Well, you’d hate to disturb the vampire right now, but… Seriously, what was the deal between her and that dog? Did vampires hate dogs or something? Or maybe that dog was actually a youkai challenging her. Oooh… now you were even more curious than before. Maybe if you keep watching, you’ll find out.
Seconds passed by as the dog and the vampire continued to lock stares at one another, neither of them daring to back down or look away. You have to say, that’s one fearless dog. Boy, if looks could kill, you’d be dead thrice over by now. Things were definitely getting intense…
“Ah, there you are, boy!”
You looked up from the dog, glancing at the human child that had called out. The boy ran over to the dog, crouching down and hugging it around the neck. Petting the dog on the head, the boy looked fearfully up at the vampire, who shifted her glare to him. The boy hastily got up, beckoning his dog to follow him. The dog reluctantly turned and walked away with its tail between its legs. The vampire then turned with a smug smile on her face, which quickly turned to a look of surprise as she noticed you standing behind her.
“Wha-?! When did you get there?!” she demanded, recovering from her shock. Huh. You actually thought she was just ignoring you, but it seemed she really didn’t notice you standing there.
“Ah, um… just a while ago,” you said, taking just a single step back. “Um… Congratulations. You won, right? Whatever it was that you were doing.”
“Y-you were watching?” she stammered, looking flustered. It didn’t take long for her to regain her composure, though, as she sneered rather haughtily. “Of course I won. It’s only natural that I would win. It’s unthinkable that I would lose to such an insolent creature, daring to challenge my authority!”
“The dog was challenging your authority?”
“Well… yes! It dared to stare back at me when I looked at it,” the vampire frowned, looking slightly embarrassed. “I couldn’t very well back away from such an insult, coming from a mere dog.”
“I… I see,” you said. If she wasn’t a vampire, you would have a pretty hard time stifling your laughter right now. But she was a vampire, so you managed to control yourself. Aristocrats had some very strange beliefs, didn’t they?
“Stop terrorizing the guests,” Hakurei’s voice came from behind Remilia, and as the vampire turned to look at her, the shrine maiden’s gohei came down on her head with a light tap. “Behave yourself, will you?”
“I didn’t do anything!” Remilia protested, rubbing the spot where Hakurei had hit her. “It’s the humans’ fault. They should be more obedient!”
Shrugging, you left the two alone as you walked over to the table with the drinks, pouring yourself a cup of water. You’d almost forgotten your thirst while you were watching the vampire’s staring contest, but now that it was over, the thirst had returned. You downed the cup in one shot, letting out a content sigh.
“Ayayaya- ohheymiki– yayayaya!”
A black and white blur flew past you, gliding along the ground so fast that you almost didn’t see it. Was that… was that Miss Aya? You leaned forward, looking at the direction that she had sped off in.
“Stop right there!” You heard a girl’s voice from the direction that Miss Aya had sped from. Looking back, you saw a silver-haired girl clad in green, clutching a sword sheathed at her side, running at you so fast that she was kicking up dust behind her. “You, move aside!”
You don’t need to be told that twice! You try to take a step back as the girl runs by you…
… but you couldn’t move your other foot fast enough, apparently, as the girl tripped on your outstretched leg, tumbling forward on the ground rather spectacularly, rolling a good ten feet away from you.
A moment of deadly silence. Nervously, you looked around. It seemed like everyone’s attention was on the two of you.
“… Um… are you… are you alright?” you asked, stepping forward as the girl got up with her back towards you. She didn’t answer you, although she seemed to be wiping her eyes with her arm. Ouch, that really must have hurt. Actually, now that she wasn’t running, you noticed the strange mass of white that was floating around her. What was that thing…?
“… I see. Those clothes…” the girl said, gripping the hilt of her sword as she slowly turned to you. “You are my enemy as well! Prepare to be cut!”
She unsheathed her sword in a flash, dashing at you with tremendous momentum as she struck out with her sword. Clumsily, you unsheathed your own sword, barely managing to parry the strike. Pain ran up your arm from the recoil of the blow, but nevertheless, you parried a second attack, leaping back to give yourself some room.
“Hmph, that’s no ordinary sword,” the girl said, narrowing her eyes as she repositioned her blade. “If it were, my Roukan-ken would have shattered it on the first strike.”
“Wait, your enemy? I don’t understand why you’re attacking me!” You frowned, massaging your sword arm. “Look, can’t we just-“
“No excuses! I’ll cut through your lies!”
You braced yourself as the girl leapt at you again, bringing her katana down from over her head. You blocked the attack, pushing against the flat of your blade with your other hand. No… not good, her sword was way more sturdy than yours… at this rate, she’ll break your blade.
Moving quickly, you slipped out of the blade-lock, ducking to avoid another slash.
Clang! You just barely manage to block another strike. This was ridiculous, you can’t keep up with her like this for very long, and your sword can’t endure it much longer, either. It was already slightly bent out of shape from the repeated clashes.
“Hey! If you’re going to fight, then don’t do it here!” you heard Hakurei screaming from somewhere. This didn’t really seem to discourage the sword-girl, as she continued to attack relentlessly.
Maybe if you analyze-
Clang! You parried a strike from the side.
…analyzed the way she fought, you might have a chance to disarm her-
Swish! You stepped out of the way as the girl sliced through one of the tables set up with frightening ease.
Well for starters, she was faster than you, apparently more skilled than you, and could apply more force than you since she was using a two-handed blade. That really didn’t seem like a very fair-
Whoosh! You leapt away from her, putting some distance between the two of you.
… fair fight, so if you wanted to win, you really couldn’t hope to match her up close.
 Take the fight to the air.
 Try to reason with her, and failing that, try to escape.
[X] Take the fight to the air.
[X] Try to reason with her, but don't let it distract you from the fight.
Reasoning with Youmu? Sad to say, but she's not nearly as sharp as her blades.
On the other hand, I kind of want to run, if only for the potential of Mikio accidentally face-planting into Yuyuko's cleavage as he flees. That would definitely be a nice way to resolve the fight, given that Mikio seems to be good at winning the adoration of motherly figures.
[x] Take the fight to the air.
[x] Try to reason with her, but don't let it distract you from the fight.
Of course she's having trouble against Mikio. He wields the Sword of an Honest Man; his strikes possess no killing intent for her to return. And while the things which it cannot cut are close to infinite, a dull blade will take more strikes than a sharp one before it will shatter.
They'd actually get along quite famously, I think.
[x] Take the fight to the air.
[x] Try to reason with her, but don't let it distract you from the fight.
In any case, you’ll quickly run out of room to maneuver around in if you stay on the ground, what with the crowd of people at the shrine grounds, and the shrine maiden will get angry at you as well.
You kicked off of the ground as the girl’s katana sliced through the air, where you had been standing just a moment ago. Gritting your teeth, you sped away as she followed you up in pursuit. She was definitely fast, even in the air. Fast enough to catch up to you, even if you tried to escape from her. There was no way she could be a regular human…!
Turning about to face her, you held up your sword, discharging a barrage of magical bullets from the surface of your blade. Without even stopping, the girl spun her blade in a circle in front of her, nullifying each shot with a single, precise strike.
Clang! Your blades clashed again as you repelled another slash, sending you flying back in the air from the sheer force of the impact. Below you, you heard whistles and cheers from the crowd.
“Listen, will you please explain why you’re attacking me?!” you yelled in frustration, darting back as she closed in for another slash, just barely managing to avoid getting a haircut below your neck.
“You’re in league with that crow!” She huffed as she assailed you aggressively. Hmm, she seemed to lead with her right, so was she right-handed? Then if you could attack her from her left, you just might… “And you attacked me first! Such a cowardly action! Cowards must be cut apart!”
“That was an accident!”
“Liar! I will not trust someone who hides his own face!”
… Damn it, again with the mask being suspicious. Is it really that unacceptable to be wearing a mask?! No, wait, now’s not the time to be lamenting that. You’d better find out a way to disarm her, if she’s not willing to listen to you.
She swooped in again for another attack, and you raised your sword in defense. To tell the truth, your sword-arm was getting pretty sore at this point, and as you noted earlier, your blade itself was being pushed to its limits in terms of durability. It wouldn’t last much more of this, so you had to end it now.
As she recovered from the impact of the clash, you held out your other hand, letting out a gust of wind from your palm towards her, pushing her back as she held the sword out in front of her as if to cut through the wind. If you wanted to win, then your best bet was to go on the offensive now!
Lowering your body, you shot forward like a javelin, striking at the girl with your sword. With ease, she defended against your attacks, but you didn’t let up on the pressure. If she were to get hold of the offensive again, you would have no chance to regain it, so you had to keep going!
As you kept attacking, regardless of your burning lungs, you could see that she was getting miffed. More reckless than before.
