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[-] Onwards!

Despite the intensity of your little magical chat with Patchouli, things ended up proceeding more or less as originally planned. After a half hour delay while Patchouli regained her composure and presumably did research, the mage came back out, and the disguise enchantment via occult balls resumed. Without Patchouli in the ritual, this time. You would admit to a little amusement at how Sakuya was watching the mage almost as much as she was watching you and Satori. The maid wasn't even trying to be subtle about it.

Thankfully, you'd spent most of the delay talking to and getting to know the little devil. (After first making sure to update Satori so the two of you were on the same page, of course.) Sakuya had provided the object - a small silver ring with a bat wing motif - and in the end were able to form a clear enough picture of her to form the enchantment. As you'd hoped, sliding it on turned whoever wore it into the spitting image of Koakuma, and even altered their voice to match.

This then resulted in a battery of tests from Patchouli to examine the item and its full functionality, killing another half hour. While you'd love to call it paranoid, you did have to admit it uncovered some useful information. In particular, the illusion matched itself as closely as possible to the shape of the wearer. While it looked like Koakuma in her librarian outfit no matter who wore it, the actual size of the image matched the height of the disguisee, not Koakuma's height. Admittedly, when compared side-by-side this made it look more like Koakuma had a sister than a twin, but it was the only way to keep the illusion in sync with the wearer's movements. Thankfully, you were only a couple inches taller than the little devil, so it should still be close enough to work.

The bigger risk was Koakuma's extras. Which was to say, her wings, her long hair, her dress, and her, ah, feminine body shape, were all things that you did not have. Which in turn meant that if anyone tried touching any of those, they'd notice the moment their hand went through the illusion and your cover would be blown immediately. Patchouli brought up that most of those risks could be dealt with through mundane cross-dressing. After rejecting that horror in the strongest possible language (utilizing a magic illusion was entirely different and you were prepared to die on that hill), you made the point that if anyone tried to grab you, the ruse was history anyway, and it would be far better if you had the option of dropping the illusion and blending into the crowd as an ordinary guy.

To your relief, Sakuya agreed with you, which meant you finally got out of that hospital gown and into ordinary clothes again. The other favorable development was when Patchouli revealed the results of her research.

You'd suspected Patchouli had found something definite purely from how quickly she'd returned from her frantic researching, and that thought was confirmed when the mage used that one book to call up Meiling again.

"Oh, Patchy!" Meiling's voice rang out. "I didn't think I'd hear from you until you got here! Is something up?"

"Yes." Patchouli replied. "Since we last spoke, I used a situational truth spell to ask a few additional questions of Greg. The questions he raised were relevant enough that I decided to check my notes and library for references to Keine and Mamizou."


"That is, in fact, what I'm trying to establish. Greg maintains that there is a tanuki named Mamizou who lured him and Sumireko to Gensokyo, and that it was her disguised as Sumireko that you met the other morning."

"Are we buying that? Because this sounds like when Marisa 'forgot' her mini-hakkero in the library."

"I have not found any direct evidence of Mamizou's existence. However, Greg's hypothesis is that your interaction with Sumireko was intended as a distraction. Do you remember what we were working on immediately before that?"

"Well..." Meiling sounded hesitant, "There was a bunch going on, and my primary focus was guarding the gate, so could you remind me?"

"For once, this is no fault of yours," Patchouli said drily. "Neither I nor Sakuya can recall it either. I do not remember the details of my previous project, and checking my notes revealed large gaps in them. There are a couple of second-hand references of a correspondence with a 'local expert' who may have been able to help, but even these are missing crucial details, such as the youkai's name."

"So you can find evidence of what Keine's done, just nothing directly referencing her," you realized. Not being able to get a smoking gun was unfortunate, but hopefully there'd be enough circumstantial evidence to fill in the gaps.

"Almost." Patchouli smiled. "There was a single exception. And unlike Greg's ability to recall her, this source neatly explains its own immunity to Keine's effect."

And with that, Patchouli pulled out another book, laying it down on the table. It was a thin volume, neatly bound, and yet obviously hand-written.

"The Gensokyo Chronicle, volume nine, book one." Patchouli recited as she opened it and flipped through the pages. "Perfect Memento in Strict Sense, by Hieda Akyuu. An encyclopedia on Gensokyo's youkai, featuring an article on one Keine Kamishirashawa. One that details her power over history, as well as noting that the Hieda family's ability to record history trumps it. Along with listing Keine's location, species, a few details regarding her common habits, and even a sketch we can identify her with."

"So, with that piece of critical information thoroughly vindicated, are you finally admitting that Greg's just trying to help?" Satori asked, the challenge clear in her tone. "And that it just might be worth taking his words at face value?"

Patchouli shook her head. "You're correct on one point. His statements about Keine-"

"And Yukari," Satori interrupted.

The mage rolled her eyes. "and Yukari have been proven true. And that does lend significant weight to his other claims. But a good liar tells the truth most of the time, and whatever else he may be, your friend is entirely capable of being a good liar."

You put your hand on Satori's and gave it a gentle squeeze. While you appreciated the defense, you were well aware Patchouli wasn't about to budge on this point. Satori tensed for a moment, then sighed and changed the topic. "How'd the chronicle end up here, anyway? I thought Akyuu only made the one copy."

"The instant Remilia found out she was part of it, she sent off Sakuya to commission a personal copy." Patchouli gave a dry chuckle. "She was quite disappointed that her entry was no longer than anyone else's."

"So that's what happened to it," Meiling said. "She'd been talking about getting it framed, and then one day it was like it never existed."

"So how does this change the plan of attack?" you asked. "Any useful insight in that sense?"

"It does not, at least not initially. As Keine's location is the human village itself, the first step remains finding the village, and regardless of the additional insight into Keine as a youkai, the nature of that problem has not changed."

Fair enough, really.

"Say your good-byes," Patchouli said to you and Satori. "We set forth now."

[-] Is there anything in particular you want to say or do before you leave?
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[-] Is there anything in particular you want to say or do before you leave?
[X] Headpat Satori
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Whew, the boy almost had to legitimately cross-dress for the mission. Luckily Sakuya agreed with Greg that padding one's chest would be a ridiculous thing to do.
Also the descriptor of a 'big sister Koakuma' is powerful and dangerous.

Now after Sakuya is filled in on Satori's binding... Is she actually?
[x] Ask her to be not necessarily soft but reasonable with Satori during the trip out.
-[x] Explain the broad strokes if necessary.

Given the maid's experience working with Flandre she ought to be able to navigate Satori's heightened emotional sensitivity.

[x] Establish mind to mind connection (touch foreheads)
[x] {To Satori} "Please remember, whenever you feel scared or frightened, to not forget the times you felt happy. When the day becomes dark, always remember a happy day"
[x] Smooch Satori
Given the course the story has been going the option won't be crossed out at some point.

[x] Get into this Koakuma character
-[x] How would she act? Talk around people? Would she ask Patchouli what the mass of an unladen swallow is? It's one thing to have talked to her and another to convincingly portray as her.

"It was Kayfabe, not 'cross-play', Sumireko."
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>giant mcwritein

[X] Headpat Satori
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>One that details her power over history, as well as noting that the Hieda family's ability to record history trumps it.

I'd completely forgotten that part of her article!
I asked about how documents regarding erased history worked, but this is both extremely convenient and completely canon. Bravo!
Maybe I just get excited easily, but I thought it was a very smart plot device.

It also made me wonder slightly why Mamizou didn't show up in a search, but after thinking about it: Mamizou came way later; and I doubt Remilia cared enough to get updated with the latest articles after getting hers, satisfied with it or not.
Still, I think it should be asked about or mentioned, if only to possibly establish that the tanuki is a new(er) arrival; though I'm sure Patchouli at least has already drawn that conclusion.
The SDM has been here for a while now, but not like Greg would know that.

I agree with some of this.

Double checking with Sakuya if she's fully briefed is just due diligence, but if anybody is diligent, it's Sakuya.
Of course, whether she actually can or will do something about the binding is as of yet unconfirmed.
We look a lot more believable now, but let's not push it too hard.
Simply confirm that she knows, which she likely does, and ask if she could keep it in mind; mirroring her usual neutral response earlier.

The Satori part, though...
I'm sorry, but quoting the "alway rember happy day" meme at her is just cringey.
Also entirely out of character, if anyone is gonna spout memes, it's probably Sumireko.
The other stuff is also just kinda nonsensical, we're sealed and I doubt, even if establishing a mental connection was a serious suggestion, that Greg has a global range on his telepathy.

We already spent a good while talking to Koakuma to get into her character.
Anything further we could just ask Patchouli about if it becomes truly necessary.
Still, we should thank her for her time and assistance.

Anyway, yes.

[X] "Mamizou wasn't in that chronicle, then?"
-[X] Confirm with Sakuya that she understands the binding; politely ask her to keep it in mind.
--[X] Thank Koakuma for her time and assistance.
---[X] Headpat Satori.
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>Patchouli brought up that most of those risks could be dealt with through mundane cross-dressing. After rejecting that horror in the strongest possible language (utilizing a magic illusion was entirely different and you were prepared to die on that hill)
That sounds like a massive cope, and this is proof that Greg is manipulating even himself. I wonder what Sumireko's opinion on this debate will be when she finds out about it.

Patchouli refuses to budge, which makes me want to make her budge all the more. Or at least tease her while we're disguised as her assistant. Also these small glimpses of Remilia being charismatic make me long for when she makes her proper debut

[X] Headpat Satori
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[X] "Mamizou wasn't in that chronicle, then?"
-[X] Confirm with Sakuya that she understands the binding; politely ask her to keep it in mind.
--[X] Thank Koakuma for her time and assistance.
---[X] Headpat Satori.
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[X] "Mamizou wasn't in that chronicle, then?"
-[X] Confirm with Sakuya that she understands the binding; politely ask her to keep it in mind.
-[X] Thank Koakuma for her time and assistance.
-[X] Headpat Satori. (with consent.)
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changing my vote to

[X] Headpat Satori. (without consent.)
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[X] "Mamizou wasn't in that chronicle, then?"
-[X] Confirm with Sakuya that she understands the binding; politely ask her to keep it in mind.
-[X] Thank Koakuma for her time and assistance.
-[X] Headpat Satori. (without consent.)
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Mamizou’s entry is in the second book. You’re right that it should still be there, but Remilia didn’t bother grabbing a copy. Looking for one is likely going to be one of the possible choices later on.
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>>204858 Here
Changing my vote to
[X] Headpat Satori (Ask for consent while doing it rendering the question moot)
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Aye, that's basically the speculative conclusion I came up with, but I ended up writing in the (somewhat rhetorical) question anyway because I figured bringing attention to it with everyone present might be useful for reasons I already mentioned.
But if you consider it superfluous feel free to disregard it.

Anyway, guys, consent is important. Especially for headpats.
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That's an opinion, friend.
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And it doubled as a joke. Yeesh, calm down.
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[X] "Mamizou wasn't in that chronicle, then?"
-[X] Confirm with Sakuya that she understands the binding; politely ask her to keep it in mind.
--[X] Thank Koakuma for her time and assistance.
---[X] Headpat Satori.

You were grateful for the time, given that you did have a few last orders of business to take care of before leaving.

First and simplest was covering that last bit of unfinished business with Patchouli.

"I take it Mamizou wasn't in the chronicle, then?"

"She was not. If she's in Gensokyo, then she's either a newly arrived youkai, or a much older one that only recently reawakened."

"I noticed you said volume nine. I suppose that means there's at least eight others?" you said leadingly.

Patchouli gave you a dry smile. "Yes, but those were written by Akyuu's previous reincarnations, and the most recent is a century out of date. They'd be of little use."

Disappointing, but maybe you should have expected it. Though the bit where reincarnation was apparently a thing was news to you. You shook your head, refocusing as Patchouli continued. "That said, Akyuu has in fact written a second book for her ninth volume. Remilia was... disinclined to stock any of Akyuu's other books after her initial disappointment, but the Hieda household in the human village should have the original work. If we make it into the human village, it will be worth investigating."

She held that to the end on purpose. "I'm surprised you didn't get a copy for your library."

"My library is primarily a magical one. While there is a scattering of books for related topics or personal use, the vast majority of it is devoted to magic as a discipline."

An encyclopedia on youkai sounded close enough to magic to be of interest to you. You were about to comment as much when Sakuya's voice sounded from directly behind you.

"Furthermore, a copy written by Akyuu is outside the scope of Patchouil's personal funds. I believe she held out hope of persuading Lady Remilia to order one in a couple years."

You nearly jumped out of your skin. Nevertheless, Sakuya was the next one you wanted to talk to, so you did your best to cover your startle reflex and turned to face the maid. "I'm familiar enough with that pattern, at least. Sumireko has similar spending habits. Although I suspect Remilia's more able to fund her friend than I am mine."

Sakuya winced a little at that. "Discretionary spending will likely drop more than the residents are used to. The needed repairs are going to be expensive."

"Ah. If it makes you feel better, Sumireko and I are going to have hell to pay when we get home," you said with false cheer. Disappearing for a few days will do that. "Regardless, could I talk to you for a minute?"

The conversation with Sakuya was pretty simple. You had the sense she was humoring you as she confirmed yes, she did understand the emotional aspect of the binding, yes she'd reviewed it with Patchouli, and yes she'd keep it in mind as she took Satori with her to track down Chen. She'd even mentioned that Patchouli had provided her with a means to toggle Satori's binding herself, though she did not elect to actually show or demonstrate that means to you.

You took the distrust and/or reasonable security precaution in stride. You were getting used to it by now, and some cooperation was better than none.

You also wanted to take a little time to thank Koakuma. In one sense, her part in things was minor. But in another...

"Wait, you're thanking me?" the little devil seemed absolutely puzzled.

"For helping Satori with her new clothes, and not making a big deal out of it," you said. "For letting me use your image as a disguise. And for taking the time to talk, when you could have just slipped away to shelve books or something."

Koakuma looked away, scratching the back of her head. "That all seems pretty normal."

"Yes, and that's exactly why I'm grateful," you explained. "It's been a rough couple of days, for me and Satori both, and any semblance of normality is something to hold on to. So again, thank you."

"Um... you're welcome, I guess. Even if I didn't do much."

Perhaps, but small acts of kindness were still kindness. You almost told her as much, but you knew the signs of someone uncomfortable with the praise they were receiving. That, and you didn't want to get her interrogated by Patchouli or anything. "Even still," you settled for.

[-] There's one last good-bye that needs to be said.

((Couldn't finish the Satori bit tonight, and I'd rather have it all in one update, so that's coming tomorrow.))
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I can only imagine the look Patchouli must've given Sakuya when she spilled the beans on the real reason why she didn't have the second volume.

Sakuya is as thorough as expected.
Only humouring us or not, it felt only right to check in.
I'm sure she understands where we're coming from.

Hot damn, Koakuma is cute.
Sure, she might not really understand why we're giving thanks, herself, but credit should be given where it's due.

The only two other folks we could've spoken with are Tenshi and Flandre.
The former didn't really make sense because we basically haven't interacted with her at all.
The latter because I'm sure Greg doesn't want to go anywhere near her for the time being.

Waiting warmly for Satori headpats.
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There comes to mind Sumireko and her forgetting who it was that gave her the decoy occult ball. It was Keine's history erasure and not - yet - magical dementia as a byproduct of strengthening the Koishi enchantment that made her forget about Mamizou.
This also means that Seija's interest in Sumireko is founded on lies and deception; but if there is anyone in Gensokyo who wouldn't care about, even appreciate, that twist it'd be her.
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There was one last good-bye that needed to be said, and this was the one that mattered. Satori had remained in her seat around the table you'd used for strategy discussions (for lack of a better word), staring pensively at the mansion's residents. You pulled up a chair alongside her.

And somehow, for all you were talking easily earlier, now that you were here, the words wouldn't come. You were never good with good-byes.

"You get along with them surprisingly well," Satori finally said.

Was that a comment on your diplomatic ability, or a gesture towards the idea of stockholm syndrome? "If anything it's a grudging cooperation," you admitted. "Anything I say or do still gets the penalty of the doubt from Patchouli."

"The penalty of the doubt?"

"You know, like the benefit of the doubt, just backwards."

Satori rolled her eyes. "It's still unusual in the extreme. Most people would want revenge, or would need to be forced at knife-point to cooperate. They certainly wouldn't volunteer critical information like Keine's existence."

"I can see that," you admitted. "But in the end, what would revenge solve?"
"That has never stopped anyone from wanting it."

"I suppose I have to give you that one." She of all people would know, after all. "But forgiveness is important. I don't even want to think where I'd have ended up without it."

Satori gave you a sidelong glance. "Are you about to tell me to forgive them? Is nothing unforgivable to you?"

This had gotten heavy fast. "Nothing should be," you said.

"Not even if Sumireko died to her injuries? Or what about what Yukari did to you?"

That brought you to silence. Because biblically speaking, you knew you should, but even just considering the idea felt like driving a knife into your heart.

"You see? It's not that simple. Some things can't be taken back."

You sighed. "There's nothing complicated about the idea of forgiveness. It's difficult, but it's not complicated."

"But where do you draw the line? Is it death? Betrayal? Trauma? Does it matter if their intent is malicious, or selfish, or if they later come to regret it? Is it suddenly okay if things end up working out despite what they did?"

"Are we talking about Sakuya and co, Yukari, Koishi, or something else entirely?"

Satori looked down, resting her elbows on the table as she rubbed at her eyes. "Just answer the initial question. Suppose what they did got Sumireko crippled, or even killed. Could you still forgive them?"

"A lot of times people use 'I forgive you' when what they really mean 'it's not a big deal.' As if forgiveness is only on offer if the sin in question didn't really need forgiveness." You sighed. It's not like you were immune to that. It's easy to act forgiving when most things don't really bother you. "But to answer your question, I don't know. I like to think I would, but if something were to happen to Sumi... it'd be hard."

"I see," Satori said, not looking up.

It wasn't enough. You knew how rough the binding was for her, even aside from how the very nature of it touched on her own family trauma. Had she hoped you'd be angry with them, for her sake? Or was this some kind of test, to see if you cared more about Sumireko than you did her? Neither quite fit, but in either case, some concern might help. "Really though, are you going to be alright?"

Satori took a deep breath, as she turned to look at you with a sad smile. "This too will pass. I'll manage, Greg."

"I'm just worried," you said with a sigh. "I'm not going to be there, and while I don't think Sakuya's going to be callous about it, she will put Remilia first."

You tried to reach out, hold her hand in yours, but she pushed you away. "I told you, you don't have to worry about me."

"I want to," you said. "Like I said before, I'll be with you as long as I can."

"Why?!" she demanded. "You've known me all of two days!"

Something was up, something beyond the binding. Why else would your reassurances make her feel worse? You hesitated, thinking back to the previous conversation, and suddenly it clicked. This was guilt. Was she still feeling guilty over the whole thing with Nitori? Or did she not think she deserved to have anyone worry about her?

"How long has it been since you've been loved?" you asked softly.

Satori recoiled. "My romantic prospects have nothing to do with-"

"Not that sort of love." You cut her off. "Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

You couldn't have gotten more of a reaction if you'd shot her. With each quality you listed, Satori had gone more and more pale, her face betraying fear... and longing. "In short, love is when you do what's best for the other person, when your primary concern is to help them, regardless of what they do or feel back. Romance... well, it can happen alongside it, but it has nothing to do with it. That sort of love."

Satori pulled her knees into her chest as she huddled into the back of the seat. "Orin and Okuu love me."

Her pets. She hadn't even listed Koishi. "The point is, me loving you? That's not your decision to make. Regardless of whether you're interested in me like that or not, or whether there's anything else you're worried about, you can't screw this up. I'm going to keep caring about you regardless."

This was a point where she needed to know for sure, so you pushed through your binding to connect to her, to let her see your thoughts and feel your sincerity about this. For just a moment, she met your gaze, her eyes wide, then you lost the connection, wincing as the binding's backlash kicked in. The moment lost, Satori started sobbing, pulling her knees in tighter as she curled into herself. You didn't think that was necessarily a bad reaction - at the very least, what you said meant something to her - but still, you hesitated. Given what you just said, you didn't want to do anything too forwards, but at the same time, you had to reassure her, offer her some physical contact.

In the end, you stood up, put a hand on her head and ruffled her hair a little. She immediately grabbed your forearm, lifting your hand off her head as she gave you a teary-eyed glare, one that eloquently said, 'Really?'

"I... was trying to offer emotional support in the way you'd be most familiar with it?"

She shook her head. "A headpat is what I do with my pets. A normal person would offer a hug."

"Would you prefer that?"

It was a reflexive response, but the words hung in the air, and it was too late to take them back. Satori looked at you, her expression inscrutable for a long moment. Apparently reaching a decision, she got up, walked in front of you, and all but slammed into you, wrapping her arms around you. Taken by surprise, you hugged her back as she stood on tiptoe, putting her head on your shoulder.

"When you get free, go to the Moriya Shrine." Satori whispered into your ear. "Kanako owes me a major favor, and she's already crossed Gensokyo's boundary once."

You nearly fell over as you realized what Satori just gave you. "But Koishi still needs-"

"Promise me, Greg! This has already escalated way past anything I thought, and if Yukari's personally interested in you... you should go."

"I can't."

"You've done enough!"

You closed your eyes. "If Yukari's willing to come after me, would being home really make me any safer? Besides, I could never just leave Sumireko... or you."

Satori didn't reply, but her arms squeezed you a bit tighter. And as the two of you held each other, no more words were needed, for a little while.

Patchouli and Sakuya came in to lead you and Satori on your respective missions soon after. Though thankfully they waited just long enough for the two of you to have disengaged and at least pretend to be composed.

And so there you were, leaving the Scarlet Devil Mansion. It had only been a few hours. It had felt like an eternity. So many things had changed, with your captors, with Satori, and even the incident as a whole. Looking ahead at the path to the village... well, you were nervous. But it would work out, somehow.

"I must admit, that wasn't what I expected," Patchouli said.

You hadn't really expected casual conversation and glanced at her. "How so?"

"I've lived for a long time, and seen a lot of things. But in all my years, that's the most unusual way I've ever heard someone say 'I love you'."

Oh damn, the bindings. "Please tell me you didn't listen to the whole thing."

Patchouli gave you a smirk, and you groaned, dragging your hand over your face. At which point you felt a couple pats on the head and froze. Did she really just-

"If it makes you feel better," the mage said, "I'm pretty sure the two of you deserve each other."

And how much of an insult was that? You glanced up at Patchouli - who now looked extra smug - and sighed. "Well played."

Patchouli considered you for a moment, then nodded. "We'll leave it at that, then. Now put on the disguise. There's plenty of minor youkai between here and the village, and there's no point in risking you being seen."

It was sensible enough. You put on the enchanted ring, Koakuma's form shimmering into existence over yours, and offered a slight bow. "Shall we go, oh master?"

Patchouli took half a step back, looking a little disturbed. "That won't be necessary. Patchouli will do."

You considered throwing in an 'As you say, master,' but decided not to push your luck. "Alright, then. Let's find this village."

End of Part 3A.
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That's probably not what anyone was expecting. It wasn't really what I thought would happen either. But the update taking that path arose out of two considerations.

1. Satori would not respond well to a headpat.
2. Given this, and given that Greg knows her well enough to realize that, under what circumstances would Greg even attempt the headpat?

The answer I came up with was a scenario where Greg felt Satori needed comfort, but explicitly wanted to avoid something that could be taken as flirting. And so we got this. Which honestly works out pretty well, since it touched on a couple things I wanted to bring up anyway, and takes another step forwards as far as the Greg/Satori relationship goes. Also, if you've been paying attention, you might have figured out what Satori feels guilty for.

This update being the end of the part was a little bit improvised, but this is a pretty good breaking point, and quite a lot has happened since this section of the story began in any case. That, and it's important to figure out where Sumireko's going before we start into Greg's adventures at the human village. While their paths probably won't intersect that quickly, there's enough chance of it that we do need to check in with Sumi first.
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It's love, it doesn't have to be justified. In many ways, it just is.
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Incredibly sweet update to wrap up the part.

Satori questioning Greg's frankly absurd levels of empathy is entirely understandable, and I quite like how conflicted he got when she confronted him with situations too grim even for him.

I actually think this was a wonderful way to handle a write-in that in a vacuum would've perhaps been a bad action to take.
I think it really showcased his personality by the way he handled the situation.
Very satisfied with how it turned out.
As for Satori, we all have our guilty secrets, hm?

Satori just giving Greg the out he'd been searching for, no strings attached, was pretty surprising.
His disarming charisma really can get its hooks into anyone, though I'm sure her guilt played a part just as much as any fondness for him did.

Satori might not believe, but Greg could make friends with a rock.
There'll surely be more opportunity for him to work his magic on Patchouli once we shift the focus back from Sumireko.
If anything, Patchouli engaging in banter is already a good sign.
It's nice to see them exchanging barbs that don't actually feel spiteful: I particularly liked Greg grossing out Patchouli using the Koakuma disguise.

Waiting warmly for frog goddess-zapping revolutionary Sumireko hours.
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((First off, if anyone wants to reread the last Sumireko update, that would be >>204393. The TLDR is that Sumireko just defeated Suwako and has just encountered Seija.))

{-} After the Suwako fight...

Quite frankly, I was dead on my feet. My bruises had bruises, my head felt like it was going to split open, and I was rapidly approaching the point where I didn't care whether I got death or sleep first, so long as one of them arrived soon. I had also been completely drenched in a storm in late autumn, and likely to have a near miss with hypothermia even if I got inside right now. I was in no state to fight a fairy, let alone someone with real power.

Though on the plus side, I had an occult ball now. I'd almost missed it in the general relief of still being alive, but at least I got something for almost getting killed by a deranged goddess. Not that I had the energy left to do anything with it.

I looked over to the amanojaku that had greeted me.

"Were you watching me fight for my life just for your own entertainment?" I asked.

"Absolutely!" Seija said, grinning. "Best thing I've seen in years."

That wrong-footed me immediately. I'd expected some sort of excuse, or apology, not enthusiastic agreement, and I really wasn't sure what to say about that. Seija rolled her neck, contorting until her chin was pointing at the sky. "To be fair, there was the whole barrier thing, and even I'll admit that was a tricky one... but I'd have watched most of the show anyway."

"Most?" I did not have the patience to deal with this.

"I've got a lot higher hopes for you than just entertainment, and those would kinda be ruined if you kicked it. Lower hopes? Meh. That reminds me, are you going to finish the job?"


"The french appetizer over there," she said, jerking a thumb at Suwako. "Sure, you fried her and all, but if you leave her like this she'll just come back for round two later."

You stared at her. "That's a declaration of war."

"And trying to kill you isn't? Besides, after you stabbed Sanae, it's not like they can get any madder."

"I've never even met Sanae! People just don't listen!" I shivered and rubbed my arms as I looked over at the collapsed goddess. "Besides. Killing her's just going to get even more people after me and Greg."

"I mean, I'd say it's one less person going after you guys, but it's your funeral." Seija said, shrugging.

It was a moot point anyway. I'd already hit her with everything in my arsenal and then some, what exactly was I supposed to kill her with? "Look, what do you want?"

