Not more than an hour ago, you'd set foot on a short hike through the forest. A forest nowhere near a mountain. And here you are, standing on the edge of a massive mountain ravine?
"The old guy never mentioned this..."
This is not how you thought you'd be spending your day.
At dinner last night you found yourself parked next to a talkative old man. The guy was clearly there to talk to anyone who would listen, and you don't mind catching an earful from a local when you're visiting a new place. By the time you finally stumbled back to your hotel he'd told you not only the nearby attractions, but the entire history of the town since he was a lad.
One thing in particular kept coming up, though - the nearby shrine. He was insistent on you seeing it. Every anecdote or story he told somehow came back to that shrine.
The hike up to it sounded interesting, so you decided to take that in as part of your vacation. You're not much of a believer in spirits and gods and that, but if the shrine was even half as wonderful as this guy said it was worth seeing. The two hour walk there and back wouldn't be a bad way to start the morning either, and after that, you could see some of the other more normal touristy things you had planned on.
Initially the trail was a bit difficult to follow. It clearly didn't get much use, much like the old man said. But after you got deeper into the forest the undergrowth stopped crowding it out and you were able to follow it easy enough. Stone markers guided you along most of the way.
After a while, though, you lost the markers, so you tried to backtrack. It was clear that you'd lost the trail, as the brush behind you was much thicker than you thought when you first passed through. Eventually, you thought you'd spotted a clearing through the thinning treeline, but... well, here you are - face to face with a several thousand foot drop that shouldn't be here in any reasonable world.
A stiff gust of wind from behind catches you by surprise as you're peering over the edge. You steady yourself fine, but that ravine suddenly seems much closer. That's... a long way down. You back up a bit to calm your nerves.
Is this a dream? It feels too real for that. The void calls, saying that you could confirm easy enough by taking a few dozen steps forward. You shake your head. You've been lost before. Nothing like this of course, because this is nonsense - but the principals are the same regardless. Don't panic. Stabilize your situation first, and worry about getting out later. All you really have is a light backpack with some snacks, a fair amount of water, your knife, and a compass.
Not ideal, but probably enough for today if you don't waste it. At least you thought to wear your boots before getting sucked into a temporal rift, or being blasted back in time, or being abducted by aliens, or...
After gathering your courage, you get close up to the edge again. There doesn't seem to be an easy way down from here. You're pretty close to the top of this... mountain. Definitely a mountain. Why the hell are you on a...
... doesn't matter right now. Focus.
You're on some kind of ridge, and it looks like whatever brought you up here was cruel enough to put you above the steep part - the slope going down is a lot greater than the slope going up. Maybe you could get a better look up there? It's probably not more than a mile. Going up would be a waste of energy if you can't find a better way down, though. Maybe you should just cut back into the forest and see if the other direction is better.
It almost looks like a person moving around up top... but at this distance, it's hard to be sure. What else could it be, though?
"HELLO! OVER HERE! I NEED HELP!"
You muster the biggest voice you can, trying to get their attention. It certainly seems like they should be able to hear you, but the only answer you get back is a disturbingly loud echo. Strange acoustics here. You get the idea to use your compass to catch their eye and continue yelling.
After a few minutes of that, the figure moves behind the peak. Or in front of, maybe - it's hard to tell when they aren't silhouetted by the sky. It's not clear that they heard you, so you...
[ ] Do some scouting, but don't stray too far in case they are getting help. [ ] Start trying to make your way up. One hiker probably means more, and being closer makes you more easily heard.
=============================================================================== I'll be updating this at least once a week. Eventually I'll be trying to stick to a specific day but for now I'm going to see where it naturally lands. I hope you all enjoy.
[x] Do some scouting, but don't stray too far in case they are getting help. I wouldn't count on help but a little recon is important when you're trying to gather your bearings. Though risking getting a bit more lost when climbing also sounds tempting.
[x] Do some scouting, but don't stray too far in case they are getting help.
... decide it best to stay put. Mostly. A bit of scouting won't hurt if you can find something useful like the trail, but wandering too far probably isn't wise. If they noticed you, you want to be where you were seen. Not to mention that you're not even sure you can get there from here.
You scan the peak and the surroundings for a little bit longer, but don't really notice anything else interesting. Time for a bit of bushwhacking, then. Not wanting to get lost, you take out your compass and make a mental note to not get turned around or move too fast. You grab a walking stick too, for good measure.
The brush is thick, but once you get back from the cliff the trees provide enough shade to keep it manageable. Had you been paying attention earlier rather than just walking, you'd have notice that it's different than the stuff you had at the start of your walk. Not entirely different, so you're probably in the same geographic region, but not the same either.
Still no sign of the trail... or anything else useful. No water and not even a few berries or something to munch on. You scout for perhaps an hour, confirming that you are indeed on a relatively flat plateau of sorts, when a fog rolls in. Fog? You guess it's low clouds this high up. So much for the sun, you guess.
You take a seat on a nearby rock to reassess. This situation hasn't improved in the slightest. Not that it would have likely improved had you tried to bushwhack straight to the peak either, given these clouds.
"Seriously, what the hell!?"
Your frustration gets the best of you. This is completely stupid. Absurd! Completely---
"Seriously, what the hell!?"
Your heart starts pumping as you jump to your feet. Something like your voice echoes out from the mist, but... it's way too loud.
Instinctively, you grip your walking stick with both hands. This is not your day. Voices calling out from the mist while you're alone in a forest... what is this, a horror film now?
"Who's there!?" you demand, trying your best to not freak out completely.
It replies in your voice all the same. "Who's there!?" This time, though, it's close. WAY too close.
[ ] Fight. [ ] Flight. =============================================================================== I'll look to call this one early next week again, because bite-sized updates don't actually take long to write. This week was kind of abnormal and I screwed around on my one somewhat normal day.
Also, I dunno where that post went asking why I dropped CS (and sorry for the delayed response), but short answer: low mental energy and stressful stuff in real life.
Longer answer: I stalled that out the first time because I had just left college and ended up in a job that wasn't ideal for myself. Playing corporate politics is really taxing for me and I was pretty stressed in general. Not a good environment for writing, and trying to force it just made more frustration.
Failed restart was me trying to get into a hobby again to distract myself from my job. Not a good idea - I should have sorted my issues with the job first - which I did about a year later by getting a new one elsewhere.
Those aren't really generic pitfalls but maybe there's some wisdom there. It was funny because I'd taken care to guard against the pitfalls that killed other stories of mine, but found a new one anyway. There's always one to stumble in to and let fester until it becomes unreasonable to continue.
This isn't right. Nothing has been right since you ended up wherever this is, and now something is seriously trying to mess with you. You've got nowhere to back down to and a body full of adrenaline. The image of your knife flashes through your mind, but you're not sure you're hands would listen if you told them to stop gripping the stick.
Another response, and still fairly close. You sprint a bit in the direction of the sound, but... there's nothing there, and you saw nothing moving around as you ran up. Some kind of ghost? Demon? Slipping into hell seems a bit far-fetched, but you guess anything's possible.
"What do you want with me?"
"What do you want with me?"
The voice sounds a whole lot further out this time. You... don't go after it. No sense. Is it backing down? You can't tell with the visibility like this.
"Hello?", you call out one last time for good measure.
Whatever the hell "it" is, it's back to sounding more like a strange echo than an immediate threat. You think you're safe from it for now, even if it's going to take your body a little while to calm down. Even if your head is still buzzing with "why?".
You're basically out of options at this point.
Something smashes into you from behind. The brush bites into your face on the way down and you lose your stick in the process. When you try to roll over, something firm pins your shoulder down. A roll in the other direction fails as well as the weight on your shoulder shifts. Before you can try anything else, you feel something cold - and sharp - press against your neck.
"Don't move," A female voice, this time. "How did you get past our guards?"
"Is this a joke?" you practically scream, "Are you serious?"
She presses the blade firmly against your skin. There's no doubt that it's a blade now, and there's no doubt that this is a dangerous situation. "The Tengu wouldn't be so careless as to let a mere human wander by. How did you do it?"
"Hello! Is someone over there?"
Another female voice, this one almost friendly sounding, calls out from... well, you're not in much of a position to see where. Whoever has you pinned seems to notice it, too - you feel her shift her weight and move that horrible sword away. In that instant, you...
[ ] Call out, but don't struggle. [ ] Try to get out from the pin. [ ] Remain still. She said "don't move".
... let your desperation get the better of you, blade be damned.
"Over here! ---oof!"
The pressure on your back becomes almost crushing as it forces you into roughly into the ground, and the blade finds it's place at your neck again. By some miracle you do keep your head... at least for now. Whoever is out there responds cheerfully.
"Ok! I'm coming!"
"Calling for your friends?" Your assailant quietly states, "Well, that's fine. I'd have to find them anyway. Come on, up you go."
An arm grasps you around the chest and forces you back to your feet. She's strong. It takes almost no effort for her to get you up, even though her arms aren't burly by any means. At least they look like human arms and not some horrible demon arms.
Branches pop and leaves rustle as whoever you called out to makes their way closer. They're obviously not trying to be sneaky about it. Why would they? They don't have any reason to. They.... don't realize there's someone dangerous over here. Oh.
Well, you're not even sure what this person behind you wants. You're probably a bit cut up from the tackle, and you feel like some of the scratches might be bleeding, but you can't really check right now. But beyond that you'd be dead
"Hello?" The voice calls out again, much closer, "Are you over here?"
The arm around your chest squeezes a bit as your assailant leans in close. "Answer her."
Whoever it is, you hope they're as exceptional as the person behind you. Doesn't seem unlikely, considering what you've seen in the last few hours.
"Ok! Almost there!"
And sure enough, after a bit more twig snapping, she's there.
Definitely exceptional - exceptionally out of place, though she doesn't seem to be aware of it. Really, she'd look more at place in some kind of temple than out here. A long skirt isn't really mountain climbing material, much less. And she's got some kind of paper fan thing with her for no obvious reason. Weird hair doodads.
"Oh? There's two of you?"
She seems confused as to what she's managed to walk herself into. Not that you blame her. A weary smile creeps across your face. This is still absurd, but at least one of these two
"Oh, I think I get it!" She says, after thinking for a moment. "That's a youkai, isn't it? And you're being attacked, right?"
Youkai? I mean, you're being attacked, but a folk monster... well, you guess you were thinking demon before, so maybe she's coming from the same place. Before you can answer, your assailant pipes up.
"Not just 'a youkai', human. A Tengu!" She moves the blade a bit as if to make a point. "How did you and your friend make it past our watch unnoticed?"
"Hm? He's not my friend."
The tengu laughs. "You both got by undetected? At separate times? I find that hard to believe."
"Oh," the green-haired girl pipes up, "Well, we just moved our shrine here with magic! We probably didn't go past you."
"Morya shrine?" You blurt out, desperately trying to make sense of anything she's saying. She clearly recognizes that name.
Should have bitten your tongue. The iron grip around your chest pulls you tighter. "So, you DO know each other!"
"No. But, maybe... huh." The girl shakes her head. With a sudden fire in her eye, she points the paper fan over your shoulder. "Tengu, let go of him right now!"
This is starting to get dicey again. Not good.
