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File 165904667952.jpg - (83.14KB, 577x599, cryptic_metaphor.jpg)
cryptic_metaphor
It’s hard to pinpoint the precise moment you went from “nothing” to “something”. All you can really say for sure is that once you weren’t, but now you are.

Or… something along those lines. These are pretty complicated thoughts for what’s essentially a newborn.

But are you really? A newborn, that is. Before the nothing that was before the something, you could sometimes grasp the frayed threads of another life. That life was so vastly different from what you are now that you have trouble thinking of it as “your” life, but the sense of familiarity (and sometimes yearning) the memories give you are harder to deny. You were once human, then you were nothing, and now you’re something.

But enough of that for now. Your thoughts tend to ramble when you let them, so it’s best to cut them off her or nothing will ever get done.

Compared to your previous life, your senses are now completely different. Sight, smell, taste, and hearing are all gone entirely, actually. You felt like you should maybe be horrified by that fact, but the memories of your previous life had come in some time after you came into existence, so you had already adjusted to the state of things before realizing you had lost anything at all.

Your world begins and ends with your sense of touch. Perhaps some of the things you lump together with “touch” in your mind are something else entirely, but it just makes sense to do so. The most prominent thing you feel is the soothing coolness that encases you completely from all sides. If you were still capable of doing so, you would regularly be giving contented sighs. Even if you do nothing, the coolness leaves you feeling nourished and healthy at all times. If this was all there was to your life, well… you wouldn’t complain.

Alas, hypotheticals are hypotheticals, and this is reality. There exists something beyond your present state of stockpiling energy, and you intend to explore it with the little control you have. Several options are open to you, but your limited understanding prevents you from the risks and benefits of each choice.

Ah well, suppose you’ll just have to follow your gut on this one. You decide to:



[ ] Some of the coolness around you is… less cool. In fact, the less cool areas all seem to be in the same direction. Maybe if you go there, you’ll find the reason for this. You might even find something that’s… dare you think it… not cool at all? Regardless, this option seems like the most different from what you already know. It could be your best chance at expanding your world a bit. (You gain a medium amount of energy AND You gain a new perk: ??????)

[ ] There’s no reason you have to leave the coolness. After all, there’s still plenty to explore in here! Every now and then, you feel yourself brush against something else that you have trouble putting into words, but it feels similar to yourself. Typically you get a nice little boost of energy when this happens, but if you let your focus slip then you end up losing energy instead. So long as you keep your focus up, you shouldn’t have any trouble even if you bump into more while exploring the coolness. [You gain a large amount of energy AND You gain the attention of ?????? ?????]

[ ] On second thought… fuck all that. Why should you worry about all that when you can just relax and soak up the coolness like you have been? Well, maybe not exactly like you have been. It has been feeling pretty cramped lately, so you probably can’t keep going like this. There’s plenty of coolness to go around somewhere else though! You’ve been probing another direction that feels completely devoid of those other things you sometimes come across, so you’d have it all to yourself. What’s not to like? (You gain a small amount of energy AND You gain the potential to ???? ?? ??? ???????????)





Hello! Long time writer, but first time writing a quest. I had this idea and I really wanted to explore it, so here we are. I'll probably learn as I go. I like to ramble though, so that part of my writing isn't going to change. Anyways, first choice here will definitely set the the next few updates in motion, but nothing that will lock you in forever... so don't worry too much and just follow your gut.
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> cryptic_metaphor.jpg

That's a picture of gravitational lensing... so that means we must be really heavy in order to create a gravitational lens... so that means we must be Suika! There, problem solved!

[X] There’s no reason you have to leave the coolness.

Gaining energy seems like it will be useful. Gaining the attention of something seems like it will be interesting.
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Well, this looks interesting.

As a minor bit of theorycrafting, I suspect the number of question marks in those options are actually reflective of the length of the words involved. This isn't that helpful for deciphering options 1 and 3, but it does let me do a little guesswork on option 2.

Namely, that ?????? ????? is probably the name of a character. There aren't that many characters with a first name of six characters and a last name of five characters (or vice versa), so I suspect our culprit here is Doremy Sweet. (If last names are coming first, Okina Matara is another possible culprit, but I feel like that's less likely.) If that's the case, this is probably the dream world, and we're probably some sort of newly formed dream.

If that's the case, getting Doremy's attention probably isn't a good thing, considering she was helping to put the dream dwellers away in AoCF. Also, Doremy is permanently smug, and we don't really need to be smugged at.

So, with that in mind...

[x] Some of the coolness around you is… less cool. In fact, the less cool areas all seem to be in the same direction. Maybe if you go there, you’ll find the reason for this. You might even find something that’s… dare you think it… not cool at all? Regardless, this option seems like the most different from what you already know. It could be your best chance at expanding your world a bit. (You gain a medium amount of energy AND You gain a new perk: ??????)
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>>203708
Oh I won't spoil anything, but I will say that I like to do last name -> first name order with Touhou stuff. I just like how their names roll off the tongue better that way, so that habit stuck with me.
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Hm. Option 2 gives an energy boost and a possible character interaction? I'm down.

[X] No reason to leave the coolness
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File 165925729628.jpg - (118.32KB, 902x614, finding_good_pictures_will_get_easier_once_i_can_u.jpg)
finding_good_pictures_will_get_easier_once_i_can_u
[X] There’s no reason you have to leave the coolness.





