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File 134828757835.jpg - (132.65KB , 1200x565 , Sharp shark.jpg ) [iqdb]
10609 No. 10609
[♠] Why not? A game'll pass the time 'til she's movin' again.

"All right," I tell her. I still don't feel up to moving around much <if youre lazing around its gotta be card games>.

Elis shuffles the deck blindingly fast, then holds it out to me. I cut it, but her hand stays in the air. She gives the deck a weird look, then me, but before I can ask about it, she takes it back, then begins dealing the cards. We each receive a hand of 8 cards, and then the deck is split in two, each half placed a hand's-width apart from the other.

"Normally the inviter goes second, but I'll start us off, this time," she mentions, before picking up her hand.

"Sounds fine to me."

I pick up my cards, confident in Elis' reassurance that I'll figure it out as I go along. It's just a card game; it should make sense soon enough.


...


This game doesn't make a gods-damned bit of sense.

"I'm afraid not. Tibley matches don't permit you to move that many bags of wheat in wartime, so naturally, the excess is sent to the next shire mo." I move an eight from the left pile to the right, then place down one card on the left pile, and another to the side of it. "The Duchess of Naraka harbors dreams of usurping the throne, and has one of her handmaidens infiltrate the Queen's personal staff at Mainyu Keep."

A standard deck of playing cards in Makai is 64 cards; 66 with jokers.

"Ha! Do you think I was born yesterday, Kochiya?" She slaps the Delta of Madness down atop the right pile, takes out two cards from the bottom of it, and flings them over her shoulder. "Mainyu Keep's had a tainted water supply since the Thirty-seventh Reign, so she'll find nothing but a slow and terrible end, hobbling your maneuver. Darmin Court sends the General pir on an inspection under the terms of the Vermstadt treaty."

There are four suits— War, Love, Madness, Joy —with sixteen cards each: Ace, Twin, Delta, numbers 4 through 10, Merchant, General, Consort, Magus, Duchess, and Queen.

"The Vermstadt Treaty was annulled four centuries ago."

"And renewed six decades ago!"

"Irrelevant. Tibley matches take place in the Forty-sixth Reign."

"Prove it!"

"Anubis Cup, 0079 Universal Century Semifinals. Baron Ray took twelve shires and his opponent would have gutted him like a wounded emu if he'd not displayed a remarkable turnaround by revealing a Quadrilateral Biscuit Play."

"Trilateral."

We glare furiously at each other.

"The move is still clear."

"Is it?"

"Most assuredly."

Dawncurve is supposedly about negotiating the political, social, logistical, and bureaucratic obstacles needed to mount an expedition to find a point from which the sun can be seen.

"The rats take your eyes, Kochiya! Fine. The General is recalled, and the 107th Icebound Flotilla departs from Port Gehenna." She smirks. "Dawncurve in four."

"What?!"

In reality, it's a game of improvisation, acting, bluffing, and a healthy dose of lying. Here and there you set down cards related to whatever you're saying.

"You didn't watch the pir terrace, did you?" Three cards are placed down on the left stack, to my growing dismay. "Merchant Hampley arrives in Naraka with a load of contaminated grain, and effectively plunges the city into famine. Will you concede now, or should I just make this all the more humiliating a defeat for you?"

I don't think anyone knows the actual rules. I'm not sure there are rules.

"Stuff and nonsense, woman, I'll win this yet!" I select four cards, and throw one at a still-shuttered window, hoping, hoping...

tonk!

"Right on the edge! Angle of striking was less than thirty degrees, so the Duchess institutes new farming methods, countering the commodities crash with a disease-resistant crop, and according to Sympathetic Tweedcoat play-style, countering the plague in Tartarus. Your Flatlander Gambit fails miserably. The Duchess moves 12 leagues an. Dawncurve in five."

Silence.

[zzzzz]

"Heh. Heh heh heh. Ah ha ha ha haaaa!"

"...What's so funny?"

"Sympathetic Tweedcoat rules, revised."

"There's five lines difference between the two. I'm not worried."

Elis lays down a single card into the space between the decks. On it, a river forms from a smiling woman's silver hair.

"The grey Joker becomes the Goddess after the sixteenth round. All unblocked lanes are now expedited highways." I start to protest, but she holds up a hand. "Servi Diabla Finals, 4413. Mela, the Paint scored precisely 7.33 points —repeating, of course— versus Torvald, the Bladed. This was her final play, and the executioners ruled in her favor."

She flashes me a smile, brimming with smug cheer.

"Dawncurve~"

I shout an obscenity.
206 posts omitted. Last 50 shown. Expand all images
>> No. 12133
[ ] Yonder strangeness only gettin' stranger. Best bite the bullet and have a look.
-[ ] Makes real good n' sure to stay hidden. Mind, 's gonna take time doin' that.
>> No. 12139
[x] Yonder strangeness only gettin' stranger. Best bite the bullet and have a look.
-[x] Doesn't spend time dawdlin'. Makes for th' river quiet as quickness lets 'er.
>> No. 12140
[x] Yonder strangeness only gettin' stranger. Best bite the bullet and have a look.
-[x] Doesn't spend time dawdlin'. Makes for th' river quiet as quickness lets 'er.

Well... I guess we can't just hide forever.
>> No. 12144
[X] Yonder strangeness only gettin' stranger. Best bite the bullet and have a look.
-[X] Makes real good n' sure to stay hidden. Mind, 's gonna take time doin' that.

Since Sanae's now trespassing, how about taking the one course of action that won't draw an irate farmer to her?
>> No. 12145
[x] Yonder strangeness only gettin' stranger. Best bite the bullet and have a look.
-[x] Doesn't spend time dawdlin'. Makes for th' river quiet as quickness lets 'er.

Update more often, faggot.
>> No. 12146
Called.
...And good lord, this has been a horribly humbling experience. Not to mention a little depressing. Largely my fault, too, but damn.

Anyhow, writing tomorrow.
>> No. 12147
I really gotta vote as soon as I read the update.

>>12146
Oh dear. What? Should we be worried?
>> No. 12162
File 137964969068.jpg - (96.91KB , 640x480 , out for a stroll٫ are you.jpg ) [iqdb]
12162
[૭] Yonder strangeness only gettin' stranger. Best bite the bullet and have a look.
-[ƛ] Doesn't spend time dawdlin'. Makes for th' river quiet as quickness lets 'er.


Standing around sure won't help me find out, though, will it? For good or for ill <probably ill>—shut up—I'm in here until the barrier goes down. ...Like that's going to stop me. I mean, hellooo, shrine maiden. Dispelling and sealing and exorcising is my bread and butter!

The smirk that appears on my lips after thinking that begins to slowly disappear as I reach for my ofuda. My fingers come to a stop on the belt pouch that holds them, thumb and middle finger braced to pop open the button. The smirk is gone, my idea is gone, and only worrisome thoughts can be found in its place.

I have no idea at all about what's going on, or who set this up. If this isn't a trap, it's an awfully paranoid, awfully weird security measure. Someone had a reason to set this situation up, and if the lights and sounds over by the river are any indication <they totally are>, then they're taking full advantage of it. I don't know if breaking it would help them or hurt them... and if I want them to be helped or hurt.

Besides, someone that can make something like this... While I don't know how they did it or what their magic is like, it's definitely not impossible to think that they'd know if I mess with it, let alone break it.

That's pretty dead as an option, then.

I'm... really, really leery about going out and seeing what's happening on the rest of the property. If this was a fire or something, and I was in a house or whatever, then going and alerting everyone else would be the morally correct thing to do. But now I'm a wandering transient that just woke up to some suspicious noises in the house <that is a horrible analogy>. It's good enough. The point is that as terrible as it sounds, I've got my own skin to think of <which is why youre going to go barge in on the strange noises>.