[ ] Try to talk them down. [ ] Try to make an opening for the girl with a distraction. =============================================== ...or three days, I guess. Got home yesterday and basically fell asleep so I didn't get this written.
Your frustration rises up again. You don't understand what the girl's doing, but you can tell by her pose that it's not good, and you're already got a blade pushed up against your neck. You really don't want to be in the middle of this. There's no reason you should. It's absurd.
"Look, I don't know what's going on here," you continue, trying not to give much of a gap for them to interrupt, "but I think there's some kind of misunderstanding. I was just out for a walk to visit the Morya Shrine and somehow I ended up here. And I definitely don't know this person."
There's a laugh from behind you. Well, more like a snort than a laugh. "You were out for a walk and ended up on top of a mountain?"
"I'm absolutely serious," You say, "I don't get it either. I just want to figure out what's going on."
"That's probably our fault," the green-haired girl says, lowering her paper thing. "You were out for a walk in the forest by Morya Shrine, right? Maybe on the path coming from the edge of town?"
"Yeah," You say, not risking nodding with that blade so close, "One minute I'm walking along and the next I'm looking over a cliff."
"You were the one yelling for help?"
"He was," the tengu answers for you, "And you were who he was yelling to. Why didn't you answer?"
"Oh..." She frowns for a moment. "Haha. That would have been a good idea, wouldn't it?"
The tengu sighs. "You said you moved some kind of shrine to our mountain? Where is it?"
"Right over the peak," The girl says, "You should come see it sometime! But can I take him now? He's hurt."
The arm around your chest finally lets go, and the blade removes itself. A not-so-gentle shove sends you stumbling towards the girl, but you manage to keep yourself from falling. Finally. You rub the side of your head to check your wound from earlier, and... yeah, that's a little too red to be sweat.
"Here," The girl says, pulling a bit of cloth from somewhere inside that getup of hers. You wipe a bit of the blood off your face. "It's not too far, but can you walk?"
"We can just fly. I'll carry you both."
Turning around, you finally come face-to-face with the girl who tackled you earlier. It's not just the sword that she's got, but a shield on her back. And... those eyes aren't quite right. No, silver hair and red eyes and... a second set of ears?
"A monster?" You mutter in disbelief. That, or someone with an extremely realistic costume who claims to fly and just walked up a mountain. This is just way too real to be a dream, and shurly you'd have woken from it by now if it were.
"Tengu!" She yells, clearly displeased, her sword arm moving a bit. "I should cut you down for that!"
"I'm sorry!" You yell out, wanting to be nowhere near that blade. "I didn't mean it!"
"Flying?" The girl interrupts, "Oh, maybe I could...?"
The wind picks up a little, but it's... odd. The leaves around the girl are all moving, but in different directions and with far too much force. As if this day couldn't get any stranger, she slowly lifts off the ground and hovers a few feet above it, giggling.
A triumphant grin crosses her face. "I can carry myself, but could you carry... oh," She pauses again. "My name is Sanae! What's yours?"
You give your name. It's nothing special.
"And you?" She asks, turning to the mon---tengu.
"Momiji, of the Tengu."
Momiji steps closer. "Turn around. Like I said, I'll carry you. Walking would be too slow."
This is all moving too fast for your brain to handle. You do as told. Not that you'd really want to walk up the mountain anyway. With you pressed tightly into the tengu's chest by her iron grip, you feel your feet lose contact with the ground.
"Ok!" Sanae yells, rising a bit unsteadily, "Follow me!"
Momiji easily holds on to you as the three of you rise above the forest you were just in. You're... flying.
It's probably a good thing there's clouds, because you're not sure you could take seeing anything other than the whitish-grey void right now. Like this, it's almost peaceful - although the moist air you're flying through is a bit cold, and being held in a reverse hug isn't exactly comfortable. But, still, you can feel your mood improving.
Maybe you'll finally get to the bottom of this. This Sanae girl seems to know what's going on, this Momiji person... well, you think she's decided you aren't a threat by now, but you'll still have to be leery. You're still past their guards, whatever that means.
"Down here!" Sanae calls out, descending.
Sanae lands a bit fast, nearly falling over as she does. But your pilot sets you down with as much ease as she lifted you with.
"Thanks," You say, but Momiji hardly acknowledge you as she walks towards Sanae.
A massive set of torii greets you, two in total, and what looks like a half finished path. With the clouds as they are you can't really see any further than that.
"You moved this here?" Momiji asks.
"No," Sanae responds, "I only helped. Our shrine's god did the real work."
She then turns to you. "We should get your scratch cleaned so it doesn't get infected. Are you hungry? It's almost lunch time, too..."
You nod. Food. Shelter. This is great. It seems you've been found by a goddess. As you walk though, you notice that Momiji isn't following. Sanae either doesn't, or doesn't care.
[ ] Mention it to her. [ ] Continue walking. ============================================================================ Probably going to try to update Sunday if I've got enough votes and I'm feeling up, otherwise around Tuesday as normal.
"Anything you've got is great," You say. "Thank you so much!"
Sanae giggles. "The Morya shrine wouldn't let a lost hiker go hungry."
Though you're eager to get going, you feel a little uneasy with leaving someone who just held you hostage to their own devices. She came to see the shrine... but now she's just going to look? Seems odd. "What about her?"
You turn your gaze back to Momiji, who seems to be watching with a curious eye. She's clearly intent on watching you two walk away.
"Hey!" She calls out, "You're invited too, are you coming?"
The wolf girl snaps out of her thousand yard gaze and focuses on you two.
"Yes," she says, moving to catch up with you both, "I won't turn down your hospitality."
"Good! Oh," Sanae pauses, "But... I wonder what we have...?"
With Sanae lost in thought, the three of you pass silently beneath the torii. You're not sure if it's just the day getting to you, but you definitely feel... something as you do. A sort of weight on your chest, maybe - probably a bit of adrenaline coming back. You're sure that once the clouds are gone this will be one quite the place to see.
For now, though, the entrance doesn't even look complete. The two-and-a-half torii clearly aren't the end of this entryway. There's quite a few logs stacked nearby, some in the process of being cut, and the stone path leading in is missing a significant number of tiles where the ground isn't quite flat enough yet to support them.
"Well, we can start with tea." Sanae says after an inordinate amount of time. "Did you start towards our shrine this morning?"
You nod. "If this is the same Morya shrine, yeah. How did we end up in the mountains?"
You've definitely got a clearer head now. Things might be OK after all, even if this situation doesn't make sense. You can figure it out in time.
"We moved it here, like I said," Sanae says, "I, um... don't really understand how it all worked, so I'm not really sure why you came with it."
By now you can see two buildings coming into view. Big ones - presumably the shrine and the place where the staff stay. You wonder who else is staying there. If she doesn't understand how she moved this place up here, she probably didn't do it alone.
"Was it magic or something? Sorry, I still don't know what's going on here."
The building directly across from the torii is clearly the shrine itself. You can't say that the old man was lying - it really was worth seeing. You're not a spiritual person normally, but a real live god wouldn't be out of place in a shrine like this.
"It's not magic," She says, shaking her head, "I'm a priestess, not a magician, so... it's more like a miracle."
A miracle. "It's a miracle you found me in this fog, I think! And maybe a miracle I didn't waltz off a cliff earlier on accident."
"Those are small ones," She says, responding seriously to your half-joking suggestions. "But maybe they were related to the one that brought the shrine here. That was a miracle of 'safe travel to our new location'."
Sanae stops walking in the middle of the plaza between the two buildings. It seems like she's leading you up to the shrine itself, not the quarters to the side.
"Welcome to the Morya shrine!" She says, with pride. "You two are our first visitors, but we'll be having many more in the future. Excuse me for a minute."
She walks up to the shrine and kneels in front of it, presumably in prayer. You do the same. A priestess serves her gods, and you've seen enough today that you're able to believe that it's literally true for her. This is their house, so it's best to show some respect.
... not that you're sure what to pray for. Some sanity, maybe? Making it home and out of this bizarro land safely?
"OK, let's---" Sanae interrupts, surprised to see you beside her "Thank you! And now you're the first person to pray here."
You stand. Momiji just watches silently from behind you two, uninterested. Maybe she's a little more willing to risk wrath than you are.
"Over here," Sanae says, walking towards the side building. "This is where I live. Let me get the tea started."
The three of you enter. Despite the outside, it's actually quite modest on the inside. The rooms don't feel too large and there isn't much decoration. You guess a lot of it must just be general storage, or maybe it did have more staff at one point.
Sanae motions for you both to enter a room with a low table. "I'll be right back."
Both you and Momiji have really just been following Sanae around for this entire time. Now that she's gone, you both look at the table. Then to each other. It's not exactly a friendly look.
[ ] ... (take a seat quietly. You could use a rest.) [ ] (take a seat.) "This place is something, huh?" [ ] "I'll be outside if you need me."
[x] (take a seat.) "This place is something, huh?"
Well, friendly or not, it doesn't matter too much. She's not going to attack you here you don't think. And although you're still sore from earlier. You make your way over to the table and take a seat. That's what it's here for, and you've got no intention of leaving.
"This place is something, huh?" You ask Momiji, who follows not too far behind you.
"I won't comment on it," Momiji says, quietly, "As this is a sacred place. But the top of the mountain was bare for a reason."
"Where am I anyway?" You ask, "I get that I'm on your land or something, but I don't really understand."
"You are on the top of Youkai Mountain, Kingdom of the Tengu," She says, "The mountain itself and the surrounds are in a land called Gensokyo."
"A place where youkai and humans coexist," She says, "From what I understand, that's not true in the outside world."
Something clicks in your mind. That... actually makes sense. Not that getting here makes any sense, but the idea of this not being the world you knew makes sense. "So it's not a dream then?"
Momiji smirks. "No. Not that you could trust my answer if it were."
"True," you say, leaning back a bit to stretch. "Huh. You said coexist?"
"We coexist with the humans here," She says, "But outsiders are fair game."
"What about trespassers? And what do you mean by 'fair game'"
"We remove them from the mountain," She says, "By force, if needed. As for fair game... well, we are free to do what we like. For you, we'd have a short trial and likely execute you. You'd be deemed too weak to survive if you were placed at the foot of the mountain, so we'd spare you the trouble."
Execute? Your eyes go wide, not expecting to hear that. She laughs in response.
"Don't worry, you're under the shrine maiden's protection for now. We wouldn't be as brazen as to remove you from a temple without good reason."
"That's... good," you say, still a bit unsettled "I guess. But why'd you let me go and carry me here?"
She shrugs. "Convenience. It wasn't worth fighting her to keep you, and it made scouting this shrine easy."
Seems reasonable enough. If you need to get into a place, best to let the person there open the door and show you around. You're not sure she has bad intentions, but you can definitely tell that this shrine being here is going to lead to some friction at the very least.
The two of you pass the time with a bit more idle chat. The current day doesn't seem to have been changed when you entered this Gensokyo place. The mountain itself has the tengu living near the middle, with a large stream running down the west side - and you guess the waterfall is something to see. She also seems very interested in your compass, for whatever reason.
Eventually, the entryway slides open. It's Sanae with the tea.
"Sorry that took so long! I forgot where I put the tea in all those boxes..."
