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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.
Expand all images
>> No. 197131
[x] Raiko

Still want to hear more about this tsukumogami faction, and more Raiko is always a plus.
>> No. 197135
Previous thread: >>187220


[x] Seiga

I wouldn't mind any of these, really, but I'm interested in the Taoists.

So, huh...Yukari wants us to find Sariel and Shinki(?). I'm not sure about the latter, since she's already been referred to as a demon and I don't know if TSW lore equates those with fallen angels, but I can't think of who the red-clad, silver-haired angel would be otherwise. Wonder what "potentials" she sees in Charlotte, too.
>> No. 197144
[X] Seiga

Time for Taoists!
>> No. 197146
[X] Hina

Interesting, very interesting.
>> No. 197147
[X] Hina
>> No. 197148
>>197135
"Demon" broadly refers to creatures, such as Rakshasa,Incubi/Succubi, Djinn, Oni, etc. that inhabit the Hell Dimensions. They vary in power, intellect, and origin, but can generally be described as "creatures from Hell".

While Abrahamic mythology equates fallen angels with demons, that does not hold true in TSW, where Angels created Hell and probably most of its current inhabitants. They can attract demonic followers, but they are not themselves demons.
>> No. 197149
[X] ...? Must have been your imagination.
>> No. 197150
[x] Raiko
>> No. 197159
[x] Hina

Hina dealing with chaos magic makes a lot of sense intuitively but I'm curious to see if she's drawn to Charlotte's 'misfortune' right now (filth aftereffects, dreaming aftereffects, attention from Yukari et. al.) and what her view of what's happened to the chosen so far is like.
>> No. 197161
[x] Raiko
>> No. 197162
Raiko: 3
Hina: 3
Seiga: 2
???: 1
>> No. 197173
>>197162
Well, if no one else is going to break the tie I'll change my vote (>>197135) to Raiko.
>> No. 197174
Raiko it is.
>> No. 197176
[x]Hina
>> No. 197187
A person voted
>> No. 197349
File 149896514730.png - (754.69KB, 600x800, __horikawa_raiko_touhou_drawn_by_chabi_amedama__72.png) [iqdb]
197349
[X] Raiko

---

Raiko is waiting for you as you enter the room, twirling a pair of drumsticks in her hands as she reclines on her drums. Caleb and Junko are also in the room, chatting with her. You notice that the lab equipment Caleb had out last night is nowhere to be seen.

“Morning, Miss McGallagher.” Raiko calls to you. “Awfully cozy place you have here.”

You shrug. “It beats camping out, though I hope you don’t mind how spartan it is.”

She nods. “It’s no bother to me. Nice work last night, by the way.”

“Just doing my job.” You reply with a faint smile. “So, what brings you here?”

“Straight to the chase, eh?” Raiko straightens up and uncrosses her legs. “There’s a situation I’d like to bring to your attention.”

“It’s not urgent, but I still think you should know.“ She adds as you all regard her with new focus. ”Have any of you heard about a Tsukumogami named Medicine Melancholy?”

“Yeah.” You tell her. “She’s hostile and uses poison, right?”

“Yeah, that’s how most people know her.” Raiko makes a face. “She’s been alone on that godforsaken hill for who knows how long, and now nobody can go there without getting attacked.”

“I wasn’t aware that there was anything to do at Nameless Hill.” You say.

“There used to be, but not the sort of thing the Human Village would talk about in polite company.” Raiko says, looking uncomfortable. “What I’m saying is... Look, I can’t dress it up. The Villagers would go there to abandon unwanted children.”

“Shit, that probably explains how a doll ended up lying there long enough to animate.” Caleb pings.

You take a deep breath and slowly exhale as you process that. “I deeply hope that they are not continuing to practice that. At any location.” You tell her, keeping your tone even.

“I wouldn’t worry about that.” Raiko reassures you. “The food situation’s been way better in recent years. Anyways, while her ability to manipulate poison is worth mentioning, she’s not an immediate threat to anyone. At least, to my knowledge.”

Caleb gives her a quizzical look. “If that’s the case, what’s your concern?”

Raiko sighs and combs her fingers through her hair. “Eventually, she’ll cross a line, whether by picking a fight she can’t win or doing something that paints a target on her back for the Hakurei. I’ve seen it happen before. I’d rather not see it happen again, especially to a kid who never got a chance from life.”

“I’m sorry that she’s in that situation, but how do you think we can help?” You ask.

“It’s fine. I’m already working on getting through to her, but it’s going to take a while.” Raiko says. “For now, just keep her circumstances in mind if she somehow causes trouble for you. If someone in the Village tries to wheedle you into ‘exterminating’ her while Reimu’s away-”

You cut her off. “You don’t have to worry about that. We’ll keep your words in mind.”

She smiles in gratitude and leans back. “Thanks a million. I’m glad you guys understand. I don’t have much to offer at the moment, but maybe I could answer some questions you guys have.”

---

Ask Raiko about:

[ ] Her plan
[ ] Yuuka
[ ] Kappa
[ ] Mamizou
[ ] Humans
[ ] Yukari?
[ ] Write-in
>> No. 197350
[x] Her plan
[x] Humans
[x] Kappa

Too soon to go prying about specific people, and I'm not sure she'd have much to say about someone like Yuuka or Yukari anyway since she's pretty new herself.
>> No. 197357
[x] Her plan
[x] Humans
[x] Kappa

Seems reasonable to me, honestly I bet Yuuka would tell us herself as long as we asked nicely and in private.
>> No. 197359
[x] Her plan
[x] Mamizou
[x] Yukari?
>> No. 197369
[x] Her plan
[x] Humans
[x] Kappa
>> No. 197413
[X] Her plan
[X] Humans
[X] Kappa

Awfully nice of Raiko to be looking out for her, how sweet.
>> No. 197476
[X] Her plan
[X] Humans
[X] Kappa

I don't think she's got that much specific info on the big players, so asking for some more general information is more likely to be useful to us.
>> No. 197485
File 150026281499.png - (7.17KB, 293x318, __horikawa_raiko_touhou_drawn_by_takorin__69469845.png) [iqdb]
197485
Her plan
Humans
Kappa

---

“Can you tell us anything about that plan you mentioned?” Junko asks.

“Well, Doctor Yagokoro and her assistant have had contact with Medicine before.” Raiko says. “I’m guessing it was something about using Medicine’s abilities to make... well, medicine. Anyways, those guys are probably the only two that have had something approaching a civil relationship with her, and I figure that they can help her find a way to apply herself in a way that won’t get her killed. Also, I can’t think of anyone better suited towards healing whatever trauma Medicine’s grown up with.”

“Why not take her to your village?” She asks. “Wouldn’t she benefit from having other Tsukumogami to watch over her?”

Raiko nods. “Yeah, that’s the goal. For now, though, I think it would be better to have her with people she already knows. Less of a shock, you know?”

“Have you spoken with Eintei about your plan?” Caleb asks.

“I told them my general idea, and Eirin was alright with it.” Raiko says, frowning. “Well, as far as I can tell. I’ve never seen her without that bedside manner. Anyways, I’m still working on getting Medicine to trust me. It’s an uphill struggle, but I’m making progress.” She flashes a grin. “It helps that I’m pretty good at spellcards.”

“Would you say you’ve got a close relationship with Eintei?” Junko asks.

Raiko shrugs. “Not really. They’re nice folks, but Eintei kinda keeps everyone else at an arm’s length. They keep to themselves, though not as much since Reimu did her thing a while back.”

“Reimu’s been pretty busy, from the sound of things.” You say. “What’s your opinion of the Hakurei?”

“Eh.” Raiko leans back as she ponders the question. “Necessary in the unpopular sort of way. Like janitors, honestly. They’re always running around to clean up after other people, and everyone else tries not to think about them unless there’s a mess.”

“Like the business with Sukuna and the Amanojaku?” Caleb asks.

“Hoo boy, that was a fiasco.” Raiko says, shaking her head. “I guess I can’t really complain, though, since that created so many Tsukumogami that the Tanuki couldn’t control us anyone. Also, I got this great new body.” She says, gesturing to both her humanoid body and the drums she’s sitting on with a sly, satisfied smile.

“Still, that mallet of hers screwed with a lot of Youkai, making them pick fights with the Villagers.” She continues with a sigh. “Things were tense for some time after that, but it mostly cooled off after Seija got black-bagged. I appreciate that you three aren’t trying to rile things up again.”

“We’re not here to make things worse.” You tell her. “So, how are the Villagers when there isn’t an Incident?”

“They’re alright. I mean, I got treated better than most Tsukumogami. You know, before I was born.” Raiko says. “Compared to the Vampires or the Oni, we’ve never caused enough trouble to attract attention. I’m kind of worried about you guys, though.”

You frown. “Pardon?”

“You’re different, even from other mages.” Raiko’s mouth twists as she tries to explain. “There’s something about you...”

She gestures futilely for a few seconds. “Look, you’ve probably read Akyuu’s book, right? You know that I can do things with rhythms. Well, I’ve been picking up something strange from you guys, something like having a second shadow. You don’t need to tell me what it is, but I feel like you should know that the Villagers aren’t known for reacting well to magical talents.”

You’re about to protest, but then you remember that Keine, Reimu, and Marsia are all shunned to varying degrees.

“If I were you, I’d watch how I presented those talents. I’m sure there are people out there who would use that against you if they could.” Raiko says.

Your mind jumps to the Tanuki, the Tengu, and the Kappa. On that note-

“This is a bit off-topic, but what do you know about the Kappa?” You ask her.

“We’re not huge fans of them.” Raiko answers, shrugging. “I don’t think anyone is, really. They look down on everyone else and embargo anyone who tries to do something about it..”

“What’s their technology like?” You ask. “Have they been doing anything with robotics or nuclear power?”

“Actually, yeah. They made a big fuss about it something like a decade and a half ago.” Raiko says, oblivious to your rapidly increasing interest. “The Kappa made these machines that could walk around like people and had hands to carry things. Some of those had pilots, but most were automatic.”

“What’s happened since?” You ask.

“They stopped making them and scrapped most of what was built in a hurry.” Raiko says. “I hear the factory got shut down as well. Maybe someone mismanaged the funds, or there were ‘creative differences’. It happens all the time with Kappa and their projects, so I wasn’t too surprised.”

“Are any of those machines still around?”

“There was a big, nuclear-powered robot more recently. They called it Hisoutensoku, but they mothballed that as well. As far as I know, nothing’s still being used.”

Those sons of bitches.

“Thanks for letting me know, Raiko.” You tell her.

Raiko smiles. “No problem. Well, I’ve taken up enough of your time, so I’ll be on my way. You know where to find me!”

With little more than a cheery wave, she leaves, taking care to keep the door from hitting her drums on the way out.

“Seems like a very specific thing about the Kappa to be worried about.” Caleb says a few moments after Raiko leaves.

“I got an interesting lead on them a while ago.” You say. “They got their hands on technology that they really shouldn’t have.”

“Alright.” He says, shrugging. “Well, let us know if you need help taking it back from them. Just keep in mind that unless they’re literally building nukes, we’ll have a hard time justifying our usual level of force.”

---

What do you want to do?

[ ] Go to the Human Village. You need to make sure they’re on your side before someone less trustworthy does.
[ ] Go to Youkai Mountain. All of your intel points at the Kappa having at least one of the AIs. It’s time to pay them a visit.
[ ] Go to Muenzuka. Who better to explain to you what happened than the people who were there? Just watch out for psychopomps.
>> No. 197486
[x] Go to the Human Village. You need to make sure they’re on your side before someone less trustworthy does.

