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The fumbling forms of darkness
[≤] Girl sticks to the trail leadin' outta here. Bounty's not as important as that.

Moments pass. Silence stays. Mind races. All of this at once.

I really hope that she can't hear me thinking about jumping her here and now.

[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/itws ]

She continues to grace me with that look that speaks of quiet mirth and expectation. The look of a woman who has much and knows that more is coming <so why chase after the inevitable>. The look that tells you that money can, in fact, buy happiness.

A look as benign as that shouldn't be worn by someone so dangerous.

...And... that's the key, here. Danger.

"...Ma'am," I begin, somehow managing to sound sure of myself and untroubled. I don't know how my voice didn't crack, my throat feels so dry. "...Ma'am, I find myself a little concerned by that request, considering what you've just been through."

My fingers hold the haraegushi tight in one hand—above the break; though empowered like it is, that isn't as big a concern—but not so tight as to look like I'm desperately clenching it <hard to do that but managing somehow>. My other hand is still held up, holding the star-light steady on us. And because of that light, I see those blue eyes widen slightly before crinkling in sudden amusement.

"Aiya, a charmer, are we?" says the <probably> Unidentified Smoke-woman, putting a hand to her cheek in embarrassment. "Thank you for the concern, dear, but really, I'm qui—"

"I was talking about someone who hurts the innocent. Ma'am."

That comes out before I can stop myself, and it cuts her off immediately. I reflect that while tokusatsu and hot-blood mecha may uphold the notion of morality and justice, they also tend to glorify what is, truthfully speaking, poor impulse control. I'd never looked at it like that before, but it's amazing what standing a few meters away from a dangerous felon does for your ability to assess things.

...For example, I have also come to the conclusion that no way in hell am I going to try taking her on. Not like I am now. Not here. Now, let's see if I'll be able to actually make it out of this encounter without being forced to make the attempt.

"...Ah, that." From the way that she sighs and gives an "it can't be helped"-type shrug, it doesn't seem that I've upset her <but what she seems like and what she is are worlds apart>. Too true. "I attempted to have a discussion with her. We had a disagreement. Negotiations broke down, and things unraveled from there." Another disappointed sigh as she rests a hand on her cheek, elbow propped up by the other hand.

I ...suppose I really can't honestly say whether that's how it started or not—whatever happened, it happened before I got there. Still, that's an awful lot of generalizing and glossing-over.


It's odd what happens, then.

The nature of the woman in black's gaze does not change in the slightest. Yet it somehow takes on a more alert quality, suddenly, as if something had caught her attention. I stubbornly resist the reflexive urge to step back <cant show cowardice>, but I do change my own posture a little, making ready for her to...

...to tilt her head slightly, glance to the left for a moment, then slowly glance over to the right. And finally, back at me again, with a look far more more calculating than any she's shown so far.

There's the barest suggestion of lifting shoulders—a shrug. And like that, her easy, unhurried air returns, the whole thing having taken a single second, or possibly less. I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't been watching, I think.

I've got no idea what brought that on, nor any idea of how uneasy it should make me feel. Probably a bit—all I can surmise is that she isn't worried about it, and that assumes there was even an 'it' to worry about.


My mamas make this whole people-reading thing look way, way too easy. I'm not bad at it, but compared to them... Well, if they're Holmes, then I'm... man, I'm Itonokogiri <it hurts because its true>. Got a long, long way to go before I'm even as good as Miss Mokou, let alone them.

But like anything else, it usually comes down to experience, I guess.
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the importance of a poker face
And my experience is telling me that it's best not to get her riled up by letting her see what I'm thinking. While I'm not as good at that as some people, I've been living with those same "some people" for the majority of my life, and I can tell when someone's had practice. This lady? She's not just good at reading people, she likes it... and I kind of get the sense that she'd be a lot better at it if not for exactly that reason.

Plus I just watched her kill someone, and she knows it. That would tend to put everyone on guard all around, I'd imagine <even if it was just a fairy>. Little more brutal than the usual danmaku barrage, too.

I shift my stance back as well, and try to keep from looking too skeptical at her words<its not easy>. "Excuse my being so forward, ma'am, but it seemed like a lot more was happening than a disagreement and a difference of opinion," I tell her, waving my haraegushi in a little loop about at her chosen terms, like one might twirl a finger.

Surprisingly, a pitying look is all I get in return for a few seconds, and I have the strangest sense that it's genuine <which feels insulting somehow>. A short silence passes during that time, before she finally shakes her head slowly. "You're new to the onje life, dear—" <urk> "—so it would be unkind of me to not share something that might help you keep out of trouble."

Straightening up, the woman in black puts a hand on one hip—next to where a blue rose sits, I suddenly notice. "Makai is not a civilized land. Oh, of course the demons talk, and walk, and live in cities, and create wonders," she says, dismissively swishing the other hand back and forth as if turning down the offer of tea. "But simply because they don't wipe their shit away with their hands, and have learned how to build a fire and cast a spell does not make them civilized."

Dumbstruck, I stand there for a moment, reeling at the amount of venom in those sweet, polite words. Staring at her slack-jawed would be a very bad idea, so I just shift my weight again and basically do anything and everything I can to seem like I'm patiently listening. On the inside, I'm trembling ...or perhaps that's the ground, angered by her words.

For her part, she seems wholly unbothered by what she just said. I'd be all too happy to never see Makai again, and I have no problem with saying that... but she didn't get serious or snarly or unhappy when she said it. It was just pleasant conversation, like everything else.<but hey now you know for sure shes an onje remember the poster only said potentially> ...Yes. That's great, brain.

...Well, I shouldn't be so hard on myself. At least some part of me is staying upbeat <its a rough gig>. I'd imagine so <you do in fact>. This is becoming unproductive.

"I see," I say, and dammit, my voice did crack that time. "Thank you for that advice, then." Calling it that is extremely charitable, but as I dip my head in a very half-assed bow, she laughs softly.

"Ah, not quite, not quite~" ...Huh? "What I am getting to, dear," she continues, "is the belief amongst the locals that one only makes—or should only make—a claim, accusation, threat, or similar in public if one is prepared to stand by it. And this would be fine if it had its roots in something as simple as politeness or courtesy, but no. In Makai, this is only the case because anyone who takes issue with what has been said is free to test the strength of the evidence or conviction." She gives a little sniff, though anyone else would have sneered. "Honesty through public enforcement. Truly, it boggles the mind."

Shifting my weight to one side, I ponder that for a bit. My brief time with Elis tells me that this woman is probably exaggerating a little. My time in Vina, although short, did not fill me with the terrible fear that saying the wrong thing to the wrong person might land me in some sort of honor duel if they took it personally. ...Then again, I spent most of my time in Elis' care. ...Elis, who only barely refrained from attacking a miko <didnt have any problem popping her kid one for messing up though> and assured me that this made her an exception.

Maybe I just haven't seen enough yet. Maybe I haven't been looking. Maybe there's something else going on. Once again, I come up short due to a lack of experience <thats the kochiya way>. Shut up. And worse, I really don't know if what she's saying is actually totally true, rather than just her own crazy beliefs or skewed views. It could even be complete bull.

...although... I have to admit to seeing a sort of brutal charm in the notion—with how common magic apparently is, the obligatory goon squad in a period drama would have a tougher time oppressing townsfolk that weren't hampered by a lack of strength or weaponry.

Well, certainly something to be careful of in any case, especially since I'm already in about the lowest social class possible... and could easily go from unwanted to Most Wanted if I'm outed as a shrine maiden. Heck, it wouldn't be a stupid idea at all to behave like this was the case: If it is, I'm prepared, and if it's not, I'll be some kind of quiet girl with a moral code, and that suits my manga-loving heart just fine.

"I appreciate the warning." Another tilt-bow, and an attempt at not sounding too impatient. "Is there anything further you wished to talk about?" <or would you like to just keep wasting our time until that fairy resurrects and wakes up the farmhands> ...Well, at least I don't sound impatient, so it's still successful. Kinda?

Hearing that, her black lips curl up into a pout—and it's a good one, too. "Oh, do lighten up, dear. I merely wish to have a little chat! Surely there's nothing wrong with that?"
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A disturbance in the force
Whatever I was about to reply with dies before it's spoken—I adjust my stance again, when it occurs to me that I've been continually doing that every so often for the last few minutes, now. But this time, a strange feeling runs up my legs, an indescribable sensation that my brain interprets as "something's odd".


Tuning out my immediate surroundings. Some insect or creature warbles faintly in the following silence. Distantly, the occasional sound of a mutant yak. And... there.

A trembling. What I'd taken for something internal... was perhaps not. No, that's not true: I know it wasn't internal. I don't know how I know, but that certainty is there in my head. Another tremble, now; still faint, but stronger.

"...Is everything all right, dear?"

Another. And stronger, maybe enough to just barely shake the grass.

"...My apologies, I was distracted," I tell her, giving a smile. "What did you say?"

"Ahhh, losing interest already? Honestly, the state of children these days..."

-t h u d-

...that hidden sharpness returns. I know she felt that one.

-t h u d-

The sound is normally audible, now.


It is the sound of impact.


We both sway, that time.

[ ] Always bet on Black ...Betty. She's the old hand; why not follow her lead here?
[ ] Long past time to up and mosey. Girl's in no mood for meetin' more strangers.
[ ] Hell, Smokey's no friend. And like they say, ya don't need to outrun th' bear...


At last, a new thread!

Out of curiosity, does anyone take me up on any of the recommendations for things to read/watch/play? I'll still give them out whenever; I'm just wondering if anyone's ever bothered to pick any of those up.
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In just four easy-to-follow steps
Previous thread: >>10609
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And now, spacers!
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The source, for those not already aware.
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[x] Always bet on Black ...Betty. She's the old hand; why not follow her lead here?

Two of us is better than one for dealing with trouble. Let's hope Smokey is thinkin' the same. Hell, maybe she'll tag along?
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[x] Always bet on Black ...Betty. She's the old hand; why not follow her lead here?
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[x] Always bet on Black ...Betty. She's the old hand; why not follow her lead here?

The devil we know now over the devil we don't
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[x] Long past time to up and mosey. Girl's in no mood for meetin' more strangers.

Spending time near Miss Smokey is probably not significantly more conducive to our health than spending time near ... whatever that is.

>Out of curiosity, does anyone take me up on any of the recommendations for things to read/watch/play? I'll still give them out whenever; I'm just wondering if anyone's ever bothered to pick any of those up.
Technically, I haven't, although I've at least looked at most of them. One of these days I shall probably even play Ib.

(I'm also avoiding installing GNU Unifont until and unless I need to, if that counts. As long as you're not relying on its Private Use segment, I'll probably be good.)
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in a dirty glass
[☳] Always bet on Black ...Betty. She's the old hand; why not follow her lead here?

[ ♫: http://youtu.be/Mh2QbkumtC8 ]

She tilts her head, listening this time, and then looks back the way I'd come—or that we'd come, I guess. A quizzical expression, soon turns into a rueful chuckle. "Tai buxing a..." she says quietly to herself, then face me again. "It seems my streak remains unbroken, dear, but there isn't much time to celebrate."

"Huh?" I ask intelligently, still distracted for a moment by the steadily growing sound and force of the disturbance. "...Wait, do you... do you know what's causing that?" <probably not moles>

"Nothing we should linger about to watch," she replies, pulling down something from her hair—oh, that wand from earlier. Seeing it up close, it looks a little like a squattier, shorter version of my haraegushi, although of a slip of paper, it has what looks like an axe head on it, bladed edge pointing up. "As charming as this talk has been, I think it time we part ways." Another thud punctuates this sentence.

...That really should make me happier than it does—and it does make me happy. I don't care for this woman for a wide variety of very good reasons, with "just committed murder about ten or fifteen minutes ago" topping that particular list. ...And yet, she's apparently, maybe, hopefully not too interested in killing me (though I'm definitely keeping an eye on the wand-holding hand), just in talking to me. I'm dead certain there's more to it, but at the moment, she's managing to keep pretty calm.

And that means she probably has a plan.

"Look, I'm in the same boat as you," I tell her, being frank once more—but not rude. A careful walk and a careful balance to walk on... but a walk that serves you well if you can get the hang of it. "We're stuck in here, you and I, and both of us want out. Is that a safe assumption?"

Slight smile and a nod. "That would seem to be the short of it. Are you offering to help me?"

"For as long as it takes to get out of here," I reply. An ant's-breath of hesitation before I say it, but it's what needs to be done. "I think you're not unprepared to deal with whatever this is—" thud "—and I'm willing to get in on that if it means getting out."

This time, those pale shoulders lift in a shrug. "I can't hide anything from such an observant fan, can I?" Black-painted lips curl in a smile. "You're not incorrect, of course... But the plan, such as it is, is nothing so genius as I'm afraid you might think it to be."

"Still better than what I've got, ma'am. I'm all ears." Is she downplaying herself, or is she serious? ...It doesn't make much difference, I suspect—it's her or ...or that, whatever that is <damned freaky>. Oh, it's a lot of that.




Whoa, there it goes. Strange, though: the rhythm's been falling off, but that last strike was harder. I only sway, again, but I could feel that it was much stronger.

"Well, I certainly won't refuse such thoughtfully volunteered help~" ...Was that a dig? "Did you examine the barrier spell at all?" I give her a nod, and get a briefly-impressed look from her. "Well, then this is much simpler: start examining it for weakening points; the integrity of the enchantment should be failing, now."

...Leaving unspoken but hanging in the air the exact reason it might be doing so. I'm not dumb enough that I can't join up the lines. "And if I find some, what then?" I ask, after quietly swallowing.

"Then you come and find me so that I may exploit it and force a way open. Nothing of the sort will happen on its own for quite some time. I shall start from the opposite end, out that way... though I suspect you will find one before I." Pointing mo across the farm from where we are, she says something odd. At a questioning look from me, she elaborates: "You spoke rather casually of examining the spell—it was not difficult for you, then?"

"No, ma'am. That's fairly easy, in fact."


"...Yes, we should definitely talk about this later." Noooo, no, no. No we should not. We should get out of here and never see each other again. "The key word there being later, however." Yes, that one.

"Agreed," I say, hoping to cut things short so I can get on with the business of looking for a way out. "I will fetch you at once if I find anything."

"And I, likewise. Zaijian~" With a wink and a chipper smile, she starts breaking apart into black smoke, then sinks into the ground and out of sight.


I'm aiding and abetting, now, I guess.

That's... that's great <and if it gets you out of here do you really care>. ...That's an ugly question with an equally ugly answer. And right now, neither of them bear thinking upon.

I shut off my star-light spell. It's time to get to work.

"Trace on."
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seine and not heard
The flight-cancelling spell is still active, too, as I discover twelve seconds and a sore nose later. I guess that's not surprising, considering what she said about the barrier. Still, I'd kinda hoped it might be gone, but no such luck.

[Well, that was interesting! Pretty perceptive lady, wasn't she? But she had an unfair advantage, I think.]

Starting from the area of the fence closest to where I am, I start walking quickly alongside it, heading back an towards my camp, trying not to let the booming thuds spur me into a panicked run. I manage to, although I can't possibly understand how.

[I wouldn't mind it happening, but it's gotta be the right time and person, y'know? Or even just one of 'em. But really one of 'em, not just all... regularly.]

Unfortunately for me, the weave of the spell seems distressingly intact to my altered sight. I spot a few broken strands here and there, but nothing really major. I'm pretty sure the smoke-woman was talking about major.


...Gods, I can feel them even up here, now. And when the people in the farmhouse or the bunks wake up, they're going to want to go see what's up—

A bolt of intuition and dread sparks through my mind in an almost Newtype-flash-y way; a moment of awareness followed instantaneously by the arrival of crystallized thought.

'Shouldn't the fairy have resurrected by now?'

I stop dead in my tracks, and stare through the murky, late-night gloom towards where I know the farmhouse lies. Something is very, very wrong. I... I don't know what. But taking one step closer to the farmhouse is no longer an option.

My feet have already come to that conclusion and taken action, however, as I find myself racing back the way I came. I don't know if that's cowardice or not.


Nope. Might be stupidity, though.

[Hey, what's the rush?]

Down hills and up hills and down and up again.


I skid to an awkward landing but nevertheless fail to get completely knocked on my ass by that last one. Picking myself up, I notice with strange clarity the continued lack of any sufficiently large holes or breaks or rots in the weave as I draw closer and closer to the river.

Well, of course there aren't any.

I... have no plan at all for what I'm doing. If anything, I should be going back to the farmhouse and telling them that <i am stuck here and im not the person that the fairy lady was hoping to catch and by the way> ...yeah, no, I'd be dead or taken down in seconds.

And that's if anyone's even alive at the farmhouse.

There are a whole lot of really scary implications to whatever's going on, and... and I need to see what actually happened, here.

Shutting the spell on my sight, I continue racing up and down the grassy hills, getting ever closer to the river. I can hear the water lapping up against the sunken barge in between my panting breaths.

...Breaths that should be hurting a lot more to take than they are. I could chalk that up to adrenaline, but right now, it's more likely another thing to be tossed onto the pile of "disturbing oddities that I'll ponder when I am not in horrible things up to my neck". That pile's been growing quickly since coming to Makai.


[Wheeeeeeee ow ow ow ack.]

This one pitches me off the ground and forward. I land with a choked yelp as I hit one of the still-tender parts that had just been weighing on my mind. There's a word for that and it's Greek and who cares about that right now. I've got wits enough about me to turn it into a roll, and by the time I come out of it, I'm already scrabbling for and finding purchase on the slope of the last hill between me and my goal.

The mutant yaks are getting agitated, now; audibly so. Their noise-making is all in the distance; every last one of them—even the wounded, it seems—has vacated the immediate area and its surroundings. They knew where that banging was coming from, and didn't want any part of it <and that means im dumber than a mutant yak>. Well, that's a bitter pill to swallow, but I've had plenty worse tonight.

Ascending the last hill, I come to a stop at the top, and spend a moment surveying the area around me. Everything falls silent (or as silent as it can) for a few moments while my chest heaves, and I push the green locks matted to my forehead away.

It occurs to me, looking down upon the now-dark battleground, that I could also have gone and gotten the smoke-woman—and just as quickly, I discard that idea, for what little good it does me now. I could tolerate going along with her just enough to find a way out. I'm in no mood to further screw up my record by going along with whatever she'd concoct for plan B. Besides, she was a murd—

'It seems my streak remains unbroken, dear'

...Murder...wasn't on her bounty poster at all, was it? But that statement could have meant anything, referred to anything.

It absolutely could have. So why...

...She looked back this way when we felt the first impact.

And where is she now? The opposite side of the farm.

[Sooo... are we gonna stargaze or something up h—]

"I think I just got played," I announce with a matter-of-fact tone.

As if waiting for my cue, the hill explodes.
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FarmerFairy3427 wishes to chat!
[ ♫: http://youtu.be/DGPjnynrSyM ]

The final 'thud' is an enormous, world-ending B O O M ! that drops me on my rear and blows out the side of the hill below. The sound echoes around the valley, and echoes weirdly, dropping off into the sound of clanging metal mixed with hissing steam... and I soon see why.

Pale, cyan light, pours out of the opening, growing brighter by the second. Amidst the haze of dust and dirt in the air, the formerly entombed fairy emerges from her impromptu crypt, whirling ring of blue electricity spinning around her. She's close enough that I can see her, now: stumbling, unsteady, dirty, blood running out of her ears... One sleeve of her red coat is completely gone, exposing pristine skin beneath. Her head turns this way and that, looking about for the smoke-woman, no doubt.

Clenching her fists, a look of rage contorts her filthy face, and she screams—

We had an old television at the shrine when I was growing up. It was still old enough to have actual knobs and dials and a rabbit-ear antenna. But unlike newer televisions, whenever it was turned to a station we couldn't pick up, or someone hit the Stop button on the VCR, it would not grow silent and show an empty screen of blue. No, the screen would show snow and the living room would be suddenly filled with sound of loud hissing, roaring static.

It startled the heck out of me every time as a kid. Eventually I learned to turn the volume down before hitting stop or flipping through channels, but for the longest time, I would get caught up in whatever I was watching and not even see it coming.

" ☱⃤⃘̀⃧͟⃣⃘╣⃥̧̀́⃤̀ ⃤̴̵̷⃦̧̀┇͠⃤⃫̨̛⃤※⃓⃘͢͡ ⃫⃒̢͠͠☈⃓⃚̡͞҈⃫⃤̶⃫̧̀⋭⃚͢͡⃤̛͝͡͠҈⃥̡⑄⃦̸̵⃚̨̡̀̕̕͘͟͞͡ ⌗⃧͟҉̨̕⃤̴̡͝ ⃘̷⃫⃙⃥͘͝͞⊞̵̶⃚⃓̷̢̕͘͜ ║̧̀͞⃣ ☶⃦⃫͞ ⃚⃒⃫⃓⃥̀͞͝҉║⃥⃣̴⃘⃓̡͡⋬⃒͏⃚⃒̛⃢̀͠⃤ ҈̸͝҉۩̴⃥⃚̧̛̀́͠͏́͢ ╫̛҈̴̀͢͠⃤͠⃢⃣̕⑈⃙⃣⃥̨⃢̡ ✣⃥̛͟⃣ ⃦̷⃥̴̨̡̛̛̀́͢⑇҉҉⃘̡⑄̷⃦⃙̕ ⃦̸͘⌗⃦⃥⃤☰̷͠͏҈̴̷⃤⃢ ̵̴⃚̀̕͟⃤̡⃧͠⃣↹⃓̧⃤⃙̴̢̀͢ ░̧҈⃘⃥̵́͘͢⃤͢ ☵̢͟͠҈҉⃤̷̨⑇͏̸⃒ ⃒̨́͜͞͠҉̴̷̵̧⃧☶⃙⃙̸⃘̶⃧͝͏⃦͠͞⌗⃙̴̸̛͢͞჻̢̕ ⃫⃓͠͡͠҈͡ ⑈⃓̶⃦̢̀⃢⃘⃣̶͝͞⇄̕⃣⃣̨ ☱̶̸⃫⃫̴⃘̢́͘͜͠͡╣⃫⃙̴̶̴⃘̨̛̀͢͡ ̧҈⃘⃚⃒⃚̸̧̛̀͜≸̵̨̧̕※̶⃥̧ ☈⃚̧̢̀͡⃣⃚⃥̡͝͠❂⃘⃫̷⃒⃦̶͘͢ ⃘⃧❇⃤̕⃣̢̕" "

A reflexive twitch runs through my body as her cry of fury fills the night with the sound of that television, magnified a hundredfold. It dies off, and I can see little lights flickering on here and there across the valley—neighbors woken up by the commotion, no doubt. I look back at the farmhouse, but... still nothing.

So... what do I do now?

[Stop talking to yourself and get off the hill? That's just a suggestion, though~]

The fairy stands there for a moment, chest heaving, light ring making weird flickering shapes through the residual cloud of raised dust. Her bared arm sparks once or twice. And it occurs to me that whatever I should do, I should probably not be doing it right here, in plain sight.

I start to move, but by then, she's seen me.

Casting her gaze this way and that once again, she'd turned around and looked up the hill just as I started to move backward. And the look on her face is... odd.

A scant second of confusion, followed by recognition. Then some unholy fusion of rage and glee takes over, and—

"⑀⃥̸̢͞҈̵̀⃣̶̶́͡⊞͡҉̨͏̵⃒⃓⃢҈⃣⃓̢́ ҈⃥̵̷⃘̀̕҉͘⃢̧̨͟⑄̛͡͠⌗⃥̵͢҈̷҈⊟⃒̧⃧҈⃧⃣̸⃦̢̛͘ ̵⃧⃣⃧͠╠̸⃥⃢̴⃒⃒͞҉↹̧̛⃤̨̀͢⃢⃫⃦⃓̧́͞ ̕⃢̛́͘҈̴̡⃢̵̴̧͜※̶̡⃣̵̛̛↹⃫⃫̀░҉̸⃣۩⃣⃢⃒⃓⃘̢́⃧͟҉ ⃒⃢̡͘͘͢͜͢҉̸჻̧́͟☴̴҈҉̸̴͘ ⃒⃫⃙⃘̧́̀͘̕͝͝┇̶͏͡╫͝҈⃧͟҉⃚̧ ̸̴⃦̧╠⃙⃥⃙̡۩⃓̴⃧͠╫⃣⃦⃫☵⃥⃧̀҉͘͡↹⃒͏⃥⃘̀ ҉͠͝͞☱͘͘⃢̶҈⃒̸⃦̸̡̕͠☷͟͏̨͜⊡̵⃫̸̶̨⃧͟҉̛͟͢ ̸̷̵͟⃣⃤⃢͢░⃧⃤⃚̶̧⃤⃦҈̴⃙⃥⃘̧۩̸⃓⃚̵̵́̕͞⃢⃓⃙͘⊟͏͢⊡͏͟͜͞͝ ⃙̶⃦⃘̢́͟͟͡҈⋇̴̷⃒⃚̨̀͡͏⃚☈⃫̢⃢⃫╫⃢⃣̶̸̀ ⃘̵̵̡͞͞͡҈̧⊞⃙͏჻҈⃙̴⃒̢͞≸̵̧͘͟⃢≸̵̨̛⃧҈ ⃚͡҉͏⃒⃚̡̡̨́☰⃙⃙̡͠͏҉⃥⃫̛⃣̴⃧͡❇⃦̧"

—another furious blast of static assaults my ears as she snarls, and charges up the hill at me with an alarming turn of speed that seems somehow dreadfully slow.

My mind is gnawing on something. Something that makes the sweat all over my body feel even colder than when the breeze blows against it.

[...Well, too late for that, now~! Are you gonna handle this? I think you can handle this~]

For some reason, what stands out the most, what seems frightfully important despite the approaching thunderstorm, is that look of recognition.

I know we've never met. She couldn't have seen me during the fight with the Smoke-woman, I think. So what about me could inspire this reaction?

A downward glance.

A widening of eyes.

A shuddering exhalation that sounds more like someone holding back tears.

...Why, what could she possibly have seen but a dark-haired female, wearing a long, dark, loose garment, holding a stick or a wand of some sort?

One who happens to be in the spot where the banging impacts were coming from.

One who would be far closer to that at spot when whatever was inside broke loose.

One whose ally of necessity would ensure she, herself, was nowhere near that spot when that time came.

One who realized that the identity of the thing breaking loose was in fact never subject to any uncertainty at all.

One who listened to carefully chosen words, words that danced through the air, creating and shaping expectations and assumptions.

One who knew not to be taken in by that smooth, easy, self-assured air.

One who despite all her precautions and preventions, got played like a fiddle.

One who...


...who won't take this lying down.

One who isn't going to let it end here.

One who is going to punch the Smoke-woman right in her gods-damned breasts when she sees her next.

Between the humming, the crackling, and the sizzling of the fairy now a handful of meters away, I can't even hear the whisper of self-encouragement that leaves my lips as I bring my haraegushi to bear.

[ ] Go all out. Put her down quick; ain't got time to spare.
[ ] Gotta be a cleaner way. Girl looks and looks for one.


By the way, for those of you that want to get the songs I link from Youtube (or mp3s of anything from Youtube), this Firefox extension has served me very well, and given me an absolute minimum of bullshit: https://addons.mozilla.org/En-us/firefox/addon/youtube-mp3-podcaster/
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It's spacer time again!
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Just so you all know, I will delete these later.
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But for now, there must be words-hiding!

Also some Gin because best rozen.
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[x] Gotta be a cleaner way. Girl looks and looks for one.

Fuck if we're going to end up with murder on our Wanted poster. If we must fight, rely on seals (protection, warding, sealing) and just generally completely different tactics than what we saw Smokey use.
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[x] Go all out. Put her down quick; ain't got time to spare.
Fuck it, no more going against the gut.
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[x] Gotta be a cleaner way. Girl looks and looks for one.
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[x] Gotta be a cleaner way. Girl looks and looks for one.

Even if it's suicidally stupid, I always want to take the defensive, cautious choice, so looking for alternatives to ruthless combat sounds great to me
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[雷] Gotta be a cleaner way. Girl looks and looks for one.

Half-turn, plant feet. Set and braced. Haraegushi up, empowered, other hand up against it, supporting. The countless hours of training kick in, muscles moving limbs into place on reflex, thankfully for something more serious than a surprise mutant yak. Timing's spot-on; the fairy crashes into me fist-first.

Impact. Arms shake with the force, and I skid back half a meter. Spinning ball lightning so close I could reach out and touch it. Drifting light and particles fluff off the ring in dusty, snowy waves. Our eyes meet, faces illuminated by the flickering deep blue light. Sparking, humming fist pressed to the flat of the paper of my haraegushi. I don't want to kill her. Not sure she feels the same way, though.

Damn... no. Fuck the Smoke-woman.

"I'm not the— I'm not her!" I shout. Probably useless. Can she hear me over the lightning's song? Sees my lips moving, maybe. Does she care, though?

" ☴̡̛⃧※̛⃧⃣⃦⃫⃘́͜ ̷⃚⑇͏͘║⃫̷̀͟͞͡ ̵⃙̵̨̕⃤҈̡⃧⃤̕⋬̸⃒⃫̢̢̢̨⃧͟͢۩͝⃣̴̢̕͠ ͜͏̛☴⃚⃓⃧⃤⃒̨۩̴⃥⃤⑀⃚̛⃧╫⃦⃒̷⃦⃥⃓⃧⃧͟͟͜͞ ̵⃣⃥͘҉⃧͘͡͝⁂⃘̴̢́⃧͝⃤⃫⃤̡┇⃣⃙̀͝҉̢⃧͝⃤⑇⃘̶҉́͘͝☈⃥̸̷̛҈̛͠͝☳̢̛̀͞⊞̷̧̀ ̵̶̀̕║⃒҈͏̷ ̵̡͜╠̷⃓⃧̕͘͡⃤̕͟⃢̀͏̶┇⃫✣⃥⃒́͟͜⃤̷̨↹⃒̶̧̡̛̛́̀͡⃢͘ ҉̀⃤⃙͟☳⃘⃦̷̛͟⃢☈⃙⃢̴⃦̨́͠҉̡⃧͡⑇̡̕͠⃤⃚⃦⃘͘͠҈̡̀⃢ ⃚̨̀͜͜͞↹⃣⃚̸⃘̢⃧͞͞͠❂⃤̴̷̛́͘̕͜͢͟ " is the reply I get; angry static hurled back. Spits to the side, eyes not leaving me. " ̵⃒̨̛⃧͢╇̴͜͠≹⃚⃘̷̷⃒⃫̡̢⃧͢⊡⃣⃫⃦⃫⃓⃦̷̛́́͡ ̨͢͠͠⋠⃧͠⋇⃙⃓̵̕͡͏̸͏̷̶̸̨჻̸⃦̨͜͠⃣ ̡̢̛́⃧́̕͢⑈̴⃧̀⃧͜͡↹͜҉̷͠҈̢┋⃚͜͜҈⃫⃦⃤⃥̀͡☈⃥̡̢̨́͏⃙⃚⃫͟͡͝⑇̡⃧͠҉⃫̷͜⃢̢̢҉ ҈⃥́͟͟⃣͟͏⃚⃦́͜≸⃥⃦̡⃧͢⃤⃚̶͟͞‡⃣̷⃘̶̷❇⃒̵̵̸⃒̛̛̀̕̕ ", she snarls.

The glowing, twinkling arm becomes a normal arm again; the fist against my haraegushi brightens impossibly. And—

a thunderclap


Did the flight spell come back on?

[...Ooh, ouch.]

After the bang: wind and weightlessness, a great ringing in my ears, a dancing green-now-purple-now-blue-now-black-now-green-and-loop blotch in my sight. What just happened?

I land shoulder first, and pains from before suddenly show up again. Oh, they brought friends, too. How painfully, delightfully— "Augh." That groan says it all; how exactly that. The part of me not frantically trying to get up or even just start breathing again arrives with helpful info <did i just take a flashbang point blank>. Might've.

Get back to you on that later. Forever-later.

Light approaches; glowing nears my location. Not to help me up, I'm sure. Might make it actually forever.

Gotta move. Limbs give me lip. Body mouths off <seriously kochiya move it>.

Deep blue glow getting closer, like evening twilight in reverse. Move, move. Move! An arm answers the call, lifting, bending <nice that it can hear me over all this ringing>. Fingers dig into the soil, and my mind swirls for a moment, then wraps around that feeling. Things clear up, fall into place. Yes, that's much better, a solid foundation.

Backwards Nightfall <nightrise> draws near, and the, yes, the fairy, slides into view as I lift my head up, lift my body up. The pains persist, but I can move, I can breathe. The wind knocked out of me gets knocked back in <into place into the inside inside of me where wind belongs>.

Three or four meters away, she jumps—jumps high—twirls, and an arm is flung out and a sphere is flung out. Parting from the spinning ring, it hurtles down at me, shedding its own trail of light-dust behind it.

I'd started moving the moment she jumped; a roll to the side, putting me on all fours and in a prime position to bolt. Continued intent to harm seemed likely, and indeed, here and there it comes. Bolting happens. Red-brown dirt kicked up as I strive to put as much space between my fair body and electric death as possible <unless they're homing>. Don't even joke about that.

...A split-second's glance back confirms that it's still on its original trajectory. No homing; thank the gods and my mamas. Also confirmed that it's about to hit the ground.

Is hitting the ground.

The great thudding impact can be felt and heard, both, even over the ringing, which isn't as bad as it was before. That's relative, though; it's still horrible. The ground bucks, and I stumble, trip, roll forward, and come back up on my feet, quick and sharp. Fairy lands just ahead of the impact point—still moving, she pivots on one leg, swinging all that forward motion around in a quick, tight circle <just about a perfect booster turn right there>.

[Swing and a miss!]

Some detached part of my mind notices the baked, dried look of the soil at the point of impact.


With the noise and commotion we're making, people are going to—no, they've already noticed them; I saw the lights coming on. I don't have the time to drag this fight out if I want to be able to get out of here.

I should be grateful, then, since most of the style of combat Kana-mama imparted to me is about exactly that: it operates on the assumption that one's opponents will be stronger, faster, tougher, and more powerful than one. Therefore, one should seek to end the fight in as short a timeframe as possible, ideally while inflicting a maximum of lethal harm or severe disability. Violent distractions and vicious pursuers both tend to both be non-trivial obstructions to the work of a miko.

Yet... I'm... not so sure I'm ready for that at this point. I won't not fight, I mean, and I'm not so naive as to think that I could do a pacifist run of Makai. But the if my miko powers are something with permanently lethal consequences, then that makes the ugly, convoluted nature of the situation I've been put in by that devious bitch way, way worse.

Putting her out of commission is all I need to do. And to do that, I need to find an opening <or to make one>. Or that, yes. I don't know how, or what' I'll do. A seal, I guess, or—

It's just a momentary glance in these few, fevered milliseconds of thought, but it's enough to bring everything to a screeching halt. My gaze dances across the fence, and then I'll have to deal with the barrier, right, and



—and the barrier.

The barrier that won't come down unless the fairy goes down. While she's up, it's up <assuming that was the truth>. It doesn't sound implausible, and she's the type who has others do her dirty work for her whenever possible. I kill the fairy, she goes free, and I'm the one left holding the bloody knife. Or maybe I die, but I've softened the fairy up, and she does the deed.

Either way, she gets out, I get screwed.

...She's getting punched twice. Maybe a kick, too; these are nice, heavy boots.
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With my planning thrown into disarray by this realization, the sizzling, electric thoughts flashing through my mind fizzle out, replaced by the sizzling, electric sounds of... electricity. And a louder humming than before <ringings still there>. Yeah, but it's not the only sound, anymore.

[ ♫: http://youtu.be/VJkzfV7kNYQ ]

The ring around the fairy glows brighter, the balls spin faster. The fairy herself cocks back an arm (the bared arm), fingers flexing, then setting into a clawed, grasping gesture.

" ╠⃘⃘̀⃧͝҉⃙⃚⃘⃥̢̕͢╫̡̀⃣⋬⃘⃥̛́҈⃥̷̶̧̀͢ ̸̴̷̨͝͠҈⃫╇⃓́̀͘͞⃢⃚⃤̶͟͡͞┇͢͝҈⃙̷⃘́⃧͢͢͟ ⃫⃦͏҉⃒⃘⃫̨̛̕͟❖⃘⃫́͞͡͞͏̴̴̸͠͡͡⑆⃢⃓ ⃥̧̕̕͜͟͝͡⃣⃤↹̷҈̷̴⃦̶̸̸̨║⃦⃙ ⃙⃘̡͝⋬͡͡҉͡ ͝⃣͝⊠⃢⃚̸̶̷̶⃘҈⌗⃢⃒̸⃧≹̶̷̡̕͜͝͠≹⃧̀̕⃤⃦⃓ ⃒̵̢̛͢͟͠҉̀⑇⃙̢҈̸⃥̛͜͢͢͝͏❖⃤̶̶⃥̵⃫⃧͟ "

And she ohshit

Roughly a meter and a half of angry fairy rockets across the space between us, spinning ring lower about her body than before. If I'd been focusing on her, or better prepared, I would have maybe been able to dodge it artfully.

As it is, I only avoid having my face torn off through sheer, stupid, dumb luck: I trip.

[Steeee-rike two!]

My lips part to form a startled curse which is never uttered, because muscle memory and a quicker assessment of an even quicker opponent spurs me into action.

There are only two definite states of being that really matter in combat, Sanae: being dead and being alive. Finer distinctions exist, but will always boil down to one or the other. So long as one is not the former, one still has a chance at continuing to be the latter. Experience and practice increase this chance by helping one to avoid mistakes and missteps which limit this chance. The clever shrine maiden, confronted with unavoidable error, will seek to mitigate or reverse this limitation of chance.

The words come back in a sud<hurr remember the basics of cqc snake>—Oh, piss off.

...Besides, I'm feeling kinda... frog.

In my fall backwards, an arm drops down, a leg is left to buckle, and the other sweeps out. The fairy blazes by as I arrest my fall, stabilize, pivot, and swing myself 270 degrees with the momentum of the sweep. Out snaps the arm, unfolding and extending—


—and the tongue tags the fly: swinging my haraegushi in an upward arc, I slice a line of light across her lower back, leaving a briefly incandescent streak of green and blue in the air and shearing off the tip of one wing.

" ╫⃫̷⃘⃒⃙̛̀͘ ⃥⃙̴̧⃤̷҉⃘͟͡╫̸⃥↹̛̛̀̀↹̴̶ ⃙⃥̨͏̢̀↹̵̡́́͡͠╫́҉ ⃢̶́⃤⃦̴̛̕͝╣⃦̴⃫⃙̀͘͢͝͞⃢⃦̛⊞̸̧̀̀͠͠⃣⃤҉̸̡͢͠╣⃦͢͝⃣⃚⃫⃙̴̡́̀͝ ҉̡❇⃒⃢⃤ "

The weird burst of static this fairy has for a voice is more shrill and piercing, this time. Not to mention louder. Trying very hard not to think about the effect that'll have on curious people thinking of investigating <break some glass and fire a gun while youre at it> ...and failing, I pull myself together and force my body to stand. That goes a little better.

[...Oh man, bean ball.]

A skidded trail through the grass and dirt lies behind the fallen fairy, who apparently stumbled and crashed. She's easy to find because... well, because she's still lit up—her lightning ring continues to spin at about thigh-height, only barely kept from impacting the ground by how she's bent over awkwardly, like a diseased capital A. Little snatches of throaty static—moans—issue forth from where she is trying to get back to her feet.

...Confusion, thankfully, acts as a buffer against horror <better right now you can be awful later>. The terrible sight before me ...it doesn't make sense. The average fairy would have 'dusted' by now (to use Marisa's uncouth but unfortunately pretty accurate term). Why is the cut I made so bright? Why are the...


I wanted that window of opportunity.

I made it. I got it.

[ ] Gets out quick. Has to be a hidden exit somewhere.
[ ] Makes it quick. Girl just wants done with it already.
[ ] Makes her case. It all looks bad, but she's gotta try.


My apologies, condolences, and best wishes to all you poor sons of bitches currently in the icy, horrible grip of finals week.
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[X] Makes her case. It all looks bad, but she's gotta try.

None of these things are going to work. So let's just go for maximum Koishi points.
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[x] Makes her case. It all looks bad, but she's gotta try.

We've been duped. We have to make the attempt, at least.
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[x] Makes her case. It all looks bad, but she's gotta try.

Killing her or running away at this point is just going to cause more trouble.
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[x] Makes her case. It all looks bad, but she's gotta try.

... I should probably play Mystic Square, shouldn't I.
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[☼] Makes her case. It all looks bad, but she's gotta try.
[☼] Possibly try to aid the fairy and demonstrate good will? With care, of course.

Might as well band 'round the wagon once more. We don't exactly have wormsign yet, so there's still some chance this could work.
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It seems like this is the first time you've done this. It'll be the last.

Read >>/gensokyo/6052.
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isn't like one of the first things there, 'do not needlessly pick fights'

tone down your autism
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Pretty sure the name was just a riff on the "wormsign" reference. Given the non-ASCII vote-markers, the poster is almost certainly a veteran of this thread and of THP in general. Almost certainly a particular veteran, in fact. (Although I'll grant you that Sunshine-san needs to vary their marker-selection a bit.)

That assumes, of course, that the presence of text in the name field is what you're referring to. You weren't clear, and I have had to infer.

It's closer to being the last than the first. Notably, both "namefagging" and "lazy typing" are listed above picking fights; that puts the poster you're replying to at one violation (at most), and you at ... three. Throw thee not stones who dwelleth in a house of glass.

(And if anyone is tempted to say that last bit back to me, rest assured that I am aware of my own hypocrisy and thus am now upshutting fuckwise.)
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[ည] Makes her case. It all looks bad, but she's gotta try.

An onje I might be—more than just technically, but not by much—but a monster I'm not. Not yet. Never, if I can help it. And I can, and I will. The fastest way out of this isn't a road I look forward to traveling down.

You don't send home happy postcards from that kind of trip.

[ ♫: http://youtu.be/1Gi7i8SOLak ]

If I mess this up, though, I'm headed down that road <or into the ground>. ...No. That will be the only reason I walk that road. If the only options are forward or down, then...

...then I'm not going to think about this right now. I don't need the distraction.

A careful half-circle around the fairy brings me to stand in front of her. It's a wretched sight, her on the ground like that <and whose fault is that>. Quiet. She looks up at me, and growls with a sound like a distant tide breaking against the shore. This next step is going to be dangerous and quite frankly, pretty suicidal. But it's the most convincing thing I can think of right now.

Placing my haraegushi on the ground, out of my immediate reach <and hers too im not a total moron>, I sit seiza before her, legs folded under me, hands down and in front. Deep breath. Steady. Look solemn and non-threatening.

[...Oh? Going out to the mound to talk with the pitcher, then. No surprise; it's a big game. Where's the guy with the peanuts?]

A few seconds pass. I remain alive and un-electrocuted. Good sign, all things considered.

