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File 13515114557.jpg - (469.64KB , 1746x1746 , A hellish beginning.jpg ) [iqdb]
10827 No. 10827
Because /underground/ could use some stories actually focusing on the SA characters.
*********************************

“The flames of Old Hell sear body and soul alike.”

The green-haired judge proclaims this with a solemn expression, an alarming postscript to my life’s verdict. Beside her, a buxom redhead, the one who brought me here, shifts uncomfortably. The enormous scythe she wields bounces from one shoulder to the other.

“...Is that supposed to reassure me, Your Honor?” I manage to respond, sardonic tone a poor mask for the cold wash of daunting fear I feel. “That’s a little harsh, isn’t it? I might have committed some sins in my life, I admit that; but were they bad enough to warrant burning my soul into a metaphysical crisp?”

My voice cracks on the last word, surprisingly- I’d never been one to care about the state of my soul before, but I guess some shift in priorities would be warranted.

The soul’s all that’s left of me now, after all.

“It was intended as a forewarning,” the judge says, eyebrows furrowing in a frown. “So that you would not be wholly unprepared for your next place of spiritual residence.”

“Next and last, you mean?”

“Not so; or, not necessarily, at least. There are many like you who will be bound eternally to the world by their malice, forgoing the cycle of reincarnation and remaining trapped eternally. However, some less malicious souls consigned there can come to terms with their actions, letting their souls be scoured clean by the flames and eventually reincarnating. Considering the state of your soul, I am nearly certain you would fall under the latter category; indeed, a normal human in your position would receive a far lesser punishment.”

“Then why do I need to go through this?” I growl, because it’s less demeaning than a wail. “I am a normal human!”

In response, the judge merely looks to her redheaded employee, who winces and shakes her head.

“That’s the thing, though. You’re not, not anymore at least; it’s because of what happened after your death. It’s my job to ferry the dead across the Sanzu, but some youkai stole away your corpse before I could manage that. And no, Eiki, I wasn’t slacking off this time: whoever the culprit was got to him real quickly.” She says affrontedly to the woman beside her, before starting and turning back to me.

“Your body and soul were tainted by its supernatural power, latching onto your sins and transforming you into something else: an onryou, or vengeful spirit.”

“Indeed.” The judge holds up her mirror, and I flinch away- not at the sight of my crimes reflected, as happened a few minutes ago, but merely because I see myself.

Nothing remotely human remains of me save a floating skull, wreathed in iridescent blue flame.

“And, by decree of the Ministry, any and all onryou, regardless of their sins’ magnitude, must be consigned to imprisonment in Old Hell.” The judge sighs, a flicker of pity flitting across her face. “Unfortunate, in cases such as this, but such is the Law. Komachi?”

“Got it, boss.” In a flash, the shinigami is at my side, one hand closing around my new body. She looks down on me, grimacing. “Sorry, buddy, but this is the way things have to be. Now-” She halts at her employer’s upturned hand.

“Court is adjourned, so I am free to offer a piece of advice to you, spirit: I hope that it will aid you throughout the trials to come.” The judge’s face softens from its impartial mask, revealing the visage of a too-weary young woman.

“Remember who you are, good and bad alike, and hold tightly to your sense of self- for it is this, and how it shapes your actions, which truly holds an impact on your soul.”

Those are the last words you hear, before the flash when the world turns red.
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>> No. 10828
File 135151175784.jpg - (1.09MB , 2141x1200 , who's this now.jpg ) [iqdb]
10828
Fire.

The world, the universe, everything is aflame and nothing can escape, nothing.

Even me, especially me: how long have I been here like this? Immersed in this infernal sea, whirling and turning in the fiery gyre. The only sensation is the scorching of my soul, and the occasionally perceptible screaming, from those other damned spirits trapped here with me.

I think I might be screaming, too.

It’s hard to tell with all this pain.

But, some corner of my fractured mind must still be cognizant, because I can hear and process a soft swishing in the air amongst the flames’ roaring, the murmuring of a woman’s voice.

It’s still a shock, however, but an oh-so-welcome one, when a chilling hand grasps me bodily, a shield from the permeating heat...

...And pulls me free from the inferno at long last.

Oh. It seems I have been screaming after all. But my ghostly wail stops, as a barely-fathomable sense of relief overwhelms my entire being.

“My, that’s a good sign. The others were too far gone to realize they’d been freed, for several minutes at least. Perhaps one of you will be of some use after all.” The woman’s voice comes again, a rich and confident sound, and the world spins as I’m turned towards the voice’s source.

An imposing figure looks down upon me. Long, straight green hair frames a lovely face, between flowing blue robes and a tall, pointed hat. Her emerald eyes pierce into me inquiringly.

“Can you hear me?”

I can’t muster the energy for a response, still too overwhelmed by the sensory shift to do anything more than stare.

“...Hrm. On the other hand, perhaps that shock to your system was too much to deal with, and you simply died. That did happen with a couple of the others, come to think of it. Oh well, nothing to be done about it now.” She lets you go, turning away-

“Nnnno.” The strain of pronouncing that one word feels like it will tear me apart, but I speak it nonetheless, aloft in the air where her hand left me.

“Ah?” The strange woman turns back to face me, smirking. “Very good. I don’t suppose you could repeat that?”

“...Said no. I’m not dead- I can hear you. I’m alive.” The words come easier, this time; nearly as easily as the thought of ‘how can I be speaking without lungs?’

The woman grins. “Ooh, one out of three, I’m afraid. While you obviously can hear me, you are dead- you couldn’t be this deep into Old Hell and survive it. So you’re no more alive than me.” Glancing down, I can see a whitish-blue, semitransparent ghostly tail poking out of her dress, where a normal person might expect to have legs.

“Although...the fact that you can converse with me like this means you’re not quite as dead as you could be.” The ghost-lady says, pursing her lips, before nodding. “Very well, you pass. Allow me to introduce myself.”

“You may call me Mima.” The cerulean cape on her shoulders billows up, propelled by some unseen force, and she smiles. “And I have freed you from your eternal cosmic punishment because I believe you can help with an endeavor of mine. Now. I’m sure you don’t remember anything about yourself, save perhaps a great wrong done in your life-”

“No. I do.” It’s taken a moment, but memories, a life’s worth perhaps, are gradually returning to my mind.

“What?” Mima blinks, a split second’s declaration of surprise before her expression returns to neutrality. “Interesting...well, I can certainly make use of an onryou with a mind as well.”

“So being something other than a mindless drone might still be helpful to you? Great. Glad to hear it.” The sarcastic response bursts out before I can really consider its implications. Might be a bit rusty on that whole “filtering your thoughts” thing.

Mima raises one elegant eyebrow. “Well, that’s one way to say ‘Thank you for saving me from an eternity of torment, Lady Mima, is there anything I could possibly do to repay you?’ ”

“I- ” ...pause, realizing that she does have a point. “...Well, yes. Thank you for that, I do appreciate it-”

“Because, from your tone, one might have concluded that you enjoy an existence defined solely by being burned alive, and were terribly peeved by my rudely interrupting it.” She continues, deadpan. “No?”

“...No.” Damn, she’s pretty good at this.

“As I thought.” Mima says with a sniff. “But, I wonder...do you remember why you were placed in such a state to begin with? What transgressions you must have committed?”

“Trans...what?” I ask, shaking free charred mental cobwebs.

“Your crimes, dear. Sins. We’re all sinners here. I’m a sinner, you’re a sinner.”

“How do you know I’m a sinner?”

“You must be,” Mima says, “or you would not have been sent here.” She smiles knowingly.

“I’d just like to know the details of how, that’s all. Get to know you a bit better, if we’ll be working together, and I do expect we will if you have any sense of repayment left.

“So, to put it simply...who are you, and why are you here?”


[ ] (Choose a name.)