She laughs. "Well, we were moving after all. But I guess I didn't really need to use the boxes in the end."
You sip the tea. It's... actually really good.
"Thank you. This is delicious."
Sanae seems satisfied with your response. "I'm glad you like it! It's one of my favorites."
You can't remember the last time your tea was this good, though you suppose that all the excitement earlier has helped with that.
"So, Momiji, right?" Sanae asks her other guest, "You said there are other tengu on this mountain?"
"Many," She responds, "Why?"
"Well," Sanae says, "We were hoping there'd be humans, but if there's a lot of tengu... there's probably not, right?"
"If you wanted humans, you should have placed your shrine near the village."
Sanae looks a bit glum at that, but only for a moment. She sips her tea, as does Momiji.
[ ] Try to steer the conversation towards the shrine. [ ] Try to steer the conversation towards Sanae. [ ] Sip your tea, relax, and just listen for now.
You can't really help smiling at that. What an odd girl.
"So it's just you, then?"
"I'm the only priestess here, if that's what you mean," she says, "This shrine only has one at a time."
Sip. "That seems tough. Did you go to school and all that too?"
She laughs. "It wasn't tough to do both because not many people visited. There isn't much faith in old gods in our world, so not many people visit old shrines like this one."
"Our world, huh?"
For a moment, you'd forgotten that fact. This setting was so perfectly natural that your current situation had slipped your mind. But, even if she and you are from the same world, you're absolutely certain you couldn't fly like she could or any of that. Maybe you're the abnormal one here. No, you definitely are.
"Were you always able to fly?"
Again, she laughs. "No, no. But this is Gensokyo, so common sense doesn't apply here." she pauses for a moment to take another sip of tea. "...at least, that's what Lady Kanako keeps telling me. I didn't think it would work by just trying."
"The god of this shrine."
As if on cue, you hear a large rumble from outside some place. You turn to look, but as there's no windows it doesn't help much.
"Oh," Sanae says, "Sorry. We're still finishing the shrine grounds, that's why the entrance looked the way it did. It might be noisy for a while."
"So that was..."
She nods. "I'll have to help after we get you fed. After that, we can figure out what you want to do. More?"
Sanae pours you another cup of tea. "Ah, right, you mentioned something about that. So you think you brought me over with the shrine?"
"No, that's definitely what happened," She says, "The miracles we used to bring the shrine here somehow grabbed you rather than most of the entrance to the grounds."
You laugh. It's absurd, but... something about common sense not applying. Fine. Sure. You'll accept that. It's an answer, and anything is good right about now. "Seriously?"
"We wondered what went wrong, but that has to be it. We didn't count on people visiting at such a weird time. More?"
Momiji nods. "Yes, thank you." She's been quiet, but she seems interested in all this.
Sanae and you chat about nothing in particular for a while. She's curious in what kind of travelling you were doing that brought you to the shrine in the first place, so you fill her in. Just a vacation. It's extremely mundane compared to her story, but she listens intently.
After a while, Sanae steps out for a bit leaving you and Momiji alone. She'd put some rice on with the tea, and you guess it's almost done.
The two of you glance at each other again, but it's quite a bit less harsh this time.
"She's an excellent host, isn't she?"
Not a word more is exchanged between you two before Sanae returns with lunch. It's simple - onigiri and miso soup - but it really hits the spot. Mostly, you all eat in silence.
After the meal, Sanae pipes up. "Feeling better?"
"After I clean up," She says, gathering the dishes, "We can talk about getting you home."
[ ] Offer to help with the cleaning. [ ] Let her be a good host and stay put. =============================================== Hopefully less busy next week, sorry that took a bit longer than normal.
Sanae leaves, taking the dishes with her... and leaving you with Momiji again. Although, after about a minute or so, Momiji stands up. You look to her, curious.
"I'm leaving," She says, sensing your question. "I've been gone long enough."
"Maybe I'll see you around."
"Hope that if you do, it's near this shrine." She says, flatly. "You might not live if it's anywhere else."
Oddly enough, it doesn't sound much like a threat. Just a warning. You give a nod in response. At least it sounds like you'll be safe from her and whoever the rest of the Tengu are up here.
"Right." You say, "See ya."
Without another word, she heads out through the door. Now it's just you, alone with your thoughts. Not that they're useful ones. It's mostly just buzzing what-ifs and speculation and trains of thought that don't make any sense. Tiring morning, but you managed to find safety. And, in the end, you guess that's what matters.
You rest your eyes for a moment... or a few. The scratch you took - and it was just a scratch - still stings. Your body still aches from being handled like you were.
After a while, you start to hear conversation coming from the hall. Two people, you think. Sanae, and... someone else. Not wanting to be rude, you try not to pay too much attention to it. After the conversation ends, the door slides open.
"Oh, were you taking a nap?"
Your eyes open up to see Sanae standing in the doorway.
"No," you say, "Just resting."
"Could you come with me?" She asks, "There's someone else who wants to meet you."
The second voice, perhaps? You stand with a bit of effort. "Sure. Where are we going?"
"By the way," You say, as you leave, "Did Momiji let you know she was leaving?"
Sanae nods. "She was very polite about it. But I kind of worry about what the Tengu might think of this place. Momiji didn't sound happy about us moving up here."
It occurs to you that she wasn't around for most of your conversation with her. You'll have to fill the shrine maiden in later.
Sanae leads you outside. By now the clouds have passed again, leaving you with a spectacular view of the sky and the whole grounds. The shrine itself looks so much more impressive like this. While you were eating, it seems like a few more torii appeared, as well.
A short walk takes the two of you to the front of the shrine. Again, Sanae kneels in prayer, and again, you join her - but only because it seems appropriate.
A booming laugh, followed by a huge voice fills the air. "Do you really think I can't tell? Put your heart into it!"
Startled, you leap to your feet and look around. Eventually your eyes track skyward, and only then do you see the source of the sound. There's a figure floating there in a sitting pose, several dozen feet in the air, with the sun at it's back. The presence is overwhelming.There is no doubt in your mind that this is the god of this shrine.
Almost on instinct, you drop to your knees again. A god. And you've maybe made it angry.
"Fear is good," The voice booms again, seemingly drawing closer. "But surely, you've got more than that?"
This is absolutely a god. Does this day never end?
Sanae speaks up from next to you. "Lady Kanako, don't you think that's too much?"
Another laugh. This one sounds a bit less like the heavens themselves are laughing, and more like a genuine laugh from a person. "Maybe. But I haven't gotten to do that in a while, and I couldn't help myself. You."
You raise your head. It's a woman clothed in red with a slightly stern look on her face.
"Do you realize how much trouble you've caused?"
[ ] "Trouble?" [ ] (Shake your head) [ ] (Don't react) ================================================================= Right, sorry about that. I'll call Wednesday, because this one was a little late.
Caught off guard by the question, the response almost spills out of your mouth. "Trouble?"
Kanako's intense gaze is unwavering, but you try your best to not shrink from it.
"Moving a shrine is delicate work," She says, "And you disturbed it. Why didn't you use the main entrance?"
The old man said nothing about that. "There was a---"
She cuts you off.
"As a result, we'll have to spend a day or two getting the grounds back into shape. Troublesome. And what do you plan to do with yourself?"
She continues. "This is Gensokyo. There's really no place for a normal human like you to go and remain safe. Even in the human village, as an outsider you'd likely be eaten before too long. So, not only did you have to be rescued, but you'll be staying here in the meantime. More trouble for poor Sanae."
"It's really no trouble," Sanae says, quietly.
"Well?" Kanako says, her overbearing gaze still locked on yours, "Do you get it now?"
"I do. I'll try not to cause any more."
You could make some excuses, but what she said is true - it's trouble, excuses or not. And talking back probably isn't the best option.
"Good," She says, her gaze softening a bit as she hovers closer to the ground, "Then, I'm sure you'll have no qualms about providing appropriate compensation for all this."
"I'm... not sure what you mean," You say, "I don't have much money on me."
Kanako laughs. "Outside money is no good here, anyway. No, the only thing we need is faith... and perhaps a bit of manual labor. This is a shrine, after all. Sanae, do you think you can work with this man?"
"Work with... oh, you mean, to start gathering faith?" Sanae looks to you. "I think so. But why?"
"Imagine," Kanako says, looking you over, "An outsider travelling with a priestess. Gensokyo is a hostile place, and everyone here knows this - but the traveller is completely unafraid because of the power of his faith. Or at the very least, completely safe, because of the power of the head priestess."
She turns to you. "Can you do that?"
This has taken a strange turn. "Well, I'm not sure if---"
"Let me rephrase. Can you at least fake it?" With a completely straight face, she adds "It's pure marketing. It doesn't have to be real, just convincing."
What kind of god is this? Saying that with such a straight face is a bit much.
"I think I can do that," you say, not really having the spine to refuse.
"Good," Kanako says, "Starting now, you're an assistant priest of the Morya shrine. I still have your mess to clean up, so Sanae will fill you in on the rest and find you some appropriate clothes."
Without so much as another word, she floats back up into the sky. You have to look away as she rises near the sun - and by the time you look back, she's nowhere in sight. You just stare upwards, bewildered.
"So that's what she had in mind," Sanae says from behind you. "I can never tell what she's thinking..."
Broken from your spell, you finally stand up. "So that was this shrine's god?"
"And your god too," she says, giggling, "Oh, that makes me your boss now, doesn't it?"
[ ] "Don't let it get to your head." [ ] (Accept your fate.) ============================================================ Trying to get back to normal next week (call tuesday->update by thursday).
Well, you suppose there's no use complaining. Whatever "it" is, you guess it's fine. Paying what you owe isn't unreasonable. You'll go with it for now.
"So, Boss, what else did I need to know?"
"Right," She says, "Well, we don't have any idea how to get you home. So you'll be here a while probably."
"But, we'll figure it out. Even if we did figure it out now, we need faith to do anything like that. Is it ok to talk now, or is this too much for one day?"
You shrug. "To be honest, it's probably too much. But if I'm going to be here a while you can fill me in again later."
She nods. "I guess that's true. Well, let's take a seat. Have you seen the view yet?"
"I haven't", you say, following her... apparently, around to the back of the shrine. "Oh. Wow."
This shrine really is far up. You're not quite at the tip top of the mountain, but you're far enough to see well into the distance. There's... a whole lot of trees, and a bit of cleared land far in the distance.
"It's a lot different than the forest," She says, "But it's really beautiful. I just hope that that Momiji person wasn't right about this being a bad spot."
"Honestly," You say, taking a seat on the shrine building next to her. "I think people would come up just to see it."
"People did that at our old spot, too," She says, "But - oh, right. Faith. The history of the shrine is important too, and... well, your duties, and... hmm."
She gathers her thoughts for a minute. "Do you absolutely believe in Lady Kanako? That she can get you home safely?"
It's an odd question, but there's no real doubt in your mind currently. "If she can move me here, she can move me back. ...even if the first time was an accident."
Sanae smiles. "Right. A god's power stems from that. If they don't have faith, they have no power. Does that make sense?"
"I think so."
"So," She continues, "You can probably see why we had to move here then. We could barely get by in the outside world, because there's not much faith."
