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[-] Back at the Scarlet Devil Mansion

You hadn't expected this. You knew this was a stressful time for Satori, and making her dig through your worst memories can't have helped, but you thought she'd be able to handle it. She'd... she'd always been strong. Always. And now she wasn't and the only thing you could do was hold her. Hold her and make promises you couldn't keep, because you didn't control any of this. Maybe if you'd gone to Eirin first instead of talking to Tewi? Or if you hadn't knocked away Marisa's hakkero, or if you just hadn't gotten injured like an idiot in the first place! You bit your lip hard enough to draw blood, wincing. Your feelings of guilt, justified or not, weren't important right now. Not in the face of this.

Satori continued to sob, tightening her grip around your waist as she buried her head in your shoulder. You held her close, resting your head atop hers while she cried. You'd been thinking of this situation as life and death for you and Sumi, but somehow it hadn't sunk in that it was just as important for others as well. Satori's sister wasn't dead, but in some ways Koishi's predicament was the next worst thing. Or perhaps even harder to deal with. At least with her mind reading sealed, she wasn't feeling your uncertainty and anxiety.

Damn it, you wish Sumi was here. She wasn't the most sympathetic person ever, but she'd listened when you'd needed her to, and more importantly, she'd point out the way forwards. Being able to do something helped. But what could you do? What could you even say? You were still kidnapped, without leverage, without secrets, and under the metaphorical axe. Freedom seemed like a pipe dream, let alone finishing the original goal you'd made no progress towards. So in lieu of actual strength, the best you could do was pretend to be strong for her.

"Deep breaths, Satori," you murmured, brushing a lock of hair past her ear. "Come on, with me."

Your chest was tight, but you inhaled as slowly and deeply as you could before exhaling in the same manner. It took a few tries, but Satori's crying turned to hitching sobs as she gradually matched your rhythm, her chest rising and falling in time with yours.

"Enough!" Patchouli said. "None of us have time for-"

"Time for what, recovering from the breakdown you gave her?" you snarled. "Does she look like she's in any shape to do anything right now?"

She shook her head. "A few tears does nothing to change the situation at hand."

"You mean the situation where you've kidnapped her, threatened her life, had her fight a vampire, and mentally blinded her in the same way her sister traumatically maimed herself? While simultaneously blocking her from a chance to actually fix her loved one? Can you really not see why she's upset? Are you that far from human?"

The magician recoiled at that, and you carried on. "Not to mention, she never had anything to do with the urban legend incident! The occult balls were all me and Sumireko, before we'd even met her. Satori's only involvement was making the mistake of asking me for help! Haven't you done enough!? She's done nothing to you!"

In the ensuing silence, you realized what you just did. You'd yelled at one of the people who'd kidnapped you and threatened your life. It was a possibly lethal mistake, but there was no taking those words back now.

And yet, the reprisal didn't come. Patchouli was the one who'd recoiled, Sakuya hadn't stopped things, and it couldn't have been from any fear of you. They weren't even looking at you.

Oh. Of course. Nobody thought of themselves as the villain of the story, and that meant internally justifying whatever misdeeds you did. Their justification obviously stemmed from what the urban legends had done to Remilia, as a combination of necessity and you deserving it. But Satori's distress, combined with you pointing out their cruelties and that she didn't deserve any of it, had shamed them, at least a little. This could actually be an opening.

But that wouldn't last long. Hardening your heart again was easy enough, it just took a little time to distract your conscience, and everyone would be back to business as usual. Plus, Satori had lashed out at them just now; they wouldn't be that sympathetic once the initial shame wore off. Come on, think. Manipulating people was what you were good for, there had to be something!

Then it hit you. You needed something that seemed urgent, that they couldn't ignore. That meant Satori's distress, you just needed to... prompt it. She was covered in cuts, and your arms were still around her. Feeling sick, you moved your hand ever so slightly, over one of the larger wounds, and squeezed.

The sudden pain makes Satori cry out. You pull a little harder, and it's enough to unbalance her. Her knees buckle and she collapses into you.

"Satori!" You yell. You shift your grip to properly support her and your hand comes away, slick with blood. You don't have to fake a tremor in your voice. "J-just hold on, we'll get you medical care, okay?"

"Sakuya! She's hurt! From the fight in the mansion. She needs medical attention! Even if you don't care - please! She can't help you like this!"

The combination of guilt and practicality did what you'd hoped, and the maid was at your side in an instant. In the span of an eyeblink, there was a bedsheet spread out across the grass, and a first aid kit opened up.

"Lay her down here," Sakuya said, "I'll take a look."

"You know first aid?"

"A maid must be ready to serve in any capacity."

Satori looks like she's about to say something, but you lay her down as you were told, putting a finger to her lips. "Shh. Just rest, it'll be okay. I'll figure something out."

She looks at you, tears still in her eyes, and nods. Does she even realize you'd caused her pain? You turn away, looking down at the blood on your hand. It was a cut, some blood was expected. Even if Sakuya had denied her medical care, it wasn't dangerous, and you needed to paint Satori as an innocent victim here. Both of you need any edge you can get.

None of that prevents this from feeling wrong... or being wrong. But if you wasted this chance, it would make her pain meaningless. So as Sakuya starts tending to Satori, you plot your next move. What edge could you push for?

[-] You're pretty sure the binding has something to do with Satori's breakdown, beyond just the obvious. How does the binding on Satori work?
[-] The real threat here is Flandre. What's her deal?
[-] Write-in?
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And we're back! Sorry for the delay, (or at least the lack of communication about said delay), I got stuck writing the update and ended up taking a break anyway.

Anyway, a few replies to the end of last thread...

The reason Kanako didn't show up to do anything is that Kanako's simply not at the shrine right this second. Where has yet to be determined (and may depend on reader choices), but she's probably checking on her nuclear reactor, given the Ran interlude from way back in thread 1.

They say restrictions breed creativity. I really like good write-ins, because they let the characters be more clever and imaginative than I can be on my own. Cat Koishi might be the funniest update of the entire story, and I would never have come up with that myself.

But yeah, thanks to you, as well as everyone else who's been enjoying the story so far. It's been a wild ride, but we're not done just yet!

Regarding the Q. Nira thing, there was an anon who absolutely nailed it, and that was >>203538. The small Japanese/English ploy of replacing Q with "Kyu" and it then being an anagram for Yukarin was my intention. (Another anon made the point that the proper Japanese for it is apparently "Kyuu", but oh well. My actual knowledge of the language is minimal. :P)

As for the larger point of youkai being more friendly/less dangerous than I'd thought... well, I can sort of see it. I'm not entirely sure if Kosuzu should count (there's a bit of named character connection there), but the Lotus Eater examples seem valid. I could definitely see it being something that changes as Gensokyo grows, though I do wonder how fear of youkai will continue if they become less of a real threat.

Regardless, it's unlikely to have much of an impact in USiL either way (what with the focus being on all those powerful named characters anyway), but I appreciate the perspective.
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>Feeling sick, you moved your hand ever so slightly, over one of the larger wounds, and squeezed.

Reading through, it feels you progressively developed Greg from a Stand-in for the anon choices to a character that acts his own (No wonder, with the flashback-by-mindreading you did and all). This sentence cemented that to me.

Knowledge on the workings of the captor's magic for the purpose of subverting it during a pivotal moment, such as during a daring rescue?

Or going with the charisma-route and asking Sakuya what her reasons are for doing what she did? Ehhh~

[x] You're pretty sure the binding has something to do with Satori's breakdown, beyond just the obvious. How does the binding on Satori work?
Going with what seems practical.
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[x] The real threat here is Flandre. What's her deal?
The slip the bindings -> Patchy finds us -> Flandre instakill pipeline
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I've done some review on Greg and Satori's current predicament to make sure all my facts are fresh.

Can't think of any particular Write-Ins, so I'm going with...

[X] You're pretty sure the binding has something to do with Satori's breakdown, beyond just the obvious. How does the binding on Satori work?

Of the two options, it seems more immediately relevant. Info on how Flandre thinks is useful long term, but right now we have to be routing our choices with the question "how do I survive the next major problem?"

Plotting long-term is good for us down the line, but better odds now means a better foundation for the future.
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[X] You're pretty sure the binding has something to do with Satori's breakdown, beyond just the obvious. How does the binding on Satori work?

This does seem to be the best option, also I doubt Greg is going to undo the binding anyway, just rake a look at it(hopefully)
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[X] You're pretty sure the binding has something to do with Satori's breakdown, beyond just the obvious. How does the binding on Satori work?
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[X] You're pretty sure the binding has something to do with Satori's breakdown, beyond just the obvious. How does the binding on Satori work?
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I'm working on the update, but this one's proving troublesome. Hoping to get it out sooner rather than later, but it's more likely it'll happen some time this weekend.
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[-] You're pretty sure the binding has something to do with Satori's breakdown, beyond just the obvious. How does the binding on Satori work?

The trick to manipulating someone is subtlety. Granted, there are psychological tricks that work even if the target knows about them, and if you have enough leverage you can just batter someone into following whatever lead you want, but as a general rule of thumb, people hate feeling manipulated. If you ever get caught in the act, your past manipulation is all but undone, future manipulation is severely hindered, and your reputation is trashed to boot. A web of lies can easily entangle a person, but it can also be surprisingly fragile. There's a reason Maribel was able to crush you as easily as she did, back then.

Which made it all the more unfortunate that Patchouli seemed to have realized what you were doing.

"Come now. Flandre leaves, you give your pretty little speech about guilt, and then Satori collapses?" the magician glares at the two of you. "You do realize the timing's a little too convenient?"

"Convenient? Tell you what, why don't you give me your little day planner, and maybe her next collapse will fit into your schedule!"

It was a non sequitur. As an argument, it was logically bankrupt. But you'd already shown some anger, and angry people weren't always logical. That was the real message you were sending: That you were angry that she was calling Satori's collapse into question. You didn't need to prove her wrong, you just needed to act like she was a horrible person.

"That's not-"

"If you think Satori bleeding out is some kind of act we cooked up, do you think I'd have let her go on at length about how bloody useless you are?"

You can see that jab got to Patchouli, her clenched fists give it away, but her voice stays cold and clinical. "No. You weren't given time to plan beforehand, and Satori is overly reliant on her mind reading to act in any case. The logical conclusion is that you're exaggerating your reactions to win sympathy, and through that, concessions."

"Glad to know what you really think of me. Now, since we're agreed that Satori's innocent, why don't you her get her bleeding wounds treated?! Maybe you can even make yourself useful for once, and try examining the lead she found for you!"

"Miss Patchouli, please examine the book milady had kept hidden," Sakuya orders. "Any insight you can gleam could be critical."

Patchouli clearly understood the dismissal, but hesitated. "Are you certain? I'd have thought you'd opt to read it yourself."

"I have. But with what's at stake, I'd like your unbiased opinion on the book, as both a librarian and a mage."

"Fine. What about him?"

"I suspect he would rather stay. If Satori's state is a ploy, him leaving would undercut it. If not, then his worry is genuine. In either case, he's unlikely to try anything."

You have mixed feelings as the magician leaves. It's technically success, but Sakuya's answer was too measured, answering Patchouli's concerns even as she sided with you. She probably stopped time to better consider it, which means she won't be susceptible to more emotional ploys. You'll need a new tactic. Well, at the least Satori is actually getting care. Thankfully, Sakuya seems to be just as efficient and professional at medical treatment as anything else you've seen the maid do. The knives come out again, this time to cut away Satori's dress. After a pair of swift cuts, the maid starts peeling off blood-soaked pieces of fabric, and Satori (who had been largely unresponsive) gasps in pain, pulling away.

"Keep her still," Sakuya commands you. "If she's-"

"I get it," you force out, moving in to grab Satori's arm. "Satori, focus on me."

She clutches your arm with both hands. "Greg, it hurts."

"It's going to be alright. I-" Sakuya chose that moment to tear off the back half of the dress, and you wince as Satori's nails dig into your forearm.

"No! New pain, stabbing. Side. Like knives."

Sakuya grimaced. "Lay her down on her front! Gently!"

Satori's back is a mess. Most of her skin has been stained red, with a splash of lighter red across the center of her back, striped with streams of darker red as blood oozes down from her cuts. Freshly bleeding cuts. Your eyes turn to one in particular, with a shard of something sticking out of it.

You swallow, feeling the blood drain from your face. "Is... is that glass?"

"Milady must have knocked her through the wine cellar," Sakuya murmured, taking out a pair of tweezers. "If there's one shard, there's likely to be more."

So when you'd grabbed her, to make her collapse... You look down at the blood on your hands. Your voice is dull. "Was she just walking around with glass shards in her back? All this time?"

Sakuya pauses, glances at you. "Remember, she is a youkai. Wounds like this are less serious for her than they would be for you or I."

It's uncanny hearing the maid put you and her in the same category. Even more so to hear her talk in a gentle tone of voice, for her to be offering you comfort. But there's a hole in that logic. "How does the binding on her work?"

Sakuya shakes her head. "Surely you don't expect me to answer that."

"She collapsed after Patchouli turned the damn thing back on, and not long after at that! I know it seals her abilities as a youkai! Does that include a youkai's resilience?"

Sakuya doesn't answer immediately. You want to demand an answer, to shake her until the maid tells you just how badly Satori's hurt, whether demanding the binding be deactivated would help... except it wouldn't get you anywhere. You couldn't threaten Sakuya. You had no leverage on any of your captors. So you bit back your first three replies and resorted to asking nicely. "Is she going to be okay?"

"... you're either an incredible actor, or you are who you appear to be."


"She will recover from this, I can promise you that much." A corner of her mouth quirked upwards. "After all, she could hardly help my lady like this."

It would have to be enough. You sigh, looking down. "Is there a meaningful way I can help?"

"Remain quiet and keep Satori calm."

It was hard, just watching. Holding on to Satori's hand, and doing your best to soothe her as Sakuya treated her injuries. The process dragged on agonizingly, even more so when Satori succumbed to unconsciousness halfway through. Smaller cuts could be quickly bandaged, but there were a number of larger ones, and for each of those, the maid carefully pry it further open and probe the wound, being careful to find and loosen any shards of glass (or in a couple of cases, splinters), before removing them all in stopped time.

It was nerve-wracking, having no better option than to wait and trust someone who by all rights should be your enemy. Granted, neither her incentives nor her behavior so far (kidnapping aside) indicated she would actually hurt Satori, but even still...

You shake your head, watching as the maid finishes sowing up a particularly nasty cut. "This must be what it's like, isn't it? For you to need my help with Remilia."

Sakuya pauses, taking a moment to clean her tools. "I suppose I can see the similarities."

"It sucks, doesn't it?"

The maid lets out a quick exhale that wasn't quite a snort. "Indeed. But you have at least one advantage over me. Satori is not in real danger from these injuries."

"I don't know. Maybe not from this, but her long-term fate is uncertain at best." Yours too, though it's better not to mention it. "Flandre made that clear enough."

Sakuya falls silent, and you find yourself regretting those words. Sure, they were true, but it's unlikely you'll find as good a moment to talk to the maid again. But you can't just take them back. Even if you pretended to apologize, it would be too obviously insincere. Perhaps it would be best to ignore them and press on?

"Just before all this," the maid gestures at Satori, "was she telling the truth?"

You freeze. This had suddenly become dangerous ground. "About what in particular?"

"Would you have helped if we'd just asked?"

That's not where you thought this was going.

"It depends," slips out, and you wince. "The first priority would have been Koishi, and we'd also agreed to try to help with an urban legend for Alice, but I don't see why we couldn't have worked on all of those at once. Especially because there's been plenty of other people after us, and we could use all the help we can get. So, probably, though I'll admit you wouldn't have had my undivided attention."

"How different would have things been if we'd found you first?" Sakuya muttered, then sighed. "Does an apology mean anything if the person giving it doesn't change their actions?"

Was she suggesting what you thought she was? "You regret how things happened. But not enough to change anything."

Sakuya drew herself up. "Satori was right on at least one point. Before anything else, I am the maid of the Scarlet Devil Mansion. As such, my first priority must be my lady's wishes and well-being. With my actions this incident, I have wronged the two of you. I am not blind to that. But I will see Remilia healed, regardless of the cost."

"So the end justifies the means," you whisper.

"No. But it does make the means necessary. After what has already been done, I could hardly ensure your cooperation by any means except force. Given the chance, you would choose to escape, likely doing whatever damage you could on the way out. The servant of a vampire is no stranger to revenge."

"It would be easier to hate you, you know. Not a soul in Gensokyo would blame me, least of all Satori."

"So why don't you?"

You could say that it wouldn't help Satori. It would fit Sakuya's image of you, and claim a little more common ground via working towards Satori's benefit. But that wasn't why. While it would be foolish to act hostile now, you're a good enough actor to fake amiability. In the end, it was because you couldn't repeat the same mistakes that led to Maribel. And all of that had started with getting back at a few bullies. Of course, the scale here was dramatically different. But didn't that just make it more important?

"'Love your enemy, and pray for those who persecute you.'", you quoted. "One of the things my father taught me. I'm not good enough to live it, not really. But at the same time, if you pay evil unto evil, eventually you'll find someone who can pay you back with interest. I've already had that happen once."

Sakuya doesn't speak again until she's finished treating the rest of Satori's wounds. "Regarding the binding on Satori."

She had your full attention.

"While it's active, her flight and danmaku are discouraged in the same way your own magic is." So... zapping her if she tried to use them. "As her third eye is always active, it's instead redirected, so that she can't see anyone except herself. The binding does not affect her physically."

"Thank you."

She's about to respond, but it's Patchouli's voice that comes out, through your binding. "Sakuya! I've gotten word from Meiling!"

It takes you a moment to place the name. Right, she was the guard they'd sent to check for rumors in the human village.

"That was faster than I expected," Sakuya said. "What did she find?"

"Nothing! The village is gone!"

And in an instant, it's just you and Satori left.

[-] You need to know what's going on. Follow to Patchouli's tent and listen in.
[-] Anything important they'll tell you (or confront you with) later. However, Patchouli's bindings aren't foolproof, and you should have a few minutes with your captors distracted. Look for a way to weaken the binding on Satori.
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[x] You need to know what's going on. Follow to Patchouli's tent and listen in.
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[X] Anything important they'll tell you (or confront you with) later. However, Patchouli's bindings aren't foolproof, and you should have a few minutes with your captors distracted. Look for a way to weaken the binding on Satori.

That's probably important (Keine pulling a repeat performance, maybe?) but odds are they don't know much about the disappearance either, since Meiling presumably didn't spend too long at the village. Better to focus on Satori at the moment.
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Not gonna lie, I'm not entirely satisfied with either option.

Going to the tent would mean just leaving Satori lying there unconcious (but treated, sure). This would make Greg look a lot worse, especially to Sakuya, who has at least somewhat warmed to him.
Taking her with is also just a bad idea since moving her could aggravate her injuries; unless we find something like a stretcher, but then we'd still likely have to move her solo and it obviously wouldn't be stealthily listening in like the choice implies.
Even if I'm misreading the choice and it's just "join in", leaving Satori would not be right.

Staying put with Satori makes us look better and, yes, they probably will tell us anything truly pertinent, just not however much we might have found out otherwise.
Taking the time to research the binding would allow for opportunities later, but obviously we can't actively attempt any meddling right now as Patchouli would likely find out the moment we try anything.
Maybe we could just take the time to make Satori comfortable?
It'd have no real direct benefit to the plan beyond making Greg look nice; possibly granting him more leniency with Sakuya. She already said she wouldn't be swayed from her path as she's already coerced them; and while this is likely to stay the same, it doesn't mean she can't afford us more breathing room.
We can lightly examine the binding while we tend to Satori, but I'm very hesitant about doing any probing investigation.

So, yeah, I'm not entirely for either choice and my initial ideas for adjustments are mediocre at the very best.

Not voting yet. I need to stew on this; maybe others' thoughts will provide better ideas.
I suppose currently I'm leaning towards going to the tent if we can safely move Satori somehow; doing it without sneaking about means Greg could give his thoughts on the matter, however little input he might have.
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[X] Anything important they'll tell you (or confront you with) later. However, Patchouli's bindings aren't foolproof, and you should have a few minutes with your captors distracted. Look for a way to weaken the binding on Satori.
[X] If there's no way to weaken the binding without hurting Satori or alerting the others, simply study it instead and prioritize making her as comfortable as possible.

I think in the end, the best thing that can be done, is sticking with Satori. She's at her lowest point. Even if not much can be done to undo the bindings, leaving her while she's that vulnerable might send a very bad message for starters, to both Satori herself and the others. That said, I'm not sure about the binding in of itself. If it's possible to, well, loosen it a little, even if temporarily, only to reverse it when they return, might be worthwhile. Just studying it, without probing into it too much, might be a good thing to do in the long run. I don't think the information that they will probably tell Greg (albeit, on their own terms), is worth leaving Satori there for. Call me too soft if you'd like, but even pragmatically speaking, the best ally you can have is one of sound mind and sound body, and supporting her right now is the best way to get her back to that state as soon as possible.
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[X] Anything important they'll tell you (or confront you with) later. However, Patchouli's bindings aren't foolproof, and you should have a few minutes with your captors distracted. Look for a way to weaken the binding on Satori.
[X] If there's no way to weaken the binding without hurting Satori or alerting the others, simply study it instead and prioritize making her as comfortable as possible.
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>>204439 here

>>204440 makes a very good argument.

I was already of the opinion that Satori should be prioritised over all else and I realise now that trying to fish for info would just be putting her second.
Let's just make sure Satori is alright first and foremost. Then we can see what we can glance from the binding; without messing with it too much as that would invite too much heat.

[X] Anything important they'll tell you (or confront you with) later. However, Patchouli's bindings aren't foolproof, and you should have a few minutes with your captors distracted. Look for a way to weaken the binding on Satori.
[X] If there's no way to weaken the binding without hurting Satori or alerting the others, simply study it instead and prioritize making her as comfortable as possible.
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[X] Anything important they'll tell you (or confront you with) later. However, Patchouli's bindings aren't foolproof, and you should have a few minutes with your captors distracted. Look for a way to weaken the binding on Satori.
[X] If there's no way to weaken the binding without hurting Satori or alerting the others, simply study it instead and prioritize making her as comfortable as possible.
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[x] Anything important they'll tell you (or confront you with) later. However, Patchouli's bindings aren't foolproof, and you should have a few minutes with your captors distracted. Look for a way to weaken the binding on Satori.
[x] If there's no way to weaken the binding without hurting Satori or alerting the others, simply study it instead and prioritize making her as comfortable as possible.

It wasn't much of a choice, in the end. With Satori unconscious, alone, and half naked in the middle of the mansion grounds, you couldn't possibly leave her like this. Speaking of which, you'd better do something about her modesty first.

After a little internal debate, you decided it would be better to get her out of what's left of the dress. With the back half literally gone, it slid off easily. Thankfully her undergarments were intact, though you averted your eyes anyway. The only other fabric in the area (aside from your own hospital gown) was the bedsheet she was laying on, and while you lacked the ability to fashion it into any sort of clothing, you could at least fold it over to completely cover her. Jostling her as little as possible, you maneuvered her into a more comfortable position, and pulled her third eye out so you could examine the binding on it.

... even with all she'd been through, like this Satori looked like she was merely asleep. You stroked a hand through her hair, pausing to straighten her headband.

Enough. You didn't have time to waste.

The problem was, Patchouli's skill as a mage was on full display here. Satori's binding looked almost like a simple bandage, a pattern of red lines on white paper that on close examination resolved into dozens upon dozens of tiny runes. The work here was intricate, and a good chunk of the runes you flat out didn't recognize. Thankfully, Sakuya's breakdown of the binding gave you a starting point. The maid wasn't a magical expert, so you couldn't read too far into what she'd said, but the key detail was that the binding dealt with Satori's mind-reading and her other abilities in different ways. That in turn meant that the binding had to be smart enough to differentiate between them, and couldn't just be a blanket shutdown on her youkai nature.

Your other resource was that you had a second example of Patchouli's work: the binding she did on you. You'd been able to find time to look at yours beforehand, and while again, many of the runes were unfamiliar to you, between being able to feel the magic literally surrounding you and testing out the edges a bit, you were pretty sure you'd figured out the general structure.

Your binding was basically a mana gatherer keyed to your magical signature (something they must have collected after you'd been captured, while unconscious). It would ignore anything anyone else did (which is why Satori was able to read your mind without issue), but the moment you tried to cast anything, most of your magic would immediately flow to the little paper band around your wrist. It wasn't perfect; you could get a little energy past it, but only if you surged your magic. Which is probably why the binding immediately started burning you the moment it received any energy. The degree of the burn depended entirely on how much energy you fed it... which was actually a security flaw. Because the binding's punishment for testing it scaled up or down to how much magic you fed it, probing it weakly had let you feel out the design without incapacitating yourself or drawing undue attention.

Regardless, while Satori's binding was more complex, Sakuya had told you that part of it worked the same way. Which meant you were able to essentially pattern match the runes between your binding and hers to find the section of her binding that restricted her flight and danmaku. That wasn't the part you cared about, but it was like finding the corner to a puzzle. By recognizing that section of the runes for what it was, and examining the section that led into it, you were able to figure out which runes were responsible for recognizing when she was using any sort of ability. Which by process of elimination meant that the other downstream section of runes had to be the one that dealt with her mind reading.

Leaning in closer to peer at the relevant section, your hopes for any sort of easy fix were quickly dashed. This was even more complicated than the other sections, even if parts of the structure look oddly familiar. Wait. Those groupings of runes appear several times, and for lack of a better word, you can "feel" Satori strongly through them. So if you assume those are keyed to her nature as a satori youkai, and look at the remaining structure - you recognize this! Back when your version of mind-reading was completely out of control, courtesy of Maribel, this was one of the countermeasures you'd looked at!

The concept was simple enough, take the magic and return it to sender. And that was true as far as it went. The problem was, continuously reading your own mind acted as a feedback loop. So long as you remained calm, it wasn't a big deal, but strong emotions would literally fuel themselves. And since they really were your own thoughts and emotions, the effect was damnably subtle, despite its strength. When you'd tried it back then, even though it seemed to work, you'd abandoned the tactic after you went from depressed to nearly suicidal in a couple of days. Sumi had been horrified when she worked it out, and...

Oh. Damnation. That was what was going on here. Satori had been on the verge of snapping the entire time her binding had been active! If you compared it to her behavior back in the mansion, where she'd stayed calm and collected despite the same situation and far more immediate danger... it had to be. Her pain, her grief, her despair, they weren't "worse", not exactly. They just suddenly started hitting her much harder.

You stared down at the sealed third eye, your hands shaking. What could you even do? Saying that the binding itself was hurting Satori sounded maximally suspicious. Sakuya might be warming to you, but she wasn't a mage. She had no way of verifying this for herself, and would probably trust Patchouli's expertise. The same Patchouli who was (admittedly correctly) suspicious of you and that you'd already alienated. Plus the pride angle of implying that the binding she'd designed wasn't working exactly as intended! As for Flandre... well, wasn't that a joke? And even if you somehow convinced your captors, changing it to work differently would require serious time and effort, something they couldn't afford to spend even if they did believe you.

Maybe Satori would be fine? She was both more mature and more mentally stable than you had been, back then. Knowing what was going on did make it easier to compensate for the emotional feedback, and it's not like Satori was a stranger to being surrounded by negative emotions. It's just... this was so much more serious than some stupid classroom drama. Satori was already carrying a lot of burdens, and maybe she was capable of holding up, but this would just make them all that much heavier. Damn!

Could you manipulate the binding, change it yourself? Changing the mechanism wasn't possible. It would be easier to break it than to make it work differently, and have a sinking suspicion that the bindings would incapacitate you (or worse) if removed by force. That left changing the targeting. You already knew which groups of runes were acting as identifiers. If you could just get them to point to anyone or anything other than Satori, then that should actually work! Granted, she'd be stuck constantly reading that person's mind instead of her own, but she had to be used to that sort of thing.

This actually might be possible. Magical blood was a power source, after all. Hypothetically, soaking the relevant sections of runes in your blood would override whatever "essence of Satori" was in there, and redirect her mind reading to you. If it didn't set off some sort of tamper alarm. Or if crudely thrusting an outside source of magical power into a complex working didn't destabilize it and make the entire thing explode.

Hm. You'd need to spend more time examining it to be completely confident there wasn't any sort of anti-tampering working, but you didn't expect there to be one. Despite the level of craft on these things, they had to have been rushed. Given that Satori only entered the picture after you and Sumi had entered Gensokyo, even if Sakuya had found out immediately and Patchouli had started work immediately, that was two days at absolute max. Making an elaborate binding foolproof against the thing it was binding was difficult enough; no way had she adequately safeguarded it against the many, many types of outside interference. If she could work that kind of silver bullet in a couple of days, you'd bow at her feet and demand lessons.

The bigger concern was destabilizing the magic and causing something to blow. Given Sakuya and co wanted you alive, you didn't think there were any lethal safeguards in these bindings, but when a large enough amount of magic goes kaboom, all bets are off. You were pretty sure you could keep things stable if you could feel what you were doing (Sumi had given you plenty of practice on that front), but that was exactly the problem. Your magic was sealed. Not quite perfectly, you could still feel a bit, (which was incredibly helpful in trying to work this out), and you're pretty sure you could push a small effect through if you didn't mind getting magically tased... but trying to tamper with a binding like this was like trying to work bomb defusal with your hands stuck in oven mitts and handcuffed. Behind your back.

You sighed, cradling Satori's third eye in your hands. It was no good. As bad as the emotional feedback loop could be, getting caught tampering with her binding or screwing up said tampering would be worse. Your best bet was trying to keep Satori in situations where her mind reading was more useful unsealed, and to support her between those, at least until you could find an opportunity to properly tamper with it.

Or to escape, for that matter. It's just that, barring outside help, that one seemed several orders of magnitude less realistic.

Feeling defeated, you close your eyes, extending your arm to tuck her third eye back beneath the bedsheets... only to not feel the sheets. Or Satori, or anything other than a sudden breeze on your forearm... and just that forearm.

Your eyes jerk back open, only to see that Satori's third eye, your hand, and about half of your arm has disappeared into a literal tear in space. And then you heard a voice behind you.

"Seeing you like this reminds me of old times. I find myself rather nostalgic."

Not her. Please not her. You look behind you, parasol, purple clothes, blonde hair, damn! "Maribel."

"Yukari," she corrected, walking around to your front. "Though I suppose your encounter with Maribel would have been rather memorable."

"You mean you don't prefer Q. Nira?" you said acidly. "Why are you here?! After everything you've done, why on earth would you show up here?"

Yukari closed her parasol and flipped it over, leaning on it like a walking stick. "It's for your sake, of course. You're surprisingly popular, Greg. Even with my abilities, it's proven remarkably difficult to get to you alone."

Alone? Didn't she realize? "I don't know about that. We're about to have company."

She waved a hand. "Yes, yes, the listening charm Patchouli put on your bindings. How droll. Where are those bindings again?"

You follow her gaze to that tear in space. You jerk your arm reflexively, but your elbow is stuck fast where the gap has ahold of you... and both the binding around your wrist and the one around Satori's third eye are on the other side of it.

"It's such a shame that particular gap doesn't conduct sound, don't you think?"

"You've been watching closely," you realized, shuddering. "You had to be, to know that level of detail."

"Indeed. I suppose I should compliment you. You've grown a fair bit from your school days."

"It's not like I had a choice."

"There's always a choice, Greg. In fact, you get to make one right now! I didn't come here just to reminisce, I have an offer for you. What do you know about shikigami?"

[-] Hear her out. This is as close as you can get to a deal with the devil, but... well, your situation is desparate.
[-] Sound whatever alarms you can. With magic, without magic, screaming, whatever. Nothing good can come of this.
[-] Hear her out, then sound the alarm anyway. Because screw her.
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No. Fuck no. HELL no.

Any offer "Maribel" might have she can stick right up her gap.

Attempting to read into what she said a little:

-It could be about Ran, who we last heard of in Eientei when she prevented Alice from helping, but I don't really know what she'd even talk about concerning her.
I suppose that would be some new plot point, maybe she was acting on her own back in Eientei?

-It could actually just be about shikigami in general, but considering who she is there's absolutely nothing new Greg could bring to the table with regards to knowledge or expertise.
Entirely unlikely for reasons already mentioned, but it's Yukari so who knows.

-The final option I see and the one I find most likely, yet dread the most: she wants a new shikigami. One named Greg.
Ran may or may not have become one by choice. Greg would be little more than a slave.
She might try to sell it off as some convenient powerup, one that would allow him to break those bindings and save Satori in one fell swoop!
But that's just utter tripe. There is absolutely zero way this would end well.
Why would she even want Greg as a shikigami? I dunno, just to screw with him/Sumireko/Satori? Maybe she just wants a competent illusionist to do parlor tricks for her.
It doesn't matter.

Just no. Fuck you Yukari.

[X] Sound whatever alarms you can. With magic, without magic, screaming, whatever. Nothing good can come of this.

I suppose I could be convinced to change to the "hear her out, then sound the alarm" option if somebody has a very good argument for it, but as it stands I think even just listening to her would be detrimental. The less we're exposed to her the better. Maybe it would even prove to our captors that we're being cooperative; instead of taking an "easy" out.