[ ] Passion will be served
[ ] Good to none, but worse to himself
[ ] The pretext of difficulty
[ ] Growing heavy for the vintage
[ ] Like a shadow proves the substance true
[ ] Goeth before destruction
*****************************************************************
When suggesting a name, please try to keep it relatively serious: I reserve the right to veto a name that’s overly silly, even if it gets the most votes.

The latter choice will not by any means be the sole definer of your backstory, but the options are at least starting points for the backgrounds I’ve planned.

Oh, and sorry if the trip seems overly pretentious. I couldn’t help myself.
>> No. 10829
>Because /underground/ could use some stories actually focusing on the SA characters.
Not seeing evidence of this so far, but given that we're presumably in Utsuho or Orin's part of Chireiden I'll give you a pass.

[X] John
Something simple to start out the voting, but also could be considered a reference to another writer if you want.

[X] Goeth before destruction
>> No. 10830
[X] Jack

[X] Goeth before destruction
>> No. 10833
[X] Justin

[X] Good to none, but worse to himself

Everyone loves J-names!
>> No. 10834
[X] Cassidy Livingston
His nickname would be Cassy L., or Cassiel.
Because I suppose you'll veto us if we give the obligatory votes for [ ] Dante.

[X] Goethe before destruction
>> No. 10835
[X] Cassidy Livingston

I have no idea what this is referencing, but I like it.

[x] Like a shadow proves the substance true
>> No. 10837
[»] Cassidy Livingston
Naming a sinner after one of the archangels is delightfully ironic.
[»] Proverbs 16:18 - _____ goeth before destruction.

Google is your friend, anon.
>> No. 10839
[X] Cassidy Livingston
[X] Goeth before destruction

I think ____ is good fit for what he needs to do. It's hardly much of a sin, these days, and can be a force for good and ill. Just as long as Cassidy remembers that ____ isn't all he is.

There's a floating skull in there too, and inside of that, a lifetime of memories. The floating skull is pretty keen, though.
>> No. 10840
Is Cassidy actually a name?

I'd be done for patricide if my parents named me Cassidy
>> No. 10841
>>10840

Yup, totally a name. And irish, too! Livingston is English, so it's actually pretty likely for someone to have the name. Even if Cassidy is kind of out of fashion these days.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassidy_(given_name)

He'd probably go as Cass, though. Cassidy Livingston is a pun on Cassiel, who is an archangel. You can read more about him online at various places.
>> No. 10843
>>10841
This anon has it. To quote Wikipedia on Cassiel's portfolio:
>Unlike many other angels, Cassiel is known for simply watching the events of the cosmos unfold with little interference. He is the angel of solitude and tears, and is said to preside over the deaths of kings.
Cassiel is also an angel of the moon, and (wait for it) the angel of temperance.

Hmm, as much as I like poetry before destruction, maybe we should have chosen sloth?
>> No. 10844
>>10843

Pride actually works pretty well for Temperance. You can be extremely prideful, and simply believe yourself to be far over the concerns of most others. Someone can have excessive pride in their own temperance and refuse to indulge even when it's perfectly okay to do so. And so they look haughty and socially awkward. That's only at the extremes, though.

Besides, he presides over the death of kings. You'd need to be prideful for that, or acquire pride in doing so.

Ultimately though, we're not actually Cassiel, Cassidy's name is just a pun on it. I mean, it's better than being named, ooohhh...

'Louis Cypher'

Right?
>> No. 10846
Let's not make things silly by trying to write the protagonist
Into Cassiel.
>> No. 10848
>>10841
>Livingston is English

Scottish mate.

I would still commit patricide if I were called Cassidy. What's wrong with a good ordinary name that doesn't make you sound like a faggot?

Does our name actually have to reference anything? It's like the early stories where the MC character was named Nanaya or Shirou.

Though if the majority does want to select Cassidy then that its fine. Just please don't make any decisions based on what Cassiel would do or wouldn't do.

We're human. Not an angel.
>> No. 10850
>>10848
Not to say that we couldn't, in our pride, attempt feats beyond the usual human limits. Who knows, we may even succeed. More likely not, of course.

The Cassiel bit was more of a joke than anything, but it would be remiss not to throw at least one or two references to it, assuming it is indeed Cassidy's in-universe nickname, and our prideful MC has made efforts to live up to it.
>> No. 10851
Doesn't look like the current majority's going to be overcome, so calling now for
[X] Cassidy Livingston
and
[X] Goeth before destruction

Writing now, will be integrating parts of the discussion.
>> No. 10861
File 135199523785.jpg - (99.60KB , 800x600 , exposition.jpg ) [iqdb]
10861
“My name,” I begin, “is-” or should that be was? “Cassidy. Cassidy Livingston.” I say it defiantly, waiting for Mima to react the way of so many others.

She doesn’t, though, merely nodding. Maybe she doesn’t realize the implications? “Foreign, on both counts. Were you an Outsider, then? Or did you just have parents who shouldn't have been allowed to choose names for a boy?” Her lips curl upward into a small smirk.

...So much for blissful ignorance. “Can’t it be both?” I respond, rewarded with a chuckle. “Yeah, I was one of those people known as Outsiders, for the last few years of my life. Grew up in the west, to parents in the sort of situation where they thought their kid might need a ‘special’ name to stand out. I got a lot of crap growing up as a result, of course. Tried to get ‘Cassy’ going for a bit, and then ‘Cassy L.’, but-”

“You’re no angel, dear.” Mima interrupts, rolling her eyes.

“Who said anything about angels? I just wanted a nickname that sounded cool.” I cough, not deigning to acknowledge that ‘cool’ half a lifetime ago bears little resemblance to now. “Anyway, though, neither of those worked too well, so I’ve gone by Cass since then.”

“While this little history lesson on your naming is fascinating, Cass-” Mima yawns- “forgive me if it also seems rather unimportant compared to other details about yourself.”

“Spoken like someone who’s never been disrespected due to theirs,” I mutter. “First impressions mean a lot to people, and getting the acknowledgement owed you is hard enough without a handicap like that.”

Mima pauses at that, then nods. “...Fair enough. Go on.”

“Right. So, growing up I-” might’ve had a bit of an inferiority complex “-had to work hard to show up some of the idiots I had for peers. I did it, though...worked hard, studied hard, top of my class and then a good university. I felt at home there, for a while...got a degree in engineering, and ended up being headhunted by a big company in Japan. I moved over here, got set up in my new, finally successful life: everything seemed to be going well.”

I approximate a grimace. “...And then, naturally, I got pulled into the backwoods land of Gensokyo, rendering all of that pretty much useless.

“Can you believe that most people in the village had never even heard of electricity when I arrived here?” Of course, since then those mountain goddesses have taken the credit for introducing energy, in the form of nuclear fusion and even cold fusion… I reflect bitterly.

“Actually, yes.” Mima drawls, observing a cage of yellow lines now crackling around her open palm. “Until recently, the tengu and kappa’s toys have been the only real uses for electricity.”

“Uh, you don’t seem much like a kappa or tengu,” I note sardonically. “Too tall, hair’s the wrong color, and you don’t have the dog ears or wings-”

My voice dies away as a pair of glassy black wings unfolds from Mima’s back, and she cocks her head.

“...Well, my point still stands,” I grumble. “Those aren’t crow tengu wings.”

“How astute of you to notice. There are several youkai like myself, as well as at least one human, skilled enough in magic to control the elements.” Mima acknowledges with a nod, extinguishing her electrical display. “You’re decently versed in decent species of youkai, aren’t you? I wasn’t aware many tengu came to the Human Village, especially not the wolves.”

“They don’t, no. But I eventually got to know some kinds of youkai better, once I realized that they weren’t all...” I halt, recalling that Mima’s just referred to herself as a youkai too.

“...Weren’t all soulless monsters out to kill and eat you, not necessarily in that order?” The ghost extrapolates wryly, but with no malice to her tone. “Although I won’t deny that there are some of us like that.”