Damn Kappa
>> No. 197487
[X] Go to Youkai Mountain. All of your intel points at the Kappa having at least one of the AIs. It’s time to pay them a visit.

Time to take back what's rightfully ours. And if we should happen to acquire a certain Super Robot in so doing, well... wouldn't that be fun?
>> No. 197488
[x] Go to the Human Village. You need to make sure they’re on your side before someone less trustworthy does.

I feel like we need to cement our position in the village with a positive light.
>> No. 197489
[x] Go to the Human Village. You need to make sure they’re on your side before someone less trustworthy does.

Raiko's warning has me worried.

Also are we immortal again yet? I'm kind of looking forward to meeting Komachi, but not until we're ready.
>> No. 197493
[x] Go to the Human Village. You need to make sure they’re on your side before someone less trustworthy does.

We've sidestepped doing this for too long, we've had several opportunities to meet with the guard and such personally and have gone out of our way to meet with the others. By my count we're actually already going to be working from behind on this and given that our base of operations is so nearby, it makes sense tactically and just as a Templar that we do want to establish a presence here.
>> No. 197494
[X] Go to the Human Village. You need to make sure they’re on your side before someone less trustworthy does.

Socializing is go.
>> No. 197497
>>197489
You're at 5/7 days. You're almost back at full strength, though you are probably still 'mortal'. You could confidently fight a few reapers.
>> No. 197502
[x] Go to the Human Village. You need to make sure they’re on your side before someone less trustworthy does.

Not one to bandwagon for its own sake, but this does seem better to do sooner than later.

Also, minor quibble but it's Eientei, not Eintei.
>> No. 197503
>>197502
whoops
>> No. 197943
>>197503
Updates when?

Yeah I know, I shouldn't bump. But there's no way the author will find our unending thirst for updates otherwise
>> No. 197944
>>197943
say no more fam
>> No. 197946
[X] Human Village

---

“I’m heading over to the guard station.” You say, standing up and stretching. “They’ve been asking for me to show my face for a while.”

“You might be less than impressed by what you find.” Caleb says. “I’d say there were only two guys who knew what they were doing in the group I was in.”

“Well, that’s part of why I’m going.” You tell him. “I don’t want to be surprised by obsolete gear and amateur training if we need them for something. Considering that nobody else here is likely to do stuff for free if we ask them nicely, I think this will pay off.”

Caleb nods. “Makes sense to me. I’ll wrap up some tests with the sample you gave me, then go work on a spellcard or two before people start jumping me as well.”

“I’m heading out to the radio tower that Yuuka told us about.” Junko says, turning over a buckler in her hands before stowing it away. “I’ve got a good feeling about it.”

“Anything in particular, or just a feeling?” You venture.

“Call it an educated guess.” She shrugs. “The basic model I put together last night suggests that it’s a locus for something, which happens to be consistent with what Hina said. Hopefully it’s not just radio waves, or I’m going to feel real silly.”

“Alright then. Did either of you pick up any other areas of interest?”

“Well, there’s a few tangles in the vicinity of Youkai Mountain, but you don’t really need to be a chaos mage to guess that they’re up to something. It’s pretty much all from before we showed up, anyways.” Junko pauses. “There was something on the Hill of the Nameless, but Raiko just explained that it was Medicine.”

“Anything elsewhere?” You ask.

“Nothing specific.” Junko shakes her head. “Our arrival shook things up all over Gensokyo. There’s also lots of other chaos mages masking the ripples. Mamizou, Suwako, and Remilia are the ones that immediately come to mind, but after last night I’ll be able to tell if something big is on the way. Don’t worry about it for now.”

---

It doesn’t take long for you to find the guardhouse, but you do spend some time standing in front of it. You’ve heard a few times by now that the Village owes its continued existence to the Hakurei, and now that you see what the center of human military power in Gensokyo looks like, you’re inclined to agree.

The guard headquarters consists of a few modest wood and stone buildings surrounded by a stone wall near the center of the village. Compared to what you’re used to, you’re at a loss for words. Actually, that’s not quite right. Plenty of words spring to mind, but most of them are unflattering for what’s supposed to be the center of human security in Gensokyo.

While it appears reasonably well-maintained, the construction simply isn’t secure enough. It would be a simple matter to scale the walls even without flight, and there aren’t enough sentries posted to deter would-be infiltrators. There aren’t any magical defenses you can detect, which means that either the villagers are supremely skilled at implementing them or don’t have them at all. Something tells you it’s the latter.

You take a deep breath and walk inside. The rank and file guards startle and snap nervous salutes as they see you approach, but otherwise do not impede your approach. It seems you’ve been expected.

“Good morning.” You say to a pair of guards standing about. “Would you mind pointing me towards-”

“McGallagher!” Meira calls out, from behind you. “Good to see you. I’ll take it from here, gentlemen. I’m sure there’s a lot you’ll want to know, Executor.”

“I suppose you’ve been speaking with Keine if you’ve heard that.” You say as she leads you into the largest building in the complex. You’d personally prefer just McGallagher, but you’re willing to use the opportunity if they want to admire your rank.

“She’s the most capable leader in the Village, despite her unfortunate condition.” Meira says. “Now that you are here, though, I believe that we will benefit from even stronger leadership.”

Before you can respond, however, you arrive at Meira’s office and she ushers you inside. The room is austere, with aging wooden furniture and a handful of calligraphy scrolls as decoration.

“So.” Meira begins, sitting down. “You need to be filled in on our capabilities and current situation. Furthermore, Keine has informed me that a grave threat to the whole of Gensokyo has recently appeared, and that you and your comrades are crucial to fighting it.”

You nod. “That’s the essence of it. Did you hear any further details about the threat?”

“Only that it’s called the Filth and that it’s basically an extremely dangerous magical disease that can infect anything and anyone.” Meira answers. “The Guard has dealt with occult plagues before, but frankly speaking, even if it’s only half as dangerous as what Keine described, we won’t be able to stop it without help.”

“That’s why we’re here.” You tell her. “It’s a virulent threat, but one that can be fought back. However, in an enclosed space like Gensokyo, we’ll need everyone to be prepared to have a good chance of survival.”

Meira grunts. “As I suspected, Reimu and her spellcards won’t be saving us this time. Don’t worry, though. This isn’t our first fight, and we’re prepared to do whatever is necessary for the safety of the Villagers.”

A warm smile spreads across your face. “Of course. So, what are your numbers and equipment?”

“We have close to one hundred active Guardsmen, with about as many villagers who we could call upon as militia. In total, that’s about 4% of the population.”

That’s a pretty large proportion, though understandable for a smaller farming community surrounded on all sides, including downwards, by Youkai.

“We have twenty-five serviceable rifles and just enough ammunition to train an equal number of marksmen.” Meira goes on. “Kotohime is one of them, and believe it or not, is our best shot.”

“Compound bows and crossbows make up the rest of our ranged capability, and we don’t have to worry about running out of those. Virtually everyone here is at least competent with one of the two, and I’d estimate that 50 Guardsmen are good enough with them to be considered specialists.”

“That leaves around 25 of us as close combat specialists. yours truly included.” Meira says as she rests her hand on the pommel of her sword. “Once again, we’re not going to run out of spears and we all have a basic competence with them, but it takes uncommon skill and courage to go face to face with these monsters.”

You nod. “I’m aware. Before today, I was worried that the majority of the Guard would be fighting at close range. Doing so against the Filth would be... ill advised, to say nothing of more conventional foes.”

“As for armor, we rely mainly on wooden and cloth armor.” Meira continues. “We have a few sets of metal armor, but there hasn’t been a need for them in decades.”

It makes sense; Culling beasts is different than fighting a war. With what’s looming in the future, you anticipate a need for more effective personal armor.

“Do you have any Guardsmen trained in more advanced specialties?” You go on. “Field medicine, cursebreaking, combat magic, and so on.”

She frowns, giving you the impression she was dreading that question. “We do not have as many as we should.” Meira admits. “The Village as a whole has produced fewer and fewer magic practitioners over time; the protection of the Hakurei led to us growing complacent in that respect. We do have capable healers within our ranks, but we have also become increasingly reliant on Doctor Yagokoro’s services in recent years.”

“It does make some sense, with the Hakurei blocking open conflict.” You say. “What about practitioners like Marisa or Alice? Are they not aligned with the Village?”

“Only loosely, and there are only a handful around.” Meira says. “The two you mentioned are willing to fight for us whenever an incident comes around, but ordinary people are too suspicious of any magic - even the practical sort. It’s why almost all of them live outside the village walls.”

“Is there some sort of stigma against using magic among the Villagers?” You ask.

Meira frowns. “Unfortunately so. The popular superstition is that magic is simply bad luck. As far as most people know, it’s unpredictable, prone to backfire, and draws dangerous amounts of attention from the smarter Youkai.” She glances around the room before continuing. “Particularly the lady in purple.”

You give the slightest of nods in response. Yukari is almost certainly keeping an eye on you right now, but you see no reason to distress Meira with that.

You decide to change the subject. “It seems that the Village doesn’t have a strong magical tradition anymore. If that’s the case, how did Marisa and Alice achieve their current mastery? They’re among the brightest mages I’ve ever met.”

“All we know about Marisa is that when she was very young, she wandered into the Forest of Magic and somehow found a teacher instead of a hungry Youkai.” Meira answers. “We’ve never identified the teacher, and Marisa doesn’t mention them anymore. Whatever happened between them, I suspect her progress now is largely driven by a desire to stand equal to Reimu.”

You think Marisa’s gotten close as an ordinary human can get through her own efforts. You couldn’t match what you’ve read of Reimu’s feats.

“As for Alice...” She sighs. “I don’t think anyone knows for certain where she even came from. My guess is that she’s the daughter and lone survivor of a family of extreme survivalists who felt the need to rough it in the Forest. Whatever her background may be, I’ve got no quarrel to pick with her so long as she’s human and plans to remain that way.”

“Is that a problem with most mages here?” You ask. “Trying to become Revenants or Vampires or something else for a longer life and more power?”

“According to our records, yes.” Meira says. “Most villagers who start reading deeper into occultism tend to end up as some manner of monster or simply dead.”


“Huh.” You say. “That’s troubling. It’s also not at all normal. I mean, Keine’s a therianthrope, but she’s a well-grounded and modest person. Mokou, despite having precisely the sort of immortality that the hubristic sort is desperate for, is still on our side, right?”

“They are, but the general public is still wary of them.” Meira says, shrugging. “Keine is respected for all that she does for the Village, but people still keep her at arm’s length because of her condition. The Hieda are the only family that goes out of its way to invite her over. Meanwhile, Mokou lives in a shack she built for herself in the Bamboo Forest to avoid social contact. They just don’t inspire people.”

Your image of the Human Village is shifting from that of the last bastion of humanity to a glorified cattle pasture. Is this what Ran meant when she told you of what the other Youkai were up to? You can easily imagine them trying to subvert any mage of note and black-bagging the uncooperative ones. It was, after all, routine practice for the major Societies up to only a few centuries ago.

You clear your throat. “Are you aware of any... attempted Youkai interference in Village or Guard affairs?”

She snorts in response. “Aware? I know it’s happening. Anyone with any idea of how Gensokyo works understands that this place is meant to be a paradise only for the Youkai. We’re only here because they thought it was more convenient than smuggling people to eat through the Barrier all the time. All that’s changed now is that the knife is to our back instead of our face.”

“I’m one woman, Executor.” She says, years of frustration and weariness in those four words. “One woman with a sword and a small group of brave men and women. There’s only so much we can do when we’re locked inside this valley, with Youkai on both sides of the wall working to keep us paralyzed.”

