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File 145732711228.png - (1.33MB, 1031x609, little shop of corners.png)
little shop of corners
(Previous music continues)
[ ♫: http://youtu.be/knC2kyRf-n8 ]
[ ♫: http://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=knC2kyRf-n8 ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/hqrrk ]

[Ļ] Not right yet, no. Girl asks th' dame what might be on 'er mind.

"Well, no," I reply. "Not yet, I guess." <well that sure was something to tell a demon> A demon who lives right next to the onje district? Yeah, that's totally how predators work <by looking as harmless as possible yes>. That's not a word I'd use to describe her. "I've got someone to meet after this, and then I'll check in for the night somewhere." Crashing in someone's shed seems like it would get me in trouble, here. I already know I won't be fortunate enough to find another Elis.

"O h ?" Verritine lifts a very orange eyebrow. Hold on, are those scales up by her hairline? "Y o u ' r e w e l c o m e t o t r y , I g u e s s ."


"...Try what?"

"F i n d i n g a n o p e n b e d, l e t a l o n e a r o om , d u r i n g t h e S a i n t ' s S e v e n ?" She barks a laugh (I think), and it's like someone slapped a microphone. My towel is set lightly down upon the countertop and she looks me in the eyes. Hers are almost normal—brown eyes, like you'd see on any regular human, but the pupils are weird. Instead of a black circle, they look like commas, extending over the iris.

[Maybe light blue? ...Well, that'd be downright silly now, wouldn't it? I'd start getting all her mail~]

"Y o u ' l l g e t a n i c e r r e c e p t i o n t h a n u s u a l d u r i n g t h e Sa i n t ' s S e v e n , b u t t h a t d o n ' t q u i t e m e an p e o p l e ' r e g o n n a t r e a t y o u l i k e y o u ' r e n o r m a l , m a ' a m . Y o u c a n b e t yo u r l a s t j i n gl i n g j u l i è n e t h a t t h e r e i s n ' t a n i n n k e e p o r p r o p r i e t o r t h a t ' l l g i v e s p a c e t o a n o n j e o v e r a r e g u l a r p e r s o n ."

Oh. "That sucks."

She nods.

"Well, I'll keep that in mind," I say, kind of trying to keep things moving along. "Thank you for the warning."

"N o p r o b l e m ." She points off in one direction with one hand while a couple of others hand me my brand-new towel. "T h e o n j e h o s t e l a b l o c k u p t h e s t r e e t f r o m h e r e ' l l g i v e y o u a p l a c e t o s l e e p . B u t t e l l t h e m I s e n t y o u , i f y o u g o t h e r e ," she adds.

Oh, damn... That would help a lot <maybe shes in cahoots with the hostel>. Could be. If it comes to that, then that's when I'll figure it out. Ah, but wait—if something goes wrong at the Brotherhood office, I might be able to hitch a ride back with another onje!

"Thanks again, then," I tell the demon, feeling a bit more genuine when I say it this time. I collect my things, bid her farewell, and am a meter or two from the door when I turn around. "Sorry, but I just remembered. Could you show me where the office of the Historical Brotherhood is?"

"T h e w h o . . . ?" Verri gives me a weird look, then snaps three fingers at once. "O h , i t ' s r i g h t b y t h e m u s e u m , I t h i n k . I f y o u ' l l l e t m e h av e t h a t m a p a g a i n f o r a m o m e n t . . ." She gestures, and I oblige her, walking back over to the countertop. When I return the map to her, she unfolds it and...


Okay, that's not quite what I had in mind when I said I wanted a map.

[She almost heard tha~t.]
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dis here map
[[ ⌘: http://i.imgur.com/H16Dcjl.png ]] (alternate link for post image)

The map isn't a sketch of streets, roads, and important buildings or places. It's more like a general layout of the city, separated into districts <yes complain more about that kosode why dont you>. I'm not being ungrateful! It wasn't what I expected, that's all. It'd take more time to do what I wanted, anyway, and this is already coming to me free. No way I'm going to complain about that.

Verri marks the store with a circle and an arrow on the map, then draws a little square and arrow for the Brotherhood's office. She looks up and is probably about to mention something when she trails off instead. Looking back down at the map again, she frowns. ". . . I d i d n ' t r e a l l y t h i n k a b o u t i t , b u t t h e n a m e s a r e n ' t m u c h h e l p i f y o u d o n ' t k n o w w h a t t h e y a r e, a r e t h e y ?" she muses.

"No, not at all! That is to say, it's a very nicely drawn map, and..." <wow could you have possibly said anything worse> Erg. "...I'm sorry, I didn't mean t—"

My apologies get waved off. "N o , i t ' s f i n e . I w a s t h i n k i n g l i k e s o m e o n e w h o l i v e s h e r e. L e t m e d r a w y o u a n e w o n e ." She starts to crumple up the map, but I frantically intercede, apologizing and reassuring her and trying not to sound too insincere when I do it.

She finally relents, but insists on giving me a brief run-through of the districts.


Long strip of trendy stores and bars, situated so that it's what many people coming in from outside the shire encounter first. This is the center of Dis nightlife.

Somewhat nice residential area, in that the streets are clean and people bother to plant shrubs. Largely made up of temporary housing or long-stay hotels.

The economic district. Thick with accountants and financial businesses. Almost all of Makai's major banks and trading firms have an office somewhere in this area.

Light industrial area. Lots of storage and processing facilities for rail cargo. The railroad passes through this section of Dis up from underneath, and then out through the gates.

The onje quarter. Probably one of the worst parts of the city, but even then, it's not that bad. Lots of people'd rather you stayed here (or never came to Dis at all), but that's them, and this is you.

Name pretty much says it all. Trains coming from both sides of The Over & Under pass through here. Most stop for passengers, cargo, and refueling, too.

Dis' main commercial district. Any business that isn't direct processing of what's shipped from the farms happens here, for the most part. Lots of export, trading, and wholesale.

A small, upper-class residential district. There are a handful of mansions and lavish estates here, but most of this district's population lives in what are essentially upscale condos.

Ezov Park
Ezov Park is a hilly, thickly wooded section of the city that even impresses people from the farms, as they're mostly used to flatness and fields.

Center of the municipal government and judicial offices. Several federal bureaus maintain branch offices in other districts of the city, as well. Dis is actually not the capital of Harla Shire, despite that.

Sibylla Plaza
The center of the city. Impossible to miss the fountain in the middle. This is where most of the big events of the Feast are being held.

Heavy industry and manufacturing, mostly for goods and equipment used by farms all over the shire.

A large portion of the Dis' permanent, non-visiting population lives in this part of the city. It ranges from apartments and tenements to small houses. Most of the people here fall between very low middle class and very high lower-class. Not pleasant, but usually adequate.

When you need expensive but crucially important equipment for your farm or business, this is where you'll find the place selling it.

A lively, vibrant market that caters to citizens of Dis and people staying in town. All kinds of goods from inside and outside of the city can be found here. A substantial majority of local shopping is done in the market.

The outer rim of this district bears almost no resemblance to the inner. Affordable shops, services, and retail on the outside; slaughterhouses, food processing, and more on the inside.

If Dis has a ghetto, it's this. Barely-serviceable housing for the unpleasant but necessary jobs at the rendering houses and agricultural processing facilities that surround it. Nobody lives here longer than they have to.

A small trading post outside of Dis, just set of the plateau. Sees a lot of traffic from those both coming and going.

Dis' river port. Almost 20 hectocubits pir of Dis. Sits on an artificial island in a river channel. Anything flying or floating docks here if the people aboard are visiting the city.


I try to absorb it all, assigning meaning to name the best I can. She does add, helpfully, that the dividing spaces shown between each of the districts usually correspond to a major street or boundary. It does help put me at ease, I'll admit.

[...Ah. I found Waldo~]

After getting a few details down pat, I thank her and see myself out. Looking back, I return the wave she gives from the window.
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File 145732802434.jpg - (53.20KB, 420x279, naturally it is historical.jpg)
naturally it is historical
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/lkzfj ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/vlda ] (same track, alternate link)

I soon find that having even just this much information about the city in my head helps a lot when it comes to moving through it. I'd have appreciated some kind of Yahoo Maps-style thing, but if I could have what I wanted, I wouldn't even be here.

Weaving through the back streets of what can only be the Pelingua district isn't too dissimilar to doing the same through the Railyards and Vetrompina, except that it's more tightly packed. The streets are smaller and because lots of shops and businesses are closed up or closing up, there are a lot more people to contend with as I trot along the sidewalks.

Nobody's really flying here, aside from a rare exception now and again that I can't seem to figure out the rule for. As a result, I'm stepping off the sidewalk to allow the locals to pass by instead. Haven't been spat on yet, though I have a feeling that one person tried. Definitely getting my share of suspicious looks, too. That part hasn't been very fun.

[Y'know, if these people could just shoot webbing, the daily commute would become so cool.]

One of the streets spills me out onto a much wider main drag. The buildings across the street see a noticeable jump in fanciness and cleanliness from the ones over here, although there's something a bit off about them. I can see trees several blocks away in one direction, and a lot of people heading the other direction. After briefly consulting my map, I cross over into Buscaglitore.

As expected of a governmental district, it's rather nice—lawns are neat and manicured, the signage is much more ostentatious, and the clothes are much more formal... I think. They look sort of old-fashioned to me, like something you'd see in a sepia-colored photo. But they also look fresh and recently made rather than old and dusty. It's super weird.

...Not as weird as the buildings, though. After the first block or so, I notice that the architecture around here is a little... strange. Nothing obvious that you'd catch on a quck glance; it's something you only notice after seeing a bunch of them. Something about the lines of the buildings just doesn't feel quite even. And yet, if you stop and look hard at them, they don't look off-kilter or anything. Being exposed to it is starting to make something itch painfully in a part of my head that I can't reach.

It's not even very ugly. The actual styles remind me of some kind of European something I can't remember the name of, but with this crazy vibe I'm picking up on, it doesn't actually feel like that.

Mainly I just try not to look up very often.

Turns out that's not very helpful when you don't actually know what the building looks like or how to read the signs <no shut up i can find it eventually>. No I can't, and that's why I've spent almost an hour on a trip that should have been twenty minutes.

A couple of constables on patrol help me find the building—they seemed surprised that I actually talked to them. Personally, I think they probably would have given me a harder time if I hadn't been very specific about what and where I was going. I want to keep my interactions with them to a minimum, thanks.

[I reeeeeally wanna ask if we're there yet, but I can't even tell if there's a there there, up there. Is there~?]

Their directions lead me to a tall, light grey building that doesn't grind on my senses like so many others in Buscaglitore seem to—the constables mentioned that I'd know the museum by how boring it looked <hey if this is boring im all for it>. Yeah, I don't have any time for "artistic and fancy" if it means "the sight of it feels like someone's lightly sandpapering the back of your eyes". There's a big courtyard out front, covered in decorative paving tiles and more pillars out front than I think the builders knew what to do with. It almost reminds me of the shrine path back home, and I have to stop for a moment to let a pang of homesickness run its course.

The doors of the museum itself are set back a ways under a long roof, and flanked by statues of what are probably famous historical figures. They aren't abstract enough to be art, at least <but who even knows for sure in this place>. The windows to either side of the doors aren't exactly full of bright and welcoming light, so the place might be closed.

Not that it matters to me: I cut across the courtyard, and approach a smaller, much more conventional-looking building off to one side of the courtyard. No fancy statues for this one, just a door and a black sign with lettering very precisely carved into it <more demon scribble i cant read woo>. Man, how can they have a unified spoken language that even humans can use without training, but there's nothing like that for a written version <its like i forgot that crap namek earns its name all the time>? Stupid demons and their stupid world.

...Though if this place is Namek, then Reimu and Marisa would be Frieza, wouldn't they?

I pause in the act of reaching for the door handle, and let that sink in. It's almost funny, but... not really all that funny.

Whatever. It doesn't matter.


Tugging on the door handle just shakes it a little in its frame <ffffffffff>.


Ohhhhhh, no.

clung, clung

The door's just locked because they're at lunch, right? They aren't closed for the day. Please say they aren't closed for the day <unless im just being an idiot>. Well, uh, I can't rule that out, yet. Let's see...


Pushing's no good.

clack, clack

Aaaand it's not a sliding door, either. I take a step back and look at the off-white door that is supposed to be the Historical Brotherhood office's front door.

[Say "open sesame"!]


"Open sesame?" I ask, on a whim.


"Okay, that was stupid." Really hope nobody saw that.

[Hee hee hee~]

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

I start walking around the building, praying that maybe I was just trying to open the back door like some kind of doofus. It's painted the same inoffensive off-white as the door, all the way around. Much wider than it is deep, too. Nothing on the end, and.... oh! There is a door on the other side!

I hustle past a few windows that look over a short slope and a set of stairs that lead up from the street below to a more elaborate set of double doors. I guess that does make me a doofus, but you know what? I'll take it. With a bit more energy than is necessary, I grab both the door handles, and pull th—




I push the do—



I utter an oath.

I give the stupid locked doors my best death glare, but the stupid doors remain locked <and stupid>.

Movement from one of the windows catches my eye, so I hurry over that way. Oh gods, please be actual staff and not just a janitor. Please, please, please...!

The lights in the room through the window are out, but the deepening late afternoon daylight shows me an office that obviously sees a lot of use during the day. Papers, folders, and boxes are all over the place, but everything is placed neatly and carefully. Definitely feels like whoever uses it went home for the day. ...Speaking of which, I don't see anyone in here. It was this window, wasn't it?

The next window down looks into ...um. A pretty bare and basic-looking office, actually. Except that instead of a tile floor like the last place, this one has sand all over the floor, like someone just plopped down a desk, a chair, and a couple of filing cabinets in the middle of the desert. A hundred different questions crowd into my mind, and I throw all of them out, because as weird as it is, that doesn't matter right now.

Window number three has its curtains pulled shut. I don't even bother looking in there. Unfortunately, it's also the last one on this side of those doors. I give the desert office and the busy-looking office another check as I pass them, but there's no one to be seen <wait no there was something go back>.

...Hey, yeah. On second glance, I notice the open door on the other side of the normally-busy office. Part of a ragged, dust-colored wing is sticking out across the door frame, as if someone were in the hall on the other side.

[ ] Could just be doin' it wrong. Weren't any buzzer, but there's a door for knockin'.
[ ] Well, this fella likely works there. She raps on th' glass, tryin' to call 'em on over.
[ ] Hidin' seems a real queer reaction. Girl thinks she oughta check it out, quiet-like.
[ ] Awful unfriendly, ain't that? No joy today, but maybe tomorrow'll turn out better.


...Not bad, actually.

I think you're actually close in some parts, but I'll explain it tomorrow. It's less complicated than I made it seem; I only used trig in figuring it out for myself because of how I drew the various iterations of the map.

But it's still a weird system.
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I can’t stand people who duckface
Previous thread: >>12501
First thread: >>9685

First thread of the previous story: >>/th/94836
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[X] Could just be doin' it wrong. Weren't any buzzer, but there's a door for knockin'.
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[x] Well, this fella likely works there. She raps on th' glass, tryin' to call 'em on over.

They might take this badly, but I feel like Sanae's antics with the door would be comparable to knocking already.

Wonder if the Brotherhood's acting different than usual because of the festival and/or Palanquin Ship. City info is interesting, also, I'm curious to see the onje quarter. And our companion is still cute as anything.
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[X] Could just be doin' it wrong. Weren't any buzzer, but there's a door for knockin'.
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dis is how we do it
The very first thing to know about Makaian addressing is that Makai uses a metric system to measure things—a metric system, not the metric system: There are four units of measurement: the cubit, the league, the dram, and the pint.

Now, something to keep in mind about the Makaian addressing scheme is that it's all locally based. Whatever township, city, village, hamlet, burg, settlement, or even long flat stretch of land you call your own that you're on is bounded by a square (This is where the "___-relative" part of the address comes into play, since you can sometimes have overlapping bounding squares).

The square is then divided up into a grid, where each increment is 1 millileague. Therefore, within that grid, you can give any location in absolute coordinates. The third coordinate is height, also in millileagues. "vel zed" simply means a height of 0: ground level, in other words. "ix twelve" would be 12 mLg beneath ground level. Also, negative numbers are used for locations past the main axes of the grid.

As for how trigonometry came to be involved, I initially drew the map like in A. I had very specific dimensions in mind for the city when I drew it, as they were supposed to then later be converted into Makaian for the addressing system. At some point, I suddenly remembered that not only had I forgotten to rotate it 45 degrees towards the an (B), I wasn't drawing the city oriented incorrectly to the directions and geography I'd described (C).

This meant that I would need to recalculate the addressing grid. However, all of my formerly horizontal and vertical lines were now diagonals, so I had to do some trigonometry in order to figure out what the new dimensions of the grid were. Thankfully, 45-degree triangles have super-simple sides. I think the 99 x 155 figure quoted in the story isn't completely accurate, though, since I threw that one out before I redrew the map properly and placed all the districts.

Speaking of which, those names weren't designed at random. Two of them are borrowed, in fact.

Apparently cross-board linking to really old archived posts doesn't work anymore. The last link there was supposed to point you to http://www.touhou-project.com/th/res/94836.html , which I now have to paste long-form like some kind of awkward asshole.
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[x] Well, this fella likely works there. She raps on th' glass, tryin' to call 'em on over.

> Yeah, I don't have any time for "artistic and fancy" if it means "the sight of it feels like someone's lightly sandpapering the back of your eyes".

You know, that sounds a lot like looking at a UV light source.

> Speaking of which, those names weren't designed at random. Two of them are borrowed, in fact.

They weren't? (Not, admittedly, that I speak Italian.) They may have been handcrafted portmanteaux, I guess, or they could be the output of a cipher meant to mimic Italian; but they felt more like the output of a Markov generator.

The two that definitely aren't Markov output, of course, are Ciriatto and Libicocco:
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malebranche_(Divine_Comedy)#In_The_Divine_Comedy

The others are all either gibberish or not obviously appropriate, when viewed as Italian:
> http://pastebin.com/senJE1qx

The non-Italian ones are mostly clear:
> http://pastebin.com/5i9XTZNH

And — poor >>12645 and friends! As much as I'm enjoying the culture bits, the big block of district descriptions really breaks the flow of the narrative. If not pastebin, perhaps >>>/words/?
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[X] Could just be doin' it wrong. Weren't any buzzer, but there's a door for knockin'.

Peering through windows is not polite. Knocking on a window is worse. A man's home is is castle, so a winged touhou's place of business is their... whatever, the point is, peeping is offensive enough that you might be ignored or refused on matters of general principle, but being persistent is not.

Polite. But persistent. You are at least entitled to a formal greeting and polite refusal in turn, if you are polite yourself.
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Gonna be a bit late. Expect the update tomorrow.
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no soliciting please
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/njtpr ]

[ɽ] Could just be doin' it wrong. Weren't any buzzer, but there's a door for knockin'.

Okay, I'm just going to give whoever that is the benefit of the doubt and assume that they don't like having to meet new people <no i kind of think theyre being jerks>. I'm... not ruling that out either. But peering into their windows might not make them think well of me, either. So, back to the big double doors.

[Abandoning it already? You'll never become a professional stalker at this rate! Where's that spirit I saw before?!]

...I really hope they don't think I'm some kind of stalker or prankster. I don't need that on my record <its already long enough>. Not officially. And I'm going to keep it that way.

I climb the short set of steps up to the porch at the top, and knock on the door. Not too demanding, but not too soft. I think about pressing an ear up to the door to listen for movement inside, and then immediately toss the idea out; that could go so wrong in so many ways. Instead, I opt for straining my hearing doorwards. ...The sounds of celebration sound a lot more than they should, I suddenly realize. Weird.


No answer. Hmm. Well, I know there's someone here. Sorry about this, mystery winged person, but I'm more interested in getting home than respecting your social phobias <or your jerkery>. Ha ha, yeah. Twice as much, if it's that. That's not even a joke.

I knock again, just like I did before. Kana-mama says that each round of knocking on a door says something new about a visitor. Putting aside what it sounds like (which says a lot on its own), it's a measure of how serious you are about your business. One round of knocking could be someone checking the place out, or just curious if someone's home. A second round means that this is someone waiting for an answer, someone who has business to conduct or a definite interest in speaking.


[So, trying to put this nicely, buuuut.... your vacation plans kinda suck. Like, there's a huge party or something going on in this c—wow, check out that hat~]

I look around while waiting that weird, undefined but pre-set amount of time you wait in between knocks. The stairs go between a neatly kept strip of terraced lawn on their way down a short, steep slope to the street below. I guess the museum's on a little bit of hillside.

Still no answer. True to Kana-mama's explanation, my thoughts as I knock for a third time are about what she says it means: I'm here, I have business, I'm not easily deterred, and I'm pretty sure someone's around to hear it <answer already you jerk>.

("Yeah, who is it?")

Oh, there we go. From inside, a muffled <and peeved i think> male voice finally acknowledges my presence. So kind.

"I'm here to speak to—" <oh godsdammit elis never gave me a name crap crap crap> "—a certain person regarding onje travel methods." Please let that pass on by. Don't examine it too much.

A pause. ("Go to Algerasso and ask some then, yeah? That sign out front don't say anything about us being their help desk, do it?")

Well. This is going great <totally called it for being a jerk>. I clear my throat quietly and press on. "I don't believe it did, no. But---"

("That's what I thought, right? Besides, we're closed, so come back tomorrow or maybe don't even bother, okay?")

I close my eyes and take one breath, then two, before continuing. "—But, I have a letter here from someone who specifically directed me to this place to ask about such things."

Quite a long second or few passes before the voice replies more guardedly, with, ("No you don't, do you? Who's it from then, eh?")

"Elis, The Innocence." I let that sizzle in the air for a second before following it up: "I recently had the pleasure of visiting her at her home in Vina." <yeah punk hows it taste huh> I still can't discount social phobias as the cause, but they're seeming increasingly less likely the more I speak with him <maybe the phobias from how every time he talks to someone they end up punching him in the face>. What a terrible, self-fulfilling spiral of events.

From about door-handle-height comes the mechanical sound of something metal clicking and then sliding. The door is opened to the sound of a pretty, glass-like chime, and I finally meet the jerk in person.

If there was a gargoyle that never bothered with the whole "hanging out on rooftops" job and just became a shut-in, it would look a lot like this guy: hunched-over, really pale, thin, two huge, folded-up bat wings, and pretty spooky. His eyes make him look either grim or just super-annoyed. Could even be both. He doesn't seem to be very happy to see me <i dont think theres anything that makes him happy>.

[There was a 7-11 in Bangladesh that made a noise like that.]

"You've got nothing like that, do you? It ain't nice to go using someone's name like that, you know?" That's one really irritated squint. And worryingly large hands.

I take out the letter, unroll it, and hold it up for him to read, while keeping my hands over the already-broken seal. I just know he'd use that as an excuse. He tries to grab the letter, but I take a step back, still holding it up. "I am fine holding onto this, thank you." I think my own annoyance is starting to bleed through.

The demon makes some kind of scraping, clicking sound in his throat when I say that, but drops his hands and peers at the letter. He finishes reading quicker than expected, and straightens up. "Fine." That single syllable uttered, he turns around and stalks back into the building. I wait outside, but he turns back just inside the entryway, and gives me a look of what is pretty much straight contempt. "You coming in or not, huh?"

Oh gods, please don't let this be the guy I'm supposed to talk to. This is not the time for irony.

Inside is a small room—clearly a waiting room. Some things just can't change too much across worlds. There's a very nice wooden table with some pamphlets on it, a few worn but dutifully maintained chairs, a door, and a smoky glass window behind which a receptionist probably sits during normal hours. It's dark right now, though. He wasn't lying about this place being closed.

He opens up the other door. "Someone will come and talk to you, so sit tight there, okay?" Without waiting for an answer, he goes through and closes it behind him, shutting it a little harder than he needed to.

Well <what an asshole>. Preeeeeetty much.


I guess I'll wait here, then.
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you’re gonna carry that wait
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=D86Geoomt7I ]
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/D86Geoomt7I ]

It takes me about five minutes to start wondering, and ten more to start getting angry.

He ditched me.

That ratfink jerk ditched me here.

Worst of all, I can hear a clock ticking softly, but I don't know where it is. Probably in the receptionist's office, which is quite dark. I remember, all of a sudden, the cheap blue plastic Doraemon wristwatch I had when I was little. Gods, I haven't thought about that thing in ages. I don't remember what happened to it, but boy would I love to have it back right now.

...Actually, it probably wouldn't do me any good here, would it? Twenty-nine hour days and all that. Crud.

I wonder if my Circadian rhythm is shot yet. Or did I already adapt? I don't think it's been that long. It doesn't happen very fast, does it?

Once again, I wonder how long I've been in Makai. How many Makaian days, and how many hours that makes. I feel a sudden chill go through me: What if time moves at a different pace? Was that ship my own personal turtle princess that I followed into the sea?

[I've got some important new findings to share: Don't try to fit yourself through a hole smaller than your head. It's a fool's errand! And I'm all chafed now, too.]

I calm myself down and try to look at the situation with a rational head. Okay, seriously: I don't think that's actually happening. There's a lot of wiggle room when it comes to inhuman beings and their apparent age, but if I compare the appearances of Elis, Keshti, and Kunigunde to how they looked in that picture I saw, they seem like they've aged at probably the same rate. If there was a significant difference in how time passed between there and here, Kunigunde would probably have looked a lot older.

Leaning back in my chair, I stare at the ceiling. Now that I think about it, if Reimu and Marisa and whoever else caused so much mayhem here and it's all been fixed up, it might even be the opposite case.

...Well, if I go to that onje hostel, I can ask the people there. They'd probably know for sure.

Still don't know how long it's been.

Although, hey: if I'm just sitting around doing nothing, I could use this time to figure that out. I close my eyes and think back. ...Right, so I was probably out for a few hours after landing, and it was getting pretty dark aft—


("Servant's tits.")


A thump and what I think passes for profanity around here comes from deeper in the office, followed by low voices. I straighten up out of my slouch quickly—almost too quick, as the chair rocks forward and bangs against the floor when it lands back on all fours.

The voices stop for a second, and then a female one calls out. "Hey Scoose, that you?"

[Saaaaaaaved at last~!]

"Probably not," I call back, after a moment of internal debate. "Sorry." Whoever it is doesn't sound like shut-in gargoyle jerk guy, so I'm a bit less worried about talking to them <then again they probably work with that guy>. That doesn't mean anything <really>! Okay, it doesn't mean everything.

"Then who are you? You know the place is closed, right?" A male voice... I think. It's sort of on the fence, in that regard.

"I came here to ask about onje travel methods. I have a letter of introduction from Elis, the Innocence."

"...Huh. Seriously?" He sounds impressed, and a bit surprised. "Well, if you'd open the door there, I'd actually appreciate it lots. It, uh.... One second. ...No, it isn't locked."

This is getting a little odd. But it's not getting rude, so really, I'm already doing better. "Sure," I tell him. And indeed, the door leading deeper into the office is unlocked. I open it up, and immediately get out of the way as a very short, bald man backs through it, carrying an enormous and heavy looking roll of... something. Paper? No, it's fabric. It's at least sixty or seventy centimeters thick.

The man spares a second from checking his surroundings to look at me, confused. "I got some more questions for you in a second, but what exactly are you doing in our waiting room?"

"Well..." I look back at the door they came through. "Someone with white skin and big wings let me in after I showed him the letter. He said someone would come and talk to me, and that was about fifteen or twenty minutes ago."

A noise of disgust comes from the other end of the roll of fabric just as its owner comes through the door. "Lemme guess. You an onje?" asks a... a dinosaur? I don't know how else to describe the very reptilian creature that lumbers through the door, end of the roll clutched tight in green, scale-covered arms. A neck that's just a little too long, no tail, really long horns, and a very feminine voice. She squints at me. "Yep, called it." She turns her head completely around, and barks a single word that echoes throughout the building. "SCOOSE!"

...Ow <fuck my ears>. Ow, ow, ow.


The front door opens, and Mr. Pale Jerk from before sticks his head in, not looking at all worried. "Eh?" An unlit cigarette <whys it got a plastic thing on it> pokes out from the side of his mouth.

"You're helping me truck this down to the Plaza," she announces. "Grab Tane's end."

Scoose looks in the room and seems unhappy to see me. "Tane's got it already, doesn't he?"

Tane—the bald man, I guess—scowls at him. "No, Tane's got to take care of something you didn't."

"But you talked to her, right?"

"About ten words."

"Then I kept my word, didn't I?"

"Shut up and grab the tapestry, Scoose."

Scoose grunts darkly, but steps inside, tucks the cigarette behind his ear, and grabs Tane's end of the roll. He relieves the shorter man—oh, wait, demon; I see the shaved-down horns coming from the forehead, now—of the weight, hefting it with surprising ease. "Ready when you are, yeah?" he calls.

The pair depart, leaving me and Tane in the waiting room. "Right," he says, looking at his hands before rubbing them together. "Mind if I see that letter?" I hand it over, much less concerned about it being in his hands than Scoose's <hes not much more trustworthy really>. Technically that's true, but anyone looks better than that prickly ass.

He gives it back after a minute or two. So there <yeah my judgments always going to be sound yep>. "So, onje travel methods? I'm assuming you're from Earth, looking at you...?" I nod. "Is this for you, specifically?" Another nod. "Damn."

That's not good. "What's the matter?"

When he winces, I suddenly realize that what I had thought was a thin layer of shaved hair growing back in is actually tons and tons of overlapping tattoos of geometric patterns going up and over and down his head. It'd be a lot scarier if his voice didn't sound like he ought to be in some kind of television show. "You lose your way back home, or something?"

[I think...]

I nod slowly, glancing out the windows. Maybe that isn't something I should go announcing to everyone.

Tane flops into one of the chairs in the waiting room. "Well, I don't know how much help I'm going to be, I'm afraid. I'm the only onje specialist for the Brotherhood in this city, but my specialty's the early Americas. Not a lot of physical travel there. Tons of astral, but barely anybody came here in person. At least," he says, looking up at me with mint-green eyes, "not to the degree where we'd have a wealth of information about how they got here."

"Shit," is all I can muster for a glum reply, slumping back into one of the other chairs <it was the best of times and then it was the worst of times>. "I... I was really hoping I'd be able to find a solution here."

The demon's shirt looks one size too small, but it doesn't seem uncomfortable for him as he stretches. "Well, hold on now. I'm not so thoughtless as all that. Let me tell you what. You got any onje friends?"

"Not yet," I admit. "I might go by the hostel later, but I haven't decided for sure." I'm pretty sure the Smoke-woman is an onje, but she doesn't belong in the same paragraph, let alone sentence, as the word "friend".

[...I think...]

He grunts. "Well, you can try asking them, though I don't think it'll do much good. Most of you make your own travel arrangements, but it's worth a try. But if that doesn't pan out, come back here around mid-day or the hours just after. Ought to be less busy then. Plus, we'll actually be open, you know?"

It takes a bit of work not to look guilty at that. "Sure," is all I say.

"Great." Tane hops up from his seat like an excited kid—or one that's been forced to sit still for too long. "Sorry about tonight. Oh, and don't mind Scoose all that much. His family's a real traditional bunch." He gives a kind of 'hey, what're you gonna do?' shrug.

"Thanks," I say. ...I probably could have taken Scoose, if it came to it <yeah and then where would you be>. In lots and lots of trouble, sure. I'm not going to do it, but I'm saying I could.

Tane sees me out, and wishes me luck. Up above, the sky is turning redder and redder as the evening grows closer.

That went kind of crappily.

But I don't think I'm 100% screwed, just yet.


[...I think I want a drink~ Yes. Drinks.]

I sigh, and start walking down the steps to the street. The day isn't over yet, as much as I wish it were.

(Pick 1-2 options.)

[ ] A table to set a plate down on. Gettin' hungry, and th' fish'll keep a day more.
[ ] A bed for restin' a body right.
- [ ] Could be worth tryin' her luck at the hotels.
- [ ] Then again, there's a place fulla her kind, right?
[ ] A cup fer drownin' frustrations. Ain't no way that bars ain't a thing here. The hell? Girl shakes her head, says nah. She got real business to attend to.
[ ] A counter for tradin' n' sellin'. Got a few things in mind for pickin' up and unloadin'.
[ ] Another sort of idea. One that hadn't occurred to 'er 'til just now. (write-in)


Most definitely not Markov output. You got some of them close.

Also, I guess I could/should have put that in /words/. I didn't really even think about that as a possibility, but it probably would have been the smarter option.
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[X] A table to set a plate down on. Gettin' hungry, and th' fish'll keep a day more.
[X] A bed for restin' a body right.
- [X] Then again, there's a place fulla her kind, right?
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[X] A table to set a plate down on. Gettin' hungry, and th' fish'll keep a day more.
[X] A bed for restin' a body right.
- [X] Then again, there's a place fulla her kind, right?
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[X] A table to set a plate down on. Gettin' hungry, and th' fish'll keep a day more.
[X] A bed for restin' a body right.
- [X] Then again, there's a place fulla her kind, right?

The obvious answer.
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[X] A table to set a plate down on. Gettin' hungry, and th' fish'll keep a day more.
[X] A bed for restin' a body right.
- [X] Then again, there's a place fulla her kind, right?

Bandwagon ho! —but no, covering Maslow's base is almost always a solid plan.

(And only now do I learn that many of Dante's Malebranche are named with portmanteaux themselves! Had I known this I would not have suggested Markov. Alas, this grants me no further insight into their individual origins. Although Makelot is Italian for מַקְהֵלֹת Makheloth (Numbers 33:25-26)....and also Dutch for Bob the Builder's Can-A-Lot.)
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Man, Makai doesn't really seem that bad. Lighten up, Sanae.
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Wow٫ it really IS the right of all living beings
This week is shaping up to be quite a picnic. Update on the weekend. Apologies.

When you've committed a felony in a foreign land in which your close associates happen to be literally tied for the title of Public Enemy No. 1, you might have a different stance on the matter.
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Bah! Sanae's association with R and M is barely a factor as long as she doesn't blab about it. Who's gonna know? It's not like she's carrying around a picture of the three of them being bros.
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Back in my day we obeyed gravity and we LIKED it
[丌] A table to set a plate down on. Gettin' hungry, and th' fish'll keep a day more.
[ᇊ] A bed for restin' a body right.
- [ი] Then again, there's a place fulla her kind, right?

I make my way out of Buscaglitore the same way I came in, which is refreshingly easy <except for walking by all those weird buildings>. Thankfully, it seems I can still remember my way around a city. I've wondered before if some of my Outsider skills had gotten rusty during my time in Gensokyo. I've got an answer, now.

Having met with kinda-defeat at the Brotherhood office, my priorities are now much more personal and immediate:

 ① Get something to eat.
 ② Find a place to sleep that isn't a shed or a gutter or the wilderness. .

As proud as I am of having caught and cooked fish all by myself, I am in the mood for something a bit more professional. And judging by the price of the license I had to buy for the sack of UFOs, I've got much more than enough money to buy a good meal. As for sleeping, I guess I'll check out that hostel Verritine mentioned. If it doesn't look too sketchy and gross, I'll stay a night.

And now, to business.

I don't know of a better place to find something hot, tasty, satisfying, and probably unhealthy than a festival, so I start heading towards the growing noise and fanfare. The streets aren't choked, but you definitely couldn't run in a straight line through them for more than five meters without smacking into someone.

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/LNy8r-ZgKgQ ]

Taking a few side streets brings me past one that's notably more crowded than most. This is exactly what I'm trying to get around and bypass, but something about the music draws me in. The sound of rapidly played strings echoing off the buildings all around us stirs up a feeling of... excitement, I think, within me. It's enough to make me stop and take a closer look.

[There's no way that's a shortcut. Come on alreadyyyy~]

Hovering about a meter or so up—after noticing a handful of other people doing the same—I spy several demons and fairies in the center of the crowd. Some of them are playing instruments, but half as many again are dancing their hearts out. It's like seeing footage of Carneval, or something. Certainly no Oklahoma Mixer, that's for sure. There's so much life in it.

As I start bobbing my head to the music, I look over the dancers. I come to a stop on one of them, a woman with long, braided black hair. Something about her seems a bit off, and after fixating on her for a bit, it occurs to me that I don't see horns on her <no horns no weird bits nothing outrageous at all>. I squint, and peer closer. Heck, it's almost like...

Is she human?

The thought alone is enough to bring me back out of my fascination. Technically speaking, it shouldn't be surprising if that's really what's up. There's a whole part of the city <albeit not the nicest or largest> where onje live, after all. No reason for them to stay cooped up in there the whole time <especially not during a festival>.

As I start looking around me, I slowly notice that the crowd here has a definitely younger look. Again, hard to tell actual ages of non-humans at a glance, but in comparison to most of the people I've seen about the city... Well.


Right now, I've got priorities, though. Floating back down to ground level, I go back and search for another way to the next street over.

[Finallyyyyy. Mama needs her medicine, you know~?]

Streetlights—steady light, so probably electric. Or magical, maybe?—start turning on as I make my way closer to the sounds of the festival. As evening sets in and the sky reddens, the level of natural sun(?)light drops <it gets darker at night what a scoop somebody go grab a tengu and get me shameimaru stat>. ...Ha. Ha. Ha. Shut up. The point is, when the Makaian sky gets as red as it does at that hour, it's not as illuminating as you'd think that would be. Anyway, there's still plenty of orange up there, so that point's a while off, yet. Maybe an hour or so? Makes me wonder if the lights are on a timer, or they can sense daylight somehow.

If I didn't have every intention of getting out of Makai as soon as possible, I'd be real interested in getting a wristwatch. Actually, hitting up a few stores might not be a bad idea anyway. But again: not right now.

Finally, I break out of the alleys of Buscaglitore, and find myself where I knew this festival would be taking place: Sibylla Plaza.
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this but three or four times bigger
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=5Etx7AvmMbA ]
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/5Etx7AvmMbA ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/jbyaq ]


Gods, I didn't think it would be so big. I'm probably a few dozen meters away from the set-of-an corner of the Plaza, but I can see it stretching off for at least a hundred more in both directions. And it is packed.

[Oh wow~ Looks like the fair came to town!]

I see now how a mere festival is able to accommodate so many people. Heck, I was wrong to call this a festival, but I don't even have a word for an event like this. To me, a festival is a row of stalls and fun attractions about half a block long, and everyone goes there at night and wears yukata and we have fun messing around <add in lots of drinking and you have the gensokyan version>. But this...

Every centimeter of the Plaza is occupied by a cart, a stand, a stall, a tent, a temporary building, or a visitor. People are moving in and out of the place <mostly in>, and I can hear music, cooking sounds, bells and buzzers, cheering, and all the commotion and hubbub of a crowd. It's almost like an amusement park, come to think of it, only without any kind of theme. If an amusement park dressed up as a festival, this is what it would look like.

I step off the sidewalk and join the crowd moving in. There's temporary fencing set up around the Plaza, I notice. I guess we're being funneled towards some gate. Far ahead, towards what can't be anything but the middle of the Plaza, an alabaster white statue rises above it all. A female figure in robes leans back with her arms raised like she was lifting something terribly heavy. Streams of water shoot up all around her from below in irregular but constant bursts, crisscrossing around her.

...I know it's probably something very important and significant to the people here, but there's something faintly Dragon Ball about the whole scene. Maybe it looks more majestic up close?

Up ahead, I see that the crowd going in is getting funneled through several smaller gates. After listening to the chatter as we draw closer, I'm able to dig through my wallet and pull out exact change ahead of time. The thankfully-small fee gets me a small, flat chip of precisely carved red stone that indicates to all those who can read this weird writing that the bearer has paid for a one-day pass to the Feast of St. Sibyl.

Guess I know what to call this all, now.

[Gonna wander over this way to this fine spiny fellow with all those... kegs? I hope, I hope~]

I don't have to go very far to hit the concession area. I guess I could have found some brick-and-mortar <or eye of newt for all i know> place to eat at, but I knew that there was going to be something really good, here. Even back home, there's something different about takoyaki at a festival versus takoyaki from a store <yakisoba at the beach versus yakisoba at a restaurant>. Yeah, or even that.

And I'm not disappointed. The sounds of things sizzling, bubbling, and roasting, plus the sheer variety of exotic smells in the air creates a strange and mouth-watering atmosphere that, like the festival—or the beach—gives food that extra, intangible flavor of excitement. Taking a leisurely pace, I stroll from stall to cart to stand, eyeing what's cooking or being eaten and sniffing the air <and almost bumping into people>.

"'Ey, watch it."


...Don't even start.

I settle on a stall that appears to be serving up bowls of something hot, fresh, and savory-smelling. Although I think it wasn't even the food that I found appealing so much as how strangely close it looks to a yatai—mobile, well-lit, stools out in front, and a little curtain and roof for the patrons <barely a curtain more like a long awning>. Whatever. I'm hungry.

It's only after I've taken a stool two seats over from the other patron, a well-dressed <going by the scraps of makaian fashion ive seen anyway> demon with the horns of a ram and the body of a sickly hippo, that I notice the person working here <holy heck miss misty hes not>. I'm taken aback: I didn't think you could ever use the word "grizzled" to describe a fairy, but there's no other word that fits. They've always been youthful and attractive and animated.

He doesn't look happy to see me sit down here, but he doesn't look like the type who's happy about much to begin with. It makes me start questioning my choice of venue. On a more positive note, he doesn't chase me off, and a glance to either side doesn't turn up the "Onje not served here" sign that Keshti warned me about. Maybe I'm in the clear, then?

"Onje?" he grunts. I blink. If Quattro smoked and drank for thirty years and then started screaming on a daily basis, his voice would end up sounding a lot like this.

Still. I nod warily.

"Got money?"

"Of course." I smack the pocket I put the loose change in, which clinks obligingly.

He grunts, and turns back to the stove, where pots simmer and cooking racks silently warm the little open-air cart. "Three minutes," he tells me, and begins the business of the cook.

...Might not be too late to start drinking, after all.

I look behind him at a row of several well-secured bottles, and give them a longing gaze before internally shaking my head. No, that'd be a bad idea any way you sliced it. It's funny, though: normally, I feel a little bit of dread whenever there's some kind of party being thrown. Gensokyans love parties, and they love to drink. These two loves are frequently combined.

Right now, I'd give <almost> anything to be at one of those obnoxious get-togethers.

The world's a real funny place, isn't it?

I chuckle, and close eyes that suddenly feel too hot, too blurry.

clonk. "Drink?"

My head jerks up to find the fairy staring at me. There's also a bowl parked next to my head, and my mouth actually starts watering the instant I register the smell wafting off of it. My stomach doesn't growl, though. My mangaka dropped the ball there; you don't pass up an opportunity like that <shut up and eat already>.

...I notice out the corner of my eye that the hippo-ish demon is gone, and there's some change on the counter. Although if your currency is all coins in the first place, isn't everything change? Or maybe nothing is change.

