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After moving the schedule back a day, we're back. New chapters will be coming weekly (faster if I get enough people responding earlier).
For full transparency, I don't tend to start organizing everything and begin working on what I want the next part to contain until about mid-week if I don't have 3 votes for the same thing. If there's just two, (and especially when it's split between two different votes) I generally let it sit longer since other people might trickle in and read it and want to vote. Once I have where I want to go with it, I write it once I have the free time (which is why having something added to my friday schedule cuts into my writing free time for saturday).
With that all said and done, let's get to the reason why you're actually here.
[X] Go find a river or lake to bathe in, and wash my clothes. Just deal with wet clothes and put them back on.
It’s really easy to find a river to bathe in, thanks to my amazing ears. But as convenient as this body is, it doesn’t clean itself, or make clothes for itself. A soft liftoff, and I’m flying through the air with little more than a thought – heading in the direction of the water that tickles at my hearing from far away.
...I really wonder what happened last night, though. I don’t have a lot of memories, so the fact that I’ve lost another chunk of them is pretty worrying. The only thing that comes to mind is that it was right before I fell asleep, apparently, so I’ll have to keep an eye on what I’m doing before I pass out to see if I can usually remember it, or if something about last night was different.
Though the stream is easy enough to find after a moment, it doesn’t really look good for a bath where I’m at. The water is too far downstream and slow at first, so I start heading up toward the source, hoping for a spring or waterfall basin or something that would be better for diving into or getting under, and running faster so that it’s less gross.
I almost slip back into my own thoughts along the way, but I can clearly sense other creatures around as I fly low, entering the cover of trees and reducing my speed so that I don’t end up running into one. It’s almost like I’m being followed, since the feeling doesn’t go away at all, but I don’t feel like I’m in danger, either. I’ve fought dangerous beasts before, I think, and this isn’t so much like that at all. Perhaps the words I should use are ‘killing intent’? I don’t sense anything like that, like when the shrine maiden attacked me. There’s a certain kind of aura something that intends violence has, and though I can hear the movements of at least one creature nearby, they don’t seem to have any such ill intentions.
...But I’m still a little shy about bathing in front of an audience.
Pushing on, I hope they just decide to leave me alone before I have to decide on something like that in the first place. My progress is definitely slowed by the tree cover, even if trees don’t grow directly in the middle of the river. My body is super convenient, but I’m not sure to trust my flight perfectly. I’m aware that my movement through the air isn’t one-to-one with what I’m imagining in my head when I try and move, so I’m not sure just how much to correct, and I don’t feel like smacking into a tree anytime soon.
Though I haven’t been paying much attention to the scenery the entire way here, as I grow nearer, the river starts opening up into a larger tributary that splits off into other channels besides the one I was just following. At the same time, the soft sound of water rises to almost a roar, and I have to actively try not to focus on the sound and reduce my hearing sensitivity. Though this body is really convenient in a lot of ways, I’m starting to find a weakness in it. Loud noises drown out everything else, and if I was caught off guard by something incredibly loud, it would almost certainly hurt like hell. At least my attempts to turn down that sensitivity seem to be something I can control, with how the roaring fades out into the background the more and more I think about it, despite growing closer every moment.
Eventually, the river opens up into what is a grand waterfall off a mountain, with a large lake-like basin. I feel somewhat stunned just looking at it. There was nothing like this where I was from, I’m almost certain. Or at least I never went far enough out to see this before. Rather than feeling like I’m triggering any kind of memory, it’s the overwhelming beauty of something I’d never even imagined before.
My first instinct is to fly straight into the lake, but I hold back on that. The thought of my ability to move freely potentially turning off the moment I hit the water is immensely worrying – I don’t even know if I know how to swim or not. Not tearing my eyes from the majestic falls, I use peripheral vision to navigate myself near the shore and tear off my shoes. I don’t want to be dealing with wet shoes, even if I’m just going to have to bathe in my clothes, due to the eyes on me and lack of anything to change into. Setting my sword aside next to them – let’s not rust my only weapon – I start to step into the riverbank, but stop.
My thigh-highs are already muddy, but part of this is to clean them. I can’t just walk around in the mud of the bank and expect them to come out cleaner. Stripping them from my legs, I just put up with the feeling of the mud beneath my feet and between my toes. I really hate it, but there’s no better option. A soaked skirt floating in the water and weighing me down isn’t great either, but I start washing the mud out of my clothes, first. The work is tedious and takes a bit, but it’s all I have. Though I don’t like it, until I have a better place to bathe and clean my clothes, I’ll just have to do this as sparingly as possible.