[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/bvja ]

The yaks shift and grunt, and the noises continue.

And I think about that for a moment.

...I don't like it. I don't want to do it. I don't want to be here. I want to go home and curl up in bed and never think about incident resolution ever again. But I can't always have what I want, and I can't always avoid having what I don't. That's what life is. And to think anything else is to deny reality itself, even if one is a living god.

Can't leave. Can't run. Can't hide <left my cardboard box at home and everything>.

...Then I might as well face whatever kind of reality is going on down there.
>> No. 12164
File 137965020424.png - (380.96KB , 427x439 , so hands off.png ) [iqdb]
12164
For such a dramatic declaration, it really isn't a big deal, the business of going-and-facing. ...Well, the going to the going-and-facing. I keep low, and make as directly for the commotion as terrain (and the occasional clump of agitated mutant yak) will allow. I don't go at a dead sprint, however—there's already plenty of noise to spook them, and I don't want to make my approach too obvious.

[...dun-na-nahhhh...]

That said, I'm not being very careful overall. I don't think anyone could easily spot me in this darkness, anyway... but if it were quieter, I could probably be easily heard as I hurry through the field. Boots and hustling do not make for a stealthy girl.

[dun-na-nahhhhhhhhh...]

The sounds get louder as I draw nearer, and the thumps slightly stronger. There's a rushing and a crackling and a hissing and a humming—everything from before, growing clearer and more defined... and a weird feeling in the air, like when Kana-mama is really angry at someone. Occasional small flashes of pale blue light brighten the darkness and interrupt the darker blue glow that's present at the heart of the sounds ahead.

[...dun-na-nahhhhhhhhhhhh, na-na! Dun, dun, daa-dun, dun, dun, daaaa-dun...]

Is someone singing? ...No, wouldn't make sense. I'm not, and anyone else wouldn't be heard over this noise. Or something like that <what are you even talking about>. I don't know. I'm not sure—

"Whoa, what the..."

I slow down to an awkward stumbling halt as I pass through a long mini-valley, proper deceleration hampered because I'm on a downhill slope.

[Oh nooooo, this is awful!]

I can make out a few of the yaks... not sprawled, but slumped over on their sides. Some kind of thin, thin lines of fitful orange light can be seen on their... the part that's near the butt, only on the side. Is that a haunch? I thought that had to be on the leg <whatever who cares>. Right, right.

...They don't seem to be moving.

I gulp, but take a few careful steps forward—

The sound of frying bacon returns. and it's not just disagreeable anymore, but positively furious. My gaze is drawn to the source of the sound, beyond the last hill that hides the long, low decline I saw earlier, just as two pale blue flashes are followed an instant later by two thumping impacts.

[They scratched my paint! I knew I shouldn't have parked it on the streets in this neighborhood! Ohhh, this is just awful, being preyed upon by vandals—oh, is it bleeding, too? ...Mm. Little bit, nothing much...]

I ...don't know what's up with the yaks. One of them shifts a bit, getting a shriek out of me that I cut off immediately, so I know they're not dead. Great.

Bigger and better problems at the moment.

Leaving the ill/downed/cursed/whatever livestock behind, I scamper up the hill, crawling up the last two or three meters so that I can poke my head over the top, and finally see what's going on.

...

Right away, I can see there's been a fight: scorch marks and long, straight, burn marks <wait no those are gouges> litter the hillside, visible in the deep blue light that suffuses the area. In the next second, I see that no, there is a fight: two figures, near the bottom of the hill move in a wandering, ever-turning circle.

One is slender, medium-height. Probably female, given the large, thin-ribboned bow in her dark hair. She wears a dress that's even blacker than her hair; something that hugs the body close with a slit up either side to give her free movement. One hand is held partly behind her, and the other holds up... some kind of wand? Sort of looks like it, from up here. With strange yet fluid and natural-seeming steps and movements she moves in a circle, trying to flank her opponent.

Said opponent is having none of that, and drifts to the side constantly, always keeping the woman in sight. Fluttering wings mark this small, light-haired ...woman? girl?—as a fairy. A long, purplish dress—or is it a coat?—swishes about as she, too, keeps in motion. What's much more remarkable is what also appears to be the source of the noises I've been following.

Rapidly spinning about her at about waist level are four or five spheres of what has to be what they call ball lightning <the way the air is theres no question>. Or something like that; I can't think of any other way to describe the sight. There's a thick, fat blue haze of some sort that forms a ring around her, and it's inside this that the lightning travels. Little arcs and crackles of electricity shoot through it, worm about it, before disappearing. Some sort of white ...ash, almost, constantly drifts off and away from the hazy ring, shedding in pieces large and small.

...

Well. Now that I know what's going on... what do I do? Do I even need to do anything <thats a dark thought to have>? ...No, it's not. I ...what responsibility do I have for either of them? Seriously.

It is a dark thought. But is it really untrue?

Again, the air takes on that teeth-on-edge, tensed feeling, and the humming sound jumps an octave.

A breeze blows through, off the river right nearby. And like the moment when you suddenly see the sailboat in a 3D art picture, the gentle swaying of the branches of the tree at the river's edge draws my attention to details beyond the fighters that I hadn't registered at all until then—

The fence by the river, now breached.

Smooth, round curves where fence and ground are no longer.

A huge, flat bulky mass of some kind, slumped against the shore <the barge its that barge from earlier>.

Scorch marks and <ragged> holes in the mass <the hull>.


"...What in the actual hell is going on?" I whisper, confused and conflicted.


[ ] Ain't rightly sure what to make of it all. Ain't gettin' any closer, neither.
-[ ] Gets herself outta there. No need to watch differences bein' resolved.
-[ ] Stays and watches what goes down. She can hightail it when it's all done.

[ ] Might be worth pitchin' in. Girl joins the fray.
-[ ] Woman's shady, but she ain't a fairy. Like as not, she wants outta this trap, too.
-[ ] Fairy mighta been expectin' this guest. Also mighta understimated the guest a bit.

________________________________________________________________________________

So. Things are happening.
And they will continue happening for a while.

I think there's a law of physics that can back me up on this.

>>12147
Just forgot to assess reality on reality's terms, that's all.
But yes, please vote after reading.
It would be very nice.
>> No. 12165
[x] Ain't rightly sure what to make of it all. Ain't gettin' any closer, neither.
-[x] Stays and watches what goes down. She can hightail it when it's all done.

This could be enlightening, but no reason to get involved just yet.
>> No. 12166
[X] Might be worth pitchin' in. Girl joins the fray.
-[X] Fairy mighta been expectin' this guest. Also mighta understimated the guest a bit.

Why the fuck not
>> No. 12167
[X] Ain't rightly sure what to make of it all. Ain't gettin' any closer, neither.
-[X] Gets herself outta there. No need to watch differences bein' resolved.

When weird stuff starts happening, the right choice is always to get out while you've still got your legs on.
>> No. 12168
[x] Ain't rightly sure what to make of it all. Ain't gettin' any closer, neither.
-[x] Stays and watches what goes down. She can hightail it when it's all done.

Curiosity never killed anyone, right?
>> No. 12169
[X] Ain't rightly sure what to make of it all. Ain't gettin' any closer, neither.
-[X] Gets herself outta there. No need to watch differences bein' resolved.
>> No. 12170
[X] Ain't rightly sure what to make of it all. Ain't gettin' any closer, neither.
-[X] Gets herself outta there. No need to watch differences bein' resolved.
>> No. 12171
[x] Ain't rightly sure what to make of it all. Ain't gettin' any closer, neither.
-[x] Stays and watches what goes down. She can hightail it when it's all done.
>> No. 12173
[x] Ain't rightly sure what to make of it all. Ain't gettin' any closer, neither.
-[x] Stays and watches what goes down. She can hightail it when it's all done.

