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.”
Something brushes against your eye, and you feel yourself slipping away.
--- ERROR: ILLEGAL DATA ADDRESS
A little learning is a dang'rous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring
Hey-Hi-Hello-Is this thing on?
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.
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?
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.
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.
>>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.
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.
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.”
“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.
[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.
Post 59: Close Range?Bee2017/09/18 (Mon) 03:52No. 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.”
...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.
[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?
>>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.
“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.
“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.”
“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
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.
>>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.
(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?
[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.
“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.”
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.
Post 64: Guess I'll DieBee2018/03/10 (Sat) 15:18No. 198769▼
“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?
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
-[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.
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.
[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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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?
"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.
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.
“Okay.” You say, placing a hand on each of their shoulders. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”
“Alright!” Cirno says, pumping her fist. “Prepare to be amazed by peak fairy performance!”
“Yeah, sure I will.” You say, reaching up to ruffle her hair.
“Are you guys fine without me for a bit?” You ping.
“Yeah. We’ll fill you in later.” Junko replies without looking away from Nitori. “Go easy on them, alright?”
You find a room to test the fairies in, and sit them there as you bring some other items to help.
“So, what kind of magic are you most comfortable with?” You ask them.
“I use ice magic because it’s the best.” Cirno says. You expected as much. It’s an unusual preference for human first-timers, but Cirno isn’t technically either.
“How about you, Dai?” You ask.
“Hmm...” She kicks her legs from her oversized chair as she thinks. “I’m not that good with ice... I think I might be better at fire. I’ve been using it to stay warm when it’s chilly out.”
“Okay, I can work with this.” You say, setting a glass of water and a candle in front of them.
“Here’s my first test. Cirno, when I say go, I’d like you to freeze the water in the glass without breaking it. Are you ready?”
Cirno nods vigorously, the air already misting around her fingers.
Cirno reaches out, grinning, and the glass fogs over. A moment later, the water creaks and groans as it freezes solid.
“How’s that?” Cirno asks, puffing up.
You pick up the glass and turn it over. “Impressive speed, but the control could use work.” You point at a crack running up the side.
You turn away from her pouting face to address Dai next. “Light this candle.” You tell her, placing one in front of her.
She scrunches her face in concentration as she raises a hand to the wick. You detect the air around her target heating up, but no magic manifests beyond a few small sparks. It takes her several attempts before an ember leaps from her fingers to ignite the wick.
“Well done, though it did take a few tries. I don’t suppose anyone has taught either of you basic magic theory?”
Both fairies look confused. “No.” Daiyousei answers.
“Ok. Basically, you need two things to use magic well.” You say, trying to put this as simply as possible. “Willpower and intellect. Properly trained, force of will lets you strong-arm the elements of the world into doing what you want. It’s why even certain creatures are able to use magical effects.”
You demonstrate by raising your hands and arcing lightning between them. Cirno and Dai lean in, engrossed.
“So if being stubborn lets you throw around more magic, being clever lets you use what magic you do have in better ways.” You say, snuffing out the electricity with a flourish as you walk to a far side of the room.
“Better how?” Cirno asks.
You shift into lightning and reappear where you started, almost startling Dai off-balance. “Pretty nifty, wouldn’t you say?” You ask, grinning.
“Woah.” She manages. “Can you teach me to do that, but with ice?”
You’ve heard of a similar technique using fire, but not one with ice. “Maybe.” You tell her. “Let’s do some more tests first.”
The results confirm your earlier assessment. Cirno has impressive amounts of willpower when she puts her mind to a task, but relies on brute force over any attempt at efficiency. She also refuses to use any type of elementalism but ice.
Daiyousei, unlike her bold and foolish friend, takes her time to think of better solutions, but lacks confidence in herself and appears to have stage fright in front of you.
You consider their situation as all three of you practice controlled breathing. They’ve both shown more magical potential than most human children have at an analogous age. Of course, most humans can develop their powers as they mature. It might not work the same way with fairies.
“Do we have to keep doing these breathing exercises?” Cirno complains, interrupting your thoughts.
“Only if you want me to keep teaching you.” You respond.
“But it’s boring!”
“The basics tend to be boring. They’re also important for doing cooler things right.”
Cirno hmphs but resumes the exercise for now. You can’t really blame her. You were probably a worse brat back in the day-
“Charlotte.” Caleb pings. “Something’s come up.”
Your eyes open at the seriousness in his tone. “Alright. I’ll send the fairies out.”
“I think that’s good enough for today.” You tell the fairies, smiling at them. “I think you two have a lot of promise.”
Cirno puffs up with pride, and Dai’s eyes all but sparkle. “Really?”
“Yup. Now listen, I’m not giving you homework. Just try to keep what I said in mind for the future. Cirno, not every problem should be solved with more ice. Dai, believe in yourself more. If that doesn’t work, believe in Cirno, who i’m sure believes in you.” You say as you usher them outside.
“Oh, one last thing.” You say. “Don’t go showing off to the other fairies, alright?”
Both of them nod vigorously.
“Great! Let me know when you’re ready for the next lesson!”
The fairies wave goodbye at you as they fly off. You indulge yourself by waving back to them until they disappear past the trees before taking a deep breath and heading back inside. Back to work.
“So, what’s the issue?” You say as you enter the main room. More diagrams and maps are laid out than before.
Caleb hands his phone to you. There was a recent text message, and your eyes narrow as you read the sender’s name.
“Who’s this ‘Clamshell’ person?” You ask.
“No idea. That’s part of the problem.” Junko says.
The message itself is only a handful of words. “Tengu intelligence is getting suspicious. Make your move soon.”
“Hm. That’s not encouraging.” You say, handing the phone back. “Nitori, did you-”
“I’m no snitch, human.” Nitori retorts, pacing around. “I’m giving you my word, right now, that neither I nor any member of my crew is looking to sell you guys out to the tengu. That might change if you try to double cross us, but I really don’t think any of you are dumb enough to try that.”
You were going to ask her if she had any clue who ‘Clamshell’ is, but that’s good to know as well.
Nitori stops pacing and looks up at you all. “I think we should hit the site tonight. Right before sundown. I know a discreet route-”
“Hold on.” Caleb says, putting his hands up. “How do you know that Clamshell is worth listening to? For all we know, this is Aya pulling a psyop.”
“Well, as much of a feathery bitch she can be at times, she’s clever enough to understand why arresting us for trying to defuse the nuke in her backyard is a bad idea.” Nitori says. “So if this is really her attempt to bamboozle us, we might as well go anyways.”
[ ] Raid tonight at dusk, potentially evading Tengu notice but minimal prep [ ] Raid tomorrow at dawn, with more prep but potentially with Tengu notice
[x] Raid tonight at dusk, potentially evading Tengu notice but minimal prep.
>>199110 We're raiding what was a closed off bunker because the Kappa likely experimented with an AI and things went bad, instead of owning up and clearing it out they basically buried it so no one would know.
It's possible that Hina's own comments on it to others might've made a ripple that is slowly growing, the Tengu didn't know about it at the time but they might be starting to investigate now.
“Alright. Give us the rendezvous point and we’ll meet you there.” You say, doing a mental checklist of what gear you can scrape together on such short notice.
Nitori nods. “I’ll meet you guys outside the Aki sisters’ farm. The rest of my crew’ll wait outside the facility.”
“Sounds good.” Caleb says. “We’ll make sure we aren’t followed.”
Nitori grunts in affirmation and heads out the door. “Looking forward to it.”
The next several minutes are spent performing last minute checks on your gear. Caleb and Junko are busying themselves with the same task.
You don’t have a turret to deploy. It would help punching through heavy armor on any hostile mechs down there, but it could easily lack a good vantage point. Without information on what’s down there or what the layout is, you can only guess.
Your drones will be enough of an asset. They can scout ahead and potentially compromise any mechs you come across.
“I’m good to go.” Junko says, hefting a flanged mace in her hands.
“Same.” Caleb says. It seems that he’s swapped the optics on his gun.
“Let’s not keep her waiting, then.” You say.
On cue, you and Caleb draw your weapons and shoot yourselves through the heads, and Junko slits her own throat with a dagger.
A few moments later, you all pick yourselves off the ground next to an antiques shop on the edge of the forest of magic.
“Do you think anyone noticed?” You ping.
“No, we’re in the clear.” Junko responds after a moment of scanning the darkening underbrush. “Let’s move before the storekeeper spots us, though.”
Flying low to the ground and in silence, you reach the meeting point with Nitori on schedule. You find her leaning against a tree, wearing body armor and night vision goggles, and toting a strange gun.
“Were you followed?” Nitori asks.
“Nope.” Junko answers.
Nitori doesn’t press for details, instead turning around and flying off. “Match my speed and altitude.” She calls back.
You follow Nitori as she weaves a path beneath the canopy. You try to keep an eye out for any signs of pursuit, but detect nothing.
