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File 162260647164.jpg - (193.43KB, 811x898, external-content_duckduckgo.jpg) [iqdb]
202475
[x] Forge ahead anyway. There's nothing in particular going on right now, Sumi's occupied with her helicopter flight; this is a chance to understand Satori better.

You give a mental shrug. If you don't ask now, you probably never will. "Does reading minds bother you?"

"If you haven't noticed, reading minds is essentially what defines me, and it's an incredible advantage. You can tell by how I haven't tried to close my third eye."

"Something can be useful, helpful, and overall a good thing, and still be incredibly frustrating at times." Like Sumireko, not that you were stupid enough to say that out loud.

"How many ways can I possibly signal that I don't want to have this conversation? I know you aren't this dense, Greg."

"For crying out loud. You're acting more off than Sumi is, and I'm worried about you."

"By pushing on a sensitive subject? That's a fascinating way of showing your concern."

"It's not that simple, just..." you stop, frustrated. It's that people tend to be more honest when they're off balance. The Satori you know is polite, dry, and witty, with the occasional burst of verbal savagery, and all that's well and good, but you're pretty sure she's burying her own feelings. She doesn't talk about herself, and if you press on it, she either goes clinical, in the same way a medical doctor would talk about a corpse, or she deflects, like she has now. You know she's deflecting, and because she's a mindreader, she knows you know she's deflecting, and she's still deflecting!

So yes, you're pushing. You're pushing bluntly to try and get her to open up, because what else is there to even do? You could try something subtle, but Satori would just read your mind for your motives and call you out on it.

"If you're going to carry on like that, could you go think somewhere else?"

"Sorry, is reading my thoughts bothering you?"

Satori is halfway to answering yes before she stops, apparently remembering your original question.

"Is this the part where you fold your arms, glare at me, and say nothing's wrong?"

She didn't say anything, but she had a gesture for you. She even changed how she was carrying Nitori to free up the hand for it.

You're a little tempted to laugh, but while she's adorable when irritated, that's very much not the goal here. "Satori, if you're really determined not to say anything, then I'll drop it. But talk to someone, alright?"

Satori sighs. "I understand where you're coming from. But I'm not so fragile I need comfort over every small problem. And for the time being, I would rather focus on our current goal."

It might even be true, but that's not the point. If you'll hide a small problem, you'll hide a big one. Satori gives you a level stare, mask firmly back in place, and it's your turn to sigh.

Judging by the scenery, you still have a little time before arriving in the bamboo forest.

[-] Ask Satori about what's up with your magic.
[-] Check on Sumireko, see how she's doing with that backpack.
[-] Practice magic a little on your own.
[x] Ask Satori about what's up with your magic.
[x] Ask Satori about what's up with your magic.
[x] call for tewi
[X] Check on Sumireko, see how she's doing with that backpack
do NOT fire the rockets
[x] Ask Satori about what's up with your magic.
Infodumps ahead
[x] Ask Satori about what's up with your magic.
[x] Practice magic a little on your own.

>having shit handed to you
Where's the fun in that? It's about time Roach gets things done by himself.
[X] Ask Satori about what's up with your magic.

Thanks for the new chapter. And for the Satori pic too.
[x] Ask Satori about what's up with your magic.
[X] Ask Satori about what's up with your magic.

I agree that we should try to do stuff on our own, but practicing new magic while flying sounds like a bad idea.
[-] Practice magic a little on your own.
If she wants to help us she'll give us pointers anyway.
File 162279105453.png - (48.71KB, 150x294, ForestFairy.png) [iqdb]
202493
[x] Ask Satori about what's up with your magic.

"Alright then, different topic." Satori gives you a level look, and you take a second to get your thoughts in order.

She doesn't bother waiting for that. "Are you sure it's not just life and death situations forcing you to your limit?"

You didn't think so. It's not just your magic being stronger, but the form of it was different. The first time you'd seen a spell card was about a week ago, and then you made one accidentally earlier this morning. And then a second one a little more intentionally afterwards.

"Interesting." Satori says, humming thoughtfully. "I can guess at part of the answer. When Yukari and a couple others created the spell card system, they twisted Gensokyo's magic. I couldn't begin to explain how they did it, but the effect is that if someone focuses all their magic on a single spell, it wants to become a spell card."

Wait, did she just say someone changed the entire world's magic? Of a world based around magic? How is that even possible?

"Yukari is arguably the single most powerful youkai in Gensokyo. Granted, a lot of Gensokyo's more powerful residents arrived after she set the system up, but I think the title is still hers. If she takes an interest in you, you're probably screwed."

Well then. Considering you and Sumi never saw or heard of this Yukari, hopefully she's undisturbed. The last thing you need is more enemies. "Anyway, what's the point to spell cards? Fancy names aside?"

"Gensokyo is a refuge for youkai. If they'd fought normally all this time, there wouldn't be anyone left alive. Which is why spell cards place restrictions on magic. There's other parts to it, but the most important one is that a spell card cannot cause lethal injury. But in return, they're actively aided by Gensokyo's magic. Spell cards are easier to cast and stronger than non-spells, especially since it takes conscious effort for a powerful attack not to become a spell card."

"Which would result in a spell-card user always having the edge over someone who didn't use one. Interesting setup," Sumireko commented.

You jerked, startled. You hadn't heard her approach. "Ow. Weren't you flying ahead?"

"Only until you tried to have a magical theory discussion without me." Sumi drifted in and patted your shoulder, the rotor spinning over her head coming uncomfortably close. "Speaking of which, I've cast plenty of magic since coming here, and not once has it formed a spell card on me. I've done imitations a couple times, both inside Gensokyo and out, but I've never felt the power boost you mentioned."

Come to think of it, weren't the youkai fighting Sumi back home using spell cards there too? Whereas you'd definitely felt the power boost from spell cards here, but not back home, and then Sumi didn't receive it at all. Ugh, it just didn't seem consistent.

Satori shrugged. "I wouldn't expect the spell card system to do anything outside of Gensokyo. As for why you trigger it but Sumireko doesn't, I'm not sure. I wonder..."

You are curious where she's going with that, but she doesn't finish the thought, and something else she said finally registered. "Wait, so everything being thrown at us is non-lethal? One of your spell cards vaporized a pond! How is that even-"

"Magic," Sumireko said.

She's grinning shamelessly. "Really."

"Tell me I'm wrong, I dare you."

"Wrong in the head, and every possible way except technically."

"Anyway," Satori coughed, "It's not perfect. A spell card won't kill you directly, but you could still die from a secondary effect, like collapsing a cave on someone. Or just use a spell card to incapacitate someone and kill them with a non-spell."

Oh. Of course you aren't that lucky. "So it doesn't stop murder at all. At most, it prevents accidental deaths."

"Maybe not even then in our case," Sumi pointed out. "I mean, we're both essentially foreign magic here in Gensokyo, so would the rules established in Gensokyo apply to us?"

"They're applying to my magic just fine." If only the local magic expert could verify that...

Satori shot you a flat look. "First off, I'm not an expert on magic. I have a basic understanding, but my ability to copy others' spell cards works off of the opponent's memories. Secondly..."

"Secondly?"

"Honestly, that was pretty much the end of that thought."

Sumireko laughed. "All that said, Greg might actually be okay. If he can tap into Gensokyo's magic enough to use the spell card system, he's probably eligible for its protection."

"You're remarkably chipper about this."

"It's not like anything's changed. Not to mention, if it comes to that, a clean death by giant laser might be kinder than being left to some youkai's tender mercies."

That's disturbing on multiple levels, actually. Partially because Sumi's not the type for black humor, but mostly because now you're imagining being left paralyzed as some werewolf slowly tears you into pieces. Which, considering current company, might have been Sumi's intention in the first place.

Satori looks back at Sumireko. "If you thought that would unsettle me, I've seen worse."

Oh dear. Those are fighting words. You wince as Sumireko smiles, saying, "But has anyone in Gensokyo seen Alien?"

Satori doesn't flinch, though you think she goes a shade paler. "I've seen real horrors, human. Imaginary ones don't compare."

Well, that claim is about to be tested. Sumireko has quite the library of horror movies, and Satori's about to be present for the theater of the mind there. Although Satori isn't defenseless, judging by her detailed recounting of seeing a shirikodama extracted. You, on the other hand, have better things to do, like flying ahead out of earshot.

Not because the conversation bothered you, mind, but because someone needs to keep a lookout.

Totally.

...

Yeah, you're pretty sure Sumi's going to give you grief for that later. The peace and quiet isn't really an improvement though, because the forest is almost too quiet. You can sort-of hear the conversation of your traveling companions behind you (despite your best efforts not to), but aside from that, nothing. No birds, no animals, not even a breeze. You look around, and to your surprise you do see an actual living creature, a fairy of some sort? It's perched in a tree watching you; Black dress, white apron, pink bow over blond hair and blue eyes. It's a small one, small enough that it's holding a shaving razor like a sword. You stare for a bit despite yourself, as the sight is damned odd, especially with how still it is.

[-] Just carry on. It's one small fairy.
[-] A couple danmaku bullets should scare it off. Also, it'd be nice to check that you can do that against a low caliber opponent.
[-] Throw an illusion at it, just in case. Make it think you're going in a different direction.
[X] Just carry on. It's one small fairy.

Looks like someone's in for a surprise.
[x] Just carry on. It’s one small fairy.
-[x] Maybe get a bit closer to your companions, just in case.

Might be nothing. Might be a fight. Better to prepare for the worst.
[x] Just carry on. It’s one small fairy.
-[x] Maybe get a bit closer to your companions, just in case.

That's no fairy. It's a Shanghai.
[x] Just carry on. It’s one small fairy.
-[x] Maybe get a bit closer to your companions, just in case.
[X] Throw an illusion at it, just in case. Make it think you're going in a different direction.

fuckin PRANKed
[X] Throw an illusion at it, just in case. Make it think you're going in a different direction.
Better safe than sorry, fairies are already more dangerous than you would think, best not to risk one that like to play with razors.
[x] Just carry on. It’s one small fairy.
-[x] Maybe get a bit closer to your companions, just in case.
[x] Just carry on. It’s one small fairy.
-[x] Maybe get a bit closer to your companions, just in case.
aw FUCK AW FUCK AW F
[x] do a barrel roll
[X] Throw an illusion at it, just in case. Make it think you're going in a different direction.

We are pretty heavily injured, so better to take precautions even if they turn out to be not necessary.
[x] Just carry on. It’s one small fairy.
-[x] Maybe get a bit closer to your companions, just in case.
This is gonna be good.
[x] Throw an illusion at it, just in case. Make it think you're going in a different direction.
File 162296366844.png - (3.36MB, 2844x1515, %22Fairy%22WelcomingCommittee.png) [iqdb]
202509
[x] Just carry on. It’s one small fairy.
-[x] Maybe get a bit closer to your companions, just in case.

You considered tossing an illusion at it, but you decided against it; you don't have a lot of energy at the moment anyway, and it seems a little pointless when it's already seen you. You do cut your pace a little bit, flying slower and letting Sumi and Satori catch up, just a little. (Apparently it's Sumireko's turn; she's currently giving Satori a play-by-play of Silent Hill.) You're keeping an eye on the fairy all the while, and it's still just blankly staring at you as you fly past. No, really, the head is rotating, the rest of the body is entirely stationary, and it's just unblinkingly looking at you. However, it makes no move to follow, and you breathe a sigh of relief. You look back ahead, and- damnit, there's another one.

This one is half-hidden in a bush on the ground, and it looks a little different. Blue dress instead of black, dress a slightly different color, and this one's holding what looks like a tiny lance (where the heck did the fairy find that, anyway?) Again, it's staring at you, but is otherwise lifeless. Weren't fairies supposed to be these irrepressible fountains of annoyance, anyway?

It moves its head, looking not at you, but at something on your other side. You look over, and see yet another fairy. This one actually moves, flying from the ground up into the branches of a tree until the canopy hides it from view. You look back, and the previous fairy is also gone. Instead there's one with a red dress now. It's still staring at you.

Right, at this point you're worried it might be more than nerves. You fly back towards the other two, and Satori looks up at your approach, breaking off her story mid-narration.

"Satori, is there anyone here that would use fairies as spies?"

"Fairies? Not that I'm aware of. They're not strong, they're not smart, they're mostly not subtle, and they don't take orders well."

"There's been a few watching us just now right over there," you point out.

"I don't see anything."

Of course now they're gone. "Despite the cliche, they really were there a second ago."

Sumireko rolls her eyes. "Don't worry Greg, I'll protect you from the fairies."

Satori shook her head. "He's not communicating it well, but his concern is valid. What he observed is not standard behavior."

"What is it then?"

Satori closed her normal eyes and held up her third eye, letting it sweep back and forth. "Whatever it is, it's gone now. There's nothing that can think nearby."

"Um, Satori?"

One of the faeries from before (the first one with the razor) has flown up in front of your group, razor pointed directly at you.

Sumireko gave Satori an aside glance. "So these must be the type of fairies that don't think."

"That's not a fairy!"

The other two promptly flew out of cover, backing up the original 'fairy'. Which, now that you had a closer look at it... "Wait. Is that a doll?"

"Dolls, plural." Satori grimaced as more flew out of cover. "Heavily plural. Damn it, I forgot about Alice."

"You know whoever's behind this?" Sumi demanded.

"She helped Marisa break into my house the one time. Ugh, all I need now is to run into Patchouli and the day will be complete."

"Run into who?"

"Not the time!"

They're literally coming out of the woodwork now. Well, woods. There's now a dozen in sight, and they're moving to surround you.

"Can you sense whoever's controlling them?", you ask?

Satori shook her head. "No. Alice must not be in the vicinity."

Is that a good thing? Being able to sense the puppeteer's thoughts would be nice, but her being further away might make an escape easier. "What can the dolls do?"

"Shoot danmaku, mostly." Wait, who said that?

Satori flew up to the lead doll, saying, "Alice. I didn't realize you had audible communication through your dolls."

The doll snapped off a rough salute with its razor. "I've been working on it since the incident your pet caused. Mostly for puppet shows in the human village, but it has practical applications too."

"Look," Sumireko interrupted, "Are we going to have to fight you too? Freaking every youkai we've run into so far has wanted to fight, and I'm getting sick of it."

"Oh, not necessarily. We could always just have a polite conversation."

"Oh, well then, look at the time." Sumireko replied, flying forwards. "It's been an unforgettable experience, but we really ought to be going."

To your complete lack of surprise, the nearest set of dolls grouped up to bar her way. "Really?"

Sumi rolled her eyes. "Just checking. Fascinating way to hold a conversation."

"Would there be a conversation otherwise? I'd rather if you didn't run off while things were getting interesting."

First the thing with Nitori and now this. Does everyone in Gensokyo hold conversations at danmaku-point?! Glancing around, you realized that the numbers of the dolls were still increasing. Something around two dozen now, and there could very well be more on the way.

[-] Let's hear her out. You're not sure how you'd fare in a fight right now, and even a chance at talking things out is a nice change of pace.
[?] Start the fight before more dolls show up. Write in a battle plan!
Just for the record, the talk option will only be chosen if it has more votes than all battle plan votes put together. Just in case there's a split on what battle plan to actually take.

A quick summary of the scenario to make planning easier:

You are still in the Forest of Magic. Trees, bushes, etc, and surrounded by about two dozen of Alice's dolls.

Gregor is using Sumireko's cape to (somewhat clumsily) fly around, has at least one broken rib, and is pretty tired.

Sumireko is using Nitori's helicopter-backpack to fly, and is surprisingly good with the thing. She's pretty much fine.

Satori is flying under her own power, and is carrying the still-unconscious Nitori. She's got a bunch of minor cuts and bruises, and is also fairly tired, but has no major injuries.
[X] Let's hear her out. You're not sure how you'd fare in a fight right now, and even a chance at talking things out is a nice change of pace.
-[X] Try to convince her to fly and talk, or arrange a meeting later. You do have an unconscious kappa to bring Elentai, out of goodwill of course.

Also, Satori just jinxed us.
[X] Let's hear her out. You're not sure how you'd fare in a fight right now, and even a chance at talking things out is a nice change of pace.
[x] Start the fight before more dolls show up. Write in a battle plan!
-[x] Alpha strike: apply an anti-gravity enchantment over the area to make movement of dolls sluggish. Satori gives us Nitori and helps Sumireko - light illusions won't be of much help against constructs and we're in no state for heavy ones. Sumireko uses TK to launch one doll into the group like a bowling ball.
--[x] The goal is to create an escape path, not to win. We can't fight all that well with Nitori and Roach. Check in with Satori to make sure we wouldn't run straight into Alice's house.

With a billion dolls, Alice can pretty much leverage us into doing what she wants. Talking is not a good option.
Alice probably has more knowledge than us of the surrounding area (She does live here after all).
[x] Let's hear her out. You're not sure how you'd fare in a fight right now, and even a chance at talking things out is a nice change of pace.
-[x] Try to convince her to fly and talk, or arrange a meeting later. You do have an unconscious kappa to bring Eientei, out of goodwill of course.
[X] Let's hear her out. You're not sure how you'd fare in a fight right now, and even a chance at talking things out is a nice change of pace.

>>202513
An... anti-gravity enchantment? On things that can fly under their own power? Wouldn't that just make them faster after they've acclimated?
>>202515
>You've done anti-gravity enchantments before. This is just a larger application of that.
>A runic circle forms around you, ten feet wide. The ground beneath the circle churns and breaks apart, the rocks shattering into fist-sized pieces before hurtling into the air. Coupled with the rubble Marisa's attacks had already produced, it's a pretty good spray, and you use Nitori's backpack-copter to zoom around the ground and re-fire the rubble as it falls to the ground.

It's disorienting and those are small dolls instead of rocks now, which means we get THEM to suddenly HURL INTO THE AIR with only a small circle's worth of warning. It would give us an initial edge to start a battle and would look absolutely amazing if it works. Not to mention, controls on those dolls must be precise and it would be anywhere from mildly inconveniencing to greatly distracting for Alice. It's AMAZING.
[X] Let's hear her out. You're not sure how you'd fare in a fight right now, and even a chance at talking things out is a nice change of pace

We've got wounded, Sumi isn't using her normal gear, Satori's probably tired from the earlier fight. Let's try not to fight. Meaning, do not let Satori or Sumi take the lead in the conversation.
[x] Start the fight before more dolls show up. Write in a battle plan!

Creating a magical mirage should be possible give the dolls rely on sight and hearing alone and Alice being too far away to detect localised magic.
Satori should help by creating a recollection, so the mirage may speak.
Let the illusion be theatric and spectacular as to distract from their escape. Since Greg likely will not be able to keep it up for long let it vanish with a bang by a magical flash of our enchanted item.
From then on it's mayhem.

[x] Illusionistic Recollection: Journey of a Magical Girl into another World
[x] Let's hear her out. You're not sure how you'd fare in a fight right now, and even a chance at talking things out is a nice change of pace.

Hear her out first. And THEN we could probably try to fight/run.
[X] Let's hear her out. You're not sure how you'd fare in a fight right now, and even a chance at talking things out is a nice change of pace.

First, diplomacy. And if that doesn't work, then warfare, but only then.
[X] Let's hear her out. You're not sure how you'd fare in a fight right now, and even a chance at talking things out is a nice change of pace.

Both because I want to know what she has to say, and because we are on a bit of a time crunch, so even though we can probably defeat the dolls easily, that is time and energy we can't afford to waste right now.
[X] Let's hear her out. You're not sure how you'd fare in a fight right now, and even a chance at talking things out is a nice change of pace.

Alice is usually reasonable.
[X] Let's hear her out. You're not sure how you'd fare in a fight right now, and even a chance at talking things out is a nice change of pace.

"Okay then! I'd be happy to actually talk something out for a change."

Sumireko rolls her eyes. "Greg, is threatening someone if they don't have a conversation a sign of good faith?"

"You have a point, but I think Satori's, uh, interaction with Nitori earlier already established that precedent."

Sumireko looked torn at that, and you took the moment to press telepathically. Sumi, please let me handle this. I know you're fine, but I don't think we're in any shape to fight right now.

You realize there's more dolls coming, right?

I AM AWARE OF THAT, THANK YOU. If you want to be helpful, start preparing a spell or something!

Satori interrupts, "Let's not get sidetracked by that right now."

The doll tilted its head, and Alice's voice sounded amused. "Is that what happened to the kappa? I'd assumed she'd finally sold a faulty product or something."

Satori shrugged. "If you can believe it, it was actually her refusal to sell me something."

The doll recoiled backwards, flailing its arms. Satori looked unimpressed. "That is the most overblown emoting of 'surprise' I've ever seen."

Alice's voice chimed in again. "From what I've heard about that kappa, it seems fitting. What exactly did you ask her for?"

"The same general thing you're about to ask of us."

Wait, you thought Alice wasn't close enough for Satori to read her mind.

"She isn't. It's an educated guess."

"Not to mention an easy one," Sumireko interrupted. "These aren't humans, they're youkai. This isn't about Nitori at all, it's the urban legend incident. And if she's not attacking us by default, she's interested in using the incident instead of stopping it."

The doll nods approvingly. "Your reasoning is solid."

"We're carrying an unconscious person and it counts as a minor curiosity. Fine then." you mutter.

Alice ignores you and continues. "There's a specific goal I've been working towards since becoming a magician: the creation of a living doll."

Sumireko raises a hand. "Hold up a second, isn't that just a tsukumogami? Make something durable, wait a hundred years, and it'll come to life?"

"Maybe she's looking for a method slightly less time consuming," you mutter.

The doll shakes its head. "It doesn't work that way. A tsukumogami becomes animated out of anger towards the being that threw it away. Both the method and the results are unacceptable."

