own good. She has to learn that playing a prank does not justify homicide, he has to learn that, sometimes, attacking head on doesn't work. And they both could use some tact.

I think the point was lost in pettiness, but what good would leaving her alone do? With this, at least, there's some chance that either of them learn something.
[X] Keep insisting on having her do it. It’s the shrine maiden’s duty whether Sanae likes it or not.

I'm thoroughly enjoying the tension between the two.
[x] Wait for the goddesses to return. They’ll scold her and give their blessings directly.

Gotta know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. And now... it's fold 'em time.
[X] Wait for the goddesses to return. They’ll scold her and give their blessings directly.
[x] Wait for the goddesses to return. They’ll scold her and give their blessings directly.

I feel insisting might backfire in the long run at worst and stalemate at best.
[x] Insist

I wouldn't mind seeing how Sanae here reacts
[X] Keep insisting on having her do it. It’s the shrine maiden’s duty whether Sanae likes it or not.

What noble tengu wouldn't insist? a matter of pride, you see.
[X] Keep insisting on having her do it. It’s the shrine maiden’s duty whether Sanae likes it or not.

I don't wanna see San-eye get in trouble. But on the other hand, if she gets so pissed off that she just straight up curses Hide, then she'll be in even more trouble. That might play to our favor though; letting her blow off some steam might put her in a more amicable mood.
[X] Wait for the goddesses to return. They’ll scold her and give their blessings directly.

Suwako interactions are interesting, and I'm not sure if pressing Sanae any more would be wise.
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“I’m not sure that I want to leave you alone,” I said, watching her as she pretended she couldn’t see nor hear me anymore. Though we had progressed far beyond the point of acknowledging that she was actually sweeping the pretty-much-impeccable stones, she kept at it like the path and the shrine grounds in general were full of dust and leaves. Her shoulders and arms moved as she swept briskly, humming a nameless tune. I reminded her, fruitlessly, “It’s your duty to give out these blessings, no matter how upset you might be at me.”

However reasonable my stance was, I found that I was shut out entirely. I found myself thinking that it was a rather nice afternoon. Sunshine, with some clouds, made meditation an attractive prospect. The solemn air around the shrine was occasionally interrupted by a shy breeze that swept from the heights down below. It seemed hesitant to interrupt the silent standoff between shrine maiden and crow.

Of course, that momentary meandering was my way of dealing with frustration. I understood that losing my cool for no reason would just weaken my position and argument. Thinking about this or that instead of Sanae’s very obstinate posturing was a check against instinct.

Her annoying smirk sure didn’t make things easy. She didn’t even bother to hide it as she moved about, occasionally coming to face me as she pivoted. In fact, the intensity of her humming seemed to be directly proportional to how hard I was staring at her. As if that improvised melody was a wordless rebuff to my petition. Figurative rubbing of salt in the wound.

“Are you really ready to incur divine wrath for not fulfilling your duties?” I asked, trying to come off as reasonable. The bigger person of the two. Maybe, just maybe, I was coming off as a little self-righteous, but that was well justified given the situation. “I don’t think either goddess will look too fondly on your pettiness.”

Predictably, she ignored that too. It seemed like she was ‘satisfied’ with her sweeping and she moved towards the main building with the broom slung over her shoulder. The humming intensified into an unnaturally cheery variation of the previous melody.

I followed her closely, not allowing myself to be intimidated by her cold shoulder.

“And what of the reputation of the shrine?” I asked, insisting, “what if word spreads among the faithful that only sometimes can they rely upon their gods? It certainly won’t make you any more popular, at least.”

With some trepidation I intruded into the non-public areas of the shrine. Suwako would forgive me, given the circumstances, I was sure. Or so I hoped. At any rate, Sanae put away the broom in a small closet by the entrance and retreated into the residential part. She didn’t go to the cozy little room where we first met and instead went into the kitchen. She put a kettle on and took out a single cup, as if the message couldn’t be any clearer.

“I’m just going to keep annoying you, you realize,” I said, feeling that even I was beginning to ignore myself. “Just do what you’re supposed to do and I’ll leave, satisfied.”

She poured out some tea for herself. Then she took the cup and left, leaving me to once again follow. I got a brief look at the more intimate areas of the shrine. The small cramped hallway that connected most rooms beyond the devotional areas was dark and full of clutter. Everything from statues of animals to posters with photographs of people I had never seen before lay about. It all looked perfectly worthless to me, but I guessed that those objects must have had some sentimental value to the residents. Sanae went into a room and quickly closed the door behind her.

A cutesy snake and frog held a small sign between them with the occupant’s name: it was Sanae’s room.

“Look, just give me the blessing already,” I said impatiently, knocking on the thin door. I could just slide it open, naturally, but I held off from being too rash for the moment.

My reply was more music. Not her humming but, instead, a complete instrumentation of a high-tempo song I had never heard before. A girl sang the vocals, a girl other than Sanae. Was it magic or some sort of trick? It didn’t matter, all it did was drown out my voice and even my very thoughts.

I banged on the door harder, getting annoyed, “stop pretending you’re better than me – you’re not.”

“...” the stupid song went on.

“Know what?” I raised my voice, making sure she could hear me, “even if I had been interested in marrying you, I’d have been put off by this stubborn streak. No one would be able to put up with someone so selfish! And, if I’m honest, I was lying about you being attractive too!” I dug deep, no longer thinking about being reasonable, instead aiming for being damaging, “no one likes stuck up girls, especially ones with a flat butt like yours!”

Though the music continued to play at high volume, I was sure she had heard me. In fact, I was sure she was…

The door slid open. We had both dragged it open simultaneously. She did not hesitate to stare me right in the eye, her gaze hard and penetrating. The music was slightly louder and blasted from behind her. I couldn’t look away.

“Get out!” she commanded, showing none of the smug composure from earlier. While she had kept her cool outside, there were no signs that she was going to hold back any longer. She shoved me and I nearly tumbled backwards. There was no hesitation to her action.

I dug in my heels. “Just give me the blessing, you annoying brat!” I snapped, following up with another barrage, “I don’t care if you think you’re important and grown up, servant of the gods and all that crap, you’re still a stupid little girl.”

She’d run out of patience. It wasn’t just my words, it was the fact that I was still there despite it all that was driving her wild. She swung but her punch missed as I pivoted just in time.

“Stupid youkai!” she cried out as she tried to kick me as a follow up, “I’m going to teach you a lesson!”

“Bring it on! Someone as stupid and ugly as you can’t beat me,” I forced a smirk as I continued to dodge her wild swings as best I could. No easy feat in the cramped hallway and almost stumbled more than once.

I understood why she kept trying to hit me, too. There was no chance of ‘accidentally’ exterminating me with just punches and kicks. It was about her unleashing her frustration. Hell, I felt like doing the same. I didn’t quite want to hit her back, but I was enjoying my own anger by calling her all sorts of things. It got her worked up and it made her movements sloppy, more impulsive than tactical. A couple of hits landed, sure, but it didn’t hurt me as much as I hoped I was hurting her feelings.

I was sure that her room was quite different than most I had seen in Gensokyo, but I didn’t really have time to analyze all the things that I saw as we more or less grappled one another and danced around. My heart was going as fast as the music and I could scarcely think. Sanae successfully cornered me, holding one of those wooden wands that shrine maidens tended to have in one hand, raising it in anger.

Hard blow or curse, I wasn’t sure which would land. But I knew that it was going to really hurt either way. So I had to respond in kind.

[] “I was wrong about your looks – it’s your toxic personality that will guarantee that you die alone.”
[] “Your behavior will always disappoint your goddesses, making you a complete failure of a shrine maiden.”
[] Some other cruel write-in goes here.
[X] "I bet you can't even give blessings, loser. Good luck finding someone who would actually want to marry a pretend shrine maiden."

For what it's worth, I'm sorry it had to come to this, Sanae.
I should clarify the point of this vote, because upon reflection, I realize that it can seem gratuitous. Going back to a post I made about tengu and the focus of the story earlier in the thread: how you approach trying to get under the skin of someone is more important than this particular case at this point in time. If that makes sense. I didn't want it to seem so dry and mechanical though, hence dialog as options instead of "question her position in society" or "focus on her personal failings" and that type of thing. Hopefully you're also clear as to why this came about because a combination of narrative and reader intent as expressed has been pretty unambiguous but that's a whole different issue altogether.

This definitely captures the spirit for the sort of choice I wanted to lay out impact-wise, just to be clear.
>Hopefully you're also clear as to why this came about because a combination of narrative and reader intent as expressed has been pretty unambiguous

It really isn't, but I've learned to accept these unpredictable results as part of the reading experience.

[x] Why do you bother putting a facade that fools no one and crumbles at the slightest provocation? What I did here is meaningless compared to what real Shrine Maidens have to face everyday.

Sorry Sanae, but when in Rome...
[X] "I bet you can't even give blessings, loser. Good luck finding someone who would actually want to marry a pretend shrine maiden."

More! MORE! I want to bully Sanae more~
>unpredictable results
You see, that really worries me as a writer. Did you just skim previous update? It is unambiguous about the anger and it is unambiguous that both characters dislike one another (with the seeds of that dislike being planted their first encounter - whole reason for the betrothal lie). Hell, it's even outright stated that Sanae promised the goddesses not to exterminate Hide. With stuff like

>First impressions mattered – the assumptions she made about me almost completely shut down any real interest I might have had in her
>She made eye contact and, almost breathlessly, inveighed, “drop the act, it’s not cute at all.”
>it’s because of that sort of thing why humans want youkai to be exterminated.
>realizing why she was restraining herself from attempting to beat me into a bloody pulp

I honestly don't know how you can conclude that there's anything but clear antagonism between the two characters. And how, if the context and content of their interaction doesn't change, it's reasonable to assume it'll be more of the same. Voters seemed to get it too, with plenty of mentions of blowing off steam or getting pissed off and wanting that to happen (or not!) as a result of their votes. Unpredictable in this context would be, for example, a third party who wasn't hinted at showing up or them immediately going out for ice cream for no real reason, out of character, and laughing off everything that had been built up.

If you think I'm somehow wrong, please let me know. I'm willing to accept that I was somehow not clear, but you need to provide me with examples. Explain your reasoning and, ideally, provide examples of the text where you thought things meant something else. This is part of the reason why I ask for comments with votes because it's not a given that writer and audience are going to be on the same page.

If anyone else feels the same way about this or any other part of the story, please let me know. I fuck up often enough when writing and the last thing I want to do is come off as needlessly opaque with either choices or storytelling. I always try to make adjustments based off feedback.
[X] “I was wrong about your looks – it’s your toxic personality that will guarantee that you die alone.”

Don't forget to add a reason or comment.
[X] "You're inferior to the Hakurei Shrine Maiden in every way, she even has better arm pits than you."

As much as I love the other peoples write ins, I can't help myself but make this one.
[X] "You're inferior to the Hakurei Shrine Maiden in every way, she even has better arm pits than you."

Bringing up Reimu sounds like a good idea. I'm in!
Naw man, that's childish as fuck. If you wanna target her insecurities, talk about her performance, conflicting values and power.
[X] “I was wrong about your looks – it’s your toxic personality that will guarantee that you die alone.”

Going with something simple.

How do we know both Hide and Sanae have even met reimu, or that their respective opinions of her match up with the intent of this vote? This type of meta-vote seems silly to me.

Do they need to have met her?
As far as this insult is concerned, Hide is saying that someone with the same job can do it much better.
[X] "You're inferior to the Hakurei Shrine Maiden in every way, she even has better arm pits than you."
[X] “I was wrong about your looks – it’s your toxic personality that will guarantee that you die alone.”