Uh. He asked a question, didn't he. What was <booze yes no the answer is no>... Oh. "No, I need to stay sharp tonight," I say, politely declining.

His eyes narrow. "Don't sell liquor to onje. Asked about a drink." ...Even though I did just turn it down, I still feel a bit insulted. On the other hand...

"Is it extra?"

Without moving the rest of his body, a calm, translucent green wing flicks out and taps a sign <which i cant read at all thanks a lot dillweed>. ...It's true, I can't read the sign. But I do see a couple of Makaian numbers, each next to the unmistakeable ℐ symbol—twenty-four juliène and four juliène. That isn't too hard to decipher.

"Oh. Then yes, please."

[—and so then I say 'that's not my eye!']

Grunt. Surprised grunt, actually. He pulls a large cup made of red glass off a stack of several more, fills it from a pitcher, and sets it down next to my bowl.

When he turns back around to tend to something else, I press my hands together and speak an almost inaudible thanks before taking up the spoon <which is made of wood who even makes a spoon out of wood>, and pulling over that bowl. ...That big bowl, I suddenly realize. I... don't think I'd normally be able to polish off this much food. And even as famished as I am, I think it's still going to be close.

The bowl is full of some kind of very thick, pale soup; almost like porridge. The bulk of the soup is some kind of cooked grain shaped like a thin, tiny almond. There's also several cut-up vegetables and something that has the unmistakeable characteristics of bird meat. Looks grilled. And it smells really good. Creamy, tangy, and some kind of strange, exotic smell.

I take a bite and only remember my experience at Elis' house as my lips close around the spoon <oh godsdammiiiiiit>.

Well. It's not spicy yet.

I chew, full of careful hesitation, evaluating with each chew whether my mouth is on fire or not.

So far, not.


Still nothing.

It's pretty good. Those little grains have an unexpected but satisfying crunch to them. The smell of this soup made me thing of something strange and foreign, but the actual taste is like something vaguely European that I feel should probably taste worse and cost twenty times as much. Rather pleasing, in faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh there it is.

In the split second I have to glance at the drink, I note that it is almost alarmingly blue and opaque. A bit dribbles out the side as I drink quickly and pray that it isn't poison. Maybe that wouldn't be so bad, though, because then it would make the burning stop.

After putting away about a third of what was in the glass, I put it down, still breathing heavily. That dick of a fairy is laughing silently, shoulders heaving, shaking his head. I glare stonily at him, which just seems to make him laugh more.

You know what, mister? Screw you. I am not a godsdamned joke. In fact—

I make sure he's actually looking at me, first, and stare right back at him. Without breaking the gaze, I pick up the bowl in one hand and with the spoon in the other, take a large, hearty, healthy second bite.

His silent laughter dies down pretty quick, but he's still grinning like a total asshole. Because he is.

Well, I'll play your game, punk. And I'll win. Even if it kills me <which it might>. Don't care. Worth it.

After swallowing, the burning spiciness comes back, just as hot and hellish as it was before. My eyes water but I keep them firmly planted on my opponent, even as I take another drink of... the blue stuff.

Once the haze of spice and agony clears a little, I take another, smaller sip. There's hints of something aromatic—like mint... or maybe anise? More obvious is a definite sweetness and the very distinct taste of lemon. On the downside, it fizzes a little sharply on the tongue, like fermenting pineapple. Small price to pay for relief from misery, though.

[and then the next morning, they found a hook dangling from the door handle!]

His eyebrows creep upwards just a tad as I go back a third time. "'S pre'y gooh stuv," I say around the mouthful, finally breaking the gaze to glance over at the glass and tap it with the spoon. "Whafvit cah'd?"

"Maaliyv. Made an hour ago."

"Mm." Like that breakfast ages ago, it is good. What happens after, that's awful.

I continue this masochistic dance of spite and soup for the next ten or twenty minutes. I think. Could be more. Occasionally he refills my glass. So glad that this stuff isn't bitter like that tea was. Could do without that biting fizziness, though.

When the fires of the last napalm-infused mouthful of soup have been extinguished, I set my bowl down, lay my spoon on the table, and wait for him to glance down at the bowl. When he does, I inaudibly murmur my thanks, hands out of sight beneath the counter. His eyes come back up to meet mine.

Hey, look at that. No more sourpuss.


Damn right.

"Second bowl's just sixteen."

I chuckle and pat my stomach, showing how very casual I am being about this and not rushing to turn down that offer post-haste because I am just fine, completely fine, and have never been better. "Thank you, but that was actually quite filling," I say, politely declining. Actually more truth than lie, that. I'm actually a bit full; it was a big bowl of soup, enough for two or even three healthy-sized servings back home <and also spicy enough to kill mice and poison the earth>.

Well I'm sure that's just incidental <thats the official story is it>. It's the opinion of this broadcaster, at least.

He shrugs, making his wings bounce for a moment. "Suit yourself." Leaning forward, he reaches over and plucks my bowl and spoon up and puts them in... a sink, by the sound of it. Not just indoor plumbing, but mobile, too? I'm actually impressed.

Anyway, time to get a move on.

I get up and dig through my pocket for the handful of loose change, then examine the coins in my hand under the lights of the cart.
As I decipher the numbers on each one, I pull it aside if it's less than the bill. ...Damn, I should have done this ahead of time. Messing around with money in the open like this is probably not a good idea. Feels weird, too. Doesn't anyone know what a change tray is?

Gods, I really hope the currency is counted in regular, sane numbers like the yen is. If they do something stupid with decimal numbers like the Americans, I'm going to be in trouble. I don't want to accidentally give him way too much, and I don't know if I'd know how to tell the difference <physical signs maybe metal color weight size etc>. ...Hmm. I guess? It's not any kind of guarantee though.

Hooray, more uncertainty.

I collect what I pray is the right amount and lay it on the counter. I look his direction to give him my questionable thanks, only to find a thick packet of rough, waxy paper being handed to me.

"Fresh machavat. Adama, too." Finally, a word I recognize that isn't onje. Cool. ...No, wait. What?

My confused and now probably suspicious look prompts him to clarify. "Never seen any foreign layabout able to finish off a bowl of sh'luliyt, excepting a couple. You make three." He pushes the small parcel towards me. "On the house."

The combination of casual offensiveness and generosity throws me for a loop. I don't really know how to interpret that, so I take the packet in both hands and keep the stiffness out of my voice. "Thank you, sir. It's an honor."

Normally I'd probably just just leave, or maybe even tell him off, but even if I don't know what to think, I know for sure that I am not a girl who is possessed of much food <or pride>. Pride isn't going to keep me fed, though.

The fairy just grunts and shoos me off.

Stepping back out onto the well-attended row of food stalls, I can see already that the crowd's gotten bigger. Despite the most obvious meaning of the name, the Grand Feast of St. Sibyl is probably more than just a big dinner. Maybe I should ask someone what this is all about. Could probably do that tomorrow when I go back to the office.

[Eyyyyyyy, it's my shadow! Ahaha, whoops~]

I suddenly cra destep a stumbling drunk and rejoin the crowd. While I make my way back to the gate, I glance up at the red sky above. It has yet to completely rid itself of the afternoon's orange, but it's well on its way to that point. I don't know what time it is and I don't even feel tired.

But the idea of going to bed and falling asleep just sounds so... nice right now.

After a couple of shortcut attempts that end in dead ends or more fence, I find a different exit and call it good. Judging by the light and the sorta-familiar buildings off in one direction, I think I'm on the mo-of-an side of the Plaza. I check the map of Dis again to remind myself of the hostel's relative location, and curse the lack of streets shown on it.

Well, there's a few different ways to do this.

[ ] Sticks t' bigger, brighter streets. Route'll be plenty scenic, but in the open, too.
[ ] Goes back on up the way in. Walked it comin' here, so it's hardly unfamiliar.
[ ] Less walkin' ain't ever been bad. Girl for th' shortest span 'tween two points.


"Parts should be in around April" is not a note you want to ever see appear on your list of work orders.
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[X] Sticks t' bigger, brighter streets. Route'll be plenty scenic, but in the open, too.
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[X] Sticks t' bigger, brighter streets. Route'll be plenty scenic, but in the open, too.
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[x] Sticks t' bigger, brighter streets. Route'll be plenty scenic, but in the open, too.

Wouldn't mind seeing the sort of character option 3 might turn up, assuming a seedier route, but this is probably better for Sanae. I like grizzled food cart fairy. Wonder how commonplace that sort of assholishness-turned-potential grudging respect might be in Makai.

And what do you do for work, Fell?
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[????] Sticks t' bigger, brighter streets. Route'll be plenty scenic, but in the open, too.

> Wouldn't mind seeing the sort of character option 3 might turn up, assuming a seedier route, but this is probably better for Sanae.

Shortest way between two points is a straight line, as the crow <or shrine maiden> flies. As much as I'd like to know what the local flying etiquette is, I'm not too keen on breaking it just to learn.
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red at night every night
[➨] Sticks t' bigger, brighter streets. Route'll be plenty scenic, but in the open, too.

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/oWQON2ldzCw ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=oWQON2ldzCw ]

But I'm not really interested in any that don't involve wide, well-lit streets. Not in this city <weird that the goal was the total opposite a few days ago>. Well, not all that weird, I guess. Unfortunately ironic, maybe.

I travel around the outside perimeter of the Feast towards what looks like the busiest street headed in the right direction. It's a long couple of minutes getting there, between the size and the crowd, but once there, I finally begin my trek mo-of-anward, winding carefully through the people mostly heading the other way, towards the Feast.

Only when I accidentally bump someone and feel the packet almost slip from my hands do I remember that I'm still holding the machavat. I hold it more tightly until I find an alley to step into.

Unslinging my pack, I set it down onto the lid of... a trash can? I glance at three other cans placed next to it, each one marked with something different. However, I'm in no hurry to go rummaging through them for hidden items <yeah this isnt mother 2>, so I leave the lids on and the contents unexamined.

"Guess it kinda explains why the streets are clean," I say to myself, after a moment. Unzipping my pack, I look again at the cans. Odd place to put a public collection site, I have to say. But I guess they figured out public sanitation, so more power to 'em? I shrug.

The job of stuffing the machavat bundle into one of my (increasingly fewer) unused food containers brings my mind back to the demon I got them from. At the time, it was... weird and uncomfortable, I guess. Even just thinking about it still feels like that, actually. I'm by no means a stranger to prejudice and suspicion—it's something I've been subjected to in various forms and for various reasons, off and on all throughout my life. Not so much in recent years, though. The tengu weren't our biggest fans at first, of course, and we got off on the wrong foot with Reimu, but both of those relationships couldn't be better today <especially for kana mama>.

...I really didn't need to think about that.

Anyway, the point is that it's nothing new, but it's usually been on or off, not this weird conditional thing. If this was a manga, people would look at that guy and just assume he was being tsundere, like he was the stock "gruff old man with a heart of gold" character. But the more I think about it, I think that while this fairy is still a jerk, he could also be a jerk with principles.

[Aha! Missed this place on the first pass~]

Doesn't make him less of an asshole.

I stuff the container back into my backpack, zip it closed, and then glare at it while my thoughts catch up to my thinking. Man, I can't ever recall being so damn cynical about manga cliches, of all things. Where did all this come from <from every other aspect of your life>? Yeah, but it never did this before. Why all of a sudden?


The most obvious answer sits in the recent past, just behind my head.

It sits there and grins and laughs and bleeds all over the place.


"...This whole place is bullshit," I say, choking down a sniffle with a coughing laugh, and rub at my wet eyes <dont have time for this right now>.

I. I just gotta make it to the hostel.

That's all.

And then... Then I can do whatever. Or sleep.

Sleep, and then whatever.

That's the plan.

I hate Makai so much.
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any city at night is a city of night
I keep walking for several more blocks in an increasingly darkening mood. I'd probably have ended up going somewhere I shouldn't have if it weren't for the sudden shout from the street that makes me jump and almost slam into a lamp pole.

"One-eighty-eight-tack-se'en by one-si'ty-three-tack-nine!"

I turn around and almost end up punching one of those ugly bird-ish things when I find myself way more face-to-face with it than I find comfortable. It croaks and gives me a look about as black as mine, while behind it, two demons hop off the side of a cart and onto the sidewalk. One of them digs in a purse and flips a coin into the air, where it's caught by another demon sitting at the head of the cart <didnt even have to look>.

A few seconds go by during all this, while I take a literal and figurative step back in order to give this some context beyond "shouted numbers and ugly quasi-birds". There's a guy up there... and a cart. The cart has a roof? And I can see people sitting inside it.


The answer doesn't sink into my brain until he's already about twenty meters off. I take off after him, shouting and waving.

He cranes his head back and whistles a low note. The cart doesn't stop, but it does slow down enough for me to jog alongside. "Hey," I call up to him, not quite yet winded but coming close. "This one go to the gate?"

"'Course." He points to a placard on the side of the cart that's a bit too dim <and probably too makaian> to read. "Condor n' Blackstrap lines both run gate-to-gate. Five'll getcha there," he adds.


He jerks a thumb towards the back of the cart, where a disturbingly thin girl <oh gods i can see her actual ribs ew ew> moves a over to make room for me. I go around and climb up a little pair of metal steps into the back, and take the vacated spot, which is one of several canvas-flap chairs secured to the cart bed. From above, I hear a few rapid notes whistled, and the cart starts to move again.


I guess they have buses.

Makai's still awful. But it's still full of surprises <and dont i know it>, too.

I let a few more stops go by with, thank you mamas, nobody trying to strike up conversation. It finally occurs to me that he's only shouting out those weird addresses, which sound a lot like coordinates. Only the occasional street or landmark is mentioned, but they're pretty uncommon.

[Maaaan, ghost riding the whip is a lot more fun if it's an actual car.]


I get out the map again, and start paying a little closer attention. It takes a while to figure out what's what, and where the bus-cart is going. First I have to figure out what the actual distance of the numbers means in relation to how far we've traveled. Each number seems like just a bit less than 5 meters. After checking the location of the sunlight over the wall and taking into account the changing numbers, I get a rough idea of what direction we're going. And finally, by cross-referencing the address I heard the constable give earlier, I know where the cart is in relation to Merry Verri's.

I'll be honest; I was a little pumped when I finally cracked the last part of that mystery.

Too bad we'd way overshot the point where I should have gotten off, by then.

At the next arterial, I hop off and hand the driver a ℐ10 coin—out of fives and not enough ones. Midway through my apology, he throws a coin at me—a five. My gratitude is answered with a wave and the start-moving whistle as the bus rolls away.


The walk through Gaudanno isn't much to take note of. The architecture is dull and functional, the streets aren't heavily trafficked, and most places look closed or not open to the public. A chill blows through the area, finally dispelling the lingering warmth that had stuck around <evenings coming>.

When the buildings suddenly become older and crummier-looking, I know I'm in Algerasso. Here, too, the streets aren't very busy, but I do see people walking around <probably human>. Yeah, probably. Some definitely aren't, like the fairies, but many are either human or very un-demony demons.

I should feel more excitement about finally seeing fellow homo sapiens moving around, but I just can't muster up the energy. Maybe the Smoke-woman burnt it out of me. I don't know.

Something goes boom in the near distance. Not the bad kind. When a kappa screws something up, that kind of boom. Not the "Did something flammable just explode" kind. Living on Youkai Mountain, you learn to tell the difference.

On my left, I pass a well-lit building with an unreadable German name printed in heavy gothic blackletter. The paintings of beer mugs lead me to believe that it's probably a bar <gods i want a drink>. I can hear muffled horns coming from inside, but it's nothing I recognize.

[...hey, they're playing the Bosstones~]

Trudging onward, I finally arrive at my destination: A tall, thin, four-story wooden building that looks like a skyscraper compared to the short little one-stories around here. Out in front is a richly decorated sign flanked by honest-to-goodness palm trees, reading: The Laughing Gecko. Below that, in smaller but still prominent letters: Foreign Traveler's Hostel. There's also a picture of some kind of cheerful ...lizard? I think. Whatever.

I push open the front door, jingling a little bell. As I step through, there's the weirdest sensation of having a humming noise spilled on me. I stand there, blinking through it for a few seconds. When I look up, I find a very heavyset, dark-skinned <samoan or something maybe> man behind a counter, glancing at me over the top of the local newssheet <just guessing on that though>. Other stuff's in the room, too, I guess. Not important.

Coming to a stop in front of the desk, I look up at him. Very confident I am, yes. "I'd like a room," I say. And after a beat, add. "Soon." I mull that over, and as a courtesy, decide to add, "Please?"

He nods. "Sure thing," says the man. Something about the way he speaks makes me think of barrels under monasteries. Deep and rich. Amused. "If your license clears, it's fifty-five a night. Bunks are secure and warded."

I just stare at him for many long seconds. "...I expected you to talk funnier," I finally say.

"I can speak Pidgin if it'll make you feel better."

"Nah. I'm good." What a nice man.


...Oh, yeah. Money and license. I fish out my papers and after a few false starts, a ℐ100 coin. After taking both and examining the license, tapping it a few times with a pen, he hands them back along with appropriate change—in a tray, like you're supposed to do—which I stuff into my pockets.

With his knuckles, he knocks out a little rhythm on the countertop, opens up a drawer, and passes me a couple of keys from it. ...Well, calling these "keys" would be generous. That looks more like decorative grating than a key. Shouldn't metal be a lot more flimsy with that many bends in it? It doesn't bend, though, even when I try.

[That's a neeeeeat necklace.]

"Big one's floor access," he tells me, pointing to one key. "Little one's for your locker—you got bunk D. Most of your roommates're out at the Feast."

"Cool." Long pause. "I mean, thanks."

He just nods, and then points me to a very sturdy-looking door off to the side of this... waiting room? There's a couch and magazines and a fish tank without water. Later. "Second floor, room three. Third floor's kitchen n' rec. Fourth floor's the men's floor. 'S off limits."

The door leads to a concrete stairwell which I start to trudge up. About nine hours and seventy-four flights of stairs and twenty seconds later, I slot the key into the locking handle of a painfully-blue door with an enormous white 2 painted on it. Makes it hard to miss. Good customer awareness.

I don't think that thought made sense <iunno maybe>.

Entering the second floor dumps me into a small lobby with three doors, each easily identified by the big number right next to it on the wall. They're not as big as the 2 out in the stairwell. Good. I wouldn't be able to put up with that kind of noise. Room one and room three have identical doors, but for the numbers. The door to Room Two is open, though. ...Oh, it's a bathroom.

Good to know. For real.

I turn the knob of room three, and enter a very plain, wood-floored room. A long stretch of carpet before a window runs between four banks of bunk beds, each bank marked with a letter. All but bunk D show some sign of use or prior occupancy. In the case of the lower B bunk, current occupancy.

Said occupant is bundled up in and under blankets like some kind of bug.

"Manjit?" Guess it speaks, too. Sounds young.

"Nope, sorry," I say, walking towards bunk-bank D. "It's me, the interfering Kochiya."

The blanket-bug goes still for a second, then shifts and squirms. It turns <i cant actually tell> in my direction. "...You new?"

I unlock the locker marked D2, and place my weird sleeve-hat turbandanna and pack inside. That bit about wards had better be true. I am well past the point of being able to do anything. Thing. The stuff. ...I was just asked a question, wasn't I?


Shift squirm squirm twist shift upright. "You got a Coke on you?" Hopeful-sounding.

ksssst-click. Whoa. Some kind pressure seal?

"I actually haven't seen a can of Coca-Cola in years."

Shift sag slump. "Damn."


The blanket bug grunts despondently.


Human contact might be overrated after all. I start to climb the lad[I CALL TOP BUNK~!] ttom bunk is obviously the better choice. I could roll off during the night or something if I was up there. And that would be just terrible.

Besides, this way I can literally fall asleep when my head hits the pillow.

Like this.


[ ] Something Old
[ ] Something New


Sorry it's late.

I am the night.

I test medical and industrial electronics.
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[~] Something Borrowed

... what do you mean that's not an option?

[X] Something Old
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[X] Something Old
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[X] Something Old
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[☆] Something Blue

[X] Something New
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>[x] Something New
Don't live in the past.
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kind of an obvious pun if you think about it
Votes are (obviously long since) called.

It is currently a busy and trying time.

The update is slowly (and painfully) but surely being prepared. Please--well, the image says it all.
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Spin warmly?
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home is where you hang your hate
[鬱] Something Old

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

High, high up, on a mountaintop in Gensokyo, Blue-white sits atop a long, long flight of stone steps, and looks out at nothing.

That is not entirely true. She is looking out at more mountains. Many, many more. But she is not thinking about, or even truly
seeing the mountains. This has been happening quite often, as of late. It has happened before, as well.

It has been a couple of months since Blue-white and her goddesses have arrived in Gensokyo. She has grown familiar enough with the land to breed just the right microdose of contempt, and is still new enough to definitely be considered an outsider. It is the perfect sour spot to breed a certain kind of state of mind in a certain kind of girl prone to certain kinds of moods.

When things are not going well, they can always go worse. This she has learned, and this she knows.

If someone were to ask Blue-white what had her down, they would be assured that she was fine, just fine. Really. Just thinking about things. Nothing wrong.

Blue-white could say that and in that instant, it would be something she believed. In fact, she would always believe it, the moment she said it. But then the moment must end, and other thoughts return.

She is sitting on the steps so that she doesn't have to get back to work. This strategy has never worked for very long in the past. Maybe it'll be different this time. Yeah.

This time, for sure.

First, there is the sweeping of the stone-paved paths all across the shrine grounds, a common task so often repeated that it has become a meditation exercise by this point. The mind centers itself while the body does useful work. An enormous, loathsome, tedious job.

There is the group of humans from the main village that need to be safely guided to the shrine in a couple days' time. All the new believers, curious onlookers, and people who just didn't want place all their trust in Red-white would be personally escorted by the new shrine's miko and thus be far more likely to pray and donate once they arrived. A time-consuming hassle where she was stuck playing tour guide for a bunch of naive people too weak to make the journey on their own.

Twice during the week, Blue-white must make the rounds of the villages and farms, and speak with people, promote her shrine, offer advice, and generally spread the good word. Anything that raised the numbers of the faithful would be a considerable boon for the shrine. Nothing but pimping out the literal favors of herself and her godesses, smiling and making nice and upselling and answering inane questions as if she were manning a booth in a godsdamned shopping center.

Soon she will need to write new charms for placing in the new line of omamori tailored to the needs of youkai. A strange, new application of her craft that nobody had ever considered, and one that should allow their shrine to get a significant edge over Red-white. An idiotic, pandering gesture that was sure to come off as cheap, thinly veiled marketing tactics.

However, the worst of them all would be the sweeping. Letting your mind wander was a natural tendency. Trying to engage in mindfulness in those circumstances was just
hell. And it was something she had to do daily.

Why did everything have to start going this way again? It was supposed to be great, this move. Her goddesses would be able to flourish again and she wouldn't have to keep dealing with the pressures of living two lives. Gensokyo, the land where strangeness and oddity lived, and where things forgotten and faded could find a new life.

That was the goal. That was the

And yet nothing was working out, was it? Oh, sure, they were getting new followers. Sure, they were being accepted. But it wasn't that simple. It just wasn't.

There was the humiliating defeat after their arrival. They were never going to live that down. People said that it was normal—expected, even—but Blue-white knew what was going on. She was no stranger to false kindness and empty reassurances.

Things were supposed to be better.
She was supposed to be better. And strictly speaking, they sort of were.

So why didn't it feel that way? If things were actually better, then why was there nothing but work, more work, mind-numbing drudgery, and general misery? None of this should have been a problem. Not for her.

Why couldn't it all just stop?

Just... stop. It'd be better than this. Better than the shame. Better than this unending hustle. Better than whoring their morals and services out.

Anything for some peace. Some respite. Some dignity. Anything. It wouldn't matter what.

Or how.

She wasn't really <worth anything to anyone here anyway>.

Blue-white nods without being aware of it.

Time to get to work. Take care of things around here. In the storage shed were a few coils of rope. One of those would do for her next job, wouldn't it?

Please fuckin' tell me you're the shrine maiden."

Blue-white yelps like a kicked puppy and jumps to her feet—or tries to. Her boots slip on a step and tangle her feet up with the broom resting there. She trips, turns in an attempt to catch herself, and pitches forward. Arms far too strong to be that slender catch her and roughly haul her upright. It's more like a helpful shove.

There is the strong smell of charcoal. Beneath that, sweat. Amidst them ...blood?

Blue-white regains her balance and steadies herself before looking at this person.

A being of red.

...No, just her soot-smudged pants are red, now that she looks at it. Her ragged, torn shirt is white, and that... that
mane of hair which an 80s singer would kill for—that's white, too.

But this is unquestionably a being that is red. That impression has no basis in anything, but it hits Blue-white hard, with a force that sends her taking a more careful step backwards.

The being spits something worryingly crimson, then mumbles an apology. She squints up at Blue-white, and after a moment, grimaces. "Shit," she opines.

"I... I am the shrine maiden, yes," says Blue-white, grasping for her customer service role and at last finding it. "Welcome to Moriya Shrine. ...Do you need help?" This being of red wearing white is bleeding from several small cuts and lacerations. Bruises and burn marks adorn skin and clothing. Offering aid and assistance is not even a question. That she asked at all is a formality. She is already looking her over for more serious injuries, when—

"It'll mend, don't worry." She looks back down the mountain. "You got some real dicks for neighbors, you know that?"

"W-well, the tengu do take security seriously." Blue-white's attempt to be neutral about the matter is marred by the fact that she did not need to ask who it was that was being spoken of. She will realize this faux pas in about three seconds.


There it goes. Just a flush of the cheeks. Knows better than to draw further attention to it, however, so she does not comment on it.

Luckily, it appears the newcomer doesn't notice. "Yeah, they do. Fuck 'em for it, though. And those eagle youkai? They can go right on and eat a long string of dicks, too." A disgusted sigh escapes her lips. "Anyway, how do I get to the peak?"

"Um." Blue-white almost answers, but is forced to consider the red being's state, and how she arrived at it. "Did you... I'm sorry, but did you
walk the whole way up here?"

She gets a sour look that shifts away from her a moment later. "Maybe ran more than I walked, but yeah. I walked up my first mountain, and look where that got me." The red being hooks a thumb under one of her suspenders, draws it out, and snaps it against her own chest.

A dry laugh, briefly.

"So don't worry 'bout me. How do I get to the peak?" After repeating her question she points a finger, and Blue-white turns to look—unnecessarily. The peak of Youkai Mountain is still some distance from her shrine, but it's obviously closer to that than the ground.

"The west exit from the courtyard leads to a path," Blue-white says, finally. "Stay left on the first two forks, go hard right, and it's a straight path from there. ...But ma'am, I must ask: are you
sure you're all r—"

Long white hair rustles softly as it moves past her, and a curiously stiff bow tied into the hair—one of many—brushes against her hand. A memory from school, back on the Outside: picking up each handout as the copier spits it out, the fading heat warming her fingers.

It felt like that, just now.

"Told ya, it'll mend." Red-in-white gives a wave to the shrine maiden without looking back at her. "Thanks," she adds as an afterthought.

Blue-white watches her go. When the woman has disappeared down the western path, the shrine maiden sighs and gets to sweeping. She does not even remember her interrupted task.

The morning's scream chokes off after an instant, turning into a loud, shuddering gasp. What is this. Where am I. Did someone kidnap me? How did I get in this house? I am lying on my front, body lifted half-upright off the bed up on my elbows, eyes trying to blink away the residue of sleep on their own as I look around the room.


Something large and soft hurtles in from behind me and to the left and smacks me in the head—a small throw pillow, I realize, as it falls away and lands on the floor. "Shuth'uh fugguuuup," moans a voice from that direction, whimpering and full of misery.


I stop.

No, really: what?

This time, I look around slower.

A room, yes. A window on the end. A city outside. I'm in bed—on a bed, actually. Around me, multiple bunks, each of them occupied by sleeping bodies, now.

Memory returns, and gaps fill in. The onje hostel, right.

I flop back down onto the remarkably nice bed and just enjoy the sensation of not sleeping on the hard earth for a moment. I'd kind of been getting used to it, though.

The light purple sky outside suggests that it's still early in the morning. Even traumatic times in a world of demons can't beat that habit out of me. But I'm still plenty groggy.

[ ] Starts th' day. Girl's gonna get clean, get fed, and get the ball rollin'.
[ ] Up n' at 'em. A walk 'round the block oughtta wake her up good.
[ ] Nuts t' all that. Back t' sleep; it's too early for thinkin' about movin'.


Took way too long.

Almost. Notice the timer on top of the cup?
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[X] Starts th' day. Girl's gonna get clean, get fed, and get the ball rollin'.

It's not a bad habit, she might as well keep it up.
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[x] Up n' at 'em. A walk 'round the block oughtta wake her up good.

What could possibly go wrong?

Hmm. Somehow I'm still on the fence about whether <angle brackets> is just the voice of depression/self-deprecation in her head or something more. Either way, I'd want to see more of Sanae and Mokou.
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[X] Starts th' day. Girl's gonna get clean, get fed, and get the ball rollin'.
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Cirno windmill arms
[Ⴍ] Starts th' day. Girl's gonna get clean, get fed, and get the ball rollin'.

「02:56」... 待つ語録? 鬼ごろ? 銭色? 蠱ろう? 混じ込む?... Oh. Right. Pic is me.
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[x] Nuts t' all that. Back t' sleep; it's too early for thinkin' about movin'.

Need to be well rested.
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[x] Up n' at 'em. A walk 'round the block oughtta wake her up good.
It calls to me. Up and atom, Sanae.
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the height of luxury
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=vMy3lSi7Djo ]
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/vMy3lSi7Djo ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/dgimt ]

[ᄡ] Starts th' day. Girl's gonna get clean, get fed, and get the ball rollin'.

This bed feels really nice—or maybe I've been so bed-deprived for the last... while or so that anything would be better. I'm in no shape to think that through, right now. But that just means I should go get in that shape. The shape of a dumb girl in over her head trying to pull out of her horrible situation <shaped like your shadow>.

Maybe I should.

Come on.

Aaaany minute now.


...Ah, forget it. I need to make a bathroom call, anyway.

I push myself upright again and stay up this time. "Every day, I'm getting stronger and stronger." The words are spoken quietly out of respect for my roommates, but with surety.

"Nnnnngh." Another moan (much quieter) from the same direction as the pillow had come. I don't think she heard that so much as she's just moaning generally. Probably sick. Or a hangover, maybe?

Shuffling off the side of the bed, I suck in a short breath as I step into the middle of the room. It's cold. If I didn't still have my boots on, that would have been worse. Might have woken someone up.

I walk as quietly as possible to the door. On the way, I note that the blanket bug has been replaced by a young girl with long, long brown hair. The sight actually makes me stop for a moment. She can't be older than... what, twelve or thirteen? I shiver. How did a kid like that end up coming to Makai?


It's not my problem, though. Nobody's going to save me, and nobody's going to save her. But we made it here, didn't we <by the scraped skin of your teeth>? Yeah, but we're both here and both intact <physically>. Shut up. The point is, we can't be completely powerless.

That thought gets put away and I exit the room.

It's dark out in the hub-room of the second floor, save for the meager glow of what I guess is a homemade "emergency exit" sign above the stairs—though all they did was just put a dim light behind some big green letters that say EXIT <come on wheres the running guy>. Somewhere in the building, there's something running which is causing that special kind of old-building noise you hear in the walls. Running water, or something with a motor.

A star-light comes to life in my palm after a quick motion, and I light up the place in silver. The bathroom I sorta recall from last night is dark, but the light in my hand illuminates the door, left thoughtfully ajar. Wouldn't want to do that awkward knock-to-check at this hour.

I fumble for a light switch just inside on reflex; it takes me a moment to become startled at how not only was it located right about where switches should be, but it also wasn't that style of hard metal switch I've been seeing all over. Flipping it lights up an opaque panel of glass on the ceiling <nice touch>. The room is decked out with sandy-colored tile from the floor to the walls. The stalls are some kind of polished wood, though.

And because I'm a total pro I totally don't forget that cold mornings mean cold toilet seats. Stupid Makai.

While washing up at a bank of sinks <theres soap thank the gods>, I look over at the switch. It's shaped like any light switch I'd find in a house back on Earth, but it's definitely not plastic. Still hard and smooth, yet not cold like ceramic. Weird. Something catches my eye in the mirror, and I look back over at the bank of stalls. It ends quite short of the wall, and instead of another two stall doors, there are... curtains?



Is that what I think it is? It has to be.

I twist the squeaky faucet knob to shut off the sink, and don't even bother wiping my hands dry before walking down to the end and pulling aside one of the curtains.


Thank all the gods and twice again for my mamas—there are showers.

My return to room 3 is almost as quiet as my exit was. I open up my locker and nervously look around after that weird depressurizing <or something i dont even know> hiss. A couple of my roommates stir in their bunks, but only for a second.

"Nuhhhhh." A dark-skinned (or maybe just very tanned?) arm flails weakly for a moment in my direction before returning to clutch a pillow tightly over her head <yeah im going with hangover on that one now>. Sure seems like it.

After going back into the bathroom, I go to the shower furthest from the door and put my pack down maybe a meter away from the curtain. I unroll my towel for the first time, and look it over. Not much to see but dark blue terrycloth, but that's exactly how it should be.

"...I think I'm gonna go with 'Ford', after all." It's a good name.

While disrobing, I notice the sorry, sorry state of my clothes once again. Worn hard, torn in places, partially repaired, and stained with dirt, blood, dust, and sweat. I gave them a rinse and a scrub a few times on the way to the city, but that's about it <and that wasnt much>. Yeah, they could use a little more care. Maybe I should have taken Verritine up on her offer? ...Eh, I'm not going to need new clothes, though.

...I wonder.

I stick my head back in the shower and see a few bottles and what is probably soap. No names on anything, sooo... they might be open to anyone? Let's go with that <nice justification there>. Guess how much I don't care. There is soap here. And shampoo. And I am gross right now.

The spoked handles of the shower faucet are labeled, thankfully. The hot water takes a few minutes to kick in, during which time I dart in and out of the cool, chilly water, soaping up and rinsing in quick bursts. But when it finally warms up...

"Oh gods, that's amazing."

Not since Elis' have I had hot water. I take a few moments to simply stand under the underpowered stream coming out of the antique-looking showerhead and focus on the water pouring over my body. I continue to bask in it, enjoying how it feels for the first time in...



The cool patch of tile against my forehead stands out in contrast to the warmth surrounding the rest of me. I inhale slowly, hold it, and then let the breath out.


It started when I got here. I can't forget that red sky. ...Means it was the evening or somewhere around there. It got darker as I went to Vina, and then I hid in Elis' shed and slept.

...God, that feels like it was so long ago.

I close my eyes and lift my head, letting the water cascade across my face <dont inhale>. Right.

That was my first day <first night>. ...Okay, my first night. Woke up, found the note. Talked to Elis, made deals, got info, got some mail to take back. Got fed. She did that Innocence thing. I left Vina, did the henshin <it was great>. It really was. I hope those things don't need to eat, or something.

...I should start washing my clothes.

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/rAdOXyR6gS8 ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=rAdOXyR6gS8 ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/eypkm ]

Pushing aside the curtain, I grab my underwear and socks since they're on the top of the pile. With soap in hand, I begin the process of crudely cleaning my garments to keep my hands busy while my mind puts things in order.

After the henshin, I slept in the forest. Then that creepy talking monster-thing woke me up.

I shudder. Good to know the circles work.

That was the end of night three, start of day two, way too early in the morning. Kept flying, took a nap on the river. Flew some more, found that grove by the farms, and...

"...And everything went to shit."

My hands stop. I'm not a girl who throws around profanity very casually, if at all. That's weird enough, but weirder still was the fact that I said it in the Tongue of Man. That's weird, isn't it? I don't know what that means <but its weird maybe>.

Or not. Don't know.


So everything went horribly. Again. No more haraegushi, killed someone. Smoke-woman is a dirty, dirty, manipulating bitch. And dangerous. Ran away. Flew and flew and went all over the place. Went to sleep somewhere in the hills, I think. Did I really do all that on only the first day out of Vina? I stare at the bland tiled wall, push a strand of wet, dripping green out of the way, and go over everything again.

...Yeah, I think I did <this is the worst business trip ever>. I choke out a partially held-back laugh, and hang up my socks on the curtain rod, next to my underwear. Shirt's next.

Woke up, made those collector-spells. Had a long talk with myself. Flew a lot. Slept by those cliffs. Lots to think about during that day. I remember more about I was thinking than what I was doing that day, honestly.

That makes... Let's see. Fourth night, so three days.

Next morning was real foggy. Flew. Tried to rebuild my haraegushi and fucking failed <im not surprised>. Nobody asked and nobody ever will <and nobody can stop this>. One day at a time, that's how I kill it <but dont you kill faster than th>—"Shut. Up."

Wow. My throat actually hurts.

Somehow avoided tearing my shirt. That's good. ...It's about as done as it's gonna get, I think. Wonder if I'm gonna have room for all this on the rack. Skirt, you're up!

After that... Well, that's when I finally hit the plains, wasn't it? Went fishing, almost got attacked by an oppin. But I was able to get a meal with my own hands. That's worth something.

Oh man, I should have the fish along with last night's adama and machavat for breakfast. That'll probably be really good.

So then after that was all of yesterday: taking out the not-worms, coming to the city, getting my papers, the towel, going to the Brotherhood, then the Feast, and then coming here.


All told, I've been in Makai for seven nights and six days. This would be morning number 7. ...Almost a week, then <their week>. Oh, right. At twenty-nine hours a day, that's, uh... well, round up to thirty per day, that's a hundred and eighty hours, and add on a bit more for my first night and this morning. One-eighty-six is still probably under, but it's close enough. Divided by twenty-four... Seven, going heavily on eight.

Still a week. It feels like so much more.

Even in this shower, I feel very, very tired.


I can't give up. Nobody's going to save me. Only I can save myself.

And there's work to be done.

I move onto the vest.
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File 146336654674.jpg - (78.01KB, 800x462, yoo-hoo know who-hoo (or do-hoo you-hoo).jpg)
yoo-hoo know who-hoo (or do-hoo you-hoo)

[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=opmwfRqdGsg ]
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/opmwfRqdGsg ]

You are The Deadly Carp, and right now you are on a bed of moderate comfiness in some kind of room with beds. Which is not a bedroom! Words are very tricky like that. Tricky like you, in fact. You are not at all tricky.

You do not exist. The Deadly Carp is real. You are The Deadly Carp.

You still do not exist. You have woken up, and that is a statement of high comedy, because such a thing is impossible for you to do. It's impossible for you because you are The Deadly Carp. It's true that you are upright and looking around and wondering where you are, but the answer to that wouldn't mean anything to you, anyway. Very little can, because you do not exist. The Deadly Carp is real, and you are The Deadly Carp.

These bodies all around you, did you cause them? You don't remember doing anything like that, but even if you did, how would that help?

Special hint: the answer is less than not at all and more than nothing anywhere!

The Deadly Carp
loves hints.

Ah, one of them moved. And another one. Well, that means maybe you didn't do something at all, but maybe you did something else. The Deadly Carp could do anything and be anything, if only you put your mind to it!

And that's noooooot happening.

Wonder if she's awake. Maybe swing on down and check. Whee~ ...Ah, looks like she's already up. Huh. No screamalarm? Weird~ But maybe The Deadly Carp just missed it. You miss lots of things!

Not that that has anything to do with it.

Well, you're feeling rested. Time to be a good neighbor, huh? Or maybe a bad neighbor, like the kind you've always been! Always and always and always and then you were The Deadly Carp and all worries about being any kind of neighbor just
vanished~ like tears on a stale wind.

Some of these people are more interesting than others. Maybe. You don't know for sure until you check! Oh this curiosity, how she burns!

[ ] Northern Aggression
[ ] Central Intelligence
[ ] Southern Comfort


Hey, if you weren't aware:
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Oh nice, another interlude with our imaginary friend. And even a vote for her! That's unprecedented.

[x] Northern Aggression
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[X] Central Intelligence
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[X] Southern Comfort

Please 無為t warmly.

> Deadly Carp
... okay, I kind of figured, but what was 'Highway'?
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[X] Southern Comfort
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[x] Southern comfort

Still no idea. Maybe I'm slow
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File 146397942139.jpg - (11.35KB, 250x230, ziggity zaggity I’m comin’ for that zzzzz.jpg)
ziggity zaggity I’m comin’ for that zzzzz
[Music continues]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=opmwfRqdGsg ]
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/opmwfRqdGsg ]

[Ք] Southern Comfort

Buuuut, if there's curiosity and it won't hurt you if The Deadly Carp jams a hand in it, then investigate it! De-curify! Or don't. It doesn't matter in the long run. The Deadly Carp doesn't know what the long run is like, though, so that's out the window.

Or any run. Run out a window! Take a dare! No, that could be bad for you. But how could you care about anything at all?

What's going on, now?

Oh, there's people all around with their eyes closed. Weird~ Like, weird just to be in this sort of situation, not weird for them to be like that. They're in beds, silly!

An idea strikes. Dismount!


The Deadly Carp cartwheels off the bed and does a gymnast-perfect landing. Tens all around! Nagano was such a trip. You might say that, but who knows. It's important to visit home now and then though, but there's always room for side trips! Even if those side trips last years and years because it's the journey not the destination and there's definitely nothing being avoided ha ha ha ha.

Sure would suck to be that person.

Ha ha ha.

Right but anyway so yeah moving along and stuff, there was a lack of any Sun Tzu whatsoever in Nagano. Those signs were bullshit, you'd think. Did think. Probably, anyway! What you think doesn't matter, because you don't think at all.

You do not exist. The Deadly Carp is real. You are The Deadly Carp.

So, who's first? The closest? The closest! ...First for what? Was there a plan?

Plans. That's a good one.




A ha ha haaaa...
wow. And owwww.

Sooooo~ The Deadly Carp's got a nice little burn on the flipper, there! Yowch. No sneaking into bunks, it looks like.

Maybe that could have been avoided by planning? Or remembering certain things! So that wasn't ever going to happen.

You suck on the angry red mark on your finger. It stings quiiiite a bit. The surprise hurt more than the burn did, honestly.
But stiiiiiill. Stupid security systems. The Deadly Carp won't be outdone, though, see if it doesn't! Did that make sense?

Trick question! You've never made sense. Maybe that's why your ideas are bad! Who knows~

Speaking of questions, The Deadly Carp came up with a good one. Maybe it's one that's been asked before. It seems like the kind of thing that would be interesting. Like, more interesting than the kind of interesting that makes you do things. No, it's definitely interesting—that's why it should be asked. It's the kind of question that Everyone would benefit from.

Oh, but first, gotta put shoes back on. Gotta get up, get moving! There's no more dozing for you, not when there is curiosity to be satisfied and food to be eaten and things to do and people to watch and places to go and things to think and then forget!