Well, it’s worked out alright for you so far! You’re just doing more of it now, that’s all.

Right, how to do this… Movement is still strange and you haven’t done a whole lot of it until now. Just focus on your “self”, try to wiggle a bit, and then go from “a bit” to “a lot”. Yeah, there you go! Just like- oh wow that’s that good shit.

This was definitely the right call. How the hell are you taking in so much energy right now?! All you did was move away a little! At most you expected to get the same amount as-

Huh.

That’s…

Right, so, you miiiight have miscalculated due to misunderstanding this one a fundamental level.

So! Movement! Not quite the “point A to point B” that you thought it was!

It’s more like “point A to point A and B” in fact. You’re still in the same place you were, but you’re also somewhere else now.

Shit, you’re doing a terrible job of explaining this…

Anyways! Rather than movement, it’s more like you stretched your “self” out to get where you wanted to go. This raises yet more questions on what the fuck even are you, but that’s not what’s important right now.

Since you never left point A, you’re still taking in the same energy you always have… but now you’re also taking in energy from point B as well. And you’re kiiiiinda taking in energy from your connection between points A and B, but it’s not nearly as much.

Naturally, you had the thought of “Does that mean that if I explore around, I’ll end up taking in way more energy than I’ve ever even thought possible?”

This is where things got a little out of hand. Long story short, the answer is yes, that’s exactly what ended up happening. That’s great, right? The more energy you get, the more you can explore. The more you explore, the more energy you get. Seems like a closed loop.

It would be if it was just you here in the coolness.

Now that you’re in so many places at once, you’ve also drastically increased the number of encounters with the familiar unfamiliar things. This has posed quite a problem for you, but not at all the kind of problem you were anticipating.

Right, more explanations (AKA rambling). It used to be that when you bumped into the other things, there would be an exchange of energy while physical contact was maintained. If you focused, their energy went to you. If you didn’t focus, your energy went to them. After you take enough energy, the thing would slowly retreat and leave you alone. You never found out what happens if they take enough energy from you for something to happen, because you don’t ever want to find out what happens if you run out of energy completely.

That was how things worked when you had about the same amount of energy as the other things, give or take. After you gained a substantial amount of energy, you stopped really even needing to focus for the energy exchange to go in your favor. It just happened automatically, and you could concentrate on exploring and the ever-present question of “seriously what am I though?” You kind of went nuts with that, and now your energy supply makes what you started with seem like a drop in the ocean.

That brings you up to the present. You weren’t sure for how long it had been going on for, but you started to notice that the other things weren’t retreating anymore after the energy exchange. Instead they just… bumped into you, stopped moving, and then vanished from your senses completely.

You kinda maybe sort of might be a mass murderer.

It’s not your fault! Really! Sure, whatever these things are, they clearly aren’t that smart, but… They’re definitely alive in some sense of the word. You were curious about them at first, but you mainly just want them to leave you alone at this point and stop dying en masse. They don’t even really give you much energy at this point, compared to what you get just by exploring.

You’re not really sure what to do about it though. Their fates are sealed the second they so much as brush against you, and you can’t exactly tell them to stay the fuck off your front lawn, so what does that even leave you?

Hm… OK. You feel one approaching you now. Try focusing on not taking anything at all from them. Just try to- Nope, OK, they died.

Alright, let’s try again. Really focus hard this time! You don’t need anything from them. You’re simply existing right now. You have no ill intentions, so no ill shall befall- They died faster that time. Why did they die faster??? Maybe... Maybe that one was just weaker than the usual fare. It's not like you can tell; they all feel so tiny compared to you now. Yeah, that's gotta be it!

Right, try that again. There’s three more nearby, so you can just move a little bit and then test it again there. Focus! 100% focus! 200% focus! You are immovable in your absolute focus, and this is going to work- OK yep they all died even faster than the second one that time.

This isn’t working and you don’t even understand why. You don’t understand a lot of things about your life actually, and that’s almost certainly the problem.

Maybe… try pushing some energy back to them? You’ve never really tried to use it for anything other than exploring up to this point. Your stores are large enough now that you can definitely spare a bit for the sake of experimentation. That’s what this is all about anyways, right? Expanding your world and your understanding of it, right?

Right.

Well, you’re certainly not lacking for options to test your half-baked theories on. You immediately pick out a nearby hopefully-not-victim, get within range of it, and wait for it to begin moving towards you. Focus… Take a drop of that energy and gently (gently!) push it towards them. Come on, little guy… No need to be shy! I won’t take any energy from you! Just come along and get some-





Did…

Did they just explode?





Well, let’s not focus on the small stuff right now. Perhaps a (far) more violent end than the usual fare, but this was a necessary step! You will honor their tragic death as a worthy contribution to your understanding of science and not killing everything you come across!

Still though, you can’t help but feel like a jerk. Even if they’re not the same as you at all, it’d be like animal cruelty or frying ants with a magnifying glass… AKA young serial killer shit. You wouldn’t call yourself a pacifist or anything like that, but you’d at least like to keep the bar from going that low. Maybe you can try-

PAIN

PAIN

PAIN

Your world begins and ends with your sense of touch, and the only thing you feel now is pain sparking through every last bit of your existence. It’s all consuming, and you can feel your body and mind both try and fail to curl up into a ball from the brand-new sensation. Even as it begins to fade, you can feel the phantom of it all hanging over you.