"Ma'am, I think there's been a very big misunderstanding." ...Okay, that was good.

" ❖̶̡͏̨̕⃢⃒⃙❖́͝҈̴͢ ⃫̢͘❖⃫̢̀͜҉̸⑈⃚⃤⃓̧ ̴́͝͏⃫͝╣⃘̴͘҉҈⃚̡̡͜┇̷⃓̸̶̀͢͡͠҉҉ ̴̷͢͢⊞⃚̴̢̀̕͜͏̕͜⃤҈┇⃥⃘⃥⃘̵̧́⃧⃧͜͜͝≹⃦̢⃧̀҈⃢̸͟͡ ⃥̵⃦͡⊟⃒̡̀҈̵⃧⃣⃙⃚̢̧͢͝ ⃦̶⃒̵̡̨͘⊡⃘̵͝͞⃤̵҉̸͝⑀҈⃣⃒̨҈̡́́⃣͟☴⃫̨̀ ͘͜͟҉⃚̶́҈⊞̵⃥̨̡̨̕⊡⃦⃓⃚̵̢͠͝⃢҉̴⃘̶჻⃘̵̡̨̀͠ ̕͏̶̴̀͟͝❂⃙⃙́͡҉҉⃥⃥̨͘͞ "

...Rrright, the static. But the Tongue of Man is a language everyone here speaks, isn't it? Well, keep at it, keep at it!

"I am not the...the Smoke-woman."

The dirtied, matted blonde hair falls away from her face as her head jerks up to look at me. Still-dazed eyes fix upon me, or try to—between her injuries, the night, and the less-than-ideal-but-better-than-nothing light, I don't know how well she can see me <a blessing and a curse huh>. ...Depending on how this goes, yeah.

Sucking in air between clenched teeth, the fairy gets an arm under her, and props herself up halfway. She starts to look over her shoulder , then stops, refocusing on me again, distrust clear in her eyes. Maybe she doesn't feel like she can turn her back on me. I can't blame her at all for thinking that way.

The glare persists. But after clearing her throat, she hiss-crackle-pops back, "⃚⃘͏B⃣͘͠u⃒҈l⃘̶⃫⃧l̷̢̧͘s͠h҉⃘⃫̨͜i̕t⃘̢̕⃣⃚͝.⃦҈̨̨͝"⃥⃒̸̷

—Wait. Were there words in that? Words that I could understand? I caught something that seemed to sound like recognizable syllables. She doesn't look any cheerier than before, though, and it was awfully short, whatever she said. But it's progress.

Encouraged, I continue. "I realize this seems unlikely, but—" <ooh wait maybe if i do this> "—on my honor and my sign, I swear to you that I am not she." As I say this, I trace out a star on my palm. It glows with an unusual warmth for a moment before fading away. "She and I look similar, but you must believe me." <okay dont sound too desperate there>

"̸҈⃘̕Í⃓⃚҉ ̢͘͘͡͠d̸⃥̸o⃤҉҈ń́'⃫̨̧t̀͘.̶̨̧͝"̡̛ she says, lips curling for a moment. Oh, I know I heard words, that time. ...Still can't make them out, but the curt tone and all tells the story: Nope.

Elis said—well, hinted, I guess?—that oaths and promises had a lot more weight to them, here, though. And this fairy isn't running an orchard, so she's... probably not one of the prejudiced ones? <but given who i look like> ...Yeeeeah, that... that might have something to do with it, I think.

This doesn't exactly seem like it was the most fruitful option. Or the quickest. Or the smartest. In fact, I'm more and more screwed with each passing second. Sooner or later, we'll have company <well good thing youre sitting here unarmed then>. About the only upside of this is that I'm keeping my integrity <now if only that meant you kept your life too you master negotiator you>. I said, piss off.

Meanwhile, there's a fairy that needs to be convinced not to kill me. "I was tricked by her into fighting you," I tell her, putting my hand back down in front of me. I can feel my mouth twist up as the distaste and humiliation comes back to me. "I think she arranged it that way. I just happened to be—" Aaaand let's not give everything away, now "—in the area, and heard something strange." A nudge of the head indicates the site of their battle down the hillside from us. "I decided to investigate, and got stuck in here."

One hundred percent truthful. Ninety-nine percent of the actual situation. She doesn't need to know, and I don't think that bringing up my choice of campsite would really help my position any.

Silence and a long, long stare. Is she buying time or thinking about what I said?

[Cotton candy, too. Seriously could go for some right now.]

No answer or reply comes, but instead, movement. I stay perfectly still as the fairy lurches painfully upright, wincing the whole way. Brushing off caked dirt and bits of grass from her long coat sends some of it into the humming, spinning ring, where they pop, sparkle, and disappear. Not something she did on purpose, but it doesn't help my nerves at all.

She reaches a hand behind her, grimacing, then going pale for a moment. ...Found the scar and the sliced wing, probably. I trace four strokes of a star in both palms as surreptitiously as I can, holding off on the fifth and final line. A frantic, random thought brings that thing about Yoshinoya to mind. It's that kind of atmosphere, all right.

"⃒҉G͝⃢⃙ę͝t҉⃘̀ ̵̷̧ư̕p⃚̢.̵͜"̕ ⃦̶ ⃓҉
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cry pardon
This time, there's no question. The words come through—distorted and buzzing and still against the background of the static, but definitely there. The surprise felt from finally being able to communicate both ways with her keeps me from processing the words themselves for a bit, but it clicks at last.

Carefully and slowly, I rise. I don't bother brushing off the 'blue dress' at all, and just lay my hands one over the other in front of me, almost like a maid might. Lets me look nervous and quiet and compliant while being able to keep the incomplete star-patterns held ready.

...I'd really rather have my haraegushi, but... Well, that's the price of showing harmless intent <says the girl with concealed weapons in her hands>. Yes, which I'm not showing, so there. Besides, that's insurance. You can have both.

Still a bit nervous about leaving it there, though.

If the fairy can tell what I'm doing behind my hands, she isn't saying anything. A brief once-over with a lot of squinting and blinking is all I get before I'm roasted by suspicion-filled eyes once again. Swaying like someone who just got off a boat a minute ago, she clears her throat again. "⃦̨Ỳ͞o͏⃙́ų҈ ͡҈s⃫⃧a̕͟y⃓͘ ̷҉y҉҉͝o̴͏u̢'⃣̢⃤ŗ͏e҉͜ ̴⃒̡n⃣̵o̶͡t⃚⃧ ̡͘͜t⃣҉h͏̨ȩ⃒ ͡⃤r⃙͞u⃙s⃓̛t͞l⃥̶͞e͟⃣ŗ⃒⃚.҈⃓͢"̀͘ she crackles.

Huh? "...The 'russ-lur'?" I ask, confused. I heard the word fine, but it makes no sense. it's just syllables in this context. ...Doesn't look like it was the right thing to say, though: the fairy's glare gets worse, and she looks distinctly unamused by my question.

"⃫̧M̷͜i͜⃤s⃢̛̛s⃦̢y̧⃧,⃥⃒̀ ⃘̛I⃥҉ ͝҉ ⃓̵⃘à҉i̸͟ņ͟'҈⃫t⃫҈ ́i͏̵n̛͢ ̵⃫͝a⃚⃤͘ ̷̡⃢m⃘͘҉o҉̨o̸͘d̛⃧͡ ⃓҉t̢̡͝ó⃢⃣ ̧b⃘̀ę⃦ ̧̛t̷͠r⃧í⃘͢è⃥́d̵̨.̶"҈̡̕ she forces from behind clenched teeth. I wasn't! I don't even know what I did! That's what I don't reply with—aloud.


I know what I did. What I don't know is why. Right now, my knowing or not won't solve anything, and it doesn't matter as much as making her less unhappy. That's familiar territory, at least. I offer up a deep bow and my apologies. "It was not my intent to mock you, ma'am, I thought I misheard you. Please forgive me."

...I have no idea what anyone's name is, yet. I sure as heck wasn't going to get the Smoke-woman's name; not if the authorities don't even have an alias. But I don't know the fairy's, either. If—when—I pull this off, I should ask <but ill need to give mine too>. Oof. That's... Hmm.

Whatever. Later.

[And then what happened?! C'moooon, tell me.]

The bow is held until I hear a grunt of ...acknowledgment, probably, if not acceptance. Straightening up, I catch her massaging her temples before looking back at me. "͠I⃫̡ ́͠d̛̀o⃘⃣n͟'⃓⃣t⃙⃥ ̴͠t̷͠r̡̕u⃙̢śt̶⃒̕ ͏͡y̧͠o͏̸u͢ ⃘̕j҈⃘u⃤̨s⃧t҈ ̶y͏⃒e⃚̶t̢́,⃥ ̛͡b⃒͜u̴͢t̕͞ ⃫̀I̶͏ ҉⃘̢ą̶҉i⃚⃦n⃤⃢'⃦͜t⃧ ⃫̨ń̕o͏⃤͘ ⃣͢S̵̀o̢͝e⃓⃥m⃢⃤,͡͏ ⃦⃙n͟e̛⃧i̡̢t⃥⃓͢h⃘͏e⃓͟ŗ⃘.̷⃫"̛⃣ She punctuates the statement by spitting to the side. I can't help the little twinge in my gut when it lands in the humming ring with a sharp hiss. ⃤́"͏I⃫⃧⃧'⃦l⃧͢l⃙̷ ⃒͘ģi⃣҉v̧̀͟e⃥̢ ̨y͠o⃤⃤u͏̧ ⃤́o̕͜n⃫⃤e⃓⃧ ⃦s⃧⃣h⃚͝o͜͠t⃫́ ̸͠⃢t҉⃒̀'҉p͏⃘ŕ͜o͝҈v̵͞e̷ ̸y⃦̨o⃫̧u⃫͝r⃚̴ ⃢⃥w͏́o͏̕r⃥͡d̶⃧s̶⃣ ͏o̡̧r̡ ҈e̶̡à̴͢t̶̕͢ ͘͏͘'҉̕͡è͜m⃒̢̨.⃫͡"̨͜͝

Careful optimism is warranted and appropriate, here. It has a hard time making room next to all that nervousness, though. I don't know exactly what she means by that, and decide to voice this concern—politely. "What might this involve?" The words are still being formed and spoken when a sudden, bizarre, unpleasant hunch forms.

The ring is speeding up.

...No, I don't like where this is headed at all.


"⃚́J͞҈u̴͘s̴̨t͝҈ ⃦͘⃤t͏̴ò⃚l⃫͢d̵ ͏y҉͘a͜⃤:̸̶ ̢a҈⃦ ̧͠s͘͏h⃓͏o҈̕t̛⃢͘,⃤⃥"⃥͟ she replies, very matter-of-fact. A finger is held up, pointed at me <knew it>, and flicked.

My vision darkens for a second, and I hold my breath. Something grabs the back of my 'blue dress'; two hands taking a firm hold, high and low—

Following the direction of the motion a heartbeat later, a smaller, brighter lightning-ball flies out of her spinning ring, hurtling towards my head—

<but the trajectory isnt no wait it was a test>

<a test for what>

[It's a grudge match, or something! Taking all bets!]

—I am pulled hard, to the side.

—The thumb-sized orb of electricity zips by, about ten centimeters from where my head had been, blowing through... mist?


I'm being pulled closer to the ground.

No. Into the ground.

[ ] Goes with the flow. Take her anywhere not here. Now.
[ ] Fights the tide. Girl's not getting sold downriver. Again.
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[X] Fights the tide. Girl's not getting sold downriver. Again.

As best I can gather, the Tenebrate showed up again and is pulling Sanae into the ground? Or something else is? Whatever, I THINK this is aligned with what cowgirl fairy wants from us. If not, the author can feel free to flip my vote.
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>As best I can gather, the Tenebrate showed up again and is pulling Sanae into the ground?
Looks that way to me.

[x] Fights the tide. Girl's not getting sold downriver. Again.

Also: text-cleaning time! The first few contain only random Unicode symbols under the zalgoization; the rest are English text. If there is any meaning to the symbols in question, it has eluded my cursory decryption attempt; but I have included them here anyway in case someone else wants to take a look.

>" ☱╣ ┇※ ☈⋭⑄ ⌗ ⊞ ║ ☶ ║⋬ ۩ ╫⑈ ✣ ⑇⑄ ⌗☰ ↹ ░ ☵⑇ ☶⌗჻ ⑈⇄ ☱╣ ≸※ ☈❂ ❇" "

>"⑀⊞ ⑄⌗⊟ ╠↹ ※↹░۩ ჻☴ ┇╫ ╠۩╫☵↹ ☱☷⊡ ░۩⊟⊡ ⋇☈╫ ⊞჻≸≸ ☰❇"

>" ☴※ ⑇║ ⋬۩ ☴۩⑀╫ ⁂┇⑇☈☳⊞ ║ ╠┇✣↹ ☳☈⑇ ↹❂ " is the reply I get; angry static hurled back. Spits to the side, eyes not leaving me. " ╇≹⊡ ⋠⋇჻ ⑈↹┋☈⑇ ≸‡❇ ", she snarls.

>" ╠╫⋬ ╇┇ ❖⑆ ↹║ ⋬ ⊠⌗≹≹ ⑇❖ "

>" ╫ ╫↹↹ ↹╫ ╣⊞╣ ❇ "
(italics present in original)

> " ❖❖ ❖⑈ ╣┇ ⊞┇≹ ⊟ ⊡⑀☴ ⊞⊡჻ ❂ "

> The glare persists. But after clearing her throat, she hiss-crackle-pops back, "Bullshit."

> "I don't." she says, lips curling for a moment.

> [...] off a boat a minute ago, she clears her throat again. "You say you're not the rustler." she crackles.

> "Missy, I ain't in a mood to be tried." she forces from behind clenched teeth.

> The bow is held until I hear a grunt of ...acknowledgment, probably, if not acceptance. Straightening up, I catch her massaging her temples before looking back at me. "I don't trust you just yet, but I ain't no Soem, neither." She punctuates the statement by spitting to the side. I can't help the little twinge in my gut when it lands in the humming ring with a sharp hiss. "I'll give you one shot t'prove your words or eat 'em."

> "Just told ya: a shot," she replies, very matter-of-fact.
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[x] Fights the tide. Girl's not getting sold downriver. Again.
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Did you keep the same syntax as the zalgo-letters? (I can't tell since they won't display properly in my browser.)

If so "⌗ ⊞ ║ ☶" would be four single letter words in a row. All with different letters.
There's also bits like "╫ ╫↹↹ ↹╫" which would be a single letter followed by a three letter word beginning with the first letter and two of the same letter.
The first letter has to be a vovel, since there are no consonant only single letter words in english. One that is different from the other four single letter words, too.
That's 5/6 vovels from the english alphabet. (I'm working under the assumption that if it is a cipher, it's in english. I'm not in the mood for learning an entirely new language at random to decipher what may not even be a real text.)
And the first letter of the second word is the same letter. It can't be a noun because the only single letter word that fits before a noun is "a", and a noun that begins with a vovel is preceded by "an", no "a".
The letter could also be "I", in which case we have a second word that is "i--". The only word like that that exist in english is "ill", meaning there is, again, no proper english syntax. ("I ill" would be "I am ill", if anything. Context doesn't fit either.)
Not to mention it is followed by the same two letters, but reversed. Meaning we get "a abb ba". There are no words that fit that sentence structure and letter combination.

That would imply it's either just random nonsense, or it's an advanced cipher based on more than simple replacement that has likely also been made extra hard to decode by chopping apart the words.
Either way, as I see it, odds are low that anyone will be able to make much sense of it.
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>Did you keep the same syntax as the zalgo-letters? (I can't tell since they won't display properly in my browser.)
(I assume you mean "same spacing".) Yes: I did nothing but remove those characters which Unicode defines as "combining".

Also, it's "vowel".And "English" -- capitalized, as we do for all language names.

>I'm not in the mood for learning an entirely new language at random to decipher what may not even be a real text.
.i .i'enai go'i mu'i ma

> Not to mention it is followed by the same two letters, but reversed. Meaning we get "a abb ba". There are no words that fit that sentence structure and letter combination.
Eh. Could have been something like hhsssh (an onomatopoeic interjection); as you noted, it being a substitution-cipher of English is inconsistent with "⌗ ⊞ ║ ☶" and fixed spacing, even if it's polyalphabetic. (And it would have to be polyalphabetic; the first utterance contains twenty-six unique characters, and more are used later.)

That said, my bets are on one or more of the following:
‣ the cipher does not encode English
‣ the stripped-out combining characters were part of the cipher
‣ there is no cipher; it's just noise

In conclusion, inb4 ~ .
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Yeah, I meant spacing.
Usually I'm very careful about proper spelling and capitalization and stuff. In fact, I thought something looked wrong with spelling it "english" and "vovel", but I was kinda tired, so yeah...
Thanks for pointing it out, though.

>.i .i'enai go'i mu'i ma
Lojban, huh? I once considered learning it, but I had too much other stuff to do at the time and in the end I just forgot about it.

The odds of an onomatopetic interjection are also rather low, considering it's not "hhsssh" but "h hss sh".
Less like a hiss, and more like hissing while coughing or laughing.

As for the cipher, there is also one more possibility.
It could have numbers included in the "cipher-alphabet", and certain words or letter combinations are represented by a number, then encoded in the cipher resulting in it's own unique symbol. Which would account for the four single letter words in a row, but they would have to be letter combinations easily found in longer words, since the symbols appear again later in combination with other letters.

Of course, that is starting to get to the level of "conspiracy nut"-encoding since I doubt any of the authors here would go that far for something that probably isn't important enough to warrant all that work.
Especially since there are easier ways of encoding that does not require ridiculous amounts of work.
Like using a simple transposition cipher instead of a substitution cipher, for example.

Ah well, it's fun to brainstorm even if it's pointless.
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> "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.)
Because that's her homeland and it was wishful thinking?

[x] Fights the tide. Girl's not getting sold downriver.
I love how might makes right in this land. 'Uncivilized' is too light.

>The thumb-sized orb of electricity zips by, about ten centimeters from where my head had been
So, it was a test of trust? Or one of those 'I pretend to attack you but I attack our mutual enemy' thing? (TV Tropes page pending)
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[ ] Goes with the flow. Take her anywhere not here. Now.
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The God Who Came For Christmas
Merry Christmas to all my readers. Thanks for sticking with me and continuing to read.
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Merry Christmas Fell.
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The what?
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The Nepheligene. She Who Walks in Her Own Shadow. Smokey.
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Oh. So Fairy or Smokey? Which one is which?

[x] Goes with the flow. Take her anywhere not here.
What's the worst that could happen?
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"tenebrae" = Latin for shadow. The more you know.
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Happy new year!

Take all my misfortune away Ms Hina~
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That's the "Smokey" option.

>What's the worst that could happen?
Offhand? That we get reported to the police-equivalent as an accomplice of Smokey's, and either get arrested or are run out of every town in Makai. Which makes the story probably about a thousand percent less interesting.

Alternatively, Smokey lets the fairy defeat us (possibly fatally), then dissipates all the smoke as though she were the one defeated -- setting us up to take all the heat for her. But that's both less likely and, arguably, a better outcome.

There are probably worse things that could happen, but you get the idea.
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Oh...I figured this was going to end with us fighting Smokey or fighting the fairy, but that's not what this choice is about? Now I'm confused.
Confusion of choices in a Fell story? It's crazy, I know.
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The way I saw it was either let us get pulled to whaever or fighting the flow. Hard to predict more than that with how Fell does choices.

I have difficulty telling if Fell's unique way of presenting choices part of the story flow or something he finds himself leaning upon as such choices appeared in Resentment, where the main character wasn't crazy in the slightest.

I don't mean any offense by it, just something I've noticed.
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>Confusion of choices in a Fell story? It's crazy, I know.
I don't think you get to blame Fell for this one; the narrated choices in this story have been pretty straightforward. As >>12643 says, it's whether to let the Smoke-Woman pull you away from the fairy, or whether to struggle against her attempt to do so. If "Fairy or Smokey" has any meaning here, it is as a shorter form of "do we stay here with the fairy, or go with Smokey?"

That we might end up continuing to fight the fairy in either case is possible, but not certain, and not part of the vote.

I'm pretty sure the choice style has always been part of the story. You say
>Fell's unique way of presenting choices
but Fell doesn't have a "unique" way of doing that:

- In The Game, well, the protagonist was pretty badly broken, and the vote-options reflected that.

- In Resentment, Nicholas was an Outsider; almost every choice was a reference to some part of his Outside culture. (Which, IIRC, occasionally failed when the references both carried the meaning and were too obscure for the audience.)

- Metropolitan's choices were all straightforward, with phrasing that could have come out of almost any other story on THP, except possibly near the end where things explicitly got weird. HAPPY NEW YEAR FELL HAVE SOME GUILT (we love you anyway)

- Here in Otherwise, Sanae's choices are all narrated by Logan Cunningham, who is clearly not playing Sanae but just might be playing Nicholas. There's likely a frame story involved here. (Note also that audience-choices which are not Sanae's choices are not narrated: these are the ones that read
> [ ] Something Xesque
> [ ] Something Y-y
Also there's >>12184, but I'm ignoring that unless further evidence arises.)
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I'm gonna be honest, I haven't had an idea of most of what's going on for 60% of this story, but I love it anyway. I'm thinking it's a failing on my part at keeping all of the in-universe elements (such as Makai's geography, language, and culture) together in my head and using that information to figure the scenes out, along with an inability to read the fight scenes and visualize the action as actually occurring, but that all is just a problem with my mental processes, not a failing on the part of the writer. That being said, I still love your writing style, especially in The Game, and hope that you continue making such riveting tales for some time. Kudos, and Happy New Year.

P.S. I wasn't aware we had so many experts on this forum! cryptology and linguistics? we will be discussing theoretical physics in a world full of magic at this rate.
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There was actually a story about a particle physicist some time ago, called SCIENCE!
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CEO of a Misfortune 500 company
So, uh, I'm newly employed. Getting all kinds of shit together and in working order and so on has been about half of the reason for the unreasonably long delay (the other half being busy with other stuff or just being a lazy twat.)

This is either going to be really good for the story, or really bad for the story. It could go either way, at this point, but I guess I'll see how things play out.

In either case, I'll still be writing.
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I take my freedom seriously
[☈] Fights the tide. Girl's not getting sold downriver. Again.



This is not going to happen.

She has reasons for doing this. I don't know what, I don't know why, and I don't care. I'm not going to let her screw me over again, because that's what's going to happen, sure as day follows night. She's no stranger to using people, nor afraid of doing so.

"̢A̢̕w⃫⃘,̛ ⃧͜s̷e̡͘t҉t⃚⃣l̴̀e⃦̡ ҈⃧y̢o⃫u̶͝ ⃒⃤d̕͜o⃚͘w͢n̡̛,⃢⃘ ⃒͝I̷͝ ⃚w⃚͠a̸͏s͏⃥n⃤'͏͡t̵⃤.⃙⃫.̵.⃘̕ ̡a⃘͝i⃤̕m⃫̷i⃘ņ̶g⃫⃥.͠⃤.҈.̷͏"̶͘

I haul forward with all my strength, and it's like trying to run through tar. Weight and resistance pull back on me, but I will not be denied. Although, come to think of it, there's a promise I need to fulfill. If I'm being grabbed there and there, then that gives me a clearance of about...

...Step back with the right foot once, pivot, aaaand...


The back of my fist connects with something that feels appropriately squishy about three to five centimeters early in its arc behind me. Overestimated, I suppose, but there's a sharp cry of pain and surprise that informs me I was successful anyway <felt better than it should>.

—and abruptly, I'm no longer sinking. I'm off-balance for a second, but straighten up quickly. All around me, the smoke stops flowing out of the ground, and begins to disperse.

Well. At least she got the message. Would sorta be hard not to, after that.

Brushing a few loose pieces of hair back, I look up to the fairy who'd just tried to shoot me <but hey no hard feelings>, prepare an apology for the interruption, and...



The look on her face. That's what dries the words up before they leave my throat. So dry, in fact, that it sucks the moisture out of everything else in my head. I stare at her with eyes that feel ready to crumble the next time I blink.

Her eyes are wide, focused on the ground around me. Her lips are closed, but twitching. An unobservant person would think she might be afraid, or ready to cry. Super-unobservant, too, if they didn't feel all their hair standing up on end, or hear the high-pitched humming, or...

Yes, staring at the ground, where the smoke is lazily drifting about. Comprehension—or insight, maybe—dawns, slow and bright and terrible.

It starts with the thought: How must that have looked, to her?

Well, she shot at me, and shot wide; she was deliberately trying to spook me. To test me, I think. And I would have appeared to react by... dodging, with that black smoke suddenly appearing all around, and sinking into the ground. Maybe she saw me struggle. But that oddity, I think, would be eclipsed by the (seemingly) damning reaction of mine that wasn't my doing at all.

It all plays out in an eyeblink and lasts for an eternity. Then the blink is over, and my eye crumbles to dust, along with my tongue, my brain, my hope, and any chance I had of getting out of this even partially clean. Maybe this was intentional, and maybe not. But the Smoke-woman has once more doomed me, and in nearly the same way as before.

[Did she just... And you... Oh, man. Well, this is just a whole vat fulla pickles, huh?]

...Damage control, that's my top priority. Any trust I'd built up over the last few of minutes is effectively gone. Probably. I still have to try and recoup what I can, because if I don't, then I'll... <no thats not an option> Or she'll <thats just as bad> And that just leaves <oh gods can i really do that>...

Focus. Hands raised, palms open—the stars are long gone anyway, after all that—and stance as non-threatening as possible, I draw in breath to speak—and her head jerks up. Just by looking into her eyes, I know she's already passed judgment on my actions.

Before I can get even a syllable out, she speaks. "̶͢҈.҈.̴̶͟.͏⃒I͜⃤⃒ ̷́g̴͢ù⃢⃫e⃘̕s⃥̵҈s̵⃥⃙ ͏⃒̵y̛̛o͟҈̷u⃤͏͘r⃚͘ ⃒̴̧w⃣҉o͏̶⃢ŕ͞d⃒̸ ̡̀͟w⃓e⃓͞͝r⃦͟͞e̴̢n̡⃣́'⃥⃘⃘t⃒̵ ⃫⃘͡a⃓̧⃧n⃦̷͟y⃫̨͜ ⃣⃫g̶⃚͘o⃒͠͡o̸̧d̷̨ ͜͜t⃤̧h⃫̸i⃢͞͞ş̕ ͝⃢t̴̷i⃘m⃓̴⃢e͏҉ ⃘҉͟'⃥̕҉r̛͘ǫ̛̀u⃒n⃥⃚d⃚͟⃢,͡⃢͏ ⃦̸⃤n̶̸⃣e⃢҉́i̷̢͟t̸̷̕h⃒҈e⃦⃣r̷⃘̢.⃤̀҉"̢̀ The hissing crackle is stronger, again.

I swallow, and I can only wonder what she's seeing on my face. If only I could project the internal innocence I'm supposed to have regained. Or maybe I did, and that's why I even got a chance to talk in the first place. "Ma'am," I say, calmly as possible, "that was not my doing. I understand this looks bad, but I think I've be---that we've both—been misled. The situation is much more complicated than it looks—"

Scowl, snarl. Spit. Sizzle <wonder if some kinda hotblooded speech wouldve worked>. Except I'm in no position to make one.

[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/vzjk (No, your speakers are not going bad) ]

[Ooookay, yes, we are very vat of pickles tonight. Theeeen... how about I handle the catering? Yes? Yes. Gourmet awaaaaay~]

"̡Y⃥ơ⃓̴u̷⃓⃧ ̴⃧͘g͏͟a̵⃙⃙v̢⃧e̶̕ ⃒a⃣⃒n̷⃚ ̷̴́e⃥̸͡m̛̕͟p͢͠⃤t⃣⃥ỳ̢͞ ⃓̀⃧w⃙̧⃢o⃚⃘r⃘͜d⃥⃙⃧ ̶̸n͞͡'⃘̶͞ ̧̕ş⃥̡͞p̨̀a҉t⃚̶͜ ͏⃘͏o҉̵̕n⃢̡ ̧̕m̧y̸̵̛ ҈̷̡ḱ̴̢͘í⃚͠n⃣d⃙⃘n̢͟͢e⃢⃓̡s̛͢s⃚͘⃢." She cracks her knuckles and begins to hover a few centimeters off the ground <some kind of maglev thing maybe>. "͢⃢̸ ⃚̨O⃒̢͢n͏̴l҈̛⃧y⃧͜ ̛̀⃧o͞͡n̛͠e̸̛͡ ⃫̨̡⃧͏⃥c̢̧⃧o⃒⃒m⃓̸p⃘̷̢l҈̧į̶c⃢⃢⃣a͘͘t̕͡e⃤͞d⃥̸ ̵̀̀t͏҈⃘h⃒̕͜i⃧͝͡n̶̡g͠⃤͝҉ ͠͏⃤h̶⃢͜e̷̕r̸⃢͢e̛͠⃤,⃙͢҈̸ ⃘⃢⃢à⃫⃚̕ņ͞'́͝ ⃥̡̡t⃣̀h̵⃚͝a⃤⃓⃧͜t⃒͞'⃒͏̢s̷⃧͜ ̴́͢͟h⃙͢ò͡⃢̕w͘͠ ͘͏͢t̴̢͠ò͜ ͜⃣d⃘⃣o⃘͠ ⃧́ţḩ⃦⃚i⃥͘s⃣̵̴ ̶͠'͏̶͡n⃥⃓̸̛ ⃥n͟͏͘o̵̕̕t̸⃦ ̷⃦⃒̸k҈͞⃣i̶̵҈l̢҈̧l⃓⃚͘ ⃧͟͠y̶̡⃧͘ơ⃓⃙u⃓⃧̀."⃒⃣⃦ ╠̸̸⃘͜҈⃙⃚̵̕҉⃦↹⃓⃚̧͘͢ ⃦⃚⃥⃓̴⃧͟͜͟͞͠⋬̶̕╇⃓⃥⃫̧̢̧̨⃧͞┇⃣̵⃧̀⃤̶̵̢̛̛ ̡⃤⃓⃒͡͝͡❖҈"⃫̧̕

...The look of anger, betrayal, and humiliation on her face is incredibly awful—just to look at it twists me about, inside. Not my fault, and yet, my fault.
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Damage control has become uncontrollable, now. The only damage left to control is the physical kind, and for that to be at all effective, I need my haraegushi, which lies about halfway between the fairy and myself.

I make the mistake of looking away from her to look at it. After my gaze darts over to it, confirming its position, and returns to the fairy, I see her own eyes a second too slow in meeting my gaze again. She knows it's what I'm after, now. I know she knows, and she knows that I know.

...Would've been nice if I had some fishing line or something tied to the handle so I could just pull it back to me. What show did I see that in? Can't remember.

The moment passes, and we're in motion. Both of us dive for the stick—and gods, I shouldn't have even bothered. A sound like a monstrous bass guitar politely coughing rolls through the air, a HM-HRMM! that makes the grass sway, and she's already halfway there by the time I've taken my first lunging step. A second step, and she's there. A third step, my hand outstretched in a futile, grasping motion, and she's picked it up.


"↹⃫͢⃣⃥̨̢ ̵⃚̨̕╫̧҈̸⃚́⃢͏⃘҈╫́⃢̛⃤⃥̷↹⃚̀͜͡↹⃙⃥̵̷⃘̧ ⃢⃤↹⃦̶͘͢͝͡͞͡╫̨⃣⃒⃣⃓̴̨̧͡͡⊞͏̧̨̀͘҉͢҉⃢̷ ⃢҉⃒⃘̧̨́⃧͜͞╣̵⃦⃥̛͘❇⃒⃥̡̨͢ ⃘⃥⃢͘̕͡"⃒̢⃣ Urgh. Her scream of pain is another blast of that roaring static, but I weather it without too much problem. Eyes on the prize, now: the haraegushi is dropped from burned, steaming fingers <like elis and the ufos> onto the ground. There's my chance!

Throwing myself into a dive at the fallen tool, I hit the ground harder than I'd like—and way too close to the lightning ring for comfort—but my fingers close about the shaft. I snatch it up, and my continuing forward momentum puts me into a roll from which I spring up dusty, a little sore, but most importantly, ready and re-armed <couldve made outfielder with a grab like that>. Feeling a few aches and sore spots, too, but only in the back of my mind.

Hopping backward a few steps puts some sorely-needed distance between her and me, but she takes note of me far too late to have stopped me. Bared teeth and a glare that could power one of those big Mongolian grills are directed my way as her bared arm is drawn back and starts to spark—not the burnt one, unfortunately.

҈̨͜"⃣̡͘͢☱⃫̡̀╣҈⃒̛͘͡⃣̡͠ ⃣͜͟͡↹̨⃣́͝☴̸⃚⃚̸̨͜͡͏̷͘⊡⃫̨̨͟░⃥҈̡̀͡͞☴҉⃥͞⃤ ҉⃫⃓⃙̢╣̢̨⃤⃓̧͢͞۩⃚́́͘∐⃫̸⃤ ⃫̸̡͝͡͝⊟̡҉҉̸⃚̕͟͝҈͏̛⑄̨⃤⃒̶⃙̢͞͞҈ ͟⃢̸̵̸̧͜҈҉̧҈⑀⃤͞⑀̡̢̕͟͡ ⃥⃓͟≸̸⃙̷̡͘͢͞⃤⃘͟☰̸̶҈۩̶⃘⃦̡͞͞჻̧̡̛̀͟͞҈̸ ⃚͜⃢⌧⃦̀̕͟͝҈̵ ⃫͢↹⃤͘⃣͘͟͏⃙͜ ⃦͜͞͠⃢⃣⃓̴⃘̨͟჻̴⃓̵⃘̧̕͢͟͠┇⃫⃘̴⃥̨∏̶⃘̴͟͠͠┇́⃣⃣⃚⃚⃘⃚̷̨͝ ͡⃣⃤⃥̴̴̨░̛҈⃘⃘⃙͜⑈̸̸̡́⃤̴⃫̨͢͠͠ ⃥̶⃓̧҈⃤̵⃘̨͟۩⃓͢⃣̷̢͝҈⃣̕╠⃓⃫͟͠⑂⃘̧͢ ⃚̧⃧⃣̷̴↹͏⃣́҉⃫⃓̵̷⃦͝ ̴⃫̸⃫⃫̧̢̛☷⃓⃢⃢̸̸͜͞⌗̧⃤̷̡ ̢́͝⑈̢⃤⃚⃢⃫⃘⃧҈⃥̡≸⃙̵⃘̶⃥̢̛́⋬⃤⃚̴⃦̧̨͟⃢☴⃙⃤ ⃘̛̛⊞⃙̸⃒̶⃥̢̨͜͡╫҈̕ ̸⃒⃓⃧҈⃚̷̀͟⃣̢☴̛͜⃤̶⃚⃙⃥̕͠͠❂̷̧̛̛ ⃙͏̴⃓⃓͘⃢⃓⃤̴❇⃚⃫⃚̡̡"҈⃢⃤ Now that we aren't trying to have a civil discussion, she's back to snarling at me in jarring bursts of incomprehensible static, which I guess is her native tongue, right? Elis said there were a lot of languages in Makai, but I wasn't expecting the definition to be this broad. Japanese, Chinese, English, German, French... they're all different, of course, but they're all still just throat and mouth sounds when you come down to it <i bet she could connect to dialup for free>. Oh, now I'm funny?

...I look down at the newly empowered haraegushi in my hands for a second, and... Huh.

Yes, this is horrible. Yes, I'd rather not be here. Yes, I'm still very pissed-off about the Smoke-woman having used me <twice>. Yes, I'm seriously concerned about my chances of still being alive in the five minutes, let alone five hours or five days.

And I'm still not scared. In fact, with the tool of my profession once more in hand, I feel a little bit ...okay. Good, even. Happiness is a warm haraegushi, or something like that.

[try the egg salad, it's quite good! sir, can i help you? yes, i think i'm going to help you~]

Introspection is put on hold rather abruptly by a brief but deep pair of notes rumbling in the air. That enormous bass coughs again, and the fairy hurtles forward in an instant—but this time, straight at me. I have just enough time to take a step (or maybe it's half a step) and twist away from the fist swung at me. It only grazes me—I think I feel the tips of her knuckles dig into my side for a second before slipping off and past me—but that's close enough.

A clawed hand made of pain grabs the right side of my waist and squeezes. My eyes water, and my grip on the haraegushi loosens for a second as my arm jerks. My hand opens suddenly, letting the haraegushi slip and breaking my connection to it before clamping back down again. My foot jerks back, pulls up, and tries to curl around in a spiral.

I fall. It probably hurts a bit, but there are so many other painful things going on that it doesn't register at all <like acupuncture>. Ha. I guess that's sort of close.

One elbow digging into the ground and one arm holding me up, I crane my head around. The fairy bends a knee and does another perfect booster turn, bringing her around to face me again... and at an alarmingly close distance. Maybe three or four meters away? That's five meters too close <a dimension too close>. Well, that's a given.

As if in response to an unspoken prayer, the pain clears quicker than expected—or, no, not quite. My muscles unclench, relax, and I'm able to get to my feet again. The pain lingers, but it isn't the awful, crushing grip that it was a moment before. That's odd, I think, but I won't question it right now.

The sound of the coughing bass comes just in time for me to realize that the fairy is in my face, and her fist is in my stomach.
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I have time to process what happened, register some cracking and snapping sounds, and note the sudden sense of upward movement as my feet leave the ground. The pain of the blow registers, and my vision actually dims for a moment—

"⃘⃧͢⃣⋬⃘͘͜҉ ⃤̴⃫⃦̀͘͘͞≸̛͜͢͜҉⃓҈̨҉͘͢͠☱⃥⃫̸⃓̸̀͢͢͟͡͡ ⃢̸̛⃧͘✣̶̨̕͞҉̵⃫⃓ ͜҉╠⃫̧̢̀͝↹⃘̶̡̢̛̀͟͝҉̛́ ⃫⃚̷⃫̢̧̡͠͠░⃙̷̛͘⃣ ⃤҉⃫⃣╇̧͟☈̷̨⃣̴̧̢❖̴̧͏⃫̸̧͝͡⃢͏͠"̨̨͡⃤⃣⃘⃙⃥⃚̛͘͡

What follows makes the worst cramps I've ever experienced feel like a playful tickle. And it's everywhere.

My teeth clench. Arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, toes, wait, back, everything tries to curl up or stretch out or flex or squeeze or crush or move. Everything strains, trying to leap out of my body just so it can be free to dance around wildly.

—and the moment passes, and everything ...relaxes.

My vision clears.

I'm on my back. My heart is thud-thudding away at a ridiculous speed, and I'm taking huge gulps of cool, night air. Like noticing the smells of a house again after spending all day outside, I recognize the scent of oleander once again.

I could die like this, I muse. It's no grove of cherry blossoms or Aokigahara, but still... Just lying here, I feel weirdly calm, despite everything.


"̴̢҉͘⋭⃤̸⃓̷̧⃧⃧⃧͝۩҉⃒̶⃥͜͟͞╠⃒͘ ⃒⃤⃣⃒⃫̕͢͜⃢⃢⃙̀⑄̶⃓̧⃣░⃘̀⃣͠⃤̵⃚ ⃙̸̛̕͝⃤̷⃒⃓̕͞☈҉͡͠⋭̵͠͠͠͞͏͜┇̸⃒̢̢⃤̢̢́̕⃤̵͢͝ ̶⃤⑈⃙⃣҉̶̛́͜͠❂⃤҉⃣̡͡⃣⃦⃦⃧́͝͡⑆⃫̷⃚⃦̵⃧̕͠͝͏̡̨͠ ̵̵̸̨͏͘⃢⊟͏⃙̷⃫⃫⃙⃘̸̡̢͟☈⃒⃚̶̨̡́͟⃢⃙̷⃦⃚̀╫⃫⃣⑀҉⃫̧̛͜͝͏┇⃥̴͢҉̷⃤ ⃙̛͟҈̶̢́⑈⃒̕⃣☈̛͝⃢̸⃒̧̀͟⃣⃚ ҉̸⃓⃧̀≹⃤⃥⃙̡͟͞⊟⃦̧⃢⃫͝∏⃘⃙⃓̷̴⃥̡́͢͞͞͠͏☈̕͠⃤̵͢⃢҉⃢ ⃢⃫⃦̨̕͘⃢⃫⃥͝͝͝⑇̕⃢⃤⃒⃘⃘⃣̴͟۩̸̶͜⃤⃫⃚⃓⃓̛⃤̧↹⃘⃙̴҈͏⃓̀͢⊡̨̢͜͞ ⃥⃣͜░̶⃙̵̀۩̀͝҉☴⃦⃘̧̢̛͘ ⃓⃧͘❖̵̢͞"̶̡́͟͡͏̡

Like the sound of tonnes of falling rice? Like the low, teeth-numbing hum in the air? Like the fact that my hands are empty oh gods not again

Calmness vanishes in an flash, replaced by extreme anxiety. I sit up, wincing, and push myself awkwardly upright. The fairy is watching me, her eyes narrowed <fuck that i dont care where is it where where>, not yet making a move.


Even in the low light, I can easily locate my haraegushi (when it's not buried beneath dirt and rocks). It lies on the ground a few meters away, yet again not nearly close enough. And it's...


...broken. The handle is snapped completely in half, probably because I grabbed the weakened part. The need to scream, to cry, to panic bubbles up in me, but it feels weird, alien. Unreal, much like the sight before me.

But... I've done this before. There are ways around a break. It's not the end of the world.

I know what I'm doing. I'll... I'll be okay.

A relieved smile settles on my face, and I walk over to pick it up.

҉"̷⃘͘҈⃫⃦⃙̵́͘☱⃣⃦͟͠ ҉⃥⃒̷⃓̷⃓̡̛̀͞͠┇͟͏̴̴̢͝⊟͢⃤̀⃢≹̡⃢⃢͘✣⃙͏҉↹͞͡║̴̷̢͡҉⃤̵̀͝ ⃤̶̷⃫̴̴̛͘͞͞░͘⃤ ̸⃫⃧̕͘͢͡۩̷⃚̸͟͞⃢͏⃧☴⃓⃓̵̸⃘̧⃧͜͟҈ ̴́͘̕⃢⃓⋭̷⃥⃫⃥̧̨̛̀̀̕͝⑄⃓ ⃫̛⌗̸⃦⃦̴̴⃦̡̧̛╬̷⃚⃦̵̢̨⃧͘͢͢͝⌗̢҈჻̷̢̢͘ ͏̕⃣☴⃒̵͏͢͡͞↹̶͢☷͠ ⃚̛͜͢⊟⃣́͘⃤̵⃫̡́┇⃣⃘̴⃧ ̷⃦⃒̸̴⃦⃚̨̡̀↹҉̶҈⃙⃥⃥́͟⃢̨⃤̵ ̴⃙⃥̶̕͝͝ ⃧͝჻⃥̵̡̕⃣⃚́̕͘̕͝͝☈⃤̴͝⃤ ⃙⃧҉※̸̸͢⃤̵̡̢͘͠҈❂̧́̕"̴̵⃙⃣̧̛͟͟



Awareness of my surroundings comes back into focus as the fairy speaks, and leans forward—

A-hem goes the bass.
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I spin out of the way before I actually think about doing it, leaving me in a state of bodily confusion for a second. My head's still kinda muzzy, but my reflexes are still good. Or I think that's what happened, anyway. Whatever.

