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Since there's nothing else very suitable, have a starving ghost.

I would like to know the reason for which you have issued a summons to the one known as Konngara. Offering his assent to your invitation in lieu of this is impossible.

>... Um... at first, I just wanted to ask for her help. I've never met Miss Konngara before, but I've heard that she's the successor of the mountain shrine and that her ability for sealing and exorcising monsters is extraordinary. ...Come to think of it, that... that might be why Youki was so set on fighting her. He always gets fired up when it comes to me and I... might have hurt his feelings by trying to get a stranger to help with our internal problems. ...Oh!... B-but back to the matter at hand - I'd like to see her now for a different reason. Since Youki was so rude, I'd like to make it up to her somehow, regardless of what she decides to do...

For what reason have you avoided divulging the character of this 'internal problem'? Do you find Acala to be an unworthy audience?

>N-no! Not at all, Wisdom King! I-I apologize, its just that its a long, complicated story that would best be told to the three of you in person. ...I don't want to unduly influence your decision about whether to see me by unnecessarily entrapping you in my troubles.

Very well. Then, am I correct in presupposing that your invitation to the Witch of the Forest and to him is grounded in similar reasoning?

> Sortof. The Witch... she's named Mima, right? I've never spoken with her face-to-face, but... her reputation precedes her. Whether she wants to help me or not, I'd like to see if all the tales about her are true. And as for you, Wisdom King? Youki said that two things about you. He said that you were the most worthy opponent against whom he's ever been matched and that I would be remiss if I didn't honor that somehow. And... he also said that you were really... uh... close... with the other two and that they would immediately refuse any offer which did not include you.

A likely estimation. Though he has not known them long, his compassion and personal magnetism have caused both the one called Konngara and the Witch of the Forest to become fond of him. Others might find it unusual, but having watched over him from his earliest years, I do not. He has always exerted a similar effect on those around him, whether they are his family of the flesh or his family of the spirit.

>Well, that... it sounds like we'll have a lot to talk about, won't we? ... Just try not to captivate me too much, otherwise Youki might become jealous. He's... fiercely protective when it comes to me, though he's never really been one for small talk.

Fear not, I shall check his actions if they prove unbecoming. Till next we meet, Lady Saigyouji. Endeavor to improve your diction in the intervening period.

>Y-yeah! Goodbye, Wisdom King! And thank you!...


The sound of running water. As you regain awareness, your eyes flutter open and are greeted by the the darkness of a cloudy, moonless evening. You're in the bedroll from the night before, covered by a blanket. And that means...

Yep. Konngara's at your side, cradling you against her bosom as it rises and falls with regularity of peaceful sleep. ...You couldn't ask for a better pillow. As you bring up your arms to hold her closer, sharp pains remind you of your injuries. Both of your hands are bandaged and you've got a compress on your head. Looks like Mima tended to you; you'll need to thank her later. As you pull yourself into a sitting position, gently moving Konngara so as to not disturb her, you get a better bearing on your surroundings.

It's probably late evening or early morning right now, though you can't tell for certain thanks to the moon's absence. You're on the other bank of the ford where you fought Youki and...

Two things are amiss.

First, Youki is here. He's a small distance removed from the camp, at the edge of the water, with his back to you and arms crossed.

Second, there's an empty bedroll beside you belonging to Mima. She's nowhere to be seen.

As you're calculating the situation (or lack thereof), something distracts you. The sound of weeping, coming from beside you. Though she's still asleep, Konngara's holding her shoulders, crying quietly. ...You can make something out in her sobs. Words.


"Please don't leave me."

[ ] Go back in Konngara's arms.
[ ] Try and find Mima.
[ ] Approach Youki. Carefully.
[ ] Do something else. (Specify)
[x] Go back in Konngara's arms.
[ ] Go back in Konngara's arms.
[ℤ] Go back to Konngara's arms.
[ℯ] Ask Youki if he's seen where Mima went.

It's a long shot, but this is the best we can do for now. Can't refuse Konngara.

You, sir, are a bastard for giving us this choice.

On an unrelated note, I like Acala.
[x] Go back in Konngara's arms.
[x] Go back in Konngara's arms.

Only possible choice.

>Endeavor to improve your diction in the intervening period.

This made me LOL.
[x] Go back in Konngara's arms.
[x] Try asking Youki if he's seen Mima

Chances are she's out gathering stuff, but it doesn't hurt to check with the other person awake, and I think he'll be more reasonable after talking things with Yuyuko.

And Acala's pretty cool; powerful wise, yet not above making a few cracks about Yuyuko's informal way of talking. Much like our lead (sure he's Pious and just, but human)
[x] Go back in Konngara's arms.
[x] Try asking Youki if he's seen Mima
[x] Go back in Konngara's arms.
[x] Try asking Youki if he's seen Mima
[0] Go back in Konngara's arms.
[1] Try asking Youki if he's seen Mima
Konngara's pretty clearly addressing whomever's in her dream, but for all you know, that could be you. Even if it isn't, you can't leave after she's shown you such a pitiful expression. You lay back down and carefully shift so as to once again settle in her arms. As you do, a small gasp escapes her lips and she squeezes you in a hug. Listening carefully to determine if she'll say anything else, you lean close to her ear and whisper tenderly.

"I'm here for you, so please stop crying. You look so much more charming when you're smiling, dear Lady. Come on, show me a smile."

With the edge of your sleeve, you wipe the tears from her face as a broad, sleepy smile crosses her face. Though she doesn't say anything else, from her expression and from her pleasurable sighs, she's evidently seeing something wonderful. Just what is it? Maybe you could ask Acal-

If your intention was to borrow my power to invade the slumber of the one called Konngara, know that I refuse.

Darn. Not a peek? I'm not going to try anything surrepti-

No. If you truly desire to understand the one called Konngara more intimately, then speak with her when she awakens. This course of behavior is not only more ethically sound, but is also most advantageous to your aims. Through this avenue, not only will you obtain the knowledge which you desire, but through your inquiries, you will also demonstrate your concern for the emotional wellbeing of the one called Konngara and thereby win her affections.

... That's a good point. I appreciate the advice, thank you.

I have not revealed anything to you of which you were not already aware. Lest you forget, permit me to remind you that we are the same being. If you find my advice sagacious, it has its origins in your own sagacity qualifying you to receive it.

That may be true, but I'm grateful to you nevertheless. Your advice and support, from wherever they may come, serves to elucidate difficult problems and mollify dangerous situations. It's a tremendous help to me.

Indeed. Before we engage in any further deliberation, should you not try and find the Witch of the Forest? I do not believe she is in any danger, but the matter with which I engaged Lady Saigyouji relates the least to her. Successfully enlisting her support will entail proportionally greater effort from you.

I had been intending to do that anyway. In fact, while we were conversing, I've calculated a plan as to how I can find Mima while keeping Konngara company. Just watch.

Ceasing any further interchange, you concentrate and loose the fingers of your mind into the world around you. You hope he doesn't overreact to this. Shaping your amorphous spiritual power into a golden hand, you reach towards Youki's spectral doppelganger. It's standing a few feet behind him, its arms crossed and back to you in a pose humorously mimicking that of it's master. As naturally and innocuously as you can, you 'tap' its 'shoulder.' You open your eyes and break the trance.

It's unnerving. With one of his arms in a sling and acquiesence across his face, Youki stands at attention. He doesn't seem to at all be bothered by the fact that you're being held in Konngara's arms.

"I apologize for my earlier rudeness. My mistress has commanded me to treat your orders as if they were hers, so command me as you will." The response of a model servant.

As you struggle not to laugh, you cover your mouth and shake your head mirthfully before responding. "There's no need to stand on decorum, Youki. I accord my respect to others in line with their deeds, not their titles, and if you want to do the same, I won't complain. In the end, only your deeds matter when you stand before the Yama and only through your deeds can you be released from suffering."

"All the more reason for me to obey your commands, then. Even if she wasn't my liege lord, my mistress is, without a doubt, the most noble and selfless person I know. She's worth any sacrifice from me, up to and including my life." Youki answers you, not easing up in the slightest.

Looks like one of the first orders you'll be exercising is to have him develop a sense of humor and sociability. But before that...

"Then if I'm not troubling you too much, could I ask you to fetch my other companion?" Youki stares blankly. "Her name's Mima. You should have met her earlier. Small woman, pale, long dark hair, likes blue, always looks at you with a smile that says 'you're disgusting?'"

He nods, grimly. "Ah, her. She feared that you had died after my mistress started to speak with you and we nearly came to blows. Because Miss Konngara ordered me to stand watch at the edge of the camp, I have no idea what happened afterwards."

"Well... if you see Mima, tell her that I'm quite alive and looking forward to seeing her. If there are any other problems, just tell me."

"As you command." Youki bows low and in a flash, he's gone.

As Konngara's breath tickles your ear, you just relax and watch the passage of the clouds across the night sky. It's a profound, tranquil and utterly paradoxical end to today. As you're about to drift off into sleep... Footsteps, belonging to one person.

You turn to look at her. "I'm glad to see you again, Mima."

She casts a glance to your side before smiling coyly. "Not as glad as you were to see someone else."

That was low. "Hey, it was like this when I woke up and when I noticed you were gone, I wanted to go find you bu-"

"You can spare me the details, whatever your reasons were, I'm certain they were good." She sits down near you, pulling her knees to her chest. For a while, she just stares off into the distance and doesn't say anything. Then-

"Can I... stay here?" She's hesitant, just like last night. You don't waste a second.

"For as long as you want. The pleasure is mine." Lifting the covers, you beckon her to join you.

Mima kicks off her shoes and gingerly climbs in, coming to rest to your left. She turns towards you, her face only a few centimeters from yours.

"Hey, how much have you thought about the future? Because you're really magnificent and... if you don't plan to do this forever, then I was thinking... if the two of us had children, they'd be unstoppable, wouldn't they?" She's smiling faintly at you.

An unexpected question deserves an unexpected answer. "Unstoppable? They wouldn't need to fight at all, if it wasn't for their mother's belligerence."

She giggles and playfully puts a finger to her lips, as if in contemplation. "Maybe~. But if they took after their father, they'd be capricious sophists, stealing maidens' hearts with they saccharine tongues. We'd never hear the end of it."

You smile back at her, even as your eyelids grow heavy. "...Well, if anyone comes complaining, I'm sure you'll beat them up."

She takes hold of your left shoulder and leans against your chest with a faraway look in her eyes.

"Yeah..." Mima doesn't say anything else after this. Only then do you notice that she's fallen asleep.

And it's time for you to do the same; you can't stay awake any longer. After giving each of the sleeping beauties a gentle kiss on the cheek, you close your eyes and join them in deep, peaceful slumber.

Congratulations on clearing Day 1, Anonymous. You've performed excellently in your choices today; I'm proud of you. Though... could there have been something of importance you've missed? For more details, choose the commentary option, if not, then pick to continue the story.

[ ] Commentary.
[ ] Continue the story.
[x] Commentary.
[x] Commentary.
[x] Commentary.
[x] Commentary.
[x] Commentary.
[x] Commentary.

I wonder how we slipped up this time.
[x] Commentary.
Writing now. While I'm evaluating your performance, feel free to do the same for me. Advice, suggestions, speculation etc welcome.
[x] Commentary.
Where are the previous threads for this one?
Sorry for the slowness, but lots of interruptions today. I'll try and update before I go to sleep, but no guarantees.

Much appreciated, though I'll have to sleep sooner than that. Right now, in fact.

I'm really enjoying how this is turning out.
"-ady. ...Milady. Please, wake up. The chairs are for sitting, not sleeping and-."

Someone's shaking my shoulders and chastising me. As much as I'd like to ignore her and just sleep some more, that would be unbecoming of a person as -important- as myself. Better greet her then.

As my delicate eyelashes flutter into wakefulness, I lift my hand and flick my fingers. With a yelp and a crash, I come face to face with my slave Shikigami as she's deposited in my lap.

"Ah, hello Ran. Did you come to relax with me too?" I lean forward and slowly draw circles on
the center of her chest with my fingertip. "You know I -love- your company~"

With an exasperated look, Ran sighs deeply and removes my hand. "No Milady, I don't have time to 'relax' with you now. Preparations for dinner are taking longer than I expected and Chen went missing halfway through the cleaning. ...Come to think of it, have you seen h-" Ran cuts off and realizes she's sitting on something. As she feels around beneath her, I -elegantly- fake a blush.

"Oooh, you're so aggressive today, Ran~ Couldn't you be more gentle with an innocent, seventeen year old girl like me?"

Ran pretends to ignore me, but the way in which she's clumsily fumbling with the tangle of her tails and clothes indicates that she's actually -quite- flustered. After some time, she finally manages to extricate the object on which she had been sitting - the book I'd been reading with Chen. Climbing off my legs while clutching it with both hands, her eyes go wide as she reads the title.

"This..."It brings back... memories." Ran's looking at it with a nostalgic smile.

"Doesn't it? Chen seems to like it too. I was reading it with her till just now and she was hanging on my every word."

She snaps back to reality with a frown. "Wait. Chen. Was. Here..."...The whole time?"

I smile disarmingly. "She came in a few hours ago and asked me to play, so I decided to read
her a story. Did you know, she's gotten so -smart-. At this rate, she'll soon be outfoxing more than just you, soon."

Gritting her teeth, Ran quickly turns her head and scans the room before facing me again.

"Milady... I don't see that adorable daughter of mine anywhere. ...Do you happen to know where she might be?" My, she's furious! Her knuckles are whitening from the vicegrip in which she's clutching the book!

Unfortunately for her though, I can't be of any help in this situation.With an elegant shrug, I
break the bad (good?) news. "Well, after a while, Chen felt sleepy, so she went to take a nap in her room, but not before asking me to continue the story for her when she wakes up. And I will, of course. She's just so cute, how could I refuse?" As I steeple my hands and smile fondly, Ran explodes in anger, punching the wall.


After I laugh gracefully at Ran's expense, I try and placate her with a hug. "Oh, come now
Rannn~ Don't you remember what it's like to be young? You're always so unnecessarily uptight!(If you know what I mean~)"

As my slave Shikigami turns red, she lowers her head and mumbles absentmindedly.
"I... that's right. I'd forgotten, but... when you read this to me, I wasn't much older than Chen, was I? It seems like only a few days ago for me, even though..." The book seems to be making her reminisce. She looks back up at me. "How far along has Milady progressed in the story?"

I caress the side of her face, smiling -elegantly- "We've just finished the first day."

Ran's lost in thought for a moment. "That's... that's when the hero fights Youki, isn't it?"

I pat her on the head. "Your memory's good, Ran. Yes, where I stopped, Konngara had been
accosted by Youki and on her behalf, the hero intervened and defeated him in a decisive battle."

Ran nods slowly. "Yes I remember now and actually, there's something about which I'd like to ask. Milady, when I met Youki, I found him to be discerning, temporizing and amiable, if a bit serious. He wasn't anything like the arrogant, hotheaded boy described in the story. Just how much of this is embellishment?" She holds up the book and points at it.

Rather than tell her, I'll lead her to the answer. She'll appreciate it more this way. "Ran, do you remember the circumstances under which we met?"

"Of course. No matter how many centuries may pass, I'll never forget them. Milady was the one that uplif-" I cut her off. She always becomes so exuberantly eloquent when she remembers that incident.

"And tell me, what are some adjectives that would accurately describe the Ran I encountered eight hundred years ago?"

She pauses as it dawns on her.

"... Rude, condescending, impulsive, careless."

I nod emphatically. "That's right. Completely different from the Ran I know and love today. So is it really that strange to you that Youki, would change so much over the course of a
millenium?" I pet her on the head before I continue.

"Anyway, everything in that book is -entirely- factual. If things seem strange to you, it's because you're measuring the events recounted therein from the present looking backwards instead of from the past looking forwards. To use a different metaphor, it's like attempting to discern the process by which a delicious cake is created with only the finished product available for analysis. Regardless of your intelligence, you'll probably draw some faulty conclusions if you didn't actually participate in its creation."

Ran looks into my bright, seventeen year old eyes. "Allow me to confirm if I understand you, Milady. Because I have a mental image of 'Youki' as a wise old swordmaster, that preconception interferes with my ability to understand the Youki of a thousand years ago?"

"Yep. Presentism at it's finest~. To really understand how he came to be the person he is today, you would have to set aside the person he is today. It's the same with Konngara or Mima or anyone else, including you and I."

Ran opens the book and starts slowly flipping through the pages as she thinks about what I've
said. Something makes her stop. "Huh? A cane? Why something like that? Milady, why didn't he try and accelerate the healing of Konngara's wounds with his power? Barring that, if he was able to move something as huge as an eight meter tall granary with his mind, then why didn't he just lift and carry Konngara with the same power?

A good question, and one I've wondered about as well. "The hero - Sir Monk as Chen calls him - is a difficult person to understand even for -me-, though it isn't because he's irrational. Far from it - thanks to his psychic emanation manifesting as the Wisdom King Acala, he's actually incredibly astute even when caught unaware. Anyway, these are just my guesses, but I believe he elected to avoid the first choice because of the Orb and its mostly unknown powers, while the second choice would have placed her in incredible danger thanks to the yet-unidentified archer. And all such speculation aside, his decision worked out in the long run. I suspect that had Sir Monk chosen to heal or carry Konngara, he probably would have been unable to dissuade her from fighting Youki personally. Had this happened, the outcome might have been... bittersweet,
if not an outright tragedy."

Ran turns some more pages before she stops again, mumbling half to herself, half to me. "... Ah, this. I didn't think anything of it the first time, but looking at it in hindsight, it seems that this might have been unusually important. I wonder... would things might have turned out better or worse had he chosen differently here?" I lean forward and take a look at the page in question. Oh. That one.

I poke her, bringing her back to reality. "That was a difficult choice, one in which he stood to learn something different with each of his options, thereby forfeiting the others. I don't think it changed the future as drastically as you're imagining, but he probably would have become aware of certain things sooner had he decided to find Mima or speak to Youki at greater length. But again, I think his choice was perhaps the best compromise in that situation and the one most in line with his character. He was able to successfully comfort Konngara while simultaneously improving his relationship with the others. While he missed some information, that was unquestionably his victory."

My slave Shikigami still looks a bit apprehensive. "Well... what you say is true, Milady; though I can't help but feel that at least one of the two possibilities could have been really momentous given what he might have learned."

I hold up a finger before she can say anything else. "Might have learned. I know the choice of which you're speaking and let me assure you - he'd have been completely unprepared for it. As he was, Sir Monk would almost certaintly have ascertained an entirely incorrect set of conclusions."

With a pensive expression, Ran studies my (youthful) face, speaking haltingly. I suppose you would know, wouldn't you, Milady?

Though in actuality, I -really- don't know that much more than Ran, I can't fail her expectations, can I? Opening my fan with a graceful flourish of my hand, I proceed to hide my face behind it and laugh in a melodious, aristocratic way.

"Well, who knows~"

Ran just sighs and goes back to her studied perusal of the book. The scene at the end of the chapter brings a warm smile to her face, but as she flips ahead, she becomes dead serious. Then, when her mouth opens in shock, I decide to answer her question in advance.

"Yes. That is coming up. Don't worry, I can handle reading it to her."

She alternates between looking at me and looking at the book, before handing it back to me with a determined expression.

"Milady, please permit me to be in attendance for when you read it. If you find yourself unable to continue..."

I answer her, keeping most of my face behind the fan. "Don't worry, things won't end in the way they did when I read it to you so long ago, Ran. Didn't you know? Aside from acting as a force of change, it's also a force of healing. Time, that is. It's the panacea for all wounds, even those of the heart."

Unexpectedly, Ran locks me in a close embrace, pressing my head to her shoulder. "When the time comes, I hope Milady proves me right. But if not... I'll be here for you."

Sorry this took longer than normal. A combination of work, fatigue and a long bus ride today made for nigh-constant delays, so I'm not sure if this ended up being useful. Also, if there are any questions I've left unanswered to which you'd like seek satisfaction, just ask. Working on the next update now, but don't expect it till tomorrow, probably.

Woot we did good it seems!
Letting your worldly cares fall away from you, the hours of the night lengthen. For a time, your slumber is as Nirvana; tranquil and warm, devoid even of dreams. On a primal, subconscious level, you're grateful for this respite after that physically and mentally draining battle with Youki. But it doesn't last. As your awareness recovers and reconstitutes, the restful darkness of your fatigue crumbles, rationalizing and reshaping into a different kind of night.

You're in the maw of a starless void, drifting aimlessly. ...It's lonely and in a way that surpasses the limited scope of the mortal coil. There's absolutely nothing here; nothing to see, touch, taste, smell or hear. Only your mind hasn't been lost to you, but it's no help in this situation. Far from it, actually; your inquisitive dispostion, so often a boon in your other journeys, proves to be dangerous to you as its directed against this uncertain 'reality.'

"Does the world not exist?"

"Has it been destroyed?"

"Was it ever here?"

"...Was I ever here?"

Expanding infinitely, your ravenous skepticism extends to everything, everywhere. As 'reality' begins to be consumed by this all-encompassing doubt, you frantically search in every direction for something by which you can affirm your existence. However stunted by the limitations of this dark abyss, it seems as though the act of observation is still possible. Your 'eyes' settle on a single point of light within the backdrop of the dim universe and without hesitation, you propel yourself towards it. The voracious nihilism as manifested by your uncertainty recedes and vanishes as your life and your mind become that of the distant star. An indeterminate amount of time passes floating through that abyss, your progress marked only by the ever-increasing magnitude that tiny light. It becomes closer and closer till finally...


...Your breath is stolen by it. Yes, your breath - the pulse of your life as clothed in the flesh of your body as it exists within the confines of the world. And what a world it is. Above you is Heaven, overcast by gray clouds, but lightening to a dazzling gold with the arrival of the sun. Below you is the Earth, the bank of a forest stream painted purple by the dawn. Between them is Man, you and your two friends dreamily ensconced a short ways behind you. Yes, all is as it should be... with one exception.

