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File 134119768653.jpg - (146.76KB, 500x376, Take it.jpg) [iqdb]

Sometimes, something else happens.




Let me think about that for a moment.

File 134119798688.png - (824.66KB, 1910x1000, down and out.png) [iqdb]


I need to get away. Right now, that is the only thought in my head, and it's the only one I can keep in my head. I must keep moving or die. Inaction is death. Hesitation is death. Anything less than moving RIGHT NOW is death. It will hunt me, it will follow me, it will kill me if I do not get away.

She smiled with the smile of a thousand knives, and for the first time, I knew truly how it meant to feel terror.

I have been scared, I have been worried, and I have been frightened. This feeling is fundamentally different. This is terror, the primal emotion that screams at you, yells at you to get away from the dangerous things, get away now, now, now. The mind has no choice but to obey, logical thought overridden in an instant by something we listen to without hesitation.

Ah. I should be flying. I know that, I know that. I don't know that at all; that's a lie. I don't know that until too late. I don't care. If I die, than at least it won't be at her hands. And that, my gibbering brain tells me, for what good it's worth, is the important thing right right right ha ha ha ha i dont want to die

I can still hear her laughing, in the first handful of seconds after I throw myself over the rail. It's a fascinating, terrible sound. Madness and confidence permeate every syllable of her awful voice. It does not care for me. It is amused by me. And it has nothing holding it back from ending my life but its own incoherent will.

She doesn't understand but at the same time, she does understand maybe I think. She isn't chasing me. I see her pale visage, terrible grin, hands clutching the rail of the ship as I start to plummet downwards, and the wind (comforting wind that doesn't exist; it's subjective) obscures everything, all noise. It rushes past my ears, whipping my hair about, green tendrils flailing up, as if wildly waving grass(the pin, the coil, they do not dislodge; they never do), and

And I can see her laughing, even after I can't hear her anymore.

And all I can feel is pure, instinctual animal relief.

<its not following thank you mamas>

—I whisper in my head, in my heart.

But it throws its head back, and laughs with the sound of deafening wind racing past my ears, and a vestige of human thought makes itself known: I am falling

I crane my head around, and see RED EVERYWHERE (where is the sun) IT IS ALL AROUND EXCEPT FOR THE DARKER PARTS (I can see, there is light to see by but where is the sun) I I I no no no no I need to stop falling start flying what are is the going on—

a profanity, uttered in panic, is unheard by anyone, including myself

[calm dowwwn]

I can't be calm the ground is getting closer why was I doing this what is even oh god this was a stupid idea stupid stupid

...I'm going to die if I don't— wait, yes, maybe—

[remember the first time you flew]

And as the dirt (it's not all red, there is actual color, but it's coming in too quick, too fast, and that is bad) pulls nearer, I think about flight, and the need to pull up



up up up upupupupUP!

—and my arms move all on their own, obeying muscle memory and self-preservation over the frantic, crazy panicking my head is doing. They fall gently to the sides, and my mind goes to that place, the asking place. The weightlessness kicks in, and my hand grabs something thin and presses it to my body, but

but I can see the soil approaching, and yes, it's much too fast.

Too soon.

Thought, real thought, returns, just in time for me to scream, throw out a hand, and then I impact the ground.



And a movement upward, and the paper fragments flutter away past me, edges glowing red as they burn up, task fulfilled, and— oh, I know this! It's like skipping rocks, see, but I'm the rock, and... wait, this is a bad thing. Oh gods, this will hurt.


A bunch of ribs and probably my arm break, that time. The pain, coming in right beside the sheer force of landing, robs me of breath, and the only noise I make is, "Ukh."

And up I go again, body spinning, internal sense of stability and direction completely scattered and shot. Ground and sky (where is the sun?!) turn and turn and turn, and

[why couldn't you recite the rhyme faster?]

I think I vomit at some point, leaving a pinwheel of partially digested tea, rice cakes, stomach acid and other stuff to spray across the alien landscape.


Another impact, and I continue to spin awkwardly, body breaking further with every hit, hands too shaken, too battered, maybe too broken to reach in and grab another slip of bone-saving paper. I just have to stay alive, and given enough time, I'll be better again.

Oh. I want to live?

I guess that makes things easier.

...Yes. Of course I do.
There wasn't any question of that. Ever.



Eventually (seven skips later) I stop bouncing. My bruised, battered, bleeding body tumbles along the ground, over and over, dirt and dust and twigs getting in my hair my clothes my eyes my mouth my skin. And at last, I come to a stop, face up.

The world spins. I can barely hear anything. I mean, I can hear things, but nothing sounds right. It's all a jumbled, ringing mishmash

<wait mamas where are you I cant feel you>

and it makes a hellish non-noise that rings and rings and rings. Yet, above it, I can hear the silence, the lack of sound. And I can see, without seeing clearly.

trrrrrrgggh. HK.

trrrrrrgggh. HK.

...Not totally silent, there's a weird noise a ways off. Like a growling frog with a hiccup that makes it choke.

<mamas where are you>

Above, well beyond, I can see the moving thing even though I can't see it clearly. The ship keeps moving, keeps going. It doesn't stop, it doesn't still, it doesn't slow, it doesn't break from its course at all.

In the seconds before blessed unconsciousness returns, I pray to the <mamas> gods more fervently than I ever have before: Please, please don't let the white woman come back for me.


I've been wanting to write this story for quite some time, now. I can't think of anything else. No, the other ones aren't dead.
What? Is this a rehash of the original one, only with a different protagonist?
File 134120246697.jpg - (1.71MB, 1400x2086, guarded words.jpg) [iqdb]
It is possibly a prequel. You are completely right about there being a new protagonist.

It may help to recall >>/others/40106.
How many hiatused stories are you planning to pile up? This is the third, if I'm not mistaken.
File 134120870690.jpg - (859.77KB, 800x995, 6a7cda0ec91595d85c15576133699f17.jpg) [iqdb]
>green tendrils flailing up, as if wildly waving grass(the pin, the coil
>human thought

We green girl now.
Yep and if this is a prequel, this might show how Sanae wound up like she did. Sounds like she really ran afoul of Murasa.
Okay, clearly you need to analyze Fell's writing when reading it because I didn't get that the protagonist is Sanae.

Which is why I don't like The Game, really.
Yeah, this probobly won't be for you.
This Sanae seems quite weak. Does she have his powers? I sure hope not.
This is going along with a common scenario in fanart right after UFO came out: Sanae getting in over her head and regretting it.
I have a feeling that we can avoid this becoming a prequel.
The first two lines basically states it.
Regretting what?
Trying to resolve the incident, mainly due to the fact that she's a newbie compared to Reimu and Marisa. I mean Sanae's 16 at the start of MoF right? What has she done by then besides look very pretty? By this point, Reimu and Marisa have knocked the crap out of various high level beings. Reimu smacked around the angel of death before she learned to fly.

But in canon it doesn't happen for a mix of reasons (including some possible Miracles)

Hopefully though with the recent outbreak of HFY nuts, they might want to push Sanae the other way.
File 134128692778.jpg - (24.21KB, 500x333, they bid welcome.jpg) [iqdb]
I open my eyes, and with it comes pain, excruciating and fierce [sing a song of sorrow!] so much so that I can't even whimper.

And that smell. It's like something sweet, yet strong, and my nose tickles a little bit. It makes me think of cosmetics shop. Or a garden.


...Ah, I lied. I do whimper, and then immediately stop, because that, too, hurts like no other. So does breathing. I can't even kill myself to make the pain stop, moving would be even worse.

So, I black out, instead. More comfortable this way. I didn't even stay conscious long enough to think about anything I saw.

Aside from just more "red."

Time passes.

Waking-up comes tiptoeing back around again, and I have another go of it. I've healed a little more <thank you mamas> and the act of opening of opening my eyes brings with it red.

And more red. Lots of brown, too.

Ha. It's like I'm on Mars.

Pain, physical, from the dirt that flutters in my <green> eyelashes.

And then pain, pain as the rest of my body reports in. The first are the aches, but I know that's a good sign; I learned that in basic first aid training. Better to feel your aches in your familiar parts than to feel strange, new, alien pains. Or worse, to feel nothing where you should definitely be feeling something.

I've never been so happy to be so miserable.

"A-ha-ha-haaaargh." ...All right, laughing hurts. [Good medicine tastes bad, and you know what they say about laughter, right?] I'm not fully healed yet, but the act of existing doesn't hurt anymore. Totally a plus in my book, because I really need all I can get. Still, I think I'll stay still before trying to move.


No I won't.

Oh gods, no, no, no. I can't and won't.


A panicky gurgle escapes my throat as I push myself up suddenly, scream in pain (that arm hasn't healed yet, I guess), and almost flop back down. My chest rises and falls as I try to throw up, but there's nothing left. Fighting through the agony involved in pushing myself upright and staying that way, I blink again several times, and look around the best I can without moving my neck too much.

Red, red, red and brown, brown... dark. A bit of green, or something else darker, here and there.

I'm in a wide valley between a couple of low ridges. It's not got enough sand to be scrubland, but not enough vegetation to look very welcoming. There's grass, a strange, uneven, dark-colored carpet across the landscape. In the distance, on both sides, are distant mountain ranges that I can tell must be hideously massive, because they look super-faded, but they're still taller than anything else, and stretch on and on, out of sight over the horizon.

And the sun...

I can't see the sun.

A reddish-orange light fills the sky, and it comes most strongly from behind the mountains in one direction. The overall result is that it looks like a little while before sunset.

The white woman, she said...

She said...


Ever since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with strange things and the paranormal. Part of that is from growing up in Japan, and part of that was the vague but certain knowledge that such things must exist [turns out you were right, of course~], somehow. I had a reputation for being a little odd, so I learned to keep quiet about some of those things at school, or at least my certainty. The nail that sticks up gets hammered down, after all.

One of my biggest fantasies was being able to travel to an alien world and walk around, talk to the funny aliens, maybe save the Earth, and then zip off in my robot (Or my spaceship. Either would be cool, but I preferred the robot).

There's another tiresome saying about being careful what you wish for.

If this place is the place I'm thinking of— and if the white woman is to be trusted, which is its own gamble —then I am in deep, deep, trouble.

"No, I'm fucked."

I blush, despite my situation, and wince in pain as I try to reflexively clamp my hands over my mouth as my subconscious betrays me, having spoken the (potential) truth of the matter. If I really am where I think I am, I am as good as surrounded. Even if there isn't anyone right here, I am still in enemy territory. Trying to talk to any of the locals, let alone fighting with them, could very well cost me my life.

This ...this isn't Mars. That would be an improvement. No, the white woman might have been insane, but she loved to make me terrified, and always with the truth.

Again, I smell that scent, like flowers [it's oleander!], and the tingle returns with it, having spread from my nose to my throat. I cough, and then cough again, harder, harder, and it hurts so much.

Tears start running down my face as the awful truth of my situation hits me full-on. They do not stop. I crumple back down, and they pour out onto the dark soil.

I am trapped.

I am doomed.

I am in Makai.

[ ] She rests here a while longer.
[ ] Languish.
[ ] Anguish.
[ ] Grits her teeth. Gets up.


I don't know if I can do daily updates, but I want to try. Every-other-daily, at worst.

Second, actually. I'd be more upset at the total lack of faith except that it really does seem completely justified. To be partially fair to me, Resentment will be much better off if I write this story first. I was getting in over my head with a lot of things I hadn't planned out well at all. This should correct that. I've got no such excuse for Metropolitan, though. I don't want to write that while I have this sizzling on my brain. The plan is to update it now and then, in between this. As for whether or not I can stick to the plan... we'll see.
[x] Grits her teeth. Gets up.
[x] Grits her teeth. Gets up.

Anyone could have seen where she fell, and it'd probably be bad to meet them while she's still fucked up.
>implying PC-98 canon is still relevant, especially Touhou 1

Also, what do you mean by the HFY nuts pushing Sanae the other way?
[x] Grits her teeth. Gets up.

It's gonna be hard to push Sanae the other way. Specially, here.
[x] Grits her teeth. Gets up.

Can't afford to give up.
File 134129015780.png - (449.91KB, 1000x1000, fa6de5eadecbf3596db6a746a5150b16.png) [iqdb]
>implying it isn't
You did not read the first goddamned story, did you.

What I know is that it's about pyscho Sanae chasing Kogasa around.

Also, how is it that the old canon is still relevant to the new one we have today?
Because Alice's dialogue with Reimu in Perfect Cherry Blossom alludes to their fight in Mystic Square? Because she's carrying the same Grimoire of Alice that she held in the extra stage of Mystic Square? Because Reimu explicitly says she defeated Yuuka in the past to resolve an incident in Phantasmagoria of Flower View?

Nothing indicates that the PC-98 games are no longer canon to the series, while there are several pieces of evidence that do indicate they are. If you deny any of them, you are simply being willfully stubborn.
That doesn't make Touhou 1 canon though.
Yes it does, you clearly have no idea what you're talking about. Mima was introduced as a boss in Touhou 1. In Touhou 2, her dialogue indicates familiarity with Reimu. Gee, I wonder why.
Touhou 1 didn't even have any dialogues.
So, what happened to Mima then?
File 134129590975.png - (202.40KB, 700x900, I denounce this outbreak of faggotry.png) [iqdb]
Children. Children. Calm your asses down and shut yourselves up. I love the discussion, but not stuff that's bound to start retarded and/or drawn-out shitstorms.

Whether or not PC-98 games are canon in regards to Windows-era games is not important-- not here, at least. I don't know for sure, and I don't care, but there are more than a few hints that such could indeed be the case.

Or it could be Zun fucking with his fanbase, as he so loves to do. We don't know, and I suspect we never will.

What I can tell you is that PC-98 is sure as hell canon in everything I'll write, and that's all that's important, here.

You may return to your regularly-scheduled voting, now.

If you haven't read The Game, stop reading this right now, and go read that. It will ruin the story if you continue to do so; I can guarantee this.

>PC-98 is sure as hell canon in everything I write.

Are you Fell? If not, then your opinion has no place in this "mediating" of yours.
He's probably Fell, given the way he heavily implied he was throughout his entire post.
I'm more then entirely sure no anon has the balls to pose as a writer that he's not.
He should've used his trip then.
[x] She rests here a while longer.

Heal up a bit more. She's gonna need all she can get.


Just go and read The Game already. If you did, you'd know that it's usual for Fell to post without his nick/trip.
[x] Grits her teeth. Gets up.

Well, this is the most interest in a story I've had in a while. Glad to see you back, Fell.

And yeah, people, go read The Game. Not only does it likely provide context for this, it's definitely worth reading on its own merits. </asskissing>
[x] Grits her teeth. Gets up.

What's with all the stupid discussion?
[x] Grits her teeth. Gets up.

What's with all the stupid discussion?
Christ, you're stupid.
Making her go from "Youkai must be 'rehabilitated'" to "Youkai must be wiped out". I'm surprised they haven't popped up yet; they're usually quick to pop up in any new story.

[x] She rests here a while longer.
Pretty sure this is me double posting. My phone is being a dick.
We're already here you know, watching patiently from the shadows, waiting for a chance to strike.
File 134138559026.jpg - (361.17KB, 900x1200, Rainiers won 8-2 it was great.jpg) [iqdb]
No update today; went to the July 3rd baseball game with fireworks afterward.

Update probably tomorrow.
File 134146427638.jpg - (27.21KB, 493x335, psychosomatic addict insane.jpg) [iqdb]
[⋈] Grits her teeth. Gets up.

...This isn't a joke.

It's the worst joke ever. And I don't have the energy or the time to laugh or cry or anything else, right now.

Every breath I take in right now is killing me. Each one could quite literally be my last. Another series of coughs hits me, harder and harder until my throat feels raw. And then continues past that point for another ten seconds.

When they're over, my whole body is trembling; from pain or the growing sickness, I don't know. But it's time to do something about it, or die trying [Or die not trying, ha-ha]. My teeth clench painfully, holding back a cry of pain as I push myself back half-upright.

My eyes close. "Trace on," I croak out, voice a raspy whisper as I utter the boy's spell from that game. I only bought the PS2 version; Kana-mama wouldn't let me get the 18+ edition. I liked the Irish hero <i called him cu-chan>, though. He seemed like someone that would be nice to have around the shrine.

Unlike the boy's ability, I simply use the words as a way to focus on something, and to see it in ways that my eyes alone wouldn't perceive. I see myself, and all around me is...

The miasma.

I only know a little about Makai. Reimu and Marisa got uncomfortable and changed the subject quickly <looked down or looked away wouldnt meet my eyes> on the few occasions I brought it up or heard it mentioned. Kana-mama and Suwa-mama didn't know much more than the basics, as they didn't have too many dealings with beings from there. And I was never super-interested in it, so I hadn't gone out of my way to see what anyone else knew about the subject.

But one of the few things I had heard from all sources regarding Makai was the miasma. Toxic to humans, but apparently really good for the magically inclined. I guess that'd include me, sort of, but right now the other property of this invisible... stuff ...was a bigger concern. I rummage in my pockets and sleeves for purification charms, but don't find any, period. My eyes flick over to the trail I'd left behind on landing. Probably got lost on the way down— along with my haraegushi, I notice.

A chill runs down my spine as I realize how horribly defenseless I am: a shrine maiden unarmed, out of supplies, and choking to death on invisible magic gas in a land populated by demons and youkai. It really is an awful joke, isn't it? Rapidly running out of other options, I reach for my own, special, unique type of divine magic, my miracle power... and receive my next nasty shock.

My faith isn't being replenished, and I'm already pretty low as it is. Logically, it makes sense. I must have used up a lot surviving the fall, without even realizing it. And out here, where I can't even feel my <mothers> goddesses, I'm obviously not connected to the shrine or the worshipers.

I have a moment of that feeling you get when you don't want to use those really strong one-shot healing items, and then you use them all in the last battle, and still have a bunch left over. 'Don't use it, don't waste it, save it for when you need it!' Well, I'm pretty sure that hacking my lungs out and then being picked apart by whatever Makai has that passes for buzzards counts as needing it.

Grasping the remnants of that power within me, I put nearly all of it into a single, simple, fervent wish: Don't let this miasma make me sick.

Surprisingly, unusually, the prayer is "answered" immediately. My eyes open, and the moment of seeing things ends. I know how it works, and what to do, except I don't know either of those things. My tongue moves, speaking syllables I don't understand. It sounds vaguely like Chinese with Japanese words thrown in randomly. My fingers twitch, making gestures I'm unfamiliar with.

And like that, the tingling immediately stops. My throat feels funny for a few moments, but the sensation passes. I cautiously breathe in.

Everything seems fine... so far?

I exhale, and then breathe a little deeper. I try it again, several more times, but the coughing fits don't return. My ribs still hurt like nothing I've known before, but I can fix that. Just as long as breathing doesn't kill me, I can work on the other things that are still trying to.

It takes me about five minutes to apply some extremely basic healing and painkilling magic, but it's only a stopgap measure. But at last, I'm able to rise, joints popping and causing me to become aware of other, as-yet unnoticed pains.

While I undoubtedly feel some kind of miserable there isn't a word in Japanese for, I am finally mobile, more or less.

[ ] Turns back, tries to gather up what she lost in the fall. Girl's missing some important tools.
[ ] Starts walking, one step at a time. Only thing that matters is finding a way home.


Before I'm accused of awful or unrealistic references, remember that Sanae is a total nerd.

Indeed I am.

Indeed I do.
[x] Starts walking, one step at a time. Only thing that matters is finding a way home.

Now I know why Sanae hates youkai.
[x] Turns back, tries to gather up what she lost in the fall. Girl's missing some important tools.

No doubt Sanae will run into something nasty eventually. Might as well be ready.
[ ] Turns back, tries to gather up what she lost in the fall. Girl's missing some important tools.
Don't think I'm not noticing what you're doing with this whole powerlessness setup, Fell. Well played.

[x] Turns back, tries to gather up what she lost in the fall. Girl's missing some important tools.
Not much, I'd bet.
Huh, what do you mean?
Go read The Game.
[x] Turns back, tries to gather up what she lost in the fall. Girl's missing some important tools.
[X] Turns back, tries to gather up what she lost in the fall. Girl's missing some important tools.

For some reason, I can't read either of these options without hearing it in gravely "old Blues musician who's been chain smoking since puberty" voice.

Not him, but I read the game and don't really get it either. It's not like the MC was powerless: she was just really, really outclassed.


I keep reading them in the voice of Rucks (the narrator) from Bastion.

[x] Girl turns back, tries to gather up what she lost in the fall. She's missing some important tools.

Pretty sure >>9756 was linking powerlessness to Sanae's eventual fate.
Which doesn't make all that much sense either, but it's the only thing I can guess.

[x] Turns back, tries to gather up what she lost in the fall. Girl's missing some important tools.

Wonder what Fell's headcanon of Mystic Square is like, given Reimu and Marisa's reactions to the topic of Makai.
File 134154940465.jpg - (133.75KB, 500x375, asleep at the switch.jpg) [iqdb]
So today I decided to change my summer class schedule from 8am-5pm to 1pm-9:20pm. After I'd already had the 8-12 class.

So, no update today.

Where did you even hear that phrase, and why does it sound so damnably familiar?

I'm not certain if I heard it somewhere before or not. When I wrote that post, I think I had in mind the voice of that guy from Bastion, but didn't want to just say "it sounds like that guy from Bastion". Old Blues guys and long-term smoking were just the first things that I could think of that were associated with that sort of voice.
[x] Turns back, tries to gather up what she lost in the fall. Girl's missing some important tools.
File 134163209956.jpg - (273.28KB, 800x1114, building please wait.jpg) [iqdb]

About a third of the update is written, but I still need to figure out what she's got, what's been lost, and which things she would likely be carrying. Also had another burst of ideas, and that took some time.
tl;dr, this has all taken more time than expected, but I'm working on it.
File 134171040674.jpg - (235.45KB, 804x450, I think I lost my keys too.jpg) [iqdb]
[⍅] Turns back, tries to gather up what she lost in the fall. Girl's missing some important tools.

Suppressing a yawn for some reason, I look myself over.

Quite frankly, I look awful, and I can't even see myself, yet. My hair is dirty and messed up. My clothes are ragged and torn, not to mention covered with dirt, dust, and grime. If I was on the cover of a doujinshi, I would be able to pull all this off and look attractive, somehow, in an about-to-be-ravaged-by-eyeless-men sort of cutely panicking way[Nonsense, you're always cute!]. I'm pretty sure I'm falling well short of that mark, though. My hand touches my face, where I feel a slightly swollen lip, dried blood from a few cuts, and several tender areas.

No fresh wounds or still-bleeding parts, though. That's good. Being a living god means I can recover from injury a lot better than a typical human, but that just means that I when I'm healed up, I'm as good as new. It's a little faster, but it will still take time. With rest and a good bed, I'd be looking at a week until I was in perfect health again.

There are ways around that, but if they're here, they're scattered across the land.

"Guess I should see how bad it is," I mumble to myself.

As long as I don't have to handle any beginner quests to get my stuff back from grabby locals, I think I'll be able to handle it, at least. I turn around, and start following the path I left behind. The shallow trench of the final impact trail I left when I finally slid to a stop tells me the general direction I need to go.

Backtracking, I begin to find my things, in addition to the few I still had on me. Once I reach the start of the impact trail, I keep following it in a more or less straight line. Sure enough, I soon come upon one of the craters I left as I bounced, telling me I'm still on the right path.

The difficulty isn't in finding the trail I left. It's in the constant aches and pains I endure just from moving and walking around, and from finding it again once I've broken off to go track down something I notice lying in the dirt several dozen meters off the path. The light isn't a problem, though, even as I start into my second hour of searching. It actually gets a little brighter, in fact.

It never comes out from behind the mountains, though [Spooky~].

I crack my first smile in this awful place when I find the small backpack I use to carry some of the larger items that won't fit in my toolbelt. Not a construction worker's toolbelt, mind you, but a Batman-type toolbelt. Today was my first shot at incident-resolution, and I wanted to be ready, darn it.

The backpack is floating in the air, blue shoulder straps lazily dragging through the dirt as it drifts to and fro. It looks for all the world like a dark blue jellyfish or something, moving aimlessly along about half a meter off the ground. It doesn't react when I walk up to it, but once I pick it up it suddenly stops trying to float, and becomes a normal backpack.

"Okay. Now I'm curious."

I open it up, and find most of its contents relatively undamaged, which is a good sign. But nothing that I thought would try to fly on its own, except maybe... those. Picking up a sack from within the pack, I open it up, and shake out a few of the tiny things inside into my hand. They don't do anything special [Maybe they don't like to do it when you're nearby~]. That's odd, because I know they were floating around on their own, earlier today.

An odd idea strikes me, and I try setting them down on the ground, and take a few steps back. And sure enough, after about ten seconds, I'm watching three little UFOs float up to about eye level, pulsating in their various colors. I giggle a little, but grab them back out of the air again before they float up much higher. They darken slightly again as I touch them, and stop trying to float. How weird <or suspicious>.

Stuffing them back in the sack, I close it again, and then stuff everything else back into the bag that I've collected so far, and resume my search.

A few more hours later, I've found all I think that I'm going to find. I was able to recover most of my things, luckily. Not all of it is in the best shape, however. My searching took me to a more brush-y area that gives way to a forest of sorts a few kilometers further on, near a pass in the mountains.

I spread my things out over a large, flat rock, and take inventory.

☆ 1 toolbelt Modeled after the caped crusader's own, functionally, and after Kamen Rider, stylistically. Sadly, does not allow me to transform.
★ 1 backpack Blue, small, and rugged. Like me! There's a hole torn in the side, but it's by the top, and not too big. A strap is torn, but I was able to tie it back in place.
☆ 1 haraegushi None the worse for the wear. Not even smudged; the dirt slid right off it the moment I picked it up.
★ 1 small folding knife With "サナツ夜" carefully scratched into the handle. In my defense, it sounded cool back then.
☆ 1 sack Currently holding those funny UFOs from before.
★ My wallet Contents: ¥4366, a student ID card from junior high, my moped license, and two game cards from arcades I frequented.
☆ 4 Moriya Shrine flyers Kana-mama and Suwa-mama are both big on getting the word out. Promoting the shrine is important.
★ 1 flashlight With batteries that were fresh out of the charger this morning. It would have lasted a while, if the bulb hadn't gotten smashed.
☆ 1 pair compact folding field glasses The cheap, thin kind that fold up into a card-shaped container. Useful if you lack youkai eyesight. The case is broken, but the lenses are intact.
★ 1 mirror, cracked For signaling, looking around corners, decoding backwards handwriting, and in case a gorgon ever shows up in Gensokyo.
☆ 1 spellcard pouch (with spellcards) I don't know how useful these will be in Makai. I'm not sure they have spellcard rules here.
★ 1 salt shaker, full Essential for anyone dealing with the strange, the weird, and the occult. A must-have for any miko. Has a hairline crack in the side.
☆ 1 first aid kit, dented Currently being used to clean up some of my more minor injuries. Also sitting on top of the sack to keep it from floating off.
★ 1 brush pen "マジック☆マーカー" is written on the side. This was a present from Kana-mama's tengu "friend". I like him.
☆ 1 bento box Special Grendizer box that I won in a bet in elementary school. Has today's lunch in it. Not pink.
★ 39 ofuda Seals written on purified paper. Another essential miko item. Affix, empower, and serve.
-sealing (7) Keeps all manner of bad things and beings shut down and dormant. I hear Reimu uses these to win arguments with youkai.
-blasting (2) Suwa-mama helped me make these in secret. Slap them on, charge them, and RUN.
-protection (3) Prevents things from becoming damaged. And as I found out on the way down, people as well.
-compulsion (1) Kana-mama's top-secret, custom seal, not to be used except in dire emergencies. It's just as well; I wouldn't feel comfortable using these.
-warding (7) Keeps youkai, ghosts, spirits, boogeymen, and salesmen out of something or someplace.
-purification (6) Purges any influence, possession, taint, contamination, and all sorts of other yucky stuff from something.
-blank (13) Pre-prepared seals that just need to be written on in order to work. Can't churn them out with the laser printer, or else I'd have a lot more of these in stock.
☆ 15 omamori Little woven charms with a tassel on them that we sell at the shrine. I don't know how much good I'll get out of them, though.
-direction (2) A must if you're trying to find your way through mountains or a forest.
-good luck (4) I wonder if Tewi is lucky because she still has all her feet, after so long?
-successful harvest (3) Only farmers with springtime crops buy these. Everyone else goes to Minoriko.
-protection from spirits (4) These only sell when I go to town. If you make it up to the shrine, you probably don't need one.
-fertility (2) More youkai buy these than humans, strangely. Is there a difference in birth rates? Maybe they're like elves, that way.

Surprisingly enough, this is just about all that I started with. I'm missing a few extra seals, spare batteries, and my handkerchief, but for the most part, I've got nearly everything. After I've tended to my wounds, sorted and itemized everything, brushed the dirt off, and put it all away, I'm actually feeling a little better <ha>.

After fastening my belt, donning my backpack, and biting into a riceball, I consider where to go, now. I don't know if I can really say the sun is setting, but the light has started to dim from where it was, earlier. It's time to get moving.