You process that for a second. "Right. The person who told me about this place was pretty sad that no one visited much any more. Even then, it was probably just tourists like me. I didn't see the front entrance, but that side one was pretty unused."
"The Morya shrine has been around for many generations," She says, "And females in my family have cared for it for all of them. But, lately, people just haven't been visiting. Lady Kanako thinks we can gather a lot more faith here, enough that it was worth moving."
You gaze out onto the landscape. "She'd need a lot of faith to even appear like that in the outside world, right? If I'm getting this faith thing correct."
Sanae nods. "People here have faith in general. It wouldn't be odd for a god to appear, so she can do it."
"But teleporting someone might be harder."
Again, she nods. "Right. Or doing things people normally need, like ensuring safe travel or making their crops grow better."
You lean back on your elbows. "Sounds complicated."
"Well," She says, "You really only need to know the basics. Unless you want to become a full time priest?"
"Hmm, we'll see," you say, "My life wasn't too bad."
"I was just joking," She says, laughing a bit. "I'm not sure you could be a real one, anyway."
The two of you gaze out for a bit, with you mainly just listening to the wind. You can't say you get it entirely, but the whole thing is just kind of a mess in your head right now so you don't know what questions to even ask. Maybe something simple.
"So - it's just Lady Kanako and you, right?"
"How did the shrine get it's name?"
"Long ago," She says, "It was a shrine to a different god, but now it's not. Kanako didn't want to change the name because she thought it would be confusing."
"When she's not working," Sanae says, "you can ask her the whole story. She's usually not as scary as she was today. We really were hoping to move the entire shrine, but because we got you too we only got most of it."
Working. Right, like you'll be doing soon. "So we'll be going door-to-door, basically?"
"I think so," She says, "But mainly to meet everyone. We don't know what people need yet, and getting people what they need is the best way to gather faith. We'll want to convince them to come up to leave an offering, too. Though, if this is on a youkai infested mountain, that might be hard..."
"Well," you say, "It sounds like we're going to have to play it by ear."
She nods. "Oh, but I'll have to put together something for you to wear, too."
"You don't think I'd look very assistant priestly with this t-shirt?"
"No," She says, laughing, "Fortunately, I'm good at sewing too, so I can probably do it today. Let's go inside so I can measure you."
The two of you walk back around the shrine and towards the living quarters. The two buildings form a square in the center. If you're facing the shrine, the peak and the living quarters are to the right and the entrance to the bottom. The quarters and the shrine don't quite touch, and you notice a path heading off behind them.
"What's back there?" you ask, motioning to the path.
"That's the pond," She says, "It's part of the shrine, too, so you should go see it when you get the chance."
Getting your measurements taken is... rather uneventful, if just a bit awkward. She wasn't kidding when she said she was good at this. Afterwards, she turns to you.
"Well, I guess I'll be busy for a while," She says, "So you can take a break, assistant. Don't wander too far, ok?"
"Anything that needs done? Not to turn down break time, but I feel like moving a bit."
She thinks for a moment. "Well, everything we had in storage did get a bit jostled when we moved. Kanako might need some help, too, even if that sounds weird."
[ ] A bit of manual labor might help your thoughts. [ ] Not every day that a god needs help.
You leave her to... well, whatever it is that goes into making a religious outfit, and head outside.
It doesn't take you too long to cross the shrine grounds and end up near the entrance. You can see that progress is being made - there's another row of torii up, and the path seems like it's getting more tile laid, but there's still a lot to go. Although... right now, you don't see anything going on. There's a large pile of tile nearby Hmm.
Maybe she's not here? You scan the horizon, but all you see is a trio of massive logs hurling themselves up the mountainside from the forest you were in earlier.
... wait, what? You instinctively duck for cover behind one of the nearby torii - not that it would help much, you suppose.
All three continue sailing up what would be the side of the mountain were you not at the top. They launch high into the air far above your head. Two of them land upright, embedding themselves in the ground with a loud THUD. The third lands nearby, but much more softly.
Ah. It takes you a second to see, but the two upright ones are perfectly lined up with the rest of the torii here. A look skyward does eventually yield sight of the god responsible for this - because who but a god could hurl logs like that? She doesn't seem to have noticed you yet, or perhaps doesn't care. Either way, she looks focused, so you decide not to interrupt.
The wind picks up. And up. Soon, it's difficult for you to stand. Near the fresh logs, though, the wind is downright violent. The bark on the fresh logs soon succumbs, leaving them bare. You eventually lose sight of them after a large cloud of reddish dust whips up.
Eventually, the storm subsides... leaving a fresh torii in its wake. The god responsible lowers herself from the sky, settling down on it like a bird might settle on a nice branch. She looks at you from her perch.
"Do you need something?" She asks, flatly.
You move closer to the new torii. It's indistinguishable from the others here now, even if it was just logs a few minutes ago. You hesitate for a moment. "I, uh... Sanae said you might need some help."
After seeing that display, you're starting to think Sanae was just trying to set you up. What could you possibly offer that could compete with that?
Kanako remains silent for a few moments, looking straight at you. Eventually, she looks towards some of the tiles nearby.
"Those need to be laid."
You look to the tile, and then to the remaining bits of the path. You'd be laying the tiles in holes as it currently is. And you don't notice any sort of tools nearby.
Kanako laughs. "This will go much faster if the tiles are mostly in the right place. Don't worry about making it look nice - I'll take care of that later."
"I... see," you say, looking back to the tiles. Not that you do, or why it would be easier to level the ground after placing the tiles on top of it.
"Don't be shy, boy. A question you don't ask is one that won't be answered."
You spin around. When you weren't looking, she moved to being right behind you - still floating, but only slightly above the ground. Up close, she doesn't look that different from a human.
"Some gods use fear to keep followers," She says, putting on a faint smile, "But I'm not one of those. As long as you're respectful I won't bite."
You nod. "Sorry. I'll need some time to get used to this."
She seems to accept that. "I suppose it does take time. Now, did you have a question?"
"Right," You say, "It seems backwards to lay the tiles before levelling the ground. I'm wondering why it's easier to do it that way."
"Humans are better with human-scale problems," She says, "And moving tiles is one of those. I can level the ground just fine even if there are tiles sitting on it. I want this finished by tomorrow morning, so splitting the work in any way possible is ideal, especially since Sanae is preoccupied."
"That makes sense," You say, eyeing the pile again. "Do we have a wheelbarrow or anything? I don't think I'd get very many moved with just my hands."
"There's one off to the side of the living quarters."
[ ] Continue chatting for a while. - Ask something specific [ ] Get to work. Always time for chat later.
[x] (Question pocketed for future use) [x] Get to work. Always time for chat later.
You head off and find the wheelbarrow easily enough. By the time you get back, Kanako has gone off somewhere, so you get to work.
It's not too long in that you find yourself wishing you had some gloves. The tiles are heavy and not entirely smooth. Although they're a bit thick you don't think dropping them would be wise, either, so you have to manually set them down.
Eventually though you get a good system down. The temperature's good, there's a nice breeze all the way up here, and you don't feel too bad about taking a quick break to rest your back and your knees. Tile after tile is laid by your hand. Although it didn't feel like it at first, you are making clear progress, and you should be able to get a lot of these moved tonight.
Originally, you thought this all might make a good story for when you made it back home, but no one is going to believe you in the end. For now you'll just focus on serving your new religion well.
... you work, uninterrupted, until the sun starts to fade. While you're taking a break you hear Sanae call out your name.
"Are you hungry? I've got some dinner ready!"
"I'll be right over," You call back. You're not quite finished yet, but you're probably not going to get this finished tonight anyway. A good day's work regardless.
By now the sun has all but vanished, and the insects and frogs are starting to get vocal.
Frogs? Ah, maybe from that pond Sanae mentioned earlier. You can't say it sounds out of place, even all the way up on a mountain.
The smell of dinner greets you as you enter the quarters. At the table, you find Kanako seated and Sanae still shuffling dishes. Kanako notices you first.
Yo? Is this the same person? Sanae notices you too and waves, and you smile back to both of them.
"Hey," you respond, caught a bit off guard by the scene. She almost seems like a peer when seated like that, rather than the divine being you met earlier.
"Good work out there," Kanako says, as you make your way to the currently empty place at the table. "We should be ready to open tomorrow afternoon."
"It's looking a lot better than it was, even if it isn't done yet."
"Your outfit is ready for tomorrow, too," Sanae says, looking to you, "It came out pretty well I think. Do you think you could try it on later?"
You nod. "Sure."
Kanako and Sanae discuss their plans for tomorrow as you satisfy your hunger. The meal itself is simple, but delicious - you can tell that Sanae has been making stuff like this for a while.
As for the plan, it seems they want to split the work - Kanako finishing up the remainder of the shrine as Sanae and you head further down the mountain to continue scouting it out. You'll be out of tile duty and on priest duty, although you do have one concern with their plan as they're talking through it.
"Isn't this going to take a long time? We're fairly high up here."
"Oh," Sanae says, "We'll just fly."
"He means he can't fly," Kanako speaks up, "Isn't that right?"
"That's right," You say... but then, you hesitate. "At least, I don't think so."
"You can't," Kanako says, bluntly. "Sanae here has divine blood, but you're as normal as they come. Well, mostly."
Hearing that decree kills any hope you had for super powers. "Divine blood, huh?"
Sanae doesn't offer a response, and just smiles instead. "I wonder if I could just carry you? I think it might be OK if you got on my back. I should just need more wind to keep us both up."
"Yeah," You say, "Maybe that could work."
"It would be good to train more anyway," Kanako says with a stern look on her face. "If you're away from the shrine, there's no telling what creatures you'll meet. You probably end up fighting a few of them."
Sanae nods. "I was going to practice more after dinner. Could you help?"
"A god not helping her shrine maiden? Ridiculous. Of course I will." Kanako says, smiling. "There's a few house rules that I'll need to teach you as well. The stronger locals use then when battling."
"Hmm, sounds like we'll be busy, then," Sanae says, turning to you. "Could I ask you to help cleaning this all up?"
"Sure, I don't mind."
"Thank you! You're such a help."
You laugh. "Least I can do if I'm going to be freeloading for a while."
"I know we didn't draw up a proper contract," Kanako says, playfully, "but room and board is included with the position. Don't worry too much about it, ok?"
"Well," You say, looking around to the various now empty dishes, "How about I try on my new outfit first, then you two can do what you need to?"
"That makes sense," Sanae says, turning to Kanako, "I should probably show him around the quarters as well. I'll meet you out front of the shrine when I'm ready, ok?"
Kanako nods. "I have a few other things to take care of first, anyway. But don't take too long."
As promised, you're shown around. In addition to the kitchen, entryway, and eating area that you already knew about there's a half dozen side rooms and a large storage area to the rear. You're not sure why one person would need so many rooms, but it ends up being convenient. Sanae's already prepared one of them for your use.
"Come out when you're changed, ok?" She says, "I'll wait out here."
You step inside and slide the wooden door shut. The quarters are simple, but what more do you need than a futon and a little bit of space? It's not like you came here with much more than the clothes on your back and you're---
Tch. All that stuff that you left behind in the hurry this morning. Well, most of it would be redundant now anyway. You've still got your knife and compass, but all those snacks... oh well. If you ever start craving some junk food maybe you can try to find your pack later.