The Deadly Carp? More like The Busiest Carp! ...Ah, but that one doesn't match at all.

All right, so there was going to be a question that was going to be asked. The Deadly Carp compleeeeetely doesn't recall what it was, though. So instead, a question from the heart!

Man, that would almost hurt to think, if you could hurt. Or think. Luckily, you can't, because you do not exist.


Testing, one two~

Welcome to a Morning at the Improv. This is the lovely host, The Deadly Carp! Wait for applause!

...Oh right. Shouldn't say that part out loud.


What makes you feel better?

Not good. Not happy.

Gonna start with thaaat one over there. Short hair, and oh. Well. Um. Dark skin, obviously, or maybe just really tanned.

Morning meditation. Yoga. Umm... the coffee at Os Anjos.

Thanks for that! Don't forget to pull the sheets back up, commando. Next, short and tiny person!

A cold Coke. Eating ketchup sandwiches under the Christmas tree. Snoopy.

Isn't that just the sweetest~ And you think that one's kinda scary, so moving on very quickly and nervously to Goldilocks over here!

Quiet nights, for sure. Obviously, good tea... Mmm. Oh, when I'm the last one standing.

You can respect simple pleasures like that. And now, last but not least, the remaining contes—


"whydya gots 'talk so much so damn early? oh sweet sacred, my fuggin' heeeeead."

[ ♫: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J83lw0eFIJA ]

Aaaand cut to commercials!


[ ] Something Dry
[ ] Something Clean


Looks like work hours might be saning up at last.

More related than you think but less than you'd hoped.
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[X] Something Dry
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[▽] Something Clean
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>Even if those side trips last years and years because it's the journey not the destination and there's definitely nothing being avoided ha ha ha ha.
>Sure would suck to be that person.

Hm, that's unexpected but interesting. Sheds some light on why the little carp's traveled so much. And it looks like she might have been avoiding home even when she could still think...

[x] Something Clean
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I'm of the opinion she still can. How much of that is self-delusion?

[x] Something Clean

Also that song jesus christ.
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How can you hate the Globetrotters?
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hearth of gold
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/yndwb ]

[◎] Something Clean

If someone comes in here right now, there's definitely going to be some questions. Or awkwardness. No, definitely awkwardness. And lots of it. The partial nudity will actually be the lesser crime here, too; that's the worst <funniest> part.

Rather than jumping down, I ease myself off the countertop onto the kitchen's blue tile floor. Clomping around in my boots would just wake everyone up, and that is what I want the least. As early as it is, I know I don't have forever to get this done.

As expected from the circumstances, the spell isn't perfect—but it's working. Looking at the whole thing through my focused sight makes it easy to find where the wind needs to be shaped or deflected in order to keep the hot air from leaking out of the swirling sphere in the center of the room.

When I duck under one of the streams of wind feeding into the sphere, my hands reach up and reflexively tighten Ford. Not that anybody's around <yet>, but if they burst in here all of a sudden, I don't want the situation to get any worse than it is. I guess I could just lock the doors, or block them, or... Something. But I feel like that would get me in a lot more trouble <more trouble than prancing around the kitchen in just a towel>. There is no prancing going on here.

I check my reflection in the window glass just to make sure Ford's still covering me. It is, thankfully. ...Huh. With the boots and the towel wrapped like this, I almost sorta look like I'm doing half-baked cosplay of the woman from the first of those awful live action Biohazard movies that the Americans made <but less cool>. It was never cool.

My attention returns to the sphere in the middle of the room, where my clothes tumble and roll and turn. This whole venture is stupid, risky, and could probably have been avoided or improved with some careful planning <story of my life>, but I'm glad that I came up with this as quick as I did. Otherwise, I'd look more like Sadako than ...that actor. Can't remember her name. She was in something else really cool, though.


Over on top of the wood stove, my breakfast warms up—probably slower than if the stove door was shut like it's supposed to be. But my clothes need drying, I have no idea what these people do for taking care of laundry <if anything>, and I'm not about to go ask anyone. They're asleep <i hope> and I'm wearing a towel and boots.

So the stove door stays open and breakfast takes that much longer.

...You know, I'll bet I could have made some kind of crude robe if I'd thought to take my sheets and blanket. Jeez, that would have worked way better.


Ugh. I have to find some way to pass the time other than literally sitting here and watching my clothes in the dryer. My manga, my phone, and my PSP are back in my room at the Shrine, nobody is awake that I can talk to, and it's too early and too Makai out to start drinking.

Off to one side of the room, well out of the kitchen, there's a shelf of books and a rack of magazines, all various ages and languages and subjects. I wander over there and start leafing through a National Geographic from 2007 printed in Russian. I can't read a word of it, but hey, it's National Geographic. I get two pages into a pictorial that looks like it's about commercial fishing somewhere in Northern Europe whe ld have used a net back then. But you work with what you have, right?

[Aha! Found the dirty dog what done it~! Actually, not really dirty at all anymore, huh? Might be a good idea~]

I lean against a table near the bookshelf—no chairs available, since they're all arranged in the middle of the room, holding one of the slips of wax paper that I put a star on—and turn the page.


tmp tmp tmp tmp

...And stop.

A closing door, and footsteps coming down the stairs.

They might not be coming here <oh please not with my luck>. ...Prrrobably best to assume the worst.

[ ] Goes t'get 'erself hid. Can't nobody blame someone that ain't there.
[ ] Heads 'em off at the pass. Tells a story to just put 'em on their way.
[ ] Stands her ground, girl does.
-[ ] Plays it cool, like there ain't nothin' rufflin' her feathers.
-[ ] Plays it hard, like she ain't takin' no guff 'bout all this.


Sorry this one's so short.
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[X] Stands her ground, girl does.
-[X] Plays it cool, like there ain't nothin' rufflin' her feathers.

"Yes, it's ridiculous. If you have any better options, I'm listening."

(... or would that be "hard"? I'm not really sure.)
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[X] Stands her ground, girl does.
-[X] Plays it cool, like there ain't nothin' rufflin' her feathers.

Nothing odd going on here, no sir.
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[x] Stands her ground, girl does.
-[x] Plays it cool, like there ain't nothin' rufflin' her feathers.

We're in god damn Makai, what do you expect? This place is weird.
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gray tee
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/buHCcPLX9Pk ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=buHCcPLX9Pk ]

[Ѡ] Stands her ground, girl does.
-[ӝ] Plays it cool, like there ain't nothin' rufflin' her feathers.


Nope. Writing this one off.

I just don't really see any graceful way out. It's going to be awkward no matter what, right <oh boy you bet>? Well, I don't have to play along with that! I'm free to do what I want! This is the twenty-first century!

Hmm. Those are probably actually both untrue for Makai. Like, super-untrue.

But screw it anyway.

—Wait, I'm not going to be flashing anyone who walks in, am I? ...Okay, phew. All my scandalous lady parts are still safely hidden by Ford. There's a good towel. Keeping me dry and my dignity intact <pfffahahaha dignity oh please>. It hurts because it's true.

Thee footsteps come nearer; accompanied, I now notice, by singing.

"...And surely, I'll be mi~ne..."

They came from upstairs, so it's got to be a guy, but that's a high voice he's got. Interesting.

"And we'll taaaake a cup of kiiiiindness yet..."

I somehow keep from flushing entirely red from head to toe when the door opens <worthy of a miracle right there>, and instead just glance up like I don't even care. I just need to look like me being here is normal, like Kana-mama says.

"...For auld la---goodness." A dark-haired guy in a loose white shirt (and the short end of average height) takes a couple steps into the kitchen and then pauses, giving my improvised clothes dryer a look. "You don't see something like that every day, do you?" He takes a few more steps in, noting the arranged chairs and the strips of paper on the wall, and giving them a wide berth.

[Sure don't~ And, um, something something double entendre! ...That's what you say in situations like this, right~?]

He stares at the tumbling clothes, then starts looking at the paper strips again, and the oven. There's a noise of dawning understanding, and he nods a few times before looking around the room some more. The moment he catches sight of me, he immediately turns his back, walks over to the sink, and takes a cup out of the drainboard. "I suppose that is yours then, madam?"

...I've never been addressed with 'madam' before. Don't quite know if I'd be okay with most people saying that, but from him? Oddly enough, I don't find much wrong with it.

"Oh, that?" Gosh, I'd forgotten all about it. "Yeah, it's mine. I did some laundry but I didn't see any dryers around." <more like i didnt really look too hard> "I don't have any spare changes of clothes on hand, so I had to figure something out." I think that sounds normal.

"Aha." He nods, turns around at last, and moves towards the coffee pot on the wood stove. "There's a fairy laundry half a block over..."

Oh gods da—

"...but I don't quite see them being open this hour of the day."

—I am totally vindicated.

"Er, this is a bit tricky to get around, though..." He shies away from the streams of hot air for a second, then ducks and weaves around them. Guy's got some moves, it looks like.

I wave a hand back and forth. "Oh, they probably won't be a, uh... problem." <im just the best at this words thing> "Passing through them won't mess anything up, but I wouldn't stand in the way too long." That seems to put him at ease with the magic... but he's trying quite hard to keep his eyes off of me. But like, actually trying; not even sneaking any looks <yeah real sweet of him>. It is!

[Hmm~ This one's a weird one, aren't you? Er, 'isn't he'~]

He grabs the coffee pot and slips back out of the path of the spell. Once safely out of the way, he lifts the little lid and then sniffs the pot. "Sorry, but, ah... is this tea, perchance?" he asks, looking down into it.

"I hope so." It smelled like it, at any rate. I didn't see any coffee in the kitchen, so I made do with tea, which was pretty plentiful... even after you discount the stuff in bags.

"Oh? Awful nice of you, then, ah...?"


"Kochiya." I can see him mulling over the name for a few seconds <maybe i dont know>. He smiles at nobody in particular, and pours himself a cup. "I'll be off, then. If anyone comes calling for Eric, I'm out jogging."

[Ki~nda want to watch that.]

...With a cup of tea <maybe this dudes kinda weird>? I've seen weirder <true>.

"By the way, Kochiya."


"You've probably got another twenty or thirty minutes, if that, before people start waking up and crawling down here." He finally looks directly at me. "Donny's made quite clear the rules about that kind of dress in the public areas."

"Oh. Um." Damn, damn, damn. "Donny?"

He gives me a bit of a look. "The large fellow behind the front desk, quite dark? Owns this fine establishment?"

...I recall something like that, now that I'm reminded. But I nod anyway. "Oh, right, right. Got it; thanks, Eric." He gives me a wave and departs, cup of tea in hand <dont spill>.

[Are you going to break anything~? Fall over dead? No? Well, all right, but you have to promise not to!]

Well, I'm not worried. Fifteen more minutes ought to cover it. I'm not going smash anything or fall over dead in that time, so everything'll be fine. I'll be fine. Or something.

I mean... wait, what?

[Great! Back in a bit~]

The door shutting startles me, but I guess he didn't shut it all the way. Pretty sure he did, but whatever. I continue to leaf through the National Geographic, which is making me feel a lot less homesick than I expected. Sometimes there'll be a bit of a pang when I see a logo I recognize in one of the ads. Kind of a weird place to find that feeling <not really>.

Lacking a clock, I wait what feels like the right amount of time before putting away the magazine and checking on breakfast. It's warm and ready to eat, and the tea is hot.


Now, the only way to top this off would be warm clean clothes, fresh from the dryer. I reach into the invisible sphere where my clothes roll around in the hot air—hotter than I expected, I notice. The first article I can lay hands on and pluck out is one of my sleeves. Smells a little bit like the soap from the shower, but only when I press my face up to it. It's a little stiff and wrinkled, but it's dry and clean, and that's all I care about right now.

And then...


I make the mistake of laughing as I grab the next piece of clothing out of my magical dryer. This causes Ford to shift a little too far, and start to come untucked <whoops crud>.

I stumble into one of the chairs as I attempt to tuck it back in, and end up knocking the chair over. The wind current blowing out of the piece of wax paper(?) is thrown off, and the containment of the sphere—and the clothes in the middle—is disrupted.

The magazines on the rack and the bulletin board <wait there was a bulletin board> start rustling and flapping as the air blows at them.

The containment of the spell completely falls apart, and sends my clothes flying around the room in a last burst of hot air.

I hear a bumping sound and cursing from the door, where I look to see "Donny" rubbing at his nose and opening the door—again.

The burst of air is gone as quick as it arrived, and the room falls silent.

I should be very, very afraid right now, but instead I cinch up Ford and give the hostel owner a smile that's probably far too bright and cheerful. "Good morning, sir."

My vest lands on his head a beat later.

...Okay, see, this is so much funnier when it happens in a manga. I can't say that it's translated very well into 3-D, though <but im kind of biased to be fair>.

If this were a manga, though, my towel would have fallen off, he would have fallen into my chest, and it would have been my panties that landed on him. And none of that happened. Positive thinking is important.

There's no reason I should be anywhere near this calm. Do I know something that I don't know <what does that even mean>? I don't know.

"Hmm. Maybe I haven't quite woken up," says the man, taking the vest off his head. He sets it on a hook next to some hanging utensils, then walks over towards the scattered circle of chairs. He picks up the fallen chair, takes it back to the table, and then sits in it.

"Miss Kochiya."

"Yes, sir?"

"Is that tea you brewed up?"

"Yes, sir."

"I'd like a cup, please. No sugar."

"Right away, sir." Who knew school festival maid cafe experience would actually ever come in handy again?

As I fetch a cup and saucer, I sneak a glance back at him. Shorts that go to the knee and an old, well-worn grey t-shirt with a cat design on it. Probably in his 40s, although it's really hard to tell. Long black hair, and physical features that place him from somewhere tropical, sunny, Pacific-y, and islandy. Guam, Samoa, Hawaii, or something like that.

I pour the tea into the cup, place it on a glass saucer, and set it down in front of him. He picks up the cup, and takes a drink. The way he holds it is like how Europeans hold their coffee in the commercials—elbows on the table, cup held in both hands, eyes closed.

"Thank you, Miss Kochiya," he says at last. "You've got about two minutes. Please explain what's going on and why this should just be something I look back on in a few years and laugh at."


"Oh. Well..." Really don't see how the truth is going to hurt. Calm and easy does it, but don't get relaxed. "This was my first night in Dis, and I have only one change of clothes. They needed a wash, and I didn't think about how to dry them."

He opens his eyes. "There's a laundromat of sorts just down the way, you know."

"Truthfully, sir, I did not until about twenty minutes ago when a gentleman named Eric told me about that on his way to go jogging. But I only arrived in the city last night, as well. Thank you for letting me know, though."

"Would make it difficult."

"Yes it did, sir. But I figured I could make a clothes dryer of sorts with my magic and heat from the oven. Actually worked out kind of well, I think. Was about to get dressed, put everything back in place, and go have breakfast right before you came in."

"That so?"

"Yes, sir." This feels uncannily like talking to a principal. Or a judge, maybe.

"Miss Kochiya?"

"Yes, sir?"

"Why does nobody ever check the bulletin board for this sort of thing, first?"

"Would have expected something like that on a sign near the bathroom, sir."

There's a long pause. "...Hmm."

At last, he gets to his feet with a sigh, and looks at me. "Don't do this again, please. I don't like throwing people out."

"I'm very sorry for causing you so much trouble, sir."

"I can tell. Now, please go get dressed, and then come back here and clean up. Do that and I'll consider this behind us."

"Right away, sir."

He makes a face. "Just Donny's fine. Sir's too much. 'Mr. Haole' if you've really screwed up."

"Got it."

He pulls out some kind of pouch as I hustle around the room collecting my clothes. By the time I grab my other sock off the top of a tall cabinet, he's prepared and filled some kind of pipe, like the kind you'd expect to see a sea captain smoking. Didn't expect that; I haven't smelled anything like smoke or tobacco that I can remember. Weird.

Before I leave the room, I make sure to take my breakfast off the stovetop and set it on a plate on the counter. The fish smells fantastic <not bad for a day and a half without being in a fridge>. Good incentive to hurry up and get dressed, I guess.

I hustle down the stairs after collecting my things, and make it to the bathroom without incident. Two of the showers are in use, so the air's a bit misty and warm. Someone is singing in what I think is French, but that's only because I heard "Je m'appelle" at some point.

After hanging Ford on the hook just inside the stall, I get dressed and give some thought to what I should do after breakfast. It's still a long time before noon—it's probably almost sunrise right now, or whatever passes for it around here.

[Pick Two]

[ ] Retires to 'er roll for some more shut-eye. Naw, she's much too up n' waked now.
[ ] For a change, there's folks like her own self around. Could get t' know some of 'em.
[ ] Leavin' her holster empty's gonna eat at 'er. If she left aught untried, she oughta try it.
[ ] Saw all manner 'a shop n' store last night. Shelves is like t'be fulla stuff she ain't seen.
[ ] Goes a-lookin' for iron horses. Girl's terrible curious to see how the demons did rails.
[ ] That Grand Feast they got here, it run all day or only after the streetlights come on?
[ ] Takes herself a sweet mornin' constitutional. This town's got sights for seein', don't it?
- [ ] (Which area/s?)
[ ] Somethin' else came to mind, just then. (Write-in!)


Schedule may be de-saning soon, but I'll try to keep it from doing that.
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[X] For a change, there's folks like her own self around. Could get t' know some of 'em.
[X] Goes a-lookin' for iron horses. Girl's terrible curious to see how the demons did rails.
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[ ] Leavin' her holster empty's gonna eat at 'er. If she left aught untried, she oughta try it.

Onje are untrustworthy; onje with weapons even more so. We definitely need to do this at some point... but that point is probably not now.

[X] Goes a-lookin' for iron horses. Girl's terrible curious to see how the demons did rails.
[X] Takes herself a sweet mornin' constitutional. This town's got sights for seein', don't it?
- [X] Not much around here looks like her mountain home, but Ezov Park's got her wistful.

... and maybe, if the opportunity arises...

[X] Asks about intraDitian flight etiquette. Beyond not giving another free show, that is.

> Or a judge, maybe.

Well, no worries, then, girl. You're innocent, remember?
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[x] For a change, there's folks like her own self around. Could get t' know some of 'em.
[x] Goes a-lookin' for iron horses. Girl's terrible curious to see how the demons did rails.
[x] Takes herself a sweet mornin' constitutional. This town's got sights for seein', don't it?

I defy you.
I don't see checking out the trains doing much, but Sanae needs a pick-me-up.
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Taking a walk requires a specific area or areas--that's why it comes with a prompt attached.
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Taking a walk requires a specific area or areas--that's why it comes with a prompt attached.
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[x] For a change, there's folks like her own self around. Could get t' know some of 'em.
[x] That Grand Feast they got here, it run all day or only after the streetlights come on?

I think the benefits of having an intact haraegushi (for instance, self-defense) would outweigh the possible negative attention being armed would attract, but it seems unlikely that Sanae would be able to fix it right now. That might be something we could get another onje's help with, if we find anyone trustworthy.
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[X] For a change, there's folks like her own self around. Could get t' know some of 'em.

[X] Saw all manner 'a shop n' store last night. Shelves is like t'be fulla stuff she ain't seen.
Gettin' Ford and meetin' Verritine havin' been some o' the things what've worked out best, and all.
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[X] For a change, there's folks like her own self around. Could get t' know some of 'em.
[X] Saw all manner 'a shop n' store last night. Shelves is like t'be fulla stuff she ain't seen.
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A weird multiple-way two-point tie? ...Well, iInstead of waiting longer to break the tie, I'm going to assemble this into some kind of weird mélange to resolve it. That's just how it go.

Also, called (a week later than I meant it to run)!
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[ق] For a change, there's folks like her own self around. Could get t' know some of 'em.
[Ⴉ] Saw all manner 'a shop n' store last night. Shelves is like t'be fulla stuff she ain't seen.
[ѭ] Goes a-lookin' for iron horses. Girl's terrible curious to see how the demons did rails.

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

I'm coming up a bit short. It wasn't like I was making plans for tomorrow last night... Which is today, now. I'm going back to the Brotherhood office around noonish, but until then, I've got not much to d—waaait. That's not right <oh right>. He suggested I ask other onje about ways to get back home, I now recall.

The thought of just skipping that and going in to see the guy I spoke to—what was his name, again? Must've been something easy to forget—crosses my mind and then parks itself there for a little bit, sets up shop. And then the shop burns down, because screw that. If there's any chance anyone can get me home, I'll take it.

I suppose it's time to be nice and sociable, then. Can't come right out with that; that's going to look awkward and desperate <so itll be genuine in other words>. Maybe even suspicious <extra genuine>. Of course, I've got to clean up the kitchen and eating area first.

The people in in the showers, whoever they are, leave before I'm done. My hair is still a little damp, not to mention sorta unkempt-looking <i cant believe nobody left a brush out>. Actually, I can. Those are a little more personal, but shampoo and soap are something you can buy anywhere <well maybe not in makai>. No, I've got a feeling they're not uncommon. This isn't the land of the bug, lizard, bird, and fish people; hair is still very much a thing. By extension, there's got to be a way to take care of it, too.

...Somewhere in all of that, there was a point I was trying to make <never to be seen again>. Yeah, whatever. Right now I've got warm, barely-stiff clothes that are nice and clean <now you look like a better grade of homeless>. I'm moving up in the world! My hair gets the same treatment as yesterday: rough ponytail pinned in place. Unless the day warms up, I won't need to re-create the turbandanna again, so my sleeves get stuffed into the pack.

All right, clean, dressed, and ready to go <and gone>.

I take the stairs two at a time and arrive in the kitchen again. Donny's gone—or wait, no he isn't. At the far end of the room opposite the kitchen are doors I hadn't noticed before, pebbled-glass windows set into them revealing a very Donny-like figure on the other side. I guess there's a balcony out there? Nice to know, but mess.

Back and forth I move across the room, replacing chairs where they'd been before, scratching out and tearing up the star-seals on the wax paper <seems like a safety hazard>, putting away books and papers that got blown around by the spell collapsing, generally tidying up the place at a quietly frantic clip, and praying that I finish all this before anyone gets down here.

When it's all done, I lean against the brick stove, which I guess Donny thoughtfully closed, because I know I didn't remember to do that. Nice of him, that.

clap clap clap

...Of course, there's no way my prayers could get answered <knew that when i got here>. I look over at the door, where a couple of spectators have gathered.

(Pick two. Seriously.)

[ ] Something Soft
[ ] Something Sharp
[ ] Something Springy
[ ] Something Slow


This turned out to be criminally short and I hate that.
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[X] Something Soft
[X] Something Sharp
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[x] Something Soft
[x] Something Sharp

Short updates are better than no updates! Be nice if I had a clue who I was voting for though.
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[☁] Something Soft
[⟿] Something Springy
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[x] Something Soft
[x] Something Sharp
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[x] Something Soft
[x] Something Springy

Don't be sharp with out compatriots.
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File 146882417439.jpg - (15.36KB, 236x349, heat٫ seat٫ eat.jpg)
heat٫ seat٫ eat
[Ł] Something Soft
[ℍ] Something Sharp

(Music continues)
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/cbekq ]


One of them's a blonde with irreparably tousled hair, wearing clothes that look like casual wear for the uptight—

"Ten out of ten."

—And the other is an older woman with mocha skin and black hair. Unlike her friend, she's in workout clothes.

"Good work."

"Excellent form."

"Fast and efficient."

"Not a thing out of place."

"...Well, no. She put the chairs back on the wrong side of the table." Oh, did I <whoops>?

Uptight-Casual's clapping stops, and she shakes her head. "...Jamie, that was awful."

"Huh?" Mocha looks back at her, the clap already in motion coming to a weak stop. "I wasn't making fun of her. I'm just sa—"

"You say, 'Yes, and'. Disagreeing or contradicting like that interrupts the flow and kills the bit."

...Who are these people, and what is going on <and when are they going to stop>?

"But I'm not—"

"—Professionally trained, I'm very aware. More importantly, it's time for breakfast, isn't it?" Uptight looks over at me and smiles, studiously ignoring the woman's glare. "And thank you so much for getting things ready, by the way. Do you mind if we join you?"

I guess I'm relevant again <booo>. "No, please do," I say, and gesture invitingly at the seats as I rise to get my breakfast. Being rude at this point wouldn't exactly help my case. "The name's Kochiya. Nice to meet you... oh?"

When I return to the table, I notice neither of them have taken a seat. Instead, they've decided to... ah <well duh they gotta eat too>. Yeah, no real getting around that. I decide to wait while they both head to the suspiciously refrigerator-like appliance I'd noticed earlier but hadn't examined closely. What I can see of it from here while it's open sure looks fridge-y, as well <no light when the door opens though>. Kind of a luxury in a place like this, probably.

Uptight takes a few things out of there, places it all into a frying pan she grabs off a rack, and uses that to carry it all over to the stove where she begins setting up. Mocha <jamie> does the same, taking several small packages and dropping them into a bowl, and transporting her load over to a clear patch of counter before unpacking it all.

"So, I'm Honne," says the blonde woman, taking out a large, polka-dotted white ribbon and pulling her wild blonde hair into a lazily-bound ponytail. "That's Italian for 'gullible', if you're wondering." Really? Jeez, that's a mean name. She finishes clearing out the pan and looks over my way. "Something wrong?"

"No, no... Well, maybe a bit?" I say, rubbing a thumb along the edge of the box with the fish in it. I'm going to wait for them to join me before I start. Seems like the polite thing to do, I guess. "That's a... it seems like there must be other names that mean nicer things." <thats putting it nicely>

Honne laughs. Shaking her head, she unwraps the packet, takes a knife, and begins chopping something up. "No, it doesn't bother me. My parents were the type to get confused without a whole lot of effort, if you catch my drift. My mother was pregnant with me for eleven and a half months because she didn't know any better."

What? Is that even—no, that can't be true <gotta be bsing for sure>. "Really?"

"Mm-hmm, absolutely." Gathering up the chopped stuff, she drops it into the pan where it begins to sizzle and cook. Must be some kind of meat. "But she had my brother in seven and a half just to make up for it, so it all worked out."

I'd be quicker to call her a liar if she didn't sound so serious. "So, um, how'd you end up in Makai?"

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/1JX3n-8LkzU ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=1JX3n-8LkzU ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/bxizn ]

She doesn't answer right away. Picking up a small golf ball <i think>, she cracks it <what> on the rim of the pan, like an egg. Or maybe it is an egg. "I went for a walk one day, and I thought the sign said 'Macau' but the guy who painted it just couldn't spell." She cracks another golf-egg. "This was not the case, as you can guess."


The blonde girl pours a third egg into the pan before taking a spatula and scooting stuff around it. She still doesn't look at her kitchen companion. "Yes?"

"The story you told me was better."

"Hey, this is new material. It's still being tested."

"I can see that."

A scowl, and a hard shove of the spatula. "Then why don't you share your story, O Wise Mystic."

'Jamie' is still where she was before, and still busy doing... something. I hear sounds of chopping, and occasional crunching, but can't see from here what's going on. "It's not very interesting."

I have the oddest feeling that I'm stuck in some kind of comedy routine. "Oh, I don't know about that," I say. "I'm new to all this, so anything's interesting." <also maybe someone can help me home please> "And pardon my asking, but what was your name, again?" I already know it, but it seems like a good place to get her started.

"Jamie Lee Curtis. But just 'Jamie' is fine."


She turns around and looks back at me. Been too quiet for too long. "Is something wrong?"

Okay, no, see, that's definitely bull. "Well... I saw Halloween, and I have to say you look very different."

"Of course. That came out decades ago."


"No, I meant like, a different person entirely."

Jamie turns back. "Movies require makeup, don't they?"

"They do, yes."

"When was the last time you saw Jamie Lee Curtis without makeup?"

"I... W-well, I guess I haven't."

"So it's not impossible, is it?"

It definitely is! "Even so, that's a bit..."

"A bit?"

"It seems hard to believe."

She waves the knife she's using in a small circle. "Like magic?"



I can't believe I'm losing this argument.

Jamie—I'm dead certain it's just an alias, but I'll stop treating the name with disbelief out of respect to her—finishes whatever she's working on, puts whatever's left over back into the fridge, and carries her bowl over to the table, and sits across from me. "Anything's true if you believe it enough, Kochiya."

"May I just call you Jamie?" I ask after trying and failing to come up with a good reply.

"Sure you can." She jabs a fork into the bowl, and brings up—oh, it's some kind of salad, isn't it? I don't recognize some of those vegetables, but leafy greens are leafy greens, even when some of them are blue. And orange.

—Oh, hey. I can start eating without looking rude now, can't I? Great. Just to be on the safe side, I take my time unpacking the fish and unwrapping the machavat and adama. The fish doesn't have quite the same delicious, freshly grilled smell it did the night I cooked it <theres a shocker>, but it hasn't started smelling bad, yet. Fishy, but not bad-fishy. I think I could probably push it another day before it started to smell weird. However, the scent of last night's bounty from the Feast is warm and delicious.

...Yes, warm. Things can totally smell warm.

Honne bustles over after a few moments, carrying a stoneware plate of eggs and unidentified meat. She sits on the end of the rough wooden table, so Jamie <she looks too nice to be that nutty> and I scoot our chairs closer to that end. The blonde seasons her eggs and after taking a bite, looks my way. "So, 'Kochiya', huh?"

What? "...Yes?" I look up from making a sort of weird taco with the foods at my disposal. Greasy fingers, but happy taste buds. Mmmm.

"Sounds Oriental."

Again: what? "Sounds...?" I ask, politely seeking clarification while trying not to betray how awkward and confused I feel right now <this was a terrible ideaaaaaaa>.

"You know, Oriental." Honne waves her fork vaguely in one direction. "China, the Dutch Indies, Japan, Siam... That whole area."

Weird thing to call it. I nod, and finish chewing on the bite I had before answering. "Oh, yes. Yes, it is. My parents were from there."

For no reason I can easily put my finger on, it occurs to me <again or for the first time> how easily lying and misdirection comes to me, now. Is it because my survival demands it? Am I just that kind of girl? Is it actually this simple for everyone and I'm only now realizing this? I don't feel bad about doing it, but I feel sort of bad about not feeling bad about that.

Not going to stop, though. I can't. If everyone else here wasn't lying about themselves, maybe I'd think differently. Weirdly enough, the fact that we're having conversation based on lies doesn't seem to bother them. Maybe I'm the weird one <as if i didnt already know that>.

That comment seems to be answer enough for her. "I lived out there for a little while with some friends," Honne remarks. "Things fell apart after not too long, so I moved on."

"I wouldn't have thought you to be the type to travel abroad." Jamie comments. "Aren't you Italian, right?"

Honne smiles down at her eggs. "Sometimes you should trust a map, but sometimes you should trust your heart."

And yet none of us trust other people.

...They're looking at me <oh damn did I say that out loud>. The blonde seems disappointed. "Kochiya, don't step on the joke. Manjit already does that often enough; two people doing that is going to kill me." Jamie doesn't laugh, but her relaxed expression turns amused.


"Eh." Honne's reply is just a pout and a grunt. She takes that sort of thing seriously, I guess.

Jamie spears a forkload of salad, and then sits back in her chair, bowl held in one hand. "What brings you to Makai, Kochiya? If it's not too personal."

I try to look thoughtful or pensive, but I'm really just buying myself time to finish this mouthful. The fish goes strangely well with the adama, even though there's no reason at all that it should. Maybe because the machavat was lightly buttered before being baked? That's what it tastes like, anyway.

"Good intentions, ambition, and a lack of experience." Heh, that's the most honest thing I've said so far. Of course, both women give me a look like they're expecting more. "Weird things started happening where I lived. I went to check things out, because I'm pretty qualified to do that." <or so i thought> "Found what was going on and who was causing it, but during that time, they brought me to Makai and left me for dead." ...Pretty accurate summary, more or less. "I've got no journey or quest, besides looking for a way back home."

"...Oh." Jamie's eyes soften. "That sounds terrible. How long has it been?"

Hey, I can actually answer this, now! "It's been—" <okay maybe lets not give everything away idiot> "—a little while, but not too long. I'm picking things up as quick as I can, at least." A weary smile that might be just a bit fake turns my lips upward. "I don't want to make this a long-term thing, though. Don't suppose anyone's heard about how to get a ride back?"

Honne's fork pauses in front of her mouth. "You find the dirty dogs what left you in the dirt, yet? If they got you here, stands to reason they can get you back." Chomp.

I shake my head. "Thaff uhnlig—ah, mmpf." I cover my mouth apologetically, and swallow first. "Sorry. What I wanted to say was that that's unlikely. Makai is a large place, and I don't know where they're going, or why."

"You're not very likely to get help from other onje, sad to say," Jamie tells me. "It's hard to just open up some kind of magic door or what have you to Makai. There's easier ways to come over here, but they're a lot more restricting."


...I was really playing with fire, wasn't I? The woman in white's terrible honesty rings in my ears for a second before I banish the memory.

"Really? Well, that's... I was sort of hoping for better news than that." I straighten up, and forcefully inject some brightness into my attitude. "I'm sure I'll find a way back sooner or later, though. But now that I've come clean, how did you two come to be in Makai?"

Their stories are, like mine, very heavily edited and abridged. Jamie was a small-time fitness instructor in South America who took her practice 'very, very seriously'. She had an interest in new age nonsense like reiki, crystal healing, chakras, and so on, and did extensive research on them so that she could explain to people that there was a difference between things like that and things with actual benefits, like yoga or meditation.

I think she wouldn't have been popular in Japan, because there are still thousands if not millions of people who still believe in ESP and psychics there. Certain people may or may not have been one of them <well no duh living with literal gods bends a girls viewpoint just a bit>.

At some point, however, she started discovering that these things would actually work when she tried them. She handed her business over to her assistant, and immediately started traveling around the world, learning all there was about these mythical and often-bogus practices. 'And then,' as she said it, 'I had an astral projection accident, and now I'm here.'

Big chunks of that story are missing, obviously. But since they didn't pry too heavily into my recounting, I'll return the favor. Good thing I did, too, because Honne's was even shorter.

'Always had a knack for taking things and putting them in other places. Had some close friends, and we moved to the Orient. Opium was the big thing, back then. Lotta money in it. Had a falling-out with them, and just went for a walk. That thing I said about the sign to Macau? Wasn't making that part up at all.'

Not a lot of words, but a lot to digest. Suwa-mama would probably have a good saying for that.

Breakfast wraps up shortly after that. Jamie departs for the roof and Honne says she has sightseeing she wants to do. I bid them farewell, finish up the last of my cooling but still tasty morning meal, and go over what I've learned. There isn't a lot, though <im still screwed>. Yes, there is that, but that's been the case for a while already. I didn't learn that, I just confirmed it.

Well, except for the guy at the Brotherhood office. Tim? Ten <tane>? Yeah, Tane. That appointment's still a while off, though, so I should probably go do something in the mean time. I walk over to the <suspected> balcony, but Donny isn't there anymore—must have come back in while I was cleaning up.

Behind the pebbled glass is... confirmed, it's a balcony <years of debate put to rest at last>. It overlooks the humble streets of Algerasso, which aren't much to look at. The sky above suggests that it's starting to become the time of morning when you look at the clock and feel resignation and acceptance instead of confusion and irritation.
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[[ ⌘: http://i.imgur.com/JZ4nhf3.jpg ]] (alternate link for post image)

People are starting to leave their houses for the walk to work—even during the holidays, huh? Then again, I saw with my own eyes how popular the Feast was with people from outside the city, so it sort of makes sense.

Maybe I should follow Honne's example, and go have a look around the city for a while. I don't know how much more I can really get done here, and I'm looking at a big chunk of time between now and my appointment. As long as I don't get in any trouble, I'll probably be fine <hahahahahaaaaa no>. I should go find Donny or one of the other guests here and see if they have any recomme—


I totally forgot there were trains. How did I not remember this?

...Guess I know what I'm doing, then!

I exit the balcony and leave the kitchen, humming 'Turn A Turn'. I start to head downstairs, taking the steps in time with the (unsung) lyrics. I'm halfway down the last flight when I stop and then double back—it'd probably be smart to make a bathroom stop, first.

Entering the women's dorm floor, I notice the hub-room's floor has been freshly washed or something. Cleaner and wetter than it was a few hours ago, but none of those folding yellow signs like they have at the supermarket. Is that something we're supposed to do? I think I remember hearing that some hostels ask guests to take care of chores around the place. I'd better ask Donny before I leave.

[ ♫: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6_-BEPEFgg ]

When I go into the bathroom, the first thing I notice is the sound of a shower running. Hard to miss. I almost mistake it for a running faucet or something at first because the room isn't foggy with steam. Maybe she just started?

The second thing I notice is the blood on the tile floor.

Lots and lots of blood.

A long, smeared streak going through it, and curving around towards the shower stall in use.

The air in here is still a little humid from earlier. On the border of warm and cool.

I can actually smell the blood, there's so much of it.

...There's so much of it.

I feel my hand covering my mouth. Might be in horror. Might be from feeling sick. Neither of those are in my brain, though.

I just feel... cold. That's very strange, I think <very>.

"Ahhhh, shit, shit, shit, shiiiiit."

From the shower comes a young voice. The voice is saying things that no voice like that should be able to say so easily.

Following those words out of the stall comes a person—a girl <well yes this is the girls bathroom after all>. Young, with long, long brown hair. She takes a pink washcloth, and kneels down, wiping away the blood.


Looks up.

Our eyes meet.

[ ] Kid's already near ground. Locks 'er down n' gets some answers.
[ ] Gettin' closer's a fool's plan. Girl's fine with askin' where she's at.
[ ] This mess ain't hers alone. Backs out n' starts callin' an' hollerin'.


Everything is fine, I'm just getting trained on a new product line. It's also rather overtime-prone.
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[X] Gettin' closer's a fool's plan. Girl's fine with askin' where she's at.

I like option B, because it can very easily segue into option C if it seems to be called for.
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[X] Gettin' closer's a fool's plan. Girl's fine with askin' where she's at.

Better get a handle on the situation first.
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[x] Gettin' closer's a fool's plan. Girl's fine with askin' where she's at.

The other voters' reasons seem sound.
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[X] Gettin' closer's a fool's plan. Girl's fine with askin' where she's at.

Forget it, Sanae. It's Makai.
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[x] Gettin' closer's a fool's plan. Girl's fine with askin' where she's at.
Gently. If she don't wanna talk then leave.
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[ȗ] Gettin' closer's a fool's plan. Girl's fine with askin' where she's at.

[ ♫: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6_-BEPEFgg ] (Previous track continues.)

We stare at one another, neither of us moving <she killed someone she just killed someone and>.

—For a second.

<and if i dont do something im next>

My right hand starts forward <its empty damn reflexes> and then jerks down to my belt. In a scrambled, graceless second and a half <way way too long>, I have the pouch open and one of my ofuda out—it's marked with the charm for sealing. I'm not sure I can use one of the blanks on a human being <are you serious>. If push comes to shove, I might be able to. But even in the middle of a scene like this, I...

...I have to focus.

[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=aRw9CA3IhXA ] (Play with above track still running)

Her hands are up, waving frantically, then not-too-frantically; more restrained. Her eyes are wide, cheeks flushing. The washcloth falls out of her hand and lands with a moist plap onto the floor. Tiny droplets of blood splash onto her legs—bare; she isn't wearing much. Underwear and a blue t-shirt with some kind of garish cartoon horse from something Western I don't recognize.

Some long, ragged, fresh scars on skinny legs and arms. What the hell?

I don't know what's going on here.


"What is going on here. Ten seconds. Speak."

...That wasn't what I meant to say. Or it was, but a lot less clipped and tense.

"Th-th-this is not what it looks like—"

"Nine." Where is this coming from?

She gets more frantic. "No no no no, seriously, I'm, I'm serious! I'm not lying! It's fine! This, this is—it's okay!"

It's okay? I take a step closer without breaking stance, mindful of the blood for when I have to make my move. "Eight."

The girl's eyes widen further, and she falls on her rear trying to back away. "Look, it's normal, okay?!"

"Killing is normal?" I spit. "Seven." I don't feel so bad about this, now.

"What? No!" she says, aghast. "No, I just said that! I'm not dead! I mean, nobody's dead!"

I glance meaningfully down at the blood-covered floor, and back up at her. "Feels unlikely. Six."

"Look, stop already!" Tears start forming in her eyes, and I think she's getting angry. "I didn't kill anyone! Nobody's dead! I... I fucked up, okay?!"

"...Five. Go on."

"I tried making myself bigger, and it didn't work!"


"That's, it's what I do! But like, more than that, I can do other stuff, too. I practice in the morning, and I got distracted or something, and then this shit happened!" She gestures wildly at our surroundings while the words finally flow freely. If only she actually made sense.


"Oh, come the fuck on!"

"Where'd all the blood come from? Where's the body? Three."

"It's me!" she yells. Desperation and frustration and terror spill out in equal measure. "It's my—I own the blood! The body isn't anyone, it's me!"

"...Shouldn't someone of your size be dead from losing this much blood? Oh, and two."

The girl pulls at her hair. "I'm a fucking fleshcrafter! I lose this much blood ALL the time!"

"A what?"

She throws up her hands, and I nearly throw the seal at her. "Skin mage! Bone wizard! Gutter surgeon! Shape-rapist! Bodyfucker! Whatever the hell you call it, it's all the same!" The girl glares at me, tears streaming down her face.

Between us, there's an ugly haze of shame, confusion, and menace, and I don't know whose is whose anymore.

"Okay," I say, trying to buy myself time to think. It doesn't work. "Okay," I say again, because why not try the same thing again <par for the course>? "You're a, uh. A fleshcrafter." The words are concepts I know, I'd just never heard them put together like that. And now that I'm saying it, and having to think about it... "That means you... do stuff to bodies? Like, changing things?"


She's still nervous. No, agitated. Let's try a different angle.

"What's your name?"

"Piper Cub." She sniffs, and wipes at her cheeks.

That could be a real name, for all I know. I don't think I've ever heard it used, but with how they name kids in the West, who knows? And if she's not American, it's all out the window. Which, now that I think about it, it probably is, because it's an alias just like everyone else uses. Has to be.

"Well, Piper," I say, trying not to fall into talking-to-children mode—which is hard when you're talking to a child—"I just came into the bathroom, and it was covered in blood. And then I see you trying to clean up the blood."

"Duh," she snaps. "I made a mess, so I'm cleaning it up." Okay, she has a point. Though it could be interpreted different ways.

"And you're telling me you tried to grow bigger, whatever that means..."

"Tryin' to look twenty," she mumbles, looking down. "I can get about seventeen, but twenty's my goal."

"...You can actually change your body to look older?"

Piper chokes out a short laugh. "Be older. Illusion's for chumps. I do it for real."

I could have done with some of that, growing up; I won't even lie. I could have gotten my moped license way sooner, for one. Stupid lift test <wait honda has a cub or something doesnt it like it was mega popular>. ...Oh yeah, I think they do. Well, I already knew it was an alias. Doesn't change things.