"Moi? Why, to help!" Then the amanojaku got a weird look on her face and shuddered. "The words that just came out of my mouth", she muttered.

"And I should believe that because..."

"Your clear luxury of choice? Or perhaps your stellar track record of excellent decision making?"

What was it with youkai trying to get under my skin? This made the third one in a row! Fourth, if you counted Nitori. Seija saw the expression on my face and grinned again. "Not sorry! For real though, I'm an amanojaku. I like what people hate, and what people hate is you."

Oh. I'd thought that term sounded familiar, but I hadn't quite been able to remember just what it was. I groaned. "That's the worst good news I've ever heard."

"Happy to be of disservice!"

I felt a twinge from my bond with Mary, and got a brief glimpse of where she was - entering the outer grounds of the shrine, along with Nitori and some of the tengu from earlier... what were their names again? Ugh.

Wait, I could hear them yelling in the distance already. "Damn. I wanted to chat a bit more, but sounds like we'll have to cut this short. The vulture squad's going to be here soon, and they'll probably have more lackeys on the way."

That... I was in no shape to fight, and not much better for running. The tengu might just arrest me. Was that an improvement? Could I talk to them? They seemed at least kind of talky sooner. Couldn't talk too much, had to do something before Kanako or Sanae showed up, then I'd just die. And in my corner I had... Mary. Maybe Nitori, and maybe an amanojaku who was apparently spiting the rest of Gensokyo. Great odds! Fantastic.

This was normally when I'd cut my losses and teleport out, but I wasn't sure I could teleport across a room right now, let alone far enough away to do any good.

What should I do?

[-] Write-in.

((To be clear, Sumireko is suffering from a major adrenaline crash combined with magical exhaustion. You might get one utility spell, but that's it.))
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Holy shit I forgot how fucking stressful the Sumireko side of this story was. I was hoping we would get a reprieve after the Suwako fight with a fade to black thanks to Seija, but no we're right back in the thick of it. Welcome to Hell again.

I only have four ideas of things we could possibly do because, quite frankly, I think we're fucked hard. I'll be going with the fourth one, for the record.

1. Ask Seija to do something
The easiest to do because it's just leaving our fate in Seija's hands. How much she'd appreciate that or how trustworthy she is is very questionable, so I don't find this a promising option.

2. Hide
This is pretty much just accepting the tengu capturing us unless we're very lucky. And even if we manage to hide successfully, Kanako is probably coming soon, and Suwako will wake up eventually.

3. Try to get a message to Nitori
Assuming Nitori hasn't already heard the news about Sanae, it would probably be a good idea to intervene and separate her from the group of tengu. I don't know how likely Nitori is to believe that we didn't stab Sanae. She's certainly skeptical of us, but considering we haven't stabbed anyone or been THIS violent before, and there's not much logic to us doing so might give her at least some benefit to the doubt. Unless we have a practical way of doing this right now and asking Nitori to get the tengu away and getting her to believe us, this is less of an option and more of a "goal to work in soon".

[X] 4. Use Suwako and Seija in a bluff
I don't exactly know what lie we can pull off here, but there's gotta be something. The fact that there's a KOed Suwako right there should be good enough bluff fodder and give the tengu at least some pause. We could tell Seija to play along, and then "arrest her", and as the tengu come onto the scene we'll say something like you found the source of all the recent trouble, with the Moriya Shrine harboring Seija while she's gone on a long spree of mischief. By giving the appearance that the Moriya Shrine has been causing trouble on the youkai mountain, this might get at least a few of the more scheming tengu cause to not completely arrest us (after all this embarrassment could be used to leverage themselves a better deal with the Morya Shrine, at least as they might see it in the moment). And we can hold the threat of "I just defeated the big god of the mountain, anyone want to be next?" silently as well. This all obviously throws the Moriya Shrine under the bus, but unlike Greg I doubt Sumireko cares about that. Sumi is not nice.

This at least gives us a (false) position of leverage. Keep in mind, tengu are arrogant, political schemers, and in folk stories they are usually honest and easily tricked. Hopefully these are all things we can use to our advantage in formulating a plan.

If there's any idea on how to flesh out the lie and scheme, I'm all for hearing it. I'm mainly thinking of just how we'll manage to somehow survive this shit considering Sumireko is knocking on death's door, and any physical or magical feat is out the window.
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Well. Fuck.
I'm gonna need to think on this one.

Sumireko's in bad shape, liable to pass out at any moment.

Throwing our hat in with an amanojaku who literally appeared 30 seconds ago and has clearly enjoyed us suffering sounds like a stellar idea, but it's also the one real "wild card" solution I can think of.
Not great, but maybe if everything else is just shit?

If we wait for the peanut gallery, there's a lot of explaining to do.
Granted, we're likely to get arrested than straight up killed; so that's a plus, I guess?
I doubt Nitori, Hina or maybe even Aya being our alibi will help; there was probably some timeframe for this doppelganger to have committed the crime in.
Still, we can account for a decent chunk of time considering we were stuck in a bed in Hina's place being half-dead for a while.
I have a feeling Sanae getting stabbed was more along the lines of yesterday, though, when we were still with Greg, Satori and Alice.
This route also gets us reunited with the Koishi doll, though, which could help in some way.

Running or hiding does not sound very ideal.
We just somehow defeated Suwako in a very real deathmatch, ostensibly instigated in revenge for aggravated assault.
While trying to run is understandable, it just makes us look more guilty.
We'd not get very far on our own anyway.

Basically, she cannot and does not trust really anyone right now.
Hina, Piper and, thanks to the first's influence, Nitori are the only three on the mountain she has any somewhat positive rapport with.

Basically already handled the first two points myself, so I'll skip those for brevity.

>Try to get a message to Nitori
Like you mentioned we'd need to get a practical way to do so and we don't, really.
Also, I have no idea what we'd even say to her.

>Use Suwako and Seija in a bluff
I just don't think Sumireko can pull this off.
This is a bluff and scheme of Greg-level proportions, and I don't even know if he could do it every time.
It also requires Seija, an amanojaku, to play along in a scheme that sacrifices her own skin for that of ours.
She says she'd help, but we can't just assume she would to that degree.
On the flip side (ha.), people probably dislike amanojaku, so how believable her account is if she simply argues against our story is debatable.
If she doesn't just dissappear again before the crows arrive, that is, then we have this elaborate lie with no convenient scapegoat to point at.
I agree that Sumireko, in the state she's in, would probably resort to dirty shit like this if she had to to survive, but I just don't see this working.

I'm genuinely stumped.
I really need to digest options here for a couple hours, so I'm not gonna vote yet.
But I will say that right now: waiting for and possibly/likely surrendering to the tengu seems the least bad option to me.

Be back later; this is a tough one.
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Do we have an alibi for when Sanae was stabbed?
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I may be misreading here, but it seems like Mary may have actually gone to go get Nitori and the tengu. Regardless at this point surrendering to the tengu is one of the less awful options Sumireko has, unless she decides to point at Seija and say that she turned Suwako into fried frog and hope and pray that they believe her.
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>I just don't think Sumireko can pull this off.
>This is a bluff and scheme of Greg-level proportions, and I don't even know if he could do it every time.
Don't underestimate Sumireko's ability to bullshit out of something. She did manage to pull of a "Meow?" Koishi bluff under pressure.

As for Seija, it's difficult to guess what she might think. She might be appalled at instantly being thrown under the bus, or she might admire Sumireko for acting so selfishly. She might also be fine following it just for the chance to cause more trouble. Her feeling compelled to help us though is definitely odd, she's likely being manipulated by someone to help Sumireko for some reason. Or she might truly be a wildcard. Regardless we don't have much of a choice but to use her.

I'm honestly unsure of what to make with the Mary thing, if she actually went to get them or what. And either way that doesn't give us much info about the tengu's intentions. If we do the bluff maybe let them speak first and determine what to say based on what they say?
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[x] Persuade Seija to help us get away from the mountain by promising her a favor.
-[x] "Distraction? Amanojaku hunt? Do whatever's fun. You can have credit for this frog if you want. Just get me outta this mountain."
This is the only choice realistic choice we have in which we evade pursuit. The alternative is blaming everything, EVERYTHING on Seija which won't work because Tengu have been searching for us for days. Between thought photography (Hatate's cheating) and Aya's speed, we can't get away. Aya will catch up with us.

If there was a time for short term above long term for Sumi, it's now. NOW now.
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You want to offer Seija a favor? Seija, a youkai who loves being despised and causing trouble? Is that really a good idea?
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Going over our current resources, we have:
Mary (at a distance too far to be immediately useful), Sumireko's bag of tricks (almost empty), maybe some junk lying around from the battle, Seija, and a half-dead frog goddess. We're strong, but not when we're almost drained, so our best bet is to continue the Tengu trickery train and make them think we were never here. Maybe.

Since we're just throwing ideas at the wall, what if we go to hide inside the shrine, while we ask Seija to stand and gloat over the body? If we give her the credit and people believe it, then a lot of questions are answered for them and they'll have a new issue to deal with.

The problem with this - and most plans that involve trying to make Seija fill in the Sumi shaped hole is that she might not be willing to get hunted down in our place.
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[ze] Surrender
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>>204889 here.

After thinking about it and reading some of what anon has been saying, I just can't in any way bring myself to trust this random youkai that conveniently showed up to help right as we need an out the most.
It almost feels pre-planned.
Rather than rely on this oh-so-timely appearance of a quite literally self-professed bad actor, I'd instead just surrender to the tengu and see what happens.
At least then we have both Nitori and Mary with us; if we go with Seija we're likely to be completely alone with an amanojaku.
Sorry, if anyone might be trusting enough to take this bait; it'd be Greg.

[X] Wait for Nitori and the tengu to arrive and surrender yourself. At least you'll have Mary and your Kappa friend(?) with you.
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I agree Seija showing up out of nowhere isn't exactly the most trustworthy, but without relying on meta-knowledge...

Amanojaku are notoriously contrarian. That means if she's manipulating us, she wasn't ordered to. (Or was ordered not to, even!)

We know there's an active conspiracy against us right now, independent actors who are definitely not part of it are the single most valuable resource we can get right now.
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[X] Wait for Nitori and the tengu to arrive and surrender yourself. At least you'll have Mary and your Kappa friend(?) with you.

Is there any other option that won't fuck us over even harder?
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There are multiple thing i would like to bring up.
1-Aya is likely headed towards Sumi right now, if she waits it won't be Nitori who finds her first,
2-Surrendering to the Tengu when she knows they work for Suwako is no different to suicide.
3-Sumireko doesn't have the time to be a prisoner considering that news of Satori's kidnapping would eventualy reach Utsuho, recovering Satori before that happens is something to take into account.

4-Hina told her that there is a person in particular that she shouldn't trust, wich appears to be Seija,it might someone else like Yukari.

5-It is likely that this is not first time that Nitori has smuggled something into the shrine, so she must have somewhere to hide the goods without the Tengu finding them.

6-The tengu that is coming with Nitori is likely Hatate, Nitori's friend, as Momiji is unlikely to have left her post.

That said i have this idea for a vote.

[X] Head towards Nitori so she can get you a place to hide and treatment for your injures.

Something i dont get is why is everyone so willing to bilieve that Sumireko stabbed Sanae. Aren't shapeshifters, even after you exclude the now forgotten tanukis, a know factor in Gensokyo, are there no precedents of them taking someone's form to commit crimes?

Illusion magic is also a thing is setting and assuming that a criminal is who she claims to be is kinda naive, people frame others even without supernatural abilities being involved.
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>Surrendering to the Tengu when she knows they work for Suwako is no different to suicide.

Since when do the tengu work for Suwako?

That's a genuine question, because maybe I forgot some part of the story that mentioned this; but I've considered the tengu their own faction.

Sure, they cooperate with/worship at the Moriya shrine, but that still wouldn't constitute "working for".

Maybe they hold a respect for her and defer to her at times, but that's still not the hierarchy you implied.
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I don't get the appeal of going down whimpering. I get that we're practically out of battery, but I get the really odd, inexplicable feeling that the Tengu aren't going to be friendly captors who let us just keep our magical items, doll, and stay with Nitori. It's just this really strange gut feeling.

Sarcasm aside, Sumireko hasn't ever really taken me as the type to surrender. We have an occult ball now: if you remember, they have some fun capabilities.

> "...I had a few emergency functions I'd tied into them, and while they were very much emergency functions, (destabilizing one or summoning the rest would be a beacon for all of Gensokyo), that would be better than this!"

I'm not saying that it would be a good idea to try and do something incredibly dangerous, but we have other options besides laying down and whimpering.
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>>204901 again; sorry, forgot to point out something.

>The tengu that is coming with Nitori is likely Hatate, Nitori's friend, as Momiji is unlikely to have left her post.

This isn't correct, as it's pretty clearly stated that multiple tengu are coming.

>along with Nitori and some of the tengu from earlier... what were their names again?

Likely Hatate; maybe Momiji and/or Aya; possibly some mook tengu.

Honestly, this is a very fair assessment of Sumireko's character.

But I also think that she's also beat up and out of juice that maybe she sees the logic for going for the route that seems the least bad at a glance.

On the other hand, if anyone would blast herself and half the mountain to bits out of pure spite; it'd be her.

She did just beat an enraged goddess in an actual deathmatch.

Going to that kind of extreme would also hang Greg out to dry, however, and I don't think that's something she would ever allow.

Like I mentioned earlier: it's a tough choice. For her and us anons.
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>>204888 here, these last posts have been helpful to read, especially the last few. I'd like to refine my proposal. We've got;
-a knocked out goddess
-an amanojaku
-an orb
Why not just initiate a Mexican standoff with the tengu and negotiate from there? I don't know how useful the orb will be, but neither do the tengu. All they'll see is the KOed goddess.

Ultimately, we know that hiding is likely not an option. Neither is running unless Seija works magic, but Sumireko has been running for a long time now. Fighting isn't much of one at the moment.

[X] Tell Seija to follow our lead, play the role of a youkai trapped in the middle and confirm all our accounts, and keep an eye open for anything suspicious. When the tengu come, demand parlay, show that you've already demonstrated your power to Suwako, and bluff that the orb you have would be MAD for everyone nearby if anything off the level happened if they deny you a fair parlay.

This keeps Seija close but still uses her (and frankly,, whether she goes with the act or completely disobeys us doesn't matter, I think either way would fool the tengu) and let's us do... something. What that is, we'll see when we finally meet with the tengu.

Sumireko has been running for too long, I imagine she's probably ready to go on the offensive, even with how battered and broken her body is.
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I like the path we're going down, here. I'm thinking a little differently, though:

[X] Ask Seija to help drag Suwako with you while you hold the occult ball up to her, and start trying to make your way down. When the Tengu inevitably catch up, threaten to detonate it point-blank and take everyone in the area down with you.
- [X] If they don't value the frog god enough to back up, or they think they can outmaneuver you, claim that you've empowered it by tying it to Suwako, making it capable of levelling the mountain.

We might as well meet them in the middle, to get a bit closer to Nitori and Mary. In the meantime, we force the Tengu to pull away or at least parlay when they reach us.
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I assume it so because they are actively searching for Sumireko, Hatate and Aya may want to get the news but Momiji is runing a checkpoint at the base of the mountain.

It is likely that Suwako already made a deal with them, we don't know how long it has been since Sanae got stabbed so working for them refers that she has already obtained their cooperation.
You did not contradict me, there were two tengus earlier, some means less than all, less than two means one or zero.


I was in no state to fight a fairy, let alone someone with real power.

Why is everyone so eager to kill Sumireko?
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>Something i dont get is why is everyone so willing to bilieve that Sumireko stabbed Sanae.

It's common knowledge that residents of Gensokyo, like all civilized people, settle their disputes using danmaku.
And here is some new and unknown outsider who is supposedly threatening Hakurei Border.
It's not that hard to believe this person would go for a kill.
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I beg to differ.
If a single tengu was currently accompanying Nitori, the wording would've not been some.
Some is indeed an undefined quantifier, but in this kind of context it cannot refer to a single person.
In this particular example it would've have been "one of the tengu" instead of "some of the tengu", for example.
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Just because Sumireko isn't in a state to fight doesn't mean she wouldn't be willing to. The fact she's been constantly pushed by youkai and hasn't snapped already is a miracle that Gensokyo should thank Hina for. If something happened to Greg because of youkai, who knows what she'd do, even when at her body's limit.
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> Why is everyone so eager to kill Sumireko?
The entire point of the new proposals accounting for the occult ball is that we can bluff about how strong we are. Are you really going to take the risk of trying to apprehend the strange outsider that you think disobeys the rules, somehow beat a god, and is now seemingly unhinged enough to blow you up?
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>"Young lady." she interrupted me, her voice hard. Seeing she had my attention, she snapped the fan shut and pointed it at me. "If someone in Gensokyo invites you to tea, take the invitation."

>If it was that important, then... "It can't just be about tea," I realized. "It's a social ritual. What's this really represent?"

>"Tea in Gensokyo is something of a post-incident tradition, to show that when all is said and done, there are no hard feelings, and no lingering grudges. At least, none that can't be solved by a quick danmaku duel."

Yukari got us into this mess, and now Yukari is going to get us out of this mess!

Lets take advantage of this Gensokyo custom to enforce parlay. Use the last of Sumireko's magic to conjure a tea party, and act like we are more in control of this situation than we really are. Use our recent acquisition of the occult ball to pretend that beating up Suwako was all part of an elaborate plan to clear our name and uncover the TRUE culprit behind Sanae's stabbing.

Seeing Sumeriko calmly waiting for them sipping tea should hopefully throw the Tengu off their game enough to get them to sit down at the table for a bit. Hopefully, while discussing this whole thing over tea, we can figure out all the whens and wheres of Sanae's stabbing, and use that info to enforce our alibi. We were unconscious at Hina's for most of the past day, and we were with Nitori for the rest of it, so we couldn't have done it.

[x] Parlay: Traditional Gensokyo Style!

...If Yukari was lieing about the importance of this whole tea tradition, I swear to God!
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She was definitely lying. It's alcohol, not tea.
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I kinda love this, it's not really a Sumireko-like plan; but I love it all the same.

I originally voted for simply surrendering, but after thinking it over (even) more I've realised that she really isn't one to simply surrender without any fuss.

Now, I still think she should surrender in the end, but I do agree that she should at least in some way force a parlay first.

Now, the two main ones suggested right now boil down to:

- "I have a bomb and I'm not afraid to use it unless you listen to me, first!"

Definitely the more Sumireko-like option, but definitely more risky and likely to leave a bad taste in the others' mouth.

- "I have tea and you WILL drink it."

Honestly, hilarious,
Also the far more peacable way to try and get a parlay going.
As such, way less Sumireko-like.
They might just ignore the invitation and haul us in.

Anyway, I will probably change to one of the "parlay" options; just need to think which I want to back more, first.
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What about both? Raid the shrine for some drinks (so we don't drain the last of our magic on it) and set up a nice little place to drink, while also enforcing peace by threat of explosion.
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Is the Koishi projection able to talk when prompted to? 'cause having her appear and corroborate what has happened would be another point in favor of Sumireko.
And it could serve as an opportunity to segue into the Scarlet Devil Mansion kidnapping of Satori, prompting the opportunity to heigten the stakes by implying the threat of getting Utsuho. Which should basically enforce compliance.
If Mary's incapable of that,... shucks.
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Yeah, this seems to be the best idea. Basically, we're using the fact we have a magical WMD to get everyone to sit down, enjoy some tea, and basically force everyone back to using spell card rules.

In a way, we're just copying Reimu here. We are enforcing the spell card rules (which grants us several much-needed safety nets right now) via the threat of disproportionate retribution.

[x] Parlay: Traditional Gensokyo Style!
-[x] If they try to deny the tea, calmly point out that you rigged the occult balls to crack open the Hakuri Barrier in the case of your death. So please, we can solve this incident like proper ladies.
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>>204905 here.
You know what? I like this. The mental image of Sumireko, eyelids twitching, deciding to force people to do a diplomacy is great.

[X] Go find somewhere dry to sit, and grab some cups. You're testing this claim of parlay Yukari made, and if they don't want to listen you're going to threaten blowing them all up.
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[X] Tea at bombpoint write-in.

Make sure to set out seats for Seija and Suwako! Who cares if one of them is fried and the other wasn't involved whatsoever until right now, they're here and they're going to be getting tea.
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[x] Parlay: Traditional Gensokyo Style!
-[x] If they try to deny the tea, calmly point out that you rigged the occult balls to crack open the Hakuri Barrier in the case of your death. So please, we can solve this incident like proper ladies.

Go out with a bang!
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>>204914 here.

Consider me thoroughly convinced.

Changing my vote in >>204897 to:

[X] Tea at bombpoint write-in.

It's got everything.

It's hilarious.

It's crazy enough to sound on-brand for something Sumireko cooked up, so it's in-character in a general sense.

But it's also apt for the current situation; Sumireko is really on her last legs, exhausted and broken, so a final wild gambit like some cornered animal just sounds appropriate.

It was noted that we might have about one utility spell left in us, we can use that to get the tea party set up!

It all fits.
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[X] Tea at bombpoint write-in.
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>>204904 here.
Turning our Mexican stand-off into a tea party is perfect, I'll change my vote to it. Let's make sure we have chairs for everyone important. Sumireko, Seija, Nitori, Mary, Suwako (Knocked out Weekend-at-Bernie's style), and whatever the Tengu representative will be.

If there's multiple tengu have all the rest sit at a little children's table while the adults talk.

[x] Parlay: Traditional Gensokyo Style! (Tea at Bombpoint)
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{-} Tea party at bomb-point

It was time to do something desperate. I had a defeated-but-still-alive enemy, a valuable nearby structure, and a highly magical object I could destabilize. If they were going to treat me like a terrorist, I might as well act the part!

"Hey Seija. You know a better use for defeated enemies than killing them? Hostages. If you wanna help, drag frogger over there into the shrine."

The amanojaku broke into a grin. "Now you're talking."

I struggled to my feet, summoned the occult ball I'd won off of said hostage and we started flying towards the shrine. With Seija dragging Suwako by the ankle, and also flying low enough for Suwako's head bump off every rock, bush, or paving stone on the way. Considering recent events, I wasn't too bothered by that, so I devoted my focus to the occult ball I was holding.

The two emergency functions I'd actually planned into the things were summoning the other balls, and dissolving them all harmlessly. Some sort of area effect where the occult ball transformed the local surroundings was another simple possibility, because that was just letting the magic manifest. Doing anything else in a reliable, safe manner would require time, energy, and effort.

Thankfully, destabilizing things explosively was the magical equivalent of connecting the wrong pair of wires. Not easy to do accidentally, or if you weren't the one who created the balls in the first place, but for me? Even running on fumes, I could pull it off. Of course, it would also kill me instantly, but if they attacked now, I was dying anyway, so that was less of a downside than usual.

We reached the front door of the shrine just as the first crow tengu came into view. I could hear the wind whistling as she rocketed towards me, and then Seija snapped her fingers and the tengu abruptly reversed momentum back out the shrine.

"That never gets old," Seija said, " and Aya's one of the best youkai to do it to."

Aya kept braking and re-accelerating to start moving back towards me, but every time she started picking up speed Seija reversed her momentum again, much to the crow tengu's frustration.

As we reached the front door, I turned to Seija. "Can you buy me like five minutes to set up?"

"Against this turkey? Maybe for a bad cause."

"No time to explain, but I'm pretty sure it'll bemuse and horrify all of them," I said.

The amanojaku gave me a fierce smile as she reversed Aya's momentum yet again. "You've caught my interest."

[Illusionary Dominance]

"Looks like she's had enough of my shenanigans," Seija said. "Alright, then. You'd better not disappoint me!"

With that, she dropped Suwako at the door and flew off towards Aya with a spellcard of her own.

[Deceit Sign - Reverse Needle Attack]

Not waiting to see the outcome of that, I ran inside and started flinging open doors. I wasn't really sure how accurate Yukari's claim of tea drinking being some sort of parley mechanism was. But I had no better ideas, it couldn't hurt, and at the very least, it would sell the idea that I wanted to talk. Let's see, common living area, bedroom, laundry... aha, kitchen!

I grabbed the first pot I could find, filled it with water, placed it on the stove, and after a bit of rifling through drawers, found a handful of tea leaves and tossed them in. Which I was sure would horrify any serious tea drinker, but nothing said it needed to be good tea.

So while the metaphorical carrot was brewing, I needed to arrange the corresponding stick. The occult balls were designed to take in the magic generated from their corresponding landmark, regulate the intake to a drip feed, circulate it through a number of spells, and finally emit whatever couldn't be recycled. (With that last bit being the magical runoff that eventually produced the urban legends.) There were a number of ways that process could go wrong, but the most dangerous one would be to screw with the input feed. Rather than taking the landmark's continually produced magic, simply reach in, grab as much as possible, and dump it all into the rest of the spell system.

It would be the equivalent of dumping a car's entire fuel tank on the engine, then turning on the ignition. Including the resulting boom. It did take me a couple minutes to disable the relevant safeties, but I now had an occult ball that could fail explosively.

Anyway, the tea was hot and I was declaring that good enough, so I took some mugs out of one of the cupboards, thought about it, put all but one of them back, and took the rest of the mugs I needed out of the sink. Being careful not to lose track of the clean mug, I proceeded to pour the tea, and carried the half-dozen cups out into the dining room, where an elegant-looking tea set lay on top of one of those knee-high tables.

Oops. Sighing, I transferred the tea to the actual tea cups, shoved the original mugs under the table, and with a little more effort shoved Suwako on top of it. Getting her in a position where she didn't spill the teacups was something of a challenge, but I wasn't above adding the intimidation, and a little humiliation of my would-be murderer fit in nicely.

A check in on Mary revealed that Nitori and Hatate had caught up with Aya, and now all three were duking it out with Seija on the shrine's doorstep. I doubted that would end well for her, but thankfully I was just about done.

Just a few last touches. I sent Mary to tell Seija I was ready to receive guests, and I reached into the occult ball, diving through the layers, taking a deep breath, and pulling as much magic as I could. I then pulled it most-of but not all the way out and held it steady, just below the surface. It wasn't pleasant (kind of a dull burning itch in the hand holding the magic), but my dead-man switch was online.

With everything else done, I kneeled at the table and waited.

{-} To be continued.
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"I have tried to be nice. I have tried to talk things out. That didn't work, and now I'm tired. That means we're going to have some nice tea, and talk things out politely, and nobody's going to worsen my growing migraine by talking too loudly, or else I blow us all up."

I didn't comment on it before, but I love that when given an incoming threat and a blank canvas, the collective minds of anon joined together to create this beautiful scenario.

Just goes to show how different Greg and Sumi are: One uses overwhelming charisma until people listen, the other applies overwhelming firepower until people are made to listen.
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This is part of why I love the CYOA setup. I consider myself a fairly creative person, and hopefully the story to this point backs that up, but some of the write-ins you guys have come up with put me to shame.