[ ] Makes for the forest. Girl needs a place to stay for the night, and there's no telling what the weather here's like.
[ ] Saw what was maybe a lake, beyond the forest. Girl noticed lights out that way, enough for a small village.
[ ] Decides to follow the direction the ship took. Ship brought her here; stands to reason it can bring her out.
[ ] <cant cry yet its not night its not sleeptime>


How weird. And the strangest thing is that I think I was the one that said it, and yet, I can't find any record that I ever did. Maybe it's some kind of acute, momentary deja vu.
[x] Decides to follow the direction the ship took. Ship brought her here; stands to reason it can bring her out.

Makes sense.
[x] Makes for the forest. Girl needs a place to stay for the night, and there's no telling what the weather here's like.

Time to find a good place to rest.
[x] Makes for the forest. Girl needs a place to stay for the night, and there's no telling what the weather here's like.

The people on the ship kicked her ass once, and they can do it again. Especially since she's wounded now. I think it's best to just try and lay low until she's healed up a bit.
>and in case a gorgon ever shows up in Gensokyo.



Considering her reaction of unholy terror to the point where she jumped off a ship several hundred feet in the air without any flight spells active, no, it doesn't make sense.

[x] Girl saw what was maybe a lake, beyond the forest. She noticed lights out that way, enough for a small village.

Villages imply supplies and shelter, even if she has to be sneaky about it.

I don't get that reference, if it references anything at all.

Just laughing at how absurdly ready she is. Nothing more.
>called him cu-chan>, though. He seemed like someone that would be nice to have around the shrine.

I wish I could hate you to death, Fell.

[x] Saw what was maybe a lake, beyond the forest. Girl noticed lights out that way, enough for a small village.
[x] Girl saw what was maybe a lake, beyond the forest. She noticed lights out that way, enough for a small village.
>★ 1 small folding knife With "サナツ夜" carefully scratched into the handle
>"Sanatsu Yoru"

[x] Saw what was maybe a lake, beyond the forest. Girl noticed lights out that way, enough for a small village.
File 134179577499.jpg - (236.33KB, 768x576, Makai has no moons.jpg) [iqdb]
[☠] Saw what was maybe a lake, beyond the forest. Girl noticed lights out that way, enough for a small village.

Out past the forest, I'd seen lights of some sort, quite some distance away, maybe ten, fifteen kilometers? The thought of a village or something both relieves and scares me. On one hand, it means there's probably food and a place with a roof and some kind of place to sleep that's softer than the ground.

On the other hand, it more than likely means that the place is populated by demons. Naturally, I'm just a little worried about this.

Finishing the riceball and picking a few errant white grains off my hand and eating those as well, I eye the forest of sorts that lies between it and me, nestled in the mountain pass.

It's really tall. And really blue. The trees aren't blue spruces, either. They're just really, really blue. They mostly resemble evergreens or pines, but they stand a little too straight, and the branches are a little too angular, too geometrical. I shouldn't be surprised that another world, or dimension, or whatever Makai qualifies as has plant life I've never seen before, but it's still really weird.

Making sure that my backpack is on tight, my seals are close at hand, and that I am tightly grasping my haraegushi, I take to the air. I move hesitantly at first, but persist, and my flight quickly stabilizes [Atta giiiirlll~]. I breath a sigh of relief; I hadn't forgotten how to do this, after all.

It doesn't last.

As I climb higher and higher into the sky, I feel that unpleasant little tickle in my throat again. A shock of dread rushes through me, followed by disbelief. My miracles are supposed to be just that, miracles! Even in a demonic land, wondrous and impossible feats can't be so easily broken, can they? That tingling only grows, though, mocking my thoughts, quickly turning into a scratchy, burning sensation in my throat, my eyes, my nose, my mouth...

I slow down, jerkily, as the first coughing fit hits me. Hacking into my fluttering sleeve, I come to a near stop in mid-air, hovering as I'm seized with another fit right on the tail of the first. This is bad, bad, bad...

...not... as bad...?

My head lifts up as I put my sleeve down after it finishes. The painful burning is now just this intense, nagging itch. I can feel it getting worse, but not as fast, not as quickly. And it's everywhere in my head.

Holding back the urge to claw at my throat, I start to sink lower and lower, towards the blue forest. I just need to stop, get my bearings, and figure out why my miracle isn't working. No, why it isn't working like it should. Gotta keep a positive outlook, right? If I don't have that, I don't have anything. Or maybe that was health.

I think they're sort of linked, in this case.

Holding my head slightly, I pause, and shake it. I'm starting to get dizzy, now. Can't be from the altitude change, the flight spell takes care of stuff like that, doesn't it?

...In Gensokyo, it does. Here? Who knows <i dont i dont know anything i wanna go home>.


My head shoots up and my eyes open wide. Two things occupy my attention, at that moment. First, I'm just slightly below the tips of the treetops, and the weird forest stretches out all around me. I had just brushed against the unexpectedly soft "needles" of one of the trees, which was what made that sound just now.

Second, there's a small, white, one-eyed thing hovering a couple meters away from me, just staring. A tongue, far, far too long for for its mouth lolls out, hanging over its lips.

It blinks, once.

A drop of saliva falls from it as we stare at each other. I hear a soft hissing from below, a moment later. The smell of something like burnt cotton wafts up to us, shortly after.

<oh gods what is this>

[ ] She strikes at the thing. Girl's reminded too much of the white woman, and lashes out.
[ ] Tries to speak to it. Poor miko's shaking like a leaf, but tries to keep her wits about her.
[ ] Simply flees. She wants flat-out nothing to do with whatever that is.


Lucky that you found this out now instead of later. It would have probably come at a much more inopportune time, otherwise.
[x] Simply flees. She wants flat-out nothing to do with whatever that is.
[x] Simply flees. She wants flat-out nothing to do with whatever that is.
[x]Simply flees. She wants flat-out nothing to do with whatever that is.

There's a worse time to find out that the miracle protecting her from choking to death than when face to face with a possibly hostile monster that may have it's eyes set on dinner?

[x] Simply flees. She wants flat-out nothing to do with whatever that is.

what the fuck is that thing get it away from me

I'm sorta tempted to try to talk to it, but eh.
File 134198518974.png - (20.13KB, 640x336, wonderful historic landmark.png) [iqdb]
[ڼ] Simply flees. She wants flat-out nothing to do with whatever that is.

My eyes are drawn past its own singular round, <wet> unblinking <horrific> orb, to the little hat it has. Or maybe "visor" is the right word? But it draws my attention all the same.

I can't remember the name for it, and I should be able to. It starts with "hitaka," I know that. Or maybe "hitaiga." The ghost princess has one; I remember seeing it on her hat at a flower viewing we were invited to. Only two kinds of things wear them.

As that memory goes through my mind, I look at this thing anew. There's a strange, quiet, high-pitched sound in the air, and I already know it's coming from me. My mouth is dry, my breathing is rapid, and I can feel my hands trembling.

And now that I know what it is, I scream, and I run.

It's not as bad as the white woman. It doesn't do

It.... it doesn't show me things like...

It's not as bad as the white woman.

Shooting past the thing like a blue-white rocket, it makes the first noise I've heard it make so far, a sound that amounts to "Bwug?", and I smell rotting meat and I feel a chill that has nothing to do with the nighttime air and I don't see what it did because my eyes are closed <and i dont want to see it dont want to think about it get it away get it away its like her like HER> and I am gone.

[Scared of ghosts now, are we?]

<stop shut up dont say that word get it away get me away>

Somewhere, someone hums in thought.

When I open my eyes again, I'm past the forest.

Tears of relief flow, and that's okay <theyre not the proper tears those come later but the need to come soon>. I survived another... another one of those. Shuddering breaths come quickly, but slowly, slowly, slowing down.

Being scared of these is supposed to be cute, in manga. The big tough warrior lady always has some kind of childish fear. Except I'm no warrior woman, and my fear is completely and wholly justified, I think. No, I know. There is nothing irrational about it.

I look around myself in order to take my mind off of what's going on. It works, a little bit.

I'm a few dozen meters above the treeline of the forested area which began in the pass, behind me. Ahead of me is a low ridge, and beyond that, an enormous lake, or possibly, an ocean. I still can't see the sun. Everything is still darkly lit, but I can see lights on the close shore, and more, further away.

...Does the sun ever come out in Makai?

[ ] Needs to test things for a minute, clear stuff up. Girl doesn't like the idea of her miracles actin' dodgy.
[ ] Doesn't really want to think about that right now. She just heads toward the closest lights.
[ ] Doesn't really want to think about that right now. Journey over the bay looks longer, but maybe worth it.


Not the choice I expected, but that is part of the challenge of writefaggotry, I suppose.
>Not the choice I expected, but that is part of the challenge of writefaggotry, I suppose.
That worries me a bit. Should it?

Also, can we combine options?
[X] Doesn't really want to think about that right now. She just heads toward the closest lights.
[x] Needs to test things for a minute, clear stuff up. Girl doesn't like the idea of her miracles actin' dodgy.
They're all sort of meant to be mutually exclusive. What did you have in mind?
Mull over why your miracles are acting weird while heading for something. We don't have to be stationary to miracle it up, right?
Yes, we do at least in DnD.
Well, she can't really miracle much of anything, right now, for one. And there will be moving involved with her trying to figure things out.
The votes are pretty much exactly what they say. Otherwise will not generally have confounding, bizarre, choices whose meaning must be puzzled out.
Even if that was one of my favorite parts of writing The Game.

Anyway, keep voting.
[x] Needs to test things for a minute, clear stuff up. Girl doesn't like the idea of her miracles actin' dodgy.

This has to be the first priority
[x] Needs to test things for a minute, clear stuff up. Girl doesn't like the idea of her miracles actin' dodgy.
Gotta confirm life support isn't going to fail on us before continuing the mission.
I cant help but read these choices in a narrators voiceBastion .
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[⍜] Needs to test things for a minute, clear stuff up. Girl doesn't like the idea of her miracles actin' dodgy.

I keep staring at the distant lights here and there, close by, and across the water. Everything's some shade of purple, red, brown, or black, it seems like, except for those little shining dots. I sort of space out, then, just looking at nothing, thinking about not much <trying not to think about today, not yet>.

[And floating in the middle of the sky for all to see~]

I blink, and shake my head. I rub my eyes, trying to focus. I begin to realize, too, that just hovering up here, looking all dazed and out of place, doesn't seem like a very good idea. In Gensokyo, it wouldn't be as big a problem, but here? I can't take that chance. I need to find a place for the night.

But first, I need to figure out why my miracle failed, earlier.

I slowly descend to a sturdy-looking branch near the top of one of the trees. Gingerly reaching out a finger, I touch the bumpy-looking "bark." Despite looking shiny, it has some grip to it. Not sticky or anything, but not smooth or slippery. More importantly, it doesn't seem to burn or cause my fingers to rot away <yet>. I wipe my hand off on my clothes, just to be sure, and then gently settle upon one the branch.

Seems to support my weight; that's good. Still have to hold the branch above to keep my balance, that's... well, it's something I gotta do. I really hope these don't have some kind of slow poison in them.

But at last I can sit, stop, and think for a moment. My mind goes back over what happened, as best I can recall.

I flew up, and started to cruise along, like I normally do... and then it got bad, really bad. And yet, I'm doing okay right now. So... my miracle isn't entirely broken, then? It probably isn't the case that only some parts of Makai have the miasma. I would have heard something about that, I think, and I never did.

A nearby branch creaks a little, and I absently scoot over a bit, putting weight on a different part of the one I'm on. Glanci- -n't see anything, after all.

Is it related to flying, then? Except I was flying just minutes ago, and I wasn't having a problem. Yet, that's the link my tired brain keeps coming back to. I don't know how my miracle could be defective, but that's the only other explanation, and it doesn't seem to be holding up pretty good. I can tell 'cause I'm not choking and dying.

"Time to experiment, I guess," I quietly mumble. My voice still sounds a little raspy, so I clear my throat. Not like there's anyone around to hear me. It's just a natural reaction.

Standing up, I kick off the branch, causing it to softly tinkle again as I take to the sky.

So, what was different between flying now and flying then?

...Height, I come up with, after a moment. And speed, too. But I was moving pretty fast when... <i fled> ...before. I can't recall anything bad happening then. But if height makes it worse, then... maybe miasma is more concentrated as you go higher.

I give the purple, starless sky a frown. There are a few clouds, so I give them a good glare, too.

That doesn't make any sense, though. After all, doesn't atmosphere get thinner, higher up? When we get humans visiting the shrine, they're usually huffing and puffing pretty good. After living there for a few years, I've gotten used to it, I guess, but obviously, visitors don't have that luxury. And besides, I even had it explained to me that the flight spell accounted for less oxygen at higher altitudes... at least, up to a point. I couldn't fly into space and hope to keep breathing, obviously.

...And yet, it's the only thing I can think of that seems to fit. And if I was in a thicker amount of miasma and going fast, I'd be taking a lot more of it than if I were much lower and trying to go the same speed. It sounds not just unlikely, but downright impossible.

Then again, I'm a living god with magical powers who can create miracles (although not presently), and until I came to Gensokyo, I had to dye my hair and my eyebrows every three or four weeks when they started showing green roots again. At least the eyes and eyelashes were easy to take care of. And I'm flying.

Oh, and I'm not even on Earth anymore. That's a pretty damning point, right there. I allow myself a little chuckle. "Can't let yourself be held back by common sense here, either, huh?" [That's nostalgic, right?]

So... maybe I shouldn't be so quick to dispose of that theory. In fact, I should be testing it. So I do.

Flying straight up, I keep an eye on the ground below to try and gauge how high I'm getting. It's a little hard, doing this in dimmer light than I'm used to, but I have a rough idea.

And then it happens. Somewhere between 300 and 500 meters up, the tingle returns, and begins to slowly build. I slow down to a stop, and hover there for a bit. It continues to grow, and I can feel the coughing fit looming just ahead. I keep rising, slowly, and it begins to turn into a genuinely painful, itchy sensation. As the first fit hits, I drop like a stone, plummeting back down, trying to keep an eye on the ground as I fall through the air.

Sure enough, at about 100 to 200 meters, it almost vanishes. I hack and wheeze one last time, and then the next cough comes out weird, dying off part way through. The itch has all but disappeared. It really does seem like it's height-related, after all. At least half of my idea was right, it seems. And as much as I don't want to keep straining myself for the sake of science, I'm also doing it to ensure my future survival.

I just hope that I don't kill myself while trying to survive. That would sorta suck.

After I give myself another 5 or 10 minutes to make sure I'm totally fine, I start on the second half of my theory: speed. When this happened the first time, I came to a stop right away, and it seemed to get a little bit better. Or it stopped being quite as bad. Either way you look at it, it lessened. So, maybe at a height where the miasma would be concentrated a certain amount, I end up getting a higher dose of this icky crap than normal for that height if I'm also moving really fast.

I'm not looking forward to this at all.

At my apparent "safe" height of around 100 to 200 meters, I start to pour on the speed. I'm pretty decent when it comes to flight speed, especially considering my wind-specialty. Of course, I can't even hope to match the tengu. And as much as it bugs me, I'll admit Marisa's faster than me, as well. Then again, she puts every last ounce of her magic into speed, explosions, stars, more explosions, and lasers. I'm just doing what comes naturally. I could probably beat her if I really wanted to; I just don't, that's all.

...If I get any more defensive, I'll start straying into tsundere territory, and then there'll be nothing for it but stuttering and violence. I can't be a tsundere; that always works horribly for main characters.

Putting that thought out of my mind, I keep up the speed, curving in a wide arc before I can get too close to the lights on the shore nearest to me, and start shooting back towards the pass. I do start feeling the buildup again, this time starting in my eyes. I've kept my altitude more or less level this whole time, so if my theory is right, then it should get a lot worse if I get higher, like this—

I almost slam into a blue crystal treetop as I drop myself out of the sky, hacking and choking. Tears of pain and ...and whatever you call the kinds of tears from coughing too much for too long, they mix together as I slow down, bumping against the tip of one tree with a clink and a jingle, and into another, and then another before I grab one to hold myself still.

"That was really stupid," I croak out, punctuating it with a few residual coughs.

It really, really was. But at the same time, the pain and the strength of the ensuing fit was even stronger at high speeds at high altitudes, and dropped somewhat when I slowed down. Hooray, I successfully scienced out my limits, and proved them. Can't go too high, and can't go too fast.

An ugly, cold feeling completely different from the effects of the miasma settles in my gut in the next second, though, as I remember that for all this, I still haven't come any closer to discovering what's wrong with my miracle. And if it's not perfect, for whatever reason, then I could be making it worse, through all this testing.

I'm filled with weariness and no small amount of depression at the thought of wasting the last miracle I'll be able to create until... until I get back home, probably?


Right now, I need to sleep. Maybe eat.

<and cry>

[ ] Sees lots of lights on the other shore. Likely more dangerous, but more likely to find a roof and a bite.
[ ] This side of the bay's not too lit-up. Girl figures she can look around without rilin' up too many locals.
[ ] Chance of bein' hunted down ain't worth it. She'll hole up elsewhere for tonight, she decides.


Once again, danbooru surprises me. I was going to try for two updates today. And then errands happened. However, I'm posting this at about 1am, so let's try for that tomorrow. Which is today. And will then technically be a triple update, if I can pull it off.

I just realized last night that I didn't fully answer the question here. No, she does not have to be stationary, but it does help, for reasons that will be covered later and which are also mentioned in Symposium. However, she can't miracle at all right now.
[x] Sees lots of lights on the other shore. Likely more dangerous, but more likely to find a roof and a bite.
[x] Sees lots of lights on the other shore. Likely more dangerous, but more likely to find a roof and a bite.

Should be the more interesting option, at least.
[x] Sees lots of lights on the other shore. Likely more dangerous, but more likely to find a roof and a bite.
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[‡] Sees lots of lights on the other shore. Likely more dangerous, but more likely to find a roof and a bite.

Jetting off towards the bay, I set my sights on the side of the water that seems a little more occupied. If that means stealing someone's drying laundry for bedding and camping out in an alley, then... I don't care. I just... I really don't, right now. Neither time nor pride are on my side.

Passing over the closer shore, the few lights that are there reveal what I guess are a handful of small farms. Crop plots are usually pretty easily identifiable no matter what's being grown. A long, strangely colored road winds between them, one end going off in the distance, and presumably around the bay. On the other side, maybe a couple kilometers or so beyond them, a large building sits in a small valley, more brightly lit than the others.

Then I'm past them, and over the bay.

It's a little cooler, over the dark waters. And quiet. Not that the farms were noisy, but this seems to eat up the sound, somehow. Out past the mouth of the bay, towards what I guess is sort of the north? Maybe. The sun didn't really move much, I think. I don't even know what time of day it is. For all I know, Makaians are nocturnal, so this is their day. Except it's actually night. But then that'd...

...It's messing with my head, this place.

Out beyond the mouth of the bay is a really, really wide river, and beyond it, more hills. And far beyond them, more mountains. Just like everywhere else in this damn place. I had the impression that Makai was bigger than this, so I'm sort of hoping that the upcoming settlement will hold some kind of solution for getting me out of here.

As I get closer to the more brightly lit side, I angle up a bit [For a demon town, it looks undemonic, doesn't it?], staying clear of the dangerous region of the sky, but getting high enough that I can survey this place better. And when I get a good look at it, I feel my prospects for finding anything more than a solution for my basic needs being met dropping. Fast.

The place is a village. A large one, sure. And a lot of those lights are placed too regularly to be anything but streetlamps. There's more of that strange road, which looks reddish, now that I can see it better. The place itself looks like town, back in Gensokyo: a weird mishmash of architecture, only without as much of a preference for traditional Japanese or even Chinese building styles. Judging by the numerous little docks lining the shore, this is either a fishing village, or most of their trade and transportation is by boat.

Its layout is odd, too. The buildings by the shore are actually a short distance away from what seems like a single, main avenue through town. It seems dustier and dirtier, or at least, darker, than the roads coming on or out, so it must see a lot of use. And it's still lit up fairly well. Strange animals are attached to posts in front of some of them, here and there. It looks like a less-orderly version of parking stalls, really.

I can see figures here and there, but not too many. Some of them definitely aren't human shapes, but aren't being led around, like pets or livestock, or used for transport. Well, no, there are a few of those. They sure as heck aren't horses, though.

Even up in the air, I can hear the noises of a town at night, but... not the ones I'm used to. No car engines, no TVs on too loud, no machinery humming along.

...Yeah. Looks like I won't be going home tonight <no no thats not what i want to hear>.

Dropping altitude, I head for a darker portion of what seems like the residential part of town, and I'm struck with how old the place seems. Not old and ratty, but old and ...shabby, I guess. Houses appear to be made out of wood, and not exactly sturdy. They look like they were built according to a plan, but maybe not with modern precision instruments. Only a handful go higher than two stories. The roofs look to be in pretty good condition, by and large.

This whole place feels like it's from the turn of the century. ...No, a little older than that. And it's not very Japanese at all, but I guess that's not surprising. Although, with a name like "Makai," you'd sort of think it would be.

...I'll think about it later.

There are still a lot of clotheslines in what passes for backyards. They've got fences between houses, but not really anything tall. No real walls to speak of, either, so I guess demons aren't too bothered with privacy. About the only thing they do is make the difference between "my house" and "their house" pretty clear. Something else to think about.

Most people's washing seems to have been taken in for the night, but someone forgetful seems to have left a blanket out. Thanks, forgetful demon-person. Even if it does smell faintly of... milk? That's a new one. I guess it could be worse. Not much worse than what my situation already is, but it could be.

My eyelids are starting to droop, and the pain of my injuries that I'd been putting off is starting to come back, whether it wants to or not. I need to find a place to crash <if i go much longer and it might be literally>.

[ ] Short, squat house over there has some sort of run-down shed. Girl figures it's not visited often enough; looks safe.
[ ] Tall house up the street, might've been painted red at one point. Roof's cut weird, forms a little cubbyhole well out of sight.


If I get enough votes over a short enough timespan, I can still shoot for the double-update tonight.
[x] Short, squat house over there has some sort of run-down shed. Girl figures it's not visited often enough; looks safe.

What's in the shed?
[x] Short, squat house over there has some sort of run-down shed. Girl figures it's not visited often enough; looks safe.
[x] Short, squat house over there has some sort of run-down shed. Girl figures it's not visited often enough; looks safe.

Sleeping in the shed always works.
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[Π] Short, squat house over there has some sort of run-down shed. Girl figures it's not visited often enough; looks safe.

There. Two houses over is a wide, yet squatty-looking house that looks like a giant sat on it by accident, squishing it. It's got a nice big yard out back, and a shed of some sort lurking in a darker patch of ground.

As I float closer, descending slowly, keeping to the shadows, I begin to wonder if I should maybe go somewhere else. Even in the gloom, I can tell this run-down little shack has seen better years. Or maybe better centuries. Same goes for the fence nearby. I look around for a moment, then shake my head. It's not the Tokyo Hyatt, but I don't really have any other options.

Heck with it.

I approach it, and gingerly test the door. The hinges don't creak, thank the gods. But a quarter of the way through opening it, they do make a loud, powdery scraping sound. I run around the other side, pressing myself up against the back of the shed, heart thudding painfully loud <shut up they can hear you itll be like poe oh god dont bury me no no no> as I clutch my stolen blanket to my chest, trying to muffle it.

After ten minutes of no reaction from the house, no lights coming on (that I can see from around either side of the shed), and nobody coming out to investigate, I slowly peek around the corner.

Nobody there.

I take a step out, and look a little further. It... looks clear?

It takes me another two minutes of staring at the dark house for any sign of movement from those low windows before I can convince myself to step all the way out. I guess whoever's in there is a really deep sleeper. None of the neighbors seem to have been woken up, either.

My second attempt at opening the door is executed with more paranoia and care. I find the hinges in the dark, and then bunch up the blanket around them, pressing the bundle against the top one with one hand, and pressing it awkwardly against my shins to hold it to the lower one. Then, with my free hand, I open the door the rest of the way, slowly and carefully.

It sort of works. The noise is muffled a bit, or maybe opening it slowly helped. Once it's wide enough for me to squeeze through, I grab the blanket, brush off the rusty spots, and slip inside. Then, very, very slowly, I carefully shut the door. It still grinds, but not too loudly, this time.

Safely inside, I let out a deep, shuddering breath in the darkness. I'm almost done. My hand reaches for my flashlight, but I stop, remembering that it's not much good to me, right now. Luckily, I have a backup <its cause im dual class>.

Holding up my free hand, I move my thumb in five quick movements before pressing it to my palm. A star forms there, taking on the shape that my thumb traced out against the inner surface of my hand. It glows, much more brightly than expected. I frantically turn it down, giving off dim but serviceable illumination which I use to look at my surroundings.

Tools of some sort are stacked in the right front corner. A bunch of small sacks of something piled up against the back and the rear left corner. Three long, metal storage crates of some kind, neatly stacked against the left wall. Pile of actual canvas tarps more or less in the middle. The whole thing smells kind of musty, but not overwhelmingly so.

It's actually... pretty normal-looking, for a demon's shed.

[Not much to look at, is it?]


I 'place' the glowing star against one wall, put down the blanket, and pick up the bundle of tarps whoa okay, no I don't. Not all at once, anyway. They're pretty heavy. I guess that's why they're made of plastic, nowadays. Taking one or two at a time, I transfer the stack of tarps, save for one, to sit on top of the pile of sacks.

The last one I unfold partially until it's a large square about a fourth its full size. I set it back down on the ground, pick up the blanket, and then sit upon the canvas sheet, patting it down against the dirt floor. After reaching under it and removing a couple of small rocks from underneath, I unsling my backpack and set it down on top of the tarp as well. I open it up and dig through it for a bit before removing the thick glass container of salt.

...Ah. Almost forgot. Before I proceed, I take my glowing star back off the wall, and set it on top of my pack. Then I unscrew the metal lid from the container, and begin laying down a thin but solid line of salt in a large circle with the tarp squarely in its center.

[Oh. Didn't expect this.]

I hope I don't need honey and ash, too, because this is all I have.

Once the circle is complete, I replace the lid, and sit back on the tarp.

I eat a little bit of the lunch I'd packed. The pickled radishes are pretty good. I really want to eat the whole thing, but I may need to ration this for as long as it will keep unrefrigerated. I re-seal the Grendizer box when I'm done, and put it away.

I wrap the blanket around me and pull my backpack close, using it as a lumpy sort of pillow.

I end the star-light spell, plunging the room into darkness. A nervous sound escapes my lips, betraying my surprise.

Then I curl up, close my eyes, and cry softly into the blanket, letting the pain and the weariness take me at last.

I don't fall asleep right away.

[ ] What happened that morning?
[ ] What happened before today?


Just barely over the midnight limit for the double-update. I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me.
[x] What happened before today?
[x] What happened before today?
[x] What happened that morning?
Nice job with the 3 updates in 24 hours.

Hmm, this is a tough choice. Both seem like they'd give us useful information, but...

[x] What happened before today?

Also, seems like [bracketed text] was some spirit that we banished, at least temporarily, with the salt circle.
I feel I should clarify a bit: As I said before, I generally won't be presenting you with cryptic choices, but looking at this again on a comparatively well-rested head, I think I may have made the choices more vague than intended.
An explanation follows. You may or may not wish to change it afterwards.

"What happened this morning?" is a scene from earlier 'today,' when she set out to go incident-resolving.
"What happened before today?" is a scene from anywhere in her past before that day.
There will be more choices like these in the future, so don't worry too much about missing scenes. It couldn't hurt to switch it up now and then, though.

Brackets seems to be her conscience or somewhat. It appears to know what she thinks and all about her memories.
I think the square brackets are Shinki.
Shinki's a distinct possibility, I think. Looking back over the [bracketed] lines, they generally seem to come from someone who is or is trying to appear vaguely silly and nice enough in personality, which would fit with most Shinki portrayals.

Still, assuming the voice is someone important enough that we'll be interacting with them, and that Fell mentioned wanting to check up on SoPM for a fair bit of this, another guess of mine would be Byakuren.

And yeah, <angle brackets> is pretty clearly Sanae's inner monologue/thoughts.
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[☯] What happened before today?

In the sky above the onbashira-lined path, above the trees turning red and yellow and all the colors of autumn, red-white and blue-white did battle. Danmaku was traded back and forth in great quantities, as typically happens in these situations.

Blue-white lost.

Her descent is shaky, her path down to the ground uneven and ragged. She lands, takes two steps upon the stone path, and slumps down to the ground, rolling onto her back. Tears of embarrassment and anger run down her cheeks as above her, the last swirling bullets of
Yasaka's Divine Wind fade away.

Sprawled out on her back, she clenches her teeth, and grips her haraegushi tightly. Forcing her weight onto it, and tilting her body slightly, she tries to get up. She succeeds.

For about two seconds.

She is on the ground again, breathing heavily, trying to get up again.

In front of her, red-white lands with the light sound of shoes on rock.

"Tough luck, new kid," says she. There's a faint quirk to her lips as she names her fallen opponent, as if she finds it funny. Or strange. No matter.

Blue-white looks up at red-white, eyes narrowed. "One... one more round. I'm not gonna give up after a single defeat! Just give me a moment, and...!"

