She pats herself down, and readjusts the leggings of her pants. The crowd simultaneously turns towards the cause of the commotion. As Mokou looks up from tidying herself, she meets the crowd's eyes. All of them. And even keeps her gaze level. Nothing happens for a few seconds. Momiji and Aya are holding their breaths in. Then, like a snap, Mokou breaks the reverie and charges into the small army. For a moment, you can't really understand what happen. As you stare dumbfounded, you realize that you have to go and help her!
“Sorry, Aya, but you should stay back. I'd like to to help me, but I'm afraid the tengu's orders are none of my business.” She grumbles, holding out her camera. Angling herself in the right position, she manages to take a few pictures of Mokou's brawl with the youkai. Not letting yourself waste any more time, you sneak out of the hiding spot to avoid drawing attention to the tengu. Then, you walk into an open location, and push yourself into the mob. The group retaliates against you immediately, half of the battalion moving towards to fight back. The other half fixing its attention on Mokou, you lose sight of her. The youkai are fairly easy, but the sheer number of the group seems to crush you. Grabbing one of the youkai on its legs, you arc back and swing through the mob. From there, you can see Mokou through the breach. Shouting for her attention, she turns around, while incinerating a few youkai. She motions for you to come. Pushing back the youkai struggling to attack, you make a run towards Mokou. Halfway through, your knees suddenly buckle, losing all energy from the joints. You catch yourself, but the world tilts at an awkward angle. Blurry gray specks tint in the center of your vision. A white haired figure runs up to you, presumably Mokou.
“A-...-ou...-ay? You feel really dizzy, not perceiving anything right anymore.
“S-s...” you mutter out. “-ta...-tue.” And suddenly, she's gone. All you see now is a blur of colors, and hearing who-knows-what. A soft tink pops your eardrums. In the span of one second, everything pops back into its normal view, your eyes returning to focus. The ground is cluttered with youkai.
“Yo.” A voice comes from the left of you. Moving around to turn to her, she waves. Mokou sits on top of a piece of broken cobblestone, grinning. Her right knuckle is splattered with blood. You stare at her wide eyed.
Once she notices you intently looking at her fist, she chuckles. “Oh, this? This is nothing. Call it a favor, if you will.” She knocks on the dismantled statue. “Though, the statue was pretty hard. But I got through it all right! You had me scared for a bit. Mumbling on about some snake. I took my chances breaking the statue, but I guess my intuition was right. Oh!” She straightens herself up, seeming to have remembered something. “You should check out the village's people. It seems like nobody was hurt, but everybody fell into some kind of trance.” She leads you into the gate entrance, lifting herself into the hole. You slip past, moving through with ease. The village is eerily quiet, no movement stirring in the confines. Approaching one house, Mokou barges in without thinking. Before you can question her antics, you step inside and see a man with cloudy eyes.
The immortal turns around. “You see? Something's definitely up, if it wasn't obvious. But there's not much we can do. Trust me. I've waited and did the best I could to snap them out of it. Nothing worked, and honestly, I have no clue on what to do now.” Glancing around, she slaps the guy's face a few times. After no particular response, she drops her head and curses. “Damn it, I feel so freakin' powerless right now. ” Holding back a grimace, she doesn't let her anger show on her face.
So what are you going to do?
[ ] Leave them here. You can't do anything right now anyways. -[ ] Inform Aya and Momiji of the situation. -[ ] Withhold information to anyone except Reimu. This is an incident. You should let the professionals know. -[ ] Find some more clues. --[ ] Ask Mokou to join you in your quest.
[ ] Stick around for a while. -[ ] Visit Keine, even though she'll probably be unconscious. -[ ] Go to the bakery. No reason, really.
I actually hit thread two! And it has a title now. Not really fitting maybe, but it'll make do.
As much as you would like to free them yourself, you didn't have the magic – or anything – to help the villagers. Sitting down, you rest yourself for a bit. The chair creaks as you lean back on it. A sense of futility creeps into your heart. Mentally shaking it away, you turn your thoughts towards looking for clues. “Yo, Mokou. I'm going to look for some clues around the village. Wanna come?”
She clenches her fist and rests it against the wall. “Yeah. Just...give me a moment, okay? Let me simmer down for a sec.”
“Alright, if you say so.” You glance at Mokou one last time before exiting the house. She has her back turned to you, hiding her face. Not wanting to think about it more, you focus your mind onto the task at hand now. The village is eerily barren, void of everything normal. It seems darker than usual, the atmosphere seemingly covering up the supposed sunlight. You decide to take a look around the center of the village. Searching around the stands, you dig through anything that could relate to the incident. After going in and out of many abandoned places, you found nothing that can lead you any closer to what had happened. A sudden tapping faraway grabs your attention before you can look further into some other stands. Even though you know Mokou's around the vicinity, you didn't want to take any chances. Plus, it's freaking creepy around here. Keeping an eye around your surroundings, you walk closer to the direction of the sound. A few steps away, a constant scritch scratch comes from the corner of the street. But before you could investigate, a hand grabs you on your shoulder.. Gasping from surprise, you tense up from the sudden contact.