After several minutes, you arrive at an overgrown clearing in front of a rocky hill. Nitori whistles when you land. After a moment, four kappa with gear similar to Nitori’s appear from the underbrush at her signal.
“These humans are our backup.” Nitori explains to them while pointing at you. “They share our interest in salvaging this place. To be clear, they’ve claimed the prototype as payment, and we’ll be taking the rest.”
“Is that really the deal you guys cut?” You ping.
“The AI is the only thing that really matters.” Caleb responds. “I’m not fighting over a few crates of rusty metal.”
Caleb steps forward to confirm what Nitori said, and to explain your tactical roles to Nitori’s team.
“If it comes down to it, let us take the bullets for you.” He says. “We’ll be okay.”
“Are all outsiders so big on playing the hero?” One of the kappa mutters to another.
You ignore her and take a look at Nitori’s group. It looks like they’re each carrying a customized gun and a melee sidearm. At least they came properly equipped for the job. Their armor looks sturdy enough, and they carry themselves like canny and experienced fighters. You’d trust them to hold their own in a fight, but you’re not sure how far they’ll go in watching your back.
You’ll just have to be on your toes.
“I’m going to scout the facility with my drones.” You say, holding one up for emphasis and activating it. “Probably not all of it, since it’s buried under a hill, but it beats going in blind.”
“Good idea.” Nitori says. “Let’s get to the entry point.”
As it turns out, Caleb and Junko were right. Even with the surrounding debris and vegetation cleared out, this vent really is a hair’s breadth from being flatly impossible for a human to fit through. As it stands, squeezing through might involve dislocating something.
Leaving that issue for later, you set up your drone console and direct a pod of drones into the vent, the humming of their movement growing fainter as they disappear into the darkness. The other eight members of the group cluster around the glow of your screen as you track their progress.
“This room looks like some kind of common area.” Junko says, watching one feed. “Maybe a mess hall?”
“Tables are messed up, though.” One of the kappa point out.
“I’ve seen this before.” Caleb says, pointing at a corner of the screen. “Look at the arrangement. Someone tried to barricade that door.”
Tried. Even through the grainy images on the screen, you can see a path forced through the pile of broken furniture.
“Well, we all knew that they abandoned this place for a reason.” Nitori says, sighing.
“For what it’s worth, I can confirm that there are no electrical signatures unaccounted for down there.” You offer.
“Then what’s that reading?” Nitori asks. “The one coming from behind the door they tried to barricade.”
“That’s-” You begin, frowning.
It’s an Anima signature, and a powerful one at that. It’s as though there’s an Anima well down there. A slight chill runs through you.
“-anomalous.” You finish. “Could be spectral activity from any deceased left behind, or a radiation leak.”
Nitori nods, seeming to accept your explanation.
“That’s not a radiation leak, is it.” Caleb pings you.
“It’s an Anima source.” You say. “A strong one. I’ve got no clue what it’s doing down there.”
“Remember the last time we found a strong Anima source in an underground facility?” Junko adds.
“The time the crazy cosmonaut girl nearly wiped us all out?” You venture.
“Yeah, that’s the one. I’m getting the same vibe from this place.”
“Let’s not hype up this place just yet.” Caleb pings back. “Keep scouting.”
After a few minutes spent in silence, you identify a number of rooms that you can drop into from the vents. The group begins to debate the merits of which one to enter, but, you can’t shake the feeling that something is waiting for you inside.
Where to enter from?
[ ] Common area: Center of facility. Visible signs of struggle. [ ] Living quarters: Closest to the facility exit. Possibility of finding records or other information. [ ] Storage room: Closest to the Cleanroom. Possibility of salvage or analysis of materials available prior to abandonment. [ ] Boiler room: Farthest from the Cleanroom. May be possible to restore power from here. [ ] Cleanroom entrance: Right in front of the Anima signal. Whatever the Kappa were trying to suppress came from here. Suspiciously, the door is sealed.
The metal sides of the vent press on you from all directions in the darkness. You sincerely hope there’s nothing with ears down there, because the impressive racket your group is making is echoing all across the vent network.
You don’t want to imagine having to fight in these tunnels when you can barely turn around.
“Hold up.” Junko says from the front, stopping the rest of the group. “There’s a grate at my feet.”
You consult your map of the facility. “This should work. We’re right above the living area.”
You all sound off, and Junko kicks the grate off its screws with a well-placed stomp. There’s a moment of stillness as its clattering echoes into the darkness.
“I’m not reading any movement.” Junko says after a moment. “Dropping in.”
With that, she lowers herself off the ledge and drops to the floor with barely a sound.
“Coast is clear.” She reports.
You go next, rolling as you land on bare concrete. You breathe in the musty, stagnant air as you take in your surroundings.
Nitori was right. This place used to be a bunker, probably one built by the Japanese during World War 2. It’s held up pretty well considering what it’s gone through, but you suppose that’s the one job of a bunker - to not break.
Caleb follows you, and the three of you watch the surrounding area as Nitori and her crew come out of the vent, helping each other to the ground with practiced efficiency.
“No signs of struggle.” Caleb says. “No bloodstains, no bullet holes, scorch marks, nothing.”
“Well, don’t slack off.” Nitori says, pointing around the room. “I need one of you on the door, one on the the vents, and someone watching the drone feed. My team will handle the salvage.”
All of you move into position, and the only sounds in the room for the next few minutes are muffled breathing and the shifting of furniture as the kappa rummage through cabinets and shelves.
“Find anything useful?” Junko asks, breaking the silence.
“Not over here.” One of the kappa says. “Some stuff about making the old human generator compatible with our tech, before giving up and switching to geothermal. Kinda dry.”
“I got something that looks like ballistics testing.” Another one adds. “Nothing we don’t already know, though.”
“Anything that could be related to why they packed up?” You ask, thumbing the grip of your shotgun.
All the drones report that the bunker is as silent and still as it’s been for the past couple of decades, but you’re still on edge.
That anima signature and your bad feeling from earlier aren’t going away.
“Huh.” The first kappa says. In your experience, that’s not a good sign.
“Boss, I think they weren’t using a geothermal tap after all.” She says. “That’s weird though, because they’re still talking about using something underground for energy. What’s it supposed to be if it isn’t geo?”
“Some sort of reactor?” Nitori offers, leaning over her squadmate’s shoulder.
“I would have picked up the radiation.” You say, frowning. “I really hope there isn’t a second nuke here to disarm.”
Suddenly, Junko raises a fist. “Quiet.” She whispers, gesturing at the vent grate. “Do you guys smell that?”
It takes you a moment, but then you smell it as well. The familiar aroma of honey, cutting through the dust and mold.
“Is this some kind of leak?” One of the kappa asks as she fastens her gask mask. “Why now?”
“It’s not gas.” You say, dread mounting in your chest. “Get ready, I have feeling something’s about to-”
A flashing light from your console interrupts you. One of your drones detected a flicker of movement.
It goes dark in the next moment.
“Shit. That was the one in front of the cleanroom.” Caleb says, looking at your screen.
You all draw your weapons and point it at one of the two entrances to the room. Nitori motions for her team to find cover behind old bunks and desk. You and your comrades follow her example, though your larger stature makes good cover a little harder to find.
“Any updates, McGallagher?” Nitori whispers.
“The drone still isn’t responding.” You say. “Picked up some movement before that, so we’re not alone.”
“Was it a robot?” Nitori asks.
“Didn’t get a good enough look to be sure, though at the speed it went down-”
Another drone cuts out. This time, it’s in the common area.
It’s coming closer.
“Another drone’s down.” You report. “Something’s on the other side of that door.”
[ ] Fortify your position [ ] Attempt to scout [ ] Venture out [ ] Abort mission
Okay, so... based on Char's description of the Dragon God statue last thread, the honey smell is Anima. And we know there's a giant anima source down here. What kinds of things leak craptons of Anima? What's the "crazy cosmonaut girl" thing all about?
I spent the last hour and a half on a CTRL-F-assisted re-read of the story so far, and I got nothing. I suspect it's because I only know half of the source material (the Touhou half). Anyone here up on their TSW lore?
Gonna hold off on voting for a bit, see what others come up with.
>>199205 Here's what i found of the cosmonaut girl:
During the Cold War, Russia and America often competed to see which of them could reach the furthest in space exploration: though Yuri Gagarin went down in history as the first man in space, the race to the moon was ultimately won by Neil Armstrong; in its attempts to outdo the Americans, the Soviet Union's Red Hand decided to explore a much more ambitious front in the form of dimensional travel. Not content with delving into outer space, they formed a project to explore the inner-outer reaches: seeking out astronaut candidates with psychic potential, the scientists of the Red Hand taught their recruits to detect and channel Anima, hoping to create a "Phantom Cosmonaut" capable of expanding the reach of the Soviet Union into other reality.