She winces, but tries to rally. Ryouma wouldn't give up, she thinks. Kouji wouldn't give up. Noriko wouldn't give up. So there's no reason that I should give up, ei—



Red-white actually does smile a little now, like she was just now that someone made a joke, but she isn't sure she fully gets it yet. "Rules are the rules. Say it backward, say it forward, say it over and over until you get it. When the match is done, it's done. That's the Gensokyan way."

"Says who?" retorts blue-white, angrily.

"Me." Red-white's answer is short and final, all humor having suddenly vaporized. Her lips part slightly as if to add something else, but she apparently decides to keep it to herself.

And yet, she says it with such confidence, thinks blue-white. And look at this... this... her! She's barely even winded! No, it doesn't matter what kind of "rules" this jerk comes up with, if nothing is done to stop her, then she ca—

And red-white sighs, and the tension disappears as she takes her eyes off of fallen blue-white, and looks around the shrine, a curious look about her. "Welp, enough screwing around here. Nice try for a beginner, though," she adds, before looking back down at blue-white again. "...So, are you supposed to be dressed as a miko or something?"

Red-white's infuriatingly laid-back attitude earns her a glare from blue-white.

am a miko, you jerk!" Blue-white has recovered enough to be able to finally sit up, and she brushes back a few strands that fall down as a result. She's about to launch into another angry tirade when she pauses. Waits. ...No, nothing. Then she draws a deep breath, and starts t—

"Are you?" interrupts red-white, right on schedule. Blue-white screams silently inside her head. "Then that'll make this a lot quicker!" She takes a few steps closer to blue-white, and holds out her hand.

The hand is stared at for several seconds while blue-white fumes. With a reluctant grimace, she finally accepts the help, and is pulled to her feet. The danmaku battle took a lot out of her, but she manages to stay on her feet. Mostly.

what easier?" she asks, sullenly.

"Talking to your god. Duh."

"...what about?"

Red-white gets that I'm-not-sure-if-you're-kidding-but-it-still-sounds-kinda-funny look again. "Gee, new kid. You guys only came over to my shrine and told me to shut it down or else. Well, I don't take well to threats against my shrine or Gensokyo. What do you
think I'm here to talk about?"

"The possibility of becoming a branch shrine?" replies Kana-mama, who has quite literally appeared out of thin air not 4 meters behind red-white.

Blue-white just sees a blur at red-white's side, and Kana-mama jerks her head to the side suddenly. It's followed instantly by a thunderous sound of impact, and a crunch of splintering wood. In the next heartbeat, a large burgundy-and-white ball falls to the stone path with a "clonk" of stone meeting stone. Instead of rolling away, it
bounces off it the courtyard flagstones like a freshly filled basketball into the still-flung-back hand of red-white.

Who then finally breaks the gaze she shared with blue-white, and looks at Kana-mama (who, to her credit, hasn't changed her expression once). "I put up with someone who likes annoyingly dramatic entrances way more complex than that, lady. That was

And as the situation escalates, blue-white just stares, jaw still hanging open.

== == == ==== ==== ==== == == ==

My eyes open, and my body jerks, as if suddenly startled into wakefulness.

My mouth is dry, my eyes and cheeks are full of crud and dried tears, I really need to use the bathroom, and the morning light is pouring in through a window right into my eyes <and i kinda wish id packed a toothbrush too>.

I carefully stretch, making sure not to put stress on my aching joints, when a thought splashes over me like icewater, both chilling and bringing me to alertness: There weren't any windows on the shed. Frantically rubbing at my eyes to clear them, I look at the light source, wincing.

A little ball of light in a worn but ornate little cage of brass and glass plates hangs on a hook near the stacked storage containers. The light it gives off illuminates the room, and allows me to notice the other new addition to the room. Right near the door is a long, long note covered in writing, pinned to the wall with a gaudy, tastelessly gem-encrusted golden dagger.

[ ] Doesn't wait around and flees immediately. She probably ain't welcome here anymore.
[ ] Hesitates; decides to reads the note. Girl's got ways to do that from inside the circle.


It's not that she's seeing these memories as she dreams. These are just scenes from her past.

She doesn't remember her dreams. She won't let herself.
[X] Hesitates; decides to reads the note. Girl's got ways to do that from inside the circle.

It's not a simple GTFO, so maybe there's some useful info.
[x] Hesitates; decides to reads the note. Girl's got ways to do that from inside the circle.

I'd say "grab the note and leave,' but that's probably not an option for a reason.
[x] Hesitates; decides to reads the note. Girl's got ways to do that from inside the circle.
[X] Hesitates; decides to reads the note. Girl's got ways to do that from inside the circle.

No harm in getting better informed.
Unless reading this will curse us or something, but that seems unlikely.
[x] Hesitates; decides to reads the note. Girl's got ways to do that from inside the circle.


I prepared explosive runes to--
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[ృ] Hesitates; decides to reads the note. Girl's got ways to do that from inside the circle.

Okay. Okay, calm down <cant cant cant someone knows im here>, calm down. Need. To calm down.

...It's a lot easier said than done. So I try focusing on things.

The dagger. Lavish, fancy. Overdone. Probably enough gold and gemstones there for a... a lot of yen. I'm no good at that. But the gold; it's almost all gold, even the blade. Either it was written by a king, or somebody had nothing else at hand to pin a note with. I don't know which explanation's weirder, but if they wanted it to be threatening, they'd have probably used something more functional.

Right <its still a knife i need to get out they know they know>? ...Okay, fine. Taking another deep breath, I move on.

The note. It's... long. Like, really long. A meter-and-a-half-long piece of light grey paper of some sort, maybe ten centimeters wide. There's a faint, repeated design on the paper: a red, five-pointed star, sort of like a really large watermark or maybe a background design. It's like some combination of stationery and those big, long rolls of paper they print receipts on at stores. There's writing all over it, and it doesn't all look like it's in the same language. In fact, the letters and symbols seem to change a lot, from what I can tell.

I rise to a crouch, shedding the blanket behind me, and start to walk over to it—


—and stop <ah>.

Looking down, I see my sock-covered toe has stepped on the salt. The unbroken ring of salt. A nervous smile fights its way to my lips, and I step back, cautiously.

I am safe, for the moment, it would seem. Either it worked as intended, or they thought it was some sort of arcane protection and didn't want to mess with it. Whatever. Point is, it was apparently effective in keeping bad things out <okay fine maybe but i still need to get out if the demons know im here>.

Putting aside panic-fueled reactions for a little longer, now that I know I've got some degree of protection, I get as close as I can to the edge, and peer at the note. I squint, trying to make out the words. Some of them sure look like Roman letters, and something blockier a bit further down is probably either Greek or whatever the weird letters are that Russians and stuff use. Closer to the top are a bunch of flowing horizontal lines and dots and swirls; probably Arabic.

Near the top, though, is something closer to useful. Lots of little shapes arranged in familiar ways and about the right size for kanji, but everything's too orderly and unbroken. No hiragana or katakana to break it up means that it's Chinese. But that's about all I can make out from here... Oh, wait!

Picking up the belt that I'd undone, I fish out the broken compact field glasses. With the case open like this, it's easy to get at the lenses. I manage to detach them from the case without breaking anything. Well, breaking it any further.

Closing one eye, I hold the two lenses in front of each other, larger in front of the smaller. I have to lean back a bit, and get the minimum distance between myself and the paper, but I manage it. It's shaky, and a little difficult to keep the lenses aligned right, but I'm finally able to clearly read the words.

It occurs to me, as I scan down the paper, that it must be like the Rosetta Stone: the same text in multiple different languages, and all ending with the same brief inscription. I can see similar-looking words in roughly the same places in what I think is French or Italian, and another which could probably be Spanish. Many times I don't recognize the language at all, and more worryingly, there are a few that don't even look remotely like words in any human language.

But at last, I find Japanese on there, after having skipped over it twice, apparently. A minute or three is spent trying to read the curiously well-printed text, as the Japanese portion is printed sideways (not fancy-sideways, but everything is actually tilted 90 degrees) for some reason. The contents of the message are... unusual.

Greetings and salutations to the onje residing for the moment within my storage-hut:

Firstly and foremostly and above ally, please! Harbor no thoughts of my plotting
your demise, or desiring pain and plunder to befall your wretched, huddled form.
No ill will have I, nor is my self possessed of thoughts of bloodshedding.

As one of those that we call
onje, I would greatly and exuberantly desire to
converse and confer with you about the many and multitudinous facets of your
self and your
hagla in Makai.

Upon my name and thus-spake, your safety and well-being are guaranteed in my
domicile and its environs. You seem well-prepared for your
hagla, so you must
know that a demon's word is her bond, as the proverb spoken of oft and truly says.

Mæster of Archæologie, U. Pand;
Adjunct to the Minister of Historie, Th.C. Cocytus;
Fellow of the Historical Brotherhood;
Citizen of High Regard (Vina);

The Innocence,

I set the lenses down and open my closed eye, blinking a few times. The only time I could ever remember such and overuse of super-respectful tones was in a thank you letter written by an Italian exchange student that visited the shrine once. However, his Japanese was awkward, if sweet. This note used words and phrases I only knew of because you have to know those things when you speak with gods <except for mamas of course>. Although, a lot of them really seemed out of place.

Very unusual.

[ ] Packs her things and leaves. Nice little letter, yeah; but the sooner she's outta here, the better.
[ ] Note's writer seems level, on the surface. Girl needs someone steady right now; prays it's them.
[ ] Doesn't know yet whether to trust this or not. Still, gotta visit the little miko's room somewhere soon.


Otoyomegatari is a thing that you should all be reading. However, make that you've just eaten or at least have some good ethnic takeout places nearby when you get to chapter 16. You will regret doing neither.

I won't say "taken into consideration," but there was certainly some thoughtful rubbing of my chin.
Innocent is from Elis's title and ∑∟⍳Ӡ = Elis.

Makai is known as a place where humans can learn magic. I assume a 'hagla' is a magical pilgrimage to become a magician youkai. In which case Elis is mistaken, lets hope Sanae is quick on the uptake.

[X] Note's writer seems level, on the surface. Girl needs someone steady right now; prays it's them.
[x] Doesn't know yet whether to trust this or not. Still, gotta visit the little miko's room somewhere soon.

Even if it's Elis, I don't entirely trust her. Seems too easy to take advantage of Sanae in this position by playing on her trust.
>Harbor no thoughts of my plotting your demise, or desiring pain and plunder to befall your wretched, huddled form.

Oh good. I was worried for a second there.

Seriously now, let's get the fuck outta here.
I'm not sure we can dodge her, but we have to try.
[x] Packs her things and leaves. Nice little letter, yeah; but the sooner she's outta here, the better.
[X] Note's writer seems level, on the surface. Girl needs someone steady right now; prays it's them.

It could just be an honest mistake. Japanese is not the writer's first language. At least it wasn't "My hovercraft is full of eels."
[x] The note writer seems on the level, on the surface. (please let this count, my pHone isn't letting me copy text right now)
[x] Note's writer seems level, on the surface. Girl needs someone steady right now; prays it's them.

Ah, Otoyomegatari. The only manga with a pretty Muslim girl.
[x] Doesn't know yet whether to trust this or not. Still, gotta visit the little miko's room somewhere soon.

Elis seems trustworthy...but you can't be to careful.
[X] Doesn't know yet whether to trust this or not. Still, gotta visit the little miko's room somewhere soon.

A demon's word is her bond. Of course it is. Some things you can count on, laws of the supernatural.
Just like you can count on miracles to protect you. Right?

Kid's got his head worried too much, talking like his old story was nothing but a bagful of sticks and string, shock value and surprise factor. Careful, he says, don't ruin it.
Well, that's his view.
Me, I don't think so.
Stories are funny things, more resilient than people give em credit for. Can't ruin one story with another if they're any good in the first place. Stranger comes along? Let em read out of order. It'll be fun.

Write more.
[x] Note's writer seems level, on the surface. Girl needs someone steady right now; prays it's them.
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[家] Note's writer seems level, on the surface. Girl needs someone steady right now; prays it's them.

This might be real. I want to hope that it is, I really do. I think that this... whatever that says at the bottom; whoever "The Innocence" is, they really want to seem genuine.

I'm not entirely stupid, of course. Living in Gensokyo, even for a little while, means you need to learn fast and keep up, something I'm still struggling to do <even before yesterday but even more now>. "The Innocence" is either very honest or very desperate. Something tells me it's the former, and I hope it's not my own desperation saying that.

Gods, let it be the former.


...So. I'll keep an open mind. But in case, just in case— I'll carry a big stick while I do it.

Repeating that in my head seems to set me at ease a bit, and I start to pack up. I'm still kind of sleepy, somewhat thirsty, and I need to use the bathroom soon, but I need to have my things ready to go, above all. I don't want to leave any of this behind. So I focus on my tasks, taking one thing at a time.

I slap my hands to my face to wake myself up a bit more, and wipe off my cheeks. I stretch out, making sure I'm as limber as I can be in the circumstances. My clothes get brushed off and some attempt is made at straightening them out. I fold up the blanket, and then use it as a cushion while I pull my boots on and lace them up.

After taking out my mirror, I rake my fingers through my hair to make it halfway presentable, but only succeed at making it eighth-way. Ugh. Regardless, on go my hair-tube, coil <i love you mama>, and pin <i miss you mama>. The mirror is returned to its pocket, and the field glasses are re-assembled. Still broken, but there's no help for that right now.

Belt is on. Pack is on.


Holding the open container of salt in one hand, I sketch a quick star shape in the air with my haraegushi, which is grasped in the other. After making a little twirling motion, a light breeze kicks up out of nowhere. Rather than blowing the salt around and making a mess, the circle of salt stirs, then begins funneling upwards in a winding, twisty coil that ends in the glass shaker. After a few seconds, it's all back in, and I replace the cap.

I try not get too worried about removing that last layer of protection. I don't really succeed <keep it together kochiya>. At least I'm not shaking in my boots. Just trembling.

...How does Reimu make it seem so easy?

Without letting myself think about it much longer, I grab the little glass cage of light, stride forward, and open the door. It doesn't make a single sound, so I end up pre-cringing for nothing <please tell me nobody saw that>.

What I step out into isn't morning light at all, but the dim, dark, too-early morning where light is more suggestion than promise. It's that same dull red as before, too. I shiver more from the weirdness of it than any morning chill... which, now that I'm out of the shed, I notice rather quickly.

All around me are the darker masses of houses, unlit and as quiet as the surrounding town. Off in the distance is that trrrrrrgggh-HK sound from before. ...Maybe that's birdsong? It's no bird I know of.

Before I go too far, I look back at the hinges, and hold up the light-cage to get a better glimpse of them. Right away, I can see that they've been oiled, since the light shines off the metal far too brightly, glistening a little. What's more, there's still a noticeable tuft of fabric stuck in the hinges, no doubt caught in them when I was trying to muffle the noise. Glancing back at the house, I can see how a pair of bright fluffy things in the hinges would stand out against the darker wood.

...I guess I'm not as clever as I thought.

With a little sigh, I turn back to the house, and find a set of steps leading a meter or two below ground level to a door. ...Huh. At least that explains why it looked squat and flat: the foundation is set below ground level, for whatever reason. On the door is another long note on the same sort of stationery-roll as before. The message, still repeated numerous times in all the same languages, is much shorter this time:

If it pleases and there is acceptfulness in you,


Quick and to the point. Right. Good. Don't think about spiders and flies. Don't. Don't. I start mentally singing the GaoGaiGar theme in my head as loud as possible in order to drown out this line of thinking before it curls in on itself. Somehow, it works, and I'm able to continue.

The door opens with a faint squeak onto a dark hallway and darker wood flooring. It's rough and a little uneven, but very clearly handmade. Unlike the shed, it's well-kept. I shine the light cage around, hoping to find a light switch, and find none. I shrug, and start to look for a place to take off my boots, purely on reflex. Again, no luck. I guess they don't do that in Makai.

...It still feels weird wearing my boots indoors, and more than a little awkward. Too clunky, too loud, and kind of dirty. And what if it wakes up this Innocence lady—

I mentally crank the volume up on Endoh's singing. ...Better.

I step in and shut the door behind me. Technically, I don't really know for sure that they're a woman. Just, the way it was written made me think that, for some reason. A woman, or maybe a really excitable guy?

"...studies by my colleagues will yield further results..."

I almost drop both light cage and haraegushi as the sound of a voice <a woman's voice> hits my ears. I can understand it, but it's not speaking any language I know. And yet I know it and understand it on a level so firmly rooted in certainty that despite my being equally certain that this is my first time hearing it spoken, and... and augh. Not even Endoh can help me here.

But then.

It passes.

The brief spike of pain that lances through my head disappears quickly as it came... and the voice continues.

"...ct number 97, description end. Object number 98, description start. Object is an astonishingly well-preserved skeleton; decidedly avian. Notably large, bipedal. Scraps of leather and metal hasps present near midsection; implications uncertain. Lack of apparent damage to skeletons indicates potentially non-violent end. An examination of its surroundings reveals little about..."

There's a light coming from a room with a half-closed door several meters down the hall, right about where the voice sounds like it's coming from.

[ ] Knocks quietly, says howdy, says thankya. Girl wants a look at Miss Innocence.
[ ] Puts all that on hold for a spell and goes searchin'. She's got urgent business to attend.


Sure, no problem. You're lucky; I'd love to have even dodgy text-copying functionality on mine.

Didn't Eden - It's an Endless World have one, too?

Never been so happy to get so told~
[x] Puts all that on hold for a spell and goes searchin'. She's got urgent business to attend.

I'd really like to avoid reading how she pisses herself when she finds out the true nature of her 'host'
[x] Puts all that on hold for a spell and goes searchin'. She's got urgent business to attend.
[x] Knocks quietly, says howdy, says thankya. Girl wants a look at Miss Innocence.
[x] Knocks quietly, says howdy, says thankya. Girl wants a look at Miss Innocence.

Elis seems like she's just doing archeology, and it's not like she looks all that demonic. I doubt this would happen, at least not yet.
>Didn't Eden - It's an Endless World have one, too?
Lets not talk about this one please.

I am overjoyed that you write again Fell. I would vote right now but i haven't read the whole thread and it would feel unfair to do so. Which i will do in the coming days.

This is what happens when you don't check the site for weeks. You miss when something good happens.
[X] Knocks quietly, says howdy, says thankya. Girl wants a look at Miss Innocence.
>Lets not talk about this one please.
Why not?
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[⋆] Knocks quietly, says howdy, says thankya. Girl wants a look at Miss Innocence.

I suppose that's Innocence, whoever she is. They are. The voice sounds like a woman's, anyway. It's clear enough, even and steady. If I didn't know better, I'd say she was taking notes into a recorder or something. But would these people even have the technology to... Wait, what am I saying? It's Makai. Probably magic.

Anyway. Time to introduce myself, I guess.

The hallway doesn't creak at all, somehow. The floor feels very solid, and not just because it's wood. I can't explain it well, but it's sort of like walking down the path of the shrine, between the rows of onbashira. Solid, and firmly rooted in a way that goes a little bit beyond the physical.

...This lacks that familiar, comforting feeling, though.

My hand sits on the doorknob— also brass —and hesitates <pick it up endoh-san>.


I knock, and the voice breaks off. There's an incomprehensible bit of language for a moment, then a surprisingly mechanical clicking sound. Shortly after that comes a pleasant, "Come on in!"

I do so, nudging the door open with the light cage, haraegushi held tightly in the other, but pointed down. Self-preservation is secondary to respectfulness when a lack of the latter means a threat to the former.

The wings don't faze me at first <so big>. No, it's the star on her cheek that throws me for a moment. It clashes with an otherwise serious, well-dressed appearance, and I take a moment to recover and refrain from quietly giggling. In that moment, she adjusts something on an elaborate machine of some sort, and then turns to face me.

Her lips begin to form words, but get cut off in a sharp intake of breath as she lays eyes on me. In an instant, she's thrown herself back several meters into a crouch, wings fluttering for a moment before folding shut. Leveled at me is the plainest, most stereotypical magic wand I've ever seen. Her whole arm is trembling, and her eyes are wide as saucers as she stares at me in panic.

By the time I've taken all this in, my miko training has kicked in, and I'm in a similar situation: crouched, haraegushi leveled, light cage still wobbling to a stop on the floor, left hand freed up to trace a star on my palm where it sits, ready for...

...Why does she look so scared of me?

A tongue, strangely pink, darts out to lick at her lips. "Are... Are you of the Hakurei?" she asks in a voice laden with tension.

[ ] Can't help but laugh. All the weirdness just boiled over at once, here.
[ ] Picks her answer with a lotta care. Batty Betty's liable to go off real easy.
[ ] Shoots first. Fighting'll be a hassle, but better to be the Quick than the Dead.


There was a whole lot of planning that went into her, but then I remembered that certain things would sort of preclude polite conversation, and so this happened. It's not a lot to show for the time spent, I know. I'm sorry.

The weekend is, at present, mostly open right now, so get your votes in. I want to write a lot over the next few days.
[x] Picks her answer with a lotta care. Batty Betty's liable to go off real easy.
[X] Picks her answer with a lotta care. Batty Betty's liable to go off real easy.

Also, get in touch with me somehow. Apologies for the trip spam.
[X] Picks her answer with a lotta care. Batty Betty's liable to go off real easy.
[x] Can't help but laugh. All the weirdness just boiled over at once, here.

Can't help it.
[x] Can't help but laugh. All the weirdness just boiled over at once, here.

What a silly question.
File 13435241384.png - (12.85KB, 640x480, deceptively pensive.png) [iqdb]
[Ξ] Picks her answer with a lotta care. Batty Betty's liable to go off real easy.


Why would she even... no, how would she even know Reimu's name? In Gensokyo, everyone knows it, sure. You'd better know it. But this is another land and another place that's <remember> not even remotely connected... to Gensokyo <remember the look they didnt return>...

<nobody does that for no reason>

Did something bad happen in Makai, something before my time?

...Maybe. But right now, there are bigger problems on my plate. Problems like a winged researcher-demon lady pointing a loaded wand at me. And I guess I'm doing the same thing, aren't I?

This is a new and frightening and exhilarating experience, actually being in this situation. Turns out it's a lot more nerve-wracking than just watching it or reading about it. A whole lot more. I don't think I need to play headgames here, though. No episode-long dramatic talks about why we can't stand each other, and no meaningful discussions about what drives us.

Just need to talk about simple things, calm and easy. Relaxed, like a shrine maiden ought to be. Or ought to be seen to be <mamas made that very clear> by the public. 'Even if you aren't confident, look it.'

"No, I'm not," I reply. She eases up, but only a little. Her eyes roam over me, and her brow knits as she asks her next question.

"Are yiu a shrine maidin?"

Huh? ...Oh.

Oh, crap.

I'm in trouble with either answer. 'Yes' won't calm her down any, I think; not if she's worried about Hakurei coming around. And I don't think I can convincingly say that I'm not one. She made the connection between me and ...and a Hakurei; maybe Reimu, maybe not. Probably it's the clothing and the tool of the trade, symbol of office, whatever. Or maybe there's something else about me that resembles a Hakurei, like my aura or something. Or she just smells Shinto on me somehow.

Right now, the 'how' isn't as important as the 'what do I say'. I can't deny it, but I don't want to confirm it and let her draw her own conclusions. I need to say true things, which also need to relax her. Can't take too long doing it or coming up with anything.

A faint so re's the slightest of cool sensations across my brow, making me suddenly aware of the beads of sweat forming on my forehead, hidden under my bangs. And here I thought that was artistic license taken so they could show stress.

[Oh my~. Once a miko, always a miko, huh? Even on vacation.] A vague thought runs through my head and it's gone before I can even process it fully. But in its place, a flash of inspiration sparks into existence.

"I'm not here on business," I answer.

It works. I think. The tension on her face surges for the barest shadow of a flicker of a second, and then the full meaning sinks in. She relaxes, much more visibly. The wand is still pointing in my direction, but there's a look of desperate hope on her face, like she really wants to believe me.

This is all very different from what I was expecting about ten minutes ago.

"I'm a rival of Hakurei, actually. Sort of. No, I'm definitely her rival. But I'm in Makai for different reasons." <no thats exactly what got me here>

The wand slowly lowers, and she straightens up. "Ah... yis. Then you are indeed an onje, corrict?"

What is that, anyway? is on my lips, about to be said <and what is wrong with your words but i wouldnt say that out loud anyway>. But her wand isn't down all the way, and I realize that the mood has changed almost course almost imperceptibly, in a very different direction than it had been headed. I wouldn't have noticed it if I hadn't been watching her wand hand as she spoke. I won't claim to be a master of body language, but both poker players and shrine maidens absolutely must learn to watch her opponents for those little movements.

Her wrist bones strain against her skin as she fights to hide her body's readiness to act upon my answer, and that strange lilt to her words hasn't disappeared. I'm answering this one completely blind, and wishing so bad that I had Kana-mama's talent for weasel-wording. Endoh-san sings the last few verses, and I need to say something <but she thought you were one and gave her word based on that so so so>.


"Only recently." My voice almost cracks on the second word, so I cut my answer short.

I hold my breath.

She just nods, and puts the wand away.

And like that, the atmosphere lightens. There isn't the slightest hint of anything secret or awful, and somehow that makes my skin crawl. She beams at me with a carefree expression, and then curtsies— an actual curtsy, too! Head dipped slightly, eyes closed, long skirt pinched and lifted slightly.

"I am Elis, called also The Innocence, and others besides. I ask you to excuse my conduct and suspicions. The Hakurei and those like her are not remembered well in Makai, you must understand, and onje fare only marginally better in our thoughts. However, I will offer a night's shelter and a day's guidance in return for your stories."

...Guidance sounds really good right now.

[ ] Spares a few more moments. Girl holds out long enough introduce herself.
[ ] It'll have to wait. Pressin' matters gotta be addressed, and now.


...Despite the recent and frequent mention of bathroom matters over the last few updates, I derive zero jollies from them/it.
[x] Spares a few more moments. Girl holds out long enough introduce herself.
[x] Spares a few more moments. Girl holds out long enough introduce herself.

She isn't in a position to refuse her anything.
[x] Spares a few more moments. Girl holds out long enough introduce herself.

I get the feeling that I'm missing something, but what said >>10142.
Also, who's the dead woman that just tried to mess with Sanae's head?

Also also, was that "yiu" a typo on your or Elis's part?
It's part of Elis' accent/speech pattern. Also "maidin" and "yis."
File 134360185970.png - (52.32KB, 220x284, back in my day water went uphill both ways.png) [iqdb]
[œ] Spares a few more moments. Girl holds out long enough introduce herself.

I'm about to say as much and take her up on that offer, when I notice she's still holding the curtsy. It takes me a moment to remember my manners, and I bow, hair falling slightly forward. Too bad it doesn't do much to hide my face turning red.

"Ah, I am Kochiya of Moriya, also called—" ...Eh, why not use it? She's probably the safest person to test it on, right now "—the Living God, and I will accept your offer."

...Oh gods, please tell me I didn't just give her my soul or something. Don't they typically want that sort of thing in writing, or is a verbal agreement good enough these days? If demons are anything like youkai and old people, they like their formalities.

"Done and done," says Elis pleasantly, giving me that smile again as stands straight, letting her skirt fall. Good, it didn't seem to get a bad reaction. However... "Now, if you'd like to get sta—"

"Actually," I interrupt, trying to do so as gently as I can, "I would really like to borrow your bathroom. Like, right now?"

She blinks, and then chuckles. "Of course. Next door down the hall from this one," she says, gesturing deeper into the house (I think). I thank her, bow, and try not to lunge for the door.

The light from her study, I guess it was, gives enough indirect illumination to see in the hall now that the door is open wider. I find the room, and instinctively reach my hand out for fumble for a light switch. I have only a second to remind myself that of course there wouldn't be one when my hand brushes against a thin metal toggle switch, like you would find on machinery or a factory or something.

That's... unexpected.

A hesitant flick later <power oooon>, and the room is bathed in a slowly brightening glow. I watch it for a few moments before I remember my mission, and quickly shut the door behind me.

Like everything else I've seen so far, the bathroom looks both Western, and like it was pulled out of the turn of the century. Or maybe even a little before that. Happily enough, the toilet is a short ways away from the door, and thankfully still looks like a toilet; seems I dodged the chamberpot era of whatever time warp Makai is stuck in. As I have a seat and do my business in the steadily receding gloom, I look around with a less-distracted eye.

The whole thing is tiled. It's a little worn and chipped and old, but the design on the floor is interesting, if incomprehensible. Some kind of really twisty design of a lot of green lines over a blue surface. Strange colors to see in Makai, now that I look at them. The pattern makes me think of some kind of a more elaborate, but less-organized Celtic knot. Tile is on the walls, too, but it's much more restrained and simple. Grey, white, and a little red at fixed intervals <like little flowers>.

There's a folding screen in the middle of the room, a few meters away from me. Not the Japanese kind, exactly, especially with the lack of any design on it. Behind it, an actual claw-footed bathtub peeks out past the far edge of the screen. Beyond that, in what I can see of the opposite wall, is some kind of little cabinet.

[Fancy but old. I guess that's ...taste?]

Beside the toilet here is mirror and a round-ish sink that looks like someone ripped it out of the wall from somewhere else, and moved it in here, instead. The thin black material it's made of— ceramic? metal? A tap and a knock on it seem to say the former —clashes with everything else. I can also see a few scuff marks on the floor that suggest it was dragged in here long after the tile was laid.