Brake, turn, bass. The fairy launches herself at me again, snatching at me with both hands open, this time; no electrified punch. Not sure what that might mean—change in tactics, or further capabilities? Desperation? Something to watch out for, no matter what. I sidestep the charge, and scoot back further.

[no, i'm afraid it's a 2 drink minimum sir. why thank you ma'am, we'll let the chef know. right, 'cah-nah-pay'; three syllables.]

A swing, a jab, a grab; she tries them all, greatly assisted by those speed-bursts and the unnervingly quick turnaround <heh> time between charges. Not a trained fighter, but well-versed in her own abilities and how to apply them offensively. Makes her somewhat more unpredictable, but easier to deal with once you've got her figured out. Which I have.

I almost think to myself 'Okay, I've got this one on the bag.' Almost. I do feel more confident about the fight and how it's going. I think to myself, 'Yeah, I'm doing all right. Heck, I'm doing great.' But no further, not right away.

Somehow, when we sparred, Suwa-mama would always know that moment, right when I had that thought, and choose to spring some new surprise on me that I hadn't yet planned for. I got into the habit of checking my surroundings quickly when I felt that overconfidence coming to the fore, knowing that no matter how well I read her, planned, anticipated, or fought, she would have something to pull out, some terrible new surprise to deal with.

Sometimes I'd see them, then. Maybe not in time, or maybe not at all. But there's no funnier sight than watching a goddess pout the way she would when I noticed it in time <id never actually seen someone puff their cheek like in manga>. Even if I ended up losing, I felt those times were at least a partial win.

I hold off that thought, then, that moment of internal triumph, and instead glance about. Up, left, right, down, behind—and yes, there's the trap, plain as can be.

She's been herding me back to the crest of the hill, as well as further away from my haraegushi. Each time she charges me, she forces me to move in a direction dependent upon her own. These aren't just random, angry charges. She knew exactly what she was doing—and why shouldn't she? She's been herding big dumb animals around every day for... who knows how long <and she just herded another one tonight>? Oh, shut the hell up. Besides, I wasn't the only one stupid enough to get stuck in here tonight.

More importantly, now I know. And as long as she doesn't know that I know, I can do something about it.

The fairy sneers <sure looks like sneering at least>, taking a few seconds out of her busy schedule. She's getting confident, then; I won't discourage her from that at all <yet>.

The pair of deep notes sounds again, and my hand dives for the ofuda pouch on my belt—

Wait, no, she's moving too fast—

Fingers pluck grab a seal, any seal, anything's better than nothing—

She's on top of me already—

Impact, dull and brief.
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A sudden (relative) silence falls across the hilltop as we both stare in surprise, faces lit weirdly from below by her spinning lightning, frozen in that moment when the brain is still trying to make sense of something new and unexpected.

Her bared arm is extended and glowing slightly, hand curled into a fist which had been directed either at my face or upper body, judging by its position. And the reason it didn't connect is the pristine white rectangle of paper held in between my right index and middle fingers. Her fist presses solidly against the blank ofuda, yet it neither bends nor chars.

That... wasn't what I expected <but im not exactly unhappy about it>. She's also having that same thought, I'm sure, but likely for very different reasons. The look of honest surprise on her face vanishes quickly, and I feel the force pushing back on the blank seal increase. In response, my left hand joins my right, bracing it. If I can push her back even a little, then <wait i blocked a punch like this before and> —Oh damn, that's right. And the arm's starting to glow brighter...!

So I kick her.

The toe of my left boot connects with her ribs, causing her to let out a gasp that's surprisingly feminine-sounding, even fringed at the edges with crackling as it is. She stumbles back, arm flickering for a second, but regains her bearings quickly enough. Too bad for her that that's all I need.

A star gets sketched in my left palm as I lunge at the fairy, shoving the completed shape into her face. A silver glow lights up my fingers for an instant, and the most uncomplicated application of my magic activates, jerking her head back as if punched, and blowing her hair about. To anyone watching, it would look like like I was the Ancient Master-type guy who suddenly appears and shows his skills off right before the manga enters a volume-long training arc: A palm strike that doesn't physically connect, but then BAM, it sends 'em flying, because my manipulation of chi or killing intent or spiritual energy or whatever is just that hardcore.

...Kinda like that. Only it's just a strong, focused burst of wind, and the fairy only goes reeling back about a meter or two <but it still looks really cool>. You don't see me complaining, do you <no not yet>?

Time to rinse and repeat. I push her back again with another palm-windburst while she's still recovering, and almost get another one off after that, but she's pretty quick in finding her footing. A humming, crackling jab is sent my way, then knocked aside by the blank ofuda still held between my fingers. It's a little weird, using it in direct combat like this. Normally I throw them, but a blank won't have any effect if there's nothing written on it. Heck, if anything, it's acting just like...


The two of us aren't moving around a whole bunch—fighting up close like this, she isn't able to use those... well, "dash attacks" is exactly what they are, silly as it sounds. And I'm not able to make much headway on getting back to my haraegushi because I've got my hands full with simply keeping her off of me. I need something that puts her down for more than a second or few, something strong, like—!

I begin slashing in the air with the ofuda, vertically, then horizontally, over and over. "Rin, hyo, toh," I whisper frantically. "Sha, kai, jin, ret—oh, come on!"

The chant gets abandoned in mid-flow, since the realization that I was not feeling the power build-up that should have been there and the time needed for the fairy to apparently decide to stop hesitating and jump the caster occurred damn near simultaneously. Dodging another blow from her, I unhappily confirm that no, the blank ofuda does not function like my haraegushi, despite being as strong as the slip of paper on the end of it. Crap.

...Leaves only one more avenue to investigate before I'm back at square one, I guess.

Sizzling and humming <up a storm ha ha ha>, the fairy leaps at me from a meter away, charged-up hand extended and open, giving me the moment I'd wanted a little earlier than I wanted it. I pull something in my ankle a little bit during my awkward, hurried sidestep, but stifle the groan and keep moving. Spinning back around, I swing the blank ofuda at her—edge-on.

The screech she lets out then needs no translation at all. Blood runs down her bared skin from a long, thin slice running along her forearm... and while it doesn't look pretty, it doesn't look like that's slowing her down much. A powerful, open-handed slap from her other arm takes me off-guard, knocking me to the ground <farm life dont make no sissies huh>. No kidding.

So, what have we learned?

We learned that this wasn't a great way to learn a good thing, but it did the trick: the cut is just a cut—clean, probably deep, and very painful, sure, but that's it. Nothing inherently holy about it, if the wound's not smoking like what happened to Elis. I guess it still could be, and maybe fairies react to divine power differently than the demons of Makai, but I couldn't seem to conduct any of my rituals with just the ofuda, either. However, it still emulates the haraegushi's sharpness and hardness.

In short, not the Holy Avenger +5 that I'm used to, but it's still an H.F. Blade. That suits me just fine <for now>.

To her credit, the fairy doesn't bother with her arm for long. She clutches at the bloody limb, hissing in agony, then looks over at where I'm still on all fours, struggling to get up. Apparently she decides that I'm the bigger problem, because she just shakes the wounded arm once, sending a spatter of blood to the ground, and charges me with that damn bass-announced dash.

The electric fairy is almost literally on top of me before I know it. But instead of coming in with a punch, she winds up like a soccer player going for the goal kick. The foot comes back, holds for a nanosecond and then comes screaming back along the downward arc, right at my head.

I drop and roll, leaving one hand on the ground while the foot whistles through the space where my head was.

...Right above where the big, fat, star that I scratched into the earth glows to life as I pour power into it. She sees it, but by that point, it's far too late to avoid.

The silvery light brightens, and the blast of wind is way stronger this time, the area of effect much larger. It sends her flying into the air a good few meters, spinning her about a few times. I don't know or care which direction she was sent, because by then, I'm scrambling to my feet and begun running for the haraegushi.

"̶҉̶̴⃧͏⃦⋭҉͜⃣⃙⃦̢͜╫҉̢͝͡⑈⃤⃣⃢⊞͟⃤͜҉҉ ́͏̡⃣⃚͏⃒║҉░͏⃒⃒̵⋇҈⃘̶̶⃚̷⃓̷̧̛⃢̀͡⊡̵́⃣͡ ̶̡⃢⃣⃓⃧͘͟͠☰̨̀҈̴҈⃥̀⑈⃚̴̷̷⃘̧⃧⃧͜╣̴͢⃤⃢⃥̶̢̛́⃧͟͝ ̸̴̡̀͢↹⃓⃣⃤⃚ ⃦̶̢̢͘͠͏̵̧̡⃧͟͏☴̡⃧͟͏҈⃘̵⃦⃧͘͟͡ ͏̷̵͏҈╠̸⃓̸̕̕͘͝‡̷̨⃤⃙̴̢҉͞∏̴̶⃓⃓⃧̕͟҈ ⃙̷̨⃧͢͜͡∐⃤⃢̵⃓͜҉ ̀⃢⃘͏✣⃒⃫̛⃧͡⃢̷̢̛⋭⃚҉⃙̡⃧͏⃦̧͠╫̷⃥⃘⃦̨͞͝⃢⃙͝ ̸͘⃤⃫≹̶⃒̡͡҉⊡͘͟͜͏⃦⃢͘⃤̴̵̛͘☴⃫̛̛ ͢☴̀҉⃤̵҉̶̧̧͡≹̨̡⃣̴┇̵⃫͝≸⃒̶͞ ̷̴͘͢҈⃓͞☷⃙̵⃧҈́⑆̧͝͏̴͡҉҈̴̢⊡̡̕͡⃤ ̶⃒̴̡̧̡̧̧̀͘⋬⃤⃦⃒̨▓̕͞҉⃓⃫̸̧̧͘͞͞͡⌗̴̶̡⃧⃧̕͞ ҈̸⃣⃫̸̢╇⃧҉⃦̸⃚̛͜͢͡͡҈ ⃙⃚⃙̵̡̨͟⃤͠⋇⃦⃓☈⃓̶̡̛⃧⃧͘͜⃤⃚※̵͠❂҉͟҈⃓⃒͟͜͡"̕⃢⃢⃙⃤̛

I hear a furious yell from behind me, but I don't stop to look back. No time for that at all. I can see the pieces just ahead. Can't be more than five meters, now.

The bass-cough, but I still don't look back. Four meters. I can make it. Even if she hits me, I can make it.

The cough again, an instant later. Three meters. I can make it.

A flash of fluttering red and and a trail of glowing blue as she misses me <wait no>—no, she went past me, how did she even <no no no>—

I panic. I dive too early. I fall short. It doesn't matter.

I know I've already lost.

Unharmed arm tracing out an arc while her body turns to match it, a wide, bright trail lights up the hilltop as a sphere detaches itself from the ring around her feet.

Lightning strikes.

But it doesn't strike me.

It probably would have been better if it had.

Instead, the bright blue ball of coruscating, trembling lightning plunges down past me, and smashed into the pieces of my broken haraegushi.
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like this but oh so much worse

The end of the world is a lot less visually impressive than literature makes it out to be.

There's a crack, and a bang—a flash, and an explosion. Bright, gleaming black-red-orange-yellow-white fragments whirl past me. I clench my eyes shut and turn my head, but I can still feel dirt, rock, and splinters blowing across my head and hair.

In the dying echoes of the bang, I hear soft little patters in the grass as what went up comes back down.

I turn back, noticing first the smell of ozone and burnt wood. The familiar bitter taste of failure and incompetence comes surging up my throat, but no further. Just the right spot for it to linger.

Ash, soot, and smoke settle to the ground. A few blackened, scorched pieces of wood lie here and there.

And that's what the end of the world is like.

The fairy is gently scorched, and stands there for several seconds, panting heavily. Only two balls spin around in the ring about her feet, now. Wings flutter and twitch, the mutilated one more erratically than the others. Shoulders rise and fall, breath steaming in the air. She seems haggard, worn-out, and satisfied with her work.

She turns her head. Our eyes meet.

[ ] give up
[ ] give up
[ ] give up <you failure>
[ ] give up
[ ] give up <fucked it up again didnt you kochiya>
[ ] give up
[ ] give up
[ ] give up <why did you even bother getting up today>
[ ] give up
[ ] give up
[ ] give up
[ ] give up <of course its all gone wrong thats what happens when you do anything>
[ ] give up
[ ] give up
[ ] give up
[ ] give up
[ ] give up <just let her beat the shit out of you and turn you into the police already>

[ ] Never, I said, screams the girl, barin' her fangs at Life.


...Jeez. The original note I'd had here had a "Happy New Year" comment on it. Like I said above, I've been busy.

But, after a week or so of work, I think I've gotten its measure. Saturdays and Sundays will probably be full of writing, since I don't have to fret and worry about letting my life slip away through my fingers anymore. There's really something to be said for stability, a fixed schedule, and goals.

But yes. So much wonderful discussion and commentary, some of which was actually correct! I've missed it so~

The cipher quite definitely encodes English. Also, I did use a modified Zalgo setup. More details when this 'chapter' is over.

>we will be discussing theoretical physics in a world full of magic at this rate.
This is a bit funny for a few different reasons which won't be clear for probably a few years. I'll tell you when.
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I need to get back to watching this
Spacers in my spacers!
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nobody knew how to hold guns
Non-spacers in my spacers by a guy who started using the term spacers!
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[x] ==>

>Also, I did use a modified Zalgo setup.

Aagh. It figures. Not really equipped to deal with that right now.
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So it was a loss either way. Damn it, everything is terrible.
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[x] Never, I said, screams the girl, barin' her fangs at Life.

I really wonder just how much of a curb stomp stage 5 of MoF was in this universe if Sanae's doing this badly.
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She lost to Murasa, what a sucker. Easiest stage 4 boss after Satori.
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Like the poster below you said, she's a lot weaker than in the games. If you must use game numbers, think of her at being at Keine's (normal form) level more or less.

[x] Never, I said, screams the girl, barin' her fangs at Life.
It went a bit too far. Since we're in a land of savages, let's rev it up.
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I think she&#039;s mad
[x] Never, I said, screams the girl, barin' her fangs at Life.

We may have lost the tools of a miko, but we're still a living goddess damn it!


>I really wonder just how much of a curb stomp stage 5 of MoF was in this universe if Sanae's doing this badly.

Eh, remember that Sanae has pretty much ran out of equipment at this point and has to rely on her natural abilities. In Mountain of Faith she had all the stuff she could ever need, so it's no wonder that she's doing worse now. Reimu would probably have some trouble in Makai too if she lost all her equipment.

It's also partly our fault for not going all out at the beginning, if we had then we'd probably be fine (at the cost of misunderstandings later when people think we're Smokey). It's not like killing the fairy would be permanent or anything. Unless she's not actually a fairy and Sanae has misidentified her.


Actually, if I remember correctly, she ran away from Murasa. I'm not sure they even got to fighting, Sanae might have ran away in instinctual terror before they even got the chance. Is this Sanae afraid of ghostsphantoms perchance?

Regardless, it's quite clear that this Sanae isn't quite as strong as canon's, but the exact differences aren't clear.

Anyway, I think it's about time for Sanae to have a bit of a violent breakdown, considering all the stuff she's had to deal with recently.
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>Is this Sanae afraid of ghostsphantoms perchance?
Seemed a little more serious than that, if you ask me.
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Thing is, if Sanae is afraid of phantoms just as a normal girl's phobia, imagine how badly she'd react if an actual phantom pulled off the old bleeding mortal wounds, sharp teeth and eerie wailing/laughter routine. I may have made light of it in my previous post, but some of the shit I've seen phantoms do in movies freaks me out and I certainly don't have a phobia of departed spirits and death like Japanese culture tends to, nor does my life actually get put in danger because of it.

Phantoms can be some freaky shit if they want to be, and Murasa was clearly going the extra mile. I don't blame Sanae for panicking if that was the case.
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You know the day destroys the night
[█] Never, I said, screams the girl, barin' her fangs at Life.

—turn me in to the police?

The stream of all-too-familiar self-recrimination dries up quickly, unexpectedly, and I don't even understand why, for a few moments. All that's left in my head is that snatch of phrasing. It sits there, slowly burning a hole in my thoughts until it finally falls through, bringing with it something far worse.

My mind was reaching for old, instinctual thoughts to throw at itself, reactions and ideas that are more than just the words they can be formed into. 'Why not just let myself get turned in? There'll be some trouble, no doubt, but it's the right thing to do. And I've already messed everything up badly enough already, so why not? They're the police. What do I have to be afraid of?'

In Japan, you are brought up to trust the police. It's better to report any kind of wrongdoing to them instead of getting involved (or involved any further). The policeman is a neighborhood fixture, patiently standing outside the local station, ready to lend aid and offer assistance. The police protect the people. The policeman is your friend. The police are there to help you.

...In Japan.

There, I realize, there is what wrenched me out of that sickening spiral just now. Something that every one of my body's senses is aware of, and that is: But I'm not in Japan right now.

[ ♫: http://youtu.be/XkTwO1a59Rs ]

'What could I have to fear from the police'?

How about everything.

The "police" here may not be like those I am familiar with. In fact, I don't think there's any way they could be. A safe country like Japan and a world populated by demons are about as far apart as things get. I've already seen so many things here that stress how different a world this is. It would be insane to assume that the police would be just like home.

And now the thought, fully understood and realized, begins to sprout, to grow. The barrage of abuse I subjected myself to has been stopped, but by something even worse. Little facts begin to occur to me, each one on its own nowhere nearly so devastating as all of them together.

I am an onje.

My haraegushi is gone, but what about my ofuda?

And my omamori?

And the remaining shrine flyers I haven't burnt yet?

And and and and and.



No, I will not give up here.

I cannot give up here.

Not because I am strong or brave or courageous, but because the only alternative is something I cannot accept: a reality too unknown, too horrific, too frightening to even think about. I understand, suddenly, what it means to actually talk about a fate that is truly worse than death.

...Then, if I'm not giving up, what about my situation? What should I do?

A dry, bitter chuckle starts in my throat, but dies halfway with a sound too close to that of tears being choked off.

I already know the answer, of course.

That's right.

I had thought about this, before. Not for long; tried not to dwell on it. But I knew that this might come to pass.

I knew.

The question, the problem here, is a very, very simple one. Even a child could solve it.

1. You are walking down a road, and you must get through.
This is the only road to your destination, and you may
not leave the path.

Someone is blocking that path.

You cannot go around them, ask them, plead with them, or
reason with them. You cannot find another way. You
cannot go back the way you came. You cannot wait for
them to leave.

How do you deal with this?

A state of peaceful calm steals over me. The world becomes, for a moment, vast, quiet, and empty. Everything is clearer when you can learn to view the situation in the abstract.

The only things that matter are myself, my objective, and the obstacle.

Remove the obstacle.

Attain the objective.

It's best to think of it like that. If I don't think of it like that, I won't be able to do this. And not doing this is not a possibility I can allow.


That makes it easy, doesn't it?

The calm ends. I return to the world, no stronger and certainly no better. But I do return prepared.

I take that first step.

...And I keep on walking.
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My breath comes short and quick, my limbs tense and eager to move. Anyone could mistake it for excitement if they couldn't hear the screaming going on inside my head. Or maybe it looks like panic surging into me, forcing me to do something rash. It could be mistaken for that, too, if they couldn't hear the utter silence in my mind.

Another step forward, and another. The fairy looks at me, then down, and back up at me again—just like I did. We have each other's measure, we think, we hope. Neither one of us looks like they're in great shape right now—she definitely doesn't, at least, and I know I can't, right now.

We're tired, worn out, worried, and just want this to be over and done with. How we see "over and done with" happening is where the similarities between us end.

She can afford to fail, though. I can't.

Failure is not an option. Not a possibility. And that means she can't be prepared in any way for whatever I do.

So, it's time to innovate... but without the haraegushi, doing something new with my magic is an involved process. Trying to do it on the fly makes it even more difficult—and trying to do it on the fly in a situation like this puts it firmly in No Way No How-ville. But what I can do is reuse what I already have in a different way than normal, and pray it works.

I have but seconds.

Even with my haraegushi lost <destroyed>, I have always had a connection with the wind. The outfielder may know nothing of algebra, calculus, physics, or gravity, but just by watching a fly ball travel, he still knows when and where to be in order to catch it.

Conceptualize the results. Envision amount of air that needs to be moved. Estimate the shape needed. Know where, and how, as best as can be hoped for. Feel the flow of wind. See the spell write itself.

The fairy hunches over, preparing to take off. The humming rises in pitch once again.

My time is up.

Another step, and I take off in a sprint, moving directly at her. Her eyes widen slightly, but she doesn't let my actions stop her for long. Perhaps I'm making one final, desperate attempt? The ways of onje are many and mysterious; who knows what this one is thinking. Regardless, I need to be taken out, and now.

She, too, takes off, meeting my charge head-on, the electrified fist already powered up and thrusting forward. I put up my left palm, as if to catch it. In that instant, our faces less than a meter apart, crackling fist streaking towards upraised hand, I see her start to wonder just what the hell I'm doing: a squint of confusion, a darted glance at my left side.

"I'm sorry!" is all I have time to scream, high-pitched and frantic, before the semi-carefully traced star on my left palm flares into blazing silvery life as I activate the magic.

It wasn't much of an innovation—couldn't be, not with the span of seconds I had to work with. An adaptation of my salt-gathering breeze that whisks up the salt laid down (which was itself born from an early attempt to speed up sweeping around the shrine when I thought nobody was looking), simplified and amplified. No curving path or upward movement, no mere gentle but careful air current ferrying the salt back into the bottle.

This could almost be mistaken for telekinesis <and i didnt even need to be hung upside down in an ice cave to do it>

I jerk my left hand back and away, and the fairy is pulled forcefully to the side, a brief but strong burst of air hauling on her by the fist and tugging hard. Abruptly diverted from the crash-course she was on, she flings out the other arm in a futile attempt to keep her balance.

And with her wide and open like this, moving at me with such speed, the blank ofuda between my fingers has no problem at all slicing her open, parting cloth and flesh with equal ease.

[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/aidh ]

"I'm sorry!" It comes out as a panicked squeak.

A shout, and a stumble. The lightning balls about her feet flicker and dim, and she trips, goes down. Only for a moment; she turns over and starts getting back up, coat sporting a slowly darkening line. But I can't allow that.

"I'm sorry." No less panic than before, but now, merely spoken.

She lunges, claws at me, roaring in incomprehensible static that fills my ears with white <red> noise. I thrust the ofuda forward again. Paper parts clothing and flesh once more and I move it to the side before withdrawing and repeating the movement, twice, thrice.

"I'm so sorry." Quiet and sorrowful. Over and over, with each cut, a punctuation to the horrible noise of something alive being torn.

Her fingers—worn and rough, yet delicate—clutch at my clothes as she tries to hold herself upright, but I can feel the strength leaving them already.

"I'm so, so, sorry. ...I'm not her. I didn't want this. Please, believe me." Pitiful begging, whispered into the night air.

Her eyes start to glaze over, and I can feel little electrical shocks running through me as she tries, too late, to make her own final, desperate, attack. The blue light flickers one last time, and then disappears.

Night, dark and deep, returns to the hilltop.

"Please." Barely even audible.

She gives no answer as her body sags against mine.
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This is reality٫ wrought by my own hands
Numb and shocked, I stand immobile, like the b... the weight leaning on me.

[Okay, so! Drinks and hors d'oeuvres can only last for so long, and these guys are getting restless. How's things ov—oh, man. All done here, then? Not what we normally do for party tricks, but I'm just a caterer~]

I did this.

I did this.

It was necessary <maybe>, and I didn't want to, but I did this. It happened. It's done. I shouldn't squander this opportunity.

Now, if only I could move.

[...Wasn't really kidding about the guests getting restless, by the way. Seriously. And by—oooooh.]

Something draws my attention back toward the weight and the wetness against my body. In the deep, dark blue of night, light returns. Barely. The... unfortunate one <yes just keep pretending> beside me is at first outlined by the faintest luminescence. The outline is then quickly filled in, making a just-visible shape that gives off the dying glow of a fluorescent light in the seconds after you switch it off.

Inhaling sharply, I step back—halfway, then stop, instinct and some arriving-far-too-late sense of politeness fighting each other for control. The latter wins out: I gently set it <her> down on the ground, then take three steps back, further, watching out of some bizarre fascination. Possibly hope.

The bo... that being's form, shining in hardly-light, begins to crack apart, to break... to disintegrate. The irregular puzzle-pieces drift apart, then float slowly, lazily up, rapidly crumbling away into tinier and tinier fragments before the night swallows them up. On my clothes, too, the shapes of a liquid stain are cracking and disappearing.

Is this what happens to to Makaian fairies after... <this is ridiculous just say it already you huge baby> ...after they're killed? A shudder stronger than any night breeze across this hill could cause runs through my body as that thought runs through my head.

Gensokyan fairies just sort of... 'poof'. Whether it's danmaku, an explosion, or even just a particularly violent collision, they burst apart in a flash and a little puff. I really tried not to just wipe out any and all of them when I was chasing after the treasure ship—something Reimu and Marisa don't really have any problem doing—but it wasn't always avoidable, especially with the weird ones holding the UFOs.

But if you sped up this glowing dissipation here, it could be easily mistaken for a really dark and creepy version of a fairy poofing out. The more I think about it, the more likely it seems <more like thats what youre praying is happening>. ...It could be, though. Maybe the bigger, smarter ones don't go the same way as the littler, more wild ones. And maybe...

Sounds—voices—start to make themselves heard. Worried, nervous voices.

I remember why I'm here. Why I did... that. Because I refused to let her, let them, let anyone have me.

Now is not for reflecting on guilt, or demon biology, or magic, or being set up, or anything like that.

[Pretty sure being the guest of honor right now would reeeeeally suck, so maybe it's time to go. C'mooooon. Maybe hide in a henhouse or something!]

Now is time to go.

I flee the hilltop as the voices approach, as the last shards of a <her> body begin to break up and rise into the deep, deep darkness.
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[ ♫: http://youtu.be/nsUhq8DC6Xc ]

Tearing down the hill and racing up the next becomes my world, for a while. Or part of it. I quickly learn how much work running away like this really is—there's far more to it than just sheer physical exertion, although there's plenty of that, too.

First, there's the disorientation. The night is dark and moonless, and not very starry—not in the way that I'm used to—which means I can't see where I'm going very easily. Every time I come to the top of a hill, I have to pause, catch my breath, and look around. Find the lights across the river, take note of the lights moving across the field. Orient myself according to the former and make sure I stay out of the way of the latter. Pray I don't run into a mutant yak or something.

Second is the urgency of the situation: I can't stand up there looking around for too long, so I have to figure all that out, then head off again <no rest for the wicked>. Not right now. Please, not right now.

Third is keeping quiet. No pounding along like a mindless idiot, no gasping, wheezing, or panting. My breathing must be measured and even in the face of all this, quiet and steady—yet still enough to allow me to keep up the pace. It's about as difficult as it sounds <no its way harder than it sounds>. That's actually... well, yes. It's really damn hard.

Fourth is what I said before: all of this combined is more of a strain than simple running would be. At least with that, I would be doing one thing and one thing only. I could focus on it, lose myself in it, devote all my energy to a single action. No such luck here.

And those are just my immediate, short-term problems having to do with running in the dark. What the next hour holds, what the next day holds... I don't know any of that. What's going to happen next is a huge, terrible, unknown thing. I don't know how much lead time I have. I don't know if they can track me. I don't know how well the fairy saw me.

The unknown is so much more awful than the known. But this unknown I face now is more within my ability to control than the unknown I would face if I had given up. That's why I'm just focusing right now on running. If I can avoid screwing that up, then I'll keep turning what is unknown into something I do know.

[Hey. ]

Besides, it's occupying enough of my attention as it is... Although, I obviously need to think about some other things, or prepare to think about some other things—like where my campsite is in relation to where I was, and how to get there.

I reach the top of another high mound and catch my breath as quietly as I can. That measured breathing thing is helping, but under the mountain of circumstances I face, it's not infinitely sustainable.


Looking around, I see two groups of lights—or three? There's another one over on the opposite shore <i think thats where the river was anyway> moving slowly this way. The other two, out closer to the farm buildings and the house, are making their way towards the river. Or I guess that's... pir, isn't it? Whatever it is, they're spreading out, but I think they aren't going to run into me, at their current rate.

I think I'm getting close to where the grove was, but I'm not fully sure. And once I do find it, I'll need to be able to find my way through it—and I specifically chose it because the light of my campfire wouldn't be visible from the outside. Or, wait, no: that means it might make it okay to turn on my star-light spell.

The little smile I make in the dark feels like the first one I've had in centuries.

[Over heeeeeere.]

...Hang on just a second.

Am I being stupid about this <oh dammit i am>? Oh gods, I am. Not thinking about running, and thinking about everything else means I realize I've been running next to or close to the fence for a while, now—the fence that I couldn't cross. That's why I... why I did what I did: I have to get out of here. I have to get out of Makai. The second would never happen if I couldn't do the first.

I keep myself from slapping my cheeks (no sense in making more noise than I need to, obviously), and make a 90-degree course correction, moving toward the direction of the fence. My cheeks heat up with embarrassment as I consider just how dumb I've been <yeah this was a pretty bad one>. So glad nobody's here to see this.

"Trace on." The words are whispered oh-so-quietly, although right now it feels like nothing is quiet enough. The mesh layer of magic around the farm fades into view, and... oh, wow.

Giant, gaping holes litter the woven magic field, like large, rotting wounds. One of these holes is close to my current position, and I point myself right at it, since that's where the fence should be. As I get closer, I see the edges of it slowly growing darker, rougher, and finally crumbling off, like the end of a cigarette.

...It was true, then; that theory that the spell would go when ...when she went. The ground, too, seems dimmer and not as bright as before. A horrible sense of relief washes over me, overwhelming my guilt over my actions with the discovery that they were not actions taken in vain <you know what they say about broken watches>.

[Much better! Just a little farther, though~]

Congratulating myself can come later. Or possibly never. I'd prefer never. Climbing up the fence, I hurl myself through the widening hole, and—
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—and land on the ground again.

On the other side. ...is that it? Is that all? I look back, and there's the magic over the fence. I look down at the ground... no lights, just grass and dirt. A few assorted bugs.

Turning off the spell, I scramble away from the fence in a backwards shuffle, putting at least five meters between it and me before trying to fly again. Screw the run-up, just step and go...

I go.

I fly.

Hovering a couple meters in the air, I feel like crying for joy: what a difference it makes, being on the other side of the fence. ...That can wait for later, too. My camp calls.

Speeding through the air as fast as I can safely do so puts me within range of the grove in well under a minute. The big patch of inky darkness against the regular darkness makes it easy to find, weirdly enough.

[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/yysl ]

I drop my speed and come down to about ten centimeters above the ground—no sense in running into trees or stepping on branches. I have to proceed very, very slowly, both hands out in front of me, feeling out the trees, praying they aren't coated in some kind of horrible poison. Or thorns. Or both. I think I'm letting my imagination get the better of me, since I don't recall seeing any such thing on the way in.

[Um... Back to camp, then. Just... staying here isn't what's planned, is it? 'Cause that'd make this all pretty worthless~]

The idea of trying to stay here for the rest of the night—heck, for another hour—gets a quickly-silenced snort out of me. It might not be the first place they look, or it might be the first place they look. Shaking my head at the idea, I plunge on.

I left my fire going, though it'd just be glowing coals and a little wisp of flame or two, now. After about ten minutes into the grove, I take a big chance and turn on my star-light, keeping it small and dim as I can while still making it useful. I should be far enough in now that it won't be caught immediately.

It helps a great deal, as I start recognizing familiar trees and landmarks soon enough. The three-trunked tree was about thirty meters from... yes, the big frog-shaped rock right there. Which means I'm about twenty meters off, so... right over there is the little triangle of three young saplings, and ...aha. I switch the star-light spell off, and its silver light is replaced by the low, reddish glow of my campfire, just ahead.

...And the Smoke-woman, standing by the tree I'd slept against, looking pleasant and cheerful and deadly as always. The light of the campfire and her position by the tree do strange, unusual things to the shadows around her.

She gives a little wave.

"Chi fan le ma~? How has your evening been?"

Shock overrides everything for about five seconds, and then rage sets in. I only keep from screaming at her because I consider how retarded that would be at the very last moment. "Are you here to... to fuck me over again?" I hiss, spitting the profanity like it was something disgusting sitting on my tongue.

Neither my glare nor my foul language even come close to putting a dent in her breezy, relaxed demeanor. "Am I trying to help you again, did you say?" she says, putting a hand to her ear as if listening for a distant sound. "You really need to speak more clearly, you know. You could be misunderstood if you don't enunciate your words~"

I... I don't even know what to say to that. What I did to the fairy woman, I ...I feel horrible about. Gut-wrenchingly terrible. But this bitch is making me willingly entertain all kinds of thoughts of violence <gee i wonder why could it be the lies and betrayal and framing me for crimes perhaps>. You know, I think that just might be it.

The Smoke-woman takes a step away from the tree, and with a chill, I notice that what I had taken for a side effect of darkness and dim firelight actually follows her. A long, thick, intangible-seeming stretch of total darkness is curled lazily, loosely around her neck and shoulders. The way it hangs hangs so lightly, almost floating in the air, it seems like it would have to be thin and gauzy, but no. The fabric, if it's even fabric, is completely and utterly dark—not even black, and more like the complete absence of color.

"Anyhow," she says, putting her hands back down, "I just came by to thank you for your help in getting us out of there~ I also wanted to let you know that I'm going to let that little tantrum of yours from earlier go! You might have been feeling a little bit confused and so on back then, right? That's why you did that silly little thing~ But we all make mistakes, right~?" She flashes a happy smile and a little shrug.

I pull my eyes away from the airy darkness about her, and focus on her words. Tantrum? What the hell is she talking about <could be the boob punching>—oh. Right. ...She really deserves another one, and more besides. But the little wand is in her hand, being idly twirled between her fingers. Casually enough, but this is still gunpoint civility.

"I think that is a fair description of tonight, yes." The words couldn't sound any more strained if they'd been forced through a sieve of razors. "Do you need anything else?"

"No, I simply happened to pass by and wondered if some sort of lazy arsonist was afoot." She gestures at the fire. "A pity. But now that I've delivered my thanks and that little message, I can be on my way. Should we cross paths again, I shall owe you a small favor, so don't hesitate to stay away. Zaijian~" She blows me a kiss from dark, dark lips, and just like before, breaks apart into black, swirling smoke that seeps into the forest floor.

I spit at the ground once she's completely vanished, then retrieve my pack from its place in the tree. Everything seems to be in its place, but I can't clearly tell, and this is no time to sit and take inventory. Hefting it onto my shoulders, I tighten the straps, and set to covering up my campsite as best I can. I've left nothing behind except the ground I disturbed, which thankfully wasn't much. The campfire is the biggest concern, but dumping dirt and dust on it does the trick. Water would be quicker, but noisier and smokier.

[She's a pretty creepy lady. And that's saying something.]

...It won't fool someone who knows their business, that's for sure. But it should be good enough to be missed by a cursory sweep. Plus, this place is already pretty dim, isn't it? That should help.

This flimsy reassurance and others are all I have to console myself when I exit the grove. Before I can start criticizing myself for that, too, it occurs to me that I need to figure out how I'm going to get to Dis, now. I can't stick to the river anymore, and heading...pir would take me right over the farm.

That leaves going deeper inland.

[ ] Damn the torpedoes, she decides. Girl makes a straight path, no matter what's in her way.
[ ] Damn the frying pan and to hell with fires. She's goin' the long way around any trouble ahead.


I have something in mind to try and cut back on the ridiculous downtime between updates. Hopefully it'll work out like I want. Although I have to admit, changing one of my work passwords to something Otherwise-related has definitely helped me not forget about it, since I usually type the damn thing about ten times a day.

Additionally, I really wanted to use http://youtu.be/G02b5pfnJYk for that last music selection, because the lyrics work so very well. However, I also felt that they'd be a bit distracting, and that the music was a little too lively for the scene. Damn shame.

The distraction/recommendation I'll hand out this time is Welcome to Night Vale, which can be found at http://feeds.feedburner.com/WelcomeToNightVale. Make sure you only listen to it in the dark. Late at night works well, too.
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[x] Damn the frying pan and to hell with fires. She's goin' the long way around any trouble ahead.
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[ ] Damn the frying pan and to hell with fires. She's goin' the long way around any trouble ahead.
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[x] Damn the frying pan and to hell with fires. She's goin' the long way around any trouble ahead.

The Zalgotext cipher has resisted my best efforts.
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[x] Damn the frying pan and to hell with fires. She's goin' the long way around any trouble ahead.
God damn. Can stuff stop going wrong please?
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>I have something in mind to try and cut back on the ridiculous downtime between updates.
And it's succeeding brilliantly.
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[ ♫: https://listenonrepeat.com/?v=GZ10mlCy8Jc ]

[∦] Damn the frying pan and to hell with fires. She's goin' the long way around any trouble ahead.

...I can't make a beeline for the city, of course. Every instinct and jangling nerve that tells me to <flee the scene> run out of here like a rabbit, I clamp down on, silence. They won't help me. Don't panic.


I wouldn't mind a Hitchhiker's Guide to Makai, right about now.

When I take to the air, I make sure to stay just under the height of the treetops. What I lose in speed, I make up for in not getting immediately spotted. Even though it's night time, I can't take chances.


I can't head straight for Dis. That'd be super-obvious and probably easier to track. A lot easier. And of course, who even knows what I'd run into?

[...Are we there yet?]

...Not like I know what I'm going to come across this way, either. I pray that I'll at least not blunder into it, this way <oh yes thatll happen>. ...And that this will actually work. I almost feel worried about asking for too much, because both of those seem like such enormous, impossible feats.

I'll do it, of course. That is, I'll make it.

I have to.

I have to because I have to. I have to because I have to.

...But I wish it didn't feel like it'd be easier to make an oni give up drinking.

[Oh, come oooon, that was a jooooke. Don't look so upset~]

I've been heading generally set-of-an for a while, now... maybe an hour? Maybe. I'm not sure. Long enough, though, so I veer sharply mo; the sharp spike of an EKG display on the imaginary line-trace of my path.

Everything is still dark. Still black-blue-black all around. Only the occasional light below, now; there doesn't seem to be a lot of civilization out this way. A look back shows the distant twinkles from the farms along the Makelot.

I speed up a little. It's not time to sleep yet. Not even close.

I'll sleep at sunrise. I'll find a place to sleep at sunrise, that is. Or... whatever they call it. But for now, I can't sleep. I need to get far away, and not on a straight path.

How much longer till not-sunrise? How much longer to I have left to get as far away as possible?

"'You now have gods know how many hours to reach minimum safe distance.'" The words tumble off my lips and are soon lost to the wind. They leave behind a ghost of a smile.

I guess that's good. Positive thinking and all.

I guess.

More time passes.

More route adjustments, course corrections, whatever it's called <trying to shake pursuers>.

...Why lie? It's definitely that.

The sky starts to lighten slowly. The black and blue of a violent beating starts turning into the heavy purple of swelling. It helps me reorient myself—my current heading was a little further off than I'd believed myself to be. I'll probably be okay, though. Even if I went straight mo from here for a few hundred kilometers, I don't think I'd end up hitting Dis.

What do they measure in, again? It was, like ..."leegs" or something. What is that in kilometers, even? I don't exactly have a means of directly comparing distances with any sort of reliable precision. I can estimate just fine, I guess, but... Oh gods, what about weight and volume, too?

I bet Elis would totally know this stuff.

Kinda miss her.

It's easy to miss anyone when you're all alone.

[—wouldn't have a Willie nor a Sam, I'm her eighth old man—]

Maybe loneliness just hasn't fully sunk in for me, yet.

Finally, sunlight lines the edges of the mountains off to the side. There's an, then. Good. Means I've been going the direction I meant to go.


The green-and-blue of the forest-covered mountains all around me start to actually become those colors, instead of being just being different hues of vague, dark color. The landscape becomes clearer. More defined. That's good, too.

My eyes get heavier. It's like my body knew about the sunrise deadline, and is getting ready to honor it even though my mind hasn't caught up yet <the world is tired and im tired>.

I don't think that made sense.

[Are we there yeeeet? For real, this time!]

Yeah, time to go look for a spot to crash. But not for real crashing, like <oh god shut up>—

Past time, maybe.

Somewhere in the woods, I find a place.

It's uphill and a minute's walk from a tiny little creek. First patch of flat ground I saw that had good cover. Nothing that looked ugly or suspicious nearby <dont think about bugs>. I can barely think at all.

Salt. Ash. Protection. Done.

Curl up.


Don't dream.
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The tall, dark trees around me swallow up the gasp made as I jolt awake.

Daylight's hitting my eyes through the trees. Heart beating rapidly, I look this way, then that. Then up. My breath stops as I stare at snatches of a normal, blue morning sky. The sound of far, far-off running water and the thudding in my chest and ears and head compete as I look at it in shock.

What am I doing out here?

As I push myself upright, soreness and aches resurface, and with them, the memory of how I earned them.

But even still, staring at those little patches of blue in between the trees, I want to desperately believe it was a dream.

...And then I look down. Around myself are the protections I laid last night. It wasn't a dream at all.

I knew that. I already knew that, really. But it would've been nice.

The mystery of blue sky gets shelved for a while as I accept reality once again. I don't think I actually let go of it. But I'm still here. Still breathing. Still free.


It's not—


No, it's not time to think about why that's the case. I don't think I'll be functional if I think about why that is right now. It happened; this is not something I can be allowed to deny. But I need to think about it when I can think about things like that.

Right now is the time to think about how I can ensure that I'm going to continue staying alive: my primary tool and weapon is... gone. Utterly unrecoverable. Even if there were usable pieces left—and there weren't—I still wouldn't <cant ever> go back there. And without it, my options are more limited across a wide range of tasks.

Rising to my feet, I stretch, and glance at my surroundings.

...It's only as I look that the significance of their unfamiliarity dawns on me. I recall blurry hardly-memories of late night travel. I... don't know where I am. Like, I really don't know where I am in relation to where I was. The best I have is "Makai, and nowhere near the farm unless I traveled in circles."

So. That's two concerns that need addressing way sooner than the other thing. I don't feel good about feeling relieved about that, but the alternative is to sit here and stay in this half-awake stupor and be even more miserable.

[It's morning time! It's the best time of the day, even when it isn't~]

[ ] Girl's piece is gone but good. Might be ways to make do for now, if'n she sets her mind to the task.
[ ] Knowin' where her feet took 'er; that'd be awful nice. Helps t' figure where they might take 'er next, too.