Ah, but the running water around me is nice. If anything’s an upside of this, it’s the beauty of the scenery and the feeling of the water flowing around me. I could come here just to hang out, though it’s not like I have anyone to hang out with. Aside from my current stalker, at least. Once I’ve scrubbed the mud out of my clothes and scrubbed myself enough I can hope I smell relatively not terrible, I check again for their presence and find myself calling out rather boldly.
“Do you really like watching girls bathe that much? Come on out already.” I make sure my sword is close by when I call out the ‘enemy’, just in case. I never want to have to fight without having my weapon, though I don’t like the risk I’m taking. These waterlogged clothes aren’t the easiest to move in, though thankfully my ability to fly should help with that kind of mobility, since at least my legs aren’t going to be restricted by the wet skirt if I fly.
Something I don’t expect at all follows next. Something just kind of melts out of the air, like a shield around it was dissipating, and now becomes visible. I immediately go on alarm, but there’s no aggressive intent in her face or stance. ...She was a lot closer than my instincts had been telling me. Whatever was going on with that was no joke.
“Ahaha, sorry about that. I didn’t think you’d noticed me, either. You’ve got good eyes to pick me out through my upgraded Optical Camouflage suit.” The girl makes a polite little bow and continues. “They call me Nitori, and I’m a kappa of the valley. But you’re… weird. Who are you? I don’t think I know anyone like you who comes out here.”
...valley kappa. Right. There was something I could tell about her that warned me she wasn’t human, and yet… she acts like she expected the same of me, like I was something that could be dangerous. “...I’m going by Carol right now. I don’t know if that’s my name or not. I can’t remember much of anything.” The first thing I can really say about her is she’s pretty nice-seeming and, well, very blue. Hair, outfit, hat, nothing but blue. Is that just how kappa fashion works?
Nitori’s eyes light up. “…Nothing, you say? Oh, this seems like a great time to get some data! It’s rare you run across someone with amnesia. Would you mind coming with me and subjecting yourself to a few tests? For science? I’ll see if it reveals anything that could put your mind back in working order, and let you know if it does.”
Something about the way she says that causes a little bit of a warning sign in my danger sense. “...I’ll consider it, but right now I’d like to know more about what’s going on and where I am. I ran into a shrine maiden yesterday – do you know her? She seemed in a hurry about something related to an ‘incident’. I’m also not really sure what I’m doing from here on aside once I finish this bath.” Nitori’s expression scrunches up a little. Good, so I’m not the only one confused by that shrine maiden’s behavior.
“...If you’re talking about incidents, you mean that red-white, right?” I don’t even bother taking a moment to think about it – those colors are burned pretty vividly into my mind. With the confirmation, Nitori continues on. “Alright, good news and bad news. Good news is that I know what she’s doing, bad news is that I have no idea what the cause is.”
“...Ah, so that is…?” It’s all nice and good when someone provides you with the answers, but if you don’t actually say them it just turns into a frustrating little waiting game. Thankfully, not one that Nitori keeps up any longer than it takes me to reply.
The kappa crosses her arms and gets a serious expression. “...Gensokyo is currently suffering from some kind of plague, we’re guessing. Something that changes people and youkai into ayakashi.” The word isn’t familiar to me, and Nitori probably gets it from the look on my face. “Monsters. We’re calling them Ayakashi for now, until we have a better idea of what they are. Reimu’s flying around trying to hunt down whoever’s responsible, but she hasn’t had any luck yet. The shrine maiden of Moriya is probably setting out soon, too, since we just had a case of Ayakashi appearing on the mountain.”
...I have no idea what Moriya is, but that’s not the relevant part. People are turning into monsters? No wonder Reimu was struggling to put it into words. It takes a bit for me to just put my own thoughts into words at having heard it for the first time. “...I, um… Wow. That’s a problem.” I feel stupid just saying it, though. Obviously that’s a problem. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem like she takes it against me at all – it must have been a shock for everyone back when it first started happening.
“Yeah. But don’t worry too much, the usual incident-solvers are on the case, so things should go back to normal soon, and hopefully your memory, too.” The girl gives her a little wave, that’s half cheering her on and half indicating the conversation’s coming to an end. “So, unless you’ve changed your mind on the science…?”
Um, well… I still don’t have a good feeling about it, but she doesn’t seem bad at all.
[ ] Self-preservation comes first. Let’s get out of here.
[ ] Let’s let Nitori down gently. Don’t want to lose one of our small number of nice acquaintances.
[ ] Make it clear that you’re not going to be a test subject at this time or another, but don’t be rude.
[ ] Just tell her that you don’t trust her science at all.