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File 134828757835.jpg - (132.65KB, 1200x565, Sharp shark.jpg) [iqdb]
[♠] 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."


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."


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...


"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."



"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.


I shout an obscenity.
File 134828765975.jpg - (22.65KB, 483x524, emotionally uplifting.jpg) [iqdb]
To be fair, she was going easy on me. But, as the loser, it's expected that I pick up the bigger pieces.

While retrieving the darts, Elis stretches arms and wings at the same time. The sitting room is just barely wide enough to allow her to do it without scratching the walls. "You're lucky we weren't playing for money," she chuckles. "You'd owe me quite the sum."

"...How do you know?"

"Each move incurs or relieves debt. You compare debts at the end to see who pays who."

That statement gives me something to think about while I wind up a roll of streamers. "That doesn't... it makes a little sense, but not much."

"Well, it can go negative, of course."

"Ahhh." I almost put the blue streamers in with the red, but Keshti snatches them out of my hand. I blink, and then thank him with an embarrassed laugh. There were newspaper <or newssheet as they call it but whatever> scraps everywhere when I bumped one into the other, before.

"On that subject, I don't suppose you have any of your local currency on you at the moment... do you?"

I close the dart case, and stuff it into the box of mouse-sized mallets. A growl emerges, and I ignore it. "Hmm? I think so." I turn around to follow up on this comment and... Elis is right next to me, apparently trying to give me a heart attack.

"Will thin e don't sippose yi'd like to axchinge sime of et?" she asks, breathlessly.

"Oh gods what I um."

Not dropping the box, that is key. Once I have that done, I process the question in my head again.

"...Do you think I'll need to?"


Her eyes are firmly aimed at pocket-level.

[ ] Changes a few bills. Mr. Soseki won't be much help out here, she thinks.
[ ] Won't worry 'bout it. Girl knows ways to earn a bit a' scratch, if she needs to.


Blame the bad writing on her having her emotional wiring tuned up and realigned the whole time.

Also, Irisu is best Hyouka.
File 134828772095.jpg - (363.07KB, 1000x752, COME WITH US AND INTERNET! INTERNET UNTIL YOU DIE.jpg) [iqdb]
Previous thread: >>9685
[X] Changes a few bills. Mr. Soseki won't be much help out here, she thinks.

>girl knows ways to earn a bit a' scratch
Of course she does. Sanae's such a good girl.
[x] Changes a few bills. Mr. Soseki won't be much help out here, she thinks.

>I don't think anyone knows the actual rules. I'm not sure there are rules.
Calvinball: Tabletop edition.
[x] Changes a few bills. Mr. Soseki won't be much help out here, she thinks.
[x] Changes a few bills. Mr. Soseki won't be much help out here, she thinks.

>"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."

I had a nice chuckle at that.
[X] Changes a few bills. Mr. Soseki won't be much help out here, she thinks.
File 134840144615.jpg - (209.91KB, 739x972, Also Sprach Kochiya.jpg) [iqdb]
[X] Changes a few bills. Mr. Soseki won't be much help out here, she thinks.

I know this is sudden, but here's some trivia for you, since you seem to have finished your update.

Have you heard of Natsume Soseki, the man pictured on the 1000 yen note from 1984 to 2004? Almost without question, he is accepted as Japan's most highly regarded modern novelist. It's said that once you are familiar with his works, you can't help but see traces of them everywhere in modern Japanese media. For example, the relationships and characters of the Scarlet Devil Mansion closely mirror those of the household in I am a Cat. Natsume himself was close friends with none other than Lafcadio Hearn, also known as Koizumi Yakumo - a name that might be of some interest to those familiar with the Tokyo University Sealing Club.

And that was the literature trivia for tonight!
[X] Changes a few bills. Mr. Soseki won't be much help out here, she thinks.

Did Sanae just play Calvinball?
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No updates today; went to a barbecue and I don't feel like doing aaaanything.
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[円] Changes a few bills. Mr. Soseki won't be much help out here, she thinks.

"Well, er." Elis is uncomfortably close, and looking up at me eagerly. "I keep meaning to ask about the trip to Dis, but I'm guessing I'll need money, regardless—"

"Yiu will!"

"—so I guess I can change some yen. What's the exchange rate?"

"Ixcellint! Gud greit ...and..." Some of the mad fire in her eyes dies down, her voice faltering as a look of worry enters her expression. "Im. Om. Um. That is, that's... Hmm." She puts a hand on her hip. "Blast." <are all the smart demons like this> "Keshti!"

He reappears. "Yes?"

[Weeelp, I'm gonna go be nosy. Back in a while~!]

She points at me. "Help me figure out an exchange rate."


...And they manage to. Sort of.

Mostly they ask me a bunch of questions about how much various things cost back at home. I give them Gensokyo-standard answers, since I think going by modern Outside standards <or what i last recall they were im a bit out of date by now> would skew it out of my favor pretty hard. I'm also pretty sure economics is a lot tougher than this, but I guess this will do, in a crude, frontier-trading sort of way.

The currency of Makai is the juliène, I learn. It sounds French or something, the way they say it. Certainly not what I was expecting <i was thinking maybe gold pieces or orc skulls or souls>, but it's a nice surprise. A weirder surprise is the symbol for it, which looks an awful lot like a swirly cursive letter 'J'. When I point it out, they simultaneously reply with "orthographic coincidence" in the same tired way you give an answer you've given too many times already.

Eventually we <okay more like they> figure it's around 1.5 juliène to the <gensokyan> yen. I pull out my wallet from my backpack, and open it up. They both crowd in, peering at my student ID card and my moped license, which I explain to them the purpose of. Apparently people here still carry full-sheet identification with them. Although the way they're excitedly scribbling down notes during my explanation, maybe that'll change in a while.

I don't find it very distracting. After all, I went through a lot of this with the kappa just a little while after we came to Gensokyo. ...Oh gods, I would kill for a chococucumber, right now.

After shaking off that brief but potent stab of homesickness, I realize they're politely waiting for... Oh, right. Money. I pull out ¥2500— two 1000-yen bills and a 500-yen coin —and right away, more questions. Natsume Soseki; he's very famous in the place I came from before I came to Gensokyo. It was called Japan. He was a novelist. "One thousand" in numbers. The same thing, just in kanji. A seal. I'd show you mine but I didn't think I'd need it. Those are cranes. Well, yes, they're sort of large, but not— They're about this big, I think. Yes, that's all. It says "five hundred". That's the year of the Era it was minted in. Of the emperor. No, just Japan. ...Those are bamboo leaves, and I don't remem— wait, the other ones are branches from an orange tree, I think. "Japan" and "Five hundred yen."

It takes them a little while to ooh and ahh over the money, and then I make the mistake of mentioning security features <dumb dumb sanae>.

...Several minutes and questions for which I was pretty unqualified to anwer later, Keshti hands me ℐ3750. Well, after I ask Elis, and she looks at Keshti, he looks at her, and then she elbows him, then he quietly grumbles and pulls out some kind of... it's like a checkbook meets a purse; thin, made of "wood", and with a little locking clasp on the edge.

"Sorry it's boring," Elis says, as her ...boy <augh no get out of my head> hands me fifteen round coins, each about a couple centimeters across, and made of some kind of faintly red-colored metal.

There's a ...thing on "heads" side which I can only describe as a thin praying mantis with cow ears and walrus tusks in a ratty-looking cloak. Somehow, it manages to look stately despite all that. I'm told it's "the late industrial archaeologist Speltz". Impossibly tiny Makaian script runs along the edge of each coin, and feels like it's faintly vibrating <even though its not>. The back of the coin has what I now recognize as the Makaian numerals 2 <kind of like a sickly capital p>, 5 <like a little broom or something or maybe a weird leaf>, and 0 <a sort of square spiral> against a background of a whole bunch of overlapping circles in weird, random patterns.

I make appropriate noises of interest and ask polite questions in return. I don't ask about a transaction fee; not when they've changed it at one-to-one rates, and it's all clearly here. And I'm pretty sure the payment for this was, like so many things here, simply the opportunity to do it.

A good deal of this new cash says that this is probably not how the rest of Makai works. Or at least, blood contracts are nice, but money is less tricky. And safer. ...Gods, money as a survival mechanism? That's a heck of a societal developmental... thing.

After I put them away, Elis looks me over, and doesn't look happy. "...Kochiya, I've been debating how to bring this up, but I suppose I'll say it outright. There's a very big problem with you going to Dis."

"Yes?" I say, concerned... but in the distance, a ways off. I'm having concern mill about in my head, but I'm feeling it far, far away. Aware of it, at least.

"You look like shit."

[ ] Thinks 'bout that for a second. Girl wonders what Elis is seein'.
[ ] Takes umbrage with them words. She don't care for that sorta' remark.
[ ] Inquires further, regardin' this. Asks if she might care to elaborate?
[ ] Already knew that. Besides, it ain't like she didn't plan for it.


>4 comparisons to Calvinball, 2 of which were on IRC
I'm both unsurprised and distressed. Unsurprised because that was also pretty much the thought going through my head when I wrote it, but distressed because I was aiming for Mornington Crescent (thus the name).

I did not. But I'm really not too surprised, since you don't get put on paper money just because you wrote a few best-sellers. I'd like to read the Cat book, though; it sounded interesting.
[X] Inquires further, regardin' this. Asks if she might care to elaborate?

Oi, you. Come back to IRC. No, not that one. The other one, with the cool kids, so I don't have to keep calling you in threads.
[x] Thinks 'bout that for a second. Girl wonders what Elis is seein'.
Surely almost dying made Sanae look incredibly attractive. With all those recently closed wounds and magically set bones, its a miracle she's moving around like nothing hapenned at this point.
[x] Inquires further, regardin' this. Asks if she might care to elaborate?

She agrees, but she also probably wonders what is the most distinctive feature of her recently-gained uglyness
[X] Already knew that. Besides, it ain't like she didn't plan for it.
[x] Inquires further, regardin' this. Asks if she might care to elaborate?
[x] Inquires further, regardin' this. Asks if she might care to elaborate?

Most likely this isn't as straightforward as Elis is making it seem. And even if it is just Sanae flat-out looking like crap, this seems the best way of figuring out how to remedy that.

I wonder where a certain [someone]'s off to.
[x] Takes umbrage with them words. She don't care for that sorta' remark.
Why the fuck not?
File 134872904848.png - (311.73KB, 847x764, it is extensive.png) [iqdb]
The next post is a lot wider longer than anticipated. Also first week of school ha ha ha aaaargh.

So please wait at the temperature you prefer.
File 134915876287.jpg - (132.52KB, 512x384, Tatterdemalion.jpg) [iqdb]
[∫] Inquires further, regardin' this. Asks if she might care to elaborate?

Wow. She would never make it in Japan with a direct attitude like that.

...Still, we aren't in Japan. Very much not in Japan, and very much in her world, so I should probably defer to her views on the situation. And also maybe explain what they mean.

"...Pardon?" I ask toning my voice carefully. No need to sound indignant. Yet.

"...Do you have any idea what you look like, right now? I don't know if it's because I've had my morning tea, or I'm finally getting a look at you in good light, but you look like a stong chewed you up and spat you out."

"Like a wheat thresher, only twice as big and more cuddly," supplies Keshti, apparently seeing the question forming in my head after a few moments of confusion <how helpful>. Hold on, more cuddly? ...Whatever.

"I don't think I'm really all that badye gods." I look down at myself, and my skeptical denial dies an early death as the horror of my appearance is revealed to me. I am dirty, I am bruised, I am wearing very nice-quality rags. My belt and pack are intact, but that's because they were made durable to begin with.

<wait i think>

Fingers rustle through dirty, matted green hair, hold it out in front of me. I agree with Elis' assessment twice over.

<there is something very important dont let go keep on this train of thought>

Letting my thoughts keep going, I continue to look myself over. I don't look ugly or broken, just sort of ...battered and torn. I could probably pass for a girl on the cover of some doujinshi <there that was it>

...My eyes widen.

I had that thought before. I know I did. Not in that elusive déjà vu way, either; I remember specifically having it when I'd just landed. How could I have forgotten that I looked this awful? How could they not have noticed, either? It's not like this house is some dimly lit cave; I know there was adequate light.

Again, I have that feeling/distant feeling, sort of like when Elis asked me about the white woman: far away and removed, but still felt, still aware of it. Rather than fear and panic, this is ...a knot of worry, of uncertainty, of confusion. But because of its distance, I can think about it with careful thoughts, not plagued ones <mostly>.

[What's everyone looking at you for?]

"I hadn't noticed, either," I lie. And like I noticed earlier, I'm not as banged up. ...Well, no, I'm still banged up. But I hurt less, the pain is ...somewhere. Kinda here, but I know, I know I should be worse off.

[...Ohhhh. Well, nobody's screaming, so whatever.]

I reflect, briefly, that the inability to panic, even if only partially, is ironically a pretty scary thought.
File 134915884130.png - (16.76KB, 220x372, Was I not clear the first time.png) [iqdb]
The last thing I want to do is make things worse, though. "Thanks for pointing it out," I say, feeling weird as I have to pretend to act sheepish. I feel large and awkward, somehow, faking this.

"Thanks, nothing. Take your clothes off, already," says the demon woman, waving impatiently.

I lean back slightly, raising an eyebrow. Keshti, slowly turns his head to the side, staring at her. A few seconds go by until Elis realizes she's the focus of two incredulous looks. "What? ...Oh, Servant cut me. Take them off so I can fix them." She flicks Keshti on the forehead, knocking him into a <jumbled> sitting position on the couch behind him. "I'd expect confusion from her, but you..."

And here, her grin morphs into what you'd really only call a leer if you wanted to be super-polite. "...You, of all people, should know me better than that." It's followed by that same godawful giggle she made earlier <i thought we were done with this dammiiiiiit>.

At least there's no lilt.

I clear my throat, which gets her attention. Men might talk with their fists, but if that went on any longer, women would be silencing each other with theirs <also i would surely get my ass kicked but if thats the price i pay then so be it>. Well, I'd have tried to, at any rate. "Do you have something for me to wear in the mean time?"

...What does a bathrobe for someone with wings look like? Probably like her clothes right now, I suppose. But a bathrobe is supposed to be something you shrug on because you can't be bothered to mess around with proper clothes.

"Nothing, obviously." the blonde replies. "Don't tell me you're that afraid of being naked."

Okay, I'm not going to rise to this one. No reaction, no question, no weird looks. I face her, calmly, waiting for that to make sense, because it's a joke or she's not telling me the whole thing, or... something.

From the corner of my eye, I note that Keshti's still on the couch. Can't make out much more than that, so I don't know what excuse he's planning to use. Concussion, maybe? Would that I could be so lucky.

It takes a good ten seconds before she concludes with, "...Go take a shower."

Theeeere's the missing piece, thank you. And without being very testy about it, either.
File 134915887610.jpg - (506.99KB, 1024x768, Proper use of product.jpg) [iqdb]
After she asked if any of my clothing was blessed <bandaged fingers promote forethought>, I replied with, "No," and immediately followed it up with, "So what was the hint for tracking magic that you mentioned?" Dangerous things are happening when she's allowed to ask me questions or make statements, so I won't take that chance.

I stop outside the bathroom door, pack slung over my shoulder, unwilling to go in before I get an answer.

"Do the initial casting in a circle; cuts down on outside influence."

And that seems to be all I'll get. Fine by me.

I go into the bathroom, and flick the light switch on with a loud clack! The light comes on slowly, like last time, and I shut the door behind me, making sure to lock it.

Less wondering and looking around, this time. Old bathroom, about a century or more out of date. Clean. A little dim. Still has an electrical outlet. A closer look shows me that it's not a style I'm familiar with: two round pins and a single thin, vertical pin a little bit between the two <like a big eyed version of a monitor power cords outlet>.

Going over to the cabinet, I find towels inside, and room enough to store my backpack and haraegushi, for the time being. After untying my boots and unfastening my belt, I lay these alongside the pack, as well.

On the shower side of the folding screen, I remove the snake-coil and frog pin from my hair. Quickly, I strip out of my clothes and marvel at their condition— filthy, ragged, torn, and in places, blood-stained. No, this isn't something I just casually forgot. Something happened, I'm sure of it; something was done. I don't know what or how, but it did. Must have. I wasn't so out of it that I forgot, was I <no way>?

But neither of them reacted immediately, either, I think. Heck, Elis was able to recognize it as a shrine maiden's outfit, or at least spot enough of a passing resemblance to Reimu's clothes.

And that doesn't explain how I'm not in much worse shape than I am right now. I should be more bruised, swollen, and battered-looking. Tip-toeing on cold tile around the screen, I look over my nude body, and wince. I certainly don't look like I'd just lost a fight to Bob Sapp, which I most likely should. Probably. I've never jumped off a flying ship before.

I still don't look like a beauty queen, though: bruises are all over my body, decorating it in an unhealthy, irregular pattern of ugly colors. There are more than a few scars and only-recently-closed cuts, two or three trails of dried blood, and I still don't like the way some of my ribs feel when I poke them. My earlier first aid attempts seem to have gotten the worst of it, though, so I remove those bandages and wrappings, revealing more wounds.

Except I feel fine.

Okay, Mostly fine. A bit of aching, and fooling with any of my numerous injuries isn't very fun, but the level of pain and the present severity of the damage... It should be worse. I don't want to complain, but this won't stop bugging me. I mean, all I did was say...


They say Makai is good for magic, isn't it? I did do a little bit of magic on myself, after I woke up; some light healing and pain-killing, sure. But in all honesty, those "spells" are little more than charms, lullabies, rhymes like you sing to children to take their mind away from something. They've got a flicker of magic behind them, and sure, they had a noticeable effect. But it's not like you can just cast Cure on yourself and restore your lost HP.

...And that's not what's happening with me here, either. Really, it's like somebody wa ell isn't real, sadly. But gods, wouldn't it be an awesome spell to have, though? Bleeding out? Cure! Broken bones? Cure! Just got shot? Cure!

It's both depressing and irritating to learn that even though magic is real, it still can't top a video game. ...Then again, I've seen so much danmaku that offensive spells aren't really very impressive anymore, by comparison.

Though I guess they don't need to be, as long as they get the job done. Danmaku is meant to be fancy, showy, elaborate, and <mostly> harmless. If you just need to set someone on fire, you're going to want to do it as quick and effectively as you can. ...Gods, that's probably how most magical fights here work, since they don't have danmaku.

Even Elis' gift of innocence can't keep the dread from affecting me as I recall, again, the harsh, ugly truth of my situation: A serious confrontation with any of these demons could very well cost me my life.

It doesn't hit me with the same horrible force that it did before, at least. Still, it acts as a welcome dousing of cold water over my thoughts and other fears, allowing me steer my mind away from babbling and distractions, and to focus on the important things ahead of me.

...Like the demon lying in wait just outside the door, ready to snatch my clothes away.

Best to get it over with and move on, right <right>? Taking my folded-up rags/clothes, I walk across the floor to the door, bare feet chilled slightly by the cool tile. Keeping my body very definitely behind the door, I open it just wide enough to squeeze the stack of clothing through it.

Hands with bandaged fingers take it from me, and from the other side the voice of my host says, "Go ahead and use whatever you need, Kochiya. The shampoo's the green stuff, conditioner's in the red bottle, body wash is in the bubbly-looking purple vial, and lubricant is in the square box. Clean razors are in the curved tray, and there's a lather dispenser next to it. Towels are in the linen cabinet, and toys are in the pink box. Just wash them when you're done~"
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...More and more, I grow convinced that she is messing with me, yet I can't find anything showing she's being anything but honest ad hospitable <i wonder how much it would hurt if i drove my hand through this door right now and grabbed her probably a whole lot but that would be fine i think>. Well, aside from the spice thing.

"Thank you," I hiss, tone only barely qualifying as polite. Someone hard of hearing might have bought it.

Elis, unaware or uncaring of my intense discomfort <bordering teetering impinging upon disgust>, sends back a cheery, "Go ahead and take your time! The better off you look, the more success you'll have~" and strolls away from the door. I stare at the door a little while longer, and run that through my mind a few times.

I was wrong. She does know subtlety. She just doesn't apply it when she should— using it to comfort and ease worries is really not... it's a bad idea.

To me.

Stalking back across the bathroom and around the screen, I take in the bathtub. Which is also the shower.

Even with the lack of a proper shower stall in here leaving only one other option, I'm not exactly stupid: the suspended ring above the tub with a pale, bunched-up curtain hanging from it on hooks isn't there just because someone splashes in the tub something fierce, and that big, flat metal thing with all the holes in it hanging over the tub with a pipe attached to it is probably not just some kind of stationary watering can.

The trick is figuring out how it works.

Coming to stand next to it, the first thing that catches my eye is not even part of the tub itself. Lying low, just out of sight on on the far side of the tub is a small stand made up of several terraced trays all attached to each other. It looks too organic to be ceramic, but too pale to be wood... normal wood, anyway. It's home to numerous colorful bottles, jars, and containers <both mamas have a collection like this that they think i dont know about>; most ceramic or glass, no plastic. Many are unlabeled, and those that aren't are in Makaian.

And there's what looks like a bar of soap; maybe the same one that's missing from the sink.

With Elis' words in mind, I pluck out the bar of soap and the few bottles I need, set them down on the empty uppermost tray, and very firmly ignore the rest of the contents of the little stand. I can't pretend that I don't notice the square, velvet-colored box with a decidedly fancier style of Makaian script adorning it, or the edge of a pink box peeking out from underneath the underneath the stand <urgh>.

[Ooooh, pretty colors~ Now where's that toybox?]

Pointedly turning away from the stand to face the tub, I note with faint surprise that the innocence-magic must have finally adapted to "disgust", as the thought of her casually given offer doesn't make my stomach turn anymore. It's no more appealing than it was before, not by a long shot, but I no longer feel that revulsion as intensely. Cautiously, I test this theory out, and close my eyes, recalling exactly what she said.

...Really, the only thing that I feel is a sense of passing dislike and polite refusal, as though I'd just been offered a can of red bean soup from a vending machine <i dont know what happens during the canning process but it just tastes so bleah>. I should be two seconds away from throwing up, but... it's more like a "Oh, no thanks," instead.

[—Oh my. It seems I greatly underestimated demon hospitality. ...I thought she meant like a rubber ducky, or a boat. Hmm.]

I'm even sufficiently unbothered by it that before I can stop them from doing so, my thoughts make the relevance-jump over to my own, um, needs. Which, thank all the gods, are not particularly outstanding right now. My encounter with the white woman, the fall, the realization of where I am and what that means, and all of the revelations of today have shoved my libido to the far, far back seat. Although if this horribly doomed incident-resolution venture hadn't gone horribly awry, I... probably might have seen to that.

We have a very carefully unspoken, three-way agreement back at the Shrine <nobody asks why every now and then i take longer than normal to wash up before taking a bath nobody asks kana-mama what she talks with her tengu friend about or why the door is closed locked and silenced first and nobody asks suwa-mama what shes been up to when she takes an adult form and seems to be in such a good mood> that covers these sorts of situations. We're all adults <by varying definitions>, and we're all equally guilty.

Yanking the train of thought off those rails, I notice that I'm barely even blushing right now. I feel embarrassed, very much so, but only in my head. The physical signs aren't there at all. ...I should be a wreck right now; I shouldn't have been able to even think those thoughts, even rushed and jumbled like that.

The unpleasant suspicion occurs to me that "innocence" doesn't mean the same thing to a demon that it does to a human.
File 134915960862.png - (44.15KB, 199x302, splish-splash etc_.png) [iqdb]
For now, shower. Focus, scatterbrain. Paranoia later, when it won't seem ungrateful.

Kneeling down at the bathtub's side, everything makes... kind-of sense. I'm used to a more modern layout, but it's not hard to decipher. Big white tub, hot-water knob, cold-water knob, faucet, and where is... oh. There's no drain switch, you actually have to —pop— yes, pull out that rubbery thing that's wedged in the drain. A few long, stray red and gold strands cling to the chain attached to the stopper as I set it back down next to the drain hole.