If you're curious, I was expecting you to either talk with/surrender to the tengu or appeal to Seiga for an escape plan, but this is just better, and very much in-character for Sumi. (Heck, canon-Sumireko tried to actually suicide-bomb the barrier for far less provocation.)
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Seiga was an option? Man, a Sumi/Seija/Seiga team-up would be legendary. All of Gensokyo's most beloved people together.
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The Gensokyo Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in “human” villages, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the outskirts to physical suffering as well) and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of apparitions will worsen the situation. It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering even in “human” villages.
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This is so true
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Damn it, I keep doing that. At least I found those errors in the actual update.
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Here, hold on, lemme just take this aaaand... Ah, there we are!
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Not gonna lie, I thought she was gonna bluff too.
Partially, anyway.
Like, I had no doubt that she'd think of some actionable way to make a bomb to have a credible threat; but not that she'd actually make a dead man's switch and prime it.
So, yeah, that was surprising.
Honestly, it really is the most Sumireko thing she could've done and I am loving every second of it.

She shall be known as the Usa(mi)bomber.
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Quick and (really) dirty sketch in anticipation of the update. Looking forward to it!

Nice job cleaning the image up. Good stuff.
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[-] Parley. Or hostage negotiation, one of the two.

After Seija delivered my invitations, the youkai outside piled in shortly afterwards. Seija. Aya. Hatate. Nitori. That's who I had to deal with. And all four of them did a double take at the scene I'd set up.

Which was good because it gave me time to talk.

"Not what you were expecting? Well, I've got one more surprise for you. I've turned this occult ball into a magical bomb. If you try to attack me, arrest me, or leave to get help, I'll blow this shrine to the moon."

"That would kill you too." Hatate said, looking worried.

I stared her down. "Yes."

"This isn't necessary!" Nitori said. "Hina told you, Gensokyo doesn't work like that!"

"Suwako just tried to kill me! Do you think I struck a god with lightning for my own entertainment? Do you think I hallucinated being swallowed and dragged into the lake by a giant stone snake?! The only reason I'm still alive is because I just outdueled a god!" I took a couple deep breaths, trying to regain my temper. "Of course, after that little feat I have neither the energy nor the patience to deal with any more of you monsters. So either we can sit down and talk like the reasonable adults none of us are, or I'll see you all in hell."

After a brief moment of disbelief, they all took seats around the table.

Seija cackled. "And here I was worried this was going to be a boring tea party!"

Aside from Seija - whose complete lack of giving a damn I envied - Aya recovered first.

"So, you've beaten one of the Moriya Shrine's gods and taken both her and the shrine itself hostage," she said. "Is this a step to get you closer to home, or part of your plan to upset the status quo?"

The eager look in her eyes was a disconcerting. For crying out loud I'd literally just made a bomb threat! She was watching me like a hawk while scribbling away a mile per minute on her little notepad. "What? No, this wasn't part of any plan! I took her down because she attacked me!"

"I see, I see!" Aya scribbled a couple more notes and turned the page. "But you must have had some intention in coming all the way up here. The shrine's really out of the way, that's why the gods here are always executing so many plans to gather faith. What were you looking to accomplish?"

"That..." a flash caught my attention, and I turned to Hatate. "What are you doing?"

She had her phone raised up, and was held it in front of her as a shield. "Just taking a couple pictures. You know, for-"

"Thoughtography, right?" Seija said.

Hatate stammered something, but the amanojaku just reached over, yanked the phone out of her hand, and snapped it in half.

"Oops," she said, dropping the pieces.


"Call it a not-getting-blown-up tax, idiot." Seija grinned. "Not that I'd mind seeing you kick it, but do it another time."

Hatate looked about fit to explode at the amanojaku, but Nitori grabbed her shoulder and whispered something to her. I watched the whole thing, non-plussed. Was her ability dangerous? I thought it was just a spying thing, but apparently it had something to do with her phone somehow? I shook my head. Whatever. At least it wouldn't be an issue now.

Aya tapped her pencil against the table. "Apologies for my colleague, she's inexperienced with fieldwork. What were you going to say?"

Right. Aya was trying to interview me. "I was trying to cut a deal of some sort. My expertise and skills with urban legends in exchange for help rescuing my friend and a safe trip home."

"I see, I see. Could you explain how that turned into your altercation with Sanae?"

"That wasn't me! I had nothing to do with Sanae, I've never even met the girl! If I knew who it actually was I'd shove a lightning bolt up their ass, because they almost got me killed!"

"I knew it!" Aya crowed. She turned to Hatate. "I told you she was getting around too fast! This is why Reimu and the others are running in circles, there's more than one Sumireko!"

Was she tracking "my" movements the whole time? If I'd stuck around to talk to her back at the river, would I have found out about this mess before running into the murder-frog? I almost asked her exactly that, then realized I had a more important question first. "Why exactly are you here? It can't be just the interview, I know the mountain's on high alert."

"The interview is a big one! This is Gensokyo's biggest incident in ages!" Aya defended. Then she sighed. "But yes. The boss's plan was to mobilize the patrols to keep you away from the mountain's peak."

"Really. Just trying to scare her off?" Seija rolled her eyes. "Like starbutt wouldn't want you to capture her given half a chance?"

"Megumu's got some other project going on already," Hatate said, glaring at Seija. "She's been buried in talks with some youkai deep in the mountain."

"It's been going on for a while now, and from what I tell isn't likely to finish any time soon," Aya said. "There's probably an article to be made from it, but it's not worth the hassle. If you're going to get off Youkai Mountain, that should be good enough."

That would be extremely convenient if true. Maybe too convenient. "I thought the tengu served the gods here."

"Not exactly," Nitori chimed in. "The tengu are allies to the shrine, but they don't directly take orders from them. Just... strongly worded suggestions when Kanako's throwing her weight around."

"Like now."

Aya shook her head. "You beat Suwako and Seija's here to boot. That's too much firepower for just a humble newspaper reporter like me."

"Really," I said, not sure how to react.

"Look, just give us the bottom line," Hatate snapped. "What are your demands?"

That... hm.

[?] What would be best to demand?
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[?] What would be best to demand?

From Sumireko's point of view, the trip to Yokai mountain started off as a means to get enough firepower to attack the Scarlet Devil Mansion to rescue Greg (and Satori effectively, since without her she has no option for leaving Gensokyo with him - otherwise at this point Sumireko absolutely would leave her at Mansion though) and... find a way out from Gensokyo after that.
As an aside, clearing up the impostor business would facilitate everything already mentioned.

Being able to depart from Yokai Mountain undisturbed is not enough by itself. Just clearing her name doesn't get her closer to saving Greg. She needs some concessions that help her to achieve the stated goals.

{x} Demand an opportunity and support to clear your name
-{x} Demand an unspecified major favor as recompense for your mistreatment once proven innocent. (Effectively meaning support on the assault of the SDM)

The opportunity to clear her name is the bait, and once they're caught up it's too late for to back out since they're already too deeply involved in the whole shebang.
That's the barebones gist of it, I think. Naturally, I'm interested adding to it and changing parts if something better comes up.
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...OK, how about...

[-] "You either help me or stay outta my way. As long as it doesn't involve getting me killed, I honestly don't care which you choose."
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Though, screw Seija for breaking Hatate's phone. Would have been an easy way to clear up the broad strokes of the story by verifying Sumireko's thoughts and memories this way.
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I believe what Sumireko wants most right now are 1) Survival, 2)Greg's rescue, and 3) Escape. So with that in mind, I think her demands would be as follows:

[x] 1. Stop trying to kill us you insane psychopaths!
[x] 2. Tell me everything you think I did, so I know what evil me did.
-[x] Now that you've told me what evil me did, let me explain why I couldn't have done any of it, and why you are all idiots.
[x] 3. Help me save Greg from the Scarlet Devil Mansion. I don't care if you have to burn the entire mansion to the ground to do it, just make it happen!
[x] 4. Get us out of this God forsaken hellhole you call a country!

I'd say Sumireko is about 2000% done with Gensokyo's bullshit at this point. Satori and Alice can fight amongst themselves on how to use Mary to fix Koishi/bring the doll to life, I don't think Sumireko is too interested in putting more effort into those sidequests than she already has. If she's feeling really generous, she'd probably just chuck a copy of Toy Story and a Self Help book across the border and call it a day.
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Shoot. That's good.
Changing vote!

[x] 1. Stop trying to kill us you insane psychopaths!
[x] 2. Tell me everything you think I did, so I know what evil me did.
-[x] Now that you've told me what evil me did, let me explain why I couldn't have done any of it, and why you are all idiots.
[x] 3. Help me save Greg from the Scarlet Devil Mansion. I don't care if you have to burn the entire mansion to the ground to do it, just make it happen!
[x] 4. Get us out of this God forsaken hellhole you call a country!
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Here's what you gonna do
Additions: Complience, Thoughtography & Seija Sus

[x] 1. Stop trying to kill us you insane psychopaths!
-[x] Get the proof of complience from Moriya gods and the tengu. Preferably face-to-face. Right Now.
[x] 2. Tell me everything you think I did, so I know what evil me did.
-[x] Now that you've told me what evil me did, let me explain why I couldn't have done any of it, and why you are all idiots.
--[x] What is this "Thoughtography"? Can it be used to prove your innocence?
[x] 3. Point out how convenient Seija's appearance was.
-[x] Question her motivation for helping you.
--[x] Use thoughtography to confirm her testimony.
---[x] Apprehend her when she refuses this check or if she's planning to harm you or your friend.
[x] 4. Help me save Greg from the Scarlet Devil Mansion. I don't care if you have to burn the entire mansion to the ground to do it, just make it happen!
[x] 5. Reserve the right to suicide bomb Moriya shrine and/or tengu settlement in case of betrayal.
[x] 6. Make sure this meeting is printed in it's entirety in tengu's newspaper and spread all over Gensokyo.
[x] 7. Get us out of this God forsaken hellhole you call a country!
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I agree with most of the general idea with the current suggestion, but I think trying to get their help with everything at once is a bit much. We could definitely demand it, but there'll be time for escape plans once we actually reunite.

[X] "First off, I obviously want you to stop trying to hunt me down every five minutes. I'd prefer everyone, but I'll settle for just the people you actually have authority over."

[X] "After that, I want to know just what exactly you thought I was doing so I can tell you why you're wrong."

[X] "Then, after that, we can talk about how you're going to help me save Greg (and Satori, I guess) from the knife maid."
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I also agree with the general idea of the current suggestion, but I also partially agree that it isn't quite enough.
There's a lot of outstanding questions, might as well get some answers.

I think >>204948 touches on some important things, but I don't fully agree with all the additions.

Demanding compliance in a hostage situation seems like a waste of time.
We've thrown the gauntlet; what is any "proof of compliance" gonna do.

I agree that the whole snapping the phone thing was suspicious as hell, it's not like we suddenly trust Seija.
What she does is amuse herself, it doesn't matter whether that is positive or negative for us.
She already said why she's helping us, I doubt she'll change her story now.
Nor could we corroborate with thoughtography or what have you because she just snapped Hatate's phone.
We especially wouldn't be able apprehend her. We're literally holding a bomb's dead man's switch because we didn't have the power left to do anything else.

Demanding help for Greg is the reason we went here in the first place.
This should indeed be the central demand, aside from clearing our name.
Not that this bomb threat makes us look good; but fuck how it looks, we were nearly snakebait 10 minutes ago!

Saying you'll bomb the shrine anyway if you get double crossed is needless antagonism, it's pretty much implied as is; now that we're already in a position to do so right now.
Let them stew on the implications, don't spell them out.

I doubt Aya wouldn't already print a nice special on us threatening to suicide bomb the Moriya shrine; so I'm sure that'll be fine.
But an "interview transcript" could be useful to add, rather than any papparazzo paraphrasing.
Absolutely no way we can ensure what she writes in her paper later, so ask it then just move on.

Anyway, yes, get us out of this hellhole.

The only thing not mentioned yet is what we say to Nitori.
We've done nothing but treat her badly.
First we kidnap her.
Then Hina asks her to help us, which she did. At her own risk, mind!
We even got along somewhat, some bad blood aside.
She even lied to tengu on our behalf.
And now, we're holding her at bomb-point?
That's not cool. It doesn't matter how shit the situation is or how pissed off Sumireko is. She's not heartless.
Nitori deserves at least an apology for this.
Fuck the crows and Seija, though, don't trust them as far as we can throw them (without telekinesis).

[X] 1. Stop trying to kill us you insane psychopaths!
[X] 2. Tell me everything you think I did, so I know what evil me did.
-[x] Now that you've told me what evil me did, let me explain why I couldn't have done any of it, and why you are all idiots.
--[x] What is this "Thoughtography"? Can it be used to prove your innocence?
[X] 3. Point out how convenient Seija's appearance was.
-[X] Why, really, did Seija just snap Hatate's phone?
[X] 4. Help me save Greg from the Scarlet Devil Mansion. I don't care if you have to burn the entire mansion to the ground to do it, just make it happen!
[X] 5. Make Aya add a transcript of this meeting to the article she is no doubt going to print.
[X] 6. Get us out of this God forsaken hellhole you call a country!
[X] 7. Apologise to Nitori for getting her into this shitshow.
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>>204949 here.
Good point about Nitori, didn't really think of that.

I think the 7-point write ins are a bit too much for my personal tastes (listing Mamizou's appearances and going through the important demands is already a fair amount to cover at once before even getting into questioning Seija or thoughtography), but updating my vote:
[X] "First off, I obviously want you to stop trying to hunt me down every five minutes. I'd prefer everyone, but I'll settle for just the people you actually have authority over."
-[X] "After that, I want to know just what exactly you thought I was doing so I can tell you why you're wrong."
--[X] "Then, after that, we can talk about how you're going to help me save Greg (and Satori, I guess) from the knife maid."
[X] Also, make sure you apologize to Nitori for including her in the blast radius.
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>>204951 here.

Yeah, I agree that they feel way too long, but I couldn't really think of a way to condense them more without leaving out details I think are important.
I suppose we could get into the salient points first like you said, before maybe getting into Seija and the like afterwards; but I don't think we should just let that go, either.
If someone can think if a way to be way more concise without sacrificing those points, please do write in; I'll think about it on my own, as well.
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Please be mindful of the idea of Sumi doing an apology. She ain't Greg where she's charismatic and considerate. Sumi trying to apologize to Nitori for the inconvenience would probably go along the lines of

"I'm not good at apologies, so uh... That'll do pig."
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True, but better than nothing.
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Here's my take on a condensed version:

[X] Your demands? People stop hunting you, you learn what your doppelganger has been doing, and how you're going to get help saving Greg.
- [X] You want to know what Seija's deal is, too. She's not the one you're threatening, but she just showed up out of nowhere. She could use some explanation.
-- [X] If there's a reasonable opportunity for it in the conversation, you could probably ask a few more questions, but your demands come first.
--- [X] Oh, yeah. Nitori's here, too. You should probably apologize for threatening her with this bomb too, you guess.
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Sounds pretty fair; but the part about nitori feels a little too callous, even for Sumireko.
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I can't believe everyone is forgetting this one
[X] Ask how the tea is
I mean, we did make it under stress, do you think that made it better? Let's see how good of a job was done, if they like it or not
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[X] Ask how the tea is

Just this. It's only polite
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[-]Survive, get info, save Greg, and escape Gensokyo. In that order.

Using my free hand, I took a deep drink of the tea to try and center myself. My magical deadman switch was getting painful to hold, taking a bit of a toll on my already rough concentration.

"The first demand is simple. Quit coming after me! Whether you were trying to scare me off or arrest me or worse, it ends now. I don't give a damn about your stupid mountain, and I am sick and tired of being chased around."

"If you're leaving the mountain, that should be simple enough," Aya said. "Though does that include future interviews?"

Shameless. Absolutely shameless. "Let's all survive this conversation first," I said tightly.

"Yes, please." Nitori said, looking worried.

I glanced at the kappa, then shook my head. "Anyway. Second demand. I need to know exactly what this fake me has been up to. Since you've all been following me, I figure that won't be any big problem for you."

Aya turned back a few pages in her notebook. "Well, you'll need to fill in the blanks as far as which appearances are you and which are your doppelganger, but from what I've heard, there's been Sumireko sightings at the Scarlet Devil Mansion, Hakugyokurou, Eientei, here, the Underground, Myouren Temple, Shining Needle Castle, the human village, and the Hakurei Shrine."

The sheer scope of that list was more painful than the bruises. "But that's like half of Gensokyo!"

Seija laughed. "More like two-thirds! Someone really wanted to screw you over."

"Silence in the peanut gallery," I grumbled. "I'm going to need the details on all of them."

Aya started flipping back through her notes while Hatate rolled her eyes and spoke. "Alright, so the earliest one was the Hakurei Shrine, evening of the day before yesterday. The Sumireko there had a brief fight with Kasen and promptly teleported out after a little taunting. Supposedly that's when you entered Gensokyo for good."

"That's accurate. That one was me," I confirmed. "Next."

"Next would be Shining Needle Castle!" Aya said. "Eyewitness testimony say that one started the next morning. The notable inchling Shinmyoumaru accused you of chasing her all around the Shining Needle Castle, in order to, and I quote, 'Catch me and inflict her pervert-isms on me!!!' It was a pretty compelling headline."

Wait, the inchling was here, wasn't she? Why couldn't I have run into her instead of all the other murderous youkai? I... "Wait, headline?!"

"Inchling princess survives traumatic encounter with mysterious outsider!"

"Traumatic?!" I demanded.

"Yeah, Shinmy was losing her damn mind." Seija said. "Absolutely hilarious."

Aya practically pounced on that. "Wait, were you there?"

"Shinmy's not the sharpest knife in the back, and her castle's huge and got next to nobody in it. Great place to hide out, especially when she's hanging out at the shrine. Anyway, you showed up yesterday morning and declared you were there to capture Shinmy and study her. Shinmy started all defiant and 'You will die for invading my home' kinda thing, and fought you off, and then-" Seija broke into open laughter "Oh man, I thought that was going to be it, but you made it look like one of those horror stories. There'd be fifteen minutes, half an hour with nothing, and then she'd see a cape around the corner or hear a distant echo of your voice or have to dodge a few bullets or something. Shinmy lasted half the day before she cracked and ran off to Reimu in tears."

I hadn't freaked out the inchling that badly back home, had I? I just wanted to take a look at her for science. And also because she was adorable, but mostly for science. "I had nothing to do with any of that!"

Hatate glared at the amanojaku. "How did you know she went to Reimu?"

"Because miss high and mighty came to investigate!" Seija said, scowling. "Didn't find Sumireko, whichever one it was, but she did run into me. I figured we'd scuffle a bit, but Reimu said she had bigger fish to fry and left."

"Great. Just great," I groaned. "Anything else on this one?"

"Nah," Seija said. "Since Reimu didn't find anything, Shinmy's staying at the shrine till all this blows over. The sightings or whatever they were of your imposter quit after they left."

"Fine. Which one's next?"

Aya raised her hand. "I was only able to get partial details on these. After your appearance in the human village, a bunch of the stronger youkai met at the shrine to compare notes and discuss next steps. As the reporter present-"

"Present?" Hatate scoffed. "You hid on the roof and listened in."

Aya glared at her. "As the reporter present, I heard a few of them discuss their own encounters with you. Byakuren mentioned a break-in at Myouren Temple coupled with sightings of you, though you apparently avoided actually fighting anyone there. And Marisa had secondhand information from Sakuya that you had appeared at the Scarlet Devil Mansion. Not much detail to be had, but Marisa said Sakuya was furious."

Seriously? Her too? "The human village was me, I'm pretty sure. You do mean the whole kidnapping of Nitori thing, right?"

"Wait, so the kidnapper was actually you but you got Nitori to work with you anyway?" Aya asked.

"That was Satori's decision! I wasn't consulted until afterwards, and by then it was too late to do anything about it!" I sighed. "But yes, the Sumireko in the vicinity of that was me. However, I had nothing to do with Myouren Temple or the Scarlet Devil Mansion."

[-] To be continued.

While not part of the story proper, I figured laying out the timeline in a bit more detail was a good idea.

We're currently in the afternoon of Day 3 of Greg + Sumireko's trip to Gensokyo. They made the trip over at night, so Day 1 was pretty much just the encounter at the Hakurei Shrine and meeting Satori. Day 2 was everything up until Eientei, and Day 3 is everything from post Eientei until now.

As for where various Sumireko sightings fit on that timeline:

Hakurei Shrine: Real, evening of day 1.
Shining Needle Castle: Fake, Morning of day 2 plus the "haunting" through most of the day. Unclear whether the fake was physically there for the haunting or if they set up a trick and left.
Human Village: Real, Late morning of day 2.
Myouren Temple: Fake, happened before middle of day 2.
Scarlet Devil Mansion: Fake, happened before middle of day 2. (Greg is aware via Patchouli that this happened roughly an hour after dawn, but nobody on this side of the story has the exact time.)

And the remaining locations:

Eientei: To be discussed, real, end of day 2.
Underground: To be discussed, fake.
Hakugyokurou: To be discussed, fake.
Moriya Shrine: To be discussed, fake (with the real one stumbling into it later, around mid day 3).

But yeah. The Sumireko imposter has been busy. Very much so.))
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Cursed Pic.

This feels like an Ace Attorney Testimony... I feel the next post or the one after that is gonna have us lay out the facts to narrow down who the possible culprit is; which is gonna be fun since Mamizou is veiled by history erasure.

On that note: How are they all aware of the human village? It must be that the history erasure is going to happen right in a few moments from now.
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The human village wasn't actually forgotten on Greg's side either. Hidden, yes, but nobody forgot it existed.
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I have thoroughly mixed some things up in my mind. Thank you for pointing that out.
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Sussireko getting into Hakugyokurou feels like a bit of an outlier for me.

All those places listed are accessible from or located in Gensokyo, of course.

But, even with the weakened Barrier of Life and Death, getting there takes time.

Especially if coming from the Underground as the timeline seems to suggest.

Now, Sumireko can teleport, so anyone not privvy to the ruse might assume Sussireko can, too.

But even if she could, that'd be a very powerful teleport to use; long distance teleporting is strong stuff.

Stuff that might be used, say, by a Gap Hag.

Also, yes, you started this, so Sussireko is what it's going to be. (Until I can't take it anymore.)
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You could almost say Sussy Bakareko vented into Hagkugyokurou.

You know, how the vents work as instant travel options similar to gaps? And how only the impostor is able to use them? Like, get it? Right!
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Very nice tea time art, sets the stage well!

Funny enough, you know what I find most fascinating? Not the locations visited, but the locations not visited. The biggest location it seems Sumiposter avoided was the Sunflower Garden. Which means either two things.

1. Yuuka is behind it all. Somehow. (Probably not).
2. Even Sumiposter knows not to mess with Yuuka.

So it makes me wonder if we could possibly aim for a Yuuka alliance. Or alternatively, somehow force the Sumiposter to try and fight Yuuka which would be funny to see.

The Great Mausaleam is also absent here, not sure if there's any particular reason behind it. You would think if you're harassing Myouren you'd drop by there too just to make everyone mad. Maybe a Seija/Seiga team-up actually is possible.
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((Just so it's clear, the "not revealed" entries on the timeline aren't actually sorted into the timeline, it's just the unknown grouping.))

[-] What the fake has been up to.

"Hold on a minute," Nitori said. "What about Satori or Greg? Where have they been seen in the past couple of days?"

"The other other human who was at Nitori's kidnapping?" Aya said. "Pretty much just that."

"And Eientei," Hatate supplied. "He didn't do much in the brawl there, but he was the reason they were there in the first place. Which, come to think of it are the exact same locations Satori was seen at, along with the Hakurei Shrine."

"Interesting," I said. "Those are all legitimate, which means- agh!"

My hand cramped and I recoiled, staggering at the pulse of magic coming down my arm. That got a reaction out of everyone; not one person was left in their chair and Nitori in particular looked like the scare took ten years off her life.

"Damn it. Hang on, I need a better way to hold on to this." The human body really isn't designed to hold on to massive amounts of magic at one time. It can do it, but in much the same way a circuit can deliver a power surge before shorting out.

Gritting my teeth, I leaned forwards and plunged my other hand into the occult ball. Carefully and very delicately, I switched my grip on the magical bomb, pulling the old hand out and shaking it to get some feeling back into the limb. Which was red and looking a bit scorched, but it hurt enough that I was pretty sure I'd avoided any permanent damage. Still, this wouldn't last, and I'd need the dead man switch here for a while yet.

"Mary," I said, causing the doll to fly to my side (and making Hatate duck out of the way). After a moment's examination to check she was in good repair, I lifted her up to the occult ball proper.

"Keep hold of the magic inside," I directed the doll. "If I give the command or get incapacitated, release it. Do not let go under any other circumstances!"

Mary gave me a nod, reached in, and took hold of the magic herself. I held it alongside her for a couple of minutes, just in case, but the doll showed no signs of breaking down, so I let her take full hold of it and sighed from the sheer relief of it.

"Is... that going to be okay?" Nitori asked.

"She's basically a conduit for magic already," I said. "It definitely counts as rough use, but I'd expect her to hold up to the full force for a few days."

It was only then that I realized just how on-edge everyone else here was. Seems like the scare with my occult ball made their life flash before their eyes. Good! Seeing them deal with an actual threat to life and limb gave me a vicious surge of satisfaction. Still, there was more important stuff to sort out, so I motioned for the youkai to sit down.

"You can relax. I promise it's safer than my stay here in Gensokyo."

Funnily enough, they didn't look reassured, though they did sit down again.

"Where was I? Right, like I was saying, it sounds like that this impersonator has only bothered imitating me. Which makes me wonder if they can't imitate Satori or Greg..."

"You are the focal point of the incident," Hatate pointed out. "Who pretends to be someone's servant?"

"They're not my servants, but I take your point." I sighed. "Alright, let's check Eientei first. What have you heard about it?"

"Massive brawl with Reisen, Marisa, you, Satori, Greg, and Sakuya all involved, which Sakuya apparently won with magical support," Hatate summarized. "Last I checked Marisa was still being kept at Eientei, I don't think Eirin's letting her get up just yet."

"Maid's vicious," Seija commented. "Didn't think she had anything against Marisa."

"She didn't, I don't think." I said. "She was after me, Marisa was just in the way. Regardless, that one was actually me. So that leaves the Underground, Hakugyokurou, and here. None of which were me, by the way. What's going on with the Underground?"

"We don't know yet," Hatate said. "Kanako went down to check on the reactor in a hurry about an hour ago, some kind of ward or other got tripped."

That at least explains why the other god of this shrine was missing. "Isn't the entrance to the Underground all the way over by the Hakurei Shrine?"

"That's just one of the entrances," Nitori said. "Kanako probably used the Underground Geyser Center at the base of the mountain. Still a bit of a trip, but easier than going all the way around to Reimu's shrine."

"How long would it take her to get there, full speed?" I demanded.

"Um, maybe an hour or so each way? I don't think she has any movement-style spellcards."

Alright, that meant if Kanako's underground business was quick, I should have an hour before she returned. Subtract time for inaccurate estimates and bad luck, and I probably had at least half an hour to figure something out. Not much, but it should be workable. "Fine. And Hakugyokurou?"