The other dolls all nod approvingly, which is more than a little creepy. Sumi is unfazed. "So let Marisa steal one and have it be angry at her."

"Never." Even with completely static facial expressions, the dolls all bristle, brandishing their weapons.

You put yourself between the dolls and Sumi, with hands raised appeasingly. "Sorry about that. Marisa must have stolen all of Sumi's tasteful jokes."

Behind you you can hear Sumireko's retort get interrupted by a dull thump, and you glance back to see her knocked down to the ground. Thank you, Satori. "Anyway, you're aiming to get a specific urban legend then? One that can bring a doll to life?"

"Exactly."

Honestly, you can work with that. It's the same general request as Satori, but without the need to wrangle a probably-uncooperative Koishi. Plus, you've got a pretty good idea of what story you could use for Alice's urban legend. As you're considering your response, Sumi sends you a mental ping.

Hey Greg, if you toss me a veil, I can set up a proper ritual circle down here. Give me a few minutes and I can blow all these dolls sky high.

Or that's another option! You take a moment to consider.

[-] Honesty is the best policy, so just cooperate and tell her everything. Right now your goal is to just get out of here with minimal fuss.
[-] Negotiate a little. Your group being at doll-point aside, you do have the information she wants, and it's not unreasonable to ask for her help in return for yours.
[-] Veil Sumireko and stall for time. Why risk trusting Alice when you can trust in the element of surprise and superior firepower?
[-] Ask to meet face to face. If Alice is dealing in good faith here, she should have no problems letting your mind-reader verify.
[X] Negotiate a little. Your group being at doll-point aside, you do have the information she wants, and it's not unreasonable to ask for her help in return for yours.

Emphasis on 'a little', I don't think she's the type to know about a relevant urban legend, or have enough social interactions to manipulate one, but I don't feel there's really much harm in asking. If she says no, go full honesty.

That said, I can't think of a 'living doll' urban legend that doesn't have them be murderous and full of negative emotions towards their owners. If you can think of one, great, but if all you've got is angry vengeance, be sure to preface any negotiations with that. Actually, now that I think about it, isn't Koishi's Mary-san an urban legend about a living, murderous doll?
[x] Negotiate a little. Your group being at doll-point aside, you do have the information she wants, and it's not unreasonable to ask for her help in return for yours.

I do think working together with Alice is the best option here, I don't think meeting her face to face immediately is. Far better to do negotiations with only her dolls around, when they'll be weaker and less numerous, than to just have her beat us up for Nitori without hearing us out..
[x] Negotiate a little. Your group being at doll-point aside, you do have the information she wants, and it's not unreasonable to ask for her help in return for yours.
-[X} Veil Sumi and have her prepare her ritual, just in case.

I do like the idea of working with Alice, but I don't like how uneven our footing is. If negotiations fall through, we'll at least be able to make a (relatively) clean escape.
[x] Negotiate a little. Your group being at doll-point aside, you do have the information she wants, and it's not unreasonable to ask for her help in return for yours.
-[X} Veil Sumi and have her prepare her ritual, just in case.

Speak softly and carry a big stick and all that jazz.
[X] Negotiate a little. Your group being at doll-point aside, you do have the information she wants, and it's not unreasonable to ask for her help in return for yours.
-[X] Veil Sumi and have her prepare her ritual, just in case.
[x] Veil Sumireko and stall for time. Why risk trusting Alice when you can trust in the element of surprise and superior firepower?
[X] Negotiate a little. Your group being at doll-point aside, you do have the information she wants, and it's not unreasonable to ask for her help in return for yours.
-[X] Veil Sumi and have her prepare her ritual, just in case.
[X] Negotiate a little. Your group being at doll-point aside, you do have the information she wants, and it's not unreasonable to ask for her help in return for yours.
-[X] Veil Sumi and have her prepare her ritual, just in case.

Cloak AND dagger. Cloak and dagger!
File 162329668380.png - (263.65KB, 480x480, Th105Alice.png) [iqdb]
202541
[X] Negotiate a little. Your group being at doll-point aside, you do have the information she wants, and it's not unreasonable to ask for her help in return for yours.
-[X] Veil Sumi and have her prepare her ritual, just in case.

What was that one politician's saying? Speak softly and carry a big stick? And then preemptively bomb the hell out of them because you can? Come to think of it, maybe you shouldn't be using foreign policy as a guide to social situations. Whatever. Point being, it doesn't hurt to cover your bases.

Get the ritual prepped, you think, but we'll call that plan B. She might actually be reasonable.

How much do you want to bet on that?

I was thinking of betting your life, but we could try for lower stakes.

For the record, any friendly fire that results from this ritual is probably unintentional.

Right. With that settled, you concentrate on the veil. And you do mean concentrate; this needs to stay hidden from the puppeteer and all her various dolls, which means true light manipulation, not just putting an image in her mind. Well, here goes...

Turning your attention back to the actual audible conversation, you address the doll. "Sorry, moment of deja vu there. This whole situation is actually a lot like when we first met Satori."

"Really?" The doll tilts its head. "I'm actually letting you finish your sentences."

Do not laugh. Do not laugh, no matter how accurate that might be. "I meant the whole urban legend request. Satori wanted our help with one about Koishi, you want one about a doll."

Speaking of which, Satori glares at you. "In the future, I would prefer if you didn't publicize that."

"She's got a point. Most of Gensokyo would be upset at having another satori running around," Alice said. "Although it's easy enough to guess. It's not like there's anyone else she cares about."

"There's Orin and Okuu."

"Your counter-argument is that you get along with your own pets? The prosecution rests."

Ouch. You raise your voice a little. "Anyway, the point is, I'd like to make you the same offer I made Satori. Sumireko and I are kind of stranded here in Gensokyo at the moment, so we're willing to help with your urban legend if you can help us get home."

"A reasonable request, but I don't deal in false pretenses." You tense up, not sure where this is going. "To the best of my knowledge, the only way across the barrier is with the help of Mamizou or Yukari, and I have no influence with either youkai."

You relax at that. That's not even a problem. "Satori has that end of things covered, she's already said she knows a way. Basically, we'll figure out the urban legends, she'll figure out getting us back across the barrier, and we'd only ask you to help out with the execution. And possibly a place to hide while the rest of Gensokyo is looking for us."

"You're not nearly strong enough to sound that confident. Nevertheless..." the dolls stand to attention, and Satori perks up, "I find your terms acceptable."

Satori looks up. "You and Sumireko can relax. Alice just came into my range, she's not lying."

Alright. Can you cover up the ritual's evidence and I'll drop the veil?

Without magic, it's a few carvings in the dirt. Just drop it.

You comply just as Alice walks into view. Even without the context, you'd have guessed she was the puppeteer, as between her pale skin, sharp blue eyes, and blond hair, she has a striking resemblance to her dolls. She's actually quite pretty.

Satori glances over to you while she lands with Nitori. "Focus, Greg."

Alice gives the three of you a nod. "I'm sure Satori already filled you in, but regardless, I'm Alice Margatroid, magician and puppeteer."

Sumireko waves a hand. "Charmed. I'm Sumireko, that's Gregor, and you already know Satori something-or-other."

You don't have to be rude, Sumi.

Greg, you don't need to feel indebted to someone because they decided not to attack us.

Satori coughs meaningfully. "As delighted as you aren't by standing here in the middle of the forest, we could continue this conversation in the comfort of Alice's cottage."

Alice gives her a flat look. "Usually you wait for the host to actually invite you."

"You were about to. Since Greg has a broken rib and I'm carrying an unconscious kappa, I skipped the pleasantries."

Come to think of it, you'd almost forgotten about Nitori. If the cottage is a secure enough location, you could potentially question and release her before heading to Eientei.

"How secure is your cottage?", Sumi asks. "We've got quite a few people after us, so if we ran into anyone else..."

Alice gave a small smile. "My dolls make an excellent security system."

Satori tilted her head. "Which hasn't stopped Marisa from stealing... twenty? No, twenty-three books from her. And one doll, though that theft was very temporary."

Alice turned to Satori and said coldly, "Only when I'm not home. My range with my dolls is substantial, but not unlimited."

"I'm surprised she lived beyond the first theft," you comment idly. "Or is she just that strong?"

For the first time, Alice avoids meeting your gaze. "Well, she is sort of a friend and all-"

"Marisa is her main form of human interaction, so she considers the books an acceptable price to pay."

Alice is now glaring at Satori, who looks quietly satisfied. Seriously, does nobody in Gensokyo have normal friendships?

Sumi sighs. "Not that this isn't entertaining, but can we get going already?"

[-] Detour to Alice's cottage, question kappa.
[-] Continue to Eientei.
[x] Detour to Alice's cottage, question kappa.
-[x] Make some conversation with Alice.
[X] Detour to Alice's cottage, then continue to Eientei.

Have the conversation with Alice at her house, but don't wake the kappa.
[x] Detour to Alice's cottage, question kappa.

It'd be rude not to take up the offer.

[x] Once there, inquire first aid - your rib's still broken and Satori is hurting some as well. Maybe Alice can help out with Nitori too?
[x] After that it's tea-time.
[x] Detour to Alice's cottage, question kappa.
[x] Once there, inquire first aid - your rib's still broken and Satori is hurting some as well.
[x] After that it's tea-time.
[x] Continue to Eientei.

It doesn't seem like we'd be able to get anything useful out of this.
[x] Detour to Alice's cottage, question kappa.
[x] Once there, inquire first aid - your rib's still broken and Satori is hurting some as well.
[x] After that it's tea-time.
[x] Double check your tea.
[X] Detour to Alice's cottage, question kappa.

We would be getting Alice's assistance and it helps to be friendly with somebody who's knowledgable about magic.
[x] Detour to Alice's cottage, question kappa.
-[x] Make some conversation with Alice.
[X] Detour to Alice's cottage, question kappa.
-[X] Ask Nitori to join you- after all, in Gensokyo defeat=friendship.
[X] Once there, inquire first aid - your rib's still broken and Satori is hurting some as well.
File 162345340642.jpg - (175.47KB, 840x510, AliceHouse.jpg) [iqdb]
202552
[x] Detour to Alice's cottage, question kappa, acquire first-aid, and tea-time. Especially the tea-time.

With the decision unanimous, you all head over to Alice's cottage in pretty short order. There's the usual snarking back and forth between the girls, but you're too tired to particularly care, and they more or less leave you out of it. Fortunately, it's a pretty short walk (or flight, in your case), and you all reach it with minimal incident.

Minimal because there was a scuffle in the distance between some of Alice's dolls and a fairy. When you asked, she said that particular fairy deserved exactly nine dolls to fight against. Well, whatever.

Alice's cottage itself is... well, quaint would be the word. White walls, a porch, a balcony, a chimney... a little area of order in the middle of the wilderness. Aside from the hexagonal tower on one side, it's almost exactly what comes to mind when you picture the American dream. All it needs is the 2.7 kids and the 1.3 cars.

Satori giggles, and you glance over at her, surprised. "I'm not sure which of those is less likely. On the one hand, this is Gensokyo, so getting a car is almost impossible. On the other hand, this is Alice..."

You're not really sure where she's going with that - well, it's obviously meant to be a slam on Alice, but she seems nice enough, so the joke just doesn't connect.

"Give it about thirty seconds."

About twenty seconds later, Alice lets you all through the front door, and you see what Satori was getting at.

Dolls, everywhere. There's a dozen of them in the kitchen, setting the table, making tea, bringing out various cookies and snack trays, along with a couple getting some bandages and other first-aid supplies. The living room is actually the doll repair station, with battle-damaged dolls getting fresh coats of paint, chipped surfaces filled in, and in some cases entire limbs replaced by another doll crew working in unison. Said doll-repair crew is also wearing tiny nurse outfits, because what the heck, why not? The, uh, waiting list of tiny ceramic patients vacate the couch, letting Satori drop the unconscious kappa onto it.

Sumireko also opens a closet by mistake while looking for the bathroom (before Alice informs her it's the second door on the left), and that too is completely packed with dolls. Other models that don't quite match the current set Alice is ordering about, but there's at least fifty in there, and all of them are pristine.

All the same, you aren't particularly bothered; it's just how magicians work. At it's core, magic is about forcing your will on reality, and that requires not just focus, but almost obsession. Anyone dedicated enough to overcome the barrier to initially start using magic is the kind of person who would devote years to it. The kind of person who would visit dozens of back alley bookshops in the hope of finding the one genuinely magical book among the scams. Or crawl over every inch of a mountain to find a few feathers from a tengu. And at the end of the day, a house reflects its owner.

"That fits Gensokyo's magicians surprisingly well," Satori mused. "Though it makes me wonder, what do your and Sumireko's homes look like, anyway?"

That, um... Sumireko's room was an encyclopedia for every sort of occult prop, while yours was pretty much a love letter to stage magic. Hey, it was something you latched on to before finding out about real magic, and it's still pretty relevant to your specialty in illusions. Also, it's something you can actually talk about to other people. Well, not without sounding like a nerd, but they think you're weird instead of crazy, which is a marginal improvement.

... you're just going to stop while you're behind on that one.

"Probably wise."

"Anyway," you said, grasping for a new subject, "I think the tea's almost ready."

"You're a little early," Alice said, over from where she was examining the kappa. "But we have plenty to talk about, so by all means, have a seat."

"Nitori is all right, isn't she?", you ask. At this point the kappa had been out for quite a while, and she had taken a blow to the head...

Alice shrugged. "She's got the beginnings of a nasty bruise on the back of her head, but she is a water-based youkai. Toss her in the bath and she'll probably be fine."

Satori raised a hand, "From what I've picked up of her thoughts, she's come close to waking up a couple times now. I've been using hypnosis to lull her back under when necessary. "

"You can do that?"

"You know those times when you wake up, and you're really groggy? Where it's easy to fall back asleep if nothing demands your attention, but suddenly remembering something important can jolt you awake?" Satori gives you a moment to remember, and nods. "It's like that. It's more suggestion than mind control, but it works for things like this."

"Huh."

"Why the heck are you surprised, Greg?" Sumi asked. "You can do the same thing!"

"Well, yes, but it's a lot rougher. It's wouldn't be lulling someone back to sleep, more... mentally hitting them over the head before they're fully awake." Or shotgunning them in the back of the head with a mental attack, but you're tactful enough not to phrase it that way. "I definitely wouldn't be confident in doing it without causing more damage."

"Speaking of damage, we..." Sumi paused. "Wait, no, that segue doesn't work. Whatever. Point is, we need to get Alice caught up on everything, and figure out our plan."

"It is a good time to compare notes." Alice said. "But maybe you'd rather do that over tea."

"That part goes without saying." Sumireko declared.

[...] To be continued.
[?] Is there anything in particular you want to bring up during the following conversation? Pretty much anything goes here, so long as it's something Greg would actually say. I'll work in as many reasonable suggestions as I can.
>>202552
[x] Mention the bracelet that we've mistakenly/brazenly/accidentally enchanted and ask what to identify what that is. Peer review!
[x] Mention the bracelet that we've mistakenly/brazenly/accidentally enchanted and ask what to identify what that is. Peer review!
Expect me to exploit open choice formats like this one

[x] Mention the bracelet that we've mistakenly/brazenly/accidentally enchanted and ask what to identify what that is. Peer review!
[x] Recollect the enchanting experience. How you were empowered by the ancient magic and how you would have lost yourself in it if it weren't for Sumireko.
[x] Also mention the Orb of Midnight spell you utilized against the person who then promptly broke your rib. In both instances it seemed more like magic is acting *through* you than that you are controlling it.
[x]"Will the spirits that I summoned come back to haunt me?" Tell Alice of the poem of the sorcerer's apprentice, maybe it pertains to you. What does she think of the old story?
[x]This may as well be a once in a lifetime opportunity, so go for broke. "My friend has been worrying about getting me back safely since we crossed over to Gensokyo. The fact that I got hurt pretty good adds to that. I want to make it up to her in any way I can, once... *if* we make it back. May I ask you for a book of magic? As a gift for her."

I have to tell it filled me with glee to see my tea-time vote to have been accepted so well.
Since it may well be that I can't have my cake and eat it too, I'll pick my favorites for you:
Tell Alice the story and ask for a book - hopefully it will make for a good look?

[x] The land of illusions is a wonderland, let go of your common sense and drink of the cup of tea in your hand!

It seems my first try to post this got swallowed up. I'll hope this time it goes better.
I may have gone overboard with the rhymes but I had fun with them.
I'm liking this story so far and I hope more dramatic tension evolves over time.
>>202555
Blessed post.
Having an anon with some creative drive in the thread usually makes for fun suggestions. Hopefully asking for a book isn’t to presumptuous of us.

[x] The land of illusions is a wonderland, let go of your common sense and drink of the cup of tea in your hand!
The tea is alright. That's not a knock on Alice or anything, you're just not much of a tea drinker. It would probably be perfect if you were British enough to appreciate it. You have some regardless, more for the normality it represents than for the flavor.

The little cookies and pastries served with it, on the other hand, were homemade, and delicious. Fresh out of the oven, too, which implies that Alice had the dolls working on them while you were on the way back. Who would have thought dolls were this good at baking?

Also, the last time you actually ate was before coming to Gensokyo. Which, given that was only the previous evening, basically means you just skipped breakfast, but all the same, you're happy to have something to fill your stomach. The fact that this is exactly the kind of breakfast you'd have if left to your own devices is just a bonus.

Sumireko is also attacking the refreshments with a hunger barely restrained by politeness, while Satori and Alice are more demurely sipping tea. As such, they're the ones carrying the initial part of the conversation, and you're happy to let Satori summarize your adventure since arriving at the Hakurei Shrine. Granted, the retelling is a little slanted (Satori was definitely struggling a bit more against Nitori than she let on to Alice), but not absurdly so, and it is interesting to hear the morning's battles from her perspective.

"And from there we decided to go to Eientei, on account of Gregor's broken rib. We ran into your dolls in the forest, and you know the rest from there," Satori concludes.

"I see. Which reminds me, here," Alice says, as a pair of dolls ferry an icepack over to you. "I should also have some spare fabric around here for a sling."

"For a broken rib?"

"You're supposed to immobilize the arm on the side of the break," she said.

Satori caught the question in your thoughts and explained, "Magicians aren't much sturdier than humans. Considering she lives alone in the forest, it makes sense for her to have a working knowledge of first aid."

Ah. You nod gratefully to Alice as the dolls wander off in search of fabric, and focus on the icepack. It's far colder than you'd expected (magic, probably), and you take a moment to wrap it in a couple napkins before applying it to your injured side. The chill takes affect almost immediately, and you can feel the pain ease as the nerves go numb.

"There's something I was wondering, actually," Sumireko said, idly grabbing another cookie. "How did you know it was us? I mean, nobody knew who Greg was or that Satori was with us until this morning, and we came here pretty much straight after that. You might have heard about me, but I'm not wearing my usual magician look, so it's unlikely you'd have recognized me from a secondhand description."

Satori immediately choked, coughing and taking a larger drink of tea to clear her throat. Slightly redfaced, she spoke. "Alice received a note detailing that I would be traveling with the perpetrator of the urban legend incident. Nobody should have known that. How?"

Alice shrugged as a doll went to clean up the spilled tea. "I have no idea. Someone managed to deliver that note last night without me or my dolls seeing them, as it was there when I woke this morning."

"It was probably Koishi", Sumireko said. "She did know you were with us, and she could get in here undetected."

"That could work," you mused, "But why?"

"'Why' is a difficult question to answer when it comes to my sister." Satori said. "I will say Koishi could have done it, but this doesn't seem like her style. Could I see the note?"

A doll ferried it over, and Satori grabbed it. "This isn't Koishi's handwriting, and it's signed by a 'Q. Nira'. Also, the note suggested Alice apprehend us, which isn't something Koishi would have written if she was trying to help us."

Sumireko started to speak, and Satori cut her off, "Nor is it something she would have written to prank me specifically. As silly as she acts, Koishi is more responsible than that."

"So who's this Nira?", you ask. And how would she (you don't know for sure, but let's face it, everyone important in Gensokyo is a she) have known you were here?

"I have no idea," Alice said. "I've never heard the name before. It was something I was hoping to ask you."

Satori grimaced. "I haven't heard of them either. It's either a new player, or someone's using an alias."

"But why bother signing it at all if you're hiding your identity?"

In the end, everyone just looks blankly at each other, and you sigh. The dolls come back with a strap of white fabric for a sling, and you let them bind up your left arm as you continue holding the icepack. After a minute, Sumireko brightens and speaks up. "Hold on a second, the note itself has a clue. It says, perpetrator, singular. I think whoever wrote this had no idea Greg was around-"

"Which means that they probably saw me vanish at the Hakurei shrine." Satori finished. "Though that doesn't tell me much; I'm pretty sure neither Reimu nor Kasen saw me disappear with you two, and I didn't sense anyone else around."

"So that leaves what, someone who's immune to your mind-reading?"

Satori sighed. "It could have been someone scrying on the location, or even just a youkai with keen eyesight watching from far away. There's a few different ways to get around my ability; Alice herself used one earlier."

"If it's someone trying to be a chessmaster, then they're not very good at it," you point out. "They were trying to get Alice to capture us, and instead she's working with us."

"Unless that was their real goal all along!" Sumireko declares mock-dramatically.

You facepalm as your friend laughs. "Down that path madness lies."

[...] To be continued.
>>202555

So, I'll absolutely be getting to some of the reader suggestions, particularly the list in this post here. That said, there's limits to how much I can write while keeping to my update schedule, and I figured I'd start with the plot-relevant stuff that was going to happen regardless.