Silence fills the blood-soaked room <which is still a blood soaked room>. Yeah, that still needs some answering.

"Where did all this mess come from, then?" I ask, taking a step back. Gonna need to wash my boots off after this.

"Me." With a response like that, I'm not so certain she's afraid of me anymore. I give her my best Kana-mama-is-unamused look, which gets some uncomfortable squirming out of her. Good. You don't get to feel comfortable when you've covered a bathroom in blood, even if it turns out to be harmless. That's just freaky.

"...It's from all the sheets and stuff I dragged in here." She points back to the door. "I bundled them up right after I had the accident so it didn't stain anything else, then dragged them all in here. It spilled in the hall, so after I cleaned up the dorm floor, I did the hall floor. And I was gonna do the floor in here and then the sheets after..." Some locks are brushed aside so that she can better stare accusingly at me.


This might be BS, still. Or not. I don't know. But there are ways to easily find out.

(Pick 1-2 options.)

[ ] Still ain't looked at th' "body". Has a peek over in yonder shower t' verify it so.
[ ] Crime scene ain't yet been seen. Girl checks out the dorm, looks for corpses.
[ ] Don't seem like the kid's first go of it. Other folks here might have light to shed.
[ ] Not quite done talkin' here. Few more questions're millin' about in 'er head. (Write-in; 1-3 relevant questions for Piper.)


I have too much fun with onje aliases. Aliaii.
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[X] Still ain't looked at th' "body". Has a peek over in yonder shower t' verify it so.
[X] Don't seem like the kid's first go of it. Other folks here might have light to shed.

It looks like our protagonist might be getting closer to her personality in the game.
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Yeah, that was more than a little disconcerting after how she's been portrayed so far in this story. Vaguely reminded me of her reaction to the Palanquin ship, at least tonally.

No vote yet, but I think asking Piper more questions would be good. Trying to think of possibilities there.
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[☔] Girl doesn't want to get too close just yet. Asks the kid to pull the shower curtain aside, so she can see in.
[☀] Don't seem like the kid's first go of it. Other folks here might have light to shed.

> Aliaii
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[x] Girl doesn't want to get too close just yet. Asks the kid to pull the shower curtain aside, so she can see in.
[x] Don't seem like the kid's first go of it. Other folks here might have light to shed.

This seems a bit safer than the given option.
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[x] Girl doesn't want to get too close just yet. Asks the kid to pull the shower curtain aside, so she can see in.
[x]Relax, apologize, leave. Regardless of what you see.
Gently! I said gently! Don't make it a big confrontation! Why would you go playing cop in a world where you're wanted for murder!? Why would you do this in your only available shelter immediately after the owner asked you to start no trouble!?
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No update today. Check back around Wednesday.
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Sakura loves the pit
And then mandatory overtime for the rest of the week happened!
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Well, at least now I have time to finish Metropolitan.

Also, that pic is great.
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[⁀] Girl still ain't keen to get so close yet. Kid best show it; even better if she stays put.
[∊] Don't seem like the kid's first go of it. Other folks here might have light to shed.

[ ♫: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6_-BEPEFgg ] (Ambient — Sound continues)
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=aRw9CA3IhXA ] (Music --- Continues; play with above track still running)

"Right." I look at her, and nod my head needlessly. "Right."

I don't know what I'm doing. I'm not a detective. But if there was a crime committed here, then I have a duty as a human being to see that it gets exposed <hypocrite city population my idiot ass>. Self-defense is one thing. I don't know what happened here besides what she's telling me.

Piper stares back at me, anger and humiliation clear and present in what should be a child's calm, happy hazel eyes. I can't turn my back on someone like this until I know what's in that shower stall. Who knows what she could do?

I know the answer to both of those questions <two in one>.

"Okay, Piper. Why don't you show me?" It sounds nicer put this way, and I even make a point of putting away my ofuda. The pouch is left unfastened because I'm not a total moron not one word.



She gives me a wary look, but doesn't get hostile again. "Sure, fine." I stay where I am while she gets up. Blood runs down her legs, but the sight is more painful-looking than gruesome—because she was kneeling in it for a while earlier, it makes it look like she skinned her knees horribly. She notices, but doesn't make any move to clean them off. Maybe she's just that used to it.

Or maybe there's a really tense-looking lady who was threatening her just a bit ago that she's trying not to make any sudden moves in front of <but what do i know>. More than I'd like, and less than I'd hoped.

Piper goes to the shower and pulls back the curtain—slowly. "Thanks," I tell her. I wait until she gets the hint and steps back; two big, exaggerated steps. Sorry kid, but you're the one who got caught in the blood-soaked room, not me <lucky break huh>. Oh, please.

Keeping my hands loose and ready, I walk over to the open shower stall, and hold my breath before peering in. Even so, I can still smell the blood. Inside is... well, it'd be kind of horrible to call it a letdown. It's pretty non-dramatic, but the truth usually is. Actually, I guess Gensokyo is still full of weird and surprising truths, but most of them are pretty simple and uncomplicated.

There's a heap of sheets in there. A very bloody heap, but a heap of sheets all the same. They're losing some redness from where the water is pouring down on them, creating a runny red trail that flows down the drain. I nudge the pile with the toe of my boot, but don't bump into anything unnervingly solid <no body here inspector>. Sure isn't. Not one I can see, at any rate. And to that end...

"Trace on."

I focus on the blood coating the floor, and then the sheets. Even if it's not hers, it's all from the same source; that much I can see for sure. The only place where it gets all muddled up is where it's mixing with water. Which reminds me...

"Isn't it better to clean things with hot water?" I ask, still looking around. "Why did you leave it cold?"

"Nooooo way," she says emphatically. "Not with blood. It'll soak into fabric way easier if you do that. Rookies fuck that one up a lot."


"Speakin' from experience."

"Huh." I go a layer under the physical structure, and focus on the magical energies associated with the blood. "...Oh."

"Hmm?" She's starting to sound annoyed again.

I shake my head. "Oh, I'm just... surprised, actually. Necromantic magic usually looks a lot more... vivid."

An indecipherable noise form behind me. "Fuck off with that necromancy garbage," she says finally. "It's not even close. It's like—you know , those places where you stuff the animals and put them on stands? That's a necromancer. But me, I'm a veterinarian."

Taking a step back, I bring the spell back up a layer and glance at her for a moment. A young girl looks back at me, clearly with much on her mind and much on her body. ...It's still all the same blood. Don't quite understand how she can lose that much and not pass out, despite her saying that wasn't a problem.

I turn off my spell, and bow to her—not nearly as much as the situation demands; don't want to give that away, but enough to convey my regret. "I'm sorry for misjudging you, Miss Cub," I say. She makes a kind of amused huff of air, but I don't pause. "I seem to have overreacted and leapt to conclusions."

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/IzJlGTuPtpc ] (New music; ambient continues)
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=IzJlGTuPtpc ]

"Y-yeah, you—well, whatever, it's fine. I mean, it... yeah, it looks pretty bad, but this isn't the first time this has happened," replies Piper. Her words come out in a rush of dissolving agitation and relief. "Stuff looks pretty Kill Bill sometimes when I screw up. And that's just what's around me; I look ten times worse." She rubs her arms absently while looking down at the bloody floor.

"That sounds difficult," I tell her, eyeing one of the cleaner stalls. I need to go wash my boots before I leave.

Nod, nod. "Sure is. Thanks for not blowing my head off, by the way. Woulda made it lots harder."

That's a joke, right? I'm not sure if I should laugh <can she actually surv> No, no. Not going down this road. "Is that so?"

"Yep. By the way, what's your name?"

"Kochiya." Probably best to leave off the "of Moriya" part. Actually, probably even better to come up with a new alias altogether. It can't sound Japanese, though, so a lot of my first picks are out. Crud.

"Right. Mind if I get back to work, Kochiya?"

"Ah, sorry, sorry. Please, by all means."

While I go and rinse off my boots, I watch/listen to her do exactly that. She squeezes and wrings out the sheets <nice surge of bloody red water there yuck> before repositioning them under the water and resuming her cleaning of the bathroom floor. The fear she showed earlier is gone now, replaced with earnest focus on the tasks at hand.

I sort of admire that, but there's something extremely wrong with a girl her age being involved with magic like that. It's easy to see that it's changed her already. Oh, and she might still be a killer. Haven't ruled that out completely yet.

"Have a good day," I tell her, as I'm heading out the door. She waves a hand at me, but doesn't look up.

[ ♫: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6_-BEPEFgg ] (STOP ambient sound.)

When the door shuts behind me, I take a moment to lean against it, thinking about my life and the choices I've made during it. Somehow, I feel like some apologies might be in order when I get back home... though I don't know what exactly for, just yet.

[heyyyy. someone in there?]

I go over to Room Three, and give it a walk-through. Piper's bed has been stripped of all its sheets and coverings, and the floor's a bit wet. The woman who seemed sick earlier is still in bed. This time, though, I see the end of a long grey braid sticking out from under several pillows—normal grey-with-age grey, not that unnaturally natural grey like Dr. Yagokoro has.

So... Piper, Jamie, Honne, this lady... who is still alive, yes; there's the rise and fall of a breathing body. And myself. All the room's occupants accounted for, as far as I know. And I think this lady here would have noticed if there had been a murder that bloody.

[c'mooon. lemme in, i'm a youkai.]

I exit the room and push the d st pause for a moment with the door open, thinking.

[Hiiiii~! There was jogging and well-defined abs and bumping into people and lots of staring and maybe even breakfast along the way! It was great~ Ah, a little wider please. Perfect~!]

...Thinking about what, I don't know. Well, there's still the matter of Piper. I think it's probably likely she's telling the truth, but I should get it confirmed with someone, first. If somehow it's all a lie, I'm going to feel real, real bad about leaving things like this.

[ ] Mosey on up to th' roof. S'posed t'be a lotta wisdom in high places.
[ ] Heads down them stairs. Can't get no wisdom if y' ain't grounded.


Now there's a scholar. And yeah, it's pretty great.
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[x] Heads down

There are more people in lower floors of buildings. Fact.
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[X] Heads down them stairs. Can't get no wisdom if y' ain't grounded.
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[▽̶] Heads down them stairs. Can't get no wisdom if y' ain't grounded.
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[x] Heads down them stairs. Can't get no wisdom if y' ain't grounded.

I think Donny was on the ground floor.
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[x] Heads down them stairs. Can't get no wisdom if y' ain't grounded.
Even in the land of flight, there's more possibility at ground level.
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commencing hostelities
[』] Heads down them stairs. Can't get no wisdom if y' ain't grounded.

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/IzJlGTuPtpc ] (Previous track continues)
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=IzJlGTuPtpc ]

Well, Jamie's on the roof, isn't she? She seemed to have her head on straight <except for being weird>. Sure, except for that. But I'm not sure there are even that many normal people in Makai. I sure haven't met one yet. On the other hand, she did say she was meditating, right? I don't know if it'd be a good idea to go bother her right now.

...Nah, I'll leave her alone. Let's see who's downstairs, first.

The sound of the second floor door closing behind me has barely finished echoing through the stairwell when I hear someone coming up this way with slow, deliberate steps. The person plodding towards me turns out to be... well, as close as you can get to a stereotype. An old man like you might see taking a walk down any street back in Japan, hunched slightly forward, hands behind his back, hair and short beard snow-white <makes him look like a real old colonel sanders>.

[Hey, saw him earlier, too~ Hiiii!]

I smile politely as we pass each other. "Ni hao," he grunts, although not unkindly <oh>. I almost expected Japanese to come out of his mouth instead. A stammered syllable or two later, I return the greeting a little more awkwardly than I meant it to sound. He doesn't say anything more, so we continue on our separate ways.

The door on the ground floor opens onto a stone-tile lobby. Donny's at the front desk, writing in a notebook. The lobby isn't very big, though I realize very quickly that all the furniture looks hand-made, and that most of the decorations are from Earth—travel-promotion posters, a flag I don't recognize, one of those nested Russian dolls, a maneki-neko, a framed picture of Elvis, and more. Lots of potted plants, too <and bars on the windows>. ...Yeah. And those.

Whatever. He'll do just fine.

The exit from the stairwell gives anyone coming down a straight shot to the front door—which is currently propped open—while the front desk is off to the side a little ways <lets him see whos coming and going i bet>. As I walk over to it, he looks up and smiles. "Kochiya," he says, and puts down his pen. "You're looking... clothed." I feel my face start to heat up, even though he's not saying it in a mean way. "It's probably for the better; there aren't many places in Makai I know of where a naturist would last long."

"Yeah, well," I say lamely, and look down at the wooden surface of the desk. "I'm, um. Gonna stick with traditional fashion." <whyd he have to say thaaaaat>

"Sounds smart. Are you leaving?" I look up, and he points to the pack on my shoulders.

"Huh? Oh, yeah. I mean, yeah, I am for a little bit, but then I'm coming back, probably." I fumble my way through an explanation, trying to power through the recent embarrassment. "Or I might be. Like, I'm heading out, but I'm not going to leave-leave." <see this is why we have different words in japanese for farewells>

[And let's leave it at that~]

"Okay," Donny says, somehow figuring it all out. "Would you like to pay for another night in advance?" I dig out the fee, and after counting out fifty-five juliène, place it onto the tray he slides forward. "Going anywhere specific?"

"Nah. Well, sorta? I want to look around the Railyards a bit," I tell him. "I like trains."

He cracks a smile, for some reason. "Well, it's supposed to warm up again this afternoon, so don't bring a sweater."

"I think I'm covered, there."

"Now, what did you want to ask me?"


"You've got something bugging you, don't you? It's all over you."

Crap <its what im here for isnt it>. Yeah, but... "I, I am, yeah." I look to the side, then back again. Smooth. "What kind of person is Piper? Ah, if you can tell me, that is."

Donny sits back, looking thoughtful. "Well, she came here about halfway through last week along with Manjit. Those two've been traveling together for a while, I think. I don't believe anybody'd call her polite, but she pays on time, minds most of the rules, and doesn't get into... Well, she doesn't go out of her way to start trouble; let's go with that."

I stare for many long seconds. He looks back at me.

"...I... that's kind of blunt, isn't it?"

"Mm-hmm." He would be so screwed if he tried living in Japan.

"Is it okay to be just... saying that to anyone who asks?"

He shrugs a large shoulder. "It's no less than anyone else would learn after about a week."

[Ooh, ooh, ask about me!]

"What would you say about me, if somebody asked what I asked?" ...Wait, what?

He considers this for a second, then says, "I'd say you're real green."


That's it?

He chuckles. "No, there's more." Dammit, I did it again. "Nice young lady, but not experienced. Good head on her shoulders when it's not in the clouds. I also get a feeling I wouldn't like you when you're angry."


[Na nana naaaaa~]

"That's another 'green' joke."

...I don't understand this man's sense of humor.

He shifts in his seat. "Did something happen between you two?"

"No, we're good," I reply, shaking my head. "There was a bit of a misunderstanding, but it's all cleared up now."

His gaze stays on me for a few seconds past comfortable, but at last he leans back. "Good to hear that."

"Yes. Well, thank you," I tell him, and start walking for the door. Gotta get out there and get moving. Piper's probably innocent. Good. Great <fuuuuuuck>. Shut up.

"Check-in time's at five," Donny calls after me.

"Got it."

Gotta mooooove.

[Hmmm~ What's eating... uh... Well, 'kale' is alliterative and it's even the right color, but it just doesn't have that ring to it!]

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/W9x-wDjNW1E ] (these are all the same track)
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=W9x-wDjNW1E ]
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/-DlC6rfXLxA ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=-DlC6rfXLxA ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/jpyql ]

The cool air of morning brushes across my face when I step out into the street <not quite that nice mountain chill im used to>. It's not bright enough that I have to spend a second adjusting to a change in light levels—that lobby's kinda dim—but it's getting close.

I have to stop anyway in order to look at the map Verritine drew for me yesterday so that I can figure out where I'm going. Orienting myself is no problem since an is always easy to find; just look for the glow. But figuring out where I am and where I'm going is another issue. It takes a little bit, but I'm walking down the street a few minutes later. I pass by Merry Verri's, but it's closed at this hour.

Gaudanno is a pretty dull and boring place, all things told. The architecture isn't very distinctive, and everything is built to last or to be functional. Carts and cargo are already moving through the streets, however, so it doesn't feel lonely or empty by any stretch of the imagination.

[Went out this way earlier, but not this far. This place is a draaaag~]

My path generally takes me pir, and I can feel my heart leap when the distinctive clangs of a train's bell sounds off in the near distance. I start taking a few shortcuts, especially as the terrain starts getting a little hillier.

One of the streets I turn onto is distinctly nicer, wider, and more decorated than most. There are actually stores and shops here and there, as well as the occasional front office of some business or warehouse. The stores are a little closer together, while you can tell a front office by the lack of anything else for a good distance to one or the other side of it—the facility it's attached to, I'm guessing.

Unfortunately it's also a lot busier here, with a moderate crowd walking the streets in both directions. Some are coming from the open city gates I can see waaaaay down on the far an end of the road, while others come from... whatever's in the other direction, but I'll bet anything it's a train station.

About twenty meters up ahead, an extremely tall, thin demon in overalls almost gets bowled over by the door to one of those front offices swinging open suddenly. Someone in a long reddish-brown dress slowly walks backward out of the building, pulling what turns out to be some kind of huge box. I'd almost call it a coffin if it didn't look so sturdy and old.

It takes the person a few moments to get it all the way out, so the traffic on the sidewalk is forced to spill out onto the street in order to flow around them. They lean back into the building briefly, presumably to say something, before closing the door and straightening up. ...Oh, hey. I think that's Honne.

[ ] Might be wantin' a spare hand there. Stops by n' sees how she doin'.
[ ] Ain't much in th' mood for others. Girl looks down; just keep on walkin'.


When people ask, "Where does the time go?", I've discovered that the answer is, "My work ate it."

Also, Hell or High Water is quite the movie. Definitely worth your 8 bucks.
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[X] Might be wantin' a spare hand there. Stops by n' sees how she doin'.

Sanae smash!
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Jan, ken, pon~!

[] Might be wantin' a spare hand there. Stops by n' sees how she doin'.
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[x] Might be wantin' a spare hand there. Stops by n' sees how she doin'.

Let's make friends with the other onje.
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[X] Might be wantin' a spare hand there. Stops by n' sees how she doin'.
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Not Brad Pitt’s wife’s head
[म] Might be wantin' a spare hand there. Stops by n' sees how she doin'.

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/W9x-wDjNW1E ] (Previous track continues)
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=W9x-wDjNW1E ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/jpyql ]

The Honne-like person sets the box down on the sidewalk, and takes out a handkerchief. After dabbing at their face, they pick up a fancy wide-brimmed hat from on top of the box, and place it on their head. There's a leaf or something tucked into the band, though it looks kind of weird. Maple? Or oak? I'm not close enough to tell <speaking of which>.

"Hey!" I call out. Sure enough, the Honne-like person looks up <and like fifteen other people>. There's no look of recognition for a couple seconds, but as I get closer, I see it dawn on her face. She tilts her hat back a notch and waves at me. When I make my way over there, her expression turns from recognition to surprise. "Do you need some help?" I ask.

She places a hand on a cross pendant that hangs from a necklace and scrutinizes me. Whatever she was looking for, she does seem to find, because she ends up nodding after a few seconds. "Yeah," says the Honne-like person. "Matter of fact, I sure could, Kochiya. Awful nice of you t' offer." Yep, that's Honne.

"Hey, no problem," I tell her. "Didn't look like it was that easy." Someone jostles me harder than I think they really needed to, but I don't react. "...And I think we're slowing down traffic," I add, nodding at the people flowing around us and giving occasional dirty looks.

[Whoops, almost got lost~]

"It's like they never seen a coupla onje girls talkin' their hen talk."

"Erm... I think that box there may be adding to that, actually?"

"Naw, I'm pretty sure they got trunks here, too."

"That's... no, I was talking about... " <right shes kinda weird>. "Well, let's just get this moved. Where is it going?"

Honne gestures down the street in the direction opposite where I came from. "The train station. It's down thatwards about... six blocks?" Ha. Totally called it. "Which end you want, front or back?"

"Oh, uh—" Wait, that's a weird question. "—Back?"

Honne gives me an are-you-sure-about-that look, then shrugs. "All right, but don't come cryin' when you get fulla snakes."

...Whoa, what? "Snakes?"

"What about 'em?" she says, nonplussed

"How am I going to get full of snakes?!"

[Oh, there's lots of ways! Some of them might even be a surprise~]

The sound of the crowd fills in the space where Honne gives me the strangest look ever. "Well, I... I guess if you ate a bunch? You don't even look Episcopalian though, so I don't know what you'd go doin' that for."

I'm wondering if being helpful might be overrated <its sure starting to feel like it>. No, even if it is, I've done and been far worse. Having someone who sticks around to help despite however you're acting is... Point is, I'm not going to complain about something as minor as this. Although if there are snakes, then that changes the situation, big time.

"The back it is," I tell her, walking over to one end and crouching down. "Ready when you are."

Honne nods. She tilts her hat to one side <oh its not maple its holly i think>, which gives her quite the classy-action-dame air, and crouches down. "Get ready," she says, and then wraps her arms around the box and rolls it a little to one side. I slip my hands into the gap, and then lift.

"Hnnrgh," I comment, because oh gods it's really heavy, even for me. I'm no oni, but I can carry at least thirty kilos all day without even breaking a sweat (a number I only know because one day when the bus broke down, I had to haul two fifteen-kilo sacks of rice all the way home and up the steps. By myself. I only realized how weird it must have looked when I passed a visitor on the way up, and saw his eyes bug out). I don't know how much is due to the sturdy construction of the box, and how much is due to its contents, but moving this would easily require a minimum of four regular people.

With Honne picking up her end, however, we're able to manage it <whoa guess shes no fragile flower either> We hoist it onto our shoulders, and begin making our way towards the station. Soon enough, we're forced to walk on the edge of the road because there are too many people on the sidewalk.

The box, now that I have quite a close-up view of it, looks like a just-over-two-meter-long version of... Oh, shoot. They have a real simple name. The old-timey things that people used to use for luggage or storage. They open up like a treasure chest <going by the hinges so does this>. Carrying this makes me feel like we should be hauling it onto a big huge passenger ship in Europe a hundred years ago, or something <im flying jack>.

...I don't really want to think about ships.

Fortunately, I've got someone right here to talk with.

(Pick two options. Or I guess you could even pick three. Four isn't impossible, either. I certainly won't stop you.)

[ ] What-all's bein' lugged around in here? It sure ain't no sack fulla petunias.
[ ] Strange lady headin' stranger places? The destination sure do suggest it.
[ ] Dress like that on people like them says somethin'. Girl's curious to know what.
[ ] Who'd 'a thought a lady knew wit knew weights, too? Ain't no normal nobody.
[ ] Wonders if lady ever rode rails here. Box's goin' to a train station, after all.
[ ] That snake business, that was all just her foolin' around. ...Had to be, right?


Everything I hear about Suicide Squad makes me enjoy having seen Hell or High Water even more.
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[X] Strange lady headin' stranger places? The destination sure do suggest it.
[X] Dress like that on people like them says somethin'. Girl's curious to know what.
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[x] That snake thing... 'twas a joke, right?
[x] Strange lady, stranger places. I'd enjoy learning more about both

You won't stop us.. But something else will? Let's hope you're talking about the lady's patience
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[x] Strange lady headin' stranger places? The destination sure do suggest it.
[x] Dress like that on people like them says somethin'. Girl's curious to know what.
[x] Who'd 'a thought a lady knew wit knew weights, too? Ain't no normal nobody.
[x] That snake business, that was all just her foolin' around. ...Had to be, right?

I can think of maybe three ways tops to become full of snakes, but maybe I need to be more open-minded.
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[x] Strange lady headin' stranger places? The destination sure do suggest it.
[x] Wonders if lady ever rode rails here. Box's goin' to a train station, after all.

Don't get too nosy.
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[>] Who's bein' lugged around in here? It sure ain't no sack fulla petunias.
[<] Wonders if lady ever rode rails here. Box's goin' to a train station, after all.

Note the edit to the first question. (Honne's gonna bullshit us anyway; we might as well play to it.)
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Well, this is going to be a weird multi-way tie, but I think I can make something out of this.
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File 147313788210.jpg - (78.77KB, 800x448, I wear cargo pants and I don’t even cargo.jpg)
I wear cargo pants and I don’t even cargo
[⇄] Strange lady headin' stranger places? The destination sure do suggest it.
[╩] Dress like that on people like them says somethin'. Girl's curious to know what.

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/W9x-wDjNW1E ] (Previous track continues)
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=W9x-wDjNW1E ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/jpyql ]

"That's a pretty nice dress you're wearing," I remark. Clothing is a better starting point for conversation than the weather, in my experience <more to it here though>.

"Oh, well thank you. Real fond of it, myself." She takes a second to flash a smile back my way. "Picked it up in... Torino, I think it was. Or Milan. Haven't worn it a lot in Makai, honestly; the color's usually a bit bland out here, you know?"

I don't understand quite what she means right away, but then it dawns on me: In this world, it's probably reds and darker browns that make up what are considered earth tones. It's a weird thing to envision, but it makes sense.

[Oooh. Ever played chicken before?]

"Isn't it better to look bland for, uh, us?" Not that it does much to hide the fact, but I shy away from using 'onje' as a passing steam-truck or something forces us closer to the people on the sidewalk.

The other woman laughs <almost a loud chuckle>. "Sure, a lot of the time. Sure. Other times, like if you get real drunk and you're out with a friend at a bullfight and he loses his socks, then you want something like this."


That's bait. I know that's bait <not gonna take it not gonna take it not gonna take it how do you lose your socks>. Nooooope.

"Huh, yeah," I reply, for lack of anything else to say. "Seems like it could be useful there."

"Man, you'd better believe it. Them bulls get ornery. Oh hey, stop a sec. We're crossing here," she adds suddenly, knocking on the side of the container.

We come to a stop on a street corner at an intersection much like the last few we've already crossed. I guess this means we're going right? I can't get a good look at whatever's in that direction due to the big honkin' box on my shoulder. I'm not tired yet, but I'm very, very aware of its weight, and I'd really like to get it to wherever it's going.

For about ten seconds, we wait in silence. Or at least, we're quiet, but the city around us is only getting noisier. I perk up at the toot of a train whistle, and the clanging of bells—much, much closer than before. Suddenly, another knock on the side of the container. "All right, and... we're movin'!" <wake up idiot>

Honne turns right, and starts moving at a very brisk walk <might as well be a jog>. I get enough time to make a surprised noise, but any actual words disappear from my head as I see, across the street and down a block, what is unmistakeably a train station.

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

At first, I was only able to see the long, long building <or wide wide depending on where you are> and something like stadium ticket gates. But once we're across the main avenue and resume our earlier pace, I'm able to start picking out other details. Lots of unreadable signs with arrows all over, ironwork with a framed sign proclaiming what probably says "Dis", demons of various shapes and sizes in smart-looking uniforms... Oh gods, it's almost perfect~

Honne must have heard me sigh, because she looks back at me. "Everything all right back there, Kochiya? We can stop for a sec if you're winded, but we're almost there."

"Ah, no, no! I'm fine!" I reassure her. "I'm just having a good time."

"...I wouldna took you for a weightlifter."

[Me either! Are you on the juice?!]

"Huh? No, it's not like that. I just like trains~" I say, giving her a grin.

"What, like... you like seein' 'em, or..." Her voice drops down to a loud whisper. "...You like-like 'em?"


"Hey, I'm not gonna judge whatever weird crap you're into or nothin'; Bible says not to and if y'do, you get a real bad foot rash. That's how the nuns know you been judgin'."

[Oh my~ How scandalous!]

"No! It's nothing like that! I just li--that is, I think trains are cool!" And now people are looking <dammiiiiiiiit>.

Honne just shrugs. "All right, no problem." A pause. "You ready?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm ready." Let's keep on going please, thank you.

We start off again, and I grab for the next possible thing I can think to ask. "So, Ms. Honne—"




"...Uh, I was wondering, are you taking the train somewhere? I'm guessing this is, like, luggage or something...?"

"Oh yeah, you bet. Could be tomorrow or in a few days; don't know for sure. Gotta work the schedule out, but yeah, I'm taking the Occidas Limited all the way out to The Nif."

"Where's that?"

"Way out. You spit and it'll clink, that's how way out."

"...It's cold?"

"Colder'n real mean tits." I guess that means yes <i hope it does>.

[...So, Tibet?]

"So, have you been on the trains before?"

"Oh, sure."

Oh! "Well, I was wondering, what sort of tra—"

"Hold you on just a second, we're almost there."

We're actually still the better part of a block away from the main building, but Honne has us take a left across another street. Up close next to the station, everything is low buildings and long, high walls. These aren't just commercial buildings, either; I think they're part of the station property. Really hope there's some publicly accessible parts, or else this'll be a real letdown <could just break in>. A ha ha ha no.

Halfway there, she stops and asks someone I can't see for directions. "Hey, mind pointin' me to passenger cargo storage?"

"Down thez street, pazt nezt two beldeng. Bengo," says a pair of uniformed pants and a long lizard's tail.

"Thanks kindly." Honne lifts her hat to the pants, and then we start moving again.

We turn right down a small side street, past two identical-looking mini warehouses (or enormous garages). She calls out to a couple of stained, rough-looking pants. "You fellas mind puttin' this away for me? It's all paid n' stamped, no worries there," she adds, handing one of them a slip of dulled-looking gati.

It seems to be acceptable, because with a "Grabbin' that, look out" sent our way, the box is removed from my shoulders by a couple of pairs of stained-looking pants <hey that ones got clawed feet>, who immediately haul it into the depths of the building. Thank the gods, I didn't want to keep carrying that around. Would have started getting sore if that went on for another half-hour.

"Well, Kochiya, I'm ever so grateful to you," Honne tells me. "Lemme get you, uh—well, can't do breakfast, I guess," she says. "Coffee's out, too, 'less you wanna try their take on it. And by the way, no, you do not."

[ ] Turns her down, but nice. Girl gonna go roam alone.
[ ] Takes her up on that. Maybe Lady'd like to join her?


Happy Labor Day. Seems a little weird that non-union employees get this day off too, but I'm not complaining.
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[x] Takes her up on that. Maybe Lady'd like to join her?

Probably can't hurt. Strength in numbers, and all that.
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[X] Takes her up on that. Maybe Lady'd like to join her?

It'd be rude to refuse.
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[x] Takes her up on that. Maybe Lady'd like to join her?
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[x] Turns her down, but nice. Girl gonna go roam alone.
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File 147426009386.jpg - (50.97KB, 598x439, with a chuffa-chuff all day long.jpg)
with a chuffa-chuff all day long
[ᄊ] Takes her up on that. Maybe Lady'd like to join her?

[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/ovfcn ] (Previous track continues)

I look back at her, and shake my head. "Ahaha, it was no problem at all. Thank you, but you don't need to worry yourself over me."

Honne's smile turns into a frown <huh>. She removes her hat looks and into my eyes. "Okay, before that goes any farther, I gotta say something you need hearin'-to. Now, I know you Oriental types just love refusin' stuff, and it's this oh-golly-me-no-I-can't-possibly-oh-my-but-you-must dance you all do, but you gotta drop that," she tells me, voice quieter now by a few notches. "It just plain don't fly here."

My voice fails me as I try to come up with a reply. This came out of nowhere, and I don't even understand what she's talking about right away. When I do, wrapping my head around it takes a little longer. What she's saying just sounds... rude <not to mention weird>. "O-oh, okay," I finally say. "I'm sorry if that upset you."

The blonde's head tilts slightly. "What? No, you're misreadin' this. To me, it's just a waste of time. But you go and try that on a demon who actually bothered to thank an onje like that? Boy, you're gonna piss 'em right off."

[Oh, there's an idea~]

"I see..." Well, sort of <barely>. Accepting something right away just feels kind of... desperate? Maybe even pathetic. Then again, why am I expecting anything to make sense in Makai? "Thank you, Honne."

"No problem," she says, putting her hat back on. "So, you feelin' up for something? You can take a rain check, but I can't guarantee I'll be around to pick it up."

I'm surprised she's just leaving it at that, but I'm not eager to dwell on that, either, so whatever. However, if she's going to offer like that... "So, you're going to be free for a bit, then?"

She looks confused. "Well, uh. Yeah, I would be."

"I was actually thinking about having a look around here. I'm curious to see what a Makaian train station is like!"

Honne lifts the brim of her hat and stares. "Oh, you actually weren't kidding."

I frown.

"Y'want me to lead you around, is that it?"

Oh! That's a good idea, too. "Sure!"

"You got weird hobbies, Kochiya."

"There is nothing weird about this." <must not stomp foot>

[It's true! There's weirder~]

Honne leads me back to the main building. "Well, there's your station proper. Like, I guess the people with maps and writing down real long words and way too many numbers, they'd call all of this the station, yeah?" She waves a hand through the air at all the other buildings around us. "But I don't think they're gettin' enough to get with the program."

When I'm sure she's not looking, I pat myself down quickly. ...All right, good. No snakes. I'm not afraid of them or anything, given who my mamas are, but being full of them is another matter entirely. "...Getting paid enough?" I ask aloud.

"Sure, that works too. Anyway, all these other buildings're just auxiliary shit. Records, equipment, offices, workshops. They're the cake in this fruitcake, y'know? Real bland on its own, nothing much to look at. But if you don't got that, you just got a whole messy pile 'a fruit that's gonna slop all over when you try to eat it like some kinda animal." She pauses. "You ever feed a cat beer?"


"Cheaper n' you think. 'Specially if you're a kraut."

I think I may have made a bad decision <wanna see her go up against elis>. Oh, that'd be... well, that wouldn't be nice <itd be funny as hell though>. That's not the point!

"You thinking about going somewhere?"

"By train?" I ask. "No, not if I can help it. I mean, it would probably be fun in other circumstances, but..." My voice trails off as I find my gaze sinking to the ground.

"Oh, right." Honne winces. "Jeez, real sorry about that. You wanna hit me?"

"No! I mean, no, that's not necessary." I shake my head.

Honne shrugs. "That's cool, too. Watch your head." Even though I could probably clear it, I duck to avoid a little sign on the side of the wall.

"So that's where you get your tickets," Honne tells me, pointing at a tubby-looking demon wearing some kind of knight's helm behind a window. I can't read any of the signs posted around it—and there are a ton—but I could have figured out it was a ticket window just from the look of the thing. The long line out front, that's a giveaway.

We pass through the line, and go into the building through a pair of double doors. They open onto a tile-paved hallway filled with another menagerie of demons and fairies. The pair of us hold the doors open for a large group just exiting, and head inside once they're past. "Can you read Makaian?" I ask her.

The blonde snorts. "There ain't no such thing. That's like asking if I can read European. Makai's got a lotta languages all fulla their own weird scribble." She nods at me. "Y'all Orientals have it bad like that, too." Naturally, I want to object, but I guess if you don't know anything about Japanese, it would look weird <wonder what chinese lorem ipsum looks like>. Probably like Chinese <zing>.

[Clearly hasn't read Russian before~]

The hallway has multiple branching halls and the occasional kiosk, but it opens up shortly onto a large, large room lined with doors and rows of chairs. More signage <probably a schedule>. Or pointing out where the different platforms are. And lots of people. Sort of like Comiket, but with no tables and a lot of high-quality cosplay. "This here's the heart of the station," Honne tells me. "Platforms'll be out that way. And over there's the—hold on a second."

With that, she suddenly falls silent but doesn't stop walking. When I look over at her, she's just looking ahead, out into the crowd <did she see something>. We keep walking through the large room, making our way through the throng. A fairy girl trips in front of us, but instead of helping her up, Honne comes to a full stop. Without looking, she reaches behind her back and swings an arm at something. I hear the sound of a smack and a little noise of pain.

"Cut that shit out," she says to the fairy girl at her feet, sounding more weary than disgusted. The grimace of pain in the fairy's eyes disappears instantly, replaced by anger. She sneers at the blonde while scrambling to her feet, then vanishes into the bustle of the crowd.

"What just happened?" I ask.

"Oh, kid stuff, you know. Little bit a' here's-the-birdie," replies Honne, looking around before moving along again. "Puts the 'petty' back in 'petty theft'."

I digest that for a little bit before figuring out what she means. "Does that happen often?" Gods, I hope not.

"Depends on how shady the part of town you're in is. And what town you're in," Honne says. "You especially wanna watch out with that belt you got. The little turds'll take whatever they can, and they go for onje a lot."

[Is that so~?]

"That's terrible..."

She shrugs. "That's life. It's terrible everywhere you go. That's what my uncle used to say, but he also used to collect dead cats, so maybe you want to take that with a grain of salt or somethin'."


"Had 'em grouped by size and fur color. Real particular about keepin' them sorted, too. Yelled at us if we went into his sortin' hut."

"Honne, did any of these things really happen?" I finally ask, despite great amounts of my better judgment.

"You think they didn't?"

"It... I sometimes think that they sound very improbable, is all." <way to back down> Hey, it's bad enough that I said anything in the first place.

She shrugs. "There's a lotta truth that's spoken in jest."

...I'm not going down this hole any further.

We exit the large hall and emerge outdoors again onto the main platforms under a canopy of glass and criss-crossing support beams, where the trains...!

[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=qQc00wsWNOU ]
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/qQc00wsWNOU ]

...the trains...!

...the trains...


I feel horribly cheated, and inform Honne of this fact.

"I feel horribly cheated."

"All right, so out here, the—say what now?"

"The trains, Honne," I say despondently. "There were supposed to be trains."

"I didn't promise you trains."

It's true, she didn't <but i can still be pissy about it>. "Hmph."

"...Though, if y'wanna go out there, you might find some."


She points out beyond the edge of the platform, where—hmmm.

There's a wall about one or two hundred meters distant; a tiny thing compared to the enormous dark brown walls that wrap around the city, but still pretty tall—over five meters tall, at least. They line a large patch of real estate around the station, but...

"That's not big enough to hold what I saw earlier," I murmur to myself. Walking down to the end of the platform, past the people and station staff, I peer out at the other end, where the tracks disappear into a pair of tunnel mouths in that wall. There's no sight of the cargo storage and maintenance yards I saw back then.

It's not a trick. It's PR. It's about image. There's nothing horrible that they want to hide, but it's better not to show off the greasy, ugly real work that goes on in the Railyards to the passengers. That might not be a problem in smaller, rural stations, but in a city like this? They're proud of their agricultural importance and roots, but I think they also want to look good.

I'm all too familiar with that.

[ ] Mosey on out there 'n have a look. Nothin' good's easy t'get, after all.
[ ] This-all's more hassle 'n it's worth. Girl's gonna take that rain check.


I honestly expected someone to bring up Selphie by now. You've all shown considerable restraint.
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[X] Mosey on out there 'n have a look. Nothin' good's easy t'get, after all.

Must find trains.
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[☂✓] This-all's more hassle 'n it's worth. Girl's gonna take that rain check.

I probably would have, if I hadn't missed last week. It seems like the sort of thing I'd do.

X Y ↓ ↑
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[X] Mosey on out there 'n have a look. Nothin' good's easy t'get, after all.

I was thinking of her. Is Sanae gonna sing the train song?
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File 147547235062.png - (857.03KB, 1184x1004, Carry on٫ don’t mind me.png)
Carry on٫ don’t mind me
[ᄍ] Mosey on out there 'n have a look. Nothin' good's easy t'get, after all.

[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=qQc00wsWNOU ] (Previous track continues!)
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/qQc00wsWNOU ]

"Yeah, let's do that," I say, turning back to Honne, all smiles.

"Now, hold on a tick," the blonde protests, lifting her hands up. "I said I'd show you around the station. I didn't sign up for any more than that."

"C'mooon, where's your spirit of adventure?" <sorely lacking thats where>

She puts a hand on her hip and gives me a very unconvinced look. "Hiding, 'cause it don't like the idea of messing around like that. This station here's no place for folks like us to be wanderin' all hither an' nilly."

"Oh, but we're not going to be messing around. We're just foolish onje doing some sightseeing~" Honne is visibly getting more disenchanted with every word, but that's because she hates fun. And trains. "Oh, relax. I've done this sort of thing before." <just not in makai>

"You haven't done this before."

I almost protest. Almost—and then I remember something. "Honne," I say quietly. "You wouldn't perhaps be calling me a liar, would you?"

She hesitates <got you>. For a second, anyway. "Hell no. I think you're confusing different situations, though."

"This isn't like we're sneaking onto a military base or something. It's basically just some big garages and an enormous outdoor warehouse. Look, let's just start walking. If someone calls us out, we just need to look very apologetic, and maybe really dumb, too," I say, reassuring her. And for extra effect, I borrow a phrase from a tourist I once met. "You can get away with a lot just by being friendly, dumb, and foreign."

[Oh man, look at all this truth just dripping everywhere~]

"That doesn't work half as well as you think it does in Makai."

"Sure it does. If we get caught, I'll just have you keep making excuses." Say it with a smile, and presto, it's not an insult!

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

Honne stands there, mouth open while she tries to think of something to say. I wait patiently for her to finish making up an internal justification. And finally—"You don't have a lot of friends, do you, Kochiya?"

"Sure I do!" <nowadays at least> Better late than never.

I endure an uncomfortably long bout of scrutiny and stare-down from Honne before she shakes her head and brushes past me, boots clopping across the wooden boards of the platform <good job idiot>. ...Well, dang. That's really disappointing. I turn back to head into the station, and—no, wait. She's not leaving the station, or else she'd be going this way.

Turning away from the door, I cheerfully weave amongst the people on the platform until I'm walking a couple meters ahead of Honne. Whatever I do, I mustn't start whistling.



"You know you make a noise when you smile like that? I can't even see it but it's still pissin' me off."

"Sorry!" I'd skip in protest, but it's best not to attract further attention.

[Oh, more field trips? Guess I'll chaperone this bus again~ Okay, now who knows some good songs?]

Honne and I make it to the steps at the edge of the platform and head down them onto a well-traveled, shrub-lined dirt path that crosses in front of all the little auxiliary offices and warehouses next to the main station building. The going is actually pretty easy. Weirdly so. Even when my good cheer turns to quiet, upbeat tension, I still can't help but want to start humming. I don't, though, because that would attract attention. And if we aren't, then why start? We don't look especially suspicious or anything.

"I'm not one to complain," I murmur to Honne <pfffahaha who the hell do i think im kidding>. "But I sort of expected someone to say something to us by now." Honne hmmms thoughtfully in reply, but doesn't say anything specific. "Back home, there's lots of station staff who'd catch this sort of thing, so maybe it's that."

"Not many I ever saw," returns the blonde, after some consideration. She's on edge more than I am, I think. Lots more.