"That one also happened yesterday morning," Aya said. "It's almost the odd one out because it sounds like there wasn't actually much to it? Youmu mentioned in passing that she saw Yuyuko chase you off with a spellcard, but also that you hadn't really put up a fight."

"And did the fake me frame me for anything before that? Arson? Theft? Aggravated Jaywalking?"

"Not that I heard. Youmu said Yuyuko dismissed it as not a big deal and sent her to the Human Village."

"When did you run into Youmu?" Hatate asked.

"She got pulled into the incident resolver meeting yesterday," Aya said, tapping her pencil against her notepad. "Mostly because she was in the area and had actually seen you... well, a version of you. She was being really cagey about why she was at the village, but I caught her passing out books and pamphlets later."

"About what?"

"Religion, believe it or not. A real one, even." Aya said. "I flipped through one of her pamphlets, but didn't see anything unusual. Might make a good human interest story if it catches on in the village."

"It's hard to picture Youmu doing something like that," Hatate mentioned, taking a sip of the tea and immediately grimacing and setting the cup down. "There's plenty of youkai it would fit, but Youmu? Evangelizing?"

"Well, more passing stuff out than actually talking." Aya said. "But yeah, she was as uncomfortable as I've ever seen her. It's obvious Yuyuko's behind it, but I've got no idea why she cares."

"Probably another cynical attempt to manipulate an urban legend," I said, sighing. "I wouldn't be surprised if my doppelganger gave her the idea. Whatever, so long as she doesn't try to kill me for it, I don't care."

I took a second to check on Mary - yep, still holding up fine - and turned back to the tengu. "Alright. Now for the one that almost got me killed. What did my fake do to Sanae?"

Aya and Hatate glanced at each other, and after a brief stare-off, the latter looked away and sighed. "She came to the shrine asking for help and shelter, offering to do whatever Kanako wanted with the urban legend incident. Pretty much the moment she was left alone with Sanae, she took a knife, stabbed her in the back, then ran for it."

I stared at the tengu, but nothing more was forthcoming. "Seriously? That's it? Was there some youkai strength or speed or at least expert skill? Or was the knife somehow special?"

"It was a kitchen knife." Hatate said bluntly. "Used to chop vegetables."

"And that worked?!"

"Sanae's still mostly human! How well would you take a knife in the chest?"

"And when did this absolute fiasco happen?" I demanded.

"A couple hours ago."

I swore. "Unbelievable. So the fake gets all the way up to the shrine undetected, makes pretty much the same offer I would have made, immediately attempts murder in the most idiotically mundane way possible, and then proceeds to escape from two gods?!"

"One god, technically." Hatate offered. "Suwako wasn't there at the time, she'd gone to check on the situation in the human village."

"And just to top it all off," I ranted, ignoring her, "the entire plot is somehow perfectly timed so that I encounter the literally murderous god of the mountain right after their daughter figure got stabbed by 'me'. I didn't even know I'd be coming here before this morning! Is Gensokyo only competent when it would screw me over? Is that it?"

I glared at my captive audience, but Seija was the only one who met my gaze. "Considering you're still here, they're apparently not good at that either!" she said cheerfully.

I turned on her. "And you! Just why are you here? They all at least live here, but you showed up awfully soon after my fight with Suwako."

Seija slurped at her tea, paused, and poured her cup into Nitori's empty one. "The Shining Needle Castle's pretty close by. I was just hanging out bored when the tengu started swarming like someone kicked a hornet's nest. I figured I'd check the shrine first anyway since the Moriya Shrine's usually behind that sort of thing, and the giant barrier just confirmed it. Bit of a lucky break, but sounds to me like you sure needed it!"

"Fine." I settled down a little, closing my eyes as I rubbed the bridge of my nose. "But just to be absolutely certain, was there any other place or time in which I showed up here that people somehow forgot to mention?"

I was half expecting to hear about how I'd kidnapped the moon while kicking puppies into a burning orphanage, but there was a chorus of no's, so I figured I had the scope of the damage at least. The problem was, it was way too much damage. Where did I even go when the well was poisoned to this degree?!

"Aya. You run a newspaper, right?"

"Of course! Mine's the best-"

"I do too!" Hatate cried out.

I rolled my eyes. "Even better. Because the next thing I want is wall to wall coverage of the fact that some absolute psychopath is going around, wearing my face and framing me for crimes!"

"You don't need to worry about that," Aya said, grinning. "This is definitely front page material. May I take a few pictures for the article?"

[-] Yeah, sure. It's a small thing, and if there's one thing you can trust Aya to do, it's sensationalize the article.
[-] No. The tengu cameras have some gimmick to them, and it's stupid to risk it.
[-] With certain conditions. (Suwako in the shot? Mary not in the shot? Feel free to specify.)
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For the record, the sketch is pretty cool. (The facial expressions in particular fit really well.) If you ever decide to finish it, I'd love to see the complete version.

This isn't likely to ever be fully explained in story, so I'll actually comment on this one. Minor spoilers though; nothing that can't be deduced from what's been shown, but it is relevant information regarding how the fake planned things.

It's already pretty clear that the fake Sumireko wanted to make appearances in front of as many important groups of youkai as possible. However, there's two possible reasons for the Sumi imposter NOT to show up in front of a given youkai.

1. The person you'd be ticking off can and will gut you like a fish for your shenanigans. Yuuka absolutely fits in this category, possibly better than anyone else in Gensokyo. This is also a plausible reason as to why the Hakugyokurou visit was minor compared to all the other ones. Yuyuko is significantly better tempered than Yuuka is, but you don't make an enemy of someone with the ability to manipulate death. Especially in an incident where actual death is on the table!

2. The person you're trying to fool would know near-instantly that you're not the real Sumireko. Satori's mind-reading is the obvious candidate for this one, but Miko's desire sensing gets an honorable mention here, because she's actually met the real Sumireko. If another Sumireko showed up with a completely different slate of desires, she'd know on the spot something was up. On that note, the fact that a Sumireko-imposter visited the Underground anyway indicates that they probably knew Satori is currently absent...
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[X] With certain conditions. I want to see what the final article looks like before its sent out.

Also, while Mamizou being Sussireko is obvious, I think there's some stock in Nue being involved somehow, what with this line from Patchouli:

>During the resulting duel, she used three spellcards, all themed around futuristic technology or the human conception of aliens

Alongside the fact that she's just associated with Mamizou in general. Though, this may just be coincidence or something.
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[x] With certain conditions. (Selfie with Peace Sign and other Sumi-isms/include Nitori, Hatate and Aya)

Ambivalent on including Seija and an unconscious Suwako.
At this point in time Aya shouldn't have yet been exposed to this type of photography yet, it being the first time meeting Sumireko. Call it cultural exchange.
It should also function as a clue for Greg that the picture is of the real Sumireko, should he ever stumble on it.
While Mamizou does visit the outside world, she probably won't be aware of the subtleties of high school girl selfie-taking.
My gut tells me to keep Mary out of the picture, don't know why.
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[X] With certain conditions. I want to see what the final article looks like before its sent out.

Free media was a mistake.
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First off:

[x] With certain conditions. (Selfie with Peace Sign and other Sumi-isms/include Nitori, Hatate and Aya)


Oh shoot, I was just reading back on the previous updates: Sumireko doesn't remember Mamizou. Whatever reason Greg isn't being affected by Keine's memory eating, it only applied to him! that and Yukari considering she directed Sumi's attention to it. so that brings me back to a question I asked in an earlier post.

What the hell is Greg

And Greg doesn’t have the info that Sumi now has regarding what the doppelganger has been doing, which is why Mamizou being the potential culprit made sense for him… but with the info we know now, it no longer does, Mamizou has been working with Reimu here from the get go (and has been shortly before this as she worked with Reimu ending the Forbidden Schrollery incident… which thanks to Reimu Mamizou ended up with that infamous spellcard…) and risking sending the entire spellcard system crashing down doesn’t sound like a part of the plan. And also going after Sukuna doesn’t sound too much like it was something that Reimu was aware of since she did come to check it out… though that might have been for appearances?

And what is going on with Yukari in this case? Causing event that would threaten the spellcard systems don’t make sense… and also from her confrontation with Greg, specifically that small aside just before Sakuya jumped in… it seems that her final goal requires Greg, and specifically Greg going back to the person that Maribel had confronted those years ago. And it might actually not be an Urban Legend…

Is this actually Yukari we’ve been seeing? (or even the same Yukari between our two perspectives?) Is what happened to Sumi in Violet Detector happening to Yukari… or did her confrontation with Greg not go as cleanly and one sidedly as he thought it did? Did he actually do something to her trying to strike back that he doesn’t realize? And also was the Maribel that confronted him actually Yukari?

His magic is distinctly different from Sumireiko… is that because magic is personalized to the person? Or is it because he is something different? And if so, what?
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>Whatever reason Greg isn't being affected by Keine's memory eating, it only applied to him! that and Yukari considering she directed Sumi's attention to it.

Actually, not necessarily. Yukari could be under the effect of the history erasure as much as anyone else. Notice how Yukari danced around the subject of Mamizou's name? At the time it of course looked like her simply needling Sumireko on it.
As a consequence, this means Greg is an even special-er boy than anticipated.
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Well, that exonerates us from at least one thing: stabbing Sanae.
We were with either Hina or Nitori during that time.
The little time that we weren't we were checking out the Kappa hideout or outside of it with Aya.
I suppose another witness would be Piper.
Anyway, that means we have testimony.
Getting statements, or at least corroboration that we weren't involved, will go a long way.
Sure, Nitori's will sound like it's made under duress now, but at least Hina's should be credible.

I like the Sumi-ism photo.
She (and the others, probably) might not be in the mood for a happy selfie, but she can do it for the reasons already listed.
Making it recognisable to Greg would be reason enough, alone.
As for who's in the photo; just include everyone.
If we want to have an article/transcript that shows everyone present, have a photo that has everyone present.
The only thing I wouldn't include is Mary.
Various reasons, mainly keeping her on the down-low, but if asked we have a pretty good excuse to exclude her as she's currently holding a bomb.
Gonna be a bit crowded and making a selfie with an old camera sounds like a bit of a pain, but what's a bit of pain for a good Instengugram pic.

[X] With certain conditions.
-[X] Selfie with Peace Sign and other Sumi-isms/include everyone except Mary.
--[X] Witness statements/testimony on why you couldn't have stabbed Sanae. Nitori, Hina, maybe Piper.

I don't have time to consider timeline implications right now, so I'll be back to do that later.
Just needed to get the basics out.
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>>204988 here, sorry for the double post.

I realised like a dunce that the conditions were for the picture itself.

As I clicked reply.

Well, making it a condition for giving her a picture at all seems reasonable.

Also, Sumireko is a telekinetic psychic, making a selfie should be easy. Even when drained.

I sure feel silly now.
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He's a Lunarian and doesn't know it yet.
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Actually, I have a better theory beyond that. Greg is a Tsuchinoko. Greg is kinda small and likable, it fits the urban legend theme, he's evasive like tsuchinokos, and tsuchinokos have a bug pun in Japanese which fits Greg's bug motiff.
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This fits so well. I wonder if it'll turn out to be the Urban Legend Koishi finds for Greg.
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[X] With certain conditions. You're taking a selfie with a big ol' peace sign, and everyone except Mary and the two who would probably make you look worse.
- [X] "I want to see what the final article looks like before it's sent out."
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>"And when did this absolute fiasco happen?" I demanded.

>"A couple hours ago."

Tea party at bomb point- 5ish minutes so far
Setting up tea-party at bomb point- 5 minutes
Fighting Suwako- about 10 minutes
Tea party with Yukari- 5 minutes ish
Trudging up the mountain alone- maybe 35 minutes?
Cat Koishi Shenanigans- 5 minutes or so
(Momiji and Hatate try to stop us. They are forceful because Sanae was already stabbed.)
Fiddling with Mary in a box- 25 minutes ish
Nitori packing us into a box- 10 minutes?
buying map/Piper's stalker story-15 minutes or so?
Nitori's fancy dress crates- 15 minutes ish
Sumeriko looks for Nitori- 10 minutes?
Underwater escape from Aya- 15 minutes?
(Aya does not try to apprehend evil Sumireko. Sanae has not yet been stabbed.)

By my math, Sanae was stabbed somewhere around when we were talking to Piper. Which means we have an easy way to prove our innocence. Piper is a merchant, so she probably gave us a receipt when we bought a map from her. Receipts usually have the time and date written on them, so if the time is close enough to Sanae's stabbing it proves we could not have done it. Even teleportation doesn't allow us to be in two places at once.

We should also try to figure out what evil Sumireko told Aya after we teleported into the river to escape Aya.
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Those two will be in the article anyway, so I think leaving them out makes us look worse.
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I mean, maybe, but there's a difference between "The goddess was struck by lightning in the battle and KO'd" and literally posing alongside the fried goddess with a big smile on your face.
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Doesn't that sound exactly like what Sumi'd do, though.
Even if only just to spite Suwako.
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Altering my vote to
[x] Sumi Selfie
-[x] Include everyone
-[x] Check before publishing

I was thinking of maybe adding a point that specifies trying to send a message via hand gestures or something like that, but decided against it.
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(Everyone minus Mary to be precise)
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[x] Sumi Selfie
-[x] Include everyone
-[x] Check before publishing
-[x] Add to cringe compilation
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How would we enforce what she writes, anyway?
It's not like we can stick with her until the article goes to print, we need to get off this youkai-infested rock.
Unless it means something along the lines of looking at her notes before we part here.
That'd still not guarantee anything, though.
Not necessarily against the notion of the write-in, mind; just wonder what the plan for it would be.
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>>204985 here, changing my vote to

[x] Sumi Selfie
-[x] Include everyone (except Mary)
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[-] Take the selfie, then continue the demands.

"Sure. Let me see your camera, and I'll take the pictures for you."

Aya got something of a hunted look, and I remembered the fate of the other tengu's phone. I sighed. "You'll get it back afterwards, don't worry."

She still hesitated, but her greed for the picture was stronger than her worry over the equipment, and the reporter eventually handed it over. I promptly spun around, lifting the camera in classic selfie style as I maneuvered all of them (except Mary and the occult ball) into the background. And after a bit of thought, I grabbed the unconscious Suwako and lifted her up to take the position of honor next to me in the photos.

"Alright everyone, smile."

I've got no idea if they did or not, but I took a couple pictures anyway, then lifted it out a bit further with telekinesis, and took a couple more. A quick review of said photos showed Seija grabbing Hatate in an... aggressively friendly manner and the tengu looking completely unnerved, while Aya and Nitori both looked nervous. Suwako herself was clearly unconscious with her head lolling back like that, and looked half dead, which was a nice contrast to my grin.

"And, done!" I declared, tossing the camera back to Aya, and dropping Suwako like a bad habit.

She snatched it out of the air and stared at the photos I'd taken. "Well, that's a statement." she muttered. "I'm not sure if I dare print these."

"Really? I know you do less business with the truth than I do, but I never thought I'd see you run from news." Seija taunted.

Aya glared at her. "I will not let you bait me. You know perfectly well the kind of hornet's nest that would kick up."

"More than the news Suwako tried to murder an innocent girl and then lost?" Seija asked innocently.

Aya hestiated at that, and Nitori sighed, explaining, "Aya might get away with writing a fast article before the shrine has a chance to go into damage control mode. It depends on how hard she spins it and how good she proves at asking for forgiveness. I'd be shocked if the photos made it in, though. Too obviously damaging."

"Yeah, not a chance," Hatate agreed. "The boss is going to want those for leverage, to get some concessions out of Kanako in exchange for not leaking them."

It seemed politics was the same everywhere. It made me wish I'd get a chance to proofread Aya's article and make sure the actual truth got published. Problem was, there was no meaningful way to enforce that. The only way for it to be even remotely possible would be to stick around as she wrote it, and I didn't have time for that.

"Figure it out on your own time," I said. "Because there's two more demands."

I had their attention with that, and I continued. "As you might recall, during the disaster that was Eientei, Sakuya kidnapped my friend. And Satori. I want him back. And using the eminently reasonable assumption that Sakuya will be just as unreasonable as every other youkai I've encountered, that means a rescue operation."

The tengu both froze at that, and after a minute, Nitori volunteered a hesitant, "You know, given that the mansion encountered the fake Sumireko, you might be able to explain things to them? Talk it out?"

I bit back a far more acidic response and settled for "If that worked I wouldn't have to fight Suwako. Besides, Sakuya's already wasted one innocent bystander!"

"Marisa's never been an innocent bystander in her life." Aya muttered.

"That's beside the point! The point is, Marisa was someone who had nothing to do with whatever the Sakuya's pissed about, and the psycho-maid put her in the hospital! Do you really think I'll fare better? Especially when Gensokyo will let her get away with it?!"

The silence was telling. The only sound was the rain beating against the shrine roof. And that silence stretched out, second by second, with the youkai clearly at a loss for words. I wasn't going to break it for them.

And then the amanojaku started laughing. "You've got a point, but what did you think was going to happen? They're two reporters and a tinkerer. And as for the groups they're representing? The tengu haven't cared about what goes on outside of their mountain for centuries. And the kappa just sell crap to idiots. The only group on this mountain that ever do anything of importance is the Moriya Shrine itself, and that bridge is well and truly burned."

"Is that how it is?" I asked, staring at the two tengu.

Aya couldn't meet my gaze. "I don't have the authority to order other tengu," she said softly. "Neither of us do."

"I see. Is there anything you can do?"

"If you're willing to meet with Megumu-" Hatate started.

"No. Running into the lion's den is how I got in this mess in the first place." And I wasn't likely to survive another encounter.

"What do you think your 'rescue' would be?" Hatate replied. "You've fought Suwako, well, the Scarlet Devil Mansion has three different people around the same level of power!"

"Which is why I'm looking for allies!" I snapped. "I didn't come up here for my health! And none of you will-"

"I'll go!" Seija said cheerfully.

I stopped abruptly, staring at her.

"I told you already, didn't I? I'm your number one fan here." I kept staring, and Seija rolled her eyes. "Look, Gensokyo hates my guts already, and the feeling's mutual. Your urban legends are shaking up the status quo like nothing else, and trust me, it deserves to be blown to hell. I'm not going to follow you on some suicide run, but if you can come up with a plan? I'm in."

"You're not even going to try to negotiate something?"

Seija considered that for a minute. "How about we just say you'll owe me one?"

"Within reason..." I said carefully, "but yes."

"Sumireko, this is a bad idea," Nitori said. "I can't see an assault on the Scarlet Devil Mansion ending well. Not for you, not for them, and not for Greg."

I gave her my full attention. "Then give me an alternative," I said softly.

Nitori hesitated, fiddled with her backpack, and then slammed her fist into her palm. "A heist. You can teleport, I've got my optical camo gear, we've got a far better chance of sneaking your friend out than we do of breaking him out."

"Do you really think you'll be able to dodge the paranoid time-stopping maid?"

"Do you think you'll be able to beat her?" Nitori shot back. "Sakuya already kicked your ass once, and that was when Shinmy was backing you up!"

[-] Write-in
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>"The boss is going to want those for leverage, to get some concessions out of Kanako in exchange for not leaking them."

Ha. Screw you, Moriyas.
To be fair, Sanae didn't deserve to get stabbed; but Suwako turning (perhaps understandably, from a parental viewpoint) into a murderous lunatic isn't just gonna get forgotten by Sumireko.

I can't believe Nitori is genuinely being cooperative.
She could've just let Sumireko go off on a suicide run after what she's done to Nitori, but she didn't.
She's presenting a reasonable, actionable plan; even if it isn't really Sumireko's style.
She's too nice for her own good.
It could be a double-cross, of course, but it doesn't feel that way.
I don't think Hina would appreciate her double-crossing the person she asked Nitori to help, as well, even with how she's been treated.
She's almost reminding me of Greg, a little.

Seija's a wild card, but at least as long as we cause mayhem she should be cooperative.

I say we take the plan, unless somebody has a better idea.
Also, we really should apologise to Nitori, for how little that's worth.
She's been through a lot of shit, sure, but Sumireko almost doesn't deserve the somewhat-grudgingly-friend Nitori's been to her.

[X] A heist it is. Nitori's plan is a lot better than getting turned into a pincushion by a cheap Dio expy.
-[X] Apologise to Nitori for the all the shit you've put her through. It might not be worth much, but at least somebody has tried to help you in this godforsaken hellhole.

Would Sumireko make a Jojo reference?
Maybe. Maybe.

Anyway, now to see what their suggestion is for getting the hell out of Gensokyo.
If only we had friend who owed a favour from Kanako and we weren't the Moriya Shrine's public enemy number, right? Oh, wait.
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So Aya is gonna chicken out of publishing an article with the photo? Something which will drastically reduce the believably of the article? And then just nope out after this? Nah, let's put the pressure on her.
>[X] Make an open remark about kappas being the only youkai on the mountain with some integrity left to them
Tengu are prideful, let's try to bait Aya and Hatate (mainly Aya since Hatate probably wouldn't fall for it) into taking the bait. I debated whether this was more closer to something Greg would do, but I could see Sumireko doing this too. The main difference Greg would be intentionally doing this to get a rise out of Aya to manipulate, whereas Sumireko is just honestly expressing her frustration.

Anyways, we got Seija, we got Nitori and her backpack, and, at least for as long as we're here, we've got a knocked out frog goddess and whatever we can "borrow" from the Moriya Shrine.

We could probably take Suwako's hat too.

Here's a question we should probably ask too: Is it worth it busting Greg out now? Obviously, we want Greg NOW, but the doppelganger Sumireko might have planned to separate the two. If that's the case, then unless a path to escape is already secured so Sumi and Greg can rush out ASAP, we're at risk of just falling into the same trap of getting separated and stolen. Maybe the first plan of action should be to get a visual confirmation on what exactly Greg's state is. Where is he being kept? Is he, perish the possibility of the opposite, still alive? If we can't confirm with accuracy Greg's specific whereabouts, a rescue operation would involve lots of exploring and wandering enemy terrain.

Unfortunately, all of these things take time, which is something Sumireko doesn't have.


What if we run a fake newspaper article about Sumireko? At our current rate, no one will believe that Sumireko is good and there's an evil one doing all the bad stuff. But what if we make everyone think Sumireko is dead? Suwako got knocked out in the fight, but the Sumireko is dead as a doornail.

I'm spitballing a lot of ideas, because to make a plan we need info, we need info but we don't have the time for it.
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>[X] Make an open remark about kappas being the only youkai on the mountain with some integrity left to them
>Tengu are prideful, let's try to bait Aya and Hatate (mainly Aya since Hatate probably wouldn't fall for it) into taking the bait.
I will actually vote directly against this right now. Aya and Hatate are already in a situation where their tengu pride is wounded just by the virtue of having to tolerate a bomb threat. Let's NOT push the issue. Let's SURVIVE the conversation.

That said though, screw the heist idea. And even assault idea at that. To pull off either, we need a 100% way to evade Sakuya and while Seija can distract her for like 2-5 minutes, up next come some life or death decisions. So I propose this - we have two reporters right here, why not just use them properly?

[x] Put the assault or a heist off. Dealing with Sakuya is too complicated. Instead, there is a better plan.
-[x] Have Aya and Hatate publish the truth of Sumireko's adventures. And alongside it, a claim - anyone who collects all Occult Balls (by force) first and meets us will have their wish granted.

The aim here is twofold - the first one is that all sorts of people will go attack SDM just to get Sakuya's balls. We can just ditch ours, that's not a problem, but WE don't have to attack the SDM because someone ELSE will. The second one is much more vicious in that by spreading the truth about things, Satori's faction will go all out to rescue her from SDM. Koishi included.

As for a wish, Canon says you get teleported into outside world if you get them all, and you can get a LOT of the outside world. Worst case, we simply pull an evil genie and misinterpret hard, but if the wish is simple enough and possible, we can just do it.

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Alright, well, that's a realistic outcome to the selfie including everyone, and a disappointing but also somewhat expected outcome to the call for aid. Was sort of hoping to try and leverage their individual speed for a smash-and-grab extraction, but there's no point in trying to push them.

... unrelated thought, do we remember if Sanae is here? Even if she's currently down for the count, it would probably be nice to leave a "sorry someone pretended to be me and stabbed you. also sorry that I electrocuted your god" note.

My analysis of what Nitori and Seija would believe the threats would be:
- Meiling: Hate to job her, but I think if we got some time to recover the three of us wouldn't be too threatened by her.
- Patchy (+Koakuma): Smart, good magic, but same as Meiling I think a 3.25 vs 1.75 with all three willing to play dirty isn't too much of a threat either. Of course, she's probably not going to be easy to reach in the first place.
- Sakuya: No. Sorry, but unless someone has a knife magnet I don't think anyone beats her, they survive her. Maybe there's ways to get around it but I'm not looking for a repeat performance, here.
- Remi: Yeah, she's not actually relevant, but I doubt Seija could sell us on the idea of beating her, especially after dealing with the previous attackers.
- Flan: Don't even need to say it.

So, that's the problems with the mansion if we attack it head on or get caught sneaking. I think the best odds would be somehow checking it out from afar and trying to teleport in and out with them very fast.
(Which would helpfully lead into finding them absent, of course, but that's beyond the scope of our info.)

Since I doubt there's many people who weren't trifled with that would also be willing to help, that seems like the best bet.

Holding out on my vote for the moment so that I don't have to addendum it for other contributions later, but just wanted to put my take on it out there.
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Every good heist starts off with analyzing the infiltration route and assembling the right crew for the job. Now lets do this thing.

First obstacle we need to get past is the front gate. Its guarded by Meiling, a martial arts expert. If she stops us, this mission is over before it even begins, so we need to distract her. This is where Aya and Hatate come in. The news hounds waltz up to the front gate and start pestering Meiling for an interview and demanding to be let in to interview the rest of the mansion, distracting her for as long as possible. While the gate guard is busy trying to shoo the paparazzi away, Sumireko teleports the rest of the crew onto the mansion grounds. Nitori uses her optical camouflage to render us all invisible.

The next major obstacle we need to face is Sakuya, the time stopping maid of the mansion. If she catches us, she'll fill us full of knives before we can blink. This is where Seija comes in. Seija makes a commotion and starts breaking things, which is sure to draw the maid in. Sakuya doesn't know Seija is affiliated with us, so she won't try to look for our invisible selves in time stop. While Seija distracts the maid, Sumireko teleports our secret weapon onto Sakuya's arm.

What's our secret weapon? We have a free occult ball to make something that will put down Sakuya. With the help of Seija's reversing powers, we use the occult ball to enchant a shackle that reverses the powers of whoever wears it. When the shackle locks to her wrist, Sakuya will instinctively attempt to stop time. However, instead of stopping time for everything but herself, the shackle will reverse her magic to stop time only for her instead. With Sakuya frozen in time, we lock her up in an out of the way area she won't be found in and continue our infiltraion.

The next thing we need to get past is Patchouli the magician and her assistant Koakuma. Patchouli is a far more powerful magician than we are, but she has one glaring weakness. Severe asthma. We take her out by bringing a bag of flour we stole from the Moriya shrine, and teleporting it above the magicians head. With her lungs full of powder, Patchy will be to cast spells through her coughing fit, rendering her effectively neutralized. Meanwhile, Koa will be too busy trying to keep her master from dying to stop us, and to sweeten the deal we can teleport her inhaler out of her hands forcing Koa to waste all of her time stabilizing Patchy.