“Pretty much, yes. Having one’s first experience after arriving here be nearly fatal running from a clawed monster contentedly singing about how they were going to eat me-” in the shape of a young bird-winged girl, at that, adding levels of confusion and humiliation to the whole thing- “makes a fairly strong impression, in my defense.”

“If you managed to survive that, your predator can’t have been especially competent,” Mima observes. “...Oh, don’t look at me like that. Gensokyo’s home to youkai that could kill you as easily as swatting a fly and with less care, you must have learned that.”

A memory wells up of gnashing teeth and ripping, bloodstained claws, and I force it back down with a shudder, feeling phantom pains in limbs no longer there. Yes, indeed I have.

“Well, this girl wasn’t one of them, at any rate,” I mutter. “In fact- as I learned after seeing her in the village the next day and shooting her in a panic- she owned a rather popular food cart outside the village, and people cared more about what was going into their stomachs than her own.”

“Shooting? You learned to use danmaku so quickly?”

“No, but I could use a gun, which I’d hastily bought from that shopkeeper after realizing the impending danger of being torn to pieces. I couldn’t use it very well, mind you, and I’ve learned since that it wouldn’t have done anything in the long run even if I could...”

“Yes, youkai are notoriously hard to kill in ways that don’t allow them reformation.” Mima says.“...Using conventional means, at least.”

“I’ve had that point thoroughly driven home since, yeah. Anyway, the shot wasn’t anywhere near lethal, but there was a lot of blood and screaming, enough to get me dragged away by an angry mob.” Admittedly, assaulting someone in a crowded marketplace and in broad daylight might not have been the best idea, but I can hardly be blamed for panicking a bit.

“At which point this woman, Kamishirasawa, broke them up and took me back to her home to explain that, even if youkai preyed on humans and humans fought youkai, I couldn’t deal with it like that.” I can still recall the patient look she had on her face, as if calmly disciplining a child that had struck one of his playmates. Except that in my case, said playmate would be more like a forty-year old man predisposed to promises of candy in the backs of vans.

“It doesn’t sound like you were especially happy to learn that.” Mima says mildly.

“Hearing it from her was bad enough, but worse was the entire village backing her up, those that weren’t willing to throw me to the forest’s youkai themselves. Several of ‘em – the youkai, I mean- were really pissed at me for hurting their friend and out for my blood, and nobody seemed to find anything wrong with this. An entire settlement of people, apparently indoctrinated into behaving like so many cattle, and trying to force me to think the same way. I couldn’t deal with that. So, I-”

“Shunned them?” Mima asks, nodding sympathetically.

“What?” I look at her, askance. “No! No, I tried to help them. The other humans might have been willing to live under fear and oppression, I thought at the time, but if that was the case it was up to me to convince them otherwise, as the only one enlightened enough to intercede.”

“I see. And you didn’t feel at all...resentful of how they’d been behaving toward you?” Mima says doubtfully. “Nothing but pure altruism untempered by any lesser urges, for instance, wanting to prove them wrong, or show that you were right...?”

I remember the bitter thoughts that filled my head, both on that day and many others, and say nothing.

Mima smirks. “There’s an old saying about roads and good intentions which I think to be appropriate here, Cass. Might things have escalated from your initial goals, perhaps?”

“They wouldn’t listen,” I growl, quashing unheeded thoughts of regret at the…unfortunate conclusion to my plans. “I had to find some way of showing them, it’s not my fault if things ended up getting out of hand…”

“Of course not, of course not.” Mima says soothingly. “You were trying to help, after all, and in a strange world with a century’s worth of differences from your own. You weren’t wrong in your ideas, merely too different from the status quo to be believed.”

“I suppose…” It’s tempting to believe her words, I won’t deny that. Still… “The gods on the mountain came from the Outside too, though, and they’ve had people flocking to them since.”

“Ah, but the humans of Gensokyo are used to dealing with gods.” Mima says, holding up a finger. “This is a land where deities walk amongst their worshippers, and shrine maidens consort with many more. It’s easy for someone to adapt to worshipping a new god like Yasaka, with great charisma and greater promises; they’ve been doing it for more generations than you can imagine.

“Outsiders, however…those like you have always been on a lower rung of the societal ladder. The average unwary human transported into Gensokyo has a life expectancy of minutes before becoming a youkai’s meal, and this is common knowledge to any resident. Any Outsiders who make it to the village swiftly adapt to the local way of doing things, or else they die. You were willing to do neither, Cass, and thus exceeded the villagers’ expectations- they didn’t know how to deal with you.”

“So, because I didn’t conform to their ideas of how the world works, I couldn’t live among them like a normal person?” I ask bitterly. “That hardly seems fair.”

“The world has little care for whether its happenings are fair, Cass. The sooner you realize that, the better.” Mima gives me a sidelong glance. “There are those who would undoubtedly agree with you, however. Many of those youkai here in the Underground, to start.”

“ ’The Underground’? Is that a euphemism for Hell?” My curiosity is piqued, though, and I moderate my tone’s sarcasm to reflect this. “Can’t say I’ve heard of it, otherwise.”

“The Hell of Blazing Fires is the deepest part of Gensokyo’s underground, and rather characteristic of the region as a whole. Just as our current location is the designated jail for vengeful spirits, the entire Underground is the domain of those youkai exiled from Gensokyo proper, many decades ago, and sealed away since.”

“Exiled, huh…what for, exactly?” I wonder aloud. “They were feared and disliked by the humans and youkai on the surface, I’m assuming, but there’s plenty of diversity among those I’ve seen there. What was so bad about these ones?”

“The reasons for banishment varied across different species, and I’m not familiar with them all,” Mima says quickly. “I do know that many of the now-underground youkai had behaviors differing from the norm. The oni, for instance, who have a major presence here, used to challenge humans to contests and abduct the losers, rather than hunting them conventionally.”

“What’s so bad about that?” I demand, frowning as Mima shrugs noncommittally. “So they were just youkai that didn’t fit in, then, like me with the humans. Didn’t have a remotely valid reason for being exiled, like posing a danger to others…”

A look like she’s about to say something flashes on and off Mima’s face as I continue. “Yeah, I guess I can empathize, as a matter of fact. But- they’ve never stood up for themselves, though? Never tried resisting the terms of their exile, or rebelling…” I trail off, because the expression on Mima’s face has finally registered.

Namely, that she’s grinning widely. “Thank you for so neatly arriving at my point, Cass. No, they have not: save for one short-lived incident by a single hell raven, there have been no attempts to stage any sort of uprising. But even if they have become inured to it, the subterranean denizens still remember that they are exiles, prisoners. I believe it’s long past time that they acted on that knowledge: by revolting, and retaking their rightful place in Gensokyo. I’m sure you can understand.”

And I do, of course. However- “You said that you wanted my help with this,” I note. “Is that still true? I mean, I can accomplish some pretty great things within my areas of expertise, but I think I’ve made it clear that talking people into things isn’t one of them.” And on the occasions when I’ve actually succeeded, it ended up making things even worse.

“There are always alternate means of persuasion when direct conversation fails, but I suppose you wouldn’t have been familiar with most of those as a human. Onryou, however, have nigh-exclusive access to one method in particular: possession.” Mima smirks.

“Poss…oh. Oh, I see.” I nod slowly. “You want me to literally get inside these youkai’s heads, and incite them to rebel in that way. So…how much would I be able to do like that, exactly?”

“As I understand it, a very great deal. You could place your thoughts into their minds, heighten feelings of resentment or induce them from nothing; long-lasting effects, if you so wished, and ranging from subtle suggestions to completely changing their characters. Vengeful spirits have much power over youkai, and are widely feared for it.”

“If they’re- we’re, I mean- that dangerous, then how do the youkai keep us corralled up in this part of Hell?” I ask.