You are not alone.

Whatever that was, you could feel the intent to cause harm behind it. You don’t know where it came from, but you just know this was not an accident. Even if you can’t see them, they can see you… and they mean you harm.





What will you do?

[ ] Go on the attack! You can't see them, but they can clearly see you. They can't be too far from you, so you should be able to find them if you stay on the move and keep your metaphorical eyes open. A lot of the other things in the coolness will die in the process, but you can't miss your window on taking care of this threat to your life.

[ ] Get the hell out of here immediately. You've already got more energy than you even know what to do with, so why risk your life for more? As much as you like it here, the plan was always to explore elsewhere. You're just... going a little sooner than expected. Besides, leaving the area seems like a good way to stop killing everything. Two birds with one stone!

[ ] Wait and see. Doing nothing seems like a huge risk right now, but it's entirely possible they mean you no harm. You didn't mean all those other things any harm, but that didn't stop you from brutally killing them! Hm, that doesn't make you feel any better... Still, you're very curious about what you're dealing with here. Maybe you can at least get some information out of this fiasco.





Hello again! I'm still not sure how long to wait before "calling" the vote, but this seems like a good point for it since we're still just getting started. I'm really having fun with this, so I hope you are too. However things develop now, you shouldn't be in the dark on things for too much longer.
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[X] Scramble out of there ASAP
I'd really rather we don't immediately get blown up, all things considered.
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[X] Wait and see. Doing nothing seems like a huge risk right now, but it's entirely possible they mean you no harm. You didn't mean all those other things any harm, but that didn't stop you from brutally killing them! Hm, that doesn't make you feel any better... Still, you're very curious about what you're dealing with here. Maybe you can at least get some information out of this fiasco.

This seems like a fun quest
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[X] Get the hell out of here immediately.
i dont want another dead person and i most certainly do not want to get obliterated
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Untitled
[X] Get the hell out of here immediately.





Right, fleeing is the best course of action here. There’s simply too little information available to truly weigh your options, so the only winning move is not to play. It’s also something you’re confident in your abilities to pull off. All your time spent exploring and moving around has made for excellent practice in how to move yourself, but more importantly you have gained an innate understanding of where the “boundaries” of this territory lie.

If your theory is correct, then this territory belongs to the hostile entity you’ve decided to escape from. Therefore, leaving the territory before they can attack again is the plan in a nutshell. Bearing that in mind, the first thing you do is pull all the energy from the various locations you occupy and move it to the point closest to the boundaries that you’ve explored thus far. Just as you expected, the sections of yourself that no longer have any energy in them quickly fade away from your senses. A brief test confirms that those segments are no longer a part of you.

As if sensing your intentions, you feel the hostile entity attempt to hold you in place… luckily for you, the parts they grabbed are no longer “you” anymore. They've mistaken your shed skin as your true self.

...Shit, you meant that as a metaphor, but are you actually a snake? That doesn't really fit, but maybe like a weird kind of snake or- FOCUS!

Right. The first step was an important one, as you only expect to get one shot at this. Your second step is using the highly condensed energy you just pulled in to cover an extremely large distance at an equally large speed. The image this conjures in your mind is some strange combination of a rocket ship and a worm, which would have you laughing uncontrollably if you were capable of it.

Your vague destination is far past the boundaries of this territory, and just as planned you arrive with no hindrance whatsoever. With no time to rest, you immediately enact the final step of your (admittedly simple) escape plan. Copying the process from step one, you withdraw the energy from the last remaining section of your body that still exists in that territory. This time, nothing tries to stop you.

You wait for what feels like ages on high alert, anticipating any signs that were out of the ordinary to see if you were followed. After a while of nothing happening, you make the conscious decision to relax.

Man, that was scary! Facing an unseen, unknowable, and unstoppable enemy is really just too much. Maybe you’re overestimating them just a bit, but you’d really rather not find out for sure. Maybe one day, when you’ve grown strong and wise, you can gain some closure on this early stage of your life.

But enough of thoughts on your past and your future. Right now, the thing that matters most is your present. Even with the energy expended on your daring escape, you still have quite the ridiculous amount to pull from. You hadn’t known it at the time, but it was clear to you now that being in that territory had been interfering with your senses quite a bit.

The area you found yourself in now was similar to where you came from, but in the loosest sense of the word. The coolness existed here as well, but it was absolutely nothing like the invigorating yet soothing coolness of before. You would grow no weaker by staying idle here, but neither would you grow stronger. You would live, but nothing more.

That’s never the kind of life you wanted for yourself, so the option of staying here was discarded as quickly as it came. Lucky for you that you can now “see” so much further than before. The type of coolness you’re in now is by far the majority, but it is also not even close to being all there is. Some of the more interesting places are sadly out of your reach for now, but you happily make note of them for future reference.

After narrowing your criteria down to “places you can reach” and “places that seem interesting”, it’s simply a matter of choosing which one you like best.





What will you do? (This choice will have a long-lasting impact on your growth from here on out. There is no wrong choice here, and there's no reason you can't go somewhere else afterwards, so simply decide what sort of existence you would like to become.)