The path widens as it gets closer to the wall around the station. Up ahead, it passes through a tall arch in the wall next to a little hut... which is occupied. My steps slow, but Honne firmly presses her hand against my back, keeping me moving. "Don't even go acting like some kinda puss, Kochiya. Shit just looks sad on you."

Whoever's in the hut doesn't call out to us right away—in fact, they're intently reading a newssheet; I can only see a very dingy-looking hat poking up over the top. Please don't look up. Please?

But as we pass the hut—"'Ey Chess, how's the chashukh?" calls out the voice from behind the paper.

[Whoops, got distracted~]

Damn damn damn <fffffffffff> Wait no, no, it's fine! He hasn't looked yet. But now that he's noticed someone, it's onl—

"Like washwater brewed in an armpit," replies Honne without breaking her stride.

The hat-wearing voice tut-tuts. "Housekeeping's getting uppity again?"

"Ain't they always?"

"Heh. Oh, Miskello says to check Seventy-eight Twelve's coolant lines; they're still blocked up."

"Ugh. Got it."



I don't say anything, though. I just take one step after the next, and keep on walking.

On the other side of the arch is the Railyard I remember from yesterday—a huge, sprawling complex of cargo containers, workshops, and rails, rails, rails, rails. Oh gosh darn it, I'm getting giddy just looking at it~

...Buuuut, this isn't the same thing as wandering around JR private property. This is much less friendly. I want to see their trains, and that means...

"Honne." I pick up the pace in order to get a little closer. No sense in yelling back and forth, right?


"Mm?" She turns her head slightly, but the movement of her hat makes it more noticeable.

"We want the roundhouse, that long curvy building down there around all those fanned-out tracks."

She nods, and changes course slightly. There are a lot more dirt paths here, and more people moving around. Not too many, but enough to make it worth getting inside the garage sooner rather than later. It's still a couple minutes' walk from here, though, so we just have to avoid a close inspection until then.

Shouldn't be too hard.

Ha ha ha.


<why do i do this to myself>

"...Hey, Honne?"


"Have you been—that is, do they know you...?"

She snorts. "Work with enough men-folk in enough dirty jobs; you get their rhythm after a while."

I roll that around in my head for a second. "Well, I went to Comiket, but nothing like that happened."

"What's a Comma-thing?"

"A punchline I didn't think through fully." Lost on the older generation, it seems <so just like home then>. Pffft.

The roundhouse has several open doors, which is expected. I can see train cars in several of them, but there's also voices coming from the back of a few, and sounds of work. After some checking, there's a few bays nearby that we could get into without being heard or noticed.

[ ] Big ol' locomotive engine. First time girl's seen one that wasn't an exhibition piece.
[ ] Sleeper and diner car set. Pair 'a fancy passenger cars for carryin' folks a long way.
[ ] A few freight cars...? 'Least, she thinks so; ain't really ever seen freight bult this way.
[ ] Wait, is that a caboose? Huh, always thought it was just Americans what had 'em.


If you've never watched Nuka Break, I urge you to do so.
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Can’t pick them all no matter how well they fit
By the way, please choose up to two.

And again, I won't stop you from choosing more.
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>You don't have a lot of friends, do you, Kochiya?

[x] Caboose

I'm too scared to pick more than one
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[X] Big ol' locomotive engine. First time girl's seen one that wasn't an exhibition piece.
[X] Sleeper and diner car set. Pair 'a fancy passenger cars for carryin' folks a long way.
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[x] Big ol' locomotive engine. First time girl's seen one that wasn't an exhibition piece.
[x] Wait, is that a caboose? Huh, always thought it was just Americans what had 'em.

I know nothing about trains. Good for Honne being able to cover for Sanae when our imaginary friend was slacking off.

There's THP Cards Against Humanity games now? How do I get in on these?
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[x] Big ol' locomotive engine. First time girl's seen one that wasn't an exhibition piece.

Come on Koishi, keep it together.
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[x] Big ol' locomotive engine. First time girl's seen one that wasn't an exhibition piece.
[x] Wait, is that a caboose? Huh, always thought it was just Americans what had 'em.
Aaaah I didn't think this would ruin a potential friendship. Trains good, friends in unfriendly lands better.
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[ண] Big ol' locomotive engine. First time girl's seen one that wasn't an exhibition piece.
[ℍ] Wait, is that a caboose? Huh, always thought it was just Americans what had 'em.

[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/ditgv ] (Previous track continues)

"Hmmm... Choices, choices...!" I whisper. Next to me, Honne sighs <hey jerk nobody likes a downer>. Nope, no negativity. Because trains. "All right," I hiss. "The engine three bays down from here."

"Finally picked your date?"

Positivityyyyy~ "Now, now, there's no need to be like that," I say, walking quietly over the stone floor. Or it might be really bad concrete.

"You aren't the one lookin' at what your face's doing, Kochiya. That's pornographical to some people, you know."

"I am n... No, it isn... Wait, first, what does that... Anyway, you're wrong," I tell her, decisively terminating this stupid line of stupid conversation.

[Oh, this sweet summer child~]

"'Fraid not," Honne returns despite me saying it was decisively ended godsdammit. "Pictures of facial expressions is all some people got. Kinda jealous, honestly. Just walkin' around, you're being dipped n' baked in dirty stuff from start to finish, and nobody knows it."

She could be telling the truth, but then again: Honne <almost rather talk down piper again>. Weeeell, I don't quite know about that. She's just being a pill because she doesn't know the glory of locomotives <what a terrible life>. But maybe after today she'll sing a different tune!

We move down the rows of silent, hulking train cars lit by occasional lamps, but more often by the light cast through the windows set in each bay door of the roundhouse. The section we're heading for is out of sight of any active maintenance work being done, thanks to the curve of the building.

Bay, uh... Seventeen, I'm pretty sure, is home to a huge streamlined engine with more work put into the aesthetics of its exterior than I'm used to seeing. Nobody from Earth would mistake it for anything but a train's engine, but there would definitely be lots of other words surrounding it. Words like like "Futuristic, but in an old way", "Weirdly speedy-looking", or "Does it run on illegal liquor" <i bet alternate universe sean connery is the conductor>. It's got a lot of curves and arcs that look way too artistic.

"Kochiya, what you're doin' right now we used to call 'giving them fuck-looks'," says my jerk companion.

"...Doesn't it look really weird, though?" I turn back to her to pose that question. "You're from Earth, right? You know what trains are. It's obviously a steam-powered locomotive, but does it look like any of the ones you ever saw?"

Honne pushes her hat back and looks silently <thank you gods> at the engine for a little while. "Well, I guess not. But why're you all worked up about it? This isn't Earth and none of these trains are from it, so why you expectin' it to look like something that is?"


It's true. And that applies to almost everything else in Makai, too. I've made note of it myself. So why does it bug me so much now?

[Mmm? Well, shouldn't that be pretty obvious~?]

"Ha. If it was obvious, I wouldn't be this cross."

"Gotta speak up, Kochiya. I don't speak Mumblican."

"Huh? No, I was—whatever, it's not important." I shake my head. "I'm going up to the cab." I start walking towards the rear of the engine but take my time getting there, looking more closely at it as I go. Axles are... 2D2, it looks like. Which is super weird, because that's a more recent layout than I'd have expected. Like, pre-war Showa-era <2d2 is a super american design though>? Yeah. Again: weird.


"Hm?" Honne still heard me even though I was quiet, and grunts a questioning sound.

"It's supposed to look like a bird, or something." I point at the decorative shape and form of the engine, plates of metal cut in long, swooping lines. It didn't make sense from over there, but having walked the length of it and looked at it again, I can see what is probably supposed to look like a very artistic bird <its clever but its a headache>.

Honne cocks her head, takes a step back, then another, and cocks her head the other way. "...Oh. Sorta see it, I guess." She straightens up. "Our town blacksmith painted his shop to look like an elephant. I'd've done something like that if I wanted to get all fancy n' shit about it." She looks up at me. "Know what we used to call the place?"

"The Elephant?"

"What? Hell no, we called it the Tiger."

"...Why?" I ask, immediately regretting doing so.

" 'Cause nobody knew what an elephant looked like."


I just... just kinda take that in.

And right afterwards begin trying to forget it.

[Too much Kipling, for sure~]

The steps up the ladder to the cab are closer together than I'd expect from a ladder, so I'm able to take them two or three at a time—which I don't, because boots clang pretty loudly on metal grating. I proceed up them carefully and quietly, holding my breath. I reach the top and open the cab door without displaying one ounce of the careful forethought I just put into the last few seconds.

Every hair on my body stands on end at the squeak I hear upon pulling the door open—but rather than a horror movie-style, loud, rusty scrrreeeeeennnk, it's just a very brief, restrained fweemp right at the start.

Nevertheless, I go still. A second later, I decide it'd be a whole lot smarter to duck into a patch of shadow just inside the cab and crouch down, listening intently for any sign that someone noticed <oh gods please no i dont need that right now>. So I do that.

Hmm. I don't see Honne. Maybe she had the same idea I did? I don't know if she'd know to do that or not. She's hard to read like that.

After half a minute or so of tense quiet, I relax and stand back up. No voices, nobody coming down this way, no one calling out. Should be good, still <unless they have magical security cameras>. Yeeeah. If they do, I am so boned. I'm well past the point of being able to do anything about that though, so hey! Why not enjoy it?

With that tidbit of bleak cheer to warm my heart, I create a star-light and start looking around the engine cab. I'm itching to just touch everything, but this is no different than a train back on earth: DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING.





And those are...



All right! I'm going to take that earlier thought back. This is actually very different than a train on Earth, if I'm understanding what I'm seeing correctly, and even that's up in the air.

"What the heck is this?"

[I got this one~ It's a train!]

"Didn't you say you were this big ol' train weirdo?" <ssshh—oh thank the gods and my mamas twice its just this idiot> "Hey, watch it with that."

[ ♫: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x36f1l6 ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/suzbf ]

My hand relaxes from the lunge it made for my ofuda pouch, and I remove the star-light from Honne's annoyed-looking face. "Gods, you're going to scare someone to death like that."

"Naw, it don't work like that, but you bet your tooterines it helps. So what's got you all smackin'-jawed?"

[...Oh, it's one of those extra-credit questions, isn't it. Hmph.]

"You can't tell?"

"Sure I can. There's a green-haired onje in it, and she ain't part of the normal furniture. ...Don't you give me that look. Dumb questions get dumber answers."

"For starters, look at the floor," I say, holding the star-light up high. "It's clean."

"Not seein' your point," she confesses. I'm about to explain the importance of that when understanding suddenly dawns in her eyes. "Oh, hold on, hold on. It oughta look like a chimney-sweep shook his unmentionables out, yeah?"

"A... chimney... what?"

"Dusty, black, and caked in low-class grime."

"Yes, something like that," I reluctantly agree <how is grime low class>. "Because the engine needs coal fed to it frequently."

Honne wags a finger. "Naw, they don't got coal here, you know? Well, I mean you don't know, cause you're sayin' all this, so that was real dumb 'a me to say, but never no mind that." She sees my face, and nods. "Yeah, that one took me a bit, too. No coal in Makai. There's somethin' they use in a lotta places called striahg. Some kinda rock that looks like pyramids cut outta sunset on a day when you just got done walkin' through seven hours of horse sick. The chunky kind, when they're dyin', but taking a long time to do it."

[It's the worst! Stains horribly, too~]


I'm not going to be rude to her, because she just explained something that I would not have known otherwise. And I don't think she's actually a mean person <probably>.

"Pyramidal, right. And... orange? ...Ish?" She nods.

"Weird." Another solemn nod. I guess a different source of fuel should actually be the least surprising thing so far, considering I'm on an alien world. Or in a different dimension. I actually don't know where the exact difference between those lies, or how all that works. My suspicion is that it's a lot less rigid than I'm imagining it to be. The reason it's weird is because it's weird <metaphysics in a nutshell>.

Aside from that glaring oddity, there are other, less obvious things that I start noticing. The overall layout of controls seems rearranged—I think; it's hard to tell, since none of the labels are anything readable. There's a couple of small glass boxes with diagonal stripes printed along the back of one side that I know I've seen before, but can't recall the purpose of. There are foot pedals underneath a small, tall table that I can't guess the purpose of. And there's a bank of controls with a column of virtually identical gauges numbered sequentially that make me think of something familiar. I can't help but think it's related to power in some way, but everything that I come up with doesn't make sense.

For the first time, I really and truly understand what it's like to be illiterate. Even on Earth, it's difficult to outrun English for too long, or even just Roman lettering. The words might be gibberish, but you still know those letters. But this baffling scrawl? It feels like I'm trying to read Devanagiri at the bottom of a well. In the dark. And it's horribly misspelled, but I don't know that. I don't like feeling ...alienated in an environment I normally enjoy.

...Then again, it is a train. And I am getting to poke around it without being under anyone's watchful eye <not even honnes>. ...Yeah, I'm not actually sure what she's up to, but judging by how she's intently studying things, she's found something of interest. Out of respect, I don't distra

[Can we go to the next ride, pleeeease~?]

d to get moving, soon. I don't want to get caught hanging around in this place for too long. "Well, I think my curiosity has been satisfied," I say aloud <which is totally not true but whatever>, mostly to get Honne's attention.

She glances back at me. "Yeah? Gimme just another minute or something." ...Oh? I look closer at what she's been looking at, but it's just a mess of gauges, dials, and indicator lights—more than I'd expect in a normal steam locomotive cab, but about the right kind I'd expect. She said she couldn't read Makaian, though, so what she's seeing there is a mystery to me.

I give her the time, anyway, holding onto my silver star-light so she can still see. The morning light coming in through the windows lights up the cab, but just enough to make it easy to bang into something if you weren't careful, so anything more probably helps. She doesn't say anything, but about half a minute later, she stands up and nods.

We quietly exit the cab—even Honne, who's wearing an older style of boot that you'd really expect to click and clop. She's almost soundless, though. I circle around the engine, giving it a complete 360-degree walkaround in case there's anything else interesting to be seen—and to my mixed delight and confusion, there is.

Even though I can't read any kind of Makaian, there's no misintepreting the meaning of the large, bold lettering and big, jagged lightning bolt printed on a placard next to some extremely heavy-duty cables. They're resting on cradles built for the purpose, and end in some kind of rugged connector that's covered with something dark and likely insulating <hold on wait>.

[What's so interesting about train buuuuutts?]

The sight of them gives me immediate pause, and Honne bumps into me a couple seconds later. She says something, but I'm not really listening <and what a joy that is>. There's something very, very important about what I'm seeing, and I know that I know what it is, if only I could remember what it is I know...!

"Ah!" Recognition comes in a flash and a little gasp. Oh gods, I think I know! I've never even heard of one of these, but I bet, I bet, I bet...

I scurry around to the other side of the engine, and get down on hands and knees next to the connecting rod, and follow it up to the piston rod. Shining the light into the murky underbelly, I examine the workings of the engine with my admittedly unprofessional eye—but even I can tell it doesn't look right, which is... Okay, it doesn't prove anything, but I'll bet that I'm right, or at least close.

Getting back up, I dust off my knees and give Honne a great big smile as she comes walking up. She starts to open her mouth, but I know better than to let disasters like that happen. "It's electric!" I whisper excitedly. "It's an actual steam-electric train! I think!"

The look on her face says that she doesn't understand how cool and weird that is <cause shes a pleb>. I'm not so mean as not to share, thankfully. "Most trains in the world these days are diesel-electric, because steam engines are really, really customized and a hassle to maintain. But if you could apply what we know now about steam engines and then put that into a hybrid-electric engine...!"

Ah, she still doesn't get it. The poor woman.

"The hell's a 'diesel'?"

Now see, most people don't have to have conversations like this. Being who I am in Gensokyo and considering where I'm from, however, I've actually had talks like this a few dozen times. "Ah, it's a kind of liquid fuel. Like kerosene, or oil, but more refined." She nods, so one of those clicked for her <or shes lying>. "A diesel-electric train doesn't use the diesel engine for driving the train, it just powers a generator that charges up batteries which power electrical motors."


"...Well, it was a lot easier and cleaner to do it that way, so we don't use steam a whole lot for engines these days."

"Gotcha." I kind of feel like she doesn't, but I won't press the issue.

"Anyway, from what I can see, there isn't any linkage connecting these wheels to steam pistons up front, but I DO see some connections much closer to the central axles, and that matches what you'd see on a diesel..." I look back up at this strange train, feeling some respect for the demons of Makai <for once>. "And now that I think about it, I saw what I bet were meters for the battery levels. I wonder if they're internal to the engine, or there's some kind of battery-tender, too..."

A clang of something shutting somewhere far off in the roundhouse brings me firmly back to the present. Honne's eyes shift that direction, then back to me. "Well, Kochiya," says the blonde, "I don't think I've been more educated since I met that man who made glass shirts."

She removes her hat and adjusts the sprig of... Yeah, it's holly for sure; there's even some berries <so do holly trees grow in makai or what>. "Not on purpose, mind; he just sucked dead dog titties at alchemizin' silk. Cheap son of a bitch." She snaps the frilly fabric hatband, brushes off some dust, and puts the hat back on her head. "I got a handful-few 'a other questions, but posin' them to ya here's making my bits all nervous, you know? Especially the important ones. I'm ready to cut short the trespassin' holiday we're on."
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Awww. She's got no sense of adventure <but a pretty accurate one for crimes or something>. Well... probably more like survival. Somehow, I don't think most onje make it out of Makai with a clean history <or clean hands>. Call it the experience of, uh... experience <that ones catchy totally should write it down>. Shut up.

"Yeah, I guess." I'm still not happy about being in Makai or a lot of the things I've done since coming here, but this was definitely one of the better parts, even if it was short. And even considering the company.


We leave the engine and begin walking back through the roundhouse the way we came. Hopefully we can make our exit as smooth as our entrance. Two-thirds of the way there, I notice something that had escaped my attention before. I can hear Honne drawing in the breath to complain when I walk over to it, but it fades after a bit <shes probably never seen one of these before>

"...Y'know, I seen those all the time since coming here, but I got no idea what they are."

I'll still take that as a win. "It's a caboose!" I chirp, climbing up the little steps on the back of this peculiar rail car. "You mostly only see them in America, so that's probably why."

"Caboo—you mean camboose, right?"

"Huh?" I look back, and shake my head. "No, it's 'caboose'." Having learned my lesson from last time, I caaaarefully try opening the door under the little covered porch.

She makes a dissatisfied noise. "Looks like someone stuck a shack on one a' them flat cars."

Crud, it's locked. "That's kinda close, actually," I say, peering in the windows. It's dark, but I can still make out bunks and a few tables bolted to the walls. There's a door on the end leading deeper in. "The crew sleeps here on long trips, but more importantly, they can keep an eye on the whole train from the back of it."

[So this is the train butt?]

"Yeah? Never seen 'em before Makai."

"You probably didn't see many long freight trains then, I bet." Honne hums thoughtfully, but doesn't reply.

With the door locked, I can't do too much exploring of the caboose, which kinda sucks. I rejoin Honne after heading back down the steps, and we resume our very calm escape. Something keeps nagging at me about each parked rail car we pass, and I finally realize what it is after about the sixth or seventh.

"...Angle cocks," I say, hitting my fist with my palm.

Honne stops in her tracks and gets a very weird look on her face. "Pardon?"

"None of them have had angle cocks," I say, and look back behind us. "Gods, could they actually still be using vacuum brakes?"

"...Met a real funny fella once—half-Italian, of course—who had an angle cock," muses Honne.

"Like... what, on a pipe?"

"Where else?" Okay, yeah. That was a dumb question.


"Anyway, I don't see any air tanks, now that I'm looking. There's the hose, but... no angle cocks. That'll be super dangerous if the hose ruptures."

"Oh, you don't have to tell me, Kochiya."


I peer over at my companion. "...Honne, you know I'm talking about train brakes, right?"

She blinks. "Of course."

"Just making sure." <she had to be talking about something else> Eh, it's Honne.

We somehow make it out of the roundhouse and back into the public area of the train station without anyone raising a fuss or asking us probing questions. Maybe they just have really, really lax security here? Or, and it took me a while to even consider this, they haven't had enough problems to even think it's necessary yet. The thought alone is bizarre, but...


Makai, right?


Honne and I part ways around late mid-morning. I've still got plenty of time before I need to visit the Brotherhood offices.

What to do, what to do...

[ ] Something Earthy
[ ] Something Smoky


This update teamed up with my work schedule and my propensity for distraction to delay, delay, delay, which is why it's a hideous 3 weeks late.

It's not a THP edition, there were just THP people playing. We used the online version at http://pretendyoure.xyz/
I STRONGLY suggest not playing with any of the specialty or theme decks available, and just sticking with the normal ones from the regular game and the various follow-up expansions. The others are just too niche, non-applicable to a lot of situations, and generally less fun to play with.
Also we don't have regular games or anything, I think someone just got the urge and decided to host a game. That said, I think you could probably find enough people in the channel to play if you got on at the right time.
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[x] Something Earthy

That went way better than I was afraid it would.
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[X] Something Earthy

Sanae really loves trains huh.
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[x] Something Smoky

Sanae Kochiya, total train otaku. It's kinda cute, but I'm ready to move onto other things. (I hope this option leads to what I expect, but it probably won't.)

I didn't think it was THP-themed, just meant "being played with THP people" since ClearSights's name was visible in the picture you posted. But thanks for the info and advice.
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Such direct options have me suspicious.
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I know, right? Glad I wasn't the only one.
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[X] Something Earthy
Smokey either means trains, which are fun but been done plenty now, or Smoke Lady, either thinking about her, asking about her, or running into her, none of which are good.
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[X] Something Earthy
Basically what >>15049 said.

Eh, pretty sure it just means this is an audience choice, rather than a Sanae-choice.

Also, what are you smoking? These are far less direct than most of the options we've had.
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[↓] Something Earthy

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/yhuMLpdnOjY ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=yhuMLpdnOjY ]


You are Lowercase Number One & Done and right now you are in a place with trees and streets and walls and buildings all around. Most of the around that's all around is trees and grass. If these could even be called trees, which is probably a good idea while they're in earshot, because they are weird and unpredictable-looking. Trees have feelings, too! Someone said that, you're sure. Which isn't true; you're not sure of anything, and you aren't.

You do not exist. Lowercase Number One & Done is real. You are Lowercase Number One & Done.

You still do not exist. Which is business as usual, but who even cares about business when there's no business being done? Not by you, anyway; there's some kinda boxy-shaped person-thing running a food cart over there, though. Smells like cinnamon getting humped by Kobe beef behind a cheap dive bar. It's kind of nice~

Ah, where'd she go, again? Back? Nuh-uh. Left? Nope! Right? Not today.

Hmm. Tricky.

Ooh, wait. Underneath! No? ...Above? Awww.

Well... maybe in... front? Whoa! Hey, there she is and everything! Man, that was a really hard one. You don't think that's true at all, but what do you know? You don't think. You don't even
are. Lowercase Number One & Done can testify to this. Ah, but not in America.

She's up there, wandering around, staring at the ground in the middle of this little big forest growing in the middle of the city. So is Lowercase Number One & Done, naturally! But she's being boring right now. She's just looking at sticks! Though if she starts seeing stones, oh boy, is your face gonna be red.

Hopefully not from the blood. That's happened before! Kiiiinda why Lowercase Number One & Done is in this mess. And why you don't exist. Lowercase Number One & Done doesn't make a lot of great choices. Could even say a history of poor choices, but what history? What is history? Doesn't apply here, sorry~

That one does not go over well at bureaucrat parties. They have the
best hors d'oeuvres, though. Unpronounceable food is the greatest. That's not even true!

Interesting things seem to be happening over in directions that aren't herways, so Lowercase Number One & Done goes thatways through the big, twisty trees. The forest here is really big and really thick, even though it's in the middle of a city! And there's all these little footpaths that wind and turn and scream and twist and shout. If you consider the earth to be screaming every time you step on it, then it does, that is. But to everyone else, it's just normal walking sounds. Would suck really hard if it really was, though~

Bounce and skip and skip and walk like a normal person, and there's this oooother person that you heard, because they were trying not to be heard. Not that you're any kind of pro at that. Lowercase Number One & Done just knows how to be present and attend. There's a noise that tries not to be noise, and only make noise you don't notice as noise. That stands out, if you know what to look for! Which you don't, because you don't and you aren't.

And because you don't exist. Lowercase Number One & Done is real. You are Lowercase Number One & Done.

The person trying not to be seen was worried about her, but she's not even in sight anymore, and barely in sound. The new person, they're dressed in the most boringly bland clothes ever. It's, um. Ha ha, it's... Wow! It's hard to really even notice that they're there. Oh, if only you could feel, you would probably feel jealous right now~! It's... a person. In a jacket? Probably. And it's beige. Darker than that. They're walking real normally.

Man, you can't actually make out anything about them. A bit short, poooossibly? But not by a lot.

It's so utterly, aggressively boring, and that's why it's so interesting. They don't want to be noticed! A person after your own—

—Ahhhh, ahh, ah. There was going to be a joke there, wasn't there? Was there? What was there? Was anything ever there? Who knows~?

Quite the theme today, that!


A blur of movement, and they wing something off into a thick, decorative bush along the side of the path. Got berries and everything! Not gonna try'em, though, because diarrhea is ultra-embarrasing! Choking, too! And organ failure! Your adventures in wilderness gourmet are not always pretty ones. Lowercase Number One & Done had a roooough time this week. Probably, anyway. It's impossible to know!

So... hmm. Well, aggressively boring person is just walking off. Not worried about littering at all.


Wonder what it was~

You think you spend about ten or fifteen minutes digging around in the bush, looking for whatever it was that got thrown into it. Time isn't real, however, and neither are you, so that means nothing~ There are a lot of tiny leaves and bits of twig all over your clothes now, though. And in your hair, too. That'll be very annoying to get out. Or probably would be.

...Oh hey, there's twigs and leaves all over Lowercase Number One & Done's clothes. How about that? Ah, someone else is here, too.

Lowercase Number One & Done's extraneous parts are quickly pulled out of the way as something black and blonde jogging by leaps over the bush and lands,
kapoosh. Extraneous parts are your worst parts, but even Lowercase Number One & Done has a feeling that they should be kept safe even more than your... interneous parts? That's not a word.

And neither are you. You're two words!

Doesn't. Exist.

This jogger, though, they sure exist~ Or maybe it's a very large raccoon? Maybe! But probably not a tanuki. There ARE leaves all over them, but that's a coincidence. They just happen to be digging an arm into the same bush that had a thing tossed in it, and—hey, that's it! The thing was found!

Hmmm. Should Lowercase Number One & Done feel cheated or congratulatory?

...Nope, wrong answer. There are no feelings to be had at all! Maybe memories of them, but those don't exist, so never mind that. Lowercase Number One & Done is a pro at never minding. Hee hee hee~

The jogger plops down onto the ground, and fiddles with the thingly-doo-dah. Looks kinda like a... A rectangle-y thing. Fiddle, fiddle, pullll, pulllllll. Yanking out some kind of thin wire, and it goes pop! Pulled all of it out, like someone yanking out a video tape ribbon. Actually, it's a lot like that, but smaller. Like the VHSes they had for music before those shiny green tea saucers.

Winds and winds up the wire, then staaarts... tasting it. Or eating it? Looks like the jogger's eating it. Feeding in more and more of the wire into their mouth, which cou--oh. Are they trying to shake the music out of their head? You can't knock it out of your head like that, no magood golly, Miss Molly.


Wow, that's quite the trick, there. In through the mouth, and then... Yeah, pulling it out through the ear, and winding it up. Lowercase Number One & Done definitely couldn't engage in that sort of thing. Not even with your help.

It's quite the sight to watch! Your stomach might be feeling queasy just from looking at that, if it existed.

Good thing she's still back there looking at sticks. Hopefully. After all, she would probably not be taking this as well as Lowercase Number One & Done is. She thinks she's hard, but she's not as hard as you became. You became the hardest. Peerless, and unknowable.

...Oooooh. If Lowercase Number One & Done still had feelings, that thought would have felt
real bad.

Not as bad as threading a wire through your skull, though~



...mental floss.

Whoops, Lowercase Number One & Done might have giggled too much. The jogger pauses and looks around, but shhh, shh. Nobody here at all, nothing of importance. Just the path, the bushes, the trees... the rocks by the side of the road. Nothing important~ Go on about the usual business. The weeeeeeird, weird usual business.

That wire's going through the jogger's head
reeeeeally fast. Seems like it'd cause a friction burn, wouldn't it? Not to mention do things to the parts in the way. Do demons have parts in the way? Maybe it's all just mystery demon gas underneath!


Lowercase Number One & Done chooses not to poke the jogger with a pin. That could be a bad idea~

Aaaand all done! Last little strand of wire pops out of the box and
shwuupppps up through the jogger's lips like somen. Then boop, out the ear! Stands back up, brushes off the brush. All the wire and the case it was in get gathered up, crumpled, pressed between hands.

A glow, and a wisp of smoke, and—

Presto, it's disappeared! Pretty neat~ Maybe a string of flags pulled out of the sleeve next...? Oh.

Nope. Joggers gonna jog, like they never took a little break here. Well, goodbye, then~


Lowercase Number One & Done forgot all about her. As expected.

Not desired. But expected.

Well, that's how the kettle of snakes called life boils~

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[ ♫: https://youtu.be/C0NKyyMQnBg ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=C0NKyyMQnBg ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/udkou ]

Instead of going for a fourth round of spending five minutes to readjust how I'd packed the wood dowels in my pack, I pull them out and carry all three under my arm. They don't press into painful spots on my back this way, although that's less of a problem on the lightly traveled sidewalks of Buscaglitore than it was in the busy streets of Pelingua.

You'd think a place with no sun in the sky wouldn't be warmer around noon, like a normal world would. But Makai doesn't bother with making sense like that, which I kinda find annoying. Like, I thought I'd gotten used to living in a world of nonsense in Gensokyo, but apparently that was just playing on Easy <whaaaaaat realllyyyyyy>. This isn't the first time this has gone through my head, either.

There's a bit of trickiness involved in walking along and trying not to bump into people while also being careful to avoid looking at the architecture of the buildings around here, but by keeping my ears open and my looking-up limited, I find my way to the Brotherhood offices much quicker than yesterday <even the detours were quicker>. With one hand holding the thin dowels, I decide it's a better idea to take the stairs carefully, even if they're short.

[Walking slowly is preferred here too, huh~?]

The door is unlocked, thank you very much <scheduling is hard>.

I feel a strange emotional bounce and dip when I step inside—I'm here to talk about finding a solution for going home, which has me anxious. But it's also much cooler inside, which sets me at ease. I'm feeling better about feeling on edge, I guess <why does it matter>? Yeah, I'm getting too up in my head.

The waiting room looks like it did yesterday, only brighter and more occupied. Sort of occupied. The receptionist is at her desk, filling out some kind of paperwork. I can say "her" with certainty, because it's clear to anyone looking—even through the smoked glass—that she is extremely female. As well as extremely blue <unless its body paint>. Her hair is straight, black, and short, and her horns are curled, like a sheep. Saw a few of those in the line going up to the city, but not a lot.

"Good afternoon? Are you here? To see someone?" Her words come in a cadence that rises right at the end—nah-nah-nah-nah—so she comes off as sounding very inquisitive <or like a blue kogal no wait an aogal>. Big, big brown eyes look at me with warmth and patience.

"Yes," I say. A lesser girl might be shocked and perhaps start staring. But between baths with Kana-mama and hobnobbing with the Gensokyan elite, I'm pretty used to outrageously good figures like hers <plus i got marisa and reimu outclassed take that traditional non westernized japanese diet>. "I'm here to see... um, Mr. Tane." <do they use titles like that i cant even recall>

She pulls something over and places it in front of her, jots something down, and looks back up. "Ah, then you are? Kochiya? Of Moriya?" I nod. "Have a seat? And he will? Be right with you?"

I thank her, and seat myself in the same chair I took yesterday. After a few minutes pass, I decide to get back to rearranging how these dowels are pla—

"Ah, Kochiya."

[...Wonder if those horns got shaved off along with his hair?]

I look up in surprise <no it makes perfect sense> to see Tane poking his head through the door that leads deeper inside the building. "Oh!" I exclaim. "I'm sorry, just a second!"

"It's no problem," he replies, but I don't think anyone ever believes that when they're told it. I unzip the pack, stuff the dowels in diagonally and flat, where they're going to feel the worst if I try wearing the pack <figures>. I close it up, heft the bag, and get to my feet.

He leads me through the door and down a wide hallway with tile floors and dimmed lighting that comes from flat glass panels of some kind. They look newer than the rest of the fixtures <feels like an old backwater municipal office>. It... kiiinda is? Yeah. I mean, I don't know if they're government-funded, but it is in the right district for it. "How has your day been?"

"It's been fine. Went sight-seeing this morning, then took a walk around the park looking at the trees. Stopped by a few shops, then on my way here, helped some people who'd just been mugged."

"That so?" He looks back at me. "Not a good idea to trust all the city's back streets. Most are fine up this way, but they get rough deep in Mendicante and Scarbagna."

We go into an office I recognize right away---the one with sand all over the floor. It's held in the room by some kind of field, as some kind of invisible wall prevents the sand from spilling out into the hall. It's also much warmer in here; maybe another 6-8 degrees? "Don't worry if the sand gets in your clothes," says Tane, leading me to a desk and gesturing at a chair in front of it. "The retaining ward filters it out when you leave."

"Oh, thank you. It's quite a unique way to decorate a workplace, I have to admit." It's polite chat, but it is something I've never seen before. "Do you come from a hotter climate?"

[Ah. Whoops. Damn. Oh man, this is as bad as a fresh layer of snow. ]

"Actually, yes," says Tane, sitting behind the desk while I pull up my chair. "But Malloni's the one who set it up this way." He points at another desk, currently unoccupied. I wonder if that was the dinosaur-ish lady I saw last evening?

I nod politely, and then decide to take the first step. "I spoke with some other onje. Nobody seemed to have anything that could help."

He leans back, and rubs his head. "Well, I can't say that's not what I expected."

"Um... I haven't spoken with everyone, I admit, but the outlook doesn't seem good. Is it that difficult?"

Tane just nods.


The room lapses into silence. I gently scuff a heel back and forth in the sand, the room's warmth starting to permeate my boots. He's wrestling with something, so I wait it out quietly while making sure I don't look bored. No need to make myself look bad. His fingers aren't just rubbing his head out of consternation, I notice, but slowly tracing over part of the tattoos.

At last, he sighs and gets to his feet. I push my chair back with a soft skooof sound and start to follow suit, but he gestures at me to stay put. I watch him go over to the door, glance out into the hall, and then pull down a roll-up door like you'd see in countless downtown street-level shops back on the Outside. This seems to be made out of smooth, tan-colored panels instead of metal, but otherwise it looks quite similar. He brings it all the way to the ground, then returns to his desk.

"I have no guarantees, Kochiya. I need to make sure you are very aware of this." His voice, so well-suited for what you'd want in a kindly television host, is now quiet. Each syllable is crisply enunciated an unmistakeable, and his eyes drill into mine.

"Of course." I sit straighter and nod once.

"How desperate are you to return?"


"There are no guarantees, but there are options. Now, simply answer the question: how desperate are you to return?"

[ ] 'Fair lot more'n she's gonna say now. Plays it down.
[ ] Enough to bleed for it. Girl's no stranger to sufferin'.
[ ] Ain't no cost too high. 'Long as she gets outta here.


Someone bang a gong, it's the 100th update of Otherwise!

Oh, sorry. But you're welcome.

Thank Gensokomuten for that side of her.

Actually, >>15073 has it.
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[x] Enough to bleed.

Playing it down seems smart, but it's suspicious. Besides, she may decide to pass on an offer if she thinks Sanae doesn't care.

The last option is akin to the "Geas" in F/ST: a dangerous extreme. Honesty needs not apply here, methinks.
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[X] Enough to bleed for it. Girl's no stranger to sufferin'.

I had a feeling there was some Gensokomuten inspiration with the trains. I love those doujins, they're a great read.
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[x] Enough to bleed for it. Girl's no stranger to sufferin'.

I'm hoping this is the 'no pain, no gain' option and not the 'irreversable damage' option.
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[X] Enough to bleed for it. Girl's no stranger to sufferin'.
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Wow, 100 updates. Seems appropriate enough for a vote like this.

[x] Enough to bleed for it. Girl's no stranger to sufferin'.

I'm hoping this won't mean literal blood magic, but given what Elis asked for a while back... Still less dangerous than option three, though.

It feels weird for me to think back on that now, given how endearing Otherwise-Sanae is.
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Remember when we had that demon we barely knew fuck around with our head? Irreversible damage has already happened, for better or worse.

How so? She wasn't a completely different, out-of-character villain, anon. There were plenty of little details and scenes that showed she was the same goofy, nerdy Sanae we all knew and loved. That's what made it hurt so much.
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[????] Enough to bleed for it. Girl's no stranger to sufferin'.
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[ʅ] Enough to bleed for it. Girl's no stranger to sufferin'.

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/t8L2i1ggcuU ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=t8L2i1ggcuU ]

That's an uncomfortably suspicious thing to ask a girl. Alone with you. In a room with a closed door. However, I don't have any reason to suspect him of anything <yet>. Yet. And I don't think Elis would send me into such a trap with her daughter's letter riding on my success. I think I can safely give him a mostly honest answer.

"I will gladly risk harm for the certainty of being able to return home," I tell him, staring back unflinchingly. "I do not shy from peril." <thats not reeeeeally true is it>. I said certainty, didn't I?

Tane considers me in silence for a while—longer than I feel is warranted.

At the end of it, he just nods slowly. "I hope so."x

He reaches down and opens up a drawer that swings out like a drawbridge. After rummaging for a second, he pulls out a small pad of gati and lays it on his desk. Taking a quill out of its inkwell—latched in place, I notice—he almost begins writing something on the pad, but looks back up at me before the tip of the quill touches the grey sheet.

"...Do you speak Nahuatl?"

[Met a quetzalcoatl once. Does that count~?]

"I... have no idea what that is, so probably not?"

"Cheyenne, perhaps? Salish?"

"No, not those either, I'm afraid."


"To an extent. Will that be enough?"

"It's not a problem," he says, and begins writing on the pad. In a mutter, he adds, "Well, 'throwing a stone,' I guess."

[Please don't!]

For all that dramatic setup, the note he writes is fairly short. When he's done, the tears off the sheet of gati and hands it to me. I look at it closely after taking it, and try to sound out the first word. "Bee... la... biss... kweh—"

"'Keh'." <crap>

"Ah, sorry. Bis-keh... tree... loh. Bee-la-bis-keh-tray-loh," I repeat.



[Ooh, is it a lobster recipe~? What's going on over theeeeere?]

"That'll work." Tane puts away pad and quill, and folds his arms. "He's an independent researcher in Pandemonium who specializes in magical travel. Since you're an onje, you should also regard him as untrustworthy and highly dangerous. I wrote down his address for you as well, but I don't recommend meeting with him."

I look down at the sheet again, then back at Tane. "But... why did you give this to me, then? Is he a friend of yours?"

A snort. "He's charming, but he's nobody's friend, least of all yours. He is the safest, most likely candidate for having a method of direct travel out of Makai available to him, however."

"Then there are unsafe choices, too?" I ask, narrowing my eyes <is he holding out on me>. "Harm is not something I'm concerned about, as long as I get home."

"Miss Kochiya." Tane's words cut through the air, their sharpness untainted by anger. "I owe Elis a favor, and I owe you basic courtesy, both of which I gladly give. By extension that includes looking out for your basic safety while you are in my care. Yes, there is one other option, and in theory, there is an extremely good chance of it having what you need. However." The bald, tattooed man levels a finger in my direction. "Someone as fresh as yourself who pursues this will almost certainly end up imprisoned, enslaved, tortured, violated, murdered, or some combination thereof."

[All for one low, low price~]

This should be giving me chills. I should be terrified. I'm certainly disgusted and repulsed by the images my mind conjures up. Ah, I'm even getting goosebumps right now.

But I'm not scared. I'm just thinking, processing what he said, going over the ramifications, and coming up with one unsurprising, likely answer.

"There's an underworld that deals in onje affairs," I say. It's not a question. "Some kind of black market."

Accordingly, he gives it no answer. "You said you're willing to risk harm, Kochiya. But unless I've misread something terribly, you aren't willing to throw yourself away for it."

He's right <and i know it>. Yet, for some reason, I'm so... so...

There's been a few times in my life where I've wanted to scream at someone because I made a mistake. And always, there's some piece of me is telling myself that they deserve it anyway, while the rest of me knows that it's wrong to take it out on them, but I can't and don't want to care about any of that.

I'm having that moment again, riiiiiight now.

I probably need to leave.


...But I can't do it so gracelessly. Even setting aside rudeness, I do owe him my gratitude. Impatience tugs at me as I let a few more seconds pass before responding. "That's probably correct," I tell him. "She who chases two rabbits catches neither."

"Hmm." He muses over that proverb for a moment. "Out here, we say 'trying to grow water in the desert', but the spirit is the same." <good for you i dont care>.

Looking the information over one more time, I fold up the sheet of gati and stow it away. "Thank you very much, Tane. I am deeply grateful for your aid."

"It's not a problem," he says again. As I stand up, he does too, offering me his hand after a weird pause. "Is there anything else I can help with?"

I look at the hand and think about <wanting to snap his fucking neck> ...that. He hasn't done anything but help me out and keep me away from something dangerous and I want nothing more than to jump across this table and kill him.

[Oh, if only this were being recorded~]

He gets a nice handshake and a smile. Putting those PR skills to work. Almost throw in a "Thank you for visiting!" and a bow on reflex.

"At least one person at any branch of the Historical Brotherhood should be willing to help you, even without a letter like Elis wrote," he reminds me. "You will need to negotiate your own way with them, however."

"I see, that makes sense. Thank you."

"...I do mean what I said about Bilabisquetrello. He can be dealt with, but never suspect him of not having an angle. Don't show any weakness."

"I never do." <ha> Shut right the hell up.

I need to get out of here now.

"Good luck, and Goddess watch."

If he's not actually concerned for real about me, he's great at faking it. I want to make him no longer have breath in his body. Ever.

Exiting the office is kind of a blur.

[Nope, hang a left~ Ooooother left. Very good!]

I end up outside, though. That's good.

Not going to make a scene here. No time for that.

I do set aside the time to scream a single obscenity, once, in an alley between there and the hostel. Not really sure if I feel better afterwards. If you feel less angry, is it really the same thing as better? I don't think so. It disturbs some kind of roosting animal which gurgles a watery coo at me before settling back down <same to you bird or whatever you are>.

Didn't I say I couldn't rely on anyone but myself? Well, once again, I'm being shown why that's the case. It'll stick with me this time, I'm sure of it <stick like a fly to shit>.