I'd like to blame this absence on not having a job anymore, but that wouldn't account for all of it, especially since that happened back in May. But thinking about letting the year end without having picked Otherwise back up made me feel like even more shit.

Feels good to write again, though.
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[ ] Girl's piece is gone but good. Might be ways to make do for now, if'n she sets her mind to the task.

Welcome back
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It's about time.

[x] Girl's piece is gone but good. Might be ways to make do for now, if'n she sets her mind to the task.
Not a single fucking thing has gone right since we left Elis. Gotta have some sort of defense.
This is one of those irritating, "but why can't we do both?" kind of choices, though.
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You're back!

[x] Girl's piece is gone but good. Might be ways to make do for now, if'n she sets her mind to the task.
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[x] Girl's piece is gone but good. Might be ways to make do for now, if'n she sets her mind to the task.
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> This is one of those irritating, "but why can't we do both?" kind of choices, though.

We basically have to do both. But one thing at a time.

[x] Girl's piece is gone but good. Might be ways to make do for now, if'n she sets her mind to the task.
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[ས] Girl's piece is gone but good. Might be ways to make do for now, if'n she sets her mind to the task.

Well, I don't think I traveled in circles. I might have, but I really can't tell from here. Or maybe at all. Nothing stopping me from going and having a look around.

I'm about a second from scuffing a mark in the circles before I jerk backward, a thought sizzling through my brain. Stupid, stupid Sanae. Your haraegushi's gone, isn't it? So how long do you think your supply of salt and ash is going to last if you can't magic all of it back into a container?

I stare at the unbroken circles, and swallow.

"Shit." My despondent groan gets partially muffled as I rub my face. That's... yeah. That's a problem.

[ ♫: https://listenonrepeat.com/?v=EbtGIyXgw2w ]
[ ♫: http://youtu.be/EbtGIyXgw2w ]

The sound of water in the distance gets my attention again, in a less than desirable and more than predictable way. Considering I flew all night and then pretty much conked right out when I landed, it doesn't surprise me. However, it's still daylight out, so at least my chances are better if something happens.

I break the circles and take care of the various morning necessities. After that, a minute of searching turns up the stream that I'd heard; down a gully so it sounded further away. The water I splash on my face is just as ice-cold as the other streams—maybe worse. It's a brutally effective wake-up method, in either case.

My campsite hasn't been ransacked when I return, which is great. I eat breakfast quickly, not paying close attention to the f ping the tears away and fanning my mouth when I bite into some kind of hell-pepper meat. I silently apologize to Keshti for not appreciating his meal as much as I should, but obviously I'm not able to leisurely enjoy it right now.

[Why are all the tastiest parts the most painfuuuuulllll?!]

At least that knocked the last of the cobwebs out of my head. Coffee would have been nicer, but that's hardly an option at the moment. I do feel sorta... "healthy"? Stronger, maybe. Does it make sense that I feel strong and tired at the same time? Like I could move something really heavy; no problem—and then fall flat on my butt a minute later and not be able to move. ...It really doesn't make any sense at all, does it <no>? But that's the best way I can put it.

Pretty sure I'm procrastinating. Maybe.

Having a seat back down on the ground, I unpack and set down in front of me the salt shaker and the little box I've been keeping the ash in. For a minute, I just look at them and consider the problem in brief: How do I get the salt and ash back into their respective containers? Since I can't rely on my haraegushi to translate will into effect anymore, I need to figure out how to recreate the effect itself.

First, how to move the material? Straight suction isn't the way to do it; that'll mess up the purity by picking up a bunch of dirt and dust as well. I can filter stuff like that out, but it'll take a little longer... yet I don't want it to go too slowly.

I work through the process in my head, thinking and feeling my way through each step. It takes about a good fifteen or twenty minutes; a millennium compared to my blow dryer spell, and an eternity compared to <say it> what I did last night. This needs every last second of that, and maybe more—I need the spell to be excruciatingly perfect. My life depends upon it, as "Billyak" demonstrated.

I'll only get one or two shots at inscribing the spells onto their containers, so once I've completed conceptualization, I test them out on the ground—I can get it back once I've got a final product.
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...It works. It took about an hour to get the spells to cleanly pick up just salt or just ash, and half that again to fine-tune the sloppy parts, but I've got something I can put on the containers. But it's not over with just that.

"No, that would be too easy," I say, wiping my hands on my shirt. "And where would be the fun in that?"

The salt shaker and the box I've been putting the ash into have been washed out and dried off so they'll be as clean as possible. This requires conditions as optimal as I can get them, and the purity of materials used ranks high on that list.

With a blank ofuda, I ever-so-carefully begin to scrape a thin line into the side of the glass shaker, holding the salt-gathering spell firmly in my mind throughout the process. Over and over again, I envision the spell, recall how it feels to cast, and see in my mind what should happen. Every ounce of that is poured into this slow, deliberate engraving.

As I complete and connect the last line to the very first, I pull away the ofuda and blow off the fine layer of powder left behind on the shaker. I had to engrave it with lines broader than a simple scratch; anything less would run the risk of cracking the glass even further. What I did was more like very slowly scraping it on a smaller, controlled scale.

[...Well, it looks pretty? The visual theme's a taaaad predictable.]

Holding it up to the light peeking through the trees, the star I've finally finished putting on the shaker doesn't stand out much; a modest grey shape on the side of an already unremarkable kitchen accessory.

Is it weird that I feel proud? I wouldn't have needed to make this if last night hadn't happened, and yet...

Well, it's a little too early to celebrate. I need to repeat this process, although thankfully without the same amount of exacting care and caution.

Carving a star onto the box I keep the ash in goes much quicker. I still have to move slowly in order to keep the lines clean and exact, but this translates into a job that takes ten minutes instead of one that takes a little around an hour.

I clean off both containers and let them sit for a while as I start to clean up camp. The time I spent on this means that the day has started moving into the early afternoon—the light's turning about that shade of orange, anyway. It's not so bad that it'll make scouting harder, but I shouldn't wait much longer to do it.

One cautious 360 after ascending above the canopy reveals not much of note besides hills, mountains, and trees, trees, trees. Nothing much moving around, which puts me at ease. The cloud-streaked sky's moved from blue to thinking-about-amber while I worked, but the shine of the hidden sun gives me a direction to orient myself and enough light to look around.

Opposite the direction that sunlight's coming from—pir—is a distant mountain range that would blend in with all the rest but for the weirdly boxy shape to one of its peaks—something I'd noticed while flying by the Makelot but not thought much of at the time. Back then, it was well an of where I was; but now it's off to the... pir-mo? I don't know if they just combine the words like in Japanese or what. For all I know, they have separate words for them.

[How normal they are. Is that for image, or is that just individual taste?]

Whatever. I'm way, way off-course from my original path, now. Of course, that's what I was trying to do, but this means that the map I looked at is now a helpful idea instead of a useful reference. If I were to proceed straight mo from here, I would probably be able to make Dis in another day or two, given how much food Keshti packed for me, and how long it's been.

...Speaking of which, I'm going to need to start rationing that or learn to hunt <you already know how> for food, aren't I? Because no damn way am I going to risk a blind, foolish run straight to Dis. I don't know what I'll run across or blunder into if I do that. They'll be looking for me, I'm sure, but who, where, and how far? And there were places to avoid crossing into on that map as well, I recall. No, my trip to Dis needs to be undertaken carefully.

Right now, though, it's time to get a move on. Every minute counts.

At least, I hope they do. If they don't...


...It's definitely time to get moving.

[ ] Fly 'til nightfall, but that ain't quittin' time. Girl's shield's only so good if she ain't got a sword.
[ ] Fly 'til nightfall, then early abed to early-rise. Evening's hands steady makes the morrow's hands ready.


...If Taisa can get back to Touhouvania, then what the hell's my excuse?
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[x] Fly 'til nightfall, then early abed to early-rise. Evening's hands steady makes the morrow's hands ready.
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Oh lovely hell, it's Fell!
My prayers to ZUN Almighty have been answered at last!

[x] Fly 'til nightfall, then early abed to early-rise. Evening's hands steady makes the morrow's hands ready.
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[x] Early to bed

Don't forget where you are. Don't forget what you are in here.

She better get out of this unscathed, we have a future to change people!
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[ᶻzᷦ] Fly 'til nightfall, then early abed to early-rise. Evening's hands steady makes the morrow's hands ready.
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[x] Fly 'til nightfall, but that ain't quittin' time. Girl's shield's only so good if she ain't got a sword.

I am...annoyed that we lost the haraegushi. Don't feel any tension or anything from the development, just really frustrated. Can't really explain it.

Bah. One update every eight months is nothing to get excited about.
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[囚] Fly 'til nightfall, then early abed to early-rise. Evening's hands steady makes the morrow's hands ready.

The containers, now dry, are put to the test. And blessed be my mamas, they work. It takes maybe twice as long (if that) as it did with the haraegushi, but functionally they work like a charm. Stress seeps out of my body and lifts my spirits a little as it leaves. Not being able to secure my resti—the places where I make camp would leave me in a really bad situation.

[It's like some kind of ... Notrom Girl? Well, but she wasn't wearing any pants.]

Precious materials now reclaimed, I clean up the last few things, hide the traces of my presence as best I know how, and take to the air.

Over the next few hours, I trace a meandering path across the great, unknown wilderness of Makai at decent speed. The trees are mixed blue crystal and "normal" green; almost all some kind of evergreen, or something that looks like them. The hills get hillier, to the point where I'm going to need to start winding through valleys or looking for a pass if they get much higher. Thankfully, it never gets that bad.

The day drags on and I keep flying and flying and flying, hill and forest and red earth passing below me. It's a little depressing, as I watch the terrain far beneath me, to realize that I could easily reach higher speeds on my old <kinda cold that> —okay, my relatively late-model but not recently used Honda than I ever could while flying.

...Of course, I'd need to have roads or pretty level ground to travel on, and there are darn few of those around here, at the moment. That's pretty much why it's still in the shed back at the shrine, too: what roads there are in Gensokyo are mostly dirt or cobblestone, and on top of all that, I live on top of a mountain. So I'm still better off right now.

I try not to think much more about my Honda, or home. No sense getting worked up about... that stuff. Eyes on the prize, but eyes on the skies, too.

[—it keeps going on and on, my frieeeends~ Some people staaaarted singin'—]
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[ ♫: http://youtu.be/McX_HjRLhgw ]
[ ♫: https://listenonrepeat.com/?v=McX_HjRLhgw ]

As the day creeps further along, and begins settling into evening, I start looking for a good place to make camp. The land's gotten a bit more dry and rocky, and the valleys between hills are getting wider. The forests are starting to thin out, but enough still exist alongside lesser rivers and creeks. To my surprise, it's mostly actual, straight-up cedars, or something that looks identical to them.

I decide on a little area in the shadow of a craggy, inelegant cliffside. It's a few minutes away from a healthy-sized stream, and between the rock face and a tight cluster of trees, it's the best cover I can locate at this hour.

Keeping the fire covered with a screen of wow-they-even-smell-like-cedar branches, I manage to avoid lighting up the nearby wall of rock with the light of the flickering flames, something I only noticed after coming back from refilling Keshti's canteen <come one come all>. Yeah, well. I fixed it, didn't I? And now I know better.

Dinner is, as it has been over the last few nights, brief, tasty, spicy, and strange; tonight's centerpiece was something that tasted like teriyaki beef with the consistency of steamed broccoli. I clean up, wash off what I dare in the stream, and after drying off, decide to retire early.

I lie on my back, hands behind my head, and look up at the patch of deepening-red sky above me. Something chirrups in the trees. The coals of the fire crackle. From my protected, encircled enclave, I watch as unfamiliar, twinkling dots come out of hiding and light up the burgundy firmament.


"Last night, I killed someone."

I have to force the words out in a rush. Have to, or else I'll just walk around it and worry and not look at it and get nowhere. So I do, and now it's out there in the open. Spoken aloud. Not the wind <not your imagination>. Can't run from that.

[Oooh, tearing this scab off, are we?]

"Less than twenty-four hours ago, I, of my own, volition, ended someone's life."

I say what I said again, in different words. I break the thoughts inside those words down, exposing the reality they encapsulate <twenty nine hour days doofus>. Probably true. Not especially important. I take a few breaths before speaking again.

"What could have made this acceptable?"

...I already know the answer to that. I feel the grimace my lips form, and turn onto my side, curling up a little.

...No. Straighten up. It's the least I could do.

"I... I can't let them take me. And I'm not ready to die. Because I'm not ready to die."

The unacceptability of capture or death remains paramount in my mind. My kind, thrice over—miko, Gensokyan, and to an extent, onje—are not welcome in this land. My predecessors royally... screwed this place up. Bad. To reveal my origins and livelihood will mean a fate worse than death. And if the only escape from that is death, then...

"I'm not ready to die."

There it is. My shame, my greed, and my selfishness, in five words. Everything about me and in me and that is me mocks that thought. It's not selfish to want to live, is it?

[Me neither! But I don't think that's so weird.]

Was it all right to take the fairy's life in exchange for my own paranoia? Is she even actually dead?

"No. That doesn't matter. Even if she's not, I still killed her."

I remember the Wanted posters at the telegram office: murder and permanent murder are separate charges. I guess that's what happens when you live in a land full of what might as well be youkai. I committed a crime. This was no shooting of fairy with danmaku. I cut her apart <stabbed her to death>. I... Yes. I stabbed her. And killed her.

"...Did I need to do it?"

I shouldn't have needed to. I almost didn't. And gods-dammit, I almost didn't have to do it. The... the fucking Smoke-woman. She ruined it for me <probably maybe>.

"No. She did."

I was talking to the fairy. She was testing me. We could have come to terms. And the Smoke-woman... maybe she thought it would be a good idea to help. Or maybe she knew what she was doing and decided to implicate me anyway. My hands clench tightly as I go over the whole stupid, awful scene in my head.

But in the end, it meant I had to kill her. ...So, yes. Yes, I needed to kill her, then, because there weren't any options left. The field needed to come down, and she wasn't going to listen to me talk anymore.

It wasn't right. But I did need to do it.

What a mess.

"I'd probably... I'd probably do it again, wouldn't I."

My voice is thick with accusation and self-loathing, but even though it's something despicable like that, I can't ignore the truth of it.

Sanae Kochiya doesn't want to die. And she doesn't want to wind up in a place where that's the only way out.

"And she was already in danger of that to begin with."

[Er... You really gotta mumble louder. Starting to fall a bit behind, now.]

I lay an arm across my forehead and sigh. Having pushed all the ugly, awful words out of my body, it feels like I didn't solve anything. Things are clearer, but they haven't been fixed. ...This really isn't something I can fix, though, is it?

"Totally isn't."

Not by myself, anyway. At least I stopped being so shaken up about it. About what I was going to do, or.. or something. It was wrong. I know it was wrong. I did what I was supposed to do, and was thwarted. So I took the only option left that gave me a chance of survival. And I'd do it again, because I'm a coward and I panicked.

'Know thyself', huh?

I wish I didn't. I wish I didn't have to. But the alternative isn't going to help me.

"The truth hurts, I guess."


It takes me a while to fall asleep, looking up at that dark red sky.

[ ] Something Strong
[ ] Something Weak


Aki Eda, to my delight, still refuses to be a total hack. "Wizard's Soul ~Holy War of Love~" is the newest offering. Hope you like M:tG.

Unfortunately, that is not my tripcode.

Hey, that's pretty cool. Nice work.

>One update every eight months is nothing to get excited about.
No kidding.
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[X] Something Weak

That last line might've touched a nerve with our undetectable companion, I see. Makes sense, certainly, but still interesting to note. Is there a chance Sanae could become more aware of her at some point in the story, and potentially be able to interact with her more directly? I've been enjoying her antics and commentary so far, but can't help hoping for more.

By the way, if anyone besides me could use a brief recap: we're currently headed to Dis because Elis has friends in the "Historical Brotherhood" who reside there, who she said might be able to help with returning to Gensokyo. We're also currently somewhat lost due to having gone way off Elis's recommended route to try and ditch any pursuers after killing the ranch-fairy. So, don't really have any idea what we might run into out here: I'm hoping we haven't wandered into oppin hunting grounds, but not willing to rule it out. Not picking the Strong option because I'm inclined to think this vote determines an encounter, and Sanae could use a break.

And even if there have been delays, that's a much faster pace at least for these last couple, which is appreciated. Keep writing, we like your work.
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[x] Something Strong
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[x] Something weak
Facing our fears and weaknesses is the first step. The others are accepting and overcoming them. So... Progress?

Anyway, not wanting to die is the most basic feeling there is. If you don't value yourself, who will? But that only applies when it is certain. At which point self survival stops being the most basic right and starts being paranoia and delusion? At which point does risking your life for others stops being brave and starts being foolhardy?
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[x] Something weak
I don't know what I'm voting fooooor~

Being a little hard on yourself here, Sanae. There's nothing cowardly or weak about being the killer in a kill or be killed situation. Hell, that's probably the braver of the two options.
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[ ♫: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2ZGZF4d2jY ]
[ ♫: https://listenonrepeat.com/?v=x2ZGZF4d2jY ]

[_] Something Weak

High, high up, on a mountaintop in Gensokyo, Blue-white studiously sweeps the day's leaves under a cool, wide-open autumn sky.

Her thoughts are not uncertain, but of uncertainty. Not troubled, but of what troubles may come. Normally, sweeping is good for these sorts of thoughts, but today is special. Yesterday was not, nor the day before that, but the day before
that most certainly was. Three days ago, Blue-white watched a crabby miko fight her way up the mountain, defeat the Blue-white herself, and her goddesses, and have more than enough energy and attitude in her to instruct them in "How we do, and more importantly, don't do things around here."

That was a pretty rough day, all things told. Thankfully, sweeping the stone path is good for rumination and reflection.

But today, Blue-white got to meet an
actual kappa, and an actual tengu. She is still undecided on whether or not the extreme lack of adherence to traditional physiques is disappointing or not. Aside from this sole perhaps-a-complaint, Blue-white is pretty stoked about that. And they spoke of something she would never have expected: patronage.

What sort of shrine is frequented by youkai, though? Not that they are going to turn them away, she is quick to mentally note, as if stifling some inner heckler. Faith is not so common a commodity that they'll turn their nose up at an unusual source of it, but... well, it's still weird, isn't it?

The Blue-white's sweeping stills. She casts her eyes up and down the long path she had been tending to.

A jolt of
something had sizzled through the girl's mind, just then. Most would describe it as an almost electric sensation, like a sharper version of that feeling down your neck when you get goosebumps. She, however, would describe it as a Newtype Flash; likely due to the lamentable influence of television on a developing mind, as one of her goddesses would say. The other would roll her eyes and tell the first to put fifty yen in the blowhard jar.

Regardless, the Blue-white props the broom against one of the pillars lining the path. She straightens her posture, smiles and adopts a nonthreatening, welcoming air. "Welcome to Moriya Shrine," she says. "All are welcome here. Might there be something you are looking for?" This worked pretty well back home, but she hasn't gotten the opportunity to use it in Gensokyo very much.

"Oh my~ Politeness and manners from a shrine maiden?"

Blue-white turns, and there stands Power, manifest.

[ ] 2
[ ] 0
[ ] -1


Short update and a character choice! Getting the rest of the update out before next Saturday would be pretty cool, so vote early and vote often!
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[X] 0

Sanae's such a nerd. I won't even pretend to know what these options are for, though.
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[x] 2

Is there any particular reason why you use this choice method even though you've proven yourself to be good enough without such a gimmick?
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[x] 2
Is it Aya? I hope it's Aya. Aya is fun.
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[X] -1
I have a feeling at least one of these will lead to Yukari.
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1v1 me, bro.
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[ ♫: (Same music as previous) ]

[❂] 2

Red-green looks back at the girl, a little smile playing about her lips. The tall woman is one of the strangest sights Blue-white has seen in this place over the last week, especially since she's dressed rather smartly, like someone from the city back home. Standing out amongst the black slacks and white vest are a comfortable-looking red plaid scarf around her neck, and the woman's long, artfully wild mane of hair, its color a little deeper than Blue-white's own.

Neither of those things are what first catches the shrine maiden's notice.

That honor goes to the sense of Power pouring off this youkai. And she is a youkai; Blue-white would bet her life on it. Vitality and violence make up every last millimeter of this being's being, despite her casual (if fashionable) appearance.

Blue-white is only fazed for a second, however. She has known other creatures of this caliber, but this is the first to arrive as a
visitor. Habit and ritual take over, and she gives a small bow. "Nothing so unusual about that, dear visitor. Welcome to Moriya Shrine." Flash a warm smile. "If you would care to rest from the climb up, there are any number of benches about the grounds."

"Hospitality, too? Oh, such competition~" That little smile turns amused as Red-green murmurs to herself. "I flew here, actually, but the offer is very gracious," she tells the miko, politely declining. She stands there a little longer, just looking around, taking in the site of the shrine grounds. Blue-white tactfully waits; another question is sure to follow, or else she'd have moved on. And after about ten or fifteen seconds: "Pardon my asking, but what do you do with the leaves that you sweep up?"

...Not one of the usual questions, that's for sure. It's strange enough to get a blink out of Blue-white, but an answer is dutifully provided. "Well, we gather them up and eventually use them for planting flowers."

The visitor's head tilts a little. "Could you elaborate?"

Huh. A gardener, maybe? "We make compost with them, along with other things, and do periodic mulching. Not the most pleasant work, but I think the results make it more than worthwhile." She almost points to where the flowers come up in spring and summer, but in the cool autumn weather, there isn't much to show off.

The answer seems to get Red-green's approval, however—this time, she smiles properly. "Do you, now? That's wonderful to hear." The look she gives Blue-white seems very favorable. "I would love to chat with whoever is in charge of that, next time."

"I think that could be arranged." It's not like Suwa-mama's schedule is packed, or anything. "Is there anything else I might be able to help you with, today?"

Red-green shakes her head. "Not at the moment, but thank you. For now, I think I shall wander around a little more." The two offer parting pleasantries, and each one goes about their business.

Later on, when Blue-white brings a bag of leaves to the gardening shed around back, she passes Red-green. The tall youkai is praying in front of the shrine, underneath the enormous shimenawa. The very sight of youkai praying at a shrine is still something she can't quite wrap her head around—even if they've had more of them visiting than humans over the past week. This might mean she'll have to do some more active work down in the towns and villages if Moriya Shrine wants to attract any significant amount of faith from them.

Something to keep in mind, for sure.

When she returns a few minutes after, the woman is perusing the tastefully laid-out display of omamori available for sale. She glances up at the sound of the miko's boots, and walks around to meet her. "I would like to purchase one of those," says Red-green, and holds out an extremely small leather bag. No, wait. Velvet?

Blue-white accepts it, then frowns internally. "Oh, of course. Which one did you have in mind?" Something's wrong with the bag. Or rather, what's inside the bag: whatever's making the clinking sounds inside don't feel like coins, and the bag is too small to fit your average koban.

"One that suits my needs," replies the youkai helpfully. "The prices marked there seem a trifle high, but I am sure things must be different Outside. I am fairly certain the payment shall be sufficient in any case."

The internal frown is on the verge of becoming external when the shrine maiden pinches one part of the bag, trying to get a feel for the shape of its contents. Something small, yes, and... rectangular? Very small. What coul
WAIT. Instantly, Blue-white's mood improves, and she gives the woman a bow. "My sincerest apologies. I feel your assessment is most sound, dear guest. Please, select whichever one you like, with Moriya Shrine's blessings."

After the bow is returned, the youkai returns to the omamori display. Blue-white finds something else to occupy her attention for a minute or two until Red-green returns, apparently content with her selection. She starts to say something, and then—


"Welcome to Moriya Shrine," says Kana-mama, from behind Blue-white. The miko tenses; last time Kana-mama pulled this stunt, it was with Red-white, and she still has a bit of lingering soreness from that. ...Mostly to her pride, at this point, but still.

"Even the god herself, hmm~?" Red-green's expression has gone neutral.

They're just...


Kana-mama and Red-green stand about two or three meters apart, staring directly at one another.

And they stare.

And stare.

And stare.

Blue-white has long since backed out of the way—no sense in getting caught between them.



It's been about ten minutes, and neither one has moved.






At seventeen minutes, god and youkai simultaneously smile quietly, approvingly at one another, and relax.

"Well met," says Kana-mama simply, and bows before turning away and heading into the shrine.

Red-green looks very, very pleased with... whatever it was that just happened. It's only after Kana-mama has gone inside and closed the door that she sighs happily. "Young lady?" she says, turning to the miko.

"Ah, yes?"

"What do you think of peonies?"

The girl isn't quite sure how to take the non sequitur. "...Pardon?"

Red-green smiles once more, and starts heading down the stone path. "Ah, it's nothing. I was just thinking about flowers that suited this place."

And with that cryptic answer, she's soon gone, taking flight and heading east.

Blue-white squeezes the bag of rectangular coins, still in her hand.

She has to know. It's not like there's a crane behind the omamori stand or anything. It should be fine to look.


After going over the counts for the third time, there is exactly one charm fewer than there was before the youkai came to visit. Not that she expected her to take more than one, but...


When she updates the records that evening, she goes to the omamori section of their stock. Under the column labeled "子宝祈願", she neatly crosses out a "3" and pencils in a "2" beside it.


My waking scream has a weird quality to it this morning, probably due to the cliff I'm right up against. I wince, stretch, and wince some more. I notice that strong-but-aching feeling again; like a skeleton doing a dance, or a car motoring along despite fuel being at E. In this sore state, I feel stronger.

"Each day, I'm getting stronger and stronger."

The smile I made after whispering those words goes away quickly, because it's a really chilly morning. The faster I get moving, the faster I'll warm up. There are things to do, and places to go <lets skip seeing any people>. I'll drink to that.

Water from the canteen, almost icy in this weather, pours down my throat, dragging my body to agitated wakefulness.

[ ] Missing rod's buggin' her right hard. Might be ways of makin' a stand-in, she thinks.
[ ] After lunch, girl's outta food. Don't really fancy boilin' her boots, come tomorrow.
[ ] None 'a that matters if she can make town. The goin'll be rough, but what ain't?


Later than it should have been. Sorry.
...It feels good being able to say that without quite so much crippling guilt.

Damn. My apologies to you both; I didn't see these votes when I started writing the meat of this.
...On the upside, this means I should actually start calling votes, again! It's been a while since I needed to do that. It means there's readers!

First, because Reasons. Second, because while I couldn't think of anything better at the time which would make it stand apart from the normal style, I also wanted to post that goddamn update ASAP.
2 = Yuuka because Dual Spark, 0 = Yukari because she's nothing and everything, and -1 = Yuyuko because less than alive. They weren't really meant to be deciphered easily.
>>14351 was correct, however. Sorta.

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[X] Missing rod's buggin' her right hard. Might be ways of makin' a stand-in, she thinks.
Git yer l-rods in shape!
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[X] Missing rod's buggin' her right hard. Might be ways of makin' a stand-in, she thinks.
A lack of food is easier to survive than getting ripped open by a demon, I think. And that was a...curious reaction between Kanako and Yuuka. Wonder if they were previously acquainted.

I'm guessing this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokugawa_coinage is related to Yuuka's payment, but does anyone know what the peonies could be about? I didn't see any obvious significance to the symbolism I could find for them.

Don't worry about it. I would've liked seeing the 0 option's result in the flashback, but nothing wrong with a Yuuka scene. Anyway, if you'd seen our votes you might've had to wait for a tiebreaker, so I'm fine with a faster update in lieu of that.
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[x] Missing rod's buggin' her right hard. Might be ways of makin' a stand-in, she thinks.

This is still a very big fucking deal
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[x] After lunch, girl's outta food. Don't really fancy boilin' her boots, come tomorrow.
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[x] Missing rod's buggin' her right hard. Might be ways of makin' a stand-in, she thinks.

>2 = Yuuka because Dual Spark, 0 = Yukari because she's nothing and everything, and -1 = Yuyuko because less than alive.
...uh huh. Just flip a coin next time.
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Ah, right. Votes called.
Should have said that a while ago.
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Update held up a bit, but still on its way. Chewing through it!
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[は] Missing rod's buggin' her right hard. Might be ways of makin' a stand-in, she thinks.

[ ♫: http://youtu.be/hhQbUYAr6ks ]
[ ♫: https://listenonrepeat.com/?v=hhQbUYAr6ks ]

Going to the stream to wash up, I find that not only is the morning chilly, but misty too: wispy fog threads between the trees, way off in the distance. The morning glow amidst the grey points out an in a hazy shade of morning. I gaze at the still scene with scattered morning-thoughts, brain slowly warming up as my body cleans up.

Didn't sleep as well as I'd have liked, but... well, can't say it's surprising. Last night <or the night before> wasn't exactly a Beat Takeshi special from under the kotatsu.

So glad I can sleep on my side as well as my back. Without much padding, the latter would be killing me.

I could really use a towel.

Mamas, please let the trip to Dis be calm and boring. Boring would be a dream come true.

I can't believe there are actually people who think he can't kill Servants.

Shaving would be really, really tricky, right now. Like, if I were a guy.

What am I even going to do about my haraegushi?

[You're making even less sense than I usually do.]

I ponder that final question as I damply trudge back to camp. It certainly looked like it got pretty well kaploded. Yeah, I was busy at the time, and it was dark, but I feel pretty sure about that part of it. Mixed blessing and curse, there—no hope at all of recovery also means there's probably no hope of it being discovered <should i laugh or cry>.

Laugh, maybe. It feels kinda bad, when I do it, though. Did I already think about this before?

It feels earlier than usual, which is a weird thing to say. The sky above is a light purple, streaked with clouds. As I patiently vacuum up the salt and ash, I think about a replacement for my haraegushi. I've already rather brutally proven I can replicate its effect as a melee weapon. And obviously I've gotten one of the more immediately critical functions taken care of—the very spells I'm currently using. But what I don't have is the ability to easily convert will into effect <need a raising heart transplant>. Ha!

...And without that, I feel a little more naked than I care to.

The last grains of salt curl through the air into the shaker, and I think then, that I have my mission for the day.

Good. Always good to have a goal, right <sure>?

[More than you know!]

And that's why I spend the time after breakfast looking around for sticks.

About an hour or so later, I'm back in the air again, cruising through the slowly un-foggening morning. Trying to cruise, anyway—while it's true that the density of the trees is decreasing, the trees themselves are getting way, way bigger. Visibility is low, and more than once I've seen treetops get close <like the ones after crashing>. ...Sorta, yeah.

I'm able to keep most of my bearings thanks to the sunlight, easily located even through the mist. As the hours pass, even that dissipates finally, revealing the world in full once more.

The mountains that were turning into craggy, rocky things are now interspersed with long, flat plateaus, like someone sliced off all the summits from the peaks. The air feels a little warmer and drier; probably that's why the fog is all but gone, now. I wouldn't call this a desert, but it's definitely not lush, rolling hills and green pastures like it is on the banks of the Makelot, untold kilometers mo of me.

Is it wrong <the answer is yes> that, faced with all this, I'm mainly reminded of Dragonball Z fights <sorry the answer is actually double yes>? It's not quite that weird and desert-like just yet, but I'm for sure beginning to get that vibe.

[...but the hymns he did not like~ So he o~rganized the angels...]

Something I'm starting to notice as the hours go by is the growing scarcity of potential spots to make camp that also have decent cover. Between the thinning forests and the flatter land, I'm beginning to get a bit nervous.

I hate feeling like this.

...Anyway, I'm in no danger of running out of mountainous terrain just yet, and won't be for a quite a while longer. Pretty sure I'll find something eventually.
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And find something I do.


The first thing contributing to that is purely about time—I have to keep flying throughout most of the day. This is because I want to spend as many usable daylight hours as possible in getting closer to Dis. But in the evening, when daylight starts to slowly wane, I should already be actively looking for a good place to sleep. And since I want to get some work done, I want to maximize both my potential work hours and flight time.

Who knew being a fugitive was hard? <the hell did you think it was> I hadn't given it much thought at all before a few days ago, actually <you really couldnt have made a guess>. Oh, just shut up.


The second half is the kinds of places I have to pick from, which... aren't the best. I can't pick any dense thicket near a stream anymore, because there are fewer streams and far fewer dense thickets, and even fewer of the two close together.

I do find a good spot by a small waterfall where I stop around noon—or whatever mid-day is called in a place that has an odd number of hours in the day. The trees clustered around it provide pretty decent shade and cover, and having water nearby is a definite plus <or so i thought>. Ooor so I thought.

It wasn't until some kind of... of... <gods i cant believe im saying this> ...some kind of wheeled llama thing stepped out of the bushes some meters off (and then turned and ran off once it noticed me) that I realized I wouldn't be able to hear anyone approaching if I stayed here. I refilled my canteen and regretfully took off.


Nothing more suitable shows up until it starts to get a little late. Even though the sun never shows its face, a sunset is a sunset. The sky gets red, the sun gets red, and the ground gets redder.

I happen upon a good, tightly-packed grove of trees on one of those long, flat stretches of land in the hills. No stream nearby, but whatever. I'll manage. There's a cliff a little ways distant; need to be careful I don't walk off of that when it's dark out.

Camp is made. A fire is made. Food is eaten—something green, bready, and a little bit tangy. The spice still burns, but it's completely expected, now. The misery feels, dare I say it, routine. Even so, dinner is eaten with more thoughtfulness and diligence than usual: this is the last prepared meal that Keshti made for me. Starting tomorrow, I'm going to have to <find food or starve>... Well, I'm going to have to figure something out, that's what. It's not an emergency yet.

After clearing everything away and cleaning up, I start working in the last waning hours of sunlight; later than I wanted, but oh well. I'll put up a star-light if I need to <probably will>.

Sitting cross-legged in front of the very small fire I started with the last shrine pamphlet, I take out Sanatsu Yoru, a few blank ofuda, and the three sturdiest, straightest branches I could find this morning, and set them in front of me.

[Oh boy, is it arts & crafts time?! ...Wait, you don't have any toilet paper tubes or macaroni. Darn.]

I begin first with a silent prayer to my mamas and any benevolent god that might be listening. It helps me relax a little.

Afterwards, I sit there quietly. I do nothing, say nothing, and simply concentrate on focusing all of my will on the task ahead of me. I want every last bit of attention devoted toward this.

Taking up Sanatsu Yoru and one of the sticks, I open the knife and begin removing the offshoot-twigs and stripping away the bark. Moving carefully, methodically, at an unhurried pace for some time, I have no longer a broken-off branch in my hands, but a roughly cleaned wooden dowel.

I run my hands over its surface, feeling out any nicks or snags, and smoothing them down with the knife. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't empower one of the ofuda and use it instead: while they have an unparalleled cutting ability, it also makes them too powerful for this job. I'd end up with a pile of kindling in no time at all.

Once I am satisfied with the end result, I do take up the ofuda, and lop off the tips at both ends, further increasing the dowel-y appearance. I set it aside and move onto the next stick, starting the process over from the very beginning.

[I had a set of Tinker Toys a looong time ago. Wonder whatever happened to them?

The last of the light is fading away behind the flat peaks as I complete the third and final stick. I can't help but smile a little. Between pride in my work and anticipation, I think I've earned that smile.

I lay down the last stick, and say another prayer; this time for a blessing. Two of my blank ofuda are sacrificed to the cause, folded up to make short, stubby shide. Picking up the sticks in turn, I stand up and swish them about in the air, trying each one out until I settle on one that feels the best in my hand.

After attaching the shide to the head of the stick, I hold my breath, and gently pierce the end of the stick with one more blank ofuda, dead center across the cross-section. Slicing effortlessly through the wood means I must cut with utmost precision—and manage, somehow, to not mess it up.



I release the breath, and feel my smile growing. It doesn't look the least bit professional, but it sure as heck looks right. Riding this positive upsurge of emotion, I swish my new haraegushi, calling up a tiny little breeze.




I stay frozen in mid-movement for a few more seconds, smile growing brittle and strained <shit shit shit no>.

That... wasn't the sound of breeze. That was the sound of a stick and a bit of paper, swishing through the air. No breeze appeared. Just... fwff.

Don't panic, right? Right! That's step one.

So I try again.


And again.


I spill a little salt onto the red earth, and sketch a little star with the haraegushi.


One of the twigs I sliced off is brought against the paper as I attempt to cut with the haraegushi, its simplest possible function.


I quietly disassemble the non-functional haraegushi, and select the next stick. I try to keep calm as I rebuild it. I keep it together and keep calm as I go. Mostly. My hand trembles a bit millimeters before I pierce the stick's end, but I get it under control.

And finally...


D-don't... don't panic. That's... step one.

I can't keep the anxiety out of my heart as I try a third and final time with the last stick. Ten whole minutes pass before I can steady my hand enough to try inserting the empowered ofuda into the end of the handmade dowel.




<as expected>

My desire to not attract attention is the one and only reason I do not scream to the twilight sky my frustration. Instead, I drop the imitation haraegushi to the ground, and clench my shaking fists tightly.

"...Gods... fucking...fuck."

I can't even throw a tantrum properly.

Tears of anger and helplessness and inadequacy sting my eyes, blurring the campfire's flame into an orange blob for a moment before I bury my head in my hands.

[ ] Girl messed it all up, somehow. And what else's new?
[ ] Somethin' didn't go down right. Just keep on sayin' that.


Sorry for that. Writing this story is like flank steak, sometimes: tough and chewy, but really good once I get it down.
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>Good. Always good to have a goal, right <sure>?
>[More than you know!]
And just what is her goal here, I have to wonder.

[x] Somethin' didn't go down right. Just keep on sayin' that.
I'm not actually sure whether it'd be better for Sanae to keep a positive attitude right now or to get some emotional release, rather than bottling up frustration. This option at least seems to have a better chance of being productive, though, and less risky given her emotional state.
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For fuck's sake, can't anything go right?
Is that Hina following us around? I know you like her, Fell.

[x] Girl messed it all up, somehow. And what else's new?
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Some tie-breaking would be nice. If not, I can flip a coin. I'd rather not, but if I gotta, I gotta.
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[x] Girl messed it up somehow, what else is new?

Better now, in relative safety, than later.
Besides, that voice in her head wouldn't let Sanae lie to herself anyway.

Here's hoping I don't fuck up like the last time I voted, when I decided that proving our innocence and cooperating were, somehow, mutually exclusive.
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Muchas gracias. Called and writing.
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How Not To Fuck Up and other books she never read
[ ♫: http://youtu.be/JrZSDxNRibg ]
[ ♫: https://listenonrepeat.com/?v=JrZSDxNRibg ]

[❉] Girl messed it all up, somehow. And what else's new?

Of course it wasn't going to work. Of course <why was i even surprised>. I sink to my knees, letting them bang to the ground.

"...dammit... dammit..."

Nothing else has been going right. Why should this be any different?

[Flyswatter design not working out, huh? C'mon, cheer up! It doesn't look that bad!]

I fucked it up. Something fucked up. No, I fucked up. Because I am a fuckup who never deserved anyth—



I take hold of that ugly, poisonous, loathing-filled thought. Hold it down. Hold onto it tightly.

Tight enough to choke it.

Kill it.

Bury it.

Shallow grave, no headstone.

Because it's not true <you say that now but>. Shut the hell up. It's not true.

I am allowed to deserve good things happening, godsdammit. I'm not gonna... No, I'm not gonna go through all that again. Not again. I've had my years of that.

Uncurling, I wipe my eyes, and sniff. The fire comes back into view, circles and stars of orange light on the edge of my vision, where the tears blur sight or stick eyelashes together.

I am the living god of Moriya Shrine, and I am not going to break down and have a pity party.


...I feel a little better.

But not much. Not much at all. Looking at the sticks on the ground makes my fists clench tightly again.

Something went wrong <no way really>. For some reason.

The cause must definitely be within myself. I think I got everything right. Did everything right.

Did I, though?

There are a dozen places where I could have screwed something up along the way <probably more>.


[I'd put holes in it; that'll decrease air resistance. Flies're fast. And, just saying, but maybe don't go with paper.]

I'm not going to get anything done like this. No way in hell I'll be able to get in the right frame of mind right now, and certainly not at this hour. Tonight was a failure <like y> Shut it. And that failure's already tainted enough of my attitude.

I cough once, clearing my too-thick throat, and start picking stuff up.

First, the basics: Was the ritual wrong? I could have missed a step or few. Or several. I don't think there's any formal, textbook process for making a haraegushi or a gohei, but there are definitely some parts of it that have to be done a certain way. I totally could have forgotten one of them, or screwed something up. Gods know I might have skimped a little too much on—or skipped completely—something critical because of part of the measures I'm taking in order to keep up this broken-shoestring-budget operation I'm running.

So that's one possibility. ...And man, now that I think of it, it's just as likely that I might not have done certain things well enough. Like, sure, you can just plain forget to answer a question on a test. But ninety-nine times out of a hundred, you'll end up answering them all but get some of them wrong <pretty different situations though>. Not really the point. The point is, that could still be what happened.

The sticks just barely fit into my pack. I should really think about adding some string or twine or something to my response kit. Rubber bands, even. Rope would be ideal, but it's awful bulky. Maybe if I hung it from outside...?

I'm getting distracted.

Another major possibility is that I, on my own, am not strong enough <not good enough> not spiritually strong enough to carry out certain parts of this ceremony. Maybe it's something Kana-mama would have to do. Maybe I could do it, but only in another 20-30 years. Maybe I could even do it as I am now, but because I don't have any connection to the shrine or to my gods... Well, that one's harder to prove or disprove right now.

The ofuda are picked up, and momentarily empowered. This allows me to freely shake off all the dirt, leaving them pristine and uncrumpled once more. They get put away in their dedicated pouch.

[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/uhmcz ]

Last and uncomfortably most is the great, big, ugly uncertainty of it all; the basic fact that I don't know for sure what went wrong. It could be any or all or some or none of those things. Heck, it could be worse than something I forgot to do or didn't do right: the problem might be a topic that I don't know about, or even understand.

[...Not everyone's an entrepreneur, I guess. You'll succeed elsewhere, though! I'm probably sure of it!]

Whatever the case, there's something that I didn't take care of. Something that means I am still out a haraegushi, and thus short a big, big range of options. And that sucks <understatement of the year>.

So, what can I do about it?

"Right now, a whole lot of nothing." I close Sanatsu Yoru with a click right on the last bitter syllable, there. I'm acting like such a jerk right now. Getting right into that zone of feeling good about feeling bad. The sweet-and-sour self-pity spot. Bad middle-school habits creeping out is a pretty good sign that I'm definitely not in any state of mind to try again.

It's not the dead of night, but it doesn't need to be for it to be time to sleep. And it is. I'm not really tired, but the big dumb letdown of all this making me feel like I think I'm tired. So I'm tired.


Jeez. If I can have a train of thought like that, maybe I'm tired for real.

I tidy up the last of my mess, find a good spot on the ground, and lay down my circles.