While my cynicism and paranoia tell me we had better get the f outta dodge while it's still maybe kind of an option, my curiosity demands to be sated, and thus, I elect we learn more about the situation. I can't walk away and wonder "What in Makai was THAT all about?"
>> No. 12174
File 137992011916.jpg - (748.22KB , 850x850 , 2P Hina does not work unless it&#039;s Kuma-Hina.jpg ) [iqdb]
12174
Called, and writing tomorrow.

Thank you.
>> No. 12179
It's far too late, but I suspect one of them is from the wanted posters, in >>10944:
>Last one doesn't even have a name, just "Unidentified Smoke-Woman." The picture, taken in some kind of field, is a blurry image of a woman in a qipao or maybe a tabard. Three quarters of her has turned into a hazy cloud of darkness, but she's definitely a she, judging by the hip and leg sticking out of the haze. "Groon rustling" <whatever that means>, assault of civil officials, theft, and arson are but a few of her crimes. Potentially an onje; extremely elusive.

Unfortunately, the fairy's got the ash-and-smoke covering going on, and the woman's got the matching outfit. My best guess is that the ball lightning's actually being controlled by the woman, rather than by the fairy, as otherwise appears to be the case.

If that's the case, this was a trap set to catch a cattle rustler, and we should probably have jumped in to help the fairy -- although I don't know how much help we'd be against a human; it's not really our forte. (Well, I suppose we could have put a protection-seal on the fairy, at least.)
>> No. 12180
File 138077014981.gif - (614.31KB , 245x150 , maruturtle.gif ) [iqdb]
12180
Update tomorrow.
Be ready.

Also here is a box turtle please enjoy
>> No. 12182
File 138087202366.png - (333.28KB , 870x588 , I guessed to what dark planets fields they plied.png ) [iqdb]
12182
[⇤] Ain't rightly sure what to make of it all. Ain't gettin' any closer, neither.
-[ഓ] Stays and watches what goes down. She can hightail it when it's all done.

...I'm not gonna find out if I chicken out now. Whatever happens in the fight... Well, when it ends, I've got a better chance of getting out, one way or another. Probably. Going in and trying to help would be...

"Nope," I mutter with less fervor in my voice than I really feel. "Better off putting my foot in a blender; I'd lose only the foot."

[Saw someone do that once with his hand. It was messy. Couldn't contact the insurance company, by the way. Might call tomorrow if we're still around.]

I'm just going to wait this out and then once the barrier's down, I'll... Well, I was worried before, but it seems like I'm not the problem! And that's a very nice piece of info to learn. I'll go back to the woods and try to go back to sleep. I'm not the problem, and it isn't my problem.

A new thought worms its way into my head as I watch the circling pair. Specifically: all that applies only if the fairy wins. 'Cause, see, if Ms. Black Dress down there wins, then... sooner or later, she'll resurrect. And I imagine she won't be happy. And bare minimum, she'll have the farmhands scouring the area around the farm... which means that the relative safety of my campsite will drop <no itd go to just about nil>. Yeah.

...The smart thing to do <or want> isn't always the best thing. And it sure isn't always the right thing. I'd understood that, I thought. But right now, I'm really, really understanding that.

A frustrated sigh escapes my lips, and I decide then and there:

"Fuck it."

The blush I can feel heating up my cheeks isn't enough to keep the exasperation at bay. The whole issue is way more than I want to think about. Kneeling down, I lie flat on the ground, and get comfortable. Knowing who wins changes what I'll end up doing. Firmly ignoring any further pangs of conscience or responsibility, I settle in.

[Oh, is it fight night, then? Place is sorta lacking in concession stands, though~]

Not my proudest moment. Not by a long shot.

Getting killed is something I'd be even less proud of.

I remember (very quickly) that it's hard to make out what's going on from up here with any clarity. And besides, if I'm going to just observe them, then I may as well do it so I can see what's going on.

Retrieving my broken field glasses, I pull out a lens pair and, using my hand as a makeshift telescope tube, move them into position so that I can bring the fight into focus. And like the universe was waiting on me, the instant I do so is the instant that the fairy makes a move.
>> No. 12183
File 138087224433.jpg - (32.86KB , 480x432 , That wasn&#039;t bacon at all.jpg ) [iqdb]
12183
=========================================================


[ ♫: http://youtu.be/9W15QoZ1nBs ]


The haze surrounding the fairy's spinning ring shifts in hue, going from mid-ocean blue to that of a clear summer sky. The hillside and riverbank are lit up so suddenly and so much more clearly that I drop the larger, outermost lens in shock. Jerking my head away from the hand with <and still holding> the smaller lens, I blink and then look back at the fight, not wanting to miss a second of it.

Out swipes the fairy's hand, and—something's changed, her coat's a far lighter purple now, what the heck is—

hwummm

—And the hum builds and increases, spiking again. The ring, her ring, the blue bright, bright ring tightens, thins, stretches, elongates—and now I can count <for an instant one two three four> the number of crackling, spitting balls of lightning zip zip zip clockwise along the oval loop, following the path (that the fairy's hand took, made large) of blue before it.

Turn, twist, and bend—and the woman in black <wait shes still in black> moves out of the way as the sizzling electric death hurtles past her, only barely. Her dress sways, and I see it's cut square and even <is it a cheongsam it looks like one>. She doesn't stumble, probably. Probably, yes. Probably yes she is fine as the ring of lightning snaps back to its circular orbit around the fairy, and all is deep blue once again.

My free hand pats, pats, gropes around in the dry grass nearby. Lens, lens, where is it <should my eyes look like 4s or 2s>?! Shut it! I don't dare move my eyes away from the action below, which is making this much more difficult a task. And frustrating.

[Hmmmm... oh! Move your hand left a bit... yes. Oops, too far. Now back a little. Back towards you, I mean. There you go~]

Finally, my frantic, fumbling search yields results, closing on the cool glass among the grass. But I can't reassemble my handscope because things are still in motion. I settle for wiping it clean on my shirt <blue dress whatever> as I continue to watch.

The fairy's now-purple coat flaps as <oh wait its red its red cause purple with the blue light ha> her arm lashes out again, this time attacking high and from the left. The woman in black <its still black or blackish probably the real color> slides back, scoots back, evading. One two three fowhump

—and I finally learn where those tremors came from as the final ball of slams into the ground with a low boom and shaking of earth. It pops and disappears like a soap bubble; round purple-no-white-no-green-no-augh afterimage still persists. But when it goes it's not cleanly or quietly: skizzity, jumpy, twitchy little arcs and sparks jump and twitch through the ground with a sizzling popping noise that spreads through ears and sky and head and red earth—

and the woman in black wasn't quite far enough away.

"Ah!"

A gasp of pain, and she stumbles, hops, falters. Moves back, in control of her movements, but not fully. Yet the fairy doesn't press the attack like she should no wait there it goes! The arm comes out, making twirling gestures and loops. Only three balls remain, but the ring of spinning lightning turns faster, faster, faster, the haze turning a richer, cleaner blue. Wings flutter <can she not properly fly either> as the fairy hops back a step, another, giving herself room to breathe (or room to maneuver) <room to attack>...

Oh. That makes more sense, then.

...The fairy isn't sure of herself. I think. ...That isn't good.

