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File 126970911635.jpg - (31.39KB, 350x269, bent_backwards.jpg) [iqdb]
"First...we should go back inside. I want to check the shrine itself."
"I've already looked. There's nothing out of place in there."
"None that you could see. For that matter, can you say with confidence that you know everything about that building? Secrets in the walls, hidden passages, questionable histories. Even something you unwittingly picked up off the ground could be a god." As I speak, her face goes slightly pale – though that might be from the cold. Another good reason to start by going back inside.
"I've picked up a lot of stuff..." With widening eyes she nods her assent, first to me and then to the shrine. "So it's not, uh. Dangerous. Right? I mean if it was gonna do something it would've done it by now." As we walk, the whispering from before is discarded effortlessly. So much for secrecy.
"It has been quite a long time. It's possible that it used to bear a grudge which has already faded with the years, and it's possible that it's benevolent. If nothing else, I didn't immediately sense any curses."
"That's good!"
"It might be cursing something else that would put you or the shrine in danger indirectly, though."
"That's bad!"
"Which is why we're investigating. Now..." Stepping into the shrine, I'm greeted with a puff of hot air that instantly begins thawing my muscles and making it easier to focus on whatever energy may or may not be dwelling within. It's a terribly relaxing sensation, despite my overall discomfort. I suppose it could be said that the best part of being cold is warming up. "...Please, lead the way."

It's not often I'm given reason to be quite this focused. In the beginning I was too busy trying to dull my senses from the wall of hatred that seemed to flood me, and now anything important is too obvious to need it. It's always a rather amazing revelation, thinking about how much is filtered out for ease of thought, and it's equally amazing allowing yourself to truly feel everything. The slight sink in the floorboards with every step, and the weight that presses down on my feet. The slight squeeze of Sanae's hand in mine, and the minute movements of her hair and clothes in the currents of the shrine's air. The slight push of every living being within it felt individually, like the hard tingle of a dead limb reconnecting its nerves. I can almost see them sparkling behind my eyes.


"I think it might be time for a break."

A muffled voice calls from across the table, its source rocking back and forth lazily on hard wood. For an hour or so, she's waited patiently behind a wall of unidentifiable statuettes and carvings, earrings of jade and amber, scrolls adorned with beautiful landscapes, and ornamental weapons which quickly gave way to relics of the outside. Colorful, smooth "plastic" shaped into bizarre forms that seem incomplete (but apparently serve a variety of purposes) made up the majority of the pile, before it was disassembled as one piece after another passed my gaze without incident or evidence. By the time I could see Sanae again, her back was hunched forward to rest and her face was twice-obscured by her too-large hood and crossed arms.

"You're right. This is hardly appropriate for such a visit. Shall we try that cinnamon tea you were mentioning?"
"Ooh, yeah. That'd actually be really good right about now." Springing straight back into enthusiasm, she hops to her feet and does a few exaggerated stretches. First individual legs (which turn into splits) then touching her toes (but her palms go flat against the floor) and some bizarre arm-spinning that results in a full-body throw first between her spread legs, then in reverse before she's looking back at me with her head below her torso.
"Ever the limber one."
"Kana always did call me her little pretzel." Another few repetitions later, she sets her body straight with a 'boi-oi-oing!' and begins walking to the kitchen. In short order, however, it turns to a sprint as she lets out a quick, "Wait. Fuck!" When I've caught up, she's already carefully holding a stony green kettle under a stream of water that the kappa had set up as a donation and sucking on one of her free hand's fingers. The sprint set her hood back of its own accord, which in turn put her hair in disarray. She doesn't seem to care.
"What happened?"
"I had water on the stove when you first arrived, remember? I let it boil out."
"There's always more water. We can get caught up while this batch heats up."
"So we can! I think I'll stand this time, though."


I thought about the options I could give for a while, before realizing how long I'd spent writing this very average-length update and letting out a "FUCK IT." Again, lol spoiler tag.

First thread at >>14284
>"That's good!"
>"It might be cursing something else that would put you or the shrine in danger indirectly, though."
>"That's bad!"
I can just imagine the exaggerated facial expressions that go along with this. Why are you so adorable, Sanae?

[X] Ask about how she knows Daichi.
[X] Ask after Kanako.
>"Kana always did call me her little pretzel."
I spent several minutes wondering why this Sanae would be on familiar terms with a particular poltergeist, who for some reason was trying to turn her into baked goods, before realizing this was a shortened form of "Kanako".

[x] Ask about how she knows Daichi.
[x] Ask after Kanako.
[x] Ask if she's played any dangerous games lately. Why yes, I am part of the the problem.
...What exactly does "Ask after Kanako" mean?
"How's Kanako been?" Y'know, standard conversational fare. Sorry if I butchered the idiom; I just dislike write-ins with quotes as a matter of principle.
Eh, I'm pretty conversationally retarded so I'll assume it's a turn of phrase I just haven't come across.
[X] Ask about how she knows Daichi.
[X] Ask about Kanako.
[X] Ask about how she knows Daichi.
[X] Ask about Kanako.
I'm just gonna throw this out there, but Sanae is a resident of Gensokyo, too. Just two residents of Gensokyo. Chattin' it up and drinkin' some tea. About whatever. In a world that is clearly not influenced by canon.
The given command was "Converse!" so I'd think voting to mention something would work too.

[X] So man, those Yakumos. Crazy bunch of hooligans, huh.
[X] And have you seen that weird pink cloud girl?
[x] Ask about that Frog headpiece.
[X] Ask about how she knows Daichi.
[X] Ask about Kanako.
[x] Ask how Reimu doing, perhaps mention helping out Marisa.
[x] Ask about anything interesting, such as the Eientei area or underground.
[X] So man, those Yakumos. Crazy bunch of hooligans, huh.

Not sure if the Moriya shrine even knows the Yuakumo household that well.

[X] And have you seen that weird pink cloud girl? How about the rest of the Temple's followers.

Why not ask more into that group?

It wasn't until I gave that nudge did people start going into things.

Wall of hatred here? Sounds like there might be a grudge at work... I wonder if this grudge is affecting the whole mountain.

Spreading the word. Updates in the morning. Keep voting.
File 126974399442.jpg - (235.06KB, 750x1000, 4196b86c909c3c901ae359bea15b35be.jpg) [iqdb]
[X] Ask about how she knows Daichi.
[X] Ask about Kanako.
[x] Ask how Reimu doing, perhaps mention helping out Marisa.
>the wall of hatred that seemed to flood me,
The what now?

I must have missed something.
I think while searching Hina felt a massive amount of hatred, perhaps where Suwako is sealed up perhaps. Hina in this story can sense curses and hatred. That's the reason she doesn't really step into the Bamboo forest, due to all the massive hatred there. And it's pretty obvious what the cause of that hatred is.
It seemed to me that she was talking about the distant past, "In the beginning" referring to when she first became a curse goddess.
File 126979194118.jpg - (89.84KB, 686x469, HallYlTurnSpoutTeapot.jpg) [iqdb]
"Speaking of getting caught up, you seemed awfully friendly with that Daichi fellow. It sounds like there's a story behind that one." At his mention, she lets out a soft laugh that barely breaks a breath and lets herself fall against the counter opposite her stove casually.
"More than I could tell you in one visit. Back when we first arrived, Kana up and disappeared. I guess the move really took a lot out of her. Of course, I had no idea what was going on. Didn't even know she was a god. It's not like the shrine physically moved or anything, either, it was just kind of a shift. So I'm visiting after school, helping to clean up before a festival, you know? I get a little dizzy for a second, and keep sweeping. When it's time to go home, I walk out the front door and I'm on top of a freakin' mountain. Can't recognize anything about it, can't climb down by myself, can't find Kana. I'm freakin' out here, just a blubbering pile of tears, and when I look up there's an old man with wolf ears and a spear."
"I've heard parts of that story before, but you've never mentioned him. If he's been around that long, why have you kept him a secret?"
"Well, you know those tengu. Always preening. I'm pretty sure if you hadn't seen me tackle him, he'd have pretended we didn't know each other."
"Such a shame, hiding affection like that. Maybe people would like tengu more if they'd just be more open." And maybe I'd get to feel that tail again.
"Right? So he's standing over me, and I'm petrified, this isn't at all what I want to see right now. I'm all curled up into a ball, and I can hear him stepping up to me and I just know I'm gonna die, I'm gonna die, I'm gonna die," For emphasis she hunches over and covers her trembling head with her hands. Her voice gets more desperate with every word, and if I had a closer look I'm rather confident I would find her eyes watering. Someone needs to put this girl on a stage. "and he bends down and covers me up with that huge heavy coat of his. It's kind of smelly at first, but when you get a couple whiffs it's really nice. He just sits there hugging me for who knows how long, trying to warm me up." Picturing it draws forth an irresistible 'Awwww'. I can't tell whether he's a sweetheart or just not completely corrupt, given the situation. Though, that he stuck around would be evidence to the former.
"So what after that? You obviously calmed down eventually."
"Well, yeah. We went inside, talked about where I was from. He stayed with me till Kana came back, they exchanged some words, and I thought that'd be the end of it till he showed up a week later just to check up on us. The guy's been helping out around the shrine since then, but I haven't seen him in almost a year. If I didn't love him so much I'd have slapped him for making me think he died in some fight or something." Her thoughtful expression shifts in an instant to somewhere between angry and incredulous. I can't blame her.
"You're a better woman than I. At his age, he shouldn't be fighting anyways!"
"That's what I keep telling him! We have space at the shrine, too. He's always welcome to settle down with us, but he keeps going on about honor and stuff. What is it with men and that sort of thing?"
"I wouldn't go that far. I've met plenty of scrappy girls. Just the other day, actually, I ran into the most interesting young woman, Marisa. She says she's been studying magic since she was a child, but it runs on love."
"Love magic, huh? Sounds dangerous."
"More than you might think. She apparently broke into the manor on that lake and stole from its library just so she could keep studying."
"I guess that's a type of love. Like one of those creepy stalker girls that murders cheaters." As she speaks, her head tilts slightly to one side as her eyes widen and glaze over. The expression is creepy enough, but when her completely relaxed mouth forms a grin it crosses the line.
"Yah! Stop it! That's too much!" I can make overexaggerated reactions, too! A flurry of cries and swatting hands in her general direction brings out a snorting chuckle, the mark to let it go.
"You've gotten better at that."
"Why thank you. As I was saying though, I had to go and help her get back in. Apparently I owe a debt to the lady of the manor, though I'm not sure how that happened when Marisa's the one who stole from her."
"That's a dangerous position to be in. Those rich types have sick tastes, you know."
"So I've seen." More than enough times, in fact. Money is a necessary backing for a society, but if we come up with a better way to do things I'm right behind it. "Though, that doesn't make the poor types better by default." The pursuit of riches can inspire more depravities than its expenditure.
"Is that a jab I sense?"
"Why, what ever could you mean?"
"Come on. Everyone knows Reimu hasn't been doing too well. Especially after that new shrine popped up, she's been working her hardest to get some donations."
"Serves her right. Just because the Hakurei shrine was the only one, she spent years either ignoring people who needed her help or abusing her power." Everything I hate about people in positions of power. Even though she depends entirely on people's good will, she uses her position to extort it from them.
"Hey, now. Aren't you supposed to be preventing grudges? The girl's seen what she should be doing, and she's trying her hardest now. Isn't that exactly what you're working toward?"
"Well, no one's perfect. I've been trying to forgive her, but it's going to take a bit more convincing that she's sincere and not just fighting for survival."
"Shame, shame. You're always on about forgiveness and positive thinking, and you come out with this? When are you gonna give up on it?" ...This visit has taken a turn for the unpleasant. Let's change that.
"Fine, fine. I'm over it. It's given."

As though in celebration, the first signs of a whistle weakly spout from the kettle, drowning out the light bubbling of the rolling boil within it. By the time her steps reach the stove, the jet of steam has become constant. With the turn of a knob, she picks up the steaming kettle and carries it to the table, sitting beside me as she pours it into her already-prepared teapot. The smell of cinnamon immediately spreads from the pot as steam floats gently from its oddly-shaped spout. Even breathing it sends a light tingle down the back of my throat. The smell alone gives me something to look forward to.

"Oh, man. That steam kind of reminds me of that crazy nun girl."
"The one at the new shrine?"
"Yeah, yeah! Have you talked with her?"
"Only in passing. She seems nice enough."
"You've got to visit her one of these days. You know that little cigar thing she's always smoking?" Her sentence finishes at the same time as my nod, and she continues without pause. "Sometimes she talks to it."
"Just a little whisper, and not like..." Opting for actions rather than descriptions she mimes some pathetic creature hunched over an invisible artifact, rubbing its hands together fervently as its wide eyes dart from side to side in paranoia. When she begins speaking, her posture snaps back to normal again. "...but really casually, like she's sitting next to a friend. It's so creepy!"
"I'd imagine. Though, there are stranger people in Gensokyo. We're both pretty out of the ordinary."
"Yeah, I guess. If you can get her talking, she's actually pretty cool, too."
"Speaking of talking. What do you think those two are up to?"
"The less I think about that, the better. I've always hated the business side of religion. But hey, maybe he's delivering a prayer that he thinks is really important, or maybe they're catching up like we are. They've got their right to privacy, too."
"I hope that consideration of yours isn't getting in between you and Kanako. You know she thinks of you like her daughter."
"I know, I know. We still live in the same house, work together, eat together, all that stuff. We're close, but we have our own lives. We have to. It's not like I'm going to move out."
"Point. So how is she these days? It's been a while."
"She's holding up. I think she's kind of secretly worried about her position, now that she's recognized throughout Gensokyo. Sort of an 'only way to go is down' thing, you know?"
"That's no good. She's a friendly, dedicated god. Surely you'll continue to prosper."
"Yeah, but irrational fears are just that. Can't really talk her out of it. Other than that, she's really gotten comfortable in here. It feels like home again. Just without the friends. Or family. Or convenience. Or...well, okay, it's never gonna be quite like home, but isn't that what every kid who moves feels like? I'd say if we had to go somewhere, we couldn't have picked a better place."
"Indeed. It took a while to settle in, but you've made quite the name for yourself. You were the Hakurei's first competition, too! Most people would have just been crushed."
"Hey, don't remind me. That was a stupid idea and I regret following through with it."
"It got you a lot of publicity though. You might have that stupid idea to thank for where you are."
"Who knows? I'm here now, and that's what matters."
"You and all your trinkets from the outside. How did you even bring all of it with you?"
"Ha! I didn't bring half of it. I spent a lot of time at the shrine, so it was just kind of there. Picked up and plopped down with the rest of it. I don't even remember where I got half of that stuff, but it's still nice to have a few mementos."
"You haven't been taking the best care of it, either. Scratches, dirt, melted bits?"
"Hey! It was like that before we left. I was a kid once too, you know."
"A likely story."
"A true story. I've had some of that stuff as long as these little charms," as she mentions them, she indicates her frog clip with a nod of her head and her necklace with her right thumb, "I'd say it's a miracle that they're in any better shape than the dust they've gathered."
"So why are the charms in perfect condition then?"
"Man, I don't know. They just never seemed to wear down." As she leans forward to pour the now quite strong-smelling tea, her head is placed in perfect position to get a close look at the clip in her hair. It seems entirely unremarkable, except for one thing.

When she moves, its eyes stare at me.

[ ] Back to work, starting with that.
[ ] So this "charm" of yours. Tell me more.
[ ] Kanako needs to see this.


Holy fuck dialogue. I tried to fit in everything, but if I couldn't come up with a way for it to happen it didn't. >>14882 had it right, sorry for the confusion.
Oh, and http://www.extralives.org/ again more. I missed like two hours of Perfect Dark for this update.
[x] So this "charm" of yours. Tell me more.

Major clue; we should find out more about it.
[X] So this "charm" of yours. Tell me more.

Better get some information on it before Hina tests it.
Too soon to tell Kanako about, and too major to pass up. Perhaps it might give insight to other things.
[x] So this "charm" of yours. Tell me more.
Dat wall. And delicious dialogue.

[X] So this "charm" of yours. Tell me more.
[x] So this "charm" of yours. Tell me more.
[x] So this "CYOA" of yours. Update more.
File 127091360618.jpg - (384.39KB, 684x800, 0ab6d6cebed047904ddd21ad4ab25300.jpg) [iqdb]
This picture fits with >>14528 so well it's ridiculous.

Now update.
File 127156231188.jpg - (43.95KB, 643x483, Clannad_Ep20_7.jpg) [iqdb]
"And it never occurred to you that they might be special somehow?" Stranger things have happened, but everything's a clue when you're on a ghost hunt.
"Oh, they're all kinds of special. I guess Kana came to my parents with them when I was born, and I was set to be a shrine maiden then and there." Her sentences are punctuated with slow, measured blows, sending a small cloud of fragrant steam drifting along the table as she cools her drink.
"I meant more in the context of our little investigation."
"Aah. Riiight." With closed eyes, she takes a long sip of the still-scorching tea. Even holding the cup is a bit much, but..."How silly of me." And another. Can she even taste it any more? "No, actually, I hadn't. Would you like to see them?"
"It may be just what we're looking for. Do you mind?" Asking is just a formality at this point, of course. By the time I even begin speaking she has both undone, and she replies by simply extending them toward me. What looks like plastic from a distance actually feels strangely organic, an odd sensation that inspires a sense of inherent wrongness. Were they not items from her youth, carrying as natural a presence as a limb, I doubt Sanae would be able to regard them so casually.

Oho! What's this, then? One of Sanae's friends?
The surprises just never end. What ever could this be about?
Wait, can she hear me? Hey! Hey you! Blink twice if you can hear this!
I am not one to disobey disembodied voices, even if it does occasionally get me into trouble. They tend to be the good types.
Oh, thank God. You know you're the first person I've been able to talk to in like forty years? That girl has got to be deaf and dumb, I tell you.
Now hold on. That's a bit judgmental. When mysterious voices start talking to them, there aren't many people who talk back. Or think back, in my case. Actually, is this even getting through?
I mean really. Have you got any idea how long I've been trying to get through to her? A little bit of respect is all I want, man.
Well, that's a no.
Hell, I figured this way I'd at least be able to spend time with my descendents but noooo, too good for that warmongering hag. If I had my way with her, this house wouldn't be half as quiet, I'll tell you that much.

"So have you got anything?" Oh! Right. Where is my head? From the looks of things, quite far off; she's already finished her tea. Though, with the way she was drinking it that doesn't mean much.
"Well, yes and no. It looks like someone's been trying to contact you through these charms, but you've been mostly oblivious to it. Do you sleep with them at all?" For being such a good actor, this girl really is terrible at hiding her emotions. It doesn't matter how nonchalant you try to look after your eyes go that wide.
"Yeah, uh...Every once in a while, I..." Every once in a while you turn head mumble mumble fade out. Oh, no you don't.
"I'm sorry, your voice got awfully quiet there. Would you repeat yourself?" This may hurt you, Sanae, but it's for the best. Besides, what can you really tell me that's that embarrassing?
"I, uh. Like to put them on Broglie sometimes." And on comes the blush.
"Was that so hard? Really, now. There's no shame in sleeping with a stuffed platypus." Even if she did have to teach me what a platypus was when I first saw it.
She hugs him, too. Hard. Gives him a little kiss, sometimes even tells him bedtime stories.
"So anyways! You were saying?"
"Right, right. I think that would be the source of those dreams you've been having. I can hear her loud and clear when I hold those charms, though, which leads me to believe that you may have needed my help a bit more than you think." Oh wait. I had tea. Something about taking a sip now feels almost pretentious, but it really is quite good. If there's one thing I can trust her on, it's her taste in tea. Always something unique and flavorful with her.
"So what'd she say?"
"Lots of things. Mostly about you, actually. Apparently having a deaf conversation partner isn't very fun."
"Neither is being haunted."
You ungrateful little half-breed. See if I ever help you lose those ten pounds again.
"Well, we're trying to fix that and this is a good clue. Assuming, of course, that she'll be at all cooperative."
Oh yeah. You guys were looking for a source or whatever, right? Check out the basement. You won't be disappointed.
"Which she will. Can you lead me to the basement?"
"We have a basement?"

...Always something, isn't it.

[ ] There's always a secret passage. Always.
[ ] Nothing a shovel can't fix.
[ ] Kanako would probably know about a basement, right?


You have my sincerest apologies. I will not bore you with details or excuses. The people who care know. Also, if this isn't quite up to par, I'm ready to blame it on rust and/or sleep deprivation.
[x] There's always a secret passage. Always.

Kanako needs a way to check on things.
[X] There's always a secret passage. Always.

My yay reverberates through the heavens.
[x] There's always a secret passage. Always.

I love you, man.

[X] Nothing a shovel can't fix.

Not that we couldn't spin hard enough to drill through the earth ourselves.
[X] There's always a secret passage. Always.

Jeez NARH, you nearly gave me a heart attack. Twice. First was updating and the second...
>She hugs him, too. Hard. Gives him a little kiss, sometimes even tells him bedtime stories.
Phew, you're still alive.

>"I, uh. Like to put them on Broglie sometimes."
Physics buff Sanae? Also, d'awww.

[X] There's always a secret passage. Always.
File 127156530173.jpg - (137.91KB, 500x333, quack.jpg) [iqdb]
Did anybody think of these?

Because I did.

I still have mine. Loved that purple little thing.
[x] There's always a secret passage. Always.
-[x] Nothing a sledgehammer can't fix.

What? Smashing a few interior walls/floors is far less work than trying to dig into a basement.

Of course, there's always the possibility that Suwako, in her current form, isn't one-hundred-percent aware that the shrine relocated, and certain parts of the shrine may not have made the transition. In which case we'd just be wasting our time with any option other than asking Kanako... but turning the place upside-down first sounds like more fun anyway.

Yes, and same here.
File 127161731968.jpg - (164.55KB, 850x1020, sanae plainclothes.jpg) [iqdb]
[x] There's always a secret passage. Always.

>Check out the basement. You won't be disappointed.
>"We have a basement?"

"Wow! Who put all this highly specialized torture equipment here?"

OK, maybe not really. But a well-adjusted Sanae is fine too.

>"Was that so hard? Really, now. There's no shame in sleeping with a stuffed platypus." Even if she did have to teach me what a platypus was when I first saw it.

Placental, the sister of her brother Marsupial,
Their cousin called Monotreme,
Dead uncle Allotheria.
Mammals, mammals...

I've come to suspect where all the goodness in Fell's Sanae went: NARH's Sanae. I can imagine this Sanae being a good big sister to Kogasa.
[x] There's always a secret passage. Always.
Sanae and Kogasa are among my favorite interpretations. I don't want to say "characters" outright because that would be a bold-faced lie, but everyone needs to make their own ideas about characters and all that jazz. In any case, the chance that the two will meet is outstandingly low because I am afraid that by doing so I would inflict the very heart attack that finally claims me. They will find my corpse, and in my dying breaths I will have typed but one last moeeee. Should you succeed in bringing them together, I pray for your soul as well as my own.

Anyways! Today has been outstandingly busy and to be honest I still don't have any real ideas, but I am going to call it here and continue bashing my face against this story. An update may or may not come in the near future, but I wouldn't check back before tomorrow.
>[i]If I had my way with her, this house wouldn't be half as quiet, I'll tell you that much. [i]


[x] There's always a secret passage. Always.