[ ] One of the more mysterious areas happens to also be one of the closest. You can feel the energy of that place from here, and it’s by no means lacking compared to where you came from. But above all that, the place just feels old. Like… really old. You can probably learn a lot from a place like that, you just have no idea what those things could possibly be.

[ ] This spot is smaller than your other picks, but you can’t help being interested solely for how orderly it is. Just from a cursory glance, you can feel a sense of everything being in its proper place. Perfection. Maybe there’s room for you in that? A sense of belonging sure sounds nice… You’re not sure what to make of the stuff around that area, but variety is the spice of life as they say.

[ ] Ugh… where to start on that place? To put it bluntly, the whole area is a freaking contradiction. It seems to be happily welcoming you while simultaneously cursing your existence. The energy itself seems deadly, and yet you can also feel life growing strong there. You really want to know how a place like that can survive. Perhaps you could learn a thing or two about that yourself.

[ ] You nearly overlooked this last place completely, seeing as it’s completely removed from everything else. And yet, you instinctively know you could reach it if you tried. It calls to you in a way that nowhere else does; it calls to your previous life. Just as you instinctively know how to get there, you also instinctively know that the energy of this place is ‘death.’ Despite that, it isn’t scary in the slightest. After all, isn’t your current life sufficient proof that death is not the end?





Hello again! I’d actually intended for this update to be longer, but then I realized it was much better to put this choice here. As said previously, this is a pretty important choice, but they all have their pros and cons. Some of you can probably even guess what some of these are. Anyways! I’d say that this is the last major choice before things change and you start to get a better idea of what’s happening. Thanks for reading!
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Okay, judging by the picture and the choices at the end, I think we are in fact in Gensokyo proper. Which means that the things we were absorbing/exploding were most likely fairies (life-energy incarnate), which means we at least are not really murderers like we thought. But it's definitely interesting that we were able to absorb life-energy directly.

As for the choices, the one that I feel most confident about identifying is the fourth. A location that is separate from the rest of Gensokyo, filled with "death" but not scary, sounds like the Netherworld. The third option, with lots of life but also deadly energy, maybe that's the Forest of Magic? The second option... orderliness reminds me of the Yama, but they don't live in Gensokyo proper. The first is the hardest, because everything in Gensokyo is "old" in some sense.

Gonna have to think about this a bit more before I can vote, I just wanted to put my speculations out here for others' benefit.
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[X] Ugh… where to start on that place? To put it bluntly, the whole area is a freaking contradiction. It seems to be happily welcoming you while simultaneously cursing your existence. The energy itself seems deadly, and yet you can also feel life growing strong there. You really want to know how a place like that can survive. Perhaps you could learn a thing or two about that yourself.

So, we gave up skin to escape and eat fairies, winged creatures—gecko life. Anyways, I think it would be interesting to go somewhere with strong energy but danger. Of course, learning further survival techniques would not hurt. I also think it's funny to develop a signature move of dropping a body part and scurrying away.

Do we have a solid physical form, or are we just a mass of sentient energy right now?
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Honestly, I'm not certain about identifying most of them, so let's look at it from what they're offering:
Option 1 is old, and probably has a lot of interesting bits of knowledge. Plus, it's close, and has a lot of ambient energy.
Option 2 is orderly. It's smaller, but it's a closed system that clearly has someone on top of things, and seems like the most generally "not dangerous" option.
Option 3 is the complete opposite. Total chaos. If we want to take the risk of being eaten by a bigger fish, we can probably quickly become a big fish.
Option 4 is death. If we want to go hang out with spirits, this is the place. More interestingly, it apparently holds ties to our previous life.

It's not like there's a wrong choice, and we could always move on later, so I'll actually suggest Option 2. We're currently small, option 2 is small. If we move on later when we get too big, the other places are bigger, but if we get too big for one of the other places, option 2 wouldn't be worth it.

[X] This spot is smaller than your other picks, but you can’t help being interested solely for how orderly it is.
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[X] This spot is smaller than your other picks, but you can’t help being interested solely for how orderly it is. Just from a cursory glance, you can feel a sense of everything being in its proper place. Perfection. Maybe there’s room for you in that? A sense of belonging sure sounds nice… You’re not sure what to make of the stuff around that area, but variety is the spice of life as they say.

SDM, is that you?
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>>203720 here. Still not sure exactly what the options are, but the chaotic nature of the third option makes it sound the most interesting to me. Besides, if the second option really is the SDM, then it would be a little cliché to go there right off the bat.

Therefore, I vote...

