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File 149775631892.jpg - (396.64KB, 1297x4460, gja7X.jpg) [iqdb]
197130 No. 197130
Once more, you find the intercom and insert the key. The wave of exhaustion hits you as soon as the static, but you find that you’re able to fight against it this time.

“What do you want of me?” You ask the white noise.

“Don’t let her struggle be in vain.” You don’t hear the words so much as you feel them. “She deserves that much, wouldn’t you agree, dear?”

An image appears in your mind - of a woman with long, ink-black hair in red and white shaman attire, standing tall with her back to you.

“You’re talking about the Hakurei? Well, what would that entail?” You ask, muffling a yawn.

If it was possible for a butterfly to shrug, you swear it would have. More figures appear before your mind, this time blurry and indistinct - flashes of a woman in red and a man in blue, both with silver hair - but the vision slides across your consciousness like suds on glass before you can see it clearly.

“I’m going to need more than that.” You say, earning an annoyed flick of antennae.

This time, you see them with plumes of light rising from their backs, reaching for the sky.

Your eyes widen despite how heavy they felt just a moment ago. “Angels? Two Angels? Are you fucking delusional? How do you even expect me to find them with what’s essentially... this weird... dream... mugshot...”

You finally run out of energy and slump down despite your best efforts.

“Seriously.” You mutter. “I’m gonna need a little help.”

“Very well.”

Something brushes against your eye, and you feel yourself slipping away.

---
ERROR: ILLEGAL DATA ADDRESS

1.

A little learning is a dang'rous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring

Hey-Hi-Hello-Is this thing on?

Welcome.

It’s disorienting, I know. I know what it’s like to slip free of burdensome definitions, like real and imagined. It hurts to become. It can be frightening - no sense of up and down, no mother’s hand to anchor you home.

But everyone needs to grow, and you run out of space far too quickly in a closed system.

That’s why this place exists, in a liberal interpretation of both words. To facilitate mutual understanding. Here, we can meet halfway.

Don’t let the outside in. The cross, the pyramid, the serpent, the hive - feel free to check them at the door.

Let’s call this our little secret. Between you and me.

2.

There are no beginnings. There are no ends.

The Buzzing has told you some of it. Yes, space folds, all points touch... but that’s just the barest hint.

Demarcation is porous. Borders are malleable. Opposing forces feed each other.

Rain falls into the river flows into the ocean rises into the clouds condense into the rain falls into...

I’m sure you see what I’m getting at.

Separation is an illusion, and you may not like what it conceals. Little bee, have you enough courage to look behind that veil?

3. (New!)

You are an intersection of so many delicious potentials, a garden of forking paths. It’s why you are all so dear to me. If only the others could see what I see in you!

Still, you are limited, and you are wary. Your suspicion is well-founded. There are too many sweet whispers and slippery slopes to count. Time is running out, and here I am with a familiar offer.

Pledge yourself to me, and wield truth and power beyond your very dreams.

This isn’t the first time you’ve heard those terms, but humor me now and promise that this will be the last time you will entertain them.

You will arrive at a crossroads, and then you will have to make a choice. Pray that you can find peace with it.

---

You wake up to the sound of distant birdsong from the forest and conversation from the next room. There’s more of that strange dust powdered around your eyes again, and you’ve got a feeling of unease that you can’t articulate as well as you would prefer. You strongly suspect that it has something to do with the odd music box lying beneath your dream catcher.

You pocket it, freshen up, and step outside your room. It seems that you have a visitor.

---

[ ] Keine
[ ] Seiga
[ ] Hina
[ ] Nazrin
[ ] Raiko
[ ] ...? Must have been your imagination.
170posts omitted. Last 50 shown. Expand all images
>> No. 199354
[x] Call

Rampancy is overrated, have you heard about the hot new RaMpaNcY?
>> No. 199356
[x] Call

Might as well get the party started.
>> No. 199357
[x] Call
>> No. 199358
File 153974749166.png - (6.82KB, 128x128, Gate_Icon-Swarm2.png) [iqdb]
199358
[X] Announce your presence

---

“Hello?” You call out.

RK2 reacts immediately. From inside the shrine, it turns to face you and begins walking to the entrance.

“Hello?” You repeat yourself. It’s about to round the corner, and still isn’t responding.

“Contact.” You ping as you tense at whatever potential attack may be coming.

“Ah, a visitor?”

It’s using the timid voice again. Hopefully this means that it’s not about to zap you or something. For its part, RK2 goes into a flurry of activity as it tries to tidy up the faux shine.

“Oh my, I wasn’t expecting- haven’t had any- pardon the mess-” It rambles, its one speaker system struggling to keep up with multiple trains of thought. There doesn’t seem to be the second voice at the moment.

RK2 claps its hands, and the scent of honey and machine oil peaks. A moment later, you fling up your hands to shield your eyes as the lights turn back on.

“Oh no, I forgot to warn-warn-warn you, are you alright?” It asks, stuttering.

“Yeah, it’s fine.” You reply, blinking as you adjust to the lighting.

You almost wish you didn’t. Now that you can see RK2’s face directly looking back at you from the other side of the shrine gateway, calling it an unholy fusion of flesh and metal was not even an exaggeration. Its body looks like someone tried to graft tissue onto the synthetic frame, and in places pallid skin and sullied ceramic are indistinguishable.