The woman in black is still getting to her feet, so I hurriedly replace the lenses. Even before I completely re-focus, I can tell that the lightning has slowed down, normal blue going darker again, bits of light and who knows what still drifting up and away from the ring. My crude telescope of hands finally shows a clear image, revealing four balls around the fairy once more. A recharging cycle, maybe?

[...So... takin' bets. If that's your thing.]

It's not given further thought—the woman in black is moving, uncoiling from the disorganized jumble of barely-collected motion as if it had never happened <a feint not taken maybe>, and stepping smoothly back into her circular walk with all her previous grace. ...Ah, wait. There's more to it, now. Not a walk. A stalk.

[They didn't really promote this fight properly, you know? Makes work hard for an honest bookie. We were expecting Torus Fairy vs. The Green Maiden, but apparently the Maiden overslept. Pretty poor excuse, I think.]

That wand is back in hand—a slender little thing with a block at the top, but thin... a paddle, or a wedge, or something. And without warning or preamble: swish goes the stick in her hand, turn, step, step, twist, swish again.

And

It's not true that there's no sound at all when it happens. But it's barely a sound, barely heard above the humming of the fairy's spinning lightning. ssst, it goes, the first time. And the second time: tsst!

Long, deep grooves of dark purple dirt <red above so below>—two of them—appear, one after each little swing of the wand. Long, straight, even, rounded channels are carved into the hillside with no mess, no muss, no fuss. The fairy isn't struck, somehow... she actually can't move fast enough to get out of the way; the everlasting problem of combat.

But she is moved: with a dull booming sound and a great shedding of those drifting particles, the fairy jerks a few meters to the side in an instant, as if shoved by some invisible hand. Boom, it happens again, moving back the other direction. She looks dazed, but each one allowed her to escape the path that the wand carved into the earth.

Better dazed than dead.

[So they called up Rocky Road, but she wasn't interested. ...Oh, you probably wouldn't get that one.]

Dazed but still very lucid as she opens her mouth, and... yells? Seems to yell some kind of ragged, yet hissing roar—almost uniform in sound except her lips are moving. I don't know what that means. She straightens and the aura about her midsection, the haze around the ring of electric death brightens.

The dark lips of her opponent flatten and her stance shifts, stops moving in her circles abruptly.

A thought: This is a battle of one-hit kills. Or something almost as deadly, anyway. What doesn't kill will likely maim or cripple. Anything but a light, glancing blow is death or a precursor to death.

Second thought: for some strange reason, Suwa-mama's scornful attitude towards kendo makes sense. I don't know why, yet; haven't thought that far, just: <oh i get it>.

[But we're a flexible agency, we adapt! We know far more than we like about that~ ...Anyhow, bets? Yes? No? Maybe~? ]

Below, I hear, for the first time, words.


[ ♫: http://youtu.be/2Yk14dt63qs ]


"Hao le!"

My head draws back a little, and I almost drop the lenses again, I'm so startled. That wasn't... that didn't have the feeling of The Tongue of Man, something I had grown a little used to hearing <maybe its been a while> Wait wait waitwaitwait, never mind that! Was that—

movement, swift and sure.



...



[...Ooookay, well. Betting just got closed, it seems. Sorry~]
>> No. 12184
File 138087236044.jpg - (97.01KB , 800x500 , boom et cetera.jpg ) [iqdb]
12184
It takes me a second or few to process what I just watched happen. And by the time I have, there are other, far more unpleasant things happening. It goes like this:

The woman in black steps, turns, bends, moves, and is suddenly <horribly> close to the fairy, as close as she can get without the lightning touching her. The fairy's head jerks back, this new turn of events being somewhat startling, I'm sure.

—And then is knocked back: one long, dark arm (with pale skin tinted blue in the light, but only from the elbow up <elbow gloves it has to be it doesnt make sense but it has to be>) shoots forward over the lightning ring, fingers extended—


once again that hissing, scratching roar; louder and sharper and fuller and I realize what it is but forget it again because


—the fairy flies back, not of her own will or on her own power or by her own willpower, stumbles, trips, and falls against the hillside

<right below
down
down the hill
from me
oh gods>

lightning sizzling as it has no choice but to spin in its orbit and go thump - thump - THUMP - THUMPing against the hill. The four impacts rumble through the ground and light up the area in brilliant whiteness (just for a second) before it all dies down into stillness. Stillness, and the dull dark blue of her hazy ring... less so now than when the lightning was spinning through it. Somehow.

<might have been my heart i felt>

She shivers—no, she twitches, jerks. An ugly, icy, coldness settles in my gut <again or maybe worse or maybe im just now feeling it>. I debate moving.

The debate is ended quickly.

...Not by me, but by the elegant woman in black, walking over to the downed, moaning <it sounds like rustling> fairy. She looks down at her for but a moment, and speaks—

"Qing nin anxi."

That wand, again: not a swish, this time, or even two, but around, in a large circle.

And this time, the tiny sound is less tiny <but still small but more audible but>: tsst!

<but where did the ground go>



That is how it happened.

But all of that is out the window and not in my head because the very next things to happen are those unpleasant things.



Earthquake happens.


[ ♫: http://youtu.be/W2FMloZFYgk ]


...Strangely, this helps matters. Familiarity brings with it thoughts, reactions.

Horrified, compulsive, fascination is dispelled, and coherent thoughts, even partial and fragmentary, return.


If you haven't been through at least two or three earthquakes by the age of ten, then you're either extremely lucky, or you don't live in Japan. You can't really expect them, but you do learn what to do in case of one—mostly because the schools drill that into your head early and often.

Open a door, get under cover, stay put.

Hit the gas shutoff.

If you're on the coast, grab your things and get your butt to higher ground.

Don't run outside and freak out. And if you are already outside, then you should take shelter, wait until it stops, and then get to higher ground.


All this rushes through my mind when I feel that awful, familiar sensation of the earth beneath my feet becoming suddenly unsteady, shifting, moving. It's all rendered useless in the next second, of course: I'm outside, there is no nearby shelter, and I'm already on higher ground. Then falling happens, and I don't even have that.

[Whooaaaaaaa no no no no NO NOT GOOD ARGH "--wait, I can't fl--rgnh."]

I land amidst the unmistakeable smell of dirt. And dirt. Not normal dirt, not a normal dirt smell, but I guess no matter how weird it gets or how far away you go, dirt's gonna smell more or less like dirt. Also I land amidst grass. And rocks. And kind of hard.

Woo.

...Aaaaand there's the stars.

Hi, stars. You're cool.

Even if I don't know a single one a' you.

...

'kay, soooo.

["Ptoo. Bleh. ...That was surprising."]

I think IIIIII... mighta landed hard.

Head hurts. A bit, not a lot. Not spinny, just, uh. Actually, not at all.

Cool.

...Wait, was I speaking out loud?

"Tenftpuah!" Nooope. Not unless I can talk around dirt. Just sorta proved I can't, too.

Okay, better. Mouth clear. Better get up. Okay, atta girl. Not even dizzy! How 'bout that?

Dirty, though.

["Oh man, is—"FFFFF NO NO NOTHING YOU'RE FINE WE'RE ALL FINE YOU'RE FINE. You're fine. I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm fine? Survey says maybe~ Oh hey you're up and everything that's good. Not even bleeding. What a champ~]

...Uh.

Okay, little headache. For a sec.

...But gone now. Cool.

[Odds were totally gonna be in your favor, so's you know. ...Yes, I think everyone is fine. Well, maybe not the fairy. Probably not the fairy.]

Um.

And there it goes again. And goes. Again.

Back to better.