It's more frank on her real problem than "she has shittier armpits."
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>that write-in

[x] “Your behavior will always disappoint your goddesses, making you a complete failure of a shrine maiden.”
Seems like something she'd be a little more likely to be personally insecure about. You know, really go for the jugular.
[X] “Your behavior will always disappoint your goddesses, making you a complete failure of a shrine maiden.”
Are you on IRC at all these days teruyo
How does one find you on irc I can't seem to find your name
I use the same nick as I do as a site administrator: Zer00. You can find me in #eientei on rizon nearly all the time, I'm not on #thp because reasons.
Does each board have its own uh place in the IRC?,Like #others, #border, etc?
Not that I'm aware but there are other thp-related channels out there. Though I can't speak to whether or not they're active anymore. Long story short, #eientei is around because it existed before #thp was a thing and there's no reason to give it up.
[X] "I bet you can't even give blessings, loser. Good luck finding someone who would actually want to marry a pretend shrine maiden."

This feels a bit childish, what with the "I bet you can't even..., loser" "insult", then again this whole fight is really childish too, since it has devolved into namecalling and insults based on appearance.

Saying someone else does her job better is fine, adding the bit about armpits is just silly. To me, that really doesn't fit with the rest of this story, otherwise I might have gone with that one.
Well, that, and the fact that there's been no indication that we know anything about Reimu to begin with. Quite the contrary, we didn't even know the people who live on the same mountain, so why would we know someone from the other end of Gensokyo?
[x] “Your behavior will always disappoint your goddesses, making you a complete failure of a shrine maiden.”

Talking about armpits seems out of place. As it is, I think that jugular looks mighty tasty right about now.
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It was a really, really hard blow.

In fact, it wasn’t so much as a blow as it was a blast of pure rage. I questioned things that should not be questioned. A cruel line about her abilities, about how she will always be a disappointment. It was something said impulsively, without thinking that much about the weight of the words. Whatever the exact words that I used, she would have no doubt that I saw her as a divine failure.

There was a calm as she positioned herself. She stared down at me, directly into my eyes and meted out punishment without mercy. Forgetting that we were indoors, or that we were within an arm’s length of one another, she unleashed a bolt of energy. Something beyond something from a spellcard fight, it punched a hole clear through the wall behind me. There may have been a scream but I wasn’t sure if it was mine or hers. I had barely managed to twist myself out of the way – mostly. The grazing hit spun me from my shoulder, feeling searingly hot when it made contact with my clothes and then skin.

I knocked down a shelf or something. I wasn’t too sure. Didn’t matter. All I knew was that I had to get away, fast. She was going for a second, better aimed projectile soon. The only reason she had missed was that I was too close she had expected to keep getting closer, instead of trying to roll away. I wasn’t thinking about what I was doing anymore. I used my other shoulder to push her away and off balance. Not nice but I didn’t care anymore. I needed some space, I needed to buy time. I ran out into the corridor.

Somehow I managed to escape. It didn’t know if I had been let go or if she was going to come barreling out after me at any moment. I wanted to stop and catch my breath but getting some distance was probably the smarter way to play it after what had just happened. That and I couldn’t really think of anything better to do. I couldn’t really hear my thoughts over the sound of my wild heartbeat. So I scampered towards the front of the shrine, ignored the numbness that was creeping up my legs and stopped by the edge of the treeline.

I sure as hell bit off more than I could chew.

She didn’t hesitate at all to take things to the next level. I wasn’t even angry about her outburst. I may have even been impressed by it if it didn’t hurt so goddamn much. My shoulder throbbed, each pulse an wave of pain that spread down to my arm and chest. I hunched over, placing my hands on my knees as I winced. And gave myself the luxury of trying to breathe. An annoying thought popped into my mind. Maybe it said something about me that I couldn’t forget those angry eyes of hers. Brutally honest.

“Maybe you’re a masochist?” a goddess weighed in.

“Nah, I think he’s just outright bad with girls,” the other said.

“hwhaa-?” I expelled, not quite having the necessary composure for proper diction. Just off to my side the pair of goddesses were standing. Had been standing? I scrunched my brow, trying to make sense of the world.

“You were muttering something about finding Sanae pretty,” Suwako said helpfully, “in between raspy heaves.”

“I...didn’t-” I tried to speak but had to take another deep breath to calm down my heart. It was about to burst.

“Well, maybe not in so many words...” Kanako said, crossing her arms with a smirk on her face. I just gave up and sat on the hard stones, preferring to look up at them from the ground.

“Well, I don’t think you’re in any state to be thinking about what you may or may not have been saying out loud,” Suwako came closer, patting me on the head, “you look absolutely beat.” She laughed, like it was all just a big joke, “girl trouble will do that to you.”

“As will getting into trouble with those with divine blood,” Kanako shrugged. She turned her head to look at her shrine. “I don’t think I’ve seen her this upset in quite some time.”

“You really messed up big,” Suwako teased, tousling my hair, “if you hadn’t gotten out of there, you would have been dead meat.”

“...and we would have had to deal with more permanent damage to our home.”

“Sorry,” I said, not sure what else I was supposed to do or say in that sort of situation.

“It’s okay,” Suwako smiled gently at me, changing it up and petting me softly on the side of the head. “When things are lively, things are interesting. Exactly the sort of environment where goddesses thrive.”

“Ah, so we’re doing that now?” Kanako uncrossed her arms and joined her colleague. She ran one of her fingers on the other side of my head, tracing a path from the top to just below the tip of my ear lobe. It was a caress that soothed some of the soreness I felt in my shoulder, somehow.

“It’s been a while. It’ll be fun, don’t you think?” Suwako turned to the taller goddess, flashing her a clear smile.

“Yes, probably,” Kanako nodded and then turned to me, asking, “how would you like to play a little game? Well, it’s more than just a game.”

“We’ll let you hide behind our skirts,” Suwako interrupted, “so to speak.”

“Our cute little Sanae will be coming out of that shrine to finish the job she started any moment now,” Kanako said matter-of-factly.

“And, well, you don’t seem to be in any condition to dodge one of her flashy attacks right now,” Suwako said, “and I- no, we would be very sad if the most interesting visitor we’ve had in a while got really hurt or died.”

“So we offer sanctuary.”

“Sanctuary!” Suwako giggled, removing her hand from my head to clap. “The powers of a mighty goddess protecting you from disaster!”

“A privilege few ever get to experience,” Kanako explained with no uncertain pride in her eyes, “this divine blessing is something not offered lightly. Nor accepted lightly.”

“In fact, because of an arrangement I have with my most pretty goddess here,” Suwako nodded vigorously, “one of us has to oppose this blessing. At least just a little.”

“So you get both good and bad,” Kanako grinned.

“Mostly good!” Suwako clapped again excitedly.

“So make up your mind and pick one of us.”

“Um-” I had been listening, catching my breath. I had no idea what they were talking about. “But how do I know what’s the good and bad.”

“We’d explain,” Kanako said, taking a step back and looking towards the shrine, “but it seems that you don’t really have the luxury of time.”

“Yep, trust your gut, then you’ll know what we’ll do for you,” Suwako said and then also took a step back. She looked back towards the shrine and waved her hand, shouting, “oh heya Sanae! Come to punish this wicked youkai here?”

Sanae was emerging from the building’s entrance. There was some distance between us but I could tell that her gaze was as hard and focused as before. I sprang up to my feet.

[] Pick Lady Kanako
[] Pick Lady Suwako
[] Screw it – just run away as quickly as possible.
[X] Pick Lady Suwako

Girl's got curse snakes in spades. Plenty reason enough for me to not want her against us.

Besides, I'm kind of imagining us trying to literally hide behind her skirt, and her likely smaller stature gives quite the mental image.
[X] Pick Lady Suwako

Have faith in Lady Suwako!
[X] Pick Lady Kanako

I pick Kanako because there's more of her to hide behind. That and IIRC Kanako may have more authority over Sanae.
[X] Pick Lady Suwako

I feel she'd be able to disfuse things in a more subtle fashion than Kanako.
[X] Pick Lady Suwako

Decided via coin flip.
Why trust your gut when you can put your faith in RNGesus?
[X] Pick Lady Suwako

As much as I'd prefer to hide behind Kanako if you know what I mean he should probably go with the one he has slightly more rapport with
[x] Pick lady Kanako

The most trustworthy of the two- or so it would seem. She seems like a gal who would drive a hard bargain, but pay every cent in full.
[X] Pick Lady Suwako

i just like her better
[X] Pick Lady Suwako

There's no logic to it, but I always feel Suwako's one of those characters you can universally place trust in.
[X] Run away.

I don't think people should turn to God as the catch-all solution to their everyday problems. She said go with my gut feeling, and this is it. I'd rather Hide solve this on his own somehow rather than bet all his money on Divine Intervention.
Independent of your religious beliefs, working with one of the goddesses of Gensokyo is different from "turning to God". This is also a matter of politics.

[X] Pick Lady Suwako
A good public relationship with the Moriya shrine is impossible anyway, given the tension with Sanae. Having an outwardly poor relationship while maintaining a more personal relationship with someone in the faction seems like Hide's style.

Also, I like Suwako more.
[X] Pick Lady Suwako

I'd like to avoid being on the curse god's bad side if at all possible.
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It would seem that there's no chance of me hiding behind the "waiting for votes" excuse. If only I had a goddess I could hide behind instead...

I'll get to writing sooner rather than later if all goes well, so wait warmly.
[X] Run away.
Those two are bullies.
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“That’s a good boy,” Suwako said, smiling as she patted me on the head again.

“A foolish boy, more like,” Kanako added with a roll of her eyes. It didn’t seem she was very amused with my choice. I was sat next to Suwako, putting her between me and the incoming Sanae. Kanako crossed her arms and acted like she was bored of the whole thing already.

“You’re just sore that I won,” Suwako whispered loudly enough for all to overhear.

“You didn’t win, he lost,” the other goddess said in an equally subtle voice before addressing the incoming shrine maiden, asking, “anything interesting happen while we were gone?”

The anger in Sanae’s eyes did not go away as she replied. Her words were polite and deferential enough, but they were stilted and I could tell she was doing her best to watch herself, “nothing very important happened, Lady Kanako. This insolent crow wished to distract me from my duties and kept insulting me. So I had to put him in his place.”

“Is that so?” Suwako spoke up, “that sounds strange to me. We’ve had a good relationship with the tengu for a while. Are you sure you didn’t overreact to something that was otherwise innocent.”

“Um, no,” Sanae tried to state her case, “he wouldn’t leave me alone and kept trying to take advantage of my good nature. He defiled the sanctity and honor of the shrine?”

“Are you saying that he tried to touch you in an inappropriate place?” Suwako kept a straight face but it seemed to me like she was trying her best not to laugh.

“Nothing of the sort! If he had, he’d be-”

“I just came to the shrine for a blessing, she wouldn’t give me one,” I spoke up. And cut off the self-righteous shrine maiden. The resulting look of pure, unfiltered rage would have been enough to boil a kettle. But she held her tongue, ignoring my words.

“It would seem to me that this is a misunderstanding,” Suwako stated, nodding her head gravely, “and I’m inclined to believe that there was no ill intent here.”

“From either party,” Kanako added, adopting a solemn tone. As if she was making a pronouncement on matters of faith, she dictated her view, “we of the mountain must get along. There are those of us who are prone to emotion and acts of pettiness. So by taking a step back, reflecting and finding that we have many interests in common we can smooth over these minor differences.”