“Good question. I doubt they easily could have, except for a pair of youkai at the forefront of the forced migration down here: satori, who could read the minds of any being in their surroundings. The simple minds of the onryou were laid bare, scaring them down to the lower levels, one of which we’re in now. There’s only one path downwards, so the satori were situated in the palace above it-”

“How do you know all this?”

“-to block the spirits from coming back up- What?” Mima stops to glare at me, affronted: I get the feeling she’s not used to being interrupted.

“You haven’t once referred to yourself as part of the underground‘s youkai, Mima, and you’re too familiar with events aboveground to have been sealed away from it. So how do you know so much about this place and its inhabitants, if they were sealed away? And how did you even come here, for that matter?”

There’s a moment’s silence in which Mima does nothing but stare, and I feel the onset of regretting voicing my suspicions. Then she chuckles.

“I suppose I have been overdoing it a bit with the explanations, haven’t I…apologies, I’m still not quite used to the idea of an onryou being able to reason on its own. You’re correct that I was not one of those exiled to the underground. However, I was once bound to this place, back when it was still just Hell, and I’ve kept a scrying eye on it since. That was many decades before you could possibly have been born- I know, I don’t look my age-, and I’ve been watching since then, waiting for the right time to put my plan into action.

“As for your latter question…look around.”

I do as she bids, skeletal jaw setting itself in a frown as I scan the cavern. I don’t see anything of note, though; it’s just the hellfire flames, no magical portals or suddenly-appeared stairways…

…Or other spirits.

“Where did all the others go?” I ask, spinning back to face Mima. “I know I wasn’t the only onryou here, you mentioned earlier how you’d seen others like me, and…freed…them.” I say slowly.

Mima nods smugly, wearing a slightly patronizing smile. “You’re halfway there, keep going.”

“And you already said that there’s only one path up into the underground, which was blocked by those mind-reading youkai, so they couldn’t have gone that way. They must have had a different exit: up to the surface, for instance. And given that exits aren’t generally one-way…” I think aloud, watching Mima’s reaction.

The green-haired ghost applauds briefly. “Yes, I let the Furnace’s onryou out the same way I came in. Very good. There is indeed a path up to the surface, one which you’d be more likely to know about from your life in Gensokyo. Does the name ‘Hell’s Valley’ sound familiar?”

“The geyser that popped up a couple winters ago?” I ask. “But that’s where the mountain’s nuclear research center is…what, you mean it’s connected to here of all places?”

“Indeed it is: or, very close by here at any rate. You’ve been imprisoned in part of the Nuclear Furnace, adjacent to its reactor core. Normally, this area’s heat would be too much to withstand even for me, but I convinced the Furnace’s keeper to turn it down for a short time.” Mima simpers. “And by short time, I mean more than long enough for me to enter and orchestrate a little jailbreak.”

“And let all us spirits out the chimney. Will you show me where the exit is, then?” I ask.

“I could~” Mima hums. “But the kasha will be up that way shortly to recollect all her escaped onryou, and she’d be more than capable of tracking you down with them. There’s enough out there to let her overlook one missing if you stay here, however; besides, I have need of you here, not aboveground.”

“Right, with the would-be revolution you’re orchestrating.” I say, frowning: the prospects of that are rather less tempting when balanced against immediate freedom. Not to mention… “People are going to get hurt if I help you with this, aren’t they?”

“Oh, no one of any consequence, I’m sure.” Mima says airily. “There’s no such thing as a bloodless revolution, but one can get rather close when most of the participants can heal from fatal injuries.”

“The humans don’t have that luxury.”

“You mean the same humans that were, and I quote, ‘willing to throw you to the forest’s youkai themselves’ for defending yourself?”

“Well, some of them yes, but they’re still…” Mima holds up a hand to quiet me, sighing.

“Cass, dear, what it really comes down to is this. My plans are already set in motion, and I will be proceeding with them regardless of your decision. As such, do you choose to side with the aboveground society that shunned you …or those fellow outcasts like yourself? The choice is yours.”

Well, when she puts it like that…
I suppose that for now, my allegiance would lie:


[ ] With Mima: she did help me out a great deal, and I think I can trust her.
[ ] On Mima’s side, but keeping my own thoughts in mind.
[ ] With my own decisions, not Mima’s. (Write-in optional.)
*****************************************************************
Sorry to anyone that was looking forward to having the nickname of an archangel, but I decided it might be better to avoid that, all things considered.

I'd appreciate it if nobody brought up the terms "pro-human" or "pro-youkai".

On a similar note, characters' memories and/or assumptions may not match up entirely with in-story reality.
>> No. 10863
[x] With Mima: she did help me out a great deal, and I think I can trust her.
Caveat: [x] For now, anyway. She's shown no reason to not trust her, but she is likely not telling us everything. Be watchful.

I figure that Cass has studied enough of the world, being an engineer, that he knows these sorts of plans are rarely truly put into action for the sake of the Revolution alone. There's probably some ulterior motive here, but we don't know it yet. Cass also has no reason to believe that Mima is going to do us in as long as we're useful- and she does seem rather... Similar to Cassidy himself- there's lots of pride there.

For now, trust her. But just be aware that she's probably got her own thing going on as well. But ultimately, remember the unspoken Engineer's oath: Trust your contractors, but trust that they can also trust you in your area of expertise. But always, /ALWAYS/ plan for the worst.
>> No. 10864
[ ] On Mima’s side, but keeping my own thoughts in mind.

A charismatic revolutionary?
Extremely powerful?
Mina has no real need for us, we are her ally because we are convenient. I'm convinced she will throw us to the wolves once we have achieved our purpose.
>> No. 10866
[X] She still hasn't told me what her plan really is. Incite the underground Youkai into rebellion... then what? Will help the humans, or just get them slaughtered? But barring plans too opposed to my ideology, I'd likely be...
-[X] On Mima’s side, but keeping my own thoughts in mind.
--[X] Regardless of the means, my main goal was to make the oppressed see reason, that they aren't just ants to be trodden on (or so I'd like to tell myself), and I mustn't lose sight of that.

Mima's rhetoric is powerful. Already, she's twisted Cassidy's reasoning and made him largely forget about the humans. A wily one, she surely is.
>> No. 10870
[x] With Mima: she did help me out a great deal, and I think I can trust her.

Seems interesting.
>> No. 10871
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10871
>>10866
Yes. "Wily."
>> No. 10872
[ ] With Mima: she did help me out a great deal, and I think I can trust her.

Because Mima.
>> No. 10873
[x] >>10866
A goal which holds whether the oppressed are humans or youkai.

Also, I'd like to think we have a little more █████ than to be Mima's lackey outright.

>do you choose to side with the aboveground society that shunned you …or those fellow outcasts like yourself?
Also also, paper-thin emotion-jerking rhetoric like this really ticks me off.
>> No. 10874
[X] With Mima: she did help me out a great deal, and I think I can trust her.
>> No. 10876
[x] With Mima: she did help me out a great deal, and I think I can trust her.

We must now begin our glorious revolution!
>> No. 10877
Calling now for [X] With Mima: she did help me out a great deal, and I think I can trust her.

I did rather like the write-ins, though, and there were good thoughts/posts associated with them.

>>10873
I'm hoping that annoyed you more from an in-character perspective than a writing perspective, but duly noted in either case.
>> No. 10881
>>10877
It ... wasn't intended as a comment on your writing, no.
>> No. 11139
Ooh, a story with Mima for once.

Still around? At least make a sound.
>> No. 11140
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11140
>>11139
Yes, as a matter of fact, but there's still a chance that you got some people's false hopes up with that bump (I say a chance because it's far more likely that anyone initially voting has long since written this off as another futilely begun story that would never get anywhere). Still, got me off my ass to post this at least.