I reach for the hot water knob, then pause, and get up just enough to pull out the shower curtains. They feel like gati, but thicker and slicker, more oily. Tugging them around the oblong metal loop, they form a wall that lines the inside of the tub. Now that I'm sure I won't spray water everywhere, I twist the hot water on... and it comes out the faucet.

Around then, I notice a little clay placard above a small lever on the wall. There are no words, just little illustrations of the lever down and an arrow pointing to a running faucet, and the lever up and an arrow pointing to sprinkles coming out of the flat metal not-a-watering-can fixture. The illustrations are clearly homemade, but smoother and neater than the ones Elis made <thanks keshti>.

The lever is down. I reach over and pull it up. The is a clunk; the water stops. There is a humming, a whirring the ceiling, a click, and then <gahhh> I was perfectly prepared for the spray of still-cool water that began soaking my head from above.

[...Everything okay?]

"Nothing unexpected," I mumble under my breath. There's a s hcloth and my haraegushi from the cabinet, then walk back over and set the latter down on the top tray as well, right beside the shampoo and other bottles. I climb into the steaming shower and close the curtains, but leave enough of a gap facing the stand that I could grab my symbol of office in an instant, if I needed to.

Psycho, sleepover during year two of middle school <ive kept something in arms reach whenever I use a shower ever since>. Stupid Hitchcock and his stupid freaky movie.

I soap myself down, and scrub myself with the washcloth over every inch, even the too-tender spots that still hurt like ow. I shampoo, I condition, I wash my face a second time.

I stand under the stream of water for a few minutes, just enjoying feeling warm and clean and good.

And alone and lost and scared.

The innocence magic doesn't blunt any of that, it turns out.

And I hate that and I'm thankful for that.

I cry.

Kneeling in the tub, elbows on the edge, pinning the shower curtains against the rim, I let myself experience in full the depths of my uncertainty.
File 134915964747.png - (457B, 500x500, Misted.png) [iqdb]
It doesn't feel good.

It doesn't make things clearer.

It doesn't leave me feeling like my burden's been lightened.

But it's something I need to do:

In this moment
At some measure of peace
Hidden away

if I do not understand what is before me, I will be unable to deal with the truth of the matter.

So I cry.

And cry.

The shower was a good place to do this.

Tub, curtains, air, steam, water, heat; they close around me, wrap about me, encircle me.

I could even believe that I feel arms holding me, cautiously, awkwardly, nervously.


It helped, because now I know.

Only I can save me.

There may be others that help, but I am alone.

Having accepted this, I at last understand my situation at all levels of the matter.

I already knew this. But the knowing and truly understanding are two shores that can't be seen from one another.
File 134915969990.png - (189.72KB, 285x300, Degas painted way too many of these.png) [iqdb]
After I crawl over my fear and sorrow and loneliness and out of the vale of tears, I tu ep out of the shower, and realize they don't have any bathmats. That's sort-of okay for them; the floor here of the bathroom is canted slightly, and leads to a drain. Not as fine for me, since most of the tile's wet from the steam.

I grab Elis' towel <its got a star and the other one has a pen> and dry off, taking my time. There's a smaller towel, similarly marked, and I wrap my hair up in that. It's not going to look great— I'm going to be out and on the road in ...not too much longer. I don't know how long, specifically; Elis wasn't through with me, yet, I think.

Who'd have thought being doomed involved being so busy?

In mid-dry, the door opens— she knocks, but barely waits —and Elis slips in. Her first step or two is silent, but then the sound of shoes on tile echoes through the steam-filled room. I wrap the towel around me hastily, not even bothering to make indignant noises or complaints. I don't think it'd do much good <so there nyeeeeh>.

She walks around the screen and hands me my clothes, which I accept, shivering slightly as a brush of cool air blows past me and raises goosebumps on my bare arms. "Fixed, repaired, and mended. Sorry if you liked the ragamuffin look." The demon seems slightly proud of herself.

I snort quietly, and accept them from her, my body half-bent to the side as I keep one elbow pressed close and holding the towel shut while my arms are occupied. "Thank you," I tell her, bowing as best I can, trying not to let the other towel fall off my head. I look for a place to set them down, and can't immediately find a flat, non-wet surface in my immediate reach.

Elis takes pity on me, plucks the bundle back out of my hands, and begins hanging them over the screen. I start to thank her again... and then my gratitude grinds to a halt <hits the brakes pretty hard at least>.

They haven't been cleaned very much. The worst of the grime and scuffing is gone, as are the bloodstains. But they still look like they've been worn for several days in a row <its like someone cleaned it then made it casually dirty>.

My glare rests upon the blonde woman as she hangs up my socks.

[ ] Asks what the possible meanin' of this might be. Dame's got a reason for this, she hopes.
[ ] Fixin' to thump 'er one. Lady better come clean, 'cause the clothes sure as hell ain't.
[ ] Holds her tongue a spell and wonders. Batty Betty's done this right intentional, yeah?
[ ] Can't be arsed to arsk. 'Least she fixed 'em up good as new... well, sorta new.


I'm glad to say I actually worked on this most days.
I'm less glad about how it just got larger and larger and larger and why do I keep having more ideas goddamn
[x]Holds her tongue a spell and wonders. Batty Betty's done this right intentional, yeah?
[x] Clarifies what the meanin' of this might be. Girl has a feeling of what the dame's reason for this is. She just needs to confirm it.

Personally, I'm guessing this is to Sanae's advantage somehow, probably for sympathy points from the local populace. Would be best to clarify that in a non accusatory manner, though.
[x]Holds her tongue a spell and wonders. Batty Betty's done this right intentional, yeah?
[x] Clarifies what the meanin' of this might be. Girl has a feeling of what the dame's reason for this is. She just needs to confirm it.
[x] Holds her tongue a spell and wonders. Batty Betty's done this right intentional, yeah?

Obviously, if she truly wants to appear like an onje, then she needs to look the part. Anything that makes her stand out is off-limits.

Common sense, Sanae.

Still, Elis is not nearly as nice as she appears. As all demons are I guess.
[X] Holds her tongue a spell and wonders. Batty Betty's done this right intentional, yeah?

Also, I love how these options sound exactly like my accent.
Wait, if her 'Demonc innocence' makes the signs of feelings to not appear in her exterior, she could be doing something horrible yet appear eerily calm?
[x] Holds her tongue a spell and wonders. Batty Betty's done this right intentional, yeah?

Is Kanako's tengu friend called Grey?
Also, adding on:
[X] Girl's had enough teasin', asks the lady just how people do the doing around these parts.

That's twice now Elis has very deliberately brought the subject up, and her smirks imply she knows just how uncomfortable it makes Sanae. Trying to make a point? Better ask now before we stumble into an orgy and have a meltdown or something.
[x] Holds her tongue a spell and wonders. Batty Betty's done this right intentional, yeah?
[x] Girl's had enough teasin',asks the lady just how people do the doing around these parts.
File 13496001188.png - (224.66KB, 600x600, 22341567_p47.png) [iqdb]
Did you mean this one? It's hard to tell; pixiv doesn't like me, and it's numbering its images two different ways.
File 134973418189.jpg - (61.17KB, 500x160, the letter of the description if not the spirit.jpg) [iqdb]
[⊅] Holds her tongue a spell and wonders. Batty Betty's done this right intentional, yeah?
[}] Clarifies what the meanin' of this might be. Girl has a feeling of what the dame's reason for this is. She just needs to confirm it.

My body begins to draw breath in preparation for some well-deserved bitching when <wait no dont say anything> I stop, hesitating <its definitely another trick probably i think> for a moment, then decide to let it go.

And I look. And watch. And think.

It's not sloppiness. These were cleaned of only the worst things, and then, yes, made a little more grubby. So it's certainly something she's done on purpose.

[Oh, the towels are over there, right.]

A we ntion back to the matter at hand.

It's not a long-term prank, not something that will make things worse for me <she wants me to succeed>. She is going out of her way, doing things to help me <because she wants her letter delivered>, throwing me every last little thing that's in her power to help increase my chances.

Well. On my own terms <and that suits me just fine>.

If it was consciously done, not a prank, and not carelessness, then this can only be something done for my benefit.

[Ooh, these're fluffy~]

"...It's camouflage, isn't it."

Elis places the last article of clothing up there, and turns to face me with a sly look. She remains silent.

I tap my right hand against my bared thigh as I speak, the words coming slowly as I try to vocalize the thoughts still popping into my head. "Onje ...they aren't well liked, that's pretty clear. So I would predict that ...well, they probably stay away from civilization, a lot of the time. Maybe not all of them, of course. They do have to go into town sometimes, I'm sure, but they don't do it if they can avoid it."

The tapping stops as I glance at Elis. Her only response is to maintain her expression, and fold her arms. I don't know if I'm right so far, completely wrong, or if she's just waiting for me to finish so she can criticize it at the end in a single go <thats totally what shell do>. Meh, whatever.

"Because of this, onje have to take care of themselves and their belongings most of the time. So most peoples' concept of them are poor humans with limited resources and services. They look worn, grubby, and probably a bit shady."

Still no reaction <dammit woman just say something stop watching me watch you watching me trying not to squirm>. I start tapping again as I launch into pure, unsupported speculation.

"Onje are painfully aware of this, and try not to look like suspicious, dangerous types. They take care of themselves, but there's still a gap that can't be bridged. Also, what up with you constantly bringing up all the lewd talk?" <wow i tacked that on there way smoother than i thought i could>

I get the great <and make no mistake its very great> satisfaction of startling her as the words get processed. It's replaced by her usual smirk, but at least I still scored a point <kochiya 1 elis too many for her and my own good>. So there.
File 134973424319.jpg - (64.00KB, 492x444, it was this or the shadowdancer one.jpg) [iqdb]
The demon sketches the briefest of curtsies after recovering. "More or less, Kochiya. You're beginning to get a grasp of how things work around here. However, there are a few things you missed—" <ha knew i had you pegged> "—that I should like to correct." <knew i did>

She holds a finger up. "But, before that I'll just tell you that things like me hinting about having good time, with or without my boy? ...Well, remember breakfast? ...specifically, the spice?"

"Of course I do." <gods how could i forget> I'm about to ask her why, but again, think about what she's getting at. I can see her hidden grin, the one not sitting on her face, as she reads my sudden silence and contemplative expression. This one's not very difficult, at least. "...It's preparation? But you're overdoing it so it doesn't take me by surprise later." <and lewd implications arent the only thing shes showed me i still remember that wandslap like it was nothing and all the other things>

That wide, sunny grin shows itself at last, and she ruffles my hair. It feels more than a little strange with her bandages. "Atta girl, Kochiya~ For someone who's been in Makai barely a day, you're picking up on things quite well!"

"A-ha. It's nothing, really," I say, trying not to look bashful. I can feel myself scratching my chin and gods maybe my life is a manga. If that's the case, Mr. Artist, please add in a tall, dark stranger, somewhere? Not one that looks too much older than me; Kana-mama would have a fit. Thank you.

She shakes her head. "No, really, you're doing pretty well. Don't deflect a compliment, by the way; it's bad form." <but just accepting it seems kind of arrogant doesnt it> "...And that brings me neatly back to what I wanted to say. Onje are more accepted in some parts than others, but I'll cover that in a bit. So no, they aren't always staying out of town. On the other hand, it's quite true that mistrust and a low opinion of onje is very widespread. So yes, onje are —for the most part— expected to look shabby at best."

"And the ones who have crisp new clothes without any frayed edges are fresh meat, huh."

The demon dips her head. "Have you ever been to prison, Kochiya?" She gets her answer from my look alone, and shrugs. "Well, it's sort of like that. Get in somebody's group, or learn to sleep with one eye open. And do it quick." <well that just paints a wonderful picture doesnt it>

...I'm still taking in everything she's saying, but I pray fervently that I won't need to heed much or any of it, that I'll be gone and out of here once I get to Dis. These people are in charge of history, right? Special-access passes to look into things? My chances can't be that miserable.

"And the other problem is that you still look far too much like Hakurei for your own good." Oh damn, important things being said, time to re-focus. Elis looks me over, but it's like she bit into a lemon. A rotten lemon. "That... really... won't do."

[Did you know that you and Hakurei are the only two miko I've ever seen that dress like this? She's totally right~]

"I have a plan." <i think i have a plan> ...I sure hope I do.


"Probably definitely!" <no i do but i hope it works>

Elis does not look convinced in the slightest, but starts heading towards the door. "Well, in case your plan doesn't go as expected, my advice is to lose the sleeves and open up your shirt a bit. The less you look like her, the better." She steps out into the hall, then turns back. "Keep that stick out of sight, too, unless it's really important."

"Okay." It's probably a sound suggestion, but right now I just want her out so I can get dressed.

She shuts the door, but I wait about ten seconds, just in case.

Nothing happens. Good.

Then I get dressed.

[ ] Puts it off for the moment. There ain't anything wrong with wearin' her kit in full indoors, is there?
[ ] Figures she best get in the habit now. Girl skips the sleeves, Blue Island-style.
[ ] Holsters her piece. No sense in makin' folks jittery, now.
[ ] Carries it openly. 'Cold, dead hands' and all 'a that.


That means you are either Logan Cunningham or possibly Sam Elliot.


[Ah, if only this mirror weren't so terribly fogged over.]
[x] Figures she best get in the habit now. Girl skips the sleeves, Blue Island-style.
[x] Carries it openly. 'Cold, dead hands' and all 'a that.

Not having the sleeves will have to be enough of a difference from Reimu's outfit for the moment. As for the haraegushi, even apart from the benefits of its defensive capabilities:
>"...that little stick of yours looks different enough from Hakurei's that I don't think it'll draw attention..."

Elis's own words here. >>10415
[X] Figures she best get in the habit now. Girl skips the sleeves, Blue Island-style.
[X] Holsters her piece. No sense in makin' folks jittery, now.
[X] Figures she best get in the habit now. Girl skips the sleeves, Blue Island-style.
[X] Holsters her piece. No sense in makin' folks jittery, now.
[x] Figures she best get in the habit now. Girl skips the sleeves, Blue Island-style.
[x] Carries it openly. 'Cold, dead hands' and all 'a that.
[X] Figures she best get in the habit now. Girl skips the sleeves, Blue Island-style.
[X] Holsters her piece. No sense in makin' folks jittery, now.
That looks like what Koishi would be if drawn by Dali

[x] Figures she best get in the habit now. Girl skips the sleeves, Blue Island-style.
[x] Holsters

No sense to do otherwise
File 13498763642.jpg - (175.75KB, 894x894, koishi_komeiji_desu_ne.jpg) [iqdb]
[x] Holsters & [x] Figures

>That looks like what Koishi would be if drawn by Dali
Oh. Oh. Okay, now lots of things make more sense. To me it just looked like watercolor sins, sluicing and draining away.

Here, have more vaguely Picassoid Touhou: http://www.pixiv.net/member_illust.php?mode=manga_big&illust_id=22341567&page=47

(For anyone who is still confused, or alternately is reading this via the archive: this URL was obtained from a bit.ly link referenced in a QR code [spoiler]PTkW6m in the image in >>10719.)[/spoiler]
File 135000646043.png - (668.55KB, 500x500, as if to contradict my words.png) [iqdb]
[青] Figures she best get in the habit now. Girl skips the sleeves, Blue Island-style.
[ý] Holsters her piece. No sense in makin' folks jittery, now.

I forgo the sleeves like Elis suggests, and it feels weird, like an important piece is missing. ...Well, that's pretty much exactly the case; I am missing an important piece of my outfit. It's a little cooler, and— after rubbing away the fog in the mirror —it looks a lot more different than usual.

[Ah, there we go. Thanks~]

However, once I do so, I not re arms on either side frame my torso, and draw attention to my chest. I got over being self-conscious about my body after my first year in Gensokyo, but this... walking around in this just might make me backslide. I'm not particularly lacking— heck, I solidly trump Reimu and Marisa both in that department <probably more to do with modern outside diet vs traditional gensokyan>. But I'm not even close to Kana-mama, Ms. Kamishirasawa, or Dr. Yagokoro.

Nevertheless, it draws the eyes. My reflection's face sours as I tentatively undo a few of the buttons hidden under the fold of blue trim that goes down either side of the middle of my shirt <oh gods noooo>. Nope. Nope, nope, nope, nooooope. That's too much for my lewdometer, thanks. One button. That's it.

...Nnngh. Fine, two. Ugh. Even this feels like more than I should show off. I try rumpling the fabric a little, and step back. No, don't strike the magazine poses. Try to look tough. I throw out a few shonen-manga one-liners.

I... I guess it works <not going to tell elis that though>. Actually.

Still feels waaaay too weird.

Sighing, I pick up a comb made from some kind of animal horn, polished smooth. Suwa-mama has a set like these made from yak horn. Hers weren't this shade of milky red, but they felt just the same. Taking the towel off my head, I carefully comb it out as best I can. There are a lot more snags and snarls than I usually deal with, so it's slow, occasionally-painful going.

After that's done, I arrange it as close to my usual 'do as I can get, affix the frog clip, slip a thick lock of hair through the tube, and and wind the snake coil around the rest of it. I pause before putting the comb back, as I look at the green strands now adorning it.

I remember the conversation about blood, and the one about tracking spells. It doesn't seem... unlikely that hair would work for some of these things, now that I think about it.
[Hmm. I didn't figure you to be this OCD. Another thing for the dossier, I guess~]

About twenty minutes later, having gone over every possible inch of the bathroom that I've used, I hold a thin bundle of damp green hair pinched between my fingers. Idly, I wonder what Elis and Keshti think I'm doing <and what are they doing>.

...I really hope they aren't thinking things like that <or gods forbid doing them>. ...No
File 135000655031.jpg - (17.62KB, 400x300, maybe it's not maybelline.jpg) [iqdb]
[Hmm. I didn't figure you to be this OCD. Another thing for the dossier, I guess~]

About twenty minutes later, having gone over every possible inch of the bathroom that I've used, I hold a thin bundle of damp green hair pinched between my fingers. Idly, I wonder what Elis and Keshti think I'm doing <and what are they doing>.

...I really hope they aren't thinking things like that <or gods forbid doing them>. ...No, we just had that talk, and she's got more tact than that. I think. There are limits to pranks <who said a humans limits are a demons limits>.

That's a lovely and uncomfortable thought.

Bunching the hair up into a ball, I stuff it into an unused pouch on my belt. Good for tinder, if nothing else. ...Flint and steel, that's something else I should have brought. Or one of those knock-off lighters the kappa make. ...Honestly, 'Zappo'? What's next, WcDonald's? ...Actually, that's... Hmm.

[You look so serious.]

I wonder how well that would go over in town. It wouldn't be even close to the real thing, but it wouldn't be totally impossible to get an approximation of the popular menu items. Kana-mama might actually go for this. Shouldn't bring it up too soon after I get back, though; it'll be kinda weird. 'Oh Sanae, thank heavens you're back!' 'I'm glad to be home, Lady Kanako, but listen, I had this idea about bringing fast food to Gensokyo.'

I start to giggle, but an uncomfortable pang of loneliness and sadness goes through me as I continue to dwell on thoughts of home. It's... Right, I need to get going.

Packing up, I stuff my haraegushi into my pack after carefully removing the paper wedged into the top and the attached streamers. It's as durable as can be when I'm holding it, but not for very long after. Apparently Elis changed her mind between now and earlier. Maybe she just doesn't want to take chances.

Kinda weird, not having it on hand, though. Knowing I won't be able to bring it between me and ...whatever terrible things roam Makai; I'm sure there are plenty <like that eyeball tongue thing eugh>, it makes me a little nervous. But that, too, is put at a distance from me. ...Of course, I've got my ofuda, and those aren't just for show.

"Time to get going."

[What, already? Waaaait!]

Walking toward the door, I stumble for a second but regain my footing. I ought to be careful; tile isn't known for good traction.
File 135000688843.jpg - (39.18KB, 520x320, central operations and cavorting.jpg) [iqdb]
Elis and Keshti have been busy while I was in there, it seems <but not in that way>. In the sitting room, they've got what look like maps and sheets of gati with large Makaian writing all over it. They're talking quietly back and forth, shuffling sheets back and forth, occasionally looking at the map. Keshti seems especially overworked.

...Hold on.

That's not stress. He's blushing, and I'm pretty sure his hair was a little better groomed during breakfast <well maybe in that way a little>. Save for that, it does look like they were hard at work the whole time I was in there. There are a few boxes that weren't here before, with what looks like more maps and folders of who knows what. The whole scene isn't something they could have set up in five minutes <half and half then>.

I fervently pray that Elis is just more... kind of... has a higher libido than usual. I don't want to have to fend off amorous demons with some kind of onje fetish <gods please dont let that be a thing here either>. If someone here tries to touch me like that, I'll...

Okay. They get one warning. Accidents happen, drunks are a universal fact of life, and I'm betting this place isn't much different. After that, well... I'll be able to say, with a clear conscience, that I warned them.

Might be a good idea to ask if there's a self-defense clause for felonies. And if it applies to onje.

The blonde looks up, but doesn't bother to act surprised. "We're just about ready," she says, picking up a sealed roll of gati. "Unless you're of a mind to just find your own way there?"

"No." My firm response doesn't make a dent in her smile <jerk>. She seems to have expected it, which is itself expected. ...And maybe an act <whered that come from>. ...Or something?

Handing me the sealed bundle, I st— "The letter of introduction." —oh, well. Please tell me that the interrupting-thing isn't typical demon behavior, either.

"Anyhow, since you seem dead set on not stumbling around blindly," she tells me, "there are a few things you really need to know before you leave." She waves a hand vaguely. "Directions, travel tips, information on the area... Any of that grab your interest more than the rest?"

[ ] Travel advisories. Places to shy clear of, things to mind, people to watch for.
[ ] Travel itinerary. Where t' go, how ya get there, who needs talkin' at, n' what to tell 'em.
[ ] Travel conditions. All the local color, who lives 'round here n' there, and the lay a' the land.


Rather than ask for which ones you want, I'm just going to ask for the order you want these in. I learned my lesson.

I have no idea how or why that happened. One of the wonders of updating at 28.8 KB/s, I guess. I'll get that deleted soon.
[X] Just keep going until Sanae's out the door and there's a real choice to make, order doesn't matter, write more, update faster, aaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
Hey, hey. Take it easy, yeah?

[1] Travel conditions. It is not, in fact, onje season; don't let anyone trick you into saying it is.
[2] Travel itinerary. Go straight down this road for a day and a half; take a left when you hit Albuquerque.
[3] Travel advisories. Beware of small, oddly-clad featureless beings with verbosely named explosive devices.
File 135005000859.jpg - (94.85KB, 815x1163, Akiha 3821054.jpg) [iqdb]
If I didn't offer such choices every so often, updates would come less frequently and have less to show for the time spent.
Not only that, but forcing myself away from all the fabulous plans in my head I'm so sure will work splendidly often results in catching problems, coming up with newer and/or better content, and keeping myself awake and aware. Not to mention that not being able to update very often sucks ass.

tl;dr, not as pointless as you might think.

Akiha because my phone is low on Hina.
[x] Travel advisories. Places to shy clear of, things to mind, people to watch for.
[x] Travel conditions. All the local color, who lives 'round here n' there, and the lay a' the land.
[x] Travel itinerary. Where t' go, how ya get there, who needs talkin' at, n' what to tell 'em.
[一] Travel conditions. It is not, in fact, onje season; don't let anyone trick you into saying it is.
[二] Travel itinerary. Go straight down this road for a day and a half; take a left when you hit Albuquerque.
[三] Travel advisories. Beware of small, oddly-clad featureless beings with verbosely named explosive devices.
[x] Travel itinerary. Where t' go, how ya get there, who needs talkin' at, n' what to tell 'em.
[x] Travel advisories. Places to shy clear of, things to mind, people to watch for.
[x] Travel conditions. All the local color, who lives 'round here n' there, and the lay a' the land.
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[ல] Travel conditions. All the local color, who lives 'round here n' there, and the lay a' the land.
[↱] Travel itinerary. Where t' go, how ya get there, who needs talkin' at, n' what to tell 'em.
[⌅] Travel advisories. Places to shy clear of, things to mind, people to watch for.