“I understand,” Sanae said with a nod, but tried to insist, “however in this case this tengu is a liar and a has no interest in good relations-”

“Nonsense!” Suwako cut her off, “he’s a fine tengu and a fine lad. And, what’s more, under my direct protection!”

“What!? Since when?” she glared at me, saying what we were both thinking. That I had was so incredibly full of shit. But I tried not to smirk since, goddess or no, I bet that she would have gladly tried to punch my lights out.

“Since now,” Suwako said, crouching down. Then she did something I wasn’t prepared for. Or, really, I think most of us present were ready for. She grabbed my head, holding it in fixed position. And then kissed me. Or, more accurately, assaulted me. Her face crashed into my face, her lips aggressively seeking my lips. It was violent, wet and just a little bit demeaning. Tengu elite were supposed to be leaders, not followers! Even if she was a goddess… I didn’t really want to think about the things her tongue did so me, probing and invasive, so effortlessly. At least, I rationalized unable to otherwise react, I was one of the privileged few that knew what a goddess tasted like. Not bad, all things considered. Smacked of determination – determination that caused her to smack her lips as she pulled away. As abruptly as it began, the kiss ended.

“The usual incantation also works, in case you forgot,” Kanako cleared her throat, piercing the awkward silence that followed the kiss. “Though I suppose you’ve always been partial to carnal contact with mortals.”

“Don’t be a stick in the mud,” Suwako chided her counterpart, throwing me a wink, “this was way more fun. Plus it’s a more direct way of marking him. You should give it a shot, too.”

“I’ll pass,” the other goddess said, “besides, a curse isn’t really the right time to kiss someone.”

“I don’t know… a cold kiss can be pretty symbolic too,” Suwako interjected, standing right back up. “Plus you know blessings and curses are way more effective if you actually have physical contact.”

“True enough, but usually we place our essence in food or objects in order to do that.”

“And isnt’ that way more indecent when you think about it? They don’t even know what they’re getting,” Suwako countered.

“Um...” Sanae was exasperated with all the developments, “I really don’t understand what’s going on.”

“I think I’ve gotten the blessing I came here for,” I said, rising to my feet.

“And something more,” Kanako said, staring long and hard into my eyes. I couldn’t look away, feeling like I was stuck in place. After a few moments she showed a toothy grin and looked away. I was able to move again. “Do not interfere with this one again, your goddess commands it,” she said to Sanae, “is that understood?”

“...Yes,” the shrine maiden nodded, looking like she was trying her best to hold back a sigh. She ignored me entirely, her anger receding back inside of her.

“Go be a good girl and make us some tea,” Suwako said, “I need to talk to this cute little tengu in private.”

“Make sure you get those rice crackers I like too, I’m a bit peckish,” Kanako said, clasping Sanae’s shoulder and began to walk her towards the shrine.

That left me alone with Suwako. She waited for the others to enter the shrine before speaking. There was a playful smile on her lips, “was it as good for you as it was for me?” she teased.

“I’d never kissed a-”

“-girl?” she interrupted.

“No, goddess,” I corrected her, smiling for some reason. As far as I was concerned, she could keep guessing at what my love life was really like.

“Well, was it any different than kissing someone else?”

“Putting aside the fact that it was a total surprise, I guess not.”

“I suppose I am out of practice and the circumstances weren’t too good either,” Suwako mused, placing a hand on her chin. “Still, now you’ve got a bit of the divine inside of you.”

“How’s that?” I asked.

“Well, you swallowed some of my saliva, right? I made sure to get my tongue really in there. Essence of a goddess and all… these things work in mysterious ways,” she giggled, not exactly inspiring much confidence in her abilities. A small blonde girl with large, silly-looking hat didn’t exactly scream important and powerful goddess to begin with.

“So what did this, uh, sacrament, do for me?” I asked, shrugging.

“Share my love with you,” she answered. Not very helpfully, I thought. “Don’t look at me like that,” she pouted, further undermining her credentials.

“Like what?”

“Like someone who doesn’t believe that I’m an awesome, caring and powerful goddess. Not to mention that it’s just rude.” She puffed up her cheeks, “makes me want to take back my gift. But then Kanako’s curse would likely kill you outright.”

“I… I don’t feel cursed,” I told her, actually feeling much better than I had before. The pain in my shoulder had gone away almost entirely. In fact, I felt way better than I had after the bath. My body felt especially cooperative and limber.

“Obviously,” she flicked a finger at my forehead, once again not behaving in a very godly fashion. “If she had cursed you harder than I had blessed you, you’d be doing much worse. The point of it is seeing how you handle having both benefits and drawbacks. Non-gods are pretty weird then they only just get power. I’m sure you’ll realizing what the drawbacks are sooner or later.”

“I, uh, see.” The nature of my status was becoming clearer. But, there were still more questions than answers. “How long will this last?”

“Until what Kanako and I agreed upon comes to pass,” she answered.

“And what’s that?”

“A big secret!” she clapped her hands as she gave the extremely unhelpful reply. “Oh, don’t frown now, it’d be boring if you figured it out right away. We wouldn’t have bothered if you could just get rid of our gifts in five minutes.”

They had mentioned it was a game. Maybe that was related…? “So does something good happen if I figure it out?” I asked.

“I win my wager!” she smiled at me, as if that was motivation enough. “Making a goddess happy is a real good thing. Though I guess you’ll be making one happy if you fail too… but that’s probably bad for you. You don’t really want more permanent effects.”

“What permanent effects?!” Naturally, I was alarmed at the thought.

“No point in asking me, I didn’t curse you,” she shrugged, “but Kanako can be a bit domineering, inflexible and even… oppressive, and the curse will probably reflect those darker aspects of her. So it’s probably nothing too good.”

I was liking the deal less and less with each passing moment. But, I supposed that it would be good to know the upsides too. So I asked her about it. “Can I at least know how I’ve been blessed?”

“It’s not really something I can enumerate,” she explained, “safety from undefined evil, a bit of luck and things of that nature. If you’re in a tricky spot and need help, if you believe in me and all my good points, then you’ll probably come out doing fine.”

“I don’t mean to offend, but I’m not sure that makes me feel better. Feels a bit vague,” I said.

A grin that spread from cheek to cheek rapidly materialized on her face. “There’s a thing that’s not too important that will set you apart from others. But also something else. Something very specific that I’m sure you’ll come to appreciate in due time,” she told me. “It might be a bit subtle at first, but if you have faith, you will persevere. The earth is made fertile by those who toil sufficiently and know when to plant their seeds.”

“I’m not a farmer,” I sighed, knowing full well that it was some sort of metaphor. The ways of the divine were not for lesser beings to understand. Or so was the obvious conclusion. Seeing the cheery girl in front of me, I could just about forget that she had placed a big burden on me. It seemed like a ridiculous development that I suddenly had been subjected to the powers of two very different goddesses.

“Listen to your heart, and you’ll figure it all out,” she said. “And if it gets too tough, come back anytime. I can’t tell you anything else but I can always let you put your head in my lap and stroke your head like the good little boy that you are.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I tried not to sound too sarcastic. Whatever grievances I might have had, I was not stupid enough to purposefully antagonize a goddess. They were above me in station for a reason. And to risk their displeasure… that was something I wasn’t so foolish to do. At least not without understanding the consequences.

“Well, we can do more grown up stuff if you like, too,” she said with a wink, “even good little boys enjoy being naughty every once in a while.”

“Ah...” I nodded. Was she-? Yes, she was definitely playing with me. That was the only explanation. I wasn’t conceited enough to think otherwise.

“Tengu sure are interesting, all that pride and other baggage,” she remarked, her face betraying none of her thoughts, “I’m glad we picked you.”

[] There were too many unanswered questions. Could she at least share how these ‘games’ had turned out in the past?
[] Was Sanae always that easy to annoy? She was too stubborn and took things too seriously.
[] Enough of the divine for a day. Thank her and promise to do her proud, then leave.
[x] There were too many unanswered questions. Could she at least share how these ‘games’ had turned out in the past?
[X] Was Sanae always that easy to annoy? She was too stubborn and took things too seriously.

A little more insight as too if this incident was the norm, or an exception would be nice.
[X] Enough of the divine for a day. Thank her and promise to do her proud, then leave.

That's enough for now.
Feels like our main character was just thrust into something annoying. But then again, I didn't vote last time so I can't complain.

[x] Was Sanae always that easy to annoy? She was too stubborn and took things too seriously.
It's gonna be hard to get anywhere even near friendly with Sanae from that beginning, but I think it could end somewhere fun either way. The goddesses are on our side, so it'll be fine fine.
It wasn't quite what I expected, but I'd make the same vote again. This'll be interesting.

[X] Was Sanae always that easy to annoy? She was too stubborn and took things too seriously.

One of the reasons I (we?) voted for Suwako was out of respect for her subtlety. It seems silly to press for more direct answers out of her at this point, as we have enough hints to work with.

But more importantly, we have to check on Hide's new hobby of playing with maidens' emotions. It'd be unfortunate if we just went from three targets to two.
[x] Was Sanae always that easy to annoy? She was too stubborn and took things too seriously.

More interested in this. She went pissed quick.
[x] Was Sanae always that easy to annoy? She was too stubborn and took things too seriously.

I look away for a few days and all my favorite stories update? Hell yes! Time to read through some new posts.
[x] Was Sanae always that easy to annoy? She was too stubborn and took things too seriously.
[x] Was Sanae always that easy to annoy? She was too stubborn and took things too seriously.

Man I am seriously hoping this game isn't "can this tengu seduce Sanae?"
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I can't recall any specifics, but somehow I get the feeling that Sanae route has always been a bad thing on this site.

With, of course, the exception of Lotus Pavilion Sanae. Which wasn't really a route anyway.
[X] Was Sanae always that easy to annoy? She was too stubborn and took things too seriously.
[x] Was Sanae always that easy to annoy? She was too stubborn and took things too seriously.

Suwako is a good fit for him. We want to change him into a hard working person and 'working the earth' (IYKWIM) is the best example of that.
Also, he gets a taste of power and its drawbacks.
Finally, this making temper down his pride. I don't care what Tengu think, pride is the luxury of the strong-and he isn't.
[x] Was Sanae always that easy to annoy? She was too stubborn and took things too seriously.

SOme info would be nice
“You know, when you’re lost in your own head like that, it makes me want to tousle up your hair some more,” Suwako said, not missing a single beat. She lifted her hand up and wiggled her fingers, miming the action whilst raising an eyebrow playfully.

I put aside feelings of being condescended at and kept focus, asking, “I was wondering about Sanae. Is she always like that? It seemed a little too easy to annoy her.”

“Hm...” she stopped moving her fingers, “I’d say you’re not very experienced with women.”

“Uh, I don’t see how that has anything to do with her reaction,” I told the goddess, trying my best not to brag about past experience. It wouldn’t impress her, I was certain and it might even give her more fodder to attack me with.

“A young girl’s heart is a swirling storm of emotion and hope, don’t you know?”

“That sounds like-” I didn’t want to finish that sentence. Somehow, I imagined that she wouldn’t be too amused at my vulgarity. Instead I tried another tack, saying, “I’m just saying that she overreacted and there was no need for the situation to escalate like that.”

“Yes, well, she’s still getting used to life here,” Suwako said, pinching my cheek with a hand. It hurt but I kept myself from wincing. “All of you youkai are so quick to fight, so maybe she picked up those bad habits. It seems that nothing here can’t be solved with a spellcard battle.”

“This was no spellcard battle,” I said.

Suwako let go of my cheek and sighed. “Still, young people these days… you can’t blame them for wanting to fit in. And then getting upset when they realize they’re not being taken seriously.”