So even some Villagers are aware of the situation Ran described to you. She was even so helpful as to suggest a solution: become their champion. You could pull it off, too. But since Ran directly told you about the possibility, you’d wager that she wants you to pursue it. That means that Yukari expects to somehow benefit from it, and you can’t imagine that’s a good thing.

“You’re not alone in this fight anymore.” You say, voice firm. “We’re here and we’ve got your back. You won’t abandon the people of Gensokyo, and neither will I.”

The most genuine smile you’ve yet seen from Meira spreads across her face. “Thank you, Executor. With you on our side, I have more hope for the Village than I ever had. So please, if there’s anything else you’d like to know, please tell me.”

---

Topics of inquiry (select 2)

[ ] Kappa technology
[ ] Templar involvement
[ ] Previous conflicts
[ ] Youkai in/around the Village
[ ] Hakurei (specify)
>> No. 197948
[x] Previous conflicts
[x] Youkai in/around the Village
>> No. 197949
...WELL. If busting some youkai heads wasn't already part of the plan, it sure as hell is now. Beating the Filth isn't enough, we need to leave these people better off than we found them. With that in mind...

[X] Youkai in/around the Village

They might not be the greatest threat in the grand scheme of things, but they're a problem that we can solve far more easily.

[X] Templar involvement

Might as well figure out where we've been and what we have to work with.
>> No. 197950
Forgot to add a separate vote

Disclose Chosen status? Y/N
>> No. 197951
File 150571368346.jpg - (2.05MB, 2704x1000, Eientei defense plan B.jpg) [iqdb]
197951
I thought finding the AIs should be our priority but this... youkai buffet that masquerades as a village is in dire need of help.

[x] Kappa technology

Still, I do want to find Ruukoto. And see how much are the kappa willing to give.

[x] Templar involvement
We still have the mission to find the mission templars, right? We only found out about the one that was in here from the beginning.

[x] Previous conflicts

How much experience, or lack thereof, do they have? Are they ready for the judgement day?
>> No. 197952
>>197950
[x] N

We don't them to depend on her too much. And they'll surely start asking for 'favors' if they find out the powerful human is effectively immortal too.
>> No. 197953
[x] N
[x] Previous conflicts
[x] Hakurei (How much has their interference weaken the humans of the village)
>> No. 197954
[x] Templar involvement
[x] Previous conflicts
[x] Youkai in/around the Village
[x] N
>> No. 197955
[x] Templar involvement
[x] Previous conflicts
[x] Youkai in/around the Village
[x] N
>> No. 197966
[x] Templar involvement
[x] Youkai in/around the Village
[x] N
>> No. 197970
[X]N
[X] Kappa technology
[X] Youkai in/around the Village
>> No. 197983
[x] N
[x] Templar involvement
[x] Previous conflicts

It might raise morale but I don't see much benefit for us in disclosing her Chosen status. While I also want to find Ruukuto, asking about kappa technology in this context seems rude given that the villagers want our help. But pursuing a lead on our mission related to the Templar descendants does seem worth doing.

And huh, is Alice still a human in this universe? Or is that just something Meira assumed (I'm not sure about Charlotte) from how she acts unusually human-like for a youkai?
>> No. 197985
>>197983
As far as she knows, Alice is pretty human. That is to say, she and Marisa are closer to your 'average' human than mages who have made lots of shady modifications to their bodies like Byakuren and Patchouli.
>> No. 198227
[X] Previous
[X] Youkai:
[X] Templar:

---

“Let’s begin with the conflicts the Village has been through.” You say.

“Keine would be able to explain the finer details, but I suppose I can run you through what’s happened.” Meira says. “The Village has been through wars with the oni, the tengu, and the vampires since the Barrier went up.”

“Vampires. Of course.” You grimace, remembering your time in Romania. “That must have been a disaster.”

“None of those conflicts were pleasant, but the vampires were particularly... destructive.” Meira replies, taking a moment to choose her words. “Are you familiar with larger conflicts?”

“Yes.” You tell her. Your only motion comes from your hands clenching. “I am acutely aware of what vampires do when they think they are a culture and not just a disease.”

She sighs. “I got the sense that you were. Still, I should start from the beginning.”

“There was a lot of chaos when the Barrier first went up. People had to deal with suddenly being isolated in this valley, unfamiliar youkai were everywhere, and the land itself seemed to be changing. The oni, being the inebriated marauders that they are, looked at the vulnerable state of things and decided it was a great time to go raiding.”

“Were any of today’s well-known oni involved in that?” You ask. Suika and Kasen seem friendly enough, but most demons don’t get hung up over killing humans.

“Suika denies it, and given what she is, I’m willing to to take her at her word. Yuugi, though...” A scowl crosses Meira’s face. “Well, there’s a reason she spends most of her time in the Underground. There aren’t any others I can think of.”

“Anyways, my great-grandmother and a few other people who were Jingu rallied the most effective Human resistance, but they still made life hell for a good while until Hakurei Izumo got off her hill and the Templars showed up.”

“I need to hear more about that last part.” You say. “How did they show up?”

“Same way everyone else does. People just ‘appear’ seemingly out of thin air around Gensokyo from time to time. If we’re lucky, we reach them before the youkai do.”

That still sounds very shady. As such, a culprit immediately comes to mind.

“Could it be the work of Yu-.” You start before attempting to backpedal as fear flashes across Meira’s face. “Um. Might the, uh, ‘Lady in Purple’ be responsible?”

“I have little knowledge of her plots and even less desire to gain any.” Meira says, taking a deep breath to calm herself. “Those who draw her gaze tend to not find happy ends.”

You recall your dreams of trains cruising through void and insects drinking your tears. That music box is feeling heavier in your pocket.

“The more fanciful stories say that Izumo led them in a charge down the hill of the shrine to rout the oni at a crucial battle.” Meira continues, oblivious to your unease. “However, other youkai smelled blood in the water, and the oni wanted a second fight.”

“The tengu and kappa started fighting to topple the oni, and we got caught in it again.” Meira says. “Both sides raided Villagers for food, equipment, and slave labor. Izumo was killed in the fighting, and the Templars suffered a few losses as well. This time, the war ended when a new Hakurei negotiated an end that established our current borders. The oni got the Underground, the tengu and kappa got Youkai mountain, and we got our humble village.”

“What happened to the Villagers who were still in captivity?” You ask.

“The Templars launched several rescue missions through enemy lines.” Meira says. “I doubt they got everyone home, but they did a damn good job. We have people living in the village today whose ancestors owe their lives to the courage of your Order.”

“Then they truly deserved to be called Templar.” You say, inclining your head.

“Undoubtedly.” Meira smiles, though you notice a flicker of sadness. “Sadly, the remaining Templars all perished fighting against the vampires.”

“A cabal of them had been scheming to conquer Gensokyo and used the intervening years to infiltrate the village and force lesser youkai into their service. Their first strike devastated the Village and killed Futaba, and things went downhill from there. Another Hakurei died to stop the Village from getting burned down, and we were whittled down through non-stop raids and ambushes.”

“Eventually, we found out that the vampires were searching for something in the outskirts of Gensokyo. Exactly what isn’t known, but the important part is that they didn’t get their hands on it. The Hakurei at the time and all the remaining Templar went into the mountains after them, and nobody came back.”

You frown. “What stopped people from going in after them and finding out what happened?”

“Things become... strange around the Barrier.” Meira says, shifting in her seat. “You can fly straight forward and find yourself behind your starting point. You can wander for a day and find that only a few minutes passed - or step in for a few minutes and go missing for a week. The Hakurei are the only people who I’d trust to lead me there.”

So you’re out of luck in that regard until Yukari sees fit to release Reimu.

“If you want to pay your respects to the fallen, I would suggest visiting Muenzuka.” Meira offers, sensing your disappointment. “It’s where the fallen were buried, and at least some of the Templar are surely buried there. Now, there are hostile Youkai in the vicinity - ghosts, maneaters, and a particularly nasty Tsukumogami - but someone of your caliber has nothing to fear from them.”

“The rest of the war was brief. It seems that the leader of the vampires was killed during that fight, and his underlings weren’t capable of stepping up. Other youkai pitched in as well, and we eventually managed to all but eradicate the vampires.”

“Sometimes you have to make a point of it.” You tell her with an indifferent tone. You’ve run out of sympathy for would-be youkai warlords.

“So there you have it.” Meira says. “We survived, but lost most of the people and knowledge that made it possible. We made a sort of peace with our remaining neighbors, except it’s coming to resemble domestication more and more as time goes on.”

“Why don’t you tell me more about those neighbors, then.” You suggest. “Specifically, the ones who deal with the Village the most. I’m particularly curious as to what involvement the Scarlets had in the vampire conflict.”

“Their manor didn’t appear until after the war, and they were a canny enough bunch to keep their heads down in the aftermath.”Meira says. “At least, until they tried that stunt with the red mist, but then Reimu and Marisa sorted them out and they’ve been civil enough since then. The only interesting thing we’ve heard about them has been an increase in visits to the bamboo forest over the past several years, but that’s probably just for their librarian’s health.”

Remilia appears to be responsible for a multiple-century-old child. Their ties with Eientei are something to pay attention to, although you suspect that they also have some relationship with Mokou. For now, you have other questions to ask.
>> No. 198228
“What can you tell me about Mamizou and her gang?” You ask.

“She’s displaced or recruited most of the human crooks in the Village.” Meira tells you. “Because of that, she’s been able to amass a fortune and push her nose further in our affairs than even the Tengu. We can’t track her because of her skill with disguises and grift, but it’s easy to tell that she’s trying to expand her influence and undermine ours.”

“Exactly how is she doing that?”

“Bribery, mostly.” Meira answers. “She’s a bit like the Moriya in that way, dangling things from outside the Barrier in front of people. For the few of us who aren’t so easily persuaded, she digs around for blackmail material or just fabricates it.”

“Is anyone important compromised?”

“Mamizou’s net is wide, but she hasn’t reached the real movers and shakers of the Village yet.” Meira says. “Keine and I are too stubborn, Kotohime’s too crazy, and Akyuu is rich and influential enough to stalemate her.”

“That’s good, but what about people like Reimu and Marisa?”

“Marisa, for all her other flaws, is canny enough to keep her distance. Reimu, though...” Meira frowns. “She’s been taking gifts of cash and booze, but it’s probably nothing serious. It would take more than that to avoid her wrath. Failing that, there’s still her patron. She’s known to be extremely possessive of Hakurei shamans.”

“Is Reimu’s shrine so unpopular that she can’t support herself off it?”

Meira frowns as she thinks about the situation. “She’s been getting more visitors, and Keine even set up a small stipend for her. The problem is that Reimu’s also been trying more and more get-rich-quick schemes that all fail and set her back.”

“How have her religious competitors been behaving?” You ask.

“They’ve been behaving well, for the most part.” Meira says. “Both groups like to proselytize in the Village, and we let them because they’re sensible enough to avoid causing real trouble. Neither has many serious believers from us; most folks aren’t cut out for hermit training or living in a den of youkai.”

“Do they try to get involved in Village affairs?”

“Byakuren’s too much of a bleeding heart not to.” Meira says, dismissively. “I’d like to say that her heart’s in the right place, but her mind is still stuck in whatever era she originally came from.”

You watch her jaw tense as she sighs. “She keeps pushing the idea that we can all hold hands together, but the first rule of Gensokyo is that humans and youkai are on separate sides. Eventually, she’ll have to pick one, and it’s clear where her sympathies lie.”

Is Byakuren aware of how many people expect her to fail?