Ironic caption, much?
File 127170210167.jpg - (32.90KB, 300x400, Sledgehammer.jpg) [iqdb]
"Okay. First things first. We're going to need a sledgehammer." A comically exaggerated snort bursts forth, sending her doubling over and clutching for support in the form of my shoulder before letting it dissolve into relatively underwhelming laughter. "...It wasn't that funny."
"No, it wasn't." And just as quickly, her posture shifts perfectly straight and all expression drops from her face. The act cracks after a few short seconds, though, and as the first hint of a giggle escapes her it brings me down with it. Even the "ghost" lets out a low, subdued chuckle that you might expect from parents watching toddlers' antics.
"Really though! What if there's a secret passage somewhere in the shrine? Finding it would be a story for your grandchildren."
Good luck finding a man that'd take this girl. You know she had a boyfriend before we left? The poor kid just couldn't keep up.
Not a big surprise, but I like to stay hopeful. Her hand floats smoothly to her face as she narrows her eyes, ending in a sort of half-grip around her chin that weakly covers her lips. A moment's consideration brings forth a sly smile, which ties the whole "evil dictator" look together perfectly.

"I think we have one out back."
"I, uh. Was joking, you know." I'd rather not have a war of faith on my hands, thank you.
"Yeah, I do. How else do you check for secret passages though?"
"Well, I'm sure there are ways. Maybe we could tap around for hollow portions of walls?"
Oh, come on. Just start pulling light fixtures, you'll get it eventually.
"Can you say that for a fact?" I may sound crazy, but when you need to talk you need to talk.
"...What?" ...Actually, this may be a bit of a lesson for Sanae.
Well no, but isn't that where they always put the lever?
"Not really. I've seen them behind paintings or bookcases, under floorboards, sometimes even protected by little rhythm based passwords."
"Oh, is she talking to you? I see how it is."
Yeah, I guess. You might want to go through with the sledgehammer idea, if that's the case.
"We're not doing the sledgehammer idea. At the very least, I'm not."
"Is this what it's like? I'm sorry, ghost lady. I had no idea it was so hard."
About damn time you acknowledge me. Tell her "Apology accepted...tentatively."
"Apology accepted. Now let's get to tapping."
Hey. Tentatively. Tentatively!
"Righto. Just in case though, I'm still grabbing that sle-"
"No you are not." That hood finally serves a purpose, helping me keep her from running away. If it weren't still closed, though, I doubt it could have stayed on with the speed she was running. I could swear her feet left the floor there. With the deadline of a talk that's already extended for far too long in mind, my ears and knuckles meet the floor and our work begins.


A heavy sigh breaks the monotony of rapping. Rather, it would were it not monotonous, itself. Maybe I should have let her use that sledgehammer.

"If I had known this would be so boring I would have just put up with the dreams." Lazily knocking against the wall beside me as I cover the floor, Sanae sees fit to complain about her own project. Again.
If I had known you were so impatient I'd have just shut up.
"Hush. Both of you. We're going to find this thing, even if I have to come back later to help."
"Good luck getting away from Goose that long." wouldyoustopdoingthatargh! Even Sanae stumbles back with a shriek when wait stumblough. To the tune of uproarious laughter, the poor girl rolls right over my back and crashes through the wall opposite her.
"...Fuck." Kanako too! What a pleasant surprise! "You're taking responsibility for this, Grey." As quick to respond as he is to escape, the old dog cuts me off before even one word. Fine then. I won't handle the repairs.
"I take responsibility for a lot of things around here. The girl has a right to know." Know? A glance over reveals a visibly rotting staircase that's twice as steep as it needs to be extending into darkness underneath. I can hear her trademark whine from here so she's at least alive, but something feels inherently wrong about bickering over property damage instead of her well-being.
"And you have a right to decide?"
Just about as much as you do, ya cradle-robbing windbitch.
"Just about as much as you do. Or need I remind you of-"
"No, you don't. In fact, I'm getting far, far away. She can deal with it in silence instead of crossfire." Ignoring any protests, she turns and walks into a deepening mist that filters through the walls. What little is left of her body when I catch a glimpse of it blurs and seems to dissolve into the air, until all that remains is an uncomfortable silence.

"Well. If you care to join us, I'd recommend bracing yourself."
"Brace myself for what? Is there some ancient horror that we've just unleashed?"
Hey, now. I'm not all that bad. Promise!
His advance toward the hole in the wall is slow, but smooth. Even as I stumble to my feet to catch up with him, he refuses so much as a glance until reaching it. With his feet balanced precariously on its edge, he spins to face me before saying quite simply, "You'll see."

With a backwards hop, he vanishes.

[ ] If it's as big as they say, Sanae needs her "mother" here.
[ ] No time to waste. Into the void!


I still take no responsibility for the low quality of this segment, as it was produced via breaking my nose and hoping the blood looked like words.
[x] No time to waste. Into the void!
[X] No time to waste. Into the void!

Huh, you'd think Kanako would want to be in control when Sanae meets Suwako. Oh well, her loss.
[X] No time to waste. Into the void!

Her father figure's coming along; she'll probably be fine.
[x] No time to waste. Into the void!
Sanae's a big girl. Into the breach.
[x] No time to waste. Into the void!
[X] No time to waste. Into the void!
No update tonight, but happy 4/20 to those that celebrate! If you honestly thought I wouldn't be, you've got some problems.
People still think 4/20 is amusing or has a point past high school age?

Man, I like this story, but... grow up.
A meaningless holiday is a meaningless holiday is a meaningless holiday. Do you complain about people taking Labor Day off, too?

Today is the NA release date of Monster Hunter Tri you know.

...Even if I've got it wrong and that isn't what this is about, it's still a reason.

I remembered when anon complained during the holidays between Christmas and a little past New Years.

We STILL have to travel back home ya know!

Also Monster Hunter Tri kick my balls to the walls with great cruelty...
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>Feel free to ignore the following.

Oh I think I speak for plenty of anon when I say we'd appreciate it more if it were deleted.

Then again I can't say I recall a time some one with actual control over the boards had cleared out such garbage.

At the very least Teruyo's bitching were actually worth slogging through.

just saying bro
Doesn't that feel cathartic, mate? Shit's not easy to write. This is kind of normal. You've a really enjoyable story here, but if your control isn't as strong as you'd like, then there's not much to be done.

Keep trying, write what you'd like to read yourself, and everything will turn out how it should.
Just figured you'd like to know why I was finally giving up.
Man haters gonna hate. While it does get tedious to read a long rant, it's understandable why you'd feel it necessary to do so in the first place.

I can assure you that a lot of writers have felt the same way. Some of them have quit, sometimes abandoning their stories without a word. There is no reason for any of us to write, just as there is no reason for us not to write. Ultimately I believe that you should do whatever feels right to you. If you think that you've got something worth sharing, then share it. We all have difficulties thinking of things, writing, and following through. It's what makes us human. These are hurdles that you have to overcome only if you want to and coexistence with conflict is just as reasonable (though admittedly stressful).

For those that genuinely enjoy what you write, this may be disappointing. But no one is putting a gun to your head and I think they'll more or less understand no matter what you do.
Actually I'm pretty sure at least one person is going to come to my house and kick me in the balls for this. If you do, I've got a nice stick you can use as long as you trade it for a few good blows to the stomach. I certainly deserve it.
I know I would. Mind reposting it?
I'm thoroughly confused here. If I'm reading this correctly, NARH smoked a bunch of pot, and the next day, he decided to drop this story. Then he posted, without his trip despite being in his own thread*, his list of reasons why he's stopping. Then he deleted it... Is this even close? If it is, someone best be trolling here, because there's far too much stupid in this scenario. Not the least of which would be making important decisions about long-term projects after spending a day getting high.

I'd have more to say, but seeing as he deleted the original post, I can only make conjectures. So on that note, NARH, either get back to writing, or declare a hiatus and put up a recap of whatever the fuck is going on here.

Also, next time this issue crops up, try actually talking to anon or the other writers around here before the stress gets to the point where you feel compelled to drop everything. We're mostly assholes, but some of us are assholes who know what we're talking about.

*Dear authors on this site,
Stop that. I should not need to play fucking guessing games when attempting to follow these discussions.
No, I cannot recognize you by your posting style.

The decision to drop this story stems from a long string of self-contradictory pondering. The day of getting high let me think about things without just getting depressed and having the train of thought stop completely. From it, I landed at a new piece of information that I realized all too late and which made it a much easier decision to make: I'm not having fun.

I have talked with anons, other writers, and close friends. I have considered this project and my writing on the whole, long and hard. I started writing on a whim, continued writing on a whim, and in fact chose to turn this story from a short to a CYOA on a whim. Today, though, I calmly considered what I wanted from this, what I was getting, and what I could expect to get. The answer to all three was "Nothing."

This is all well and good, of course: This is fanfiction we're talking about. However, it also made me wonder why I was writing in the first place. I need a better reason than "nothing" to sit in front of my computer fighting off a presence looming over me and speaking ill of all my efforts for four hours only to pump out a single, unsatisfactory page wherein nothing happens. Am I writing for my readers? No, I care about them as little as I care about myself. No offense, of course, but were I to get a single vote for each update it would make little difference as it is exactly what I deserve. Then, do I do it for the joy of writing? To answer this I would need to know whether my fits of depression are a detriment to writing or if my inability to write is a cause of depression. Either way, I'm not enjoying myself. My friends, though, would have me believe that I'm an excellent author and should write. That it's good for me! With this in mind, I continued writing - or at least trying to - until I simply realized that I cannot. Writing solely because someone thinks you should isn't just a poor decision, it's not possible. No matter how much I care about them.

It took entirely too long to come to this conclusion, though much of this was due to the uncertainty that is inherent in such situations. There was the question of reason, and the question of depression, but also the question of whether my quandary was simply a hurdle all authors must overcome or if I was merely weak. Maybe this decision will answer that, if nothing else.

tl;dr I am no storyteller, fair anon. It is time I admit defeat.
I don't know you personally, NARH, other than from the few times I've seen you on IRC, so I can't speak to your individual situation. I have, however, had some troubles with depression during my lifetime, so I'll tell you about those. With luck, there will be something in there that will wrap around to advice that you can apply for yourself.

The focus of my depression was that I had no friends; a somewhat stereotypical teenage/young adult complaint, exacerbated somewhat by the fact that it was actually observably, quantifiably true. I got along well enough with people, but a combination of introversion, poor socialization, and other factors I won't go into made it difficult for me to form lasting friendships with other people. Generally, I filled the void with computer stuff; incidentally, this is around the time that I discovered 4chan, which started me on the long journey that brought me here.

I knew (or at least suspected) that it was depression more or less from the beginning (although 'beginning' and 'end' are not really well defined when dealing with this sort of thing), and would occasionally try to do something to break out of it. When I did, I would encounter a sort of 'presence', not altogether unlike the one you describe; nothing that was actually physically there, but a set of thoughts and emotions so tightly bundled together that it felt like I could have reached into my chest and pulled them out. The presence never really actively disparaged me (I took care of that all by myself), but it made me feel that all my plans and actions were futile, and that I would be better off doing nothing. Countless plans to better myself were ruined this way; I would buy tickets to concerts weeks in advance, trying to psych myself up, then when the time came, it would hit, and I would lay in bed and stare at the wall.

Occasionally, it would reach out to sabatoge my normal lifestyle as well. I would be on the Internet, doing nothing in particular, and then it would hit, and I would just tilt my head back and stare at the ceiling for hours on end. When it was particularly bad, I didn't just do nothing, I actively tried to destroy the 'useless' aspects of my life. I once deleted a half- finished term paper when it hit while I was doing schoolwork, convinced that nothing I learned would ever bring me happiness and that I was better off dropping out of school and living on the streets. Had I been on writing on THP at the time (if it had existed, that is), I'm certain I would have deleted all my threads and destroyed my backups in a fit of pique at some point.

I finally managed to begin to get rid of my depression when I told basically everyone I was close to about what I was going through. (Or, more accurately, when I was found cutting myself, but that's not really relevant to the story.) I came home for the summer to be on unofficial suicide watch, there was a great deal of talk about finding me a psychiatrist (I'm still not quite sure how I got out of that one), and virtually everyone around me walked on eggshells and hid it poorly. Most pertinently, however, I was surrounded by people who knew what it meant when they saw me slumped over the armrest of the couch, staring at the floor, and could take decisive action to break me out of the cycle of negative thoughts I was stuck in. It came to pass that I had very little time to actually be depressed, because if I so much as looked bored, there was someone there to drag me out to go shopping, or play video games, or argue about whether or not I should be hospitalized.

After reading about this sort of thing online, I've concluded that I got off relatively easy; after that six to twelve month period, I was basically back to a point at which I could function independently. I would still suffer from the occasional case of crippling ennui (and, in fact, I still do to this day), but by that point, I had internalized the "feel bad -> get forced to do something -> feel better" paradigm completely enough that I could ignore the presence telling me to give up on life, go for a run around the block a few dozen times, and get back home feeling well enough to go to continue living.

Again, I don't know very much about you on a personal level, so I may be way off base here. It seems to me, though, that you must have started writing for a reason, and that whatever the specifics may be, it probably had something to do with your enjoyment of writing itself. Naturally, my opinion is that you are an excellent writer, and that your friends are probably right. If you don't think you should write right now, though, I can understand; to an extent, it would be like going into a dead sprint from standing still, all while carrying a hundred-pound weight.

I can, however, say this with a great deal of confidence: your depression and your poor perception of yourself and your talents are inextricably linked, and neither will be solved by doing nothing. It's important that you reverse the cycle of thoughts that leads to these feelings, and in my experience (limited though it may be) the way to do that is by conditioning yourself, Pavlov style, to think good things. Rely on your friends, family, acquaintances, anyone you can for this, because it's even more difficult to accomplish by yourself. Seek professional help, if possible; I never did myself, but everything I've heard tells me that I probably should have. Spare no expense nor effort; it's your happiness at stake.

Sorry for the huge off-topic post, sorry again if none of this has any relevance to you or your situation whatsoever, and sorry once more if I'm blowing things out of proportion. It's just that on top of sadness at the possibility of you not writing anymore, NARH, I'm concerned for you as a human being, and after everything you've done for me and the rest of THP, it would be a dick move not to try to help you as best as I can.

Hope you feel better.
>assholes who know what we're talking about
I wrote that line with a part of me shouting that I'm grasping at straws, and that no good could come from suggesting someone seek advice here.
>person who knows what s/he's talking about
Thank you kindly for giving me the opportunity to tell that part to shut the hell up.

On a more relevant note: Having gone through a variation of what you described myself, I can do naught but emphasize what was already said. It is in light of that, NARH, that I implore that you, at most, ease up on your writing, rather than dropping it entirely. Note that I'm speaking only of the act of writing, whether or not you continue with this story is irrelevant at this point. Just don't do yourself the disservice of completely cutting off a hobby you so excel at.

You say you feel a lacking in life, but how is removing a productive activity from your routine supposed to correct that? If what you lack is a purpose to your writing or an affirmation of the talents that, I assure you, you do indeed possess, then look to a competitive environment. I have little doubt a quick Google search will yield an abundance of scholarly or professional challenges to which to apply your skills with the written word.

I had always assumed you to be a career writer, or someone aspiring for such, as your work is impressive on a technical level as well as a creative one. Even if that's not the case, you would be hard pressed to go through life without your writing being of benefit to you, whether as a hobby, a secondary career, or simply accessory to your primary work. Suffice to say, do not give up on it. Vacation from it if you must, but always keep it close at hand. Make the effort to keep your skills sharp. I assure you, at some point in time, they will return the favor, and you will be glad for having done so.

>tl;dr I am no storyteller, fair anon. It is time I admit defeat.
tl;dr I say bullshit, good sir. These boards are ripe with evidence to the contrary.
People who tend to get lost in existential crises should not smoke pot. Depersonalization is not something that leads to epiphany & insight. Of course, I smoked only yesterday at partial care program for depressives & other social misfits, so you might think pot-kettle-black, except I'm actually working on my story.

[X] No time to waste. Into the void!
>implying pot doesn't have different effects on different minds
You mean Pot makes the emo worse?
Depersonalization is not a common experience from just smoking pot. You have to be neurochemically inclined towards it, or something.
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The damp, moldy wood creaks beneath my feet as I carefully descend into the stale air of the basement, so saturated with dust that it's hard to believe any kind of creature could breathe it without a mask. What little of the darkness my eyes can pierce is filled with small floating particles, rendering anything further than my nose invisible. Thankfully, the staircase runs along a wall that provides at least some orientation. No sooner do my bare feet feel the unmistakable softness of grassy earth than does a swift, strong grip pull me by the wrist into the darkness. I very nearly shriek at the surprise, but manage to suppress it to a gasp before it escapes me.
"You're never gonna believe what's in here!" Good to see the injury hasn't hindered that infectious enthusiasm of hers. It's served her well so far, but my shoulder's starting to come loose from the force of her pull. Either she needs to calm down or I need to get more excited.
"And I suppose you're never going to tell me." Even through a laugh, her pace doesn't slow. The latter, then. At the very least, my eyes have begun to adjust to the darkness, making it easier to keep up with her.
"Words wouldn't do it justice." Finally, her pace slows to a stop before a small, simple shrine – the sort you might find along the side of a road. Its wood is old and cracked, the remnants of its paint so faded that only the peeling edges of what remains hint at it ever being there, and what few offerings there are look like children's toys of no worth or use.

Under the shrine's quaint roof is an outstandingly detailed (if tiny) marble statue of a gorgeous woman with her hand held out, gazing wistfully at the frog resting on it. Every pattern on her intricate furisode is as perfectly chiseled as the features on her face, and her eyes seem bright and youthful even in the...light? It's subtle, but the shrine is glowing. The sort that you can only make out because of the oppressive darkness around it, but once you notice you can see its color and strength fluctuate like a flame; green and blue and yellow and red, all big blotches in constant motion that blend into one another and ooze along the surface. It's really quite hypnotic.

Sanae, however, gazes intently at the small pile of offerings. Her quiet stare is a heavy contrast to the boundless energy that she's had thus far even in boredom, and draws my gaze along with it. As though to respect the sanctity of the place, her voice seems incapable of breaking a whisper.
"You see those toys?" A cheap wooden rattler, a toy truck, a pinwheel...
My own comes out just as hushed, despite myself. "Yeah. I hate to think how it came that they would be the only offerings." Being a god gives you a different perspective on this sort of thing. Offerings like these are the greatest way of showing not only faith, but good will. Is this woman somehow related to children, or is it that only a child would take her seriously?
"They're mine. Little things I thought I had lost." Dropping to her knees slowly, she picks up each in turn, running her fingers over them gingerly and looking over them with great care. I can't make out her expression, but her voice has a tinge of sadness, confusion, and something like loss.
You know, kid, I've been waiting a long time for today.
"Can I take that to mean that this is your shrine?" Sanae's eyes shoot up to mine with a deathly weight. This is as important to her as it is to anyone.
Check out that statue and maybe you won't have to.
At the behest of our ghostly companion, we both lean close to the statue. Even through time's wear, its perfect craftsmanship has retained all of its detail. Looking closer, I can make out small grooves where the darkness swallowed them before, making it more impressive than ever. It doesn't seem like a stretch to say that her eyelashes were carved out. As my eyes go further down, though, they catch a barely visible obsidian snake weaved between the woman's ankles. Its color is dull, and blends with both the darkness and the glow of the shrine itself. Were I any further away, it's unlikely that I ever would have seen it.

Possessed by curiosity, Sanae reaches out to feel the snake, and at the moment of contact it shatters beneath her fingers, sending her reeling with a yelp. With an acidic hiss, it crumbles into dust and melts into the earth beneath the shrine, leaving absolutely nothing in its wake. In time, the hiss fades, leaving us in silence but for the sound of our own breath. The ankles of the statue it was wrapped around seem more worn than the surrounding stone, but otherwise the shrine remains unchanged.


In time, hunger drags us up again. The "ghost" stopped speaking despite our (reasonable, I think) questions, but the search for answers bound us to the shrine. For what felt like an eternity, we scoured the place for any kind of clue or even an interesting detail to no avail. Leaving our only real clue for so much as a moment was a loss of pride that shows even now in Sanae's despondently shuffling feet. Though, that may be simple weariness – what was to be a fun adventure has become tedious work followed by tedious work followed by a breakthrough that only bears more questions and more work.

"So. Any theories?" If nothing else, her voice is energetic again.
"It's hard to say. I haven't been around forever, and history has never been my best subject. It is telling that I couldn't recognize the woman in that statue, though." Most gods are rather famous. Either she's a very minor one, or a very, very old one.
"Do you think we should ask Kana or Daichi? I know Kana's been around for a while, and if this is something specific to Gensokyo then Daichi might know."
"Speaking of him, I wonder where he's gone off to. You'd think he would stick around after seeing you fall into the wall like that." For being such a sweetheart, he can be quite abrasive sometimes. And didn't he hop down into there? He had to have made a conscious decision not to stay...
Donning an annoyed expression, she turns to face me with her hands on her hips. "Yeah, you would think. I'm gonna have to have some words with hugh!" A dark flash passes from one room to the next, abducting Sanae into a tumbling whirlwind that ends in a rather loud thump.

When I peer into the room, I'm greeted with the sight of a young girl perhaps no older than ten nuzzling an upside-down and extremely disoriented Sanae lovingly. Her silky hair is a bright yet powerful golden shade, and sits smoothly in a low-tied ponytail that reaches the small of her back. Her pale skin is beset by a deep blush that brightens her grin, and her eyes are shut with contentment. Tangled through limbs of ambiguous sources is an earth-toned furisode ten sizes too large for her, filled with such a vivid depiction of a lake and all within it that it almost seems like the floor around her should be wet. The sleeves would drag under her feet were they not wrapped as tightly as her arms around Sanae, herself, and Sanae again. A glimpse of her eyes reveals that they're a stony grey speckled with spots of brown, and catch light such that a sharp ring oscillates between her pupils and sclera.