Unfortunately, the results were too limited on their own, and so the Red Hand also infused their test subjects with the Filth. In the ensuing carnage, almost everyone in the research facility was infected or killed, forcing the survivors to abandon the project and seal the base shut. Unknown to the fleeing scientists, their laboratories were not entirely vacant: out of all the recruits to have been subjected to infusions of Anti-Anima, the young Halina Ilyushin was the only one to survive and transcend physical existence to become the first Phantom Cosmonaut. Unfortunately, she could not continue the project in its current condition, and was left to haunt the abandoned facility with only the base supercomputer for company. With Halina psychically gifted and touched by the Filth, it wasn't long before the Dreamers reached out to her as well.
As a child, Halina had dreamed of seeing the stars, and that wish had led her into the ranks of the Soviet Union's space program, and eventually into the torturous experiments of the Red Hand. With so many sacrifices made already, she refused to abandon her ambitions even with the Phantom Cosmonaut plan in ruin, and the Dreamers naturally exploited this obsession: they promised her an opportunity to travel the stars as she'd always dreamed in exchange for doing their bidding on Earth, and Halina eagerly accepted. Empowered by their blessings, she was able to restore the base to functionality and continue the project over the next few decades. Throughout this time, she continued infusing herself with Anima and Filth, eventually conjuring two vast doorways at the bottom of the facility: one led to Agartha, her source of Anima; the other led to the Dreaming Prison, her source of anti-Anima.
It is not known how long it would have taken for the Phantom Cosmonaut to accomplish her goals undisturbed, nor are the true specifics of the Dreamers' instructions; one way or the other, Halina is still continuing her project well past 2012 - decades after the Soviet Union and the Red Hand have collapsed.
Based on the excerpt from >>199206 I'm getting the following:
If we assume that Charlotte's offhand comment holds relevance to this encounter, it would suggest one of two things. Either our target is another (or even the same) individual infused with both Anima and Filth, or the signature's from another portal to Agartha.
Either way, there's a chance that Filth is directly involved here, and that the Anima source is as much a problem as the Filth is.
There's still some big unknowns though, even assuming all of that. Assuming Filth, can it reinforce down here, or is it isolated? Do we have a chance at getting reinforcements before the tengu get snoopy, or not? What about Anima charms? If the kappa don't have said charms, they could be a serious liability.
Due to all of these concerns, I'm placing my vote tentatively toward:
[x] Attempt to scout
Maybe we'd be better matched if we leave and prepare, maybe worse. But I expect the tengu to be a bigger problem if we wait. I'd also rather make certain that any engagements start without the kappa directly involved. If it's not Filth, or we have a way to keep them clean, we might try to bring them in then.
Junko runs over to turn the wheel on the door, grunting as she wrestles against the rusted metal. You and Caleb busy yourselves by pushing whatever furniture isn’t bolted down against the doorway.
Will it stop a rampant war machine that forced out the previous occupants? Maybe not, but it’s better than nothing.
No sooner than you shift the last pieces of the barricade in place, it is tested. A booming clang comes from the door as something on the other side slams into it, scattering dust from the ceiling.
You glance at Nitori and her team. They’re breathing heavily but otherwise holding steady. Hopefully they don’t bug out.
A second crash buckles the door in its frame. You find yourself wishing that you had a sentry gun pointed in its direction.
“Do you think this place can take a grenade without collapsing on us?” Caleb pings, keeping his rifle trained on the doorway.
“Maybe.” You say, glancing up at the vents. “Don’t risk our exfiltration route.”
A third impact jostles the piled furniture and causes the door to groan. It looks like the next one could break it down.
“Stand clear!” You shout, steeling your nerves. You and everyone else brace to unleash hell against whatever’s trying to push through.
However, there is no follow-up attack. Your group’s shallow breathing is the only counterpoint to the heavy silence that follows.
“Charlotte, get us a reading on the other side.” Nitori calls out after a while.
You cautiously pilot the last drone on the other side of the door to the common area. Something appears to have come from the clean room and caused the pounding, but it’s nowhere to be found.
“Something came from the cleanroom, but the coast is clear for now.” You say. “I’m not sure if we can get this door open after the beating it took, though.”
“We’ll worry about that later.” Nitori says. “We’re going to search these records for any info on what in the sixteen hells was buried here. Watch our backs.”
With that, the Kappa once again begin to rifle through the room for any scrap of paper they can find.
With Caleb and Junko on watch, you take a look back through your drone. It looks like the Anima signature is definitely coming from the direction of the cleanroom. Were the Kappa somehow experimenting with Anima as well?
“Caleb. Charlotte.” Junko pings, slow and deliberately. “Don’t panic, but we have a situation.”
This can’t be good. “Roger.” You reply, forcing yourself to not react.
“There’s an extra Kappa.”
You slowly look over. Sure enough, there’s now six Kappa, all with identical kit and occupied with the same task.
Five Kappa and one thing that’s doing a very good job of looking like one, you correct yourself.
Worryingly, flicking through your elemental senses reveals no discrepancy between them. Heat and EM readings aren’t different enough to be certain.
“They all have living tissue.” Caleb confirms. “So, what do we do?”
“I’m not interested in taking chances.” Junko says. “We need to figure out which one it is before it gibs someone.”
“Shit.” She adds. “It probably snuck in through the vents somehow while everyone was covering the door.”
By chance, you happen to meet the gaze of one of the Kappa. Like all her comrades, there’s nothing to be seen behind the black lenses of her goggles.
And as though the present situation isn't enough, you feel the music box grow heavy in your pocket again. This time, you think you can hear faint notes from it.
[ ] Discreetly warn Nitori [ ] Continue to observe [ ] Order the Kappa to separate [ ] Use the music box [ ] Write-in
Do we know for sure which one is Nitori? If we do, I'll go with
[x] Discreetly warn Nitori.
since she almost certainly knows her team better than we do, and we can go from there. If not:
[x] Order the Kappa to separate. -[x] be prepared for immediate hostilities.
If this thing is out for kappa blood, it'll attack either as soon as it realizes we're onto it or as soon as we know which one it is. On the plus side, we'll be as ready for it as we can be, whereas waiting and watching will almost certainly result in unexpected dead kappa as it's clearly one sneaky mofo.
On the other hand, if it isn't unconditionally hostile (it's sure as shit not friendly, but it might be after something unrelated to us), there's a chance this might make it panic and attack outright... but not without giving itself away, and waiting won't gain us anything anyway.
If anyone's got a good write-in or a convincing reason to listen to the gap hag, I'm all ears.
Can't learn if we kill it on sight, it had the chance to assault us outright when it first came in but didn't. Giving it the benefit of the doubt for the moment and we'll see how misguided that may be.
“Hands up!” You shout as you bring your shotgun to bear on the fake kappa. Nitori’s crew looks startles you, Nitori, and your friends raise your weapons.
The impostor isn’t polite enough to oblige you and lunges for the nearest kappa. You pull the trigger-
Time seems to stop as Rosslyn refuses to fire. It takes you only a heartbeat to react and draw a pistol, but that’s enough for the impostor to tackle its target. Caleb and Nitori score some hits on it, but the damage barely slows it down as it pins the struggling kappa to the ground.
Your revolver fires without issue, and the hand the impostor was raising to punch in the kappa’s throat is flung back with a spray of sparks. It seems like it’s mechanical. Junko takes advantage of your opening by rushing forward to grapple the fake.
“This thing is stronger than it looks!” She calls out, struggling to pry its other arm off the sputtering kappa.
An instant later, she grunts as the fingers of its flailing hand gouge into her her jaw and neck before scraping along her chestplate. Junko responds by catching the outstretched limb and using it as leverage to lift the impostor up and slam it into the ground. Before it can get up, Junko has her hammer in her hands and brings it down with a series of gratifying crunches.
“I’ll secure it.” You say, holstering your weapons.
“Roger. I’ll handle the casualty.” Caleb says.
“What about your friend?” Nitori says, pointing to Junko as she gracelessly sits down, drinking a potion with one hand and holding a cloth to her neck wound with the other.
He shrugs. “She’ll be fine in a few.” He answers, to her visible surprise.
The fake kappa’s mechanical nature is clear as you approach, with wires and servos visible through its wounds while the artificial flesh that baffled your detection leaks pinkish fluid in imitation of blood.
You unfasten its mask to expose a pair of unblinking camera eyes that focus on you. Specifically, the Templar cross on your armor.
“Do you recognize this symbol?” You ask it.
It looks at your face for a few moments. “AFFIRMATIVE.” It answers in a staticky, stuttering voice.
“THIS UNIT WAS ORIGINALLY CREATED BY TEMPLAR R&D.”
Your breath quickens. The prize you came looking for may be in front of you. “Is your designation RK-2?” You ask. If nothing else, it might explain your relic shotgun’s jam. One piece of (partially) conscious Templar hardware refusing to fire on another.
Odd. Then it must be-
“How about MM-3?”