“Miko keeps itching to be in charge of something.” Meira goes on. “She usually acts all aloof and detached, but she’ll drop hints about how much better off we’d be if we put her in control. To be fair, she’s a lot more savvy than Byakuren, and probably would have our back in the event of another disaster - but only because she can’t rule over us if we’re dead.”

That may be a naive assumption considering the presence of Seiga, but you’ll avoid mentioning that for now.

“Anything noteworthy about their subordinates?” You ask.

“The main thing that comes to mind is keeping them apart when they visit.” She shudders. “Futo got excited once during a squabble with Ichirin, and people are still finding plates lodged around the village.”

“How about the tsukumogami village?”

“Raiko was always friendly, but having more tsukumogami joining her is changing things. They’re a new faction in their own right, distinct from us, the tanuki, and the rest of the minor youkai, and they’re getting more eager to throw their growing weight around. Raiko and Mamizou had a spellcard fight over the tanuki using baby tsukumogami as spies, but apart from that, they’ve been doing alright. No real complaints from us against them.”

Raiko does strike you as someone who would take it personally. She’s a leader who cares for her people.

“What about those minor youkai you mentioned?”

“There’s not much to talk about.” Meira says. “Most of them live around the Village, usually with a token effort at disguise. They’re allowed inside as long as they aren’t known troublemakers, and many make a name for themselves at the marketplace. There’s a mermaid who sells interesting stones and salvage from the lakebed, and a tsukumogami named Kogasa who’s one of the better blacksmiths I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Some of the guards have equipment forged by her. Of course, not all of them are so well-behaved.”

“Yeah, I’ve run into some of them.” You sigh. Sekibanki comes to mind, but so does her request.

“I’ve heard.” Meira offers you a sympathetic look. “You’ve been putting them in their place, though, so I don’t expect you’ll be having more trouble from them. Just try to do so with spellcards from now on and there shouldn’t be a problem.”

“As for other notable youkai who show their faces around the Village, Iku has a habit of spending her off hours drinking and dancing here, Ran makes occasional shopping trips, and the Moriya come over to proselytize.”

“Does Yuuka have dealings with the Village?” You ask.

Meira winces. “Thankfully not. With how many Villagers are among her victims, we’d prefer it stay that way.”

“Hold on, victims?”

“She’s killed many people in her time here, Executor. I don’t have an exact figure, but I’d wager she’s got the most blood on her hands for anyone still around in Gensokyo. During those conflicts I told you about, she’d slaughter people on both sides of battles that were too close to her territory.”

“I’ll do my best to keep that in mind.” You tell her, still uncertain of how to react. “Thank you.”

Meira smiles in response. “It’s the least I can do. Now, we’re both busy women, so I won’t ask for more of your time today.”

“I’m always ready if you need me.” You assure her.

---

You sit down beneath the Dragon’s statue in the center of the Village, watching the crowd pass by and thinking about Yuuka.

Even with the secrets and regrets you sense her carrying, you still trust her more than most of the other people you’ve met here. Whatever she may have done in the past, you’re sure that the present Yuuka isn’t a senseless killer.

Junko’s voice prods you from your thoughts. “Charlotte, you there?”

“Yeah, still in the Village.” You reply, looking around. “Just finished with Meira. Are you nearby?”

“I’m actually still in the middle of the forest, still sitting at the top of the radio tower.”

“Ah. So you were right about it being special?”

“Yup. It seems to be attuned to local Anima patterns. I’d conjecture this has something to do with all the fairies swarming around. Anyways, I figured out a way to interface with it, and I picked up fragments of a distinctly Templar distress signal coming from the direction of Youkai Mountain.”

“You’re certain?”

“Yeah. The communication protocol is outdated, but it’s still a match. It’s a transponder for a Templar-affiliated AI named RK2.”

“That’s the one I’m after.”

“I figured. So, considering that Hina and I have both detected imminent misfortune around Youkai Mountain and that we’ve just uncovered an AI that has been stuck there for who knows how long, I think we ought to get some answers from the most likely culprits.”

“How are we supposed to get anywhere near Youkai Mountain without tengu coming down on us?” You object.

Before you can continue, you spot the petite figure of a kappa stepping through the crowd on her way to the marketplace.

“Actually, I might be able to find a lead right now.”

---

[ ] Track down Nitori to find leads on RK2
[ ] Track down Mamizou to bargain for intel
[ ] Visit Muenzuka to find deceased Templar
[ ] Other
>> No. 198229
[x] Track down Nitori to find leads on RK2

I feel like this one it's more imminent than the other two, considering RK2 distress signal and the hole misfortune bit.
>> No. 198230
Lost Bees updated! Today is a good day.

[x] Track down Nitori to find leads on RK2

The dead and tanuki aren't going anywhere. This sounds time-critical.
>> No. 198231
It's alive!

[X] Track down Nitori to find leads on RK2

Not sure how cooperative she'll be, but it sure is convenient timing.
>> No. 198232
[x] Track down Nitori to find leads on RK2
>> No. 198234
[X] Track down Nitori to find leads on RK2

Time-sensitive quest is a go!
>> No. 198242
[X] Track down Nitori to find leads on RK2
>> No. 198396
File 151322596287.jpg - (42.69KB, 450x600, 3d04cf27020bba1717c33a020bdcfd27.jpg) [iqdb]
198396
You tail the Kappa through the crowd to a section of the market with more youkai manning the shops. Eventually, she leads you to a storefront crammed with hardware and customers.

“Boss, I’m back!” The Kappa announces as she steps behind the counter.

Another Kappa, whom you deduce to be the boss, gives her a brief wave before turning back to her current client. You recognize her face as that of Nitori Kawashiro - and you inhale sharply as you identify her with the Kappa from the fragment of RK2’s video.

To avoid attracting attention, you get in line with the other villagers and wait. You take the time to observe your surroundings. Despite the volume of people visiting the shop, all transactions are handled without fuss. Business is good, and likely has been for quite a while. The goods themselves consist of appliances ranging from humidifiers to grow lights.

“Next!” Nitori calls, and you step forward as her previous customer leaves.

“What can I getcha, miss...” Her voice trails off as her eyes settle on your face. “Templar.”

“McGallagher is fine.” You say, returning her salesperson’s smile.

“Hope you’ve enjoyed the Village so far.” Nitori says. “So, are you looking to buy anything?”

Something about her smile hints to you that she’s well aware of the situation of the village, but you ignore that.

”Actually, I have something of a business proposal for you.” You tell her.

That raises an eyebrow. “Concerning what?” Nitori asks.

“Acquisition of robotics and nuclear technology.” You answer, keeping your gaze steady.

Nitori blinks first. “I see. Why don’t we continue this discussion in the back room?” She asks.

You nod, and Nitori leads you further into the store after waving another kappa over to cover her shift. You don’t detect any weapons on them, but you aren’t lowering your guard yet.

“I take it you’re not interested in placing a bid on the Hisoutenko.” Nitori says, opening a fridge and taking a cucumber.

“No. The unit I’m looking for was taken from the Hakurei Shrine by you.” You tell her, crossing your arms.

“So”? Nitori gives you a suspicious glare as she bites into the cucumber with a crunch. “Not sure how you know about it, but it was a private transaction. I don’t see why you’re entitled to any details.”

“I represent the proper owner of the artificial intelligence.” You say. “We want it returned to us.”

“You couldn’t have wanted it that badly if it ended up here.” Nitori replies, shrugging.

You’re starting to resent how, even in a pocket dimension ruled over by a creepy, dream-invading purple woman that was utterly unknown less than a week ago, you still cannot escape having to clean up professor Okazaki’s messes.

“That’s beside the point.” You say, releasing a deep breath.

Nitori finds a chair to sit on, raising her height to your chin level. “All I’m hearing is a lack of convincing reasons to offer more information.”

As frustrating as she’s being, you are dead certain that Nitori does have more to offer you. You just need to figure out the best way to pry it from her.

---

[ ] (Lie) Reactor failure is imminent and its distress beacon is near Youkai Mountain. Do the math.
[ ] (Truth) Both Hina and my colleague have detected imminent misfortune in its vicinity.
[ ] (Spellcard) Why don’t we take this outside, Nitori?
[ ] (Leave) I’m getting it back, with or without you.
>> No. 198399
[x] (Truth) Both Hina and my colleague have detected imminent misfortune in its vicinity.

I feel like Nitori might trust Hina's word more than our own.
>> No. 198401
File 15132521215.jpg - (242.41KB, 749x900, like this?.jpg) [iqdb]
198401
[x] (Truth) Both Hina and my colleague have detected imminent misfortune in its vicinity.

> Hisoutenko

...go on.
>> No. 198407
File 151325906886.png - (85.03KB, 492x280, serveimage.png) [iqdb]
198407
[x] (Doubt) Getting awfully pushy against a paying customer. Wonder why, huh?
>> No. 198408
[x] (Spellcard) Why don’t we take this outside, Nitori?

Beating her up would put a smile in my face.
>> No. 198409
[x] (Truth) Both Hina and my colleague have detected imminent misfortune in its vicinity.

Might as well try polite to start with, we can always take this outside if she refuses to play ball.
>> No. 198410
By the way, the first thread of this story is gone, the only thing it pops up, at least for me, is an error. https://www.touhou-project.com/th/res/182674.html

Was this your doing, is it an error, is it a purge by the mods?
>> No. 198411
>>198410
I didn't delete it. I'm guessing it got archived or something.
>> No. 198412
>>198410

It fell off the board but hasn't reached the archive yet. You can try bugging the mods about it but I doubt you'll get far.

In the meantime, behold the magic of the Wayback Machine:

http://web.archive.org/web/20150909101252/https://www.touhou-project.com/th/res/182674.html
>> No. 198414
>>198399
Agreed, though it feels a little metagamey to pick this since I don’t think Charlotte would know of any friendship between Hina and Nitori. It make sense for them to at least be acquainted, though, both being Youkai Mountain residents.

[x] (Truth) Both Hina and my colleague have detected imminent misfortune in its vicinity.
>> No. 198416
[x] (Truth) Both Hina and my colleague have detected imminent misfortune in its vicinity.
>> No. 198420
[x] (Truth) Both Hina and my colleague have detected imminent misfortune in its vicinity.
>> No. 198569
File 151677358128.jpg - (332.28KB, 2100x2930, __onozuka_komachi_touhou_drawn_by_mappe_778exceed_.jpg) [iqdb]
198569
(Truth) Both Hina and my colleague have detected imminent misfortune in its vicinity.

---

“I’ve identified the AI’s distress signal in a remote stretch of kappa territory, and two experienced diviners have both predicted trouble in that area within days of each other.”

“Who exactly are your sources?” Nitori asks, squinting.

“One of them is Junko. She’s a human who came here with me, and I can vouch for her.” You explain. “The other is Hina Kagiyama.”

You’ve never met the curse goddess yourself, but Nitori has, if her widening eyes are any clue.

“That bleeding heart.” Nitori groans. She stays silent for a few moments with a frustrated expression before turning back to you. “Alright. If Hina cares enough to bring humans into mountain affairs, I guess my hand is forced.”

“Meaning?” You ask.

“Meaning that I’m willing to consider a temporary partnership with you, but I need to hear what you know about the issue so far.” Nitori answers. She reaches into a backpack sitting on a shelf and pulls out a device that resembles a speaker.

“Noise canceller.” She explains as she sets it down and turns it on. “We don’t have to worry about the Tanuki listening in, so take your time.”

“While I’m not entirely sure how the the AI or its handler found its way into Gensokyo, I am aware that it came into the possession of Reimu Hakurei during her childhood.” You tell her. ”During that period of time RK2 worked as a domestic servant for her, but was eventually bartered away to a kappa for some amount of money that could not have been even remotely near its value.”