"Ha." My sharp, short laugh disturbs the birdish thing thing again, replying with more annoyed cooing. Am I the fly or the shit, though <doesnt matter im worth less than both>? And that's why you stick to your convictions. I'm not throwing away the note, though. He was right about that, the bald prick: I'm not ready to throw away my freedom to gain an escape I can't use.


Fuck everything.

As the hostel comes into view, I'm suddenly aware that I've been staying at an inn, for all intents and purposes. And I've walked around town doing sidequests and looking for information <if someone mentions a missing princess i am going to punch them>. My lips quirk into a smile as I go inside.

I pass by the front desk and give Donny a brief nod and a wave. He's talking to that old Chinese man I passed by this morning, but still returns my silent greeting. Up the stairs I go, all the way to the roof—it's not check-in time yet, so I'll be fine for a little longer yet. Just hope nobody's up there <its school all over again>.

The rooftop door is almost offensively picturesque. There's a window on it and everything, like it belongs on Red Riding Hood's grandmother's cottage. It's also well-oiled, because it swings out with nary a sound.

[Not as picturesque as a roof should be, isn't it?]

Nobody's up here...? Doesn't look like it <good>. Very good, in fact. I wedge one of the chairs out here under the doorknob, because I don't see any obvious way to lock it right away. Hardly an elegant solution <but who gives a damn> but I'm not terribly worried just yet. ...Though if Donny comes up here, I might be in a real pickle. Just going to have to make sure I don't waste time, then.

I clear a space on the small wooden patio, and drag over the other chair. The rooftop floor is more like a roof-side floor, as it's mostly a cantilevered deck built onto one side of the roof, but it's still up on top of a building, four stories up. Gives a pretty good view of the area, but it's cut short by the wall on one side and normal-sized buildings at higher elevation on the other—Algerasso's in a lower-lying part of the city, after all. But either way, this is not going to get too many prying eyes on it.

Kneeling down, I unroll and lay out Ford on the cleared space. From my pack, I take out the straightest branches I could find on trees at Ezov Park <if fresh even makes a difference>, and the dowels I bought from a woodworker's shop. Finally, I withdraw blank ofuda. If I'm going to be stuck in Makai for much longer, then I need to rebuild my haraegushi.

I sit quietly and try to clear my mind in order to prepare for this. As expected, it's difficult—I'm not in a good way right now, and I have the failure of the previous attempt weighing on my mind, still. But I need to get to that place in order to have even a chance of succeeding, so.

Just gotta do it.

[Gonna have a nap, okay? Holler when everything's done~]

Time passes. The noises of the city are a little quieter in this district, and at this height, which is part of why I chose it. The isolation was the other appealing aspect of it, of course.

I don't think about any of that.


... ...


That's better.


Taking one of the branches in hand, I prepare it much like I did the others before, in the forest. At last, I fit an ofuda into the end.

It looks unattractive and inelegant, to say the least. But it has all of the required parts.

Waving it about in the air, I try to call up a breeze.



...That is...

That is unfortunate, is what it is.

With a slow exhalation, I disassemble that attempt and try again, this time with a dowel. When it's complete, it certainly feels right. The shape, weight, and heft are much closer to what I'm used to carrying.

It still looks unattractive, but I can't be choosy.




"Well, that was disappointing."

[Hwguh? ...Sorry, what?]

I try it with all the branches and dowels, just to make sure.








As expected.

I gather my things up and put them away. This really did not play out the way I'd hoped, did it?

[Huh... Not seeing any confetti or ticker-tape. The thing with the thing didn't work out, did it.]


[Awwww. It'll work out somehow, though! Probably~]

With everything packed and put away, I un-wedge the chair, and re-enter the building. Jamie is just rounding the last landing on the way up here when I open the door. Good timing, I guess? We chat very briefly and then part ways again.

Downstairs, I pay for another night's stay. Donny asks me how I'm doing. Doesn't quite buy my answers or the reassurances, I can tell. Is he that good or am I that bad <maybe both>?

I trudge up the stairs again, and return to the second floor, Room Three. My bed's been made since this morning—professionally so. Actually, all of the bunks have been made. Personal belongings have been placed neatly on top of the sheets. Nobody's in here at the moment and that is exactly how I want it.

My things are put away in my locker, nice and secure. I close the door, and turn out the lights.

Crawling onto my bunk, I lie down, close my eyes, and think.

I turn onto my side.

I bury my face in my pillow.

And I scream and scream and scream and scream and scream.

Some time after the last hate-filled, self-loathing-drenched sob escapes my body, I fall asleep.

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/76i7JK5YP_o ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/dubhu ]

I wake up again, hours later. Another scream, this one unmuffled.

The room is still empty <good>, and it's dyed in the creepy red of nighttime. I return from making a visit to the bathroom, but pause before climbing under the sheets. Instead, I walk over to the window, and look outside.

The streetlights are on, lighting up the night. Even from here, I can tell that other parts of the city are well alive and active—must be the Feast.

[ ] Best save it n' sleep. Girl's gotta lot on 'er plate, come dawn.
[ ] A night on th' town's fine. Might still make somethin' of the day.


This should have been out a week ago ffffffff
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[x] A night on th' town's fine. Might still make somethin' of the day.

I think Sanae could really use some fun right about now.
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[X] A night on th' town's fine. Might still make somethin' of the day.
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I'm not really getting the "oh god we fucked up" thing. We're not going to the ludicrously dangerous black market that would almost certainly get us killed, what a tragedy.

[x] Best save it n' sleep. Girl's gotta lot on 'er plate, come dawn.
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[X] A night on th' town's fine. Might still make somethin' of the day.

Better than more nightmares. ...well, probably better.
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She's still a pushover. She got wrecked by a ghost, a fairy a shadow thing and barely escaped an invisible bird. All in a week. She hasn't won any battle since this started. Heck, all the good things that she accomplished were due to the charity of others.
And now, when an opportunity presents itself, after saying that she will do what it takes to go back, she rejects it because she is scared. Way to fucking go.

Sure, being completely powerless might have been a factor in that butz whose fault is that, again?
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Yeah, so going to the shadowy underground would get us wrecked. And what's she rejecting here?

>But unless I've misread something terribly, you aren't willing to throw yourself away for it.
Yes, sir, we are not willing to fucking die to get home, and who in their right mind would be?

You're half right, though. This constant failure is so frustrating and I don't know what we're doing wrong. Is this a do or die thing? Who dares, wins? Don't exactly have the track record to do that with any sort of confidence.
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[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=TFlGer1wVeA ]
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/TFlGer1wVeA ]

[祭] A night on th' town's fine. Might still make somethin' of the day.

...I should...

Yeah, I should go. Try to get something worthwhile out of today. Gods know I deserve that much <ahahaha no you dont deserve anything and nev>—No.. I am going to go to this festival <its called the feast idiot> or whatever it's called and somehow, in some impossible way, I am going to find something enjoyable about it. If nothing else, there'll be food there. I was going to have lunch after visiting the Brotherhood, but I wasn't in much of a mood for anything after that.

My stomach is telling me now that its views on this have changed <what a jerk>.

After getting myself dressed again and freshened up, I decide to leave my things here. No sense in underlining how obvious it is that I'm an Outsider, figuratively and literally. I make almost obsessively sure I have the locker key on me before shutting my bag away in there. That'd be real embarrassing if I shut it in there too, or forgot it.

Downstairs, I pass by Donny, who looks like he's in workout clothes, or some homemade version of them, anyway. There's no smell of sweat, but his hair looks freshly toweled <some people just dont stink>. That's true.


His face brightens when he catches sight of me. "Kochiya," he says, nodding. "How're you doing?"

"Better, I think." In Japan, I would have given a bright and sunny answer to that. Instead, I give this cautiously hopeful one. Makai changes people pretty quick, huh?

"That's good to hear," he says. Maybe it's more cautious hopefulness, but I think he means it, too. "Are you headed out to the Feast?"

"Mm-hmm." I push back some loose strands of hair that slip forward. Should probably redo that ponytail soon. "I think I'll be leaving tomorrow, so I ought to see it once before I go, right?"

His eyebrows raise. "Oh? I'd like to talk about that with you before you do, but that can wait. For now, you should go and enjoy yourself."

It's hard not to crack a smile at that. "Yeah, I'd like to do that." <for once>.

[aaaaaaAAAAAAHH—oh! ...Heeeeyyy~ Didn't get left behind after all! That's probably a good thing~ No, wait, that's definitely a good thing.]

The chair he's in creaks as he sits up and leans closer. "Mind a bit of friendly advice?"

Uh-oh. "Um, yeah. Sure."

"Stay off the flying roller coaster unless you're a serious speed junkie. It wasn't built with humans in mind."

"...There's a roller coaster?"

Donny nods soberly. "And it flies."

"...I don't rememeber seeing a roller coaster."

"It wasn't set up yesterday. By the way, don't lose sight of 'flying', there. It doesn't have physical track set up."

"Isn't that dangerous?"

"You seen what a demon or a fairy can take?"

...Huh. Okay, I think I get him, now <doesnt feel great>. "...Right. I'll be sure to remember that, then. Thanks, Donny." He gives a friendly wave, and then I'm out the door.

The night air is a little cool, but not as much as I expected—it's maybe 19 or 20 degrees? Guess it did get warmer in the afternoon. It's fine for what I'm wearing, but I wouldn't turn down a jacket if it was handed to me. Some of it might be the red light of night; mental associations between color and temperature and all that. The sky (once I can get a good look at it) is lightly cloudy with no real threat of rain <and now back to you in the studio kyouhei san>. It'd look real ominous if not for the pleasant feeling in the air.

For just a second, I catch a hint of oleander. It's gone as soon as it came, though, replaced by the usual smell of a city.

Nothing particularly notable happens as I get closer to the Plaza—the noise gets noisier, the crowd gets crowded-er. I can hear that group of dancers a few blocks away, but only because I know what I'm listening and looking for. I wouldn't mind going back there later; it looked like fun.

The pops and bangs of fireworks go off occasionally in the sky. Some of them, like that shimmering coil right there or the skywriting fireball, are clearly magical. Others seem simple enough that I think they're probably closer to the ordinary powder-and-fuse fireworks I'm used to <i really should be wearing a yukata>. ...Yeah, even though this is clearly a different sort of affair, I still feel some of that vibe.

It lessens as I come into view of the Plaza itself, and receive quite a shock: what I attended last night was not even half of the spectacle in front of me now. Nobody could be faulted for believing this was just a very compact amusement park at night, not anymore. The lights are brighter and more numerous, the crowd is larger, and there are tents, buildings, and attractions where I'm certain there were none the night before.

[Ooooooooooohh~ It's like when the old city really gets into party mode~]

...I think I'm going to have a good night, tonight <just gotta keep saying that>.

But first, there's food.

[Choose 1]
[ ] Real chow sounds mighty fine t' her.
[ ] 'S a festival, innit? Gotta be junk food!

After that, I'll take my time and look around at what they've got to offer.

[Choose any 3-4]
[ ] The long building o'er yonder.
-[ ] How the hell'd this city come t' be?
-[ ] What-all's anyone even do 'round 'ere?
-[ ] Hey, ain't them Elis' flyin' contraptions?
[ ] Little bit 'a sportin' hurt nobody
-[ ] Y' just gotta get the ball in one 'a them rings, right?
-[ ] Somethin' bout shootin' stuff down? So... danmaku?
-[ ] Y' whack this, an' it rings that? ...There's more to it?
-[ ] Okay, this's just a damn DDR pad, yeah? What's up?
[ ] All them little places with their own signs n' lines.
-[ ] Lotta pictures a' weird bodies and queer shapes.
-[ ] Seems like just a big ol' staircase. Seems odd.
-[ ] Girl's sure she knows what them beeps n' boops is.
-[ ] Just a mirror on th' sign, n' bodies half in n' out.

I might even chance a few of the rides...

[Choose 0-2]
[ ] Get on, get movin, n' get that blood pumpin'!
-[ ] Looks like th' devil's own damn roller derby.
-[ ] There's a real mean animal in a ring, there.
-[ ] Sign's got dude on fire jumpin' a cliff n' dodgin' arrows.
-[ ] Looks like people runnin' reeeeeal slow-like.

...First I gotta get into the park, though. Pity I don't have a date, this'd be perfect for the occasion.


Support your local county fair!

Also, I really wanted the last update to be update #100. Oh well~

Given her situation, Sanae is actually doing reasonably well. She's in way over her head, has no support, is at less than full strength, she's playing on Lunatic, and nobody's heard of spellcard rules. And right now she's gotten to the point where she's feeling a bit bummed about her pride being wounded and is going to a local fair to cheer up.

I'd say she's doing okay for herself.
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[X] Real chow sounds mighty fine t' her.
[X] The long building o'er yonder.
-[X] Hey, ain't them Elis' flyin' contraptions?
[X] Little bit 'a sportin' hurt nobody
-[X] Okay, this's just a damn DDR pad, yeah? What's up?
[X] All them little places with their own signs n' lines.
-[X] Girl's sure she knows what them beeps n' boops is.
[X] Get on, get movin, n' get that blood pumpin'!
-[X] Looks like people runnin' reeeeeal slow-like.

She could use some fun.
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[x] Real chow sounds mighty fine t' her.
[x] The long building o'er yonder.
-[x] How the hell'd this city come t' be?
-[x] What-all's anyone even do 'round 'ere?
-[x] Hey, ain't them Elis' flyin' contraptions?
[x] Little bit 'a sportin' hurt nobody
-[x] Somethin' bout shootin' stuff down? So... danmaku?

Take it easy.
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[x] Real chow sounds mighty fine t' her.

[x] The long building o'er yonder.
-[x] Hey, ain't them Elis' flyin' contraptions?
[x] Little bit 'a sportin' hurt nobody.
-[x] Somethin' bout shootin' stuff down? So... danmaku?
-[x] Okay, this's just a damn DDR pad, yeah? What's up?
[x] All them little places with their own signs n' lines.
-[x] Girl's sure she knows what them beeps n' boops is.

[x] Get on, get movin, n' get that blood pumpin'!
-[x] Looks like th' devil's own damn roller derby.
-[x] Looks like people runnin' reeeeeal slow-like.

Beep boop, San, beep boop.
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[x] Real chow sounds mighty fine t' her.

[x] Okay, this's just a damn DDR pad, yeah? What's up?
[x] Girl's sure she knows what them beeps n'
boops is.
[x] Seems like just a big ol' staircase. Seems odd.

[x] There's a real mean animal in a ring, there.
[x] Sign's got dude on fire jumpin' a cliff n' dodgin' arrows.

Lots of options capture the festival feel well, and it's just as difficult to choose what to do.
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You will never know
[⌓] Real chow sounds mighty fine t' her.
[⋚] et al.

[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=f5M3R2WvFQk ]
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/f5M3R2WvFQk ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/talkx ]

Letting my stomach do the guiding, I wander past stall after stall of food vendors, keeping an eye out for something that looks appealing. ...And cheap. And not too sweet. Something substantial.

[Mmmnnnughf! Htso mutzf hfoo', htso lih-hull htaaaaim. Ihss hderr'bul!]

I settle upon a hut with a line in front of it and people lingering around the rest of it. Every so often, a fairy exits a small side door with a large yet shallow paper basket stuffed full of something foodish. I don't get a glimpse of what, but something smells meaty, aromatic, and bread-like. The price is cheap and the customers look happy, which is really all you need to know when it comes to an unfamiliar restaurant.

There aren't a lot of menu options, but that isn't a problem for someone passing through like myself. A very fat fairy at a window takes the order I repeated after seeing what came out for the person who ordered it—"single, arusah, tall chaniyt." After an exchange of juliène, they take my name. Most people wait around and chat with each other, but instead I head over to a long, sturdy-looking temporary building that has people wandering in and out.

As I thought, it's sort of like an exhibition hall. I watch as a beleagured-looking father with one, two...five young children in tow taps the side of a wedge-shaped box on a pedestal. It's placed in front of a very elaborate <and very unreadable> multi-set presentation of some woman performing some kind of great magics. Land is rising, land is flattening, rivers are moving...

"—grew every year, threatening all the communities of the fledgling shire," says an old woman's voice, exactly the kind you'd want to read a storybook. "No longer could Sibyl stand by and watch as the sands crept closer and the bandit chancellors' power increased. And on a warm, warm morning, before the shine of dawn touched the first farmhouse, Sibyl marched out to the edge of the plains, and drove her staff into the ground! 'This is where your ruin ends,' she declared. 'And this is where my shield begins.'"

I sneak a glance over at the children. They are watching the presentation—which is still, not animated or anything!—in rapt silence. The father catches me looking, and must see the sympathetic look on my face because he can't help but crack a smile. Watching over kids is no picnic <but thats why the gods gave us doraemon>. It's not even a joke. It's also one of the upsides of the franchise-reboot trend (which I pray has started to die off) on the Outside.

I stick around for a few more minutes while this Sibyl lady calls upon the power of "the Goddess" <no name but shes big enough not to need to have one i guess> and lifts the land up and drags a river kicking and screaming to its side. I can already see where it's going, and not just because I looked ahead at the other large panels of the presentation <well no thats a big part of it>. Yeah, but I'm not stupid, I can see where it's going. ...And if I don't hurry back, I'm going to be late getting my food.

There's a shortcut out the back that takes me through a very fancy exhibit showing off all kinds of crops and fruits and and livestock—the bounty of Hagla Shire, no doubt. I hustle through it without trying to be disruptive to the other patrons.

...Weird, though, for a city to have a creation myth. Like, I know Rome had something to do with orphans that milked wolves and then got in a fight? And I vaguely recall hearing that America's first president refused to tell a lie about an ax he'd made from a tree he threw across a river after his ox died, but even that's a country. And Rome's Rome. Dis doesn't have even close to the same "this has seen a lot of years go by" vibe as an old city like Kyoto, or some of the really old shrines, let alone a city as ancient as Rome.

But, then again: Makai <saying that a lot arent i>. And I'll probably say it a whole lot more before I'm done <its a convenient excuse to just drop anything isnt it>. Doesn't make it less applicable. Plus, I don't want to be arguing with myself all the time <well more like discussions>. Oh gods, enough already.

...Point is, maybe that's actually what happened, as weird as that sounds. It's a land of demons and magic, after all. Why couldn't it?

"Last call for Kochiya!"

Hearing my name barked with annoyance by the runner-fairy causes me to break into a run. I arrive with a yelped self-announcement, and get a very peeved look, followed by a warm bundle of deliciousness thrust at me. "Here." ...And a drink, which she probably hands me with much more care only because there's no cap or lid on it. I saw some of these trays and cups in trash cans next to the exhibition hall, so I don't think I need to stick around. Which is good, because my cheeks are red as heck right now.

[Ohhh~ All hail the... the... yeeeeah. Can't finish sentence. So stuuuuuuffed~ ]

On the other end of the exhibition hall, there's a large, ornate fountain with a lit-up sculpted figure in the center—St. Sibyl, my recent brush with history suggests. About the same figure and dress, and the whole area is named after her <thats one of those clue things right>. I think it might be!

There are also a ton of benches all around it, so I take over one of them and tuck into my dinner. The tray is split down the middle by a pair of large tubs of adama. On one side are blue-tinted breadish things, and on the other, some kind of mixture of ricelike grains and other things layered with cooked onions. The bready-things turn out to be filled with a very spicy, flavorful meat that burns hot but wears off quickly <thank all the gods>.

Dipping it into the adama makes it take on a tangy edge, but I soon discover that it's best to open up the breadish thing---the "arusah", probably, but then what's the rice-y stuff called?—tear off a piece of the bread to scoop up and apply a layer of adama to the cooked meat, and then scoop up and add on top of that a layer of the rice stuff. All flavors in one!

[That looks soooo tempting, but there's noooo room left. ...Yet, somehow, nothing is regretted, ha-ha~]


For a horrible alien demon world, they've got some dang good food. Because the spice wears off after a minute or so, I don't need to make so many emergency sips from my drink as I've had to in the past. So I pass the time eating and watching people and families and couples of all shapes and species and sizes wander by, having one kind of a good time or another.

I guess this place wouldn't be nearly as bad if I wasn't stuck here <that covers a lot of places really>. But that's not this, this is this <and other wise words from an idiot stuffing her face>. I am not. Am I? ...I'm not. But I take a little more time to chew my food, anyway.

After pushing around the bread of the arusah to scrape up the last of the adama, I finish off my dinner and dispose of the trash in another one of the provided trash cans. This is actually a pretty good sign—public sanitation of this degree speaks well of the rest of the system (unless there are some insanely out-of-whack priorities at work here). I sorta figured that out already when a house in a small fishing village had running water and indoor plumbing, but I couldn't rule out magic. Indoor plumbing is still a luxury in many parts of Gensokyo <sadly>.

I begin heading back to the fountain, then do a sudden double-take. Just now, inside the hall, was that...?

...It is.

Just inside is a very lavish exhibit featuring what I'm willing to bet my entire wallet on are aeriables. They don't look exactly like Elis' doodle did, but I can see enough common characteristics that there's no doubt in my mind. Plus they're flying aircraft <bit of a giveaway there>.

There's a small but steady group of people attending the exhibit at any one point, so I fall in with or a little bit behind various groups at each of the main sections of the exhibit, and listen in. Since I can't read anything, and this one doesn't have helpful audio recordings, I have to piece together the visuals of the exhibit with the commentary of the guests, then glue it all together with a lot of hunch, speculation, deduction, and (quite frankly) unfounded guesswork <so just what ive already been doing since coming to makai>.

The first section is just kind of an introduction to the concept: 'Here is a thing, here's what it looks like, here's what it does, and here's why you should be interested, curious Feast-goer.' Aeriables are relatively small single-person aircraft that don't seem to have fully figured out aerodynamic efficiency, yet. The "big glass globe" cockpit design looks like it's pretty common, so they must have something going on that strengthens it and nullifies the airflow problems you'd have <theres been dumber>. Well, yeah. It's better than having a big flat wall, for sure, but even without an airplane, uh... engineering degree, I can tell you that you want to move towards flatter and more triangular, or at the very least, more like a bullet. The benefit of a world filled with magic, I guess <what you cant solve with money solve with magic>. Sounds pretty great.

In spite of all that, there are lots of pictures of the thing just flying around without a problem. Sepia-toned photos, but shockingly well-defined for such a thing <looks fake like they slapped a filter on it>. They totally do, but they could easily be real; why bother with artificial nostalgia like that here? There's some of it at a demonstration of some kind, and there's a few more recent-looking models <i think i dont know for sure> flying in formation. Some very brochure-y photos after that, lots of posed photos and demons looking off into the distance. I think what they're wearing is supposed to be flight gear, but it looks pretty uncomplicated... Just a sort of vest and headgear that looks kinda like what a boxer wears.

Next section is the history part. There's a lot of indoor shots taken in a big industrial workshop of an aeriable being built and worked on by a gaggle of fairies and a group of real beefy six-legged demons. Haven't seen those types before, I don't think. A big collage of pictures of the same aeriable, now assembled, in flight. Old news-sheet clippings, lots of front pages. I feel like I'm looking at a Wright Brothers exhibit at this point. Yeesh, there's a crash photo. No funeral or memorial kind of imagery, though. Jeez, can they survive that kind of accident? Man, if plane crashes were only as potentially deadly as a car crash, say, that'd be... That's a thought I can't actually process <got lots of those>. Hurrrrr. Shut up. More pictures, and finally something being signed, and a speech being given in front of a big industrial building. No mistaking brick and smokestacks like that.

The second to last part of this jumps right into full-blown corporate brochure mode mixed with science-show montage. Aeriables in flight, sketches and diagrams half-faded out, and <oh damn are those missile racks>—what? ...Oh jeez, I... well, they sure look like that, don't they? The short wings on the side of several craft parked on tarmac are mounted with fixtures that certainly seem to be holding something tubular and finned. Cripes, I wasn't expecting that. I get the feeling aeriables are a relatively recent invention, but they sure moved onto weaponizing them really quick, didn't they? Who would they fight with them, though? I haven't heard a single word about wars or conflict, yet—it's not impossible that there are. Heck, it'd be weird if there weren't. But the places I've been have been pretty peaceful, so far.

So why would you need combat aircraft when everyone can use magic and doesn't die easily <maybe they want to be ready for the next reimu>? A shudder runs through me. If my cover gets blown, are they going to come after me with... with those? I don't think my Ace Combat skills are going to help me here.

At the very end is an enormous pedestal featuring what drew me in in the first place: a scale model of an aeriable, probably just a quarter or a third of the actual size. A fairy child could probably fit snugly inside the cockpit of this one, and judging by the attendant standing nearby, I'd bet a few have tried. The aircraft looks... well, the best way to describe it is that it looks believable. I understood what it looked like from the photos, but seeing this in person gives it a realness that the photos lacked.

It looks like a compact, boxy retro-style aircraft, like if suddenly airplane development went all steampunk between the two World Wars. The wings have a serrated, batty look, and the cockpit is a lot sturdier than the photos led me to believe. It's a glass globe, but reinforced and segmented. There are landing... claws? No, wheels, but... with claw-like cowlings. That's unusually ornamental.

I mill around for a little while longer, absorbing a little more each time. The attendant starts giving me darker and darker looks each time, however, and I eventually decide it's probably best to leave <jerk>. I leave the aeriable exhibit behind and step back out into the loud, bright night of the Feast. Planes might not be as cool as trains, but they're still pretty cool, especially when they've gone down such a weird alternate path. Makai is full of that sort of stuff.

[Hey, back already! Were there pins handed out? Last place like this was handing out pins~]

With no real way to know what's what if it isn't plainly obvious from the main 'streets', I'm left to aimlessly roam about the Feast, searching for whatever catches my eye. The first thing to do so is a tent with lots of brightly colored lines flashing around its sign. A lizard—not 'lizard-person', an actual lizard the size and general appearance of a dog-sized iguana—sits on a stool out in front of it, next to a an open flap leading to the darkness beyond. I wouldn't have even considered it except that the lines flashing on the sign remind me of an old, old ad for computer monitors I once saw in Akihabara <came bundled with a gba>. That was money very questionably spent.

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/aMBBf59VTHg ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/ihicc ]

The lizard looks up as if sensing my interest. "Shooo-tin' gally-rih," it announces in a scratchy, tiny voice, like a high-pitched smoker. "Joos-ta tennah julies fer-dah roun'. Pop th' goldie, gedda prize, gedda prize. Ehehhh." A shooting gallery, did it say? Is that like the cork-gun game they have at festivals?

"Maybe... Is it safe for humans?" I ask. I've seen how Makaians show love and how they cook <bit of a theme developing>. It's only natural to be a little bit worried about how they play.

[...Is anything?]

The big iguana—biguana!—blows a raspberry at me, which I don't think it can actually even do with its mouth. "Mebbe ifya hiiit yuzzelf wit-tha gee-un, yageddah ba-ruise. Soya playin'?" I suddenly have a moment of understanding as to why Americans sue everyone and everything for anything. But it passes quickly, and their weird ways are once again as mysterious as they've always been <good>.

"Sure, yeah," I tell the biguana, and open up my wallet. "How much is it?"

"Ahseddit 'reddy. Tennah julies." I cock my head, confused. "Ten-nah joo-lee-ayy-n-zuh. C'mon freshie, ya keelinme." I hand over what I think he was saying—ten juliène—and he just... swallows it. Plucks it out of my hand and pops it in his mouth like candy.


[Time's up! The answer is, 'No, not really~']

I'm given a very brief crash course in how to play the game. A cheaply-painted and dinged-up piece of modern sculpture called a "shootah" is handed to me. There's what looks like (and turns out to be) a handle in the middle of it that is a lot less uncomfortable to hold than it looks like, and a button on the back side of it that functions as a trigger. The end result is kind of like Rockman's buster cannon <but so much uglier>. It shoots a tiny little fireball that flickers as it flies through the air; light or illusion magic, if I had to guess.

The instructions for the game consist of "Goan git-tuh shooo-tin'," and a clawed fingernail pointing into the interior of the dark tent <bit suspicious>. No kidding. I light up my way with a star-light, but there's nothing but tent and paving stone. I dispel it at a barked reprimand from the biguana, and get very nervous when the tent flap closes.

Everything is quickly forgotten as I'm plunged into a blue-lit expanse of line-traced hills and desert <someone saw tron huh>. I get to take it in for only a few seconds before stuff starts flying at and by me, forcing me to quickly figure out what I'm doing. The game is like if Galaga and Time Crisis had some kind of weird VR baby. Groups of flying symbols and shapes come flitting by me in groups, some moving faster or slower than others. They dance around me a few times and then fly off—if I don't shoot them in time. It's easy to get the hang of, but harder to get really good at. Each symbol I shoot down with a flickering shot disappears in a neon puff.

At one point something shining brightly zips by, and does dizzyingly fast orbits around me, constantly veering towards my head before I duck out of the way. I'm not even close to being able to draw a bead on it, let alone shoot at it, before it zooms off, cackling and swinging... something. A whip? Or maybe a flail?


The biguana hands me a five-juliène coin as I leave tent. "Pur' good, 'spesh for fray-ish," it croaks. "Wannanutha go?"

"Oh..." I accept the coin, and shake my head politely. "Ah, thank you, but I must be going. Thank you for your hard work, I enjoyed it a lot!"

"M'kay. Ki-yumma gen."

I walk away from that with mixed feelings. I guess it was fun. No, it was fun. There was something kind of off about that, though. Not the gun part—between video games and danmaku, simulated shooting is no great shock to this daughter of Japan <means that they do kinda know what guns are though>. Oh damn, that's true. I haven't seen anyone carrying anything very gun-like... but then again, that thing didn't exactly look very gun-ish.

Well, whatever. I dunno. I'll keep an eye out for that.

A few minutes later, I start to notice the unmistakeable sound of synthesized music nearby. It's impossible to miss or mistake, since I never hear it anymore <not outside the shrine at least>. Naturally, I can't ignore investigating something as weird as that. Homing in on the noise, my ears lead me to a brightly lit cluster of tables under an open-air tent. Several groups of younger demons and fairies are clustered around machines of some kind. They're... electronic, certainly, but the kind of 'electronic' you only see in black and white, covered in dust, or behind glass <actually the kappa might work with this>. I don't know, this is definitely vintage stuff.

[Oh man, is that skeeball over there? Be right back! Maybe~!]

There's a stand sticking up out of each machine with a sheet of black glass on the end, each one facing towards the person who's sitting in front of it. I get closer to one of them, and see on the glass plate a flat image filled with green lines displayed on it <are they graphing calculus equations>. It almost looks like a screen, or some... Oh gods, I think that might be it. I think I'm looking at a Makaian video game.

[ ] Gotta take a shot at this. There a line or something?
[ ] Naw, just watchin's fine. Newbie'd get bodied for sure.


Merry Christmas to all my readers and all of THP!

Someone please remind me the next time I try doing a mega-multi-choice update that it's a terrible idea.
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[x] Naw, just watchin's fine. Newbie'd get bodied for sure.

And a very merry Christmas to you too, good sir!
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[X] Gotta take a shot at this. There a line or something?

Happy holidays!
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[X] Gotta take a shot at this. There a line or something?

It's freakin' New Years and this is tied at 1-1? That's just not right.
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[x] Gotta take a shot at this. There a line or something?
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[x] Gotta take a shot at this. There a line or something?
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Otherwise returns to its usual timeslot this Sunday, only on Fox.
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I specifically requested the opposite of this
...Or not. Weekend got cut short. Give it another week, please.
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Request refused. Write.
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thuggery brewing
[ઔ] Gotta take a shot at this. There a line or something?

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

Well, that's that decided. I would be letting humanity down if I didn't take the opportunity to at least try a demonic <or maybe alien> video game. I'm not so full of myself that I think I have the faintest hope of owning anyone here, but I feel like I've logged enough hours behind a controller that I'll be able to avoid embarrassing myself and my species. I seek out a line and move to the end of it.


Oh crud, I really didn't think about this at all <kochiyas too cool for rules>. Maybe I should pay attention to how it's played, first. Or what it even is.

The first thing I notice is that the machine is some kind of weird-looking device that screams 'retro electronics'. Or old electronics; the kind that nowadays you'd only ever see in black-and-white, or covered with dust <from back when they were furniture>. Further (slightly nervous) observation of the players sitting in front of the machines tells me that this is a competitive graphing game. Or something. If I were to actually say that to someone, it'd sound really lame, but it actually looks like fun.

When the round starts, the central machine utters about two or three seconds of a sound. Each player then uses a big, weird gauntlet to draw a weird, wavy, glowing green line on the glass plate that looks like something from an extra-credit math question. And not just any extra-credit question, but the kind where you really begin to wonder if the teacher is messing with the class for fun.

After that, the sound plays again, and the two players start making changes, adjustments, and tweaks to the line. That repeats about two or three more times before the line gets highlighted in all kinds of colors and another pair of similar lines are laid over it on the plate, and a score is displayed.

I watch two and a half games go by before I fully understand what's going on: The lines they're drawing on this touchscreen are the sound waves of the noise being played at the start of each round. Each round after the start, they're fine-tuning what they have and then submitting it <like lap times in a racing game>. Only it's accuracy instead of time.

...Well, it's sure as heck no 3rd Strike or Tekken <but then again what is>. Still looks like it'd be fun to play, though. The touchscreen-ish interface seems easy enough to use. I think I'll be fine <except for the glaring lack of musical talent>. No, that's BS. I can sing decently <musical talent>. ...Well... all right, true, but from what I'm seeing, this is just sound waves. Make the loud parts loud and the quiet parts quiet. How hard can it be <and exactly how much time have i spent analyzing sound waves on a computer>.


I guess I might get bodied after all <damn right so get out of he>. No, I'm not going to ditch over something like that <over the complete inability to play>! All right, first? It's not a complete inability. Second, shut up. I'm playing this weird demonic video game and that's that. Even if I only now suddenly realized what I'm doing after phrasing it like that <nice pyrrhic victory there idiot>. I pay a lot more attention to the games going on around me after that, but all too soon, my turn comes up.

"First time playing?" asks the attendant, an average-height girl dressed in what I think is some kind of animal-themed coat. It's got a scale pattern all over and foam-looking spines along the back and shoulder, but big fuzzy ears on the hood <and no eyes>. Trying reeeal hard not to look at that part.

"Yeah, yeah it is," I reply, handing over a coin. No INSERT CREDIT flashing notice here yet, I guess. I'm tempted to ask for a tier list, but she just gives me a nod before looking back over my shoulder. "Next first-timer or low tier, step up!"

Ow <never met me before and already smells the suck>. I know it's just a game, but that still stings. A young, tired-looking male demon steps up, his hair waving slowly like a nature documentary about the Mongolian steppe, or a dramatic face-off between samurai in a big grassy field. "I've played only a couple'a times," he says, and eyes me. I do my best to look normal and approachable, but he just looks back at the attendant.

About three or four others in line have taken a half-step forward, but the attendant waves them off. "All right, then, you'll be up against—" She glances back at me, and I can tell she only now realized I'm an onje just from the mental hiccup that happens. "—our newest contender!" Others notice it, too, and I feel the temperature of the room dropping a few degrees <crap>.

As I'm being given a very quick, SNK-like, verbal crash course on how to use this gauntlet, I think about throwing the match and getting out of here ASAP, but maybe I'll just suck enough naturally that I won't need to <a good girl of good cheer>. Aren't I just? The panel starts showing something—a countdown, it looks like.


Don't screw up.

A bit of music plays—simple-sounding, about six or seven notes? Relaxing, too. With the gauntleted hand, I sketch out a scribble of the imagined sound wave that roughly corresponds to what I heard. I don't really expect it to be totally correct; the first round is always full of errors. The sketched wave auto-aligns to a proper waveform, and I make a few corrections to it before I'm done. The demon boy finishes his, and then we get our results.

Multiple parts of my waveform turn a blinking yellow, while a few turn a cool purple. Bleah. Murmurs and a few sniggers from around the room. I double down on the task <literally> at hand instead of paying attention to that. Don't need any distractions right now.

The next round starts, and I go over the music in my head again. ...Okay, yeah, this part here should be a lot lower, shouldn't it? I had it shallow and flat, but it should be more of a curved pit. And that deedle-dah-dah-doooo part... maybe redraw it so it's wiggly, and not as gentle as I had it the first time. A few more changes like that, and I submit the changes. Demon boy finished ahead of me, this time. He seems pleased when the results come up. Mine are... better.


This goes on for a couple more rounds—each time slowly improving and getting more segments correct or close—but I still finish with a pretty crappy 66.8% to his 79.1%. When, they show the actual waveform, I barely manage to avoid a wince: I was trying to build for six or seven notes that turned out to be ten, and also completely neglected to account for a digital piece partway through. Sighing, I get up, hand off the gauntlet to the attendant—was she just smirking?

Standing still, we stare at each other for a second, but her expression couldn't be considered anything but polite. "Better luck next time, miss," she says, accepting the gauntlet.

...I'm sure I saw it. And if she wasn't, others around here were. Actually, they still are, openly. I hear a very attractive demon muffle a very unattractive snort of amusement. Weren't the younger generation supposed to be not as prejudiced? Didn't someone tell me that? Isn't it supposed to be a universal truth? Maybe there's just a really high concentration of dumbasses here.

Whatever. I'm out.

Leaving the confines of the "arcade", I step back out into the dark, bright night of the Feast. Up above and a ways off, I see a snake of shrieking demons in long, connected boxes whip and hurtle through the air before disappearing from sight. "...Oh, huh." That's Donny's invisible roller coaster, I guess.

I take a step away from the tent, and keep on walking through the streets and lanes of the Feast. My hand feels stiff from the gauntlet and my body feels a little hot. I'm going to stick to something I know I can kick ass at. Or at least, something without a lot of people watching. Don't mind the shrine maiden, kids, she frequently performs in public without batting an eye, but at least she's practiced that a dozen times or more <improvised magic pretty fast by the river though>.

That was different. If that's what it takes to bring out the genius mage inside of me, I'm fine with being an arcane dullard. I don't need to have more situations like that <ha ha ha good luck with that>.

...Gods and mamas, give me something I can do so I don't have to keep thinking.

[ ] Not a lotta clamor 'round that slow-motion thing. Worth givin' it a look.
[ ] That sorta-DDR pad's not gettin' much attention, either. Could be fine, too.

[ ] Night's gone all sour, come to think of it. Girl gives up n' heads back early.


You know what sucks about procrastination?
...Actually, I'm kind of tired. I'll just tell you tomorrow.
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guess I'll vote tomorrow, then
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[x] Night's gone all sour, come to think of it. Girl gives up n' heads back early.
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[x] That sorta-DDR pad's not gettin' much attention, either. Could be fine, too.
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[X] That sorta-DDR pad's not gettin' much attention, either. Could be fine, too.

Might go a bit better.
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[x] That sorta-DDR pad's not gettin' much attention, either. Could be fine, too.
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[x] Not a lotta clamor 'round that slow-motion thing. Worth givin' it a look.
You guys go dance, we'll be just tripping balls in the corner.
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[ϫ] That sorta-DDR pad's not gettin' much attention, either. Could be fine, too.

[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/fjmzb ]
(Previous music continues)

My feet keep walking and that keeps me moving, so technically, that's something. But it doesn't keep me from thinking, so it's now nothing. I need something engaging, distracting, and ...physical. Yeah, that's the ticket. I've had that advice thrust at me more times than I can count: 'Go outside and sweep the path if you're bored.' 'If you've got time to hang around, you've got time to do the dishes.'

...Huh. In a way, I guess my mamas did answer that prayer.

I start looking for anything that sounds or looks like activity and movement <which is almost everything at the feast>. All right, that's true. Then, how about something that looks like people really doing stuff a lot <what did that even mean>? I know what I mean <are you sure>. Positive! See, there's people ...dancing? Kind of.

If Dance Dance Revolution showed up on Twister's doorstep with a baby in its arms and just looked Twister in the eyes while the dramatic music sting played and an unwitting Hopscotch called from back inside the house, 'Who's at the door?', this thing I'm watching would be the baby. ...And they're stomping onto things, which means that maybe Mogura Taiji also gets thrown into this lurid scenario <its out of control at this point>. Yeah, time to learn the game.

That part, at least, goes easy enough. Wary of another incident like the crappy barely-an-arcade from a few minutes ago, I make sure to ask an attendant about the game. The burly (and unnervingly glossy-skinned) demon is all too happy to explain it to me <i think hes trying hard not to talk to my chest>. ...That would be really weird. Isn't that supposed to be looked at as gross?

My first impression was actually fairly close—if you took the moles from Mogura Taiji and put them into the floor of a frighteningly expanded DDR station, and then played it with all the positions and contortions of Twister, but at the pace of hopscotch, well... You'd have about 80% of this game. 'Clod Hopper', as it's called, is reconfigurable based on the number of limbs you can effectively use and he is absolutely talking to my chest. Ugh <guess thats where his stutter ran off to>.

As he begins to explain something about the difficulty ramping up over play time, the energetic girl who'd been playing in 5-limb configuration (two legs, two arms, tail) groans in disappointment along with a sad musical melody from inside the machine. The attendant excuses himself to go see how well she did.

"Eighty-three! Just cleared the money-back limit, at least," he tells her, examining a mechanical counter <sorta like the clickers gym coaches use>. "Good sh-show, darlin'. You gonna have another g-go?"

"Hunh-uh, I'm all worn down."

"All right, y'ha-ave fun then. Here y'go," he adds, dropping a few coins back into her hand. She stuffs them into a pocket and scampers off with some friends who'd been watching her. Others who got drawn in start to drift off, too <well this parts no different from ddr at all huh>. That's fine.

The attendant hits a switch on the side, resetting the numbers, and turns back. "You gonna have a shot?"

I flip him a coin for admission that he easily snatches it out of the air. "That's what I'm here for." Already walking up to the machine, in fact.

"Right, right." He reaches over and adjusts something. "Standard human, four limbs?" <whats a non standard human>

"Yep." The tiles on the pad rapidly shift around like a block puzzle, with some of them disappearing off under a cowling at the edge and being replaced by flat, featureless grey squares <neat>. "All ready?"

"Starts in five."

I breathe in, hold it, and breathe out. The tiles light up, and a cheery snatch of music plays from the old-sounding speakers underneath <or maybe they spent the money on the shifting board>. Could be.

The game starts, and already I'm feeling good about my chances. That in itself is weird—but I understand why. The game is very easy to get a grip on, at first. Tiles light up in blue and inflate like a squishy ball. You step on them, they turn off, and deflate. The pace is easy, too, but it'll ramp up soon, I'm sure. ...Yeah, there it goes. Like DDR, you keep stepping or hopping to the pace of the tiles you need to hit. There's no music, though, so it's all about visual awareness.

While the initial "beat" of the game is like Mogura Taiji for tired people, you soon have to start hitting them a little quicker as each tile puffs up. But even then, it's still child's play right now. I don't know if there's a minimum number of times I can miss before I get a Game Over, or if it goes for a fixed period and then calculates a hit/miss ratio.