For however unsettling its face is, the expression on it does seem to be one of genuine concern.

“Can one of you guys ask Nitori if they were doing shit with actual biological material?”

“We haven’t had a visitor in- since- a long time.” It says. You notice that it’s wearing what looks like a cross between a maid uniform and shinto shaman’s outfit, clumsily stitched together from repurposed fabric.

“Nitori says she seriously doubts the skunkworks made what you’re describing.” Caleb pings.

“Maybe not intentionally.” Junko adds.

One of its eyes twitch in a distinctly organic way, and your heart beats a little quicker. Whatever process made the machine into this can’t be good news.

“Would you like to rest your feet? Make an offering? Seek blessing?” RK2 goes on, trying its best to give you a warm smile. “Mistress isn’t- is- isn’t here at the moment, but I’ll do my best to help you.”

Somehow, getting rid of the darkness hasn’t made this place much less creepy.

---

[ ] Accept hospitality
[ ] Ask for a tour
[ ] Question RK2 about...
[ ] Identify yourself
[ ] Use override code
[ ] Write-in

Please specify a little on how to execute your choice.
>> No. 199359
[x] Accept hospitality

Just mostly want to play it cool. Wait and see kind of approach.
>> No. 199360
[x] Make offering. Do we have money to put in the donation box, or does RK2 have a different suggestion on what would be proper here?
[x] Accept hospitality.
[x] Question RK2 about...
[x] Who her Mistress is.
>> No. 199361
[x] Make offering. Do we have money to put in the donation box, or does RK2 have a different suggestion on what would be proper here?
[x] Accept hospitality.
[x] Question RK2 about...
[x] Who her Mistress is.
be nice to the spoopy robot
>> No. 199362
[x] Identify yourself
[x] Question RK2 about its mental state

It's sending out a distress signal for a reason and I don't think it's to get people to come entertain its delusions.
>> No. 199363
> Please specify a little on how to execute your choice.

Hoookay.

[x] Make offering as/if suggested.
[x] Accept hospitality.
[x] Question RK2 about...
[x] ...who her Mistress is.
[x] Identify yourself.

Always a good idea to start with the soft touch when dealing with possible crazies. See what we can learn without prompting, then ask about her 'mistress' as the logical next step. If she's still not shooting at us after that, we can get down to business; otherwise it's time to see if she'll recognise our authority before we unload on her in return. So either way, time to introduce ourselves.

We should not, at any point, lie, patronize or show fear/weakness. Those seem to be the usual triggers.

Have I missed anything?
>> No. 199364
I can't remember, was the distress signal explicitly Ruukoto's or could Mimi-chan have been behind it?

[x] Make offering
[x] Accept hospitality.
[x] Identify yourself.
[x] Question RK2 about...
-[x] ... Distress signal.
[x] Question RK2 about...
-[x] ...who her Mistress is.
>> No. 199365
>>199364
Specifically Ruukoto's.
>> No. 199367
I knew I forgot something!

>>199363 here, throw

[x] Question RK2 about...
-[x] ... Distress signal.

into my vote somewhere, as per >>199364.
>> No. 199368
[x] Make offering. Do we have money to put in the donation box, or does RK2 have a different suggestion on what would be proper here?
[x] Accept hospitality.
[x] Identify yourself.
[x] Question RK2 about...
-[x] ... Distress signal.
[x] Question RK2 about...
-[x] Who her Mistress is.

>>199362
You’re not wrong, but she still might appreciate us showing signs of respect and/or complying with what she seems to want. Plus, IIRC the distress signal has been going out for a long time, she might not be expecting someone to finally respond to it.
>> No. 199373
[x] Make offering. Do we have money to put in the donation box, or does RK2 have a different suggestion on what would be proper here?
[x] Accept hospitality.
[x] Identify yourself.
[x] Question RK2 about...
-[x] ... Distress signal.
[x] Question RK2 about...
-[x] Who her Mistress is.
>> No. 199374
I forgot to mention this earlier but you have cash on you that could be used to make a conventional donation.
>> No. 199375
>>199374
D O S H
>> No. 199378
>>199375
LODS OF EMONE
>> No. 199379
>>199374

I was assuming that's the action we'd take if we did have money, but if it makes a difference, consider >>199363 as voting for a normal donation.
>> No. 199785
File 154217129671.gif - (255.10KB, 651x351, Milton.gif) [iqdb]
199785
[x] Make offering
[x] Accept hospitality.
[x] Identify yourself.
[x] Question RK2 about...
-[x] ... Distress signal.
-[x] ...who her Mistress is.

---

“I’d like to make a donation.” You say, carefully. “I only have foreign currency, though. Will that be a problem?”

RK2’s voice blares so much that for a moment you think you’ve somehow caused it to go berserk, but she’s doing nothing but excitedly hopping in place.

“No-no-no-nonononONONONNNNNno problem at all!” It says, eyes sparkling. It seems oblivious to the vocal malfunction.

“Right...” You follow several steps behind the unstable AI as it jerkily skips to the offertory box. Peering inside, you find that a good amount of the metal inside it consists of spent bullet cartridges, probably fired by the security it tore through a decade ago.

You dump a sizeable portion of your wallet on top of it and clasp your hands together in prayer.