The garment you're expected to wear is folded neatly on the futon. It's in the same blue and white as Sanae's outfit. As you unfold it, though, you quickly realize something - this isn't like any kind of shirt or trousers you've ever worn. It's a collection of shirts and belts... and you're not exactly sure how to put this all on, being the tourist you are.
[ ] It can't be that difficult. [ ] Help me, Sanae!
Also: [ ] (Suggest a name if you'd like) ================================================ When I started this, I wanted to see how long I could go without giving the guy a name. Seems I'm hitting that point - but I'm also awful with names, so if you've got an idea throw it out there.
>>30461 I do appreciate these, so I'll try to work bits of dialogue like this in when it make sense. Thank you.
You spend a few moments staring at the collection of various things. This... yeah, you're not even going to try. You head back to the doorway and slide it open.
"I think I need some help."
Sanae looks at you for a moment, then laughs. "Oh, you've never worn a kimono before?"
You shake your head. "Nope. Looks complicated, though."
"It's not that bad," She says, smiling, "Come on, I'll show you."
The two of you re-enter the room.
"Could you, um, strip down? Just to your underwear?" She asks, a bit sheepishly. "I won't be able to tell if it fits if you wear it over your clothes."
It looked light enough that you would have definitely messed that part up. "Hm? Sure."
You do as told, tossing most of your clothes into a pile off to the side. "Now what?"
"P-please turn around," she says, blushing a bit, "And spread your arms."
Again, you do as told. It's difficult to stop yourself from teasing her a bit, but you manage somehow.
"This one goes on first," She says, as you feel some smooth cloth slide over your arms. The white one goes underneath, and the colorful one on top, then. It's a much nicer material than what you'd been wearing. "Then, we tie it with this."
The sash takes some care, it seems, but it doesn't seem too difficult. Probably harder if you need to do it yourself - you'll have to take some time to practice if you'll be wearing this every day.
The coat goes on next, then the second, wider sash. The overcoat is in a similar pattern to Sanae's clothing - two wide, blue patterned bars while mostly being white. There's a little frog pin, too.
It feels a little casual, but it's definitely a step up from what you showed up in. You imagine this will fit in better, too.
"So," She finally asks, after finishing the knot on the final sash, "How does it feel?"
You move your arms and legs a bit, and finally turn back around to face her. "Feels pretty good. You put this together in a day?"
She smiles. "I would have gotten fancy with it if I had longer. After seeing it on you though I think this looks pretty good."
"Me too," You say, laughing a bit. "I could see someone who works here wearing this."
"You do work here," She says with a grin, "And don't forget it! Just kidding... kinda."
The two of you share a laugh at that. "Sure thing, boss."
"Well," She says, with a pleased smile on her face. "I'm satisfied. If you don't mind, could you wear that for a while and make sure it holds up ok? We're going to be out for a while tomorrow, and I wouldn't want it coming apart."
You nod. "I'll let you know if anything's wrong. I'm sure it's fine."
The two of you head back out into the hall as you talk.
"Well, the bath is down the hall," She says, pointing to a far door, "Kanako's training is usually pretty harsh, so I probably won't see you until tomorrow morning. It's ok if I wake you, right?"
"If I don't get up right away, give me a good shake," You say, nodding. "I can sleep pretty soundly sometimes."
She smiles. "Ok. Good night."
After bidding her farewell for the evening, you do a quick tidying of your heap-o-clothes that you dropped earlier. This garment is pretty easy to move in, too. You should have no trouble tomorrow.
By now, the sunlight filtering down the hall has all but vanished - leaving you with artificial lights. Although... they're electric. Strange. You'll chalk that up as another question to ask later.
Now, to decide how to spend the evening.
[ ] Turn in early. It's been a hard day and you could use the rest. [ ] Take a quick walk around the grounds, then hop in the bath. [ ] Watching a god and her priestess train might be interesting. ================================================ Didn't end up needing the name yet, so I guess that'll be ongoing until I do need it.
I'm not sure what will happen next week with regards to updates. I guess I'll probably call Saturday morning, then update Saturday night. I've got some time off and I won't have internet for a fair bit of it.
[x] Watching a god and her priestess train might be interesting.
You think about it as you take care of the remains of the earlier meal. Watching a god and her priestess train isn't something you can do every day - or couldn't, anyway. It could prove interesting.
By the time you finish cleaning the sun has completely disappeared leaving a bright moon in the sky. You have no trouble seeing where you're walking.
A bright burst of light in the sky catches you by surprise. Fireworks? No, "training", you guess, as you can clearly make those two out based on their silhouettes. They either haven't noticed you or don't care, so you find a nice part of the shrine to sit on for a while and resolve yourself to watching.
Occasionally you hear them call out to one another, but from your position on the ground it's difficult to hear what they're saying. It's difficult to even tell what they're doing, but as time goes on the bursts of light get more complex. You start to notice beams of light and speed changes rather than just simple points of light bursting out. Patterns eventually emerge - stars, swirls, rings - and it's really quite beautiful.
The two eventually start to move around a bit. Before the points of light had been mostly originating above someone and veering off into the sky, but now they appear to be originating close to them and flying at the other person. Some kind of game? Both seem to be trying not to get hit.
After a bit, though, the lights stop and they both descend towards the shrine grounds.
"Good, good," You hear Kanako call out, "Sharp as ever. You seem to have a knack for this, and you'll get more stamina as you practice."
Kanako laughs, looking in your direction. "If it was simple, even someone like him could do it. By the way, that new outfit looks good on you."
Sanae turns around. "Oh! How long have you been here?"
"For a while," You say, shrugging. "I didn't want to interrupt... well, whatever that was."
"Just a bit of self defense training," Kanako says, "Not that we're done yet. If you see something like that aimed at you, I'd suggest you run and hide."
Huh. So the goal must really have been to not get hit after all. "So, what happens if you get hit? If you don't mind me asking."
"It stings a bit, then you go numb around the spot you got hit," Sanae says with a weak laugh, "That's why we had to take a break. I can't really feel my arms right now."
"If you kept them closer to your body when dodging," Kanako says sternly, "That wouldn't be a problem. There's no point flailing them around."
With a serious expression on her face, Sanae quickly nods. "Right. Keep the 'hitbox' small."
"And while we're on the subject..."
Kanako rattles off a whole laundry list of seemingly minor points. Go faster, but not too fast. Have a variety of patterns, but not too varied that you can't execute them effectively. And on, and on. It sounds like serious business, but for you it's mostly in one ear and out the other. 'Run and hide' definitely seems like the best option.
Sanae offers no real rebuttle to any of it, taking her lashings like a pro. After a few minutes, Kanako seems satisfied.
"... but, that was still quite good. Are you ready to go again?"
Sanae again gives a firm nod, clearly having found some resolve after that speech. "I am. I'll land a hit on you this time for sure!"
The two return to the sky, and you return to watching. By the third or fourth round, though, you can feel your eyelids start to droop and your attention waver. The next time they land, you decide to call it quits for now.
"Good luck," You say, to the now much more exhausted Sanae. Kanako herself seems entirely unfazed by all this. "I'll see you both tomorrow."
Sanae nods, still catching her breath. She's got this much harder than you do, in a way - you'll have to make sure to keep pulling your weight around here. Kanako barely acknowledges you. You feel a bit guilty leaving before the people doing the actual work, but you're going to want to be well rested if you do have to sprint somewhere.
It doesn't take you long to fall asleep.
Waking up in an unfamiliar place is always a strange feeling, and this is no different. It takes you a few seconds to remember why you're sleeping in a futon in a traditional room.
"... guess it wasn't a dream, then."
You roll out of bed and dress yourself, though it does take a bit of effort to get it looking correct. At least, you hope it's correct - there isn't exactly a mirror in here or anything.
Ready to start the day, you head out of your room and roam a bit. One of the doors you pass by is cracked open a bit, so you really can't help taking a glance inside. You can just make out a crumple of sheets in the darkened room - probably Sanae. You decide not to wake her.
The dining area and kitchen are just as you left it, suggesting that maybe you're the first one up. For kicks, you head outside for a bit. It's a bit past dawn, though aside from the sun being relatively low in the sky you can't tell much more than that. At least those two aren't still training.
Guess you should do something while you wait.
[ ] Take a stroll around the grounds. [ ] Maybe you could get some breakfast going... [ ] Could always set a few more tiles. ================================================================== No real excuse for that delay, my apologies.
It's always worth starting the day off with a good breakfast, so you may as well take this time to learn your way around the kitchen. Sanae's a great cook, but you'd feel bad if she was cooking for you all the time. It sounds like she's going to be doing most of the real work, anyway.
You decide to go for something simple. After scouting the pantry and fridge/freezers, you decide on grilled fish, some rice, and a few sides. The sheer quantity of food in the place surprises you, though. There's enough that even with three of you, you could probably last two or three months.
Three portions, you suppose? Well, no. Maybe you'd better ask first. You head back into the bedrooms and give a light knock on the frame to Sanae's room.
"Hey, do you want breakfast?"
That sounded vaguely like a yes. "Alright. It'll be ready in a bit."
There's a bit of movement, but other than that you get no response. That's two.
You don't see Kanako when you poke your head outside. Heading over to the shrine doesn't really yield anything, either. It almost feels wrong to start yelling on the grounds of a shrine, so you offer a quick prayer mentioning breakfast as an afterthought.
Back in the kitchen, you decide that cooking for three is probably fine. You're actually pretty hungry, so if it came to it you could eat for two.
The stove, as it turns out, is electric. Just like everything else around here. Yet another mystery to solve when you get the chance.
By the time you make it to getting the fish ready, you feel a stare on your back. Turning around, though, yields nothing. The feeling is uncanny, though, and haunts you through the rest of the preparation.
With everything finished, you go to set it out. Sanae's already at the table... but only just barely. Her hair is all over the place and she's in some frog-print pyjamas. Quite a different presentation than you saw yesterday.
She nods a bit, eyes shut.
"I didn't wake you, did I?"
"Wanted to get up soon anyway," She mumbles, "It's fine. Ow."
Rubbing her shoulder with one hand, she takes the dishes from you with the other.
"I made some for Kanako too," You say, "But I wasn't sure how to find her. I didn't see her outside."
Sanae rubs her temples. "Mmm... she'll be here in a minute."
You head to the kitchen for another load of dishes. By the time you get back with the third, Kanako's sitting in her usual spot.
Kanako nods at you as you enter. "Yo." It's a low-energy yo. Do even gods needs sleep?
"Well," You say, finally taking your seat. "Dig in. I hope everything turned out alright."
Kanako laughs a bit. "You don't sound so sure."
"It's always hard to use a new kitchen," You say, shrugging, "The temperature is never the same."
"Mmm, that's true." Kanako says, after stuffing her face a bit. "At least it's not as bad as it used to be. Cooking's gotten pretty convenient lately."
"Wood was a real pain for the normal person," She says, "But people weren't as picky about their food either."
"That makes sense, I guess."
"By the way, this is pretty good. What do you think, Sanae?"
Sanae nods, eyes still half shut.
"Thanks, you two. By the way, how do we even get electricity up here?"
"You've heard of solar power, right?"
"Check the roof next time you go outside."