Anyway, to everyone still interested: obviously, I started this four months or so before I was actually capable of writing it. However, I do still have a vested interest in sharing this story with all of you, and had been recently taking steps towards reviving it soon. Wasn't planning on quite this soon, but I'll make do. To anyone that sees this and did like what you saw back when the thread was still young: sorry for the last few months, but if you're willing to give me another chance I'll make it worth your while.

Sage for no update right now, but check back in the next few hours if you will.

Oh, and the update will be the one actually starting to introduce those characters I promised in the OP. Great planning there, I know. Pic related.
>> No. 11143
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11143
Or a day, whichever. Updates will not be this long in the future, but I wanted something of substantial length after the effective hiatus.
******************************

With Mima or against her, huh? Pick a side, we’re at war...or likely will be soon, if this revolution plan of hers goes through anyway.

And although I’m willing to defend myself with force, I can’t say I’m at all comfortable with the idea of warmongering, not the least because of all I tried to do when alive in Gensokyo. When the media back home wanted to sensationalize the idea of invading whichever overseas nation for its oil supplies, I’d call them idiots for it and turn off the TV.

But on the other hand, I really don’t owe those humans in the village anything, especially not now. I’ve already given up my life for them, more or less sure, it was exactly that simple wasn’t it and I can hardly be expected to work for their benefit from beyond the grave as well, right? Not like anyone up there was really on my side, anyway…

Memories of several faces treacherously push their way into my mind, but I shove them back down. Okay, so maybe there were a few of them, but...if push comes to shove, I’m sure those girls at least can take care of themselves.

And anyway… I think to suppress a couple pangs of guilt, From what Mima said, these youkai underground seem to be- if not human, then closer to it at least. More civilized than the kind who’d jump any stranger walking through the woods. I guess it’d be worth it to at least look into these undergrounders, and helping them wouldn’t sound too bad either.

“I guess your argument’s convincing enough, Mima,” I admit after a few moments of thought. “And I do owe you one for freeing me, regardless of what your motivations were…”

I float backwards and dip my body in an ironic little bow. “All right. I’m with you.”

“Glad to hear it,” Mima says with a smile huh, she doesn’t look remotely surprised. “We should leave this place soon, in that case: the hell raven’s memory isn’t exactly impressive, and I’d rather not end up roasted because she starts wondering why she’s off-duty.”

“Right, let’s go then-” I turn to fly away, but my acceleration is stopped with a painful yank, and I look back to see Mima holding a tendril of blue flame between two fingers.

“I said soon, Cass, not right this second. Be patient: I can understand being eager for a change of scenery after all this time, but I still have some things to tell you. And I can shield us for a time from even the full-strength fires, if it becomes necessary: I’d just need to strengthen the wards which I’ve put up already.”

So that’s why being a few feet from thousand-degree flames isn’t painful. I had been wondering why convection seemed not to exist here. I relent, and turn back to face Mima. “So now that you know I’m on your side, what else can you tell me? There’s bound to be parts of this that you’d keep secret from anyone not a certain ally.”

“It’s never wise to overplay your hand without an idea of your opponent’s,” Mima replies with a shrug. “On that note…you recall what I said about the mind-reading satori at the caverns’ exit, correct? How were you thinking that would apply to you?”

“I guess I’d been planning to ignore her and go up anyway. If she’s going to be part of this rebellion eventually, there’s no real harm in letting her know, is there?” I frown; Mima’s shaking her head, clicking her tongue disapprovingly with a tsk.

“Oh, come now, Cass: you yourself just brought up the point you’ve now glossed over, and I did the same. Think a little, would you?”

I’m a bit rankled at that, but reply regardless. “Okay, so you don’t want to give this satori too much knowledge about your plan too soon. But she can read minds, right? So how can we get past her without that happening?”

“ ‘We’ cannot, but you can, Cass, because you have an ability I lack: that is, you can mask your mind’s presence by possessing another.”

“Oh…really. Possession can do that, too?”

Seems almost too convenient.

Then again, if she was specifically seeking out someone- something like me for this ability, I guess that’s to be expected.

And, well, it definitely opens up some possibilities. Not to mention the possibility of a catch- “So why don’t more vengeful spirits do that, then, if they’re so scared of her on their own?”

“Because one, they are by and large too simpleminded to act on more than instinct, and two, I doubt any of them realize they have this capability. I only worked it out myself when investigating a means for infiltrating the satori’s palace.”

“And how’d you manage that?” I ask doubtfully.

“Weelll, I shooed a lone spirit into possessing one of the satori’s pets and sent it running inside.” Mima smiles wolfishly. “Immediately after thoroughly convincing it that the Hakurei miko had come back for a visit, and was shooting her way into the palace because she suspected the satori of an Incident.”

I remember the rare occasions on which I saw that shrine maiden deadly serious, and shiver, snickering a little guiltily. “Oh, that’s just cruel.”

“The poor thing was terrified out of its little mind,” Mima chuckles. “I observed from outside for a few minutes, and concluded from the lack of immediate chaos and panic that the satori didn’t get the message. I’d found a creature that could travel undetected even within her range of mind-reading.”

“And that would be where I come in.” I conclude. “Where can I find one of these pets of hers?”

“Ah, you can’t go a few feet without tripping over one of them. The hell ravens and kasha work and play inside and out of the palace, many of them in the upper levels of the Blazing Fires. The satori’s especially close to two in particular, Utsuho Reiuji and Rin Kaenbyou. I’ll be showing you to the former momentarily, she’d likely be a good host if you want to get close to her master.” Mima’s face takes on a more serious expression.

“Be wary of the latter, though. She’s a redheaded kasha- that's a type of hellcat youkai- who acts as the satori’s right hand, and is the only one I know of who can actively control onryou. And no-” she forestalls as I open my mouth- “I don’t know how she’s able to do so. But she gives commands, and they simply obey, evidently falling under her thrall. Don’t let that happen to you.”

I contemplate that for a moment, frowning. “I guess it’s too much to hope for that still having my higher brain functions would protect me from that, huh? And-” Hmm. “-if I managed to catch her unaware and possess her, though, would that make it too late for her to control me?”

“I don’t believe any onryou have ever managed to possess Kaenbyou, but that would seem likely enough, assuming you kept your presence secret. As for the former question…” Mima muses. “Well, perhaps. A stronger mind would precipitate a stronger will than most others of your kind, but there’s still a definite possibility that she could crush both and make you her lackey. I don’t know, and I wouldn’t risk it.”

“What’s so special about this Rin youkai, anyway? You haven’t sounded this unsure about anyone else so far.”

“She’s…an odd one, different from the other kasha. She might behave like them outwardly, little more than feline instincts and glee at the prospect of collecting corpses. But she also befriended a hell raven back when their races were at each other’s throats, learned to tame a feared race of deadly spirits, and used them to alert the aboveground to her friend’s impending rampage. She’s cleverer than she looks, I suppose is the main point: I’m just not entirely sure how clever.” Mima huffs. “And that irritates me.”

"Point taken, I'll be careful of her.” Although I am rather curious about this girl, now: no need to be too careful. “I’ll probably try possessing Reiuji, or one of the other pets, in that case: how often will I need to stay like that, to keep out of the satori’s sight?"

“She never leaves her palace, so it should only be strictly necessary whenever you’re within those walls or close by them. Even when roaming more freely throughout the Underground, however, you should be careful not to attract too much attention: a lone spirit wandering out in the upper levels would be quite a rare sight.”

"All right, so...how exactly am I supposed to possess people, anyway?” I ask. “Just fly at the back of their head and think immaterial thoughts?"

"That's not something I'd know without experiencing it firsthand, Cass." Mima says with a sharp look. "But possession is supposed to be more or less instinctual to your current species, so I'd advise against thinking too hard about it. It shouldn't be any more difficult than, say, the effort of will required to cast danmaku."

"Um. All right then, I'll keep that in mind." I reply quickly.

"...You never learned how to use danmaku, did you?"