Next update should at least touch on most of the reader suggestions.
>>202573 Thank you! Your update schedule has been frequent and consistent so far which is a great thing. Checking back and seeing the story update on the front page fills me with pleasant anticipation. I'll be waiting warmly!
>>202559 Now this puts a smile on my face. Thank you for the kind words!
[x] Mention the bracelet that we've mistakenly/brazenly/accidentally enchanted and ask what to identify what that is. Peer review!
[x] Recollect the enchanting experience. How you were empowered by the ancient magic and how you would have lost yourself in it if it weren't for Sumireko.
[x] Also mention the Orb of Midnight spell you utilized against the person who then promptly broke your rib. In both instances it seemed more like magic is acting *through* you than that you are controlling it.

The first part, peer review is nice, especially because Alice specializes in enchantment, so she is probably the best person to talk to about this. The second part, yeah once creative anon brought it up, we have had magic acting *through* us more, which is partly because Gensokyo has stronger magic, but it seems like there is something more than that going on. We could talk to any magician about that, but Alice is here and doesn't hate us, so...
Whoops, guess I should have refreshed my page first. Sorry for the vote after the releveant chapter.
>>202572
>Q. Nira
This is almost certainly Mamizou, or at least one of her lackey racoon dogs. The plan was implied to be Kasen's idea, after she talked with her.

Not that we would know at this point.
File 162382211520.jpg - (140.06KB, 782x441, SBND06Dollsrepairing.jpg) [iqdb]
202579
[x] Mention the bracelet that we've mistakenly/brazenly/accidentally enchanted and ask what to identify what that is. Peer review!
[x] Recollect the enchanting experience. How you were empowered by the ancient magic and how you would have lost yourself in it if it weren't for Sumireko.
[x] Also mention the Orb of Midnight spell you utilized against the person who then promptly broke your rib. In both instances it seemed more like magic is acting *through* you than that you are controlling it.


The impromptu tea party is dying down, half because everyone is now up to speed, and half because the remaining cookies have all mysteriously vanished. Sumireko's face contains evidence of this grievous crime, which she has sensibly gone to the bathroom to wash away. Sadly, your fellow jurors seem disinclined to convict in this blatant case of involuntary dessert-slaughter. Obviously you need to call her back to the stand as a witness. No wait, wrong order. You'd need to investigate the scene of the crime first, and catalogue the necessary evidence to force her to the witness stand.

Come to think of it, you wonder what Sumireko's breakdown animation would even look like.

Satori gives you a flat look. "Greg, in the outside world, do you take any sort of medication?"

"No?"

"Maybe you should."

"Huh. Your mind-reading doesn't pick up on context all that much, does it?"

"There is no context in which that train of thought makes sense."

You have got to get Satori a Phoenix Wright game. Which... would only be possible if you made it back home, in which case there'd be a lot of other higher-priority things to do, but all the same, she'd probably enjoy it.

She's eyeing you skeptically, and you consider the possibility that her tastes might simply be wrong. Actually no, that's not entirely fair, without having played them, you wouldn't really expect a game around being a defense attorney to be any good either.

Satori pushes back from the table and gets up, walking away and calling over her shoulder, "I'm going to check on Nitori".

You glance over to Alice. "I'm surprised you didn't have any comment on that."

Alice shrugged, reading a book that a doll held suspended for her. "It wasn't relevant to anything, so I didn't care."

"And also the book's interesting, I take it."

"Actually, this is extremely dry. But recursive slave spells are useful, and the techniques applicable to slave bullets often work with puppets."

"I didn't realize there were slaves in Gensokyo."

She responds without looking up, turning a page. "Different context. In danmaku, a slave is a nexus of energy used to fire bullets remotely."

That makes it click. "So then, puppets controlling puppets... a little singleminded, isn't it?"

"Few generalists achieve anything of note. If you're going to do something, do it well."

"All the same, I hope you have some grounding in other fields of magic. There's been some weird stuff about my magic I was hoping to ask you."

Alice looks up, and you take that as license to continue. "Back home, I had a pretty solid idea of what I was capable of. I was a steady, if not spectacular illusionist, with a couple of tricks for enchantment and telepathy. It wasn't the strongest magic, which, to be honest, I was a little jealous of Sumi for, but it was consistent. When I cast a spell, I knew exactly what it would do, and even chaotic reactions like spells colliding were something I could predict reasonably well."

Having an arm in a sling is surprisingly annoying, as it restricts the ways in which you can mostly-unconsciously fidget. You trace the edge of the cup with your other hand. "But here in Gensokyo, things just haven't made sense. I tried to enchant a bracelet through one of the occult balls, and it almost possessed me. The enchantment did go through, it's much stronger than my usual work, and I have no idea what it does. And then I accidentally tapped into the spellcard system while trying to blind Marisa with a sphere of darkness."

"It's hard to describe, but magic has gone from being this rigorous, science-like application of hard work and endless practice, to something almost intuitive." You summon a quick ball of darkness to demonstrate, and shoot it off to the ceiling where it dissolves harmlessly. "Like that right there. That was light manipulation, not a mental effect. The orb is easy enough, that's just a sphere that blocks light. Fine. But the dissipation shouldn't work that way. Splitting into dozens of small pieces and then having them blow away in a breeze? The manipulation to do that takes real effort. I can do it, but I should have needed to focus on it, to sweat over it like I was doing calculus in my head. Instead, it was entirely subconscious! I didn't even mean to make that happen, but it did because that's what I thought should happen. And that scares me."

Alice leaned forwards in her chair as the doll flew off with the book. "And why does your magic getting easier scare you? Particularly since you're in a situation where you need every scrap of power you can get?"

"Because there's no achievement without effort. Every single story I've read about a magician that takes a shortcut to power ends in tragedy. Usually via getting possessed by a demon or turning into something inhuman or something suitably dramatic. And now I'm in Gensokyo, a land of fantasy, with an incident where urban legends are coming to life and becoming part of people, and I have a sudden, completely unexplained power boost. So yes, I'm very worried about what could have caused this, and what might be the consequences of it."

"And you are, in fact, human?"

"Yes!"

"Interesting. It is possible for youkai to gain power after coming to Gensokyo, but that's mostly due to the outside world being hostile to fantasy. It's more of a return to their previous peak than any true upgrade in power, and the exceptions have clear explanations, such as the gods of the Moriya Shrine gaining more worshippers. Meanwhile, most humans who end up in Gensokyo show no powers of any sort. While there have been a couple of magicians who moved to Gensokyo, neither I nor Patchouli saw any substantial difference in our magic afterwards."

"So where does that leave me?"

"My first theory is that it's a side effect of the occult balls you and your friend created. Without spending more time analyzing them, I cannot know for certain, but it is the obvious anomaly here. Perhaps you already have an urban legend, and your power boost is a direct result of that."

"There's still holes in that, though," you point out. "There doesn't seem to be any obvious theme or story to this power boost, and I've been in Gensokyo for less than twenty-four hours. And almost nobody knew I was here until the last hour or so. I shouldn't have had time to get an urban legend."

"My second theory is that your magic is inherently tied to Gensokyo in some way. Which, considering you lived in the outside world, would require either a Gensokyo native as a parent, or some sort of formative encounter with one being the source of your magic."

You think back on your early life, and after a moment's hesitation, shook your head. "I don't think that's the case either. I'm pretty damn sure I'm human, and I didn't have any encounters with youkai until after my magic had manifested."

"Then I'm at a loss. Although, one thing that could shed more light on the situation is having you enchant with an occult ball again."

You're hesitant. "That could have ended really badly last time. If Sumi hadn't been there- hang on, where did she go, anyway?" She'd gone to the bathroom, but had been absent long enough you half-wondered if she'd fallen in. Or gotten engaged in some vicious battle with the rare and mythical toilet-youkai.

"She got sidetracked my library, browsing the magic books," Alice answered. "I don't mind her looking, but I'll have to make sure they're all put back before we leave."

"Ah. Anyway, my point is, it's dangerous. I'm still not sure what the bracelet I enchanted last time even does. Come to think of it, could you take a look at that?"

"Of course. But regarding the danger; we can and should do this properly. Both Sumireko and I can be on guard if something unexpected happens, while Satori can monitor your mind for any sign of danger."

[-] Experiment with an occult ball again. (Suggest an enchantment!)
[-] Decline. You'd rather not take risks here.
[X] Experiment with an occult ball again. (Suggest an enchantment!)
healing or shielding
[-] Experiment with an occult ball again. (Suggest an enchantment!)
-[x] Veil self (true light manipulation)
It doesn't matter if the duration is too short or if it's somehow too impractical to use since it's just an experiment and we might as well see if part of our main toolkit could end up as an enchantment. It's a good idea to try this while we have supervision.
[x] Experiment with an occult ball again.
-[x] Veil self (true light manipulation)
[X] Experiment with an occult ball again. (Suggest an enchantment!)

shielding
Why are you just me? I’ve been playing Phoenix Wright with my brother for the first time over the past 2 weeks. References to the game feel like a bit of a non-sequitur to the story but surprisingly relevant to me personally.

[x] Experiment with the Occult ball again
Cape of flight or something similar.

Maybe a belt as those are harder to remove in combat.

We need to be mobile. Weve proven we can throw up illusions on the fly and even render Sumi invisible, but flight is a staple of Gensokyo and the only way we are flying is with an artifact. I’d rather it be something we made than a secondhand Kappapack.
[x] Experiment with an occult ball again.
-[x] Hologram projector (Single item).

Lets go with something small, easy and familiar.
Heck, the hologram doesn't even need to be anything complex, just something simple like a cube since its an experiment.
If it works, we have can have a potential utility to work with in the future.
[x] Experiment with an occult ball again.
-[x] Veil self (true light manipulation)
[x] Experiment with an occult ball again.
-[x] Veil self (true light manipulation)

>"My second theory is that your magic is inherently tied to Gensokyo in some way. Which, considering you lived in the outside world, would require either a Gensokyo native as a parent, or some sort of formative encounter with one being the source of your magic."

Gensokyo is the Land of Illusions and an illusionist suddenly got a power boost once he entered it. Coincidence? I think not!
[x] Experiment with an occult ball again.
-[x] Hologram projector: Light clone

Basically the same idea the anon above posited but have the light projection be able to physically interact with things.
We have an experienced mage to guide us, a mind reader to monitor us and a friend to help us out here in one place, so let's see if we can get something fancy done!
[x] Experiment with an occult ball again.
-[x] Hologram projector: Light clone.
[x] Experiment with an occult ball again.
-[x] Hologram projector: Light clone

I'm guessing we're gonna keep playing trickery/stealth which means we need two essentials.
We can already hide ourselves, so all we need now is something to distract others.
If possible, physical manipulation would also be nice.
[x] Experiment with an occult ball again.
-[x] Hologram projector: Light clone
[x] Experiment with an occult ball again.
-[x] Hologram projector: Light Clone

The first order of business is to get everyone set up properly this time. You give Sumireko a quick explanation, along with some persuading that no, the extra safety precautions should be enough. Two magicians actively on watch, with Satori monitoring your thoughts for anything unusual. After a bit of discussion, you decide to do the experiment inside, with Alice watching from all sides with her dolls.

As Sumireko summons the occult ball and it drifts over to you, you start to feel uneasy about the whole thing. You're not sure if it's the potential danger, whether you've psyched yourself out with all the precautions, or if having that many dolls watching you is just a little creepy. Still, there's nothing else to do, so you focus...

... and realize you're an idiot.

"I just realized, we never picked an object to actually enchant."

Sumireko facepalms, while Satori mostly looks amused. "Damn it Greg, pick literally anything."

Alice, on the other hand, is not particularly amused. "The enchantment itself is the more important decision to make."

"I already have something in mind for that one. A triggerable illusion of the wearer. Light-cast, not the mental sort. You won't really be able to move it around, but..."

Sumireko raised an eyebrow. "That's incredibly complex for an off-the-cuff enchantment. Shouldn't you pick something simpler?"

"I mean, we've got a strong power source here. I might as well use it properly."

A doll flies over and hovers right in front of me. "Catch," Alice says, as it drops out of the air.

With one arm in a sling, you end up roughly batting it to the floor with your other hand. Oops. As you crouch down to grab it, you ask, "Are you sure about this, Alice?"

She nodded. "It'll give me a better read on whatever your enchantment effect actually does. And if the enchantment works as desired, having it on something I can remotely pilot will make it far more versatile."

"Also, she's blown up her own dolls with magical experimentation before," Satori said.

"What about cross-contamination?" Sumi asks. "The entire reason we're doing this is to figure out what's going on with Gregor's magic. Using one of Alice's dolls is just adding another variable to what's already a complicated equation."

"Shanghai is inactive. Whatever he casts won't interact with my magic unless he blows the doll up entirely."

"Right, I'll try to avoid that. Places everyone." You wait for everyone back off/tense up/psyche themselves out, and reach out to the occult ball.

You can feel the magic, but it's different this time. It doesn't readily answer your call, but pulls away, trying to flow in an entirely different direction. You pull at it anyway, and get a sense of sand and heat, but much fainter than before; you're struggling to hold on to it, the power is squirming and trying to get away. You increase the pressure, trying to force it into the doll you're holding, and Sumireko suddenly yelps.

You look up, startled, as Sumireko's shaking her hand and her dress is literally smoking. She gestures sharply, and the bracelet comes flying out of her pocket, clattering against the far wall and sizzling with power. As in, literally sizzling: Sumireko's dress has a burn mark, the floor is getting a burn mark, and you can see a ring of red skin where she'd tried to grab the bracelet.

"Sumi! Are you all right?"

Alice snaps her fingers, and a dolls flies over with an ice pack, which Sumireko grabs immediately. She lets out a sigh (sob?) of relief, and turns to you immediately. "Damn it! Ow! Roach, what did you do?!"

"I just tried to connect to the occult ball and grab its power like before! I hadn't even started the enchantment yet!"

In the background, a couple more fly in with a box which they use to bag the bracelet without actually touching it. Alice glances over to that, then back to you. "Was the magic resisting?"

"No, it was completely well-behaved with no unexpected side-effects at all!" Sumireko snarled.

"Yes, it... oh. Of course." You'd felt magic 'stuck' like that before, and it was typically when dealing with an item that was already enchantment. "Damn, I didn't think the magic was that tightly connected. I don't think I can run another enchantment off of this occult ball without destroying the bracelet."

Sumireko grimaced, clutching her burned hand. "So what, are we giving this up as a bad job?"

"We don't have to," Satori interrupted. "I did get an occult ball off of Nitori. We can use that."

You look up to see a second purple sphere floating over, surprised. "When were you going to tell us this again?"

Satori didn't quite meet your gaze. "We'd been running around almost constantly since that fight, and they vanish when not summoned. I'd forgotten about it."

"Whatever, we're still in business. False starts aside, let's do this." Then Satori's occult ball touches you, the magic comes out in a rush.

[...] To be continued.

(Short update this time. Been a busy couple of days, and the magical false start made a natural enough breaking point.)
Thanks for the update! I love the story and the direction it's taking so far.
Smart idea that the hologram enchant object is a doll, making controlling it easier.

We'll be waiting patiently for the next update.
>"There doesn't seem to be any obvious theme or story to this power boost, and I've been in Gensokyo for less than twenty-four hours. And almost nobody knew I was here until the last hour or so. I shouldn't have had time to get an urban legend."

Meanwhile Koishi's been going off of a singleminded (or no-minded? unconscious?) effort to get Gregor "Roach" Watanabe an urban legend that makes him a strong magician.
When it comes to urban legends, she's incredibly proficient. She beat Reimu in the popularity polls because of it after all!
File 162415957235.jpg - (34.13KB, 474x315, AMMS_591de661e88aa37e95f82338460a2c72.jpg) [iqdb]
202595
[x]Enchant the doll, with a fresh occult ball this time.

You get the vision immediately. Lines and curves of sand on the flat canvas of the desert. You look around in puzzlement, and your perspective suddenly shifts, flying up into the air, from which the segments of lines and curves come together to form shapes hundreds of feet long. Some are lines, spirals, and geometric shapes, but others are plants and animals. A spider, a hummingbird, a cactus. As you watch, they start shimmering, the sand within the lines rising up to form three-dimensional shapes matching their original drawings. Below you, the legs of the spider form and lift the massive main body out of the earth; a sand sculpture the size of a building.

Suddenly you're back on the ground, staring up at the massive sand creatures. They're not perfectly still; they're shifting back and forth, subtle tremors and shifts that would be consistent with breathing and waiting, but they're not going anywhere. There's no activity once they've risen, no sense of movement or awareness. It should be awe-inspiring, and yet oddly falls short. There's a wave of pressure, like sound that's so deep bass it's felt more than heard, and color leeches from the landscape into the sand creatures; different colors of sand and dirt flying up from the ground and spreading out across the surface of the sculptures. In moments, the creatures have gone from being mere shapes of golden sand to full color, and yet the creatures remain as lifeless as before.

... because that's how illusion works, isn't it? If you took a picture, or saw it only for an instant, an illusion fools you into believing it's the real thing. But there is no guiding mind here; this is just undirected magic with the guideline to make an image, and the templates of the Nazca Lines. And without direction, without the conscious mind of a caster, a still image is all you can get.

Right! In the end, each occult ball is just a conduit to a nexus of earth's latent magic. And while it has a sense of personality and temperament, there's no true imagination there. When you ask the magic from the Nazca Lines to make an image, this is what it comes up with, because that's history the landmark was created from!

But just a random image isn't enough for what you need. It has to be a specific one; that of the caster. Which means you need to give the magic more specific direction. Kneeling down in the sand, you draw out a rough sketch of a human, and as you do, the scale changes; you grow and the world beneath you shrinks, until you're towering above the sand sculptures, with they and the Nazca Lines beneath them scaled to the same size as your drawing.

You finish tracing out the human shape, your finger completing the circle for the head, but the sand refuses to rise. It's vibrating around and inside your drawing, humming with potential, but it hasn't activated, not quite. It isn't the same thing as with Sumi's occult ball; the magic isn't resisting you. It seems willing enough, but it isn't sure what to actually do. The drawing you've produced isn't enough form for the magic to animate. Is it your focus? A limit of the occult balls, or perhaps of this world wonder in particular? Or maybe you're just a really crap artist.

And then you realize, you've broken the first rule of illusion magic. A psychic illusion can afford to be vague, as the target's subconscious mind will fill in the details. But the magic swirling around you doesn't have a consciousness; it only has the general idea of what a human shape is. You're asking for the image of a particular person, but you aren't giving it enough information to do that, because you haven't specified which person. Should the illusion be of you, Sumireko, Satori, or Alice? You aren't sure, and if you don't know, how could the magic possibly know?

You hesitate. There has to be a way to provide that information later on; to optimize the illusion to "human-shaped" and then pick which human when you actually cast it. The way you structure your own illusions proves that. But you don't know enough about enchantment or the occult balls to be certain of pulling that off here.

And given what just happened with Sumireko's bracelet, you can't be sure that you'll get a second chance at this enchantment.

[x] We may end up wanting this tool immediately, and we'll find more occult balls eventually. Let's just go ahead and tie the illusion to a specific person. [Choose a person]
[x] Just go for it. Take your best guess and try to make the enchantment a general-purpose illusion.
[x] Let the magic go. Better to consult with your fellow magicians, take some time to study, and get a better enchantment later.
[x] We may end up wanting this tool immediately, and we'll find more occult balls eventually. Let's just go ahead and tie the illusion to a specific person.
[Nitori]
[x] We may end up wanting this tool immediately, and we'll find more occult balls eventually. Let's just go ahead and tie the illusion to a specific person. [Reimu]
[x] We may end up wanting this tool immediately, and we'll find more occult balls eventually. Let's just go ahead and tie the illusion to a specific person.
[Nitori]
Just so it’s clear, you’re picking which person the enchanted item would make an illusion of. I’d assumed you’d pick a party member, but if you really want an illusion of Nitori for some reason, you can do that.
[x] We may end up wanting this tool immediately, and we'll find more occult balls eventually. Let's just go ahead and tie the illusion to a specific person. [Satori]
GIB MOAR SATORI ROUTE POINTS also satori were totally aliums with floating mind reader eyeballs just trust us
[x] We may end up wanting this tool immediately, and we'll find more occult balls eventually. Let's just go ahead and tie the illusion to a specific person.
[Nitori]

Had half a mind to pick Reimu just to induce a tie, but the sooner the vote is made the sooner the story can continue so go Nitori!
Wait never mind! indeed let's go for Satori.

Ignore the prevouis Nitori vote, Satori all the way!

[Satori]
[x] Let the magic go. Better to consult with your fellow magicians, take some time to study, and get a better enchantment later.

This is interesting. Seeing how this is more of a experiment than an actual enchanting, we should stop now and discuss what we experience so far and how to properly make our desired enchantment seeing how we have a mind-reader and a puppeteer magician to draw knowledge from.

Also, why Nitori? I mean, I get that its her occult ball but wouldn't it be better to have the clone be someone else from our party that joined with their consent?
[x] We may end up wanting this tool immediately, and we'll find more occult balls eventually. Let's just go ahead and tie the illusion to a specific person.
[Alice]

With the added benefit of possibly pranking Marisa, I find the Idea of one of her puppets being able to project an image of her endearing by itself.
I'm changing my vote from Nitori to
[Alice]
based on the reasons in the comment above.
[x] We may end up wanting this tool immediately, and we'll find more occult balls eventually. Let's just go ahead and tie the illusion to a specific person.
[Nitori]

We kidnaped Nitori they’ll be looking for her.
We can use that for all kinds of trickery.
If I gathered this correctly, with Nitori votes being so fickle so far, we're at a three way tie between Nitori, Satori and Alice and a single madman advocating for a Reimu hologram.
[X] We may end up wanting this tool immediately, and we'll find more occult balls eventually. Let's just go ahead and tie the illusion to a specific person. [Reimu]

*two madmen
[X] We may end up wanting this tool immediately, and we'll find more occult balls eventually. Let's just go ahead and tie the illusion to a specific person. [Reimu]
So, I think voting is currently at

[3] Reimu
[2] Nitori
[2] Satori
[2] Alice

I'll probably give it until this evening before I start writing.
>Reimu

excuse me what
>>202604
Alright, I give in.