"Seriously?" You're not sure how you missed that, but... well, you guess you were paying more attention to basically everything else. This building isn't the interesting one, anyway.
Kanako laughs. "What, did you think we were old-fashioned here?"
Sanae mostly sits out the conversation, but as you two talk about nothing for a while the food slowly revives from her stupor. Near the end of the meal, she seems mostly human again, smiling and laughing with the two of you. Eventually, Kanako takes notice of her.
"Good morning, Sanae."
Sanae laughs. "Good morning. Sorry. Last night was really tough."
"You did well, though," Kanako says, reaching over to give her a solid pat on the back. "I think you'll be fine on your first day out. Just don't pick a fight with anyone too scary looking."
"I wonder where we should go first," Sanae says, thinking about the day ahead. "Kanako, do you have an idea?"
"There's no humans on the mountain," She says, "There's some human farms near the base of it, though. It may be best to start there."
You decide to chime in. "Won't they have trouble getting up here if the tengu are in the way?"
"The humans here are stronger than you'd think," Kanako says. "Besides, once they see an outsider has already done it they shouldn't have any reservations."
"That sounds like false advertising," You offer in jest. Maybe you're getting used to her presence, but you do feel like you can joke a bit with her.
"No, just advertising," She says with a hint of a smile. "We'll want to scout for other shrines as well. As far as I know, there's only one other one in Gensokyo."
"Maybe it would be better to scout out the mountain more today?" Sanae asks, "We know about the Tengu, but maybe there's other stuff we should know about."
"The Tengu are going to harass you if they see you around," Kanako says, "Though, maybe it would be good to take care of that problem first. If we could make a deal with them soon to not harass worshippers, that would be ideal."
[ ] Support scouting below the mountain. [ ] Support scouting the mountain itself. [ ] Let them decide.
You don't feel your opinion would be unwelcome here, so you decide to chime in.
"It makes sense to me to make sure we can get them up the mountain first," You say, "We should probably figure out what's here before we give them directions."
Kanako furrows her brows. "I think you're both right, but I really didn't want to deal with the Tengu today." She pauses for a moment before continuing. "Well, no helping it."
"Couldn't we just try to avoid them?" You ask.
"No," Kanako says, firmly, "We know they view it as theirs now. Accidental trespassing is one thing, deliberate trespassing is another."
Sanae frowns a bit at that. "Oh, that's true. Maybe we shouldn't bother them after all."
"It's fine," Kanako says, "We'll have to do it eventually. I was just hoping to get some faith coming in today."
"Can youkai give us faith?" You ask.
"They can," Kanako says, "My plan was to get the humans coming first, then add youkai slowly. But, well, it's probably not as much of an issue as it would be for normal humans."
You look a bit puzzled, so she continues. "If something that wanted to eat your arm off was worshiping at a shrine, would you come back?"
"... oh, probably not."
"Around here, that's normal life," She says, "So it's probably workable."
"So," Sanae says, "I guess we should just find the Tengu first?"
Kanako nods. "I'll be with you until we meet them."
"Thanks. I really wouldn't want to do the negotiations..."
Kanako laughs a bit. "I wouldn't let you, anyway. You'll get there, but it's hard to respect someone weaker than you. And some respect is one of the first steps in a good negotiation."
She seems to take it well. "... that's true. And Tengu usually have a king or something, right?"
After a bit more discussion, you all settle on that plan. Kanako has a good idea of where the Tengu are living, so you'll all just show up at their front door and see how it goes. The two of them seem confident that you'll be able to just breeze through the negotiations with ease.
You, personally, aren't so sure - especially after what happened yesterday. But maybe with Kanako hanging around it'll be fine.
Sanae insists on cleaning up the breakfast, practically kicking you out when you try to help, so you pass the time by looking out over the mountain you'll be going down. Kanako stays behind too, though you can't imagine her doing dishes.
Regardless, it's not too long before you hear Sanae's voice over your shoulder.
"Are you ready to go?"
She's... positively excited, and with a dangerous gleam in her eye. Kanako isn't too far behind her, looking pleased with herself.
"I'm ready," You say, "Though... now I'm wondering if it's safe."
"Oh? What do you mean?"
"Nothing. Let's go."
This time, you aren't carried - over the course of the night Sanae seems to have figured out how to lift two people rather than just one. The sensation of being carried by the air is a strange one. This is certainly faster than walking, but on a clear day like today it's obvious just how fatal that fall would be. You try not to look down too much.
Your flight path takes you down near a large cave opening. When you look back, you notice that Kanako isn't anywhere to be seen. But you can definitely feel her - she's around, somewhere. Did they change the plan? Well, yours is probably still the same.
The two of you land. Even before you do, the mountainside is full of Tengu of all shapes, and a large contingent meets you at the door. They are not pleased.
"Hello, hello!" Sanae calls out, "Can we speak with the king? We don't want any trouble, we just want to discuss the matter of the shrine that appeared yesterday."
You scan the crowd as she speaks, spotting Momiji from yesterday in the process. All the weapons you can see are drawn, and even the ones without weapons seem like they're prepared to fight.
"Ho, and who are you?"
An older tengu steps out from the crowd. He's... well, he doesn't have the ears that the weapon-bearing ones do. Sanae seems unfazed by all this, somehow, even though you
[ ] Let Sanae handle this, try your best to remain unnoticed. [ ] Follow Sanae's lead and don't act weak.
You're supposed to be playing the role of a devout follower, and the best way to do that is probably to follow Sanae's lead. Somehow she's absolutely confident in the face of hundreds of potential enemies, and you're sure that stems from knowing her god is nearby. You'll do the same.
"We're from the Morya Shrine," She says again, "My name is Sanae Kochya, and I serve Lady Kanako as the head priestess of the shrine."
The old bird doesn't seem impressed as he turns to looks to you. "And who is this?"
You boldly give your name, with the title 'assistant preist'. Your voice catches a bit, but it comes out convincing enough.
"Hmph. And you to wish to see the king?"
Sanae continues to look him over. "We do. That's not a problem, is it?"
The Tengu laughs, before motioning around him. "My brothers and sisters are more deadly than they look, and the king does not like to be disturbed. You're brave, but I suggest you leave before you find the trouble you did not want."
"We may not want any trouble," Sanae says, firmly, "But we must see the king. If you won't take us to him, please move out of the way."
There's about a ten step gap between the two currently. Sanae takes a step forward, and two nearby Tengu rush to the old man's side. You hesitate, but also step up.
Another step. Not just the guards, but it seems as if the entire crowd begins to tense now. Is she really going to do this?
Just then, a massive bolt of lighting rips through the sky and explodes a tree a few hundred yards back from the cave entrance. The boom causes everyone but Sanae herself to cower for a moment. Kanako's doing? Or Sanae's? No, it could be both, couldn't it? A bolt of lighting from a clear sky is something like a miracle... for you two, anyway.
The old Tengu recovers quickly enough. "Halt!" he yells out, "I will not say it again!"
Sanae does halt this time. "We are not afraid. Please take us to the king."
He stares daggers as you both, before whispering something to the guard to his side. The guard nods, and bolts off into the cave.
"Normally, such party tricks would not work on us," He says, "But I admire your resolve. I've requested an audience for you."
After a few minutes of relative silence, the guard returns and whispers to the older Tengu. He frowns a bit, and nods.
"You'll be granted a short audience. Follow me."
With a hand gesture he waves off the crowd, causing them to disperse almost as quickly as they arrived. He leads the two of you deep into the cave. Seems they've got an entire village stashed in here. After leading you up the stairs and before a rather large door, he pauses and turns to you.
"Don't try anything, Humans."
"Oh, we really do just want to talk," Sanae says, "Don't worry."
The old Tengu then leads you inside, before who must be the king. His dress is much more
All the Tengu around you prostrate themselves before him. Sanae does not, so you also do not - even if you feel uneasy doing so before a king.
"What do a priestess and a priest want with me?" The king says in a gruff voice. "I'm a busy man."
"Actually," Sanae says, "Lady Kanako would like a word with you. But she'd ask that you dismiss your guards first."
"Fine," The King says, motioning the few Tengu in the chambers away - although they seem reluctant to leave. "... I don't believe you've come here to murder me, given the report my scouts gave me yesterday. And I do want to deal with this matter sooner rather than later."
Shortly after the guards depart, you see the King look behind you two in surprise. You also turn around. Seems Kanako finally decided to show herself.
"Sorry for that," Kanako says, moving forward. "I would have liked to just appeared to begin with, but it's a complicated matter. Lord Tenma, I presume? We have much to discuss."
"No, we have very little to discuss," He says, "You will remove your shrine from my mountain."
"That's not an easy matter. I propose that we purchase the top from you instead. I also propose that, as part of the terms of our agreement, that you allow humans free access to the summit."
"Your proposal is ridiculous. We have no use for money or humans tainting our mountain."
"I wouldn't think you would. But perhaps we could pay in a nontraditional way?"
Sanae removes a small dagger from her clothing, holding it close to her breast so as not to alarm him. Kanako motions to it. "I would like your opinion on this blade."
The King nods, so Sanae carefully brings it forward and silently presents it to him. She returns to your side while he gives it a few minutes of study.
"The workmanship is mediocre," He says, "But the metal used is the finest I have ever seen. Did this come from the outside world?"
"Of course," Kanako says, "Although, there's no reason that the technique couldn't be replicated here... if someone were to teach you how."
"... hmm. Is that what you are proposing?"
"Among other things, although this is one of the more tangible ones," Kanako says, "If you're interested we can discuss the details."
The king pulls a rope nearby, signaling the older Tengu from earlier. As he enters he notices Kanako and hesitates a bit, but doesn't bring it up as
"These two are to be treated as visitors to the mountain until I decide otherwise," He says to the old Tengu. "Is that clear?"
"Yes, my lord."
"Good. And that is all I need of you two," The King continues, "You are dismissed. We'll continue these discussions in private."
Sanae nods, and the old man motions for you both to follow him. He silently leads. Eventually, you reach the cave entrance, and he turns to you. "Even as visitors, you are not allowed in the village. However, you are free to move about the mountain as you see fit."
With those words, he turns his back to you and heads back into the cave.
Like so many other times in the past day, you're a bit at a loss for what just happened. Sanae turns to you, though, smiling. "Haaah. That went well, didn't it? I think we'll get the deal we want."
You'll ask her what that was all about later, when you're well away from the Tengu ears undoubtedly listening in on your conversation. "I think so, too."
"So," She says, "I guess we're free to look around now. You ready?"
[ ] Ready as ever. [ ] Maybe we should ask some of the locals about the area instead?
Called, but I won't be getting to it until next week (probably later in the week). I need some time to worry only about a few things, rather than trying to switch gears in the middle and get an update in there. Moving is tiring.
"I'm ready. A bit further down the mountain, then?"
Sanae nods. "Let's just fly around a bit and see if we can see anything interesting."
"Works for me. Let's go."
You feel the wind carefully embrace your body and lift you into the air, towing you a bit behind Sanae. You wonder if you'll ever get used to this? The sensation itself isn't that uncomfortable, but seeing the ground that far below you and you having no control over the whole thing is.