[X] Ugh… where to start on that place?
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>>203721 speaking. Just a random thought, but what are the chance that the entity which caused us to flee may later try to find us? It was willing to do us harm, granted it found us absorbing others. Maybe going somewhere chaotic could throw off the potential tracking down of us or we could find someone willing to offer protection?
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[X] Ugh… where to start on that place? To put it bluntly, the whole area is a freaking contradiction. It seems to be happily welcoming you while simultaneously cursing your existence. The energy itself seems deadly, and yet you can also feel life growing strong there. You really want to know how a place like that can survive. Perhaps you could learn a thing or two about that yourself.
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[X] Ugh… where to start on that place? To put it bluntly, the whole area is a freaking contradiction.
absolutely NEED to see how you work with this one boss
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[ ] Ugh… where to start on that place? To put it bluntly, the whole area is a freaking contradiction. It seems to be happily welcoming you while simultaneously cursing your existence. The energy itself seems deadly, and yet you can also feel life growing strong there. You really want to know how a place like that can survive. Perhaps you could learn a thing or two about that yourself.
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prosperity
[X] Ugh… where to start on that place? To put it bluntly, the whole area is a freaking contradiction. It seems to be happily welcoming you while simultaneously cursing your existence. The energy itself seems deadly, and yet you can also feel life growing strong there. You really want to know how a place like that can survive. Perhaps you could learn a thing or two about that yourself.




All of these places interest you, but only one of them excites you. That alone is what elevates it above the rest in your mind, and is ultimately what pushes you towards the enormous mass of chaos and life. After all, wasn’t that search for the new and exciting what started all this? If you were fine living peacefully without risks, you would have just stayed unmoving in the coolness. But no, that simply wasn’t enough. You don’t think it ever will be.

If all you had to look forward to was living for the sake of living, you’d rather return to nothing.

That’s not to say you’re obsessed with the thrill… Well, maybe a little. But you control it, not the other way around. When faced with an enemy you couldn’t overcome no matter what, you didn’t hesitate to quit while you were ahead. Whatever pride you may have accrued up to that point by existing as the superior lifeform in your surroundings was immediately given up when the chips were down. Staying and fighting would have led to your death, simple as that.

Besides… one way or the other, you doubt this is the last you’ll see of your first “enemy.” Whether it’s you seeking them out for closure, or them seeking you out to finish the job, you don’t plan to give such a poor showing twice in a row. The world is open to you now, and you’re going to use it to become strong.

The frog has left its well, and now it’s time to swim up the waterfall and become a dragon.

Or… wait, those two sentences are supposed to be unrelated. Also, wasn’t that last one supposed to be a fish? It might’ve been a carp or something. But why would a carp become a dragon? Because they both have scales? Maybe you were right the first time. Dragons and frogs are both lizards, so it makes more sense, right? Wait, no, frogs aren’t lizards…

Damn it, you’ve completely lost the metaphor. You’ve also apparently lost quite a bit of basic animal knowledge. You’ve been spending too much time as a whatever you are.

Ah well. You’re close to your destination now, and you can tell from the vibes it’s giving off that you’re not going to be doing much thinking for a while.

Yay~ Time to become an idiot~

Jokes aside, you decide to stop a bit outside the boundaries of your destination, seeing as you’ll want to brace yourself before jumping into that. The spot you’re in now is perhaps a tiny bit more “alive” than the majority of the distance you covered getting here, but only a little. Compared to the scattered bits of life you’ve come across on the way here, those weaklings from your birthplace were starting to look pretty damn strong.

The place ahead of you quickly put that to rest. Your senses are limited without being in the thick of it, but even from here the energy is like a fireworks show to your mind. Lives are constantly lost, but just as quickly replaced… but what catches your attention is how brightly those lives shine before they fade. Even in the case of the weakest energies, not a single one goes out quietly. They writhe and lash out and do everything they can to take their pound of “flesh” before finally going still.

It’s a savage and disgusting display, but the beauty of it all is undeniable.

All those lives that were pointlessly lost to you before were nothing like this. None of them fought for their survival, or even made the smallest attempt to avoid you. Even after trying your best to prevent it, they were just so weak that it couldn’t be helped. You tried to stay optimistic, but truthfully you were close to giving it up as hopeless. In your darkest moments since fleeing, you’re almost thankful for being chased out. If you had stuck around any longer with nothing changing, it would have only been a matter of time before their deaths no longer made you feel anything at all.

But now? This isn’t the same; not even close. If you enter here, you won’t be the monster killing everything it touches. You’ll just be another life fighting for its right to exist, growing as strong as it can so that it might survive the next fight.

It hits you then how a seeming contradiction like this place can exist. You are being welcomed and recognized as a kindred spirit, but it also wants to crush you beneath its heel and grow stronger from your demise. It seemed impossible before that such a strong source of life could be so drenched in death, but it makes perfect sense as you stand before it now. It’s because of that struggle against death that their lives shine so brightly to you.

You want that. You want that so bad that it’s a miracle you hadn’t gone in already.

Fuck… What are you thinking? This place is seriously dangerous. If you had any sense at all, you’d turn back and pick some place safer. You could always come back after slowly growing stronger in comfort and safety, maybe even find some allies that you can trust your back with first.

…Guess that joke about becoming an idiot wasn’t really a joke at all, huh?

You take a brief moment to brace for what’s about to happen, then hurl yourself headlong into the abyss.



Everything that comes immediately after that is entirely instinctual. Your approach hadn’t gone unnoticed like you planned, and you were set upon from several fronts almost instantly after entering. They waste no time at all in pressing at you from all sides and stealing the energy you had painstakingly stored until now.

Still trying to catch your bearings, you almost lose yourself in the panic as you realize you can’t hold off this many attackers at once. Trying to focus on one leaves you open to attacks from the rest, and you simply don’t have the necessary control needed to fend this many off at the same time.