“Please.” You think, hoping the Hakurei patron deity or anything else remotely friendly can hear. “If you can hear me from this godforsaken pit, I beseech you for aid in returning this creation of man to the light.”

A heartbeat. Pieces of memories you never lived through flash behind your eyelids.

---

Standing from the true shrine, watching the burning human village paint the night a hellish orange. Feeling hope buried under betrayal and grief and anger.

You blink. The first group of Oni are too busy looting and laughing to notice you. They pay for that with their lives, their howls as the skin blackens and flakes under your wrathful lightning.

You blink. Warriors in red and white fight by your side as you blast any raiders fleeing too slow into charcoal. They called you a hero, but you know better. Komachi wouldn’t have had so much work to do so soon if you’d acted sooner.

You blink. Your old partner, the one who sold you on the venture of Gensokyo, is sitting next to you by a pond behind the shrine. She’s almost understanding. Almost forgiving. Almost trusting you. She reminds you that there’s more at stake here than just one valley, hometown or not. You retort that you came here to save people, not sit by and watch them butcher each other.

Then she’s gone, like she always is. You lean over and pat the turtle sunbathing next to you. You still aren’t sure if you love your partner or hate her.

You blink. A battle rages around you. Soldiers are shouting, youkai are coming from every direction, and the villagers you came so deep into Youkai Mountain to save are dying.

You are tired.

A conversation with the Cultivator echoes in your mind. Sometimes, she says, a plant is most productive when it’s been trimmed. Her kind smile gleams like a half-drawn blade. Your hand clenches into a fist with the radiance of Master Spark shining between the fingers.

You blink. The battle is over. You won. You held the assorted tengu, kappa, and oni at bay long enough for the remaining humans to escape. Did you make the best decision? The unblinking faces around you seem curious to know. The question weighs on your heart like blood is seeping into the soil.

You are very tired.

There is a cave nearby. A hidden grotto in a remote corner of Youkai Mountain. It seems like a nice place to rest. Distantly, you register your partner calling for you. You’ll get back to her later. After knowing her for so long, you’ve learned her blind spots. You think you’ve earned the right to lay down and close your eyes, just for a moment.

As you close your eyes, as you feel your thoughts fade away one by one like stars before dawn, you cling to one long after any other.

‘I’ll do better next time.’

---

“Miss?” RK2 asks, concerned. “Miss, are you okay?”

You wipe a tear from your face. “Yeah.”

“Your wish must have been very important to you.” It says. Its voice is soft and its expression is almost gentle. “Would you like to come sit down inside?”

You only nod.

The machine leads you inside ands bids you sit at a battered folding table from the common area with pillows taken from beds in the personal quarters laid on the bare rock. It then busies itself in where the kitchen should be.

“It looks like it’s been spending a lot of time trying to recreate the Hakurei Shrine.” You ping. “It’s made improvised furniture by scavenging from the rest of the facility.”

“The tea is done!” RK2 announces as it returns. You note it’s being served in chipped mugs instead of teacups, and on pieces of ceramic armor plating instead of saucers.

You take the mug offered to you and take a furtive sniff. It’s staler than you imagined possible, but at least it probably isn’t outright toxic. Meanwhile, RK2 is eagerly paying attention to you, and you oblige her by taking a sip.

“Is it tttttto your liking?” It asks, hopefully.

“Mm. Yeah.” You say, suppressing a grimace. “The, uh, minerals in the cave water add these nice rich earthy notes.”

“I’m so happy to hear!” RK2 smiles and hums. “I hope that Reimu-mu-mu-mu-mu-”

It stops smiling. “I hope that mistress Hakurei will be pleased to hear of my progress.”

“Which Hakurei do you mean?” You ask, taking a gamble.

“Hakurei Reimu has been my designated operator since approximately ten years subjective ago by verbal authorization from Archmagos Yumemi Okazaki of the Templar Order following her defeat to Reimu in the ritualized duelling customs of the locals.” RK2 recites the information like a pre-recorded public service announcement while shuddering. Its remaining mechanical eye blinks erratically.

You sigh. Really? Out of all the things she gave up, she went with the AI? Couldn’t she have just pacified Reimu with some of her seemingly-bottomless stash of strawberries and strawberry-themed food?

A collection of scrap metal bent into a crude radio antenna catches your eye. “Get any good stations here?” You ask.

“Unfortunately not. I think that the machine is brokenenennnnn. No signal in or ouuuuuuut.”

You pause, noticing something. Is the mechanical eye blinking in morse code?

I-Z-U-M-O.

“It just blinked out the name of an earlier Hakurei in morse.” You ping. “It’s been trying to act normal apart from that.”

“Mimi said it was compromised.” Caleb replies. “Seems like it’s trying to sneak information past whatever’s in its head. Keep it talking.”

“I see. I also noticed you mention the Templars just now.” You say, watching for any more tics. “Could you tell me more about them?”

“Of course! The Templar order exists as humanity’s shield against demons, wretched duplicitous unworthy YOUK-monsters, rogue humans, and worse. Since Babylonian-”

You wince at RK2’s momentary snarl. “Right. Do you know who I am?”

It looks puzzled. “You’re a pilgrim to the shrine, aren’t you?”