“Whoa, you okay pal? You don't seem that calm right now.” Mokou's familiar voice comes from behind you. She stares at you half-worriedly, tapping you a few times on the cheek. “Kid, you alright?” she repeats.
Exhaling slowly, you get your resolve together. “Yeah...I'm just a little nervous around here. I think I was hearing things. The silence from this whole village is kinda unnerving me, you know?”
“Ahaha...yeah.” She laughs, probably trying to calm you down. “I know what you mean.”
Glancing back every once in a while, you still felt a little faint. The noise from before has died down, but you wanted to check out what was behind that corner. Motioning Mokou to follow, you calmly move over to the corner.
Nothing's there. Not even anything. Just another barren street. The immortal grabs your arm and pulls you to face her. Her face is deathly serious. “Somao. Are you okay? You seem really out of it. Getting paranoid, are you?”
“No, not really. Let's get out of here. I'm not really alright here.” Taking a step back, you stumble behind on a small object, no larger than your foot. Catching yourself, you look over to what had tripped you. A brownish-red cross figure lays down on the ground. As you pick it up, you prick yourself on a sharp tip of the top. A small snake adorns the edge of the cross, coiling around half of the cross.
“Where did that come from? While I was walking here, I didn't see anything on the ground.”
“I don't know, but I don't like it one bit. Let's go now. I don't feel comfortable here at all.” Pocketing the figure, you briskly walk, making Mokou run to catch up. You just had a really bad feeling about staying here. From the the inside of the gate, you opted to open it, but you weren't really sure opening it out to all of Gensokyo would be the best idea. So instead, both you and Mokou leaped through the same way you came in. From the outside, two figures move towards you. Aya and Momiji fly towards you and Mokou.
“Anything interesting, Somao?” She seems eager for you to divulge the information you gathered.
“Well, it seems like the villagers inside were possessed of some kind. I'm not really sure, but they have no conscious as of the moment. The whole village seemed to have been afflicted. That's all for now.” You don't bother mentioning the little episode you had. But something kept on nagging you during the time you were there. “Also, I had a gut feeling that something was off. I don't know why, but I just did.”
Aya scribbles some notes down on her pad. Likewise, Momiji also starts writing some quick lines on a small sheet of paper. The crow tengu looks up from her writing. “It seems pretty serious. It doesn't seem like usual incidents that Gensokyo has. I think we should do something.”
“I agree.” Mokou answers. “Something's going on, and we need to get to the root of the problem soon. These occurrences are happening more frequently.”
“I disagree.” Momiji states, straightening her posture. “We weren't assigned to get into non-tengu affairs. We merely report from afar. Anything else was prohibited by Lord Tenma himself.”
Aya scoffs. “But this is something we need to take action on! It's not just something newsworthy, it's something we can fix. If it's against his rules, then you can personally tell the Chief that I said too bad. It's not just about the articles. Any news-reporter should know that.”
“Somao...” Momiji looks at you pleadingly to answer Aya.
[ ] “I think Momiji's right.” -[ ] “Not because I want you to stay out of my way, but because it'll spell out unnecessary trouble from your boss.” -[ ] “You shouldn't be so bold about stepping into something you have no idea about. I don't want you to get hurt.”
[ ] “I think you're right.” -[ ] “If you truly wish to get involved, then I see no reason why anybody has to stop you. But in return, you can't expect any help from Momiji.” -[ ] “Staying neutral in this kind of situation will probably only delay any major incidents until the problem gets out of hand. Acting quick will be the better of the two choices”
[X] “I think you're right.” -[X] “Staying neutral in this kind of situation will probably only delay any major incidents until the problem gets out of hand. Acting quick will be the better of the two choices.” -[X] Ask Aya about Lord Tenma's restrictions. A clever girl like her ought to be able to think of a perfectly good loophole.
[X] “I think you're right.” -[X] “Staying neutral in this kind of situation will probably only delay any major incidents until the problem gets out of hand. Acting quick will be the better of the two choices.” -[X] Ask Aya about Lord Tenma's restrictions. A clever girl like her ought to be able to think of a perfectly good loophole.
You give Momiji a helpless shrug. “To be honest, I think Aya's right. It's just my opinion, but she'll be a good help in this crisis.” Aya smiles brightly in your direction. You voice yourself. “Staying neutral in this kind of situation will probably only delay any major incidents until the problem gets out of hand. Acting quick will be the better of the two choices. Once a small problem starts to grow, it could easily spiral out of control.”