Meanwhile, Grey sits laughing at a nearby table in that bellowing yet subdued way that only old men really know how to. Wiping a tear from his eye with a smile, he rises to his feet and addresses me.
"Hina! So good to see you again. Would you join me in the kitchen for a moment?" A grip on my shoulder is enough of a hint. Playing along as best I can, I walk alongside him until we're out of earshot, conversing all the while.
"Oh, certainly. Have you tried the cinnamon tea they have? The batch we used before should still be fresh enough to brew with."
"Sounds lovely. Absolutely lovely." The walk isn't long, and the moment the door shuts behind us he turns to face me with a more serious expression. "So I suppose you're wondering who that was."
"That's one way of putting it, yes. I hate to jump to conclusions, but I couldn't help but notice that she bore a striking resemblance to a certain statue." A certain statue that we happened to vandalize.
He rubs the stubble on his face, covering his mouth with his palm, and lets out a small sigh. "How much can you tell me about Kanako's past?"
"No more than Sanae's told me about her own. Kanako and I aren't quite so close to each other." Not for lack of effort on my part, though. It's a shame, really; she seems nice enough and you can never have too many allies.
"Then allow me to give you the short version." He takes a deep breath and clears his throat before rattling off words like they would burn his tongue if he allowed them to linger. "First off, Kanako's probably been around longer than this mountain has. Before her, though, was one Suwako Moriya, and before her there were the Mishaguji. They were bad news, and Suwako tamed them and took control of the area. Eventually, a bunch of other gods got together and decided to combine their forces to become a nation instead of a series of bickering city-states. Suwako didn't agree, and was soundly trounced by Kanako, who she surrendered her control to. Got it so far?"
"It's a bit much all at once, but yes." I get the feeling there's a lot of details that I can look into later. If what he's saying is true, there will be plenty of time to ask.
"Good. Now, Suwako's living proof that you want to read the contract before you sign it. Kanako kept Suwako around, but on a leash. When she was useful, she would let her out. Never for long, and not without a purpose; she'd gather some faith, help her overcome an enemy or work a miracle or two, and get sealed back in her shrines."
"Wait. Sealed in multiple shrines?"
He looks at me carefully with a furrowed brow. "You...How many gods have you spoken with in your day?" It seems like no matter how settled into my role I get, there's more for me to learn.
"I keep to myself, mostly. People don't generally want to associate with a curse goddess."
"Shame, that. They've got a lovely one. Well, those roadside shrines you see here and there serve as an extension of a god's home, which is why they're just as sacred as a more large-scale one. Apparently you can use them as a sort of transport system, or a sanctuary. Anyways, eventually the shrines that she used to live in and the people who used to worship her were lost through disrepair and death. All she has left, far as I can tell, is the one you found in the basement, and the only person that still has faith in her is Kanako. Even that's more of an obligation than anything."
"An obligation to what?" The more questions he answers, the more I have to ask. It's an awfully tiring theme for the day.
"Her family." He pauses after this, possibly in the hopes that I'll piece it together myself, but in the time it takes for me to start thinking about it he begins speaking again. "Suwako had a daughter when she lost the war, you know. As she became less involved with her, she...I dunno. Forgot, I guess. Maybe not right away, but it's been dozens of generations. The bloodline moved further and further from gods, but Kanako would always make sure to visit the next child and watch over them. Eventually, it landed on Sanae." So what you're saying is...
"...Sanae has the blood of a god?" That would put her in quite the position, given where we are.
"Not a whole hell of a lot, but a drop is enough. That's not important right now, though. What I need you to understand is that the only reason this shrine isn't already covered in blood is because Suwako would rather spend time with the closest thing she has to family for the first time in longer than either of us can really fathom."
"You won't need to tell me twice."
"Good, good. Now, call me crazy, but I'd like to keep it that way as long as possible. Suwako isn't what she used to be, but neither is Kanako. I wouldn't doubt that they'd both be ready and willing to fight if someone's not there to talk them out of it, so we're going to need a game plan. First and foremost, who are you going to take?" He finally breaks his gaze to pour himself a cup of tea, and he sips it slowly as he looks out the window as though to invite me to contemplate the issue.

I can't make a call based on familiarity. I'd say I have a closer relationship to Suwako, but really I've only 'spoken' with her through Sanae's charms. That's about even with the odd conversation I've shared with Kanako. I can't use my friendship with Sanae as leverage, either, as they both love her equally as far as I can tell. Kanako isn't the type to keep a girl like her so close just because of a thousand-year-old contract, I don't think. I would love to stay with Sanae, but then I'm sure Grey would like to see her, too...This might become problematic.

Grey's voice snaps me from my reverie after some time, an empty and washed cup sitting on the table beside him. It would appear we're out of time. "Come to a decision?"

[ ] Kanako.
[ ] Suwako.


I have been in bad places. I have been in good places. I'd rather not turn this into a blog again. Thank you for your support and understanding. I'm not going to update this as often as I would like to, but I'm not going to drop it. Even if I have to scrape together a shitty, rushed ending that still takes a month and a half to reach when it starts, it will come to an end.
[X] Suwako.
Seems like Grey must know Kanako better than we do, even if it is only through 'business'.

>I'm not going to drop it.
This is excellent news. Glad you're feeling better.
I am squealing with joy right now. It is somewhat undignified-looking, but the occasion warrants it. I am so happy to have you back!

>it will come to an end
Not anytime soon, I hope? Please?
...Ah, I should probably vote, too.

[x] Kanako.

I'm feeling up for a little bit of hard modo, what can I say?
[Q] Suwako.

Oh, they'll both be plenty hard. Just in different ways.
.... this is going to get complicated... and will need time to think on this.
[X] Suwako.

Lonely gods unite.
[X] Suwako.
It feels so strange, doing this again. I'm tempted to wait for more votes, but I know better than to think it would make a difference. Expect an update...whenever. I'm going to take it easy.
[x] Kanako.

>>I'm going to take it easy.

That you should~
[X] Suwako.
[x] Suwako

Just intuition here.
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"Suwako. I think she'd be the more ready of the two to take me seriously, and it seems like tracking down Kanako would be much easier and faster for you, especially if she tries to escape a second time."
Grey looks at me long and hard, letting a silent disappointment creep into his features. It has the trained subtlety that only stoic old men know, but it's all the more tragic for it. "Okay. I'll go hunt Kanako down." And just like that, he's gone. A whisper of thanks for his speedy departure escapes me almost unconsciously, though they'll not fall on any ears. If he had stayed any longer, I fear my heart would have broken then and there. When I find my way back to Sanae and Suwako, they seem to have repositioned themselves more comfortably. Particularly Suwako, who has somehow found her way onto Sanae's lap and inside that hooded coat of hers, under which the long sleeves of her furisode drag along the floor. The two share a neck hole, but both face forward and greet me with wide grins as I enter the room.

"Hina!" They call out in unison, then share a giggle. Looking at the glow in her eyes makes it difficult to believe that Suwako even has the capacity for hatred, and seeing it mirrored in Sanae makes it just as difficult to keep from smiling.
"You two look awfully friendly."
Suwako cuts off Sanae this time, whose mouth hangs open for a split second. "Well, we ought to! We've been about this close for, what. Twenty-five years?" No secret who she is, then.
In mock offense, Sanae cranes her neck around to deliver an over-exaggerated look of shock. "Hey, you're not supposed to hint at a lady's age!"
"Hey, tell that to your rack." And in an instant, her ears are met with a pair of rhythmically grinding knuckles which draw forth a laughing scream. "Child abuse! Child abuse! Help me, Hina!"
Shooting me a stony glare, Sanae poorly imitates a gruff man. Her act is betrayed, however, by her jovial tone. "Stay out of this! Go make my dinner, or you're next!" Even knowing just who Suwako is, the youthfulness of her body still makes the scene an odd (and mildly uncomfortable) one to behold.
"You two have the most bizarre sense of humor."
"Hey, you can't take everything seriously. If you know nobody's gonna be offended, why bother being careful?" As Sanae speaks, Suwako nods matter-of-factly. When she stops, her head swivels back in the most awkwardly affectionate nuzzle I've ever seen.
"That's my girl! I was so afraid that when I got out, I'd have to live with some prissy little stick in the mud." Language like that makes me wonder just where she draws the line. Still, I haven't seen reason to worry yet. There's no harm in throwing another character into the act.
Clutching one hand to my chest and letting the back of the other rest against my brow, I look off into the distance in a classic damsel in distress pose. "Oh, woe is me! My pure, sweet Sanae is being corrupted by an evil goddess in the guise of a child! What ever will I do?"
"It's too late now! I have her in my clutches! Mwahahahaha!" Her laugh is carefully pronounced and painfully fake, but it quickly becomes real as Sanae's hands reach around her sides and tickle her mercilessly.
"I'm sorry, who's in whose clutches again?" Laughter that vaguely resembles the phrase "I'm in yours" follows, and while the assault continues for a time, it does eventually settle. "Really, though, she has a point. I try not to talk like that around Kanako; she's pretty old-fashioned."

The mention of Kanako's name has an immediate and very visible effect on Suwako. Her entire face tenses like someone having a wound cauterized as another is cut into them, and judging from Sanae's reaction the tensity extended throughout her body. The color in her cheeks rises, and after a few long seconds she takes a sharp breath in.
"Are you okay?" ...Maybe just a little secret, then.
In response, she breathes out slowly and opens her eyes. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. Kanako, huh?" Her capacity for regaining her posture is admirable, I have to say.
"Yeah, she kind of demands respect. Last time she caught me curse, I felt it in my ankles for a week." My ears perk at the word 'curse', but then so do Suwako's. Is it better or worse when I can catch myself doing that sort of thing?
"I wanted to...well, I wanted a lot of things. Let's not get into that." Good move! Change the subject!
"Oh, come on. You can't start keeping secrets from me now." Damn it. Only now do I realize that Suwako's expression was lost on Sanae, who only caught the back of her head.
With a light sigh, Suwako tenses an eyebrow and bites her lip. If I'm going to step in, it's going to be now.

[ ] She tried to change the subject once already. Trust her.
[ ] Step in, but use some tact. Don't give her a reason to ask more questions.
[ ] This isn't right. She should know.


Have I ever mentioned that I love this artist?
[x] This isn't right. She should know.

Felt it in her ankles for a week? Something's not right indeed, and I wonder if that had anything to do with her depression.
Kanako employs cruel and unusual punishments. Use your imagination.
>The two share a neck hole, but both face forward and greet me with wide grins as I enter the room.
The preceding paragraph made me feel bad, but this made me feel worse. Nobody should be denied the opportunity to view cuteness of this magnitude.

[X] She tried to change the subject once already. Trust her.
- [X] For now. Don't forget what you came here to do.
[X] This isn't right. She should know.
[x] This isn't right. She should know.

[x] This isn't right. She should know.
[x] This isn't right. She should know.


Writing, and (once again) taking it at my own pace. I know I could do more to make up for lost time, but I think the best thing for me would be to just keep going until there's nothing left to go to.
[x] Step in, but use some tact. Don't give her a reason to ask more questions.

She gettin' some Laius all up in this bitch
[ ] This isn't right. She should know.
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...But then, something here doesn't feel right. This whole time, we've been thinking about Kanako and Suwako, keeping secrets and treating Sanae like a child. Given, she's not nearly as old as any of us, but that doesn't mean she's incapable of higher thought. She should make her own decisions.
"Suwako." Her eyes, uneasy as ever, dart over to me. "As much as you might hate to admit it, she's an adult. Let her know."
"What, you know too? Come on, guys, friends don't keep secrets. Except when they're really big secrets. Or each others' secrets. Those you should keep." With each awkward stumble through her train of thought, Sanae's eyes reach for a different corner of the room, never quite settling on anything in particular. It's not helping my point.
In time, Suwako blurts out the first words. "Sanae, I've got to tell you something." And hesitates to continue.
"So I've heard. What's up?" Letting the room fall into silence, she settles her arms around Suwako's stomach in a loose hug.
Though her hesitation is still very strong and very visible, Suwako slowly works her way through the rest of her sentence. Getting out the first words isn't the hardest part, but it makes it even harder to stop afterward. "I'm not really sure where to begin. You should know that I'm more than just a ghost or whatever already." Knowing that interrupting her for even a second would be too much, Sanae's reply comes in the form of an affirming squeeze. "I'm a god, Sanae. I'm a very, very old god, and I've been trapped in that basement for longer than I'd wager you could really fathom. Hell, I've probably been there longer than Hina's been alive." I wouldn't doubt it, either.
With a smile and an almost laughing tone, Sanae goes to reply, "Is tha-"
And is promptly cut off. Finally finding the strength to speak, she continues, "And it was Kanako that put me there, and Kanako that kept me there. We were at war with each other a long, long time ago, and I lost. She took everything I had, and my family with it. It wasn't fair and it still isn't, but if I didn't accept it she would have just kept on killing my people. I don't want to make you hate her – my grudges are my own to bear – but you should know. You're my descendant, Sanae. You and your mother before you, and her father, and his mother, and so on and so forth for thousands of years, and I've been watching all of them just like I've been watching you." Her eyes sink to the floor as she goes, the pain of old memories cutting into her as they resurface. Tears well up in her, somewhere between rage and sadness.
They sit like that in silence, seconds passing like minutes, until Sanae speaks up. Her voice is barely above a whisper, but it doesn't need to be any louder. "Is that all?"
"...Yeah, unless you want details. That's the gist of it."
"Okay." And they sit in silent embrace.


I should be happy to have some time to myself, I think. Sitting out in the hallway, gathering my thoughts, counting the lines in the wood grains; It's all very nice...usually. Presently, though, my restlessness is getting in the way of things somewhat. I want to help Sanae, but this is too personal. I can't just butt in, but I can't just ignore it. Gensokyo can't afford to have warring gods, but how could we prevent it? The dull rub of an opening door catches my attention mid-thought, and the two come walking out of the room hand-in-hand.

Rubbing her eyes swiftly, Sanae greets me with a smile. Her voice comes out rough, but the enthusiasm in it is as honest as ever. "Hey, Hina. Thanks for waiting out here."
Suwako adds, "Yeah, sorry for getting all emotional back there. It's just, you know."
"Yes, actually, I do." Working out the crick in my neck, I rise to my feet, which protest with stiffness. How long I've been waiting, I can't say. That's not important, though. "Are you all right?"
The two share a momentary glance, and reply in unison. "Yeah." Sanae, though, continues. "I'm gonna try and find some clothes that actually fit her, and then talk with Kanako about all this." Sanae's expression deepens somewhat.
"She might be difficult to find, you know."
With the half-glare she wears, her cheery voice carries an unsettling edge. "She can't hide forever. This is her home."
Suwako restrains a grin, resulting in a devious half-smirk centered on a canine tooth. "Not for long, it isn't."
Sanae's head snaps toward her, this time with a scolding tone. "Suwako!"
With an incredulous face, she replies, "Oh, what? You really think she can defend herself?" To drive the point home, she punctuates her question by thrusting her face toward Sanae, raising her eyebrows. I don't think I've ever seen sass so perfectly encompassed in a single gesture.
Resting her free hand on her hip, Sanae frowns at her. "I don't know. Neither of us do. That's why we're going to talk with her."
"Fine, fine. Fine! Fine."
"Fine." So much can be expressed with just one word. With a not-so-silent agreement to let the quarrel end, they walk off to Sanae's room. Neither of them seem to notice that I'm not following.

[ ] I'm supposed to be keeping an eye on them. Maybe I can convince them not to go through with...whatever they're about to go through with.
[ ] I should warn Kanako about what's coming. Maybe if she has time to prepare, she can defuse the situation.
[ ] It's not my place to interfere. This is a family issue.
[!] I'm supposed to be keeping an eye on them. Maybe I can convince them not to go through with...whatever they're about to go through with.
[X] I'm supposed to be keeping an eye on them. Maybe I can convince them not to go through with...whatever they're about to go through with.

>[ ] I should warn Kanako about what's coming. Maybe if she has time to prepare, she can defuse the situation.
I thought Grey was handling this?
Grey is keeping Kanako from starting trouble. Right now, you're the only one that knows what Sanae and Suwako are up to.
And I hate to double post, but I figure I should say: If you have a question about the story and its goings-on, ask it. If it's something I've already tried to explain via subtext, I'll clarify without hesitation, and if it's something I completely failed to mention (not on purpose) then I'll be happy to provide the information. These policies will never change. If however it involves something to come...well, obviously my lips will be a bit tighter.
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[X] I should warn Kanako about what's coming. Maybe if she has time to prepare, she can defuse the situation.

I think we should swap with Grey, or at least let him know what's coming up. He might have some wisdom to impart upon the parties before the situation comes to a head.
[X] I'm supposed to be keeping an eye on them. Maybe I can convince them not to go through with...whatever they're about to go through with.

Although, honestly, it seems to me that what Sanae intends to go through with is a calm, rational discussion, with maybe a little justified anger at years of secret-keeping mixed in. Still, this is a better alternative than running to Kanako to tell her she's going to be first against the wall when the Kero Revolution comes.
[x] I'm supposed to be keeping an eye on them. Maybe I can convince them not to go through with...whatever they're about to go through with.
[X] I should warn Kanako about what's coming. Maybe if she has time to prepare, she can defuse the situation.

Sanae seems pretty resolved about what she wants to do, which is have a rational conversation. Suwako, on the other hand, seems to want to murder Kanako outright, and has no intention of being dissuaded. I don't think there's much we can actually do for them at this point.

We have no idea, however, how Kanako is holding up, or how she's going to react when Sanae and Suwako show up for her. We might be able to prepare her just a bit.
[X] Don't interfere yet, but stay with them.
Sometimes I tell myself I should stop procrastinating, but then I realize how much I've been getting done and wonder if it really counts as procrastination.

Writing, but when I finish is anyone's guess.
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There's a bit of chord that connects the surge protector all my computer related electronics are connected to to the outlet on the wall. Every once in a while, my feet stray over it.
Whenever I run my foot over that bit of chord, I get the same sensation as when you post; if you were to be disconnected, I'd be terribly upset, but I'm so glad you aren't.

Thank you for keeping up with this story. You're awesome.
I don't have a cool anecdote to go with it, but every time someone posts something like this my heart gets all warm and fuzzy. I'm really hoping it isn't a sign of a serious problem, because I can't afford yet another visit to the hospital.

I've said it once, and I'll say it again: No matter how long it takes, no matter whether I end up stuck on a single update for a month, no matter what happens to me or to the site (barring death), I will finish this story. Of course, support like this makes it a lot easier to spend the extra half hour or so I might be able to squeeze on an update instead of some other project. Thank you.
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Which I quickly rectify. The quick patter of my jogging feet grabs Suwako's attention, who greets me with a smile as my pace slows to meet theirs. "You don't have to follow us, you know."
I...shouldn't come right out and say it, just yet. "Well, I..." My mind races for a viable cover, and settles on the first thing that can complete the sentence. "...have been told that my taste in fashion is good. I could also try to arrange something with a tailor, if my travels take me there." Though, with the tengu situation being what it is, that may be a while yet.
"Ooh! Fashion advice from a local! To be honest, I was kind of afraid of what this one," She nods toward Sanae, and is met with a soft bop on the head, "would put me in."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Her tone is playful, but her eyes look down to scan her colorful pajamas.
"Just that you look like a jester. Is that what kids on the outside wear, these days?" Haven't you been watching her the entire time?
"Oh, whatever. You're just jealous because you're not half as stylish as I am." Her stride picks up with her chest, her own assurance seeming to have worked wonders on herself. You have to admire a girl with that kind of confidence.
"I'm sorry, what? Have you seen this thing? If it still fit me, you'd both be drooling over it." ...Even if you don't agree.
"Sounding awfully defensive there." Perhaps in an attempt to mock her, Sanae speeds up, forcing Suwako's feet to scuttle along. I almost feel bad for her when she loses her footing, but she starts giggling when she regains it.

Sanae's room comes up on us quickly, and before either of them can start up with their half-bickering again, Sanae dives for the closet. Buried in the task of searching for clothes, she leaves the two of us to speak in the closest thing to privacy we're likely to get. Suwako seems to understand this as well as I, and her voice comes out just loudly enough to hear above the shuffling from the closet. "I do hope you don't intend to get in my way." She doesn't waste time.
"That depends entirely on the way you plan to take." Her eyes take up a sharp edge that she didn't have even when we were talking about Kanako, but she refuses to look away from the closet.
"You know what that pestilent whore did to me. Sanae is too young, too innocent, and too kind to understand, but there's no way that a few apologies are going to make up for the last two thousand fucking years. Have you even lived that long?" Her words are coated in acid, hissing as she spits them out in turn like a lingering bad taste.
"And there's no way a few days are going to make up for over twenty years of motherhood. If you can't forgive her, then Sanae won't be able to forgive you." I hope beyond hope that my faith isn't misplaced.
"There will be more. In another few generations, she'll be just another forgotten legend." Her heavy gaze finally shifts to me, sending a terrible shiver down my spine. "Just like I was."
"Found it!" In the instant the sound reaches us, her glare transforms seamlessly into a smile that rivals Sanae's, whose head has abandoned the rest of her body in the closet.
Clapping enthusiastically, Suwako's voice changes just as drastically. "Ooh, show me, show me!"
Her torso follows as she speaks, but throughout her introduction a single arm remains extended behind cover. "I'm actually really surprised I found this, you know. It's my favorite dress from when I was young. My mom wanted to throw it away, but I just couldn't let it go even though it was way too small for me. I'm glad I held on to it!"

Finally, she brandishes a small dress covered in swirls of color with a 'Ta-dah!'. Its fabric looks light and crinkled, and the straps expose the arms entirely rather than extending into sleeves like most dresses in Gensokyo. The actual dress extends low enough to preserve her decency, as any good child's clothing should, and it's either thick enough or tight-woven enough that it's completely opaque. Suwako looks less than thrilled at the prospect of wearing it, though. "I, uh...don't suppose you have any alternatives?"
"Nope! You're lucky I have anything at all, you know. The way that furisode drags on the floor, you could really hurt yourself." Sanae's tone is cheery despite her frown and wagging finger. I think she may be forgetting about just who Suwako is. "Now, come over here and try it on! I'm dying to see how you look in it!"

Surprisingly cute, actually. It takes a few shakes to get it to sit just right, but the dress turns out to be not only in perfect condition, but a perfect fit. The fringe sways with ambient air currents around her ankles, but the top section is heavy enough to stay in place. Watching her experimentally hop around the room, Sanae wears a warm, gentle smile, and her eyes glisten like those of old, tired men. "You know, I never thought I'd get to see that thing get any use again. I couldn't bear to give it away, but the thought that it would just sit in a closet forever was kind of sad. Like, it was just so comfortable, it deserved to get worn again. You know what I mean?"
Some time while she was speaking, Suwako had stopped behind me, and chooses now to speak up. "Yeah. You know, you're right actually. I think I like this. Do you mind if I keep it for a while?" Her voice doesn't have a hint of reluctance, though there's a slight tightness in her face.
Sanae walks over to her and kneels silently. Their eyes meet for a moment, and her arms wrap around Suwako slowly. "Of course you can keep it. Keep it as long as you like. Oh!" Just as Suwako goes to return the embrace, Sanae springs to her feet. With her hands on her shoulders, she shouts excitedly, "I almost forgot!"

After another very uncomfortable (though this time blissfully brief) trip to the closet, she emerges with leaping steps and deposits a too-large straw hat on the god's head. "Now you look perfect."
Tipping the front of the hat up with a finger, she raises an eyebrow at us. "You sure the hat's gonna be safe up here? It can get pretty windy."
And is met with a dismissing wave of a hand. "Ah, you'll be fine. Even if Kana doesn't warm up to you, it's technically my hat. She won't let it get lost."
"Right...yeah. So, when do we get to talk it out with her?" The more I see of Suwako's happy act, the more I fear her. The worst part of seeing a lie is not knowing when the truth has changed, and she's the best liar I've ever seen. Come to think of it, I haven't even been able to sense a curse from her or Kanako since I got here...
"Mmm...She's not in the house, I don't think. Have you seen her, Hina?"
"Well, no..."

[ ] Bring up the agreement with Grey.
[ ] Offer to find her.
[ ] Try to keep them at the house.


I feel it would be prudent to remind you all before certain events in this story take place that I am an oldfag, and I am not afraid to BAD END you on account of thoughtlessness. I mentioned at the end of the first day that it was an introduction, and not indicative of the difficulty of future events. It is my hope that you keep this in mind.
[⚠] Offer to find her.
[x] Offer to find her.
[X] Offer to find her.

>I never thought I'd get to see that thing get any use again.
Sanae isn't planning to have any daughters?
>"There will be more. In another few generations, she'll be just another forgotten legend."

Fucking cold.

>I feel it would be prudent to remind you all before certain events in this story take place that I am an oldfag, and I am not afraid to BAD END you on account of thoughtlessness.

I'm suddenly struck with the thought that choosing to intervene against a goddess who has a history of subjugating curse gods was probably not the best idea.

[x] Offer to find her.

Keep them together. Don't give Suwako any room to ruminate.

>Sanae isn't planning to have any daughters?