The last obstacles are the masters of the mansion, the Scarlet Sisters. Extremely powerful vampires who have the power to destroy anything and manipulate fate. But no matter how powerful they are, they are still vampires with all the weaknesses of vampires, and we have a kappa on our team and a lake nearby. Vampires can not cross moving water, so the ultimate goal is to have Nitori trap the vampires in the middle of a whirlpool in the lake. But first we need to draw the sisters to the lake, and that's where Mary comes in. Flandre can destroy anything, but she can not destroy something that isn't actually there, and illusions are things that are not actually there. If we run into Flandre, Mary uses a modified version of her Koishi illusion to cast an image of Koishi away from her own optically camouflaged body, and pesters Flandre into going near the lake.

That just leaves Remilia and her fate controlling abilities. This whole operation is doomed from the start unless we stop her from railroading us. And that's where the final member of our crew comes in. Hina Kagayima, Goddess of Misfortune. Nothing forces fate to change quite like a giant pile of misfortune dumped all over your plans. Hina doesn't even need to be here, she just has to pump misfortune at Remilia for all of the vampire's fate manipulating plans to go up in smoke. With Nitori keeping both vampires trapped behind flowing water, we grab Greg and Satori and make a break for it.

[x] Prepare for the heist of a lifetime.
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Wait, idea, idea

What if we do a loud and public "Imposter Sumireko, I'm calling you out." and challenge her to a one-on-one duel at high noon, just like the Westerns? We got Aya with us.
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I feel like I should expand on this post. Having a heist isn't viable in the short run or the long run because of the following problems.

>Doppelganger isn't tied up anywhere
Fake Sumi's order of the day is to ruin our day. It's quite literally free for her to go and make some more enemies for us at this point.
>Aya/Hatate/Nitori/Seija crew aren't loyal to us
Save for Seija, we're just holding them hostage right now. The first two were hunting us down not that long ago, the third we had to kidnap. And the last one is just sticking around for her own reasons. If we're in trouble, they won't risk themselves to save us, while Greg or Satori would.
>Dealing with SDM residents is far, FAR too troublesome
As far as Sumi knows, Patchy already proved herself to be a master of utility magic with the paper stunt. Sakuya has timestop. Flandre can just instakill us. The stealth mission is gambling to the extreme because the assumption is that we will AVOID fighting those people.

Therefore, I'll add some reasoning for publishing the collect all dragon balls manifeschallenge in your local newspaper.

>ties up the conspirators by binding their efforts
By ensuring the public's attention on Sumi's shenanigans, the question of whether Sumi is telling the truth ceases to matter entirely. If you offer any wish at all in return for all the Occult Balls, the ones who will start fighting for them will likely not care if she's fake. However, if the people who are collecting the Dragon Balls really want to turn them in, existence of Fake Sumi herself is a complete nuisance.
>sidesteps the lack of force problem entirely
We cannot beat the SDM right now in a fair fight. It's just how it is. However, SDM pissed off Eientei and we watched it happen. So let's trick the others into fighting it out.
>fighting makes use of people's Urban Legends, which would make fighting popular
Now I'll admit that this reasoning is ripping off canon quite a bit, but putting people's UL's to use would make this plan work a bit better.
>best of all, makes a huge, giant distraction
We can't get to rescuing Greg right now, but after this giant, HUGE mess where people are gonna start fighting it out, SDM could get in enough of a bind where they are actually distracted. And AFTER they are distracted? Better odds of a heist. Or better odds of beating down the doppelganger. Or getting other people on our side. Or, I dunno, SOMETHING.

In summary, DON'T do the risky thing right now which is rushing to Greg. USE reporters to spread newspaper to distract everyone, THEN do the risky thing.
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>"Do you think you'll be able to beat her?" Nitori shot back. "Sakuya already kicked your ass once, and that was when Shinmy was backing you up!"
Also, I don't remember any Shinmy backup. We had Greg, Satori as backup and maybe Alice. What did she mean by this?
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Yeah, it's weird, particularly because earlier in this conversation we directly discussed Shinmy's whereabouts that day – she was scared by the imposter in her castle and then ran off to the Hakurei Shrine – and that doesn't take her anywhere near Eientei. The only other thing I can think of is that Nitori may be referring to the Miracle Mallet's power, but unless I've forgotten something we haven't encountered that either.
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Hm, guess I wasn't clear on that. Nitori was talking to Seija and referring to the events DDC.
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[x] Go to Myouren Temple, try to smooth things over with the Buddhists. Beg for help.

The Sumireko sighting there was among the least egregious. Given that and their faith they should be amenable to Sumireko's plight.
And there's a chance for Sumi and Greg to stumble onto each other.
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i have an idea but i don't know if they can pull it off, the creation of a oxygen deprived room in wich to trap Sakuya. In which Sumireko only needs to prevent Sakuya from leaving, making her soffocate in her time stop.

I think we have the tools for that, we have a building, Seija might stop her from leaving and stop new oxygen from flowing in, we have Aya to announce Sumireko's precense in the shrine, we have Nitori that could hide Seija (with her optical camouflage) and/or reiforce the walls(prevent air flow) and help Sumireko to keep breating we Sakuya can't Hatate can watch over the hostage and recive news of the building bye the doll with Aya that would be waiting to pull people out.

I dont know if Sumireko has a spell to make oxygen for herself to breath, and my read in Seija's power might be wrong can she create a zone that repels oxygen?

What do you guys think, about making a trap using Sumireko as bait? I dont see a reason to not expect to Sakuya to bite, and since she has time stop she would be there in an instant, most likely be the first to arrive given the news of Sumireko's location, we could also use the occult ball recall system since she has five balls she would be able to fellow them into the trap, without needing Aya to publish the news.
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Risking everything like that sounds really dumb. Not to mention, you lean too much on the assumption that this is how everybody's powers work.
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>>205013 here.
I've been looking at these proposals, and I do seriously still think we can get away with a literal "teleport in, teleport out" strategy instead of a lot of setup. Think of this way: Mary is good at not being seen. Send Mary in to do recon and find Greg and Satori. Teleport in after learning where they are, teleport them out, and bolt for it.

Obviously it fails because the VIPs aren't in the building, but it completely dodges all the threats. Give Mary camo tech if you want, but she's already small and stealthy with the ability to transit information. With some time to recover magical power, some teleporting shouldn't be terrible. Complete threat mitigation for what we'd be expecting.

[X] Alright, the best - and only, really - way to deal with the kind of threat they're claiming this entire mansion is wielding is to not interact with any of them at all. Good thing you've got the ability to teleport and the plush equivalent of a spy drone. You can sneak to the outskirts of their mansion, and send in Mary to scout out the place. With that info, you'll be able to extract your allies at minimum risk.
- [X] See if you can convince one of the tengu to help you as a distraction, at least. It's not a huge loss if they're still reluctant even as just bait, but they would seem less threatening than Seija and be a more effective distraction than Nitori.
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>>205010 here.

Lots of discussion today.
Some of it interesting, some of it a bit too outlandish for my tastes.
Bit too much to go through it all, so forgive me for not being comprehensive.

This has already been mentioned, but further antagonising our hostages isn't gonna do much good.
I'd rather try to part on terms that aren't completely awful. As opposed to slightly/kinda/rather awful.
That way the articles that get printed might end up being at least somewhat conducive to clearing our name, rather than having a smear piece written about us.

I like the idea of waiting till the article comes out, so that shit starts solving itself; but I find a few problems with it, too.

First of all, I do not like publishing the wish thing.
It's putting too much of a target on our back, moreso than there already is; Sussireko does that enough already, let's not make us even more wanted.

As for the part about waiting for the article:
The problem is time.
Waiting for an article to get written, printed and disseminated will take at least a day.
Even if Aya somehow manages to speed print a special today, getting the news too spread might take too long.
Still, if we decide we can wait the night, there's definite bonuses to be had; even if we decide to heist (which I voted for, myself).

There's actually a possible effect here that hasn't been mentioned yet, and it sort of mirrors what you wanted to happen using the wish claim.
Greg & Sumireko are still top of the wanted list, doppelgänger or not, so if the news gets out that Greg is held at the SDM; the incident resolvers will naturally converge there on their own.
There's no need to bait a hook with some pseudo-lie about a wish being granted.
Of course, Marisa is currently out of commission, but Reimu is still in hot pursuit; and nobody stops Reimu.
She would be a useful distraction for any shenanigans we want to pull at the mansion, heist or not.

Whoa, there, Ocean's 16.5.
Overly complex plans like this have too many moving parts that could fail; furthermore, this would also require people actually helping us.
You know, the people we're currently holding hostage ourselves.
Nitori and maybe Seija aside, I doubt we'll get any cooperation there.

This is honestly a pretty decent idea.

It delays us getting to Greg, but it is true that it was the location of one of the lesser crimes; so we might be able to get a foot in the door without it getting shot off.
I don't know how much they would actually help in the end, but if there's any faction that might be at least cooperative; it'd be the buddhists.

The main reason against for me is that I personally think that Sumireko wouldn't really want to delay rescuing Greg to only maybe get some extra help.

There's at least one other con, but that's meta knowledge and shouldn't actually be considered for the decision-making process.
I'm pretty sure there currently is no Myouren temple.
Unless I'm mistaken; the temple is adjacent/attached to the human village, the one that currently doesn't exist.
If it was still be there Meiling would've probably mentioned it.
Again, this is meta knowledge and should not actually be consulted.

On that note:

>And there's a chance for Sumi and Greg to stumble onto each other.

I also don't like choosing the temple for this reason, because that'd actually be metagaming.

This is more or less what I understood Nitori's plan to be, and why I agreed without too much fuss.
I still don't think the crows will ever help; it's honestly crazy that Nitori will, let alone suggest the plan herself in the first place.
I don't know why we're suddenly making Nitori a distraction for a bunch of murderous lunatics, though.
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Alright, time for comprehensive refutation. All of this is just my opinion, though.

>I like the idea of waiting till the article comes out, so that shit starts solving itself; but I find a few problems with it, too.

>First of all, I do not like publishing the wish thing.
>It's putting too much of a target on our back, moreso than there already is; Sussireko does that enough already, let's not make us even more wanted.
I believe it's been mentioned earlier in the story by Sumireko herself. We already HAVE a target on our back, there is no helping it. It's not like a gauge, but like an on-off switch. You work with what you have and we're already wanted.

>As for the part about waiting for the article:
>The problem is time.
>Waiting for an article to get written, printed and disseminated will take at least a day.
>Even if Aya somehow manages to speed print a special today, getting the news too spread might take too long.
>Still, if we decide we can wait the night, there's definite bonuses to be had; even if we decide to heist (which I voted for, myself).
Even if it's too long, it must be done. For risking your life in this manner, there is only one shot and no takebacks. Even Sumi should understand that.

>There's actually a possible effect here that hasn't been mentioned yet, and it sort of mirrors what you wanted to happen using the wish claim.
>Greg & Sumireko are still top of the wanted list, doppelgänger or not, so if the news gets out that Greg is held at the SDM; the incident resolvers will naturally converge there on their own.
>There's no need to bait a hook with some pseudo-lie about a wish being granted.
This is completely wrong. There is a definite need to bait a book there. That is because the power levels of the locals in Gensokyo trump Sumireko and Greg by an extreme amount. While Greg's path is one of persuasion, Sumireko has to get by on combat prowess. But there is something completely wrong with that. That something is that she, under normal circumstances, can't compare to locals. It was demonstrated handily in the earlier fights as well as earlier in the updates. Even the bomb threat was the last (LAST last) ditch effort stratagem. She can NOT do this forever.

A given solution to the problem is using Urban Legends themselves as a deterrent. By giving powerful residents a promise of a wish, you alert them to action, not just Reimu/Marisa who solve the incident by themselves. Of course, it's possible that they will fight you and win and oh no you're in trouble. However, the threat of Doppelganger Sumireko pissing off the wrong person is FAR AND AWAY TOO STRONG in comparison. A common Youkai at night will just eat Sumi if she's tired enough. If she goes off the mountain, I don't even think she has a place to STAY if we discount Alice - and I imagine she'd be livid with our failure. Let our potential pursuers fight each other.
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Here's the problem with the wish thing, if I'm interpreting everything right.
Your stated benefits:
1. It draws aggro on 2mireko because people are going to be looking for real Sumireko for the prize.

2. If we don't do anything about 2mi, she's just going to draw more attention on us instead.

3. Getting more people involved just makes everyone fight each other more instead of us.

The problem with those:
1. 2mi is trying to rile people to hunt us anyway. We're basically doing her job for her here. Any unwanted attention SHE gets is just our residual heat.

2. This is true of basically any plan we do. Sumireko needs time to rest, which inevitably will give more time to the doppelganger. Even if we tried to go all in on hunting her down, we simply lack the resources to track her effectively. That means we're stuck indirectly hindering her, and as mentioned in 1, that just makes us worse off too because, get this, we look just like our Doppelganger and most people can't tell us apart.

3. Pouring gasoline on the fire beneath us isn't going to make it burn out sooner, it's just going to make chaos. Some chaos is useful for preventing mass coordinated efforts, but if it devolves into a free for all it's going to give us a lot less goodwill with the more important people, as well as just making it harder to find allies. If people learn we can't grant wishes, they won't be our friends.

TLDR: Trying to poke the entirety of Gensokyo with a stick is just going to result in even more people hunting for our heads - you know, the thing we've been struggling to deal with this whole time?
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>>205024 here.

Honestly, I always welcome people analysing, discussing and/or refuting my argumentation.
Proper discussion is the first step to resolution.

The first point was more of a poor choice of words I didn't catch while proofreading.
I meant to say more of a target on our back; luckily, you already commented on that as well.
I still think adding more heat to us is still a risk we don't need to take.
By making the SDM an easier or more pressing target, we get at least some heat off of us as we are just the one person (maybe two if Nitori comes along) who is on the move and capable of disappearing (teleporting) at a moment's notice.

Not much to say about the second point.
It is a problem; but I was already in agreement that there's serious upsides to be had.
Whether those are worth the wait remains to be seen, but at the moment I can't say much more than it being a matter of opinion which way you lean.
Basically, I was pointing out the problems, but not necessarily arguing against.
Personally, I think the distraction has a lot of merit; but putting the mansion on alert, distraction or not, has it's own downsides.

As for the third point, I'm not really sure why you think Sumireko doesn't compare to the locals.
Yes, she can't keep fighting constantly, that's a hard ask of most people; but she absolutely can match up to people.
You only need to look to the fight she just had.
Suwako was out to kill her, spellcard rules be damned.
And yet, Sumireko won; through clever use of her own abilities and the spellcard system.
If she can fight off and even turn around a murder attempt from a god on her own, she's at least on par with most of Gensokyo.

Making people scramble for the orbs adds even more chaos to the pot.
It's a very Seija-like plan, and yes, it does have its merits.
But as far as my opinion is concerned; I do not very much like the idea of getting more actors in play, it's already tough enough to keep track of all the parties involved as is.

As for Sussireko pissing somebody else off; who hasn't she yet, anyway?
Anybody who is left is a poor target for her, whether that is because they would annihilate her or immediately discover the ruse.

I don't really get what you're getting at with the common youkai thing, though, I suppose that's always a risk; but why mention it?
You mean getting the mooks to fight each other over the balls instead of hunting the Sumireko?
Or did you mention it so that we go and find shelter somewhere, somehow.
Even on the mountain there's little places left, especially with the Moriyas up in arms.
The kappa hideout doesn't seem like a good idea after what we've done to Nitori and while Hina's is a possibility, it might also be the first place anybody would look if they figure out our trail on the mountain.

Small aside, but I also doubt that any lesser youkai would be a serious threat for her in normal circumstances.

I also don't know why you're discounting Alice.
We allied with her and then shit hit the fan, but it's not like we just suddenly broke all ties.
It's entirely possible that still have an ally in her if we manage to rendezvous.
Even if that is only because we're her best shot for getting that urban legend she wants.
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>>205024 The last post mentioned both Byakuren and Myouren temple, so everyone is still able to remember it.

Though speaking of on a different note, there is an option that I wasn’t sure was there due to the butterfly winging that Greg had introduced, but with the mention of shimmy does indicate is a possibility, but that depends on if we can remember her, or if Kiene convinced her friend to come into the village and ate her history… Mokou and Sumi actually somewhat hit if off even with just the short clash they had before Sumi got pulled out of Gensokyo… soooo if Sumi is currently able to remember her that might be a good little boost in firepower… furthermore, since it sounds like the only appearance of Sumireko anywhere in the vicinity of Eintei has been confirmed to have been real!Sumi rather than the Doppelganger Mokou probably hasn’t been made hostile either.

Also for the Heist, we could ask either of the Tengu’s if they could help in a way that means the least involvement, Sumi just heard a couple of times earlier that Aya was able to sneak somewhere unnoticed/unbothered and observe and hear what was going on. So in exchange for maybe a usable picture for the article (selfie with everyone except mary, AND Suwako) to keep an eye out and let Sumi know if Sakuya (and the other big guns of the SDM.) are busy with something else and thus are far enough away from Greg for Sumi to rescue like right now though since Greg is away in disguise this would likely backfire as Sumi would be going in while Greg is out too…

As to what to vote for, or how to phrase it… Imma gonna have to think on that… probably leaning towards the heist it is and apology vote… though I might see about wording Mokou + Tengu scouting into it…
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Well, what I mentioned about the Myouren temple is less about them remembering; and more about it being present.
People still (or will still, depending on the current timeframe) remember the human village, it's just that it's suddenly disappeared.
Regardless, the distinction doesn't really matter, as that's info not known in-character.

Mokou is a decent shout, actually.
Finding her in the bamboo forest could be problematic, however, and since we haven't had real contact with her we can't really gauge how she's going to react; even if the two hit it off before.

Bribing the crow for info on the SDM with a second, usable picture was an idea I've been mulling over myself; there's little to lose for trying, I suppose.


>apology vote

Yes! Nitori deserves at least some recognition for how unreasonably reasonable she's been considering our treatment of her.
Kidnapped; press-ganged by her friend into helping her kidnapper; then taken hostage at bomb-point by said person!
And she's still being cooperative! Not even just that, she's actively helpful with reasonable suggestions and other personal input like her gadgets!
She's like a somewhat milder youkai version of Greg; even Sumireko has to notice the parallels by now.
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>1. 2mi is trying to rile people to hunt us anyway. We're basically doing her job for her here. Any unwanted attention SHE gets is just our residual heat.
People would hunt the Occult Balls, not us. We currently have one in our possession, which could easily be given away. Three of those rest with Sakuya, which is our current target. Initially, this plan is very advantageous as the target of everyone's hunt is SDM 3/7 times.
>2. That means we're stuck indirectly hindering her, and as mentioned in 1, that just makes us worse off too because, get this, we look just like our Doppelganger and most people can't tell us apart.
I do not get this part. A stated benefit of this plan is, a challenger would tell a fake Sumireko from a true one. If they do not, they get tricked; Occult Balls are theirs alongside the ire of a challenger. And should the doppelganger attempt to turn them in, they would suffer as well. If they do recognize the fake, they ignore or punish them. Responsibility for getting tricked shifts onto the deceived, quite simply.
Alternatively, if you do nothing, well, you do nothing. That is that.
>3. Pouring gasoline on the fire beneath us isn't going to make it burn out sooner, it's just going to make chaos. Some chaos is useful for preventing mass coordinated efforts, but if it devolves into a free for all it's going to give us a lot less goodwill [...]
I am going to stop you right here. A god just almost killed us. The time for moderation is over. It is time for violence.

>As for the third point, I'm not really sure why you think Sumireko doesn't compare to the locals.
>Yes, she can't keep fighting constantly, that's a hard ask of most people; but she absolutely can match up to people.
>You only need to look to the fight she just had.
>Suwako was out to kill her, spellcard rules be damned.
>And yet, Sumireko won; through clever use of her own abilities and the spellcard system.
>If she can fight off and even turn around a murder attempt from a god on her own, she's at least on par with most of Gensokyo.
You have missed a crucial part of my post.
>That something is that she, under normal circumstances, can't compare to locals.
>[...] under normal circumstances [...]
Sumireko is not good at using the Spellcard system. It has been mentioned that she has no practice in it. Almost all of the fights she was in - counting Marisa + Miko scramble, Koishi's doll fight, Eientei fight, escape from Aya and surviving Suwako were done almost without using spellcards. None of the opponents took her seriously in those, save for the Eientei fight, which she soundly lost. Do NOT take her ability to clutch it out and survive for granted. And do not take her ability to use spellcards for granted.

>I don't really get what you're getting at with the common youkai thing, though, I suppose that's always a risk; but why mention it?
Potential risks stack with one another. The longer we remain in Gensokyo, the more conflicts we will face. It only takes one loss at the wrong time to the wrong opponent to die. Please remember that.
>You mean getting the mooks to fight each other over the balls instead of hunting the Sumireko?
That is the point of the plan, yes. I'm not sure the mooks would be able to win, though...
>Or did you mention it so that we go and find shelter somewhere, somehow.
This point was a demonstration of our helplessness. We have to depend on someone else (for a home for the night, if nothing else) to remain existing, now. Things need to start happening, but rushing in right now is horrible. Thus, use the press to our advantage.
>I also don't know why you're discounting Alice.
>We allied with her and then shit hit the fan, but it's not like we just suddenly broke all ties.
Our alliance is built on a single promise - we help her with an Urban Legend. If we can't, this is it. No alliance. I struggle to understand why she would help us now. We lost and disappeared, after all.

I remain convinced that voting for >>205012 is the best.
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>I struggle to understand why she would help us now. We lost and disappeared, after all.

Conversely, I don't really understand why you're so convinced that getting separated once would immediately burn this bridge.
It's not like we haven't had contact for a week or longer, it's been a day at most.
Alice's research is pretty much her number one driving factor; anything that poses even a small chance for her to find success in her endeavours she'll take.
It's the whole reason she teamed up with us in the first place.

Small aside: you are >>205012, yourself, correct?
Sorry, the wording of that last line just confuses me somewhat.
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>Conversely, I don't really understand why you're so convinced that getting separated once would immediately burn this bridge.
>It's not like we haven't had contact for a week or longer, it's been a day at most.
Getting separated doesn't hurt as much as losing this badly. That particular alliance is built on recognition that we are a mastermind. If we easily lose, then we can't help her with her Urban Legend. Because we are considered incapable. This is logical.
Magicians are a species in Gensokyo separate from humans. Aside from those who are born as one, those who become Magicians discard their humanity in pursuit of their desire. For Alice, that desire should be a living doll. To expect her to care about our well-being after proving our incompetence through a loss is to rely on her humanity. Alice is a magician, so...
>Alice's research is pretty much her number one driving factor; anything that poses even a small chance for her to find success in her endeavours she'll take.
Self-preservation is also a factor when making rational decisions. It is difficult to judge, but the loss combined with vanishing without warning could be too damaging for her to trust us. That's that.
>Small aside: you are >>205012, yourself, correct?
>Sorry, the wording of that last line just confuses me somewhat.
Yes. I simply did not know how to bring that vote up better. Apologies.
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[X] A heist it is. Nitori's plan is a lot better than getting turned into a pincushion by a cheap Dio expy.
-[X] Apologize to Nitori for all the crap you've put her through. It might not be worth much, but at least somebody has tried to help you in this forsaken hellhole.
-[X]Offer another picture (another group selfie, but without Suwako in it this time.) for the Tengu’s article if they can let you know a time when Sakuya (and the other big guns of the SDM) are away from Greg.
-[X]Do any of you know a Mokou?
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Hm, while it's true that Alice is no longer human; I feel that we simply have a differing read on her personality.
I do think Alice is indeed a logical thinker, but not utterly without compassion or emotions like a machine; or a doll, if you like.
Anyway, there's little more I can say when it regards a contrasting interpretation of a person's character; I simply think she's like that from what I've seen of her.

Also, no need to apologise; I just got confused, is all.
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>>205035 here.
Sorry for the double; I really should remember to hit refresh before hitting reply.

Honestly, after thinking it over some more: attempting to bribe the crows does not really have a downside just for trying.
Getting info on when Greg is alone or at least when Sakuya is away from the mansion would help a lot with planning the heist.
Yes, it should be a selfie, but I think Aya should at least get to decide who and what goes in it (aside from Mary); that should sweeten the deal for her.
So, a small edit of your write-in, but I very much like the idea.

Asking about Mokou may actually end up providing us with an ally, I think it was a great shout by anon to bring her up.

Appending things to my vote in >>205010, but I'll write it in full for ease of reading.

[X] A heist it is. Nitori's plan is a lot better than getting turned into a pincushion by a cheap Dio expy.
-[X] Apologize to Nitori for all the crap you've put her through. It might not be worth much, but at least somebody has tried to help you in this forsaken hellhole.
--[X]Offer another picture (another group selfie, but at Aya's direction.) for the Tengu’s article if they can let you know a time when Sakuya (and the other big guns of the SDM) are away from Greg.
---[X]Do any of you know a Mokou?

Bolded to emphasise my small edit to the additional write-in.
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>>205034 here

>>205036 : sounds good! I will alter mine vote from >>205034 to:

[X] A heist it is. Nitori's plan is a lot better than getting turned into a pincushion by a cheap Dio expy.
-[X] Apologize to Nitori for all the crap you've put her through. It might not be worth much, but at least somebody has tried to help you in this forsaken hellhole.
--[X]Offer another picture (another group selfie, but at Aya's direction.) for the Tengu’s article if they can let you know a time when Sakuya (and the other big guns of the SDM) are away from Greg.
---[X]Do any of you know a Mokou?
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>>205011 here.
A lot of really great and interesting discussion, I'll be changing my vote, only thing I'd want to tweak just slightly is the Nitori part.

[X] A heist it is. Nitori's plan is a lot better than getting turned into a pincushion by a cheap Dio expy.
-[X] Realize how Greg-able Nitori has been and recognize her for it.
--[X]Offer another picture (another group selfie, but at Aya's direction.) for the Tengu’s article if they can let you know a time when Sakuya (and the other big guns of the SDM) are away from Greg.
---[X]Do any of you know a Mokou?

I feel like Sumireko would probably ask Nitori why she's being so helpful first, or just something that would make her come to the realization Nitori's like Greg and feel more compelled to apologize, as opposed to just apologize out of the blue. Plus it feels more emotional that way too. Great story for the tengu's paper as well.
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[X] A heist it is. Nitori's plan is a lot better than getting turned into a pincushion by a cheap Dio expy.
-[X] Apologize to Nitori for all the crap you've put her through. It might not be worth much, but at least somebody has tried to help you in this forsaken hellhole.
--[X]Offer another picture (another group selfie, but at Aya's direction.) for the Tengu’s article if they can let you know a time when Sakuya (and the other big guns of the SDM) are away from Greg.
---[X]Do any of you know a Mokou?

Best plan for now.
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>>205036 here.