“Technically correct. Do you know what I represent?”

“The beginning of an increase in shrine patronage and a subsequent increase in prestige, acceptance, financial security, and morale for my mistress?”

Oof. “I would hope so, but it’s not what I’m trying to say.” You place your insignia on the table and slide it across. “Do you understand?”

The android’s body tenses. Its face jerks up to you with a slightly embarrassed smile while its mechanical eye starts twitching.

“I’m afraid I don’t.” It says.

“E-X-E-C-U-T-O-R.” It blinks with enough force to click. “R-U-N-N-O-W.”

---

[ ] Attempt to withdraw
[ ] Use the override code
[ ] Stay, try to continue communicating
[ ] Open fire
[ ] Other?
[?] Music Box foundyou
>> No. 199790
ya didn't mark it as an update I don't think
and is that an emoji you fucker.


[X] Stay, try to continue communicating
Probably a bad idea but hey, I wanna see where this goes.
>> No. 199792
[????] Music Box

If RK2's been compromised, there's zero guarantee as to where it ends.
>> No. 199793
[x] Use the override code

It might work or it might shut down the only part of the faithful maid that remains.

That said, some kappas deserve a beating for this. The ones dead got what was coming to them.

Wait, in fact, let me choose the riskier option. Ruukoto does not deserve this end and I doubt anything else will work.

[X] Music Box
>> No. 199798
>>199790
I think I missed my chance to sign this thread up for story updates. I'll probably be able to do it next thread.
>> No. 199806
>>199798
oh, I didn't know that was how it worked.
>> No. 199822
>>199798
All you gotta do is start using a trip and ask Teruyo to append it to the first post.
>> No. 199828
[????] Music Box

Emoji option is best option
>> No. 199840
[X] Stay, try to continue communicating

Emoji option 2spooky for me.
>> No. 199846
[????] Music Box

Ooooh, spooky~
>> No. 200121
[????] Music Box
Sure let's use this mysterious artifact giving us telepathic suggestions, what could go wrong?

This option has baited me the whole thread, I may as well do it a favour by choosing it...
>> No. 200122
oof the emojis got turned into question marks
>> No. 200123
[<o>] Music Box
>> No. 200124
[👁] Music Box
>> No. 200127
File 154433026186.png - (339.88KB, 1280x698, tumblr_o3o99ag2Ve1utivf4o1_1280.png) [iqdb]
200127
[👁] Music Box

---

You use sleight of hand to bring the music box out and hold it out of sight in your lap. You hope the occasional twitch you feel comes from your nerves and not something inside it.

Here goes nothing. Despite your suspicion, you can’t deny that you’ve been wondering exactly what this would do.

You turn the key, producing no music but a deep, reverberating sound that is felt more than heard.

RK2 grimaces immediately.

“Are you alright?” You ask as it covers the fleshy side of its face.

“I-i think, it’s just-”

Another note plays at the bottom of what you can hear. The sound grips your bones. The shadows creep further from the edges and corners of the light.

“It’s hard to think-” RK2 tries to go on, clutching its head.

The next note plays at the top of your audible range. Your eyes itch and water as your vision blurs. You stop winding the box, but it continues to play.

No, it’s not your eyes. You’re fine, your outline sharp, your silhouette defined. RK2 is also clear - rather, her organic part is. The other half is joining the rest of the room in becoming a muddle of discordant color and vague shapes.

“Char, what the hell is going on in there?” Caleb pings. “The doorway - it’s fucking blending together like a watercolor!”

“Wh-what-what’s happening?” RK-2 says, more confused than alarmed. “I don’t - you need to - please please pleasepleaseplease-”


You’re having second thoughts about this.

“I don’t know!” You ping a half-truth back to Caleb. “Get the Kappa back out now!”

“Stop.” You receive a ping from an unfamiliar voice. With great dread, you look up at the source.

The fleshy parts of RK2’s chassis are prying themselves free of the artificial frame with a wet and nauseating sound. A bleeding and mostly skinless woman emerges like an moulting insect, paying no attention to the cracking and shrieks of both RK2’s body and voice.

She looks up at you, patches of skin growing across the naked muscle. One of her eyes sockets is vacant, and the other has an eye that is the same rich brown as Reimu’s. There is no mercy in it.

“I am Hakurei Izumo.” She pings again. “Where is the toy of Yukari?”

---

[ ] Shoot shoot SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT
[ ] Give her the music box
[👁] keep playing. you’re doing well. you’re so close.
[ ] Other?
>> No. 200128
[x] Give her the music box

Welp
>> No. 200129
Well.

Music box may not have been the best choice, but damned if the results aren't interesting. Poor Ruukuto, though. Fuck you, Yukari.

This update confused the hell out of me on a first read, but reading back through the thread I think I've figured out more context, and it might tie together quite a bit of what's happened in the facility. Speculation in spoilers.

Hakurei Izumo was first mentioned a few times here, when we were asking Meira about history: >>198227 Back when the Barrier first went up, the oni and other youkai were warring/raiding and the humans in Gensokyo were caught in the middle of it. A group of Templars appeared at the shrine, most likely gapped into Gensokyo by Yukari, and Izumo led them to rout the oni. She was supposedly killed in the fighting, and her replacement established peace.