Ahead of you is a magnificent window of stained glass. At least, that's how it appears to the sight of your eyes. The sight of your heart shows you a different picture. The breadth of your ambitions, extent of your fears, fervor of your desires, and wholeness of your hopes stand embodied as shards of colored glass set in a frame wrought from your memories and tempered by your imagination. Your psyche embodied, stands before you.

As you reach out your hand to touch it, all the glass in the window starts to shine with color, of varying intensities. Your eyes and heart are pulled to the center of the window, where the most radiant glow originates from two panes of different colors. In one is a water lily, illuminated by dazzling white light, while in the other, a butterfly gleams from behind a field of purplish-black.

[ ] Touch the white pane.
[ ] Touch the black pane.

I advise you all to think about this one carefully.
[x]Touch the grey pane.

We take the middle way.
My suspicisons

Either A)

Life is white and Black is death assuming the butteryfly is death

or the other way around with the lily presenting enlightenment, thus death, and the buttefly is Yuyuko trying to stop us from dying.

> with the lily presenting enlightenment, thus death

Your speculations are incorrect, but I'd just like to say something about this one in particular. The Mahayana ideal has something called a "Bodhisattva," which is basically an entity which has attained enlightenment, but withholds the release of Nirvana from him/herself, remaining in the world to lead others towards salvation. Since they basically
exist within the world but with complete freedom from its rules, they're ridiculously broken (immortality, high level magic, reality manipulation etc). So especially for someone like the hero, Enlightenment =/= death. Quite the opposite, actually.

Really? Since the Lily/White seems like the obvious choice, but who can really tell? For all we know it's the other way around.

Where's Norseman when we need him; he'd shed light on things.
I advise you not to play follow the leader with this one. Just think it through and if you're unable to make a decision through reasoning alone, then follow what your instinct tells you to do, like the hero. Seriously, look at your performance thus far, anonymous - you have every reason to be more confident in your decision making ability.
[x] Touch the white pane.

The way I feel that this is the path back to the living, back to friends. The Lily is a sign of all his life and dreams.
The symbology isn't overly obscure, the water lily is another name for the lotus, and obviously symbolises wisdom and enlightenment, and the butterfly is a symbol for a person's soul.

Specifically, the butterfly is often seen as a symbol for rebirth, as the larva metamorphoses within its cocoon. This could be seen as a bad thing if we take it to represent the cycle of Samsara or maybe a good thing if we see it as a metamorphosis into a purer and better form, but that seems a bit far-fetched.

On the other hand, the lotus flower can also symbolise birth as well as purity. Hindu and buddhist gods are often depicted seated on lotus flowers, and in eastern philosophy the lotus is a symbol of spiritual transcendence.

So I'd take a wild guess and say that the void described in monkanon's dream represents ignorance and delusion, the white pane represents transcending the ego and the soul to overcome the void, while black represents a more down-to-earth approach of relying on your own soul to prevail. Or just Yuyu, who knows.

And after this mini-essay I actually don't know which one to vote for. Thoughts would be appreciated.

Wow Norseman is confused? Well this is a first... tricky dualities are such a pain...

Well if all else fails go with your gut.
[+] Sit and admire everything for a bit.

Symbolism is often a trap just as much as ignorance is. I consider it more important to understand the meaning of such a choice before making it, rather than any presupposed urgency to choose.

You may also note, as I did, that there is nothing particularly demanding an immediate action, aside from being presented with the options.
[+] Sit and admire everything for a bit.
[X] Sit and admire everything for a bit.

Author's note: This is what you are already doing. The hero is contemplating quietly which to touch as you, the readers help decide for him. Basically, sticking with this choice means you're choosing to not do anything.

I just wanted to tell you all that in case you have any misconceptions about what that means in this situation.
[x] Touch both panes.
"My, I didn't expect such indecision from you on a little thing like this! Care for a hint? Purely in the interest of advancing the story, of course~"

[ ] Accept.
[ ] Decline.
[ ] Accept.

[x] Accept.

But this choice is really confusing, even Norseman got confused! And that's saying alot.
"... This is difficult. Milady, which choice do you find to be better?"

So, that's why she was hesitating and making such strange faces! "Ufufu, you're making a mistake Ran~"

Folding her hands inside her sleeves, Ran raises an eyebrow at me. "And just what mistake is that?"

I put a finger to my lips and smile enigmatically. "Why do you think one choice is better than the other?"

"I'm not sure I understand what you mean, Milady." If anything she looks more confused than before.

For her benefit, I elaborate. "I mean two things, Ran. Your first error is in assuming that because there are two possible choices, that you've been presented with a binary function in which one is correct and one is not. How do you know that they're not both correct?"

She looks really apprehensive, for some reason. "But are there really only two choices, Milady? Couldn't I pick both or just not do anything? After all, wouldn't caution be best in an uncertain scenario such as this, so that I couldn't possibly take a wrong step?"

As my face decides to explore my palm, I sigh deeply and emphatically. "And in not taking a
'wrong step,' you bring the story to a standstill as you're paralyzed by fear. If anything, that's the only way for you to actually lose out in this situation. Heed my words Ran - you should know when to stop hedging your bets and to place your chips on the table, both in this situation and in general. But I suppose if you've been enjoying your constant losses to Yuyuko and I in our weekly games of Mahjong, by all means, feel free to continue what you're doing. I'm certainly not complaining~" Adjusting my gloves, I lean backwards in my chair.

Appropriately reprimanded, Ran looks at me submissively, with ears flattened back. "... Milady said I had a second error?"

"Yes. It's related to the first, namely that your fixation on outcomes has caused you to neglect the choices themselves. If you'd really like to understand this scenario, then think less about results and more about its meaning in the presented context. Especially on this choice, I can assure you that attempting to speculate about the possible aftermath is pointless and by allowing it to unduly affect your decision, you're courting disaster. It's a deeply symbolic decision, but possibly for different reasons than you're imagining."

For about a minute, Ran studies the ceiling and mumbles to herself before looking at me again, unamusedly. "Did the author have to make this so opaque? I prefer it when things are more straightforward and not obscured in metaphor like this."

I return her mild displeasure with unshaken, -elegant- coolness in speech and countenance. "It could have been been more transparent, but accept my assurance that this all pays off later in the story, my dear Ran."

She looks at me with suspicion. I suppose you would know, wouldn't you, Milady?

Better not to answer this one, except by laughing. ...Oh Ran~. For the world of me, I hope you never change. Apart for approaching this choice decisively, of course.
[0] Touch the white pane.
[x] Touch the white pane.
File 12547193798.jpg - (387.46KB, 600x799 , I\'dlethertrollmeifyouknowwhatImean.jpg) [iqdb]
Oh and I forgot to say this before, but if I convinced you, be sure to delete your old votes~
[x] Touch the white pane.
[X] Touch the black pane.

My reasoning: Yuyuko (butterflies) thus presented is immensely interesting and worth possible exploration, Mima is of a 'darker' disposition and if we can divine more about her situation/character we're better off interacting with her in the future (compared to Konngara where physically communicating with her seems to be the best approach), and our monk thrives when challenged. Embrace the darkness; understand it.
[x] Touch the black pane.
[x] Touch the white pane.
[x] Touch the white pane.
I appreciate the attempt to spur on a decision, but...

The problem on my end lies not in trying to see some outcome from these choices, or being swayed by presuppositions. Rather, it comes from the choices available, in and of themselves, being so obscure as to render differentiation between them utterly pointless.

But, a vote is necessary for the show to go on, no?

*diceroll even/odd*
Odd. Black it is.

[+] Touch the black pane.
[x] Touch the black pane.
Still sticking with white; Konngara~

Not to say Mima's less dear or such, but meeting Konngara was what set everything into motion.
Writing now.
Maybe it hasn't been said, or maybe it hasn't been said often enough, but this story is truly a treat. A charismatic and competent lead, delightful characterization all around, a refreshingly unique approach to Gensokyo utilizing some of the under-appreciated characters (while still doing mighty justice to some of the more well known ones), and all with a judicious and thankfully forgiving eye for the philosophical and historical accuracy. I particularly appreciate the commentaries; story + hints + the observations of a fresh 17 year old. Sign me for more and then some.

Sage for needless gushing and asking for MOAR UPDATES
Thanks for the praise, I'm glad to see that others enjoy reading it as much as I do writing it.

>Rather, it comes from the choices available, in and of themselves, being so obscure as to render differentiation between them utterly pointless.

Obscure maybe, but not impossible. Hopefully, the following will help you to understand.

With humility appropriate to the beauty and sanctity of the spectacle before you, your right hand steadily extends towards the window. As it inches closer, all the panes of glass become commesurately brighter till you're unable to look at them directly, shielding your eyes with your left hand. Coinciding with this physical blindness is a mental one. Uncertainty seizes hold of you and impairs your judgement right as your fingers near the surface of the glass. Just which pane will you touch? ...Answering this proves to be unexpectedly difficult and in the process of trying, you only encounter more questions. What will happen when you touch them? Should you touch them at all? Should you touch them both? Under the doleful burden of these myriad queries, those last few centimeters become more distant and arduous than all the unending leagues of starless void.

With your mind and hand restrained by these misgivings, vacillating indecisively towards white, then black, towards lily, then butterfly; the impasse is resolved by your constant savior - your heart. Before your fingers, which had drawn near to the window before shrinking away, a spectral golden hand forms in the air and reaches. Without hesitation, it traverses the space before which your rationality failed with ease, touching the white pane and coming to rest its 'palm' on the lily. A brilliant white light engulfs you and as it does...


"Everyone's keeping quiet about it, but I can see it in their eyes. You're leaving, aren't you?"

"'Leaving' implies choice. In this case, it'd be more proper to say that I'm being cast away."

"Cast...away? Oh dear, don't tell me those strange men in black that showed up the other day were...?"

"Hahaha, no no, they weren't bandits or slavers, thankfully. Though ...they weren't much better. They're those bald fanatics that interviewed me a while ago, turns out they're willing to sponsor me, which is a nice way of saying that I'm being abducted and imprisoned. Let's hope they aren't into sodo- Ow! Hey that smarts!"

"Serves you right for having such profane thoughts. But, about what you just said. ...You're being taken to be trained as a monk?"

"Yes, wonderful, I know. Don't look too happy for me, now."

"N-no, this... I...I'm happy for you! Being accepted into the Shingon temple on the mountain is a great honor and with your abilities, you'll surely rise far higher in life than the rest of us if you work hard and apply yourself."

"... You've always been a terrible liar, you know that? When you force yourself to smile through your sadness like that, it breaks my heart. ...You should know, because more than anyone else, you understand my true character. I've never cared about the kinds of wealth, honor or status you just mentioned; I would trade all of those for you in a heartbeat. But as it happens, this wasn't my decision to make. It's... It's..."

"Come here. ...Yes, that's good, let it all out. I'm sorry for not helping you sooner, it's just horrible of me! To leave you alone to struggle with something like this...I... surely someone else has...?"

"...No, not a one. Maybe it's what tipped you off, but most of the village's become... distant to me. Though they congratulate me with smiles on their faces, in their hearts, I'm already dead to them. Whether they say it or not, I know the reasons. They think that I'm abandoning them to seek a better life for myself and that I'm worse than an outsider -that I'm a traitor to the community. ...I wish they knew the truth."

"It sounds like even if they did, in their jealousy and resentment, they'd never accept it. But please don't hold it against them. Their anger isn't directed towards you as a person, but at the heartlessness of fate in granting you a chance which was denied to them -the chance to escape from bitter, unending toil and to make use of your natural gifts. If you're angry right now, I understand, but in time, I hope you come to forgive them."

"...The way in which you can find the grain in a bushel of chaff puts me to shame, but it also
reminds me why I love you. You're truly my better half. If you're not going to stay mad at them, then I won't either."

"Then I'm glad. I would be sad too, if the memories with which you left this place were only of an unhappy or regretful tone. ...Speaking of which. For how much longer can we... cherish each other before we're parted?"

"... Tomorrow or the day after. They didn't tell me the details, but it sounds like it'll be a long time before I can see you again. I... I hate it. Not being able to do anything but to wish for your safety and happiness from afar. So... if you grow tired of waiting and forget about me, I'll underst-"

"Liar. I know you'd be devastated if that happened. But... it won't happen. Never, not though our parting should be for a day, a year or a lifetime. But in return, I want you to promise me something."


"... Don't allow yourself to be mired down by the past. You have a glorious future ahead of you, so take full advantage of it - spread wide your golden wings and soar high to the heavens. In my stead, become the greatest person you can and don't squander this chance. If you do, I'll never forgive you."

"I promise. Within ten years time, I'll become an incomparably great person, one of whom you'll be proud to have loved! Yes... when I think of the enormity of what I am losing and have lost, if I can't do at least that, then...."

"Shhh, I understand, so don't look at me like that. We'll see each other again, I'm sure of it. So... when you are weary from your labors, then return to me. No matter how much time passes, I'll be awaiting you with open arms. And..."

"I... I can't take this! It's your most-"

"Please wear it. When you do, think of your pledge and of me. ...Whatever the future may have in store for us, I'll never forget you."


As imperceptibly as the dream began, it ended; the ambient whiteness of the window giving way
before the gentle veil of daylight against your eyes. You gradually yield to its advances and, after a short struggle, awaken to a bright morning. ...It's early, probably only a little bit past dawn. Your heart rejoices at a small triumph you've attained; unlike usual, you're the first one awake today, so Mima's teasing will be about something other than narcolepsy. With any luck, she'll be last today and-

Look upon your right hand.

At Acala's bidding, your gaze falls upon something clasped tightly in your fingers. You've been gripping it the whole time you've been awake and you didn't even notice. But now that you have, you remember everything. The dream in all of its intensity returns in a rush of emotion and you can barely hold back your tears.

Held against your chest is the small brocade bag that usually sits around your neck. It contains your most treasured possession; your only memento of her.

[ ] Open it. How long has it been?
[ ] Don't open it. ...It's too painful for you.
For various reasons (some of which are yet unresolved) this one took a while. I'll do my best to keep things going at normal speed, but just so you all know in advance, Wednesday and Thursday might be hectic.
[ ] Open it. How long has it been?
[x] Open it. How long has it been?

I wonder who that young miss was... and how that might affect things...

Still is there shame in having some feelings towards Monkanon's newfound friends? (I like this story's Konngara, brave, strong, yet kinda cute in her own way)
This is >>97138

And I just realized something about who that young miss is.... Konngara, since what would explain that dream she had with someone leaving, and her quick fondness for monkanon?
[x] Open it. How long has it been?
[X] Open it. How long has it been?

Memories of a past life? Are we the reincarnation of someone dear to Konngara? Too much at stake to not look.

>but just so you all know in advance, Wednesday and Thursday might be hectic.
Anon will abide by whatever your schedule may be, especially for this story. Thanks for letting us know.
[X] Open it. How long has it been?

>the water lily is another name for the lotus
>white lotus

Isn't white lotus in Japanese "byakuren"?

You might be right; we might have reminded her of someone she knew.


I just shat bricks

I remember the suggestion....
Writing slowly.
>is there shame in having some feelings towards Monkanon's newfound friends?

Of course not. If he had a problem with it, you would know and as you can see, he doesn't take issue with it in the least. I suppose what he say to you in needlessly sappy answer to this question would be:

"Love isn't a currency. It's incomparably more valuable, being infinite in its origin and endlessly divisible between all living things without any loss of its value. Neither gold nor silver could make a similar claim, even if they were as limitless or as easy to attain(enjoy your inflation)."

Also, this one's rather short thanks to preparation for tests and papers. Tomorrow should be back to normal.

Not here. You can't let them see you like this. You have nothing to hide, but your companions
likely have enough on their minds right now without this to distract them. For their safety and happiness, you'll wait till a more appropriate moment to consult them on this matter. Resolving so, you carefully disentangle yourself from between the arms of your still-sleeping friends, grab your pack and take a stroll.

After turning out of view of the camp, you ascend a high, wooded ridge overlooking the stream. ...It's a perfect place for what you're about to do. Bathed in the soft glow of morning and filled with the sublime music of flowing water, a nigh-overwhelming aura of hallowed solemnity hangs over this grove. It's nothing less than a living temple, wrought by the divine hands of nature and a worthy peer for even the greatest equivalents made by men.

With appropriate reverence, you rest yourself against the broad trunk of an ancient oak and
contemplate the small bag in your right hand. About half the size of your palm, it's made of white silk, skillfully embroidered with purple clouds and sealed by a braided brown drawstring. While beautiful and pleasing to the eye, that which it holds is infinitely more precious to you. Steadying your trembling fingers, you loosen the drawstring and upend it, shaking gently. Into your palm falls a little brooch of masterful workmanship. Fashioned from bronze and inset with white
enamel, it's shaped like the eight-petaled flower of a water lily in full bloom. It's her device; the one which best embodies her person and the one she loved most. And she always wore it with...

Opening your pack and rummaging through its contents, you remove the other half of her gift
and unfurl it. ...You haven't worn this in a while, either. Draped about your shoulders and
fastened at the neck with her brooch is an old, if well-maintained black cloak of sturdy
construction. Spun from thick wool and lined with leather, it's kept you warm through ten
winters and dry through ten springs; the passage of years made evident by its seeming
dimunition. When she first gave it to you, it trailed on the ground. Now, it barely reaches past your knees. In that time, you've become an adult and fulfilled your promise. ...Has she done the same? Not knowing the answer, your eyes become misty again; but not with sadness. On the contrary, the tears running down your face are ones of realization and of joy. You
Regardless of whether she kept her oath, her words and promise are what
inspired you to become the man you are today. Truly, you owe her everything.

Wearing her brooch and clothed in her cloak, you clasp your hands together and pray for her
health and wellbeing. ...No matter what, you'll reunite with her when this is all over. And - you'll ask Konngara and Mima to accompany you on that journey. For more than anything else, their love and friendship are proof that you've fulfilled the vow made to become a great person.


After finishing your devotions, you wordlessly absorbed the sights and sounds of the grove for some time, before beginning the walk back to camp. In consideration of your decision not to distract the others, you replaced her things back into their respective containers and collected firewood along the route, so as to have a plausible reason for absence. By the time you return, all three of the others are awake and gathered. Konngara's heatedly questioning Mima about something as the latter just smirks and prepares breakfast. Some distance away from the two of them, is Youki, clearly unamused and noticably tired.

Pick one:
[ ] Talk to Konngara. About who or what was she dreaming yesterday?
[ ] Try to Mima. Don't you need to convince her about the Lady Saigyouji's offer?
[ ] Talk to Youki. Maybe some meditative training would help with his exhaustion?
[x] Talk to Konngara. About who or what was she dreaming yesterday?

Interesting point there.

I wonder what'd happen with his sister.
>"Love isn't a currency.
I see someone here never heard those old crappy Free To Be You & Me songs.

Lucky you.

And then I laughed maniacally as the implications of the revelation hit me.

Everything makes sense, now~

Writer sir, you are a genius.

That's why I shat bricks earlier because it dawned upon me that Monkanon's sister is no other than the woman who would become Youkai Jesus.
[x] Try to Mima. Don't you need to convince her about the Lady Saigyouji's offer?
[X] Talk to Youki. Maybe some meditative training would help with his exhaustion?

We've endeared ourselves with two of our companions; time to get cracking on the brash, young swordsman.

More than anything, the notion that anon may have actually figured out something obscure and nuanced allows me to relive the satisfaction of figuring out Iku was the assassin in RAaN. Regardless, that we can make such speculations is proof positive that this is one of the best stories going on right now.
[X] Talk to Mima. Don't you need to convince her about the Lady Saigyouji's offer?

We do sort of need to speak with Mima, and whatever Konngara's dream was it was pretty personal - I'm not sure whether talking to her about it would help or hurt...

Also, found this on TouhouWiki:
>Myouren's days were spent easily tossing around enormous pots that contained great storehouses and curing sick people's illnesses in remote places.

Tossing around. Storehouses.

>Shifting and cracking as it left the ground, the granary slowly rose into the air as you smiled in triumph. The merchant didn't dare to stop you as you left, granary in (huge, spectral) hand.

I was joking earlier in >>94651 but... wow...
If this is what you where aiming for, I salute thee WriterAnon.
[X] Talk to Mima. Don't you need to convince her about the Lady Saigyouji's offer?
[x] Talk to Mima. Don't you need to convince her about the Lady Saigyouji's offer?
Like I said in >>97403 , he's a genius.

I didn't even make the pot/storehouse connection. I got the Byakuren thing from the other two, and then I saw >>97397 just mentioning "his sister," and suddenly everything went -click-
That was what I meant by the implications of the revelation.

And when you consider that, the reaction of Ran and Chen on seeing whose story Yukari is reading makes much more sense.

That's only half of it. See >>97421 .
Edit: Minor corrections made.

This one ended up being a mix.

As you get within listening range, you decide to stop and eavesdrop from behind a tree to better

ascertain the situation.

"...spect your opinions, but I find your vehemence unusual. Could you explain your rationale, my 'Charming Demon?'" Though polite as ever, Konngara's has a spirit of intensity in her words and about her person.

Mima appears to stifle a laugh with her hand, though not looking away from the pot she's
tending. "Shouldn't it be obvious to you, O 'Noble Friend' of mine?" Abruptly, she turns and points the wooden spoon in her hand at Youki with a cold expression. "He nearly died yesterday because of this... this "Youki" and now you're asking us to bow and scrape before the commands of that selfsame vagabond? Not only does this trivial invitation have nothing to do with that matter*, but for all we know, this could be a trap to kill us all! Please tell me you're joking when you said you were sincerely considering his offer."

At this point, Youki speaks angrily. "Were it up to me, I wouldn't want your company either,
Witch. Your baseless suspicion of an offer made in good faith belies the untrustworthy character of your warped and twisted mind. But as it happens, my mistress wants to see you and your friends for some reason beyond my limited understanding, so I'm just relaying her message."