It's entirely possible I misread the situation, but that would change nothing.
Nothing she could offer would ever be without some horrific catch.
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[X] Sound whatever alarms you can. With magic, without magic, screaming, whatever. Nothing good can come of this.

Spite, nothing more nothing less, if we agree it'll 100% comeback to bite us in the ass very hard at the worst timing

Greg has no ennemies but his dislike of Maribel easily outweighs the logic of her bringing something good to him

In fact we should do something to spite her, I'd say spit on her but our arm and Satori are currently at her mercy, we'd also die afterwards

So saying something like
"So you have the choice to leave my sight and never come back"
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[X] Sound whatever alarms you can. With magic, without magic, screaming, whatever. Nothing good can come of this.
Normally, the largest downside of calling for help is that it takes time for the help to arrive. Sakuya negates this pretty heavily. Hearing her out here gives her a foot in the door, and calling for help after having heard her out might make it more likely for her to hurt us. If we call for help quickly, it might be seen as more of a panic response and less of a betrayal.
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[X] Sound whatever alarms you can. With magic, without magic, screaming, whatever. Nothing good can come of this.
do not bring the [Yukari] near me
for there will be heavy consequences if you do
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[X] Sound whatever alarms you can. With magic, without magic, screaming, whatever. Nothing good can come of this.

Personal grudge and/or trauma aside, isn't trusting "Q. Nira" what caused the mess Greg and Satori are stuck in? Remilia did it, look where that got her. It's possible that saying no to her is detrimental to their health, but the other option, as curious as I am about what Yukari wants regarding Greg and... possibly Ran or Chen, there's no way it won't backfire horribly.
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Oh right, you reminded me of the fact she's to blame for Remilia's situation as well.

Yet more reasons to absolutely not give Yukari the time of day: showing our captors we are vehemently opposed to the same "Q. Nira" that was directly responsible for Remilia's predicament could improve our standing with them.
We're already somewhat in Sakuya's good graces, this might be a convenient scapegoat for the other two's ire.
What with her being the actual culprit and all.
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Slight rewrite to one of the options.

[X] Sound the alarm, then hear her out. Because screw her.

She has until Sakuya arrives to make her case to us alone. I say this mainly because just sounding the alarm, though deliciously spiteful, I think she could easily fuck us over real bad if she wanted/was peeved enough. She just (presumably) needs us alive, and even that is questionable. Also if we just sound the alarm, she could probably find some way to do some gap fuckery, and then we're stuck with an annoyed hag.

I think framing it as a challenge to her lets us keep the spite we desperately want to give, while also manipulating her. Maybe the unexpected rush will throw her off her game and she'll let something slip that she wasn't planning to. Maybe she'll be upset/bored and gap away herself. Maybe she'll take care of Sakuya/Patchouli/Flandre in a way that lets us get our seals off, whether by earning their trust or Yukari taking them out of the game. It also does give us the chance to get some information out of her.

I think spitefully challenging her is going to have less negative consequences than completely ignoring her, since we all know how desperate gappy is for attention.
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I approve of your attempt at argumentation and raise you one serving of FUCK OFF GAP HAG
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I have this crackpot theory cooking up from an ominous mixture of dubious canon, somewhat prevelant fan theories and, most dangerously, bored daydreaming that all of this is Maribel's handiwork, who heard stories from old great-aunty Sumireko in the future, projecting herself into Greg's past as his teacher (to fix his abuse of Magic to elevate himself) and as Yukari now (to teach him he can't solve everyone's problems - or even his own) culminating in the most reckless exposure therapy known to man.

[X] Sound the alarm, then hear her out. Because screw her.

I really like this.
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[X] Sound the alarm, then hear her out. Because screw her.
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[X] Sound the alarm, then hear her out. Because screw her.
Any idea is only as good as its elevator pitch. And if she doesn't want to explain, also fine by me.

... I don't imagine it'd be very safe to go through the gap, especially after sounding the alarm, but I'm vaguely curious where this one leads, if anywhere.
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I really don't think giving her this opportunity will in any way pay off well.

It gives off a bad look to all parties.

"Until Sakuya arrives" might as well be instant and her seeing us even just entertaining "Q. Nira" will absolutely ruin any goodwill we've built with her.

We've already seen what a determined/angered Sakuya can do to us and even the likes of Marisa & Reisen. What do you think a PISSED Sakuya will be capable of?

Yukari would probably be more annoyed by this than just the near-panic response of immediately shutting her down.

Give the gap hag no quarter.
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[X] Sound whatever alarms you can. With magic, without magic, screaming, whatever. Nothing good can come of this.
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Hm something that I have in mind here is this conversation is occurring almost immediately after Yukari talking with Sumi, a conversation in which Wukari Implied that she thinks Greg is still the same kids that gleefully mind controlled his entire class. So the question she’s probably asking here is to see if we have changed or merely put on a mask to avoid punishment. So I think we want to avoid the last option and the write-in for this of trying to get one over her here. As for why she would care, Sumi is 3 things for Yukari, and ancestor of her best friend (parent, grandparent or further… but I don’t think too much further?) the founder of the sealing club that Maribel inherited, aaaand the person that… well I don’t think has happened yet in this timeline because of Greg entering too, but the person that has the same dream traveler condition (iirc) that Maribel had/has

Also I think Yukari might’ve messed up here. She says specifically that “It's such a shame that particular gap doesn't conduct sound, don't you think?” which… is pretty likely to tip off Patchouli as anything else. A void of sound is probably just as much of a warning and too much here, since patchy and Flandre is a youkai (a Sakuya is a very deadly agent) they could probably notice if they are paying attention the lack of the sounds of quite a few normally innocuous things (breathing, small movements, etc) or she’s doing it on purpose to trap us, who knows.

So here’s a question… What *is* Greg? Because Yukari didn’t go for a big powerboost that risked Gensokyo which she was one of the founders of, even if it turned out the who Urban legends was because of the Lunarians, which you’d think are a bigger threat than little ol’ Greg… right?

As for which option to go for… either we can sound the alarm right away in which case she leaves… or listen to her and hope that the Scarlet mansion crew has noticed the sudden lack of sound… though that risks losing the goodwill with them. Or try to be sneaky about it and listen to her while discreetly trying to signal with the bracelet, is there no sound in the gap or none that make it from this side? (though that one is leaning towards the third and write-in that I don’t think is a good idea.)

I don’t know which one to pick…

[x]buy time by listening to her offer, but try to discreetly signal by rustling the bracelet on the other side of the gap and hope the Scarlet Crew notices.
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[x] Sound whatever alarms you can. With magic, without magic, screaming, whatever. Nothing good can come of this.

Channel some magic through our wrist bindings and see if we can tip off patchy that we’re trying something.
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[x] Sound the alarm, then hear her out. Because screw her.

Person you'd already had an extremely bad experience with, check.

Probably criminal activity (or whatever passes for it in Gensokyo), check.

Going behind the backs of everyone else involved, check.

Extremely sketchy unspecified offer, check.

Oh, look at that. Yukari's just won predator red flag bingo. It should probably say something that the people who literally kidnapped you alarm you significantly less than her. Unfortunately, at the moment you were a literally captive audience, which limited your options a bit. Gritting your teeth, you pulse your magic, calling enough energy to generate a substantial illusion and feeding it all into the binding. The shock you receive is substantial, but not enough to make you cry out. In particular, Yukari doesn't react, so you think it went unnoticed.

Unfortunately, there's no instant sign of response from Sakuya or anyone else either, so you decide to keep throwing magic at the binding while buying time. Fortunately, Yukari gave you a topic worth some drama.

"Shikigami. As in, the unbreakable magical contract where slavery meets identity death. That kind of shikigami."

"Identity suppression, not identity death," Yukari remarked. "Though considering the difficulty of breaking such a bond, most would call it a technical difference."

"Being forced to watch versus simply being gone seems like a large difference to me." you mutter. If only of the 'what level of hell did you end up on' type.

"It's hardly the torture you seem to think. The original soul remains asleep unless something disturbs it, which is unlikely due to the preconditions of the bond." The youkai brushes past your shoulder as she walks around to her front, continuing her lecture. "The shikigami bond is strong because it must be entered willingly. The servant must agree with what they understand of the master's will before they bind themselves to it, and it is that unity of purpose from which a shikigami draws their strength."

"You're trying to sell me on it. You're actually trying to sell me on it." You looked up at her, channeling as much magic into the binding's alarm as you dared. "Are you really going to ask me to become your shikigami? Me, of all people?"

Now directly in front of you, the greater youkai stares you directly in the eyes. "And if I was?"

You weren't going to play around the point. Not because your captors might be listening in, even if that should be a factor. Regardless of whether it infuriated her, made her stop talking and start acting. But for your sake, because the idea was too horrifying. Because to entertain an idea, even falsely, meant to consider what it might be like, and you couldn't. Not that. Not to her.

"I'd sooner die."

Yukari went silent, and you found yourself smiling. Even without leverage, that was the one choice you could always make. She could beat you twenty different ways, but she couldn't force you to play. There was always the freedom to take the consequences. And choosing that came with a certain strength, because it meant you had nothing else to lose, that there was nothing to threaten you with.

Yukari laughed, a low chuckle that you swore made the ground itself rumble. "Oh, Greg. You've already seen the death threats Satori's gotten, and Sumireko is fighting for her life as we speak. What makes you think you'd be the one to die?"

"If you're threatening them, you should know that won't get you anywhere."

"All I'd have to do is let things take their course. Haven't you realized? Despite all your efforts, that Sumireko would have a much easier time if she were here alone? Or that despite everything, Satori would be better off having never met you?"

You all but growled at Yukari and the youkai nodded. "That would get your attention. But why not a better question? What if you could fix everything?"

You shouldn't ask. You really shouldn't. "And by everything, you mean..."

"Satori and Koishi. Alice's quest for a living doll. Free passage between Gensokyo and Earth. Even helping Remilia if you want. Everything."

Where on earth was Sakuya?! The last thing she should want is to let Yukari make her case! "You can't possibly be promising that."

"Do you doubt me? I manipulate the boundaries between concepts."

"Exactly. It's too much!" you snapped. "Even if you can do that, even if setting up and resolving every aspect of this incident is no big deal for you, why would you be going to that effort for me? Quite frankly, I'm not strong enough to matter. I'm barely even on Gensokyo's power scale."

"Your ability has stagnated because you insist on pretending to be something you're not. Being a good man is not in your nature." She smiled. "I look forwards to when you break that facade and show your true self."

"Are you really Maribel? Because I hated her. Hated her more than I've ever hated anyone. And yet... she was right. For all I hated her, she was right to stop me, to break my control over the class, maybe even to..." no, you're not quite ready to admit that. "It's beside the point. I could see her declaring me weak, or worthless, or that I couldn't be good. But she would never have suggested I throw away my conscience to become stronger."

Yukari's mouth opened slightly as she put a hand up to it. "No one's asked that in ages. Not in that sense. Perhaps..." she hesitated, sighed, and the last words came out in barely a whisper. "The last step might be more difficult than I hoped."

What was that supposed to mean? "I guess it's a moot point. Whether you're her or not, there's a lot of reasons to hate what you're selling. The answer is no."

That moment of surprise or conscience or whatever that was is gone now. "Of course it is," she answers easily. "You were never going to work with me here. You're not desperate yet."

"I'll never be that desperate."

"Are you so sure of that? Everywhere you and your friend run, you find new problems and rack up new debts. More obstacles to face, more danger ever-present, and more people in need. You can't help everyone. You'll need to decide what - or perhaps I should say who - you're willing to sacrifi-"

[Watch - Luna Dial]

A watch bounced off of her, and Yukari froze literally mid-sentence. Not in the sense of stiffening or reacting, but literally stopped moving. Sakuya appeared beside you.


"Sakuya, I'm stuck!"

The maid knelt down, looking at the gap that was holding my arm and Satori's third eye. "Manipulating space and time aren't that different," she said tentatively.

Sakuya's hand was kind of... vibrating, blurry, with some sort of time shenanigans effect over it as it reached for the gap. You're really not sure what happened next, but an instant later all three of you are both blown back, bouncing off the ground and rolling to a stop.

Satori groans, thrashing about in the bedsheet she's still tangled in. You move towards her, and abruptly realize that's not the top concern. Inside Sakuya's time-stop effect, Yukari was ever so slowly moving, starting to gesture. "Sakuya! Yukari's moving!"

"It's expected." Sakuya said, turning her gaze to the sky. "Tenshi! We're clear!"

[Keystone - World Creation Press]
The blue-haired girl from earlier comes out of nowhere, smashing a boulder into Yukari with a yell. The watch, the time stop effect, the youkai and the ground are all pulverized. with even the boulder itself shattering into fragments.

You can barely see anything through the dust cloud, but stare regardless. That attack left a crater. Surely-

Sakuya snaps her fingers in front of your face. "Take Satori and get to Patchouli. This fight is going to be vicious."

[Border Sign - Quadruple Barrier]
There's a yelp and Tenshi is ejected through said cloud at high speed, crashing through a row of bushes. Yukari floats out of the laying on a gap, looking none the worse for wear.

"That was poor courtesy, don't you think?" Yukari smiles. "We were talking."

Sakuya snaps her fingers, and a couple hundred knives fan out to either side of her. "You'll find I have some pointed things to say to you."

[-] Yeah, just take Satori and run.
[-] Try something else? (Write-in)
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[x] Yeah, just take Satori and GET THE %#@$ OUT OF HERE!!

I know it most likely means getting away from Yukari, but if we're fortunate enough, Greg and Satori might actually escape this blasted mansion.
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[-] Yeah, just take Satori and run.
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Wait, didn't "Sound whatever alarms you can" win?

Well, I suppose in the end the result is what mattered and I'll admit Greg is one to resort to fast-talk.
I still don't like that she got to make her pitch and get her foot in the door.

So, it turns out my read on what her offer was, was correct and it sickens me to my core.
Or she was just taunting him with the worst possible option.
The way she's talking about how the suppressed original soul cannot resurface "unless something disturbs it" sounds like maybe this incident did actually have some effect on her shikigami.
But on the other hand she is the expert and would just know this stuff.

Regardless of that all: Fuck you Yukari.

The maid says run, we run.
We got no magic and even if we did she'd see right through it anyway.

[-] Yeah, just take Satori and GET THE HELL OUTTA DODGE!
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So, the thing is, Sakuya's ambush/attack on Yukari was never going to come instantly. While she did in fact respond near-instantly the moment Greg started pulsing magic at the binding, the problem is that the instigator is Yukari, and that's not a fight you want without backup. (It's honestly not a fight you want with backup either, but needs must.) And while Sakuya can do a lot near-instantly, talking with other people does still take time.

As such, she settled for watching and waiting (in case she did need to intervene instantly) while Patchy signaled Tenshi and Flandre. She did drop the hammer as soon as the pieces were in place to actually do so, but it was enough time for Yukari to make her case.

((If you're wondering why Flandre didn't show up for the sneak attack, the problem is that their anti-Remilia weather measure is actually just an anti-vampire measure, and a parasol won't cut it for combat. Tenshi can disable it by swapping the weather from sun to clouds, but Yukari absolutely would have noticed that.))

Considering all that, Greg didn't actually have a way of summoning help any sooner than he did. Even if he literally started screaming, Yukari could absolutely use another boundary trick to silence him and make her pitch anyway. The write-in didn't quite have the most votes, but it was both more in-character and close enough to both the spirit and end result of the majority for me to use it regardless.
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Putting it all into perspective makes a lot of sense and after thinking about it I'm glad you went with it considering Greg's character.

Still, thank you for clarifying.
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[x] Yeah, just take Satori and run.
Greg is so freaking powerful, he just got a billion votes for what amounts to having a tantrum in front of a final boss and sounding an alarm in front of her. And then he casually changes that to a vote that wins by fast talk. In an update where Yukari herself (youkai president) comments about his ability. I'm not even complaining, but that's a plot point right here if there ever was one.
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[X] Yeah, just take Satori and skedaddle.

And we're off to the races, folks! I'm tempted to campaign for "[X] Blow a raspberry" but I think that would require far too little self-preservation instinct for anybody's own good.

Interesting to know exactly when this is happening, since according to Yukari's comment about Sumireko I assume she went straight from the Moriya Shrine to Greg.
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[X] Yeah, just take Satori and floor it.
[X] Blow a raspberry
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>Sakuya snaps her fingers, and a couple hundred knives fan out to either side of her. "You'll find I have some pointed things to say to you."
You know, everyone always sees Sakuya as a serious and perfect maid, they often never notice that she has an awful sense of humor that goes over everyone's heads. I'm glad you captured this with that awful pun.
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[X] Yeah, just take Satori and hotfoot it out of there.

Nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope, so much nope. Fuck that, fuck Yukari, in the unfun cactus way. Go Sakuya, kick the old hag's ass!
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I want to cast「Orb of Darkness」again for the meme (that it is to me), but really, I think it would be counterproductive all in all. Casting illusions around the SDM crew and Tenshi to make their actions harder to discern would be more beneficial than that. Even then, running is the most optimal choice (even if Yukari wins) just to get Satori out of harm's way.

[x] Yeah, just take Satori and fly, you fool.
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Thinking about it even more: writing it as a sneaky call for help, without waving it in her face; while at the same time entertaining her to keep her occupied was a smart way to merge both choices in the spirit of Greg's character.

Very well executed. Bravo!
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>So here’s a question… What *is* Greg? Because Yukari didn’t go for a big powerboost that risked Gensokyo which she was one of the founders of, even if it turned out the who Urban legends was because of the Lunarians, which you’d think are a bigger threat than little ol’ Greg… right?
My pet theory is that Greg himself doesn't matter, but Maribel's past connection to him does. With Maribel being a human and Yukari a youkai, it's probably kind of like a twisted version of "It's my old acquaintance, I wanna keep him safe in a refrigerator for a century or two".
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Pondering Dream of End Times
"Shikigami. As in, the unbreakable magical contract where slavery meets identity death. That kind of shikigami."

"Identity suppression, not identity death," Yukari remarked. "Though considering the difficulty of breaking such a bond, most would call it a technical difference."

"Being forced to watch versus simply being gone seems like a large difference to me." you mutter. If only of the 'what level of hell did you end up on' type.

"It's hardly the torture you seem to think. The original soul remains asleep unless something disturbs it, which is unlikely due to the preconditions of the bond."

>>204473 You made me think about whole thing with the quote and there's something obvious going on when you put some things side by side.

The emerging (or already emerged) Perfect Possession UL is messing with the Yakumos. It's also an indication (however much weight you want to put to her words) that Yukari told Sumireko that Ran was acting out of line.

I've been doing a check-up on things relating shikigami and AoCF.

From AoCF:
Marisa: "Everyone else is using perfect possession, but you're the only one by yourself, huh?"
Yukari: "Can you guess why that is?"
Koishi: "Ooh, I know! It's 'cause you have no friends, right? So sad..."

While Yukari has spellcards in the game that utilise Ran and Chen, in the story she is hanging back by herself back until she's absolutely certain she's got the dynamics of PP UL figured out. With the exception of pretty specific boundary fuckery at the right time, the Yorigami twins actually were unbeatable in the way they exploited Perfect Possession.
Given Ran's specific (cap)ability of making shikigami and her funky existence as a being that is posessed herself (I'll admit: I read that part on TVTropes) it makes sense that Yukari wouldn't want to involve her as it would mean risking damaging, losing or even having her most trusted and powerful asset turn against her.
To me the biggest thing about it all though is that PP ejects the dream-selves of those involved into the real world, which given the Yukari-Maribel relation is... well a big danger for Yukari herself first of all. And, I'm just spitballing here, it potentially cascades up to a potential existential threat to the continued existence of Gensokyo, depending on how much its creation is to be attributed to sleeping Maribel's temporally-paradoxical dream existence.
Most end-of-the-world scenarios fall flat because they haven't built up to them properly, but this one might just work if that's what is going on.

Given all of that and, just humoring myself, believing my own most egregious takes on the matter, Yukari's keeping appearances together pretty well all in all. The only times she slipped was in front of Sumireko on the topic Ran's insubordination and I front of Greg regarding how Maribel would act. That is Considering all her assets are bound to become liabilities and the Gensokyo the dreaming girl loves is in peril.

Though she did seem pretty desperate offering to solve all of Greg's problems just for his help thinking about it...

What's his part, I have no clue. I'll admit that I let my thoughts wander on the whole matter.
Now with a potential end of the world scenario due to Moon Folk Fuckery the parallels to KKHTA continue to grow like a malign tumor
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Right, I'd forgotten that Yukari mentioned Ran to Sumi.
Now I know why the back of my mind was nagging at me when I read that line in this update.

As it stands I cannot really comment on the part about the intrinsic aspects of Gensokyo's existence, though.
Not enough information in this story yet to even begin to understand how it is done here.
If anything, figuring this out could be considered a core goal of our MCs. Since once you know how a system works, you can figure out how to manipulate it.
This incident is just one smaller part of that whole; even if it isn't yet fully understood by even the bigwigs.
Probably because of those darn meddlin' lunarians.
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potentially cascades up to a potential existential threat to the continued existence of Gensokyo

How I was able to type this out without noticing is baffling.

Oh no, for what they're worth I was just airing my thoughts about the possible effects and consequences of the whole Shikigami/Perfect Posession affair.

Really though, having considered this, this recontextualises Sagume's plans for the defense against the Lunar Invaders to me. The ongoing Urban Legend incident being such an effective distraction, it would have facilitated a swift invasion of the lunarians, should it have been truly necessary.
Makes Sagume actually a genius.
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>the parallels to KKHTA continue to grow like a malign tumor
Stop it. Do you want to bad end us?
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Where is Koishi right now though? Is she STILL looking for an Urban Legend for Greg?
Either this moment right now or Sumireko's storming of the mansion - if this still is where things are going - are suitably dramatic for her appearance.

We need her here at the SDM so we can trigger all the death flags after all.
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New reader here! Just finished binging the entire story, and I have to say, it's amazing. I know we are on a Greg chapter right now, but I have a few thoughts about the Sumireko chapter that I felt like sharing.

First, the reason for her memory loss: I think it might have something to do with Mary. Yukari implied that Sumi's forgetfulness was a result of something she did herself. Along with that, there has been a small mystery regarding Mary's power source: she seems to run out of magic too quickly, even when Sumi overcharges her. Sumi also only showed the first signs of forgetfulness after charging the doll( >>203817 ). Not to mention, the doll's semi-sentience comes from the bundle of memories from Koishi. My main theory is that Mary runs on memories, so every time Sumi charges her, she's feeding it her memories. I don't really have any concrete proof, so this is more of a guess than a theory, but I do think the doll and Sumi's memories are connected somehow.

Second, the reason for Suwako being mad at Sumi: Did we ever take off the Koishi disguise? If not, then Suwako thinks we're Koishi. This would also mean that Koishi stabbed Sanae, which has some interesting implications all on its own. Of course, I could have missed an obvious line that disproves this, in which case I apologize for being illiterate.

Other than that, I don't have anything to add. Congrats to the author for the awesome story and keep up the great work! As for this latest choice:

[-] Yeah, just take Satori and run.
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Sumireko dropped the Koishi disguise during or at least after most of the treck through the mountain's forest and before she tried using Mary as a surveillance doll. Which was before the fight against Suwako.

Good find regarding aspects of Sumireko's memory loss though, I completely forgot about that (how weird).

Pulling things from old updates as well: >>202276
>The first manifestation of your magic, disappointment over a bad grade in history. [...]you see it reading 95 instead of 73.
>Experimenting. Trying to turn an apple into something else, concentrating, focusing with all your might, and nothing. No change, not even an illusion, but the changed grade is sitting there, mocking you. It wasn't a mistake. [...] So why?
>There were a handful of other incidents through your childhood. A vase suddenly unbroken, chores appearing done and giving you the time to actually do them... the only real thread was the magic showing up to get you out of trouble, but it was never predictable, and never repeatable. You tried getting in trouble once or twice, to see if it would cause the magic to show up for you, but that never worked.
>Meeting Sumireko. She came in as a transfer student to your middle school, acting all aloof and superior. She was left alone for a while, and you were happy to leave things that way. Up until show and tell. She boasted about her ability as a magician, summoned a handful of bugs, and talked about her drive to discover real magic... The kids laughed. They stopped laughing when she set the centipedes on them.
>She got detention. You punched a random kid to get one too.
>Studying the same books Sumireko had tried, the same rituals and spells she'd attempted. Maybe one in four attempts actually lead anywhere, and the magic you succeeded at was completely different from her spells, but it was progress. You eventually got it to work on command, but your magic just seemed to work better around her. The two of you never did figure out why.

My thoughts the first time reading the part about his magic working better around Sumireko were it being your typical shtick about the power of lovefriendship amplifying magical powers. I wouldn't put it past them to test the trope out, both being genre-aware geeks. The nature of his magic and Yukari's continued insistence on Greg being a bad person pretending to be good and the Shikigami offer put this in a new light.

Also turns out Greg was and still is a shitter when it comes to getting things he wants. From punching kids and fooling his dad in the past to ignoring nonconsent and actually fucking squeezing down on bleeding wounds in the present. Just that he does those things now 'only' when he deems them for the greater good.
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>She laughed again, which did absolutely nothing for my temper. "Oh, Sumireko. I won't be held responsible for your mistakes. Don't you remember how you ended up in Gensokyo in the first place?"

>Like I'd forget that! "A youkai's trap. Why, did you lay one?"

>"Which youkai?"

>That brought me up short. It was a simple question, but... I couldn't answer. I didn't know. Sure, I'd been through a lot the past couple of days, but that didn't matter because I'd never forget something that simple and important, and yet I had. I hadn't even realized I'd forgotten. Someone messed with my head, and I hadn't noticed. Wouldn't have noticed, if Yukari hadn't decided to taunt me about it.

>"Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it," she said.

>"If you could do that, then why..." No, that wasn't the important part!

>"How did we get here?"

>"Do you want the accurate answer or the one that won't get me slapped?" She glared at you and raised a hand, and you hurriedly answered, "The tanuki laid a trap with that fake power stone!"

makes me glad we didn't try to abuse the koishi doll for our benefit
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>pretend to be Koishi
>actually get early onset dementia

Yeah, checks out.
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[-] Yeah, just take Satori and run.

Behind you, Sakuya and Yukari are dancing through bullets and knives respectively, Tenshi's charging back in with a ring of lasers, and the sky has gone from absurdly sunny to threatening a storm in a few seconds. Wait, scratch the threatening part, that was a lightning strike. Which Yukari somehow deflected into the mansion itself, which is now on fire.

Sometimes discretion isn't just the best part of valor, it's damn near the only part of valor.

"Satori, get up! We have to run!"

She yelps as you pull her upright. "Greg? What's going on?!"

"Yukari kicked the hornet's nest!" you yell.

You try to pull her along, but Satori stumbles and you bite back a swear. She's injured, what were you thinking? "Lean on me!" you tell her, leaning down to get your shoulder under her armpit, with your arm around her back for added support. She nods and latches on, and the two of you again try to run for it.

It's not as quick as you'd like. Satori's still disoriented, and even with you supporting her she only hobbles along at a slow jog, made slower because apparently Tenshi's sword causes earthquakes. Heavily localized ones, granted - the ground is merely unstable compared to pillars literally bursting from the ground inside the melee - but it's still enough to make running difficult at best. Nobody in the melee seems to actually be targeting the two of you, but an accidental blow could still paste you across the landscape.

[Forbidden Barrage - Starbow Break]
Feeling the spellcard declaration, you glance back as Flandre charges in with the subtlety of a nuke. In the span of a couple moments, you see Yukari dodge away from a sword swing from Tenshi, and open up a gap which the celestial falls into. The other end of the gap opens up directly into the vampire's path. Flandre continues her charge regardless, and it's only the quick intervention of Sakuya that prevents Tenshi from becoming friendly fire.

Then the spellcard's wave of bullets hit the ground, resulting in a brand new set of craters across the lawn, and a brand new stumble from the ground shaking. And then Yukari retaliates.

[Sinister Spirits - Double Black Death Butterfly]
Satori mutters something about remembering that one, and you do what you can to keep pulling her forwards. At least this spellcard is completely airborne, so you have a reprieve from becoming collateral damage. And Patchouli's tent is right there.

All told, the journey only took a couple of eternities minutes, but that didn't stop it from being one of the more harrowing experiences of your life. There's a moment of panic when you nearly hit a barrier surrounding the tent, but it lowers as you approach it and snaps back up the instant you've crossed. And with that, you're inside to relative safety.

The tent was absolutely bigger on the inside, seeing that it contained an actual library. As in, a dozen rows of bookshelves that stretch to at least fifteen feet high. Looking through the aisles, you see Patchouli down towards the far end of the tent, kneeling in the middle of what looks like a ritual circle. (The candles are a dead giveaway.) There's a red-haired girl with bat wings watching said ritual, and when she sees you, she hurriedly gestures for you to stay away.

Fine by you. You make a beeline for the nearest chair, one of those big comfy armchairs meant for reading, and breath a sigh of relief as you help your friend into it. "How are you feeling, Satori?"

She practically sinks into the cushions, closing her eyes with a groan. "Side hurts less, burns a little. Head feels stuffy and dizzy. Reminds me of being sick."

"The medical supplies Miss Sakuya used were from Eientei!" You almost jump at the high-pitched voice. That winged girl you saw earlier snuck up on you. "I believe their bandages have a painkilling effect."

Having yet another unknown factor puts you on edge. "Are you another vampire?"

She smiles at you. "Sure!"

Satori starts coughing, and you glance at her in concern. That's not great. So if she's a vampire - and she's got little head-wings too - and with that hair color... "So would that make you the scarlet devil? I guess that means you're supervising things here?"

The scarlet-haired girl's now grinning openly. "This is a rare opportunity. Should I start making demands?"

A rare opportunity? What did she mean by that? You bite your lip, considering. You hadn't seen her earlier, so could she be here because of Yukari? But if she had a major power she should be helping them fight right now, so maybe she's a trump card? Sure, she looked young and innocent, but at first glance, so did Flandre.

Satori breaks into open laughter. You stare at her, baffled, and after a couple attempts she gets out, "That's Koakuma. She's a minor devil and Patchouli's assistant."

She mock glares at Satori, hands on hips. "You ruined it!"

Oh. You misread things. The smile wasn't hiding a deeper meaning, she was just messing with you. Maybe the whole thing with Yukari made you a little paranoid.

That said, the name does sound familiar. "Isn't she the one who stopped Remilia with the cross?"

"That's me!" She leaned in conspiratorially. "After that, my master was so pleased she tripled my pay!"

That at least is a setup you recognize. "You don't get paid, do you?"


Even expecting it, the punchline does cause you to chuckle. "So why are you over here, anyway? If you're Patchy's assistant, I figured you'd be helping with the ritual."

She shrugged. "It's already running at this point. I figured I'd see if you need anything," she said, looking pointedly at Satori.

"Some water would be nice," Satori said, closing her eyes again. "Come to think of it, it's cold in here too."

Following Koakuma's gaze, you belatedly realized the bedsheet got lost somewhere along the way. You rubbed the bridge of your nose, specifically not looking at the beautiful young woman in her undergarments. "I think she's asking if you'd like new clothes."

Satori opened her eyes, irritated. "Why would I need new... eep!"

"I like the flower pattern!" Koakuma said brightly. "Very lacy."

Satori went bright red and hugged her knees to her chest. "Greg! What happened to my dress?!"

"Sakuya had to cut it open to get at your injuries. It didn't really survive the process," you said, still doing your best not to look at her. "At least... it's not that different from a bathing suit?"

Satori mumbled something about Aya and buried her head in her arms. Thankfully, out of the corner of your eye, you saw what should be at least temporary salvation: A blanket. Darting over to grab it, you draped it over her, and leaned down to tuck in the edges. "There. That should do the trick, at least until Koakuma can get you new clothes."

"Coming right up!" Koakuma declared, flying off into the library.

Satori looked up at you, cheeks still burning, grabbing the blanket and shifting uncomfortably with it. "Did you-" she shakes her head and looks away. "Never mind. Thanks."

You take a moment to pluck out a leaf that got tangled in her hair. "Are you really okay?"

She tensed at your movement and hugged the blanket tighter. "Why wouldn't I be?"

You stare at her in disbelief. "Satori, you were injured, had your ability sealed, collasped, fainted, and then were woken up Yukari's gap imploding. That's literally a list."

"I'll be fine." She said, still not looking at you. "You don't have to worry about me. You should probably use this chance to gather information."

[-] Let it pass for now. She's not wrong about the opportunity, and you should...
----- [-] Check out the ritual Patchouli's doing.
----- [-] Try to find a useful book in the magic library (insert a topic)
----- [-] See how the battle's going outside.
[-] Catch her up on the developments since she fainted, specifically about the details on her binding and what Yukari said.
[-] Ask if she's worried about being close to you.
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My first impulse is to vote for (X)Catch her up on the binding, then go see Patchi's ritual.
Getting to speak to patchy is important for negotiation, and the ritual is probably relevant to the battle, and we might be able to help. I don't really want to trouble Satori with Yukari's offer either, but letting her know about the binding might be fair.
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[X] Wait for Satori to get dressed, and catch her up on the developments since she fainted, specifically about the details on her binding and what Yukari said while checking on Patche's ritual.