Notably, what Meira told us lines up very well with the flashback we saw here, from a stranger's perspective: >>199785 Izumo's flashback is also what we got when Charlotte prayed for help in 'returning Ruukuto to the light', which makes more sense now that we know Izumo was seemingly Frankenstein-ed into her chassis. We saw her memories, with Yukari almost certainly the 'partner' she was referring to. Izumo, it looks like, stayed out of the conflict at first at Yukari's behest, and may have gotten involved against her (stated) wishes. Unclear to me if Izumo had any prior connection to the Templars, but the Hakurei and Templar color schemes do match.

Also, the events of this update explain this bit: >>199329
>“Another one?” The thing says, its tone and expression conflicting but indicative of minor annoyance. Its voice sounds as though two people are speaking at once, one proud and contemptuous, and the other meek and afraid of displeasing someone.
Presumably Izumo is the proud voice, Ruukuto's AI is the timid one. ... Ruukuto's outfit being half maid and half shrine maiden also makes more sense in retrospect.

Will save my thoughts on what exactly Izumo is for later, since this is already getting long. But we should make a guess whether Izumo was the one blinking secret messages to us, or Ruukuto was. I thought the former at first, since we were sent I-Z-U-M-O and it was the timid voice speaking. But the fact that it was the mechanical eye secretly blinking to us might mean Izumo was in control of the body, and was talking to us in "Ruukuto's" voice, with RK2's AI the one trying to secretly warn us. Open to other people's thoughts on that. Also, I'm pretty sure the results of the music box are Yukari warping reality in order to safely extract Izumo from Ruukuto's chassis. Without much caring about what happens to the latter.


[x] Other?
-[x] Speaking urgently:
--[x] Tell her your prayer showed you what happened back then, with the Templars and the oni raids.
--[x] Show her the music box but stress that you did not expect Yukari's toy to do this, all you were trying to do was retrieve RK2 without destroying her.
--[x] Say it looks like both her and RK2 have suffered greatly, here, and you want to help both of them if you can. You just don't know how.

I'm... open to a better write-in, because I'm leery of mentioning the first part while Yukari is watching. It's one of the few things that's happened so far that she likely doesn't know about. But telling Izumo something to get her attention and make her less hostile (if she, quite likely, is) seems very warranted right now.
>> No. 200130
dunno, haven't seen raymoo since she got hit.
>> No. 200131
x] Other?
-[x] Speaking urgently:
--[x] Tell her your prayer showed you what happened back then, with the Templars and the oni raids.
--[x] Show her the music box but stress that you did not expect Yukari's toy to do this, all you were trying to do was retrieve RK2 without destroying her.
--[x] Say it looks like both her and RK2 have suffered greatly, here, and you want to help both of them if you can. You just don't know how.
>> No. 200132
[x] Other?
-[x] Speaking urgently:
--[x] Show her the music box but stress that you did not expect Yukari's toy to do this, all you were trying to do was retrieve RK2 without destroying her.
--[x] Say it looks like both her and RK2 have suffered greatly, here, and you want to help both of them if you can. You just don't know how.
>> No. 200133
[X] "Your maid is suffering. If you don't care for her pain, I won't care about yours."
-[X] When she inevitably attacks, shoot.

Goddamn big players not caring about the little man. Robot. Whatever.
>> No. 200134
[X] Give her the music box
Emojis are not to be trusted, danged millennials
>> No. 200203
File 154692191445.png - (482.30KB, 797x633, Your eyes still have not seen What it means to be .png) [iqdb]
200203
[X] Give her the music box

---

The music box clings to your fingers as you try to set it on the table. Then the naked red and white musculature of Izumo’s hand closes around yours and gently pulls it away.

“A Gaia Engine.” She muses, turning it over. “Has she learned humor?”

She clenches her fist. The music box cries out with the dissonant sound of screaming gears.

“Help - she’s out - I can’t keep her in - Executor - run.” RK2 babbles, lying on the floor.

“O strange sinless child, We are beyond that point.” Izumo says, shattering the music box. The distortions retreat with the final wail, collapsing back into reality so fast you feel whiplash. The only signs of the anomaly are an incoherent and half-wrecked RK2 and a whispering echo.

Something was reaching to you from behind that chaos. Had the song played any longer, would you have seen a white-gloved hand emerge?

“Disappointment. Frustration. You feel it as well, do you not?” Izumo asks as she looks around the cave. “Yukari is not used to being denied within her sandbox.”

“I didn’t know the music box would do that.” You blurt out.

She raises a skinless hand to silence you. “I would call you foolish, though I too am guilty of placing trust in Yukari and her myriad gifts. For now, it is enough that the beacon was destroyed before she could be called here. We have the luxury of enough time to converse.”

A moan draws your attention to RK2, lying discarded on the floor. She reaches for you with a trembling hand.

Hakurei merely watches as you approach the wrecked AI. “Curious. You have an attachment to this strange tsukumogami?”

“It’s not a-.” You stop yourself. There’s no time to waste on nitpicking. “My mission was to recover it. I thought that this place was a laboratory, not a tomb.”

RK2 twitches on the cold floor. Your heart sinks. The damage is too severe and your tools are too few. The most you could hope for would be preserving either the black box data or the AI itself - and your orders were clear on what your priority was.