Mima just smiles unpleasantly at his words, looking over her shoulder at him with a disdainful expression. "What's wrong, Youki? ...You mad?" Though he's not saying anything, his answer is obvious; both from the fury etched in his eyes and the longsword in his unbroken hand. As Konngara goes for her own sword and Mima rises to her feet, hands wreathed in fire, you step out from behind the tree and intercede in an effort to save the situation. Walking briskly, you conspicuously position the bundle of firewood on your shoulder as you speak in what hopefully
comes across as a carefree address."

"Morning, Youki. I'm glad to see you're in high spirits today, but please remember that in
absence of your mistress's physical presence, you're representing her. Naturally, discourteous speech and threats of violence during negotiations from you would serve to reflect badly on her glory."

On these words, Youki stops his advance and hangs his head silently before turning to face you. "...You're quite right, thank you for correcting me. In my ignorance, I seem to have blundered stupidly and nearly disgraced my mistress' name." Crouched on one knee with his sword sheathed, he apologizes with a serious expression.

Hmm. While it's good he's come to his senses, this isn't quite the atmosphere for which you
were looking. Setting the firewood down, you kneel next to him and amiably clap your arm
around his shoulders. "Calm down, Youki. Does anyone here look particularly upset apart from
you?" As he recovers from his surprise at your sudden affability, he scans Konngara and Mima
while you continue. "Anyway, you haven't done anything of which you should be particularly
ashamed, so you don't need to apologize to anyone; if you're really sorry, try not to get worked up so easily in the future, okay?" As he nods uncertainly, you remember one other matter. "Oh, and I didn't get a chance to say this previously, but thanks for your help yesterday in finding Mima. You really work fast." Giving him a pat on the back, a surprise attack cuts short his answer.

With a firm tug on your left arm, you're pulled to your feet, stumbling headlong into Mima. And
by Bishamonten, she's much stronger than would seem from her short stature and lithe frame.
Curious. You file that information away as she locks arms with you. "Hey, aren't you going to
reprimand me too? I mean, I was intentionally provoking him, so don't I deserve a...
." With considerable innuendo in that last word, she starts gently rubbing your chest, leaning fondly against your shoulder.

Suppressing various urges towards licentiousness or overreaction, you just smile warmly and run your fingers through her hair. "Chastisement? ...Why would I do that when you've not done anything wrong? If anything, I should be rewarding you." Ha. If that luminescent blush is any indication, she's obviously been caught off-guard by your counterattack. "Yes, a reward sounds good, doesn't it? After all, you've just been behaving according to your nature; I would sooner ask birds to cease their flight or for fish to survive out of water than I would for you to stop teasing others. Just as long as you keep it good-natured and not malicious, there's no problem."

Something catches your right hand. Or rather someone, namely Konngara. Glaring at Mima for
a second, she softly presses against your back, crossing her arms about your neck. "I missed
you upon awakening, so please let me say this now." She smiles serenely at you. "Thank you for yesterday evening. While I was uncertain of what was happening at first, your influence allowed me to experience something incomparably wonderful, if only for a short time." Leaning forward, Konngara lifts one hand to your face and with a gentle kiss on the cheek, rests her head on your shoulder. As you feel your body growing warm with a mixture of happiness and embarassment, in your heart, you applaud her... interesting choice of words. Regardless of her innocence and inexperience with the world, she's definitely quite wily in her own way.

As Mima begins noisily demanding an explanation of what she just said, Konngara just giggles
conspiratorially and holds onto you closer. As a playful, girlish banter whips up about your
person, look helplessly at Youki, who's watching this ridiculous spectacle with not a little exasperation. With two charming ladies literally hanging off of you, he just stares at you with a face that says 'you'd better not try and pull something like this with my mistress.' In answer, you just slightly raise your hands and wriggle your fingers. He doesn't have to worry; you've only got two arms.


When everyone's appropriately calmed down, they fill you in on the conversation to that point.
Seems like Youki explained to them that the Lady Saigyouji desired to extend her hospitality as a means of apologizing for having been accosted by her servant. All three of them, Youki included, were not aware that she was also asking for help with some matter. Their reactions are, for the most part, in line with what Acala predicted for you some time ago. Konngara agreed immediately, citing a sense of duty and your maxim about following the compassion of the heart to save others. Youki hasn't said anything, instead staring off into the sky with a pensive expression, as if in deep thought. And Mima? Well...

"She refused to tell you why she needed Konngara? Why should we trust her?" With her right hand on her hip, Mima's waiting for your answer.

"The Lady Saigyouji didn't refuse, she just said that the story was long and would be better told in person, so as to avoid needless repetition. It's a legitimate question. As to your second point, I'm not saying that we should trust someone we've never met, but I don't think we should distrust her as you're suggesting."

"And why not? What sort of person would invite people to her home for tea to apologize for
their near-death encounter at the hands of her servant? Isn't this just too strange?"

Before you can say anything, Youki answers in a curt, but composed tone. "... To speak
frankly, my mistress is somewhat eccentric in her habits, having been sheltered her whole life. But rest assured, her intentions are nothing but good. When she brought forth her power yesterday, she could have killed all of you with just a thought." Looks like your words had an effect on him. While he's still quite cool to Mima, at least he's not being rude.

You follow on the heels of his words as Mima opens her mouth in protest. "I know what you're
going to say, Mima. Barring the fact that all three of us have considerable magical ability and thus, a considerable capacity for magical resistance, I'm sure that you also realized that what we saw as 'butterflies' was actually the physical manifestation of the 'death knell.' Whether it would have happened instantly or not, we probably would have lost our lives if she was serious about killing us."

Mima crosses her legs and strokes her chin, nodding slowly. "Alright, I'll give you that one. But even if we don't have any reason for specifically distrusting her, can you think of a good reason for why we should visit her?"

"I take it you desire a 'good reason' more substantive than her kind and generous character as evidenced by this invitation? Please think about this then, my 'Charming Demon.' Do you truly believe that her business and mine are unrelated events?" Emphasizing pointedly with the cane you made for her, Konngara answers.

Staring first at Konngara, then at you, Mima just shrugs with an exaggerated sigh. "Since you two are so determined to see this Lady Saigyouji, I guess I can come too. Who knows, it might turn out to be fun or useful." Her face becomes contemplative. "Though... where does she live and how far away is it?" ... That's a good question. The Lady Saigyouji either forgot to tell you or decided to leave it to Youki. As three pairs of eyes come to focus on him, Youki answers.

"My mistress lives downstream from here about seven or eight miles away. If we set off soon,
we could reach her hearth by nightfall." He's pointing in the direction of the stream, away from the large river you'd been following till yesterday.

"Well, this presents a dilemma, doesn't it?" Tapping her fingers against the rock on which she sits, Mima explains the problem. "Having crossed this ford, following this stream back the way we came will bring us to the home of my associate, Hieda no Ami. On the other hand, if we travel for about the same distance in the opposite direction, we'll come to the residence of this Lady Saigyouji. Hmm..." She looks you in the eyes. "What do you think we should do?"

Pick one:
[ ] Visit Miss Hieda first.
[ ] Visit Lady Saigyouji first.

*A reminder: Youki still has not seen or heard about the Taiji.
[ ] Visit Lady Saigyouji first.
>Hieda no Ami
Third Child of Miare, eh? That places this at (rough estimate) over 800 years in the past, compared to the modern timeline.

[+] Visit Lady Saigyouji first.
[x] Visit Lady Saigyouji first.
[x] Visit Lady Saigyouji first.

This would be the best idea since we can discuss things with her and avoid showing unneeded parties that item.

Though Yuyuko might already know if Yukari went about meddling.
[ℤℯ] Visit Lady Saigyouji first.

Voting with the tide.
[ODIN] Visit Lady Saigyouji first.

Sounds like a sound plan.
Today has been unexpectedly busy, writing now.
For you, the choice is rather clear. You've not yet been acquainted with Miss Hieda, but you have met the Lady Saigyouji. Not only would it be rude to keep her waiting, but Konngara's conjecture about the probable connection between
this request for help and the power of the Orb is in line with your own estimations. And on a less pragmatic level, you're personally interested in meeting her. The impression left by her brief interaction with you was of a pleasant, if somewhat eccentric individual. Meeting interesting people is one of the greatest joys of your profession, so why pass up the chance?

"I'm of the opinion we should first see the Lady Saigyouji. Not only would an initial visit to the home of your associate require us to cover more distance total, but keeping Youki's mistress waiting unnecessarily would be a discourtesy unbecoming of her generosity."

Mima nods approvingly. "So, are we all in agreement on this course of action?" After receiving the assent of everyone in turn, she claps her hands together with an excited grin. "Excellent! We'll get moving as soon as we finish packing then. Hop to it."

In this way, the meeting adjourned and everyone set about their various tasks. Mima went to clean the cookware and fill the canteens, while Konngara cleared the bedrolls and dressed herself for battle. In the midst of this, Youki pulled you aside to say something. You were more than a little surprised at this gesture, but even more by what he had to say.

"I wished to thank you again for your advice to me earlier and for your advocacy of my mistress' proposal earlier. I seem to have grossly misjudged your character yesterday in my determination to best you."

"You needn't apologize, Youki. Both yesterday and today, I was merely following the course which seemed best to my heart and from what I can tell, you were just doing the same. ...It's funny how much difference a day makes, isn't it? Just yesterday, we were at each others throats in a deadly, desperate game and not twenty-four hours later, we're conversing amicably like this. But I'm not complaining, on the contrary; I'm exremely touched that you've taken the initiative like this to try and conciliate with me." You extend your right arm to him. "I hope that we can become friends; if not now, then in the future."

Youki looks at your outstretched hand before looking back at your face and pointing down at his own. Oh. That's right. You broke his right hand and its in a sling. So what about the left hand, then? You bring your left hand forward and... this won't work either. Thickly padded and wrapped in bandages, your left hand is completely immobile from the spectral sword that pierced it yesterday. ...So then, what to do?

While you're still thinking about it, Youki forms his left hand into a loose fist and pushes it out towards you. "Since we can't handshake." This somehow feels right. Bringing your right hand to bear against his, you impact it with a light punch. And when you do, something amazing happens. Youki smiles in a joyful, genuine way. You're glad to see it. Someone with a spirit as honest and forthright as his is rare; whatever his flaws of character might be, he's not a bad person at heart.


Shortly after your conversation, the day's travel begins. The four of you are following the stream, traveling through the beautiful, wooded ridge in which you offered your prayers for her earlier. Maybe the scenery is having an effect on you all, but for whatever reason, the journey has a much more relaxed atmosphere today. Strolling shoulder to shoulder, Konngara, Mima and yourself entertain lighthearted conversations and jesting while ascending the slope. Though excluded from this delightful repartee by the necessity of his position at the fore of the march, Youki's apparently enjoying himself too - he's whistling.

After a little while, your climb through the high forest brings the four of you to a rocky promontory high above the land around you. It's a breathtaking view and one which allows you to survey everything for miles around. On both sides is the deep green of dense forests; broken only by the sinuous cobalt curves of streams and rivers. Behind you, the forest becomes hilly grassland as the rivers flow into what appears to be an inland sea, a pewter grey against the backdrop of high mountains. And ahead of you, the forest diminishes to a pastoral Arcadia of wooded meadows; light verde interspersed with the red, pink and white of flowering trees. Looks like Youki's mistress picked a wonderful place to live.

Surprisingly, your group has actually made better than expected time in spite of (or perhaps due because of) the leisurely air of your travels. With only three miles to go, the four of you break for lunch on the peak.

[ ] You've been meaning to ask Konngara about her occupation.
[ ] You'd like to Mima to show you some of her magic.
[ ] How does Youki feel about the battle from yesterday?
[ ] Do something else. (Specify)

Any chance that someone here knows how I can get rid of that double post? It's an eyesore and I don't have the password anymore because I didn't notice it till today.
I think I'll do that, thank you.

Also, I forgot to put this in my post, but please pick only one choice.
[ ] You've been meaning to ask Konngara about her occupation.
I do believe we just witnessed the first respek' knuckles in Gensoukyou.

[+] You've been meaning to ask Konngara about her occupation.
[X] You've been meaning to ask Konngara about her occupation.

Perhaps even in history of that reality.

[x] You've been meaning to ask Konngara about her occupation.

Want to find out what she does exactly.
...You're not the original plusfag at all, you goddamn impostor.

If you were, you would remember the goddamn Beer Spider.

You sicken me.

Pretty sure he's talking about in regards to the time period than anything else.

He has it correct. I meant in the chronological sense. This story is, as I said, set in a time many centuries before Marisa, David, and Beer Spider.

Don't think I've forgotten the Awesome Arachnid, either.
Scorn, where art thou? ;_;
Snacking on some buns, your group's eating quietly; appreciating the landscape and refreshing breeze of the peak. His left leg propped against the cliff face, Youki's standing some ways away from the rest of you, munching thoughtfully as he watches the clouds lazily sail accross the sky. Sitting at the edge of the precipice, Mima's slender legs dangle over its edge as she admires the land with gusto. Having finished her bread with amazing speed, she's produced a sheet of paper and is inscribing something on its its surface with a piece of charcoal. At the apex of the peak, Konngara's laying on her back with her eyes closed and hands folded across her bosom. You'd like to talk to her, having not had as much time as you'd liked yesterday, but you need to check something first.

Focusing for a second, you filter out the windy caress of Zephyr, Youki's stoic grunts and Mima's light humming from the air about you; focusing solely on Konngara's gentle breathing. And... good. By the peaceful variance of its rhythm, you're certain that she's awake. Quietly approaching her side, she opens her eyes and smiles at you in greeting.

"You look as if you desire a question of me."

... She's sharp. "We've known each other for three days and you can already read me like a
book." Shaking your head in amazement, you look at her with a newfound sense of wonder. "You're outstanding, Konngara."

She sits up, her smile becoming wider at your compliment. "Thank you for your kind words, unworthy though I may be to receive them. The honor of acclaim is doubly sweeter when coming from one as talented as you." As always, it's a polite and humble answer, while nevertheless full of condidence and conviction. While you may not know some things about her, you've come to observe that Konngara's habit towards self-effacement in her speech is simply another vehicle by which she expresses her accomodation and good manners. Whatever else it may be, what it certainly isn't is a symptom of a deficiency in self-confidence.

In any case, you can't let her surpass you in courtesy. "I should say the same about your
commendation of me. Really, consider our situation. A wonderful young lady, witty in her speech and well-bred in her manners, while remarkably free of aristocracy's vile pretensions; praises a lowly lay brother and insists that she's unworthy of his common company. Could any sight be more ridiculous? If anything, I should be honored by your greatheartedness, not the other way around."

Konngara blushes faintly, absentmindedly looking away from you for a moment in embarassment before recovering. She's laughing. "The waxing of your eloquence is only exceeded by the blatance of your flattery. But what fine flattery it is." Positively beaming at you, she indicates the ground beside her, urging you to sit. You do and she hugs you in her arms, her head on your shoulder.

"So, about what part of me did you intend to inquire?"

Resisting the urge to make certain indecent insinuations, you stick with the original plan. "Well actually, I was just wondering as to your occupation."

She pulls back and looks at you quizzically. "Occupation?"

You nod, though not without returning her surprise. "Yes, as in the means through which you fed and clothed yourself before we started this journey." Surely, she's worked before, hasn't she?

She think about your question at considerable length, before being able to answer. "I initially misunderstood your question because my 'occupation' technically did not require me to perform the variety of active and regular labor associated with the word."

In your line of work, you've found that waiting patiently is the best course of action to incite others to speak in scenarios such as this. You do so, and gradually, Konngara starts to explain.

"Simply put, I do not have an occupation in the sense that I perform a specific trade for my
livelihood." She pulls back one of the wrappings on her right arm and shows you her smooth, uncalloused hand as proof of this. "The principal means by which I survive is an annual subdsidary of grain paid to me by the largest settlement in this region. But that alone isn't enough to sustain my health. I supplement this income with foraging and hunting in the woods around my shrine, bartering for anything else I may need by turning the grain into liquor. And of course, my 'Charming Demon' there helps me too." She points at the edge of the peak, where Mima sits.

Still, this is strange. "My monastery subsists on donations and grants given to us by the
surrounding territories as well, but it's nothing as formal as a contractualized fee like in your case. For what reason are you awarded with it?"

Konngara's fair face becomes a little uncertain. "I'm afraid I may not know all of the details, but in so far as I understand it, the local people both reverence and fear the shrine in which I live. The god who resides there is reputedly quite powerful and generous in his blessings, but the location of his sanctuary and its far removal from the fields and hearths of civilization make it perilous to humans. Few, if any have the courage to visit it, much less live there, for fear of being
eaten by youkai. But without at least one person to maintain it, the shrine will eventually fall into disrepair, bringing down the wrath of the god upon this land. I exist to solve this tension."

Uh oh. "If that's the case, then there's already a problem. Hasn't the shrine been wrecked?"

Konngara slowly shakes her head. "Fortunately that isn't the case. Perhaps you were unable to
see it clearly, but though its outlying buildings were incinerated, my shrine was unscathed by that monster." She smiles at you. "Though I may need a new home in which to live, that I can voice that grievance at all is only thanks to your timely and selfless aid."

You rest your chin on the back of your right hand. "And if you'll have me, I'd gladly help you build that new home when the time comes. But you've just reminded me of the next question I intended to ask you. When did you start to live at that shrine in the first place?"

Unexpectedly, her expression glowers and falls. For a while, she doesn't look at you, but at the ground, collecting her thoughts. Mumbling something to herself, she nods and looks at you, determinedly. "Though it may seem a lonely and desolate place today, it wasn't always just the god and I living at the shrine. ...And truth be told, my capacity for understanding you rela-" The sound of footsteps cuts her off.

"My apologies for disturbing you, but the Witch has asked me to tell you that we're heading out." With a bow, Youki delivers this message before turning to leave.

As you curse the awful timing of this development, Konngara stands up, taking your right hand into hers and comforting you. "I understand how you must feel, but rest assured when I say that you will come to know the whole story. Because not only do you deserve to know, I also wish to recount it to you. Having someone willing to lend an ear to my troubles is a pleasure I've not experienced for years and one which I'd like to Should we not be interrupted again tonight, then..." She trails off, before picking up her staff and beckoning you. " ...For now, shall we not focus on keeping pace with the others?"

She's right, of course. Popping your joints with relaxed stretch, you stand up and put your arm around her shoulder as the two of you rejoin the others.


The descent is turns out to be an uneventful one, though it doesn't seem that way at first. The far side of the slope is steep and barren at its top, hindering your progress as the three of you with injuries - Konngara with her left arm covered in burns, Youki with his broken right hand and you with your immobile left hand - struggle to maintain your footing. Though there are many uncertain moments, by proceeding with caution and through the help of Mima's psychic emanations to steady anyone about to slip, nothing befalls anyone in your group. After about an hour of this precarious exercise in mountaineering, the land abruptly starts to change. Rocky crags and steep cliffs give way to rolling foothills and shallow inclines. The stream at your left, which had bellowed with the force of a waterfall in its rush from the top of the peak, softens to a soothing murmur as your party reaches the ground again.

Happily, you find that this land's as beautiful from an earthly vantage as it is from a heavenly one. Following the gentle brook, Youki guides the four of you through fields of wildflowers and coppices of blossoming trees, many of which are blooming completely out of season. Asking him about why there are cherry and plum blossoms in late summer only produces the cryptic answer of "Wait and see." Either way, neither you nor your companions allow this mystery to diminish your feeling of bliss in traversing this fragrant cornucopia. Indeed, if someone told you right now that this place was nothing less than the legendary Western Heaven, you'd believe him.

Your anticipation mounts as the trees have begun to become regular in their ordering and kind, planted in rows along both sides of the water in a picturesque orchard. The proud way in which Youki's carrying himself leaves little doubt as to whose handiwork this is. Ahead of you, a little wooden bridge crosses the stream as it banks to the right and soon after, a well-swept and neat cobblestone path begins. It leads the four of you away from the brightness of the afternoon sun into a cool grove of cherry trees. In the shade at its center is a large, single story building, not unlike a small chateau or large temple. On one of the railed porches outside its paper doors sit a pair of women who couldn't be more unlike.

One of them's a crone bent with age, whose unbound yellow (...Yellow?) locks are streaked all through with silver. She's richly dressed, wearing an expensive looking purple gown trimmed with lace and a pair of sheer white gloves reaching to her elbows. The other's considerably more comely. Pretty and young, her hair's dark as a raven's wing and tied in a long ponytail falling halfway down her back. She's very simply dressed, in a plain blue kimono with neither ornament nor device hugging her slim body.

It's the latter of these two who makes an effort to greet you. Hopping from her seat beside the old hag, she briskly runs towards the four of you but as she draws near, catches the heel of her sandal on a loose paving stone. She stumbles and trips, her inertia sending her barreling into Youki at full bore and knocking him to the ground. ...You can't help but think that might have been her intention. While he protests loudly and embarassedly about how her behavior is humiliating, she hugs him, covering him in kisses and exclamations of her relief at his safety. It's only after he squirms free and uncomfortably stands at attention that she dusts herself off and stands to face her bewildered audience. With a lovely smile, she places her left arm before her and gives a low bow. "...Thank you so much for coming! I'm the Lady Saigyouji - pleased to meet you!"

Pick one:
[ ] Greet her yourself.
[ ] Let Konngara greet her.
[ ] Let Mima greet her.
[ ] Let Acala greet her.
[ ] Do something else. (Specify)
[x] Greet her yourself.
[x] Greet her yourself.

Don't be rude.
[+] Greet her yourself.

Yukari, taking a crone's visage? This is quite unusual.
[x] Greet her yourself.
{X} Greet her yourself.
[x] Greet her yourself.
[x] Greet her yourself.