And she's back! Satori's clearly not ok, and I think Greg gets that, but he also gets right now they have bigger fish to fry. I think theoretically options 1a and 2 can be fused. If not, well:

[X] Catch her up on the developments since she fainted, specifically about the details on her binding and what Yukari said.

I think out of the two, making sure our closest ally and friend is caught up to speed. Of the first option, I think checking on Patche's ritual is best, since going in blind trying to find a useful book doesn't seem like a very efficient thing to do right now, and maybe I'm paranoid, but I feel checking on the battle might lead to a hostage situation. Finally, the third option, once shit leaves the fan, then I'd go for it. Like I said, Satori's clearly not okay, and I'm pretty sure Greg knows it. So once the situation's resolved, things can be processed, but right now? Bigger fish to fry.
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204495 here. Looks like we share a braincell.
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Not really sure what to do yet.

I don't want to leave Satori, even if she's relatively safe now.

Catching her up is fine and all, but those specifics are extremely bad to mention openly.
Even if we didn't have bugs on us in the form of the bindings, we'd be saying it in Patchouli's library, a witch's home turf, temporary or not.
Better that she reads it from our mind when next she can. If she asks about Yukari just give her a look to signify there is something you can't say openly?

Asking about if she's worried about being close to Greg feels rather insensitive, especially to spring that on her now of all times.

So in my opinion the most productive thing would be to give Satori an update of the things that are safe to mention and then doing one of the other things with the time left.

Disturbing Patchouli's ritual seems like a real bad idea.
Koakuma already shooed us away and if said ritual is what keeps us safe in the tent we don't want to mess with it.

Taking a look at the battle doesn't really seem to serve any immediate purpose.
We'd be in the barrier and so relatively safe from stray attacks, but what would we even learn?
I suppose we could learn a bit about how everyone there attacks, which could be an advantage later.
The thing is that Greg doesn't do straight-up fights well anyway, so he'd probably be looking for weaknesses to exploit and escape opportunities in patterns.
Overall not awful, but it doesn't get us anything immediately beneficial to our current goals.

That leaves searching for books.
Arguably the most useful source of immediate information, but I can't really think what topic would be top priority to search for.
If any other readers have some insight into good topics I'd be all ears.

Postponing vote until I decide on a book topic or somebody writes in a good argument for some other course of action
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>>204497 here
It posted my wall twice.
Sorry about that, it's deleted now.
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[x] Try to find a useful book in the magic library (insert a topic)
-[x] Sealing Magic. Specifically the chapter about un-sealing magic.

Might as well take advantage of everyone being distracted to unseal ourselves. If we get the seal off we can make an illusion of the seal still being on us.

If they catch us reading it, we can say we are trying to figure out how Patchy managed to fuck up Satori's seal badly enough to seriously injure Satori.
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[x] Let it pass for now. She's not wrong about the opportunity, and you should...
---[x] See how the battle's going outside.

There's really only two choices here. The first option is to go check out Patchouli's ritual. In my opinion, it's likely to be something that seals the mansion, corrupted Remilia, ourselves (!) and Yukari completely inside, as that accomplishes most of the preparations needed to deal with the SHTF scenario currently happening for SDM crew. As regrettable as that is, we shouldn't interrupt it - or anything else Patchy cooks up, should my guess be wrong. Because if things go wrong for them, no matter what kind of escape or action scene we pull off, it will return back to us somehow. And that's on the bright side of the fuckup spectrum. Call it an educated guess.

So to best use the opportunity, observe the battle outside. Not only for the battle itself, but there's dozens of things from outside that may screw things up. Orin + Okuu combo rescue party, Koishi interrupt, Alice busting in or even Sumi making it here in record time (?!?) with all of tengu hot on her heels. Even if we can't fight, we are much better at observing or receiving those kinds of uninvited guests than all of SDM.
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Hm, there's really not a consensus just yet. If there's anyone who hasn't voted who would like to, please get them in within the next 20 hours or so, if possible I'd like to start writing tomorrow.
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[X] Let it pass for now. She's not wrong about the opportunity, and you should check out the ritual Patchouli's doing.

I don't see much point to looking at the battle, and I understand the risk of catching her up with the bindings on, even if they're probably frying bigger fish at the moment. That means the only other two really viable proposed paths are checking out the ritual and looking for a book on sealing magic. Both seem perfectly viable, but there seems to be a slight consensus toward the ritual so I'm going with that.
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>>204497 here
I'll throw my eggs in the Patchy basket.

I'd like to make sure Satori's alright before we head out, though.
Maybe ask if she needs anything before we leave?
There's no real way to signal we have something to say but can't say it without being on the topic already, so that'll just have to come later.

[X] Let it pass for now. She's not wrong about the opportunity, and you should check out the ritual Patchouli's doing.
-[X] Make sure Satori has everything she needs before going.

Satori probably needs a moment right now, anyway.
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>>204504 here
Scratch that post. I am a complete and utter idiot.
Even with the risk of spilling sensitive information we absolutely should mention the fact her binding causes a negative feedback loop that causes a severely taxing downward mental spiral similar to the one that almost turned Greg suicidal once.

Following the lead of the first two anons.
[X] Catch her up on the binding, then go see Patchy's ritual.

If combining isn't possible just catch her up.

Better to let something slip now and have to answer difficult questions later than leave Satori in the dark about something this serious for who knows how long.

Truly sorry about the double post, my brain just decided to up and die on me.
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[X] Catch her up on the developments since she fainted, specifically about the details on her binding and what Yukari said
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[x] Catch her up on the developments since she fainted, specifically about the details on her binding and what Yukari said.

>Satori, you were injured, had your ability sealed, collasped, fainted, and then were woken up Yukari's gap imploding. That's literally a list.
Can't help to be overly aware of things like this now, but notice how the wording leaves out Greg's part in Satori's fainting.
I wonder how her feelings changed from the time we saw her last POV.

>Sumi making it here in record time (?!?)
Now I'm imagining the Greg chapter ending with her bombastic appearance and him (and Yukari) going like "what, how" followed by the story switching to Sumireko's POV detailing how she got here which would be such a fucking cliché and make me mad and I'd be ALL for it.
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[-] Catch her up on the binding, then go see about Patchy's ritual.

You wanted to press. You didn't need to read her mind to see that she's upset, and on a deeper level than mere embarrassment. It reminded you of the kiss at Alice's house. It was the only thing before the binding that had rattled her like this, and just like back then, she was turning you away, looking for a chance to compose herself.

That's wasn't the worst way to handle problems, (it's certainly easier to deal with than Sumi just blowing her top), but it struck you as a way to avoid the issue. Like how she'd brushed things off before as Koishi's fault.

The problem was, if this was what you thought it was, if it wasn't just you, if Satori was troubled just by the idea of being close to someone, that was the sort of thing where it was easier to never confront it. To keep all your interactions cordial, professional, distant, and through all of that, safe. Because dealing with loneliness was far safer than letting someone in.

But did you have that right? Even if she should let someone in, you'd only known her a couple of days. It was entirely possible she'd be more comfortable opening up to someone else. But then again, you were certain that this would be the last thing she'd want to talk about. Maybe even less than Koishi crippling herself. You might not be able to get her to open up if you missed this chance. You looked down at your hand, still stained with her blood, and sighed.

"We all need someone to worry about us sometimes," you said gently. "But I won't pry."

It was the wrong way to look at it. Encouraging Satori to work through her issues, whatever they proved to be, might be good for her. Ambushing her with them while her mind reading was disabled and her emotions were compromised was not. You couldn't just assume you knew best and rush forwards, damn the consequences. Especially because you didn't really have privacy.

Satori barely reacted, so you laid a hand on her shoulder, saying, "That said, there is something you need to know. Something important."

Satori took a deep breath, used the corner of the blanket to wipe her face, and looked up at you. "Yes?"

"While you were unconscious, I got a good look at the binding on you, and how it restricts your mind reading." You hesitate, then fold your hands behind your back. Better to do this professionally. "The short version is that the binding redirects things so that you're constantly reading your own mind. Basically, your emotions are going to feel a lot stronger while it's active. And feed into themselves."

Her eyes widened, and you could practically see her replaying the moment in the gazebo, or when she'd snapped at Patchouli and Sakuya. An instant later, her eyes narrowed. "Was that intentional?"

You grimaced. "Probably not? It's not an obvious effect. I only spotted it because I'd tried something similar on myself, back then."

She didn't respond, and you laid a hand on her arm. "It's better not to think about it. It's far too easy for your thoughts to spiral somewhere dark."

"Which part shouldn't I think about?" Her voice started low, but rose in volume as she built up momentum. "Being kidnapped, being held hostage, the death threats, having my third eye sealed, having my emotions compromised, or any of the other 'small' ways they've screwed us over?!"

Damn! You took as much magic as you could, and threw it at her, pushing a feeling of calm. Most of it got sucked away by your binding, but a good bit still made it through. Then the binding's punishment hit, and you gasped as the shock ran through your system, stumbling and catching yourself on the arm of the chair.

Satori sat bolt upright, staring at you. "Greg?!"

You pushed yourself back up to a standing position and gave her a sad smile. "Anger's better than despair in this case, but not by much."

She relaxed slightly, still looking at you. "That's it then? Think positive?"

"'Whatever is good, whatever is noble, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about such things.'" Satori looked nonplussed, so you added, "Philippians four, verse eight."

She raised an eyebrow at you. "How many of those have you memorized?"

You breathed a sigh of relief. That was somewhere between mild annoyance and bemusement, which was exactly what you'd been hoping for. "To be fair, my dad is a pastor."

"How does that work with you having magic?"

It's your turn to wince and look away. "I never told him. For that exact reason."

She nodded slowly. "You were worried he'd think you were possessed."

For her mind-reading being sealed, that was dead-on. You shook your head, she probably saw it earlier. "More or less. I mean, my power is mine. I'm absolutely certain about that. But I don't have a way to prove it. And the fact that Sumi gets a kick out of making magic look occult doesn't help."

"With how you talk about your dad, I thought you were close."

"We are!" you defended. "I'm only keeping the one secret. It's just-"

She put a finger to your lips. "I understand. Sometimes we keep secrets for good reason, because some conversations only promise pain." She gave you a sly smile. "Or should I be telling you to open up and trust him?"

You'd have to be blind to miss the parallel. Which really raises the question of how she outmaneuvered you that badly. "I thought you were disoriented?"

She sat up a little straighter, looking you dead in the eyes. "I know how you think, Greg. And it was sweet of you to distract me from my thoughts with yours."

You glance down at her binding, then at yours, and meet her gaze again. Was she reading your- "Only for a moment. What you did a minute ago, to calm me down, was helpful, even if it is fading."

"Should I try it again?"

Her arm shot out, grabbing yours by the binding, and you stumbled as she pulled on it, shifting it ever so slightly and revealing the red, raw skin beneath. "Only if I need it." Her eyes flicked down to the burn, then back to yours. "Only if I really need it."

"As you wish," you said with a sigh. Regardless, did she think you should-

"Go on," she told you. "I'll be fine. You don't need to worry about me."

The same words as before, but a very different energy behind them this time. You smiled at her. It was good to have her back.

She blushed, pushing you away. "I said go!"

You shook your head, chuckling. Fine then. Time to check out Patchy's ritual.

[-] To be continued.
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This is interesting stuff. Has Greg's nationality been stated yet? If not I'm going to assume he's a US military kid, and his father is either still in the military or has gone native. Alternatively he could be native Japanese, Japan does have an existent Christian population, from recent converts, filipino/brazilian immigrants, or that weird Christian/Shinto mix sect that survived underground while the religion was banned.

All I know is that we definitely will need Greg to meet Seiga now.
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Man. Am I glad my dumb ass remembered the whole mental feedback loop thing and changed my vote... even if that was directly after I posted something different.

Greg's magical mental tranquilliser had the side effect of temporarily allowing Satori to read minds again?
I wonder how that interaction came to be.
Initial theories include overloading the binding; too much energy to fully absorb, so it has a moment where it weakens afterwards.
Or maybe his brand of mental magic creates a bridge of sorts between minds, if only for a moment, allowing Satori to read it.
Whatever the case, we have a countermeasure now, if a desperate one. And one that Patchouli will possibly know about now.

I don't subscribe to the "Greg is still a bad bean" theory myself, but if I did I suppose I could read the part of Greg helping Satori in this update as him still resorting to enforcing his will on others by force as he did in the past; even if just to help them.

I, for one, believe in Good Guy Greg.

As for Patchouli's ritual: going to see her immediately is best, as long as we don't actually interrupt the ritual, because now we've basically confessed to messing with our bindings while being recorded.
Better to rip that band-aid off now and be candid about any questions flung our way.
If she's not too busy trying to fight off the monstrosity that is a Yakumo, of course.
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>ywn have Satori put her finger to your lips to shut you up
>ywn be told that you're understood by Satori
>ywn be called sweet by Satori for trying to cheer her up
>ywn be told by Satori to be there for when she needs you
>ywn be pushed forward by a flustered Satori to go do something you set out to do
Why even live?

SIMP-posting aside Satori's being cute this chapter.
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>Damn! You took as much magic as you could, and threw it at her, pushing a feeling of calm.
My man casually induced an emotion in a youkai. Those aren't even human. With this and some speech check fueled elbow grease, this guy could actually fast talk the entire SDM if the bindings were off. And even with them, he is managing.
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[-] Check out Patchouli's ritual

Considering the tent is obviously a temporary location, the magic circle Patchouli's sitting in is surprisingly intricate. While the rest of the tent is sitting on grass, someone put together a circular wooden platform in the center, raised maybe a couple inches off the ground. (A part of you idly where they found the time to construct something that polished, but it's hardly the most important point right now.) Instead of the standard magic circle setup you and Sumi use for your rituals, the mansion's mage has the central design of her runes laid out in the shape of a five-pointed star.

Patchouli is chanting a language you've never heard before in the center of the star, and each of the points contains an object: Arranged clockwise, you see a candle, a wooden stick, a bowl of water, a knife, and a small pile of dirt. Above her, the tent has a skylight letting the sun down directly onto Patchouli, reflecting off of a crescent mirror at her feet. You barely recognize any of the runes being used here, but you hardly need to. This is obviously the elemental power source for the rest of the ritual, and you can feel the magical energy flowing through the points of the star, spiraling around and around the mage.

From the points of the star come a number of lines, gracefully curving around towards around a dozen or so smaller circles that are themselves filled with runes. The designs of those vary significantly, from small ones with only a couple of runes and one line connected to them to ones that could be entire rituals on their own, complete with their own materials. The most noticeable of those is a full-sized mirror, and as you watch Patchouli continue to chant, that circle containing it is the first one to light up, with sun and moon energy gathering into it.

Oh, interesting. It's not just a single spell. This entire setup is essentially a modular ritual, with various types and amounts of elemental power being channeled into whichever of the smaller effects Patchouli wants. That's brilliant and slightly terrifying, actually, but you're careful to remain quiet and not interrupt. Patchouli catches sight of you in her peripheral vision, and you can feel the glare she sends your way, but she continues her chant regardless. She kind of has to. If you interrupt a ritual and you're lucky, it dissipates harmlessly. If you're not, you're at ground zero. This danger increases with the size and complexity of the ritual, and while you don't doubt there's safety protections in there somewhere, you'd be surprised if a disruption to this left the tent standing. At any rate, you offer no such trouble, and Patchouli's spell goes on, causing an image to appear on the mirror.

It's the battle outside, from a bird's eye view. You're not really sure who's winning; with the exception of Tenshi (who seems to be getting absolutely destroyed at every turn), the other combatants are trading blows; Flandre and Sakuya tossing out complicated spellcards that Yukari takes hits from in exchange for further annihilating the celestial. Tenshi's throwing out some strong attacks of her own, but unlike Flandre and Sakuya's, those never come close to hitting the gap youkai, and a couple of them get turned back on her.

Which is honestly curious. Tenshi's attacks look both strong and fast, from what looks like a sword made of fire to giant rocks and circles of lasers, and yet you're pretty sure Flandre's attacks are leaving larger craters. Nevertheless, Yukari is making sure to never take any hits from the celestial, and willingly tanking hits from the vampire to do so. (As well as from Sakuya, but her knives don't appear to be doing much of anything in this fight.) Considering how Yukari's absolutely pounding on Tenshi at every turn, you're really not sure if this is some hidden strategy, or if she just has a grudge.

But Patchouli's attention isn't on them, as the mirror's view pans over to the mansion. The mansion that is still, in fact, on fire. The chant changes tempo, and a new circle lights up, this one drawing power from the water point of the star.

[Water Sign - Princess Undine]
Water bullets crash into the top layer of the mansion, taking out the fire on impact along with chipping away the roof's tiles where they land. Patchouli keeps the spellcard going for half a minute, running it back and forth along the roof's surface to make sure the fire is completely out. Which it is, but looking at the state of what's left of the roof... you guess it's technically an improvement.

Regardless, Patchouli then turns her attention to the actual fight. Tenshi's off on the sidelines, having been rescued by Sakuya, and Flandre's currently chasing Yukari through one of the gap youkai's spellcards, a curtain of giant red orbs flanked by lines of cyan daggers. Yukari says something, getting a scowl from Flandre, but Patchouli moves on to another spellcard of her own.

[Fire Water Wood Metal Earth Sign - Philosopher's Stone]
All five points of the star light up, glowing their respective colors as they feed power into the largest of the secondary spell circles on the platform. Around Flandre, five books suddenly manifest, each shooting out bullets in a different element and pattern. The sudden addition of those bullets forces Yukari to bank right, dodging away from the onslaught, but a wall of knives suddenly appears there and she has to reverse course.

Yukari instead opens up a gap, with most of Patchouli's bullets pouring into that, but Flandre simply flies around it, swinging her own flame sword down with devestating force. The gap youkai blocks that with her parasol, deflecting it sideways and letting the extended blade carve a burning furrow in the ground beneath. The handle of the parasol hooks out, nabbing one of Flandre's wings and pulling her off balance, causing the blade to fly wide, narrowly missing Tenshi. The celestial charges in at Yukari, a keystone in either hand, but Yukari simply tosses the vampire at her and falls back into the gap she'd just made. Sakuya appears, barely pulling Flandre out of Tenshi's way as the celestial throws the keystones she's holding, getting them into the gap just before Yukari seals it behind her.

Everyone tenses, waiting to see where Yukari will pop up next. Patchouli lets go of her high-powered spellcard, and a couple of other circles light up, not quite activating yet as the different elemental energies circulate. Tenshi's got a ring of keystones lined up, Flandre has her flaming sword held in one hand, the other one tensed in a claw pose as she stares around at the battlefield. Sakuya flickers in and out of visibility as she stops time, dashing back and forth to various places for who knows what end.

Thirty seconds pass. Then a minute. Then two. You say nothing, watching intently. Patchouli maintains her magic on the edge of casting a spellcard, but you can see the strain on her face. Ultimately, it's Flandre who cracks first, stabbing her sword into the ground and yelling.

For an instant you think Yukari's made her move, but... nothing. Sakuya's there, appeasing Flandre, and Tenshi lets her ring of keystones collapse as she pounds a fist on her chest and starts talking, her nose in the air.

Flandre looks at her, scowls, and flies off, back towards own tent. Sakuya gives a put-upon smile and says something to the celestial, who ignores her and continues saying... whatever she was on about.

And then a gap opens behind Tenshi, and a keystone flies out of it, beaning her in the back of the head and sending her sprawling.

This instantly puts everyone back on high alert, but over the next several minutes, no further action occurs.

[-] To be continued.
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Did Yukari just turn this into a battle of attrition? Either way, things are heating up.
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I think the keystone was just a final fuck you from Yukari instead of an act of attrition, but we'll see.

Philosopher's Stone should look pretty familiar to poor ol' Greg, having been on the receiving side of it before.

The things he could've learned from Patchouli if it were different circumstances...

The thing he's gotta worry about is the grilling he's about to get, though.

No regrets, however. Some things just had to be done.
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ty for continuing to write this
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[-] Regroup.

It took another ten or so minutes for Sakuya to gather everyone for a mansion-wide meeting, most of which you spent being interrogated by Patchouli. There wasn't a real edge to it, so you suspect it's mostly just annoyance. Between Satori hitting a nerve, Yukari getting away, and you sitting there watching her spellcasting, you're not exactly surprised she's irritated. Still, it was something of a relief when Sakuya showed up and announced a planning meeting. To your surprise, you and Satori were to be included.

So there everyone was, gathered at the entrance of Patchy's tent... well, for a certain value of everyone. Satori was sitting in the same spot as before, still bundled up in the blanket. A table had been added, with other chairs placed around it. Probably Sakuya's work. Speaking of which, the maid was standing off to the side, looking as spotless as ever, while Patchouli took a seat on the far side, book still in hand. You walked around to claim the seat next to Satori, and then and only then did Sakuya take her own chair. So then... you, Satori, Sakuya, and Patchouli, though Koakuma was also lurking by the bookshelves. Tenshi being absent wasn't really a surprise, but the other absence was more notable.

"No vampire this time?" you asked idly.

"The young mistress is rather upset." Sakuya said. "It has been some time since I've seen her this furious."

You're not about to argue that point. "Is there a reliable way to navigate her... moods? I'd rather not suddenly get blown up from saying the wrong thing."

Sakuya hesitated, and you repressed a sigh. Right, the maid wasn't going to reveal anything that might be considered private information regarding the Scarlets. Which would be respectable if the consequences weren't potentially deadly.

"No." Patchouli replied. "Flandre has always been a wild card. Your best strategy would be to avoid aggravating her."

"Does that include presenting bad news? Because there's always the chance of getting some of that, and I need to at least know if she'll shoot the messenger." Granted, hiding or sugarcoating such news was also an option, but you really didn't think you'd get away with that.

"Consider it additional motivation to succeed." Patchouli said icily.

"Yes, you're just asking Greg to succeed where you've failed." Satori said acidly. "No pressure."

The two glared daggers at each other, which was only interrupted by Sakuya's polite cough. "We're all better off if this doesn't reach the level of assigning blame."

Satori backed down on that, but Patchouli merely turned on the maid. "We? That reminds me, why are they here?" she said, waving an arm around at the tent. "I see no reason to trust them with planning our next move."

That's not unexpected from her, but you'd much rather have a say in what could be a life and death decision. "Flandre made it perfectly clear she'd kill us if Remilia died. You can't pretend we have no stake in her survival."

Patchouli's unmoved. "Or in creating circumstances that would aid an escape attempt."

"Oh, come off it. If I was going to try something, don't you think I'd have at least negotiated with Yukari?"

"Her offer was hardly worth pursuing. Becoming a shikigami is a fate similar to death."

"Becoming what?!" Satori exclaimed.

"I know that." you said, reaching over to put your hand on Satori's. "And considering I used the binding to alert you before even hearing that offer, my point stands. The only reason Yukari got to say anything is because Sakuya somehow didn't respond instantly."

Sakuya shook her head. "Fighting Yukari without backup would have been unwise. Even with my ability, talking with others still takes time."

Ah. Well, that explained that particular detail.

"Regardless," Patchouli interrupted, "Yukari's appearance is a little too convenient. It's suspicious that she confirmed her involvement immediately after you two singled her out as the culprit, in a way that let you distance yourself from her while also giving you leverage with us."

"Leverage?" It takes you a second to catch what she means by that, and you can scarcely believe it. "You mean her 'offer' to fix everything if I became her shikigami?! You just pointed out that's a fate worse than death! How does another way to commit suicide possibly benefit me?"

"It limits the pressure they can apply." Satori said, staring the mage down. "They have to tone back the death threats, because if you think you're going to die either way, you might just take Yukari's deal."

Patchouli stared right back. "That would work out just fine for you, wouldn't it?"

Satori snarled, jumping up. You grabbed her hand, trying to pull her back. "Satori, please! It's not worth it!"

For a moment you thought she would lunge at the mage anyway, but then her hand grabbed yours, giving you a gentle squeeze as she sat back down and addressed Patchouli. "If you really think that, it says more about you then it does about me."

"You're no stranger to collateral damage." Patchouli smiled. It wasn't a kind smile. "Isn't it a fascinating coincidence how Koishi just happened to find that mask?"

"Are you trying to get us to hate you?" You snapped. "Or are you taking out your helplessness on her?"

It wasn't the most diplomatic thing you could have said, but as it wiped the smile off Patchouli's face, you found you didn't care.

"Enough!" Sakuya said, slamming a knife into the table. Everyone flinched at that, and she released a breath, sighing. "Patchy. Part of the reason for doing things this way was to motivate them as much as possible. I'm not suggesting blind trust, but they've already shown insight into these urban legends. By all means, check their claims and question their conclusions, but we cannot afford to ignore them, any more than we could Yukari's words. Now, please. Contact Meiling again."

"Fine." Patchouli said, placing her book on the table.

It wasn't flashy. The mage simply opened up the book, said a few words, and then Meiling's voice came out of it.

"Patchy? How'd things go? Did you get Yukari?"

"No major developments," she said. "The gap hag played around for a bit before running."

"Sounds like her. Did she at least say anything useful?"

"A few things, but the main one was making an offer to Greg to become her shikigami," Sakuya said. "The rest was largely taunting."

You don't doubt that, exactly, but you wouldn't put it past her to have some other meaning. "What did she say to you and Flandre?"

Sakuya's hands tightened into fists. "She said it was ironic for Remilia to be laid low by a story for children. Along with asking what my plan was when Reimu came knocking."

"Do we, uh, have a plan for that?" Meiling asked. "Not to doubt you, but back during the scarlet mist, she did-"

"I am aware of that." Sakuya snapped. She took a deep breath, visibly relaxing. "Should the worst come to worst, I can use the same trick on her I did on Marisa."

"Marisa was at Eientei with Eirin fast approaching!" Satori protested. "You'd kill her!"

Sakuya waved a hand dismissively. "We have some of their supplies remaining."

"We don't." Koakuma said, then flinched back when everyone turned to stare at her. "No, really, we don't! That roll of bandages was the last of the Eientei stuff!"

"Surely the blood replenishment-"

"You used that," Patchouli said. "You gave it to Flandre after visiting Remilia."

"One moment," the maid said, vanishing. A moment later she reappeared, sighing. "It's as you say. I was mistaken."

"There's a better option in any case," Patchouli said. "Reimu may be gifted at danmaku, but she's not much of an investigator. So long as our prisoners aren't literally right in front of her, she's not likely to find them."

Patchouli paused and shot a meaningful look towards you and Satori. "But we should talk about those countermeasures in private."

"Indeed." Sakuya nodded, tapping a finger against the table. "But returning to the main issue, there are two clear priorities. Getting information from Yukari, and regaining access to the human village to see what goes on there."

"Just getting information?" Meiling asked what you were thinking. You'd expected a far more violent reaction.

"Make no mistake, Yukari will reap what she's sown." Sakuya snapped, wrenching the knife back out of the table. "But she can be dealt with in time. Restoring my lady takes priority."

You suppose there's also the question of practicality. Actually 'dealing' with Yukari would require blocking her ability to simply vanish through a gap, and if anyone here could stop that, they'd have done so earlier. But that brings up a very related problem. "Can you force information out of her?"

Satori gave a laugh, shaking her head. "I don't see how. Meaningfully threatening Yukari herself is difficult. Not only is she absurdly strong, but most of the people she cares about are nearly as powerful. Yuyuko, Suika, Reimu... trying to use any of them as leverage is begging for disaster. Even her shikigami's a nine-tailed kitsune, and that's without Yukari powering her up."

"Bringing in another group would be foolish, yes." Patchouli smiled. "But there is a weak point here. You're forgetting a certain cat."

Satori looked blankly at her for a moment before realizing something. "You're going after her pet?! There's no way Chen knows anything!"

"Hang on a second," you interject. "Who's Chen?"

"Ran is a Yukari's shikigami, and still fairly powerful in her own right." Sakuya explained. "Chen is Ran's shikigami, and a standard low-level youkai. Simple enough to get ahold of, and while Yukari may or may not care, it is near certain that Ran will."

Oh, great. More kidnapping. "If Ran's your real target, couldn't you just go after her directly?"

"There's two problems with that," Patchouli said. "The first is finding her. From all reports, she's been rushing across half of Gensokyo during your little incident. The second is the shikigami bond. If Ran is acting according to Yukari's wishes, she's nearly as strong as Yukari herself."

You can see the logic. "You're gambling that by threatening Chen, she'll drop everything to find her, which won't be according to Yukari's plan, and leaving her with just her own strength. You think Ran will know what Yukari's up to?"

"She is Yukari's primary servant, and frequently acts on her behalf," Sakuya said. "It is unlikely her mistress left her uninformed."

"Like Remilia informed you all about her urban legend?" Satori asked.

That earned a flinch from you and angry looks from everyone else, but Satori bore them defiantly... though the effect was slightly spoiled from still being wrapped in that blanket. "The point stands. Assuming Yukari let anyone know everything about her plans, even her own servants, is far from guaranteed."

Sakuya sighed. "Nevertheless, it's our best lead at present. Now, Meiling. The details on the disappearance of the village, if you please."

"There's not much to say. I'm where the village should be right now, but it's not here. If I try walking around I keep ending up back in the forest."

"Hang on," you interrupt. "Do you mean 'not here' as in there's clear signs the village has been moved or destroyed, or 'not here' as in-"

"It looks like it was never there in the first place," Meiling answered.

Hm. That would point heavily towards some sort of illusion. Or perhaps regressing time to before the village existed, but you doubt that level of power exists, even in Gensokyo. "Any suspicions as to who could pull such a thing off?"

Everyone hesitates at that. After a pause, Meiling's voice comes from the book. "I don't know. I didn't think anyone had that power."

That didn't sound quite right, but as you thought, Sakuya spoke up. "This has happened once before. During the full moon incident, the village disappeared in similar fashion. Unfortunately, my lady and I did not encounter the culprit at the time."

"Isn't the obvious answer Eientei, then?" Patchouli asked. "If they can hide the moon, hiding a village must be child's play."

Everyone's nodding along, even Satori... and looking at her, you don't think she's bluffing. Except, didn't she tell you about someone capable of hiding history? Cain? Conner? Keine! That was it. Given Satori spent most of her time underground, you doubt Keine was all that hidden.

"Eirin is responsible enough to think of such a thing," Sakuya muses. "But if it is them, that will make things difficult. They will hardly volunteer the information to us."

It's not the most subtle question, but if you're right, that won't matter. You turned and addressed Satori. "What do you think, Satori? About Eientei being involved, I mean."

"What?" She's taken aback. Surprised, a little confused. "I didn't pick up anything from them while I was there, but Reisen was able to trump your illusions, so there's at least some ability in that direction."

They don't know. They really don't know.

"Do you have an idea?" Sakuya asked you.

[-] "Eientei might not reveal the human village, but what if it was someone else asking?" If you can get to Eientei, you can probably try pulling off something.
[-] "Eientei's a red herring. I heard about a youkai who specializes in hiding history. I suspect she hid both the village and her own existence. Fortunately, I'm an expert in illusions, if you let me examine the effect, I can probably break it." It's better to cooperate, both for your own sakes, and because you feel a little responsible for Remilia.
[-] "Eientei's a red herring. I heard about a youkai who specializes in hiding history. I suspect she hid both the village and her own existence. Fortunately, I'm an expert in illusions, if you let me examine the effect, I can probably break it." There were a number of powerful youkai (and humans) in and around the human village. The odds of being able to sneak a message to someone there are pretty good.
[-] "No. It was just an idle thought." Let them do whatever they want. You know the binding on you isn't perfect. If you can get more time unsupervised. maybe you can figure out a better workaround.
[?] If there's something else you want to add to the discussion, now is the time.
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[X] "Eientei might not reveal the human village, but what if it was someone else asking?" If you can get to Eientei, you can probably try pulling off something.
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Okay, everyone, route split.
>fool everyone
Screw over SDM, escape with a burning gas trail behind us. Super dead if we ever decide to slow down on our escape attempts. Because there is no countermeasure, Yukari can just kill us at any point if she ever wants to shikigami us for free. Both of Greg and Satori are non-combat characters and need to link up to Sumi and Former Hell to do anything. The Burning Gas Trail will mean that we're getting the ISC treatment and can't actually deliver on our promises to help anyone.
>no its keine lamo
SDM side, Stockholm Syndrome. Get to the bottom of this, but not only do we risk the vampire doing the vampire thing (on the only human around who's conveniently to blame), but Yukari also actually gets mad. In addition, history manipulation is different from illusion. After getting to the village, revealing it with illusions will fail as history manipulation is unrelated to illusion. Keine then must be fought as an encounter.

After weighing just how bad each route gets, I'll go with Stockholm Syndrome. We can't win without getting SDM on our side because our opponents this time are, if we count them:
-Tanuki that laid the power stone trap (Mamizou probably)
-Most of everyone else who thinks it's a good idea for a power boost
Even beating the first two is already impossible for just Sumi and Greg. It's not possible to do this without making desperate with getting allies. Greg's power is utility, not combat. That power is rolling a Charisma check really really high. If we stop using that at any point, the burning gas trail catches up.