“I get your point.” Nitori huffs, gesturing for you to continue.

“I don’t know RK2’s exact fate after entering kappa possession, but there were a number of interesting events following it. First, the kappa began producing robots more advanced than anything Gensokyo had seen. Next, the kappa abruptly stopped producing any more. Lastly, they destroyed almost all of the existing units.”

You pause, taking a moment to study Nitori’s expression. To her credit, she’s been maintaining a straight face so far.

“Not only did you abandon a successful robotics program, but you destroyed nearly all of its results.” You say. “Whoever was in charge panicked, and I can think of a number of ways an AI in that situation might create a reason to be afraid.”

“That brings us to the present. I’ve confirmed the AI’s presence, and two others have detected approaching trouble in the same area. It’s too much to be coincidence.”

Nitori nods as you finish. “Is that the extent of your knowledge at this time?”

“Yeah.” You answer. “How close am I?”

She sighs. “From what I know, more than I’m pleased to admit. And before we go any further, I want to make it clear that my only involvement with the group that did this was delivering the unit to them. Also, If any of this gets back to the tengu, the tanuki, or anyone else, no respectable kappa will have anything to do with you ever again. Understood?”

“Loud and clear.” You reply.

“Good.” Nitori says, smiling now. She opens the fridge again and takes two more cucumbers, one of which she tosses for you to catch.

“Now, when I sold the robot to the skunkworks, I was curious enough to tail them for a bit. I couldn’t follow them all the way, but I managed to narrow down the site to a hill on the very edge of where the Barrier starts to make things weird. That area hasn’t been touched since the first wars.”

“Have you been back since they quarantined it?” You ask.

“Only the exterior. They moved into some sort of Outsider bunker that was set into the mountain, and sealed the entrance with concrete when they moved out. There’s got to be salvage inside, but nobody’s getting through that way without alerting the entire mountain.”

“So what’s the entry plan if the front door isn’t an option?” You ask. You follow Nitori’s lead and start eating the cucumber to be polite.

“They didn’t seal the ventilation system as tight.” Nitori says. “And before you ask, yes, the ducts are big enough for even you humans to pass through. The only problem is-”

“Crawling about in dark, noisy vents that will deposit us who knows where in a derelict facility with a rogue AI.” You interrupt. “Brilliant. I don’t suppose the original owners left the building plans lying around?”

Nitori shakes her head. “I couldn’t find anything, and the people involved aren’t talking. My guess is that they destroyed all their files for deniability when the Tengu came calling.”

“Well, I could use my drones to scout out the facility, but you’d have to take me there first.” You say.

“That sounds like a plan, but I can’t bring you right now without attracting too much attention.” Nitori says. “Rumor has it that tengu management assigned Aya to keep tabs on you.”

“Is that something to be worried about?”

Nitori shrugs. “She’s one of the more competent tengu, and she’s loyal. Most people wouldn’t be able to tell with that attitude of hers. I’ve heard that people have gotten her to ease up on them by trading away interesting stories both true and, as she might call them, ‘enhanced’.”

Aya’s been a pest since you encountered her, but it seems that she may have her uses as well.

“Anyways, I can stop by that farmhouse you’ve been staying at tonight to discuss things further.” Nitori goes on. “Might as well get this dealt with as soon as possible. We both have things in there we want, and reasons to keep the Tengu off the warpath.”

---

After taking your leave of Nitori and leaving through a rear door, you blend back into the marketplace and consider your next move. You’re closer to accomplishing one of your major objectives, and perhaps making a new ally as well.

Your wandering leads you back to the statue of the Dragon, where an unknown figure catches your eye through the crowd.

A red-headed woman wearing a blue vest over a white dress looks at you in patient observation as she sits cross-legged, leaning against the stone just as a large scythe leans against her shoulder.

A quick glance in her vicinity shows that, impossibly, nobody else is paying her any attention. The woman nudges her scythe an inch to the side as a group of laughing children run past from behind her, saving a boy from running straight into the blade.

Your thermal vision confirms your fear - just like Murasa, she gives off no warmth. Her weapon marks her as a powerful specter, and the proximity of civilians makes you further dread the prospect of a fight.

Meanwhile, the wraith continues watching you. The only acknowledgement she gives of your awareness is a carefree smile and a beckoning wave.

---

[ ] Approach the wraith.
[ ] Find help.
[ ] Attempt to lure the wraith out of the Village.
[ ] Other?
>> No. 198570
[x] Approach the wraith.

That bit about moving her scythe suggests she's not about to start something that'll endanger innocent bystanders. At least, not without good reason.

So let's not give her a reason. She's already been more polite than most, though that says more about them than her.
>> No. 198571
[x] Approach the wraith.
>> No. 198572
[X] Approach the wraith.

Let's open our mouth and say words.
>> No. 198573
[x] Approach
-[x] Send a ping to your companions
--[x] "Scythe wearing wraith approaching me on human village. Following"

Or something like that.

Anyway, here's hoping her immortality is finally "on"
>> No. 198575
[x] Approach the wraith.
-[x] Send a ping to your companions:
--[x] "Scythe wielding wraith approaching me at dragon statue in human village marketplace.”

Slightly edited, but this seems like a pretty good idea. I don’t think Komachi’s necessarily going to be unfriendly here, but Charlotte has no way of knowing that, so being more cautious makes sense. And there is a decent chance she’ll attack us, if the Chosen are viewed similarly to hermits, and if she feels like actually doing her job.

May change vote later, need to look back through the thread and see how far away the other Chosen are.
>> No. 198576
[X] Find help.

We might still be mortal at the moment, let's not take the risk of confronting a shinigami right now. Even if she is just a ferryman.
>> No. 198580
>>198570 here, add

[x] ping companions

to my vote. Assuming either of them are close enough to hear.
>> No. 198583
[x] Approach
-[x] Send a ping to your companions
--[x] "Scythe wearing wraith approaching me on human village. Following"
>> No. 198603
[x] Approach the wraith.
-[x] Send a ping to your companions:
--[x] "Scythe wielding wraith approaching me at dragon statue in human village marketplace.”

This sounds good to me.
>> No. 198606
File 151824313438.png - (1.26MB, 1500x2105, __onozuka_komachi_touhou_drawn_by_mappe_778exceed_.png) [iqdb]
198606
[X] Approach
[X] Attempt to notify companions

---

“Junko? Caleb?” You ping while continuing to watch the wraith. There’s no answer.

In response, you take out a drone and program it to return to the safehouse and deliver a message to them. It flies off over the rooftops, leaving you to your task.

You slip through the crowd and sit on a bench facing the wraith.

“Hi.” You offer. “I assume you’ve got business with me?”

“Yeah, you could say that.” She answers in a lazy, upbeat voice. “My name’s Komachi, by the way. I work for the Ministry of Right and Wrong.”

“Ah. That explains...” You pause and frown. “Actually, it doesn’t explain much. How come the afterlife chooses now to come knocking?”

“If you really want to know, the warrant is for unauthorized resurrection.”

“Now that’s a heap of rubbish.” You retort. “The Taoists wouldn’t still be around if you cared about that charge enough to go after me.”

“I dunno.” Komachi says with an audible shrug. “The boss lady said you’re to be brought in for questioning, so here we are. And besides, it’s not for lack of effort on our part.”

You’re not sure if Komachi’s easygoing demeanor is meant to soothe or annoy you. Regardless, you detect a glint of competence in her half-lidded eyes that keeps you on edge.

“So why bother discussing this with me?” You ask. “I’ve never met a psychopomp who wasn’t willing to get their hands dirty.”

“I can fight. Doesn’t mean I’d prefer it over having my charge come peacefully.” Komachi replies. “And speaking truthfully, I don’t know if I could take you down cleanly.”

“But why go out of my way when you’re so eager to throw yourself into danger?” She goes on. “Having ferried many souls across the Sanzu before, I’d wager that you didn’t come here to live a long, peaceful, and uneventful life.”

“You really think you can stop the Bees from bringing me back?” You ask. The question feels almost sacrilegious. You’ve died and come back with no problems whatsoever more times than you could count, excluding the incident at the Shrine.

“I’m not allowed to say more.” Komachi says with a rueful smile. “But I can promise that Eiki’ll be a lot more lenient if you come with me now.”

Despite everything else, that point is enough to make you consider it. The opportunity to directly and privately speak with one of the most powerful figures in Gensokyo could easily be worth a jaunt to the afterlife. There’s only one problem.

“Any idea how long I’d be dead for?” You ask.

Komachi shrugs again. “Like a lot of things in Higan, that depends on Eiki’s judgement. I can’t really estimate for you, because pretty much nobody comes back. Death is a one way road for most, after all.”

“Can you at least allow me to inform my colleagues and guarantee that I’d be released in a timely manner?” You ask. “Single-digit realspace days.”

The reaper nods. “That sounds about right. Like I said, the sooner you come, the happier Eiki’ll be, even if she doesn’t show it.”

She leans towards you and whispers conspiratorially. “The paperwork for sending a death squad after someone is such a pain.”

---

[ ] Go gently

[ ] Do not go gently
>> No. 198616
[X] Go gently
>> No. 198622
[X] Go gently

I can't see a fight ending well. And... well, I'm going with my gut here mostly.
>> No. 198624
[x] Go gently

sure why not
>> No. 198626
[x] Go gently.

Well, she did bother to ask, and we're not staying, so...
>> No. 198631
[X] Go gently
>> No. 198632
[x] Go gently

The other issue here is that she approached in the middle of the village, meaning if we fight there's collateral -- and I'd expect Charlotte to view that kind of 'hostage' situation rather poorly on Komachi. I see this out of a sense of duty rather than because Komachi asked.
>> No. 198633
[X] Do not go gently

Pissing into the tide here, but fuck that. She's asking us to DIE, even if she's pretending to be polite about it. If she really wants our soul that badly, she can come and fucking get it.
>> No. 198634
[X] Do not go gently
>> No. 198637
[X] Do not go gently

I don't particularly appreciate people popping up out of nowhere to threaten us.
>> No. 198649
[X] Go gently
>> No. 198769
Go gently

---

“Alright.” You say. “I’ll take you up on that offer.”

Komachi blinks. “Wait, for real?” She asks, tilting her head. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I just figured you’d need more convincing.”

You’re still conflicted about it, but most of your instincts urge you forward. Also, while Komachi doesn’t strike you as the sort of psychopomp to drag bystanders into a fight, but you’re in no hurry to find out.

“Might as well get it over with” You tell her. “Just give me a moment to notify a few people and I’ll be set.”

You take out your phone and start typing. Within a few minutes, you’ve written a message for Caleb, Junko, Yuuka, and Keine, informing them of your decision.

As you finish up, you remember that you don’t know exactly when Cirno and Dai are coming for those magic lessons. You can only hope that the two don’t overreact to your (hopefully brief) death. They have their own resurrection, right?

With the message written and sent via drone, you face Komachi again. “Alright, let’s get going.”

She laughs and stands up. “Oh, what I would give for everyone to be as cooperative as you when their time’s up.”

Komachi surprises you by draping her arm over your shoulder like an old friend. “Hold on, now.”

Vertigo overtakes you as your surroundings blur into elongated streaks of color before resolving into coherent scenery.

“Oi, you could have warned me, you know.” You grumble as you stumble away from Komachi, head spinning. Once you clear your head, you look up to find yourself at a somber riverbank. Between the unseasonable mist and meager vegetation, the area is gray and silent.

Komachi turns to the mist and whistles. After a few moments, a humble wooden rowboat floats into view and drifts in front of her, who motions for you to get on. “Come on. It’s not like there’s much scenery to take in.”