"What?" Dammit. "Uh...no, of course I did. Everyone around here knows how to-"

"Everyone who's not an Outsider, you mean." Mima cuts in dismissively, not having any of it. "Hmm, I should have expected this much- mm, no, it shouldn't pose a problem considering your role. Are you at least familiar with how magic is supposed to work here?"

"I...not really, no." I admit. "I got to know a couple of magicians while I was, ah, alive, but they generally seemed too reserved to talk about that sort of thing.” To me, at least.

"You must not have met my disciple, then...not that she would have given you too concrete an explanation, I admit. Always the type to let her spells speak for her, that girl-” A faint smile comes onto Mima’s face briefly, before she refocuses. “In any case, I could write entire books on the subject, have in fact, but it’s only the most basic concept that’s relevant to you right now.

“As such- the core principle behind magic, and much else of existence in the realms like Gensokyo, is belief. "The faith of gods, for instance, is nothing more than belief of their worshippers. The belief in youkai as objects of fear sustains them. And the belief that your words really can make physics shut up and sit down is what lets magic work. I know that in the Outside world you come from, belief in the occult and supernatural has largely died away, and their power has waned to nil. But in these worlds cut off from the bindings of common sense, belief does tangibly affect reality, and belief that your will can effect change will grant you results.”

I nod slowly, trying not to let the skepticism show through too blatantly. "Okay, so what it boils down to is that you're telling me to...believe in myself. That's a bit more Disney than I'm comfortable with, but I'll keep it in mind anyway."

Mima scrunches her eyes shut, rubbing her forehead with a sigh. "Tell you what, Cass, if you’re so eager to get yourself caught and killed, enslaved, or worse by trying something stupid, then go ahead and disregard my words. But otherwise, keeping in mind an essential principle of your new life would seem a good idea.”

"Oh, and for the record-" Her expression darkens. "On a purely moral level, I couldn't care less that you lied a moment ago. But I do ask that in the future, you don't give me the discourtesy of lying to my face, especially with such a pathetically obvious attempt like that. Are we clear?"

I blink, taken aback at the sudden change in demeanor, but nod almost reflexively at her expression, retort dying on my lips.

So I’m allowed to lie to everyone but you, is that it? Interesting message.

“Um…right. Sorry.”

"Very good.” The ghost’s scowl immediately returns to a smile. “Now that that's established, I think we've overstayed our welcome here. Follow me." Mima levitates a few feet upward and soars off alongside the cavern wall. I follow on her tail a moment later.

A few seconds' of flight between the dark red walls and roiling flames brings us to the cave's mouth, and Mima holds up a hand to bid me pause. "One moment."

I halt, wincing at the bright light flickering out around the corner. And it is undoubtedly flickering- my mind immediately draws a parallel with welding torches from back home, but of course they wouldn't have anything like that here.

"Looks like whatever infernal lighting system you've got down here needs some work," I say, turning to Mima. "You said this is the reactor? Having any faults in a place like this would be pretty dangerous..." I trail off as Mima absently snaps her fingers, and stare.

Her ghostly form ripples and changes in an instant, flowing into new shapes, shades, and colors.
Midnight blue robes become a blouse and skirt, the former now white with light blue trim and leaving her shoulders bared, the latter now polka-dotted blue fabric falling around pale legs. Her hat fades away, a plastic snake winds its way around a tuft of brighter green hair, and a frog-shaped hairclip materializes on her brow.

A long scepter briefly materializes in her hand, only to shimmer and be replaced by a simple wooden wand, the scepter’s crescent-shaped endpiece swapped with a straight sheet of paper. And in the final few milliseconds, the black wings sprouting from her back simply disappear.

In short, I observe, the woman now before me is the image of that schoolgirl miko who works for the mountain shrine.

"Er...Mima?" I ask, genuinely uncertain. "That is still you, right?"

The girl's innocent face briefly forms a wicked smirk, entirely uncharacteristic for someone like Kochiya, and she winks. "Just a simple glamour," the disguised ghost says, in a higher, sweeter voice than before. "I didn't see the need to confuse the little bird by having a stranger barge in unannounced. Easier to just let myself in as this girl, who'd have legitimate reason to inspect the premises."

"Huh...pretty clever." I nod, more impressed than I'm willing to let on. So, magic can do things like this too...

"Mm. Hopefully a figure of authority will be enough to draw her attention from...whatever she's doing in there. Stay out of her sight, in any case." With that, I watch as Mima strides into the room on newly formed legs, calling ahead of her.

"Miss Utsuho! I've finished my inspection, so if you could- Whoa!"
>> No. 11144
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11144
The figure opposite us whirls, and that's all the warning I have before a flash of light sears a red line into my vision. Blinded and spitting profanities, I duck behind Mima’s back and wait for my vision to recover, blinking rapidly.

There's a nervous laugh, followed by the mechanical whirring of something large powering down. A woman's voice resounds across the room.

"Um, eheh, sorry about that miss Sanae. You took me by surprise, see, and I didn't think about my Third Leg still being on..."

Vision settling back in, I cautiously glance out at the speaker over Mima's shoulder, and don't at all dislike what I see. Standing across from us is a rather statuesque young woman, several inches taller than ‘Sanae’ from the looks of it, whom I remember not being a short girl herself. She has- well, “raven” hair’s a fitting if clichéd description, and large feathery wings the same color, looking more fitting on her than Mima’s. She’s dressed in a green skirt and white blouse, filling out the latter nicely, although the huge red eye-like protrusion covering her ribcage is a bit distracting.

Actually, what’s with this girl’s outfit, anyway? Even apart from the eye, that cape over her shoulders looks straight out of a NASA spread, and her right leg’s covered with enough solid grey material to make it look like some sort of elephant’s foot…wait a minute. Like Chernobyl’s- dear god, is that supposed to be cosplay? Nuclear reactor cosplay, what the hell- even in Japan I almost never saw anything that weird. And what are those supposed to be, electrons? That’s not even how they’d look!

A glance at her right arm replaces my complaints with confusion, though, given the…well honestly, I don’t have any idea what the thing attached to her arm’s supposed to be. It looks vaguely like a cannon’s barrel, but is far more elaborate than one of those would have any right to be, surface containing several digital readouts and enough segmented parts to make it look like it’ll split open any second. Still, the heat shimmers around its mouth indicate it to be what just fired at us, also evidenced by its glowing. So…flashy and overengineered, but nonetheless effective.

Human body with wings and Sauronesque eye, ridiculous power released on a whim, near-supernatural level of attractiveness and eclectic fashion sense to match. How typically youkai.

"Aha. Yes, um, well...no harm done, really." 'Sanae' says nervously and I'd bet good money that's not just an act, heh, looking briefly over herself and glancing at the wall behind us. Following her gaze, I take in the sight of a horizontal gouge spanning the entire wall save for a ghost-sized gap, the rest of which is still red hot and dripping molten slag.

"But what were you doing with that...technique, exactly? I thought I asked you not to use danmaku or Spell Cards while I was within their, um, blast radius."

"W-well, uh, it wasn't technically a Spell Card..." the raven-girl says hopefully, looking down as she scrapes a foot across the floor.

"What about that 'High-Tension Blade' of yours-"

"Thanks for not calling it a beam saber this time, miss Sanae."

"...right.” Mima says slowly. “Anyway, I think it looked an awful lot like that, you know."

"Umm. Maybe a little."

"...So, basically you were using one of your Spell Cards to play around, with the only difference being that it might have actually killed me a minute ago."

Utsuho glances from side to side awkwardly, looking like she'd gladly sink into the floor if it would provide an escape from Sanae’s glare. Hey, she's already melted half the wall down, floor wouldn't be too much of a stretch.