This Makai, it's been like the worst best worst again camping trip.


I curl up by my pack, and lie down. "'Night," I mumble to no one at all.

What a terrible night. I've only got me to rely on, and look how I take care of me.

...I'll be glad to see it go.
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Her week was worse
The day begins with another healthy scream that I'm able to cut off in under a second. I'm getting "better" <how lovely>. Isn't it just?

...As I sit, panting, I shove that thought away, and close my eyes, as if I could somehow will my heart rate back into its normal pace. I am getting better. "Each day... I'm getting... stronger." The words come out in mini-bursts between the panting. The mind might be suffering, but the body is improving. The spirit is getting stronger.

It'd be easier to be more cynical and disbelieving about that if it didn't really feel like that.

Taking care of the morning's business is a bit more difficult when I notice that it's still dark out. The sky's a rich purple, and everything is dim. The same dimness must be creeping into my head, because I wander around the little grove for about five minutes before remembering that there's no stream or pool or anything up here. Or that I'm in an "up here" in the first place.

A lot less chilly than pre-dawn hours in the mountains has led me to expect, actually. Sweater temperature, for sure. But not the bitter chill of yesterday, or the merely unpleasant chill I've gotten used to back home.

Out of nowhere, a weird pang of homesickness when I think about my warm fuzzy slippers <awkwardly handmade zaku head shaped i love those damn things>. Doesn't feel great.

My mood is nice and down by the time I find my campsite again. Thanks to that, I get packed up pretty quickly.

[You can' be up thi... ahhh. This earlyyyy. 'S Crimean. Crinoline. Criminimal. That one.]

Breakfast is nothing but a healthy chug of water—I'm officially out of food, now. I think I'm going to find that a lot more alarming when I'm properly awake. It already feels like something is missing when my taste buds aren't being torched. I bet I could just chew on Szechuan peppers and stave off the cravings by association.

Working by star-light, the camp is cleaned up in short order. There isn't much left to do, so it's not long until I ta ld really wait until I'm feeling more awake before I go flying off. Plus, it's still dark out. Probably a better idea all-around if I do that. As if to confirm this, I yawn.

I trudge through the grove for a little bit until I find a good cliff with a wide view of the surrounding landscape, and put my back up against a tree to watch the sun rise.

Or pretend to rise. Stupid Makai.

The land's starting to get smoother and grassier. The hills that I can see are getting less numerous. I'm definitely closing in on Dis.



If I'm going to go through what (as Elis described it) sure sounded a lot like Customs in order to get into Dis as an onje with no papers, then there's some stuff I'm going to need to not do, not know, and not have on me if I'm going to pass inspection. Not to mention I need to come in looking like anything but a fugitive on the run who's been roughing it.

That's... Crap. That's going to be a problem.

...But, to be honest? Not one I can do anything about until I get closer, either. Good to have another future concern on my plate, though.

I was running low.

Sliding a little lower down the trunk of the tree, I sigh, and try to relax. It doesn't work, but you gotta try.

Food would be nice, about now. Though if I'm getting close to Dis as I think, then it won't be a problem. Just need to hold out for a little while longer. Humans can survive for... it was a week without water, and two weeks without food, right?

So I'll be fine.

Not happy, but fine.

"No change there, then."

I yawn again, and groggily watch the sky through lidded eyes as I wait for morning.

[ ] Girl opts t' stay the course. This path ain't landed her in any hot water so far.
[ ] She ain't lackin' fer bullets. Why not try her hand at huntin' a bit 'a dinner later on?
[ ] Big river led right t' Dis. Maybe just go try n' catch a glimpse; make sure she's on track.


I'd really like to keep the time between updates to about a week, at the max (as much as it kills me to say that). So please, don't delay voting unless you're really deeply conflicted.

As for the story itself, we're almost out of the (literal) woods. Thank you for staying with us in these trying times.
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[x] She ain't lackin' fer bullets. Why not try her hand at huntin' a bit 'a dinner later on?

If I understood her correctly, she doesn't have any food? At all?

If that's so, staying without food on the hope that this will all end soon doesn't seem worth the risk. What IS worth the risk (big risk though) is getting food pronto.
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Correct, she does not have any premade food left. Additionally, by her own rough estimation, she believes that she is most likely 1-2 days' flight away from Dis.

Also, if anyone has any kickass pad thai recipes, or really, any any recipe that uses Thai basil, I'd be delighted to hear them. As much as I love pad kee mao, I can only make it so many times.
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[x] She ain't lackin' fer bullets. Why not try her hand at huntin' a bit 'a dinner later on?

So now we have a bit more context for that little voice of criticism and/or self-loathing in Sanae's head. And she'll be making it to Dis soon? Should be fun. She definitely needs food though, though our companion will probably keep taking half of it.

I'm not sure how many THPers are experts in Thai cooking, inclined to say Google might serve you better. Is buying other food or ingredients not really an option?
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Called and writing!

No, no limits on procurement. And yes, Google probably would be a help, but I was hoping somebody might have something they really enjoyed.

It's not that unlikely; ever since Drei jumped (on a dare) into a thicket of that one Australian bush with the neurotoxin, I've come to accept that a THPer might know or do anything.
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oh give me a home
[ ♫: http://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=7cjEgovupTw ]
[ ♫: http://youtu.be/7cjEgovupTw ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/cmljf (if the above are blocked) ]

[♣] She ain't lackin' fer bullets. Why not try her hand at huntin' a bit 'a dinner later on?

I'm hungry.

No I'm not.

But I will be hungry. That was my future self talking into the now. I'm not prescient, but I'm also not an idiot—I'm a hardier soul now than I was before we came to Gensokyo <and how>, but I'm still more or less used to regular meals. I'm going to be miserable by nightfall if I don't get something edible in me by then.

The case against: I'm going to be in Dis soon, so why bother? And even if I wasn't, for some reason, am I doing myself any favors by trying to keep up my normal eating habits in a place where they can't be kept up with? I don't want to trust my luck, at this point.

...Crud. The defense makes a pretty good point. But too bad because no, shut up: if I can get my own food, then I'll eat whenever and whatever I want. The prosecution rests, sets, and match.


Wow, I am tired <yeah so just nod off im sure nothing will come and eat me right>.


I actually do look around to the sides, at that point.


Yeah, that's a good point, too.

I'll bet... I'll bet I can make a spell for that. Another spell. And it'll help with hunting later on, too! I'm saving time and money!

So I focus my tired, semi-alert brain, or whatever's available to me, on this task. It'll need tweaking later, for sure. And I'll have to make some real big changes for the mob... mobbing... mobile <mobile yeah>? ...mobile version. Oh gods this spell's gonna need fixing.

But if it can do what I need it to do right now, then great. And if I can make a spell that does what I need it to do when I need it to do when I can't do too good, then heck yeah I'm doing good <did that even make sense>. Mmmmaybe.

Just need to listen to the air. The air around where I am, that is. And I need it to tell me if something's in it. Nnnno, no. That's no good; everything is already in it. I need it to tell me if something's moving in it. More than like it would normally. Maybe if I had Kana-mama's help along with my haraegushi, I could do a lot more with it. Like, toooons more information and functionality. But I don't. And I'm half-asleep. Can't get soliton radar, but I'll bet I can whip up a crummy motion tracker <does that make me solid slug>. Heh.

Didn't I say I was going to focus? Because this ...isn't. Get to it.

I do. I make. I cast.


I really don't know if it's going to work, do I? Not until something moves inside the detection range <good job making a spell you cant test>. Ugh. I've got nothing to say to that. Gods, I used to be able to pull all-nighters in order to study, and the results weren't this sloppy. Am I getting old? I can't be that old, yet <everyone always is>! ...What's-her-name, the one in the bamboo forest! Houraisan, right. She isn't <exception that proves the rule>! Oh, get stuffed.

There's a small, tiny puff of visible breath as I sigh.

Whatever. Did what I could. I just need to not die so I can fix it so that I can not die even better <what a great plan>. The best.

I don't doze off.

It's suddenly a little brighter, and I am suddenly awaker.

"Whozit at?" is the demand I make, tumbling awkwardly out of a dry mouth. I lurch forward and upward into a standing position with speed, ready for anything <supposedly>. An empty hand, used to having a haraegushi handle in its grip, traces four lines of a star while the other drops down to my pouch of seals.

[Whoooa, slow down there, ki—ah, buddy. "Buddy" works. Right?]

Nobody speaks. Nothing moves. According to the spell, anyway.


Yeah, screw all of this. I've got light to see by and my head isn't packed full of cotton anymore. Time to jet.

The land gets flatter and lower and grassier as I continue my mostly mo-bound trek. And warmer still, though that could just be the day heating up. I see a few animals of some sort now and then, either grazing, hunting, or just wandering. None of them are the right size; I'm after smaller animals that would be good for maybe a meal or two. Anything larger would be wasteful... and probably difficult to deal with.

In lots of ways.

The vegetation picks back up again around noon, and I stop to have a drink in the shade. I can hear something scurry around in the low trees as I come in for a landing. Hmm...

[Oh. Rest stop, is it? Let's go see what they have in the vending machines~]

A bird or two would be fine as well, wouldn't it? ...I don't want to kill something like a swallow or a crow or something. That'd be... cruel, somehow <hello double standard chan>. ...That's true, but ...if it comes down to them living or me starving... But anyway, besides that, there's something more important about that, which is that birds like those would be too darn small. I'd need to find something with actual meat on the bones, like... I dunno. A duck, or whatever hideous version Makai has. Some sort of demonic duck.

My fingers tighten on the canteen as that thought turns sour after a few amusing seconds: Whatever "Billyak" was, it was definitely sentient <its sapient doofus>. Whatever. If there are animals that think...

I swallow.

...I ...I did say that I'd kill again if I had to.

But I think I'd prefer to go hungry for a little while longer, if the only animal around was one that spoke back to me <not if it was that creepy freak though>. Ugh and a half. Even though it's gross to just think about, I have to admit that it's still true. Killing and eating Billyak is an unpleasant idea, but it doesn't really make me feel bad in the way that doing the same to a cute little talking kitten or something would. Probably.

And now that I think about it, I could always try fishing. I mean, I know they're a thing in Makai; I saw the fishing boats in Vina, and I think Elis even told me that was what the town dealt in. Plus, it's gotta be a lot less complicated than actual hunting <right because you have that old rod from the gym>. Hey. Hey. You know what? People were fishing a few millennia before there anyone invented multi-thousand-yen rods and beige vests with too many pockets. And those guys didn't even have magic. So shut it.

Another sip of water wets my lips. After screwing the cap back onto the canteen, I put it away and stand up.

It's time to go find lunch.

[ ] Girl goes 'n flies over the prairie, lookin' for game.
[ ] Sounded like birds in th' bush here a bit ago, dinnit?
[ ] Might be it's easier t' find a stream, do a little anglin'.


New recommendation: Immortal Hounds ( http://kissmanga.com/Manga/Immortal-Hounds )
I can say, without hyperbole, that this is one of the best manga I have read in a very long time. It's some of the best grey morality I've seen out of manga in a long time, and virtually every character is likeable or enjoyable in some way. The story is strange and interesting, the action is great, and people aren't forced to be retarded for plot purposes.
It's important to mention, however, that it can take about 2-4 chapters to really hook you in. Before that point, it might seem like not much, but it'll be well worth it if you keep going.
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[x] Sounded like birds in th' bush here a bit ago, dinnit?
Pretty sure Sanae doesn't have a prayer of fishing successfully except maybe with magic, and she's not exactly in top condition to use that currently.
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[x] Might be it's easier t' find a stream, do a little anglin'.
Crossing my fingers...!
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[x] Might be it's easier t' find a stream, do a little anglin'.
Or the game hunting one, whatever. With how well this trip is going, no matter what we do we're going to end up catching some sentient sapient thing or killing some endangered species or fucking up somehow anyway, so just don't kill birds. I like birds.
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Called and writing!
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why was this ever a genre
(Same music as before!)
[ ♫: http://youtu.be/7cjEgovupTw ]
[ ♫: http://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=7cjEgovupTw ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/cmljf (if the above are blocked) ]

[Ю] Might be it's easier t' find a stream, do a little anglin'.

...And right now, I think I'm going to try fishing, first. See, while I do have magic available to me, it occurs to me that the kind of magic I'd need just to take down a bird would be something like... well, hunters use shotguns for that, don't they? I think they do. And it makes sense; you're better off saturating a big patch of air with lots of little shots than shooting one big bullet. There's a very good reason danmaku patterns are so big <quantity over quality>. Actually, that couldn't be more wrong. If you're painting, are you going to only stick to one color? Yeah, that's what I thought.

But that's also related to why going after a bird wouldn't be a good idea: I'd need to use danmaku to do it, and, well.

That's a bit flashy. And noticeable.


And some other reasons <anyway moving along>. Yes, moving along.

I could also go hunting for something less prone to flight. And if fishing doesn't pan out, then I might still do that. No; in fact, I will do that if I need to, actually. But...

Well, let's deal with that if it happens.

[...Aaaand, if you look out the left side of the cabin, you'll see even more prairies! First passenger to spot all the differences gets a free seat upgrade~]

For now, I launch out into the warm, warm right-about-noon air, and meander sorta mo-of-an for a while. I'm hoping that going this way will have me come across a few creeks or streams feeding into the big river. I don't want to have to double back into the mountains to find a stream, after all <one step forward two steps back>. I know, right?

If it hadn't been for the long and notably greener strip of ground crossing the plains, I could have probably missed the creek I noticed some kilometers off. Another couple of dull, searching-filled hours had passed before this particular patch of color in the distance caught my eye. The land had started growing a bit more richer and grassier, but this particular stretch was a paler, cooler green, interrupted by the odd tree.

Sure enough, the "different" color turns out to have been some kind of frosty-green grass lining a stream. I descend to around ten meters and drop my speed to something like a brisk jog. High enough to see a lot, close enough to see what I need, and slow enough to actually see.

"Trace on."

...Oh man, I'm glad I can do this. I'd need to get closer and come to a stop to actually see them clearly, but for now, the underwater currents resolve as long, winding blurry stretches of differing hues. There's a lot of overlap because there isn't too much "underwater" or "current" to speak of in a creek this size... but there's enough.

Five and a half kilometers of surveillance later, I finally get my first hit: a brighter-looking thing in the water, seemingly standing still in the water. The spell is turned off as I come down for a landing.

Walking alongside the small banks of the creek and peering into the water, I finally spot a small, dark shape, swimming in place. Must be going upstream, then. I cast a look back the way I'd come, and its lack of any remotely nearby mountains or even really tall hills.

"If you're trying to do the dragon thing, I think you're going to end up real disappointed about coming this way," I warn it. It doesn't look like any kind of koi I've ever seen, but maybe it thinks it's worth a try <trust me the odds suck>. And it's kinda ugly, as I see it up close. No shiny or colorful scales, but a lot of big, splotchy dark patches all over.

[Ohhhhhh, now I get it. This should be fun~]

This particular fish isn't really all that big, though—I'm looking for something that will feed me for more than a single meal. If I can find one like that, at least. Otherwise, I'll have to nab a bunch of smaller ones. Really hope I don't have to, since that'll be more work for the same amount of food.

Taking back to the air, I carry on like before, going vaguely mo along the stream with my spell on, watching the water closely.

[Whoa. Was that from a plane...?]

Occasionally I look around just to make sure I don't run into a tree or fly into a flock of demon geese or whatever. It's a pretty quiet day out, though, and nothing seems to present much of a hazard. So at least there's that.

Over the better part of the next hour, I start to see more fish in the stream. They're all about the same type as that first one: dark and not very colorful. Not artistically pleasing in the slightest <yeah those nails should stick up a bit more great idea>. Okay, okay, fine. Probably not a bad idea, from a survival standpoint, but still. Or maybe it's like peacocks, where it's only the guy or the girl or whatever that looks fancy.

They're a little larger than that first one I saw, but not by a whole lot. Maybe two to four centimeters longer? I could probably eat about ...two of these? Yeah, about two of these would do for lunch. Not that I'm any fisherman who could reliably eyeball this sort of thing, but that seems about right to my dumb eyes. For all I know it has terribly sharp bones and poisonous meat, too. Oh gods, I hope it's not some sort of freshwater fugu <what a cheerful scenario>. Well, it could be.

I'll find out sooner or later. One way or another.

(Pick one from each set.)

[ ] These'll do. Takes a lot. Takes off.
[ ] Might be there's bigger n' better.

[ ] Girl's got no time for sportin'. One big blast oughta blow 'em outta the water.
[ ] Bombin's no good, she thinks. But a spell'd still be good for doin' a proper catch.
[ ] It oughta be done by hand. A drop 'a magic to pull 'em onto the knife, one by one.


This ended up being much shorter than intended. My apologies.
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[X] These'll do. Takes a lot. Takes off.

We're already risking too much with this, let's not waste time.

[x] Bombin's no good, she thinks. But a spell'd still be good for doin' a proper catch.

Same as above, except that a bomb is too noticeable.
Sorry, Sanae, but Sanatsu Yoru is a last resort until you train a lot with it.
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[X] These'll do. Takes a lot. Takes off.

[x] Bombin's no good, she thinks. But a spell'd still be good for doin' a proper catch.

I cannot find fault in the above voter's arguments, so here we go!

Fish, Sanae! For a full stomach! I believe in you!
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[X] These'll do. Takes a lot. Takes off.

[X] Girl's got no time for sportin'. One big blast oughta blow 'em outta the water.

A bomb would be noticeable, but I think it'd be more effective for getting a meal, and if we leave quickly we could probably avoid being caught. I'd be fine with the other votes winning too, though.
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[X] These'll do. Takes a lot. Takes off.
[x] Bombin's no good, she thinks. But a spell'd still be good for doin' a proper catch.

Nice 'n easy now. Don't want to cause a ruckus.
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[x] These'll do. Takes a lot. Takes off.

[x] Girl's got no time for sportin'. One big blast oughta blow 'em outta the water.

I like these options.
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[X] These'll do. Takes a lot. Takes off.

[x] Bombin's no good, she thinks. But a spell'd still be good for doin' a proper catch.

Bombs are for when your back's to a wall. Save them.
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Called and writing!
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where seldom is heard
[∰] These'll do. Takes a lot. Takes off.
[ქ] Bombin's no good, she thinks. But a spell'd still be good for doin' a proper catch.

[ ♫: http://youtu.be/cMFx9ODzQ30 ]
[ ♫: http://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=cMFx9ODzQ30 ]

If I put a little more time and effort into it, I could probably find bigger fish. Maybe. Then again, for all I know, these are already full-grown. If they're swimming upstream, it'd stand to reason. I don't know Makaian fish life cycles, and maybe they're totally different. I'm not a marine biologist, and I've been completely cut off from the ocean for a few years, now <man i miss real seafood>. Don't remind me!

But I am hungry, and I am here. No sense in going much further downstream, at this point—I don't want to get too close to the river or the highway just yet. Yet.

So let's get to work!

I stand there on the banks of the stream, and spring into no motion at all.



...Man, I... I didn't really think this "actually catching the fish" part through very well <no you did not>.

[Are you sweating?]

Well, uh. Okay, let's think about this, then. Wading into the water is right out. I don't have anything to catch them with but my knife and/or my hands. I'm not skilled with the first and the second would end in no fish and a soggy Sanae. I'm not dressed for it and am in no mood to catch a cold.


It's only because I think that I probably would have heard about it or been dead from it by now that I'm not a little more concerned about some kind of reverse-"War of the Worlds" situation happening <no way am i dying on crap namek>. Yeah, no. Not here, not now.

...Where was I? Right, catching fish without any plan of how to get the fish out of the water and into my hands <kochiya the visionary>. ...Oh, shut up, will you <if youd listen mo>—It wasn't a request.


If I can't do this by hand, then that means I'm down to tools and magic. I'm a bit light on fishing tools, even improvised ones, so that leaves me with an obvious choice. I guess the simplest way would be to just replicate normal fishing methods, but...

"Her push is worse than her punch." I can't see the unhappy smirk that the hazy-looking girl reflected in the water makes, but I can feel it being made.

[...Have you always talked to yourself like this? Or maybe you're practicing to be a color commentator? Just hurry uuuuup~]

My specialties lie in air and wind and so on—not in force or precision. Because there is some crossover there, I could create a spell that replicated out of thin air, say, a fishing line. It would be a thin line of shaped, contained physical pressure; a string made of air that was as tangible as solid matter.

If I had most of a day to cast, and a few more to prepare it. And that would be if I had my haraegushi. At the moment, I'm looking at most of a week or more to do the same thing. All for a thin line of physical force. I'll restate: It's not my area of expertise.

Now, if you wanted to breathe underwater, or make something float, or clean off a shrine walkway really fast because the new Gundam show is premiering in five minutes and Kana-mama still won't buy a DVR? Then I'm your pick <too bad seed was trash>. Hey, everyone makes mistakes. ...Some admittedly dumber than others.

And since force is out and I have no tools, that means no fishing lines, no hooks, no nets, no pouches, and no spears. All the normal methods I can think of are no good, which means I'm going to need to get creative. Using air and/or wind, I need to get a fish—well, a lot of fish—out of the water and onto land. Preferably without making a huge commotion; otherwise I could totally just do some kind of big blast of air in the middle of the water and collect all the raining fish. That'd be irresponsible and dangerous, though <youve done worse>.

I crouch down on the low banks of the stream, and watch the fish swimming in place. They are moving forward, I realize. Slowly but surely. They occasionally jerk to one side or the other, out into a slower part of the current. Sometimes forward in a momentary surge. Almost all of them aren't even in within arm's-length range of the bank. I could try stretching out really far and grabbing a few, but I know I'd just end up in the water.

The problem is a really easy one to solve, if you just look at it from a too-simple perspective: Fish is in water. Fish isn't able to move a lot. Take fish out of water. Put fish on land. Repeat.

With that as my guiding mantra, I sit and plan and formulate. I go through about two or three different concepts before I hit on one that I think will serve me best—a twisting tube of laced-together air currents that sucks fish and water alike out of the stream, through the tube, and drops it onto the greener-than-usual grass at my feet. As a bonus, it reuses a huge amount from my salt/ash vacuum spell, so that's a lot less work I have to do. No need to re-invent the Kirby.

[Mmm... Probably got time for a little nap.]

Thanks to that, the mental side of the spell design process goes a lot quicker. In less than half an hour, I'm tracing out a star on a bare patch of ground about a meter or so from the bank. Taking a breath, I connect the final line of the star and empower it.

Nothing happens right away. Well, there's a faint stirring of breeze around where my hand is touching the star in the dirt, which is expected; this air-tube doesn't need to be painfully meticulous about containment, unlike the salt vacuum. The tunnel is takes a little bit of time to form, at first. But any moment now...


...it should connect with the stream, set the opening in front of a fish, and then activate the suction...


...cause a little more scattering of water than I'd like as it draws the fish up a little slower than I'd like <its like actually reeling in a fish though>, and drags it through the air, right over toooooohhh dammit I didn't think about the exit point.

["Gahhh!" Wait, can y—No, forget that! The carp are making their move! I knew the day would come!]

My cry of surprise was ech hing at all to worry about <except maybe your nerves>. Yeah, I... that was dumb. I was a lot more collected in a life-and-death situation a few days ago, but a few liters of water and a fish come flying at me, and I yell like a cockroach landed on a grade schooler? Careless and stupid.

[Oh... wait. OH. Taking care of lunch? Well then, this can easily be forgiven~!]

And I should also get some extra fish just in case I do something else I didn't mean to, and have to wander around some more, or something like that! Like, oh say... double what I was planning on getting? Yeah, double portions, ju~st in case. After all, I... um. I... huh?

I blink a few times, then shake my head and clap my cheeks. Jeez, still a little frazzled. ...Though I guess that's true; stocking up wouldn't be a bad idea. Shouldn't take me that much longer. Probably. Before that, it'd be a good idea to actually inspect my catch.
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The fish is only a little less boring and unattractive than it looked in the water. It twists and flops around on the wet ground, where it and the water my spell sucked up have destroyed the star I made <cant believe i didnt adjust iiiiiit>. Other than having a few more fins than I'm used to seeing, it actually looks pretty normal.

...It'd probably have attacked by now if it were a fugu. I hope. And it's not screaming at me to stop, or trying to attack me, or run away, or anything along those lines, so... Probably just a normal fish.

Withdrawing a blank ofuda from my pouch, I take a deep breath, prepare myself, and walk over to the fish. Kneeling down, I grab a hold of it. Or try to; it's really slippery <to nobodys surprise>. Yeah, okay. That one's on me.

I finally pin it on the ground, pressing its body flat against the grass. For a second, I stare at it, watching the gills flickering open and shut. It makes me think of looking at a window from the street, where the child inside has just discovered the wand that turns the blinds.

"Sorry about this," I tell it, and pick a spot on the struggling creature's complete lack of a neck. I'm working off of memories of the mackerel I'd get from the market, but it seems pretty close to where the right place should be.

The ofuda comes down. Head separates from body with the quietest sound. I don't look away. I don't close my eyes. I can't afford to be squeamish. Even though I'm right next to the rolling stream, I can hear the uncomfortably physical sounds of blood gurgling out of its neck.

I force myself to watch for a few seconds more, to steel myself against the sight. I've done worse. I'm not proud of any of it, but this and that were both necessary. I can't afford to be put off by this.

When the angry butterflies in my stomach threaten to overwhelm my poise, I put down the ofuda, and finally close my eyes. Pressing my palms together, I silently pray for the fish. It's the least I could do.

When I am done, the fish has not moved. Thankfully. However, it's bleeding out onto the grass. It's a pointed reminder to me that fish have organs just like any other living being—organs that are notably not present in the nicely presented filets at the market. I should probably get them out of there.

I'm... not looking forward to this.

The ofuda has already parted about a centimeter and a half of fish flesh before I pause. Watching blood start to drip out of the cut, I suddenly remember that not even ten minutes ago, I got myself in trouble by not thinking about what I was doing.

There is a fish belly that is being sliced open. I'm trying to remove a bunch of blood and organs—and maybe a skeleton, too. I really don't want to make a hideous crime scene out of this spot, especially since I need to do this several more times. I'm sure the locals have low standards for onje, but covered in blood and smelling gross as hell is not going to endear me to the Dis Municipal Watch. And it's likely to attract things this direction.

I'm already trying not to throw up from sheer revulsion over the sight of all this blood and the impending gross heap of guts and... stuff. More problems are not what I need.


Better get on that.

About twenty-plus dirt-filled minutes later, I wash my hands off in the stream, silently apologizing to the fish who are forced to swim through a cloud of dirt and grime. A few meters away, I've carved out a triangular trench—a trough, really—that starts from the edge of the streambank and goes back about another meter and a half. A long wedge of grass-topped earth lies beside it, ready to be dropped back in place once I'm done. It's not a perfect or elegant solution, but it was the closest I could get to that in the space of a few minutes, and I think it'll be effective.

[Huh~ Are we a budding civil engineer? Ohhhh, wait, wait, I get it~]

I try very hard not to think of it as some kind of bizarre mass grave <well its not>. I know, but <not yet that is>.

[It's a latrine!]

Why do I even listen?

Shaking my wet (but clean!) hands off, I awkwardly dry them on the grass and on the side of my pack. Would love to have that blow-dryer spell, but that needs a fire to work. I'm not to that point, yet.

Taking the fish over to the trench, I hold it above my makeshift waste disposal area and drag the empowered ofuda down its belly. I feel something shifting, and then—



oh gods the blood

and the I don't even know what that is

oh gods why are there even those colors in there this is


I voice my distress and bile right into the trough <thats a perfect 10 on placement its literally right in the middle>. Gods, I hate myself <me too>. I wish I could kill you <me too>.

Wiping my mouth, I get up from where I'd knelt on the ground. The sloppy heap of fish guts lies mostly in the trough. It's about half a meter away from the head, which had been the first thing I'd put into it. In my fingers, I'm still holding the ofuda, but the fish is, uh... <you flung it away> Oh. Yep, I see it now; over there, in the grass.

I scoop the remaining organs in, letting them rejoin their old roommates already in the dirt. Tucking the ofuda away for a moment, I walk over and pick the cleaned-out fish up off the ground.


It... it really doesn't look that bad anymore. If anything, it looks way, way closer to what I'm used to seeing on my cutting board. I've still got to get rid of the spine and the bones, and the meat is still pretty red with blood, but...

This is food.

It's most likely edible, and hopefully safe.

And I, a dumb little shrine maiden way the hell out of her element, stuck on Crap Namek, did it all by myself. Through trial and a lot of error, but...

I did it.

I feel proud about this <minus the hurling>. No, even with that, I... I really do feel pretty good about myself and my chances.

"...Each day, I'm getting stronger and stronger."

Maybe it's actually true.

Another couple hours pass.

I figure out quickly that I should wash these off after opening them up. I know that you don't want to cut open some organ of an animal when you're doing this part, but I don't remember which one. I assume that probably applies to fish, too, so even when I make good, clean cuts, I still scrub them off in the stream for a while afterwards. It helps get rid of all the blood, too.

I wash the cleaned-off chunks about a third of a kilometer downstream. I can just barely see my pack from there. After that, I slip the cleaned-up fish into the containers Keshti gave me, and set them in the water about a hundred meters upstream of where my fish-parts trough is. It's no substitute for ice, but it'll still keep the fish cool while I do my thing.

This would really be a lot easier if I had even a few simple things, I discover. A bucket. String of some kind. Some long sticks. I want to make sure each one is fully taken care of before I move onto the next. That's really, horribly, terribly inefficient, I know. But I don't know if I'm going to have somewhere that I can take care of them, later on. Not as much running water out where I was.

I find myself faintly annoyed with Breath of Fire. The fishing minigames did not adequately prepare me for this.

Still, I'm doing pretty well.

[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/lbbgd ]

[Sooo... I don't know what that is, but it's noooot a plane. ...Maybe take a look at it? Hey. Hey! Hellooo. HEY. HEYYYyy~"]

And naturally, things can't be allowed to keep going well <naturally>.

That's the thought that goes through my head as I'm setting down the tube for fish number seven. Some weird instinct makes me glance over my shoulder, back at the afternoon-lit prairie, and at the large shadow of a jet racing across it.

I reflexively look up at the orange-ing sky to try and find the jet. ...There is a total lack of jets. Or normal planes. Or that "aeriable" thing. Or people. Or birds.

Just the sky and some clouds.

("—they're invisible, save for the shadow—")


Well, at least I know sort of where I am, now <you mean in mortal peril>. I think so!

I act.

[ ] Lashes out. It won't 'spect a bite back. Lucky for'er, she ain't feelin' bad enough to be dumb enough to try.
[ ] Girl goes for the sky. Always used t' be that she felt safe there.
[ ] Goes makin' friends with Davy Jones. Water's dark from the air.


If you haven't been reading those new November stories (>>/gensokyo/13978), you really should!
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[☆] Goes makin' friends with Davy Jones. Water's dark from the air.

Let's not fly towards the giant, invisible death-bird please.

And that's a new trick from our follower, or at least being more overt about an old one...not sure how unsettled to be about the implications.

Is anyone else starting to wonder about the <angle-bracket text>? I'd been assuming it was something like Sanae's self-deprecating internal monologue, but she seemed to be having bits of a two-sided conversation this time. Maybe Makai's just wearing down her sanity faster than I thought.
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[x] Goes makin' friends with Davy Jones. Water's dark from the air.

What is that shadow over there?
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[x] Goes makin' friends with Davy Jones. Water's dark from the air.

The sky's no good at all. Let's keep to the water.
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Can't we just...hold still? Maybe it's friendly.

What, you don't talk to yourself sometimes?
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Käld und writeig!
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Hals und beinbruch!
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[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/lbbgd ]

[▒] Goes makin' friends with Davy Jones. Water's dark from the air.

The water isn't far away, something I'm almost ungrateful for—I don't even break stride as my hands fly down to my belt and hit the quick-release clasps, meaning that there is only a handful of tenths of a second in between my belt hitting the grassy banks and my body hitting the water with as small a splash as I can manage. Look out, fish.

Turns out "Making a small splash" is harder than it looks. Or sounds. A lot harder. As I sink underwater, it becomes very obvious that anyone can make jump into the water less loud—just do a jackknife instead of a cannonball—but actually being more quiet is impossible. In short, If it saw me, I'm probably screwed <how couldnt it have>. Yeah, I don't like my chances, there. There's one move I can make, and I don't think it's going to be enough.

But it's more than nothing at all, so why not? Decision made, I dig a hand into the soft, muddy bed of the stream, and pull myself closer to where I'd been fishing.

It's darker in the stream—I didn't notice that as much on the surface, probably because I'd gotten used to picking out the shapes of fish with my spell. I guess that's probably what drove me to jump in here, though; if it had been clean, clear water, I don't think this would have been my first choice <not a good spot for a canteen refill either>. Probably true. But right now, not as big a deal as distraction <or oxygen>. ...O-okay, that's a big one, too. I'll get to that in a moment!

[Oh, it's turning this way~ I think? Ah, definitely.]

Exhaling as little as possible, I mouth the words to my spell. This lets me find the long, twisting tube of air in the water more easily than if I'd just tried to go on regular sight alone. Underneath it, I sketch a quick star in the streambed. Pretty crappy place to do that, but it lasts long enough for the fishing spell to activate. One of the dark brown swimming shapes is sucked up the tub, and presumably spat out onto the ground. I have now either signed my own death warrant, or bought myself a distraction.

...Ohhhh. Oh no oh shit oh dear.

I really hope those weird, fake worm-ish-but-not-actually things don't die in water. Or float off. I'll be harder to see if they stay on, but if any of the ones on my shirt come off <white shows up pretty good in the dark>... Yeah.


Well, I can't really help it at this exact second. And oh gods my lungs are burning right now. That, at least, is something I can take care of while I wait to see if I'm going to get eaten or not.
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[ ♫: https://youtu.be/xuqI7yid3ew ]
[ ♫: http://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=xuqI7yid3ew ]

You are Highway Fourteen and right now there's this huge field all around. You've been here and there and all over it! Highway Fourteen gets around a lot, these days.

You do not exist. Highway Fourteen is real. You are Highway Fourteen.

You still do not exist. This means very little to you. It has meant very little to you for quite a long time, mostly because for you to get anything is a hopeless exercise. Mostly. But by and large, it's pretty hard for anything to mean anything to you! Highway Fourteen is still real. And you do not exist.


...That's oversimplifying matters, to be honest~

But never mind
that shit. Here comes Mongo.

Anyway, so Highway Fourteen is in a reeeeeaaaaally big field. There's not a lot of cover, but Highway Fourteen isn't bothered by that. You certainly aren't, even though you technically ought to be. You might recall something about this, but that's no good right now. A big, big shadow with nothing to cast it, flying right towards you? That's not good and you're basing that purely off instinct.


Highway Fourteen notes the odd similarity, and says as much.

—Oh, huh. She's gone, she is. That's a pretty neat trick~! ...Unless it was the same kind of thing that you did, in which case boy is she screwed. You can't say you regret doing that, but of course, you don't exist. Highway Fourteen would still make it preeeetty clear that this was not a game for beginners. Only for losers. There'd also be the issue of the fact that she can't really hear anything you say. Well, unless Highway Fourteen tries extra-super hard and then gets nowhere.

Like usua~l!

And then there's the crying that does not stop. You used to cry a lot. That's why you don't exist anymore. Highway Fourteen really needs to do something about that shadow. It's getting reeeeeal close.

That's a negative, shadow. The pattern is full.


...It isn't listeniiiiiiiiiing!


...Well, shit~

You fall down on your ass as nothing at all comes to a big, flapping landing.
Fwomp, fwomp! That's a familiar sound. Probably from home. Highway Fourteen thinks that's probably true. in fact, it's why Highway Fourteen is in this pickle. Like, ultimately. Not directly. That wouldn't make any sense at all!

Or it could. But that's probably not true. Statisticians agree~!

Even though that sound is familiar to you, Highway Fourteen is taken aback by how BIG the sound is. It's way bigger than the sound you know! That's probably why Highway Fourteen is so taken aback that it's fall-to-the-ground time again! The flapping has settled down a little, and shadows of small feathers drift to the ground, out on the edges of the enormous avian shadow hunched over nearby.

What a long, long neck it has~ Probably. Judging by the shadow, anyway. Highway Fourteen reeeeeeeeeeeeally wants to go ride that. It would be the hypest shit ever! Highway Fourteen just knows it. But Highway Fourteen chimes in, interrupting Highway

As Highway Fourteen is wont to do.

Fourteen to say that an invisible ride would be a laaaaaame ride. You agree; DC showed everyone how lame it was. Nobody listens, because you don't exist.

The neck, the neck, it curves and twists~ Searching this way and that~

Maaaaaybe it can hear Highway Fourteen? Or something. Highway Fourteen took a bath-ish thing just recently, though, so it isn't smelling Highway Fourteen, right?


Well, it's not important. Like most things~

...Although, while it is true that you don't exist, Highway Fourteen thinks that being discovered by this thing might be a bad plan in the long run. Not that Highway Fourteen can really plan. Or exist in the past or the future. But there is a firm certainty that this would be a bad thing and cause Problems. The kind with ominous overtones.

You don't like causing Problems. Especially the kind with ominous overtones. That's why you don't exist. It's also why Highway Fourteen is here, and why you are Highway Fourteen. You do not exist.

That is why you are here.


Ggggggwash. Ggggggwassshhh, wasshhhh. Rumbling, deep sounds, followed by brisk, sharp sounds. The shadow starts to move in your direction. Highway Fourteen might have been talking again. Shit. Highway Fourteen is almost as bad as she is, sometimes.

Carefully, nonchalant sidling-away motions are unexpectedly aided by a splash from the water. Highway Fourteen watches as the shadow's head looks over toward the noise. Something thumps to the ground a few meters away, wriggly-squiggly and flopping around. Hi, fishy~!

The head tilts this way, then that.

And then

Like, pow






Bye, fishy~!

That was fast. Highway Fourteen has been edging away, but stops as the head-shadow swings baaaaack around, and... riiiight past Highway Fourteen. Whew~

It's a liiiiittle bit spooky, this is. There was a fish, and then there wasn't. Not even a drop of blood. Some of the grass is torn and what is that wet squelchy crunching sound?

Oh wow.

Like a dog after leftovers!

Well, at least she doesn't have to worry about secret fish burial grounds. All those fish parts and chunks she chopped off and cut out are just, whoosh, disappearing into thin air. You might have felt sick about that, but not really. There's been worse! Probably. You don't know for sure, because you don't exist.

The huge bird-shadow thing finishes eating it all up. It makes some strange noises again, and looks to either side. Another noisy noise, and then Highway Fourteen almost gets knocked over as the wings spread and flap, flap, flap~


And awaaaaaaaay it goes!

You shield your eyes to watch it. That was ultimately pointless, since Highway Fourteen never once saw it. As expected of someone who doesn't exist: your ideas are terrible~

Anyway, it's flying away and away and awaaaaay.


A thought occurs to you. Highway Fourteen looks worried. And you're right to be worried. If she drowns...

Well. Highway Fourteen won't be in trouble, exactly.





...It wouldn't be a good idea to let it happen.


Now, where did that question come from?

Well, you know where. and you know why. You know exactly why. Nobody actually knows why.

You are Highway Fourteen.

You do not exist. Highway Fourteen is real. You are Highway Fourteen.

You still do not exist. And yet, somehow Highway Fourteen knows that she did not drown.

Time to go check for bodies~

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welcome now go home
The world is cold, wet, dark, and tense.

...Occasionally, a fish brushes against me. I don't react.

I've been hiding underwater for a few minutes, now... And I'm not dead. Everything is, strangely enough, going according to plan <right you totally planned to enter uh the uh> ...I think it was oppin <yeah that their territory>. Well, screw you, first off. And second, no. That was obviously not the plan. But it was very helpful to be reminded of where I was flying before this all happened in the first place.


Yeah. That's what I thought.

Another minute or so passes while I sulk. Another fish bumps into me, and then almost gets caught in my clothes. A slow, careful repositioning of one leg frees it. ...Thaaaat could have gotten very awkward. And dangerous; I can't afford to make a commotion in water that's this shallow.

[Hey hey~ Are we dead today? It's been preeeetty quiet over there. Everything's fine, now; double-cross my heart and hope to die~]

[ ♫: http://youtu.be/=6Yh4Dtdq_-o ]
[ ♫: http://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=6Yh4Dtdq_-o ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/mlwwf ]

I can't stay in here forever, though. The breathing spell will stay active for quite a while longer, but the temperature is another issue. I don't want to be around when the braver fish start trying to take nibbles off me, either. I have to check. I fumble for my mirror to take a look over the banks and find nothing but hip.

...Right. My belt's on the shore. And now that I think of it, I'd have to get my hand a good height above the level of the ground above—This thing is invisible. There's only a shadow, right?

Oh gods, I don't even have my ofuda <fffffuuuuuuuuck> Shit.

Well. No help for it, then.

Clinging to the sides of the streambed, I lift my head carefully out of the water, face-first. The change in light level makes me squint, so I spend a little bit in the cooler air, just getting used to it again before lifting my head slowly higher.

[Oh, cool! Nobody has to drown today. That's great~]

The sound of water running off my head and dripping onto the stream's surface is just barely covered by the sound of the stream itself. It's about ten full minutes of slow rising before I get to where I can see above ground level.

...No immediately obvious big huge shadows on either side of the stream. That's good. Nobody and nothing else present, either. That's good, too. And... belt's still where I dropped it. Pack is still upright and doesn't look rifled through. A definite plus, both of those. Nothing and nobody evident on the plains. ...No, I take that back. There's a herd of something way off to the ...pir-of-set, I think? Yeah.

The coast is as clear as I'll get. Great.

With a loud splashing, I haul myself fully upright, and climb out of the stream. It wasn't as cold as those mountain streams were, but I also didn't jump into those fully clothed. Everything is cold and wet and clinging. Ugh!

I wring out clothing and hair as best I can, and curse myself out for not bringing a change of clothes. I don't think I'm going to be traveling much further, today. I need cleaner water, and then some good cover where I can build a fire and dry my everything off.

...At least it's warmish out, so it's not utter misery. Still I really need to get dry <sure would be nice if you had that towel huh>. Oh, when I get to Dis, the first thing I'll is buy a godsdamned towel and call it Doug, just you wait. Or Ford. I absolutely swear it. Even if they tell me they have a magical portal waiting for me and everything, I'm going to go buy a towel <dont worry they wont>.

"Good. Then I'll have all the time I want to pick a decent one," I snarl. I give my hair another good wring, and then pull it back into a rough ponytail, stuffing it through my snake charm. My belt gets fastened back on, and feeling it about my hips again already makes me more relaxed.

[Back in bedraggled action, huh? Definitely not drowned? Great, great~ Oh, got a leaf there.]

Walking back to the streambanks, I fe wn onto me by the wind or something. Brushing—and then flicking, when that doesn't work—it off of me, I kneel down, and retrieve the containers from the stream. The fish is cool and clean and undisturbed.