She doesn't seem to be aging, being 25 but looking in her teens. At the moment she's doing her all to establish her shrine, building a family is probably pretty far from the front of her mind.
What would be the problem with bringing up the agreement with Gray?
>I'm suddenly struck with the thought that choosing to intervene against a goddess who has a history of subjugating curse gods was probably not the best idea.


Still, Hina is a different breed entirely. The Mishaguji were on the supply side of cursery, not the business end.

It depends on how ruthless Suwako is. She already threatened you about acting against her, and with her long history of bearing silent witness inside the shrine, she's going to think that the tengu are allied with Kanako (which they are).

Luckily you have two things going for you: 1) Because she likely knows everything that has gone on in the shrine, she should know you're closer to Sanae than you are to Kanako, and 2) you helped free her from millennia of imprisonment.

I think the best thing to do at this point would be arranging a meeting with someone who can talk to her on more even ground, namely Tenma, but we need to talk to Grey first to do that. Right now he's going to be with Kanako.
Good point... not sure if Gray has any idea how things really are.
[ ] Offer to find her.

We need to talk to a third party asap.
Man, you warn people about a few bad ends and discussion skyrockets. I'm going to call it here, with the usual stipulation of "I'll update whenever." It shouldn't fight me too hard, though, as I've got some pretty solid plans from here to the end of the Moriya excursion. Maybe tomorrow? Saturday?

I know it's been a while, but Sanae most definitely does not look like a teenager. She's aged well, insofar as one in their late 20s has aged, but she's certainly aged.

...Okay, it's been more than a while. I direct your attention to >>14738 re:Tenma. Also, Suwako's been watching over Sanae - but only Sanae. She's seen only as much as the charms have seen.
>Maybe tomorrow? Saturday?

Does that mean she's perfectly "ripe"?
>I know it's been a while, but Sanae most definitely does not look like a teenager. She's aged well, insofar as one in their late 20s has aged, but she's certainly aged.

Well, shit. The colorful pajamas and stuffed platypus threw me off.

>...Okay, it's been more than a while. I direct your attention to >>14738 re:Tenma.

OK, right. Tenma's missing & presumed dead. That means no likely outside help capable of arbitrating on an equal level and a big power vacuum for you either of the elder gods to vie for.

>Also, Suwako's been watching over Sanae - but only Sanae. She's seen only as much as the charms have seen.

She might not even know we are a curse goddess, then. I noted her ears perked at the mention of the word; there's nothing to prevent her from assuming we're the bad kind of curse deity if she finds out who we are. Hopefully Sanae will say some nice things while we run to find Grey & Kanako.

But the works both ways: She can't know the political turmoil of the Mountain as it is, or gauge Kanako's clout. If we could paint Grey as some sort of official representative of the tengu, we might have something. She also can't know our lack of pull on the mountain; with her history, she's likely to be taking any curse god seriously.
Trying to use our curse-god-hood might make her think "Subject to Dominate"
>Trying to use our curse-god-hood might make her think "Subject to Dominate"

Yes, but that would be preferable to being a victim of deicide. The old, 'You're too useful to my enemy to be allowed to live.' But if Suwako thinks she can easily control you (whether she actually can or not), you may appear less of a threat.

Of course, hopefully you can end up looking like a truly neutral party here, such that games like that will be unnecessary.
>I know it's been a while, but Sanae most definitely does not look like a teenager. She's aged well, insofar as one in their late 20s has aged, but she's certainly aged.

I'm surprised Kanako hasn't been pushing her to marry then. Christmas cake and biological clocks and all.
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"But I could take a look around for you. I'm sure you two would like some more private time." And frankly, I'd like to see what Kanako has to say about all this without having to talk around Suwako.
Who seems intent not to let me. Her jovial tone does nothing to calm me; seeing her true intentions as clearly as I have stains everything she says. "You're too kind, Hina. Come on, let's search together. We all have business with her, right?"
Her eager trot toward the door is quickly stopped by Sanae, who wraps her arms around her waist and picks her up with a little toss, drawing out a small shriek. "Oh, let her be nice. She's been cooped up in this house all day, some fresh air would do her good." Yes! Distract her!
"And some exercise would do you good." This time it's Sanae's turn to shriek as small, pinching hands find their way to her colorful behind. "Haven't you been complaining about--" Suwako's mouth is covered before the color reaches Sanae's face, which wears an unusually strained smile.
"You're right, Hina. I would like to share some words with this little molester. Do you mind?" Even if I hadn't just offered, I know Sanae well enough not to deny her when she wants privacy. The girl is positively frightening when she wants to be.
"Not at all. I assume I can find you in the house when I've got Kanako?"
"You assume right." Without extending the exchange needlessly any longer, I let myself out of the room and say a silent prayer to whoever will listen. No one in this house is safe today.


Shockingly, goddesses are difficult to find when they don't want to be found. Who would have thought? She did say she was going "far, far away", but I doubt that she'd completely leave her priestess in the hands of her (supposed) mortal enemy. A quick check around the grounds of the shrine showed nothing but silence, and looking down over the face of the mountain was no more productive. It does give an interesting view of things, though; the sharp contrast in landscapes becomes even sharper when you don't need to walk more than a few feet to see the difference. A forest thins out into grasslands, through which a great river runs. Along the other side is a rocky expanse that seems almost completely lifeless, but closer inspection shows animals small and large running and playing along the uneven ground, worlds different from the abundant plant life of the other side but equally active. A few kappa have set up a small camp a ways down, and seem to be operating some strange devices while checking over their shoulders regularly, likely afraid of errant tengu. Another few steps, and the rocks smooth out into another, sparser woodland, obscured by a gently rolling but impossibly dense fog. Life is teeming throughout the mountain, but somehow it still feels...off. Almost like I'm looking at it through...

Of course. Why didn't I think of it sooner? Push. Push. Focus! The mountain's energy feeds into me, and the world blurs around me once again. Sitting on the line between heaven and earth, with the entirety of Gensokyo at my fingertips, the feeling is unmistakably unique. The sky and the earth meet one another and become one, the life below me and the life above me become streaks of feeling that flutter like ribbons and wrap around me, shoot through me, drive me further and further, and for one glorious instant everything feels right...Except for that.

Found you.

With a tilt and a push, the energy behind the spin works its way out of me. It takes longer when I'm not forcing it for the sake of an innocent bystander, but it feels more natural, like a dimming glow rather than the violent flicker of a candle as it's blown out. It's an indescribably nice feeling, but just as dangerous. I probably shouldn't do it again today. Just as my eyes settle back on the physical world, I break through a patch of cloud with a shiver. It's thick, but Grey's coat is thicker. I try to call out but the moisture in the air steals my breath, and all that comes out is a rasp. Apparently it's enough.

"Let me guess. There's trouble on the way." His hand finds its way to mine and grips hard. It's more a comfort than anything, and lets me keep my bearings in this impenetrable mist.
Trying to gather my thoughts into anything succinct is more difficult than I'd like. Perhaps it's simply that I've had too much to take in over the last few hours, or perhaps it's the urgency that clouds them. "Trouble is an understatement. Suwako is determined to kill Kanako, and there's no convincing her otherwise. Sanae's not willing to take any action without talking to her first, but Suwako's just using that as a way of getting close enough to confront her." With each word, Grey's features darken.
"Maybe I've got it coming." From nowhere and everywhere, Kanako's voice rings out disdainfully.
"Don't say that!" For the first time since I've met him, honest anger shoots through Grey. All I can make from it is a squeeze of my wrist that feels like it could very well snap it off, until he regains his composure and relaxes it. "You've done nothing wrong!"
"Did you forget the part where I imprisoned an innocent? Where I killed off hundreds of thousands of people without hesitation? Or where I took away everything a girl I supposedly loved had ever known for my own purposes, without asking her or even letting her know? Death is too good for me." I've heard this too many times. It's not exactly uncommon; sometimes the last person to forgive you is yourself.
"May I interject?" The two stay silent for a moment, which I can take as a yes. "I will not claim to know the details of your life, nor will I claim to know your motivations, but did all of this not happen literal ages ago? Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes they can overshadow all the good that we've done. You've simply had an extraordinarily long life in which to make them. Please don't think so lowly of yourself." It's almost painfully cliché, but some clichés are such because they're true.

Another uncomfortably long silence passes before she speaks again. "You're right." Well! That was painless. "You don't know anything about me. Have we ever even spoken for this long before?" Or not. "Do you want to know why I did what I did? Do you really want to hate me?" Slowly, the mist around us clears, and her voice becomes more centralized as her form solidifies. She doesn't wear any of the ornaments that separate her from mortals. Her back doesn't tower above us adorned with rope, and her neck isn't weighted with holy artifacts. All she has is a simple pair of woolen pants that grip her thighs but flow in the wind at her ankles and a light cardigan that's knit full of holes, showing the loose-fitting shirt underneath it. Her hair has been hastily tied into a ponytail but is otherwise unkempt, and the more clear her eyes become, the more tired and sore they seem.

"Kanako, don't." Grey's voice is deep and authoritative, but she continues unhindered with her arms crossed under her heavy chest.
Her words come slowly and purposefully at first, gradually growing stronger until her voice begins wavering and her tone becomes frantic. "I did it because I was afraid. Every single thing that I have ever done was motivated by abject terror. When I surrendered to the Yamato, it was for fear. When I agreed to fight Suwako in the first place, it was for fear that they would make me. When I melted all those beautiful weapons that should have had their place in museums around the world, it was for fear that I would fail. When I told my men to keep fighting even after her surrender, it was for fear that they would rise up against me, and when I took Suwako's land, faith, and family, it was for fear!" Her last words crack as she's unable to hold back any longer, and they come out as shouting cries. I want to reassure her, but the passion with which she speaks brings about a tightness in me that demands silence. With a choke she lets herself breathe for a long moment before continuing. "I didn't want to die. I knew what I was doing every time, and I couldn't stop myself. The thought of doing what I knew I should kept me up at night, shivering with terror."

Stopping for another brief second, she looks directly at my eyes. The cloud has completely cleared by now, and she seems to be on the verge of tears. "Have you ever stopped to think about what terror really is? People say it all the time, but have you ever really felt it enough to know? Seconds turn to hours. You can't get a grip on your own thoughts. Your body moves against your will. Not just your legs and arms, or a little sweat." She floats toward me slowly, until she's close enough to touch me. Her voice drops to a whisper, and water starts pooling in her eyes. From this close, I can see the veins in them like cobwebs; too fine to see from a distance, but thick enough to notice something's wrong. "Your eyes shut closed so tightly you think they'll never open again, burning with backed up tears. Your heart starts to pump, and pump, and pump, and it hurts so much that you can't stand it but it won't stop. Your nerves set aflame, until even the most comforting touch feels like a dagger. Your throat clutches shut, and you start to feel like you're choking to death until you realize that you're actually gasping for breath desperately. And all the while, you know in the back of your mind that everything that's happening is just making the situation worse. And there's nothing you can do about it. Have you ever felt that kind of hopelessness?"

Finally, she turns away from me, and I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding. "No...No, I haven't." I hope I never do.
Her head falls, gazing at nothing, and she lets out a single bitter laugh. Whether it's at me or herself, I can't tell. It may very well be both. "That's because true terror is reserved for the utterly pathetic. I can't even blame it on my old self, or being young and stupid. I didn't have to keep Suwako locked up like that. Death would have been a kinder fate, but I was too goddamn scared that I wouldn't be accepted like she was. I used her like a tool, tried to keep her happy with glimpses of what I'd taken away, like if she kept working for me long enough I'd end up giving it all back." She turns back to me suddenly, with a smile on her tear-stained face. "You know what the worst part is, though? The part that really makes me feel like a fucking worm?"
Grey, who had been quietly furrowing his brow and letting her rant, chooses now to speak up. "Kanako."
"I wanted to. I really wanted to." Her eyes take on a pleading expression, and fresh teardrops roll unrestrained down her cheeks.
Either ignoring Grey or just unable to hear him over her own quivering wails, she continues. "The whole time, I kept telling myself, 'You'll give it all back right after the next miracle! You've got enough faith to sustain yourself!'"
"But I had fallen in love with her family. What were just a few kids who I'd held on to for status's sake became like real sons and daughters to me. For a thousand years, I've been keeping her in that hell not because I was afraid of her or because I hated her, but because I was afraid to lose my children!"

A loud clap echos through the air as Grey's mighty hand meets her face, and before another word can be spoken his arms wrap around her, tucking her head into his chest without resistance. Through all his anger, his own voice is as steady as ever. "It doesn't matter. None of it matters. Right now, you have a daughter who you have raised from birth to be the wonderful person that she is. Maybe you brought her here, and maybe she doesn't have much left, but she has you. Would you take that away from her, too?" In silent response, her arms slowly work around him. Deeming it enough, he continues. "Now, I told you I would take responsibility for all of this. I know you're afraid. You have a right to be. But you need to get a grip on yourself, and we need to make things right."

The face that emerges from Grey's chest belongs to a completely different woman. The straight and imposingly tall back, the strong and steady step, and the piercing eyes that have come to demand respect from the whole of Gensokyo approach me with an air of control even greater than her usual. "I'm sorry you had to see that outburst, Lady Kagiyama. It was a shameful display."
The change is drastic enough to stun me for a moment; even when I find my voice it comes out quiet and awkward. "Goodness, no. Think nothing of it." ...What does that even mean? Ready to forget that it had ever happened, Kanako begins to make her way back toward the shrine. Even with her appearance as uncharacteristically sloppy as it is, her overpowering confidence makes the idea of following her almost frightening.
Grey seems to pick up on my hesitation, and hangs back for a moment. Through a sigh and a laugh, he says quite simply, "That woman is going to be the death of me."
"I didn't know you were so close. That speech of yours was positively dripping with endearment." Unfazed, he shoots me a sideways glance and a smirk.
"Allow an old man his affections." And off he goes. When I catch up, the two have already reached the doorway to the shrine. It occurs to me that I never actually learned just what they plan to do to 'make things right.'

Kanako's hand rests on the handle, still hesitating despite her earlier determination. "I'm still not really sure what I'm to do about all this." Apparently, neither did she.

>If there was ever a time to influence things, it's now. Write-in.


Jesus. Got my money's worth with those italics.

Okay we can do this.

Some how we need to make Suwako be okay with something less then Kanako's death.

Honestly I think for Kanako's sake alone, ignoring Suwako, it should be be a real sacrafice. She needs to take the high road.

However her death is not an acceptable outcome. If Sanae didn't exist I might not be so opposed, but she does.

I think we might need to call some favors, do some bluffing.

Do we know of Okuu? Has she been granted the third leg yet?

Maybe call in the Yama or Eintei?

Come one brain storming time we need ideas even bad ones.
learn to spell check man.

I think an more idea plan of action is somehow keep Suwako at bay while Sanae and Kanako talk. I think Kanako's pouring of her heart would convince Suwako about how much guilt Kanako has over everything. Once that happens, I think things would be on the way of resolving themselves.
Kanako may lose that confidence just as soon as she got it back. I think we need to reaffirm the mutual bonds between Sanae and Kanako, to show the latter that Sanae really is a daughter to her, more so than she is to Suwako.

It's going to come to blows, no matter what. However, Kanako has been gaining power over all this time, while Suwako has been barely holding on, and she is without her weapons. From face value, there's no way Kanako can lose.

Except if she loses her confidence. Like say if Suwako takes Sanae hostage, or kills Grey. I wouldn't put either of those things beyond Suwako. We can't do much either. If only we knew more about Hina's capabilities.

But this is Gensokyo. The outcome of spell card duels is law.

[x] You will relay a challenge from Kanako to Suwako to a fight using spell card rules. To entice her, the winner gets to decide what to do with the loser.
[x] As a ploy to separate Suwako from Sanae first by challenging the former to a practice duel, with the cover of instructing her how a spell card battle is conducted. Grey will take Sanae to Kanako while you fight.
- [x] If Suwako voices suspicions over your motives or is disinclined to fight you, admit that you are a curse god, that you know of her history with the Mishaguji, and that you want to see her power first hand.
- [x] If that's not enough, make it a real spell card battle, one with consequences. If you win, she will make an oath not to involve herself in your affairs. If you lose, you'll make an oath of fealty to the Moriya shrine.
[x] When Kanako is done talking with Sanae and you've exhausted yourself, watch the battle between Suwako and Kanako on the sidelines with Grey and Sanae. If things go badly for Kanako, encourage Sanae to step in with her own challenge for Suwako.

If you lose and have to make an oath, it's fine. You're not planning on letting her knock over Kanako and Sanae and take control anytime soon. As for letting on you're a curse goddess, if you're planning on spending any good amount of time at the shrine, then it's going to come out eventually. Best to do it now in the context of a non-lethal danmaku battle.

There three possible good ways this could end: Kanako wins and surprises Suwako by showing mercy, letting her stay free. Suwako wins, but Sanae intercedes and wins, establishing her primacy over the divine household. Suwako wins both battles, but the strength of the bond between Sanae and Kanako is made clear, and so she relents on her revenge.

Plenty of opportunity for drama, exposition, and conflict resolution.
[x] You will relay a challenge from Kanako to Suwako to a fight using spell card rules. To entice her, the winner gets to decide what to do with the loser.
[x] As a ploy to separate Suwako from Sanae first by challenging the former to a practice duel, with the cover of instructing her how a spell card battle is conducted. Grey will take Sanae to Kanako while you fight.
- [x] If Suwako voices suspicions over your motives or is disinclined to fight you, admit that you are a curse god, that you know of her history with the Mishaguji, and that you want to see her power first hand.
- [x] If that's not enough, make it a real spell card battle, one with consequences. If you win, she will make an oath not to involve herself in your affairs. If you lose, you'll make an oath of fealty to the Moriya shrine.
[x] When Kanako is done talking with Sanae and you've exhausted yourself, watch the battle between Suwako and Kanako on the sidelines with Grey and Sanae. If things go badly for Kanako, encourage Sanae to step in with her own challenge for Suwako.
Not sure if it's a good idea to gamble when someone who subdued curse gods are involved.

Sanae is Hina's friend. Even in the worst case, she proves she's invested more into her relationship with the girl than this person who is her ancestor and supposed guardian. That is why she's bothering to do this right? She doesn't owe Kanako or the tengu a thing.

And if Kanako dies, then all bets are off, and Hina will probably be ruthlessly suppressed anyway, or exiled from the Mountain when Suwako learns the truth about her nature.

For these and other reasons, unless you want her to just sit on the side-lines and hope for the best, Hina's going to have to gamble. Assuming things don't turn out catastrophically, showing some spit in front of Suwako, Kanako, and Grey--for the right reasons--is only going to improve Hina's standing on the Mountain afterward.

Gods know she could use some respect, the way she was accosted by that pack of tengu earlier.
They're Tengu; there's only very few things they'd show real respect to; mainly Yukari and the Oni (if it's not fear)
I feel like I should just accept the two votes as a bandwagon, at this point, but instead I'm going to realize that I was meaning to write a short story and never managed to finish it. Between that and various responsibilities I'll have to take care of over the course of the next few days, I think I'm going to be a little while on the next update.

You can totally keep voting if you want, though. For this one, I'm going to take the best-supported plan, rather than the most popular. Even a single vote can win if you can convince me why it should.
These are good points.

I feel like voting again just to make the writer think theres more people..I really really like this story.
You know, Hina seems rather weak, for a deity. Hell, does anyone at the shrine even know she is a goddess? It's never been touched on in the story, I think, and maybe it is about time she flexed the divine power. Just because we are dealing with more powerful gods doesn't mean they won't see us as more of an equal should we do so.

I don't mean confrontationally, or anything, but just, you know, making our divine nature clear and trying to push for mediation before anything rash happens. As a divinity, our words should carry more weight, yeah?

If they know, already, just ignore this, but my two cents. I'm not sure how this would translate into a vote though. If Someone more creative could help, that'd be great.
>You know, Hina seems rather weak, for a deity. Hell, does anyone at the shrine even know she is a goddess? It's never been touched on in the story, I think, and maybe it is about time she flexed the divine power. Just because we are dealing with more powerful gods doesn't mean they won't see us as more of an equal should we do so.

I think she's just not very powerful, and it's easy to see why. As a god, like Suwako or Kanako, her existence should be contingent on faith. But she makes no effort to acquire worshipers, either by contract, proselytizing, or conquest as the greater goddess have at various points, or cowing populations into worship as the Mishaguji presumably did. Even youkai have to engage in ritual duels and 'spiritings away' in order to maintain the level of superstition in the human population that supports their own existence. Hina may just survive off of the belief in curses themselves (and is then really more a personification then than a goddess) or by fear or respect that arises merely association with the curses she removes.

It's clear Hina doesn't take herself as very powerful. Or at least, she's not in the habit of using her power to get herself out of sorry situations. The subtle and not-so-subtle threats to her person when she was captured would likely make someone like Kanako's blood boil. So, either Hina is not very powerful or she's not very proud. I'm betting it's both. But not having any grand aims toward the accumulation of power, respect, worshipers, and resources doesn't necessitate she has no ambitions. She solves the problems that she can fix, sometimes (as evidenced here) to considerable risk to her own person, and receives nothing in return (except possibly scorn), and she'll probably keep doing that until there's nothing left in the world to sustain her. In fact, if she's getting rid of curses, instead of building and maintaining the means to survive, like Kanako has been doing for eons, Hina could actually be hastening toward her end, all in the name of providing a service to the greater community.

In any event, Kanako who is supposed to be living a service-oriented existence and has admitted to being ruled her entire by fear, there could be a lot to Hina that she might find admirable.

Now if you want Hina get powerful, Kanako had the right idea in moving to Gensokyo: Instead of relying on the faith of a great many weaker humans, she would collect the faith of a smaller number of much stronger tengu. So, if Hina collects the faith of a smaller number of much, much stronger goddesses... well, I think you can draw your own conclusions.

>Just because we are dealing with more powerful gods doesn't mean they won't see us as more of an equal should we do so.

You seem to forget they both have a history of conquering weaker gods and enslaving them in the most brutal manners, not the least of which included holding their descendents hostage. No, I'd expect them to be very, very conscious of their different level of power between them and Hina. That's why I suggest danmaku. Great equalizer and all.

Except that the 'history of enslaving lesser gods' was all HIGHLY circumstantial. They didn't just randomly assault other divinities.

Kanako: Needed faith, feared being forced to face her, and lots more fear in there somewhere. Served the Yamato.

Suwako: The Mishaguji were incredibly malevolent. She had people to protect, and thereby gain faith from.

Hina would only be revealing her own godhood, to show there's another deity present, and try to use that fact to reason with them, if I understand the post.

I agree with that anon. Plus, I think using tricks and 'ploys' against Suwako can only end poorly.
...So this is what having a megapost in your thread feels like. Please don't leave the site, fair Anon. Your words do a great service to us all.
>I agree with that anon. Plus, I think using tricks and 'ploys' against Suwako can only end poorly.

Do you have a better strategy?
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I'm not even sure what to vote or say or do or even how to contribute meaningfully.

All I can do is post this.
I've been thinking about this for a while, and I've decided that now's a good time to say it. My life is going to be getting busier before it gets easier, so it's going to be very nearly impossible to maintain anything resembling communication and still come up with enough excuses for two people within the next two weeks.

I'm actually Imperial Attack Spaceturtle, of Deeply Ingrained Greed over in /underground/. The idea was one I'd had for ages, but never found the time or motivation to write. When I decided to try coming back, the thought of continuing CFA made me gag and the idea was right there, so I made a persona and called it a day.