[x] "Eientei's a red herring. I heard about a youkai who specializes in hiding history. I suspect she hid both the village and her own existence. Fortunately, I'm an expert in illusions, if you let me examine the effect, I can probably find her. Once you beat her, the village is restored." It's better to cooperate, both for your own sakes, because you feel a little responsible for Remilia. And because of a mad hope of getting more allies.
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[x] "Eientei might not reveal the human village, but what if it was someone else asking?" If you can get to Eientei, you can probably try pulling off something.
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[X] "Eientei's a red herring. I heard about a youkai who specializes in hiding history. I suspect she hid both the village and her own existence. Fortunately, I'm an expert in illusions, if you let me examine the effect, I can probably break it." There were a number of powerful youkai (and humans) in and around the human village. The odds of being able to sneak a message to someone there are pretty good.
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I normally write very long posts weighing each option but >>204519 has already perfectly encapsulated my thoughts, so my vote goes to playing nice with the SDM.

A few extra points, however:

Keine hid the village because of all the turmoil, but it's not guaranteed that we'll end up fighting her if we're just there for info.
Granted, she's shown in IN that she's more than willing to just deny entry to all for the sake of the village.
Just saying that with Greg's Charisma score we could avoid a fight there potentially.

I agree that Greg's ability probably wouldn't work, but he seems to believe that Keine's ability is rooted in illusions so I see no reason for him to doubt himself there.
If and when he fails he can just admit he gave it a try and guessed wrong, they can hardly blame him for that.
But to immediately call out the actually correct way to fix the problem borders a little too much on metagaming, in my opinion.

As for whether to play it completely straight or try to get a message out...
Since this would be our first time properly out and about since getting kidnapped, I highly doubt we won't be watched extremely closely.
It's simply too risky to try anything now.
Better to play it cool now and pull stuff later if necessary.

[-] "Eientei's a red herring. I heard about a youkai who specializes in hiding history. I suspect she hid both the village and her own existence. Fortunately, I'm an expert in illusions, if you let me examine the effect, I can probably break it." It's better to cooperate, both for your own sakes, and because you feel a little responsible for Remilia.
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[x] "Eientei's a red herring. I heard about a youkai who specializes in hiding history. I suspect she hid both the village and her own existence. Fortunately, I'm an expert in illusions, if you let me examine the effect, I can probably break it." It's better to cooperate, both for your own sakes, and because you feel a little responsible for Remilia.
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This actually brings to mind something else:
How does Greg remember Keine?

If she hid her own existence so that Gensokyans wouldn't search her out for the dissappearance; how does Greg still know?
Is it because he only heard of her in passing?
Is it because Keine wasn't concious of Greg as an individual and therefore couldn't affect him?
Or does it just not work on outsiders?

I don't know what the reason is, but it could be something more nefarious like Yukari mucking about with him.

Other theories include the SDM messing with Greg to see if he'll jump at the Eientei distraction by playing dumb about Keine.
Satori's reaction seemed a little to genuine for something like this to be the case, though.

Or maybe, just maybe, Greg has some secret talent or power that has protected his memory.
Maybe it's what Yukari's been hinting at all the while: about him not being as nice as he appears.

Food for thought.
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I'd prefer the Greg villain arc to another Yukari did it incident. Right now though, well. Too out of place.
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[-] "Eientei's a red herring. I heard about a youkai who specializes in hiding history. I suspect she hid both the village and her own existence. Fortunately, I'm an expert in illusions, if you let me examine the effect, I can probably break it." It's better to cooperate, both for your own sakes, and because you need to supress Satori's urge to punch Patchouli in the face through any means necessary feel a little responsible for Remilia.

As much as I want the Chireiden group to bust down the doors of the SDM, and smoke those two Vam-Tires and their goons (Though it would be a bit of a shame, honestly, as that would also mean taking Meiling out, and she's my favorite Touhou character.), I'm also gonna have to agree with >>204519.
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>This actually brings to mind something else:
>How does Greg remember Keine?

>If she hid her own existence so that Gensokyans wouldn't search her out for the dissappearance; how does Greg still know?

Keine hid the existence of the Human Village too, but the mansion residents still know it exists. Presumably, Greg remembers Keine's existence for the same reason. Apparently, Keine leaves a few crumbs behind when she eats the history of something.

[X] "Eientei's a red herring. I heard about a youkai who specializes in hiding history. I suspect she hid both the village and her own existence. Fortunately, I'm an expert in illusions, if you let me examine the effect, I can probably break it." There were a number of powerful youkai (and humans) in and around the human village. The odds of being able to sneak a message to someone there are pretty good.
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I think I figured out why Satori 'forgot' about Keine and Greg didn't.

As the SoUL gang visited the village under a veil it's highly likely that Keine is largely unaware of Greg. She for sure can't be aware of Satori telling Greg about her and her ability. This is assuming a full moon hasn't happened. There hasn't been a mention of it as far as I can remember.
Keine can't erase history she doesn't know (I'm assuming) and even if she could she would have to make a wild guess. Going and erasing history blindly before a full moon based on a guess would be a risk she wouldn't want to take.

In contrast Keine knows of everyone else, Sakuya, Satori, Patchouli and so on and their (shared) history and so would be able to erase said history without much trouble.
I even think that Keine purposely didn't erase the history of the Imperishable Night incident and the village's disappearance in order to lead the incident resolvers to Eientei by association to meet up with Eirin, someone who would be able to figure these things out by her wit alone. The fact that the whole shebang happened because of the lunarians is sheer happenstance which would undoubtedly aid in the incident resolution.

Tidepiss inbound.

[x] "No. It was just an idle thought." Let them do whatever they want. You know the binding on you isn't perfect. If you can get more time unsupervised. maybe you can figure out a better workaround.
-[x] Whenever the opportunity arises, let Satori read your mind, specifically remembering her telling you about Keine.
[x] If there's something else you want to add to the discussion, now is the time.
-{x}Now that there's a break from the tension, maybe it's a good opportunity to ask Sakuya about what happened to Sumireko. You haven't heard any mention of her whereabouts.

IF I'm right and Keine erased the history pertaining to her ever meeting the SDM crew, they won't believe Greg either way. He'd have to prove her existence to them somehow.
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[-] Tell them Eientei's a red herring. It's better to cooperate, both for your own sakes, and because you feel a little responsible for Remilia.

You're pretty sure your hunch is correct. You don't have hard evidence, but the fact that Keine's existence has been forgotten at the same time the village disappeared is too much to ignore. The problem is, you can't prove it. The only evidence Keine exists is your own memories, and the only one who could verify that is Satori. But all the same... if you're right, and you let them blunder into Eientei, that's going to end badly. First for them, and shortly afterwards for you and Satori.

"I think Eientei is bait," you told them. Taking a deep breath, you charged forwards. "I heard about a youkai who specializes in hiding history. Keine. I suspect she hid both the village and her own existence."

No one reacted to the name. "Why do you think she hid her own existence?" Sakuya asked.

"From what I remember, she wasn't exactly hidden. She was a schoolteacher in the village. And given Remilia's problem, I'd assume someone capable of affecting history would have been your first priority."

Sakuya seems lost in thought, while Patchouli rolls her eyes. "Really," she said. "You do all realize the problems with this theory?"

"I assume you're referring to the difficulty in proving it."

"Not just that. The village may be missing, but its existence is no secret. We clearly remember it. Why would her ability work completely differently in concealing herself?"

"A question of power, probably," you said. "An entire village is a lot more to hide than just one person. Would Gensokyo's existence even make sense without the human village?"

Patchouli shook her head. "Perhaps. But even if we grant the existence of a youkai who can hide her existence from all Gensokyo, why would you alone remember it?"

"I'm not sure," you admitted. "It could be my affinity for illusions, because I'm not from Gensokyo, or even because Satori used hypnosis to dig through my memories earlier. Without knowing more about the effect, I can't really narrow it down."

"So what?" Meiling asked. "What's it matter if she exists if we can't find her?"

"Who cares about finding Keine? The point is that the village itself hasn't been moved or destroyed, just hidden. And, speaking as an expert in illusions, if you let me examine the effect, I can probably break it, or at least figure something out."

"If this youkai does exist, her ability could be quite useful," Sakuya said. "Finding her may well be worthwhile."

Patchouli turned towards the maid, shocked. "Are you actually considering this? He is suggesting an impossible-to-dectect actor, one that only he is aware of, and that for a reason he cannot explain! I literally cannot invent a more suspicious idea."

Sakuya nodded, turning back to you. "While I'm prepared to consider anything, she makes a valid point. Greg. Do you have any evidence of this?"

You hesitated, thinking furiously. That was the real problem, wasn't it? You didn't. Given the memory wiping scenario, you didn't see how getting evidence was even possible. But admitting that was better than trying to invent something. "No. Satori could check by reading my memories, but somehow I doubt you'll accept that."

Maybe there'd be some breadcrumbs of Keine's existence sticking around? Sakuya sighed. "Indeed. Then in that case-"

"To repeat Meiling's question, so what?" Everyone turned to Satori, who rolled her eyes. "You're all missing the forest for the trees. By all means, forget Keine. Assume she doesn't exist, or can't be found, or was secretly Yukari the whole time - it doesn't matter. Greg's actual suggestion was to magically examine where the village should be!"

You snapped your fingers. "Right! If something that size was moved or destroyed, even by magic, there should be signs of it. Energy, especially that much of it, can't just appear or disappear on a whim."

Satori picked up where you left off. "And you know returning to Eientei is extremely dangerous at best. There's a reason Sakuya fled the scene before Eirin could show up the first time."

"Just how dangerous is Eirin, anyway?" you asked. "I thought she was just some medical genius."

The question is bait. You're already aware that Eirin's strength is significant even by Gensokyo's standards. But the thing is, when someone asks a question, the natural tendency is to think of answers to it... such as Eirin being literally immortal, or already having good reason to be hostile.

Satori gives you an aside glance, but thankfully doesn't fill the silence, because there's a pause as everyone else considers it.

"She's basically Kaguya's version of Sakuya", Meiling eventually said. "Handles basically everything and rules her domain with an iron fist. The relentlessly hyper-competent type."

The maid looked a little taken aback at that.

"Really?" you asked. "I was only there for a few minutes, but the rabbits seemed pretty lackadaisical."

You could practically hear Meiling shrug. "Well, Eirin's pretty relaxed about unimportant details, and they're more Tewi's thing anyway."

Koakuma's gave the communication book a curious look. "How do you know all that anyway?"

"I chat with Reisen sometimes! She actually stops by the gate, unlike some people."

Huh. You'd forgotten that Gensokyo, despite seeming larger than life, was also in some ways a small world. How well did Sakuya know all the people she'd been fighting lately? Just how personal were the bridges she'd been burning for even a chance at helping Remilia? You shook your head. Not the issue at present. "Regardless, the point is, Eirin and the rest of Eientei aren't going anywhere, but trying to get information out of them would be difficult and dangerous."

Also pointless, but you can't prove that. "Even if I'm wrong about the human village, and a magical examination yields nothing, you can always try Eientei then. The worst that could happen is a small loss of time."

Sakuya hummed, tapping her fingers on the table. "Patchouli, thoughts?"

The mage hesitated, looked at you and Satori, then sighed. "The logic is sound. Having a proper mage examine the village's disappearance first is only sensible."

You're caught a little off guard. You'd expected Patchouli to protest out of sheer contrariness, but that makes things convenient. "Exactly. Illusions are my specialty, and given that I'm pretty sure the effect is illusory in nature, I'm pretty sure I can figure something out."

Patchouli snapped her fingers. "I said a proper mage. I'll go."

[-] To be continued.

((Apologies for the delay. It turns out playing tennis almost daily is great for fitness, but really bad about leaving me with spare energy for writing. I'd have liked to get to another choice point, but I'll settle for updating at all at this point.))
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>"I said a proper mage. I'll go."
Whoa. Satori's crit really got to her, huh?
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>Whoa. Satori's crit really got to her, huh?
Awww. Is the wittle Pachoowe feeling insecure?

>I chat with Reisen sometimes! She actually stops by the gate, unlike some people.
I always did imagine Meiling and Reisen would get along, what with their respective masters and/or co-workers always treating them like garbage and such.

>It turns out playing tennis almost daily is great for fitness, but really bad about leaving me with spare energy for writing.
You play tennis? Hey, that's pretty cool! NGL

Anyways, enough of that. Looking forward to the next update! I'll see you then.
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Why is Patchy being such a fat jerk? Is there anything we can do to make her less of a fat jerk?
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People tend to be jerks under stress, and given all the problems that occurred and plus Satori's targeted roasting of insecurities, she has a lot of reason to not be in a diplomatic mood.

Also, her expertise, which she literally became a youkai in the pursuit of, was called into question.

Maybe when Remilia is cured and her insecurities are less on her mind, she'll be less 'jerkish', but for now, better to tolerate it. And even than, her default wasn't sociable in the first place.
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Well that explains the jerk part, but what about the fat part?
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>what about the fat part?
Not moving her butt from Voile for at least a hundred years? Either that or it's not that she's fat, but rather big-boned.
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Migratory Library
>Patchouli snapped her fingers. "I said a proper mage. I'll go."
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Damn she really did Greg like that
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Oh, the sass from Patchy today.
Well, she has a point, from her point of view Greg is nothing more than a rank amateur.
A hobbyist, even.

I like that Meiling gets to chat with the more normal guests of the house.
Does make me feel a bit bad for the nicer inhabitants of the mansion's social interactions in the future, but that's how the cookie crumbles I suppose.

All this bridge burning reminded me of something.
How did they rope Tenshi into this?
Clearly she's still on relatively good terms with the people here, with the assistance she's giving.

I'm starting to think that Greg's reason for remembering Keine could just be the mundane and practical option.
Because he's "just" a human.
If a normal human, outsider or not would forget why the village is gone they'd be dead in the water if they happen to be outside.
The human village is one of the few actually safe places in the entirety of Gensokyo so any new arrivals would have no real hope of surviving without that anchor.
Of course, that requires having knowledge of Keine before the wipe happened, so maybe not.
It'd at least partially explain why Sakuya was excluded, as she's powerful enough to stand at the side of a vampire.
Whatever it is, we'll find out eventually.
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[-] Wait, who's going?

Patchouli's declaration got a reaction out of everyone else present. The mansion's residents mostly contained theirs, likely not wanting to seem too shocked. Satori didn't bother. "Wait, seriously?"

"Is it that unusual for her to visit the village?" you asked.

Satori smirked. "There's a reason she's known as the unmoving great library."

"A pattern borne from preference, not necessity." Patchouli said, icily.

"Oh, really. How's the asthma?"

Patchouli glared at her, and the books on the library shelves started rattling. "Not nearly as debilitating as you seem to think. Shall I prove it to you?"

"Satori, please!" you grabbed her arm. "Don't provoke her."

"Or what?" she replied, still smirking. "She's too self-controlled to do anything that will harm Remilia's chances, and any sort of injury would qualify."

"There are ways to hurt someone without lasting injury you warned."

Satori shook her head. "Even then, it would ruin their chance at cooperation from us, and that's more valuable to her than petty revenge. What, exactly, is she going to do?"

Satori kept her self-satisfied smirk as she stared at Patchouli, even as a book levitated over her head... right up until the point where it opened and dumped a few gallons of water on her.

It was Patchouli's turn to be smug. "You shouldn't need to be a mind reader to see that coming."

Satori glared back at her, opened her mouth, and got another impromptu shower for her trouble.

"Normally we'd just let them fight it out with danmaku," Meiling commented, "but we don't have time for that."

Sakuya rolled her eyes, drumming her fingers against the table. "Now, if you're quite finished?"

"I suppose that might be sufficient."

"Good." Sakuya sighed, and looked Patchouli dead in the eyes. "Now, I'm sorry to ask this, but there's more than pride at stake here. Are you certain you're up to this?"

"I am not-" Patchouli snapped, then stopped, and forced herself to take deep breaths. "Today is a good day. My asthma will not be an issue."

"Then I won't question you further. Take Greg, and examine the site as you see fit."

"Do you really think that's necessary?"

Sakuya gave a small shrug. "He claims the effect lies in his area of expertise, and that he has some inexplicable resistance or immunity to it."

Patchouli shook her head. "That's not what concerns me. You know he'll be in far better position to attempt something away from the mansion."

Satori and I spoke at the same time, and glancing at her, I motioned for her to go ahead.

"If you've been paying attention, you should know Greg is no threat to you in danmaku." Satori said. "Asthma attack aside."

"As if a direct battle is the method he would use," Patchouli said. "Subterfuge is a far better fit for his personality and skillset."

"Even so, I wouldn't just leave Satori here!" you interjected, glancing at Satori and silently willing her to stop sniping at the mage.

"So you say."

"What do I have to do?!" your fist hit the table. "If I wanted to 'attempt something', as you put it, don't you think Yukari would have been the perfect chance? Did you even know she was there before I told you?"

"No. But Yukari's offer is irrelevant here. Even aside from your personal animosity towards her, becoming her shikigami would in effect be your death, something you are well aware of."

"Oh, so now you'll accept that I'll hate her."

Patchouli gave you a cold look. "In case you haven't realized, my goal here is to see my friend restored. To that end, I am prepared to discuss and investigate every possibility, from the magic involved to the participants' roles and motives. The best liars tell mostly the truth. Your best strategy for escape is to cooperate up until you finally make the attempt. As such, the benefit of the doubt is something you cannot purchase, and that we cannot afford to give you."

You glare at her, stymied. The logic is sound. That's the entire problem. The logic is sound and she just explicitly stated she's going to suspect literally everything you do. You can outmaneuver her socially, make her look like an ass, but if anything it'll make her more stubborn, and she's your magical jailer. Damn!

"Be that as it may," Sakuya finally says, "Time is of the essence. Yukari made at least one valid point in that it's a matter of time before Reimu or another group pays us a visit, and I think the risk from a delay is worse than the risk of whatever Greg might pull. Take whatever precautions you feel you must, but take him and go."

Patchouli gives a grudging nod, as the maid turns to the communication book. "Meiling, you stay in the area and wait for them. There's little for you to do at the mansion at present."

"Sure, but don't you want me to guard Satori?" Meiling asked.

"She'll be with me", Sakuya said. "Like I said, time is of the essence, and the sooner we fetch Chen, the sooner we can ask a few questions of her master."

[-] To be continued.

So, because splitting the party once just wasn't enough, we're about to have Greg and Satori split up as well. I do have some ideas to keep these two branches a bit more connected, but I also want to get some reader sentiment here. Are you more interested in Satori + Sakuya (and probably Tenshi) catnapping Chen, or Greg + Patchouli/Meiling figuring out what's going on at the human village? It's also worth noting that while the catnapping could happen largely offscreen depending on interest, there's some aspects of what's going on with the human village that are important to directly show.

[-] Follow Satori, kidnap the cat.
[-] Follow Greg, find the village.
[-] Interested in both.
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Unless there's gonna be some fun hijinks happening in the Chen kidnapping, I don't think it needs to be shown right away. But maybe as an POV Interlude or retelling (depending on interest) later down the line, when Satori tells Greg about it?

[x] Follow Greg, find the village.
-[x] Interested in both, though.

Now to the important issue; what change of clothes will Satori be given to wear on the trip out?
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[x] Follow Greg, find the village.
Any excuse for some Misuzu screentime is fine by me!
-[x] Interested in both, though.

-[x] Have Satori non-verbally threaten Patchy before they leave
I'll stop now. lol
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[x] Follow Greg, find the village.
something something off-camera charisma rolls bad
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[x] Follow Greg, find the village.
-[x] Interested in both, though.

While both are interesting, I kind of want to see what will come from Patche and Greg working together. They definitely do not exactly have a good relationship going on, but still, it should be fun, especially with Meiling in the mix if she ends up going with them.
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Folks have already said all the salient points, so there's nothing for me to add there.

[x] Follow Greg, find the village.
-[x] Interested in both, though.

I wonder how Meiling will treat Greg, as she appears a lot more affable than her librarian counterpart.

At least she's with Sakuya. Patchy might've just denied her a change of clothes.
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also this isnt cute at all
improve thy skills
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>>204545 here.

It looks good to me.
I find it cool when people draw art of the stories I enjoy.
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[x] Follow Greg, find the village.
-[x] Interested in both, though.

Nothing to say that hasn't been said.
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In all honesty, personally I'm just happy to get fanart. It's one of those things that feels like a small milestone for the story, you know?

Regardless, seems like we've got consensus on having Greg's side of things be the main branch, and perhaps showing whatever parts of Satori/Sakuya's jaunt that are most interesting. Which is actually what I'd originally planned on, but it's good to have confirmation that that's what you guys want as well.
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Oh man, you should've checked out the drawthread. I've already made some pictures explicitly referencing scenes of the story quite some time ago.
Some scenes just get me vividly visualising. Though actually they ain't really the ones I take to drawing, I rather go for the ones I think could be fun as a picture.

A bit of an lordly way to go about it, innit? If you're earnestly interested in facilitating improvements, point out specific shortcomings and/or expose ways to improve.

Thanks for the kind words. I also tought it was looking quite fine enough - wouldn't post it otherwise. I'm happy to show my appreciation for these stories in this way.
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1) it has no hat (important)
2) low femininity energy (very important)
3) low appeal (not as important)
4) low cuteness (medium important)
I like cute girls and I'm not afraid to show it
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[x] Follow Greg, find the village.
-[x] Interested in both, though.

My man Greg has -20 in luck I'm sure we're going to encounter some angry god or a force of nature
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Just a quick post here for those who haven't seen the other thread: I've been taking a break from USiL to write a quick Piper short story (https://www.thp.moe/youkai/res/31763.html) after a prompt from the writing advice thread caught my fancy. It has no story relevance beyond exploring a bit more of a minor character's backstory, but I figured I should at least explain the delay here.

Anyway, as far as the next USiL update goes, my plan is to get back to this after I'm finished with the kappa short (which is another 2-3 updates to go), so it'll probably be around the end of September. As always, this is subject to change and random flashes of inspiration, but that's the plan.
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[-] Follow Greg, find the village.
[-] Kill time while Sakuya and Patchouli discuss things privately.

Things progressed fairly quickly after Sakuya's declaration. It was, if anything, more proof she was the leader while Remilia was out of commission; when she made an outright statement, the rest fell in line. Though to be fair, Patchouli did drag her aside to talk privately soon afterwards, probably to discuss security measures to make sure you couldn't try anything, even though you actually had no intention of trying anything and being hobbled would hurt your ability to actually help out... Even now, she'd left Koakuma to watch over the two of you, though the girl was currently kicking back in one of those soft leather armchairs.

It never really ended, did it?

"I'm surprised you didn't protest Sakuya's kidnapping plan." Satori mentioned, sliding into the chair next to yours.

"The kidnapping part, or the you being put into danger part?"

You glanced at her in time to see a slight blush. "Greg." she chided you.

You wanted to tease her a little more, but maybe now wasn't the time. "There's two reasons not to object the kidnapping itself. The first is that Yukari is actually involved. Going after her servants for the purposes of gaining information at least makes sense, Sakuya sounds like she's going to be practical about it, and if Chen herself is an innocent, she shouldn't be in any more danger than we are."

"And if that changes? If, say, Chen outlives her usefulness and Flandre decides to take out her anger on the closest target?"

You hesitated. "I don't know. Because the second reason I stayed quiet was that I didn't think I could change anything. Sakuya will listen to reason, and she's not devoid of sympathy, but I don't really have an argument against the plan beyond 'kidnapping bad'."

Satori sighed. "And to whatever extent you've won sympathy from Sakuya, you don't want to waste it on someone you don't know."

... come to think of it, she'd objected to targeting Chen in the first place, hadn't she? "Do you know Chen?"

"Not very well. I've seen her once or twice, but she's mostly just a friend of Orin's."

"How'd they end up connecting?"

"Orin stopped by the little cat village Chen's trying to set up. She's the older youkai and the stronger one, enough so that the cats that wouldn't listen to Chen sat up and took notice."

Despite yourself, you couldn't help but see the possibilities there. If the same cats that hung out with Chen knew Orin, and Satori was present for the abduction, that could be a way to get a message out to someone who would actually rescue her. Not that you could afford to mention it aloud. "Isn't that closer to a rivalry than a friendship?"

Satori shrugged. "It could have been. Chen was definitely on edge to start, but Orin defused it by being friendly. Talking about her own experiences managing stubborn pets, giving her tips about danmaku and growing stronger, commiserating about being dragged into her master's schemes. Instead of trying to dominate her, Orin was content to hang out and make herself available."

"She sounds like a friendly person."

Satori leaned back in her chair, a faraway look in her eyes. "Everyone's always surprised about it, that the kasha that collects corpses, manages vengeful spirits, and serves the dreaded satori is actually one of the most cheerful souls in Gensokyo. She has trouble really connecting to other youkai because of it. Even the youkai that can look past what she does have trouble getting over who she serves. I think that's why Chen's able to relate. Pretty much everyone except the small fry think of her as Ran's shikigami, or worse, Yukari's pet."

"Good friends are hard to come by no matter how popular you are." As opposed to fair-weather friends, who would swarm around in direct proportion to your popularity. "But it sounds like Orin has at least one. Is Utsuho as lucky?"

"With Okuu it's pretty much just Orin," Satori said with a sigh. "It's tricky, because she's both extremely powerful and a complete birdbrain. Even aside from the whole reputation issue, most smart youkai will find her tiresome, and I fear what she might get up to if the wrong person starts urging her on. Thankfully she's content hanging out with Orin and just doing her work."

"Aren't the smart youkai the ones more likely to take advantage of her?"

"Yes, but that's better than accidentally blowing up half the underground. Kanako's not exactly friend material, but she's one of the safer people for Utsuho to talk to. At the very least the god won't put her up to anything that might embarrass her shrine or upset me too badly." Satori bit her lip, lost in thought. "Maybe Sanae? She's pretty straightforwards, and should behave for much the same reasons. If she matures a bit and starts holding back some common sense, then maybe in a few years..."

You found yourself smiling. "You really worry for your pets, don't you?"

Satori pulled the blanket tighter around herself. "They've stuck by me and Koishi through everything, and never complained about it. I know it's a little silly, they can handle themselves better than I can, but still-"

"Don't make excuses for it, it's endearing." you told her, putting a hand on her shoulder.

Satori looked at you, wordlessly, and you realized just how forwards that sounded. But... it's nothing you don't mean, is it? You could double down, tell her just that. Detail all the other things endearing her to you, how you want nothing more than to hold her close and have her smile at you. To whisper sweet nothings into her ear until she comes to believe them, until she sees herself the way you see her. Let her know that if you let yourself, you could get lost staring into her eyes, and that the main reason you haven't is that she might not want that.

It catches you by surprise just how strong that urge is, how much you desire her. (A distant part of you realizes Sumi's going to be exasperated with you, you've got it bad.) But... you're not sure if that's what she wants. And with the binding interfering with her emotions, you can't ask her for that.

"Really though, I'm the same way," you say, looking away with an awkward laugh. "I mean, I'm still worried about Sumireko, even though she's an order of magnitude more capable than me. She's probably out there kicking ass without me holding her back."

It's not really the same scenario, but it's an olive branch. An offer to ignore the awkwardness and brush past like it didn't happen. And after a moment's tension, Satori relaxes and gives you a smirk. "In terms of fighting capability, or in terms of restraint?"

You're both relieved and disappointed, but you give the remark an obligatory chuckle. "Probably both, to be honest. She's more likely to happen to someone else than vice versa."

"May they rest in peace."

"Heh. Hopefully it doesn't come to that."

There was a bit of a pause after that, both of you lost in your own thoughts as your smiles gradually fade. Satori's the one who breaks it. "I don't know, Greg. There's too many knives in the air, and not just because Sakuya's involved. I think things are going to get worse."

You're kicking yourself for ruining the mood. "We'll figure something out." You grabbed her hand and squeezed it. "Remember, you need to stay positive."

She pulled her hand away. "I remember, I'm just the wrong person for that advice. I've never had the luxury of being cheerfully naive."


"You don't need to worry about me. I've got an abundance of experience with negative emotions."

With the way Satori's staring you down, you don't think you can contest the point. With how vulnerable she looks, soaked to the skin and wrapped in that wet blanket, you can't help but think it needs to be contested. Ultimately, you can't find the words and resort to changing the subject.

"Well, the luxury of dry clothing might help cheer you up a little." You look over your watcher, still relaxing in one of the other armchairs. "Koakuma! Sorry to bother you, but could you get Satori a fresh change of clothes? Patchouli kind of drenched this one."

"It's not a problem!" the little devil said cheerfully, flying over with some folded clothes. "Satori hasn't actually changed into the first set!"

"Wait, does that mean you're still in your, uh... undergarments?"

Satori blushed. "She brought out a maid outfit!"

Koakuma shrugged. "All the actual clothes are in the mansion. You'll have to put it on at some point."

"No! You're obviously doing this on purpose!"

"It's really not that bad. Here, let's see what your boyfriend thinks!"

Unfolding the garments in question, Koakuma spreads them out to give you a good look. The outfit is obviously one of Sakuya's. The blue skirt and white apron is a perfect match to what the actual maid was wearing. Your eyes are drawn to the frills along the edges, which are only accentuated by the thin black stockings the little devil is holding up. She even brought out the damn headband... and now you're imagining how Satori would look in the ensemble.

Fully aware that you're blushing as well, you close your eyes and look away. Mind reading or no mind reading, the last thing you need right now is to imagine Satori wearing that. Damn it, you just resolved to try to help her, not flirt with her!

You steal a glance at her, and she looks exactly as embarrassed as you feel. That helps sober you up a little, and you cough meaningfully before speaking. "Look, a certain amount of fun and games is one thing, but Satori is both recognizable and going to be traveling with Sakuya. If she's wearing the exact same outfit, that's going to attract a lot of attention."

Koakuma looks back and forth between the two of you and sighs. "You're no fun," she grumbles,

You feel that odd mixture of relief and disappointment again as the devil dumped the maid outfit on the table and flew off. Still, you know it's for the best, regardless of what certain small parts of your mind and body might wish for. You look over at Satori, who's still too embarrassed to meet your gaze... but she does squeeze your hand and whisper a thank you.

[-] You have a small amount of time unguarded. Is there any particular way you wish to make use of it?
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Baiting that romance hard.

>You have a small amount of time unguarded. Is there any particular way you wish to make use of it?
[x]Smooch Satori
This is not an actual vote at all. I want to make exceedingly clear that I'm just joshing.

[x] Ask her when she first met you both and knew things were to escalate this much from the onset if she would go through with it again
It's not like it puts the immediate plot forward but it feels significant to hear it now.
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[x] French kiss Satori
-[x] Ask Satori about trying her ability on us one more time.
Her eye could be sealed, but I wonder if she is still able to read our mind/heart by proximity if we're receptive to it or simply close enough. After all, if you are forced to read "your own" emotions, "your own" part could be all kinds of difficult to define on short notice. If it's something like "can only target people 0.1cm close to your own body", then maybe she could read our mind instead of hers and earn some peace of mind.
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To add to this, maybe frame it in some flowery language. We do have a microphone attached, after all.
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Much as I'm a romantic at heart, Greg just said no to himself in his head due to the binding interfering with her emotions (he's got a point too), it'd be strange for him to suddenly change his mind here, and enough to smooch her at that.

[X] Ask her when she first met you both and knew things were to escalate this much from the onset if she would go through with it again.
-[x] Tell her there are things you wish to say to her in private, when all this is said and done.
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>writer ends the post on a flirty/romantic note, blueballing anon
>gives a write-in option

playing dangerous games there, writer.

[X] Ask her when she first met you both and knew things were to escalate this much from the onset if she would go through with it again.
-[x] Tell her there are things you wish to say to her in private, when all this is said and done.
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>"I'm surprised you didn't protest Sakuya's kidnapping plan."

Good point on Satori's part, we've been so preoccupied with saving ourselves we didn't really object to them doing the same thing they did to us to somebody else.
Not so selfless, huh, Greg?
Jokes aside it's a tough situation to be in, so you can't blame him for being pragmatic.

As for the write-in, I'm down with asking Satori about her thoughts on what happened so far and if she'd do it again.
My gut says she'll say yes; "fixing" Koishi is extremely important to her, she might go to any length for it.

The part about saying we have more to say later I'm no so keen on, to be honest.
First of all what we say is monitored; even if to us it sounds fine, this can easily be construed by our captors as witholding information.
Now, Greg hasn't proven stupid enough to just out and say "yes, I am hiding things from my captors" within earshot of them, but it's still not great.
They might even force him to say his current feelings out loud in front of Satori.
That'd be terrible right after he swore to keep it to himself for now, so as to not take advantage of a emotionally vulnerable Satori.
Besides, note I said current feelings.
I'm sure there's some genuine fondness here at least, but it's been an extremely stressful situation for Greg as well; so I think it's better if he takes some time to reevaluate himself and his feelings once he can actually take a breather for once.
Don't misunderstand though, I want them to be happy together, I just think it's not yet time to hint at something like this so strongly towards Satori right after Greg said he'd back down for the moment.

[X] Ask her when she first met you both and knew things were to escalate this much from the onset if she would go through with it again.

Just to reiterate: this is without the part of the write-in about talking to her later in private.
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I'm >>204675
I like to try for the mind reading as suggested by >>204676. In addition to that, asking(thinking) these questions while the mind reading is happening. So basically a combined vote like this:
[x] Ask Satori about trying her ability on us one more time.
-[x] Ask her (either normally or while mindreading) if she would go through with everything again.
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[X] Ask Satori whether she'd go through with it again, if she knew things would end up like this.