“So it’s my fault for disrespecting her?”

She shook her head, “I’d say something about not wanting to acknowldge the mistakes of youth, but I suppose the important thing is that you’re all so lively. And so there’s hope for all sorts of solutions.”

That really didn’t answer my question. Her vagueness bordered on cryptic and were definitely close to being outright unhelpful. I didn’t know whether she couldn’t or wouldn’t say the truth. I had a hunch but I wasn’t convinced either way. Perhaps I had to accept that there were some things she just wouldn’t tell me.

“There is one thing I’ll tell you,” she said, interrupting my train of thought, “Sanae is a good girl. And I’m proud of how she’s turned out.”

“So you’re telling me it’s my fault?” I reached.

“What I said is what I said, what you’re saying is what you’re saying,” she said very helpfully. “In this land it seems that youkai exist to tick off shrine maidens, so perhaps it’s just the natural way of things.”

“Maybe I should learn how to fight,” I said, holding back a sigh. If that was her unsubtle way of telling me that I would always piss Sanae off, I had best be prepared for more conflict.

“Learning to be more powerful isn’t a bad thing,” she said, tilting her head, like she was looking at something stuck on the side of my face, “learning how to live with the consequences of having power is more important.”

“The nail that sticks up gets hammered down, huh?”

“Something like that,” she smiled. I thought she was going to grab my cheek again. Instead, she positioned her arms akimbo, showing off an expression that I would have felt was outright patronizing… if it also hadn’t been so pure. Despite being smaller in stature than me and young in appearance, there was a maternal aura to her as she spoke, “you’re a clever boy so I’m sure you’ll figure out that it’s a little more complex to that. Knowing that you’re about to be hit and what you do after it’s all over is more important in the long run.”

I found myself nodding, though I couldn’t quite say why. She wasn’t being very clear but her words sounded like something I needed to know. Then again, a voice in the back of my head suggested, maybe it was just the effect of her so-called blessing. I felt relaxed around her and though I still kept my emotional distance, I could feel a certain familiarity inside of me that threatened to taint my words and actions towards her.

“I wish you could come in for tea,” she said, once again interrupting my thoughts, “but I don’t think it’s time for that yet.”

“Yeah… maybe some other time,” I nodded, knowing that that was my cue to leave.

“Be well,” she said, giving me a solemn nod, “I hope that you’ll have plenty of interesting experiences to share the next time we meet.”

She capped it off with an enigmatic smile, with two soupcons of what I interpreted as delight and mischief. “Until next time, Lady Suwako,” I said as I watched her walk back towards the shrine, with a gait only possible from someone with an untroubled mind. Goddesses were on a whole different level, I thought to myself. If the path to leading others depended on understanding them, then maybe I was in trouble.

I flew for a while. It helped me clear my mind. Something about the crisp mountain air that helped push away all unnecessary thoughts. I didn’t really go anywhere, instead idling about the higher parts of the mountain, going along with the wind current. There were a few youkai and fellow tengu about, but they kept their distance. If not for the incident at the shrine, I could have confused it with yet another one of the peaceful and uneventful days that we at the mountain were so used to.

Eventually, I had enough self-indulgence for a day. Well, almost. I picked up something to eat before I arrived at Aya’s. I felt like being nice to her. It was a one-time sort of thing, I told myself. Yeah, it was because she didn’t hate my guts.

I found her hunched over one of her worktables in the back with a creepy grin on her face. She was clutching a pile of photographs.

“I see you had a productive day,” I said, clearing my throat.

“Sure, sure,” she said, sitting up to face me. She kept the grin, like it was the most normal thing in the world. “Back from stretching your legs so soon? I thought you would be out until all hours of the night. This being your last day of freedom and all.”

“Come on, give me some credit, I’m not going to fall for such obvious bait,” I sighed, shaking the bag I was carrying in one hand, “I brought us food.”

“Oh, that’s good. You’re thoughtful, I could get used to this,” she said, putting down her stack of photos.

“Too bad I’ll be gone tomorrow then, right? Back to crackers and rice,” I took the opportunity to push back. I set the food down and went to fetch plates.

“Yeah, too bad,” she nodded, getting up and inspecting the meal. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she skipped most of her meals meals, choosing to focus on work instead.

“So, exciting stuff in your latest batch? You were grinning like an idiot,” I asked, setting our places on the small table nearby. “More blackmail material, I take it?”

“Oh how little you think of me, it hurts,” she let out an exaggerated sigh, “I’m all about the art, the sublime capturing of reality in a single frame.”

“Right, sure,” I shrugged, pulling up a chair.

Aya joined me, crossing her arms in mild protest, “just because you come here smelling of strange women and conflict, it doesn’t mean that you know anything. You’re still a hundred years too early to be questioning my wisdom.”

“Oh, I smell of what now?” I raised an eyebrow, like it wasn’t a big deal. I helped myself to food, not bothering to wait for her to explain whatever insight she thought she had. With my eyes I told her that the food was going to get cold if she didn’t shut up and eat.

“Don’t think I didn’t notice,” with a sly smile on her lips, she didn’t let the subject drop, “you practically stink. I’ve a nose for news and I know all the telltale signs of excitement. I can guess what you’ve been up to. Don’t keep giving me the runaround.”

“More like a nose for crap,” I said with my mouth full, not really caring for her insinuations. She was being nosy and she knew it. If I said anything, she’d just use it against me.

“And to think that you still don’t trust me,” she shook her head, “you’d sooner glower at me than take me in as your confidant. How sad.”

“I’m just going to go ahead and keep on eating,” I reminded her, shoveling even more food into my mouth. It was tasty alright, but not as tasty as seeing her feign hurt in order to get me to open up.

With a melodramatic sigh, she helped herself to the food. But it didn’t mean that the conversation was over. Between bites she kept prodding away. A mix of leading questions and personal appeals kept me from enjoying my food to the fullest extent. That was her tactic: to wear me down and get me to slip up, to make it so that I would be forced to say something that I couldn’t take back. Then she’d really know and could use that as a launching point to investigate further. And it wasn’t like her hunches weren’t pretty accurate to begin with – she claimed that there was something different about me, about my presence that she couldn’t quite put a finger on. I had changed somehow, if she was to be believed.

There wasn’t much to do in the evenings after the sun went down. Most chose to see friends and family, socialize and drink. Others read or worked on their hobbies in the peace of their homes. There weren’t very many convincing excuses I could give Aya after we finished eating. So even after we cleared things away and I retreated to my little corner, she kept talking to me. Intermixed with exhortations and reminders about having all my stuff in order for the next day, she kept at the previous subject. With a quip there and a deft remark there, she didn’t really let up.

And I knew that she wouldn’t until I gave her something. Anything. I may have told her the truth if she hadn’t annoyed me so much. Instead, I chose to mislead her just a little bit.

[] Maybe she had advice on how to deal with godde-, er, certain types of secretive older… people.
[] More, uh, truthfully, an afternoon spent training for fights had gone nowhere. Perhaps she could share secret battle techniques?
[] Tease that her jealousy was endearing but that someone’s romantic life was private.
[x] More, uh, truthfully, an afternoon spent training for fights had gone nowhere. Perhaps she could share secret battle techniques?

This probably isn't actually the best decision in regards to Shrine Maiden Problems but it sounds amusing to me.
[X] More, uh, truthfully, an afternoon spent training for fights had gone nowhere. Perhaps she could share secret battle techniques?

I mean, I still believe in the secret Sanae route. Her hating us just means she thinks about us a lot. Not too much different from love, probably.

Having said this, giving this as bait to Aya will lead her away from the right track? In any case, we are a bit weak for all the fights we're picking.
[X] Tease that her jealousy was endearing but that someone’s romantic life was private.

The other two options give her information about our actions spent not under her watchful eye, which is what she's looking for here.

Also, notice how she deftly and swiftly shut down our attempts to pry into her activities. We need to make it clear that if she wants information, she's gotta be willing to give some up.
[X] More, uh, truthfully, an afternoon spent training for fights had gone nowhere. Perhaps she could share secret battle techniques?

I'm curious what the speed demon has to say about battling.
[X] Maybe she had advice on how to deal with godde-, er, certain types of secretive older… people.

suwako route go
[X] More, uh, truthfully, an afternoon spent training for fights had gone nowhere. Perhaps she could share secret battle techniques?

We need to git gud.
Just a reminder that context and wording matters in these choices. They're not simple a simple "what happens next", if they were they might be instead respectively phrased more directly like "Improve your understanding of goddesses," "Learn Aya's ultimate technique," and "tell her to stop being so nosy" for example.

It's the same with a lot of choices and unless it's "do x" or "go to place y" for some reason, it's worth thinking about why you would say and do such a thing with the characters present. Goes back to what I said about being a tengu at some point earlier and behaving like one. This is something that better explains this story since and it's thematically more about learning about one's place in the world and coming to grips with all that; the way you do things and the reason why is more important than what you do, generally.
[x] More, uh, truthfully, an afternoon spent training for fights had gone nowhere. Perhaps she could share secret battle techniques?

I'd imagine that typical Tengu would rather avoid fighting, but at the same time I'd feel they be able to generally defend themselves if push came to shove.

That and if Aya doesn't find out now, she will in a few days one way or another.

Also when will there be a Magician dating update?

>typical Tengu would rather avoid fighting

I don't think that's true. Past experience has shown victory through right of conquest is just as valid as any other strategy.

Also, Aya isn't going to teach us any secret battle techniques. If we were going to get a secret battle technique from her, the vote option would be phrased like so;

[] Spend some time sparing with Aya to learn her secret battle techniques.
[x] More, uh, truthfully, an afternoon spent training for fights had gone nowhere. Perhaps she could share secret battle techniques? a.k.a. " "Learn Aya's ultimate technique,"

>(Suwako)“Learning to be more powerful isn’t a bad thing,” she said, tilting her head, like she was looking at something stuck on the side of my face, “learning how to live with the consequences of having power is more important.”
>“The nail that sticks up gets hammered down? You’re a clever boy so I’m sure you’ll figure out that it’s a little more complex to that. Knowing that you’re about to be hit and what you do after it’s all over is more important in the long run.”

I think it meant that fighting is important, but not overtly so. There are better lessons to be learnt. Like, how to manage power (like the one we have) and predicting other people's actions.

I'm going to choose this one because I want to have a MC that is a decent fighter, but consider the wording of the option, the influence of Fate Stay/Night and other stories on the site, I'm willing to bet this option will result in nothing worthwhile. I hope I'm wrong.

>[] Tease that her jealousy was endearing but that someone’s romantic life was private. a.k.a. "tell her to stop being so nosy"
>(Suwako)“A young girl’s heart is a swirling storm of emotion and hope, don’t you know?”

I'm not sure about this option. It seems like meainingless banter and I can't find a single benefit it may bring.

>[] Maybe she had advice on how to deal with godde-, er, certain types of secretive older… people. a.k.a. "Improve your understanding of goddesses,"
>(About Aya)That was her tactic: to wear me down and get me to slip up, to make it so that I would be forced to say something that I couldn’t take back. Then she’d really know and could use that as a launching point to investigate further. And it wasn’t like her hunches weren’t pretty accurate to begin with – she claimed that there was something different about me, about my presence that she couldn’t quite put a finger on. I had changed somehow, if she was to be believed.

This is an Aya+ Suwako+ option. We'd be confiding in her and, at the same time, using her as we are supposed to: as a mentor. This is, unambiguously, the best option to choose. So I obviously won't.
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>“Still, young people these days… you can’t blame them for wanting to fit in. And then getting upset when they realize they’re not being taken seriously.”