Momiji just stares at you dumbfounded. “I understand now.” She sighs deeply, like she had lost a long battle. “I won't stop you, but also, I won't be able to defend you in light of Lord Tenma. I'm going to keep to my orders, and frankly, I think you should too, Aya. There's a reason why our leader was elected as the top, and I won't be going around just defying him like that.”
Aya retorts back. “But what are we gonna do? Stay back and watch? No, I can't do that. My ego is at stake. If we're going to gather information, we should at least do our part and help out. Hiding back and letting others do all the work is below me.”
“Can the two of you bicker any longer? I might die of old age.” Mokou groans. Impatiently waiting, she leans on the large gate of the village.
“Then how about we compromise?” You add in. “Aya, what are Lord Tenma's restrictions?”
“Hmm...” She thinks about it for a second, trying to remember. “Ah! He stated that in no shape, way or form, can any tengus participate in any form of battle, as well as no provocations whatsoever towards the witch and mikos.”
“Then how abo–“
“I got it!” Aya already cuts in. “Since it's given that I can retaliate in a form of self-defense, I can stick around and help until I'm provoked into a fight! It's not really 'participating' if I'm forced to fight, yes?” She starts to get into a fervor. “Leaving Marisa, Reimu, and Sanae alone will be a small hardship, but as long as I move around, they won't be able to catch me, thus unable to provoke anything.”
“Ahahah....I see.” You couldn't think of anything to add to that. “At least it'll solve the problem of Lord Tenma's orders....somewhat. It's a bit rough, but there's nothing he could do that'll justify punishing you.”
Momiji muses for a bit, then nods her head wearily. “Fine, but the question is not whether who gets into trouble or not. It's the ethics. You do know you're performing actions of questionable intent against your superiors, right?”
“I fully know what I'm getting into, Momiji.” Aya pats Momiji's head, but the white wolf tengu moves away. As Momiji backs away, embarrassed, Aya laughs and continues. “But still, it's nice to know you're looking out for me.
“A-Aya, please don't do those things anymore. I'm not a pup.” Momiji stammers a bit, contrasting well from her usual calm self. You try your best not to snicker.
But a wave of flame almost engulfs all three of you. “Could we hurry up, if you please? We should get going and start somewhere.” Mokou seems collected, but you felt like she was pent up with anxiety since the village search.
“Sure, but where to?” You comply to the immortal's requests. Surprisingly, she has no clue where to go, and only replies with a shrug.
“I have a proposal. Why don't we go over to the Hakurei Shrine first? Reimu should be done investigating by now, and we might be able to get a lead on the case.”
“But what about Tenma's rules?” Mokou inquires. She still looks a bit cross.
“Don't worry, don't worry! It'll be fine as long as I don't provoke her. Besides,” She grins slyly. “We have our secret weapon here.” She pauses before dramatically pointing to you.
“Eh, me?” You ask. She nods vigorously.
“Yes, you! Reimu seems to be a better mood in your presence. Much better than when I visit her alone. As long as you're here, you'll probably stop any conflicts.”
“Yep!” For some reason, you don't think that's good enough. She reaches out for your hand. “Let's go. We're taking to the sky. I'm getting impatient too.”
Sighing, you take her hand and latch onto it tight. Her grip is strong, and allows you to easily hang on without any real discomfort. That is, until she gains speed. Then, it becomes a blend of desperately clasping onto her hand, and trying to distinguish what the heck was happening. Even for a few minutes, you felt severely disoriented once you landed. Taking a seat on the floor, you sprawl out on the cold marble, closing your eyes from the spinning world.
“Eh? That's weird.” Aya says. “She's gone.” Regaining your sense of balance, you raise her a questioning glance. “By the looks of the shrine, it seems like she hasn't came back yet. How strange, she would normally have been back by now. Did she get delayed...hm?” She comes upon a small note pasted onto the table. She picks it up and reads it. “Underground, dash, Youkai Mountain? Weird.”
You were a bit worried that Reimu hasn't come back, but she's a strong one. It's probably nothing. But that note gave you some possibilities. Maybe she came back and left it for you and Aya?
[ ] Search around for Reimu. Maybe something did happen. [ ] Go to the underground. You could question Old Hell's residents of any strange incidents. [ ] Move around Youkai Mountain. There could be clues or a lead on something. [ ] Back to the village. Did you miss something?
[x] Move around Youkai Mountain. There could be clues or a lead on something.