So this is it. Your minder is gone, lured away by your villainous cunning, and now you're in perfect position to execute one of those dastardly plans Patchouli's so worried about. There's just the slight problem of there being nothing useful for you to do.

You already know how the bindings on you and Satori work, and you can't even attempt to bypass them without unfettered access to your magic. Patchouli's magic library is one of those things you'd be thrilled to have access to any other day, but even if you did swipe a book, it's not like you could read it in a few minutes or cast anything from it. Or you could try to listen in to your captor's plans... that you'll probably find out first-hand anyway.

Honestly, if there was a meaningful way for you to get into trouble, you wouldn't have been left alone in the first place.

It's a shame, because a distraction would be a relief, as you and Satori both are in a state of quiet, intense embarrassment. One where neither of you have anything to take it out on, but at the same time, nearly anything would be better than actually acknowledging it. And while you normally think Satori's absolutely adorable when she's blushing... well, you still do. That's exactly the problem. Looking at her glowing cheeks as she huddles in her chair reminds you of exactly why she's hiding behind that blanket, and that train of thought will only embarrass you both further.

Not that there's much left to embarrass. Neither of you is capable of casual small talk right now, that's for sure. But perhaps if there was something important... then you could push through it.

So while carrying out a detailed inspection of wooden pattern on the table's surface, you ask, "Have you thought about what kind of urban legend might fix Koishi?"


You persist in not looking at Satori, at least for a little longer. "Koishi. Urban legends. Do you have any ideas in that direction?"

"Oh." She sighed. "Initially I'd been more focused on figuring out how to get a specific urban legend than what to get. And by the time the 'how' started getting clear, there were more immediate problems."

"Yeah. Just about everything since Eientei has been one mess after another."

"I guess if there's one benefit to getting dragged into Remilia's problems, it's learning that the options for an urban legend are far more widespread than I'd thought."

"All you need now is a compelling write-up of 'The little sister who closed her third eye regrets her decision and opens it again.'"

Satori's tone went dry. "Somehow I doubt anyone would read a story named in that fashion."

Apparently the whole light novel craze never quite made it to Gensokyo. "You'd be surprised," you muttered.

"The real problem," Satori said, "is that Koishi already has an urban legend. Another regard in which it's similar to Remilia."

"Eh, not quite." You say, shaking your head. "Remilia's problem is being caused by her urban legend, Koishi's is merely unrelated. I think the best way to help Remilia's going to be changing the details of her story, making them less harmful. The fact that it's based on a book means that you can change around a couple details, and it's still recognizably the same story. But on Koishi's end, I don't see how Miss Mary's legend could be changed to something involving healing. It's too simple for that."

Satori grabs your shoulder and pulls, twisting you around to face her. "Then what did you have in mind?"

You honestly didn't have anything in particular in mind, but you press forwards regardless. "It's back to the original plan, I think. Someone else is going to have to get an urban legend capable of healing her."

"Why not suggest that for Remilia and kill two birds with one stone?"

"Mostly because I don't think it'd work for her. Her urban legend drove her mad over time. Even if she were cured instantly, the urban legend itself needs to be changed," or at least a different way of managing it found, "or she'd be back to square one in a few weeks."

Satori fixed you with an unimpressed stare. "So long as the healing urban legend is still around, they could simply keep healing Remilia whenever she breaks down."

"Maybe. I think they," you waved a hand in the general direction of your gracious hosts, "are prideful enough to chafe at that sort of dependency long-term, but it would still be a solution. The problem is that a vampire going crazy is a very specific situation. It's a question of what you can get people to believe, and for most of them, curing a vampire would mean curing the vampirism."

Satori winced. "They'd see that cure as worse than the disease."

It wasn't surprising. As far as strengths and weaknesses are concerned, Remilia did win the vampire lottery, present situation aside. But all that's beside the point. "Still, it's not wasted effort. Figuring out how to change an urban legend and creating one from scratch should be similar enough."

"That still leaves the question of what urban legend to create," Satori grumbled. "A satori closing her third eye is also damnably specific."

"I had an idea for that. There's a few religious leaders in town, aren't there?"

"Yes?" Satori answered, confused. "There was an entire incident over it. Buddhism, Taoism, and Shinto."

"I'll admit I don't know jack about those religions specifically..." you paused, drawing out the tension, "but opening the eyes of the blind is a pretty standard miracle."

Satori sucked in a breath, and you could see the nervous hope written across her face. Frozen in thought, she stared out into space for a few moments. You reached out to her, and she grabbed your hand absentmindedly, breathing lightly as she thought. When she spoke the words were hesitant. Slow and cautious, as if the idea itself could break without careful handling. "Maybe. Miko and Byakuren have urban legends already, but they have plenty of followers and not all of them were involved. Shou? Her ability doesn't really fit, but maybe if presented as Byakuren's disciple..."

You didn't know the locals well enough to help with this, so you waited silently as Satori worked her way through it, raising and discarding ideas. "Minamitsu's too recognizable as a captain... Ichirin and Futo have urban legends already... Tojiko's a vengeful spirit, that would never work." She sighed. "From the available options, Shou's probably the closest match, but it's not a great fit. Unless... I know Sanae was looking for an urban legend, but I can't remember if she actually found one."

"Would Sanae fit?" you ask.

"She's the shrine maiden of two gods, she's technically a god herself, and her signature ability is miracles. Aside from Eirin, I can't think of anyone more likely to get something related to healing. And on top of that, I have some leverage with Kanako. I'd probably need to cash that favor with them, but... if she doesn't have an urban legend yet, it could be possible. It could really be possible."

Satori squeezed your hand, favoring you with a smile. The light in her eyes reminded you of doing research with Sumireko, when you'd run the calculations and realized that the Occult Balls could actually work. That after so many attempts and dead ends, that you weren't wasting time, that the end was in sight. The impossible wasn't done, but all of a sudden it was feasible. That moment - not of triumph, not quite, but nonetheless of hope and vindication - was one you'll always remember.

And, well, your and Sumireko's work had been a hobby. One you were perhaps unreasonably passionate about, but still a hobby. What Satori was after was so much more important. How long had she tried to make this happen? What other incidents had she dived into in the hopes of finding something, anything for her sister?

If there was a good thing about the binding Satori was under, it was that positive emotions could echo just as effectively as negative ones.

Sadly, her moment of joy was just a moment. Satori bottled it back up again, pulling her hand away, taking a deep breath and composing her features back to that neutral, observant look that was her natural state. "Of course, all that depends on figuring out Remilia's problem first."


"What is it?"

"I'd been meaning to ask you whether you'd have joined the urban legend incident if you'd known ahead of time this would be the result. But I think I've got my answer."

Satori's look was piercing. "Obviously I'd have done a number of things very differently."

"Of course, of course. It's not like I've enjoyed being kidnapped either. The question is more about whether the chance was worth the cost."

"Yes." There's no hesitation. "Make no mistake, even without our conversation just now, the answer would still be yes."

It was the answer you'd hoped for, but you hadn't expected her to be so definite about it. You couldn't answer as firmly yourself; you would still say yes, but not without reservation. Not while Sumireko was out and in danger herself.

Some of your surprise must have shown, because Satori shifted, pulling out her sealed third eye and holding it in her hand. "There have been parts of the past couple days that have been exceedingly unpleasant, I'll admit. And things could still end badly from here. But I've waited centuries for this chance, Greg. As long as Koishi is fixed, everything else is merely details."

Looking at her determination now, it was hard to believe she'd spent the past hour unconscious, embarrassed, or on the verge of a breakdown. You chalked it up to the difference that having hope makes. "And hope does not put us to shame," you murmured.

Hopefully that would prove to be the case.

[-] To be continued.
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Soul updating at mach speed. Satori being precious.

That is all.
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Adding in a choice real quick, because I realized there is one that applies here, and a fairly important one at that.

While Satori is currently in better spirits, that could easily change thanks to the binding's emotional echo. Naturally, Greg would be worried about how she'll cope while they're separated. So what's the best way to deal with (or at least lessen) this problem?

[-] Tell Sakuya about the emotional effect, ask her to go easy on Satori and unseal the mind reading ever so often.
[-] Take another look at the binding, try to figure out some sort of workaround that'll ease the emotional strain.

((You could also try both, but drawing attention to the binding could be risky if you intend to try tampering with it.))
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I see no reason not to just ask Sakuya.
We've already said the whole thing out loud to Satori, so even if Sakuya doesn't already know, which I somewhat doubt, Patchouli absolutely would.
Sure, she might've been busy with Yukari when we told Satori, but I do not doubt in the slightest that she'd still pay attention to what we're doing/saying through the binding.
I know we'd be taking the risk of ruining our odds of messing with the binding when I voted to tell Satori directly, but it was more important that she knew what was going on.

[-] Tell Sakuya about the emotional effect, ask her to go easy on Satori and unseal the mind reading ever so often.

Time to cash in that goodwill that our charisma stat bought us.
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[x] Complain to Patchouli instead
right now Greg is at the point where he's sympathetic to Sakuya, but not too annoying, while Patchy treats us as a ticking time bomb
it doesn't really matter in the end if requesting Patchy's aid directly fails or if Sakuya treats this as going around her, I want patchy points
because remember, the more we talk up anyone, the more receptive they become to us, it's somehow a common pattern in the story and I'd be surprised if there isn't an in-depth reason for it that we do not know at the time (even Yukari was civil enough for us instead of being frank, going so far as to lament in front of us)
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[X] Tell Sakuya about the emotional effect, ask her to go easy on Satori and unseal the mind reading ever so often.

I think that the Anon above me has a point, but I don't think asking her for help will gain Patche points. Plus, due to Patche knowning how she feels about Roach, she may very well be paranoid enough to think this is a stunt to try and gain favor with her. It just feels too risky. Besides, there will be plenty of time to gain points with her during the whole, trip to the village. There ought to be at least.
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>>204685 here.

I think both >>204686 & >>204687 have a point.

Pointing at Patchouli gets to the heart of the matter; there is just a flaw to the design of the binding, whether intentional or not.
If intentional, that's practically analogous to psychological torture.
Knowing Patchouli, it is possible that she already knows and has simply decided that the ends justify the means.
I don't think we have any way to get to Patchouli at this juncture; she's too guarded around Greg for him to really get his hooks in her, so the Patche points will have to wait.

Sakuya might or might not know, so we should at least inform her in some way.
Directly or indirectly wouldn't completely matter as Sakuya would be able to infer what's going on from what we'd be saying to Patchouli.

But after thinking it over, I also do not see a reason to just do both the write-in & informing Sakuya.
It should be easy to segue from the complaint to Patchouli to the plea to Sakuya or vice versa.

So, I propose we do both, the only question would really be in what order we do them.
I'm personally not entirely sure as to which action to perform first, so maybe some other anons have some input there?

Changing vote to:
[X] Complain to Patchouli and tell Sakuya about the emotional effect, ask her/them to go easy on Satori and unseal the mind reading ever so often.
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[x] Complain to Patchouli instead
Honestly, I feel like asking Sakuya would just make Patchouli even more upset. Patchy is pretty arrogant, effectively trying to step around her would just tick her off more. And I feel like pushing Patchy too far isn't going to end up well for us, we need to at least make an effort to be diplomatic with the asthmatic fatty.
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[X] Complain to Patchouli and tell Sakuya about the emotional effect, ask her/them to go easy on Satori and unseal the mind reading ever so often.
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Well, she's basically gonna be on our case regardless, so it wouldn't really be pushing her per se.
Any opportunity to really engage with her will likely come after everyone splits up.
Anyway, I don't think she'd take too much offence to this anyway.
She might be a grouch, but she's still a rational thinker; having Satori bog down Sakuya would be counterproductive to say the least, so she should at least concede that the logic of the argument is sound.
Also, Sakuya is really the one in charge here. Everyone knows it.
Of course she defers to Patchouli for matters magical, but being made aware of the fact should be enough to get her to inquire about it with Patchouli anyway.
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[X] Complain to Patchouli and Sakuya about the emotional effect of Satori's binding.

From there the preparations, such as they were, went pretty quickly. Which really shouldn't have been a surprise with Sakuya involved, but Koakuma had barely come back with the replacement dress (a simple red number, much to Satori's relief) before the maid and magician had returned. Apparently their conversation had reached a conclusion quickly, which in turn meant that they were probably on the same page when it came to keeping you and Satori captive. Technically it was also possible that Sakuya had just pulled rank, but given the short time frame, it would almost require her to not hear Patchouli out... unlikely at best, and the mage didn't look nearly frustrated enough for that. Admittedly, she was a little red in the face, but that had an obvious cause.

What's the equivalent of being armed to the teeth when you're armed with books? Koakuma had mentioned Patchouli's nickname as the unmoving great library, and she really did look the part. The magician was dragging along three satchels packed to the brim with magical tomes, and you do mean dragging; you weren't sure how she was going to make it to the gate with all of that, let alone to the village. Come to think of it, why didn't she just enchant the things to levitate? With the variety she'd already shown, something as simple as that shouldn't be a problem. Perhaps it wouldn't play well with the magic inherent to the books?

Well, her carrying capacity was hardly your problem. Sakuya, on the other hand, looked normal. Did she not have any extra preparations to make, or were they just not visible? You suppose it wasn't like you had any idea where she hid her knives anyway.

Regardless, they were here.

Placing her bags by the table, Patchouli plopped into the seat and sent you a half-hearted glare. "Koakuma, where's the other one?"


"Didn't you already get her new clothes?"

Koakuma sighed. "Yeah, but she-"

"Got soaked," you interrupted. "It shouldn't be a surprise she wanted some plain dry clothes."

You were going to do what you could to spare Satori the embarassment as much as possible. Particularly since you don't think she'd approve of what you were about to try. Asking Sakuya for help like this, admitting weakness? You couldn't see her doing it. For Koishi's sake, or if it were life and death maybe, but for her own comfort? She'd be too proud. She was like Sumireko in that way. Though really, you weren't confident this would work. Sakuya would probably defer to Patchouli on magical matters, and the mage had yet to take your side on basically anything. She was almost your personal devil's advocate, except she was less friendly than the actual devil in the room.

Funny, that.

But all the same, you had to at least try. It was a relief that Satori was doing better, at least for the moment, and even more of one that she didn't regret everything. And in all fairness, Satori was forewarned about the effect, as well as being a lot more mature than you'd been back then. She'd said herself she had plenty of experience with negative emotions. Which, in a way, was exactly the problem. Satori was cynical. Not that she didn't have reason for it - when people tried to avoid you because you knew what they were really thinking it was hard to put a positive spin on that - but she saw the worst in people, quite literally. Though she did see the rest of them as well. She'd seen your worst moments and then somehow looked past them, offering comfort and reassurance despite... everything.

You closed your eyes and took a deep breath. That wasn't the point right now. It was one you needed to think about more, because part of you still couldn't believe it, but now was not the time. The problem was, when you could see the worst, that made it easy to assume the worst even (or perhaps especially) when you couldn't see it. Something not helped by the natural stress of the situation, the fact that people were breaking longstanding norms due to the seriousness of the current incident, or Yukari running who-knows-what kind of scheme in the background.

And regardless of how familiar Satori was with emotions in other people, you'd bet any amount of money that she had much less experience with her own emotions. You'd already seen more overt displays of emotion from her in the past day than she'd usually show in months. (Could that change, in the future? Did you want it to?) And all of that was without getting into how having her third eye sealed was traumatic for her personally. And that aspect at least was something they were damn well aware of from the get-go, and they'd proceeded with their plans anyway. Admittedly, discomfort was less of a problem than literally being kidnapped, but why stop at just one atrocity?

You took another deep breath, this time to calm yourself. It didn't help to think that way. Not you, not Satori, not anyone. Better to figure out a way forwards. Which in this case meant a plan for what to say that might actually convince Sakuya the binding was a problem. And so the first order of business had to be establishing both that the emotional side-effect existed, and how bad it was.

And for that matter, you really wanted to know whether Patchouli had set it up intentionally. Call it personal reasons.

"So, Patchouli, have you been keeping up with my conversations with Satori?"

She paused in the middle of addressing Koakuma. "What?"

"I mean, you already told us you were listening in." Your tone is as casual as you can make it, which isn't very. "There's something we talked about that I want to discuss, but I've got no idea if you're up to speed or not."

"If it's regarding the urban legends, state your theory."

You shook your head. "Nothing to do with that, I just wanted to know something. The emotional feedback loop on Satori's binding, did you consider that a bug or a feature?"

"What are you talking about?"

So, either she's buying time, or she didn't know. Which one? "Well, I had some time to look at her binding, and I did recognize a few of the runes involved - nice runework by the way - and I noticed you dealt with Satori's mind-reading by reflecting it back in on herself."

During all of this, you kept an eye on Sakuya in your peripheral vision. She was the primary decision-maker and she'd be Satori's guard while you were separated; that made her the one to convince twice-over. The maid's face betrayed nothing, but she was watching as you continued, "The problem is, there's a difference between not reading minds and reading your own mind. One that can be summarized in two words. Feedback loop."

Patchouli paused for a second, staring at you as she thought. "For the sake of argument, I will admit that is a possible interaction. But your theory has several flaws. Lack of evidence being a key one, but there's one even more fundamental."

"Which is?"

"Koakuma. Your opinion on Satori's current emotional state?"

"Uh..." the little devil hesitated. "Pretty okay, all things considered? I think she was mostly relieved. And before that, annoyed and embarrassed."

"Hardly the hallmarks of an emotional breakdown." Patchouli concluded. "Whatever discomfort it may actually cause her, it should be perfectly bearable for a mature youkai, especially one already accustomed to misery."

You gritted your teeth. "Yes, her current emotional state is fine because unconsciousness is something of a reset, and nothing particularly bad has happened to her since she woke up. The binding magnifies whatever emotions she's feeling right now, positive or negative. As long as she's not dwelling on negative ones, the effects are manageable, and-"

"Wait, is that why you've been flirting with her?" Koakuma asked.

"It was the best way I could think of to keep her mind occupied," you admitted.

"Huh, so was that an act?" the little devil asked. "I thought you liked her."

"I do! It's just-" You blushed, shook your head. "Whatever! Not the point. The point is, Satori's emotional reactions are going to be far more intense while the binding's active."

The only reaction Patchouli gave was a shrug. "Again, she's a mature youkai. A few negative emotions-"

"Look, I get that you're not about to do anything for her sake," you interrupted, "But I hoped you might care about the practical implications."

The magician fixed you with a stare. "The obvious conclusion is that you wish for us to compromise our security for the sake of her comfort. That would be the last thing from practical."

"Practical would be not giving her a breakdown during a critical moment!"

"Which is only a concern if you're not exaggerating the situation."

"That-" You cut yourself off, frustrated. "Would Remilia fake an emotional breakdown to manipulate someone?"

"Of course not," Sakuya said. You knew that would get her attention.

"Exactly. Her pride, her image, they're too important to her. Do you think Satori would?"

"If there was an important enough strategic purpose to it, yes." Patchouli answered. "I suspect she would fake tears at your prompting."

You glared at her. "Then perhaps you'd like to explain what strategic purpose was served by her ripping you a new one? Or why she was crying into my arms the first time you left us alone, in what we thought was a private setting?"

Patchouli winces ever so slightly at that, and your scowl deepens. "I'm not asking you to take my word for it, just think about what you've already seen! Does any of that sound normal for Satori? Does it match what you saw in the mansion, a situation just as stressful, but with the only difference being that the binding was off?"

Sakuya was watching the conversation, her face betraying nothing when she spoke. "Be that as it may, do you have a concrete suggestion?"

You chuckled softly, on the verge of full blown bitter laughter. "No, not really. The only things that would help would be giving Satori some time with the binding disabled, or providing emotional support. I can't expect the first, so this is me trying for the second. This was all in the hope that you might be kinder to her, or a bit more lenient if the binding gets the better of her. In the end, I'm just worried for her."

You hit the note you were going for. Frustrated, resigned, having almost given up but trying anyway because there's nothing else to do. The lack of suggestion plays into that, and also robs Patchouli of a reply; she'd shoot down any concrete suggestion you made, but objecting to the idea of being kinder would simply make her seem like an ass. You keep your eyes downcast even as you have the maid in your peripheral vision, trying to catch any hint of a reaction.

There's a pause while the maid considers it. You let it draw out, waiting for her judgement.

"I will keep it in mind," Sakuya said. A neutral response, in a neutral tone. One that doesn't promise anything, one that in most circumstances is equivalent to precise refusal.

But for an instant, while she said it, Sakuya just looked tired.

It would have to be enough. It wasn't like you could do anything else.

[-] To be continued.

((Anyway, we are now in Nanowrimo mode! I'm at least going to make the attempt to write every day and preferably update every day or two for the next month. As a consequence, choices may be fewer, and for those updates that do have choices, you'll need to vote quickly. Let's see if I can make this work.))
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Well, at least we tried.
Now all we can do is hope.
This has also shown us that Patchouli doesn't always listen in, or at least that she has to focus on the conversation to register what is being said.

Sakuya's proven to be a nice person, if ruthlessly pragmatic when the situation calls for it, so I read the part about her looking tired as the stress/guilt of their wrongdoings wearing on her.
A more cynical interpretation would be her being fed up with Greg and Patchouli's nonstop bickering, I guess, but I'm gonna stick with the more positive interpretation.
Because if that is the case, Sakuya will be more likely to at least try make Satori's situation more comfortable.
Just gonna have to trust that Satori will pull through alright.

Better we see to it that Greg does so, too.

Anyway, good luck with Nanowrimo, Lost Soul!
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[-] Final preparations

"If we're quite finished with that, there is another matter," Patchouli said.

That put you back on your guard, and you nearly startled at the sound of a door opening.

It was just Satori emerging from the changing room, wearing the new dress and looking rather irritated. She pulled out the chair next to you and sat down without a word.

"Is everything all right?" you whiper-asked her.

She breathed in, rubbed the bridge of her nose, and sighed. "It's nothing, Greg."

That wasn't a good sign. You considered asking again, but something tells you you're unlikely to get an answer... and you abruptly realize you missed whatever it was Patchouli just said.

"Sorry, what was that?"

Patchouli rolled her eyes. "I said, between your kidnapping of Nitori and the fight at Eientei, you and Satori are known to be involved in the incident. If you're seen, you'll draw attention."

You thought about it for a second and nodded. "It's a fair point. I suppose I can't just walk into the human village right now."

More than that, if Patchouli was recommending you have a disguise, odds were it would be a magical disguise, and her abilities seemed to be more towards the elemental end of things. Which meant you might just be allowed continual access to your magic. It wasn't like your illusions would be enough to just break free, but it would mean significantly more agency, as well as maybe a bit of trust. Or at least recognizing that it wasn't practical to keep you locked down all the time.

"What about Sakuya?" Satori asked. "If anyone earned notoriety from Eientei it was her."

"True," the maid acknowledged, "But I have no need to blend in. The only strong youkai with any interest in Chen's cat experiment is Ran herself, and if she shows her face, that will merely save time."

Given what Satori said earlier about Orin, you're not sure that's strictly true. You're also not going to point it out. "Plus I imagine there's not many people capable of picking a fight with Sakuya."

"Oh, there's plenty of people who might pick a fight with her," Patchouli said wryly. "She just makes a point of winning. Regardless, you will need a disguise."

"Magical disguises are simple enough for me," you said, doing your best to keep your tone casual. "I could even go invisible for the duration, though I expect you'd rather I stay in view."

Patchouli raised an eyebrow. "Obviously. But I'm not foolish enough to keep your magic unsealed for the duration."

Maybe it was too good to be true. You sighed. "I do need magic to create a magical disguise."

The other mage smirked. "To create it, not to sustain it. You've already proven you can create enchanted items."

You blinked. You don't think you'd ever brought that up. "How do you know that?"

Patchouli reached inside her robes, pulling out the fake-gold bracelet you'd put the pyramid enchantment on. "I just happen to have an example of your work."

You can't believe you forgot about that thing. Your captors having it was... inconvenient. "Granted, but I don't have the raw magical power to fuel a meaningful enchantment from my own reserves. I needed an occult ball to power that one."

"That, at least will not be a problem," Sakuya said. She snapped her fingers, and no fewer than five occult balls popped into existence behind her. Including the two that you, Satori, and Sumireko had obtained back before Eientei.

Right, Sakuya had been going around beating up people left and right. Of course she has a ton of them. "Fine, I can do it. That is, if you'll trust me to actually do something with my magic."

Patchouli ignores your sarcasm. "The key difference is that instead of a spell you can alter on the fly, this will be a fixed enchantment. One I can carefully test and examine before we take to the field. After all, it's only practical."

You're irritated that she's right. Because even without her security paranoia, it's a sensible solution. A disguise that doesn't rely on your concentration and that you won't need to constantly maintain is strictly better, especially since Sakuya has the necessary occult balls to power them. Combine that with it leaving you more firmly under her thumb, and you don't see a way to argue against it.

You're not as reliant on your ability as Satori is on hers, but the binding on your magic is rather irritating. It's the mystical equivalent of wearing a sweater a couple sizes too small. Every time you move around you can feel the binding shifting, brushing up against your magic, a constant reminder of your restriction. Losing a chance to be free of it for a while is frustrating, to say the least.

Well, at least it'll be off while you make the enchantment. "Fine, I see your point. How are we doing this?"

[?] Which character would make the best disguise? (Keep in mind, Patchouli/Sakuya have final say here.)
[?] Is there any other enchanted item that you could persuade the SDM crew to let you make? (Like with the disguise, Patchouli will test and possibly confiscate whatever you come up with... but if you do intend to help them, this could be a meaningful way to do it.)
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I'll admit, I don't have any solid ideas at the moment to decide, so I'm gonna spitball some idea.

We'll want a character who isn't terribly hyper smart, because trying to act like that kind of person would be disasterous. We need to be someone we could reasonably mimic if need be. That makes me wary of Ran, though I could see the obvious idea of being Ran to lure Chen out. Additionally we might get approached by someone involved in schemes that we have no idea about, which would be awkward and break out disguise. Disguising ourselves as Chen could be interesting though, I'm sure Chen would be interested in that.

Other ideas that flashed to me are disguising ourselves as either Flandre, Patchy, or Sakuya to intentionally cause confusion. Or someone like Kosuzu or Mamizou. Kosuzer might be decent because who expects a human girl to do anything? Alternatively it might draw suspicion to have her about when the village is gone. Mamizou might fit a golden zone of practical but not overbearingly so, has she appeared in the story yet? I wanna say early on, but it's a bit blurry at the moment. A fairy could also be a solid idea because people expect literally nothing from them.
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Hmm, pretty tough choice. I'm gonna need a couple hours/input from others to stew on this.

My gut reaction was Remilia, actually.
Remilia showing "herself" in public would disseminate false information about her condition, which could help.
But they'd never agree to that.
It'd also put a massive target on Greg's back for the incident resolvers because of the stunts the mansion residents have already pulled.
From what Greg knows she's some haughty noble, so it'd be hard for him to pass as her anyway.
Greg has the gift of the gab, but does he have his method acting chops?

Anyway, like I said I need to think on this, since I don't have any immediate ideas ready.

I'll have to think about any prospective magical tools, as well.

The only thing I could think of right now is a long-distance communication tool.
But Patchouli already has that in the form of her books.
But we also don't know how it functions and whether it requires some kind of ritual to keep the connection up.
Maybe having a system routed through the balls would make it easier to use?
But also, I'm not entirely sure I want to share that idea yet; I want to help, but they're still our captors.

Ah, good that I remembered to refresh for once.
I just want to point out that while Chen might be a fine, if odd, combination with Patchouli, we're not the ones going after Chen.
That'd be Sakuya & Satori.
Ran is probably too conspicuous a disguise, but who knows.
I'm not too big a fan and we want the other duo to attract Ran, not Greg & Patchouli when the person in question hears there's a doppelganger of hers walking around.
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Let's just run down the list of everyone I can think of

A major player. Probably not, because too many people could catch the lie.

A minor player. There are plenty of decent options, but risks people thinking there's a hostage situation going on or something. (But in a different way than the actual one.)

(If we wanted to do someone major or minor, I could spend probably a good 30 minutes to an hour compiling a list of valid choices from everyone up to ULIL. I enjoy such work, but I'd rather focus on other options for the moment.)

Flandre. Probably an easy enough role to play, and offers a high intimidation factor, but impossible to provide convincing proof for.

A nondescript fairy maid. Useful, but people would notice a fairy having complicated thoughts.

A nondescript youkai. Nobody will be able to find discrepancies with how we act, but also makes joining up with Patchouli suspicious.

Koakuma. From what I remember, she's joining neither group, and would make sense to be joining Patchy.

Go undisguised/as Satori. Saves time if we go as someone we're familiar with or not disguised at all, but it's also a blaring neon sign that the SDM have us.

Koishi pretending to be a cat. Ha. I wish.

As you might be able to tell by the lack of a but, I'm personally inclined to the Koakuma option at the moment, I think. It makes sense why we'd be with Patchouli, but I don't imagine there's a million people who could tell the difference. Open for discussion, though.

As for other magic items: I'll need to think about it.
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Given what we've seen of Koakuma so far, she's pretty innocuous.
She hasn't spoken nearly as much as the others, and even when she does talk, it's usually in response to a direct addressal.
Also, since she's just an assistant, most would be naturally predisposed to looking past Koa and instead turn all their attention onto Patchy.

Disguising as her could provide a rare moment of reprieve for Greg where he wouldn't have to worry as much about anybody (except Sakuya and Patchy) breathing down his neck.
Plus, Koa seems to mostly just take commands, so how hard can acting like her really be?
Not to mention that since Patchouli probably sees her assistant more than most, she could definitely tweak the disguise to be exceptionally convincing. She seems insistent on testing whatever he comes up with anyway, so why not?
It'd also give Greg a chance to put Patchouli's security paranoia at ease so long as he sticks extra close to her.

All in all, I think that disguising as Koakuma would be a good option.

As for the magic items, I think something that will allow Greg to fly would be an invaluable long term investment.
There's a few issues with this idea, namely that it'd give Greg the ability to run, which is definitely something hard to argue against.
Another big issue is that waaay long ago, it was mentioned Sumireko's cape was a pretty tough thing to make.
However, Greg's a pretty convincing guy, so I think he could kill two birds with one stone by asking Patchouli for help creating it.
She's a very powerful magician, so she'd probably be able to speed up the process of creating such an artifact significantly, and Greg could quell any worries of escape by allowing her to implement a magic kill-code into it.
And if all else fails, he can easily argue that if he'd be disguising himself as her assistant, then it'd be pretty strange to anybody they encounter if they saw that "Koakuma" wasn't able to fly. In fact, if anybody saw that she had to be carried or magically levitated, it'd be a borderline suspicious sight.

[X] Disguise as Koakuma.
[X] Create a something that will allow the wearer to fly.
-[X] Make them look like a set of devil wings to go with the disguise.
--[X] Persuade Patchouli to help make it.
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I think >>204706 is right about the disguise. As for the item, I don't know if this is possible, but, let's say that Patche and Greg get in a fight they either can't win, or is too much of a hassle to win. They'd need to escape. But Patche has a huge stamina issue. And we know based on Satori that deep down, it is a big insecurity of hers. So how about, an item that strengthens her body? Something that can temporarily suppress her asthma and/or anemia. I'm not sure if that's possible, or at least, possible for Greg, but not only would it be good for practical reasons, but it would also earn points with the SDM crew, would tell them you are genuinely willing to work with them, given that Greg and Patche have been at each other's throats for a while, and suddenly, Greg making something that helps Patche directly... sure, it might be regarded with suspicion, but then again, Patche is a better enchanter (enchantress?) than Greg, so she'd be able to see if there was a trap somewhere. Worst case scenario, Patche feels slighted by the necessity of such an item, but she's also pragmatic enough to suck it up.

[X] Koakuma.
[X] An item that strengthens Patche's body. If not within Greg's capabilities, something to enhance her stamina.
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>>204705 here.

Holy crap.
What an absolutely fantastic suggestion!
Even beyond all the pros already discussed, she's also somebody that Greg has actually met.
This means he has at least a rudimentary grasp of how to act as her, maybe not enough to be convincing under scrutiny, but at least to pass as her at a glance.
Maybe it'd be considered rare to see her out of the library, but nobody is seriously gonna question the librarian's assistant being with the librarian.
Seriously. Kudos. What an absolute banger of an idea.

I don't really agree with your read of Koakuma's personality, though.
She seems pretty chatty and upbeat to me.

Anyway, as for the magic item, I'm still not really sure.

Suggesting a pair of wings would be practical, but this will never fly. (haha.)
I don't think Patchouli will under any circumstance agree to this, damn the logic.
She's far more likely to drag him around on a chain, herself.
Humorous imagery aside, that'd probably mean transporting him using magic.

While I see pros and cons to having a "healthier" Patchouli around, I don't really know if that is even feasible.
If her issues were something she could just magic away, she'd probably have done that a long time ago. Or gotten treatment at Eientei, perhaps.

For now, I'm gonna cast my vote for Koakuma, because that is just the perfect disguise.
Gonna leave my vote for a potential magical tool open, however.
I'll think about it some more and see if any anons post interesting write-ins or sell me on the existing ones.