After a few moments with my head tilted in thought, I say, "It's best to start from the ground up, isn't it? I really don't know anything about what this place is like. I mean, I was looking around, but I wasn't paying too close attention when I flew in last night..." Elis seems to accept this, and waves me over to the couch while she takes a chair. Keshti tidies up the last of whatever he's been compiling, hands several sheets of gati to Elis, and then makes for the kitchen.

Elis stretches her arms out forward while her wings sweep slowly backward to extend almost to the wall. Holding it for a bit, she then sighs happily, and leans forward, wings folding back closed again. "All right, then, a basic geography lesson first. Vina itself is in Aruna Shire. Local capital's Kadru, about twelve leagues set from here, near the delta. But never mind that, you're headed the opposite way, up the Makelot."

With a wave of her hand <two waves actually she fumbles the first because of the bandages>, a black-on white map floats over to the wall, and a pulsing purple dot forms over... I guess it's some town. Wait, there's a big arc of some kind right near it— "...That's Vina?" I ask, more like for confirmation than a real question. She flashes me a smile.

"Right you are." I memorize the strange script over the dot, since it's probably the town's name. The dot moves, then, leaving a line <also purple> behind as it curves out into the bay, and goes... <if kadrus set from here and its in the opposite direction there then the dot is moving> ...mo, up the river and staying pretty close to it at all times.

[Ooh, I always loved those parts~]

"Vina is in a flat spot along a long river valley. But don't worry, you'll be going upriver the whole time; it's not a complicated path. You would save about a day if you flew straight there, but as you aren't familiar with the area, I'd not let it out of your sight. Better a short delay than being lost, no?" Reluctantly, I agree with her.

There are a few odd bumps in the path, however; places where the dot swerves wide of some particular area. Most are brief, located near what must also be towns perched on the river. There's one location a little beyond them where the dot shies away well over onto the opposite shore. That's something to ask about, if she doesn't come back to it.

"After two days, more or less, you'll start to enter an even more hilly area. That's the outskirts of Dis. At that point, you'll break off from the river—" Here, the dot deviates from its path, and follows a long, wiggly path towards a larger marking "—and follow the highway up to the plateau, where you'll find the city proper." And so the dot arrives at the larger marking <but hold on just a second here>.

"I'm sorry, did you say the highway?" Visions of the Chuo Expressway flash through my head. It... no, it can't possibly be like that. Can it?

"...I did, yes. 'Non-trunk Linked Route 36,' if you're feeling all official-like. 'Fool's Freeway,' if you're not. That's on account of the path up there used to be pretty crappy." Another wave of the wand, and lines made of yellow dashes meander over the landscape. "Feds came through, made a bunch of new roads and shored up old ones as part of the reconstruction. Now Makai's got honest red stone over what used to be just well-worn wheel-ruts. Changed the Rail Bureau to the Ministry of Rail & Road, too, but I'm getting sidetracked."

Oh. More Nakasendo than Autobahn, then. That <s reassuring> seems a little more likely.
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After telling me what to do and who to talk to in Dis, Elis lays out 'The Dos and For God's Sake Don'ts' of how 'my kind' are expected to behave. "It's very simple," she tells me. "Don't be an ass, don't get confrontational. Be polite. There's a bit of leeway you'll be given in terms of not knowing local customs or conventions, but not much." She sips a cup of tea. I clench mine.

"Avoid getting in a fight or committing crimes if you can help it. The law is not particularly forgiving of onje in general, but they're not completely unsympathetic." The demon thinks for a moment, blonde hair dangling as she tilts her head in thought. "...Maybe about 85% unsympathetic." <theres no smile i dont think thats a joke> "Defend yourself if you have to, but..." She looks pained at having to tell me to stay out of trouble, for some reason. She looks at me, desperate, and I nod.

I don't know why, but this makes her much more relieved. Me, not so much.

"So, yes. On the way there, you'll notice—" Elis moves away the city map of Dis, and floats the earlier map back over it, dot and traced trail reappearing. "—that I had you deviate from the river path now and again. By the news and personal accounts I've heard, these places aren't good for onje to wander into. Here, here, and here," she says, orange dots appearing at each point she gestures to, "the problem's the people: mostly farms and adapnabas with high fairy populations; they tend to stick together. Some of the more unusual youkai and demons, too."

"...Rural folk like humans even less?" That seems to fit, but Elis shakes her head.

"It's a lot more complicated than that, but... eh. I... sure." After trying to think of how to explain it for a few moments, the demon says this, and gives up with a shrug. "Go with that, for now. It'd take more time to outline the whole situation than I suspect you'd like to spend." <so very true>. "The majority of the problematic ones are fruit farmers, so as a rule of thumb, avoid orchards."

"Oh. Okay, then. ...Um, how about that big detour further... uh, mo up the river?" I ask.

Her wings rustle, like before. She looks where I'm pointing, then back to me. "There, your problem stops being the people, and starts being the things. That's oppin hunting grounds, or at least, the far edge of it. Stay as far way as possible from there."

After 'like a wheat thresher but more cuddly,' I've resolved to get clarity on things like this. "And an oppin is...?"

"...There was a human story told of... do you know what a roc is?"

It does sound familiar, somehow. Strangely. I know that I heard the word at one time, but I don't remember where <hold on wasnt it in an rpg> ... Wait. Yes. "Some kind of ...bird? A big one."

"That's being charitable, but yes. That is the closest example of one that I can give. Full-grown oppin have a wingspan just under the width of this house. Maybe four to seven decicubits less? And they're invisible, save for the shadow. They also prefer live prey."

She lets that sit in the air between us for a little while.

"Avoiding that sounds like a fine idea," I tell her, eventually.

"Glad you think so."

"Anything that's certain doom in more civilized places?"

"Always." She waves her wand, and the maps drift out of the way and sink to the table. In their place, two new sheets with Makaian script written on them rise up. Instead of hovering against a wall above us, however, she sends them over to me, at table height. As I examine them, I see that each sheet has but a few brief words on them, written bold and clearly. "Make very, very sure to memorize those," she tells me, voice containing an urgent tone.

I look up to see Elis and Keshti <i didnt even hear him come back> giving me equally serious looks. "What do they say?" <i have a suspicion> But of course, I ask anyway.

"'Makaian exclusive'," answers Keshti, voice as calm and youthful as his appearance as he taps the first sheet. "And this one is 'Onje not served here.' Knowing these will save your life," he tells me. "Places with these aren't the majority, but they aren't uncommon, either."

Well. That's unpleasant and sobering. And ...not at all what I expected. Instead of replying, I engrave the unreadable script into my mind, taking note of the little patterns of swishes, dots, and curls amongst the letters, trying to remember the shapes and the appearance of these words.

Once I've committed them to memory, I ask something less life-threatening, but still critical. I'd normally be to embarrassed to ask this, but... I really don't want to take the wrong turn at the worst possible moment. "...What's the word for 'women's restroom' look like?"

They have a giggle at this. Technically I can't blame them, but that's not stopped me before.

Keshti obliges me anyway, writing the words down for me while Elis gets up and collects a few things. Once I've memorized these, there's a strange, awkward silence for half a minute before the demon woman claps her hands. "Well, I... think that's about all I have for you, Kochiya. Are you ready?"

I don't nod immediately, instead giving due consideration to the question as I stare at the floor.

Some time later, I look back up into her face, and give a nod.

"Would you like company on the way out?" she asks, looking back as she walks to the door. "I've got a few things to take care of today, so I'll see you to the edge of town, if you wish. My oath will be extended accordingly."

[ ] Goes alone. If she saw herself in, she'll see herself out.
[ ] Why not? No reason to turn down a friendly soul.


This update was painful, and I'm glad it's over. The middle part got cut out because a) I could have it show up later, when it mattered, and b) I am going insane from all the sitting and talking and not doing much else that's happening. The less of that there is to be written, the more motivated to write I'll be. Sorry about this, but I've got to get the damn story moving.

Also, I should mention that as she learned Dawncurve, she was taught the words for Makai's six cardinal directions:
an (toward the sun),
mo (left),
set (right),
pir (away from the sun),
vel (ascending),
and ix (descending).

Buildings are often built at a 45° angle offset to the first 4 directions, rather than being aligned with them. Maps are typically drawn with an at the top.

Also because she is the best tsukihime (with the Lens immediately behind her, and Ciel after them).
[x] Why not? No reason to turn down a friendly soul.
[x] Goes alone. If she saw herself in, she'll see herself out.
Can't come to rely on anyone, including Elis. Think solo.
[x] Goes alone. If she saw herself in, she'll see herself out.
Hard choice. Write quick before I start second-guessing myself.
Firstly and foremostly and above ally, please! Harbor no thoughts of my plotting your demise, or desiring pain and plunder to befall your wretched, huddled form. No ill will have I, nor is my self possessed of thoughts of bloodshedding.
(...)Upon my name and thus-spake, your safety and well-being are guaranteed in my domicile and its environs.
The Innocence,

[x] Why not? No reason to turn down a friendly soul.

Its within her best interests to get us out of here.


Scarred and possibly in bad condition, but enough to deliver that letter.

But thats good enough.. right?
[!] Why not? No reason to turn down a friendly soul.
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[⑉] Why not? No reason to turn down a friendly soul.

"That couldn't hurt," I say, shortly before adding, "...Or maybe not? I don't want to cause trouble for you."

Elis just laughs. "Are you kidding? Everyone here knows I talk to more onje in a year than most Makaians see in a decade," she says, missing my point entirely. "Vina itself sees plenty of onje in the summer months, for that matter. Cheap labor, you know?" A knowing wink gets tossed my way, and I think I should feel a little insulted by that. But eh, whatever.

"Then I suppose I'll be in your care a little while longer," I tell her, bowing.

She, in turn, taps her cheek. "Then, to the best of my ability, I extend my oath for the duration of the trip. If ther—"

"I, too, will be bound by this oath and these terms," adds Keshti, hastily tapping his neck. The woman gives him a questioning look. "I've got some errands to run."

[Family picnic, yay~ Don't get left behind!]

Well... I guess that's okay, too.

The pair excuse themselves to go get dressed for going out. It takes longer than really seems necessary, so I pass the time by committing the map Elis showed my route on to memory. After about ten minutes go by, I can only assume that clothing for winged people takes longer than normal to put on <never mind theyre long since used to putting it on or that theres a much simpler explanation that im not going to think about>. I take one of the extra gati sheets she gave me, and draw a rough copy of the area covered by the path she indicated, plus a few notes about who to speak to and where to go.

Twenty minutes later, they both emerge from the bedroom in considerably fancier clothes. Elis is wearing a longer skirt— actually, it qualifies more as a dress, I think. Deep red, with puffy sleeves and a matching purse. Keshti looks more dapper than I'd thought possible: hair slicked back, formal jacket and pressed trousers... even a bow tie. It's like 007 meets industry baron, only as a teenager. I find myself beginning to understand Elis' attraction to him <wait haha no lets amend that i can understand her attraction to his appearance yes thats more accurate>.

[Oh my~]

I also feel terribly under-dressed, all of a sudden <and not just from the lack of sleeves though thats not helping>. And what's worse is that this is my formal clothing. It just happens to be my work uniform as well.

"Are you ready?" asks Elis. I can only shrug, though I quickly turn it into a simple nod.

While Elis retrieves their coats, Keshti disappears into the kitchen to bring me a heavy bundle that I stuff into my pack, and a metal canteen which sloshes as I take it and place in a pouch on the side of the pack. She returns as I'm thanking him him as she returns, and shortly after that, we step outside.
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The first thing I notice is the return of that perpetual sunset-light. But right now, it feels a little fresher, almost. The houses and huts and hovels around me are painted by the light in a tone that suggests the sun hasn't risen yet, rather than the opposite. Orange light can't be blue, but that's the best way to describe it.

Next, I notice the area around us. I had a glimpse last night, but now that I can actually see the buildings... Well. Not too much has changed. Wooden, shabby. Dusty. Not old or tired, though. The street is a dirt-and-gravel road, recently smoothed out, by all appearances..

Finally, I am alerted by the goosebumps rising on my skin and and hair standing up that it is a little bit chilly out, though still pretty tolerable. Sure, I can just see my breath in front of me, but it's no big, puffy cloud. I take that as a good sign, although... I wouldn't mind having a coat, or something. Maybe I'll buy one in Dis, but for now, I'll rough it.

[Mmm.... haaaa. Gotta take it all in, you know? C'mon, try it.]

...Wouldn't mind having my sleeves back, either. Can't do much for that, though.

I close my eyes and breathe in, slowly, letting myself relax.

Dust. Smoke. Someone's cooking. Other unusual smells, some good, some bad.

The smell of the lake nearby.

The faint but ever-present sweetness of oleander.

I open them again in time to see Elis linking arms with Keshti, and leaning on him, just a little. They look back at me, and without a word, I follow them, stepping off the wooden porch, and up the small steps leading to the street. We take a right, following the street up out of the slight valley it's in. More houses lie beyond, but I barely notice them at first. My eyes are on the other people we're sharing the street with.

A mostly human appearance seems to be the normal trend in appearance, but there's very few that are only that, and plenty that are anything but. Horns, wings, fangs, walking on two legs, walking on four, white skin, green skin, gold skin, scales, fur, feathers... and that's just in the first four blocks. Most people are dressed well, or at least, dressed for some sort of job. Elis greets a few people as we pass, and they respond in kind.

Something that looks like a tapir-headed child waves to me, making some kind of happy wornk, wornk! sound. I cautiously wave back. A rail-thin man with insect limbs asks Elis something in a series of clicks, but she turns him down. "He wanted to buy your hair. Green is uncommon around here," she tells me, after he leaves <could have been worse>.

[...Which shades? ...Nah, probably not worth it.]

As I experience the streets of Vina, displaced in time and worlds, there's a feeling in my belly, a mix of them. Confusion and awe and <muted> fear and fascination. On top of them, a sort of strange giddiness that could send me screaming in joy or delight.

The last time I felt this was when met the tengu just after we moved to Gensokyo. But this has something more, something stranger to it. As much as I don't want to be here, as scared as I <should be> ...am, the geeky little girl in me is looking around in amazement. I <and she but thats me> am really here.

Really in another world. <is this what its like going overseas> Gensokyo is 'another world,' too, but every last thing about this place is more otherworldly than Gensokyo ever was <and its more dangerous than gensokyo ever was>.


Stay focused, Sanae. Even if it looks like some kind of ...Martian cowboy town, or something, it's still dangerous. Still a threat. And still really, really weird.
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At the top of the hill, the houses start to trail off, and be replaced by businesses. More wood <or is it wood it looks just a little off doesnt it> buildings, though there's the occasional brick or stone building. Not too many, though.

We continue along the street at the top of the hill, then duck through a beaten dirt path that turns into an alley. It drops us out onto a stone-paved road— not the red stone of the roads outside town, this is more of a golden-brown. It's certainly a busier street: odd pack animals carry carts and carriages, people walk to and fro, and somewhere, I hear music. A flute and... an acoustic guitar? No, too high-pitched.

I'd ask Elis for details, but she's chatting about something with Keshti, and I decide it doesn't especially matter. ...I'm never going to be able to learn everything about Makai all in one go. Need to recognize that fact sooner rather than later.

"But it's no reason to stay ignorant, is it?"

[Nope! Also, what?]

The mumbled question tumbles out of my own lips, prompting a frown. What happened to staying focused <unfocused minds fumble>? ...Thank you, Suwa-mama.

And because fate likes a good laugh, I bump into Elis right about then.

Well, if she'd not extended a wing slightly, catching me before I could send us both sprawling. "Careful there, Kochiya," she says. No smirk or smile.

I look around to see that we're on the same street as before, probably over a quarter-kilometer from where we got onto it. The muffled —but still clearly nearby— sound of busier traffic tells me this probably isn't the same main street I flew over last night. I can't hear any harbor sounds, so we're further away from the docks, too.

We happen to be stopped in front of a mid-sized building with some kind of large, elaborate sign out front, a bunch of posters or notices tacked up on one side, and wires strung on poles leading out from it and off in either direction. Too small to be a power-generating plant <probably but remember her house had lights>, and only two wires going out...

"What is this?" I ask. I'm stumped.

"The telegraph office," replies Elis, leading us over to the wooden porch in front of it. Now that I'm closer, I can see in the windows. There's some kind of horribly fanged beast in women's clothing with a sheet of gati in front of her, tapping daintily away at ...is that a piano keyboard? Whatever it is, it's attached to some kind of strange-looking mechanical contraption.

"I want to send word to the Brotherhood office in Dis and let them know you'll be coming," she continues. Taking a step towards the front door, she looks back over her shoulder. "You can come in or stay out here with Keshti, if you wish. I shouldn't be long."

[ ] Girl's a tad curious. That ain't no Morse code key.
+[ ] Has a question what's been buggin' her for the dame, somethin' important.

[ ] Doesn't bother. She stays outside and passes the time.
+[ ] Has a question on 'er mind for the boy; ain't exactly somethin' polite.


Write in a question to be asked. I'll choose the best one (maybe two if one's really good), so please, make one of your own.
If I keep it like this, I think I can keep this short.
[x] Girl's a tad curious. That ain't no Morse code key.
+[x] Has a question what's been buggin' her for the dame, somethin' important.
++[x] Ask her about any onje friendly shops to look out for.
Write ins are scary.
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Then get un-scared.
[X] Doesn't bother. She stays outside and passes the time.
+[X] Has a question on 'er mind for the boy; ain't exactly somethin' polite:
"Okay, seriously, what's the real deal out here? You actually do it with your mother? Is that how things are in this literally godforsaken dimension or was she messing with me? What exactly did Reimu do? How do I not get raped and murdered by demons trying to steal my hair?"
Haven't had the time to reread the story so far and find a question, assumed somebody else would've.

[x] Girl's a tad curious. That ain't no Morse code key.
+[x] Has a question what's been buggin' her for the dame, somethin' important.
++[x] Thinks a thought or two might've been had before: 'bout girl's looks, but she din't recall when she should've.

List of potential question subjects I came up with on a quick read-through, the rest of you can look at 'em if you want:
Scent of oleander [doubt Elis or Keshti would be much help for this, though]
Hitaikakushi-wearing Makai ghosts
"Hmm" and 5-minute pause at idea of an Outsider shrine maiden
Elis is used to inviting onje in- what's happened with them in the past?
What exactly happened with "Hakurei and her hooligans", especially Kazami / how much lethal damage they did
Clicks The Old Blossom
The Dream Servant
Memory issues and doujinshi covers

If she hasn't snapped yet, she's not going to now, I think. But I like one of yours in the middle, there...

[◷] Doesn't bother. She stays outside and passes the time.
+[○] Has a question on 'er mind for the boy; ain't exactly somethin' polite:
++[□] "What exactly did Rei--" <wait, no> "--did that miko do?"
++[■] "... also, what do you think my odds are of making it through all this intact?"

The "Outsider shrine maiden" question is tempting, though.

(Personally, I really want to know what's up with those distressingly mysterious fullw eem to be Koishi-induced, but they also don't seem like something Sanae is aware of, so I honestly don't know where to start.)
About the ran dle of the text, I think I've gotten those figured out, actually. If I'm right, they're explicable by a couple lines in Koishi's SOPM profile.
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So as you may have guessed from the weeks of goddamn nothing, it's kind of busy. End of the quarter, and all that. I apologize for the delay and the totally unnecessary not-saying-anything.

Quarter ends on the 13th or so, so check back around then. The next update will see the end of the tutorial prologue Vina chapter, probably, so there's that to look forward to if you were waiting for this story to get moving.
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...as long as I'm bumping this, I'll ask something that came to mind.

I'm looking to start incorporating music into the story. How would you all prefer it be done: a) Youtube links for opening in a new tab, or
b) actual downloadable mp3s like Fallout in Gensokyo (Unfortunately, I don't think I can do an ftp thing like he did... can I?) had?
Either works for me.
Youtube links are easier. Listening to House sets right now in fact.
I was considering doing youtube links to add music to a story of my own. I'd like to see you try it.
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( Youtube it is. Ideally, this should have been posted when they left Elis' house, but better late than never: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFWOl9XoxC4 )

[道] Doesn't bother. She stays outside and passes the time.
+[縁] Has a question on 'er mind for the boy; ain't exactly somethin' polite.

"I'll stay out here," I reply. "I shouldn't hold you back any more than I already have, after all." I flash her a cheerful smile, but she hesitates, looking at me strangely for an instant. Then she shrugs, and heads inside. It takes her a moment to grasp the doorknob the right way, without putting pressure on her wrapped fingertips, but she makes it on the third try.

Behind me, Keshti's seated himself on a bench placed on the dusty floor of the covered porch in front of the telegraph office. In the window behind us, I see Elis walking over to a counter, picking up a slip of ...paper? No, too dull. Probably gati. She sets it down, picks up an elaborate quill pen from an inkwell, and begins writing.


No better time.

"Hey, Keshti?"

"Yes?" The young demon boy looks up at me, in the middle of perusing a miniature folder of notes of some kind; almost a notebook.

"Do you really do it with your mom?" <oh gods did i really just ask that>


My hands stop halfway to my face, then, slowly, resume their trip. I pat my cheeks. No... no blushing at all? Still none, after such a question? It doesn't feel warm even when I touch them.

The logical part of me is appalled that I said those words, but I ... I can't, I don't feel ashamed at having asked such a thing. My gut reaction is... <i was curious so of course i asked>. And that's logical, too. Why isn't this bugging me more? Why?

...And this means, then, that I was right. That gift of innocence was no simple lullaby to sing away the pain, the memories.

What's that saying, again? 'The worst thing you can do to someone is give them what they ask for'? <so youd prefer to become a nervous wreck every time you thought about the white woman> ...No, of course not, but <but what> ...it's not fair <and i dont think itll be the last unfair thing i run into in makai so shut up and live with it>

...Fine. But I don't have to like it <no change there>.

I hate it when I get in the last word against... Um. Myself.

As long as I don't start arguing with myself out loud, I won't look crazy. The year after the accident, 'Kyouchiya-san' became my nickname in elementary school after Kana-mama and Suwa-mama first started trying to talk to me.

The front door opens, and a slender-looking demon with a satchel and some kind of uniform hustles out of there and jogs off down the side street connecting this one with the main road. Neither of us spare him a second glance.

Keshti, unaware of all this, gives a slight frown before nodding. "Yes. Well, one of them, at any rate."

"One of them?" I had to restrain myself from adding "only" to the beginning of that.

"Yes, the other was a shtabai, which are..." He gestures in the air for a second, but gives up. "A complicated kind of demon. I've never met her, though, but that's not unusual."

"Sleeping with your mother isn't, either?" <what is wrong with you> Keshti just chuckles a little.

"Onje usually get very uncomfortable and quiet about this. You're rather candid about it, however." He closes his folder and looks away, down the street. "I gather it's frowned upon where you come from?"

"'Ridiculously illegal' would be a better term. One of the more polite ones, too."

"Mmm. Well, it's unusual in Makai, but it is not unheard of. Most of the time both parties are consenting; we certainly were." Turning back, he gives me a glance. "Were you concerned for me?"

"...Sorta? Mostly creeped out, but... okay, yeah, kind of." <pretty much all not just mostly>

Another chuckle from the boy in all his non-demonic-looking demonic finery. "I made my choice with a clear mind. We obviously already knew each other quite well, we were both looking for a mate, we have numerous shared interests, and nobody needed to move or send marriage gifts."

"And the whole inbreeding angle...?"

"Oh... right, that would be an issue for humans." He goes for his folder, stops, grimaces, goes for it again, then leaves it alone. "...I would need a full day to explain common demonic genetics, and another day on top of that to explain the ridiculous mess that is shtabai biology, so... will you take it on my word that it isn't an problem?"

"Sure." Actually, it would be kind of cool to hear... Sort of. And in any other possible context. But I'd rather be home that much sooner, so forget it.

...Gods, am I really having this conversation?
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tak tak tak

We both look up to see Elis standing by the window we're in front of. She's in line behind an old man with three age-worn horns. Once she's got our attention, she blows a kiss on two fingers to Keshti, and winks.

[How's that for timing?]