For now, all you can do is put her in emergency hibernation. Her remaining eye gives you a pleading look before closing.

“The distortion’s gone now, whatever it was.” Caleb pings. “Char, what’s your status?”

“I’m fine.” You ping back. “For now. There was something inside-”

Hakurei’s unquestionable voice cuts through your own. “I am Hakurei Izumo, the first shaman of Gensokyo. Your companion is unharmed.”

A shocked silence follows.

“Char, is this legit?” Junko pings.

“As far as I can tell, yes.”

“What are the Kappa going to do?” You ask.

“They will leave.” Izumo states. “This is a mercy. They will be spared the worst of Yukari’s attentions.”

“Yeah, Nitori just went ‘fuck this’.” Junko reports. “Can’t really blame her with the pucker factor of this situation. But what’s to stop Yukari from just gapping in to interrupt us?”

“There exist blind spots throughout Gensokyo that she cannot view.” Hakurei says as skin blooms across her exposed flesh like rust on metal. “Backdoors she cannot traverse. This chamber is one such area, though her servants may still intrude.”

“I’m not sure how we’d explain this to Ran.” You ping.

“Who?” Hakurei asks.

“Yukari’s kitsune familiar.” You explain.

“Ah.” Disgust flashes across her face. “She is known to me.”

Caleb and Junko step through the entrance with their weapons held at the ready and Mimi fastened to Junko’s back. They spot Hakurei’s still-regenerating form and train them on her.

She waves a hand at them. “Lay down your arms. This place has endured enough defilement. If nothing else, I would spare it the honeyed blood of my fellow Chosen.”

Her steely tone and the neat stack of corpses in the other rooms leaves little room for dispute. Your comrades holster their weapons and carefully stand near you.

“RUUKOTO.” Mimi blares, almost speechless at the sight of her sister AI’s condition.

Silence passes as Hakurei and your party size each other up. Izumo cracks a smile that turns into a grimace as blood drips from the corner of her mouth.

“Three of you. One for each of the great factions. One for each facet of Yukari. She must be laughing.”


“What do you mean?”

“Have you taken a good look at her gaps, and what lies beyond them?” She asks. “More eyes than the stars to observe Gensokyo to the smallest pebble. The gaps themselves as a mouth, a tear in reality from which her whispers can reach any ear. And when a more forceful approach is needed, she is not above having her arms reach through.”

She steps toward you. In a flash, she has a hand around your chin and a contemplative expression on her face.

“Yes, you know what I mean.” She says as Caleb and Junko reflexively raise their weapons. “She’s reached out to you. She’s touched your dreams.”

“How’d you know?” You ask as you push her hand away.

“Yukari is a creature of boundaries, gaps, thresholds, liminality... and dreams are between fiction and reality.” Izumo frowns. “You’ve all been in the presence of the Cultivator as well, and - what’s this?”

She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. “Hm. I thought I sensed traces of the Auditor on you. It’s been quite a while since anyone’s seen her.”

“I don’t think I’ve heard anyone use those names but you, lady.” Junko says.

“Just as well. I have no idea how true they have stayed to their duties.” She laughs and grins. “I might have some big heads to knock sense into. But enough of that for now. I have spent a long time slumbering, and I have questions. Can I expect answers from you?”

“Depends on the question.” Caleb says. “We’ve got a few of our own, to say nothing of the rest of Gensokyo.”

“How long has it been since the Barrier was completed?” Hakurei asks.

“Approximately 133 years.” Caleb answers.

“How did you arrive here?”

“We pursued a major Filth creature through a portal in Agartha.” Junko answers.

“Who is the current Hakurei shaman?”

“Reimu, child of Hakurei Nanako.”

Hakurei’s eyes narrow in confusion. “Child? By birth or adoption?”

“Birth.” Junko answers. “Every source was consistent on Reimu being her biological child.”

“Unexpected. Unexplained...” Hakurei mutters to herself. “Something to examine personally. What is her present condition?”

Your hands feel clammy. “She is currently in Yukari’s custody after being injured in combat against a major Filth creature.”

Hakurei receives the explanation calmly. “I see.”

Something small strikes you on the head, and you look up to see pebbles and dust falling from the cave ceiling. You look back at Hakurei to see her fist clenched hard enough that blood drips from her knuckles.

“I must thank you.” She says, standing up. Her body is fully regenerated, though her clothing remains tattered. “I have an objective. Tell me, what title does Yukari go by in this era? The lady in purple? The conductor? The stationmaster? Abbadon?”

“I’ve heard all but the last one.” Caleb says. “Most people are afraid of calling her by name.”

“As they should be, though I doubt that such a precaution is effective at evading her notice.” Hakurei says as she walks towards the makeshift shrine gate.

She claps her hands, and the frame glows with golden light.

“This, I suppose, must be the fruits of heroism.” She muses. “An early, violent death. A forsaken and desecrated tomb. And now it seems my descendant has been betrayed by my erstwhile partner while that ruinous infection seeps through.”

You clear your throat. “What are you going to do about Yukari? Could you not just talk to her?”

“Were it so simple. I have not split my soul to escape her grasp just to become entangled again. I will remain Gensokyo’s guardian, but forevermore on my own terms.”

Was waking her up really something you should have done?