"...Well, how about that?" I was expecting something to go wrong with that, I really was <oh dont worry im sure something will>. This is Crap Namek. I'm sure it will. But right now? It's not.

As I put away the semi-dried-off containers in my pack, I finally notice that the fish trough had been messily emptied in my absence. I scoop whatever ...scraps... are left back in, and then set the wedge of red earth back in place on top of it. It's a crude burial, and after the oppin's feeding, just about desecrated, too. I wash my hands off, and then offer a silent prayer of thanks once more.

I leave my ill-fated fishing grounds in about the same way I came: flying low, and relatively slow. Not the same direction, though. I'm pointed... uh. I can't remember the in-between diagonal directions on the compass. There was a convention for them, and I've forgotten. But I'm going mostly an and a little bit mo, which should take me out of oppin hunting grounds as soon as possible. The low speed bothers me a lot, but I'm in no mood for catching something because of these wet clothes. Stupid, stupid wind chill factor.

I stay on that heading for a while, long enough that my clothes go from a little moist to just uncomfortably damp. Even cold but dry in some parts. The not-worms' disguise seems to be holding up, which is a real relief. I don't think I lost any, but it couldn't hurt to add a few more before I get to Dis.

As the light of day turns slowly to the light oranges of late afternoon, my path skews more mo and my altitude rises. It's still a bit chillier than usual, but I need to be able to see further. Water and a spot to make camp are my goals.

The plains start growing hilly again, but far more gradually than before. Light, gentle mounds and hills; nothing even like a small mountain. It's kind of nice, I guess.

I come across the barest excuse for a creek—a brook, really—dribbling its way through the low point in a field, and I'm able to refill my canteen. I don't stay long, though, as I'd seen a wandering pack of something lean and wedge-shaped coming this way a few kilometers off. I don't know what they were, but I wasn't going to stick around and find out.

A nice, long stretch of forest is encountered another hour and a half later. After a little bit of scouting, I judge it Safe, I Guess. I get a fire going, somewhat larger than I normally make it.

While the long, thin, dark amber rays of twilight poke between the trees, I take a couple of sticks I'd gathered for firewood, and shave them clean. After putting a point on them, I spear a fish on one and cook it over the fire. At last, I've finally been able to apply something I learned from reading manga to my journey through Makai. It takes a few tries, finding the best way to skewer the darned things so that they stay still and don't flop over on the stick.

I cook only one, at first. I want to get it just right.


It's a little uneven in some parts, which I figure out is due to my positioning of it by the fire leading to uneven exposure. Some parts end up a little more cooked than others, as a result.

But when I take that first hesitant bite...



I can't stop crying

It's really, really good but

Not enough to make me cry

No it's not even that good I mean it's good but

I start to laugh.

I sniffle, sob, and choke out a laugh.

I feel so



...so good right now.

In this terrible world, this terrible person has done something for herself, by herself.

And, as another bite of fish confirms, she didn't fuck it up.

The heat of the meat. The slightly rubbery skin. The scales, crunchier than I expected. The too-hot juices, just shy of burning the tongue.


"It's really, really, good."

I rub my eyes with a drying sleeve, and cry, and laugh, and do it all over again.

When I go to sleep that evening, there's a warmth inside me that isn't just from dinner.

[ ] Something Scattered
[ ] Something Solid


Has anyone had any technical problems with the music at any point (whether youtube or tindeck or whatever)? If there's anything wrong, annoying, strange, or that could use improvement, I'd like to know. In the mean time, I hope you're all listening and enjoying~
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[x] Something Scattered

I quite enjoyed the Koishi POV. It felt very her, whimsical and scatterbrained but still with the sense of half-forgotten loss and melancholy beneath the surface. Latter's something that gets glossed over in a lot of depictions, but I've always thought it was an important part of her character. Damned if I haven't been trying to puzzle out more significance to the "Highway Fourteen" thing, though.

Haven't had any notable problems with the music, though you've got a broken youtube link in the last post.
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Happy Sanae is precious! Both to me and K, it seems.

[x] Something solid

No more scars, please.
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Her depiction is great, I agree.

She really gives that 'It ain't easy being a nomad on the road of life' feel. Being sane enough to know that you don't have a home to return to, and never will, it's enough to drive you insane, you know?
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Pic related.

[x] Something Solid

>you don't have a home to return to, and never will,
Uh, but...she does.
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Even if she could retain her sanity long enough to return, even if that information hasn't been forgotten or overwritten, all that awaits there is the sister she abandoned. Guilt is one hell of a drug and so is despair-as Sanae learnt not long ago.
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¡Finalizado y escribiendo!
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What they said!
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remember to be thankful~
I really hate to have to do this to you all, but I'm pushing back this update another week, largely because I haven't thought about the next part of the story for a very long time, and don't have a good mental picture of what things should look like, how they should go, the way Dis should appear, and so on.

In the mean time, have a good Kaoru Day, and don't buy anything on Black Friday. I'll see you all next week.
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Anyway, as long as it isn't dead, we'll wait. And even then.
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gonna be a great day
[☀] Something Solid

It's as I drink in lungfuls of air after my morning's hoarse scream that I realize today will be different. Each panting breath doesn't cool my throat like it normally would <well a little bit but not the same>.

The surge of waking panic fades soon enough, and I'm able to think a little more clearly as I stand up and rub my eyes. I realize I'm not feeling the same morning chill as before—the aches and soreness, usually felt alongside the cooler-than-I'd-like air, are on their own.

In other words, it's almost pleasant.

As I go about my rituals, I look at the sky through the trees, where the last bits of the night's purple sky are being slowly chased out by the morning blue. More than the sky, I'm starting to think the actual color of light changes with the time of day, too <thats ridiculous>. No, that's Makai.

Or maybe it's morning and my brain's not fully in gear. That's always an option.

[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=CC-47m-JHi0 ]
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/CC-47m-JHi0 ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/mjtyl ]

The fish has cooled down since yesterday, but the taste—familiar from last night, yet still a little foreign to my tongue—still brings a smile back to my face.

"Each day I'm getting stronger and stronger," I say, after taking the time to thoughtfully chew the first mouthful. This phrase, this little affirmation... it's becoming part of my morning as well, and I don't think I dislike it at all.

[Thanks for coming through with that, by the way! Maybe a little soy sauce would help, but we can't have it all, right~?]

Breakfast is short and simple, but my mood is much more positive by the end. It sours a little by the time I've finished cleaning up the campsite.

"It's definitely warmer."

I remember mornings like this, at both edges of summer. They start out quite pleasant, like it is right now. Not humid, not chilly, not foggy. A few drifting clouds, like the ones I see here and there. Bright and sunny, like i—well. It's bright, at any rate.

And when the day starts off this nice, it's only going to get warmer and warmer.

Directing a frown to the an, where an intense corona peeks over the edges of kilometers-distant reddish mountains, I can't help but think that it's only right for this world of demons to be so strange. They have to deal with bizarre things like that <they live under a tsundere sun>. Yeah, but I can see the appeal wearing off after a few centuries. Most manga series don't run that long.

Smirking to nothing and no one, I pack up the last of my things and head off. I ease back a tad on the air-shield effect once I'm in flight. Without my haraegushi and a connection to my mamas, I'll have to settle for a fan instead of an A/C spell. It's going to get hot, today.
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It's so godsdamned hot.

All of my terrible predictions came true. All of them! It got brighter and hotter and ugh. The only reason I haven't sweated clear through my clothes is the air rushing over me as I fly ever mo. It makes the trip noisier, but at least it's more breezy as well. Kinda like riding without your helmet <which ive totally never done or anything>. Not once ever. Especially not in the miserable burning days of summer.

And it's not even noon yet. At least I'm still managing. Weather like this makes me really grateful for magic.

The uneven plains, now more like a sprawling landscape of hilly fields than flat, wide-open grasslands, continue unabated ahead of, behind, and beneath me. I'm just glad that they don't seem to be turning back into the mountains and foothills I was flying around earlier in the... in the week <it cant have been that long>? No, it pretty much has, I think.

Wow, now that I'm deliberately trying to recall it, I can't actually say with one hundred percent accuracy just how many days I've been in Makai. That's... disturbing. I'll have to figure that out before I sleep tonight. Don't think I'd be able to, otherwise.

[...californium, and fermium, berkelium, and also mendelevium, einsteinium, nobelium...]

I took a break a few hours after leaving camp to do a quick and dirty overhaul of my appearance. I figured that the way things have been going, there's no possible way I'm going to arrive in Dis looking all cool and elegant. That was probably the goal when I did my little transformation sequence just outside of Vina, but right now it's a long-lost dream <as long as you can pose weird you can still be a jojo>. True, but that's not the same kind of cool and elegant I'm looking for.

The overall assessment I took of myself came back... well, pretty crappy. I've still got healing cuts and bruises, though they're looking really good, now. But since Elis' house, my hair's not seen shampoo, a brush, or even a comb, my clothes haven't been given more than a primitive scrubbing in a couple creeks along the way, the heat is making me sweat, and my attitude hasn't been the best.

All in all, pretty much exactly what I should look like, according to Elis. An onje shouldn't look too nice; it gets people wondering about you. However, any girl can tell you that "scruffy traveler" doesn't work for women like it can for men. So fine, best to settle for looking dinged-up; that wasn't going to require much acting on my part. But what I was more worried about—and the main reason I made that stop in the first place—was the not-worms I had on my clothes.

Now, showing up at a security checkpoint with clothes literally crawling <slithering> with some sort of weird concealment or disguise magic? At best, onje are a weird enough mix of people that something like that'd be within what the guards <the watch i think she called them> okay, the Watch, fine. It won't be too surprising to them. But at worst... I dunno, maybe it's just because I grew up being constantly reminded by society to not to stick out <so much for that>, but I don't want to show up in front of the cops wearing something that looks weird and shifty. Not only is it a little suspicious, it's not ridiculous to say that it'll probably be memorable.

I murdered someone a few days ago. Memorable is not something I want to be, right now.

To that end, I recreated the initial scrap-screening procedure I did with the UFOs outside of Vina, setting up multiple circles to deprive the not-worms of mana, and looking for which ones had been attached to especially small pieces. While I was waiting for each of the circles to finish, I rummaged through the bag of UFOs, and finally managed to find all 7 of the small pieces I'd taken a not-worm from before, and set them aside. Or as much as you can set floating junk "aside".

Still have no idea what that's all about <possibly the incident>. Well, no duh! That goes without saying. But what kind of incident involves ancient, blessed junk and scrap? Which floats. I really do pity Reimu, sometimes.

Getting the not-worms to jump back onto the floating junk wasn't too hard—I just stripped down, put a circle around myself, and inside of a few minutes, there were seven little UFOs drifting around me. They got stuffed into one of the boxes Keshti provided (which have really been seeing a lot of unintended re-use). After re-dressing, I'd checked the circles. Overall, I'd isolated five more pieces of minutely-sized scrap.

Unlike last time, I didn't start wearing these—but I did stuff those UFOs in with their seven cousins I'd been wearing. Sure, I want all of those off me and put away at the moment. But if something goes wrong, I want to be able to turn those UFOs into disguise-clothing without wasting any time. Can't hurt to have more on hand, too. I hope.

And if all goes well in Dis? Then at least I'll get a sneaking suit out of this whole catastrophe.

The whole process went pretty smoothly. Thankfully. I re-tied my ponytail with the snake charm, pinned the frog charm to the inside of my vest <sorry suwa mama>, stuffed the hair tube into a pocket on the backpack, shucked off my sleeves again because Elis suggested it and also it's too bloody hot for them, wear my vest a little looser, and hitched my skirt up a bit. Not scandalously high—it's hard to be scandalous when the thing goes about shin-high to begin with.

I don't know how much this'll all help, but it should do at least a little. I need every edge I can get.

Lunch is fish again, not that I mind in the slightest. I think about sparing a little of my salt to give it some more flavor, but decide against it. It tastes just fine as it is. Much more like normal fish from Earth, but I can taste a little something like that chasiylon I had. Besides, even unrefrigerated, it'll still be fine for as long as it lasts.

I eat sitting on the edge of an involuntary cliff: throughout the decades, centuries, or what have you, a long, long, looong canyon of sorts has been cut into the ground by means of a gradual sinkhole. By the way the fallen earth is slumped against the closest edge, I'd guess a few meters of ground crumble away and fall into this canyon every now and then. A little creek trickles down along the floor of the canyon. I guess that's the culprit.

High above, in the warm blue sky, I see people flying by. I wave. They don't stop for me.

That's just fine.

I toss away the fish bones into the canyon, and say my thanks before moving on.

Almost half an hour after lunch, I start to see farms—not many, at first. One here, another a kilometer or so away. But they increase in number very quickly, with more showing up behind every hill I pass. Eventually, they start showing up on the hills, getting bolder and bolder about climbing up the slopes the more mo I go. Mostly not orchards, thank you very much; lots of ...crops of some kind. I'm no farmer, but I know what nice long rows of plants mean.

More people in the sky, too; some close, some far. They're all heading the same direction I am. I'll take this as a sign that I'm definitely going the right direction.

[So's you know, I'd offer to play I Spy, but I dunno how well it'd go. Offer's always open, though~!]

Below, I start to see little roads, paths, start to take shape between the farms. From footpaths to wheel-ruts to broad dirt roads... and in the distance, I can see that they've joined up with the red-stone highways I saw around Vina and the Makelot. Power lines, too, even if there aren't too many. More occasionally, a single-wire line—the telegraph, I suppose.

Lots of wagons. Lots of carts. People in the fields. For all that this place has been horrible to me, it's a strange reminder that it's just a world, like any other.

I still want to go home.

The increasing density of infrastructure suggests I'm nearing Dis, and sure enough, it finally appears about thirty minutes later. At this distance, it's not much: a large, tall brown wall surrounds what seems like a fairly small city—then again, the high end of my scale is Tokyo, so that's an unfair comparison. There are several towers and tall buildings that poke above the wall, which surprises me. Vina's architecture hadn't left me with high expectations.

Another five minutes reveals that the city is actually on a huge plateau that stretches an. As I get closer and closer, the plateau gets higher. Still too far off to really get a good look at it—maybe thirty kilometers or so...?

Activity all around is getting more lively. I can count at least five... no, six other people in the sky right now, and that's without looking behind me. Way off to the pir, I can see the red-stone highway that traveled along the Makelot splitting off and traveling out towards the city. I know it's the same one, because I can juuuust see the blue of the Makelot from here.

Somehow, I feel like I should be a little more excited about this. Right now, I just feel... relief, really. I got here in one piece. I haven't been caught or captured yet, let alone killed. I'm thankful just to literally be here. It's not something I can really take for granted, these days.

Closer to the city, maybe fifteen or twenty kilometers out, I can see a lot of roads merging together, including another red-stone highway from out an. Right where they all meet up are a few well-sized buildings and a few warehouses, all by the side of the road. A handful of smaller ones, as well. And unless I'm mistaken, there's signage pointing anyone who happens to be flying where I am over in their direction. They don't bother with words, just easily-discerned pictures of food, uh... grains and farm animals? And what looks like boots, packages, a wheel, and a hammer.

I cannot tell anyone at home about advertising to flying people. Especially not Kana-mama. Or Reimu.

[ ] Girl heads on down for a spell. Likely a tradin' post, from th' sound of it.
- [ ] Somethin' on her mind... ______, to be exact. (write-in; must specify what to look for, ask about, etc.)
[ ] Just presses on. Big city's what she's after. Roads're only gettin' busier.


I'm not really happy with this, but the update has waited long enough.

>broken youtube link
Crap, you're right. It shouldn't have the = in there. Sorry about that!
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[x] Just presses on. Big city's what she's after. Roads're only gettin' busier.
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[X] Just presses on. Big city's what she's after. Roads're only gettin' busier.

I'm probably forgetting something, but from what I recall Sanae's business to take care of (finding Elis's friends, etc.) would all be within the city itself.
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[X] Just presses on. Big city's what she's after. Roads're only gettin' busier.


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[x] Girl heads on down for a spell. Likely a tradin' post, from th' sound of it.
I want to see the reaction she gets from civilized people in a small environment before entering the city itself.
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That's a good idea.

[x] Girl heads on down for a spell. Likely a tradin' post, from th' sound of it.
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come one come all
[₪] Just presses on. Big city's what she's after. Roads're only gettin' busier.

...No, forget it. Dis is literally right in front of me. It took me too long and through too much heartache and suffering to get here. I'm ready to get there, already. So I let the little... townlet, or whatever it is, pass on by. If there's something I need to buy, I can probably do it in Dis if I really have to.

Minutes pass as I cruise through the sky as quickly as I safely can. I feel that worrying little tickle in my throat appear now and then, which is my sign to ease up on the figurative throttle. But I'm never too far behind that point as I streak towards the city.

[...Wow, that's an actual, live, for-real city, huh? Looks a lot nicer than everything else has so far... I think~]

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/Ms1Z3RErm-A ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=Ms1Z3RErm-A ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/uzpoi ]

And... there, uh. ...There is an awful lot of traffic on and above these roads, I'm starting to notice. Lots and lots of people flying, riding, or walking the red highway that stretches out from that little shopping center <the wrongest possible word but i think maybe the only right one> and goes on up to the city.

I get the feeling that there might be something going on that I don't know about. Nothing bad, I think—the atmosphere is too relaxed for that. People are chatting freely, talking. Laughter, from somewhere nearby.


But That sound brings me up short. "Was... was that a train whistle?"

It sure as heck sounded like one. A long way off, too, but... no, I'm pretty sure that was the sound of a train. Like, not the commuter train that took me to school, but an old steam-driven engine, the kind I used to really like <wait elis mentioned this>. ...Huh, did she? That sounds a little familiar, but I ca—

"Pardon, ma'am; comin' by!"

A man's voice calls out from... uh, I'm not sure where, exactly <up and behind>. Oh! I drift to the left a little, just in time to avoid a small pack of fairies that zooms by. There's about four of them, and they're dressed a lot nicer than most fairies I'm used to. One of them raises their hand after the fact—either an apology or a thanks, not sure which <or something rude>. Doesn't really look rude, but hey, it's Makai. Intuition's not good for everything.

I watch them fly ahead, no doubt going to Dis like everyone else. I'm struck with a sudden, oddly familiar feeling of urgency as I watch, like I don't want to be too late to catch a movie or a show, or something. I continue on, but the feeling doesn't make sense for a minute: It's a city, after all; how can you be too late in getting to a city?

Then I look again, behind me, to my sides, above, and below.

Lots and lots of people. All of them going to Dis.

...Dis has pretty big walls. Which means you can't walk in from just anywhere. And that probably means gates, like a castle or a stadium or s—.


[Huh? Hey, slow dooowwwn!]



There's no gate down here, but there's definitely a line. The back end of it is currently almost half a damn kilometer from the base of the big road that goes up the side of the huge, sloped plateau in a series of bridges and switchbacks. Carts, wagons, and what I think must be a few primitive trucks or something all trundle up the hillside road at a steady pace. From down here, I can just make out the upper half of the dark, burnt-brown stone walls of Dis.

None of that is really what I'm concerned with right now, because the line of people on foot is long, the air is dusty, the smells are strange, and the heat is terrible.

The line <more like a long thin crowd> that is composed of myself and too many other people to count of various shapes, sizes, colors, and species inches along a sturdy, well-traveled red cobblestone road. We're supposedly moving ever closer to the base of the plateau, but it's at a speed that feels so slow we might as well be going in reverse.

I am officially not having a great time out here.

[Just stand in someone's shadow or something~ Should be second nature by now, no?]

Heaving a sigh, I curse the heat under my breath for the eleventh time and look around at the scenery which has, I am unsurprised to note, changed not at all.

There's a ton of people. There's a city on a hill. There's me. There's a wide, red road. There's well-fenced farms on both sides of the road. There are fields on those farms, most all of which have already been harvested of whatever they were growing. There's the odd grazing animal here and there, including a mutant yak or two, what looks like a really hairy horse, and three burly, mean-looking two-legged bird-ish things. If a chocobo lost all its cuteness, grew about twice its usual size, worked out in a gym constantly, and had a surly, irritated look to its face, it'd kinda look like these. I've seen a few go by, hauling carts; they move pretty quick.

The people around me haven't exactly given me a wide berth, but at the same time I can definitely say that they're being generous with respecting my personal space. The fairy child ahead of me keeps making weird faces at me, but he's about the only one who's doing anything overt.

...Still not quite over the idea of fairy children, really.

In Gensokyo, fairies are just a literal force of nature. They spring to life, fully formed, like that one Greek goddess. They don't really age in the same way humans do—if at all—and they don't have a lifespan in the same way that humans do. And as far as I know, they don't have families or children.

But something tells me that this little punk with the purple wings who won't stop making faces is the child of the two older fairies right next to him. The hair on her is the same shade of blue as the boy, and the man looks exactly like I'd expect this kid would as an adult—nose, jaw, wing pattern, and all. Plus, they're holding his hands <the master detective at work>. Watson was never as much of a dick, though <but youre not holmes remember>. I, uh. ...Damn.

Well, whatever. Maybe it's not conclusive proof, but it's enough for me.

[Hmm... I wonder if Dr. Seuss ever came here?]

Another sigh. Another curse, but quieter, this time.

If nothing else, this is almost, almost kind of nice. Kind of familiar. Being on my own in the woods was a little lonely. Not like there's anything they can do to help me, but in a way, it's nice to have other minds I can see around <but what minds cant you see>. Uh... dunno, really. Weird qualifier to add, now that I think about it. I mean, yeah, there was that bird, but that doesn't count.

Someone a short ways ahead laughs at something. Everyone's chatting, or busy, or busying themselves.

Except for me, anyway.

(First and second options are mutually exclusive. If you choose the second, please select no more than 4 sub-options.)

[ ] And it'll stay that way. Keep it quiet, keep it simple.

[ ] Girl sure ain't gettin' any less bored just standin' around.
-[ ] Heat's killin' her but hard. Gotta be somethin' for it, she figures.
-[ ] Dude walkin' up the line, sellin' somethin'. Might have a glance.
-[ ] Them boxes might tumble if that cart jostles good. Keep an eye peeled.
-[ ] Kid's been doin' them faces long enough. Get 'im back but good.
-[ ] Lady in pinstripes don't look to be a fan of waitin' neither. What's up?
-[ ] 'Nother of them ornery birds is gettin' fed. Those teeth it's got?
-[ ] Naw, ain't no way that's a Walkman. Girl's just gotta take a look.
-[ ] Somethin' poked ya just now; from behind, felt like. Someone funnin'?
-[ ] Couple'a folks nearby are havin' it out. Seems like it's comin' to a head.


...I could have sworn I called it on Thursday, but apparently that only happened in my head. Apologies.
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[x] And it'll stay that way. Keep it quiet, keep it simple.
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[x] Girl sure ain't gettin' any less bored just standin' around.
-[x] Heat's killin' her but hard. Gotta be somethin' for it, she figures.
-[x] Dude walkin' up the line, sellin' somethin'. Might have a glance.
-[x] Them boxes might tumble if that cart jostles good. Keep an eye peeled.
-[x] Somethin' poked ya just now; from behind, felt like. Someone funnin'?
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[x] Girl sure ain't gettin' any less bored just standin' around.
-[x] Heat's killin' her but hard. Gotta be somethin' for it, she figures.
-[x] Kid's been doin' them faces long enough. Get 'im back but good.
-[x] Lady in pinstripes don't look to be a fan of waitin' neither. What's up?
-[x] Naw, ain't no way that's a Walkman. Girl's just gotta take a look.
-[x] Somethin' poked ya just now; from behind, felt like. Someone funnin'?

May as well see what some of these lead to.
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>If you choose the second

[x] Girl sure ain't gettin' any less bored just standin' around.
-[x] Heat's killin' her but hard. Gotta be somethin' for it, she figures.
-[x] Kid's been doin' them faces long enough. Get 'im back but good.
-[x] Somethin' poked ya just now; from behind, felt like. Someone funnin'?
-[x] Naw, ain't no way that's a Walkman. Girl's just gotta take a look.
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[x] And it'll stay that way. Keep it quiet, keep it simple.

I'm petty as fuck.
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[x] And it'll stay that way. Keep it quiet, keep it simple.

We are, uh, technically wanted for murder, billyak rustling, and possibly being an accessory to whatever Smokey did. In addition to being a scruffy onje.

And we are definitely not traveling with an imperceptible companion. But if we were, I'd be getting a little antsy right now about just how long her gimmick will be able to hold up. Makai seems a lot more advanced than Gensokyo when it comes to detection magic, and this is probably a real no fooling security checkpoint coming up...
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Oh, poo, you guys are no fun. Writer hands you a list of interesting scenes and you pick none of the above? No fun at all.
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"None of the above" was offered as its own valid choice, though. Fell's writing is generally good, so I have faith that it is being offered for a reason and all choices will lead to interesting things!
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Calling it for, uh...


...Well, this'll be an interesting vote merge.
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...and it'll be another week because a whole bunch of crap happened all of a sudden this weekend, and this is going to be a hefty update, I think.

The only saving grace is that my new keyboard arrived. It's a right pain in the ass trying to write a story when you have a busted PageDn/End key, let me tell you.
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File 14506743533.gif - (235.09KB, 294x432, a christmas miracle hinacle.gif)
a christmas miracle hinacle
I had forgotten that weekends (and weekdays, but especially weekends) during a major holiday are not the same thing as normal weekends when you can get a bunch of writing done. Sure am remembering that now.

Updates will resume on Christmas or I'll cut my head off with a chainsaw.
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Chill, man. I'd hate to find out that you've fell into depression!
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File 145111158018.jpg - (51.65KB, 500x327, not even like this but like this a little.jpg)
not even like this but like this a little
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/Ms1Z3RErm-A ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=Ms1Z3RErm-A ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/uzpoi ]

[&] (an elegant clay tapestry)

Luckily, I don't have to. Or, in another way, I already am. I'm here, moving slowly forward along with the crowd. I don't need a DS to mess around on, I'm already plenty fascinated by what's going on all around me. Seeing so many weird creatures all around, it's like that city from Star Wars <cloud city>. No, no, first movie <mos eisley>. That's the one!

...Climate's about right for it, too. Somehow, a fraction of a sun instead of two doesn't make it any cooler <stupid makai and its stupid everything>. I'd kill for a hat right now. ...All right, maybe not.

I jerk suddenly as something hits me in the back, between the shoulders—something small, fast, and pointy. It feels like getting shot with a larger, harder airsoft pellet with hard corners. A few people glance my way at the yelp I make, but it doesn't get much more of a response than that. Rubbing the painful sore spot, I crane my head back, and then turn around.

[Oh-oh, do we have troublemakers?]

No marks on my vest, nothing buzzing around, and nothing on the ground—that I can see, anyway. There's a whole lot of legs and feet and people behind me. Nobody trying hard not to look guilty either. ...Well, whatever. I just hope I didn't get stung. It wouldn't surprise me at all to find out that Makai has something that make Japanese wasps look tame and cute <crap namek never disappoints>. Yeah, not in that way, at least.

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/-UCwHS3hCq8 ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=-UCwHS3hCq8 ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/xqzyv ]

Time passes.

By which I mean a couple of loud, noisy minutes pass while I and the thousands of fairies and demons and other people trudge along at a pace that's within spitting distance of an old man's shuffle, but manages to just barely outpace that somehow.

Not as smelly as you'd think, either. Sort of like the farms. Maybe their cows don't fart.

...Still can't believe that's an actual cause of greenhouse gasses. That should be a gag comedy answer, not a legitimate explanation.

It must be my smirk that gets the fairy child with the insect-ish wings interested in making faces at me again. With nothing better to do than watch the farms to either side of the road slowly pass, I decide to indulge him just a bit. Thankfully, he doesn't seem to be the kind that gets shy when someone starts responding.

At least in this way, I am pleased to see that fairy kids are just like normal human kids, because it's just like dealing with little kids who get taken along to the shrine: you need to play it off like it's nothing, like you're not interested. Exaggerate everything. Be silly. Be friendly <i think you literally just described a clown>. ...Wow, huh. I'm not even wrong.


This fairy kid, all just-under-a-hundred centimeters of him, is giggling and playing along in no time at all as the absurdity of the faces we trade back and forth continue to escalate. His parents glance my way a few times but don't seem too panicked. However, his mother does move a little closer to him, and looks back my way more often then the father does.

At one point, after we've both come to a temporary truce and the laughter has receded, he fixes me with a long, thoughtful look for a while before asking me, "You an onje, miss?"

"...I, ah. I suppose I am, yes." The sweat on my brow suddenly isn't all from the heat.

The boy nods sagely. "Yep, thought so."

"Ah... Did you, now?" Oh gods, am I standing out that badly?

"Sure are, ma'am. 'Cause see, mom always says onje are filthy, shifty-looking humans, right? And you're all grubby, you been lookin' around a lot, and you don't got horns or wings or nothin' like normal folk." And he says this all with a proud smile <least im not standing out>.

[...Kids just say the darndest things, don't they~?]

Neither of his parents speak a word; I think they're too shocked. I can see their shoulders tensing up; his mother has frozen up so much I'm surprised icicles don't start forming. It's a miracle she keeps walking at all.

Honestly, I'm in almost the same boat. Back home, this would be met with a glassy smile and false politeness while everyone tried to forget what they'd just heard. Gensokyo doesn't have as much of that, but it's hardly a dead tradition there.

But since I'm not in Japan or Gensokyo, I nod slowly while my mind races to figure out how best to respond. "She says that, does she?" Oh gods, if her body language from behind is any key, the look on her face must be priceless. "Well, I think your mother's a very smart person." This gets a great big smile and a nod from the boy. "...But maybe she doesn't know everything all the time."

A curious frown wrinkles his brow here. A good sign, all told. I think that was a nice, safe reply <with just a smidgen of bitchiness>. Oh, please. Hardly.

"I don't rightly know 'bout that, ma'am. See, there was a time when she said that the—"

"Nessie, let's go and get a nice cold hish'p'riytz, shall we." A too-cheerful, musical voice issues forth this unrefusable request as its owner yanks the boy to her, and breaks out from the line with him <someones about to get smacked>. The fairy and her son flit off back the we came. A few seconds later, his father turns to me, and gives a lighter version of the apologetic look I've seen on countless faces of partners of troublesome people.

"Don't mind 'er much, ma'am. Old family." A shrug, another look that probably implies something that's lost on me, and he turns back <well thats all settled then>.

What a lovely place.
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quieres chicle
Some kind of repetitive chant catches my ear a few minutes later. ...No, wait. Not a chant, but a... man, there's a word for it. A few stock phrases that you go through over and over. I think the sun is destroying my ability to think <and its not even visible>. Makai, why do you suck so much?

"—ets, cigarettes! Long line, long day in th' sun, everyone! Cool drinks, just whatcha need! Only fiddeen juliène, twenny gets ya ice!"

Spiel. The word I wanted was spiel.

[This is no time for games! ...Ahh, you're not gonna get that one, either~]

The prospect of a cold drink is extremely tempting, right now. So much so that I take a few steps toward the sound of the voice before remembering that right now, I don't actually have a whole lot of cash—only 2500 yen worth. I also literally don't have a lot of cash; it's all in coins that are... I can't remember what the denomination was, either. It was definitely three digits, though, and this is in the small twos. I don't want to break one of them into really small change <not a line i want to hold up>. For sure.

I end up sipping regretfully from my canteen instead—though not all that regretfully, once the water touches my lips. Still nice and cold, especially against this stupidly hot day. And it's not even that hot, which is the worst part! It's just really hot for what I've been going through since getting here. Heck, we weren't too many weeks into spring back in Gensokyo, either.

Up ahead, I finally spy the vendor strolling along the side of the road. His skin is a weird shade of deep blue, and he could almost pass for human if you ignored the big fuzzy backwards legs, like some kind of satyr <or faun>. Or faun. Every time someone calls out to him, he falls into a steady backwards pace so they don't have to step far out of line.

...That's a good idea, actually. I guess he does this a lot.

Some lady in one of those stripey old-time business suits barks at him, and holds up three fingers that look a little bit too long for normal human proportions. She's pretty tall, too. After tossing him some coins, he passes her three cans from a large box slung at his side. Seizing the first one, she yanks something off it with a finger and starts drinking immediately. Without looking, she accepts the other two cans <maybe shes overheating>. Heh.

[Oh, hey. Probably ought to... Ah, too late now~]

She growls something I can't hear from here. Only a couple of words stand out, but they're—


Just like before, there's the feeling of being shot with something small and blocky at high speed. Whatever it is hits me right in the small of the back. A hand flies back to the spot, and I stumble again before almost tipping over. I look behind me again, now suspicious. And once again, nothing obvious. I do catch a couple people people glancing over in one direction for a split second before locking their gazes forward again. Nothing stands out in that direction.


[ ♫: https://youtu.be/_Fog8UCuzqw ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=_Fog8UCuzqw ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/vydwa ]

I'm not going to say this is definitely on purpose, but I'm starting to wonder if this might not be from just a bee sting or a pebble that got kicked up. Turning back, I try to keep the glower to a minimum. If it happens again, then... well, I'll figure something out. For now, I shift my pack to sit a little more centrally on my back.

Ten or twenty more minutes of nothing go by while everyone plods forward in the heat. The fairy boy and his mother return, the former looking chastened and the latter looking anywhere but at me. It's not polite to smirk, so I don't <not on the outside anyway>. Hey, what she doesn't know won't hurt her.

[Whoooa~ Haven't seen a ring-pull can in aaaaages. Wonder if they do key-turned canned food, too~?]

Another thirty minutes. We're a little closer to the base of the city. I can see some buildings of some sort at the end of this road. I, however, have stopped caring about anything but this godsdamned heat.

I need a hat. Now.

Carefully, and without making too much of a ruckus, I step out of the line, off the red cobblestone road, and plop myself down on the dusty, grassy little slope on the edge. I'd passed enough people doing the same that I didn't feel too out of place doing it: stepping out of the line onto the side and taking a break to do something that would otherwise hold up traffic. Not too different from pulling over onto the shoulder back in Japan. And in the same sort of way, there was some kind of unwritten rule <or it could be a real law i dunno> that kept people from spilling out onto the sides and just walking along that like it was part of the road, too.

Unslinging my pack, I open it up and go over what I have that I could make use of. What I find is... well, not much, really. Nothing stiff but flexible like any sort of proper hat, and gati is far too thin to make it useful. The only thing of any substance are the two sleeves of my miko clothes that I'd detached from my vest earlier and stored away. I stare at them for a while, unwilling to write this off as a mistake just yet <inventory sorting is the woooorst>.

Well... Obviously, there's any number of different kinds of hats and headgear in the world for all sorts of reasons. Farmers wear big, broad-brimmed hats to keep the sun off them, but that's not how they deal with it everywhere, of course. Like, what about in the desert? Oh, oh, oh! And they do it all with cloth there, too! Perfect!

I snatch up the sleeves, staring at them for a moment as my mind races. I have an idea, a concept, but I don't know quite how to make it happen. I sit down and try laying them on my head in various ways, hesitantly, trying to imagine in my mind what I can only navigate through feel.

"...Oh, hold on," I say, snapping my fingers. "I've come prepared." <for once> "...Nobody asked."

It's a little awkward to hold my cracked mirror and try to make this weird, half-baked turban thing I'm envisioning, but I eventually settle for propping it up on the embankment while I crouch down in front of it, low enough so that I'm not staring at all the wheels and legs and feet of everyone moving past. Once I have the setup right, things become a lot easier.

Eventually, I end up using the frog pin to fasten the shoulder-side ends of the sleeves together, and then fold the fabric over long-ways once. I stick that just under my ponytail and sweep the two widening pieces forward, crossing over at my forehead. Then they come back around like a bandanna, cross again over the back of my head, and get tucked through the first part, creating a little sort of curtain effect.

The end result is kind of a ...turbandanna. Or something. I think there were a bunch of extras from the Sand Village that had something like that going on. And now that I think about it, The Lady Saigyouji has a hat with something like that going on too. Well, that's fine, then, isn't it? It doesn't look too stupid. And it's working; my head already feels cooler <unlike the rest> ...I'm sure that was a dig, somehow, so shut up on principle.

[Oho, there you are. Almost didn't recognize you~ It's nice; very Lawrence!]

Once I make sure that it's not going to slide off or come apart easily, I close up the pack, swing it back onto my shoulders, and rejoin the line. It seemed like nobody complained much if someone left and came back later, but I was in the mood for a change of scenery. Also might be less likely to get hit with... whatever that was. I even eye one of the muscle-birds for a moment as it's getting fed <yeah punk who you lookin at>. ...No sense in getting paranoid, I guess.

My linemates are mostly fairies, in keeping with the trend I've seen so far. Not that there's any shortage of demons, either. Lots of variation amongst them all, too: height, weight, shape, limbs, hair color, horn type and amount, wing type and amount... I do see more than one of some of them, but not nearly as many as I'm used to. Like I said, it's very Mos Eisley. Not as dusty, though, and hopefully not as lawless. I didn't see any garbage at the bottom of the embankments, though, so that's a good sign.

I notice, to the left of the haphazardly stacked cart just ahead of us all, is a short, round green demon wearing what I would swear are old Sennheisers. It's so weirdly out of place that it demands a closer look. Making my way across, I see that, yes, there is indeed a cord trailing down from them, connecting to a—

...Oh, are you kidding me?!

"Ah... excuse me?" I tap the demon on what I pray is its shoulder. It's really, really round; makes it hard to tell for sure.

The demon chuffs, looks up, blinks four startled eyes at me <gah>, and reaches up with careful, deliberate movements to pull the headphones off. Immediately, something that sounds sort of like old chamber music comes pouring out of them. He fiddles with the device at his hip that has me so curious, which cuts off the sound with a quiet click, making me even more curious.

"Hyus?" it asks, looking me over. It... he? has a voice that sounds like someone slowly letting the air out of a very ill frog. "His sooomething hrong?"

"Yeah, um. I mean, no, nothing's wrong," I tell him. "Sorry. I just wanted to ask—what is that device you've got there?" I point at the little box made of what looks a whole lot like wood and brushed aluminum, with a neat little row of round black buttons on the top. On its side is a smoky glass window showing some kind of reel in there. It's certainly made with different parts, but it still strongly resembles a certain device I'm very familiar with.

[I don't think I've ever seen someone look so much like a watermelon all at once~ Like, ever!]

"Hyo-hoo~" trills the demon, looking pleased. Or jaundiced. Hard to tell. "Hyit's my hooown hinvention! A personal, portable, fully helectric haudio hreeecording and hreeeeplay zystem!" He pats it proudly. "Hyuses stannndard wire hreeeecording cartridges, too~"

I look down at it and then grin. "Heh, that's what I thought." The whole thing is a bit larger than what I'm used to, but the shape and the arrangement and the purpose are all there. "So it's a Walkman, right?"

The demon's eyes bulge. Literally, they suddenly grow huge, and I take a reflexive step away. "A hwhat?" He looks and sounds aghast—or possibly panicked. "Hyave hou seen suthing like his bayfore? Surely hou have not...!"

"Oh, no, no! Not at all! Well, no, I have, but not here!" Quickly, maybe too quickly, I try to reassure the worried demon. Idly, I realize this probably looks really silly to anyone out of earshot.

Thankfully, he seems to catch on. "Not here...?"

...Maybe not so thankfully.

He doesn't give me any trouble for being an onje, thankfully. A few moments of suspicion give way to curiosity. Turns out he thought I'd seen someone with something like his device, and that he was going to be beaten to the punch. Patents are a hot thing right now, apparently, and he's going to file one for it up in the city after "the festival" is over. I start to ask more about that, but he has way too many questions for me about the "Hwokmin" I spoke of.

I learn that audio-recording technology in Makai is strangely advanced—at least, compared to everything else around. What he has there is more or less a Walkman, only way more souped up and built for recording as much as it is for playback. The thought of a playback-oriented device hadn't even occurred to him, he says. The way his eyes light up suggests that he already sees the practicality of the idea, though. Also, they record on cartridges of wire, not tape, which is one of the weirdest things I've heard of.

By the time I'm done being pressed for details, he's already popped out the "cart" of the music recording he was listening to, slotted in a different tape with countless labels crossed out and filled in pasted all over it, and begins jabbering away in a completely incomprehensible, musical-sounding language. The frog thing from before is totally gone <got refilled maybe>. Heh.

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/9cvH0mwA5j8 ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=9cvH0mwA5j8 ]

...I'm not sure what the festival he mentioned was, though. I have to assume it's responsible for the huge amount of people flocking to the city. Really hope it doesn't involve virgin sacrifice or the summoning of elder gods from beyond the veil or what have you.

I wonder if I'd be obligated to fight against such a thing. That sounds like a huge, huge can of really tricky, really dumb worms that I'm in no mood to open. Like, is it my responsibility to get involved? In Gensokyo, there'd be no question: absolutely, it would fall on my shoulders to see that the right thing was done. But between not wanting to get killed and not wanting to interfere in weird demonic and/or alien rituals that I don't know anything about, I really have to wond—


All right, that's it.

"Trace on," I hiss almost instantly, and whirl around.

The crowd is a chaotic jumble of colors, patterns, textures, all glimpsed and processed in a moment. But by and large, nothing out of place, nothing is where something should not be, and something is not where nothing should be. Everything lines up, save for a handful of weird auras <no look down there>.




Colors out of phase, patterns too pale with nothing underlying them. Two little figures, hiding under air. Doubled over, pointing.

An old trick, seen through in seconds.

But they don't know that, do they?

[ ] No words. Just stares, glarin' down like the sun they never seen.
[ ] Girl walks n' smiles. Wide. Shinin'. Happy as a killer's birthday.
[ ] Calls 'em out. She done had her fill. No more 'a this foolin'.


Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year to most! And for those who purchased the DLC, Happy Hannukah!

That's a reeeeeach. But thank you~
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In my defense, it's still Christmas here.
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[x] No words. Just stares, glarin' down like the sun they never seen.
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[X] Girl walks n' smiles. Wide. Shinin'. Happy as a killer's birthday.

I finally found the time to catch up with this story. I really like your writing.
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[x] No words. Just stares, glarin' down like the sun they never seen.

I'm not sure if choice 2 would be walking towards or away from them, so will just go with this.
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[x] Girl walks n' smiles. Wide. Shinin'. Happy as a killer's birthday.

We can't stop them from doing what they're doing, but we can stop them from knowing we know.
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[X] Girl walks n' smiles. Wide. Shinin'. Happy as a killer's birthday.
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Called for the smile of death! Happy new year, everyone~

Make sure to stock up on (marked-down) eggnog, ASAP! That stuff disappears from stores fast after today. Luckily, it also freezes really well!
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File 14518847762.jpg - (132.53KB, 800x600, The Masque of Rin Death.jpg)
The Masque of Rin Death
[ ♫: http://youtu.be/ElxYRUFZtmo ]
[ ♫: http://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=ElxYRUFZtmo ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/egtgk ]

[☺] Girl walks n' smiles. Wide. Shinin'. Happy as a killer's birthday.