The rest of the room appears to be clean and mold-free, however. I don't see any electrical outlets... wait, there is one, by the tub. I can just barely see it in the space between the wall and the edge of the screen that's next to it. But the really weird thing is that it's one of those kind with the buttons on it that ...I don't remember the full explanation, but it's like they have their own circuit breaker in them, kinda, and it's so you don't get electrocuted.

I look up at the light, which seems to have stopped at a partially dim but adequate glow. It's giving off a hum, but I only notice it because I'm sitting here in silence, just taking it all in. I feel more than a little weird about getting my first detailed impressions of a culture through a bathroom, but I guess I can't be too choosy.

When I'm all done, I find that there's no soap at the sink. Years of use of such has left traces of it in the little divot set aside for it, though, so I guess they're just out of it at the moment. I make do with just water instead

...And then awkwardly stand there and let my hands drip into the sink when I realize I don't have my handkerchief anymore. Argh. I settle for flicking off as much water as I can onto my face, and clap my cheeks again so the cooler air wakes me up a little bit more.

Time to go talk to the nice demon lady.

When I return, though, said lady isn't in it, and the light-cage I dropped is now resting on a little wood platform in a small cubbyhole that seems built for it. The light's out now, though.

So I take the time to walk around it and snoop. ...From a socially polite distance, of course.

The study is full of boxes, wire-frame crates, and binders. Posters are all over the wall, showing what I think is the town we're in with what must be slogans, but in an unreadable script. Tourism materials? A lot of photos (some color, some monochrome, but all are crisp and high-quality) of ...people, mostly smiling; many of them are at least partially human, but several not at all.

Her desk is a halfway modern-looking (so only 40 or 50 years out of style, not 100) L-shaped thing in one corner, organized and... well, not clean, but not chaotic. It's a very orderly clutter that doesn't leave a lot of free space on it. On the far side, above the desk and in its own spot on the wall is a black-and-white picture of a beaming Elis next to a boy in his mid to late teens with dark hair and little wings coming out of his head <kind of cute>, and a girl who... Huh. I'd almost swear that was Miss Knowledge's assistant.

Returning footsteps alert me to Elis' return. She strides through the door with a pair of cups in hand, looking considerably more perky than before. "Sorry about the wait~" And sounds it, too.

I accept the cup she hands me with mumbled thanks. I'm startled when I look at it, because it's the most Japanese thing I've seen in this world, so far: a rough ceramic cylinder with a drizzled, dripping look to the painted rim. It gets a little smile from me, and I hold it close, letting the steam brush against my face.

I have a seat in one of the wooden chairs by the desk that she waves me into, while she sets her on cup down on the desk, and plops into a very heavy-looking metallic chair with what appear to be mechanical limbs instead of normal chair legs.

...And then, because I'm not stupid, and because this doesn't smell quite like tea should, I whisper a very quiet "Trace on," beneath my breath as I look into the tea. I obviously don't have the ability to diagnose and understand everything that I see in this state of focus, which is a shame, but I can see... parts. Things. It's hard to describe, but I can at least see what's there, even if I have no idea what I'm looking at <just like biology class>.

Whatever is in my cup, though, looks about the same way as most tea does: there's water and some unfamiliar substance, but nothing else; no suspicious extra ingredients. Either this is poison masquerading as tea or some kind of local drink, but from the glimpse I got of her glass, the liquid in mine was the same murky brown as hers.

I squeeze my eyes shut for a couple seconds to let go of the focus, and then take a sip... and very carefully swallow it despite it being very freshly made and as a result somewhat hot because it is really, really bitter-tasting. Elis seems completely unbothered by the taste as she takes a drink, so I guess it's a local thing.

She quirks an eyebrow at the sound of my own sip, but apparently dismisses it: she clearly has other matters on her mind, as she presses a button on the machine from before, sitting on one edge of her desk. Some kind of recording thing, maybe? The demon scoots her chair over with a soft clicking-tapping sound— gods, the thing actually walks.

"Sooooo," she begins, drawing the word out. "You seem very well-prepared for your hagla, as I said in the note..." An apologetic look passes over her face. "Or I hope that's what it said. I have the translation spell on the simulscribe calibrated for more formal and flowery language, see. I find it helps to set minds at ease, but sometimes things get a little overdone in the wording..."

Then that bright smile returns, and she gets back on track. "...But yes! Judging by your supplies and preparations, you seem ready for the journey, but ...perhaps not prepared for Makai itself. Most onje typically have it the other way around, you know? In my experience, it's because they get too eager about the new and amazing things they'll learn, so I think you may be able to offer an interesting perspective on the matter on your ."

Oh. Is that what an onje is? I guess it makes sense, since Makai's supposed to be a great place for magic. And... I guess a hagla is some kind of training journey in the mountains <do they have any waterfalls for that>?



...I think she's going to be disappointed by this, no matter what. My "journey" has been pretty short, after all.


[ ] Tells it straight. Well, might be a little wiggle now and then, but only enough to cover herself.
[ ] Spins it fancy, a little bit. Girl doesn't want her host feelin' like she's wastin' time on her.


If you haven't played Ib yet, you should. Nice and short and very creepy.

...Trying, but you're not exactly around.
[x] Spins it fancy, a little bit. Girl doesn't want her host feelin' like she's wastin' time on her.

There better be some god damn robots in this.
[x] Tells it straight. Well, might be a little wiggle now and then, but only enough to cover herself.
[ ] Tells it straight. Well, might be a little wiggle now and then, but only enough to cover herself.

Would be uncourteous otherwise.
[x] Tells it straight. Well, might be a little wiggle now and then, but only enough to cover herself.

This isn't going to end well.
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[↝] Tells it straight. Well, might be a little wiggle now and then, but only enough to cover herself.

I take another sip of tea in order to buy myself some time and gods why did I do that again. Suppressing a strangled sound of pain, I swallow the bitter, still-hot drink, and try to maintain something that looks like composure. That was very dumb.

[Hmm. Doesn't that hurt?]

Breathe once, through the nose. Lift head up. Make eye contact. Do not scratch back of head and laugh nervously. This is serious time.

"I'm afraid you'll find my story to be disappointing, Miss Elis. I'll say that up front." <augh no shouldnt have said that dont give her any warning> She gestures for me to continue, anyway. "If I understand the terms right, my hagla, if it can be called such, has lasted... probably not much more than a day or two. And I am an onje in only the faintest sense."

Oh, that raised an eyebrow.

The brightness of her smile dampens, and her right hand tenses for a second before starting to drift very slowly down to her side. It really must be only my onje status that's keeping me unharmed right now, and that seems to be in danger <move it move it move iiiiit>. She must take her word very seriously.

When she speaks, though, it's as if none of the brightness ever left. "Could you elaborate on that, please?"

...I'm beginning to feel uncomfortably like Greedo, right now. The setup is getting to be too close to that for my liking, even if the conversation's completely different. That won't stop me from making the first move, though. If it gets to that point.

"I was taken here without my knowing it. When I was made aware of this, the individual responsible..."

...Her hand has frozen. Good.

...What's with that look?


[Oh my, that's not going away soon at all, is it?]

The sound of my name makes me blink, look back up at her. When did I look down?

And there are tears running down my cheeks <because you cant think about it you musnt think about it you will not think about it this is not the time to do it so stop stop stop thinking about it i said stop>

"Yes?" I ask, politely. Focus on the present.

She nods her head down at my lap. "I would appreciate it if yiu didn't manhandle my tableware, please. You're liible to spill the tea."

I look down, and find my hands clutching the cup in a deathgrip. Somehow, it hasn't cracked yet.

It takes an effort of will for me to refrain from the neck-scratch-and-laugh. Is it really that much of a reflexive reaction? I give her a bow of my head in apology, noting as I do so that she hasn't moved her hand back to the desk, yet. "Forgive me, please." I can't even form the words to explain why that happened, but I can already see her thinking about it. She decides not to press, and I continue.

"The ..individual..." I falter for a few seconds, and then decide to skip right past it all. "I fled. In the process became stranded here in Makai. I started only about five or ten kilometers away, and saw this village from a distance. Your shed happened to be the one I picked to sleep in."

"Perhaps yiu were lucky, then. But tell me, h...ow does this make yiu an onje at all?" As she says it, the hand begins moving purposefully down again, down to her side, and

I really need to say something and

That thing needs to be said now and

Not a thing occurs to me and

Her face grows cold and

Words fly from my mouth without having considered them in my head and

"I seek a magic to return me to Gensokyo."

are these words.

I can feel my heart thudding in my chest. I'm not sure how she isn't hearing it. There's a look of interest on her face, though, and I need to capitalize on it. Quickly.

"...Despite being a shrine maiden, I do have some magical talent."

Entirely true. Sure, I more or less had to stop fooling around with the minor talents I had, aside from the miracles, in order to focus on becoming a shrine maiden. Which was years and years ago. And the only new magic since then that I've developed has been danmaku.

"I'm familiar with some of the basics, and know a few spells, but I have not actively studied or trained for new magic in some time."

Also true. I know that I need to make a magic circle in order to cast anything, and that's about it. I've gotten good at the one-hand pentagram, but I don't know if that would work for anything but my star-light spell. It might not be cut it if I needed any kind of precision. I'm nowhere near good enough to craft a focus, hand seals don't work worth a damn, and I wouldn't know where to start with incantations; all attempts to recreate the Dragon Slave failed to take.

"While I know several others that are actively practicing, they tended to be busy and generally too concerned with their own craft to teach me."

Depressingly partially true; they weren't as heartless as that, though. Suwa-mama and Kana-mama only knew the divine magic they possessed as gods, Marisa can't teach to save her life, Aureus kept forgetting steps in the lessons, Alice was understandably uninterested in about to lend out her grimoire, Asakura's style required knowing linear algebra just to get started, Mima isn't taking new students anymore, Miss Kazami told me to get lost (albeit very politely), and Lady Knowledge got exasperated too easily and ended up giving me a list of books to study before trying again.

"However, I am not at all averse to learning new things while in Makai, especially if they will aid my search."

Well, at least that's the gods' honest.

Elis tilts her head, slightly.

...and her right hand retreats, moving back to her lap as she mulls this over.

She smiles.

"You need to work on your timing, Kochiya."

"I know." <oh gods i think i passed>

For some reason, this makes her smile even more.

"Good." She takes a long, long sip of her tea. ...No, she actually drains the whole cup, and then sets it down. Gently, doesn't slam it. Once more, the demon looks into my eyes. "I admit, your story was not what I was hoping to hear. Why the preparedness, if your hagla was unplanned and unintended?"

...Guess that's acceptance, then. I'm finally able to relax a little, and almost make the mistake of drinking the tea again. I awkwardly bring it to a stop halfway, settling for just holding it to my chest.

"Incident resolution. Gensokyo has a lot of strange and unexpected things, and... I guess I wanted to be really sure that I could take on whoever was behind whatever was going on."

She just hums in thought after hearing that, and doesn't immediately say anything. When she does, though, she starts to speak, then stops. Starts again, and stops again. Finally, she settles on, "You want that guidance I offered now, or later?" and fixes me with a look.

[ ] Sure, now's good. Advice comes free; she's willing to listen.
[ ] Decides later's better. Girl thinks lady here's got somethin' else on her mind.


There are several tourism-related signs and posters on the wall in Elis' study. Unfortunately, they can't be read in-story because she doesn't know the writing system. One is a picture of happy townsfolk going about their business, and reads "Vina: Not just ruins anymore!" Another shows a view from one of the docks of the red light of the sun behind the mountains reflecting in a beautiful and picturesque way upon the bay, with the caption, "Vina Views are UnVielievable!"
[X] Decides later's better. Girl thinks lady here's got somethin' else on her mind.

Is Elis's accent slipping? The last few "you"s were normal.
[x] Decides later's better. Girl thinks lady here's got somethin' else on her mind.
[x] Decides later's better. Girl thinks lady here's got somethin' else on her mind.
[x] Sure, now's good. Advice comes free; she's willing to listen.

Why's everyone so eager to wait on the advice?
Gut feeling perhaps and there's hints that she does have something else on her mind.
[x] later.
[x] Decides later's better. Girl thinks lady here's got somethin' else on her mind.
-[x]And immediately afterwards, ask for the advice.

Why is this a choice?
File 134412659757.jpg - (100.83KB, 341x512, tell me if you would.jpg) [iqdb]
[Š] Decides later's better. Girl thinks lady here's got somethin' else on her mind.

There's something she's just itching to ask, I can feel it. Or see it, anyway. But I don't want to make it sound like I don't want or don't need whatever help she can offer; very much the opposite, in fact. So it's best to lead into it politely, right?

"I suppose it could wait, i—" I begin

"Right," she interrupts, the second I okay putting it off. "So, being from Gensokyo, do you know of someone named Yumemi Okazaki?"

I put a finger to my lips in thought, but shake my head after a bit. "I'm afraid not. I... think I heard Reimu mention an 'Okazaki' once before when she told me where Ruukoto came from, but I don't know much more than that."


"Reimu's maid," I clarify, smiling a little at the memory. "She's an android." I hadn't expected that, to be sure. Suwa-mama says Reimu was probably trying to shock me with such an exotic possession by bringing her out when I went to the Hakurei Shrine for my first formal visit after we'd settled things between us. Kana-mama's opinion was similar, but thought Reimu did it more out of defensive boasting, as if to say 'Well, maybe I don't have a modern house like you do, but I'll bet even today's Outsider technology can't top this.'

[Well, that's new~]

Me, I think it was a bit of both, but also because Reimu just liked showing her off. Of course, I had to look over her green-haired maid then and there, and peppered Reimu with questions about the politely confused robot girl I was examining. She only had answers for a quarter of them (Ruukoto was able to supply the rest), and my reaction probably wasn't the one Reimu expected. But I was still impressed, so it was her victory in the end.

I tell her what I can remember of the encounter, as Elis furiously jots down notes on a smooth, thick, wood-framed tablet of some kind. It's not a computer, obviously, but that's all I can tell. There isn't much I can say about Yumemi herself, though, so it doesn't last too long.

Looking a little disappointed, Elis hesitates before shrugging minutely, and then asking, "...And... 'Rikako Asakura', is that name familiar at all?"

"Oh, Miss Asakura? Sure, I know her!" I respond brightly.

There's a woosh of air <what in>, and suddenly Elis is kneeling before me, clutching my hands <oh gods what just happened>. Her eyes are wide, and her lips tremble in anticipation and excitement. Even her wings are quivering, ever so slightly. If this were anime, she would have large, wobbly eyes right now, and her voice would sound full of hope, pleading, and desire, like—

"Please! Pliese! If yiu would bit till me what you know af Asakura, I will bistow upon yiu such a lavely and wondris gift!"

exactly like that. Although without the sudden resurgence of that accent. Maybe if her character was Chinese, then it'd work. Or even if she just spoke with an Osakan dialect, but... Wait, getting sidetracked.

"Um. What is this 'gift,' exactly?"

She blinks, and then nods fervently. "Eh? Yi-- er, yes. Yes! It is the gift af Innocence!"

"...Well, naturally," I say, raising an eyebrow. "You'd be giving it to me, after all." <no duh lady seriously>

The demon woman just stares at me for several long seconds, and her lips closes, then move slightly as she frowns, as if trying to work something out. Finally, her eyes crinkle slightly as she chuckles.

"...Ahhh, very clever, yi-, er, young lady. No, not like that. ...Well no, I suppose ...yes, like that, but my meaning was literal." She stands up, dusts her knees off, and clears her throat. "I can give to you the innocence you've long since lost. For humans, this is something that can never be recovered once it is gone, its departure forever lamented. This falls under the purview of my oath, as well, so know that accepting it will cause you no harm, nor anguish, nor reduction of faculty." By the end of that, she's placed one hand on her breast and extended the other dramatically.

I spend a few moments working that out before I say anything. "Forgive me, Miss Elis, but even despite your oath, which I admit you've upheld so far, I feel a little worried about making such a deal, just... in general, you know? Not because you seem shady or anything, you don't!" I quickly add <wary about onje status but not shady and also some kind of huge crush on rikako dont know whats up with that buuut>.

"And I'm still... well, I'm still young," I continue, conflicted between proclaiming myself not very old while also wanting to say I'm a responsible adult. "But not so old that I get depressed or caught up in the past, you know? I mean, I'm okay with talking about Miss Asakura, as long as you're not gonna do anything bad with that information..."

She slaps a hand to the star-mark on her left cheek that I've been trying not to look at <dont want to start giggling in the middle of talking would look rude> over he course of our conversation. "I swear upon my sigil that I would not do such a thing."

It takes me another moment to get started again. I guess that's something meaningful for her, then? "...Right, I'm just saying, though... it's a nice gift, I mean, I don't doubt that. It's just... I don't think I have much use for th—"

"Kochiya, tell me: what did that individual do?" says Elis, looking straight at me.

My voice cuts off in a little noise of reflexive fear. The memories come back to me, of too-pale skin and a smile that grew wide, so wide, too wide, and the flickering deep blue light and the cold, clammy hands and the scent of brine

<no no i cant not now not here this isnt the time stop it stop it make it stop mamas please make it stoh gods its touching me>

With a shriek, I open my eyes and stare back into orbs of purple, framed by gold, and for a heart-stopping moment of panic, I have the most irrational thought that Yukari is here and that it was all a bad dream <but her eyes are gold as well> but then I see that star mark and the shriek changes into a strangled titter that I can't help even as my vision swims from the forming tears—


...And Elis is there and of course it's her. Her hands are folded over mine, not to beg, but to comfort. They're a little rough, which surprises and fascinates me, somehow.

They're warm. Not cold, not wet.

"...Yes?" I say, once I'm sure my voice is steady.

"That is why I made this offer."

"...You can take the memories away?" <please say yes>

"No. It doesn't work that way." I must look crestfallen; I know I feel it. She sees this, and continues on. "But I can make those thoughts be a little easier to bear. Not as painful. They will be simply things that happened to you. You won't like them, but they will not drive that dagger into your heart whenever your mind touches upon them."


She nods.

[ ] Thinks about it, and accepts. Girl's uncertain of her chances if she keeps carryin' the white woman's mark in her head like this.
[ ] Asks for time to consider. 's a mighty temptin' offer, but it bears ponderin' before she makes the call.
[ ] Wants to, but can't make herself. She'll have to find some way to deal with it on her own, by her own.


I was unhappy because I thought this was going to be sort of short, and if that was the case, then I could have written it yesterday and gotten another update out today. But then it grew more substantial as I wrote, and now it's this.
[X] Thinks about it, and accepts. Girl's uncertain of her chances if she keeps carryin' the white woman's mark in her head like this.

A most revelatory update. I think I know who the voice in brackets is, now, and what's going on here.
[X] Thinks about it, and accepts. Girl's uncertain of her chances if she keeps carryin' the white woman's mark in her head like this.

I'm suspecting this might have other effects but I don't have more to go off of than a gut feeling.
Want to share it?
Not yet. Figuring it out yourself is where the fun's at, after all. Just prodding to make other Anons think!
[x] Thinks about it, and accepts. Girl's uncertain of her chances if she keeps carryin' the white woman's mark in her head like this.
[X] Wants to, but can't make herself. She'll have to find some way to deal with it on her own, by her own.

I'll go with this, I like revenge eventually slipping into the soup that is Sanae's mind. Also using magic is taking the easy way out.
File 134507799461.png - (635.39KB, 518x696, oh my word.png) [iqdb]
[ℑ] Thinks about it, and accepts. Girl's uncertain of her chances if she keeps carryin' the white woman's mark in her head like this

I ...I really don't want to turn her down. Accepting this seems like it could be dangerous: it could be a trap, or maybe demons don't need to sign actual contracts after all. But more than that, I'm worried, of course.

I'm worried about what might happen to me if I agree to this, yes.

And more than that —so much more— I'm worried about what will happen to me if I don't.

My thoughts, the thoughts, the memories that I'm very carefully not <i am not am not am not> thinking about are... They could be— no, that's understating it. They are dangerous.

I can still remember the jerk of old man Morisato's arm as he passed me the change, almost dropping it on the counter, and the look in his eyes. It just turned out to be a heavy wooden sign <for a bakery with a long french name that i never looked up> a few doors down from his store; it fell onto the ground after a delivery truck driver accidentally knocked it over.

Kana-mama had said he'd served in the Army during the War. I didn't really understand what that meant until I happened to see that feeling of sheer panic pass over the old grocer's face. Nobody looks that scared when they're merely startled. But then the driver's frantic apologies and the sound of the sign being put back up filtered through the air. Things became normal again: he laughed, I took my change, said goodbye, and went on back home.

And that was after he had sixty years to put between him and his memories.

I don't think I've had sixty hours.


Elis seems to be serious about this offer. She's a very good actor, has an awful poker face, or she wants this information badly. She turned into a eager, wide-eyed child the moment I mentioned knowing Rikako first-hand... which is something I should probably ask about before I get too far. All the same, she isn't even bothering to hide her interest, and that is something I could use.

Except she knows how badly I need what she has. We've both tipped our hands, haven't we?

With a silent gulp, I simply nod my head.

"I accept."

I really can't afford to turn her down. Partners in desperation, we are.

[Like two peas in a pod, we'll be~ Only not really.]
File 134507807211.png - (171.09KB, 863x501, lightly (for SCIENCE).png) [iqdb]
She looks more excited than triumphant to hear this, and taps the fingers of her left hand to that star mark sitting on her cheek. "As do I. Upon completion, it shall be done." Nothing very magical seems to happen, even though we both stay still like that for a few moments longer.

...Oh, 'upon completion'? Whoops. I guess I'd better get to telling, then. As I think of where to start, Elis seems to notice she's still standing next to me. She gives an embarrassed cough, and seats herself back in her chair.

...Which meets her halfway. I can't decide if that's creepy or sort of cute.

Presently she looks up at me, holding the stylus and that tablet.

"Well, uh. Miss Asakura— I call her Rikako; we see each other often enough. She's a scientist," I say, "and not just because she wears a big white labcoat a lot." <usually white> "Although she does kind of wear it all the time. Really likes it, too, and only ever has a new one made if the current one's too damaged to repair. That's happened before. She's got dark purple hair, and, uh... those little glasses that sit on your nose and don't have the... the things that go over your ears...?"

[Ohhh, her?]

It takes Elis a moment to realize I'm trying to think of a word, and she blinks once, before looking back at what she'd written. "Pince-nez, I think you call them," she says. I nod gratefully, and she seems to scribble something out.

"Right, those! I'm not good with French words. So, um... Right, description, description... Well, I guess she's maybe a few centimeters taller than me. She's nice enough, really smart... sort of dramatic when she's showing off, but mostly nice. Really smart, too. She can get irritable if you bug her when she's really busy or really confused by something. She doesn't go out much when that's the case, so I don't see that side of her very often. That's just what Kana-m... er, Lady Kanako said."

"Who?" Elis asks. I don't know if she's asking because she caught the slip-up or she wants clarification. Either way, my cheeks heat up a little at my close call.

"She's one of my goddesses at the shrine. She and Lady Suwako— sorry, she's another one —have raised me since... for a long time," I say, changing my words less suddenly, this time. That one doesn't hurt as much to think about, anymore. It's been such a long time, anyway <can still just barely remember her>.

Elis seems more interested in the start of my sentence than the end, which is just as well. She grins at something as she looks at what she's written on the tablet, then up at me. "Goddesses? And she has no problem with that, as a scientist?"

That's a surprisingly... relevant thing to ask. Huh. "Well, actually, she doesn't seem to mind," I reply slowly. "See, Rikako's actually pretty decent at magic. But what separates her from the rest of Gensokyo's magical community is that she can't stand using magic to accomplish something she can do with science. She's a very odd lady to everyone else, but I guess since we're Outsiders, she was really interested in us—"

If this had been an anime, here would have been the part where it would show a close-up on Elis' pencil as it wrote upon the paper, and then the point snapped off when her hand made a hard stop as it was pressed against the table. Except this isn't, she's not writing on paper, and I think it's a stylus she's using. There was at least sort of a grainy, scratchy noise for a brief moment, though.

"...Outsiders?" she says, after a moment.

Gods, I hope this isn't a bad sign. "Yes...?" I confirm, hesitantly.

"Hmm," is all she says for a long while, and stares off into space. Her eyes eventually move back to me. "...And yet, you're a shrine maiden?"

I nod.


About five minutes pass.

"Is that a problem, perhaps?" I carefully query once the silence starts making me nervous.

"Oh, no, no! Not at all. Just unexpected. ...Well, maybe later," she says, waving the stylus-holding hand. Her eyes go from distant to eager and focused again. "Do go on?"

So I tell her of Rikako, and how she was one of the first of Gensokyo's residents aside from the tengu and the kappa to seek out and visit the then-newly-arrived Moriya Shrine in the short period of time before Reimu came over all grumpy and snarly just because of one little admittedly-maybe-not-very-well-phrased offer.

I tell her about how fascinated the woman was to see the things we had brought over, and was chattering notes to herself into what looked like a homemade tape recorder as she was shown about the house <i dont mention that the look on her face was the same as elis has right now>.

I tell her about how Rikako is one of the scant few humans to earn the respect and trust of the kappa after she beat them in some kind of impromptu tech-off that erupted near a stream one day after a long cold war of surveillance (theirs) and countermeasures (hers) every time she visited the shrine. Elis looks interested to hear about the kappa, but she refocuses on the subject of Rikako once again.

I tell her about the one time I visited Rikako's place, a little house on the edge of town, but still within the walls. It was charmingly ...technological, I guess. It had more workarounds for electrical appliances than I would have suspected. She was one of the first to be put on the test grid for the fusion plant, and we needed to confirm her address and place a marker for the line crews.

I tell her about Rikako's philosophy on magic and science, and the need and use for each. Elis looks very interested as I talk about this, and asks me several little questions to clarify certain points. I can only fill in so much, as I'm not her, but she seems happy to hear it, anyway.

I tell her, as a side-note, of my ill-fated attempt at asking her to teach me magic. She was confused by why I would even want to learn from her, and suggested others. When I persisted <for a week>, she relented <after being bribed with the promise of access to our dishwasher>, and walked me through what she considered "the basics." I quickly realized the folly of my efforts after about five or six minutes, when she started using more letters, symbols, and lines in her equations than actual numbers, as well as something that resembled a matrix in about the same way that ukiyo-e resembles a photograph.

I tell her about how she worked with the satori and the kappa in the construction and development of the fusion plant, and how she was a fair hand at biology as well, and spent almost as much time at Eientei as she did at the Shrine or the Geyser Center <she always groused about having to rely on a direction-sense charm and kept muttering about developing some kind of gps tool that would work in gensokyo>.

And I'm about to tell her more when a door opens down the hall, and I break off, surprised. A few seconds later, the approaching footsteps reveal a boy in a blue button-up shirt that seems a size or two too big for him. The same boy from her photo, in fact, head-wings and all. He leans into the room, and starts to say something when he catches sight of me, and stops.

"Isn't it a bit early to be entertaining guests?" he finally says, looking back at Elis after looking me over briefly. He sounds a bit younger than he looks, but not enough to seem too out of place.

"It's never too late to learn new things, dear," says Elis, without looking up yet. There's a faint smile that appears on her face as she says it. "You should know that by now." A similar smile appears on his face as well.

When she finally finishes writing, she looks up at me. "Ah, would you like breakfast?"

I mumble a "Yes, thank you," but my attention's mostly on the boy. He looks so much like Lady Knowledge's assistant that I can't help but wonder if that's in fact her in the photograph.

[ ] Asks that question what's been sittin' in the back of her mind, and just came up front. Can't help it.
[ ] Doesn't bother sayin' it. That's likely a pretty common look 'round these here parts, anyway.


A lack of good places to break off and offer a choice is annoying. I try not to offer them frivolously, though.
File 134507841748.jpg - (77.60KB, 419x648, aside from being crazy٫ she’s perfect.jpg) [iqdb]
And while I wrote this update, I kept writing "Ryouko" instead of "Rikako" nearly every goddamn time.

On the other hand, given Ryouko's charms, can you blame me?
That pic is... well, somehow, DAT ASS doesn't even begin to describe it.


[x] Doesn't bother.

Curiosity killed the miko~
[X] Asks that question that's been sittin' in the back of her mind, and just came up front. Can't help it.
[X] Asks that question what's been sittin' in the back of her mind, and just came up front. Can't help it.
[∞] Asks that question what's been sittin' in the back of her mind, and just came up front. Can't help it.

Koakuma♂ captured!
[x] Asks that question what's been sittin' in the back of her mind, and just came up front. Can't help it.
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File 134552282330.png - (25.71KB, 215x320, a fine young lad.png) [iqdb]
[Ҝ] Asks that question what's been sittin' in the back of her mind, and just came up front. Can't help it.

Elis turns back to the boy. "Keshy, go rustle up some breakfast, would you? Something good, too." He looks indignant at the comment, and opens his mouth to say something, but she's faster. "Not that you ever cook anything bad, I know. That's why I keep you around, after all~" she adds, with a wink. "But something really good. Take your time, we'll be a while."

His protest dies in a blush and a grumble, but he nods and starts to head off. ...Or would have, if she didn't snap her fingers with a sound like a gunshot and gesture to me. "Show some manners, boy. Introduce yourself."