Changing vote to:
[Alice]
May as well do so myself.

Changing vote from Satori to Alice

That'll give her a fighting chance against Reimu
>>202605 here, and

Oh my God, how could I could I not have been thinking about this way sooner? I absolutely HATE to be one to throw this voting session for ANOTHER Loop, but this idea is too good to be quiet about and pass up even in a situation like this.

We have an enchanted object capable of conjuring up the image of a specific person. At any time. And we can call it back to make it dissappear. At any time.
You know whose characteristics and behaviors that PERFECTLY mimics? Always at he back of your mind yet never able to grasp her presence.
[x] Until I'm right here.

So, yes to the dismay of of every one who sacrificed their interest in favor of my original vote - even to my own dismay - I change my vote!
[X] We may end up wanting this tool immediately, and we'll find more occult balls eventually. Let's just go ahead and tie the illusion to a specific person. [Reimu]
An illusion of Reimu will be interesting...
No update tonight; pretty bad headache. Will hopefully get back to it tomorrow.
>>202615
That's actually a really good idea. Sorry for making the voting even more of a mess.

[x] Until I'm right here.
>>202618
Thirded.
[x] Until I'm right here.
Don't know what [X] Until I'm right there
means but may as we-OOOOOH I get it now

Changing my vote from Alice to [X] Until I'm right there.

Fourthed
I voted for nitori changing it to
[x] Until I'm right here.
I seriously hope OP realizes what a declaration of war on Koishi that vote is and how FUN things can get as a result, but also let's do it
Changing >>202600 to
[x] Until I'm right here.
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202623
[x]Until I'm right here

Come to think of it, why make an illusion of someone in your group at all? Sure, that could be a valuable tool in just about any fight, but the best use of illusions was to play with someone's expectations. A caster obscuring their own location was the obvious one, but that wasn't what had saved you against Marisa. Instead, what if you had an illusion of someone that was hard to find anyway? Who you would never see coming, who was unpredictable enough to do almost anything, and strong enough to be a real threat to even the toughest youkai? Someone who, considering who you were traveling with, people would almost expect to be around anyway? Heck, she might even be around right now!

Brilliant! Not to mention, having a Koishi illusion could actually be helpful outside of combat. The thing is, Koishi was... hard to remember. If not for Satori's presence, you weren't sure you'd even remember she existed. Granted, that was kind of her thing, and she probably liked it that way, but it did mean you had a hard time remembering what she looked like. Which, given that an illusion needed a clear image of the subject, would be tricky.

Thankfully, you had a good family resemblance to take advantage of. You return to your drawing in the sand, and add in the satori's third eye, connecting it to the head and the wrists with strings. Not straight there, but loose and with plenty of slack, throwing a loop in one of them for good measure. After a moment's contemplation, the loop is indented to look more like a heart.

Right, what else? Well, what comes to mind for Satori is a general sense of tiredness. Not physically, she's done as much danmaku as any of you, but more emotionally. Like, the world's rough and ruthless, and she's faced it for a long time. She hasn't given up, she hasn't stopped fighting, but she is tired of it, tired of reading minds in general. Tired of cruel youkai and petty humans, of liars and perverts, of false friends who say one thing while meaning another, and are stupid enough to try it directly in front of a mind-reader. Of seeing the hateful words that people don't say, and responding to the truth with more hatred.

But that's not all there is to her. You've seen how much she cares for her sister; the deal she's made with you to help Koishi proves it. She's also really bad at hiding things from her sister... right, that bit of interaction you saw between the two earlier showed that. Satori really does worry about Koishi, even if the younger sister doesn't seem to realize it. Well, she probably realizes it. Heh, power and youkai abilities aside, Koishi's like an innocent child, and Satori the worried older sister. Or maybe Koishi's more an innocent-seeming child that's actually an endless troublemaker. You're not really sure. Really. Anyway, the point is, Satori seems drained because she cares. For Koishi, for her pets, for you and Sumireko, even for other people she comes across. Her words are blunt and sometimes biting, but they're always true, and usually helpful. She may hurt feelings, but by trying to expose lies, or offering constructive criticism. She may act distant and unapproachable, but you're certain she cares more than she lets on. Like the way she helped you comfort Sumi with the little shopping trip! It was behind the scenes, she downplayed it and never even let Sumireko know about it, but it was meaningful to your friend, and you found the gesture touching.

... speaking of which, Satori, if you're picking up on this, sorry if this is uncomfortable or embarrassing, but you do need a good sense of the subject to make an illusion, and this was the best idea you had, so... just bear with it, you guess. And you'll agree to never bring it up if she doesn't.

Actually, you should totally ask her out.

... and now your brain is trying to embarrass you. That is absolutely not the thing to think about while Satori's reading your mind, even though it would be romantic- No! Not now. Focus on the illusion. You need to concentrate on a clear picture of Satori to get it through to the Occult Ball, to give it the clearest possible impression of her, both in body and mind. Yes, a clear picture of Satori. You can see her now, with a fire in her eyes, putting a finger to your lips to stop what you were going to say, before whispering, 'I know you want to kiss me.'

With the discipline and presence of mind of a trained magician, you whip up a wind, the sand battering away at you. Grains of sand tear away at every inch of exposed flesh, and would probably have done terrible things to your eyes if they had not been shut when you'd started it. Ow. Like, really terrible. More painful than that, even. You keep the sand at high-tempo for a minute, and take a couple of deep breaths (shielded by a hand, of course. The sand might be all in your mind, but sand coating the inside of your throat inside your mind is... ugh), doing your best to clear your mind and get back to normal. After a few minutes without those strange thoughts intruding, and praying Satori believes you when you think this isn't normal for you, you get to work.

With Satori's presence fully in your mind's eye, the sand shifts and starts building her figure. The pink slippers, the thin legs, the rose-patterned skirt. A third eye forms, connecting to the wrists that have materialized out of the torso, as the body builds upwards to form the head. It worked. Even without the eyes open, even without the colors present, it's still recognizably Satori, and you pump a fist in satisfaction.

Now... how do you get from that to Koishi? Aside from the obvious point of her third eye being shut, you start with the general color scheme. Where Satori went for blue and pink, Koishi used yellow and green, and both her colors and expression were livelier. Where Satori's eyes were often flat, betraying a look of anxiousness or exasperation, Koishi's would be fully open, whether with interest, excitement, or curiosity, she'd always be doing something. Wandering around without fear, because after all, what could possibly scare her? Even aside from her substantial-even-for-Gensokyo strength, it's not like anyone could deliberately target her. And you can't forget the hat!

As you think these things, you make the changes to the Satori-sculpture in front of you, but that's just it. Somehow, some way, it's still recognizably Satori. With a few changes, certainly; the colors shifted, the eye shut, maybe looking happy about her new hat, but it's still Satori. You wrack your brains trying to remember more about her sister, and changing details like moving the veins to her ankles, the pattern of the buttons, the style of the shoes, but it's still not Koishi. Not quite. You can feel the magic trying to change back to Satori fully, and sigh. What now? Turn around and think about it for a minute. Maybe something will come to you.
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202624
((If this is the first post you saw via clicking the update link, scroll up! This one's a double update.))

As Gregor takes the subconscious suggestion and turns around, I finish wiping the sand out of my eyes. With my help, Gregor's gotten about as close to the idea of me as anyone outside the underground ever could, but apparently that's not enough. I look at the mindlessly grinning sculpture that resembles me, and can't help but smirk a bit. On the one hand, it's annoying to have to think this deeply, to go back over some old wounds. On the other hand, if he's really going to try for an image of me, maybe it's for the best that it have a little depth to it.

I'm not a magician. Never have been. That said, you can't be a mind-reader without picking up a few things, and even though that was many years ago, I do remember a few things. And one of them is that magic is mostly about intent. Oh, there's rituals, there's materials, spell circles and all that, but it's really about forcing your will on reality. You just need to have the balls to say 'This is how things should be!' and making the world believe you.

That's why Gregor can't do this. He might have a decent read on my sister (a little idealized, but it's sweet), but he doesn't know me, not well enough to make the magic imitate me. But I'm uniquely qualified for this one.

I fly up to the sand satori, circling it as I feel what it represents. Oh, Gregor got some of it right. Fearlessness? There's precious little that scares me these days. Excitement, well, I've enjoyed playing around with the Urban Legend incident, particularly with Miss Mary. Curiosity? Yeah, that's one of the primary things driving me these days. I looked for the Moriya Shrine because what they did with Okuu was interesting. I fought Reimu and Marisa because they were interesting. I kept Kokoro's mask because it was interesting. I've been following Satori since she left the underground because it was interesting. And also to keep her out of trouble, but she'll never be convinced I'm the one of us who's better off.

And the reason for that ties into the main thing Gregor's missing. The surface of the fake Koishi is almost entirely correct. The appearance is spot on, and the surface feelings, the ones I still feel now, are more or less there.
But this Koishi is flat. It's in three dimensions, but it's still as flat as my sister's sense of humor. It can't represent me without having a reason to behave as I did.

So I fly up to the fake Koishi, grab the veins connecting to the third eye, and tear them out of her head. Sand spurts from the wound like blood, and the fake reacts, writhing in pain and looking at me with tears in her eyes. I bear the gaze calmly, dropping the veins as her third eye shuts for the last time, and hold up mine to show her. I untie the coils from around my waist, showing her the severed ends of my third eye, and her gaze fills with fear and confusion. Then I fly into the sand, hiding deep within the sand-Koishi's body, and I remember.

I'd say I'm sorry, but my sister would tell me off for lying. You know how she is.


-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In an instant, I'm back in Alice's house. I let go of the occult ball thoughtfully as Gregor stumbles back from it, looking startled. It seems none of the others noticed I was here. Not sure whether that's useful or just sad. It's kind of a pity fixing the fake-me took so long; if I'd gotten back earlier, I'm sure I could have caught Satori blushing. She's so easily flustered if you know which buttons to press, and Gregor's 'unusual thoughts' would have pressed the former hell out of 'em. Wait, that phone I took off of what's-her-name does video, doesn't it? Damn. Opportunity wasted.

Anyway, Gregor's giving them the play-by-play on what happened while he was under. Nothing I didn't already know, considering the occult ball connected us mind-to-mind for a bit. Getting the old satori experience there was unexpected and a bit uncomfortable, but he's nice enough that it wasn't too bad. Of course, if he wasn't nice, and he was interested in my sister, he'd have to die, so lucky people all around. Pity it's not winter, or I'd be getting out the mistletoe. It's been so long since I had a chance to tease sis like this.

I mostly ignore their conversation, up until the point where Alice draws their attention to the doll. It worked, no doubt about that! Not only did the enchantment take, but the doll itself changed! Its clothes are now yellow and green, and the hair is now a really pale green like mine used to be! Now that's interesting... and I want it.

[-] Steal from the doll-rich and give to the doll-poor!
[-] Engage stealth mode! Wait until they're not all looking at the doll, then abscond with it!
[-] Satori's gonna know I was here. Better make a show of saying hi and bye. I can circle back around for the mini-me later.

[X] Satori's gonna know I was here. Better make a show of saying hi and bye. I can circle back around for the mini-me later.
Huh, a new tripcode. ...with the same security code thingy. How does that even work?

Anyways, Koshi Quest is a go! so time to just type whatever comes to mind. Which is well, chaos.

I wonder what it would take to get Gregor to disguise himself as a girl? I mean, duh how else would he ever even stand a chance at danmaku. This is Touhou after all, the entire world is set up so that cute girls can shoot pretty lights at each other.

Now, Gregor already has the spell card system trying to force him to comply by changing his magic, so there's no real reason not to go along with the flow. Besides Unzan has already proven you can have male characters show up in the games and even be relevant, so long as there is still a cute girl standing there as a hitbox.

So Gregor either has to tag team with Sumireko, or find a way to count as a cute girl himself. I would say that's just common sense, but we all know that doesn't exist in Gensokyo.

Oh right, the vote.

[X] Steal from the doll-rich and give to the doll-poor!

Oh, and just so everyone knows, the next update will be from Gregor's perspective again.

Feel free to let me know whether that news comes as a relief or a massive disappointment. :P
[x] Steal from the doll-rich and give to the doll-poor!

SEVERE AMOUNTS OF !!!FUN!!! INBOUND
>>202627
My disappointment is immeasurable and my day is ruined.

I hope you are happy.
>>202629
don't listen to this guy, he's allergic to !!!FUN!!! and probably votes incorrectly every single time
[X] Engage stealth mode! Wait until they're not all looking at the doll, then abscond with it!

>>202629
Man up, I also wish it wasn't koishi, but im not gonna let it detract from my enjoyment, satori is a major character, and koishi is a major plot point, it was gonna happen eventually.
>>202631
don't listen to this guy either, he's allergic to irony and probably votes incorrectly every single time
"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!" That's my thoughts and feelings summarized.
I love this update, this is so exciting! And so many questions!

What will the magicians gather from this enchantment? We had an intrusive participant in the process!
Did Greg take note of the revelation that Koishi not merely closed but cut off her third eye? You can wake someone asleep but making the blind see is considered a miracle!
Is Koishi just innocently teasing her sister or is she not quite so innocently pushing her towards something?
And what will Greg take from this mind-altering experience of mind-sharing?

Each revelation comes at the cost of two new mysteries and each resolution at the cost of a new problem. And this is what keeps us going forward.

But now I will devote my mind to more pressing matters at hand: the Koishi doll!

Without her help, the enchantment would not have worked out as Greg wanted it to. It's just as much his work as it was mine. So it should belong to both of them. So it's only fair to share. That's right! So it's only fair to [x] steal from the doll-rich and give to the doll-poor!
Mr Dolly will be my friend, he will keep me company when I'm alone.

[X] Satori's gonna know I was here. Better make a show of saying hi and bye. I can circle back around for the mini-me later.

You can't just *steal* a doll, you have to seduce it, and that takes time.
>>202633
don't listen to this guy either, he's high
[X] Steal from the doll-rich and give to the doll-poor!

>>202627
I'm loving both Gregor and Koishi. Never before have I felt such a mix disappointment and relief.
Thank you, you glorious bastard.
>>202635
I like how its >>202633 you called high and not the anon who thinks you can seduce inanimate objects.
>>202637
how rude, that's just being ambitious
File 162445893350.png - (554.04KB, 1200x1400, oh dear.png) [iqdb]
202639
>>202638
RI don't think that's a healthy attitude to have Anon.
[X] Engage stealth mode! Wait until they're not all looking at the doll, then abscond with it!
[X] Steal from the doll-rich and give to the doll-poor!
[X] Steal from the doll-rich and give to the doll-poor!
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

You really aren't sure what happened. You'd been trying to figure out the Koishi illusion, you turned around for one second, and then a sandstorm picked up and tossed you into the sand. And then, before you could extricate yourself, the vision abruptly ends, and you stumble backwards. The reaction around you is somewhat more muted than you would expect. Alice is watching patiently, while Sumireko leans over you, smirking.

"And he sticks the landing!", Sumireko says. "So, what did you do this time?"

You turn to her and raise an eyebrow. "This time?"

"You know, to get the occult ball to kick you out? I was starting to think I'd have to pull you out of it again."

"I don't know. I was trying to figure out how to get the image across, and suddenly there was a sandstorm, and I'm out." You snap your fingers, figuring something out. "Although, I did figure out what went wrong last time around."

"You'd asked the pyramids for some kind of entrancing attack, and that's exactly what it gave you," Sumireko said, looking entirely too smug.

"How?"

"Satori was relaying the details of your thoughts on what was happening in there," Sumi explained. "Including the part where you figured it out."

"The idea of a magical nexus being able to understand thoughts is interesting," Alice said, walking over and picking up the doll. "If Gensokyo's magic could be harnessed in the same way, well, there aren't words for how useful that could be."

"Or dangerous," you pointed out. "These locations from earth have only dim memories of magic, and that's the main reason I was able to shape it at all. What on earth happens when you try to harness the magic of a land completely saturated in it?"

Sumireko shuddered. "Point taken. Flinched from, even."

Alice rolled her eyes. "Obviously, you'd take precautions to only harness it in small amounts... like, for instance, through a conduit with a clear maximum limit."

Like, through a doll, perhaps? Honestly, the idea of a magical puppeteer sounded absurd at first glance, but those dolls are sounding surprisingly versatile. And... come to think of it, there's someone who you'd expected to comment who absolutely hasn't. "Where'd Satori go?"

"She's..." Sumireko gestured over to the other side of the room and paused. "Huh. She was right there."

"Satori's currently outside." Alice said. "She left immediately after the vision ended."

Sumireko glanced up at the window and hummed thoughtfully. "She did seem a little flustered. Maybe the intensity of the vision got to her?"

You've got a pretty good idea what might have flustered her, and that's firmly under the category of things Sumireko is not allowed to know. Fortunately, you're an illusionist; misdirection comes with the territory. "It's probably the illusion I picked. I wasn't able to get the idea of a fully general illusion across to the occult ball, so I decided on an illusion of Koishi. And that meant I needed to get as clear of an image of her as possible, which... was probably a painful subject for Satori."

Actually, now that you've actually said it, that does sound like something that would bother Satori more seriously. Whoops. Looks like you're going to have to apologize to her for two things.

Sumireko sighed. "Why on earth would you pick Koishi? Tell me you didn't do pick her just to prank me."

"Sumi, I don't need an enchanted item to prank you." Besides, you literally just pranked her with a Koishi scare the other day. You need to come up with something different for your next trick.

"Then why?"

"Honestly, both her randomness and her ridiculous unconsciousness powers play into the standard illusion mindgames perfectly. Who else has the chance to show up at pretty much any point and decide they want to play danmaku too?"

"This is Gensokyo," Alice said drily. "That's a pretty long list."

"Anyway," you continue, "the point is, other people, you're supposed to see them coming and be able to track them all the time. Koishi? Her entire thing is that you only really get glimpses of her unless you're continually fighting her."

"And we get to provide those glimpses." Sumireko sighed again. "Fine, I get it. But it would have been better to fake having Reimu or someone else with us."

Wasn't she part of the plot to get you even before Sumi wrecked her shrine? "Whatever."

"Still, your choice does explain this." Alice held up the enchanted doll.

It's Koishi. Well, not literally her, but the doll is very clearly meant to resemble Satori's sister. It's not perfect; even aside from the size, there's no third eye, and the colors are a little off, but the resemblance is still uncanny, from the roses on the skirt to the constant smile on the doll's face. It even has a hat, and you have no idea where that came from. You're a little stunned, and it seems you're not the only one.

"You didn't happen to have your other dolls working overtime on playing dress-up with this one, by any chance?", Sumi asked.

"No."

"Just checking," Sumireko said. "I mean, I've seen items change on enchantment before, but never so drastically."

"To be fair, it is arguably the heaviest enchantment I've done, on an already magical item to boot," you say. But even still, that's a new one. "Can you still control it like normal?"

Alice lifted a hand, and the doll flew around the room. After a few gentle circles, it started picking up speed, firing a few heart-shaped bullets and forcing the other dolls to dodge out of the way. After a minute or so of that, it tried its hand at acrobatics, promptly overshot and bumped into the wall. The doll abruptly stopped falling a couple feet off the ground, as if caught, and Alice nodded. "The feel is different, but that's to be expected. I'll be able to adjust quickly enough."

"That's good, but we should test out the illusion as well," you said. "That's the new part, and we'd better make sure it works in a safe environment."

"Speaking of which, how'd you set up the trigger on it?" Sumireko asks. "Is it keyed to you as the enchantment creator, or Alice as the doll's owner?"

"I think anyone who pumps enough energy into it should be able to get the illusion up," you start, and right on cue you see Koishi where the doll was. "Like that."

The Koishi illusion makes a show of looking at herself and takes a bow. "I've got to hand it to me, I'm adorable."

She skips over to you and giggles. "You do good work, Roach. Well, I get most of the credit, but you're alright too. Oh, and doll lady, nice doll!"

Sumireko chuckles, and Koishi flies over towards her, looking at your friend with mock sadness. "Come on, phone girl! How am I going to get behind you if you're hiding in the corner like this? Like, I know all you've done since coming to Gensokyo is hide, but mix it up a little!"

And it's at that moment that Satori enters, sees Koishi, and almost trips. "What? Oh. The illusion, right." She holds a hand to her head. "Regardless, we should figure out our trip to Eientei."

The Koishi illusion flies over to Satori. "Leaving so soon? All work and no play makes Satori a dull satori."

Satori gives you a flat look. "Really?"

The heck? You're not responsible for this! Well, you made the illusion, so technically you are, but you're not the one directly responsible for making it talk right this instant. You open your mouth to protest, but Koishi just talks over you.

"Aw, come on, sis. We could relax, take a dip in that hot spring Utsuho is powering, and talk about boys! Well, one boy in particular." She hovers, inspecting you with her gaze. "Hm, a little scrawny, but I guess you've got time to work on that, huh?"

Sumireko starts laughing outright at that, while Satori only manages a, "What?"

"Think about it, the two of you would make such a cute couple! Also, you need to spend more time above ground before you become a fossil, but mostly the cute thing, and it'll be a much better use of your time than trying to fix me! Speaking of which, I don't know why you tried to hide it. You're worse at lying than the oni are!"