She was talking about you, you dense motherfucker.

>“I’d say something about not wanting to acknowledge the mistakes of youth, but I suppose the important thing is that you’re all so lively. And so there’s hope for all sorts of solutions.”
>“In this land, it seems that youkai exist to tick off shrine maidens, so perhaps it’s just the natural way of things.”

Sanae route exists, but it is hard mode. Which might as well be impossible mode, with our start. >>193247
Forgive us. Slice of life stories (which I can't stand, myself) have mistaught anon for far too long. Worthwhile choices seem to appear only far and between and they often are just route locks.
[X] Maybe she had advice on how to deal with godde-, er, certain types of secretive older… people.

I got nothin' but I'm gonna vote
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"So, at some point I should update this," is a thought I've had multiple times in the last few months. I'm closer now to following through than ever, but there's still a pretty big issue to figure out: it's been a long ass time and I have no idea if the readers have any idea of what the hell is going on. I can't just tell you to go reread because even if that wasn't unfair, you wouldn't do it anyway. I'm not even sure you know what the hell this last update was about.

Solutions I'm considering: writing a simple recap, writing some sort of filler update complete with a choice to remind you of characters and plot, basically just allowing you to revote on the last update so you remember what you were trying to do, fucking nothing and just pushing forward at some point (though I can already see the frustration incoming fast further down the line).

Any thoughts, suggestions or preferences?

PS - saging a reply to a thread no one has posted in for months, not even asking about updates seems stupid, so I'm bumping this. Deal with it sperglords
I think I'll just reread before the week is out, so from where I stand you can do whatever, bro.
A recap isn't going to fix the fact that some Anon can't Tengu. I'm willing to read/vote anyway, though. Secure in the knowledge that we're suffering together, Mr.OP
Make a quick recap and focus on hints about how we should act.

Not like it'll help though. But that's fine. Salt is a given in a Teruyo story.

>Not like it'll help though

Indeed. A shame, since this challenge-to-the-form style CYoA is definitely something this site needs.
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Welcome, dear readers, to Shameimaru’s own personal recap!

This informative pamphlet ought to tell you all you need to know about the crazy and exciting developments up to now in the wildly popular story: “Clever, Audacious and Wise”!

CAW is the story told by a fellow tengu, one who was born into privilege and wealth. As the scion of one of the most prestigious and storied families in tengu society, he is expected to one day lead his fellow tengu, join the council and maybe one day even become a revered elder. That’s still a very long way off and, for now, the Tokushige household is a bit of a loss as to whether young Hidetsugu will ever live up to his promise and embrace his birthright.

That’s where yours truly comes in! Despite being of around the same age as cute ‘lil Hide, I’ve taken him under my wing. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I could not refuse the direct request of an elder to guide Hide in an attempt to get him to stop being a useless dilettante and instead live up to his promise. Tengu leaders are expected to be competent and have a certain perspective on life. Or, at the very least, certain skills. They represent the best of us, after all. All my contacts with the world at large is likely what made them come to me. The boy needs all sorts of experience, they decided.

He’s learned quite a bit from me already. But, I admit, he already had plenty of potential in him. The following quote exemplifies his mindset at its rawest:

“Of course I’m great! I’m rich, tall and young! My eyes that are dark, deep and intense. They complement my general boyish good looks and the head full of lustrous dark hair. I’m a quick learner, no doubt due to my superior breeding and have absolutely no reason to ever doubt myself! I’m leagues ahead of all my so-called peers and any and all wise ass remarks are there to hide just how alone and vulnerable I can feel at times. I love to give Aya a hard time and question her wisdom because I’m secretly head over heels in love with her. But don’t tell her that! I can tease her about some things, but certain other things...”(*)

There have been a few episodes where our shared tengu pride has dropped away to something… more intimate, but these moments are further proof of his promise as a tengu and my own gifted teaching skills. That our jokes and banter have become routine is a sign of how receptive he is to accepting his destiny and my lessons.

But what is a tengu anyhow? This seems to be central to the story. Tengu are intelligent, diligent and cunning. At least the crow are—but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We are great creatures but also ones that accept that our superiors are even greater. It is why the strength of the oni made us subordinate in ages past. But, more importantly, a tengu leader is expected to know best always and to take advantage of any and all opportunities. Those of us who follow yield to his wisdom and trust that he knows what’s best. Hide may be arrogant, but no more than I am when dealing with inferiors. Knowing how to read the situation and manipulate people is something central to our shared identity.

Speaking of manipulating people, I better also talk about his relationships thus far with other characters.

My would-be competitor Himekaidou has gone from pest to something more, well, interesting. I have to admit that I didn’t see their relationship taking this kind of turn. At first she attacked both me and him at every opportunity, part of some spat I don’t really care about. She was subdued when reminded of her place, like any good tengu would. An opportunity arose to mess with her, to manipulate her into thinking that she was acting out a revenge against me by getting her to agree to pretend to be having an affair with Hide. Since she assumed that he and I were lovers, it would follow that “stealing him away” would hurt me. It was a rather clever thing of him to propose; it’s a joke at her expense and an opportunity to neutralize her hostility.

She had the following to say:

“He’s so full of himself, but confidence isn’t a bad thing entirely I guess… and those eyes of his are so dre- err I mean, I’m looking forward to screwing over that wicked-but-incredibly-beautiful-and-smart Shameimaru!”(†)

It’s just a shame that he didn’t tell me about the plan. Perhaps he thinks himself devious enough already to handle it on his own.

Next up is a certain wolf tengu. Had a rough start on account of his association with me. She didn’t really enjoy the idea of conspiring with him or becoming an ally. Typical wolf. They like things to be out in the open and be unambiguous. He’s gone out of his way not to meet her again, though, which is a bit disappointing. I had high hopes for… well, it’s boring to give too much away.

She was overheard saying the following:

“Crows doing whatever they like all the time is annoying! Especially when they ignore you all and go off adventuring elsewhere...”(‡)

There was a pair of rabbits. Met when delivering papers for me one morning. They got on well enough, Hide didn’t make a complete fool of himself, keeping up with the slippery small rabbit’s games and misdirection. The larger one, the one from the moon, formed something of a bond with him. Or an understanding. it would have been sweet if not for the way it ended. A lack of audacity at the key moment. Knowing how to read the mood and how to play to people’s expectations is an important thing to learn. You can open doors and stack your future odds in your favor if you know when to bluff or when to simply leave things unsaid and let imagination run its course.

Tewi said the following:

“He sure livened up my day! After my conversation with that beautiful tengu reporter I’m sure that there’s a lot of fun to be had with him.” (§)

Reisen, on the other hand, had this to say:

“I enjoyed talking to someone who didn’t give me a headache and seemed cool. Still, though, it’s probably best to forget about him since… oh, no it’s not important, I should get back to my chores.” (‖)

Things are a little more complicated with the goddesses of the mountain.

The one in charge of the Moriya shrine is rather ambivalent about him. Usually outspoken about people and things, she was rather more reserved when it came to the subject of the young tengu, saying:

“It’s interesting to watch young people find their place in the world. I’m feeling pretty good about my chances of winning that bet.” (¶)

The shrine maiden refused to speak to me. When pressed, she pouted and said something along the lines of:

“...lucky that Lady Suwako protected him otherwise I would have… how dare he!?” (Δ)

It was the other goddess at the shrine who had a lot more to say about him. To sum it up: she’s taken an interest in him but whether it’s a personal one or something more along the lines of continuing to develop a neighborly relationship with the residents of the mountain is unclear. There was talk of hiding behind her skirt and enticement of certain actions that eventually snowballed into a very dramatic series of events. They involved the shrine maiden mainly, but the other goddess had something to do with it too.

I’ve reproduced one of the less cryptic things she had to say:

“How the abilities manifest themselves… that’s really going to be worth watching. Ah, to be young again!” (◊)

With the first real test for Hidetsugo coming up, courtesy of yours truly, things are really starting to get interesting. How will things turn out? Will he be able to deal with the awesome pressure of becoming a great tengu while also dealing with the whimsy of goddesses and the pressures of social interaction with young girls and others? How will he react when offered shortcuts and cheats towards the path of greatness? It’s all very exciting stuff!

You can hope to find these things and more soon! An exact date hasn’t been set as there’s still a few kinks to work out, so I’m told. Hoping right to it without making sure that there’s enough people left to help move the story along is a concern and it’s part of the reason this pamphlet exists. Something else will be done to test the waters and early reports say it’ll come along in no time at all.

Please let us know if there’s something missing from this pamphlet or anything else that you feel is necessary for continuing the story. Otherwise, feel free to share any and all feedback.


* If the subject were actually to be interviewed, there’s no doubt that he’d spout off something along those lines.

† That girl can’t be near me without frothing at the mouth. But a little eavesdropping and creative reconstruction gets the general idea across.

‡ Ibid.

§ That was the general thrust of our brief exchange which is better left only hinted at because it’s more fun that way.

‖ The girl seemed terminally shy when pushed about what she thought of him. It would be boring to reproduce it verbatim.

¶ Why are those two so evasive? As a journalist who values the truth, it annoys me to no end!

Δ Her ill humor was kept in check by the proximity of the other goddesses, I feel.

◊ This is an exact quote.
Neat, I'm looking forward to this continuing.
cool. still can't remember everything but I guess i'll read again
Damn son, you still got it.
Oh boy this is coming back!
>An opportunity arose to mess with her, to manipulate her into thinking that she was acting out a revenge against me by getting her to agree to pretend to be having an affair with Hide.

This is probably a stupid question, but this is just a silly meta-narrative post and we're not supposed to assume Aya knows about this, right? Same with the Suwako and Kanako thingamajig.
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You can't make meaningful deductions of what Aya does and does not know "now" from the recap. That's not the intention. Maybe it's a serialized version of the story in her paper written in retrospect or something.

I will say that she is a go-getting journalist who is not above inserting herself into the middle of incidents. In the last exchange with Hatate, she was immediately present (see >>190969 ) but whether she was just taking pictures or actually overheard stuff, that's your call to make. There's plenty of more subtle hints as to what Aya knows and when about different subjects. She moves fast, has a camera and is definitely sharp. Since you're not spending all your time with her, she has plenty of opportunities and time to pursue her own interests as well.

I recommend you reread exchanges with Aya if you want to speculate either way. I likewise purposefully didn't expand on the goddess stuff because there's a lot of grey area type of things there as well which you have to think about as a reader. I know, it's asking a lot, which is why before making consequences from previous choices affect events too much, I'll try to subtly restate or work in the current state of things in the updates themselves.

This is one of those stories I'm taking my time to get right. Hence the longer updates and the more nebulous update schedule. I'm avoiding flying by the seat of my pants whenever possible (save for fanservice) and trying to get people more in the mindset of the character instead it being just another slice of life type thing. It's why I also am demanding comments with the votes: I hope that from time to time you guys will stumble upon theories and perspective that you might not get on your own.
>before making consequences from previous choices affect events too much, I'll try to subtly restate or work in the current state of things in the updates themselves.

That's the issue I have with this story. Your vote options contain right answers and wrong answers. People who don't spend enough time reading/analyzing are eventually going to screw things up for the rest of us. Again.
>Your vote options contain right answers and wrong answers.
Let's put aside choices that are about locations or explicitly going to see a character for a moment because those tend do not change character development, plot or relationships in and of themselves. That leaves us with the types of choices that are making a decision about a situation or how to interact with a character at that moment. This is your latest choice or talking to Reisen, dealing with Sanae etc. These choices are not intended by me to be wrong or right by any stretch of the definition. What they do do is help define relationships and future approaches. What's more, any one choice by itself is never designed to have that large of an impact for relationships and most of the immediate effects will be short term (like, I don't know, hypothetically giving a piece of jewelry to someone would have them wear it but it doesn't mean they'll necessarily love you forever).