Ahead of her, the old man hands a sheet of gati to the horribly fanged woman. The area of the window next to the woman smoothly dims, darkens, until I can only see the barest suggestion of movement. For privacy, I guess. I think I can make out her fingers <maybe claws> dancing over (what seems to be) a little set of piano keys, only this would be one tiny piano.

Probably means I shouldn't keep peering in, then? I pull back from the window, and smooth out an imaginary wrinkle in my skirt. Elis is back in line, now, patiently waiting but for the drumming of her fingers, inaudible through the glass.

A breeze blows by, cool and gentle... Warmer than what I'd expect from a lakeside village, too. It's always colder coming off the lake back at the shrine... but then again, we live on top of a mountain. Warm breezes aren't common to that elevation to begin with.

The wind rustles the sheets of paper posted all along the building, and for lack of anything else to say, I step over to have a look, footsteps making the quietest of creaks on the porch, barely audible amongst the already-quiet background noise of the side-street we're on.

Whatever they're printed on isn't gati. It's much paler, closer to white than grey, but a little yellow-y. They're tacked on to the side of the building, some with staples, and some with large pins. Each one is covered in text, and some kind of picture. There's a group of them on some kind of framed board that draw my attention, first. Going up to the board, I press one down that's curled a little so I can see it more clearly—


I let out a quiet squeak at the tiny whining hum that rises in pitch as soon as I touch the sheet. It falls back into silence in the space of a couple seconds, as the words on the notice change from the standard Makaian script into... something I don't even recognize. They look like hieroglyphics made by a delirious man. A bemused expression creeping onto my face, I touch it again. It makes the same sound again, and once more, the text changes. My eyes widen as I see it change into Roman lettering— No, wait, some of those aren't normal letters. And some of them seem close, but not right, somehow.

—wait, that's... that's what Russian's written in, isn't it? Over there, a backwards capital R. And here, that one letter, "Д". I don't know the name, but I've seen it in countless emoticons.

Giving the sheet a proper looking-over this time, I see that there's a rather grim-looking ...man? wearing what looks like heavy armor. Although, given how organic it looks, I'd hazard a bet it's not a suit, but completely natural. Words all over the poster say things in large and small typefaces. One of the larger-type lines is placed right under the picture of the man/thing, and is impossible to misunderstand:


I realize, then, what I am looking at.

"They may not look like much, those bounty info posters," says Keshti, confirming my hunch. He looks over at me from his seat on the bench. "In fact, they appear incomprehensible. Each sheet has been magically encoded with the same text rewritten in multiple languages with an autoscribe. The ink of each rewriting is tied to a node in a list of available languages, spatially compressed, and bound to a touch-activation cantrip."

Fascinated despite understanding maybe... two-thirds of that, I gaze at the poster for a little while more before I tap it again <what the heck are those>. The new text is printed in Roman letters, definitely, but it looks like someone dumped a barrel of punctuation and accent marks and things all over them. I've definitely seen that once or twice before; it's from somewhere to the southeast. Thailand, maybe? Cambodia? Something like that.

[Wait, go back a few! Not that you're going to.]

"Some of these are human languages, though," I murmur. "Why?" Another tap, fnnn. Arabic. Tap, fnnn. Something made of long, thick black lines of varying lengths. Nothing I know of.

A quiet creak and a rustling of fabric passing behind me signals that the demon boy has gotten up. "Bounty hunting is one of the few jobs that onje are preferred for, actually. Not for the nicest reasons, either; I'm sure you can guess what those might be." <probably but i dont care right now this is cool> "Despite that, many do seem to have a knack for it."

Tap, fnnn. Whoa, Korean? Getting closer... Tap, fnnn. Oh, finally... no, no. False alarm; that's seal script. I sigh, and tap again. Fnnn German! Only... Aren't German words usually really long? This has too many spaces. Tap, fnnn. Oh hey, there's English.

Tapping through it several more times in succession turns up no Japanese option, which strikes me as... very strange. I'm biased, of course, but this place has obviously had contact with Gensokyo and probably Japan in the past. It's well-known by people I know, who are Japanese. Chinese is among the languages on here, no surprise. Actual German, too. A few other unrecognizable languages, but no Japanese.

This is really, really odd.

I cycle through them again until I get back to English. It's the only other language I have any familiarity with. Some of the words I really don't recognize, and I don't have a dictionary on hand, obviously. I still manage to get the general gist, at least, as I look over the five posters placed so prominently in the box.

The armored man is called 'Wymar the Whelk'. He's worth 1.5 million juliène and is wanted "Alive or Partially Dead" for 44 counts of murder, 6 counts of permanent murder, destruction of government and something-something property, kidnapping... and some other obscure words.


Coming in second is what looks like a huge bundle of garden snakes named "Şebnem," wanted for rape, assault, and... stealing a bank? Oh, wait, no. 'Bank robbery', I'll bet. My skin crawls a little as I look at the image of the snake-bundle. Or possibly tentacles? Ew and a half. Three hundred thousand juliène for him... dead or alive. The lack of "partially" there doesn't go unnoticed.

Below these two posters are three more, and as I skim over them, they ...well, they sort of seem like small fry <when you put them after a tank and a tentacle monster anyway>.

One doesn't even have a photo, just some kind of sketch— someone in what looks like clown makeup, almost; really pale, dark paint over the nose, odd geometric paint near the eyes. Also sporting a severe case of drillhair. Train robbery, grand theft, assault, and murder. Wanted alive <underlined twice> for a mere ℐ150,000. Goes by the name Pierre O.

...I'm already reading the one after that when I do a double take and look at the previous name again. 'Pierre O.'? And he dresses up like a clown? Somebody thinks they're very clever.

With a little smirk on my lips, I move down to the next. A super-ugly, well built man with a jaw so square you could use it for a ruler glares back at me. Vintovka Koenig, kidnapper and onje-killer. "Extremely unfriendly, and prone to obsessive (something)," the poster warns. Wanted alive or dead— 'But Preferably Dead'. ...Nice to know they bother with crimes against onje, I guess.

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.

My first thought as I step back and consider all of these posters is: Aren't these all the kinds of people that Cl... <fine whatever> "The Old Blossom" is supposed to come for? According to Elis, anyway. It doesn't seem like it'd inspire belief in the legend. I know better than most that if you don't remind the faithful that you're the real deal often enough, they aren't 'the faithful' for very long.

...And if you do it too often, then they take you for granted. Finding that balance is very important, and very tricky.

"All done!"
File 13552866901.jpg - (386.75KB, 450x638, dosvedanya.jpg) [iqdb]
Elis briskly trots out of the office, and flashes me a smile as I look over at her. "Message sent and gone! They'll be expecting you by the time you get there, so you shouldn't have too hard a time once you're in the city."

"Thank you again, Elis," I tell her, bowing. I wonder for a moment if demons have family names. "You've been more generous than necessary this whole time."

"Bah. It's what I do, Kochiya," she replies. "You're the one I should be thanking." She notices where we're standing, and gives the wall of wanted posters a glance. "...I hope you're not thinking of picking up a new career."

And just like that, the jovial tone is gone from her voice.

"No... no, I'm not," I say, trying to reassure her. "Getting home— and delivering those letters; that's all I'm focusing on. ...Why, is it dange—"

"Extremely," she says, cutting me off. "Law-breakers like these don't get their portraits up here because they're fun-loving people. Get the picture?"

"Even got the frame."

Behind her, another young demon in uniform— a girl, this time —exits the office and runs off down the street.

"Good." Her point made, she steps back, extends her arm, and then Keshti is there beside her, slipping it around his. I trail a couple steps behind them, and we step off the porch of the telegram office and onto the streets of Vina once more.

The trip to the edge of town is fairly uneventful <even for a town packed with demons>. Only at the end, as we're coming up on the town wall, do we turn down a small side road and emerge onto the town's main street. I see a few masts a ways further down, just barely sticking out over the tops of the buildings, not to mention a lot more people not as finely dressed as my hosts. A few people stare, but not for long.

The main street itself is wider, louder, paved, and much more populated. Large signs with brilliantly colored writing on them mark the location of numerous shops in Makaian writing, and people travel up and down its length. You can actually see a lot of the rest of town from here. We must be at one of the higher points. I don't get much time to stare, however, since we keep moving on to the town gate.

Just outside the gate, a couple of lightly armed people in dull blue armored uniforms that I assume are guards <blue makes it more like police doesnt it> keep an eye on the people walking in and out of the city. It's not an especially busy day, apparently, since one of them is sketching something on a tablet like Elis'. About 200 meters past the gates, Vina's sandy-colored paving stones turn to a deep, strong shade of red and stretch away from the walls.

We come to a stop under a simple arch that spans the gap between the walls. I turn to Elis and Keshti, giving them a respectful bow. "I cannot express enough gratitude for the care you've shown me today. Once more, I apologize for intruding on your time and home as I did." ...Funny, that. 'sorry for intruding' is part of the normal formalities, but in my case, it was a bit more literal, wasn't it? I pat my pack, where the letters to <their daughter> Kunigunde sit. "I'll make sure your letters both get to her."

They both brighten at that. "I do hope so, Kochiya. You remember the way to Dis, right?" asks Elis.

I motion with an arm off towards the water. "Mo up the river for a couple days, and take the Fool's Freeway up to the city," I confirm. She nods.

"And you remember where not to go?" Keshti adds, sounding a little worried... for me or for his letter, I don't know. I guess it's sort of sweet, either way <as long as i dont dwell on it>.

"Mm-hmm. And I made sure to memorize the shape of the land around them. It's not something I want to forget anytime soon."

Elis has a chuckle at that. "I would be grateful if you didn't. I don't want you going and getting killed." One shoulder lifts slightly in a shrug. "After all, you're only human." <wow backhanded compliment much there>

...Whatever. I'll try not to hold it against her. I return her smile at twice its power. "Thank you, Elis. You're the nicest cruel woman I've ever met."

[Couldn't have said it better~ Also the prices here are pretty good, did you know? At least, when you convert back to yen.]

Elis looks very startled at that comment. A reply starts to form, but has quite a bit of trouble getting past her lips. She gives up on it after a bit, to Keshti's very carefully hidden amusement, and settles for, "Indeed, well. Have a safe journey, dear."

"I'll try," I tell her. "Goodbye!" With a wave, I turn away and step out the gate. Making my way down the road, I'm finally off on m—

"Kochiya! Wait a moment!"

—or not.

Only about 40 meters out, I stop and look back again. Elis bustles up to me, holding her skirts. "What is it? Did I forget something?" I ask, as she comes to a stop <after running the whole ways shes not even panting>.

She shakes her head, and then looks me in the eye. "No, I did, almost," she says.

Uh-oh. "What is it?"

"Watch out for stobor," she replies, very seriously. Her bandaged hand pats my shoulder. "Good luck." And before I can say a word, she's gone again.

I puzzle over those cryptic words as I walk away from town, down the wide red road. Must be some kind of local creature, I guess. I'll have to keep my eyes open. And speaking of eyes...

My gaze is cast back over my shoulder. I'm a little over a kilometer out of town, circling the bay as I follow the road. It breaks off to take the highway which runs along the river a little ways ahead.

But I've got an idea from earlier that needs seeing to, first. And when I see to it, I'd rather not be seen— partly for privacy, partly for the quiet.

[ ] Don't need to get too far. Across the bay from town'll do just fine.
[ ] A little distance'd be nice. Girl goes upriver for a spell, first.
[ ] A few hours' flight between her n' Vina sounds best. Time to fly.


Oh god, finally I can update. I want to do this as often as possible during this break and the opening weeks of the quarter, so please: vote early, vote often.

...And somehow I missed noticing that these posts even existed up until now. Weird.
Hooray, it's back.

A little disappointed that was the only question asked, but got some useful info out of it anyway. Also, amusing Makai-culture clash.

[x] A little distance'd be nice. Girl goes upriver for a spell, first.
[x] A little distance'd be nice. Girl goes upriver for a spell, first.

[x] A few hours' flight between her n' Vina sounds best. Time to ...
- [x] No, a little distance'd be nice. Girl goes upriver for a spell, first.

Which is to say, let's not take off *just* yet. And stay low to the ground, when we do -- we were briefed on surface-level dangers, but we know almost nothing about aerial hazards.
You know you've got a good story when you don't particularly care what option wins; you know you'll enjoy it whichever way.

[U] A little distance'd be nice. Girl goes upriver for a spell, first.
[x] Don't need to get too far. Across the bay from town'll do just fine.
I'd rather be in touch with her if something happens. I'm not ready to let go yet
File 135561770446.jpg - (146.34KB, 500x323, all noons are low noons.jpg) [iqdb]
♫: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bN5iuOz-2Ug (play at half-volume)

[↕] No, a little distance'd be nice. Girl goes upriver for a spell, first.

I suppose that technically, there's nothing wrong with doing it here. Heck, the sand on the shore would even make creating circles go a lot easier, but... I can still make out the docks of Vina, and see figures milling about. A few boats are out in the bay proper, and I can see a couple more out on the river, through the mouth of the bay.

"Somewhere a little more secluded would be nicer, I think," I decide. This nice little hamlet might be more tolerant of onje than much of the rest of Makai, but I don't think I should test how much more tolerant.

Now that I have a plan in mind, I take a couple steps to build up momentum— a bad habit left over from when I first started learning this —and then jump into the air, kicking off the red paving stones that make up the road. There's that first moment of weird weightlessness once it catches, and then I take flight <sort of>.

[Wha? Oh! So we're off, then~?]

I don't go much higher than a hundred and fifty meters or so <not too big on choking to death>. I know it started past the three hundred mark, but quite frankly, screw taking chances. It's my life, and I'm the only one in the <this> world who can save it.

With cheerful thoughts like that in mind, I cruise along at a decent clip. After five minutes, I'm not choking, so it's probably a safe speed.

The brown and purple hills beneath me grow higher as I curve along the path of the red road below, passing between a couple of tall mounds that give way to a light slop before picking up again in earnest. The hills become small mountains, now that I'm flying alongside the river. The geography is nice, I'm sure, but Gensokyo has plenty of mountains, too. And they're prettier than these. Everything here seems kinda scrubby, with patches of green and blue.

Several boats were parked out in the river in the general vicinity of Vina, but as I get farther away from the town, they appear less and less. I still see the occasional barge go by, or a little rowboat off by the shore, always with someone fishing.

It's mostly quiet up here, all things considered. I still encounter wildlife; off in the distance, to the sides, I see a few flocks of something that looks like tiny flying ...somethings. Like little pigs, maybe? Whatever they are, their bodies look lumpy. I wonder for a moment if I've somehow strayed into oppin territory... but no, that's not right. They're invisible, she said.

Aaaand that's enough to bring a halt to the lazy inattention I've been exhibiting. Wake up and smell the coffee, Sanae. ...I wonder if my body is still feeling the nervousness and distractability that you get after something bad happens, even if my mind isn't. That would really suck <so foooocus>.


I flinch and drop about ten meters in a second; the usual precaution I take to avoid sudden collisions in mid-air <totally not a knee jerk reaction to being spooked in flight>. Also shut up.

Glancing around, I don't see anything, which is odd. I thought there was a plane or something coming. ...Guess that sort of confirms the whole nerves question, doesn't it? It's not a fully unreasonable one, though— she did mention those "aeriable" things. But of course, there's nothing. Deciding to let it go, I concentrate on flying and staying aware of my surroundings for another hour or so.
File 135561779882.jpg - (32.49KB, 500x500, a place to reflect.jpg) [iqdb]
After a while, I notice a nice, wide, flat patch of bare ground on the an bank, a hundred meters or so back from the river. Looks like a good spot to set up, from here. I still take the time to circle over it as I slowly descend, checking the area out. Nothing seems out of place in its general vicinity; no passing animals <no people or things>.

Yep. It'll do.

I land upon the ground, and walk over to the riverbank itself, which still has the golden grass that's lacking further in. Taking off my pack, I fish out my bento box, and eat the remainder of yesterday's lunch. Some of it tastes a little oddly, but nothing too terrible. Makes it a little hard to savor the last true taste of home I'll have for a while, though.

...What a comforting thought, huh? But it's the smartest course of action— I don't need to ration it anymore, since my food supply is no longer an issue like it was before <thanks again keshti>. Since it's the oldest food I have, so it's best to eat it before it spoils.

I try and relax there, while I eat, listening to the so hing much in particular, just the quiet noise of alien nature.

[Soooo... apparently fish are a lot harder to catch with your hands in deep water.]

After eating every last grain of rice, I say my thanks, and snap the lid of the box shut, pausing afterward to wipe a smudge off the Grendizer's head. It goes back into my pack, which itself gets slung around a single shoulder as I walk towards the place I'd spotted from the air, a swath of exposed red-brown dirt. Now that I've eaten, it's time to get to work on my plan for a new outfit.

Or maybe it would be more accurate to call it a disguise.

[You're gonna be here for a while, right? Of course you will~ I'm going to go find some lunch, okay?]

Going back and forth across the patch, I make sure that the ground is firm <dunno if they have moles here> and not too soft. Feels right, though; not too soft, like topsoil, and not solid, like baked earth. I smile.

"Showtime," I say softly <having a robot would make this all so much easier>, and pull out the sack of UFOs. I know what I'm going to do. But the how, that's the genius of this plan, no matter how unlikely it seems.

[ ] Coercion. C'mon, it ain't so bad.
[ ] Intimidation. Listen up, ya nasty lil' buggers.
[ ] Deception. Naw, it was like that all along. Fer sure.


Today's manga recommendation is Molestor Man. Think Densha Otoko meets Onani Master Kurosawa (the latter of which you should also read). Chapters are still being translated, but at a pretty quick pace.

Aww, thanks.
[x] Deception. Naw, it was like that all along. Fer sure.

Good song pick. Also, a quesiton that I will ask again at the end but... how screwed would we be without that vision to the innocence?
[x] Deception. Naw, it was like that all along. Fer sure.
[x] Coercion. C'mon, it ain't so bad.

I don't know what I'm voting for.
[x] Deception. Naw, it was like that all along. Fer sure.
File 135568859495.jpg - (265.90KB, 550x550, 1272456708208.jpg) [iqdb]
[x] Deception. Naw, it was like that all along. Fer sure.

I am operating under the belief that we're voting on how to get the "UFOs" to make us look like something we're not in the same way they make themselves look like something they're not.

This is probably wildly inaccurate, but what can you do?

Also, telling lies in Makai is probably a bad idea. Oh well!
[x] Coercion. C'mon, it ain't so bad.
File 135588590987.jpg - (220.40KB, 1500x1600, it will be EXCITING.jpg) [iqdb]
No update today because distractable bastard.

Prepare for double update tomorrow.
File 135598721454.jpg - (313.25KB, 1255x1880, no birds allowed.jpg) [iqdb]
♫: http://filesmelt.com/dl/04_-_Mirage_of_Wilderness.mp3
(unfortunately, not every song is available on youtube. This will not start automatically.)

[米] Deception. Naw, it was like that all along. Fer sure.

I know it's genius, because it doesn't involve any complicated work. Or something like that. A classmate of mine told us da Vinci said that. Coincidentally, this was his excuse for slacking off on schoolwork. I can't remember his name <saki something>, but I do remember finding that he really didn't do very badly on tests to be annoying.

All it involves are circles, time, and patience. Mainly.

Walking to one edge of the patch, I crouch slightly and gently shake the sack out, walking slowly back and forth. After about the tenth UFO, I set the bag aside, and start spacing the colorful little ships far apart <why arent there any yellow ufos>. They tend to float up and wobble about when I'm not near them, but they don't get very far before I'm done.

Next, I trace out a ... wait, no; a clockwise <almost went the other way> circle in the dirt with the handle of my haraegushi, and with a poke from Sanatsu Yoru, press a droplet of blood to the point where I started <or ended> it. That micro-thrill runs through me again as the circle activates. And like before, nothing happens right away.

That's to be expected, of course.

I repeat this procedure twice again, making a containment circle around ten or so UFOs, then seat myself on the grass and wait.

And wait.

This is the "time" part.

It happens to the first circle only a minute after I sit down: One by one, the UFOs disappear, leaving in their place chunks of wood, stone, and what looks suspiciously like roofing tile. There's no apparent order to it, and the sizes range from big to small.

"Operation success~!" I announce, clapping my hands together. I still don't know why there was a bunch of ancient construction debris in the skies of Gensokyo, but I'll leave that to Reimu or whoever to figure out. That wasn't my goal in conducting this experiment, anyway.

Rather, I wanted to see if this was all in fact debris <sure looks that way>, and if so, then how widely varied the sizes of the pieces were. A sliver of wood about the size of my thumb resting on the ground on one side and a tiny chip of tile near the middle of the circle tell me the range is rather wide.

Exactly what I was hoping for.

I note the locations of the two small pieces, and then begin rubbing out the circle with the toe of my boot. I'm almost done doing so when the wriggling, squirming pieces of not-really begin taking shape, and the air is filled with colorful bugs and birds, changing shape every few seconds.

Over in the next circle, new pieces of debris begin appearing as their weird not-really worm things are robbed of enough mana that they can't keep making the debris look like UFOs. Movement next to me draws my eye back to this circle, where the silent winged life begins leaping for debris again, now that they can pretend to be other things again. As expected, all of them become UFOs again.

But what if that's only because I expect them to look like that? Elis said they looked like aeriables, to her. I've got a sack full of UFOs, and I can't easily put that image out of my mind. But if I showed these to someone else, would they look like a bird, perhaps? This question, and all the implications that one can extrapolate from it, lies at the heart of my <totally genius> plan.

I pick up the two UFOs that used to be tiny fragments of debris and stuff them in one pocket, while the others go back into the sack. I don't know how many I'll need to pull this off, but I'm shooting for six or seven, at least.
File 135598725434.jpg - (412.22KB, 700x885, a bright and cheerful young lady.jpg) [iqdb]
More time passes as I repeat the process again and again. Dump out some UFOs, put them in a circle, check on previous circles when their mana supply runs out. When I find a UFO that hides a tiny piece of timber or stone or tile or whatever, it goes into my pocket, while the rest go back into the bag.

Turns out I got lucky with the first circle— fragments small enough to be the sort I'm looking for don't appear to be all that common. I turn up several in the ten-centimeter range, but that's bigger than I'm hoping for <though ill probably use some of them if i have to>.

As a result, finding my seven pieces takes a while. This was the 'patience' part of things.

[I'm baaaack! Did you miss me? Of course you didn't~]

It's a little lonely with nobody to talk to. I'm sure that more complicated magic requires patience, but this is boring and unglamorous <just like real science>. This is field work.


[I went and nicked some lunch! You still keeping busy?]

I began keeping an eye on circle number nine while I began scuffing out number eight. Nothing happened until about half a minute after finishing with Eight, when Nine's not-really worms began falling off their pieces of scrap. I'd learned to not be so concerned with seeing what each worm left behind as much as simply seeing if there was anything big that popped out of a disappearing UFO. The lack of some big chunk flopping to the ground; that would draw my attention.

And finally <thanks be to my mamas> I spot a blue UFO disappearing and leaving (seemingly) nothing behind. I hurry over and am overjoyed to discover a two-centimeter piece of carved stone next to the spot where a the saucer had been wobbling just moment before.

"Yes!" I shout, delighted. I scratch out circle number nine without even bothering to check the others. I've got everything I need, at last! Once it goes back to its UFO shape, I throw it in my pocket; the rest are gathered up and put back in the bag.
File 135598740027.png - (809.09KB, 1000x1000, livin' the dream٫ baby.png) [iqdb]
Feeling giddy as can be, I take out all the UFOs I'd stored in my pocket and make yet another circle for them. One final time, I go through the procedure <oh gods this is gonna be so awesome if it really works>

Once the the not-really worms have all dropped their disguises and fallen off their miniscule debris fragments, I take a few slow, steady breaths. Time to calm down. Focus.

...The pieces, where are they? I stare at the circle, fixing the location of each one in my mind. The sack of UFOs sits in hands that suddenly feel cool and clammy as a breeze winds its way through the area, lazily wandering in from the river. I push back my hair and take one last breath. I go over the steps in my head <but youve known them since before you could even write kanji> ...it's nerves, okay <please who would even see it>?