I wonder if this is Yuyuko while she was still alive or some sort of illusion (Since the Yuyuko everyone knows has pinkish short hair and a figure that is not lacking in curves)

But as the make shift leader of the party, we should greet them.

But Yukari taking on an old appearance is rather unheard of. Then again this is before Reimu and other folks started with the "Old Hag" remarks.
[X] Greet her yourself.

Can't find a good reason to justify making this more complicated.
I'll start writing when I get home.
Stepping to the fore, you remove your hat and give a sweeping bow of your own. "The pleasure is all mine, dear Lady. If nothing else, I hope that all of us can become fast friends."

She's either horrible about concealing her surprise, or she's not even trying to hide it. Covering her parted lips with the wide sleeve of her robe, she approaches you with widened eyes. "You..." She carefully studies your face before giving a delighted squeal and abruptly hugging you. "You must be the one from the other day! W-wow! You're a monk! And such a well-spoken and ...a-and handsome one, to boot!" Her hands find their way into your hair and with not a little amazement in her gaze, she begins to gingerly comb it with her fingertips. It feels quite nice, but... by Vairocana, what's with all of the people in this region? Haven't they seen a priest with hair before? Do they really have such a misunderstanding of the Eight Prohibitions*?

... And why does this bubbly young woman apparently have no concept of personal space? Struggling not to be taken by her infectious exuberence, you lean close and whisper in her ear with a (hopefully) straight face.

"You're allowing me to captivate you, Lady Saigyouji. While the feeling is more than mutual for me, do you remember what you yourself said? Youki's going to be pissed at both of us if you keep this up." Actually, he's already grinding his teeth and glaring, but you don't tell her that.

"...Oh. Oh!" She jumps back from you in surprise and blushes shyly before bowing. "I-I'm sorry! That was really rude of me..."

"Yeah, it was. Lady or not, you should learn to keep your hands off of other people's property." Mima steps to your side and holds onto your arm bodily, an exaggeratedly sinister smirk across her face. Before you can tell her to take her own advice, someone does it for you.

"Watch your tongue, vile Witch, unless you'd prefer it parte-" Youki's livid threats are dispelled by a single commanding glance from his mistress, who then offers her hand to Mima with an innocent smile.

"Please excuse my servant's rudeness, he means well, but..." Lady Saigyouji coughs. "A-anyway, you're the great Witch of whom I've heard so much, yes? I'm... honored by your presence." She lowers her head slightly in submission, shuffling uncomfortably an-

What's this? ...You can't believe what you're seeing. With the faintest hint of a real smile, Mima's gently ruffling the Lady Saigyouji's hair as the latter laughs pleasurably. "You pass with flying colors. ...It's not often that anyone stands up for me like that, much less that openly and over the wishes of her friends. I appreciate it." So was her overt rudeness a feint to test this new host, just as she decided to test you? You can't help but think so, even as they hug warmly.

When the two of them break affectionately, the round of introductions is finished by Konngara. With a superlatively graceful bow, she smiles politely and offers up her right hand. "Allow me to express my admiration for you, Lady Saigyouji. The magnanimity of your spirit in extending to us this invitation is only surpassed by the nobility of your countenance."

While you try to mask your own unbounded admiration for Konngara's complete success in trouncing you at your own game, Both Youki and his mistress shows theirs plainly. Lady Saigyouji takes Konngara's hand into both of hers. "Uh ... you're Miss Konngara?"

"Verily, such is my humble name." She nods respectfully.

"So... all the stories I'd heard were true, and then some... You're so beautiful and so very polite! I'm happy to make your acquaintance!" As the two of them hug, you can't help but notice that the hag, who had been disinterestedly reading through the introductions to this point, is now watching all of you with rapt attention; Konngara most of all. But before you're able to consider the matter further, Lady Saigyouji's excited words call you back to the immediate situation.

"You're all such exceptional people! ...To have such wonderful guests... I'm glad I took her advi- Eh?" You follow her gaze and realize that she's looking in vain for the old hag, who seems to have vanished in the short period when you weren't watching her.

"Shall I lead the guests to their rooms?" Youki offers a suggestion as his distracted mistress looks every which way.

"O-oh that's right! Where are my manners! ...Thank you for reminding me, Youki! To make weary travellers like the three of you stand like this..." Her ponytail twists in the air as she clears her thoughts with a shake. "Actually Youki... let me do it. I know you must be tired after everything through which I've put you, so take some time to relax, ok?" As her servant accepts this command, Lady Saigyouji beckons your group with a wave of her hand.

You (pick one):

[ ] Just follow her inside.
[ ] Ask about the hag.
[ ] Compliment her on the gains she's made in her speaking.

* A series of rituals and vows taken by those entering the Buddhist clergy, enforced with varying degrees of strictness. Obviously, certain of them (for example, taking lives, fornicating or amassing wealth in excess of what's needed to live comfortably) are more important than others, especially for a wandering mendicant like our hero.

Also, I'm going to try and write another one later tonight since this one was comparatively short.
[x] Ask about the hag.

Suddenly, this got all Victorian or something.

Is that some pre-youkai Yukari, or Yukari maintaining the illusion of a mortal form and life for Yuyuko's sake?

Also also:
>Black-haired Yuyuko
Mind = broken
[x] Compliment her on the gains she's made in her speaking.

She made effort so we should reward her like that; that and we'll find out more eventfully regardless.
[+] Compliment her on the gains she's made in her speaking.
[+] Ask about the elder lady.

Priorities. Also, "hag" is a cruel word to use, especially regarding someone you don't even know yet.
[x] Compliment her on the gains she's made in her speaking.
[x] Ask about the elder lady.
>Is that some pre-youkai Yukari, or Yukari maintaining the illusion of a mortal form and life for Yuyuko's sake?

Let me commend you for asking these questions, because they're precisely the ones about which you should be thinking. Trust me when I say that you'll have some answers shortly.

>Also also: Black-haired Yuyuko, Mind = broken

Protip: If it hasn't been clear to you, the only person whom the hero has met in the flesh with an abnormal hair color is the hag.

>Also, "hag" is a cruel word to use especially regarding someone you don't even know yet.

It's how he thinks of her, not how he'd address her. And if it seems strange that he'd think of a 'complete stranger' that way, maybe there's a reason for it?


>You (pick one):
>Protip: If it hasn't been clear to you, the only person whom the hero has met in the flesh with an abnormal hair color is the hag.
Mima, too?
Also that is not a protip.
[x] Ask about the hag.
[x] Compliment her on the gains she's made in her speaking.
[x] Compliment her on the gains she's made in her speaking.
[x] Ask about the hag.
[0] Compliment her on the gains she's made in her speaking.
Yes. Remember that you're seeing his thoughts and if he thinks something's strange, he'll note it.
[X] Compliment her on the gains she's made in her speaking.
[x] Compliment her on the gains she's made in her speaking.
Writing slowly.
>(pick one)
Whoops, overlooked that. Well, count my vote as "top vote has priority; sqeeuze in the second if at all possible".
"Dear Lady."

At your respectful address, she stops and turns back towards you. "Um... yes? Is something the matter? Oh no, don't tell me there's som-"

"No mistress, there's nothing on your back. ...There never is. Please calm down." As she had begun to cast her arms about wildly in panic, Youki cuts her off with a sardonic reassurance.

And you give a reassurance of your own in the way of a smile, before saluting her. "Dear Lady, I just wanted to say that unless my first impression of you was extremely mistaken, you've apparently made great strides in your capacity for self-expression since last we spoke. I'm proud of you."

She blushes with surprise before delivering a short bow. "...Thank you! I... thought what you said to me about the importance of approaching matters with more confidence and decided to give it a try today."

You return her bow with one of your own. "Your enthusiasm honors me, dear Lady. I hope my suggestion isn't inconveniencing you?"

She waves with her hands as she shakes her head vigorously. "Oh no, no! Not at all! Though at first I wasn't sure about how I was supposed to go about doing it, it became easy once I realized I just needed to speak to everyone as if I were Youki." Lady Saigyouji pantomimes gripping a pair of sheathed swords as she scowls and turns her nose up you. "Grr... There's nothing on your back, Mistress! Eat your vegetables, Mistress! Your footwork is all wrong, Mistress, do it again! Wipe your shoes before coming in the house, Mistress! Leave the cooking to me, Mistress, you'll just make a mess if you do it!"

...You can't help yourself and apparently, neither can anyone else. Doubling over and slapping your knee at her absurd, yet strikingly accurate rendition of Youki, all of you have a laugh at his expense as he just looks down at his feet. Maybe it's just your imagination, but is that a little bit of color you see in his pallid face?

His mistress takes advantage of his inattention to hug him provocatively. "Ehh, don't look so embarassed, Youki! I was just having a little bit of fun at your expense and besides, what I said was true! You're always so confident, so it helped a lot with this to try and think like you. And the best part is, that the more I did it, the more natural it started to become for me! Neat, eh?"

As Lady Saigyouji bursts into another round of impressions, you look apologetically at Youki and offer a small prayer for his lately departed pride. Namusan indeed.


Maybe it's because of your collective relief at having found sanctuary at the end of the journey or maybe it's because of your host's cheerful naivete, but the four of you eagerly follow her lead. Yes, four of you. Regardless of his mistress' mockery of him and her early injunction against working, Youki remains at
attendance, trailing in the wake of your group. What a model servant. The porch where the Lady had been enjoying the afternoon in the shade of her cherry trees, gives way to an airy portico when you come to the front of the chateau. ...It's magnificent. The collonade is gripped in the gorgeous violet embrace of Wisteria flowers and flanked by perfectly trimmed white rosebushes along its entire length. While the three of you stand captivated, staring unashamedly at her garden's beauty; Lady Saigyouji and Youki continue to the front entrance. It's a remarkably utilitarian affair compared to its surroundings - two heavy, unadorned oak doors with a simple lock. After Youki unlocks it, he and his mistress each seize hold of a knob and twist, throwing the doors wide open in unison before turning back to you and your friends. With hasty guarantees that the garden isn't going anywhere, they usher you inside.

The front door leads into a dimly lit vestibule, hung with paintings and calligraphy. You make a superficial examination, but overwhelmingly, their subject matter is cherry blossoms - not a surprise in light of the garden and surrounding lands. Still... something's off. Why cherry blossoms, specifically? Certainly, they're myriad and
beautiful to look upon, but their universal association with ephemerality is really inauspicious. Even discounting their added metaphorical connotation of loyalty, fidelity and perseverence, plum blossoms would suffice nearly as well on a purely aesthetic level, wouldn't they? So why..."

You place these speculations on hold as you enter the main hall. It's a study in contrasts. The near end of the room is brightly illumined by lamps and hung with colorful tapestries done in a butterfly motif. Under these is a richly varnished dining table, set with a fine white tablecloth and sparkling bronze candlebra; by your estimate, at least ten people could eat comfortably from its elegant surface. The remote end of the room, however; is a different story. It's austere, even by your standards. Its completely bare of furnishings or decoration and almost completely dark. In fact, the only light in the whole space is from an alcove of votive candles. In their faint red glow, you can see some cushions on the floor and a few sticks of burning incense - both of these being centered around something set against the far wall. It's... a roughly hewn stone slab, pulled into an upright position and, though you're not able to make it out clearly in the shadows, some words seem to be
inscribed across its surface. All told, your immediate impression of it is that it's more like the meditation chamber of a Buddhist monastery than the audience room of an aristocrat's mansion. Strange.

Your lively young host takes you through a door on the right side of the hall, bringing you into a narrow hallway with papered walls and sliding doors, four on each side.

"Please, use any of these that you like." She indicates to her left and right, with a smile. "Dinner will be in a bit, so feel free to wander around, unwind or sleep in the meantime. Put your minds at ease, dear Guests." With a bow, Lady Saigyouji excuses herself. Tentatively, you decide to claim the second room on the right as yours. Working out the sleeping arrangements with the others will come later, so as to not unduly alarm your innocent

And... this is nostalgic. You're in a room quite like your old cell in monastery if it had been made more luxurious in its trappings. In addition to the bed and nightstand with which you're familiar, you've also been provided with a small desk for writing. A wonderful boon, though one on which you won't be calling right
now. Setting aside your things, you make your way over to the bed and tumble onto it. ...It's wonderful. After months of (mostly) sleeping on the ground, the feeling of sinking into a yielding mattress is nice. As you get to thinking...

Pick one:
[ ] Try to find the hag.
[ ] You'd like to chat with the Lady some more.
[ ] What's Konngara doing?
[ ] How's Mima?
[ ] Where'd Youki go?
[ ] Just relax here for now.
[ ] Do something else. (...Specify?)
[ ] Try to find the hag.
[ ] You'd like to chat with the Lady some more.
[x] Try to find the hag.
[X] Do something else: inspect the meditation chamber.

Probably terribly rude to go rummaging through someones house like this, but I'm quite curious.
[x] Where'd Youki go?

Man to man talking wouldn't hurt at all.

Also it's nice how much Young Youki is like his daugher.
[x] Try to find the hag.
[0] Try to find the hag.
[ℤℯ] Try to find the hag.

You mysterious disappearing disappearer, you.
[ODIN] Try to find the hag.

Seeking out a mysterious crone is bound to end well.
Writing slowly, it might not be finished tonight because of certain things.

For now, please think about these questions (as they apply to the hero) in advance of the next choice.

What is destiny? Is there destiny? Is it possible for destiny to exist in tandem with free will?

And finally, is it possible that belief in an otherwise nonexistant destiny can create an outcome matching said destiny through the power of choice?
...But you're not going to sleep, not yet. Even though... - no, especially because you've access to a bed for once, you can't let yourself succumb to the temptation of sloth. Sleeping in a luxurious place like this when you're not tired would transgress against your vows of poverty and charity. And aside from that... something's been bothering you. It's that hag. Who was she? Why did she seem so interested in Konngara? And why is her appearance so strange? ...Strange. ...Strange? Is she really so strange compared to some of the other things you've seen? ...True, her hair is of an unusual color, but doesn't Youki have an even more inhuman appearance than she does? You've never thought of Youki as strange, so wh-

Because something about her appearance bothers you.

Obviously, but what is it?

Not what. Why.

'Why?' ...I'm not sure I understand.

You are not alone in your misapprehension. Do you not remember? We are one. Just as all that you are originates from Acala, all that is Acala originates from you. Though I am able to guide you through difficult decisions, I cannot be of help in lieu of information.

... I see. So in essence, you're best with providing perspective and insight in certain situations, but only if I'm able to attain the answer myself?

Actually, I am 'best' with battle; with the destruction of demons, demolition of delusion and defense of the Dharma. But otherwise, your supposition is correct.

...Right. Well, now that I understand, I suppose we should find and question that hag now, shouldn't we? It seems that this is the limit of our unaided speculation.


Well, let's give this our best effort then.

It's a process you've repeated countless times and one which you've mastered with mechanical efficiency. Sitting down crosslegged on the floor, you straighten your back, lock your hands together into a circle, temporize your breathing and finally, close your eyes. In no time at all, your spirit is unfastened from its earthly shakles and ceases to simply 'perceive.' It 'feels,' and in feeling, you become aware of everything around you.

Konngara's in the room across from yours, all tranquil placidity as she sees sweet dreams. The suspicious, discerning wariness in the vestibule could belong to no one but Mima. And on the side porch of the chateau, Youki and his Lady sit shoulder to shoulder, happily watching the flowers and rejoicing at their reunion. There isn't anything... else? Just how-

"Looking for someone, boy~?"

Your heart nearly explodes in shock. As you're abruptly pulled back to reality, you feel the satin touch of a gloved hand on your shoulder. From behind. But though you have little idea what's going on, you don't allow yourself to betray your confusion on your face or in your words. This could be an attempt to intimidate you, or it could just be an innocuous oversight on your part, but either way...

"...What a coincidence! I had just been thinking that I'd like to become acquainted with you, grandmother; and lo, here you are!" With an impressively collected greeting, you salute the hag without turning around.

"...What did you just call me?" Squeezing hard, the hand on your shoulder tightens.

You daren't turn around. "...I'm sorry for offending you, pretty young lady, forgive me. It was a joke in poor taste."

"Much better~" Your shoulder is released with a gentle pat as the hag circles around you and sits down on the bed, coming face to face with you.

In her youth, she was probably tall and extremely beautiful, but that's certainly not the case now. Her back is twisted by rheumatism and her skin is covered in liver spots, sagging loosely from her face and arms. Hair that was probably once a shining gold falls in a dull, yellow tangle around her shoulders. Every inch of this hag's person has been thoroughly ravaged by the rapacious and unrelenting hands of time, with one exception. In her unclouded golden eyes, you see preserved all the intelligence, condescension and mischevious passion of her youth. And in looking at those eyes, you feel your stomach turn and blood run cold. You can't put your finger on it, but... she reminds you of something?

"So, why were you looking for me, boy? My name's Murasaki, by the way." She produces a fan and with an elegant smile, hides most of her face behind it as she waits for your answer.

[ ] ??"

Don't waste this chance.
[ODIN] "Ah, Lady Murasaki, I shall assume you are the poet of fame?"
[ODIN] If so, you must praise her masterpiece, the poem of Prince Genji, a work that is truly one of the pearls that reveal themselves only a few times every century, a precious treasure that is more valued in the sight of Buddha and the Deva than all the gold and silver found in the famed Empire holding the Mandate of Heaven.
[ODIN] Truly you are honoured to meet such a legendary wizard of words. Tell her of this fact.

Right, this should work.
[x] "Ah, Lady Murasaki, I shall assume you are the poet of fame?"
[x] If so, you must praise her masterpiece, the poem of Prince Genji, a work that is truly one of the pearls that reveal themselves only a few times every century, a precious treasure that is more valued in the sight of Buddha and the Deva than all the gold and silver found in the famed Empire holding the Mandate of Heaven.
[x] Truly you are honoured to meet such a legendary wizard of words. Tell her of this fact.
[x] But as far as your question, my young lady, I sensed something exceptional about you, and talking with you, I found I was not mistaken.

I'm curious to see what's causing Yukari's aged appearance (considering how her modern self could easily come off as a very 'healthy' 17 year old)
I have no idea what to write in as a vote here, and no inclination to parrot the others' votes.

However, I must say that
>Actually, I am 'best' with battle; with the destruction of demons, demolition of delusion and defense of the Dharma.
was an amazing application of alliteration.
[X] "Ah, Lady Murasaki, I shall assume you are the poet of fame?"
[X] If so, you must praise her masterpiece, the poem of Prince Genji, a work that is truly one of the pearls that reveal themselves only a few times every century, a precious treasure that is more valued in the sight of Buddha and the Deva than all the gold and silver found in the famed Empire holding the Mandate of Heaven.
[X] Truly you are honoured to meet such a legendary wizard of words. Tell her of this fact.
[X] But as far as your question, my young lady, I sensed something exceptional about you, and talking with you, I found I was not mistaken.

>And in looking at those eyes, you feel your stomach turn and blood run cold. You can't put your finger on it, but... she reminds you of something?

What was the last thing we stared in the eye?

Considering how familiar they are with one another, my guess is that Yukari and Yuyuko met when Yuyu was still a child. For reasons we can only speculate upon, Yukarin has elected to maintain the appearance of aging right along with Yuyu. A dozen years or so of growing old in the 12th century is probably a little tougher than it is now.

Now, I do wonder if the appearance is for the sake of deceiving Yuyuko, or for deceiving others. I'm given to the notion that Yuyuko's powers would let her know Yukari is not going anywhere fast, but then again, Yukarin can do some wild stuff.

I don't have pictures of old Touhou characters. Huh.
[x] "Ah, Lady Murasaki, I shall assume you are the poet of fame?"
[x] If so, you must praise her masterpiece, the poem of Prince Genji, a work that is truly one of the pearls that reveal themselves only a few times every century, a precious treasure that is more valued in the sight of Buddha and the Deva than all the gold and silver found in the famed Empire holding the Mandate of Heaven.
[x] Truly you are honoured to meet such a legendary wizard of words. Tell her of this fact.
[x] But as far as your question, my young lady, I sensed something exceptional about you, and talking with you, I found I was not mistaken.
I see what you did there.

Everything he said.

Consider >>98061 , in light of >>98089 .

>What was the last thing we stared in the eye?
Kind of guessing it refers more to either youkai-ness, or the inner nature of a terrifying monster. Both apply, unless this isn't Yukari (and I will be fucking amazed if that's so.)
>unless this isn't Yukari (and I will be fucking amazed if that's so.)
I have a sneaking suspicion that it isn't Yukari... yet.
Writing. Amusingly enough, I'm somehow being bombarded by a blizzard in mid-October and nothing in my neighborhood has power.
"Murasaki? ...As in, the Murasaki?" So that's the reason behind the color and richness of her dress! "...I'm honored to be in your presence. While I've not had a chance to keep up with it in the course of my travels, during the time I spent in the Capital, I was an avid reader of your great narrative."

The hag crosses her legs regally, her face concealed. "Oh~? And what did you like about it?"

"Many things. Your writing combines the best qualities of proven literary style and word choice with a revolutionary new form - through your decision to serialize your story. The way in which each episode explores a self-contained situation while nevertheless being part of a larger mythos is a brilliant idea. But what impressed me the most was your decision to write in the vernacular script, rather than the
scholastic. As I understand it, the opinion of many of your peers in the nobility is that only through the characters of the Continent can truth and beauty be expounded in a written form." You shake your head in disgust. "An ignorant and unfounded supposition and one which you've disproven through dint of your accomplishment. Not only have you shown that the vernacular has unexplored potential in its capacity for poetic brilliance, but through rejecting the esoteric script of the Han, you've managed to compose something that any intelligent person and not just a member of the court or of the literati could understand,
without the need for years of specialized study. All told, I think your work is truly one of the rare pearls in a sea of sand; the sort of transcendant masterpiece more treasured in the eyes of Buddhas and Devas than all the gold and silver o-"

Your unrestrained praise is suddenly interrupted as the hag snaps her fan shut and with a stylish, aristocratic lilt, laughs uproariously with a great many "Dohohohohos" and "Ufufufufus." Turning red with embarassment, you just look to the side and wait for her to recover her composure. It takes a long, long time; far longer than is necessary for you to guess your mistake. "If you aren't Murasaki Shikibu, was there a reason that you decided to string me along like that?"