Clang! Swish! As she blocked your attack, she struck out at you rashly. You swung yourself back, floating upside-down, as the blade cut through the air. She swung with way too much force. Swung too wide. Big mistake.
Gritting your teeth, you brought your legs up, catching the girl’s katana between your feet. You twisted your body, wrenching the sword out of the girl’s hands as you spun in the air to bring yourself upright again, tossing the blade to the ground. You disarmed her, you’ve won! The roar of the crowd below was louder than ever; you hope no one was hit by the falling sword.
You saw the next few moments as if they were minutes, and seconds as if they were hours. You saw every motion, every motion of those motions. It was as though someone had suddenly slowed down time, making each moment last an eternity.
As you watched, unable to move in your sluggish stupor, you saw the girl draw another sword from her back. A shorter one. You vaguely remembered being taught that samurais often carried a second blade to behead their enemies, while they used longer blades for battles.
She brought the blade up, her face contorted as if she was taken over by an impulse of uncontrollable anger.
And then she slashed you across the face.
The flow of time seemed to return to normal as you felt your heart beating frantically. No pain. You didn’t feel any pain at all. You were just a little jarred, that was all. Backing away, you reached up and touched your face. There was a gash – across your mask, not your face. That was a relief.
The girl herself looked a little shocked, actually, although you weren’t sure if it was because she lashed out like that or if it was simply that she hadn’t counted on the sturdiness of your mask.
Both of you looked down at the voice calling. Floating a little above the ground and looking up at the two of you was a pale, pink-haired woman wearing a well-decorated blue kimono.
“Youmu, get down~! We’re going to start the main event soon~! Hurry, hurry!” she yelled, cupping her hands in front of her mouth.
Youmu, you assumed, reluctantly sheathed her blade, shooting a final glare at you as she descended to the ground, where you saw her retrieve her sword from some men that had picked it up before joining the woman. As you shakily descended, your eyes met those of the woman’s, who gave a knowing smile as she drew a fan from her sleeve, opening it and using it to obscure her face.
Sighing, you attempted to sheath your sword. Gah, it won’t fit. The battle really bent it out of shape. Guess you’ll just have to carry it around. You dread how the old man would react to his sword getting chipped and battered, not to mention the mask now having a deep gash on it. That was a real close call, by the way. You’re glad that the attack didn’t penetrate completely through it, or knock it off.
… Well, you’re glad that that was over with, but what exactly did Miss Aya do to offend that Youmu girl? And… main event? What was that?
 Go find Miss Aya. She should still be around somewhere, right?
 Just wait and see. You don't want to miss this, whatever it is.
>>10426 Even as an adult, you can't picture everyone getting into a huff about finding out that he's a human? The youkai would want to kill him, and the humans would get angry at the Tengu for taking him in and raising him.
>“Because Master Ogata said you can’t accompany me without you wearing it.”
>"But we can’t have anyone finding out we have a human with us, so he told me to hand you that mask.”
They seem to have some reason to not want it known that they've adopted a human. If you want to know the reason, write in to ask about it when we return. Until we have the reason and they have decided that it is not necessary to hide that we are a human we should leave the mask on.
[x] Aya always seems to somehow offend whoever she interviews, ask her later.
[x] Just wait and see. You don't want to miss this, whatever it is.
Well, it was probably the result of an interview going bad. Miss Aya was always polite when conducting an interview, but she also had this sort of nature for saying things that push people’s buttons. She had a penchant for picking fights, although most of the time she was pretty unwilling to fight unless she had to, and never really bothered to put in effort even if she did.
You looked around, massaging your numb sword-arm with your blade held in your armpit. People seemed to be congregating around the front of the shrine. Was something happening there? You decided to take a closer look, joining the large crowd of humans and youkai.
You were too short to get a good look amidst all those people, so you hovered up a little so you could get a better look. Standing in front of the donation box were three girls, all dressed in a similar outfit, although each had a distinct color. The blonde one wore a black outfit, and in her hands was… a wooden stick and… something you didn’t know. To her right was another girl wearing a white version of the same outfit, holding something made of brass, looked like a horn. The final girl wore red, and spread out in front of her was a pattern of black and white bars. You wondered if they were related, and what it was that each of them were holding.
“Ahaha~! Wow, we have a lot of people watching us~!” You heard the white-haired girl exclaim happily, practically bouncing on the spot from excitement.
“Still, I can’t believe we’re doing it here instead of at Hakugyokuro. We had a stage set up there for us and then we’re suddenly told there was a change of plans,” the red one complained.
“Quiet, you two. We’re going to start the performance soon,” the blonde said sternly as she raised… whatever it was that she was holding up.
“If you crane your neck like that, it’s going to stretch out!” you heard someone say coyly from behind you.
You nearly jumped, turning quickly to face whoever had spoken to you. Floating in the air next to you was the woman from earlier; the one wearing the fancy blue kimono. She flashed a smile at you as she snapped her fan shut, slipping it back in her sleeve.
“I hope you’re enjoying the flower viewing.”
“… Ah, um… yes. That is… aside from being attacked.”
She giggled at this, glancing down beneath her. Standing there, with her head lowered, was the girl with the swords from earlier. Youmu, wasn’t it?
“Well, I do believe she has something to say to you, but…” Trailing off, she directed her gaze to the trio in front of the shrine, preparing for whatever it was that was going to happen. “That can wait until after the show, can’t it?”
The show, huh… The crowd fell into silence as what appeared to be the leader of the trio rose just a little into the air, the weird tools she was holding floating next to her by themselves.
“I’m Lunasa. This violin,” she said glumly, pointing at the floating instrument. “It is the phantom of an instrument that can rival even a Stradivarius.”
“… Stradivarius…?” you muttered. What did that mean?
“Sshh,” the woman next to you gestured silence with her index finger pressed against her lips. “It’s part of their routine before they start.”
The next member, the bubbly one with the brass horn or something like that, she tossed the brass horn into the air, where it shook in the air as if it were having a good time. Its owner floated up next to it, letting her hands hang from her wrists as if she were imitating a ghost.
“I’m Merlin! And this trumpet is the phantom of an infamous trumpet, oooooohhhhhh~!” she said, letting out a mock eerie wail. “It’s taken the blood of many jazz trumpeters! Scary~!”
The final girl rose into the air, with the rectangular mess of white and black still spread out in front of her. “Lyrica, here. This keyboard is the phantom of a synthesizer used by a famous artist that created unique sounds,” she said, looking kind of bored. “Although because of that, they were never sold.”
The performers now stood (?) with their backs toward one another, their instruments spinning around in mid-air as they spoke out with a united voice.
“We are Prismriver!”
And then, they began to make music. Much louder than it seemed it would be, filling the entire shrine ground.
You knew what music was, sure, but the only real experience you’ve had was with old songs sung by voice, and most of it you remember coming out in a drunken slur. But this was different. It sounded so clear and different. While the songs you’ve heard before were simply meant to raise the spirits while drinking, what you were hearing now could only be described as beautiful.
“What is this…?” you heard yourself mutter. You felt… kind of strange. You felt happy, you felt sad, you felt confused; a confounding mess of emotions. But even though it felt weird… it was kind of nice and soothing…
“Music,” the woman next to you whispered, keeping her eyes on their performance. “It’s a wonderful thing that unites us all, whether we are a human, a youkai, or a ghost. It’s the universal magic that touches our souls,” smiling, she turned to you and continued. “The Prismrivers sisters’ pieces, especially, are said to invoke many types of feelings in people.”
The crowd cheered loudly as the musical piece concluded. People passed around drinks or engaged in conversations. Things had gotten even livelier than it had been before. The Prismrivers began playing a much slower, relaxing song compared to the one that preceded it.
“That was a nice performance, wasn’t it?” the woman beside you said as you touched down onto the ground, smiling. “I’m the one who invited them to play here, you know.”
“Ah… were you the one who organized the flower viewing?”
“Hmm? No, actually, that was done by a friend of mine,” she said, flicking her fan open again, fanning herself. “Originally, it was going to be held in the Netherworld, but this is the least I could do to make up for being naughty.”
“Oh, that’s right,” she turned to that Youmu girl. “Now, Youmu, didn’t you have something to say to him…?”
Grudgingly, she moved forward, closer to you. Avoiding your gaze, she began to speak. “… I’m sorry,” she said quietly. “I was too hasty in declaring you as an enemy, and attacked without consideration.”
“Ah, um, that’s alright. Neither of us is harmed, so…” you said.
 Talk to her about…
---  What happened between her and Miss Aya.
---  Her skills with a sword. She’s really good.
 You want to ask that woman some questions.
---  Naughty? What did she do?
---  Who was the friend that organized this flower viewing?
 Talk to someone else? (Specify.)