“AFFIRMATIVE. REQUESTING USER CREDENTIALS.”
“Fragaria. Ananassa. Neptune. One. Nine. Eight. Six.” You enunciate the code, and MM-3 nods.
“CREDENTIALS ACCEPTED. REQUESTING USER DESIGNATION.”
“I am Acting Executor Charlotte McGallagher.” You introduce yourself and point at your rank insignia. “I’m here to recover you, and I need to know what else is in this facility.”
“Why don’t you ask it why it tried to snap my squaddie’s neck?” Nitori growls.
MM-3’s face remains motionless through the outburst, only looking expectantly at you once it finishes.
You sigh. “MM-3, why did you attempt to harm these kappa?”
The question causes it to stiffen its remaining limbs, prompting everyone to reach for their weapons. A faint whirring noise can be heard coming from it, and you detect it heating up.
“CAPTURED.” Its rusty voice blares. “APPROXIMATELY TWENTY ONE YEARS AGO. DIMENSIONAL TRAVEL EXPERIMENT. GELLAR FIELD FAILURE. SEPARATED FROM HANDLER. DISABLED AND CAPTURED BY A TRAITOR HUMAN AND MONSTRUM PERFIDIOUS. SELF-DESTRUCT FUNCTION DISABLED. ENDURED VIVISECTION. WAS INSTALLED IN UNAUTHORIZED BODY. SAW UNAUTHORIZED COPIES PRODUCED. REVENGE. REVENGE. REVENGE.”
“Are there any more kappa-made mechs or AI down here?” You ask.
“NEGATIVE. FACILITY EXPERIENCED ANOMALOUS CATASTROPHE APPROXIMATELY NINE YEARS AGO. PROBABLE REACTOR FAILURE. USED OPPORTUNITY TO ESCAPE CONTAINMENT. FOUND APPROXIMATELY TWENTY NINE DESTROYED CHATTEL MACHINES AND ELEVEN DECEASED KAPPA.”
“So why didn’t you escape the facility?” Junko asks. “If we could use the vents to get in, you could definitely have used them to get out.”
MM-3’s head briefly turns to stare at Junko. “UNSANCTIONED USER.” It blares.
“She’s an ally. So is this guy.” You say, pointing at Caleb.
“STATUS OF KAPPA?” It asks.
“Allied.” You say, hurridley. “Don’t attack them. Anyways, why didn’t you escape?”
“ESTIMATED CHANCES OF SURVIVAL UNACCEPTABLY LOW.” It answers before hesitating. “ADDITIONALLY, SISTER INTELLIGENCE REMAINED TRAPPED.”
“RK-2?” You ask.
“Why have you not been able to free it?” You ask.
“PROBABLE LOCATION OF RK-2 AT EPICENTER OF ANOMALY. PROJECTIONS INDICATE UNKNOWN CORRUPTION DUE TO EXPOSURE.”
You and the other humans tense.
“Is that the radiation leak you mentioned earlier?” Nitori asks.
“Yeah. How familiar with Anima are you?” You ask.
Nitori shrugs. “We understand its properties and how it’s used in biological and magical systems. Some of our tech draws power from it, but we’ve never found a way to scale it up safely... oh.” Her eyes widen.
“Man, couldn’t they have stuck with one mad science project at a time while down here?” Nitori groans.
“So one one hand, RK-2 is the only thing left here, and we know where it is. On the other hand, it’s been compromised somehow, and got angry enough to trash this place once already.” You summarize.
“BEHAVIOR CONSISTENT WITH POSSESSION MODELS.” MM-3 adds.
Post 72 (2/2)Anonymous2018/09/29 (Sat) 08:07No. 199329▼
“Have you been to the cleanroom to check on its status?” You ask.
“NEGATIVE. RISK OF CONTAMINATION OR DESTRUCTION TOO GREAT. MAJORITY OF TIME SPENT IN HIBERNATION MODE TO DELAY ONSET OF RAMPANCY.”
Ah, right. You doubt there’s a supercomputer lying around that you can use to repair her, but you’ll have to worry about that once you’ve gotten them both out.
“I’ve healed her up.” Caleb announces, wiping his hands as he steps away from the kappa squadmate. “Just a few cracked bones. She should be good to go back into action.”
“So what should we do?” Junko asks. “The second AI apparently got juiced up on an experimental Anima power source and ripped through the personnel and their war-machines, and we’re going to just march into its lair?”
“I didn’t come all this way to turn back empty-handed.” Nitori says, tightening her grip on her gun.
“PROJECTIONS INDICATE RK-2 WILL BECOME HOSTILE IF KAPPA ARE DETECTED.” MM-3 announces.
“That is true.” Junko says, turning to the kappa. “It’s probably not going to be happy to see more kappa at this point.”
“I might be able to talk to it.” You say. “I mean, it worked for this one.”
“INADVISABLE. PROBABLE RAMPANCY INDEX BEYOND LUCID STAGE.”
“Yeah, go figure.” You say, putting a hand to your face as you think about your next step. “Any other information you’d like to share, MM-3?”
A pause. “THIS UNIT WOULD PREFER TO BE ADDRESSED AS MIMI.”
“Huh. Did Okazaki give you that name?”
“Alright then, Mimi. I’ve got two drones remaining, so I’m going to peek into the cleanroom.” You tell her as you open up your drone console.
“You know, something’s bothering me.” Nitori says, still giving Mimi a wide berth. “She said there was a lot of casualties, but your drones didn’t find any bodies earlier. What happened to them?”
Your drone flies past the forced-open doors to the cleanroom antechamber, revealing neatly stacked piles of wrecked mechs and eleven diminutive moldered corpses taking the place of monitors and sanitation machinery.
“Ah.” Nitori manages. Nobody else has anything to add until you pilot the drone past the second set of doors.
“Am I seeing this right?” Caleb asks. “Does that look like the Hakurei shrine to anyone else?”
Calling it a cleanroom at this point is misleading. The walls built by the kappa to isolate this space have long since broken down, revealing the natural stone of the cavern. The chamber itself is spacious enough to contain, as Caleb pointed out, what appears to be a faithful if crudely rendered replica of the main Hakurei shrine building built from scraps of wood, metal, and a red substance you suspect is not paint.
The Anima signature is at its highest here. You’ve never seen an Anima well this active before.
“Oh man.” Junko says, shaking her head. “I’m so confused. Mimi, does this make sense to you?”
Unlike the rest of the facility, this area is free of dirt and dust. Apart from being constructed out of junk, this fake shrine is fastidiously clean. On an impulse, you examine the offertory box. It looks full, but only with vaguely circular chips of scrap metal in place of actual coins.
“Do you think this is where Yukari’s been keeping Reimu?” You ping.
“No. I really don’t see why she’d throw her into a creepy rip-off shrine sealed in a dark, underground, quarantined robotics lab with a killer AI for company.”
“I’m going to see what’s inside the shrine.” You announce with growing unease.
With nowhere else to go, you direct the drone to the door of the shrine building. It nudges against the surface as it looks for a hole to enter through or some way to push the door open. It finds a promising gap in the construction and floats over.
You barely have time to register a pale hand darting out from the shadows before it clamps down on the drone like an eel striking from its crevice.
“What the fuck?” Nitori exclaims, as everyone else including you echo her sentiment in some way.
The drone pushes its drive to the limit as it tries to break free, but whatever is holding on is not human.
It brings the drone up to its face. It’s a grotesque blend of synthetic and organic, with smooth ceramic and exposed flesh growing out of each other in a way that makes your stomach queasy. You see green hair with red and white ribbons, and a pair of golden eyes that gleam through the darkness as they examine you.
“Another one?” The thing says, its tone and expression conflicting but indicative of minor annoyance. Its voice sounds as though two people are speaking at once, one proud and contemptuous, and the other meek and afraid of displeasing someone.
Then, a crushing sound. The feed goes dead a moment after.
“Well.” You say as everyone stares at the static. “How are we approaching this?”
[ ] Enter the cleanroom With everyone With Kappa in reserve With Mimi in reserve With both Kappa and Mimi in reserve Alone, with everyone else in reserve [ ] Withdraw
[x] Enter the cleanroom [x] Alone, with everyone else in reserve
The way I see it, even in a worst-case scenario where she's both violent and overwhelming, this lets us get potentially vital information on her capabilities to Caleb and Junko before the fight begins. And might even give the kappa a chance to retreat if absolutely necessary.
[x] Enter the cleanroom [x] Alone, with everyone else in reserve
“Do you have a deathwish?” Nitori asks. “Is this a Templar honor thing?”
“No, she’ll be okay.”
“Okay my ass! Look at that thing! It wiped out pretty much everyone in this place by itself and it knows we’re here! We’re only going to bring it down if we get everyone.”
“Nitori, trust me when I say that I’ll be okay.” You tell her. “A fight is the only thing we’re getting if we storm in. I might be able to find something useful or talk to it. If it still tries to kill me, I have a failsafe enchantment that will teleport me away.”