"...It matters to me," I grumble petulantly as I break away from the circle, and retrieve my sleeves from my pack, and slip them back on. I can't stand being without these, after all. Once they're on and attached correctly, I return to the circle, feeling more relaxed.

[Hmm? C'mon, tell me what you're doooooing~]

Everything's in place. I'm... I'm as ready as I'll ever be, I suppose.

My left boot sweeps out in front of me, clearing away a section of the final circle. Instead of clearing away the whole thing, I dart in right away, trying not to step on any worms, and begin snatching up the tiny fragments of debris left behind. Each one gets thrown in the bag, making the sound it really should make as it lands on the multitude of other impossibly-tiny UFOs inside.

The time frame I have in which I can attempt this is small. It won't be a disaster if I don't do it right the first time, but... well, it's the spirit of the thing. I let out a startled curse as I drop a couple pieces, but recover them quickly enough.

Already, the worms have begun regaining their shapes, changing colors and forms all around me.

[I have no clue what's going on, but that's just fiiiiine~]

It is time.

I take a deep breath, and begin.

( ♫: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7XWJiZ2F-c#t=10s )

Left arm pulled back, held close, fist clenched, turned up. Right arm, thrust across and in front of me at an angle, pointing left, fingers flat and pointing straight.

"Mikoooooo..." I intone, as I twist my hips slowly, bringing my right arm up and over to the right, describing a slow arc.

The colorful, silent, flying menagerie that I share the deactivated circle with has started to orbit me. Does it know the difference?

Let's hope not <which was precisely the idea>.

Right arm is almost pointing straight right. I whip it around, clench the fist, and bring it back close to my body. Left arm snaps out, pointing up and to the right.

My shout splits the afternoon air as I feel seven points of impact along my body.


At this moment, I think there's no way I could stop smiling, even if I wanted to.

[ ] Something Exotic
[ ] Something Elegant


So that double update thing isn't happening: there was sort of a Christmas party and a should-be-a-convict uncle showing up that happened, instead. Maybe I can try for dailies until the weekend, or something?

First track was from the Gun Frontier soundtrack. How it got made into an anime, I'll never know.
(X) exotic
[x] Something Elegant

An elegant weapon, for a more blah blah blah
[X]Something Exotic

A proper majou miko outfit
[x] Something Exotic
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[青] Something Exotic

I hold my breath, waiting to see if anything bad is going to happen. As the seconds tick by, terrible things fail to happen, I become aware of two things: First, I notice that I can't actually feel my clothes. I mean, I don't feel chilly or naked or anything. But as I carefully wiggle my limbs, I notice the complete lack of any fabric-against-skin sensation.

The second thing I notice is that I closed my eyes at some point between then and now. I <waaait youre missing the final touch> ...almost open them. But that's right; I haven't finished this properly, have I?

With a jump that's partially enhanced by my flight magic, I execute a flying somersault and land several meters away, cracking my eyes open as I land <much better>, arms held out to my sides.

[Eight out of ten, good form~]

So... did it wo<holy shit what>—

Upon looking down at myself, I let out a startled gasp <but its scarier than that so much scarier but i can only feel the fear distantly but it is there>. I can't even begin to describe what I'm wearing.

Literally, I can't describe it. Even as I look at it, I just... I can't clearly... The closest comparison I can think of is when you spot something moving far away, but i'ts small enough and indistinct enough that you can't make out much of a shape or an appearance— all you can see is movement. It's like that, but this object could not be any closer to me than it already is.

...Well, these things obviously change the shape of whatever they're on. That was the point of this, of course— but not everybody sees the same thing. Elis didn't see a UFO, she saw one of her aeriables <something she would know and recognize as a flying object>. ...So if its behavior dictates what you see when you look at it... That's could be important, I think. And useful. Must consider further.

I turn a little, and crane my further down, trying to get a better look at it. ...And just like that, I can suddenly make a little more sense of it, like when you finally hit something dim with lighting at just the right angle.

My first impression is of something long that hugs my body closely, like a dress or maybe a cheongsam. But then I look at my arms and no, there's clearly something on them all the way down. Sleeves. Can't be a cheongsam, but with the way whatever it is moves, it also billows out down by the wrists. Not many dresses like that.

[It's like some kind of high-society Batman... girl... look you've got, there.

And it sways, lightly, I notice. I shake my hips back and forth a few times, to get a sense of how the rest of the mystery garment moves. It's split? Or something. Wait, is there more fabric underneath? I keep staring right at it, and yet, I really can't make it out well at all.

With a grumble, I pull out my mirror, and hold it at arm's length, angling it this way and that. Somehow, that helps a little, too, and I'm— oh! It's one of those, isn't it? I can't actually remember the name, but they have them in.... Laos? Vietnam? Maaaybe Korea? I can't remember the name. The word "blue" keeps coming to mind, and I know there was more to the word, but I can't remember it. Still, I can recall exactly what they look—

I blink, and then, the thing is completely, normally visible. It's unexpected enough that I jump slightly.

After a moment, I look over myself with the mirror, again. It's a dark, dark green "blue"-thing, with a pale white rose design across the chest, primroses wrapped tightly along their stems like some kind of creeping vine. Weird, but it's pretty enough.

Only after I put away the mirror do I realize: this bizarre, crazy plan of mine totally worked.

It takes me a minute for the laughter to die down, and by the time I've cleaned up, packed up, and taken off once more, I'm feeling better than I have all day.

[ ] Recent happenings — Dwells on yesterday mornin'. Might be that it's easier to bear, now.
[ ] Historical events — Girl's thoughts go back farther. Thinks 'bout brighter days, better times.


I was not kidding about dailies.
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>I was not kidding about dailies.
Indeed you weren't! (Is that some sort of áo dài she's wearing? Hahahaha. Somehow I missed your image completely.)

[x] Recent happenings — Dwells on yesterday mornin'. Might be that it's easier to bear, now.
[x] Recent happenings — Dwells on yesterday mornin'. Might be that it's easier to bear, now.

I might start looking for chinese dress Sanae pics now.
[x]Something Elega-
...oh. Wow, you weren't kidding.

[x] Recent happenings — Dwells on yesterday mornin'. Might be that it's easier to bear, now.
Other option is so incredibly tempting.
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I regret to inform my readers that the story has been cancelled, thanks to the recent apocalypse.

Terribly sorry.
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♫: http://minus.com/l3lHgYWFQVIuP

[Ñ] Recent happenings — Dwells on yesterday mornin'. Might be that it's easier to bear, now.

The rest of the day passes without much happening. I fly over a tiny little village in the evening, but decide to skip it. I know how to rough it in the wild. Kana-mama's tengu friend taught me about things like that.

So by the time it starts getting darker, I am lucky enough to come upon a forest of sorts <no weird blue crap this time>. Well, everything looks redder than normal, but that's no surprise. In Makai, it seems that almost everything is touched by at least a little red, brown, or purple. I find a nice cozy cluster of trees, and decide to make camp there.

Dry wood and tinder is easily found. I start the fire using sticks and friction— I don't want to short the flashlight batteries over something like this, and there isn't enough sunlight to make effective use of the flashlight's reflector as a focus. But when you can automate the spinning of the stick using wind magic, it makes the whole thing far, far easier. I soon have an ember against which I touch one of the flyers for Moriya Shrine. I don't think it'll look good if I'm found with those on me.

[Well, aren't you just the little Girl Scout~]

Once the fire is burning nicely, I set up a crude backsplash made from branches and the bark of a dead tree I found. This way, more of the heat is bounced back over to where I'll be sleeping, and a few stars inscribed onto it ensures that it's all focused in my direction, like my own personal jetstream.

I lack any kind of mattress or blanket, which is why I'm taking such care to stay warm. All I have are the clothes on my back, which... Hmm.

"Trace on."

I carefully examine my new outfit, something which I should have done from the beginning. One, two... Three... Four? No, four and five. Five not-really worms are slowly inching their way across my clothes. I would probably find this kind of gross and creepy normally, but... that would seem sort of ungrateful.

Seriously, I can't get upset at them for doing something that awesome.

But where are numbers six and seven? ...Please don't say they're in my hair. Or, gods forbid, my underwear. Gratefulness has its limits, and that would be pushing them.

A few more minutes of looking reveals that the sixth worm is on the 'pants' of this outfit, currently in the vicinity of my right calf. Another minute of partial undressing locates the seventh on the back of the upper part of the garment, right around where the small of my back would be. All worms accounted for, I re-establish my normal vision, and straighten my top.

[...Hats do not make great pillows. Must remember that.]

The dinner Keshti provided me with<at least i think its dinner it could be what shouldve been todays lunch> is spicy, but not as painful as breakfast was. A light wooden container with partitions surprisingly like a bento box holds tightly packed, pre-sliced pieces of machavat and a blob of adama in one half, and rough cubes of some kind of roasted, smoky meat, which is where the spiciness comes from.

As expected, it's quite good. The thought occurs to me that Keshti seems like a very capable youn man. Demon. He can cook, he's smart, he seems rather nice... Rather housewife-ish. Although I guess that makes him a ...house-husband?

That phrase conjures up visions of him doing the naked-apron thing for Elis, at which point I almost choke on the machavat I'd been chewing <cutting off this line of thought thank you very much>.

Feeling the weariness of nighttime catching up to me, I trace out a circle of protection, and then inside that, a salt circle. The latter is thinner than the one I laid down in the shed, in order to encompass both the fire and my resting spot for the night. Said resting spot was brushed clean and smooth; the best I could hope for without getting any leafy cover. I'll get that next time, I suppose.

Salt circle... check. Extra wood for when the fire dies down... check. Haraegushi close at hand... whoops. Okay, now check. ...That's it, I guess.

"Good night, Suwa-mama," I whisper after curling up by the fire. It's comfortably warm. "Good night, Kana-mama. ...Good night, Makai."

Please watch over me, everyone.


...Well, I'm definitely sure the apocalypse happened, it's... it's just taking its time, that's all!

So until then, I guess maybe I could update.
But once I see a feathered serpent looking like he's gonna eat the sun or something, this is totally dropped, okay?

Second half tomorrow, barring any such feathered-serpent/solar interactions.

Also: if you're reading this in the archives (or at least, long after when this was actually posted) and the songs are down, get on the IRC channel, ask around for me, and I'll reupload them.
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Correction: actual tomorrow. It'd be cut too short, otherwise.
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Sleep doesn't come immediately, however. I close my eyes anyway, and desperately try to think of anything besides the strange and unknown creatures of Makai <well now im definitely sure not to think of them>.


The thought doesn't scare me, though. Thinking about that, no, it really doesn't. Innocence at work, I guess. But once upon a time, animals didn't know humans were dangerous, either. It's no excuse to not be concerned.

Uncertainty, that still comes through. Maybe not as much as it should, but certainly more than fear, so I latch onto it, explore it further. Nearly everything I'm dealing with is an unknown variable of some kind. Elis and Keshti prepared me a little, and I learned a little, but I haven't had any experience with the demons and creatures and youkai and monsters and everything else that lives in Gensokyo. Maybe I can't be scared of things directly anymore, but uncertainty... Yes, that's something I can rely on a little more.

My lips turn up ever so briefly in a slight smile. And here I thought I wanted to escape from fear. ...And I do, I still do. Or its byproducts, anyway. Uncertainty will have to serve in its place, for now.

If they were more like Gensokyan youkai, I think I'd be set. I can deal with them.


[ ♫: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vr_3dDLiczU (play it soft) ]

High up in the skies of Gensokyo, blue-white and red-blue(and purple) face off. That's what anyone else looking at it from a distance would call it. Not a shot of danmaku has been fired; no flying bursts of magic mar the aerial landscape around them.

It's a fine day out. Blue skies, white clouds, flying girls.

Red-blue(and purple) looks frustrated. "Come
on! That has to have been a little surprising, right?! Are you really telling me he doesn't spook you at all?" she says, gesturing to her purple companion. He blinks at blue-white.

Blue-white, target and source both of this frustration seems unable to comprehend the youkai's ire. "Nnnno? I mean... well no, not really. Something like that flying around isn't very scary or surprising. They've got little helicopter toys that fly around, you know? Remote controlled things; they aren't too expensive. A sight like that isn't anything unusual these days," explains the miko, who's put a hand on her hip.

The other girl's mismatched eyes widen, and she staggers back. "That's... no way, that's a lie! I've been to the village, there's nothing like that there! ...And what's a 'helicopter'?"

Blue-white continues on, as if she hadn't really heard red-blue(and purple). It's quite possible she didn't. "...And really, if your, uh... friend, there..." she says, gesturing at the youkai's companion with a wave of her haraegushi. "...If he was being carried around by a housekeeper, I daresay even the older generation wouldn't be very surprised."

"Wh... what are..." The aqua-haired youkai seems devastated. "...Are you saying I'm stale? That I'm outdated?" She shudders as she forces the next words out: "...That I'm ...obsolete?"

The miko holds up her hands in a half-placating gesture, wincing slightly. She might've struck a nerve, here. "Look, I'm not saying you're behind the times, but... you're behind the times."

Red-blue(and purple)'s shoulders sag when she hears this, and then starts to sniffle and sob.

Blue-white wonders for a moment if her competitors ever have to deal with this sort of thing. ...Probably not. "Well, um... look," she says, drifting closer. "It's not the end of the world if you can't scare people—"

"IT IS TOO!" shouts the distraught girl. "That's how youkai like me lose power and starve and go away and disappear! If I'm not scary or surprising or shocking or thrilling, I'm not living!" Three angry eyes are glare at blue-white, who stops.

A tongue is stuck out in her direction as well. ...Well, stuck out further, at least.

The miko opens her mouth to reply. "Well, why don't you start by getting rid of that ridculously goofy-looking purple thing? It's really not doing you any favors, having to carry it around like that. Seriously, what's with that godawful color? If someone gave me one as a gift, I'd tell them 'No thanks,' and just walk home in the rain."

...is what she thinks of saying.

In fact, it's very hard not to. But she's no monster, the blue-white.

Instead, she takes a deep breath and forces herself to think. She's a shrine maiden, and most of her shrine's visitors are local youkai anyway. So... it's her duty to help the people she protects, right? Even if she's never met them before.

And even if they tote around atrocious purple things with them.

"Maybe there are different ways to go about it, you know?" is what she actually says.

Red-blue, who is a lot more red now (Purple is still just glaring, hard), looks up at her, sniffles. "What's that s'posed to mean?"

Blue-white curses internally. "Well..." She can't really recommend any good shows or movies to her, and miko duties be damned, she's
not lending out her manga collection to a random youkai she only just met. "There are other ways to, y'know... surprise people."

"You just said that," says the other girl, a little petulantly. The blue-white grimaces; that was a poor attempt at stalling for time. Where else would there even be anything with fresh, new mat— Oh!

"Have you tried browsing the shelves at Kourindou?" suggests blue-white. "He receives material that's never been seen before in Gensokyo."

Red-blue(and purple) brighten up slightly at this, but tries not to show it. "...'ve been there once 'r twice..." She blows her nose on an unexpectedly lacy handkerchief. "I didn't look at much of his stock inside, though..." She keeps trying to look sullen, but the tears have stopped.

"Well, perhaps you should go in and see what there is." says the miko, encouragingly. "He's nicer to people who seem like paying customers."

"Maybe. I've got... things to do," says the youkai, starting to drift off. Blue-white can already see her drifting away, trying to figure out where the tinker's junkyard is in relation to where they are, and tries not to smile.

The shrine maiden just nods, and gently flies away. "Well, good luck, then!" she calls out. "Happy, um... surprising. Oh, what was your name?"

Red-blue(and purple)'s reply is still audible at this range as she shouts back—



My eyes pop open and a scream, my scream, shatters the morning air <morning doesn't look like this>.

A strange grunt and puff of warm air that smells far too animal bring me out of an uneasy rest, and... what is going on oh gods what even happened?

I'm in the middle of some kind of magical circle<s plural> or something, the air smells weird, I'm cold, there's smoke, and something massive and hideous and hairy is staring at me from barely a meter away.

"Come out and play with Billyak, onje."

[ ] Strikes first n' fast. This one ain't respectin' the duel rules. Fair game, right?
[ ] Holds steady a moment. Might be it can't jump her, somehow. Could use that.
[ ] The hell's an 'onje'? Girl trash-talks right back. 's called the Gensokyan Greeting.


Almost finished with the Dangan Rompa LP. Saw most of it coming, but it still has me excited.
(X) Be stuffy and polite. Like an old lady.
[x] Holds steady a moment. Might be it can't jump her, somehow. Could use that.

I thought about going all 'shock and awe' but that doesn't work with people who love to fight. She should get some information out of it and seeing if those circles stop him from attacking would be a good start.
[X] The hell's an 'onje'? Girl trash-talks right back. 's called the Gensokyan Greeting.

Fully expecting a Bad End, but what the hell.
[x] Holds steady a moment. Might be it can't jump her, somehow. Could use that.
[x] Holds steady a moment. Might be it can't jump her, somehow. Could use that.
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[Ⓢ] Holds steady a moment. Might be it can't jump her, somehow. Could use that.

...It speaks.

That's enough of a surprise that I don't move for yet another few seconds, just staring at it.

It's quite big.

Some kind of dog... lizard... fanged thing. An antelope-wolf mix <maybe a wolfalope>? And with horns, I note. I've never even heard of anything like this; why is there one in Gensokyo? I'm sure I don't know of every possible monster of legend, but ...Gensokyo naturally tends to lean pretty hard towards youkai of Japanese origin, and I'm pretty well-read on those.

At least it's not attacking, yet.

We both continue to stay quite still, it watching me, and me lying on the ground.

...What am I doing sleeping outside? And what's with ...this red ...dirt...



Oh, oh, oh.

And then everything comes back steadily, in bits and parts and pieces. I shiver, and don't know if it's only from the chill.

It's not Gensokyo at all. I didn't even get the chance to think this had all been a dream, either <dammit>.

Slowly, I push myself upright, taking a few slow, deep breaths to calm my nerves. "No, I'm quite fine where I am," I tell the wolfalope.

It bares fangs— ones bigger than the pair already jutting out —and sneers, somehow. "Pfah. How unsporting." It turns, and then starts to slink away. Slowly, lazily, though: I get the impression it wants me to know it totally could have stuck around, it just didn't want to bother. Cats will do that.

Ten or fifteen meters out, it suddenly whips around <oh gods no>, and bounds back in a startlingly nimble maneuver. It comes to a stop just shy of the circle, and its eyes narrow.

I had not yet relaxed, so I just keep staring at it, and pray it can't hear my heart thudding. It probably can. Fuck <sorry>.

"...Are you absolutely certain? The magnificent Billyak knows much about entertainment." asks the beast. The persistent type, huh?

<time to be firm remember how to deal with unruly youkai you must show confidence> "Piss off." <but the drunk and surly hakurei school of diplomacy works too i guess>

'Billyak' growls and stares at me for another moment, before stalking off in a huff. "Wanker," it mutters, malicious leering tone replaced by simple annoyance.

I wait another twenty minutes or so before I even think about moving, making very sure it's really gone.


...Going back to sleep isn't an option any longer, I think. Gods, what a way to start the morning.

[ ] Wakes up proper, first. Girl stokes them coals and has a bite.
[ ] Goes for a dip, first. Mornin' swim opens up her eyes but good.
[ ] Place ain't safe to linger about. Best mount up n' ride out soon.


Merry Christmas, one and all!
Start a Hina thread somewhere today; show your holiday spirit!
...Or Kurumi, if you're celebrating Hannukah.
[x] Wakes up proper, first. Girl stokes them coals and has a bite.
[x] Wakes up proper, first. Girl stokes them coals and has a bite.
-[x]Be quick about it, though.
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[日] Wakes up proper, first. Girl stokes them coals and has a bite.

But now that it's started, I might as well get on with things. Standing up, I close my eyes, and try to let go of the tension that had seized me <but how do you let go of something thats grabbed you>. All I can do is... just get on with things, right? Take care of the things I can actually take care of.

Opening my eyes again, I once more take in the weird morning light of Makai. Purple and red and dark and light, all around me. Mountains and valleys and plains and the red earth. Strange new people and monsters that speak.

It's not Hell, despite the fact that it's a land of demons. But... it's a kind of hell, in a sense— lonesome and terrifying and unfriendly, all at once. I'd also thought that about Gensokyo, but that passed once I began to find friends and people to socialize with. I don't think that's as easily done, here.

[Something smells like a moose. A fancy moose.]

I don't know if I can get depressed anymore, but I can still be plagued with unpleasant thoughts. Heck with that. Gotta focus on the upsides. I have a lead on a way back home. I've got a recommendation from someone who's respected in her field. I have a clear goal in mind <get home asap>. And best of all, I'm not dead yet.

...Normally, that would be some pretty black humor, or a joke in poor taste. But in Makai, things are different. In Makai, staying alive strikes me as a pretty solid accomplishment. In fact, each day that goes by where I'm not dead by the end of it, I'm better off than I was the day before. Things that would have been hazardous are no longer so. Options I didn't know I had, I learn about. Even if it's only a handful at a time, the list of ways I can be harmed or killed has gotten shorter every time I manage to wake up again in the morning.

"Each day, I'm getting stronger," I whisper aloud. I swing a slow, lazy punch in the direction of a distant mountain. "Maybe I am in a manga, after all." There's a chuckle in my voice that doesn't manage to hide itself very well <and isnt this place essentially where mages come to have their training arcs>.

I go to brush myself off, but find that there's no dirt clinging to my ...this garment I still can't remember the name of. Why does "blue" keep sticking in my mind? ...Heck with it, I'm calling it a 'blue dress' until further notice <despite it being neither blue nor a dress>. Yes. Shut up. My hair's not so lucky, and I do the best I can with that. Should probably take a bath, later.

Not here, though. I'm not that dumb.

...And hey, there's the proof: by tomorrow morning, 'wolfalopes looking for breakfast' won't be on the list anymore. Progress!

Using a mix of small twigs and flyer scraps at the base of a pile of progressively larger twigs and branches, I manage to get the fire going again from the embers. Five minutes later, it's burning nicely. Luckily, I don't need it too large; I'll be leaving soon enough.

I relieve myself, which is very awkward to do within the confines of the circle, but not impossible <dig a ditch and cover it up just like a cat he told me>. Still no soap, but I splash a bit of water on my hands and then warm them by the fire. Roughing it isn't pretty, but I'm not exactly overloaded with options.

That taken care of, I eat a smaller, more tightly packed version of yesterday's breakfast. The leandbakbek is tricky to eat with chopsticks, but becomes easier to work with when I crudely cut up the egg. There's actually a l s much food in these as it seems. I'll need to make sure to savor it properly, next time.

[I can handle this. I can handle this. I can handle this. I ate a scotch bonnet once. This is nothing. I can handle this.]

After breakfast, I put everything away, and lash a few small bundles of leftover firewood to my pack using some of the dangling straps. I don't know how often it rains around here, so I should keep dry tinder on hand.

Once I've put the fire out, I stare at the double circles that surround my campsite. And then I cast an eye into the nearby woods. Then from there, across the banks of the river.

Nobody in sight.

[ ] Commences t'leave. Girl takes her things and gets moving; ain't safe to stick around.
[ ] Works careful. She takes a moment to hide the site, but her hand don't leave her side.


If you actually pay attention to any recommendations I make and/or you liked Parov Stelar when I mentioned it, go check out Caravan Palace. They're very similar, and very good. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RaKSRU60bw is a good song to get started with.
[x] Works careful. She takes a moment to hide the site, but her hand don't leave her side.

Red skies at morning, miko takes warning; act in haste, repent at leisure.
[x] Commences t'leave. Girl takes her things and gets moving; ain't safe to stick around.

It's just hit me like a ton of bricks what accepting the gift of innocence may have done. I have never hoped so hard to be wrong in my life.
[x] Commences t'leave. Girl takes her things and gets moving; ain't safe to stick around.