[x] Talk to her about…
--- [x] What happened between her and Miss Aya.
--- [x] Her skills with a sword. She’s really good.
[x] You want to ask that woman some questions.
--- [x] Naughty? What did she do?
--- [x] Who was the friend that organized this flower viewing?
I think they'll prove themselves good friends to Mikio.
[x] Talk to her about…
--- [x] What happened between her and Miss Aya.
--- [x] Her skills with a sword. She’s really good, being able to slice my mask like that without harming my face.
[x] You want to ask that woman some questions.
--- [x] Naughty? What did she do?
[x] Talk to her about…
--- [x] What happened between her and Miss Aya.
--- [x] Her skills with a sword. She’s really good, being able to slice my mask like that without harming my face.
[x] You want to ask that woman some questions.
--- [x] Naughty? What did she do?
“… By the way, what exactly did Miss Aya do to make you attack her? It seemed like something really serious,” you said. “Wasn’t she just there to ask you questions about the latest incident?”
Youmu raised her head, her temper seemingly flaring up again as she began talking with a tone of indignation.
“She dared to insult Lady Yuyuko!” she huffed, scowling fiercely, which you found a little uncomfortable. You wish she wouldn’t look at you like that, you weren’t the one she was supposed to be mad at.
“What did she say?”
“Well,” she continued, appearing to calm down a bit. “She came to ask us about the incident, so we told her what had happened. And then she called Lady Yuyuko a liar!” Her temper flared up again, and you took a nervous step back as she began to rant. “Lady Yuyuko may be gluttonous and unreliable, but she is not a liar!”
‘U-um… didn’t you insult her yourself just now…?’
You nervously took a glance over to the other ghost, who you presumed was the Lady Yuyuko. She didn’t seemed to have notice, as she was still watching the performance of the Prismriver sisters.
“Ah… um,” you began, shifting your gaze back to Youmu. “I don’t really think Miss Aya would say that, though. She… she’s always polite when she conducts interviews.”
“That’s right, Youmu~!” You jumped as you heard Miss Yuyuko’s voice from behind you, stumbling forward a bit. When did she get there? “I don’t think she was insulting me at all! I wouldn’t blame her for being a little skeptical. All she said was that we lacked evidence; that was all.”
“Ah… that’s…” Youmu faltered on her words, looking down with a deep blush on her face. So… it wasn’t Miss Aya’s fault after all?
But, something else has been bothering you. If these two were related to the Spring Snow incident, then that “naughty thing” that Miss Yuyuko was talking about earlier…
“… Could it have been that you two were the ones behind the incident?” you asked uncertainly. Miss Yuyuko gave you what appeared to be a genuine look of surprise.
“Oh? You’ve figured it out?” she said as she flipped her fan open again, placing it in front of her face. “My, you’re so sharp!” … You couldn’t help but feel you were being mocked somehow.
“I had Youmu steal the essence of spring from all over Gensokyo, in order to put it to our own use,” Miss Yuyuko explained. “And because of that, winter remained far longer than usual, as a consequence of my own selfish desire.” She snapped her fan shut as she put on a wistful smile.
That… does sound pretty farfetched. It’s no wonder Miss Aya had to question its credibility. But… this was normal in Gensokyo, you supposed.
For a few minutes, the conversation fell into silence as the three of you watched the Prismrivers continue their slow song. Youmu looked sort of uncomfortable. Maybe she still felt embarrassed about overreacting. Maybe you can make her feel a little better?
“Ah, um. Miss Youmu,” you said, unsure about referring to her by her given name, but it was all you knew. “Your sword skills are excellent.”
“Huh?” Youmu looked to you, although she still avoided your gaze. “Uh, um… t-thank you.”
“No, I mean it. You’re really, really good. Especially the way you were able to cut through my mask without harming me. It was my complete defeat.”
For some reason, she gave a little cringe as you mentioned the part about the mask, but nevertheless looked a little flustered by your compliments.
“Ah… You’re skilled with a blade as well,” she said, looking down at her feet.
“No, um… not really. Even my sword was inferior to yours.”
Youmu smiled a little as she raised her head, gripping the hilt of the longer of her two blades tightly as she spoke. “Of course. This is the Roukan-ken, a blade forged by youkai. The things it cannot cut are next to none! A single stroke can kill ten ghosts!”
“Ahahaha, that really must be quite a sword,” you said, holding up your own battered blade. “Oh, um, does your other sword have a name as well?”
“Yes. It is called the Hakurou-ken, forged by human hands. It has the power to cleave through the confusion of humans!”
She somehow seemed much more enthusiastic when it came to her swords. She must be really proud of them. Still, they were very peculiar blades, weren’t they? You wondered where it was she obtained them.
There was a sudden weight against the back of your head. Something soft was pressing your head down. At the same time, you heard another woman’s voice above you.
“Ahhh… How thoughtless, starting the main event of a party when the one who organized it wasn’t there!” She complained. Out of the corners of your eyes, you saw Miss Yuyuko looking amused while Youmu turned her head away, turning a deep shade of red.
>“Ah, um. Miss Youmu,” you said, unsure about referring to her by her given name, but it was all you knew. “Your sword skills are excellent.”
>“Huh?” Youmu looked to you, although she still avoided your gaze. “Uh, um… t-thank you.”
>“No, I mean it. You’re really, really good. Especially the way you were able to cut through my mask without harming me. It was my complete defeat.”
>For some reason, she gave a little cringe as you mentioned the part about the mask, but nevertheless looked a little flustered by your compliments.
>“Ah… You’re skilled with a blade as well,” she said, looking down at her feet.
This little scene, followed by Youmu fangirling over her swords made me picture the whole affair to be something like two small children who are attracted to eachother but don't really understand why, fidgeting around and trying to figure out why they feel funny around each other, before finding something they both like and talking about that. Childhood friends love-syndrome ensues.
Then I thought of Momizi and Yuyuko standing at a distance, watching everything, and gushing about how cute it is that their little children are growing up.
...Though I don't remember how big a mask this is, actually. Are we talking like a Hakuoro/Tuxedo Kamen sort of minimalist affair, a Phantom Of The Opera partial-cover thing, or going straight for the Hei-is-on-a-job 100%-cover plate mask?
>>10482 From the initial description, I got the impression of something like Hakuoro's, only with a longer nose and no horns. It did explicitly state that the mouth was free, so the area covered is probably about the same.
… Was somebody sitting on your head? That was the first thought that came across to you in your mind. Maybe it was a fairy? No… that can’t be. What was it that was pressing against the back of your head?
You turned around partially, rotating your head. Mmph. You ended with your face buried in something soft. It’s so close you can’t make out what it is, but you do see a lot of purple. Above you, you heard a brief gasp of surprise and then a giggle. You moved your head back a little to get a better look at what it was that you had your face buried in.
Breasts. Belonging to a woman with long blonde hair, wearing a bizarre mix of a Western and a Chinese dress. What was more odd about this woman, however, was that she seemed to be sticking out of what seemed to be a tear in the air.
Oh no. You’ve done something really offensive to a lady. But before you can stutter an apology, she grabbed your head with both hands, forcefully turning you back around so that you were facing Miss Yuyuko and Youmu again. And then she pushed your head down, resting her arms on the back of it.
“I’m hurt, Yuyu! What happened to our friendship?” the woman said with a mock pouting voice, as though the last few moments hadn’t happened at all.
“Well, you were over two hours late!” Miss Yuyuko laughed, fanning herself. “What exactly have you been up to?”
“Just getting some sleep,” the other woman said. You heard her yawn. By the way, you’re starting to feel a little lightheaded… the strength in your legs are fading away for some reason. You wonder why.
“That’s no good, sleeping so much! It’s a sign that you’re growing old!”
“My, are you saying that I’m becoming an old hag now?”
“Oh, of course not! The two of us are eternally seventeen, aren’t we?”
They both broke into a fit of giggling. They were certainly friendly with one another, weren’t they? They must have known each other for a long time.
But still, you wish the blonde lady would stop using your head as an arm rest. It’s making you feel really uncomfortable. Your face is starting to heat up, too.
“Oh, where are Ran and Chen?” Miss Yuyuko asked, looking around.
“They’re greeting the shrine maiden,” the lady on top of you replied.
“I see. By the way, I think it’s time you stop teasing the boy, Yukarin. He’s getting embarrassed.”
You felt the pressure lift from the back of your head. You turned around. The woman behind you retreated into the gap in the air. It was… bizarre. You watched in amazement as the tear in the fabric of reality quickly closed itself back up with a whirring sound.
There was another whir as another tear opened up next to Miss Yuyuko. From the gap, the blonde-haired lady stepped out, carrying an opened parasol in her hand, matching the color of the night’s cherry blossoms.
“So, who is he?” she asked Miss Yuyuko, studying you with an amused smile on her face.