Absolutely agree with the tweak, it feels far more in-character for Sumireko to go about it that way.
Well, she can answer with something like "I just don't want to get blown up" and still be entirely within her rights to do so.
Still, the fact remains that she's been Greg-levels of cooperative in less-than-pleasant circumstances.

Consider my vote changed to also incorporate the tweak.

P.S. I am really sorry for making my vote this annoying to count, Lost Soul.
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>>205037 here, I will also change my vote to match >>205038.
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>>205039 here
Also changing my vote to >>205038
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[X] A heist it is. Nitori's plan is a lot better than getting turned into a pincushion by a cheap Dio expy.
-[X] Realize how Greg-able Nitori has been and recognize her for it.
--[X]Offer another picture (another group selfie, but at Aya's direction.) for the Tengu’s article if they can let you know a time when Sakuya (and the other big guns of the SDM) are away from Greg.
---[X]Do any of you know a Mokou?

"The heist is the better plan," I said.

Seija folded her arms and cocked an eyebrow at me. "Really? You still think you're going to be able to avoid fighting them?"

"Not with my luck," I said grimly. "But if we do get caught, we can always fight them then. If we go in guns blazing, we lose any sort of chance at stealth. And I still fully intend to grab as much support as possible before we launch Operation: Rescue."

Seija raised her finger, paused, and considered that for a moment. "I still prefer the idea of an ambush, but fine. So long as we have the firepower to actually fight them when it goes bad."

"Support from who?" Aya asked.

"Alice, for one. We did have an agreement to work together, and I've done some interesting stuff with her doll since we parted. Her dolls would also be pretty useful for any sneaking around that needs doing."

"Why wasn't she at Eientei then?" Aya asked.

"She was. She just didn't make it to the main fight, Ran cut her off." I saw the follow-up question forming and cut it off. "No, I don't know why. If you find out, tell me."

The reporter rolled her eyes. "Fine, no further questions on that one. Anyone else?"

"Satori's pets would be ideal, but if my fake got to them first, that could be difficult. Koishi as well, but the problem with that is finding her." I'd honestly been hoping the unconsciousness youkai would be shadowing me on account of Mary, but no such luck. "Aside from that... Mokou, if she's around. Have you heard anything about her?"

"I'm pretty sure miss forever alone is just sulking around the bamboo forest like usual." Seija said. "What's she have to do with anything?"

"We hit it off when she collected the occult balls and made it outside," I replied, smiling slightly. "She'd be perfect as figurative and literal firepower if we can convince her... and I have a feeling she won't mind too much. Assuming nothing's happened to her in the last couple of days?"

The tengu glanced at each other and shook their heads. "I haven't heard anything," Hatate said.

Getting up to stretch, I took a moment to drain the last of my tea. "Alright," I said, rubbing my eyes. "That's enough of a plan to start with. That leaves one... no, two other things."

They tensed up at that, but I ignored them and proceeded. "First one. I'm going to need a place to stay and recover, at least for a bit. I think we can all agree it's best if I'm long gone by the time Kanako returns."

"I know a place," Seija said. "Close enough to get to, far enough to be out of Moriya's jurisdiction, and nobody's there to bug you."

"Don't keep me in suspense."

The amanojaku rolled her eyes. "Maybe it's better to discuss it after they leave?"

"Just whisper it to me," I snapped, irritated.

Seija obliged, whispering the location, and I considered the idea. "That actually makes sense. Fine, that works." I turned to the tengu. "Final demand, then. Once I've rescued Greg, I need a way home. I want out of this battle-crazed hellhole."

Aya looked thoughtful at that. "That might actually be possible. There's not that many who can cross the barrier, but Kanako should be able to pull it off. She did bring the shrine here."

I gave her a flat look. "Seriously? Her?"

"Once the truth comes out, this whole incident is going to be an embarrassment for the Moriya Shrine." Hatate said. "After Kanako's had time to cool down and consider it, she'll want things to die down quietly, and you going home is the fastest way to make that happen."

"And doing a favor for you is also a way for the Moriya Shrine to claim they made up for the whole 'confrontation borne of mistaken identity'." Aya concluded.

Aya's turn of phrase made me feel dirty just from hearing it. That level of spin was the domain of reporters and politicians. "No. The incident also dies down from me dying. I'm not trusting my way home to someone who benefits from me being dead."

The tengu thought about it. "I think that leaves Reimu, Kasen, and Yukari? You'd probably need to prove your innocence and resolve the incident to convince one of them."

So, the architects of the original plan to capture me, and Yukari... who stood a better than even chance of being behind literally everything. Or I could try fixing Koishi and hoping Satori could make good on her promise, but it really didn't seem like there was a simple answer here.

I'm not sure why I expected differently.

[-] To be continued.

((Remaining parts of the write-in next update.))
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Sumireko wouldn't need to be at the mercy of people like Kanako, Yukari, and Reimu if she were willing to upend the hierarchy. She could even put herself on top. A revolution
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t. Seija
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Seijaposting hours
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File 170072398526.webp - (62.97KB, 860x1447, sleeping_sumireko_by_arturo50_dek0tzl-fullview.webp)
[-] Wrap this up.

There wasn't too much else to say, and my focus was fading fast. We negotiated around potential ways for me and Greg to get home, but there wasn't any additional insight to be had. In the end, I had to either hope Kanako would be reasonable or win over someone from Reimu's group. I hate my life.

Trying to get additional help out of them was similarly useless. The tengu simply weren't going to help, and it's not like I had the means to threaten more out of them. (Well, besides blowing myself up with them, but that would be counterproductive.) The best I got there was Aya offering to relay news to me if I gave her a Suwako-less selfie. Which... is a small, unlikely thing that she can always avoid following up on, but on the off chance she decides to pursue a second interview, it might get me some information.

If I were inclined to be fair, I'd admit that things went better than I'd expected. Granted, I'd expected to die, so low bar, but the tengu were staying out of it, Seija seemed inclined to actually help, Nitori was somehow still with me, and there was at least a loose plan for the future. I'm sure Greg could have spun that into something that made them simultaneously feel guilty and relieved, some diplomatic overture that would set the seeds of future cooperation.

However, my inclination was to be a spiteful bitch, so I told them to get out and not let the door hit them on the way out. Which was proof I was slipping, my insults are usually more creative than that. But, well, it was done, and I watched them go with no small amount of relief. And then proceeded to disarm my makeshift bomb, to Seija and Nitori's significantly greater relief.

"It... alright. Seija. How're we getting to Shining Needle Castle?"

"Wait, wasn't Reimu investigating that?" Nitori asked.

"She's done with it." Seija said. "And Shinmy's cowering in her shrine, so the castle's abandoned. I figure we can finders keepers it for a while."

"Just a night," I said, shivering. "As soon as I'm rested we'll set out."

Nitori glanced out at the sky. "Well, it's late afternoon now. If we get going we should be able to fly there before dark."

"Let's go," I said. "Sooner the better."

The flight over was wet, cold, miserable, and almost miraculously uneventful. Or maybe it was to be expected. Kappa tengu, and Moriya Shrine were all accounted for, so that was all the major groups out of the way. There was some minor youkai with a cleaver we stumbled across, but Seija handled her easily, and I just kept flying. Progress that was made unfortunately slower by the need to fly low and through the trees wherever possible; I did not want to risk running into Kanako.

I don't really remember much of it, looking back. I'd just had the worst beating of my life combined with the worst magical exhaustion of my life, and the adrenaline high had run out at some point in the shrine itself. Without that? I was crashing hard. The sheer necessity of getting away was all that was keeping me in the air, and I'm mostly sure Seija was half carrying me by the end. Only mostly, the specifics of the trip faded into a weary haze, but we made it. Somehow or other, I made it to the castle, and from there to a bedroom within the castle.

I collapsed onto the bed and was asleep within the minute.

[-] Nitori interlude.
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[x] Nitori interlude.

[x] Nitori interlude.
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[x] Nitori interlude.

[x] Nitori interlude.
([x] Nitori interlude.)
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[X] Nitori Interlude
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[X] Alice Interlude

[X] Nitori Interlude?
- [X] Nitori Nitori, Nitori Interlude Nitori.
-- [X] Ninterlude.
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[X] Nitori interlude.
-[x] Kapp episode.

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[X] Nitori interlude.
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[-] Nitori interlude

This was a mess. This entire situation was nothing but a mess, and it was only getting worse. She'd thought being kidnapped was going to be the worst of the incident, but if anything it was just a sample. Sanae had been stabbed. Suwako had attempted to kill Sumireko, and then lost. And then Sumireko had rigged one of her occult balls to blow and threatened to nuke the shrine! Just to bring people to the negotiating table!

That was what scared Nitori more than anything else. Being good at business required the ability to read people. To make a sale, you had to figure out what your customers were interested in, and haggling was really a matter of calling out people on their bluffs.

Sumireko wasn't bluffing. Naturally arrogant and prone to exaggeration, perhaps, but right now? She was desperate. Desperate and vengeful enough to consider killing everyone in the area a good consolation prize. Intelligent enough to realize that was the state of play and use that own desperation as a bargaining chip. And strong, skilled, and lucky enough to actually beat a goddess of the Moriya Shrine.

That was a bad combination. As Tewi occasionally pointed out, even a rabbit fights when cornered. Sumireko had just demonstrated what she'd resort to when cornered, and Nitori had a bad feeling the mage could do more when not completely exhausted. If Sumireko ever felt her situation was completely hopeless, the mage might just decide to go out with a bang and do whatever damage she could. And someone who could fight off Suwako could deal a lot of damage.

And now Seija was involved. The youkai whose explicit goal was to cause chaos and overturn the established social order. Because clearly the best way to stabilize this little powder-keg was to put her in close proximity with someone who would enjoy watching Gensokyo burn.

Nitori didn't even like Sumireko, damn it! Regardless of her strengths, the girl had no tact, precious little restraint, and a sense of superiority to her that was downright irritating. Pompous, that was the word for it. The kind of person who would admit mistakes, but only unimportant ones, and just to show she's not the kind of person who won't admit mistakes. There was an arrogance to her, sometimes blatant, usually subtle, but throughout there was the idea that Sumireko thought she was better than most other people. That to be worth her time, you had to be special in some way.

And at the same time, when she was meaningfully threatened, that superiority turned to self-righteousness faster than you could blink. She'd already ranted a couple times about how things weren't her fault, and nowhere in any of her rants was one shred of culpability. The bitch had never even apologized for kidnapping Nitori in the first place! And while the girl was admittedly being framed for... just about everything...

Nitori sighed. That was the whole problem, wasn't it? If Sumireko was just a second Seija, Nitori would be off to find Kanako right now. But she wasn't. She was arrogant, not cruel. Thoughtless, not malicious. She deserved a good kick in the head, but not this.

Maybe Reimu was the answer, then. She hadn't been the recipient of a personal visit from the fake, and Nitori had a decent idea now what she'd have heard in any case. It shouldn't be too hard to convince her of what was going on, as the shrine maiden had to know something weird was going on by now. And even if she couldn't, if there was one person in Gensokyo who could be trusted to play strictly by spellcard rules, it was the Hakurei shrine maiden.

As such, if Nitori did go, she was almost certain Reimu would try to put Sumireko into protective custody while the shrine maiden sorted out the incident and chased down the real culprit. Sumireko would be absolutely pissed off, and Nitori would be forfeiting the tech she'd been promised, but it would lower the chance of a fueled bloodbath dramatically.

The kappa bit her lip, considering it. She hated to go back on a deal, and she did honestly want some modern technology, but there were bigger concerns right now. Going to Reimu would be a major step in sorting out the entire imposter situation, and getting the incident solved. There might still be more escalation, but at least it would just be the incident resolvers fighting the actual villain, and not the collateral damage directed both towards and from Sumireko. It would also put Nitori in the clear as far as the incident went. She was already going to have a rough conversation with Kanako in her future, but turning in the high-schooler to Reimu would make justifying her role in things far simpler.

And quite frankly, Reimu was far more qualified to rescue Sumireko's friend than she was, whether that happened by negotiation or danmaku. The shrine maiden actually had beaten the entire Scarlet Devil Mansion before, after all.

The kappa glanced over to the bedroom where Sumireko was snoring. She was going to be furious, but it was for the best. It was probably even best for Sumireko's sake, ironically enough. And with the magician that out of it, she could probably get to the shrine and back before Sumireko woke up.

So Nitori took flight over towards the balcony they'd entered from. Only to be caught before she could even leave the castle.

"And just where do you think you're going, kappa?"

[-] To be continued.
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[X] To be continued.
I am gripped I need more
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Earlier today in the discord, another user asked about USiL getting posted to other sites like FF.net, Spacebattles, or Ao3. Given this, I think it's worth me posting my rough plans for that, such as they are.

First things first, I don't use Ao3, nor do I plan to. If someone else wants to mirror my work there, they're welcome to, so long as it's attributed to Lost Soul and links here.

Secondly, once USiL is finished, I want to make a second draft of the story, and post that to Spacebattles/FF.net. I'm proud enough of what I've written to want to give it a wider audience, but there's a fair bit of polishing I'd want to do first. The first thread in particular is a bit on the rough side. This is partially a casualty of doing things CYOA style, and partially that it takes some time for the author to get a grip on their own characters. But regardless, after this story is complete, I do intend to post an official v2 to those sites.

However, that's still going to be a ways in the future, (It's hard to say for sure, but I'd estimate the story is approximately half-done, right now.) which brings up a new question: Should I start cross-posting USiL as-is to FF.net? (Or rather a v1.1, since I will at least do some minor editing for typos and such)

I feel like with SpaceBattles it's better to wait until I'm ready to do a full revision, but uploading the story mostly as-is to FF.net seems like a decent compromise. Regardless of the decision, the only actual voting that will happen is here. USiL started as a thp story, and will remain so to its conclusion. This would be a mirror, not a transplant. What do you guys think?
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that doesn't seem to have any downsides other than more burnout maybe
if you can manage, why not, but if it's too much of a pain, could just wait until the story's done
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I'm being utterly selfish here and say I wouldn't want you to cross post the story to FF.net before its completion.
I wouldn't want people to scramble through the story or skip it to get their votes in for the latest update however little this concern is founded in reality. At the very least not during Nanowrimu. Though really, my reasoning loses its already shaky ground when you return to your usual update schedule/habit.

From your wording it seems you have a genuine desire to share your story as it is updating. And if that's the case, then you should absolutely go for it.
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I don't mind you going for it if you want to, but I'm going to have to also agree with >>205085 and say that I think you should hold off on cross-posting until after you complete the story.
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I agree with >>205085 and think you should hold off on crossposting it until it's done.
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[-] A wild Seija appeared.

Nitori recoiled, nearly falling off the balcony. Grabbing the railing, she whirled around to face the amanojaku.

"Damn it Seija, don't sneak up on me like that!"

Seija grinned. "Looks to me like you're the one doing the sneaking. Getting cold feet already, kappa?"

She couldn't possibly know. This was just her being unpleasant. "I don't keep all of my tech on me. If we're going to pull off the heist, I'm going to need my optical camo gear, and that's back at the hideout."

"Huh, that's funny." Seija tapped a finger against her nose. "Weren't you at the hideout earlier today?"

"That was when I thought Sumireko was just going to talk to the Moriya Shrine. Things have escalated since then."

"Beautifully so," Seija said. "Doesn't change the fact you're not going anywhere."

"And why would that be?" Nitori asked, utilizing that icy politeness that's the social equivalent of throwing a punch.

"Well, the most fundamental reason is because I said so and because I'm stronger than you," Seija said, leering. "But if you want the reasons behind that? Because you're not trustworthy."

"Don't be ridiculous. You can't succeed in business if you go around breaking your word!"

"Oh, you wouldn't be breaking your word, you'd be the brave and courageous hero who stopped the terrible incident at great personal risk," Seija said, contempt dripping off every word. "People eat that crap up with chopsticks. So long as the person you're screwing over is bad enough, you can get away with anything!"

"And why would I be looking to 'get away' with something?"

Seija laughed. "Your friends and your gods want little Sumi in there locked up or worse. You've certainly got no shortage of reason to hate Sumireko yourself. And of course, there could be real danger involved here! And how many centuries has it been since you've faced real danger? So... greed, hatred, cowardice... take your pick, really! Which kind of scumbag are you?"

She of all people had no right to say that! "You're delusional. Look, if you want to watch where I'm going so badly, you can follow me to the hideout."

"And leave Sumireko unguarded?" Seija affected a look of mock horror. "Would you really leave your friend incapacitated and helpless where some strange youkai could stumble upon her?"

"The only thing likely to render her helpless is dying," she muttered. Even then, Sumireko seemed the type to stick around as a vengeful spirit or something.

"Don't sound so hopeful about it."

"I'm not!" she snapped. "Besides, the entire point of this place was that it was somewhere she could keep her head down and sleep."

"Because nobody's aware she's here, cucumber for brains. If someone came by and searched, things get harder."

"If security by obscurity is the only benefit, why are we here?!"

"Because it's a castle," Seija pointed out. "This place is huge, and if anyone does drop by, I can pull a lot of trickery if they don't already know exactly which room your friend is hiding in."

"Weren't you just pointing out how we aren't friends?"

"If she's not your friend, why are you even here?" Seija asked, cracking her knuckles.

Sunk cost fallacy, apparently. "I should ask you that," Nitori countered. "Somehow I don't think Sumireko's up for your revolution right now."

"You aren't supposed to be quite that stupid. She and her occult balls are a huge agent for change here. The longer she stays alive, the more chaos she stirs up, and that's without the youkai attacking her! As such, keeping her free and in one piece is absolutely in my best interests. Is it in yours?"

"Yes! Besides, if I wanted to screw her over, I've had way better opportunities, like when I had her boxed away in that crate." Nitori said, shifting uncomfortably. "Look, enough's enough. Just let me go get my stuff so we're not burning daylight come tomorrow." Or possibly later, depending on how long Sumireko was out for.

"Hm..." Seija said, rubbing her chin. "Well, I guess... nope! Still no."


"As the grave. What are you going to do about it, kappa?"

[-] Give it up, at least for now.
[-] Try your luck with a spellcard, force your way past.
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[X] Give it up, at least for now.
A danmaku fight is a bad idea in everyone's interests. One, Seija is right that she's stronger than Nitori. Two, danmaku fights are flashy. You start popping off spellcards late at night at an area that's supposed to be quiet, and it'll probably attract attention. It is in no one's best interests to bring attention to the Shining Needle Castle at the moment.

And if write-in additions are allowed,
-[X] Ask Seija why she is the way she is.
In hindsight, Seija and Nitori are kinda opposites. Nitori is the social merchant kind of kappa with a silver tongue, and Seija despises such an existence. If Seija says "[...] so long as the person you're screwing over is bad enough.", Nitori should ask why Seija insists on being a bad enough person to make people want to screw her over.
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[✓] Give it up, at least for now.
In case of confrontation:
Best case, Nitori gets beat up.
Worst case, Nitori gets beat up and also the noise attracts attention lol
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>Ask Seija why she is the way she is.
Interesting idea, but I'm fairly certain her answer would just be "because I'm an amanojaku, duh".
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[X] Give it up, at least for now.
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"So you're nothing but an instinct-driven cretin?"
Nitori could press her for some more interesting answers, or berate her for being so base (and in consequence get to vent some of her frustration with this situation on Gensokyo's second-most hated villain).

But I think it would be nice to give both characters some time to have a discussion not directly related to doing planning and stuff. I enjoy reading the thought processes and way the characters in this story bump off each other.
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Is Seija stronger than Nitori?
Kappa aren't the strongest, but neither are amanojaku.
Seija is a special case, perhaps, but she's also no stranger to cheating to win.
On that note, isn't she all about the weak beating the strong?
Wouldn't she almost want Nitori to beat her with that kind of statement?

Anyway, Nitori is a logical thinker.
As mentioned by other anons, starting a fight will attract attention.
Attention nobody here can afford.
It's still true that finding Reimu would be the ultimately best course of action, but is it worth the risk?
Actually kind of a tough one.

I was leaning give up pretty hard, but I'm not entirely sure now.
Holding vote for an hour or two while I think.
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[X] Give it up, at least for now.
If Write-ins: [X] "I thought your whole deal was having the weak overthrow the strong. Or have you flipped around so much you just turned right side up again?"

I agree with the sentiment at hand: Fighting is just not worth it. Insults, at least, aren't bright and flashy.

Also, props to Seija for immediately making that read. Like, wow, she got that in a second.
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[x] Try your luck with a spellcard, force your way past.

The sooner Sumireko enters Reimu's custody the safer she would be.

Also would be better if the betrayal happens now and not in a more important moment, if Sumireko builds her plans thinking that Nitori has her back it would be more painful.
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I think something important to note also is what makes you think the doppelganger won't think to keep an eye on Reimu? Do you really think whoever is behind this incident who has been working to make everyone in Gensokyo hate Sumireko really didn't think about Reimu?
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This is a vote of "when" not a vote of "if". Why will she be doing so when she can be antagonizing someone else? Monitoring Reimu has an oportunity cost.
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>>205095 here.

Yeah, it's just too risky to start a fireworks show here, now.

I like the verbal jab write-in; pretty spicy.
I'm not sure what "read" you're referring to here, though.
Seija realising that Nitori would try pulling this?
Expecting your unattended sort-of-hostage to just sit there would be the weirder conclusion to have, actually.

Of course she would've thought about Reimu.
But aside from the opportunity cost anon's already mentioned, there's also just risk.
Reimu knows when shit is up, it's her whole shtick.
Being near the shrine maiden at all is asking to get the ruse discovered, just because intuition told her so.

[X] Give it up, at least for now.
If Write-ins: [X] "I thought your whole deal was having the weak overthrow the strong. Or have you flipped around so much you just turned right side up again?"
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So i think i know what Seija is trying to acomplish, she is trying to get proof of Nitori's betrayal, if they fight and she "loses" Nitori won't be there to speak in her own defense and any injury that Seija recieves would make the idea more believable, as it would show that Nitori was willing to hurt her in order to leave.

I am voting for the fight because it is likely that this is the only time we will have a say on when Nitori bails.
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[X] Give it up, at least for now.
If Write-ins: [X] "I thought your whole deal was having the weak overthrow the strong. Or have you flipped around so much you just turned right side up again?"
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[X] Give it up, at least for now.
If write-ins: [X] ''I thought your whole deal was having the weak overthrow the strong. Or have you flipped around so much you just turned right side up again?''
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[X] Give it up, at least for now.

Nitori glared at the Seija. "I thought your whole deal was having the weak overthrow the strong. Or have you flipped around so much you just turned right side up again?"

Seija moved as if to pat her on the head, but she was having none of that and dodged back. "The strong will always exercise power on the weak, kappa. I wasn't flipping the nature of that, I was flipping who was strong and weak."

"And what did you gain?" Nitori asked. "What's the conclusion?"

"Those youkai who are strong, competent, or successful? They don't owe you anything. They're always capable of making their own way, and will turn on you the moment they get a better deal. But the weak, the desperate, the have-nots? Deep in their hearts, they envy the strong. They envy their power, their freedom, their ability to do as they please and throw their weight around, and it burns them. Every intimidation, every time they have to run from a Fantasy Seal or get blown up by a Master Spark, every time they so much as think about those things, it burns a little worse. They bury it, tell themselves there's nothing to be done, it's not worth it, they need to be practical, but the moment they realize it can change that burning envy will light a fire in them. Show them hope, and you'll have their undying devotion. They'll care more about your cause than you do, because they know they're worthless on their own, and anything's better than admitting it. "

She took a step back. "Either you've been spending too much time with Parsee or you're actually just insane."

"Thank you!" Seija took a bow, sounding genuinely pleased. "But you should be well familiar with this, kappa. When Moriya says jump, you ask 'How high?' The only reason your merchant shenanigans remain unmolested are because most strong youkai consider them beneath contempt."

She gritted her teeth, staring at the amanojaku. "Are you seriously trying to recruit me?"

"Nah, I've got standards. Forming a revolution from the weak doesn't mean you accept any trash."

"What did you just say?"

"Standards. I have them. You don't meet them. Is that enough, or do I need to break out some pictures?"

She took a deep breath and turned away. "You're baiting me, and I have better things to do."

"Baiting would imply I'm looking for a specific response. I'm just pissing you off. Mostly for my own amusement, but also to prove a point."

"And what point would that be?"

"I just exercised power over you, dumbass. I stopped you from doing what you wanted to do, threatened you with violence, accused you of being a traitor, and insulted you to your face, and you can't do a thing about it. You'd love to take a swing at me right now, but you can't, because I'd stomp your ass flatter than your chest. If someone offered you a way to shut me up, you'd take it in a heartbeat."

"So that's it, then? Your little revolution was about the weak getting petty revenge on the strong? Not every group is as dysfunctional as you like to think," she spat. "The kappa certainly aren't."

"Oh, there's always bottom feeders." Seija waved it off. "But even they can turn into piranha with the right push. And the more they get pushed around, the more they get attacked, accused, and wronged, the more Gensokyo's power is wielded against them - the more that anger and resentment builds up. There's always a breaking point."

Oh no. Seija had seen the same thing she had. "That's why you're interested in Sumireko."

"Finally caught up, have you? Really though, it doesn't even need to go that far. We both hate the same people."

"You hate everyone."

"Like I said, the same people. Or close enough." Seija smiled. "It's only a matter of time before she fights back in a more permanent manner."

"And what's to stop me from just telling Sumireko this?"

"Go right ahead! Let her know I hate the youkai in Gensokyo, and would fully support her if she wanted to kill any or all of them! I'm sure that would drive the wedge between us that you're hoping for." Seija grinned. "Being powerless really burns, doesn't it?"

Saying anything else would only give the bitch extra satisfaction. "I'm going to work on my tools,"

But Seija had a parting shot. "You know what the best part is? I don't even need to do anything! I'm going to help her, Nitori. I'm going to help her, and Gensokyo will push her over the edge anyway, despite my honest best efforts. And when it does, it's going to be spectacular."

Nitori ran to the nearest door and slammed it behind her, Seija's laughter ringing in her ears.

[-] To be continued.
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Some people just want to watch the world burn.
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Seija is based and reversepilled

Seriously, the amount of power she just wielded over Nitori was incredible. And all Nitori can do is retreat with her tail between her legs.
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Honestly, is Seija even wrong here? Outside of Hina, all of Sumi's interactions with Gensokyo are AT BEST "do x and I might help you" and, more frequently and commonly, "die". Maybe Gensokyo could use a bit of downsizing. What did Gensokyo think would happen?
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[-] What is there to be done?

With the door well and truly slammed shut, Nitori just... needed a minute.

This was why nobody liked amanojakus! Seija made a point of being as unpleasant as possible to everyone. The more she aggravated someone, the more she enjoyed doing it, and if a particular youkai reacted badly enough, she was known to keep seeking them out for additional torment.

Which made it really unfortunate that the bitch had been successful in getting under Nitori's skin just now. Especially because she was about to be all but forced to stick around now. Even if Sumireko would countermand that (and the high-schooler wasn't that altruistic), leaving her with Seija was just begging for a disaster. Which meant she was stuck traveling with two people perfectly happy to find joy at her expense, while pseudo-kidnapped again.