Mima sighs. "Miss Utsuho, I know we've talked about this. You really need to keep your power in check better, some people already think it was a mistake to give it to you-”

“Aah, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Utsuho wails, wings fluttering emphatically. “I know I’m not supposed to play around with my powers any more, but it just gets so boring down here sometimes. Even when I’m not on forced break, all I’m supposed to do is keep the same temperature going allll the time. I mean, they don’t even let me use my Spell Cards anymore for production, even though I calculated that it’s way more efficient than just using corpses!”

“That’s probably because you blew up the Underground Geyser Center with one of your spells a few months back, miss Utsuho.”

The brunette blinks a couple times, then visibly droops. “...Oh. You heard about that?”

“Well, our shrine periodically visited the place, and also you could see the smoke cloud from a couple miles away. So, yes.”

“O-okay, but that wasn’t my fault, though!” Utsuho defends herself. “The kappa built the place badly in the first place, that’s why the meltdown happened. Me and Master Satori both told them that there needed to be backup systems in case of, um, overheating…” She coughs. “But Master Satori says they spent the funds for that on building a giant cucumber roaster, which is why the whole place went kaboom.”

“I guess that would finally explain the report of a kappa suffering full-body burns from being buried in cucumbers.”

Utsuho pales. “Wait, what?”

“Nothing.” I get the sense that Mima’s repressing a laugh. “Anyway, kappa design aside, you were still the one who actually caused the overheating, right? That’s the reason why we need you to keep from using your spells, they’re too destructive.”

“It’s not like I’ve been using anything that big since, though. My laser from just a minute ago was barely strong enough for doodling with.”

“Well, it was also enough to nearly destroy my barriers and- wait. Did you say doodling?”

"Uh-huh!" Utsuho nods energetically, smile reappearing on her face. "Here, I can show you if you want, it'll just take a second." She steps to one side, waving her visitor over.

“I’m not sure if…oh, all right.” Mima heads over to Utsuho’s side of the cavern, before stiffening as she looks down at the floor. “Huh.”

That’s probably a more diplomatic reaction than I could have managed, I note while staring over her shoulder at the brown floor and its new adornments. The ‘doodles’ would fit much better in a crayon medium than their current state, which seems to have used that laser from earlier to permanently engrave patterns in the floor’s surface. And it wasn’t done too neatly at that, given the black scorch marks everywhere.

As for the piece itself, well. I can make out one small figure with a cape and what are probably wings, in front of another with an eye separate from and as large as its head. There’s a number of several large circles with radial lines marking them as...suns? A pair of which are hitting another two people, one wearing a bow and the other a pointed hat. Oh, and right below them there’s a cat-like figure with what looks like some sort of cart. Wheelbarrow, maybe.

Yeah, melting the floor completely might be kinder than keeping it like this.

“So you...burned lines in the floor to make your drawings?” Mima asks to break the silence, still staring.

“Yep! I was using my actual Tension Blade before, but then I had the idea that it might go faster without the Spell Cards’ limiters, and it worked!”

“Go faster…well, you were probably having difficulty with that before because it shouldn’t have been, strictly speaking, possible. This room was built specifically to stand up to your fire without receiving damage, Lady Moriya even blessed it for that purpose.”

Utsuho blinks. “She did? Really?”

“Yes. Really.”

“Huh.” Utsuho chews her lip for a few seconds. Then she shrugs. “…Well, nobody ever told me that. Anyway, what d’you think?” She waves a hand across the floor, and when looking down I notice that a small black cat’s appeared at Utsuho’s feet without my notice, currently staring up at the green-haired woman in front of me.

"It's very..." Mima visibly struggles for a fitting description. "Unique."

I have seen laser-engraved artwork before in the real world, but that tended to look less like the scribbles of an autistic preschooler.

"Orin said she thought it was great." Utsuho says happily.

"More grating, honestly, but no need to dwell on that, yeah?" The black cat by Utsuho's feet seems to dissipate upwards into a whirl of flame, thereafter resolving itself to a girl wearing a green and black dress, with vibrantly red hair tied back in two braids. She looks a lot more normal than the raven girl, all things considered.

…Well, other than apparently having two pairs of ears, one feline and the other human. Looks like radiation can even affect youkai with mutations. Maybe this unbodied thing isn’t so bad, considering.

“Oh, hi Orin!” Utsuho says brightly, unfazed by the sudden transformation.

“Hey there, Okuu. And...look at that, it is the blue-white shrine maiden.” The catgirl says with a smile to Utsuho and an appraising look to ‘Sanae’. “Hey, si- er, I mean hello, miss Kochiya. Pretty rare for you to come down here, isn’t it?”

“Well, Lady Yasaka wanted someone to take a look around in light of the Moriya Shrine’s upcoming plans. So...” Her head turns back and forth between the two demihumans, eyes settling on the redhead. “I could give my report to you instead, right miss Kaenbyou?”

“That might be for the best, yeah.” Rin responds, lips curling upwards into a rather fitting smile. “And like I’ve said, call me Orin- though it looks like you don’t mind being called a shrine maiden anymore, huh? You kinda made a big deal out of the whole ‘wind priestess’ distinction last time we met.”

Mima hesitates almost imperceptibly, before breaking out into a light laugh. “Haha, well I guess I did used to be like that, huh. But it turns out that everyone in Gensokyo’s latched onto the idea of me and Reimu both being shrine maidens, so I decided to just go with it.”

Rin pauses before nodding. “Makes sense, I guess. So, any problems while looking around the place?”

Mima taps her chin for a moment before speaking. “Well, other than a near miss at the end-” Utsuho squirms. “Everything with the reactor seemed pretty much like we’d expected, so no. It was nice to have so few of those creepy evil spirits around, though, I barely saw a single one this time.”

The relaxed-looking catgirl snaps to attention, eyes widening. “...Hold on, say that again? You barely saw- where were you looking, exactly?”

“Um...” Mima turns and points in the direction the two of us came from, and towards several other entrances to this chamber. “There, there, there- pretty much every room in the reactor complex, I think.”

She puts on a very Kochiya-like expression of innocence. “I assumed you’d moved the spirits somewhere else because of all the geyser issues: was that wrong?”

Rin lets out a low hiss, clapping a hand to her forehead. “Little bit, yeah. Okuu, check that side’s chambers real quick, get my cart too, will ya? I’ll be looking through these rooms to check if the onryou were just hiding out of her eyesight...really hope so, but I also really doubt it. Miss Kochiya, ‘scuse us for a minute-”

“Huh? Um, right! Got it!” Utsuho rushes past me, Rin in the other direction, both girls quickly exiting the room without looking back.

I stare after their retreating backs for a moment, then turn to the green-haired girl beside me, currently wearing a distinctly satisfied expression. “Okay, what the hell was-” I stop as she holds up a hand, and a glowing symbol on her palm extinguishes itself, an ethereal chime ringing out.

“I can hear you now, go ahead,” she says nonchalantly.

“...You put a spell on me, too? When?”

“Well, around the point when you started shouting curses in front of the hell raven. The enchantment’s also why only I could see you, incidentally- you didn’t look to be hiding very well.” Mima smirks at me. “But I doubt that was what you were going to say, right?”

“Right. Sorry. What the hell was that just now?”

“That, dear boy, was step one.” Mima chuckles. “And it should buy you a few minutes in the immediate sense, a few hours in the longer term. I’ve given you what you need, the rest is up to you.” The woman begins chanting something under her breath, and a circle of blue light forms beneath her feet, only to dissipate as she halts. “...Ah, one last point before I go. See that stretch of wall there, between those two columns?”

Her index finger points to what seems to be an ordinary patch of cave wall, and I stare at it dumbly for a moment. “That seems like an entirely pointless question, but yes.”

“Look again.” A muted green flash fills the room, and I blink: it’s the same spot, but my eyes are now reporting back a stone tunnel, darker shaded than the rest of this place, only to have the sight fade back to solid wall within seconds.

“Another of your illusions?”