The hit-tiles start coming in pairs, now. Not all the time, but they're showing up amongst the singles. Bet you they'll get to triples and quads later, too.

Anyway, it'd be a good idea to just not screw up, no matter how it figures out a loss <unless its rigged>. Yeah, but that's sort of expected, isn't it? If you can get your money back, then they have to have measures against people trying to game the system. Hang on, what's that yellow tile?


<okay those are bad tiles got it> The loud pop does a nice job of cementing the DON'T STEP ON IT nature of the yellow tiles and almost sends me reeling. I recover quickly, and ignore the tittering from around me. Gotta keep my head in the game.

The game keeps progressing this way, throwing new challenges and more difficult tasks at me the longer I go—someone around here grasps the very basics of game design. This is a way better attempt than that dumb sound wave thing. For one, I'm actually having fun.

[Oh yeah, rhythms are definitely locking to the beat of the heart, here~]

At last, after braving the perils of multi-press tiles, triple sets, gradual tiles, a faster pace, no more singles, mixed multi and single-press sets, quad sets, another speed increase, and then ONLY triple and quad sets, I finally hear the sad little music warble out, followed by ...cheers?

I must have been aware that there were a lot of demons gathered around me at some point, because I don't freak out at the sight that greets me. It's not surprising, but I didn't know it. Or maybe it's that they're all applauding?

"Hot diggory d-damn, darlin'. That's the new onje record for four limbs, for sure!" The attendant helps me down from the machine, and presses a small, heavy bag that clinks into my hand. "Three hunnerd n' forty-six sets, miss! Here's y' prize n' payout; have y'self a good night." There's a hearty pat on the back that sends me stumbling a step or two forward, and then he's turning to the crowd. "Right, who's next, who's next? Let's keep this rollin'!"

I'm good for business, I guess. Several members of the crowd surge forward to be the next to play, but that highlights the ones who have a different focus—me.

Pick one of each.
[ ] The floor's open ta questions. Takes a pause to meet with her adorin' public.
[ ] How d'ya do, have a good 'un. Girl 'scuses herself all polite, then moseys on.
[ ] Latch eyes on the trail n' ride on. She don't bolt, just quite, but she do exit quick.

[ ] All this hustlin' got 'er warmed up. There somethin' else with that sorta pace?
[ ] Maybe time t' bring it down, some. Day's not over; just takin' a slower pace.
[ ] Go round up the horses for th' night. Girl's lookin' to take stock and take a rest.
[ ] ...Actually, somethin' else struck 'er fancy just now. (Write-in)


I think I'm better now. Would have liked to have been better last month.
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>I think I'm better now.

I'm glad. Keep up the good work!
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[X] The floor's open ta questions. Takes a pause to meet with her adorin' public.
[X] All this hustlin' got 'er warmed up. There somethin' else with that sorta pace?

Warming demon/onje relations, one breakdance(?) at a time.
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[ ] How d'ya do, have a good 'un. Girl 'scuses herself all polite, then moseys on.

[ ] Go round up the horses for th' night. Girl's lookin' to take stock and take a rest.
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[x] The floor's open ta questions. Takes a pause to meet with her adorin' public.
[x] Go round up the horses for th' night. Girl's lookin' to take stock and take a rest.

I know talking to them is going to end badly, but I just can't help myself.
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Glad things are better with you, Fell.

[x] The floor's open ta questions. Takes a pause to meet with her adorin' public.
[x] Go round up the horses for th' night. Girl's lookin' to take stock and take a rest.

I can't help thinking at least one demon will accuse her of cheating. But it does seem like the more interesting option, and maybe something good will come of it.
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[X] How d'ya do, have a good 'un. Girl 'scuses herself all polite, then moseys on.
[X] Maybe time t' bring it down, some. Day's not over; just takin' a slower pace.

Better is nice.
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[x] The floor's open ta questions. Takes a pause to meet with her adorin' public.
[x] All this hustlin' got 'er warmed up. There somethin' else with that sorta pace?
Into the breach!
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Not dead, not falling off again, just reworking some things. Please tune in next week!

In the mean time, there is this, which is a fun read: http://kissmanga.com/Manga/Kumo-Desu-ga--Nani-ka
The title does not translate as "I am a spider and what is this", but it could easily get there with a different word or two. Girl wakes up, is a spider monster. It's isekai (the "got resurrected into a game world" genre), but not in the same tired way as a lot of the shit that's out there.

It's based on a web novel, the translations of which can be found at http://turb0translation.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html and then later on at http://raisingthedead.ninja/current-j-z/kumo-desu-ga-nani-ka/ . I'm told there is also a LN version out or in the works, but I don't know if that's been translated at all.

Also, Rei Hiroe (who is also the Tex-Mex doujin circle, if you didn't know) is finally getting back to doing the Black Lagoon manga sometime this spring. Thank fuck for that.

Also also, if you haven't been keeping up with WaHH or FS, you should get back to that; there's some shit brewing in Gensokyo. On a lighter note, there is also another Three Fairies manga running (albeit only with quarterly chapters) and a new tengu-article print book ("Alternative Facts in Eastern Utopia". Yes, that is the actual title).
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>Alternative Facts in Eastern Utopia". Yes, that is the actual title
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There is actually a Miko article that's a sort of copy paste of trump sayings. Although on the next page it's revealed Aya just made it up because the original speech was too boring.
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>I am a spider and what is this
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Fox News exclusive

>Alternative Facts in Eastern Utopia". Yes, that is the actual title
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[♟] The floor's open ta questions. Takes a pause to meet with her adorin' public.
[ⓩ] Go round up the horses for th' night. Girl's lookin' to take stock and take a rest.

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

They converge on me in a quick but polite manner, expressions ranging from dazzled to suspicious to curious to unreadable—literally; there's one whose hair is hanging over most of their face. All full of questions, or at least something to say. I've done this sort of thing before, but back then it was humans from town or one of the outlying villages. With demons, it's a little... weird. Unsettling, maybe <just maybe>?

[Back up, back up! No autographs! Form a line! No touching the hair! No cameras!]

...Jeez, it's like being an idol or something <now theres a dead dream>. Not so many crazed otaku, though. Well, whatever; I can manage this much.

"How did you do that?! Are you on the circuit?" I get about three different versions of that, right up front. Well, these ones might be crazed.

I give them a shake of the head and a humble reply. "No, I'm no professional. I just kept playing until I couldn't go on, anymore." <humble uh huh right>. Although, now that I say that, I don't think I lost because I got tired. I think the game's rhythm outpaced what I was physically able to keep up with... Which was itself already pretty demanding.

Now, between being young, pretty fit, and a so-called living god, it's true that I'm in good physical condition. Still, shouldn't I be pretty worn out right now? Those were some pretty darned crazy moves I was making. I've worked up a bit of a sweat, but that's about it <makais fault probably>. Would be nice to have a better explanation than that, though.

A tiny little girl with an uncomfortable amount of fang scoots forward. "How long have you been in Makai?"

"Oh, a little while, you know?" Isn't that supposed to be a personal question?

Someone to my right and a bit too close speaks up: "You're from Earth, right?" I hesitate, then nod. Shouldn't be a surprise. "How's Elvis doing?" ...Oh man.

"Super-popular, even today." <but how do they even know> No. This is more than I want to think about. "Literally changed music as we know it." That answer seems to have pleased him. Phew.

From a reedy-voiced, birdlike demon: "Have you played this before?"

"Not this, no." I almost get into the lineage of DDR and IIDX, but decide against it. I don't want to be stuck here longer than I have to.

"What's wrong with your eyes?"

"Huh? ...They're normal." [Yeah, take that, weirdo!] "Heck, to me? You're the weird one." <what> WHAT THE HELL AM I SAYING.

He blinks, and the crowd goes quiet for a second.

[If you can't get deep, go on retreat, punk~]

"I'd... never really thought about it that way," says the demon, imposing build diminished by the contemplative look on his face. "Huh."

Everyone watches him for a few seconds more before turning back to me.

"Can you show us how you did that?" Off to the left, a friendlier-looking sort asks this one.

"Aha, sorry," I tell him. "It's just like I said before: I kept on playing until I couldn't."

"Oh? Well then, do you think you could do as well at a similar game?"

That might be kind of fun in other circumstances, but... "I might, but probably not tonight."

"Oh, are you sure? I think you'd ace them handily."

"Perhaps, but this was just a whim. Sorry!"

"Do you actually have a night-sun where you come from?" Oh, the girl with more fang than necessary came back for a second question.

I glance upwards on reflex, just in time to see a bunch of happily screaming young Feast-goers rocket past at super-tengu speeds, making turns in the air that would make a plane puke <thanks donny>. Noooot for me, that. "Yeah, the Moon. We've got one of those; it's cool." <faking nonchalance too hard now>. I am, aren't I.

"Weird," exclaims the girl. She leaves it at that, however.

After dealing with a handful of other increasingly trivial questions and turning down a few offers of company or guidance, my adoring fans thankfully begin to disperse. At last, I'm able to get back to what I was doing... And just as soon, I stop.

I've had my fill of fun tonight, I think. Even as I approach the odd slow-motion thing from earlier, that caught my eye, I just don't have the same urge as before. I'm feeling better than when I woke up a while ago, for sure. So in the end, I accomplished what I set out to do, didn't I?

[May~be? Mumbling like that won't turn up any grand answers, after all~]

The sounds and smells and sights of the Feast all around me provide everything but an answer. Then again, I asked myself, so why would someone else answer?

"Yeah," I say, and after thinking about it, nod <needlessly>. Everything's needless if you don't care, but right now, I'm okay with caring. Or something like that. "I'm okay with this."

And I am okay.

I miss the 'bus' heading back towards Gaudanno, but I don't feel any frantic need to catch up. I let it go, and decide to start walking. ...Huh. I really am feeling more at ease.

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/2krF9ijjN34 ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=2krF9ijjN34 ]

As I wander the darkened streets, I try to keep to the more occupied ones instead of the quieter and lonelier roads. When they all start looking equally deserted, I go with the ones that are better-lit. After a while of doing that, though, I notice that my safer path has taken me further mo than I meant to go: I'm probably somewhere around Vetrompina and possibly the Railyards, if the dull, bulky buildings and increased proximity to the city wall are any clue <hard to miss even at night>

I'd normally be upset by this. Instead, I just sigh and turn around. I passed a major street a little ways back, and that should get me clos—


I saw someone duck back behind the corner up ahead just now. That was not my imagination.


The calm, warm, slow-moving river of syrup in my veins boils, burns, cools off, and freezes, all in a second. My body tenses, cracks, crackles, tearing itself up and out of the spiralling descent to restfulness.

I am not okay with this.

[ ] Hunt down who's huntin'. Girl thinks two can play at this.
[ ] Call out that there skulker. Time to speak up n' face off.
[ ] Best to turn tail n' git. She goes now, she might make it.


There we go.
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>I'm a spider and what is this

Damn, I love this manga. Thanks for the recommendation.
Also, fuck you, now I have to wait a month between updates
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[X] Call out that there skulker. Time to speak up n' face off.

I'm usually wary about "in the middle" options, but this seems safe.
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Meeting the public was safer and funnier than I expected.

[x] Call out that there skulker. Time to speak up n' face off.

I'm not so confident it's safe, but all the options are risky if we're dealing with someone dangerous. For the first option, I think Sanae's unlikely to outdo a (presumed) demon on their own turf. And turning her back to them also seems unwise. (Though I have another idea for who this could be, but it's a long shot.)
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[x] Call out that there skulker. Time to speak up n' face off.

Fell wrote something funny!

We're boned, aren't we?
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[x] None of the above. Quietly watch and wait, try to get a good look when he pops back out.
No, no, don't call out to him, you rube, that's a horrible idea.
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Losing the he last bus and walking home is on the same level of "Taking a shortcut through crime Alley"

When I had to go to a convention to listen live to some weeb band (Lotus Juice) I found myself next to a dark deserted square like, two blocks before the entrance.
I literally turned around, walked ten blocks away and stopped a cab. Fuck it.

[x] Best to turn away
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[ᄍ] Call out that there skulker. Time to speak up n' face off.

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/2krF9ijjN34 ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=2krF9ijjN34 ]
(Previous track continues)

I don't stop walking, but I do slow down a little and try to listen to the spaces in between my footsteps.


Then they're not backing off. Not at speed, anyway <not good>. Probably not, no. Maybe they're freaking out, too? Man, I hope so.

I don't know what they're planning, and every centimeter I move closer to them means less time to think about it. My path turns toward the sidewalk on the other side of the road, taking me out of the empty, open street I'd been walking on—a bad habit I picked up in sidewalk-less Gensokyo, where roads are there to be walked on, and any cart using them can be heard coming before it comes into view <long before>. It's not a lot of protection, but it'll have to do.

"I already know you're there," I say, raising my voice to addressing-a-crowd volume, eyes looking around. You can't sound or appear panicked in situations like this. Bored and nervous are no good, either. Just relay the facts. "And I'm not in a mood to keep this up. Please come out now, or go home." <yeah be bland and gutless thats how to be assertive> Hey, this isn't a cool thriller or a police drama, and I'm not a cocky hero with rogueish good looks. That means mouthy answers are right out, too.

Actually, I just want to go back to the hostel and go to bed. That's got a hand in things, too.

[Now, when's the part where they yell, 'You'll never take me alive, copper!'? That's a fun part~]

No answer, yet.

Oh, there's a hand waving from around the same corner. "Sorry, miss. Wasn't trying to... Well, I'm coming out, all right?" The voice is a touch raspy and has the ghost of a drawl to it. In fact, I've heard it just recently, but where—oh, here he comes. I sketch star on my palm and point the bright silver light out in his direction.

When he walks around the corner, hands held out wide and open, I notice the coat and that smile, now looking a bit chagrined <which he darn well better>... Yeah, that's one of the guys from the DDR-but-not-actually game at the Feast. He was the nicer one, I think.

I slow to a stop. "You're from the game just a bit ago." He was one of the ones who seemed actually interested in how I did that instead of just amazed by the onje lady who got a high score.

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

He goes wide-eyed, then blank, and finally, give me a surprised chuckle. "Oh, wow. I didn't think you'd actually remember me. Thanks, miss." Downright disarming, this one <i could almost forget hes a creepy stalker oh wait no i cant>. Yeah, let's fix that.

"You can thank me by not following me around anymore," I tell him bluntly <wow going full american>. "I realize some things are different in Makai, but I have a hard time believing this is acceptable."

The demon looks down, and laughs nervously. Rough red hair on him, I notice; almost bristly. It ruffles as if blown by an un-felt wind. "Oh, that, that wasn't... See, I'm on the circuit, you know? And when my friends and I saw you, I knew I had to find out how you were doing that."

By 'the circuit', does he mean a dancing games circuit? I can't even believe such a thing exists. This isn't the kind of world that could have such a thing, is it? "I told you, I played and just kept playing," I say aloud. "I don't have any secrets. What were you going to do, follow me to where I was staying and then beg in the morning to be my disciple?"

"—Uh. Well." He looks utterly pole-axed. No, no, no, this is getting more and more absurd. I can't take this. He was not actually going to do that, was he?!

I rub my eyes and then look back up at him. "Listen, I don't ha—"

He's not looking at me.

[Eh? Oh! ...Ohohoho~]

When I look up, I see it. Just for a second, his eyes dart left, right—

And snap back to me, softening again. Just a young hapless demon awed by the skill of the mysterious onje.

There's a trap that's closing shut on me, and I don't even know what it looks like.

[ ] Something Light
[ ] Something Heavy


It updated some time in the last week or two, actually.
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[X] Something Heavy

Being popular ain't always fun.
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[x] Something Heavy

Well, that ain't good. These seem more typical for dream/memory prompts, but maybe they'll have an effect on how we react.
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[ ] Something Light
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[x] Something Light

Told you we were boned.
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[x] Something Light
Measure twice, cut once.
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[ڞ] Something Light

I'm not sticking around for it, whatever it is. Time to get right the heck ou—


Pressure on my arms, legs, hips, chest. Pressure and springiness and restraint in thin, confusing, disorienting little lines all across my body, causing me to stumble and pitch forward, almost cracking my head on the cobbles. At the last second, I bounce off something invisible, breath flying out of my lungs. My brain struggles for a second to make some sense of what I'm feeling, but it gives up that fight quickly <thanks gensokyo>.

But what it feels like is a chaotic random web of tight rubber bands. And they're closing in.

Okay. Good starting point.

...Footsteps from behind me <or off to the side>. Or both. Probably only have seconds left <if that>.

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/M5POPvX7L3E ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=M5POPvX7L3E ]

"Trace on!" I hiss, and right away, I see something—well, kinda close to what I'd imagined. Dim, flexing bands of gray and brown litter the area around me, criss-crossing every which way. The ones on me are slowly, clumsily trying to wrap around whatever they're touching. That seems important <but no time left now>.

A meaty hand comes in soundlessly from the right, grabbing for me. An annoyed-sounding "How th' fuck—?" probably means I shouldn't have been able to dodge its grasp. My spell's still on, so I was able to see it coming, barely.

"Keep it up, Darrig," says Friendly's voice from... back wherever he was, probably <jerk maybe a better name than friendly by now>. True, but not the time for that. I'm more concerned with escaping <how about what they want with me>. Would be nice to know, but I'm still putting "escaping" at the top of that list. Is Friendly creating these web-lines? Or Grabby <or a third one i havent seen yet>? ...Let's not go borrowing problems we don't need.

"What the hell is going on?" I angrily demand of him <them> while trying my best to get out of the forest of web-lines. It's tough, but I don't think it's impossible—or wouldn't be, if I had all the time in the world. Which I do not. "Is this for your damn DDR game?"

[Good help must be really hard to find!]

Friendly <jerk> or whatever doesn't answer. The only things directed at me are a watchful eye from him and another big-fisted grab from ...someone large. Was there someone that big in the crowd at the game? I can't remember, but nothing stands—wait, there was, wasn't there? "'Ere, come on, willya?" He grabs for a wrist or an arm, and instead ends up catching both an arm and a hip.

"Getthefuckoffme!" I yell <shriek> in a single, agitated shout, clawing and stomping on anything I can get my hands on, which is becoming less and less. Oh, there's something that isn't clothing; let's go for that, sha—

There's a loud PWAP and my head rocks to the side while stars cover my vision. "Darrig!" barks Grabby, who I only hear out of the side of my head that's not ringing and stinging from the slap of that catcher's mitt of a hand. "Lay it on thicker, you tit! Still moving!" <i know i said barks but it does actually sound like barking i think>. Who even cares?!

Wait, no, I hear it now. A couple of bark-ish sounds, but not from him. Or maybe that's the head trauma talking. Whatever. I need to <hurt them> escape, now <like theres any chance of escape without harming them>.


...Well, it's true. Though I was kind of hoping I wouldn't have to actually put my convictions to the test, but, well. Here I am <and there they are>.

I guess it can't be helped.

Grabby seizes me and hauls hard, making my everything feel all kinds of uncomfortable stretching and pulling as I'm yanked through the web-lines. "Jus' take a nap, why doncha," he growls. His form is garbage and he telegraphs everything, but his movements are quicker than they should be. I dodge again, but the punch he throws clips me on the cheek and spins me around. I trip on the stupid, stupid web-lines and go tumbling down into them.

[Ooh, whassat?]

And then, just like that, they vanish.

No time to wonder about that, because Grabby is trying to stomp me <how can i show off mad ddr skills if im all beat up>. I roll away from the curb and gracelessly get upright again, one foot seeming to limp and drag. He notices, and I see him noticing, and when he lunges at me again, I smirk.

The star I sketched with my toe activates, and a strong burst of wind launches my already-rising foot upwards at high speed. I deliver an axe kick to Grabby's jaw that Sailor V would proud of, knocking the sorta-doggish demon down and out—or at least, out of my hair for the moment. Onto the next threat: Friendly.

...Who, it turns out, isn't even looking over here. He's looking over at a really short person—probably a fairy, but I need to get a better look—who wasn't here about ten or fifteen seconds ago. The fairy is panting heavily, and standing on top of another demon that I also don't remember being here. After stepping off the demon, the fairy pauses and then turns back to give him a nasty boot to the head <look at him twitch>.

"This is..." starts Friendly, and then trails off when he sees an upright me and a downed Grabby. "...Oh, great Goddess' cooch." And with that probably-profanity, he turns and runs.

[ ] Oh, not for long, he don't. None 'a these sons of bitches here is gettin' away.
[ ] He ain't worth the hassle. Couple of them other punks might enlighten her, though.
[ ] Good plan, gettin' out. Girl's in no mood t' linger about these dubious streets.


I like work, but I don't like having lots of it. It's been busy.

I had at one point sort of hoped to be about this far in the story around around... November? December? [spoiler] .דער מענטש טראַכט און גאָט לאַכט [/spoiler]
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[x] Good plan, gettin' out. Girl's in no mood t' linger about these dubious streets.

I'm all for getting even, but something tells me the law around these parts doesn't take kindly to onje beating people up, whatever the reason.
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[X] Good plan, gettin' out. Girl's in no mood t' linger about these dubious streets.

Get out while the gettin's good.
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[x] He ain't worth the hassle. Couple of them other punks might enlighten her, though.
-[x]Can spare a minute and a word or two for her short, helpful helper, though.

I wanted to go in the offensive, but we all know what happens when Sanae gets her head out of the water for too long.

Also, that fairy gives me unfortunate flashback. We really screwed up back then...
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I fucked up. Change that to
[x]Good plan, gettin' out. Girl's in no mood t' linger about these dubious streets.
-[x]Can spare a minute and a word or two for her short, helpful helper, though.
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More importantly however did you come to be here
[Ⅎ] Good plan, gettin' out. Girl's in no mood t' linger about these dubious streets.
-[┯] Offers 'er thanks, though. Turnin' ingrate on aid just don't sit right with 'er.

[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/ybjzp ]
[ ♫: https://disparition.bandcamp.com/track/17-passat ]

[Mmmm... nope.]

The demon books it down the alley, only to go sprawling as he trips on something. I raise a hand <i should tear him up>, and I can't say the idea doesn't have its appeal. Like, he'd really deserve it. But then I think of possibly getting caught doing that, and then the law might have questions, and that puts a nice, big, dripping wet blanket on that idea.

It becomes moot fairly quickly: He's in enough of a hurry that he scrambles to his feet quickly and takes off again <yeah thats not gonna come bite me in the ass later>. I'll be out of this city before then <right because i know exactly what hes planning>. Or maybe I'm better than that!

...I should get out of here, pronto. But before I do, there's a more pressing matter.

Looking back, I find the mysterious stranger still here, peering down at the groaning bodies of the fallen. And beyond that, augh. I shut off my spell as lines and lines of magic start creeping into my vision. Something systematic and gridlike overlaid on the street—maybe magical GPS, or utilities, or who the hell knows what. There was way too much of it to look at for very long. Don't need a headache to be added to my pains and worries.

...So, the other demons. Good. I'm glad they're not dead. As I get closer, I see I was right; it was a fairy, because of the wings. My first thought is of the poor fairy on the farm, but she had the long oval kind, like most of them out here seem to have. This one, too.

"Excuse me," I say. "I wanted to thank you for helping me out. I'd have been in real big trouble if you hadn't."

The fairy pauses, and tilts their head for a moment before turning it to look back up at me. "We̵re⃤n⃦'t͏ ⃓no probl҈em." <what>

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




No. No no no no. Reel it in. This is dumb.

Like, it literally can't be her. The chances of it actually being her are stupidly high. The odds are wildly against it <yeah what happens to every guy who says oh its impossible theres no way it can happen it fucking happens>. T-true, but this is real life! Hubris isn't always immediately punished! Besides, it can't happen even then! I'm being realistic, not smug!

...And more than that, something about the way they speak...

"Hmm..." I feel my head cock to the side, just like they did. "Pardon me for asking, but do many fairies have that... that kind of sound to their voice?" Please say tons. Please say tons. Please say tons... "It's very unusual to an onje like myself."

The fairy kneels to get a closer look at the demon they brought down: the one who, now that I think about it, might have been the one making those weird web-lines. "S⃫u͠re, l̕o͢tsa͞ ⃫Dyne fair҉i̷e͝s ⃚do.͞" ...Lots of whats? They give an annoyed grunt. "T́h́i̧nk ̀y⃥'⃫cou⃧l̴d len͢d ⃧a̡ ̸l⃥i̶g͘ht,̨ here?͞"

Aha. That was it. I wasn't completely sure before, but even through that weird static, that voice sounds decidedly masculine <dodged a bullet there huh killer>. Shut up. "Oh, no problem." The street isn't very well-lit, so it's only natural he'd want some illumination. He watches me as I sketch a star in my palm that quickly glows to life, bathing the road in a patch of silvery light.

"T̢hanks ͏lotl͘y̨.̵" Oh, yeah. This definitely isn't her. The face is different. Same kind of nose and chin, though.

"No problem," I say, more cheerfully than I feel. I really, really need to be going. I'll give this a minute—no, thirty seconds before I split. This is a very bad place to be right now <no kidding i could even get mugged or something>. That's not funny <sure isnt>.

[Oooh! Ooh ooh ooh! Is it time for CSI: Makai?! Oh man, all that karaoke time's gonna pay off at laaaast~!]

I look up, thinking I heard some clapping or cheering. But I don't hear anything else, so I shrug and resume my soon-to-end vigil. Probably just came from somewhere in the distance.

The fairy stands up with 4 seconds left, and to my surprise, hoists Demon Number Three over his shoulder. I have to stifle an involuntary laugh, as the skinny demon's head is less than eight or nine centimeters from the road. Sucks to be tall, huh? "Wel⃓p,⃫ bet͠ter ̡take the̴s̨e͜ ⃢sh͠it̷l̶icks⃙ on⃒ ov̸e⃚r ḑo͠wn̢ to̷ t̨he Wat⃙c⃚hḩou͏se͟." He motions to the other one, and points at me, for some reason.



"Oh, there's no need to involve the authorities," I say, and end the palm-light spell. "You don't have to go that far."

"̕...Wh͞at, ͠y̧o̵u ͘ne⃫r͝vơu͠s҉ ̛'bo̢u͘t̕ s҈om͏e҉t⃚hin⃒'?" The fairy snorts. Or I think he does, anyway. Through the static, it's a weird, unclear sound. "Th͝is ͝ai⃧ń't t̡h⃚e S͟o⃘e. ͏T̡h͟ey̸ r̨ea̸l͜ kee̸n⃒ o͞n ⃒ o̵nj͟e ̶h́ere҉.⃣"

"True, but I'd really just rather not have to go through all the hassle," I reply. "I'll be leaving the city soon, anyway, so that'd just make things worse all around."

"Nah̷,̕ ⃙ain't ͏gơnna b̧e⃧ a̢ ͠p⃣robĺe⃒m. '⃙Le҈s̶s,҈ ͞a⃧'c̴o̷urse, y͏òu͏ ̡go҉t͝ s̢om͞ethin⃫'͞ ̛wo̕rth bei͞n̵'̨ ⃧n͘e⃤r⃙v̢ous about.⃙"

[Well... How about using a catapult?]

<oh man do i> Yeah, this is where I'd get stabbed with the word balloons in a manga. "No, nothing of the sort." I avoid sounding indignant because I don't really have the honesty needed to sell it. And it wouldn't look good, anyway.

He readjusts the demon on his shoulder and chuckles. "D͏ǫń'⃒t⃥ ҈wo͠r̡ry, ͡lo⃓tta ́y̨ou⃥r ͟ty⃣p͜e ́d̡o.̀ Y'͝al⃒l al͟ways̀ ̶hid͞i̵n̛' it⃘ and҈ ⃣sm̵i̸lin'.͡"

Okay buddy, I don't need to take that from you. "I think we're done here, sir. I thank you for your assistance, but I'll be le—"

"͞M⃢a⃘ybe ͜yo̵u⃙ t͜ry̵in'⃧ ̨t̨o ⃙h͜id͢e̕ it̴ with̵ a̢ l̴ott⃥a ⃙̨smok⃒e̴."

The words die on my lips. I feel the involuntary sharp inhale and that was the worst thing I could have done <please gods and mamas dont let him notice>.

...But even in the gloom, I can see that he's looking right at me. The fairy takes a step closer, his voice dropping to an insincere whisper. "Wh͞a̢t'̛s⃥ th̴i̢s͜, ⃫now̛?͢ Yo͘u ⃙śòun̕d ͠sh̴ook, ơńje⃫. ͞A̢m ⃚I̴ dig̀gin͞'͢ ͘t͝o͜o cl͞o⃢s̛e⃘ to⃙ so͘m̵et⃦h̀i҉n͏'?" ...I can't say anything. I can't say I'm not the Smoke-Woman. And I still killed that fairy, no matter what.

"I'm going." I deliver that final statement and begin walking with purpose, away from him, away from them... away from all this. I don't know what else to do, but I can't stay here <so ill just give him my back like an idiot good plan there>. Oh right, like this conversation was going to end happily <well just keep running away like a fucking coward its worked so far>. Better than talking to him, I'm sure of it <ive got no proof of that>. Yes I do. He took out that demon to save me <point being>. He wants something, and it's going to be bad whether I'm here or not.

Behind me, the fairy barks a laugh. "'Bl͠o̴s⃫s⃢om'͜s ⃓b̷r͟i̕t⃣tl⃥e ҉bi⃓t̶s, it ͏̴҉͜is⃙ ̧you.́ I⃧ alr⃒èady ̴se⃚en⃢ y͝o⃤u⃘r ⃥s⃙ign⃚,͝ but⃣ ̢t̴h͏a̕t ̷r̨ig⃒h⃧t͏ ⃦t̕he̷re, t⃦h̸a⃧t'̴s⃚ w͜ha̸t ⃙cal̶l̀s ̷it."

<my star he saw my star and so did she>

A chill I hadn't noticed seeping into my bones is somehow already around my heart, squeezing it <no no no no no> Yet I don't slow down—if anything, I start walking faster. I can flee once I'm around the corner, just ten more meters...!

"̴M̴y aunt͡i̶e͝'s i⃘n̷ a ͠real҈ ͡ba⃣d ͢w̷ay, ̢onj͢ę. ̷I͞ ⃒come͝ u⃧p he⃘r̴e ̧l⃧oǫk̶i⃘n' f⃣or ̛you̴. ̨I͠ ̷got no̡ i̵d⃢e⃢a⃚ ͡w⃢h͞at͘ ͞i͝t was⃣ ⃦y͘ơu ̢d͡o̵n̸e her ͢up wi⃣th⃚, ⃥b͜út⃢ I '̨s͡péc̨t͏ ̧the͘ ⃓Watch'll͡ fin͠d o͢u͜t҉ when the̵y͏ g̶o talk̨ t͜o ͠ya⃙ ̸͟r͢e⃥a⃚l ̶l͟o͠n̸g."

[Ehh?! Wait, what's going on?]


...There it is.

<running away solves eeeeverythiiiing>. It does in Makai. I won't be captured. I can't be. I can't.

I'm almost around the corner when I hear a disorganized thump, the sound of something heavy slumping over onto the ground, and a weak groan of pain.

<dont look>

I have to. If he's coming up behind me—

<run idiot what happened to running away>

Because I can't run with a knife in my back <im not making any sense>. No, I'm making the only sense anyone could make.


What's behind me is worse than a knife in my back.

There's the street. There are the demons. There is no fairy.

There is the sound of rapid footsteps, departing.


No, it can't end this way.


I won't let it end this way.

[ ] Runs far away, broken and gutless. Won't even save her own skin.
[ ] Runs him down, cold and heartless. Won't even save her own soul.


Oh, that's why the spoiler failed. I tried nesting them. I should have just put them together.
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[x] Runs far away, broken and gutless. Won't even save her own skin.

We fucked up back then and now it is time to own up. Guess this is the end of the road.

No way we're gonna make it easy for them though. We're gonna run and run and fight for every extra second of liberty.
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[x] Runs far away, broken and gutless. Won't even save her own skin.

Never change, Fell.
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[x] Runs far away, broken and gutless. Won't even save her own skin.

Acknowledging the ridiculously low odds of this encounter does nothing to absolve this stupidity.
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Well, then.

[x] Runs him down, cold and heartless. Won't even save her own soul.

This isn't going to win, but while I've been a proponent of keeping Sanae more nonviolent, this does seem like a situation where running would lead to a much worse outcome, long-term.

...Granted, the phrasing of this choice seems a bit too knowing on Fell's part, but eh. Nothing to be done.
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[X] Runs far away, broken and gutless. Won't even save her own skin.

Got to get out.
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I was thinking that, but no. Darn, we got caught for murder, better escape with even more murder!
Not that it matters. We'll just fuck it up either way.
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[Ҕ] Runs far away, broken and gutless. Won't even save her own skin.

[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/wxcro ]
(Previous track continues)

It's me or the fairy.

It didn't have to be that way, of course. But that was before he went and said all of that. And that really narrows down my options, doesn't it?

There's no hesitation left in me. Several nights ago, I made peace with the idea that this could possibly happen again, and now here it is. Sooner than I'd have liked, honestly. Much sooner.

Popping open the ofuda pouch on my belt, I whip out a blank and break into a sprint—the fairy's fast, but he's no tengu—going in the direction that he went.

...Or... I don't <what>?

My brain just doesn't process that that for a moment, but when I try again, it's clear: I don't.

What is going on.

[C'mon, McIrish, the susperp's gettin' away!]

A void where panic would be. And there should be a lot of it. Instead, now I just feel that clenching cold in my entire chest.

And anger.

That's understandable, because I didn't sprint. I didn't take off running. I grabbed the ofuda, but it's not empowered. It curls slightly in my grasp, loose and flexible.

What is going on.

I'm not chasing him. I... can't chase him <thats absurd>? It is, but my body doesn't respond to the idea of 'Run after him and cut him down'.

...Am I being body-jacked? Is this hypnotic suggestion? Mind control? Those aren't likely, but I don't give discounting them a thought. Back in Japan, on the Outside, those would sound ridiculous. Something you see on TV, or in manga, or in a creepier type of doujinshi. But in Makai or Gensokyo? There's no reason to believe it couldn't be true <no they wouldnt even let me consider that its me its something in me>.

But before I get to that, there are more pressing problems.

I need to kill him.

I need to kill him because I am a killer <thats not funny and its not clever>. And I'm not laughing. They already know I'm an onje. They'll soon know I'm a killer. They're going to think I'm the Smoke-Woman. And eventually they'll find out I'm from Gensokyo, and a miko. If he is not stopped, my chances of dying or much worse are 100% <try 120>.

Yet my body refuses to do that.

What then, can it do?

[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=T99blrM1DgQ ]
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/T99blrM1DgQ ]

Turning back, I walk over to the curb near the unconscious Grabby and kneel down. I send power into the blank ofuda, and it immediately goes solid. It pierces the stone curb easily, and I'm able to push the rectangle of paper into the sidewalk like I was pushing a CD into a fancy stereo.


I look over at Grabby, and think for a moment about killing him and Gangly. The ofuda remains firm. I'm not going to kill them, of course—they don't know I've killed someone. Weirdly appropriate, huh <or not or you could stop wasting precious seconds like an idiot>?

Unlike the fairy, I can harm them just fine: I'm able to slice a short, thin line down the back of Grabby's calf. There's a groan of pain and he squirms, but doesn't get up. He's damn lucky that's all I'm doing.


I can't kill the fairy. I must kill the fairy, and I literally can't do it.



I remember what this cold feeling in my chest is, now. It's horror.

"Guess it's time to g-go," I say, but the last syllable comes out in a gasp. My jaw is wobbling and my eyes are burning. So much for resolve. So much for dedication. So much for determination. Being ready to kill again? A lie. A lie for myself and nobody else.

...Does that mean I'm trying to kill myself <now thats a sick joke>? What is <if im totally ready to kill but not if its someone else>? It can't be that <shit maybe i should just do it now>? No. That's not true, and I'm not going to do that <then why arent i going after him right now moron>.

It can't be.


...No, I don't have time to think about this <im just not ready to deal with it>. Obviously <and maybe i should just>.

Just what <should i do>? Well, I think <i could look at it> differently. Yes, if I <tried to, then maybe I could> do just that, then.


My heart is pounding. A breeze kicks up.

...Then ...No, what does that even mean?

I don't know. I don't think anyone knows.

Right now, there's a problem before me, and I can't solve it. I have to solve it. And apparently I will not let myself solve it <just leave it blank and go onto the next one i guess>.

...I hate this.

Maybe I'm trying to hinder myself, but I won't let myself stop myself. I said it, didn't I? Only I can save me. I just didn't know it'd be saving me from myself.

"Whoa, Kochiya. Don't get entrances like that very often. You need a hand?"

Eh? What's Donny doing out here?


I'm in the lobby of The Laughing Gecko. I'm also bent over with hands on my knees, breathing hard but not wheezing.


I'm... I really don't have the luxury of tuning out like that, right now. That's freaky.

"I'm good," I say and straighten up. "Just decided to—" ...Did I just run back here without stopping? "—run the rest of the way back."

[can't run that fast you jeeeeerrrrrrrk]

Donny walks over with a cup of water which I gratefully accept. I gulp it down and hand it back, but he's giving me a critical look.

"...Something happen tonight?"

Ha ha ha. You don't know the half of it <hes not stupid dont bs him> "Some locals got rowdy. I rowdied back. Rest of the night wasn't bad, though." I need to end this ASAP. "Gonna go take a shower or something," I add, and head for the stairs.

"All right then. Don't drown."

"Heh. Good night, Donny."

"Back at you. You look like you need it."

Gods, do I ever. But that, too, is a luxury I don't have right now.

I start laying out the outline of a plan as I take the steps two at a time <woooo no safety committee rep to stop me now>. Starting point: Oh Crap, Time To Run. End point: Successfully Flee The City.

...But since I don't know how this happened, I'm running a high risk of screwing something up or getting caught while I try to get from the start to the end <well what makes the most sense>. Nothing does! This situation is bullshit <thats a popular thing to say isnt it>! Only because it's true <or maybe i should quit spazzing out and flinging open doors and think about it>!

[There we go, just need to find the yelling~]

On the other side of the door to the second floor, Piper and some grey-haired woman jump back in surprise <oh i remember that braid>. ...Yeah, it's that woman in bed who I thought was sick <prooobably drunk actually>. I duck my head in apology and scoot past them, muttering an embarrassed, "Ah, sorry, sorry. Had a lot to drink."

"Be sure to sleep on your side," calls back—well, it must be the woman, because Piper doesn't sound Indian <nice of her though>.

...Especially since she pipes up right after. "Manjit, most people who need to know that can't walk that well."

"I can."

"You're an alcoholic."


The door shuts behind them as they head down the stairs, and behind me, the door to Room Three shuts, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I make a beeline for the locker, and pull out my key.

[Thaaaaat is the face of a busy girl.]

...Fine. Then, how did the fairy and I cross paths?

[ ] (Write-in)


I'm sorry for throwing you all such an unpleasant curveball in the last update. But as unlikely as it seems and as much as it sucks, there is a reasonable explanation for it. Please write in any ideas or theories—partial or full, it doesn't matter—you have that might answer that question. The closer you can come to the truth, the more it will help her chances of escape. Don't overthink it.
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I'm going to have to re read the story since the encounter with smoke girl. I hope you're happy I am
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> write-in only

This would be a whole lot easier if the first encounter wasn't posted three and a half years ago.
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Uh, okay, what the hell happened in the middle of this update?... Because I don't think the obvious suspect was responsible, and if she was I need to seriously reevaluate some things.

Don't have any particular ideas for answering the write-in question. Will reread and see what I can come up with.
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Well that was... off putting to say the least. One of the last things I expected when the running away option won. I'm not sure how to interpret this.

Needless to say, it might be wise to re-read a bit, and think things through. Maybe bounce ideas around.
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nyan cat
I should note that the fairy in the question being asked is the young man she met a few minutes ago, not his aunt from about a week ago.

I'm not proud about that, either, believe me. Thankfully, there are links to the previous thread at >>14641 .

That one is going to be rather more difficult to guess right away.
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Alright, for the sake of moving the story along we should probably try and get some discussion going. So the vote is asking how Sanae and that fairy crossed paths, or rather how the fairy found Sanae. Without overthinking it too much here are my thoughts.

Sanae goes to the feast, there are lot of demons and fairies and such. It's natural that with so many people she wouldn't recognize the fairy if she had seen it before in the crowds at the feast. From what the fairy said, he specifically went looking for the person who messed with his aunt. It's been a while so I can't remember how it went down with that other fairy, but this guy goes and talks with her to find out who did her in. Then he goes to the most crowded place he can find and starts looking for an onje. Now, sometime at the feast he finds a certain green haired onje, probably when she gathered a crowd at that ddr-like game. Or maybe he's off on the side streets when he sees an onje being trailed by some folks. Either way, he finds someone that could be his mark and goes after her.

Then we have the fight, and the fairy baits Sanae into showing him her star magic to confirm if it's really her. He then runs off, supposedly to inform the authorities. Sanae has her weird freak out where she goes into serious mode, but some unknown force stops her from pursuing the fairy.

It's a very basic theory that amounts to "He saw her, then went after her.", but I wanted to try and start a discussion.
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Meant to reply to this earlier.
I think you've got the right idea on how he found her once he was in the city. But the fairy did say he came up here looking for her, and how he would have been able to either track her or pick the right city is a fairly large question mark.

After rereading, the tentative theory I have is that the smoke woman followed or otherwise tracked Sanae and lured the fairy after her. Will post in more detail tomorrow morning.
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All right, here's what I got. I'll say up front that this is rather more likely to count as overthinking things.

My theory as for how the fairy found Sanae is by being unwittingly led there by the Smoke-Woman. We know nothing about this fairy's capabilities apart from that he's able to beat a demon in a fight. So it's possible that he could find her purely on his own, but we have no evidence one way or the other. >>15431 's suggestion of him going to the largest place he could find seems unlikely, though, since Dis isn't actually that big a city (Pandemonium is much bigger but farther away), and if he was working blindly his aunt's killer might easily have gone off in a different direction, like towards Vina (the town where we met Elis).

So, considering other options: In this post >>12569 , the Smoke-Woman seemngly took an interest in Sanae's magic analysis abilities (implying they might surpass her own), and said they should talk about it later. In that scene she also obviously showed herself willing to manipulate Sanae for her own ends, and capable of moving (through shadows / underground) in a way that she'd be hidden from Sanae. I’ll assume the rancher-fairy did indeed resurrect and tell her nephew Sanae’s sign. From that point, the Smoke-Woman could have shrouded her appearance and drawn the nephew fairy’s attention, pointing him off at least in Sanae’s general direction.