You mean the possibility it desensitizes her to the point of condoning torture on an harmless umbrella youkai?
Yes. Exactly.
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Might be a little bit before the next update. School starts on the 2nd, and I'm trying to catch up on a bunch of stuff I'd been putting off for the past year/much of the previous quarter.
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Happy New Year to all my readers!
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Yeeee! Now it the year of the Sanae! Oh, happy days!
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[◥] Commences t'leave. Girl takes her things and gets moving; ain't safe to stick around.

No, I'm in no mood to take my sweet time with something like 'Billyak' <maybe> hanging around. Skip the morning bath; I can do that further upriver, or after lunch, or something. Do I have everything? ...Yes.

Running a hand through my hair, I give it a brief, crude straightening. Then I gather it, fold it upwards, and fasten it in place like I was going for a soak in the bath back at home, or something. I use my frog hairclip for that, which feels a little weird; normally I use a separate clip when I do that <too bad thats like the least weird thing on this trip so far>.

...I give a quiet, bitter, chuckle. Isn't that just the truth? I'm really beginning to understand how overused "weird" is, back on the Outside. Even Gensokyo wasn't as sharp a reminder of the original meaning of that word <well maybe a few times>.

Time to go.

After calling the salt back into its container, I stow it away, and tuck my haraegushi away in my pack with the handle sticking out of the zipper— it won't be seen, but I can still get to it in a hurry. Then I erase the line I'd scraped out on the ground with a stick in a wide swath with a sweep of my boot, take two steps <seriously gotta stop that>, and kick off and up.

[Up, up, and away~]

Some all-too-human instinct makes me look back behind me as I soar into the purple sky. 'Did I make it? How far away was I from being attacked? What terrible things could have happened to me?' Grim and terrible possibilities fascinate people when it comes to themselves. <if you arent fascinated youd just go insane instead>. That's what I heard, anyway.

[ ♫: http://minus.com/ldv44KHQu7JGO ]

I do spot something about a third of a kilometer away from my campsite. Something green and pointy and angular; lots of straight edges, but... still a living thing. Something about the movement.

At no point do I feel any urge to go back and look closer. That's a sensible thought, but the curious <and im beginning to think suicidal> part of me is disappointed about that. Sanyaae knows what happens when you get too curious.

I reacquire the river, which isn't too hard. The scenery is a partial help, even though it was dark back then. Orienting myself isn't at all tricky: since the river flows mo, so I just need to keep the sun <or its glow> off to the set, on my right. ...No wait, an is sunward. Behind me is set. Stupid Makai and its stupid directions.

At my cruising altitude of <about> a hundred and fifty meters, I point myself mo and fly straight. Straightish, keeping the river more or less under me. The red stone highway widens after a while, and catches the morning light in a way that deepens the hue of the pavement.

...Sort of like blood vessels, in a way. A long winding red line, a long winding blue line. And from the standpoint of trading and economics or whatever, I guess that's not too inaccurate a comparison.

Hours pass. I realize I'm more tired than I thought, but I don't think there's anything for it. Well, maybe my postponed bath. I could go for some coffee. Do they have coffee, I wonder <or just that awful tea>?

...I'm rambling. Internally.

[No, it's pretty external!]

That's the first sign of madness, isn't it?

[Depends on the content~]

"Mnnrgh." I grunt, and rub my eyes, which feel a little sore. And have been, for a while. Did I only now notice that? I dip a little lower, and make an effort at actually looking around.

...Almost the same as always. Hilly and mountainous. But it's flattened out a little— the valleys between the hills are getting wider, and I'm seeing the occasional stream or creek winding down between them, now, feeding into the Makelot itself. Farms are all over these, and I mind the advice about orchards.

Scooting over to the other side of the river, I start to see wagons on the highway as morning gets on. Nothing too unusual about that in this area, I guess.

But as I continue to fly, the wagon traffic is joined by carts and carriages of sorts. Lots of people on these, and I can just barely hear the chattering going on. And every now and then, someone flying lower lands on the road alongside a cart, and hops on after ... some kind of discussion.

[ ] Most likely it's the mornin' commute; ain't nothing special. Girl keeps flyin'.
[ ] Figures askin' don't cost anything. A couple questions or so won't take long.
[ ] Never mind any a' that. Warm, quiet place to nap's what she needs now.


That bit was a bit too long.
>[ ] Never mind any a' that. Warm, quiet place to nap's what she needs now.
Wait. Does this entail trying to find a place to stay or just napping somewhere? I'm not clear on this.
You must be new to his stories

[x] Never mind any a' that. Warm, quiet place to nap's what she needs now.
[x] Never mind any a' that. Warm, quiet place to nap's what she needs now.
Ouch. But really, I'm trying to make the options for Otherwise be fairly clear.
It's the latter.
Don't worry, you are. Thanks.

[x] Never mind any a' that. Warm, quiet place to nap's what she needs now.
File 135821245084.jpg - (8.40KB, 300x207, weary traveler rest your head.jpg) [iqdb]
[Հ] Never mind any a' that. Warm, quiet place to nap's what she needs now.

Might be something interesting. Might not. Right now, I'm... I can think about it later. Besides, if it was really important, Elis would've told me <at least i hope so>. Or maybe she trusted I'd be smart enough to use my own judgement.

I don't know if I have judgement right now. What I have the most of right now is tiredness. Not really all that surprising, I guess. I don't know how well Makai's days and nights match up with Earth's, but if each of the marks on the clock was an hour, then... yeah. There's going to be some offset.

Jet-lag, minus the jet <also ugly freaky wake up call>.

"Oh... nuts to this," I mutter, and bank an toward the shore opposite the increased traffic. If I find out, that's great. If I don't, I'm not going to lose sleep over it.

...Heh. That's the point, after all.

About twenty or thirty minutes later, I find the perfect spot to nap: a few small trees provide cover from the weather <if any weather was to show up>, about a third of a kilometer from the river. Right next to them, stretching out for quite a ways to either side, is a long, long zigzagging fence.

Some kind of animals are roaming about, meaning it's probably a pasture of some sort, putting me on the border of some farm. Elis' warning about orchards came to mind when I saw this place. It's not flimsy rationalization if it's totally logical, so I should be fine.


I look around as I land on the red-brown soil, and conclude that I really, really need this nap. I actually thought I heard someone agreeing with me, that time. None of the farm animals, whatever they are, are in the immediate vicinity, anyway. So it wasn't one of them.

"Besides, nobody wants a hamburger to talk to them," I muse, cracking a smile. The fence looks homemade, but sturdy. Stacked, chopped timbers of some blue-tinged wood rise up surprisingly high; two meters or more. I peer through the fence at the animals penned inside, distant lumpy shapes.

...Are they really that big, or are they trying to keep something out that's this big?

It's all the incentive I need to lay out the salt and traced-dirt circles. ...Ah, I should have grabbed some ash from the campfire. Maybe tomorrow morning.

In the corner formed by the fence's zigzag shape, under the trees, on the strangely warm alien earth <just from the sunlight i hope but that seems odd>, behind my double circles, I close my eyes.

Just a short nap.

[ ] Sleep comes easy. 'Course, that's half the trouble, right there.
[ ] Wakin', that's easy, too. Girl's stretched tighter'n she knows.


This update was brought to you by the letters M, W, the number 8, and the word "zeitgerber."
[x] Sleep comes easy. 'Course, that's half the trouble, right there.
[x] Wakin', that's easy, too. Girl's stretched tighter'n she knows.
[x] Sleep comes easy. 'Course, that's half the trouble, right there.
[☉] Wakin', that's easy, too. Girl's stretched tighter'n she knows.

Also, zeitgeber. One r.
[x] Sleep comes easy. 'Course, that's half the trouble, right there.

[x] Wakin', that's easy, too. Girl's stretched tighter'n she knows.


Also, can we get an inventory check?
Hm. Sleep might lead to immediate danger but less stress later, and vice versa...

[☼] Sleep comes easy. 'Course, that's half the trouble, right there.

This might allow us to put less stress upon our to-be hosts in Dis. Also, Ya Hya Chouhada!
I've just realizes that all these choices sound like the bastion narrator

fuck you atoi
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[୯] Sleep comes easy. 'Course, that's half the trouble, right there.

And really, it's gotta be a short one. I've got another day and a half of travel ahead of me. Can't afford to fall behind.

I can't spend too much time just doing as I wish.

Honestly. This whole trip just kind of sucks.


High, high up, amongst the blue sky and white clouds, Blue-white, a Stylish Girl, and the Traditional Old Man do battle.

Blue-white won.

A Stylish Girl sits on her knees, eyes downcast. She looks rather more chastened than she did fifteen minutes ago. The Traditional Old Man hovers beside her, reduced in both size and ferocity. Though he would continue the battle, he and she both know the laws of the land.

Blue-white recalls a similar sort of scene, years ago. Years ago, but not
too long ago. With that in mind, she tries to be more polite than the person in her stead was. This is not an especially difficult task.

"So, um," she begins. "Like I was saying earlier, I really just wanted to take a look around; just to investigate, you know?"

"...Very well."


"I have heard tales, warnings, of this land's enforcer. A shrine maiden who investigates incidents and wins against all odds. I suppose that is you, correct?"

Blue-white doesn't know whether to laugh or be seriously ticked off. Settling on only one is not an instantaneous process, but she knows that for right now, it's better to bite her tongue and just go with it. She can tell them who she is after the fact. ...Yes, that's what she'll do.

And hey, if they think she's someone else, and are attributing that reputation to her, then so be it. It makes her own job easier, and it's
their stupid fault for not guessing that there might be two shrine maidens in Gensokyo, thank you very much.

"I see you're very well-informed," says Blue-white, adopting the slightly smug look that Red-white gets on the rare occasions that somebody pays her a compliment; that girl overcompensates because she doesn't get enough of them. "But I'm glad to see you know how this is supposed to go down."

Stylish Girl nods. "Alas, we do. The most important areas are deep within the ship." She gestures to the door of a large hut that sits on the deck of the ship. "Within there are the stairs leading belowdecks. Watch your step— the wood is old and sturdy, but sometimes slippery."

Blue-white is quite pleased with herself, and gives the other girl a curt nod of thanks before passing by her, and looking inside the small hut. Sure enough, a wide ladder extends downwards from a hole cut into the floor. Largely empty shelves and a barrel are the only other things decorating the room.

Looks clear.

"If it's no trouble, I'll need to go back to work. I'd rather this not become any more blown-over than it needs to be," says Stylish Girl, from behind her. She's gotten to her feet, Traditional Old Man drifting silently beside her, but neither have made a move towards Blue-white.

Blue-white looks back at her. She doesn't seem especially mean or dangerous, and she knew how to show respect. ...Furthermore, she clearly knew about spellcard rules and the Red-white, and probably also about what the latter does when you ignore the former.

There can't be
too much harm in it.

"Sure, go ahead," she tells the Stylish Girl. There's something maybe a bit fishy about that, but she can handle it. A smile is brought to her lips as she unslings her pack, and pulls out her flashlight.

After all, she came prepared.

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Stylish Girl waits for some time after the door to the hut closes.

When she is quite sure that Blue-white has disappeared, she lets out a slow, relieved breath, and holds up an open hand, palm facing away.

A lumpy pink hand slaps into it, creating a solid clap despite its smoky appearance as the Traditional Old Man indulges her. The pair of youkai look not just relieved, but satisfied.

After all, their workload just got drastically lightened.

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[ ♫: http://youtu.be/lQgcLCpBUHc ]

Blue-white is amazingly thankful that she doesn't have mold allergies. If she did, she would be in some serious trouble right now, she muses.

The ship is old. Really, really old. It only just avoids being called "decrepit" because despite looking ancient, it's not technically in bad shape, and most of the mold isn't actually visible.

But it's seen far better days, that much is clear.

It's also pretty large. That was obvious from the outside, but even belowdecks, it retains that sense of size. This is due in part to the cramped nature of the corridors: even though there is plenty of space to play with, the ship was built as if every last centimeter had to be used. The top floor doesn't have one main hall running the length of the vessel; it has
two, each one lined with rooms, most of them locked.

She's not so impolite as to try and break in. That works in RPGs, but real people tend to grow upset when you barge into their room, loot their valuables, root around in their grandfather clocks, and then demand to know if they've seen a man in a black cape.

The ship's original purpose is a mystery to the miko. Judging by the number of rooms, it used to hold a lot of people. It almost reminds her of an ocean liner, although there was never any such thing back then. Was there?

The Blue-white keeps these sorts of thoughts running through her mind non-stop, and focusing only on the discoveries and academic questions and other such intellectual pursuits. It's very important that she keep thinking only about these things.

...If she didn't, she might be forced to think about the fact that she was all alone in an old, dark, creepy boat which smelled musty and ancient and had no lights and was pitch-black except for the bright beam of her flashlight.

It goes without saying that she clutches her haraegushi very tightly.

Floor 2B seems to be partially storage, and partially utility rooms. The smell of something cooking wafts through the air, but she isn't able to locate its source definitively. It certainly seems to be closer to one of the locked doors, however.

As she wanders the passageways of the second deck down,

Warm breath, then.

It blows across the back of the neck.

[ ] Something Frantic
[ ] Something Focused


It seems some of the mp3 links are already dead, so I've broken down and put them up on Youtube, which is I guess what I'll also do in the future, barring any kind of copyright nonsense.
Mirage of Wilderness: http://youtu.be/hM4dq5tNV0c (>>10968)
A Bed Too Big: http://youtu.be/E2Q4mjCl9FU (>>10983)
Arashi no Naka De: http://youtu.be/YRI7Lqbfkp8 (>>11047)

Whoops, you're right. Got KiCAD on the brain.
[x] Something Focused

Foolish, Foolish Sanae, trying to take advantage of Reimu's reputation rarely ends well.
[☼] Something Focused.

While we already know the outcome of these events, keeping a level head (or rather having a history of such) is likely to hold better results than the alternative.
[x] Something Focused

This is about to get bad, isn't it?
Saw this vote before the update and freaked the hell out. Don't scare me like that.

[x] Something Focused
Fuck yeah, Army Carbine.
[·] Something Focused

The warm breath is present tense, not a dream-memory. So yes, very.
Oh, it is? In that case...

change to [x] Something Frantic
Machete's good too.

Someone is literally breathing down your neck and this is crazy death world and you're asleep and defenseless and why are you not freaking out yet? Sanae leaping awake and flailing her arms in a panic is far more entertaining than...uh...whatever focused would be.
this isn't a hijinks story.
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♫: http://youtu.be/lQgcLCpBUHc

[ఎ] Something Focused

...What is that?

What is that?


It doesn't happen again.

Nothing happens after, either so it probably was something else on board the ship, trying to mess with her. The Blue-white's recently defeated opponent abovedecks had said something that implied a group presence, although what exactly that might have been isn't coming to mind, right then.

Regardless, something did something neck-breathing-y just then. That was
not her imagination.

Even now, that leftover chill that comes after you breathe on your skin and the warmth fades can still be felt, lingering.

Blue-white flicks her haraegushi-holding hand backward, lightning-fast. In the next movement she surges forward, toward the wall illuminated by the flashlight's beam, and with a spin, presses her back to it. The flashlight's beam wavers slightly, which she finds annoying, for some reason. No, an obvious reason: it's giving away an otherwise unnoticeable trembling. She's not about to turn it off, though.


No resistance during the slash. No terrible beast revealed in the light of the beam. No hideous, evil auras.

"That's pretty lame," she says, and it's only partially bravado. It spooked her, of course. But youkai tended to prefer a more direct approach; none of this psych-out stuff. "Are you going to make a habit of this?"

Silence greets the miko. Okay, so... as long as she doesn't act overconfident, she reasons, she can't be ironically killed or attacked. And she doesn't have to worry about splitting up, because she's the only one around. ...Wait, what if this is just the opening scene? She might be the first victim whose death leads to the main title sequence.
That's a possibility, too.

Competence, that's key. And a lack of over-confidence and death-flag-raising. So Blue-white looks into black darkness, and watches. Waits. Gets irritated, because she can't afford to be bored.

"If you're going to do some kind of dramatic reveal, get it over with."

And then it happens again, that warm breath right on the back of her neck,
But that wasn't what happened; she had actually

heard? Right, she had heard

File 136064640593.png - (57.47KB, 800x800, loved by caret browsing.png) [iqdb]

Giggling, even. Not the scary kind, and not the innocent-sounding-but-used-in-a-scary-way kind. This really sounded amused.

The light moves, and Blue-white is spooked once again. It's a technical fright; unexpected things happening that startle and confuse, and not an actual ...frightening fright.

Is that better or worse?

Regardless, the light

The round disc of light cast by the miko's flashlight breaks free, leaving behind only what the tool truly casts. Drifting away from that is mobile brightness that grows in intensity, and gains depth, definition.

Now it's a ball of light, a globe. It was like that before, realizes Blue-white. She just couldn't make it out.

That must be it.

It hovers, bobs, and then gives another laugh—more of a snicker, this time—and floats off back the way she came, disappearing up the stairs.

Blue-white looks after it.

Then down at the flashlight in her hands. Glares at it.

Had it been hiding in there?

...If so, for how long?


really hopes she didn't just help one of the evil spirits from Underground escape containment. That would not look good on her incident-solving record—you were meant to end problems, not make more of them. Or make pre-existing ones worse.

It didn't really look like one, though, so... Whatever that was has had its kicks, she hopes. Really, really hopes.

"Jerk," she mutters, looking over at where it disappeared before turning back.

Time to focus.

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The next floor down from there features one door and a partially filled cargo hold. The door is set in a large, wide wall.

Blue-white gives it a test, without really expecting anything to come of it. ...And it isn't locked.

Well, isn't that just fortunate?

She would later regret opening the door.

In truth, she would regret most of that day, as well as opening the door, as well as then passing through the door, as well as walking through the corridors. But doors were full of symbolism and made great metaphors, and it sounded
way more dramatic to just mention the part about the door-opening.

If she could be silly about things like that, then that was less she had to think about in regards to what lay beyond. Which, quite literally, did not bear thinking upon.

But right now, Blue-white is relatively regret-free. A bit jumpy, perhaps.

This part of the ship seemed no different from the rest, at first: wooden walls, wooden halls, wooden hulls. Old as hell, and somehow not crumbling to dust.

That changes when she hears the ship creak, for the first time. She jumps—oh gods, did that
stupid light-ball sneak up on her again?!

...No. Her heart pounds in her chest, but she realizes, then, how odd this is by dint of how normal it should be.

The ship has been very, very quiet. No creaking or groaning, no timbers settling. Maybe... maybe they only do that in the water? She doesn't know for sure, but... well, she doesn't know. Still: kinda weird, she thinks.

Another creak, like she would expect from a ship of the sea.

Ten meters along the passageway, she catches the first, faintest hint of something in the air. It's gone before she can identify it.

Another ten meters, and where are the doors? The passageway just turns at the end and... doubles back.

She finds another set of stairs.

Her misgivings are told to shut up as she descends them. Ofuda rest between the fingers that grasp the flashlight, now, ready to be launched in an instant. The gun is out, and her thumb hovers over the safety—but hasn't flicked it off, yet.

Metaphorically speaking.

Not for the first time since coming to Gensokyo, Blue-white laments the fact that those black, metal-body flashlights American police use on television are
not standard miko gear.
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The smell in the air is identifiable, now: saltwater. The smell of the ocean is ever-present as Blue-white descends the stairs, and in addition to the occasional creaking sounds of wood, there's a sway to the deck beneath her feet.

She'd almost slipped. But she was better, now. Hadn't been worse in the first place. Just fine. Shut up.

The bottom of the stairs opens into another corridor room, lit by a soft, green-blue glow that somehow
drifts out of a doorway, just a short ways ahead.

Blue-white switches off her light, stows it, and takes several slow breaths, calming herself.

Then it's into the room, brimming with confidence.

[ ♫: http://youtu.be/8VJ0cu0Zt5g ]

There's a tall, tall ceiling, and a wide, wide room which it covers.

There is the White woman. Her hair is black, her eyes are closed, and her cap rests on her head at a jaunty angle.

There is the faintly glowing ship's wheel she holds in her hand.

There is the ocean, in every possible way without having the ocean there. Its presence is almost palpable; the mere lack of any water whatsoever doing little to diminish this feeling.

There is a slight gasp from Blue-white.

There is a startled movement from White woman, as she opens her eyes, and turns around. "Bugging me won't ma—" she begins, but the words die upon seeing Blue-white. "What?
...What?! ICHIRIIIIIIIN!" she howls, shaking her fist in rage up at the ceiling. "How could you do you do this to me? Have I become such a nuisance? Did you finally decide to be rid of me once and for all?!"

Blue-white has no idea what is going on, but she is not liking where this is going. Even moreso when White woman focuses on her.

"I don't know what price she paid you to do away with me, shrine maiden, but I'll double it! Nay,
triple it! But spare me, and take her instead!"

"That.. I... what are—" Blue-white manages, after finally finding her voice. White woman seems to have taken anything but immediate agreement as a refusal, however.

"Such greed! Such lust for coin! Ask me not for anything more, shrine maiden, else I'll do you in here and n—"

"No! Nobody's put out a hit on anybody! I'm not here to kill you!" shouts Blue-white.

White woman falls silent, and blinks.

"You haven't?"

"Of course not!"

"She didn't?"

"...The lady with the pink ...cloudy... guy-thing? No!"

White woman scowls, and thrusts a finger out at her. "Is that so? Then why the hell are you on my ship, if not to banish me back from whence I came?!"

"She said I could explore the ship, that's all. I'm investigating this incident. You know, the one involving a ship flying around in the sky."

Blue-white is not amused. White woman's eyes go wide.

"...You are?"


"...Oh!" White woman's face breaks into a wide, unsettling grin. "In that case, HOW TERRIBLY AWKWARD!" And she throws back her head and laughs and laughs and laughs
and I wanted to scream, and I didn't know why.

That was my first and only warning.


Where'd that pink sky come from?

...This isn't the ship.


Soreness in my joints becomes loud and noticeable as I stand up, and notice that I was clenching my teeth pretty hard. That's a sign of stress, I've heard <what a surprise>. Still, I'd say the nap did me good: I feel much better, now. Much more ready to take on Makai, and all it's got to offer!


As the low sound of ...some kind of mournful animal's moan crossed with a malfunctioning car horn dies away from right behind me, I remember that stupid thought I had back on the ship about irony and raising death flags.

<smoooooth move kochiya>

[ ] Draws. She's likely surrounded. Might be Billyak. Or somethin' worse.
[ ] Stays her hand. Girl takes precious time takin' note of her surroundings, first.


I think I might actually be able to avoid the usual end-of-quarter crunch, this quarter. Maybe.

This week's manga recommendation is Bonnouji. Apparently Aki Eda is not a total hack, SSiB to the contrary.
[☼] Draws. She's likely surrounded. Might be Billyak. Or somethin' worse.

Our blue-white has had her rest; now it's time for alacrity.
[x] Draws. She's likely surrounded. Might be Billyak. Or somethin' worse.
Shoot first. Ask questions never.
[x] Stays her hand. Girl takes precious time takin' note of her surroundings, first.

Let's try not to get to Stalin levels of paranoia; shooting would only warn whatever might be there.
[␅] Stays her hand. Girl takes precious time takin' note of her surroundings, first.

This is going to turn out to be a cow-equivalent, isn't it.
[x] Stays her hand. Girl takes precious time takin' note of her surroundings, first.

But be ready to MOVE.
[x]Get a hand on that haraegushi immediately.
[x] Stays her hand. Girl takes precious time takin' note of her surroundings, first.
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>I think I might actually be able to avoid the usual end-of-quarter crunch, this quarter. Maybe.
...So. That's a thing that isn't happening, unfortunately. Big shock, I know. Projects are due in two weeks, and I've barely started on them. I think that's a new low.

The good news is that I've got the next update planned and laid out. The bad news is that I need to find some time to actually write it.

And this week's distractionary manga is "Classmate, Kamimura Yuuka wa Kou Itta". It starts off sorta... Haruhi-like, almost. Then it gets strange.
Thanks for the status update, waiting warmly as always.
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So, you're going to be waiting even longer because of classwork, and things like this.

And once I have my Extra (those are notes for that; there are several more such pages), I'll be studying for the GROL with the Radar Endorsement.