"I did no such thing, it's just that you jump to conclusions rather quickly, boy~." She lifts a hand to forestall your contrary reply. "But to answer to your question, I wanted to know why you liked it because not only have I also read the Tale of Genji, but many years ago, I was acquainted with its author."

"...I would hear your enlightened appraisal." This hag is making outrageous claims, but you see no falsehood in her eyes. Odd. ...This means she's either the most deceitful being alive or she's telling the truth.

"Well, I'm not quite as fond of her story as you seem to be, boy. Everything you said about its accessibility and innovation is entirely true, but I find its premise and subject matter distasteful. At heart, its a sappy, cliched and overwrought love story heavy on female wish fulfillment but light on plot - the sort of story beloved by hopeless romantics and the overly sentimental." A very thinly veiled attack on your character and a VERY untrue one at that. ...Right?

"Indeed? I wouldn't know, as those attracted to the monastic profession are invariably stoic, self-denying while nevertheless being pragmatically ambitious. In other words, people like myself." You somehow manage to keep a straight face as you make this outrageously facetious statement. "But in any case, if you don't like Genji, Miss Murasaki; may I at least hear what you do enjoy? So as to know you better, of course." The better to match with you in this contest of wits, that is.

"Oh~? My favorite pieces of literature? Well, I'm fond of the Analects, the Voluspa and Lokasenna, the Mahabharata, the..." You've never heard of any of these except for the first, and even then, you've only read Confucius' teachings in snippets. ...Just who is this old woman?

"You shame me, Miss Murasaki." Since I became a monk ten years ago, I thoroughly applied myself to meditation and study; that I might achieve self-realization and thereby become empowered to save first myself and then others from the infinite doom of Samsara. But in speaking with you, it's obvious that I'm woefully deficient in my knowledge and that unless I redouble my efforts, I'll never come close to your level." Though you've slightly exaggerated on the side of humility, your admiration is genuine. Whatever else she is, this hag's either an unparalleled genius or an unhinged lunatic. You're about to find out which.

Murasaki reaches down and strokes the side of your face with an elegant gesture. "Don't be so hard on yourself, boy. I'm a bit ...older than you might guess and unlike you, I've had a very long time in which to accumulate and synthesize whatever measure of wisdom of which you seem to think I possess. For your age, you're remarkably eloquent, compassionate and erudite. And I like that. Though I'm not sure if you're quite my type, I think we can become friends at the very least." ...She likes you? If she so mercilessly teases and deceives people she likes, what does she do to her enemies? And for that matter, why does Youki let someone like this entertain the graces of his innocent Lady? Well, you'll have to ask him about it later. For now...

"I'd like that. To become friends with a pretty young lady like you, Miss Murasaki." Raising yourself slightly from your sitting position, you clutch at her knees and grasp at her chin in a suppliant pose. "Please allow me to benefit from your sagacious instruction."

The hag just looks at you with a curiously sly expression. "You already have~" ...Huh? What does sh- "But since you asked so nicely, I suppose I can humor your request." Her tone becomes completely serious as her face is concealed in a single, smooth motion. "I will offer to you the gift of foresight. I can read your destiny as written by the stars and tell you what yet shall be, should you desire it. You need only to ask."

You would be wise to decline this offer.

Something about this also makes me uneasy, but can any harm come from just listening?

Yes. From the existence of karma, we both know that one's place within the cosmos is not determined by abstract, transcendental laws or through the music and motion of the celestial spheres as this Murasaki would apparently have you believe. If you doubt even for a moment that you are - through the sum of your actions and the breadth of your life - the master of your own fate, and thereby debase yourself in entertaining the false specter of manipulative demiurges; then you stand to become another victim of prophetic self-fulfillment.

Simple belief in a false or hollow prophecy can bring about its fulfillment?

Though you have ever been its beneficiary, you doubt the power of faith?

...Good point. That was foolish of me.


Still, you could interpret this situation another way couldn't you? If she has the truly has the gift of foresight, then if we acquiesce to this, we might only see what could happen, as opposed to what will happen. And if, as is more likely; she's just having some fun with us by playing fortune teller, then there's no problem as long as we don't let her words unduly influence our actions.

Ultimately, the decision is yours - just know that Acala has spoken his part.

It's then that Murasaki addresses you in a grand voice, unseen behind the folds of the fan. "Have you come to a decision, boy?"

[ ] "I accept graciously. To pass up an opportunity like this would be nothing short of folly."
[ ] "I must humbly decline. I am many things, but above all, I am a person who forges his own fate."
[ ] Say something else. (Specify)

Do not choose impulsively or frivolously.
[x] "I must humbly decline. I am many things, but above all, I am a person who forges his own fate."

Fate is what you make it. The simple everyday choices come to together to make an ultimate destination in the end.

I think that Myouren would benefit greatly from living day to day without worrying about some higher destiny or plan to uphold.
[x] "I must humbly decline. I am many things, but above all, I am a person who forges his own fate."

>As in, the Murasaki?" So that's the reason behind the color and richness of her dress!
Called it~

I have this half-baked theory that the future Yukari Murasaki tells is Touhou as we know it: Mima dead (Or however one becomes an evil spirit) and wanting revenge on humanity, Konngara with a spike through her forehead, and both of them stuck in Hell.

And I don't want dem fine hos such wonderful companions stuck in hell.
[x] "I must humbly decline. I am many things, but above all, I am a person who forges his own fate."

Not sure if Yukari can see that far into the future, but her general foresight is easily a double edged sword.

Good: It might comfirm what we would do regardless or a warning

Bad: We're so concerned with it that it trips us up badly in terms of fulfilling it.

But ultimately we're better off refusing somewhat imperfect foresight.
[+] "I must humbly decline. I am many things, but above all, I am a person who forges his own fate."
Couldn't have put it better myself.

I had a feeling it would be too presumptuous to assume that this Murasaki and that one were the same.
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So decisive, anonymous! Bravo! Though... I wonder about something~ You refused me because you thought that I might show you something ominous or horrible, the birth of a tragedy years in the making. But how do you know that's the case? Why, you might have seen something innocent or heartwarming, a vision of the near future or even tomorrow! Despite what fiction would have you believe, prophecy isn't -always- dreadful.

...Of course, speaking hypothetically, if there -is- in fact a star of disaster looming over your shoulders, the knowledge of its influence might have helped you escape whatever cruel fate awaits you. Oh well~ It's not like that matters now, and I probably can't see that far down the road anyway, right~"

Writing slowly. The unanimity of opinion will be taken into consideration.

Dammit Yukari j/k

Thing is knowing the future has proven to be determental in many works of fiction since you end up so obsessed that you'd end up overlooking what's right in front of you.

Well might as well proceed among the path we choose then.
I've no fear of prophecy, but I put no stock in it. Accepting this offer just doesn't feel like it's in the good monk's character, so I went with that.

Please make your posts look like you weren't asleep or drunk when you wrote them.

Punctuation, spelling, and waiting warmly are preferred here.
Even though I didn't have the opportunity to vote on this, I regret nothing in this decision. Familiarity would either breed complacency or abject anarchy. Such frames of mind have no place when there are (potentially) destinies to be defied.

Row row fight the power!

But seriously, outside of 'Back to the Future' (itself rife with anomalies), I am hard pressed to recognize when knowing the future has ended well.
"I appreciate your offer, but humbly decline. I am many things, but above all, I am a person who forges his own fate; the esoterica of the distant stars and timeless void has no power over me." The fire in your eyes softens somewhat. "But please do not mistake my rejection of this for a rejection of you, Miss Murasaki. I still earnestly wish to be friends with you and to receive your considerable wisdom, just of a more mundane variety than this."

Murasaki nearly drops her fan in surprise at your answer, though she tries to make it look as if it were a graceful slip of the wrist. "...You're really something else, boy. Not many people I've met would refuse a chance to know their own future. I'm not offended, but won't you reconsider?" This is odd. Why does she sound so earnest? "Truly, think about this. Of how many countries which fell to ruin might have yet lived with the faculty of foresight. And of how many led astray into the dark wood of hopelessness might have risen above their despair with the assistance of augury. Or of how many who ultimately found themselves condemned to Hell might have been redeemed by the power of prophecy. Think - it's that power am I offering to you, freely and with both hands. ...Are you still so sure?"

Without hesitating, you nod. "As I said, I make my own future, Miss Murasaki; such a gift would be wasted on one such as I. But..." Standing up from your seat on the floor, you move to sit beside her on the bed. "Though I find divination to be less useful, advice is something else entirely. If I am not being grasping and ungracious in this request, I would happily hear your counsel." Punctuating your words with a smile, you stare into her eyes determinedly.

Murasaki doesn't return your gaze, but turns her eyes down at the bed, as if thinking about something. "...Very well." Abruptly seizing your hand, her golden eyes blaze with intensity and confidence. "You would do well to think about whether your faith or your friends are more important to you. Your profession could very well require you to choose between them.."

This is hardly a new revelation for you. "A problem of which I'm already aware. I will tell you now, Miss Murasaki - I would choose my friends in a heartbeat. That isn't to say that my faith is unimportant to me, on the contrary; it's guided me past every obstacle and given me the ability to safeguard that which I love. But to surrender any of the things I hold dear for only the power to protect them? Such is an exchange that places the carriage before the horse and ultimately, one which I am unwilling to make. Ever."

With an approving smile, Murasaki gently pets you on the head. "It sounds as if you've thought about this matter quite thoroughly, boy."

And you have, for ten long years. Separating from her drove you to recognize the crisis and to formulate an answer. Though it took many sleepless nights in mediation, employing all the fervor of your heart and wisdom of your brow, you've reached a conclusion of which you're satisfied.

"But I want you to know something." In an instant, her tone's becomes ineffably grave. "Realize that there may come a day when all the people you cherish will be lost to you forever, unless you yourself have the power to save them. If you've already given up your faith, what then?"

...Then you would be left to mourn with only the wind as your witness, brokenhearted and full of bitterness. "I would rather know how to never find myself in such a situation to begin with."

Murasaki pulls you towards her and hugs you, whispering. "Then engrave these words on your heart and never forget them, boy. Continue to treasure your friends and loved ones, to steadfastly strive for personal improvement and to unflinchingly challenge the myriad evils of the world. In doing so, you may yet triumph over the possibility of that dreadful future."

It's good advice, with good intentions. Returning her embrace, you kiss her wrinkled cheek with heartfelt thanks and hold her. At this, she sighs nostalgically (longingly?) and rests in your arms. "As much as I'd like to stay and talk with you some more, boy, I need to go help that half-baked young samurai make dinner." That's a shame, since there was more you wanted to ask her. Much more, actually. Whether it was intentional on her part, it only now strikes you that in this conversation, you've learned nothing about her other than her name and favorite books.

Helping Murasaki to her feet, you lead her to the door and deliver a low bow. "Thank you for your time, pretty young lady. I had sensed you were someone exceptional, and in talking with you, found that I wasn't mistaken."

She accepts your words graciously and curtsies. "I'm pleased to see that our admiration is mutual, boy. You're interesting and show considerable promise. Seek me out any time you wish." With a coquettish wink, she exits out the door.


After Murasaki left, you returned inside and spent some much needed time in meditation, reflection and prayer, concentrating your efforts on the fourty-eight vows of Amitabha Buddha. There could be nothing more relevant after that conversation of yours. With your mind and spirit lightened through its hope, you tidy your clothes and leave the room in search of an appropriate place to groom yourself. Or at least, that was the plan before your attention was arrested by Konngara, having exited her room simultaneously to you. You seem to have her at a disadvantage, but you can't help yourself. Liberated from its pin, her hair's gracefully tousled over her sleepy eyes. Her disheveled robe's fallen around her arms, exposing her strong shoulders and creamy neck, while completely failing to cover her voluptous thighs, beautifully defined calves and delicious feet. She looks absolutely gorgeous. ...And by the way she's turning bright red, absolutely embarassed.

After hastily begging your pardon and excusing herself, she retreats and closes her door. After about a minute, she reappears with a semblence of order about her. She's still mostly undressed and a little flustered, having simply combed her hair and adjusted her robe for modesty. "I apologize for parading myself before you in such an indecent manner. It was an inexcusable mistake." She bows lightly, her measured stiffness betraying a concern that her robe could come undone and fall open. It's... quite an enticing thought. But more importantly...

"Don't be ashamed, I wish you would make mistakes like this more often." She flushing a deep scarlet again, the compliment not lost on her. But so as to temper this innuendo with altruism, you smile and continue what you were saying. "It would give me more chances to help you and allow us to deepen our understanding of each other."

Konngara's face lights up. "How sweet and strangely fortuitous this meeting is, then. My intention was to wash up before broaching to you an important question, but the present is just as well." She steps close to you and looks both ways before speaking softly. "How much about my burden do you think we should divulge?"

Pick one:
[ ] Show it to them, tell them as much as is known.
[ ] Imply its existence, but not mention its name or origins.
[ ] Do not mention it at all.
[ ] Try something else. (Specify)

Note: You do not necessarily need to show it to everyone, but there is no guarantee that the person(s) who see it won't tell others. Also, no matter what choice you pick, please explain your rationale for doing so.
[+] Imply its existence, but not mention its name or origins.

It seems a bit off to hide its existence entirely. At the same time, though, I'm not convinced of the trustworthiness of Youki and Yuuko in handling a big secret like this one.

I'd say, leave the determining factor to be whether or not the Saigyouji house has the resources to help us find out more about it. If not, we still have the Hieda to ask.
[X] Show it to them, tell them as much as is known.

I can't think of a good reason from hiding something like this from Yuyuko, Youki, and Murasaki (though she probably already knows). Seeing that we're looking for information, I think approaching it in a forthright manner is the best approach. Subterfuge has its place, but I'm not getting that vibe here. This is probably because Yuyuko and Youki have given us no reason to distrust them.

More than that, though, is the fact that Yuyuko wants Konngara to do something for her. I have a sneaking suspicion as to what it may be (just like everyone else probably does), but I think that asking will be easier for Yuyu if this is perceived as an exchange of services, particularly if she sees her situation as 'troubling'.

Yet we don't know who might be watching us, and perhaps after things improve we might be able to reveal more.
You're going to have to point to where you're getting this "we're constantly being watched" line of thought
Yukari is around. There's a good chance we are constantly being watched.
[X] Show it to them, tell them as much as is known.

'Murasaki' most likely already knows this, and if she's found out about it and nothing bad has happened, I think it's a safe idea.
[x] Imply its existence, but not mention its name or origins.
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Author's note: Some of you seem to be making your choices based on irrational paranoia rather than actual consideration of the issue at hand. Have I not made good on my declaration that I am not Kira? Have I presented you with a situation in which misreading some small, seemingly innocuous clue has irreparably screwed you over? In so far as I can see, I have not and have no plans to do so in the future. Please, have greater faith in me.

Like I said before, I feel that one of my duties as the author is alerting the readers if something's occuring in the story. There will not be a plot twist where mysterious character X will have been secretly watching you the whole time without your knowledge or any means of detection. If there is ever anyone spying on you, I will either indicate it somehow or present you with an option by which you can discover it. Like what happened with Youki watching you.

Per this line of speculation, let's assume Yukari is around and is as omnipotent as you lot seem to think. If she's capable of watching you from a distance 24 hours a day, what makes you think she doesn't already know about it? Don't you think it might be a better idea for you to try and enlist her help than to trying to conceal this from her - something which would be impossible anyway, if she was watching you all the time? In other words, what >>99395 is most intelligently suggesting that you do.

But that said, there is no right answer in this situation and the concerns expressed in >>99335 have a firm rational basis. Having met the members of this household less than a day ago, you've only gathered initial impressions as to their character. What I am asking you to think about is - do you trust the three of them (or two or one, if you don't want to show it to everyone) greatly, a little bit or not at all? You don't have to give the same answer for all three of them.

Anyway, I'll give you all some time to think about this. I'm not trying to psyche you out or to obtain a specific answer from you. I just don't want all of you to make me write a Snow End because of misunderstandings or baseless suspicions.

This guy does have some good points, true Youki got off on the wrong foot at first, but I think we can trust Yuyuko


Well it seems us Anon are overthinkers in regards to your story.

It could be worse: we could have been morons.
[X] Show it to them, tell them as much as is known.
Suspicion =/= thought, in spite of what some of you seem to have been conditioned to believe. Granted, after having read certain things on this site, I don't blame you. But the whole point of that last post was to question whether the excessive suspicion of certain anons had any basis, which it didn't, considering how quickly any such claims fell apart after rudimentary deduction of self-evident premises.

>It could be worse: we could have been morons.

I wonder about this. The number of stories that've been wrecked by either paranoia or schizophrenia in decisionmaking is proof that they're two sides of the same coin.
Out of curiosity, what is it that you do read, good sir?

Perhaps, but some stories seem to have set up such thinking; old habits are hard to break. Perhaps MiG's lingering influence?

but DoLF is a story partially ruined by Anon's stupidity.

But I do thank the author for helping out the voters with things like that.
[X] Show it to them, tell them as much as is known.

Yuyuko is naive, perhaps, but definitely trustworthy - she obviously bears no malice at all and wouldn't betray us willingly.
Youki is rash and a bit too quick to anger, but would never betray Yuyuko, so I think it would be safe to show those two.
Murasaki is enigmatic but she also was willing to give us advice - and if she can see as much of our future as she claims she probably already knows about the orb.

I think we should show it to them.
Writing. This one will be short, methinks.
I follow various ongoing stories on most of the boards, but I've also had a look at some of the more (in)famous things from the archive.

>Perhaps, but some stories seem to have set up such thinking; old habits are hard to break.

So I've noticed. To the authors who think that creating such an attitude among your readers is a good idea: I want to punch you through the internet.

Taking a page from Konngara's caution, you close your eyes, make a cursory detection and... Good. Nothing's within earshot of you.

You lean in towards her. "I would hold nothing back from them. I've also been thinking about this question and to that end, I made an interview of the only member of this household to whom you haven't yet spoken. To make a long story short, she's a bit strange, but of an obliging and insightful character. Put your mind at ease."

Konngara gives a little gasp of surprise. "Then, you made so much of an effort? For me?" Setting all concerns of modesty aside, she smiles fondly and pulls you into an affectionate hug. "Oh, thank you. Thank you for taking such pains on my behalf. Truly, I count myself fortunate to have met a person so sweet and so dedicated to his friends."

Resting an arm around her waist, you return the appreciation in her amber eyes. "Anything for you, my lovely Konngara. I may not know you half as well as I would really like, but I know enough to be certain that you're someone special to my heart and that your company is irreplacable. It's with my greatest happiness that we share in this trial together and my hope that we only grow closer through it." And with these words, you hold her to your chest and deliberately, tenderly; kiss her on the head. As she sighs with pleasure and cuddles in your arms, you remember something else you forgot to say. "Also, this is just a vague feeling of mine, but I think that whatever request that Lady Saigyouji intends to make of us will be easier for her if we give her a way to help us. If you trust her, that is."

Still clasped against you, she looks up. "I do. I cannot possibly fathom the possibility that someone so vivacious and wonderful could be secretly harboring designs on my life or ambitions for my power. Though I will not needlessly volunteer its existence to her, I don't intend to conceal it. Whenever we learn of her request, so too will she learn of mine."

"That's a sound course of action. While the decision is ultimately yours, I approve of this." With a nod, you give her a final squeeze before releasing your embrace. "Now that we've settled this, you wanted to go bathe, right? Don't let me keep you, Konngara." With a wave of your hand, you turn your back and-

"Actually, do you wish to join me?" Having taken hold of your arm and not at all insecure, she makes this outrageously bold request.

[ ] Yes. Though unexpected, how could you pass this up?
[ ] No. As nice as this sounds, isn't it improper?
[x] Yes. Though unexpected, how could you pass this up?

What better way to bathe than in company? And it's not as if anyone has lewd designs in their hearts.
[x] Yes. Though unexpected, how could you pass this up?
[ ] Yes. Though unexpected, how could you pass this up? In fact, we should invite Mima as well!

God, if only... Anyway, while this is remarkably bold, I think it's the result of all the quality time and moments we've spent with Konngara. Outrageus, yes, but declining would probably be a little unnatural considering all we've done for each other.

Rereading a bit, the end of this 'scene' is shaping up to be fairly epic:
>Yuyuko: "I don't want to unduly influence your decision about whether to see me by unnecessarily entrapping you in my troubles."

>The scene at the end of the chapter brings a warm smile to her face, but as she flips ahead, she becomes dead serious. Then, when her mouth opens in shock, I decide to answer her question in advance.
>"Milady, please permit me to be in attendance for when you read it. If you find yourself unable to continue..."
>I answer her, keeping most of my face behind the fan. "Don't worry, things won't end in the way they did when I read it to you so long ago, Ran. Didn't you know? Aside from acting as a force of change, it's also a force of healing. Time, that is. It's the panacea for all wounds, even those of the heart."

>What is destiny? Is there destiny? Is it possible for destiny to exist in tandem with free will?
>And finally, is it possible that belief in an otherwise nonexistant destiny can create an outcome matching said destiny through the power of choice?

From the wiki:
Eventually, the beautiful blossoms of the Saigyou Ayakashi were sealed away by some unknown heroes, using Yuyuko's human soul as the main component. The seal would freeze both the blossoms and the soul in place together for eternity.

Are we a bad enough monk to save Yuyuko's soul?