You pause as you’re about to board. “This is the part where I pay you so you don’t throw me overboard, right?”

Komachi shrugs. “Usually, yes. Still, this is an odd case. I’m sure we can overlook this, especially since you’re coming instead of being taken.”

“Works for me.” You say as you step on, sit down, and brace yourself against the chill.

“You know the rules, right?” Komachi asks as she pushes off with her scythe. “No food or drink, no standing while in motion, no fishing, no questions about previous passengers, no body parts outside the boat, no magic, and no jumping into the river if you know what’s good for you.”

You reply in the affirmative for her and watch as the living world disappear behind a curtain of fog. Doubt creeps into your gut.

You try to keep your mind off pointless stewing by considering the current situation of the Village. Something that’s been particularly bothering you has been the lack of any real mage corps. Having a handful of champions seems to have worked well in spellcards, but the lack of magically proficient guards has left the entire Village vulnerable to youkai infiltration and could prove fatal in combat.

From what Meira described, this isn’t accidental. The Village has been deliberately stunted in this respect, and training a new cadre of mages would demand an investment of more time and attention than you may be prepared to devote.

However, there is an alternative. Both the Buddhists and Taoists are magically adept organizations that are at least tolerated by the humans of Gensokyo. If you could broker some sort of partnership, it’s possible that they could fill role at least on a temporary basis.

Ideally, both groups would be brought into the fold, but that would require assuaging Miko’s ego and Byakuren’s fear, as well as defusing the rivalry between the two groups. Having both of them more firmly on the Village’s side would create a formidable alliance, but the hassle of keeping it together could easily be too much trouble.

You take a moment to take stock of your surroundings before feeling foolish for it. Just more gray skies reflected on the placid water, with the regular rowing of Komachi being the only noise.

Komachi notices your restlessness. “So what’s it like, your line of work?” She asks.

“Exciting is the blandest word I could describe it with.” You answer. “Working for a society as old as civilization, traveling across the globe and beyond in the blink of an eye, fighting horrible abominations from outside reality, falling into an unknown land… I’m a little surprised that I was able to get used to it.”

Komachi whistles. “Ever miss your life from before? Before you got mixed up in secret society shenanigans, I mean.”

You shake your head. “I’d rather know the reality of the situation than live in ignorance, however blissful.” You answer.

“Even if it’s ugly?” Komachi goes on. “The truth can hurt, you know.”

“Well, better me than the rest of the world.” You say with a shrug.

Komachi nods thoughtfully at your answer, smiling all the while.

“So how are you feeling about seeing Eiki?” She asks after a few moments. “Proud? Scared?

“More bored than anything else.” You tell her. “How long does the average trip across the Sanzu take?”

Komachi shrugs again, not breaking the rhythm of her rowing. “Can’t divulge that, but I don’t think most people have led nearly as eventful lives as you have. You’ve killed a lot - I can smell it on you.”

You shrug. “Most of them were monsters, literal or figurative.” You say. “Besides, I’ve done quite a lot of good deeds along the way. Surely those count for something.”

“That’s for Eiki to decide.” Komachi says with finality.

Out of boredom, you crane your head over the side of the boat and see your reflection frowning back at you from the mirror-like surface of the river.

You also see a familiar purple butterfly perched on top of your head.

You jerk back, earning a raised eyebrow from Komachi. “Warned you about staying inside the boat, didn’t I?”

The butterfly flits between you and the ferrywoman to land on the prow of the ship. It would have been impossible for the butterfly to escape her notice, flying right in front of her, yet she hasn’t reacted at all. There’s no chance that this is somehow an ordinary insect, either, unless it flew from a lifeless land across an uncertain span of lifeless water to land specifically in the one boat you’re in.

That music box is weighing heavily in your pocket now.

---

[ ] Play the music box and take a nap.
[ ] Try to call Komachi's attention to the butterfly.
[ ] Other?
>> No. 198770
[X] Play the music box and take a nap.
>> No. 198771
[X] Play the music box and take a nap.

If a certain somebody is trying to put a finger on the scales, I think it's more likely to be in our favor than against us.
>> No. 198772
[X] Play the music box and take a nap

Taking a post out of her own book!
>> No. 198774
[X] Play the music box and take a nap.
>> No. 198789
[x] Play the music box and take a nap.
>> No. 198792
[x] Try to call Komachi's attention to the butterfly.

I am contrary and suspicious.
>> No. 198861
Play the music box and take a nap.
-

You can’t say you’re pleased to begin meeting the butterfly outside of your dreams, but you’ll take its strangeness over grinding boredom.

You grasp the small metal cube and wind the key. The chiming the music box produces doesn’t resemble any music you’ve heard before, but it does make you drowsy.

As your eyelids become to heavy to keep up, you call upon your student days to sit in such a way that you won’t fall over once you fall asleep. Hopefully, Komachi won’t notice that something is off long enough for you to finish whatever business the insect has with you.


When you open your eyes, you find the boat sailing through the same black void that the train rode through. In fact, your only indication that you’re still sailing instead of floating are the ripples on the bottom half-

Something down there just moved.

You get to your feet. Keeping a hand ready to draw, you inch over to the side of the boat to peer over. You’re greeted by the sight of countless pale, elongated arms, reaching up from the fathomless deep and waving beneath you like seaweeds in the current. Some of them extend far enough for their fingertips to rake the otherwise invisible surface you’re sailing over.

One of them may have just waved at you. You’re not sure, but you’re also not interested in seeing if it’s possible to draw their attention right now.

As you gingerly sit back down, you spot the purple butterfly perched on the prow of the boat like a figurehead.

“So, you got me to play your game again.” You call out, knuckles whitening around your seat. “Why don’t you return the favor?”

It responds by flying over to land on your nose without fanfare, the tickling sensation almost causing you to sneeze.

“Are you sure this is the only way you can show me stuff?” You ask before flinching as the sound of fingernails scraping against wood comes from beneath you. “Alright, alright, I get it! Let’s just get this over with.”

Satisfied with your answer, the butterfly shifts over. A moment later, you feel a familiar poke at the corner of your eye, and your vision goes black.

-

Your hearing, however, appears to be fine.

“Now, Eiki, I know that you have some concerns about my absence-”

“Lady Hecatia, I humbly beseech you to reconsider.” A voice replies in clipped tones, trying to balance respect with frustration. “Yuuka and Shinki have crippled each other, and yet the conductor has done nothing. She appears content to sit back and watch as her pact comes undone.”

“That’s why I need you to stay behind.” ‘Hecatia’ says. “Humans have a saying for this kind of thing, right? ‘Hold down the fort’, I think. I’m not happy that we’re infighting again, but I can’t afford to return right now.”

A pause. “Are you at least making progress on whatever errand you have chosen to pursue?” Eiki asks.

“Mhm. Just a little bit more, and I’ll score a great victory for Gensokyo. It’ll be a real game-changer!”

“And I suppose I’ll have to wait for the end of your task to discover what it is.”

“I wish I could tell you, Eiki. I do trust you enough, but you never know when miss Conductor is listening. In fact, I’d expect that she’s eavesdropping on us right now. Hi, Yukari!”

Whoever this Hecatia is, she’s an astute one. Also remarkably casual for someone bossing a damn Yama around.

“Listen to me, Eiki.” Hecatia lowers her voice. “I wouldn’t have given you this position if I thought you couldn’t take care of it, and you haven’t disappointed me yet. I have to go now, so the next time you’ll hear from me will be when my plan either succeeds or fails. Hopefully the first one. Remember, only contact me if Yukari is unable or unwilling to keep her promise. That, or if you find new information about Hakurei.”

Depending on when this scene is taking place, the afterlife might genuinely not know about what happened to Reimu’s predecessor…s? Of course, maybe this Hecatia is only putting on a show for Yukari.

However, a familiar tingle in your head suggests that you’re not going to be listening to more.

---

TRANSMIT- the monochrome binary - RECIEVE - your mandatory performance appraisal - WITNESS - The Ministry of Right and Wrong

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

Have you ever hesitated on the precipice of a shameful act, sweetling? Even knowing that nobody else would ever know?
No, your instincts were wiser. You would know. More importantly, they would too, in time.

Your kind caused such a stir among the Host when you took your first clumsy steps upright. The war in heaven ended with the rebel angels cast out, but even then the victors had to acknowledge certain truths their foes raised against humanity. Flawed as you were, you required administration to reach your potential. Elevation. Guidance along a divinely-appointed path.

Query: Gensokyo. Refining search…

Once, there was a stone that became a statue.
Once, there was a statue that became a judge.
Once, there was a judge who became a prisoner.

The ministries do not need tyrants, just as they do not need saints. They require machines, innumerable cogs to keep the transcendent wheel of Dharma turning.

Your paths should rarely intersect, sweetling. Still, we hope you can appreciate the parallel.

---

You’re awoken by something prodding you between your shoulder blades.

“It’s sorta hypocritical for me to say this, but you picked a hell of a time to take a nap.” Komachi chastises.

As you blink the sleep from your eyes, you find that the small boat has made landfall on a beach of pristine white sand. The shore stretches as far as you can see in both directions, and beyond it is a field of red flowers split by a single cobblestone footpath.

“I’m honestly kind of impressed. Nobody’s ever been able to sleep on the ride here.” Komachi goes on, resting with her arms folded across her scythe as you get to your feet. The butterfly is nowhere to be seen.

“Might as well get this done with.” You grunt as you climb out.

“That’s the spirit!” Komachi grins at you.

The sand crunches beneath your boots as you step out and take in your surroundings. Everything about it is as still and silent as you’d expect death to be.

Oh, and about a mutual friend.” You turn around to find Komachi with an unusually sharp gaze. “You already know the deal with Kasen, right?”

“The oni thing?” You reply, shrugging. “Seemed pretty obvious to me. The three fairies of light stacked on each other’s shoulders in a trench coat would be better disguised.”

She laughs, but not without a moment of hesitation. “Ain’t that the truth! Well, I’m glad you’re aware. I’d hate to be the one who has to break it to you.”

“For all the good it’ll do you, good luck, Charlotte.” Komachi says, looking you in the eye.

With that, she pushes away from the shore. The fog soon swallows both her vessel and her whistling, leaving you to the solitary path ahead.

You pull your coat closer to ward away the chill and start walking.

---

If you had to use a single word to describe Higan, it would be ‘calm’. It’s peaceful in the way that cemeteries are. No wind, no wildlife, no sound but your footsteps - the red poppies blanketing the endless plains might as well be plastic. Pretty but sterile.

At least the uniformity of your surroundings lets you march on autopilot. Sooner than you had expected, you find yourself staring up at an enormous and ornate gate.

Time to face the music. You take a deep breath and step forward, the doors swinging open on their own to admit you.

The courtroom itself is just as grand as the doors - no doubt to strike awe in the hearts of those to be judged. You’re no stranger to opulent and imperial architecture, but even this gives you pause.

“Charlotte McGallagher.” A commanding voice, the same one you heard in the dream, echoes through the vast hall. “I am the Yama of Gensokyo. Thank you for answering my summons.”

You look upwards to face the voice as the doors slam shut behind you. Seated at the pinnacle of a towering podium is a woman in ceremonial garb who gazes back down at you. Her face is stern, yet without contempt, and you reflexively straighten your posture and clasp your hands behind your back.

“Your honor.” You say, bowing your head. Why did the butterfly give you a peek into her past?

“I’m pleased that you’ve chosen to come before me with a minimum of difficulty.” Eiki goes on, her expression unchanged. “I truly am grateful for your cooperation. However, I must warn you that there is no room for bias here.”

“I understand completely.” You say, maintaining eye contact. “However, I also suspect that my circumstances are different from that of your average petitioner.”