Is it gonna come back again? Might be a bad sign.

...

Aaaaanytime, now.

...

No?

...

Cool. Probably not concussed then.

Wouldn't be this steady if I was.

So.

Quiet night.

Well. Quiet now, anyway.


[ ] Scout. Fairy's fate? Woman's whereabouts?
[ ] Search. Important item isn't in inventory!
[ ] Speak. Commence conversation. Black broad best be berated.
[ ] Sneak. Lurking lady likely. Abscond ASAP.

________________________________________________________________________________

To picture the style of attack used by the fairy, imagine Len's 5B and/or White Len's 2B (from MBAC; can't run AA on this netbook).
But with multiple glowballs.
And instead of glowballs, using ball lightning with blue trails.
And having a fully customizable shape and path.
>> No. 12185
File 138087282018.jpg - (645.35KB , 1100x821 , waiting in line like responsible folk.jpg ) [iqdb]
12185
Spacers!

...Totally should have used pictures of the Planetes cast instead.

Still gotta watch that.
>> No. 12186
File 13808730954.jpg - (237.98KB , 877x620 , okay now this line has gotten too silly.jpg ) [iqdb]
12186
It really has.

By the way, there was an update. It was 33 minutes late, however.
>> No. 12187
File 138087324023.jpg - (186.29KB , 1209x1707 , Doin&#039; it from behind.jpg ) [iqdb]
12187
But now there is Hina and everything is wonderful again.
>> No. 12188
[X] Search. Important item isn't in inventory!
[X] Sneak. Lurking lady likely. Abscond ASAP.
>> No. 12189
[X] Search. Important item isn't in inventory!
then,
[X] Sneak. Lurking lady likely. Abscond ASAP.

I want to say something about what just happened, but i can't think of anything to say (besides the obvious AWESOME), and i'm on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happens next anyway.
>> No. 12190
I don't actually know Chinese, but:
>"Hao le!"
This is probably 好了 (hǎo le), which I infer to mean approximately "Well done!"
>"Qing nin anxi."
Definitely 请您安息 (qǐng nín ānxí), "Please rest in peace."

[X] Scout. Fairy's fate? Woman's whereabouts?
[X] Search. Important item isn't in inventory!
Afterwards, absent additional apocalypses¹ (Anglic and/or Attic),
- [X] Sneak. Lurking lady likely. Abscond — after acquiring almost-accidentally-abandoned analysis apparatus and above assailant's approximate area and activity.
- - [X] (Bonus: Barring burning by blessedness, being-bereavement, belligerence... bandage bewingèd battler's bruises, before bolting.)


¹ (from the Ancient Greek ἀποκάλυψις (apokalupsis), "revelation")
>> No. 12191
[x] Scout. Fairy's fate? Woman's whereabouts?
[x] Search. Important item isn't in inventory!

I don't wanna sneak. What's the worse that could happen?
>> No. 12195
File 138121235513.jpg - (669.83KB , 848x1331 , bravely brave sir fell.jpg ) [iqdb]
12195
So. Funny story, except for the part where it sucks, and isn't actually all that funny.

The fan on my netbook has been making an annoying whir/buzz whenever it starts up after a long period of not being on. It's been doing this pretty regularly for about a year, year and a half?

This Friday, despite all my carefully applied percussive and agitative maintenance (which had, in the past, satisfactorily seen me through), it would not cease its noisemakery. 'Well, that's annoying,' thought I, 'but no matter! I have here this replacement fan which I prudently decided to purchase many moons ago, for I knew that this day would one day come to pass on just such a day.'

And so I disassembled my trusty netbook, gained access to the dark heart of its innermost inner innards, at last exposing to the harsh and bitter air my hated foe, the noisesome fan within!

"Behold, foul metallic beast, ye spinner of blades, ye turner of air, fallen now from the heights of Purpose Most Beneficial, and stumbling amongst the filth that is the perversion of your mandated duties!" I shrieked. "Today is the day your tyranny ends! Behold now, the holy instrument of your demise, retrieved from the dark and barren wastes of the internet!" So saying, I thrust forth the replacement fan, fluorescent light of the shop lights sparkling beautifully off its incredibly shiny dull, burnished metallic chassis.

To my astonishment, the faulty fan--still cradled in the midnight-black shell of the netbook, did not cringe. It did not howl, it did not gibber in terror, it did not flee! Nay, it did none of these things. What it did instead was far more unexpected and chilling.

It began to laugh.

"What manner of foul humor do you find in your imminent demise, thou uncouth beast?!" I demanded of it, as a sense of unease, thin but multiplying in that dark and timeless cavern, began to creep into my soul.

At this, it only laughed harder.

Finally, I would have no more of this, and drew forth my screwdriver. "So be it, fiend!" I shouted, advancing. "Go to your grave laughing, then!"

At last, it looked up at me, and though its chuckles had at last receded, died away, I yet saw dark amusement in its expression. And too, at last, it spoke.

"Foolish warrior, know you not what you hold? Know you not what I AM?" it thundered.

I would not--COULD not--be swayed or turned back. The beast would fall, this day. I answered it: "It is a fan, a replacement for your dark and terribly twisted body, turned to dark and hideous pursuits by time, that most wretched of immortal agencies!"

That dark amusement became--something, I know not what. It resembled a grin, but no smile, no upturning of the mouth should ever have been something so awful to gaze upon.

"Your netbook is of the lineage of ZG5, mortal fool," it hissed. "Observe, now, the abominable chiralty of my form!"

And the beast reared back then, exposing its form... and as I stared it, then the fan I held in my hand, then at several Google search results, the grim truth became clear.

In my hand, I held a fan for the D250 family Aspire Ones.

In my foolishness, I had chosen poorly.


Like a coward, I fled, that mocking laughter in my ears.

...It haunts me, even now.






So yeah. Gonna be about a week or so before I'm back up and running again.

In the mean time, vote.

Watch Kemonozume and Noein.

Read Blame.

Read a THP story you haven't read before.

Learn how to cook something delicious.

Do something new and enjoyable. Waste not this precious time.
>> No. 12199
[X] Search. Important item isn't in inventory!
then,
[X] Sneak. Lurking lady likely. Abscond ASAP.

lovin' the story man. you've got a style all your own, and I love the way you phrase the options, giving them a unique flair not found anywhere else.
>> No. 12200
[X] Search. Important item isn't in inventory!
then,
[X] Sneak. Lurking lady likely. Abscond ASAP.

lovin' the story man. you've got a style all your own, and I love the way you phrase the options, giving them a unique flair not found anywhere else.
>> No. 12253
File 138252849730.jpg - (167.16KB , 537x716 , relief from misfortune wink nudge.jpg ) [iqdb]
12253
Everything is fixed.

...Including the fan.

...Including the display cable that crapped out once the fan was replaced.

...Including the fan that needed a solid thump to get kickstarted once I replaced the display cable.

...Including reassembling my desktop after messing it up by using an external monitor.

Really, posting Hina has never been so appropriate.

Anyway, writing finally starts tomorrow. Thanks >>12199 for breaking the tie (though you might want to delete that second lag-vote). Next update's probably going to be the last one in this thread, too.
>> No. 12265
File 138265720217.jpg - (71.31KB , 750x600 , alas amusing alliterative appellation aint appenin.jpg ) [iqdb]
12265
>>12190
Someone's looking into things, I see. Don't let me discourage you.

Also, was reminded of pic related. Your dedication to staying in theme is both appreciated and unnerving.
>> No. 12266
>>12265
>Your dedication to staying in theme is both appreciated and unnerving.