No, they do not. But oh, how they will in a moment.

I take in a breath, letting it fill up my lungs with air and dust and the sound of people and animals and demons and fairies and carts and birds and farms and cities. I take in my surroundings, take it all inside of me, and let that slice of everything around me become what is in me, as well.

I am here. And because I am here, I belong here. Even to stand still amidst the moving crowd; that too is natural.

That sort of calm is what I need to be able to do what comes next, which is very, very simple:


Smile brightly.

Smile with simplicity.

Smile with surety and certainty.

Smile so they never see it coming.

[Oh, you finally noticed that! Good girl~]

While I can't do it like Suwa-mama or even Miss Kazami <but who could>, I still know the basics. And there's no better time to use it than in situations like this, where some heckler is yukking it up and has been dumb enough to take his eyes off you.

I walk slowly towards the two invisible figures, smiling. Beaming. Sunny and bright.

The crowd flows around us, these hidden figures and I making a tiny island in a river of people.

I come to a stop in front of them, and I can hear muffled laughter that suddenly stops. The figures almost trip over one another in their surprise—out of nowhere, the hapless onje girl has appeared <knock knock>.

They lie there, trembling, unable to run away. Even though I can't see them, they know I can see them. I think they aren't used to that, if they're this shocked.

...I really, reeeeaally want to say something clever, or scary, or ironically threatening. Put the fear of me into them. Heck, if I announced who I was, I could theoretically regain some of my depleted faith through acts like this... if I wasn't worried about getting a bad reputation, or the fact that it would be just a tiny bit for just this one time.

Since all that's off the table, I simply smile as radiantly and silently as possible while looking directly at them. Kana-mama could intimidate through a presence that bespoke impossible strength. But Suwa-mama could terrify with a presence that made you doubt yourself and anything and everything.

It's a hell of a trick <one of her best>.

It lasts for a full, paralyzing ten seconds (which I counted), before I decide to end it with a single, simple word.

"Scram." Clear, sharp, and unmistakeable.

The two figures bolt out of there, invisibility shedding and shredding as they fly away in a panic. Fairies, from the look of it <some things dont change huh>. It'd be real easy to say that, but I think these were probably just a couple of little punk kids. I've seen enough differences between Makaian and Gensokyan fairies by now to know that not everything's the same <hope they resurrect too>.


I'd prefer that.

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consent to search and seizure medication
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/Ms1Z3RErm-A ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=Ms1Z3RErm-A ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/uzpoi ]

I release the magical sight and the presence I'd built up as I turn around and rejoin the line moving forward. Nobody seems to have paid much notice to me during that, which is good <how times change>. Ha! I just can't seem to pick one, can I? That's almost funny. But it's mainly kinda depressing.

Your legacy continues, Kyouchiya-san.

[Who's that, now~?]

The road starts to broaden as we shuffle forward, and official-looking posted along the roadside start showing up. The first few have simple diagrams and a lot of incomprehensible writing that always looks like it's just on the edge of being something intelligible or recognizable. But it's like looking at clouds—even if it seemed familiar before, it won't look the same if you take your eyes off it for too long.

In other words, they're in some kind of Makaian.

The signs repeat again, both times in a different yet equally unreadable script. After that, they start showing up in languages I at least recognize. And again, no Japanese. This is starting to concern juuuust a bit.

One set is in English, at least. Unfortunately, I don't get to have a long, careful look at them, so what I get out of them are:

- The Watchful Aegis On High Over Green -
Pop. 9,871




—d the Reeve's Office reminds you
that the following items require licens—
—caliber or larg—
—mercury and cinnab—
—ligious or ritual mater—
—rological specime—
—rm of theatrical prod—
—dio equipmen—
—churro grill—


—je, regardless of status,
must register with the
Reeve's Office before entering
entering City Limi—

I'll admit, I only understood about half of that, and I know I only saw about two-thirds of what was there <there was something important on there wasn't there>.

[Ninety-eight hundred, huh~? Hope they got room for ev—ooh, that tingles!]

I look up from craning my head as much as possible to read the last sign to see we're fast approaching—and by comparison, it actually is fast now; average walking speed, more or less—what must be the checkpoint for entry.

Ahead, the road splits off like a big, uh... Mimosa? Mensa? Minarai? That big candlestick for the eight nights or something <dang it i used to know this>. Whatever, it'll come to me later. It splits off into... <four and then two bigger ones on the end> ...six smaller roads that all go up to separate big, arched, garage-like rooms in a really long building, and pass through them out to the other side.

Even though this is a weird alien world, I can still recognize a security checkpoint when I see one. The weird thing is, there aren't any fences or anything around the base of the hill that connect to the sides of the building. There's nothing besides the road itself that makes sure you can't go around the side or something <sure because a chain link fence is gonna stop demons and fairies right>. Well, okay, but still... Nothing at all <maybe its an invisible wall>?


[ ♫: https://youtu.be/_OZ8LoQi6LM ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/vqffr ]

I think real hard about the fact that "Well, maybe there's an invisible wall" doesn't sound like lazy excuse or a patently absurd explanation to me anymore. And I can't even blame that on Makai; that wouldn't faze me back in Gensokyo, eith—wait.

Back in Gensokyo. Where I was doing incident resolution.

...And picking up all those UFOs. Which are actually floating pieces of rubble.

...That apparently belonged to some kind of holy or sacred building. That demons sure don't react well to.

I, uh.

I'll probably need to do something about that.

Like now.

[ ] Don't go rockin th' wagon. Don't say nothin', don't do nothin' 'less it comes up. 'Til then, just plain Jane.
[ ] "The innocent got nothin' t' fear." She'll come clean about 'em, all up-front, like. Don't want trouble.
[ ] This ain't gonna be on her. Girl plants 'em on someone for a spell. Gotta get 'em back, after, though.
[ ] Just leaves it all behind. Drops 'em n' walks away like nothin's wrong nowhere. Leave 'em, hell; too valuable to lose, 'n too dangerous by half.


Sorry this one is kind of short and blah. I'd wanted to write a lot more, but I've currently got a nice, big, popped blister in the middle of my right palm that I got from digging up the ground to expose the lid of a possibly-clogged septic tank.
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[X] Don't go rockin th' wagon. Don't say nothin', don't do nothin' 'less it comes up. 'Til then, just plain Jane.

Here's hoping that the searchers will be distracted by [something] at an appropriate time.
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[ ] Don't go rockin th' wagon. Don't say nothin', don't do nothin' 'less it comes up. 'Til then, just plain Jane.
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[X] Don't go rockin th' wagon. Don't say nothin', don't do nothin' 'less it comes up. 'Til then, just plain Jane.

Maybe we can pass them off as "they seemed spellcaster-ish, so I picked them up!"

I also have to wonder what led churro grills to require a license.
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[x] "The innocent got nothin' t' fear." She'll come clean about 'em, all up-front, like. Don't want trouble.

The moment someone touches a UFO, they're going to get burned, and I get the feeling words will be useless by that point.
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So, I'm not sure what to vote just yet, but just to point out a couple things:

AFAIK Sanae doesn't actually have paperwork or ID, so we might be in trouble just from that. You'd think Elis would have mentioned these, but I just looked back and didn't see them brought up. Maybe being onje here on "pilgrimage" speaks for itself, but hard to say. It does look like there's a special case for onje registration.

>the following items require licens(es)...
>(re)ligious or ritual mater(ials)...
Pieces of a "holy or sacred building" would qualify, I'm fairly sure, and are probably one of the worst things to be caught smuggling into the capital city. The need for licensure is presumably because holy items hurt demons like Kryptonite. So getting caught carrying them, as a shady onje, reminds me of a Middle Eastern person being caught with explosives by a redneck TSA agent. Doesn't seem worth it.

Coming clean about the UFOs might work better, but unless we have a good excuse or lie about what they are, I doubt the security folks will be too sympathetic to Sanae for having them. Best-case, if they ping as holy, they'll probably be confiscated.

It's not the worst idea, but [something] is rather scatterbrained and seems very unlikely to remember there's a problem with the UFOs in time. Hoping that nothing will go wrong seems risky at best.

[x] This ain't gonna be on her. Girl plants 'em on someone for a spell. Gotta get 'em back, after, though.
None of the first three options look good to me, frankly, but this might actually be the least dangerous (except for whatever poor schmuck we plant them on).

(On a different note, that population is a lot lower than I'd have expected for the capital city. How much depopulating did Reimu and co. do?...)
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[X] "The innocent got nothin' t' fear." She'll come clean about 'em, all up-front, like. Don't want trouble.
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Two problems. One, I don't think Sanae's leveled pickpocket much. Not much confidence in her ability to plant noisy, floating ufos on some guy.
Second...these are still undefined, right? Appear as what you want them to. Won't the redneck TSA agent just see a bunch of confederate flags and moonshine?
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Oh right.
[x] "The innocent got nothin' t' fear." She'll come clean about 'em, all up-front, like. Don't want trouble.
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I kek'd, but really we don't have any way of predicting how the UFOs would appear. It is possible that they'd look like something legitimate (or "legitimate"), but if the security demon happens to touch one they'll get burned just the same. Plus I wouldn't be surprised if they have some magical version of an X-ray scanner, here.

First point is something I should've considered, though. Agree that sleight of hand probably isn't one of Sanae's strong points. Might change my vote but I don't have a good feeling about the second option.
"Vimes didn't like the phrase 'The innocent have nothing to fear', believing the innocent had everything to fear, mostly from the guilty but in the longer term even more from those who say things like 'The innocent have nothing to fear'.”
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[X] "The innocent got nothin' t' fear." She'll come clean about 'em, all up-front, like. Don't want trouble.
Think you're being paranoid, this looks like the best option.
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Suddenly, discussion! What a great New Year's present~

Voting will close in about 6 hours! And because I'm still not sure what the site's time offset is (GMT+0, I think) and I've always wanted to set a marker/reminder post like this, it's currently 6:05pm/18:05 on January 6.
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Aha. It's totally GMT+0. Now I'll always have this post to remind me when I forget.
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No update just yet, to my embarrassment. Overtime on writing days and not sleeping for more than 5 hours a night for about the whole week will do that. I'm really not liking this increasingly sporadic update frequency.
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>I'm really not liking this increasingly sporadic update frequency.
Neither are we. Quit your job and write you nerd.
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A full week of overtime days, and then worked Saturday, too.

Update Monday. Tuesday at worst. If it's Wednesday I'll just eat a bullet instead. Or upload my notes, and then eat the bullet; I'm pretty sure I made that promise at some point.

I love you.
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I know this little hole in the wall near here
[Ɨ] "The innocent got nothin' t' fear." She'll come clean about 'em, all up-front, like. Don't want trouble.

...I really don't have much choice, do I? I'm not about to just ditch them like a criminal hiding a murder weapon <yeah thats in your ofuda collection>. It's time for you to shut the hell up. That's not helping.

Need to get myself ready, inside and out.


The easiest thing to do would just be to say nothing unless they asked. The sack might just get a cursory glance before they let me go. Buuuut I don't think that being an onje in the state I'm in right now—not to mention, like Elis said, one who still needs to register for her papers—will put me in the "quick check and move along" category. The benefits of not mentioning the sack are quickly outweighed by the trouble it'll cause if they poke around in it: either someone's going to get hurt or killed, or I'm going to have to keep an eye on it constantly and then yell at them not to touch that bag because it's dangerous.

Of course, that doesn't mean I'm going to be honest about everything; there's a balance to be struck here. Enough to keep things safe, and not enough to become terribly suspicious.

[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/lvthl ]

I rub my eyes and sigh. I just want out of this damn mess without having to get myself in any others <yeah because just look at your track record with that>. Why won't you just... just stop already <because youre still alive and still screw things up>? Briefly, I think about making a switch to Buddhism; if I recall correctly, the tengu have a small monastery somewhere on the mountain. If I could just achieve enlightenment, I'd be rid of both those problems <yeah selfish goals are totally in line with buddhist principles>.


Moving along.

After a little while, I hit the point where the road widens and splits into separate lanes. After watching other people for cues, I start walking down one branch road when the sign above the arch it leads to changes from "busy" to "open" (I'm guessing). As I approach, I still don't see anything like a fence by the building. However when I look back at the long, long line behind me, I do see a line of little dark discs in the grass, about twenty or thirty meters before the road splits.

...Probably not lawn sprinklers.

[Hey, soooo. This tingling's getting reeeeaaally out of hand, so I'm just gonna go see about fixing it or something, 'kay? Don't do anything I'd do~!]

They're also probably not a problem, given how many other people are passing by them just fine. I hope <fervently>. With a shrug that's more felt than made, I walk the rest of the way on the red stone road, up to the archway. Just before I enter, the sign above shifts to "busy" again, making a mechanical clack! that startles the heck out me for a second.

The archway is like a tall, wide hallway—a short tunnel, really; maybe a little under ten meters long. A pair of new electric lights made in what looks like an antique style sit in fixtures along its ceiling. Just inside the mouth of the tunnel is a long, wide window and a short table—a lot like a ticket booth at a theater, actually. Standing inside next to a grate set in the window is a very dour, literally thorny-looking person <looks like a really angry pineapple>. Heh, he (they?) really does. He's got some kind of uniform on, though I've got no idea what it's for.

"Fine morning to ya, ma'am. Y'license, please?" Well at least he doesn't sound as angry as he looks; that's good. Seems to be a he, from the voice.

"None, sorry," I say, trying to appear every inch the nice, harmless girl as possible. "I'd like to apply for onje registration," I continue, repeating what Elis had told me to say.


If a pineapple bit into a lemon, and then felt utter dread, the face it would make is exactly the expression that I saw dance across the thorny demon's face for just a moment. It's quickly gone, replaced by a deep weariness <better than slurs and yelling i guess>. But still not a good sign.

"Ah... of course," he says at last. "...Of course. Sorry, a moment—" He unhooks some kind of flexible tube that was hanging on the wall, brings the end of it to his mouth, and speaks into it. "Fresh reg, lane two." Putting it back, he looks and me and jerks a thumb in the direction of the far end of the hall. "Go in the door, someone'll be right along."

...I'm a little nervous about that on principle, but not as much as I might normally be, I think. For lots of reasons. Still can't help but feel like I'm walking into a pit of lions or whatever <ha ha no did you see his face>. Huh <thats someone sick of his job not someone trying to play it cool>? Maybe.

The door handle is sunk into the door itself—old scrapes and scuffs along the side of the wall from years gone by offer a likely reason why. A loud squeaking noise echoes along the tunnel as as I pull the heavy door open and slip through.

What's beyond is a step or two above "storage closet", but not much further: a small, dingy, room with a single bulb that lights up the beige walls and tile floor. Opposite the door I came through, there's a poster on the wall showing the brave, uh... <police maybe or customs> ...officers of some kind, yeah. They're in full uniform, standing proudly at the base of the same plateau that's outside this building, with some big, enthusiastically lettered (and unreadable) caption above them. The left wall is blank, but to the right is another door with some kind of indicator panel next to it. No idea what it says either, of course <of course>.


... ...

... ... ...

Okay. Starting to get a little antsy here, you guys.

I can hear heavily muffled conversation or footsteps back out in the tunnel, but only when passing by the door. They're keeping the foot traffic flowing, I guess.

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/eHLi-o0ASPA ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=eHLi-o0ASPA ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/mfhgc ]

Wonder if there's a camera in here. Or magic to do the same thing. Have they invented that yet?

If this is some kind of test, they're total jerks for doing it. Or bored. Bored jerks.

Gods, I want some tea right now.

I make do with a sip from my canteen instead.

I shift my pack's weight to the other shoulder, and idly kick a foot back and foaaaaaargh. With a grimace, I lean up against the blank wall. While standing on one leg I bring up the other, and look at the underside of my boot. Sure enough, there's a tiny rock wedged in the treads—so small, yet the noise it made scraping against the tile was the worst <oh thats the worst thing youve run into sure>. It's a turn of phrase. Jerk.

With a bit of work, the pebble is removed, held onto awkwardly for a few minutes, and then dropped into a pocket.

Aaaand that's about as exciting as it gets for the next twenty minutes. This part is definitely getting glossed over in the manga of my life. Or maybe getting cut down to a series of time-interval panels. There's no clock in here to show how long it is, though. They'll have to take some artistic license and add one in.

Wait, so does that mean that the manga is a biographical kinda thing, all done after the fact? I was thinking of it as being in the manga. Jeez, I bet this is how theological debates start.

"Menorah!" I suddenly shout, snapping my fingers in recollection. That's what they were called.

I'm three-quarters of the way through silently singing "Flying In The Sky" for the second time when I hear a mechanical clicking sound from the door I didn't come through. When I look over, I note that the indicator panel is lit up, and the words being pointed to have changed. A second later, the door is opened by a very short person whose gender is a total mystery.

Not that it would be difficult to tell; they're wearing the same uniform as the people in the poster and the guy who sent me in here, but I can't spare the time to assess the body because I can't stop staring at the hair.

There's... there's so much of it.

And it's so yellow.

Heck, I've seen cassette tapes of American bands with covers showing men who had haircuts shorter than this. It's absurd, the length of it!

"мα'αм, ίƒ'и уσυ'đ ¢αяє тα' ƒσℓℓσω؟"

I nod, jerkily, up-down, letting the weird, twangy sound of her voice hitting the words on her tongue just slip right past me. Hey, come to think of it, if The Lady Yakumo's shikigami's tails became people, they would look like this. Aaaaah, no, no. Need to focus. On registration, yes. Not on fluffiness <maybe just a touch>. NO.

Hey! Come on, Sanae, eyes on the prize. Get the dumb papers so you can walk around this town and not get forcibly ejected. This is no time to grow soft!


Okay, wrong word <no you had it right>. This is not helping <and whos to blame for that>.

Mechanically, I follow the short, golden mane out of the room.

I mean man.

Or woman. I still don't actually know.


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The door opens onto the bottom of a stairwell. It's only a single flight of stairs up, and the ultra-blonde holds the door open for me when we get to the top. I thank him, and get an acknowledging grunt in reply. Shades of junior high.


He leads me through a long hallway that would feel cramped if there weren't wide, wide windows all along one wall, looking out onto the countryside. The line continues to stretch out, a river of people pouring slowly down the red stone highway. I can see the end of it from here, but it's still a good third of a kilometer long, still. Must be a heck of a festival that's going on.

...I really hope it's not going to cut into business hours too much <history nerds dont have social lives youll be fine>. Or really, any kind of nergodsdammit <gotcha>. Yes, you've insulted yourself. Good job. Shall we dump confetti? Throw a party?


It takes some active concentration to force my hands to relax.

[ ♫: http://youtu.be/rzvXBFwcyek ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=rzvXBFwcyek ]

"ίи нєяє, ίƒ у'ρℓєαѕє." My attention to the surroundings returns to find another door along the hallway held open for me. It doesn't look suspiciously reinforced or anything, so I'll probably be safe.

The room beyond is much like the room just off the tunnel: beige walls, tile floors. No windows. A wide table in the center, with a stack of gati bound together with a large clip of some kind. A couple of old chairs on either side of the table. The only reason I don't think I've just stepped into an interrogation room is the potted plant with almost perfectly triangular leaves in the corner.

"ѕєт¢нєя тнίиġѕ σνєя тнєяє; вєℓт и' вαġ и' ωнαт-αℓℓ'ѕ ίи уσυя ρσ¢ӄєтѕ, тнєи нαѕ у'ѕєℓƒ α ѕєαт," says the golden... oh, it is a woman. Probab...ly? It's what the body shape suggests, I guess. Still hard to pay attention to it in the face of that hair.

[you still in theeeere]

Oh wait, she's looking at me. ...Ah, belt and bag, right. I comply, trying not to look too rushed or nervous. She sits down in the chair closest to the gati, pulls them over, and starts looking through them <boy she looks real delighted>. Like looking at the low-scorers when midterm results got announced. As I unfasten my belt and empty my pockets, she sets up some kind of bulky, boxy thing on a tripod. Where did that come from?

When I come and sit down, looking very polite and collected, leafs through the papers again, and tries not to look like she hates this. There's just something about it that makes it clear it's this and not me that's the target of her unhappiness—not directly, anyway.

"αℓℓ ѕєттℓєđ ίи؟ иσω, ℓєммє ℓєνєℓ ωίтн уα, мα'αм: тнίѕ ίѕ ℓσтѕα тαℓӄίи' αиđ ℓσтѕα тίмє. đσи'т ġєт ¢υтєѕу, đσи'т ġєт тяί¢ӄу. jυѕт ġίммє тнє ƒα¢тѕ и' ωє ¢αи αℓℓ ġєт σи συттα нєяє тнαт мυ¢н ѕσσиєя. уα υиđєяѕтαиđ αℓℓ тнαт؟"

I... don't think I'm going to be able to hold myself to that, but we'll see. I'll have to think fast. Lying isn't going to go over well, but there's not a lot that I need to lie about. A few things, but not a lot <yeah because you know every question you'll be asked> Well... Okay, I'm guessing, but...

"I understand." Here goes nothing.

She leans back and flips a switch on the side of the box. Like most of the electrical switches in Makai, it seems new and fresh and extremely mechanical, judging by the loud clack! that echoes around the walls for a half-second. Wait, what even is that? A tape recorder? A lie detector <oh this is wonderful isnt it>?!

...Well. Whatever. The ball's rolling; nothing more I can do now.

She clears her throat. Maybe if I just stare at her hair, I can relax. "уσυя иαмє, ρℓєαѕє."

"Kochiya of Moriya."

"αиу αℓίαѕєѕ, иί¢ӄиαмєѕ, αℓтєя єġσѕ...؟"

None that I enjoyed being called. "Not really." Please don't ask about titles; that's a whole different story.


"Human." That one's easy.


So's that. "Female."

"ρυяρσѕє σƒ νίѕίт؟"

Hmm... "None to speak of. I was brought here against my will, and I'm looking to return home. I can't say I'm uninterested in the benefits to my magic, however, so there's that." That does earn me a bit of a Look, but it's almost sympathetic.

"ωσяℓđ, ρℓαиє, đίмєиѕίσи, σя σтнєя ρℓα¢є σƒ σяίġίи, αиđ яєġίσи ωίтнίи тнαт σяίġίи؟" She speaks really clearly when she's reading these, doesn't she? Sounds like she's making an effort. The accent or tone or whatever that is still pervades every syllable, but she's still trying.

"Earth. From one of the islands in the Pacific." One hundred percent true! Aaaaand here's where I find out if that thing detects misdirection.


It wurbles a little.

She looks at it, and then at me. I give her a confused look. "Is something wrong with the machine?" Oh, Kana-mama would be proud of that.

"нм... αρρяσ×ίмαтєℓу ωнєяє؟"

That golden hair, man. So soft. "It's called..." I roll my eyes a little; oh, what a long terrible story that I've told a dozen times before! "Well, it's off the Chinese coast, but it's owned by Japan, and there's a long, long history to it that goes back t—"

She holds up a hand, and I stop. "тнαт'ℓℓ đσ, тнαиӄѕ. αиу иσтαвℓє αя¢αиє, мαġί¢αℓ, σя ѕємί-мαġί¢αℓ тαℓєитѕ σя αвίℓίтίєѕ؟"

"Well... My magic is kind of weak overall; most of my recent work has been for show. I've got an aptitude for wind-based magic, it seems. Minor interest in Taoism, Buddhism..." I trail off.

"ρяίмαяу σ¢¢υραтίσи؟"

"Customer service and community outreach. I do lots of PR work." I think if I just keep staying positive about it, I'll be fine. If it all goes to hell, then that's what'll happen. No sense in getting all flustered.

"đσ уσυ ӄиσω нσω тσ яєαđ σя ωяίтє αиу мαӄαίαи ℓαиġυαġєѕ, σтнєя тнαи тнє тσиġυє σƒ мαи؟"

"I thiiiiiink I'm getting a grasp on some of the numbers—mainly what's on the clock. And a couple of phrases." She flips over the first page of far too many for my liking. I can't wait until I'm out of here. Which I will be.

"нσρє тнαт'ѕ ωσяӄίи' συт ƒσя уα. đ'уα—ѕσяяу, đσ уσυ ӄиσω нσω тσ яєαđ σя ωяίтє αиу ℓαиġυαġєѕ иαтίνє тσ уσυя ωσяℓđ, đίмєиѕίσи...؟" The woman gives the universal gesture for 'and all that other stuff'.

"English and Japanese, a dusting of Chinese..." I say thoughtfully, and after a moment of thought, add, "I can count to twelve in German. And to three in French." There's a bunch of stuff I need to take care of once I get into Dis itself, isn't there <like that towel> Oh, you'd better believe it. But after that, too.

"нίġнєѕт ℓєνєℓ σƒ єđυ¢αтίσи؟"

"Ahaha... Well, technically I'm a high school dropout," I admit. "But afterward, I studied extensively by myself and with tutors, however."

"ωнαт ωєяє тнє ℓαѕт тняєє ...jσвѕ... тнαт... υн, мα'αм؟" asks the golden-haired woman, a note of sharp suspicion entering her voice after it had started to trail off.


"ӄίиđℓу ѕίт яєαℓ тίġнт, ρυт у' нαиđѕ ƒℓαт σи тσρρα тнє тαвℓє, αиđ тєℓℓ мє ωну у' вαġ'ѕ тяуίи' тσ ƒℓσαт αωαу."

...Oh right. That's a thing that it'll do, won't it? What with the UFOs. "Yes, I was going to mention this before an inspection was conducted, but I have in there some blessed material that tends to hover when unattended." All those diction and elocution lessons paying off. Finally.

Her voice gets very quiet. "ί нσρє уσυ ġσт ραρєяѕ ƒσя тнαт, ġίяℓ."

[ ] She might, at that. Girl mentions Batty Betty n' shows the letter she done wrote.
[ ] Not in so many words. Offers up a real quick account a' how she came by 'em, though.


Normal update schedule to resume immediately regardless of how late this one is; check back this weekend after voting.
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Glad to see you back on track.

[X] She might, at that. Girl mentions Batty Betty n' shows the letter she done wrote.

I don't think the letter is likely to be worse than nothing at all.
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[x] She might, at that. Girl mentions Batty Betty n' shows the letter she done wrote.

Sanae rolling better on her bluff checks than I expected, good girl. Wonder if that's just because of how she was taught or if the Innocence is factoring in. Speaking of which, while we don't know exactly how Elis is viewed by Makai at large, she at least seemed like an important enough demon that her letter should lend legitimacy. Hopefully. And Elis's interest in studying the UFOs could help provide some more misdirection too. Also wonder how our companion dealt with that 'tingling'.
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[X] She might, at that. Girl mentions Batty Betty n' shows the letter she done wrote.
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[X] She might, at that. Girl mentions Batty Betty n' shows the letter she done wrote.

Oh right, we have those.
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[X] She might, at that. Girl mentions Batty Betty n' shows the letter she done wrote.

Yep. If Elis wanted to screw us over, she's got us, we're showing the letter to someone at some point regardless.
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no perps no lights in the face no fun at all
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=vnU33nJFozE ]
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/vnU33nJFozE ]

[∫] She might, at that. Girl mentions Batty Betty n' shows the letter she done wrote.

"Ah... yes, I think I might." Crap, crap, crap, crap. "I have a letter of introduction written by a member of the, uh..." <historical brotherhood> "...the Historical Brotherhood. I was to seek help from their office in Dis using this letter." She looks very unconvinced <now connect those dots idiot> "...And during our discussion, she took a great deal of interest in these. I found them just prior to coming to Makai."

...I still haven't sat down and figured out how long it's been, have I? Ouch.

But at least Ms. Golden looks less frosty. "ġ'ωαи αиđ ġєт ίт, тнєи. иσ ѕυđđєи мσνєѕ, яίġнт؟" I nod in reply, and she gestures for me to get up.

I do just that, almost like I'm pretending to move in slow motion. I get out of my chair and walk slowly towards the drifting backpack. "Um, I want to point out something?"


"The pack is going to drop once I get next to it," I tell her, looking back. "So just so you know, like... I'm not trying to pull anything."

"ωє'ℓℓ ѕєє." Kinda feel like I should feel a little insulted at that, maybe. But not much.

The pack drops as I said. I don't know what her reaction is; I'm focused on the bag. Following her directions, I set it down, and carefully pull out the sealed letter. I suddenly wonder about how smart a move this is, but I'm already handing it over by that point.

She takes it, breaks the seal (a complex filigree of elaborate designs layered over the edge of the sheet of gati), and begins to read.

A minute in, I see her eyebrows jump. A smirk forms, but on thinly pressed lips. "тнίѕ єℓίѕ, ѕнє α тяί¢ӄѕу ѕσят؟"

Oh, I don't like where this is going. "Kind of, yeah?" My answer comes out sounding a lot less nervous than I feel <lucky huh>.

"σи тнє υρ, тнίѕ'ℓℓ đσ. σи тн' đσωи, у'σωє мє тωσ-ƒίƒту."

"...Sorry, what?"

The demon lady with the yellow hair—it really can't be called 'blonde'; it's yellow—clears her throat and begins to read aloud. "'αѕ αи αđđίтίσиαℓ иσтє, ѕнσυℓđ тнίѕ ℓєттєя вє σƒƒєяєđ тσ αиу мємвєя σƒ тнє đίѕ яєєνє'ѕ σƒƒί¢є (σя σтнєя ѕίмίℓαя вσđу σƒ єиƒσя¢ємєит) αѕ α мєαиѕ σƒ ρяσνίиġ тнαт ѕнє мαу ¢αяяу υиℓί¢єиѕєđ σтнєяℓу-đίνίиє мαтєяίαℓ, ӄиσω тнαт ӄσ¢нίуα тяαиѕρσятѕ ίт υиđєя тнє αυѕρί¢єѕ σƒ тнє нίѕтσяί¢αℓ вяσтнєянσσđ. нσωєνєя, αѕ ί αм υиαвℓє тσ α¢qυίяє тнє ρяσρєя ραρєяѕ ƒσя ѕυ¢н ίи νίиα, ί нανє ρяσνίđєđ нєя ωίтн тωσ нυиđяєđ αиđ ƒίƒту jυℓίέиє ƒσя тнє ℓί¢єиѕє ƒєє, ωнί¢н ѕнє ѕнαℓℓ ρυя¢нαѕє υρσи нєя αяяίναℓ.'"

So, not only have I just been stuck with a bill, it was done in a way that I could have gotten out of doing it. Maybe <but elis is still a bitch>. Well, if she wrote that at all.

The woman with the infinitely fluffy hair just gives me an expectant look afterward. Oh, right. I take out my wallet and hand her... Oh godsdammit, these are 250 juliène coins, aren't they? That makes this even more likely, then. Elis, you are the worst.

After handing one of the sorta-red coins over, she tells me to leave everything out and unpacked and sit back down in the chair. Once she finds her place, the questions resume.


"нανє уσυ єνєя αттємρтєđ тσ ѕυммσи α яєѕίđєит σƒ мαӄαί σя αиу σтнєя ωσяℓđ, ρℓαиє, σя đίмєиѕίσи иσт уσυя σωи؟"

"Not really."

"нανє уσυ єνєя ρяєνίσυѕℓу νίѕίтєđ α ωσяℓđ, ρℓαиє, σя đίмєиѕίσи иσт уσυя σωи؟"

"Heck no." Gensokyo's still on Earth, after all.


"đσ уσυ đєαℓ ίи ¢σитяαвαиđ σя ѕмυġġℓєđ ġσσđѕ؟"

"Not knowingly." That gets a snort of derision, but she continues on.

"нανє уσυ єνєя ¢σммίттєđ ρєямαиєит мυяđєя, αяѕσи, яαρє, ӄίđиαρρίиġ, тσятυяє؟"


"¢αℓм đσωи, ρℓєαѕє."

Miiiight have been a bit too defensive. "Sorry. But no, I haven't done anything of the sort."

The machine stays silent. I would ponder what that means, but the questions do not stop.


"αяє уσυ, σя нανє уσυ єνєя вєєи Ⴣίℓίαтєđ ωίтн ѕнίитσ, jυđαίѕм, σя ¢няίѕтίαиίту؟"

Ssshhhhhit. "Huh? ...Well, I guess."

The machine wurbles. I try not to sweat as she pins me to my chair with a suspicious look.

"I've acted as an honorary miko for some of the shrines in neighboring towns. You know, when a festival is coming up, and they're a little short-staffed." And in my own shrine, full-time <dancing on the edge are we>.

She looks visibly relieved to hear that.


"đσ уσυ ρσѕѕєѕѕ α ƒσσđ нαиđℓєя'ѕ ℓί¢єиѕє؟"

"Not a current one."

"ωίℓℓ уσυ ѕυвмίт тσ αи ίиѕρє¢тίσи σƒ уσυя ίтємѕ αиđ вєℓσиġίиġѕ؟"

"Yes." Oh, like I have any choice.


"αđđί¢тєđ тσ αиу ѕυвѕтαи¢єѕ σя вєнανίσяѕ؟"



"Normal in both eyes."

"ίƒ нυмαи, вℓσσđ туρє؟"

"AB negative."

"đσ уσυ ѕυƒƒєя ƒяσм αиу ӄиσωи мєитαℓ đίѕσяđєяѕ؟"


"иυмвєя σƒ ραяєитѕ؟"

"Two, deceased." Still amazes me to this day that I can now say that without shaking. "Two guardians, currently."

"đσ уσυ нανє α ƒαмίℓу нίѕтσяу σƒ αиу đίѕєαѕєѕ, ¢σиđίтίσиѕ, σя đίѕσяđєяѕ؟"

"None known."


"αℓℓєяġίєѕ, мίиσя σя ѕєνєяє؟"

"Blueberries." No cedar pollen, thank all the gods.

"тυяи-σиѕ αиđ тυяи-σƒƒѕ؟"


"тнαт ωαѕ α jσӄє. ωє'яє đσиє."


I jump in my chair as the switch is flipped on the box once more.

"ί ġσттα нαиđ ίт тσ уα," she tells me, sorting the sheets of gati. "мσѕт σиjє υѕυαℓℓу тяίρ тнє яєαđ¢σяđєя α нαиđƒυℓℓα тίмєѕ. уσυ нαđ α ƒєω ωσввℓєѕ нєяє и' тнєяє, вυт иσ ℓєѕѕ тнαи мσѕтα уєя ℓσт đσ. 'ѕ иί¢є тσ мєєт σиє'α тнє ġσσđ σиєѕ."

...I... oh. It's over? ...It's over <and shes talking smack>! Who cares, I passed <unless this is a ruse>! ...Uh.

The golden-haired woman gets a humble smile from me. "I do pride myself on my conduct." <ahaha oh wow really> Well, in general <oh please who are you fooling>. Her, I hope.

She leans over and shakes my hand. "ί'м ѕєєίи' тнαт, ί αм. αиунσω, ωє jυѕт ġσттα тαӄє α ℓσσӄ αт αℓℓα у' ġσσđѕ тнєяє ωнίℓє у' ℓί¢єиѕє ġєтѕ ρяίитєđ υρ. ωнєи тнαт'ѕ đσиє, уσυ'ℓℓ ġєт уσυя тнίиġѕ αиđ ġєт мσνίи', αℓℓ яίġнт؟"

"Ah, sure... wait, is it getting printed here?"

[is it doooooooooone yet]

"иαω." Swish, swish. That hair is really just the most amazing thing, isn't it? "яєαđ¢σяđєя'ѕ ġσт α ѕнσят-тєℓℓу; ίт ƒєđ αℓℓ тнαт тσ тнє ѕтαтίσи ѕ¢яίвє тє¢н." I don't think I know what that actually even meant, but I'm getting the impression that the info got sent to someone who's writing it down. Or something like that.

She walks over to where my stuff is partially spread out, and begins taking it out, one by one, and examining each item before setting it aside. I point out the bags and boxes of UFOs before she touches them, so she has me open those instead <more than happy to>. I certainly don't say anything about what they actually are, or the not-really worms, though.

I do get confirmation that there are no sapient fish things in this region, which sets my heart at ease a bit. Some do exist, I'm told, but not around here. And besides, those ones would have ways of letting me "know that I'd gone and messed up." This was accompanied by a laugh and no further information on the subject <just enough rope to let you know you could hang yourself>.

The inspection goes fine until she runs into a few key items that I have to warn her not to touch—if I hadn't been watching for exactly that moment, I think I might have been in even more trouble.

"Heh, I guess I was going a bit overboard, right?" At the blank look (that I'd really hoped for after making that remark), I add, "Those are omamori from one of the shrines nearby." <lets leave out just which one> "They're for, y'know... luck, good fortune, safe travels, good health... Stuff along those lines." A well-timed look of embarrassment shows up on my face, followed by a rueful sigh. I'm not entirely faking either one "Guess you can see how well it worked out for me, yeah? Though I guess I'm still alive, so hey."

She nods a bit. Good.

One down.

"αиđ тнєѕє...؟"

"Those are paper seals. You see Buddhists using them—that is, they use them a lot for protection and exorcisms and the like. Like in manga, really. Oh, and onmyouji use a variant of them, too; that's part of my interest in Taoism, right?" Just need to sound excited, not nervous. "That's why I made these, too—!"

I grab for the spellcard pouch, but an arm <not very hairy considering> is thrust out in front of me. "ωнσα тнєяє! ѕℓσω уσυя яσℓℓ, ӄίđđσ! đσи'т ġσ яυѕнίи' αнєαđ," says the golden-haired woman. "σиє тнίиġ αттα тίмє."

"Ah, sorry, sorry."

"ѕσ, тнσѕє'яє ωнαт, иσω؟"

I explain the idea of a spellcard in broad terms to her, couching it as a mostly non-lethal but very showy spell pre-loaded onto something physical for later re-casting, and doing my best to imply that it's an offshoot of my interest in Taoism <well i cant say i dont have any buuut>. Can't mention Gensokyo or Reimu, of course, let alone spellcard dueling.

However, the more I go on, the more concerned the woman looks, until she finally motions for me to <shut up> stop talking, and looks me in the eye. "α-нυн... ℓίѕтєи, 'тωєєи уσυ 'и ί؟"


"ί ωσυℓđи'т ωανє тнσѕє αяσυиđ α ℓσт," she says, speaking quietly. "ѕσмє 'α уσυя ӄίт нєяє'ѕ ℓίӄє αѕ тσ яємίиđ ρєσρℓє σƒ тн' тяσυвℓєѕ ωє нαđ α ωнίℓє вα¢ӄ. ѕσмє яєαℓ иαѕту туρєѕ ¢αмє тняσυġн мαӄαί αиđ đσиє α ℓσттα ƒσℓӄ αиđ α ℓσттα тнє ℓαиđ α ωнσℓє ℓσттα ωяσиġ."

Like before, it isn't too hard to feign shock and worry. I'd heard it from Elis, of course, but the atmosphere here is a lot more secretive.

"ρєσρℓє đσи'т ¢αяє т' тαℓӄ т' σиjє 'вσυт ίт, αиđ ί αίи'т мυ¢н đίƒƒєяєит. σи тн' σтнєя, ίт'ѕ ραят 'α му jσв тσ тєℓℓ уσυя туρє 'вσυт тнίѕ ѕσятα тнίиġ ѕσ'ѕ у' đσи'т đσ ѕσмєтнίи' яєαℓ υиωίѕє-ℓίӄє."

"Really? Jeez, that's awful... But I understand what you're saying, ma'am. I'll remember that, for sure."

"ġσσđ. ωє'яє αℓмσѕт тняσυġн ωίтн тнίѕ, ѕσ ℓєт'ѕ ӄєєρ мσνίи'."

I sooooo want to bust out with some kind of victory dance, except I think doing something like that might well get me killed. Unless she's playing me, I think I'm home free. She bought it!

But it's still important to keep up appearances.

"тнαт συġнтα đσ ίт. у' ƒяєє тα ρα¢ӄ υρ уσυя ӄίт; ί đσи'т ѕєє иσтнίи' мυ¢н тнαт мαӄєѕ мє ℓєєяу 'вσυт¢нα, 'ℓσиġ αѕ у'ӄєєρ ίи мίиđ ωнαт ί ѕαίđ."

I nod as she closes my Grendizer box. "Of course, ma'am." It was very weird to go through a security inspection where finding a knife in someone's belongings didn't immediately result in it being confiscated or landing them in a lot of hot water <isnt makai great>. No. Overall, I'm gonna say no.

"ġяєαт." She jerks a thumb at the door. "ρα¢ӄ υρ αиđ ί'ℓℓ мєєт¢нα συт ίи тн' нαℓℓ ."

Even when the door closes behind her, I'm not dumb enough to let out a whoop of victory, even if I really, reeeaally want to. Still too premature. Plus, if I did, that'd be the cue for her to come back in just as I was yelling about how great I was and how I successfully lied my way through security.

I'm happy but I'm not an idiot <i disag>—nobody asked!

So that's why I take my time putting things away, repacking my bag a little more sensibly, and tightening my belt and the pack's straps.

I still hold my breath as I open the door, praying I don't walk into an ambush. Nothing felt weird enough to make me suspect one, but why would that ever matter in this place? It's Makai. Do better than your best and expect the worst <they should put that on the brochures>.


All that awaits me are the golden-haired woman and a black-haired fairy with oval wings, talking about something I don't catch the details of. As soon as I step out of the room, they approach me, brimming with fluffiness and smiles. I think there are people back home—Japan, not just Gensokyo—who would literally kill someone if they could have hair like hers.

"ѕσ нєяє'ѕ σƒƒί¢ίαℓ тяανєℓ ραρєяѕ ƒσя σиє ӄσ¢нίуα σƒ мσяίуα," the golden woman says, handing me a packet of papers bound together. "jυѕт ѕίġи у' иαмє тнєяє, αиđ уєя ѕίġίℓ тнєяє..."

The fairy hands me a pen, but before I even think of uncapping it, I give the top few pages a quick run-through. They're printed in something obviously Makaian, English, and to my pleasant surprise, Japanese. It's all fairly legitimate-looking; the top page is an oath that the questions were answered truthfully and not under duress, so on and so on. It's already got the signature and sigil of a couple people. While the signatures themselves are indecipherable, the text beneath them says that one of them belongs to the one in charge of administering the application process, and that the other belongs to the scribe tech—possibly the fairy. I see the pages beneath filled with the questions and my answers, but restructured like a filled-in application form for something official and governmental, and set in incredibly small type.

It still takes up five sheets in all.

The pen is an old fountain pen whose weight lends a literal gravity to the situation as I give the form my signature <normally id use my seal stamp but thats a no go of course> and a quickly-sketched star for my sigil. The fairy gratefully takes it when I replace the cap, and then both of them hold out their hands—for a handshake, I realize.