“Correct: a very longstanding one, from when I myself used to reside in this place. Go to the room beyond in a day’s time: I’ll be there to meet with you again, and see what you’ve learned. Until then, see what you can learn of the important people down here, and get a feel for the general attitudes of various factions- in short, see what we can use. I trust that you’ll be up to the task?”

“Of course.” I nod. “And what do you plan to do while I’m...well, spying for you here?”

“Oh, I’ll manage to keep myself amused one way or another.” Mima smiles. “I’ll be the one to worry about that, though, so you can just work on getting inside the heads of the Underground’s inhabitants. All right?” Without waiting for a response, the magic circle reappears beneath Mima, blue light brightening to white as her body shimmers and reverts to its ghostly form. “Au revoir~”

And she’s gone, leaving me floating alone in the silent reactor. Not for long, though- barely a few seconds pass before I hear the echoes of approaching voices. Looking around quickly, I observe that there’s no real cover left in the room, but-

Hey, I can actually fly now, can’t I? The third dimension can be used for hiding too.

With that in mind, I shoot upward twenty or so feet and look down to watch as Utsuho and Rin run back into the room along with roughly a dozen flaming skulls, the kasha looking around and calling. “Miss Sanae- what, she already left? Okay, forget her then. Okuu, did you get my-”

“On it!” Utsuho chirps, gesturing behind her. A large wheelbarrow rolls out of the tunnels, followed and supported by at least a dozen large black cats, with red-eyed birds perched on the vehicle itself. “They’re gonna help us out!”

The vengeful spirits around Orin murmur and lurch towards the animals, but she holds up a hand to stop them short, glancing around at the swiftly growing crowd, both species now pouring in from other entrances as well.

“Oh, what the- no, no, no. Guys-” she calls to the flocking group, raising her voice. “Okuu and I are the only ones going up to the surface for this, all right? The rest of you have to stay here and keep working the fires, so get back to work!”

A few of the animals do as they’re told, but the majority of the group stands their ground, emitting a chorus of hisses and caws.

That dies down quickly when a revving sound fills the air, and Utsuho holds up her arm-cannon meaningfully. “Come on everyone, you heard her! We can handle it ourselves- besides, Master Satori would get worried if all of us suddenly up and left her alone. So go back to your posts now, okay?”

Whether due to her words or the implication of her gesture, that does the trick. The assembled animals begin filtering out of the room, if not without the bestial equivalent of grumbling.

Below me, Rin sighs. “Thanks.”

“No problem…sorry, Orin, I thought asking everyone for help would let us round up the spirits faster.” Utsuho replies quietly.

“It would, but...” Rin shakes her head. “Look, we’re really not supposed to go to the surface even for this sort of thing, all right? Even the two of us is pushing it, bringing all the other pets with us would look...really bad. Trust me.”

“Yeah, okay, but I thought this was kind of...well, special circumstances, right? Like when you make runs for corpses, kinda. If it’s not, why are we going at all?”

“Because there’s hundreds of vengeful spirits loose up there. Leaving them alone would be way more trouble in the long run, for both us and Master Satori. Now come on...”

They still don’t seem to notice or care about my presence, but I can’t expect that to last much longer. Both the humanoid pets are right below me, but there’s also a couple cats and ravens that haven’t yet left the room and should be within my reach. I should...

[ ] Try and possess little miss Nuclear.
[ ] Try my luck with Four-Ears.
[ ] Choose another pet to target, one of the stragglers that’s staying underground.
[ ] Not try and possess anyone just yet. Instead, go with the kasha for now and act like any other spirit in her entourage.
>> No. 11145
[ ] Not try and possess anyone just yet. Instead, go with the kasha for now and act like any other spirit in her entourage

Safest option. I think Orin would notice if we attempted to posess her or Okuu
>> No. 11146
[ ] Not try and possess anyone just yet. Instead, go with the kasha for now and act like any other spirit in her entourage

Safest option. I think Orin would notice if we attempted to posess her or Okuu
>> No. 11147
[X] Choose another pet to target, one of the stragglers that’s staying underground.
Possessing Okuu or Orin right now might be pushing it, and following them to the surface is just asking for trouble. Guess I'll go with the unnamed pet option.
>> No. 11148
[X] Choose another pet to target, one of the stragglers that’s staying underground.
When the cat's away, the mice will play.
>> No. 11149
I'm wondering which Youkai tainted MC's body and for which reason.

We only have met 3 characters so it's too early, but the main suspect is pretty obvious (She observed all that happened in the village, saw him as a perfect fit for her plans, killed and tainted his body to force him to be in the right place and freed him to create a debt that'd ensure his compliance)

The downside is that it would require too much knowledge and forethought she might not have but it's either that or a great coincidence. Considering that the current situation is that a guy who was secluded and killed by his peers -indirectly- due to his violent ideas ends up in a place with people who are secluded by his peers and is tasked to input violent ideas, that doesn't seem likely.
>> No. 11150
>>11149

Shouldn't Mima have expected Cass to keep his memories, if she set it up? And if she planned him not to have them, why would she even bother with the preparation? She could just pick any spirit.

[X] Not try and possess anyone just yet. Instead, go with the kasha for now and act like any other spirit in her entourage.
>> No. 11151
[X] Not try and possess anyone just yet. Instead, go with the kasha for now and act like any other spirit in her entourage.
>> No. 11152
Do you people jumping on the bandwagon realize that you're voting for the most dangerous and possibly least desirable option?

We have no good reason for going aboveground, and Orin is the biggest threat to Cass right now.

Instead:
[x] Choose another pet to target, one of the stragglers that’s staying underground.
-- [x] Observing Utsuho is priority #1. Learn her patterns and relations, plan out what you can learn by possessing her, prepare to act as her.
>> No. 11153
[X] Try and possess little miss Nuclear.

A man can hope, can't he?
>> No. 11155
I was going to call it now, but currently votes are tied up at 3-3 (sorry, >>11153, you'll have your chance) when counting >>11145 and >>11146 as a single post. I'm liking the discussion, anyway. And speculation, though I couldn't possibly comment on that.

I'll keep voting open for another day, if things are still tied up then I'll flip a coin and get to work on the next update. If the tie's broken earlier, though, there's a good chance I'll call and begin sooner as well.
>> No. 11156
[X] Choose another pet to target, one of the stragglers that’s staying underground.

To break a tie and since this seems like the best way to investigate our surroundings.
>> No. 11157
>>11155
I should have included pissingagainstthetide.gif, I guess.
>> No. 11159
Right, that'll do. Calling for [x] Choose another pet to target, one of the stragglers that’s staying underground.

Next update should be sometime on Friday.
>> No. 11161
A pleasant suprise to see that this is still alive.
>> No. 11162
Got late to the discussion, it seems. Waiting warmly for the update.
>> No. 11171
All right, status update.

Obviously, my plans to update on Friday didn't work out. When I set that date for myself, I was forgetting that my beta/proofreader would be unavailable for the days surrounding Friday. Plenty of writers on the site probably wouldn't consider this an issue, but one of my goals for this story is to keep its writing as consistently high-quality as I can manage, even if that sometimes means delays (this quite possibly makes me sound like a pretentious ass, I realize).

Anyway, sorry for the wait, just felt that I should provide a bit of explanation for the delay. I'll still be updating as soon as possible, though, I want to keep as much momentum going here as I can and hope to settle into a faster update schedule in the near future.
>> No. 11411
What's going on here?
>> No. 11412
>>11411
The thread is dead, that's what.

Please sage in these situations, good sir. Otherwise you get a bunch of angry people who expected an update.
>> No. 11413
This would be occasion for an even more protracted complaint on the overzealous application of sage, but.

Omission was intentional; asking for status probably does fall into "discussion directly related to the story" and writefag here seems to be sufficiently dedicated for a poke to have a chance of some results.

I'll look stupid if he doesn't respond, now.
>> No. 12449
>>11413
>I'll look stupid if he doesn't respond, now.
Over 6 month have passed and he still hasn't returned.
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