[X] Koakuma.
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>>204706 here. Glad everyone likes the idea! Best form of trickery is the exploitation of Occam's Razor.
. I've been thinking of some magic item ideas to throw into the ring.
Whatever we make should probably be something to either enhance our strengths and/or add extra utility. Preferably, it's something we can maintain or repair if things don't end up working out with Patchouli.

- Greg's had some time to look at runes targeting Satori, and already has some level of experience in mental magic. What if we made a mirror to act as an "external third eye"? Probably something like an accessory mirror so that it can open/shut instead of always being on. Even if it isn't nearly as strong as an actual third eye, that sort of thing could be a very useful tool for social circumstances.

- Flight might be a useful tool, but even with help it might take a while to make. I propose an alternative movement cheat: folding spacetime in on itself to make a short ranged teleporter! Now, I know that sounds even harder, but hear me out. Greg was just trapped by a gap, he might be able to leverage that experience to recreate it on a small scale. (New Gap-Folding Umbrella!)

... this doesn't take into account whether Patchouli or Yukari would actually approve of it, but shh. let me have this.

- We have a lot of different occult balls, attuned to different areas. What if we tried making something to manifest the area imprinted on one of the occult balls, changing up the whole terrain of the battlefield? Imagine: you're soaring through the air, firing an overwhelming barrage... and then you fly face first into a giant monument that showed up out of nowhere.

Those are just a few things I was able to think of, just to add to the discussion. I personally think any of them could be really helpful tools.
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>>204708 here.

You're definitely right, albeit, to me... maybe it's not so much that it's impossible for Patchouli, as it may be unfeasible, or perhaps, Patche never saw use in it, given that she just stays indoors all the time, and keeps on consuming toxic materials for the sake of her magic. The latter especially is why i see her not going for Eientei. Why bother cure her body when she's only gonna get the same way again later? However, for once, Patchouli has a reason to leave the library, a reason to fight. Combine that with the occult balls not being your usual artifact and maybe, just maybe, it would be possible. Not permanently of course, if not because it's impossible, then because inevitably, Patche would just fuck her body up again... but maybe a temporary effect, maybe that, could be worth trying, no? Of course, if you think there's more cons than pros to having a strengthened Patche, then I completely get it. Just wanted to elaborate on why I'd bring that up, given that, you're correct in that if Greg can do that, Patche definitely can too, or at least, Eirin's medicines can. Way I see it, up until now, Patche accepted her body's degradation as a consequence of her studies, after all, no pain no gain. But this time, she can't afford to just accept it, I figure, now of all times, if there's a way to temporarily undo it, this time, it's worth it, for Remilia's sake. Of course, maybe I'm making too many assumptions on Patche's mindset.
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I think this is veering a bit too far off established canon.
Satori absolutely ripped into Patchouli's insecurities as a "cripple".
Too much for me to think that she'd simply accept things as they are.
My read on her is more along the lines of she would try, or more likely, already has and hasn't found success.
Or it's been an ongoing project of hers for a long time.
But that's just wild speculation on my part.
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It's wild speculation on both our parts really. The only mind reader there is Satori, and it's not like we can consult her, now can we? Jokes aside, that's an equally fair read of Patchouli... I still figure it's worth a shot, but only because of the wildcard that is the occult ball's power in all this.
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Interesting idea with the external third eye. Do you think it would do anything if it was made and then given to Koishi? Maybe in addition to the Mary doll.
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That would definitely be a useful item, both in the short term for the current mission and in the long term for potentially helping Koishi, but I'm a bit doubtful the SDM crew would actually let us make that, considering how much effort they've put into restricting those aspects of Greg and Satori's powers with the bindings.
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[X] Koakuma.
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Agreed. Interesting concept, but shelve it for the moment. Looking at the other ideas... I'm not sure whether the second one is an amazing or terrible idea. Third one seems less useful, but that does raise the odds it survives the veto process.
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>>204707 here.

Damn chief, you got me.
It doesn't matter how inarguable the logic behind it is, Patchouli probably wouldn't find enabling Greg to fly acceptable under any circumstances.
On that note, I kind of doubt that she'd find any of the ideas >>204710 had palatable either, no matter how useful any and all of them would be.
In light of that, I think she might gripe over any artifact that could give any amount of edge to Greg.

I suggest, then, an artifact that's entirely reliant on an external magician to be of use. Maybe something like a book that a magic user could link with from afar to cast their spell out from?
Such an item would be useless to Greg (at the moment) but if he were holding onto it, then Patchouli would be able to engage somebody from both her location and Greg's.
Most importantly though, it'd only be able to cast anything when Patchouli tries to cast something from it - thus Greg wouldn't be able to use it against her while she has his magic bound.

Of course, once Greg's able to access his magic again and/or reunites with Sumi, I imagine they'd both be able to make use of a remote spell casting book.
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Isn't this actually already how Patchouli assists in fights?
We saw it in practice with Sakuya at Eientei and at the mansion with Yukari, if I recall correctly.
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>(If we wanted to do someone major or minor, I could spend probably a good 30 minutes to an hour compiling a list of valid choices from everyone up to ULIL. I enjoy such work, but I'd rather focus on other options for the moment.)
hahaah... I started doing just that and forgot about it for half of the day. Feels like a waste not posting it now.

There are just a bunch of choices that make real sense to me. And I've put them in a loose order of how much. They have to known by Greg or the SDM and either already involved in the incident or affiliated with the SDM to a degree.

[-] Alice
Known to have connections to Patchouli and fellow Yokai Magician. Greg has a decent enough idea of her character and motivations thanks to the tea party and short travel together. Out of the known major characters, she's the safest option to go for.

[-] Marisa
Similar points to Alice, minus familiarity. Except for Danmaku battles. Could spin it as the incident getting out of her depth and enlisting outside help.

[-]It's called Project Shrine Maiden. Go as Reimu.
The 'plot' option. She's got all the reasons to figure out what is going on with the incident. You can call it Shrine-maidenly intuition but she feels like there was supposed a whole village on that empty plot of land. Oh, and she's got the lazy magician dragging behind her, 'cause.

[-] Sanae
The 'side-plot' option. Arguably weaker connection to the SDM but good enough reason to investigate the situation of the village and the incident in general.
Maybe we can get a glimpse of the actual Sanae's situation?

[-] Kasen
Involved in the failed capture of Sumireko and first contact. As a Gensokyan sage deeply invested in the resolution of the incident.

[-] Mamizou
Hardly any affiliation with the SDM. Can be framed as an allegiance of circumstance. Involved in the planning of the capture of Sumireko. Knowledgeable on outside world matters which is something Greg can leverage.

[?] Maribel
The 'mystery plot' option. Why strictly someone from Gensokyo? Who's to say that the Mansion hasn't met and enlisted an outsider themselves. Someone who may or may not have (theoretical) knowledge of Magic, the Incident and the nature of Remilia's affliction?
It's contrived, but so has been the whole incident, has it not?
And if we choose this we just need to have a third Mary and we can have a Mary-go-round.
To be honest I just wanted to get this one out there because it's so out there.

[-] Call for Tewi

Additional ideas for Magical Equipment.

[-] Teleportation Anchor.
Can be triggered by the user or from the outside by specific magical signatures. Keyed to a bookmark or something similar in Patchouli's posession. Mostly going back from the Pseudo Gap-Folding as an option that may have a higher approval chance.

[-] Danmaku Recollection Spellcard.
Enchanted item utilising Satori's Danmaku Recollection to create known bullet patterns. Obviously fitted to whoever is chosen as the disguise.

[-] Unnoticeability Enchantment
Works best with a silly hat.

[-] Rings
Two gold rings with diamond inlay that constantly transmit the thoughts of the wearers between each other.

I wanna gonna go with
[x] Reimu
-[x] Danmaku Recollection Spellcard

"Sumireko, the crossdressing enchantment was essential to the Incident resolution and my continued survival, I swear
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The intent is to create something that gives Patchouli agency instead of Greg so she'd accept the idea, and ideally have it be something he can keep to use after he gets out of this situation with her.
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Okay, hear me out. We honor our dear friend Sumireko and maybe just maybe, we throw them for a loop. I suggest we disguise as a cockroach! She did call him roach.

No one expects an unassuming bug. Gregor out boy should remember his dear friend who he (probably) misses.

I see absolutely no issue with this idea. Other than maybe Wriggle trying to talk to Greg. She hasn't showed up (yet?) so no worries.

I don't have an artifact suggestion... For now
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I think impersonating Reimu would be significantly more difficult for Greg than impersonating Koakuma, and it comes with the additional problem that the actual Reimu is also running around somewhere with this incident going on. There is even the risk of running into her on this mission.

Hmm, I think people might find it a bit strange if Patchouli starts talking to a cockroach all of a sudden. And I also wonder if it might be more difficult for Greg to disguise himself as something very different from a human (not even the same scale as a human) compared to a more human-like disguise.
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[X] Disguise yourself as Koakuma

[X] Teleportation isn't your specialty, but you're familiar with the concept. If you could apply some of your experience with it and other space manipulating effects, you might be able to create a minor personal teleporter. Unfortunately, you should probably also add an override for Patchouli.

I say we go for it. Worst case scenario, we just steal it back later, and don't have any extra gear for the upcoming challenge.
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Just to chime in, the disguise is just visual. While Greg could make an image of a cockroach, there’s really no point when it’s easier to just be invisible, and it runs the same risk of people bumping into mostly-invisible him anyway.

The various enchantment ideas look to be different degrees of viable, but it doesn’t seem like there’s a true consensus on one. A couple of them could make sense for him to try, but as of right now there isn’t a pick that stands out. I’ll have to think about it.

Disguise on the other hand looks to be heavily leaning Koakuma, which is what I’d have actually chosen myself, (pretty much the perfect background character) so well done on that.

Anyway, I’ll get started on writing in a few more hours, so you’ve got a bit more time if there’s any last votes to come in.
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>>204709 here.

Yeah, I'm completely dry on ideas for tools, maybe it's just better to do nothing and give them no ideas, either?
Bit of a cop-out but I'm just gonna abstain.
Just gonna see what happens.
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[X] Disguise as Koakuma.

Patchouli's answer is instant. "Koakuma. It by far makes the most sense for you to disguise as my servant."

"Wait, me?" Apparently Koakuma herself wasn't privy to this plan.

You're not entirely surprised; it was actually going to be your suggestion, but you can't resist prodding a little. "I assume there's more reasoning than you needing someone to carry all those books?"

The mage rolled her eyes. "Nobody would be surprised at seeing Koakuma in the human village, whether in my company or alone. She's weak enough to avoid the attention of anyone interested in the incident, but her connection to the mansion is enough to let her ask questions and still receive answers... from the humans of the village, at least."

There's really not a point in arguing against it. "Plus, as someone who's actually present, I can check the illusion against the real deal, make sure it's as accurate as possible." Not that you really expected anyone to be looking for a Koakuma imposter, but it was the principle of the thing.

Sakuya stood up. "It would seem you have the disguise well in hand. While you handle the enchantment, I will inform Flandre of our plans."

"Wait!" you say, holding up a hand. "I'll need one of the occult balls to power this, and they're attached to you. If you leave now we'll have to wait until you return."

You saw Sakuya's eyes flicker over to Patchouli, and when she gave a nod the maid sighed. "Very well then. Is there a way I can expedite the process?"

"Assuming I have permission to actually do it," you glance meaningfully at Patchouli, but she doesn't object, "all I need is the object to enchant and for you to keep the occult balls visible. It should only take a few minutes if the enchantment catches on the first try."

Sakuya raised an eyebrow at that. "Do you expect an issue?"

"It's possible. The magic contained within the occult balls has... personality, for lack of a better term. A bit of pre-existing form. Depending on which ones you have, it could fit right into the idea of an illusion, or it might fight me on it. The fact that I don't really know Koakuma also makes it harder." It was honestly pretty lucky that you had the Nazca Lines occult ball on-hand when making the Koishi doll. The connection between that wonder and images was straightforwards enough that the enchantment's synergy wasn't an issue.

"Is that safe?" Satori spoke up.

"They're powerful magical artifacts," you said wryly. "Poking around in one is never exactly safe... but I did help make them, and Sumireko and I wrapped a lot of magical protections around them for exactly that reason. I wouldn't recommend anyone else try it, but I should be fine."

Patchouli stared you down at that. "What are the potential consequences of a misfired enchantment?"

"You're holding one of them," you told her. "A bracelet that incapacitates the person wearing it wasn't what I had originally intended to make. I was trying to make something I could use as a distraction, a mental weapon, a psychic flashbang, if you will. I got what I asked for, if not what I wanted."

Patchouli glanced over towards the occult balls hovering around Sakuya, tapping her fingers on the table. "The risk seems reasonable. We'll use my ritual circle for it, it will prevent any outside disruption and minimize any backlash."

"Which occult ball do you intend to use?" Sakuya asked.

"Well, the Pyramids and Nazca Lines are out," you said. "I enchanted something from them earlier, and we already found out that trying to source multiple enchantments from the same ball causes feedback issues."

That got a wince out of Patchouli. You hid a smirk as you stared into the purple orbs, trying to parse the feeling you got from them. "Let's see... the other three here look to be Yomotsu Hirasaka, the Temple of Artemis, and the Terracotta Army."

You hesitated. None of them were perfect fits... then again, nothing would have been. (Well, maybe the Library of Alexandria, given Koakuma's role here, but Sakuya didn't have that one.) The myth behind Yomotsu Hirasaka was about the boundary between dead and alive, and devils (or was it demons?) were at least part of the story. Artemis was better known as the goddess of the hunt and the moon, but young women, particularly maidens, were also part of her domain. While the Terracotta Army being statues of warriors... well, the subject matter was different, but the idea of making an image was more present there.

[-] Use Yomotsu Hirasaka
[-] Use the Temple of Artemis
[-] Use the Terracotta Army
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[X] Temple of Artemis

Let's be a pretty Koakuma :)
In all seriousness, the first option seems a little flimsy and the third one is okay in terms of creating imagery, but the second sounds like the best pick if we're trying to look realistically like a "maiden".
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>Yomotsu Hirasaka
let's stroll directly into a village REEKING of death and mortality and see how that works out
there's a reason why kegare is a thing in eastern mythology
>Temple of Artemis
>using a temple to a goddess associated with chastity on a succubus
haha NO

[x] Use the Terracotta Army

process of elimination, the other two options SUCK
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[X] The Temple of Artemis
I've never really bought into Succubus Koakuma. I think it would work fine.

Yomotsu probably gives the most Youkai-like air, Artemis is probably the best base for outward appearance, and the Terracotta Army probably provides a more stable disguise.

I think any one of them could work, but we're trying to wear a disguise here: looks are most important.
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First thought: Artemis is actually a better choice than Greg thinks for reasons I'll go into, but I'll handle the other options first to have a completer image of the choice.

>Yomotsu Hirasaka
As already mentioned, this would probably accentuate the youkai-ness of the imagery.
The stench of death will likely be always present as well.
The mythology associated with the place is also a bit counterproductive to a visual illusion, as Izanagi found out about the state of his wife when he turned around and looked directly at her.
If this was an illusion to mislead the other senses, it'd be rather perfect (if you could handle the death-attributes, which could be included in said misleading of the senses), as Izanagi didn't suspect a thing from the voice of his wife and his darkened environs until he actually turned.
All in all, not necessarily bad for illusions but not what we're looking for, unless we wanted something visually monstrous and intimidating.
Even if we made a perfect facsimile of the rather friendly Koakuma, it'd likely come off as "wrong" and disturbing when viewed.

>Terracotta Army
Not bad at all.
The idea of imagery and fascimiles are already here, as mentioned.
Furthermore, the terracotta army is predominantly soldiers, yes, but there are also small collections of other figures, such as officials; acrobats and musicians.
So while it wouldn't be entirely fit our criteria, it wouldn't be too bad either.
Using these silent watchers as a base might also add an inconspicuousness aspect to the illusion if we're planning to simply hover around Patchouli the whole time; it's the soldier's job to be in the background and not stand out more than the "emperor".

>Temple of Artemis
I don't really mind whether Koakuma is a succubus or not, but with this option it doesn't really matter.
If she is, what is a succubus if not a hunter of men. Artemis' attribute of chastity might make the image come of as more pure than she'd actually be under scrutiny.
However, this is only a minor detail compared to the other pros.
As mentioned, the image is likely to be visually perfect, due to the subject matter, minus possibly the chastity/purity, fitting exactly with what we're trying to project.
A second, possibly even more important point, is that Artemis is associated with the moon.
Patchouli herself is a master of magic associated with the moon, so having her assistance here while making this is likely to make it succeed beyond Greg's expectations.
However, it bears noting that Artemis is commonly associated with the moon, but the actual Greek "personification" of the moon is a different goddess, Selene, who is sometimes conflated with the former.
Keeping that in mind might avoid some pitfalls Greg might fall in.
My last point is not necessarily based in fact, as I do not remember whether this is a "modern" invention or based in mythology.
The moon, and particularly its light, has been associated with illusions in some form.
Whether dispelling them or creating them using said light, depending on your source.
Ideally we'd want the second interpretation, but as I said I do not have a real source for this at hand, so you can just as well disregard this if you will. I just felt it bore mentioning.

In conclusion, the Temple of Artemis is most likely to give us exactly what we'd want.
We'll have a beautiful illusion made with the help of an absolute expert who is also personally acquainted with the subject.
There's actually only one real con I can think of: it being too good.
If our goal is to stay inconspicuous behind Patchouli or something, looking like some breathtaking enchanting beauty would attract more than a bit of attention.
Like, we wouldn't be some ultra-sex machine like invoking Aphrodite would have resulted in, but it'll still show.
On the other hand, this also makes it by far the best option for Greg to flaunt his Charisma score, if Patchouli allows him.
If that one con is the clincher, I'd vote for the Terracotta Army instead, but for now I see no real reason not to vote for the Temple of Artemis.

[X] Use the Temple of Artemis
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[X] Use the Temple of Artemis

Patchouli: Listen, I didn't want to say this in front of Satori - that orb makes you look like a girl.
Greg: Am I a pretty girl?
Patchouli: Oh, well um... you're... you're beautiful.
Sakuya: ...
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[X] Use the Temple of Artemis
Pure Devil
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>If she is, what is a succubus if not a hunter of men
again, goddess associated with CHASTITY and we're disguising as a demon (not human) whose purpose is to rob men of it
you're fucking with goddess's territory in gensokyo, in what's as close to a land of gods of all places
a place where you can actually get divine retribution unironically
seeing how it's tidepiss and too late for a rebound, I can't wait to see how it blows up in our faces
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Then Patchouli will raise her concerns with the plan once Greg explains his thought process.
You seem to forget that Greg has known Koakuma for a scant few hours at most, he has no reason to just assume she is a succubus.
If she even is one in the first place. That is just some fanon interpretation.
The only one who makes that call here is Lost Soul, so there's no point planning around maybes that we have no evidence of.
In-meta, only Patchouli (and maybe some of the mansion crew) would be guaranteed to know, so if there is any objection to be raised, it's by her and not Greg.
Therefore, it makes perfect sense for him to suggest the Temple of Artemis for reasons already mentioned.
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[-] Use the Temple of Artemis

"I think the Temple of Artemis is probably the best bet here," you say. "Assuming Koakuma, er, qualifies?"

Patchouli raised an eyebrow. "Are you asking whether my subordinate has had sex?"

"It's a relevant question! Not to put too fine a point on it, but Artemis was the goddess of maidens."

You're blushing, and a glance over to Koakuma reveals she is as well, but she meets your eyes defiantly. "No, I haven't. Haven't found a man worth the time."

That was a straight line practically begging for you to ask whether she'd like to find one, but there was only one lady you were flirting with here, and it wasn't Koakuma. Even if you could admit she looked surprisingly cute like that. And considering you were about to disguise as her, didn't that make everything that little extra bit awkward?

That gave you a moment of disorientation, but you managed to cover it with a wry smile. "I understand being in Gensokyo makes that a little tricky."

"You have no idea," Koakuma grumbled.

You were about to reply when Satori nudged you. "Focus, Greg."

"Right." You turned back to Patchouli. "Is there anything you need to set up precautions-wise?"

Patchouli knelt down by the ritual circle, touched two of the lines, and the runes lit up from that point outwards, circling around until the entire pentagram was glowing. "Koakuma, the lunar set, please."

The little devil flew across the room, taking care to replace the previous reagents from Patchouli's earlier ritual with a set of polished silver mirrors, most with some portion replaced by some darkened metal. It takes you only a moment to spot the pattern: empty, waning, half, waxing, and full. You're not entirely sure whether that's meant as additional power source or preventative measure, but either way the alignment to the moon is sensible.

It's obvious enough where you need to be; you step into the pentagram's center, where Patchouli had conducted her earlier spells from, and to your surprise, the mage goes with you.

"To ensure there's no surprises I will observe the creation of your enchantment first-hand." she says.

That shocked you more than anything else the mage has said today. Patchouli tried for the same detached, insistent tone she's used for most of her demands. To invoke the idea that this is how it's going to be, this is how everyone reasonable expected it to be, and that you'd be a fool to expect anything different. And while you could catch the undercurrent of tension to her words, that's not really what tipped you off.

You weren't lying earlier when you said the occult balls were dangerous. Manageably so for someone who knew what they were doing, but the magical power they contained was enough to make an accident crippling, maybe even fatal. The main reason you weren't worried was because you helped make the occult balls in the first place. Home field advantage, so to speak.

If you were a malicious actor, this would be the ideal circumstance to give Patchouli an "accident". Interfering with an in-progress enchantment is like bumping someone's elbow while they're handling high explosives. There's no way she doesn't know that. Whatever inside view she gets of the disguise enchantment is simply not worth the risk she's running, not with how paranoid she's been about everything else.

"You're certain about this?" you asked.

"It is not up for negotiation."

For a brief moment you wonder if an "accident" is actually Patchouli's plan, but you dismiss the idea. Even if she wanted to murder you, engaging you inside the occult ball was the single dumbest way she could go about it. She could overpower you even without the binding in normal circumstances, but with the power of an occult ball (already shaped by your magic) literally surrounding you, she'd be the one in danger. Even if she needed plausible deniability, there were "accidents" she could set up that wouldn't threaten her.

Patchouli did play her part well. Sakuya and Satori haven't noticed anything, though without a magical background, that's not terribly surprising. Koakuma realized, though. She hadn't said anything, but the assistant's wide-eyed stare was a dead giveaway. So whatever Patchouli's up to, the rest of the group wasn't briefed on it. Interesting.

"In that case, I'll need my binding deactivated."

Patchouli does... something, you're not really sure what, but the effects are almost instant. You can feel the moment the binding loosens its grip and stumble as a full body shiver goes through you, head to toe. You can feel the magic bouncing and rebounding inside of you, waiting to be set loose. You feel more alert, more awake, a sense of tiredness you hadn't even realized slipping away.

Patchouli's saying something, but you snap your fingers and the relevant occult ball flies from Sakuya's side into your outstretched hand.

You hold it out in front of you for the mage, as if presenting a gift. "If you're ready, touch the occult ball and I'll take us in."

Patchouli hesitated, just an instant, and then placed both hands on the top of the ball.

[-] To be continued.
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[-] Inside the occult ball

The Temple of Artemis was known as an ancient wonder for a reason. When you and Sumireko visited to create the site's occult ball, all that was left was a single column, constructed from what few fragments remained.

That was not the case here.

Over a hundred marble columns towered up to support the enormous sloped roof, each decorated with scenes and characters from greek mythology. The carving was intricate, each one the work of a skilled artist, if not a master, and even the plainer portions of the stonework were covered in ornamental flourishes.

Your consciousness flew through the air towards the temple as the day turned to night, the moon rising as you passed through the entrance and casting its rays onto the wooden statue of Artemis inside. With the deer at her side and bow at the ready, in the dim light it almost looked alive, ready to spring into one of the hunts the goddess was known for.

Patchouli emerged beside you, shaking her head as she looked at the statue. "That... it's impressive, but not historically accurate."

You cracked a smile at that. "Yeah, Sumireko and I did the research when we were creating the occult balls in the first place. It was a bit of a surprise what the statues of the 'Lady of Ephesus' really looked like."

"Then why is it wrong?"

"It's the same idea as the urban legends, really. The occult balls channel magical power because of the sense of wonder attached to the sites they represent. The idea that there's something special about them, shared on a level beyond words by millions if not billions of people. It's more group superstition than true faith, but when gathered and focused, it still takes on a life of its own."

Patchouli nodded slowly, looking around. "That must be why most of the details are absent. A statue, and an altar, but nothing else. A real temple would contain need to contain more..."

"But your average person would have no idea what," you finished. "Hence a magnificent building with almost nothing inside."

"So then... this is essentially astral projection on a vision. An image of self overlaid on the image humanity has of the real temple."

You nodded. "More or less. You followed me in without knowing that?"

"It was apparent that this enchantment would involve mind-to-mind contact in a separated space. And while I could not be certain of the precise form that contact would take," Patchouli pulled a book out from within her robes. "I knew it would serve my purpose."

You made a yanking motion, pulling light from the moon and gathering it in the statue of Artemis, which took on an eerie glow. It was purely a visual effect, but Patchouli couldn't be sure of that, and it looked ominous as hell. "If you intend to try something, you picked exactly the wrong place to do it."

Patchouli opened the book, the pages turning by themselves as she held her other hand above her head and chanted. Energy gathered in her upheld hand, and when her chant finished, it started expanding outwards in a sphere. Reflexively you pulled up stones as a barrier, but the energy passed through the barrier, you, the statue, and the walls of the temple without stopping... and seemingly without effect.

You whirled on the magician. "What did you just do?!"

"It's a modified wisdom spell. The original intent was 'know thyself', to pierce through any illusions someone might have as to their own character. As such, it forced the caster to honestly and completely answer any questions posed within their own mind. I modified it to work over most mental links. As long as this spell is active, neither of us can knowingly lie, even by omission."

So... basically a truth spell that only worked if you were connected to someone like this. That would explain why she didn't just use it earlier. But still, that was an awfully niche spell. You hadn't seen a true telepath in Gensokyo, the closest thing was Satori, and her mind-reading was one-way. Did Patchouli really just have that lying around? You tried to ask that... but found you couldn't. The words literally would not come. Your hand flew to your throat. "I can't... huh?"

Patchouli smirked. "There's always trade-offs in magic. The original spell was simple, as whatever truths it revealed were things the caster already knew. The price was that the truth you found might not be to your liking. Such a spell was incompatible with any sort of domination or compulsion. The only feasible workaround was an equal trade of information. For every question you ask, you must answer one before you can ask another."

"Forced honesty sounds like compulsion to me."

Patchouli shook her head. "You can refuse to answer a question. But doing so will not count as your required answer... and which questions you refuse to answer will still tell me something."

[-] What do you want to ask? ((Feel free to suggest any number of questions. How long the exchange will go on remains to be seen, but Greg will definitely get the chance to ask at least a few questions of his own.))
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It's an interesting situation and a valuable opportunity for Greg, but there's actually a flaw in Patchouli's logic.
She says that what answers we refuse to answer will still tell her something, and while this is true, that doesn't account for the fact that we simply could refuse to answer anything at all.
All that'll tell her is that we refuse to play her game, somewhat hostilely.
Which is already the basis she's working off of, anyway.
Now, I don't mean to say that we should, because it still is a valuable opportunity as I mentioned before.
I can't think of any questions right this moment and I'll have to mull it over some more, but I just wanted to point this out.
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[x] Nothing.
She went to these lengths to get answers out of us. Make an air of being talkative, then ask nothing of her. One answer is all she gets.

Not to mention, we're on a clock and cannot be forever in this space. Gotta get to work.
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In that case, do we even have to give her that one answer?
Just refuse to answer every question she asks.
Still think we shouldn't stonewall her, though.
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>which questions you refuse to answer will still tell me something
This really goes two ways. We don't have to tell her that we will refuse every question. But I'd like to hear which questions she wants answered privately and hush-hush past the first one. That's because if she really wanted to, she could get Sakuya's (or Flandre's) help and force the answers out of us.
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We'll definitely need to be careful with our wording here and make sure we make any questions count. The spell also seems to be one of the more generous (for better and worse) truth spells since it prevents lying by omission.

A question that might be really helpful for us to ask is
>"What questions should I ask you that are important to my interests?"
The spell prevents lying by omission. If Patchy knows that the SDM has information or plans which would negatvely impact us, bam she has to reveal it. If she answers truthfully, even if we don't get to ask her those questions we'll be able to get some very helpful insight into what things are or aren't important. If the SDM knows something about Remi's condition they're hiding for some reason, if they're planning to double cross us, or something about Koishi's urban legend. And if Patchy decides to refuse to answer, we'll know that there's probably something pretty bad planned for us.

Now, if we end up getting an extra question somehow that we can use for a fun question, we should 100% do it. Ask something silly like;
"What's your most embarassing secret?"
"What do you think is the best way to win a youkai's heart? (Romantically of course)"
"What's Koakuma's type?"
"What's your weight?"
I get this is probably a serious moment but after how tense this has been and how Patchy has loomed over us we should get to tease her a least once

Now, what I'm curious is what does Patchy want to hear from us? We've been pretty truthful to her the whole time, she's been able to spy on us. She's either very paranoid or there's something she knows and wants to interrogate out of us that we don't know. And that's really strange and uneasy. Maybe something in regards to how we do our magic?
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[x] Nothing.
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You know, I hadn't considered the idea of stonewalling the questions exchange, but that is a valid tactic.

If you're in favor of playing along with Patchouli here and answering her questions, could you throw in a vote accordingly?
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>>204749 here.
After reading people's thoughts, I'm pretty convinced we should just answer her queries.
I know I'm the one who brought up answering nothing first, but outside of spite, we don't really have anything to hide.
Even if she asks stuff like "are you planning to escape?", we don't need to keep mum, because we'd simple answer that we don't.
To fulfill the no-lying-by-omission clause we can even just admit that it went through our minds as a possibility, because frankly not considering every option would have been beyond idiotic.
Don't see a reason for Patchouli to not just agree with that methodology, either.
This really is more of an opportunity for us than it is for her as it stands, because this coercion is ultimately unnecessary and we'd likely just have answered truthfully regardless.


Well, like I said she might ask the basics like whether we're planning to escape, but there's also a different question that she definitely should and so likely will ask.
Is our story about Keine hiding the village bullshit?
Answering that immediately validates our story and actually gives her a reason to go through with this (from her point of view) wild goose chase.
Aside from that you do make an interesting point about the secrecy.
There seems to be a deeper reason here; I almost dread to know what it is.

Anyway, since the only actual votes right now are just spitefully keeping quiet I'll at least toss in my vote to actually engage in her game.
I realise this is not really what this vote is about, but here we are.
Besides, Greg has questions of his own.
I do wanna point out the whole "I could've just said nothing at all" thing, though. Rub it in just a little.
Also a fan of throwing in some form of teasing question at the end, if possible, as suggested by >>204753.

[X] Play along with Patchouli's game: answer just about everything she throws at you; we got nothing to hide anyways.
-[X] Point out that you could've just wasted her time by answering absolutely nothing.
--[X] Round off the interrogation with some form of joking question or jab.

Still haven't thought of any important questions, but at least being cooperative here will allow this forced partnership to be less antagonistic. Maybe.
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>>204756 again, sorry for the double post.

Well that's what I get for not refreshing the page before hitting reply, hah.
You bringing that up kinda makes part of my post redundant, but that's how it goes.
I just figured I should get that post out asap to point out that people do need to vote to counteract what's already been voted on (if they want).
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Frankly, I don't get the appeal of completely shutting down. That's not going to win any points with Patchouli, and it also doesn't improve our standing. We should be trying to accomplish at least one of those, here. I get that this isn't a time to sit around for hours, but doing nothing is a wasted opportunity.

Question ideas:
[X] - "Does your assistant have any quirks, passions, vulnerabilities, or something else of the like?"
Helps develop a profile of Koakuma for the sake of the disguise.

[X] - "In your best estimation, who will be the biggest threats to be looking out for while we're in the process of investigating, and why?"
Know thy enemy and all that. Gives Greg some insight, and reduces the time it takes to get information across if it does become relevant.

[X] - "To the best of your knowledge, if we are successful in fixing this Urban Legend, are we going to be allowed to leave unharmed?"
If she's under compelled honesty, it's not a bad idea to confirm there's no treachery and that Remi isn't likely to be "ungrateful." Always be ready to make an escape plan if need arises.
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[x] Let me see that spell in the spellbook so I know that you really did cast a "zone of truth" spell, and not just a "zone of truth for everyone except me" spell.

If she lets us see, we learn a new (extremely niche) zone of truth spell. If she doesn't let us see, we know she was trying to pull a fast one on us, and we can proceed with stonewalling her. This is not phrased in the form of a question, so it doesn't use up one of our questions.

[x] Are you all actually going to let us go free, ever?

If she refuses to answer, then the answer is no and we can redouble our efforts to screw the mansion over. She also has to tell us if letting us go is contingent on Remilia's well-being or not, and if "letting us go free" involves harming, killing, enslaving, or unsealing us.

[x] We are not the ones who gave Remilia her harmful urban legend. Q Nira did, and we are not associated with them in any way. Does it bother any of you at all that you are treating innocent people so poorly?