He's trying not to grimace, and I'm trying not to smile <instincts are impolite things sometimes>. And then he bows, but it's a Western-style bow, with a little flourish. "Good morning, Miss. I hope you've had a pleasant stay in our household, thus far. I am Keshti, called also the Scholast, and others besides."

Elis curtsied too, didn't she? ...With a name like "Makai," I'm confused by the scarcity of Japanese ...anything.

"Kochiya of Moriya, called also the Living God." I say aloud, trying not to stare at his head-wings, and only barely succeeding. "And yes, I've been treated well enough. Thank you."

...No, I have to know.

"However, if you'll excuse a question...?" I start, managing not to sound too awkward as they both look at me."Do you perhaps have a... an older sister, or cousin, or something?"

They both go still.

It's not the dangerous kind of still. It's the ...surprised kind. Concealed surprise, but not enough that I can't spot it.

They look at each other for a moment, and then back at me. Elis clears her throat. "...Do elaborate."

"Well," I say, feeling self-conscious, now. "She looks just like, um, you—" I point to Keshti "—but her face is kinda like yours. And the ears are pointy, too. I remember that I called her Morrigan once, and got really upset... at me..."

Okay, nobody's trying to conceal any surprise, now. The two demons in front of me look downright aghast, more than anything.

I start to hesitantly offer an apology, but Elis makes a shrieking sort of sound, and claps her hands together. ...in delight, I think, going by her smile. She chatters something to Keshti in a stream of rapidly changing tones that make my teeth feel as if each one is individually vibrating gently. It is more weird than painful, but after half a minute or so, their conversation concludes. She pulls out a sheet of something thin and halfway shiny, like very dull mylar, and pulls a quill pen from somewhere. It's adorned with feathers bearing some kind of design I could not look directly at. Literally, my eyes just skipped over it.

There is much frantic writing for another thirty seconds while I sit there in polite confusion and letting the last of the ringing in my ears from her shriek of apparently-joy die away.

Keshti looks at Elis for a bit before casting me an apologetic look. "She... To answer your question, yes. That person you describe is most likely my sister. Well, effectively, my sister. Her name is Kunigunde." He takes a few steps inside and sits on the edge of a table near the door after moving a couple boxes aside. "We have not heard from her in some time, but knew that she was summoned away. Where did you meet her?"

Elis pauses, the scratching of the pen falling momentarily silent <putting me on the spot huh>.

"Ah, she ... well, she was an assistant to a mage in Gensokyo. In a library," I say. Elis looks like she's about to laugh, and goes back to writing. Keshti winces. "She was treated well enough, I think," I add quickly. "I mean, as far as I could tell. ...Is that a bad thing?"

He shakes his head and chuckles. "No, no. Well, not for us. Kunigunde was never very fond of the life of the intellectual. The wild child, you could say."

"Oh. Well, she was pretty polite to me when I was there. More or less." All right, she tried flirting with me, but subtly. No breathy come-ons or eyefuls of cleavage. Once I recognized it for what it was, I told her politely that I wasn't interested, and she just laughed. <and then i called her morrigan as a joke and then there were problems but I ju>

"That's good to hear, then," he says, looking more at ease as he says it. I blink. He didn't look tense, I'd thought, but it's obvious now, because he isn't. Or something like that. I can't describe it well. "It is very uncommon for a resident of Makai to be summoned away by mortals, but it is not unheard of." The weirdness grows as this boy says something so ...from-a-textbook-ish.



He nods, and gives a little smirk. "Indeed, our family is smiled upon by fate in that regard. I myself was summoned some centuries back. A man asked for knowledge no other mortal possessed. I was only recently upon the scholar's road at that point, and he wanted not magic, but science. I gave him one of my grammar school biology primers, and he seemed satisfied with that."

"That's it?"

He nods.

...Really? That's got to be the lamest demon-summoning story ever. No dark rites? No virgin sacrifices? No selling of the soul? Why would you even bother?

...Then again, the pact I made with Elis wasn't anything particularly impressive, either, going by such a scale. Huh. Maybe he picked it up from his mom, then.

"So ...has—" I begin, gesturing at Elis. Keshti makes a silent, frantic, and furtive up-and-down gesture between throat and mouth that I've never seen before, but which pretty clearly states: Stop talking now.

Elis' wing twitches slightly. I...guess that's a no, then. That particular aspect is a sore point, it seems.

Somewhat lamely, I continue with, "...has, uh, Kunigunde, was it?" Keshti nods. "...Ever called home, or... or something?"

"No, but that is hardly unexpected." Elis answers for Keshti as she sprinkles some powder over the long sheet of whatever it was she was writing on. 'Crinkle-paper' springs to mind after a moment, because it looks like it ought to be making that mylar crinkling sound, even if it doesn't actually do that. "As he said, mortals summoning a resident of Makai does not happen often. Those that are summoned typically conclude their dealings quickly. On occasion, some elect to stay in service, and do not return. It would appear Kunigunde is one of the latter."

A small wisp of smoke curls up from the paper, starting at the top. It doesn't appear to be catching on fire, however, but more smoke is rising up from further and further down the page as the seconds pass. I look up at the ceiling, worried about ventilation, but the smoke dissipates about a meter and a half up into the air.

She looks regretful as she watches the smoke, but brightens up once the last wisp disappears completely. Rolling up the crinkle-paper, she brushes a finger over it, causing an intricate, star-shaped seal to appear over the edge, binding it closed. "To that end, I would ask of you yet another boon, Kochiya. If you should make it back to Gensokyo, please, deliver this to her with my sincerest regards. It... it has been some time." She pauses, and takes a breath. "If you agree to this, I will make the task even easier."

I'm left to puzzle that one out for a few seconds before I realize which task she meant. "...Returning to Gensokyo?" I say, trying not to sound too eager <and probably failing>.

[Awww, so soon?]

She nods, and comes over to stand by me, still holding onto the rolled-up message. "I can give you a letter of good faith to bring to the Historical Brotherhood in Dis, a city some ways an of here. I have colleagues there who may be able to help you with your predicament."

Confusion replaces excitement. Elis must notice, because she looks at me, then goes on, turning the roll in her hands as she talks.

"Makai has classically been rather isolated, as you might have gathered, more for the security of its citizens than paranoia... Although the coming of Hakurei did nothing at all to help it from moving in that direction. As a result, few people leave voluntarily aside. And most of those that do are onje, who typically already know how to leave before coming here in the first place."

...I know she's not trying to rub it in, but still...

"In the past, Makai had a slightly more relaxed stance in regards to such travel. A Fellow of the Brotherhood would have a greater chance of being privy to such information, which is why I am offering you this option."


[ ] Accepts. Girl knows how it is, missin' family... 'sides, she's got almost nothing at stake in this.
[ ] Turns it down. One deal with the devil's already one more than she shoulda made, she decides.


Fun fact: "Morrigan" happens to be Koakuma's true name. Elis and Keshti both know this, which is the cause of their certainty, as well as the source of Koa's alarm. That she vaguely resembles the Darkstalkers character of the same name is just an amusing cosmic coincidence.

Also, a transcription of the primer Keshti spoke of later became what is now known as the Voynich Manuscript.

None of this will ever be known to the protagonist, of course. But I figured you all would appreciate a little light being shed on that, since the first item isn't about to be revealed to her, and Keshti has no idea about the confusion his textbook has caused over the years.

Code entered successfully.

Secret expansion "The Course of The Moon" is now unlocked.
I knew it was a good idea to check before going to bed.

[x] Accepts. Girl knows how it is, missin' family... 'sides, she's got almost nothing at stake in this.

>"The Course of The Moon" is now unlocked
Oho~ I wonder what this is.
[X] Accepts. Girl knows how it is, missin' family... 'sides, she's got almost nothing at stake in this.

Cunegonde? Really?
Oh, not really. Okay then.
[x] Accepts. Girl knows how it is, missin' family... 'sides, she's got almost nothing at stake in this.
She has a lot in stake, but it is still worth a shot.
[X] Accepts. Girl knows how it is, missin' family... 'sides, she's got almost nothing at stake in this.
[¢] Accepts. Girl knows how it is, missin' family... 'sides, she's got almost nothing at stake in this.
I knew my cell phone had smuggled Lunarian tech. That's why the Android OS is so weird.
File 134603130656.png - (37.38KB, 424x279, Laying it out simply.png) [iqdb]
[ɚ] Accepts. Girl knows how it is, missin' family... 'sides, she's got almost nothing at stake in this.

One's more harmless than the last, isn't it? She might be setting me up; the message could just say THE INVASION IS NIGH. BE PREPARED. Or worse.

<but the little girl crying at the hospital oh so long ago with nobody left to care for her until her new mamas showed up and made everything better knows how it is and saw how the demon woman acted reacted spoke of her girl and this is what is making my decision for me i think but i call i instinct not sentimentality and pray it leads me true>

I think I can count on her offer being good, at least. It really is in her best interest to help me get home safely so that the letter can be delivered. I have confidence in that, at least.

"I'd be happy to deliver it for you," I say, belatedly putting a more altruistic spin on it. Kana-mama would frown at my diplomatic blunder.

Elis is more forgiving, it seems, just looking happy enough to hear it said. "So shall it be," she tells me. "I'll write up the letter after breakfast. Speaking of which..." She delivers a light slap to Keshti's rear, getting a yelp of surprise causing him to jump away from her table. "Get that little butt of yours off the table and put it in the kitchen already!"

He scurries off to do her bidding, and I can't help but feel a little something odd about that. I take another sip of tea, which has at least cooled dowhy is this stuff so horribly bitter. Stupid auto-pilot reactions.

I tell her a few more Rikako stories, but they're pretty short. Not even stories, really; more like little details and things about her and where and how she lives. Small things. I apologize when I can't think of anything more to add, but she's plenty pleased by what I've given her.

A minute or so passes while she gets her accent back under control, and another two while she composes her thoughts for her half of the bargain. When she begins, all trace of exuberance is gone, and she leans forward, clasping her hands loosely and looking me in the eye.

"First and foremost, dear, you're going to need to get a different look. You must have the Goddess' own luck to have not been spotted yet by anyone else before meeting me."

I look down at my clothes, not getting what she's saying... for a moment. Then her panic at seeing my resemblance to Reimu comes rushing back. "Shrine maidens aren't very popular here." Spoken, not asked. She nods, huffing a sigh of weary amusement.

"Ha. That's... that's an understatement. The reason you're lucky you met me is because I was scared enough to bother asking who you were, first. Most of Makai would respond with the most lethal and immediate force first, and ask questions... probably never. Everyone remembers when Hakurei and her hooligans came stomping through."

"Your son didn't seem particularly worried."

The corners of her lips twitch upward into something that looks like a smile on the outside. "Secret code; I told him it was all clear. Probably the only reason he didn't kill you on the spot is because he's used to me inviting onje in. Humans that get it in their head to go spend months or years training in the magical arts in a world of demons where the air is toxic and are lucky if most of us even give 'em the time a' day... Well, they're a pretty strange bunch, and he's learned to ask first."

"...He would have killed me if you hadn't?"

"Didn't you read the note in the shed? 'Not while you're on my property,' like it said. ...That means he'd have taken you out into the street, first. I'm nothing if not a devil of my word." She looks at me for a beat, and then rolls her eyes. "Oh, don't look so scared, Kochiya. That you're still alive now means that's how I want you." The way she sounds faintly irritated at having to remind me of my ensured safety is both unsettling and comforting for reasons I can't quite pin down.

She unclasps her hands, and reaches over for her tea, taking a sip <how can she enjoy this stuff>. It's quiet for a bit, and from somewhere else in the house, I hear the distant but familiar clatter of kitchen-sounds— pans being placed on a stove, in this case.

"Anyway. Wearing that in public is a death wish," she says, after a few seconds. "Fashion's a pretty loosely defined thing in Makai these days, so you could get away with pretty much anything else. Especially because you're onje."

Erf. Clearly, the idea I'd had about using my miko status to keep the locals at bay would only backfire terribly. But the way she says that reminds me of something the white woman told me. I clear my throat and ask, tentatively, "Don't the spellcard rules prevent lethal duels?"

She tilts her head slightly. "Spellcards?"

The white woman was not lying. Even after truth upon truth upon terrible truth poured forth from her too-pale, almost lavender lips, I had hoped that at least one would be false. If she spoke even one, this was, nevertheless, not it.

"They're a... it's a Gensokyo thing, after all. Never mind, it was a dumb question." I say, disheartened. She shrugs, and then picks up where she left off.

"The only thing worse than the outfit would be doing anything specifically linked to shrine maidens. Using seals, uh... that little stick of yours looks different enough from Hakurei's that I don't think it'll draw attention. I'm assuming that for your intents and purposes, it's about the same thing as hers though, right?"

I eye my haraegushi. True, it does serve many of the same functional purpose as Reimu's gohei, and they are used for similar reasons. A haraegushi is not as versatile in its range of applications, or as common a sight as a gohei, however. I actually have to do more work from the ritual and magical side of things to make up for this lack of flexibility.

But in my current predicament, I wouldn't trade this for Reimu's gohei even at gunpoint.

The reason I use this is because every miko of Lady Kanako was <continues to be> required to have a symbol of office that, in addition to being a spiritual tool, is also easily weaponized. When I want it to, the wooden stick in my hands can become as hard as steel, the paper wedged into the top as unyielding as titanium, its edges able to cut through oak like butter.

It really says a lot about Kana-mama's younger days.

"I guess you could say that." A little bit of petty revenge.

She just nods, unaware. "Something to keep mum, then, unless things go bad. What else..." She trails off, then snaps her fingers after thinking for second. Oh! Can't forget those; do you have those... the balls that Hakurei had, half-white and half—"

"Oh, her yin-yang orbs?" I suppress a shudder at the memory. Soccer has been slowly but surely growing more popular in Gensokyo. Reimu, if she bothered, and if she could be persuaded to not use her hands, could probably be her own team and still win. And that would be with a ball made out of leather patches, not rock. And only one ball, not two simultaneously. I'm convinced she played sepak takraw at a championship level in a past life, or something. "What about them?"

"Do you have anything like that...?"

"Oh. No. Well, sort of," I say, trying to think how you explain religious symbolism in a few sentences, and doing a very bad job of it. "I mean, the symbol is part of the faith, kinda sorta. Well, a lot, in a way. Uh. Really short version, no, I don't have any balls." She does not smirk or smile. I still blush.

"Argh. I mean... Okay, for her, like, for her shrine, those are a large part of the history, so they've also worked their way into a lot of her personal symbolism. Kind of... thing. Moriya Shrine doesn't have such an artifact. Well, we sort of do, but my—" <mamas> "—gods carry theirs with them. Oh! The animal trinity, that's a big one." I point to my coil and pin. No need to have a symbol of the third member; I am the third.

"You use the animal symbology a lot?" she asks, peering at the ornaments.

"...Sorta, yeah..." I'd decided to work a frog motif into my danmaku when I set out yesterday morning, mostly because Suwa-mama was the one I consulted first after finding out about the UFOs and the treasure ship. And I guess because I thought it'd make her laugh <it did>. But other than that, I guess I haven't really had something that symbolized my power...

Oh. No, I definitely have a thing like that.

"Mostly," I add, recovering from having trailed off in a mumble, "I use a star." I hold out my hand, and reflexively trace out the shape on my palm with my thumb, causing a the traced shape to appear, glowing white-blue.

Elis chuckles as she looks into my hand. "Oho~ Good taste, Kochiya." she says, glancing up at me and tapping her star-marked cheek with a grin. Looking at the demon, I can't help but return it, even if it's with a tinge of nervousness.

Sitting back, I close my palm and dismiss the star and its light. "You'll be all right on that front, then," she says, brushing back her hair. "Basically, the less you look or act like Hakurei, the longer you'll live. Since you aren't a youkai, don't even mention Gensokyo. Oh, and don't expect anyone else to be as friendly as me to onje like you, even at the best of times."

...Welp. Goodbye, good mood.

"Don't look so down about it," she tells me, leaning back in her chair, and crossing her legs. "I've seen people worse off than you manage to make it in one piece. Heh, if anyone's got a better chance of surviving Makai than the average onje, it's a shrine maiden. I'd suggest getting better with your magic real quick, too. There's literally no better place to work on it. ...You should also expect to get your hands dirty."

This last comment is spoken in a different tone than the others. Calm, neutral, fact-stating, the kind you have to use when you say awful things in a way that doesn't cause panic.

I visibly flinch the instant her meaning becomes clear. "What?" I ask. Worried, no tremble yet. When I look over to her, I find her already staring at me. Ready for this part.

"It's Makai, dear. While "lethal force" isn't as permanent for us as it is for humans, I daresay you could ensure that it would be with less effort than most."

...There's something unsaid there, and Elis sounds ...very certain of that statement.

I... guess it makes sense? Thinking about it, it's obvious that she's referring to my abilities as a miko. Divine powers and demons are pretty classically opposed. But it usually only seals or banishes them. I guess that becomes a lot worse if you're doing it to the demon themselves, on their home turf. But why does she look so—

And then, the cause of the certainty of her words clicks in my head like a precision mechanism. Elis had been clearly stating it quite literally from the beginning. But I hadn't considered permanence as part of the equation, until now.

<oh gods reimu>
<what did you do here>

Elis just quietly nods, once my hand slowly rises to cover my mouth.

Expect to get your hands dirty.

Yokomura-sensei, the guidance counselor at school, always looked faintly sad. Not depressed, and not unhappy. But sad.

Guidance means saying things they won't want to hear, I suddenly realize. But they will be things you need to hear. To know.

Elis doesn't look sad, but if I had to say these sorts of things to people, I think I would look like Yokomura-sensei, too.

We stay that way for a while, in the silence of our thoughts. The sounds of cooking filter through the halls, but they fail to break the mood.

It's Elis who makes the first move, and I actually jump in my chair when she suddenly sits up and claps her hands once. "All right, enough gloom and doom, dear. You said you packed all this for 'incident resolution'," she says, pointing at my pack. Her voice isn't bright and artificial, but strong and clear. She glances up at something above and behind me. "We've got a few minutes more before he's done with breakfast. What exactly was going on, if you don't mind me asking?"

Mind? I could almost cry for joy at this change of topic.

[ ] The short of it. Just gives her the highlights, an' leaves it at that.
[ ] The... middle of it? Not too much, not too little; she's just happy to be talkin' 'bout other stuff.
[ ] The long of it. Takes it from A to Z, with nothing left out. Girl ain't in a good place right now, and tellin' the whole thing'd take her even worse places. This ain't on the table.


Summer quarter's over, so this theoretically means more time for updating! At least until the 8th, because then I go to China for a week or so. I think I'm going to be kept pretty busy during that trip, but we'll see if there's time to squeeze in an update or two (On the plane rides to and back, if nothing else).

...Oh wow. No, definitely not a reference to that. It's an actual name.
[x] The... middle of it? Not too much, not too little; she's just happy to be talkin' 'bout other stuff.

I take it that the residents are far less forgiving of Reimu's actions than Shinki herself? I remember clearly in Reimu's good ending in MS, Shinki pops up very much alive and not bearing any bit of a grudge.
She is a mass murderer. I guess Shinki didn't care because she's a dick too.

[x] The short of it. Just gives her the highlights, an' leaves it at that.
It's a good thing she was taken down at the fourth stage. Also, I wonder if Reimu is already finished with the 'Invading Makai and releasing a prisoner' thing. I hope so.
[x] The... middle of it? Not too much, not too little; she's just happy to be talkin' 'bout other stuff.
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Don't wait around to vote, folks. I'm aiming for an update every other day until the 8th.

[|] The... middle of it? Not too much, not too little; she's just happy to be talkin' 'bout other stuff.

"No, that's... that's fine," I say. I need to wet my lips, but the heck with being unprepared. I brace myself for the bitter taste of the tea this time, and actually notice a curious, distinct taste behind it. It's nothing I recognize, but if I had to describe it, it would be like mint and cinnamon.

Weird. Still tastes awful, but it's liquid, and that's what's needed.

"Well... I'd heard about the sightings of a ship in the sky for a while, this spring. Visitors to our shrine would mention it, tengu would ask about it. We even had kappa camped out for a week near the summit, trying to catch a glimpse of it. But everyone who mentioned it would always say it was mostly out of sight, like above the cloud layer, or disappearing behind a mountain, you know? Not super-reliable stories." I cross my legs, and lean back a little as I recall the events <seems like it happened only yesterday ha ha>.

Before everything went wrong.

"And I was out sweeping the shrine that morning, later than I normally do. We'd had breakfast down in town, that morning. So there I was, sweeping, and I look up into the sky above me for some reason. It was a nice, solid patch of blue." I lean back even further in my chair, still able to remember the sight clearly. "...And there's this dim shape up there, this... ship. I think I just stood there and stared at it for half a minute. You see strange things in Gensokyo, but it's always got a new surprise for you."

"A ship?" asks Elis.

"Yeah. Big, wooden— well, I couldn't see it was made of wood from down there, but it was." I sketch the shape out in the air with a ball of slow-fading danmaku on the end of my finger. "Looked about like that. Pretty simple design." The demon nods, and motions for me to continue.

"Once I snapped out of it, my first thought was to go and talk to Reimu and Marisa about it, see what they knew. I actually got half a kilometer away from the shrine before I realized I could make this my debut, you know? Our shrine's pretty new to Gensokyo, overall, and if I could beat those two to it, I'd have proved myself to them. ...They're pretty big names, those two. And I've gotten the impression a couple times that I'm still kind of 'the new kid,' you know? Maybe I'm kinda insecure about this a little. They're nice to me, and they don't mock me or anything. And they've invited me out drinking, and we had a good time. Just, it's hard not feel like that when you rub shoulders with professionals, I guess?" I shake my head, and dip low for a moment in a bow of apology. "...Sorry, I'm rambling."

Elis shakes her head. "I understand more than you know. Try being in academia for a few decades." That's an odd comment, but... I suppose it makes a little sense, sort of. I laugh politely, and then carry on.

"So... right, ship. Ah, sorry, just a sec." Again, I prepare for the bitter taste of the tea. That cinnamon/mint taste is coming through a little more, now ...Maybe this stuff tastes better when it's cold? I brush aside thoughts of differing physiologies and taste receptors and other bits of Biology class, and focus. "I go and talk to Lady Suwako—" <didnt stumble on it this time> "—because she's got a good head for dealing with weird things like this. She didn't have much to offer, but said about the same thing I was thinking about making a name for the shrine. She also thought it might be some kind of treasure ship, which is also what a few of the rumors had said.

"I go up there, and there's the usual crowds of fairies and stuff all over the place. They get really shaken up by weird stuff when it goes on, so you always find a ton of them where things are getting weird. Only, some of the fairies are clutching these little floating UFO things, and acting super-weird and erratic. I figure that's probably rel—"

"Sorry," interrupts my audience. "What's a 'UFO'?"

I stare at her for a few incredulous seconds, thinking she has to be pulling my leg. Then I consider the circumstances, and it stops seeming so far-fetched. The poor woman doesn't know what she's missing. I sketch one in the air, like I did the ship: dome, dish, bubbles on the bottom, windows. "It stands for 'unidentified flying object'. Means about what it sounds like. I've got a bunch, I can show you if you want..."

"Maybe after the story. Do go on."

"Oh. Okay. But yeah, I start looking for these weird fairies, and they're easy to pick out even in a crowd. Fairies like formations and sequences when they fly. I don't know if they get the whole aerodynamics thing on some level, or if that's just part of how they play. Anyhow, I start looking for the ones that are out of synch with the rest, and leave the others alone. Bop 'em with a bit of danmaku, and snag the UFO when they drop it."

...I replay that line in my head <a lot of reimus and marisas incident resolving stories involve more beating up than actual mystery solving now that i think about>, and pause before starting again, a little guiltily. "...That really didn't come out right. See, I was thinking along the lines of... like, I'm stopping a little kid who's running around with matches or a candle, and taking them away from her. And that sounds pretty bad, too, but most fairies aren't exactly... bright."

Elis gives me a raised eyebrow and a weird look at that. "In Gensokyo, anyway," I clarify. She looks at me a little longer, then shrugs. "...Are they smarter, here?"

"They tend to be, yes," she says, finally speaking. "There are still plenty of dullards, but the average fairy in Makai isn't too stupid. They actually run most of the farms in the adapnabas. ...That's a shire what's mostly made of farms."

I nod once she clarifies. Interesting... And definitely something to keep in mind.

[Sir, you are a master of the breakfast-crafting... craft~]

I wonder, briefly, how the cooking is coming along, but get back to my story. "So I start collecting these little UFOs, figuring it's probably related to whatever's going on, in some way, especially if it's causing fairies to start acting pretty weird. And even if it isn't, stuff that causes fairies to act strangely is something to pay attention to. It has to do with them being a part of nature, but... just take my word on it.

"Nobody bugs me, for the most part. ...Which is a little weird. There was some girl in black and grey that went by me earlier, before I'd even gotten to the first fairies. Heh... Sorry, it's funny remembering it now, because she had these big, round ears. Dead ringer for Mickey Mouse, except they were grey, not black. ...He's a... cartoon mouse sorta thing. Not important. Anyway, I I thought were fake, but she had the tail to match. I'd never seen her before, and I'm kind of glad she didn't do more than give me a passing glance, because she was carrying a couple of weird black rods, like really thin crowbars.

"She passes me early on, then I find the fairies, and I know I must be on the right trail, even if I'd lost the ship— which I did, forgot to mention that. Totally disappeared when I went in to talk to Lady Suwako, and pack up. But I just went the direction I saw it going last, and then, yeah, followed the fairies.

"There was some other girl I met up there. Nice sort, but I can't remember her name, even though I know she told it to me. I guess I said something about her umbrella that she didn't like, and she got upset, but we patched things up. And after that, I just let her run away. To hear Reimu and Marisa tell it, you're supposed to fight anyone you see when you go incident-resolving, but I wanted to be better than that, you know?"
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Brace. Sip. ...Yes, it's definitely better when it gets cooler. Still an awful drink, but at least it registers as something besides 'Oh gods, what is this crap?'

"About half an hour later, I finally find the ship. It's a big, big wooden thing, looks super-ancient. Not rotted, but old. Worn, and just ready to be chopped up for firewood. Oh, and the mold! It wasn't knock-you-off-your-feet strong, but I could still smell it on the air, and I was a still a couple kilometers out, at least. And halfway there, this woman comes out from a cabin on the deck, and starts flying toward me, and I think this pink smoke that she's trailing behind her is like, I dunno, jetpack smoke, or what, I dunno. My first thought was Gundam exhaust, but they don't have... Well, anyway.

"She gets closer, and I see she's dressed like a nun from a temple or something, which is funny because I don't think there is a Buddhist temple in Gensokyo. If there is, I've never heard it brought up even once, and Gensokyo's big, but it's only so big. Anyhow, turns out that stuff's not exhaust at all. It turns into this big bald guy made of clouds, big huge beard and mustache, really burly looking. I get a bit worried, but he doesn't say anything, but she fires off some danmaku, a couple big, sweeping waves of lasers and I figure 'Hey, she fired first, that's pretty suspicious.' So it's on, I figure.

"And that's going all fine; I give as good as I'm getting, and keep out of the way, though she wasn't making it easy. Lady Kanako's saturation-attack training paid off, let me tell you. And she's done, catching her breath, and says something about a treasury, and how fairies and stuff were harassing her. But I'm just thinking, 'Oh wow, Su—' ah, Lady Suwako, I mean, '—was totally right!' ...I mean, not that I doubted her, but y'know, I'd been hearing it from more than just her, and ...these weren't exactly all scholars and sages, you know?

"But yeah, I ask her what she's talking about, but she's kind of talking half to herself, and just goes, 'Well, I won't show you any mercy!' and that pink guy next to her gets huge all of a sudden!" I'm aware that at this point, I've really gotten into it, and am out of my chair, making theatrical gestures, but it's a good story, dammit! And besides, Elis is totally absorbed. "And he starts throwing punches, with these huge freakin' fists, and it's like 'fwam! whoosh! fwshh!' and I'm screaming my head off because I wasn't expecting anything like this, but the nun-lady's got a spellcard she's holding up, so I know this is at least legit, and I know I'm not going to get flattened or anything, but still, that doesn't mean I'm okay with getting hit.

"I pour on the gas, and keep moving, gotta keep moving, and keep up the pressure on her with my own danmaku. Finally I nail her, hoping that this is some kind of spell, though the pink guy seemed a bit too... I don't think he was a spell, now. I dunno, intuition and hindsight. Anyway, the pink guy shrinks back after I hit her, and she seems a little shook up, like she can't believe I didn't just turn and run, and believe me, I'm asking myself that on the inside, too. And then she turns and runs, and I'm trying to figure out what that was all about, when BAM! Huge swarm of fairies catches me from behind!" <she actually jumped a little>

"I can't run off like she did, so I fight my way out, and snag a ton more of those UFOs while I do. Lot of the weird fairies in that bunch. I make sure to grab every last UFO, and that'll takes me another twenty or thirty minutes, and that ship's starting to get away from me. I use one of my spellcards and just clear them all out, then grab the UFOs. They float on their own in the air, but if they're right near someone, they'll drop. Makes it easy to scoop them up, as long as you come up from the bottom.