As far as the afterlife is concerned, you’ve been legally dead since the moment you got on Komachi’s boat. Still, you’re banking on your Bee protecting you from the worst they can try.

That earns a slight nod and a sigh from her. “Correct. There are certain… restrictions in place concerning individuals such as yourself. Still, you are not the first Chosen this land has seen.”

“In that case, what do you have planned for me?” You ask.

Eiki stands up from her podium, and for a moment you wonder if you’ve made a mistake. However, she only starts floating down towards you.

“I wish to gain a better understanding of you and your companions using the methods I have available to me.” Eiki explains as she gracefully descends. “I’m sure that by now, you’re aware of the attention you’ve been receiving . A certain kitsune and her mistress come to mind, as does a feared gardener. They seek to control you.”

Part of your conversation with Yuuka stands out to you. “Are you one of them?” You ask, keeping your voice level as Eiki lands in front of you almost without a sound. She’s smaller in person than you expected, about chin height, yet it feels like you’re the one looking up at her.

“My goal is to guide you in accordance with the principles of Dharma.” Eiki answers, taking a step towards you, her face still a mask of serene intent as she studies yours. “And yes, you may consider me the representative of one such interest.”

She’s certainly more straightforward than Yukari, though it remains to be seen if she’ll be as friendly as Yuuka. In any case, you’re pleased to fill in more blanks in Gensokyo’s hierarchy.

Your pondering is cut short by Eiki producing a gilded hand mirror from her person and holding it to catch the light.

“I would like to review your experiences until this point.” Eiki says, taking another step. “Now, as you have not died a true death, I cannot force this upon you-”

You let out a breath you don’t remember taking.

“However, the alternative is reviewing your case file manually.” Eiki motions to the side of the room, where you see an SUV-sized bundle of scrolls. “For both of our sakes, I recommend using the mirror.”

Man, you just can’t catch a break, can you?

“Still, in light of your compliance, I am willing to share information you may find pertinent to your investigations.” Eiki says. “The only conditions I ask are that you submit to my examination and that you share with me any significant findings you make with my knowledge.”

You almost grin in spite of the situation. Eiki could hardly have known about the visit the butterfly paid you, right?

---

What do you request from Eiki? (Choose 2)
- [ ] Information on Hakurei
- [ ] Information on the Templar
- [ ] Information on Yuuka
- [ ] Information on Yukari
- [ ] Information on Shinki
- [ ] Information of Hecatia
- [ ] Other
>> No. 198862
-[x] Information on Hakurei
An obvious priority
-[x] Information of Hecatia
A new player? It was either this or Yukari, but we need to know if she is playing to do some crazy shit like, I don't know, invade the moon.
>> No. 198863
Oh hell. What a choice.

> [ ] Information on Hakurei

Going by the butterfly's "hint", Eiki's as in the dark as we are, or almost so. I'd like to know, but we'll probably learn more by asking about the others.

> [ ] Information on the Templar

We are a Templar. I don't recall any major holes in our knowledge. Doesn't sound useful - better to go check on those graves on the way home, if anything.

> [ ] Information of Hecatia

I don't recall Hecatia being mentioned before. Definitely a new player, so asking about her will probably raise more questions than answers.

> [ ] Information on Shinki

I'm a huge Shinki fan and her role in this story interests me no end, but...

[x] Information on Yuuka
[x] Information on Yukari

...these two are the juicy targets. They're both trying to use us for their own ends and we know exactly Jack and squat about them. So if we want control of our lives back any time soon, these are the ones to ask about.

If Eiki/Bee is feeling generous enough to allow more than two questions, throw a [x] Shinki in there too.
>> No. 198865
[x] Information on Yuuka
-[x] Information of Hecatia
>> No. 198876
[x] Information on Yuuka
[x] Information on Yukari
>> No. 198878
[X] Information of Hecatia
This really really feels like bait, but I am compelled to choose it. Yukari The butterfly obviously thinks her plans are something we should know about, but of course it could just be trying to mislead us. On the plus side, this has a high chance of catching Eiki off guard considering it doesn't seem like we should know anything about Hecatia.

The second choice is hard; we have basically no info on Yukari, but on the other hand despite getting some opinions on Yuuka they've been somewhat biased. If there's one thing Eiki should be, it's unbiased.

There's also the question of how much information of worth Eiki will actually know about these two, since it appears she's actually somewhat of a pawn to the real grand players in Gensokyo. She just does her job, after all.

In the end, we really need some info on Yukari, and Eiki is probably the only person we've met so far who has actually talked to her. So...

[X] Information on Yukari

The only real risk with this combo is that it might be a little blatant that we were manipulated into asking about Hecatia if we also ask about Yukari.
>> No. 198880
[X] Information of Hecatia
[X] Information on Yukari
>> No. 198885
Komachi was trying to tell us something about Kasen, way beyond the Oni thing and it went over our head. It makes her "bad disguise" as a cover for something else much more believable.

Is she someone's eyes and ears? Or is she someone, herself?
>> No. 198904
[x] Information on Hecatia

Biggest bait and I can't not choose it.

[x] Other
[x] Yuuka and Shinki's Feud

I want some insight on the powers working against each other and why, if they're bound by a common pact.
>> No. 198981
[X] Hecatia
[X] Yuuka (and her fight with ShinkI)

-

“Very well.” You say. “I accept your offer and consent to your search.”

Eiki gives you a small nod before raising the mirror in her hand. It gleams brilliantly, as if catching the noonday sun, and in the rest of your vision is soon washed out in the same overwhelming light.

---

Scenes from your life blur past your eyes faster than you can process, accompanied by sudden flashes of emotion. Occasionally, Eiki slows down as she plays through your past. Maybe she wants to study a memory in greater detail, or maybe she just wants to force you to remember.

Despair. Your earliest memory of your mother, standing above you one evening in front of your daycare. Your four-year-old fingers and mind can’t recall how to tie your shoelaces, and the scowl on her face as she turns away shows that your mother has already exhausted her patience with you.

You blink.

Rage. The time your high school bullies found your hiding spot in the restroom and threw a bucket of paint into the stall. In a moment of blind anger and for want of better targets, you punched the tiled wall hard enough that you didn’t regain full motion in that hand until your Bee found you.

Eiki focuses your eyes on your own blood running between your knuckles, bidding you to remember the excitement bubbling up in your chest then. Despite your pain and your fury, or maybe because of it, you had your first moment of transcendent clarity. You were going to hit them from an angle they didn’t understand and smear them far worse than they got you.

Half-filled with shame, you blink.

Cruelty. They never managed to officially pin it on you. Your tormentors had the contents of their computers laid bare for all to see, with the most salacious files spread among the student body on discs. Even now, some of them probably survived.

Of course, they suspected you; they would have been stupid not to. However, this incident marked the first and last time that notorious Templar technological incompetence worked in your favor, and you walked out of the superintendent’s office without official punishment.

They used some choice words to accuse you behind closed doors. The parents of one girl went so far as to call you an Illuminati mole. Looking back, it was kind of funny that you got that under their skins, but at the time you wondered if you might as well have been one for how accepted you’d been.

You blink.

Hesitation. Richard Sonnac, the rising star of the Templar’s new blood and your eventual handler, tracked you down soon after. He didn’t need an investigation to know the truth, just the basic facts of the case and a conversation with you at an cozy little cafe in London’s magical district.

He gave you an offer and a warning. Sonnac said that he saw you had the resourcefulness, the drive, and the sense of justice that it would take to produce a true Templar - after much refinement, of course. He strongly recommended that you join them, because the families of the girls you avenged yourself upon would use their connections to make your life miserable otherwise.

You didn’t listen to him at the time. In your naivete, you thought you leaving the past behind would be as simple as walking out the school gates one last time.

You blink.

Regret. Years smear together as Eiki flips through your memories of working dismal, dead-end jobs throughout London. Sure, you got through university intact enough despite Okazaki’s best efforts, but Sonnac was right. All that potential he talked about eventually got caged in a tech support center for clients who almost didn’t know which end of the phone to talk into. You drank countless nights away before finally building the resolve to skip town.

Your Bee came to you the night you bought your ticket.

You blink.

There was only one real path after that night. The recruiter found you after you managed to get your supercharged magic under control, and your training began almost immediately.

Eiki lingers on your first death. You have long since grown used to the violent transition from life to death and back to life once more, but the judge of the dead forces you to dwell on the storm of fear and doubt within you when you first stared down the barrel of a loaded gun.

Mercifully, it didn’t hurt. One moment, you were standing at a firing range on a pleasantly sunny day. In the next, you were blind and weightless, drifting in an infinite sea. Resurrecting was like swimming from the bottom of the ocean to breach the surface.

Eiki speeds through your training. You catch glimpses of yourself learning magic, tactics, engineering, marksmanship- anything your superiors felt was necessary to strike at the enemies of humanity.

She brings you back to the occult warzones you spent most of the last few years applying that training in. Maine. Egypt. Romania. Tokyo.

You come face to face with the countless enemies you killed and were killed by in your desperate efforts to stem the tide. Rabid, mindless zombies. Fish-stinking draugr with alien intellect behind once-human eyes. Glassy-eyed Atenist cultists painted in both paint and blood, chanting foul prayers to their false god. Demons, pouring through jagged tears in space with hatred burning in their eyes like coals. Vampires, with IV tubes sticking through the filters of their gas masks, pushing the battle lines ever farther on their foolish crusade.

And behind it all, beneath it all, the Filth.

Humans covered in the black tar and sprouting hideous new appendages, only capable of pleading for death as the corruption forced them to rush you. At the center of each of your deployments was a source of that extradimensional evil, and so far you have successful at sealing the breach, if only temporarily.

It reminds you of what’s at stake here. You cannot allow such an abomination to take root in Gensokyo.

Finally, Eiki brings you back to the fateful confrontation with the Filth beast in the hollow earth. Was it really so soon ago? You see yourself leap into one of the portals moments before it seals shut, and the rest of your memory is washed out in golden light.

---

You stagger back and shake your head, finding yourself back in the grand courtroom with Eiki standing in front of you. She’s frowning in confusion while examining the mirror.

“Odd.” She says, turning it over as if looking for a flaw. “It appears that something is preventing me from recalling your memories past that point.”

From her tone, you would guess that you both have the same smug and blonde suspect in mind.

Her face returns to its normal calm. “Still, I have gained a great deal of insight into your character. As for the rest, it can be acquired later.”

“Would that involve a second trip across the Sanzu?” You ask, trying to regain your bearing. This was your first time having your life flash before your eyes, and the experience has left you feeling unclean with the residue of your past clinging to you. You would have appreciated it if she focused a bit less on the unpleasant parts of your life, but perhaps that’s when they expect to see a person’s true character.

“For one as entwined in worldy matters as you, I would hope not.” Eiki says with a sigh. “Still, I believe that you have the potential to become a better person, and to lead others to grace.”

What a glowing endorsement. Still, at least it’s over. Which means that it’s time for-

“Now, as per our deal, I am ready to share part of my knowledge with you.”

Damn, beat you to it. Still, is she actually ready for what you have in mind? You decide to open with a safer option.

“I want to know more about Yuuka Kazami.” You tell her.

Eiki nods, having clearly anticipated this question. “Though I am not at liberty to disclose all the information I have on her, I believe I can still offer you a significant amount.”

“I know that she’s one of Yukari’s partners.” You say. “I’m interested in knowing about what her goals are, and why she’s taken such an interest in my group if everyone else claims she’s a murderous recluse.”