Better Question:

Does she want us to? Since it seems Yuyuko decided to remove two killing threats with one act: Herself and the tree. But I do see what might be coming up.
File 125601557844.jpg - (22.17KB, 500x463 , ih5.jpg) [iqdb]
>To the authors who think that creating such an attitude among your readers is a good idea: I want to punch you through the internet.

Picture is so very related
For myself, it wasn't due to paranoia that I voted to hold back just a bit. It was as you said - Monk and crew don't know these others all that well, yet, and it would seem a bit wrong to just start blurting out important secrets that easily.
If I was paranoid, I'd probably have voted to conceal it completely.

I simply considered the wiser, more appropriate course of action to be to take the middle road, at least for the moment. As we get to know these people better, I believe a better bond of trust can be forged.
And, if she puts enough trust in us to ask our help with something big, I wouldn't hesitate to let her know of the Orb.

[+] Yes. Though unexpected, how could you pass this up?
Snuggling together is intimate, to be sure, but our Monk is quite the warm-hearted individual. Nothing wrong with snuggling, provided he doesn't make any untoward advances.
Holy shit.

Bathing together, not snuggling.
In my (weak) defense, I can only respond that I misread "go bathe" as "go to bed".

Still, Japan, mixed bathing, and all that.
You can't help but smile at the strangeness of the situation. This girl, who with such apparent apprehension asked you to bed two nights ago, is fearlessly inviting you to bathe beside her. Is it that her inner character more licentious than you've guessed? ...Or have you really endeared yourself to her so?

"Aren't you afraid that I might do something unseemly?" Anticipation edging your voice, you test her motives.

"Not in the least." She answers immediately, releasing your arm to take tally with her fingers. "Of your own volition, you saved me from a horrible end at the teeth of a monster and fought as my champion in a duel to the death. You've slept in my same bed for the past four nights and you've even washed my unclothed back. Since we've met, you've supported me through every difficulty, never trying to take advantage of me even once." Konngara extends her hand welcomingly. "No, I trust you, as you trust me. And in time, I hope that this trust of ours can blossom into something even more beautiful." She becomes a little quiet. " ...Don't you?"

"...Hope? I'll do more than just that, my lovely Konngara." You happily take her hand, all your anxiety transformed to joy at her courageous declaration. "I'll work to make it a reality, for both of us."

She's positively beaming at how completely you've returned her feelings. "...Then so too will I, with every fibre of my being." Pulling your hand to her lips, she kisses it lovingly, nuzzling your fingers against the flawless skin of her cheek. Then, she gives you a little tug. "But shall we not take a bath now?"

"We shall." With an unreserved smile, you urge her forwards.


Since neither of you had laid preparations for this, the two of you are forced to split up and go about various tasks. While Konngara went to ask Lady Saigyouji about bathing, you went to find Youki. Just as Murasaki said, he was in the (spacious, spotlessly clean) kitchen, all his attention on meticulously washing, dicing and arranging a tantalizing spread of fruits and vegetables. She, however; was not. According to her irritated colleague, Murasaki had already retired for the night, having offered her help only to become sleepy after scarcely ten minutes of work. After having a chuckle at that old hag's capricious whimsy, you explain to Youki the circumstances of your visit, before requesting four large towels, a pair of washcloths and some soap.

He just gazes at you with astonishment writ large across his face. "... Are those clothes just for show?"

...Why do people keep asking you things like this? "Youki, listen well to what I'm about to say." You allow him time to set aside his knife and remove his apron, before posing a question. "For what reason have you honed your skill with the blade?"

"To protect my mistress and to vanquish her enemies." It's a practiced, resolute answer.

It's also the one you were hoping that he'd give. "In other words, all your training is predicated on the understanding that you will, at some point, most likely use what you've learned, correct?"

"...Yes, of course." By his tone, it's clear that he hasn't quite grasped the direction in which you're taking this line of reasoning.

"Though we are of different occupations, they share the same premise - to pursue virtue in anticipation of exercising it in the advent of greater good. The only difference is that your primary concern is with the martial virtues, while mine is with the moral. ...And whether martial, moral or of any other kind, virtue must be tested."

Youki finally understands, and better. "So this is a test, then?" Your message apparently resonates with him.

"Truly, Youki. As I see it, cloistered virtues, untested by practice and removed from the realities of life, are of no use to anyone; myself most of all. It's why the first thing I did after I finished my training and became formally ordained was to set out on a journey to test everything I had learned. I wanted to save the helpless, the poor and the beleaguered and to stand strong against all the sufferings of this world, not to just safely shelter myself behind the walls of a monastery detached from the world at large and from all temptation. Whether I have succeeded or not is up for debate, but most certainly, I haven't failed."

With nothing short of complete admiration on his face, he's nodding to himself and smiling. He looks absolutely taken by your words. "A great and noble purpose and one that makes me glad that my defeat was at the hands of a person like you." He gestures for you to wait and exits from your view, returning after about a minute with a basket containing towels, washcloths and soap. He presses them into your hands, eagerly. "Please, make good use of them. And permit me to ask something of you."

This is surprising. "Gladly."

He drops to his knees and placing his one good hand on the ground, he presses his head to the floor. "Teach me of the moral virtues. If excellence with the sword and excellence of spirit ultimately spring from the same fount, then I cannot hope to protect my mistress to the best of my ability if I neglect the refinement of my character. I believe that mistake was the reason for my loss."

There's no way you could refuse such an earnest request, even if you wanted. But you don't; in fact, you're positively elated that he's willing to learn from you. Taking his arm, you lift him to his feet and answer him, eye to eye. "There's no need to bow before me, Youki - it would be my pleasure to show you what little I know." Suddenly, a thought comes to you. "But there's much I could learn from you, too. So that we improve our skills together, why don't you train me in the art of battle? I've picked up some bits and pieces myself, but I'm not at all a match for your refined and elegant swordplay."

"Uh... thank you." He's fidgeting slightly and... is that a little bit of color in his pale face? "If it's convenient for you, I'll teach you alongside my mistress in the afternoons."

You readily agree and work out the rest of the details quickly, for fear that you've kept Konngara waiting. Youki will instruct you in the afternoons beside Lady Saigyouji, while you'll instruct him for a few hours in the morning. Letting him get back to his work, he wishes you luck as the two of you amiably part.


Meeting up with Konngara in the hall, you allow her to lead you by the hand. To your great surprise, you're not headed further into the house or into an adjacent building, but straight out the front door, back the way you came. Passing over over the little bridge and off the neatly cobbled path, you follow Konngara further along the course of the water. It's a romantic twilight. In the reddish light of sunset, everything, from the meticulously pruned trees, to the colorful, fragrant plants, to the shallow, crystalline brook; all are cast in strange and wonderful hues. After barely a few minutes, you reach your destination. The stream drops off a slope into a little pool, ringed with stones and cleared of surrounding trees. Though it's not quite what you expected, you have no complaints whatsoever. The water's clear and blue, not a speck of debris on its surface, and it even offers an unobstructed view of the setting sun and evening sky. Konngara excuses herself and as you await your chance to disrobe...

Are you not afraid of the consequences of this?

You heard what I said to Youki, and what's more, you felt it. You know I was being sincere in my convictions when I said that I considered this a test of my character. I won't do anything of which either of us will have reason to be ashamed.

Of this I am aware. Know that Acala approves of your decision. But at present, my concern was with the Witch of the Forest. Will she not be displeased to learn of this?

...If she learns of it.

Do you genuinely believe she will not? If you will remember, the one called Konngara asked the Lady Saigyouji as to this place. However halting and stammering her speech, she is of a loquacious character and would probably divulge our location if it was requested of her.

That... is a good point. Lady Saigyouji isn't at all malicious, but she probably has no understanding of the dynamic with which I'm contending. Though I have no plans to commit any indecent acts, Mima would almost certainly misunderstand if she discovered this.

Indeed. Should you not inform her of your own initiative, then?

...What kind of a suggestion is that? I should go find Mima, just to tell her that I'm going to be bathing with her friend and foil? I'm sure she would take it well. Yeah, no.

The problem about which you are speculating would be of no consequence if you asked her to accompany you.

... Maybe 'Mara' would be a better name for you than 'Acala.'

Perhaps, if you are foolish enough to mistake evil for good. My suggestion is made with the sole aim of maintaining the harmony within your group. If you trust in your own ability to sustain yourself through this trial, then there will be no problems.

What about Konngara though? Wouldn't she be hurt if I just vanished and came back with another woman?

You know her character better than I, so I shall let you weigh the possibilities with your own judgment. Whatever you do, make a decision which you do not regret.

This is tricky. You:

[ ] Set this matter aside and just indulge in the bath.
[ ] Find Mima, inform her of the situation.
[ ] Find Mima, ask her to join you.
[ ] Try something else. (Specify)
[X] Find Mima, ask her to join you.

First of all, Mima may not even accept the invitation. I remember having the conversation regarding the differences in how Konngara and Mima would approach their respective pasts: Konngara was probably going to be more open, while Mima is more introverted. That said, she did climb into bed with Konngara and ourselves, so I think she's fairly comfortable with being rather intimate. If she were to accept, well, I was quite apprehensive as to how Konngara would respond. But then you have something like

>"Aren't you afraid that I might do something unseemly?" Anticipation edging your voice, you test her motives.
>"Not in the least." She answers immediately,

combined with this little gem that I absolutely adore:

>Love isn't a currency. It's incomparably more valuable, being infinite in its origin and endlessly divisible between all living things without any loss of its value.

which makes me want to throw caution to the wind, try, and hope Konngara can appreciate the sentiment without seeing it as a betrayal. I love Konngara and Mima, but more than I appreciate them individually, I love the notion of the three of us together. Not like that, of course. Well, kinda

Also,if it goes bad, I blame Acala.
[x] Tell Konngara of your concern. It would be wise to preventing a situation from developing.
[x] Then find and invite Mima, if Konngara's okay with that.

We're supposed to value our friends, right?

Just hope that Konngara extends the invitation so that you can ask her if she wants to join you both without assuming on Konngara's behalf.

Or something.

Am I making sense?

Either way, bringing it up with Konngara seems to be a smarter first step. Her bathtime, her rules.

>Know that Acala approves of your decision.
...I'll bet he does.

Great point

[x] Tell Konngara of your concern. It would be wise to preventing a situation from developing.
[x] Then find and invite Mima, if Konngara's okay with that. If not inform her of the situation.
[x] Get back and enjoy the bath (If the mood isn't ruined at that point)
[x] Tell Konngara of your concern. It would be wise to preventing a situation from developing.
[x] Then find and invite Mima, if Konngara's okay with that. If not inform her of the situation.
[x] Get back and enjoy the bath (If the mood isn't ruined at that point)
[x] Tell Konngara of your concern. It would be wise to preventing a situation from developing.
[x] Then find and invite Mima, if Konngara's okay with that. If not inform her of the situation.
[x] Get back and enjoy the bath (If the mood isn't ruined at that point)
Reminded of similarly delicate situations with which you've dealt in the past, you resolve that the best solution would be to remain forthright and aboveboard with all parties involved in this. Neither excluding Mima nor deceiving Konngara is agreeable to your heart or to your sense of justice. Of course, being forthright doesn't preclude the practical application of your 'skillful means' philosophy through a little bit of flattery and rhetorical flourish...

"Konngara, I really would like to learn the secret of how anything you wear seems as if
it was meant for you. Honestly, I think even my clothes would cut a more dashing figure on you than me, judging from how elegant you can make even a simple towel appear. You're being quite salutory, but you're also being honest. Though she's naked, her modesty only preserved by the white towel pulled against her midriff, Konngara nevertheless projects an image of chastity and clean beauty about her.

"On our return, shall we not put your supposition to the test?" She strokes your sleeve and smiles playfully. "I'm curious as to how I would look in your raiment and-," her smile becomes broader, "-the expression on my 'charming demon's' face would no doubt be priceless."

While unexpected, this is precisely the opening you needed. "Actually, do you want to show her sooner?" Not sounding too agitated, you ask calmly.

"Eh?" Konngara's face instantly falls. "Is there a reason you need for her to join us, here?" She recovers from her surprise quickly, although she's clutching her towel a little more tightly than a few seconds ago.

You smile reassuringly, shaking your head. "Relax, there's no 'particular reason.' I just thought that we might want to extend in advance our courtesy to Mima, since she'll probably just invite herself anyway." Humbly, you lower your head. "Of course, if you're really against this, I won't do it. Because I consider this our special moment."

Konngara rests her lower face in her hand and just stares off into space, looking as a perfect model of stoic contemplation.

Or so you mistakenly thought.

From behind her fingers rises a slightly muted, girlish giggling. "That would be just like her to come and interrupt us, would it not?" She breaks down, speaking through fits of laughter. "I'm not against your suggestion at all. Truly, it's a correct estimation of how my dear friend would act."

You can't help but smile, too. "You just called her your 'dear friend,' but I'm not quite clear; are the two of you really friends? Because sometimes, the two of you behave asif you were rivals."

"Rivals?" Lifting an eyebrow, Konngara's got a strange grin on her face as she responds to your question. "We're just good friends. Insofar that I'm able to discern, there's absolutely no competition between us." Looking off to the side, she brings a hand to
her chest and squeezes, absentmindedly. "In any case, should you not go and summon her? I wouldn't want to keep her waiting, especially when three makes merry more easily than two." Giving you her blessing, she nods for you to hurry.

You do. Thanking her in your heart for showing such generosity to her friend (rival?), with a salute and a wave, you briskly go to fetch Mima.


"W-what?" Mima's brush clatters onto the desk as she stares at you in shock.

"Is it really so strange to you, Mima? Think. We're Lady Saigyouji's guests, so shouldn't we strive to appear presentable at her table?" Gesturing animatedly, you try and persuade her.

"I understand, but..." She trails off. It's not a refusal - in her cool jade eyes are graven the conflicting emotions of happiness and sadness, hesitance and longing. But you're not sure why. What's causing her to vacillate like this? Is she withdrawing inside her emotional shell or is she trying to test your sincerity?

Better not to ask directly. "Don't misunderstand Mima, it's not just Konngara asking for you." You place a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "I'm asking for you, too. A beloved friend of mine shouldn't be glowering in her room alone, if it's in my power to share with her my joys." Sliding over the fabric of her dress, you fondly caress the length of her left arm. "...So won't you come with me?"

The turmoil in her heart intensifies. Mima hides her face, head down toward the desk with her eyes closed. "I..." It's just like before. She's struggling to overcome her reservations, but each time she opens her mouth as if to say something, nothing comes out. From time to time, her eyes flash open and dart to you, then back to herself. Then...

"I'm... sorry." Still not looking at you, she says just that in a barely audible whisper.

You try and press the subject as gently as you're able. "It's fine if you aren't up for it, Mima, even though both Konngara and myself will miss your company." Your hand on her arm slides down and settles over hers, squeezing gently. "But... is anything the matter?"

You feel the muscles in her hand tense up and reflexively, you flinch; preparing yourself to pay the price for your presumption. Her 'attack' comes from an unexpected quarter, however. The quavering of her lips, the soft sniffling of her nose and the bitter tears soiling her complexion; your heart is crushed by the sight of a pitifully crying Mima.

"I'd ... really like to come with you. I do. But I... I can't. ...I just can't. I'm sorry. ... I'm really sorry." Talking to you weakly through ragged gasps and coughing, Mima points to the door. "Please. I need some time... by myself. I don't want you to see me when I'm like this."

Further inquiry will yield only hostility, not information. At present, you would do well to heed the Witch of the Forest's words.

You're telling me to just leave her like this? When following your advice was what made her cry in the first place?

Both of us were erroneous in our estimations, to various degrees. Acala predicted the essence of the response of the Witch of the Forest, but not its details. You executed my suggestion par excellence, but it mattered little in the presence of hitherto unaccounted-for variables.

Which are?

I know not. Reca-

Yes, I know. Anything which I don't know, you can't possibly know either. But then, how are you so certain these variables exist?

Because there is no other explanation for the failure of our overture. Whatever may be the cause, it does not originate in us.

... It sounds like you're blaming the victim, here.

Do not misconstrue my intentions.

My apologies. Anyway, having given this some thought I think I'll...

[ ] Try and press Mima on this matter now.
[ ] Leave, try and speak to her about it this evening.
[ ] Ask Acala something else before deciding. (Specify)
Also, has the pacing for these last few updates/segments been alright? The passage of time in story has been slower thanks to the choices you've picked and for my part, I've been (thanks to various things) unable to really sit down and gauge if there's too much, too little or not enough going on. Any feedback welcome.
[x] Leave, try and speak to her about it this evening.
-[x] "I apologize if I brought up any unpleasant memories. The invitation will be open if you happen to change your mind"

So far the pacing's been nice in my opinion, not too slow or too fast.
The pacing is fine, for the time being. Just remember not to give the readers choices at every action.

[+] Leave, try and speak to her about it this evening.
-[+] "I apologize if I brought up any unpleasant memories. The invitation will be open if you happen to change your mind"
[x] Leave, try and speak to her about it this evening.
-[x] "I apologize if I brought up any unpleasant memories. The invitation will be open if you happen to change your mind"
[X] Gently massage her shoulders while comforting her: "Please, Mima, you've done nothing that you need apologize for. Rest for now, Mima, and know that no matter what face you may wear, I will always come when you ask."
[X] "I'll take my leave now, but should the lady wish it, I would gladly administer another foot massage later."

No further inquiries (don't want no hostilities now), and no apologies either. If we apologize, it means we've done something wrong. While we know it's because we failed to take some latent, undiscovered trauma into account, all Mima will think is that we are apologizing for being nice. I don't want Mima getting the notion that the monk sees her as some bitter woman who scorns the kind advances of friends. We need to remind her of our promise that we'll always be there for her. Also, while I think stewing naked in the same vicinity as the monk is triggering some fears regarding her past that she can't quite get over yet, she seems quite fine with casually intimate contact. Hence, the offer of more feet rubbing.

That might keep Konngara waiting a bit much, and there isn't much matter with the first write in, since the apology was clearly for bringing up things that she'd rather not brought up
A) The write-in is in fact pretty good, but B) I didn't like the notion of extending an invitation she clearly is upset by, and C) just about every story is enhanced with different points of view and observations.

Finally, I wondered about asking Acala regarding the promise we made to Mima in >>94214 and whether leaving her now would be breaking that promise.

Well with Mima you might never know if she changed her mind, and it was more the matter of the thought counting than not.
>Finally, I wondered about asking Acala regarding the promise we made to Mima and whether leaving her now would be breaking that promise.

If the Witch of the Forest does not desire for you to help her, then you will have broken no promises.

"Oh~? You seem to be -awfully- confident that she doesn't want your help."

We meet again, Bodhisattva. To what does Acala owe the honor of this intrusion?

"No reason, no reason~ It's just, I was just passing through and -happened- to overhear some of your conversation. And so, thought I'd raise this little point - there's nothing wrong with leaving now if she doesn't desire for you to help her."

An assessment in line with my own.

"Is it? Well, if you think so~"

Gone. Mark my words, Bodhisattva. On my honor as High King of the Four Directions, I will venture your name, purpose and penchant for speaking in riddles, ere next we meet.
Just when I finally finished this yesterday, the site goes down. Fun.

You try and comfort her, rubbing her shoulders. "Mima. You've done nothing for which you should be apologizing; indeed, the one at fault here is me, for having caused this situation. So please, rest - with the knowledge that I will do my best to make amends for this, somehow. I have not forgotten my promise to you."

She doesn't say anything in return. Actually, it's more than just that. She doesn't even look at you, nor does she give any indication that she heard anything you said. She just continues to cry brokenly, making barely a sound. It's a miserable sight, but when she's like this, there's nothing else you can do for her.


You turn towards the door "...Farewell for now, Mima. Should you change your mind, my invitation to you still stands. Otherwise, I'll see you at dinner, okay?"

Mima doesn't respond. You quietly exit the room, unable to shake the feeling that somehow, you've made a terrible, terrible mistake.


"That sounds very uncharacteristic of her." Konngara, having reacted to your story with surprise, is sitting quietly beside you on one of the stones edging the pool, bathed in the light of the young moon and glow of the fireflies.

"Is it really? Because two nights ago, she started to tell me a little bit about her past and she reacted similarly, I think."

"You think wrong, then," Konngara declares this resolutely, "though in fairness, your error is most justified." Her tone changes, softening. "But I am surprised. She said something deeply personal about herself to you?"

"...Yes. She became rather... emotional." You answer her, simultaneously downcast and inspired by the memory of that unusual night.

Nodding to herself, Konngara looks at you, absolutely sure about something. "In my friend's place, I thank you. In breaching the wall surrounding her heart, if only slightly, you've managed a good deed." Her face becomes troubled. "Truth be told, she has scarcely ever removed the mask of her public persona before me."

You don't understand something and you tell her. "This is presumptuous of me, but aren't you mistaken, Konngara? If you've hardly ever seen her 'private side,' isn't it much more plausible that her private and public face are one and the same? Consider; we're talking about a witch girl, who lives by herself in a remote wilderness and whose only friend for the majority of her life was you. Why would someone like that put on airs?" You voice your misgivings at Konngara's claim.

"Because our rational faculties compel us towards justifying our own existence. Even if that existence was forced on us and at odds with our true feelings." With a grim expression and distant eyes, Konngara says this. "Mima has avoided speaking about her past or of deeply personal matters to me, but I have, nevertheless, been able to surmise some things. Specifically that she has lived alone, surrounded by enemies, for longer than I have known her and that she owes this to some abominable event in her past. Whatever might have happened, she was to have been forced either to resign herself to death or to unwillingly cultivate self-reliance in action and emotion from a very young age. And in time, she would become accustomed to living this way, becoming comfortable with it, accepting it, maybe even praising it. To only rely on herself, to push others away and to never show weakness, for her - these things which she accepted by necessity of survival, she came to see as natural, righteous, laudable qualities. Such is the tendency of mankind, the one of which I spoke." Konngara frowns sadly, shaking her head.