And IPC-600, after that.

...I'm going to be a busy little bee this quarter. But it's my last quarter! And with any luck, I'll be able to complain about a job, soon. That would be the best worst thing ever.

You know those stereotypical movie scenes where they find pages and pages of deity-knows-what's-written in the psycho's desk?

Fell was Jack Torrance all along!
So how's the job hunt going?
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Saging this because I would get beaten with a mop handle for getting up people's hopes that an update might have occurred.

I've been feeling like crap since a little after graduation, and I'm waiting till this blows over to get started.

In the mean time, I've been sorting a massive amount of touhou pictures so they're not scattered all over hell and breakfast, and slowly going through my music collection so that I can build up a large, robust assortment of music to use for this story.

Also going through THP for the first time in way, way, way too long, and reading stuff, catching up on stuff.

Updates when? Probably as soon as I've gotten my shit together and stop feeling like I've got stuff I need to do before I get back to writing.

Absolute worst-case scenario, I start updating when August begins, no matter what the fuck is going on. I can't let this shit continue to sit here. If August begins and there's no update here, you all have my permission-- nay, my blessing --to get on IRC and drag my ass back to work like the delinquent dark-skinned field worker that I am.
nobody reads underground so you should probably bump this

like this
>Organizing thousands of files.
Yeah, good luck, you'll need it: I tried and gave up after a week I think.
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[Ἲ] Stays her hand. Girl takes precious time takin' note of her surroundings, first.

Every day since I was young, even up until yesterday <or no its the day before yesterday now>, Kana-mama and Suwa-mama made sure I spent at least two to four hours a day undergoing "miko training." This could cover anything from learning the rituals new and old, basic and complex, to how to brew different types of tea, to how Western and traditional Japanese weddings should be officiated, to learning crusty and obscure regional dialects, to studying the origins of fertility rites. ...Which is actually more like, "miko training, history, public relations, and general religious education," but you don't tell that to a little girl who is all fired up to wear the outfit and wave a gohei. Not if you want her to pay attention <totally worked more or less>.

Since I actually am a proper shrine maiden, now, I don't do it for as long as I used to back then. I still practice regularly, of course (Use it or lose it, right?).

The point is that in the three years or so that lead up to entering Gensokyo, this began to include combat training. Not that Kana-mama would ever call it that. No, no, she would insist, these were actually self-defense lessons.

...However, the fact that "self-defense" included techniques such as, "How to take someone unawares and incapacitate them," and the fact that Suwa-mama would teach me how to survive against attackers wielding increasingly more complicated or bizarre weaponry (I had to have been the only girl in the the prefecture who had even heard of a kpinga) lead me to believe that there was a little more than self-defense that was being taught.

They were both very insistent that I learn it, however. I don't think I argued too much <argued no griped yes>, but I definitely recall hating it for the first several months, as I would spend most of the day afterward feeling unpleasantly sore, or sporting odd bruises under my clothes. Usually both.

After a month in Gensokyo, I took back every complaint and bitter word I ever uttered about this regimen.

[Ah, you shouldn't do that!]

So, with nerves already somewhat strained, in what was 95% sure to be hostile territory, I reacted imm ng felt off, just a tad, and that was enough to cause myself hesitate for the critical—fraction—of a second needed to pay attention to that feeling, and the conclusion was not yet. ...Wait, that didn't even—No, never mind. Noises.

In the silence following my frantic reaction, I crouch low, pack pulled close for (kinda ineffective) cover. Red dust rolls along the ground, disturbed when I yanked it toward me. Right hand grasping my haraegushi's handle, protruding from the pack. Left hand outthrust, thumb paused at the end of tracing the fourth stroke of a star in my palm. The scent of dirt and beast fills the air.

An instant's glance down and around confirms that the circles, what I can see of them, remain unbroken. And the thing that made that noise behind me, just a moment ago, looms tall; taller now that I'm lower to the ground, and...


[ ♫: http://youtu.be/cPBE2uFU-Sc ]

I look to the left. More of them a few dozen meters off, easily visible against the amber sky.

Off to the right, next: only one or two, but clearly the same, huge, hulking forms.

Letting the partially-formed star dissipate, I fish out my cracked mirror, and hold it up, looking behind me. Mountains across the river, and the nearby riverbank, but nothing else of note.


Nothing above me but sky and a few ragged clouds.

Nothing below me but the dirt and grass.

Expected, but always worth checking. If movies teach you anything, it's to look there.

I glance up again, just to be sure. Mild orange and wisps of dark white, but no slithering chitinous terrors.

But in front of me...

I thought it was a yak, at first. Large, heavy, hairy, and snuffling. Kind of smelly, but more "huge furry animal" than "stench". But unlike a yak, this has three big, wide eyes; each blinking at random times. It should be a terrifying stare, but it looks so... so dopey. Yaks also don't have a back that slopes upward to a point, around the shoulders and neck. Plus, this is more fuzzy than hairy.

I force myself to relax, to let go of the tension. The spike of adrenaline hasn't left my system yet, which makes it hard.

"I'm ...really, really glad nobody saw that," I say to the thing staring at me from just behind the zigzag fence.

All three eyes blink in sequence at me, one-two-three. Something about it strikes me as inexplicably goofy, and a snicker forces its way out of my lips, which turns into a giggle. And like that, I'm finally able to let go of the haraegushi's handle.

[How little you know~]

It flicks an ear, and with a hroooompf, bends its head down to graze. Not curious anymore, I guess.

...I'm fairly certain I was just about a couple seconds away from attacking, for all intents and purposes, a cow. Which means it probably isn't one of Elis' "stobor".

Sitting back down on the ground, I shake my head as the laughter dies down. That's one more reason why I need to get out of here as soon as possible—the stress is about as likely to kill me as the monsters. Besides, whacking a farm animal <because if im not mistaken thats a brand on its side> with my haraegushi wouldn't accomplish much—the edge would cut it, sure, but that's about it. A monk might as well bop a horse with his shakujo, or priest could clonk a sheep on the head with a cross.

The Terrible Kochiya, Easily-Startled Slayer of Weird Mutant Yak-things. Yeeeeah, Reimu and Marisa wouldn't get tired of bringing that up any time soon.

"Another rookie mistake for the rookie," I grouse. Well... It's not entirely my fault, but it's not entirely not, either.

Maybe "Billyak" was a stobor.

With another sigh<yay self deprecation>, I climb to my feet, break the circles, and pack up before taking off. I'm long overdue for a bath.
File 137540956268.jpg - (197.13KB, 500x721, shake ya ass٫ but wash yaself.jpg) [iqdb]
Flame licks at the torn edge of another flyer for the Shrine, and I carefully introduce it into a kindling-nest. While I wait for it to catch, I take note of the alien sky above me. What I'd thought was a pink sky was actually orange, turning to red. That... seems to be afternoon-ish? I lost track of time during my nap, but it's obviously a few hours later than it was before, at least.

Once it takes, I build the fire up a little more, then take some wood and carve a few stars into it at certain points, and then place the pieces of wood around the fire at what I think are the right angles—to be honest, I'm kind of improvising, here (but maybe being in Makai will make the magic act more like I want it to? Does it even work like that?).

I'd flown a little ways along the Makelot before finding my target, a stream that fed into the river. ...And after following it for a bit, I'd gone back to the Makelot, because about a kilometer in, it passed right through another fenced-in pasture where a lot of those mutant yaks were grazing. Kinda gross, and pretty much defeated the whole purpose of bathing.

The next two streams were more like creeks—which probably would have been okay for bathing, except that both were pretty clearly being used to carry irrigation runoff from the neatly ordered rows of some kind of shrub, sitting just a short way away from the water. The warning about orchards came back to me, and I hurried on <dont need to risk the worst kind of attention now do i>.

The fourth one, about ten minutes away from the last orchard, cut through a small gully where rocky soil was exposed on both sides. I took that as a promising sign (not the greatest place to grow things, after all), and another ten minutes of scouting its length convinced me that this would do just fine.

I returned to a partially hidden little sandbank that I'd spotted from the air, but only because I'd been low enough. After giving it another looking-over, I flew up a ways and circled the area once or twice, but spotted nothing moving within half a kilometer in any direction. That was good enough for me, so I descended on the bank and set about making a fire.

Fire now made, I feed it some more wood; bigger pieces, and then strip down to the buff, making sure to set my boots on top of the 'blue dress'—I don't want to have to run after it if it starts flying away. My haraegushi is stuck handle-first a few centimeters in the sand; easily within grabbing-distance. All set, I take a deep breath, and step into the calf-deep waters of the stream.

[So what are these stick things you put arou—eh?]

The water is sort of cold but I definitely did not shriek like a little girl because it came as a surprise. That would be dumb because of course I thought about the fact that a stream coming down from the mountains is going to be a bit chilly if one has been working around a fire for several minutes <asfgltkjdgrnt augh>.

Seriously, it should have gotten a little warmer by now.

My hair's pinned up, still, and I take care to keep it dry as I wash myself, teeth clenched to keep them from chattering. One can only do so much washing without a cloth or soap, but it's not a futile effort. And as I discover, while cleaning off my body and noting all the bruises and scratches and cuts, the cold makes for a great way to distract myself from the lingering aches and pains. When I emerge a few minutes later, I'm free of dust and dirt, am wet and shiny all over, and am shivering like mad.

Covering myself with my hands, I float over to the fire, which is now blazing along nicely. With the tap of a wet finger, the stars carved onto the pieces of wood around the fire are brought to life with a glow. The rushing sound of moving air becomes quite audible, and the fire quickly wavers, then shrinks... but doesn't go out. My lips curve in a smile, wobbling slightly because even if my teeth can't chatter, the rest of me is trying to.

Holding out a hand about a meter or two in front of the fire, I carefully try to sense the air currents. It's not difficult, and what I find only boosts my mood further: plenty warm. Looking around one last time, I double-check the area. Being seen now would be inconvenient: both safety and dignity are on the line, here. Nobody around, though.

I move my hands away and put them on my head instead—need to keep my hair in place—take a breath, and then float a little to the side, directly into the stream of heated air.

[Oooh. Very dramatic-looking, nine out of ten. Point off for not doing the billowing-hair thing.]

...A few seconds are all I need to come up with some additional notes for my Campfire Blow Dryer. On the positive side of things, it does pretty much what I'd hoped: a wide blast of heated air, warmed by the fire and blown around a bit to increase the heat before funneling it all in one direction. The speed's good, maybe a little high. Temperature's just fine. I have to float about and turn around to get complete coverage, but that's to be expected.

On the negative side: gods, the smoke. Really, really going to to need to account for that in the next one I make. After the coughing fit <hurts a bit should remember that> is over, I make sure to keep my eyes closed and drift out of the air stream now and then to take a breath of fresh air.

Choking risks aside, I still count it a success, since it worked about like I wanted (and on the first go!). For fashioning a towel replacement on the fly, I could have done way worse. ...Hmm. There's a line from something about not forgetting them, isn't there? I'll admit, I can see the wisdom in that, now. Something else I'm going to bring, next time.

Judging myself at last to be pretty dry, and hoping that my new Eau d'woodsmoke perfume will fade after flying long enough, I drift out of the heated wind, retrieve my haraegushi, and then glide back over to the fire and deactivate the carved stars. The fire wavers again, then brightens up a bit, light grey smoke once more curling upwards into the air.

As I'm pulling my socks and underwear back on (still floating a few centimeters above the ground), I eye my 'blue dress'. The flower design is an odd ensemble, but overall it's quite pretty, the whites and yellows going nicely with the deep, dark green of the 'dress.' ...Really wish I could remember what these kinds of clothes are really called, because I feel kinda silly calling it something it clearly isn't <done a lot of that already>.

[If I had a camera, I could make so much money.]

I move over to the clothes pile, and begin putting my bra back on. That particular maneuver involves no small amount of ouch and wincing, but it's not enough to keep me from doing it. After shifting my shoulders around a bit to get comfortable, I remove my boots from my new outfit. Not too much danger of them flying off at this point. ...Actually, it didn't really look like it had budged at all. Huh.

As I reach for the 'dress', however, I suddenly wonder about how it— wait, it's actually just fine, now that I see it in better light. It still looks pretty, but looking up close, I can tell that the colors lack the shine and brilliance of something fresh off the loom. Some of the edges are a little fuzzy with age, instead of crisp, discrete threads, and there are a few very short ends of loose thread here and there.

Good. I was a little worried, but it turns out everything's fine.

Thus reassured, I re-clothe myself in dark green, tie on my boots, and go to put out the fire. The stream is close enough that I just go over and scoop up water in my cupped-together hands. Halfway back to the fire (really, it's about three steps), I pause, frown, and then toss the handful of water off to one side. ...Right. I was going to save the ashes this time, wasn't I? It'll mean a little extra work, but anything that puts another layer of protection between Makai and myself is worth it.

[How thoughtless! What did that water ever do to you? Did it call you names? I bet it did.]

On the other hand, I'm probably going to be out of here in a another day or two. Elis wouldn't have sent me to Dis if she didn't think there was a reasonable chance of them being able to get me home. Not if she's serious about getting these letters to her daughter.

...And that just brings up the question of timing. It's ...well, afternoon, I think. The colors of the sky and the lack of any visible sun make things more difficult than usual, especially with that nap thrown in. I'm fairly certain I've got a few more hours of daylight left. But I think I also have quite a while before it actually gets too dark to fly—night time and the point where it's too dark to fly safely aren't the same, if last night was any indication.

...Really, survival in a deadly place shouldn't require this much planning <says the girl who spent three days of strategizing to get an s rank in biohazard 2>. But that was totally different <yeah the difference is this actually matters>. ...Shut up.


So. Planning, then.

[ ] Girl leaves the ash. No need; she's quittin' this place in a day or couple.
[ ] Thinks maybe she ought to. Just hopes it'll work like she thinks it might.

[ ] Usual pace worked fine then, and it'll work fine now. Fly on, and stop on the start of night.
[ ] Night flight's soundin' right. She's rested enough to go far as she can, 'til it's too dark to go.


Aaaand we're back. Vote quickly, so that writing can be started sooner.

I don't know if I said it before, but I am striving to ensure that no choice is ever completely devoid of worth—or cost—in this story.

Sorting touhous was easy. It's tagging all the scenery images that's slow going.
[X] Thinks maybe she ought to. Just hopes it'll work like she thinks it might.

[X] Usual pace worked fine then, and it'll work fine now. Fly on, and stop on the start of night.

No need to leave a potential resource, even if we don't actually know it to be useful, but at the same time, slow and steady wins the race, and nighttime in a land of demons does not seem advisable.
[X] Thinks maybe she ought to. Just hopes it'll work like she thinks it might.
[X] Usual pace worked fine then, and it'll work fine now. Fly on, and stop on the start of night.

Better safe than sorry.

>The water is sort of cold but I definitely did not shriek like a little girl because it came as a surprise.
I was not aware Makai was in Egypt.
[X] Thinks maybe she ought to. Just hopes it'll work like she thinks it might.
[X] Usual pace worked fine then, and it'll work fine now. Fly on, and stop on the start of night.

Better safe than sorry is definitely in full effect this instance.
[X] Thinks maybe she ought to. Just hopes it'll work like she thinks it might.
[X] Usual pace worked fine then, and it'll work fine now. Fly on, and stop on the start of night.

I can't see there being too much of a negative effect from carrying the ash. We can ditch it if it turns out to be useless or too much of a burden. We can at least carry it until one of those looks to be the case.
Oh good, I've forgotten what's what in this story. Meaning imminent rereading.

Good to have you back.
[X] Thinks maybe she ought to. Just hopes it'll work like she thinks it might.
[X] Usual pace worked fine then, and it'll work fine now. Fly on, and stop on the start of night.

As others have noted, precautions pay here.
'Tis wonderful to see another update to this story after so long!

[X] Thinks maybe she ought to. Just hopes it'll work like she thinks it might.
[X] Usual pace worked fine then, and it'll work fine now. Fly on, and stop on the start of night.

Anyhow, adding more wands to the bagon.
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[X] Thinks maybe she ought to. Just hopes it'll work like she thinks it might.

[X] Night flight's soundin' right. She's rested enough to go far as she can, 'til it's too dark to go.

Randomly voting against the tide because getting into trouble at night sounds interesting. Also, welcome back~
[X] Thinks maybe she ought to. Just hopes it'll work like she thinks it might.

[X] Night flight's soundin' right. She's rested enough to go far as she can, 'til it's too dark to go.

Now, copy and paste works.
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[Δ] Thinks maybe she ought to. Just hopes it'll work like she thinks it might.
[Ξ] Usual pace worked fine then, and it'll work fine now. Fly on, and stop on the start of night.


Between the brisk bath (which sounds like it should be a nice thing, but I of course know better) and the nap just now, I'm feeling much more energized and if not alert, definitely awake. There's really been no better time to just keep flying until I can't see in front of me at all <well maybe not that bad>. Besides, I'm falling behind, too.

And I'm very, very eager to get home as quick as I can.

In order to be able to get home, I have to be able to get to the getting-home. Alive. In one piece. Not leaking important parts or fluids.

...Right. In the end, though, it's maybe not a good idea. Any other time, and this would be great for pulling some kind of all-nighter. Study all night, cram for a test all night, drive all night... okay, I never did that last one, though I probably could have on my Honda. Trying to do it in Makai, with all of its unknowns...

[...Maybe that was really important water? What are you thiiiiinking about?]

"Yeah, nighttime flying's out," I say, with a sigh. I try running my fingers through my hair on reflex, but that doesn't get very far, what with it being up in a do at the moment. Right, disguise.

Looking back at my temporary campsite reminds me of what brought me to a stop in the first place. Might as well take the time to take the ash. Another layer of protection is a concept I can get behind <oh you>.

I don't want to spend the time configuring a spell to separate sand from ash, so using that to smother the fire is out. Likewise, cutting off the oxygen to the fire via spellwork is no good either (though it'd at least be cleaner). In the end, I settle for a few quick but careful stompings which are enough to do the trick. The hot coals are removed with a stick so that the whole thing can cool while I'm eating.

Lunch is taken on a little grassy patch above the gully. The meal is the sort of unusual (but eventually tasty, if painful) affair I've come to expect from Makaian cuisine. Fo ee pieces of ugly-looking grey stuff that smelled wonderful and tasted like grilled meat, along with a pair of small, soft rolls, several little bundles of what must be vegetables, and a healthy dollop of adama. While picking my way through it carefully, testing for spicy surprises, I only get burned <aha> twice.

"Thoughtful boy," I say around a few pieces of what looks like asparagus, but scaled down super-tiny. They weren't as spicy as the little green flower-like things, so I don't need to frantically chug water from my canteen, again.

[You're like a miner's canary, you know? Whenever some outrageous expression shows up, hot stuff is around~]

[ ♫: http://youtu.be/0REMg9fQ0Ok ]

Fed and filled, I take the largest dry container of the packaged food I've already eaten, wipe it down the best I can, and return to the fire. Unsurprisingly, the ashes are still fairly warm, though not so badly that I'm worried about the container catching fire or melting. It feels wooden, even though it's thin. I guess it'd be smart to actually make sure that it won't melt or ignite, since I'm not partial to burns.

The ashes get scooped and prodded into the container with my haraegushi—extra care is taken and extra focus is given in maintaining its strength, structural integrity, and physical purity. I'm using a holy tool made entirely from wood and paper to shovel up the fresh remains of a fire, after all. After I've gotten what seems like enough to draw around me in a circle, I cover the container up and double-knot some string around it that came with the bundle of food.

Leaving it half-submerged in the stream to cool off, I pack up, and see to my own needs, then clean up the site. The fire is buried in the sand, my hands are washed off, my canteen is refilled, and then I'm finally up and in the air again.
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I close my eyes during part of the flight and relax the air-shield effect of my flight magic, just for a little while. Just to feel the air going by. Just to remember what it's like to have the wind all around me again.

...For a moment, I could almost think I was <anywhere but here> home.

The comforting feeling disappears quickly after that, and I open my eyes again, blinking quickly. Must've gotten something in them <just dust or something>. Yes.

I hate this place.

<quit being a damned child>

...Pretty sure I told you to shut up <pretty sure you cant enforce that>.


Past Me was kind of dumb, but Present Me is a cranky bitch to herself sometimes <all the time>. Nobody asked you. Really, there's no better way to feel worse than to be alone with your thoughts for too long. Sartre can go and... do awful things to himself.

I start paying close attention to the terrain around me, perhaps to spite myself. Well, and also to make sure said self doesn't wander where she shouldn't and get in some serious trouble. For example, the fruit farms below.

The orchards are all over the place, and they look quite exotic; all neat, orderly rows of trees (and shrubs and vines). They aren't a completely alien sight—however, much of the flora is, and besides, I'm from a place where "farmland" is frequently synonymous with "rice fields". Obviously that isn't the case all of the time, but still, I've never seen so many, or such a variety of crops.

Some of them have figures milling about, up and down the rows. They'd probably be the fairies Elis mentioned. Curiosity strikes, and I come down a few dozen meters (still staying well away) to try and get a closer look. It's not especially successful, but going by the lack of angry pursuit, it wasn't enough to raise their ire. I did notice that they had darker skin than the usual Gensokyan fairy, but maybe that's from doing all that farmwork.

...Can you even get a tan if you never get direct sunlight, though? For that matter, shouldn't everyone be more pale? ...Though I guess I've only seen one town's worth, so who knows? Maybe everyone's white as a doll in Dis <heh>.

[I wonder if you can read a farmer through their fruit like you can with a chef through their dishes? ...Let's find ouuut~]

The mountains and foothills lining the river valley begin to shrink as I fly further upriver, turning into a series of large hills. By the time night falls, there are two thickly forested ridges on either side of the river, with farmlands and more forest at their feet. The ever-hidden sunlight, rather than illuminating the world with an orange glow, now casts a darkening red hue over the land.

Again, a pang of sadness as I look at it. Sadness, and yet, comfort.

...No. No, not right now.

The site I settle on turns out to be located in a thickly forested grove that lies right on the border of a pasture for the mutant yaks, several of which can be seen within its boundaries. The pasture is much, much larger than the first one, covering at least four times the area of the one I stopped at this afternoon, the land more of a series of gently rolling hills than a completely flat field.

['Kay, playtime now! Seeya; don't do anything I wouldn't do! ...which isn't much.
Anyway, bye~!

The grove is actually a peninsula of trees—a few of those blue tinkling trees from a few nights ago, but mostly a bunch of dark green and (somehow) red things that look mostly like pines, with the occasional leafy thing here and there—that extends further back several kilometers, widening as it goes into a proper forest. When it hits the foothills, the forest spreads out to cover hill and foot alike.

On the other side of the fence is just grassy pasture, dotted by shrubs, the occasional tree, and numerous mutant yaks. There's something pretty farmhouse-y looking a ways off, but it's not at all visible from my little forest fortress.


After landing, setting up, clearing a space, gathering a bit of extra wood, making a fire, and otherwise preparing to bed down, I have a most annoying realization: I'm not really tired, yet. I'd found a smooth and un-bumpy patch of ground, laid my circles, gotten comfortable, and closed my eyes, but after 20 minutes of lying here, I opened my eyes.

"...I don't believe this."

Maybe it's the red light that still persists—darker than earlier, but still enough to see by. Maybe it's because I already had a nap earlier. Maybe it's the sound of mutant yaks mooing and grumpfing in the distance. Maybe it's all of that. Maybe it's none of that <maybe its unease>.


[ ] Stop over-fussin'. Girl tries sleepin' anyway; it's gotta come sooner 'r later.
[ ] Checkin' on things might be in order. Gets up and gets on that.
- [ ] Maybe takes a chance. Girl goes on up to th' farmhouse to have a word.
- [ ] Maybe walks it off— flies it off, anyhow. Looks over the area, again.
- [ ] Maybe gets curious. Them yaks, they really that harmless?
[ ] Time to relocate. Girl picks up and finds another place. Nah, ain't real practical right now.
[ ] Tries another tack. She just now had a different idea (write-in?).


I don't think I've hated the thought of writing an update so much, in so very long. And when I could write it, life kept getting in the way with freakish frequency.