Logistically, this was the best choice. You weren't too sure of where the underground led you, nor could you expect to find Reimu if she's off somewhere. So you'll make do with the circumstances, and go to the Youkai Mountain. At least two members of your group know the area fairly well, plus you knew most of the forest grounds. Voicing your opinion, you begin the conversation. “Why don't we go to Youkai Mountain first? It'll be the easiest to scout out. And being on familiar territory never hurts. Three out of four people here already know most of the terrain out in the mountains, so it'll be our safest bet.”
“I think that's a reasonable idea.” Momiji agrees. Aya nods her head approvingly, still half-examining the empty shrine. Only Mokou looks dissatisfied.
“Do you have something to say, Mokou?” You raise one of your eyebrows.
“Yeah, just one thing. What are you basing our travel to the mountains off of?” Looking at the note, she continues. “What if the note's just something stupid and we waste most of our time there?”
“Then we'll have one less place to be suspicious of. If we find nothing, then we'll have to go someplace else to get some clues. The searches won't take so long anyways, so long as we have Aya here.”
“So aren't we just wasting time if we find nothing at all!?” Mokou starts to seethe, but takes a deep breath. “Gah...we don't have a lot of time here.”
“Even if we do find nothing, it's a small step. We don't know what we are dealing with, nor do can we afford to make careless choices.” Momiji adds in. “Immortality doesn't mean we can make such rash decisions. Even if we're losing time.”
Mokou bites her lip for a while, before conceding herself. “Alright then. But we're fixing the village as soon as possible, right?”
“Of course, Mokou.” You reply immediately. “That's my main priority – it's now the reason why I want to solve this incident in the first place.”
“All right, I'm ready. Let's go.” The immortal offers no further response, and sets off, flying towards the mountain. Momiji similarly does so, only pausing to look at Aya before taking off.
Aya offers you her hand. “So where are we going to go first?”
[ ] The curse goddess's shrine. [ ] The tengu village. [ ] The Moriya shrine. [ ] The forest.
You grab a hold of Aya's hand. “Maybe the curse goddess's shrine. I could be dead wrong, but it could be a curse-afflicted phenomenon. Even if I'm not right, we might as well go. Never hurts to be prepared.”
Aya grips you tight as she prepares to take off. “Gotcha. Let's go then!” In one spectacular fwoosh, you see her take off for a second before your body registers that you are indeed flying too. You'll never get used to that. But instead of going mach speed as usual, the crow tengu slows down to a leisurely drift. She was going fast, but it was considerably slower than before. The view from the sky seems to paint a shade of brown and newly emerged green. Now that you could actually see the scenery, it was obvious that spring was coming at its own pace.
“Gensokyo looks so refreshingly crisp this time of year. The trees look really alive today!” You glance over a few rows of plants coming back from the winter chill.
“Mmm....you're oddly cheerful today.” She concentrates on flying, not even one looking back your way. The flowing wind sways her hair and rustles her clothes as she moves briskly through the sky.
“I guess so. I'm just glad winter's almost over. It gets too cold in the mountains. The only time I liked it was when–– ah.” You were about to blurt out something you didn't want to say. You almost told her that you liked it when she was in your blanket. It would've been amusing to see her reaction, but you'd have to wait until the two of you weren't in a state where one drop could kill you.
“Hm?” Aya looks back at you, but you offer nothing but a shake of your head. Shrugging, she turns forward and continues towards the destination. The forest starts to clear up from the other side of the mountain. The trees start becoming more sparse until there aren't any at all. In the center of the widespread plains is a small shrine planted in the middle of nowhere. Slowly, you felt the drop of altitude. Though it didn't come quickly, you found yourself moving back towards the ground. Hearing the familiar tapping of your feet onto the ground, you move around, readjusting to walking.
“Ah, visitors? I haven't seen some for a while.” A voice comes out from the inner sanctum of the shrine. Daring not to trespass any further, you wait at the outer steps with Aya. One should not spite the wrath of a curse god. A woman with green hair and an exceptionally frilly dress comes into view. Despite being a goddess of misfortune, she seemed to look of gentle nature. And yet, she looks so familiar. She bows. “I am Hina Kagiyama, goddess of this shrine. By any means, please come in.”
Aya immediately moves into the shrine. “Don't mind us, now!” Hina opens the main door, and allows the two of you in. Before you go inside, however, you place a few coins near the altar. There was no donation box in sight.
Aya, already sitting down at the table, gets straight to the point. “Hina, we would like to request your assistance or advice right now. Gensokyo seems to be in another 'incident' again.”
“Very well. First, tell me more about what has been happening.” The curse goddess's natural smile drops to a serious expression.
Aya goes over the beginning details from the first controlled youkai. She summarizes the village captivity and the army that was guarding the city. Hina listens the whole time intently, pausing to nod once in a while.
“So there you have it. We're currently looking for a lead or more clues on what to do. It seems that Reimu has been missing for a little while too, but that's just speculation. She could be doing her own thing. The human village is still subdued.”