“Oh, I don’t know either, actually! We haven’t been introduced.”
Ah, how rude of you. You should have properly introduced yourself a little earlier.
“Um, my name is Kirita Mikio. I’m of the tengu clan.” You said, bowing deeply.
“Well mannered, isn’t he?” Miss Yuyuko said to her friend, who nodded in assent. “I’m Saigyouji Yuyuko. I live in the netherworld,” she continued, and then put her hands on the shoulders of Youmu, who had been trying hard not to be noticed since earlier, and gently pushed her forward.
“I’m… Konpaku Youmu,” she said reluctantly, although she wasn’t avoiding your gaze like before, while bowing almost as low as you did. “I work as a gardener and a guard for Lady Yuyuko.”
“Well that’s everybody, isn’t it!” the blonde lady exclaimed, smiling. Wait… she didn’t introduce herself, didn’t she? A glance from Miss Yuyuko was enough to get her to talk again. “Oh, fine. I’m Yakumo Yukari. You might know of me, actually.” She said, looking… slightly smug? “Well, now that we’re all introduced, how about a drinking contest? I’ve brought some good sake to the table, after all.”
“That sounds like a great idea. Count me in!”
Huh? When did Miss Aya get beside you? As you turned your gaze to her, she flashed a grin at you, and ruffled your hair. You saw Youmu’s expression harden for just a moment, but she quickly returned to normal.
“Well then, I’ll spread the word,” Miss Yukari said, as she opened up another tear in the air, stepping through it, presumably to move somewhere else.
“Oh my, how exciting. A competition!” Miss Yuyuko was smiling again, snapping her fan shut.
“Hey, Miki. You’re in too, right? We can beat anyone here!” Miss Aya said. She was certainly confident about it.
 Politely decline. You’ll cheer for her instead.
[x] Decline at first. "No. Last time I participated in a drinking contest, I woke up an entirely different species."
[x] Then reconsider. "Then again, I have always wanted to be a duck."
[x] Regurgitate some of Ogata's koans once you've all had a few in you: "Once Mikio dreamt he was a human, a human learning and loving, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was a Mikio. Suddenly, he woke up and there he was, solidly and unmistakablely Mikio. But he didn't know if he was Mikio who had dreamt he was a human, or a human dreaming he was a Mikio. Between Mikio and a human there must be some distinction! This is called the Border of Identity."
They'll think you're joking.
By the end of it you'll be staring down Yukari in some crazy eyevoid, sloshed and irritable.
“… I guess,” you frowned, rubbing the back of your neck. Ugh, with Miss Aya involved, you weren’t going to be able to back out of this one until you’ve really drunk a lot. She was highly competitive when it came to drinking. Actually, that applied to most of the tengu. They’d always rope you into drinking with them when they had a chance, and you’d end up waking up in the morning feeling like your head was being pressed down by a boulder. Definitely not a pleasant experience. It was all fine a dandy for them, since they didn’t have nearly enough trouble with hangovers, but…
“Alright, then!” Miss Aya grinned, slapping you on the back playfully. “Hey, hey. Come on, look a little lively. We’re definitely going to win. None of them can match us tengu when it comes to drinking.”
You wished you could share her enthusiasm, but the mere thought of just how nauseous you were going to feel the next morning already had your stomach churning a little. Bleh.
Pretty soon, everyone willing to participate had gathered up at the main table, where the apparently high-grade sake had been placed by Miss Yukari’s group. It consisted of you, Miss Aya, Miss Yukari, Miss Yuyuko, Marisa, and some of the other humans and youkai that you weren’t familiar with. In the background, you could still hear the Prismriver’ perform. A different song. More lively than the slow one that was played before it.
“Alright, alright, let’s start already!” Marisa said, excitedly slamming her cup on the table. Even though the real drinking hadn’t even started, you thought she looked a little drunk already. There was no way she could last very long, right?
As you looked over the participants, Miss Yuyuko caught your glance. She was a ghost, right? Can ghosts even get drunk? She giggled, as though she had heard what you were thinking, as she concealed her face with her fan.
“Well then, everyone,” Miss Yukari raised her voice, catching the attention of everyone present. “The rules for this competition are simple. Drink as much as you can without stopping. You lose if you forfeit or pass out, or can’t keep up with everyone else’s pace. The last one standing is the winner. Is all that clear?”
You nodded along with everyone else, holding onto your sake dish, which was already brimming with the stuff.
“Then, let’s begin.”
You raised the sake dish to your lips. The aroma of the drink nearly overwhelmed you, even before you had a chance to taste it. Nevertheless, you held your breath and gulped it all down in a single go. Your throat felt like it was on fire, and you had to suppress a cough as you set the dish back down, pouring more of the drink into it.
“B-bitter…” you coughed. “And cold.”
“Well now, this really is high-grade stuff!” Miss Aya remarked, holding up her own dish of sake. “It’s got the right aroma and flavors. Pure, clear dry sake. It’s a lot stronger than an ordinary drink. Closer to stuff the oni would drink.”
Huh. It’s definitely more bitter than anything else you’ve had. But maybe you just don’t appreciate the finer etiquettes of drinking. Well, that didn’t matter now. You had to keep drinking at the same pace, or you’ll be disqualified.
It only took about fifteen minutes for some of the other humans to start giving up. They weren’t too tolerant, were they? You wonder if all humans were like that, or if they were simply weak to alcohol. But if they were, they shouldn’t have participated in the first place.
Marisa was especially stubborn, though. Even as her face grew more and more red, she kept pouring herself a drink. She looked like she was really at her limit, though. You were starting to get worried. But, finally, with a bitter look on her face, she forfeited. She must really hate losing, because she looked really sulky afterwards.
Soon enough, the only ones still in the competition was you, Miss Aya, Miss Yukari, and Miss Yuyuko. Miss Yukari seemed to be waning a little, as she looked somewhat tipsy, but you couldn’t tell if the drink was affecting Miss Yuyuko or not. You yourself felt fine so far, but even so, you were beginning to think you wouldn’t last. This was really strong stuff, after all.
Thirty minutes later, and I had finally started feeling a little uncomfortably aware of my shakiness. Miss Aya, on the other hand, was getting smashed. Thoroughly drunk, although you knew it would still take a lot more to knock her out. Miss Yukari had conceded defeat some minutes ago, but Miss Yuyuko was still going strong. Just… just how much more could she take? Urgh… getting kind of sleepy…
“I give up.”
Oh… finally! Miss Yuyuko raised her hand after setting down her dish of sake. She still didn’t look drunk at all, but right now, you didn’t really care about that. Ugh, too much water in your stomach. You felt so uncomfortable.
“Yyyeeaaaah! We woon, Mikiooo!” Miss Aya slurred excitedly, practically draping herself over your back, accidentally knocking over her dish over the table as she gave you what could only be loosely called a hug, especially since she nearly fell down. Oddly enough, you never heard the dish hit the ground.
“Well, I guess this means you win,” Miss Yukari walked over to you, her face slightly flushed. “She certainly doesn’t seem to be able to continue,” she said, looking at Miss Aya, barely able to stand by leaning on your back, burying her face on your shoulder.
“Ahaha,” you laughed, staggering around a little from her weight. “I’m sure she could keep going if she really wanted to,” you said. She was particularly stubborn as well, when it came to drinking.
“You’re certainly impressive. It doesn’t look like the alcohol’s affecting you at all.”
“Ah… um… it doesn’t look like it now, but it’ll really show later. We… should probably get going before that,” you said, shaking your head to clear it a bit. Ugh, you’ll probably be in urgent need of the bathroom when you get back as well.
“It certainly is time to wrap up this party, isn’t it?” Miss Yukari smiled, looking over the shrine grounds. Most of the crowds had left during the contest, and the ones that were left were getting ready to leave. You… also noticed that all the tables were already clean. When did that happen? It was full of sake dishes just seconds ago…
“It’s a shame, though, isn’t it?” Hakurei invited herself into the conversation. “The first, and only flower viewing this year. I think it’s a little sad that we didn’t get to do this more.”
“Oh? And here I thought you hated festivals like this?” Miss Yukari grinned.
“I don’t hate them,” Hakurei frowned, placing her hands at her waste. “It’s just that nobody ever bothers to help me clean up afterwards. Fortunately, it looks like I had some help this year.”
“Hey, hey, Reimu!” Marisa interjected, placing her arm around her friend’s shoulder, much to her visible annoyance. “Then, let’s have another party later!” She said. She was still very intoxicated, wasn’t she?
“Let go. Your breath smells like alcohol,” Hakurei gently shoved Marisa away, who nearly stumbled and fell. “… And if you want to hold a party, then organize it yourself.”