One thing is clear as you scan the area - this mountain is wild. Immediately below the tengu village is a huge cliff with a waterfall running down it, feeding what looks like a large river running down the mountain and far off into the distance. You might be able to get up those cliffs with climbing gear, but not on foot. There's other cliffs sprinkled, too - including the one you think you were on yesterday.
The remainder of the mountain is covered with a lush green carpet of trees. If flying isn't a common thing here, people from below the mountain are going to have serious issues even reaching the top. You can't see beneath it but it seems pretty dense from here. If you're just flying around, maybe it's worth checking out.
"Hey," You yell out, "Do you think you could set us down for a minute?"
Sanae gives you a thumbs up rather than yelling back. With a bit of a sinking feeling in your stomach, you start to drop... and faster than last time. Before you hit the treeline, though, you slow considerably, and the two of you hover a few feet just above it.
"Geez," You say, a bit unnerved, "That landing was cool, but could you warn me you're going to do it next time? I thought I wasn't going to stop."
She looks to you a bit apologetically. "Sorry. Was that too sudden?"
You laugh, shrugging, "Well, if I knew it was coming it wouldn't have been. What's up?"
She turns to you, looking a bit puzzled, then looks down to the unbroken sea of green below you. "It's pretty thick, isn't it?"
"Yeah," You say, "I was wondering what it looks like underneath. Can people even get up this mountain? Even if the tengu are out of the way, this seems pretty unmanageable."
She nods, vaguely. Then, a genuine smile creeps across her face. "Ok, I'm setting us down now."
As she says that, the two of you start to descend. As you do the branches immediately in your way bend to let you through, leaves fluttering. More wind control, you assume. Cool. You can't help but feel proud for her even. Gently, your feet touch the ground.
The two of you are on a not-insignificant slope, but the thing that catches your eye are the trees. They're... huge. Way bigger than any tree on the side of a mountain has any right being. As if you needed yet another reminder that this was a fantasy world.
Sanae seems about as amazed as you. "They're huge."
Thinking back... "Ah," You say, "This must be where Kanako got the things to make the torii from."
Sanae nods, continuing to look around a bit.
The understory is mostly barren. There's a few plants and a fair bit of debris, but it's not the overgrown mess that you thought it might be. You guess the shade, coupled with the dense covering of fallen leaves, keeps it pretty clean. "No, I take it back. This is walkable."
"Did you want to try walking for a bit?" Sanae asks, "... honestly, I'm a bit tired. Moving us both is harder than I thought it would be."
"We can rest if you're tired," You say, "Don't push yourself too much."
"Not... physically tired," She says, "Walking is fine. I think."
You nod. If it's too much, you can always force her to rest. "Sure. What direction?"
"Anything but uphill," She laughs, "You pick."
"Alright," You say, considering your options. The two things that immediately spring to mind are that river from earlier and a nearby animal trail that you notice.
[ ] Head in the direction of the river from earlier. [ ] Follow the animal trail downhill. ============================================================================================== I'll call this one on Saturday evening. Thank you for your patience
"How about that way?" you say, motioning to an animal trail worn into the fallen leaves. "Looks like whatever made this trail uses it to get up and down the mountain."
"Let's try it," Sanae says, "I wonder how far it goes?"
You decide to take the lead this time, making sure to go slow to let Sanae keep pace. The slope here is pretty gentle and smooth, so you both have no trouble walking it. Down and down you go, the main sounds being the various birds, insects, and squirrels.
"We weren't far from the bottom when we descended, were we?" You ask, after what seems like forever of marching downhill.
"I didn't think so," Sanae says, somehow sounding less tired than before, "There were some fields near the bottom, right?"
You nod. "I can't really see a break in the trees though, so maybe we were further up than I thought."
"Want to rest?" She asks, "You're sounding a bit tired."
You shrug. "I'm fine. How about you?"
"Better," She says, giggling a bit, "Walking is a bit easier than flying. And this forest is really pretty."
"It is," You say, "But... are people really going to spend this long getting to the shrine?"
"I think it's fine," Sanae says, "... maybe."
Just then, you hear a loud noise behind you. You jump and spin around to see... a deer running off through the woods. Seems you startled it. You both watch it go, laughing after getting over your initial shock.
"Hey," You say, "Something that didn't want to kill me. Nice."
"Should we keep going?" Sanae asks, stifling a laugh.
So you continue even further down the mountain, running across nothing of note for another hour or so. The trail is definitely easy to follow. If you can reuse this, and maybe mark it a bit, it'll be great - maybe not for the deer, but for anyone humans who'll take it. After an hour or so the ground starts to level out, mostly, but the forest itself is still thick and there's little sign that humans have penetrated it.
By now, the sun has ducked behind some clouds. At least, that's what you assume, because you still can't see the sky. A coldish wind has also picked up.
"This is... starting to get a bit spooky."
Sanae nods. "I don't think this is normal. I'm getting goosebumps."
[ ] Keep walking. [ ] Time to bail. ====================================== Guess I hit that little bit of Thursday that's on Friday, instead. My schedule is still thrown off. Think I'll look to do this next one on Monday. My plan for this was always to be shorter and more frequent once I stabilized my schedule, so maybe it's time to start baking it in while I establish said schedule.
"Maybe we should bail?" You ask, "I think we'll get jumped by something unpleasant if we stay around here too long."
Sanae looks around a bit at the grim surroundings. "... maybe that's a good idea. We're just scouting today. Ready?"
You nod. As you do, you feel the sensation of the wind again, but... it feels a little off. Rather than the smooth envelope of air that you've gotten used to, it feels rougher and more turbulent.
"... that's weird," Sanae mutters, as the two of you start to rise. "Huh."
Before you can get through the canopy, a gust of wind cuts through the wind surrounding you. When you hit the envelope of wind, it ends up ejecting you. You let out a curse as you helplessly fly through the air, scrambling to grab something nearby before you start falling too far.
"Aaahh!" Sanae yelps, "I'm sorry!"
Due to some miracle, and with a good dose of self-preservation instinct, you do manage to latch onto a branch before you fall too far. You start to feel Sanae's wind shakily embrace you again a few moments afterwards, so you don't think you were in any real danger. Although the wind miracle starts to tug on you again, your arms just won't let go.
"Give me a minute," You call out, hugging your branch for dear life.
"I..." Sanae pauses, "Are you ok?"
"Fine," You say, "Just a bit terrified. What was that?"
Sanae moves closer to you as she speaks. "This definitely isn't normal. Something cancelled my miracle..."
A new voice calls out from the ground somewhere. You look, but from your position you can't really see anything. Sanae seems to meet eyes with someone in your blind spot, though.
"You should both leave this place," The unknown woman says, "It's dangerous. I can't protect you if you're here."
"We don't need your protection, so that's ok," Sanae says, "And we were just leaving."
"Do we still want to leave?" You wonder aloud, "Sounds like there's someone interesting down there."
Sanae floats close enough to whisper. "She's dangerous to be around. I don't think it's safe for you."
[ ] Safe enough if you're around Sanae. And we're just looking for information, not a fight. [ ] From spooky to dangerous. Leaving is a really good idea. ============================================== I'll call this Sunday night, since I always seem to be a day and change behind what I want.
>>30570 I wonder why I even bother making posts like this? Can't write at night, and I haven't stabilized my mornings enough yet. Can't do much writing in 5 minutes (when I'd be getting several hours if I could get my lazy ass out of bed).
Tomorrow morning it is, because it doesn't matter how early I am up when it's Saturday.
[x] Safe enough if you're around Sanae. And we're just looking for information, not a fight.
"I'm not worried," You say, looking down, "I've seen what you can do. I think I'll be fine, especially if we're just looking for information."
Sanae looks away bashfully. "...well, ok. Let's go down and talk with her." After a few moments, she looks to the unknown individual.
"Actually," Sanae says, boldly, "We've changed our minds. We want to talk with you for a bit."
"I said that's dangerous," The unknown individual says in protest, "Please go back where you came from."
You feel the unsteady wind embrace you once more, so you ease your grip on the branch and let it carry you down. As you turn yourself around and move towards the ground, you catch sight of the individual talking to you. Her dark red dress and pale green hair stands out amongst the forest.
"Oh!" Sanae says, "I couldn't quite tell from up there, but... you're a goddess, aren't you?"
The woman doesn't respond for a few moments. Then, she sighs. "... you're not going to listen, are you?"
Sanae laughs. "We're out scouting our new home. If you could tell us about yourself and this area, we'd appreciate it."
The woman seems to ponder this for a minute as the two of you finish your descent. Having solid ground under you is a good feeling. Finally, she turns to you, ignoring Sanae for the moment.
"Lost humans should head to the human village. I wouldn't want any harm to come to you, and that's just what will happen if you stay around here."
"We're not lost," You say, "And I won't be harmed as long as she's here."
Sanae steps forward, placing herself between you and this goddess. She turns back to you, a dangerous expression on her face. "I just remembered something."
You turn to her. "What's that?"
"Lady Kanako says that in Gensokyo, strength is the only thing people respect." Sanae faces forward to the goddess. With a forceful voice, she demands, "Tell us what we want to know."
... you think you see where this is going, so you calmly scan off to your sides. You'll be needing an escape route shortly.
"Oho," The goddess says, sounding amused. She turns to you, looking right past Sanae. "You're practically drowning in misfortune. Won't you just make your way to the village and let me help you?"
"I'm not sure what you're talking about," You say, "But I refuse."
You've got your route set, you think. There's a path with a fair bit of cover to your right that should get you a good twenty or thirty feet away. And just in time - the goddess starts to levitate, and pale flaming orbs start to appear around her.
"Then," She says, turning to Sanae, "I guess I'll just take you both to the village."
That's your cue, you think. You bolt just as the two begin lighting up the forest.
Before you can make it very far one of the light bullets shears off a branch with a loud crack. It lands a little too close for comfort - something like that hitting you would not end well. You were originally going to stick close and watch the duel, but you reconsider for a moment.
[ ] Back up a significant distance. You'll get caught in the crossfire if you stay here. [ ] Stay close. You do NOT want to get too far from Sanae. ======================================================================== Going to call it Monday morning.
[x] Back up a significant distance. You'll get caught in the crossfire if you stay here.
A battle between priestesses and gods is really no place for someone like you. Although you're curious how it ends up, you don't want the next branch to land on your head. You keep moving until you feel relatively safe - or at least, safe from the danmaku battle. This forest still doesn't feel right.
From this distance, you can still faintly hear the battle, but you can't see it - mainly due to the the thickness of the trees. You guess the thing to do is to wait until the raucous stops. You've got faith enough that Sanae will win it, so you'll just wander over when she does.
As you wait, though, you feel like you're being watched. A glance around shows nothing, but you can't shake the feeling. Strange.
... wait, did you just hear a laugh?
Another look, but still nothing. Ah. No, not nothing... some movement in a bush a short distance away.
You focus intensely on it, trying to catch a glimpse of whatever it was. Probably a squirrel or something, but if there's one thing you've learned so far is that this is a dangerous place. The forest still has you on edge, too.
More rustling, this time from off to your other side. You turn, and the first bush rustles again. When you turn back to it hoping to catch a glimpse of whatever it is, a third bush rustles. You also think you hear a faint giggle.