This determines how much sympathy we should have for the mansion, and how much payback we should give them in the future.

[x] What is the most embarrassing thing you can tell me about yourself and everyone else that lives in the mansion?

Blackmail. We have to do something to pay them back for all the "hospitality" they have shown us.
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You should probably make it clear that you're voting for playing along instead of staying quiet, if that is the case. In any case, I agree with >>204756's general idea:

[X] Play along with Patchouli's game: answer just about everything she throws at you; we got nothing to hide anyways.
-[X] Point out that you could've just wasted her time by answering absolutely nothing.
--[X] Round off the interrogation with some form of joking question or jab.
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>>204753 here.

After thinking it over, I'm honestly dreading this next update. Mainly because I don't think there are really any questions that really give us much insight we can ask that we couldn't before and get acceptable answers. And anything super obvious would've been accounted for by Patchy. If we ask "Will we be let go", what I think is the only notable straightforward question to ask, our answer is either going to be "yes, "no and your fate is sealed so don't bother fighting it", or "it depends on how you answer my next question".

We don't really have much to gain, and Patchy is risking a hell of a lot to do this as has been repeatedly stressed by Greg. And Patchy already has a huge advantage with getting information from us. She has our communication wired, and she has Sakuya and Flandre to threaten us.

If I understand the spell right, then it means even if we don't acknowledge the truth or know it, we will still say the truth should we speak it. In short, things like repressed or false memories will be revealed as such.

I think we should be preparing for some Umineko tier revelation about Greg, something pretty fucking drastic that may or may not put us in danger once Patchy knows about it.

I think I'll commit to my original question. A lot of suggestions I'm reading don't seem like they really warrant being asked under these conditions. That is, we could ask them outside this orb and we'd still probably get truthful answers. Whatever questions Patchy suggests under the "What questions should I ask?" will offer insight on her plans and intentions. If she surprises us with some left field questions, it could let us know of some stuff that might be impossible to guess. And if we only get a single question, it needs to be one we can make the most of.

I'll still vote for Greg to be cooperative and joking at the end, as that does fit him. But I have a big feeling of dread Patchy is going to give us some serious shit.

[x] "What questions should I ask you that are in my interests and would benefit me the most?"
[X] Play along with Patchouli's game: answer just about everything she throws at you; we got nothing to hide anyways.
-[X] Point out that you could've just wasted her time by answering absolutely nothing.
--[X] Round off the interrogation with some form of joking question or jab.
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>If I understand the spell right, then it means even if we don't acknowledge the truth or know it, we will still say the truth should we speak it. In short, things like repressed or false memories will be revealed as such.

About that, I'm not entirely sure that's how it works.
There seems to be two seemingly contradicting descriptions, or maybe one happens to be the case now that the spell has been modified.

>"It's a modified wisdom spell. The original intent was 'know thyself', to pierce through any illusions someone might have as to their own character. As such, it forced the caster to honestly and completely answer any questions posed within their own mind. I modified it to work over most mental links. As long as this spell is active, neither of us can knowingly lie, even by omission."

>"There's always trade-offs in magic. The original spell was simple, as whatever truths it revealed were things the caster already knew. The price was that the truth you found might not be to your liking. Such a spell was incompatible with any sort of domination or compulsion. The only feasible workaround was an equal trade of information. For every question you ask, you must answer one before you can ask another."

The first half of the first quote seems to imply that it at least used to be like you describe, where you are able to pierce through (possibly magical) conditioning and other blocks to answer in objective truth.
The first half of the second quote seems to corroborate this theory.

But then the second half of the first quote specifically states "knowingly", which instead seems to imply that you could answer with an untruth as long as you genuinely believe it to be the truth.
Perhaps a side-effect of the modification?
Or perhaps I'm just overanalysing her words.
But then again, she's allegedly under the effects of the spell, too, so this answer should be comprehensive and accurate to her understanding.

I'm honestly just confusing myself now. Let's just see what happens.
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To be clear, the spell would not break through any sort of mental block. To give a trite example, if you somehow truly convinced someone 2+2=5, put them under this spell, and asked them what 2+2 was, they’d answer 5, not 4. It does break through something they’re in denial about (asking Satori what she feels for Greg under this would give interesting results), but it can’t reveal truths the recipient honestly doesn’t know.

To give another example, if Patchouli asked Greg about his worst memory before Satori broke through the mental block and he decided to answer, she’d get the vague details Greg had left behind along with the information that he’d sealed the full memory (in short, everything he knew about it at the time), but it wouldn’t break the mental block on its own. (Though had it been just Greg non-magically suppressing the memories, the question would get the full answer.)
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>asking Satori what she feels for Greg under this would give interesting results

Why do you do this to us.
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>>204758 here. Generally agree with the sentiment from the above posts.

[X] "To the best of your ability to determine this: Are there any questions that you would ask were you in my shoes, acting as a rational agent to further your best interests, and if so what are they?"
Reworded the question from >>204761 to avoid being able to get out of it with a "yes".

[X] Ask something generally along the lines of "as far as you can figure, will we be let go once Remi's issue is resolved?"

[X] Play along with Patchouli's game: answer just about everything she throws at you; we got nothing to hide anyways.
-[X] Point out that you could've just wasted her time by answering absolutely nothing.
--[X] Round off the interrogation with some form of joking question or jab.
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[X] "To the best of your ability to determine this: Are there any questions that you would ask were you in my shoes, acting as a rational agent to further your best interests, and if so what are they?"
This is so clever this almost feels like a cop out.
With that said, this is our best chance to prove our earnestness, so stonewalling her is a bad idea.

[X] Ask something generally along the lines of "as far as you can figure, will we be let go once Remi's issue is resolved?"

[X] Play along with Patchouli's game: answer just about everything she throws at you; we got nothing to hide anyways. This is not all that different from a conversation with Satori after all.
-[X] Point out that you could've just wasted her time by answering absolutely nothing.
Patchy will use any joking question to get in an additional one of her own, so instead of a jab, we should share our thoughts on the photo we found back in thread four, the one with Meiling and Flandre.
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>With that said, this is our best chance to prove our earnestness, so stonewalling her is a bad idea.
it's like proving our earnestness to a cop, it's their job to make a case, it's not their job to be sympathetic
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[X] Play along with Patchouli's game: answer just about everything she throws at you; we got nothing to hide anyways.
-[X] Point out that you could've just wasted her time by answering absolutely nothing.
--[X] Round off the interrogation with some form of joking question or jab.

"There is a flaw in your reasoning," you point out.

You'd kind of hoped Patchouli would ask what, but she merely says "Go on."

"You're correct that selectively refusing to answer questions would give away information anyway. But that's easily solved by avoiding the game in its entirety. I could simply refuse to answer any questions at all... or possibly any beyond the first, depending on how it works, and you would have nothing to go off of."

"It would at least confirm you're hiding something."

You attempt to ask who isn't, fail to form the question, and rephrase it. "There are very few people with nothing at all to hide. Me not playing along with a surprise interrogation would hardly be convincing evidence to take to Sakuya, particularly given our established animosity."

Patchouli stared you down, but the lack of immediate reply is in and of itself telling. "So that's how you intend to play it."

You shook your head. "No. I'll admit I considered it, partially out of sheer contrariness, mostly because I don't trust you... but I'll play along. Because there's nothing related to the incident that I'm hiding. Ask your question, Patchouli."

"We'll see about that," she muttered. "Very well then. What do you know or suspect regarding the disappearance of the human village?"

It's a clever way to word the question. "I don't know much for certain. Only that the effect is either targeted at you guys or that it was applied very recently, given that Satori, Sumireko, and I had no trouble finding the village yesterday. As for my suspicions, they are exactly as I outlined to you and Sakuya earlier. Shortly after I arrived in Gensokyo, Satori told me about Keine and her ability to hide history. Finding her and trying to get her help was one of the courses of action we considered at the time. Given the obvious application of such an ability to the current incident, as well as the timing of the village disappearing just as everyone forgot her existence, I strongly suspect she is involved somehow."

"And why would you remember Keine if none of us can?"

Your eyes narrowed. "That's two questions in a row."

Patchouli nodded. "The spell keeps the balance of questions and answers as even as possible. When both of us have asked and answered the same number of questions, either can pose the next question. Now, declare whether you're answering it."

You decided to accept that, at least for now. "In short, I don't know. The targets specifically being you guys seems unlikely because Satori was also affected. If it didn't work on humans, Sakuya should remember. Me having some innate resistance due to my specialty being illusions is possible, but I don't think my magic is strong enough for that to matter. My best guess is that it has to do with me not being native to Gensokyo and thus somehow not covered in the effect, but I have no particular confidence in that."

It's your turn now, and you take a minute to properly phrase your question. "To the best of your ability to determine this: Are there any questions that you would ask were you in my shoes, acting as a rational agent to further your best interests, and if so what are they?"

Patchouli raised an eyebrow. "Outsourcing your decision-making, I see. Assuming I was in your position with only your knowledge and abilities, I would ask what would happen to me if Remilia's condition was cured, if it remained stagnant, and if it turned fatal. I would ask for any flaws in the magical binding used to secure me, and for whatever information I lacked regarding my captors' psychological makeup and weaknesses."

All of which would involve heavily prioritizing your personal well-being and an eventual escape. You'd say that told you something about Patchouli's thought process, but that much was already clear. "Would we be let go once Remilia's fixed?"

Patchouli rolled her eyes. "More than just that, I'm certain Remi would fall over backwards trying to reward you. Sakuya would be similarly intense about it, though she'd hide the intensity of her gratitude behind decorum."

With that, the ball was back in the mage's court, and after a short pause she picked her question. "What is the true nature of your relationship with Satori, and how does it differ from the image you've presented?"

It takes effort to avoid grimacing. You'd love to deny this one, but the assumptions she'd draw from refusing to answer that would probably be worse. "We're friends, but not a couple. That started out as a joke from Koishi that everyone else seemed to find hilarious, but it kind of put the idea in my head."

You gave Patchouli a melancholy smile as you turned your back to her to stare out into the night sky. "After Sakuya captured us, all of you just seemed to assume Satori and I were together... now that I think about it, you probably watched our initial reunion in that gazebo. I didn't see any point in clarifying the nature of our relationship; we figured we'd need all the sympathy we could get."

You tried to end the answer there, but the words kept coming. "And I'm enjoying the act, pretending to be closer to Satori than I actually am. Because that's something I want; I've expressed interest and have a crush on her at least. I think she desires that sort of emotional connection and intimacy, but is also afraid of it. I don't know what she'll decide, and with the emotional effect of her binding I can't press her on it now."

The magic seems to consider that sufficient, and you're able to stop talking there. You glare at the other mage; you're not entirely surprised she asked that question, but she had no right to those details. Patchouli just bulldozed forwards regardless. "In what ways does the effect of Satori's binding differ from what you claimed to me and Sakuya?"

You could phrase this differently, but right now? Patchouli deserves this. "The mechanism of how the emotional feedback affects her is exactly as I described. The only difference is the magnitude," pause for effect, "which I downplayed. When I was under the effects of a similar binding a couple years back, it took me from depressed to borderline suicidal in a couple of days, and that was without the extra trauma of a kidnapping and death threats."

Patchouli flinched back at that, and you continued. "The reason I downplayed the nastiness of the effect was because I knew you would resist the idea. Between your skepticism, pride, and the antagonism you'd shown towards me and Satori, I figured you'd minimize and justify it, or dismiss it as an attempt at manipulation."

Now's the time to ask. You've rattled her badly enough that she's broken eye contact. "If things go badly, if we can't cure Remilia, if she dies despite our best efforts. Will you kill us?"

Patchouli hesitated, and you followed her gaze to the temple's altar. An altar for sacrifices. "Ask another question," she said. "I won't answer that."

[-] To be continued.
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Very cathartic verbal smackdown from Greg here.

First Patchouli had to get one from Satori in the real world; now one from Greg in the realm of the mind.

It's easy to interpret Patchouli's answer as "yes, I/we are going to kill you".

But it can actually be taken multiple ways.

A sort-of yes, where the answer is for example that that Flandre would become so enraged she'd just kill the both of them in grief instead of Patchouli actively deciding to do so.

Or it could actually just be no; but that's not something she would want to admit to her hostages, because that'd remove any and all coercive power she has over us.

She's in too deep at this point to take that risk.

All we can do for now is speculate, but it's interesting to think about.

I'm actually inclined to lean the no; Patchouli's a pragmatic bitch, but I don't think she's heartless.
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In that particular bad end scenario, all decision routes that lead to her survival imply throwing someone else under the bus, hence sacrificial altar. Why? Because Flandre, that's why.

That aside, I don't think there is anything else we want to ask her at all. In fact, I think badgering her about info on our binding would simply make her even more paranoid. What you don't know can't hurt you, or at least that much is true in this particular situation.
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While that is a possible, even likely, outcome; there's probably more to her keeping quiet.

It just makes the most strategical sense for her to keep quiet about this.

Keeping our fate ambiguous like this is a far stronger deterrent than any answer she could possibly give.

Letting the mind fill in the blanks on its own is a far more unnerving; the most, if anything, that she needs to do is to evoke some paranoia (by looking at the sacrificial altar, for example).

Is the best example of this not Youkai themselves; traditional ways to rationalise unknowns?

Nue's whole existence is just that, to an even higher degree.
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Her reply under the most duress we could give her did not evoke any outward emotion or expression. It's safe to say she's not feeling too well after the information hit her. Thus we can conclude that even though her reply is rational, more than play mindgames, she doesn't really want to think about happens in that case. She is a girl, after all, and Remi is her friend.
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Actually, maybe it's a bit late to propose a new question, but this update gave me a ton of reflect on that I'll post about later. But something I'd really like to ask now...

Why has Patchouli been so distrusting towards us?

I'm sure many of us have strong ideas but I would love to hear her thoughts, and it seems like something Greg would ask, now while he's got some spite going after trying to play along to his captors for so long
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My take is that she has simply read him like a book. (Heh.)

Because, frankly, she does.

He is a manipulative schemer at heart, though not as malevolent as that would seem to imply; which is probably the one assumption that Patchouli may or may not be mistaken about with regards to Greg.

Patchouli is pragmatic to a fault; she simply has to assume and plan for the worst possible conditions in a crisis like this.

Small aside: I am a big fan of how Greg's unfiltered answers incorporate some of anon's discussion together with his "own" thoughts, it's just cool to see some of the arguments and observations from past choices acknowledged as a part of his thought process.
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>"Would we be let go once Remilia's fixed?"
>"More than just that, I'm certain Remi would fall over backwards trying to reward you. Sakuya would be similarly intense about it, though she'd hide the intensity of her gratitude behind decorum."

We need something more concrete than her confidence.
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File 169939226175.jpg - (171.62KB, 516x515, paranoid.jpg)
Also, Patchouli didn't say that she will release us. And what if some other SDM resident(s) will forcefully insist on helping them with the urban legend incident?
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We were told by Patchouli we'd be released and most likely rewarded after Remilia recovered.

But when exactly we'd be released? Right after Remilia's recovery? After dealing with Q Nira? After the end of the incident? All these variants tick off "once Remilia is fixed" box.

What exactly will be our reward? They may reward us with something that is useless in a given situation, such as money. Walking out of SDM alive is a reward in itself.

Who and how will release us? Patchouli, Remilia, Flandre? Is death in action considered a release?

Because we participated in creating this incident, which has already harmed Remilia, put her in mortal danger and can become even more dangerous to everyone in Gensokyo, we should carefully consider the exact wording of our questions.
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[-] The exchange of questions continues.

You consider ending your questions there; Patchouli's already gotten a couple of details you didn't want to give her, and with her refusal to answer whether or not Remilia's death would mean your death, you could just say you're done here.

But ending it now feels like the wrong idea. It's definitely not as abrupt as stonewalling her completely would have been, but it's obvious she still doesn't trust you. Letting her satisfy her curiosity feels like it's worth the risk, and there are other things you want to know.

"Out of everyone I've met so far, Flandre seems like the only one who would actually snap and start killing. Why is she on an emotional hair-trigger?"

Patchouli sighed. "Because her emotions are actually out of control. She was extremely young when she became a vampire, and she took it poorly, tearing out her own wings as they came in. The pain was excruciating, and combined with the transformation, it took a toll on her mind. Since then, her emotions have come in uncontrollable waves. The crystals forming her wings are the countermeasure to this. Each crystal acts as a reservoir for a different emotion, absorbing the vast majority of that emotion as it arises so that she only feels a small fraction of it, if at all."

"If those wing-crystals absorb her emotions, she shouldn't actually be able to get angry," you said.

"The countermeasure isn't perfect. The crystals can fill up from being overused, and a couple of them cracked during her brawl with Remilia. I haven't had time to replace them."

So basically, she's a psychopath with the occasional burst of barely-controlled rage. Fantastic. You sighed. "Sounds like she and Koishi should form a support group. Come to think of it, I'm surprised Satori hasn't asked about Flandre's crystals. It sounds similar enough that she'd be interested."

"She likely doesn't know," Patchouli said. "Remilia prefers to keep the details of Flandre's affliction private, and fewer still know the mechanism by which we've addressed it."

"Is there any reliable way to avoid being in danger from Flandre?"

"Not in particular," Patchouli said. "Flandre is fond of the mansion's residents, and even we are careful about interacting with her, especially in a situation such as this. The key problem is that she can go from normal to dangerous without warning, and even when the crystals are functioning correctly, she's not exactly safe. She spends most of her time locked in the basement for a reason."


"Flandre's been incredibly well behaved, all things considered. It must be because Remilia's health is at stake."

Double damn. "I can't say I'm surprised, but I'd hoped there was something. Your turn."

Patchouli nods. "What were the memories you showed Satori in the mansion?"

No. Just no. "I won't answer that," you snapped. "The only way it's relevant is because Maribel is apparently Yukari, and it's enough for you to know that I hate her."

The mage considered that for a moment and nodded. "Fine. What is your connection to Yukari?"

You considered that for a minute. It touched on things you really don't want to remember, but it is a legitimate question, and refusing to answer would be worse. "Maribel was my substitute teacher for a week. I did my absolute worst to undermine her, and lost badly. As punishment, she did something to me that forced me to read the minds of people near me, non-stop. That left me a wreck for months, and directly lead to me becoming friends with Sumireko. As for Yukari proper, she might have been the youkai Sumireko and I spotted that lead to us discovering Gensokyo, though we never spoke and I'm not completely certain of it. And then there was the encounter outside earlier, when she made that shikigami offer. That's the full list."

Patchouli grimaced. "Can you read minds normally?"

She would consider that a security problem, wouldn't she? "No. The closest thing I can do is a telepathic connection, and that's a two-way street. The only people I've really done it with are Sumireko and Satori, I'm not entirely sure if I could even connect to a normal person. "

Should you ask about the bindings? It won't exactly help her image of you, but at the same time, it'd be useful information to know... even if she'd probably refuse to answer. Screw it, it's not like she can be more suspicious of you. "What are the weaknesses of the bindings you placed on me and Satori?"

She smiled. "The first weakness is the nature of what is bound. A complete denial of magic is sometimes the wrong way to contain a youkai. Youkai with enhanced physical strength, such as oni, would still be extremely dangerous. Other youkai rely on their magic to exist, and cutting it off entirely would quickly prove fatal. As a vampire, Remilia falls into both categories, which is why we did not attempt this binding on her."

"The other weakness is the difficulty of initial application," Patchouli continued. "As you must have realized, the bindings are specific to a single species, and require a period of adjustment to sync to the prisoner's magical signature. The initial syncing period takes hours, and during it they can be removed or destroyed freely. In practice, this sort of binding can only be reasonably applied to a foe that is already captured and unconscious. However, once fully activated, they completely lock down the target's magic and punish them for attempting to access it. An external caster could unravel or break the enchantment in the usual manner, but there's no way to escape or bypass it from the inside."

You barely refrain from gaping at her, because that's not true. Your magic is heavily locked down, but heavily is not completely, something you've already proven once or twice. And that's a massive oversight for someone like Patchouli to make. But that's a truth you have no intention of speaking, so you covered your reaction with another question. "I'm surprised you had one ready for Satori. Are the bindings your design, or did you get them from someone else?"

"They're purely my work," Patchouli declared. "In point of fact, I created the design centuries ago. Humans weren't always so foreign to magic, and a few hundred years ago having an easy way to contain magical intruders was occasionally of use. As for why I had these ready, Sakuya learned that you, Sumireko, and Satori were traveling together while investigating the human village. After winning a duel against Marisa, actually. That's also how she learned of your injury and knew to head to Eientei. Regardless, the hours between Sakuya learning of you and her finally capturing you were sufficient for me to make a binding for Satori."

Well, that filled in a couple gaps. Though come to think of it, you had already heard some of those details back when Sakuya had cornered Tewi. Which made this a partially wasted question, but you'd asked it mostly for distraction anyway.

"Why did Yukari say you're not a good man?"

"Because I wasn't back when Maribel first met me," you said. "I was unfortunately manipulative and self-centered back then. I've changed since then, significantly, but it's possible she's either unaware of it or refuses to accept it. Though there's a reasonable chance she knew you were listening and tried to influence you, or that she was manipulating me."

"Are you still a manipulator?"

You tried to say no, but the word caught in your throat. The moment when you squeezed Satori's injury, driving her to her knees to get her medical care flashed through your mind. You stumbled, coughing, and then the truth came out. "I try not to be. But it's what I'm good at. And you weren't wrong when you said I don't have a better course of action."

It takes you a minute to regain your composure, which Patchouli waits for - it's your turn to ask a question, after all. And you know what's on your mind. "Why are you so suspicious of me?"

"Several reasons," Patchouli said, staring you down. "One being the half-truths I've already caught you and Satori engaging in; you've just admitted to manipulation. The second is the situation; we've both recognized that twisting the truth to gather sympathy is the logical course of action for someone in your position, and it would be foolish for me not to distrust you accordingly."

That's all logical enough, but it's insufficient... and not just because several usually means more than two. "There's more to it."

"Indeed. The main reason is Yukari's involvement. She has taken a personal interest in you, and there appears to be no reason for it. From all reports, you aren't nearly powerful enough to catch her interests. The people she typically associates with are people like the Hakurei Shrine Maiden, the movers and shakers of Gensokyo, people multiple orders of magnitude stronger than you. Her current shikigami is a nine-tailed kitsune, for goodness sakes! And yet three times she's appeared before you, personally. Once when you were a child, to shape your life, once to ensure you made it to Gensokyo, and again just now, to offer to make you her shikigami. Why is she so interested in you?!"

You shuddered. "I... I was going to say the urban legend incident, but I hadn't considered that Maribel changed my life drastically years before it. It could be a coincidence... I really hope it is one. I don't think it is. I don't know. I really don't know, and I dread to find out."

Patchouli tried to say something, but choked on her own words. You can't resist chuckling. "I guess that confirms you really are playing by the same rules. You did ask a question just now, so that makes it my turn. But... I think I've asked just about everything I need to. What were you going to ask?"

Patchouli eyed you suspiciously, rubbing her throat. "Before the beginning of the Urban Legend incident, did you have any sort of connection or interaction with other youkai?"

"Only the one encounter with Maribel," you said. "Anything else?"

"Is it possible that one of your friends or family members was actually a youkai?"

"It would be very unlikely," you said. "My only friend was Sumireko, and we were able to trace her magical bloodline back a few generations. She's human. Your own binding proves I'm human, and that discounts my parents." You hesitated. "At least I'm pretty sure it does. Youkai genetics work that way, right?"

"They do," Patchouli confirmed. "The child of a human and a youkai will be a youkai."

Well that's good to know. And technically speaking, there is that chance it could become relevant via Satori eventually... You shook your head to try and dismiss the image. "That does rule both of them out, then. And I'm an only child, and dad never so much as mentioned any extended family. Although... I never actually know my mother, so it's technically possible she became a youkai somehow. It's a longshot, but is there a Tammy in Gensokyo?"

Patchouli shook her head. "I haven't heard that name, nor any variation on it. It would make no sense as a reason regardless. Even if your mother became a youkai after having you, that would hardly make you of interest. What did Yukari mean about your ability stagnating?"

"I haven't really grown stronger over the past few years in the same way Sumireko has," you admitted. "More skilled, yes, but the raw power I can apply to my magic is relatively minor. We put in the same amount of effort and everything, but her magical well kept growing deeper, and mine did not. Though things have gotten easier for me since coming to Gensokyo... perhaps Yukari anticipates that continuing."

"It would have to be a lot more than that," Patchouli muttered. She shook her head and sighed. "Is there anything else myself or the other residents of the mansion have forgotten or missed that relates to this incident?"

"Not that I'm aware of," you said. "It would take a long time discussing every detail of Gensokyo that I know and you remember to be sure, but Keine's the only thing I've noticed so far."

There's a pause in the discussion at that. You don't have much more to ask; heck, you've already essentially skipped a couple questions by asking freebies. And Patchouli seems lost in thought, she's not prompting you to ask anything else.

Well, on further thought, there is one last thing you'd like to know. "By the way, I've been wondering. I get that you guys are desperate, but why'd you go straight for the kidnapping? I'd have thought you'd would at least try asking us for help first."

Patchouli glared at you. "Meiling did. She ran into your friend and tried asking nicely. Sumireko threw it in her face, routed her in a spellcard duel, and vanished right before Sakuya showed up."

[-] To be continued.
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>Meiling did. She ran into your friend and tried asking nicely. Sumireko threw it in her face, routed her in a spellcard duel, and vanished right before Sakuya showed up.
Nothing like this ever happened. This is more doppelganger shenanigans and the lie detector is right there. I'm really looking forward to the next update.
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Would it be a terrible idea to figure out what kind of spellcards 2mireko used? Could be useful for figuring out how much our imposter actually knows about us.
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Before that, the fact that she exists at all should be arrived at.
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Sumireko did not have any spellcards until she met up with Hina. The copycat using any spellcards at all means the copy doesn't know how to act like the real deal.
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>>204785 re: >>204787
I mean, exactly. That was actually part of what I was talking about.

Did this imposter (should we bring back the discussions on who it could be?) use spellcards in the duel?

If they did, it would either be something believable (they probably are getting aid or were able to track the outside world) or something completely wrong (the inverse is true)

If they didn't, we obviously can't prove that point either way, but even that provides some level of insight.

Adding on, another benefit of that is seeing how 2mireko duels. Tricks that make sense for her, or something completely wrong?
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Technically she did, actually. If I remember correctly, I had Sumireko use a spellcard back when Koishi did her thing at Alice's house. But that was largely accidental, and it's definitely not what she defaults to.
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Good job to Greg for asking a big question all us anons forgot or neglected to ask!

I do not doubt Greg was gonna ask this himself already, but there's obviously so many impossibilities here he can't not ask her to elaborate; if only in utter confusion.

For the sake of redundancy I'll point out some, such as the fact that they neither ever met Meiling, nor were ever separated long enough for this to be possible. (You could claim that Greg could've been there, invisible; it's basically his MO.)

I was going to claim that Sumireko didn't even have spellcards at the time, but Lost Soul pointing out her use one instinctively/accidentally corrected me there. But, even if that was how she could've possibly done that; a single fluke does not a full set required for a formal duel make.

So, as I mentioned, no way he's not going to follow on that lead.

Luckily, Patchouli's spell is active, so it is actually rather trivial to clear this "misunderstanding" up: since Greg was always present to witness Sumireko's actions (at least before getting hunted down by Sakuya), he can vouch for her innocence.

He can just simply ask or otherwise prompt Patchouli to ask for his account.

I will say that (preemptively) getting corrected by the writer also makes me doubt my memory on whether there truly never was an opportunity for Sumireko to pull this.

Of course, out of character we know this is not the case; but even then I have no doubt in my mind that Greg would ever believe Sumireko acting like that.

Well, that's the obvious topic out of the way; on to a bit of (nonsensical) speculation.

I've been doing a bit of thinking on the identity of the double and a candidate popped into my head that I have a very hard time justifying for various reasons, but also can't seem to stop thinking about.

Dream Sumireko.

If so, it would be rather anachronistic for her to show up; but to be fair, in actual canon Greg didn't exist either, so I can't say that entirely discredits this suspect.

Mostly, though, it's that there's neither a motive at this point in the timeline yet, nor immediately obvious means for her to show up.

In all reality it's much more likely to be a shapeshifter or illusionist like we've already mentioned before, but I figured it was a funny thought to bring up.

Anyway, waiting warmly to see how Greg reacts to this bombshell.
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>Did this imposter (should we bring back the discussions on who it could be?)

Only two who make sense to me are Mamizou and Yukari. The former is a weaker contender than the latter.
Yukari has her reasons to drive Greg desperate for whatever her shikigami plan entails and a history with torturing him.
The biggest thing I get hung up on is how the impostor is able to just vanish every time someone has reported of her. Yukari easily has the means to do just that, and unless I'm missing something, Mamizou doesn't.
I mean the other person that comes to mind who is capable of that is Koishi, but 1) why would she do that? and 2) how is she able disguise herself?

It possibly could be something like Mamizou on a personal quest to tarnish - specifically - Sumireko's reputation and she's being aided by Yukari since it fits her agenda.
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>Dream Sumireko.

>Doremy having a giggle
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But canonically it was Okina Matara who caused the hijinks of Dream Sumireko escaping in Violet Detector, which would be an interesting complement to the current schemes of Okina's rival Yukari. Though if I recall correctly, the original appearance of Dream Sumireko in the fighting games was just an innate consequence of Sumireko's abilities, was it not?

(Apologies for the awkward-looking post, but since the original anon spoiler-hid his ideas...)
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>>204792 here.

Sorry about that; I just spoiler this sorta stuff out of habit. Can just stop if people find it annoying.
I actually wanted to mention Yukari and Okina as possible causes for dream Sumireko to show up outside of her natural habitat, but you beat me to the punch.
It's still just wild speculation, but it's actually a bit plausible now. Just a bit.
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Isn't there also Sumireiko's Canon Urban Legend the Doppelganger that could be doing this? isn't one aspect of the doppelganger the evil twin? Granted the Doppelganger is supposed to be how she enters gensokyo iirc, but with what might be Yukari doing it instead, her actual self might be here, alongside her doppelganger.
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or it's just nue
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[-] Get to the bottom of this.

Of all the possible responses you might have expected, that was not in the list.

"That's ridiculous!", you protested.

"Interesting turn of phrase. One that could be taken to mean that the thought of the scenario happening is ridiculous, as you're no doubt implying, or that Sumireko's decision to do so was ridiculous, which could satisfy the truth spell," Patchouli snapped. "But the facts are not on your side. Sumireko showed up at the gate yesterday morning, an hour after dawn. After declaring her inherent superiority and demanding directions to the village, Meiling realized exactly who she was, thanks in no small part to her impractically distinctive outfit, and practically begged her to help Remilia.

Patchouli started pacing, and you could feel her seething from over there. "Sumireko laughed, declared my friend as 'Not worth her time' that she 'probably deserves whatever she gets', and initiated danmaku. During the resulting duel, she used three spellcards, all themed around futuristic technology or the human conception of aliens, all of which proved very effective against Meiling, leaving her with bruises that I'm sure she'll show you if you ask her. It was at this point that Sakuya came out to check what the noise was, at which point Sumireko flew back out the gate. Obviously Sakuya followed her the moment Meiling explained what had happened, but there was nothing to be found except the local wildlife, a fact neatly explained by her ability to teleport."

The sheer venom from Patchouli's words is startling. It's more emotion than she'd shown the entire time you'd known her, from death threats to dealing with Yukari to Satori ripping into her. This wasn't faked... or at least, it wasn't faked by her.

You had to admit, the details matched up shockingly well. Yesterday morning would have been when you were camping in the forest... near Misty Lake, which itself was near the Scarlet Devil Mansion. An hour after dawn was early enough for you to still be asleep, which meant you didn't have eyes on Sumireko at that time. And it was early enough in your visit to Gensokyo that Sumireko could have still had significant trust in her own magical abilities, before the humbling experiences that were Koishi and Eientei. Theoretically, if Sumireko woke up, wandered around, and stumbled upon the mansion, she could have actually run into Meiling. And if you assumed Meiling's account was slanted the way people usually lied in their own favor, if she was a bit more hostile and Sumireko a bit more reasonable than Patchouli had related, it almost seemed possible.

"You aren't lying," you said. "But this is a set-up if I've ever seen one."

"You don't get to say that! Not without evidence."

"Oh, I'll admit I can't conclusively disprove it," you said, cracking your knuckles. "The timing, the spellcards, the reasoning, the read on Sumi's character... there's half a dozen details in there that don't quite fit, while still being close enough that I can't hold it up as an obvious contradiction. For instance, Sumireko had no need to ask for directions to the village, we had Satori with us. She also doesn't normally use spellcards, I think I've only seen the one from her the entire time she's been in Gensokyo, and I'm pretty sure that was accidental. The alien thing also doesn't fit; I'll give you an interest in technology, but she's always been about fantasy, not science fiction. She's also not that cruel, not that I expect you to believe me on that point."