“Will do!” Marisa answered eagerly. “And everyone who were here today will be invited! Bring your drinks, and we’ll do this again! I won’t lose next time!”
“My, that sounds delightful,” Miss Yukari said, looking amused. “Do tell me when you’ve scheduled it, won’t you?” Saying that, she turned around, as another gap opened up in the air, which she stepped through.
“… But nobody knows where she lives,” the shrine maiden sighed, shaking her head.
Well, no point in sticking around now. You said your farewells to Marisa and Hakurei, and bid goodbye to Youmu and Miss Yuyuko, and flew off, supporting Miss Aya.
The short lived spring of Gensokyo quickly became summer. The cherry blossoms were disappearing, but…
The feasts continued. Ever since that first and final day of flower viewing, it seemed all of Gensokyo continued to gather at the Hakurei shrine to feast and drink. Each time, of course, Miss Aya dragged you along to participate, and you’d end up partaking in whatever drinking game was being held that day. All this really couldn’t be good for your health.
“… Something on your mind, Miki?” Miss Aya asked, sampling a new brand of wine that apparently the vampire had brought to the feast.
Something was on your mind, actually. Each time the people of Gensokyo gathered at the feast, so did the mysterious fog that was sweeping all over. It made you feel kind of uneasy, actually. What was it? It couldn’t be the vampire with her red mist again, could it?
“Hey, Miss Aya. You’ve noticed it too, right?”
“The mist, I mean. The way it’s always around the shrine whenever there’s a feast. Do you have any idea what it is?”
“… Hm, actually, I’ve been curious about it myself,” she said, biting the nail of her thumb as she looked around. “I feel like I’ve seen it somewhere before. A long time ago. It’s definitely familiar, I can say that… but…”
“Then, shouldn’t we find out what it is? It might be dangerous.”
“… I don’t know, but… I have a real bad feeling about it,” Miss Aya said, looking a little reluctant. Now you’re surprised. Something strange that even Miss Aya was hesitant to look into?
 This warrants investigation.
 Ignore it and enjoy the feast.
Well, maybe you could do a little investigation of your own, then? It sure beat just sitting around drinking as you were always expected to do. Hm… but how should you start it? Maybe someone around here knows what the mist is?
But… um… how should you approach them? Even though you’ve talked to the people attending the feasts a few times, you couldn’t really call them anything more than an acquaintance.
How vexing… you wish you could be a little more active when it came to taking the initiative, but you just don’t feel comfortable with it. You’re scared. You’ve always been like this. You can never reach out to someone you don’t know very well, unless they’re the one extending their hand. You hate yourself for it.
So… this time you really have to build up the courage to ask someone about the strange mist! Wearing a look of determination, you set down your cup.
“I’m going to go talk to some people,” you said.
“Oh? That’s rare of you. But, go for it, Miki!” Miss Aya said, giving you a smile and an encouraging pat on the back.
But… um, who should you ask, actually? You hadn’t really given things much thought when you decided to ask somebody. Hm… you weren’t really very good at investigating things, were you? Even though you sometimes followed Miss Aya around when she was looking around for news, you hadn’t really learned anything other than how to escape from angry fairies and youkai.
Well, you’ll figure it out. Maybe you’ll just take a walk through the shrine grounds in the meantime.
No, wait. The shrine maiden is in charge of handling the incidents, isn’t she? So maybe you should ask her first. Luckily, she was sitting at a nearby table, looking a little down despite the festive fervor that seemed to have taken everyone else.
“Ah, um…” you mumbled as you approached her, your voice shaking a little. “… Excuse me, but do you have a moment?”
“Huh? Oh… the crow’s minion.” Hakurei said dismissively, letting out a sigh. “… What is it?” … That was a little rude. But you don’t think she’s in a very good mood at the moment, anyway.
“I was just wondering… but you’ve noticed the strange mist that’s been gathering lately, right Miss Hakurei?”
“Oh, that. Well, yeah.”
“… Um, so do you know what it is?”
“… Shouldn’t you be doing something about it?”
“If it’s not hurting anybody, I don’t really have to do anything, right?” saying that, she let out another heavy sigh. Was something troubling her?
“… is something wrong?” You decided to ask.
The shrine maiden slumped forward in her seat, burying her face into her arms. “Ahhh… it’s just that even though this many people come to the feasts, they barely ever give anything to the donation box, you know?”
“Oh, I see. Um, if it makes you feel a little better, I donated some coins earlier.” You said, in what you hoped was a sympathetic tone of voice.
“Ahh… thanks for that,” she perked up a little and smiled, raising her head. “You know, if you want to know more about the mist, I think Alice was looking into it at the last feast. She might know something.”
“Miss Alice? The puppeteer, right?”
“Yup, that’s her. Oh! And that girl with the sword was investigating too, now that I think about it. You should go ask them.”
“Thank you for your help,” you said, giving her a light bow.
“No problem,” she said, waving her hand in a lazy sort of way.
Well, now you had leads. Miss Alice had apparently been investigating the strange mist as well, so she might share what she's found with you. And by sword girl, Hakurei was most likely referring to Youmu. Who should you go look for first?
… Actually, Miss Alice looks a little preoccupied with her puppet show right now. There was a crowd of excited kids watching her display, with small adorable dolls putting on an act. You’ll ask her later, when she’s done with the show.
So that left Youmu. Walking through the shrine grounds, you found her standing by Miss Yuyuko, drinking out of a teacup in her hands along. She looked a little troubled, actually. You wondered whether there was a problem.
“Oh!” Miss Yuyuko noticed you as you approached the two of them, giving you a light wave. “Hello there. Enjoying the feast?” She greeted you with a warm smile, before taking a small sip from her own teacup.
“Yes, I am. Thank you.” You replied with an uncertain smile, bowing a little. Youmu turned to you and did the same.
“Would you like a cup of tea as well? It’s quite pleasant,” Miss Yuyuko said, setting down her own cup and offering you another.
“Oh, um, yes please.” You took the cup from her hand, and held it in your hands as Youmu fetched a teapot from a table, carefully pouring it into your cup. Bringing the cup to your mouth, you blew on it a little to cool it down before taking a sip. It had a nice fragrance to it.
“By the way,” you said, pausing to take another sip of the tea. The taste kind of grew on you with each sample. “Is something troubling you, Miss Youmu?”
“Oh…” Youmu frowned, looking away as she lowered her teacup. “Well… that is.”
“Everyone at the feast has been teasing her,” Miss Yuyuko cut in, calmly drinking her tea. “It must be quite hard, being the butt of everyone’s joke. Hang in there, Youmu~” She giggled.
“T-that’s not it!” she stammered, turning a bright shade of red. “It’s just that… I encountered something I couldn’t slash. I might have misunderstood my master’s teachings…”
“… Something you couldn’t slash?” you repeated, your curiosity aroused. Whatever she was talking about, it must’ve been recent. Ah, could she mean… “Is it related to the strange mist? I heard you were investigating it at the last feast.”
“Ah!” she looked surprised, seems you guessed right. “Well… yes. The spiritual aura that blanketed Gensokyo made me feel uneasy, so I though I could cut through to the truth. But… it seems my skills with the sword weren’t sharp enough to reach it. I was bested by the source of the strange aura.”
“You mean, there’s someone causing this?” you asked, tilting your head. It wasn’t the vampire again, was it?
“… I’m afraid I cannot say,” Youmu replied gravely. “I don’t understand the exact nature of the mist, either.”
“It’s like the fragrance of tea,” Miss Yuyuko suddenly interjected. “The scent of tea spreads out and gets weaker, but it never goes away. In fact, the fragrance may be very familiar. But I wonder if you’ve forgotten…” She said dreamily, before finishing off her cup of tea, leaving you confused. You looked at Youmu, hoping for an explanation, but she returned your glance with an apologetic look. It seemed she didn’t understand what she said either.
“Well… thank you for sharing what you know, anyway.” You said, although you couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. “Thank you for the tea.” You set your teacup on the table, and gave a small bow to the two before taking your leave.
Sigh… You didn’t really find out much, did you? Well, at least you had a vague confirmation that a single person was causing this. Hm… wasn’t it strange, though? No one seemed to really care all that much about the mist, just losing themselves in the festive nature of the feasts…
“You look a little dejected.”
You jumped as a familiar voice entered your ear. Looking around, you saw Miss Yukari to your side, hanging out of a dimensional tear in the air.
“Shall I tell you the truth of the mist, then?” she giggled, folding her hands together.
“Oh… will you, then?” you asked hopefully.
“Hmmm, well… Oh no, what to do~? I’ve made a promise to a dear friend that I wouldn’t interfere with her plan~” She said, pretending to look very troubled indeed. “I’m afraid I can’t tell you~!”
“Oh, I see. I understand, then,” you said, preparing to walk away.