In the coming months, not only will my workdays become long and hellish, but other personal projects - both those who others depend on me to do and those which I've undertaken for my own quality of life - will take more and more of what little time and energy I can muster. I'll try to keep updating with something resembling regularity, but it's certainly not going to be as often as I like it to, especially if I'm running two separate stories.

Just thought y'all ought to know.
Great to know, actually. Take your time, do what you need to do, and come back to the story when you're good and ready. I think folks around these parts are quite accustomed to waiting a while for updates.
I'm sorry.

I had free time this evening which I intended to use on writing. Really, I did! But then I saw that "...Bang." finished, and was compelled to read. I actually had to start from a few posts in; I could tell at that point I would want to read it all in one shot. If, somehow, any of my readers haven't already done so, go read it. Then go read The Game, and whatever else Fell writes because god damn. He is something else.

I should have another day off on Friday. Whether it's spent actually getting business taken care of or writing depends on what happens throughout the week, but the length of time it's been since I last updated is already making me itchy so I'm going to try to get at least something done before then.
>I'm going to try to get at least something done before then.

I think it would be just a tad hypocritical for annon to complain about a writefag reading.

So we'll do it anyway.
Okay, uh. Man.

So I miiiight be a little bit late. I had a job interview this morning at a machining place, which went extremely well as far as I can tell. Problem is, I haven't touched a lathe in two years. I'm gonna be spending much of my free time going over my books from school to make sure I actually keep this job.

The bad part is, I've gotta do it on top of everything I've already got on my plate. The good part about all this is that if it works out, I won't be miserable at work, I'll be making real people money, and my schedule won't rape me in the ass.

I know I said I didn't want this to become a blog, but I've always held a policy of information and communication with my readers.
fair enough.
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She takes one long, steady breath, her still hand neither letting its grip loosen nor moving to open the door. None of us speak in the time it takes or for the following seconds, but no one urges her on. Only she can decide she's ready for what's to come. Though, suggestions are welcome, right? "Would you consider yourself above accepting an idea for how to go about it?"
Her head turns to face me with an embarrassed smile. It seems an odd time to be embarrassed, but it's a rather odd time in general. "Any idea is better than nothing. What have you got?"
"Why don't you just play danmaku? It is the conflict resolution method of choice in Gensokyo, and even if your particular conflict is more dire than most the law still stands." It's a wonder that neither of us thought of it to begin with. True, it's mostly used to settle minor disputes or just played like the game that it is, but even the biggest events usually end in a match or three.
"Because," Grey interjects harshly, "There's nothing in the rules that says you have to accept a challenge. I don't think Suwako would be too keen on a nonlethal method." Hey, it was just an idea. There's no need to use that tone.
"Well, how about we put Suwako aside for the moment. You're afraid–" and Kanako cringes just slightly at the word, "–of losing Sanae, right? I'll try to separate the two of them, and you can talk things out with her. If what I have in mind works, you might even get that duel." The 'might' leaves my throat a bit heavier than the rest. I hope not to think of the alternative.
Her eyes regard me with a certain tenseness before melting into a hopeful smile. "I guess I'll just have to trust you." And the handle turns with a click.


The inside of the shrine is no different from when I'd left it, but the occasion makes the air feel sick and stagnant. The pleasant feelings that greeted me when I first walked through the halls have been tinged with it; the sinking floorboards are no longer light and bouncy, instead extending past their welcome and sending uneasiness up my legs, and the gentle tingle of life is now almost painful. The sensation is only worsened as I catch sight of the two, even as adorable as they are trading a maze of string back and forth deftly.

No time like the present. "I hate to interrupt, but I have a message to deliver."
Sanae replies happily, "Oh, it won't be an interruption." Suwako's eyes stay focused on the strings intertwined between her fingers, carefully studying their movements as Sanae takes them with a swift stab-spread motion.
And only now does it occur to me that I never actually thought of what to say. Why do I always forget the most important part of the plan? "I managed to find Kanako, but she's reticent to face you just yet."
Her eyes shoot from the strings to me, her concentration seamlessly blending into fury, and in the same second they turn back.
"And I suppose she's got some kind of ass-backwards reasoning behind it." Rather than being angry about it, she seems more...tired. Her words are monotone and half-mumbling, even as she mimics Sanae's motion from before, resulting in another outstandingly complex pattern between her fingers.
"Well, you see. She wants to challenge you to a danmaku duel, to be witnessed by all those presently at the shrine." Please work, please work, please work...
Suwako pauses as Sanae takes the strings from her again, silently contemplating either the next pattern or her response. "Then why doesn't she? I'm right here." Please work, please work...
"She doesn't think that it would be a fair match, and would like to give you a chance to practice first." And the strings fall as she rises to her feet, shooting me a glare unhindered by Sanae's presence (or anything, for that matter.) "Where is she." ...Fuck.
"Suwako! Calm down!" Thankfully, Sanae acts just as fast, her hand gripping Suwako's shoulder with enough force to make me wince. "Just play along. You know how fast danmaku goes."
And with a spin, her grip is shaken off effortlessly. For the first time, she takes Suwako's glare head-on. "I don't care! We were on even footing, even when she cheated! This is an insult!"
If this child has enough of a spine to stand her ground against Suwako, then why can't I? "This is a gesture of good will, actually. Kanako was very apologetic, and wanted to make everything good and official in a fair fight. No more cheating, no more revenge. Whoever wins does whatever they like with the loser." After the first word forced open my lips, the torrent of ideas bursts through, each on the heels of the last.

The vortex of color that forms her dress seems to darken underneath her face, which seems so sharp that a hard look would cut metal. For a long moment, she stares me down. Her readiness to hide behind a smile seems to have worn with her patience, and even five more minutes would be too much to ask. At the very least, she's not getting violent. Finally, her eyelids drop and her muscles relax. "Fine. Sure! Okay. Great. Let's just dodge some bullets for a while, and then my entire life will be better forever. Sanae, dear?" She turns to Sanae with open arms, wide eyes and a barely visible smile. "I'm sorry I took that tone with you. You don't deserve it. I'm just...on edge."
The girl regards her carefully for a moment before softly letting her arms fall around Suwako's back. "It's okay. Just don't go too far without letting her make her case, all right?"
"All right, all right." She lets go after one final squeeze, and the last of the lingering hatred in her shakes off. As good an actor as she is, it's abundantly clear that her love for Sanae is genuine. "So where is she, then? If I have to take a practice round, I'd rather get it over with." Not quite yet, actually.
"Actually, you'll be sparring with me. Would you join me outside?"


Above the already-freezing shrine, the wind feels sharp enough to split bones despite being soft enough not to make a sound. This is going to be my first match in a long time...I can only hope that she's as out of practice as I am. Though, if she's never actually done danmaku..."Do you know how to play already, or will I need to instruct you?" I hardly even need to raise my voice to be heard.
"Oh, I'm fine. Even got a few spellcards thought up, though I'm gonna have to wing 'em until I can get them written down." The idea of 'winging' a spellcard is a frightening one. How good is she supposed to be...? "Actually, hey. You wanna make this more interesting? That way we can both take the match more seriously."
As in, gambling? Well, I've never been much one for anything more than sport, but any time I can buy. I'm not sure how Grey managed to sneak away with Sanae before we even got outside, but they need a lot more time than they've had. "More interesting how?"
"Well, neither of us really need money. How about..." Her voice trails off as she brings a hand to her mouth, furrowing her brow in thought. Just as soon as she stops speaking altogether, though, the hand jets forth with a snap of the fingers to reveal a smile. "A divine blessing. On you, an object, a place, whatever. With the costumes and the rituals and all of that." Certainly better than the vow of fealty I was ready to suggest. "It's a huge pain in the ass, but you know something like that is going to be an asset."
"Sounds like a lovely idea. Would you like to start, or shall I?"
"May as well jump right into it. I'll start."

[ ] Put my all into winning. That blessing is too good a chance to pass up.
[ ] Just dodge. Every second counts, and I plan to get as many as possible.
[ ] I haven't actually played in a while, myself. Can I trust myself to let every pattern reach fruition?


I'd love to say "And now back to your regularly scheduled programming," but it's still Tech Week for the play I'm working on. I'm going to have significantly more writing time starting next week, at which point I'm going to make a goal of either an update or progress on a short story at least every other day.

This Suwako is creepy.

Well done!

[x] Just dodge. Every second counts, and I plan to get as many as possible.

Focus on timing out her spell cards. You want to wear her out, not win. Now if this works, you'll be able to call in plenty of 'divine blessings' from Kanako afterward.
[x] Put my all into winning. That blessing is too good a chance to pass up.

But...what do give in return, anyway? A divine blessing from ourselves?

And let's not try to weight the fight. Didn't we just say 'no tricks, no cheating' ? Let's hold true to that.
[ ] Put my all into winning. That blessing is too good a chance to pass up.
[x] Put my all into winning. That blessing is too good a chance to pass up.
[x] Wait, ask what exactly I would be giving her if I lost.

This really sounds to me like she's trying to trick us here, but if everything is ok after asking the...

[x] Put my all into winning. That blessing is too good a chance to pass up.
...I could have sworn I responded to this. Yes, same conditions. You're a god, too, you know.
[x] Put my all into winning. That blessing is too good a chance to pass up.
[x] Put my all into winning. That blessing is too good a chance to pass up.

Go, Hina, go!
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Jump right into it, indeed. Her legs spring forth from an imagined wall, sending her whistling through the air as a group of loose rocks begin to compress themselves together in her hands. From them, the molten shade of the rapidly heating and cooling earth tears forward into a long shaft as it is fed, eventually branching into an ornamental blade. By the time it reaches me, the steel still glows orange and distorts the air around it.

Which is to say, "By the time I dodge it." Melee is technically allowed in danmaku, but it's not often that it's used as anything more than an opening attack and even less often that someone falls for it. Spinning to face her, my first volley flies from my fingertips like errant drops of water, spiraling lightly before settling on their path. It's not much, but it also takes little more effort to produce than a hard breath. Just as well, really; it's more of a quick getaway than anything. Of course, none of that matters when you don't know where your opponent is. The most warning I get is a gust of wind before her enormous weapon comes tearing by a hair's width from my face, only to stop the moment Suwako's face reaches mine, wearing a haughty smirk.

Another spin and all the sparks that come with it send her jumping back to make distance, but it's already clear that she has no intention of taking this match seriously. Does she even know that I'm a god as well? I may not be a major one, but a god is still a god. Hell, if I win this I'll actually get her blessing. Imagine that; me winning a match...Stranger things have happened, I suppose. And it is the entire point of danmaku, isn't it? The great equalizer and all that. I suppose it's worth an honest shot. Taking that thought and running with it like I'm a five year old with scissors, the world spins around me, gaining an ever-brightening glow with each rotation.

One day, I will tire of this sensation. On that day, the flare of life will have left me.

Suwako tries to disappear again, but it's too late for all that. I don't need to see her any more. Another dash, this time from an angle. Circle back, through cloud cover. Another weapon, this time six circular blades. She's gaining speed, but no momentum; it's like she doesn't realize why melee is so rare. Even six fast, ricocheting blades are only six blades. Even a beginner's pattern should have more to it than you could count in an afternoon. Though it is quite impressive that she can still make it through the thickening swarm while attacking like that. I was certain she'd be digging her own grave, as it were.

"Fine, fine. I get it already." She stops some distance away, withdrawing her weaponry but not allowing it to crumble; if that's even something she can do. It seems quite solid from here. Setting the rings around her arms, she holds the spear in front of her and pulls. The same way energy flows into me, the stream splits off at the edge and starts filling the air around her weapon. With a mighty crack, it pours outward in great blue waves, shooting toward me rather sluggishly for all the theatrics. Not much one for subtlety, this girl.

Fortunately, once energy is released, it's just energy. When the beam collides, it simply runs alongside my fingertips until it ceases to be. When the second comes, it stays for a moment longer, and the third begins to shatter and spread into the clusters that I've already built. The gentle blue lights mingle with the sharp sparks of red that surround me, occasionally colliding and merging into a vague purple shard. The volleys stop, but I continue thickening my shell. In time, the mass of lights begin to spiral with me, each with a path all its own. They meet at times, but none are terribly violent and they quickly split apart again.

"You're not allowed to steal bullets! Are you? That doesn't seem fair, somehow." Why, it's perfectly fair!
"If anything, you shouldn't be allowed to use real weapons as anything more than a focus." Those things could really hurt someone, you know. Your opponents don't all have regenerative properties.
"Oh, you mean like this?" The spear falls to the ground, cutting into the earth below her to the base of its blade and standing straight up. In the mean time the rings around her shoulders have fallen to her hands, and she throws them into the air one by one, where they stay.

Until they shatter. The pieces that remain are miniscule, but still large enough to see as they float in formation around her like...Well, like nothing I've seen yet. They soon begin glowing as they did when they were being formed, spinning faster and faster as the burning grows more intense. In a moment's time, they simply look like streams of fire and leave bright flashes from the split-seconds that they catch my passing eyes.

And they approach.


So there's no way I'm going to maintain interest in writing this scene for the rest of the night, which means there's no way it's gonna be done any time soon. I have however neglected to update for a while, so here's what I've got. Expect a part 2 either tomorrow or...not. Thursday and Friday are kind of booked, what with Thanksgiving.
spin~ spin~
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For as beautiful as that picture is, all I can do is stare at the eyes on Suwako's hat. Her silly hat is as much a blessing as it is a curse.
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Somehow, I get the feeling that these will be a touch more potent. The rings don't close in with any kind of urgency; their pace could be compared to that of a fisherman reluctantly ambling home after a poor catch. First just the one, followed by another, and another still; only then does the first reach me. As it passes the fringes of my little swarm, though, I'm given much reason to be cautious. Everything that passes it isn't ignored or scattered or even shattered. It's absorbed.

Such a fast learner.

With each mote of energy that the rings take into themselves, their pace quickens considerably. In the last second before the first reaches me, its speed triples, making my dodge more a miracle than a display of skill. Without giving me time to think, it curves back like a boomerang, gathering more energy in the process. These...may become problematic. There's nothing I can do about what I've already laid down, but before the next pass my fingers have closed as tightly as my arms.

Some people think spinning is an easy thing to do, but it actually requires a great deal of effort and control. To be at all functional, you have to keep a very steady pace. At any given point, you need to know the amount and effects of centrifugal force on your body, and how to manipulate them. An amateur spinnerista, for example, would never be able to build up this much speed, let alone maintain it while being shot skyward as a dodging maneuver.

Classically, the shards crash into one another. Unfortunately, they also explode. It's a small wonder to behold, really: First the gathered energy sort of pooled together, having collided. The angles at which the shards were spinning and the imperfections within them apparently made the energies quite unstable, so when both the energy and imperfections were tripled, crossed, and otherwise compounded, it expanded a short ways before completely losing its composition and covering the area in a blinding flash.

One which Suwako is very, very clearly affected by, judging from the flow of her energies.

Preparing what I can in such a short time, I make my way toward her in the span of the flash, dodging shrapnel all the while. The moment I'm behind her, my limbs fly outward in their own explosion. There's no more slow, subtle movements; even the steady pace of my spinning is offset by the sudden fling, slowing me to a more casual speed. From it, though, comes a direct barrage that makes my previous screen look like the flicker of a dying candle.

"Ngah! Fuck!" Or maybe it's just that she explodes into lazily floating (if beautifully glowing) frogs, from which I am all too happy to flee.
"You know, you're only allowed to do the whole body double thing once per fight." Otherwise, people would be doing it constantly. A single duel would last days. Though, some already do, technically. No technique is more feared than the dreaded 「Tea Fumes」, or even 「Dream Battle」. Although she offers no words, a small group of the frogs turn to face me and croak in unison.

The sound resonates among the lot of them, sending them into a fit of croaks loud enough to drown out my own thoughts. One of the nearer ones lets out an odd-sounding croak, and another climbs from its back, splitting away with a shake of its legs. The picture would be grotesque if they weren't so featureless. The others quickly follow suit, and the sound grows louder all the while, finally peaking with another explosion. Another explosion? What is with this woman and explosions?

One of the innermost frogs shatters violently, sending pieces of itself flying. Still formed, in fact, as limbs. Thankfully, she was not so thorough as to emulate its intestines. When each section touches another frog in the group, it too explodes with a loud croak, sending a dangerous chain reaction through the group which quickly reaches me.

[ ] Focus on dodging. She's not played with small hits yet; these aren't likely to be any different.
[ ] Focus on finding Suwako. She took advantage of the lull to hide, but she hasn't relented yet without being attacked.
[ ] Focus on...(Write-in.)


Phew. 1585 words, counting the choices which totally count. Now, I did call out of work today because sickness, but I'm going to try to update DIG with the time I have due to the holiday lull. If you've got votes for me tonight, I may or may not be able to wrap up this fight later on.
[x] Focus on finding Suwako. She took advantage of the lull to hide, but she hasn't relented yet without being attacked.
[x] Focus on finding Suwako. She took advantage of the lull to hide, but she hasn't relented yet without being attacked.
[X] Focus on finding Suwako. She took advantage of the lull to hide, but she hasn't relented yet without being attacked.
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[x] Focus on dodging. She's not played with small hits yet; these aren't likely to be any different.

>One day, I will tire of this sensation. On that day, the flare of life will have left me.
...I think I told you before that I loved you and your writing.
I just wanted to make sure you knew that I still meant it.
Now that the holiday weekend (which is to say the coughing, hacking, and alcohol abuse) is over, I can get back to writing. I highly doubt I'll be finished before tomorrow, but I just wanted to say that >>18292 very nearly made me cry. Maybe it was just the Thanksgiving mood (which I get very into,) but it hit me pretty hard. In the good way.

Incidentally, if anyone can give me a comprehensive explanation of how to properly combine parentheses with punctuation, it's an issue that's been bugging me long enough to convince me to ask about it. I generally throw them in a heap and hope for the best, at present.
>a comprehensive explanation of how to properly combine parentheses with punctuation
The general idea is that you should be able to delete the parenthetical clause, parentheses and all, and have the sentence still make grammatical sense. This means that punctuation doesn't ever get 'sucked into' parentheses like it for quotation marks (under some conventions of usage) -- if the punctuation is part of the phrase outside the parentheses, it stays on the outside, and vice versa. So correct would be:

>Maybe it was just the Thanksgiving mood (which I get very into), but it hit me pretty hard.

If it looks weird to you, rest assured you're not alone, but it is, if nothing else, a fairly straightforward rule.
Ah, the weekly status update...The self-loathing side of me wants to say I've been horrible and lazy, but the positive side wants to say that those two hours I spent on that one paragraph (and the other two on the other one) are two hours I would have had to spend whether I worked on it every day or not, and it only really looks like I haven't been putting in any effort. (Never mind that I could have squeezed out significantly more time, had I put in a little more.)

Either way, the update isn't going to be as long as you deserve for waiting this long. Hopefully nothing comes up tonight.
>status update

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Or rather, reaches the space I was in. Sudden attacks aren't exactly a new experience in danmaku; most players who've made it past their third duel already jump to the side instead of flinching. Of course, reflexes can only take you so far, and within the second the frogs have reached me once again. Spinning away would be lovely, but it would also take time I don't have to get up to speed. There's a certain cruel irony in this, but such is life.

Thinly attached by glowing skin and flapping in the wind as they fall, an arm and a leg fall close enough to my face to steal the focus from my eyes and the flow from my thoughts. Just as well; melancholy has never suited me. What's more important at this point is finding where she's hidden and putting a stop to this swarm of frogs, even if it means having to find my way through it. Of course, to do either would require me to spin. Cruel ironies, indeed. Not that it stops me from trying, but it's just so much harder to feel my way around when the world isn't doing the work for mArm!

Or when I'm being accosted by exploding amphibians. Two in the shrine, one watching...Grey. How didHead. Leg. he even get out here without Arm. you know, I should just Leg. Leg. Arm. Head. Indiscernible chunk. accept it at this point. He's everywhere. Head. Too many close calls. Arm. Head. Head. Leg. Have to hurry up. I just can't make anything out like this. Too much energy in too many places, and none of it makes any sense! It's almost like she's got a strategy.

One that works outstandingly well, at that. By now the cloud has worked itself overhead, cutting off any chance at escape through the sky. Not only have I slowly pushed myself toward the ground, but the rain of frogs (whole or otherwise) sends ripples through the earth as easily as it would through water, which continue unabated up my legs despite my slight hover. Searching aside, even dodging is difficult with the constant rocking of the earth. A glance at the quickly approaching lake, though, reveals a clue too dangerous not to investigate and hastens it all the more.

The surface of the water lay perfectly still, and from underneath, mingling with the cacophonous croaks and bursts, comes the faintest hint that something may be there. No sooner do I detect it than does the rest of the world disappear around me. The constant thumps that have been shaking my concentration, the explosions, the croaks, and my own scattered thoughts fade into the background. Even if she isn't there, there's nowhere else I can go at this point. Better to go down having tried. Luckily, though, even that thought is short-lived. The moment my eyes break the surface of the lake, they meet those of a stunned Suwako hiding at its bed. In the same instant, almost without my willing it, a volley of lasers finds its way to her.

And in the same instant the world is spinning, this time without me.

An impact brings me to a halt, and a pressure at my back says I've lost almost as loudly as my turning stomach, creaking joints, and distant thoughts. Even my eyes have to struggle to hold on to their focus. After a moment, though, the pressure gives way to a single point the size of a young foot, and a small voice that sounds like it's coming from the other end of an ocean reaches my ears.

"Looks like I win." Looks like it.
"You-" A coughing fit overtakes me momentarily, more from the rising pain in my chest than any obstruction. So much for losing gracefully. "What was that?"
"If you couldn't tell yourself, why should I? It won't work on you next time if I tell you about it." ...It's a valid point, but somehow she seems less mature for having made it.
Grey seems happy to come to my aid, though, pulling me to my feet with a single strong tug. "It was a geyser. I'm surprised there's any water left in the lake at all, the way you blew it out."
"Spoilsport." Much less mature.
"Either way, I sincerely hope that there is not a 'next time.'" At the very least, not one under these circumstances. I never was much one for danmaku; You can throw around words like "Nonlethal Conflict Resolution" all you like, but brutality is brutality whatever form it takes.
"Hina!" Why hello, Sanae. I suppose I could stay on the ground a few moments longer, if you insist. "What was that sound? Did you win? Oh my god are you okay?"
"An explosion, no, maybe." The easiest way to deal with children is to be honest and to the point.
Of course, you can also just ignore them, as Suwako sees fit to do. "Kanako! Just the girl I was looking for. I accept your terms. Now let's get this over with." Kanako shoots me a worried glance, but rises into the air without protest.

Sanae's eyes follow the two, and the first volleys begin to fly.

[ ] Earthbound
[ ] Enlightened Ones


This should not have been nearly this difficult to write. Then again, I did end up waiting until after the Christmas party to finish it - bad idea.
[ ] Earthbound
The battle will go on as it will. The people on the ground though..
[x] Earthbound
We can't help either combatant, but maybe there's something to be done for the spectators. Also, was it possible for Hina to have won?
>This should not have been nearly this difficult to write.

It turned out well, though.

[x] Earthbound

Watching from either the ground or the air, I'm guessing.
Yes, in fact. Had she focused on dodging, she wouldn't have been trapped into a corner, instead taking advantage of cloud cover to not only draw out Suwako but stage her own ambush - a successful one, this time.