You may very well say that this is an artificial distinction that an outcome is clearly 'better' than another but I'm not concerned as a writer about that. This isn't a story about waifus nor is it a story necessarily about having every character like you. The plot and the role of characters in plot marches on and is resolved regardless. It may even be interesting to have antagonistic forces since it can strengthen relationships with other characters or solve situations in a different manner. What matters to me as a writer is the character growth that happens as a result of the accumulation of choices with different types of situations and characters. So really there isn't a right and wrong. And I think that regardless of the outcome of a particular vote, it's my duty to make the medium and long term consequences of a series of types of actions or interactions interesting. So think about what you want to accomplish and where you want to go and push for that but don't get too hung up on a single choice. The big picture matters a lot more.

tl;dr you can't be wrong. and even if stuff happens that you don't like, there's usually opportunities to take another direction later on.

>People who don't spend enough time reading/analyzing
I am still enough of an optimist to write for this site and read stories. I believe that you can persuade other voters if you present good reasoning or point out stuff when you vote. If you feel strongly about something, let it be known. I'm okay with stepping back and letting people discuss things instead of just blindly updating. Indeed, one of the bigger disappointments I experience occasionally is when people are timid and don't talk back and forth when an interesting point is made. There's nothing to lose and the story is richer for it. In particular when I feel there's a large enough school of thought I implement some of their ideas into the next update. I can't do that if it's just one guy and no one else seems to agree or disagree.
Not that guy but:

While it may not be your intent, it is undeniable that, since Daft, there has been options that accomplish our objective (usually, to endear us with a girl) and choices that, not only don't do that, but also don't provide anything useful (usually they just make the girl pissed off and locks away interaction with her)

That isn't bad per se, but it is real. Own up; I've been pointing this out like once per story.

Taking this into consideration, please don't get mad again if votes consist of two guys making good points for a vote and the rest following suit. The consequences of failing a vote make this the most reasonable approach.

And, to be frank, I'm not sure you can change such an integral part of your storytelling at this point, nor if I want you to.

The most memorable moments in your stories are often born of "successful" choices:
Tenshi's "call center" confrontation, Alice's awakening and Patchouli s SCENE are but a few examples of that.
Nah, that's BS. You're conflating what happened in ToY, a story which was about a bunch of subplots centered around characters stitched together to make a plot, with most of the other things I've done. When you have dozens of characters, of course you need to find a way to limit which ones have more narrative time. You're looking it at through a romance prism only, which really doesn't make sense always. Particularly in this story. The characters drive the story forward, sure, but you really don't have to be friendly with anyone for things to happen.

>The consequences of failing a vote make this the most reasonable approach.
It really doesn't and if you want me to get fed up with voters, this is a quick and surefire way to do it. I couldn't be clearer about the intent of the story being a personal journey for the protagonist. Just think about why a tengu would choose a particular choice at a particular moment and that's all you need to base your decision.

Alright, I'll try to keep it short.

No, I wasn't talking about just ToY. No, I'm well aware of their faults, No, limiting characters is done by selection choices, not by punishing the player. Yes, it applies to this story because, consciously or not, you've been writing the same story with different characters four times in a row now. And, finally, yes, things can happen if we have a protagonist hated by everyone. It's just that those things wouldn't fit your story.

But, really, the only thing that matters is that you've failed to understand again. Now I have to look forward to the past repeating itself.

I'll not do meta discussions again (for real this time) and I compromise to read and vote, with arguments, five days a week for as long as updates keep coming.

I'll just enjoy the here and now.
And the cycle begins anew. I swear Teruyo, you're stories could pass as Dark Souls crossovers at this point. Can't we just forgive and forget? OP promises to give us a heads up before things go full Tenshi, and we promise not to bring up waifu faggotry again when voting. Unless it's absolutely necessary to uphold and further the glorious Tengu nation.
Awesome, I love being condescended to in such a vague and authoritative manner! It can't possibly be that the guy with all the story notes and flow charts knows what he's talking about when he talks about how choices impact story development. Just because something isn't resolved in a way *you* want it to doesn't make a choice useless or incorrect. And it certainly doesn't make it a punishment.

I'm more than willing to listen to reasoned arguments with an open mind but you aren't doing this here. You haven't provided a solid premise for an argument with quantifiable corroborating evidence. Being talked down to and telling me that I don't understand and implying that things will be shit because of it certainly isn't helpful. So I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish other than being a dick for no good reason. I would appreciate an actual discussion, however. Feel free to either elaborate and explain yourself clearly here or poke me on IRC. Prove me wrong that you aren't just being a pillock on the internet just because you can. As always, I'm open to all feedback if presented in a reasonable manner.

>full Tenshi
You know, that's a really funny thing to bring up in this context. I'm being accused of having clearly 'wrong' choices that only affect things aversely, apparently. But given her circumstances and mentality, it seems impossible to have achieved a breakthrough with Tenshi without picking 'wrong' choices in the first place! It's a great example of what I've been saying all along: just because something seems 'bad' doesn't mean it doesn't have or purpose or doesn't help. Without going into an in-depth character study and relating how her canon personality and influences (on buddhism, suffering and the like) affected things, the simple fact is that the breakdown in communications gave a space for reflection for the character and made subsequent appeals all that more powerful. In short, conflict led to growth when pushed later. If you're not stuck on just immediate consequences you'll see that there's plenty of character relationship arcs that are nuanced and are more than just a sum of 'negative' and 'positive' choices as I think some would crudely put it as.

But yeah, like I said, being the tengu-ist tengu you can is usually the way to go in this particular story.
Just wanna say in the face of this criticism that though I never got to vote for ToY while it was running, I loved the story and how things always took turns which felt real. There's no cover-all option when dealing with people which solves problems and makes them like you, which is why I ultimately liked how stuff like Tenshi and the Okuu+Orin situation was handled from the writer's side of things.

Similarly, I enjoyed this story, as short as it ended up running. I can't wait for it to resume in full, regardless of criticism thrown at it.
Ugh, I forgot to sage. Guess there's no helping it now.
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Thanks man, I appreciate the sentiment. Even if it's for silly things I always try to get into the head of characters and hope to make them not-flat in my stories. Not always easy because people are irrational sometimes and it's hard to show off that side of a character within an appropriate context. It's a side of them that's hard not to insert my own personality into since others' irrationality can be alien to your own. But anyhow, I've always tried to make character development organic instead of contrived for plot purposes. In a slice of life, I think that's the most important thing to pull off well. It may sound silly but when I'm writing it feels like characters do things I don't control or didn't see coming because they take a life of their own to me.

I still really miss writing ToY in particular since it had a rich cast of personalities that were for the most part really fun to explore as a writer. The story there was directly created by the characters instead of just having them be in it and in situations that had no bearing to their background and personality. Interacting with one character instead of another could really change the narrative mood dramatically! Like the old VNs the story was inspired by, I could almost hear a distinct theme song playing in the background for each character and in different situations. I hope that you had fun exploring those personalities too!

I still think about reviving the story from time to time but even less people would read it now and it'd be a futile attempt, I feel. A shame since I had loads of fun with it.

>I can't wait for it to resume in full
A little birdie told me that it could be as soon as the next few hours, circumstances permitting. No hard promises though.
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“Aya,” I said, interrupting another one of her probing barbs. She was going on about duty, responsibility and the role of fine upstanding tengu in today’s fast-paced society. The usual fun stuff. It was all an attempt to wear my focus down to a tiny nub which she could then flick away once and for all with a carefully chosen phrase. Then I’d be sure to trip up and give her all that she wanted.

“Ready to admit you’re a thousand years too early to fool me?” she smirked, damnably so. It was a face that one loved to hate. Even long after we had finished eating, she kept at it, and we had spent some time just talking. She probably felt that I was ready to I’d hang myself with my own careless words and eased off the direct pressure. I was ready for the opening, though.

“It’s not that,” I shook my head, looking as pathetically small as I could muster. Sure, neither of us were fooled, but it was the thought that mattered. “Aya...”

“Yeah?” she asked again, looking slightly irate. Had to hand it to her. She knew a waste of time when she saw it.

“If I may be so bold...” I tried to keep it up, acting reticent, “well, it’s about us.”

“Let me guess,” she sighed, “you can’t stop thinking about me. Every time you close your eyes, you see my smiling face. You long to caress my long, silky and black wings, stroking my feathers gently as I coo in response to your loving touch. Or wait,” she continued, “you wish to instead slather your tongue up and down my shapely thighs, exploring and probing higher and higher until we both lose our heads above the clouds, propelled by the most carnal of pleasures. Am I close?”

“While it’s true that my love for you knows no bounds,” I said, trying to suppress my own damnable smirk, “that’s not quite what I was going to say.”

“Oh, then please tell me, you clever crow. I’m dying to hear what you’re going to say next.”

“Now you’ve ruined the moment,” I huffed and puffed my cheek, doing my best impression of a spoiled princess. Himekaidou’s face came to mind. And I wondered what she was doing at the moment. Felt like my composure was liable to slip away for a moment.

“Unbelievable!” she snapped, “here you are setting me up for some dreadful punchline and you’re thinking of another woman!”

“I, um,” I spattered, thinking how did she know?. Clearly I needed to train face to show less emotion.

“Like I said,” she teased, “a thousand years too early.”

“You’re good at bluffing,” I told her, meaning it.

“I know. If you wear your heart on your sleeve, you’re just liable to get hurt.”

“At any rate,” I said, clearing my throat. We could be at it all evening otherwise. “I was going to say that you’re beautiful. Just that. Not overplaying my hand. Just stating the truth.”

The truth, as it were, was out there. Aya looked me with a sly smile, as if wondering if that really was all I had to say. It was an under performance as far as she was concerned. I half expected her to chide and state that she had trained me to do better.

But I stuck with it. “You’re pretty, deal with it!” I blasted, in a far more accusatory tone than perhaps was usual when complimenting someone. All part of a cunning plan, I told myself. There was no need for her to know about my entanglements with goddesses, shrine maidens or other tengu. If I kept it about her, she’d know I was hiding something, but she wouldn’t know what. It was a foolproof idea, or as foolproof as I could get with impulsive thinking.

“Oh, okay, so that’s what you’re going with,” she said. Being a good sport, she at least humored me. Never mind that we both knew it wasn’t going anywhere. “Thank you, I suppose. Going to state how you’re going to nibble on my ears or something next?”

“No,” I told her, “I’m not telling you that I’m going to do anything to you, just letting you know that you’re attractive. No crime in that, right?”

“No point to it either.”

“I don’t know,” I shrugged, thinking about my nonsense some more, “you use your beauty to your advantage pretty often, so I was just thinking about that.”

“Jealous?” she rolled her eyes, “or perhaps vainly fishing for compliments?”

“Not quite, also shut up, I know I’m good looking,” I said. Why wouldn’t I be? The tengu at top weren’t weren’t just of superior intellect and temperament—they had better looks too.

“You’re so dreamy, I find myself short of breath just by looking at you,” she mocked, resting her chin on her hands. “I’m truly glad to have been born into this world. Since meeting you, I- no, it’s much too embarrassing to admit.”

“Oh, shut the hell up,” I felt like throwing something at her. She’d dodge it but that wasn’t the point. “I was trying to make a point before you so rudely started making fun of me.”