If only she'd actually brought her optical camo! She hadn't been lying about it being left behind (hadn't expected to need it, this was supposed to be a quick diplomatic trip), and she was feeling the lack of it all too keenly. It would have been such a simple way to dodge Seija, too. Reimu could have been informed, and this incident would be halfway to a bloodless, bombless end!

If there was an upside, it was that Seija didn't know that was what she'd been planning. That would have been dangerous, not just unpleasant, but no, running away was merely the pretext the amanojaku had chosen for throwing her weight around. The fact that Seija had been right was just horrible luck, but there was nothing to be done at this point. Even if she could sneak free later, it's not like Sumireko would stay in one place, or that she'd sit still for Reimu to capture if the shrine maiden did show up.

Hearing a noise behind her, the kappa spun around and froze.

It would, of course be Sumireko's room she'd chosen to hide in. The magician herself was sprawled out on a child-sized bed, dead to the world and sawing logs with each snore. That wasn't the scary part, despite the similarity to the growls of some of the more feral youkai.

The scary thing was that the doll was hovering nearby, holding on to the occult ball for dear life and watching Nitori intently.

Gently raising her hands in an I'm-not-doing-anything kind of gesture, she tried for calm. "There, there, I'm not doing anything. I just needed to get away from Seija."

The doll nodded.

"Okay, good." She sighed. "She's an ass."

The doll nodded again. Which actually made the kappa feel a bit better.

"Honestly, ass doesn't do her justice. Actively and continuously malicious, maybe." She sighed. "This entire incident is nothing but one disaster after another. "

The doll nodded emphatically.

"I wish I'd just told Satori she could have her stupid urban legend and let it be. Would have made life so much easier."

The doll nodded.

"I'm worried. The whole thing with making that occult ball blow up, I'm pretty sure Sumireko would have done it. If she got you to set it up again while she was asleep, that's a lot of paranoia. Well... distrust, at least."

The doll looked away.

It occurred to Nitori that she was complaining to a doll. That its nods and reactions were probably some yes-man routine Sumireko or Alice built in, and the thing wasn't truly understanding a word she said.

However, it was equally true that this was the only thing in the vicinity that would even pretend to care, so she kept going. "It's obvious the whole thing's wearing on her. As someone who just got kidnapped themselves, believe me, I get it. But there's a thin line between desperation and blaze of glory, and she's dancing right up to it. And from everything she's done and said, she's going to keep doing it, and I don't want to be next to her when that bomb goes off!"

The doll tilted its head.

"Of course, that's exactly what freaking Seija is hoping for. She's that instigator on the sidelines screaming 'Fight, fight!' knowing she won't be the one getting blown to pieces. She all but admitted she's hoping to point Sumireko in a specific direction once little miss time bomb finally snaps."

She sighed again, unshouldering her backpack and setting it against the wall. "And of course, who's the one youkai in position to offer the good angel counterpoint to the bloody amanojaku? It's me, somehow! Despite the fact we already hate each others' guts."

The doll shook its head.

"No, seriously. We started off on the wrong foot and it never really got better. We're sort of working together, but I'm surprised she didn't tell me to leave back at the shrine. I know she doesn't trust me, and it's not like I trust her."

The doll shook its head again.

"Oh, come on. The fact you're on bomb duty proves that."

After a brief pause the doll shook its head again and continued holding on to the occult ball for dear life.

"Why am I even bothering, it's a bloody doll." She sighed. "Well, look, as long as it doesn't incite you to kill us all, I'm going to tinker." If nothing else, a bit of mechanical work would do wonders to calm her down.

[End of Part 3B]

((Really short part here, but it's a casualty of keeping the timelines roughly in sync. Sumireko needs the time to recover, which means we get to see what Greg's up to for a while before she gets back in action.))
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How much are we paying Mary? She deserves a raise.
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Wait, did Sumireko set the bomb?

Was it even active, or was Mary just holding the ball to protect against theft/bluff the bomb was live?

I doubt Nitori could tell the difference, anyway.


Did Mary do that by herself?

Did we teach a doll based on Koishi how to arm a nuke?
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Minor spoilers, but no, she didn't. Sumireko just collapsed into the bed, this was Mary acting on her own. She also wasn't actually doing the bomb thing, she was holding on to the occult ball for a different reason. You're correct in that Nitori has no way to tell the difference, and Mary did not elaborate.

It's only minor spoilers because Sumireko will definitely notice when she wakes up, but it might be a while before we get back to that side of things.

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Ah, I see.

I would've been fine with waiting until we switch perspectives again, but thank you for clarifying.

Anyway, interesting implications to think about in the meantime.
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As a reminder, previous Greg update was >>204881.

[-]On the road to the village.

Being disguised as Koakuma was an unusual experience, to say the least. You shook your head, seeing locks of red hair sway back and forth in front of your face. You reflexively reached up to grab them, only for them to pass through your hand like the illusion they were. "That's a little uncanny."

Just walking with Patchouli didn't take away from the uncanny feeling of the experience. "I would have thought being in disguise would be normal for you."

"I tend more towards veils, actually," you admitted, glancing back towards the mage. "There's a few exceptions, but I usually find invisibility to be more useful than a disguise."

"And what cases would those be?"

It didn't escape you that Patchouli's probably filing away your response, but you answered anyway. "The obvious one is deception, especially if you want to incriminate someone in particular. Beyond that, there are cases where seeing someone is less suspicious than seeing nobody. Needing to open a closed door is the classic example, but then there's sand, mud or snow, or if you've screwed up and made a noticeable noise. Basically, any time there's going to be traces of you passing through, it's better if you give people a way to explain away those traces."

"Hmph." Patchouli wiped her brow. "It's downright despair inducing how many people accept the first explanation they've been given."

"The real trick isn't to give them the explanation, it's to leave it laying around for them to find," you said. "Everyone feels clever when they put together a puzzle, so if you give someone just enough information to reach the conclusion you want and let them piece it together, they'll think what you want and be satisfied about it."

"You're well versed in human psychology, then."

It was a kinder way for her to put it than just calling you a manipulator again, at least. "Not really, or at least not formally. It's just common behavior patterns. If you really stop and watch, most people aren't that different, or that complicated."

"I've found most humans fairly similar," Patchouli agreed. "Youkai behavior is a bit more varied, but much of it comes down to the differing instincts and abilities of species."

"I've been wondering about that," you admitted. "Sumi and I did run into the occasional youkai before Gensokyo, but they were all feral, wild things. None of them could be mistaken for a human, that's for sure. That's part of the reason we were excited to find a way here, honestly. The youkai that managed to collect the occult balls were far more human in appearance and behavior than any we'd seen."

"While maintaining enough of the unknown to remain fascinating, I suppose," Patchouli mused. "Is that why the balls are designed to pass around through combat?"

"We figured it would be the most common high-energy encounter. We also wanted to see the exceptional youkai, not the common ones. But seriously, why are Gensokyo's youkai so different?"

Patchouli considered that for a minute, and you gave her the time to think as you kept walking. It was a nice afternoon for it, at least. Cool with a slight breeze, and the multicolored leaves of autumn were gorgeous. The sky was mostly clear, though the storm over by the mountain did look pretty nasty. Hopefully it would blow over.

"The first reason would be selection bias. Gensokyo was meant as a paradise for youkai, but also required them to show restraint in dealing with humans. Doubtless the more feral youkai either refused or were never invited to begin with."

You nodded as the mage continued. "The other reason... I suspect something about Gensokyo itself, perhaps the experiences of the humans here, I suspect." Patchouli said. "Many youkai and gods have their form based on the tales humans told of them, as passed through the years. Humans in Gensokyo have been far more acquainted with youkai over the generations. Perhaps that familiarity has led the youkai here to take more familiar forms in turn. Though this seems like the sort of thing Yukari could have meddled in."

"That's... both plausible and vaguely terrifying, actually."

"Yukari usually is," Patchouli said drily. "At times it seems her power is capable of anything except making her likable."

You weren't expecting the jab and laughed. Koakuma's merry, high-pitched giggle came out and you startled slightly. Patchouli noticed and shot you a questioning look.

"That's the other reason this is uncanny," you explained, gesturing at yourself. "I've enchanted illusions before, but pretty much always for Sumireko. When I wear one, I'm pretty much always the one casting it, and that means I'm constantly concentrating on it."

"Making it literally impossible to be surprised by it," Patchouli realized.

"Exactly. Wearing this doesn't actually feel any different from normal," you said, twisting the ring on your finger. "It's actually quite easy to forget I'm even using an illusion, up until I catch a glimpse of red hair or some such."

"You'll need to get used to it quickly, then." Patchouli said. "A startle like that could draw attention."

"I doubt 'that's not actually Koakuma' is going to be their first conclusion," you defended. "But I take your point. I guess it's just as well I'm wearing this until we get there."

Patchouli raised a hand and you stopped. "Hold. Someone's approaching."

Now that she mentioned it, you could hear it. Branches rattled and snapped as a shape flitted through the trees. You could feel a slight chill in the air as the shape approached and became visible.

"Who dares trespass on the domain of THE STRONGEST?!"

It was a child-sized ice fairy in a blue dress. Flying directly overhead at an angle where you had to look away to avoid spotting something you shouldn't have. Patchouli had briefed you a bit on the way on some of the youkai you might run into, and both the description and her behavior made her dead simple to recognize.

"Hey Cirno!" you called out cheerfully.

"Don't hey me! I'm the strongest! That means you have to pay me taxes! It's feuding law!"

Patchouli dragged her hand over her face, and you could see both the tension and patience just drain out of her. "When I find out who expanded her vocabulary..."

"Um, all we have is books. So unless you want a book, I'm afraid-"

"But your books are boring!" Cirno complained. "Even the pictures are boring! All those dying grams are awful! No wonder they died!"

It took you a second to connect that thought to the word 'diagram', and you winced on the pure principle of the thing. Meanwhile, Patchouli glared at her. "And just when did you see one of my books?"

"Uh..." Cirno stuttered, backing off. "I didn't see many?"

Patchouli's glare turned to you, and you shook your head. "Don't look at me, I didn't do anything!"

"Uh, right." The mage looked momentarily sheepish before regaining her ferocity. "It's clear I'll need to have a conversation with someone later."

You took a moment to say a silent prayer for the valiantly doomed real Koakuma. May her death be relatively painless.

Cirno approached and nudged you in the side. "That was close," she whispered.

And didn't this bring back memories of grade school? Better to engage on her level. "Be quiet!" you hissed. "You're gonna get us caught!"

Patchouli's glare only deepened at that, and she pulled out a book, wielding it at the fairy. "Cirno. I am busy, and now is not the time. Leave us alone, or I will melt you into next spring."

"Wait!" she cried, holding her hands up. "You're looking into the urban legend thing, right?! You gotta help Wriggle! Her story thingy... it's awful!"

Patchouli hesitated at that, so you asked the obvious question. "What happened?"

"Her bugs just keep appearing and it's awful and they're everywhere!"

Right! Wriggle was the local bug youkai. Which... meant that sounded just like business as usual. "Doesn't she normally have bugs everywhere?"

"Not like this!" Cirno said, shivering. "They keep appearing even when she takes them away! Even when I keep freezing them all!"

You glance back at Patchouli, who still hasn't rendered judgement. You're pretty sure she'd rather push on to the village, but she's at least tempted to check it out. Which there is at least an argument for doing. If nothing else, it's odd that Wriggle got an urban legend, you're pretty sure she's way weaker than anyone else you've seen with one.

[-] Urge Patchouli to check it out.
[-] Press on to the village.
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>The sky was mostly clear, though the storm over by the mountain did look pretty nasty. Hopefully it would blow over.

It's fine, just a lightning-quick bout of flash-fried frog.

Anyway, good frame of reference to correlate timelines with.

I know we're back to Greg, but why is there only one option presented?

[X] Urge Patchouli to check it out.

But on a serious note: Greg just can't refuse any request for help.

And even then it'll help sell the image he's projecting to Patchouli.

Y'know, him actually being a decent person. 'Cuz he is.
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[X] Urge Patchouli to check it out.
[X] "Mistress Patchouli, we can't deny a good learning experience about the urban legends offered to us by the strongest, can we?"
Cheekiness aside, whatever legend Wriggle accidentally made will probably be much more straightforward than what we're having to deal with with Remilia. And we still haven't really been able to solve or work around any Urban Legends yet. Being able to have one under our belt would be pretty helpful experience. Plus, this is Greg. Greg won't turn something down. He has experiences with roaches anyways, Wriggle should feel like a distant older sister to him.

Also, if we can ally ourselves with THE STRONGEST, Yukari and Mamizou will be fuckin done for.
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Wriggle can control bugs.

Greg is Roach.

Wriggle mind control arc incoming???
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[X] Urge Patchouli to check it out.
[X] "Mistress Patchouli, we can't deny a good learning experience about the urban legends offered to us by the strongest, can we?"
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[X] Urge Patchouli to check it out.
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Sumireko Bad End Route

[X] Urge Patchouli to check it out.
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[X] Urge Patchouli to check it out.
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[X] Urge Patchouli to check it out.

"Could we at least take a look?" you pleaded. "It shouldn't take too long, right?"

"Do you really think it'll be worth the time?"

You kind of expected it to be an argument. For Patchouli to take convincing, pleading, and maybe a certain amount of social maneuvering.

"Seeing another urban legend in action can't hurt! Besides, I want to see how Wriggle got an urban legend for herself."

"Very well."

It left you a little flat-footed when she just agreed like that.

Cirno did a fist pump, jumping a few feet into the air. "Come on! She's over by the river!"

The ice fairy then proceeded to fly off at speed. Which was a bit of a problem since you were groundbound. You tried running after her regardless, but rapidly lost sight of Cirno as she weaved through the trees.

"Is she going to realize she's left us behind?" you asked.

Patchouli was far more composed by virtue of being able to fly. "Debatable."

Thankfully, the ice fairy had left a literal trail of frost across the branches, making it simple enough for the two of you to follow. And a few minutes of exertion later, you did catch up to her a stone's throw away from the river itself.

Patchouli beat you to the area and started discussing things with a new fairy, this one in green.

"There you are! What took you so long?"

"Had to walk," you said, panting. "Hurt my wing, earlier."

"Oh. That's no fun. Does this mean you're not gonna duel me?"

You shuddered. That was a bullet narrowly dodged. "Maybe next time."

"Aw, come on. Just a short one?"

"Cirno," the green fairy said chidingly. "You know you can hang out with people without fighting them."

"But Dai, winning fights is why I'm the strongest!" Cirno protested... but it was a token effort.

Daiyousei! That was her name. Your breath regained, you walked over to Daiyousei, and caught the tail end of the discussion.

"-from nowhere?" Patchouli asked.

"Yes! At least I think so," Dai said earnestly.

"You're certain she didn't have the bugs hidden nearby?"

"Cirno's perfect freeze kills off any insects in the area," the fairy stated confidently. "Wriggle's complained about it a few times. But new bugs kept showing up regardless."

Oh, of course. Patchouli went straight to the urban legend discussion. "Is there anything unusual about the bugs?" You asked.

"Not really?" Dai answered. "They're just a bunch of bugs. I guess there's a lot of cockroaches?"

Oh, joy. You weren't afraid of bugs, thank goodness, but you'd had a bad experience with cockroaches in particular. To be specific, a backfired attempt to transform a box that somehow (you still don't know how) turned it into a pile of cockroaches. Which did not magically dissipate or anything and had to be removed by hand.

It was a miserable weekend for you and Sumireko both, and was the direct source of the Roach nickname she'd occasionally harass you with. And considering precisely who overheard said nickname and found it funny, you have a sinking feeling their appearance here isn't a coincidence.

"And is Wriggle herself normal?" Patchouli asked.

"She's fine, just annoyed." Dai gave an apologetic smile. "Cirno's just not used to actually having bugs land on her."

Patchouli sighed and turned to you. "Well, Koakuma, since you were so eager to see this for yourself, by all means, go on."

The mage gestured towards the river where you saw a lone figure sitting down by the banks, a dense swarm around her. You're feeling a little set-up, but it's not like you can reasonably refuse, so you walk cautiously towards Wriggle.

[-] To be continued.
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Go, Roach.
Be amongst your people.
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Roach has returned to his family
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>To be specific, a backfired attempt to transform a box that somehow (you still don't know how) turned it into a pile of cockroaches.

Actually, the target of the transformationmutation was a spare shirt and it was his shirt that transformed into cockroaches.

>You scowled at the nickname, which was the legacy of a particularly disastrous transmutation. The exercise had been to turn a spare shirt into a rock, but, you'd made a couple of mistakes with the runes involved. Instead of targeting the spare shirt, you'd transformed the one you were wearing at the time. And instead of turning it into a pile of rocks, well...

Gotta keep the Roach Canon accurate.
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That's what I get for writing at 3 AM. I'd tried searching back through my archives, but I didn't find that and assumed I hadn't previously specified. Nice catch.
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Nah the real lore is that he changes up the details everytime he tells the story.

Gaslight everyone, even yourself.

The truth can never come out.
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the real deep lore is that something popular already ripped off Greg (cockroach) directly from this quest
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You mean the Sinner with the bug arm?
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yeah, and if you look at the dates, this quest predates that particular game by one and a half years
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[-] What's up with Wriggle?

Wriggle was just sitting by the riverbank, in what looked to be close conversation with an entire swarm of insects.

Well... swarm didn't do it justice. It was a nightmare collection of every creepy-crawlie you could fit under the label of "bug". Flies, ants, centipedes, moths, worms, mosquitos, and, of course, roaches. So many cockroaches.

Damn it, you were supposed to be over this!

Mustering up your courage, you walked forwards, only to feel something crawling on the back of your neck. You yelped and swatted at it, missing as the pest flew off and started buzzing around you. This got Wriggle's attention.

"Hey! Don't swat!"

Right, right, bug youkai. As if the antennae didn't already make that obvious. "Sorry, I just- agh!"

Something else landed on your leg and you recoiled, trying to brush it off. That turned out to be a centipede, which you barely repressed the urge to stomp on, only to feel a third bug land on your head. That one you managed to crush with a slap, further offending the bug youkai.

"Cut it out, Koakuma! Bugs don't deserve to be treated like that!"

"Then keep them off me!" Something bit you. "Damn it!"

"It doesn't work like that!" Wriggle complained as you scratched at your arm. "It's my urban legend!"

You looked around warily, trying to spot where the next attack might come from. "Just how does it work then?"

"It's great!" she said enthusiastically. "You know how there's that whole thing where you've lost track of a predator and you're trying to figure out where it went? And then it'll appear right when you're least expecting it?"

"Oh no."

"Oh yes! It works with my bugs! If someone's nearby and they're not paying attention, bugs will just start appearing on them! New ones! It's great!" Her eyes gleamed in sharp contrast to the swarm behind her. "This is going to put insects back on the map!"

You forced a smile. "That sounds... lovely... ow!"

Right in the ear! Why? Why do they do that?

"Doesn't it make it harder-" you grimaced, scratching furiously at your leg. "To be around people though?"

"Only the stupid ones," Wriggle huffed, crossing her arms. "Like Cirno. Can you believe she was trying to freeze my bugs?! You wouldn't do anything like that, right Koakuma?"

"I promise, I would never react like that." You'd use fire.

"See? I knew you were cool!" Wriggle exclaimed, grabbing your arms happily.

Which was nice and friendly and friendship and all that jazz, but the number of things biting you just multiplied. Her urban legend is proximity based.

Your skin was literally crawling and you jerked backwards, your self-control at its absolute limit as you restrained yourself to just brushing off the insects instead of swatting like mad.

"Is everything alright?" she asked.

"Just fine!" you said. "It's just Cirno seemed worried so I wanted to check up on you, but clearly you're doing well-"

"Never better!" she chirped, the swarm behind her chirping with her.

"Great!" You flinched as more things started biting you and backed away. "I think Patchouli's calling me, and we're on important business, so if you'll excuse me I need to-"

"Okay! And you know, maybe later we could hang out and..."

You made a run for it, and the moment you were behind the cover of the trees started swatting furiously. Patchouli was clearly trying to hold back laughter.

"Are you sure you don't want to go back and help her a bit more closely? I'm sure she'd appreciate some company."

"You knew that would happen!" you hissed, scratching the various bites.

"Daiyousei did warn me," she confirmed. "And that is why you never use Cirno as a primary information source."

"Hate bugs." you muttered. "How'd she even get an urban legend in the first place? And if you suggest I go back to ask, I swear-"

"It would seem one of the occult balls ended up with the local group of faeries and minor youkai." Patchouli explained. "With the greater youkai distracted by the incident, they've only been fighting each other, leaving it bouncing around their possession."

"That would do it." You sighed. "So there's no mystery and no actual problem here, then?"

"Indeed. Though you were correct on one point, this was a quick diversion. But let us return to business."


[-] Back towards the village. And the less said about this the better.
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Wouldn't it be funny if we were exposed as fake Koakuma because of Wriggle?
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[X] Back towards the village. And the less said about this the better.
Well, at least we know about the location of an orb that seems to have gone unaccounted for by the other youkai. If we ever need one, or need to make use of Wriggle's urban legend for some reason, we know where to look.
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That was actually a possible outcome. A bug flying through the illusion (particularly the wings) could have actually blown Greg's cover.

But in the end, I decided the light-hearted bug freakout was a better fit. Partially for pacing and tone reasons (there's enough urban legend drama already that I think having someone genuinely happy about theirs is nice), and partially because Greg hating bugs is funny.

Really though, he's lucky Sumi wasn't around to see that.
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Sumireko is out there making bomb threats, kidnapping youkai, defeating gods and gloating about it, making enemies with pretty much everyone she encounters, kicking ass and taking names. Meanwhile Greg is making friends with youkai, crossdressing, and acting squeamish around bugs

Needless to say whenever these two meet up again Greg will probably have to censor many details of his adventures.
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GODDAMN you ruined the mental image I've had for him. Now I cant help but keep drawing parallels between this greg and the bug-sinner greg, thanks

I hope that greg and sumi would get reunited soon. I thought that greg got the shorter end of the stick in the separation but sumi definitely needs someone she can confide sooner than later
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Thought exactly the same thing.

I was thinking it's gonna happen during the hug with Wriggle notice a lack of... ahem, cushioning.
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Hold up.

If they have a ball here, why didn't Patchouli just decide to blow them all up until she got the ball?

They fuel the incident to a degree, right?

Why not collect more?

Unless she really doesn't wanna waste any time, I guess?

And I don't mean the killing kind of blowing up, just spellcard system stuff.
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Would you want to make Wriggle cry?
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The occult balls might be the source of the urban legends (or to be more specific, the magic leaking out of them is what caused it), but they're not an obvious means to solving them. Sakuya's holding on to five of them already, and while Patchouli has looked at them, it has not yielded any new insights.

Collecting occult balls can help if you want an urban legend or the trip to the outside world. Greg/Sumireko have a bit more access and can use them for enchantment (or explosive) purposes, but for most of Gensokyo there's not a whole lot of point.

For Patchouli this little sidequest was about seeing if Wriggle was somehow an exception to the rules of acquiring an urban legend. Given that she isn't (she did in fact have plenty of access to an occult ball, and her legend is honestly pretty standard stuff), it's time to move on.
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Thank you for the clarification; Patchouli's come to a fair conclusion and has her priorities well ordered.

Can she, without doubt, conclude that having all of them would not produce new unexpected results, though?

To be fair, the avenue of trying to replace Remilia's urban legend with another has already been discredited; which is why we're trying to adjust it instead, if I recall all relevant plotpoints correctly.

Anyway, no need to confirm or deny my musings; Patchouli has made her decision, and that is that.
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Well, I did figure that Greg's "Roach" nickname was a reference to the original Gregor Samsa from Kafka, so I suppose that comparison makes sense.
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>"How'd she even get an urban legend in the first place? And if you suggest I go back to ask, I swear-"

>"It would seem one of the occult balls ended up with the local group of faeries and minor youkai." Patchouli explained. "With the greater youkai distracted by the incident, they've only been fighting each other, leaving it bouncing around their possession."

>"That would do it." You sighed.

Well at least one good thing came out of this diversion. Greg finally figured out how people get urban legends. Turns out someone just needs to hold onto an occult ball long enough, and eventually an urban legend vaguely related to whoever has the occult ball will randomly pop into existence. Now all Greg needs to do is figure out how to force a specific urban legend to spawn and Koishi is practically cured.
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[-] Back towards the village.

The remainder of the trip to the village was mostly uneventful. There were a couple other minor youkai encounters, and Patchouli did use a spellcard to chase off Rumia at one point, but nothing that proved relevant to you, Remilia, or urban legends in general.

As such, you arrived at the outskirts of the human village in short order, where Meiling was sitting under a tree.

"Hey Patchy! And, uh... Greg." she got to her feet and looked you up and down. "Okay, that's creepy. I'd have sworn you were the real Koakuma."

"Glad to know my work passes inspection," you said. "Hopefully this will fool Yukari or whoever else."

"Worth a try, I guess." Meiling turned to Patchouli. "Any trouble on the way?"

"Nothing worth speaking of. Has anything changed here?"

"Not really. There was a kappa and a human milling around looking for the village themselves a little earlier. Some farmer hoping to sell his crops." Meiling shrugged. "They gave up after an hour or so."

Patchouli paused. "Was it Nitori by any chance?"

"No," she frowned. "It was a little odd, though. He was calling her Meiling, but I'm pretty sure there's no kappa with my name. Did you have an idea?"

Patchouli waved it off. "Just an idle thought. She does have some sort of camouflage tech, and she was the kappa involved in this incident, however briefly. But I doubt she'd be capable of something of this magnitude. What have you tried so far?"

"Following the road. Following the river. Flying overhead. Searching out in a spiral pattern around where it should be. In theory it should be right around here, but there's nothing but woods."

You nodded absently, looking around, and then promptly did a double take. While somewhat hidden by the trees, the village was still clearly visible in the distance. Mundanely visible, even, considering your magic was sealed.

So, assuming Meiling here wasn't just legally blind... "Patchouli, do you see anything in that direction?"

"Just trees. Is something there?"


"You could say that."

[-] To be continued.
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And that's it. Somehow, I made it through, and Nanowrimo is done. Thirty days, thirty updates, 34k words, and approximately a thread and a half of comments.

It's a relief to have it done, in all honesty. I'm glad I did it, but good grief I'm exhausted. I'm pretty sure my average update time was something like 2 AM local time for me, so it's been a rough month. Though it was enjoyable to have people commenting on the thread daily, so there were definitely upsides as well.

As for the writing itself... I'm curious, did you think the updates of the past month were noticeably rougher than usual? There were a few mixed in that I just wasn't happy with, but on the whole I think it went alright. Pacing issues are probably the biggest problem (In particular, I think we're overdue for a bit more danmaku action), but that's something I always find difficult to balance.

Regardless, USiL will be on break for the month of December. I just need the break. Come January, I'll try to resume a more normal update schedule... probably not daily, but hopefully more than once a week.

We'll see how it goes when we get there.
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>"Not really. There was a kappa and a human milling around looking for the village themselves a little earlier. Some farmer hoping to sell his crops." Meiling shrugged. "They gave up after an hour or so."