“Ah, wait!” a pair of arms wrapped around you as you turned away from Miss Yukari, holding you back. “Don’t give up so easily! My, really, humans will think you’re a pushover if you keep acting like this.”
“Oh, so will you tell me after all?” You asked, turning your head to Miss Yukari, whose head was right beside yours.
“I’ll show you, if you’d like,” Miss Yukari whispered into your ear.
“… What do you mean by that? … Also, could you please… um… let go of me? I’m not going to run away.”
Miss Yukari frowned, but she let go of you, reappearing in another gap in front of you.
“It’s no fun if you don’t even get embarrassed, you know,” she said. Was she… pouting? “Anyway, I can show you the true form of the mist. The perpetrator behind the incident, if you will.”
“Isn’t the perpetrator your friend, though?”
“Oh, she just said I owed her a favor. But I can’t remember ever doing something to be indebted to her. If you can’t remember something, it might as well have never happened, right?”
“Well then. Last chance to back out, you know. She’s quite a handful,” Miss Yukari grinned. “Shall I show you to the little pandemonium?”
>>10590 [x] On second thought, no.
[x] I'm sorry, I just can't trust-
[x] Please, don't make that face.
[x] Look, I really didn't mean-
[x] N-No, don't cry!
[x] Fine, fine. Listen, I'll go, okay? I'll go.
[x] Oh thank heavens... wait, you were tricking me, weren't you?
[x] I don't find that very funny. Don't laugh!
[x] What are you- where are you taking mAHH!
[x] Oh, hi, Suika. Why are you grinning at me like that while uncorking your gourd?
[x] No, I couldn't possibly dri- gh!
“… Okay,” you nodded, taking a nervous gulp. You weren’t sure what you were going to do when you met the culprit, but you couldn’t stop now that you were this far to getting to the truth.
Miss Yukari smiled, as the gap she was hanging out of widened to allow her to walk from it on to the ground. She placed her hands on your shoulders, and turned you around.
“What are you going to do?” You asked, as she gently pushed you along.
“I’m going to make a boundary surrounding the mist very small,” she said, stopping, “Focus. It’s becoming visible even to your eyes, isn’t it?”
You squinted, trying to make something out. Um… what were you supposed to be looking at again? Wait… the mist was getting denser. It surrounded you, blocking out your vision. The only clue that Miss Yukari was still with you were the pair of hands on your shoulders, and soon, that feeling disappeared as well.
The mist soon cleared, and you immediately realized you were in a different place. Where…? The ground was… strange, to say the least. It felt like dirt, yet it reflected the moonlight as though it were made of glass.
Holy crap, what was wrong with the moon?
Looking up at the full moon in the sky above you, you could only keep your mouth agape in silence. The moon was broken. Deep cracks ran along its surface, and yet it still shone so brightly. What could have happened…?
“Oh, so you’re the next one, huh?” An unfamiliar voice came from a distance away, and you turned your head, looking for the owner of the voice. Huh…? You can’t see her? “Down here!” The voice called, and you shifted your gaze a little lower. Lying there on her side lazily with a gourd in her hand was a small girl, with two long horns jutting out of her head. A youkai?
“Ahah~! That sort of outfit sure brings back memories,” she said, sitting up with her legs crossed as she uncorked her gourd, taking a long swig from it. Wiping her mouth, she continued to speak. “So, you guys been taking a good care of the mountain?”
“… Um, who are you?” You asked, tilting your head with a look of confusion. Was this little girl seriously the perpetrator behind this incident? And… did she mean the tengu’s mountain? Why would she care about that?
“Whaaaat? Seriously? You a newborn or something?” She said, frowning as she took another swig from her gourd.
“Um… something like that,” you replied, shrugging.
“I see, I see… Well, I’ve been watching you, junior.” she laughed, spilling some of the liquid from the gourd. “You sure can hold your drink, even for one of the tengu. How ‘bout having a drinking contest with me right now?”
“… I’ll have to refuse. I… don’t feel like it right now.”
“Lies,” the girl said, as she slowly stood up to her feet. “You just don’t enjoy drinking, do you? But you drink anyway, because you don’t want to disappoint the people at the feast. Always being pushed around. You lack proper youkai pride.”
Gah. She’s got you good.
“If you won’t have a drink with me, then let’s do something else,” the girl continued with a devious smile on her face. Uh oh, you suddenly don’t feel very good. “Looks like the tengu need a little reminder on who the true masters of the mountain are, anyhow. Junior, let me etch this into your memory: the power of an oni!”
She’s an oni?! But they were supposed to be gone, to never return to a world with humans…!
Before you could let out a single word, the oni girl pulled out a spell card, raising it up into the air.
“Gathering Sign 「Throwing of the Mountain」”
She then leaped into the air, swinging her arm so that the chain dangling from her wrist spun in a wide circle beside her. As you watched, petrified, chunks of rocks gathered at the end of her chain, forming into a giant boulder.
And then she threw it at you.
 Holy crap, dodge out of the way!
---  Be ready to counterattack.
---  Focus on not getting hit by any of the debris.
 Declare a spell card.
We've done this song and dance many times before. Would it be so terrible to experiment a little? Shouldn't Miki be finding these constant assaults on his person tiresome?
[x] Holy crap, dodge out of the way!
--- [x] Focus on not getting hit by any of the debris.
[x] Think: You've spent your entire life dodging the fallout of other people's actions, words, or assumptions. Because you wear a mask, you can be anyone to the person this person front of you. That's why she hasn't asked you for your name.
[x] Even if she hasn't yet managed a hit, her remarks cut deep enough, so she deserves some turnabout.
-[x] "Remember what? A little girl sitting under a broken sky, throwing a temper tantrum because she knows no other way to express her loneliness? Get real! You haven't even told me your name!"
[x] Holy crap, dodge out of the way!
--- [x] Focus on not getting hit by any of the debris.
No time to think. You scrambled out of the way as the giant, rough boulder descended down onto the ground. With a great crash, the boulder split apart into smaller chunks that scattered into the air as it hit the ground. One of those pieces flew towards you. Swiftly, you jumped into the air, kicking off that chunk of rock as you drew your sword, which you had only gotten around to getting repaired a few weeks ago. Biting your lower lip, you kept yourself levitating in the air.
If she was really an oni, then there was no way you could match her up close. The best you could do was to keep yourself from being hit, at the least. You should focus on that rather than trying to attack her.
“Heh. You tengu are quick to run as always,” the oni girl smirked, taking another swig from her gourd. You tensed up, hoping you would be ready for anything she would throw at you. “Hey, hey,” she said with an annoyed tone of voice as she squinted her eyes, taking a closer look at you. “Your body’s looking too stiff. Loosen up, junior. Enjoy the battle! The oni and the tengu haven’t clashed in a long, long time, y’know!”
… Well, that’s the thing, though. You’ve never enjoyed fighting, although you were getting pretty used to being attacked by now. These battles were an everyday part of Gensokyo, after all, whether it was for fun, training or to settle something. Nevertheless, you tried to relax your breathing a little bit.
“There. Thaaaat’s better,” the oni girl grinned, swaying back unsteadily. “Heeere I gooooo~!” She shouted as she began swinging her arm again, attracting chunks from the ground to create a huge boulder. How is she doing that? Ugh, no time to wonder about that, here it comes…!
The giant rock hurtled at you with great speed, but you were confident that you could fly out of the way in time. As you darted out of the way, however, something unexpected happened. The rock split apart, dispersing into many smaller pieces of gravel to assault you.
“What the…?!” Can’t escape all of them in time! You thrust your sword out in front of you, putting up a barrier of wind around your body. The shower of rocks pelted against you, but thankfully, they weren’t able to break through your shield. But… you were starting to have a better grasp of what exactly she was able to do.
“It’s not a fight if you don’t attack back, ya know!” The oni girl laughed as she jabbed at the air with one hand, stopping to take a long drink from her gourd. Doesn’t that thing ever run out?
The oni girl corked the bottle, letting it rest from a strap at her side. Her face was glowing red. Intoxicated? Well, maybe she’ll have more trouble aiming at you under the influence of alcohol. She began swinging her arm again… You needed to prepare yourself…
…! Whoa, the boulder’s a lot bigger this time! Way too big! You nearly panicked as you flew out of the way. It was at least twice as big as the last one, and it took the same amount of time to gather up! As the boulder split apart into many pieces, you carefully weaved your way through them, managing to get by unharmed.
Taking a deep breath, you slashed at the air, spraying small magical bullets at the girl. Lazily, she made motions that resembled swimming, easily flying past all of the bullets. Ugh… she wasn’t going to be an easy opponent at all. As another barrage of rocks flew at your direction, you fell back, focusing. Blades of wind erupted from your body, zeroing in on the chunks of gravel and crushing them to pieces. Now, you needed to put more distance betwe-
Huh-?! When did she get in front of you?!