Hina creases her eyebrows. “I see. Depending on how you approach this incident, I may or may not help in various ways. However, I will do the best of my ability to assist your endeavors in any way possible.” She moves her eyes towards a few dolls hung in the back region of the shrine. “Now then, is there anything else you would like to talk about?” She directs this question at you.
[ ] Write in.
Not necessarily majority rule. Feel free to add anything.
I'll be the first to cast an awful stone, in the hopes that someone much better at making write-ins comes along. If anyone wishes to improve upon this, please do. At least vote something, so we can get this ball rolling.
[x]Tell her about your blackouts and headaches; they might be relevant. Also, that weirdo youkai.
[x] Tell her about your blackouts and headaches, especially in regards to the snake statues; they might be relevant. Also, that weirdo youkai. -[x] In addition, mention the snake cross too.
“Other than the situation at hand, what might be related are some symptoms I'm suffering. I've had recurring headaches for a while now. Prior to the whole situation, it started to flare up in random periods of time.” You recall the snake statue. “Also, there was a phenomenon of snake statues appearing throughout the village area down from the mountains. But the statues had a different effect on me than the youkai. I started to lose consciousness when I got too close to one. My vision faded and blurred and I lost the ability to move until Mokou had smashed it.” The immortal bows her head modestly. The curse goddess leans forward with concerned eyes. “Mokou was totally unaffected. Do you know that reason for that?”
“I don't have enough information at the moment. Perhaps if you could let me examine one, I could try to analyze why it only affected you. But as of the moment, you're curse-free. No irregular misfortunes surround your person.” Did that mean that you have regular misfortune?
“Already on it. Momiji is on her way as we speak. I've asked her beforehand to retrieve any items of relevance.” Aya proclaims. She straightens herself proudly.
“Another note – we found a youkai that entered a mode of unconsciousness, almost like it was being controlled. I don't remember its profile clearly, but we know that he was perfectly fine until the youkai saw me. After I beat him, he regained consciousness albeit no memories of the incident, or anything prior to it.”
“I see.” Hina replies. “By any chance was the youkai named Yachi?”
“I never asked. He had left without a word after some time.”
“Ah.” Hina says. She looks hopeful, yet not too much. You couldn't say she was happy, nor could you say she was sad.
Not wanting to diverge further, you move on. “Lastly, we have this object here.” Reaching into your pocket, you hold the cross from the village. “It had no interesting effect on anybody or anything, but it seemed like an object of interest because it had the same snake as the statue.” You hand it to her. “Ah, be careful. The top of the cross is sharp.” Grabbing it from the bottom portion, Hina eyes the tip of the cross.
Keeping her voice steady, she asks calmly. “By any chance, were you punctured in any form by this?”
You offer her an honest reply. “It pricked me a little, but no, it did not puncture through the skin.” Skeptical, you wanted to know the reason why she asked. “Does it have some sort of curse on it?”
“No.” Hina grimaces. “Poison.”
“...Aah.” You feel a few droplets of sweat accumulate on your forehead. You shake your head to keep the blood flowing to your head.
The door opens gently, creaking slowly as it moves forward. “Excuse me,” a voice calls out. “I retrieved the item.” Momiji bows respectfully to the shrine before entering. She hands Aya the little statue, who in return, gives it to the curse goddess. Hina closes her eyes, and holds the snake statue with great concentration. Breathing in slowly, she opens her eyes.
“There's no curses affiliated with this statue. But there are a few charms placed on the exterior and interior. It's merely a manipulation of the body. But the catch is that the owner of the body must give consent. There is no other way to using the charm. This is absolute.” Hina concludes.
You take all of these things into consideration. “Thank you very much, Miss Kagiyama. That will be all today.” Before you take your leave, you add, “Also, could you do me a favor and keep those items for now?”
“Yes, that would be for your best interests. I will do so.”
“Thanks again!” You yell while leaving the shrine with Momiji and Aya. Mokou seems to have gone off somewhere.
But there are still places to go to.
[ ] The tengu village. [ ] The Moriya shrine. [ ] The forest.
Now that we got the head of authorities opinion on the matter, we should probably get a second opinion from the others. Make sure the experts agree on their analysis. Or something like that, I don't know.
Grabbing ahold of Aya, you let yourself be dragged along the sky as she speeds off. “I think our next stop should be the Moriya shrine. If they aren't the culprits, then at the very least their gods can be of some assistance.” She does a sharp turn to the left, disorienting your sense of balance... if you had balance in the sky.
Not losing momentum, she keeps up the same speed. “Oho, good thinking. Either way, something will be of use to us there. So if they aren't the perpetrators, they'll be obliged to help us. The snake motif from the incidents seem to to depict one god, namely the current goddess of Moriya shrine.” Aya slows down suddenly, halting to a stop in mere seconds. You're almost flown back from the force of motion, but Aya keeps her grip on you. You can feel your stomach lurch.