Ok, you've either developed paranoia or you're being toyed with. Perhaps both.
Well, whatever it is, you've got a nice solid tree to your back. You decide to pick up a nearby branch and ignore the noises for now. Just need to wait until the battle is over.
You feel a light tap on the top of your head. When you look up, you see a tiny human floating there. A tiny human with wings? Doesn't seem that dangerous, at least.
It seems to want you to follow it.
[ ] Never trust a fairy. Stay put. [ ] Follow, keeping one ear on the battle. =============================================== Took longer than I wanted, but I think said shit is together enough. Sorry for that - didn't really want to quadruple post and I worked myself into a frustrating place mentally. Guess I'm still adjusting to my new living space.
Anyway, new update schedule. I plan to stick to this one strictly, rather than going ad-hoc about it: Call Monday night, update Tuesday. Call Friday night, update Saturday.
You look to it, unamused, and shake your head slowly. Not today, little fairy. You're not sure what it has in mind, but it can't be good.
"Aww, why not?" The fairy asks, looking a bit dejected. "It'll be fun!"
"For you, but probably not for me," You say, hoping that the battle ends soon. How long can those two keep fighting? Although you doubt a fairy is much of a threat, it's best not to underestimate anything here.
"No, it will be fun!" She pouts, stomping her little feet on what would be the floor if she weren't flying. You ignore her.
She calls out a few names, and in response you see a few more faries come out of the bush. Four of them?
The fairy grabs onto your uniform, around the shoulders, and tugs. She's surprisingly strong. Probably about the strength of a large child. She doesn't put up much resistance when you brush her off, instead flying to her friends.
"Let's make him come!"
"Look," You say, with a firm shake of your head, "If I don't know what it is, I'm not going."
The leader's face scrunches up. At least, you assume she's the leader, as the rest of them seem to be looking to her for guidance.
She stares right at you, scrunched up face and all. You stare right back, unmoving.
The battle in the distance sounds like it's still going on, so that's not an option... well, maybe it is if this gets really bad. And, you do still have your stick, although using that now feels pretty cruel.
[ ] Try to buy time, somehow. They seem distractable enough. [ ] Remain stoic. Maybe they'll get bored and wander off.
[x] Remain stoic. Maybe they'll get bored and wander off.
Maybe they'll just back off once they realize you're having none of it. The only thing you offer this leader is an unamused stare. If they want a ruse out of you, they're going to have to work hard for it.
The two-foot tall girl stamps her feet again as her wings vibrate aggressively. She's mad, but no more than a kid who was just told they couldn't have any more sweets.
She sticks out her tongue at you before rushing past you and out of sight. Her two cohorts look to you, then to each other... and then follow.
Huh. That was easy enou---
A loud noise above you triggers something primal in you, causing you to move out of the way, and quickly. By the time you get to your third step though your leg snags on something, nearly toppling you. You do manage to keep from tripping yourself up completely, but it's far from graceful. You quickly look down to see what snagged you.
One of the fairies has you in a big bear hug around your calf. You try to give your leg a shake, but she's held on tight and refusing to move.
... and the source of the noise, a branch it seems, lands right where you had been seconds ago. You look up. The leader is high above you in the canopy. You can't hear her from here, but she almost looks doubled over with laughter.
A more vigorous shake dislodges the fairy around your leg, and she quickly hides in the brush. When you look up again, the leader is no longer in sight. Hmm.
You listen for any signs of movement, but all you hear is Sanae's ongoing battle. Those fairies are still around, you imagine.
[ ] You'll take your chances with the stray danmaku. Work back towards Sanae. [ ] Running from a few fairies? You do have some pride. Return to your tree. ======================================================= I'd normally get this out earlier in the day, but not today I guess.
[x] You'll take your chances with the stray danmaku. Work back towards Sanae. A fairy hugging your leg seems more amusing than dangerous. I guess immortal sprites can hardly understand the meaning of death.
[x] You'll take your chances with the stray danmaku. Work back towards Sanae.
Although you strongly consider dealing with these three yourself, in the end you decide it best not to. You'd rather take your chances with the stray danmaku than let these three keep trying to get a ruse out of you.
So, after a quick second look, you start walking back in the direction of the battle. You move quickly, but not so quickly that it looks like you're alarmed.
One of the fairies calls out from directly behind you, almost causing you to jump, but you continue on.
They try the branch trick once more. You're ready this time, though - you watch your legs, and when one of them makes a dive you quickly dodge sending it sailing past. A second fairy also dives this time, but you dodge that one too.
"Hah!" you call out, unable to help yourself.
"No fair!" you hear the leader faintly from the canopy. Then, louder, "No faaaiir!"
Although you don't turn around, you can almost see the leader's pouting face.
You keep walking, and soon, the roar of the danmaku is close. They seem to have shifted to fighting above the treeline, however, because although you can see an extreme amount of blue and red light from up there you can't really see what they are doing.
The three fairies seem to be more interested in the danmaku by now, so they drift higher up. Maybe that was the distraction you needed.
At that moment, a stray bullet passes through the canopy. It strikes one of the fairy underlings head on.
... and, with a slight sizzle, it pops - almost like a balloon. Nothing remains, not even her dress.
Two thoughts pass through your mind. One - that's mildly disturbing. Would that happen to you? You can't imagine so, but it makes you wonder. And two, you wish you could do that. Would have made things a whole lot easier.
The remaining two fairies scatter. You hope you won't be seeing them again. You've taken quite a liking to your stick though, so you keep it handy.
After about one more minute, the loser falls through the canopy and to the ground rather violently. Judging by the clothing, it's the goddess from earlier - not Sanae. You breath a sigh of relief as Sanae slowly drifts down.
"See?" She says, talking to the loser. She doesn't seem to have noticed you yet. "Now you have to listen to me. Tell us about the area."
"Give me... a minute," You hear the loser mutter. "Uuugh."
You make your way over with no particular stealth. Sanae notices you right away. She's practically beaming with joy right now - if that grin were any wider, you're not sure it would fit on her face.
"Oh," She says, hovering over to you. "That was exciting! Did you get to watch? I didn't see where you ran off too."
[ ] Be brief. Don't mention the fairies. [ ] Confess to being bullied.
"I kept my distance after nearly having some debris land on me," You say, shrugging, "Sorry, I didn't see it."
Sanae looks a bit glum at that. "Well, at least you kept yourself safe."
Sanae just shot down a goddess - and she's got enough power to obliterate one of those fairies with a single shot. The fairy thing is embarrassing even before you consider those two facts. In the end, you decide to keep it to yourself.
"And you just won your first duel," You say, shifting the topic from yourself, "Must feel good, right? Was it tough?"
Her grin immediately returns. And she seems no worse for the wear, either. "You bet it feels good! I thought it would be harder than that though, to be honest..."
"How cruel... I nearly had you once or twice."
The goddess has gotten to her feet and wandered over to you two, though she seems a bit unsteady. There's scorch marks and tatters all over her clothes. On closer inspection, Sanae herself has a half dozen marks around the edges of her own clothes.
Sanae laughs. "Well, maybe once. But you'd have to hit me more than once to bring me down."
"I'm Sanae Kochiya" Sanae says, breaking the tension "You know, we haven't been introduced yet. And if you live around here, I guess we're neighbors. What kind of goddess are you?"
You also give your name.
"Hina Kagiyama. I gather curses to prevent them from lingering near humans too long," The goddess says, before turning to you. "Are you sure you won't come with me to the village? The mountain really is no place for a human."
"I'm fine," You say, shaking your head. Maybe this is someone good to practice your act on? You give it a shot. "Our shrine is on the mountain, and my faith keeps me safe."
Ah... but this time, it didn't, so you're not even sure that sounded convincing. Maybe you'll ask Kanako later what you should do if you run into a similar problem. The wilderness here is absolutely crawling with danger for someone like you, and any tips would help.
"Since you can talk now," Sanae says, "Tell us everything you know about the surrounding area."
"Everything?" Hina asks, "There's quite a lot... we'd need to put on some tea."
"Is your house near here?" You ask.
Hina laughs. "This forest is my house. But, I do have a few comforts nearby..."
On one hand, information is good. Sanae doesn't seem all that tired on the outside, but you imagine that after a long battle like that that she could use a rest. Especially if she'd going to be lugging you around like she has been all day.
On the other hand, you don't really need much info - a general overview of the surroundings would be enough to get you two moving again. The Tengu can probably get you the gritty details later, and the thought of spending the afternoon with a curse goddess is a bit unsettling.
[ ] Defer to Sanae on this one. [ ] Accept the invitation to tea. [ ] You'll take the summary and be on your way.
"I think that's fine," You say, putting aside your unease for now. "What do you think, Sanae?"
Sanae seems to be caught a bit off guard by that. "Huh? Well, I guess we shouldn't be rude."
"This way," Hina says, motioning towards nothing in particular. "It's not far. In fact, you two showing up interrupted my lunch."
Ah... lunch time already? You ate your fill for breakfast, but part of you hopes she's got some cookies or something to go with the tea. In your haste, you didn't bring anything to snack on.
"You could have kept eating," Sanae says, "We were just passing through."
Hina sighs. "I had to see why there were humans crawling about around here. If you're strong, it's not much of an issue, but if you aren't you'll get eaten."
"Eaten?" Sanae asks, "By what?"
"Oh," Hina continues, "All kinds of things. Feral youkai mainly. Neither of you are from the village, so you'd be fair game."
"Why is that?"
"I keep my distance from a lot of things, so I don't really know. Oh, there's one now."
As you walk, she points out a huge mass of fur and muscle that you hadn't even noticed off to your right. It's quite bear-like but disturbingly muscular. Or perhaps ape-like? Regardless, it's huge. How did this thing even manage to sneak up on you three?
Whatever it is, it seems to respect Hina and saunters off without much argument. You imagine you'd be fine with Sanae around, but... yeah, you'll try not to wander around this place alone.
"Wow!" Sanae says as she watches it run. "Are there a lot of those?"
"Enough," Hina says, pausing for a moment to get her bearings. "And even if it doesn't want to eat you, it might accidentally kill you while having some fun. Even the fairies around here might prank you to death."
You laugh. "Come on now, that's just silly."
Sanae laughs too. "Fairies are really, really weak. They shouldn't be a problem."
"He'd have trouble with them," Hina says, looking to Sanae grimly, "So keep a close eye on him, OK? Ah, here we are."
You arrive... or so she says. There's nothing but a clearing here, though. And a half dozen stumps... although, on closer inspection, they do seem quite smooth.
"Take a seat. It's not much for a human," Hina laughs, turning to a tree with a large hole in it, "But for me it's plenty."
Sanae takes her seat on a nearby stump without much hesitation. You do the same, sitting next to her. Hina pulls a full tea set from the hollow of the tree.
"Wait here," Hina says, "I need to get some water from the spring nearby."
[ ] Offer to go with her. [ ] Wait patiently. =============================================== Next update will be in a new thread. I think we've hit the bump limit, but it won't matter too much on this board and I don't have an image handy.
Also the update will be Thursday, because I'm doing most of nanowrimo with this story (see >>/gensokyo/15589 ). My plan is daily updates, with double updates on Saturdays - a noonish one and an evening one, the time of this post being "evening" for me.