Before you had a chance to react, the little oni girl grabbed you by the front of your shirt, and began spinning you around as you became encased in dirt and rocks, surrounding your entire body. And then, with a mighty jerk, she threw you down at the ground.
You hit the ground spectacularly, breaking apart the rock that had encased you as you bounced off the ground. Aaargh… that… that hurt…! … But not as much as you’d have expected, actually. You didn’t seem to have a broken bone or anything, at least.
You shakily stood up from the ground. Somehow, you had managed to keep a tight grip on your sword. No choice but to use one of your spell cards. But… what would it take to beat her?
 The boulders she’s hurling are distractions. Punish her when she tries to get in close to grab you.
 Keep your distance. You can’t match her up close, and it’ll only result in more pain.
[x] Keep your distance. You can’t match her up close, and it’ll only result in more pain.
Pissing against the tide here. We can't 'punish' her when she gets close. It's stated several times that a close-quarter combat would be impossible. She's an oni, she can take a beating and give one out. It's best to attack her from afar and try to outlast the fight. She can't continue this forever.
>It's stated several times that a close-quarter combat would be impossible.
Yes, by stated by our lovably unreliable narrator, who should have died from the impact when he was thrown into the ground just now, who is far more capable in a close-in fight than he realizes as evidenced when he fought Youmu Konpaku to a stand-still under terms that greatly favored her (i.e., a sword fight), and who has demonstrated a constitution matching that of Lord Tenma.
>She can't continue this forever.
Why do you think that? As a youkai, she shouldn't require any rest or sleep. In fact, Miki's ability to outlast his opponents once lead to him being referenced as being that of an oni. No, I don't think you'll be able to time this one out, Ace.
>>10652 yeah, she can just pull us closer with that black hole of hers if we distance ourselves, and in close range, she's basically a tank with a high attack so we're dead either way unless we out speed her and deal multiple hits stacking the damage then again she could go mist and cobber us.
[x] The boulders she’s hurling are distractions. Punish her when she tries to get in close to grab you.
Well at any rate, if you keep repeating what you’ve been doing, you’ll just end up being tossed around without knowing how she slips in under your guard. But… how can you defeat her? There was no way you could fight her up close, so you’d have to rely on something else…
The oni girl watched you as you stumbled back, still a little dizzied up from that last attack. Ugh, at least she wasn’t relentless, giving you time to recover—and a minute to think of what to do next.
You reached into your shirt, pulling out one of your spell cards. Raising it into the air, you declared its name.
“Cyclone Seal「Six Pillars of the Wind」!”
Putting the spell card away, you reached down, slamming your hands onto the ground. A magical glyph materialized beneath you, with six distinct circles making up the outer edge. Gusts of wind erupted from each of those circles as you rose up into the air, your clothes fluttering about you from the current of air rising up below.
Now, normally, you’d use the glyph below to rain piercing blades of wind all over the place, but it had a very specific use this time around, which would admittedly stretch the limit of its description. But it was the only thing you could think of that would help against the kind of attack that oni was using.
… You had to hold this position, though.
“Dunno what you’re planning to do by kicking up a lot of wind,” she said, uncorking her gourd and taking another quick swig from it before placing it back on her waist. “Can’t wait t’ see! Heeeere I go!”
She threw another boulder at you again, and as it fragmented into smaller chunks, you defended yourself against the assault as best as you could, destroying some chunks while avoiding others. …But you also kept an eye on the girl.
Ah, now you get it…! She was hitching a ride behind one of those smaller pieces of the rock the boulder split into as they flew at you. No wonder she seemed to appear out of nowhere. But now you knew, and you won’t fall for it again…!
The girl flew at you with a wide grin on her face, but you were much better prepared this time. Just seconds before she snatched at you, you extended your hand forward, distorting the current of air around the girl’s body. The distortion grew, as the force between the opposing winds began to spin out of control! A mini-cyclone that bind the girl into the place…!
Backing away, you swung your sword down, as blasts of magic erupted forth from the six circles below, as though they were geysers. It soared high into the air, where they took on the shape of spears. All at once, the six lances closed in on the captured girl, who let out a high-pitched “Waahh~!” as her spell shattered.
Whew. That was way too close. If you hadn’t known she would come at you like that, you wouldn’t have been able to catch her in the seal. Well, you managed to beat one of her spell cards, at least. Now there was just… wait a minute… You finally realized that she hadn’t decided on the number of spell cards that would be used.
Something bright flew at your face as you raised your arms to shield yourself. Small explosions pelted your body, as though someone had thrown a pack of fireworks at you. Oww… ouch, that stings!
… Huh? You’re being pulled in by something? This weird feeling… it’s a disruption of the air current?! It felt as though the air around you was being compressed into a single point… That can’t be-
All the compressed wind suddenly rebounded against you, hurtling you back from sheer force and shattering your concentration on the spell. That oni girl… was floating in the air with a grin. Kuh… so she used your own spell against you. Now both of you were one spell card down each.
“Hey, you ain’t half bad,” she laughed, stretching her arms. “Nifty trick you caught me in back there. But ya know, I’m just gettin’ started.” She casually brought out another spell card, although she didn’t declare it yet. “Oh wait, never did tell ya how many spell cards to use, huh? I’ll use two more. You can use however many as you like.”
… She was really confident, wasn’t she? Well, not that she didn’t have a reason to be…
 Use everything you have.
 Two more spell cards. Same as her.
 Concede while you’re ahead. Sort of.
She was free to limit herself if she wanted, but you had no reason to hold back anything, especially considering who your opponent was. Without delay, you pulled out another spell card and held it up above you, declaring its name.
“Turbulence Sign 「Carving of the Earth」!”
Putting the spell card away, I held up my sword, holding onto the tip with the fingers of my other hand. The air surrounding me began whirling about the blade, enveloping the length of the sword as it glowed brightly, illuminating itself in the moonlit night.
Letting go of the tip, you swung your blade in an arc before you, as two blasts of wind surged forth from the tip of the sword. They flew forward, moving about erratically as they homed in on the oni girl. She met the attacks head on, swatting them out of her way as she dove forward towards you.
You flew back, keeping a steady distance between you and her as you fired off another burst of dual shockwaves. The oni girl easily deflected them with her arms as well, smacking both of them far away from her, not even bothering to stop pursuing you. You grinned a bit. She hadn’t noticed yet.
You held your place as she closed in on you, keeping concentration. As she drew back her first, presumably to attack you, you outstretched your hand forward. The four blasts you had used previously hadn’t dissipated when she deflected them away… they were still circling behind her, unnoticed.
The distance between the two of you grew increasingly narrower. If she gets too close, you had no chance of beating her. So, you had to act now. Manipulating the flying shockwaves of air, they accelerated, homing in on the oni girl while surrounding her from multiple directions. No way she could dodge this…!
“Undense Sign 「Beyond All in the Fog」!”
Her body… became mist? The girl had disappeared, leaving behind only a cloud of eerie mist. Wait a second, this strange mist… So it was her body all along? …. Oh no, this isn’t good! Your blasts passed through her without even damaging her. How can they hurt mist, after all? That’s not fair. That’s cheating! Urk… she rematerialized into her solid form, right in front of you.
One of the chains hanging from her broken manacles whipped forward, wrapping around the blade of your sword. She yanked it out of your hand, and it fell to the ground. You weren’t going to give up that easy, though. You raised your index and middle fingers together, forming a makeshift blade using magic. You swung it… but she easily caught the blade in her hand…?!
She grabbed you by the face using her other hand, pelting you with a small blast that sent you flying back, clutching your mask, coughing from the smoke that the miniature explosion the blast had caused. Before you had a chance to recover, you were assaulted by more firework-like explosions, shattering your concentration on the spell.
Ugh… you only have three more spell cards left. But… you can still keep going. Firmly steeling your resolve, you pulled out another spell card.
“Volcano Sign 「The Smoke of Mount Yasugatake」!”
The girl undensed herself, turning into her mist form as she circled about you, issuing forth small bullets, which you easily dodged. You had to get her at the right time, or your attack would just be ignored. You have to wait until she solidifies herself, before she has time to attack you.
As the girl’s form took shape, you rushed forward with both hands in front of you. Her eyes opened wide with surprise: she probably didn’t expect you to try to attack her directly. You didn’t like it either, but it was the only shot you had…!
Dark flames and smoke billowed out from your hands, dancing and licking the air as it traveled quickly towards the oni girl, who didn’t have time to put up any sort of defense or dodge out of the way as the fire engulfed her, destroying her spell. She fell to the ground, landing on her face as smoke floated up from her body.
Your own spell fizzled out moments after. You were running low on energy here, forced to use three spell cards all within short time with one another. You weren’t sure if you would even have the stamina for a fifth spell card, at this rate.