Satori is actually lost for words, but you think you've found some. "Sumireko", you declare, "I'm going to kill you."

"What? It isn't me!" It would be more convincing if she wasn't almost doubled over with laughter.

"I figure I can use your body to make a plea deal and escape Gensokyo that way."

"No, really, it isn't me! And if this isn't your idea of flirting, it must be Alice!"

Alice gives her a flat look. "Don't try to pin this on me. Satori can literally read your mind."

"Exactly! And..." Wait, Satori is not staring at Sumi with some mixture of fury and disgust, she's looking between the three of you, wide-eyed. And then turns to look at Koishi again.

The Koishi who is now holding up a very specific doll and smiling even more widely. You... might just be an idiot. Can confirm. The other shoe drops for all of you at the same time, as Koishi ruffles her sister's hair and pushes Satori into the middle of you.

"Anyway, I'd love to stay and chat some more, but there's three good reasons I can't. Firstly, I've gotta finish getting Roach his urban legend. Second, I should get you one too, sis, just to make sure."

"Koishi, wait!" Satori cried.

"Nope, sorry! Oh, and third... this is mine now," she declared, holding up the enchanted doll. "Thanks, Alice!"

Alice held up a hand and the other dolls started marshaling. "I won't just let you-"

Koishi flew through the window.


[?]What. Write in.
[x] KOISHI QUEST
Watch a rogue satori on Gensokyo's Got Talent, as (magician) judges are amazed by her magic act. Entrancing crazy escape performance!
[X] "By order of the Jarl, stop right there!"
Koishi has committed crimes against Skyrim and her people. What says she in her defense? Against bullets to be specific. I'm saying we should shoot at her.
[X] Invite Alice to join you in the hot springs after you go to Eintei
Just let watch her go, Gregor, not much to do. Hopefully the doll will let her 'appear' more consistently. Won't fix her head, but it's a start I guess. Might organically start a rumor about a living doll if it's seen running around, popping into full girl mode occasionally. Depends if retains koish's forget me aura or not.
Shout out the window to koishi that you'll have to see the doc before going to the hot springs, then see about mentally badgering satori into inviting Alice as payment for the doll. It's her sister and her bird's hot springs.
[X] "By order of the Jarl, stop right there!"
Roach worked hard on that doll! No he didn't.
[x] Delay Koishi by telling her that you might be interested in going in the hot springs with Sumireko, Alice, and Satori later on. (You can also delay her by creating multiple illusions around Alice's house, I guess?)
-[x] QUICK! MAKE AND PUT A MAGICAL BEACON ON THE DOLL BEFORE SHE GETS TOO FAR AWAY.
The idea here is that you can delay Koishi just long enough to plant a magical beacon on the doll.
Only problem: How long will it take to make the magical beacon? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
*You're never going to catch Koishi unless she lets you.
Fucking WILDCARD

[x]Koishi, look! [smooch Satori]
Koishi’s closed eye gives her a tiny attention span and spontaneous curiosity right?

[x] Koishi wait! Sure you could leave with that Koishi doll, or you could exchange it for whatever is inside this Magical Mystery Box.
-[x] illusion up a Magical Mystery Box and put something in it

A Koishi doll is a Koishi doll, but a mystery box could be anything. It could be a boat, it could be an embarrassing snapshot of Satori at the Christmas party, it could even be a Koishi doll. You know how much Koishi wanted one of those.
[x] Delay Koishi by telling her that you might be interested in going in the hot springs with Sumireko, Alice, and Satori later on. (You can also delay her by creating multiple illusions around Alice's house, I guess?)
-[x] QUICK! MAKE AND PUT A MAGICAL BEACON ON THE DOLL BEFORE SHE GETS TOO FAR AWAY.
>>202654
Changing my vote to
[x]Koishi, look! [smooch Satori]
[x]Koishi, look! [smooch Satori]

Koishi was the one encouraging us, this should get her attention.
[x]Koishi, look! [smooch Satori]

This should be good. Besides, it is what Koishi wants.
ITT: Tactical suicide
[x]Koishi, look! [smooch Satori]
This is madness.
>>202660
Then we shall die as men
The upcoming Story post HAS to be trips.
It'd be only fitting for the devilish deed Greg is about to commit.
[x]Koishi, look! [smooch Satori]
Who wants to take bets on if Satori or Sumireko is gonna hurt him worse for this?
[x]Koishi, look! [smooch Satori]
[x]Koishi, look! [smooch Satori]

While I am extremely skeptical that this vote would lead to the result yall want, Greg went pretty deep for the Satori illusion in the enchantment. He prob would go for kissing an illusion of Satori seeing how accurate he could make one on the spot. Enough to stun Koshi for a moment I guess.
write ins are a mistake
File 162477956612.jpg - (230.57KB, 1920x1080, 4VcAmT.jpg) [iqdb]
202669
[x]Catch the Koishi!

Alice is the first to react. She and the dolls mobilize instantly, swarming after Koishi like bees defending a hive. You're not far behind; while you have no idea how to actually catch Koishi, you don't want to be found complicit in the unconsciousness youkai's aggravated doll theft. (Seriously, what is your life any more?)

Fortunately you're still wearing Sumireko's cape, and you're able to fly out the window after them. Even more fortunately, Koishi is still in sight, being currently engaged in combat with Alice. Neither she nor Alice have declared a spellcard yet; Alice has simply spread out dolls in every direction to hem Koishi in, while Koishi is responding by spastically flying in random directions and shooting them down one by one. The sheer casualties she's inflicting among the dolls makes you wonder if the Koishi-doll rescue is really more important to Alice, but oh well.

Satori and Sumireko are close behind you, and you take a moment to ask the obvious question.

"She's your sister, Satori. How do you usually beat her?"

"Koishi is extremely unpredictable, and I can't read her mind. I don't."

Fine, we'll do this the other way then. You wait for Koishi to hold still for a moment, and then you declare your spellcard.

[Illusion Sign - Orb of Midnight]

The spellcard works exactly the same as last time, with the sphere of darkness forming around Koishi and yin-yang pattern of runic circles firing bullets into the interior.

"There! That should hold her for a minute or so," you say. "I'll let you know when it's about to come down, and then you can hit her with the big guns."

Alice nods from over in the distance, while Satori shook her head. "That won't work. We've lost sight of Koishi for a minute. We won't be able to spot her again when the orb drops."

"Besides, won't that break the doll?" Sumireko asked.

"That's not a concern. My dolls are lifelike enough to be protected by the spellcard rules. Danmaku can damage them, but not beyond repair." Alice said, having flown over. "Now aim for a wide area the moment his spell card drops, ideally with something that hits the entire sphere. If any of you can apply a paralyzing or freezing effect to danmaku, all the better."

Sumireko hesitated, saying, "I don't have anything like that. I could throw a spray of debris or explosions through an area, but it's not undodgeable or anything."

"Sumi, I know you can conjure stuff. Just summon a net and throw that!"

"The orb's like twenty feet across! I can't make a net that big, Greg."

"Very few things seamlessly cover a massive area specifically because of the spellcard rules." Satori said. "That said, if we spread out and fire from all angles, we should connect. My sister is good, but there's a limit to what she can dodge."

You felt the spellcard start to fade and grimaced. "We'll have to go with that, it's about to drop."

The girls immediately split up, flying over to different angles, and you prepared what little firepower you had. And then Koishi came into view and all former hell broke loose.

[Recollection - Kappa's Waterfall]
[Elegant Sign - Spring Kyoto Dolls]
[Psychokinesis - Psychexplosion]

It was madness. Sumireko exploding areas of space, Satori shooting enough blue danmaku to resemble a waterfall, and Alice's dolls bombarding the area with rings of bullets, and despite what Satori had said, there was a Koishi clearly visible in the middle of the whole thing. Incredibly, she looked more or less fine. You were pretty sure she got hit a few times, but she didn't look injured, and you weren't even sure she noticed.

Which was odd. You'd felt one of Marisa's bullets, and while it was possible the witch was stronger than any of you, and Koishi was definitely less fragile than you, she definitely should be feeling hits like that. Maybe she's just that tough?

This didn't stop her from responding with her own spell card.

[Rekindled - Embers of Love]
Damn it, Koishi. You weren't sure if the spellcard was chosen to mess with Satori or for its effectiveness, but it seemed to be doing a pretty good job on both counts. Hearts leaving trails behind bounced all over the clearing, looking all the world like spears and definitely not anything else. You couldn't quite tell where they were originating from, but it didn't seem to be Koishi, and every few seconds another pair came out of nowhere and started bouncing around. It was probably just Koishi weirdness.

Considering how open the clearing was, and how many people were firing at Koishi, this shouldn't have been a problem, and yet the spellcard wasn't stopping. Maybe you should try more concentrated fire? Thankfully most of the spears didn't seem to want to come this way, but you were starting to have trouble dodging even with that, and the others had it worse. Sumireko gave up on her spellcard imitation first, just throwing debris with telekinesis instead. Satori's broke soon after, switching to a spray of regular bullets, and you flew over towards her as Alice's dolls continued to bombard Koishi.

Something was weird. You weren't sure how Koishi's spellcard was still going, but you just weren't doing enough damage, which meant you'd need to try something else. You flew over to Satori, who definitely looked worse for wear.

"Yes, it's rough. Koishi's always a hard fight, but this is worse than usual."

"Yeah, I can see." Well, the bullet density on your end wasn't too bad, but you could see what the others were going through. Maybe you'd been lucky or something.

"She might be avoiding targeting you. I suppose she would lose the opportunity to tease me if she knocked you unconscious."

"Can we take advantage of that?" You'd need to change something if you were going to actually win and reclaim that doll. You'd probably need to change a lot.

"Unlikely. Koishi will actively change her strategy if she realizes we're exploiting something like that, and it wouldn't help us on offense anyway."

"Yeah, I guess." Alice's spellcard finally goes down, but Koishi's is still up, and the spears are everywhere now. You really don't get how Koishi wasn't getting destroyed by that barrage. It was like she wasn't even taking those hits.

"Wait, say that again!" Uh-oh.

"Um, I guess?"

"No, not that, the thought! What was the train of thought?"

"It's like Koishi's not even taking hits?"

"Gregor, could Koishi trigger the illusion on the doll?" Nooo, definitely not! "That's why she was visible after your spellcard, it's not really her!"

Oh. Damn it, is this how other people feel when you dupe them? Because it's irritating and more than a little embarassing. "Then where is she?"

"I don't know! She won't have left; not and leave the doll behind, but she could be anywhere!"

"Isn't it obvious? I'm right behind you!"

Oh no.

"Just so you don't spoil the fun for the others, I'm putting you in time-out. We can play after."

Satori realizes what that means first. "Girls! That Koishi is-"

[Philosophy of the Despised]

"-an illusion."

Too late. You're not sure what Koishi just did, but now it's just you and Satori in darkness. Well, except for the incoming spellcard.

[...] To be continued.

(To forestall the inevitable: Yes, I kept track of which write-in won the voting. Yes, it's the one you think it was, and we will get to that bit.)
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202671
Im your hooooooooooooooost Komeji koishiiiii, and tadayyyyy we're putting gregoirrrrre throuuuuugh...

BELLE IN A CEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEL!
>and we will get to that bit
I'm both cautiously dreading and excitedly looking forward to 'that bit'.
>>202671
This picture is too hispanic to look at, please stop.
We look forward to your work Soul. I believe in you.
File 162496813184.jpg - (102.47KB, 384x448, Th11SC167.jpg) [iqdb]
202684
After dodging the initial fire, the next threat was a sheet of blue bullets descending on you and Satori, with one section flaring into miniature explosions that completely obliterated the area.

"Don't call them explosions in front of Koishi," Satori warned. "She insists that they're roses."

You'd give her a flat look if you didn't have to concentrate on the danmaku. "Is that really the most important thing right now?"

"It's a survival spellcard; we simply can't get back to the fight until it ends."

That's... something you've abused to your advantage a couple times now, actually. It's surprisingly irritating being on the other end of it. At least the blue bullets have clear enough gaps that the spellcard is merely nerve-wracking. "How likely am I to actually survive it?"

"It's not too bad," she replied. "Avoid the rose blossoms and keep in mind the bullets move straight, even if they look crooked."

You continue dodging around the blue bullets as you ask your next question, "Can the others actually beat Koishi?"

Satori hesitates, and has to make a quick dodge. "Under the strict rules of a spellcard duel, Koishi would be unable to use any other danmaku while her card trapping us is in progress."

The blue danmaku fades out, being replaced by diagonal yellow walls coming from two directions. "There's a 'but' waiting to happen, isn't there?"

"But a strict spellcard duel doesn't have four people declaring three simultaneous spellcards on one target."

Of course there's a catch. "So basically they have to deal with full-force Koishi preparing a sneak attack. While they think she's pinned down in the center of the clearing."

"Not full force, the spellcard still takes a lot of energy. But yes."

Damn. Unfortunately, there's not a lot you can do about it. Speaking of things you can't do much about, your ribs are seriously starting to hurt. Dodging waves from multiple direction is a lot harder and involves a lot more sudden stops and starts. Gritting your teeth, you ask, "How badly is Alice going to take it if Koishi just wins out and keeps the doll?"

"Hard to say. I don't know her well, and," her eyes widened, "Rose bullets behind you!"

You dash forwards, but there's only a narrow gap in front of you, and the wall from below is cutting it off. Should you wait for the next one, or-

"Through!"

You dive for the opening, ducking down and forwards to pass under the first bullet wall, and immediately pulling up to get over and past the second just before they slam shut. Except you've lost the rhythm to it now. The next walls are closing in from both directions, and the next gap in front has already slammed shut.

"Back, down, and forwards!"

What, where? It takes a second for you to spot the path Satori pointed out, and you quickly reverse directions, diving behind the wall coming up and forwards to get in under the next one. Except you're not fast enough.

"Further down, quick!"

The bottom edge of the wall nails you in the back. Sumi's cape takes the worst of it, but it still sends you spinning downwards towards the next wall.

It also hurts. A lot.

[Memory Sign - Safe Haven]

Satori shoots out a wheel of orbs that spin around her, annihilating the bullets of Koishi's spellcard where the two come into contact. With that in play, she dashes forwards, clearing out the walls around you before you hit anything else. Which probably just saved your life, but since when could spellcards clear out other spellcards?

And come to think of it, why is her card over already?

"That's it. Once this is over, I need to teach you about bombs."

"What?"

"Not the time! Are you hurt?"

Well, the enchantments on Sumi's cape are damn good (you should know, you put them there), and thanks to them redistributing the impact, you merely feel bruised all over. As opposed to, you know, further fracturing your ribs. Sure, the cape is smoking a little bit, but that's probably nothing. As you see red bullets forming on the edge of the little pocket space, you pull up to get a little ground, and... completely fail to rise.

Um... forwards? Left? Right? You get a little movement from your own levitation, but from the cape? Nothing. Sumi's going to kill you. Well, the spellcard's going to kill you, but Sumi's going to raise you specifically so she can kill you again.

"Hold still."

Satori grabs you from behind and starts flying around with you. Which slows her down a fair bit, and the gaps between bullets in this third phase are really narrow for two people, and the bullets are faster, and the exploding-area is shifting around faster...

"We will be fine. I've sparred with Koishi countless times, and this card is always the same. Now please stop trying to psyche me out."

But she's making it work! And after her convincing explanation you are in no way worried. Right, that's not helping, different topic. "If you've fought Koishi so much you've got to have beaten her at least a couple times. How'd those happen?"

"Well, yes, but you're going to be disappointed. They were victories by technicalities. Either Koishi got bored of the fight and just gave up, or something else distracted her to where she flat out ignored an incoming attack. If she's taking the fight seriously, I would expect her to defeat both of us cleanly."

Well, that was blunt. "Satori, illusions are kind of my thing. I can do distractions."

Satori frowned. "It would need to be something truly shocking. She's normally quite capable of... well, Koishi'ing over something while dodging everything anyway."

You actually get what she means by that. Koishi is already the wacky unpredictable one in any situation; trying to out-crazy her would be a losing battle. Maybe the others are doing alright and you can win by just the weight of numbers.

"It's a nice theory," Satori said. "Regardless, the spellcard is ending. We're about to find out."

And upon returning to the normal world (well, normal Gensokyo), you reflected that it really was a nice theory. You liked that theory. You'd have liked to formalize it into a theorem, with a nice twenty page proof and a few lemmas for flavor. Publish it in a Gensokyo Danmaku journal, with a catchy title like "We Didn't Just Get Our Asses Kicked by Koishi." Because Sumireko is out cold on the ground, and Alice is just staring into space with that enchanted bracelet stuck on her arm.

Meanwhile, Koishi is happily sorting through the pile of fallen dolls, picking out ribbons and other hair accessors and trying them on the Koishi-doll.

"Oh hey, you're back! So, are you gonna give up now, or should I beat you first?"

You look at Koishi, then back at your fallen allies, and then at the still-growing pile of doll accessories. "You know, Koishi, if you've got time for playing dress-up with your doll, you could have escaped by now. Why didn't you?"

Satori sighed. "Because she's thinking of this as her victory lap. And will take great pleasure in telling Orin and Okuu how she defeated me in a four on one."

"Yep!" Koishi agreed. "Also, mini-me needs a hat. This is very important."

So... worst case scenario. You're down to just two on one, and Koishi barely even seems winded after winning the other two on one. Not to mention between your injury, lack of offense, and newfound lack of mobility, it's probably more like one and a quarter on one. Heck, since Satori's going to be stuck flying you around, you might even be a net negative. Even if you do get a distraction into a clean hit, that's not going to be enough!

Satori sighs and slumps a bit. "Let's get this over with."

"Hey, don't feel too sad, sis! You're getting to hold Gregor close! I didn't think you were that sneaky!"

"He can't fly and I didn't want your spellcard giving him any more broken ribs."

"Oh, is that the excuse? I can work with that!"

[Representation - Danmaku Paranoia]
Tons of tiny kunai form a tight sphere around you and Satori, and Koishi sends waves of large, slow-moving danmaku at you. The problem is, they're large bullets with small gaps, just barely large enough to fit you and Satori if you really squeeze together. And now that Koishi's actively drawn your attention to it you're now fully aware of the details of how you're being held. Things like Satori's arms locked around your waist pulling you close, your legs dangling near and brushing up against hers, and the two medium-sized yet soft points of pressure you can feel in the middle of your back. Which results in a really strong sense of your own rising embarrassment. Especially since this is the closest you've been to a girl in well, ever.

Predictably, Satori is not pleased. "Koishi, I'm going to kill you. You realize that, right? I'm going to lock you in a room with Utsuho and tell her she needs to stress test her nuclear reactor. Then I'm going to travel to Hakugyokurou, just in case you leave a ghost, so I can kill that too!"

"Aw, you really do care!"

Some abstract part of you realizes that you're barely even noticing the spellcard. It's not like you're in a position to do anything about it anyway, but it's only requiring small, gentle movements, and Satori's moving through it with a comfort of long practice. Not that the rest of the situation is comfortable, and damn it, you're thinking about it again. You're really sorry to Satori, and you hope she doesn't drop you. You do do what you can in summoning up some danmaku of your own to shoot at Koishi, and whether it's the embarrassment or just more time in Gensokyo, you actually get a more consistent stream of bullets this time.

You just wish Koishi would stop toying with you. It's... wait. She's so sure in her victory, maybe you could bait her into a bet? Something where the terms of victory for you is just the one clean hit? And then get her with a distraction, which... damn it, there's the one really obvious idea you've been trying not to think of, and you've got no idea what else. Not that Satori would want you to kiss her, but former hell, Koishi would be so thrilled with the idea that she might not even care about losing.

"Gregor, you're a nice guy, but if you try that, I will actually drop you."

"Oh? What was he thinking of, sis?"

Illusion! Illusion! You'd distract Koishi with an illusion of a kiss! You weren't actually suggesting that; not that you'd mind of course, but that's the exact wrong reason to start any sort of relationship, and-

"That train of thought is not helping your dignity or mine."

If you could get your mind to quit, you would! This was equally humiliating for you too!

"I... all right. Look, your plan is worth a shot."

Okay then! You'd go for it as soon as Koishi's spellcard breaks.

The moment isn't long in coming, and once it does, you launch into your speech. ​"Koishi! How about we finish this with a bet? You're obviously way out of my league in a straight up fight, but Satori could stall for a while, I could snap Alice out of it, and we could end up here all day. So why don't we put it all on one spellcard? And it'll even be one of my spell cards! If I hit you, you leave the doll here, and if you dodge it all, we'll let you go."

Koishi doesn't even hesitate, she stretches idly and grins. "You know what, sure. I gotta see what you've been up to, Roach!"

And with that, with Satori still holding you airborne, you focus your mind onto the other spellcard idea you've had.

[Light Sign - Rays of Dawn]
Behind you and Satori, there's a massive yellow orb with eight lines of bullets coming off of it, like how a child might draw the sun. The edges of those lines then peel off and start firing towards Koishi, who dodges easily. But that's only the first part.

Periodically, the 'sun' will flash, blinding the opponent, and the bullet streams will gyrate wildly during that moment of blindness. The key point is making sure Koishi's looking at just the right moment, and that she's not paying attention to the danmaku in that moment before blindness.

And for that, you need an illusion. The image for it is all too easy to call to mind (stupid Koishi), and so you prepare a light-crafted image of you turning and passionately kissing Satori, who would be... mostly still from shock, honestly. You feel the spellcard preparing the flash blindness, and yell "Koishi, look!"

She turns just as you'd hoped, and you release the image!