"What takes twenty to thirty minutes takes five instead, so I manage to catch back up to the ship in time. The nun's waiting for me, though, and starts asking me what I even want with the ship. I figure that this is a good time to clear up some misunderstandings, maybe solve things peacefully. But then I remember: I don't have a good excuse for being up here. I thought it was some kind of abandoned treasure ship, but if there are people on board, then that just makes me a robber. So I try to salvage the situation, and tell her I'm investigating purely out of academic interest. And that's certainly true, you know. Incident resolution can't be just beating people up; you have to find out what's going on.

"What I don't say is anything about incident-resolving... and now that I think about it, I should have. If you tell someone they're causing trouble, there's at least some chance they'll stop. But if you just say 'I'm just taking a look around, don't mind me,' and it's a treasure ship..." I trail off. Wow, that was a really dumb thing to tell the nun-lady, wasn't it? "...Yeah, that was not my smartest move. But it seemed like it made sense at the time, but even she wasn't buying it. I didn't pick up on it, though. She tells me she's 'guarding the ship from those kinds of people.' I try to be cool about it, and say she's doing a great job. And she's all 'That includes you, too!'

"Things are going bad, but then the pink guy, who's been staring at me, leans over and says something, and they have a chat, and tell me I've got fragments of some kind of secret treasure. I assume she's talking about the UFOs, but that doesn't make any sense. But she asks me to hand them over, and I guess she thought I was saying I wasn't going to when I had no idea what fragments she was talking about... and she starts shooting off danmaku again. More waves of lasers, but these two sort of turning rings of ...blades, almost. But not really. It was like those big huge tunnel-boring machines, you kn— Oh, right. Sorry. Uh, anyway, I made it out of that, and then she pulls out ANOTHER spellcard, and the pink guy gets huge again, and suddenly, he's like a two-story-tall Kenshiro, and unleashing the Fist of the gods-damned North Star on me! I [u]still[/i] don't know how I made it out of that intact."

...Yes, I do that complete with punching gestures and the signature wail.

"And then her next card has the pink guy sending exploding fists at me. I don't even know what the hell that was about, but it was actually easier." I don't do well in the long run with saturation-type attacks, but I can outlast them for a little while, at least. Dodging is fine, I just need a place to dodge to. "And for her third card... I'm starting to think this lady's seen a lot of giant robot anime or something, because the pink guy starts shooting eyebeams at me. I wanted to laugh, but I was too busy freaking out because he was trying to squish me in between his fists at the same time.

"...But... I won." I finish my tale, and slump back into the chair. "I wouldn't have had a prayer if ...Lady Kanako and Lady Suwako hadn't been drilling me in danmaku exercises for ...years? At least a year. Must have been more."
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"And what of the investigation?" asks Elis, drily.

"...She said something about resurrecting her sister or something. She got real humble and apologetic, and let me go inside."

"And then?"

<and then i wandered through old and musty corridors and passages and then i met the white woman and then>

"...Things. Things happened. Inside." I say, having to force the words out of my mouth while trying to keep my mind from thinking about them as they leave <and the deep sea glow and the smile and when she revealed the truth the touch of cold wet fle> —NOT. THINKING. ABOUT THEM.

"And the story ends there." My words are almost a growl, but as I look at her, Elis doesn't look offended. Just thoughtful. Meanwhile, I close my eyes, and get my breathing under control, and my skin feels clammy from the sweat.

I hate this so much.

"So, then, uh, breakfast is ready, I guess."

Keshti's voice from the doorway nearly causes me to jump out of my skin. He has the decency to look guilty, at least. "Sorry. Finished it about ten minutes ago, and got here around the part with girl with the funny ears. Gensokyo sounds mighty ...lively."

"Mickey Mouse ears." I say, that being the first thing that comes to mind.

"Right, those."

"Maybe you should go make sure it's good and hot, still." Elis drops in a sweet little barbed suggestion, and Keshti scurries out. She shakes her head, and opens her mouth to say something more.

"Oh, what in damnnation?"

...That was not what she said. She doesn't say anything, and, like me, turns toward the door. There's quieter cursing and the clanking of pots and pans, and the cursing gets replaced by variations on "It can't possibly all have..." and "Oh, you cannot be serious."

Neither of us get up, and half a minute later, Keshti comes back, looking nervous and confused and irritated all at once. "I... burned it. That is, it must have gotten burnt when I left it on the oven too long. Er, stove. So I'll go cook some mo—"

"...I didn't smell anything burning," she says, skeptical.

There is a lot of eye gestures and fidgeting, and finally, he gives. "I... well, I was trying to not upset your guest, but ...fine. Somehow, the food is ...missing. I looked. It's gone."

"Gone." Elis, evenly.

"...Gone?" Me, perplexed.

"Gone." Keshti, at a loss. Accompanied by a shameful shrug. "All the pans are picked clean."


Elis stares at him for a full minute, apparently trying to comprehend this fully, before getting up. "Keshy, come here." He walks over and


<oh gods fucking what was>

slaps him with her wand and sends him flying out of the room, bam, into the wall of the hallway, thud, into the opposite wall of the hall as he rebounds off the first.

<oh shit oh fuck what is even going on>

[...Something happening?]

"Next time, go ahead and say the food's ready, hon," says Elis, and she doesn't even sound angry. Just a little tired. Faintly annoyed. "Go check the fairy marks, make sure they're all intact."

There's a grunt from the hall as Keshti picks himself up <how can he still move> and then a brushing noise. Probably dusting himself off "Right, sorry. Want me to set out the milk, too?" <he doesn't sound scared or hurt or upset what in how does>

"Couldn't hurt. And then get started on breakfast again."

"On it."

Elis takes her seat again, rolling her eyes. "Tunnel brownies, probably," she says, by way of explanation. "Don't worry about it, they're not grubby, despite the name."

...The way these two talked just now, it's like a boy being chided for forgetting to get something from the store.

But that is not even close to what happened just now and I am on the thin, thin edge.

[ ] That's too much. Girl speaks her mind, fearin' she'll lose it if she don't.
[ ] Doesn't know, doesn't want to know. She's just a stranger in a too-strange land.


Oh, Shinki's very alive.
[x] Doesn't know, doesn't want to know. She's just a stranger in a too-strange land.

I brought the matter up as Makai appears to have suffered a toned some sort of mass killing though not complete. The sort of thing grimderp fans love to insist is true. I'm curious how you'll have this with a living Shinki as I can't see a way of a grudge-bearing makai and a living Shinki could co-exist.
[x] Doesn't know, doesn't want to know. She's just a stranger in a too-strange land.
Yeah, assume the worst, but don't question your host in its own house.
She's laying low, covering her losses and playing nice until it can invade... does that work?

As for what he does when she invades... there's a story in /others/ for that.
[x] Doesn't know, doesn't want to know. She's just a stranger in a too-strange land.
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>some other girl I met up there
>can't remember her name
>she got upset, but we patched things up.
>I just let her run away.
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>Sometimes, something else happens.
[x] That's too much. Girl speaks her mind, fearin' she'll lose it if she don't.

information is power

This makes me wonder if there's some sort of counter for how on track things are on certain course (not just this story but the Alice story too). It'd be sort of like the divergence % in stein's gate.
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[ℍ] Doesn't know, doesn't want to know. She's just a stranger in a too-strange land.

First, focus.

Close my eyes, take slow, steady, breaths. Forget what just happened, forget the left-over bitterness in my mouth from the tea, forget my aches from yesterday, forget my situat<wait what aches>

My eyes open again. Focusing is put on hold as I consider that.

It's true, I don't... it's faint. Still sore, definitely, but compared to yesterday, it's a distant dream. My gaze drops to the almost-empty cup of tea. Maybe there's some kind of anesthetic in it? ...No, that wouldn't make sense. I mean, you could, but she didn't say anything of the sort, or remark on any side effects. You wouldn't put painkillers in a normal, everyday drink; that's a terrible idea <so is hitting your children>.


It's just like the first few months in Gensokyo. Everything new and strange catches you by surprise, but nobody else seems to think much of the things that you have such a hard time accepting or understanding. It's a strange, unpleasant thing, combining the worst parts of being uninformed with being an outsider. Literally, in my case.

Neither of them acted like this was weird. Nobody cried, nobody was scared. They acted like this was perfectly normal. I've been around enough youkai to know that they tend to be a much hardier breed, physically. There are some exceptions, of course, but it's true for the majority. It's not too great a leap of logic to assume that the same is true of demons and devils and whatever else lives in Makai.

I suddenly find myself deeply in awe of Reimu: we make jokes and little barbs and give her a hard time, but the fact that the reputation— no, the name of a single human name carries such weight not only in Gensokyo, but even in Makai as well... I shiver.

Back to the matter at hand. I don't get it, and it can't be a good sign for... for anything. If this is such a normal thing, what does that say about Makai? The whole thing makes me very unsettled, honestly but right now...

...Right now, I'm not gonna say anything. I can't pretend to be impartial about this, but I can bite my tongue and not appear to flip out about it. Even though I want to scream at Elis. Even if flipping out is what I'm doing right now. Quietly.

The desire to scream isn't going away, but I'm holding it in check. Barely. For all my wandering thoughts, my panic, my stress, my outrage; none of it has gone away.

Elis is looking at me in a funny way <dont scream at her>.

"Kochiya?" <dont scream at her>


"You've been silent for the last couple minutes. Everything okay?" <dont scream at her>


Please just move on. Please <dont scream at her>.

"...This about me giving my boy a little tap? That's nothing to worry about. Just gotta keep him in line now and then." <gods please shut her up or something befodont scream at her>

[Oh, still chatting? All right, then~]

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"So, I was curious about something in your story; these little... 'UFOs' you mentioned." <yes thank you just move on dont scream at her>


"They sound rather peculiar, and you offered to show me them. Since breakfast's been held up a little longer, would you mind showing them to me? In return, I will tell you what I can about them." <all too happy to accept thank you lets keep moving dont scream at her>

"Sure. Gimme 'sec." I lean over and hoist my pack up into my lap. Unzipping it, I move my thoughts into a space where I can point them at the task of finding and retrieving the bag. Deliberate, conscious action. Slow breaths. Careful. Quiet. If I keep my words to a minimum, it will make it easier for me, so that I <dont scream at her>

It's easy to find, because it sags slightly as my hand passes over it while pulling the zipper of my pack open <i can do this as long as im calm as long as nothing else goes wrong as long as the topic keeps moving this way as long as i dont scream at her>. I retrieve the bag. Zip the pack half-closed. Set it down by the chair again. Elis watches patiently.

Pulling my chair up closer to her desk, I set the bag with its hefty load of UFOs in between us, and hold up a finger— wait —and then place my hands in my lap. She obliges me, making neither a move nor a sound.

The bag shifts, and makes odd sounds that I'm able to pay attention to and really hear, for the first time. It's more clack and clonk, like ceramics and wood, not the clink and clank sounds of metal, which is what the little UFOs felt <should feel> like. No, they felt like metal <did they>. Well, I think they did.

And now the bag is floating, rising to about thirty or so centimeters in the air above the desk. Elis watches it hover, an eyebrow raised. "Like I said, they do that when there's nobody right near them," I tell her, curiosity shoving anger/confusion/outrage aside (with some difficulty) in order to make room for a few more words. I bring my hands up from under the bag, causing it to wobble, shift, and then fall into them as they approach the sack. And again with the noises that don't seem right.

I reach into the bag to draw out a few of the UFOs. Grabbing one, I make sure to pay attention to the feeling as I do so.

...I can't tell what they feel like. One moment, it feels like metal. The next, bumpy plastic. The next, wet wood. The next, dusty glass. The next, jagged rock. And all the while, I realize that I can't tell what the size of the UFO in my hands is. Thinking back on it, this sack shouldn't have been able to hold more than two or three; they had to be least fifteen or twenty centimeters wide. And yet I know I grabbed a few hundred of them.

"Something wrong?" says Elis, sounding curious.

"...Yes," I say, confusion teaming up with curiosity to push my earlier thoughts even harder out of the way. "A number of things." I pull out the UFO held in my hands... and it looks perfectly normal. I mean, among the UFOs that I was collecting, it doesn't look unusual. A green metallic sheen to it. Just as big as I remember it. But...

I shake the sack, and there's the distinctive lots-of-pieces noise that a sack full of little things should make. Little things. And it bulges like such a bag should, too. No dish-shaped protrusions or shapes like these things ought to be making.

[Some sort of fairy doll, is it? Looks like the ones at home, too. Weird~]

"...Are there other ones that look different from what you described?" asks Elis, both eyebrows raised, now. I shake my head. "Well, then that's mighty peculiar, because the thing you're holding looks like an aeriable, which looks nothing like what you described."

I blink, and peer at it. Squint, even. "Looks the same to me as it always did." I examine it some more, and turn it around in my hands, as if it would look different on the other side, just out of sight. "What's an aeriable?"

Elis picks up her tablet, and draws something that looks like a light bulb crossed with some sort of stubby airplane. "It's a kind of small aircraft that we started building about eleven years ago," she says, brightly. "Even though most everyone can fly, these are much, much faster, which opens up all kinds of possibilities for Makai's future and scientific progress! Plus they're very customizable, and new designs and innovations are are always coming out. There was something in the news-sheet a week ago saying that the Pandemonium Reeve's office has a new model that t—"

I hold up a hand, and she stops, clears her throat. "So you're not seeing what I see," I say. Normally I'd be interested, but I've got other matters to deal with.

She nods, and sets down the tablet, tapping it once. The sketch of the "aeriable" disappears. "May I see one?" she asks. I hesitate, then nod, handing it over. She takes hold of it with both hands, and grasping it gingerly, peers closely at it.

A second later, she shrieks at the top of her lungs and lets the thing fall to the desk with a heavy thud. Thin, curling streams of white smoke rise from her hands, the skin there an angry, glossy red and beginning to crack and blister in places.

[ ] Responds. Girl grabs her kit and the woman and hauls her to the bathroom.
[ ] Defers. Calls in the devil's boy; he knows her better than she might.
[ ] Panics. Screamin' demon's caught her off guard, and she don't know what to do.
[ ] Laughs. And laughs and laughs and laughs. (Option unavailable at this time.)


I'll have Elis' sketch of the aeriable up some time tomorrow. I wanted to finish the update, first.

Well, as a matter of fact, ~ .
[x] Defers. Calls in the devil's boy; he knows her better than she might.
[◘] Responds. Girl grabs her kit and the woman and hauls her to the bathroom.

even if we fail or mess up its the thought that counts.

>[ ] Laughs. And laughs and laughs and laughs. (Option unavailable at this time.)

That's not ominous at all.

[x] Defers. Calls in the devil's boy; he knows her better than she might.

I don't think Sanae knows enough here to be as much help as is needed.

Also, asking a devil for help rather than doing something herself seems more divergent from the path that led to the later Sanae we all knew and loved. To hate.
I don't think Sanae is as helpless as you're making her out to be.
It was already mentioned that she had basic first aid training and a first aid kit, and those wounds sound like second-degree burns. That's in the scope of what she would reasonably have been taught.
This was a failed choice and we have to learn from it: facing the things we fear and understanding them is what this girl needs. It will take time, but this teenager needs to face her fears.
Per example: An invincible mad ghost god is scary. A nut-job poltergeist with a ridiculous hat who gets a kick out of drowning people is not. A merciless, sadist goddess is scary. A confused teenager with some magical powers is not.

[x] Defers. Calls in the devil's boy; he knows her better than she might.
[x] Responds.
[X] Responds. Girl grabs her kit and the woman and hauls her to the bathroom.

You know, I think it might be best to just ignore all the smoke and mirrors and references to the author's previous story and stop obsessing over them. This is a different story.
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As promised.
I'd appreciate the tie being broken in the next couple of hours, so that I can get started with writing, already. Otherwise I'll just flip a coin and go with that.
I believe there's good reason for having him tell us to read the other story before this one.

[x] Defers. Calls in the devil's boy; he knows her better than she might.

I'm not sure how good Sanae's kit is in regards to demons.
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So I wrote most of the update, but my proofreader is zonked, and I am about to be, as well. The update will be posted tomorrow, possibly around early afternoon, Pacific Time.


And there will be an update the day after tomorrow, as well.

I hope this post makes as much sense tomorrow as it does now.
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[⋇] Defers. Calls in the devil's boy; he knows her better than she might.

Uh, um.

Oh shit? Yes <very>.

[Well! That was curious.]

Elis is still staring at her hands, grey tears —I do a double-take, but no, I'm not seeing things— springing into her eyes and running down her cheeks. I get up, and pull her from around the desk by the wrists, and firmly take her to the bathroom as fast as I can, calling for Keshti as I do. Elis is too busy swearing in a language I don't understand, the same one from before. I'm sure it's swearing because you either swear or you bawl when you're hurt. There are tears, but there's no mistaking that short, sharp, through-gritted-teeth way she utters the tone-bursts.

Throwing what I recall from earlier was the cold-water knob, I shove her hands under the stream of water. She hisses again, but then sags in what I hope is relief. I let go, and she keeps them under it, flexing her fingers. Which is probably not a smart idea, but I'm not fully certain that demon physiology is exactly like that of a human, which I'd even been pondering earlier.

...Seriously, that tea. How can they stand to drink it?

Keshti comes hurrying by, starting for Elis' study, but stopping and turning back to the bathroom. He's alarmed, which is good, sort of. I'd have cause for concern if he wasn't worried about that shriek. "What's wrong?! What ha—"

"Burns." I cut him off. "Do you know how to treat them?"

"Uh... sort of." I give him a look, and he hastily elaborates. "Run cold water on it, and wrap it?"

"Good enough for the moment." Okay, so not too different from humans. "Go get my kit, it's..." I trail off, as thoughts of my first aid kit come to mind. ...No, that would be a terrible idea. "No, just get something clean and smooth so I can wrap her hand. Skip the aloe, this isn't just a scrape."

"What's al... whatever, right. Uh, what kind of burn is it?"

I open my mouth, but no words come out because I have no idea. All she did was touch the UFO. How could that have caused it if it didn't hurt me at all?

"Simething ho. Ly." We both look at Elis as she stares into the mirror, looking both determined and excited. And more than a little pained. "Go. Git the kit from. The ketchen." Keshti scurries off, and she looks at me. A few beats pass while she takes a deep breath. "Kochiya, did you not know that about those?"

"I... No," I say, my mind a little scattered at the moment. "How can UFOs be holy?" I mean, I know there are people who have theories and so on, I used to have a few; still do have one or two. But that's just ridic<why didnt you tell him to get your kit> —well, obviously because it's in my pack, and I don't want him rummaging through it <and why else> —there's nothing else, it's a normal first aid kit. I mean, Kana-mama and Suwa-mama blessed it, b—



...I guess she's onto something. "How do you know?"

She lets out a snigger. "It's a special sort of pain that can't easily be mistaken for anything else. Comes with being a devil, after all."

Keshti comes back with the kit, then. It's made out of what seems like wood at first glance, but it feels faintly warm. Also, anything made of normal wood cut this thin wouldn't last too long. It seems worn and used, but not particularly damaged. Keshti starts pulling out supplies, and I'm all too happy to let him take over, though I keep an eye on what he's doing.

Luckily for Elis, the burns are only on some of her fingertips and part of the edge of one palm. Normally, something like this would be back to normal in day or two, but Keshti says that if the wounds were from something divine, it will take a lot longer. I apologize profusely for letting it happen, but she tells me I couldn't have known. At first, I'm not sure how she knows I know that, but I soon realize that it's not that she knows.Rather, she doesn't care.

Not that she said anything so clearly, but it quickly becomes clear from how she talks on and on about it that she's fascinated by the UFO. I'm reminded of when I heard about a kappa who lost an arm to some piece of machinery, a hydraulic something-or-other. He insisted, shortly after awakening in the infirmary, that he be given paper and pencil so he could sketching design revisions for the machine he'd been inspecting. Not safety revisions, either. Performance improvements.

People who love their work are kinda scary sometimes, I muse.
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When she's all patched and wrapped up, we head back into her office, and Keshti returns to making breakfast. I heard no cries of dismay when he got back to the kitchen, so I'm assuming the 'tunnel brownies' did not come back for a second round. I'm worried about her going back to work so soon, but she reassures me she'll be fine. She can still hold a wand, so telekinesis is still within her grasp <i am awful>.


The sack of UFOs is hovering a little ways above the floor, and the green UFO is found a moment later between the wall and a cabinet in one corner of the room, bonking back and forth like a drunken puppy. I retrieve it, and start to put it away, but Elis is all too eager to dive back into the fray. "I will make it worth your time, I promise," she tells me. "Let me show you one of the basics of magic."

She goes hunting for something elsewhere in the room, while I scrutinize the UFO in my hands, the sensation of its texture constantly changing, while its appearance remains the same. Obviously, these aren't just what they appear to be. She sees them as something different, a local type of aircraft. I see a UFO. Other than "flight," what's the connection?

Time to take a closer look.

"Trace on." Elis makes a 'hmm?' sound as I whisper the sort-of spell, but I shake my head, and she goes back to whatever she's doing. I fix my gaze on the UFO, and...

...and what the hell am I holding?

In my hands is a twitching, wavering, shimmering, wobbling, indistinct mass of "UFO-shape"-ness, like the cheapest attempt at imitation or disguise. Looking at it this way, it's about as authentic-looking as that cardboard-box Gundam outfit: it's vaguely disc-like, and that's about the only way it resembles a UFO.

Unfortunately, that's also the only thing I can say about it for sure. The only reason I can even make out a shape is by the looking at the outline formed against what's behind it. Trying to look directly at it reveals almost nothing. There is definitely something there, but it literally defies description. Looking even closer at it, I see... Wait. Inside of it, somehow, there are two things. One is just sitting there, while the other jerks and wiggles and moves crazily around the first thing.

Elis comes back, then, so I deactivate the spell. It's just as well, as I feel a sense of weight on my eyes, somehow, as if I were using my eyeballs to physically lift objects. Rubbing them doesn't make it go away, and I sigh quietly.

"Seeing anything special?" asks the devil woman. She's holding, between bandaged fingers, a black slate and a piece of chalk. No, wait. That's an actual slab of slate; I can still see rounded, uneven corners on one side.

I know she meant it as a joke, but... "Actually, yes. There's something in here; two things, at least. No idea what they are." She makes another 'hmm' sound, but one of thought, not questioning. She stands there for a bit and I finally can't help but ask, "Doesn't that hurt?" Looking at her full hands, then back at me, she shrugs and then nods.

"Plenty!" Not even a bird could be so chirpy.

"...Then why...?"

She grins madly. "Because I have decided there is science that needs doing."

"And how does 'doing science' relate to learning magic? Or to this?" I say, flicking the side of the UFO. Cold and fuzzy, that time.

"Why wouldn't they be related?" she asks, with a tilt of the head. My question seems to genuinely confuse her.

I'm about to give a very good reason why, but then I take another look at the devices and things around this room, recall her mention of aircraft being built and developed and entering what sounds like somewhat common usage, and most of all, recall the lady she seemed very interested in hearing all about. And I no longer have a reason why. "Well... Good point," I say, lamely.

She just smiles and takes her seat after setting the slate and chalk on the table. "To begin with, what do you know about circles, as they pertain to magic?"

"Well, protection, obviously," I say. Though really, I only knew the one application that I'd put to use last night, laying the circle of salt around me in the shed. It was a pretty basic protective measure, but I only knew about it because of my shrine maiden training. Having honey and ash, it would have been much more secure, but ash is harder to put back in the bottle with that little wind trick, and honey is all but impossible. Not to mention it makes a right mess. "I guess you also use them for summoning, and... probably other things?"

...Okay, I'm mainly drawing on memories of RPGs and movies, here. It gets a laugh out of her.

"Oh, quite a number of other things, Kochiya. However, your comment a minute ago has decided the focus of this lesson. Let me tell you about containment." After making space on her desk, she sets the slate down and places the chalk next to it. "When you draw a circle of protection, which way do you draw it?"

"Um. Counter-clockwise?" I actually had to think about it, despite having done it several times before. Normally I just... do it.

She nudges the slate at me slightly. "Set that ...object down here, and then draw a circle around it in the opposite direction. Do you have a knife?"
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I freeze in the middle of picking up the chalk <whoa, whoa, whoa hold it right there thanks>.

"Come again?"

"Do you have a knife?"


"Because I need your blood."


"All right, I phrased that badly. You need your blood."

"I'm well aware of this."

"...To make this work, I mean. ...Oh, you're worried about contracts, aren't you?"

"Something like that."

"That's not the only thing that I could do with your blood, actually."


"I don't think that's calming her down."

[Such tension~!]

"If I wanted your opinion, I'd ask for it, Keshy. And I'm fairly certain I said something about watching the food several minutes ago."

"That's why I'm staying in the hall where I can watch it."

"Kitchen. Get back to it."

"Yes, ma'am."

"...Where was I?"

"'That's not the only thing that I could do with your blood, actually.'"

"Oh, yes. I assume you'd like to take precautions."

"That would be nice."

It's silent for a while. Our gazes remain locked, like we're in some sort of showdown in a period movie.

I wonder if she knows how terrified I am at this moment.

"I didn't intentionally harm you, Elis."

"Did I suggest you did?"

"I think you're not happy about it. I think you're thinking second thoughts about your oath to this onje miko that showed up on your back porch."

"Breaking my oath over an onje would be a devastatingly foolish move."

"How about over another Gensokyan shrine maiden?"

"...I think if I truly needed to, I could handle you easily, Kochiya."

"I have no trouble believing that. I'll say it again: I didn't intentionally harm you."

"You have to admit, at least, that it looks questionable."

"That same thought has been running non-stop through my head since I heard you shriek loud enough to break glass."

"I did not."

"That was exaggeration. You have my solemn word that I did none of this intentionally."



She leans back, and smiles broadly, a look which is ruined a second later by a pained look. She moves her hands down to the table, instead of behind her head.

"Then that is all I need. In Makai, oaths and promises are not merely words. You would do well to remember that." Oh, you have no idea how well I will, lady.

"Speaking of that, what's the price of this magic lesson?" I ask, slightly worried.

"The opportunity to teach it. What else?" Elis shoots me a look like she's hoping that wasn't a serious question.

"And how much more to ensure I'm not taken advantage of later?"

A toothy grin. "You've already paid for that, as well. I wanted your word that the burns were an accident."

...Really? "Then why the drama?"

"You started that. I just went with it." The grin persists.

"Could have fooled me."

"Is not half of friendship deception?"

<gods what is wrong with this place> "Nnnno, not where I come from."

She just shrugs. "Gensokyan life sounds kind of dull."

[Kiiiiinda, yeah. But it got so much better, recently~]

<fucking makai> "Can I have your oath on that, then?"

"Certainly." She taps her cheek. "These unsworn bonds make firm and fast. So it shall be."

...I breathe a little easier. A lot easier. Sorry, Kana-mama, but I'm really not cut out for steely-eyed deal-making, I think.
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"...So," I say, trying to bring this disturbing conversation back to where it first jumped the tracks, "Why do I need blood and a knife?"

Elis swings her chair back around from where she'd been idly turning it. "Well, I presume you'd rather use your own knife rather than one of mine, for starters." ...She's absolutely right about that.

"And the blood is to activate and strengthen the circle. All you need is a single drop. I'll burn it after you're done, as per our agreement." The one about not being taken advantage of, I assume. I take Sanatsu Yoru out of its little pouch on my belt, and pop out the blade, but Elis stops me. "Not yet. The craft goes in the circle, first."

"Oh." <duh> "Um, right." She just smiles, not unkindly, as I try not to blush while setting the UFO onto the slate. I draw a circle around it, backward. ...This is a pretty wide piece of slate, I realize. And she was holding onto it with only a few fingers. And awkwardly, at that <okay moving awaaay from disturbing thoughts>. "What does drawing it the other direction do? Make it 'protect' anything from getting out?"

"Very good." ...Okay, I'm going to pretend like I wasn't just trying to make a joke, and nod sagely. Hopefully it looks convincing. "But it does more than that. It will also keep things from getting in. One of the more common uses of containing circles is is to deprive whatever is inside of ambient mana. If it can't draw that from its surroundings, it won't be able to maintain whatever illusion it's projecting for very long."

...That makes sense, I guess. She could have mentioned that earlier, though. "What's special about blood that you use it for this?"

"It transfers your will —or intent, if you'd like— to the circle, keys it to you, and provides a spark to activate it, all in one go."

...I heard all of that, but I think I only understood half of it. But it acts like an on-off switch, I got that much. "How do I deactivate it?"

"By disrupting it, somehow. Scuffing it, washing it out, or in this case, erasing it. You can use almost anything to make the circle, but the more solid the line, the better."

I digest that as I set down the chalk, pick up Sanatsu Yoru, and make a tiny little poke in my pinky finger. A small bead of blood wells up, and I close the knife and replace it in my belt, one-handed. It takes me a few tries, and I realize I'm trembling a little. This is actual magic I'm about to do. Probably something super duper basic, sure, but I can't help grinning.

My pinky gets pressed to the line of chalk, and I think thoughts of "containment."

And there's a rush

And a feeling

Like someone plucked my


Like a guitar string.


...My soul needs tuning, badly. But still, to be doing this at all!


A little gasp slips out, but I can't help it.

So this is magic!