In a sense. This is a perspective vote; either will end in a vote of action, and either will be a bit of an exercise for me. To be honest, I have both planned and was going to simply write it as is, but trying to blend the two was frustrating me more than I was willing to put up with after having worked on it for so long already.
[x] Earthbound
Shit, this is hard.
[x] Earthbound
If this ends in tears you're going to get such a talking to.
[x] Enlightened Ones

...Damn. I was really hoping Hina would win.
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Nearly every danmaku match carries with it an eerie silence, which settles and chokes like a thick fog in the air. First, of course, is the act of flying: From before the match even begins, footsteps are removed from the equation. There's always a bit of banter, but as tensions heighten you'll be lucky to remember how to speak at all. Projectiles, too, whatever form they may take, don't make any particular noise except for effect. It's not often that someone in a serious match cares enough to add that little flair. As one of the combatants, missing it completely is entirely normal; between the unparalleled focus that the game requires and the nature of it – there's a bit more subtlety to silence than there is to, say, a stray gorilla – the last thing on your mind is the quiet.

As a member of the audience, though, all of this is as striking as the lump in one's throat that solidifies alongside that silence. My eyes naturally draw themselves to the match, but my heart tears desperately away from the two as a meek voice rises only just barely above the breeze. "You know, I wish they would just talk to me."
My response takes a moment, and even then arrives in hushed tones. "I'm sorry?" At least I can force myself to look at her. If I must not intervene, then perhaps it's better that I simply not watch.
She, however, continues speaking without shifting her gaze. "Those two. Kanako tried, sort of, but she just ended up going in circles." So much for that iron will.
"What was she talking about?" Her eyes shift over to me for a moment, but are quickly drawn back to the lights flooding the mountain.
"It was a private conversation. We talked about private things." ...I suppose I have to respect that, though I thought we were beyond keeping secrets at this point. "It's kind of sad, though. When she came in, it felt like she had already given up." Oh god damn it, Kanako!
"I certainly hope that's changed by now."
Even her comparatively energetic affirmation is stained with a certain lethargy. She's as tired of this as all of us are. "Oh, yeah. Absolutely. It's just...This whole time, you know?"
"No. No, I'm afraid I don't." Finally, her eyes drop to the ground as a subtle, bitter smile spreads on her lips. With a long blink, she turns to look me in the eyes.
"It's not really a specific sort of feeling. She's been hiding it from me, she's been letting it eat at her, she's been putting off addressing it even though it took us the space of an afternoon, and I hate to say it but I feel like she's assumed that I wouldn't still love her for knowing all this time. Not only that, but she's tried to keep up this ideal in my head, you know? Eventually, every child has to find out that their parents aren't gods..." Before I have time to correct her, she catches herself and adds, "Figuratively."
"You've been doing a great deal of thinking, haven't you?" She lets out a short, sharp laugh. If I didn't know her so well, I'd say it was forced.
"I've kind of had to." Point. The conversation dies for a long second, feeding back into the silence. My head begins to turn back to the fight, but Sanae continues, dragging my attention back to her. "But yeah. Aren't I the whole reason they're fighting? I'm old enough to take seriously. You'd think they could maybe stop trying to snake around me and just..." Her words stall for a moment, deepening her already serious expression, before she lets out what breath was left in a heavy sigh. "I dunno. Treat me like a person instead of a thing." Well that's just wrong.
"I don't think they have been." ...You don't have to glare like that. "I mean, everything Kanako's done, she's done for you, and Suwako's been watching over you for your entire life."
The sadness in her eyes is more striking than all the anger I've seen from her. "Please, Hina. Did you think Kanako wouldn't tell me about her motivations? For that matter, did you think that I really couldn't hear you and Suwako just because I was in the closet? You can hear people walking from across the shrine. Maybe they love me, but you can still love a thing. What I want is respect." I don't think I've ever seen this side of Sanae. Maybe she needs to show it off a little more often.
Hearing her say it, I can't help but realize that I've been just as much a part of the problem as I have the solution. Then again, she hasn't done much about it, for being so dissatisfied. "You know, though, respect has to be earned. How long were you planning on keeping up the childish front?"
"There's a difference between being playful and being naïve. I was hoping the people who know me best would see through it." Her eyes pierce me, and even though the conversation dies once again, neither of us dare look away from each other.

Until, of course, the warring gods make their presence known. Kanako is the first to crash between our feet, bouncing in a heap before crashing into a wall of the shrine, and Suwako follows in the next breath. In her hand is another spear, which scrapes lightly against my leg as she rushes past, more out of neglect than malice. Before pain even registers, blood begins to flow down to my feet.

This isn't danmaku any more, and there's a lot more than interfering to worry about.

[ ] I'm sorry, Suwako.
[ ] I'm sorry, Kanako.
[ ] I'm sorry, Sanae.


Incidentally, this is the choice that made me want to continue writing this story back in October. Do give it some thought.
>Do give it some thought.
Well, I was going to pick the last one, but now I'm scared to. Dammit.
Not even a bit of a hint?
Okay what do the options mean?
My first guess is that "I'm sorry, Su/Ka" is attacking Suwako/Kanako, but I am not sure..in a straight up fight I don't think hina has a chance.

If we were closer to the shrine I would say we should fetch Reimu. (the spell card system is still in effect right?) However I don't think that would work here.

We are doing this for Sanae. Kanako has made her bed, but putting Sanae init is very much not okay.

I want to chose "I'm sorry, Sanae." but does that mean pushing her to get more involved, or does it mean running, or some how hurting both gods?

I will come back to this in the morning.
I've been doing a good amount of thinking on this. I think I've got an idea.
>I'm sorry, Suwako.
Siding with Kanako means Suwako loses everything--again--and loses the same way--in an unfair fight. First of all, she doesn't deserve that. Second, she's been making some pretty serious threats, against Hina and otherwise. She's dangerous--and she's escalating the match into something worse. I don't see this going well.
>I'm sorry, Kanako.
Bad, bad idea. Taking Suwako's side is probably a death sentence for Kanako. Suwako wants blood, and she doesn't care if she's killing Sanae's 'mother' in the process. Kanako's been shown to be quite remorseful--whatever she did, she also deserves better. And again, Suwako is escalating things.
>I'm sorry, Sanae.
Middle ground. I think this is the way to go. Either disabling the both of them while they're distracted... or maybe even attacking her to get the gods to stop. It would fit the other two options theme-wise and make sense for something to apologize to Sanae for. Plus, look at Hina's whole job--doing harm to herself to help others. She might be killing a friendship to save this shrine.
So on that note:
[x] I'm sorry, Sanae.
[x] I'm sorry, Sanae.
Yeah, I think its our best choice.

I;ll go with this, but if you are right I get the feeling that the next update is going to be hard to read ;_;

[x] I'm sorry, Sanae.
[x] I'm sorry, Sanae.
>The sadness in her eyes is more striking than all the anger I've seen from her. "Please, Hina. Did you think Kanako wouldn't tell me about her motivations? For that matter, did you think that I really couldn't hear you and Suwako just because I was in the closet? You can hear people walking from across the shrine. Maybe they love me, but you can still love a thing. What I want is respect." I don't think I've ever seen this side of Sanae. Maybe she needs to show it off a little more often.

I'm confident now that Sanae can come into her own without the gods looking over her shoulder. This might be a chance for her to put away the stuffed animals and childish mannerisms and truly grow up, maybe being forced to operate the shrine on her own or a while.

[x] I'm sorry, Sanae.

This could be attacking both the gods in order to turn their violent intentions away from each other, though that is probable death for Hina. This could be waiting for one to strike down the other and then sealing or smiting the weakened victor. This could be knocking Sanae out so that she doesn't interfere with the fight. Hina was just injured by Suwako's spear, and Kanako bowled through the walls of her own own shrine; if Sanae gets in the way, she could be killed accidentally, or even used as a hostage by Suwako.

In any case, Sanae will probably hate Hina for it, if not for harming her loved ones, then because she's acting as if she don't trust Sanae to handle 'her' problems, right after she was just scolded for it. If it does result in death for one or more of the other gods, then it'd be easy to color this as a power grab for the lesser goddess, eliminating the competition while the tengu worshiper-base is still undergoing restructuring. But Hina is used to being hated, and it's a small fee for Sanae's safety.

Excellent update BTW. I didn't expect this from Sanae.
So hey, you know that whole moving thing? Yeah, that's happening. Updates whenever I finish packing/moving/unpacking/partying/taking a forty hour nap.
[x] I'm sorry, Sanae.

It's been a while since I've been terrified about voting. Thanks.
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...I couldn't. Even considering it makes my stomach lurch and my throat stiffen. You deserve this least of all, dear...but then, the thought of bearing silent witness to the cold-blooded murder of a sincerely remorseful woman – a rarer and more remarkable trait than innocence itself – inspires an even deeper disgust. My hands reach out almost instinctively, snapping around Sanae's throat and dragging her close with a wretch.

I suppose I could.

Her scream, though little more than a choke, is strong enough to stop both gods dead. Suwako stands a long stride's length from a still-dazed Kanako, who staggers to her feet from the site of impact. The spear lands in Suwako's waiting hand in position to be launched through Kanako and, likely, the better part of the shrine. Both sets of eyes, as intense and furious as their first meeting, glare intently at the single thin stream of blood pooling on the edge of my pocket knife, still too small to break its own grasp on the metal.

Before I begin, I whisper into a whimpering Sanae's ear, "I'm sorry. I need to use you one more time." Her reply is a short whine and a weakening tremble, though I dare not look her in the face. Even imagining her crying breaks my heart; if I actually saw it I'd never be able to go through with this. Steeling my face and hoping that my resolve will follow suit of its own accord, my voice bellows at the two with a force that shocks even me. "There will be peace in this house!"

The two share a sideways glance, though one of Suwako's eyes stays trained on me. Judging from the curses that immediately bear down on me, she's waiting for a chance. Just as well; they serve as a grim reminder of how dangerous this is for everyone. If I can at least drag them away from their duel first, they might still be convinced to talk it out with the only person they've been fighting over in the first place. If they can't see that with a knife to her throat, then there's no point in saving them.

"Now you two are going to stop, drop any weapons you might be carrying, walk inside, and talk this all over. Nobody is going to get hurt, and if you come to the conclusion that this fight needs to continue we are going to arrange another, proper duel, this time overseen by the Hakurei. Am I understood?" So it would seem! Wonderful. My grip on Sanae lets only just loose enough to allow her to speak, but she stays silent as we follow the two into the shrine. The pace they set is slow and careful, either from each waiting for the other to back stab them or simply from the rush of holding tenuous command over two individuals who are very capable of ending me, but in time the four of us find ourselves seated around a quaint table. Sanae, of course, stays in front of me. Our eyes shift among each other, thin and hardened enough to give a frighteningly sinister tinge to every motion.

Suwako is the first to speak, and clearly the more irritated of the two. "So how exactly do you intend to talk me out of killing you?" With one eye focused on Kanako and one on myself, the statement sends chills through my body, seizing each muscle and joint as though the mere words were themselves working toward my end.
I can't let it slow me down, though. Tightening my grip on the knife, I shoot her what I hope is a convincing glare. "Do you mean to tell me that you're ready to risk the last of your descendants? There's no religion to head if there's no one left who knows your name, you know. Not everything can be solved by killing people." Suwako seems ready with a counter-point, but she's stopped with open mouth and pointed finger by a quiet sound from Kanako, barely a breath but spoken with clarity and intent.
"Plenty of things can be made worse by not killing them, though." Not helping. Suwako's hands slam onto the table, sending shakes through both Kanako and the walls, but she stops herself from standing when Sanae's pained gasp reaches her. Every tear I put in her flesh is another in my conscience, but my options are few and none are any better. Suwako's voice hisses through clenched teeth, simmering with hatred. "I'm beginning to see that."
"Kanako, I hope I don't need to tell you that our current warped peace is not a reason to get brave. You've got more to lose in Sanae than Suwako does." She doesn't need to be told, but something about her supposedly frightened nature makes me think that she hasn't quite accepted the direness of the situation. The sudden sinking of her posture and the creeping furrow in her brow make me think otherwise. "Now, Kanako. Have you actually made your feelings on the subject clear to Suwako, at any point?" I suppose if this is going to happen, I'll have to start it.
Her despondent look changes quickly to one of realization, and again to humiliation. "...No." About what I expected.
"And Suwako. Have you ever considered that death isn't quite a fair punishment?"
"Oh, of course. I've always had a policy of being merciful to my enemies." Not helping!
Finding some small strength, Kanako interjects, "Does that mean you would rather that I have killed you the countless times I considered simply destroying the burden I was bearing?" Could you really not have chosen any other phrase?
Almost instantly, rage flares up again in Suwako's eyes, but she (thankfully) restrains her body. "The burden you were bearing?! You had a home! You had a body! You had a family! You had a fucking life! I got to watch everything I loved grow and die without ever being able to touch them, and that was all that I got! I'd rather you have just fucking ended it!" As she speaks, her voice raises to a cracking shout, tears finally breaking away from her eyelids with the final words.
"What about me?" Sanae finally finds her voice, weakly choking out a few short words. Damn it, now I know she's crying. Her words come slowly and carefully at first, but as they go they pick up momentum, and emotion with it. "If you'd died, then we never would have met. It hasn't been long yet, but what about the rest of my life? What about my kids? Your life doesn't just end, as long as someone still believes in you, right? Maybe you had to just watch for a while, but now that you finally have it, are you really going to say that you still don't care? You don't want the rest of your family to know who you are, instead of just what people say you are?" Her voice never raises throughout the speech, but her body begins to quake against me wildly.
The angry shiver in Suwako fades slightly, and her expression softens as she grasps for an answer. "That...that's..."
Sanae continues unhindered, her voice gaining confidence as a member of the discussion instead of just its subject. I suppose I'm somewhat to blame for that little misconception... "And Kanako. You were so ready to die for so long for what you did, but you didn't think for a second to talk about it? You didn't think that maybe, just maybe, you could be forgiven? It's not like you really could have opposed the Yamato to begin with. For that matter," And her usual energy comes back to her, intense (though not necessarily angry) and focused on Suwako, "How did you not pick up on that? Maybe there are greater forces for you to hate than a woman who kept your lineage strong instead of killing it off because she loved them too much."

Sanae's emotions pour through every word, quietly softening their rage as they listen on. "And both of you – both of you – had a chance to talk to me by yourself for as long as you wanted, and not once did anyone ask how I felt. Not once did you even think to tell me anything private or personal, even though you can open up so easily to someone you barely know!" I know the fault doesn't lie with me, but I still cringe slightly at my mention. She pauses for a moment to let her words fester, the silence in the room a stark contrast to her passionate shouts. Before anyone can form a reply she quietly begins again, clearly holding something back. "Am I not worth talking to? Would I not understand? Am I not a human being?" Her voice trails off, barely getting out the last words before her head hangs down, focusing past the floor. After a few silent seconds, she whispers to no one, "I guess I am, aren't I..."

The next thing that occurs to me is how hard her back is, and how very fragile my nose is. Through the daze of her attack and the haze of worry that comes with it, all I can make out are her voice and the chill that steel leaves in the palm that lets it go. "What the fuck do I matter, then, right? No matter how old I get or how close I get to you, I'm just a foolish little creature that you keep around to milk for affection, right? What do I know about how families are supposed to work?!" By the time I catch a glimpse of the glinting metal held with quivering hands against her own throat, it's already being torn away by a gloved hand. The effort is met with piercing shrieks and a wild flailing, but as the futility of trying to overpower a tengu sinks in, she degrades into a sobbing mess. The two--three gods watch on silently, too stunned to act at all.

Each passing second that I don't die is a relief.

Sanae's muffled voice cries out from Grey's chest, though whatever words she says are too distorted for me to understand. Whispering consolations into her ear, his eyes pass quickly among the remaining three. When they meet Kanako's, they carry pleading. At Suwako, incredulity. And at me...There's no word to describe it, really. Perhaps he has a way of turning what should be a simple unamused stare into something more, but it's clear from one glance that he knows what I've done, why I've done it, and that he doesn't consider it justified in the least. Thinking on his relationship with the girl, I can see why.

The first to act is Kanako, who rises on unsure feet. Each step she takes toward the two puts another crack in her resolve, tears flowing from her eyes as she reaches out to touch her daughter. Her face wants to say so much, but she gets as far as choking out "Sanae..." before the girl turns to face her with reddened eyes. The last of Kanako's defenses falls as her daughter clutches desperately for her, who holds her against her breast and weeps softly into her hair as her loving hands stroke her back.

In turn, the last of Suwako's rage fades, and she too rises to her feet. Watching the two with a pained expression, she speaks so softly that it's hard to believe that she can be heard. "...I'm sorry. I'm...I'm not over it, by a long shot. But you're right. Everything you said, about me and Kanako and...everything. Just. I'm sorry. I'll...let myself out."
"No, you won't." Grey, now freed from Sanae's clutches, grabs for Suwako's arm. Only now does it occur to me to ask where he came from (and where he left to, for that matter) but now doesn't quite seem the time for all that. "I can't trust that you won't plot something. You've been hiding enough secrets." Kanako glares at Grey above Sanae's head, showing the same control over herself that she displayed above the shrine but not pausing her comfort for the girl.
"Let her go. We're dropping all of this. Suwako," Her expression softens, and is met with a sad, silent stare. "There are no words for how sorry I am, and I understand if you choose not to forgive me. Whatever you choose to do from here, though, please. Stay in her life."
After taking a slow, deep breath, and letting it out just as slowly, Suwako forces her lips up despite her sad eyes. "Okay." And with nothing else, she continues walking.

"Hey." Her shuffling steps are paused by Sanae, who's gotten enough of a grip on herself to look away. Her eyes are still bloodshot, and her cheeks still glisten with tears, but a thin smile shines past it. Part of me is astounded at the happiness that she can give me from such a simple gesture, but another hopes never to be given occasion for such a gift again. Grabbing Suwako's hand, she continues, pausing occasionally to sniff deeply. "We're all a little beat up right now. It's been a long day. Let's have dinner together, like a real family." Only then does Suwako smile, and only then does it seem genuine. She really is cute, when she's not psychotic. Her response comes in the form of a warm hug, her cheek squeezing against Sanae as she, too, lets tears loose. Just as I begin to wonder where I'll be staying, having discarded any trust she might have held in me, her eyes shoot to me as she finishes with a wink, "All of us."

...At least I held out while it was important.


I sincerely hope that this update was as hard for you to read as it was for me to write.
Oh man ow, yeah pain all around.

Hina has some interesting ideas in crises management.
Hoh geez, that was intense there.
that ended better than I thought it would...
In all my thinking, I didn't even account for Grey. We need to apologize to him, too. And I bet he's gonna have the worst to say.
So intense it melted my face off.

I have to wear a cape and a mysterious metal mask now.

Thanks a lot.

As someone said to me a while ago, I now say to you:

Good fucking show, sir.
Ah, geez.

I dpn't have an excuse for letting this go a week again, but I do have a reason. The next scene will be a much needed change of pace, and to write it I'm going to need to not only get into the mood of things (or it'll just come out all wrong) but have some uninterrupted time. Often times, my pace will see an update finished after six or seven hours of backtracking over my own words, spread across days. Between getting myself accustomed to living on my own and the full-time job, my time has been...somewhat stretched.

I hope that this weekend gives me enough to move on with this story; the more I think of it, the more I want to write it.
>I hope that this weekend gives me enough to move on with this story; the more I think of it, the more I want to write it.

You still out there NARH?
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I did say "even if I get stuck for a month", right?

Can't see shit, cap'n.

Well, notebooks usually don't have a spoiler tag, so this should make up for it.

Also, not NARH.
My, but time does fly.

There's absolutely no excuse for my having taken this long; plenty of other authors have picked up the pen within days of (and even during the process of) moving, and I'm sure they had to get just as accustomed to living alone. What I need is to get used to working even though my two best friends are constantly within two rooms. The frequency with which I've come home intending to write and instead spent the entire evening kung-fu fighting is staggering, and somehow having no (well...spotty) internet access has actually only served to decrease my productivity. Who'd have thought?

I have, however, continued thinking about this story almost constantly. It's probably no condolence after the slew of apologies, "breaks", and lies that I've spewed at you all, but I am making steady (if excruciatingly slow) progress on the next update as well as further plans. I expect to either finish or get damn close the next time I have a chance to sit down and really get into writing, but I literally have not been home more than an hour a day for the last week, and that time's mostly spent on chores.

I'll honestly be surprised if anyone's still reading, but you lot have surprised me before.

We'll be here when you're ready. Earlier rather than later would be nice though, obviously.

Two months is nothing compared to a few lazy niggers on this site. Bleh.
Thanks for the status update. I'd wager there are a lot more people than you think patiently waiting the next part of your story.
So upon transferring everything to my computer I realized that this update is fucking enormous. It's still not done, but I figure you guys deserve at least something to tide you over. No image because I'm posting from a friend's computer.


Not one among us leaves the room with dry eyes, but between Sanae's grip on her "parents"' hands and the brisk pace with which she leads us, the procession seems more energetic than even before our day began. I still don't dare glance at Grey, though; his ire is palpable as is. As we pass through the hallways and past the windows, the setting sun gives way to a crackling fire whose dancing flames lick at the air with a warmth that seems to bring even our shadows to life. When we reach the room adjacent to the kitchen, Sanae practically pirouettes with each seat she offers us, one after the other. Though it feels almost unreal, her cheer bleeds to – rather...blankets over our party, and within minutes conversation flows across the table to the rhythm of the flickering light. Whether it's genuine doesn't matter at this point; the change in atmosphere is as necessary as it is welcome.

Of course, that's just what I can gather from the kitchen. Leaving any of them alone still seems less than prudent, and handling cutlery isn't a task anyone would willingly take after all that. Besides, cooking is the least I can do for all the trouble I've helped to cause. Maybe I'm just trying to escape the glares for a minute and justifying it to myself, but if that's the case there's no need to continue down that line of thought. Peppers! Would a spicy dish be too much? Maybe if it was offset with cheese...or no, I need to think more refined than that. There are elder gods dining here! Then again, even gods need comfort food once in a while. Maybe I'm overthinking this. Maybe I should just get a pile of ingredients and throw it all in a stew. Maybe I should figure out what to do with these spiral...things, before debating what to cook. Where do they even get these?

"Having trouble finding things?" Just the person I was trying to avoid. Smile nice, Hina. Nothing's wrong tonight.
Turning to face Sanae with what I can only hope looks like a real smile, I gesture sheepishly to the subject of my musings. "Not so much finding them as identifying them." If nothing else, it gets a stifled laugh out of her. Thank goodness she can still laugh at all.
Rubbing her neck with a crooked, apologetic smile, her voice leaks embarrassment. "Yeah, I probably should have taught you to use the oven earlier." In the instant she finishes speaking, though, she nearly
leaps at me with excited eyes, sending me a few startled steps back. "Why not make dinner together? I feel so weird," and she emphasizes the word with a cringe, "Having someone else cook for me in my own house. What are you making?"
The thought of letting her near a knife sends my face contorting wildly enough (and only marginally on purpose) to crack her composure, leaving her in a snorting, giggling mess. At least someone's amused by it. My words come out a moment before hers, and no sooner do I start speaking than do I regret beginning. "Not to undermine your judgment, but what exactly makes you think I would let you handle--"
"Hina." As quickly as her spirits lightened, they fall again. As much as I want to insist that she relax, the sternness in her eyes demands silence. "Can we just not do this? I mean, I know it needs to be addressed, but...at least not right now." For just a moment, her attention goes to the dining room, where Suwako delivers a punch line that sends the other two into fits of laughter. I suppose a good atmosphere after a day like this is more valuable than gold...it would be remiss of me to drag it back down. Without awaiting a reply, she grabs an armful of vegetables and deftly spins a large knife between her fingers. "Besides, you're probably more uncomfortable than I am. Turn one of those knobs to 7?"
"Gladly." She doesn't need me to tell her that she's right.