Nothing happens. Nothing happens! Nothing happens because all of your energy is going into the spellcard and you can't make an illusion right now! And without that, you don't have a distraction, you won't be able to hit Koishi, and the doll will be lost! Unless-

[-] Kiss Satori.
[-] Don't kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[x] Don't kiss Satori.
[x] Kiss Koishi
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Toss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
I wanna love me some monkey
[X] Kiss Satori.
This is it, the moment of truth, the coup de grâce.
[X] Kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori.
I only see one choice.
[x] Kiss Satori.
[x] And Koishi
[X] getting slapped by three women lets GOOOOOO
In the heat of battle, a spark is set alight to a flame.

[x] Kiss Satori
Prepare for broken legs when she drops us, good thing we're already heading to the doc's
>>202695
You sacrifice a few things chasing a dream.
>>202695
To be fair, she knows we have no other option at this point.
I SEE THE TIDE COME IN AND I MUST PISS
CHANGING MY VOTE >>202692
[X] Don't kiss Satori.
[X] Kiss Satori and grit your teeth for more broken bones.
[x] Kiss Satori.

There wasn't time to think. You spun around in Satori's grip, threw your arms around her, and pulled her in for a kiss.

It wasn't romantic. Oh, it looked like a romantic kiss; you held Satori by the waist and back of her head, and your lips pressed against hers, but that was all just window dressing, theater for Koishi's benefit. You weren't actually applying any pressure with your hands, the kiss was as light as you could make it, and you were doing your best not to breathe. You'd shut your eyes as to not see Satori's expression, but that didn't mean you were unaware of her reaction. You felt her initially stiffen in shock, and tense up. That tension didn't disappear after the initial reaction either; if anything, Satori was more motionless than you.

You hear Koishi gasp in the distance, whether in surprise or pain, you aren't sure. Either way, your gambit's played itself out. And the moment that thought fully registered, Satori pushed you away.

Your eyes snap open, and for an instant you see Satori's expression. She's trying for stoic, but she's red in the face, and the disapproving frown cracks as she turns away.

Also, you're ten feet above ground with no levitation. You're too off balance to stabilize, and you're falling backwards. With a broken rib. You wince and tense up, and then a dual impact to your back and legs drives the breath from your lungs and a strangled yell from your mouth.

And then it registers that you'd been caught before hitting the ground, by the only person who could have possibly been in position to do so.

"Koishi?"

She doesn't respond, lowering you down to the ground. You turn to look at her, and her expression is completely calm. No teasing smile, or pouting frown, no visible reaction to the kiss or the danmaku battle at all, she's just looking at you. Like this, you find her stare harder to meet than her sister's, and you turn back to Satori, but she's flown off to Alice's house without a word.

You move to follow, broken rib be damned, but a grip on your shoulder restrains you. "I didn't think you'd do it, you know. I'm even more surprised that she let you."

"Why don't you sound happier about this? You've been teasing about it and pushing the idea at every point, I'd have thought you'd be over the moon right now."

"Did my sister look happy to you?"

There was something distinctly unfair about Koishi being capable of that kind of cutting logic. "It was supposed to be an illusion. I didn't realize until too late that I couldn't make one, so I made an impulsive decision."

"Mhm." When nothing more is forthcoming, you try to pull away, but Koishi's got a pretty good grip on your shoulder.

"Koishi, I need to talk to her." You need to apologize. The details of that are something you're working on, but it's clear you need to apologize.

"And Satori needs time to think. Besides, we have a little unfinished business here."

You turn back to Koishi at that, nervous and uncertain. "What do you mean?"

She's still staring at you, and you don't think she ever stopped. "What is my sister to you?"

You take a moment to consider it and sigh. "She's an ally. A lifeline out of what was a terrifying situation. Even a friend, if I haven't screwed that up. Beyond that... I'm not sure yet. I hadn't really considered the idea before you brought it up."

"I'll accept that for now. Some of this is my fault, anyway." She looked down at that admission. "I pushed too hard, too fast."

That might be the most normal reaction you've seen out of Koishi yet. "Since when did you have this side to you, anyway?"

"There aren't many things worth being serious over. Satori is one of them. But on that note, Gregor..." Koishi whips out her knife and holds it to your face, the tip resting on your cheek.

You freeze, and Koishi continues on in a perfectly conversational tone, as if discussing the weather. "If you and Satori aren't meant to be, that's one thing. If you do bring her out of her shell, even better. But if you hurt her, I will kill you."

That might be the most reasonable death threat you've gotten since arriving in Gensokyo. "I understand."

"Good. Now, I'm going to get going." Koishi's expression changed into her signature smile, which did not in any way change the knife still pointed at your face. That stayed there even as she pushed the Koishi doll into your chest. "Hold on to this for me, take care of your friends, and when you do apologize to my sister, tell her I'm sorry too."

You back up a step, and Koishi finally lowers the knife. "I'll be sure to do that."

Koishi tucks the brim of her hat down, gives you one last glance, and flies off into the trees.

[-] Check on Alice and Sumireko first.
[-] Check on Satori first.

-- ALSO --

[-] Tell Alice and Sumireko exactly what happened.
[-] Hide the details around the kiss. It's awkward for everyone involved, and they don't need to know.
[X] Check on Satori first.
[X] Hide the details around the kiss. It's awkward for everyone involved, and they don't need to know.
[X] Check on Alice and Sumireko first.
[X] Leave it to Satori to explain
[X] Make sure to grab a hat for the koishi doll
[X] Check on Alice and Sumireko first.
[X] Hide the details around the kiss. It's awkward for everyone involved, and they don't need to know.
Satori’s fine she just needs some space to think about it.
Im 202475
add this to the end of my vote.
[X] Make sure to grab a hat for the koishi doll
[X] Check on Alice and Sumireko first.
[X] Hide the details around the kiss. It's awkward for everyone involved, and they don't need to know.
I think Satori will need some space, and it's best to let her tell everyone about the kiss in general, since I doubt she'd want it brought up. I've fought of going with checking on Satori, but even Koishi implied it would be best. After all, she said *When* you do apologize, implying that she either knows or at the very least expects that you wouldn't do it right away, and given she's Satori's sister, she'd know best. I don't know if I'm overthinking, or if Roach would even pick up on it, but I think Koishi's hinting that it's best to give her time, and then apologize.
[x] Check on Alice and Sumireko first.
[x] Hide the details around the kiss. It's awkward for everyone involved, and they don't need to know.

how the fuck do you make complicated and convoluted plans to apologize to someone that can instantly read them and almost die from second hand embarrassment
[x] Check on Satori first.
Gregor has pressed a sensitive issue before, before we were intercepted by Alice - when it was comfortable for him, when he was hardly involved with Satori, when he had no skin in the game.
It'd be weak if he were to pull back because it's uncomfortable for him now. It's not about getting Satori to change her mind, it's about what he's able to do and that is to apologize and be honest.
It's absolutely fine for Satori to outright reject everything he says now. She's confronted with an aspect of her she with great effort tries to keep away from: wild, tumultuous and irrational emotions.
We can do what is right.

[x] Hide the details around the kiss. It's awkward for everyone involved, and they don't need to know.
But we don't have to add oil to the fire. We can open up to the others when the time is right.
[x] Check on Alice and Sumireko first.
[X] Tell Alice and Sumireko exactly what happened.

Koishi told us to give her time to think, she's barely had any. And if we make a big deal out of the kiss that's just gonna make us dwell on it more, which around a mind reader isn't the way to go. We play it off as a snap decision that didn't work out and little if anything more.
[x] Check on Alice and Sumireko first.
[x] Tell Alice and Sumireko exactly what happened.
[x] Check on Alice and Sumireko first.
[x] Hide the details around the kiss. It's awkward for everyone involved, and they don't need to know.
[X] Make sure to grab a hat for the Koishi doll
>>202709 here
Changing the second choice to
[x] Tell Alice and Sumireko exactly what happened.

I feel he ought to own up to it regardless.
[x] Check on Alice and Sumireko first.
[x] Hide the details around the kiss. It's awkward for everyone involved, and they don't need to know.
[x] Check on Satori first.
[x] Hide the details around the kiss. It's awkward for everyone involved, and they don't need to know.
Better to just leave it alone. No use igniting the spark between companionship when you're literally trying to escape Gensokyo safe and sound against, what seems to be, everyone else.
[x] Check on Satori first.
[x] Hide the details around the kiss. It's awkward for everyone involved, and they don't need to know.
[X] Check on Alice and Sumireko first.
[X] Hide the details around the kiss. It's awkward for everyone involved, and they don't need to know.

Hmm, I have half a mind to check on Satori first too but I feel like now is not the time, she'd need some time to regain her composure and not to forget the fact that the others are currently here too.

Gregor could apologize to Satori later when both of them are uh in a calm state, that way it would avoid most drama though the time until then could be awkward since she'd know you're planning to apologize.

I'd say check on your allies first, gather your thoughts on how you want to say sorry, and then properly do it when Satori calmed down.

Listen to Koishi for once, she's been with her sis for hundreds of years.
[X] Check on Satori first.
[X] Hide the details around the kiss. It's awkward for everyone involved, and they don't need to know.
>>202720
Wait sorry, wrong vote.
[X] Check on Alice and Sumireko first.
[X] Hide the details around the kiss. It's awkward for everyone involved, and they don't need to know.
[X] Check on Alice and Sumireko first.
[X] Hide the details around the kiss. It's awkward for everyone involved, and they don't need to know.

It's just one of those days. You're beaten up, physically and emotionally tired, you've been in two spellcard duels just this morning, and it's not even lunch time. Maybe you can fit in a kidnapping before dinner. Wait, no, there's Nitori. Maybe arson then? Or does Satori blowing up the pond count for that?

You're stalling. Probably because you don't really feel like having any more conversations, especially not about Koishi, but needs must. At the very least, you need to be sure your friend and Sumireko are okay.

...that would have been funny if anyone was here to hear the thought.

Alright, first things first, triage. You're pretty sure you know what the deal is with the bracelet that's got Alice entranced, so you start by staggering over to Sumireko. She has a bruise on the back of her head, as if an unscrupulous satori snuck up and shotgunned her in the back of the head with danmaku.

Okay, now you're actually worried. That may not be a big deal with youkai, but Sumi, like you, is one hundred percent human. Right, so the correct thing to do for first aid with a concussion is keep them still, preferably laying down with the head slightly elevated, and apply firm pressure to the area until help arrives.

Until help arrives. Damn it. That last step might be something of a problem. If you remember correctly, there's not much to be done to wake her until she wakes on her own, so you take off the cape, gingerly lift Sumi's head and bundle it under her, then speed-stagger over to Alice. Hey, at least the worry has cut through your general lethargy nicely. Despite which, you take a minute to stop and concentrate on the magic in the area. It takes a couple tries (you barely know Alice, and the bracelet's distorting stuff), but you manage to touch to her mind. The primary feel there is the magic occult ball, with awe and fear as the main reaction from Alice's mind, though you're detecting a rising undercurrent of realization, irritation, and anger.

Importantly, it's consistent with when the pyramids occult ball stunned you with a vision, so you take a deep breath and yank the bracelet off of Alice's arm.

She stumbles immediately, and grabs your shoulder for support. Thankfully you avoid falling, but the sudden pressure does your injuries no favors.

"Alice!" you hiss, gritting your teeth.

Alice let go of your shoulder immediately. "Ah! Sorry. Where's Koishi?"

"Gone. Here." You toss her the Koishi doll. It has a hat now. You're not sure when that happened.

Alice catches the doll and gave it a brief inspection. "You and Satori beat her? I'm impressed."

"More like made a bet with the doll as the stakes and sucker-punched her." You shake your head. "But that's not important right now. Sumireko's unconscious, concussion. I know some first aid, but half of that is waiting for a medic. Could you help her?"

Alice released the Koishi-doll, which flew up to shoulder height and started following her as the two of you walked over towards your unconscious friend. "Some light mind magic might be able to wake her up, but actually healing the damage is another matter. That said, we were planning on a trip to Eientei regardless, correct? Even in the worst case, Eirin's medicine should handle it easily."

"The worst case for a concussion is serious brain damage. Does she have a pill that 'easily handles' that?"

"Well, she has made an elixir that grants immortality."

"You're kidding." You stop short and stare at her. "Is that why Gensokyo's so screwed up? Everyone's just immortal?"

"No, only three people have taken it. You'll need a different explanation for Gensokyo's madness."

"That- ugh. Fine, not important right now. What exactly do you mean by light mind magic? I've done telepathy before."

"Exactly that," Alice said, nodding down towards Sumireko. "Basically, you bypass the whole brain chemistry side of things and ask her to wake up directly. If she's close to stirring anyway, that should do it."

Part of you is quietly surprised anyone in Gensokyo even knows the phrase brain chemistry. "Alright. I'm going to try it. Give me a minute."

You don't want to touch Sumi's mind with anything except a calm thought, because intent in magic is very important, and you don't want to transfer over any sort of agitation. Which is a problem, because you are, in fact, agitated. God, please let her be okay. At the very least you can definitely feel Sumireko's mind loud and clear, which is a good sign. You take a few deep breaths and reach out.

Sumi? She shifts a little, but doesn't wake. Sumireko? Come on, wake up!

... five more minutes, mom.

Sumi, you're in Gensokyo! Koishi just kicked your ass!

Don't be ridiculous.

I thought about it for a minute, and realized I might as well play to the dream. Sumi, there's a test today! If you're not out the door five minutes ago you're going to be late!

"Ah!" Sumireko sat bolt upright and immediately cringed and held her head. "Ow! Damnit, Roach! What was that?"

"Koishi just kicked your ass. Now, how many fingers am I holding up."

She gives you a bleary glare. "Seriously? We're doing this?"

"Sumi, that was concussion. Yes."

"Cube root of twenty-seven. Satisfied?"

You sigh and smile in relief. At the very least she's fully lucid. "Not even remotely! What was that just now? Koishi dropped you like a bad habit!"

A pair of dolls fly towards you from the house, bearing icepacks. Sumireko grabs one and tosses you the other, gingerly pressing it to her head. "She sneak-attacked me because of your illusion! After you and Satori up and disappeared on us too."

You glance towards Alice and she shrugs. "Due to the illusion, Koishi was already behind my defenses. I was unable to reform them in time to prevent her from slipping the bracelet on me."

A third doll hands you the sling you'd left in the house, and you reapply both it and the icepack. "Hey, there's no shame in getting tricked by illusions if you haven't been hanging out literally every day with a guy who specializes in them. For years."

"Please. It's not like you did any better, I didn't even see you out there!"

Oh, that's just asking for it. "Well... I did beat Koishi and get the enchanted doll back."

"No. I don't believe you."

"It's right there."

"Fake news."

"Alice is literally holding it three feet to your left."

"Then Alice or Satori made it happen. I know you don't have anywhere near the firepower to stand up to Koishi, let alone beat her."

"The important part is that I have a one hundred percent win rate here, while you're zero for two."

"No, you don't even get to pretend that... wait. Where the heck is Satori, anyway?"

"Inside," Alice responds. "She has claimed one of my guest rooms and moved all the dolls that were there into the hallway."

"Ah, right." You try to sound unconcerned. "She's not injured, but I think she was tired after dealing with Koishi. Introvert-tired, not physically exhausted tired."

"I hang out with you, Greg. I'm familiar with the concept."

"I see," Alice said, looking you in the eyes. "Shall we head back inside and figure out our next steps?"

Sounds like a plan.

[?] What should be the plan for the group going forwards? Head to Eientei? Rest a night at Alice's place, then head out? What about Nitori? Post suggestions, I'll try to compile whatever's reasonable.
[x] Interrogate Nitori, release Nitori, go to Eientei, long rest. Exact order.
Is Nitori really still knocked out?
Anyway, staying the night to recover sounds okay (and gives a better chance for sorting things out with Satori).
>>202724
Actually yes. It's a bit of an odd situation where despite the large number of updates, it's been maybe an hour or so since the group first met Alice, and about 2-3 hours since first encountering Nitori. Plus, Satori did do some hypnosis to make sure Nitori stayed out of it.
[X] Head to Eientei
Piling up the wounds, let's get that fixed
It's possible Marisa is still on the lookout for us. Given we made a fool of her by how we managed to make her blast Miko, she could have some serious payback in store.
Alice knows her best, so ask her how likely it is for her to come by given the recent ruckus.

[x]Assess Situation: Threats (Marisa)
We'll start departure to Eientei sooner or later depending on the assessment.

Just as gingerly you placed it under her head, explain to Sumireko that her cape's out of commission now.
[x]Clarify Situation: Damages

...with that out of the way; how long until we'd arrive at the clinic from here? Something to note? Does the exceptional medical service come at an exceptional price?...how do they take to outsiders?
[x] Assess Situation: Destination
-[x] Ask

Since we are going to give Satori some space to think, we'll avoid thinking about what transpired.
[x] Don't think about it.
-[x]... Ah crap
--[x] Sorry.
---[x] Make Amends
----[x] when the time is right.
_____
If given time
[x]Proposition: Inspect Doll
[x]Group Vote: Interrogate Nitori now (in Alice's home) OR later (at Eientei)
-[x]In favor of now

In order.
Hey, remember that mystery bracelet we put a random enchantment on that we don't know what it does? Someone knows what it does now.

[x] Alice, what does that enchanted bracelet do?
[X] Stay for the night and go to Eientei the next morning. Interrogate Nitori before going to Eientei too.

I feel that after everything that has happened, everyone needs some rest, and I can't predict how Eientei will react to, well, Nitori, thus, I find it more prudent to interrogate her before heading there. Besides, doing it while on the move might not be so secure. Thus doing it in Alice's house before leaving to Eientei would be the best bet, in my opinion.
[X] Stay for the night and go to Eientei the next morning. Interrogate Nitori before going to Eientei too
[x] Alice, what does that enchanted bracelet do?

Our pursuers wouldn’t expect us to be hiding here
they might knock and ask if Alice has seen us.
Though Marisa would probably barge in.
[x] Assess situation: Threats, Bracelet.

And so the three of you find yourself sitting around Alice's kitchen table, again. Granted, Satori's upstairs instead of with the group, and the dolls are cooking lunch instead of making tea, but it's still a weirdly close parallel to earlier. Or maybe it's more a continuation of the discussion from earlier, as the three of you go right back to planning.

"So, before we get too attached to the idea of resting and relaxing for a bit, what are the odds Marisa shows up?" you ask.

Sumireko groaned, slumping back in her chair. "Don't forget the dramatic fight we just had outside, courtesy of Koishi. We might as well just start sending up smoke signals."

"Fairly low," Alice said, watching as her dolls patched up the window Koishi had flown through. "Marisa does drop by without warning, but not when an incident is going on."

"Unless, of course, she thought Satori's fight with Nitori might have something to do with revenge for the incident underground. In which case you would be a potential target and warning you would be important."

Alice nodded, and a dozen or so dolls flew out from the other room. "I'll set up a perimeter. Gregor, would you be capable of hiding everyone except myself for the duration of a conversation?"

"If it's just Marisa, that's no big deal. I can hold a mental illusion on one person pretty much indefinitely." Something you've proven by experience; you once managed to get Sumireko to take a fake test in an empty classroom on a Saturday. The inevitable retaliation wasn't pleasant, but even she admitted it was a pretty good prank. "Come to think of it, if she does drop in, can't we just sneak the bracelet on her and call it a day?"

Alice looked contemplative. "When Koishi slipped it on me, I was enthralled by a vision of the pyramids, with a corresponding mental assault. I had figured out what was going on by the time you took the bracelet off, but I was still gathering my will to try and fight it. It should stall pretty much anyone, but someone like Marisa will break through it eventually."

"So? She's still human," Sumi pointed out. "We can just take a page out of the Komeji playbook and cheap shot her while she's distracted."

That could actually work. Even a couple seconds was an eternity in the middle of combat, and given what happened to Alice, you're pretty sure that enchantment would hold almost anyone for at least a few minutes.

"I wouldn't recommend that. It would work, but breaking the spellcard rules that blatantly-"

"So what?" Sumi scoffed. "Half of Gensokyo's already trying to kill us after some powerful youkai went to pains to make sure we were lured and trapped here. It's a little late to be worrying about my reputation."

Alice shook her head. "The spellcard rules are your best defense. If they were trying to kill you, you would be dead."

"I think you underestimate us. We've done pretty well so far."

"Mostly through surprise, illusions, and running when prudent."

"Yes, we use strategy when outnumbered and in enemy territory. Those are all tactics we can continue using."

"That's not my point. So far, your opponents have fought you under the spellcard rules. They didn't have to, because you're not really part of Gensokyo, but it's what the youkai here default to. But if you break the spellcard rules first, they can break them in return."

Your friend looks skeptical, but you can see where this is going. "Sumi, what happens if the other youkai we've encountered fight against us the same way Koishi did a few minutes ago? Marisa was heavily toning down most of her attacks and she still broke my rib. I'm not sure whether that was arrogance or mercy on her part, but if she came at me no-holds-barred, I'd be dead."

"Isn't that just more reason not to give her the chance? I don't like the idea of handicapping ourselves in the hopes the people trying to kill-" Sumi glanced at Alice and rolled her eyes, "-fine, defeat us, will show restraint. If breaking the spellcard rules helps us survive, then that's the way to go."

"Yes and no," you say. "It's like an iterated prisoner's dilemna. Playing by the spellcard rules is cooperating, while breaking them is defecting. Getting a cheap shot in by using the bracelet should just flat out win us a fight, but the moment youkai find out we fight that way, they'll start ambushing us in kind. And those ambushes will be a lot more dangerous than the spellcard duels are."

Alice nodded. "Exactly. Staying free and keeping the incident running may require you to break the spellcard rules, but make sure you consider the consequences first."