It’s only after noticing how long it’s taking them to bring you down that your nerves begin to steady. They’re certainly a threat on your life, but only if you sit there and let them do their thing. Obviously you’re not going to do that, so you turn your efforts towards overwhelming them one at a time. All at once is a bit much for you still, but there’s plenty of time to pick them off at your leisure.

It’s a bit of a losing struggle at first. You have more than enough to survive the onslaught though, and by the time the last bit of life fades from your ambushers, you feel noticeably stronger than before you came here. It feels a bit easier controlling where you draw in energy from too, since you couldn’t exactly be picky in that situation. Mother of invention and all that.

There’s no time to rest yet though. On the heels of the first group comes another wave of enemies, likely hoping to pick off a superior opponent weak from the fight. You’re still so keyed up from the struggle earlier that you aren’t even fazed as they try to latch onto you like leeches and steal everything you have… just like the others. You could just crush them one at a time like you did before, but you suppose there’s no hurry.

For a while, you don’t make any move to stop them. You simply keep an eye on your energy levels to ensure you don’t wait too long to strike back, and carefully observe what they’re doing. How are they taking your energy? How are they moving? Are they doing anything else? Any bit of information you can glean from this, you soak up like the sponge you hope you aren’t.

And when you’ve learned all you can from them, you take the opportunity to put it into practice. It’s difficult to put into words, but… you sort of flex your energy like a muscle as the first step, condensing it and leaving empty space around it. Then, without expanding your energy, you kind of inhale their energy. With nothing impeding it, you absorb it a lot faster than you’re used to It’s even easier than your old method once you get used to it. You don’t need to focus so much on taking the energy in this way.

The best part is that it immediately shores up your weakness from the earlier fight. All the “leeches” fade from your senses at once as you bleed them dry in one fell swoop. You relax your condensed energy and watch in satisfaction as the new energy easily mingles with it, now simply another part of you.

You’re almost disappointed when nothing else immediately attacks you. Everything near you is too caught up in their own fights to notice you. You guess you could jump into one of them and make it a free-for-all… It’s hard to feel ashamed of an ambush after being on this side of it so often already.

But nah, no need to rush. Instead, you decide to observe and analyze how the others fight. More energy is always useful, but knowledge and understanding is a priceless commodity to you; one that had been in very short supply, but now was openly showing itself in almost excessive abundance.

Most of the information you glean is simple stuff: a way of moving you hadn’t considered before, or perhaps a method of using energy that was slightly more efficient than what you had. But mostly you take careful note of the places they try to avoid at all costs. You may not know their reasons, but you’ll at least trust they have good ones for now.

Some of the information you glean is less simple. Personally, you’re a big fan of the one with ridiculously corrosive energy that keeps tricking enemies into stealing from it. The only reason you noticed what they were doing is because you’ve been keeping an eye on them. Dick move, but flawless execution. To show your respect, you’re gonna stay the hell away from them.

A little of the information you glean is just downright incomprehensible. You’re like 90% sure that some of these fights aren’t even happening in reality. It hurts a little trying to make sense of that, so you try not to worry about it too much. To show your respect, you’re gonna stay the hell away from them. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Even the other fighting idiots in this place are smart enough to stay away from those fights.

None of the information you glean is useless. It all certainly adds up in one way or another, but there’s only so much you can learn as a spectator. Before you even realize, your search parameters had changed from “new information” to “new enemy”. It takes no time at all to find something doing the exact same thing as you. Almost as if controlled by a force outside your perception, the two of you are drawn together into a fight with no need for further communication.

Distantly, you think of it like how meeting a Pokémon trainer’s gaze means you have to fight. Strange how you can remember random facts about Pokémon, but not biology.

As soon as you clash with them, you realize this won’t be like your other fights. Things are strictly one-on-one this time, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that you’re the underdog in this fight. Not the first time you’ve been the weaker one, but the difference here is that you aren’t instantly overpowered. They’re stronger than you, have more energy than you, and absorb energy faster than you… but they’re still at a level where you can hold your own.

The only reason you’re able to pin them down is because they have no interest in fleeing. If they wanted, they could just pry you off and flee. What about you, though? Your technique from escaping before would work just as well here. Honestly, you can probably use that to escape from anything so long as you’re not 100% sealed in… and if you’re dumb enough to let yourself get stuck like that, you deserve it. Point is, you’ve got plenty of room to escape right now. You just kinda… don’t want to? Which is pretty dumb, since you can’t really do anything else besides absorb energy and-

Hm.

Would that…?

Holy shit you’re a genius.

That whole time you were watching your opponents was very informative, but you were looking at the wrong things. You only examined what they were doing and attempted to recreate it for yourself if possible. What you should have been looking at was what they’re not doing… and only a few of them did anything involving pushing out their own energy. All of those were the scary ones you admired most. That thought leaves you feeling strangely giddy.

As always, start by breaking it up into steps.

Step one, go from point A to point B. You’re careful to keep the bulk of your energy where you’re pinned down at point A to keep your enemy from catching on before you’re ready.

Step two, separate energy into two masses at both points with a thin thread of energy connecting them. Just enough to keep that “between” bit of yourself alive.