The Smoke-Woman set Sanae up to look like her, which beyond the one fight with the rancher fairy could have the longer-term benefit of letting Sanae be caught for the Smoke-Woman’s crimes, taking the fall for her. And if Sanae was pursued by the authorities but managed to escape, she’d still be in a very vulnerable position, which the Smoke-Woman could take advantage of by offering help- and, for instance, make use of Sanae's magic that interested her. The main hole I see in this idea is that it seems difficult for her to follow Sanae undetected while also leading the fairy nephew. Could have left breadcrumbs for him, so to speak, but she couldn’t reveal herself to anyone directly without tipping her hand. But I still think she’d have the best motive of anyone we’ve met so far (barring the fairies themselves) to see that Sanae was found and set up as a fall-guy.

That said, something I'd want other people's opinions on is what happened in this post >>15075 - because it could present an alternate explanation for how this happened. In the middle of the scene, Koishi witnessed what was evidently a dead-drop between two unknown persons, where the first (who was supposedly "worried about [Sanae]") left some manner of recording device for the second. It's possible one or both of them were spying on Sanae. I thought at first that the first might have been the fairy, but the brief descriptions don’t seem to match - Koishi says the person’s “a bit short … but not by a lot”, and Sanae describes the fairy as “really short” (granted, this could be explained by different perspectives). The “black and blonde” description made me briefly think the latter might be Shou, but the “threading wires through your skull” thing doesn’t fit her. These two were probably demons. I don’t think this scene is actually related to how the fairy found Sanae, but it could be, for instance if they were friends or associates of his. But from a meta perspective, we’re trying to write-in Sanae piecing together how this happened, and she has no knowledge of what Koishi saw in the park. And minimal knowledge of other things that could come up later, like the fact that Nazrin could find her through the UFOs.
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...tracking spells. Holy shit, why didn't I think of this sooner.

Someone kills your aunt, what do you do? Chase the bastard down. How do you follow someone who can fly long distances every day? The same way that do that - magic.

If he were following some innate trait of Sanae, she'd be doomed, so assuming he's not... what do we have now that we also had at the scene of the crime? Something that ought to have a nice, distinctive magical signature to home in on? Something we know for a fact she left a sample of behind?

The murder weapon.

Goddammit Fell, if this is going where I think it is you're a horrible person.
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It's an interesting idea, but have tracking spells even been mentioned to exist in this story? I might be forgetting a mention of them, but if not that seems like a twist outside what we could easily guess.
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Why, exactly, is the fairy here in person at all, skulking in dark crime-ridden alleys himself on the chance that this is the person he's looking for? Why would he help take down the other miscreants? Why would he do anything on his own rather than enlist the aid of the police? (Who, remember, already have a thorough record of Sanae entering the city, including the exact location she was planning to visit. Once alerted all they need to do is go straight to the Brotherhood.)

So what, this dude is doing some country solo vengeance thing, with a homemade tracking spell, not bothering to involve the police before now, and thinking he can totally take the killer onje face to face, since clearly he, an adolescent backcountry farmer fairy, has no trouble beating up inner city thugs? I DUNNO ABOUT THAT.

But I also don't want to "overthink it." But... I also don't think we really have enough information to get anything concrete. Some possibilities aside from the above:

- Elaborate setup by the Smoke Woman. Could be anything really.

- The fairy's later comments (or maybe more) weren't real, and were actually some sort of illusion that plays on the target's worst immediate fear. (This has the additional bonus of explaining her panic, forced flight reaction, and being on tone with her previous experiences in the palanquin ship. The most elegant answer IMO, except that I don't know if Fell would go this deep on drama from an event that wasn't technically real.)

- It really is an elaborate setup by a very dumb fairy...? Maybe he hired the thugs to help comb the city? No, but he actually does kick the thug in the head. And while he does seem to be luring Sanae to the Watch after she comes back and talks to him... he did nothing to entice her to come back and talk to him rather than flee the scene in the first place. That was all her own (our) idea. I really got nothing that makes sense.
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There's a big, popular festival going that lots of people are going too, in a city that's pretty onje friendly and relatively close to the farm we encountered Smokey at. It stands to reason that this would be the first place he'd look. Or hell, he wasn't looking at all and just happened to be here, because hey, festival.
How'd did we actually meet? He saw us playing DDR or something and came after us.
Seems pretty simple to me.
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Hey Fell, do we actually need to condense these theories into a write-in vote at some point?
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I was wondering that too, but apparently not.

Fell's already addressed a few points you brought up, but for the question of why he didn't go straight to the police (the Watch, rather), I got the impression he hadn't been sure of her identity as the culprit until he saw her star sign, so he might have tailed her trying to be sure he had the right person. (Either not wanting to accuse an innocent or not wanting to tip his hand to the real culprit, or both.) Which Sanae further confirmed with her reactions to his accusations, but if you look closely at that part, he seems almost surprised to confirm it really is her.

>The fairy's later comments (or maybe more) weren't real
It's not in the same way as you were thinking, but I have been considering the that Sanae's had a psychotic break of some sort- possibly right after that when she blanked out until back at the hostel, or maybe earlier. I personally do think the fairy's words were real, but your idea is interesting.

[x] If she all done here, why linger? Time wasted ain't time well-spent.

I might be missing something, but I don't see why going up a floor to leave from the balcony would be much easier, aside from getting out a window being more of a struggle. I definitely don't see how it would do anything to keep pursuit off her tail (barring, again, something like accidentally leaving a torn piece of cloth on a window nail as a clue). Fell, can you clarify, or is it up to us to interpret why the balcony would help?
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just a little packing and reorganizing
Deleting & reposting because 1) I noticed some typos, 2) there was only one vote, and 3) there was a very good question asked here:

>Fell, can you clarify, or is it up to us to interpret why the balcony would help?
Whoops. Kinda botched that, sorry. See, it's not totally balcony-related in the first place.

It's about whether or not to spend some time doing some things ("being clever") that she thinks could possibly delay anyone pursuing/investigating her. However, I did NOT make that very clear at all, now that I reread it.

Sorry about the (very understandable) confusion.


[&] (I'm reviewing/The situation)

[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=rZB54jhU6sU ]
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/rZB54jhU6sU ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/xilhr ]

What, am I clairvoyant? How the heck am I supposed to know that <when you have eliminated the something something uh okay it boils down to go with what makes the most sense>. ...Nothing makes sense <really not the time to be difficult with myself>. Okay. Okay. Fine. He was looking for me; he said so. Or at least, he's looking for—he said it was his aunt, right <i think so>?—his aunt's killer. Still me, of course, but there's a difference there.

Don't know if he spotted me at the Feast and followed me, or if we just ran into each other. He was asking questions to figure out who I was, but maybe he already suspected and was just making sure.

It takes four tries to fit the key into the lock. Crappy luck, crappy lock <maybe its nerves>. Yeah, that could maybe be possible <relax>. Relaxing isn't the easiest thing to do right now <freaking out will only make that worse>. I know that already.

So he went looking for me and ended up finding me because he saw my sign and I didn't play it cool when he started messing with me. I'll have to really watch that in the future—should have been watching it already, but I let my guard down <duh it was a festival and i went there to relax>. Doesn't matter, I still dropped the ball <ugh>.

Then again, screw him, too. Like, was it so damn important for him to go hunting the killer down himself? Why didn't he just report this to the police like a normal person and let them handle it <hes actually probably doing that now>? So then do it sooner next time! This isn't a movie where people can just run around and take revenge on the bad guys <well this is a family of farmers and not city folk>. ...That doesn't excuse anything <says the killer>.

...I'm being kind of ugly and awful right now, but even though I know it's wrong, I can't fully let go of this <undeserved> indignation. But I'm a pretty awful person, so I guess that's to be expected <not awful just doing some really stupid shit>. That's about two-thirds of being awful, right there.


The locker's air seal releases and the door pops open. Doesn't look like anyone's messed with it, but I go over it quickly just to make sure. Once that's done, I start putting away and rearranging some things in order to make my imminent escape go less horribly.

While strapping down my rolled-up towel more tightly, I have a sudden crazy thought: What if he's not going to the police? What if he's trying to just fake me out and make me panic? I'd be playing right into his hands by doing all this <why on earth would he ever do that though>. I don't know, I'm not a pissed-off fairy <but he is>. ...Yeah. Even if he's actually not going to the police—the Watch; sorry, Elis—he said he was, and that means what I need to do right now is no different than if he wasn't. It's like a 1-1-9 call—even if it sounds like a mistake, they have to respond as though it were a real emergency.

"Ha. With my luck, I'll catch on fire, too."

[Ehhhh. Not in the mood for long pork, tonight. Maybe another time!]

I won't be able to use my identification papers or give my name anymore, either. Not with anyone who's going to look at them closely or check my background. Which means I'll probably need to disguise myself again before too long. And watch my use of magic, too, since that's how <wait a sec>... Huh? ...Oh. Oh man, I'm dumb.

I've been thinking this thought over and over and I never actually thought about what it meant. The fairy in the street identified me by my sign, didn't he? But he wasn't there that night. Only one person who was there besides me, and he pretty much confirmed it.

<she came back after all>

I allow myself to just... take a moment and be grateful about that. Forget what happened because of that—in this instant, about this one thing... I'm glad it wasn't forever.


Okay, I'm... I'm good.

Yeah. Sanae Kochiya, totally rad hero girl. No way she's gonna start crying because of stupid shit like this. Just been a shitty night that isn't over and probably isn't done being shitty yet. Gonna suck it up and move on <come on now sanae>. Yep, mooooving on.

All right. That's done, and so's the packing. I shut the locker, look the place over, and find nothing left to take care of. Also, nobody else in the room, which mortifies me that I only now thought to look. I didn't get the sense that anyone else was in here, but I actually didn't bother specifically looking at the other bunks. That would have been very awkward.

[Shoulda brought this up earlier, but fleeing is what's going on, right? Done this lots of times~ Want any advice, just go ahead and ask~!]

For a second, I wonder if I'd be able to get my money back from Donny (or at least only pay for half a night) since I'm going to be escaping. I'm not exactly swimming in juliène, after all, and the thrifty side of me that had to track sales and stock at the shrine can't help but chime in. Maybe if I turn myself in I can collect the bounty on the Smoke-woman's head. ...Wait.

All this mess I'm in—okay, more like half of it—hinges upon everyone thinking I'm the Smoke-woman <maybe i could try saying im not but>. But to who <yeah>? I don't want to be talking to anyone who'd care about that, because they'd also be caring about the other crimes to my name that I did commit. So that's not gonna work—and besides, I tried that already <she was furious and not listening and thought i was messing with her>. And still ended up killing her <no theres still something i can do>. Is there <a note>?

Well, that's all very dramatic, but it won't save me <no not by itself>. More importantly, I can't afford to spend time on that. Besides, it's... I'd be admitting that I'm going to get captured <hell no its not thats insane and stupid and prideful to even think>. Oh, really? Then why do it <might take the heat off the chase>? That's... No, it wouldn't be worth the effort <its gotta be worth something>.




Feeling the uncomfortable pressure of time ticking away, I retrieve my brush-pen and shake it vigorously for a few seconds while I open up the locker again. Things like this pen exist on the Outside, and wouldn't cost more than a few hundred yen at a stationery shop. But in Gensokyo, the only place such things are made are in a tengu workshop, hand-built by craftsmen. Shameimaru herself started the workshop just so the Bunbunmaru didn't have to get put on hold while she made new ones.

Kneeling next to the locker's open door, I uncap the brush pen. My nose wrinkles at the unpleasant smell of the chemical ink—a necessity of design since you can't use an inkstone for this sort of thing, after all.

"Sorry, Donny," I whisper, and mean it: the ink is very permanent, and will be a pain to clean off the grey metal of the door's inside surface. Then I get to writing.


My hand feels less than steady as I draw (more than write) the large Roman letters on the inside of the door. My English has probably gotten rustier than it used to be, since there aren't too many opportunities to use it in Gensokyo. But I keep it dead simple <ugh really> so that it still says what I need it to.

Looking it over for another few seconds, I'm reminded once again of the reason I'm in this jam at all, aside from my own dumb curiosity <she made it something to get curious about though>. Well, you know what?

"Fuck her, too." I don't feel at all bad about swearing, this time. She thinks she can pin all this on me? Divine retribution's coming, Smoke-woman. Enjoy it.


[...Ehh? What's a smoke woman, though~?]

I'd be a real crappy yakuza, huh? Sanae Kochiya don't take the fall for nobody <anikiiiiiiiiiiii>. Heh. Not that they aren't chasing "the Smoke-woman" already, but the more I can make it clear that I'm less to blame for this than her, the better.

...All right, it's really time to leave. Past it, actually.

Closing the locker door by all but a centimeter, I stuff the keys under the pillow on my bunk, and walk over to the window. If I was a smarter girl, I'd have thought up a way to get to the third floor without being heard going into the stairwell and up a floor, but I don't have the time to be that clever. Kinda sucks, since it'd be way easier to leave from the balcony off the rec room/kitchen. Crud <no see its an investment>.

Hmm... True; if it keeps them off my tail longer than if I'd not even bothered, being clever might not hurt. I just need to do it right, do it quick, and not mess it up.

Sure. That'll happen.

[ ] If she all done here, why linger? Time wasted ain't time well-spent.
[ ] If it'll slow th' law down, why not? Time well-spent ain't time wasted.


Thank you all very much! I don't tend to do abstract write-ins, but you've all done as well as I could have hoped for. There are several things I haven't addressed yet because they weren't there when I started writing and I failed to notice them will be better covered in the next update or two.

Apologies for the huge delays, as well. Work has been heavy, and I finally learned what it was like to actually have a subordinate for once. It's almost like I'm finally starting to do normal human things like normal humans are supposed to experience while living an actual normal life. It's weird.
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No worries, might've just been poor reading comprehension on my part. I'll change my vote now that the intent's clearer.

[x] If it'll slow th' law down, why not? Time well-spent ain't time wasted.
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[X] If it'll slow th' law down, why not? Time well-spent ain't time wasted.

Could pay off for her later.
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So long and thanks for all the sleep
[Θ] If it'll slow th' law down, why not? Time well-spent ain't time wasted.

[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=rZB54jhU6sU ]
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/rZB54jhU6sU ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/xilhr ]
(Previous track continues)

Sliding a blank ofuda out of the holster on my belt, I kneel in front of the window, looking back at the door to the room before I start <wouldnt i hear them coming first>. The body does a lot of stupid things on its own, even without thoughts to mess it all up even further. Gods, don't I know it <nows the time for smart so shush and get to it>. Right, right.

I hold my breath and focus my attention, steadying my body and its movements so that I get as close as possible to absolute stillness. Once I decide I'm as motionless as I'll reasonably get, I lift up the empowered ofuda in my hand. Using the very point of the corner, I etch a shallow star into the wooden handle that holds one of the pair of windows latched shut. All the while, I keep the intended spell's use clearly in my mind.

It doesn't take too long—it's a very small star, because the handle isn't very large. Once done, I release that breath and peer closely at my handiwork. My goal is to keep these cuts thin and shallow—the longer they evade notice, the better. I seem to have managed to do so just fine.

My preparations to repeat the process on the other window in the frame are almost brought to a horrible end when I hear muffled footsteps in the stairwell <chill girl theyre going downstairs> but fortunately, it turns out to be nothing. Yet. ...No time to mess around. I gently cut another star into the side of the opposite handle, mirroring what I did to the first one. There's no dust or wood shavings, but I blow on it anyway out of dumb habit <natural habit id say>.

[Bah. Kids these days; no inspiration in the vandalism! What happened to poetry on the walls at protests, huh?]

With all the careful stuff out of the way, I start to carve stars in other places: the floor, the walls, even a few on the ceiling. I can't get too wild this this—I have to carve and activate each one with a specific effect and action in mind, and I'm not exactly a bubbling fountain of creative nastiness right now. I don't have the time to do as many as I'd like, or to come up with as many ideas as I'd like.

"That's life," I say with a sigh <i dunno the non fugitive parts have been pretty rewarding>. Sure, I'll just get right back to that part as soon as I get out of Crap Namek.

I trace one last star on the door and empower it. Anyone trying to get through—after they unlock it or break it down, that is—will find the door constantly blown shut in their face. It's dumb and minor, like almost all of the rest of them. Bursts of air to distract, knock over, blow around, slam closed, whatever. Anything to not only delay people from getting in, but also to make them think I'm trying to keep them out. I want all kinds of attention focused here, and not a whole lot on the idea of "Maybe she's not even here and is getting away."


Guilt over the trouble I'm sure to soon cause compels me to leave a ℐ50 coin under my pillow. Not exactly a fortune, but I hope he'll get the message. He seems like someone who would.

As for that trouble... I don't know how long it'll last. Longer than the five minutes or so I spent doing all this, I hope <it will it has to>, or it'll all be for naught. With a bit of extra time on my side, I'll be able to put more thoughtful work into getting away that isn't just "run real fast". Gathering my bag, I return to the window.

It's tall and thin, framed in wood and divided by a bar down the middle. Not a whole lot to see right now, besides an empty street and its weird, old-looking streetlights. Of course, it's nighttime, I'm only on the second floor, and the buildings near the hostel have second and third stories as well. I open both halves of the window and let the night air wash over me <pretty nice night actually>. Uh. Aside from all the horrible parts. But... sure. With a careful check outside to make sure that the Watch isn't coming up the road, I climb up onto the sill.

The two halves made by the bar are barely wide enough to allow me through, and testing that makes hours of listening to girls at school chatter about dieting come barreling back into my mind <could have done without thinking about that again>. I've never really needed to, probably because of the whole "living god" thing. My pack, however, needs some very serious squishing before it'll pop through <this is fine this is fine>.

No lights on in the area. Good. Pausing to listen, I don't hear anyone upstairs on the balcony. That doesn't mean anything, of course, but it lets me pretend like things are still going okay. And nobody else around, either... No, hold on. A fairy couple down at the end of the street <nah theyre passing by>, but they're walking by on a cross-street. A few seconds later, they're out of sight.

[Is it go time~?]

"It's showtime."

[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=9y0zjpyHRos ]
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/9y0zjpyHRos ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/ccxuv ]

I push my pack out one side of the window, making sure not to let go of it when it finally pops out of the split frame. Even though it's a straight drop and it's only a story, I don't plan on being down at street level for a while yet. Sitting on the windowsill and gripping the frame, I get my torso out of the window and awkwardly don my pack. No sense in fastening it tight, since I'll be digging through it again in a little bit. I get most of the rest of me out of the window, and hunker down into a weird little crouch on the windowsill, gripping the frame-dividing bar with my thighs and knees.

Reaching back inside, I pull the windows half-closed, then place my thumbs on the ends of the handles and send a little power into the stars I'd just engraved into them. In one movement, I pull the windows closed as quietly as possible and hop backwards off the sill into the night.

I do a little backflip through the air and come out of it flying at a slow, lazy pace. The windows of Room Three close fully and a quiet little kla-takk sound tells me that they've closed and latched. Locked-room mystery, heck yeah. Have fun working that one out, guys.

...I hope Donny doesn't get in trouble for this. I mean, yeah, onje are less than second-class citizens, but this isn't some kind of evil despotic empire, right <he owns a business and deals with onje im probably not the first bit of trouble hes had>. Might be the first murderer, though.

[Heeeeyyyy. Was that a trap? ...Not really gloating or making a break for it, so... Hmm. Well, probably not~ Revel in this magnanimousness, okay? It's good for the skin~]

...A moment of worry passes through me, but... no, I made sure there was nobody else in there with me. Yeah, it's fine. Anyway, time for the actually-escaping part.

I drift around to the back side of the building and then take off, flying above the darker streets, keeping out of well-lit areas, and keeping below the general roof-line level. I aim mo-of-an for a few blocks, then sharply turn and go straight pir.

...And I do it all without being seen, being yelled at, or even passing near a commotion... okay, a commotion that isn't loud barfing in an alley. But that's not directed at me.

...For a fleeting second, I wonder if I just imagined all of it. It's a nice enough night out. How could anything have gone wrong on a night like this? There's a town festival going on, for crying out loud. I've got a nice enough bed waiting for me at the hostel. What am I even doing?

And then I pass by one of the streets where, less than half an hour ago, I remember starting to think that I should turn back. Somewhere in the surrounding block or two is where Friendly and I had our confrontation.

The darkness gets a little darker <thats just my mood>. "Right." ...No, I'm definitely out here for a reason.

I need to get out of the city.

But if I've really bought myself some time with all that, then it's time to put 'more thoughtful work' into escaping. I don't know if it'll even work <no stop i already went through this>, but... All right, fine. I've gone into the cave, so gimme a cub already <that is not how that saying works>. It is now! I'm not just going to hang onto a train car like those people in India, or stow aboard like some kind of thief.

No, I'm gonna walk right up and buy a train ticket. That is, I will. But Kochiya won't.

(Pick only one sub-option)
[ ] New duds n' new name, first.
- [ ] Girl who? No, just this here young lady what showed up.
- [ ] Does a bit 'a theater, too. Some misdirection t' confound th' law.


Half a step forward every day.
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[x] New duds n' new name, first.
- [x] Girl who? No, just this here young lady what showed up.

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[X] New duds n' new name, first.
- [X] Girl who? No, just this here young lady what showed up.

No need to over do it.
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[x] New duds n' new name, first.
- [x] Does a bit 'a theater, too. Some misdirection t' confound th' law.

I'd be more comfortable with this option if I was confident exactly what it would involve, but ah well. Sanae was surprisingly good at deception getting into the city, so hopefully she could manage either option without screwing up too much.
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dun-dun-dun dada-dada UNDER PRESSURE~
As the weeks of silence may have implied, This update's going to be a bit late. Been working 6 x 10+ hour days a week in order to make the deadline for another huge order. And getting a new workstation on the line up and running in order to accommodate the increased volume of orders that we're projected to get in the coming months as well. And dealing with an engineer assigned to this product line who doesn't know, doesn't care, and doesn't care to know anything about it. And who likes to maintaining the pretense that despite growing evidence to the contrary, not only does he know what he's doing and what is best for the line, I don't know either of those things, and certainly don't really need to be asked for input or informed of changes until they're just about to be made or are in the middle of being made. But why should I? I just work this line 98% of the time, and have more experience on it than almost anyone else here. What the fuck do I know?

...That said, it's still actually a very nice job, and most all of the people here are great. But my time and energy, it consumeth.

I come to you today with more ways to fill the aching void in your life that this story attempts to alleviate while I try to rally and get an update going.

-- The Crabfeast podcast ( http://crabfeast.libsyn.com/ )
Comedians meet with another comedian, sit down, and swap stories about their childhoods and the weird shit in the rest of their lives. That's an unhelpfully vague description, but it's also quite accurate. I really love listening to it.

-- Black Lagoon ( http://kissmanga.com/Manga/Black-Lagoon/ )
Back off its (effectively) 7-year hiatus at last, this manga is finally up and running again!

-- Happy Sugar Life ( http://kissmanga.com/Manga/Happy-Sugar-Life )
This isn't Abnormal-kei Joshi, and the two should not be confused for one another. But damned if I don't find myself constantly being reminded of it while I read this.

-- Moyashimon ( http://kissmanga.com/Manga/Moyashimon )
Up and running again, as well. Never seen a manga that had such fun with margin notes.

-- Forbidden Scrollery
Go catch up if you haven't, because shit's gettin' real.
Also, dat Agatha ChrisQ, damn.

-- The Little Match Girl ( http://kissmanga.com/Manga/Macchi-Shoujo )
If you liked the idea of Hell Girl/Jigoku Shoujo, but got bored with having virtually the same setup, premise, and outcome every damn episode, then this is the manga for you! Vignette-style manga with strands of continuity. Artist loves to draw weird.

-- Duel (1971)
Spielberg directs a car chase. It's un-flashy and real and I liked it a lot.

-- Freeway (1996)
Little Red Riding Hood in modern-day LA. I refuse to believe that Tokyo Akazukin wasn't inspired by this in some way.

-- Tokyo Akazukin ( http://kissmanga.com/Manga/Toukyou-Akazukin )
Speaking of.
Also, while I normally like to let people get broadsided out of the blue by things, I do feel like I should point out that this manga is pretty graphic. Not to mention a bit edgelordy.
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Is this still going?
Cuz if so *FELL I LOVE YOU!*
If not... uh, never mind then...
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[ᆍ] New duds n' new name, first.
- [℁] Girl who? No, just this here young lady what showed up.

(Play at low or medium volume.)
[ ♫: https://youtu.be/f5M3R2WvFQk ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=f5M3R2WvFQk ]


The Baroness in Blue-gray Tartan sees all, knows all, and tells little. In her two-cubit-by-four-cubit empire, she is a god.

A supplicant approaches.

"Single for the twenty-four-o'clock to Mictlan, please. One-way."

Only she possesses the power to grant the wishes of those who approach her demesne, and she does not hand it out freely.

"Oooh. Heading somewhere fancy tonight, are we?"

The supplicant is surveyed. Examined. Scrutinized. Judged. The fairy in his tailored suit permits himself a chuckle in the face of the Baroness' overwhelming aura.

"Heh, not exactly. I always come back to see the family during the Feast, but I can't leave my desk empty for too many days."

A common story from a common being. Nothing here arouses the ire or suspicion of the Baroness in Blue-gray Tartan. The proclamation is made:
He shall be permitted travel.

"Oooooh, I hear you there. Forty juliène? ...Here you go, sir."

He offers his humble gratitude and goes along to the Station that lies beyond her lands, leaving the Baroness alone in her domain once more.

...The night shift sucks. Pays well, definitely. But it

More wayfarers come to stand before her. A pair, actually.

"Hi there. Could we get a pair of..." As if sensing the look his companion is giving him, the demon glances at the woman next to him. A pair of small silver end-caps on her forward-swept horns catch the lamplight for a moment. "...A pair of tickets for a single first-class cabin on the Pandemonium Limited?"

Newlyweds, these. Or perhaps not yet even that.

"Oh my. ...And is that one-way, or round-trip?"

The question catches him off guard, but his companion does not falter. "Round trip, if you would," she says.

Looking deep within their souls, the Baroness finds nothing out of the ordinary for such folk as these. Excitement. Nervousness. Giddiness. All is as it should be. And so it was proclaimed:
They shall pass.

"Right, then! Eighty-five juliène, please. ...Have fun~"

The Baroness finds discontent within her as the couple depart. There was a time when that was her, or so she thought. A fun little fling in the end that lasted only a decade, and then that prancing bastard dropped her for some cataboligne

"Hi, um. When's the next train to Pandemonium?"

The Baroness carefully conceals her shock and surprise at the sudden appearance of someone before her. And to make matters worse, the intruder is some grubby

"Sixteen minutes."

onje is quite an unattractive sight. Ratty-looking clothes, guilty-looking yellow eyes, hair an unattractive shade of green and thrown into an unkempt ponytail, clutching tightly a knapsack of human make that had seen better days. She exudes nervousness. The Baroness detests her already.

"Oh! Th-that's great. Great, awesome. Uh, how much... is it?"

She can see the gaze of the
onje flicking back and forth between the maps just beyond the outermost walls of the empire, and the timetables just behind her throne. Likely illiterate as well. But such is the common misfortune of her kind.

"Thirty juliène. And your papers, please."

The standard rate is twenty-five. But she does not need to know of the complexities involved, as they would surely only confuse her. The
onje offers that sum in tribute along with her identification papers.

"H-here you go. Thanks."

Although the Baroness makes a show of carefully inspecting each page, a being as skilled and adept as she needs only ensure the validity of the travel license and confirm that the name and appearance of the
onje does not match any known wanted criminals.

"...I really like the festival you all got here."

The laws and edicts that mandate this do, in truth, also require that she verify such things are true of all people purchasing tickets. However, a wise ruler knows when to apply the rules and when to use her own judgment.

"Yes, the Feast is nice."

Conversation with
onje is hardly a task for one engaged in important examination of sensitive material. But the patience of the Baroness is vast and forgiving, and so she spares her some words. Wisely, the onje falls silent after this, but does not calm herself at all. Worse still, she does not appear to be amongst the wanted.

"All in order. You may have these back. And your ticket."

With a heavy heart, the Baroness decides that the
onje is allowed to pass. She returns the papers and passes her the ticket.

The Baroness lets out a sigh. What a miserable fate this shift is. Really, if you look at it, it's quite tragic: her, locked up in here while everyone out there gets to party and have fun... Even a vagrant like that! Goddess, the unfairness of it all. The

She sees the newcomers approaching, this time. Two, most likely not together.

"How... how are you, ma'am. I'm'a'd like to buy a. The. Uh."

A girl dressed in a fine but slightly disheveled dress rests her weight against the little counter that stands beneath the Great Glass Wall that divides the Baroness' empire from the basest of lands beyond. She sways fractionally, but smiles widely.

"The... uh... Servant's tits, where am I going? It's the nnnname of the train. It's got
the name of the train. Right on the train."

The Baroness grants hospitality to all who come before her. Thus, she must endure even meetings such as this. Of course, after an
onje, even a drunk becomes acceptable.

"Mmm... The Cape Hob Comet?"


"The Lemega Express, then?"


"The Occidas Direct?"

"Yeaaaahhh~ That's my train."

The fee is exchanged for a writ of passage, and the woman is mercifully on her way in no time at all. As soon as she departs, the other approaches. Indeed, this hat and wingtips just visible over the bottom lip of the wall are not traveling with the inebriated fairy, apparently.

"How ya findin' this evenin', miss?"

How dare he! Too short to even be seen, and he presumes to speak before the Baroness has a chance to address him?! Does he not know she has had people flogged for less?

"Ha ha ha. Well, it's long as always. Where might you be headed, sir?"

To show outrage is to show that she is less than befitting of her station, and this simply would not do.

"Out to Sanjiva, darlin'. Business is callin', so Carlescu's goin'. You know how it is."

She does not. But when he offers the precise payment even before being prompted, she does admit to herself that not needing to make change is pretty nice. The hat and wing tips are given passage, and so she is left with her thoughts once more.

Just two more days. Two more days, and the Baroness' evenings will be hers again to do with as she pleases. However, carrying out these grand duties comes before frivolity. Such is the way of the world.

If only she didn't have to hear the faintest sounds of celebration from beyond the wall. In sight, in reach... yet not.

A smoke-grey bird alights before her.


The lower half is a pair of fairly standard legs in light trousers, but the upper half is very large, and very avian. With its beak, it sets a note before her with but a single word written upon it:


"Bardo? It leaves in four hours. One-way or round-trip?"


It twirls a feathered wing around.

"Very good, then. Thirty-six juliène, if you please."

It ducks its head under its wing feathers, and rummages around in... somewhere. But a second later, it reemerges with the fee in its beak. The Baroness accepts the tribute, pronounces her benevolent judgement in its favor, and gives it her blessing.

Only the lowest and most foul would interfere with one of the Não-Desee. Whatever thoughts the Baroness might have about others, few in the land would speak ill of or do wrong to those poor things.

The same could not be thought about
all who walk the red soil of Makai, of course. And several people later, there arrived before her a perfect example of this.

"A fine evening to you, madam. Are there tickets available still on the Occidas Direct?"

The Baroness' jaws clench. An
onje, speaking like that to one such as she? As if she were a peer?


As she examines them with a more critical eye, she begins to see where they picked up the notion that this would be acceptable. The
onje is dressed... tidily, that much can be said. There's something odd about how the light strikes her hair. She's not standing in shadow, so it shouldn't be so difficult to tell what color it is. Something deep, dark—purple, maybe? Green? No, it must be blue; the red of night is only making it appear purple. That makes more sense.

"Oh, most wonderful! I would like one ticket, please. First-class."

...The Baroness, in her boundless mercy, accedes to the
onje's plea.


And in order to expedite this, some details may happen to slip her mind, but nobody is perfect, of course.
Onje thrive on surprises, cheap thrills and the like, do they not? How could the Baroness be at fault for only wishing to enrich this one's life that much more?

"Thank you ever so much, madam. I wish you a fine rest of the evening."

A most unlikely occurrence, to be sure.

When a sniffling, red-eyed demon girl comes before the Baroness but minutes afterward, she is much more thoughtful.

"Th-the ten-forty t-to... to Elysian Island, p-please. Sorry."

Thoughtful, but only in her thoughts. She does not question this one.

"Seventy-four juliène, dear."

The girl brushes the moss out of her eyes and offers her fee to the Baroness. A lonely place, that.

She leaves, and the Baroness sighs quietly. Lost love is a terrible thing. Lost love that went and got lost because it was hanging around with those a tramp from the low fields is even worse.

Whistling catches the Baroness' attention. Her head jerks up, fire on her tongue, but no, no. Just someone whistling to themselves. Not at her... though he is walking up.

"Quite a night, huh?"

The Baroness considers, for the four hundred and sixty-third time, putting forth a printed decree that addresses all who seek her favor, declaring that in her court, conversation is an ally to none.

"That's what I'm told. Are you looking to travel somewhere tonight, sir?"

Politeness above all else.

"There's some kinda hubbub with the Wa—oh, yeah, yeah. Sorry. Anything to Penumbra in the next couple hours?"

Sometimes, the Baroness felt more like a governess.

"Why yes. In about... forty-one minutes."

It could not even be said that the festival-hours compensation was truly inadequate. It sufficed. However, after factoring in all the intangibles, there was much that could be said to be lacking.

"Fantastic! One seat in coach, then."

He's trying to be friendly, of course. And one should be, before the Baroness. So she only hates him a little.

"Right away, sir. Thirty-one juliène."

Tribute is offered and accepted. He is allowed passage.

"Thanks truly. Don't work too hard in there!"

The Baroness decides to hate him a bit more.


[ ] Something Shaking
[ ] Something Still


I can't put anything clever in here, and I can't lie, either. Instead, I'll just ask for your forgiveness. Again.

It is.
And thank you.
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Fell updated! All hands, battle stations!

[x] Something Still

The calm before the storm.
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Your manga recommendations have been surprisingly on point for me. Can't wait to see the new arc of 'I'm a spider, so what?' which, I assume, will be when the shoe drops and the tone changes dramatically.

Kinda like Doki Doki, but with less suprisingly disturbing content.
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>He offers his humble gratitude and goes along to the Station that lies beyond her lands, leaving the Baroness alone in her domain once more.

>...The night shift sucks. Pays well, definitely. But it suuuuucks.

Baroness story when? PogChamp

>A fun little fling in the end that lasted only a decade

'Only' ten years FeelsBadMan.

>A smoke-grey bird alights before her.



Are they the handicapped of Makai? 4Head

>There's something odd about how the light strikes her hair. She's not standing in shadow, so it shouldn't be so difficult to tell what color it is. Something deep, dark—purple, maybe? Green? No, it must be blue; the red of night is only making it appear purple

Nue! Kappa

>And in order to expedite this, some details may happen to slip her mind, but nobody is perfect, of course. Onje thrive on surprises, cheap thrills and the like, do they not? How could the Baroness be at fault for only wishing to enrich this one's life that much more?

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[x] Something Shaking (The train?)

Shaken, not stirred.
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Oh god, I'm so behind on my reading. Stop these stealth updates.
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do i look like a waiter
[尖] Something Still

[ ♫: https://youtu.be/SAp-FdDHaXU ]
[ ♫: https://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=SAp-FdDHaXU ]
[ ♫: http://youtu.be/fmW_1blvuKE ]
[ ♫: http://www.listenonrepeat.com/?v=fmW_1blvuKE ]
[ ♫: http://tindeck.com/listen/hmjcn ]

The train station at Dis is not as crowded as I'd like. The throng that filled the place when I was here with Honne has gone somewhere else <probably the feast>. No duh. It's still busy, but not the kind of busy I could really use right now. But I'm in here now, and I don't want to go attracting attention.

Thirty-three minutes before the train gets here. Gods, I hope the new look and new clothes work. The curt lady at the ticket booth didn't seem to recognize me, I think, so maybe they're doing the trick. None of the other passengers waiting with me in the 'lounge' are really bothering to give me any glances <except the kids>. Yeah, except them. ...Heh, it's almost like it would be back in Japan, but because they're actually busy with their own stuff instead of politely ignoring the weirdo.


The only reason I'm not unhappy about leaving my PSP at home is that I know it'd be broken by now <battery would be dead too>. Whatever. I wouldn't be able to relax enough to play it, either. I'm going to turn into a wreck if I just try and pass the time calmly. This isn't the time or the place for meditation, either.

[Hi there~ Ah, he waved back! Must be at that age~]

Off to the side, the creak of a swinging door draws my attention. A slim demon exits a little room marked with one of the few words I actually recognize. I hadn't even thought about it until now, but yes, I could do with a bathroom break. I scoop up the rough-looking sack at my feet and make my way over there.

Like the others, this bathroom is covered floor to ceiling in tile, <uhhh whoa hang on> although the creamy orange color is a new <never mind that look> twist I'm not famil—oh. And I'm retreating, now.

In normal circumstances I'd be more embarrassed about that. Even so, my cheeks still feel warm. This time, I go in the other door.

Rose-colored tile, in this one. I like it a little more, but it—wait, what <how come theres>? All right. Something weird is going on here. I back out of this bathroom as well, and make sure to get a good look at the sign on each door.

...No, I was right the first time <but>. Forget it, it's Makai. Why should it make sense? Urinals in both bathrooms? Fine, whatever. I don't really want to know <i bet tokyo big sightd get use out of them at comiket>. Heh.

After making use of the stalls, I look at myself in the mirror while washing my hands. Finally, something familiar and normal allows my brain to have a moment to think.


The fairy probably saw me out at the Feast. The odds are insane that we'd bump into each other, but we did. Couldn't have been tracking me, I don't think, or else it'd have happened sooner. Probably.

He said he was hunting his aunt's killer—the fairy at the farm. Why not just contact the Watch and let them handle it? Is this some kind of tale of vengeance? She's not ...dead-dead, from the sound of it <but not well either>. And then he ran off to go tell the Watch anyway. I don't know what the heck he was thinking. It all seems like a mess. What would drive him on, then scare him off—

My hands stop scrubbing.

Right. They still think I'm the Smoke-Woman <but i told her i wasnt though>. Please, like they'd give that any weight. She fought with the real Smoke-Woman, then gets fooled and killed by someone who seemed like she was pretending to be someone else. And gods know the Smoke-Woman thrives on lies and misdirection. Me constantly saying I'm not her is going to make me look even more suspicious, even if only because it raises more questions.

...I've already gone over all this before. Whatever he was thinking doesn't matter. I killed her, and he knows that, and I know that. He knows my star sign—I need to be careful with using magic from now on. And if he's gone to the Watch, they'll know, too.

I wonder if I'm being framed <itd take some kind of scheming genius to>. ...No, I am being framed. On purpose or not, that's the outcome. And really, it doesn't change anything on my end. I need to get out of Makai as soon as possible. That's still the goal. It's just getting harder to reach, is all.

"Gotta keep on' walkin'," I mutter. After shutting off the faucet, I take another long look at myself in the mirror.

One dumb shrine maiden in stolen clothes looks back at me. She's tired—from all the partying at the Feast, you'd think, but nah, she's just trying to outrun the cops. Paragon of responsibility, right there. At least she was smart enough to disguise herself again. Sorting that handful of not-worms for quick access was a good move, it turns out. Hope nobody reports their clothesline getting robbed anytime soon, though.

The Ryougi-style look works pretty well. Pinned-up hair, jacket, long dress... Of sorts. At least it's a lot warmer. Still the same boots. Maybe I should stain those darker. Getting recognized by shoes feels like a detective-story thing <just keep the bag in front>. That might work for a bit.

Someone else enters the bathroom, and I try not to look up guiltily. Time to go.

I return to the mega-lounge. I really don't like having to sit around and wait somewhere that's so ...exposed, but it's part of the disguise. Kochiya of Moriya? She needs to be worried. She's wanted. Someone like that would naturally be trying hard to avoid people. But Asani Rayokom, the well-to-do Taoist from Hong Kong? No reason for her to hide.

[Very good~! Now how about... that bag of candy over there? Don't worry, it's just borrowing~]

My chair is still open, so I take my seat there again, and resume the wait. It's hard and it's wooden <its also not inside a cell>, but I endure. Two rows over, a pair of four-armed, pink-skinned demons play some kind of card game that doesn't look chaotic enough to be Dawncurve. Some kid is running around being what he thinks is sneaky. An elderly, well-dressed lady is nodding off while her husband reads a newssheet. A name is called out, requested to come to the ticket booth. Honne walks by <oh hey>.

Oh crap.

"Good evening. Mind if I sit here?"

I almost greeted her.

[ ] Girl keeps it down. Doesn't say much more n' needed.
[ ] Ought to live the lie. Talks like it seems she should.


Something Still was the only vote when I started writing. Sorry.

Also, does anyone else know of a good youtube-looping site that isn't listenonrepeat? I didn't know it had become so utterly full of crap and extraneous garbage. I don't want to subject you guys to that if I don't have to.
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Youtube has had a native loop function for a while now. Just right click the video
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[x] Ought to live the lie. Talks like it seems she should.

Nue's power has bitten Sanae in the ass once already; let's not tempt fate by acting suspisious in public.

And if Honne does recognise her, she might play along. Might. Anyone else, not so much.
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...seriously? Is it just me now?

No, that's not good enough.

You. No, not you Fell, you're doing fine. I mean you. The one reading this right now. If you haven't read this story, do so now. You'll be glad you did. If you have, get voting. This is a CYOA. Voting is required. You wouldn't want another good story to die a slow, painful death of reader apathy now would you?

No? Good. Now vote, or I'll come though your screen and rip your bloody arms off.
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Haven't posted here in, oh, 6-7 years, just stop by to reread some of my favorites. I'll take a look and read through this. Miss this site.
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For my part, I'm working on catching up. I am way back at the beginning and this story is part of a much, much bigger backlog of current stories to catch up on, though.
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Sorry for not voting, I'm a dickhead.

[x] Girl keeps it down. Doesn't say much more n' needed.

I'm 300% that she's already busted, but I'm 500% sure that she can't fool her in a 1v1.
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Has it?

[x] Ought to live the lie. Talks like it seems she should.
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The way I understand it, it's the reason Sanae was mistaken for the Smoke-Woman in the first place:

> 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?
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That’s an interesting idea, but the impression I got from that passage and preceding events was just that Sanae happened to look like the smoke-woman due to her clothes and such. I don’t think she and Elis figured out all the details of how the UFOs work. Nor do I think the smoke-woman knew. But your idea is still seeming more possible the more I think about it, I might need to go back and reread that part.

[x] Ought to live the lie. Talks like it seems she should.

Not sure what’s best here. Honne will probably recognize her, but she’s unlikely to have heard about Sanae’s crime. So I’ll just go with the option that doesn’t cause a tie.
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Could just be that, but green and white aren't what I'd call dark, you know?

I mean, sure, it's night, she's dirty, and she's clearly an onje... but the way it's written gives me a strong feeling something is up. And with Fell at the wheel that's usually significant.
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I keep sitting down to read this and then wandering off to do something else. Again and again and again. Fucking hell.
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Are you dead, Fell? You have to tell us if you're dead.
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New thread: >>16427
Too long in coming.

I am not.
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