Eh. 「エイ」's elementary. Even extensive expressions emerge easily.

Arbitrary alliteration's arduous, and almost always atrocious after assembly. Alliterating 'a' allows almost arbitrary actors and actions, admits alternatives and antonyms alike, and avoids awkward aposiopesis and asyndeton.

(Permitting particles and prepositions to part from the principle is perfectly possible, but perhaps passes over the point.)

Yeah, I'm done.
>> No. 12273
>>12190
>I don't actually know Chinese, but:
>"Hao le!"
>This is probably 好了 (hǎo le), which I infer to mean approximately "Well done!"

Not quite. 好的(hao de) is probably the closest to that, but it's more of "All right," in the same way as used in English. 好吧(hao ba) is the same, except with more irritation. 好了(hao le), when not used in the context of "getting better from illness/et cetera", is even more irritation. Like "All right, jeez, stop bothering me about it!"

The other one, I think I'll hold off on saying anything about it. Hee.
>> No. 12401
File 138440108322.jpg - (3.89KB , 640x360 , Like lighting three cigarettes off one match.jpg ) [iqdb]
12401
[⍻] Search. Important item isn't in inventory!
[ꏢ] Sneak. Lurking lady likely. Abscond ASAP.



"Toooo quiet."

I reflect on the irony of having said that aloud. Kinda funny.

Hmm.

Not usually this rambling. I think maybe I'm worse than I think, but better than I should be. The thinking's out, but the body is... it's doing pretty all right. Steady. Clear vision. Maybe Suwa-mama's doing? As good a reason as any.

Brush myself off with both hands. Take a look around. Then back down the hill.

...Wait, both hands? Missing my field glasses. Missing my haraegushi oh crap and damn


[ ♫: http://youtu.be/RaFLMDKVa3A ]


I'm back down on both knees. Light, light, I nee—of course. Little sketch in the palm. Star. Glowing light <a very welcome evening guest ha ha>. Down to poking around with just the one hand; pointing hand-star with the other. Doesn't matter.

Area in glows in soft silver light. Slight haze as it shines through the dust kicked up. Lifting hand, and it's like shining a lantern in thin fog. I see what happened. Sort of happened. What I think happened. Anyway. It wasn't a quake, I think. Shine it down the slope for a bit; looks more like some big stripe of land just collapsed. A stripe I was right on top of.

Fairy, too. Not on top of it any more, I bet.

Shiver of sympathy. That's a bad way to go. I'd feel sorrier but where is my haraegushi is occupying most of my worry-space. Little bit of disgust with myself <youve got bigger and better problems sanae>. Right.

I only fell about two to three meters. In a sort of trench at the moment. Dirt's pretty soft, not too many rocks, and lots of the ground is still intact, so I search about me. Search some more. It can't be too far; I didn't go too far.

Something glints in the grass and dirt—a lens, the small one. Not my haraegushi, but I won't complain. Blow the dirt off, stuff it in a belt pouch. It'll get sorted later. Searching resumes, light swishing this way and that.

I find the other lens about ten seconds later. Moving frantically, now.

A minute later, I've still found nothing. Somehow I am screaming without screaming, and I don't just mean silently. I can feel my gut clench, my heart beat <oh god i cant lose that>. Yes, that thought is going through my head a lot.

[...Aaaare you looking for your magical miko wand~? Spirit stick~? Buddha baton~? Temple tonfa~? ...wait, no, no. Shinto, duh.]

Not scared, though. I'm still not scared. But I am very, very concerned about my prospects for survival if I don't find it. No matter where I look, the light turns up noth—The light.

Oh. Ohhhhh, no. I don't look back down the hill; I force myself to get back to searching. Faster, though, as the new, fresh, terrible, and very likely worry spurs me on.

[...Nope, can't think of anything for Shinto. Well, a couple, but it'd only make sense written down.]

I've been shining a light around. In the dark. A short distance away from where some kind of assault <maybe murder> just took place. Oh, and I'm without my primary weapon and magical tool. Literally, the only way I could make it worse would be to start yelling, "HEY, I'M RIGHT HERE AND I JUST SAW EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED! HOW YA DOIN' DOWN THERE?"

That's why I don't look. Because the woman in black <gods im getting it from both colors now> won't be there. And I'll turn back around, and then she'll be RIGHT HERE.

If I keep searching, it won't happen <that is the flimsiest pi>shut up. I know. I don't care. I just have to find, it, and then...

...Okay. I won't be safe. But I'll be safer than without.

"Gods, where is it?" I whisper, speaking it aloud even though I hadn't meant to, even as barely audible as it was. The strain in it can still be heard.

[Oh, right! Was gonna say, it's back there, right about where you landed. Woulda brought it to you, buuuuut. Yeah, obviously not really an option.]

—Wait.

Wait.

I'm being stupid. I'm being instinctive, not logical.

Where's the place where you always end up find something you lost?
Wherever you lost it.

Call it dumb logic, or barely logic at all, or even not logic. It's a... there's a word for it. 'A statement that is necessarily true.' It sounds pointless and obvious if you read it one way. But when you think about the words, you see that it's no immediate dead end, but the start of a new road.

Where did I lose it? In the place where I lost it.

Why did I lose it? ...Because I let go of it.

When did I let go of it? When I fell.

Where did I fall? A few meters back the other way, down the trench.

What does that make it, then? The place where I lost it.
>> No. 12403
File 138440132378.png - (357.46KB , 660x371 , Search٫ party of one.png ) [iqdb]
12403

Back down the newly excavated trench, and quickly. It's not too far away—ten steps at most—but right now? Not being right next to me is still farther than I'd like.

My landing site is easy to find: follow the footprints. I'm alarmed to find that there are s              g my bootprints which are very clear and distinct so that's all I need to look at. Anything else is just a distraction right now. Look for where they go.... Yes. A lot more flattened dirt here. And there's the rock that was poking me in the side. That was the hard thing, probably.

Please, please be here.

[Somewhere around here, I think?]

Another too long passes by while I search. I don't know how long, but it wasn't instantaneous. That's too long <nobody complains more about time and space than you>. Physicists probably do also shut up.

The faintest sound of crunching wood meets my ears, and I fling myself backward faster than any flash-step could ever be. Somehow I keep from tumbling over like an idiot, and creep back slowly, now. One already-grubby hand digs around in the reddish earth, gingerly sweeping away the dirt from the general area I was standing in while the light <aaaaugh> shines over the area. I cup my light-bearing hand as best I can, trying to cut off how wide the light is spread, but it doesn't make enough difference to hide it the way I want.

My searching hand brushes over something thin but sturdy. Hope surges through me as I take hold of it, being sure to empower it, first—no sense breaking it <further>. A trickle of my power flows into it, and with a tug, it slides easily out of the ground.

Paper card and streamers shed dirt like water off a surfacing sub; after a gentle shake of the tool, they're spotless. Gulping, I hold it upside down with two fingers of my lit-up hand, and feel along the long wooden handle for any breaks. ...Ugh. One near the top (the hilt that is; it's the 'top' as I hold it right now), about six to eight centimeters in. A slight break only, though—it doesn't go all the way through, and the wood is still intact. Bent, and obviously more fragile... but holding. More than enough structural integrity to allow me to empower it, I can tell, since that's what I'm doing right now.

[You should chill~ Stress lines are bad, aren't they?]

Tense (and getting tenser) seconds go by as I run my hands along the remainder of the shaft's length <heehee>. ...That's only funny because I'm stressed. Nothing else turns up, though, as best I can tell. Good enough. Time to go and get gone.