“And what was that point? That you’re a terrible dissembler? Couldn’t fool a senile old lady?”

“If you’re going to be that way...”

“Don’t make me smack you,” she threatened, “I’ve gone easy on the physical punishment thus far, but don’t I’m above that.”

“Oh, I know you’re not,” I groaned. “Don’t think I’m above retaliating. Tengu don’t bully the weak but we stand up for ourselves. Remember might is right, too, though it’s usually a last resort.”

“So, back to your point, before you chose to bore me to death,” Aya made a rude gesture at me, knowing full well that I was just going to take it. Had to admit, a part of me went wild with primal passion when she acted so belligerent.

It wasn’t just disdain that crept into my smile. “You’re much better at using your natural assets than me, is my point. You’re so comfortable in your own skin that it’s hard to believe that you’re doing it consciously,” I explained. Albeit begrudgingly. Part of me wanted to needle her until the sun came out again.

“So you’re asking for advice on how to be as awesome as me?” she phrased it in the most annoying way possible, “I get it.”

“Something like that.”

“Well, it’s not something I really think about,” she said, smiling, “part of it is nature but I’ll admit that there is some deliberateness to it.” She leaned forward across the table, placing an arm under her chest. It lifted and, uh, drew attention to her natural assets. “The good thing about my blouse, you see,” she said with a wink, “is that the top button sometimes gets undone without any prompting.”

I hadn’t noticed it before but, indeed, the top button of her blouse was open. If she leaned a bit closer or if I craned my head, I could see what the white fabric was hiding underneath. “Undid it just now?” I asked, impressed.

“You didn’t even notice,” she beamed, a smile brighter than the lamplight. “That’s practice, sure, but it’s a gutsy strategy that only works if you’re sure that it’ll get to the person you’re talking to.”

“Hm, I see.”

Casually causing a ripple across her chest by lifting and then pulling her arm upward, Aya giggled, highly amused, “it’s not really a strategy you can use. You’re fit enough, sure, but a man’s chest has a somewhat different effect on women than the other way around, don’t you agree?”

“Men are simple creatures in that sense,” I conceded, a foolish grin on my face. I might as well enjoy it, if only because heavens knew other men would kill to trade places with me.

“If you grew out your hair some more, you could flick the end of it casually, pensively, going for a tortured and deep pretty boy sort of vibe. Loads of girls would find it alluring. Swoon-worthy, too. Why, while walking down the street you might get undergarments thrown at you spontaneously!” Aya was tickled by the mental image, evidently, giggling in perhaps a more unguarded way than she wished.

“I think I’ll just stick to what I know,” I said, “sharing a soft little laugh, with a smile that seems like it’s a private treat between me and the other person.”

“Devious,” Aya concluded with good humor. She sat back in her chair, fanning her face with her hand for effect.

“Well, I’m used to tengu, so I’ll admit maybe I'm not ready to go out into the wider world and come out on top,” I confessed, needlessly. I was sure that was part of the reason why I was going to be on my own starting soon.

“You’ll manage, I have faith in you,” she said. If she was being genuine, it was sweet. If she was just egging me on, she did a good job making the lie seem not obvious. As if reading my thoughts, she added with another wink, “you’ll be able to tell, eventually.”

“I look forward to that day,” I said, offering something of an unenthusiastic shrug. Aya giving me the runaround was the least of my worries. I knew she’d be more or less on my side unless she stood to profit disproportionately by betraying me. It’d have to be something once-in-a-lifetime, however, since the wrath of more powerful tengu who expected her to protect me would be sure to follow. That was a truth I did not appreciate much, for it diminished my worth as an individual more than I cared to admit. Having others win my fights for me hurt my pride.

But maybe pride didn’t matter that much. Getting the results I wanted was more important than that. There was a lesson there, surely, and it was one that if I asked Aya about, she’d be happy to teach me. It wasn’t something I wanted her to drone on about at the time. Or ever. Though she certainly made sure I understood that I had to use all resources available to me, I wanted to believe that some things were more important than winning. Like loyalty, friendship or even love. Or perhaps something less hackneyed but along those general lines. I was free to choose to be my own man, that was what I was going to go with.

“Boy, you’re so in love with me, it’s pathetic,” Aya blew me a playful little kiss, snapping my out of my thoughts.

“How am I supposed to reflect and grow if you keep interrupting my damn thoughts?” I complained, with all the firmness of a wet noodle.

“I’m just helping you out, you’ll understand someday,” she offered yet another wink, like it was supposed to be a profound statement.

“Sure, whatever.”

She was so full of it. And yet, I couldn't say that I hated talking to her. Aggravating or not, it was at least always entertaining to talk to her. A lot more than I could say about the people back home and in those horridly dull social circles.

[] Still, Aya has been helpful enough to have earned a tiny little hint.
[] There’s nothing to tell her and no need for advice, anyhow.


So basically when rereading the story in order to write, I got upset at just how fucking dense you guys can be. There were three choices about deception and misdirection. Not only could you go about it in different ways but perhaps you’d get an interesting reaction from Aya in the process. Somehow one choice was literally interpreted as an earnest plea to learn a secret technique like this were some sort of shonen fighting manga. Even after I explicitly told you that the choices weren’t about “what happens next” and that the way you go about things can be more important than the immediate consequences nothing really changed.

Of course, not all of you made that silly leap. Which is why I beg of you to please, please talk to one another and read what other people are saying. Some of the other losers can be insightful at times and, even after you vote, there’s no shame in changing your vote if someone says something persuasive or that gives you a different perspective. The site is a slow place but things do happen and there’s no harm in checking back every once in a while to see if there’s anything interesting going on in the thread. I’m not writing the story to just have my ego validated by the number of votes, I’m writing the story with you and your input is essential.

Listen what I have to say. And read what fellow readers have to say. If you’re ever in doubt, just ask away! I’m more than happy to help out and clarify if there’s something unclear in either choice or update. Minimizing misunderstandings due to lack of proper communication is important. This story will likely not usually have daily updates a lot of the time due to its relative update length and my (sporadic lack of) free time so there’s plenty of time to chill and chew the fat between updates. Take advantage of that fact please.

The direction I’ve gone with the above update is to help ease back into the mindset more than anything. There’s good reason to go with either and potential risk and reward of different kinds. Figuring out why you’d want to have her insight or why you’d rather keep her at a distance is what it boils down to. At least I think it’s interesting to think given the character relationships, how things are progressing and themes of the story.

Oh and I still ask for a comment with the vote, or I won’t consider it. If anything experience has vindicated this little demand of mine.

With much love,

Your favorite idiot who still believes in the dream
Time to make a more conscious effort of analysis, instead of just going by my intuition.

Under the normal THP framework, this is an Aya/no-Aya option. While that is a side-effect, I don't think it is the main point. Instead, this choice is pride/wisdom. As such, I'll choose:

[X] There’s nothing to tell her and no need for advice, anyhow.

I have 3 reasons for this:
1. I want Hide to be more independent, relying on resources and connections created by his own ability.
2. The prideful option feels like 'maximum tengu' to me.
3. While I enjoy Aya's interactions with our protagonist, I don't want their relationship to develop into something more. However, I have a feeling that such a relationship is inevitable.
>And yet, I couldn't say that I hated talking to her.

I disagree.
She's annoying, pointlessly glib and there's nothing special under it all. She's so rarely genuine and serious that it's not even worth it. We'll work with her because of circumstances, but if she wants anything extra from us, I'm not willing to just give it away for free - if she's really interested, she can come after it herself.

I mean, what would she even do with the information? What exactly does our dear Hide stand to gain from giving her a trail to follow or giving her material for nothing? The answer is: fuck all. As a matter of fact it might even please her that we stood up to an afternoon of her needling and interrogating and gave nothing away. This bird isn't my type.

But the real reason is, I imagine this is more of a choice about relying on someone vs trying to do things yourself. Although I'm not sure if this someone is Aya in particular, or more of a general concept. Something like, choose to clue her in and in the future Aya may come to you with news and advice about the goddesses/your weird curse game/whatever, or even get involved.

Or now that I think of it, not telling her might have the opposite effect of inflaming her interest. Fuck, I really don't know. I'll just go with my first instinct.

[X] There’s nothing to tell her and no need for advice, anyhow.

I think you guys are only seeing the surface of this interaction. Aya revealing this particular technique shows that she respects Hide as a rival and potential ally. To throw that back in her face by treating her as a non-player in this game would only serve to lower our standing with a powerful ally.

[X] Still, Aya has been helpful enough to have earned a tiny little hint.

Because this statement is true, and deserving of it's due reward. If we wanted to keep our Moria Shrine visit a secret, we shouldn't have propositioned her for information first. We got outplayed this time, but I'll be a little mindful of what I vote for in the future whenever Aya is around.
[X] Still, Aya has been helpful enough to have earned a tiny little hint.

Hide has a lot to learn, it might be better for him to put down his pride for now, at least until he can get closer to her level.

I should reread this story. Even with the summary there are still some bits I can't remember properly.
What technique, using physical attractiveness and sex appeal as a tool to get what you want?

Oh yeah, what a revolutionary bit of wisdom. Whatever would we do without her?
[X] There’s nothing to tell her and no need for advice, anyhow.

I want him to figure things out on his own. I don't see this as 'rejecting Aya', but more like 'stand back and hold my drink'. Tengu pride or whatever. I'm not good at this.
Not sure that it's like asking for her help. I see it more like learning to use potential assets thing. migh get something at little cost. If she wanted to she could probably just dig up stuff so it's not a big deal to show a little good faith.

[X] Still, Aya has been helpful enough to have earned a tiny little hint.
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More like how important it is to carefully plan locations, attire, and circumstances for interactions way before they actually occur.

As readers, it's definitely something we might have considered ourselves, so you're right in saying it's not worth much. However: you know what else isn't worth much? The trivial information Aya is asking about.

I don't think doing things alone is what it means to have Tengu pride. I think it's more along the lines of being able to establish beneficial relationships with your confidants, despite things such as feelings, social hierarchy, and race.

Chill dude. Don't let your feelings come before business.

I agree with you.
>despite things such as feelings, social hierarchy, and race

That sure doesn't sound like pride to me. It sounds like wisdom. I intentionally voted for Hide to not make the 'objectively optimal' choice. It's not what I want to see in the story.

Well, I was kinda just brainstorming ideas based off the literal definition of pride, and how I think it would apply to Tengu.

Fair enough. We know that the tengu are a hierarchical society, so their pride would probably prevent them from accepting offered advice or assistance from those below them. On the other hand, they would be happy to receive the same from someone above them, like Aya. However, a rising tengu like Hide would see themselves as higher than their station, possibly refusing 'charity' in an attempt to prove themselves. It is certainly an adolescent attitude, but it is not out of place.

Uh, no I don't think that's the case at all. What you've outlined sounds more like how the Human social and class structure works. I think a Tengu would help and accept help from anyone so long as the benefits outweigh the costs. That's why I don't think pride factors into this situation in the way some Anon think.
I don't know, I don't think it's very justifiable given Hide's past behaviour. He's clearly shown to be cool with being under Aya, learning from her, acknowledging her superior experience and whatnot. I don't think the pride angle makes sense.
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While I'm patient and in no real rush, it seems unlikely that we'll get any additional votes or opinions. Anyone who cares about the story has had plenty of time to see it by now. And I would like to keep the story moving along even if I will no doubt procrastinate when it comes to actually writing. Seems inappropriate to do a coin flip after all the effort you've put in. Maybe one of you will change your mind? I don't know. I'd like to sort this out without it coming down to me or to luck so a few more days of waiting, I guess.
Oookay, how about I sum up everything I got from the past couple updates, to sort out my thoughts, since I wasn't totally sure about my choice. I might get something I missed last time around, and someone can add on if they like or spot something. I did get a bit confused since the topic shifted around so much.