... <and despite what ive been through>

This is kind of fun~
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The feeling dissipates quickly, and I pull my finger away from the circle. We watch it expectantly.


Nothing happens.

And keeps happening.

In fact, nothing continues to happen for a number of minutes.

So, in keeping tradition with some kind of cosmic law, the very moment I <politely> complain that nothing's happening, a CLUNK interrupts me, drawing our eyes to...

...A squared, splintered, wooden post. It's 30 centimeters long, maybe more, and it looks old. It wobbles for a bit, but stays upright, and stills.

There's no sign of the green UFO. That doesn't stop us from continuing to stare at the post. Which, I note, doesn't seem to be flying

And then.

Something wriggles. Twists, turns. A patch of space on the log distorts, and looks wrong while also looking right while also looking not there at all. In fact, it looks exactly like the shape of the UFO did when I examined it as Elis was getting the chalk and blackboard. "What is that?" I ask. My temporary teacher shushes me, and I realize she's scribbling furiously on her tablet.

Ten more minutes go by, with every attempt at speech being stopped, stifled, or shushed again. The sounds and smells of breakfast being made start filtering into the room, and the smell is something unusual, but not bad. "Exotic", that's the word.

I look around the room, feeling a little bored, and finally notice the clock behind me. Silent, no ticking, so either it's very quiet gearwork, or magically powered. I also notice that it has, apparently, fourteen and a half marks on it in red, and another fourteen and a half in black, interspersed between the red marks. That's... strange. I can only assume it means Makai has a 29-hour day, or this is some kind of incredibly amateurish attempt at clockmaking. Given the quality of the construction, though, I don't think it's that.

...Hang on a minute.

Getting up, I walk a little closer, and peer at it. There are ... symbols, shapes of a kind, by each mark. If those are numbers, then... Maybe I can't read their writing, but it could be easy enough to learn what their numbers look like. I get my brush pen from my pack, and start to reach for one of my spare ofuda, but.... Nngh. I'd rather not use one of those as a sheet of scratch paper. Really should've brought my notebook.

I step quietly over to Elis, who's now got some kind of... Well, it's a device, that's for sure. Lots of that thin-wood material, brass plating and curled edges. There are little lights on the side, too, and judging by how Elis is peering into it, some kind of viewing window. ...Maybe a video camera or something? It's pointed at the wood, but then she jerks it up slightly, following a disturbance in the air.

The wriggly, curly, not-a-thing. Looks kind of like a worm, if you had to give it a shape.

No, that's not right. It doesn't inch along. It slithers.

A snake, then.

Purple eyes lift up from the viewer. "Yes?"

"...Something I could write on...?"

She points. "Stack of gati over there. Take a few, it's included. So's the chalk." She giggles strangely. "This is so good~." And then she goes back to the maybe-video-camera.

I go over to where she pointed, and find a stack of what I've been calling crinkle-paper, but which I guess is apparently gati. I'm a bit worried at how well it will hold the ink from the brush pen, at first, but it goes on magnificently. I've just finished transcribing the last of the symbols on the clock when Elis sets down the device, and presses something that makes a loud click and causes the lights on the side to slowly fade.

"That's about all I'm getting out of this, I think," she says, looking positively bouncy. "I'll tell you what I found over breakfast."

Oh thank the gods. The strange, enticing smells coming from the kitchen have been driving me mad. If this were anime, somebody's stomach would growl at this point. It fails to happen, which I can't help but think feels somehow faintly rude.

The next update is coming TOMORROW, so as stated above, vote with all your might.
It will have the rest of the wrap-up of this scene as well as a report of Elis' findings. Also, there are several questions that may be asked over the course of breakfast:

[ ] Confusion. Don't the sun ever shine right?
[ ] Curiosity. What's a lady like you do out this way, anyway?
[ ] Contrast. How come the letters are gobbledygook, but speakin' ain't an issue?
[ ] Currency. Wants to know what the local lucre's like.

[ ] Combination. Goes whole-hog, and asks all the questions. And somethin' else, besides...
-[ ] Custom. (write-in. Go on, ask something!)

Yes, I'm borrowing (and muddling) a bit of Dresden Files' mechanics for magic. But this isn't anything new; she did this in The Game as well.

For those of you into The Protomen, they played a song from Act III at PAX the night before last (hope you caught the stream), with The Gambler doing most all the singing for said song. No word on when Act III's coming out, but they confirmed it and there's now some actual evidence, at last.

I think I'm not catching the first part of this reference.

Actually, I was mainly worried about spoilers, sort of like how you shouldn't read Fate/zero before Fate/stay night: yes, the events of the later work are set before those of the earlier one, but it'll remove some of the impact of the earlier one if you do it this way. In before "You shouldn't read F/sn at all."

Well, letting the mindset of "We must keep her from doing anything that could cause her to turn out how she did in The Game!" control your voting will have consequences. In-story ones, that is. But so will having her go all Stripe Pattern on everyone's ass.
Just... vote normally, you know? Don't try and second-guess what's going to happen, or be afraid that a single choice will doom her. Vote for what seems right for her, for what you feel is the best choice for her, at that moment, in her current situation. Whatever that might be.
...I don't even know if I'm allowed to say any of that, or if that counts as trying to influence votes. But I'm pretty sure that never speaking on a worrying trend or two was what brought City Quest, for example, to its sorry, shameful state.
Well... we can't really help thinking this way.
We're always going to have your previous story's Sanae in the back of our minds as we vote, as much as we may try not to.

[X] Curiosity. What's a lady like you do out this way, anyway?
[X] Confusion. Don't the sun ever shine right?
[X] Curiosity. What's a lady like you do out this way, anyway?
[X] Courage. Any way to track a giant airship round these parts? Whatever else may come, girl's got an incident to resolve.

>>10486 here again. Spoilers for kind of off topic opinion voicing.
I don't know about anyone else, least of all Fell, but honestly? I don't want any retroactive connections, or frame story, or whatever's goin on. I don't want to worry that this is The Game Sanae's memories, or redemption do-over, or whatever it may be. I wish this story wasn't titled that way to begin with, and that it would stop dropping cryptic hints and teases about all that baggage, I wish people would shut up about it, and if that is what Fell's plannin for the long run, I wish he'd quietly reconsider. I just want to read and vote on a nice, fun, well written story. Again, that's just me, but, consider that my meta-vote I guess.
I wish exactly the opposite of you. What you doesn't like is what really attracts me on this story. So the issue goes back to zero I guess.
[x] Confusion. Don't the sun ever shine right?
[x] Curiosity. What's a lady like you do out this way, anyway?
[x] Contrast. How come the letters are gobbledygook, but speakin' ain't an issue?

I'd add something else but I'm not sure how to go about bringing up any possible doubts about incident solving. I mean she has to be thinking about things upon hearing about what Reimu did.

In short, bring about something that might have Sanae consider other options than trying futilely beat Reimu at her own gig.

This is a sort of crossroads between trying to finish the incident (odds are Reimu and/or Marisa would have beaten her to the punch), focus on escaping or take some time to think things over before deciding on the other two.
[x] Contrast. How come the letters are gobbledygook, but speakin' ain't an issue?
[x] Currency. Wants to know what the local lucre's like.
Thankfully, this is the best place in the universe to learn magic. Now that faith-related stuff is being weak, we have to do something to avoid falling into the helplessness of terror-movies characters.
Ah, that was a satisfying update. I'm liking your Elis quite a lot, Fell. And as one of the responded-to commenters, I'll try to cut down on the metagaming.

>borrowing (and muddling) a bit of Dresden Files' mechanics for magic
Entirely okay with this.

[x] Combination. Goes whole-hog, and asks all the questions. And somethin' else, besides...
-[x] Courage. Any way to track a giant airship round these parts? Whatever else may come, girl's got an incident to resolve.

I can't see any real disadvantage to asking any of these. More information is good, right?
[x] Combination. Goes whole-hog, and asks all the questions.

Heard about The Protomen being at PAX, and I'm damned embarassed to not have gone for such trivial reasons.
Once you go to PAX, you will never be the same. It's an experience.

[x] Combination. Goes whole-hog, and asks all the questions.
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I was going to update.
Then I was going to update partially, so I could at least say I did that much.
And now I can't even do that.
...I would end this with "FML" but that's a terrible website and an even worse phrase.

At least you get to keep voting. If you've got questions for her to ask, this is the time for them.
[ ] Combination. Goes whole-hog, and asks all the questions. And somethin' else, besides...
-[ ] Concern. Why the interest in lil' ol Rikako?
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[©] Combination. Goes whole-hog, and asks all the questions. And somethin' else, besides...
[Ɣ] Courage. Any way to track a giant airship round these parts? Whatever else may come, girl's got an incident to resolve.

I start to make for the doorway, but Elis stops me. "Ah, Kochiya?" I look back to see what she wants, but she doesn't say anything. She just stands there next to... Oh. Wow, and after I made such a big deal in taking precautions, too.

I cough, and then smoothly move back over to the magic circle, feeling like a cat who, having completely failed at pouncing upon a bug, is proceeding along as if it had never made the attempt. Bug? Hmm? No idea what you're talking about. Let's move along, shall we? Quickly. "What shall I do with the circle, then?" I say.

"Well, it's a good thing you asked." From her tone of voice, you wouldn't guess I'd moved an inch. She hands me a small block of fabric that I'm fairly sure is an eraser. "Since we're done here, you just disrupt the circle somehow, like I mentioned before. Though in this case, I'd prefer if you erased the whole thing. ...Ah, not the part with the blood, though."

Taking the eraser from her, I give my pinky a reflexive glance, but the bleeding's since stopped. I'd sucked on it for a bit, but it was a small poke and didn't last long. Reassured, I erase the circle from the slate, watching the ancient timber and the patch of not-really.

Said patch flutters— Well. If you just watched it, tried to watch it head on, you wouldn't know what it was doing. If you tried looking at it, you would think it was fluttering, or hopping, or creeping; any of these. Or perhaps all of them. But I look at where it is, not just at it, seeing the places it moves through, and the way the space there twists and bends. And my initial impression is confirmed: it slithers, like a little snake. Frantically.

Very curious.

And then, without a noise or a flash, I'm looking at a blue housefly, twisting silently through the air. I do hear a sound, then, but it catches me off guard: the sound of vacuum tubes warming up. I only know that sound because they're commonly used in a lot of kappa devices; a fairly steady supply of them come through the Border (only American and Japanese brands though). I'm baffled by this for a moment, until I realize the sound is coming from behind me, not in front of me. When I look back at Elis, I see that she's picked up the recorder again, the lights glowing on it once more <like some kind of ninja reporter or something>.

My attention moves back to the fly just in time for it to turn into a butterfly. Green, this time. A couple seconds later, a little red sparrow wheels about in circles over the desk, still eerily silent. Abruptly, it tucks in its wings and dives, aimed straight at the piece of wood. But instead of a bonk, a thud, or a pained litany of birdsong, the piece of wood is, just like that, a UFO again. Blue, now.

"Huh." The two of us say it, simultaneously, watching it slowly lift into the air, wobbling ever so slightly. The sound of Elis setting the recording thing back down and turning it off <she made sure to make noise doing it this time> brings me back to the now. I grab the UFO, a little carefully. Maybe I'm afraid of getting burned like her, but that's silly, I handled it fine a moment ago.

Opening up my pack, I take out the UFO sack, and stuff this one back in. As an experiment, I hold the fingers of the hand holding the UFO in the same position for the entire duration. They were about 5 or 6 centimeters apart going in, when they grasped the UFO. I widen them a fraction now that the blue craft is inside the bag, just the bare minimum needed to let the thing fall out of my grasp. Once it drops out, I pull my hand out of the bag, knowing that my fingers haven't moved more than a few millimeters, they can't have, it felt the same size the whole time—

I look at my fingers as they come out, still braced. They're about one, one and a half centimeters apart. Staring at them, I muse that whatever this is, it's some <pardon me> weird shit.

But, as an idea forms slowly in my head, my puzzled frown turns into a grin. If I can pull it off, I might be able to put this weirdness to good use and fulfill a childhood dream, all in one go. If it doesn't work, hey, at least I tried. And if it does, it's going to be so awesome.

That's for later, though, once I'm gone. For now, I watch: on the end of one of Elis' unbandaged fingertips, a flame bursts to life, purple-pink, dancing softly. She presses it to the blotch of chalk and muddied red-brown color that wasn't erased. The flame flares, hisses, then turns bright purple as the blotch of chalk and blood starts to disappear. A column appears of what looks like smoke, at first. The color and the way it flickers tells me it's the blood and chalk, being turned to a fine powder and blown away.

"Really, it's mainly fresh blood that you need to worry about," says the devil woman, keeping her eyes on the vanishing spot. "Dried stuff loses the connection it has to you pretty quickly, so it isn't too useful to most magi. Well, not for the stuff that'll really ruin your day." I absorb this tidbit, which makes a bit of sense, put in that context. People couldn't be perpetually paranoid of bleeding; they'd never get anything done.

When she's done, the flame gutters and blinks out. Looking it over, she seems satisfied, and hands me the piece of chalk. "That's yours, like I said. Did you get enough gati?" I give her a blank look before memory kicks in. Right, the crinkle-paper. I start to say yes, but she waves it off, already heading toward the stack. "Take a few sheets, it's fine. Stuff grows on trees, anyway." ...I think we have very different concepts of "tree," personally, but whatever.

"Thanks," I say as she comes back and hands me a little stack of ten or twenty thin sheets. "Uh, I was wondering something about circles. Any kind of circle, actually. Do I need to use chalk? Or salt? Like, what if I'm in the dirt, or something?"

"Just scuff it in the ground," says Elis, picking up the recorder, and walking over to a cabinet. "Remember to keep it— to keep any circle complete, relatively even, and unbroken. Do that, and you'll be fine. I'd suggest learning to draw them quickly, too. That's a must for combat and safety." Well, I don't plan on that, so I'm not par<you also didnt plan on coming to makai yesterday>...

Ugh. Point taken. I'll do that when I have some time, later. I don't know how far away Dis is, but if I have to camp out, then I suppose I'll do it then.
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"Oh, something else: how come salt circles don't require blood?" I ask. She puts the recorder away in the cabinet, and closes the doors.

"Salt works passively, and doesn't need activation, since the effect is inherent to the material." She puts a hand on her hip, and leans on the edge of her desk, much like she told Keshti not to do earlier. She tucks her wings in just so, keeping them from knocking over or pushing stacks of things on her desk. It's a movement that looks reflexive, clearly not the first time she's done this. "By the way, don't expect that to work on certain things: other humans, for one. Unshifted therianthropes, some kinds of freshly-turned low undead, mundane animals— fat chance of finding either of the last two in Makai, though; I'm just going off common arcane knowledge."

"Theri-what?" I ask, hesitantly.

"Werebeasts. You know, shapeshifters? Their cycle's not lunar, since we don't have a moon. They just go by night. You don't need to worry about them, they're a pretty polite bunch. Only infect if they get permission." I look very skeptical at this, but she seems pretty serious. "Really, they do. Clicks took all the ones that wouldn't abide by the laws."

" 'Clicks'?"

The moment I speak, it's like I'd slapped her.

She stumbles for a moment against the desk before regaining her balance, standing straight, and fixing me with a glare I can't look away from.

"If you value your existence, Kochiya, never speak of her again."

Her voice is empty and hollow, emotionally. Something about it feels vast and all-encompassing, like the world itself were on its knees, speaking these words. But the ways she says it... it's fear. As if someone had mentioned the white woman to me, only... worse. Somehow.

<oh gods what did i just do now>

This newest conversational landmine would be almost funny, if it were funny. And if she didn't look so scared.

I stutter an apology, but she cuts it off, her voice returning to normal, albeit shaken. "No, it's not your fault, I should have mentioned her earlier. This, too, is part of guidance. It's something I tell any onje that passes through here." She takes a deep breath, and then hops up onto the desk so she can have something to properly sit on. "There are two names that should go unspoken in Makai.

"Hakurei's name is the first. Call her the 'miko' or the 'shrine maiden' if you're speaking to anyone else besides me, or to a fellow onje. Even then, you should be whispering it. Historians like myself have a special dispensation; a few other professions have something similar. The names of Kazami, Kirisame, and Mima are also not to be uttered. Especially Kazami. Call them what you will, but not by name."

She stares at me for a few seconds longer, as if to scorch the words into my mind with her eyes alone. It takes me a moment to duck my head in a confused nod/bow. I find my voice, and shakily ask, "...And the other one?"

"Clicks." There's a long, slow exhalation before she continues. "That is a name you should get in the habit of never saying, as an onje. That is what we call her, because nobody, save the Goddess, would dare freely speak her other name." I almost ask what these are, but keep myself from doing that because it would be stupid for many, many reasons. "She is known also as the Old Blossom of Farewells, and is the oldest story in Makai, after the Goddess herself. If you must use a name for her, use that."

"The oldest ...story?" My brow wrinkles a bit at this. There's probably more to it, so I keep my question short.

"Yes, a story. Probably just a story. ...Nobody's ever seen her, but a few people have heard her. If you commit great and terrible wrongs, or threaten Makai itself, she comes for you. You can't see her, can't prepare for her. There is no stopping her. You just hear this steady clicking, as she walks towards you. Always in the dark. Always behind you. And then you are gone, and nobody sees you again. Ever."

I'll admit, I'm shaken. ...Probably because Elis herself looks cold and afraid as she tells me this. Not even when she thought I was with Reimu was she this way.

"You can't speak her name, or even about her. We all know her true name; we know it from birth. We know that she lives in space inside the darkness. To speak her name, or to speak about her, is to draw her attention upon you. Only the truly clear of conscience can speak her true name and remain untaken."

"...And this is a story?" I ask, weakly.

Elis straightens up, looking very interested in some imaginary dust on her sleeve, suddenly. "...Of course it's a story. That's all it is. There is no solid proof she exists."

"But... I shouldn't speak of her."

Very interested in her immaculate sleeve. "No, you shouldn't. Just in case."

"But you can?"

"I say her common name without fear, but only because I am the Innocence." No smile when she says it. It's not a joke.

"Right. I mean, all right, then... I won't."

I wouldn't say that she looks relieved to hear me say that, but she does look much less tense.
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Elis tells me to be ready to go after breakfast. This sounds a lot less rude than it seems, so I take the time to more carefully repack things, now that I'm not in a dizzying state of constant pain. ...And of course something twinges in a way that makes me wince just as I think that. Where was that kind of comedic timing when I needed stomach-growling?

While I pack, she tells me what she's concluded from her findings, regarding the UFO. "To be honest, I don't know a thing about it. None of it seems at all familiar, so the most I can do is make guesses based on the available evidence. Is that all right with you?"

I grunt affirmatively. How did all this fit in here before?

"The block of wood was fairly old. Exceptionally so, in fact, and yet, well-preserved despite that. I would say it's something on the order of a milennium old, but that's only a rough estimate."

Now that gives me pause. Turning half around, I say, "Don't take this the wrong way, but how can you tell that just by looking at it? You couldn't even touch the thing."

A half-smirk, and I notice a small fang in that smile for the first time. Not a long one, like the Scarlet sisters have. But still, a little bit longer than a normal human's canine. "I did touch it, for a second or two. And what came through loud and clear was that it was old. ...And the vicious, searing, cleansing pain of purity came right behind that, but that was less informative." She sniggers, and I turn back around before smiling a little, myself.

...Maybe if I put the first aid kit in first? But then it'll be harder to get to in an emergency, and that's not good. Argh.

"See, I only got a sense of how old it was; nothing clear. But I could also tell that there was a very strong preservation spell or something on it. I mean, without one, it would have been dust by now, in that condition. Yet, despite the spell, it still looks old, so I can say pretty confidently that it's about a thousand years old, give or take a few centuries. That, plus the fact that the sides of it were pretty smooth, and painted to boot, leads me to believe that it's from a structure of some sort. Know any holy buildings about that old?"

I shake my head. Okay, this arrangement is kind of working, except that something keeps popping my bento box open. That's no good, either.

"Actually, that's a dumb question. If whatever it is has been smashed up, like the splintered end of the piece of wood suggests, then the building might not be around anymore. And who knows when that even happened. ...I guess a better question would be if you know of any destroyed holy buildings that old?"

"I can think of a few, but nothing specific. Just general stories of shrines or churches or temples being sacked throughout history. Can't think of any thousand year-old ones in particular, either." Does the Library of Alexandria count? Probably not. Oh, it was my flashlight that kept bumping the lid open.

She sighs. "Well, the trail ends there, then. As for the ... the shape-changing thing, that was a right queer little beastie. Kind of reminded of a pustob, but they just play with your eyes. This was a much more complex illusion. Besides, a pustob is a lot larger, and when you cut its mana supply off with a circle, it just looks like a fat, bored lizard. Maybe it could be something from Beign, although I don't think much makes it off the island that isn't set on fire or gone over with a microscopically fine-toothed comb first."

Aha. Okay, now this is working out.

"It seems to hide the true shape, scent, and sound of itself and whatever it clings to. And it can fly. Other than that, I don't know anything about it. Any idea why a bunch of disguised, holy rubble would be following a flying treasure ship?"

The emergency blanket is stuffed in alongside my first aid kit, and I am at last pleased with how everything is packed. Getting up, I straighten my belt, and then sling the pack over my shoulder. "None at all. And I'm honestly wondering if I really want to, at this point."

Elis cocks her head. "Fair enough. Ready for breakfast?"


[ ] Something Tangy
[ ] Something Zesty

(These are flavor options, in both senses of the word, but they will determine the cuisine.
Also, the write-in block is still open, if for no other reason than because I haven't gotten to the point where questions start getting answered. That ends tomorrow, though.)


Another won't-appear-in-story-but-is-presented-here-for-the-heck-of-it item is Elis' full name: Rasima, known as Elis, daughter of the Shtabai, born of the Thought of Lilith, also called the Innocence, also called The Starry-Countenanced Tangent of Meridiana.

Also, Beign is Makai's equivalent of Australia, in many, many ways.
[x] Something Zesty
[x] Something Tangy
[X] Something Zesty
[X] Something Zesty
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[⊪] Something Zesty

The dining room turns out to be in the other half of the house, unsurprisingly. Although the hallway had been darker earlier, it's now lit with softly humming yellow lights mounted in the ceiling, as well as a reddish glow from the window in the front door, further down. As I walk down the hall, I can hear the occasional sound from outside as the town slowly comes to life. It's all sort of ...distant, though. Not in space, but in terms of attention, because every step brings me closer and closer to the smells of strange, enticing, exotic food.

The hallway ends in a four-way junction with what must be the front door on one side, a living room or something ahead, and what's very obviously a dining room on the right. I don't bother looking at the first two much longer because food.

[Ahhh... I really want to try these, too, but I'm so stuuuuffed. Oh well~]

Keshti pulls out Elis' chair for her, a low-backed thing with some kind of red leather on it. Then he and I sit; him next to Elis, and myself n yself. They're like Elis' chair, only not cut down so much in the back. The table is made of some kind of shiny black marble-looking surface... which is a little cold, just like marble; maybe that's what it is. The food sitting upon it is unusual, certainly, but Keshti briefly describes each dish for me while Elis digs in.

The first, leandbakbek, is a large metal pan is filled with some kind of red sauce and... eggs? Yes, those are definitely eggs, although smaller than I'm used to seeing. Also what seems to be a bunch of spices. It's still bubbling a tiny bit, steam wafting up. Next is machavat (some kind of dense-looking, day-glo green bread) and adama (a bowl of gooey, thick dip with herbs or something sprinkled on it). And lastly, there is some kind of uncooked white... fish? It looks like fish, or really thick ginger slices with all the color drained from it. Whatever it is, it's called chasiylon.

By using my better judgement and watching how much the two demons take, I take portions of each, although the leandbakbek is a little sloppy. Before eating, I quietly press my hands together, and whisper my thanks. Looking over the strange, tantalizing meal on my plate, I decide to start with something harmless, and begin by dipping the machavat into the adama and taking a careful nibble.

...It's strange. Sweet, very sour, and a little bitter, plus a host of spices I can't identify. It's not bad, though, so I finish off them both before starting in on the chasiylon. The main eating utensil we're meant to use looks like a fork, albeit the most boring fork ever; one without a hint of design sense. It looks battered and old, which is the only thing giving it any sort of character whatsoever. Its plain-ness stands out in sharp contrast to the elegant blue plates we're eating off of.

So I bite into the chasiylon. Thoughtfully, I chew it. Not with my mouth open, because that's rude, even if it is the best way to actually taste something you're eating. It's very creamy, not like fish at all. ...Wait, no. Like octopus, almost, if you'd dipped in in some kind of parme... sa... n. Thing. Powder. ...Um.

As it turns out, it's quite spicy, too. Only once I've swallowed it, though: in other words, it's not my tongue, but my throat that's on fire, now. It's still very good, however, so like a fool, I don't spit it out. Not that I would anyway, that would be the height of rudeness. Instead I try to appear outwardly calm, and reach out for a cool glass of something orange-colored. A blended vegetable something or other. I don't know, and don't care. It's cool, and that's what's important.

Except the pain comes back seconds later. Why does it have to taste so good, too?! The unfairness of this is downright appalling. I resort to taking a little more machavat and adama, and giving my poor throat a break before starting on the leandbakbek.

I'm much more careful with this. Small, tiny nibbles, first. Testing, checking. ...It seems all right. The sauce is reminiscent of tomatoes, but with a healthy assortment of garlic and something else, mixed in. It's very tasty, in fact. After having determined that the sauce is not actually the liquid cousin of mapo tofu, I bite into an egg, confident and secure. The taste is... not anything super-special. Pretty egg-like. Wait, there's something...


After chew number three, my jaw stops moving, grinding to a halt. The fork bends slightly, crushed in a deathgrip. And I start to quietly whimper.

Until that very instant, I did not know what true spiciness was.

I sit here in this chair, humbled and immolated.

It's kind of hard to remember the rest of breakfast.


This update is far too short. I don't know if there's a reason why I space out my updates with a day in between each, or if I've just trained my mind to do it like this, but it was a pain writing this.

Anyway, update coming tomorrow, when I will finally get to question-answeran.
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It's four glasses of chaniyt and fifteen minutes later that I begin to be able to think again without the older, much meaner cousin of wasabi making my mouth writhe in agony. Elis is giggling quietly, and Keshti looks torn between disapproving of her mirth and hiding the residual traces of his own. I turn my head— technically, I'm raising it, but it's resting on the blessedly cool probably-marble tabletop at the moment— and glare at my host, who is enjoying herself way too much.

"Miss Elis, you are an awful person."

...I think that's only made her giggle harder. Once she gets it under control, she pats my head. "I get my kicks where I can, dear. Besides, this is actually part of the guidance as well— most dishes in Makai are considered rather spicy by onje. This will not be the first time you eat something like this, so be prepared." A note of admiration, enters her voice. "Most don't manage to finish the entire thing, though. I'm genuinely impressed."

It's true. I ate the whole egg, finished off the chasiylon, tipped up the plate and drank the sauce from the leanbakbek, stared them both in the eye, and asked for seconds.

...Okay, that's not really what happened. I did eat the rest of the egg, but the only reason I was able to finish off the chasiylon afterward was because I figured it couldn't be any more painful than the hell my mouth was already enduring. This was only partly the case, as it was a different kind of spice altogether. I sat there and finished it off without passing out, although I don't know how that could have even been possible, since I can't create any new miracles right now. Not anything big enough to save me from that, at least.

So I put a shaky smile on, and kept drinking chaniyt until the pitcher, a bumpy, artsy green glass thing, was empty. At that point I whimpered again, gave up, and just pressed the side of my face to the tabletop. Every minute or so I rolled my head the other direction so I could give equal cooling time to both sides of my face, and prayed for a tall glass of milk, or at least a swift death. Any sense of propriety and behavior had gone out the window once I heard Elis snickering. I would be angry later, but there were more immediate concerns then.

Well, later is now, and while I'm still unhappy, I can't disagree with the effectiveness of this cruel maneuver: I will be very cautious of the local food, in the future. My mouth is still in torment, but the pain is steadily dying down, so there's that, too. If the price of all the help and information I've gotten so far is a single prank, I begrudgingly admit that it's not a bad deal <those astronomy fairies prank just as bad and you get nothing for your trouble there>.

I decide to just grunt at Elis, not commenting one way or the other. Hoisting myself upright, I pull my face away from the cool black stone, a little regretful at the separation. Goodbye, blessed chill. I grab a little more machavat and adama, put it on my plate, and chew on it, keeping silent. I don't trust myself to say anything kind right now.

My eyes wander around the room, while I do, and take the decor in. The prevailing trend seems to be turn of the century (or just prior) Western architecture and design, and the dining room is no exception. It's dark, tasteful, and... the inspection comes to a halt at a small plaque over the door to the kitchen. One filled with words and symbols I can't make any sense of, like all the rest of the writing in Makai.

"Why is it you can all speak to me just fine, but none of the words on anything make any sense?" The question surprises even me, especially because it comes out sounding kind of petulant, like a pouting child. ...Which I guess I technically am, compared to them... Screw it, I've earned this bad attitude. It's too bad they don't have something harder that I could loudly bite a piece off of to finish that right. Makai needs carrots.