With a sigh of relief, I dispel the palm-light—and realize, as I'm plunged into darkness, that I've killed my night vision <way to go kochiya>. Damn, damn, damn, damn.

Okay, just... settle down. Now, I was facing down the trench... more or less an? No, not quite. Boots scrape lightly on the red earth as I adjust my stance. Yeah. That's more like it. Now... oh. Still can't fly.

I say a very rude word, and decide to just jog down the trench as quietly as I can—it's more like a rapid tiptoeing. The goal is getting further away from the site of the battle, and doing it in relative quiet, after all. I don't really know what was going on here, and I don't fully care. I want out, and I want gone.

Can't have everything we want, though, can we? <i sure as hell cant> Still going to fight for it, though.

The trench ends probably around eighty to a hundred meters back from the top of the hill. And by that, I don't mean that it runs out or comes to a dead-end. I mean it stops being a trench. I'm suddenly aware of being thrust upward at speed for a second or so, and suddenly it's less gloomy and dark than it was before, by a small amount. And there's a breeze, now.

[Wah~! ...What was that, and can we do it again?]

>> No. 12407
File 138440372255.jpg - (13.62KB , 400x224 , ALBERT R․ BROCCOLI presents.jpg ) [iqdb]
12407

A bewildered "What the..." escapes my lips before I cut it off, and turn to look behind me. ...Not that it really helps at this hour of the night, but... What's behind me is the same shade dark as the rest of the pasture around me. Despite my better judgment, I go back a few meters and nudge the ground with my boot. It's the same as it was before the trench was made.

Some kind of illusion? ...Or mind-bending, or reality-warping, or something? Creating illusionary trenches with that kind of magic seems awfully trivial ...and overly specific. Which I guess means it was real, and now it's been undone?

No, never mind. I can ponder this later. I need to get out, get back to my camp, get my things, and leave. Before—


[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/bmcf ]


{"Nin xinshang jinye de yanchu ma?"}

A voice, the voice from below, the voice from above, the voice all around. It does not move, and it does not echo, and yet I hear it in several places at once, and then in the next instant, from several other places instead. Another instant, and yet more places.

A smell on the on the breeze of charred wood, of burnt meat, of overwhelming perfume, of the sweat of exertion, of raw meat, of fresh timber.

A sensation on my tongue, what my mind calls the taste of sunlight and mist, and then the taste of drought and starvation.


All of that occurs in the same nanosecond of memory, and then stops. Everything occurred all at once, and then vanished.

I can recall them all in equal measure, despite none of it happening long enough for my brain to register it.

Given the instantaneous lance of searing pain that goes through my head, bringing me to my knees, I think it also maybe wasn't a good thing. The pain is already gone and vanished by the time my stumble and misstep has taken me to the ground, but the shock alone is enough to stun me for several seconds more.

[Oh. Uh. ...Uh-oh.]

{"Ah, laojia. Keneng mei huxi bi huxi na hao~"}

...Again, the voice all around that doesn't move while shifting places constantly... nothing else, though; no suite of sensory overload comes with it.

I'm dazed, a little, but getting back to my feet. Haraegushi still in one hand, thumb already tracing out a new palm-light star in the other—I've clearly been made, so there's no point in hiding anymore. The silver star brightens to life and illuminates the area around me to reveal that I've stepped into a 007 opening credits sequence.

{"Aiya~... Shi onje ma? Jiayuan lai de ba?"}

Not just the ground is lit up, but the air as well. Light plays about a dark, curling liquid smoke that seems to be seeping up out of the ground. Liquid is the key word, here—it's not a dusty cloud, or a puffy cloud, or anything like smoke, not in the normal way. No, this is like how ink turns and rolls and roils in whorls and twisting curves.

It moves playfully, yet with purpose, drawing closer and closer to itself. It grows thicker darker, and takes on increasing definition. A shape. A form. A person. A woman. ...Very much a woman.

{"Ah... kanqilai bu shi. ...Hangugbun iseyo?"}

...Who is speaking in ...Chinese? It sounds like it. Heard that before, too, didn't I? And that means—

[Ummm. This could maybe yeah probably I'm thinking perhaps nope. ...Please stay on the line~]

The last of the ink-smoke curls into that woman-silhouette—and then like someone blowing dust away from a long-undisturbed surface, the darkness around it dissipates, leaving a person behind.

And here I stand, watching it happen. Does that make me afraid or brave? It feels like I can't be the first, and I feel like it can't be the second <thats what we call an impasse>. Yep. I do want to be gone, though. I don't want to be here <thats a given>.

Then again, I also wanted to explore strange new worlds. Want what I don't have, and what I have, I don't want. ...Actually, Gensokyo's a pretty strange place, and it was sure as heck new to me. Huh.

The person (it's her, of course) cocks her head as the last of the smoke fades away, the bow on her head—big loops of some sort—tilting along with the gesture, bouncing once. Some kind of small sound from her throat; a subvocal sound of pondering.

"...Pen kon Thai ruu-plao kah?" she finally asks. And this time, the voice comes only from her her darkly-painted lips, instead of from three different everywheres per second. It's a lot less stressful on my brain. More hesitance in her voice, but a very pleasant voice, like before. Someone who sounds like her just sounds like she ought to be your friend. It's a good voice to have. Suwa-mama can do something kinda like that.

Too bad for this woman that I know better. Looks can be deceiving, and looks are very deceiving. She's speaking nice, and looks fancy and exotic, I think—I'm trying to look at her without looking at her, and it's not going to last forever—but I know what she did. And she probably knows that I know what she did.

And I just sat there while she did what she did. Ugh. Some shrine maiden I am, huh?

...Worst of all—like, the really, really scary part—is that... I'm still not certain that I'm not better off for not having interfered. That's a nice, pleasing thought. Yeah. Just gonna ...let that fester in my head for a while.

If I can keep from mumbling "I mustn't run away," though, I... I can probably keep it together. But in the mean time—

"Well... you wouldn't be from Dōngyíng, surely?" Her lips quirk as she says it, and for the first time, I notice a little mole below them. That is the thought that passes through my mind first, because I'm still too busy regarding-her-without-regarding and then the words catch up to me and holy shit she just spoke in Japanese—

<dont flinch>

—it still comes as a surprise, of course, hearing my native language spoken aloud (by someone other than myself) instead of the Tongue of Man. Relief at finding something familiar, something known floods through me, more powerfully than I'm prepared for... And though it hurts to do so, I clamp down on that, cutting it off, forcibly keeping myself from letting it show.

I am an idiot, but I am no fool. And this woman isn't, either.

...So I analyze, instead: the Japanese was spoken cleanly and with flawless enunciation, although tinged with the same kind of... It's the tone you'd use when you know the answer's going to be no, but you have to ask anyway juuust in case. Strange, but not very important at the moment.

The woman in black merely waits for a response.

"May I help you with something?" I ask right back. Halfway polite but not engaging in... whatever. Tongue of Man, no responding in Japanese. Even tone, even breathing. Taking a risk here, but I suspect it won't be the last or worst that I make in Makai <gods i hope not>.

One delicately manicured eyebrow lifts a tiny bit, and her head slowly tilts the other way, now. If I've upset her, she isn't showing it clearly—in fact, she just smiles. ...Though, given the veneer of civility on some of the arguing and sniping I've seen occur (especially in Gensokyo), that's no indication of anything.

"Oh, I simply wished to speak to an apparent fan! Surely that's no crime, is it?" she asks brightly. "...Certainly, that must be what you are, to have watched me so intently." The smile warms up even further even as she conceals a little titter behind a black-gloved hand. "Besides, it's a rare onje who carries a spyglass, no~?"