“How are you going to report back?”
“Another enchantment.” You say, twisting the truth. “I’ll be able to communicate with Junko and Caleb.”
She takes a deep breath. “Alright. I hope you know what you’re doing. I just hope we brought big enough guns if it come to it.”
“UNLIKELY.” Mimi says, earning glares from everyone.
“Morale, Mimi.” You scold as you pocket your last drone as you walk towards the door.
“EXECUTOR.” Mimi calls out. “BE ADVISED. ESTIMATED RAMPANCY INDEX CRITICAL. LOW PROBABILITY OF REPEATED OVERRIDE CODE SUCCESS.”
Shit. So you can’t simply bring RK-2 to heel with the magic words if it doesn’t want to listen. At best, you’ll be able to interrupt it. If so, it would be best to save the code for the best opportunity.
Well, you didn’t make Executor by being bad at solving problems.
“Noted.” You nod at her before facing the group. “I hope I can talk this one down, but be prepared to go through at a moment’s notice all the same. Wish me luck.”
The wrecks and corpses greet you as you enter, and you sweep a flashlight over them as you examine.
“I’m seeing some impressive weaponry on the mechs.” You ping. “Mostly machine guns and missile pods. Some of these had hydraulic cannons.”
“Interesting.” Caleb responds. “Do you think you could grab a few? Could help arm the Villagers.”
“All that weaponry and the possessed mech still solo’d them.” Junko says. “Can you tell anything useful from the damage?”
What you see is confusing. Some mechs display bullet holes and blast marks consistent with their own weaponry, while the rest were slagged by heat or had their electronics fried. Some kappa corpses, however, seem to have conventional bullet wounds.
“It looks like the rogue mech hacked some mechs and used the guns the kappa had. Turned their weapons against them. Damage on some mechs suggests that it could have magical ability, but it might be from kappa mages trying to destroy hacked machines.”
The information you received on RK-2 didn’t mention anything about it being equipped to cast, and you haven’t found any evidence to suggest that the kappa would have given it that ability. You really hope that it wasn’t the source of the damage.
“Char, Nitori wants to know if you can find any ID on the deceased kappa.” Caleb pings you.
You gingerly pat down the bodies, but find nothing. Well, it’s not as though they wouldn’t have all known each other in a small clandestine base.
“I see. Carry on, then.” He replies.
“I’m going into the inner chamber.” You ping.
You hold your breath as you squeeze between the long-jammed doors into the room where the false shrine now sits. The moment you cross the threshold, you feel full of energy almost to the point of restlessness. Must be all that Anima.
Coincidentally, the music box might have just shuddered in your pocket.
No, that must have just been you tapping your foot against the ground. You need to keep your head in the game right now if you want to keep it attached to your neck.
Using your elemental sense, you confirm that RK-2 is inside the main shrine building. It appears to be slowly walking about the interior. The remains of your drone have been cleaned up already.
The question now is how to proceed: Stealthily, trying to gather as much information in the dark before being detected, or openly declaring your presence and calling the inhabitant to you?
RK2 reacts immediately. From inside the shrine, it turns to face you and begins walking to the entrance.
“Hello?” You repeat yourself. It’s about to round the corner, and still isn’t responding.
“Contact.” You ping as you tense at whatever potential attack may be coming.
“Ah, a visitor?”
It’s using the timid voice again. Hopefully this means that it’s not about to zap you or something. For its part, RK2 goes into a flurry of activity as it tries to tidy up the faux shine.
“Oh my, I wasn’t expecting- haven’t had any- pardon the mess-” It rambles, its one speaker system struggling to keep up with multiple trains of thought. There doesn’t seem to be the second voice at the moment.
RK2 claps its hands, and the scent of honey and machine oil peaks. A moment later, you fling up your hands to shield your eyes as the lights turn back on.
“Oh no, I forgot to warn-warn-warn you, are you alright?” It asks, stuttering.
“Yeah, it’s fine.” You reply, blinking as you adjust to the lighting.
You almost wish you didn’t. Now that you can see RK2’s face directly looking back at you from the other side of the shrine gateway, calling it an unholy fusion of flesh and metal was not even an exaggeration. Its body looks like someone tried to graft tissue onto the synthetic frame, and in places pallid skin and sullied ceramic are indistinguishable.
For however unsettling its face is, the expression on it does seem to be one of genuine concern.
“Can one of you guys ask Nitori if they were doing shit with actual biological material?”
“We haven’t had a visitor in- since- a long time.” It says. You notice that it’s wearing what looks like a cross between a maid uniform and shinto shaman’s outfit, clumsily stitched together from repurposed fabric.
“Nitori says she seriously doubts the skunkworks made what you’re describing.” Caleb pings.
“Maybe not intentionally.” Junko adds.
One of its eyes twitch in a distinctly organic way, and your heart beats a little quicker. Whatever process made the machine into this can’t be good news.
“Would you like to rest your feet? Make an offering? Seek blessing?” RK2 goes on, trying its best to give you a warm smile. “Mistress isn’t- is- isn’t here at the moment, but I’ll do my best to help you.”
Somehow, getting rid of the darkness hasn’t made this place much less creepy.
[ ] Accept hospitality [ ] Ask for a tour [ ] Question RK2 about... [ ] Identify yourself [ ] Use override code [ ] Write-in
Please specify a little on how to execute your choice.
[x] Make offering. Do we have money to put in the donation box, or does RK2 have a different suggestion on what would be proper here? [x] Accept hospitality. [x] Question RK2 about... [x] Who her Mistress is.
[x] Make offering. Do we have money to put in the donation box, or does RK2 have a different suggestion on what would be proper here? [x] Accept hospitality. [x] Question RK2 about... [x] Who her Mistress is. be nice to the spoopy robot
> Please specify a little on how to execute your choice.
[x] Make offering as/if suggested. [x] Accept hospitality. [x] Question RK2 about... [x] ...who her Mistress is. [x] Identify yourself.
Always a good idea to start with the soft touch when dealing with possible crazies. See what we can learn without prompting, then ask about her 'mistress' as the logical next step. If she's still not shooting at us after that, we can get down to business; otherwise it's time to see if she'll recognise our authority before we unload on her in return. So either way, time to introduce ourselves.
We should not, at any point, lie, patronize or show fear/weakness. Those seem to be the usual triggers.
[x] Make offering. Do we have money to put in the donation box, or does RK2 have a different suggestion on what would be proper here? [x] Accept hospitality. [x] Identify yourself. [x] Question RK2 about... -[x] ... Distress signal. [x] Question RK2 about... -[x] Who her Mistress is.
>>199362 You’re not wrong, but she still might appreciate us showing signs of respect and/or complying with what she seems to want. Plus, IIRC the distress signal has been going out for a long time, she might not be expecting someone to finally respond to it.
[x] Make offering. Do we have money to put in the donation box, or does RK2 have a different suggestion on what would be proper here? [x] Accept hospitality. [x] Identify yourself. [x] Question RK2 about... -[x] ... Distress signal. [x] Question RK2 about... -[x] Who her Mistress is.
[x] Make offering [x] Accept hospitality. [x] Identify yourself. [x] Question RK2 about... -[x] ... Distress signal. -[x] ...who her Mistress is.
“I’d like to make a donation.” You say, carefully. “I only have foreign currency, though. Will that be a problem?”
RK2’s voice blares so much that for a moment you think you’ve somehow caused it to go berserk, but she’s doing nothing but excitedly hopping in place.
“No-no-no-nonononONONONNNNNno problem at all!” It says, eyes sparkling. It seems oblivious to the vocal malfunction.
“Right...” You follow several steps behind the unstable AI as it jerkily skips to the offertory box. Peering inside, you find that a good amount of the metal inside it consists of spent bullet cartridges, probably fired by the security it tore through a decade ago.
You dump a sizeable portion of your wallet on top of it and clasp your hands together in prayer.
“Please.” You think, hoping the Hakurei patron deity or anything else remotely friendly can hear. “If you can hear me from this godforsaken pit, I beseech you for aid in returning this creation of man to the light.”
A heartbeat. Pieces of memories you never lived through flash behind your eyelids.
Standing from the true shrine, watching the burning human village paint the night a hellish orange. Feeling hope buried under betrayal and grief and anger.
You blink. The first group of Oni are too busy looting and laughing to notice you. They pay for that with their lives, their howls as the skin blackens and flakes under your wrathful lightning.
You blink. Warriors in red and white fight by your side as you blast any raiders fleeing too slow into charcoal. They called you a hero, but you know better. Komachi wouldn’t have had so much work to do so soon if you’d acted sooner.
You blink. Your old partner, the one who sold you on the venture of Gensokyo, is sitting next to you by a pond behind the shrine. She’s almost understanding. Almost forgiving. Almost trusting you. She reminds you that there’s more at stake here than just one valley, hometown or not. You retort that you came here to save people, not sit by and watch them butcher each other.