"Through what means have you learned so much of her mind, if she's avoided telling you of it?" With not a little awe at Konngara's unusual wisdom regarding her friend, you inquire.

Not meeting your eyes, she stares at the pool intently. "Our understanding of each on this matter surpasses the need for language, being one of common experience. I know how she feels because I was faced with the same trials and endured the same emotional obstacles. And so, I'm certain that for all the self-justifying independence with which she adorns herself, in her naked heart, she feels sad, unfulfilled and lonely."

"Then why are the two of you so different? If she recognizes that there exist other, happier ways for her to live, why does she willfully allow her heart to waste away in sorrow?" Pleadingly, you ask this.

"Because ameliorating whatever resentment at humanity, anger at the world or trepidation of the future that afflicts her spirit would entail putting the past behind her. As she is, confined in an emotional prison of her own construction, this is impossible." Then, Konngara looks at you imploringly.

"She needs someone to save her."

You return her gaze, full of determination as you seize her hand. "A rare case in which the dictates of my heart and duties of my profession are in complete agreement."

Konngara nods approvingly. "Only you can do it. That she chose to divulge some of her past to you is a sign that you've made more progress in a handful of days than I was able to accomplish in ten years. If her conduct and mine are any accurate measure, you have a remarkable ability to win the affections of others." At this, she casts her eyes to the side, blushing slightly.

It's a cute sight, though it doesn't distract you from the fact that there's something she hasn't addressed. Something that's been bothering you.

"Konngara, what was the error you mentioned before?"

Suddenly, a light seems to come on in her eyes as she remembers. "That nearly slipped my mind, I thank you for reminding me." Her voice becomes thoughtful, as she recollects. "Whenever, in the past, I intruded on something deeply personal or painful to Mima, she became angry, upset and emotional at herself, for having shown a weakness to others. Though few in number, that she would behave as such is known to me. But not once, over an entire decade, did she ever become catatonic and unresponsive to the point of depression."

You're unable to stop your voice from wavering as you feel your heart sink in your chest. "Then... do you think I caused her to remember something particularly traumatic?"

"No." Konngara instantly corrects you. "At least, I do not believe that to be the case. My intuition says to me that her reaction is that of one coping with a mournful revelation in the present, rather than a greivous memory in the past. Lest I am mistaken, you would do well to question her on it, when we return. But at present, should we not make use of this bath and become clean in her place?"

With a heave, she slides herself into the water and with surprise, laughs lightly. Her towel tight against the plumpness of her chest and curve of her hips, she beckons you. "Come. The water is marvellously warm."


Just like the flora of this land, the pool in which you have your bath seemingly defies the laws of nature. Though the spray of the water falling into its depths is cold, the pool itself is a pleasant temperature, its placid surface only slightly warmer than the surrounding summer air. Both of you make full advantage of this. After soaking comfortably together for a few minutes, she offers to wash your back, which you obligingly accept. It feels absolutely wonderful. After soaping thoroughly, Konngara scrubs you with broad and regular action, her relaxed breaths falling cool against your wet skin.

Then, comes the great test in this trail; she asks you to do the same, but for her. Facing away from you, she unwinds her towel and fearlessly exposes her bare back and sides in anticipation of your hands. Invoking all the discipline of your training, you wash her, gingerly, keeping especially away from her lower back, her armpits and her worst burns. Regarding the last of those, you're surprised with how well and quickly they've begun to heal compared to two nights ago. Undoubtedly, the Taiji's doing.

Tucking that useful information away, you turn to a more enigmatic question; the elaborate tattoo on her back. Maybe it's just your eyes or memory playing tricks on you, but under the pale moonlight, it seems... distorted? As if the dragon and phoenix are blurring together? Not wanting to break the mood and unnerve her, you put decide to put this observation off for later and just focus on the task of washing her and resisting the nigh-overpowering urge of yours to touch her with your hands.

You manage to successfully prevail over these desires in a way of which Acala himself would be proud, if not for the tremendous exertion of will it required from you. You silently resolve to redouble your efforts, even as you find yourself running your hand through Konngara's hair, washing it. After roundly cursing your own worldliness, you conclude the bath quickly. As the two of you part ways to dress yourselves, Konngara tearfully thanks you for reaffirming her choice to trust you so.


Cleansing yourselves either didn't take as long as you thought or dinner is running late. Judging by the sight that greeted the two of you on arriving back in the main hall, it's probably the latter. Collapsed slothfully in her chair, Lady Saigyouji is vacantly looking in the direction of the kitchen, occasionally striking her plate in frustration.

Since it seems you have some time...

...Is there anything you want to do?

[ ] Yes. (Specify).
[ ] No. Just wait.
>"Because ameliorating whatever resentment at humanity, anger at the world or trepidation of the future that afflicts her spirit would entail putting the past behind her. As she is, confined in an emotional prison of her own construction, this is impossible."

>My intuition says to me that her reaction is that of one coping with a mournful revelation in the present, rather than a greivous memory in the past.

If we take anything away from this discussion, it should be these. I can't really find any words or phrases that would describe Mima's condition and what our goal should be that are better than Konngara's assessment. The second point, though, is just heart breaking. There she was, crippled and unresponsive, not only because she lacks the ability to accept others into her heart, but also because she knew exactly what was plaguing her. Despite being all too aware of her condition, as well as being able to survive brutal conditions alone and wield awesome powers, there is absolutely nothing she can do to overcome it... and all she can do is weep.

Reading it again, Konngara managed a nice little side-step of why, despite similarly traumatic pasts, she has a more positive world-view than Mima. I reckon it has something to do with the powers they were granted and the situations under which they were gained. Konngara and Mima were both in fairly dire straits, but where as Konngara used her power to make her life better than it was (not that hard, all things considered) and become a revered (if secluded) priestess, Mima used hers to slaughter a group of murderers and rapists and became a dreaded witch. I think being relatively reliable, capable, and an upstanding gentleman that wouldn't betray her trust has been a good way of endearing ourselves to Konngara, I'm wondering what we can possibly do to help and support Mima.

Oh yeah, and then there's
>you turn to a more enigmatic question; the elaborate tattoo on her back. Maybe it's just your eyes or memory playing tricks on you, but under the pale moonlight, it seems... distorted? As if the dragon and phoenix are blurring together?

God, I can't even begin to wrap my head around why this is happening, let alone what it might mean. Is it reacting to something (or someone), is this a timed thing, is it some physical manifestation of Konngara's mental/physical/emotional state... The mind reels, and I can't help but speculate that there might be some symbolism behind it as well.

[X] Ask Yuyuko: "I know she had previously retired for the evening, but will Lady Murasaki be joining us for dinner as well?"
[X] Ask to excuse yourself and help Youki with dinner

First, quite curious if she'll be present despite flaking out on Youki (and on a meta note, whether she knows her as 'Murasaki' as well), and second, Youki is really quite crippled thanks to us. He already had Murasaki bail on him, and considering Yuyu's appetite, there's probably plenty of food to be moved.
[X] Ask Yuyuko: "I know she had previously retired for the evening, but will Lady Murasaki be joining us for dinner as well?"
[X] Ask to excuse yourself and help Youki with dinner

Sounds better than nothing.


Nice points there, though her underlying issues with getting close to people, especially guys. Not to say she holds anything against our monk personally, but the whole thing touched up bad memories it seems.

And we might have messed up in the process though no ill intent was meant. Hopefully it'll blow over this time.
>but the whole thing touched up bad memories it seems.


>You're unable to stop your voice from wavering as you feel your heart sink in your chest. "Then... do you think I caused her to remember something particularly traumatic?"

>"No." Konngara instantly corrects you.

I stand corrected. But I do fear how we dealt with Mima's reaction might be chalked up as a screw up by Yukari in the comments.

I still wonder who history might be followed or changed.
You made a good and interesting choice, anon.

There's at least one other person, apart from Mima, who isn't here yet.

"Dear Lady, will Murasaki be joining us? Youki told me earlier that she was indisposed, having already

retired for the night." Having approached Lady Saigyouji together with Konngara, you gently pose this


She lolls her head in your direction, wearing a lazy expression. "Um, I'm not quite... sure?" As if your query caused her to remember something, she brings a finger to her lips and sits up straight in her chair, mumbling to herself. "...That's really weird, w-wasn't she the one who told me to have them as guests? Why would-" Only then does she realize that both you and Konngara are watching her think aloud.

"I-I'm so sorry! That was really rude of me, getting distracted like that... I'm glad Youki didn't see." In a fluster, she pauses and checks towards the kitchen, before breathing a sigh of relief. When she faces you again, she's still apparently confused, though otherwise calm. "But yeah, I'm not sure what Murasaki's planning," she explains, before giving a chuckle and shrugging. "I never am."

"Excuse me, my Lady." Speaking up, Konngara makes a polite greeting and seats herself beside the mistress of the house. "With your leave, I would know more of your friend, for I have not yet had the pleasure of being acquainted with her."

"Oh, you'd... like to know about Murasaki?" Obviously surprised, but still smiling, Lady Saigyouji answers Konngara. "Well to start with, she's less of my friend than she is a mother to me. And-"

As the two of them start to strike up an articulately affable conversation, you politely excuse yourself, heading towards the kitchen.


"Absolutely not." As if engaged another fight to the death, Youki's pale face is nothing but severity and determination. "Putting to work someone here as a guest would only serve to disgrace my mistress and her household. Please return and inform her that I'll be done shortly."

You can't help but laugh at the absurdity of what he's saying. "Youki, you didn't even hear me enter because you were engaged in three different tasks at once. Rather than forcing your spectral knight into arranging fruit platters for you, why not let me help out?"

[u]"We are not a 'spectral knight,' mortal. We are a half-ghost. Call us... Susanoo.[u] Speaking in a dispassionate monotone, Youki's doppelganger unexpectedly answers you. Just giving it an angry stare, doubtlessly accompanied by many and myriad mental exhortations to 'work faster;' Youki faces you again, clearly embarassed.

"That's a story for another time." With a short, forcedly mechanical pronouncement, he turns away from you and gets back to work, silently. But you notice something. The rhythm with which he's working is minutely different from that when you entered. Is that a slight hesitance you see, about his motions? While you know that he would never ask you himself, maybe he'll let you do something now, if you decide to ask.

[ ] Offer to do something here. Everyone's probably getting hungry.
[ ] Offer to take food to Murasaki. Maybe you could ask her for some advice?
[ ] Offer to call Mima to dinner. To dispel any awkwardness and show her you care.
[ ] Just rejoin the others. No need to be a bother.
Also, serious question. The demographic being criticized in /blue/ (ie, newfags) applies to me as well, considering that I only started reading from the site and archive in June of this year and actively posting in late August. E-popularity isn't a big thing for me, just that I don't want to be a nuisance. Would I be better served in getting out, lurking more, etc?

You should stay. Your story is interesting and enjoyable.
As you've probably seen by now, /blue/ has decided to be... proactive in getting rid of those they dislike. If you weren't wanted, you would know by now. You've never had anything to worry about; your story's pretty good.

[X] Offer to call Mima to dinner. To dispel any awkwardness and show her you care.
[x] Offer to do something here. Everyone's probably getting hungry.

The demographic being criticized in /blue/ is shitty newfags that refuse to learn or improve themselves. That you even ask that is proof that it doesn't apply to you at all.

IMO, this is one of the best active stories on THP.
>Also, serious question...
Short answer: No

Long answer: Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. Frankly speaking, you're the breed of writer that we need (many, many) more of: prose that is grammatically sound; understandable, distinct, and creative characterizations; frequent updates; a willingness to engage/challenge your readership to evoke discussion and intersting participation. The only thing I would change about this story would be to increase the audienc/voting population by ten-fold, in order to reflect the quality of the story.

Anyway, enough gushing...

>Is that a slight hesitance you see, about his motions? While you know that he would never ask you himself, maybe he'll let you do something now, if you decide to ask.

Anyway, I think the one true path is obvious to us. Asking for Murasaki's advice, should she not appear at dinner, would delay our presence at the dinner table of our hostess. Furthermore, trying to squeeze some genuine quality time in with Mima just before dinner (while simultaneously foregoing a most righteous chance to deliver a hand-cooked meal to her later tonight) would be silly. No, the path of the bro is the only one available here:
[X] Do something here. Everyone's probably getting hungry.

I can totally see Youki getting flustered at our intention to help, only to be disarmed with an off-handed comment to the effect that we cannot afford to have our new teacher too excessively burdened to the point that he would be unable to impress upon us the way of the samurai.
The only change I could ask for is that you write it as Susano-o.

I can only ever see "Susanoo" as sounding like "Sue Sanew."
[x] Offer to do something here. Everyone's probably getting hungry.
[x] Offer to do something here. Everyone's probably getting hungry.
I agree with this sentiment, although for purely aesthetic reasons.

[+] Offer to do something here. Everyone's probably getting hungry.
Many of the best chefs require assistance now and again.
[x] Offer to do something here. Everyone's probably getting hungry.
[x] Offer to do something here. Everyone's probably getting hungry.

In response to your inquiry, I do declare that this probably is the best story running right now on all of THP, and I say this completely unironically.

Your style is coherent and clear, you're doing a fresh take on Gensokyo and various touhous, the plot seems solid and most important of all, you're not a douche. And the mythology of course, the delicious mythology.

So keep writing, good Anonymous. This word-smith salutes you.

[ODIN] Offer to do something here. Everyone's probably getting hungry.
The fact that you ask is a good sign. You should take a close look at the archives sometime, though.

Keep up the good work.

[x] Offer to do something here. Everyone's probably getting hungry.
I'm relieved to see that I'm doing something right. Thank you all, if I go astray, I'll be counting on you to correct me. Keep me to those words.

"Youki." He doesn't turn around, but stops what he's doing. "There isn't anyone here who doesn't respect and acknowledge your dedication as a servant, so isn't it fine if I help you? I'm at least partially to blame for your injuries, so it's not as though you would owe me anything." You lower your head, respectfully. "Please, let me give you a hand or two."

"Or six." There's a flash of golden light from behind you. "Acala places himself at your command, Servant of the Lady." Floating crosslegged in the air, his six palms upraised in an outlandish pose, your guardian spirit offers his support.

Looking somewhat taken aback by Acala's entrance and apparently undecided on your offer, Youki casts his eyes off to the side at his self-identified 'half-ghost,' working furiously across the room. In a flash, it appears at attention beside him. "We think we should accept if the strange and powerful mortal desires to help us. We have done much ourselves, but much still remains. We cannot allow the mistress to go hungry." It speaks its answer aloud, turning the blazing red pinpoints of its 'eyes' towards Acala and you. Doing the same, Youki nods decidedly.

"I thank the two of you. This..." He stops, twiddling his hands and looking down at the floor bashfully; apparently lost for words. "... It's a nice gesture." He spits out that last bit with an embarassed cough.

You can't help yourself. "Well, there's something in it for me, too. How could I stand aside while you wear yourself thin when, starting tomorrow; we'll be learning from each other? No, it just wouldn't be fair to you," pausing, you smile and look him in the eye, " ...My friend."

It takes him a moment to comprehend what you've just said, but when he does, his face lights up with an earnest, genuine smile. "I will have high expectations for our training then, friend."


In less than ten minutes, the four of you finish the dinner preparations, an incredible accomplishment which had little, if anything to do with you. Youki set you to work at the unglamorous task of wetting and shaping masses of white rice in the production of dumplings, after correctly judging that your injured left hand limited your culinary potential.

Acala, however; was a different story. Making full use of his six dextrous arms, he was able to simultaneously stir-fry a pan of tofu, boil a pot of rice, wash, cut and arrange a veritable mountain of fruit, and rhythmically pound mochi in tandem with your kneading. And as he executed all of these tasks to perfection, he even managed to maintain a dialogue with Youki's ghostly doppelganger, chatting about such topics as yesterday's battle, the origin of their respective names and humorously enough, how to correctly pronounce each others' names. Apparently, it's Susano-o, pronounced Su-Sa-No-Wo.


Having finished with remarkable speed, you recalled Acala and returned to the others ahead of Youki. Not only were you curious whether Murasaki and Mima had shown themselves yet, but you didn't want to steal the spotlight from him when dinner was served. Re-entering the hall...

"Time~ to~ ea... Rats."

"What's this~? And you looked so happy to see the boy earlier."

"He must not be a worthy consolation in the Lady's mind. Just as well, I'll eat him myself then(if you know what I mean)."

"Gluttony is unbecoming of one so thin as you, my 'charming demon.' Should you not share, or leave this other, healthier appetites?"

... you meet with the kind of chaos only possible by the interaction of prime, feminine wits left unattended and idle. Four of them.

Furthest on the right, Konngara is a model of good ettiquette, sitting straight in her chair with hands folded in her lap. Separated from her by one chair, legs crossed and head held high; Mima's seated grandly. Immediately beside Mima is Lady Saigyouji, anxiously folding and unfolding her napkin, looking quite distressed by the long wait for dinner. Finally, on the extreme left, one seat apart from her friend; is Murasaki. With a perfidiously conspiratorial smile, she's lazing unconcernedly with one elbow on the table. The four of them urge you over towards them and making a guess that the empty spot between Murasaki and the Lady is for Youki, you take a seat between Konngara and Mima.

"Ooo, so you're letting me have you after all? So you know, I don't plan to go easy on you. I'm feeling hungry tonight." All traces of her apparent breakdown completely erased, Mima seizes you by the arm with flirtatious wink.

You feel an equal and opposite reaction from your other arm. "Not a chance. For what manner of friend would I be, to allow my closest friend to gorge herself so? Nay, I will intervene on your behalf, for fear that this surfeit of sweet meat should cause you to become fat." With an uncharacteristically enormous smirk, Konngara says this from over your shoulder.

"You're so kind, sacrificing yourself for me. But then," Mima pantomiming an exaggerated reflection,

"...I guess it's not much of a sacrifice since that you're already fat?" She says this, while countering Konngara with a smirk of her own, every bit as obnoxious and smarmy.

"Your point is well-taken, but as a compliment rather than an insult. For I-" Mercifully, the innuendoes end there, when Konngara is interrupted by the ringing of a small bell.

The whole room falls silent as Youki enters. Pushing a large cart, on which several pots and plates of delicious food are stacked, your entire party greets him with applause.


Dinner and dessert are excellent affairs, for which you're particularly grateful thanks to their apparent consideration of your own dietary restrictions.* White rice is complimented by a fine miso soup, various vegetables grilled or pickled, and stir-fried tofu seasoned in broth. Following on the heels of this, you're served sliced cherries, peaches and plums, roasted chestnuts and jujubes and finally, red bean soup with rice cakes. The fact that you had a hand in its preparation makes the entire meal taste particularly savory and delicious, but in spite of that, you prevent yourself from eating to excess and thereby transgressing against your vows. Having seriously faced the death of starvation but five nights ago, you're able to well appreciate this meal in absence of greed.

Having paced yourself well and in accordance with good manners, you finished on a par with the others, save for Lady Saigyouji. Her hunger, grotesquely disparate with her willowy frame, exceeded your most liberal expectations. Even as the other five of you converse, full and contented, she's occupied with the food, nibbling happily at various odds and ends. When she finally finishes, she claps lightly to get everyone's attention and smiles, looking at each of you in turn.

"We've eaten well, but... we lack for entertainment. So!" She turns to her left, resting her eyes on Murasaki. "A story. Oh! Um... but only if you're willing..." With the last bit sounding as if added in hindsight, Lady Saigyouji makes this request of her friend.

And in response, Murasaki gives a long, melodious laugh, covers her mouth with a gloved hand. "A story! You know, you haven't grown up at all, my dear." She says this, wiping the tears of mirth from her eyes.

As Lady Saigyouji pouts at this declaration, turning slightly red, Murasaki leans back in her chair, studying her audience. "Still, it's been a while since I've done a story, hasn't it~? I wonder, is there any sort of tale you all would like?"

[ ] A tale of faraway lands and curiosities.
[ ] A drama, full of passion and tragedy.
[ ] A comedy of some sorts?
[ ] Say nothing.
*Meat, alcohol and excessively spiced foods are forbidden according to his vows.
[x] A comedy of some sorts?

Torn between Faraway Tale and Comedy, but voting for Comedy now, because I know I won't be able to delete this tomorrow when someone comes up with a better argument for one or the other.


Also, Iron Chef Acala would be fucking awesome to see in action.
[x] A comedy of some sorts?

I would have gone for the "silence is golden" route, but it'd better if we have some story to share.

>Iron Chef Acala
I'd watch this show. Seriously.
[x] A comedy of some sorts?

Let's lighten up the mood!
Or Acala as Emeril.

"Now, we're going to kick it up a notch with the garlic sauce from earlier."
[x] A comedy of some sorts?
Author's note: I've been working on this, just that a lack of time has prevented me from cobbling together something coherent. Expect the update this evening.

Also, think about the definition of comedy.
>Also, think about the definition of comedy.

It's the opposite of a tragedy.

In a tragedy, you die. In a comedy, you get hitched.
Well, shit.

In before it lowers Mima points and increases Konngara points (such as they are.)

Dunno I think it might help cheer Mima up, and I doubt the author would make such a stunt of vote; it doesn't seem like him.
Writing this one required me to think quite hard, but I'm pleased with how it turned out.

All eyes in the room fix on you as you raise your hand. "I would be partial to a comedy, if you know any good ones." Without objection, your vote is quickly seconded by the others, who; one by one expectantly turn to Murasaki.

Pressured by your stares, she produces her fan and with a casual flick, shrinks behind it. Then, she looks at you, eyes atwinkle. "...How unexpected. The boy asks me for the most difficult of all dramatic modes, the comedy. And here, I was sure that you'd want some sort of saccharine courtly love story, the kind beloved of pretty young ladies like me~" Doubtlessly mocking you with an unseen smile, Murasaki implies that you're effeminate in your tastes.