Eiki puts away the mirror and snaps her fingers. The sound echoes in the cavernous room as a wooden desk and a pair of chairs, far more humble than the gilded podium, appears in front of you. Eiki takes a seat behind it and motions for you to do the same.

“Save for Yukari, Yuuka has had the closest relationship with the Hakurei line of anyone in Gensokyo.” Eiki says, steepling her fingers. “Though she has always been generally disdainful of mortals, she holds a particular compassion for those touched by Gaia. I believe that she has chosen to take a protective role over you and your colleagues, given what you are.”

“That’s a good thing, right?”

“Having Yuuka’s protection will certainly be a strong deterrent against whatever mischief lesser individuals or groups may plan against you, but the spellcard rules bind even her from totally shielding you.” She takes a deep breath. “Knowing some of those individuals, I can all but guarantee you that your paths will intersect in time. My only hope is that you conduct yourself with wisdom and compassion during them.”

“Furthermore, her reaction to the disappearance of the Hakurei will likely lead her to attempt to exercise greater oversight over you in an attempt to prevent a repeat disappearance. With little idea of how the first one occurred, I cannot say with any certainty how successful she will be.”

Well, at least it’s mostly positive news. “Do you believe Yuuka is someone I can trust?” You ask.

She closes her eyes as she takes a moment to think. “With great hesitation, I would say yes.”

It seems that despite her faults, Yuuka remains the strongest ally you have right now. However, as a certain butterfly revealed to you, she isn’t unrivalled. Speaking of which…

“I heard that she had a fight with the ruler of Makai. Why are the major players maiming each other?” You ask.

Eiki’s eyes narrow ever so slightly at you. “Did you, now?”

You momentarily debate confessing the butterfly to her right then and there, but she mercifully continues without pressing the issue. “If there is anything to be said about Yuuka and Shinki, it is that they are among Gensokyo’s proudest residents. This is no small feat.”

“Yuuka saw the demonic incursion and subsequent draining of Anima as an affront to her own efforts to maintain the vitality of Gensoyko, and took it upon herself to confront Shinki over her subject’s transgressions. Evidently, they escalated their battle beyond reasonable levels.”

You frown. “Weren’t there others who crossed into Makai with Yuuka?”

“Yes.” Eiki nods. “That would be the adolescent Reimu and Marisa, as well as a Djinn known as Mima, who was both a friend to Yuuka and a teacher of sorts for Marisa.”

“The aftermath saw the destruction of much of Pandemonium’s municipal infrastructure, likely forcing its residents back into a state of poverty and anarchy typical of the Hell Dimensions. Both of them also suffered severe injuries. Yuuka has yet to fully recover, and Shinki’s condition remains unclear after she isolated Makai following the disaster.”

The more you hear of this Shinki, the more you’re convinced that she’s an Angel. How Reimu and Marisa, especially Marisa, managed to slap her in the face and still exist outside of cautionary tales strains your belief. The only explanation you can think of is that Yuuka and this Mima must have taken most of the heat, and the experience left one crippled and another ominously referred to in past tense.

What kind of creature is Yukari, if she managed to broker a deal between multiple beings of that caliber?

“Still, I believe that your arrival may prompt Yuuka to begin to truly recover. Following the disappearance of Hakurei and her injuries, she withdrew even further inside her garden, almost to the point of neglecting her duties. Meeting you and your companions seems to be reawakening her sense of purpose and the possibility of closure.”

“In other words, I believe you have given her new hope.” Eiki says, a faint smile on her face.

“That’s a heavy expectation to bear.” You reply. “Still, I have no intention of disappointing her.”
>> No. 198982
“Now, have you another question?”

“Actually, yes.” You answer, taking a deep breath to steel your resolve. “What can you tell me about Hecatia?”

Eiki’s face remains impassive, but the sound of her fingernails scraping across the desk as her fists clench shows you’ve crossed a line.

“Where did you hear that name?” She whispers, a slight quaver in her voice.

“Does it matter?” You reply. It takes all of your resolve to not look away.

The silence stretches on as Eiki searches your face for any trace of weakness. You think she’s about to refuse your question, but then she shakes her head.

“I had intended for that name to go unknown in Gensokyo, but if you have discovered it, I may as well clarify things to you. Hecatia is my direct superior, a high-ranking member of the Ministry of Right and Wrong, and an ennumerated stakeholder in Yukari’s plan. Wisdom is her virtue, and her duty- by extension, mine as well- is to judge and separate the souls of Gensokyo”

You don’t understand all of it, but what you do catches your attention. She’s the equal of Yuuka and Shinki. Why’d she flake?

Eiki continues, speaking quickly. “Even before the founding of Gensokyo, she preferred to work in the background while others sought recognition. In that way, she avoided becoming known beyond a select few, including the Hakurei.” Eiki pauses and looks into the distance. “Shortly after the chaos of the Makai incident, when her presence was most needed to stabilize the situation, she left Gensokyo to carry out some undisclosed task. This must have had the tacit approval of the conductor - Yukari - or else she would not have been able to leave.”

“So she’s been gone for over a decade?” You ask, leaning forward.

“That’s correct.” Eiki nods.

You’re assuming that Hecatia is another member of the Host. If that’s the case, you’ll count yourself fortunate if her plan comes to fruition within your lifetime.

“Does she at least know about the Filth incursion?”

“I have attempted to inform her of it, but have not yet received a response.” She answers with a note of exhaustion in her voice. “Eccentric as she may be at times, both she and I fully understands the threat of the Filth.”

“Well, that’s just great.” You say as you sit back. “I’m sure that whatever your boss is up to is very important, but I really don’t want this place to end up like the last four you saw.”

She has a stake in you investigating the Hakurei, then. It’s the only thing besides more infighting that might get a response from Hecatia.

“Then I suspect you have a great deal of work ahead of you, McGallagher.” Eiki almost looks sympathetic. “Mighty as they may be, Yukari, Shinki, and perhaps even Hecatia lack a certain understanding.”

Your eyelids feel heavy. It’s not because Eiki’s boring, but rather as if something’s come over you.

“They don’t know what it is to be mortal.” Eiki goes on. If she’s offended by your failing efforts to stay awake, she isn’t showing it. “To be flawed, to struggle, and to overcome one’s flaws.”

You’re struggling yourself at the moment to stay conscious, blinking rapidly to fight against the unnatural weight of sleep.

“Our time grows short, and your thankless errand waits for you still.” Eiki says, her voice taking on a musing tone. “So, you may return to the world of the living, McGallagher. Return, with your immortality restored, and _______________. That is the good deed that you can do.”

What was that? You try to ask her, but the only noise that escapes from you is a sigh as you drift into darkness.

---

Well that was a little presumptuous of her. I’m quite aware of mortal potential. Speaking of which, don’t worry about that part I made you miss. Free will is another part of being human, right? Use it.”

“Choose what you want to be.”


---

Wherever you are, it’s warm and soft. You snuggle deeper under the covers as conversation and birdsong trickles in as your body reacquaints itself with the details of being alive, like having a heartbeat. Funny, it almost feels like you have a few extra…

Your eyes fly open and you scramble upright as you try to stifle an inelegant squawk.

Cirno and Daiyousei are lying next to you, sleeping peacefully in a room of your safehouse.

You take a deep breath to calm yourself down. Looking around reveals that it’s morning.

“Mmph.” Dai murmurs, frowning as she paws around the now-vacated bed. It seems she was holding onto you before.

You carefully scoot Cirno into your previous spot before opening leaving the room, taking pains to avoid making a sound.

Maybe you should ask Eiki if you were that cute as a kid.

“Sleeping Beauty’s up.” You hear Junko announces as soon as you close the door.

“Yup. Anyone care to explain how the fairies got in?” You say as you round the corner to find Caleb, Junko, and Nitori going over a number of maps spread on a coffee table.

“Oh. Hello, Nitori.” You say to her. “Hope I didn’t keep you waiting too long.”

“Eh. Don’t sweat it.” She says, waving you off. “We were just reviewing the robotics facility op.”

“How long was I dead for?” You ping.

“About two days.” Junko replies while Caleb continues talking with Nitori and pointing at the maps. Apparently her idea of a passage ‘navigable by humans’ needs adjustment.

“We picked your comatose body up from the riverbank per your drone message and brought you back.”

You whistle. “Did I miss anything important?”

“Alice’s house burned down yesterday, and she’s missing.” Junko answers. “Evidence points to demonic activity, but nobody but Marisa is actually doing something about it.”

Remarkably small-scale for demonic activity, but any increase in activity can’t be a good sign.

“Tell me more.” You say as you sit down and look at a diagram on the table. The bunker looks like it was built during WW2, and Nitori’s notes indicate that it could extend far into the hill. Far below it, as well.

“She’s been pestering people to help her portal in and look for Alice, but it seems that nobody else is eager to start shit with Makai.” Junko tells you. “She approached us about it, but we told her that we weren’t going to commit as a group until you were back.”

What leads are even available on the surface? There’s Yuuka, but she’s aloof at best to most. There’s Patchouli and Koakuma at the SDM, but Remilia’s made her opinion of you and your order clear. There’s the Myouren Temple crew, but they’re really not eager to even be reminded of the experience.

Well, you’ll take things one step at a time. That facility isn’t going to just raid itself.

“Do we have a time planned for the op?” You ask Nitori.

“We can go as soon as you feel ready, actually.” She answers, looking up from her plans. “My crew has been planning this for a while, and I’ve more or less filled in you guys by now.”

A door creaks open. “Um, excuse me?” Dai calls out. “Is Charlotte still here?”

“You owe us a magic lesson!” Cirno groggily announces.

---

[ ] The fairies can wait.
[ ] Can you really say no to them?
>> No. 198983
Fuck yes, my favourite story updated! And what an update it is.

> don’t worry about that part I made you miss

GOD DAMN IT YUKARI.

Okay, that's that out of the way.

> Alice’s house burned down yesterday

Wait what.

...fuck.

> “You owe us a magic lesson!”

Well, we did promise, and we should probably start slow after being dead for two days, so...

[x] Can you really say no to them?
>> No. 198989
[x] Can you really say no to them?

I'd like my animated anima spirits to handle magic a bit better, because I'd like them to do better in this walled garden when more shit starts to go down.

A little time here shouldn't throw off the bunker that much.
>> No. 198991
[x] Can you really say no to them?
>> No. 198992
[x] Can you really say no to them?
>> No. 198993
[X] The fairies can wait.

Yea I can say no.
>> No. 198994
"Free will is another part of being human, right? Use it."

Yukari is giving me some real "guiding angel" vibes here, trying to save us from influential words. This would be noble if it weren't for the fact it's Eiki of all people talking to us, which means whatever she told us to do is undoubtably the right thing. I have a feeling Yukari's plan might involve 'the greater good' if you know what I mean.

Also I'm glad asking about Hecatia made Eiki almost lose it. Sometimes being manipulated isn't all bad!

Anyway, this time we're left with a much more innocent choice. Despite this, the news of Alice's house and the imminent plan to recover the maid makes me feel nervous about wasting time. I'm assuming however that it's not like we're going to go right now, maybe this can be a little warm up before we head out.

[X] Can you really say no to them?
>> No. 198995
>>198994

Yukari's saying we have free will to choose things but is specifically making it so we don't know what the actual options are, unless we do the ground work to figure it out ourselves instead of being "shown" it immediately.

In some respects, this is great, because it means when we reach an option, we've the perspective to understand it.

On the other hand, it keeps us firmly in the dark to what could simply be her own wishes, when she's controlling our perspective so that we end up where she wants.

It's an amusing take, at least.
>> No. 199010
Schedule is really weird at the moment due to travel so updating will be delayed.
Glad to see that some of you found the interference amusing.
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