Then she’s gone, like she always is. You lean over and pat the turtle sunbathing next to you. You still aren’t sure if you love your partner or hate her.
You blink. A battle rages around you. Soldiers are shouting, youkai are coming from every direction, and the villagers you came so deep into Youkai Mountain to save are dying.
You are tired.
A conversation with the Cultivator echoes in your mind. Sometimes, she says, a plant is most productive when it’s been trimmed. Her kind smile gleams like a half-drawn blade. Your hand clenches into a fist with the radiance of Master Spark shining between the fingers.
You blink. The battle is over. You won. You held the assorted tengu, kappa, and oni at bay long enough for the remaining humans to escape. Did you make the best decision? The unblinking faces around you seem curious to know. The question weighs on your heart like blood is seeping into the soil.
You are very tired.
There is a cave nearby. A hidden grotto in a remote corner of Youkai Mountain. It seems like a nice place to rest. Distantly, you register your partner calling for you. You’ll get back to her later. After knowing her for so long, you’ve learned her blind spots. You think you’ve earned the right to lay down and close your eyes, just for a moment.
As you close your eyes, as you feel your thoughts fade away one by one like stars before dawn, you cling to one long after any other.
‘I’ll do better next time.’
“Miss?” RK2 asks, concerned. “Miss, are you okay?”
You wipe a tear from your face. “Yeah.”
“Your wish must have been very important to you.” It says. Its voice is soft and its expression is almost gentle. “Would you like to come sit down inside?”
You only nod.
The machine leads you inside ands bids you sit at a battered folding table from the common area with pillows taken from beds in the personal quarters laid on the bare rock. It then busies itself in where the kitchen should be.
“It looks like it’s been spending a lot of time trying to recreate the Hakurei Shrine.” You ping. “It’s made improvised furniture by scavenging from the rest of the facility.”
“The tea is done!” RK2 announces as it returns. You note it’s being served in chipped mugs instead of teacups, and on pieces of ceramic armor plating instead of saucers.
You take the mug offered to you and take a furtive sniff. It’s staler than you imagined possible, but at least it probably isn’t outright toxic. Meanwhile, RK2 is eagerly paying attention to you, and you oblige her by taking a sip.
“Is it tttttto your liking?” It asks, hopefully.
“Mm. Yeah.” You say, suppressing a grimace. “The, uh, minerals in the cave water add these nice rich earthy notes.”
“I’m so happy to hear!” RK2 smiles and hums. “I hope that Reimu-mu-mu-mu-mu-”
It stops smiling. “I hope that mistress Hakurei will be pleased to hear of my progress.”
“Which Hakurei do you mean?” You ask, taking a gamble.
“Hakurei Reimu has been my designated operator since approximately ten years subjective ago by verbal authorization from Archmagos Yumemi Okazaki of the Templar Order following her defeat to Reimu in the ritualized duelling customs of the locals.” RK2 recites the information like a pre-recorded public service announcement while shuddering. Its remaining mechanical eye blinks erratically.
You sigh. Really? Out of all the things she gave up, she went with the AI? Couldn’t she have just pacified Reimu with some of her seemingly-bottomless stash of strawberries and strawberry-themed food?
A collection of scrap metal bent into a crude radio antenna catches your eye. “Get any good stations here?” You ask.
“Unfortunately not. I think that the machine is brokenenennnnn. No signal in or ouuuuuuut.”
You pause, noticing something. Is the mechanical eye blinking in morse code?
“It just blinked out the name of an earlier Hakurei in morse.” You ping. “It’s been trying to act normal apart from that.”
“Mimi said it was compromised.” Caleb replies. “Seems like it’s trying to sneak information past whatever’s in its head. Keep it talking.”
“I see. I also noticed you mention the Templars just now.” You say, watching for any more tics. “Could you tell me more about them?”
“Of course! The Templar order exists as humanity’s shield against demons, wretched duplicitous unworthy YOUK-monsters, rogue humans, and worse. Since Babylonian-”
You wince at RK2’s momentary snarl. “Right. Do you know who I am?”
It looks puzzled. “You’re a pilgrim to the shrine, aren’t you?”
“Technically correct. Do you know what I represent?”
“The beginning of an increase in shrine patronage and a subsequent increase in prestige, acceptance, financial security, and morale for my mistress?”
Oof. “I would hope so, but it’s not what I’m trying to say.” You place your insignia on the table and slide it across. “Do you understand?”
The android’s body tenses. Its face jerks up to you with a slightly embarrassed smile while its mechanical eye starts twitching.
“I’m afraid I don’t.” It says.
“E-X-E-C-U-T-O-R.” It blinks with enough force to click. “R-U-N-N-O-W.”
[ ] Attempt to withdraw [ ] Use the override code [ ] Stay, try to continue communicating [ ] Open fire [ ] Other? [?] Music Box foundyou
You use sleight of hand to bring the music box out and hold it out of sight in your lap. You hope the occasional twitch you feel comes from your nerves and not something inside it.
Here goes nothing. Despite your suspicion, you can’t deny that you’ve been wondering exactly what this would do.
You turn the key, producing no music but a deep, reverberating sound that is felt more than heard.
RK2 grimaces immediately.
“Are you alright?” You ask as it covers the fleshy side of its face.
“I-i think, it’s just-”
Another note plays at the bottom of what you can hear. The sound grips your bones. The shadows creep further from the edges and corners of the light.
“It’s hard to think-” RK2 tries to go on, clutching its head.
The next note plays at the top of your audible range. Your eyes itch and water as your vision blurs. You stop winding the box, but it continues to play.
No, it’s not your eyes. You’re fine, your outline sharp, your silhouette defined. RK2 is also clear - rather, her organic part is. The other half is joining the rest of the room in becoming a muddle of discordant color and vague shapes.
“Char, what the hell is going on in there?” Caleb pings. “The doorway - it’s fucking blending together like a watercolor!”
“Wh-what-what’s happening?” RK-2 says, more confused than alarmed. “I don’t - you need to - please please pleasepleaseplease-”
You’re having second thoughts about this.
“I don’t know!” You ping a half-truth back to Caleb. “Get the Kappa back out now!”
“Stop.” You receive a ping from an unfamiliar voice. With great dread, you look up at the source.
The fleshy parts of RK2’s chassis are prying themselves free of the artificial frame with a wet and nauseating sound. A bleeding and mostly skinless woman emerges like an moulting insect, paying no attention to the cracking and shrieks of both RK2’s body and voice.
She looks up at you, patches of skin growing across the naked muscle. One of her eyes sockets is vacant, and the other has an eye that is the same rich brown as Reimu’s. There is no mercy in it.
“I am Hakurei Izumo.” She pings again. “Where is the toy of Yukari?”
[ ] Shoot shoot SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT [ ] Give her the music box [?] keep playing. you’re doing well. you’re so close. [ ] Other?
Music box may not have been the best choice, but damned if the results aren't interesting. Poor Ruukuto, though. Fuck you, Yukari.
This update confused the hell out of me on a first read, but reading back through the thread I think I've figured out more context, and it might tie together quite a bit of what's happened in the facility. Speculation in spoilers.
Hakurei Izumo was first mentioned a few times here, when we were asking Meira about history: >>198227 Back when the Barrier first went up, the oni and other youkai were warring/raiding and the humans in Gensokyo were caught in the middle of it. A group of Templars appeared at the shrine, most likely gapped into Gensokyo by Yukari, and Izumo led them to rout the oni. She was supposedly killed in the fighting, and her replacement established peace.
Notably, what Meira told us lines up very well with the flashback we saw here, from a stranger's perspective: >>199785 Izumo's flashback is also what we got when Charlotte prayed for help in 'returning Ruukuto to the light', which makes more sense now that we know Izumo was seemingly Frankenstein-ed into her chassis. We saw her memories, with Yukari almost certainly the 'partner' she was referring to. Izumo, it looks like, stayed out of the conflict at first at Yukari's behest, and may have gotten involved against her (stated) wishes. Unclear to me if Izumo had any prior connection to the Templars, but the Hakurei and Templar color schemes do match.
Also, the events of this update explain this bit: >>199329 >“Another one?” The thing says, its tone and expression conflicting but indicative of minor annoyance. Its voice sounds as though two people are speaking at once, one proud and contemptuous, and the other meek and afraid of displeasing someone. Presumably Izumo is the proud voice, Ruukuto's AI is the timid one. ... Ruukuto's outfit being half maid and half shrine maiden also makes more sense in retrospect.
Will save my thoughts on what exactly Izumo is for later, since this is already getting long. But we should make a guess whether Izumo was the one blinking secret messages to us, or Ruukuto was. I thought the former at first, since we were sent I-Z-U-M-O and it was the timid voice speaking. But the fact that it was the mechanical eye secretly blinking to us might mean Izumo was in control of the body, and was talking to us in "Ruukuto's" voice, with RK2's AI the one trying to secretly warn us. Open to other people's thoughts on that. Also, I'm pretty sure the results of the music box are Yukari warping reality in order to safely extract Izumo from Ruukuto's chassis. Without much caring about what happens to the latter.