“Easy on the landing – you're killing me right now.” She only gives you a sympathetic look as you clutch your head. The ground reels before you as your feet shuffle around. It takes moments before you can regain your footing steadily.
“You okay there?” Aya glances at you guiltily. Shaking the last bit of sickness away, you pat her once on the head.
“Yep. I'll be alright.” Now focusing your attention on the shrine, the exterior looks pristine and in good shape. Not what you're used to at Reimu's, but it's a nice breather from the usual unkempt area. The place itself seems homely, but you can't help but feel lonely in this place. The atmosphere feels a little stiff, you would say.
“Is anybody even here?” Aya asks. Not knowing yourself, all you can reply with is a shrug. “Huh. Usually somebody'd be out to greet us.”
Venturing inside, you flick on the lights. A large blanket is pulled into a large lump in the middle of the room. Inside, a human figure is sprawled out from under it. You pull the blanket off slowly, as to not disturb the person inside. A girl with green hair lies underneath, snoring softly. Her hair lay ruffled on the ground, with only the frog clip holding a portion of it in place. A snake adorns the other side, keeping another part of her hair straight. A peaceful smile is plastered on her face. You almost want to put her in a rightful bed so she can rest properly, but that's not the reason you're here. “Excuse me, miss?”
Jumping up, she screams, obviously scared of the sudden noise. “Aaah! Staybackyoukai!” She grabs a nearby vase, clad in her blue and white pajamas. Her expression calms down after taking a good look at her surroundings. “Oh, a visitor? And from Miss Shameimaru, no less? Sorry I had to be dressed like this, but I've finished all of my duties for today. We usually never have people coming at this hour.” She smooths out the wrinkles in her pajamas.
“Hello, there.” You introduce yourself. “My name's Somao. Nice to meet you. I take it that you're the shrine maiden here?”
“Yes, that's me! I am Sanae Kochiya, descendant of the gods!” What she lacks in charisma, she makes do with energy and spirit. A bit different from what you would expect, but Reimu has never been the standard model either. “I don't think I can attend to whatever your problem is at the moment. My gods, um...” she fidgets nervously. “they disappeared?”
You stare at her, mouth slightly agape. “They just went off and disappeared?” You take one good look at Aya. Her expression is a mix of surprise and skeptical.
“...yes.” She barely whispers the answer.
“I see.” That put a complete halt to your plans. “Do you have any idea of what happened?” She looks around the room for a while.
“Let me try to remember. The night they didn't come back was a few weeks ago. I noticed it when they didn't come back by dinner time. I'm okay now, but the first few days were a nightmare. I had to keep the shrine open too for the worshipers.”
“That'll be all for now. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.” As you excuse yourself, Momiji enters the shrine, half-exhausted.
“Excuse....me. I'll be, hah, going...back to my guard post. I cannot catch...hah, up to Aya at this pace.” She takes her leave right after, not bothering to wait for a response.
“We'll be taking off, too.” Aya motions to follow her. But before you do, a pair of hands grasp onto your ankle.
“Wai-wait!” She pleads, exasperated. “Can I...come with you two?” Sanae bites on her lip.
“Huh? Why?” You simply ask.
“I don't want to be all alone in this shrine again! Please take me with you for the time being!” She whines, pouting the whole time.
Sanae GET! It's only fair that she be allowed to venture with us, as it's becoming increasingly likely that her gods are at least partially involved in this incident. I don't really have any justification on the forest vote though, besides it's a place Somao visits often, and as he is a crucial part of this mystery it's far more likely to find clues there, rather than in the village.
You steal a glance at Aya, who only gives you an indifferent look. Still hanging onto your ankles, Sanae pleads to you with her puppy-dog eyes. Sighing, you haplessly take another into your wing. “Alright. Go ahead and come with us, but try not to provoke anything around the areas.”
Instantly she brightens up and hooks onto your waist. “Okay! Thank you so much for this! The shrine is too eery for me to stay in anyways.” She releases her grasp on you and sticks to your side. You edge away from her, trying to keep a good distance where you won't feel so awkward. But the shrine maiden follows you reminiscent to a puppy trailing behind its master.
Aya spreads her wings, creating a small gust of wind beneath her. She moves in between you and Sanae, much to your relief. Her arm extends towards you, her hand opening up. You clasp it automatically. “It'll be faster if we fly. I'll take care of this guy – the bum can't even fly anyways.”
The sudden rush of wind blocks the rest of her sentence, disorienting your sense of hearing for a few seconds. Your ears start to recover once Aya slows down. Going a steady pace, you feel that Aya is flying slower than her usual pace – not that it's a bad thing.