Step three, inject all the energy from point A into the target. This is the part you were most unsure of. You still don’t have a good feel on things when it comes to how much or how little energy something has. And if you use too little energy here, all you would accomplish is losing that energy with nothing to show for it. So just to be safe, you maaaay have overdone it a bit here.

Step four, safely enjoy the fireworks from point B. Considering how the part of you that you left behind instantly disappeared, you’re very happy you moved away first.

Step five, return to point A and collect your reward. You lost a good chunk of energy with that maneuver, but you instantly gain it back plus more after taking what your enemy had. Damn, they really did have more than you. Bastard.

Step six (optional), wonder how the fuck you just got away with that working so well. It’s only after you’re done taking in the rest of that energy that you’re aware of the lack of fighting around you. Thanks to your spot of overkill here, you actually managed to take out quite a few others in the process. The end result is a pretty large area around you with nobody else in it.

You’d expect that would quickly change as they realize nothing else is happening and move back in, but none of them do. You wait a bit to see if something happens, but eventually choose to slowly move towards one of the unexpected casualties of your gambit. It hits you then how strange it is that none of them decided to claim your kills as their own, but the strangest part by far is how the survivors all move with you, managing to keep the same distance as before.

The way they’re moving reminds you of something, and it takes a bit to think of what that is, but it does eventually sink in: It’s the exact same as those “strange feeling” spots they avoided during your observations. The ones with the strongest enemies in them.

Well, well, well… It would seem that you’ve just been classified as a threat. You want to try and seem stoic with that realization, or maybe even go for smug, but really all you feel is pure giddy joy. “If you want to be respected, just blow some stuff up” probably isn’t the lesson you’re supposed to learn from this, but you internalize it nonetheless. It feels amazing and you instantly want more.

Lucky for you there’s still plenty of things dumb enough to pick a fight with you. You just need to wait for them.



Things continue on in that vein for… Well, alright, so you don’t know how long actually. Turns out it’s difficult to tell how much time has passed when there’s no way to mark its passage. It was a while though! Probably!

You’re rambling again. Point is, you’ve been here long enough that you’re in need of something to shake things up again. The average enemy here is still decently entertaining and a good source of energy, but they’re just so predictable now. There’s nothing to learn from fighting them. The above average enemies are still fun, but if they’re above average then that means they’re also smart enough to avoid you. As fantastic as it feels to be feared to the point where only the idiots pick a fight with you anymore, it seems that comes with some downsides.

Then there’s the strong enemies, which… even if you could beat them in a fight (which is a BIG ‘if’ for some of them), you’re not really sure how to get to them. They’ve all got some weird “trick” to them that you can’t quite figure out. Last time you tried to go for one of those guys, they did this thing where you got further away the closer you tried to get. They don’t all do that, but it’s always something around that level of weird. You’re pretty much a three-trick pony of “absorb, flee, explode” so not much you can do about stuff like that.

Ah well… At least you’ve become very good at those three things. Still, you’ve definitely hit a wall on your personal growth. And there’s only one way to get past a wall: go around it!

Or… go over it.

Going under would probably work, depending on where the wall is.

Guess you could break through it too?

You’re not very good with metaphors.

Anyways, this is all a really dumb way of saying you noticed something weird after observing the strong things to try and find their weakness. The one thing they all have in common is that part of them exists in a place that your senses have trouble looking at. Well, less of a “place”, and more of a direction really. You can’t get close to them to see where exactly those parts of them are going, but you can go the same direction and see what’s over there.

Still, maybe you should… You know what? Screw it. You don’t have anything better to do, so might as well just go.

Without stopping to think it through very much, you make your move. Strangely enough, you can feel the act drawing attention to you. A lot of it. Nearby fights seem to have stopped completely, regardless of who is winning or losing. You had prepared to fight off a few enemies along the way, but every single one of them is clearing a path for you.

As always, a shock of pride goes through you upon seeing the caution they show towards your every move, but… This time, you kind of hate it. This seems different from all the other times, and you don’t have a clue why. Yes, obviously it has to do with you moving wherever the fuck you’re going, but why is that such a big deal? You are just so sick of things happening around you and feeling like you’re only seeing bits and pieces of the full situation.

Ugh. Whatever. Hopefully you’ll find out soon.

Through the haze of annoyance, you notice the ever-present coolness around you is becoming easier to move through. Less cool too, but not to the same degree as the strange direction from your birthplace. Huh… Could the two be related? You put that away for now though, seeing as the last thing you need is more questions.

The coolness and pressure fade away bit by bit, until all at once you’re assaulted by a barrage of new sensations. The pressure you had become so accustomed to for the entirety of this life is just gone now. You try to push past it and keep moving, but it’s simply too much for you. You flail around a bit trying to find something to hold onto, but there’s just nothing there. If it wasn’t for the fact that most of you is still in the coolness, you’d be unable to move at all.

As is, it’s still an arduous task to explore this weird place. However much you move though, there’s simply nothing here. The parts of you that aren’t in the coolness have to be constantly “flexed” just to stay where they are and not fall back into it. You suppose you could just let it happen and explore from the outside layer of the coolness, but that doesn’t seem much different to just staying in the coolness completely.