>I didn't know Makai was in Egypt.
...Despite having used variations on this line myself, it took me a little while to get.
[X] Stop over-fussin'. Girl tries sleepin' anyway; it's gotta come sooner 'r later.
[x] Checkin' on things might be in order. Gets up and gets on that.
- [x] Maybe walks it off— flies it off, anyhow. Looks over the area, again.

A quick flight to relax?
>Maybe takes a chance. Girl goes on up to th' farmhouse to have a word.
Remember that advice Elis gave about avoiding the rural folk? This option's right out.

[X] Checkin' on things might be in order. Gets up and gets on that.
- [X] Maybe walks it off— flies it off, anyhow. Looks over the area, again.
[x] Stop over-fussin'. Girl tries sleepin' anyway; it's gotta come sooner 'r later.

Precious energy is precious, whether physical or magical.
[☼] Checkin' on things might be in order. Gets up and gets on that.
- [☼] Maybe walks it off— flies it off, anyhow. Looks over the area, again.

If nothing else, a light flyover shouldn't drain too much energy and might do well to help relax and secure the area. Of course, this risks some visibility, but flying either high or low and for a short time should do the trick. Thus...

[☼] Try to avoid detection, just in case.
[x] Stop over-fussin'. Girl tries sleepin' anyway; it's gotta come sooner 'r later.

I predict that if we leave camp, we'll return to find some uninvited guest.
...which sounds pretty interesting, actually. Hmm.
[☼] Checkin' on things might be in order. Gets up and gets on that.
- [☼] Maybe walks it off— flies it off, anyhow. Looks over the area, again.
[☼] Try to avoid detection, just in case.
Voting called before we have a third tie.
I was about to say that I was going to flip a coin, but this, this is just fine.

In the mean time, go read Heavy Object. Yes, it's a Baka-Tsuki translation, but that is the unfortunate price we pay for completeness.
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[ϭ] Checkin' on things might be in order. Gets up and gets on that.
- [ת] Maybe walks it off— flies it off, anyhow. Looks over the area, again.
- [ಈ] Try to avoid detection, just in case.

I shut my eyes again. This'll pass. Just... need to keep at it.


trrrrrrgggh. HK.

trrrrrrgggh. HK.

And then there's this thing.

Annoyed, I open my eyes and look around for the source of the noise, which I realize I've been hearing for the past few minutes. It's coming from... I pause, and tilt my head this way and that, listening. Somewhere up above and behind me, which puts it on the tree inside my circles.

trrrrrrgggh. HK.

trrrrrrgggh. HK.

I heard this right after <i crashed> --yeah, that. Could be some kind of local bird, I remember thinking.

A minute's searching turns up a... I guess it's a bug. Three legs, wings that look and move like dirty dishwater, and a body like a bowling pin. I know better than to flick it away: Between freakish, unknown Makaian biology making it possible for this thing to have who knows what kinds of natural defenses, and Ms. Nightbug<that naaaaame>'s lecture on the dangers of poor insect interactions, I know enough not to go messing with weird bugs.

Or whatever it is.

Rubbing my eyes, I look around, and feel the restlessness from before growing. I have to get up and move. Maybe just look around this place a little? Something like that. Take a stroll around the block, in a sense.

I guess I could go for that. Hopefully that'll burn off whatever remaining awake-ness I've got.

[ ♫: http://youtu.be/d4sEypY-4YU ]

Camp is cleaned up enough to keep things from burning down. My circles are whisked up into the air and put away—the ash returns to its box just as cleanly as the salt returns to the shaker, which is a relief. I put out the fire and take out the branches and wood, but leave the coals to sit there (covered, of course). I'll be back in a little bit, after all. I didn't take much out of my pack, so collecting my things isn't much of an issue, meaning that I'm back in the skies and soaring high in short order.

...And then cursing and soaring lower much, much slower than I'd like. Even if it's getting darker, highlighting myself against the sky like that is maybe not the best of ideas. Kana-mama's tengu friend taught me about that <except that was against ridges and other heights but the principle is close enough>. He also taught me not to make any sudden movements if I think I've given myself away—maybe you have, maybe you haven't, but panicking and running for cover will definitely draw attention.

Not that I'm worried. Scared-worried. Just... wanting to keep a low profile <heh> is a good idea. And this isn't an orchard, and I'm sure plenty of people fly around, and I don't look like a miko anyway, and... Yeah. Potential trouble-inviting should be kept to a minimum, anyway. So I keep low and move slowly(for flight, at least; maybe twenty or twenty-five kilometers an hour?) near the treetops.

File 137785711578.png - (1.75MB, 1000x847, the hills are alive with the sound of moosic.png) [iqdb]
So what am I doing? Er, no. Where am I going? is the question <just a little looksee around the place>. I know that. But where I do I start <how about the direction youre already going>? ...Yeah, that could work. I'm moving... sun's that way, so an, up the tree-peninsula. And then I guess I'll make my way mo, and then just go in a big loop around the farm. I don't think I'll run into much trouble, that way.

Sticking to the trees, I move off that way for a while. Looking toward the river provides me with a rather pretty view: there's a farmhouse about 300 or so meters from where I am and then a big, wide-open field, its rolling hills dyed red in the nighttime sun. It's not hard to see why they chose this place—it's very nice, I have to admit <reluctantly>.

It's one thing to see from up in the air, but down at this level, I'm struck with a sense of strangeness, perhaps a continuation of my earlier thoughts: It's just not a common sight in Japan, something like this. There are farms, of course, but not this many in a row. Supposedly America has places like this all over it. ...Heh, they probably have to, they eat so much.

[beeeeep. c'mon, outta the waaaay.]

I almost run into a branch at that point, drawing my attention back to more immediate surroundings. The forested area here is very thick—that's why I felt secure about making camp where I did, since it'd be harder to notice. Down between the trees, I see a thin but well-worn footpath that leads away, deeper into the forest. Possibly into the mountains, but I lose sight of it well before then.

There's a few large buildings out a ways from the farmhouse—which looks pretty normal, surprisingly—which I think are probably barns. The ground's a lot more churned up and muddy, here, so I'm probably not too far off. I drop a little further down and cut my speed some when I notice there are still a few fairies milling about out that direction. I'm nowhere near them, but still, it wouldn't do to attract attention.

Most of the fairies are out by a cluster of buildings, smaller than the farmhouse and grouped closer together. There's what looks like—laundry? Yeah, laundry—hanging outside. Hmm... housing for the farmhands, perhaps? Right, then, I think my circuit of this place just got that much wider.

For that reason, I stay in the trees a lot longer than originally planned, waiting until the mo edge of the farm is about a kilometer or more away before aiming high <not too high never too high> and peeling off from the woods. It's all squares and blocks down below, now. Just take it niiice and slow, right? They probably won't do anything to someone just paaaassing by.

...Man. Marisa's "Totally Ordinary Magician" thing really doesn't sound quite so stupid, now.

As I cross over the pastures below, it occurs to me all of a sudden that there's no gross smell in the air. There's something of an animal smell on the wind, but ...a valley filled with numerous cattle like this, even with the breeze off the river... There really should be an unwholesome aroma all about. But no, not a thing <maybe the mutant yaks are just more polite>. Ha!

[You know, cowbeast, you're lucky I'm a good driver. You are severely lacking in safety features.]

While it is indeed a weird thing, it's an even weirder thing to notice, and a line of questioning that I'm all too happy to discard as I approach the river. I haven't been shot at or chased, yet, so I can assume that I've done all right, as far as not looking suspicious <or maybe theyre just waiting for the right time>. Jeez, I hope not.

"Ahhhhh, my kingdom for a codec," I wistfully remark to the blowing wind. "At least I'd have advice and someone to talk to." But that's not happening, of course. I've already made my peace with that fact.

Out here, it's just me. No backup, no home to run back to.

I try not to think about how tiny I am, flying up in the sky above this world of demons.

...This line of thought isn't helping me feel more tired <no not at all>.

Just focus, then, on keeping moving. That line, it's been said before, and maybe I thought it before, but... it's another phrase, another collection of words that you don't truly appreciate the meaning of until your situation is truly dire.

Keep moving. Stay focused. Improve.

"Each day, I'm getting stronger and stronger."

Positive affirmations and honest assessment. Not delusions, not denial.

...Yes. Yes, that seems to work. Already, I'm feeling better.

The mind is a really fascinating thing, isn't it?
File 137785757983.jpg - (103.56KB, 750x500, Not feeling particularly delightful.jpg) [iqdb]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/cayq ]

The river, a long twisting path of deep burgundy in the quickly-disappearing light of night, stretches from side to side, ahead of me and below. It's getting dark enough that I ca[Oh, hiiiii~! Check out my ride!]n't see much further than a few kilometers away, but that's just fine for me. Unless I run into one of those "aeriables" Elis mentioned. They... probably fly higher, though. I hope.

All in all, ideal conditions for me and the whole not-being-seen deal I'm trying to get going here. Still, why take extra chances?

Having reached the edge of the pasture that borders the river, I opt to fly low over the water's surface river as I follow it to the set-most corner of the farm. There the hilly mounds rise high, and then dip down low before being boxed in by the fence.

...And it's also someone's goof-off spot (or relaxation corner, perhaps), I think. A small tree with a broad canopy for its size bears a towel on one branch, so maybe it's a swim—wait. Did I just...?

I pull up, only ten or so meters above the surface of the river, before doubling back toward the mo edge of the pasture closest to the water. Once there, I cautiously re-ascend and examine the odd sight from a minute ago that I only now realize I witnessed.

Huh. Well, that's... what I thought I saw, certainly.

One of the mutant yaks is trotting through the field, making lots of straight lines and turns, sometimes picking up speed or coming to a stop. I float there for a for a bit, watching it <is this what they mean by mad cow disease>. ...I guess yaks are a kind of cow. But these aren't even actual yaks. Not even mutant ones, despite what I've been calling them.

I spend another ten minutes or so bemusedly watching the antics of the weird yak as it jogs about the pasture, going up and down the grassy rolling mounds, before it wanders into a large cluster of other yaks. After bumping and steadily pushing its way partially through its milling brethren, the yak becomes hopelessly stuck, unable to proceed further.

[Dang, caught in rush hour traffic again.]

A smile is on my face as I turn away from the spectacle, shaking my head. It's easy to get scared of things in a place like this, but... it's nice to know they have weird things going on, too <oh maaan do they ever>.

The light of night sky above is now weird, mottled mix of dark, dark red and deep purple. ...Heck, just looking at it makes me feel a little more tired, which is nice—that's what I'm out here for, after all. It's late by just about any scale you want to use, and Makai makes that pretty clear. Visibility is low, but not entirely gone, letting me glimpse a dimly-lit barge slowly drifting down the river just before I peel off an-ward, towards my camp.

Finding the peninsula of trees isn't too difficult, since it still stands out in contrast against the surrounding grassy hills, but finding where I'd tried to bed down is, once I'm inside it. A few minutes of searching (aided by a glowing star-light in my palm) turns it up, and several more minutes confirms that nobody's been by or done anything to it.

Once again I rebuild the fire, which comes back to life quickly enough. I don't feel weary or exhausted, but I'm very ready to go to sleep.

Dinner is something meaty and some machavat, along with what I think are cooked vegetables—I stuff as much of each as I can onto the machavat, fold it, and eat it all in one go. Crude, but I don't care right now.

After that, I take care of business, wash my hands off, lay down my circles and then lay down my head.

I say my silent prayers, whisper my good nights.

Close my eyes.

File 137785808382.png - (788.47KB, 1249x1254, that was the milk.png) [iqdb]

[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/ixgf ]

[oh dear]

[oh my!]




What. What is that.

That that?

"hwuh?" Wait, who—?

My eyes open <can mainly tell cause the campfires still glowin over there>. Yeah, dark otherwise.

Haraegushi is in hand, heart is pounding <what did>. Not a nightmare.

Upright, now. Left? No. Right? No.

—Thought I'd heard a voice, but there's nothing <not billyak or something like him then wait wait>.

Circles, circles. Yes, still intact. Okay, good. Good.


Definitely didn't wake up for no reason. Stay alert.

...Then, somewhere <where>: Near; not close-near, not right-near. In the distance, but in the close-distance, in the in-the-area-distance.

Faintly: crackling? scratching? pouring?
Partially: humming, rising and falling; occasional sharp pitches
Clearly: <the air is very very weird>

I woke up maybe 5 seconds ago, and I can't even fully think clearly but instincts are active and training is kicking in and it is clear that

[Something's going on~!]

something is going on.

[ ] Turns out, girl's a coward. Runs outta there on a fresh new yella trail.
[ ] Turns out, girl's weak. Freezes, closes her eyes, prays it just goes away.
[ ] Turns out, girl's a fool. Has to go see it, has to know, has to go spy.
[ ] Turns out, girl's too rash. Runs out there without thinkin' of herself.


I would like to urge you all to download and install the GNU Unifont from http://unifoundry.com/unifont.html (you don't have to set it as your browser's default font or anything; apparently modern browsers will use other fonts automatically if and when they need to). It's apparently/supposedly the most complete Unicode font out there, and there are oh so many things in it. I've got plans.

Also, I'm switching to Tindeck for tracks that I need to upload, because I have to go through a long, retarded process when uploading to Youtube (not to mention all the encoding and crap), and I'm a lazy bastard terribly busy person.

I finally found a copy of that. Gotta read it, at some point.
[X] Turns out, girl's a fool. Has to go see it, has to know, has to go spy.
[X] Turns out, girl's a fool. Has to go see it, has to know, has to go spy.

In the end, we need information.
[X] Turns out, girl's weak. Freezes, closes her eyes, prays it just goes away.

Why the fuck not
[X] Turns out, girl's weak. Freezes, closes her eyes, prays it just goes away.
[X] Turns out, girl's a fool. Has to go see it, has to know, has to go spy
And called!

Wait warmly and carry a big stick.
File 137902356192.jpg - (1.10MB, 1748x1231, light enters and is never seen again.jpg) [iqdb]
♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/uakt

[0] Turns out, girl's a fool. Has to go see it, has to know, has to go spy.

Wake up. I'm already awake. No, no.

Like, wake up-type "wake up" <yes you do need to>.

I push myself up. Standing, not just propped up. Start thinking, now. Reaching for the canteen which I've taken to keeping close by, I unscrew the cap, take a drink. All right, doing better. Splash some on my face, slap my cheeks. ...All right, that helped.

—In the distance, a sizzling and then a pop, like someone cooking particularly disagreeable bacon.

Whatever it is, it isn't affecting me.


I'm a stranger in a strange land <more like super weird and insane land>, but if something's going on, I need to go look—for my own safety if nothing else. Strange noises in the night are not something to just ignore, are they? ....If I'm lucky, this could be just something totally normal. Foreigners would often mention being surprised and alarmed the first time they heard cicadas in the summer, back in Japan.

And if I'm unlucky.... well, I really hope I'm lucky. Maybe mutant yaks make weird noises at night.


I'm still going to take my haraegushi with me. I'm worried, and I'm trying to hope for the best. But I'm also not stupid. Without it, I'd... well, I'd be in a whole lot of trouble. Probably be harder to out me as a miko, though.

Yeah, that's a pretty thin silver lining.

[Come on, come oooon! You're gonna miss iiiit~]

The fire I leave going, so that I can find my way back here. My pack is left high up in a tree near where I slept, nestled securely in between three close branches. Ash and salt are whisked up, and then I'm off and out, following the sounds out of the forest.
File 137902403611.jpg - (32.65KB, 640x352, more literal than before.jpg) [iqdb]


Something is definitely happening. I can tell the moment I leave the forest.

[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/jrax ]

It actually gets slightly brighter when I leave the woods—the canopy there blocks out a lot of light. I already knew that, of course, but it was still a little surprising. The sky was a deep, dark midnight blue... but still just noticeably blue, not black. Stars, here and there, dotted the sky... but there weren't as many as there were back home <either of them>. Maybe a hundred, all told? And even surrounded by high hills, as I was, there was still a lot of sky.

The entire river valley was dark and barely visible, save for the lights of farms and homesteads, and the faintest of glows over the an-ward ridge. So, definitely in the dead of night, but not as far along as it was when I stumbled out of Elis' shed. Plus, the sky had been red back then. Maybe they have a whole lot more morning because they have a 29-hour day?

It's kind of a stupid thought, to be honest. And I probably didn't get as much rest as I wanted. But I've been a Gensokyan for a few years now, and I'm already all too familiar with odd places working under odd rules.

...I still can't believe Hell has financial problems. That's... that's an actual thing.

However, it wasn't so dark that I couldn't still see vague shapes. Silhouettes of the land and the geography. Darker dots and shapes across the pasture, shifting about—the mutant yaks. They seemed restless, quiet grunts and huffing noises drifting across the field to me through the cold night air.

That was the first sign. The second was more obvious: as I hovered a few meters in the air, just outside the fence surrounding the pasture, I could see lights.

Almost straight pir from my location, down near the river, there was a dim but noticeable (certainly in this gloom) light that seemed to rise and fall in time with the sounds I'd heard—which were close, and more distinct, now.

Bacon-sizzling sound, again, along with a thump that runs through the ground. I don't feel it, up here in the air, but the tree branches shake a tiny bit.

I drift over the fence, and move carefully towards the—

—ground. Not carefully at all. The impact knocks the majority of a cry of surprise out of me, turning it into a squeak.


[Hey, what was that all abwhoa. ...Oof.]

Picking myself back up, I look over to s und to see what might have caused that, but there's nothing there. The trees nearby, sure, but I was clear of them. Besides, it just felt like...


...Like I can't fly <crap>. I try a few times, then different measures, but nothing's working. This is alarming, but... again, it's not panic-inducing. That's still unnerving, but at least it's letting me think clearly about this. Specifically, it happened right around when I crossed the fence. So I clamber up the rough, zigzagging structure, testing the first timber before planting my boot more firmly upon it and then again and I climb over it.

Sign three: I don't go over it. Trying to pass over the fence again is like pawing at an invisible rubber wall <sign four actually three was falling on your ass>. That's not really the point right now!

[What's up?]

My frown deepens as I push at the air, but nothing seems to work. With a frustrated growl, I hop back down to the ground, and calm myself down.

"Trace on."

One glance at the fence, like this, and my suspicions are confirmed. Easily visible through the ever-present miasma is a layer of something—some kind of weave? or a mesh—tied to the fence, and extending along it in both directions... and up. And down. A barrier of some kind, apparently one-way only. And I don't think it's just to keep the yaks in, either.

I'm about to disengage my focus when I notice that the ground, too, is faintly glowing at points and places. It looks like a light, gentle misting of power all across the pasture. ...Might be that that's what caused my flight to fail, since... yeah, it doesn't seem to extend outside the fence. Could be something completely different, though. I'm no wizard.

...I totally wrote that down on my career survey in junior high, too. Had it at the very end, though, just to avoid a lecture about not taking it seriously <nobuhara sensei just sort of sighed>.

More disagreeable bacon, and another light thump. This one, I do feel. And some kind of ...shout, maybe? More of a noise than a voice.

Releasing my focus, I let out a slow breath. Something's most assuredly going on, and my onje butt is... well, if not in the middle of it, certainly a part of it, now.

And I still don't know what.

[ ] Yonder strangeness only gettin' stranger. Best bite the bullet and have a look.
-[ ] Doesn't spend time dawdlin'. Makes for th' river quiet as quickness lets 'er.
-[ ] Makes real good n' sure to stay hidden. Mind, 's gonna take time doin' that.

[ ] Walkin' away from the light, now. Ain't lookin' for near-death experiences.
-[ ] Has herself a look at the farmhouse. Old Fairy MacGregor know 'bout this?
-[ ] Moseys on over to the bunkhouses. Some 'a the ranch hands gotta've heard this.

[ ] Really ain't in th' mood fer playin' Sherlock. Girl's bustin' right outta this thing.
-[ ] Every wall's gotta fall, sooner 'r later. Bangin' hard sure do help, though.
-[ ] Homemade family recipes're always a hit. Even got some handy, all wrote down.
--[ ] ...And the one she's thinkin' 'bout on this occasion is... (choose from the list of seals given in >>9805)


(Pick one, and then one of its sub-options.)

This vote (and most likely, those of the next few after that) is somewhat important. If you don't normally vote, please be sure to vote (and then stop doing that whole not-voting thing. Even if it's already a landslide or will be simply a tide-comma-pissing-against-the, vote). If you normally vote, please be sure to vote. And then vote again, in case the first one doesn't take. Maybe once more after that, just to be safe.

Additionally, Silent Hill is a wonderful little game.
[ ] 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.
[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.
[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.
[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?
[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.
...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.
I really gotta vote as soon as I read the update.

Oh dear. What? Should we be worried?
File 137964969068.jpg - (96.91KB, 640x480, out for a stroll٫ are you.jpg) [iqdb]
[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.
File 137965020424.png - (380.96KB, 427x439, so hands off.png) [iqdb]
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.


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.


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.

Just forgot to assess reality on reality's terms, that's all.
But yes, please vote after reading.
It would be very nice.
[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.
[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
[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.
[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?
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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?"
File 137992011916.jpg - (748.22KB, 850x850, 2P Hina does not work unless it's Kuma-Hina.jpg) [iqdb]
Called, and writing tomorrow.

Thank you.
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.)
File 138077014981.gif - (614.31KB, 245x150, maruturtle.gif) [iqdb]
Update tomorrow.
Be ready.

Also here is a box turtle please enjoy
File 138087202366.png - (333.28KB, 870x588, I guessed to what dark planets fields they plied.png) [iqdb]
[⇤] 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.
File 138087224433.jpg - (32.86KB, 480x432, That wasn't bacon at all.jpg) [iqdb]

[ ♫: 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—


—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.


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.


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~]
File 138087236044.jpg - (97.01KB, 800x500, boom et cetera.jpg) [iqdb]
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 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.


...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.


...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~]


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.]


And there it goes again. And goes. Again.

Back to better.

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


Aaaaanytime, now.




Cool. Probably not concussed then.

Wouldn't be this steady if I was.


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.
File 138087282018.jpg - (645.35KB, 1100x821, waiting in line like responsible folk.jpg) [iqdb]

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

Still gotta watch that.
File 13808730954.jpg - (237.98KB, 877x620, okay now this line has gotten too silly.jpg) [iqdb]
It really has.

By the way, there was an update. It was 33 minutes late, however.
File 138087324023.jpg - (186.29KB, 1209x1707, Doin' it from behind.jpg) [iqdb]
But now there is Hina and everything is wonderful again.
[X] Search. Important item isn't in inventory!
[X] Sneak. Lurking lady likely. Abscond ASAP.
[X] Search. Important item isn't in inventory!
[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.
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")
[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?
File 138121235513.jpg - (669.83KB, 848x1331, bravely brave sir fell.jpg) [iqdb]
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.
[X] Search. Important item isn't in inventory!
[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.
[X] Search. Important item isn't in inventory!
[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.
File 138252849730.jpg - (167.16KB, 537x716, relief from misfortune wink nudge.jpg) [iqdb]
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.
File 138265720217.jpg - (71.31KB, 750x600, alas amusing alliterative appellation aint appenin.jpg) [iqdb]
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.
>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.
>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.
File 138440108322.jpg - (3.89KB, 640x360, Like lighting three cigarettes off one match.jpg) [iqdb]
[⍻] 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.


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.]



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.
File 138440132378.png - (357.46KB, 660x371, Search٫ party of one.png) [iqdb]

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?]

File 138440372255.jpg - (13.62KB, 400x224, ALBERT R․ BROCCOLI presents.jpg) [iqdb]

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.

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 worthor cost—in this case, a lack of knowledge about the Makaian telegraph system.
[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...
[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.
I hesitate to vote without knowing what that Chinese means.
[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.
[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.
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.

> {"Nin xinshang jinye de yanchu ma?"}
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.)
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.
[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.
File 138544105239.png - (413.45KB, 480x432, that wasn't bacon at all.png) [iqdb]
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.
File 138544132685.png - (151.64KB, 1860x360, removes even the toughest spots.png) [iqdb]
Next thread: >>12501
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