Patchouli was still looking at you defiantly, and you matched her gaze. "But the big red flag is that this is the first I'm hearing about any of this. If Sumireko really stumbled upon Meiling and the mansion, she would have told me. We're partners in crime, and we don't have secrets from each other. That includes those memories I showed Satori, for the record; Sumireko has known all about those for years. And even if she tried to keep it hidden, for some unfathomable reason, again, we were traveling with Satori. Satori would have torn apart that secret in minutes."

"Like she did regarding the plan Ran and Kasen came up with?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about." You tilted your head, looking at her. "What exactly are you talking about?"

Patchouli brought her hand to her mouth in mock shock before her expression leveled out into a smirk. "Actually, no. I won't answer that for you. Find it out yourself."

You have a sinking feeling about that, but you shake your head. "Whatever, it's not the point right now. Whether you believe me or not, I know Sumireko. And I know that wasn't her."

Patchouli's tone was acid. "Let me guess, next you're going to tell me Sumireko would have helped if we'd just asked the real one."

You shook your head. "No, actually. Sumi's main concern right now is us getting home safely, and with half of Gensokyo coming after us, she wouldn't want to take on any extra problems. If you could either get us home or offer significant aid in that direction, she'd probably help, but I can't see her offering it for free. She'd be practical about it, an approach you should be familiar with."

Patchouli swore. You're not sure what it was, you're not even sure what language it was, and it took a second for you to be sure it wasn't a new spell, then she started ranting. "I swear, every time you hold a conversation it seems that a brand new layer of conspiracy appears! First it's all a Yukari plot, then there's the secret memory-altering youkai that only you know about, and now there's supposedly someone impersonating a high school girl apparently for no other purpose than to mess with you personally."

"Yukari actually showed up and all but admitted she was involved! As for the others, I'm under the truth spell, what more do you want from me?"

"Answers! Ones that don't raise more questions." Patchouli sighed, sitting down against the wall of the temple. "Either you're delusional, you've somehow managed to sidestep the truth spell, or you've successfully uncovered three different major conspiracies in the course of an hour. None of those options seem correct."

You sit down as well, thinking about it. Patchouli does raise a perfectly valid point; uncovering three different conspiracies in quick succession would be absolutely ridiculous. But Occam's Razor suggests something else. "You're right. It would make a lot more sense if they were three different aspects of the same conspiracy."

[-] To be continued.
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Considering how many times anons and even Greg invoked Occam's Razor he should get a Spellcard based on it at this point.
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>Patchouli brought her hand to her mouth in mock shock before her expression leveled out into a smirk.
Shouldn't this fall under the truth spell to fake emotions for sarcasm? That should totally count as a foul to have this kind of attitude, thank you very much. Goodness we spend all this time giving Patchy what she wants and this is the thanks we get, what a jerk.
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ctrl+f suggests that it's only been like three times from the voters and once from Greg himself
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Feels like a lot more than that >>204805
Though I won't dwell on it since I was mostly joking anyway.
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>Yesterday morning would have been when you were camping in the forest... near Misty Lake, which itself was near the Scarlet Devil Mansion.

Well crud, don't I look like a fool.
There actually was a timeframe for it.
I mean, obviously Greg doesn't believe (and we, out of character, know) that Sumireko wouldn't have done this, but I suppose it makes sense that it wouldn't have been that easy.

Well, she's still a grouch.
We can probably ask Satori about it before we leave or later.
It's probably just the plot to scare Sumireko, but hearing Ran is involved is making me rather curious to hear about it; considering what (or rather, who) the whole point of Satori's side of the excursion is.

Gotta say, Patchouli must be really exhausted if she needed Greg to point out a more probable third conclusion to her; even if you account for the fact that she is no doubt extremely frustrated by events already.
Well, she's shown herself to slip in a few ways, like not actually knowing the full consequences of the binding, for one.
You know, I think she might be way more emotionally shook up by Remilia's condition than she lets on.
Of course she'd be affected, and she sure would do everything to not show it outwardly, but she's seemed almost sloppy at times.
Makes sense that Sakuya is the one really in charge here, she's the only one who seems to truly have kept cool under this pressure. (Maybe Meiling as well, but we'll find out when we see her.)

There is actually one thing she hasn't answered.
Why this secrecy? What is the reason she's hidden this from her friends?
She hasn't asked anything that'd be out of line with the questions the others would have or would want to know.
That means there's something else she wants to ask.
Unless she doesn't want to look like a fool for making those slip-ups, but going behind Sakuya's back for a magical interrogation seems extreme for a bit of hurt pride.
If anything, knowing about this would be nothing but convenient for the rest of the Mansion crew.
The only pragmatic reason I can think of at the moment is so that she can plausibly deny anything we said to her to them.
In other words, she wouldn't want to risk us scoring more sympathy points with Sakuya than we already have.
A somewhat plausible reason, but it doesn't sound right to me.
Hope we can ask about it before the moment ends.
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>Why this secrecy? What is the reason she's hidden this from her friends?
Yukari's spectator mode and/or Flandre. Both valid concerns.
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Very fair point.
I'd still like to ask about it, though she might just refuse to answer, anyway.
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Actually, what might be a really good final question if we can
>"Will you tell Sakuya truthfully the information you've gotten from me?"
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>Why this secrecy? What is the reason she's hidden this from her friends?

The truth spell only works if two peoples minds are directly connected somehow. She is hiding this interrogation from her friends because it is literally physically impossible to show it to them. Bringing more minds into the occult ball would have risked Greg taking them all out at once through home field advantage.

>You whirled on the magician. "What did you just do?!"

>"It's a modified wisdom spell. The original intent was 'know thyself', to pierce through any illusions someone might have as to their own character. As such, it forced the caster to honestly and completely answer any questions posed within their own mind. I modified it to work over most mental links. As long as this spell is active, neither of us can knowingly lie, even by omission."

>So... basically a truth spell that only worked if you were connected to someone like this. That would explain why she didn't just use it earlier.
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I'm not really following this logic.
Her telling her friends does not preclude her going in alone.
If anything her telling them would add insurance; if something goes awry they know exactly what happened, or maybe they could even prevent a worst case scenario.
Unless you mean to say her telling the others about her plan would've made them insist they join?
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[-] Piece it together.

Every so often, when you're wrong about something, you get handed irrefutable evidence. Something that declares, beyond a shadow of the doubt, that the picture you had of the situation is at best, missing a crucial piece of information, and at worst, completely wrong-headed. Because if your understanding of things was correct, then what happened should have been flatly impossible. And given that it did, in fact happen, you need to start over from the beginning, tracing your way through everything, and carefully checking to see which assumptions could have been wrong.

In short, it becomes a puzzle, one that you're forced to look at with fresh eyes. And while it's always disorienting, in a way it's also thrilling. Because these sorts of moments are when you have breakthroughs. When you figure out that crucial piece of the truth, and hopefully a way forwards.

So what do you know?

Someone impersonating Sumireko came to the Scarlet Devil Mansion and provoked them. Assuming they knew exactly what they were doing (because let's face it, the alternative doesn't get you anywhere), what did that accomplish? It got Sakuya to start hunting you down, leading to your kidnapping and current predicament. And given that the fake Sumireko asked for directions to the human village, it even gave the maid the correct place to start looking.

Which brings you to the first real connection. "The fake Sumireko knew far too much about what we were up to. Her encounter with Meiling was timed such that we were in the area, without an alibi, and told you exactly where we'd be going next."

"Assuming it wasn't the real Sumireko."

"Work with me here for a minute," you said. "Though that reminds me, did she look like the real Sumireko?"

"I have not seen Sumireko in person," Patchouli said. "However, Meiling did give a detailed description. Brown hair, roughly shoulder length and hanging free. Brown eyes behind a pair of glasses, red oval frames. Clothes were a purple plaid skirt with a matching top, sleeveless over a white blouse. The most noticeable thing were her accessories, those being a black hat with a white bow, and her cape, black exterior, with the other side being red with white runes. Which I'm certain is the same cape we took off you when you were captured."

"Yeah, I'm going to want that cape back when all's said and done. So much work went into it..." your voice trailed off as you thought back through the months of effort, actually. Balancing a dozen enchantments within a piece of clothing had been a nightmare, especially because you need it to fail safely upon any sort of damage. You shook your head. "Regardless, that's a very good description of Sumireko in her usual outfit. Could-"

You broke out coughing, and swore beneath your breath. "There's additional details I need to ask about. If you could ask a question or two quickly, that would be appreciated."

Patchouli considered you for a moment, brushing her hair out of her face. "Only so long as it's related to this theory of yours. What do you need to ask?"

"If Sumireko hadn't switched clothes, and they were both in the human village at the same time, how quickly could Sakuya have found Sumi from that description?"

"Within minutes," Patchouli said. "As long as what she's looking for is actually there, Sakuya's ability to find something near-instantly is limited only by her own patience."

"Which means if we hadn't changed clothes as pretty much the first thing we did, you'd have found us far sooner," you concluded. "It ended up happening anyway, but my point is that Sakuya capturing us became a likely outcome the moment that imposter provoked Meiling."

"I won't argue with that assessment," Patchouli said, "But then there's the question of motive. Who, aside from us, would benefit from us capturing you?"

"That's a harder question," you admitted. "One possible goal might have been hoping you'd be provoked badly enough to just kill us, but if that's what they were going for, they misread your motivations badly. Besides, there shouldn't be anyone with a personal grudge against me or Sumireko in the first place, we're new to Gensokyo! I suppose a grudge against Satori would be possible, but this feels premeditated, and I defy anyone to have predicted that we'd have been traveling with Satori ahead of time. I'm wondering if it might be a distraction."


"Like Satori brought up earlier, our original plan to fix Koishi has been delayed by this whole kidnapping mess. Again, I don't think anyone in particular benefits from Koishi's third eye staying closed-"

Patchouli raised a hand, signaling you to stop. "False assumption. Satori's ability is unpopular, and that's putting it mildly. Nobody wants a second mindreader roaming around, especially one who would actually roam around and involve herself with Gensokyo's business."

"It's the same problem as before though. If this is as premeditated as I think it is, then that being the motive would rely on them predicting Satori to travel with us, and I don't think that's likely."

"On what grounds do you believe it to be premeditated?"

"Because whoever pulled it off knew far too much about what we were doing. After entering Gensokyo and encountering Kasen, we faked a long-range teleport and snuck out under a veil to get away, and my veils are good. Despite that, whoever impersonated Sumi knew where we were and what we planned to do next. They had to be watching us, and given the efforts I took to keep us hidden - efforts that fooled Kasen and Reimu, mind you - that's a lot more than just casual surveillance. They knew we were coming, and..."

Wait. That's it! That's absolutely it! You jumped to your feet.

"Mamizou! It has to be her."


"The tanuki! Giant tail, speaks like an old person, carries around a big jug of sake... that one!"

Patchouli looked supremely non-plussed. "There are no tanuki in Gensokyo."

"Just like there's no history-altering youkai," you said with a fierce grin. "There's that connection!"

You started pacing as you listed details off. "But to fill you in, Mamizou is the one that gave Sumireko the fake power stone, the thing that brought us to Gensokyo and trapped us here. She, out of everyone, is the one youkai that would have been absolutely sure we were coming. And as a shapeshifter, she actually could impersonate Sumireko easily, especially since the two have met. There is no question that she could have done it!"

"You're actually serious," Patchouli said, stunned. "Adding in another magically forgotten youkai does not make this any more believable!"

"Look, I've never met Keine and I've heard maybe half a dozen sentences about her total. But I have met Mamizou. I saw her emerge back on earth thanks to the occult balls, I watched her duel Sumireko, and it is directly because of her that I'm here in the first place. I know she's real, and once you've established that memories are being messed with, the existence of another youkai being forgotten is not a major barrier."

You see Patchouli winding up to respond, and you hold up a finger. "Save your questions until the end, please. Let me work this out."

"Getting back to the motive," you said, rubbing your chin. "I don't know Mamizou anywhere near well enough to guess at her motives, but I don't think she has any particular connection to any of us or any of the mansion's residents. So I think it would need to come back to the idea of a distraction. Which in turn raises the question of what a temporary distraction would even accomplish, and that gets back to Keine."

You closed your eyes, trying to visualize it. "And that's because... because the timing of the village being hidden has to be pretty exact! Sakuya was there just yesterday, and it can't be found today. That's something that changed. And the encounter between the Sumireko imposter and Meiling didn't just derail our plans, it completely changed your plans as well! Whatever you were doing before, it's been delayed by at least a couple of days, first from the effort to capture us, and now from the further leads we've been turning up."

"So how does that turn into a connection?" you snapped your fingers a couple times, trying to work it out, but it's Patchouli who answered.

"Because if Keine truly exists, then her power would have been of great interest to us. And if we were looking into her, then a delay of a couple of days was enough for her to thoroughly hide her own existence. It requires additional assumptions - a connection between Mamizou and Keine, as well as some reason for why Keine couldn't hide herself instantly - but given those assumptions, it's a valid explanation."

Your eyes snapped back open. That fits, it all fits, but you weren't expecting Patchouli to put it together for you. And then you glanced at her and did a double take. The magician was naturally pale, but right now, she was as white as a sheet.

"I don't remember what I was working on before Sumireko showed up," she said, answering your unspoken question. "A magical project I was investigating as recently as two days ago, a complete blank. That never happens. Not normally, and definitely not when dealing with matters of this importance. Which can only mean there is a memory-altering effect currently active."

You'd intended to be extremely smug when you finally got proven right... but you weren't expecting it to be this soon, or with this kind of reaction. "So does that-"

"Not another word! I don't want your theories biasing me before I have a chance to check the evidence myself! In fact-"

Patchouli raised her book and started chanting again, her hand beginning to glow once more. You winced, preparing for her to dissolve the truth spell. Again, the light expanded from her hand, but this time it slammed into you with a force you weren't expecting, lifting you off your feet and pushing you back-

You found yourself flat on your ass in the middle of the ritual circle, dazed. She ended the enchantment trance completely?! Why-

"Koakuma!" Patchouli barked, striding over to the library. "I want every scrap of paper I've written on or magical text I've referenced over the past week, especially anything that got dismissed as unrelated and reshelved!"

Sakuya gave the mage an aside glance. "Patchouli, what-"

"Not now!" The mage said, faltering slightly. "Just... give me an hour or two to work this out."

"An hour? What-"

"Please, Sakuya," she pleaded. "I'll have answers for you soon."

You could see the indecision play out across Sakuya's face, then she grabbed your wrist and pulled you to your feet, the better to stare you down. "Clearly that was not just an enchantment. Explain."

[-] Give her the full play-by-play in as much detail as you can.
[-] Give her the necessary context (truth spell ambush, memory effect revealed that Patchouli seems to be taking badly), and point out that while you could tell her everything, Patchouli might want to do that herself.
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[x] Give her the necessary context (truth spell ambush, memory effect revealed that Patchouli seems to be taking badly), and point out that while you could tell her everything, Patchouli might want to do that herself.

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[X] Give her the necessary context (truth spell ambush, memory effect revealed that Patchouli seems to be taking badly), and point out that while you could tell her everything, Patchouli might want to do that herself.
Though we would be well in our rights to snatch Patch's surprise from her.

Are we still going to become Koakuma though? The children yearn for Koakuma
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...you know, if we suppose that Yukari was spying on us at this point during this ritual, then she would unironically have basis to suspect supernatural charisma. Or at least some other form of innate mind-altering effect, other than memory manipulation. Patchouli told absolutely no one about her intentions, including us. And some people (list may include me) were even voting for stonewalling Patchy, which OP even acknowledged as a viable option at one point. From an outside perspective, it may look like we just brainwashed her. And it's not just Sakuya, if we get a bit more paranoid, Yukari could be watching.

...that vote may just be a little more dangerous that I have previously thought.
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I fully concur. I think it's very obvious what's going on, Greg has some charisma powers going on, and has likely gaslit himself into believing that he isn't manipulating anyone. For him, he is just very good at convincing people, unwilling to accept his magic holding any influence. However, as we can see from these actions, everyone Greg runs into seems to be manipulated by him. I know he's still the same cowardly child from back when. He may have skills and talent innate to him, but he cannot wield them responsibly nor deservingly. I think the only rational choice is to call out to Yukari, prostrate ourselves, and accept her offer to become a shikigami. Lest we allow the magic to cause more undue chaos, delaying our inevitable fate.
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[X] Give her the necessary context (truth spell ambush, memory effect revealed that Patchouli seems to be taking badly), and point out that while you could tell her everything, Patchouli might want to do that herself.

This seems like the better option to me, both in the interests of saving time and because with Sakuya we do not have a truth spell that would prove we are not lying.
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I wonder who's behind this post
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Go back to sleep, gap hag.

This is a good point, though; clearing up that kind of misunderstanding seems prudent.

Anyway, we have a likely suspect.

Patchouli really didn't take it that well, though.
Actually, she took it so poorly; I'm not even sure she remembered to re-engage our binding before storming off! (Unless that blast she did was part of doing so.)
If so, just failing to mention that would look pretty bad, as much as we don't want to be sealed again.

However, this gives us an opportunity.
As >>204819 mentioned, Yukari could be watching, so I can't really say blurting out all our deductions is a great idea.
Without our binding, we could attempt telepathically linking to Sakuya to tell her what we know in actual privacy.
Two problems.
One is that Greg has already mentioned that he's not sure he whether he can link to normal people, as he's only ever done it with Sumireko and Satori; Sakuya is "just" a human.
The other is that I very highly doubt that Sakuya would allow any kind of spell to be cast on her by us.
She's been relatively accomodating, but as she has no real knowledge on magical matters this'd be far too much trust to put into Greg; even with a relatively decent argument (Yukari listening in).
Can't hurt to ask, but don't expect a positive answer. Better to just prepare to submit to re-binding.
This is, of course, entirely based on the assumption that Patchouli didn't just rebind us, of course.

So instead, let's move on to the choice we're guaranteed to have to make: what to tell Sakuya.

We do technically have the option to keep quiet this time as well, but it just doesn't sound very appealing, as that'll make Greg look really bad.
The Yukari espionage consideration is worth keeping in mind, though, so it's not a course of action completely without merit; I just don't think it's enough impetus to keep mum here, though.

Telling her everything would technically be fine; Patchouli sorta deserves getting her thunder stolen.
However, even with the trust Sakuya's put in us already, she's far more likely to believe it coming out of Patchouli's mouth.
It'd also take more time, I suppose, but we have two hours downtime now anyway.
We could use that to work on the disguise, but I doubt they'd allow Greg to cast magic that isn't supervised by Patchouli.
I can't immediately see any major reasons to not choose this course of action this, otherwise.

Giving just the context seems to make the most sense for some reasons already mentioned like Yukari listening in and credibility concerns between hearing the story from either Greg or Patchouli.
I think it would be important to add a caveat, though.
Simply put, this amount of information might just not be sufficient for Sakuya.
If she ends up insisting on hearing the whole story, waiting for Patchouli be damned, we should just give her all the details rather than look like we're being evasive.

I'll write my vote in two parts because the first half would cease to be relevant if we are, in fact, sealed again.

If not sealed:
[X] Point out that Patchouli forgot to reseal you.
-[X] Also suggest that you could use this opportunity to attempt to give her the info in private, in case of eavesdroppers (Yukari), but mention having never tried telepathically connecting to regular people; nor do you expect her to allow you to in the first place.
--[X] Submit to resealing when you inevitably get shot down.
Afterwards, or if sealed:
[X] Give her the necessary context (truth spell ambush, memory effect revealed that Patchouli seems to be taking badly), and point out that while you could tell her everything, Patchouli might want to do that herself.
-[X] If she insists, however, give her the complete story.

Bit convoluted for what boils down to a "just give context" vote, but I do feel accounting for and acquiescing to Sakuya insisting on the whole truth, regardless of any potential gap hags listening in, is an important distinction to make.
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Wait, I think I have a genius idea of how we can tell Sakuya without worrying about Yukari listening in

We will get a paper and a pencil and write the information down. And if Yukari tries to look, we can shield it with our free hand so only Greg and Sakuya can see it. What do you think?
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...we don't even know if this recent burst of paranoia is relevant or not. That's like asking for tinfoil to make a hat at this point.
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Actually tinfoil might unironically work considering the urban legend incident
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Just for the record, you guys are right that Greg’s magic hasn’t been resealed. Patchy was pretty rattled.
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More opportunity to farm sympathy points, then!
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[x] Give her the necessary context (truth spell ambush, memory effect revealed that Patchouli seems to be taking badly), and point out that while you could tell her everything, Patchouli might want to do that herself.
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>>204821 here, I'll add to my vote that I also agree with >>204823's suggestions regarding our powers not being sealed.
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[X] Point out you weren't resealed, offer to try telepathically communicating the info, but don't push it and accept resealing.
[X] Give her the necessary context (truth spell ambush, memory effect revealed, etc.)
- [X] If she wants more and doesn't want to wait for Patchouli give her everything.
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[X] Give her the necessary context (truth spell ambush, memory effect revealed, etc.)
-[x] Give Satori a telepathic rundown of things

Yeah, I'm gonna skip over the Yukari surveillance paranoia and just add what popped up on my mind.
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[X] Point out you weren't resealed, offer to try telepathically communicating the info, but don't push it and accept resealing.
[X] Give her the necessary context (truth spell ambush, memory effect revealed, etc.)
- [X] If she wants more and doesn't want to wait for Patchouli give her everything.
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Actually, I know that we haven't really come to any consensus on a magic item, but I just wanted to throw something out with the new context we've got.

The Talisman of Tanuki Trapping!™
This terrific trinket taps the power of the Terracotta Army to terraform the terrain into a terrific tower that twists the earth to a tool that'll neutralize and trap terrible tricky Tanuki.

In less alliteration: Make an item specifically designed to counter Mamizou (perhaps using stuff like our current bindings, only modified for her?) so that we can get some answers. And maybe kick her while she was down. Just a little. As revenge for the crimes she's been commiting.
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nah I want a misenchant into an aoe truth only field
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[X] Point out you weren't resealed, offer to try telepathically communicating the info, but don't push it and accept resealing.
[X] Give her the necessary context (truth spell ambush, memory effect revealed, etc.)
- [X] If she wants more and doesn't want to wait for Patchouli give her everything.

Honestly? Sakuya was pretty reasonable about the whole thing. Sure, it was yet another nerve-wracking conversation where the possibility of violence was never entirely absent, but you were starting to get used to that. In the end, Sakuya had politely thanked you for the reminder you were currently unsealed, politely declined the offer of a telepathic conversation, and after listening to the summary of your conversation with Patchouli, she warned you not to do anything foolish, and went off to politely interrogate the hell out of the mage.

You really weren't sure whether the maid got more or less polite as she got angry. Seemed like it could go either way, depending on the situation. Whatever. That was Patchouli's problem, and nobody can claim she didn't earn it.

Interestingly, you weren't resealed at any point during your conversation with Sakuya ended. Which, unless you missed your guess, meant that Sakuya herself didn't have any direct control over the bindings (she may be sympathetic to you, but not that sympathetic), and that the mage might be a single point of failure as far as that containment mechanism was concerned. Not that you actually had any escape plans at present, but it was important tactical information to know.

Regardless, you did take advantage of the delay by trying to mentally connect to Satori (first thing you tried when you came to your senses)... and it just worked. Her binding did absolutely nothing to stop you from connecting to her telepathically, and while you had to focus on your conversation with Sakuya for the duration of it, just having your mind available to read helped your friend relax a little. Conveniently, it also let you show her the memory of your conversation with Patchouli in a more direct manner... along with a couple of other relevant ones regarding Mamizou.

So, does that ring any bells? Name, face, fighting style, anything?

Satori grimaced, shaking her head. No. I don't recall a single thing around a tanuki in Gensokyo. Which is more than a little disturbing.

Speaking of disturbing, why did Patchouli react like that? Was she that dedicated to the idea of me being the bad guy?

That's not it. Or at least not all of it. Given that youkai are spiritual beings, they're by nature more malleable than humans are. You can convince a human of anything and they'll still remain essentially human, but if you get a vengeful spirit to let go of their grudge, they stop being a vengeful spirit, either becoming an ordinary ghost or just fading. For most youkai it's less extreme, but if you convince them of something contrary to their nature, you can do real damage to most of them. For that reason, most youkai are extremely protective of their minds, and I'm hardly surprised Patchouli in particular reacted poorly to finding her mind had been tampered with.

You're about to respond when you hear someone coughing and wheezing. Continually. Sakuya flickered into existence nearby, grabbed an inhaler that had been left on the table, and vanished again.

You've stressed her into an asthma attack, Satori thought at you. Well done.

It's not like I was trying to do that, you protested, feeling a little bad regardless.

I think that's part of what's unnerving her. She'd certainly find it simpler if she could write you off as hostile.

The coughing you heard did die down, so at least Patchouli wasn't too badly off. Though somehow you doubt any of this endeared you to her.

Greg, know when a battle is lost. You and Patchouli are never going to be friendly.

Hey, it didn't hurt to try.

... and that thought marked the exact moment when your binding kicked back in, zapping you out of your mental conversation with Satori. You really, really wished you could shift the binding to a different location on your arm. At this rate you were going to end up with a neat little ring of burn scars.


You looked up at her worried face and did your best to smile. "I'm fine. Just caught me off guard."

She scowled at you. "You knew that would happen."

"It was a possibility-"

Satori marched up and poked you in the chest. "Look, I don't care if it's sweet, don't be so eager to hurt yourself just to try to help! What's that one saying about helping via fire?"

"Give a man a fire, and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he's warm for the rest of his life."

Satori shot you a highly unamused glare, and you sighed. "You don't need to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm."

"Yes, that one." Satori sighed. "Greg, I'm glad you care, but I'm not some damsel in distress that needs rescuing every five minutes."

You gave her a wry smile. "Sorry Satori, but you're basically a princess, and you're being held captive with your power sealed. Damsel in distress is just an accurate description at this point."

She gave you a light punch in the arm. The non-binding one. "You're in the same situation! And given our respective strengths, if anything, I'd be the one rescuing you!"

"It's worse than that, I'm afraid. There's a much higher chance that Sumireko is the one who rescues both of us. And I promise you, we will never be allowed to forget it."

Satori facepalmed at that. "On second thought, you're allowed to rescue me. But only if you can do so without hurting yourself."

It wasn't really that funny, but you laughed all the same. "Your wish is my command, my lady."

[-] To be continued.
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So it looks like we have two secret route options here, interesting. Do we
A-Accept that Patchouli won't like us, and act accordingly
B-Accept the challenge out of spite and continue to be friendly towards Patchouli to try to become her friend

And the second path
A-Do we accept a role as damsel in distress and allow Sumireko to save us
B-Do we man up and refuse a state of princesshood, saving Satori ourselves?
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For one, I don't think we get these sets of choices at all, and for two, Patchy just told us squat and Sakuya squat and we still have to go to the village.
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Sakuya is polite as always; I had a feeling she'd not actually have any power over the binding itself, but it's better to mention it than not.
Maybe Patchouli will supply her an on/off-switch if they end up agreeing to be more lenient towards Satori.
Actually, it took a while for the binding to come back on, so it feels like Sakuya at least waited until whatever initial exchange/argument was over to mention it. That's nice, I guess.

Linking to Satori was a pretty sweet gesture; getting burned again is just a trifle compared to helping Satori relax a bit.
(Totally not self-destructive behaviour there, Greg.)

I don't think Greg, as he is now, can really drop anybody like that.
Minus the woman who destroyed his life (and almost him, himself, as well), maybe.
Maybe his mind magic gives him above-average empathy, aside from the fact getting reality checked by Yukari just made him a better, if mentally-scarred, person.
So I don't think he'd give up trying to befriend Patchouli, if nothing else he'd like to pick her brain on matters magical, I'm sure.
Or maybe this is just Stockholm syndrome.

Second half of that is hard to comment about, as it stands we're gonna get separated anyway.
Better to just strategise about that when we actually have opportunity, if we even want to.
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[-] Meanwhile, at the other end of the library...

"Are you feeling better?" Sakuya asked.

Patchouli nodded in lieu of answering, trying to keep to slow, deep breaths. Her asthma, as per usual, was sabotaging her efforts. It had been a long time since she'd had an attack from a true stress trigger (in large part because her usual life offered no more stress than the thrill of research), but it was just as unpleasant as she remembered. Damn it all.

Unfortunately, Sakuya's usual care had been temporarily suspended. "In that case, I'll ask one more time. What possessed you to take such a risk?"

She sighed. "Greg's made too many exceptional claims. I needed to be sure."

"Please be specific."

"Keine's existence was the main one. The implications of a youkai able to alter history are too massive to take his word for it, even if you ignored the immediate problem of access to the village. His connection to Yukari was the other big one. Beyond that, it was generally checking to see what he's said that was or wasn't true."

"And why wasn't I informed of your plan?"

Patchouli put a hand to her head and slumped back in her chair, closing her eyes. "Partially because it was a last-minute idea, and mostly because I knew you wouldn't like the idea."

Patchouli didn't need to see Sakuya to visualize the maid's glare. "Because of potential results like this."

"No, you're mistaken." Patchouli opened an eye to look at the maid. "The risk of entering the enchantment with him paid off quite well. The problem is that the situation itself is different - potentially drastically different - from what we previously thought, but it's better to learn that now than later."

"Different how?" Sakuya demanded.

That got her to sit up straight and look at maid. "He didn't tell you?"

"Only the broad strokes. His notion that I would prefer to get the details from you was correct. Now, if you would."

Every time she thought she'd predicted him correctly, he went and did something like this. Every time. "The details are what I'm still trying to figure out. But at least one of Greg's major claims has been verified. There is some level of memory manipulation involved."

"Verified how?"

It was simple enough to demonstrate. "Do you remember our plans for fixing Remilia before Sumireko's encounter with Meiling caught our attention?"

One of the nice things about dealing with Sakuya was that interactions with her were functionally equivalent to dealing with someone a fair bit smarter than she actually was. Given any sufficiently important or mysterious statement, the maid had a habit of stopping time as long as need be to work out the implications. You knew Sakuya did it to maintain poise and calm no matter the circumstances, but it also made her seem incredibly quick on the uptake."I see. Yes, that is solid proof."

"You can see why I reacted poorly. But that's not the only point of importance. Greg came up with an interesting theory regarding how he came to be in our custody. He thinks the Sumireko Meiling met was an imposter, with the possible goal of us chasing after and capturing him."

"I hear a number of qualifiers in that statement. You doubt him, even with your truth spell?"

"The key weakness of that spell - beyond the two-way interrogation aspect of it - is that it verifies truth according to the speaker's memories. Or to put it bluntly, someone with the correct abilities could work around it by changing their memory to match the story they want to tell."

"If Greg was the mastermind, I doubt his plan would have featured him being captured."

"Oh, I believe that he's not the mastermind. Quite apart from anything else, he's nowhere near strong enough for that. But it is a realistic possibility that he could be an unwitting trojan horse."

"Do you think he's acting in good faith?"

She sighed. "Mostly, not entirely. He's definitely a manipulator, but the largest lie the truth spell caught him in was that he and Satori aren't actually a couple. We filled in the blanks wrong, and he ran with it for sympathy purposes. All of the important stuff he at least thinks is true."

"Given what I've seen, it may be more accurate to say they aren't yet a couple," Sakuya mused. "But that's beside the point. You think he's mistaken?"

"Even if he's being entirely sincere, what if his memories are wrong? By his own admission, Yukari affected his mind when he was young. He thought it was some disciplinary measure by temporarily giving him a bastardization of Satori's ability, but who's to say that's all that she did?"

"That's troubling." Sakuya admitted. "Though if Satori looked through those memories, shouldn't she have spotted it?

"Possibly. The problem is that it's Yukari. It wouldn't be the first time she's trumped someone else's ability at their own specialty."

Sakuya sighed. "Do you believe the Sumireko we encountered was truly an imposter?"

"It's still difficult to tell. Greg thinks the imposter was a tanuki named Mamizou. Yes, another youkai nobody remembers. Once I've found whatever my notes contain regarding Keine, I'll be looking up her next. If she does exist, that's a major point in favor of Greg's theories."

"That at least is something I can assist with," Sakuya said. "Simply let me know which details to look for."

"It's appreciated," she replied. Maybe this wouldn't take hours after all.

[-] To be continued.

((Honestly, if I hadn't declared I was going to update daily I'd have left this for tomorrow, so I could extend it and revise a bit more. But it's the principle of the thing.))
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I'm wondering: If Keine can hide a whole village by eating its history, why wouldn't that also apply to any documents pertaining her or Mamizou?

Then again, forgetting something exists entirely is already different from the village's situation; where it existed, but is gone now.

Well, we'll see if the search brings up something, but lack of documentation here doesn't really disprove the theory, I feel.
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>"Given what I've seen, it may be more accurate to say they aren't yet a couple," Sakuya mused.
Keep in mind it's possible and likely that Sakuya stopped time to ponder the situation, and ultimately made the calculated choice to say this. What do you think she was thinking of in stop-time about Greg's relationship?

this meido is the best
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Another thread lies defeated by the auto-sage!

Greg's conquest of maidens' hearts continues unabated; but not all is well in paradise, as one maiden seems to have conquered his!

But what will the not-quite-couple do when a new rival takes the stage?

This newcomer gets a tightness in her chest whenever Greg is around, but it doesn't seem to be an asthma attack!?

Find out all the answers and more next time on: Urban Student in Limbo: Can Love Bloom in the Devil's Manse?
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