[...] To be continued.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Barring a swing in the votes, the active choice for next update will be getting info on Eientei and interrogating Nitori.
[x]Assess situation: Eientei

"So what exactly are we looking at in going to Eientei, anyway?" you ask. "Satori filled us in on who's there and a little about what they're like, but I'd like your take on it."

"Probably just pure business? As far as I can tell, they mostly just want to be left alone. Even that time they hid the moon and started an incident was to be hidden away from the people on the moon. Although I heard Eirin's sort-of in contact with some of the moon's leaders, so I'm not even sure on that point..." Alice shrugged. "Regardless, despite their power, they don't involve themselves with Gensokyo's incidents."

That's something, at least. "What are the odds we run into someone there?"

"Low. The bamboo forest is magically difficult to navigate, even for most youkai. Since Reisen makes trips to the human village to sell medicine, most people that need one of Eirin's remedies just go there. Making the trip to Eientei just isn't worth it unless you need to talk to Eirin herself."

"So just so this is clear, there's a real chance it ends up being a quiet, uneventful trip, with the most excitement being a normal conversation?"

"There are youkai in the bamboo forest itself, but the ones not associated with Eientei are small fry. Either Satori or I could handle them by solo."

"I wouldn't count on that, Greg. Remember Satori's 'normal conversation' with Nitori?"

"We've had normal conversations with Satori and Alice."

"First off, our meeting with Alice wasn't exactly uneventful. Second, I'm pretty sure that's the exception, not the rule."

"It was still a reasonable conversation!"

"And we just had a difficult fight with Koishi over stealing a doll of all things..."

"At least that was an enchanted doll."

"Are we going to pretend that's why she tried to steal it?"

Probably not, but you've at least got a technicality to resort to. "I mean, the enchantment is why the Koishi-doll changed colors..."

Sumi rolled her eyes at you. "Let's make a bet. If we make it to Eientei and back without fighting anyone, I'll buy you that set of trick coins for your little magic act. But when the inevitable happens, you're going to buy me an ice cream."

"That's a lot cheaper than the magic coin set."

"And that should tell you something about the odds I'm giving you."

Alice looked interested, so I hurried to explain, "Stage magic, Alice. Sleight of hand, in other words."

"I see. Are you any good?"

"No," Sumireko said.

"Yes," you shot Sumi a glare, "I've got a few tricks I'm good enough at to actually perform."

"Maybe, but why learn to make a card disappear when you can use real magic and actually vanish it?"

"Why learn to play the piano when you can just listen to a soundtrack?"

"Yes, but you can do real magic, Greg! Going from that to fake magic is like knowing how to be a one-man orchestra, and then deciding to focus on the harmonica."

Sumireko just didn't get it. She just didn't. "What's up, Alice? You're looking thoughtful."

"Oh, nothing much. It just occurred to me that I could try making a doll orchestra for a show."

Now there's an entertaining thought. And considering the way Alice multitasks with them already, she might be able to do it. "I know I'd pay to see it. Though you might want to work your way up to the orchestra level."

Alice smirked. "I wouldn't want to give anyone an inferior product, but perhaps you're right."

At her shoulder, the Koishi doll began playing the harmonica.

Heathens, all of them.

[...] To be continued.

-----------------------------------------------------
I'll aim for smaller, faster updates like this one until we get to an actual decision point again.
>At her shoulder, the Koishi doll began playing the harmonica.
Someone get the burn heal.
>At her shoulder, the Koishi doll began playing the harmonica.

OH, my dear goodness. This is so saccharinely adorable.
[x] ...what about Nitori again?

"So, what exactly are we going to do with Nitori, anyway?" you ask.

"Refresh my memory," Alice said. "What exactly was it you wanted with her in the first place?"

"Nitori had set up a fake urban legend as part of a con act, and then it turned into a real one," Satori answered. "We need to know how she did it."

Oh, Satori! You turn to look at her, open your mouth, and hesitate. You're not sure what to feel, let alone what to say. Embarrassment and guilt certainly, but maybe a little relief as well? "Satori, are you alright?"

"I am uninjured," she said, and gave a nod to Alice. "Before we proceed, I should apologize for the actions of my sister. I had not realized she was following me, and Koishi has a way of causing drama with little concern for the consequences."

Being a mind-reader must make it much easier to hold two conversations at once. Alice gave Satori an evaluating look, and sighed. "If my doll had been stolen, this would be a very different conversation. But as it is, nothing of value was lost. I was complicit in Marisa's adventure through the Underground the one time, so let's call the scales balanced."

Satori nodded. "Agreed. Now, shall we get down to business?"

You nod, trying to get a good look at Satori without being obvious about it. Despite your worries, she looked good. In an entirely platonic way! That is to say, she looks the same she did this morning: lidded eyes, a level gaze, and a mostly flat expression that quirks upwards or downwards in amusement or disapproval. Maybe you were overreacting? Or was she just better at hiding her feelings, whatever they were?

"Fine by me," Sumireko says. "But why'd you disappear like that?"

Right, you didn't tell them about that! And Satori is hesitating, which means you need an excuse, and fast. "She probably just needed a moment," you said. The whole thing with Koishi was draining."

Sumireko raised an eyebrow. "More draining than having a broken rib?"

Satori shrugged and spoke bluntly. "During our fight, my sister touched on some old wounds, and things went further than she meant them to. Some time alone helped me get my thoughts in order."

Okay, you weren't overreacting, the kiss did bother Satori enough to need to calm down. Damn it. Wait, Sumi's saying something "Even still-"

"That reminds me, Sumi, your enchanted cape?" You're going to regret saying this, but you don't want Sumi investigating just why Satori might have been upset. "It protected me from one of Koishi's attacks, and, well, it's going to need some repairs."

"It what?"

Distraction successful, fallout imminent. "Yeah, it... I left it outside, didn't I?"

Alice raised a hand. "No, don't get up. One of my dolls will get it."

Sumireko stood up, winced, and gripped the table a little harder than strictly necessary. "Damn it, Roach, I need that! We need that! How bad is it?"

"Control of the flight enchantments cut out, though I think there's still some levitation stored in there. The defensive enchantments at least worked on the shot that hit me, I'm not sure if they're still intact."

Alice's doll flew in with the damaged cape in tow, and Sumi grabbed it immediately, running her hands over it as she bit her lip. "Alright, that spot's not too bad, I can patch that, and- why is there a knife slit through the side here?"

Oh, wow. You hadn't even noticed that. Right through a line of runes too, one of which was the primary control rune. You must have been flying with the backup control runes before the spellcard knocked those out too. Had that level of damage been intentional? To knock out your flight abilities and leave you helpless? Or perhaps just to force Satori to carry you?

Satori facepalmed. "Koishi. Of course."

Okay, you're not thinking on that one any more. "Anyway, getting back to the original point, are we going to actually question Nitori or what? "

"We should do it now," Satori declared. "Knocking her out and bringing her with us was already unusual, even for Gensokyo. The longer we keep her here, the larger the chance of reprisal."

Alice raised an eyebrow. "You're worried about kappa? With Utsuho at your disposal?"

"I'm worried about who the kappa might call on," Satori said. "Marisa, the tengu, the Moriya Shrine... there's enough people they could turn to for help that would make life difficult."

"In all fairness, Marisa's already after us," you point out. "But yeah, I'd be happy to just get the info we need and have one less detail to worry about."

"What about Alice?" Sumireko asked. You look at her blankly and she rolled her eyes. "Let me rephrase that. What about incriminating Alice by questioning our kidnapped kappa in her house? Even if she's throwing her lot in with us, I'm pretty sure none of us want to advertise that. And I don't think Nitori's going to keep quiet out of the goodness of her heart."

"Illusions, Sumi," you say with a grin. "Want me to make Nitori think she's inside the Hakurei Shrine?"

"As entertaining as that would be," Satori said, "she'd figure out something is up when the illusion wears off and she's in the forest of magic."

"Just conceal my involvement for now," Alice decided.

"Or," Sumireko said, "And hear me out on this one, what if we play it in the other direction? Nitori was already unconscious by the time Gregor and I started throwing danmaku around. If we hide Satori in another room, we might be able to make the kappa think we rescued her. No illusions needed."

Hm. That could actually work, at least until Nitori stopped to compare notes with Marisa and Miko, but it would mean Satori would get dragged under the bus. Well, even more so. "How would we actually get the information out of her? We did try doing it peacefully first, but she didn't want to give up her secrets."

Sumi shrugged. "Ask the question and let Satori mind-read the answer from hiding? If worst comes to worst we can go back to just straight up being the bad guys."

Well, it is plausible. How do you want to approach this?

[-] Play up the villain angle a bit, and put the fear of Satori into that kappa.
[-] Be matter of fact about it. We're going to get Satori to read your mind for the info we want, then we'll let you go.
[-] Hide Satori, pretend to be Nitori's rescuers.
[?] Write-in?
[X] Hide Satori, pretend to be Nitori's rescuers.
[X] Hide Satori, pretend to be Nitori's rescuers.

Seeing how beat up we are, avoiding any more potential conflict is probably best.
[X] Play up the villain angle a bit, and put the fear of Satori into that kappa.

We tried the peaceful option did we not.

We tried asking nicely about how she made her urban legend and look where that got us. I rather doubt she will reveal it to us as her rescuers.
[X] Hide Satori, pretend to be Nitori's rescuers.

Might as well give it a shot, as Sumi said, worse come to worse, we can always do one of the other options if this fails, but the reverse isn't true, really, two for the price of one, and that's assuming failure. If we succeed, we succeed without expending any strength. As Sun Tzu said: "Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence. Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance, without fighting."
[x] Play up the villain angle a bit, and put the fear of Satori into that kappa.
Let's not trip the merchant's intuition.
>Despite your worries, she looked good. In an entirely platonic way!
Got a dumb, bright grin on my face reading that.

Well, I've got a spontaneous, crazy idea I want to throw out early for debate: An orchestration of a dream or nightmare that somehow urges Nitori into thinking, revealing how her fabrication of an urban legend worked, and also somehow won't make her question too deeply her 'waking up' in the forest of magic... We have a doll master, a mind reader, a psychokinetic and an illusionist. This should be feasible. If it works perfectly, everyone gets off scot-free - except for Nitori who gets screwed over worse in turn.
On the other hand I don't want to be an ass when I don't need to be - especially to a victim of kappanapping. And given the recent happenings, coming in with open intentions is what feels right right now.

These are my two cents. I'll hold off on voting until I made my mind up.
[X] Be matter of fact about it. We're going to get Satori to read your mind for the info we want, then we'll let you go.
Let's not continue to cause problems to pile up.
So yeah, I agree with the sentiment above.
>>202762 I vote to
[X] Be matter of fact about it. We're going to get Satori to read your mind for the info we want, then we'll let you go.
[X] Be matter of fact about it, but do clarify Alice is but a nuetral party.

I'm more interested in how Nitori will react to that kind of brutal honesty, and don't want to cause problems for Alice later too.
Well, that ties up the voting. Under the circumstances, I'm going to give some time for tiebreaking and use this as an excuse to delay the update by a day.
>>202771
Haha, no.

Changing >>202761 to
>[x] Be matter of fact about it. We're going to get Satori to read your mind for the info we want, then we'll let you go.

resolving the tie!
>>202772
Joy for Nitori lovers everywhere.
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202775
[x] Be matter of fact about it. We're going to get Satori to read your mind for the info we want, then we'll let you go.

"Let's just be honest about it," you decide. "We know there's at least some reasonable people in Genskyo. If we run across any more, I'd like them to think we're being reasonable."

"It might be a little late for that," Sumireko commented. "Between the urban legend incident and kidnapping Nitori and such."

"Don't worry, I can always blame all of that on you."

Sumi rolled her eyes. "I've got you as an accomplice on that, at least. Besides, kidnapping Nitori was absolutely not my fault."

"Who ever told you life was fair?"

"Nobody! But as our respective magic reserves demonstrate, it's unfair in my favor! So actually, I'm going to blame everything on you."

"Unless I-"

"Now that you're through assigning the blame," Satori interrupted, "let's get on with this."

"Right," you shake your head, a little embarrassed. "Alice, could you make yourself and most of the dolls scarce? I'm going to make Nitori think all this is taking place inside of a tent, but if she bumps into a doll or something, that could all come undone."

"Understood," the dollmaker said.

"Satori, Sumireko. I'm already a little out of it, and I want this illusion to be flawless. You two are going to have to carry the conversation."

Satori nodded, while Sumireko flashed me a teasing smile, saying, "That's usually how it happens anyway, introvert."

You roll your eyes and turn to Satori. "Is there-"

"I don't expect any fight out of Nitori when she wakes. I beat her once alone, she would know she has no chance against me with backup. Particularly with no water around."

Alright then! Satori drags Nitori into the house's foyer, and you take a moment to fix a good mental image of your tent, being careful to line up the illusory tent flap with the front door. There's not much to be done about matching the ground's texture, but fortunately the kappa is wearing shoes. With the illusion prepared and your friends on guard, all that's left is for Satori to wake Nitori up.

A doll flew in and passed a glass of water to Satori, who said, "Revival on three."

Satori counted down, and upended the glass of water, giving Nitori the oldest wakeup call in the book. She stirred and groaned, and you hit her with the illusion immediately, taking care to hide any out-of-place elements.

As Nitori opened her eyes, the first thing she saw was Satori, about a foot in front of her. She yelped and scrabbled backwards a bit, and Satori smiled. "Good afternoon, kappa. Sorry for the delay, but it's time to finish that chat from earlier."

Nitori opened her mouth to speak, and Satori interrupted immediately. "No, Marisa isn't nearby. Dealing with her took time, effort, and collateral damage, but she won't interrupt us this time."

"You can't just-

"-kidnap you like this. Nitori, you're one of many kappa. I'm the ruler of the Underground, and my pet provides power to your gods. If you were to mysteriously disappear, the worst I would get is a strongly worded letter."

The heck? Hadn't you all agreed on being up front and reasonable about asking questions? What was with the intimidation play?

Sumireko rolled her eyes. "Come on, Satori. Unless you're one of those youkai that feeds off of fear, all we actually need is the information."

She crouched down and turned to Nitori. "You've probably worked this out already, but I'm the one behind the urban legend incident. Those were actually a byproduct of something else I was working on, but the point is, we need to create a specific one."

Oh. Good cop bad cop. You're not sure why it's necessary with a mind-reader, but at least there's a method to the madness.

"Nitori. How did you create your urban legend?"

"I don't know! It just happened!"

From there it was a push and pull. Satori would ask a question, Nitori would claim she didn't know, Sumireko would gently suggest a couple of alternatives, and Satori would dive into one, asking more probing questions. When was she first able to carry occult balls? (Shortly after coming up with "Nessie", before her urban legend manifested.) Was Nessie her own idea, or a pre-existing rumor she kappatalized off of? (An existing rumor, but she'd done similar schemes before.) Did she do anything to change the rumor? (Not deliberately, but her scam might have shaped how people thought of it.) When did the urban legend manifest? (She had no idea, at some point in the middle of a battle, it was just there.) What was the key factor in her being the one to receive the urban legend? (She was pretty sure it was due to her association with the fake version, but didn't know whether the key point was acting out the urban legend, or people just believing she was involved with it.) Would it be repeatable with any rumor? (She didn't see why not.) Would it work with a new rumor that hadn't existed before? (She had no idea.) Could an existing rumor be altered to produce a more suitable urban legend? (Marisa had mentioned spreading solutions to urban legends with the urban legend to neutralize them, so maybe.) Since the fake Nessie gave her access to the urban legend, would its destruction mean she didn't have it any more?​ (She thought she still had it, but the question worried her.) If she didn't actually know any of the details on creating a new urban legend, why did she act as if she did? (She'd been planning to have her fellow kappa just try half a dozen different schemes and see which one produced an urban legend.)

Throughout the process, Satori continually interrupted Nitori, disrupting her train of thought and putting her on edge, while Sumi set the kappa back at ease, or at least kept her from panicking. It really was like an interrogation, returning to the same topic multiple times from different angles to try and jog any forgotten little details loose. But in the end, there just wasn't much the kappa actually knew. Her urban legend wasn't created from whole cloth, it wasn't even heavily altered from an existing one; it was just something she'd lucked into. In the end, Satori turned away in disgust, Sumireko told the kappa she could leave, and Nitori pretty much bolted. As for you, you held the illusion (of a tent clearing and some subtly altered surroundings) until she was out of sight, before letting it go and collapsing into the nearest chair.

[...] To be continued.
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202777
((For the record, if there's any questions you wanted to ask Nitori that I didn't address, throw them in there. You can assume you got pretty much every bit of information you wanted out of her.))

[x] ... so now what?

You take a few deep breaths, drain a glass of water, and only then ask the immediately pressing question.

"Satori, what the former hell was that?"

Only to realize that Satori had left the vicinity. Which does not mean your question went unanswered.

"I was thinking about the good cop bad cop routine, and she just went with it." Sumireko said.

"Yes, well, remember how the idea was for us to be reasonable and not terrify Nitori? She ran so fast she didn't even ask about her sci-fi backpack!"

She shrugged. "I think the technical term for that is 'bonus'. Or maybe spoils of war."

"I think the technical term for that is 'Oh crap, these are the kinds of scary people we need to pull out all the stops against!' Again, what happened to being reasonable?"

"As far as Nitori's concerned, you and I were reasonable. It's just Satori who wasn't, which considering the whole kidnapping thing, is a fair callout anyway."

"What, so we're just throwing her under the bus instead? Even if that was acceptable, have you forgotten the part where we're traveling with her? Or where we need her to get home?"

"Oh, for crying out loud, Gregor. Do you think Reimu and Marisa are going to stop chasing us if we were polite about kidnapping Nitori? Maybe they'd even apologize with a ye olde English accent as they politely blow us to smithereens!"

"Oh no, you're right. Clearly since we're already in a hole the best solution is to just keep digging! Maybe next we can find an excuse to blow up the medical clinic while we're there!"

"You've got a lot to say for someone who was dead quiet the entire interrogation!"

"I had to focus on keeping the illusion up! I told you before it started, I couldn't afford to say much. Besides, your end was fine, and I was subvocalizing my concerns to Satori!"

"If my end of things was fine, why are you yelling at me? I didn't plan this out!"

"Because..." you start, then what she said actually registered and you paused, thought it over, and sighed. "Because the person I should be yelling at isn't in the room, and you took her side of the argument."

Sumireko's tapping her foot, looking at you expectantly. "And?"

"Look Sumi, I'm sorry, but I can't do the emotional rollercoaster thing right now. Can I go finish being righteously angry at someone first and come back and apologize later?"

"Running up the apology debt? Only if I get to charge interest."

"How do you charge interest on an apology?"

"Minor emotional blackmail."

"Besides, doesn't the apology over lack of immediate apology count as a down payment?"

"It's a high interest rate."

"Are you two finished?" Alice asked, entering with dolls in tow.

You glance at Sumireko, she nods, and you turn to your host. "Pretty much. I take it you heard all that?"

"I'm not deaf. Were there any problems with the illusion?"

"That went flawlessly," you say, getting up and gingerly stretching. "Unless Nitori is extremely familiar with this forest and can retrace her steps exactly, she should have no idea you or your house were involved at all."

"An effort I appreciate," Alice nodded. "But it sounds like Nitori didn't know as much as you thought."

"Unless Satori picked up on something that wasn't said, we're almost back at square one," you confirm. "Speaking of which, do you know where she went?"

Alice gestures towards the kitchen, and you walk there without further commentary. Satori is in fact there, and appears to be drowning her irritation with a cup of lukewarm tea. She also speaks up the moment you enter the room. "So, you've come to be righteously angry at me."

It's finally your turn to give her a flat look. "Do you default to hostile, or is that just something Nitori brings out in you?"

"Can you think of a reason I might be aggravated right now, Gregor? Any at all?"

Two of them, actually. Given you don't want to talk about the first one (at least, not within earshot of the others), you focus on the second. "I take it Nitori wasn't hiding any useful secrets in her thoughts."

"Of course not. The entire fiasco with her was a complete waste of time and effort, not to mention the element of surprise."

"We can figure out next steps in a minute. But first, what was the deal with-"

"-me pushing Nitori like that? It was the best way to get all of the information she actually knew."

Not to put too fine a point on it, but one hundred percent of zero is still zero. Granted, that's-

"I read minds, not futures."

Yes. You know that wasn't a fair criticism, the train of thought was getting there. It's why you hadn't vocalized it into an actual comment. But that doesn't answer the question you were going to ask. "Why does a mind-reader need interrogation techniques?"

"Because I only pick up on whatever they're currently thinking. It's like listening in on someone's internal monologue. If someone's disciplined enough to avoid thinking about a topic, I can't get anything. Most people can't manage that, but even if they just avoid thinking about the topic at length, it's hard for me to get more than a few stray thoughts."

"But why the hostility?"

"My ability works best if the target is either cooperative or off-balance. That kappa was never going to like me, so I aimed for fear instead. If I let her calm down to think things through, I would have risked her being able to hide something."

"Planning how to hide information from a mind-reader? On the fly, while having your mind read?"

Satori glares at you. "In case you haven't noticed, helping my sister is extremely important to me. I won't take chances with that, and I won't apologize for my thoroughness."

"Will you apologize for not talking to us about it? That interrogation is the kind of thing that effective teams plan out beforehand, and there was definitely time to come up with a better plan." And after a moment's thought, "Or at least make sure everyone's aware of the plan."

Satori looks at you for a moment longer before looking away. "That's... acceptable. A number of things have happened today, and I've been less composed than I should have been. I've been letting my emotions cloud my judgement, and I apologize for that."

Alright. You're still not terribly happy with how things worked out with Nitori, but that at least counts as a mutual understanding. Maybe now-

"We should figure out the plan for Eientei, yes."