Okay, so the opening scenario is coming back from the whole debacle at Sanae's shrine, with Suwako giving some crappy fortune-cookie life advice. Fine.

Then we get to Aya who's grinning like a weirdo and clutching a bunch of photographs. Dollars to donuts it has something to do with our protagonist. Anyway, he asks her about it and she cleverly diverts the focus by calling out him 'smelling like strange women and conflict'. Whether this was a directed bluff (like one of those cold-reading tricks) or if she actually knew anything is unclear.

Either way she wanted to know more, and we got a choice on how to deal with it. I'm still not certain of the implications of each choice, but I suppose the main thing was the attempt to make the conversation about her. Turn it around, as it were.

It mostly works and they get into a little banter about using their natural abilities and so on. I don't wanna expound on it here, re-read it yourself if you want to. Then we come into the important part for the choice, where Hide muses a bit, coming down to something like this sentiment: "I can do whatever I must to 'win' like a real tengu, or I can chillax." So basically the line of thought goes something like this:

Man, it sucks that I have to rely on my pedigree not to get metaphorically fucked by Aya.
If I said that to her, she'd say that I should use everything I have to my advantage.
But I'm a young dork, so I'm still figuring out where my priorities lie and want to believe I'm not that cynical about life

Soo, what then? Well, Hide seems to have successfully diverted the conversation from what he was doing in the afternoon, and the choice is whether to just give Aya what she wants or clam up. IF this mirrors the ideas just discussed, then not saying anything would be 'winning' by accomplishing the original goal, while telling her would be going back and buddying up a bit, or valuing the relationship with her more than the alternative. Something like that, perhaps.

What made this a bit muddled to think about for me until I sat down and wrote is was 1: the fact that giving Aya what she wants has absolutely no guarantee that she'll look favourably on us or improve our relationship, which would be the main thrust behind the choice in the first place, since she's kind of unpredictable like that. And second, the clam up option has the whole previously discussed pride part on top of it, which I think is just incidental and doesn't have to do with the main point of the choice.

Anyway, that's what I think. I'm sticking with my choice of saying nothing because I kinda wanna push Hide towards a more cold, tengu-like disposition. I don't think he'll gain anything from associating any more with Aya. It's pointless.
Besides, I still don't like her. These omniscient character archetypes irritate me.

As an addendum, it's also clear which side of the spectrum Hide thinks Aya falls on. He doesn't even entertain for one second the idea that she might consider not fucking him over if there were enough to gain from doing so.
[X] There’s nothing to tell her and no need for advice, anyhow.

I'll gift you the vote break, I guess. I was holding back on voting since I was still unsure on how to proceed, but ultimately playing into others' hands isn't what I feel is best to go for, even if there's little left to lose.

Most fundamentally, I feel it's best to go down a path which leads to more self-reflection on Hide's part instead of throwing his judgement and path into the hands of others.
I like Aya. She has been pretty useful in past encounters and she's usually strict but kind and playful.

However, she seems different in the last update, lording her superiority over him, as if she needed to prove something (she really doesn't)
Is she angry that he hasn't told her about the Hatate situation?? No, that was just her acting as an omniscient narrator. Is she still trying to instill humility in him? Well, she can't know, but he was enmasculated pretty hard just now. So I guess the common response would be to
[X] not tell her anything

I didn't want to vote because there isn't as much thought behind this as the other votes, but I guess you would find this better than a flipped coin, OP.
Fucking hell this story is going to be the very death of me.

Nope. Never. I had a whole paragraph response thought up earlier, but now I can't find the energy to post it. I will say I think this Aya's character is absolutely beautiful and very Tengu.
> I was holding back on voting since I was still unsure on how to proceed,
>I didn't want to vote because there isn't as much thought behind this as the other votes
>I had a whole paragraph response thought up earlier, but now I can't find the energy to post it.

Christ above, you're all a bunch of dopes.
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Sorry for not updating. Been busy, unmotivated and lazy to varying degrees. As the next update is relatively big and important, I've been recently thinking of changing up things and possibly splitting up stuff so it doesn't just hit you all at once without giving you time to soak things in. Yeah, that's an incredibly convenient excuse for me to continue being lazy but it's something I hope to work out soon enough. ETA: ranging from a few hours from now until a few days from now. Will depend on how much concentration and motivation I can muster.

Also >>196730 is right. You're a bunch of dopes. Just fucking go for it, you lily-livered wastrels. There is absolutely nothing to lose. If you're afraid of looking stupid, take solace in the fact that I'm a much bigger moron than everyone else here and you'll never top that.
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Yo Tman, Hows about you include a "Tengu Tutorial" in the next few updates. Like...include the exact short term and long term ways the vote options will influence the story and why.
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This is the best I can do, anything more would be spoonfeeding you too much.


1) On a lovely sunny day, you come upon a pair of tengu fighting over a mystery box. Obviously, it being a mystery box, no party concerned knows the contents. They just know that it’s wonderful and probably the single most important thing that they’ll ever come to experience in their lives. Naturally.

Of the pair, one is a wolf and the other is a no-name crow. The crow ought to have first pick, but because he is such a nobody the wolf has dared to challenge his rights. Might makes right, after all.

Though it would do you good to fight them than remind them of just how inferior they are, a few choice words will do the trick. You berate the wolf first, reminding him of the covenant he has with your kind. The crow stares, resentful at you, as he realizes what you’re up to. But there’s nothing that he can do by his lonesome—the box comes to your possession by virtue of you being higher up on the pecking order.

2) A youkai from the lake strays up onto the mountain.

A wolf sentry catches the interloper. As captain of the patrol, however, the decision of how to treat the wayward youkai is up to you. The automatic response would be castigation, followed by expulsion. But you detect that the youkai has a talent for dissembling and service. As your authority is absolute it is up to you to decide whether or not to take advantage of its talents to further the cause of your household.

3) At a social event, she dances with many of the eligible bachelors but constantly makes eye contact with you.

Her breeding is superior. That much is evident in both her graceful steps as well as her alluring smile and her silver tongue. Neither you or her are the guest of honor, meaning that whatever attention she chooses to lavish upon you is a product of genuine interest. Whether that interest is biological attraction or strategic concerns, is something that you will have to think about as you accept her request to dance. What she and her clan needs from yours is something that you’ll have to determine before proceeding further.

4) While pursuing your interests, you come upon a goddess

Nothing but deference will do here. Her talents are sure to be superior to yours and her influence would eclipse yours entirely. Though you may try to take advantage of the encounter, it is always within the framework that she has chosen to build. Anything more would be an affront and would likely be dangerous for someone of your station.

5) A harlot throws herself upon you.

Pleasures and enjoyment are all up to your discretion. So long as you are not brought low by the concerns of those beneath you, there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of the privileges of superior breeding. To turn sensual pleasure into a vice: that’s something best left to those who have already established their own lasting legacy and would not be brought low by distractions.
Doesn't seem any different from the actions of a politically-inclined human in a comparable station.
Which is fine.

Not that I'm complaining about this aspect of the story, but just thinking about touhou canon in comparison. For how much Zun likes to rail on and on about how different youkai are from humans and how differently they think, he sure doesn't show it a lot. They want resources and power, they are dickish and selfish sometimes, they have goals and go after them, etc. Only thing that's really missing is that they don't really get attached to other people and youkai that I've seen. There are next to no intimate, intense connections in canon.

Oops, I digressed. Anyway, it's only fitting. I think I'm going to stop trying to metagame the story so hard and just roleplay the Hide I want as well as I can. Probably more fun that way.
I dunno. A lot of what is there feels very detached, almost to the point of sociopathic. While none of it is explicitly inhuman, it lacks a certain sort of personal touch or empathy when looked at in the larger scale of things. I'll make an attempt to point out the key parts of each.

1) Claiming the box for yourself is a bit strange. Fighting over it in the first place is a matter of instinct. The 'you' in this situation is following their instincts by claiming the box, while keeping a civilized veneer over their actions.

2) This one seems a bit more normal, but the sample protagonist is casually considering whether or not to kill someone or take them as a slave.

3) Whether or not there is romantic attraction involved, the key point is 'what political resource does she want'.

4) A human will not accept a position as permanently inferior so easily. An ambitious human generally does not know their limits and will not be content to simply submit.

5) Indulging in vice is an acceptable course of action in certain circumstances and will not directly result in losing any status.
Wow, you're really stretching it there. Humanity has had hierarchical caste system, second class citizens, slavery, political marriages and many other wonderful things of the sort for 99% of our history, and we continue to have them, mostly. You must have a very optimistic view of people.

Anyway, it doesn't matter and a story thread isn't the place for this discussion. The point I was making with that post (I think) is that it's not that hard to put yourself in the protagonists shoes - just be slightly wily and clever. The real hard part is to see the implications and meaning of each action in the vote, and that's what I think the post asking for a tengu tutorial was about.

By the way, if you're REALLY inclined to have a debate on the nature of man on a magical little girl fanfiction board, make a thread on /blue/ and we can talk there.

Right? It's almost to the point of resembling some backwards 3rd world countries.

This is what I got on Tengu:

>Barring extenuating circumstances, the higher caste wins by default.

Ok. So, why take the box and make enemies for literally no purpose or reason? Wouldn't it make more sense to use your influence to force a peaceful or neutral resolution?

>Tengu have no sense of honor. The simple concept of doing what's right because it's right is also lost on them.


>Tengu have absolutely no chill. Tengu 24/7 or you're wrong.


>Holy shit it's God! Instead of casually hanging out with God, I'm going to see how much I can scam him without getting damned for eternity.

This one is probably the silliest. Not everyone is a Tengu and/or interested in playing Tengu. Just treat her like a normal person bro. If she wanted to be treated like a God, she'd probably make the fact that she's a God immediately and blindingly obvious.

>fucking harlots and prostitutes is kinda sketchy for political dudes.

This one's easy since it the same for non-Tengu.

So I'll be playing kinda similar to this guy >>197001 in that I'll no longer be Tenguing for Tenguing's sake. Adhering to social customs and curtsies at the cost of logic and empathy isn't what I think a leader should do.


I also have an optimistic view of people. I'd even be willing to bet that most people have an optimistic view of people.
It sounds like you just want to read a story with your bog standard THP nice guy protagonist. Shit, there's dozens of those already.
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The previous post about the behavior wasn't supposed to be the end all behavior of all tengu or anything. It's more of a "how do these situations tend to play out for tengu and how do a lot of them think in those sorts of moments". Being arrogant, proud and cunning are common traits. And the sense of morality is somewhat different than the average human's.

It's not like I'm keeping a scoring system for tenguness in place or anything. Being able to appeal to tenguness is something that can come in handy for resolving situations and in ultimately being able to fit in with the ruling class. understanding that human conventions don't necessarily apply can be useful to keep in mind. But, of course, character progression and how he ultimately fits into the world is one of the main points of this story. So that's something that'll keep getting ongoing development in part because of the way you guys vote.

Also updates soon, likely tomorrow, I swear! Probably.

Nah. I'm OK with engaging in some verbal or physical fisticuffs in the name of glorious Tengu Nation. I'm just going to steer my votes , reasoning, and thread discussion to the side of logic and empathy.
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Yeah, well, then we shall meet in the field of honour. Good day, sir.
New thread >>197641
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