Elis finishes her second egg, and puts a third onto her plate. She doesn't eat it yet, though, instead looking at me. "Again, Kochiya, I must give you credit." Stop trying to butter me up, you. "Onje have the tendency to ask why we speak their language when they bring this up. The answer is simple: we don't."

She pauses to take a bite, and Keshti covers for her. "What we're both hearing and speaking right now is known as The Tongue of Man. Who was the first person in Makai you spoke to?" I nod my head at Elis, mouth too full (and self too lazy) to vocalize. "Did it feel strange, the first moment you heard it?" I frown, and then, slowly, nod. Yeah, something like that happened. "Nearly everyone, demon and human alike, knows it from the moment of birth. It hasn't been spoken on Earth in quite some time, however, so it causes a minor jolt when it's activated later in life."

I just raise an eyebrow. It sounds pretty stupid, but... I'm speaking, and so are they. I can't argue with the evidence, can I? Buuut... "Why would you use that when you've got your own language, though? I heard you both speaking something I can't even..." I wave my hand once, uselessly. "It wasn't words, it was sounds. Almost like music, sorta."

Elis takes over, and Keshti uses the opportunity to eat. "That would be the reason itself, actually. Almost everyone has a family language, or a racial language, or what have you. The Tongue of Man allows us all to communicate freely with little or no hassle." Off to Elis' side, the devil boy dips a piece of machavat in adama, then cuts a piece of chasiylon, drops it on top like some kind of bread-sushi, and pops it into his mouth <id try that too if my poor tongue wasnt in paaaain>.

"So what about the writing? How come there's no Script of Man, or something?"

Elis makes a sound of disgust. "We've been wondering the same thing for centuries upon centuries, believe me. I've been looking into it, and nothing." ...And that's all she says.



More pathetic single-post updating. I don't think I'll be able to write tomorrow, as I've got to pack. I'll try and write the rest on the plane, come the 8th.
This is really entertaining. My favorite story of the site, in fact. Can't wait to see how the plot continues.

Keep it up!
>More pathetic single-post updating.

The fact that you're supplying rapid updates at all still makes things enjoyable, even if the actual amount in each isn't as much as you'd like. Don't beat yourself up over it, we're still reading and finding things interesting.
... yeah, I could definitely go for some spicy shrimp right now.

The rest I can figure out are מחבת‎ (skillet),‎ חנית ‎(spear), and ‎אדמה ‎(soil). No idea what leandbakbek is, but it certainly looks delicious.
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So it's a week later, and I'm coming back to the States tomorrow. But I'm afraid I've only gotten a little bit of the update done.

Part of the blame for this is on the study tour arrangements-- they kept us BUSY and occupied. That's good for me, but not for writing time.

The other half of the blame rests on the shoulders of Asiana Airlines. If you are going anywhere in Asia, be sure to fly Asiana if possible. I cannot stress how goddamn well they treat you, even if your sorry ass is flying coach, like mine was.

Anyhow, work will resume on the update on the flight back, if possible. If not, then once I'm back and situated.
Ugh. That sucks. Consider also using Google Docs as a place to store such things- it's unlikely that both your computer and Google will fail at the same time. And if it does, the Apocalypse is probably already upon us.
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Rumors of my data loss have been greatly exaggerated. Mostly by myself.

Everything is fine. I am dumb.

You guys should all still go back your shit up.
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Keshti appears to be finished, and takes my dish as well as his when he gets up <thanks>. He momentarily disappears into what's most likely the kitchen, after which I hear a couple of mechanical clicks, a sound like a stretching spring, and the clink of plates on tile. After a few seconds, he comes back, but instead of stopping, he passes by the table and out of the room.

I watch him go for a bit before catching sight of some of the posters out in the hall on the white walls. Leaning over a bit more, I try and look at the whole thing, even though it won't do me any good, since I can't read it. Turning back to the table, the question I had for Elis about them dies on my lips as I find her looking right at me. The intense look is partially spoiled by her slow, even chewing motion, admittedly.

"Uh," I say, a fountain of intellect. "The, um?" I settle for pointing at the posters, since words aren't working very well right now.

"Tourism," she says. "It does more for Vina than fishing ever did."


[The town, duh~]

"That's the name of this town."

"Oh... right," I say, vaguely remembering a word like that from her introductory note. I could tell some were positions or job titles, but had no idea what the things next to them were <maybe degrees or something>. And speaking of the note... "You're an archaeologist or something, right? And a historian?" Nod nod. Swallow. "Demons need archaeologists too, huh..."

"Of course." Elis flips her hair back a bit in an unnecessary gesture of presentation. "Makai is a very, very, very old place, dear. Only the Goddess, Cl—" She pauses, and then says, more carefully <and presumably for my benefit>, "...the Old Blossom, and the Dream Servant have been here since the beginning." <another old story i guess but maybe not a scary one> "Because of this, they obviously have greater concerns and responsibilities. If it is given to us to wonder about our origins, then the task of finding the answers is also ours."

The implications of what she just said are strange and confusing, and I'm quiet for a moment as I try to figure out how to ask the question in my mind. "Is it that you can't ask your Goddess those kinds of things, or do you just not want to?" It sounds terribly insensitive once I say it aloud, and I feel sort of awkward and dumb for having said it.

"Oh, we could. She might even answer. But I don't think..." As she trails off, her discomfort becomes more visible. Behind her, large wings rustle softly <argh>. "You don't distract an accountant in tax season unless it's important, right? It's like that. Our Goddess ensures things run smoothly, and otherwise lets us do as we wish. In return, we live and abide by her laws. There is a separation. The average citizen will deal more often with municipal and Shire government than she does with Pandemonium."

That's the second time I've heard that word. I don't quite know what Pandemonium is, but the way she said it is like somebody talking about the Diet by just saying 'Tokyo'. I don't know for sure that that's the case, but I run with that assumption and ask her, "But if Pandemonium says something..."

"We obey. Sooner or later."

'Sooner or later', like it's some kind of (partially) lawless frontier <yee-haw>. Well... given what I've seen and heard so far, though, I'm thinking that it's possible, at least. I'm thinking that maybe I can't keep expecting all the standards to be the same between Gensokyo and Makai. And I'm also thinking that Elis would be much happier if I weren't asking about things like this. Time to ask about something else <wait no i never got a good answer out of the first thing>. "...So why does an archaeologist have all these tourism posters?"

She holds up both index fingers, and brings them together so her fingertips overlap. "The former is the cause of the latter, and the latter helps fund the former. Archaeological interest is one of Vina's biggest attractions, tourist or otherwise. We actually hire a lot of onje help, although right now, it's the off-season."

Elis pushes her dish away slightly, and points towards the front door as she leans back. "Across the bay from Vina is the Historical Center. That's where I work most of the time. It was built there because it's more or less centrally located between most of the ruins and dig sites in the area. The closest one, which we discovered about a decade ago, is just a league and a half pir from there."

I do not ask if she uses a whip, but I really want to. Instead: "And you get enough people coming to visit that this all pays for itself?"

She nods. "You want to know the truth? I could probably be rich if I skimmed a bit off the top. ...But then the Center wouldn't be able to have the equipment or the funding that it does, and that alone makes it not worth the trouble. I try and keep like-minded people on staff, because the potential for abuse is far too high. The town benefits from the influx of visitors too, although recently, the mayor's been trying to expand, maybe draw in new residents. I don't know how well it'll work, but I'm hopeful. So there you have the reason for the posters."

Keshti comes back then, with a pen and a sheet of gati in hand. He takes his seat, and begins writing without a further word.

Leaning back in my chair, I unintentionally imitate Elis <all right maybe a little intentionally> "How well does archaeology pay?" <oh gods sanae why are you even asking that> I say it's the spice's fault.

Elis smirks. "It's not something you get into for the money, Kochiya. It's a passion of mine. That's why I teach history, too."


I'm pretty sure that 'history teacher' isn't a high-paying job, either, but I won't pry further <im darn right i wont wtf was i even thinking>. But before I can move on, Elis says— as if she's not aware she's speaking, somehow —"This job is its own reward, really. I... I would do this for free if I didn't need to support us here. I think. No, I would."

She turns, and looks right at me, urgency in her eyes. "Knowledge of the past is what lets us create a future. Do you understand?"
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I nod, unsure of what to really answer. Honestly, it sounds kind of rhetorical. Or redundant <i mix those up sometimes>. But that seems to be enough for her, and she relaxes.

"That's why I asked after Okazaki and Asakura, after all. In a way." <are we shedding some light on this finally>

"We need to move Makai forward, but we want to create good things, great things, new things. Shortly before Hakurei's rampage, numerous Makaians visited Gensokyo and Earth. We were able to learn a great deal about both worlds in a short time, and two figures in recent Gensokyan history stood out as the sort of people who understood what it was like to accept and work with magic and science."

"Their interests and the direction of Makaian progress coincided, or at least moved in similar ways. For example, think of what you have seen of Makaian technology thus far." I shake my head, and start to say that I haven't seen any, but memory crowds in and says otherwise: the recorder, the tablet, the moving chair, the lantern, the note-taking machine...

Head-shaking stops, and becomes nodding instead.

"So you must have noticed the trend towards the fusion and integration of magic and science. Where one falters, the other often excels, or at least has some sort of solution. If we can bolster both areas with one another, we can fill in the holes, and then use the final product to further improve our knowledge, and perhaps learn how to recreate the effect, unassisted, resulting in a truly superior form of either magic or science. And when we have blended these two superior forces together, we will have achieved something magnificent and beautiful. This is the path we have chosen, and the Goddess gives it her fullest blessing."

Elis' eyes are shining. No metaphor: they are actually giving off a soft purple light. Her grin is there, small but unshakeable.

For a few seconds, I don't get it. Mostly I'm just creeped out by how awestruck and reverent she sounds while she's glowing like that. But I don't understand why she thinks it's very amazing. These inventions that I've seen are something, sure, but they're not anything super-amazing.

[Ahhh, it's that look. Context, context!]

And then I look around again, and think of what I've seen. What everything else looks like.

I realize how very wrong I am.

This is very interesting. Amazing. Astonishing. Impossible? This culture, this technology, this society... it's primitive, by Outside standards. Or not primitive, but certainly "behind". It's lagging by a century or two, and there are various other problems I'm becoming aware of with each passing hour.

But for them to have developed these things, these devices, to combine magic and technology in this way, to be so damn fascinated by progress, and to want to do it as best as they can, while their society as a whole has only come this far?

<oh gods what will it even look like in fifty years>

"It is breathtaking," I agree. My eyes don't glow, but they're wide, wide open as I begin— and only begin, I think —to understand what 'progress' means in Makai. Asakura would probably, definitely be a saint amongst these people. I can't tell if that idea excites me or chills me.

http://danbooru.donmai.us/post/show/927670/ is the source. It's worth reading.
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I sit there and bask in quiet awe for a little while longer. Keshti finished writing at some point, and has collected Elis' plate and the rest of the food. My demon host excuses herself, saying she needs to go and prepare for the spell that grants innocence. I wonder for a few seconds if that would qualify as Sorcery, but depending on how it manifests, I don't think it's an impossible thing to achieve normally.

Not that such a categorization system applies in real life. Or Gensokyan life. But then, what do I know? Technically, I'm more like the priest than the boy. Except for all the parts where I'm not <maybe from an rpg perspective i am>

<but yeah anyway> I'm pretty sure I'm trying to distract myself from thinking about what I've agreed to.

The demon boy walks over, and saves me from filling my head with more pointless overthinking and obsessing over pointless details. He's got a rolled-up sheet of gati, already sealed <how long have i been babbling inside my head>

[Oooh, I think he's going to tell you, now~]

Keshti looks ove ys to me, "Kochiya, if it isn't too much trouble, I'd like you to take a letter of my own to Kunigunde as well. Would you be willing to do this for me?" I start to open my mouth, but he rushes on, anticipating my words. "I mean, the, uh. The trip to Dis, it'll take you a while. A few days if you're flying, and I wouldn't really recommend a carriage, since I don't think you have any money yet."

He stands there and fidgets for a bit. We both seem to realize at the same time that he got sidetracked. "Right, so... the trip will take a few days, and I can prepare some food for you. A fresh meal for tonight, and some things that will keep well for the two days after that. Sorry. ...I'm a bit excited." <well thats pretty obvious>

I give this some thought, though, and can't really see any downside to... wait. "Safe, untainted food?"

"Oh, of course!" He doesn't look at all insulted by the implication. I have to wonder if all demons interact this way, or if this is just something for onje. Elis implied the former, I think. Living like this just seems exhausting.

"All right, then. Consider it a deal."

Keshti brightens up, and almost pokes my nose in when he thrusts the rolled-up letter at me. "Thank y— Oh Goddess, sorry!" I wave it off: No big deal, don't worry about it. Smelling's overrated, right?

Keshti's wings <both sets hee hee> tremble as he runs a hand through his short red hair. Said hair looks more silky than it deserves to. He could easily be in some kind of Visual Kei group if he dressed for it and visited a salon. It's probably better that he doesn't, since I don't think Makai is even close to ready for that fad, yet. I should stop staring at it <but it looks so good and he looks like toriyama did when he confessed to me in the last year of middle school except he doesnt really head what are you trying to think it is confusing me a lot>

I rub my eyes, and then look at him again. No more resemblance to Toriyama. Still kind of cute, in a boyish way. And he's talking, too. "...So all of that means my week has been fairly frustrating until now. But then you come, and now I have this opportunity to talk to my little girl again! It just seems incredibly unreal, but I suppose luck like this runs in the family. Either it's that or the will of the Goddess, but it doesn't change how grateful I am."

A blush rises to my cheeks, and I try to shrug it off, and sit up a little straighter. "Hey, it's a pretty good deal, and I'm happy to help." <dumb and not smooth at all sanae> "You people are asking something pretty simple of me in return for so much." <oh gods even worse dont belittle their request> "But I suppose that when it comes to family, nothing's too much, right?"

He nods, beaming almost like Elis. I guess that's where he gets it from.

"If you don't mind my asking, what sort of food are you preparing?" I pray it's not more spicy stuff. But, I think darkly, these prayers are not likely to be answered <and not just because i cant feel mamas anymore but hush quiet shhh dont linger on that>.

"Well, for starters, a canteen of water. I was told you didn't appear to have one, and humans still need water to live. As of last month, anyway. It's filtered and purified— maybe unnecessarily, since I've never heard of an onje suffering from a waterborne illness in Makai. Boil it anyway if you want to make sure, but you'll probably be okay drinking it straight."


<sanae you are a godsdamned moron> How did I forget to take water, of all things?! [I think you weren't liiiiisteni~ng.] Seriously, that's the first t—

Hold on.

What... what did he just say?

He goes on talking about dried meats and toning down the spices <i would say thanks but something important has been said and lets not lose track of it yet> and local fruits and foods that expand. There's a comparison to rice in there, and I nod, body language responses on autopilot.

I'm not really listening, because my mind is spinning its gears, aware of an oddity, but lacking any specifics.

The demon boy said something very unusual just now.

'Oh goddess, sorry!'
...That's fine. I know there's a goddess, obviously.

'So all of that means my week has been fairly frustrating until now.'
Nothing out of place here. I don't remember the specifics, I was in some kind of weird nostalgia/lust trance. There was a list of unfortunate events <something about a stuffed alligator was in there>, but the details escape me.

'But then you come, and now I have this opportunity to talk to my little girl again!'

Like a polite person, I stay quiet, do not interrupt, and let him finish telling me about what he's packing for me, and even make an effort to keep track of it. Like an impolite person, I jump in with my question the very instant I hear what sounds like the end of his words. "Excuse me, did you refer to..." <you can say this you arent speaking japanese right now> "...Kunigunde as 'my girl'?"

He takes a moment, then nods. Looks a little confused. Harmlessly confused.

"As in, she's your daughter?"

Another nod.

"She's not your sister?"

A longer pause from Keshti. "Well, strictly speaking, yes, she's that as well." he says after it passes.

...What the hell is wrong with Makai.

"So... how does that even..." Bewilderment is tited with revulsion and growing horror as I try to process this unpleasant new tidbit.

Elis brings some closure to the situation by coming up behind him and clapping him on the shoulder. "Keshy's from my first brood. Looked like the best of them, so I held onto him." She drops her hand behind him, lower, and he jumps, startled. "I'd say he's turned out juuuust fine, don't you?"

Something very bad will happen if I speak, I'm sure of it. So I don't.

The demon sniggers like a dirty old man, and quite frankly, that's about what she's acting like, too. Complete with wink. Not as much leer. She slips past Keshti, and steps over next to me. Leaning in close, she whispers into my ear. "Younger men are simply the best, Kochiya, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. They're so eager to please~"

She lilted <gods woman stop talking you are making my world worse with every word>. She actually lilted when she said that.

A frown crosses her face, and she leans back to look me over again before ducking back in. "Maybe not at your age. Going younger from there's a little harder to work with. It can work out nice if you know what you're doing, but give it a little while, that's my advice. That way, at least they can help to provide for the family."

Okay. Another word on this, and I'm punching her. Guest rights and oaths be damned <totally going to do it i swear>.

[Aaaand that's it for this trainwreck! Let's move on, boys and girls!]

Elis stays still, and I stand there, ready to throw a punch. But her next words... There aren't any. Chancing a look at her, I see her staring off into space. Grinning, I note.

"Hee hee hee~"

...And giggling.


"Elis?" Keshti and I speak together at the same time.

She blinks, and looks around. "Hmm? What are you waiting here for? This shrine maiden's not getting any more innocent just standing here."

It can't come soon enough, woman.
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The sitting room is actually rather plain. The furniture is plush, but the designs are simplistic. Outlines of basic shapes overlapping each other at intervals in reds, greys, and oranges dominate most of the themes present. In the corners, potted plants of some unusual species hang from the ceiling on thin golden chains.

Another metallic factory-style switch sits at the usual place where light switches go. It probably controls the lamps in brass fixtures, but the windows let in enough red light to illuminate the room, and Elis doesn't bother turning them on.

She waves to the room in general, and tells me to take a seat anywhere. I pick a comfortable-looking chair, while she pulls up a low-backed chair that, like in the dining room, seems custom-built for someone with large wings, and places it next to me.

"Are you comfortable?" she asks, wand in hand. Once again, I didn't even see it come out of wherever she was keeping it.

"Yes," I lie. Okay, half a lie. It is a really nice chair.

"Good." And without any ceremony, she lifts the wand in one hand and <when did she get so close> lays her other hand on my head, much like how you'd pet an animal, minus the actual moving of the hand.

[Ummm. Are you okay?]

<why am i not screaming> " 'm fine," I mumble, rep t sure why.

On a breeze that doesn't exist, I smell oleander. Again.

Then the words come forth from her lips, and I hear music in every spoken syllable. It's the beat of a drum, faint, but laced in with each utterance, making her words like a song I've never heard. Taiko drums at festivals sounded like this, when I was still several blocks away and hadn't yet climbed up to the shrine.

Be not burdened by deep-seated worry.

Wake in anticipation.

Be not wounded by scars of the past.

Move about in freedom.

Be not harried by clamoring voices.

Experience the bliss in life.

Be not plagued by baseless guilt.

Live all your days in joyfulness.

Be not troubled by little fears.

Rest secure, quiet, and content in

And that's it. No flash of lightning, no crash of thunder, no pretty dazzling auras, and no blossoming displays of color.

"Wzz hthadd't?" I ask <oh there it is>.

My mouth doesn't seem to work right, and I notice my arms and legs feel light. Really light. Like, 'I don't want to move because I feel so good sitting right here' light.

I try moving anyway.

About a minute later I can finally breathe again. My cheeks are flushed, my heart is pounding, and I'm giggling uncontrollably. I feel so unbelievably good and great and fine and just all right with everything.

"Hnnly shiiiih," I exclaim weakly.

Elis looks down at me, and she's so purple and gold and red and I don't even know what. And she's all up there, because I'm on the floor. Where'd my chair even go?

[Wow, it's like you don't even have bones.]

"I know it's nice, Kochiya, but I need you to focus, all right?"

"Nn whuh?"

"Experiences. Start thinking thoughts. Reviewing your day, the last week, your life, whatever. That kind of thing tends to help. The mind has to be attuned for the body to interpret things correctly."


So I do that. I get done kinda quick. I mean, I remember it all, but it's all just kinda things, you know? I mean, I was totally there, and they all totally happened. But they're just things, you know? Oh cool, I can move again. As nice and cool as this floor is, that chair was better.

And then later happens. Elis comes back. She looks me over, and then:

"Kochiya, how would you describe your experience with that individual?"

[ ] "Pretty scary. It really sucked." She answers straight, keeps it simple. Head's feeling really clear, now; maybe too clear.
[ ] "Sorta gut-wrenchingly terrifying, I guess." Girl' herself's still sharp as before. It's just life's sharp edges that got filed down, is all.


Still not done with the choice questions, but this needs voting on. To clarify, it's a choice of how her outlook and the style of her internal narrative will be affected by this reclaiming of innocence.

If this is badly written or incoherent or just plain crappy, some of it can be attributed to it having been worked on over the course of a week, and some of it because when I left to Incheon from Shanghai, it was 1pm on the 16th. When I landed at Sea-Tac from Incheon, it was 1pm, on the 16th.
[ ] "Pretty scary. It really sucked." She answers straight, keeps it simple. Head's feeling really clear, now; maybe too clear.
[X] "Pretty scary. It really sucked." Girl herself's still sharp as before. It's just life's sharp edges that got filed down, is all.
[x] "Sorta gut-wrenchingly terrifying, I guess." Girl' herself's still sharp as before. It's just life's sharp edges that got filed down, is all.

Eccentric Sanae~
[x] "Sorta gut-wrenchingly terrifying, I guess." Girl' herself's still sharp as before. It's just life's sharp edges that got filed down, is all.

She has to keep her perspective on things. Distancing yourself from actions or situations or even memories will only make them worse when you, inevitably, face them again.
If the future doesn't want to change I will make it.
[x] "Sorta gut-wrenchingly terrifying, I guess." Girl' herself's still sharp as before. It's just life's sharp edges that got filed down, is all.
[x] "Pretty scary. It really sucked." She answers straight, keeps it simple. Head's feeling really clear, now; maybe too clear.
[x] "Sorta gut-wrenchingly terrifying, I guess." Girl' herself's still sharp as before. It's just life's sharp edges that got filed down, is all.

Ok, that's it. Koishi, what the fuck are you doing here?
[x] "Sorta gut-wrenchingly terrifying, I guess." Girl' herself's still sharp as before. It's just life's sharp edges that got filed down, is all.

The voice sounds a lot more Koishi-esque than anything, plus I don't think Nue canonically can go completely invisible/undetectable, which this girl seems to be. There've also been mentions that she has a home, for one thing, and that she has some idea of what Gensokyan life is like, which I don't think Nue would.

Really wondering how/if Sanae can sense her, though. Must be some in-story way of relaying her presence to us readers.

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[ϕ] "Sorta gut-wrenchingly terrifying, I guess." Girl' herself's still sharp as before. It's just life's sharp edges that got filed down, is all.

I shift in the chair, but not much. I don't really want to move very much right now. Really good chair, like I said.

My thoughts go back to the back then. To yesterday, probably-yesterday. I look at my hands, and down at my body. Noooo trembling. Great!

"It was awful. Gut-wrenching. Um. It was horrifying. And haunting. Heh. Haunting. Overall, sort of completely terrifying. ...I'm done talking about that, I think," I say, able to speak clearly now, although my tongue feels a little weird. I can feel my brows knitting as I think of those events, and it's pretty much as I said them to be.

Well, what do you know? She was right. I can think about what I suffered at the white woman's hands, so to speak. I can remember everything in detail. It's uncomfortable, and it's scary. That's putting it politely.

But... it's not crippling. At worst, I feel a tad queasy as each and every specific detail <hands cold wet hands coming from everywhere in the long cramped hall that glowed of blue green all the hands trying to keep me from fleeing all that rotted flesh smelling of death and the sea clutching grasping squeezing crushing the life out of me while the white woman laughs and laughs and laughs and she was only getting started> runs through my mind.

And that's it. It's a thing, a bad thing, but it's a thing, and it happened, and I don't particularly enjoy dwelling on it. But no side effects, no gibbering terror, no paralysis.

I think I just said that.

If I didn't enjoy lying here in this really nice chair so much, I'd consider kissing her. Briefly.

Briefly consider. The kiss would also be brief if the brief consideration lead to an 'okay, go for it'.

This chair's far too nice to bother, so instead I watch her write something down on the tablet. After she's done, I bob my head in as close to a bow as I can get, which is extremely little. "I'm grateful for this, Miss Elis. I, uh. I'll give proper thanks, later."

"Of course," she says. Keshti reappears with a couple cups of tea, one of which he passes to his ...wife? Mate? Mother? <man i cant even ugh fine let them just whatever> I never realized he had even left until he came back. "It takes a lot out of humans."

So she sips, and the time passes, and the red light creeps further in.

"...What is even up with your sun, anyway? It's all red, and I've never seen it come out from behind the mountains."

[Oh wow, that's bitter stuff.]


"For the most part, it doesn't."

That deserves some attempt at movement. I scoot over slightly so I'm mostly upright in the chair, and looking less like I'm about to slouch over to the side again. "Whaa?"

[Ooh, I wanna hear this, too. Scootch on over.]

I wriggle in pl ft side, against the arm of the chair. "How does that even work? I mean, I know there are some big mountains in the distance, but eventually it has to flatten out behind those..."

My voice trails off as Elis shakes her head. "Our sun is always hiding behind the hills. There are always more mountains, child. No matter how long you walk, no matter how wide the plain, no matter how far the horizon, no matter how high you fly."

Sitting there for a moment, I think about going my whole life without ever seeing a proper sunrise, always living in sunset or darkness. Maybe a bright sunset at times, like the rays stretching further through the entryway, but even then...

"That's... so sad." Speaking my thoughts aloud softly, I can't look away from that 'morning' light on the floor. "It seems really lonesome, in a way."

Elis quietly drinks her tea, and for a while, I think she's keeping her thoughts to herself. But soon she replies just as quietly, "I think that's how the Goddess likes it."

I can't understand Makai, I think. That idea pops into my head, and it's as certain a prediction as I think I've ever heard.

But maybe, I've just been given some insight onto something.

Insight I can't understand.
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Noises from outside fill the silence that ensues. Alongside them are more noises from the kitchen; cooking-sound, food-noise. I guess Keshti's getting to work on food for the road. Good to know.

I think about Dis, and how I don't know ...anything about it. Or anything involving travel in Makai. I know I saw those red stone roads, and Elis mentioned the aeriables, so clearly they've got some kinds of structure or infrastructure, or whatever. So there's got to be some way to go about it.

But mostly I think about whether <pray that> her friends in Dis will be able to help me find a way out of here. Surely they'll have something. The "simplest" way back would be to find the treasure ship and demand they take me back.

Which is unlikely, improbable, unrealistic, impractical, virtually impossible, or downright suicidal for a long, long list of reasons.

...Mmm. Not really the simplest way at all, is it? But it is, at least, the one way I'm sure of.

And driving a runaway car into a concrete wall is a pretty sure way of making it stop, too.


"...I don't suppose you'd know who I could ask about the ship? The one that brought me here, y'know?"

The demon shrugs, one shoulder and wing making the brief movement in tandem. "Anyone, really."

That's not especially helpful, and I say so.

"No, really. Aerial craft on the scale you describe are very uncommon. If anyone has seen it, they will more likely than not say as much."

"Ah." I try not to sigh. "I was hoping for a person who could actually track it, or something."

"Oh, is that all?" She chuckles. "Well, anyone trained in basic magic could do that, provided you have something with a link to the ship, or someone on board." I'm happy for the first part of that, and sad for the second part. "Wanna know how to do that?"

...I can't say that at least knowing how to magically track things wouldn't be really useful. Heck, that could really give me an edge over Marisa and Reimu. I nod eagerly.

"Well, unfortunately, you're about out of favors you can do for me," she says, sighing theatrically. And in the next moment, grinning. Also theatrically. "Tell you what, play Dawncurve with me, and I'll give you a hint. You don't even have to win~"

Out of one pocket, she brings a deck of cards. "I'll teach you how to play. More or less. Believe it or not, you'll learn it better in this semi-fugue state than you would have half an hour ago. Drunk would be even better, but I don't think that's a good idea right now."

[ ] Why not? A game'll pass the time 'til she's movin' again.
[ ] Maybe not. Girl ain't sure how much just a hint'd help.


This space for rent.
[X] Why not? A game'll pass the time 'til she's movin' again.

It's always game time. Besides, a Makai card game has to be interesting.
[Z] Why not? A game'll pass the time 'til she's movin' again.

Damn you write fast
Oh, so that's what the seemingly random breaks are.

[x] Why not? A game'll pass the time 'til she's movin' again.
[x] Why not? A game'll pass the time 'til she's movin' again.
We shouldn't stop drinking just because the oasis is drying. We'll soon leave it anyway.
[X] Why not? A game'll pass the time 'til she's movin' again.

Firmly past the "survival" part and into "make friends" territory here.
I am okay with this. dot joint photographic experts group.
Just want to say: ~incest ~so wrong ~ so right.

(yes I know I am using "~" wrong, bite me)
[X] Why not? A game'll pass the time 'til she's movin' again.
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New thread: >>10609

All right~
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