As it stands right now, there are three possible endings. No, they don't correspond to character routes, though I am keeping track of 'points' or 'flags' you have with the characters. Either way, don't worry too much, for as I said earlier, this is not Misadventures in Gensokyo nor was I was ever particularly fond of ultra GRIMDARK Frank Miller-esque stories. If you don't force me to write that way, I won't. >>93974
If Konngara had a spike in her head, I would have mentioned it.
edit: stylistic/consistency edits made, otherwise, no changes to voting options.
With a distant expression in her eyes, Konngara begins speaking. She's pretty clearly lost in the depths of her memory.
"It's difficult for me to select the point with which I should start this tale, as it could be appropriately said to begin with my birth. For now, confining my story to the details of the way in which I came upon it will suffice, methinks."
Hesitation. As Konngara collects herself, you sample the stew.
... Maybe it's your hunger, but this is some of the best food you've ever eaten. It's filling without being heavy and subtle without being bland. Even more surprisingly, the texture isn't lumpy - just what did Mima do to this food to get results like these? You put that question aside for later as Konngara resumes her story.
"I... was in a hopeless situation. I had no friends, no loved ones, no home; nothing in which I could believe and no recourse to save myself, with one exception. I could pray. "
You put down your spoon. Though you're still extremely hungry, this sounds like it'll need your full attention.
"You prayed? To what?"
Konngara shakes her head, slowly.
"It was less of a prayer in the sense with which you're familiar than it was an outpouring of my heartfelt wish to the world itself. As I fell to my knees and cried, I recounted the cruelties that Heaven, Earth and Man had heaped upon my shoulders. In that instant, more than anything else, I wanted to change my fortunes. I... I wanted the power to become happy."
Mima crosses her arms, expression unreadable.
A pause from Konngara.
"... I fell asleep. Or at least I think I did. Most people would say that what happened next was a hallucination or a dream, but this is evidence to the contrary."
She lifts the Taiji in her right hand, all eyes in the room following her motion.
"As I finished my aimless entreaty, I found myself bathed in a golden light. At first, I was terrified, but... my anticipation and amazement far outweighed the instinctive, primal fear in my mind. When I turned my eyes upwards, I found a tall, brilliant figure standing over me with her arm outstretched. She was giving me her hand."
You barely let her finish speaking before indulging your curiosity.
"What did she look like? Was she wearing anything specific?"
Konngara seems to have anticipated this question, as she answers immediately.
"If I were to declare her the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen, I would be guilty of gross oversimplification and reproachable understatement. But I can't really find a better way with which to concisely describe her; she was simply that far above any mortal conception of splendor. Her body was flawless in its features and proportions; radiant with warm light centering in a bright halo on her face. I wasn't able to meet her eyes, as the light wreathing her head was so brilliant that to stare into it was like looking at the midday sun. Her attire was as exquisite and outlandish as she. Over the unrestrained torrent of gold that was her hair, she wore a high headdress crested with crane feathers. A matching cloak of the selfsame plumes covered her bosom and shoulders, which were wrapped in a white robe of intricate design. Unusually, her feet were unshod, which contrasted with the elegant and elaborate nature of the garb in which she was dressed. All told, I for the first and (probably) last time in my life, I was envious of another woman's appearance and clothing. Or rather, I would have been, had I not been so overawed."
You just nod. Though you have several theories as to what she may have encountered, for now you focus on listening.
"After lifting me from my knees, this jewel I now protect appeared in her hands. She held it out to me and in a kind, melodious voice said, 'This is the Taiji, embodiment of the universal Dao. The sadness of your plight and the sincerity of your heart has moved me to entrust it to you. By accepting it, you will receive happiness according to the measure of your previous misfortunes, but in return, you and all of your line hereafter will one day carry the weight of the world on your backs.' At that point, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain - I grasped it with both hands and held it against my heart. My answer thus given, she smiled beforespeaking once more. She charged me with keeping the Taiji safe, saying that it was to become the 'keystone of order' for an entire world and that my fortunes had become bound up with it. Then, just as a sunbeam vanishes on a cloudy day, she was gone. I was standing, alone, in the benighted forest where I'd initially lost my way. "
After listening to her decision, you rub your temples as you feel your stomach turn, slightly. This girl really must have been naive when this happened, more than she is now. NEVER accept any deals given to you by mysterious supernatural beings, as they invariably result in the loss of your soul, your death or the loss of everything you treasure. Even if you stand to lose in the short term by refusing, it's better than being ensnared.
"So, did you find happiness?"
A smile from Konngara.
"Yes! That day was the nadir of my fortunes; within hours of receiving the Taiji, my sorrows began to give way before its power. There's been some ...difficulties, but I've found friends, a home and..." She looks at you.
Mima cuts her off before she can say anything else, an exasperated look on her face.
"Barring what happened afterwards, what does this have to do
with the youkai?"
Konngara's expression hardens as she hangs her head, slightly.
"Those are the difficulties of which I spoke. Though I know nearly nothing about it, one thing of which I'm certain is that this Taiji acts as a beacon for magical beings. A few weeks after receiving it, we met for the first time, Mima. And I have no doubt that my saviour here was pulled to it in the same way."
After indicating you, she keeps talking.
"At any rate, the attacks began around the same time we became friends. They never happened with any measurable pattern or frequency, occuringly randomly and at any time of the day. Youkai would wander into the shrine with me as their target. The first few assaults were frequent, but weak; fairies, ghosts and possessed beasts which I had no difficulty exterminating. But in time, the nature of the attacks changed. As the time between each attack grew longer, from days, to weeks, to months, the attackers became stronger and more intelligent - the most recent was a five-headed, fire-breathing dragon. And always, the corpses disappear, fading into a thin blue mist, before vanishing completely. I... I wish I knew what it all meant."
You have one last question.
"How much time has passed since you've obtained that Taiji?"
A quick reply. You half-expect it, but nevertheless wince when you hear it.
Your blood runs cold. The same time at which you entered the clergy. Surely, the call of that orb can't influence causality, can it?
[ ] Offer to help her determine the source of the attacks.
[ ] Offer to help her investigate the Orb and her mysterious benefactor.
[ ] Suggest that you investigate the place where you fought the beast.
[ ] You'd like to visit that settlement.
[ ] Ask Mima for her opinion.
[ ] Stay silent and observe.
[ ] Something else (specify).
Touching the orb will come in one or two updates, don't worry, I haven't forgotten, just that this one's already exposition heavy.