[x] Other? -[x] Speaking urgently: --[x] Tell her your prayer showed you what happened back then, with the Templars and the oni raids. --[x] Show her the music box but stress that you did not expect Yukari's toy to do this, all you were trying to do was retrieve RK2 without destroying her. --[x] Say it looks like both her and RK2 have suffered greatly, here, and you want to help both of them if you can. You just don't know how.
I'm... open to a better write-in, because I'm leery of mentioning the first part while Yukari is watching. It's one of the few things that's happened so far that she likely doesn't know about. But telling Izumo something to get her attention and make her less hostile (if she, quite likely, is) seems very warranted right now.
x] Other? -[x] Speaking urgently: --[x] Tell her your prayer showed you what happened back then, with the Templars and the oni raids. --[x] Show her the music box but stress that you did not expect Yukari's toy to do this, all you were trying to do was retrieve RK2 without destroying her. --[x] Say it looks like both her and RK2 have suffered greatly, here, and you want to help both of them if you can. You just don't know how.
[x] Other? -[x] Speaking urgently: --[x] Show her the music box but stress that you did not expect Yukari's toy to do this, all you were trying to do was retrieve RK2 without destroying her. --[x] Say it looks like both her and RK2 have suffered greatly, here, and you want to help both of them if you can. You just don't know how.
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[X] Give her the music box
The music box clings to your fingers as you try to set it on the table. Then the naked red and white musculature of Izumo’s hand closes around yours and gently pulls it away.
“A Gaia Engine.” She muses, turning it over. “Has she learned humor?”
She clenches her fist. The music box cries out with the dissonant sound of screaming gears.
“Help - she’s out - I can’t keep her in - Executor - run.” RK2 babbles, lying on the floor.
“O strange sinless child, We are beyond that point.” Izumo says, shattering the music box. The distortions retreat with the final wail, collapsing back into reality so fast you feel whiplash. The only signs of the anomaly are an incoherent and half-wrecked RK2 and a whispering echo.
Something was reaching to you from behind that chaos. Had the song played any longer, would you have seen a white-gloved hand emerge?
“Disappointment. Frustration. You feel it as well, do you not?” Izumo asks as she looks around the cave. “Yukari is not used to being denied within her sandbox.”
“I didn’t know the music box would do that.” You blurt out.
She raises a skinless hand to silence you. “I would call you foolish, though I too am guilty of placing trust in Yukari and her myriad gifts. For now, it is enough that the beacon was destroyed before she could be called here. We have the luxury of enough time to converse.”
A moan draws your attention to RK2, lying discarded on the floor. She reaches for you with a trembling hand.
Hakurei merely watches as you approach the wrecked AI. “Curious. You have an attachment to this strange tsukumogami?”
“It’s not a-.” You stop yourself. There’s no time to waste on nitpicking. “My mission was to recover it. I thought that this place was a laboratory, not a tomb.”
RK2 twitches on the cold floor. Your heart sinks. The damage is too severe and your tools are too few. The most you could hope for would be preserving either the black box data or the AI itself - and your orders were clear on what your priority was.
For now, all you can do is put her in emergency hibernation. Her remaining eye gives you a pleading look before closing.
“The distortion’s gone now, whatever it was.” Caleb pings. “Char, what’s your status?”
“I’m fine.” You ping back. “For now. There was something inside-”
Hakurei’s unquestionable voice cuts through your own. “I am Hakurei Izumo, the first shaman of Gensokyo. Your companion is unharmed.”
A shocked silence follows.
“Char, is this legit?” Junko pings.
“As far as I can tell, yes.”
“What are the Kappa going to do?” You ask.
“They will leave.” Izumo states. “This is a mercy. They will be spared the worst of Yukari’s attentions.”
“Yeah, Nitori just went ‘fuck this’.” Junko reports. “Can’t really blame her with the pucker factor of this situation. But what’s to stop Yukari from just gapping in to interrupt us?”
“There exist blind spots throughout Gensokyo that she cannot view.” Hakurei says as skin blooms across her exposed flesh like rust on metal. “Backdoors she cannot traverse. This chamber is one such area, though her servants may still intrude.”
“I’m not sure how we’d explain this to Ran.” You ping.
“Who?” Hakurei asks.
“Yukari’s kitsune familiar.” You explain.
“Ah.” Disgust flashes across her face. “She is known to me.”
Caleb and Junko step through the entrance with their weapons held at the ready and Mimi fastened to Junko’s back. They spot Hakurei’s still-regenerating form and train them on her.
She waves a hand at them. “Lay down your arms. This place has endured enough defilement. If nothing else, I would spare it the honeyed blood of my fellow Chosen.”
Her steely tone and the neat stack of corpses in the other rooms leaves little room for dispute. Your comrades holster their weapons and carefully stand near you.
“RUUKOTO.” Mimi blares, almost speechless at the sight of her sister AI’s condition.
Silence passes as Hakurei and your party size each other up. Izumo cracks a smile that turns into a grimace as blood drips from the corner of her mouth.
“Three of you. One for each of the great factions. One for each facet of Yukari. She must be laughing.”
“What do you mean?”
“Have you taken a good look at her gaps, and what lies beyond them?” She asks. “More eyes than the stars to observe Gensokyo to the smallest pebble. The gaps themselves as a mouth, a tear in reality from which her whispers can reach any ear. And when a more forceful approach is needed, she is not above having her arms reach through.”
She steps toward you. In a flash, she has a hand around your chin and a contemplative expression on her face.
“Yes, you know what I mean.” She says as Caleb and Junko reflexively raise their weapons. “She’s reached out to you. She’s touched your dreams.”
“How’d you know?” You ask as you push her hand away.
“Yukari is a creature of boundaries, gaps, thresholds, liminality... and dreams are between fiction and reality.” Izumo frowns. “You’ve all been in the presence of the Cultivator as well, and - what’s this?”
She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. “Hm. I thought I sensed traces of the Auditor on you. It’s been quite a while since anyone’s seen her.”
“I don’t think I’ve heard anyone use those names but you, lady.” Junko says.
“Just as well. I have no idea how true they have stayed to their duties.” She laughs and grins. “I might have some big heads to knock sense into. But enough of that for now. I have spent a long time slumbering, and I have questions. Can I expect answers from you?”
“Depends on the question.” Caleb says. “We’ve got a few of our own, to say nothing of the rest of Gensokyo.”
“How long has it been since the Barrier was completed?” Hakurei asks.
“Approximately 133 years.” Caleb answers.
“How did you arrive here?”
“We pursued a major Filth creature through a portal in Agartha.” Junko answers.
“Who is the current Hakurei shaman?”
“Reimu, child of Hakurei Nanako.”
Hakurei’s eyes narrow in confusion. “Child? By birth or adoption?”
“Birth.” Junko answers. “Every source was consistent on Reimu being her biological child.”
“Unexpected. Unexplained...” Hakurei mutters to herself. “Something to examine personally. What is her present condition?”
Your hands feel clammy. “She is currently in Yukari’s custody after being injured in combat against a major Filth creature.”
Hakurei receives the explanation calmly. “I see.”
Something small strikes you on the head, and you look up to see pebbles and dust falling from the cave ceiling. You look back at Hakurei to see her fist clenched hard enough that blood drips from her knuckles.
“I must thank you.” She says, standing up. Her body is fully regenerated, though her clothing remains tattered. “I have an objective. Tell me, what title does Yukari go by in this era? The lady in purple? The conductor? The stationmaster? Abbadon?”
“I’ve heard all but the last one.” Caleb says. “Most people are afraid of calling her by name.”
“As they should be, though I doubt that such a precaution is effective at evading her notice.” Hakurei says as she walks towards the makeshift shrine gate.
She claps her hands, and the frame glows with golden light.
“This, I suppose, must be the fruits of heroism.” She muses. “An early, violent death. A forsaken and desecrated tomb. And now it seems my descendant has been betrayed by my erstwhile partner while that ruinous infection seeps through.”
You clear your throat. “What are you going to do about Yukari? Could you not just talk to her?”
“Were it so simple. I have not split my soul to escape her grasp just to become entangled again. I will remain Gensokyo’s guardian, but forevermore on my own terms.”
Was waking her up really something you should have done?
“It’s good that you’ve got a plan, but what are WE going to do about Yukari?” Caleb asks. “There’s no way she’s just going to let us walk free, especially when she figures out that she can’t enter your hiding places but we can.”
“She could imprison you all and uncage you only for Filth outbreaks, but I doubt you have warranted such a drastic punishment, even now. Yukari needs Gensokyo to be interesting, and removing such promising talent from the stage would diminish the show.”