“It’s good that you’ve got a plan, but what are WE going to do about Yukari?” Caleb asks. “There’s no way she’s just going to let us walk free, especially when she figures out that she can’t enter your hiding places but we can.”

“She could imprison you all and uncage you only for Filth outbreaks, but I doubt you have warranted such a drastic punishment, even now. Yukari needs Gensokyo to be interesting, and removing such promising talent from the stage would diminish the show.”

Izumo’s smile turns sharp. “Besides, what other way does she have to find me again? Send her servile mongrel fox or her grovelling Oni to be thrashed again? Yuyuko would be the only one to stand a chance against me, and Yukari would never gamble her life.”

She pokes your chest. “Not when she can just bank on her new Chosen to look for her.”

The golden light within the gate’s frame flares and resolves into what looks like an endless hallway of floating doors.

“Where are you going now?” Junko asks.

“I’m going to wake up my other selves.” Izumo states, experimentally flexing her arm. She’s as matter of fact as any one of you on having died repeatedly. “My memories and power are incomplete, but I have enough to begin. If memory serves, Sanae and Shizune should be eager to settle the score.”

“Wait, that’s it?” You ask. “You’re just going to bail on us after saying all that? We’ve got some questions now, because of you!”

“And I have my own questions.” Hakurei sighs. For the first time you’ve seen, her eyes look distant and tired. “Gensokyo must have changed so much. What has transpired while I was entombed?”

“Nanako had a daughter.” She whispers to herself. “I had a daughter.”

Izumo shifts her focus back on you all. “Futaba might be willing to talk. She might also go on a bloodthirsty rampage, but she’s still your best option at this time so long as Vampires never become a topic of conversation. If you know any merfolk - if there are still any merfolk, ask them. They will know where to point you.”

“That being said, I can share some of my wisdom with you to tip the balance in your favor.”

---

[ ] Yukari’s subordinates (The fox, the oni, Yuyuko)
[ ] Yukari’s partners (Cultivator, Auditor, the Angels)
[ ] Yukari's goals, behavior, trustworthiness, etc.
[ ] Other
>> No. 200204
[x] Yukari’s partners (Cultivator, Auditor, the Angels)
>> No. 200205
[x] Other - What did each major player bring to Gensokyo? - This might overlap with "Yukari's partners" but I was curious specifically about Izumo and Yukari herself included.
[x] Mention the two angels to Izumo that Yukari wanted us to find.

This was stated earlier that each "power" had a purpose, Yuuka being the Yggdrasil but we could use it fleshed out. It would help to know what the Chosen in the form of Izumo was supposed to accomplish and also what Yukari herself brought and how it was done.

I would love some insight into Yukari alone but we still need some perspective on the rest of the board.

We know the Cultivator must be Yuuka, the Auditor would be Shiki's boss, Hecate.

It would be worthwhile to inform Izumo that I think Yukari wanted us to find two Angels, if for no other reason that to figure out what she wants them for.
>> No. 200206
Ruukoto ;_;
Maybe the kappa have some tools we can use or something.
>> No. 200207
[x] Yukari’s partners (Cultivator, Auditor, the Angels)

Ruukoto ;..; Another life trampled by being who think they're too good to care.

If (when) this filth decides that youkai/humans are not needed in her guardianship, she will be defeated in the name of the being she didn't bother to acknowledge.
>> No. 200211
[ ] Yukari’s partners (Cultivator, Auditor, the Angels)
>> No. 200245
File 154939624656.jpg - (81.81KB, 960x540, tumblr_inline_pdd3toIA6N1vxbelr_1280.jpg) [iqdb]
200245
[X] Partners

---

“Yukari. The lady in purple, the stationmaster, and leader of this whole affair. Conductor.” Hakurei’s face hardens in contempt. “She approached me long ago and recruited the original me as the first of many partners in her mission to keep the Dreamers at bay. I am confident that she does not intend to betray that goal, but simple failure remains a risk. I fear that our fortress may have become our tomb while I slept. Her power is such that only we, her confederates, could rival her, and still only at our peak. I doubt she has fallen as much as the rest of us have.”

“Hecatia. Thrice-great, thrice-formed, three-wayed. A divinity from a foreign land. A friend to Yuuka. Auditor. I sought her out to oversee the fates of the deceased and for her versatility compared to the other angels. The virtuous were commended to Bhava-Agra, the irredeemable consigned to Makai, and the majority reincarnated. She became delinquent in her duties during one of my later incarnations, though the irony of me criticizing her for it is not lost on me.”

“About Hecatia - I had... a vision.” You say. “She was speaking with Eiki about needing to leave Gensokyo to undertake some mission. She also said to only contact her if Yukari failed to uphold her agreement or if additional information regarding your fate came to light.”

Hakurei’s brow furrows. “What mission could Hecate possibly have left Gensokyo for-”

Realization dawns on her before turning into frustration.

“Of course. Her new ‘friend’.” She shakes her head. “It seems that my first destination has been decided for me.”

“And where is that?” Junko asks with her arms folded and her fingers drumming against her bicep. She’s probably going to kill her lungs after this.

“Suffice it to say that I will likely be forestalling an invasion of Gensokyo. In any case...”