[x] Head to Eientei now.
[x] Spend the rest of the day resting and preparing, head to Eientei tomorrow.
>For the record, if there's any questions you wanted to ask Nitori that I didn't address

What color are her pantsu?

[x] Head to Eientei now.
I think we've impinged on Alice's hospitality long enough, surprise guests for tea are one thing, surprise overnight guests are another. Best to get that broken rib looked at immediately anyhow.
[x] Spend the rest of the day resting and preparing, head to Eientei tomorrow
Gives a better chance to smooth things out with Satori.
[x] Spend the rest of the day resting and preparing, head to Eientei after a few hours.
Unless it's soon to be dark then tommorow.

Making a plan is indeed important, get a few hours to get back to a tolerable and have more of an idea on what to do other than "Let's go the rabbit house and hope they'll help us somehow".

Loitering around too long might give the group an unwanted visit in the morning or the Incident Resolvers may have already gotten Eientei on their side.

now out of subject, what would make a nice group name for our current bunch?

Figured Incident Resolvers makes a good name for the current enemy but what would you call yourselves then?
>Spend the rest of the day resting and preparing, head to Eientei tomorrow.

Alice set up a perimeter, gotta be sure to have an illusion on hand. Yet I don't know how ready Gregor is for a surprise visit.
We could get a stroke of bad luck and Marisa meets Nitori sooner than later near the forest, stories may not add up and questions will be asked. Illusions may not be enough then.

[x] Spend the rest of the day resting and preparing, head to Eientei after a few hours.
Unless it's soon to be dark then tommorow.

I like this, seems sensible

>but what would you call yourselves then?
Seekers of Urband Legend or SoUL.
[x] Spend the rest of the day resting and preparing, head to Eientei tomorrow.

>>202780
>now out of subject, what would make a nice group name for our current bunch?

>Figured Incident Resolvers makes a good name for the current enemy but what would you call yourselves then?
probably too silly to call ourselves anything at this point, we're in a fish out of the water situation, not some goddamn superheroes
>>202783
To be fair, Sumireko does wear a cape!
>>202783
Naw, Sumi is totally chuuni enough to start throwing out grand titles while bantering with the enemy.
>>202782
I prefer Legendary Overseers of Sumireko's Extremely Radical Supremacy personally.

[x] Head to Eientei now.
Hehehe, I like both names.

SoUL sounds more official but LOSERS just has me chuckle like a moron.

But it's fair enough, we can just call them whatever we want out of character since there's no garantee any of them would even want an group name.

Also I only just remembered that Satori was an actual detective once thanks to the interrogation (Cheating Detective Satori irc).

By the way Lost soul, what time is it in? Like is the sun going down or something?
[x] Spend the rest of the day resting and preparing, head to Eientei after a few hours.
It's currently early afternoon, around 1:00.
[x] Spend the rest of the day resting and preparing, head to Eientei after a few hours.

Alright, we have a winner. That said, in order to have something more substantial to write than "We should do X" and the rest of the group agreeing, I'm going to immediately move into the next choice. Sorry for the lack of a real update.

Anyway, a more general note on urban legends for this story: Some characters I have pretty specific ideas for, but others are completely undecided. This is a place where a good write-in could have significant impact.

What do you do in the time before leaving?

[-] Talk to Satori, apologize for earlier.
[-] Work with Sumireko to fix the damaged flight cape.
[-] Go through some of Alice's books on magic; you may be able to pick up something useful.
[-] Brainstorm on urban legend ideas.
[x] Talk to Satori, apologize for earlier.
>>202791
[X] Talk to Satori, apologize for earlier.
If we have the time to do more than one of these things, then I'll go with
[X] Brainstorm on urban legend ideas.
as a second choice.
[X] Work with Sumireko to fix the damaged flight cape
[X] Talk to Satori, apologize for earlier.
she seems to have calmed down.
[X] Work with Sumireko to fix the damaged flight cape
[X] Talk to Satori, apologize for earlier.
[X] Work with Sumireko to fix the damaged flight cape.
Some drip, some drip, my kingdom for some drip!
Also what was the damage again?
[X} Apoligize to Satori
[X] Work with Sumeriko to fix the drip. (If you can talk and work then why not talk about what we'll do once we get out of this place for a moral boost or the urban legend stuff).

Don't see why one can't have an conversation of an minute or two with the mindreader and then spent the rest of the time fixing the cape. The reading some books doesn't sound so useful.
>>202799"
Don't see why one can't have an conversation of *an minute or two* with the mindreader"
>He doesn't know.
[x] Apologize to Satori
>A minute or two
She might have a lot to say. Its probably worth it to give her our complete and undivided attention.
>Talk to Satori, apologize for earlier.
We can always apologize later. Satori will likely accompany us the whole way through until we fulfill our end of the deal.
>Work with Sumireko to fix the damaged flight cape.
The most important thing to get done for survival. Essential when it comes to fight or - pun intended - flight situations.
>Go through some of Alice's books on magic; you may be able to pick up something useful.
How often do you get the opportunity to be able to visit a fully fledged magician, who probably has studied their subject longer than you were alive and have the time to go through their personal library?
>Brainstorm on urban legend ideas.
The key to getting back home. Finding a fitting Legend that accepts Koishi and restores her thoughts and emotions will take time, so any effort towards this will be of great use.

That's why to
[x] Talk to Satori, apologize for earlier.
because it's something we could do that at a later point. Regardless of how enticing other prospects would be, Greg's the type of guy to just care about others and would try to make things right despite everything.

And if there's time, take a look at Alice's books! I still want to take one along for Sumireko!
[X] Work with Sumireko to fix the damaged flight cape
[x] Work with Sumireko to fix the damaged flight cape.
[X] Work with Sumi to fix the drip

I forgot that's what we used to fly with and since flying is like the only legit way of transport in Gensokyo not fixing it would be like Walking in a Need for Speed movie.
File 162641731054.jpg - (1.69MB, 2000x1395, 719489.jpg) [iqdb]
202807
((Incredibly close vote. Enough so that we will talk with Satori before leaving for Eientei.))

[x] Work with Sumireko to fix the damaged flight cape.

The planning for Eientei ended up just being common sense. Nobody really wanted to delay things another day, but at the same time, you and Sumireko were wiped out enough that a few hours rest was called for. Not to mention, there were a couple things you needed to patch up. And while it was a tough decision, in the end you opted to fix the cape first.

Maybe it was pragmatism; the cape really did need fixing. Maybe it was mutual recognition that you and Satori both needed some more time to cool off. Maybe it was flat out cowardice and putting off a difficult conversation because you had that option. Heck, maybe it was just wanting the comfort of a familiar activity with an old friend. Whatever the reason, after everyone had agreed on the Eientei plan, you and Sumireko sat down with the cape and got to work.

The initial steps were pretty mind-numbing. The first thing that had to be done was physically fixing the cape, which meant borrowing a needle and thread. And while Sumireko was taking a look at the runes that Koishi had cut through, you were engaged in the always-glamorous process of sewing.

"So, Sumi, do you want the good news or the bad news first?"

"You're not even looking at the magic yet! How can there be bad news?"

"Well, the good news is that it's a clean cut with no magical discharge. I can just sew the cut shut and that's the end of it."

"What's the bad news?"

"Alice is out of black thread. Would you prefer pink, or light blue?"

Sumireko groaned. "The blue, obviously. I can dye it later."

You obliged, and started the repetitive process of crossing the thread over and through the gap. "How bad are the runes?"

"They're a mess," she said with a scowl. "Of course she hit the damn control runes. I designed this-"

"We designed it," you interrupt.

She waved a hand. "Yes, yes, you did all the actual enchanting, it was very nice, etcetera, etcetera. But in terms of the actual rune design, I did design it, and more to the point, I designed it to be modular. One central control rune, a secondary backup, and then everything else connects to those points, failing safely if that connection is disrupted. Which makes it very easy to repair as long as the control runes stay intact."

"Please tell me the rest of the runes didn't drain."

"No, they're holding. But it's good we got to this now."

"Thank goodness." Re-enchanting the control system would be difficult, but it was a level-of-skill difficult, not a raw magical power difficult. If the runes had lost power, getting the cape up and flying again would have taken weeks.

"This is still a massive headache. Makes me wish I'd gone with the distributed design."

"I don't know about that," you hedge. "The failsafes are a pretty important feature."

"I guess it would have been bad if you'd exploded spectacularly when Koishi hit the cape."

You prick yourself with the needle and grimace. "Do you think she realized that was even a possibility?"

Sumireko bit her lip and looked away. "I doubt it. It should be common sense that damaging a highly magical item is dangerous, but it's also Koishi."

Part of you is amused that those last three words explain everything on their own. The rest of you... "I get the feeling Gensokyo's not used to dealing with normal humans. Not that we are normal humans, exactly, but we're, you know..."

"Squishy. At least by the standards of what Gensokyo considers injury."

You nod, pulling the needle out and the last loop tight. "Physical repair is done. Ready for the control system?"

"Can do. Are you going to make the new runes?"

You shake your head. "I'm going to rely on you for the power here. I've been through a couple fights and a lot of illusions already today. If I throw more into the cape now, I'll be too exhausted to even make it to Eientei."

Sumireko was nodding along. "Yeah, stupid question. But I do hate this part. Pass me that needle, will you?"

You do as you're asked, and Sumi grits her teeth and slices the needle across the back of her hand, drawing blood. Touching it with her index finger, she then started tracing over the damaged runes, using the blood as a conduit for her magical energy. Sumireko gasped as the power left her, and the new runes started glowing white like the rest.

However, while that did infuse them with magical power, that was all it did; Sumireko was in effect making a line of small magical batteries. But that's where you came in. As Sumi created each rune, you triggered the corresponding enchantment on the cape, tying the two together. Flight, mana battery, impact resistance, and a small area-of-effect climate enchantment. (The justification for that one was that being able to fly at high speeds without feeling wind is important... but you're pretty certain it was mostly so Sumi could wear the cape in midsummer.

"That's the last one," you call out. "How are you feeling?"

Sumireko wipes some sweat from her brow. "I could do this all day."

You decide not to call her on it. "Sure, why not?"

She rolls her eyes at you. "Anyway, we should test this out, make sure the controls are as instinctual as before."

"The component enchantments haven't changed," you protest. "It should be exactly the same as before."

She gets to her feet and stretches, walking to the door, calling back, "Just come on, Greg! Before we adventure out into the great unknown again, I'd like to make sure this thing is properly calibrated."

Slightly confused, you follow her outside. Sure, you had needed to calibrate the cape when it was initially created... but that was by using telepathy and making sure specific runes triggered when Sumi gave the right thoughts. You sigh and open the connection regardless.

Took you long enough, Sumi thought. Are we sure you're not the one who took a shot to the head?

Oh. The cape's fine, you just wanted an excuse to talk privately.

Truly privately, yes.

You do realize Satori's a mind reader, right?

I wasn't kidding about the calibration, Greg. Check this out.

Sumireko flared her magic, and suddenly your physical senses were all in something of a haze, as if happening from a great distance away.

Sumi, you've got about three seconds before I start panicking. What did you do?!

Greg, you know I made a spell to block your telepathy way back when. Keeping thoughts in isn't that different from keeping them out.

Including my consciousness. Hence the highly unpleasant out-of-body experience just now.

Yeah, sorry about that. Only way I could think of for us to talk without Satori listening in.

You really wish you had the ability to facepalm right about now. Seriously? We're trapped in Gensokyo, you come up with a new magic trick, and this is the one you come up with? Wouldn't it be better to come up with something that worked on literally anyone except the one person who went out of their way to ally with us?!

Gregor, you're a bleeding heart, and that's adorable. But remember that we're dealing with youkai here, conventionally known as monsters. You know, scare people at minimum, and more often just eat them, that kind of thing? And apparently Satori's despised even among them.

Sumi, you of all people should know reputation isn't everything.

Look, I'm not saying she's up to something. When Satori says her first priority is fixing her sister, I believe her. And I can totally see why she'd want to work with us on the urban legend front. The whole thing makes sense.

This is a lot of effort to go to if Sumireko's not suggesting something drastic. Then what are you getting at?

My point is that if Satori is good for her end of the deal and actually gets us home, then great! Good job team, promotions all around, etcetera. But what if she isn't? Maybe she gets tired of being hunted alongside us, or it ends up being impossible to help Koishi, or she was bluffing and can't actually get us home. We shouldn't put all our eggs in one basket here.

So what, if we find another way out we should just bail? Sorry Satori, we caught a different cross-dimensional taxi, your sister's just screwed?

Gregor, it's great that you want to help people, but maybe pick a charity case that involves less risk to life and limb?

Sumi, that risk goes both ways. Satori's helping us, and she's already been in the middle of fights alongside us!

Even with your conventional senses more or less blocked, you can feel Sumireko's eye-roll. One of which was her fault, and the other one was her sister's fault.

And what exactly is your plan B?[i] you demand. [i]Alice flat out said the only people that can hop the barrier are Mamizou and Yukari, and the tankui's the one that trapped us here in the first place!

That still leaves Yukari, Sumi thinks. Or heck, maybe we can hunt down the tanuki and give her the Nitori treatment. Or maybe nothing materializes and Satori stays our best bet for getting home. I'm just saying, we should keep our options open.

[-] Sumireko does have a point; your main goal should be getting home by whatever means.
[-] Why are we even talking about this? We both agree Satori's our best bet for getting home, so we should concentrate on cracking the urban legend puzzle. If that doesn't pan out, then consider other options, but we shouldn't split our focus.
[-] Flat no. Pragmatism aside, Satori's acting in good faith, and she needs help with Koishi. Even if you could go home right now, you can't leave things like this.
[-] Why are we even talking about this? We both agree Satori's our best bet for getting home, so we should concentrate on cracking the urban legend puzzle. If that doesn't pan out, then consider other options, but we shouldn't split our focus.
[X] Why are we even talking about this? We both agree Satori's our best bet for getting home, so we should concentrate on cracking the urban legend puzzle. If that doesn't pan out, then consider other options, but we shouldn't split our focus.

I'll admit, feels a little scummy to be voting for an option other than three, but ultimately we don't know satori that well, and while she doesn't seem likely to screw us out of her end of the bargain its just that, a bargain. We hold up our end and she'll hopefully hold up hers, but anything beyond that isn't what we signed up for. Option 1 on the other hand just seems likely to get up done in by our own stupidity, screwing over the only thing resembling allies we have right now is just a good way to get shot in the back.
[X] Why are we even talking about this? We both agree Satori's our best bet for getting home, so we should concentrate on cracking the urban legend puzzle. If that doesn't pan out, then consider other options, but we shouldn't split our focus.

I like to think that Roach is thinking option 3 internally, but vocalizing it would make Sumi lose faith in you, and probably do something bad behind your back in due time. Option 1 is both scummy and stupid. Thus, even if I personally believe, based on his personality, that Roach would go with 3 in his mind, he'd tell 2 to Sumi, as a compromise, and to mollify her, so she doesn't think he's being an irrational bleeding heart. Furthermore, a deal's a deal.
[x] Why are we even talking about this? We both agree Satori's our best bet for getting home, so we should concentrate on cracking the urban legend puzzle. If that doesn't pan out, then consider other options, but we shouldn't split our focus.
can you stop with the shadowruns for one minute while our contractor is currently trying to get over our blatant mismanagement of the write-in function
sheesh
Votes in general lead to far too little Sumireko interaction for almost all of the story until now. I like the chemistry between them - like how Greg trusts her capabilities, knows her mannerisms and how Sumi let's him do his thing and playfully tugs at him. Both are comfortable venting their frustrations at each other with no hard feelings. Things like that. Friends on equal standing. Sumi genuinely cares about him.
The purely cognitive banter between Satori and Greg is fun but it is also incredibly dry and sometimes hollow.

Really, kudos on how you manage to get this across so well.

[x] Flat no. Pragmatism aside, Satori's acting in good faith, and she needs help with Koishi. Even if you could go home right now, you can't leave things like this.
-[x] "You deserve to know this. There's some... reason... for my insistence, and I need and REALLY appreciate a girl's advice - your advice - on this. One condition up until I get done what needs to be done; you really need to not think about it. Like, just go Zen or play an annoying song on repeat in your mind. After that you even get to tease me about it to make up for it. Deal...? So the thing is... "

What better time and place to confide and confess than while astral projecting with a friend (or whatever it is that they are doing)?

That bleeding heart, sharp wit, loose lip fellow.
>lose faith in him

Sumi thinks it's bad because it basically locks them - Greg - into danger they - he - doesn't need to be in.
She wants to GTFO because she has an idea how dangerous Gensokyo can be and she gets frustrated with Greg because he keeps holding on to that desire to help people even when he, quite literally, got bruised and broken because of it.

She cares about him more than about helping and he cares about helping more than about himself.
[X] Why are we even talking about this? We both agree Satori's our best bet for getting home, so we should concentrate on cracking the urban legend puzzle. If that doesn't pan out, then consider other options, but we shouldn't split our focus.
[X] Sumireko does have a point; your main goal should be getting home by whatever means

I'll just agree with Sumeriko here, while Satori does need some help it shouldn't be at the cost of our survival.

Remember that we are outnumbered and outgunned.

Even if Greg does want to help I doubt anyone would risk their life for a person you've known for like 2 days and would be willing to endanger a lifelong friend alongside it cause hell no Sumeriko isn't going to just abandon her pal cause he's being a bleeding heart I think.
[X] Why are we even talking about this? We both agree Satori's our best bet for getting home, so we should concentrate on cracking the urban legend puzzle. If that doesn't pan out, then consider other options, but we shouldn't split our focus.
On my re-read of the story, I noticed a pretty big inconsistency on Greg's knowledge regarding Eientei, though the effect on how the things pan out because of it now should be miniscule.
I honest to God didn't notice it going through the story normally.

>>202722 (Thread 2 - you are here)
Conversation with Alice on Eientei
"The worst case for a concussion is serious brain damage. Does she have a pill that 'easily handles' that?"

"Well, she has made an elixir that grants immortality."

"You're kidding." You stop short and stare at her. "Is that why Gensokyo's so screwed up? Everyone's just immortal?"

"No, only three people have taken it. You'll need a different explanation for Gensokyo's madness."


>>202449 (Thread 1) (Almost the whole post, cut together just a little, tldr below)
Discussion about the Visit to Eientei
"Honestly, if I get to pick, I'd like the magical medical treatment," you comment [...]

Satori rolled her eyes. "[...]The Lunarians at Eientei are extremely powerful. And, not to belabor the point, but we are poorly equipped for a fight."

Hold on a second. "Wait, Lunar? As in, from the moon?"

"Yes." Satori nodded. "Aside from the earth rabbits, the inhabitants there are all refugees from the moon."
[...]
Speaking of which, Satori glanced over at you and her mouth twitched upwards. "Regardless. Kaguya's an immortal princess, but she tends towards solitude, recreational murder of a yakitori stand owner aside."

Wait, what?

"If we go to Eientei itself, the one we'll be looking for is Eirin. She's a medical genius, to the point of successfully creating an immortality elixir. While she faithfully serves Kaguya, she's the one likely to have made any plans. Such as that time they hid the moon."

[...]

"Alternatively, they keep a stand in the human village, usually run by Reisen. She's a moon rabbit who serves both Kaguya and Eirin, though I've heard she's rather afraid of both of them. Despite that, she's fairly strong, being the most important and powerful mortal in Eientei."

[...]...wait. Most powerful mortal. "Are you saying Kaguya and Eirin are both immortal?"

"Indeed."

At that point you just threw your hands in the air. "Sure, why not?! What's next, little green men from Mars?"

Satori just stopped and coughs awkwardly. "That's an... interesting concept. Do you have stories like that about the moon?"

"Um..." Satori's awkward coughing gets louder, she glances over to Sumireko, and just breaks out into open laughter.

"If-" she says between gasps, "If you make it to the outside world and come back, please bring some of those movies. I would kill to see the Lunarians' reaction to those."

You give the youkai a flat look. "If you're finished having fun at our expense, I'd like the actual information."

Satori wiped at her eyes, still smiling. "Everything I said was true."

Seriously? Even the-

"Even the bit about recreational murder. Though to be fair, I was being misleading on that part. The person being targeted is another immortal, so there's no actual death involved."

That's still a damn strange pastime, but you suppose it's better than the alternative. You glance over at Sumireko. "How are you taking all of this in stride?"

Sumireko looks actually smug. "I already knew. Mokou told me a little before the occult balls pulled her back here."

"And you didn't fill me in?"

"She said there was no chance they'd go after the occult balls. We had more important priorities."

Satori coughed, grabbing your attention. "Indeed. Regardless, despite their ability, Eientei has remained neutral in most of Gensokyo's incidents, and that works to our favor here. Once we navigate through the Bamboo Forest, we should be able to buy the necessary medicine with little difficulty."


tldr:
Satori
-knows all of the basic information about Eientei including
--inhabitants and their respective tasks and titles including
---Kaguya's recreational habit of killing Mokou
---Reisen's medicine shop in the human village
---The magnitude of difference in power
--facts about the IN incident
Missed to mention:
-what the deal of the bamboo forest of the lost is
-Tewi

Sumireko
-Has met and talked with Mokou and
--knows she plans to not be involved collecting occult balls
--knows about her habit of recreationally killing Kaguya
--is in good standing with her

Greg
-was told all that
-will bring Satori bad movies about 'moon people' from the outside world

Regardless I'd encourage people to re-read thread 1, because a whole lot of moving parts are introduced there to be mindful of.
Not to re-reveal too much, but this incident involves almost all major players in Gensokyo.
Reading comprehension is your friend but it's not mine:
Correction on the tldr
Mokou said the Lunarians won't get involved collecting occult balls
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