A sinking feeling grows in my chest as her merry laugh floats through the night air. She knew. She knew I was there, she knew I was watching. And however she knew, that means that my capacity for deception has just taken a nosedi—wait.

No. Or at least maybe no. If she knew, she'd know I didn't actually have one. I was barely even holding the lenses like one <sorta was but not really>. So... she's not psychic, just perceptive and intuitive. Still pretty bad for me, but I'm no longer doomed. For now, though, best to play it like I am.

I give a startled look (which I don't really need to fake), and turn away slightly, breaking eye contact. She folds her arms across her chest, causing the diamond of skin exposed by the dress to swell in ways that would annoy Reimu and Marisa. I can feel her smile growing without even looking. Not too broadly though, no. Never too broadly.

"Well, ma'am, you're speaking to me right now," I tell her. Meanwhile, now that I see her up close, I can actually make out her appearance—which could be summed up with the words black, elegant, and lush: clothes, demeanor, body.

Another little laugh. "Aiya, indeed I am." She takes a step closer to me, and long, pale legs ghost out of the slits up the side of the dress once each before she stops. Leaning in a little, she asks me, "And I would speak with you a little more, if that's all right?"

...I don't have an answer ready, because I was watching her legs <not that im like that or anything>, and suddenly several things stand out in frightening clarity:

The swish of the dress. The way her legs showed.

The violence.

The swirling black mist.

...It isn't a completely sure thing, perhaps: it seems wildly absurd that I should meet such a person, or that she would act so apparently kind to me. But something inside of me is very, very certain.

I look back into blue eyes of the Unidentified Smoke-woman, who is currently worth many tens of thousands of juliène... and who is once more waiting for a reply.


[ ] Girl sticks to the trail leadin' outta here. Bounty's not as important as that.

[ ] Law might take a shine to 'er if she did 'em a turn. Avoidin' trouble sounds nice.
-[ ] Smokey here's no dumb gal. Gotta work 'er slow, and jump only when it's right.
-[ ] Woman likely thinks girl here's some dumb nobody. Ain't gonna see it comin'.

________________________________________________________________________________

If you can't see the Unicode characters in the first post, you probably didn't install unifont. You should probably go do that.

Also, next update will be in a new thread, so look forward—and look for—that.

>>12179
And if you'd gone inside with Elis at the telegraph office, neither you the readers nor Sanae would have had the slightest clue who this was. As I said in >>11899, I strive to ensure that no choice will ever be entirely devoid of worth or cost—in this case, a lack of knowledge about the Makaian telegraph system.
>> No. 12412
[x] Girl sticks to the trail leadin' outta here. Bounty's not as important as that.
- [x] Of course, that doesn't mean she's fool enough to take her hand off her piece as she leaves.

If our haraegushi weren't damaged I'd be up for it: between that and our seals we'd be set. If this were Vintovka Koenig, Şebnem, or -- gods and little fishes forbid -- Wymar the Whelk, I'd be all for blasting them: it'd be worth possibly aggravating the damage to our haraegushi, since frankly we'd be more likely to live by doing so.

But the Unidentified Feminine Obnubilation* isn't Wanted Dead, nor for murder. (Possibly not even considering the fairy's death: depending on the preceding events, it might be self-defense.) We'll likely live by walking away, and ... well, so will she: I'm not convinced we can take her down without killing her.

* yes I combed through a word list** for that, shut up
** Although I guess she could be an Oblation, too. I'm not sure how a human-sacrifice youkai would even work -- some sort of tsukumogami-of-discarded-concepts? -- but she'd fit the bill if it were possible...
>> No. 12422
[X] Girl sticks to the trail leadin' outta here. Bounty's not as important as that.
-[X] Of course, that doesn't mean she's fool enough to take her hand off her piece as she leaves.
>> No. 12423
I hesitate to vote without knowing what that Chinese means.
>> No. 12424
[x] Law might take a shine to 'er if she did 'em a turn. Avoidin' trouble sounds nice.
-[x] Smokey here's no dumb gal. Gotta work 'er slow, and jump only when it's right.

Because we need money, and she is clearly no saint.
>> No. 12426
[x] Girl sticks to the trail leadin' outta here. Bounty's not as important as that.

If Sanae got worked over by the UFO crew, she'd be way over her head dealing with Makai criminals.
>> No. 12428
>>12423
Fi~ine, I'll try. Keep in mind that I know none of the languages involved, so this is all general knowledge of linguistics applied to dictionary entries.

>>12407
> {"Nin xinshang jinye de yanchu ma?"}
您欣赏今夜的演出吗?
nín xīnshǎng jīnyè de yǎnchū ma?
Did you enjoy tonight's performance?

> {"Ah, laojia. Keneng mei huxi bi huxi na hao~"}
啊, 劳驾 可能 ... 呼吸 ...
a láojià. kěnéng ... hūxī ...
Ah, excuse me. Perhaps (something about breathing)?

> {"Aiya~... Shi onje ma? Jiayuan lai de ba?"}
哎呀~ 是温杰吗? 家园來得吧?
Āi ya~ shì onje ma? Jiāyuán láide ba?
Aiya~ You're an onje? Coming home, right?
(I'm not at all sure about that second sentence. 家园 Jiāyuán is literally "homeland", but it may parallel the Japanese 我国 wagakuni "my country", which would pretty much only mean Japan in this context...)

> {"Ah... kanqilai bu shi. ...Hangugbun iseyo?"}
啊 看起来 不是. 항욱분이세요?
a, kànqǐlái bù shì. ...hangugbun iseyo?
Ah, it seems not. ... Are you Korean?
(Yes, she switches languages.)

> "...Pen kon Thai ruu-plao kah?"
bpen(M) khohn(M) thai(M) reuu(R)-bplaao(L) kha(H)
เป็น คน ไทย หรือเปล่า คะ
"Are you Thai?" (feminine, polite)
(I think that's right, anyway. I've never touched Thai before.)

> "Well... you wouldn't be from Dōngyíng, surely?"
Dōngyíng (东营): prefecture-capital of Shāndōng (山东) province, in northeast China
(I have no idea why she would be asking that in Japanese.)
>> No. 12434
Thank you.

[x] Girl sticks to the trail leadin' outta here.

I really, really want to fight her, but >>12412 and >>12426 hit it on the head. No fun option for us.
...wouldn't take much convincing to change that vote, though.
>> No. 12473
[X] Girl sticks to the trail leadin' outta here. Bounty's not as important as that.

I really want to say we should jump this phantom and see who comes out on top, but I'm not convinced we will come out of it in any good state. At the same time, I don't want to brush her off and flee. Stalling with dialogue and seeing where things go seems like the best idea to me, although we don't know that she won't jump US at some point. If she has plans to act hostile towards us, a preemptive strike could tip things in our favor, but if she didn't intend to hurt us, drawing her ire doesn't seem like a great idea either. I'm torn, to put it simply.
>> No. 12499
File 138544105239.png - (413.45KB , 480x432 , that wasn&#039;t bacon at all.png ) [iqdb]
12499
For those reading this once this thread slips off the board and into the archive... which will only be at some point several years from now in several years, given the blazing pace of activity on /underground/:
Since—as of this posting—we don't archive posted images, here's the picture from >>12183, un-hidden (A thumbnail's better than nothing, right?). On that note: Remember that hidden picture at the very very very end of The Game? It was a ring box made of rosewood.

I'll probably start doing this whenever I finish up a thread and it's in autosage.
>> No. 12500
File 138544132685.png - (151.64KB , 1860x360 , removes even the toughest spots.png ) [iqdb]
12500
Next thread: >>12501
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