“Nyahaha—cough, cough—haha! That’s good! You’re doing pretty good for a newborn, junior!” the oni girl rolled over to her front waving the remaining smoke away from her face, sporting very minor burns on her face and arms. “Alright, alright. I’m using my last spell card! Get ready. C’mon, c’mon!”
She became fog once again, and rose into the air, reforming itself once at the same height as you. The oni girl had both arms raised into the air, both of her hands holding onto a single spell card as she laughed happily, before announcing the name of her spell.
At the same time, you took a deep breath as you reached inside of your shirt for your next spell card as well, drawing it and raising it high into the air.
A ring of bullets shot out from the oni’s body towards you, and you sped out of the way—faster than you ever had before, letting loose your own barrage of bullets as you ran circles around the oni, who continued to fire her shots at you. This was too easy. There had to be more than this. What was she up to?
Your concern was answered seconds later, as a void opened up behind the oni girl. What the?! Your body’s… being sucked in toward her?! No! You tried to resist with all your might using your speed, but it was no good… You were losing focus by having to deflect the bullets that were coming your way…!
In that case, you’ll just have to try to attack her directly, and use her pull against her! Instead of trying to resist the force dragging you in, you used it to your advantage, speeding towards her. Like this, you’ll ram her…!
As you closed in, she grinned.
And then you flew right into a giant energy ball she threw from her hands.
You hit the ground, landing next to your discarded sword. You were completely wiped out. You had one spell card left, but you were too tired to use it. You lost. For a good half minute, you just lay there with your eyes closed. As you heard footsteps coming closer to you, you struggled to get back up.
“Too weak, too weak~! Don’t think you tengu can match us oni!” the oni girl said, looking very pleased with herself. “Oh, well, I guess ya did do pretty good, though. Heeey, you still alive?”
You finally succeeded in getting up to your feet, picking your sword up. “…Yes, but my body hurts all over.” You whined a bit as you sheathed your sword, massaging your shoulders.
“Nyahaha. Well, suck it up! Go back to the feast! Don’t let any weakling humans push you around, either! You’ll shame the mountain!” She laughed, uncorking her gourd and taking a long drink from it before turning into mist again. “Oh, and don’t tell anyone ‘bout me! I have a plan, see! Everything’ll end at the next feast!”
Your vision became filled with fog, blinding you.
When the mist cleared, you seemed to be back at the shrine grounds, although no one seemed to notice your sudden reappearance. Where… was that, anyway? But… you had a feeling that even if you did ask Miss Yukari, you wouldn’t get an answer.
Speaking of Miss Yukari, you didn’t seem to see her anywhere. Did she leave after that?
... Well, the feast was still going on. You weren’t gone for very long, after all. Ugh, ouch ouch ouch. Your body and clothes could be in much better condition, though,
 Get back to the feast. You need to talk with some people.
 You need to rest first. Find somewhere peaceful.
[x] You need to rest first. Find somewhere peaceful.
Miki just got chumped at the top of his game. The first time he makes an effort to proactively investigate a problem, even getting the Lady of Borders to show him the way, then he loses due to exhaustion and ultimately told that whatever is happening would be revealed at the next feast anyway. Yukari is gone; this was a test, and he failed it. He can't tell anyone else his story in a manner which is believable. He's tired.
[x] You need to rest first. Find somewhere peaceful.
… Ugh. Don’t want to think right now. Too tired. Too exhausted. Your whole body felt sore, and you were also a little lightheaded. The noise of the festival nearby was making your head hurt. You needed to find somewhere quiet to take a little rest in.
Clutching your head, you stumbled about. Damn… you were more messed up than you initially thought you were. You feel really sick, like you were about to throw up something. Struggling to keep yourself upright, you eventually settled on leaning back on a tree, letting yourself slide down so you were sitting down. Weariness hit you full force in your relaxed posture, and you felt your eyes gently close.
You stretched out your legs to get comfortable. The summer’s evening air felt really nice right now. Not too hot, not too cold. You might fall asleep like this, considering how cozy you felt at the moment…
… Wow, you got to fight an oni. That’s definitely not an everyday thing. Even though you lost, it’s something worth bragging about. Well, not that you ever really had a chance to do much boasting at all, anyway.
But… there was something about that fight that was bothering you. Something felt familiar. It was… a sense of helplessness? Don’t understand… Oh well, doesn’t really matter…
“… Miki! Hey, wake up! Are you alright?”
Miss Aya’s voice…? Someone shook your shoulder, waking you up. Dazed, you slowly opened your eyes, and saw Miss Aya’s blurred form, bent over you. No… you don’t want to wake up… you’ve been asleep for a few minutes, at best…
“… lemme sleep…” you mumbled in a groggy voice, closing your eyes again.
“Oh. Well, you seem to be fine. You looked really messed up, so I thought you might have been hurt or something.”
“… should you really be doing this?”
“Sshh. You’ll wake him up, Youmu. Don’t you want to see, too? He might have a funny red nose!”
“… Well... just a little.”
… Voices. They sounded familiar. You tried to open your eyes, but they felt too heavy. Shuffle, shuffle. You heard someone’s footsteps coming closer. Someone’s presence nearby. Someone reaching around behind you.
“Oh!” you heard someone’s surprised gasp. …? You felt a little different. Your face was… exposed to the air? Your eyes slowly opened, and you were finally able to see again.
In front of you was Miss Yuyuko, crouched down and staring at you, with Youmu standing beside her. You were slowly sitting upright when your eyes drifted to what she had in her hands. A white, porcelain mask with a wide gash between the eyes, looking considerably chipped.
“Ah…!” you quickly snatched the mask out of her hands, your sleepiness quickly having disappeared. As fast as you could, you placed the mask back on your face, tying the straps together around the back of your head. “… Please don’t touch my mask,” you said as you got up, looking away from the two of them.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Miss Yuyuko said with a smile, touching her fingertips together as she slowly stood up. “It’s just that Youmu was so curious, I had to indulge her. Isn’t that right, Youmu?” She said, turning to Youmu.
“That’s not right at all,” she protested with a frown. “But anyway… Please forgive us.”
“Um. That’s alright. I’m not really mad,” you replied. You weren’t sure how to react, actually. It’s not like you were hiding your face, anyway… But they didn’t suspect anything about you, did they…?
“But you shouldn’t hide such a cute face,” Miss Yuyuko said. “It’s so wasteful.” You felt your face growing hot, lowering your head. How were you supposed to respond to that? “… The feast is nearly over. Youmu and I are returning now.”
“Ah. Then… please take care,” you said, giving them a bow. They returned it, and then left.
“Hey, Miki. We should get going, too.” You nearly jumped, turning to face Miss Aya, who was walking to you from the direction of the main area of the shrine grounds. “It’s getting late.”
You nodded, and followed her into the air, flying behind her. She must have drank a lot, because her flying was a little unsteady, although she wasn’t completely smashed as she was that other time.
“Did the ghosts suspect anything?” Miss Aya asked, and it took you a few seconds to work out what she meant.
“Oh. No, I don’t think so.”
“Good,” she turned her head, smiling. “So Miki, you were a little too sleepy to answer my questions earlier, but do you feel like sharing what happened to you now?”
“What happened to me…?”
“You were investigating the mist, weren’t you? Something must have happened to make you look like that.”
Oh. You looked down at yourself. Your clothes were a little torn up and dirty, after all.
 "I'll tell you."
 "I'm not supposed to talk about it."
[X] "I'll tell you, but can it wait till we're back home?"
Also, methinks Yuyuko just found Mikio out and is feining ignorance for now.
Though the effect of his moe is already apparent.
Rest with one eye open from now on Mikio, lest the ghost kidnap you in your sleep...
>… Wow, you got to fight an oni. That’s definitely not an everyday thing. Even though you lost, it’s something worth bragging about. Well, not that you ever really had a chance to do much boasting at all, anyway.
It looks like you may not even be able to do that. Next party, everyone will have already fought with her and you'll just be one of many. You never do catch a break, do you Miki?
Looking forward to another party where Miki makes some vacuous attempts at socializing, inevitably getting in another fight due to a misunderstanding. Maybe that is the way it should be; I don't think he'd be as cute if he weren't the endlessly-enduring underdog.
Actually, we started moving plotwise with Youmu and Yuyu taking off the mask. Yukari may or may not be still interested in him, but since apparently Yuyu is, I'm leaning toward the former.
And he'll have Suika as his buddy, joy-of-joys. Maybe we'll get a real drinking contest with her around though.
>>10726 >the endlessly-enduring underdog.
Anyone else see this and imagine an embarrassed but thoroughly aroused Momiji on top of Mikio, straddling his bare hips, riding him to kingdom come?