Something is up with that.
That entirely throws the whole "humans are exempt" theory out the window.
It's somebody in disguise.

>"No," she frowned. "It was a little odd, though. He was calling her Meiling, but I'm pretty sure there's no kappa with my name. Did you have an idea?"

How reliable Meiling's account is, considering there are memory shenanigans going around, is debatable; but there's definitely something weird about this.
I just can't put my finger on what, though.
A second set of the real deal (Meiling & Greg(?)) running around, disguised?
But how? Time travel? Dimensional? Gap hag bullshit?
Or just a red herring.

>You nodded absently, looking around, and then promptly did a double take. While somewhat hidden by the trees, the village was still clearly visible in the distance. Mundanely visible, even, considering your magic was sealed.

Sure there's the obvious thing here where Greg can see through the effect somehow, not just remember that the village exists.
But that adds even more suspicion to the "human" that was here earlier.
Clearly there's something "wrong" with Greg for lack of better word, yes, but it really makes me wonder what those two were about
We need to ask Meiling how long ago "a little earlier" was.
Did that Wriggle detour cause us to miss them?
This is either a real lead or a massive red herring and I'm just being paranoid.

But at least the village is here in front of us, so that's a big plus for now.

[-] To be continued.
-[X] Press Meiling for details about the duo she saw.

Sorry, I couldn't help myself.


I think it all went rather well, actually.

I've been invested all month, so I wouldn't say the quality suffered; at the very least not in any noticeable way, personally.

As for pacing, I don't think that's a problem either.
Yes, it's been a lot of talking, but that was more or less just where the story was at the time.
The situations for both protagonists were simply not right for conflict of the more physical sort.

In fact, I only see two opportunities where that could've happened this entire month; but both of those moments would've been less than ideal.

The first, and it's a stretch, would've been escalating the meeting between Sumireko and the tengu in a different way, instead of holding them hostage with the bomb threat
Sumireko was already on her last legs, so it would've been over in moments; but maybe Seija would've stepped in for the assist.

The second is more obvious, and it's when Seija confronted Nitori.
I still think Nitori chickening out makes more sense for her.
It was simply logical, but she's also not the most violence-prone in the first place.
Seija was incredibly infuriating though, as expected.

I'm sure there'll be more opportunity for danmaku action soon, now that we have an ornery mage who has been forced to walk around in fresh air (The horror!) to further sour her mood.

Anyway, enjoy your break; and once again: congratulations!
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Congratulations for finishing nanowrimo, you've shown amazing tenacity and dedication.

>As for the writing itself... I'm curious, did you think the updates of the past month were noticeably rougher than usual?

While select updates may have suffered as a whole, the most noticeable thing in regards to quality drops were inelegant scene transitions and glossing over parts of the story by summarizing them.
The Wriggle vote also felt like it was there entirely for padding (how ironic).

I liked the occult ball truth spell scene. It was mystical and granted Patchouli much needed agency at that point as she was mostly relegated to the sidelines.
The Nitori and Mary scene after the confrontation was nice.
And naturally the whole tea dinner was, heh, the bomb .

I'll get more into that sometime later when I have the opportunity to.
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Funny thing is while I've heard of the kafka story, I've never heard of limbus company before. The remark got me curious enough to look "sinner gregor" up

Some of the pacing feels off compared to the earlier parts of the story, but nothing too egregious. I think you've done a great job. Have a nice break and see you on 2024
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I generally agree with what >>205187 said, I think the truth spell scene was a bit sudden in its introduction (as the author already pointed out) but good in its execution, and the other highlight was the bomb dinner. The Wriggle scene did feel a bit tacked on, though it did deliver some useful information as >>205176 pointed out.

To be fair, I only know of it because of Rifle crossing over his story (Green Eyes Online) with the same franchise/universe.
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Pretty sure those two are Piper and Jin, so well one of them might be in a disguise, but it's not the human.

Though that is interesting considering that the last post established that Greg was leaving the SDM at the same time that Sumi was fighting Suwako. So from another post’s timeline it was about an hour after talking with Piper that Sumi fought Suwako. And considering the time it takes to travel from the SDM to the human village (on foot since Greg isn’t flying.) Piper must’ve beelined it for Jin right after the peptalk she got from Sumi… though the date idea seems to have run into a snag as the village is missing.


Something tells me that at least a large reason Kanako will be trying to use politicking over the Suwako/Sumi fight for is going to be Sanae, as she’s probably going to be upset that her family just fell headlong for a classical ‘evil copy false flag’ trick (not sure what the proper trope name is, but i’ve seen it enough from cartoons, games and anime to know it is one.). I foresee a marathon of media watching with the three of them in the future along with a lecture on how to spot and avoid such. (that might also be a ‘I’m so glad I’m alive let me cuddle with my moms’ session.)

Kanako will be lucky though as she does have a very convenient freshly cooked french dish to toss under the bus, after all Kanako didn’t attack Sumi.

Also congrats on managing nanowrimo!
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Fair point on Piper and Jin, forgot about those two.
That still debunks humans being exempt, though.
Jin might live on the outskirts of the village as a farmer, but he's still considered a villager and thus is under the umbrella of village protection.
As such, him being unable to access the village would leave him basically stranded; and I don't think basically abandoning everyone outside the village is something Keine'd do.
So I still think there's something more to this, but it being those two does make sense.
I suppose we'll find out what the deal is soon enough.
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[-] What's going on with the village?

"Wait, so you're seriously saying the village is right there?" Meiling asked.

"Yep! Plain as the nose on your face." You started walking towards it and gestured for them to follow. "I'm not sure why I can see it when you guys can't, so we're going to get closer and find out."

Patchouli raised an eyebrow, but started walking. "Your first step is to approach the unexplained magical phenomenon?"

You met it with a smile. "It's so much easier to poke the magic when you're right next to it."

"Some would consider that a questionable survival strategy."

"Do you think I ended up in your care by making good decisions?"

Patchouli's lip quirked upwards slightly. "Be that as it may, I will require good decisions of you here."

Meiling glanced back and forth between the two of you. "So... is this dangerous or not?"

Right. First impression time. Well, technically it's the third time you've met, but this is a chance to impress on Meiling that you should be listened to. "It's hard to say anything with complete certainty about unknown magic, but the odds of this illusion having any danger attached to it is miniscule."

"But using an illusion to trick someone into danger is a classic!"

You shook your head. "Sure, you can absolutely use illusions like that. In point of fact, Sumi and I got Kasen with a similar trick shortly upon arriving in Gensokyo. But in this case it would defeat the point. When you're trying to hide something, the last thing you want to do is draw attention to it."

"But that works too! You set up the illusion, and then you just kill anyone who gets past it and hide the bodies behind the illusion! That's how they did it in" Meiling glanced at Patchouli and hesitated. "In, uh... history!"

Patchouli sighed. "I see you've been reading the tengu's comics again."

Meiling's stammered denials convinced exactly no-one, and you took the chance to ask the most important question. "Wait, there's youkai comics?"

"... they're called manga." she muttered.

"Huh." How very human of them. "Are they any good?"

"Oh yeah! There's this new one about a fake family where the parents are secretly different types of youkai, but they'd adopted a kid with satori abilities. So she knows what they are, but neither of them know she knows, and-"

Patchouli cut her off with a glare. "Now is not the time."

"You can show me another time," you said, patting Meiling on the shoulder. Whether that time would come remained to be seen, but it was never bad to be the reasonable and sympathetic one. "But to answer your original question, there's two reasons I'm sure the illusion here won't pose a danger."

You gestured around. "The first is that there's no level of force that would make sense. Attacking someone who's trying to find you only works if it's quick and decisive. The kind of force that would stop a Remilia or a Flandre would paste you or me across the landscape."

"With the sheer variety and power of Gensokyo's youkai, there's no single countermeasure." Patchouli supplied. "Even a broad anti-youkai measure like the yin-yang orbs would run into trouble against Sakuya. Combined with the effectiveness of bombs as a defensive measure and the possibility of a search party working in groups, and attacking indiscriminately becomes terrible strategy."

You glanced at the mage. That was completely correct, and more helpful than you were expecting.

"It may still be a trap, of course." She continued. "But I am certain we won't be attacked accidentally."

There it was. "How often do I have to be right before you'll stop doubting me?"

"The best liars tell the truth most of the time. Besides, it need not be your trap. Investigating the disappearance of the human village is an obvious step. It would be foolish to assume that the mastermind hasn't planned for it, regardless of whether it's Mamizou or some third party."

You sighed, exasperated. "Then what exactly do you suggest?"

"There's a preliminary step you've forgotten. First you need to scout the area with something expendable. And since Meiling's already survived that, it's safe to examine the anomaly in person."

"Ah, that's cruel," the gatekeeper muttered, slumping slightly before turning to you. "What was the second reason?"

"Pretty much exactly that," you admitted. "Anything that triggered from just looking should have attacked you already. Or the human and kappa you saw earlier. This is far enough, by the way."

Meiling stopped and looked around aimlessly, very clearly not seeing the building three feet in front of her. "So, now what?"

"There's a few ways I could see an illusion like this working. The first would be some sort of space manipulation, literally rearranging the topography of the world such that the village is no longer there." You can see you've overshot, so you rack your brain for a simile. "Like cutting a hole out of a piece of cloth and sowing it back up."

"But that doesn't work," she said. "It doesn't matter how you stitch it, the fabric won't fit properly. You'd end up with one side crumpled and the other hanging loose."

"Exactly," you said. "If that had been the case, there would have been something wrong with the area around the village. Where it might look correct at a glance, but walking in a certain direction leaves you going in circles, or three left turns making a square, or something similar. But given that we've made it to the outskirts of the village without issue, we can discard that theory."

"Which in turn would imply that the village has merely been concealed," Patchouli said.

"Right." You waved a hand at the building behind you. "What do you see over here?"

"Just more forest." Meiling said. "There's a knot of trees there."

"Patchouli, do you see the same?"

"Yes," she confirmed. "Weeping cherry trees, or Prunus itosakura, to be precise."

"Okay then." You resisted the urge to roll your eyes. "What's actually there is a building, with absolutely no foilage near it. And I should be able to prove it. Meiling, could you grab one of the leaves?"

The gatekeeper obliged, jumped, and one wrenching noise later came down with a chunk of a roof tile. You winced, but nodded. "Okay, so the illusion is actually syncing up to real objects. Interesting, but there's always a limit. Can you bend the 'leaf' without breaking it?"

Meiling rolled her eyes, applied extremely slight pressure to the roof tile, and absolutely nothing happened. So she pressed a little harder.

Clay is brittle. Having already been broken once, the piece of tile shattered in her hands. Meiling stared at the broken shards as they dropped around her feet.

"Interesting," Patchouli said, bending down to pick one up. With a snap of her fingers, a small flame lit, which she held the shard into. "Non-flammable as well. As proof goes, this is fairly convincing."

"Does it still look like a leaf? Or well, pieces of one?"

"No. It now looks as if Meiling broke a rock. Had I not been watching, I would have assumed she'd grabbed the wrong item."

"It's a roof tile," you said, sighing. "I'd hoped that would disrupt the illusion, at least for the broken item. But if it can adapt like that, we'll need actual magic to break it. Patchouli, I'm going to need you to unseal me."

The mage considered you for a long moment, but ultimately nodded. "I concur."

[-] Examine the effect again, this time with magic.
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[X] Examine the effect again, this time with magic.

And we're back! Interesting illusion.
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Why Greg can see through illusion?
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maybe he himself is illusion
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but if so... who was urbnan student in libmo??
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The OG Greg, whose parents tried to revive him but got an illusion instead.
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that sounds like a plot of sumi hill 2
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"It's hot as hell in here."
"For me... it's always like this."
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[-] Examine the effect again, this time with magic.

You'd been preoccupied when your magic had been unsealed before. Focused on both the enchantment and Patchouli's strange behavior, you hadn't spared much thought for the unsealing itself.

It wasn't painful. Pain would have been the wrong word for it. But there was a sense of twisting and untwisting, of snapping back. Unrestrained by the binding, your magic was rushing through you like fire through the bloodstream, trying to burn its way free.

Squinting your eyes against the sudden headache, you stumbled. Patchouli made a noise, whether alarm, concern, or what you weren't sure, but you held up a hand to forestall it.

It was your magic. Having it snap back on you like that was unpleasant, but it wasn't dangerous. It couldn't be. Magic could be applied to self-destructive ends, but it never just destroyed itself. Not without provocation far more twisted than a mere binding.

So you closed your eyes, concentrated and fought the feeling. Forced your magic to slow down, to settle, and after the longest moment of your life, it obliged. Uneasily, still agitated, but it settled.

"Patchouli," you muttered, "I'd be greatly obliged if you could tell me the long term effects of your binding later."

"There shouldn't be any," she murmured.

"And how many books could you fill with magical side-effects that shouldn't have happened?" you sniped. "Damn it. I feel like I tried to channel Sumi's magic."

You straightened up, rubbing an ache in your lower back, and opened your eyes, squinting at the sudden glare of the sun shining through the cherry trees.


Blinking furiously, you can see it just as Patchouli had described it; a knot of cherry trees in the space where the building should be. You can even see a broken branch where Meiling plucked that roof tile. Looking towards the village center, the streets and buildings have been obscured by shrubbery and trees. You have no doubt that you're seeing your surroundings in the same way the others are.

And yet... it's all shallow. The forest surrounding you is perfectly crafted, and you could easily believe that the area might have looked this way, but the feel of illusion is inescapable. It's dreamlike, both in the picturesque peacefulness, and the sense that one wrong move... or one right move, might pierce it. Unfortunately, knowing that you can do something and knowing how to do it are two different things.

"Well?" Patchouli prompted.

"I can see the illusion now." You pinched yourself on general principle. Yeah, it's still there. "When you deactivated my binding it just appeared."

Patchouli pulled out one of her books and started flipping through it. "Do you remember why we're here?"

"I still remember Keine and Mamizou, if that's what you're getting at."

"That's something, at least," she grumbled. "Still, that doesn't make any sense."

"Does the binding work as a two-way seal? If Keine's ability is similar enough to my magic, perhaps it was just blocking it out?"

Patchouli shook her head. "No, it's strictly one-way. The point was to block a prisoner's magic from getting out. Filtering outside magic as well would have been significant extra work for marginal gain."

"What else could it be?" Meiling asked. "Unless he's just lying?"

"Given the business with the 'leaf', he must have been telling the truth about seeing the village. He could be lying about not seeing it now, but there's no motive for that."

"There's what appears to be three cherry trees right in front of us, with the one in the back having a bird nest in the upper branches." you said bluntly.

Patchouli nodded. "Regardless, this presents a conundrum. For him to be affected now implies he wasn't excluded from Keine's history-consuming effect. This in turn means both that he somehow resisted it with his magic sealed, and yet was vulnerable to it with his magic available."

She had a point. The fact that somehow you were more vulnerable with your magic available was baffling.

Hm. On the one hand, you know Patchouli's assessment of her own bindings aren't completely accurate. She hadn't known about the emotional effect Satori's binding would have, and yours didn't cut off your magic as completely as she believed. The idea that the binding somehow blocked the illusion is plausible.

But at the same time, perfectly blocking a completely different youkai's ability would be a really strange coincidence. And if it was blocking Keine's ability, it should absolutely interfere with the Koakuma disguise that was enchanted with your own magic. It feels more believable that the fragments of your own magic available to you were what defeated Keine's ability while you were sealed... except if that was the case, it should absolutely be doing the same thing with the binding deactivated.

You're missing something. There's got to be some key fact about the binding or Keine's ability you're missing that would cause all of this to make sense. You just have no idea what.

"Maybe Keine's specifically targeting everything except ordinary magic-less humans?" Meiling asked. "If she's trying to protect the village residents, that would make sense."

The mage hummed, glancing over at Meiling. "Didn't you say you ran into a human who wasn't able to find the village?"

"Yeah, but Jin's that farmer who set up shop outside the village proper. I'm pretty sure he's got at least some kind of ability to pull that off."

"There's a difference between having sealed magic and no magic." Patchouli closed her book with a sigh. "But I suppose it's as good a theory as any."

"Satori was sealed, and she didn't remember Keine or Mamizou," you pointed out.

"But you still do," Patchouli countered. "And if you're still able to, despite being unable to see the village, it's likely that they're two different effects. Related effects, possibly, but nonetheless different ones."

"Though that also raises the question of whether Satori would have been able to find the village while sealed," you said. It was a pity she wasn't here. Hopefully she was doing fine with Sakuya.

Patchouli nodded. "True, but bringing her here would waste too much time."

"Could you test the theory with a temporary binding on Meiling?"

"Why me?"

"No. Making one requires significant time, effort, and preparation, none of which can be afforded here. And even if it worked, we would need to remain sealed to interact at all with the village, which would be far too dangerous."

Meiling's obvious look of relief would have been funny if the whole binding thing didn't hit so close to home. "A different tactic, then. While I can't see the village, the forest obscuring it seems shallow, for lack of a better word. Whether they work together or clash, I'm pretty sure there's some sort of interaction between my magic and Keine's ability."

Patchouli considered that, before pulling out a different book. "Regardless of why her ability does or does not affect you, we would need a method to bypass it to enter the village. And disrupting your magic could prove an effective proxy for dealing with Keine's ability. It's as good a starting point as any."

"Then let's get to work."

[-] To be continued.
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[X] Be Continued.

Ever more curious, this situation... Only those devoid of power can see it?
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huh, I wonder if Patchy had helped with the village illusion but had purposely had herself excluded? and some weird interaction because of that and her subsequent sealing of Greg is what caused him to be able to get through it? either that or another round of 'What is Greg' has come up.
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Seems like a sort of filtering process of who gets to see through the illusion.
The criteria seems to be tied to the observer possessing magic, which makes sense given that Yokai are inherently magical. In turn villagers are naturally unaffected by the illusion since most of them are naturally without magic.
Whether the filtering process is more sophisticated or if there are any other criteria is not quite clear yet.
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[-] Magical research

Magic in general had a truly staggering number of variables that could affect what a spell actually did. Sometimes it felt like anything and everything could change the results of a spell, from the caster's emotional state to the phases of the moon. Combine that with the sheer variety of different youkai, all of which obviously had their own powers that worked in completely different ways, and nailing down cause and effect was next to impossible. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack, if the haystack had been scattered across twelve dimensions and enspelled to continuously replicate.

However, Patchouli was a natural scientist. Not in the sense of actually knowing a lot about science (though for all you knew, she might have dusted off a few physics textbooks at some point), but in the sense of having a firm grasp of the scientific method. She understood a number of things you honestly hadn't expected from the youkai. She absolutely grasped the idea of making small changes to an experiment to both prove the result was repeatable and figure out what the critical detail was.

Which made it all the more exasperating that the two of you weren't getting anywhere. The only thing that seemed to make a difference in whether you could see the village or not was whether the binding was on or off. Trying to hide or otherwise disguise your magic while unsealed did nothing. Using a bit of Patchouli's magic to appear magical while sealed also did nothing. The other mage's magic just didn't seem to interact with whatever was hiding the village.

You were having a little more luck, but not much. It was like trying to grab smoke. You'd try to peel back whatever illusion was at play, and for a moment you'd feel the edges of it, but the moment you tried to focus on it or actually form a spell around it, it'd be gone. Patchouli's attempts at a counterspell based off of your magic went no better. She'd crafted a sun and moon-themed spellcard to interfere with any sort of light manipulation, and Keine's effect again didn't notice it.

"It's no good," Patchouli said finally. "There has to be an unusual interaction involving the binding itself."

That wasn't the conclusion you'd wanted her to reach. Unfortunately, it was also correct. "Maybe Keine's effect is just excluding 'normal' humans?"

"If that were the case, it must measure power in some sense, and thus it still interacts with the binding."

"Right..." you scratched the back of your neck, thinking furiously.

The problem was, as soon as Patchouli noticed the security hole in her binding, she was going to patch it. There just wasn't enough trust between you two for her not to. (Granted, you saw the logic and would do the same in her position, but that made it no less frustrating.) And she was going to notice. While less exactingly perfect than Sakuya, the mage had shown enough attention to detail to actually catch it.

"So, how are we going to do this?" you asked. "I was under the impression the binding was either on or off, with no in-between."

Patchouli frowned, looking over at you but saying nothing. You sighed. "Let me guess. You have a workaround, but you don't want to tell me what it is in case it lets me learn something about the binding."

She raised an eyebrow at you. "Perhaps once upon a time. But if you were able to discover an unintentional side effect, I doubt the binding's main function has remained a mystery to you. The issue is one of implementation. Altering the binding after it has been applied is nontrivial."

"Really? Being able to adjust and modify how a spell works on the fly is incredibly useful. I'd have thought someone with your experience would have designed for it."

Patchouli shook her head. "My spells are designed to be maximally efficient. A spell you would apply in a variety of situations-"

"You mean a broadly useful one?"

Patchouli did her best to talk over you, which admittedly wasn't very good "-is by necessity not optimized for any individual situation."

"Like Marisa's Master Spark?" Meiling volunteered out of nowhere.


"Or Reimu's Fantasy Seal?"

"The only time you've seen either of those bombs was as a spectator. When you have that level of power, all you need is a hammer," Patchouli grumbled.

Meiling just smiled, saying nothing.

"Admittedly, there is a niche for general spells, but a repertoire of specialized ones proves more efficient once you've taken the time to develop them. Elemental combinations are notorious for this; it's very easy for different elements to interfere with each other, and it becomes difficult to tweak the spell without reworking it entirely."

You didn't have the proficiency to even try multi-element spells, but you took her point. "I suppose by the time I get a decade of experience, I'd probably specialize a bit more as well."

"Don't let her fool you," Meiling said. "She was still blasting things with fireballs fifty years after I met her. She didn't become interested in efficiency until after her asthma started acting up."

Patchouli glared at her. "Yes, well my jobs actually get done, and I'd appreciate if you'd go back to doing yours."

Meiling just smiled and walked away. You glanced over at the mage. "You know, I thought you two would be a bit friendlier with each other."

Patchouli took a deep breath, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Meiling is lazy. The only things she's maximized in her life would be her workout regimen and her sleep schedule."

You looked over back to where the gate guard was folding her arms behind her head and leaning back against a tree. You weren't sure it was possible to lounge insolently, but if it was, that was it. "If that's the case, why would Sakuya trust her with anything, especially now?"

The mage sighed. "She does actually work when it's important, but only then. You would not believe the number of times Sakuya has caught her sleeping at her post."

You took a moment to picture what Sakuya's displeasure probably looked like. "I'm surprised it's happened more than once."

"Indeed. That should tell you everything you need to know."

Yes, although that was mostly filing it under 'personality conflict'. "I take it that's why you brought up the possibility of a trap earlier?"

"In part. Though as you can see," she gestured at the lounging gate guard, "it was of limited effectiveness."

"Ah." Definitely personality conflict. Which would have been something you could use if you weren't honestly trying to help them at the moment. Still worth keeping in mind, at least. "Anyway, we've strayed from the point. What's your plan regarding the binding?"

"Right." Patchouli shook her head. "Modifying the binding directly is out of the question, but I can create a second binding that attaches to the original and modulates the amount of energy it's drawing. This should let me adjust how magical you appear to Keine's effect."

As well as letting her go back to full security the moment the effect is taken care of, but you gain nothing from pointing that out.

"And hopefully there's a power level low enough for me to detect the illusion, but high enough for me to dispose of it." You hesitated. "Is this going to involve me getting shocked repeatedly?"

"That customization was built into the binding in the first place," Patchouli said. "The punishing effect does scale with magic used, but it needed to work on everything from magicians with weak bodies all the way to oni. As such, the intensity of the pain can be dialed up or turned off."

"I see," you muttered, rubbing at your arm.

Patchouli either ignored your tone or didn't notice. "Let's see, the auxiliary binding is far simpler than the original, and a rough implementation will do... I don't have all my tools here, but the materials on me should be enough. An hour should suffice."

That's not great, but it could be worse. "Is this something I can help with?"

"No. Even aside from the risk of allowing you to work on something connected to your own binding, you simply lack the expertise." She waved a hand. "You may watch, or waste the time alongside Meiling. It's not like she can get any more distracted."

[-] Watch Patchouli with the binding.
[-] Hang out with Meiling, chat.
[?] Is there a better way to use the time? You don't think so, but maybe you've overlooked something.
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[-] Hang out with Meiling, chat.
[-] ...So what do you do for fun?
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[x] Hang out with Meiling, chat.
[x] ...So, you come here often?
-[x] Talk with her about the denizens of Gensokyo. Maybe she'll know something that'll be of use, now or later.

Gaslight the gatekeeping Girlboss.
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[X] Watch Patchouli with the binding.

Need more magic knowledge.
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[X] Watch Patchouli with the binding.
can I your apprentic plis
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[?] is that Kappa and Farmer still around? Maybe their perspective could reveal something.
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[x] is that Kappa and Farmer still around?
"Snooping as usual, I see?"
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>Granted, you saw the logic and would do the same in her position, but that made it no less frustrating.

Oh, would you now, Greg?
Nah, I get he's just being empathic, but I felt like pointing it out.

I like the write-in talking about the kappa and the farmer, but I don't think we should break from what we're doing right now.
Meiling clearly knows the latter, or at least his name, so we can ask her about him as we chat to her.
If she knows where Jin lives, then she can lead us to his place to get his account if Patchouli's experiment fails.
I'm a little hesitant about involving innocents, though. Even if they might give us a way to get word (or us) out.

[X] Hang out with Meiling, chat.
-[X] Ask her about the farmer (and kappa) she saw. Maybe their perspective could reveal something.
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[X] Watch Patchouli with the binding.

Asking Meiling about the farmer and kappa may give us some more information about the village illusion, but I feel like this options is more useful in the long term, in terms of gaining a better understanding of magic in general, and potentially getting a better understanding of how to get out of this captivity in particular.
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205373 here, my idea was less for rescue and more from the "maybe you overlooked something" from the custom option prompt, unless I am mistaken it looks like Patouli and Greg are both operating on the assumption that the lack of magic is what is allowing Greg to see the Village, when Jin likely doesn't either so since Jin would be the only other human here would be a good source of comparison. and also if it is able to help them get into the human village would also help Jin be safe till the incident blows over.

furthermore, and why I will be changing my vote to match 203575's is that the thought of the hilarious awkwardness of going and talking with Piper with Meiling... while Piper is pretending her name is Meiling. That and seeing how the date help that Sumi gave is turning out!

so as 205373, I am altering my vote to:
[X] Hang out with Meiling, chat.
-[X] Ask her about the farmer (and kappa) she saw. Maybe their perspective could reveal something.
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I hate to do this so soon after my December break, but work and some of my other commitments (which are not work but nevertheless important) have proven too much for me to write with any degree of reliability this month.

Seriously, outside of work (which is currently in a deadline rush), writing is like my third or fourth biggest priority, and I just don't have time to get to it.

So rather than leave this in limbo, I'm officially declaring a hiatus until around mid-February. That should be enough time for work to calm down and one of my other commitments to resolve, which should leave me able to write more than just an update every couple of weeks.

(There is an outside chance of the occasional update between now and then, but no promises.)
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