It’s only after some several failed attempts that you’re able to get into a position that’s still in the “not coolness” and not collapsing. Once you achieve that, you can’t help thinking “OK now what” since it still seems like a whole lot of nothing. There has to be more to this place. Maybe there is, but you can’t sense it? Your senses are completely blind in this place, and it’s only your connection to the coolness that can feel anything at all.

Back to trial and error, then? Well, suppose you’ll just do the same thing you always do when you’re stumped. You push a bit of your energy into the “not coolness” to see what happens.

Thankfully, nothing explodes when you do it this time. It seems to just be hanging around you a little right now without doing anything. Neat? Doesn’t seem to be hurting anything though, so you decide to push a bit more this time. There’s no explosion this time either, and the energy just… sits there. Same as ever, then. You can easily take it back into you and call this whole thing a wash, but you decide against it. Feeling emboldened, you keep up a trickle of energy this time and begin pushing a small flow of it out of you.

That’s when things immediately go wrong. Something takes hold of your energy by that connection and forcibly increases the flow. Rather than the small amount you could keep going forever if you wanted, this feels like you’re going to lose it all in one go. Panic takes hold of you, but you’re paralyzed. You don’t want to die. Not again. You can’t- You won’t-!

Something takes hold of [/i]You[/i] this time. The calm that goes through you is sudden, but not unnatural. The energy that was removed from you earlier is now moving completely beyond your control. Some of it continues to hover around, but the rest is quickly and forcibly put back into you. None of it seems to be going in the same place it came from, and you would have sworn that those places didn’t even exist before.

Whatever is doing this to you is changing you, twisting your body beyond recognition… not that you could recognize it anyways. But as horrified as you want to feel, the calmness persists. And beneath all that, the only thing you could feel from whatever is doing this to you is complete acceptance and open welcoming.

Finally, blessedly, your awareness fades as it all becomes too much to process. Any worry that you feel as you slip under is chased away with the soft reassurance that everything will be fine.



Hours later, a single flower blooms.

You open your eyes for the first time.



What do you see?

[ ] More green than you’ve ever seen in either life. Everything you’ve done, everything you’ve seen… it all suddenly makes so much sense. You want to find more green now that you can finally understand what you’re looking at, just to figure out what you’ve missed when looking before.

[ ] Scattered glimpses of the night sky through holes in the canopy. It’s been so long since you’ve even thought of the stars, and even the brief glimpses you see now are too beautiful for words. You need to get a better look. There has to be a way to get up higher somewhere around here.

[ ] How are you supposed to focus on what you’re seeing when what you’re hearing is so much more interesting? You can hear singing! As in music! Actual music! It hits all at once how much you’ve missed the sound of music in your life. It shouldn’t be too hard to follow the sound to the source.



Hello again! This update definitely went longer than I planned it to, but I just couldn’t stop. Especially since there wasn’t really a good place to throw up a vote until the end there. But whatever! We made it! And now things should start making sense! As far as the vote itself goes, each one will lead to meeting a character, so don't worry about avoiding a "nothing" vote here. Just pick what feels right.
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[X] More green than you’ve ever seen in either life. Everything you’ve done, everything you’ve seen… it all suddenly makes so much sense. You want to find more green now that you can finally understand what you’re looking at, just to figure out what you’ve missed when looking before.
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[X] Look upon the stars
Maybe they can be ours one day. A defining characteristic of us has been a hunger for more, so why not the stars themselves?
>Distantly, you think of it like how meeting a Pokémon trainer’s gaze means you have to fight. Strange how you can remember random facts about Pokémon, but not biology.
Some speculation, but we know that we have memories from the outside world, yet it seems to be a bit fractured. I’m thinking reincarnation.
>You open your eyes for the first time
We presumably now have a physical body.
>Whatever is doing this to you is changing you, twisting your body beyond recognition… not that you could recognize it anyways. But as horrified as you want to feel, the calmness persists. And beneath all that, the only thing you could feel from whatever is doing this to you is complete acceptance and open welcoming.
We have been seized again, though I am unsure if it is the same entity that first caused us to flee or some more natural force, we activated due to our energy-gathering actions.
Also, our hunting technique was not the most discreet. Imagine being some spirit in the forest watching a fight, and the fighters explode, then some energy creature goes in to eat; pretty understandable why the ones present after the explosion kept a wary distance from us. I wonder if we can still blow stuff up with our new form.
Pretty interesting story so far.
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> The one thing they all have in common is that part of them exists in a place that your senses have trouble looking at. Well, less of a “place”, and more of a direction really.

This imagery made me think of puppets on strings, and, since I still think the overall location we're in is the Forest... I wonder if the not-cool place we barged into was Alice's house, and she then subdued us.

But then, that might not entirely make sense with the choices at the end, since the "green" and "holes in the canopy" suggest we're outside, not in a house.
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[X] More green than you’ve ever seen in either life.

We decided to go to the forest of magic (presumably, anyways) so we might as well appreciate the actual forest.
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[X] How are you supposed to focus on what you’re seeing when what you’re hearing is so much more interesting? You can hear singing! As in music! Actual music! It hits all at once how much you’ve missed the sound of music in your life. It shouldn’t be too hard to follow the sound to the source.

This is the option where it seems the clearest what (and who) it will lead to, since there are only a few characters known for making music. This is most likely Mystia, but in any case all of the musichus are fairly underappreciated in fics like this, so let's give them some attention.
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