The meal that she orchestrates goes beyond anything that I would have expected from her; between the extra pair of hands and the sheer speed with which this stove cooks we hardly have time to exchange words other than commands by the time our table is filled, though we keep going until the cabinets are depleted of serving dishes just to be sure. Naturally, it takes all the trays we can find and three trips to get it all over, but by the time the table is filled it's already begun to empty itself themselves onto plates. When we finally sit down, it's Kanako's turn to cap off a joke.

"So the bartender says, 'That's no duck!'" Whose body I missed, naturally. Grey and Suwako oblige her with soft chuckles, but Sanae nearly loses herself in another giggling fit, making me wonder whether I would have laughed.
When she manages to get a hold of herself, Sanae jumps into conversation head-first in classic form. "You'd think you'd get tired of telling that one after the four hundredth time." Well, that explains some things.
Kanako replies with an indignant face (except the smile, of course), "You'd think it'd stop making you laugh! You don't even have to hear anything but the punch line at this point."
With a playful elbow, Grey interjects, "So just how old [/i]is[/i] that one? I could swear my grandpa used to tell it to me." Kanako shoots him a half-glare, but before she can retort Suwako uses the distraction to snatch a morsel from her plate.
She chews thoughtfully for a moment (though from the sly smile forming on her face, it's hard not to think that she's just milking Kanako's irritation) before casually commenting, "Three of 'em, by my count. Maaaybe it's time to get some new material."
"Oh, shut up. The last two thought it was funny too, you know." This time the indignation is real, but I can't help but laugh a bit at it.

A silence falls over the room, though Sanae interrupts it before it has a chance to become uncomfortable. "So Daichi!" ...I should remember that name. Had she not mentioned it, I'm sure I would have called him Grey – though I'm still not entirely sure why we're pretending we don't know each other. "We haven't really had a chance to talk, with all the business and the..." Trying to hide her hesitation, she waves her hand in a circle beside her face, which strains as she reaches for the right words. "...Other business. I certainly hope you've got a few shocking tales of excitement and intrigue from the tengu nation for us, after a whole year."
"Oh, none that you'd be interested in. When I haven't been caught up in politics, I've been dispatched in this outrageous manhunt. You know how Tenma gets..." More secrets? After all of this? Please tell me there's a good reason for this...
Kanako seems about as displeased as I am, though she doesn't hesitate to raise her voice, which holds with it the commanding nature that seems to pervade her very being. "Of course I know how Tenma gets." And the way she spits that name out, you'd think he'd been the one with a knife to Sanae. But let's not go there. "I should have a word with him one of these days. He works you so hard, I can't imagine you have a life of your own. Do all the other tengu live like this?"
Grey – Daichi, rather, replies with a shrug, as though to say 'There's nothing I can do,' and drives the point home by saying exactly that. "I mean, Tenma is the highest of higher-ups. I can't exactly say 'no.'"
"But everyone deserves a day off now and then! Especially the way you break your back for him, you should have a month's vacation saved up by now." Kanako seems to realize the futility of arguing with Daichi in Tenma's stead, and deflates with a sigh just in time for Suwako to chime in.
"Yeah, Daichi. Sanae's missed you, you know." ...Right. The charms. A look of dawning comprehension spreads over Sanae, and carries a deepening blush along with it. I didn't think she could really get embarrassed after having tackled him into a wall, but every girl's heart is its own mystery. Her eyes plead with Suwako, but she replies only with a devious grin. "I couldn't tell you how many times she's hugged her precious Broglie pretending it was you." Ah. Well!
"Suwako!" Her shout lies somewhere between scolding and pleading, but it does nothing to deter Suwako.
"So Daichi!" Much to Sanae's apparent relief, Kanako seems to pick up on her anxiety and interrupts loudly just as Suwako opens her mouth to speak again. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't you say you would take responsibility for all of this?" ...Come to think of it, where did he-- "Because I didn't see you around for, oh...any of it." Her voice is more teasing than it is angry, though frankly I'm rather angry myself. We really could have used his help.
"Hina had it under control, didn't she?" Funny how a smile and a wink can be almost as much of a relief as the entire tearful speech. Thank goodness I don't need to have that talk. "I was off doing the things you didn't know you needed done. Didn't you think it was odd that you didn't get a single visitor all day?" We really could stand to be more observant. "I had to patrol the entire mountain, break up three fights, fill out a report of the events of the day, and make sure that nobody made it within sight of your fights." The list makes me think back to Goose's sleeping habits, and I can't help but wonder how long he's been awake. Tengu...really are something. "Unless you wanted your followers to witness you being beaten near to death by a twelve-year-old." He goes to ruffle Suwako's hair, but she raises an unflinching arm to stop him.
Her eyes take on the same sharpness from earlier, sending a slight shiver down my spine. "More like twelve hundred, though that's still undershooting it. Know your plaaaaAAH!" Until, of course, she's lifted into the air from behind by a waiting Sanae.
"Now, now. No fighting! We're a family now, remember?" After waiting for her to stop flailing, Sanae drops to the floor and deposits Suwako in her lap. Her arms rest under Suwako's, leaving her free to eat but still constricted. A glance at Sanae's place at the table reveals it to be empty, which is astounding considering how long we've had to eat. Though, I suppose anyone would be hungry after today. Actually, it seems the table's already been almost completely picked clean! Amazing what can happen when you aren't looking. I haven't even finished my first plate! Just as well as long as everyone gets their fill, I suppose.
"Yes, Mom." She's really not making a great case for the not twelve issue. From the widening smile, though, she's got a plan in mind. "So anyways--"
"Yes! Anyways!" Never to be enacted. "I have to say, this is quite the meal. My compliments." Donning a grin of his own, he adds, "Especially considering you didn't know how to use the stove five minutes prior to cooking it." Wait, he heard all that? Apparently the surprise isn't just mine, as both Suwako's and Sanae's eyes widen slightly at the mention of my ignorance.
"...How did you know about that?" No point jumping to conclusions.
Sanae, perhaps feeling a bit left out of the conversation, chimes in, "He's got some pretty sensitive ears, Hina."
Followed immediately by Kanako. "Yeah he does." Almost immediately (and not without a bit of a shock to the rest of us), Suwako begins wheezing through a chunk of shrimp. A few bangs on her chest and a few solid coughs clear things up, and despite it all she comes out the other end laughing. Is there a joke I'm not getting...? Seeing nothing bad came of it, Kanako continues rather hurriedly, "I mean, once I mentioned him outside and he came from halfway down the mountain just to get a scare out of me. Speaking of which, you need to stop sneaking up on people so much." Emphasizing her 'you' with a poke on the arm, she playfully scolds the tengu – though she still glances at the smiling Suwako uneasily.
Daichi, on the other hand, seems completely unfazed. Turning to face Kanako, he retorts with a poke on her stomach. "Hey, now. Just because I walk lightly doesn't mean I'm sneaking up on people. If I was sneaking up on them, they'd be dead shortly afterward." Bad answer. Even as he says it, his eyes show just how badly he knows he slipped up – as do Kanako's, though they're more the--
"Would you join me in the other room for a moment?" --that type.

With the two of them gone, the room very suddenly gets much colder. Thankfully, I'm not the only one to feel it – after some minutes of absence, without prompting or even really words, Suwako and Sanae agree that it's time to retire for the night. Clearing the table and washing up take almost no time, though the relative silence makes it feel like an eternity. As much as we want to believe that we can all move on, the last few minutes have made apparent the air of discomfort that yet pervades the shrine. As quickly as the atmosphere of hope formed, it has dissipated, leaving only a heavy sinking in my chest.

At least for tonight, sleep shall be my savior.
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...That is, if it ever comes.

Insomnia doesn't often plague me, but (perhaps because of that) when it does, plague describes it most vividly. And of course, the aggravation from being unable to sleep only gets me more worked up until I don't even want to any more. It always starts in the toes, but there's this subtle itch – almost a numbness, really, but not quite enough to completely overshadow it. Naturally, being just slightly numb makes it all the more difficult to ignore the itch; after all, numbness is itself a sensation. Then it jumps to my hips, to the back of my head, to the small of my back, to the tips of my fingers, all the while leaving just a trace of itself behind. No amount of shifting dispels it, no amount of meditation makes it easier to ignore, and no amount of waiting makes it go away, ever. Perhaps the worst part of it, though, is that it gives me time to think. Normally it would be a blessing; it's hardly a stretch to say I can never make informed, thought-out decisions. Unfortunately, when there's nothing to think about the darkness of the room encroaches on your thoughts no matter how hard you try to distract yourself. Guilt, regrets, worries, pain from wounds both old and new.


Hour after hour, the events of the day are mercilessly and vividly recalled. Projected on the inside of my eyelids or the equally black ceiling, the wrongs I've done blend seamlessly into one another. There was no other way, but she was still undeserving. It was for the best, but evil with good intention is still evil. She'll forgive you; she's your friend, but what friend would even consider that? Even discounting the blood I've shed, I treated her just as poorly as the others. She was ready to die because of me. That's going to stay with her forever. Did I even apologize?

That's it. I can't do this. The moment my feet touch the almost unbearably cold floor, a slight shiver shoots through me, a momentary reminder of that damnable itch (as though I needed one) before it disappears completely.
I can't do this. Throwing on whatever I can pass for clothes until there's enough for me to retain some semblance of dignity, each article is stiffly and forcefully pulled down, stretching to its limits. Maybe it's immature, taking out my frustration while putting on clothes, but it works.
I can't do this. I don't know where I'm going. I don't care. I just can't be in this bed. The possibilities shoot through my mind in an instant – go to the kitchen, have a drink. Go outside, watch the stars and freeze half to death. Walk up and down the halls until I can't stand any more. Maybe get some cleaning done; that always relaxes me. Check on Sanae.
I can't do this. Wherever I'm going, I'm going. It takes me a second to find a grip for the sliding door through my own frustration. When my trembling hand finally settles, the door slides out from under it all by itself, leaving me to face an equally stunned Sanae.

"Hey, uh...Hina?" Oh, no. I don't like that waver. "I really don't want to sleep alone tonight." How can I say no to a voice that's cracking like a whip? It's all I can do not to hug her right now. "We can talk about that stuff if you want, but I just...I don't want to be alone. Can I--" Done. Done, done, done, done. Without hesitation, she returns my embrace – though with that speed, I may be the one returning hers. At first her warmth draws a contrast to the cold around us, but in time it spreads through me completely. If I let this go on much longer, I'm never going to be able to apologize.
"Sanae..." All the softness I can muster won't make this easier, but...
Without taking her eyes from my collar, she speaks just a bit louder than I. "I'm sorry, Hina." ...what? "I shouldn't have...well, I shouldn't have done any of that." Any of what, dear?
"I just got way too caught up in things, and I knew you were the only person I could count on to get those two to start acting their age already. It's been eating at me this whole time." You don't mean...you couldn't really be apologizing for...
"Sanae, are you talking about..." Don't say it. Find a euphemism. You're smarter than that, Hina. "...what happened before dinner?" I guess euphemisms were never my specialty.
"I know you wanted to discuss it earlier on, but I couldn't risk the others hearing about it. Daichi's a wily old man, but he still slips up sometimes." We got a good demonstration of that, didn't we?
"Sanae, dear, you don't need to apologize for having a breakdown of all things. You've gone through more pain than any of us today. We're all just happy to see you're still alive and well." Strange how guilt works.
Finally, she lifts her head. I'm not sure what kind of look I was expecting, but not concern and not in this measure. "Hina, I was acting." What.
Looking back, there was quite a lot leading up to that point. "...How much of it?"
"Well, from around the point that I realized it was you with the knife to my throat." I knew this girl belonged on a stage, but wow. "I mean, it was the only way. Even if I could hold it against you, it worked, so why would I?"

If ever there was a time that I referred to myself as a fool, I take it back. Only now have I earned the title.

Tightening my embrace, partially to console her and partially to console myself, I reply with the only thing I can. "You know, there's nothing to forgive on your end either."
"...Thank you, Hina." With one last squeeze, she finally lets go to look me in the eyes sheepishly. "Is it, uh. Still okay if I sleep in here tonight?" I don't need to reply with anything more than a closed door and a warm blanket.


Few things in this world are quite as startling as waking up to the sounds of a scream, and even fewer will bring you from rest to rush faster than your eyes can remember how to focus. My body springs from under the covers almost of its own accord, and the steady rhythm of pounding feet meets my ears before I even realize I've landed. I may be overreacting, but when the person I went to bed with is gone and the person whose life has been threatened multiple times in the past 24 hours is screaming it's hard to stay calm.

By the time I reach Kanako's room, all I can see is an open door and a flash of blonde hair.

Slamming my hand against the door's frame to brake myself, the first words out of my mouth are halted in my throat by the sight before me. Clothes are strewn about the floor, covered with glass from fallen keepsakes. The room's clearly seen a fight, but what captures my eye faster than any of it lay on the bed. Under thick covers, Kanako and Daichi struggle to find...something. Neither notice me in the doorway for a second, but when she does Kanako gives me a pleading look and says worriedly, "She's going for Sanae!"

Oh, yes. And they're very naked.

[ ] Give chase!
[ ] Are they...
[ ] Nah. There has to be a rational explanation.


This image was saved on October 9, specifically for this update. Let's never do this again.
[X] Nah. There has to be a rational explanation.

Sexy tiems is inappropriate right now.
[x] Give chase!

I presume this is the damage control option as Suwako with that information might seed even more discord.

But we will have to ask those two later about what happened. This may range from awkward to just BAD depending on how Sanae liked/cared for Daichi.
[x] Give chase!
[X] Give chase!

Act now, explanations later. Also, pray Aya isn't around.
[x] Give chase!

I have no idea what's going on. But neither does Hina.
[ ] Give chase!
[x] Helpfully throw Grey his pants.
[x] Give chase!
...you guys. <3

I would say "writing now" but I've actually been writing for almost three hours. It's crazy how writing a 6,000 word update (even if it did take a couple months) just makes you want to write another! Except this one's actually progressing. And it won't be 6,000 words. Hopefully. Really though, I expected to come home and write the usual 700 or so, but I'm past 1,500 and I'm not sure how much more is left!

Votes are, like. Super-called, though. Figured you should know.
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Whatever! There's no time to think about this!

...Then again, Daichi's an awful lot faster than I am. His attention is still focused on scanning the floor around him while attempting to keep his dignity intact, and unless Kanako's started wearing a leather belt these are definitely his pants. It doesn't take more than a second to gather them up and toss them his way, but by that point Kanako's already shouting "Go!" Halfway down the hallway, an audible thump marks their landing. I shouldn't be surprised based on the coat, but wow. How much could he possibly keep in those things?

Thankfully, the shrine's layout isn't terribly complex. I may have lost Suwako, but her stomping feet echo even through the sound of my own; with only two turns to take, following her is as simple as listening. Of course, if I can't catch up that's all meaningless. Though, does she even know where Sanae is? Her room would be the first place to check, but she left it for mine last night. She wouldn't have woken up and suddenly decided not to be emotionally fragile any mo-the charms! Of course. Nothing to do but run faster than her, then. Hopefully those tiny little legs are as weak as they look.

...Wait, she can fly. What's wrong with me this morning?

Whatever! There's no time to think about this! Every corner I turn is empty, and her steps show no signs of slowing down. You'd think they would entropy after a few thousand years. Still, I can't let myself admit defeat just yet. If there's one look I can catch every time, it's the 'This is serious, please help' look – it's kind of a staple in my line of work – and Kanako was giving it just as hard as she could.

"Sanaeeee!" Almost out of time. Have to think of something. Anything to slow her down. "You've gotta hear this!" Come on, you can do this...
Wait. These walls are paper-thin. "Don't listen to her, Sanae! She's...an evil robot clone sent by the kappa!" ...Well, it's better than nothing. She'll never believe it, but--
"Evil robot clone?! Where's her weak point?!" ...but I guess anything can happen. This is Gensokyo.
"If I'm a robot, then where are my rocket fists?" Not fair! I can't speak her language!
"You raise a good point, but if you're not a robot then what's my middle name?!" She has a middle name?
"You have a middle name?"
"Robot!" The slam that follows shakes my nerves as much as it does the floor, making me wonder if there isn't really some steel in Suwako. Of course, turning the corner reveals that the walls are a bit thicker than I'd given them credit for. Sanae kneels over a floored Suwako in a...bizarre, but quite effective pose; her right hand is on Suwako's shoulder, and her left hooks the god's arm above her own shoulder just over the elbow, locking it in place. Though she struggles to rise, each attempt is met with an almost invisible tensing that pushes her back down.

"Okay, I'm a robot! But listemmngh!" I'm sorry, could you repeat that? There seems to be a hand over your mouth.
Sanae looks over to me without breaking her technique or her smile. "Thanks, Hina. I hadn't accounted for mouth-rockets."
"Those robots are a tricky bunchyow!" You bit me! You little...
Before either of us have time to react, Suwako speaks faster than I thought possible. "KanakoandDaichiarehavingsex!" ...No. Way. I guess it explains a lot, but...I've never heard of a tengu mating outside the mountain. Not successfully, anyways.
Both Sanae and I sit in silence for a long moment, until she decides to break it. "...Is that all?"
"Buh?" ...That noise did not just come out of me. That noise did not just come out of me.
She hovers between an incredulous look and a smirk for a moment, but eventually decides on the smirk. "Of course they are. They have been for years. Don't tell me you never picked up on it?"
"What do you mean, picked up on..." Wait, that's not what I should be concerned about! "Sanae, this is a big deal."
Finally, she lets go of Suwako just so she can shrug exaggeratedly. If you're going to blow me off, at least don't make a point of mocking me in the process. "What's such a big deal about the woman who is essentially my mother and the man who is essentially my father having sex? Or anyone, for that matter." Rushing to correct herself, she adds, "Unless they're married! I mean, to someone else. You know. 'Cause that's totally a big deal."
Suwako, having gotten absolutely nothing that she came here for, allows her attention to wander about the room. Within seconds though, her head perks up, leading both of our gazes to the doorway in which a particularly distressed Kanako and a stoic (as always) Daichi stand. They seem to have found their clothes, at least, but their disheveled state speaks volumes.

Kanako, being the more flustered of the two, is the first to approach. "Sanae. This can not get out."
"Oh, you worry too much. What could possibly happen? You'll get an article in that tabloid?"
"No. Honey. Promise me this will not leave this room." Should you really be saying that in front of the same person who ran screaming through the halls of your house to tell someone?
"Kanako, you're a grown woman. Goddess. Grown goddess. I'm sure you can get away with being in an open relationship." Kanako shuts her eyes hard for a short second, having reached the limits of her patience. Frankly, so am I.
A gruff hand finds itself on her shoulder before she can gather herself, though. "She doesn't know, Kana. Why would she?" And in that moment, all the tension slips from her face with a small sigh.
"...Right. Sanae, I'm going to be blunt with you: This is a crime." See, that's the first thing you should say. Would have made this whole thing a lot faster. "A serious one. The last tengu that got caught diluting their bloodline was publicly executed."
Both Sanae and Suwako pause as the severity of the statement sinks in, their smiles fading slowly until Sanae asks quietly, "...How did it start?"
Daichi is the one to answer this time, letting his arm wander over Kanako's shoulder as he speaks. "It just...did. I couldn't just not visit you after finding you like that, and you don't visit a shrine without getting to know the resident deity. In time we both realized that we had fallen for each other." Kanako's hand reaches up to her shoulder at this, giving Daichi's hand a light squeeze as she glances up at him with a thin smile.
Which leaves her completely open to the enormous hug that Sanae sees fit to give her. Not the timing I would have chosen, but okay. "That is too sweet! It's like I'm in a romance novel!" With stars in her eyes, she runs her hand along an imaginary landscape. "In a strange world, a forbidden love blossoms in the face of tragedy. Can the flower of love flourish in the desert of oppression and pride?"
Suwako's face distorts more and more as Sanae speaks, until she finally jumps in with a groan. "Eugh. Stick to photography."
Toward which Sanae's head snaps with a frown. "I'd like to see you do better."
Pointing her finger at just enough of a distance that it doesn't get snatched away, Suwako allows her snark to get the best of her. "Hey, I don't have to do better. Walk down the romance aisle and read the tag lines, you'll get a few hundred." Having anticipated her attack, Suwako hops back a few feet (though how she did it from kneeling will bother me for days), sticking out her tongue at a now-sprawled Sanae.

Looking on in amusement, Daichi quietly remarks to Kanako, "You'd think they were sisters."
After a moment's consideration, Kanako nods sagely. "I'm okay with it."
"Hell no! I'm at least crazy aunt material!" What force she managed to muster is dispersed by a swift pat on the head.
"Not my fault you're half my height." Without giving her time to reply, Sanae shoots a fist into the air while continuing to push down her head. "Sisters yay!"
And simultaneously, Kanako and Daichi imitate the gesture. "Sisters yay!"
After which Kanako shakes her head, discarding the smile that had gradually built on her face. "Anyways. If anyone outside of this shrine finds out about this, Daichi is as good as dead and frankly I can't guarantee our safety either. If he's clever, he might be able to misdirect the grand council, but--"
"Actually, uh. There is no grand council." ...I'm happy you're finally coming clean here, but. Not the best way to go into this one.
About as expected, Kanako cycles from confusion to face-melting rage in the span of a second. She takes the hand that had once held Daichi's to her face, resting it against a single vertical finger as though to point out her glare. "Go on." At least she's ready to hear him out.
"Not any more, at least. I didn't want to worry you, but I guess there's no avoiding it at this point. I'd rather have you worry about something that's relevant, at least." If looks could kill, there would be a hole through the ceiling behind you. Best to hurry it up. "Kanako, that manhunt I told you about is for Tenma. There's no council because there's no nation."
Her eyes widen slightly, but her entire body remains motionless otherwise. After a few silent seconds of consideration, she quietly repeats, "Go on."
Daichi reaches up to scratch behind his ear for a moment, averting his gaze in the process. "...I didn't think I'd be able to get away with this one."
"I'm sorry, my ears aren't as good as yours. You'll have to speak up." Cold, but apparently necessary.
"Well, the long and short of it is that Tenma disappeared one day and hasn't been seen since – dead or alive. In the mean time, just about everyone who could have taken his place killed each other off. There's nothing left but strays."
Whatever words he would have said afterward are halted by Kanako's lightning-fast slap, the sound of which alone makes my face tingle. Grabbing his chin with her ready hand and pulling it to face her again, she says in a voice low enough to be private but loud enough to make her stance well-understood, "Don't you ever call yourself a stray."

Almost as quickly as it came, her leer softens into a gentle smile, and she pulls him in for a soft, slow kiss that draws a dreamy sigh from Sanae. When they finally part, she gives his cheek a gentle rub and says, "Now we're even."
"Even for what?" Way to ruin the moment, Suwako.
Once again in unison, Daichi and Kanako turn their heads toward her. "Don't worry about it." Daichi, though, continues. "So, on that note. Hina and I have actually had something of an appointment to get to for, oh...20 hours." Oh, my. Had I known...
It feels almost like a crime to listen to such serene laughter when it's so clear that it was meant just for him. "20 hours! You'll be dreadfully late. I don't suppose you'd be able to meet me on the roof in, say...ten minutes?" She doesn't mean...
"So soon?" That isn't a no.
Pulling Daichi in by the small of his back, she brings her face within a breath of his. "Will you not be ready by then?" Oh, she does.
Having finally had enough, Suwako cringes and backs away with her hands in the air. "Okay, okay, I get it! You don't have to be that open!"
"Seconded." I'm happy for you and all, but there are certain rules of etiquette in place.
"Fine, fine. Do you think you can all occupy yourselves for another half hour or so?"