"тн' яєєνє'ѕ σƒƒί¢є σƒ đίѕ ƒσямαℓℓу ωєℓ¢σмєѕ уσυ т' мαӄαί, ӄσ¢нίуα," says the golden woman of incredible fluffiness. She sounds very serious about the whole thing, but still gives me a firm handshake and a smile, as does the fairy. "мαу ƒяєєđσм вє тнє ℓίġнт ġυίđίи' уσυ тσ ωнαт у' ¢αмє нєяє ƒσя, αи' яєѕρє¢т и' ρяίđє тнє яσαđ тнαт тαӄєѕ уα тσ ίт."

"Thank you," I say, speaking some of my most honest words yet since entering this building. "I hope they do."

And... that's it. I exit the building the way I came in, startling the heck out of a group of fairies fresh off the farm. After going out the other side of the tunnel, I stopped and just looked up, up, up, up at the cliffside of the plateau.

[heeeeyyyy over heeeeeeere]

Up ahead <above> lies Dis. All around me, people are passing through the little tunnels of the building, and flying up into the air, or turning their carts and pack animals onto the roads that cross back and forth against the cliff, taking them up the the city.

I'm on the home stretch, now.


It's good, feeling good again.

...Shouldn't just keep standing here, though. There's one thing I need to do before anything else once I get through the gates <get a damn towel>.

Like Suwa-mama says, damn right.

But then after that, there's something I need to take care of right away.

[ ] The people offerin' a way home. Meetin' with the people what got the keys to the exit seems a plan.
[ ] A nice warm spot to rest a spell. City's like to be real busy, she thinks. Better stake a claim on a bed.
[ ] Cities got places with real grub. Girl's real proud 'a her fish, but ain't no reason to pass on a real meal.
[ ] Somewhere coin n' goods switch. Got a few things could use some buyin', plus a few could use sellin'.
[ ] A different sort 'a destination. Even more 'n meetin', eatin', sleepin', and buyin', there's something else.
- [ ] (Write in!)


Welcome to Dis.
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[X] The people offerin' a way home. Meetin' with the people what got the keys to the exit seems a plan.

She's bound to need to do something more to actually leave, and trying to find out what that will be seems like the best idea.
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>"тυяи-σиѕ αиđ тυяи-σƒƒѕ؟"
>"тнαт ωαѕ α jσӄє. ωє'яє đσиє."

Damn it, so close!

Before I vote...could we get an inventory check? Do we actually have any money?
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She mentioned "handing one of the sorta-red coins over", which implies she has others of the same denomination.
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[X] The people offerin' a way home. Meetin' with the people what got the keys to the exit seems a plan.
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> [] A nice warm spot to rest a spell. City's like to be real busy, she thinks. Better stake a claim on a bed.

Tempting: it's probably not going to be so easy as all that to leave, and I've got a feeling we're going to be either out in the cold tonight or hungry. But as >>14571 said, finding out what we're going to have to do now is probably our best bet.

[X] The people offerin' a way home. Meetin' with the people what got the keys to the exit seems a plan.

... of course, trying to get to Gensokyo proper is likely to get horrified reactions. We may want to ask for Japan. Or at least Earth. (If we have a way to get to Gensokyo from Earth proper, anyway.)
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[x] A nice warm spot to rest a spell. City's like to be real busy, she thinks. Better stake a claim on a bed.
[x] Cities got places with real grub. Girl's real proud 'a her fish, but ain't no reason to pass on a real meal.
[x] Somewhere coin n' goods switch. Got a few things could use some buyin', plus a few could use sellin'.
[x]Also there was a festival or something, right? Check that out.
Do it all!

Goodness, people, we just got here and you're already looking for the exit?
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Huh, lying our way past security went surprisingly well. Almost suspiciously so, but hey, it worked and we're finally in the city.

[x] A nice warm spot to rest a spell. City's like to be real busy, she thinks. Better stake a claim on a bed.
[x] Cities got places with real grub. Girl's real proud 'a her fish, but ain't no reason to pass on a real meal.

Didn't seem like we had to pick one, so I think these are what Sanae could use most right now. I wouldn't mind meeting Elis's fellows either, but it doesn't need to be done immediately.
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File 145385969012.jpg - (420.48KB, 800x1131, maintenance is not elegant - part 1.jpg)
maintenance is not elegant - part 1
>Didn't seem like we had to pick one
...Ah, that's my bad. It should have said "Pick only one." I'll go with the first-listed options that you and >>14576 chose in absence of anything else. If you or they have real strong feelings about that, you can change your vote. There will probably be choices for others later (since Sanae didn't stop at the trading post outside of the city, she got in the line earlier, when it was still relatively short. As a result (one of a handful, actually), she has now more time available to her.).

>the capital city
I don't believe I said that Dis was the or even a capital (of Makai or this shire).

It's pretty much the same as in >>9805, with the following changes:
-DROP haraegushi (destroyed)
-DROP all four flyers for the Moriya shrine (used as firestarters/tinder)
-DROP ¥2500

-ADD chopsticks (they were actually already there, I just forgot to mention them in the first list)
-ADD food container from Elis (currently holding ashes; has pre-programmed ash-retrieval spell etched into it)
-ADD food container from Elis (currently holding 4-5 small cooked fish)
-ADD food container from Elis (currently holding 12 UFOs that are actually very, very small pieces of rubble with one of those weird not-really worms on each of them)
-ADD 2-3 food containers from Elis (empty)
-ADD Letter of Introduction from Elis
-ADD 2 letters to Kunigunde, better known to most as Koakuma. One is from Elis, and one is from Keshti.
-ADD ℐ3500 (Was 3750, minus ℐ250 for the hazardous materials transport license which was incorporated into her travel papers)

(If I forgot anything, please mention it!)
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>I don't believe I said that Dis was the or even a capital (of Makai or this shire).
Whoops, yeah, looking back I appear to have completely imagined that detail. Will be more careful to get the facts straight next time.
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Dang. No reason to change my vote, though.
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okay now add some civil infrastructure
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=EstIvN0_hcg ]
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/EstIvN0_hcg ]

[S]: Ascend
[Վ] The people offerin' a way home. Meetin' with the people what got the keys to the exit seems a plan.

Going to the place that has the fine folk who can get me out of this place takes top priority after the towel, of course. I've done enough and seen enough in Crap Namek to last me a lifetime <not just you>. Obviously that falls under "done enough". And was in poor taste, but I wouldn't expect anything less from me.

Taking to the air again feels good. Rising up into the sky is a mostly upward motion at first, rather than forward; I'm pretty close to the side of the cliff right now. But then I start to come level with the first of the switchbacks and roads that criss-cross the cliff, and it becomes more of a steep slope (at least, if you looked at it in scale).

[Hi-hi~ I got a thing with nobody's name on it! It makes attainable the unknown~]

Fairies and demons rise up through the air around me, like rain going backwards. Or like Vegeta powering up, but if instead of rocks and chunks of the ground floating up, it was people <definitely one of your worse analogies>. I never claimed to be a Japanese major. A lot of them are moving by quickly, but I'm taking the time to gawk at the roads cut into the plateau. Feeling good enough to feel lazy for a bit, I guess.

It's... actually pretty well laid-out, to be honest. Each "straight" section is a long, gently-curving road that bows out at the ends, probably in order to make the turns less abrupt. The road itself nice and wide, paved in red stone just like the highways. Two lanes, although right now most of the traffic is going up to the city. Sturdy, yet graceful bridges of what look like white cables fill in the occasional gap or ravine that would throw the geometry of the thing off too badly.

I notice that they don't shore up or cover the exposed hillside next to the road. Either they don't get a lot of rain, or they have some other way of handling erosion and landslides. In a country as mountainous as Japan, of course, it's extremely important to prevent that from happening. Even today, there are still plenty of little rural towns and villages that have just a single road passing through that connects them to the rest of the world <keeps mystery and horror writers in business>.

The steadily moving stream of carts, animals, carts and animals, and the odd car...ish vehicle (they look like clunky, primitive farm trucks or something) creates an even noisier hubbub than the crowd of people, somehow. A bit dustier and smellier too, now that I notice, but not enough to make me gag. I'd wonder if my nose just tuned it out somehow, but I never really noticed a stink in the first place. Weird.

It is getting noisier the higher I go, however.

Cresting the edge of the plateau brings back into view the city's enormous sloped walls; presumably made from some sort of rock. I don't know if the dark brown color is painted on or what, but... No, I can't imagine it would be. Even an aircraft carrier wouldn't have this much surface area, would it? I was into robots and stuff, not military things. And I don't know the full size of the city, yet.

A wide concave section of wall (facing out towards the direction everyone is coming from) is home to a huge gate that currently stands open and welcoming to the crowd flowing through it. Colorful streamers and banners with unknown words are everywhere, making the otherwise ominous-looking walls seem bizarrely cheery <still a bit weird>.

[Whoa, heyyy. Almost like a festival, isn't it~? Probably gonna skip the goldfish scoop though.]

The parts of the top of the plateau that are not taken up by the city itself are covered in large swathes of grassy field broken up by patches of bare red ground. A massive open area about the size of two... no, two and a half high school sports fields serves as a kind of front yard to the city where everyone is landing or riding through. There are about a dozen or more tents and temporary stalls set a short distance back from the edges of the roads going in <they arent even that thoughtful in the village>. Most people are entering the city, but enough are stopping to buy or look around that makes me assume it's worth the trouble for the merchants. The number of people and animals marks it for the obvious source of the increasing crowd-noise.

Rather than join the crowd right away, I drift up a little higher, hoping I don't stand out too much. My thinking is that I don't know if they have information kiosks with helpful, colorful brochures and city maps (with lots of restaurant and hotel ads along the edges, of course) for tourists like some of the more popular spots in Japan do (...Although I do remember the promotional tourism posters in Elis' house, so it's not totally impossible, I'll admit).

Therefore, it'd be a good idea to get a good look at what the city looks like from above, even if it's real quick. I don't want to hang around up here too long. Besides making the security or police or whoever real nervous about an onje hanging around up here, I don't want to be up too high for too long. The miracle protecting me from the miasma isn't perfect after all. I'll be pushing it if I stick... around...

I stop.

I stare.

I stare across the expanse of the city, not even seeing it.

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/uHq-v4HJVqE ]

The ship.

That ship.

Moving, but in this slice of time between instants it just hangs in the air as my eyes fasten to it, unable to move.

That simple, but unforgettable shape.

My hands clench so hard I can feel the bones creaking, the joints straining.

Flying away from Dis—leaving it, probably—perhaps two or maybe even three kilometers away, is that gods-damned treasureless treasure ship.

[ ] Right now. They'll take her back home or she'll tear the way out of 'em.
[ ] Next time. This ain't the place for doin' to 'em all-what she's plannin' on.
[ ] Not at all. Can't do anything. Just lookin' at it's killin' her heart t' pieces. The fear's old. Dead. Gone. They'll answer for what they done. Only question is when.


>of course, trying to get to Gensokyo proper is likely to get horrified reactions. We may want to ask for Japan. Or at least Earth.
Well spotted.

Did she lie?

Oops, missed a big one.
-ADD Extraplanar Alien Combined Registration, Travel Visa, and Recreational License form.

Sorry, didn't intend for that to sound as waspish as it kind of looks; I literally meant that I don't think that was mentioned anywhere.
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[X] Next time. This ain't the place for doin' to 'em all-what she's plannin' on.

We're not exactly in a position of great power here. I'd feel a lot more comfortable about taking them on after Sanae is properly equipped again - and that doesn't seem likely until she gets home, or at least to a proper Japanese shrine.
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[X] Right now. They'll take her back home or she'll tear the way out of 'em.

Well. This is quite the choice to be so abruptly offered. I want to see what'll happen if we try. Perhaps at the least we can stow away - or, if Makaians notice, we can legitimately claim that we are hostile towards That Ship From Gensokyo.
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Huh, I was expecting the ship to show back up eventually, but not quite this soon.

[x] Next time. This ain't the place for doin' to 'em all-what she's plannin' on.

I don't see a fight ending at all well while we're still lacking the haraegushi, especially since Fell mentioned a while back that Sanae's weaker here than in the games. And I'd like to see what the locals think of the Palanquin ship before we do anything about it.
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[X] Next time. This ain't the place for doin' to 'em all-what she's plannin' on.

Revenge is a dish best served cold.
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>They'll take her back home or she'll tear the way out of 'em.
>This ain't the place for doin' to 'em all-what she's plannin' on.
>They'll answer for what they done. Only question is when.
What? Fucking what? Where the hell did all this come from?
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>What? Fucking what? Where the hell did all this come from?

They were the ones who stranded us here and traumatised the protagonist. Sanae is holding a grudge.

[x] Right now. They'll take her back home or she'll tear the way out of 'em.

There might not be a next time. The Palanquin Ship is our best chance to get back to Gensokyo. The Historical Brotherhood might not be able (or willing, as >>14575 mentioned) to help us.
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Clearly. But since when? Haven't heard any "I will have my revenge!" stuff until just now, not even a little, and from Ruck's tone it sounds like the fairly heavy sort of revenge. Just comes out of nowhere! What?
I mean, pursuing the ship might be a good idea if we could talk it out or something, because hot damn are we not ready for a fight with those folks, but apparently that's not an option?
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In fairness, I can't remember the last time the Palanquin Ship was on Sanae's mind at all (besides when she told Elis about it) but yeah, looking at this again the...menace does seem pretty abrupt (within this story's context, at least). Didn't notice the first time because it made sense that she'd not look kindly on Murasa's mindrape, but I think your "what" reaction's a fair one. Anyway, the vote options have always been constrained by Sanae's state of mind, so. Guess she's not in a mood for talking.

>There might not be a next time.
Not to get too meta, but IMO even if we don't chase after it right now it seems highly likely we'll cross paths with the ship again. Reason being that we do still have the UFOs aka Floating Vault fragments, and I think the crew wants all of those to accomplish their mission (not that Sanae knows any of that). And it's more of a hunch, but with how things have been set up I'd be quite surprised if the story ended without some kind of confrontation with Byakuren.

>Did she lie?
Oh, I noticed all the technical truths and evasions that she used instead- would have had more trouble from the detector otherwise, I imagine- just used that phrasing because of the narration saying "how I successfully lied my way through security". And anyway, my suspicions were more focused on Sanae's seamlessly straight-faced ability to say things she might normally find uncomfortable. Could easily be reaching, but it reminded me of that one Keshti scene.
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Oh right, sudden vengeful vibes aside, gotta vote.

[x] Next time.

For the record, with the power of meta knowledge, we do know where they're going.
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>I mean, pursuing the ship might be a good idea if we could talk it out or something

Judging by the wording of the vote, I presume we'd start with talking and escalate to violence if they refuse.

>They'll take her back home or she'll tear the way out of 'em <= This isn't a vote, I've already voted.
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kono pressure cooker
[礻] Next time. This ain't the place for doin' to 'em all-what she's plannin' on.

[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/cpxde (Slightly better version) ]
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/iEoGMgJEamw ]

My eyes burn holes in the sides of the ship, but not as literally as I'd like. I've got questions, and boy, they had better have some answers. The feelings running through me, setting my brain and blood on fire bring into perfect, crystal clarity the reason why Reimu solves incidents with such brutal forthrightness.

In that moment, I grasp for the first time why Reimu does what she does, and why she does it how she does it.

It's very simple:

"Life's too short to put up with shit like this."

[Ooh. Profound~]

The phrase comes off my lips like it did from a moderately-sloshed Reimu's <minus the slurred speech> when I asked her those same questions. I didn't get it then, but I am getting it, now.


Right now isn't the time.

Life's too short to put up with... things like this, yes, but when you're already in the thick of it like I am, and well over your head <and man are you ever>, you don't get to have the luxury of confronting all your problems with overwhelming force. You apply your strength in the quick moments and tiny spaces where and when you can, where and when they will help you get out of the situation the best.

And right now?

Right now, that means I can't go after the ship.

They'll be back, or I'll find them again. Maybe it's divine intuition or insight, but I know it. They can't be an ancient evil locked away and never to be released, or The Lady Yukari and Reimu would have already been on top of it. And if they had something to do with Gensokyo, then their business there isn't done.

Knowing the kinds of things Gensokyo's primary shrine maiden has to deal with—and more importantly, as someone who was in the center of one of the incidents that had to be dealt with—I feel qualified in saying that nobody that's anything like these folk just come to Gensokyo and then just as quickly wander off to another dimension, never to return.

I don't have a Stand, but people who cause a stir in Gensokyo attract one another. Or something like that <creative but the delivery sucked>. Bah.

That's why I don't feel bad about letting go of this burning impulse to go after, to hunt down, to punish and question.

There will be another opportunity.

I'm sure of it.

My gaze drops from the ship, and I stand still in the hot, hot air as I once again regard the city below.

"...Kinda looks like a puffer fish," I say, after a moment. It's not fully true, but it's the idea that sticks in my head. The city of Dis looks like a big octagon that stretches out in the middle. Since each of the long walls of the city—the sides of this octagon—are curved inward horizontally and sloped vertically, the effect from above makes it look like a very geometric crater. I see little squares at the ends of the tips where the corners are. Turrets, maybe?

The city itself is ...pretty big, really. I'm not as good with large distances like this, especially without a higher view and something to compare to, but... maybe a kilometer wide at its widest, and more than that long. Maybe half again as much <white base could hide here no problem>. A lot could, actually. Or not really, I guess; the city walls are only about fifteen or twenty meters high, and White Base is almost a hundred.

[ ♫: http://youtu.be/GYTtRcUzDBE ]
[ ♫: http://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=GYTtRcUzDBE ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/odeyo ]

As for what's in the city, who even knows <a lot of demons and fairies>. How very helpful. But aside from that, I see... well, the city is actually aligned at a forty-five degree angle to the directions as I understand them. But if you look straight ahead from the front gate, the whole thing is all squares instead of all diamonds. Or something.

Closest to the gate here are what seems like a lot of stores and shops, judging by the size and appearance of them. Lots of that for a few streets, then larger, more boring buildings to the mo, and smaller, more plain buildings to the set. The main street that the gate opens onto continues in a straight line through the city, and opens up in the middle with colorfulness and activity. A good swath of the mo section of the city definitely looks darker, less fancy in architecture, and feels very industrial.

The set side changes composition a few times, but I can definitely see some clean, wide-open areas with nice buildings in the middle, and a wooded area nearby. Nice neighborhoods and a park, probably? No idea what the areas closest to me and furthest from me on that side are, though. Lots of small, packed buildings.

[Oh? Company's calling~]

I don't think I can get much more out of this without sticking around, and that's not something I'm going to risk. As I start descending, a couple of figures in what turn out to be Watch uniforms step away from the crowd, and gesture to me.


...On the other hand, they aren't rocketing towards me with weapons drawn or shooting me down <of course not theres tons of people around>. Yeah, but... well, they don't look angry. More information would be nice, but there's only one way to find out. Safely, at least.

"Good afternoon, officers," I say, using my best greeting-new-people voice. "How can I help you?" One of them's a tired-looking blonde fairy, and the other I could almost believe was human if not for the tiny horns peeking out the back of her sea-green hair. Oh, and the completely-black eyes. I keep myself from shuddering or making a face, but goosebumps still rise along my arms.

If she notices, it doesn't bother her much. "Constable actually, but pretty easily, I'm hopin'!" she tells me. There's such cheer in her voice, and her partner looks so exhausted. It's almost like Kana-mama when Suwa-mama has a hangover. "First time in Dis?"

"Oh, yes."

"Weeeell, I figure y'oughta know that we tryin' t'keep folks from goin' over the walls, or hangin' around up in the sky, 'specially seein as how th' Grand Feast's on th' morrow." She tilts her head, giving me a friendly look. "You doin' all right?" Next to her, the fairy is staring at my hat. Or maybe just trying to not look me in the eyes.

[Impossible! No tail could be tha~t fluffy. ...Oh! Oh wow. It can!]

"Oh, yes I am!" I flash a smile of my own, and what I hope is a convincingly apologetic look, which makes the black-eyed woman brighten up. "Sorry about that, I'll keep down lower from now on." I feel myself automatically bow a little in apology before I stop the movement. Not too deep. They bow in other countries, I know, but why draw attention to it? "But as you say, it's my first time here... so do you know where I might find a place where I could buy a towel?"

They both blink, almost in unison. Not a lot of call for that, I guess <not from onje anyway>. The fairy gets a look from her partner, and reluctantly speaks up. "Wha' kin'ya aft'r." Wow, not only does she look tired, she sounds it.

"Um... a bath towel, like to dry off with? Something about this big?" I hold my hands out to show the size. "Maybe a bit bigger than that."

"Nnn." The fairy grunts, and looks up in thought. "Hosha's 's'good, bu' nahfer you. Naw, bessbet fer wunna'ya types's... Nnn." She pauses, tilts her head a little, then continues. "Merry Verri Cloth'n'fabric's upparoun'a awnje quart'r'a'town? Prices's good, steady folk. Issonna far-oth'rside, though, wayway-alla." She points a few times over towards the mo end of the city.

The words come as though from a mouth that's too lazy to move too much. As she talks, I can't help but notice brief glimpses of pointed teeth clenched closed, visible for a flash as her lips move. I thought at first that she was messing with me, but it might actually be weird kind of courtesy. Or shyness <gods it would look like a small bear trap opening or something>.

"Onna oth'hand," she says, actually looking at me now, "Liverlake Tec'tiles's jussabit nearbya little. 'Sa binness though; nahsso-cheap. Th'work's f'sure top-notch, though. Theymake'a sureyas damnhappy with whatchaspent'n bought'frommem. Plusya'ain't goin' allacross th'city."

I'll admit, I was kind of hoping they would just point me towards a department store or something. But it's not like this is a concept I'm unfamiliar with, either.

[ ] It's worth walkin' a bit more. Settin' up shop near onje likely means they ain't over-fussed about 'em.
[ ] It's just a damn towel, though. Might cost a bit more coin, but that's fine. Girl here's got other places to go.


This update should have been a lot longer.

Also, I must recommend Soma to anyone who is even remotely a fan of horror or survival horror games. It's by the people who made Amnesia, which is already a mark in its favor. But more than that, you know how the back cover/back of the box always talks about how the experience will stick with you, or it'll change how you look at/think about some topic, yet they almost always fail to do anything of the sort? Soma actually delivers.

(One small caveat: It's like Higurashi in that you should go into it as blind as possible. Trade favors and get someone to buy it for you, or ask a friend to sit down and go to the Steam page and buy it (and if possible, install it). Don't look at anything on Steam about it when you go to play/install it. The less you know starting off, the better it is.)
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[X] It's worth walkin' a bit more. Settin' up shop near onje likely means they ain't over-fussed about 'em.
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[X] It's worth walkin' a bit more. Settin' up shop near onje likely means they ain't over-fussed about 'em.
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Ah, forgot to vote.

[X] It's worth walkin' a bit more. Settin' up shop near onje likely means they ain't over-fussed about 'em.

I don't really care about the towel itself, but the accompanying suggestion could be interesting.
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[x] It's worth walkin' a bit more. Settin' up shop near onje likely means they ain't over-fussed about 'em.
We haven't actually met any other onje, right? Checking them out could give us some good insight into our status here.
...wait, was the smoke lady an onje? I forget.
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[X] It's worth walkin' a bit more. Settin' up shop near onje likely means they ain't over-fussed about 'em.

Smokey's status was never confirmed; only she knows for sure. She implied she was, but I trust her about as much as I can throw her, and I can't throw smoke very far.
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Update coming next week, with bonus content. Please accept this Hina accepting chocolate as an apology.
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[x] It's just a damn towel, move out lady

Symbolic vote since it's already closed.

Also: I got spoiled to death about Soma right up the end... Goddamn.
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newer and not so old and busted as this
(Same music as previous)
[ ♫: http://youtu.be/GYTtRcUzDBE ]
[ ♫: http://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=GYTtRcUzDBE ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/odeyo ]

[ჲ] It's worth walkin' a bit more. Settin' up shop near onje likely means they ain't over-fussed about 'em.

"That first one sounds nice, doesn't it?" I say. "It sounds like it might take some walking, but I'll get to see more of the city that way." <always with the positive spin> Obviously I can't let this war of attrition end. Besides, it'll make me look good <whatever works if anything does>.

The fairy constable gives a strange diagonal head-bob that's probably supposed to be a nod? "Arright'en, she'saaaat... Hnn. 'Boutaround niney'nine by one-fiff'five, vel-zed, Dis-rellah." There's a bit of a pause where I look politely befuddled, after which she gets a nudge from her partner. "Hnn?"

"C'mon, Roozy! She just said she's fresh," the other constable chides.

Understanding dawns. "Nn, nn-hnn." Diagonal nod again. "Ri'sorry, gonnawan'go through'th'gates, n'geddonover t'tha nexbig-streetah'so cald'Morricenni. Central's packed, asya-see; this'letcha keepagoin' 'longsidah, ferthe-mos, kay?" She makes gestures that seem in line with what I think she's saying <either im doing it right or im already lost>.

[...Even the candy! Who makes normal candy spicy? Who?!]

"Soya-gon'jus follah Morricenni til'market, n' hitchover-mo'abit til'turns-inna Luccio. Follah'gain t'tha ril-bigroads goin'on'uppa-th' railyards. Go'roun'em, bythah-fence, n'lookferra tall'n'thin place withacrane uppatop. 'Kay?"


...I'm getting the same kind of feeling I got whenever townsfolk gave your character a long list of instructions: slight nervousness, and the suspicion that I should have brought paper and a pencil. And I don't even get the benefit of having the important parts highlighted in a different color!

"Um... yes." <are you an idiot> "—Or, no, no. Um." The desire to no longer continue bothering the police <the watch> these helpful law enforcement officials is immediately outweighed by my desire to not wander around a city filled with demons looking lost and foreign. I recite what I thought I heard back to her, step by step, getting a little more clarification where needed.

When the details have been worked out, they let me go, welcoming me (again) to the city, and continue on their way, already falling back into conversation.

"...So, Roozy."


"I'm terrible curious 'bout how someone like your foul-tempered self knows the whereabouts of suitable fabric stores so quick when you ain't lived here even half as long as me."

"Nunna'yer damn binniss, Dettie."

It's only after I'm through the gates and amongst the crowd that I realize I should have asked where the Historical Brotherhood offices were. I said a few things when I remembered <theyll just bloop it out with circles>.

Still sucks.

Right away, I notice that it's cooler inside the city. Not by much, but enough to take it down from "really hot" to "pretty warm". It's still bright and toasty enough to warrant keeping the turbandanna on. I notice, looking up over the heads of the crowd around me to the walls above, that the sun is now shining from just behind the parapets.

Only I'm pretty sure that it was hiding right behind the mountains when I was floating up in front of the walls about fifteen minutes ago. Elis told me about it, and I've even seen it happening before. Hasn't really ever been quite so blatant as it is now, though <crap namek earning its name>. Really can't wait to get to the Brotherhood office.

The main street the gate dumps people onto (possibly the "Central" she spoke of? We don't name streets in Japan, but I know it's something they do a lot in the West. No reason Makai couldn't have picked up the practice.) is paved in grey stone slabs, and it's just about the most crowded that "crowded" can be without it becoming a problem. Vehicles can still move through if they make themselves known, and everyone in the crowd can keep walking without getting squished or blocked off or jostled constantly. Chatter, distant music, and the cries of vendors lining the street fill the air.

Yet, despite how familiar it should be, there's an exotic feeling to it. Even the busiest festivals in Japan don't have the same range of builds, shapes, colors, and species that Makai does. The voices are stranger, the music is different, the smells in the air are unusual, and even the architecture is different. Lots of low buildings, though not quite like in Vina. Plenty of two-story buildings as well. All of them are painted in bright solid colors, with black, sleek roofs. Hanging signs inform anyone walking down the sandy-colored sidewalks whose business they're walking by, and are never too far away from a door or entrance.

[Well! It's certainly no Rio, but this is quite the city, isn't it~? ...Hmm. Not a big sightseer, huh.]

...Actually, there do seem to be a lot of shops and businesses along the street, here. Obviously I can't read a lot of them, but illustrations, showcases, and open doors reveal enough to get a good idea of what they might be. My earlier grousing about this stupid world is facing an uphill battle in keeping me moving forward, rather than letting me succumb to a quickly-mounting sense of curiosity. It's rough, but I try to focus on moving through the crowd at a good pace instead of being drawn in by what's at its edges <thats very samadhi>. Wait... Is it Samadhi? Or am I mixing that up with sati <could be>?

Whatever. I might be a tourist, but not by choice. Certainly no need to act like one.

A major intersection allows me to take a street that jogs mo-of-pir for a couple blocks before putting me onto another main drag—"Morricenni", if I haven't messed things up. There are street signs up on posts almost like the ones you see in American movies, except these are white-on-blue instead of white-on-green, and I don't recognize any of the writing. Not only is it incomprehensible because I don't know this language, but I also don't see anything on either sign that looks like the numbers I memorized.

...So I'm still going at this blindly <amazing>. I look back towards Central, but discard the idea of heading back. I don't want to be the dumb, obvious, easy target in a city of demons on an alien world. A world that mostly doesn't care for me, at that.

I'm only two blocks away from Central, anyway. It's not hard to lose track of. And this street's a lot less busy.

It'll be fine.

Normally that's the line which would cut to some horrible circumstances I'd landed myself in, or some dire commentary about 'Little did I know what horrors awaited' or something. Neither of those happen, somehow <the manga wont sell now that ive ruined reader expectations>. Okay, first? If that's what it took for them to drop it, they weren't going to keep reading much longer anyway, so the heck with those jerks. Second, that's not really even a massive twist, so the first case isn't even a likely scenario.

Point is, things are fine so far. Almost boringly so.

The sounds of the crowd are muffled but still audible as I travel mo along the much calmer sidewalks of what I hope is Morricenni Street (Or maybe it's one of those "Ave." things? I think I've seen that in a few films). There's a lot more cart and vehicle traffic on the streets out this way. The brightly painted street-side shops of Central have given way to several large, squatty buildings with large doors and signs of frequent travel. Several of them have been open, and almost without exception it's been in order to unload or load cargo or packages of some kind. It's pretty reasonable to guess that this is some kind of light manufacturing and warehouse district.

[...are ruuunning wiiiild~ Someone let T-Rex out of his pennnnn...]

One of the other upsides is that apparently you're not limited to walking. After the third time I saw someone flying a couple meters off the sidewalk, I decided to follow suit. I'm obviously not able to go at the same speed as if I were moving through open sky, but it does make mean I make better time than if I were on my feet.

After about fifteen or twenty minutes, the sound of a train whistle—closer, this time, and now with the sounds of an actual train moving—prompts me to glance around. None in sight, which is a shame. That sound definitely belongs to something that had some muscle. Getting to have a look at an actual train, if that's in fact what it is, in this screwy world of demons is about the only other reason I'd stick around Makai any longer than I need to.
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more than just a fence
At this point, I'm about halfway through the middle of the city. The streets start getting a little dingier, the buildings taller and smokestackier (but not that much smokier. Weird.), and the air more filled with the sound of heavy machinery humming and thumping away inside dust-colored brick buildings. The road dips down a little, and I find myself walking along a thick metal fence. It's about two or three meters tall, and looks like you managed to get a sort of chain link fence effect out of that common Chinese design pattern with lots of overlapping squares and right-angled lines <looks kinda bouncy>. I'm not even gonna touch that.

The fence goes on for... quite a long ways, actually. From up on this little rise before the street flattens out down below, I can see a large cargo storage lot, almost like what you'd see at a harbor. Not quite so many long metal cargo containers here, though. The trend seems to stick more to large cylinders and oblong boxes. No actual, proper trucks yet, I guess.

...I wonder if these are the railyards.

If they are, that means I missed a turn somewhere, I think. I remember there being a market mentioned, and I didn't run into one of those.

This... could be bad.

Long delayed, the irony of timing strikes at last: another train whistle sounds, this time much closer, beyond the fence. It's soon followed by a very distinctive clanging of train bells, albeit in a different pattern than I'm used to.

[Whoa, hold on. They have trains here? Ah, did I know this already?]


Guess I found the railyards, then.

But there's a fence here, too, so... maybe I got to the right place through the wrong way. That feeling of hesitation about asking the locals lessens a bit, but there aren't many people on the street. Several carts and a few more of those motorized wannabe trucks, though.

Nothing for it but to keep going. At least I know what I'm looking for, to an extent.

[ ♫: http://youtu.be/knC2kyRf-n8 ]
[ ♫: http://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=knC2kyRf-n8 ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/hqrrk ]

Another five minutes or so sees the fence turn into a brick wall, and the streets dip down again and pull away from the wall. The buildings change abruptly from stone or brick to mostly wood with stone and reclaimed brick faces. The streets are the narrowest the city's had yet, and look older and more worn. Despite that, they're about as clean as the industrial area I've been walking <hovering> through all this while. The nearby presence of the dark city walls informs me that I'm much closer to the "back end" of the city compared to where I started out.

Just as I get to a fork in the road, I notice that the tall building at this end of the V-shaped wedge of buildings has a brightly painted yellow crane arm mounted on a long, second-story patio lined by metal railings. My heart jumps and my eyes drop down, immediately finding a sign that proclaims in large, yellow Roman letters:

┃ Clothing,Tailoring, ┃
Repair , ┃
┃ Fitting, Fabrics, ┃
┃ - & моʀє - ┃

While I don't even know what every single one of those words means, I can definitely read the two at the top. The fact that this is all written in English makes me think that the fairy constable was on the level when she said that the shop was onje-friendly <pretty sure she used some pretty different words>. Well, the message is the same, isn't it? I don't have the luxury of being offended at something like wording, here.

[Hmm. Bit bigger than a telephone booth, isn't it~?]

A sign hanging in the door reads "open" in about a dozen or more languages, so I wipe my boots on the mat out front (not an entirely empty gesture; I've been airborne for a little while but I did walk that whole road to the city on my feet) and go in.

The interior is a bit dim, since the recessed lights in the ceiling aren't on <thats a weirdly modern touch>. Plenty of afternoon daylight coming in from the long windows lining the sides of this wedge-shaped building keep the shop from becoming impossible to navigate. Displays I can't see and highly generic mannequins show off the wares and skills of the owner in window showcases. The shop floor itself is decorated with several displays and arrangements—I seem to have walked into a showroom.

Also impossible to miss is the floor-to-ceiling metal pole in the back. No, that's not right: through the ceiling; there's a wide hole cut around it. Before I have time to start thinking about that for too long, someone turns on a stereo, cranks the bass knob until it snaps off in their hands, and speaks.

"G O O D A F T o h s o r r y o n e m o m e n t !"


I look beh nt of me, a short figure with a massive amount of long orange curls into a high ponytail climbs down the pole and scuttles over to where I stand, blinking and reeling a little from the literal impact of her... her? Her words. Another hand dives inside a blue mechanic's jumpsuit with dozens on dozens of pockets and pouches sewn onto it, and makes a violent motion accompanied by the sound of a live microphone being jostled around.

She hums a note, makes another fierce inward jab, and hums again. That seems to do the trick apparently, because that hand comes out and shades her eyes as she peers up at me. After a second, she presents me with yet another hand for a handshake. "N i h a o ~" she trills, still with the bass but at a much less teeth-rattling level.

Okay, got a lot to process here. Definitely more than two arms; I can see five at the moment, and they're way too long for human arms, even though the hands at the end look as normal as anything. The sleeves covering every millimeter of her arms also have a lot of buttons running the entire length of the sleeves. And she's speaking Chinese...?

"Sorry," I say in the Tongue of Man while giving her a more hesitant handshake than I meant to. "I don't speak Chinese."

"O h ?" She looks surprised, and then gives a shrug with four of the five arms—I think the fifth comes from behind her, rather than from any set of shoulders. "T h o u g h t y o u l o o k e d i t . A n y w a y , I ' m V e r r i t i n e a n d t h i s i s m y s h o p ." A couple arms on her left extend to take in the surroundings. "A r e y o u h e r e f o r r e p a i r s ?" she asks, eyes falling to my ragged clothes.

It's hard to understand what she says as she's saying it, like the vibration is rattling my brain just enough that it needs a second or two to turn that stream of noise into words <like a dubbed bootleg wuxia movie>. And on a dodgy VHS tape, at that. Once I'm caught up, I shake my head. "No, uh... I mean, I'm really just interested in buying a good towel right now. The clothing isn't as important at the moment, but thank you."

A tilt of the head. Wow, she's got to be at least twenty centimeters shorter than me. "S u i t y o u r s e l f . J u s t o n e ? A n d w h a t k i n d? "

...'What kind?' What other kind of—oh. "Ah, just like a bath towel. Something that will last. And not too thick." I do like a nice, lush towel when I'm drying off, but I don't want something that'll be too big bundled up. "And just the one, sorry." <wheres it gonna go though> "...Oh, and perhaps a couple of straps to tie it to my pack?"

Verri(tine) nods the nod of someone already working out several things at once in her head, then gives me a squint. ". . . I c a n d o t h a t r i g h t n o w , n o e x t r a c h a r g e . B u t t e l l y o u w h a t , I ' l l e v e n s h a v e o f f t w e n t y p e r c e n t i f y o u t e l l m e w h a t i n t h e G o d d e s s ' g l o r i o u s g a z e m a d e y o u d e c i d e t o w e a r s u c h a h a t ." She almost spits out the last word, and I self-consciously touch my turbandanna once I realize what it was <keeps my head cool you half a spider>. There's a clever barb, for sure <eat a dick>.

She climbs up the pole with ease while I sit (with some misgivings) in a row of chairs near it, presumably placed here for exactly this reason. I can see part of her from this angle, although there isn't much to look at while she works. Despite the frequent bursts of muffled mechanical sounds, I tell a very edited version of my recent travels <in other words the whole trip> yes now shut up. It's vague enough to mislead at certain points, especially where it might incriminate me <gotta establish that alibi>. I won't disagree with that. I do start giving a little more detail once I get to the approach to Dis, the line, the waiting, the heat, and my solution. She asks a few more questions about that part, here and there.

Once she's satisfied with that, she tells me a little about this place and the layout of the city in general. I ask enough questions that she finally tells me she'll just draw a map once she's done. I think that's a sign for me to hush up so she can concentrate, and I do so.

"T o w e l ' s d o n e , m a ' a m. A n d y o u r m a p ."

I glance up as Verritine <no it isnt> slides down the pole, a navy blue towel folded over one of her arms like an old-timey waiter with... . ...Wait, what. I tense up as the person who mostly looks like Verritine strolls over to me. "Thank you," I say, moving my hand casually closer to the ofuda pouch. "But who are you?"

This person does not have the curtain of orange curls. This person has a short, neat bob cut, and very straight hair. The color's still the same, however. As is virtually every other thing about her, including the voice.

[D'you think this looks good on me? You can't beat yellow, but there's always room for green~]

She looks over at a clock on the wall, not really fazed by the odd question. "O h , s o r r y . T h e h o u r c h a n g e d o v er ." She pats her much shorter hairdo. "S t i l l m e r r y a n d s t i l l V e r r i . L o s t a b e t l a s t m o n t h , a n d b o y d o e s S h a n - h i g - t e u h a v e w e i r d s t a k e s . T h e r e ' s a f r e e t i p f o r y o u : d o n ' t p l a y g a m e s w i t h c u r s e s b u i l t i n ." She walks over to a small counter with a copper-trimmed cash register that almost gleams. She jabs some buttons, and a moment later, a bell rings, followed a second later by a short whirring and humming. "T h a t ' s s e v e n t y - f o u r j u l i è n e w i t h t h e d i s c o u n t ."

...Right. Pretty sound advice, though; can't deny that. I make my way over to the counter, and pull out one of the ℐ250 coins. She swipes it across a square patch of discoloration on the top edge of the register and looks back at the coin. Nothing happens, which seems to be what she wanted. The coin gets dropped into the open till and appropriate change is fished out of same. I glance down and notice a distinct lack of change-tray. Clarity comes a second later when she tears off a small slip of gati that I hadn't even heard being printed and motions for me to cup my hands. I dutifully do so, and receive a small heap of money placed atop the folded map and the slip of gati—a receipt, I'm betting.

Weird way to do it, but I can deal with that. More number practice, too, I realize, looking at the unfamiliar coins.

"T h e r e ' s a t h i r t y - t w o d a y r e t u r n p o l i c y , t o o . P r o b a b l y e a s i e r t o f i g u r e t h a t o u t s o o n e r t h an l a t e r , t h o u g h ." She chuckles, and I smile as well, though I didn't catch any joke in that. She looks at the clock again, then out the windows, where the daylight is definitely turning orange. "N o t l o o k i n g t o p r y , b u t d o y o u h a v e a p l a c e t o s t a y i n t h e n e x t c o u p l e d a y s o f t h e F e a s t ?" she asks.

[ ] Half-rantula don't need to know. Tells her yeah, she got a room.

[ ] Not right yet, but she'll get one. She'll be fine; no need for worry.
[ ] Not right yet, no. Girl asks th' dame what might be on 'er mind.


Makaian addressing is technically logical but bizarre in actuality. Trigonometry was involved.

Also, this is the end of thread 3, after two and a quarter years. Next update goes in a new thread! Also, the aforementioned bonus content will be there as well, since it's going to take a moment to work up.

Shit, I'm really sorry to hear about that. Try Amnesia, perhaps?
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[X] Not right yet, but she'll get one. She'll be fine; no need for worry.
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[x] Not right yet, no. Girl asks th' dame what might be on 'er mind.

No harm in exploring our options, whether Verritine has a room or just knows someone who might. It's doubtful we'd need to say yes right away, but this has a decent chance of being an onje-friendly area.

Our companion's apparently wandered farther afield than I thought, that's interesting. Looking forward to the new thread, and the bonus content!

>Makaian addressing is technically logical but bizarre in actuality. Trigonometry was involved.
...okay, I have to ask, trigonometry was involved how?
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[x] Not right yet, no. Girl asks th' dame what might be on 'er mind.
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[x] Not right yet, no. Girl asks th' dame what might be on 'er mind.

>...okay, I have to ask, trigonometry was involved how?

I must second this question.
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File 145681388018.jpg - (139.11KB, 959x348, the week in review.jpg)
the week in review
Regarding the delay: see filename.

[ ♫: https://youtu.be.com/watch?v=AaEmCFiNqP0 ]

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> 'Boutaround niney'nine by one-fiff'five, vel-zed, Dis-rellah.

"99 by 155, vel Z, Dis-relative."

... what "vel Z" means, I have no idea. Vel is "ascending" and so may denote "height level Z", i.e., the ground. On the other hand, it may instead mean "in this context, vel is the z-positive axis"... which would imply that other, less obviously sensible possibilities are in common use.

> Makaian addressing is technically logical but bizarre in actuality. Trigonometry was involved.
Just (r,θ) rather than (x,y), I hope?

Or using cylindrical coordinates with z⁺ pointing due an, so that neighbors along a street have no coordinate values in common, and likewise, second-floor apartments differ in all three coordinates from their first-floor counterparts?

(Cylindrical coordinates with z⁺ pointing up are almost reasonable, if you have named streets; it introduces a bit of redundancy that can help if you get one of the coordinates wrong, but still know the street name. Except on the central radii; but everybody knows what's on those, right?)
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