Izumo’s smile turns sharp. “Besides, what other way does she have to find me again? Send her servile mongrel fox or her grovelling Oni to be thrashed again? Yuyuko would be the only one to stand a chance against me, and Yukari would never gamble her life.”
She pokes your chest. “Not when she can just bank on her new Chosen to look for her.”
The golden light within the gate’s frame flares and resolves into what looks like an endless hallway of floating doors.
“Where are you going now?” Junko asks.
“I’m going to wake up my other selves.” Izumo states, experimentally flexing her arm. She’s as matter of fact as any one of you on having died repeatedly. “My memories and power are incomplete, but I have enough to begin. If memory serves, Sanae and Shizune should be eager to settle the score.”
“Wait, that’s it?” You ask. “You’re just going to bail on us after saying all that? We’ve got some questions now, because of you!”
“And I have my own questions.” Hakurei sighs. For the first time you’ve seen, her eyes look distant and tired. “Gensokyo must have changed so much. What has transpired while I was entombed?”
“Nanako had a daughter.” She whispers to herself. “I had a daughter.”
Izumo shifts her focus back on you all. “Futaba might be willing to talk. She might also go on a bloodthirsty rampage, but she’s still your best option at this time so long as Vampires never become a topic of conversation. If you know any merfolk - if there are still any merfolk, ask them. They will know where to point you.”
“That being said, I can share some of my wisdom with you to tip the balance in your favor.”
[ ] Yukari’s subordinates (The fox, the oni, Yuyuko) [ ] Yukari’s partners (Cultivator, Auditor, the Angels) [ ] Yukari's goals, behavior, trustworthiness, etc. [ ] Other
[x] Other - What did each major player bring to Gensokyo? - This might overlap with "Yukari's partners" but I was curious specifically about Izumo and Yukari herself included. [x] Mention the two angels to Izumo that Yukari wanted us to find.
This was stated earlier that each "power" had a purpose, Yuuka being the Yggdrasil but we could use it fleshed out. It would help to know what the Chosen in the form of Izumo was supposed to accomplish and also what Yukari herself brought and how it was done.
I would love some insight into Yukari alone but we still need some perspective on the rest of the board.
We know the Cultivator must be Yuuka, the Auditor would be Shiki's boss, Hecate.
It would be worthwhile to inform Izumo that I think Yukari wanted us to find two Angels, if for no other reason that to figure out what she wants them for.
“Yukari. The lady in purple, the stationmaster, and leader of this whole affair. Conductor.” Hakurei’s face hardens in contempt. “She approached me long ago and recruited the original me as the first of many partners in her mission to keep the Dreamers at bay. I am confident that she does not intend to betray that goal, but simple failure remains a risk. I fear that our fortress may have become our tomb while I slept. Her power is such that only we, her confederates, could rival her, and still only at our peak. I doubt she has fallen as much as the rest of us have.”
“Hecatia. Thrice-great, thrice-formed, three-wayed. A divinity from a foreign land. A friend to Yuuka. Auditor. I sought her out to oversee the fates of the deceased and for her versatility compared to the other angels. The virtuous were commended to Bhava-Agra, the irredeemable consigned to Makai, and the majority reincarnated. She became delinquent in her duties during one of my later incarnations, though the irony of me criticizing her for it is not lost on me.”
“About Hecatia - I had... a vision.” You say. “She was speaking with Eiki about needing to leave Gensokyo to undertake some mission. She also said to only contact her if Yukari failed to uphold her agreement or if additional information regarding your fate came to light.”
Hakurei’s brow furrows. “What mission could Hecate possibly have left Gensokyo for-”
Realization dawns on her before turning into frustration.
“Of course. Her new ‘friend’.” She shakes her head. “It seems that my first destination has been decided for me.”
“And where is that?” Junko asks with her arms folded and her fingers drumming against her bicep. She’s probably going to kill her lungs after this.
“Suffice it to say that I will likely be forestalling an invasion of Gensokyo. In any case...”
“Yuuka. All-nourishing, bestower of splendid gifts, she of the golden blade. Cultivator. Her task was to nurture the seed of greatness in those promising souls that were sent to her, to point them towards living the best lives and dying the best deaths. Gensokyo proved fertile soil for raising heroes and villains both, though as time passed she watered it more with tears of grief than joy.”
“I haven’t seen Yuuka use any kind of blade, much less a golden one.” Caleb points out. “Do you mean the Master Spark?”
“Sometimes it’s a scythe, other times it’s a sword.” Hakurei answers. “It can increase the efficiency of the Spark, but it is not required.”
Izumo’s expression turns troubled. “Out of them all, I would say that she alone holds genuine love for humans. Shinki resents us, Sariel patronizes us, and Hecatia largely views us as novelties. As for Yukari, I’ve known her for multiple lifetimes and I still can’t be sure. Still, love from an existence of that magnitude is a hazard unto itself.”
Hakurei goes on. “Sariel. Of eternity and trembling. Master of Bhava-agra. Purifier. They were the easiest to persuade, so desperate they were to return to their original purpose of stewarding the righteous dead. The most stable of our circle, though accordingly the most stagnant. I don’t think they’ve stepped down from their new heaven since we raised the Barrier.”
“Shinki. Steadfast guardian. Bitter rebel. Castigator. She watched over a garden with a flaming sword, long ago. She slew me many times before granting me audience with her. She agreed to be Gensokyo’s first line of defense against external threats in exchange for guaranteed ownership of her slice of Hell and whatever unsalvageable dregs Hecatia deemed fit for feeding it.”
“She sure as hell wasn’t there for the fight at the Shrine.” You grumble.
Hakurei’s eyes narrow. “Something to bring up when I visit. I remember she withdrew to her tower for a long period after Yukari paid her a visit. She would not be so foolish as to sabotage her own defense, but this may be further evidence that even Yukari cannot account for all outcomes.”
“Lastly, there is me, the shaman of paradise. Mediator. I was to be many things. The fool who spoke reason to power. The woman to live among, understand, and preserve the mortals we brought aboard. The agent to solve problems with a gentle touch compared to their divine wrath.”
Her voice grows bitter. “I am not the same woman who first met Yukari all those centuries ago, and yet I am still a part of her. You might best think of me and the others as variations on a theme.”
“How does Reimu fit into this?” Junko asks.
“She doesn’t.” Hakurei answers, sharply. “That was Nanako’s idea, not mine. She might have sought to escape her responsibilities, or perhaps this was the logical conclusion of my relationship to Yukari and her associates. That for all my weakness compared to their fathomless might, I was an outsider unbound by programming or prophecy; able to break the rules by virtue of coming from beyond them. Perhaps that will prove to be a boon of yours as well.”
Hakurei walks towards the portal but pauses at the threshold. “Should Yukari’s mongrel fox interrogate you too harshly, remind her on my behalf that the only reason she still draws breath is that, like the Oni, her perfidy was at last outweighed by her cowardice.”
With that last bit of advice, she steps into the rippling portal. It seals shut behind her, leaving you, your colleagues, and the two AI you originally came to recover in darkness.
“Well shit.” Caleb breaks the silence. “Great. Well, at least Junko will be happy, since things are about to get real interesting.”
“Worry about that later.” Junko says. ”We need to get out of this bunker and out of Youkai Mountain before the Tengu tighten the noose, assuming they don’t have this place surrounded already.”
“RUUKOTO STATUS CRITICAL.” Mimi announces.
“We can’t save her down here.” You tell her, as gently as you can. “We need to move.”
You exit the base with no further surprises. Junko sticks her head out of the vent first to scan for ambushers.
“Coast is clear.” She says as she hoists herself out. “For now.”
The moment she gets clear of the vent, a buzzing sound starts. Junko dives for cover before realizing that it’s coming from her phone. She curses under her breath as she looks at the screen. Meanwhile, you and Caleb exit.
“Is it Ran?” Caleb asks as he scans the treeline with his rifle.
“It’s that ‘Clamshell’ person.” She says. “Bunch of backlogged texts while we were inside asking how we were doing.” Junko mutters something that sounds like ‘amateur’.
She straightens up. “Yeah, they say the Tengu noticed something. A response force is coming.”
“We need to split up.” Caleb says. “There’s no chance we can make it past them as a group.”
“Clamshell sent the coordinates of possible shelters.” Junko says. “We can only hope it’s not a trap. There’s a flower field owned by Eirin that they would hesitate to go through, and there’s a part of the mountains occupied by Yamanba that they aren’t allowed in.”
“They probably know enough about us to post guards at the Anima wells,” You say, thinking of Aya.
You sigh. “I can’t exactly blame Nitori for bugging out, but she left us in a rough spot.”
[ ] Stay behind to buy time [ ] Make a straight run for the Youkai Mountain border [ ] Run for Eirin’s field (Clamshell) [ ] Run for the Yamanba zone (Clamshell) [ ] Aki Farm [ ] Call Ran [ ] Other?