“We seem to be lacking some speed.” You quickly add in, “Not that it's a bad thing – but I'd usually be hanging on to dear life.”
“We don't really want to lose our shrine maiden, do we? She might get lost.” Aya pauses for a moment. “...Just where are we going anyways?”
“To the forest. I want to go around Youkai Mountain for clues, and the forest is one area I'm particularly knowledgeable about.”
“I see.” She slows down a bit more and looks behind her. From the back, Sanae is seen going a medium pace. But definitely not as fast as Aya, even now. “Oh, by the way, could you do me a favor? I need you to have a better grasp on me, so I don't accidentally let go. I don't have the momentum to keep you up like this.” True, you're just dangling with one arm holding hers.
“Sure. But how do we adjust our position...?” You were unsure of how to readjust yourself like this.
“No clue.” She puts it bluntly.
“Alright, I'll try to make do anyways. Just don't try to let go in the meantime.” You hook your free arm with Aya's other arm, trying to not lose stability. But as you pull yourself forward, you slip and cause Aya to catch you, holding you in some sort of awkward embrace.
“...I guess this is fine too. It's a little uncomfortable, but much more manageable than before.” Moving you around a bit, Aya does her best to make your position as comfortable as she could make it to the both of you.
You look further into the woods. A barren square of nothing stands out conspicuously from the green trees and flourishing grass. A dead, dark patch with no wildlife prominently displayed in the middle of the forest.
You almost feel your mouth unhinge. “W-what happened here?” Staring at a field filled with absolutely nothing, you couldn't find the words to exactly describe what you were feeling.
“...” Aya offers no reply to you. She looks absolutely stunned, eyes wide at the spectacle. She hovers down, and flies lower until her feet hit the ground. Getting off of Aya, you stand in the center of nothing but red lines and circles around the area.
If anything you voice your opinion. “Eerie.” You describe it in one word. This place feels so...unnatural. Chills wrack up in your spine, causing you to shiver involuntarily. You blink your eyes. Your vision begins to blur, and you start to feel a bit incoherent. The world sways back and forth, like a rocking ship.
A loud thump disturbs the chilling presence, bringing you back to your senses. The miko hits the ground at high speed, managing to land without falling. “Aaaah! Why do you guys go so fast? I was almost left behind! Luckily, I have keen eyesight.” It takes Sanae a while to register the area. “....Oh.”
You nod your head.
“...Oh.” She repeats once again. She starts to say something, but you can't really hear her now. The confusion sweeps you away from consciousness once again. You struggle to keep yourself coherent. Something is past Sanae. A little to the right, actually.
[ ] Keep looking – stare harder. [ ] Avert your eyes. [ ] Focus back in reality to keep your cognition in check.
You felt severely nauseous, like you were about to throw up. The area manages to blur into an incomprehensible wave of fuzziness. Why you couldn't tear your eyes off of that one part of the area, you didn't know. Just then, something moved within the fuzziness. You didn't know how you registered that movement, but you knew you weren't mistaken. Time seemingly slows down to a still. Your body refuses to move by your accord. An object moves closer towards you, prancing leisurely along the way. An almost lyrical voice breaks your grogginess.
“Heeeello there~” A voice enunciates itself. “Looks like you're in quite the trouble, yes?”
You try your best to nod your head, but you're frozen in place, unable to do anything but watch your surroundings. You keep on staring at the object – which seems to look increasingly humanoid in figure. A haunting giggle disturbs your inner resolve.
“Eheheee, I thought so...you don't mind if I help you, right?” As your eyes grow adjusted to the haziness, a girl with long, brown hair greets your vision. She raises her arm, giving it a little wave. Immediately, you drop to the floor, slamming down on the cold ground.
You groan in response, but quickly get yourself together, now that you have the capacity to move. “Thank you for freeing me, but who are you? More importantly, what is this?”
She smiles giddily.”I can't tell you that. If I did, then everything would be ruined!” She laughs unabashedly, not bothering to control her volume in a creepy area like this. “But I could tell you why this is all happening. There's one little problem.” She frown.
“...And what is that?” You ask hesitantly.
She bites her lip, chewing on the bottom half. “You need to help me. It'll be a blind leap of faith, I know. But you won't know for certain unless you try. All you have to do is say that you'll help me. Easy, right?” She grimaces. “But it's not really that easy, so to speak.”
“Let me think about it. How long do I have until I must decide?”
The girl looks at you chastely. “Enough time for you to choose.” Before you can ask to clarify, a sudden gust sweeps you off balance, rendering you incoherent once more.
Once you get back on your feet, Sanae comes immediately rushing to you. “Are you okay? It looked like you had a nasty fall! I was trying to talk to you, but you weren't responding for a while!”