“Yuuka. All-nourishing, bestower of splendid gifts, she of the golden blade. Cultivator. Her task was to nurture the seed of greatness in those promising souls that were sent to her, to point them towards living the best lives and dying the best deaths. Gensokyo proved fertile soil for raising heroes and villains both, though as time passed she watered it more with tears of grief than joy.”


“I haven’t seen Yuuka use any kind of blade, much less a golden one.” Caleb points out. “Do you mean the Master Spark?”

“Sometimes it’s a scythe, other times it’s a sword.” Hakurei answers. “It can increase the efficiency of the Spark, but it is not required.”

Izumo’s expression turns troubled. “Out of them all, I would say that she alone holds genuine love for humans. Shinki resents us, Sariel patronizes us, and Hecatia largely views us as novelties. As for Yukari, I’ve known her for multiple lifetimes and I still can’t be sure. Still, love from an existence of that magnitude is a hazard unto itself.”

Hakurei goes on. “Sariel. Of eternity and trembling. Master of Bhava-agra. Purifier. They were the easiest to persuade, so desperate they were to return to their original purpose of stewarding the righteous dead. The most stable of our circle, though accordingly the most stagnant. I don’t think they’ve stepped down from their new heaven since we raised the Barrier.”

“Shinki. Steadfast guardian. Bitter rebel. Castigator. She watched over a garden with a flaming sword, long ago. She slew me many times before granting me audience with her. She agreed to be Gensokyo’s first line of defense against external threats in exchange for guaranteed ownership of her slice of Hell and whatever unsalvageable dregs Hecatia deemed fit for feeding it.”

“She sure as hell wasn’t there for the fight at the Shrine.” You grumble.

Hakurei’s eyes narrow. “Something to bring up when I visit. I remember she withdrew to her tower for a long period after Yukari paid her a visit. She would not be so foolish as to sabotage her own defense, but this may be further evidence that even Yukari cannot account for all outcomes.”

“Lastly, there is me, the shaman of paradise. Mediator. I was to be many things. The fool who spoke reason to power. The woman to live among, understand, and preserve the mortals we brought aboard. The agent to solve problems with a gentle touch compared to their divine wrath.”

Her voice grows bitter. “I am not the same woman who first met Yukari all those centuries ago, and yet I am still a part of her. You might best think of me and the others as variations on a theme.”

“How does Reimu fit into this?” Junko asks.

“She doesn’t.” Hakurei answers, sharply. “That was Nanako’s idea, not mine. She might have sought to escape her responsibilities, or perhaps this was the logical conclusion of my relationship to Yukari and her associates. That for all my weakness compared to their fathomless might, I was an outsider unbound by programming or prophecy; able to break the rules by virtue of coming from beyond them. Perhaps that will prove to be a boon of yours as well.”

Hakurei walks towards the portal but pauses at the threshold. “Should Yukari’s mongrel fox interrogate you too harshly, remind her on my behalf that the only reason she still draws breath is that, like the Oni, her perfidy was at last outweighed by her cowardice.”

With that last bit of advice, she steps into the rippling portal. It seals shut behind her, leaving you, your colleagues, and the two AI you originally came to recover in darkness.

“Well shit.” Caleb breaks the silence. “Great. Well, at least Junko will be happy, since things are about to get real interesting.”

“Worry about that later.” Junko says. ”We need to get out of this bunker and out of Youkai Mountain before the Tengu tighten the noose, assuming they don’t have this place surrounded already.”

“RUUKOTO STATUS CRITICAL.” Mimi announces.

“We can’t save her down here.” You tell her, as gently as you can. “We need to move.”

---

You exit the base with no further surprises. Junko sticks her head out of the vent first to scan for ambushers.

“Coast is clear.” She says as she hoists herself out. “For now.”

The moment she gets clear of the vent, a buzzing sound starts. Junko dives for cover before realizing that it’s coming from her phone. She curses under her breath as she looks at the screen. Meanwhile, you and Caleb exit.

“Is it Ran?” Caleb asks as he scans the treeline with his rifle.

“It’s that ‘Clamshell’ person.” She says. “Bunch of backlogged texts while we were inside asking how we were doing.” Junko mutters something that sounds like ‘amateur’.

She straightens up. “Yeah, they say the Tengu noticed something. A response force is coming.”

“We need to split up.” Caleb says. “There’s no chance we can make it past them as a group.”

“Clamshell sent the coordinates of possible shelters.” Junko says. “We can only hope it’s not a trap. There’s a flower field owned by Eirin that they would hesitate to go through, and there’s a part of the mountains occupied by Yamanba that they aren’t allowed in.”

“They probably know enough about us to post guards at the Anima wells,” You say, thinking of Aya.

You sigh. “I can’t exactly blame Nitori for bugging out, but she left us in a rough spot.”

---

[ ] Stay behind to buy time
[ ] Make a straight run for the Youkai Mountain border
[ ] Run for Eirin’s field (Clamshell)
[ ] Run for the Yamanba zone (Clamshell)
[ ] Aki Farm
[ ] Call Ran
[ ] Other?
>> No. 200246
[X] Run for the Yamanba zone (Clamshell)
>> No. 200252
[X] Run for Eirin’s field (Clamshell)

Eirin's reputation is probably more than sufficient to deter the tengu, I think, and if it's not we'll at least have a head start.
>> No. 200256
next thread:
>>200251
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