This does not bother you, of course. By your reckoning, the ability to unreservedly think and feel as women do is a virtue, not a vice. You can unashamedly say that you enjoy the company of smart, self-respecting women, so on a personal level, to have knowledge of their aesthetic sensibilities is to more easily cultivate their friendships. But apart from just this, an understanding of women also has professional importance for you. The 'Great Vehicle' recognizes that the salvation of all mankind cannot be attained through a single method; rather, only through recognition of the diverse and disparate needs of individuals can universal self-realization be achieved. And as one whose responsibility is to advance this great cause, an empathy with others, especially those most unlike yourself; is indispensible. Yes, whether for the purpose of winning their sincere love and trust or to better protect and guide them along Nirvana's difficult road, a compassion for the circumstances of women is necessary.

"Hey Murasaki, would you like to know why I didn't ask for a tale of that kind?" Having conceived of an answer appropriate to your audience, you pose this rhetoical question. "Because rather than just experiencing art," you say, reaching to your left and right, "...isn't it better to make it?" Holding Konngara and Mima, you smile triumphantly.

Everyone has a different reaction to this. Enjoying the moment with an adoring smile, Konngara holds your hand. Mima blushes a deep red as she lambasts you for saying 'embarassing' things. Lady Saigyouji is pleasantly shocked, her hand not quite covering the amazed smile of her lips. Youki, after surveying the three of you together, gives a stoic, but unmistakably affirmative nod. And Murasaki? Well...

"Dohohohohohohoho~!" With an elegant, aristocratic laugh that would put the Empress herself to shame, Murasaki withdraws her fan, clapping softly. "Well said, boy. Now that I think about it, that's really quite insightful of you. If the Ethics speaks true when it says that good art represents nature, then that must mean that the best art is nature itself. And so," says Murasaki, suddenly becoming solemn, "I think the comedy I will tell you all tonight is a comedy of nature."

Though you'd like to ask Murasaki some more about the unfamiliar book she just cited, you respectfully keep your silence as she closes her eyes in recitation.

"In the beginning - no, even before the concept of a beginning, there was only Chaos, all-encompassing and eternal. It writhed, but never moved. The concept of Motion didn't yet exist. It shifted, but never changed. The concept of Change didn't yet exist. But then, something happened. There was Thought."

"Whose thought? Chaos?" Apologizing for your interruption, you ask this. "Because though thought is aspacial and atemporal, it's still subject to causality and would, by necessity, have originated from something."

"Neither Causality nor Necessity had yet been born, boy." Saying just this, Murasaki smiles condescendingly before she closes her eyes and continues.

"Thought wrought upon Chaos both Motion and Change, sundering it and from its spilt innards flowed the cosmic antipodes of Positive and Negative. Taken separately, they embodied Light and Dark, Male and Female, Beginning and End, but taken together, they formed Order, the great unity endowed with Creation. And create they did, bringing forth many children: Fickle and brilliant Sky, steadfast and nurturing Earth, Time - merciless but evenhanded, Starry-eyed Night, Dawn - with her rosy fingers, and many, many more. Their last child, however was a little waif of a girl, shunned by her siblings. She was Long-armed..."

"Hey, Mo- Er... Murasaki," Lady Saigyouji interjects, stumbling over her words, "this is... uh, nice and all, but... don't you have something a little less... abstract and a little more... well, comedic?"

"But my dear," says Murasaki, petting her on the head, "this story is a Comedy according to the truest definition of the word. Just as the Poetics says, it begins in sorrow and ends in joy."

It's as strange a definition of comedy as you've ever heard and by her objection, Lady Saigyouji apparently agrees with you. "Um... I-I should clarify what I mean shouldn't I?" Twisting the fabric of her dress in her hands, she thinks. "I... guess I was hoping for something a little more lighthearted. Yes! That's it. Lighthearted," she says this glancing at the rest of you.

Mima is the first to offer her support, speaking up. "The Lady is right. Really, just where did you get that weird definition anyway? Because though tragedies can make you cry or become angry or think or feel any number of other emotions, a comedy has to make you laugh or it isn't a comedy." Leaning back in her chair, Mima has in her eyes a commanding glance. "I want you to tell us something funny."

Silently appealing to Lady Saigyouji, who just looks away from her guiltily; Murasaki gives a sigh and a helpless shrug. "I guess you win, little girl." Massaging her wrinkled brow with gnarled fingers, Murasaki deliberates. "I'm not sure if it's a comedy or if it you'll laugh, but I suppose it'll work." Gracefully collecting herself, she looks at all of you again, before she starts. "It's a little story called the Cat and the Fox."*

"One day, an overbearing Fox was conversing with a young, but singularly wise Cat. Now as we all know, Foxes are the most cunning of beasts, and on this particular occasion, this Fox was chastising the Cat, urging it to become more like her. The Fox said to the Cat, 'You need to become more well-rounded in your capabilities! Though you're still just a child, how is it that I do a hundred different things and you only do one?" And after thinking about the Fox's question for a little while, the Cat said in reply to her, "But why is there a need to do a hundred different things when I can just do one thing well?" It was then that their powerful leader, an irate Tanuki, came into view. Quickly, the Cat scampered high into a nearby tree and concealed itself, saying to the Fox, "Here's my one plan. Which of your hundred will you be using?" The Fox, at a loss for words, immediately came up with seven different possible means of escape, but as she was consumed by indecision at the pros and cons of each method, the Tanuki drew ever closer. Seizing the Fox by her hair, the Tanuki chewed her out for loafing about when her assigned tasks remained unfinished. Sent back to work with the promise that she wouldn't be getting dinner, the Fox could only weep at the realized truth of the Cat's words." Finishing her story, Murasaki elegantly fans herself and waits for your collective appraisal.

"Putting aside whether that was a comedy or not, it's obvious that the author of that story was a talentless imbecile. Versatility in knowledge and action is useless, because it sometimes results in indecision? That's like saying that fire is without value because arsons take place! Anyone who really aspires to call him or herself a good person should strive to achieve success in every arena." With a vehement condemnation, Mima offers her opinion.

"I agree with your objection that Miss Murasaki's story presents the fox's case in an unfair light, dear Mima," says Konngara with a placating tone, "but try to view it from another perspective. I think that insofar as the lesson of the story applies to the human condition, the cat's stance is fundamentally correct. Was it not through eschewing the Fox's dilletante ways in favor of the Cat's ability to do one thing well - to specialize - that our forebears rose above the primitive lifestyle of nomads to attain agriculture and civilization? For in a society, it's unnecessary, for everyone to excel in everything." Konngara smiles warmly at her. "Friends exist to cover our own deficiencies."

With her own energetic smile at Konngara's challenge, Mima responds. "Several good points there, O 'noble friend' of mine. But I'd ask you to consider two things. First, let's suppose I accept your line of reasoning that friendships are created out of a necessity to compliment mutual shortcomings. If we take that to its logical extreme, then what you're saying is that the outstanding and exceptional are actually criminals against the peace of mankind by their very existence - their gifts afford them an independence of the mechanisms of society and thereby pose a threat to harmony and order. And secondly, what I find particularly funny about your opinion is that both of us, you as well as I, were only able to survive till the present precisely because we aren't specialists, but dilletantes. Had we only been bakers or weavers or farmers, we would have died from starvation, exposure or at the jaws of some beast, long ago."

A neutral spectator of Konngara and Mima's amiable rhetorical jousting, you intended to remain silent and watch appreciatively. Unfortunately for you, however; Murasaki chose to engage you in the conversation right as Mima finished her rebuttal.

"Hey, boy~," she says, addressing you playfully, "looks like your friends are a Cat and a Fox, respectively. But I wonder, what are you?" Then, snickering slightly, she adds, "not a Tanuki, I'd hope."

[ ] I'm a Cat.
[ ] I'm a Fox.
Choose whichever position you find rhetorically defensible, anon.

*This is actually a fable by Aesop, which I suddenly remembered as I was thinking about how to do this update. Since it was perfect for so many reasons, I decided to tweak it slightly and incorporate it.
>Dunno I think it might help cheer Mima up, and I doubt the author would make such a stunt of vote

You're right, on both counts.

>In before it lowers Mima points and increases Konngara points

You don't need to worry about this at all. The hero enjoys the strong esteem and affections of both Konngara and Mima and in the event you encounter serious problems, I will have done my best to clearly convey it in the story, through one or various means.

And I'd also like to take this chance to say again that the three (now possibly four, thanks to certain good and interesting actions on your part, anon) endings of this story are not character specific, nor are they based on the number of flags you have with particular characters. I do keep tally of flags, but only for the purposes of determining what scenes I present to you and how they will be written. Make your choices without fear or a need for metagaming - in accordance to your genuine wishes.
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>their leader, an irate tanuki
The cat-fox-tanuki trio takes place in a lot of parables of Japanese tradition.

[+] "I do many things, and I believe I do them well. My studies and my travels have given me the benefit of much experience. In that respect, I suppose I'm somewhat like the Fox."
[+] "However, in terms of whether indecision would cripple me as it did the Fox... I would certainly like to think it wouldn't."
[+] "I see the wisdom in both sides, really. One who can do only a single thing, but do it well and decisively, is at an advantage when presented with the circumstances where that one thing would be useful, but will falter when that one thing proves to be ineffectual. Conversely, one who is an expert at many things, yet fails to be intuitive and decisive, will falter despite the many tools at their disposal."
[+] "Clearly, a harmonious balance of skill, versatility, and decisiveness is necessary."

With that creation story, I believe Murasaki may have been trying to imply a thing or two about the Taiji orb. Sad that Mima interrupted it.
[x] "I do many things, and I believe I do them well. My studies and my travels have given me the benefit of much experience. In that respect, I suppose I'm somewhat like the Fox."
[x] "However, in terms of whether indecision would cripple me as it did the Fox... I would certainly like to think it wouldn't."
[x] "I see the wisdom in both sides, really. One who can do only a single thing, but do it well and decisively, is at an advantage when presented with the circumstances where that one thing would be useful, but will falter when that one thing proves to be ineffectual. Conversely, one who is an expert at many things, yet fails to be intuitive and decisive, will falter despite the many tools at their disposal."
[x] "Clearly, a harmonious balance of skill, versatility, and decisiveness is necessary."
>The cat-fox-tanuki trio takes place in a lot of parables of Japanese tradition.
Maybe so, but it's more that the perfect picture happened to exist, rather than anything else.
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Such a well-stated and temporizing answer, how noble and lofty its speech and sentiment! Yes, great, magnificent, splendid - just what I'd expect of you, anonymous.

...But, hm~? There's one -little- thing I'm wondering though?

...Are you really saying anything? Because it looks to me that you're trying to avoid the specific concerns raised by your cute friends through relying on that Middle Path of yours. Is that the case?

Because if it is, you'll need to do better, much better, unless you want to become a mutual target~. Well, since -I- put you in this situation and because I like you, I'll give you a little hint.

The Middle Path is the hardest path - the path of sacrifice, in which you stand to lose everything in order that you may gain everything. And, as in this case, it's often the course of confrontation, rather than of conciliation. Trying to sidestep with it will be infinitely less effective than making a full-frontal assault and rebutting both arguments simultaneously.

Of course, none of this matters if you weren't going for the Middle Path and instead, intentionally tried to avoid saying anything substantive so as to not become disaffected with either side. I guess if you want to do that then I won't stop you, though I wouldn't bet on your success. Really, where's the fun in doing something like that?
[ ] I'm a Fox.
[x] I'm a Fox
[0] I'm a Fox
[x] I'm a Fox

At least more of a Fox than a cat in skills but not as indecisive.
[x] "I do many things, and I believe I do them well. My studies and my travels have given me the benefit of much experience. In that respect, I suppose I'm somewhat like the Fox."
[x] "However, in terms of whether indecision would cripple me as it did the Fox... I would certainly like to think it wouldn't."
[x] "Indeed, I would like to believe myself to also be decisive, able to utilize my strengths in the most appropriate manner for the situation at hand. In that respect, I suppose I'm somewhat like the cat."
[x] "I see the wisdom in both sides, really. One who can do only a single thing, but do it well and decisively, is at an advantage when presented with the circumstances where that one thing would be useful, but will falter when that one thing proves to be ineffectual. Conversely, one who is an expert at many things, yet fails to be intuitive and decisive, will falter despite the many tools at their disposal."
[x] "Clearly, a harmonious balance of skill, versatility, and decisiveness is necessary."

Middle path it is. Stop being such a girl, Anonymous.
[x] I'm a Fox

You mean stupid, since we're doing the sensible option and if Yukari butts in with commentary, it's a good idea to go with it.

since to be honest Monkanon is closer to a fox than a mix, since his abilities are not just battle only or good against only one enemy.
[X] What would Acala do?
[X] I'm a Fox.

I think our monk thrives upon relying on a myriad of options, notions, and abilities to solve many situations. However, I think we've managed to avoid the irate tanukis of the world by letting our faith and philosophy guide our judgment and decision-making. Then again, that dedication despite having so many options can be pretty specialized, or 'cat-like', I guess. But continuing down this line of logic is like trying to say that the two sides aren't both part of the same coin. Thoroughly intrigued by Murasaki's initial the 'comedy.' After the 'definition of comedy' hint, I started wondering just what kind of story she might have in store. Mo-? Mo-what? There aren't many words that begin with 'Mo' that make sense in this context, and the implications of some of them set me on my heels.

Anyway, not all was lost:
>Having conceived of an answer appropriate to your audience, you pose this rhetoical question. "Because rather than just experiencing art," you say, reaching to your left and right, "...isn't it better to make it?" Holding Konngara and Mima, you smile triumphantly.

The line between monk and pimp is growing blurrier by the moment. Although...
>good and interesting choice
>the three (now possibly four, thanks to certain good and interesting actions

... Youki route confirmed? Do not know if want.

>Also, has the pacing for these last few updates/segments been alright? The passage of time in story has been slower thanks to the choices you've picked

Actually, the pace of the story has slowed noticeably since arriving at Yuyu's residence. For a story where you've made it a point that there are no 'routes,' per se, the bulk of choices presented have been very relationship oriented. This is more of an observation than criticism, because if I've been reading this story correctly, any developments or advances in our relationships will have an effect in future events. So, while the pace may have slowed a bit compared to the action from earlier on, the story has remained eventful.
In terms of actual criticism, it seems that you've taken something pointed out much earlier and have gotten dialogue to flow more naturally with brief narrative segments. I do have one concern about the story, though, and hopefully it's misplaced. You've taken great pains to impress upon us the abilities of our character and our capacity to do great things with clever reasoning, mostly because of anon's tendency to choose safety, paranoia, and middling "idort" options. Do you have a plan to address situations where we over estimate our abilities? You've taken everything else in stride and overwhelmingly positively, but the best approach to keeping anon from going crazy with power is to Bad End them and to tell them to reevaluate themselves and the situation (see Gensokyoland Saga).
This is actually pretty awkward, since I usually have no problems finding things that can be improved in a story, but I'm coming up with nothing. I think the most damning thing I can say is that the story is a little too intelligent, and you're going to repell people that enjoy good and engaging fiction. Characters, dialogue, diction, even the in-character trolling is spot on. So... write a lot more so eventually we can find something that can be polished up.
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>Mo-]? Mo-what? There aren't many words that begin with 'Mo' that make sense in this context
This was all I could think about when I read that.
>Do you have a plan to address situations where we over estimate our abilities? You've taken everything else in stride and overwhelmingly positively, but the best approach to keeping anon from going crazy with power is to Bad End them and to tell them to reevaluate themselves and the situation (see Gensokyoland Saga).

I can think of at least two bear situations which you might eventually encounter, but fear not. As I said before, I have no intentions to mislead you, and if you're genuinely outmatched, you will know. Now, if you cross the line from valor into recklessness even after knowing this, there might be some problems.

>... Youki route confirmed?

Not quite. I'll explain in more detail further down, but to summarize, the story and its endings are not going to be centered around single characters.

>Actually, the pace of the story has slowed noticeably since arriving at Yuyu's residence.

I made this choice intentionally, which is why I wanted to make sure with all of you that it was okay. When the story started to move in this direction, I was quite pleased, but I also sat down and planned how events would unfold so that we wouldn't end up with an Orinblock derailing the story or giving us long segments with either no plot or too much plot.

So I will tell you all now - unless anon makes some really strange decisions, this arc of the narrative will only occupy a small amount of time in the world of the story. As a result, time in story will pass a little bit more slowly because at the pace which I used for the traveling, it would be too short to have any meaning. For you, the readers, my aim is to have this segment not lose pace in developing the characters or advancing the main narrative, but still short enough that it doesn't usurp the story's focus. I believe I've planned this well, but if I go astray, tell me.

>For a story where you've made it a point that there are no 'routes,' per se, the bulk of choices presented have been very relationship oriented.

I guess this is as good a time as any to address this with greater depth. I originally planned three endings to this story. They aren't centered around single characters, nor are they something as simple as 'Good,' 'True,' and 'Normal,' though I would say that two of the endings are markedly better (in my own opinion), than the third, which I hope that I will not have to show you all. I'm not exaggerating when I say that it makes the Snow End look like a Beautiful Wedding End by comparison; it's tragic beyond what even the most pessimistic of you could presently imagine, and without any of the absurd humor of GRIMDARK. Now, before you get jumpy or anxious or feel that the writer's dangling a narrative Sword of Damocles over your heads, let me say that you will probably know which ending that you'll attain before you reach it, through the tone and events of the story. I will not blindside you with DESPAIR.

Now that I've put that disclaimer aside, let me also tell you that right now, all of you are on the path towards a different, fourth ending thanks to good choices and certain discerning observations made by some of you earlier. There are certain significant obstacles which remain to be surmounted if you want this one, but I think that from a certain point of view, this ending is the best of them all. The biggest way in which this one is different from the other three is that among other things, you all will need to figure out certain things independently, before they're revealed in the course of the story. Some of you might already have nipped at the fringes of them. My hat's off to you.

>This is more of an observation than criticism, because if I've been reading this story correctly, any developments or advances in our relationships will have an effect in future events.

Yes. Your relationships determine the choices which I present to you and if you reach certain events, the story will change accordingly.

Also, let me thank you for the criticism and questioning. To have another be able to scrutinize your work requires that he has an interest and understanding in it. For anyone engaged in writing, even just a CYOA, there's no higher compliment.

Such communication with the reader marks you as perhaps the bench mark of the new gen writer, improving if anything on the good of the old, and avoiding the old generation's flaws.

About the endings, well I do see a bit of history changing in the works perhaps.
Good heavens, you're unnecessarily implying quite a bit.

If you'll note, I started that post by declaring for a side, albeit while recognizing the pitfalls inherent. The rest of it was a creative (or so I'd like to think) way of bringing both sides to a more mutual understanding.
It seemed like a natural course of action for a learned monk, in an environment which encourages discourse.

I believe I'll be quite a bit more reserved in providing creative answers in your thread from now on.

Or at least not being too grandiose, since your write ins are good I woudln't want you to hold back on them.
>the best approach to keeping anon from going crazy with power is to Bad End them and to tell them to reevaluate themselves and the situation

I don't agree. If the writer is not competent enough to establish the boundaries of acceptable conduct though his writing, then he should open a dialogue with the readers and address the issue directly. When we're only getting one update every other day, it isn't good to replace one of those with something that serves only to punish the readers and does not advance the story in any way. Most of the bad ends this site sees stem purely from laziness, incompetence or lack of creativity on the part of the writer. Thankfully, it doesn't seem like that will be a problem here.

It's not always the writer's fault, anon can be quite stupid at times, more so back in the earlier days.

But often it's a failure in the regards to the lead's abilities, since older writers have a bad habit of making the lead seem ordinary yet expect Anon to make a fanastic leap of faith figuratively speaking to unlock the hidden abilities. This comes back to bite Anon today when they decide to get bold and get punished for it. Is it any wonder why anon is hesitant?
[x] I'm a Fox
When I said your answer was good, I meant it. So that we don't misunderstand each other, let me state that I was trying to help you. The whole reason why all of that was said earlier was not out of an effort to dissuade people from accepting it, but rather because had I written it as is, you would be in genuine danger of being attacked by both sides of the debate without a means of defense. The fact that people changed their votes to "I'm a fox," was outside either my expectations or intention in writing that.

Anyway because I liked your answer, I didn't want to end up writing the update only to have your position be torn to pieces in story. Since the conversation to that point had raised several examples and counterexamples about the various merits of each position, I was basically asking you (and everyone else who voted with you) to elaborate slightly on your choice and offer some specific rebuttals to both what Konngara and Mima had said. Hence the business about the middle path being the path of struggle - it might possibly be the most rewarding, but it's also the most difficult.

Now that I've said that, let me say that I've started writing and the answer is going to be a mix.

> When we're only getting one update every other day

Would it inconvenience anyone if I increased the pace to one a day? It might not be possible for me right now in the semester, but once things settle down somewhat, I wouldn't mind going faster.
Take your time. You don't want to rush your update, do you?

With that said, I absolutely like the premise of this story so far. I'm surprised by the mention of Byakuren, though, but I'm not going to complain about it. Keep up the good work.

Actually, in almost all cases I do think it's the writer's fault. For the most part, this site has one core reader base. That being the case, the differences between the readership of different stories is primarily caused by the writer. Some of the boards certainly do see less traffic, but I don't think it's anything significant in the long run, particularly if we're dealing with any popular story or a major board like /th/.

The bottom line is that writers have complete control over every aspect of their stories. How much power the voters have is entirely up to the writer, and there is no reason for them to be capable of derailing a story or turning it into unpleasant garbage. Furthermore, it is also the writer's responsibility to make sure their cues are not so incomprehensible that the audience misses too many important details. There is a noticeably large number of idiots among the readers here, but as this story and some others have shown, we are not, generally, a group of morons. It is, as with every other aspect of the story, up to the writer to use his writing to bring out those capable of intelligent discussion and encourage them look at the story a certain way and discuss certain things.

Thread Watcher x