[ ] Coffee break
[ ] Play date
[ ] Day trip
[x] Coffee break.
And this better play.
[X] Coffee break

New crisis averted, but we haven't had breakfast yet.

>What's such a big deal about the woman who is essentially my mother and the man who is essentially my father having sex?
I was expecting Sanae to be okay with it for this reason. I just didn't see her already knowing it was going on. Darn Japanese and their thin wall houses.
Oh, and before I forget:
>You'd think they would entropy after a few thousand years.
Atrophy, not entropy.
Now we need to deal with finding out where Tenma went, because this is BIG.
[x] Coffee break.
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For a while now, I was going to point out that reading these updates gets a little confusing because no one seems to identify themselves when speaking. Speech and action seemed to erupt at random, and it was left to the readers imagination to divine who was vocalizing what to whom. But if you give yourself up to the flow of the story, the scene reveals itself quite organically and natural. Bravo NARH; I only ever get that sensation when I'm reading devilishly well crafted screenplays.

[X] Day trip

Grey must have been doing his damnedest to keep what was transpiring on the mountain on the DL, but his 'celebration' with Kana probably left some conspicuous gaps in his surveillance.
[x] Coffee break

There's something refreshing about the idea of Kanako getting regularly nailed. Or Kanako and sex in general.

...And now I'm remembering the YMLA speculation on the Kanako route. There was going to be sex on the dinner table and a very peeved Sanae.
A million points. Forever.

You know, I had a feeling there was something wrong about that word but my usual proofreaders were all unresponsive or gone.

And that would be why I put in the mini-recap. Although this was originally meant to be a side quest, the Moriya have occupied over half the bulk of this story! Crazy shit. The plea of the tengu was actually touched on just before landing at the shrine, but between breaks and breakdowns it's been longer than some stories full runs. I'd recommend reading (or skimming) back through it if you've forgotten much, it's about time we get back to all that.

I have some of the best readers. <3

No news on an ETA; though I'll try to sneak in some time tonight st. Patty's has booked just about my entire weekend and I still need to clean my house before then. Also my trip might be wrong but I promise it's me. Posting from my phone and not sure if I remember how to spell it properly.

>"Don't you ever call yourself a stray."
This brought such a smile to my face.

>tengu bloodline rules
That would explain why Southpaw was so insistent on keeping their petting secret (aside from him maybe being tsundere), but you'd think Goose would have mentioned that after demonstrating that TAIL FEELS SO GOOD isn't just a pat on the shoulder. "Groping is bad, oh and if you do it with him he could get executed." Unless, maybe, bloodline dilution only refers to offspring, and Kanako and Daichi are going to be adding to the Moriya shrine family at some point.
Needs more updates.
I feel inclined by the day to reassure what readers have put up with my bullshit thus far that no, I am not dead, dying, depressed, or dickless. I am ridiculously lazy, and I hate that. Seeing that this thread has lasted an entire year and become littered with empty promises and worthless excuses utterly disgusts me. I am not saddened, dear readers, merely angered.

I can no longer trust myself with my own time. I'm going to work out a schedule that will prod my OCPD enough to stick to. This thread will die, and we will never speak of it again.

If you feel like you have something that would contribute to the success of this plan, I'll be happy to try it.

I don't really have any advice, just encouragement. If there is any problem with your writing, it's not quality, but volume. Even if it takes months before we see an update, there will be at least one person who reads it.
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As soon as the words leave Daichi's lips, Suwako bats them back with her own. "Twenty minutes." You'd think she wanted to be rid of us.
Unflinchingly, Daichi replies with the same speed. "Twenty-five."
"Deal." ...Seeing one of them disappear before my eyes is always a small shock, but somehow seeing them do it in unison is just heartwarming. The fine mist that acts as Kanako's parting signature swirls and dances through the air in the hallways, illustrating Daichi's path with blooming trails.

The three of us watch the plumes drift for a moment before Sanae breaks the silence, as she is wont to do. "So! Who's up for breakfast?" Well, I'd hate to impose...
"Breakfast, huh? What have we still got after last night?" ...but if they're cooking anyways.
A proud smile spreads across Sanae's face as she crosses her arms. "Nothing I can't cook!"
I should know better by now than to question her, but I just have no idea on this one. "...What does that even mean?"
"Don't worry about it. What'll you have?" Taking her advice, Suwako looks off to a corner for a moment's consideration, biting her thumb lightly in thought.
In almost the same motion though, her head snaps back toward Sanae with widened eyes, having reached a speedy verdict. With a half-hop, half-lunge, she shouts, "Bacon and eggs!"
Whipping out her folded right hand, Sanae flings her arm in the air, shouting "You got it!" before spinning on her heels toward the kitchen, a positively giddy Suwako in tow. I don't think I've ever seen someone quite so excited about such a simple meal, but then I don't think I've ever met someone who's been waiting millenia for it.
Rolling up her sleeves, she scuttles about the kitchen fetching pans and turning knobs. "You know, I'm actu-"
"Excuse me! Miss!" Do they all do that?! Is that just a thing?! "Aya Shameimaru, of The Bunbunmaru. May I have an interview?" You know, it wouldn't even be so bad if she had called from outside the window or knocked instead of popping her head through. One moment everything's bacon and eggs, and the next there's a head of mussy black hair inches from Sanae's face.
Who, of course, is unfazed. At least they're too focused on each other to see me jump. "Ooh, an interview! What for?"
"When you see danmaku, there's usually a story behind it. When someone's actively trying to keep you away from it, there's always a story." Letting herself swell with pride a bit, she finishes, "And I always get my story." That sounds almost like a threat.
"No sense delaying the inevitable, then." With a quick turn, Sanae asks quite simply, "All in favor?" The idea of forfeiting what Grey was trying so hard to protect grates on me. Plus there's the matter of the war...though, wasn't that supposed to be a secret? If I let on that it's out, we could be in trouble. "I don't know. She doesn't seem very trustworthy." Not the best reasoning, but I've never been great at lying.
Suwako, on the other hand, unhesitatingly raises her arm in response, shooting me a devious leer. "Come on, Hina. Don't you want to be famous?" ...I never should have freed you.

In the same instant, Aya's place in the window is emptied and her place at the table is filled. Even as her hair settles back on her shoulders, she kneels down with a pen and pad, slender fingers at the ready. So they really can all do that. "Lovely, lovely. Can we start with introductions?"
Preferring the simple approach, Sanae lists names and points at their owners. "I'm Sanae Kochiya, she's Suwako Moriya, she's Hina Kagiyama, and we're just sitting down for breakfast. Do you have time to join us?"
"Oh, I'd hate to impose." Not very convincing when your place is suddenly and fully set between words. "I am quite busy, after all. We'd have to conduct this while eating; do you mind?"
It's futile at this point, but I still feel like I have to put up a cursory effort. "I don't know that I'd like my first impression to be eating with my mouth full."
Suwako doesn't seem to mind, though. "Eh, we can deal with it." Inevitable indeed.
"Wonderful, wonderful. First off, which of you were fighting and why?"
This could take some time. "Actually..."

[ ] Try to water the story down. If I can get Sanae to play along, it might not even get published.
[ ] Tell the story, but at least try to make it less scandalous. We don't need a crisis of faith on our hands.
[ ] She'll find out the truth whether I put a spin on it or not. Tell it like it happened.


Don't forget that your companions have voices, too.

As infuriating as my absence and relative lack of content is, it is not without reason. A string of illnesses, each on the heels of the last, holidays, emergencies, and the occasional happy moment (to which I cling desperately) have all hindered me. Most of all, however, my apartment has been pulled from under me like the proverbial rug. With only two weeks to secure and furnish another, do understand that writing is not among my highest priorities.

I have however made the fabled schedule. Updates should be much more regular once things settle down on my end, as I am disallowing myself the usual distractions on a weekly basis until I've written a decent amount at least twice - be it an update, a short, or progress on an original story that I'm beginning to brainstorm for, which (if people are interested) I'd be happy to share once it gets off the ground.

In other news, my very good friend Thirty Terawatt Satellite Cannon has resumed writing Fairy on Scarlet Lake (in /sdm/, if it wasn't already clear) after a year's hiatus. If you don't already read it, I implore you to do so - he and I have spent many a long hour discussing our respective writing projects, and we both contribute heavily to one another's ideas. There are very few men I respect more in my life, and if half the things we've talked about make it into his story I don't know that I'll be able to keep up. The year has not been wasted.
[X] Tell the story, but at least try to make it less scandalous. We don't need a crisis of faith on our hands.
Normally I'm a fan of outright truth, but we're not just playing with our own fate here. Here's hoping Suwako cooperates.

Plus, Daichi fibbed about the tengu council for a year. Blatant lies are a bit much, but it also means we don't have to worry as hard about veracity.
[X] Tell the story, but at least try to make it less scandalous. We don't need a crisis of faith on our hands.

I think a feud between gods is the least of our worries, but rather one of said gods being.... friendly to a Tengu and the whole Tengu mess are bigger things to hide. This is assuming Aya doesn't know about the Tengu mess, which isn't that likely.
>This could take some time. "Actually..."

[x] You need to use the bathroom really badly. You won't expect them to wait on account of how busy Ms. Shameimaru is.
- [x] Even if you're interrupting something, Daichi needs to leave as silently and invisibly as possible.

I have three reasons for making a write-in here: 1) Making sure Aya doesn't find out about Daichi & Kanako is the overriding concern, bar none. 2) Having to explain that you're a curse god in front of Suwako may be a bad idea. 3) Neither seem to have any reservations, but how they want to appear to the tengu is their own prerogative.

On the other hand, we might miss out on some free advertising, and our eggs will get cold.
[X] Tell the story, but at least try to make it less scandalous. We don't need a crisis of faith on our hands.
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[x] Tell entertaining lies.
- [x] Explain that the danmaku in question was the interruption-cum-natural-progression of a karaoke contest between yourself, Sanae, Suwako, and one or two other people you don't quite recall.
- [x] When pressed, "admit" instead that Temüjin and his army of werewolf-warriors attempted to invade Gensokyo, but were soundly routed by the timely intervention of the pirate captain James Kirk in his airship, Enterprise.

[X] What this guy said.
So I've got an extra day off from work because they're cool like that, which means (depending on some things) I could have time to write later, which I would like to do. That write-in is pretty sweet, but it doesn't have the majority so I'm hesitating to choose it outright. I'll think about which one will work better throughout the course of the day - though if I somehow get two votes on a Tuesday morning, that'll change things.

Trying not to let myself drop the ball again, despite circumstances.
>That write-in is pretty sweet, but it doesn't have the majority so I'm hesitating to choose it outright. I'll think about which one will work better throughout the course of the day - though if I somehow get two votes on a Tuesday morning, that'll change things.

Which write-in?
If I absolutely had to guess, I would wager it was >>19313. No guarantee though; just my wild speculation.

Speaking of which:
[X] >>19313
and thus Aya's reputation was completely ruined. Way to go guys.
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...and nothing of value was lost?
[X] Tell the story, but at least try to make it less scandalous. We don't need a crisis of faith on our hands.

No way in hell she'd believe that write in. Also >>19342.
Go back to Poosh, ayahater. She might have diluted the truth some, but she never puts outright lies in the paper.

I'm hoping if this silly write in wins, it'd just egg Aya on to find the actual truth.
The other write-in is really dumb. I don't know how Hina's could know who Captain Kirk or what karaoke is. If Aya thinks we're hiding something, she's may just stalk the shrine from afar like paparazzi, and then she'll see Daichi leaving the shrine, which would be worse than simply telling her the truth about what happened.

>>19295 here; vote changed (missing password).
[x] Tell the story, but at least try to make it less scandalous. We don't need a crisis of faith on our hands.

If just to give this a majority over the other write-in.
[x] Tell the story, but at least try to make it less scandalous. We don't need a crisis of faith on our hands.

I've flip-flopped between this and the write-in. The write-in sounds like more fun, but this would probably make a better story.

Maybe we'll get one of those extra chapters / "Deleted Scenes" for that write-in like they have for other stories. Can't be too much to hope for...
I wouldn't normally do one of these but given my track record I feel obliged to. Rest assured, votes have been tallied, writing has begun. Unfortunately I kind of forgot that moving out is much more labor-intensive than moving in, so now I'm scrambling to save my security deposit. I'm out on the 19th, so in the absolute worst case I'll have it by next weekend. Promise.
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"It all started this morning. I had dropped in to visit Sanae--"
"And what kind of relation do you have with her?" Flicking the tip of her pen toward me, she turns her head away just so she can give me a sidelong glance with a raised eyebrow. If this is how she intends to look respectable, I'm in for a long interview.
"We're friends. I've lost track of the years since we met, though." Not hard to do when you live by the day. The moment I begin speaking again, her fingers fly to the page, scratching away in rhythm with my words.
"I'd put it at three and a half. See, I was kind of new in town--"
"So you're an outsider then?" And again with that gesture. Each time she does it, though, she lowers her pad slightly. Making a point of noticing it makes me realize that with her dashing around so fast, I still haven't gotten a good look at her outfit – First she was hidden by the wall, and now by her pad and the table. It's at least clear from here that she has a thick but loosely knit cardigan in a deep red that makes her eyes glow. The knit itself is subtly but beautifully patterned, the swirling threads conjuring images of softly rolling clouds. Underneath it is a thick but tight-fitting shirt in an equally dark blue, but across the chest the weave has a pattern of small diamonds that I can barely make out in the light shade.

Apparently Sanae doesn't care much for being interrupted. A hint of frustration makes it through her voice as she replies, "Well, I like to think at this point I've become a respectable member of society. If you insist on clinging to my past, though, yes."
"I see, I see. So you were kind of new in town, and..."
"And Hina's work takes her all over Gensokyo. It was only a matter of time before we met, and then we just kind of hit it off." ...I can't complain about the brevity, but why lie about how we met? She can't have forgotten.
Aya gives her a particularly long glance before letting a thin smile across her lips. "Hit it off, huh? That some kind of euphemism?" Crossing the line.
"No." The three of us answer harshly and in unison, sending her retreating slightly, hands raised in mock defense.
"Scary, scary," she says through a soft laugh. "I was only trying to lighten the mood. Sorry!" Letting her pen and pad fall into place once again, she looks to Suwako. "So these two are just friends, but you seemed pretty offended too. You're close, then?" Please don't mess this up, Suwako...
With a very matter-of-fact tone, she almost instantly replies, "Well, yeah. I've only lived with Sanae for her entire life." ...You're terrible at this.
"Her entire life, you say? I had you pinned for a little sister." Oh, sure, laugh about it when she says it...
"Yeah, I get that a lot. I'm actually her big sister, I just had the misfortune of growing into this," and her hands chop straight down through the air in front of her in an unfamiliar gesture as she speaks, "While she got this." And again, this time curving as they fall in a sort of hourgl--oohhh. I take it back. You're the best.
A look of honest grief sets on Aya's face, even as she crosses her arms to accentuate her bust. "Such an injustice. You look like you would be gorgeous with a full form."
The gesture isn't lost on Suwako, who forces a smile over gritted teeth. "Yeah, it is kind of an injustice, isn't it." ...Or maybe the eon of captivity is still a sore wound. Who knows?
Either way, I'd rather we finish with all of this sooner rather than later. "Anyways. I had dropped in to visit Sanae, and at some point or another we noticed that there was a strange noise coming from the basement."
"Can you describe it for me?" ...Lying is hard.
"Um...Not really. I'm not good at that sort of thing."
"I am, though!" Practically jumping from her seat, Sanae shoots her arm in the air as though she were answering a question in school. "It was sort of like," ...I...how do you...

When the sound finally ends, a short silence falls over the room as she looks with a smile that's somehow a bit too innocent upon three shocked faces.

Shaking herself back into coherence, Aya breaks the silence. Thank goodness, too; I need to stop thinking about that and fast. "I...I see. Go on?"
"We investigated it, and it turns out there was a sort of...rock youkai hiding there for some time, under the earth. It had just awakened after a long slumber, and wasn't happy to see a shrine atop its bed."
"Okay, let me just stop you there for a second." Setting her pen and pad on the table, she shuts her eyes and rubs the bridge of her nose gently before looking up, slightly exasperated – first at me, but cycling among the three of us as she speaks. "Who do you think you're talking to right now?" ...I do hope my face isn't betraying my concern right now, or I'm in trouble.
Suwako cuts in, unsure but unhesitating. "Aya Shameimaru, of the Bunbunmaru?"
The answer draws a proud smile from her, and with a flick of her pointer finger she continues. "Absolutely right! So, what exactly makes you think you can lie to me?"
"I'm sorry?" Last ditch effort. It could be a test!
"I mean, at first I thought it was kind of cute. I was just going to play along since it was harmless enough, but you're just getting insulting now." Could...Could still be a test!

"If you've read my newspaper in the past year, you are fully aware of the collapse. Do you want to hazard a guess as to how that affected publishing?" I can already tell that it isn't pleasant, but I wouldn't have enough technical knowledge to even guess. Accepting our silence as a no, she continues, "When Tenma first went, not much changed. Most of what went on stayed between the higher-ups, they had nothing to do with us. It had to trickle down eventually, though, and as it happened more and more people were leaving." She pauses for a moment, sighing so lightly that it could be a breath, and her eyes dart down as she whispers to herself, "Or dying." Regaining her composure almost instantly, she continues without missing a beat. "At first I resented them for giving up, but I had to accept that not everyone can afford to preserve truth over life. Someone has to, though, and right now I am that someone." With the last phrase, she leans forward and forcefully taps the table between us with every 'I'. "I'm the only one left. I research, I photograph, I report, I write, I edit, I typeset, I run the machines, I fix the machines. I'm doing fifty people's jobs every day. Do you have any idea how many lies I hear every single day?" Finally satisfied, she leans back with crossed arms and...Not quite a glare, but she's certainly unamused.
Sanae, as always, is first to speak. "Valid point."
"And well made. But why tell us all that?" I thought it was supposed to be a very big and very dangerous secret.
Suwako looks over at me incredulously, donning a tone of voice as dark as her dress is sunny. "...Really? You don't get it?" I don't wanna hear from you, you smug little... "She published the story. She's a reporter. She reports. She's reporting. Can I make this clearer?"
Setting a heavy hand on her head, Sanae mercifully changes the subject. "Yes, but you won't. Breakfast anyone?" Oh yeah. That was happening, wasn't it?
As quickly as it came, the indignation in Aya's face fades. "Oh, that sounds lovely. Thank you so much." Looking down at the full plate of eggs before her, she dashes a single line from one corner to the other in her pad and sets it down.

...wait. Full plate of eggs? "Sanae. Where's the bacon." Oh, don't be so down Suwako. It's just bacon. "Where's the bacon, Sanae."
Leaning over her shoulder, spatula still in hand, Sanae traces a line of eggs on Suwako's plate and, now that I notice it, all of our plates. "Bacon eggs. Nothing I can't cook!" You know, thinking on it, that really is rather impressive.
As Sanae skips off to the sink and starts washing the pan she had used, Suwako sullenly stares at her food. "You are so lucky there's a reporter here right now."
I swear I could see ears twitching under her hair. In the blink of an eye, her pen and pad are once again at the ready. "And what's that supposed to mean?" Am I the only one with some semblance of self-control over their speech?
"Nothing! Nothing at all."
"I'll take your word for it." ...Oh, I don't like that look. I don't like that look at all. "Then again, you did lie to me. I don't know that I can trust you. Maybe if you, I don't know...redeemed your word?" Blackmail? Some paragon of truth you are.
"There's no need to be coy here. I'll cooperate. There's just one thing; I still haven't used the bathroom this morning..." I know she's good at seeing through lies, but that isn't a terribly suspicious one. Hopefully.
"Oh, by all means."

[ ] Get Grey and Kanako. They need to be present for the telling.
[ ] Get Grey and Kanako out of here! They need to disappear, now.
[ ] On second thought, they can take care of themselves.

Or I guess I'll just have it for this morning! Whatever.
[X] Get Grey and Kanako. They need to be present for the telling.

Not like we haven't walked in on them once already.
[x] Get Grey and Kanako. They need to be present for the telling.

>full plate of eggs

Canniba, Canniba, Cannibalism~

[x] Get Grey and Kanako out of here! They need to disappear, now.

Aya may see through our ruse and find out anyway, but at least this way it won't seem to Kanako & Grey that we're actively trying to sabotage their relationship. Grey is already pissed at us for the theatrics yesterday, and Kanako made it expressly clear that under no circumstances were we to let on that they have a relationship.

I'm also worried that Suwako might be encouraged through this to destabilize Kanako's base of belief. The idea that a thousand year-old grudge could be remedied so easily in one night is beyond naïve. At the least, they may work at cross-purposes toward the same intended result.

You're supposed to seize power first, then you reform the inconvenient social conventions.

>As Sanae skips off to the sink and starts washing the pan she had used, Suwako sullenly stares at her food. "You are so lucky there's a reporter here right now."

And what the hell is this about?
She might already know. This Aya is great at reading in between the lines.
>She might already know. This Aya is great at reading in between the lines.

More like Hina is a god-awful liar. ('Rock youkai'? hahaha wow)

Aya's using classic pride-and-ego down used om interrogation. You attack the person's integrity, usually by finding a small flaw, then they expose the actually important information in an attempt to justify themselves and to restore the interrogator's faith in them. Which is what we'll be doing by yelling 'HEY GUYS OUR COVER'S BLOWN COME ON OUT'.

This doesn't mean we have to antagonize her. Hell, the story of Suwako and Kanako's fight would be more than enough to fill her front page. It's sensational enough, and it sounds like something we'd try to hide.
I was referring to how she notices Daichi going to the shrine an awful lot, even these days. But odds are her first impression might be he's involved with Sanae.
Allow me to remind you that Grey has not visited the shrine for a full year. Devil's in the details, Anon.

And while I'm here; That was just a thinly veiled, friendly little threat, >>19387. Pay it no mind.
I don't think I quite realized how bad the situation with the tengu was before. I think it took meeting a tengu I already knew and liked to do that.
I'm sad now...
After giving it some careful thought, I've finally decided on my vote:

[X] On second thought, they can take care of themselves.
-[X] At least let them know Aya is here. Whether they decide to flee or face her is their own decision to make.

Daichi and Kanako are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves whether or not this is the moment to reveal the big secret. It really isn't our place to force their hand one way or another; they're both responsible fairly level-headed adults, after all.

That said, we should at least give them a little "Brace for impact" notice, as well as buy a little time regardless of what they end up deciding. As already mentioned, the Suwako story is good enough on its own, and if we tell it right no one even has to know Daichi was involved.
[X] On second thought, they can take care of themselves.
-[X] At least let them know Aya is here. Whether they decide to flee or face her is their own decision to make.
[X] On second thought, they can take care of themselves.
-[X] At least let them know Aya is here. Whether they decide to flee or face her is their own decision to make.
I think 6 votes is enough to call it. I have no idea how much or how little time I'll have to devote to this over the next week or so, but just look for the new thread (woot woot I guess), likely with another spoiler tag just for tradition's sake.
>just look for the new thread

New thread at >>19439.
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