“It's only been a few seconds, calm down,” Aya reassures her. “He got right back on his feet, he'll be fine. Right?” She directs this at you.
“Yeah.” You reply. But you were feeling quite terrible, still nauseous after your ordeal. “I'm okay.” You still manage to say. In your mind, you were only responding the way you knew best – it was terrible, but you did it anyways. “Just feeling a bit woozy right now, investigate without me for now. I'll sit down for a bit.”
“You sure?” Aya questions you skeptically. “The more you say you're fine, the less I believe you.”
“Don't worry about it. I'm just weirded out by everything around here.” You urge her not to press on, so she gives you one final look before joining Sanae on her quest to find something.
Though, your mind always keeps on returning to the question.
No. You won't. From everything that has been going on, you shouldn't let yourself be easily swayed by a questionable girl with ambiguous intent. She just struck you off as...wrong. This incident is unraveling slowly, but you can't afford to make any mistakes before you fully realizing what the hell is going on. And to be honest, her laugh is spine-chilling.
Your knees buck, plummeting your body down to the ground. The taste of vomit stings your tongue, but nothing's coming out. Aya grabs hold of your shoulders, keeping you from swaying as you cough down on the ground. After a while, the uneasy feeling subsides, and you lean your body on Aya's shoulders to keep yourself from falling down again. Sanae follows closely, looking behind her every now and then.
“I knew something was up.” Aya sighs as she drags you out of sight from the red markings on the ground. “Is it the ground etchings that are making you this way, or are you just sick?”
“Not sure, but I feel much better now.” you respond.
“Really now?” Aya grimaces. “I don't think keeling over to the ground makes you any bit better.”
“You might have a point.” You wince as she thwaps your head. “Okay, I probably deserved that.”
“You did.” Sanae bluntly states. “You can't have a cute girl worrying over you like that all the time.” But before she can let Aya reply, she pushes her out of the way.
“What are you doing!?” The tengu yells.
Sanae doesn't say anything, only examining the ground. She dusts a small metallic item that shines. She puts the item up to the sky, squinting at it. It seems to be a ring of some sort, but it's as big as a plate. “Yep, this is definitely one for sure.” She nods to herself.
“...Uh, what do you mean by that?” You ask, innately curious.
“Yeah, I'd like to know too.” Aya pats down the wrinkles on her shirt. “Especially after the fuss you made to get it.”
“It's a metal ring.” Sanae twirls it around on her finger. The ring's frame is surprisingly thin, considering its width and length. “It was made by one of my deities, Suwako Moriya. How odd for it to be here, though.” The wind priestess mumbles.
“Is it really that odd, though?” A short woman with blonde hair floats down softly down to the ground, landing on both feet. She adorns a loose purpose shirt with a tiny frog on it, as well as a goofy-looking hat with eyes on the top. “I was here, so naturally, it'd be here if I dropped it.” The goddess chuckles to herself. “Besides, the main question to ask is why are you here, Sanae?”
“I came here to find you and Lady Kanako! So far, I've found one.” She says in the most obvious manner.
Suwako puts her hand on her cheek. “Hmmm, really? I'm glad you were looking out for us, then. But for your safety, you shouldn't be here.”
“But, why, Lady Suwako?” Sanae whines.
She doesn't reply with anything else. She drops her friendly smirk, brandishing a metal ring. “There's a lot of things that aren't for you to see, Sanae...” The goddess twirls around and chucks the ring at you, barely slicing your cheek before you dodge it.
“...That wasn't very nice, miss.” You restrain yourself. It's not generally not a good idea to fight without first knowing how strong your opponent was. Aya looks like she's about to lash out at her, but keeps to herself for now. Sanae, tilts her head, confused by the outcome of events.
She blinks. “Oh, wait, sorry!” She smacks your forehead. “I thought you were someone else. A rather annoying acquaintance of mine. Silly me~”
You frown at her. “How could I remind of of someone you know? Is it the rugged good looks?” you joke.
“No, rather....the scent.” She skips over to your group.
“But I don't smell anything on him, other than his usual self.” Aya answers.
“It's not that type of scent. It's more of a smell that only gods can detect. It's very similar to someone else's that I know.”
Sanae wrinkles her nose.“Come to think of it...I think-”
“You can't smell it, Sanae.” Suwako says, deadpan. Aya only snickers at Sanae pouting with a deep blush of embarassment.
“But enough chatter, I'm not totally against having the two of you leave. Aya and whoever you are, that is. Sanae'll need to leave.”
“No buts, Sanae. It's too dangerous to be out here.”
Sanae only grumbles, and flies back out of view. You see her disappear from the sky in only a few moments.
“So how 'bout it? You wanna help a little ol' goddess like me?” You look at Aya.